Category Archives: Chicago

we rise and we fall

I’m wading through it, chickens.

I start and stop writing. I get angry. I get sad.

I go on unproductive rants on Twitter, which end in trolls telling me I’m a stupid hoe.

That Chicago is a terrible, unsafe place and it’s because of our liberal mayor or because we have minorities here.

I feel hopeless, about the state of all this.

I read Llama, Llama sixteen times to my kids and feel slightly better.

It’s a cycle.

Here’s the thing.

We all woke up to a terrible thing yesterday morning.

It wasn’t the first time we’ve seen a headline with an unbelievable story- a mass shooting.

It’s becoming believable. We’re becoming numb.

We’ll say pray for the victims, we’ll throw up an #{insert name of town}strong hashtag, throw some money at a GoFundMe page, and walk through the next few days in a fog.

And then we’ll start to move on, because we’re humans.

People say “we need time to grieve” and I get that, I promise that I do, but we cannot afford to lose this anger.

We let someone shoot up an elementary school and we changed nothing. We looked their parents in the eyes, and as a collective society we said hey my right to own a gun is more important that the life of your baby.

If someone said that to your face, would you accept it?

Not the moms and dads I know. They wouldn’t.

I’m working so hard on my language because Theo’s picking up on it, but luckily he can’t read yet, so what the fuck, you guys?

If you buy a gun through the secondary market in this country, you still may not need a background check.

You can own 19 guns legally, and if you’re white, and not a criminal, we’ll say hey it’s his second amendment right.

Yesterday I read that “In 36 states, there are no legal requirements for gun registration, no permit needed and no license necessary to purchase and own a firearm such as a rifle, shotgun, or handgun. Due to the lack of these regulations, as well as the ease with which many Americans can purchase guns online or at gun shows, most guns in the United States are not registered.”

I don’t think the founders of this country meant any of this when they came up with the second amendment.

The vast majority of Americans, Republican and Democrats, believe in common sense gun control. We believe in background checks (and closing the loopholes that make it legal to not get one). We believe you shouldn’t own several machine guns. We believe that if you’re severely mentally ill, we shouldn’t let you buy a gun.

But we let the NRA and the gun lobbyists control our Congress with their wallets. We let the NRA convince us that the government’s out to get us, to take away our freedom.

You know what takes away our freedom? Domestic terrorists shooting up our schools or our movie theaters or our public concert space.

Over 600 people are killed or hurt by what happened in Las Vegas.

And those are only the ones who got shot.

What about the freedom to peace of mind of all the other people who were there that night?

What about their families?

What about the first responders and the nurses and the doctors?

Don’t we all deserve the freedom to be safe in our own communities?

If your right to have a gun in your home, which is probably not going to protect you anyway, is more important to you than the right of us all to be safe, I’m going to have a hard time reconciling with you on this issue.

There was one mass shooting in Australia and the people sprung to action. The government launched a massive campaign to buy back guns from citizens. Gun regulations tightened.

You know what happened?

There hasn’t been a mass shooting in Australia since.

If we had tried everything. If we had exhausted every avenue, and still we couldn’t eradicate gun violence, I would get it. I would maybe get it.

But the truth is, collectively, we haven’t tried. We’ve thrown our hands up and called it a people problem. We’ve said you can’t regulate evil. Bill O’Reilly said that this is the price of freedom.

And if it is, chickadees, I’m not interested in this kind of freedom.

I’m trying to listen to the Cory Bookers and Chris Murphys of the world this morning. I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that social change can be slow and we can’t give up.

I promise, I’m trying not to feed the trolls on Twitter.

But I will not stop to singularly grieve. There’s not time for that, chickens. Call it aware, call it woke, call it angry, but whatever you call it, grab that feeling and use it to move forward.

Use it to demand better.

Our kids deserve better.




