Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

Posts tagged “international

I Literally Make Life Decisions Because of Christmas’s Commercialism

I received a great suggestion a couple of weeks ago. The short version is, “you should start blogging again because you need an outlet for all that shit you keep bottled inside.” The medium version is that a lot of our career coaching at my school seems to be therapy in disguise, and the professor assigned to this particular group saw me, felt that I felt invisible, and was doing her very best to give me even one useful suggestion for how to cope. I will keep the long version to myself for now.

The last couple of months specifically and last year in generally have been a period of upheaval in my life. According to all my social media feeds, almost everyone feels this way. There’s a lot I could dig into there, but instead, I’m going to talk about something that I’ve been thinking about almost constantly in the last few days.

I live in Belgium y’all. I won’t live here permanently, I’m not about become anyone’s expat, especially not here. But I feel so good about my decision to come here and get my MBA. My class is very international. There are 42 students from 20 countries. Something that comes up a lot is the reason that each of us decided to come here.

My answer feels a bit silly sometimes, but I value honesty over appearing to be a very serious person. So here’s the reason I decided to uproot my life and move across a whole ocean:

 

A trip to Paris for New Year’s with my husband at the end of 2016 included a trip right after the new year to Brussels. Purely because of it’s proximity and affordability, we found ourselves in Brussels. And when you are in Brussels, you find yourself in Grand Place. When I walked into the area pictured above, I fell in love.

I’m not sure if this will make sense to everyone who reads it, but energy matters to me. It matter to me for people, places, and things. And the energy of Grand Place appealed to me. And it didn’t hurt that it was still gussied up from Christmas 2016. When I was 6 or so years old, I picked out a bedroom set based on the red & green decorative pillows they added because it was December. Yeah, I’m that chick, and have been my whole life. I was already considering trying to come to Europe for a 12, 15, or 18 month MBA program. But I came back from Brussels and googled “MBA programs in Brussels.”

Once I researched my school, I realized it would be a really good fit and it was the only school I applied to. I was happy to pack up my shit and move to another country, but made sure to leave roots behind in New York for when I’m done.

Christmas is here again, and I went to Grand Place, as you do when you’re in Belgium. They have the tree up again, and I was eager to get a look at it with all decorations in place. It was a bit underwhelming in the daylight, but when I went back the next night, it was better.

It was a really nice moment for me. Standing in Grand Place in early 2017, this new seed of a dream felt near impossible to make happen. And perhaps the huge upheaval of the last year made it more possible, but it didn’t change the fact that it felt huge every step of the way. So when I was standing there in late 2018, I felt really proud of myself.

I made one of my dreams come true. 2018 has been a year of doing a lot for just me, which is something I might be a bit rusty at. I’m still figuring out how to balance all of the things that matter to me. But it was really nice to take this moment and just feel pride and happiness. Christmas is my jam, and I’m excited for getting to spend this Christmas here, even if I have to deal with Zwarte Piet. I might have to do a whole other post about that shit… But for now, let’s just focus on the happy dreams-coming-true, actively-pursuing-my-goals thing for now, okay?

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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


Climate Change, Panty Raids, and Toddlers (not all at once, that’d be gross)

So apparently there’s this ice shelf in Antarctica that’s about to break off and fuck us all up. It’s “hanging on by a thread” according to climate scientists. When this happens, sea levels will raise 4-ish inches. Goodbye Boston. Goodbye Venice. Good riddance most of Florida.

I don’t know about you, but that definitely reorients my travelling priorities. I’m really glad that after we go to London to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in October, we’re heading to Malaga, Spain after that for a week trip with my mother-in-law in her time share. I’m hoping to pop across the Strait of Gibraltar (technically the Alboran Sea) to visit Morocco as well.

Based on their coastal locations, I can assume these cities will be altered if a giant ice shelf raises water levels by inches all over the planet.

Thinking about all of that (and puppy mills, ugh, thanks Rolling Stone), I started to consider other places I want to visit. I have the plan to visit all 50 states at some point before age 50. But I also want to go to Italy and visit Venice and Naples. I want to visit Mubmai in India and Osaka in Japan. And I still haven’t been to Boston. I really love New Orleans, and I’m looking forward to visiting again. But these cities are fucked.

I’m glad that 21 people under the age of 21 filed a suit to stop this shit. And I’m really glad this district judge has this to say:

“Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.” –U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken

Things like this give me hope. Hope for these folks born after 1990 who I rarely time the time to acknowledge as useful. Hope for my future travel. Hope that though the immediate present ain’t great, the future is salvageable.

On another note, I was in Chicago this past weekend. I visited my family for my mother’s 60th birthday. Here’s what I learned.

