Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Earworm Wednesday: Gotta Dance

When the Hubs has to learn a cover, I have to hear it about fifteen to twenty times in a night. This has never irritated me, which is probably why the guys often have rehearsal at our house. Today's earworm is song he's been learning (and he sounds fly). Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake's Love Never Felt So Good has been playing all throughout the house and it's the perfect pick me up song for this string of dreary fall days we've had in Michigan:
I got out of an appointment earlier than expected and I'm killing time at Starbucks right now writing this post and watching this video and I can feel my shoulders moving to the beat. I need to go dancing. Not get-all-dressed-up-and-put-on-makeup dancing. Not take-a-dance-class dancing. Just good 'ole move-your-body-and-don't-take-a-break-until-the-sweat-soaks-your-shirt DAN. CING.

Here is what else is going on with me:

  • Working like it's my job.
  • Starting a leadership program tomorrow through Southwest Michigan First. 
  • Writing a teacher book proposal and getting all stuck in my own head about it. 
  • Getting back on my regular workout schedule. It burns.
  • Trying to eat better and make more meals at home. It burns. 
  • Starting yoga on a regular basis again. I'm loving Yoga with Adriene. She has a good attitude, as evidenced by her morning yoga video:
  • Working on the office redo and even more purging. Crossing my fingers that it will be done by the start of the month. I'm thisclose. I'm just getting frustrated by this idea of gallery wall. Pinterest is amazing, but it also makes me create very unrealistic home makeover expectations for myself. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Séance

I've written about my dad before and many people who know me know the story below because it's a good story for a late night conversation. Here it is now, written for your enjoyment during this Halloween month. So play this song and read about my Halloween night of 2001. 

Before he died, I was lucky enough to have some good conversations with my dad about the big D.
     "Jennifer, when I die," he once said, "I am going to haunt you. Then you'll know I'm still around."
     "That sounds good, Dad," I replied, laughing. "Promise me that will happen."

Then he died on September 15, 2001-- my second week of college.

I took a week off of school for the funeral proceedings, contemplated dropping out for the rest of the year, decided against it, and returned to Valley One at Western Michigan University. I can't remember going to class at that time. I think WMU had a rule that if your parent dies in your first week of college you automatically get a 2.0 without trying-- that's how it seemed to me. I do remember working because I didn't really know what to do with myself except make sandwiches at The Den, wait tables at Ruby Tuesday, and look for another job to fill my time. I searched through the classifieds and found a job cleaning rooms at The Henderson Castle in Kalamazoo, which is a creepy place in itself.
It was the beginning of October. The man who owned it at the time gave me a job doing odd jobs for him for eight bucks an hour under the table. I'd throw a burned CD into my yellow Discman and put on some kneepads to clean the marble floors of the castle whenever I could fit it into my schedule. He also asked if I'd work as a guide for a haunted house at the Depot building in downtown Kalamazoo:
I don't remember how he was connected with the haunted house, but it seemed like fun to me. I was always up to try anything that wasn't boring. I hate being bored, but after growing up watching movies like The Exorcist and Amnityville Horror, I'm also scared of everything. I thought it'd be fun to work at the haunted house because I could challenge myself to face my fears. Plus, I love fall and Halloween.

I enjoyed the odd job of being a haunted house tour guide that October. I had to don a black robe, paint my face a little, memorize a script, and guide people through what we called, "The Haunt." I would get there after dark, get dressed up, and freak the eff out of people. Everyone who worked at The Haunt was fun and interesting. I didn't talk to anyone about my dad dying just a month before this job started. I just wanted to scare people and flirt with the older guy who played Pennywise in the It room (this is weird if you know that I greatly dislike clowns).

On Halloween, The Haunt was hosting a séance in one of the rooms of the Depot. They had an open spot and wanted to make sure the room was full, so they asked if any of us (the actors?) wanted to fill a seat for free. I've never been one to turn down something free. I quickly volunteered myself and found a seat in the circle.

As we sat and waited for the séance to begin, I found my grieving self very focused on my dad. Are you going to be here, Dad? I thought, over and over again. Will you be here? Will you be here? Will you be here? I snapped myself out of it and snickered at my questions. Working for The Haunt for just a few weeks had helped me see that there was really no reason to be freaked out by ghosts-- it wasn't real.

