Thursday, November 15, 2012

Esse quam videri

I've been accused of a lot of things in my life--being too damn pretty, knowing too many things, talking way too much, stealing a mean lady's credit card*, caring too much about Harry Potter, etc... A rude person might also accuse me of being a quitter/giver-upper, but I'd rather say that I'm naturally agreeable, and if someone tells me I can't do something then I will probably agree with them.

Being easily discouraged has been a problem for me for pretty much as long as I can remember. Some people hear the word "no" or "you can't" and their response is "oh YEAH?!" and then they go invent Facebook and become billionaires at the same age I'm sitting on the couch, eating Cheetos, moping about "what should I do with my life :(". A few examples: After a lifetime of hearing "yes" for...anything I ever applied for or wanted to do, I applied for an internship with WGN and never even got a phone call about it. This minor, minor setback convinced me it wasn't worth applying for any other internship, ever. When I was told I wasn't a good fit for the Next Media promotions department (for being a girl, as far as I could discern), I promptly stopped seeking advancement in any capacity. I think it's the other side of the "oh YEAH?!" coin--the stubborn toddler side. Tell me no? Oh YEAH? Well then I'll never do anything ever again! That'll show them!

I have a new job that I've been at for a fairly short amount of time, and there's been some growing pains. It's not a defined position, so I have no clear directive other than "make the bar better", and a lot of that work involves sitting, looking around, and thinking. What physical/mechanical/structural aspects are holding us back? How can we improve upon them? What are the bartenders like? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? What can I help them with? How can I help them with that? It's all very intangible at the moment, especially as I'm still learning about the new company and their standards and procedures. There's been a lot of quiet hours sitting at the dead bar top with a pen and notebook, scribbling ideas.

I'm new, there's a learning curve. I know this, my boss knows this and seems content with how I've been using my time, and yet I let the office assistant get inside my head yesterday. I don't know if she was intentionally being dismissive and disapproving, or if she was merely asking questions and has a blunt demeanor that I'm not used to, but regardless of intent, she shook my confidence. I walked away from that encounter wondering "what on earth am I doing?"

But no. No. Not today. I was excited about this job and felt confident about this job up until this woman planted a small, but powerful, seed of doubt in my mind. I can feel that seed struggling to take root in my brain, thoughts like "I should quit now before they waste more of their money on me" keep cropping up, but I'm trying really hard to stamp them down.

I'm not miracle worker and I'm not a robot-- I can't just show up and perfectly perform a function that I haven't been trained to do yet. The small things I've done have been met with approval, my ideas have been accepted and praised, and I'm getting to know the staff. One step at a time. I just need time to get my footing, to get comfortable, to actually feel ownership in this new place. I've been at Friday's for six years now and I've forgotten what it's like to be new at something. I just need to keep reminding myself that feeling lost is okay.


*I've never stolen anyone's credit card, no matter what that bonkers teacher might think

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Four More Years of the Same

I know a lot of my friends, on all sides of the political spectrum, are feeling cynical and deflated that after all this hype, we have elected what is, more or less, four more years of the same. The same President, the same parties controlling the House and Senate, what was this all for? And I hear that, and it does seem like this election cycle could be seen as a huge waste of time.

However--with this particular election, in this particular political climate, the status quo is my beacon of light. Nothing changed--and for that, a suffocating fear that had been gripping my heart over the previous 48 hours evaporated.

I know so many Americans are probably feeling the opposite, a sense of dread as they worry about their future. Will their mortgage ever get out from being underwater? Will they find a job? Will they lose their job? How are they ever going to pay for college? I understand these fears, I have them myself. I do, however, know that both parties want America to be better again. No one likes our struggling economy, everyone wants to get up and out, and I honestly don't think either party knows how to fix it.

But while I, too, am nervous about my economic future, what I am NOT is worried about my status as an equal in this nation as a woman, or the status of the LGBTQ identified Americans for whom I am an ally.

