Monday, November 11, 2013

Number 31b: Be Better October - The Recap, Part One

It's 5 pm on the first Friday, October 11. I'm insanely exhausted.
But I'm not complaining. Not bitching. Not moaning.
I'm just busy. Which makes happy. Dare I say, satisfied?

Let's recap. Over a month ago I pledged to Be Better during the month of October. With the insanity of the Government Shutdown, and all of the negativity I read daily on the internet, I made the decision to not spread any more negativity last month.

I set six goals for the month of October. Here's how I fared in tackling the first three.

Be Better At Saving. The Challenge: I will not buy any new clothes during the month of October. I will put aside an extra $25 each week into my savings account.
The Halfway Point: I was SO TEMPTED to buy clothes all month. The transition of season just made me crave the purchase of fuzzy sweaters and earmuffs and that new pair of boots. (I mean come on, who doesn't love a fuzzy sweater?) I caved on one item, and that was a new long sleeve for running, which replaced my well-worn (and somewhat pungent) running jacket. So I'll say everyone is better off due to that purchase. (Plus it helped towards my mileage goal -- have I justified this enough to the world yet?)
The Results: I DID IT!! Last week I allowed myself a new fuzzy sweater and a (sale) necklace. Other than that though, I've done pretty well at breaking myself of my spending habit. And the extra $100 I put away this month? Keeping it in my savings account for a rainy day. 

Be Better To My Liver.  The Challenge: Avoid alcohol for an entire week.
The Halfway Point: I cut down on my alcohol intake during the first weeks of the month, but I still found it insanely hard to socialize without drinking. So I compromised with myself, I did not drink within my apartment during the week.
The Results: I definitely could have tried harder to stick to this challenge... but fortunately last week's cold kept me without alcohol for a full six days. So thanks, body, for yelling at me so my mom doesn't have to. Maybe we'll try this guy again after Thanksgiving.

Be Better About Increasing My Mileage.  
The Challenge: Run 60 miles during the month of October.
The Halfway Point: 26 miles (I was only four miles off at halfway!)
The Results: 43.74 miles. I was off my goal by about 3 runs' worth of miles. What I didn't factor in this month? I was in rehearsal and simultaneously finishing writing a play. So while I didn't hit my goal, it wasn't because I was lazy.

The silver lining? In the past three months I've run 131.47 miles. I'm going to cut myself a little slack.

Fun fact? I finished the Hot Chocolate last weekend in a little over 26 minutes. Even though I didn't hit my goal, I'm still pretty proud of myself, folks! Plus, look how much I'm enjoying that chocolate post-race.

All of the challenges actually went much smoother than I was expecting. While this blog in general is about tackling a ridiculous "to do list", I thought I would hold myself more accountable but tracking the goals on the blog itself. But it turns out I was able to stick to my goals with publicly publishing. Maybe I should have also added, Be Better at Blogging About Stuff to the list, but oh well.

Tackling goals is not easy and sometimes it's hard to see progress. I think it really helped to have a set of tangible things I could monitor with numbers - things like amount of money saved and number of miles run with less tangible things like counting to ten before I whine about my life. Do I feel like a better person? Sure. Can I do better? Always. Stay tuned for my recap of the second set of challenges and my next set of silly encounters in the city.

As always, thanks for reading.
xoxo, E.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Number 31: Invent an Interesting Past... Or Work On Creating An Even Better Future

Hey Gen Y. Millennials. Whatever all of you underemployed, over-ambitious, under-40s are being called this week. Can I get something off of my chest? Can I ask a teeny, tiny favor? Could you all please STOP. YOUR. BITCHING. Yeah, I'm talking to you, whoever wrote this article and this article, but I'm also talking to myself. Do you know how many times a week I complain about the "first-world problems" I'm experiencing? Too many. Complaining is natural - I get it. And keeping frustrations in is simply unhealthy. But lately I'm sick of listening to myself. I complain about everything from not having the perfect pair of shoes to wear on a Saturday night, to why I'm a 6 instead of a 4, to complaining about my job, to complaining about my career (and yeah those things are different). And let's not get started on the tirades I've gone on about my love life.

