Monday, November 13, 2017

The Chicagoist Post

What? You thought I wouldn't blog about Chicagoist meeting a sudden demise at the hands of billionaires with a toddler's "take-your-toys-and-go-home" mentality?

No chance.

Chicagoist was and is a big deal to me. I was there. I was a part of it and what IT was was truly one of Chicago's best. And a community, and a place where I learned a lot from a lot of people. Honestly, it seemed unbelievable most of the time that I was a part of it. I read Chicagoist every day at work- started off with the Around Town gallery they'd post around my lunchtime every day. I still remember when one of the pictures I submitted got in. I was so excited! Then came a resolve to do more things I'd always meant to do, which led to GISHWHES, which I didn't expect to change my life but did. As I've mentioned before, once you're emailing the CEO of Groupon to ask him to send a video of himself doing the Single Ladies dance in his suit for our scavenger hunt, it's not as intimidating to throw your hat in the ring to be an A&E writer.

Jim and Chuck gave me a chance. My first two stories (the testers, if you will) were The Happy Show and Jazzin' at the Shedd. These events happened while I had a really good friend of mine (and a hell of an encouraging presence) in from New Mexico for a visit, so I got to take him with me on these adventures. One of the things I love about this job is that it allows me to bring people along for the ride. I've seen so many amazing things while writing for Chicagoist, and I've gotten to share them with the people I love.


These are things I love to do and wanted to do and got to take some of my best friends to, to boot. It was ways I could take my boyfriend, who is awesome and deserving of such things, to shows on dates that I never could've pulled off either. I mean, we met Weird Al! I was so starstruck that night at the back of the Chicago Theatre I couldn't make sentences happen.

I still remember my very first story. An easy to get to one for a cub Chicagoista - it was at Union Station - a "happening" called Station to Station. I wasn't sure how to dress for a "happening" let alone to blend in with all the press, and I was a huge nerd about being on the press list. I constantly checked my bag for pens and camera batteries and wondered what obvious things I would inevitably be missing or what faux pas I would stumble into as soon as I got there.

I'm sure being a nerd about being on the press list counts as one of those faux pas, but I couldn't have cared less. I saw Thurston Moore unplug when the stage lost power. I explored smoky yurts and ate artisanal sandwiches and watched people make things. And in one of my favorite moments of all time for Chicagoist, I heard Mavis Staples' voice ring out through the entire Great Hall at Union Station. The show was like being at her house on a Sunday in its intimacy, but that voice let loose in that hall with those acoustics were life-changing.

In fact, all of Chicagoist was. I still get imposter syndrome, both for being a writer at Chicagoist and a "writer" at all. I take on projects and do work and wonder when someone will find out I'm not supposed to be where I am. I'm lucky. I'm lucky to have worked the stories I worked. I'm lucky to have been able to call Chicagoist's staff my friends. I'm lucky to have gotten to explore all the things I've explored.

I've been on the roof of the Art Institute, the basement of the Field Museum, the floor for the nerdiest of conventions in Chicago each year. I've heard amazing music, met amazing people and learned from fantastic journalists.

I've gotten to go see what Chicago has to offer, photograph it, write about it and then share it with tons of people, in hopes that they'll find some good stuff, too. Hopefully somewhere in there I've written things that will help people some way - whether that's simply getting to know some of the neat places and faces Chicago has to offer or just having some nerd to relate to.

Above all though, Chicagoist helped me.
I found what I love.
I do the things I love.
It's still work and it always will be.
I have LOTS more work to do.
I've made mistakes, but I've learned from them, too.

It's been an incredible ride, and I'm sad to see it go. Chicagoist was an opportunity, sure, but it also truly was a community, one I loved with all my heart.

I'm grateful to everyone I've ever raised a glass with, shared a GIF or emailed with, and especially grateful to Jim and Chuck who gave me my shot, and Lisa and Rachel who helped me and Chicagoist grow after that, even into things like hard news. You.all.rock.

The world would be stupid not to snatch every last one of you up for something amazing, and I can't wait to see what that is.

Shine on, you crazy diamonds.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We Grew This

Turns out, Chicago is a busy month for journalists and journalistas. Hence my lateness to this post, which I've actually been looking forward to for a few days now. But you know, as a friend says, #amwriting #amediting. Tis the thing we strive for.

So, you say, what's the thing you were waiting to blog about?

It's my fourth anniversary with my love. <3 nbsp="" p="">Four years, man. It's a long time. The foundation was laid long long before that, in a friendship we kept up for yearrrrs, but now it's a bigger, better thing.

I was looking for an image to represent what I wanted to say about this, and I landed on this rose. It's from our own garden, from this year. We had these roses in the yard, they were planted long before I was here, and they just weren't blooming. Couldn't figure out what the problem was, tried pruning them the one year and nothing, took them to the Master Gardeners at the county ag any case, two years in, they finally bloomed. Gorgeously, and they were incredibly prolific. I could not believe how beautiful. And we grew that. Trial and error and doubt and all.

And that' it works in a relationship. Sometimes you cut too deep, sometimes you don't address things you need to. Sometimes you do a lot of work and it doesn't seem to get you anywhere. But you keep working at it and you grow something. And that thing can be incredible.

The beautiful parts of us are some of my favorite things on Earth. It sounds like nothing, but one of my dreams was to have someone who'd eat ice cream in bed with me while we watched some silly show. And we do that.

I hoped for someone who would cook with me. We cook together ALL the time. We make a hobby out of it every single week with 52 Weeks of Cooking and that was the lens I used to talk about us last year at a live event.

We nerd out together. We mangle and strangle the English language so badly together that sometimes I think it's only the two of us who could understand a word we're saying sometimes. Just for fun. We write together, game together, watch the Cubs together, and have a HUGE list of nerdy shows we are huge fans of.