This current incarnation of the Republican party scares me to death. If I woke up today to an incoming Republican President and a Republican controlled Senate, I would have panicked. I would have panicked that my rights as a woman would be stripped away one legislative repeal at a time. I would've panicked that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, and that any choice I had regarding pregnancy would be taken from me. Would I be forced to carry a non-viable fetus to term, with abortions outlawed? I would've panicked that my access to birth control would be taken away, making actually planning a family when Alex and I are financially stable a crap shoot. I would've panicked that, once the Affordable Heath Care Act was repealed, that my asthma, ever worsening scoliosis, and multitude of allergies would disqualify me for the very medical treatment I need when prospective providers reject my preexisting conditions.

I would've panicked that my gay friends, who have just barely begun to taste the security and privilege of the protections of legal marriage, would lose it all in one shattering swoop. I would've panicked that transgender Americans, still so marginalized and finally getting noticed by our government as people in need of protection, would be cast back into the dark and dangerous world of non-recognition and bigotry.

What the Republican party was campaigning on this year was a total stripping away of basic human rights and decency, and that scared me to death. So yes, we have four more years of the same, but it is four more years of tolerance and progression to an equal, kind, and egalitarian nation.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

God knows, we're worth it

I highly recommend hitting "play" for this song before continuing on.

Our wedding, as seen through a photo lens
The great photography is (c) Shane Welch Weddings, whom I cannot recommend highly enough. 
All the blurry ones and ones from dancing and beyond are from friends.

And then they took a cab home and lived happily ever after.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I'm still looking up

So much to talk about.

Amazing photography from Shane Welch
I'm married; the wedding was awesome, everyone was awesome, the food was awesome, my dad's men's choir was awesome, the fact that someone was always there dancing with me even though I just had an iPod for music was awesome, The Boy was awesome, my sister was awesome, Poncho and Mr. Poncho were especially and epically awesome, the staff at Meson Sabika was awesome. I'm still kind of floating on a cloud of awesome.

Honeymoon was Las Vegas. It was very hot and dry, I actually missed humidity. Sleeping however long we wanted was amazing. Being together 24/7 didn't get annoying. The pool at TI was stupid. We saw a guy get stopped by a bike cop for jaywalking on Fremont St. Cirque du Soleil O was mind-blowing. Penn and Teller were pretty funny. We saw some sharks and they were okay, but the big sea turtle was better. We walked pretty much everywhere which was kind of a mistake. The Friday's at Gold Coast blows, but they did have a lot more food. We doubled our gambling money. Being able to drink while walking down the sidewalk was great.

First day back in "real life" was bar champs, where I took second place, which is the best place because that means I don't have to do it again for another year. We still don't have enough bartenders to cover shifts for a full week, so things are as stressy as before.

Living with a boy is different, but fine. We made dinner together last night. He hogs the bed. I'm still messy despite thinking I'd be better at picking up after myself with another human being's comfort to worry about.

I'm happy. Nervous about trying to come up with a sort of "married life" routine since "lol whatever" has been my living-alone M.O. Something more eloquent to come later.

Friday, April 6, 2012

"She doesn't even go here!"

Not that I've ever been a nominee for any sort of superlative, but if I were to be, I can fairly accurately predict that my superlative would be "most likely to randomly snap and kill us all."

Let me explain: I say this because I've had at least half a dozen people suggest this about me, not because I think it's true. If I were to ever snap it would probably just involve a bunch of yelling and dramatic hand gestures--perhaps I'd finally live my dream of tossing a martini into someone's face--but I think climbing up the water tower with an AK47 is a bit of hyperbole on my peers' part. This perception of me has never really bothered me, if only because it's not necessarily inaccurate. In general I'm a pretty chill chick, and yet deep down, like, WAY deep down, I care deeply about a lot of things. I just take great pains to appear as if I don't care about much. So I understand where this impression comes from

A hostess at work recently accused me of being "like...REALLY green" after I explained my hanging onto a cell phone I hated because people die in the Congo for the minerals that make them. My gut instinct was to protest, but this lady clearly doth protested too much, because my response went something like this: "What! Nuh uh! Pffft. I mean, yeah, I care about the plight of civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are impacted by the warlords and militias who control the cobalt and tantalum mines. And sure, I my apartment doesn't have a recycling dumpster so I have to drive to Naperville's recycling center to make sure my stuff gets recycled. But I know you're supposed to take the caps off your water bottles before you throw them into a bin, right? Otherwise they can't compress and they take up more space in the landfill or explode under pressure in a recycling bin..."

