Monday, November 2, 2015

Dia De Muertos- Death, Where Is Thy Sting?

I'm a firm believer in adoption. Whether that's adopting friends who are like family or adopting traditions that you really believe in. It's a good thing, to see the beauty and good in something or someone else and to bring that to your life and to your world.

I've adopted Dia de Muertos. It's a holiday and a perspective that I need in my life. 

I didn't know much about it until I moved to New Mexico, where it's much more celebrated. I got to see so many more people (of all colors) celebrating it. Right after Halloween, there was this explosion of food, color and community, and I started to want to know more. 

I think I've mentioned it here before, though not often, but my dad passed away when I was extremely young. Sometimes I hesitate to mention it for fear people will dismiss the deep hole that it left. It's a different grieving process, too. I think I've spread out the stages of grief through my whole life. The sadness for what I never had--it's persistent. Denial? Anger? I could pinpoint times when I went through that, too. 

For me, though, Dia De Muertos helps me reach acceptance. 

Death, the dead and dying? They're scary, right? It's instinctive to fear that, and to fear losing people. There's a time and a place for crying, for that darkness to settle in around you, and for you to not fight it, and just...grieve. 

But what if we could turn that on its ear? What if we could take something that everyone fears naturally, and...change it? And that's what this does. Skulls get roses and daisies and are splashed in bright colors, hung everywhere cheerfully. Altars or ofrendas are put up with beautiful sweets, mementos of the person and what they meant, and treats they loved. Big family meals are made, and stories are told to remember the people that have passed on. Every.year. Every year with laughter, music, color and celebration, you remember. What a beautiful way to do things. Doesn't that seem like the way to remember someone you love? Isn't that what you'd want to see, if indeed you could look down on those you loved after you were gone? A big, bright beautiful party full of food and laughter? It's what I'd most like to see, and a way I think I can honor and remember my dad. I choose this over dark days and tears. I choose to remember, but not just remember, to celebrate. 

I painted my face as a Catrina for fun and because I think it's beautiful.

I did this because I choose to remember this way.

And if you're's what everything on my altar is about. There are pictures of my dad and me, my whole family, and just him on the left. The license plate behind it is there because the word on it (which I won't disclose for internet safety reasons) is the single most important word that I have been gifted with, because it assures  me just how loved I always was and am. Next to that is the poster my dad left when I was born. It lets people know that he was off to see me, but there was coffee on in case they wanted a cup. I love it because it speaks to his character, and his honest desire to be kind to people. The journal is because he was a writer (a beautiful one) and he loved music. It runs in the blood.  

The small chest held letters I wrote to him at various points in my life and mementos. The crown is there because it reminded me of how little girls want to be their daddy's little princess, and how much I wanted to be his. Some of the traditional ofrenda fixings are there too, like the skulls, candle and flowers. I made sourdough bread, which was my dad's favorite, in place of the pan de muertos, to make it more true to who he was and who I am today.  I put a bowl of chili out, because he also loved chili, and it's traditional to leave (and also eat) the foods that your loved one loved on this day. 

There was still moments of sadness, even as I set this up, and even now as I type this. It sucks growing up without your dad. It sucks to have that hole in your life, and it sucks to not feel like you can talk about it and be understood. It sucks to just hear stories about someone who makes up half of who you are, and for there to never be enough stories, never enough words or pictures to fill the ache. 

But today? It's for remembering. It's for celebrating what someone meant to you, and choosing to be happy they existed. So that's what I'll do.

Happy Dia De Muertos

May we all remember the beautiful people who went on before us.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Time to Face The Change

Well, here I am. Blog land again. It's October 1st, and I am in my "new" bedroom in my "new" town. I've actually been here lots before, and so on the surface, it seems nothing has changed. But in fact, lots has.

My address is now different. My family is now relocating to Minnesota. My stuff has been sorted, tossed, packed, stored, and some hauled here.

It's weird when you look at yourself one way and then, when you get right down to it, look in the mirror and see a contradiction.

For example, I like, at least in my head, new things. I like spontaneous trips to weird places and interesting events. It's part of what makes me love Chicagoist work so much. Zelda symphony? Sure! Yurts at Union Station? There! Dia de Los Muertos walk? Cool beans! If you caught  me on a day I wasn't working (now I'm a freelancer so that's easier to do?) and you said "Hey, hop in the car, let's go somewhere! adventure!" I'd probably do it.

But...I also like routine. I get a little neurotic if I don't know the next 3 turns. I hate when there's weeks on end where I don't have plans. If there needs to be food in the house but I'm not sure when we're going grocery shopping, it's gonna drive me just a bit batty. I'd rather say "tomorrow" and then cancel tomorrow than say "when we get to it" and wonder. That's not everyone, that's me. And it's weird to me, because I loathe feeling like I'm in a rut, too, though I rut myself sometimes.

But here we are, and nothing is the same. The family I've shared a house with for the past 6 years is going 7 hours north, I'm living in the town I lived in for my high school years again, and...what?

I need to find a new path. I'm starting to freelance write, but I need to figure out how to spin up enough to live.

I'm in a serious, adult, long-term relationship. not sure how to serious, adult, long-term relationship. People think I'm joking when I say that, but it's true. I know how to be marginally important to a liar, I know how to love with all my heart and have blinders on to reality, but so far I haven't done exactly this before. I don't know how to be flawed, be accepted, improve, partner except for things I parrot from those people I feel like have it together. And it's hard. And it's weird, and I fail more than I wish I did. As I said last entry, way more last month than I wanted.

I want to stop adulting right now, put on my super beat-up Up pajama shirt, my snowflake pants, get some snacks and watch my tornado shows for a few days. Like I've done after breakups or hard times. Just pull in to the shell and hide from life for a while. Is that weird? This should be a happier occasion, right? I mean, to everyone else's eye, what's the issue?

I guess it's having nowhere to go. It's removing safety nets. It's knowing you have to make this work because if you don''re kinda screwed. I always drove myself everywhere when me and my friends went out so I had an escape route, and if I felt uncomfortable I could just leave. This is me putting the keys on the table and giving that up, I guess. And it's a little scary.

That's not to say I'm not happy. It's not to say I don't feel good about the decision. I feel like I really have an other half. We can dance in the kitchen, and we did today. We can create a themed month, like "Scary Movie October" and then go for the gusto. We can carefully create a list of all the shows we want to watch and then use a random number generator to pick what tonight's flavor is. We can make creme brulee because it seems like something we feel like doing at 2 am because we're bored. My cat can stick her coned up, silly face in his face and meow at him loudly, and he'll meow back. It's a good thing.

I think I just need some time to put the books back on the shelves, is all I'm saying.
Maybe friends don't understand me to be an introvert, and that term is so overused now that I feel like eyes are rolling out of faces, but I really do need "me" time to recharge and feel safe. I need escape routes. I need quiet voices sometimes, and places I can run to.

