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.

Today?

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. 

Now...today...I'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 passionate...it 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.
Autobiography.

It's...not that brief..but I'm not seven years old.

So..read 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 every.single.day 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. 

Now...well...now 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.


Monday, January 19, 2015

The Bad and The Ugly



So...this is a blog. A personal blog, at that. And I intend to use it as such. Therefore, it'll not always be me farting rainbows.

I've been attempting to actually review my year, my 2014, because I wanted to look back and feel positive about my progress.

Every time I sit down to do it, it seems, the recent troubles that have been brewing get in the way, and I end up wanting to write...well, this, instead.

So, because I'm finding out that the only thing that makes me feel better is writing in a lot of instances, lately...here we are.

Again, there are no floaty hearts, rainbows or fuzzy kittens in this post.  It's a cleanse, kinda like you do at the beginning of the year to try to pretend you're going to make things better and get a clean start. Only I need to get serious and actually get a clean start.

On the up side, at least I had an appropriate photo for this post.

I failed a lot this year.
I think I was fine until October, when I got laid off.

Every time this happens (which has been way too often since getting to Illinois from New Mexico), I say I'm not gonna let it drag me into depression or the "not good enough" or the "failed at life" mindset, and it seems to creep in and get me regardless. And I spiral, regardless, and withdraw, and think that's the answer.

Well, this time, it's affected everything, my relationships too, and it's not okay.

I was fighting with the state for 80 days for money I really, really needed. I was in the office all.the.time. trying to get that to work. I got hired for a new temp job, which turned out to be a curse because of how often I'd have to try and get out of coming in to go deal with state stuff I couldn't ignore. Consequently, I'd have my recruiter and the new office team and managers thinking I was a slacker or liar or whatnot. It doesn't feel good.  I finally, out of desperation, brought in every one of the letters from unemployment and a full record of all my contact to them.

It was not a little. It was an inch thick.  My phone habits were this:  work as a temp making outbound calls all day. Get in the car to commute home. Call unemployment, be on hold the whole way home only to either get disconnected, or to talk to someone new and get a whole new story.

It wrecked me. Suddenly I felt completely wasted when I got home.  My Chicagoist work fell off, as much as that's the thing I want to do the most, the direction I want to take my career in. I felt crazy, and I felt unheard.  At one point the state kept asserting that I had an out of state ID.  This point in time I'd already been to the office 3 weeks in a row, WITH my Illinois ID. I'd sent tons of emails. I'd faxed the copy of the ID three times. And I was getting letters near daily saying I was denied for being from out of state.

I quit Wind Ensemble. I don't regret that choice right now except that I know how much music makes me feel better and more human. I made that choice because I wanted to focus on my significant other, my Chicagoist work, and other aspects of my life that I felt like were already being neglected in one way or another. I wanted to make myself more available for that, and I felt like if I gave myself more breathing room maybe I could do that. I just felt like I couldn't really give it my all, and I have been sick of not giving things my all. When I join again, I want to join a strong member of the group, able to really contribute the way I wanted to.

I was fighting for the money partially to be a part of a friend's wedding, but somewhere along the way, in lots of stupid misunderstandings and too many phone numbers, emails and facebook posts, I dropped the ball. I caused a huge rift I'm still not sure has healed. I was glad to be able to be at the wedding at all, but as much as I try not to have regrets, watching the bridal party give speeches and dance and be a part of that day like we always said we would be for each other, I can't help but feel like a really shitty friend. I hope I can find some way to make it up to her.

I've been trying to figure out what friendships I've dropped the ball in and upkeep them. I keep feeling pressured to introduce everyone to my boyfriend, and I want to, but not as a way to prove I really have one, and I end up feeling resentful even though that might be the reason, and I don't want to have to explain why it hasn't worked yet.  I think about it sometimes and feel like it's a silly pressure to feel, considering in a lot of cases, I didn't meet a friend's significant other until they were married, or if i did it was a quick wave.  I have a boyfriend, we have a lot on our plates, we love each other, and we make it work. If we aren't able to come out and meet and greet, that has to be okay, and when we are, I'll be glad to.

I know there are people that wanted to do things with me that I withdrew from, and I hope they don't feel like it was because of the boyfriend, because I should be the one to blame for that. Entirely.
I was feeling like I just needed to breathe and like I was under pressure and like I was drowning. I should not have been so out of touch so long, and if you are reading this and felt hurt by that, I accept full responsibility. It's my fault, and I will do better.

