Dolla Dolla Bill Yo

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Money

Hey guys, hi. It’s been awhile. What’s up?

Not much here, you know, just thinking about money, mostly. Money, money, money. $$$ $$$ $$$ etc, etc.

Money has been clouding my vision a lot lately. Pffffft. What am I saying “lately” for? What is that nonsense? It’s been clouding my vision since I was old enough to drop a coin into the vending machine at Pizza Hut to get a unicorn sticker. It’s a huge, hanging, ominous green cloud. I don’t think I’ve ever gone ONE DAY without thinking about it.

I took to my Facebook the other day to declare my hatred for those cotton flaps that run and ruin our lives. “Money! It’s the root of all evil!”  Lots of people agreed with me, because hey, it’s the truth: Money sucks. Thinking about it sucks. Letting it consume your moments before bed so that you’re counting dollar bills rather than sheep sucks. If you don’t have to worry about it, congratulations for being in that little gold nugget of the world. You’re lucky.

I don’t mean to sound bitter, really, it’s just hard. I don’t want to want money, but I also don’t want to be homeless. “Money doesn’t make you happy.” I get it, I really do. I’m lucky in a whole lot of ways that aren’t in any way affiliated with money. I have them written down right beside my computer so that I remember them daily. But I feel like I spend so much time thinking about my next student loan payment sometimes. It’s valuable time we’re wasting. We shouldn’t have to regret going to college, getting a higher education. I’m tired of feeling like I can’t ever start my life as an independent human because I’m always going to be making payments to the man. You know what I’m talking about, this isn’t news to you. Insurance is expensive, medical bills are expensive, food is expensive, gas is expensive. Yadda Yadda.

This past year I’ve really been trying to save what I can. I splurged on a trip to Disney World, but hey, a girl’s gotta have a little magic here and there, am I right?

So I’ve been able to save more because there’s this little thing I was introduced to called “a budget.” HUH, WHAT, GASP. I know. It’s a frightening word. It’s a boring word. For millennials like us, we don’t want to be chained down to the rows of a checkbook. We want to travel, listen to live concerts, eat fancy things, live the life we want and were destined for! The feminist in me says, a budget? What am I, a 1950s housewife? Sure, I’ll get to that budget, Jim, right after I wash those sauce-covered dishes and iron your underwear. I don’t want to budget my money! I am a free, independent woman. I’ll spend my money how I see fit.

Well, here’s the thing. And I will preface it by saying that I am no ~financier~. I don’t own stocks, I don’t have a certificate of deposit and I definitely don’t enjoy pulling up my bank account online. But I do think we all need to stop that type of thinking — that a budget is some ghastly, abhorrent word. It’s actually pretty important. No, wait, it’s like HUGELY important. It blows my mind that they don’t teach students how to budget their money somewhere within their K-12 education. What is the square root of 10,664? What is the cosine of a 30 degree angle? Oh, I have an idea. WHO THE FUCK CARES. No, really, who.cares. Teach me how to not be poor when I’m older. That’s something that’s really going to affect my life.

Anyway, enough of the venting. We’re all in this together, we’ll get through it. In the meantime, I have some tips. I wish they could be actual money tips for you, like 20 percent of my meal, because I know that would make you happy. Sorry.

Tips!:

— If you have student loan debt (holla), opt for consolidation or income-based payments. Loans are life-ruiners, they will extract every last hope from your scared, shaking body. It will be okay. Maybe. Obama hasn’t told me yet. Pay what you can afford so you can actually live your life.

— Set up a savings account and put a consistent amount in it every month. Hey, it’s got to add up at some point right? Put a little extra in when you can, it will make you feel so good, I promise.

— Supplement your income with something that fulfills you creatively. I do this through my Etsy shop, but there’s opportunities for freelance gigs out there (music, art, writing). You just have to take the time to figure them out. I should be doing this more with my own writing, but alas, life happens. It takes time and energy at the end of the work day that I don’t always have. I feel you. Try not to get yourself down about it.

— Spend money on things that make you happy sometimes. I enjoy a trip to Whole Foods every now and again, a nice block of aged Seaside English Cheddar, new fall boots from Nordstrom or a trip to the sale rack at Anthropologie. You can’t let your lack of income literally overcome you. Make sure to treat yoself sometimes.

— Have a physical budget. It doesn’t have to be fancy — mine is a Word document. Seeing concrete numbers helps. Get all up on that Excel if you’re savvy.

— Sorry, this one is cheesy. Do things in life that don’t revolved around money. Go take a walk in your local forest preserve. Shit, that’s all I got. I literally can’t think of anything else that doesn’t involve money. This one is tough. There is though! And it’s those things that are the most rewarding. Spend time thinking about them.

