Another year, another apartment.

When I moved to Chicago in a hurry last July, I took one of the first apartments I saw — in part because I didn’t have the time to look more thoroughly, and in part because it was a really nice apartment in a REALLY SUPER AWESOME location. It was a little high for my budget, but manageable if I was careful.

I just got the paperwork for my lease renewal and I suppose I should have seen it coming — up-and-coming (read: gentrifying) neighborhood, apartment mere steps from the train — of course there’s a rent increase.

Yesterday, as I walked down Fullerton Avenue on my way to an apartment showing, carrying a bottle of Perrier, it was not lost on me that a white woman drinking sparkling water and walking westward along Fullerton pretty much summarized exactly why my rent had increased in the first place. I am part of my own problem, and of the problem plaguing my neighbors that have lived here longer and make less money.

I’ve moved a lot in my 35 years, and while I’ve never liked it, it’s never been particularly traumatic for me. I adapt easily to new places and tend to get along with people I meet, so while the actual mechanics of moving are never fun or pleasant, I’ve never felt so attached to a building or a location that I was really distraught at the prospect of leaving it.

When I first got the news about the rent increase, I felt a little excited — the part of me that enjoys exploring Chicago thought it might be cool to experience another neighborhood. But my excitement quickly turned to dismay and real sadness. I find that I am actually quite attached to my apartment in the short time I’ve lived here, and the thought of leaving it makes me feel weepy and hopeless.

Maybe it’s because it’s the first home I’ve known in this city, and I’ve been so happy here (happier than I’ve ever been in my life) that I’m worried a change of location would directly impact my happiness. I know that doesn’t make any sense, though, and I’m a pretty logical/practical person. This place isn’t even that amazing. Aside from the location, it’s got some serious flaws — my kitchen floor is so uneven I could easily turn it into an indoor water feature, and some of the windows are so drafty that multiple layers of plastic and fabric had to be used to keep out the winds of the polar vortex. So why am I so sad?

Perhaps it’s because it’s not my choice, because I’m not breaking up with the apartment — it’s breaking up with me. Whatever the reason, I’m really trying to look at all the bright sides, of which there are definitely a few. For one, the rent here has always been a little high for me. Moving somewhere else will allow me more disposable income, which would be nice. I still feel excited about getting to know another part of the neighborhood or the city, and I would like a floor that meets the walls at an angle that more closely approximates 90 degrees.

I’ll probably shed more than a few tears about it though, and I guess maybe it’s good to know that I can feel so attached to a location, that putting down roots somewhere is more than just a practical or logical move — it can be something I feel passionately about and have real feelings for. It also tells me that I’ve really come to call Chicago home very quickly and that’s a good feeling, too. Luckily, I’m only leaving the apartment and not the city, so I suppose wherever I end up, I’ll still be home.

 

Logic puzzles are my job.

I’m very late on this post for no real good reason. I wish I could tell you I had been on some swashbuckling adventures or, at the very least, was filling my time with fulfilling, inspirational projects that just caused me to forget all about the internet.

Sadly, this has not been the case. Actually, I discovered this terrible (wonderful) phone game called Parks.

I don’t typically have an addictive personality. I’ve never had problems with substance abuse or gambling or anything like that. But logic games? Give me a good logic puzzle and you might not see me for a long time. Give me a series of them, combined with the fact that I’m still a little zonked on painkillers, and … we’re lucky it was nearly 70 degrees in Chicago over the weekend or I might still be wearing the same clothes I was Friday night, my overheated phone clutched in my cold dead hand.

Parks is sort of like Sudoku, in principle .. the idea is that there is a gridded board with differently-shaped areas marked out as “parks”. Your task is to put a tree into each park such that every park has a tree, but no two trees occupy the same column, row, or stand adjacent to any other tree diagonally. The more you play, the larger the grid gets and the more complex the game becomes.

Parks - simple level
Parks – simple level

I will probably, as I typically do when I discover a game I love, play it to death and then lament the lost hours spent playing it. I will then delete said game, live a normal life for a little while, and eventually find a new one.

The good thing about liking logic games, besides the fact that they are probably a healthier addiction than say, meth, is that it occurred to me that my job is also kind of like one big game of Parks.

I can never explain what I do to people. People always ask me to explain my job to them and I usually respond with something like “uh, I fix the internet” or quote my company’s LinkedIn page — “I work in product data solutions.” For about 2% of people, that one works, but usually I get a blank look. My title is the even more unhelpful and vague “Analyst” which, let’s face it, could actually be just about anything. You may as well call me “Thing-Doer,” which is probably actually the name of a person in an Icelandic saga.

The thing that I actually do is figure out how to organize big jumbles of stuff in various states of disarray — currently the jumble is fasteners and the various tools used to fasten them. So, I have about 40,000 unique products including things like screwdrivers, screws, drills, drill bits, nails, hammers, hooks, hooks that have screws on the ends of them, hooks that have nails on the ends of them, etc.