I'm going to have to interrupt myself to tell you three things that you should know before reading about the séance:
1. Only my parents call me "Jennifer." I never let anyone do it-- until I went to Senegal in 2010 because it sounds so good when someone with a French accent says, "Jennifer." 
2. My dad had cancer in his throat, which caused his voice to sound very raspy in his last few months. 
3. My dad loved music and musicals from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. He sang to us all the time. 
4. Our family had a lot of money issues-- my dad's medical expenses were not cheap.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled séance. 

The séance began. I didn't know anyone in the room. The medium was a man wearing a navy blue sweatshirt, black jeans, and a baseball cap. He looked like someone's grandpa. I don't know why I remember in such detail what he was wearing. I'd never gone to a séance, but I thought the medium would be woman wearing a turban with moons and stars all over it. He sat on a chair in the middle of the circle and asked everyone to hold hands and not to let go, no matter what happened. Then he said things I don't remember, something along the lines of, "We welcome you to this safe space, spirits, blah, blah."

The lights went out. I was on the edge of my seat.

I felt a warm breeze blow across my face. Nice trick, Mr. Medium, I thought. I couldn't see anything, so I didn't know where the breeze was coming from. Then, I felt a chill at the base of my neck that made my scalp prickle. My eyes squeezed shut in anticipation and also because I always close my eyes when I'm in complete darkness. It makes me feel like I'm in control.

"Kiss me once and kiss me twice and kiss me once again. It's been a long, long time," the medium sang after a few tense moments of silence. My palms went sweaty and I probably gripped the hands of the people on my left and right harder than I should. I knew this song-- my dad loved Bing Crosby. Dad? I thought.

"Jennifer, Jennifer," the medium said in a raspy voice, "I miss you so much. I don't want you to worry about money. I want you to be happy. I love you, Jennifer. I miss you." Then he moved on to a different "spirit." I can't remember the rest of the seance because I was freaking. the. eff. out.

I wish I could say that at that moment, I thought about the conversations I had with my dad about haunting me and smiled at the whimsy of it all. I didn't. The séance ended and the lights came on and I was having a full blown anxiety-grief attack in front of a room of people I didn't know. "HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT STUFF ABOUT ME?! WHO DID YOU TALK TO?" I screamed to the nice grandpa medium, who was staring at the snot running out of my nose in alarm, "How COULD you? He JUST died!" I was crying an ugly cry and a few people in the circle started crying too. The pain was palpable.

The medium sent everyone out of the room and sat down across from me.
      "I'm so sorry for your loss," he said. He had kind eyes.
      "My dad just died," I responded while gulping in air to stop my sobbing hiccups. "He'd love that song you sang, he called me Jennifer, he worried about my future and money-- we were just emailing about it the week before he died. He loved me. And he died before I could get home so I didn't get to say goodbye even though he said he would wait for me, he didn't. How did you know that? How did you know to say those things?"
       "I didn't," the medium said. "It's just a script that I wrote this morning. I feel so terrible about this. This séance is just like a stage play. I'm just so sorry." He took both of my hands and sat with me while I got myself together.

I left the séance room and saw that almost everyone from the séance was waiting for me. "I'm fine," I said in the nasal tone of someone who just finished an intense cry. The people surrounded me, hugged me, and dispersed. I probably gave them quite a scare, but maybe not the one they were hoping to get on Halloween night. A nice couple, who were probably the age I am now, sat outside with me while I smoked a calming cigarette and got myself together. They followed me back to the dorms in their car.

What do you do after losing your shit in front of a room full of strangers? I don't remember, except that I woke up early in the norming of November first, climbed down from my lofted bed, and sat on the futon in our dorm staring out of the window into the darkness thinking, Too soon for haunting, Dad. That was WAY too soon. 

Note: It's been thirteen years since the séance and when I look back with my adult eyes, I see that maybe it was all a coincidence. Maybe I, in my grief, took everything the medium said and made it relate to me because I wanted needed it to-- the song, the money, the name, the raspy voice. But, maybe I didn't. 

