The Benefits of Home Workouts

Illustration by Katie H.

I’ve been a fan of home workouts since I was a teenager, awkwardly following kickboxing and pilates workouts in my bedroom. For most of my adult life, I’ve been jumping, planking, and crunching in apartments around the country. Costly gym memberships, living nowhere near a gym and the convenience of turning on a video as opposed to taking myself to another building to exercise were all valid reasons to choosing home workouts. And, yes, they were effective.

Even though some people benefit from the structure that gyms offer, there are numerous benefits of home workouts. For myself, I knew I was more likely to stick to a workout plan if I could do it anywhere during the times when I couldn’t afford a gym membership, or like now, when mandatory lockdowns have closed gyms all over the country.

Successful home workouts are possible and you can get the results you’ve been working towards in the gym. Maybe those results have changed from “lose 10 pounds” to “not eat myself out of every pair of jeans I own” for the time being, but that’s okay. There is no shame right now in eating whatever you want.

Still, as delicious as gorging on sugar and bread is (until you get a headache, toothache and stomachache simultaneously, which I call the Glucose Trifecta), there are benefits to turning on a yoga video or doing some crutches in between shotgunning beers in your bathroom and eating powdered sugar sandwiches.

It’s free

A long time ago when I didn’t know how to workout and I didn’t have the confidence to trust myself to figure it out, I’ve paid too much money for home workout programs. Had I simply done a little research, there are tons of free online workouts. For the last several years, I’ve been using Fitness Blender, a wife and husband fitness instructor team who believe that staying healthy should be a free option to everyone. Their egalitarian platform offers hundreds of free workout videos, ranging from strength training and HIIT to pilates and kickboxing.

During the quarantine, some gyms are streaming free online workouts. Studio 3, a combo spin-HIIT-yoga class studio, that usually costs $250 a month, is providing free IG strength training and yoga videos three times a day. If you’re looking for a structured yoga workout, try 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene. It, too, is free and sometimes, there’s a dog in the video. The only downside with at home yoga workouts is the hands-on correction from a yoga instructor, but placing a mirror next to your mat to check your form can do the same. And you know what a mirror can’t do? Point at your stomach hanging out of your yoga pants when you’re dying in a plank and say cheerfully, “I see some belly hanging! Belly button to spine!”

See? Even more advantages to at home workouts.

No commute time to the gym

The worst part of going to the gym is going to the gym. Here’s short list of what gave me anxiety preparing for the gym:

  • finding clean workout clothes
  • doing mental math of what time to leave to get to your class on time
  • calculating how much time you can spend at the gym during your lunch break
  • the possibility of running late
  • being late and groping your way to your bike in a dark spin class

Working out at home? You decide to workout, you put on workout clothes – or not? – and get it done. Then you’re back to your life – whatever that entails right now. Watching Rick and Morty, and dipping joints in a brown butter and sugar mixture? Don’t know if that’ll work, but whatever keeps the serotonin flowing.

Wear whatever you want

No one can see or judge you – wear whatever you want. Even if its nothing. Some people embrace this fashion mantra wherever they go. Have you seen how Nicolas Cage dresses? So what if you don’t have appropriate workout clothes? Who cares? Also, there’s no fear of others judging your poor form doing at home workouts, except maybe a roommate and I’m sure you’ve seen one another in more compromising situations. Even at the gym, there’s no need to feel like an idiot when you can’t correctly do a burpee or complete 100 crunches without stopping and screaming because your ab muscles have exploded. This is your time to learn how to do that stuff. So flop around on the floor like a fish in your pajamas. It’s okay. You’re trying.

Stop whenever you want

Working out at home gives you the power to end that nonsense whenever you want. You ever try to slip out of any kind group exercise class? I’ve watched people do it and everyone stares. Or worse, the impossibly fit instructor makes a comment. There’s been many times I’ve wanted to leave a demanding hot yoga strength training class or a really intense spin class because I’m so delirious I’m seeing mirages of floating ice cream cones. Even then, my social anxiety won’t let me leave. I just try to catch those ice cream cones, which may or may not look strange.

Post workout snack is right there!

It’s right there! Hooray!

Your mental health thanks you

Look, nothing makes sense right now. And it might not for a long time. The best we can do is take care of ourselves with the means that we have. Exercise creates endorphins which can significantly decrease anxiety and depression. If you don’t have some lingering sadness or frustration watching mass unemployment and death, you have the serenity of a Buddhist monk. And if you’re thinking, “Crunches? Pilates? A single push up?! That’s a hard no!” – great! You know what you need and maybe it’s snuggle time on a couch. We’re all doing our best to find ways to cope, which right now, could be doing one crunch before heading back to your Netflix marathon.

We Need Toothpaste

Fuck

We’re almost out of toothpaste. The formerly plump tube is now flattened to .0005mm, almost as thick as the random blonde hair growing between my eyes that every seven months I discover is three feet long and no one told me. I found a half-empty travel size toothpaste under the sink, but how much time does that buy us? If I use Instacart or Amazon, will the workers shopping, packaging, shipping and delivering it be okay? I don’t want them to get sick because I don’t want another fake tooth. But what if we stop using these services? Now they’re part of the 16 million newly unemployed who can’t get access to the flooded unemployment system?

Anyway, Instacart is backed up with orders, so we’re looking at four to five days. Same with Amazon; the travel size toothpaste I found lodged behind my vacationing hair dryer is buying us two days max, three days if I only brush once a day. With my extensive dental history thanks to my easily rotting teeth and sugar addiction, I have to brush two times a day – at least. This isn’t the time to neglect your teeth. Dental emergencies during a respiratory pandemic is not ideal. I don’t like dentists breathing into my mouth and vice versa on a non-coronavirus day.