I loved that L shaped bedroom I just moved out of. The queen bed tucked away around a corner so I could sleep in privacy, even with the door open. I loved the big third floor windows, east facing, and the way that on weekends, the sun would warm me awake sometimes. I loved my stupid overstuffed loveseat and my 330 lb monstrosity of a big screen tv. It was like my own studio apartment, but I also had family I could count on downstairs. I had my mom to talk to and ask for advice from and my grandma to adventure with, hug, and who would hold my hand when things sorta sucked.

So as much as I look forward to the new, and I'm excited...knowing that's all different now? It feels a little scary, if I'm being honest. And right now, I am.

And if that sounds childish, or insecure or stupid? be it.
I'll be out of the cocoon soon enough, and hopefully my wings will dry and I'll be a whole new animal.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

52 Card Mess-Up

Well hello.

This cat has the face I think I might have right now, but she's actually doing things more or less the right way to get the results she wants. not this cat.

I suppose that's why I'm online and on the blog right now.
I need a space, I guess? I need the mysterious someones out there to hear me, because the less mysterious someones...well, right now's not the time to rely on them.

I am moving. My mom is moving, and my grandma is moving. The mom and grandma will be moving 6 or 7 hours north to Minneapolis. I will be returning to the town I lived in from 10-19. My cat will be meeting this gremlin and several others, and I will be attempting to make life with my love and a few friends work.

By now (September 26th with October 1st looming) I should have had everything all set to go. I shouldn't be up now worried.

For part of the time, I was crazy resisting change, and maybe denying it. It's childish and stupid.
For another part of the time, I was trying to focus on my love's birthday and make him feel like the most special person on earth. That worked and I think it was important.

After that, when stuff got hard, I more messed up.
I managed to have the exact opposite effect on the people I love than I wanted. I seem uniquely able to go in with the most loving of intentions, and in the end, have people on the verge of hatred. I accomplish this through second-guessing, indecisiveness, emotional asshattery, and a healthy dose of scatter-brainedness.

I feel like moving, especially since it was what seemed like such short notice (I knew on Labor Day, in retrospect) is stressful.

I feel like, though I've lived away from my family before, very far far away...I feel a bit afraid to see them go. I feel like it's an amazing chance and change for them, so I'm glad they're going, but I also feel like I have great potential for turning everything into a nightmare (which trust me, I've been doing) and thereby screwing up the good things I do have til I don't have those things anymore.

I thought it wouldn't take me as long to get boxed up and junk all the stuff I didn't need, but I still have to finish off the tail end of that tomorrow.

I thought I was splitting my time between my family who needed my help and my love who really, really needed my help, in a way that would take care of them and still allow me to sleep and write and even job hunt.

I felt crazy overwhelmed and stressed, but there's no logical reason for it, I'm told. It shouldn't be that bad. I'm not moving that far and I don't have that much stuff, and why has it taken so long?

When I'm there, boxing and junking, I'm feeling like I'm doing great. I'm getting organized, trimming the fat, knowing what it all is and where it goes.

But why aren't I done? Why is it I'm letting people down left and right?
Why wasn't I where I should have been when I should have been there?
Where's all my sleep going? (here, right now...)
Why can't I seem to control my emotions?
Why am I so damn worried about my cat, who just got fixed, and her introduction to the house?
Why am I so damn worried about things not working?
Why am I so damn worried about being hated?
Why do I feel like I've really, really failed my family and my love?

I wanted to be able to take my time, sort through things, and do it in a relaxed manner, then help my mom with the things she needed.
I wanted not to be gone all the time, so I could support my love through hard times, and not leave him feeling alone, no help, no support.
I wanted to get sleep and still take care of myself.

None of that has happened, I've damaged relationships, I've not been able to keep up with the things I needed to for Chicagoist, and instead of being sure of my decisions, things have eroded by the power of me enough that I'm not sure I'm not going to polar opposite of the direction I should be going.

I feel like a colossal screw-up.
I feel stressed out, and simultaneously guilty that I do feel stressed out, because everyone else around me has *more* than I do. More stuff to move, more sad, more stress, more issues to work out.
I wish for support, hugs, time with friends, but I feel guilty about that too since I've so severely seemed like a self-centered ass to anyone who needed me or mattered.

I wanted to move forward into the next phase of my life gracefully. Put together, calm, happy...excited to add to people's lives, help other people be free to do the things that will make them freer, less financially burdened, and happier...
but it's not like that.

Instead, I'm trying to put everything back together and keep it together for the next four days knowing it could all fall to pieces at any moment.

I...will risk seeming selfish saying this, but I want to, when this is over, either lock myself in a room for a day and just...never come out. sleep and watch tv and eat cookies and let the world continue without me...

Or I want to go somewhere. Alone. For a night., a stupid cable tv, maybe an indoor pool, some stupid, awful junk food, and nowhere to go the next day. Continental breakfast. I don't even care if it's in Gurnee or something. i'm not looking for a superb destination. I just...I want to clear out my head, process, figure out how to undo the damage, if there's a way, and come back stronger.

I don't know. There's no conclusion to this. I should just go to bed, because there are 5 hours before I start another day in this hellish September and hope to get through it without dropping more balls.

At least I've rigged a bootie for the dog I'm dogwatching. That's something.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Make Your Own Bacon!

Why not just make your own bacon, instead of bringing it home?

There's been lots to think about lately. I'm in the midst of a sort of chrysalis moment. Everything's suspended while I try to re-steer my life. Into freelance work. 
Typing that is scary. Trying to do it is scarier. 

The thing is, it's more rewarding. I hit my 2 year anniversary at Chicagoist last week. I took a trip through the archives to look at my first article and ended up perusing my journey thus far for a bit longer than expected. 

It's been amazing. I remember when I went to Station to Station, a "happening" at Union Station, and I was listed as "press" for the first time. I probably seemed way too giddy in a line full of tired and impatient writers and photographers, but I was beaming. I was on a list, I was getting access to something I'd already been interested in, and I'd be able to see it differently than a lot of people will have the chance to. 

I've talked to some of my favorite musicians, authors and comics and attended and photographed amazing events I'd always wanted to be a part of.  I've gotten to bring friends, loved ones and dates to things I couldn't actually afford to take them to without this opportunity. And I've made so many friends of the writers and editors at Chicagoist. It's been fantastic. There's not one second of that I'd want to change, even with spiked posts, misunderstandings, weird problems at events, broken down cars and forgotten cameras...

I can't say that about any 9 to 5 I've had, except maybe the bakery. 

Which is why I have to start "Actually Doing The Things." 

That picture was taken from the first story I had published for Chicagoist, "Come On, See Happy!" about an exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center which centered around an artist's investigation of what it is and how to find it. 

The first story was born of me loosing some of my insecurity chains thanks to GISHWHES, which was borne of some heartbreak and a desire to do the things that "always sounded kinda neat" like a kayak trip or a giant scavenger hunt. 

