Sunday, April 22, 2007

Slidin' it in at the last minute, heels smokin'

That seems to be the theme for this week. This week was a crrrrraaazy week. I burned the candle at both ends and it did indeed give a lovely light. Though, I paid for it dearly. I'm kind of all stuffy and my throat was pretty sore on Friday and Saturday, I still have a bit of a cough but I seem to have gotten over whatever little bug I picked up quite quickly. For a moment there I was certain I had gone and gotten myself bronchitis. Or maybe tuberculousis. I would make such a lovely consumptive.

Addenda: The succeeding paragraphs regarding research and writing and such relate to grant proposals. I know what's going on in my head, sometimes I forget other people don't. :D

So, my week. Last week at work I spent the whole week gathering up secondary data. I didn't know exactly to what end but I kinda had in idea of the purview of what it would be used to support. I acquired a healthy amount of data and was quite pleased with myself right up until a conference call on Friday when I was told, much to my chagrin, that the data I really needed was regional. So made some phone calls and got some really good stuff from the local commerce association. In less than 8 hours I doubled my research pile. Go me.

Now, I had spent all week eating, sleeping, and breathing this research. Many nights last week I spent sitting on my couch with one of those highlighters with the little flags inside. Which, I would like to point out is an invention that TOTALLY ROCKS. (I'm such a geek.) It was a good thing I was on break because I don't know how I would have found time to study and deal with the massive pile of paper I was sorting through. Then, on Saturday, I was going to start writing the statements of need. I spent most of the morning refining some of the earlier sorting for content I had done - before the view-narrowing conference call - and kept putting off starting writing. The sheet my boss had given me with the "tips" for writing the statement contained a rather ominous sentence. "The statement of need is the most important section of the grant." Holy intimidating, batman! Jesus. All I could think was, "this is the most important section and my boss gave it to me. TO ME. Is she crazy?" So I paced, and I agonized. I wrote, and then I deleted. Finally, I decided that maybe just sitting down and writing them was too much to ask of myself after spending so much time with the research. So I started putting up bullet points with the research I was planning on using for each of the grants and points I thought I should make. Before long I had one partly written and one with bullet points and an opening paragraph.

The next day I was a little on the useless side. The next day was the day I posted Locational Dysphoria. And, well, you can imagine that I was a little cloudy-headed. I had planned on going into work and looking up some stuff since my own internet has been bitchy at best lately but I changed my mind and instead got a bunch of errands run. Which brings to me to where I had intended to go when I started the previous paragraph - this week. Monday was a 12 hour day. I came into work a little bit early and started writing right away. Before I knew I had I re-written and completed the one I started writing on Saturday and gotten part of the second bullet-riddled one banged out. I thought I was waaaay behind. I thought we were going to turn them in on Monday and when my boss showed up I was in a state of emergency (which seems to be a condition I work well under anyway - the greater the pressure, the better I perform) and she was floored that I had gotten as much done as I had. After quelling my fears she also gave me a bit of good news. We had planned on writing 5 grants, but we were only going to write 4. And the beauty is that the one we dropped was the one I couldn't really dig up any specific research for. Awesome. So, I spent my week switching gears between where my brain is supposed to be for school and mired in grant-writing.

On Wednesday, the morning I did my Barack Obama post (the first of the two), I woke up at the obscene hour of 3:00am. I have this thing lately where when I get up since it's just as dark at 3:00 as it is at 5:00, I tend not to notice the hour and get up. I have usually made coffee, gone out for a cigarette and have just sat down at the computer with my first cup when I see the time and just decide I might as well stay up. I think I was a bit on the cranky side which might actually go a long way to explain the generally bitchy overtone of the post. But Wednesday, Wednesday was the best day. Seriously. I had a friend from Cleveland coming into Chicago and another friend coming to meet her, I had planned to drive down to meet them both for dinner but I was concerned about costs, and about driving in downtown Chicago by myself, etc. Basically I was a bit worried about how I was going to manage the trip until a lightening bolt hit me - I could take the train! So, I spent Tuesday evening on the Amtrak site checking out the fares and the times the train ran and the next morning I bought my very first state-side train ticket. I was coming into Chicago on the 1:00 train and would be back off to Milwaukee on the 8:05. It's funny, I've taken the train overseas but not at home.

