Monthly Archives: June 2012

Smile! I Forgot My Camera

I love the person who brings the camera to the party. I love it because the second most fun thing after going to a party, is rehashing it the next day by flipping through photographic evidence of what took place. I’m never the person who brings the camera to the party. I own one. I’ve actually asked Santa for a digital camera (and received one) on two separate Christmases. I always have the intention of sticking it in my purse before heading out for a friend’s birthday party or a special work event, but for whatever reason it never leaves my tidy container of “Digital Things” I keep stored in a chest in my living room. I’m pretty sure it’s collecting dust right next to my iPod running band thing that hasn’t seen the light of day in over a year.

Maybe there’s something in the back of my mind that resists asking my friends to smile for me while I snap a shot, as my own experience over the years, posing for pictures at the request of my family has been a negative one. There’s a delightful picture framed in my parents’ dining room of me with the winningest sourpuss you’ve ever seen, taken moments after my sister received a bouquet of flowers for her dance recital and I, the ever attentive audience member, received NOTHING. There’s also quite a few frowny-face numbers of me in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris when I traveled there in 7th grade with my mom and sister and felt left out when they spent all of lunch looking over the map together. Can you imagine what it was like to raise me?

It’s so weird I found a calling in Theatre.

Yesterday as I was putting together my family reunion recap, I realized that I didn’t have a single picture to punctuate my tales. I remember when I was working on my first blog, Dear Tina, I read that one of the best ways to draw more traffic to your site is to post lots of pictures relating to whatever you’re talking about. If you look back at the posts I’ve written on this blog, you’ll notice that unless I was able to attain the image by googling “Bachelor Ben ugly hair fishes with model,” the post went image-less. Which I regret. Again, that camera of mine, sitting in that sad sack drawer, I must use it! I texted my sister asking her to pass along anything she may have snapped during our weekend away. Not to my surprise, two of the three shots she took involved groceries she had purchased. No one loves a shot of a filled grocery cart more than my sister. (I admit that I have an appreciation for this kind of photo journalism as I love trying to figure out what’s inside a celebrity’s shopping bag as they are photographed leaving a Whole Foods, but my sister’s pictures are always of like, yogurt and coffee, and I already know she eats those things.)

Look at that! The girl eats cereal! Cereal!

But she did pass along one gem I thought worth sharing. Unfortunately nothing to do with my family, but rather a brief glimpse into what it was like to travel aboard the great 354 Wolverine. We were getting off at the second stop on the schedule, so when the train pulled into the first station to let more passengers on, I was delighted to find this youngster climb aboard, and no doubt, thwart off evil everywhere. If only for the twenty minutes remaining on my trip.

This naturally conjures up many memories of those poor Jackson kids, cloaked in Mardi Gras masks as they traipsed through Las Vegas malls with their father, shopping for the latest in baroque furniture/chess boards. (Yes I DID watch the 2005 Martin Bashir profile. What else was I supposed to do that night?) But for real, any parent that lets their children waltz around in a Spiderman mask is awesome. Free expression, people. Start it young, encourage it always.

On a final note, for the purpose of this post, I googled “train riding euphemisms” and this was the top result. Egad. What was I expecting?

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The Allen Open

This past weekend Maggie and I, along with 32 of our beloved family members, traveled up to Grand Beach, Michigan to partake in a weekend-long reunion of sorts, affectionately known as The Allen Open. Exactly how many years we have been doing this is unknown. If someone sat down and really thought about it, I’m sure they could figure it out, but I don’t think anyone in our family really cares about the anniversary of the thing, so long as when the event is actually occurring, there is enough food to make the concept of hunger feel like a fuzzy gray memory in the back of your mind. We stay in a house owned by my aunt and uncle, who graciously open their doors to us year after year, despite increasing concerns for what this must do to their mental health. We can be a very needy bunch.