He brought me into the world of Star Trek, and especially when times are so dark...Star Trek gives me hope. It makes me feel like there's this beautiful way we can all exist together if we keep trying for it. The characters and worlds there are gold, and I love that we share it, and I love how it's still sorta "ultra" nerdy in that way where people are like "oh you're a TREKKIE?" because I love how proud we stand together when we say "yeah! Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra!" and wait for the sneers. I love how we can be ourselves together because it's us against the world and being weird together is powerful.We don't have anything to prove.

I love our trips together. I love the relaxation and intimacy of our time in Door County- we got snowed in this last time and it was some of my favorite travel ever, even though we didn't leave our hotel at all that day. We cook while we're there too, and play board games and watch movies and eat cheese and drink wine. We locked ourselves in the Mall of America for his birthday this year.

I love watching him. He's like this over-easy egg of sunshine. It spills right out of him when you take the time to get to know him and talk to him and you see the big beautiful heart, the hearty laugh, the nerdy core and the generosity and kindness just flow out like a river. I love watching people's faces change when he cracks a smile. I love going on walks with him or to the grocery store and holding his hand or knowing that we can make even that fun.

It's not all easy. We spend so much time together by virtue of working at home together that, honestly, we drive each other nuts sometimes. There's internal pressures and household stresses and the regular "uncovering all each other's bullshit" that gets to us. There's the ways that a person you love shows you the worst parts of yourself. But there's ways we show each other the best in ourselves too.

All I need to know sometimes is that I never fall asleep faster than when he's there. When he's not, I can't turn my head off. I know that when I'm not with him, I'm already planning what I'll call or text him, and what he might have liked. I've probably taken pictures of something I wanted to see, and probably saved something I wanted to buy for him in a folder on the internet somewhere (don't peek if you read this.) I'm probably planning all the adventures I want us to have in the future somewhere in the back of my head.

Life gets to me. This  house gets to me. Sometimes, we get to each other. But I've learned so much trying to grow this. Life has a way of showing me how much I haven't learned too, but the bottom line is, we grew this. Four years in, I hope it just keeps growing and going strong.

And hey, you, who's busily reviewing games behind me...I love you. <3 p="">

Saturday, October 7, 2017

You Can Always Order Pizza

So, I love cooking.
You probably know this, as you've probably read here there or everywhere about the various cooking exploits I've been on on my own and with my wonderful SO.

I spend a fair amount of time mining the internet for new recipes and stuff, and so I read food blogs and food sections of papers and magazines.

Today, I read this.
In which an intrepid reporter from Chicago magazine has Grant Achatz, yes, THE, yes he of the 3 Michelin stars (that's hard to do in Europe let alone the U.S.) help her with a dinner party.

It's a great article, and a lot of that is in a bit of schadenfreude, I spose, and relating with someone who is nervous around people sometimes. During the course of her time with the chef, she frets about how he'll perceive her and the things she already has in her house, if he'll be stern and a taskmaster, and proceeds to drop a pepper grinder in a bowl of cream as well as grate herself (which I do more than I'd care to admit) and cut herself.

Achatz has accomplished a lot. And first off, he could've felt "above" this sort of story and not done it, and second, he could have done it and not been whole-hog with it. But the whole time he's a calming presence, even forming a sort of eye-rolling-but-in-good-fun role for himself that endears me to him, even having never met him.

He still does what he does and teaches, helping her every step of the way, but he makes himself unimportant and unintimidating. I *love* people like this, and there are far too few of them. People that can shake off the bonds of their fame and just be people are the best kind of people to have fame, if you ask me.

Anyway, the deal was he shops with her, emails her, and then the day of, helps her to a point til he has to go back to Alinea, to, y'know, run a 3 Michelin star restaurant in one of the largest cities in the US. Cuz...well, important.

In any case, one of the things that stuck with me on this was how the author finishes the story.
Because of course, you're wondering if somehow, in that last stretch without him there, she's gonna somehow ruin everything (the way that you feel like you would, if you're like me)

Everyone loves everything despite even  her perceived errors, like overbaking the dessert a bit.

But in the end she remembers Achatz consoling her in a moment of panic by saying that if everything is awful, "You can always order pizza!"

I love it.

On so many levels. I think of Michelin star chefs sometimes as these battle axe sort of people, who are unrelenting, exacting, precise and unforgiving of mistakes, from themselves and the people under them. And that's there, or else they wouldn't be getting the accolades they do. Consistency and precision are key to that sort of craft so that what you put out one day is still what people taste five months from now should they order it.

But as serious as he is about food, and about cooking...if it doesn't work? Fine. Order pizza.

It reminds me to chill the hell out when I'm stressing about whatever it is I'm stressing about.

Because really. You can always order pizza.

It's not to say not to be precise or not to try your hardest to do things as best as you can.
It is to say that if something goes wrong, maybe try not to beat yourself up about it and move on.
Learn from it, sure, but then just...keep on' keepin' on.
And order pizza.

So that's my thought of the day, followed by my sleep of the night.
Now I want pizza.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Filthy Stovetop

The other day, I was angrily cleaning the dishes and stewing in my own angry-juices. I'd lost my head, so to speak.

I was mad for a variety of reasons, one of the simplest being that!

Seriously though. People buy black cars and black bikes and whatever and think "it'll hide the dirt!"
Except dirt isn't black, at least not much of it. Potting soil is, but usually your home isn't coated in that. Unless you're a tulip or a very serious and disorganized gardening addict.

I cook a lot, so I couldn't even exclude myself from my own anger. Things build up, and after a week or so, the stovetop goes from racy black shiny to cruddy icky please don't take a picture of that. (Note that I have not.)