I recently emailed the owner of the haunted house and asked him if they still do a séance show on Halloween. They said they only did it the one time because of audience reaction. My bad. Happy Halloween month, everybody! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My First Stitch Fix

As promised, here are my thoughts on my first Stitch Fix.
It came early-- the day I got back from a camping trip feeling dirty and bloated.
I don't even want to talk about how crappy I'm feeling in my skin right now and how I did NOT feel like trying on any clothes. Over the last few years of triathlons, I've always taken a little workout break in September. The problem with this summer is that I only did three triathlons and I still took the same break from working out. I also took a break from caring about what I eat. Hence, I feel like poo.
My gut is hanging over my pants, people. It is not pretty. It's not even the gut. I just feel gross. Plus, I tried to swim my usual one hour swim today and it was hard. I'm not even looking at the scale. I just want to feel good and not sluggish. 
So yeah, I'm up about seven-ish pounds, but my stylist (oooooo, I feel so upper class) Austyn has good taste and I want to show you what I got in my Fix. Plus, all of the colors and styles are straight from my Pinterest. Nice one, Austyn. I feel like you care. 

My goal was to get five high quality pieces between $50-$100, buy one that would up the ante on my wardrobe, and send the rest back. Let's examine what happened when I faced the actuality of receiving pieces that were in that price range. 

My first piece was the Beautiful Jeans

My second piece was this grey Olive & Oak sweater:
Cost: $68.00
Likes: Color, chevron stripes, sleeve length
Dislikes: Bottom, looseness of the upper arms/armpit, material too thin to wear without a tank top underneath so why pay $68 for a sweater that doesn't keep me warm? Also, I bought an Olive and Oak top for work at T.J.Maxx this summer for $16.99 so it was really hard to be all about the cost of this sweater. 
Status: Sent it back.

My third piece was this Market and Spruce sweater:
Cost: $48.00
Likes: Color, fit, bottom, sleeves, the material (felt really nice on my skin), the ability to wear it for work and casual situations
Dislikes: The horizontal stripes. Dammit. I loved this sweater and I would have bought it if it didn't have the horizontal stripes. I have never liked horizontal stripes. They make my boobs look like they're too single and ready to mingle.
Status: Sent it back.

My fourth piece was this Daniel Rainn silk top:
Cost: $88.00. 
Likes: The color is lovely and looked awesome with my skin and hair. 
Dislikes: Cut (looked maternity on me), the tab sleeves, the boob pleats, and the price. The last time I was in NYC for work, I got a lovely silk top with a similar, but less maternity-esque cut from Uniqlo for only twelve bucks. I just couldn't do it. I wouldn't wear it enough to make it worth $88.00
Status: Sent it back.

The last piece was this Papermoon pleated skirt which I was really pumped about:
Cost: $58.00
Likes: The length, the pleats, the color, the swishiness of the skirt when I turned around
Dislikes: The material was paper thin and you could see my undies. Because the cloth was so thin, the pleats got SUPER wide around my current Buddha gut and it just looked bad. Bad, I say. 
Status: Sent it back.

The Verdict: 
I changed my Stitch Fix Style Profile prices to "the cheaper the better." I say I want to up the ante of my wardrobe, but I also can't spend that much on pieces that I won't wear very much. Now I know. I'm am sad about the horizontal stripe sweater. That is one I would have worn a lot if it had been without the stripes. 

Yes, I sent everything back, but I'm still doing this again next month. It is well worth the $20 price tag, especially because I'm trying to find my style and figure out what I really like and want in my wardrobe now that I've gone through The Purge. One of the best parts of this first Fix is that I got these neat little cards with outfits on them:
I'll be looking for styles and outfits that are similar to what were on these cards. I know I can create outfits like this on my own with Polyvore, but I like the feeling of someone else with skill doing it for me. These outfit ideas and cards made the $20 bucks well worth it for me. If I was in a phase of my life where I felt pretty good about my style, I wouldn't use Stitch Fix. 

We'll see what happens next month. Until then, I will be on the lookout for ankle boots, a shirt in the blue of the expensive silk shirt, and a swishy skirt with pleats in a thicker material. Thanks for the style help, Stitch Fix and Austyn with a "y".

