Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Reality Bites.

Go, Cubs, go! (They actually won, too!)
It's been three weeks since I last posted, but I only have a legitimate excuse for about two of those weeks. If you're connected to me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you know that we were in Arizona (to visit my in-laws as well as go to a Cubs Spring Training game) and then flew from there to L.A. for a trip to Disneyland. Then this past weekend we drove to Michigan to help celebrate my grandma's 91st birthday.

All of that travel caused three things to happen before and after we left.

1) In advance of our trip, I worked like a maniac to get writing for clients, various errands (like doctor's appointments for both myself and Desmond) and other To Do items checked off of my list. We threw the Disney excursion together at the very last minute and I knew it wasn't going to happen again for a while, so I wanted absolutely nothing on my plate or hanging over my head while we were there. This is my (admittedly not totally great) excuse for not blogging in the days leading up to our departure for Arizona.

My own personal Disney tradition.2) The time off was the best. Seriously, it couldn't have been any better. I will definitely be writing about everything we did very soon. But part of the reason I couldn't bring myself to sit down and crank out any posts over the past three weekdays I've been home is because I'd already been sitting so much during the trip. As in, twelve hours crammed in the back seat of our tiny Volt this past weekend going to and from Michigan, three hours on the flight to Arizona, five hours on the return flight from L.A., all of the time in the car getting to and from airports, and so on. The last thing I wanted to do was sit after we got home. I even chose to do hours and hours of laundry over booting up my laptop, if that tells you something.

3) Since we returned, I've been in a complete and total funk. Hence the title of this post. Now, this kind of post-vacation depression almost always happens when I get back from a great trip. So I was expecting it to some degree. But this time it seems worse. Perhaps it was because we were at The Happiest Place on Earth™, so being back in the dismal not-really-spring-yet Chicago weather was an ever bigger letdown then it would've been coming back from anywhere else.

Sing it, brahMaybe it's because we had such an extraordinary time. Maybe it's because real life was pretty much on hold while we were away. Maybe it's because I had the first true, honest-to-god-no-work-AT-ALL vacation since 2008 and I really, really needed it. Maybe it's because when I got back, I could no longer ignore a few major professional and personal situations that have me really bummed out and in denial. Maybe it's because even though there are many things we're doing over the next few months that I'm excited about, we don't have any other vacations planned. (Remember how I always need something big to look forward to?)

So what did I do? We got back late Wednesday night, and on Thursday I had the aforementioned Day Of Laundry. I went through mail, cleaned our place, and did everything I could to avoid opening my laptop. I had every intention to get back to work on Friday.

But then Friday morning hit, and I still couldn't bring myself to accept reality. By this point I did have to do some client work, but in my head I guess I felt like if I didn't go back to my usual routine of doing a personal blog post in the morning then I wasn't really back back. Plus, I had to get things ready to leave again on Saturday morning, I wanted to go to the gym, we didn't have any food at home so I took that as an opportunity to go out to eat, et cetera, et cetera. I would totally be rarin' to go again on Monday. For sure. Because, I mean, it would be Monday and that's a perfect day to start fresh again.

I mean come on. THE BEST!So we went to Michigan and back over the weekend, and then on Sunday night in my head I was like, "OK, I'm going to watch The Walking Dead finale and then that will also represent the finale of these past few weeks of goofing off and then tomorrow I am totally going to get serious again."

Except that yesterday came and I was even more down in the dumps than before. I did a bunch of client work, but still couldn't bring myself to log in to Blogger. By the time it hit 3 p.m. I couldn't sit still anymore. It was halfway decent out, so I justified a long walk around my neighborhood.

I was about 30 minutes into that brisk walk when the tears started coming. Was it because I finally had to accept that play time was over? Was it me coming to terms with the crappy work and personal stuff that's going on? Was it the fact that "Run" by Collective Soul came on my Spotify mix? Who knows, but I decided I was just going to let myself have a pity party right there in the middle of Lincoln Park and be done with it. I turned down a residential side street and had a good cry and felt a million times better.

Yup.Right or wrong, I am the kind of person who doesn't have much patience for anyone who's acting all "poor me" when they don't have something serious to be down about. I am especially hard on myself whenever I feel blue because I know I have a great life and so many things to be thankful for. I mean, being sad that you're back from Disneyland is like THE number one #FirstWorldProblem, am I right? (There truly is more to it than that, but you get my point.)

