I Work for Cheese

Last summer, one of my more trouble-making friends, Sammy, came home to visit. Her dad was sick, so I met her in Naperville at the hospital. As any good friend would do, I took her out drinking to “drown her sorrows.”

What was supposed to be a few drinks turned into a few pitchers, and I could no longer make my way home safely. As one who does not condone drinking and driving, I needed to call my amazing (and still new-ish) boyfriend for a ride. After a long commute on the train, he got in his car, backtracked to pick me up, and met Sammy and I in the downtown Naperville area. Sammy and I were giggly, and she was wonderfully adorable, telling the boyfriend that I hadn’t officially declared my love for, that she could see why I love him so much. *Truth*

The problem was my vehicle. At the bright and early hours of the following morning, I had to ride with Brian to the train, take the train to Naper, and grab my car–backtracking to work before 8 AM. At the train station, though, I discovered a sign for the Aurora Farmer’s Market…

I love farmer’s markets. They usually have delicious fruits and veggies, tasty snacks, and so much more. Oh yes, I would be checking that out the following Saturday morning.

The next Saturday, during a rainy, wet weekend, I trekked over to the market. Perusing the booths under a light drizzle seemed all well and fine, until I got to The Cheese People booth. Cheese?! Yes. That’s right. Cheese. and LOTS of it.

Just as I was beginning a conversation with the man that I now lovingly refer to as Cheese Guy (whose name is actually Rick and he is fantastic), the rain turned on me. That light drizzle became a rolling storm, in which I sought out shelter under the bright yellow tent, sampling cheeses to my heart’s content.

It was that moment that turned me from slight cheese lover to cheese snob. My knowledge of cheese improved drastically over the last year all because of Cheese Guy. After the rain simmered down, and business started picking up, Cheese Guy asked what I was up to for the rest of the day. I told him that he was looking at my plans. Not a whole heck of a lot.

“Well then get back here and grab a knife.”

The next thing I knew, I had a glove on one hand, a knife in the other. I was slicing and weighing cheese, learning prices, and offering samples to passersby. I was good at what I did. We got busy, and Cheese Guy appreciated my efforts. I had already set aside a pretty hearty portion of cheese, and when the afternoon was over, I asked what I owed. Cheese Guy took an inventory of my purchase, did some mental math, and said, “Nothing. You just worked your ass off for me.” My rate was apparently equivalent to the cost of cheese that I was intending to buy.

For the next few months, I made my way over to help Cheese Guy out whenever I could, and when the market started up in May, so did I. Cheese Guy was promoted, and my weekend schedule got hectic, so I no longer work for cheese…but I certainly consider myself a Cheesemonger now.

It’s so cliche I can hardly control myself: Out of a drunken night of debauchery sprung a cheesy love affair.

 

Apparently Dunkin isn’t as cool as Cheese Guy. That’s fine; I’d rather be paid in cheese anyways.

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Which One Was He?

In order to make forthcoming blogs make a little more sense, I thought it important to explain the history of the ridiculous nicknames that boys and men in my life have acquired.

Ever since high school, it’s been important to have nicknames for the guys in our lives. At first, it was so that we could talk about our top-secret crushes in front of them, giggling and smiling, like they had no idea we were talking about our undying love for them. Freshman year, they were all named after cars. Sophomore year, they were named after candy bars. I remember secretly loving a boy we had nicknamed “Snickers,” for no other reason than a Snickers bar was delicious. Junior year, we had a bazillion created nicknames for boys, and my future high school sweetheart was TS (Tango Stud as we had been tangoing in Spanish Class).

As the years progressed, though, nicknames became more of an endearing way of referring to our men. In college, Penny was dating the Moose (God only knows why), Sheila was dating the Viking (for his blonde hair and giant Norseman-ish size), Claire was dating the Lumberjack (for his plaid shirts and big burly man facial hair), and I was dating the Ethiopian (who was just really really skinny).

After college, though, the nicknaming became a way for my friends to remember some of my boyfriends/guys I was dating. Of course, for me it had a lot to do with not wanting to get too personal. If a guy met a couple of my friends, he wasn’t just a fling. If he met a lot of my friends, he was a little important. If my friends called him by name, he was insta-important. The nicknaming system was a great way to keep track of who we were talking about.

Everyone has that one friend who is constantly moving on from guy to guy. Maybe not even stopping to call one a boyfriend, maybe trying it on like an okay-looking dress that you’re not really going to buy. You know, “Wait, which one was he?” syndrome.