So there’s my two cents (get it? because it’s a blog about money. ha.) Hopefully it helps or motivates you. But really, we’re all just flying by the seat of our empty-pocketed pants.

I feel like a Linkin Park song

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This is my friend Sarah’s blog. She is awesome. Read her stuff.

Sidetracks

Sometimes the noise in my head is so loud I just have to say fuck it and surrender to the tears that are pushing and shoving their way through my tear ducts. They all want a turn to star in the show. Me, me, pick me, Sarah. Cry me! I’m next in line.

Today I cried in my car parked in front of a Subway. I’ll take the 6’’ inch turkey with chips, and a cup full of snot, please. There was this guy in a dark Mustang parked next to me who looked startled, then squeamish—like he just saw a squirrel get run over, and he was trying not to stare directly into the pool of glistening guts. So warm and gooey.

Subway is long gone. I’m home alone. I reactivated, then deactivated my Facebook at least five times. I tried to change my profile picture to something less…

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HONY is my homie.

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Photo on 8-20-14 at 6.56 PM #4

If you haven’t started following the “Humans of New York” blog, dubbed HONY and not to be confused with KONY, you need to start right now. You need to start because it’s really important. I mean it. I’m using this post solely as an endorsement, because what HONY does it huge. I would argue it is one of the most significant uses of social media to have happened to date. The blog (or Facebook page or Instagram or whatever platform you view it in) is the single best damn thing on the internet. I’m both overwhelmingly happy that such a site exists and secretly envious that I don’t have creator Brandon Stanton’s job. Rats. 

ANYWAY. 

If you aren’t familiar (in which case, what’s up/shame on you, just kidding it’s fine, but really though) it’s basically a series of pictures posted daily of New Yorkers. Just everyday, real people — construction workers, emotional teenagers, druggies, struggling artists, survivors, the ice cream man, the proud mom. Anyone and everyone in between. He interviews them, asks them things like “what’s been your greatest accomplishment?” or “what do you love most about your partner?”, then explores them through the lens of his camera. And it’s evident from the comments of people he interviews that he’s gifted in this regard. In essence, he’s Titanic‘s Jack Dawson. He sees people, sees their pain, their vulnerability, and perhaps most of all, what is genuinely unique about every single person on this universe. He chooses a segment of the interview and pairs it with a photograph he’s taken of them. Wham, bam. Know that quote, something along the lines of “don’t judge because everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Yeah. That’s this blog summed up in one word. And it’s amazing. 

Amazing because it has created a dialogue. People comment on the photos, relate, share their own stories. Because, after all, not everyone lives in New York (thought it may seem like it to people who live there, perhaps). I can reach out from Chicago and be like, I feel ya bro! I had a similar experience when *whatever happened. Of course, the ability to comment from behind the veil of a computer screen comes with its obvious downside: the trolls. The cowards that sit behind their keyboard and prey on every opportunity to, as Alfred would say, want to watch the world burn. They exist everywhere, and HONY isn’t immune. When Stanton posts a photo containing the vaguest message of religion, or someone’s opinion on abortion, or a lost soul that has contemplated suicide, you better believe you are going to get one heated dialogue. And it’s rarely mature. But usually, thankfully, there are a select few comments that are so spot on they echo. And they sit atop the thread, above the vulgar spew of vapid leeches. It’s a community. 

So I’m really into this blog. What a cool idea. Brandon Stanton is the man. He’s overseas right now, capturing remarkable and truly heartbreaking civilian stories. He’s been in like Pakistan, Iran, Jordan, now he’s in Africa, where will he go next! And he’s doing the same thing: documenting humanity. He is single-handedly raising awareness to HUGE issues: water contamination, families torn apart by war, starvation. And I know I’m not alone with I say the some of the images have been shocking. There’s one he posted recently of a man whose home was invaded by rebels, and when he returned after he managed to escape he found his father with all of his limbs cut off. Yeah. That’s going to stick in this noggin probably forever. It’s not that I don’t know suffering exists, I do. But it’s also not something I’m exposed to daily through someone’s camera lens. And that’s why this blog is important. I truly think it’s humanizing people. It’s showing how we, as human beings, are both similar and undeniably intricate. The ALS ice bucket challenger has been great, but how about raising money and awareness about something that affects 80 percent (yes EIGHTY PERCENT, PEOPLE) of the world: poverty. 

So please, take a minute and check it out if you haven’t already. It might make you sad or angry sometimes; I know that sometimes the stories have affected me so deeply that I can’t get them out of my head for weeks. But maybe that isn’t a bad thing. Maybe it will also make you feel like we aren’t all strangers in this world. And that we all have a story to share. 

