Tuesday, October 4, 2016

I just finished The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, who deservedly received a MacArthur Genius grant a few weeks ago, and have been thinking of its pages ever since. I enjoyed her stylistic approach to “autotheory,” as she deems it, a mix of critical theory and personal meanderings. Maggie Nelson has long given herself permission to tackle her personal life in her writing, and I find her writing to be honest, brave and sure, navel-gazing but mostly, honest and brave.

In somewhat the same vein, in light of the recent Kim K robbery, I figured I would finally admit to enjoying the Kardashians (I contain multitudes!) and coming to her defense. I'm not a material person per se – and definitely not glamorous - but if you know me, you know that I like her and her family because in choosing to do reality television, I find it gutsy that they actually keep the cameras rolling when one of them gets a call from a using husband, or when one of them confronts their partner who has come home drunk in front of the kids, or when one calls their brother to plead with him to get help (though whether or not the show perpetuates these addictions is largely up for debate). Most reality shows wouldn’t be so open about reality, I feel.

All of this is to say that I was feeling melodramatic and lazy a few weeks ago and watched some of the more intense episodes back to back and despite the Kardashian’s flashiness, I found it all a bit dark. Like Nelson though, it was refreshing to see people go beyond sharing the shinier moments of life and open up to include the hiccups, the things that come that make everything fuzzier.

I am not quite as brave to lay everything out here. Sometimes I want to. I see both the value of delving into the personal for the sake of art and also know that confessional Facebook posts pain me so I walk the line.

But anyway, in other news, a few weeks ago when everything still felt summery, I took my camera to work with me to capture a few shots of Humboldt Park, where I normally go for lunch, and I thought that I would share the snapshots here. Most days this past summer, I would do a loop around the Humboldt Park lagoon after lunch and walk by the playground where children were playing in the sprinklers. They giggled and shrieked and I would always think to myself, I'm a fairly happy person but one day I’d like to be as happy as a kid running shirtless through a sprinkler. Perhaps one day  though I think they have me beat.

Later that night, I headed to Pilsen for a work event and took my camera out again while I walked around the south side neighborhood as the sun was setting. Indulging in Pilsen’s street life, which I find to be the most vibrant in the city, I snapped a few photos as seven-year-old girls waved to me from their third floor windows, and then I stopped for a minute to talk to a señora about her impressive garden, all maintained in plastic pots, and felt very full and happy. I am a big fan of fall but summer in Chicago is going to be hard to bid farewell to.

I know I haven't written here for a while, and most likely, I will not be checking in as much since I have begun applying to graduate schools. I contemplated closing up shop, since I find that the writing I like to do tends to be fiction or longer personal essays, which are not as well suited for a blog post (also, as noted by the fact that I took these photos weeks ago and am just getting to this now, I'm not really one who loves to document my life in photos) but the practice of it all is not something I want to do away with just yet. So we'll see, my presence here is to be determined. The internet allows for a lot of freedom so I figure I might as well take advantage of it. Sometimes it's nice/necessary to give yourself permission to do whatever you please

Thursday, August 25, 2016


My lease is up in October, which means I will be leaving a house with a yard and a front stoop, both of which have become my places of solace in this city; places that offer me a quiet moment, where I can people-watch and drink a cold beer after work. I'm trying to stay optimistic while searching for a new apartment in my price range and truthfully, haven't been doing a great job of it but I think I'm finally over the process at this point. Just give me a place to live and I'll be happy!

All of these worries sound absurd in light of the video I'm posting. My friend from Honduras, Hunter, works as a videographer for the Perennial Plate and just shot a beautiful short film about a community of Mayans living in the Rocky Mountain state. Please do yourself a favor and watch it. Revel in how beautiful the internet can be as it brings you to the moment at the end of the video when the couple are dancing to the marimba in their living room and you don't know whether to feel happy or sad, grateful or nolstagic.

 returned to Honduras to photograph a fellow volunteer's wedding recently, and I haven't been able to get over the wedding album. The bride was married in the States but traveled to Honduras this summer for a second wedding ceremony with the groom's family. The whole collection of photos could be Reddit gold but since it's their day, I'm assuming they'd rather have the photos to themselves. I can't help but post one though because there's nothing, nothing in the world like a pueblo wedding.

