Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

Posts tagged “giving back

So… This Ban… Y’all Know We’re Being Gaslighted, Right?

[EDITED TO REFLECT A RECENT ARTICLE I READ LIKE 5 MINUTES AFTER POSTING THIS, SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM TO SEE]

IF YOU’RE READING TO SEE WHAT I’VE GOT TO SAY ABOUT THIS BAN, SKIP TO THE NEXT ALL CAPS SENTENCE. I’M GETTING ALL PERSONAL BLOGGY FIRST.

Okay, personal stuff first. Did I tell y’all I am going to a bridesmaid for the first time ever this year? My girl Toya (we grew up next door to each other, and she’s thankfully not marrying the boy next door, lol) is getting married in May. She’s one of the only people on the planet who could get me to go to Florida right now.

Chris and I haven’t been to Florida since George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin. That Stand Your Ground law is such utter bullshit that we decided we would do our best to not go back until it was changed. I’m making an exception for this wedding, then the travel ban is back in place.

Being a bridesmaid is such a mind fuck. It’s like being trolled by my own thoughts. Budget worries, body worries, logistics, etc. To put it more simply, trying on bridesmaid dresses has made me get my whole life together. If I’m going to wear a strapless gown at a beach wedding and get photographed in some forever pictures, I need to do better than what I’m currently doing.

Luckily, this feeling coincided with Chris wanting to be healthier too. So for the past couple of week’s we’ve both been way more committed to exercise, and I’ve been cooking 5-6 times a week. it’s better for the budget and the waistline. Simpler meals (if blood orange & herb glazed baked ribs with mushroom rice and roasted butternut squash counts as simple) have been the goal. So far, it’s going well.

We’ve just hit that point where that initial burst of energy because we’re working out 6 days a week is starting to fade. We still have all our regular life responsibilities and we are tired, man. We are committed to pushing through and getting our bodies used to this new pattern. We just gotta get over the hill. I’m grateful that we have each other for support.

We support our goals, and also our mental well-being. We discuss all the crap going on the world, then watch SNL and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for catharsis.

HEY Y’ALL, HERE’S WHERE I SWITCH TO POLITICS, WHICH IS PRETTY MUCH SYNONYMOUS WITH SOCIETAL GASLIGHTING THESE DAYS.

So, unless you’re living under a rock or know literally no one affected by this travel ban, you’ve heard that there are new levels of dickishness that can be reached with each passing day.

That fucker in the White House spent his first week signing executive orders left and right like he was Dolores Umbridge taking over Hogwarts.

The most recent one that has caught everyone’s attention is this immigrant/refugee ban. If you need a breakdown about it, I got you. CNN explains it relatively well here, here, here, and here.

The people responded strongly and swiftly. If  you need a breakdown about that, I got you. The New York Times covers it pretty efficiently as of two days ago, and you can read that here.

I was all on board for grabbing my pitchfork to join the townsfolk to protest this newest outrage. If I didn’t have crazy work hours (also see above for newfound commitment to not having a terrible beach body), I would’ve trekked out to JFK to join the protests the first night they happened.

For the most part, I’m still on board, but I’ve seen this and I really have to share it with y’all.

If you’re like me and you simply open all links in new tabs to be read after you’ve read the main article (or not at all), I’ll sum it up for you. Shaun King, journalist and activist extraordinaire tweeted a Facebook post by political historian Heather Richardson. If you open no other links in this blog post, READ THIS ONE.

If you’re still refusing to open the link I’ve put in ALL CAPS, well fine, you’ve twisted my arm. To make a long story short, Professor Richardson describes this fuckery aka ban as a “shock event.” If you don’t know what a shock event is, well, just click on the word shock event in the previous sentence. Seriously folks, I’m spoon feeding you here. It can’t get much easier than this… unless you’re reading on a browser that won’t let you open in a new tab and won’t save where you left off on the previous screen, in that case, well, I understand.

Okay, back to this term called shock event. The idea is to do something shocking, that will both distract and divide the people. They are focused on this shocking thing, and they have knee-jerk reactions for or against it along expected lines. You know, for example, like instituting an unreviewed ban on immigrants from seven seemingly random countries who haven’t sent us jihadists.

While the people are still in disarray, mounting their response of protest or support, you sneak in the back door (that’s what he said) and enact your real agenda.

Right now you may be thinking, if he is such a badass, usurping the will of the people, why bother with the bait and switch? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because he doesn’t actually want complete anarchy. He wants the people in disarray so they can’t mount an effective defense. It’s in his best interest to keep them from unifying. He knows his true objective is NOT in the interest of the people, and if they knew what he was truly up to, they’d try and stop it. But if they’re too busy fighting over who loves Muslims more than the next person hates Muslims, they won’t notice that he’s about to fuck them all over for something that benefits only a select few.

Let me put it this way. Those fuckers who have confederate flags covering every surface they own, their wives still wearing t-shirts that say Jail the Bitch, their children bullying yours in school to go back to “where you came from,” their preachers condemning all your gay best friends to hell, their healthcare they swear they don’t want being paid for by your taxes, you know them? Can you imagine protesting along side them when whatever Bannon and Trump have planned is revealed?

I for one have a hard time imagining the same people who’ve had vitriolic responses to the protests since Inauguration Day standing beside me to fight against the complete decimation of our tax/healthcare/education/transportation/energy/housing/banking/regulation/immigration/you-name-it system, or whatever the hell their true target is.

But if Professor Richardson is right, we gotta be vigilant y’all. We CANNOT let this man and his puppeteers take away any of the few things that happen to matter to most of us.

Thanks to historians (yay education!) we have an early warning. We’ve got several jobs to do. One of them is to continue to protest the individual acts of fuckery, like this ban, as they pop up. But today, right now, move one waaaaaay up the priority list.

YOU NEED TO FIND A WAY TO STOMACH WORKING WITH THOSE YOU DISAGREE WITH ABOUT DAMN NEAR EVERYTHING.

YOU NEED TO FIND A WAY TO STOMACH WORKING WITH THOSE YOU DISAGREE WITH ABOUT DAMN NEAR EVERYTHING.

YOU NEED TO FIND A WAY TO STOMACH WORKING WITH THOSE YOU DISAGREE WITH ABOUT DAMN NEAR EVERYTHING.

You still with me? Good. Hear me out.

I’m not saying get ready to invite the Klan to your family reunion. I’m not saying continue to work with these fuckers people after the fight is won (see what I did there? I’m already growing. grow with me). I’m saying that when the shit goes down, which those smarter than us are pretty sure it will, do not let ideological divides keep you from fighting together.

I don’t know how much time you need. But do some self-assessment and figure that shit out. I don’t know how much time we have. But take some time, do some meditation, and make peace that you may one day march alongside a white nationalist against a common cause.

Take a moment right now. Breathe. It will be okay. If/When that moment comes that we all need to join together, you gotta be ready to do this with us, you can’t let it take you by surprise. If this ban really was a shock event… Don’t. Let. It. Work. On. You.

Stay strong. Resist. Take care of yourself and those you love.

EDIT: So…. I think the big move may have been started already. I think it might’ve been Trump nominating Bannon to the National Security Council. Keep an eye on this one. For a quick rundown, read this opinion piece by the New York Times Editorial Board entitled, “President Bannon.”.

shock-event


Fighting The Ughs In My Personal Life And My Politics

Anytime I see the word trump in the news, capitalized or not, I just get… ugh. Yeah, that’s the word. I get ugh.

It doesn’t help that I’ve got some personal things happening right now in my life that for the first time ever make me feel prolonged sadness. I feel very ugh almost all the time now.

But, there are some things going down that are fighting the ughs.

Personal

  1. I finally booked an Airbnb for the Paris portion of the trip my husband and I are taking to Europe for New Year’s. Nothing like having somewhere to sleep so you don’t end up in a hostel to make you smile.
  2. I have started playing Sims 4 again, and writing stories about my Sims. The SimLit community is fantastic and I’m so happy to rejoin them after a long hiatus.
  3. I’ve finally got my younger cat Jasmine on my side! She seemed to barely tolerate me since we moved to New York, staring at me with contempt every time I dare to show affection to my husband or older cat Belle. But yesterday morning, she climbed into my lap and sat there purring while I petted her. Chris and Belle were just as confused as I was.