A Woman of Many Fears

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I’m afraid of a lot of things. To most people that know me well, this probably isn’t such a shocker, because you’ve likely seen me in action. Running, wailing, shuddering. It’s mildly ridiculous and embarrassing when I actually map it out in my head the amount of things that frighten me. It’s like if you went around and polled a bunch of random people and asked them, “what’s your greatest fear?” my answer would likely be everything they said plus about 45 more things. Some of my fears could stem from anxiety, which can get pretty intense at times, but some of what I’m afraid of is concrete. Concrete, I’m afraid of concrete and really heavy things, because what if they fall on you? and avalanches are scary…

but well… Let’s get started, because I need to get this off my chest. 

Exhibit A. I have an EXTREME, unyielding, semi-debilitating fear of centipedes. I’m not talking I see one and I go “ew! someone! kill that thing please! off with its head!” No. I am already down the block, past the Dunkin Donuts and on my way to Memphis. If I see one, I bolt. And then I proceed to panic and hyperventilate and make a huge deal out of this little bug. I’m a human for God’s sake, I’m a million times bigger than it, get it together. But man, those things are gross, and they frighten me on a deep, profound level. If you’ve ever witnessed one of these exits, I’m not playing around here. I almost had to unfriend someone on Facebook that posted a picture of one recently. WTF ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME FOR? I was affronted, galled, angry. Of course this person had no idea that I had to put my shaking hand on the screen to cover the picture while I clicked the “I don’t want to see this” button. And if you, centipede poster, see this, I’m watching you.

I’m also afraid of what I call “phantom centipedes” which can be anything from a feather to dust collecting on the wall to basically anything ever that might, maybe, COULD resemble a centipede. If I think I see one, my fight or flight sense says “kindly get the fuck out of here.” The other day someone said, “why don’t you show that thing who’s boss and conquer your fear, KILL IT, it will feel good!” And I either laughed at them or mean-mugged them, I forget because what an absurd proposal. 

Exhibit B. I’m unreasonably afraid of heights. I watched the documentary “Man on Wire” awhile back (if you haven’t seen it, it’s CRAZY). This man is literally thousands of feet in the air on a flipping wire. WHAT. I think he’s the bravest man in the whole entire world. Balls the size of watermelons. This man was God to me. My stomach was in knots for the entire thing. I have no desire to sky dive, go to that Hancock observation deck (WHAT IF IT BREAKS?) or go to Six Flags. All of those things sound truly awful to me. #sorryimnotsorrybutiamscaredtho

Exhibit C. Anything that is unpredictable and flaps. So birds, butterflies, moths (ESPECIALLY). I do that thing where I run around and put my hands over my ears when there is a sudden, unexpected encounter. I helped my mom clean the birdcage once. BAD IDEA — one escaped. I know, this sounds really silly. And, in fact, it IS silly because I have a tattoo of a freaking bird flying out of a cage on my back. Ah, symbolism. Typing it out I’m like “Lauren, Oh God. TMI, TMI, Tee EM EYE.” It’s real, guys. 

Exhibit D: Haunted houses and people dressed in scary costumes, especially ones that can sense and pray on my fear. I went to Dream Reapers when I was a freshman in college (yes, 18 or 19 years of age) and had to leave the line because some jacked-up dude in a clown costume wouldn’t leave me alone and made me cry. 

Of course, I’m afraid of the not-so-easily-pinpointed, ambiguous things, too. Things that generally most humans are afraid of. I’m afraid of being alone, of being judged, of losing people I love, of making the wrong choice, saying the wrong thing. But I’m also afraid of crossing the street when cars are coming fast, getting burned by the lava inside a Hot Pocket and answering phone calls to strangers.

To be clear, there are things I am ~not~ afraid of: I am, after all, a strong woman. A feminist, a curious adventurer, a lover of the many possibilities this wondrous world beholds. But I have a checklist, and there’s many I didn’t list here, so let’s just make sure we get these things clear before you take me anywhere. 

 

A True Legend

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Like millions, I’m struggling to understand Robin Williams’ recent death. He represented a significant part of my childhood — he was the Genie, Peter Pan, Mrs. Doubtfire, Doctors Patch Adams and Sean Maguire, John Keating. The list goes on and on and on. He brought these roles to life with the type of imagination and zeal that only a true genius could muster. Sometimes with laughter, sometimes with tears, he always delivered with passion. He taught me things, and because of this I felt like he could be my goofy uncle. I felt like I knew him. Then again, didn’t everyone? He was one of my favorite actors because, apart from the “stage,” he seemed like a genuine, regular guy. 

