Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book 4 - Little Bee

So, I know I'm a little late to this particular party, but just in case I'm not the only one.  Read this book.

I started this book Sunday night and I finished last night around midnight.  Now, I am a pretty fast reader, but 3 days is impressive, even for me.  This is the first book I've read since probably the Hunger Games that has kept me so engrossed.

Its hard to talk about this book without giving everything away.  As I tried to tell Boyfriend last night as I was bawling uncontrollably, "Its about a girl and a lady and their life and its sad."

Anyway - I loved the whole book - cover to cover, despite the crying.  Its wonderful and everyone should read it.  I am curious if Chris Cleave's first book is as good.  Also, I challenge you to read this book and not feel more aware about the world.  What's frustrating is its such a pessimistic awareness.  I don't know if that's what Mr. Cleave was going for, but I woke up this morning with an even heavy heart that usual.  Not only are all the silly minute things wrong in my life, but there is a world out there full of terrible, terrible things that I am completely powerless to stop.  So what do you do?  How do you live with this new awareness?  And how do you get over the fact that it took a novel to open your eyes - as if 26 years here wasn't enough?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Four more years

I think my love of voting stems from watching too much West Wing as a teenager, and assuming that if I voted enough times eventually Jed Bartlett would be president and Allison Janney would be my friend and everything would be perfect.

It hasn't turned out that way - but voting is still one of my most favorite things to do.  Up until this year, I voted absentee in every election, which is fun and convenient, but does not really hold a candle to actual voting.  Which is why I am probably one of the only 26-year olds who gets truly amped to head to my polling place.

And!  In the past four months I've gotten to vote in two different elections!  And they're not your run of the mill elections either, I am responsible for picking the first mayor in approximately 4 billion years who doesn't have the last name Daley.  Apparently, this is huge.  I've only been here for five years, but people say he was mayor when the only constituents were cave people, and his Dad was mayor of the Dinosaurs.  The Dinosaurs!

The last election did not turn out so great - because we apparently live in a country/state where everyone has lost their goddamed mind, or just quit cold turkey on caring about anything.  This was all fun and good in November when I could just be morose about the future, but now the future is here and I am angry.  For a million bajillion reasons, but mostly just - I am angry that people don't realize that they caused this...this funding of what's really important (NASCAR) and this refusal to fund the fluff stuff (Planned Parenthood, NEA, blah blah thing) - wait, strike that.  Reverse it.

Not voting in America is kind of like not drinking in Canada or another ex-British colony (or really anywhere in Europe).  They practically give the booze away when you're, like, a toddler, and you stick your nose up at it?  Wait, what?  Why?  There is really no reason.  "Oh, I'm not drinking because it'll take time out of my busy day of playing on facebook."  "I'm not voting because if I have one ballot I'll have to work out twice this week."

Anyway - so I'm all voted.  And I will be totally honest - I did not have time to make a fully informed and educated choice in my alderman election, which is distressing because its pretty important, but I was busy moving and knew that almost anyone would be an improvement over the current alderman.  So I voted with the person who had the funniest sign in their campaign headquarters window -

back story - there was a rash of window breaking in campaign offices back in the Fall.  I like that this guy had a sense of humor about it.  If nothing else, this ward full of gang violence, mismanagement of public funding, and disaster-crap needs a little humor - and probably more cops (also he kind of looks like Colin Firth).

I do feel like I made the best choice for mayor.  Its distressing to know that the person you're voting for has no chance of winning, but refreshing to vote for someone who has ideals that you agree wholeheartedly with (also - he's the ONLY person running who has not been or is not still a criminal - stay classy Chicago).

But none of it really matters - what matters is I did it.  Its so awesome that we live in a place where you get to vote.  And if you don't think that's true, look at the people all over the world who are fighting for that right, right now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Book 3 - A Country Called Amreeka

This was a book club book - I wasn't at the meeting where we selected it, so I had no idea what I was getting into when I started it.

image via

I felt pretty embarrassed as I read this book that I no real working knowledge of the modern day Middle East conflict.  But now I feel incredibly educated and with that education comes sadness at the overwhelming nature of it all.  But the book was an interesting read - if not necessarily written in a style that I liked. The author would build up each short story to a important historical climax and then stop.  While I understand the method - I feel like for a non-fiction book that is trying to share information, there should have been more about what happened to these characters after these big, life changing events.