But what do I ever do about it? What do any of us every do about it?

I read a rash of articles every day that just COMPLAIN about the state of our lives without thinking about improving on it. We graduated into a recession, that sucks. We may be dreamers, but why is that a bad thing? We are called lazy, yet somehow we have the time and the means (and apparently the drive) to write article after article about the sorry state we are in - but we can't control those things. I mean someone out there had the time to create a DATING SITE FOR GHOSTS, but we don't have the time to spread any good. Look at what is going on in Washington. It's essentially a massive temper tantrum, but WHY?! This is helping NO ONE. NO. ONE.

So, starting today, instead of acting like this about the things I can't control...

...I'm going to focus on the things I can control and challenge myself to something I'm calling Be Better October. I started this blog (twice) to give myself a challenge. To publicly dare myself to get out and DO something. Here's All I Wanna Do this month...

- Be Better At Saving. The problem? I love clothes. LOVE THEM. But I don't necessarily need to buy any new ones right now.  
The Challenge: I will not buy any new clothes during the month of October. In addition to what I already put aside from each check, I WILL put an extra $25 into my savings account at the end of each week.
The Payoff: I'll have an extra $100 set aside to do something nice for myself. Or a jump start on my holiday present fund.  
The Duration: October 1 - October 31.

- Be Better To My Liver. The problem? Chicago is a drinking town. Everywhere you go, alcohol is not only presented to you, but it is encouraged that you have multiple drinks.
The Challenge: Stay sober for an entire week. (I'll give myself a bye for a celebratory glass of wine on Friday evening. Or when my fantasy team dominates again this week.)
The Payoff: Again, there's the bank account thing... but I'll have more energy to complete my "Be Better" tasks.
The Duration: October 2 - October 9.

- Be Better About Increasing My Mileage. The problem? I ran a half-marathon in May and while I haven't stopped running, I haven't kept my mileage up to the number I'd like it to be. Now that it's getting cooler, it's easier for me to go on longer runs, so it seems like a good time to up my mileage.
The Challenge: Run at least 60 miles this month.To be fair, I ran 52 miles in the month of September. But I'm determined to up the ante.
The Payoff: Looking smoking hot in my not-at-all sexy Halloween costume. (That isn't sarcasm. It's really unsexy. But it is hilarious. Obviously.) And smoking the competition in the two road races I've got lined up for November.
The Duration: October 1 - October 31.

- Be Better To My City. The problem? I feel selfish. In an effort to think and act more positively this month, I think I should do something for my community.
The Challenge: Volunteer at least once this month.
The Payoff: I'm helping to make my city better and someone's day better while betting myself.
The Duration: We'll see what I choose to do!

Be Better About Complaining. The problem? I'm sick of negativity. With all of the time I spend complaining about things, I could be using that time to make improvements
The Challenge: Like with anger management, I'm going to count to ten before I complain.
The Payoff: Hopefully I'll be sending out more positive vibes by the end of the month.
The Duration: This one is open ended... the wishful thinking part of me hopes this will become habit.

- Be Better About Working Hard. The problem? No matter how hard I work as an actor, there is always someone working harder.
The Challenge: Find and work out two new monologues by the end of the month.
The Payoff: ...we'll see.
The Duration: October 1 - October 31.

So, here we go internet. I'm trying to do a little good, one day at a time. So here's to a little less bitching, a little more positivity. I plan on feeling like this by the end of the month...

...because really, when I think best self, I think breaking it down with TSwift. Happy October, Friends. I'm off to do some good.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Number 47: Wear a feather boa and movie star glasses to the grocery store -- Or a Mustache Around A Street Festival

Ah... the street fest. The quintessential must-do for every Chicagoan. Starting in early April, we begin buying oversized mugs guarenteed to get us one dollar off our next refill, making excuses for why we're not paying the "suggested donation" at the gate, and taking pictures of us acceptably drinking in public.

Good times, guys.