Where, in the two years, have I left that behind? 
This post popped into my head today, after I'd spent about two hours sending pitches to places I'd procrastinated sending them for months. After I'd applied for some amazing jobs after doing just a little bit more research than I'd done prior. 

All of that in one day made me feel pretty good. 

Why don't we just move on the things we want, then? What's the fear? It's not like we can't try again if we fail the first time. 

In talking to the boyfriend about this, I thought of our recent cooking adventure, and our also recent start of a food blog. 

We made bacon. 
From scratch. Cured and smoked by us. About 9 lbs of glorious, thick cut bacon. 
It was part of our 52 weeks of cooking challenge on Reddit, and if you'd have told me before I'd be doing that...I wouldn't have thought so. Doing things from scratch always carries this connotation of difficulty, crazy amounts of time-sinkage and the distinct possibility of it turning out to be a Pinterest fail. 

But so what? Fail and learn. Fail and do it better next time. Make your own damn bacon!
In the end, it wasn't that hard. A little research, a little hands on time, some contraption constructing...and a week of waiting, and we've got 9 lbs of bacon for the price of 4. Good deal. 

I guess what I'm saying is...get out there. All of us just...need to toss those chains off and do the things we say we're going to. 

Make your own damn bacon!

And, if you'd like, check out how we did ours over on that aforementioned new food blog, Our Blue Plate Special. We hope to be updating it with new cooking adventures fairly regularly. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Here Comes The Regular...

The other night, I found myself at one of those bar/restaurant/arcade places. I was picking up a press badge for the con I'll be covering this weekend, and I'd never been to this particular one before. In fact, I haven't really been at those sorts of places much, if I'm being honest, though I do like to game.

Part of the night's festivities included us being given a card worth a free hour of play time. Quick scan on any machine and you get to play. Pretty simple, and I had a great time with Mario Kart, pinball, Galaga and Pac-Man. I didn't even expect it.

An hour's a pretty good amount of time, actually. At some point though, with about 15 minutes left my card kept coming up "Play time temporarily suspended."

For whatever reason I wondered what unknowable rule I'd broken first. Catholic guilt? I don't know. I tried switching games and it worked for me. In any case, I was able to continue my adventures with Night Moves pinball and go home feeling like a pinball wizard.

I'm feeling like something else tonight.
My brain kind of likes metaphors and similes, extended or not. Right now it seems like a way to talk about something I want to talk about without being more specific than I want to be.

I got to thinking about how without knowing why, my playing time got suspended. I kinda feel like that now.

There's plenty of reasons I can make up for why that would happen. Maybe I scanned my card too fast? Too much? Maybe I wore some part of the useful part of it off? Totally random glitch? To be honest, most of what I came up with had to do with me and what I could have done to cause it, even for something that small. Now I'm told that's a problem, and that it bleeds into other things and other places. I've been thinking about that a lot.

But I'm still thinking about what's happening in my life now that's suspending things. I feel like things were good, but they can't be as good again. I feel like I wore holes in things, or scratched off the most important bits. Maybe I swiped the card too much, insisting on keeping going, when I shouldn't have done that. I know I can be bull-headed and forgetful, either not doing things I should or blasting through a wall I shouldn'tve oughta.

Even worse, I'm wondering if it's really temporary. This thing, this rejected card I'm referring to, it feels bigger and worse than a temporary glitch. It feels like maybe I need to start again.

And at least with the cards, you can add more time. I don't know if I have that luxury. On top of that, the history is still there. Maybe the card says 0 minutes, but somewhere there's a record of where I went and what I did.

My habits are known, traceable.

I could start again as someone else, but maybe I like some of that history. Maybe I liked being a regular. Maybe I wanted to be known as a pinball wizard.

I could go somewhere else, start all over, be an unknown. But...I'm the sort who wants to settle in, who likes familiar places and faces.

I don't know if this solves anything, writing this, but at least, in a manner, it explains how I feel.
At a certain point, does time just run out permanently?
Can I really add time? Will the history hurt me? Will my scratching away ruin my own fun, or my ability to function here?
Has it already? Game over?
I really hope not. This is the last thing I want to lose.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

When the sky goes dark...

It's funny how things come full circle sometimes. This particular post was sidelined for a while, due to weddings downstate, laziness on my part, and whatever other nonsense there is in the world. Perhaps a little bit of Chicagoist stuff too, which is neither nonsense nor laziness, but there you have it.

I took this picture from my dear love's house one night. If you don't already follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you may not know that I'm a huge storm nerd. It grew out of a severe fear of storms and tornadoes when I was younger. I used to mostly hide under tables or in closets when storms rolled in, but eventually, maybe around high school, I started to get into what made storms tick, and became more than a little obsessed with thunderstorms and tornadoes.

So it was not at all unusual on this summer night for me to be watching stormclouds gather in the distance from the window in our living room. It was around sunset, and the clouds were a purpley gray that I found rather neat. This particular storm was taking its time building. I was happily breathing in charged air, thinking a good storm was just what my garden needed.

Then it changed. It was churning. The purple was getting a bit jaundiced. Instead of the clouds billowing in neat vertical stacks or along the line of a wall cloud, they started to twist. Yellow and pink and grey mixed like a palette had been tipped over.  The wind picked up. It wasn't time for it to be dark, but it was getting that way.

Sometimes there's a change that happens and you can't explain it. The sky can be purple, pink and yellow all at once and we're sipping margaritas under a palm tree on the beach commenting on how beautiful nature is. This wasn't that though. This was a muddy sky, a sudden stillness and a sick spiral.  I felt the fear clawing a bit, so I drew the curtains and consulted my sweetheart.  He's not exactly the weather nerd I am, and not as quick to worry, but he opened the curtains, had a look, and put his warm, familiar hand on my back and gave it a few soft rubs.  Immediately, the fear fell back, and I felt like I could safely weather the storm. He may not have seen what I saw, and he may not have felt what I felt, but he was behind me, and he would be there.

On this particular night, not much happened. There was a severe storm, a lot of lightning and thunder, and a soaking rain.

I say things come full circle, because just three days ago, I sat on the basement stairs watching a different storm. The kitten sat with me and we watched it blow in quickly. The lightning was seemingly non stop, and the wind was already bending branches. I was waiting for the rain.

Things changed again. Clouds moving in one direction started spiraling in. Not only that, they began collecting into a wedge. I felt uneasy, and the wind died again.  The wedge grew larger, then began descending. And kept descending. The kitten jumped out of her window perch, and I ran into the living room, and said..."I don't like that's really not right."

He took a look and agreed. The only comfort was that it looked to be past us, but that was short-lived, as the tornado siren roared to life not two minutes after. We ferried the cats and humans down to the basement, waited it out and resurfaced. It didn't miss this time. In fact, what I'd seen was an EF-1 tornado striking the southern part of our town and barreling head first into the neighboring towns. It levelled a pizza place my friend's dad worked at that I frequented in high school and after. It tore parts of the roof off of the high school there. In three separate cases, it was a block away from hitting the houses of loved ones.