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Yes we (still) can

All right you guys. Tomorrow is the day that President Obama goes forward to being a private citizen (I won’t says “goes back” because I refuse to go back). Eight years ago, I was elated and proud and 24. I wrote this:

Yes We Can

Eight years later, I am the same and I am different. I’m older, obviously. I have a chronic illness that took five years to figure out how to treat (I never would have seen that coming in 2008). I have two little babies who I love more than I have ever loved anyone in my life. I have a godson and nephews and nieces who were lucky enough to be born under an Obama presidency, and I am lucky enough to have them all in my life.

I think I’m a little more realistic now. A little more even, and I move a little bit slower (figuratively and also literally).I have read more books, and learned more things.

I have Hamilton lyrics to guide me now (not even kidding, you guys).

But I also still feel dedicated to my country. To my right to free speech, and my right to healthcare. My right to choose, and the right to marry whoever you love. The right we all have to the pursuit of happiness, and I still feel angry when I think about how many Americans are refused that right.

I feel smarter about racism today than I did eight years ago. I know now that there is so much work to do, and that electing President Obama doesn’t mean racism is over.

Since the election, I’ve been head down in books like Just Mercy and The New Jim Crow. I have so much learning to do. I have more fight in me now than I did at 24, and while I have less energy than I did eight years ago, the energy I do have is deep and it’s intense in a way I didn’t know how to be in my early twenties. I was frenetic, now I’m focused.

Our children are watching us, and while I understood that before, now I have to answer to it.

So I won’t lie, my chickadees. Tomorrow for me will be hard. I will cry, I’m sure of it. I’ll look at Ellie and think about how the country elected a man who said he grabs women’s pussies, and I will feel hopeless. It will be worse when I remember that there are Americans who have convinced themselves voting for him does not mean they condone the man he is.

But chickens, in the words of a man who has proved to be full of grace and determination and goodness,

“In the unlikely story that is America there has never been anything false about hope.”

Let’s get right back to it. There is work to be done.


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getting it off my chest.

About a month ago, I came home distraught because I found out Theo was having problems being nice at daycare.

I know he’s two, but it’s so important to me that he grows up to be kind. On the flip side, it’s so hard to be sure you’re getting through to a two-year old, so I didn’t know how to approach it. I’m still learning.

So we started talking about how important it was to be nice. Maybe the most important thing. We talked about people we knew who were nice (Aunties, Uncles, Ellie, Alma- you all made the list). At some point, probably because we listen to a lot of NPR in the car, we ended up talking about how Trump was not nice. How Obama and Hillary were.

When Trump won on Tuesday night, I was relieved that at least my kids are little and I didn’t have to shoulder the heartbreaking task of explaining what had happened to my babies.

But then this morning, when I was getting ready, I thought about it some more. I thought about how smart Theo is, and how Jon and I have been talking about the election so much in the last few months and how it hasn’t stopped since Wednesday morning. He’s seen us walking around worried and nervous and angry.

Theo deserves to focus on being a kid, but he also deserves the truth. I remember wanting that as a little kid, and I know he’s practically a baby, but he’s still a human and a citizen of this world.

And as I’ve said and will continue to say, our kids are watching us.

So this morning I sunk onto the floor and pulled him into my arms, and I explained to my baby that Mommy and Daddy have been talking to him about how Trump isn’t nice, but how now Trump is going to be the President.

He furrowed his brow and looked at me hard, but he just said “Oh.”

Theo’s always been good about reading people, since he was born, and I could tell he sensed that I was struggling with this. He leaned against me, which is important to note because Boo is two and on the go and doesn’t have any moments to waste leaning against his mother while engaging in anything that doesn’t end with him getting candy.

But he did.

Then I told him that it’s still important to be nice. It’s so, so important that he be nice to everyone.

He looked at me, and he put his hand on my face, and he said “We’ll be nice, Mommy!”

And then he scampered off to play with his sister.