But not all street fests are created equal. And so, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce... Taco Fest. I'll start off by saying that one of the particular perks of this fest is that we had to do zero traveling as it was right at the end of our street. In fact, it screwed up my run and my errands on Saturday afternoon. But Sunday, Taco Fest redeemed itself. (And it had nothing to do with the tacos.)

Before acquired any food or beverage, we acquired some mustaches for participating on THIS:

Yep, that is literally a mustache ride. Gross name? Sure. Fun? You betcha.

Then came the funner part. (Yep, I went there.) Wearing the staches. I'm not sure when the stache became a fashion statement, but we rocked the hell out of them on Sunday afternoon. From group shot...

to acting natural...

to taking care of business...

we sported staches everywhere. And apparently people noticed.

My favorite conversation?
Guy sitting on patio at Mystic Celt: Oh man - did you lose a bet or something?
Me: Nope. Why?
Guy: You know... (Gestures to the stache.)
Me: I really don't. (Walks away. End scene.)

So, the mustaches had nothing to do with Taco Fest but they did help promote what is my new favorite pumpkin beer - the Jack-O-Traveler. I'm actually surprised I've never heard of this company before since they are Vermont based, but I'm really glad I discovered them. It was like drinking a piece of pumpkin bread. AKA Heaven. Anyway, I understood the staches... what I really didn't get was the appearance of A CAMEL at Taco Fest. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but when I see a camel, I think Mediterranean food... not Mexican. But there it was in all its camel glory.

And while I avoided climbing up there, I thought it would still be a good time to have my picture taken with said camel. You know, until it was hungry since no one probably fed it any tacos and it decided to eat my hair. But hey, no harm, no fowl... er... dromedary.

Here are the things I learned about sporting a stache.

- I have no shame when it comes to wearing ridiculous things in public. And I love it.
- Drinking is pretty easy while wearing a stache. Eating, however is HARD! How do you do it, men?! I had to take mine off to eat my tacos. My delicious duck tacos.
- After awhile, you get used to the stares. (This is me assuming all staches get stares, not just mine.)
- And... this. While photos of staches are hilarious, photobombing will always be funnier.

You stay classy, Chicago. Lord knows we're not.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Number 65b: Remember the "a la mode" - A Summer Reflection

 Hey BlogLand... it's me. Erika. You may not remember me, but I'm the the girl whose life you read about when you visit this site. And sometimes that girl takes stupidly long hiatuses from posting. I'm sorry that I've left you hanging. Today marks a solid four months without a post. You're probably wondering what I've been up to. Well, friends, it's been a heck of a summer. (Hence the hiatus.) If we're Facebook friends you've probably noticed that I spent a lot of my summer holding red solo cups (cough, Mom, cough cough). That's because summer in Chicago is hot and I understand the importance of routine hydration. Glad we got that out of the way.

Well, since I posted last, I completed my first ever half-marathon (in 2 hours and 6 minutes), hydrated, spent two weeks traveling the East Coast, had some visitors, hydrated some more , saw some plays, and generally lived up that infamous "Chicago summer." You know, hydrating. And I made some important self-discoveries. (I know, I sound insanely productive.)

Here's a fun fact about me: I love watching tv sitcoms about solid groups of friends. Whether it's kicking back at Monica and Rachel's or sitting at the regular booth at MacLaren's or (as of late) playing poker at PJ's with the boys -  we take on these friends as if they are our own. I find myself saying things like, "I wish I could be friends with Schmidt." "Wouldn't it be fun if we could do that every night?"

But last month, as I walked away from a going away party for one my best friends, I realized that I actually do have THAT. We have our routines and our "spots" and our inside jokes. In every group, we each play our roles. We understand the dynamics of putting together certain groups of people. Recently, someone said to me, "I love meeting your friends - everyone is so nice and is always having fun." I'm pretty proud of that. I'd like to think that at 26, I'm choosing to surround myself with good people. People that I love and want to be around. People who bring out the best in me, understand the worst parts about me, and are still there for me when I have a colossal break down.