  • My grandmother is refusing to do what she said she’d do when starting this experimental treatment, so she’s getting worse while she’s getting better.
  • My parents’ college friends are even better than I remember. They are hilarious. And panty raids in college are a real thing, not just in movies.
    • I’m thinking I really really want to name names for who participated in these panty raids, but all the guilty parties are not yet retired, so I’ll wait for now…
  • Living in New York turns you, and people you know from back in Chicago, into whiskey drinkers.
  • Bridesmaid dresses were not created to look good on anyone.
  • My mother has chosen a theme for her sixties. She turned “50 with a snap.” But her sixties are all about being cool. There’s a hand gesture that goes along with it. I made it up, my mother is now to cool to have done something like that.
  • My entire family need to start going for walks. We are NOT maintaining a basic standard of health, myself included.

And lastly, I’m considering what drastic measures to take in preparation of my friend LaToya’s wedding in May. Is vegan too far? It probably is. I mean, I had a terrible experience with some beef lasagna that I assume was delicious but couldn’t put in my mouth in Paris that made me think vegetarianism isn’t too far off in my future.

I just can’t help thinking of 2010 me. I was unemployed, which wasn’t great, but I went no carb, hardly-no-sugar and had just discovered hot yoga. Maaaaaaan, let me tell you, I was in the best shape of my life that year. But that level of time and diet commitment is just… hard. I probably could’ve maintained it had I kept one of the two going.

I dunno. But I tell you what I do know. I’m not about to go through what bridesmaids all over the world go through. I will make sure that I can fit into the dress I ordered. I decided to order a size that will fit me today instead of some aspirational size. Hopefully I’ll have the problem of needing to have it taken in…

Switching gears again. Do you play the Sims 4? I do, and I’m losing my mind that I won’t be able to play with the toddlers until Thursday night of this week! I’ve downloaded the update, but between visiting Chicago, my work-volunteer-yoga schedule, and going to see a taping of the Harry Connick, Jr. show, there just won’t be time before then.

Seriously, how freaking cute are these toddlers?

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Fifty by Age 50: Bienvenue en Europe

If you follow me on Instagram, you know Chris and I had a great time in Europe!

I feel good about the pictures/videos I posted. I took over 1000 photos while I was there, but I only posted 29 smooshed into 12 different posts. I’m thinking of doing one more that shows all the different bands Chris ended up playing with while we were there. Don’t worry. he was just sitting in with the bands, we did NOT go and make money while on vacation because that would be a violation of their tourist visa laws.

In case you missed me talking about it in literally every blog post leading up to the trip, my husband Chris and I went to Paris and Brussels from Dec 27 – Jan 5. We flew into Paris, stayed there through New Year’s, then went to Brussels for a few days before heading back to the states.

It was a great trip for Chris and I; I feel like we really reconnected on this trip. I feel like I learned quite a bit about myself on this trip, as well as some cool stuff about Europe and travelling.

What I Learned About Myself

  • I have a hard time being around anyone for that many days in a row. I never got sick of Chris, but I got… weary. I need alone time in my life and there wasn’t much of it unless Chris was showering.
  • My body refuses to adjust to changes in time zone. I’ve noticed it when travelling to other time zones in the US, but I thought after a few days in Europe, I’d get to it. But nope, I was up until 6am, waking up at 3pm damn near every day we were there.
  • I freaking love staying in an airbnb. Being able to cook a couple of my own meals and having that “home” feeling while on vacation is great for me.
  • I’m not as out of the box with food as I’d like. I am more adventurous than a lot of people, and I will try almost anything twice (in case it wasn’t prepared properly the first time). But while in Paris, I literally had to drag myself past this one bar/restaurant that has this amazing Chanterelle mushroom penne. My thirst for trying new things was easily outweighed by my desire to keep eating what I knew I’d like. I wanted to eat it ever day, but in the spirit of exploring, we tried a new restaurant every day. I wish we had stopped there once more though before leaving Paris…

What I Learned About Europe/Travelling

  • Those Europeans are stingy with surprising things (because they’re not wasteful Americans): paper napkins, bottle of water, personal space
  • Every single person except one that we spoke to spoke English. Some not fluently, but with my leftover (never-conversational) French we were able to make it work.
  • I need to go thank my middle school and high school French teachers because I was all over those signs that were in French, and I was correctly conjugating words. They’d be proud.
  • Springing for the international data plan was sooooooo worth it. Being able to keep my pictures backed up just in case and having constant access to Google maps was essential to our spontaneous exploring.
  • Booking everything all at once up front is pointless, you book when you get that perfect combination of exchange rate and price.

I was thinking about writing some more posts, getting specific about some of the things that we did. But I may not feel like it. The story of that woman kissing me full on the mouth shortly after midnight on New Year’s is worth telling. Chris getting held up in customs at JFK airport is also a sitcommy tale. The adventures of our flask trough Paris is also nice (I wouldn’t let Chris take a swig at Notre Dame). Eh, it depends on if I’ve got good pictures to go with the stories I think.

I still have to sort through all our pictures. Finding a back door into using the Aura Frame when I have no iPad, iPod, or iPhone took some time, but soon I’ll share all my pics with my family. My parents got a frame for themselves, for my brother, and for me and Chris. I think it’ll be kinda cool to have three households worth of pictures shuffling through our frame.