My weekends are awesome

Why do you always discover that you have next to nothing in your fridge on the days when you decide not to shower or even wear real clothes?  You’ve already given up on looking presentable and leaving the house, and now you are faced with the task of finding something suitable to eat.  I should also add that these are the days where you want to do nothing but eat while also watching countless episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

When lethargy strikes and RuPaul hypnotizes me into not leaving the couch, I can usually convince myself that eating three packages of string cheese and two popsicles constitutes a meal.  However, this past Saturday I was hit with a very specific craving: ice cream.  I wanted chocolate, and I wanted it NOW.  The problem was that I didn’t want to abandon my leggings and sweatshirt and greasy-haired ponytail.  What’s a girl to do?

Then I remembered: this is Chicago!  I can walk to the grocery store half a block down the street and not run into anyone that I know.  Not the case when you’re in the Sip (my cool new slang for Mississippi – it sounded cool in my head but now that I’ve typed it, it looks really silly).  If I were to leave the house back home, I was guaranteed to run into my students, my students’ parents, old high school friends, parents of my old friends, people I worked with, or even my own mom.  Plus, I would have to get in my car and drive to the store.

So – back to Saturday – I threw on my giant coat that covered the fact that I was wearing leggings as pants and walked to the store.  (Don’t get me started on the debate over whether or not leggings are real pants.  I have too much to say on the topic.)  The whole process took only 15 minutes total, and no one I knew encountered my gross ponytail!  Yay for Chicago.  I got my ice cream plus frozen pizza, Diet Coke, and toilet paper.  Then I realized the contents of my grocery cart belonged to the saddest, loneliest girl in all of Chicago.  That really took the joy out of getting away with leggings as pants.  Lucky for me, RuPaul was there to pick me up again.


Car with a Mind of Its Own

My car is not happy.  I think she resents the move to Chicago, and she is punishing me for it.  True, no one even asked her what she wanted, but can’t she see how much I like it here?

My car (who was lovingly named Shirley by a friend) has recently been refusing to open certain doors.  I get to the car in the morning (or even at night sometimes) and the driver’s door won’t budge.  At some point, I give up and crawl through the passenger side which is not easy when your adorable coat comes down to your ankles.  I suppose you could blame the ridiculously cold temperatures, but I think Shirley’s just pissed about Chicago and wants revenge.

Basically, I am pretty sure Shirley is actually a moody teenage girl.  If Shirley could tell me how she felt, I imagine she would say something along these lines:

  • What do you mean I don’t get my own parking spot?  I don’t like driving around and around in circles while you search for a parking spot.  In Mississippi, I had my own spot at work AND at home!!!  Have the people of Chicago not heard of parking lots?
  • You left me alone on the street.  How could you?  Someone was attempting to parallel park and hit my bumper.   I blame you.
  • You really need to learn about parallel parking…it’s embarrassing when you run my ass into the other cars.  I’ll never make any friends.
  • We have to drive from Mississippi to Chicago in the snow?  This is awful.  Hang on, is this salt on the road?  Gross!  It’s getting all over me.  I need a car wash, ASAP!  Too cold for a car wash?  I have to drive around like this until the temperature comes up?  Unlike you, I take pride in my appearance.  The other cars will never let me hear the end this!
  • I know gas is expensive, but could you please fill up the tank every once in a while.  You’re making me feel cheap.
  • Hey, ready for a ride?  I haven’t seen you in a while.  What?  You’re taking the train?  Did I do something wrong?  You must be embarrassed to be seen with me….I thought we were friends.
  • It’s cold out here.  I get depressed when I’m cold.  I think I’ll make you climb through the passenger side before you can go home.  Hahaha, you got your leg caught on the steering wheel!  No, I’m sure no one saw that.  It’s not like this is the third largest city in the country or anything!!
  • Wow, that was a lot of honking.  What did you do?!?


I will never speak ill of my car again.  Here’s why:

Recently, I was meeting a friend to go see a play.  It was freezing, so of course Shirley was in a bit of a mood.  I got out and paid the parking meter.  When I tried to open the passenger door to place my ticket on the dash, the door wouldn’t open!  Shirley!  Why are you being so difficult.  I walked back around to the drivers side, and guess what I saw?  My iPhone was just lying in the street.  I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t even hear it fall out of my pocket.  If the passenger door had opened, I would have lost my phone to downtown traffic.  It was as if the car wanted me to find my phone.  I rescued my phone from the city street and placed a gentle hand on Shirley’s hood.  “Thank you,” I whispered.

That Coat is So NOT Cute…

… but it sure is warm!  I bought the Official Chicago Woman’s Coat.  My friends are the ones who informed me that the official Chicago woman’s coat existed (we will now refer to it as the OCWC).