So this past Friday after work, I made my way into the loop, arriving at Chicago’s Union Station where I was to meet my mom and sister before boarding the 6:00 Amtrak to New Buffalo. We had agreed to meet at 5:40 on the giant square planter/fountain that I imagine accompanies all luxury Amtrak ticketing centers, so I quickly shuffled past the miserable folks waiting to hop on a train back home to the Southwestern suburbs, past the miserable folks waiting in line to buy cans of Pringles before their boarding call, until I found my mom, waiting patiently for her two less-punctual daughters. As I sat down next to her, she remarked on her thirst and offered to buy a bottle of water for me as she went to get one for herself. When Maggie arrived around the time we needed to join the growing line of Michigan travelers, she immediately noticed the matching bottles in our hands and before she could exhale, stubbornly protested, “Wait…I want one.” We all had a gentle laugh; a 27 year old functioning adult acting like a little baby! But the laughter quickly turned sour as my mom and I both knew that she was serious. Maggie grabbed her own bottle of water and got in line behind the Pringle-eaters. As she approached the cashier, she looked over at my mom (who was still standing next to the planter/fountain) and gave a look that resembled a child learning to ride a bike and hears the dreaded words “Ok, I’m going to let go now.” My mom, a quick responder to her children’s unwarranted panic, scurried over with her wallet and paid the man, relieving my sister of a $2.09 expense.

It is important to note, that had the situation been reversed, and I had arrived late and was not gifted with a free bottle of water before an hour and a half long Amtrak ride, I would have done that exact same thing. I might have even thrown in a Twix bar as punishment for forgetting about me. I don’t know what age you stop expecting your mom to buy you lunch, dinner, snacks, movie tickets, etc., but for someone turning 26 in three weeks, it’s looking like never. I imagine myself visiting them in the old folks home, ordering a pizza, and when it arrives, opening the door and calling out to my mom, “You got this, right?!” This is not to say I’m spoiled or feel any great sense of entitlement around my parents. I mean, my sister and I used to have to split a package of fruit snacks for God’s sake. But there is a part of me that resists growing up from the parent-child relationship, as I have known it. I was lucky to be raised by such generous, well-rounded, and selfless parents, but this appreciation and subsequent dependency on my parents has lead to adult-me calling my mom crying every time I have to update my resume, or am diagnosed with a UTI.

I’ve gotten off-track here. The point of this post is to regale you with stories from The Allen Open, and I’ve veered onto the ugly track of personal medical information. So ANYWAY, my dad picked the three of us up from the train station and we made a quick pit stop at the local grocery store so Maggie and I could gather all the supplies we would need for the chips and dips we were asked to provide. (I will avoid going on a parallel tangent about how our parents let us go into the grocery store by ourselves without offering up any petty cash. Those tortilla chips were $5 a bag! I need that money to LIVE!) We finally arrived at our aunt and uncle’s house where most everyone else had already arrived and were preparing to grab a plate for the first meal of the weekend. In years past, I have been known to get a little over eager on this first night and drink so much that I am out of commission for the rest of the weekend. So this year I was making a very conscious effort to eat a full-balanced meal, and keep track of how many glasses of chardonnay (and how close to the rim they were being poured) I was consuming. Needless to say, I was quite proud of myself when I woke up Saturday morning next to my sister, headache-free and only slightly nauseated by the stifling hot air lingering in the room. “I turned off the ceiling fan,” my sister informed me. Oh, did you? Such a good idea when it’s 90 degrees at 9:00 in the morning and the only thing left in my body to keep me hydrated is something manufactured by the late Robert Mondavi.

It wasn’t long before we were eating again. Nothing like a stomach full of bagels, sausage, hash browns, coffee cake, and a strawberry or two, to get you scampering up to your bedroom to put on your swimsuit. And not long after that—seriously it was probably two hours later—we headed over to where my parents were staying, a house owned by good friends of theirs in the same town, for lunch. They’ve been doing this for a few years now. Part of the reason is that the main house is short on bedrooms, and having a second home to organize a meal for 30+ people takes a load off of my aunt and uncle. Another reason is that over there it’s quiet and I’m sure to my parents they can almost make believe they’re not even on a family vacation.

Once everyone finished, they headed back to my aunt and uncle’s house to rest up for dinner. Seriously, it’s like the only way to tell time up there is by what meal we’re in between. My sister and I hung back and prepared our dips in a kitchen where we would not be in anyone’s way, and, more to the point, no one would be in ours. Maggie decided to make guacamole, which was almost a complete disaster as the only avocados available at the grocery store the night before were hard as rock, but we bought them anyway hoping for the best. The next day when little progress had been made, softness-wise, we reached out to my aunt had two perfectly ripe avocados at her house that she was willing to donate to the cause. Crisis averted.