Thing is, too, that maybe, had anyone (including myself) scrubbed the damned surface after they cooked just once, swipe swipe swipe and done, it wouldn't get that way at all. Take 2 minutes extra now, save the carnage of scraping soaking and picking food particles out from under your burners, which by the way? Pretty gross.

At the time though, I was mad about no one helping. Sometimes, it feels like I'm solely responsible for the daily swiping, as it were. Like if I do 23 loads of dishes by hand and put them all away, then buy myself a pint of ice cream and leave the ice cream spoon in the sink, if someone else makes themselves eggs the next morning one of two things will happen:

1) a big pile of egg dishes plus the spoon
2) egg dishes all done, but the spoon is still dirty in the sink.

It's frustrating.

I kept thinking: If you pass through the kitchen and you see a stack of dishes and you think "man, that's a lot of dirty dishes" or "man, the floor is dirty as hell" but you just keep walking and going about your own life, well...there's the problem.

Everyone's busy busy all the time, work and life and whatnot. But one thing I'm finding out more and more in the realm of taking care of a house and family is that really, if things don't pile up on one person, and you take about five minutes out of your own time to help every day, then no one feels like they're an ox yoked to a cart full of lead. (weirdly biblical reference? No idea why.)

Vacuuming the whole upstairs takes about ...15 minutes? Emptying the litter boxes and redoing them? 10. Taking the trash out to the cans just right outside the front door, including time to replace the bag? About 2 minutes. Seriously.

Once I finished the dishes and the stovetop, I'd calmed down but I thought about the stovetop more metaphorically.

We can't just help ourselves. We can't just expect people to do things for us. We can't expect anyone to be the first to break the ice, we can't wait for others to do the right thing. We need to do it. Don't wait to be asked to hang out more. If there's a friend in your life that you don't see enough, regardless of who contacted who last and how that interaction went, if it's important enough to cross your mind, then just do the contacting.

If you see a problem, don't act like you're Janeway observing a pre-warp civilization from afar, get involved!

(Side note: I love Janeway, just in this example don't be Janeway.)

I thought about some family members I know (Mine and other people's) and how they're hurting because of each other. Each waits for the other to make it right. Both say they want it to be right. But no one's DOING anything.

Just because you say you want to see someone more doesn't make you get out there and see them. You say you're gonna have more time, we're totally gonna do that, you'll see!
But you don't. And maybe there's good reasons, maybe there's real stuff. I missed my friend coming in from Seattle recently because I got really sick and then had to cover Wizard World for 4 days straight.

But don't rest on self-righteousness. I was sick, I was working...but I still forgot to call him and say something. So, I'm making an effort now to apologize and do better. Incidentally, I'm going to Seattle soon and will hopefully be seeing him there.

Family that supports each other does something that families that don't don't do: They don't wait.
They don't keep scoreboards of when the other wasn't there to help them.
They just act.
Someone's hurt or isolated...let's go!

We're not entitled to each other's time or friendship. We're not magically going to have a good family or friend life if we don't actively try to make it that way.

I know this because I don't do the things I'm saying we need to do all the time and it hurts me and it hurts the people I love.

But sometimes, a filthy stovetop reminds me that we could work together, and with just a little effort on each end, make things easier and better for everyone.

I don't know who all is reading this, but I encourage you to take action.
This is important. We can't count on everyone to do anything for us. We can't expect that some time in the future, our relatives are going to stop being the way they are and reach out, our friends are going to get less busy or have a less weird schedule.

Why can't we set up a once a week call with our sisters (Shan, I say this because I'm about to institute it)
Why can't we at least answer a text within a day of getting it if the person's at all someone we want in our life?
Why can't we pick an "inconvenient" time for coffee and just go see our friend we haven't seen in a few years?

It has value. It adds value. It's worth the cost.

And in the meantime? Take out the trash. Sweep the floor. Do the dishes. Help where you live.
It means more than you know.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Night at the Nerdlesque

This weekend was the 5th Annual Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival. I've been to all but one of these nerdy affairs, covering them for Chicagoist and now Third Coast Review. I can usually make it to at least a night or two, and this year attended Thursday and Saturday nights. One thing I've missed in years past (mostly due to expiring parking or just a long drive home ahead of me) were the nerd burlesque shows that the festival always features. 

Up til this year, the only true live burlesque I'd seen was a special show at the bar I frequented back in Socorro, NM. It was a great time, but I think I got even more out of this. 

For one thing, back then, I was a bit younger and a bit less likely to express all of who I am. For another, this is nerdlesque. Nerds are my people and I am theirs. And's sexy dancing Voldemort. How bizarre/amusing/unusual is that?

But it's more than what's at face value, and so was the "straight up" burlesque show I saw earlier. 
The crazy thing to me in both cases was how good it made ME feel about ME. Burlesque is such a positive experience, or at least has been for me. Nerdlesque was doubly so, because it allows you to laugh at yourself while also navigating a part of yourself that can be harder to let out or address. 

I love the talent and openness involved, and I love that it's the art of the tease. 
You won't get to see everything, and that's ok. It's about leaving the desire for more. Talented burlesque performers can hold an audience's attention simply by way of confidence. They can make being Voldemort alluring, somehow. They're not necessarily Victoria's Secret Angels or Greek Gods of men, but they don't have to be, because what they show you, what burlesque shows you, is that sexy is from within. 

Sexy is about individualism, and about feeling it yourself and then projecting it out there. It's about you as a person and how you interact with other people. And the best kind of sexy is the kind that makes other people feel like they could be sexy too. 
That's what I learned at the nerdlesque show. 