My job is to put each of those products in their own place such that each has one and only one home, with like products being near each other but not confused for one another (a screw and a hook with a screw end are not the same thing, though they are related), and such that a person searching for any of those on the Internet could find them with ease. Minus the internet search part, it’s not that unlike trying to figure out where to place the trees in Parks. Except I get paid for it!

Gotta get back to my game, I’m on level 51 right now and jonesing for a fix.

 

 

 

 

 

Semper fi, soldier. Semper fi.

I have been struggling to write this post and just can’t seem to get anything out. I think it might be a little post-excitement depression. I got all these nice care packages, sweet cards and emails, was babied for a couple weeks … now life is back to “normal” (except I still can’t lift more than 5 pounds, which makes life challenging to say the least, especially when you have two 14-lb cats) and it feels a little lonely and anti-climactic.

Since I really am drawing a blank as to what I want to write about, I’m going to give you an inventory of my end table with reviews of each item.

ITEM #1: SHARPIE ULTRA FINE POINT

Ultra-Fine.
Ultra-Fine.

A pretty good marker as far as fine-points go. I tend to use these to finish drawings because they’re relatively easy to find and cheap. I actually prefer Micron or Staedtler pens, but these do in a pinch. I used this marker to do the outlining in the playing card image in my previous post.

 

ITEM #2: MOLESKINE UNRULED CAHIER JOURNAL

Or notebooks, if you prefer.
Or notebooks, if you prefer.

My friend Erin K. Drew turned me onto these journals and the obsession has stuck. I’m the kind of person that buys the three-pack thinking that one journal will be for to-do lists, one for writing and one for drawing. Of course they all end up being all three. I carry a graph-paper ruled one (red cover) in my bag for those emergency embroidery graphing situations that pop up from time to time. The paper stands up pretty well to abuse like being painted, inked or glued. The last 20 pages or so are perforated for easy removal – I wish more of the book had perforated pages, but otherwise I am a total sucker for these notebooks. Though some would say I should more properly call them cahiers.

ITEM #3: BOOK OF KELLS COLORING BOOK

For Colouring
For Colouring

Because let’s get real, who hasn’t always wanted to re-imagine the color palette of a famous early medieval Irish manuscript? This is a super detailed coloring book (duh) so it actually gets a little tedious (shocker) but if you’re the kind of person that would have a Book of Kells coloring book you already know this, and if you’re not, probably no review is going to convince you to get one. I know that’s a cop out but it’s true.

ITEM #4: BEESWAX CRAYONS

seriously the best
seriously the best

These crayons are seriously amazing. If you are looking for some crayons, eff a bunch of Crayola and get yourself these. The colors are so saturated and beautiful. The only problem is they’re pretty stubby and imprecise… probably because they’re crayons, and the people using crayons are usually children. I recommend sharpening the points before using them with your Book of Kells colo(u)ring book. I used these crayons on the playing card image in my previous post.

ITEM #5: RANDOM BOX OF EMBROIDERY FLOSS FROM SOMEONE’S GRANDMA’S ATTIC

Embroidery thread
Embroidery floss

It brings me great joy that when people clean their elderly relatives’ homes out, I’m the person they think of. A friend of mine sent me this musty-smelling box of only slightly moldy DMC floss. I’m not sure when it’s from but the design of the wrapper is definitely not the current design. The former library conservator in me hopes to lay these outside on a sunny day and get rid of some of the smell. I used one of the dark grays from this box of thread to embroider a Catherine of Aragon blackwork design (pomegranates, for fertility, you know — didn’t work for her, so I assumed it was safe for me) on my neck brace. Because if you have to wear a funny-looking collar, I say make it an Elizabethan one.

ITEM #6: SINGLE PIECE OF TOBLERONE, MOSTLY WRAPPED IN FOIL

Mystery confection.
Mystery confection.

This is a pretty bad photo, but I don’t think you need a professional quality image to understand this picture. It’s the most confusing thing on my table to me. Who came over and ate every single piece of Toblerone but one? I certainly didn’t because I would have finished it, and discarded the foil. Is this an example of candy-related andstandstuck? Some kind of chocolate message from the Illuminati?

ITEM #7: Amarelli Liquirizia

amarelli

This is possibly the strangest candy I have ever eaten. I have a thing for licorice, anise, and all things Italian, especially those that are licorice or anise-flavored. Imagine a hard lozenge candy with strong licorice flavor but absolutely no sugar and you are imagining this confection. I really hesitate to call it candy as it is 100% bitter and not in the least sweet. It tastes to me like the sort of thing you might dissolve in tonic water and sell to cure dropsy or some other Victorian-sounding disease. For some reason I keep eating it, probably because it is on the end table next to me and because it comes in a cool tin and also I kind of have a weird obsession with eating gross things.

So there you have it, that’s what’s on my end table right now. Happy April!