Hello, yeah, it’s been a while…

Last post: October, 2011.

Yikes.  I really gave up on this place, didn’t I?

At least this is still here.  I somehow managed to keep it alive, even though I haven’t posted anything.

So I guess my first question is, what’s the purpose of having a blog anymore, especially if you’re an independent, personal blogger?  Blogging is very different today than it was in 2004, when I first started blogging.  Back then, it was the “new thing” that everyone was doing.  This was pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, heck even pre-MySpace.  There were no Social Networks around to keep everyone connected.  They were in development, to be sure — I think Friendster was just starting out at the time (remember that?) — and old-time bloggers will remember Tribe, which was a very early precursor to all that came later.

When Facebook started, you had to keep your posts to the (fairly common) standard of 140 characters, just like Twitter.  However today, you can post full articles.  Most bloggers prefer to do their blogging on Facebook– it’s easier to maintain, all of your readers are already “friends,” and you don’t have to republish anything.  The drawback, of course, is that you can’t attract new readers from outside your friend ‘circle’ unless you make your posts public and hope that it gets shared to the point it goes viral.  It’s a rare thing, but it does happen from time to time.

I decided to use Facebook in this way for the last year.  I grew tired of having to bounce back and forth from platform to platform when I wanted to get long-winded about something.  My friends who read this blog (there aren’t many of you left) will probably back me up when I say I let my long-windedness fly free on Facebook lately, and that’s exactly why.

But all the while, I thought about my lonely blog, sitting here, still getting hits (occasionally) and waiting for me to come back and write again.  I tried to restart it a few times.  I currently have seven draft posts that never made it past the third or fourth paragraph sitting my in my drafts folder.  Titles included:

  • Dusting it off
  • Re-Launching… AGAIN.
  • I still own this blog.
  • What Whitney Meant (started right after Whitney Houston died)
  • Back on the wagon (about starting back at the gym)
  • 2011 – A Better Year (a year-end post that got way too long-winded, so I gave up on it)
  • 41 (about my 41st birthday)

So I guess I didn’t completely abandon this blog– I just never really got through a post to get it going again.  I’m hoping that I finish this one.  It’d be nice to hit “publish again.

After I lost my job in July, I figured it’d be good to restart the blog so I could write out my frustrations and feelings.  Or just have a place to let my creative juices flow again.  Didn’t quite pan out that way at the time, but now, six months later, I need it again.  So here we are.

So where will we go from here?  Hard to say.  Now that the writing cherry has been popped (sorry for the visual), hopefully ideas and words will flow more freely.  I’ll take less space on Facebook and more space here, and simply express myself.

And hopefully, I will figure some things out in the meantime.

Oh, by the way… Happy New Year!

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So… what the hell happened?

The GAP logo.
Image via Wikipedia

Last week, I posted this short paragraph to my Facebook account:

Just had an experience that is making me re-evaluate the way I live my life. I need to make some changes, post-haste. For now, though, I’m going to spend a quiet night at home.

The comments, emails, text messages and phone calls that followed were overwhelming.  In a good way.  Without even knowing the source of my dismay, my friends from far and wide reached out to me with words of comfort and encouragement.

Mom and Beth, sorry you are hearing about this firsthand– I didn’t include you on that post– I didn’t want to worry you.

So… what the hell happened?

Well, in hindsight, it seems kind of silly.  Really.  I wasn’t held up at gunpoint or told I have some life-ending disease.  I wasn’t fired from my job or evicted from my home.  Nobody was maimed or harmed in any way, shape or form.

Only my ego.  And maybe my self-esteem.  But it’s really my fault.

OK, enough with the setup– here’s what happened.

On Friday after work, I was preparing to meet some friends out for drinks and then head to a fundraising event for the chorus.  I was looking forward to the events, mainly because in the very near future, things were about to get really busy with the chorus show.  A last hurrah, of sorts.

So I decided to go shopping and buy a new outfit for the evening.  I needed some new shirts, as I’ve worn my short-sleeve shirts to death.  The most logical stop was The Gap, since there was one just a block away from my first stop for the evening.

I went in, and I found a couple really nice short-sleeve shirts and a pair of jeans.  I also looked at a new jacket, since it had suddenly turned colder that day and I didn’t have one with me; and the jacket I already have is starting to look a little worn.

I found XL sizes for the shirts, because that’s been my size for years now.  I had been working to change that, but in the past few months I haven’t been so good about going to the gym.  We’ll talk more about that in just a few minutes.