Political

dapl-protest-strong

  1. The protesters in North Dakota triumphed! Read about it on NPR. CNN has this picture on their website that is just so powerful to me. It reminds me of the interconnected struggles of all marginalized communities. I’m hopeful that all the naysayers who swear protesting does nothing will now shut the entire fuck up. If you’ve been under a rock, and you don’t know about #NoDAPL, well, all you need to know now is the Army has agreed to reroute a pipeline that had the potential to damage the groundwater and desecrate the burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The Army backed down from the latest in a series of violations of a treaty signed long ago. The celebrations that are happening today are heartwarming. It is so much better than what we thought would happen. December 5th was designated as the day they were going to forcibly remove people from the land to setup a “free speech area”, supposedly “for their safety.” So much bullshit and gaslighting went into that concept, but it matters not! Instead of that crap, December 5th is now a day of celebration for everyone who supported their cause.
  2. Yesterday was the anniversary of the day Fred Hampton was murdered in 1969. You may not have heard of him, but you should go learn about him. He died for the cause and is an example of what you must be willing to sacrifice for progress. Today is the anniversary of the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. You likely have heard of that, but you should still learn more about it, and the Freedom Riders too. These sustained protests are examples of the economic power of the oppressed, as well as their ability to fight against unjust laws. Looking back on the significance of these days informs our present and future. The varied forms of protest as well as the varied outcomes leave me with pride, courage, and resolve. And believe it or not, it also helps me push the ughs away.
  3. In the context of history both decades and hours old, I look forward to what’s coming next. For me, that is the Injustice Boycott. In just over an hour after this post publishes, we will get details of who the boycott targets are. I grew up hearing stories about how economic protests made Montgomery, Alabama integrate their city bus system and how all the major national African-American organizations boycotted Arizona until they observed Martin Luther King Jr Day. I’ve always believed in the power of protest to affect change. I was on board with protests against Chick-fil-A and other companies that have been associated with discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, and I’d like to think I’m a good ally for that community, ever learning and evolving to be an even better ally. I’m just glad that now I get to engage in a protest that helps my own community. Once they put up details about the protest, I’ll probably put up another post explaining how I’ll participate.

I’ve been struggling as of late to stay positive and happy and optimistic about the future. But on days like today, there are glimmers of hope that the darkness won’t last.


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.


My Schedule is Full, But I Have So Much Free Time

A conversation with my husband Chris recently got me thinking about my schedule. I feel like I have a lot of time on my hands, but I’m always busy.

I only work 3 days a week, but I work at least 12 hours each work day. After work, I’m usually cooking dinner, or going out with friends.

On my off days, I’m at yoga, or simming, or blogging, or catching up on TV, or catching up with friends, or cooking, or going to one of my husband’s gigs.

That’s a long list of things, so maybe that’s why I always feel busy. Taking hobbies very seriously is my jam. The way I spend my free time is important to me.

I wish I volunteered more. I volunteered like twice a week when I first moved to New York. But the places I volunteered at didn’t pan out over time.

The soup kitchen I was at had some hinky financial things going on, and I didn’t want any part of that. The home for unwed mothers took a left turn I couldn’t be a part of either.

One day I was there, watching a baby and tutoring the mother, and my time ran over into the weekly prayer circle. They invited me to stay and I agreed. This prayer started with talking about dreams and setbacks, following God’s plan and whatnot.

Then it took a left turn into praying for gays and the hellbounded-ness. My eyes shot open, and I knew in that moment I was done.

I finished my work helping that particular mother for the duration of her stay at the home. I never went back after that though.

I’ve ended relationships over someone’s stance on homosexuality, and a place I volunteer is no different. I can’t support the views they’re pushing, so I moved on.

I think what I’m stream-of-consciousness-getting-to is that while my non-working time is spent in ways that are very fulfilling to me, the time isn’t being spent in way that is fulfilling to others.

I’m sure Chris, and our friends who happen to be at the brownstone when I’m cooking, are all appreciative of the increased amount of home cooked meals. Each new successful recipe certainly fulfills my husband.

But I’ve got to start finding another place I can volunteer. Helping people is my jam, and it’s something that’s missing.

I’ve been patting myself on the back a lot recently for taking better care of myself inside and out. I think I can extend that even further and start taking care of the world around me again.

I’m going to look for a tutoring opportunity. Or something with kids. or something with the homeless. I’ve got a lot of interest in that, so we’ll see where it goes.


Why Is It Not Warmer Outside Yet?

I’m feeling ranty and bitchy and several other things right now. I need Spring. I neeed it. I must have it.

And because it is something that is natural and all that, I have no control over it. So I continue to wear my should’ve-been-Haz-Mat-ed by now scarf to combat the cold air. And I continue to sweat it out in my radiator-heated apartment because I don’t want the landlord to do what he’s been doing all winter and come over and turn down the heat just in time for it to get really cold outside again.

When I was in Chicago the first weekend of March for a wedding, I got sick with what may have been the flu. But it was totally worth it because I wouldn’t have missed this wedding for anything. This woman has been like a little sister to me for 7 years, and I was so pleased to attend her wedding. She made such a beautiful bride.

2014-03-01 16.22.25

The bride and groom with her parent’s. I wish I had a picture of the whole sanctuary because of the hours of hard work we put into decorating for the wedding the night before!

20140301_033001

Totally random selfie wearing my mom’s hat in my old bedroom in Chicago. This is what I’d look like as a hipster, y’all.

And because I’m a crazy person obsessed with organ and tissue donation, I didn’t go to the doctor even though I might’ve had the flu.

Because what if I tested positive for the flu, then accidentally got hit by a bus two days later? I wouldn’t be able to be a donor because of the confirmed flu. But if I was just sick, and the sickness was resolved, but never confirmed flu, because of my age and overall health, they probably would let me be a donor. I would make a great donor, should I not live to the age of 75. And now you all have a glimpse of just how deep my crazy goes.

Do you know why I got so sick? Because Chicago is even colder than New York right now. Today it finally felt a bit like spring, but it’s going away again. It’s supposed to snow on Thursday, then again on Monday. I just can’t.

My cousin is in town visiting, but she was sick too. I felt so badly that we didn’t do more while she was here, especially after the year she’s had. In fact, the day we flew here was the one year anniversary of the day she got her diagnosis of lymphoma.

It’s not lucky to get cancer, but she was lucky. Lymphoma usually has no outwards symptoms until it’s too late. But the lymph nodes in her jaw swelled up something horrible and they caught her cancer super early. She got chemo and knocked cancer on it’s ass.

Since that time, we have both agreed that breast cancer gets so much play and the leukemia and lymphoma cancer society needs better PR. And we agreed to she needed to step outside of her comfort zone and live more. So she got on a plane for the first time and flew with me and Easy from Chicago to NYC.

Considering that exactly 365 days ago, I was holding her hand while her doctor drilled a hole in her hip to extract bone marrow, we could’ve been doing literally anything and it would have improved the memories associated with that date. She leaves back to Chicago today, and I’m crossing my fingers that she keeps trying new experiences and embracing life.

In completely unrelated news, I finally read another romantic comedy-type novel recently. I’d been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, but a boring-as-hell book about Rastafarianism (which is a religion with a nothing-boring-about-it history) curbed that urge for a bit. I read a book recommended by a blog I love, Single Infertile Female. The book is Party Girl: A Modern Fairy Tale.

As a new New Yorker, this book had it all for me. I found myself wishing for two things: 1) the book had a happily-ever-after ending and not a realistic-for-the-millenials-who-are-craving-this-type-of-relatability ending and 2) that I had the main character’s ability to make friends. I’m not saying any more than that because I want you to go read this book for a fun 20-something-in-NYC read. I promise you’ll enjoy yourself.

While we’re on the topic, I feel the need to say, yet again, how unsuccessful I am at making new friends. Out of all the people I’ve met since I’ve moved to New York, I’ve managed to schedule four outings total, only three of which actually went somewhat according to plan. These people are funny, sweet, clever, good-looking, and genuinely nice folks. That’s everything I want in a friend. Maybe they’re just ALL not that into me.

Two of the outings were for Restaurant Week. I went to Delmonico’s Kitchen and Nobu. My mouth still waters in memory. I forgot to record anything at Delmonico’s, but I did get some amazing pictures of my good at Nobu.

