A Drag-Ass Summer

I had my summer so planned out.

I was going to focus on work and save up enough to pay a friend/freelance contractor (who does great work – hey, if you ever need a REASONABLE, TRUSTWORTHY home repair generalist in Asheville, comment and I will hook you up) to do a week’s worth of odd jobs around Jen Manor. Readers of this blog will remember my general hatred of letting things fall apart into disarray.

There’s a lot around the house (reattaching gutters, putting in deadbolts, repairing and replacing masonry) that I just don’t know how to do. I tried a relatively simple fix-it job (reattaching a porch screen that the cats has pulled down) and pretty much did a ghetto job. Angry and disheartened, I realized that I just don’t have much repair knowhow, not to mention very little skill. I’m very open to learning, but for 9 months out of the year I am wicked busy, and for 12 months out of the year I am pretty broke.

So I give this summer a B minus or C so far, but let us not forget that the very centerpieces of summertime — my upcoming beach trip and the annual float down the French Broad in Hot Springs — happen in August. The leaves are slowly turning and the crickets have begun crawling up from the bowels of hell to torment the living, but summer ain’t over. Not yet.

But it’s been a drag-ass summer. Freelancers must endure dry spells, but this has been more of a quintuple whammy summer than an ordinary dry spell. My exciting summer scriptwriting internship was hot and heavy for a month, and then evaporated overnight. Volunteering at the hospital teaching patients and their families to knit has proven logistically difficult and is still being figured out by the sponsoring agency. My big tech client, which I was hoping would be my bread and butter as I put myself through college for the next two decades or so, has offered one assignment in four months, though my editor did email all her freelancers to say that there’s been a lull in business. I’ll say.

And to top it all off my poor housemate was stranded in Carrboro for more than a week with a broken down auto, and is still trying to work out paying me rent and utilities while also shelling out for major car repair. I’m letting her slide on what she owes me as people have helped me out when things didn’t go my way. Housemate Julie is trustworthy and deserving; she just has a car with a radiator with a hole in it. Meanwhile, I am well and truly busted, disgusted and feeling useless. Why is it when there’s nothing to do, nothing gets done? The busier I am, it seems, the higher my energy level and my ability to take on more.

Picture me astride a giant credit card with a team of cats pulling it along. Mush mush! Thus shall I coast through summer…

And as I am not myself if I don’t feel useful, I haven’t been myself in weeks. I’ve been plagued by low energy and headaches and am still dealing with health problems (nausea, fatigue, stomach problems) from April 2007 that the staff at the student health center can’t figure out. I missed Laugh Your Asheville Off 2008, which I heard was even better than the utterly magical 2007 event, with comedians getting standing ovations and saying it was the best comedy show they’ve ever done, another hit breakout comedian, and a five-figure take-home for the four producers.

Greg and Rose, I don’t know what I was thinking to miss the magic this year. Never, ever again.

I missed Bele Chere. I missed visiting with my friend Laura. And I missed the Blog Asheville meetup, which was summed up with real eloquence by Jodi the baker of the tasty dessert blog, My Life in Cake:

This blog world is new to me, and its inspiring. It’s exciting to see people focus their energies on things that interest them, using tools and technology in creative and aesthetically/politically useful and beautiful ways. I started using the internet when my son was born, mostly to keep in touch with friends. I started blogging to promote my business and share my love of cake.

Now I feel like I’m a part of a community that’s new for me, that makes my world just a little bit wider, and it challenges me to expand to accommodate it. It challenges me to integrate other parts of myself, other communities, commitments, interests, my sense of beauty- and bring that into the communities I’m finding/building. Also, it challenges me to use this venue to its full potential- so I’m inspired to do more recipes, more writing, and more cake porn. Like everything else, its all about balance. You can’t write about your life if your whole life is spent in front of a computer screen. But if you life involves a whole bunch of cool stuff, and you write about it in your own unique voice, it enriches your experience, and that of those around you.

And the dork factor?

I’m pretty sure dorky is the new cool.

Amen. Well said, Cupcake Sista.

(some of Jodi’s cupcakes)

So let’s hope I’m done traversing the Slough of Drag-Ass on my plastic sled. Today I met with my NEMAC contact about my long lost internship. The news isn’t perfect, but it’s good: Due to a personnel change, the project has been reinvented with a new team including a different screenwriter (not me — I was never the primary scriptwriter, just an intern). The organization funding my internship no longer has any say in the project.

All this means that the three people with whom I worked most closely are now no longer involved with the water issues movie series. I have been cut out.

But. It takes five minutes to set up the dome screen to show the movies on, during which time, said my NEMAC mentor, people have nothing to do and are ripe to peruse outreach materials: A program, posters, handouts, whatever. She wants us to work together to boil the gist of the movies down and create complementary outreach print materials that help drive the message home, as well as web content for a site that would host the movie series.