Normally, when we need toothpaste, I would stop into Walgreens after the gym, but the gym doesn’t exist anymore. And walking into any store right now isn’t easy. My brain goes into mental gymnastics, jumping onto the mental pommel horse before it’s ribbon routine right before hitting the rings: “If you go to Walgreens, tomorrow morning instead of today, and if you get infected while buying toothpaste, and all the clearance Easter candy, let’s be honest, that’ll buy you 48 hours over the churchgoers who got infected going to Easter service yesterday. And maybe that’ll buy you more time for a ventilator to be available. Or shit. Will they have gotten to them first? And if the hospital is out of ventilators and have to use a point system to decide who gets the next one and if I’m up against a young church-going mother who volunteers at a swamped food bank on the weekends when she isn’t at night school while caring for a handicapped husband AND aging parents, even I’m going to say, yeah, roll me into the street.”

I don’t have a mask. We went for a walk, or with social distancing in effect on narrow Chicago sidewalks, more like Frogger, on Saturday in the eerie solitude that used to be Logan Square. With everything closed, Milwaukee Avenue was almost devoid of human life, making my heart hurt. I missed the eclectic 20 somethings. Even dogs being walked looked confused, like, “Dude, where are those hipster kids dressed unironically like Wham band members, vaping while recording Tik Toks? I want my head petted.” When strangers weren’t jumping away from us like scared squirrels or having conversations with friends standing on opposite sides of the street, less than half the people we saw were wearing masks. After five minutes, I hated everyone who wasn’t wearing a mask. And that would include me and my boyfriend.

Do I order paper surgical masks? But that would make me asshole because of the PPE shortage for healthcare and essential workers. How do I make a mask? I can bake, but I’m not crafty. Unless, is fondant a useful barricade against pathogens?

Who has the easiest mask making instructions? A YouTube video? Buzzfeed? Which t-shirt do I sacrifice? A really old one that is as transparent as the pale flesh on my stomach? Or a thicker shirt I don’t like because it’s a scratchy and hot and why would I put that on my face if I can’t stand it against my chest skin? I mean, I think I’ll leave it in place, because death, but what if I forget and pull it down and infect myself and then other people, causing an exponential amount of suffering and carnage? Do I even use a t-shirt or something thicker, like a bath towel or a floor rug?

Am I overthinking this? Can I just tuck my chin into my neck and pull my shirt over my face like an awkward middle schooler? Would people be okay shopping near me in the candy and gum aisle with that set-up? Fuck it, I’ll tie a pair of pajama pants around my face. Easy enough. Wait. What happens when summer hits and it’s 100 and humid? From late June to early September, I don’t like to wear sleeves or denim lower than the bottom of my ass cheeks, let alone a face covering made from one of my sacrificed cat shirts that I say is “so stupid” but I treat like it’s a rare jewel.

And when the vaccine comes, who’s getting that first? Is it getting overnighted to the rich? Am I going to spend months watching celebrities like a contoured Kardashian or a white guy comedian with eye bags and pending sexual assault allegations posting photos of a band-aid on their upper arms and dumb hashtags like #toodle-looCovid-19 or #oneshotformeisoneshotforusall while us plebs have to hide in our homes eating expired canned goods for another year waiting for the drugs to trickle down to us?

And if vaccine distribution isn’t based on wealth and stance, then will it be a lottery like in Contagion? Probably not, because in real America, free lotteries are only used for getting corporate swag like keychains and beer coolies or drafting young men to die in wars, not giving the poor and disadvantaged equality. So, what then? Who filed their taxes first to last? Who voted for whom? Pant sizes? Hair length? Netflix queue? Will they just spray us down with the vaccine using trucks like DDT in the 70s?

Or will the Feds use a value based system? Hoo boy, I’m fucked if that’s so. My personal values align less with typical American values and more with a sloth’s. I dunno, I just like to hang out. Slowly. I’m 37 and recently chose to make less money to be a freelance writer so I can wander around my house asking my cats and unused uterus what they think a good, but funny “think piece” would be.

How much will it cost? Is Johnson & Johnson going to charge $5k a shot? Who can afford that? The demon drugmakers know it’s a gold mine and it’s not like the war profiteer in the White House will stop them. Look what happened to insulin. Congress will try, but Jesus, can anything get done? And speaking of Trump, what fresh hell will be unleashed in the coming weeks and months or, fuck, four more years, thanks to his narcissism and dumbfuckery? As I’m writing this, he’s retweeting #FireFauci, the one guy who knows what’s up, all because Fauci isn’t saying good things about him. How bad will this get? How scared are our representatives knowing that we’re noticing how quickly pollution went away when we stopped the capitalism grind? How gas became affordable while Zoom reigns? Or how quickly our jobs went away? And now that there is indisputable proof the economy is built on the backbone of workers, not the rich assholes gazing down on us from their penthouses, will when the revolution begin? And when will commercials start trying brainwash us back into the “normal way of life” to try and prevent this?

Okay, I found toothpaste. On Amazon. It’ll be here in two days. The sparkling cheesy packaging says it’s probably not effective, like it’s filled with M&Ms and meth, but it’ll do in these “uncertain times”. Uncertain times – there has not been a phrase that makes me gag more. Ever, in any times. It fails to encapsulate the scale of the awfulness of all this. Uncertain times should be trying to decide what’s for dinner, not wondering if we’ll die from a pandemic or if we survive, suffer financial ruin.