2014-02-25 13.57.41 2014-02-25 14.18.35 2014-02-25 14.46.24

The tiny bit of Spring weather I was given today has given me renewed interest. I think I’m gonna try one more time each with all the people I’ve met, then after that I’m moving on and trying to meet even more new people.

At least I still have my volunteer work. Oh, that reminds me! I do have one friend. We met at the soup kitchen I volunteer at. But his home life is super crazy and it’s been hard for us to be real friends outside of just grabbing a drink after the soup kitchen. But still, we actually talk on the phone and I even know the names of people is his life.

Because of my awful memory when it comes to names, I really consider someone a friend when I can start naming names of people who are important to them. Not the best measuring tool, but it’s accurate.

Today is the day I start volunteering with The Reciprocity Foundation. I’m very glad I’ll be able to get this started after having such a great experience the other week. They do such amazing things, and I cannot wait to be a part of it. I’m diving right in helping with resumes and college applications. It’ll be nice to keep those skills sharp for some point in the future when I apply for grad school and when I apply for a promotion at work.

Speaking of volunteering, the woman I work with at the home for new mothers is finally getting all the pieces into place. She has steady hours for her new job, she found a 24 hour day care that will work with her as her work schedule changes, and the baby is doing well. She’s finally ready to start looking for apartments. It’s heart-warming to see people whose lives have actually improved from help given by others.

Some of her help is from private citizens, like the program that allows her to stay at the home. But she also gets government assistance that helps her buy food for her daughter that she chose to give birth to rather than abort. I’m about as pro-choice as they come (meaning I have no issues with late-term abortions), but I know that choice means respecting someone’s choice even when they have no way to take care of the baby they have decided to bring into the world.

This woman sought out all the help she could and put in a lot of hard work to make a life for herself to support her child. In a few years, she’ll have a degree, years of work experience that she can springboard into a real career, and a stable home for her daughter. That’s something to be proud of, and it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside, since the weather won’t cooperate to keep me that was on the outside.

2014-03-10 15.41.14

Accidental selfie taken while trying to use my phone to check my lipstick on the way to work. Beautiful sky, but will it stay that way? Will it?!


I’ve Found A Way To Do Something

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard something about gay marriage and America’s march towards full equality in that respect. Getting a marriage license issued doesn’t solve all the problems, but it’s a big ass step in that direction.

At the beginning of this month, I wrote about how I’ve been feeling a need to get more involved in the LGBT community. Giving a lump sum each month to HRC wasn’t enough anymore.

The question was how to get involved. I started with the HRC website, but all that gave me was an option to give more money each month, buy some of their gear, or bug my politician via e-mail. All of those options are just fine, but I was looking for something a little more personal that I could do that didn’t involve a webpage.

HRC’s Annual Gala was earlier this month. I had the option of getting involved with that. But unfortunately, I don’t have $1200 lying around, so that really wasn’t an option for me.

Then I noticed that HRC has local-ish chapters that have potential for volunteer opportunities. All I had to do was submit my e-mail address (again, yes again) choose my preferences from some categories available, and someone would contact me regarding opportunities.

All that came out of that was an e-mail asking for more money, and a promise that someone would contact me shortly regarding my chosen preferences.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the money. If I were, I wouldn’t be giving them money every month for the past 5 years or so. It’s more about the website being setup primarily for fundraising. It was quite frustrating to get beyond the money to something more hands on.

So I left the HRC website, and got down with Google. Google totally knows my life.And yours if you talk to me. Maybe that’s why I struggle make new friends here.

If you e-mail me your trip itinerary, Google sends un-requested push notifications to my phone reminding me of flight arrivals and even suggesting the quickest way to get there from both my home and office. Kinda creepy, kinda awesome.

Anyway, Google came through in my quest to find an LGBT organization in need of my volunteer skills.

I found The Reciprocity Foundation. They are this amazing organization that works with LGBT youth and young adults.

For me, it’s an amazing volunteer opportunity. It’s right in line with the other volunteer work I already do because I really feel very deeply for people who don’t have a stable home life, the homeless population in particular.

The Reciprocity Foundation works primarily with people who are ages 15-23, identify as LGBT, and are people of color. They seek to help participants go from foster care or shelters to stable adults who are prepared for success.

I met with one of their employees today and I loved what I heard. This place seems like such a good fit for my passions and skill set. They take a holistic approach with their program and work on the inside as much as the outside of program participants.

I got the impression they don’t really have someone there now who is able to focus on things like college applications, GED training, interview prep, etc. Those things are right up my alley and  I’m excited to get started.

They told me that I would need to prepare myself for the possibility of becoming a resource not just for educational but also emotional support for these kids. They said they can’t predict when they will come out of their shell and suddenly want to share and bond.

I am not volunteering to lead a group therapy session, but if a connection happens and I’m in a position to help someone, I certainly am open to that.

They have an event tomorrow that I wish I could be a part of, but unfortunately, it’s right in the middle of my workday. It would have been a great opportunity to meet some of the program participants, other volunteers, and successful graduates of the program.

I’m supposed to touch base early next week with them to discuss next steps. Hopefully, I can get started right away. Their normal hours work with my current work schedule, so I won’t even have to shuffle things around to make it work.

I’m really not sure what I envisioned myself doing when I decided to get more hands on and involved in the LGBT community. I think I thought it might have more to do with gay marriage rights, but this is unexpectedly better.

I get to help a disadvantaged population. Most of these kids have been through a lot and haven’t had a real shot at getting prepared for adulthood. From what I’ve learned today, they are so talented and amazing people, they just need someone to step in who cares and who can point them in the right direction.

Usually when I pick up more volunteer opportunities, things that take up my free time, Easy isn’t so happy about it. His initial reaction to this wasn’t great, but he came around. He even told me to offer up his services if they ever need a musician for a fundraiser.

He knows how passionate I am about this, and I think more than anything, he’s happy I found a way to focus my passion.

I’m very excited. Did I mention that?


I Can’t Do Nothing Anymore

Recently, my sense of justice has taken a hit. I’m speaking specifically of LGBT rights. I really cannot explain why, but recently their issues have taken precedence over other rights issues in my mind.

I think I got close to the tipping point when I came across an article published on my birthday last year. Michael J. Klarman from Harvard Law School wrote an Op-Ed article entitled Gay Rights May Get It’s Brown v. Board of Education.

I’ve noticed that black people sometimes have a knee-jerk reaction to LGBT civil rights struggles being compared to those of black Americans. The only argument that resonates with me is that under most circumstances, you can’t look at someone and tell they are not heterosexual, but you can’t hide blackness.

There are many fallacies to that argument. Black people don’t always look black. Gay people don’t always blend in. And someone seeking to discriminate usually doesn’t have to search too hard to make it happen.

That being said, the comparison to Brown v. Board of Ed really made sense to me. It was a landmark decision that altered the future of black people in this country. All Michael Klarman was saying is the gay community was on the cusp of getting their version of a Supreme Court ruling of that magnitude. They were on their way to getting a ruling that would alter the future of LGBT people in this country.

At the bottom of the article, it mentions that he wrote a book called From the Closet to the Altar. At the time, I barely noticed that line and moved on with my life and my birthday celebration.

Then around Christmas, there was another article in the New York Times called Utah Ruling Means No Respite for the Supreme Court on Same-Sex Marriage. They have a quote from Michael Klarman in there. It’s only one sentence, but it stuck with me for some reason and before I even finished reading the article, I went back to his line and read it again.

Then I went to Amazon and bought the Kindle version of his book. I’ve always enjoyed non-fiction as long as it was on a topic I actually cared about, and so I really enjoyed reading this book. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but some part of the book brought tears to my eyes. Some of the people he talks about went through so much and fought so hard, but the fight isn’t over yet.

Also, he mentioned Nate Silver. Nate Silver is basically a rock star in my mind. He’s the most amazing statistician. He was over at the New York Times doing politics, but now he’s at ESPN with his first love, sports. Nate Silver has a model he created that predicts exactly when the states will cross over to 50+% approval of gay marriage. Anybody wanna guess who’s last?