I went to work that morning terribly excited, and struck out at noon for my parent's house. Which is where I parked my car for the afternoon, and my mom had agreed to drive me to the station. Amusingly, Mom has this lovely new red Toyota that Dad bought (and it is the very first car that she has ever had with the title in her name) so that while he was out spending hours at the gym and doing whateverhaveyou else that Mom would have a way to get around - but she never drives it. She was all tweaky-fied when she was driving me to the Amtrak station. She was a little worried for me, I think and I guess so was I - I always get butterflies in my stomach before a new experience like that. Shoulda been in my belly the day I boarded my first plane by myself. Oy! But oh my lord - the train is awesome. I felt so cool. I got to sit and study for my exam the next day. It worked out beautifully. An hour and half of solid studying and then I got to meet up with my friend Beth, who walked over to the Amtrak station from the Wyndham. Which is apparently quite a long walk. We took a cab over to Beth's hotel (I wanted to walk) to meet up with Anna because Beth had gotten a blister on the walk over.

We arrived at very nearly the same time and we were all starving so we walked up to the courtesy desk in the hotel, told them that we were looking for "small, quirky, reasonably priced" and the daughter of the Hot Wheels guy answered us. (What a fast-talker, oh my stars!) She directed us to a Spanish tapas place over on Erie and LaSalle. Which was a fracking fabulous suggestion even if it was delivered at 90mph. The place was perfect. It was good wine, good food, and very good company. After consuming healthy amounts of scallops with saffron rice, marinated mushrooms, goat cheese with pesto, chicken, and clams we decided to walk down to Miracle Mile. Chicago was lovely with a low cloud cover so that little whisps of atmosphere hung around the tops of the tall buildings. It was grey-ish but reasonably warm and the colors weren't quite so washed out in the afternoon light as one would think on such a cloudy day. I always forget how much I love downtown Chicago because it's usually spoiled by the time I get there driving through it. We walked down Michigan Avenue gawking at all the shops and stopped by the river and had a wonderful talk. Then we walked over to the Grand Lux for dessert. We had beignets and crème brulée and these pomegranate champagne drinks. Oh man... talk about sumptuous. Talk about decadent. And then, as soon as we had finished luxuriating in the deliciousness of our indulgences, we had to run back to Beth's hotel, stuff ourselves into a cab, and get me back to the train station. It was a short visit, but it was most certainly sweet.

From the Grand Lux:

I studied more on the train home - but I have to say that I preferred the afternoon commuter train passengers on the way there. There was a gaggle of women near me who were talking quite loud and did not shut up the whole way. Of course, the idea to move never crossed my mind but hey, I was pretty darned tired by that point. May I remind you that I started my day at 3:00am? So yeah, I studied amongst the din. We arrived in Milwaukee at 9:35 and while I could have called any number of people for a ride I resolved to walk. Now, all the people who are mothers (and probably some who aren't) will probably yell at me for walking through the city after dark like that - mine certainly did. But honestly, I rather enjoyed it. I never, ever walk through downtown hardly. I am almost always behind the wheel of a car. And I've come to the conclusion that that is no way to see the world around you. You miss far too much. It probably wasn't a good idea because it was misting/raining a little bit and that may well be what got me sick but it was a nice walk. A long walk - a really long walk. According to google maps, it's about 4 miles. My feet hurt a little bit when I got to my parent's house, I have a bone bruise (but not one on the skin, figure that) on my ass where my big-ass bag with my textbooks in it was hitting, and a real bruise on my shoulder from the same bag. But even with the mist falling in my face, making my shoes squeak... the calm and quiet of the city on a week night was like walking around on a movie set, I so enjoyed it.

Thursday was a blur, I was so tired, but I managed to make it through the day and get a lot more work done. I refined and completed the second grant and got most of the way through the third. By then I was getting a little worried because I hadn't shown any of my work to my boss so I wasn't sure I was even doing it right. I was, in fact, a grant virgin. So I gave her the one I thought I had done my best work on and held my breath. She read. She paused and said, "Now, I'm not reading this for editing, I'm just reading for critique of the work." I said, "Okay." She kept reading. She finished. Then she looked up and said, "This is good, this is really good... this is graduate dissertation level writing Jenn." And really, I still don't believe her. I sometimes wonder if she thinks I need a lot of praise and is blowing sunshine up my butt but... read on.