This is how we will do better, chickens. We will do better by teaching our kids to do better. They’re smarter than us, thank God, and they will grow up into a kinder America if we teach them that this is the right thing.

We’re just getting started, here.


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thoughts when the light seems low

Namaste, chickadees.

I’ve finally gotten a few hours of sleep, and while I am still bleary-eyed, trying to make sense of all this, I have a few thoughts.

You’ll find, if you stick around, that I always have a few thoughts.

The first thing I do after an election is think about my grandfather. He left this earth fifteen years ago, but I do not go through an election cycle without reflecting about what he would have thought or what he would have said about the outcome. My grandfather left us when I was seventeen, and so one of my greatest regrets is that we didn’t get to have the adult relationship I have with the rest of my grandparents.

But then, my grandpa always treated me like an adult. He always gave me space at the table to tell him what I thought, and he always listened to me. My grandparents always thought politics were important, and so even as a child, we sat around after dinner and we talked about what we thought was right and wrong, and that was the first place I felt it was safe to form my opinions.

So I took a walk yesterday and looked at the blue sky, and I asked him what he thought. I asked him, could he truly believe this is where we were?

I willed him to somehow communicate to me what was next.

And I felt a brief wash of calm, just for a moment.

I was taught that the way to fight for what you believe is with your words and your actions.

To say I am devastated about the outcome of Tuesday night would be an understatement.

I think my grandfather would have been devastated too.

But I think he would have told me to keep moving, that the most important thing we could do would be to pause to reflect and then jump up and take action. I think we can tell each other that those of us who choose love over hate and those of us who know how important it is to take care of each other are still all exactly where we were Tuesday morning.

We’re right here, chickens.


Tuesday, I worked the polls for 17 hours. I showed up before five that morning. I was supposed to be joined by four other judges, but instead just one Republican judge named Nathan showed up. Nathan and I had never worked the polls before, and there was a rush of humanity when they opened at 6 am.

We weren’t ready for it. We had no idea what to do, and before long, there was a line of voters in the auditorium and I started sweating.

We adjusted quickly, stretching to do four jobs between two people, making the process fluid and easy and taking care of each other. Nathan was polite to every single voter, he was helpful even when it was obvious that the vast majority of the voters in our precinct were outspokenly voting against the Republicans. He thanked every citizen who came through the door for voting and I could tell he meant it.

He didn’t flinch when I dropped the f bomb several times an hour, even though I gathered he was not the type to swear. He didn’t roll his eyes when I lectured my neighbors about how not requiring ID was a positive thing. He promised an upset 87-year-old man that he would make sure his vote counted.

He laughed at almost all of my jokes, and at the end of the night, exhausted, we found out that our ward boasted the highest turnout in the city, something that made us both visibly excited.

Election judges are supposed to wear badges with their political parties on them, but because we were slammed in the morning, we never got around to finding them or putting them on.

We served as plain old Americans instead. We were a great team. I’d want Nathan on my team again if I could choose.

Chicks, I have to believe that there are more Nathans out there to add to all of us who already believe in a civil, peaceful, loving America.

What’s next is to decide how we move forward. Can we reach deep down where it’s dark and scary and figure out a way to go on in love? It won’t be easy. Getting angry comes easier, and honestly, it’s a fair reaction. But let’s use that anger to stoke the fire of change, everyone. Let’s be the people we want our children to look up to. Let’s make this country a safer, better place to hand off to them someday.

And let’s know that the midterms are two years away. Let’s not waste any time crying when we could be volunteering or speaking or writing or donating.

Namaste, chickadees. There will be sunshine again, I promise.

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not throwing away my shot


Here’s the deal, chickadees.

I can’t check election projections any more. I’ve been checking them obsessively for days (weeks, months), and enough, already.

This campaign has been bitter and tough and violent and not our best foot forward.

I’m older than I was on the eve of electing Barack Obama, a great man I feel proud to call my President.

I was 24 and I cared so much about our country then, but in a different way than I do now.