After reading this book, along with the time I spend at the soup kitchen where I volunteer, I have gone from feeling supportive of gay marriage and LGBT rights to feeling even stronger. I want to do something about it. I want to have an active role in improving the lives of people who cannot marry the person they love today. My 2 year anniversary is in 2 days, and there are people who currently live in places where they can’t have that yet.

For years now I’ve donated money to the Human Rights Campaign. I signed up with one of those street volunteers they have out asking people for credit card information and a monthly donation.

Usually I give those people the side eye and keep it stepping, but even though I hadn’t even heard of this organization, their message resonated with me, so I signed up. That was almost five years ago, but it’s not enough anymore

This weekend, HRC is having their annual gala at the Waldorf Astoria. But those tickets are around $500, so that isn’t the way I’ll help either.

I’m going to keep looking for a way to get actively involved with the cause. Something other than buying a t-shirt with a rainbow on it or dancing in the streets during a pride parade. I haven’t done either of those things yet, but I think I will this year. As long as it’s along with something more substantial.

When I think of people defending “traditional marriage,” my feelings are hurt. How could a grown man being in love with another grown man and wanting to make it official for their family and their future be bad?

Heterosexuals aren’t doing a great job with marriage. The divorce rate is awful and when some people are on their third marriage, or getting an annulment because they made a decision to marry after 24 hours, the argument of a rock-solid institution being taken apart by gay marriage doesn’t fly.

Then there are the arguments that the bible is very clear about sodomy being wrong. The bible is very clear about a lot of things, but our interpretation of it over time changes.

For instance, when you sin against your home, do you go to the priest, slit the throat of a young goat, flick the blood of that goat on an altar then rub in on the earlobe of that priest? The bible is very specific about that too.

My point is that quoting one part of the bible as immutable when you eat shellfish, openly disrespect your president, and don’t celebrate three chosen festivals each year is a bit hypocritical.

It’s been hard for me as a Baptist to reconcile how I feel with the teachings of my religion. The church I attend has yet to mention the topic, like at all. The husband loves that church too. I don’t know what I’m going to do about that, but for now, I’m keeping my ears open for any sign of intolerance.

Because I’m a black woman, I know making discrimination go away is frankly impossible. But just because something is hard isn’t a good enough reason not to try.

When I was younger, if I saw an interracial couple, specifically a black man with a white woman, it upset me. I was a teenager at the time, so what the hell life experience did I have to feel so strongly about it? None, that’s what. I’ve dated guys of every race, so I was being such a damn hypocrite.

What changed it for me was moving to an area where there was more interracial couples than other types of couples. After making friends in the checkout line with the hundredth cute biracial kid, I got over myself and my gut reaction to that type of couple. Looking back on it, I feel like such as asshole.

My family raised me to see color, and I’m glad I was. I just wish I wasn’t raised to judge color. Who am I to have an opinion on how someone else lives their life? I keep coming back to that question because that’s the crux of my issue. Who are you to judge? None of us are in a position to judge someone else’s life. If you are living your life and you’re not hurting someone else or making their life worse, live on.

I am at the point where I feel that so strongly, I want to actively stop other people from infringing on other’s happiness.

I was walking down the street to work today and I saw a couple with their children. It was a black man, a white man, and two small children of indeterminate race. I two men were holding hands and making flirty eyes at each other. I noticed a lot about this couple, even down the color coordination of the family’s outerwear.

But you know what I noticed most? Their comfort. I don’t know if they’re married or not. And I don’t care. What I care about is that they are as free to live life openly as the husband and I are. They aren’t hurting anyone. In fact, looking at those two children, I’d say they are helping a lot of people. Those kids were healthy, happy, and full of life.

Any kid would be lucky to belong to that family.

Y’all just give me a few weeks. I’ll be back with a real plan to help make a difference for families like that one. I’m sure there’s some version of this family just waiting for the opportunity to thrive. Maybe they’re in Utah. Maybe they’re somewhere else. This Op-Ed Column I read in the New York Times today by Frank Bruni titled Love, Death, and Sochi reminded me that this isn’t just a domestic problem.

Like so many other stories, I was left feeling frustrated with tears in my eyes. I have to remind myself that as awful as I feel today, there are people who have been in this fight for decades. I have to have strength if I’m going to sustain to help progress move forward.

And strength is something I have no shortage of. I have strength. I have resolve. I have passion. Now, I just need a work assignment.

Google will help me figure it out.

I also have loyalty and confidence.

Pretty soon, I’ll also have a plan.


Chicago-Style Girl’s Day Off

What would you do with a day off?

Maybe you’d go shopping and have lunch with the girls? Well, I have no money for shopping and my girls live in Chicago, so that wasn’t an option.

Maybe you’d finally see a movie you’ve been dying to see and maybe even make it a double feature? There are a ton of movies out I’d like to see, but the thought didn’t even occur to me to try to see a film.

Maybe you’d stay up late dancing in your pajamas, just happy to have some time to yourself? That was an appealing thought, but I was out of the house last night, so pajamas dancing will have to wait.

Wednesday was a true day off for me for the first time since I’ve moved to New York. I normally work Monday through Friday, but some schedule shuffling made it possible.

I should have slept in, making myself mimosas and frittatas whenever I finally woke up. I should have walked around with no pants on, letting the hours slip away.

I should have been glad that for once, I didn’t have to wake up to get ready for work, or get ready for the soup kitchen, or get ready for church.

But instead, I volunteered my one morning of free time to the home I volunteer at. I mentioned before how I do tutoring at this home for new mothers who don’t have anywhere else to go. Since I started, the tutoring volunteering has expanded to include much more.

On Wednesday, it extended to babysitting an adorable 2 month old while her mom had a job interview. Getting a job is one of the big steps towards independence at the home, and I was happy to help facilitate it. Plus, that baby is freaking adorable and despite being a bit fussy, she’s a cool baby to be around.

So when I should’ve been at home determining the best proportion of orange juice to champagne, I was instead trying to coax a con artist baby to stay asleep even after I put her down.

I guess it’s not a bad trade. As much as I’m nowhere near ready for my own children, I do enjoy the companies of babies who aren’t jerks. And this baby is definitely not a jerk, so it was fine.

I’m looking forward to helping her mom more in the future once she starts her job. That’s right, she got the job!

After babysitting, I did finally engage in some day-off behavior. I sat on the couch with the husband catching up on TV shows. We watched MARVEL’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Revenge, Castle, Almost Human, and a couple of other shows too. There really is some great writing on TV these days.

Then it was nap time. I highly encourage anyone with a day off to embrace nap time like you’re five years old. There is nothing quite as refreshing as a lovely nap. My heart goes out to kindergarteners who don’t have nap time these days. Poor guys. What are they going to take away next? That wonderfully goopy paste that they use to make crappy crafts projects?

After my nap, the husband and I went out because he had a gig. We went to Small’s Jazz Club, a place I love to go to. The staff is great, the venue is unique, and bonus– it’s in the Village.

I know what you’re thinking. I give any and everything in the Village extra weight of special-ness just because it’s in the Village. Well, maybe you’d be right. Or maybe they just make better versions of everything in the Village and that’s why I love it so much. No way to know.

So we’re out at the club, and as now is the trend, as soon as I sat at the bar, I attracted the attention of a random stranger who’s super friendly. Last week, the attention I attracted was awesome because I met a great couple who I can actually see the husband and myself becoming friends with. We’re hanging out with them next week I think and it will be great.

Now the random European guy who’s attention I attracted last night was a different story. This guy seemed to mean well, but this crazy European man was systematically irritating, annoying, and perplexing everyone in our general vicinity.

He made the sweet bartender ladies roll their eyes because of the way he ordered his drinks. Ten minutes to decide on Stella Artois on tap? Really?

He got pushed aside by the bass player/sound man/ general peacekeeper dude because he wouldn’t stop blocking the aisle even though he had a bar stool.

He got hushed by an already boisterous crowd because his voice carried and was interrupting other people’s ability to hear the solos. I don’t know how much time you all spend in jazz clubs, but you’re really doing too much when you get hushed by the crowd who is also talking and laughing.

And to top it all off, the crazy European man got really drunk and almost threw up, so he got kicked out of the club. I’ve never even seen someone get kicked out of a jazz club before. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen someone get throw-up drunk at a jazz club before.