Happy August, everyone!

Monday, August 8, 2016

I spent the past weekend in Northern Wisconsin rock climbing (or attempting to do so) and it seems that I have come back to Chicago speaking only in rock climbing metaphors. I had to scrap future plans and rearrange my life a bit these past few weeks, meaning that soon I will be living somewhere new and trying my hand at something unexpected so I’m reminding myself frequently: Must not freeze while on rock. Must jump for next hand hold. It’s possible (!) but. only. if. one. jumps.

Earlier this year I had a daydream floating in the back of my mind that I would save up enough money and apply to grants to fund an extended stay in Mexico, where I could write full time. Alas, there have been unexpected expenses and a recent grant decline that calls for me to rearrange my daydreams, putting travels on hold indefinitely. But it’s okay. I’m realizing that I can keep at it, every day, spending as much time writing as my boyfriend spends at the climbing gym, and get the same work done here in Chicago. Plus, because I like working toward improbable goals, I’ve come around and softened my stubborn, slightly skeptical view toward continued education and decided to spend my fall applying to MFAs, hoping that one day a program will have me.

So that’s mainly what’s new with me. I turned 26 last week and am off to a wedding next weekend because well, 'tis the season. In all I’ve made very little progress on my summer to-do list but I did recently make a blueberry crumble for a friend’s birthday and swam in the crystal blue lake of ours twice this July so I’m chalking it up to a win. Mainly I’m just trying to soak it all up before these humid, sweaty, impossibly sunny days leave me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

It's been over two years since I left Honduras. That year in Honduras felt long, the days so tangible but now stateside, I can’t recall how it’s already the end of July when I feel like summer just began. Ah, ni modo.

“Ni modo,” my favorite Spanish word, which means, if put politely, “Oh well, what can you do!” 

(Not so polite translation: F*** it).

I’ve been missing Honduras lately. If there’s any sense of greatness rising up in a person after volunteering for a year  no matter how much one tries to suppress it  it is all quickly swept away going through social media and seeing other volunteers now in your position with your favorite little child, experiencing a time that you thought was unique only to you. It’s humbling, and rightly so. Besides, at the end of the day I’m happy those kids still have someone to pick them up and swing them around in the field over and over again before heading in for dinner as I once did.

I listened to a podcast one night before bed this past year, and even though I can’t recall any of the details, the subject matter of the podcast or the speaker (I know, helpful!), I remember the interviewee talking about a weekend trip he had in Japan. He only spent two days there but he kept talking about how time is meaningless because he retreats to those days all of the time, reliving them years later. Similarly, I feel like I keep coming back to Honduras. In many ways I’m sure no one needs to hear much more about it but in other ways, I feel like I haven’t said anything at all.

So I’m working on a longer piece about my time in Honduras. I have a vague idea of what I’m trying to say but no idea if it will end up as a cohesive or meaningful essay. I still struggle with what tone I want my writing have. Sometimes in my desire to reflect, it feels melancholy. In my attempt to be honest about reality, it feels sad. In my desire to pace my words, I feel like I forget to say what I’m really thinking. But I’m getting closer. Closer to something intangible, to a tone that I’m trying to find or at least closer to a realization that my writing is not something that I control and an understanding that the end product will always look very different than what I had in mind.

This blog has been helpful in slowly learning to give up that control. At this point, it is not what I thought it would be but there’s something nice about saying, ni modo, and just showing up and seeing what words surface.