I am not being paid by Stitch Fix to write about the company. I just like it. Please do a cheap girl a favor and use any of my Stitch Fix referral links from this blog post if you are thinking about trying it out so that I can get some referral credit on my account! *gingerly swings toe in the sand with hands behind her back after asking you to use her referral code. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Earworm Wednesday: Ani Difranco is a Boss

Last night I went to see Ani Difranco with one of my good friends at the State Theater. 
A month ago, I attended Iron and Wine at the State Theater and I left feeling meh. I was hoping the show would be soul-filling-- that I would leave feeling full of music and love and happiness and all of those lovely hippie feelings you I want when I leave a show. Sam Beam even played one of my favorite songs, The Trapeze Swinger, but he effing FORGOT THE WORDS. He was very funny and playful, but I think it was part of his schtick to forget words or say to the audience, "What do you guys want to hear?" which gives assholes the opportunity to yell, "FREEBIRD" which is one of my ultimate pet peeves.
Favorite song #1 from the evening.

This show was nothing like that. I was really into the lady singers in my late teens and early twenties. Ani Difranco was there when I dated a-holes who weren't right for me. She was there before I met the Hubs and declared that I wasn't going to date anyone because I wanted to focus on myself. She was there when I met the Hubs and we moved in together and I had an inner battle with my feminist self because I didn't think I should be so invested in a man, but I wanted to be because he was cool and I loved him.
Favorite song #2 from the evening.

It was great to see her now that I'm ten years older. Her songs mean something different now and I've always felt like that is the mark of someone who writes great music-- meanings can morph throughout all of the phases of your life. I definitely don't feel that way about much of the emo music I listened to in high school.

I left the show with a permagrin and a full soul. The vibe from everyone-- her fabulous opener Jenny Scheinman, the crew, the audience-- was so positive. I love shows like that and I'm so glad I got to share it with a fellow Ani fan-- she was the best Ani Difranco date ever!
We were oozing joy. 
Ani closed with this song, which I've always loved:

Good stuff. Ani is a Boss.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Stitch Fix Sent Me REALLY EXPENSIVE Jeans

I got my first Stitch Fix! I loved the experience of getting my Stitch Fix package and I will talk about the items in my fix on my next blog post, but I wanted to spend a little time on the super expensive jeans that were in my fix. 
Let me start with this: Stitch Fix sent me jeans that cost $178. As in, one hundred and seventy-eight dollars. 
My price range for Stitch Fix was cheap-$100. I have never tried on jeans that cost over a hundred dollars before. You might be thinking, "Jen, girl, nobody thinks that $178 is a lot to pay for jeans. That's the price of quality!" Well, you've gotta know that I am not from a $178 for a pair of pants kind of life. 

I gingerly stepped my foot into a pant leg. As I put the jeans on, I thought about what might happen to me as I pulled them up my legs. Would the stubble on my unshaven legs that touched the jeans turn into strands of gold and silver?

This is what happened: I loved the jeans and I wanted them NOW.

I ran errands after trying on the Beautiful Jeans. While driving to the store, I came up with a list of justifications for why I should spend $178 on the beautiful jeans:
- If I wear them twenty times, that will be just $8.90 a wear. 
- I usually wear out a favorite pair after a few months. Maybe this pair will last a few YEARS!
- They are made in the United States from cotton grown in the United States-- Buy local?
- If I don't go out to eat for the next three months I can buy them!
- I deserve nice things!
- I said I wanted to upgrade my wardrobe-- isn't a pair of jeans that cost so much upgrading? 
-I actually have money in my savings! Why spend it on a potential home or medical emergency? Why not just get some Beautiful Jeans?
When I walked into the house after running errands I was dead set on getting the Beautiful Jeans, so I wore them downstairs to show the Hubs how good my butt looked in them. He said they were nice and asked how much they cost. I said, "Well, you know, like, a little over a hundred bucks." His eyebrows raised so high they disappeared somewhere into his forehead. I realized after articulating the cost  that if I have to bend the truth about the jeans they definitely cost too much. 