Needless to say, I didn’t exchange contact information with this crazy European man (who tried to convince me my parents are hippies at heart as illustrated by the uniqueness of my name), nor did I make plans to hang out again.

I spent the rest of the night hanging out with the husband and his musician friends.

20140116_005712_5_bestshot 20140116_021419

Yeah, I have glasses now. Anyway.

Everyone was talking about how much fun our Sunday dinner was, and how they can’t wait until we do it again. I think we’ve started a new tradition, and when they make the movie about one of these musician’s lives one day, my Sunday dinners should make the script, at least it better.

Making new friends is hard, you know?

Especially when the options available are so damn weird.

But I have hope. The husband has another gig on Monday that promises a lot of fun. I ended up inviting 6 people to join me out. I didn’t even know I knew six people here in New York I’d like to hang out with socially outside of a work shift, a Sunday service, or a quick drink after the soup kitchen. The couple we met last week, a guy from work and a friend of his I haven’t met yet, and a guy we met at a bar back in September and his girlfriend.

The fact that I even had more than one person I could think of to invite made me happy. I’m perfectly comfortable hanging by myself at the husband’s gigs, but it would be nice to have some friends with me too.

On that note, I’m going to go make a list of cool ways to spend a day off. The only thing I know is that the next time it happens, I’m definitely not starting my day until after noon.

Any ideas?


Now We’re Back On The Same Page

New York living is expensive y’all!

Imagine going to Starbucks every day for a week. You’re feeling all hyper and caffeine-alicious, but wonderfully satisfied. Then you realize that bottle of water, plus some fruit, plus a couple of those new yummy chocolate croissants, plus that tempting sale-priced Holiday blend coffee destined for your French press at home have all conspired together. And you are now $150 poorer than you were 7 days ago. And this is just from a coffee shop!

Now imagine that everywhere is Starbucks. Everywhere. Anything you do more than once in a week suddenly suck hundreds of dollars from your budget. Budget,say what? That thing that just frustrates you because no amount of planning can account for what you have no choice but to do when you lose your Metro card you just added $112 dollars to? Yeah, budgets.

Okay, I’m done with the stream of consciousness run on sentences for a bit. I think I’ve made my point that incidental costs alone make New York living expensive.

All of this was just based on my own experiences. But I’m not here alone, the husband is here too. He’s had the same challenges I’ve had coupled with the frustration of not working as much as he’d like.

We knew this would happen. We came to New York so he could spread his musician wings, open up a new market, and ultimately work even more (hopefully) than he was in Chicago.

That type of thing doesn’t happen overnight.

So it’s been a rough six months, financially at least. There were definitely some bumps along the way.

I had to stop drinking Starbucks every day. You won’t like me when I’m decaffeinated.

The husband unilaterally decided to postpone grad school. Again. That’s all I’ll say on that topic for now.

And the cats have taken to terrorizing the entire apartment building because they got used to having free reign of stairways during their months in exile at my parents’ house in Chicago.

Getting used to having no space anymore that counts as an escape for alone time, I’ve claimed some Saturdays as my own where I hang out in Greenwich Village, sometimes with the folks from the soup kitchen. Sometimes, I’m just by myself, hanging at Starbucks, drinking a mocha and watching Hulu on my phone.

But now things are evening out, at least they appear that way.

The husband is getting more calls for gigs, and offers to head out-of-town to play as well. So far, it appears he’s been able to maintain his musical connection to the Midwest while developing roots on the East Coast.

This weekend, he’s headed to Haiti for a music festival, then he’s back playing multiple gigs in NYC and some of the most popular jazz clubs in the city. Then he’s off to Midwest and out West for a month and some change to play there.

All of this has of course boosted his morale. It’s a nice feeling to know that the people like you, they really like you. And they want to pay you to stick around and do more.

On my end, I’m starting to hit a groove at work. I’m finishing up a work project that I’ve put a lot into and I’m hoping to see some real returns on it in the coming months. It’s all about getting more active participation in the donation process on all sides.

New York City provides some interesting challenges to organ and tissue donation that I just wasn’t experienced with coming from the Midwest. But I think I’ve risen to the challenge and if anything, it’s made me more committed to this work and I’ve dug deeper to find new ways to make it happen.

One thing I always tell my staff is that every time we speak to a family regarding donation, it’s an investment in today and tomorrow. Whether or not a family who has lost a loved one decides to have that person become a donor is irrelevant in this way.

I tell them that we want to make sure we are caring for these families at this difficult time and letting them know that our desire to help people get transplants never diminishes our compassion for their loss. Every time a family hangs up with us, they should feel positive about the conversation.

When we do this consistently, we are doing a small part to contribute to positive public opinion regarding donation. And we lay the groundwork for the family to say yes next time. If a family decides to donate, but they have a bad experience, they’re not going to want to repeat it. If a family decides not to donate, but they have a good experience, they may reconsider next time (depending on their reasons for saying no in the first place).

At my old job in Chicago and at this one, I have encountered families that have heard from us multiple times. They have been unfortunate enough to lose multiple family members in the last handful of years. It just so happened that these family members that passed away were all eligible for tissue donation. And when they hear from us, they have to make that decision about donation, and it’s a unique decision every time they decide.

I am finally starting to feel like I’m getting through to people regarding the importance of this. As America gets older (and sicker), more and more people will know someone in need of a transplant.

Just like with gay marriage, knowing and loving someone affected by an issue makes you more likely to support it. To me this means that in coming years, people will be more open to donation. I want to make sure that when that happens, those who have already lost loved ones and talked to us have a positive feeling towards the organization I work for.

It’s our jobs to make something positive come out of a sad situation and give people a chance to live on through others. We can’t do that unless we’re constantly taking care of public opinion regarding what we do.

I definitely didn’t mean to go on such a long pro-donation ramble, but I just feel so passionately about this. And considering the fact that all I do in NYC is work, volunteer, church, and sleep, it’s a big portion of my life here.

I’m looking forward in the near future to do more that just that. Now that the husband is working more, I at least get to go out to his gigs because they usually let me in free.

But even though I’m not out at amazing restaurants and cool clubs all the time (or, couch, ever), I’m really doing okay.

The time I spend away from home is so fulfilling, and really a lot of fun.

At work I’m saving lives with the click of a button, and co-workers are crazy and fun in the best way possible.

At church, I’m growing closer to God. And I’m looking forward to seeing what’s going on with the young adult ministry, it seems like it could be fun.

At one of my volunteer things, I get to tutor (which y’all know I love) and play with a new baby.

At the other volunteer thing, I’m hanging out in the Village, and becoming part of a really amazing family of good people who just like being together and making someone else’s day a bit better.

Since the second I signed the lease on our lovely little brownstone apartment, I’ve loved living in New York. But since things have evened out a bit more, I love it even more.

Now if I could just figure out the best way to navigate the public school system here so we don’t have to move one day when we have kids…


That Time I Almost Stabbed An Old Man In The Street

Before I talk about that time I almost stabbed an old man in the street, I first want to follow-up on yesterday. It’s like God heard my not-actually-prayed prayers and found a solution to my problems.

I will have time to wash my clothes before I have to wear more awful clothing combinations to work. I was sitting at work when one of the other shift leaders asks me if I want to go home, take a nap, then come back that night.

I did a quick thinking process and decided I was in. I gathered my things and left. I got home and took a nice long nap until it was time to get up to go do my volunteer thing. I definitely went the wrong way once or twice on the way (anyone want to teach me the difference between north and south?), but I finally got to the place.

The woman I’m working with has her final next week. So when I go back on Monday, we’re going to work hard to make sure she’s as prepared as possible for the final. Then the following weekend, we will celebrate her doing well by taking an excursion somewhere. We haven’t figured out where yet, but I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m glad this is going well because I know sometimes volunteer work can be unfulfilling and boring. This work is anything but. She even showed me her latest sonogram today! My personal opinion happens to be that sonograms look weird and pretty icky, but I was just happy for her that she wanted to show the pictures off.

I’m sure the husband will want to pat me on the back for keeping my strong ass opinions to myself for once. Thank God I have this blog to let it out on you people. I figure you’re asking for my opinions because you bother to read my words.