Uncertain times. Please. But, that’s my anxiety talking. Maybe we should expect good things? Maybe things will change? Maybe it’ll all be okay?

Shit, we’re almost out of milk.

A Novel Good Morning To You

A “powerful woman but really want to get back under this blanky” vibe

What’s it like to be a morning person? And by that, I don’t mean that you necessarily like being awake in the morning. I mean, what’s it like to be awake in the morning?

Of course, I’ve been awake in the morning. But since the early half of 2000, I haven’t had to wake up regularly in the morning. Thanks to 20 years in the service industry, my work started at 4. Depending on the jobs, sometimes a shift would being at 10:30am and for a short while, really early, like seven or dawn, when working at an Irish pub for European soccer matches, but those lunch shifts were never consistent. If I’m up and moving before 8, (and by 8, I mean 9. Actually, 10) I either have to be at a doctor’s office or I’m getting on a plane. And on some extra special mornings, my sub-consciousness anxiety woke me up at 5am and I’ve been sitting on the couch eating French toast and waiting to be tired enough to go back to bed when everyone else is showering and starting their commutes. And, actually, that’s the same with flights – once we’re in the air, I’m asleep. Also, after a doctor’s appointment? Kicking off my pants and laying back down wondering when they’ll call me back with the test results saying I have every STD known to humankind – even if it’s the optometrist.

So, I guess I’m asking, what’s it like to be awake in the morning when it doesn’t feel like a novelty and then stay awake until bedtime?

Setting an alarm and having a consistent schedule has never been a thing for me. If that sounds glorious to you, maybe you could pull it off, but inconsistency has always rewarded me with a constant humming of slight to above average anxiety. Without a set schedule, sleeping becomes hard. It’s chaotic. And at some point, it becomes lonely. You’re moving opposite to the majority of everyone else in the world. Sure, I can hang out with co-workers, but there’s nothing to do except drink after work, which got old for me several years ago. In my twenties and even early thirties, sure, it was great being able to crank back drinks until 4 am and still get 8 hours of drunk sleep, which didn’t help the hangover at all. Probably because after only three drinks, my body goes into the shakes since I’m always eating refined sugar and really, no one’s kidneys could effectively manage with that kind of uptick in glucose.

I avoided early classes in college, but if I did have them, I had a favorite chair in the library I would pass out in. High school? Forget it. My alarm was set to the last possible second and even that meant I was doing 80 mph on the highway to get myself and my younger brother to school on time. Which is a tradition within my family. My oldest brother, responsible for getting us to school from 1994 to 1996, would jump behind the wheel of the van at 8:08, barely awake and barely dressed, while blasting Guns n Roses, to get us to school by 8:15. And if I overslept by even a minute in high school, I wouldn’t go. I tossed my car keys to my brother and bargained with my mom. All I had to do was promise to clean the house and do the laundry and I got a day watching soap operas and The Price Is Right.

I stopped having a consistent bedtime at, like, 10. Everyone was always wandering around the house in the middle of the night and sleeping whenever and wherever. Baking cookies at 3am? Sure, just make enough for everyone.

I’m asking what a consistent morning schedule feels like because I have to do this now. Waking up in the morning and getting to work. I mean, I don’t have to, I’m working from home – like almost everyone right now. I could still roll out of bed at noon and barely get my freelancing done. But that would raise questions and eyebrows from my boyfriend who has been successfully working from home for years. Also, waking up at noon means I have very time to get any more work done, so I’m limiting myself in potential new work.

I had just begun attempting this novel morning person persona, when COVID-19 was like, “Yo! ‘sup!” I know we’re being told to just relax and do what you can – it’s a pandemic. Unprecedented and no one knows what to do. As long as you put on pants – good job. And if you didn’t – eh, maybe tomorrow. Except, the majority of our workforce being forced to work from home right now is an odd timing for me. Like an undercover oracle, two weeks before the restaurants were shut down in Chicago, I quit my bartending job after 20 years in the industry. To work from home. Just in time for a never before seen global pandemic.

A week after the Illinois lockdown, my old boss told me, “You wanted to work from home. Now you got everyone else to, too.”

You’re welcome?

So I guess it’s great timing for me there’s an influx of advice columns telling us all how to work from home. Oh, and that I didn’t lose my income like my co-workers*. Except I’d rather everything was back to normal. I’ll happily fade away into the night again.

And sidebar, one thing I learned from the coronavirus was a new use for the word ‘novel’. How many times have you heard the phrase “the novel coronavirus”? Like a billion? You don’t normally hear novel as an adjective, only as a noun, as in “Josh has been trying to write his novel for years.” But novel means new. Ironically, because of the novel coronavirus, we’re all having a novel experience, like learning to work from home or experincing collective trauma on a global level.

Neat!

I’m trying to get up earlier and earlier. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, meaning most of the time, when my boyfriend’s alarm goes off, I sit up straight in bed like a jack in the box with bed hair and sheet lines tattooed into my temples, stare blankly at him through sleep-swollen eyes like I don’t who or what he is and then I flop back into the bed like a jumping fish falling back into a lake. Everything is a process.

Slowly but surely we’ll all get there. There might some days when I say fuck it to stress baking, roll butter in sugar and watch Letterkenny all day. There might be days when the alarm goes off and I get up, too.

So far, I’m in the middle. Waking up an hour after he’s scrumming away. Scrolling through IG for twenty minutes. Finally getting out of bed and groping around for my glasses and pants. Puttering around the kitchen for another 30 minutes. Jumping up every twenty minutes to find a distraction, like snacks or to sing to the cats (they like it. So do our neighbors).