So I'm passing it on to you. 
Confident is sexy. Unique is sexy. YOU are sexy, you nerdy little thing you! Celebrate who and what you are. We all should do that more. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Stand Up

I've always had a hard time with confrontation. I think most people, at the core, do.
There were a lot of times in my life I looked back on and thought "Man, I was a total doormat there."
I've erred in the opposite direction too, where I "stood up" for myself by making EVERYTHING an issue, which is something I still struggle with from time to time.

It's hard to know when to speak up sometimes.
It's hard to speak up even when you know you should sometimes.

I feel like there are a lot of people right now that probably feel that way in regards to the national problems we're facing, but some of the things that prompted me to blog this today are much closer to home, in my working environment.

I don't like causing division. I don't like to feel "against" anyone and I don't like stirring the pot. But the truth of the matter is that if you leave the pot to sit on its own, then things blacken and everything becomes bitter from the bottom up. You need to stir and not settle before that happens.

There's room to be understanding, to see if you're coming from a place of pride or competition or whatever, but if you can examine it long enough and realize it's not that, then you need to take action. This post is mostly about me having to deal with a work situation I didn't want to deal with and being afraid of the fallout from it, both in my personal life, with people I consider friends, and in my working life, with people that are colleagues and peers.

I have a hard time with the concept of "righteous anger" if you want to use a semi-religious term, too. I feel like being angry is wrong, and to be honest, I feel that way when I'm not the angry one too, and fail to realize there's a good reason to be angry, and there are healthy ways to be angry. There's damn toxic ones too, but there ARE reasons to express anger and ways to do it that aren't harmful.

And I'm angry. I'm angry when I am faced with conflict where there should be cooperation. I'm angry when people eschew communication, blatantly ignore others attempts at it, and fail to do anything but assert their authority. It creates a bad environment for everyone, and it makes working together harder. This is especially frustrating when it creates extra divisions, delays projects, and intimidates others, and that's what it's doing.

As far as next steps...I'm not too sure.
But one thing I want to make clear?
I'm standing up for myself now. I will not be condescended to by my peers, and I will not be scolded like a child by people who abuse their position.
I'm going to stand up.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Somewhat Unadvertised Confession

So. Yesterday. Yesterday, I took a bath. A good long soak, longer than necessary. And I looked in the mirror for a good long time. One of the traits about myself that's not so great, I'm told, is my unwillingness to look in a mirror for long.

I'm all for body acceptance, loving who you are, feeling good in your own skin and whatever other good things you can do, but I have a hard time putting it into practice. A cursory glance tells me at least I don't have spinach in my teeth and my hair isn't THE MOST crazy or whatnot, and then I'm good. If I'm doing winged eyeliner or something, I'll look more, because come on, have you ever tried evening out both sides? But other than that, I'm not great about just...looking. It makes me uncomfortable talking about it, even. Like, ugh, am I talking about looking at my whole self? That seems wrong or inappropriate to talk about. But it's me, and it's me looking at MY self. It's mine. Shouldn't I know what it's like now?

To my surprise, I didn't hate all the things. There were things I'd like to take action on, for sure, but I didn't  hate all the things. And I stood there longer. And I looked, and I thought, and I wished, for once, that I could learn to like even the things I currently hate. And to maybe, maybe rock myself out the way I really would like to. There are people much bigger and much smaller than me that have a much bigger slice of the confidence pie, and I'd like to go back and get some more. I'd like to really really feel good about me. I need to work on that.

I looked in a more metaphorical mirror lately, and unfortunately, I'm kinda seeing that picture I used as the lead. I have, it seems, fallen into a depression. There's some underlying stuff there, like work stuff, people I've lost touch with, relationship struggles...and there's some stuff that came from it that made it worse, like avoiding stuff as simple as showers and sunshine, and neglecting stuff I should be doing, which piles on the guilt, which makes it more insurmountable. I've talked to the SO about it, and I mentioned it in a more public way tonight. It's not dire, and I know depression lies, but it makes you think a lot, too.

The bad things I feel are hopelessness in some areas of my life- like I can't change the things I want to change, like trying makes it worse, like failing is a reminder of how already bad at things I was.

There's fear- that I can't change myself, that I can't change the bad interactions, and fear that comes from hurting. Fear that I'm alienating myself from people, fear that people are starting to or already did not like me, fear that I can't repair relationships with people I'd like to, or build something better with people.

There's a lack of energy and excitement for the future. I try to set goals of things to look forward to, even if they're small, because it helps me feel...better, more secure and happy. Like, for example, I am looking forward to finally getting around to seeing Rogue One. Lately though, those things get put off, a lot of the times by me, and I feel like I'm floating aimlessly. And I want to do things, but I don't.

So I'm confessing. I'm struggling. I'm not super happy. I feel a little like I lost my way and on top of that don't really feel like digging in and finding it.

I don't feel like posting this after writing it because if I do I'm admitting all this, and that seems...not great? But I'm gonna post it.

Because maybe someone else out there feels that way. In fact, I know someone else out there feels that way. And maybe we can be hope for each other, maybe even just a little.

I feel like a lump of useless, but I have to believe that that's not all I am.
And neither are you.

Home Is Where...

I'm dogsitting this weekend, a few miles away from where I actually live. I do it fairly often for some family friends, and it's a good arrangement. It helps them out, and I am close enough to not have to be super gone from the house, so I can still help and come home from dinner and do whatever else might be necessary.

As I was leaving after late dinner last night to go back to the dogsitting job for the night, I said "ok, I"m going home now."

In the car on the way home, I realized that my concept of home is pretty fluid. More fluid than I even realized. Through the years, I've had all these dreams of places I wanted to live later on down the road. A big part of me loved Chicago SO much and wanted the city life- no need for a car, more activities than you could possibly even attend, all kinds of cultures and restaurants and that amazing vibrancy. I get some of that with Chicagoist and Third Coast.

Some part of me wanted to live deep in the woods, too though. All hidden away, somewhere serene. Maybe by the water.