I’ll probably be one of the few ladies who shuns her own sonograms while she’s pregnant. The doctor will be all, “hey, want a picture of your baby? Isn’t it grand?” And I’ll be all, “um, no that alien looking thing belongs in my womb, not floating around in my purse or on my refrigerator blown up 100x. No thank you.” Then the husband will shake his head at me and request the picture anyway.

Back on topic now. After I was done with the tutoring, I headed to work. I worked until the morning at which point I went home. Now I’m not due back until Friday, so I actually have time to, you guessed it, wash my clothes!

Because I worked last night, I could wear causal clothes, which I haven’t run out of yet. And on casual Friday, I can also wear the jeans instead of the slacks. That gives me four whole days to manage to wash some clothes for work on Monday. Of course, I’ll be quite tired from flipping back and forth from day sleep to night sleep, so I still may not get it done. I’m not gonna worry about that just yet though.

On to the point of this post. In the course of getting ready for my trip out of town last weekend, I decided to take a trip down to Greenwich Village in Manhattan rather than to the Laundromat, you know, to wash clothes.

Down in Greenwich Village, I was reminded yet again of why I love that neighborhood. It just feels neighborhood-y and community-ish. The people all seem to carry the sense of belonging and lack of judgment with them everywhere they go.

My destination when I got there was this lovely little shop that sells essential oils. I’ll explain in a later post why I needed essential oils, but there I was, making some purchases, feeling very Village-like. I left the shop and noticed there was a vegan grocery store, a yoga studio, a sushi bar, and a LGBT community center all within the same half a block.

Even though I’m heterosexual and such a carnivore (pun intended), I felt so at home. That type of acceptance of any lifestyle put a big smile on my face. I don’t know how much time you people have spent around others who aren’t like yourself. I’ve encountered communities that are so supportive of vegans that they judge meat-eaters. I’ve also been around homosexuals and bisexuals that shun heterosexuals.

But nobody was eye-ing my I heart bacon sweatshirt with ire. I fit right in and happily so.

Just as I was reveling in my daydreams about moving into this building that looked like a fancy version of my current brownstone, my thoughts were interrupted by this man. He was leaning forward, swaying unsteadily on his feet. For some reason, he was holding a 7-Eleven big gulp cup partially in front of his eyes in a very I-can-see-you-but-you-can’t-see-me kind of way.

He swayed into my path and began lumbering toward me. When I stepped to the side to go around him, he stepped to the side to stay in my way. Then he started talking. I don’t recall exactly what he said, but he kept calling me Lady and laughing each time he said it.

When he got closer, I stopped walking forward and actually started taking steps back. As I stepped back, he stepped forward. This was officially an awful moment. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I ran through the options.

1)      Mace his ass.

2)      Cut his ass.

3)      Run away.

4)      See if he needed help.

The first option was a good one since I had an adorable pink bottle of pepper spray in my purse. The second option was the most attractive, but I didn’t have a box cutter with me because the husband refused to buy me one. I’m pretty sure it was out of pure laziness that he didn’t buy it for me. And I’m pretty sure it was out of pure laziness that I didn’t buy it for myself.

The third option just isn’t my style. I prefer fight over flight. The last option didn’t feel very safe. I’m alone in New York, so I can’t afford the risk to my safety by reaching out to strangers like that. I just got here, and I’d like to keep myself safe.

Based on those options, I began reaching for my pepper spray, cursing both myself and my husband that I didn’t have a box cutter. I’m not against cutting an old man who’s starting to scare me. But before I could pull out the pepper spray, another man on the street told the man to leave me alone because he was clearly scaring me.

They argued back and forth a bit over whether or not he was scaring me. Ultimately the creepy old man with the big gulp cup gave up and crossed the street, muttering to himself.

I left my pepper spray in my purse and thanked the man for his intervention.

Then I called the husband and fussed at him for not buying me a box cutter. I clearly needed to cut an old man, but wasn’t able to because he was being lazy.

The husband, who is saner than I am, immediately let me know that it wasn’t a bad thing that I got through the afternoon without cutting an old man.

Agree to disagree.

On my agenda while I have some time at the Laundromat: heading to the nearby hardware store to purchase a box cutter.

That old man may have been harmless, but I don’t want to be naïve enough to think everybody who walks up on me in this city will be. I’ve got plans for my life, and they don’t include becoming a statistic to senseless violence. Yeah, that just got real.


Seriously, I Can Teach Anyone Math

I mentioned before how I was starting to do volunteer work. It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to make that happen, and I’d forgotten how much it means to me to help people for no better reason than they need it.

Reaching out to the organization I did was totally on a whim, inspired by my need to get some “extra-curriculars” for grad school. There was just something about the website they setup that really reached out to me.

They take a lot of different types of volunteers, including tutors. Tutoring is right up my alley. I did a lot of tutoring at my church in Chicago. I also worked in the Chemistry tutoring lab when I was in undergrad. I’ve helped out a few friends over the years with classes they struggled with as well.

As the title of this post says, I feel quite confident I can teach anyone math. I can teach them almost anything. Just not history. It’s hard to teach a subject I don’t know well. I can’t tell you dates and quote all that stuff from history, nor have I ever figured out a way to remember it effectively. But enough about history, I want to focus on math!

If you don’t like math or you swear you’re no good at it, I blame your math teach from the fourth or fifth grade. That seems to be the time in life where people either realize they are great at math and/or enjoy it. If you don’t realize that, resentment builds until it’s finally released the day you don’t have to do math anymore (except for counting money).

The woman I’m tutoring is from the category of people who don’t like math. As expected, her dislike stemmed more from not understanding some of the fundamentals than truly disliking the subject. I blame her fourth grade teacher.

Getting to the location to begin tutoring wasn’t easy. It was a part of Brooklyn I’ve never been to before (there are still so many parts unexplored honestly), but luckily my HopStop app helped me find it. When I got there, the lady who runs the place confirmed I was who I said I was, and let me know the house rules.

They are pretty strict, but they are providing a service to teach women who have no place else to go how to create a stable life for themselves and their unborn child. The work they do and the people they’ve helped is really inspiring.

Some of the people they help come from some pretty bad situations, so I won’t say any more about the actual organization for safety’s sake.

When I mentioned some of my other hobbies and interests, the lady seemed interested in other ways I could help the woman I’m working with as well. She asked if I’d like to come over and show her a few healthy home-cooked recipes for dinner once or twice a month. Also, she asked If I could take her out in Brooklyn or in the city for some cultural excursions.

I thought I’d just be helping someone advance in their pursuit of a degree, but it looks like I’ll be taking on a much more active role with her. It’s pretty exciting to think I could help even more than originally expected.

Once we got through the formalities and introductions, we jumped right into the math. One of the reasons I’m so good at teaching people math is that I teach them not just what they need to know for that lesson, I teach them how to learn the next thing even before it comes.

Math is a language and you have to learn the language if you want to excel in the subject. That’s the fundamental piece most people are missing. Math teachers all over the country are slacking by not teaching their students the language of math.

If you have no idea what I mean, and I haven’t lost you by mentioning the word math 100 times in the last four paragraphs, I’ll explain what I mean.

3 + 2 = 5                3 – 2 = 1

That simple addition is a sentence in math. So is the subtraction. If you want to learn to add, you can learn on a number line.

Image from SparkNotes

If you’re using a number line, then the three represents your starting point. The plus and the minus both represent the direction you’re going to move. The two represents how far you must move. The equal sign represents that the answer is coming. The five and the one represent the answer.

Okay, enough teaching. If anyone is still reading this post, I swear I’m moving on.

We focused on the basics for the first tutoring session. We filled in some gaps in her knowledge and found out how she learns best. She is a visual learner, so the number line method, along with some almond for counting, worked best for her.

We ended up having a pretty good time, laughing and learning. By the time I was heading home, she was asking me to give her some sample problems that were tough for her skill level so she could practice.

When someone requests more work, that’s always I sign that I’ve made the learning fun. I left feeling so energized. It’s been so long since I’ve taught, and I kind of forgot how much I love it. If only they paid teachers more, I might’ve considered that as a career field.

Anyway, I’ll be going back again this week. I gave her a bit of homework to do, so hopefully she got it all done and we can move forward. This woman has an interest in going into the medical field. I’m feeling pretty good about helping someone reach their goals, just because. I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy yet energized like one of those USA Character commercials.