Whenever I did wake up early, back when Earth was open for business, the world always looked different to me. It was a novelty. The sun hit differently. The air was crisp. Sounds were more sharp. Everything was new and ready to go. I was used to commuting to work in the middle of the day when everyone else is inside their offices and Earth was getting that 2 o’clock feeling. And then coming home, when it’s night and there’s no one around again, but more ominous. In the morning, on the way to an appointment or a flight, I’m watching everyone move with everyone else to the trains or inching down the freeway. Everyone’s together. And each morning seemed like it was giving Earth a mulligan. I liked it.

Man, I want it to hurry up and come back so I can join it.

*If you’d like to help those out of work co-workers I mentioned, donate to the Osteria Langhe Employee Relief Fund gofundme:

6 Ways Bartending Destroys Your Body

She worked seven doubles in a row.

Sometimes a sycophantic co-worker will say, “I want to learn how to bartend!” Typically, they’re dressed super cute, maybe some heels going on because their job requires delicate tasks, like seating guests or coat check. They’re young, usually having just turned legal drinking age, so bars are still novelties to them.

I’m wearing clothes that are garbage because I’m always damp, from sweat, dirty dish water covering my jeans, spilled drinks and olive juice marinating my shirt. There might be anywhere between one to five cuts on my hand from a dull fruit knife or shattered wine glass. Exhausted, my hair falling out of a shitty bun while eyeing the drunk guy at the end who I have to cut off or the couple who might run out on their tab, I say, “Yeah, it’s really fun.”

What I don’t tell them is the list of physical maladies that read like symptoms of a flu strain busting out of Asia. It’s no secret bartending can be back breaking work. The amount of physicality varies depending on where you work, but make no mistake, slinging drinks takes its toll.

General Aches and Pains

Have you ever been beaten with a sack of doorknobs? Neither have I, but I know the feeling. Waking up the morning after a busy bar shift will leave you wondering who broke into your bedroom during the night and pummeled you with a baseball bat. Once you get up and moving, the general achiness will subside, as well as other methods to reduce stiffness, but you will wonder who stuffed your sleeping self into a industrial clothes dryer.

Cacophony of Cracking

I would say this next ailment drowns out the sound of morning song birds, but you heard those when you got home at 5 a.m. Now it’s two in the afternoon, you’re stretching in bed only to hear bones clicking and snapping back into their sockets like a first year biology teacher’s classroom skeleton being assembled. Don’t worry, there’s nothing pathologically wrong, those are gas bubbles popping around joints. Some of us may have more cracking joints than others, due to genetics, but typically, the symphony of sounds emanating from your joints is from hypermobility. Now, if there’s pain associated with the cracking, that leads me to my next point.

“Did I leave the oven on?”

Chronic Pain

From pinched nerves to plantar fasciitis to tendonitis, chronic pain is something we would like to ignore, like that greaseball waving frantically at you for drinks only to turn around and ask his friends what they want when you finally get to him, but we can’t. The pain is there and it’s not leaving until it’s dealt with (or served a vodka soda, an old fashioned, a Bud Light, a shot of Yaeger, and “whatever Madison wanted”). There are ways to prevent injuries, but bartending requires you to be on your feet for hours upon hours, moving – usually quickly – and lifting kegs. So, of course, stretch whenever possible, drink tons of water, wear comfy shoes and watch your posture, but injuries still might happen. Slip on a wet floor and you have a wretched knee to deal with. If injuries do happen, don’t ignore them by drinking more shift drinks than usual, deal with them immediately. Trust me, they’ll only get worse and cost you more pain and money in the long run.

Persistent Fatigue

Once, after suffering cold symptoms for almost two weeks, I went to a primary care physician who dismissed my symptoms as a cause of “well, you’re a bartender, so you probably go out all the time.” Or maybe there’s bacteria building a subdivision in my sinuses, Doctor. Some might assume your constant exhaustion is substance abuse, which does make people tired. However, as a bartender who rarely drinks, the fatigue that accompanies bartending, as well as anyone who works on their feet, is real and unavoidable. Standing on your feet for forty hours a week will affect anyone. You’re going to be a little sleepy. Yes, you can go to the gym to increase your physicality, drink tons of water, eat well and sleep seven hours a night, but, c’mon, still sleepy. And for introverts like myself who found their way into a lifetime of customer service, your energy will be drained. Energy vampires are real.

Constant Exposure to Illness

Speaking of doctors, good luck ever taking time off work to see one. Despite the exposure to hundreds of people and their airborne illnesses every shift, the service industry is notorious for allowing, or demanding, their employees come to work ill. Hospitality workers having paid sick days is more rare than painite and they usually can’t afford to miss a shift. We’re not exactly millionaires. If you are lucky enough to be able to afford a day off when you’re dying with the flu, calling in sick without a doctor’s note usually means you’re required to find someone to cover your shift. If not, you’re working, unless you have a merciful manager. And speaking of doctors, hospitality workers are usually paying for private health insurance. And with the rising cost of healthcare, how many workers can actually afford the steep insurance premiums?

Fungus and Cavities, Oh My!

Now, for the closers, fungus and bacteria. Ah, fungus. We love you as mushrooms, but I do not want you on my toes. Once, I had a hole in my boot while bartending in a flooded bar which rewarded me with six weeks of athlete’s foot. Hands are constantly wet from alcohol, sanitizer water and fruit juice chapping your skin raw, resulting in the cutest term, bar hands. Like Edward Scissorhands, but touching a dry cotton polishing cloth will make you scream in pain. Another fun side effect is the prevalence of cavities. While I blame the majority of my dental care on my sugar addiction, there’s a definite cause and effect in alcohol and tooth decay. Tasting cocktails that you make to ensure consistency is part of the gig, but drink water afterwards because the acids in booze will rip through your teeth enamel like a tornado.