I trailed off at that point because the look on the hostess' face was a combination of glazed over, smug "I told you so", and looking frantically for the nearest exit.

The thing is... I really do care about minimizing my impact on the earth, and I really do care about spreading the word about our electronics re: the situation in the Congo. It blows my mind that things like our cell phones, laptops, iPods, and tablets are almost considered disposable, especially our cell phones. Jessica, over at her blog (Faith Permeating Life), challenged readers to consider the difference between merely "raising awareness" and "taking action", and cell phone waste is my "pet" cause. While I do care about the pointless waste of water bottles, the increasing restrictions on women's rights in the US, that Haiti is still far from being rebuilt after their earthquake, that the trade embargo on Cuba is patently unfair, that homosexuality and the life and dignity of the humans who express it is even up for debate, I take the time and effort to try to educate people on their technology. Your micro devices are made from coltan. Coltan comes from the Congo. Warlords run the coltan mines in the Congo. Still. After 10 years of this issue being brought to the international stage. Warlords rape women, kill men, force children into labor, and threaten all of the above against the people who live in the villages with the mines if they don't cooperate. Every cell phone uses coltan and no manufacturer can promise their coltan doesn't originate from a warlord.

Is this our fault? Of course not. Should we feel badly about wanting and using cell phones and laptops? Surely not. But I do think we should make informed choices. Does your cell phone still work? Keep using it. I personally find it irresponsible to purchase a new device every time my inclinations change; I don't want to increase demand for products that are actively harming human life.

 And this is what I try to impart to people: use your cell phone for as long as you can. Think twice, or three times about replacing it. And for the love of God--recycle it when you're done. I usually stay very quiet about this topic until something provokes it, and then you get a passionate rendition of my nationally ranked persuasive speech from '07.


I could have also written this post in the vein that deep down inside I care very deeply about my upcoming wedding and marriage, but try very hard to stay quiet about it until provoked.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"It takes a family to raise a child..."

" takes a village to help that family raise that child." - Naperville Police detective Shaun Ferguson

In the last 18 months, seven teenagers in Naperville have died from heroin overdose. It's seemed that the "teen heroin epidemic" was all the local media could talk about all of last year, to the point where it started to sound a bit trite and over-hyped, but then in the first six weeks of 2012 eight people died from heroin in DuPage County, including a girl from my high school.

My senior year of high school they installed a plaque on the wall of the cafeteria that was instantly and crudely dubbed "the Tree of Death". It was intended to be a memorial for students who died while attending our school. I believe it was prompted by the tragic deaths of two Juniors, Anthony and Diana, when their car hit a tree and burst into flames. When I left NVHS their names, and the name of a girl who had been a few classes ahead of me who died of complications from a disability, were the only ones memorialized on small, bronze leafs. When a friend and I nostalgically stalked through the halls of our school this past Christmas we visited the Tree. Thankfully, the unnervingly large and lush tree remained by and large blank, but there were several more names up there than when I had graduated. I recognized one boy who lost his fight to cancer the year after I left, and another boy who died from complications of his disability. There were three or four other names, however, of students who had died in the last year who I'm almost certain were victims of this "heroin epidemic". One wasn't supposed to graduate until 2014.

The community has been more or less in a constant state of shock and denial about this over the last year. At first it was older kids, young adults who'd graduated and attempted to leave the nest, and then it was just one or two teenagers from the same friend group. But then the hospitalizations, arrests, and deaths started spreading beyond one peer circle, one neighborhood, one school, and people started getting scared.

I don't know how much of the gradual rising of panic is due to media hype and general mass hysteria and how much of it is legitimate fear that our town's teenagers are spiraling out of control without knowing the risks they're taking. What I do know is this: when I was in high school a mere 6-10 years ago (has it really been so long??) this wasn't happening. There may have been a few students who were addicts, but no one was dying. There may have been whispers and rumors, but there wasn't a pervasive sense that you could easily score from a friend-of-a-friend if you wanted to. Something is different, something has changed, and that icy feeling of hopelessness has settled into the pit of my stomach.