When I lived in a small town, I was all about knowing everyone in the shops and bar and being a part of a community the way I was. My time in Socorro was fantastic because it was so small. I knew everyone. I knew everyone's kids. I knew when they got dental surgery and who was bringing them soup and taking their kids to the zoo. I knew who I'd face in the pool tourneys on Sundays and I attended unofficial "American Gladiator reboot" viewings with friends at the bar on a slow night.

And ok, obvious statement. To no one's surprise, I want to live in New Mexico again. It stole my heart and my soul and nothing feels as good as the open expanses of the desert, the mountains greeting you every morning, the sage and juniper after the rain, and the feeling of sunshine just sitting on your shoulders, naked and intense. I want that again.

But when I look at it, and the more I explore, the more I see that one of my strengths, and the reason I love travel, is because I can find a life I want almost anywhere. I don't want to move farther north, but when I was in Minneapolis and its suburbs, I could envision the kind of path I'd carve for myself- from weekends in Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka to exploring more of the culture in Minneapolis, and hours and hours at Mia (because it's worth it, so much!)

I love Seattle, and could see myself just as easily somewhere around the sound, taking the ferry in to explore the amazing, laid back world that is Seattle. Seattle is so chill and unique. I love its seaside vibe, I love its "hip but not douchey" feel, and I love its...non city cityness.

And really? Sometimes I lust for a chance to live the IN Chicago life. Since I work for Chicago publications, most everyone I work with lives in the city limits. Different neighborhoods with different flair. I wish for the fluency and confidence with public transportation, the endless venues and concerts and things I could just be at. The chance to always be able to explore every square foot and to really be able to call it my own. I want that excitement, that energy. I want to be able to be home when I'm there sometimes instead of having to go home from there (and not just because the commute sucks.)

When I'm in Door County, I imagine this crazy tourist season and the fun I could have doing something involving it - writing about it, photographing the scenery/activity, but then in the off season, feeling isolated and cozy in a way you only can in a small place like that when winter sets in. Suddenly it's you and the real residents and a winter of solitude in a still-gorgeous place. Maybe you have to plan ahead a little more, but you make it work.

I'm not the world's most confident person, but I think I could make a home most anywhere. I don't like change, and even though I have moved cross country before, I don't think it'd be that much easier changing locale so drastically, but when it comes down to it, one thing I pride myself on is being able to change my definition of home. I feel like home is the people I love, somewhere safe I can curl up at night and come back to and a door I can close to the world when I need to, but other than that? Wherever life takes me, I feel like I can blaze a path and make it my own.

And that gives me hope.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Char Siu Bao and Trying Again

We made these yesterday. And it was arduous, lemme tell you, but we made these.
First off, it's part of our 52 weeks of cooking challenge, which I've written (and even performed) about.
Second, I hadn't even had bao at all (or dim sum) prior to this May, when my bestie and I attended her brother's 50th birthday party and we went to an awesome dim sum place in Chicago. We had a great time learning about it, eating it, and then feeling bad about how much we ate on the way home.

So when it came up on the challenges, I immediately knew I wanted to do steamed buns (bao)
I was really excited about it, but then I got to my research phase and found that a cook I really admire (whose name I will withhold here, just cuz) had said they couldn't find a successful recipe and to buy the bun stuff frozen.

I'll admit here that sometimes I'm a bit lazy. I was inclined to just take it as a cautionary tale and not even try. Which likely, in our area, as littered with stores as it is, could have ended up taking hours more, since I'd have had to hunt the depths of our grocery stores for the dough, which should be "available at any store" but around here, even with the diversity of ethnic groups, doesn't hold true.

I did more research and found a recipe I knew was legit, and we set off.

Our first batch did not work. Dough seized up. We've had a rough as hell week between leftover schedule upset from the flooding, the toilet having issues and having to be re-installed due to flooding, thrown backs, lots of work deadlines, migraines and more. It's been *real* special, in that I hate life way.

I was tempted to throw in the towel (Oh yeah, and like, 40 loads of laundry to clean towels from the flood and then again the same ones from the toilet install. Right, and it rained and stuff torrentially just recently AFTER the floods. And so.)

But we decided, sleep deprived and weary though we were, that we were just gonna try one more time. So we did.

And it still didn't look like it'd work. But after the 1.5 hour first rise, 30 minute second rise, and 45 minute final rise (and after rolling 50 teeny little balls meticulously and then flattening them out just as meticulously)...



I did not expect it and I am over the moon about it. I really thought we'd have spent something like 6 hours on it and just have to go to the store and get frozen ones and feel bad.

They were springy and cooked through and soft and warm and stuff, and it was awesome.

Couple that with an amazing char siu pork that we'd also spent hours making, some pickles I mixed up, and scallions, and we had a freaking fantastic meal at home I'd have paid good money for.

So why am I blogging at you all about this?

I have reasons. Reasons that taught me things, folks.

Because, first...we needed a win after all this random upset.
Second, because sometimes it takes longer to be lazy than it does to actually just do things the right way. And being lazy backfires, too.
Third, because have a little faith in yourself, and don't be scared to try something someone else failed, no matter who they are.
Fourth...well...putting in the time pays off. And hard work can make you happy.

I'm gonna try and take this into the working week.
And the writing life.

Happy Monday's eve, y'all.
Don't give up.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Tales from Beyond

Holy cats, people.
There's cause to celebrate in my corner of the Interwebs.
I have been trying and trying and trying to get my head above water in this new phase in my life, and mostly failing.
If I were to type one more time "I need to write here more often" even I would punch me in the face.

Here's some duh moments I'd like to share with you, my friends and associates:

1. Moving sucks, and it takes a while to figure out new digs. A while can be up to a year. I've lived with the SO for ohhhh....a tad bit over that. And every so often I'm a slow learner.