But a wise friend told me yesterday that I was human, I am being faced with real challenges (the work and personal ones I alluded to, not the post-Disneyland-blues, obviously) and that I was allowed to feel the way I was feeling. And that helped. So did the cry during my walk. So did watching Better Call Saul last night. So is the promise of seeing something mega-silly like Furious 7 tonight. The dreary weather today is NOT helping (hence the SAD lamp is cranking as I write this), but warmer temperatures are ahead, and so is a brighter outlook on my part. "Pity, Party of One" has had its time, but now I need to smack myself upside the head and start acting like an adult again.

And what could be MORE adult than this: actually looking forward to spending the majority of the day tomorrow pulling together everything needed to complete our 2014 taxes. Yes, I am one of those dorks who enjoys tax season. It's no Disneyland, but it'll have to do.

- e

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Good Day Sunshine

Around 3:15 today I realized something with a shock: I had completely forgotten about posting today.

At that point in time I was heading back home from a 2-hour-long, 10,000+ step (thanks, FitBit) walk along Lake Michigan, which is one of my favorite things in the world to do.

Yesterday was the first time in 2015 that I ventured out for a walk rather than hiding from the cold in the gym. But today was even warmer ("warm" in Chicago = 45 degrees) and sunnier and I'd gotten all of my client work done so I decided to go for a really, really long hike.

Around this time of the year, it's more of an adventure than anything. I have to wear my ugly brown waterproof New Balances, I need to make peace with the fact that my pants will have lines of mud splayed up the back by the time I get home, I need to jump over huge puddles, constantly keep my eyes peeled for mounds of goose poop, and leap from boulder to boulder when I'm on some more precarious parts of the mostly-still-snowed-over path closest to the water.

But I have a ton of fun. Today I went down to the beachfront, which does not look like beachfront. I actually don't know what this looks like.

Not bathing suit ready just yet.

Cracked, dry desert? Tundra? Rotting sand dunes? Small mountains? Modern art?

I nearly killed myself climbing up the tallest hill to get this shot and I'm not sure the effort was worth it. But the walk was. And I still got my post done!

- e

Monday, March 09, 2015

What is Your "Claim to Fame"?

Do you have something that you consider to be your "claim to fame"? Longtime readers of this blog might remember that back in 2008 I wrote about how up until that point, I'd never eaten a taco. I was wondering if a thing I had while on vacation in Mexico finally qualified. (The consensus was that it did.)

I still use the "Madonna went to my high school" tidbit referenced in that same post whenever I'm in a situation that requires an "interesting fact about you." But my other go-to statement that tends to shock people is that I've never had coffee. As in, I've never even tried it. Not one sip. This seems to blow a lot of people's minds. Apparently even those who don't consider themselves to be coffee drinkers have at least tried the stuff at some point.

But not me. Not even coffee-flavored ice cream. Not even one of those fancy drinks at Starbucks that has a ton of other stuff in it along with a tiny bit of coffee. NO COFFEE.

There's no reason for this except that I think even the smell of coffee is gross. I know there are people who can't get up in the morning unless they smell a freshly brewed pot of joe wafting through their house. That's something I don't understand.

Know anyone like this?I'm a tea girl, but even with that I'm not too extreme. I have one big mug of Earl Grey each morning and that's it. I'm not too happy if something causes me to have to skip that mug, but I don't transform into a terrible beast in search of caffeine, either.

My husband actually drinks neither. He'll have a bowl of cereal in the morning or a banana or something, but no caffeine. (He will drink coffee or an espresso at restaurants every now and then, though, so he can't steal my no-coffee-ever-whatsoever thunder.)

I'm curious to see if anyone else has one of these claims to fame that they're oddly proud of—something that seems to truly surprise people?

- e

Friday, March 06, 2015

The Problem with Reminders

Of course I picked a fox graphic
Last month I wrote about the four methods I use to help me remember stuff. But I didn't mention the ridiculous lengths I go to in order to remind my husband to do one simple thing almost every single day.

Here's the situation: We bought the three condos in our building with the intention of one day converting them into a single home. But right now, and for the next few years at least, we have these three separate condo units with separate kitchens, separate entrances, and separate electric and gas bills.

My husband goes to our top floor pretty much every night to work on his music. When he's not up there, we want to keep the thermostat waaay down—warm enough so that the pipes won't freeze, but low enough so that our heating bills don't bankrupt us. We do the same thing for our second level, which is where I work during business hours on the weekdays. Each morning I crank up the heat, and each day when I'm done I turn it back to 55. This practice is second nature to me now. I don't even have to think about it. I never forget to do it.

If not, turn around, climb back up 3 flights and DO ITUnfortunately my husband hasn't made the "turning down of the heat" a routine yet. When we were hitting a total of $700 per month in gas bills across the three units, I totally spazzed out at him and found many creative ways to yell, "WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET YOU TO REMEMBER TO TURN DOWN THE HEAT?!?!"