Bartending can be a rewarding job. The money is usually great, the people are sometimes great and guests respect you because you have knives and flammable liquids within reach. But you do have to have a thick skin – both emotionally and physically.

From Bartender to Freelance Writer: How to Prepare for A Career Change

I’ve been in the service industry for my entire adult life, except for one eleven month period when I got out. The phrase “got out” pertaining to someone leaving the hospitality industry is, I imagine, almost synonymous with a felon leaving prison.

The recidivism rate within the service industry is probably lower than most correctional facilities because, in prison, you can at least sit down every so often and punch someone in the face if they complain about the food. My first attempt at getting out of bartending sputtered and stalled, for several reasons.

I failed because I wasn’t prepared. I had money saved, but there was no budget. I lacked the emotional maturity so any rejection or hiccup sent my anxiety soaring. I would give up for the day and drink copious amounts of pinot grigio from a jug while watching HGTV and checking my dwindling bank account. I didn’t have a supportive partner or even close friends in the city I was living in. In hindsight, it’s no surprise I returned to bartending, serving (literally, ha HA) another seven years, or as they say on the inside, 84 months.

Now, it’s time to get out- for good. This will be tricky because I don’t have a job in another industry lined up. In fact, there will be no single job. I’m going from slinging drinks to freelance writing. Not a decision to be made lightly, I’ve been planning for this for a few months.

Make The Decision

I bartend in a corn maze

To be fair, I never liked my current job. Never mind the inconsistency, the low stipend for playing the role of bar manager (really, an inflated title they gave me to compensate for having to deal with a three compartment sink), or the exhausting physical aspect of it, what always bothered me was the low-grade sexism of the place. I’ve worked in places where the sexism was really blatant, which, frankly, would be welcome at this point.

Pointing out that a tank top for female employees reading, “Eat my pie,” is bullshit versus explaining that everytime I ask a question, turning away from me to face the nearest man to give the answer is much harder. Or wondering why male employees receive their supervisor pay on a different check than myself. If I wanted to be gaslit all the time, I would go back to my alcoholic ex.

Tell People/ Find a Support System

In order to make the decision real, i.e. not back out, I told people. So if I did back out, it would also be embarrassing on top of soul-sucking. Telling people what I want is hard for me so this was a good exercise. Plus, I could read their reactions to see if I was making a huge mistake.

To my surprise everyone’s responses were positive and told me to go for it. My partner offered to help as best as he could. Friends were excited to hear the news. I was not expecting an overwhelmingly positive response, but more on that later.

Create a Budget

Creating a budget is like cleaning out your closet. You find an old sweater you were missing (or money) along the way and at the end, even though maybe you tried on an old pair of pants and they’re way too tight (or it costs more to live than you thought), you’re at least facing the truth. Terrifying but cathartic.

To track what I’m earning and spending, I made an appointment with a financial consultant at Next Door, which is free and run by State Farm. How is this free? In return, they use your data to create entertaining commercials starring character actors and beloved quarterbacks so we buy more insurance products from them. Tit for tat, baby.

After a nice woman collected data from me (College? How did you get here? Rent?), she handed me a worksheet. The sheet listed expenses into categories: fixed, variable and non-monthly. Fixed is a set amount you spend every month like rent, variable would be bills but they vary a bit, like groceries or utilities and non-monthly would be clothing or gifts. After you tally those, you add them up and subtract from your monthly income. Hopefully, you have money left over, which would be either disposable income or savings. If not, you scream until you figure out what you can cut from your life. Actually, regardless, there will be internal screaming.

A seagull, after seeing his monthly clothing budget

Since I’m going into freelance without clients, my income would become me paying myself from my savings. Awesome because I can give myself a raise whenever I want to the detriment of my boss, me, who will simply ask more out of me, the employee.

Make a Plan

All right. I made the decision, I told people, and I created a budget. Now. What’s the plan? What needs to be done to start getting clients? I wrote things to do on Post-It notes:

  • make your website look professional, i.e. take down drunken rants from three years ago (but save as drafts; they are money)
  • find a domain name that isn’t stupid
  • start an Upwork account
  • research other avenues to find clients
  • start blogging
  • create more specs
  • decide what kind of work you want to do

Panic

Deciding on a domain name took me two days. Then I tried to redesign my WordPress site, which again took a lot longer than the 45 minutes I envisioned. “This theme? No, this theme? This theme? No, this theme? No, this theme.” Researching revenue streams took me down Clickbait Avenue. Trying to decide a niche for myself was another 48 hours of listing things I knew and then asking, “But do I really?” With a timeline of six weeks to get everything together and quitting my job, I needed a sense of urgency.

Rip Apart an Elephant

Do it

What’s the saying? It’s easier to eat an elephant by tearing it limb by limb than biting into the whole thing?

I’m pretty sure that’s it.

When faced with too many things to do, I freeze. To unfreeze, I broke down my to do list into bite sized pieces. I compared it to running. If I’m planning on a 45 minute run, that seems daunting. But if I tell myself to make it to the fifteen minute mark and then the 20 minute mark, then the thirty, it’s not so hard.

So, instead of just a “Organize WordPress site” post-it note, I broke it down into multiple post-it notes: “Draw website”, “Write Copy”, “Organize Pages”, “Write Specs. I accomplished two of those in the same time frame as it would have taken me to procrastinate by baking cookies.