Places I drive through every day were undriveable. Live wires sparked over houses whose lawns I ran barefoot through on some summer nights.  Giant trees that shaded town forever were ripped from the earth and snapped in half. It's frightening. It's amazing at the same time. I think the thing that's most interesting about tornadoes is the combination of their massive power and complete randomness.

You can't see it coming for days. It might jump one house and hit the next.  Yet it's this massive, destructive, insane force. Its winds are the most powerful on Earth, but it's there and it's gone. Sometimes, you get a few minutes of warning. Unfortunately, our warning came too late. You had to be watching the skies. I'm glad I was, and I'm glad those who may not have been made it out. It could have been so, so much worse.  Joplin. Moore. El Reno.

It's so weird. It's
You don't get warning.
One minute you're drinking a cocktail on a sunny lakeside patio, the next?
Who knows?
Maybe the ICU.
Maybe an accident.
Maybe a book deal.

It's hard to know what to expect. It's hard when the storm hits, the power goes out, and trees block your way out of town.

Honestly? It's hard for me, right now. I don't have a job. I'm trying to steer the ship in the right direction, but it means taking some chances, it means it's taking longer than expected. It means money and time are running out and I don't have a solution.

But the same hand that was at my back when the sky got dark is still there. He's encouraging me, helping me grow, helping me forge a path.  My mother is standing behind me too, and my friends.
It's scary. I almost hoped someone would say "Just take any job, make money, stop dreaming."

But nobody is saying that. They're telling me they're going to help me through this storm a different way. They're telling me they're going to support me when it makes life harder for them. It's amazing, and when I think the sky's getting dark again, and I think of that, it chases that fear out of my belly all over again.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How to Break Everything

I always laugh to myself a little when someone hurls out "You've got issues!!" at someone as an insult. It feels like grasping at straws, a desperate attempt to belittle someone in a moment of anger. It seems pointless to say something like that, at least to me.

I truly feel like no one comes through life unscathed. There's no person out there, having made it to adulthood, that has not encountered trouble, heartbreak, anger, abandonment. You might think Jennifer from Park Avenue has it made, with a butler and maid and nanny, her parents giving her money for a shiny new Mercedes and every beautiful "it" bag of every new season.  But you don't know if she's got parents who listen to her, who spend time with her, or who are really there at all. It's  a cliche, but the point is...yeah, let's face it. We all have issues.

"I'm broken" we wail into the blustery wind of a pity party.
I'm as guilty of it as anyone.

Trust issues? Check.
The feeling that my feelings don't matter or simply aren't important to anyone? Yup.
An overly developed need to prove myself as good enough/smart enough/enough? Surely.

And it's ok to say "hey, I'm like this because..."
It's ok to have anxiety, depression, abandonment issues, or to be an introvert. It's ok to be you.
It's good to know what your issues are, because at least if you're aware you do it, you can attempt to curb it if it's become harmful in your relationships with people.

Where you start to break everything is when you let it be ALL you are.
Or when you take it out on someone.
Or when you have someone do something that REMINDS you of the boyfriend who cheated on you/parent who abused you/boss who wrecked you emotionally and you take out all the frustration of those events in your life on them.

It's hard to watch someone walk out of a room when your relationship experience has been a bunch of people whose answer to any problem is to completely walk away or hold 2 week grudges. But if you don't let that happen, then the new person who realizes that he's angrier than he should be and needs to cool off before you can calmly discuss it may hit a boiling point.

Likewise, you can't just recognize it's an issue you have and then go no further with it. For this reason, I think maybe the better terminology for "issue" might *be* baggage. Baggage, if you think literally, is yes, something you carry around because you have to.  But when you have to, you also have to check on it, and do something about it, and make room for it. That's your responsibility, ultimately, though there are others along the way who can help (or hinder) with it. So you can't just recognize you have a problem and then say "It's just how I am." That's not responsible, and that's one more way to break everything.

I'm all for accepting people as they are. I think deep down we all want to find someone who will accept us as is, scars and all. We just can't turn around and smack them upside the head with our issues.

People will trigger the worst in you. They'll push those buttons that exist for a multitude of reasons that have nothing to do with them, or perhaps they do, but from before.

We get to choose how we react to that.  We have to choose, every single time.

Yes, we should be who we really are.
Yes, we should be accepted for who we really are, warts and all.

But if we want to make something good, and NOT break everything, we need to be more patient, more understanding, more self-aware, and try to handle those things we carry with more care, so that innocent bystanders don't get hurt.

It's a tough one.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Life's Mixed Bag

There's this forum I started on back in my early 20s. And buried in their casual chat section, there's this category: Life's Mixed Bag.

There's also a forum for the bad things and the good things, but it's nice to hit mixed bag and see how it all leans on one day or another.


Let's get the scales out and see how it goes.

-I did not get enough sleep, and I had to drive in rush hour traffic to the city.
+ I did get to catch up on my podcasts, which is weirdly comforting.
+ I was going to the Field Museum for a media preview of the new Cyrus Tang Hall of China
+I was on time, comfortably
+They had amazing coffee.
+Got T-Rex shirt.
-Attacked by red winged blackbird outside museum when admiring lakefront views.
+It is GORGEOUS outside. Humid, but the lake breeze mutes that.
- I am still not employed.
+ I am still writing for Chicagoist, and therefore pursuing my dreams. ow
+Have wonderful boyfriend waiting for me at home.
+ Have new equipment to pursue said dreams.
-worried about length of time not "gainfully" employed
+ on a shaded patio writing this while eating a great burger and having a local brew.

Yeah, it tips pretty far to good.

A day or two ago I might have told you the entire sky was falling, and maybe it was. The ups seem really up and the downs really down lately.  I'm really trying to find a balance. Sometimes I feel I have absolutely no shit together, then sometimes I feel like I am doing better than expected.

I don't know what happens from here.
If I had my little way, my love and I would launch into a new future, hand in hand. We'd have our own little quiet place, he'd have less daily stress and maybe a puppy. We'd cook and laugh and watch our shows like we do now.  Maybe I'd be launching Albuquerqueist, and have my brilliant sunsets, endless sunshine, perfect green chile and mountains back. Maybe we'd live somewhere around here til we could do something like that, and I'd run off to cover stuff and come home to snuggle.

I need to get out of the temp loop, but it seems like that automatically means more time unemployed. And while that's been good in this particular scenario for a few reasons, I know the danger of the resume gap.

My worries, were I to list them, since that's how I started this, are:

Screwing up my relationship. I seem to not particularly be good at long term relationships, out of pure naivete. I try hard, but occasionally that leads to major fumbling. And while I don't want to find my value solely in my relationship, I do realize that this man is the best man I've known, and that we fit in a way that I have not fit with anyone before. Which is weird, because sometimes I see him as absolutely too together or analytical for someone as sometimes flighty and stubborn as I am. Sometimes, we say the same exact things at the exact same time, and think the same ridiculous things are funny.  Sometimes, we both are arguing and actually totally agree with each other, but I speak...whatever I speak, and he speaks something else entirely.

