Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"I am from Honduras. I lived in Honduras for 14 years. There was a time when we could go out in the neighborhood and play soccer all night long. The country itself is incredibly beautiful, and the people can be beautiful in so many ways. I used to sit outside with my grandparents in the evening. We would drink coffee and share with anyone who walked by. We would talk to strangers and friends and really just have a great time. It saddens me that this happens, for so much hate and violence to run freely on the streets. I do not understand how someone can torture and kill a 13-year-old. It really brings me down. Perhaps out of denial, I still have hope for the country and believe that not everyone is evil. I have nothing but love for the people down there. They are just lost and could seriously use less hate and judgement. Not everyone is bad. I guess I just want it to go back to its good days. Not really sure where you Redditors stand... but for me, my heart, tears, soul, prayers go to my country. For peace to return. For love to go back. I mean I've never had so much fun and felt so much love than the nights we would play soccer with a soccer ball made out of socks."

- Poetry from a Redditor

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ugh. This March weather has mirrored my life these past weeks: glorious rays of sunshine in between weeks of bitter winds and snowfall that at this point, just makes you want stomp your feet and throw a little tantrum. I've never expected anything else of March, or I guess of life either, but it's just been a bit up and down lately.

But about those rays of sunshine. A seventy degree day the other week reminded me that it's almost spring (I know technically it already is but I just don't buy it), which means I have the blossoming of trees and opening of windows to look forward to. Also, I can't stop gushing over this photo that came up on Twitter last week. Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, the organization where I worked last year, brought in a group of kiddos from their Guatemalan home to Chicago for a fundraising tour. The group just so happened to visit while Guatemalan megastar Ricardo Arjona was touring the U.S. and playing a sold out show at the Allstate Arena. NPH surprised the kids with tickets and talked to Ricardo Arjona's entourage, who then ended up inviting the kids to move up to the front row for the show and head back stage afterwards, where someone then snapped this glorious photo. It seriously melts my heart.

Other than that though, it's hard to figure out what to divulge here. I have no desire to say anything too personal but at the same time want to shout out to the interwebs that I've discovered the DivaCup this week and feel like my life has been changed (I mean, talk about personal). No more Walgreens runs! An eco-friendly solution! So much money to be saved! I wish I could find an environmentally sound shampoo and conditioner that did the trick as well but alas, I think I'll have to stick my Pantene Pro-V for now. It's strange though because these are not the true trials and tribulations of my life; I guess just the ones I wish to write about here. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

In February, I find the black hole of the internet particularly alluring. Sometimes I think I could do away with the constant scrolling and clicking all together but other times, I stumble upon some actual meaningful content. 

There are many articles that have stayed with me recently (The Shame of America’s Family Detention Camps by Wils S. Hylton, The Disappeared by John Gibler, What Can a Pregnant Photojournalist Cover? Everything. by Lynsey Addario, the late David Carr’s syllabus for his BU journalism class that was recently published) but sometimes I just have to stop reading. Stop taking in so much information. And when that happens, I open up Spotify and listen to Chance the Rapper or Jessica Pratt or Ana Tijoux. But I also – and this is what I really want to highlight – listen to NPR’s Alt. Latino.

I’ve said it in this space before and I’ll say it again, I love salsa. The upstairs neighbors probably wonder why a white girl blasts so much Latin music in the dead of winter but unfortunately that's because I don’t think salsa is on many peoples radars, which is why I beg my friends to listen to just one episode of Alt. Latino in between their This American Life rotation. John Leguizamo’s guest DJ spot is a phenomenal place to start and confirms that the best way to explore current events, at times inadvertently, is through music. Ernesto Lechner’s episode features the classic - and my favorite - Latin genres: salsa, cumbia, samba and a little reggaeton. Of course, Junot Diaz’s picks for his playlist are spot on; so is his comment that it’s good to listen to music in a language you don’t understand. A lot of people do it. (Although, Americans, sadly not so much.)

That being said, I realize the randomness of my internet wanderings whenever I see the videos that Youtube suggests for me. Next to videos of street salsa and Daddy Yankee, I have recommendations for interviews with Zadie Smith and David Foster Wallace. I admit, I did recently binge watch various conversations with the Nigerean author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. Her Beyonce-sampled “We Should All Be Feminists” is superb but I was doubly struck by the “Danger of a Single Story”. I might be late to the party, but it sums up everything that first hit me about life in Honduras. The news reports about the country are both true and yet leave out so much. The horror stories that solo habla de miedo, as a friend of mine said, are not the only stories that warrant being told, just like music in English is not the only music that deserves a listen.

There are so many voices out there, and I find that the most important stories I hear are from people I meet on dance floors, on buses, at dinner tables, anywhere away from the internet. But then again, the internet leads me to some gems. And every so often, when I find them, I'll be sure to let you know.

Pictured above: my old home back when I lived without internet access

Saturday, January 31, 2015

I've been thinking a lot about boredom lately. About how to enjoy it. How to acquire the right amount of it. How some people avoid it, which I think is fine if creativity is not a priority. Looking around, it's apparent that smart phones are keeping the general population from ever feeling bored but for me, the city is a bigger temptress. Some days I think I would be much more at home somewhere smaller, with less noise and more open land. A place more conducive for moments of boredom. 

