Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

Family/Friends

So Says My Husband: “Christmas Is Saved!”

We decorated our tree! We have a pitifully small number of ornaments on it (first world problems, amiright?), but it’s up and lit. Not lit, like a great party, but alight, lol.

I put a picture up on Instagram where it was pointed out that our tree was on a lean. I would like to clarify that it’s NOT leaning. Chris did a great job at getting the tree set up. It’s very much upright… It just didn’t grow evenly on all sides.

I’ve yet to be responsible, at any point in my life, for picking out a Christmas tree. But I imagine if I did, I would walk around the entirety of the tree, checking it out from multiple angles, making sure it was as even as could be.

But like I said, I haven’t ever had to go buy a tree. So what the hell do I know about what tree options are available? A whole bunch of nothing, that’s what.

All I know is I love our tree. This is our 7th Christmas together, but it’s the first time we’ve decorated a tree together. Both of us have memories of decorating the tree with our fathers (parents, but mostly our dads), and it’s nice to make these new memories together.

Weird how one tree can make me feel like Christmas is saved, huh?

After an hour at Target yesterday, we are back on track. A failed trip to Home Depot will henceforth be known as “That Time Chris Almost Ruined Christmas, But He Didn’t, So It’s Fine, So Get Over It, It’s Fine.” That’s all I’m saying about that.

Last night I cooked half a dinner at our friend Corey’s house, the other half provided by leftovers from Merry Black Christmas. Shout out to Allyson for delicious food she’s always cooking. We drank–wait for it–watermelon double IPA beer. That 10% and lovely bitterness and low low price made the watermelon worth it. It was a like a summer-themed Blue Moon. I wouldn’t recommend it.

But we were soon drunk adjacent and happily enjoying roasted chicken breast with mushroom gravy, green beans, butter-dipped artichoke, cornbread, and macaroni & cheese. We flipped back and forth between Last Holiday and whatever football game was on. Chris and I decorated the tree when we got back home. To me, it felt like the official start of our holiday celebrations.

Tonight, we’ve got a birthday hang that will span a bar I’ve never been to and a jazz club I go to all the time. It’s our friend Deadria’s farewell to her twenties. Corey has his regular jam session he leads at Smalls Jazz Club, and as usual, if we’re out, that’s where we’re ending the night.

Tomorrow, hopefully I’ll get some packing done for our upcoming trip, then we have a Christmas Eve party to go to being thrown by my friend Michael from college who lives nearby in Brooklyn.

Christmas will be a quiet day with just me and Chris (for now, lol). We’re going to see Fences in theaters. It’s not a movie unless Viola Davis is crying out her nose. I’m cooking us a tasty simple meal.

On Boxing Day, I’ll be at work, and when I get home, I’m going to watch the Sense8 Holiday Special on Netflix with my best friend David. It’s one of the shows we try and watch together even though we don’t live in the same state. Go technology. We both love Christmas, and it’s really cool that the first episode of season two is doubling as a Christmas special. I’m also working on the 27th. But I’m leaving work early on Tuesday, heading home to get my packed bag and my husband, then we’re headed to the airport.

It’s hard to believe that just a week ago I was over everything. But now I’m back on track. I’m excited for the next two weeks, like really excited. Not sure-to-be-disappointed-because-reality-can’t-live-up excited. More like who-knows-what-each-day-will-bring-so-bring-it-on excited.

Now for your visual enjoyment, my Tannenbaum and other Christmas accoutrement (when it’s singular, it’s without the s, right?):

I know it looks like it's leaning, but I swear it's not!

I know it looks like it’s leaning, but I swear it’s not! The more I look at this tree, I’m thinking, “is it really that great?” But then I’m like, “of course it is, that tree is adorable, and anyone who disagrees is blind to the truth.” So dramatic, I know, whatever.

Our cat Jazz simply had to inspect the tree. Chris chose that fabric hangy ball thing for them. Fingers crossed they don't use it to pull down the tree.

Our cat Jazz simply had to inspect the tree. Chris chose that fabric hangy ball thing for them. Fingers crossed they don’t use it to pull down the tree.

Our older cat Belle, being creepy as fuck as usual, also inspecting the tree, and judging the rest of us for our mirth.

Our older cat Belle, being creepy as fuck as usual, also inspecting the tree, and judging the rest of us for our mirth. Also, we clearly need to sweep up the needles that got sacrificed on the altar of artificial lights.