But nothing I did worked. I'd go up to the third floor before I'd start my day and dammit if it wasn't warm and toasty up there, meaning that the furnace had been cranking nonstop throughout the night for absolutely no reason.

So then I started putting signs at his eye level on both the door our of the third-floor condo and the door at the end of our stairwell, thinking that would HAVE to work because he'd pass both on his way back downstairs. And it did for about a week. But then even those reminders failed and I'd find the thermostat at 70 in the morning.

I would email him before I knew he was coming down. I would call him. I would text him. Nothing was able to drive it into his head permanently.

My latest tactic is that I've taped a sign right onto the handle of the door he'll go out of so that it's really in his way. But honestly I still don't have faith that this is a permanent solution.

FOR THE LOVE OF GODAnd then today I realized that he's become dependent on all of the nightly reminders I would text and email him to the point that he's ignoring the signs I've hung. He's not even consciously registering them. This notion hit me because I saw some article online about how "spring forward" is this weekend, and I had to laugh because I NEVER remember when the spring forward/fall back dates are on my own because for whatever reason, my mom still emails me reminders about turning our clocks to the right time on the day we're supposed to do this. If my mom stopped reminding me, I would be lost. I've become dependent on those messages twice a year.

So now I really don't know what to do to get my husband to internalize this heating-bill issue. If you're wondering why the aforementioned $700 wasn't enough, it's because I'm the one who actually pays our bills and manages the finances, so it's not front and center in his life. He's not "going without" because of that extra expense. He definitely does realize this is a huge problem and that it's solely his fault, yet he's just not putting those thoughts into repeatable actions every night.

Will publicly shaming him on the Internet like this do the trick? Stay tuned for next month's bill totals to find out! And does anyone else out there have an issue like this? Misery loves company...

- e

Thursday, March 05, 2015

When Momentum Turns Against You

It's either for you or against you
So the last time I wrote a real post here was February 12. (The two more recent film reviews are copies of what I post on Redblog.)

I'd been doing so well. What happened?

I'll tell you what happened: momentum got the best of me. As you may remember, I had guests here for Walker Stalker Con for a week at the end of February. My Scottish friend Paul was set to arrive first on February 18 and would be leaving February 24. In between those two dates I'd also have Jo, her partner Lisa and my parents here. I needed to not only have two floors of our place clean that I normally never clean (truth), but I also wanted to get all of my client work done in advance so that I could fully enjoy the time with my friends and not be stressing about deadlines or to-do's that didn't get done.

So I went dark in the days leading up to Paul's arrival, and had already told myself that it was fine to take a week off from this blog for the reason mentioned above.

The good news is this: Paul, Jo, Lisa and I had the best time ever. I'll dedicate one or two posts to their visit in the future so you can be jealous. But the bad news is that after everyone left and it was back to "real life," I couldn't motivate myself to write. At first the excuse was that I had so much to catch up on from the prior week. Then it was that I "deserved" a few days to mourn the fact that my awesome staycation was over and I had to face the freezing Chicago winter (and work) again. Then it was... well, then I didn't have a reason. I simply had fallen out of my morning writing routine and kept telling myself that it was OK to put off new posts because what would a few more days matter?

That pretty much sums it up.Along with not writing, I was also not going to the gym and not eating healthfully. I used the same "what's a few more days?" excuse—we'd all pigged out at top-notch restaurants around the city for a week... what harm would there be in continuing to overindulge for just a little while longer?

The harm is that I now feel totally disgusting, have gained 2 pounds and my face totally broke out from the shock of consuming almost no sugar or alcohol for months to ingesting dizzying amounts of sugar and lots of booze for the past few weeks.

Now I understand that the momentum (and pride and happiness) that had helped me sustain a month-long writing streak was a fragile thing. My past routine of writing a blog post early in the day had not formed into a hard-to-break habit yet, and so the momentum of not writing easily took over.

I suppose if keeping this blog alive wasn't really that important to me, the negative momentum would've been permanent. But I've truly enjoyed getting back to this type of personal expression. I think it's improved the work I do for clients, forced me to be more productive throughout the rest of the day, and has reconnected me with friends who share some of the weird traits, worries, obsessions and thoughts I post about.

It's soooooo easy to fall off of the wagon when it comes to goals I've set for myself that aren't easy to achieve. But the worst thing I could do is let my writing lapse "win," or let my new crappy-food-every-day habit continue. I'm not saying there will never be another good reason to take a short blogging break, but I think I'll be able to keep the satisfaction I feel from publishing something every day in the forefront of my mind just enough so that I'll resume my old schedule when that break is over.

And with that, I need to get to the gym to work off ALL THE CHOCOLATE.

- e