At the same time, I'm living in Chicago and so I might as well indulge in citylike things like free improv shows and dance classes and live music while I can. But with all of this, along with get togethers with friends, along with working full time, along with listening to podcasts, a pile of New Yorkers on my desk, a library nearby, and the desire to at some point sit down and write this blog (among other things), I'm never actually bored.

Last weekend, I visited my friend in St. Louis and she told me something that stuck with me. She said that living alone for the first time in her life, she feels a lot like she did in high school. It reminded her of her days spent hanging out with herself, alone in her bedroom, enveloped in books, music, and self-contemplation. Sometimes you're bored and antsy, but sometimes its also nice.

I suppose that's why reading has always been a constant in my life. Even though I read for the stories, I also read for those moments when I start to think of something else, put the book down, and follow my train of thought to wherever it leads. That's always been the best part about it. Reading so often lends itself to mind wandering.

I know I also wrote about how I'm happier these days to be doing, acting on my musings than daydreaming, and I stand by that but I guess I'm still trying to keep the city at bay when I can. Being a twenty-something single person, I have more time on my hands than I'm used to and rather than filling my schedule up, I'm trying to spend days doing little else but wandering to a new neighborhood with a library book and a journal, indulging in free time while I still have it, and realizing as Greg McKeown puts it, the joys of missing out.

Pictured above: the Chicago Public Library, some overpriced plants in St. Louis, and a Pilsen avenue

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I know making goals on an arbitrary day of the year isn't for everyone but I kind of love it. This year I'm hoping to read more (because I haven't as much since the move) and get a second job (because I'm loca). 

We'll see how it goes. Happy New Year to you!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So for lack of having any new photos to share, I've adorned this post with a little something I snapped at a work Christmas party.

I don't know how successful I'll be at this whole blogging venture considering that I'm deathly embarrassed of taking a photograph of my tea and book in public (as bloggers do). I don't want to be that girl. But I am that girl, so much so, writing alone in a coffee shop. But at least I'm writing in my day planner because interestingly enough, I didn't plan ahead and plus, it looks more inconspicuous that way.

This irrational embarrassment is an innate and deeply embedded part of my personality, although most people may not know that about me because I'm too embarrassed to admit it. Most facets of my personality and most of what I like to do and pursue are humbly never brought up because I guess I'm just too private. Or self-concious, I can never tell.

Somehow I stomached putting my writing out into the world in college. I published my amateur musings, my giving-it-a-go fiction with scenes of casual sex and references to tripping on mushrooms. There was more to it than that but I just didn't know if, when published, people like my grandfather would understand and see something beyond the occasional profanity.

My grandfather was a writer and an editor of a major newspaper for 16 years so I suppose he had seen it all. He sent me a letter in college, saying, "The first time I read your stories, I thought they were quite sad but in second reading, they seemed much more." I put the letter away and although the sentiment was as much as I could hope for, it made me feel far too vulnerable. I retreated after I published a collection of short stories, only to come out now, writing in the pretend obscurity of the internet.

I am saying all of this because I'm reading Meghan Daum's new collection of essays "The Unspeakable" and I suppose it makes me want to confess my own unspeakables. I'm reading the book in hardcover, by the way, with sage and mint tea, which would be a nice little snapshot if only I had taken a photo.

I had originally planned to write about my Mom's old Christmas letters that I read through on Christmas Eve. My grandfather devoted his life to writing and my mother, come Christmas time, showed that she had it in her too. In a fashion I can't help but think Meghan Daum would approve of, my mother bypassed the tendency to turn the Christmas letter into a year-in-review of all the accolades one's perfectly mannered children had received. Instead it was a time to be honest about what life with four children was like:

When sick on Christmas -- "I'm sitting here surrounded by kleenex, thermometers, cough syrup and children. Nothing says 'It's the holidays' quite like a refrigerator full of amoxicillan."

When moving into a new house -- "May 30 - Put old house on market. "For sale by owner". June 13 -- Hire realtor. August 30 -- Children start school. Melissa tells new teacher that her family has nowhere to live and dissolves into tears."

When reflecting on being a stay-at-home mother -- "[My husband] continues to spend his free time fixing things we break during the week. And I find myself still enjoying being at home with the kids. There are THOSE days but then at least I get to keep up with All My Children. I'm room mother at school (you know those Catholics, all they do is bake and donate) and am learning to play bridge. The scary part is I'm having fun."

It seems honesty is so very well received when it's also funny, as my mother and Daum is. I'm not, which makes my writing a tad sad, as my grandfather puts it. But if I'm to be honest, hilarity is just not where I excel. Who knows where I do but I suppose that's for this space to explore. Sometimes a little pretend obscurity is all you need.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

In many ways, Thanksgiving this year was the same as years past. The same aunts and uncles, the same plate of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, the same suburban reunions. But two of my siblings couldn't make the dinner this year so it was bit quieter than most and with the quietness came extended to time to think (and read) about Ferguson and Ayotzinapa, two tragedies in places that hit close to home.

The loss of life is haunting. And what's even worse is that the loss of Michael Brown and forty three young students represent systematic violence that oppresses a race and a country everyday. So it seems this year, I'm thankful for those that have taken to the streets. Those that have started a conversation that's long overdue.

Pictured above: a snowy mountain peak in Vermont (because Chicago looks too grey and dismal right now for a photo)