I'm not good when it's extemporaneous speech you want. I need to backspace, edit, delete and retry.

Career stuff.  I don't want to be a call center monkey, yet that is my past. I'm trying to steer the whole ship a different way, and I wonder how Titanicy that will get. I feel like I've got a portfolio that can launch me in a different direction, but I'm not exactly sure the roads to take, and what to look for.  I want to write. I want to photograph. I want to do....well, what I do for Chicagoist. I want to do that FOR chicagoist, and I want to do it day to day to make a paycheck. How and if I can swing that are...big questions. I need to be doing more, I think.

Family/Friends. I feel like there's a divide sometimes. I feel like I jumped into the relationship and got swallowed up, and I'm trying to catch up.  I feel like I've outgrown certain circles and things, but that's not the kind of person I really am either, to outgrow people who meant things to me. I am trying to budget time.

Self-improvement. I keep saying I need to get in a routine. Spend more time on appearances. I'm glad I don't feel the need to wear makeup anymore, and thank you, wonderful boyfriend, for that, but I still like it and want to master it. I want to finally get exercise into my daily routine, no questions asked. I need to keep writing, here, and keep photographing...everywhere.

So yeah.

I can't in good conscience sit here on a beautiful day in a city I love with great food, a great drink and a cool breeze and say I'm drowning.

I can say it's a hell of a mixed bag, and I hope to be able to turn that into something outstanding.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

An Old Leaf

So hello there, bloglandia. Or whatever this is called. I'm back. In fact, I'm back to stay. I've got a laptop which I can now use efficiently. The state figured their stuff out, and I invested in what I hope will be my future. I can actually use this laptop without it being plugged in! It's insane!

Writing to you all now from Chicago proper. Not on a story, on a dogsitting mission. Been here for the weekend with a lil' Papillon and a Corgi mix. I had the intention of finishing some Chicagoist stories and photo projects, but that hasn't quite happened. 

It's ok though. It's strange, but I've found little drips and drams of inspiration here and there during my stay. 

The first was the weirdest, so I'll explain that first. I used to watch this show...and it had this theme song. And it was a running joke with me and an ex of mine at one point, though I never really disliked the song.  Someone here might have heard of it, and if you know the song or the show, don't judge, friends, because everyone has their vices. Anyway, it was "I Don't Want To Be" by Gavin deGraw. But sometimes you need to hear something and there's no sense getting picky over how or where. 

Basically, I don't need to be anything other than a specialist's son. Daughter, y'dig. Either way...I think maybe some of what's been in my way lately is me trying to fix things by changing myself in a way I shouldn't. I mean yes, there's good changes to be made. A person can always learn to communicate better. How to fight fair, how to work together better.  

But you can't lose yourself in that. And if you do, you might end up hurting the very things and people you wanted to help by doing it.  It all sounds cliche, and part of it probably is, but maybe there's a reason for it. Cliche isn't automatically bad. And neither am I. Neither is who I am. Even my non-linear, scatterbrained self. But especially my self-reliant, smart, creative self. 

One other thing I realized this weekend is how far I've come. There's a lot of fears I faced to get where I am right now, and that could even be said literally. I didn't grow up around the city, and in fact, sorta grew into a fear of it. When I was older and went with other people, I started to see how amazing it was, and wanted to know more.  I dated someone who lived in the city and thought maybe one day I'd live here.  But I was afraid to drive, didn't know much about anywhere that wasn't Michigan Ave, and just...generally was afraid. I got in a sideswipe accident over by UIC years back on a trip with friends and from that point on was afraid to drive in the city- mostly because it was a CTA bus that forced me into another car that got me in that mess.'m learning how the pieces fit together. I'm able to drive in town like it's just another really big town. GPS helps a lot, of course, by making it easier to recover from a wrong turn, but still...I'm learning how neighborhoods flow into each other and discovering the unique flavors of each. Of course a lot of this is due to Chicagoist, something else that I wouldn't be doing had I not faced my fears.  That came out of GISHWHES, which came out of single me trying to do things that I always wished I'd do, like go kayaking or do a scavenger hunt. Then when I was getting bolder, things were nutty and I was asking CEOs to dance, I threw my hat in the ring and started writing. For real. Which has opened up an entire new world, and I am amazingly grateful. 

I have a byline. I have stories and contacts and encounters I couldn't have had I still been afraid to be here, or afraid to let anyone read my writing, though I've been writing since my kindergarten diary.
I'm stronger, life is better, because I faced those fears. So maybe? I need to remember both those things. I need to be bolder, and I need to be fearless.

Last? This afternoon I went over to the National Museum of Mexican Art. It's a stop I'd been wanting to make for Chicagoist, and it's not far from where I'm staying with the doggies. So I went over that way this afternoon, and I am *so* glad I did. The things I love about Mexican culture are so apparent in its art- it's all bold colors, so personal, so wears its heart on its sleeve.  There's such joy in the culture, but those same bold colors and brushstrokes speak of suffering too, of being something other.

It's not my heritage, but it reminds me of New Mexico, and the things I loved about it as well. And it reminds me that the things that you love can tell you what you want.

I want to fly bold colors. I want to make things personal- by being closer to the people in my life, and more honest, and more open. By listening more and better, and by sharing more.  I want to be passionate...which I already am, but I want to let that blossom- I need to pursue things more doggedly, I need the things I love to sweat out of my pores.

And I need my heart back out on my sleeve. I think there's no sense in trying to tuck it away where it belongs. That doesn't mean getting carried away by emotion and not being able to be there for other people, but it does mean that I'm an emotional person, and I need to use that instead of trying to become someone else.

I don't know how all this looks yet...but I know it's what I want.

I want to turn over an old leaf, in a way, and look back on the things I already had that I need to have back.  And I want to use that to create a better me now that will be all bold paint and passion.

Let's see what happens from here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Best.Grandma.Ever. :)

The stunning woman in this ridiculously gorgeous handmade wedding gown is my grandma. 
She's also one of my favorite people in the entire universe, for good reason. 
Today is the day she turns 90 years old. 

So many people say that they have the best grandma ever, and I'm glad that they do. It means that they know what a treasure it is to have their grandma around and in their lives. So maybe instead of insisting "There can be only one" all Highlander style, we can agree that "best" is a title of honor which can be attained by a certain caliber of person. 

She is certainly someone to be admired. Grandma grew up in Polish Chicago. She played on the green grass in Humboldt Park, wandered to Wicker Park for shopping, and took in shows at the local theaters, now long gone. She met someone, and fell in love. 

She became a mother to four, three wonderful daughters and one great son. Sadly, she lost her husband when she was still young. So, now a single mom, she worked at a factory, learned to drive, and continued to be an amazing mother.

Family is so important to her. As our family has grown generation by generation, she has welcomed each new member with the same love. 