Now I care about that country in a deeply personal way because there are beautiful little people who I am responsible for turning over this nation to one day and I’d like them to think I made it a better place.

I may be a little more cynical than I was 8 years ago. I might heave my shoulders more often and sigh, and worry that this is how people are.

That people truly think that there are American citizens who count less than they do.

But then I lift up my head. And I look around, and I realize I’m surrounded by people who don’t think that.

I’m surrounded by people who know it’s important that we don’t act like demeaning women is acceptable “locker room talk.” That we recognize that making fun of people with disabilities makes you a straight up asshole. That your kids deserve the same education that my kids deserve, because these kids are all our kids.

And they’re going to do great things.

I cannot be cynical, because to be cynical is to be defeated. I’m working the polls tomorrow, and I’ll do it with a smile on my face because I truly believe that I am lucky to be an American.

I think a lot about something Cory Booker wrote (well, something his dad said and he wrote about):

“Boy, don’t you dare walk around this house like you hit a triple, when you were born on third base!”

Like Senator Booker, I feel like I was born on third base. It has nothing to do with what I deserve or how hard I’ve worked, it was sheer dumb luck and I am thankful for it every single day but it’s only luck.

And my fellow citizens who didn’t get so lucky are just as deserving at the same shot I received.

So I voted for the candidate who I think believes that too. Who is going to work to give us all a better shot.

I think she’ll do great.

We will still be divided on Wednesday, even if the election is over.

That’s something I learned over the past eight years, and it’s also okay. My hope is that we recognize this time that our success hinges on our ability to move forward, and not to be stuck in some past version of America where it was acceptable to divide our worth up based on how we looked or where we came from.

I hope you vote, because your voice is silent without it.

America is beautiful, chickens. Even when it’s scary or turbulent or not as we want it to be, it’s ours, and it’s an experiment like this world has never seen before. And there’s no one else I’d rather belong to.



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Someday is today

Dear Chicago,

You’re not technically my hometown. I was born in New Haven, and I consider myself a true, blue New Englander. I’m a little too suspicious and not quite friendly enough to be an authentic Midwesterner, but fourteen years later, I’m working on it.

I moved to the city in the fall of 2002, fresh off of three years in rural Michigan, a place I never quite fit in (but where I met the most important piece of my life story, and so it was worth it). I stumbled a little in the big city, and found friends who helped me understand I shouldn’t forget to lock my doors and that you had to keep your head up in a town of three million people. I slid into place after a few months and remember thinking, this is it. 

This is home.

Four years later after graduating, I had a friend who couldn’t believe I wasn’t “going home.”

I smiled to myself, because I knew that I was home.

I cheered for the Cubs starting my freshman year of college, at first because a boy I liked loved the Cubs, and then because I loved the Cubs. I named a plant in my dorm room Kenny Lofton (I’m weird, I know) and went down to Wrigley when I was nineteen, the night of Bartman, when we were thisclose to finally getting to the World Series. I ran out of there late in the game after some angry fans hauled a giant fake Marlin up above their heads and started chanting “Fuck the Fish.”

We’re passionate, as Cubs fans.

I’ve been to Wrigley a gazillion times, with my best friends and my classmates. With my husband and my parents. Most importantly, with my baby Theo at his first game this year.

Chicago is where I went to college. It’s where I met my best friends, and where I got my first job and my first apartment. It’s where my long distance boyfriend turned into my roommate, and my fiance, and my husband, and now the father of my babies.

And always, always the guy watching the game with me.

Baseball has always been a thread running through my life in Chicago, and like everything else, its had its ups and downs, its highs and lows.

We’ll stick with you, through it all, because we’re Cubs fans, and because this is our city, and because we have a deep love for both the team and our home, even when it’s bitter.

But man, it is surreal when it feels so sweet.

So thanks Chicago, for teaching me everything I know. Thanks for showing me that if you work hard and hang in and keep the faith, it.will.happen.