On March 12, 1998 the Chicago Tribune printed an article warning of increasing herion use among Naperville teens. The article itself seemed to be more about the ~interesting and ~scary phenomenon of rich, white kids willingly going to Chicago's west side to mingle with the poor, black gangs to score heroin than the actual problem of drug addiction itself, as no student had died from an overdose yet, but it did quote community leaders being concerned about an escalation in future years. Sadly, I think we're there, and it seems that the awareness and prevention actions taken weren't effective. 

The Boy and I have ramped up our discussions about things like starting a family and raising kids (you know, to make sure we're on the same page, and if not, that we can at least openly discuss this sort of thing before we're legally and spiritually bound to one another), and my general fear of not knowing how to raise a child, let alone guide a teenager, has increased a hundred fold. I was and have always been a Good Kid, and my friends have always been of the Good Kid variety, with small variations. We cared enough about school to know it was important to graduate, if not with the highest honors possible. Most of us had after school jobs because we were taught to value money and weren't necessarily given the frivolous things we wanted to spend money on. We loved the theatre department, we loved working hard at tech, and we loved each other. We drank lots of Mountain Dew but never (as far as I know) drank alcohol. We joked about drugs but never tried them, not even cigarettes (most of us). We would tease each other about sex but almost none of us were having it. We assumed some of the kids at our school were doing any or all of these, but it was no one we knew and not really something people talked about.

I have no idea why any of us were like that. We all had fairly different family backgrounds and socioeconomic situations, and were raised by wildly different parents. I don't have the faintest idea why we were good kids and other kids were not. I don't know what it was about my high school experience that, more or less, got all 740 of us out mostly unscathed, and what's killing the kids at my high school now. The terror of not knowing why this is happening is paralyzing me when I pause to think about trying to raise a child in an environment where drugs and death are so pervasive, and I don't even have an actual child to be scared for right now.

I don't know what to do, other than hugging every teenager I see really tight and whispering "don't do drugs!" into their ears. I don't think the police, or teachers, or parents here know either, and that's what's keeping us up at night the most.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The topic of money comes up and everybody starts feeling bad about themselves for one reason or another

I fear this post is going to come across as pure, unadulterated whining--the type of whining that I promise you I've already slapped my face in the mirror about in order to attempt to snap out of it. If that's what it sounds like, I want you, Interested Party, to know that I don't mean it to be. I'm confused, I'm conflicted, and yes, I'm a little jealous and sullen, and quite frankly, I don't like any of it.

Yes, this is going to be a post about wedding planning. Or at least, wedding contemplating. Feel free to skip merrily to the end where I will attempt to have a less-bitter sign-off.

From what I recall of my studies, the bitterness, frustration, jealousy, and subsequent guilt about the antecedent feelings are fairly typical of one from a middle class upbringing. I've been sitting here in the pants I bought on sale, eating the food I got at the grocery store using coupons, surfing the Internet on the computer my dad and I built from salvaged parts several years ago, and staring at other couples sitting pretty in their Ivory Towers of Wedding Privilege (and please, I know how ridiculous that sounds, considering my ability to even be able to legally get married is privilege enough. Remember the guilt I'm feeling?). On my left side, I have the Wedding Industrial Complex shoving champagne toasts and chair covers in my face and my WIC-influenced friends ever so excitedly chatting me up about the open bar we're obviously going to have and all the hijinks they're going to get into as we party into the night. On my right side, I have a family history of modest church hall receptions of punch and cake, and a vast blogosphere of people (yes, even on my beloved APW) who had the resources and mental fortitude to throw awesome parties on "tight" budgets (say, under $15K).

From APW, probably from elsewhere

And here we are, caught in the middle. On the one hand, I'm so, so proud of my parents for raising me to be self-reliant, thrifty, and forward-thinking so that the concept of spending even $5,000 on one day (even, especially!, if it was other peoples' money and not my own) makes me want to throw up in my Payless shoes. On the other hand, I'm beginning to wonder if I'll really regret it if we don't have some sort of reception/party that involves drinking and other people dancing. Then, on the other hand that I've grown out of sheer frustration, I wonder if I will then regret THAT decision in two years when we realize we have to postpone buying a house because we need another two years to re-save up for a decent down payment (or, hell, later this year when I look at my savings and go "hey, where'd my Jetta Money go???").