I touched the soft material of the Beautiful Jeans. I tried them on again. I sighed in delight at how they were the perfect length for me. I walked around in them. I sat down in the living room, staring at the Beautiful Jeans and marveling at how shapely my legs looked. 
Then I put them in the package and reluctantly sent them back.

Because spending almost $200 on jeans is insane. 
After I packed up the Beautiful Jeans, I ended up telling the Hubs how much they really cost because I felt bad for sorta-kinda lying. The next morning, I walked into the kitchen wearing jeans and t-shirt.
The Hubs looked at me asked, "Are those the $200 jeans?!" His eyebrows looked ready to raise.
I sighed forlornly and replied, "Nope, these are just my good 'ole seventeen dolla' T.J.Maxx jeans. Guess I'm never gonna be fashionista. I'll just be a Maxxinista."
"Oh," he said, "they look the same. And they look nice." 

He won the game of marriage that day. I love him. 

And I still love Stitch Fix. More on that tomorrow! 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Earworm Wednesday: An Identity Song

I found my Wednesday Earworm yesterday while I was searching for identity songs to discuss with an after school program I'm working with. One of my favorite activities to do with youth I'm just getting to know is to have a listening party. We all pick songs that show who we are right now at this point in our life and we play the best thirty second clip from that song for each other. It always promises to be a good afternoon.
I also got to play around on Rap Genius, which I haven't done since the site first started. I spent way too much time on there yesterday. 

Plus, Kendrick Lamar samples Who's that Lady by the Isley Brothers, which makes the song even better.

When I was obsessed with the movie Almost Famous, I learned in the commentary of the movie that when he was younger, Cameron Crowe used to make a mix tape each week to show how he was feeling that week. That always stuck with me, which is why I love these listening parties. 

Have a great Wednesday, my friends. I've been blogging like a fiend this month because I'm gearing up for NaNoWriMo. I need to get my writing chops warmed up. But on the opposite end of that note, I will be taking a few days off for some fall camping. See you next week! 

Sunday, October 05, 2014

I Love Candy and Gone Girl is Candy

I read a lot. Like any good English degree holding human, I like to read what I call Grown Up Books (Pulitzer Prize winners, The Classics, books that make me think about the Big Questions, etc.). But in between those books? I like Candy. You know what I mean. I read Gender Trouble by Judith Butler (Grown Up Book) followed by The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman (Candy). I read Atonement by Ian McEwan (Grown Up Book) followed by-- and I can't believe I'm saying actually admitting this-- Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (PURE Candy... makes your teeth hurt, I'm embarrassed now).

When I first read the Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, I read it in a day. I just could not stop reading it. People were trying to talk to me and I couldn't even respond to them, so into this book was I. I gasped out loud and laughed out loud at how psycho the story was. I ended up reading Flynn's two other books as soon as I could-- Dark Places is my favorite. Her stories are Twizzlers (twisted and delicious) with fun characters. Now, I classify her books as Candy. They are fun, they aren't making a Big Important Statement about anything. They are just really effed up stories that you can devour as fast as a box of Swedish Fish. I like red candy.
"Totally twisted," just like Gillian Flynn's fiction. Yummy.
I just left an afternoon showing of Gone Girl and I wasn't disappointed. Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay and David Fincher directed so it was bound to be a good, nasty, and twisted book-to-film adaptation. However, despite my excitement, I found myself feeling irritated going in to view the film by the feminist rage that has been pointed at Flynn since the movie has received so much buzz. That it glamorizes rape culture and makes violence against women a punchline. A piece from Ms. Magazine's blog about how the conversation about how white privilege is missing from the Gone Girl debates made me think: Since when is Gillian Flynn responsible for addressing every single issue in our society through her Candy stories? 

Does Stephen King get this much shit whenever one of his movies comes out? "How dare you, Stephen King. I can't believe you didn't take the opportunity to really dig deep into animal abuse issues with Pet Cemetery. You sir, are not on the side of the animals."

I bet he doesn't. Because he's a dude.

I shall now go back to my regular reading schedule. Next up is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I haven't started it yet, but I'm sure if it is made into a film, there will be something she should have addressed that she didn't address and how dare she.
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