Life in General, Writing

The Scariest Thing of All

Today is Halloween; a day filled with tricks and treats and scary things.

For some, that might mean ghosts and goblins and a house handing out raisins instead of candy.

For others, that may mean having to go to work all day then soldiering the kids around the neighborhood for trick-or-treating until curfew.

For me, it means my beloved Chicago Cubs hanging onto their World Series run heading into Game 6 in Cleveland tomorrow (#GoCubsGo!).

Oh, and that tomorrow also begins NaNoWriMo and, despite having been abroad for the better part of October, I’ve decided to participate.

I tried to do NaNoWriMo a few years ago, in 2014. I know that it’s never the perfect time to write, but that year was more than not a good time: I had recently moved from the city to the suburbs and started a new, full-time job. I did a few days’ worth of writing before completely falling off the wagon.

That novel I started in 2014? That idea still lingers and, while I have those couple hundred errant words from my NaNo past, I plan to forget they exist and begin anew this November, hopefully writing the prescribed 1667 words a day until my little idea is a shitty first draft.

I’m not totally unprepared. I did an outline earlier this month (with a small push from a writing friend I’ve begun meeting with to check each others’ progress) and so while I won’t be completely pantsing… it sure feels like it.

And that’s scary.

But writing is scary. Life is scary. You win some, you lose some, you come back from being down 3-1 to win it all in some…

But you don’t know until you try. And try as I might, 2016 has been one heck of a year for me so far (I got a new job, got married, traveled abroad twice, moved back to Chicago, cheered my Cubs all the way to the World Series…). Could it also, somehow, be the year I finish the first draft of my long sought after manuscript, too?

It’s the scariest thing of all, embarking on a journey whose ending you’re unsure of… but most things worth doing are scary.

So let’s do this.

Life in General

Sticking Around

A few weeks ago, I found myself in California for a wedding on my husband’s side of the family. As luck should have it, a few of my dear friends from college live in the exact town I would be in (San Diego) and we promptly planned a night out over my extended weekend.

While at dinner with my politically like-minded friends, I declared that, should a certain presidential candidate win, I would be moving to wherever in Europe would have me and would they like to join my colony of expats?

“No!” one of them announced automatically. Seeing the question mark on her dinner companions’ faces, she elaborated, “It would probably be awful here, but you can’t just leave when things don’t go the way you’re hoping. You have to stick around and work to make it better.”

Having just entered one of the biggest and likely longest commitments of my life in April (I got married), I get the concept of sticking around through the good and the bad. I can easily imagine spending my life and all the ups and downs in it with my husband, but my passionate and (overly?) opinionated self had left the comfort of my marriage for a night out and had failed (spectacularly, perhaps) in applying that type of fortitude to all aspects of my life.

Sticking around, I think, upon further reflection, could be just what I need.

I’ve done it before:
When I hit bumps in my training (think injury and illness), I stuck around and completed the 2014 Chicago Marathon, which will be one of my life’s greatest achievements. When I felt like no library would have me, I stuck around the job market and application process and finally found peace in my profession. I transitioned seamlessly from supporting Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton when I stuck around the Democratic party after the primaries.

And I’ll do it again:
I’ll stick around my country, America, no matter which candidate wins the Presidential election this November. I’ll stick around the professional sports I Love, namely the NFL (Bears) and MLB (Cubs) despite their problematic treatment of peaceful protest and violence against women. And I’ll stick around this blog and writing in general, even when I don’t write as often or as well as I’d like.

Because, like my friend said, I don’t want to just abandon the things that aren’t working for me just because they aren’t working.
I want to stick around and work hard and make them right. I want to stick around and make them better.

So stick around, won’t you?

Life in General, Reading

Failing Spectacularly

This past weekend, I participated in the 24 in 48 Readathon: I joined legions of readers and we all challenged ourselves to read 24 out of the 48 hours of the weekend.

Spending half of the weekend reading sounds like heaven.

And also like a lot of work.

Let me tell you, I had a LOT on my plate this weekend. Wedding showers and birthday parties to attend. Errands to run. Dogs to walk….

But, like I discussed last week, there is no perfect time to sit down and get to it, whether it’s reading for a certain amount of time or writing every day or finally sending the wedding thank you notes (note to self: DO THAT SOON). And so, when I heard about the 24 in 48 Challenge, I knew I would try it before even consulting my agenda.

And I failed spectacularly. I barely read 6 hours, let alone the namesake goal of 24.

But, like after most spectacular fails, I discovered something. It wasn’t a lack of time that derailed me from hitting that goal. It was a lack of endurance. I haven’t held myself to dedicated reading time in my real life for quite a while, and this fail opened the curtain on that fact and allows me to decide if and how I want to deal with it.

(Oh, I’m definitely going to deal with it…)

Like most things in life, it wasn’t whether I won or lost this challenge that mattered, it was that I showed up to begin with and learned something through the process. Because really, showing up is half the battle of getting to where you want to go, and learning is the entire battle when you find yourself falling short.

And even when you achieve your goals? Well, life keeps moving right along and all that showing up and lesson learning will hopefully come into play then because, as a really cool Nike t-shirt reminded me: there is no finish line.

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via shop.nordstrom.com

So the lesson here, as it usually is, is this: whether or not you’re prepared, show up to your goals. It’s the only way to learn how to proceed, how to eventually succeed, and what to do after success is yours.

And in this crazy book writing business, I hear the knock downs make the final stretch all that much sweeter.

Life in General, Writing

Settling In

What visions of grandeur I have when planning my perfect writer life.