When my mother lost her own husband at a very early age, leaving her a single mom to an infant, my grandma was there. Her children were there. I grew up without a dad, but my life was so full of family- aunts and uncles and cousins who I knew I could count on and who loved me, and still do. My mom could count on my grandma to watch me whenever she could so that she could work or take a well deserved break. I was *always* at Grandma's house, and I always loved Grandma's house. 

Grandma played baseball with me, taught me to crochet, took walks with me and cooked with me. She was proud of me when I ate the vegetables other kids pushed aside. She put my school pictures in her wallet and my coloring pages from Cub Foods on the refrigerator. She signs every birthday card "I love you" just in case there was any doubt. 

Grandma has literally and figuratively held my hand through my whole life. She's taught me to pick up and save my pennies. She taught me to look at the clouds and imagine what shapes they make. She taught me how to grow things, and stop and smell the roses. She's been there for breakups and hard times, and she's reminded me to have patience for people when they're going through hard times, as well. She reminded me that real love shows through even the darkest of situations if you will just be patient and look for it, and it's a lesson that's led to a lot of happiness for me, and a lot more understanding. She is amazingly kind and thoughtful, and adds to her prayer list like some people add to their grocery list. She always hugs my boyfriend, and when he's going through something hard, tells him she's praying for him. 

She also makes amazing golabki, and has taught me that and so many other recipes that remind me of my heritage. She will feed anyone and everyone who comes through her doors, even if all you have room for is a Tic-Tac. 

At 90, she's a vibrant woman still full of humor, energy, wisdom and love. 
She is honestly the person I want to be, now and at 90.

Happy Birthday, Grandma.
I love you, too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Autobiography of Sorts

Hey all.
I'm doing a writing exercise thing with some friends.
Guess what the first assignment was?
Well, you can't guess cuz you're reading this and not interacting with me live, so I'll just type it here.

It's...not that brief..but I'm not seven years old. on if you wish.

I'm bad at titles and introductions, and I decided to do this writing challenge without realizing the first challenge is essentially one long introduction. Whoopsiedoodles. 

I guess this is the part where I give you a brief autobiography. 
I am Marielle. 
Legally, it's Mariel, but we'll trifle with those things later. 
Extra LE for better pronunciation and making things simpler. 

I was born in Colorado, right in the foothills of Fort Collins. My mom was all kinds of in love with my dad, my dad loved her right back. He also loved the mountains, and had a kind heart.  I was born around Thanksgiving, and a week later he was gone. An accident. Which I don't mention much, but is now part of this autobiography exercise. That feels a little weird, honestly. 

So then I was back in Chicagoland around my mom's family, and that's how I grew up. My grandma is the matriarch, but she doesn't rule with an iron fist. Instead, she's gentle and kind and funny, and people just seem to do what she wants because they respect her, and that's the kind of woman I'd like to be. Even when I've been the maddest at someone, she's been able to make me see their side, even for a moment. 

Then there's my momma. She got to Colorado working on a ranch, and that's how she got to meeting my dad. She's artistic and a writer and stubborn and strong, and as much as I might not think I'm like her sometimes, I am. When I was younger she wrote a children's book about me which I love to this day, and even though I'm a bee in it and I'm terrified of bees...well, it works. She was a single mom and I know that was hard. I know at times we didn't have much, and I remember eating lots of Lunchables and stuff but things always seemed like an adventure and she loved me lots, and that's the part I take from it, even if she remembers more of the harder stuff. 

Being an only child is a little weird. In that it doesn't seem weird til you get around other kids. I had a HUGE imagination and was always an Indian in a tribe exploring the forest or a horse running in the pasture or a detective figuring out who stole the diamonds, and I rarely cared if I was the only one in the roles. I did science experiments and I rode my bike too fast and I skinned my knees and caught butterflies and made forts and collected Hot Wheels. I had Barbies but my main interest in them was doing their hair. 

I wasn't around that many little kids in the neighborhoods I grew up in, so I ended up talking to adults more, and since my mom read to me so much, when i got into school I was really really ahead of the game, and that made me weird. One or two kids were weird with me.  In first grade, I met my best friend forever, Dawn. I think I was too young to remember what it was that made me so attached to her at that age, but I do remember I'd hated her the year before. We went to a very small Christian school.  About 13 kids per class if you were lucky. The teachers were amazing and really, really cared, and could interact with us in ways that many schools just...don't allow for (though not in a creepy way.)  

Dawn and I were completely inseparable. We spent all our time together to the point we got in trouble for not spending time with anyone else. We wrote each other notes and made up phrases and were both horses running in pastures. We watched the Little Mermaid 76 times when we WERE keeping track and still to this day could probably both recite it. We went to Six Flags together. It was awesome.  I had some other friends too, but none were as close as she was. 

She moved schools in time for middle school, and it sucked. We kept in touch with a notebook we passed back and forth a la Babysitter's Club, and we still saw each other lots, but the school part was hard. 

Somewhere in there I started to play in band, and I was good at it. Gawky skinny clarinet player with giant glasses. I was a cheerleader (whatever that means in middle school at a tiny private school.)

My mom got remarried, and I got a sister and brother. Which was.awesome. Even though it wasn't the easiest thing, I'm still so grateful to know what it's like to be a big sister and have a brother and a wonderful sister who I still have amazing relationships with today, and to know a new family as my own. 

 Problem, at least during middle school?

I was not popular. In fact, I'd probably isolated myself too much and found myself very on the outside. I was miserable. Quite miserable. 
My band teacher was a refuge in all of this. She helped me deal with the whole middle schooler drama, plus the no dad thing, plus the unpopular thing. 
At the same time, a more permanent "adopted dad" was coming into my life in the form of the youth pastor at the church we attended. One day when I felt like I hit rock bottom, he was standing there. And I was waiting for a lecture or a sermon or to be ignored, and he opened his arms to hug me. And I sobbed. But I felt like that's what it'd be like to have a dad, and maybe I'd found that. 

And he did and does do that for me, though I had to figure out how it worked and how to approach it. He's kicked tires on my cars, helped me through breakups and generally given me great advice ever since then.  And great hugs. He's wonderful at those.  He's showed up at car accidents and hospitals and I have no doubt he'll continue to be there, even though lately I've been sorta distanced from him.  But I have no doubts in that relationship and I'm glad for it. 

My parents made me go to public high school. I'm glad I did. I'm even more glad I played an instrument, as it got me an instant cadre of friends. 80 some friends right off the bat. Another band director who was amazing and able to help guide me through things I was struggling with and make me a better musician. I had a classic 1950's relationship that started my sophomore year. He asked me out in gym, and I said yes in the hallway on the way to English class. He was my first kiss. He smelled like Irish Spring soap and motor oil.  He had an orange Pontiac Sunfire.  I wore his class ring around my neck. When we got caught in the rain when his car broke down, he put his letter jacket on me. He carried my books and got in near fights with guys who tried to mess with me.  Seriously. I don't know how I time warped. 