This week I also start my other volunteer projects I’ve reached out to. Wish me luck that it goes well.


And Now He’s Leaving Me

The husband just arrived to New York three Thursdays ago. So he’s only been here for two weeks. And he’s leaving already. He just freaking got here!

He has a good reason for leaving. Summer is quite a busy time for a musician in Chicago. If you remember, from the time of the job offer to the day I was supposed to arrive in New York, I only had three weeks to make it happen.

With that lack of warning, he already had a lot lined up in the city for himself. When he looked at his schedule, it became clear that he needed to be in Chicago from the end of August until the end of September.

So now I have another month without the husband. I really do need to make some friends here because I have no one to hang out with. There are the musician friends of the husband and their wives, but we’ve all been here for weeks and I still haven’t met these women, so I’m not counting on that.

I’ve been making efforts to begin to fill my time, but so far it’s not much.

There is, of course, my never-ending effort to get on a consistent workout schedule. Since the husband has been here, I’ve done a lot more cooking. Eating home-cooked food is always better that restaurant or processed food.  Everything I’m used to frying (catfish, plantains, etc,) I’ve been making in the oven instead. I’m feeling pretty proud of the healthy versions of my favorite foods I’m coming up with.

Outside of the hours each week I’d like spend working out, there are volunteer opportunities. As soon as I learned that we lived so close to a homeless shelter, my first thought was that I really wanted to get involved and help out.

Turns out, it’s not so easy to reach out to these people to help. I sent an e-mail and got no response. I left a voicemail and got no response. That saddened me a bit, but I didn’t give up.

The need to volunteer increased even more once I started looking into what I have to do to apply for grad school. I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to getting an MBA with a focus on healthcare management. That type of degree will really take me places in my career path, and it might be useful for the husband as well.

All three schools I looked at (more on that later) have a few requirements in common: GMAT/GRE, work experience, and extra-curriculars. I haven’t thought of extra-curriculars as such since high school. I’m damn near thirty, but I need extra-curriculars?

All the stuff I used to do had to stop for one reason or another. No bowling league, no rock climbing, no tutoring at church, no nothing. So I needed some extra-curriculars and quick.

I figure I can count on the work I used to do in Chicago since I’ll only have been a New York resident for a few months when I apply. But I need something here as well.

With the desire to get into grad school compelling me, I pushed forward to find a way to get involved in volunteering. My two passions for volunteer work are the homeless population and unwed mothers. As I always do, I started with Google to search for opportunities.

Google led me to volunteermatch.org, idealist.org, and onebrick.org. Well, Google led me a ton of other places too, but these three websites in particular seemed to have what I was looking for.

About three hours after my first Google search, I was signed up to tutor an unwed mother in Math while she’s working on her online degree. I start next week. I also signed up to help feed the homeless on weekends at this church in New York. I start in two weeks. I reached out to a few other organizations as well, so we’ll see what all I end up doing before I’m done signing up.

Even with all the stuff I’m coming up with to fill my time (exercising, volunteering, friend finding), I’m still going to feel every minute I’m away from the husband.

I will see him a week after he leaves though, I’m going to Chicago for the Chicago Jazz Fest, at which the husband and his band are playing. It’s pretty exciting, and I’m so glad I was able to work it out with my new job so that I can go.

Any other ideas of how I can fill my time while the husband is gone? Maybe I’ll join a bowling league…


Saving Lives

It occurred to me recently why I really love going to work. I’m almost always in a good mood heading to work, and that seems a bit unusual. My job certainly isn’t my dream job, so why would I be so into it?

It’s because we save lives. The work I do keeps people alive. The people who get organs from a donor are those who may not live to see the next donation opportunity.

There are risks with donations that suck. Things can be transmitted like cancer, infection, etc. But the risk of being dead is a higher risk for people on the transplant list.

I feel so blessed to be a part of this line of work. I wish I could tell more, but we’re not allowed to talk about it. The people who are donors and the people who are recipients are protected. Their information isn’t available to share with the world.

Some people choose to stand up and say they’ve gotten a transplant. They talk about what a difference it made in their life. Others talk about a family member who was a donor. When someone is going to die and they are on a ventilator and their family chooses to let them be a donor, it’s  a great gift.

If you haven’t signed up to be a donor, please think about it.

If you want to sign up, go to Donate Life America. They’ll get you started.

If you are a donor, talk to your family about it. Don’t let it be a surprise when they get are informed by the hospital should the situation arise.


Are There Any Parts Of Your Job You Hate?

In my continued effort to blog about random things, I turn to my job. I’ve had this job for little over a year and I really like it. Actually, I kind of love it. I’m surprised to say it because I never intended to have the job I do.

I work in organ and tissue donation. I can’t get into too many details, mostly because I would hate for a Google search to bring someone I work with to my blog. I have a potty mouth where ever I go, but still. I can say that a big part of my job is getting families to donate the tissue of their deceased love ones and finding recipients for organ donors.

There’s a lot of different areas I could get into should I make this my career. Right now, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else because I love what I do so much. It’s even hard to imagine what I don’t like about this job, but I’m gonna work real hard and try.

I don’t like all the policy changes. Every time I come to work, the policy on how we do some aspect of our job has changed. But they just send random e-mails about it. So you can imagine how many different ways different employees get the same task done.

I really don’t like all the meetings. There are training sessions, follow-up training sessions, and staff meetings for all the aspects of the job. Because I do more than one type of job, I’ve got to attend more than one type of staff meeting. There is nothing worse than having to have my butt at a meeting that lasts waay too long talking about things that could be covered with one of those random e-mails.

My job has also taught me things I do like. I love paperwork. Yup, paperwork. Filling out spreadsheets, compiling data, and completing checklists is totally my thing. It’s why I thought I’d like research, but I hate being in a laboratory. Looks like being in administration is in my future, cause I love putting together a data analysis report. I know, I know, I’m a weirdo. Or maybe some sort of nerd. Probably I’m both.

You know what else I like? Answering the phone. I would’ve been an AT&T switchboard operator instead of a maid if they hired black people back in the day. I can answer some phones with the best of them. I work nights and my supervisors marvels and how I always sound pleasant on the phone, even at 4:30 am on a busy night.

The only part of answering phones I hate is when other departments ask me to do their work for them. I know I would’ve been a telephone operator in another life, but I’m sure as hell not one in this life.

I will talk more about my career path in the next week or so with my biannual career path post.

Are there any parts of your job you hate? Please don’t get yourself fired answering my question.


Getting My [insert noun here] In Shape

Summer, my body, parties, my apartment, hobbies. Fill in the blank with almost anything I wish I were doing more of.

I should be getting my ass in shape. I’m working on it. But just not as wholeheartedly as I’d like. I love bike riding, and I love yoga. Finding the time and motivation is a losing battle. At least I’m eating better. More grains and fruit, less over-processed and fried foods.

Summer is shaping up. I’ve been trying to spend more time outside, and more time with my friends. I’ve been quite unsuccessful at both. It took so long to get warm, and now that it is, I’ve got to get it together. I have a whole week off starting the 4th of July. I’m planning some great things for the husband’s birthday, and I should be able to squeeze a lot in that week.

We’re throwing a party for the husband’s birthday. We had one in June which was amazing. And we’ll have another in July. That should keep me feeling party-ful for the summer. I’m still in my 20s, so I shouldn’t be over clubs yet, should I? I am though, so I won’t be doing much partying-in-a-loud-ass-room-surrounded-by-strangers-I-have-no-interest-in.

My apartment is still terrible. It’s getting better, but I haven’t made any progress since we got those amazing shelves from The Container Store. My next plan is to buy another set of shelves and connect it to the first set. The expansion will make room for the TV and our books. That way we can get rid of the bookcases and really have some effective downsizing done ahead of the move to NYC.

And lastly hobbies. I thought I’d be doing more at church, more volunteering, more rock climbing. And I’ve done nothing. I don’t even draw in my sketchbook anymore.

You know what? I’m done complaining. If I spend all my free time doing nothing, I can’t feel bad that I’ve got nothing done. I’m going to focus on what I can get done.

I can stay on top of my TV shows.

I’m not kidding. I really do love television. And coming up this month and next are the summer premiers of some of my favorite shows. I love White Collar, Leverage, Franklin & Bash. I can watch those shows and feel a sense of accomplishment.