I don't have a large extended family and as a result I've made my friends a part of my family. Now that I'm far away from my family, this has become even more important to me. Whether it's coordinating a Skype date between four different time zones with my college friends or heading to a show to support new friends or answering that late night phone call because you know something isn't quite right, being a good friend is important to me.

An old boyfriend once commented how he was amazed that I have so many friends that I keep in close contact with. He wondered how I made time for them all. And how I was able to keep that many people close to me. "I make time," was my response. I've lived here for almost a year and half now, and I've gone from loving it, to wondering if I was doing the right thing, to being an absolute mess, to standing on solid ground. And it is the people I've surrounded myself with that even out the footing.

I know a lot of you (especially those in my age set) probably read this article yesterday. It made some interesting points, and gave me some stuff to think about, sure. But after I finished it, I got to thinking. I'm not unhappy. Things aren't perfect. I've cried more than once about the imperfections in the last month. But things will never be perfect. And, I mean, did you read the start of this blog? I just told you that I haven't blogged in four months because I've been having too much fun. I've been going on auditions and planning parties and discovering that I have friends that I can do nothing with. Because those are the best kind, the kind you can just sit next to on a couch with no movie on and no agenda, and just be with for hours on end. So what is there to be unhappy about? I've described myself as always striving to be the person in the room having the best time.

And sure, I probably could have a few more bucks in my savings account, and could spend some extra time per week at the gym, but life is out there to be lived. And so far, things are exactly at expectation level. So here we are, first post back, waxing on about happiness levels. I've got to go -- I've got to plan the side dish I'm bringing to supper club tonight and then figure out what I'm serving at this weekend's party. With my friends. Where I'll be having the best time.

Thanks for reading, BlogLand. I'm excited to be back in the game. See ya soon.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


FRIENDS! Tomorrow, Sunday, May 19, I will celebrate my four year anniversary as a college graduate. In even bigger news, I AM RUNNING MY FIRST HALF MARATHON IN THE MORNING.

I'm carbed up, hydrated, and ready to go. And it certainly helps that I've received an insane amount of will wishes from friends and family this week. So thank you! Oh, and did I mention that my parents are here to cheer me on?! Well, they are. And I couldn't be happier.

So here we go, kids. If you happen to be up around 7 am CST tomorrow and you'd like to follow my race progress, check me out on Twitter or on Facebook. If this crazy world works the way I think it does, every time I pass a mile on the course, my bib should tweet where I am...

See you all in 13.1!


Friday, May 10, 2013

Number 57: Take the credit, and the compliments, and say thanks!

I am not the most tech savvy person you've ever met. I know my way around basic computer stuffs, I can effectively stalk anyone on Facebook, and I can usually figure out small issues on my own without calling a help line. I'm also easily confused by the iphone, don't really understand how to use shortcuts on my computer, and PLEASE DON'T EVER ASK ME TO TYPE ANYTHING ON A TABLET. (That shiz is hard.)

So yesterday, you can imagine my chagrin when, while using my computer normally, I discovered my trackpad would no longer "click." My mouse worked but I could not select anything on my computer. I did some research from my phone and found that this is an insanely common problem with MacBook Pro once they hit a certain age. (Mine is about 3 years old.) It's often caused when the battery, which is located directly below the trackpad, swells, rendering the trackpad immobile.

So naturally, the first thing I did was call Apple to get a quote. Let me tell you something about Apple. They are certainly a well structured company when it comes to making their consumers completely reliant on them when it comes to help... and making sure they are charged every step of the way. But apparently, they don't put a huge emphasis on customer service. Here's the conversation I had with the "Genius" (read: asshat) that I spoke with at the Lincoln Park Apple Store yesterday.

Me: Hi, I'm calling to get a quote on a repair.
Genius: We don't give quotes over the phone.
Me: Okay, well if I describe the problem to you, can you tell me if you think you'll be able to fix the problem in store?
Genius: No.