2. Long term, committed relationships are hard. I mean, they're good too, or you wouldn't think they'd be as much a phenomenon as they are, but yeah. They're really difficult. This is only compounded by family with medical issues, roommates and old houses with yards and gardens and things.

3. But I didn't know the first thing about how to make stubborn rose bushes bloom or fix a sink or paint a room or fix a sink again. Or how much it takes just to run a house week to week, from dishes to meal planning and taxes and budgets and appointments and groceries. And pets.

4. Freelance writing is...tumultuous. No matter how hard you work or how long, it's really hard to make it into a living, and even harder to ride out mergers and layoffs and freezes. One minute you're in, the next you're out. Things change fast and there's so much work you have to put in to get anything out of it. Most people I know in paid writing positions around me put in at least 5 to 7 years of unpaid or occasionally paid work at various outlets before they ever got those.  Seems the fate of the creative. Everyone wants photos and articles and stuff for free, but no one's telling a steelworker to put in their unpaid dues for 7 years and one day they'll make it. But I digress.

5. You better work, b*tch. No one is doing anything for you, and if you want to make stuff happen you're gonna have to pound pavement, send emails, and constantly find a new way of making it. And boohoo if you don't start May 1st on a Monday. May 2nd on a Tuesday or halfway between Tuesday and Wednesday is fine, just start. Not starting isn't an excuse for not starting. queen of not starting. I regret this, and wish to give up my claim to that throne.

So...where's that leave us? Why the celebration?
Well, I've come up for air. I'm learning the routine, and making space for things I should have made space for a long time ago.

Third Coast is developing and changing and I've got a front seat and a say in how that happens. I'm really excited to watch us grow and help us get our name out there.

The SO has been brought on as a writer for Third Coast officially, which is reason enough to celebrate, but we're both launching our writing ship together, and have set up a schedule we are currently completing day one of.

I feel amazing. We got up, we procrastinated only a minimum amount to go acquire coffee, and then we worked. And I really, really got shit done. While making sure house stuff like bills and utilities didn't slip away, while ensuring animals and people were fed, while scheduling stuff and helping each other out. And it was nice.

I'm confident if we can keep working together and holding each other to doing work while we're on work hours, the future will be bright. Just today I muddled through back press releases, scheduled museum and garden visits, made new contacts and did some internal housekeeping stuff for 3CR like minutes and soliciting more entries for my section. I'm updating here and searching out new things everywhere and I'm really happy with how this new schedule began.

I'm outing myself here as a way to say I'm here to work, and we're gonna make this thing happen.
Day 1's the hardest. Now to keep it going.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Here I Am Again

On my own? Going down the only road I've ever known? (I can't not start singing that when I say what I said, so...sorry?)

Anyway. Just me.
Just me at the keys again, wondering why it's always so long before I write for me. This time, I had a big push into the "guilt about not writing something that's not an article" from the American Writer's Museum opening in Chicago just two days ago. It's full of so much about writing, about process, about just doing it even though everything that falls out of your head and onto the page just seems trite or silly or wrong.

I wrote the non-upside down part on the story canvas table at the museum, and thought I wanted to develop that into something, someday. Then I thought, why not sooner than "someday."

It's a hatchling I'm watching over.

I feel like it goes with the thoughts that were running through my head the other day as I was cruising into Chicago. Everything was an electric green and in full bloom, and instead of that amazing "spring  has sprung!" feeling you get sometimes when the sun is just warm enough and the grass is all lush and the sky's impossible blue, I felt a certain sadness. I felt like I was inside but everything else was outside, away from me. Like somehow I missed all the flowers and breezes and rivers rushing with runoff.

It's only May, but it's already May. May's just on the precipice of summer. The AC units are already in the windows and many people wiser than me have already been working on their swimsuit form. I feel like I'm emerging from a cave when I go outside during the daytime and I'm not at a grocery store.

My BFF forever came out from Seattle just a week or two ago, and we were EVERYWHERE. We saw tons of mutual friends, drove all over creation, ate at all the restaurants you have to eat at when you're gone from the Midwest and Chicago, and shopped til we dropped. We watched DS9 all in the same room (my boyfriend, myself and my bff all watch ds9 on Thursdays as a way for me to keep in touch with her. It's awesome).  We went to the Field Museum, which I haven't done as a "civilian" for SUCH a long time, cruised Lake Shore Drive, and generally gawked. We hit Freeport for a weekend of games and movies and the "same old" that for our group of friends never gets old, we went to Portillo's and on a zany journey through Target with Trev and Sami, and we caught up with an original member of our "biotch squad," Cherie.

It was awesome, if exhausting, and I was *so* glad to touch back on those connections.

So why so blue now? I think part of it is the angst that is PMS, part of it is that feeling you get when you get a taste of something awesome (like having your BFF NOT be thousands of miles away all the time) but then it goes away because it's temporary. Probably one last part is that my schedule...our totally not a thing right now, and we really wanted it to be. I'd love to "get outside and enjoy the season" which I think is where my spring related ennui on the drive the other day is coming from, but I also want to do things like...get my shit together and get the house in order and get on schedule with writing. The list was short, then it was long, then it was longer.

April was a blur, between trips to MN for Easter and C2E2, and it all just rolled right into May with no sign of stopping. Now I'm just begging for some sort of routine to emerge again. As much as I worry about missing the thousands of things in bloom (achoo, by the way...) I also have a strong desire to cocoon myself in the bedroom with netflix and my blanky for awhile til things feel normal again. Which likely would only exacerbate things, but sounds absolutely like therapy.