“What makes it the OCWC?” I asked stupidly.  In Mississippi, you are just as likely to be wearing short sleeves in December as you are to see temperatures that require layered clothing.  My friends were more than happy to break it down for me. To be an Official Chicago Woman’s Coat (OCWC) you must have all three of the following criteria:

  • length
  • down
  • water-resistant (a.k.a. slick and shiny)

I noticed the OCWC around the end of November.  The temperature dropped and the OCWC appeared on the city streets in abundance.  I saw them sitting on the train, driving to work, walking down the street, everywhere!  Clearly, I had to get one of these coats.  You weren’t an Official Chicago Woman until you had one.

I spy three OCWC’s in just this one picture!

While I was home for Christmas I shopped for the OCWC.  I actually went into a few stores hoping for a sale, but I soon discovered that Mississippi just doesn’t make coats like these so I was forced to shop online.  After perusing a few websites, I decided on a very sensible coat from Land’s End that seemed to fit the OCWC criteria.  I imagined how trendy I would look trekking through chic Chicago snow in my fashionable Chicago coat.

Doesn’t she look cute?  (True, there is no actual snow in this picture, but surely what this girl’s coat lacked in warmth was made up for in the cuteness of her mittens!)  My coat arrived yesterday.  And here’s what I look like:

Ok, so that’s not actually my coat (that isn’t even me, just a picture I found on google image search).  But my point is: I have purchased a sleeping bag with sleeves.  After checking off the OCWC criteria, I suppose also being fashionable was too much to ask.  I do not consider myself fashionable by any stretch of the imagination, but after I pulled the coat out of the box, I seriously considered sending it back.  Who needed to be an Official Chicago Woman anyway?  This looked like a big mistake.  A giant, marshmellow, Michelin Man mistake.

But before I made my final judgement, I figured I would take the coat out for a test drive.  So I wore it today.  And you know what?  That sucker is warm!  Not only warm, but it’s also pretty darn comfortable.  This coat is like the sweatpants of coats.  You tell yourself you will never wear them in public, but sometimes you just want to go to the grocery store and be comfortable and you don’t care who sees you!

In conclusion, even though my coat is brown and big and causes me to resemble a giant, fluffy Hershey’s bar on two feet, I think we will be very happy together.

A Glimpse of my Childhood

Lots of families have holiday traditions.  My family has two very specific traditions:

  1. We always go and see a movie on Christmas Day and this year we saw Les Miserables!!!!
  2. We spend the majority of our time together over the holidays retelling old, family stories that we have all heard 20 times before.

So, I have decided to combine those two traditions for my very special holiday post.  (And if I’m being completely honest I was also inspired by this very funny blog)

Of course, my family went to see Les Miserables which we have loved for as long as I can remember.  And it just so happens one of my favorite family stories is about this same musical.

I don’t remember when I first heard the Les Mis soundtrack – probably on some family road trip when my parents insisted taking a break from backseat bickering and put in the cassette tape (yes, cassette tape) giving birth to a family obsession.  My sisters and I loved the music even without having seen the show (it wasn’t until I was 18 that I saw it live onstage).  And when the cd came out, we had the nifty jacket with every character’s lyrics printed there!

It was this very cd jacket that most likely inspired the Les Mis Project of 1999.  It was most likely summertime (because only in the summer do boredom and spare time bring sisters together for a project of this magnitude).

Genie, the middle sister, came up with the idea: performing our own version of Les Mis in the living room.  Of course I was on board because this idea was a stroke of genius.  Because the musical has approximately one billion characters, we knew we would need some help.  So we convinced Mary Pat, the youngest and 9 years old at the time, to be involved in our project as well.  A two-person version of Les Mis was ridiculous, but a three-person version was totally reasonable.

Casting was tricky.  Genie and I wanted all the best roles (duh!) but Mary Pat didn’t know very many lyrics and I was the tallest.  So it was decided that I would play Valjean and Genie would take on Javert.  This meant Mary Pat had to be Fantine since all three of them appeared in a scene together.  At first, Genie and I were very upset (Fantine is awesome and gets a really badass song), but soon we realized that Fantine is dead for most of the play so we were ok with Mary Pat taking on that part.  After all, the longer the character was dead, the fewer lines she had to speak.  Even at 13 I was aware that Eponine is clearly the very best role in the entire show, but I sacrificed and allowed Genie to play the part while I played Marius (cause the boy just has to be taller than the boy!).

Shortly into our rehearsal period, we realized that doing the entire soundtrack was just way too crazy (again, but three-person version of the most epic musical ever is TOTALLY reasonable).  We decided to cut down the length of many of the songs and skipped a few altogether (no way we were going to sing Lovely Ladies in front of my dad – that would be way too embarrassing).  To make the transitions smooth and since we couldn’t spare anyone to control the cd player, we recorded the songs we intended to use from the cd onto a cassette tape.  How resourceful were we?