I'm coming into the New Year (capitals?) with more regret than I wanted to carry, fearful that I've been a bad person, a bad friend, and that I'm consistently jeopardizing my relationships with the people I love the most. I come into the new year wondering who I am, and if it's a much worse picture than the one I had of myself, which wasn't a Rembrandt to begin with.

And that's the real story.
I want to do better.
I will do better.
Words don't mean a thing, so I guess you just have to decide if you'll be around when I do better or not.





Thursday, December 4, 2014

On the Gilmore Girls, Cheating, and Being Yourself



It's been a while, blogfriends. But somewhere between the hair dye and the fact that I'm rewatching Gilmore Girls, I came across something on my mind.

I swear, the fumes aren't getting to me.

Here's the deal. I love Gilmore Girls. I watched it all religiously when it aired, and I've seen it umpty billion times since then. The boyfriend has come to know it as my "me" time when we're not doing something together. But, in the past, there were a few years I couldn't watch it, and wouldn't.

And in rewatching it, it makes me mad the things that I let someone take away from me.

See, the reason I didn't watch the show for a while is because I had this friend who really liked it. We used to shop together and laugh and talk.  And through some set of high school circumstances, she ended up dating the first guy I ever loved. Maybe I told her that, I thought I had, but maybe I hadn't. That's not really important.

What is important is this.  That guy...was a cheater. Maybe not at first, when we eventually went out. Maybe there were 6 months of non-cheating, when things really were as idyllic as I saw them through the eyes of a high school graduate/pre-college chick.

But then there were weird things. I'd come by to surprise him and hear a girl on the other side of the door, and he "wouldn't be there."

One night, when I was at his house for a date with him, the couch and a good movie, I happened to walk by his computer, and his screensaver was the Gilmore Girls. And I knew, in that moment, that he was also dating this now former friend of mine. But, as you do when you're young and really desperately in love, I...explained it away. He said it was something his friend put up as a joke. It's amazing the things you can explain away as truth when you know they're lies, isn't it?

From that point on, I wouldn't watch the show. It just reminded me of the things I wasn't.  Like...the only girl who loved that show. The only girl for him. It seemed like all the things I were were the same things this girl was, down to the same interests and talents. But somehow, it also seemed like she did it better.

Thing is? He was cheating on her too. He continues to cheat, a la Don Draper, and find his life quite fantastic as it is that way. And I let him take so, so much from me.

I let him convince me that I wasn't enough. I let him convince me that this girl with her talents and interests and things was somehow superior to me, and I let him be the thing that lost me a friend, over something that wouldn't last.

In other relationships, that feeling of not being good enough has carried over, and it's caused problems.

I'm not quite sure what I wanted to say or get to with this, because it seems obvious.

Maybe I want any guys reading this to know what kinds of effects it has.  That years later, a person can feel like they gave up a part of themselves to believe a lie they wanted to be true. That they could lose confidence in themselves because of the bad actions of another person. I wonder how many girls have felt that due to just him? I know of a few, but I fear there's even more.

It reminds me to be grateful that there were men who weren't like that to me.  More grateful still for the amazing guy in my life now. Not only has he been a faithful friend for years, he's a faithful love. I don't doubt that he loves me, and I don't doubt his honesty. I have less doubt about being enough, though I admit, I haven't quite gotten past that hurdle, at least not all the time. When I fall though, he's there to remind me I am enough. When we fight, I don't get ignored for weeks, we talk and sometimes we yell...but we figure it out, and we move on.

Maybe I'm talking to a girl who was cheated on. If that's you, watch Gilmore Girls. Listen to the voice that tells you something's wrong.  Don't go overboard and be a crazy snoop or cause problems where there aren't any, but don't ignore the obvious... "electrical storms" that keep him away from the phone...more business travel than Donald Trump...mysterious phone calls he has to take but away from you constantly....listen to yourself. Value yourself. Realize that someone cheating on you isn't a reflection on you, it's a reflection on them and their bad character.

Don't lose friends. Don't lose you.

Watch Gilmore Girls. Because it's a good show, because it's something just for you, and because you deserve it.

And if you're the guy? Hey, screw you. Grow up and realize that your actions affect others, because they do. Then, take a long look at the good things you squandered, and realize you can't ever get them back. Because, my friend, you're the loser. Plain and simple.