If you hit the proverbial elephant with a grenade

Expect Good Things

Always expecting the worse has been my mantra for the last several decades. While this has given my humor a knife sharp edge, my negativity is exhausting and not much fun. Changing my outlook to positivity is a must.

Generally, people don’t dive into a pool expecting to hit their head on a rock and severing their spinal cord, rendering them a quadriplegic and becoming a burden to loved ones. Usually, as a diver arches their way into the shimmering blue water, they anticipate the cool splash and the suddenly absence of sound, replaced with the gurgling of water. Then you rush to the top, with all your limbs still working and your face breaks through the surface back into the world and you breathe that sweet, sweet air.

Carpe Diem! Recipes for A Minor Depressive Episode

For those of us that live with someone else, be it roommate or partner, there are those few and far in between times when you get the place to yourself. And today was one of those days! Yesterday, the boyfriend took off for Vegas. I woke up, headed straight for the couch and played an episode of Jessica Jones, ready to plan a whole day for myself! First, I was going to go thrift store shopping for a cute summery dress for when I joined him in Vegas later that week, followed by lunch for one at my favorite ramen place. Then, I was going to go to the store to gather ingredients to make homemade ice cream and a cauliflower pizza crust, yum! A full day!

After watching another episode of Jessica Jones, my rumbling stomach decided it was time to make myself breakfast. As I stared into the fridge, I realized there wasn’t shit to make breakfast with. But I got pretty creative! I found a buttermilk waffle in the freezer from a couple of weeks ago when I made a batch with our waffle maker during a desperate attempt to snap myself out of a desperate cloud of negativity. Thankfully, I had two remaining pieces of turkey bacon and a few eggs left. I popped the waffle into the toaster, tossed the turkey bacon into the microwave and scrambled those eggs! Away we go!

However, I set the microwave for too long and the bacon returned to me as two pieces of salty cardboard. Setting my sight onto the waffle, however, even after two attempts of toasting the waffle, I discovered it was still cold and somehow had the texture of human flesh. The organic maple syrup did nothing to save it and somehow the clammy flesh of the waffle infected the syrup with it’s putridness, providing the syrup with an essence of sweet dogshit. Scrambled eggs were edible because that’s almost  impossible to fuck up. Good thing too! Despair was clawing at my back!

A much better breakfast than mine

Burnt As Fuck Turkey Bacon With Cadaver Belgian Waffle & Easy As Fuck Scrambled Eggs

2 pieces of turkey bacon

2 pieces of paper towel

1 leftover frozen Belgian waffle from a happier day

2 eggs

1.Sandwich turkey bacon between two paper towels. Place into microwave for 2 min. This will be too long.

2. Remove frozen waffle and place into toaster. Press the lever down.

3.. Place a pan on the burner and spray with cooking spray. Crack eggs into a bowl and scramble with fork.

4. Open the fucking microwave because it won’t stop beeping. Swear with favorite cuss word when you see how burnt as fuck the turkey bacon is.

4. Press the lever down on toaster again. Waffle still frozen.

5. Pour eggs into pan. Move them around.

6. Press the lever down on toaster again. Waffle will remain cold.

7. Put everything on a plate. Salt and pepper eggs to taste and drown waffle in syrup. Eat however much you can stand. Throw entire waffle into garbage.

Since it was a Sunday and I wanted more time to myself and whatever trouble I could get into, meaning watching another episode of Jessica Jones, I decided not to leave the house. I decided to order my groceries online from Instacart. After readying my computer for online shopping, I flip through an ice cream cookbook. I remind myself that I can simply click on a button selecting whatever flavor of ice cream I want rather than spend three times as much money buying ice cream ingredients, cooking the ice cream mixture, then waiting hours for it to cool, then putting it into the machine and then finally eating it. Fuck that. Click! I remember my plan of creating a cauliflower pizza during more optimistic times two hours ago.  I google a recipe for cauliflower pizza crust. After reading about the small amount of effort, I am reminded of my own indolence and click! theres’s a frozen pizza in my cart. 

Another episode of Jessica Jones later, my groceries arrive. I unpack them. I make myself a cup of coffee because we were also out of that shit. Nothing fancy, it’s just Keurig. I’ve watched friends make coffee with french presses and the hourglass shaped gravity thing that you just pour boiling water in and wait forever like anywhere from four minutes to two days, but I prefer having my coffee and it’s caffeine induced worries immediately. I dump an obscene amount of sugar and milk rendering it more of a dessert than a beverage and wander out into the backyard with my cats. The next door neighbor comes out, sees my cats and warns me about fleas. I go back inside.

Back inside, I pull out my new carton of ice cream and dump a massive scoop into my almost finished sugary milky coffee. I sit back on the couch and eat my disgusting version of Affogato.

Like this, but not at all

Sad Affogato  

1/16 cup of coffee

2 scoops of vanilla ice cream

  1. After guzzling a coffee that is primarily milk and sugar, shuffle to the freezer.
  2. Spoon out two scoops of ice cream and dump into cup. 
  3. Jam another spoonful straight from carton into mouth.

After two and a half more episodes of Jessica Jones, I decide it’s time for lunch. I cook a frozen pizza that I’ve received acquired thanks to Instacart. It’s an Amy’s Organic pizza. Usually, I prefer a Jack’s, but I’m on a health kick lately. As I pace around the kitchen waiting for my pizza to cook, I eat chocolate, hummus, almonds, stale cheddar Ruffles, crackers, really anything in reach. I eyeball a bottle of rose for 6 seconds. I look at the time. 1pm. This day is pretty much over. I pour myself a large glass.