Now the casting is done and we have our abridged Les Mis tape.  Time for the real rehearsing.  This was not going to be a silly concert version where we sing along to the cd, oh no!  We added dialogue (to make the story more clear), staging, costume changes, and even our own version of the barricade.  (Keep in mind we had never seen the show before!) It became very clear that Mary Pat was going to be a problem.  We gave her the smallest parts possible which included Fantine, Gavroche, and Cosette (and I’m pretty sure we cut almost all of Cosette’s songs,) but she could not remember her words to save her life!  Even though she was only 9, this was completely unacceptable.  But we didn’t give up!  In the end, we let Mary Pat hold the cd jacket cover with all of the lyrics for her larger solos. Although Genie and I recognized that this compromised the integrity of our production, we had no choice but to go on with show.

Finally, we were ready to perform.  (I don’t remember exactly how long we spent rehearsing – maybe two afternoons total.)  Our parents sat on the couch in the living room.  I gotta hand it to my parents, they sat and actively watched the WHOLE ENTIRE THING.  Although Fantine could’ve used more practice, the Confrontation scene was superb.  Critics especially applauded our rendition of One Day More when I performed many quick changes from Valjean to almost everyone else.  We reached the finale after an unplanned intermission before Little Fall of Rain because I had just to pee and it COULD NOT WAIT.

Our barricade looked just like this, except only three little girls joined our revolution.

“Do you hear the people sing,” we sang in unison with the cd.  I am not sure what character we were each portraying at this moment, but it didn’t matter.  We had finished.  The broadway actors on our soundtrack sang louder, and we followed.  Did Mary Pat know all these words?  Probably not, but again it didn’t matter.  We were masters of the stage, or at least of our living room.  We marched in place, sang the last line, and lifted our arms triumphantly in the air.  Ta da!!!

Ok, I know that parents have to applaud and tell you that you are wonderful, but my parents’ reaction was so much more than that!  I’m pretty sure our dad cried – no joke – and our mom told us it was the most wonderful thing she had ever seen.  My sisters and I were on a post-performance high for probably an hour, and then fought over who had to clean up the set and costumes that had exploded all over the living room.  But even a fight could not extinguish our joy.  We had attempted the impossible, and we succeeded.  We also confirmed any doubts held that we were the nerdiest and most dramatic children ever born.

New Year, New City, New Resolutions

Happy New Year!

What’s so great about the new year?  As a person who has always worked in the schools, I never understood the big celebration of the beginning of a new year.  My job is the same, and when I return to school, my students will be the same, too.   My friends are the same, my family is the same….I’m the same!  So, I never really understood the excitement people feel on December 31st.  Or are they just looking for an excuse for a good party?

I’ve also never been big on resolutions.  I might haphazardly make one in order to have some small talk at the big New Years’ Eve bash, but I don’t think I’ve ever kept one before.

However, I am trying to change my ‘bah hum bug’ attitude about this new year in particular.  I am in a new place after all (today officially marks being a Chicago resident for 4 months), so maybe making some positive changes are in order.

Resolution #1: I will quit smoking (again).

I am a smoker.  I hate to admit it.  I have had very successful stints as a non-smoker only to return to the dark side after weeks or months or (one time) a whole year!  I love smoking, but I hate smoking.  Smoking is something I cling to when things are not going quite as I had planned.

I can still remember my mom driving away from campus after dropping me off for my freshman year of college.  And what did I do?  I went and bought a pack of cigarettes.  I needed a friend, and nicotine seemed to be my chosen substitute.  Plus, in college everybody smoked (it seemed) so what’s the big deal?

I tried to quit smoking a handful of times (once during finals – mistake!).  I told myself I would quit after college, but you know what happens after college?  The real world.  I couldn’t quit smoking during the first year of my first job – too stressful.  My friends would tell me it’s gross/we want you to be healthy and –  as a rational person-  I know all these things to be true.  But temptation was too much sometimes.

But this time is for real.  I don’t need the comfort of my cigarettes.  If I can move and start a new job in a new city, I should be able to handle giving up the cigarettes….right?

Resolution #2: Write more.

This is pretty self-explanatory.  But in particular, I want to challenge myself to write a play.  I have been saying that I was going to do it for a while now, but somehow it always gets pushed to the bottom of my list of priorities.  And I’ve finally figured it out.  It’s not because I’m just too busy – it’s because I’m afraid.

For some reason, putting words on a page and then saying, “Hey, that’s mine.  I did that.  Those are my ideas,” is one of the scariest things I can think of…..but not anymore!  This is the year.  This year I will write a play…..AND since I’m being particularly bold, I will let a few people read that play!  How’s that for ambition?

That’s it!  Just the two resolutions.  I feel that’s a good place to start for someone who isn’t generally excited about a new year in general.  So come on 2013!  Let’s do this.