So I walked out of work a little worried on Thursday. There was still one grant I hadn't even started yet. And it was one I knew was going to be a little tricky. The angle at which I came at my research was a bit different than what I required for this particular grant. So I was kind of going to have to make it work. I thought I'd work on it on Thursday night but when I sat down to write, I just kept staring at the blank spot on the page where it was written in red 14pt font, underlined "Jenn will draft". Uhm, eep. So I putzed again with the research looking to see if I could extract anything I could twist a little bit. I found some stuff, I threw up some bullet points, and called it a night. I was exhausted after all. I laid down to sleep with phrasing rattling around in my head. I get a little obsessive about things sometimes and this was definitely one of those times. Words were roiling in my brain. But I was so tired that when my head hit the pillow, I was unconscious. But I woke up again at 3:00am. So I got up, made coffee, and started writing. I banged that thing out in 2 1/2 hours. By 5:30 it was basically done. I just had a little bit of demographic research to do and then inject into the other grants and it was all over with. So I got to work, I sent off three of the drafts to the office through which we submit these grants and started working on editing the statement I had written that morning and reviewing the others for editing and opened about 6 IE tabs and started googling for the demographics. By 11:30 I was done. And all the office we were working with had to say to me, the only criticism of my work was that I hadn't included enough regional information in one of them. That the national data I had used probably wasn't what they were looking for. That they were probably only going to end up using the first paragraph. And that was the one that I had to spin the data to make work. Not bad for a first timer, I should say. I ducked a luncheon because I could've spent a couple of well-heeled weeks in New York with the bags under my eyes, instead I hung out in the office putzing until my boss got back, talked to the office we were working with, made certain there was nothing more to be done for them and walked out the door at 2:00. I was flying. And floating. And exhausted. And elated. I went home and slept, like a rock, for the next 3 hours.

Friday evening, I decided, was an ideal night to pamper myself. So I walked over to Whole Foods, got myself a little baby french loaf, an avacado, a clove of garlic, a couple of lovely heirloom tomatoes, a bunch of grapes, and a bottle of wine. I roasted the clove of garlic, made a little dish of olive oil and this freaking fantasic balsamic vinegar I bought at one of the foo-foo stores in the mall in a funny little post-christmas cheapie grab bag, and made myself a lovely meal of french bread dipped in the oil and vinegar, spread with the roasted garlic and avacado and topped with tomatoes and ate a WHOLE LOT of grapes. I enjoyed my dinner slowly, leisurely, drank a couple of glasses of wine, read and then had a loooooong warm bath with salts.

Saturday night, on the other hand, I spent in a most unusual place. A girlfriend of mine, Abby, who is just the cutest thing and the last bastion of theatre-i-ness I have left in my little world, was having a 007 "Goldfinger" birthday party at The Safe House. I haven't been in there in many, many moons. I believe the last time was at least 7 years ago for a work birthday function. It's not someplace anybody could usually drag me, kicking and screaming into but there I was. Drinking a slightly warm cosmo with a girl entirely covered in golden sparkles. But there were cute boys in tuxes, and a guy wearing a wetsuit with waterwings and a dildo shoved in his pants so I guess that sort of made up for it. And we escaped fairly quickly, I only had to stay for one overpriced lukewarm drink. We then went over to Trocadero where we met up with my friend Tim's friend Jen - who is adorable. Anyone who's ever watched the Homestar Runner Teen Girl Squad cartoons would be terribly amused by her. She does the best Teen Girl Squad voice like, evar. So we hung out there for a while, had a HORRIBLE gateau. I said it that night and I'll type it out now - the thing was so hard we needed a spade to eat it. After that we went over to Cafe Hollander to meet up with Tim's equally adorable friend Katie. I actually got to have girl talk. (I never really, technically get girl talk - girl talk with my gay boys doesn't exactly count.) I'll say this though, the power of group girl thinking is nothing to be triffled with. It is both powerful and dangerous. I am very glad I did not commit a drunken act of text messaging. I almost let myself get carried away with the conversation. Never let drunken bitching translate into action. It can only end badly.

Well, that pretty much brings things up to date. Here I sit, making a blog post to break up the monotony of working on a PowerPoint presentation for a project for one of my classes. A class that I will miss on Tuesday because tomorow night I drive up to Wisconsin Rapids with my co-workers for a symposium. Should be interesting. And I have a new dress to wear. I'll have to make someone take a picture for you all.


Mississippi Songbird said...

Have a safe trip and thanks for the

bunches of hugs

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