So... this was a random Etsy purchase that I love and am choosing not to justify. The inside writing is the only reason I'd pay money for White Santa. I just really love this mug. #sorrynotsorry

So… this was a random Etsy purchase that I love and am choosing not to justify. The inside writing is the only reason I’d pay money for White Santa. I just really love this mug. #sorrynotsorry

You’re welcome. 😉

 

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When You Forget How To Enjoy Life

Do you ever forget how to enjoy life? I don’t mean sinking into a full depression where nothing holds the same joy. I’m referring more to when responsibilities and relationships and work and bills and politics and injustice take over most of your brain power, and you forget to make time for things that suddenly feel a bit trivial.

I wasn’t even sure what I was thinking or how to articulate it, but then Twitter came through for me. A write for The Establishment, Ijeoma Oluo posted a piece today that targets a lot of what I’m feeling. If you’re not familiar with her, Google her, she’s got a lot of great things to say.

ijeoma

Her piece today is called, “What I’m Doing To Get My Black Ass Ready For The Next 4 Years.” I read it and so much of it resonated with me. In it was a call to action, and a reminder for self-love. Seeking out community as well as allies is essential.

In case you don’t understand, the worry of the next four years is almost entirely about Trump. In just the two weeks since he was elected, the ugly underbelly of America has shown it’s ass. A lot of people aren’t sure how to respond.

Here’s what I’ve personally been doing:

  1. Putting my money where my mouth is. I make monthly contributions to Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood. I also have donated money on different fundraising sites to help different causes such as Get Rodricus Crawford Home! and Baton Rouge Legal Defense Fund. And I’ve taken out a subscription for Mother Jones, independent news outlets will likely be our only hope in the coming years.
  2. Adding my name to the roll. I’ve signed a number of online petitions, and I’ve made a number of phone calls to elected officials to make sure they know at least one additional person cares about what bills and policies they support.
  3. Reaffirming for myself what’s most important. I have to be in a position to protect and support those I care about. Making sure my priorities are in order a useful bit of self-care so I won’t have to make hard choices later.
  4. Maintaining my health and wellness. Continuing to try and live healthy and happy will keep my body and mind fortified for what’s coming. And I signed up for more volunteer work, it benefits me just like it benefits others.

When Trump is sworn in, will the sky fall? Maybe not for all of us, but definitely for some of us. In just the month of November, he’s both promised to indict Clinton and backed off from that. He’s promised to build the wall between USA and Mexico and later spent a lot of time talking about everything but. He’s completely full of crap in almost every way possible. The only thing he’s been clear on is his business interests and his need for constant praise.

Trump settled the Trump University lawsuit for $25 million and has an upcoming rape trial. A lot of that is too hard to even process for most people still in election shock. This is all just what’s happening now, while the executive branch is still in transition. No one knows what policy positions he’ll actually land on for anything.

We must remain vigilant because there is no telling what he will do.

I have a lot going on in my personal life, so focusing on both the big and small pictures will be hard for me. Worrying about myself and those closest with me will not always line up with worrying about the world around me. But I’m not going to stop trying to do both.

fist-lead

I borrowed this image from Ijeoma Oluo’s article. It’s such a powerful image, and it strengthens my resolve every time I look at it.


Thoughts On Finishing Another Visit To Chicago

On my last day here in Chicago before heading back to Brooklyn, I’m thinking a few things:

  1. I don’t love the suburbs
  2. I really love my family
  3. There are not enough hours in the day
  4. 2017 can’t come soon enough

Let’s talk about the suburbs. That part of the world between the city and the farms/woods/country is the part I like the least. The only thing worse than a suburb is a small city, only a couple hundred thousand citizens (I’m looking at you Rockford).

Out here, where in a quarter mile there’s only three businesses, and everyone swears everything is 10 min from everything else. Spoiler alert, it’s not. You can’t drive 19 miles at 45 mph in 10 min. That’s not how math or suburban traffic lights work.

Luckily my best friend lives in the city. I escaped away for a couple of days to get out the suburbs, thanks to her. And being in her apartment is like a lovely dip into a world traveled, afrocentric haven, amplified with Prince on the record player.

But my family pretty much all live in the suburbs now…

So I spent most of my trip to Chicago in the south suburbs. There are so few people. I miss Brooklyn, but I’ll be back tonight.

I got to spend some time with my parents and my grandmother. Also, I got to spend time with mother- and sisters-in-law. Bonding while running errands is real people. My mother-in-law found the bowls she needed for her party. I finally found the Maybelline blue lipstick that’s been out of stock at so many stores I’ve searched in the last few months.