And then after that, I’ll get my butt up off the couch and go bike riding along the lake. And I’ll invite along one of my friends. And bring a snack of fresh fruit and water.

Boom, problem solved.


So You’ve Signed Up to Be A Donor

In Illinois, we have a donor registry. That registry allows people to sign up any number of ways. They ask you at the DMV if you want to be a donor. There are donation drives at colleges. All sorts of ways.

When you sign up, they may or may not explain what that means. I’m here to let you know what it means. When you sign up to be a donor in Illinois, you’re saying that when you die (brain or cardiac death), you want all elligible organs and tissues donated for transplantation.

Some states are different, you can sign up for transplantation and medical education/research. In other countries, there’s even registries where you have to opt out if you are against it as opposed to signing up if you are for it. But in Illinois, it’s fairly simple. If you want to donate, simply say yes and get it put on your license.

But oh no, it’s not that simple. Your family can fuck up your final wishes. I talk to far too many families who are made aware of their loved one’s wishes and decide they don’t care. How sefish can you be to be fully aware of your son’s/husband’s/sister’s final wishes and just say you don’t care?

Death is hard and everyone doesn’t handle it well. But it’s just not fair. The consent affidavit is supposed to be a legally binding document. You make the decision for yourself so your family doesn’t have to. That’s the theory at least.

But families refuse to go through the paperwork. In this especially litigious and disease-ridden state, we don’t move forward with donation without consent paperwork by the family saying they acknowledge their loved one’s wishes. And we really can’t move forward without a medical and social history questionnaire that the next-of-kin must fill out.

If you have signed up to be a donor, make sure your family knows. Make sure there is someone who might be around in the case of your death who can fight for your right to decide what happens to your body after you die.

I am sad for the families that lose loved ones. But I’m more sad for the people who die and never get a chance to fulfill their request for what happens to their remains.

It’s hard not to get angry at someone who loses a family member and then only thinks of themself. It’s especially worse when the deceased was elligible to donate so many things. It’s not fair and frankly, it’s fucked up.

I’ve made sure to discuss exactly what I want to happen to me in the case of my death to the fiancé and my parents. I don’t want to risk one of them being so unstable at the time of my death that they can’t honor my wishes.

Being a donor is supposed to ensure your wishes are met. Make sure your family understands that. And if your family member has signed up to be a donor, the least you can do is honor their wishes after the death. It’s really the least you could do.


“You Available?”

As I’m writing this post, I’m at the library. I’m here to help out my friend. I mentioned in a previous post that she was starting an etiquette class and that I’d offered to help. I rode with her down here and helped bring everything upstairs.

We had to take several escalators up to the level where the room she reserved was located. On the way up the last escalator, there was a man coming down the other side.

He looks at my friend and goes, “you available?”. She didn’t understand him at first so he had to repeat himself. As he spoke louder, his voice reverberated off the tile on the really high ceiling.

She responded, “No. I’m married.” He said okay and we all kept going on our escalators.

I was flabbergasted. I’ve never had anyone approach me in that way. When I said that, she was surprised. I told her that there was only one explanation as to why he talked to her like that.

It was her fault.

She asked was it wrong to smile at strangers. Now my friend is not a smiler by nature. She’s a happy person, but people have told her throughout her life that she doesn’t smile enough. So my question is why is she smiling at random leery strangers?

We had a good laugh about the whole thing because she isn’t married or even close to it but telling an inappropriate stranger that you’re married really is the easiest way to get rid of them.

And yes, she could smile at strangers less and that might help. But even if she fixes her part in it, it probably wouldn’t keep it from ever happening again because guys like that dude run amongst the rest of us normal people. I really think that man should know better.

I mean, has he ever gotten a response other than rejection when he approaches someone that way? How lazy and noncommittal can one get?

Ugh, if you want to approach a complete stranger, and you feel compelled to do it at a library, don’t do it in passing. Approach someone who’s already there. That way you can do some research.

Do they look approachable? When you do a drive-by approach, you don’t even consider that. Do they look available? Looking for a ring saves you a lot of time.

Seriously, I still can’t believe he did that. I find it hilarious and disturbing, disrespectful and odd, and absurd and inappropriate all at once.

Did I mention that he was carrying a box of snickers bars? You know, the kind you carry when you’re selling them for a fundraiser? Perhaps for your kids? That doesn’t make someone more likely to want to talk to you.

Have you ever been approached by a creeper? What’s the worst pickup line you’ve ever heard?


Double Giving For Christmas

Alternate post title: How The New York Times Saved My Christmas And My Honeymoon

I read the New York Times Opinion page voraciously. One article I read recently suggested a great gift giving idea. This idea wasn’t novel, but this was the first time I’ve given it serious consideration.

The idea is to give gifts for Christmas that are actually donations made to charities in someone else’s name. I liked the idea for reason both altruistic and selfish.

1) We can really personalize the gifts and spend time searching for the perfect charity that focuses on an area or problem that the giftee really truly cares about. Our families and friends are really very caring people and it won’t be hard to find a charity that covers something near and dear to each of their hearts.

2) The money we’ll spend on charity donations will be far less than whatever we’d spend on actual tangible presents. All that money saved will make sure we can pay for the entirety of our honeymoon. Our joint family is a shitload larger than what either of us had before being engaged, so saving money is honestly a good motivator.

3) We care a lot about the world around us and the fiancé and I have been searching for a way to turn our caring into actual action. Seeking to do volunteer work and/or make a real difference (no matter how small) in the world is something we discuss frequently. This would be a great way to do that.

4) I love giving cards for holidays and a lovely stack of cards would be the perfect way to deliver the news of what we did for everyone’s Christmas gifts. I can imagine personalized cards with our pictures or classic cards with Christmas trees or Christmas angels or something. It will be great!

5) We will be getting tangible gifts for all these people less than two months after Christmas. Most of our family or friends qualify as gift-receivers for their part in our wedding. In particular, our gifts to our parents and the wedding party will be expensive because there’s so damn many of them. I’ve been picking up things here and there, but it’s not enough. There’s a big balloon payment out there looming like an underwater mortgage because I don’t think the fiancé has gotten anything for any of his people. Le sigh.

Of course, we have a number of children to buy actual Christmas gifts for. I can’t imagine anybody in my life under the age of 20 truly understanding and appreciating a gift given to them that’s actually a gift given to someone else. I know our parents’, cousins, friends, etc. will appreciate it though.

I talked with the fiancé about it and he seemed to kind of like the idea. We still have to discuss it further to be sure it’s what we want to do. I imagine he’ll go with it, mostly for reason #2 and #3. I’ll let you know what we come up with.


Blogging For Etiquette

Seeing as how I use words like “Gooder” and “Goodest” in my posts, maybe I shouldn’t be talking so much about etiquette. But then again, I actually know they’re not words, I’m just focusing on how the suffix alters the meaning of the words to suit what I’m trying to say.

I’m always fussing at my kids (that I work with at church) not to chew with their mouths open. And, um, also my mother and fiancé as well. A surprisingly large number of people in my life chew with their mouths open. Well, it surprises me because it really annoys the hell out of me. But I’m getting off topic.

My friend is starting an etiquette class. It reminds me of this great idea my mother, my best friend, and her mother had years ago but we never really got off the ground. It teaches young women things they should know, but maybe never were taught. Things like: 1)what a 401K is, 2)how to set a table, 3)which 5 doctors you should see once a year.

If you already know those three things, good for you. If you don’t know any of them, let me know and I will give you the information for her class. This class is in Chicago and is a great was to give back to people. Hopefully, she will be producing a slew of women with greater knowledge of how to carry themselves like ladies and a great deal more confidence and self-respect.

She has asked me for help with the classes. Luckily, my work schedule allows for me to attend the first session. I’m so excited since this is very similar to a plan my mother and I had, along with my best friend and her mother years ago. I’m also helping her with her blog for the class. I’m looking forward to that part.

She and I have very similar backgrounds, so I didn’t think there would be much I could do to help, but she’s not familiar with blogging. I immediately offered to maintain the blog for her. I’m so happy she’s letting me. Once we get everything up and running, I’ll link to the blog and the website, so I can see what you all think.

Do you do anything to give back to your community? I’d love to hear about any projects anyone has underway.