What it's all boiled down to is me windmilling my arms around in an attempt to stab anything and everything in sight out of frustration with myself and the universe when I read discussions about budgets. I'm jealous of the couples who are shy and private and were over the moon to have a 10-person wedding where they met at the courthouse and then went to dinner at their favorite restaurant afterwards. I'm jealous of the couples who are paying for everything themselves and who seemingly have no qualms about dropping so much money on one event. I'm jealous of the couples who have parents in a position to insist on paying for most things or everything.

I wish we were the type of people who could look at our collective savings and go "Yes. We can afford a baller party that people will have an awesome time at, and not regret not having this money afterwards in the slightest." I wish we were the type of people who, if my mom announced she was liquidating her 401k because it was useless to her, could go "Awesome. Thank you so much, we are forever in your gratitude, and will put you in a very nice home when you're senile." I wish we were the type of people who didn't value social ritual, and could say "Let's get church-married and go home and watch Netflix while drinking 2-buck-Chuck." To say any of these things, however, would be a betrayal of who we are. Realistically, the responses I and The "why would we stop at Burger King when we can just eat trail mix for 14 hours on this road trip" Boy would have would be "This is House Money and also parties are stupid", "omg mom, no, thank you but please no", and "but SB shrieked and danced outside of a restaurant in 40* weather when we told her we were engaged, we can't not invite her or then not feed her!" respectively.

My mom told us to just elope, and if how crazy I'm feeling already is a portent for what's to come, she might be right.

F* this,

Monday, January 16, 2012

Come grow old with me, the best is yet to be

I'm engaged! *confetti*

A friend I've had since high school has always been unfailingly enthusiastic about his life. He's had more jobs than I can count and took far longer than normal to finish college, but he always threw himself 100% into whatever venture he was embarking upon. He would speak so convincingly about each and every new life path (each with its own 5-year plan) that despite the fact this life plan was different every 4 months, I believed him every single time that This Was It and it was going to be Awesome.

That sort of optimism is alien to me. I hold on to doubts and fears and when I look five years into the future for any given thing, I see a thousand paths of disaster lying in wait. I try to be optimistic that, well, my life's been pretty good so far, so the chance of a flash flood washing away all my belongings and ruining my newly painted apartment walls with mold is really quite slim; yet I still have that little voice going "yeah...but it could happen, so don't get too excited".

Being with The Boy is my greatest example of that. To be fair to my psyche, my tendency to doubt our future had concrete evidence (see: him breaking up with me for a month in 2010), but ever since we got back together things were wonderful. Amazing. Completely different than the previous five years. I could tell he was just as invested in our relationship as I was and I would tell myself that is was real, this was It, finally. I was 99% sure of us, and our 5-year (10-year, 80-year) plan. 99% is easy to round up to 100%, and it was easy to tell myself that the part of me that was holding on to the 1% possibility that something could go awry was just being silly and pragmatic, that I was only doubting because it'd be illogical not to. Because honestly, who's 100% sure of anything? Fools, that's who. Right?

But then it snowed.

The first snowfall of the season finally came, and The Boy was uncharacteristically eager about going downtown Naperville to walk around and look at the snow. It snowed, and with just the soft rustling of snowflakes filling my ears, he asked me if I wanted to marry him.
I unromantically asked him if he was sure, and his eager/terrified nodding persuaded me that he had, in fact, thought this through and he was, indeed, sure. We put a simple and beautiful ring on the fourth finger of my left hand, hugged really tight, and smiled like goons. While the world around us was freezing over and turning a beautiful and brilliant shade of white, the 1% left inside me melted away. And let me tell you, 100% is absolutely nothing like 99%.

Don't get me wrong, I know things could still go wrong. People change, life happens, and the possibility of Forever is not a guarantee. But right now, in this moment of time and this stage of our life, I'm 100% sure that this is what we both want, that we're 100% in this together, and 100% going to promise to try our best to make it happen.