I made a spinach and artichoke dip that my father later told me looked disgusting (apparently he has an aversion to artichokes) but was a monster hit with everyone else. So, win-win. Win because everyone loved it, and win because who cares what he thinks! Later that night, when we arrived with dips and chips in hand, we made our way out to the cabana, which is considered the general grazing area for those interested in squeezing one last meal in before dinner. I ended up never leaving the cabana, so my dinner consisted solely of tortilla chips, spinach dip, guacamole, wine, and a few hours later, an Oreo brownie. If you’d like to know how I felt when I woke up Sunday morning, I ask that you use your imagination as an attempt to come up with the best descriptors for that experience may cause me to lose my lunch right here on this computer. At least Maggie left the ceiling fan on this time. That next day I was having the kind of morning where I blindly rummage around all surrounding surfaces, looking for my glasses, only to give up in a huff and bitterly resort to putting my contacts in. And yes, that is to say it happens frequently. On this particular occasion, once the contacts were in and I could see again, I found my glasses on the nightstand that was directly to the left of the bed where I slept. You know, where one puts things like that.

Disaster.

We left Sunday afternoon, and I am happy to report that for someone with skin the color of a bar of soap, I stayed almost completely sunburn-free the entire weekend. There was a small patch of red on my right kneecap that I had neglected the first day because I had cut myself shaving and had to place a band-aid over that spot. Yes, it was bleeding that much that it required a band-aid. I’m like, twelve. Of course I took said band-aid off about five minutes after I finished putting on sunscreen, lounged in the sun all day, and now, thanks to great sunscreen coverage everywhere else, my kneecap looks like it has an STD. Still, a success.

As I said at the beginning, there’s no telling how long we’ve actually been doing this. But every year as Father’s Day weekend approaches, the anticipation of the reunion builds, and finally—instantly—you feel the excitement and joy in the air when you walk back into the house that Friday evening. It’s really quite something to have a family that big, and that invested in one another and the traditions we share. One day it will be my own children, staying out by the pool too late, drinking too much wine, and making themselves sick on too much dip. And as long as they’re being kind to their cousins (and good to their mother!), I’ll be proud as a peacock. Right, Janet?

Weekend Summer Getaway Recap: I Did Six Loads of Laundry At My Parents’ House

For the record, it took everything in me not to title this post, “Airing My Dirty Laundry.” I refrained because that sounds like the title of a blog where the twenty-something girl writer confesses every time she eats too much quinoa. And I still don’t really get what quinoa is. So, no, we are avoiding all obvious title-puns, despite the fact that the main subject of this post is my laundry, and how gross I am.

This past Friday night I had to head up north after work for a university showcase, featuring the next generation of actors willing to perform musicals written by their friends in spaces that resemble a living room more than a theatre, with approximately seven people watching each night. This is not a judgment. It is just a gentle reminder that though you were cast as Mark in your university’s production of Rent, it does not necessarily mean that the professional world is waiting with baited breath for your graduation day, when you can be released into their arms and cradled like the golden child you were for the past four years. Keep in mind, this is coming from the girl who saw a job listing for Casting Associate at a top Chicago theatre a month after she graduated, naively applied for said position with the thought, “I hope they don’t hire me until September so I can have the summer off!” and then spent the next two years of her post-collegiate life reminding a child that he had not yet formed the strength to lift an industrial sized rake off the wall of the garage. So, my cynicism comes with experience.

After the showcase, since I was already so far north, I decided to spend the night at my parents’ house. Always a win-win for me as I am provided with a delicious meal featuring a grilled meat, and free reign of the DVR to catch up on my two new fave shows, Veep and Girls. One day I will be able to afford HBO all on my own, and feel so materially satisfied that I will no longer experience pangs of second-class citizenry when buying generic brand freezer bags. After many glasses of wine, and artful dinner conversation that included a reminder from my father that he did in fact date heavy-set women before he met my mother, my mom and I moved to the couch for a midnight Girls viewing. This quickly transitioned into a nap for her, reemerging from unconsciousness every once and awhile to remind me how much she hates Adam. I went to bed with a handful of episodes still to watch, and so I resolved to spend the rest of the weekend at my parents’ house, with one quick trip back into the city Saturday morning to retrieve four weeks worth of dirty laundry so that I could at least say I accomplished something during my weekend hiatus.