I'm disjointed, and so is this, but I'm determined to try and do better.
I want to keep those connections to my friends more frequent, keep this house running more consistently, even in the face of weird schedules, and really go somewhere.
I can't word that into existence, though. I have to work it there.

It's time to work.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Do The Write Thing

Tonight I'm using this space as...well, what it always should be and sometimes isn't.
Just mine.
Just a place to download if I need to.

And I think I need to. What I need is more calm sunrises with no one around and less...stress.
That picture was taken on our super excellent and long vacation in Door County, which I already miss. During that vacation, we did exactly nothing whenever we wanted to, and exactly what we wanted to when we wanted to.  Sleep til 2 one day, get unhealthy takeout and watch Moana at 4 am? Sure.

Wake up at 8 am to get breakfast and watch the snow fall, and then watch Food Network competitions and play Legend of Zelda? Sure!

Wake up at 6 and drive about a half an hour out to some icy cliffs to get some sunrise time with your camera? Yep.

I miss that.

Tryin' to get it other ways, but sometimes, lately, I find myself a bit spazzy and more irritated than I would like to be. Sometimes I just wonder how hard it'd be to help someone else out or be considerate, I guess? Sometimes I feel like I've taken the mantle of full on haus-frau like I don't have a job or ambition but I have both, and if there's any time I need to be working harder, it's now. I feel a bit bitter because to me, it seems like I can't ask anyone to wash a mug they didn't drink out of, while I'm washing a dirty dozen a day and I'm off caffeine.

And for anyone who doesn't think I'm working, I am. Despite setbacks. On top of which, a lot of the time, I'm feeling a crazy amount of anxiety and a dash of depression. I don't need an intervention staged or anything, and mom, if you're reading, you don't need to call, I just...have to manage life a little bit better. Communicate more, plan more, and fix some stuff that makes me feel insecure and just...crazy.

And maybe...realize what I can't fix. Other people, other people's relationships or lack thereof, and just...situational horror.

Sucky things just float out there, and you can't drown 'em for anything.
Maybe it's time to hold on to the good stuff, then?
I've gotta get out of a constant state of worry into something different. Life's tryin' to add stress while I try to take it away, but I'm gonna come out on top.

Beh. I'm not really sure what else to say, and I don't feel like a ramble. I think I'll disappear into a strange state of stupid show bliss, then, and leave this be what it was.

To all of you out there...I hope you find a little normal in a crazy world, even if it seems impossible to find right now.

And I hope I can get enough sleep to be a little more productive tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day...Part Deux. (That's 2 if you don't speak zee Fronch)

More Women's Day stuff, you say? Yes, I say.
Because strong women are what I'm made of, what I want to be, and when I'm my best self, are what I am. And while that's a really grammatically terrible sentence, I'm going to forgive myself and move on from it.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be strong. I have a lot of role models for that. My mom was my first strong woman. Strong because she had to deal with her husband dying at the same time she had a very young newborn, and she had to move cross country, and figure out how to deal with grief, babies and relocation all at once. Strong because though the absence is always felt, I was never without the proper care and love, even with her having to work harder and longer than she would have if there were two parents in the picture.

My aunts are powerhouses too.  One has been a lawyer as long as I can remember and also manages Martha Stewart worthy Thanksgivings and hedges of hydrangeas that only appear in most people's dreams (and now holds state office). She gets.stuff.done. And she's happily married and has two daughters who are both successful and, like her, down to earth.

The other worked her butt off as a mail carrier and eventually ended up working at the Pentagon. She was my model career woman, but she was also my godmother who would randomly show up and take me to the Dells and ride every single water slide with me. She raised two awesome, successful men and kicked cancer to the curb while handling her own husband's cancer. See if she can't do something.

My grandma, she's the matriarch in the family. But she's the best example of speak softly and carry a big stick I know. She's gentle and kind and funny and She raised four kids alone after her husband died, worked at a factory FORever, and is now 92, smart as a tack, and still beloved by almost everyone she meets.

Sometimes, men mystify me because I spent so much time around women. There was a time I was even a little bit afraid of being around people's dads because I didn't really know what to expect or how to be and sometimes I thought of dads as enforcers and not much more.

But the GREAT thing I got out of the way I grew up was that all these women, from mom to grandma to aunts, show me all the time it's not one or the other. Family or career, stay at home or work, soft and feminine or hard and savvy. Each of these women can and have been all of those things, and are still them. I appreciate the men in my life, even more than most in some cases because I didn't HAVE men in my life I could count on til much later, but I think the women in my life made me feel like women could do anything, and I want to pass that feeling on.

Alone or together, we can do the thing. Which thing? Name the thing, then get a group of determined women together, and we'll do that.

I originally started this post in my head as a look at the sci-fi women that I loved, because they were the same things I admired in the real women I loved, and then, owing back to a stupid taco commercial, I thought, why not both?

I'm damned lucky that not only were the real women in my life fantastic examples, but there were a lot of kickass women (and ARE a lot) in the things I love. Here's just a few:

I love Topanga Lawrence, because she was not afraid of her weirdness. And she wasn't afraid to go against the grain and do the weird thing when it made her happy and that's how she got Corey. And for them, the weird thing was the right thing.

I love Captain Janeway. Because she's a captain under crazy duress. And she stands up for herself. And because dammit, she might be stranded wayyy far from home, but she's gonna still get her cup of coffee no.matter.what. She gets it done, she manages a weird balance between family and employee with the rest of the stranded crew, she maintains a gorgeous mane, and she seriously will blow up the ship if you're gonna try and test her. Love.her.

I love Kira Nerys. Because she is a freedom fighter, a radical, an activist. She has resting bitch face but is one of the gentlest hearts in the entire world. She's broken, but she embraces it and uses it to better everyone around her. She's fiery and fierce and she cannot be taken lightly. She's a full on warrior.