Also the stories had a lot of exposition at the beginning which makes sense, as she's writing for an audience that is unfamiliar with the subject, but it made it super hard to slug through the first three pages of each story.

I recommend this solely on the fact that this is an important subject matter, and I feel that if you live in America and are not searching out to discover both sides of the story then you really have no idea what is going on. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

thank you

I've become obsessed with looking at the stats of my blogger because I am incredibly self-involved and I need mathematical proof that people are reading this crap.

Anyway - one of the things that you can discover is what people google searched that lead you to this.  Most of it is pretty obvious, but one person - one faithful person got here by searching "beautiful fijian women."

To that person I would like to say thank you - for clicking on this link, realizing your tragic mistake, and then not hate-mailing me to tell me how disappointed you were at the total and complete lack of hot fijian ladies up in this piece.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

coat crisis

On my first day living in Chicago - it hailed.  Pearl-sized snow bombs fell from the sky and I wondered if perhaps this was some sort of epic sign of what was to come.  Naturally, I ignored it - but what I did not ignore was the fact that I was in the midst of a fashion crisis.

After spending all of my years on the East Coast - I was completely unprepared for how to dress in a midwestern Winter.  Scarves as a necessary rather than trendy fashion accessory?  Uggs are not snow boots? (No, they are not).  And mostly - a real winter coat?

I've always despised coats because they're bulky and I have to not lose them and in general they indicate cold weather and miserableness.  If I have to put on a coat to go outside, I'd much rather just stay inside if its all the same to you.

When I was a kid my mom bought be a beautiful cranberry-colored full length coat from LL Bean.  And, because I was a moron, I hated it.  Because it wasn't an Adidas coat.  And you went Adidas or you were shunned by the girls in my home town.  So I avoided wearing it - prefering to be cold and miserable rather than unfashionable.  How I wish that coat still existed because I would wear it every single day. Sorry, Mom.

And so I've had these crappy coats that did the job in New York winters (including, finally, an Adidas coat did not bring me the riches, popularity and attention from boys that I had stupidly anticipated). But when I moved to Chicago - I knew something was going to have to change.

At first I really wanted a North Face, because all the girls had them.  But my Mom (who was there with me on that first day) convinced me that the red-headed stepchild Michael Kors coat was equally as cute and about $300 less expensive.  So I listened to her (finally) and got the Michael Kors coat - and it has been with me every terrible winter day since then.

So now, in the February of my fifth Chicago Winter - my beautiful coat has a malfunctioning zipper.  Its doing that super annoying thing where sometimes it works totally fine, and sometimes it starts to zip but then gives up like four inches later, and sometimes it doesn't even put on its cleats. 

This is not a real crisis in that I have a variety of totally rational options available to me - but I am sad to know that the coat that got me through my absolute worst days might not be around much longer.  Its a reminder that this is my home now.  Crappy winters and all.

Monday, February 14, 2011

in my step

I owe the universe a blog.  But I don't have one.  So instead you get this:

Saturday was the first day I've worn anything but boots outside in the past three months.  It was a little soggy, but so glorious.  Spring is coming.

From this angle you would totally think I'm a hipster, but I'm not.  I just look like one from the knees down.

Also there is something so satisfying about muddy Converse.  When they're clean it just looks like you're a poser, but if you purposely try to get them dirty then you're trying too hard.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Today is my Grandpa's 80th birthday.

For some reason I thought his birthday was February 19.  But it isn't.  It's February 9.  Its okay though.  I don't think he would have minded if I got it wrong.  Especially if I got it wrong every year.  In fact, he would probably find it funnier that I am so insistent that his birthday was the 19th, then he would be offended that his own granddaughter doesn't know his birthday.

Grandpa wasn't big for celebrating birthdays anyway.  The cakes and the presents and the singing - they were for us.  If it was up to him he would have spent every birthday alone in his truck driving down two lane alternate highway routes.  But Grandpa loved us more than he loved himself, and that was the amazing thing about him.  He was surrounded by all these women who wanted to celebrate him.  These women who worshiped him.  And so he celebrated because he loved how happy it made everyone else.