Back at their house, I helped them get ready for a family party they had last night in honor of my deceased father-in-law. Chopping vegetables is another way to bond with your in-laws. One of my sisters-in-law is always substituting one type of food for a healthier alternative.

The menu last night included chili and taco fixings, so sour cream was needed as a topping option. I decided to help and setup the toppings. After searching the fridge for sour cream, I finally had to interrupt her shower for help.

It turns out she had purchased plain greek yogurt as a substitute. My other sister-in-law and me had several doubts about the effectiveness of the replacement, but I decided to roll with it and hope it worked out.

When I’m serving sour cream, I usually don’t leave it plain. You’ve gotta jazz it up and add layers of flavor when you can. So I added some paprika, fresh cracked black pepper, and fresh minced cilantro. I thought it tasted great, and when it was cold, you couldn’t even tell that it wasn’t real sour cream.

The real test came with my nieces though. One of them is an adventurous, but will quickly tell you if the food is unsatisfactory. The other is a picky eater who is hesitant to try anything that “looks” or “smells” weird.

They both took a look at the “sour cream” and were excited to try it. They loved it and the picky eater dished out some extra on top of her nachos.

I helped with prep for the party, but I wasn’t able to stay for the whole party because I had already scheduled time with my other Chicago people before I knew about it. The best parts of it are those little moments like helping undo the dog’s training for not jumping into people’s laps and watching my sister-in-law teach my niece to make lemon pound cake.

This last day, I wanted to help hang up curtains in my grandmother’s room. After doing her nails, helping my mom give her a bath, shopping for extra chairs for Thanksgiving, etc., there wasn’t enough time. There never seemed to be enough time this whole weekend.

I’d look at the clock, think about how I had three hours when I really wanted six. Then what felt like 20 minutes later, it’d be time to go again. Five days is a medium length visit for me, but it still felt too short. There are a lot of people I wanted to see that I didn’t.

And also, all the crap is spectacularly craptastic. One specific example, they are considering treatment options for my grandmother because what they were doing isn’t working. Both options have a 10-20% success rate for her. That fucking sucks.

I can’t wait for 2016 to be over. There will still be awfulness in 2017, but at least it will get filed under a different memory folder in my brain.


2016 Still Isn’t Over Yet? Okay… Fine

If you’re an social media where the written word is included, you’ve seen statements both clever and blunt decrying 2016 as an entire year.

Most recently, the focus is Trump’s election or Obama’s nearing exit from the White House. According to lots of Chicagoans from the South Side, the Cubs winning the world series this year is evidence of 2016’s suckiness. Those with doomed relationships and lost job prospects say the same of this year.

My suckiest happenings of 2016: My father-in-law died. The everyday structure of my job stresses me out. The best phone I’ve ever had, the Note 7 catches fire and is banned on all aircraft. Trump won the most pledged electoral college votes last week.

2016 sucks

One common meme I see is a focus on all the deaths this year, and there have been a lot. Wikipedia has an entire section dedicated to all who have died this year, and the entertainment, journalistic, literary, etc. industries are worse off for the losses. Personally, I think of Alan Rickman, Natalie Cole and Prince.

Today, I’m not thinking about the whole world though. I’m thinking about my family. My husband’s father died in February of this year. He had some heart issues that led to his death and he ended up becoming an organ & tissue donor. We had a beautiful memorial service for him in March. There were hundreds of friends and family members there to celebrate his life.

2016 sucks.

His loss was and is hard for the family.

My dad sent this picture to us today. It really made me smile. It’s from my wedding day.

my-men

After I typed that last sentence, I couldn’t think of what to say next. I usually write an entire post in one sitting, pausing only if I get interrupted by something else.

But today is different. Today I feel more thoughtful, less wordy. I’m concerned for my husband, even though I know he’s strong. He’s grown so much since we’ve known each other and he is doing amazing self-care, especially today.

He made plans for us and a friend to hang out tonight, surrounding himself with good company and sympathetic ears. I’m looking forward to being there for him.

2016 sucks.

This whole day is serving a microcosm of this year for me.

Were there good points to this year? Well, yes, there were… I think. I can think of some things that count, but it just feels like even the good things have an edge of crappiness to them.

That being said, there is a lot of good in life, in my life in particular. I am in good health, I have a lot of loving relationships. I have the freedom to express myself when and how I choose. Most of the ways I choose to spend my time bring me great joy. We’re in a new golden age of television.

I don’t have much of a sum up point today. Something like: 2016 sucks, there’s some good in it, now leave me be while I go make sure my husband is okay today and pray that the next 46 days fly past.