I love Scully. She's confident, she's open minded, but she's certainly not changing her position just because someone else (even a sexy someone else) tells her to believe. She's gonna science it out. She's not waiting for anyone to give her answers.

And Dax, who sciences, and manages to have her own life among lifetimes, and manages to Klingon better than some other Klingons while still remaining her. Jadzia Dax will fly the ship, fix the ship, solve the problem and get back in time to dress up as victorian princesses with Kira for a holosuite trip. And don't you dare try to tell her what to do. She's a great friend and someone who really knows how to have fun, but you can also always count on her. 

So...if you think you're alone, you're not. If you think it's better to be "one of the guys" because "girls are so mean to each other" it's time to change that. 

Because we're women. We should have each other's backs and change the world for the better.
We should battle and science and then paint our nails pretty colors and wear glitter because we can.

Let's not let anyone stop us.

She wouldn't.

International Women's Day 1

This was my shirt for International Women's Day... a day which I spent supporting my SO as someone he loved and who I now consider family was having surgery.

I knew immediately that this would be the shirt I wore because when I think about strong women the first place I go is Carrie Fisher, and it still guts me that we lost her.

I feel like I have a whole other post in me for today, so I might go ahead and put that up too, but really...Carrie was Leia, Leia was Carrie, and both of them were extreme badasses who made things better, not just for themselves.

I had and have tons of words about Fisher, but I'm gonna let you read them on Third Coast, because as hard as this was to write right when I found out about Fisher dying, I think that the things I wrote about her I most want to be true about me.

I want to use my voice to help other people find theirs, and I want to use my struggles as strengths and help people who are struggling.

Anyway, here's what I wrote then:

And I think I will do a part two, in just a few.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Second Hand

So hello. It's long about 6 am and I haven't slept yet. 2017 has started off the way most people feel 2016 ended. Hellish. Between medical issues in the family, job stuff, political bullshit and having had a really bad cold the past two weeks, I can't say I've really felt great about this year.

We had a plan of action, now that's just...dust in the wind. I keep saying once we get clear of this stuff, but it seems like this stuff is replaced by that stuff is replaced by more stuff. It's stupid. Whether intentional or even their fault, too, people are being antagonistic as hell, and that's driven me as close to the edge as I want to get.

I'm currently trying to recapture sanity with long showers, adult coloring books, alone time with stupid shows, and Two Dots. I'm also trying to regroup and get stuff going like I wanted to this year, which includes writing stuff.

To that end, this: 642 things to write about.

I don't know how often I'll do it, though I hope it will be "quite." Still, life has a way of keeping you at the hospital for hours when you don't expect it, so we'll just not commit to that which we can't be sure we can finish.

But we start with one foot in front of the other, and today, the little seed is this: Things that can happen in a second.

When I thought about it, my brain wanted "the most" that could happen in a second. What's the biggest thing that can happen in the space of only a second?

And here's what I wrote down:

Lights on/off
A kiss
A gunshot
A punch lands
A birth

The last one, I thought, doesn't fit.

But then, it does, doesn't it?
The thing about birth is the ultimate newness.
At 12:16:59 am on November 23rd, I wasn't.  At 12:17:00...I was. And I continue to be. Being takes more than a second, but the truth is, all beginnings are marked by that newness.
One second ago, that kiss hadn't happened, and you were only friends.
One second ago, that bullet hadn't pierced that person's heart, and they weren't dead.
One second ago, nothing was unusual, but now it is.

Everything comes down to the second things change.
And when I thought of that, I felt scared and sad. Because one second from now, I could lose everything. One second from now, we could make mistakes that end our relationships, our lives, our safe place. Everything can just come apart, and that change can come in the next second.

But isn't it hopeful, too?
One second ago, all the hopes and dreams you had inside you for the thing growing in your belly for nine months were just hopes and dreams, and now, gasping for air and covered in blood and viscera, here's someone new, here's a blank slate ready for their own hopes and dreams and yours along with it.

One minute, you're sitting alone, the next you're with someone wonderful.

One second is important because things can change in just that split second blink.
It's important because just because things have been one way for 129,000 seconds, that doesn't mean 129,001 won't completely blow your mind.

Maybe all 5,184,000 seconds of these past two months have been one way, but...that doesn't mean that this next part can't be different.

It's 1,486,000 seconds til vacation. Or it was. I just need to watch that tick away and believe that I can keep going through it.

Friday, February 3, 2017

*Clap Clap Clap Clap*

It's a 90's reference. You have to clap quickly. Then you'll get it more easily. I'll wait.
Ok, no I won't, cuz it's late and this is important.

Also, you need to scrollify. A lot. It's pic heavy here in these parts.

I needed this tonight. Thank you, Facebook, for doing something right for once and reminding me it's National Friend Day. Or whatever. Anyway, thanks, cuz wow.

These are just a HANDFUL of the people in my life that make me so, so happy. They're the ones I can count on, laugh with, cry with, and who have shaped who I am with their guidance. We've learned through each other's mistakes, grown up together in many cases, and in some others, worked together or played together or internetted and found that we all were very much supposed to be together as friends. 

These are the people who showed up to my birthday when I announced the same day I was gonna go to dinner and 25 people showed up (NMers, I love you for that. I wasn't gonna do anything at all and suddenly it was a huge party)
The ones I crashed with, took trips with, learned and grew with. 

I am so so infinitely lucky. 

I can't even fit all of you in this post. I literally can't, I'm breaking the photo thing. 

Just know I love you. Know I appreciate you. Know that I am damn sure our paths will cross again as long as your door is open. Know you're loved, because you are. All of you. 
Thank you for making my life the silly, happy, amazing, diverse place it is. Thank you for reminding me that it is when I forget (like you Joey, just yesterday)

Thank you so, so much.