I was the master of that game. I played it very very very well. I really loved dating. And then I really hated dating. I went through some very distinct phases. The really crazy phases (where the nicknames became incredibly important) were always post boyfriend. I really don’t think I could handle another one of those, so lets hope Brian intends to keep me. 🙂

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

The Dating Game

If you’ve ever seen How I Met Your Mother, you know the “Have You Met Ted?” game. I discovered this amusing “game” while watching HIMYM with Mark, who replaced Scrubs with the cast of Barney and his pals. Not going to lie, Barney makes that show. In fact, the BF makes a really great point: Why bother watching the show, when you can watch clips of the funny parts later? Which is what he’ll say right before we look up the video about the Vicky Mendoza Diagonal (which CLEARLY makes perfect sense). Just for added fun:

Anyways, so the Have you met Ted? game translates pretty well in real life. In fact I’ve used it often. One of my most entertaining evenings, was several years ago at a dive bar in Lombard. My pal, Molly, and I were out drinking. While I was in a relationship at the time, Molly was trolling for dudes. Of course, maybe we should have known better than to be trolling for dudes at a dive bar…but we were young.

While I’ve always found a great deal of enjoyment in the chase, Molly is one of those ladies who prefers to be chased. But the shy girl thing doesn’t always work too well without additional help. That’s why girls like Molly have friends like me. To increase the chances of “the chase.” Among other things…

Cue a tall, attractive man sipping on a cheap draft. Molly scopes, then points him out to me. Oh, this should be easy. Without a second thought, I grabbed Molly and dragged her up to the bar. I squeezed in next to the cutie and ordered a drink. As I was waiting for my beverage, I turned on the Chrissy charm.

“Hi!” I grinned at this tall thinner-than-I-would-go-for guy.

He smiled back at me. “Hey, what’s up?”

“Not a whole lot. Have you met Molly?” I asked as I pulled Molly in towards my spot at the bar.

“No, I haven’t. I’m Tom.”

“Hi, I’m Molly” she whispered with the shy girl, I-have-no-idea-what’s-happening smile.

I looked at the two of them, and giggled to myself at the awkward silence that followed their sort of self-introduction. “OK, Tom, this is Molly. Molly, this is Tom. A peanut is neither a pea nor a nut. Discuss.” And with that, I walked away.

Fifteen minutes later, Molly was back at my side as I was chatting with one of my other girls, Becca. “Not so much?”

Molly shook her head. “I didn’t know what else to talk about.” Then she laughed. “I can’t believe you just did that!”

I shrugged, “Just doing my thang…”

She laughed. Just then, Becca’s douchebag boyfriend and his roommate walked up to us. His roommate seemed a little f*ed up, but harmless. He proceeded to shower Molly with compliments and affection. By the end of the night, the were canoodling and kissing. And I barely had to put in any work into that one!

Of course, he wasn’t really boyfriend material. So, even though he continued to call Molly for several weeks thereafter…and pester Becca about Molly…nothing ever came of that night. But hey, Molly had fun. I was entertained. I call that a winning night for a couple of early to mid 20-somethings.

 

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Cinderblocks

Hello World,
This is Katie. I’m sure you’ve seen me mentioned in Chrissy’s blog before. Chrissy clearly has both writer’s block AND poor judgment, because she’s offered to let me write a guest post.

This is an unprecedented opportunity. In fact, I’ve been mulling over what I would say in my Maid of Honor speech at Chrissy’s wedding for years now. It doesn’t matter to me that I may not be “Maid of Honor” or “in the wedding,” but I’ve decided I’m giving a speech at her eventual wedding. No. Matter. What. I guess this is as good a time as any for a rough draft.

I first met Chrissy at freshman orientation at Bradley University. Since I didn’t know anyone, I accepted the invitation of a peppy student aide to accompany a group of fellow orientees to Steak and Shake. This is where I first laid eyes on the girl who would become one of the most important people in my life. My first impression? PINK. She was wearing a pink halter top, pink sneakers, and a pink scrunchie (in fairness, scrunchies were only about 4 years out of fashion at the time). She was also drinking a child sized pink milkshake. I was still in my grunge phase, sporting enormously baggy pants and black t-shirts. By the end of the evening I knew one thing for sure. This girl was going to make sure I had fun, in spite of myself.