Anyway, in other news because I can’t post here like nothing is happening in America: I bought a stack of envelopes and stamps this past week and wrote my city council representatives in response to the police brutality being brought to light. It felt like a nominal effort, sure, but it was my first time doing so and I’m hoping to make a habit of it. This summer has been rough but as the glorious Roxane Gay says, “We have to do better than all this, 'The world is coming to an end.' The world is not coming to an end. The world is changing.” I’m a big proponent of staying hopeful but also a fervent proponent of hard work and sacrifice, being that change can never come without the two. So I’m hoping that we're all taking any time and privilege we have to do some hard work, to show up, to vote better, to volunteer, to mentor, to be active in our community, to reflect, to take breaks and care for ourselves, and then do it all over again.

Lots of love and #blacklivesmatter 100 x over.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

At nineteen, after his first year of college, my brother went backpacking with his friend one summer through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. At the end of his trip, he flew back home briefly, giving himself a few days to pack up the rest of this belongings and tell my parents that he wouldn’t be returning to school. He was instead moving to Vermont. I was 12 or 13 at the time, and remember that weekend vaguely, mostly concerned but also in awe that there was another narrative out there. One that didn’t involve going from the Chicago suburbs to the state university.

Since then my brother has stayed in Vermont, jumping from apartment to apartment as one does in their twenties. His move out east afforded him remoteness and stunning sunset drives home from work but there wasn’t always the promise of stability. Still he stayed, and now he lives in a little blue house on a ½ acre property with his wife and son. I have visited him over the years sporadically and last week I was able to head there to celebrate my nephew’s first birthday. It felt nice to unpack my bags and sleep in his spare room, wander through his backyard trails and get to know his home.

Vermont is a state made for vacation with its rolling green hills that extend in every direction and the mountains that lay stacked behind one another fading in the distance. The wide open expanses are sparsely populated, usually only by brick-and-mortar stores and worn farmhouses here and there. It’s exciting to think that with my brother’s house, this will be a place that I return to. Driving through the area, my mind gets ahead of myself, and I think of my children one day swimming in the reservoir in my brother’s backyard, experiencing a quiet safety never known in Chicago. 

I don't know why I'm disclosing all of this other than the fact that I've always liked my brother's story. Unlike him, I didn’t venture far from the suburbs. I was able to study overseas and work south of the border but I have always come back to Chicago for reasons both external and internal. For feeling like I should and feeling like I want to. I am deeply attached to the city but often I find myself online during my lunch breaks, looking at inexpensive real estate in different parts of the country. In my head, it seems there is never much silence, never much satisfaction.

When I arrived back home on the Fourth of July, the sun was setting as I rolled my suitcase past children lighting off firecrackers in the street. After a post-travel dinner of pita chips and a beer, I followed the sounds of fireworks and found a family setting off roman candles in my back alley. A few fathers were in charge of the spectacle, yelling at their kids to get back as a rocket would shoot into the air, leaving a trail of color. I watched them in the summer heat for a while, and then I walked to my friend’s apartment a few blocks away to drink wine on his porch and listen to the cacophony of sounds, the fireworks erupting in every direction. It sounded a bit like warfare but the view was one of unfettered celebration, which I think we could always use a little more of. 

Perhaps it’s because winters are long and summers so fleeting but I always wonder how I can quiet my thoughts at this time of year, forget future plans, enjoy the city around me. There's a lot to be said for the life I can live outside of work, during the two weeks I have of vacation. Considering the tragedy that can be, I sometimes struggle with how pleasant things are, wondering how I can bottle it up and save it for later. I reflect, write it down. I snap photos, trying to acknowledge not a moment but a feeling. That night I arrived home from Vermont, I tried unsuccessfully to get a shot of the children as they ran in the alley, lighting sparklers, and laughing in the humid air with their siblings and cousins and their mothers yelling at them from the yard. In one quick moment, sparks flew above their heads and with a crack, burst like a willow into the sky. 

I never ended up getting the shot but I'm happy it happened all the same.