Anyway, I proceeded to the fitting rooms to try my new selections on.

NOTHING fit.

Absolutely nothing.

Not the shirts, not the jeans, not the jacket.  They were all too tight.  In fact, the shirts were so bad I couldn’t even bring the buttons together with the buttonholes, and I had a hard time getting my arms in the sleeves.

Now I could see if one shirt was bad, but two?  That’s just weird.  I’ve worn XL Gap clothes for years and they always had ample room.  But not with these shirts.  At the first attempt, I thought, “This has to be mis-labeled. ”  It felt like a MEDIUM, not an XL.  But I took it off, and it was definitely marked an XL.

Dejected, I stood in the fitting room and started at myself, then at the clothes.  What was this telling me?

  • I wasn’t going to buy anything that day.
  • I needed to fix this problem.

How did it get to this?  I was doing so well just a year ago.  And now I can’t fit into new clothes.  How did I fall so fast?

Then I started to feel humiliated.  All I wanted to do was get out of there and go home.

So I patiently gathered up my things, brought the clothes back to where I found them, sauntered out of the store, and went straight home.

That’s what happened, and that’s why I was feeling so low that day.

Now, in hindsight, I have a few thoughts:

First, there has to be something amiss with those clothes and the sizes.  I could see if they were a little snug, but to be so tight that I couldn’t even bring the buttons together seemed ridiculous.  I have never had that happen before, and I’m sorry, but I haven’t gained THAT much weight.  In fact, I had a doctor appointment the following Monday, which only proved that to me– I am still well under the weight I was at when I started my workout regime in May 2010.

Second, I don’t usually resort to the tactic of “Vaguebooking” to elicit responses from people… but I felt pretty vulnerable that night.  I almost deleted that post shortly after I wrote it, but after the responses started coming in, I actually did feel a lot better.  I can’t thank those of you enough that reached out.  You helped me greatly.

Third, I have made a promise to myself to get back to the gym once and for all.  It’s going to be tough at first, I know; but I did it before and I know I can do it again.  I can’t help but think of how well things were going last year and how great I’d look now if I had only stuck with it.  So I need to stick to it and keep thinking of the end result.  It will come.

Now I need to actually JUST DO IT!  Getting started is the hard part.  But I know that (second) first day back is coming very soon.  It will happen.

And a year from now, who knows… I may be wearing that MEDIUM after all.

But let’s just take things one step at a time.

Resolution (Conclusion)

When last I left you, I had signed a lease for my new apartment, and things were looking up.  And for the most part, they kept looking up.  Minus a few setbacks, of course.  

But instead of rehashing all the drama step by step, I’ll just summarize and say that I am all moved in and settled.  I love my new apartment.  It’s spacious, clean, and there is actually more room here than I even guessed.  Of course, that has a lot to do with how much crap I purged before I moved — and believe me, I purged a LOT of crap.  

So how did I get to this point?  Here’s the summary….

1. My deal with the old apartment – The rental company kept my check and cashed it, even though I asked them not to, which set off a domino effect of problems.  It created a ton of stress for me, but it all got worked out in the end.  Especially since I had already signed a lease for my new apartment by then.  

2. Moving Day – I ended up hiring a U-Haul, and also hired two guys to help move, in addition to the wonderful help I received from four friends of mine.  I don’t know what would have done without them.  The day itself was as bad as it could possibly have been.  It was pouring rain almost all day long, and when I woke up in the morning that day (I barely slept as it was), I still didn’t know where to pick up my truck.  I called U-Haul at about 7:30 in the morning and they told me I had to pick it up at 7am and bring it back by 1pm.  HA.  Fat chance.  They didn’t see the mound of boxes I had stacked up and the number of furniture items I had.  

So I picked up the truck in the pouring rain and drove it back home.  One by one my friends arrived, and then the movers arrived.  I tell you, these guys were amazing.  They strapped so much stuff on their backs it made MY back hurt.  And they just kept going and going.  

At one point, my friend Bradley looked at me and said, “Rick, you really need to dump some of this stuff.”  I knew it, too.  And so I started throwing things away.  I didn’t even look inside boxes or crates– I just dumped it.  You see, in my family, we are, by nature, pack rats.  So it’s hard to part with stuff.  Well when push comes to shove, that trait goes out the window.  And in the end, I’m very glad that it did.  