Katie and Chrissy Disney

In life you make a lot of friends. You make friends of convenience, acquaintances, surface friends. The best way I can describe my friendship with Chrissy, is that it’s like a marriage. Lesser friendships would not have survived the chaos of college and boyfriends and minor bouts of charming mental illness. There are friendships that, like relationships, implode at the first sign of trouble. That can’t handle a real fight. The ones you never cared enough about to fight for. Chrissy has always been worth fighting for. I liken our cosmic bond to something beyond a typical friendship. I’m fond of telling Chrissy she was my butter churning best friend in a past life, and as such, she’ll never be rid of me.

We’ve taken a sappy turn here, so I may as well go for the gusto. Our sophomore year of college, I was going through a rough patch. I was sitting in my dorm room crying because one of the boys I had a crush on wasn’t interested in me. It was then that Chrissy did what Chrissy does best. She put her arm around me and said “Katie, my love for you goes through walls” (at a loss for further description she glanced at the dorm room wall) “Thick ones. Cinderblocks.” I started laughing. And to quote one of our favorite movies, Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

(This is a wedding speech, I hope you hadn’t forgotten that!) This is where I’ll raise my glass and offer a toast to the newlyweds: “May your love go through cinderblock walls, and may laughter always shine through your tears. Congratulations. And Groom… Good luck!”

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Smoke and Mirrors

It’s really hard not to judge a book by its cover…or it’s title…or it’s self-description. But  I try. Sometimes.

I know that I judge some of my friends, because they don’t understand things that I understand all too well. I know that I’ve judged my absolute best friend in the world, and I also know that she’s judged me. Penny and I had that “Come to Jesus talk” that best friends have when judgement overwhelms the friendship, and we survived with flying colors. I can’t speak for sure on her behalf, but I know that I haven’t judged her since a series of e-mail messages started by a blog post entitled “I Didn’t Enter a Beauty Pageant, I Don’t Need to Be Judged.” The string of messages eventually led to us realizing that we both only wanted what was best for the other, and that neither of us really understood certain aspects of the others’ lifestyles. I believe that at that moment, our friendship became stronger.

The hardest thing for me to not judge is when people have never had to struggle to stay afloat. People who don’t understand having nothing. I’ve been completely flat broke. I’ve gone 6 months without a job. I’ve struggled to pay my tiny set of bills. I’ve claimed BK and survived it. I have been without health insurance for several years at a time. I grew up behind a world of smoke and mirrors in which my family appeared to have a decent amount of money, but really it was just that…an illusion.

Not that I ever wanted for anything that I needed. My family blessed me with love and affection in addition to countless memories of a really amazing childhood. Our family vacations were often small, but frequent (weekend camping trips, nights in hotels because Mom worked for a hotel chain). We did have several big family vacations–I was lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World 4 times before I went away to college. Credit will do that for you. But there were also times that we ate Ramen, Kraft Blue Box, or whatever else was on sale, out of necessity. I know many people who will never know that.

Or so I think. No one knew we were on the lower end of the middle class. The smoke and mirrors provided an excellent facade for everyone. So maybe I’m judging books by their covers. Maybe there are more smoke and mirror situations than I could ever imagine.  And so I stop. And think. And try really hard to quit judging.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Bradley University and Me

I almost didn’t make it to Bradley. As the one school that had almost everything I wanted from the time we started looking at colleges sophomore year in high school, Bradley was definitely on my list of future schools. My junior year, I discovered that my high school boyfriend, Sam, also aspired to go to Bradley University…so when we broke up right before senior year, Bradley was the last place I wanted to apply.

With the help of a guidance counselor that I adored and spent a lot of time with senior year — thanks to the undecided nature of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I narrowed down my search. The lazy procrastinator in me didn’t want to spend all of my weekends touring colleges, researching schools, and applying to a wide range. My counselor recommended 3 schools — my goal, my reach, and my fall back. My goal was a small school, but I still wasn’t sure which. My reach was Notre Dame, and if I had gotten in, my dad would have sold his soul to pay for it. I’m pretty glad he got to keep his soul. 🙂 My fall back was ISU, though I feared the lack of success that would come with such a large school.

After many conversations with my pal Joe, who was a freshman at Bradley and loving it, I decided that Bradley was definitely the place for me. Joe, a comm major, assured me that my future in journalism would rest in the capable hands of the Global Communications Center at Bradley.

While the comm major in me never made it past freshman orientation, I survived four of the most amazing years at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Home of the Bradley…Squirrels? Crazy Bicycling Asian Men? Rivermen? My school spirit was minimal, but my personal spirit thrived at BU.

As an English major, required literature was something Chrissy considered...optional. She managed to pull off a splendid GPA considering she didn't read one entire book for class.