That someday will become today.





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here to greet it.

Morning, chickadees.

I’ve been pretty busy, trying to beat back a cold that won’t end, waking up a couple of times a night to feed my little girl, and fighting fake fires with my toddler.

I’ve been trying to focus on the good parts of the world.

Because, despite the endless swirl of the spin that appears to be dragging us all down, there’s a lot of good in the world.

Like, the Cubs are still in the World Series.

And my babies are dressed up in adorable costumes today.

And the sun rose this morning and we’re all here to greet it.

This election is going to be over in a week, everyone, either way.

I’m a student of history, chicks. I read it as fast and as much I can, especially lately, because there’s comfort to me in the fact that this isn’t the first time we’ve been in a panic. It hasn’t been the first time that violent rhetoric has threatened our democracy.

And we’re still standing.

As Joe Biden would say, “C’mon, we’re America!”

To me, this election cycle has shocked me into a clarity about the fact that there are more people who do not care about their fellow man than I thought there were. That they’ve been waiting on the edge for someone to tell them it was okay to say out loud that the poor, the weak, the different, they don’t matter as much or at all.

And at first that made me upset, because I didn’t want to believe they were out there in large numbers. But now, I think, it makes me relieved, because I want you where I can see you.

I don’t want to laugh nervously and change the subject the next time you say something racist or sexist or just kind of shitty about one of the people I share our country with- I want to say, I see you, and what you said is not okay, and I’m not going to be quiet about it, because you said it about my brother or my sister. I don’t care where you were brought up or how old you are or what kind of religious beliefs you have, the most basic tenant of coexistence is that we just be nice to each other, you guys.

My mom taught me that.

I hope your mom did too.

Theo and I have been talking a lot about how important it is to be nice. About how it’s not always easy, but it’s always important. I want my kids to grow up to be kind. That would be enough.

And so my suggestion (to myself too, because this is hard for all of us) for the next eight days is that we just try to be nice to each other.

Also, vote, everyone. Vote because this election matters so much to so many people. It will say something about how we feel about each other as humans.

This will be over and in our rear view mirror in a little more than a week, and I promise you, chickens, we will be ready to face it either way because we are America, and we haven’t always been right or perfect, but we have always been tough.



Filed under Chicago, Politics

five good things: even though it’s monday edition

Morning, chickadees! It was a beautiful, beautiful weekend that went really way too fast, and I’m still buzzing off the fumes, so I refuse to let Monday get me down. Here are some good things to get us through the day:

  1. I’m no longer illiterate. Whew. I was a little worried about it, but I finished The Nest last week which was the perfect New York-y story to get me back into the pages of books. Now I’m reading The Glass Castlewhich I never read when it came out, and man, it’s a fucked up memoir, but it’s also fast moving and interesting and great train fare. I’m back at it, and I’m so glad.
  2. Monday means a new Presidential podcast, and we’re already up to LBJ.  Since I know this podcast has an ending that’s coming fast and furiously, I’ve been binge listening to the Moth, which my coworkers at SB told me to listen to a million times, and I never listened because I’m the worst. I’m listening now, and I’m hooked, because who doesn’t love a good story?
  3.  This weekend was baby-heavy, just the way I like it. I got to meet sweet little George, my friend A’s baby, and even though my own baby isn’t even four months old yet, she seems like a full-grown adult when compared to that cuddly, sleepy, handsome guy I got to hang out with on Saturday afternoon. I swooned.

    Also this weekend, my newest niece (we don’t share blood, but I share important life stories with her mom & dad, and so it counts just the same) Helen Grace was born. Helen is beautiful and being a parent looks so good on my friends M&M that I can barely stand it. Let it be known that this season of life seems impossibly hard sometimes chickens, but it’s also impossibly sweet and that is important to remember in the middle of the night when the baby wakes up.