Okay, I know what you're thinking. I probably should have given up at this point but I wanted some answers! Obviously he can't promise me anything without seeing the computer, but he could have at least tried to be helpful. Or at the very least, polite. THAT IS WHAT HE IS PAID TO DO. Here's how the conversation continued:

Me: Okay, um, well let me ask you one more question [insert part of story where I describe the problem here]. Am I right in saying that this is a pretty common problem with these computers?
Genius: I don't know.
Me: Well, do you see this type of thing a lot with the MacBook Pro?
Genius: Yeah, all of the time.
Me: Okay, so... you would say yes, this is a common problem. Can you usually fix it in store?
Genius: I don't know.
Me: Well, thanks for your lack of help.

And I hung up. SERIOUSLY APPLE STORE?! He didn't even try to be professional let alone helpful. If I'm going to shell out some money for this, I want to be spoken to respectfully. You know who spoke to me respectfully yesterday? The internet. I found this video -- which detailed the exact problem I was having with my computer.

So, here was my next problem. I didn't have QUITE the right screwdrivers to complete this task. I went to the hardware store but the guy that works there said that they are definitely a special order type tool. Well played, Apple. Well played. BUT... if you think that was going to stop me you would be sadly mistaken. I did a little MacGuyvering with the screwdrivers I did have and FIXED MY TRACKPAD.

I'll be taking the credit for this one. Absolutely. Special shout out to GoGeeks. Thanks for giving me the tutorial. Not bad for a Friday, folks. Not bad at all.

Thinking you want to use your computer skills to make yourself feel good today? You should probably give a vote for Sixth and I synagogue before midnight tonight. Click here. I did it. BECAUSE MY TRACKPAD ONCE AGAIN CLICKS. Yeah, I won't be letting this one go for awhile. Thanks, interwebs.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

MBFTIBMTTIF: And So Does Mike Jeffries

As per my usual naptime routine, I'm cruising FBook (like the cool kids), so I can get my news fix (like the cool kids), and I discovered that I am not, in fact, one of the cool kids. At first I wanted to cry. When I was in high school, I had a couple of weird haircuts, some clothes that didn't really fit me right, and a little bit of pudge on me in undesirable places. Plus I was a theatre kid. Definitely not one of the cool kids.

Then I went to college (in a city -- cool things happen in cities!) and things got a little better. I dressed a little cooler. I had a larger group of friends. Except for that time I gained the freshman fifteen (fine -- twenty), things seemed to be going well. Then I realized that on the weekends most college kids did things like this:

instead of things like this:

and I realized once I again that I must not be cool.

Fast forward to 2013, I am a fully grown adult. I've been told I'm kind of cute. I have a lot of friends. I have multiple jobs. I have a closet full of great clothes. For the first time in my life, I had reached the status where I knew I MUST BE COOL. And then today happened. And I read this an article where Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch publicly proclaimed that I was not cool. How do I know? Because he said this:
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids... Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either."
Because as we all know -- the way to be cool is to wear exactly the same clothes and to exclude those who can't afford a $50 tshirt, nor can they fit into it. GUYS -- I DON'T OWN ANYTHING FROM ABERCROMBIE AND FITCH. And since (I assume) I do not fit into Abercrombie's elite line of spaghetti strap tank tops and pre-shredded short shorts I MUST BE FAT AND UNCOOL. I even made one of these doodads to double check (I mean, I did well on my SATs and I went to a study-college -- remember?!)

Owning Abercrombie : Cool :: Not owning Abercrombie : Not Cool

OMG I AM SO EFFING UNCOOL. And since Mike Jeffries is telling me I am not cool, then he must be the COOLEST of the cool. He must either look like this:

Or This:

Or This:

So I googled him to see what the god of skinny popular teenagers must look like...

And good for you, Mark Jeffries. I was worried when you told me I was uncool. But now I see, that you're just re-branding cool. Because 2013's cool is just a creepy looking middle aged man marketing teeny tops to underage girls. I get it now...

You know what else I hear is cool? Being a dick. A exclusionary moron completely obsessed with physical appearance, with limited vocabulary, and ridiculous friends. Unless it lands you on reality television. Then it's a whole different situation.