Spring of my senior year, Dad and I drove down to Peoria for a school visit. Driving through the quaint but large downtown area, over the river, and onto the beautiful campus, I fell in love. On the tour, we found that Bradley had everything I wanted except for a football team. We ate lunch at Geisert Cafeteria, which we thought provided a pretty decent meal (little did we know that “visitation days” were Bradley’s best-kept meal secrets.) I was done. Sold. This is the school for me.

So I had a plan. And I got accepted.

That summer, I was to attend the freshman orientation: Two and a half days of the college experience. When Mom and I started the trip down, I was terrified. I cried. I didn’t know what to expect or what I was going to do. I wouldn’t know anyone. I kept thinking, What if it’s horrible?

They separated the parents and the students pretty quickly, so I was forced to fend for myself in the collegiate jungle…amidst 80-some-odd other scared freshmen. I met another kid from Glen Ellyn, who we referred to as Glen Ellyn Steve until he later gained the name, Speech Class Steve. I also ran into another Glenbard East alum, who I had never spoken to. Throughout the rest of college, Danny and I maintained an excellent passerby-acquaintanceship based solely on our mutual high schooling. Funnier still, he ended up living with my best bud Cletus senior year. Additionally, I made a gaggle of girlfriends during the orientation activities.

On the first night, we stayed up until 3:00 AM, playing Truth or Dare Jenga, eating grilled cheese sandwiches made on one of the best inventions, ever–the grilled cheese sandwich press, and talking up a storm in a Geisert common room.

On the second night, I met my best friend in the whole world. After a rockin’ dance party, in which I became the ringleader of a small group of suburbanites–promising that we would all get together over the summer for nights of dancing and hanging out and awesomeness, we made our way over to the East Peoria Steak & Shake.

Katie and I started chatting. She seemed like a pretty cool chick with her sassy punk rock princess tee-shirt, brightly colored Chuck Taylor’s, and wide leg jeans. I remember making her giggle when I ordered cheese fries and a kid-sized strawberry milkshake. This girl was going to be my pal. I just knew it.

While I left for orientation crying because I didn’t want to go, I left orientation crying because I wanted college to start right away. No one to tell you what to do? No one worrying what time you’re going to bed? All the time in the world, and living in a mini hotel with all of your friends? That was the place for me. Bring it on college. Bring. It. On.

Mom and I left for my uncle’s house–we had our family reunion the day after orientation. On the way home, she began telling me her orientation stories. She hated it. After meeting Glen Ellyn Steve’s parents on Day 1, she ditched out on half of the activities and hung out at the casino most of the time. Here’s why:

The conversation between the Glen Ellyn-ites parents went as follows:

Mr. Glen Ellyn said, “Oh! Hey, you’re from Glen Ellyn, too!”

Mom replied with a smile, “Yep.”

Mrs. Glen Ellyn asked, “So, where in Glen Ellyn are you?”

“Right off Roosevelt, east of the tollway.”

Mrs. Glen Ellyn looked at her confused, “Oh, where in Glen Ellyn is that?”

Mr. Glen Ellyn looked at his wife, patted her on the shoulder and said, “You know, honey…the projects.”

My mom-disgusted-walked away. She was done. I don’t blame her.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to return. The first few days of college were a blur, and I spent them with a new friend, Jessa, who I had met in my building. Every morning, Mom would call and ask me if I had gotten drunk yet. I hadn’t. During my wandering and exploring with Jessa, I kept passing this girl I knew from orientation. I couldn’t remember her name until day 3 when we were passing each other in U-Hall. I looked at her and said, “Katie?” She smiled back at me in recognition. We started chatting and got into a conversation about drinking. She told me that her roommate, who she had met at orientation, wasn’t a drinker and that she needed a drinking buddy. I told her that I was in. We’ve been best friends ever since.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

A Middle School Misfit

When I was a socially awkward eleven-year-old misfit, I had two friends. My BFF since kindergarten, was significantly more popular than me, and adjusting well to the wonderful world of middle school. Our friendship remained intact, although I really didn’t see too much of her until high school. Another friend, I think, took pity on me and welcomed me into her life. Both were childhood friends from the neighborhood and complete polar opposites.

Don’t get me wrong. There were plenty of other children who were acquaintances or friends who went their separate ways with the segregated clique dynamic of middle class suburban middle schools. I just didn’t have a clue where I was or who I was or what I wanted…It took years to figure that out, and I’m still not quite sure I’ve gotten the hang of this thing called life.