Can Finally Rename The Bookmarks Folder From "Unmentionables" to "Marriage Stuff",

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Two Thousand Twelve, Common Era

My brain is a wild jungle full of scary gibberish. I'm writing a letter, I can't write a letter, why can't I write a letter? I'm wearing a green dress, I wish I was wearing my blue dress, my blue dress is at the cleaners. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue, 'Casablanca' is such a good movie. Casablanca, the White House, Bush. Why don't I drive a hybrid car? I should really drive a hybrid car. I should really take my bicycle to work. Bicycle, unicycle, unitard. Hockey puck, rattlesnake, monkey, monkey, underpants! 

This new year snuck up on me. I kept marked track of time starting with Thanksgiving, counting down the days until Linda came home, counting down the days until my birthday, panicking over the days left until Christmas in which I had to do gift shopping, delighting over Christmas, and frowning grumpily at my schedule which had me working every single day from the 26th until New Years Day. You would think I would have been prepared, yet I somehow managed to awake in a panic at 6am on the 2nd remembering that I hadn't paid my rent yet. And now, my year in review:

Things I Hope Come to Pass in '11
-Move back to the suburbs
Success! A happy one, in which I see my friends, see The Boy, and hermit it up in my apartment of my very own.
-Go to New York and meet the long lost fams
Success! My Great Uncle looks, talks, and acts exactly like my Grandma, my...great cousins? are quiet and exactly in-between my and my mother's ages. They gave us squash.
-Not lose The Boy again
Success! I dare say this has been our best year together, thus far, largely due to the fact that we're (well, I'm) not afraid to talk to each other anymore. 
-Get on the management track
Success, by a hair! I officially started Shift Supervisor training last week, which is but a stepping stone to Real Management (also shaves off an entire month of management training, which doesn't sound too shabby).
-Chop off my long(er), sexy-like hair
Failure of epic proportions! Not only did I not chop it all off, but I neglected to get a single haircut the entire year, barring trimming my own bangs every so often.
-Help plan a wedding
Success! Poncho Wedding Extravaganza is well underway. I'm not sure how much help I've actually had with the planning aspect, but I think I'm providing an acceptable level of moral support.
-Seester goes to grad school!
Success! She refused to comment upon her scholastic future so I commented for her. Of course she got into grad school. Duh.

Overall 2011 was happier for me than 2010, and I think I can credit it to two things: surrounding myself with the people I love most, and making actual, conscious effort to progress in life. I'd been floating semi-aimlessly for the last three years, and actually sitting down, making a plan, and putting in some effort toward that plan has done more for my disposition than most other things.

Living in the city was a fun experiment that ultimately showed I'm a suburban chick at heart. I love love loved living in a place where I didn't have to drive anywhere, where if I decided I wanted a pizza RIGHT NOW I could just slip on some shoes, shuffle downstairs in my sweatpants to the 7/11 100 feet away and grab a frozen pie for $4, where I would walk to and from work along the Magnificent Mile and where I would have the street and the storefronts all to myself when I would work closing shifts and I could gawk at my leisure, where I had my Poncho Twin more at my disposal than usual, and where I felt like I was Living Life and being Part Of It even if I did spend most of my time sitting on the same couch I'm sitting on now, watching the same seasons of Gilmore Girls on the same TV. I was very lonely (despite living with my sister, which was lovely), and felt very poor (things cost more money in the Chi, not to mention the 10% sales tax), and spent most of my time HATING my job and wanting out, but I was entirely charmed with the concept of "city life". I felt adult, I felt adventurous, I felt young and alive. Rube alert.

I have high expectations for this year, some things I'll be verbal about and others which are too precious to be spoken aloud lest I jinx it.

Things I Hope Come To Pass In '12
-Become a manager, fo realsies
-Get out to Boston twice (once is for sissies)
-Plan the best bachelorette party in the world
-Not ruin my makeup at the Poncho Wedding Extravaganza
-Not die in an earthquake/flood/cyclone/deluge of frogs on 12/21
-My vote for Obama in November will be one for the winning side
-Buy a Jetta