I will wake up with my husband (so early, he rises), we will walk the dog together, and then I will make us coffee while he gets ready for work. As the door closes on his departure, my laptop will open and my productivity will arrive. And then, I will write. And then feed the dog. And then write. And then walk the dog. And then write and write and write until lunch. I will walk the dog again, and then I will read (or perhaps edit another project) until dinner. Then, I will have family time with my dog and husband for the rest of the night.

Wouldn’t it be nice?

Having just gotten married and moved from the suburbs to the city -not to mention having an actual brick-and-mortar job I have to show up to every few days- I have far too many affairs to settle to fall into this routine. I have last names to change! Thank you cards to order, write, and send! Boxes to unpack! Closets to organize! Essentials (like.. a desk) to purchase! Books to read, review, and recommend! Storytimes to lead! I mean, I should wait until I have less on my plate, right?

Except that, if I wait for the perfect time, for fewer obligations to fill the space between sunup and sundown, I will be waiting my entire life to begin. And I am far more of an Alexander Hamilton than an Aaron Burr, sir. If you are not familiar with the story of Alexander Hamilton (or the Broadway musical I am currently obsessed with), that means that I would rather “write day and night like it’s going out of style” than “wait for it.”

And write I have. Inspired with a picture book idea, I flew through a first draft that was clunky, too long, and not at all what I wanted… but it was a huge learning experience. That first draft turned into a second draft that dealt with the plot issues I saw, but was still as just as long and twice as bulky. A third draft (currently in edits) focuses on killing my darlings, paring down unnecessary words and exposition into something that might actually seem like a picture book instead of a novella for preschoolers.

Here’s the catch. I always knew that it was better to write -no matter what else I had going on in my life- than to not write. But, for the first time that was not perfectly convenience for writing, I acted on it. And now, when people ask how my writing is going (and oh, do people ask how my writing is going…), I can’t describe how great it feels to tell them about my progress instead of saying “Oh, well, you know… it’s going…”

So here’s to settling in. Not into to a lifestyle that’s comfortable to write in, but into a dedication to writing even when it’s not comfortable.

And I guess that goes for wedding thank you notes, too…

Life in General

Pulsing with Pride

IMG_5590When I moved to Chicago in 2012, my roommate (and more recently, the Maid of Honor in my wedding) and I settled on an apartment on the North side of the city. Barely a block from the Addison Red Line Station, my means of transportation to my (non-librarian) job in the Loop, our apartment was situated smack dab between Halsted Street and Sheffield Avenue.

If you’re somewhat familiar with the Chicago Cubs, Addison and Sheffield might ring a bell: they are two of the streets that border the Cubs’ home, Wrigley Field (the other two streets being Waveland and Clark). That was a huge reason for our move to this particular location: we were very excited to be part of the sights and sounds of Wrigleyville. We could literally hear game days and concerts from our bedroom windows; it was a dream come true for a girl who bleeds Cubbie blue.

Little did I know that, between Sheffield and Halsted, despite my deep love for Cubs baseball, it was the latter of those two streets that would win my heart. As it turned out, another neighborhood lay to the East of Wrigleyville, one I didn’t know existed until I lived in it: Halsted is the epicenter of Chicago’s gay community and the main drag of Chicago’s Boystown or, as it is oft affectionately called, the “gayborhood.”

Looking for lunch one day, my roommate and I wandered East from our humble abode and stumbled into a rainbow-plastered wonderland of flashy drag shows, quaintly decorated bakeries, cleverly named sex shops, and lunch-special alcoholic slushies. Despite our being straight in every sense of the word, this neighborhood and its residents welcomed us with open arms at all times of the day and night without question and without reservation. The pocket of time during which I first explored Halsted Street and Boystown will forever remain one of the best of my life.

It is during that time, in fact, at a special bar in Boystown where I started talking to the man who would become my husband. And as much as I owe my relationship and my future to this place, I understand so gravely the irony of that situation.

Looking back, it struck me dumb how a community of people discriminated so heavily against were so quick to turn around and do the exact opposite. These people, this community, they know who they are, they love it, and they are delighted to share it with you. Life in your early 20s is about finding yourself, and part of that is finding the type of people you want to emulate. I was lucky enough, at the age of 23, to find them. I wanted to emulate this community’s openness, tenacity, and, to use the perfect word, pride. In return, I make it a point to be their advocate and to share heartily in their joys and their woes.

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Perhaps it goes without saying, but the events of Pride quickly became mainstays in my city life. To this day I look forward to that week of June beginning with Pride Fest and ending with the Pride Parade; events that still take place just blocks from where I live. Although Boystown (like many neighborhoods in cities around the country) is more or less a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, I understand why Pride is so important: it is a time when all people in this community can celebrate themselves despite what the rest of the world might think.

FullSizeRender copyAnd what the world thinks is still changing so drastically. Last year, I found myself in San Francisco for the Pride Parade and joyously celebrated marriage equality in what is arguably the most thriving gay community in the nation. This year, just two weeks after a woeful massacre at a gay Orlando nightclub, the deadliest mass shooting in the United States to date, I celebrated the same enduring strength that won me over and continues astonish and inspire me.

And so this post is my way of saying thank you to this community, and openly celebrating them in a shadow of what they truly deserve; to share with them and with others my unabashed admiration of their gumption; to shine light on the long road they have already travelled, and to show what a long road still lay ahead. Perhaps the way the way I have been inspired can inspire others to advocate for this community and accept it as they themselves accept all. Because they deserve love, they deserve respect, they deserve community, and they deserve pride -not just one week in June, but every damn day.

So please, whatever you identify as, do your best to celebrate everyone and who they are -with pride- every damn day. Who knows: it might just become the norm. And how special would that be?

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