“Say when.” “….”

Amy’s Organic Spinach Pizza

One (1) Amy’s Organic Spinach Pizza 

  1. Preheat oven.
  2. Wait 5 seconds.
  3. Tear open box and place pizza in oven, on pizza pan, foil or directly onto the rack because who cares.
  4. Wait 12 min. Check on pizza after 4 minutes, then 2 minutes, then 3 minutes, then 2 minutes again, then 1 minute, then another minute, then another minute and finally take it out.
  5. Cut that shit.

Carrying two slices of pizza, I return to my permanently indented couch cushion. I watch 10 more minutes of Jessica Jones. I return to the kitchen three times for two more slices because I am not self-aware enough to know I will eat not 3 pieces but 5 pieces. Why three times for two slices? That math doesn’t add up.  On the second trip, in a pathetic display of portion control, I cut one slice in half. The third slice is eaten after finishing the wine and taking a 40 minute open mouth nap with one cat asleep on my neck. I am so drowsy and confused I’m not even aware I’m eating the slice until it is finished. It is only 4pm.

I decide it’s time for more ice cream. Using a juice cup is a good way to eat several servings of ice cream in one day and still fooling yourself into thinking it’s not a full bowl of ice cream. But it is if you really pack it n there. Years ago, when I was little, I was waiting with my brothers and  grandparents for a table at Denny’s on a busy Sunday morning. The waiting area was directly in front of the dessert case, that was filled with pies and also Baskin Robbins ice cream. A woman ordered a pint of ice cream to go. That lead to myself and the entire waiting room of after church crowd watched transfixed as the  Denny’s employee filled the container by using the ice cream scoop as a hammer to smash out any air pockets, ensuring that pint of ice cream was filled to the motherfucking brim. I think about this at least once every two week. Using the 1991 Denny’s Baskin Robbins method, I filled my juice cup of ice cream to the motherfucking brim.  I remember I have sprinkles and dump a pile on top of the ice cream, but only after I dump piles of sprinkles in my hand and eat them.

I finish my ice cream and watch the rest of the season of Jessica Jones. I briefly wonder if I want to smoke weed or take a vicodin or both. I decline on both, Vegas is only a few days away.  I accomplish nothing all day and go to bed with a feeling of something between deep sadness and crippling anxiety. I eat a chocolate bar in bed, smushing chocolate into my pillowcases and my right forearm, scrolling through videos of people icing cakes and dogs doing things. Tomorrow is another day.

“Oh, you don’t sleep on your toes, in a squat, next to the bed? That’s weird.”

All Jobs are Real Jobs: A Service Industry Rant

“When are you going to get a real job?”

This question elicits two different reactions from me: “I know. ” and “But, how about you go fuck yourself?”. Because I have a fake job. A fake job that has lasted since I was 17 years old selling sweet iced tea in mason jars and fried catfish on aluminum pie plates. A fake job that I thought I would be able to ditch after college. A fake job that has allowed me to feed myself and my cats many years past college. A fake job that has allowed me to earn money all over the country. A fake job that allowed me to make those moves without employment lined up because I knew it would only take me a few days to find a new job. A fake job that even when the economoy took a shit I still had job security. Because people gotta eat.

I was once a hostess. Then a server. Then a bartender. Now a bartender/bar manager. Very rarely have I gone to work gleeful, often resigned, sometimes with dread, and  four times with absolute fear. St. Paddy’s Parade Day at an Irish pub in downtown Chicago as a cocktail server is pure hell. I was always terrified someone in oversized blinking shamrock sunglasses would throw up on me.

Every shift is more or less a gamble. There’s never a set amount of money you’ll make. I mean, I know that I’ll make more on Friday than a Monday, but sometimes that gets turned upside down by a convention in town or a drunk guy making it rain. You never know. Swapping shifts involves strategy. There’s no way I could do this work with a set hourly rate. I mean, I could, but your experience is about to shit the bed. You think I’m going to care about how fast you get your margarita or whether or not you’ll truly enjoy the salmon? You think I’m going to smile more making $15/hour? I have resting bitch face on nights when my hourly is over $40. And please stop telling me to smile. I CAN’T HELP IT. THAT’S MY FACE, YOU CONDESCENDING DICKHEAD.

I once temped in a HR position and was asked if I could handle basic office skills. I was 30. With office experience. I don’t know why people who have always worked in an office think that those of us who haven’t would be lost. If I were to put any office worker behind the bar, most of them would fall apart. Do you know how many skills are involved in bartending? Memorization, being nice to assholes, massive multi-tasking, standing for hours and hours without a lunch break or even a bathroom break, constant reprioritzing, athletecism, flexability and staying calm all while both co-workers and guests are interrupting your train of thought asking for shit, one chic is pulling another chic out of a barsttol by her hair, and you’re trying to decide if you need to cut off that guy on the end because if he gets in a car and wrecks, guess what? I get sued under a Dram Shop Law. Can you get sued at your job? Most people would say no. I’m guessing there isn’t that kind of pressure in the cubicle.

Sometimes there’s blantant aggression. I have more than once overheard people say to a co-worker,”Well, you’re 30 and you’re a bartender!” So what, bitch! Where do you work, Express? Oh, you’re a lawyer? Still not impressed! And for some reason, one out of 4 bitchy guests proclaim they’re a lawyer. Either some people are embellishing on their work histroy or you lawyers need some mindfulness apps. Chill! What’s wrong with being 30 and shaking some drinks? I slept until 10:30 today! Yesterday, I got up at 8am, accomplished some shit and then took a nap. Actually, I usually take naps. I’ll probably take one in a few minutes. You 9-5ers can’t do that shit.