  4. JW and I celebrated our anniversary by eating the best pot stickers we’ve ever, ever had at Fat Rice and trying to play high/low with our marriage. Here’s the bottom line: we came up with a lot more highs than lows, and we like our life even better now than we did when we started.
  5. This weekend we had our wedding photographer Calynn take family photos of us downtown. We loved her when she captured our wedding, and we love that she got to capture our whole family. Also, we got to celebrate the photo shoot being over by eating gyros and french fries in Greektown, and so overall, it was a win.

And with that chicks, let this week begin. Bonus good thing: Chicago’s weather is done scorching us, and it looks like summer might bow to autumn, finally. Enjoy the sunshine if you’ve got it!

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You are the best thing.

You guys, tomorrow JW and I have been married for five years.

And we’ve been a couple for ten years, almost.

And we’ve known each other for 18 years, in the spring.

All of those things are important chickadees, and they’re all worth celebrating.

In five years of marriage, so many things have changed and also, thankfully, a lot has stayed the same.

We still love sushi. And football. And Chicago.

And each other. Like, a lot.

JW still makes me laugh the most, and I still love the look on his face when I’ve managed to do something just a little crazier, this time.

He’s a good friend, a great husband, and the best dad. Like, when Theo wakes up in the middle of the night and cries, “I want my Daddy,” I want to be like, yeah, get in line, so does everybody else.

I’m pretty lucky he’s the guy who carries the heavy stuff and opens the windows in my life.

Literally and figuratively, in case you were wondering.

In five years, we’ve gotten some serious shit done, good and bad.

We’ve finished MBAs (well Jon has, I’ve just been along for the ride), and lost people we loved. We’ve battled through my unexpected RA (which is now blissfully controlled), found new jobs, purchased a home and a car, run a lot of races, and made people we love.

We’ve fought about silly things and important things, because that’s part of being in a great partnership.

We’ve got each other to show for it, and of course, we’ve got this, too.


Happy anniversary, JW, and thanks for being the best thing, always.

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Into it.

Morning, chickens!

I’m a couple weeks into it now, and I’m you know, getting after it.

My greatest accomplishment every day is getting my kids safely and on-time (ish) to daycare every day, where A does magical things like teach Boo what Saturn is and get Ellie on a schedule after only two days.

If ever there was a woman with a calling, it is her.

Meanwhile, I’m fumbling around trying to figure out how to get through all the Mom-ing and the working and trying to have one conversation with JW a day that doesn’t involve Fireman Sam, but it is still a funny, beautiful stage of life and I don’t mind too much that my little baby likes to eat four times a night when I would like to be sleeping.

Last night, JW and I had a conversation (not about Fireman Sam!) about the corner desk in our living room that we’re thinking of moving because the expensive, unnecessary computer that we bought when we were 24 and couldn’t afford it is broken.

I’m glad we’re moving it before Christmas, I said. Because we would have had a fight over where to put the Christmas tree, since the desk is in its spot.

Jon looked at me, puzzled, which unfortunately is the way I think he’s gotten used to sizing up his wife’s next move, but I can’t help it.

The fight would have gone like this. I would have said, where should I put the Christmas tree, and you would have said, Nik, I don’t know, the desk is there. I then would have looked at you and said, well we need to put up the Christmas tree, and you would have said, I don’t know what you want me to do. And then I would have just looked at you.

By this point he was at least laughing.

Then you would have moved the desk. But I’m glad we get to avoid that fight.

It’s the little things you guys.

Also up this week: Cubs, Cubs Cubs! (Sorry, Bears, I just can’t right now), wondering if it’s ever going to cool down into fall weather (and knowing I’ll regret wishing it so when it finally does) and giving up on all my current library books, returning them, and starting over with The NestBabies do me a lot of good, chicks, but they also make me momentarily illiterate and I’m over it. I’ll report back, and sorry, pile of books that never got read this summer. It’s not you, it’s me (it’s Ellie).


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