I remember several things about sixth grade. The first is that I ate a lot of Edy’s Mint Chocolate Chip single serving containers for lunch. They were inexpensive and I had a tendency to hoard money, a habit that I wish I still had more control over. Long before cell phone bills, car insurance, and gas, I was holding onto money like Mr. Scrooge. As I was only eating a tiny container of ice cream most days for lunch, weighing myself every day to make sure I didn’t gain weight was a ridiculous habit. I never strayed from a 7 pound range that I would kill to be at right now (which still wasn’t “thin” by any stretch of the imagination).

The second thing I remember is while I was eating my Edy’s, I was typically eating it alone. In middle school, lunch seats were chosen the first week of school. They were then assigned for the duration of the year. There could be no more than six children to a table. Those were the rules. So, when the only friends I really had could not fit me at their tables, I accepted that with a dulled understanding.

Middle School Misfit

Yes, I had dirty socks, leggings (that were, by then out of style), probably boogers on the sleeve of that sweatshirt, and a bad widow’s peak. I was very much the epitome of not cool.

Then of course, there was picture day. It was 1994, so vests were somewhat trendy, but the combination of my outfit would not have been cool in 1987, let alone when I wore it. A purple turtleneck, remnants of my junior cheerleading days, layered with a cream colored knit vest. I couldn’t find a pair of pants to match this great ensemble, so I matched it with a pair of black spandex running shorts. Oh yes, spandex. Which leads me to the next thing I remember about being eleven and awkward: my first pair of jeans in six years.

After the debacle with the painted jeans from kindergarten, in which I refused to wear jeans ever again (due to the travesty that was outgrowing my favorite pair of pants), I decided that it was time to start dressing a little more with the times. My mother took me to Von Maur, which had just opened in the mall, and we scavenged the racks until we found a pair of khakis and a few pairs of jeans to try on and eventually buy.

Soon after my wardrobe change, I was finally coming into my own and making a few more friends. I even had a little clique of girls that called themselves my friends. By the end of sixth grade, I was still socially awkward, but at least I wasn’t alone.

Settled in with a group of the “bad girls,” I came into some really amazing friends. Amanda (the friend who likely took pity on me) was certainly the ringleader of the group. In sixth grade, she called my Crispy in the most endearing way. She was the first to smoke a cigarette, steal booze, and lose her virginity; one would think that hanging out with her would have sent me on the path of least resistance pretty quickly. But it didn’t. I maintained a sweet and naive innocence that stayed with me for several more years.

I spent many a summer nights sleeping over at her house and vice-versa. At all of the slumber parties, the girls would sneak out at around 11, and I would stay tucked into my sleeping bag. Part of me wonders if it was the fear of getting caught or the desire to sleep that kept me in the house. Some of the other girls would try to get me to drink or smoke, and Am would just look at them, wise beyond her years, and tell the girls, “it’s refreshing that Crispy is as innocent as she is. Why would you want to change that?”

At some point in the midst of seventh grade, Am and Jenny (my two besties at the time) were sitting in Am’s kitchen with me discussing our group of friends.

“I’m so glad that we’re friends. Our group is pretty awesome” Amanda had said to us. Jenny, the quiet one, smiled and told us that we were the best friends that she had ever had.

I told them, “It’s going to be so sad when we get to high school. I think that Kate is probably going to end up leaving our circle. She seems like she doesn’t really like hanging out with us anymore.”

“You’re probably right. But high school is going to be so fun. We’re lucky to have each other. We’ll be best friends for life.” Amanda had said with perfect confidence.

As the years progressed on, I ended up being the first to leave the group, making the cheerleading team in 8th grade, and becoming friends with a new group of girls. Thanks to Facebook, Amanda and I are reconnected, and I’m so happy to see that things are going exceptionally well for her. We had a million great memories together from grade school through middle school. She will always be a childhood best friend.

I ran into Jenny once in the lunch room, and it was one of the most awkward moments of my high school career. She and I had shared a really brilliant summer of friendship between 7th and 8th grade, but when it came down to high school politics, we just weren’t friends anymore. There was nothing to talk about.

Our junior year of high school, an announcement was made that Jenny had passed away in a car accident. I’m not sure whether drugs or alcohol were involved, but I know that she lived a lot in her young life. My mom and I went to the wake, and I was wearing my letter-man’s jacket. The stares that I got from Jenny’s at-the-time friends could cut through a rock. But it didn’t matter. She was my best friend in seventh grade, and dammit I was going to pay my respects.

Those girls hold a special place in my heart. They made middle school just a little less traumatic. We were all misfits, but we were friends.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!