For those who do not know, laundry is like one of my top five favorite things. Definitely number one on my list of top five favorite household chores (followed closely by cleaning out the refrigerator). I love the way a laundry basket looks when it’s filled with neatly folded clothes, every single outfit option I have at my finger tips. I love knowing that every single piece of underwear I own is clean, and therefore I am granted the peace of mind of a laundry-free to-do list for at least another month. This is very important to me, as I live in a building that charges like $2.50 per machine, and your clothes still come out of the dryer damp. So I’ve been told. I’ve actually never even been down in the laundry room as I am very cheap and would sooner lug a laundry basket onto the el and ride up to my parents’ house than pay that nonsense. (Luckily I have a boyfriend and father who are both equally willing to assist me on laundry days with their respective vehicles, so that bold statement has never been challenged.)

This was also the weekend I decided to take all of my winter clothes out of my closet and return them to my childhood bedroom for the remainder of the season. Whenever I take on this kind of task, I decide that half my wardrobe is worthy of donating to charity. That is not to say I’m the girl who spends thousands of dollars on clothes every year and ends up giving away items that still have tags hanging on them. No, I am just the girl who has owned a lot of ugly clothes and comes to terms with the need to get rid of more and more of them each year. This past weekend, for example, I decided it was finally time to give up a brown t-shirt that said “More Cowbell” on it.

But the real challenge this weekend was coming to terms with the fact that the shorts I have been wearing to bed for the last nine years of my life, had reached a level of disintegration so severe, that they no longer functioned as an article of clothing, or even like, a rag to wipe down your bath tub. One pair, a lovely pink terry cloth number, was actually previously owned by my sister’s best friend in high school. When that friendship fizzled out my sister’s junior year, I decided the shorts were mine for the keeping and have been wearing them to bed ever since. I usually match them with my forest green Gymnastics Camp 2001 t-shirt that has a lovely bleach stain on the stomach, but I can’t guarantee that I am always so color conscious when it comes to the PJs. Like that unfortunate incident in college where I got a little too into my cups, and woke up in the morning wearing my pink shorts, and a t-shirt of the exact same color. I looked like I was participating in an elementary school theme week titled “Exploring the Rainbow!” Today, the seat of these shorts is so worn, it is nearly as sheer as a pair of nude panty hose. Another featured item in my PJ drawer was a pair of mesh men’s basketball shorts emblazoned with my university’s now banned mascot that had a rip in the seam so severe, it could have been mistaken for clothing made special for individuals born with a third leg. Then there was the pair of black shorts that, from the get go, had a seam that moved in a diagonal, despite it’s intention to follow the line of your butt. On top of that, I don’t know when the holes started forming, but there were many and they were not discrete and they were only getting bigger. Most recently, the drawstring that maintained these shorts’ wearability, broke while I was tying a gentle knot. I resolved to roll them up until enough material had been folded together, that they could rest on my hips without falling off. At that point, they had crept so far up my legs, they looked more like really thick lady underpants than shorts. I held onto them, though, and wore them to bed, for at least two months in this condition. And I loved them. But as I pulled them out of the laundry basket this weekend, folding them nicely and placing them on top of the pile of other misfit shorts, I realized it was time to bite the bullet, be an adult, and head out to find brand-new, grown-up pajamas. Like the ones I found at Old Navy for only $7 a pair! They even have stars and sea horsies on them.

When I finally returned to the city last night, I unloaded my laundry basket, placing all the nicely folded items in their designated drawers. When I came to my sad pile of shorts, I debated whether or not to take a picture of them before sending them off to the garbage (I appreciate a nice clothing drive, but to donate these really would have been insulting). In the end I decided against it. Better to move on and not look back.

I wore one of my new pairs of shorts last night and woke up this morning unusually sweaty. i hope that’s not my body having an averse reaction to wearing something that was made after 2002. Even so, eventually I’ll get used to them and next season I can move on to tackling all the sweaters I own with one tiny stain on the chest.

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