That’s cool with me. This isn’t an ideal internship for me anymore as my primary goal was to explore science/nature scriptwriting as someone very seriously considering dedicating the rest of my working life to the profession. But I am also interested in science education, outreach and marketing interesting and possibly transformative ideas, so I’m in. (Plus, they are paying me, and it has really been that kind of summer, y’all. I’d do it even if they weren’t, though.)

The first water issues movie, which I did not contribute to but posted some breathtaking video from, is really an exceptionally effective and powerful science presentation, blessedly free from moralizing, cute kids recycling milk jugs and annoying animated characters. It’s just a big dollop of very important science awareness in a very easy-to-digest format.

It’s been shown to city and state officials to excellent response: As I sat in an office talking to my NEMAC mentor, somewhere in town Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) was meeting with the NEMAC director about the movie series. Exactly about what they are meeting about I don’t know; presumably government grants to get the series a nice budget and plenty of play around the state or maybe even the nation. This series — about the human relationship to water — really is timely, affecting, important stuff I am scratching anxiously at the door to be a part of. What I love about the series is that it is less about modeling politically correct behavior change than explaining the science that will make you want to change your behavior, fast and for good reason.

After being part of the team for just a month, I will never buy Round-Up again, and never, ever see the raging rush of water down storm drains the same way. All that good water had a better place to go once than barreling into the river with a cargo of basketballs and motor oil.

And there’s still a chance of me interning with the new team. My mentor gave me contact info, and I’ll email them and ask if there’s still a need for an intern, or if they’ll at least let me observe and hang out. Hey, I’m an intern, I am happy to make coffee, take notes and run errands if it gets me a peek into this world.

More later. I feel some usefulness coming on at last.

9 responses to “A Drag-Ass Summer

  1. I have a handful of aphorisms I pestered my daughter about throughout her growing up…and I wish I’d included the one about how the less you do, the less you can do (and the reverse, too!) This seems like as close to absolutely true as anything human gets.

    (My favorite with her: use the right tool! And that was way before I ever met Gary!)

    Good to read your catch-up, Jen….you’re such a brilliant writer!

  2. Jen,

    You might remember from me the Charlotte Freelance Group. It’s still around, just dead. Sorry to hear that summer is not turning out the way you wanted. However, sometimes it turns out better. Just keep looking ahead and you will see that things will get better and you can look back at this as the summer of great things!


  3. Are you my sushi friend? :0) The group is still around, just not so active! Post anytime you need help, or just email me.

  4. comedians made fun of the song “these are my favorite things”, discussing that mittens would only be a favorite thing if you were dragging ass cold… and urinating outside. I’ve seen your mittens, girl. you’ve redefined that song. oh, and I think the cupcake lady is right, nerdy is the new cool. YEAH US! Finally, we can wear plastic glasses and leg-warmers with grace AND grit!
    i love you!!

    ps- rockin river fest is this weekend, 3 comedians will be performing a performance encore just for you. you better be there. I’ll be at mystery school…. but would love to hear all about it from you. OH… and…. one of them can sing you out of any funk (check out mark eddie on google?). I’ve never heard a funnier song than the cat in the hat by neil diamond! He’s coming back on September 20. put it in your calendar. AND, I’m getting certified in laugh yoga for my birthday this year…just so you know you’ll be my first student.

  5. Jen, it HAS been a drag-ass summer! It’s hard to have energy to DO anything when you’re broke and it’s hot. Period. Fall is on the way, though. And I love sushi. Let’s go get some (as soon as we get paid)
    – Jana

  6. My dearest, dearest Rosie. I will find a way to River Fest no matter what. Also, I love you.

    Jana, you are SO on for sushi. Also, do you want to knit with me and a friend sometime this week? Are you fee days?

  7. Hey Jennifer. Nope, not your sushi friend, but I do love sushi and am all for it. I don’t know anyplace for sushi in asheville, but for coffee in a bowl with chocolate, etc that you need to eat with a spoon, I am your gal!

    I come up towards Asheville all the time, so I would love to meet up with you for coffee one day! It won’t be a wasted trip, because I am originally from Rutherford County and go visit my grandparents quite often.

    Thanks for the offer. I took a long break, due to self-confidence issues and am ready to jump in. Still nervous, but if I don’t do it now, when will I?


  8. OK Lisa, so will you BECOME my sushi friend?

    I’ve never had a nerves problem as a writer, but everyone’s her own worst enemy. Nothing new there. Good luck with your fresh start & please email me anytime! Let me know when you’re in town.

  9. Well, of course! I am already thinking about a nice ebe (sic?) roll and maybe some tuna with a california roll. Mmmmm.

    It’s not really nerves. I write well. In fact, my professor last semester couldn’t understand why I am working on a sociology/psych degree when writing was what he felt I should be doing.

    I will keep you posted. We may be in town on Friday, but not sure as of yet.

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