Previous to that I had a crush on someone and I never thought it'd work. Well, when I least expected it, it did. Sort of. I broke up with the 50s guy knowing it wasn't right if I had feelings for someone else and I never felt that bad in my life. 

But nothing happened. So I stayed single, stayed totally in love with this guy.  A week after graduation, he literally swept me off my feet.  And two months later, we broke up. 

Or did we? 
We did. Then we didn't. Then we did. That chapter lasts way too long. I didn't ever want to not be his friend, but I probably never should have dated him. Still, first love. That's complicated.  More when he breaks your heart (and several others). More when he's still an integral part of a circle of friends that's sacred to you.  Speaking of that.

Another best friend...Patty. She came around on a field trip to Chicago. She bought a cello on this trip,  from a guy who thought there were going to be demons entering his shop from Michigan Avenue. I carried the cello for her along with some other friends. She dared me to stand in the fountain at the Art Institute (also right on Michigan Avenue), so I did, and she bought me dinner.  She's fantastic and weird and wonderful, and opened me up in a lot of ways. 

Our little circle had bonfires all after high school. Religiously, from March til November if weather allowed. We'd drink or not, and different people would guest star or not, but that group was and is incredibly important to me, and they know who they are. I think, in a time of such change, with college and "the real world" butting in, it was great to have that home base to come to once a week, even with its own dramas and problems. 

I worked at Pizza Hut and studied business, thinking I'd go into marketing. I got my first real job at Hewitt. I was good at it, and I advanced, and made money. Oh, and I met someone. Someone who made me believe in love at first sight, and then question everything. Someone who I felt like I fit with from moment 1 and spent so, so much time with. 

I was on an internet forum at the same time, and I made some lifelong friendships there, including my mathy, moosey friend Joey, the always confusing/amusing cavehamster, my sweet friend Rhonda, my practically-family jwing...too many to name, and so many of whom have shaped my life in different ways, including my partner in writing crime here, another Dawn, whose floor I have slept on and kids I have met and who I have plotted and schemed with. Good things.

I moved in with Patty for a while even, which was awesome, and made me gain more family in her brother and mom.

My job kinda went south, and I quit. After I went home, I made a joke to a friend of his that now that I was destitute and jobless I should just move out West. Well, he took the joke out of it and offered that I rent a room in New Mexico, which was also the state that this newfound flame was. Who also knows who he is. In any case, I moved. 

SOOOOO many people thought I moved for him. I didn't. Though skipped over in this "brief" autobiography, I hit the mountains of Colorado again at 16 on a band trip and my life changed. My heart lit up and I knew I needed the mountains.  So despite it being crazy, short notice, and supposedly because of a guy...I packed up my jeep, got my cat as my co-pilot and made a 23 hour trip to Los Alamos. 

It was...insane. New Mexico was an entirely different planet. The plants weren't the same, the lake wasn't East because there WAS no lake, I was at 7500 feet at my job and 6800 at my house...and I could run for miles on end without running into a single soul. The sunsets were fire in the sky, and the air was dry and smelled of sage and juniper. I...was high on it. New culture, new lifestyle. I slowed down. I didn't have a job for some time, but then I was a baker, and a fish counter girl, and an art store clerk, and though I struggled so much financially and even a little health wise during that time, I learned more than I ever thought I would. And I saw that flame, and that fire burned, at least for me, just the way it had. 

And circumstances changed and I had to move to Socorro, NM. And it was weird but great. And my friends and his friends were the same now, and that was really ok. On top of which, he was willing to let his friends really really be mine. Lifelong friendships formed. I am so grateful for every moment of that time. I'm so grateful for all the people it brought in my life, and every moment I spent with him too, which I hope he knows. 

When that came to an end, it felt like my world did, too. I hadn't ever really felt quite like that. 
Just like that, I was back in Illinois. -20 weather and not much else. 

Enter the boy. The man, really. But I remember him as he was in his freshman, my sophomore year. Quiet cute guy on the steps of the band room reading. Well, he played trumpet. And he was smart and sweet. And we were friends, though not super close ones, all through high school. He went away, he came back. We kept in touch no matter where he was, and that got to be pretty far away. 

Meanwhile, I moved Patty out to Washington State and in the process got to know her brother a hell of a lot better, which I'm grateful for, because he's cool as hell and we had a pretty epic adventure driving a giant moving truck from IL to WA. I was worried we'd have nothing to talk about but now we have inside jokes. It's kinda awesome. 

I love picking up friends along life's way. It's my favorite thing about life. 

I felt a little lonely without her. 
He made me get coffee to cheer me up. He made me get out of deerfield and do things. We made our friendship stronger. He left for Texas, and we stayed in touch with almost no exception. 

Dawn and I re-gained our daily communication, and are friends and confidantes. We make each other brownies and drink wine and cry and laugh together. We buy Kermits and take them to restaurants and take pictures of them together. 

My friend Holly from back in the Christian school days came back from overseas. We were both kinda heartbroken at the same time, and we both ended up working together where I'd worked at Walgreens  (and also met a bunch of unforgettable people who I hope I'll call friends for a long time).

Somewhere in there, in 2013, I did this weird thing to fix my heartbreak. I decided to do one thing I'd always wanted to do but had talked myself out of. It was this really weird thing called GISHWHES. It's an international scavenger hunt where you get paired up with friends and strangers and do really insane things like try to get the CEO of Groupon to wear a tux and dance to single ladies and send it to you for points.  And try to get the people on the ISS to hold a sign with your weird team's name on it. And hug people. And donate money and all the items on a registry to a soldier whose house burned down...

And somewhere in there my courage went up by about a thousand. And I saw a tweet about writing for the A&E section of a website I was a devoted reader of, Chicagoist. So I sent in some samples without hardly blinking an eye, because after all, I was trying to get CEOS to dance to Single Ladies like it was normal, so why the hell was trying for my dream job so hard?

And I got it. And I have gone so many amazing places, to so many amazing events, met so many great people...had and have great editors...have done amazing interviews with people, and gotten to treat friends to things I could never afford...what an amazing adventure!! All because of a weird scavenger hunt Misha Collins brewed up in his head. 

Meanwhile, Holly and I worked through the relationship/life/heartbreak thing together and met people (or reconnected with them, in my case...that same boy from the band stairs...) and got happier, and had weird doubts and fun pizza nights and beers together. We got into relationships, and...well...I just went to her wedding in November, and it was gorgeous and perfect and I was so, so amazingly happy for her, seeing her dreams come true out of all the hardships she had before. I still write for Chicagoist. Walgreens went away, which was sad, but I'm pursuing some more dream jobs. I'm in a relationship with someone who loves me in ways I still struggle to understand. He's proud to be with me, and when I do a wiggly "got the zucchini" dance at Jewel, he pulls me in for a kiss right there in the produce aisle. Sometimes he does an "I have some ice cream" dance, and I do the same thing back in reverse. We're leaving for the north woods of WI ..tomorrow now, and I'm excited for a bit of time away from "real life" with him for now, though I'm grateful to be a part of his every day, even when that's hard and we drive each other crazy. 