I finally got all moved into my new place– save for a few more things left behind that I would pick up the next day.  Another friend called after everyone had gone home and asked if I needed help, so he came by and we set up my bedroom so I could sleep that night. And once we were done and had unloaded and unpacked a few more things, I had a bed to sleep on at last.  

I had one major casualty in the move: my sofa.  It would not fit in either door, no matter how hard we tried.  But it was pretty well destroyed anyway, (the cats had done their work on it over the years, both as a scratching post and, at one bad point in time, as a litter box!) so I was not exactly sad to see it go.  

3. The cats – My friend Rafael watched the cats for me while the move happened, so they didn’t have to be around for all the craziness.  When I took them back home, I wasn’t quite sure how they would react to the new surroundings, but they have absolutely LOVED it right from the start.  I think being away from their “things”  for so long made them very happy to be back, no matter where it was.  They are loving seeing new and exciting things out the windows, and finding new places to run and hide.  

So overall, the move went well, and I am very happy here.  I finally took some pictures the other day, and they are below.  From here, new adventures begin.  We’ll see where this all leads me.  Thanks for all of your support and encouragement through all of this — It was a really awful experience at the beginning, but it turned out to be a wonderful outcome in the end.

Bedroom from door

The Pink Bathroom - Sink

Kitchen - from hall

Living Room - From Entry

Dining Area

Living Room - Shelves

Living Room - Desk

Resurrection (Part 3)

So now I’m on Plan D… and I’m not loving the idea by any means. Obviously, the Kenosha option would be temporary. I’d live at home, save some money, get back on my feet, and start out again. It’s the whole getting back home thing that seemed to be more of a problem. As would getting to and from work, as I wasn’t about to leave my job anytime soon.

I started scouting Metra train routes to and from Kenosha into Chicago. I found that it could work– better than I had originally thought. It would mean a lot of planning and a lot of hours on a train… but if I had to do it, I could do it.

Then I started investigating moving options. My original thought was to store most of my stuff in Chicago and move only the necessities to Kenosha… or else just move everything and store it in my mom’s garage. That wasn’t ideal, but it was better than nothing. So I called up a moving company that I knew would go across the state line and I got a price quote for the move.

$5,000.

I almost shit my pants. They had to be kidding me. I mean, I have a lot of stuff, but $5,000 was preposterous. At the same time I plotted that strategy, I had them price a move within city limits. They came back with $975. No frickin’ way. So clearly, I was not hiring these movers, and I most certainly was not moving all my stuff back to Kenosha. I wasn’t sure what to do next.

I must have posted something to Facebook about my dilemma, because an hour or two later, I got a reply from a chorus friend who told me that he wasn’t going to let me move back to Kenosha, and he knew of a couple apartments that his landlord had available. We chatted a bit, and described them to me. The rents sounded good, but the location wasn’t ideal. At this point, though, I was willing to try anything — anything other than moving all the way to Wisconsin.

As it turned out, only one of the units was available, and it was the unit he had been doing rehab work on for the past few months. I went over to take a look. At first sight, it was obvious there was a lot of work left to be done, but the funny thing about me is, I am able to look beyond the buckets, plaster, ladders, hammer and nails and see what a place will look like when it’s done — and I liked what I saw.

The unit is a garden unit, and is a one-bedroom. The living room would double as a dining room, but it’s big enough that it could also house my office area. The floor in the living room and bedroom would be carpeted– which would be different for me, but I could handle it. The ceilings were tall– higher than most garden units I’d seen. The bedroom is smaller than my current one, but would fit my essential furnishings with no problem. The kitchen, by far, is my favorite room. It’s big, open, and was being extensively rehabbed. New ceramic tile floors were laid, and a new counter was going in on one wall, to compliment the counter and cabinets that already existed– lots of storage. A new stove was being ordered, but the fridge was staying, and that was okay– it’s a full-size fridge. The sink was the only downside. It’s a single sink. I currently have a double. And no dishwasher. But I saw the potential… I could make it work.

The bathroom gave me pause. The tile is pink, with green trim. At first sight, I hated it, but my friend said it might have to stay, so I looked past it. The more I think about it, the more I think I can make it work. I can play up the kitsch factor on that one.

The rest of the place has a lot of charm. There is an arched opening between the kitchen and the living room that I love, and the living room has arched knicknack shelves built into the walls. The ceiling of the living room has an area that is raised higher, creating a set-off area that I really like. I could see a Christmas tree going there easily. The windows are brand-new, just installed, and they are ‘regular’ windows, not tiny, glass-block windows like I had seen in many other garden units. Plus– and this is what sold me — electric is included, because the unit is wired to the main circuit for the building. I was ready to sign a lease right then and there.