I just took a nap!

Everyone working in customer service has a happy face on. And they should. We’re serving people. Guests should feel welcomed and appreciated. Some of them are. Regulars have often become friends. But some customers are assholes and that’s just reality. Are you nice? Hey, thanks for being nice! Are you funny? Ha! Sit down and make me laugh! Are you a dickhead? AWESOME.  YOU’RE RUINING MY ENTIRE SHIFT. Ways of being a dickhead are numerous and we all know them, but the one way people don’t seem to know is by asking if we do anything else besides taking your food order or showing you to your table. They ask if we’re in school. Or if we work anywhere else. I mean, fucking probably, but why is this question so prevalent in the service industry? Are cashiers fielding these lame questions, too? Nurses? Receptionists? Welders? What’s going on there?

Is it guilt? If you’re hoping those people making you drinks and sliding sizzle plates in front of you like what they do, the majority of them don’t. Again, we’re serving people. It’s literally work. No one likes work. I mean, do you? Do you relish every minute that you’re at work? Is smashing yourself onto a packed train or traveling 5mph on the freeway during rush hour your passion? And why does it matter if the server legitimately enjoyed your joke of “I hated it!” as you wink and wave at your empty plate? Does thinking that someone making 12 drinks simultaneously enjoys her work make you feel less guilty about ordering an extra cold, slightly dirty vodka martini with the ice from the shaker on the side and blue cheese olives? This is their decision to work there. And work is garbage. It’s work. But work is especially garbage when you’re scraping food covered in someone else’s cold and flu germs into an overflowing trash bin next to a overflowing dish pit while remembering that your student loan payments are overdue and someone’s all, “So, you in school?” NO. I HAVE A COLLEGE DEGREE.

It’s that judgment from people who have never worked in the service industry that I can never really shake off. Years of listening to shitty comments like “What does she know? She’s a bartender” have reduced down into a vicious little voice in my subconscious so on bad days, I’m like, yeah, what do I know? I’m just a bartender. Then I have to remind myself why I’m not someone’s assistant or doing data entry. Because I know I wouldn’t like it. Because what I do pays more. Maybe they, too, are asked when they’re going to get a real job. That’s shitty. Stop asking people that. Maybe I’ll start asking doctors when they’re going to get a real job. Lawyers, investment bankers, architects.

I look for a real job all the time. I fantasize about being a screenwriter or an author. I’ve looked into the tech industry. I once spent weeks researching schools to become a therapist. Like anyone, I want an easier and more fullfilling way to make money. Because any job on your feet is tough. Any job in customer service has bad days. Working nights limits the time you can spend with family and friends.  But, goddammit, they are all real jobs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T’was the Grope Before Christmas

This is a story about a drunk guy at a bar I used to work at a couple of years ago. And when he tried to grab me by my naughty bits. Just two days before Christmas. It is, obviously, painstakingly modeled after T’was the Night Before Christmas. Because what better way to parody that poem? Enjoy.

T’was the Grope Before Christmas

T’was two nights before Christmas, when all through Pops,
Not a creature was stirring, not even the fops.
The bottles were hung in the bar rail with care,
In hopes that drunkards soon would be there.

The cookies were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of whores danced in their heads.
And Colleen in her bubbles, and I in my grape,
Had just settled our brains for an alcoholic rape.

When out on my shoulder there arose such a clatter,
I sprang away to see what was the matter.
Away to the bar I flew like a flash,
Alas his grip held; we were eyelash to eyelash.

The light of Squirrel bouncing off the Bordeaux,
Gave the luster of perversion to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a groping palm and five fumbling fingers.

With a putrid cologne, so strong and musky,
I knew it must be European misogyny.
More rapid than pumas his misplaced compliments came,
And he whispered, and slurred, and boozily proclaimed;

“You a beautiful women! Lovely! A Vixen!
Beautiful! Beautiful! Oh, I am blitzen…
Why you struggle and cringe? Recoil and flinch?
I would so much like to give you a pinch.”

As Colleen laughed and now Gregg cried, “Whoa!”
The inebriated fellow continued his public porno.
So over to the bar-top the groper he sways,
With the hand full of digits, and so unfazed.

And then, in the grasping, I remained aloof,
To the prancing and pawing of his strange hoof.
As I drew in myself, ducked and turned around,
Dammit! The boozehound stood his ground.

He was dressed in a suit, from his head to his toe,
And his clothes were all rumpled with sweat, and rouleau.
A bundle of coins he had spent on his whores,
And he looked like a john just covered in sores.

His eyes – how they died! His dimples how gross!
His cheeks filled with capillaries, his nose was rimose.
His droll little mouth was drawn up in a sneer,
And the beard of his chin was damp with sour beer.

The chump of a man blinked and gritted his teeth,
And headphones encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a flawed face and a little tiny dick,
That, I’m assuming, because he was such a dipshit.

He was a train wreck, a right jolly dumb fuck,
And I laughed when I saw him, despite my luck.
A lurch of his feet and a turn of his hip,
Soon, I could tell all of this grabby hardship.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his drink,
And put it to his maw; Gregg appeared in a blink.
And arguing his case, “I compliment woman!”
And finally resigning, understanding the ban;

He sprang to the door, to the patrons gave adieu,
And away they all snubbed him like a man with the flu.
But I heard him exclaim, as he stumbled out of sight,
“You American dickcheese! And to all a good night!”