And just like that he was gone, and, to everyone’s dismay, of his own accord. It’s hard for me to imagine wanting to take my own life. I’ve thought about it, sure, but more in a philosophical “what would it be like to die?” way when I’m feeling sad. I’ve never planned anything, never desired to act it out, never actually wanted to end my life for good. Because what a horrifyingly final decision. The very thought of getting a belt out to hang myself sends shudders down my spine.

I’m lucky, though, to have never struggled with intense, manic depression like Mr. Williams did. I have always reached out for help and depended on others when I felt life was too much to bear. So I can’t even imagine the level of despair he was experiencing. I’m not a stranger to depression and the effects it has, not by quite a stretch. In fact, I love someone who struggles with clinical depression, and it’s, well, not fun sometimes. It’s a scary illness. It’s difficult for the person with depression, and it’s difficult for the people that love them and want to see them grow and succeed. 

News sources report that his daughter is “inconsolable” and no wonder. My own father died almost a year ago today. He died on the 20th of August. I saw him struggle for breath on our entry way floor. I saw his face turn blue. I made the 911 call, shouted at the voice on the other end to send ambulances faster, pleaded, wished, waited. He wanted to live, but he could not survive the attack that was pulsing through his heart. My dad had demons of his own, sure, but he didn’t want to die. I know this for sure. I don’t know what it would be like to know my father made the choice to end his life. It’s impossibly devastating to even fathom such a thing. My heart goes out to his family. 

Sometimes things in life are so tragic that there aren’t enough synonyms in the thesaurus or words in the dictionary to accurately capture them. To really convey how it pains the heart to even envision them again. It’s too much. And, as a writer, that’s a tough and frustrating thing because that’s what I do. I describe things. I try to say, “this is how it looks, feels, sounds,” in a way that no one else can. I feel like I can’t rightly do that here. I didn’t know Robin Williams, unfortunately, I only knew what I was filtered through the media like most others. But I know how he made me feel and how he made me laugh in his movies. And damn, he made me laugh really hard. He was a comic genius, but not only that, he was an unbelievably talented, well-rounded actor. There won’t ever be a “friend” like him. He was a true legend that will be missed sorely around the world for quite some time to come I’d expect.

I’m here to say I’m sad for Robin Williams, for my own father, for people who feel they have no way out, for people that die suddenly and unexpectedly and the loved ones they leave behind, for so many things. I’m sad in a way I can’t describe; I’m sad for a man I knew and a man I didn’t. Williams’ daughter, Zelda, is clearly a wise and feeling woman. I’m going to share her tribute to her late father here, because it’s heartbreaking and perfect:

“You — you alone will have the stars as no one else has them…In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…You — only you — will have stars that can laugh.” — Antoine De Saint-Exupery

If that doesn’t say it, I don’t know what does. 

Rest in Peace. 

Homebody

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Photo on 8-1-14 at 6.59 PM #2

I work from home. And yes, Captain Obvious, it’s awesome. 

I’m going to make you jealous. And you’re going to hate me. Because these are the things I can do, and, unfortunately for you if you do NOT work at home, you cannot do. Well, you might be able to do some of these things. I am not sure. Probably not this first one though, but MAYBE:

– wear or not wear clothes. As Jessica Day would proudly say, my boobs don’t have to go to boob jail today! But the girls usually end up going there anyway, mainly because when I don’t wear a bra during the day I feel like a super weird and awkward human. Well, more than usual. Or that I’m staying home sick from school like a 12-year-old. HOWEVER, everything else is optional. Yes, everything. I’m usually wearing last night’s pajamas complete with pizza stain. It’s the most unsexy thing you’ve ever seen. 

-hold concerts. Intimate, beautiful, heartfelt concerts. Concerts that put Barbra Streisand herself to shame. Buy your tickets in advance, these little ditties tend to fill up fast. A keen listener outside my door might hear any of the following: a selection from the RENT soundtrack,,,,or the entire RENT soundtrack. No, that’s not a typo. Maybe the Wicked soundtrack if it’s a good green day in Oz. Dance recitals are sometimes plugged into this spot if the day is extraordinary and I’m feeling limber. 

-eat at will. This can be both a GOOD and BAD thing. Usually bad. Very, very bad. I can meander over to the fridge to get carrot sticks, hummus or orange juice…but I can also grab an ice cream sandwich. You see the struggle here. 

-fawn over my fur babies. ’nuff said. I love animals, so that = perfect work environment. Feeling sad/overwhelmed/stressed? But look at that kitty!