So I applied for the place, and after some back and forth with the landlords (who are really nice guys–brothers–who live on the third floor), I signed a lease.

I felt a wave of instant calm. Things were finally falling into place. All the pain and headache I had experienced was soon to be a memory– albeit a bad one.

But things weren’t over just yet…

(Part four coming soon…)

Resurrection (Part 2)

Funny thing about me… I always say I work better when I’m under a time crunch. That’s a roundabout way of saying “I’m a major procrastinator,” of course… but it usually is true. So I looked at the situation at hand and figured out what I had to do. I came up with four plans:

Plan A- Find another roommate and continue the search for a 2-bedroom place.

Plan B- Find a person looking for a roommate.

Plan C- Find a one-bedroom place or a studio and live meagerly for a while.

Plan D- Cut my losses and move home to Kenosha.

I set to work on Plans A or B. I sent Emails to all my friends and all my chorus contacts. I got a few responses, but only one response to the Plan A idea. We met, talked it over, and decided to go for it. I set appointments at a few places and looked at a few of them– alone– but communicated my findings to the new roommate.

And then, mysteriously, my calls went unreturned, and my emails went unanswered. I looked at the calendar. It was already mid-March. Time to segue to Plan C.

I combed craigslist and Chicago Reader and made appointments. I called a couple apartment-finding agencies and scheduled sessions. I was in full-speed mode…

…but in the meantime, I had nothing packed, and nothing arranged for a move.

My situation was looking really dire. My stress levels were off the charts. If I had gone to the doctor during this time, I am quite sure my blood pressure would have been ridiculously high. I contemplated calling my doctor for a Xanax prescription… something I have never had before. It truly was that bad. I couldn’t sleep or eat, and called in to work a hell of a lot. (On the positive side though, I probably lost about 15 pounds.)

I took a day off of work and looked at apartments from 8am until 5pm. I saw some place that could only be described as closets, and others that were so ugly they made me a little sick to my stomach. One place was rather cute, could have even been promising… until I opened a cabinet door in the kitchen and saw a cockroach scurrying across the bottom. Finally, the last place I looked at seemed to be the right size at the right price– even if I hated it. It was in a 1950s-era 5-floor (they call them a 4-Plus-1 around here) building that wasn’t in terrible shape, but was in a not-so likable area. The floors were all covered in a nasty white acrylic carpet that looked like it hadn’t been shampooed in years. The kitchen cabinets were 1970s-era cheap, and one drawer had no face. The chandelier in the dining room was busted and filthy, the windows wouldn’t open, everything was electric, and the bathroom– the worst room of all– had powder blue EVERYTHING– floors, walls, tub, toilet AND sink.

Yeah, it wasn’t my dream home by any means… but it held some promise. The rooms were large, and there was a lot of storage. I figured I could make it work if I HAD to… and nothing else was looking as good. So I said, “Yes, let’s do it.”

From that moment, the dread and stress got even worse. I hated it, and I knew it. And I was saying “yes.” I felt like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” the adult version of himself screaming at the younger version to “Wake up dummy! WAKE UP!!” But I never woke up. I signed the papers, wrote a check, and hoped for the best.

Well the best never came. Two weeks later, I still hadn’t signed a lease. Two weeks later, it was just days before April 1. If stress were a rocket, then I surely, really and truly, for the first time in my life was a ROCKET MAN. I was set to explode from the stress I was feeling. The building managers balked at my credit report (which I told them was going to be bad,) and my lease history (my eviction notice from a while back was rearing its ugly head). They even contacted my current landlord to get assurance that everything was taken care of with the eviction, and they STILL dragged their heels.

I finally realized I had to back out of this before I went insane. I called my landlord and pleaded with her to let me stay until May. She agreed. Thank goodness. Then I called the rental company and told them I was canceling the deal. They were fine with it, but they still had my check… and the check was for first month’s rent at the new place, plus their fee. If they cashed that, I’d be screwed. I asked them to get the check back and I’d pay them their fee via credit card. They said they’d see what they could do.

By now, I was seriously considering Plan D as my only option. My mom and my sister were worried, and so was I. I had to make a decision, and quick.

So I decided to investigate the idea of going home.

(Part three tomorrow)