I feel like, even if I don't know what the hell is next, it's ok enough to not freak out, and that...has been 32 years in the making. 
I'll figure it out, and now I know, in writing this, who helped me get there and who I hope I'll keep walking with.
You know who you all are. ;)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Good (Which I promise, triumphs)

Well, it's been about a month since my "the bad" post.  I feel bad about that, actually, because I'd meant to follow the bad with a good chaser. Thing is, things were still a little bit nutty then. Thing is though, also, that things are always just a little off-center and life's what you make it, right?

I didn't want to abandon the whole "the good" post either though, so here we are. And in one month, things have changed again.

My contract with the job I hated ended. I actually ended it about a week earlier than it probably would have ended, to take care of family matters here, and I felt pretty ok about it. Randomly, the "bad" IDES experience resulted in me finally getting it when I'd already gotten back on my feet a little with the temp job, so I was able to save a little, and that's helping me now to be able to breathe a little easier even though I'm still looking for the next job.

Originally that money was earmarked towards a new computer, but we'll keep that on the back burner for now, since this computer works, and I have access to at least one more that more than works, and even allows me to game and photo edit a lot faster than I could on here. So yay!

Let's continue on our rol with the good, eh?
It's good to be grateful and take stock in what you have.

Friends. One thing I did resolve in the New Year and have been keeping to more, is to try to make sure I make more time for my friends. I do still need to do some work on correspondence with the ones I am not nearby, because that's not really at the level I'd hope it was yet, but some amends were made where they needed to be, some catching up has been done, and I'm still really committed to expanding my time with friends. One of the best things I've done to that end this year was going to Erika's birthday party, where I got to travel just a little (something I'll never not have a bug for, and I really haven't taken too many road trips in the Civvie yet...sooo....) and hang out with her, Stephen, Trevor and Sami, who's an awesome new friend I made this year, and happens to be Trevor's girlfriend, as well as Amanda.  It's my group of beer girls, my fun, funny sensitive friend Stephen, a touch of Round Lake and a true silly person after my own heart in Trevor, and a new, energetic and super fun friend in Sami. We had a great time, even though it was a shorter trip. It reminded me just how much a night with friends can do for you, you know?

I'm hoping to get to Madison this year, as well as back out to Freeport, and my ultimate goal would be Seattle to see Patty. I want to go to New Mexico too but that's pretty much constantly true, and I want to make sure I don't miss opportunities to see other people because of my magnet pull out there.

Family! Over the holidays, I got a chance to see my sister! I also got to finally meet my lil' nephew Caleb, her second son. Her being in NC and me being without travel money and time has meant I'd not gotten to see him, and he's all big and curly headed and fun and funny, so it was wonderful to get that chance. Meanwhile, just over in Rockford, this year was exciting with the introduction of ANOTHER nephew, when Diana had lil' Callaghan. Seeing my brother as a dad (and he's already a great one, which I'd known he would be since he was like, ten...) is awesome. I still owe them a dinner so I'm hoping to bring the boyfriend, cook something up, and have a great time.

Writing! - I'm still getting fantastic opportunities with Chicagoist. For Christmas, my mom put together a really nice portfolio of my work for them, and I'm excited to have that as well. I'm still doing the museum beat and the Arts and Entertainment thing, with an upcoming museum exhibition preview dinner and the International Home and Housewares show, as well as a comedy show, on the agenda for the next week or two here. Should be busy and exciting! I still love writing, and I'm working on making my writing better and better as we go along. Gotta tighten things up and one thing I do need to do there is do more. My posting has been less frequent than it was, I think because of all the upheaval and ..dare I say mild depression?...and that needs to change. Writing is what I want to do, and I can't let that taper off for other stuff. No excuses. Please, kick my ass, readers, if you see me slacking here.

Love!- This is a big one. It's unusual for me to have a lot to say about it here. For years I was in these quasi-relationships. Some where people didn't even acknowledge what they were, and I felt unworthy or not good enough because I felt hidden. Like I was good enough to be with in secret, but not to meet the friends and family or not for any sort of real commitment. And that sucks. The worst case scenario with this was a guy who hid me so he could also maintain 2 other "long term" "committed" relationships with his girlfriend(s). I'm glad I'm out of that picture, even though I still feel for the girlfriends who are in the dark about it, and wish they had the full picture and could make decisions about their life with all the information.

Then there was the "everything but" stuff.  Where you're the one, day in and day out, you're the one that they confide in, the one they spend their time with, but somehow...not the one they're dating. There's a lot of reasons that can happen, and it's not always just that simple, but some part of me always wants to be like "ok, and if there are romantic feelings AND the rest...why can't you just say it?"

And as silly as it seems to want to be called someone's girlfriend for real, by them, with no weirdness, it's a big deal if you've ever felt like that. It's not silly. It's nice. It's nice to be able to clearly define it. It's nice to be able to be loved out in the open. It's wonderful to have someone tell you they love you while you're going about your work day, before you go to sleep, or when you wake up.  It's even nicer when you know how true that is.

I am dating a wonderful guy. I'm dating a guy who loves his family unconditionally, even if and when there are problems, and would do anything for them, no matter how he's feeling at the moment. I'm dating someone who loves animals, who can outpun me, outnerd me, and very nearly outcuddle me, though I am still the reigning champion of cuddling, thankyouverymuch.  I'm dating a guy who loves to cook, and even better, loves to cook with me. Some nights all we do is spend our time in the kitchen whipping up dinner or pies or trying a bread recipe. Lately we've been trying to make mozzerella. And it's not working yet, but we're keepin' on it.

That's another thing. Because of the dysfunction of so many of my relationships, it's an adjustment being in a long term one that really works. We really are partners. I'm used to fighting meaning we take a two week break from each other whether that works or not, or just stuffing it. But we don't do that. And we're still learning HOW to do it right, but the important part is that we're both trying, and neither of us is looking for an out. Right now we're in closer quarters than ever, and it's an adjustment, but even with that, we're able to figure it out and come out on top with cozy nights spent laughing and gaming and kissing and cooking. And it's wonderful, despite the stresses and the strains.

Neither of us is where we'd ideally be in life. He's got a ton on his plate, and the types of things he's dealing with are things a lot of people our age haven't even begun to face yet, and he's doing it with compassion and grace. I so much admire this about him. I love to come beside him and be his partner as he faces it, and I know that we've become closer and stronger due to some of the struggles. It makes me so confident that our future can really be amazing, and enduring, and that makes me really happy.

So yeah, there is and was bad and ugly. There is and was and will be hardships. But when I really look at it, and maybe I need to do this  more often...I've got a hell of a lot- an amazing man I love, a great family and wonderful friends, and a chance to do the "job" I really want to do, to write....

I wouldn't have guessed that I'd be where I am in life right now, and I wish I could find a steady, decent job and wish that we could be someplace we both want to be and without some of the burdens and stresses, but...I'll take the bad and the ugly for all that good.