-take showers during my lunch break. Hey, sometimes it’s necessary. 

-wake up and walk over to my computer. It’s like seven feet away. No commuting, no traffic, no asshole drivers. I know, this is usually where people are like, “I hate you.” And then, “No, I really hate you.” Because on the top ten things that suck most about life, traffic isn’t number one, but it’s damn close to it. In turn, my road rage has improved. As in it’s not so intense and terrifying anymore and people aren’t like, whoa, that girl really hates me for cutting her off. I still have my moments, let’s not get carried away. 

-keep my germs and, in turn, not receive the germs of other humans 🙂 🙂 🙂 KEEP YO NASTY. 

-have everything I need at my disposal. I used to say things like, “Gee, I left that at home today, darn” at my office job. Not anymore, ya’ll. Not anymore. 

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I’m sorry, I had to. Don’t hate me really though. Working at home has definite perks.

~Serious Moment of Blog~… but sometimes I get lonely. Humans/human contact can be cool and fulfilling and special, too. I met some of my co-workers for the first time in person on a work trip to Atlanta in May, and I was like “your face! it’s here! we’re in the same room! this is awesome!” An odd feeling when these are people you work with daily. So there’s that. Sometimes I feel out of touch. But mostly, working at home is just really, really nice. 

 

 

 

Don’t make me go back!

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Photo on 7-30-14 at 7.00 PM

I feel like a third-grader that doesn’t want to come in from recess.

Guys, it’s July 30th. August is like, this week. It’s on Friday.

Which MEANS, for all of us that have spent our summer waving our Chicago flags high and mighty and proud…it’s almost fucking winter. Insert gif of a frowny-faced celebrity or a New Girl character being sad and mopey.

WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY. Why.

July 30th. And it’s almost winter. Let that sink into your humidity-muddled brain for a sec. “Summer just started!” We think this to ourselves in a fierce collective, and we’d be right. It did. Technically it started a month ago. And now it’s ending. Bye, bye!

Sure, maybe I’m overreacting. Being a Whiny Wilma. But then again, maybe not. Because, in about, eh, 40 days or so, we’ll start to notice that familiar crispness in the air. That welcoming twinge, something’s changing, look at those leaves! How pretty! It’s like a Thomas Kinkade painting! We’ll need a cardigan, so we’ll grab one as we rush out the door to a bonfire. Or maybe you’re the type that proclaims, it’s hoodie weather! We’ll start drinking hot toddys. (What the hell is a hot toddy, though) Pumpkin-spiced everything, ciders, costume parties, colorful leaves, spooky haunted houses. I know, I knowwwwww. Those things are cool.

But all of that lasts for about two.flipping.weeks.

And then it’s winter. Fall was just purgatory, so painfully temporary. Fall is mean. It’s there and then it isn’t. Why fall, why!, why must you leave us so abruptly every year, only serving as a gateway for that cruel horrible nastiness we call winter? Fall is that cool friend that moves away to Istanbul after graduation. Must be nice, FALL, to just pack up and go like that. See ya! Great, now winter’s here…for like 8 months. I’ll just lay over here, on the couch, hibernating and wallowing with a bag of Doritos until I can wear a romper again.

Okay, some of winter is fine: cuddling, Santa Claus (which is an umbrella term for everything Christmas), hot cocoa, […] wait, that’s it. That’s literally all I like about winter. I am a woman of reason. I prefer to walk out the door and not say, “shiver me rotten icy timbers, it’s cold as a popsicle out here!” Car problems become second nature, snow is slippery so we fall down and embarrass ourselves, we need to wear like 47 things just to go outside. God.

So I’m sitting here thinking: WHY AM I HERE. Should I move? Should I go somewhere? I could do it. Pack my backpack, bundle up my kitty cats and book it down to the Gulf. Hang out there for a bit on a beach towel, sippin’ that margarita. Maybe I’ll say to California: California, here I come! Or go to like Denver or something, where the winters are picturesque at the very least. But then I realize I’m poor. Problem numero dos.

Bottom line is that I want to sit and enjoy the summer while I can, light my tiki lamps and have rooftop drinks. But it’s fading, soon. And I know all you guys busy summer-lovin’ feel me.

I just don’t want to stop doing these things:

Exposing my legs.
Going to bars where there’s just one big window in front and it’s OPEN.
Running outside and getting chased by little dogs.
Riding my bike.
Enjoying the absence of shivering.
Seeing green things that are growing in the ground.
Hanging out at summer festivals.
Being asked if I’d rather sit inside or outside. OUTSIDE, always outside.
Listening to Ke$ha with the windows rolled down.

Sue me.