For some reason, when I imagine Grandpa and his four daughters they're all wearing swirling full-skirted dresses out of the 1800's.  I have no idea why, since they were a bunch of hippie/cowboy/beachbums but its a lovely image that I can't really get away from.

Grandpa would laugh at me for writing this blog at 11:30 at night.  He would have told me to go to bed.  He'll still be 80 tomorrow and then I'll have had a good night sleep and can celebrate him properly.  Or at least, that's what I think he would have said - thinking of my adult relationship with him is something I can't really wrap my brain around.  Its too sacred and sad to think about for too long.

I think one of the reasons I love Boyfriend as much as I do is because there are these flashes of Grandpa I see in him, this silent stoicism in the face of an overload of very noisy estrogen.  This dry humor sliced paper thin, so subtle that you almost don't notice it.  This terrible singing voice.  Naturally, this makes me Granny.  Which is a little hard to swallow, and yet - exactly right.  A love that defies the laws of just about everything. 

When I was a kid, I was pretty sure Grandpa knew all the secrets to the universe and that we were all so busy running around we never got around to asking him about it.  But even if we had, he probably would have shrugged and said, "ask your Grandmother, she knows everything."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Book 2 - Pride and Prejudice

Can you believe I've never read this?  Can you believe that this is the first Austen book I got through?

 image via

Yeah - me neither.  I picked up P&P and Emma a few times during my childhood and could never slug my way through the language long enough to enjoy the story.  But now that I am older and infinitely more patient (...maybe).  I did it.  And it was totally worth it.

This book gave me heart palpitations.

I must say - it probably did not hurt anything to have already seen the Keira Knightley-movie-version of this book.  I thought it was meh (well, I did not like Keira Knightley OR Jena Malone but everyone else was lovely). I also saw the Wishbone version back in the day, so occasionally I would imagine Darcy as a Jack Russell Terrier which was great (also that TV show was awesome and should come back because it probably gave me a more solid foundation in classical literature than any English class).  And they gave me at least the foundation to know where the story is going.  And before you ask, yes, I have the BBC version at my house.  I am waiting for a particularly vicious bout of the flu or a broken leg or something to give me an excuse to lie on my couch and watch the whole thing end to end. 

Anyway, the book!  The book!  It took me a while because it is not a good read before sleeping book - as it makes me fall asleep.  The Austenien language is nothing if not soothing and melodic, not unlike a lullaby but when I did read it, I enjoyed every moment.  And there was some squealing.  I mean, there are parts of this book that are every young girls dream (I am not going to give away what happens - because I don't want this blog to be a cheat for some punk kid not interested in reading the book and just looking for a plot synopsis.  Do your homework).

Also, I don't know if you know this, but this book was written about my maternal grandmother, Granny.  I do not think I am kidding.  I am pretty sure Granny was the mold for Mrs. Bennett (I'll let my mother and aunts fight over who gets to be Elizabeth and who is stuck being Mary).  How the crazy things that she said sounded like things that could have come from Granny - how ones behavior so eerily mimics the other.  And how desperately they are just trying to do what is right by their daughters in their own crazy head.

It helps that Mr. Bennett also resembles my grandfather.  In both spirit and daily practice.  Not everyone gets a Jane Austen book written about her beloved grandparents.  The comparison ends there - as none of my aunts/mother really embodies any of the daughters (my mother is livid right now - insisting that she does too embody the character of Lizzy.  Sorry Mom). 

Anyway - it was delightful.  And when it did get slow, I pushed through knowing that good things would happen.  I am excited to wait a few books - and then pick up the next one.

Other things I like:
-Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  Oh man.  So much crazy in such a big lady.  This is obviously the part that I would want to play.  I bet you get to wear some sweet hats.
-Descriptions of "the grounds" - I dig large houses with gardens.
-Now that I have read the whole thing I can buy things from this Etsy store without feeling like a poser.
-Dudes that brood.  Mmm.  Brooding.
image via

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


For real this time (at least until my camera ran out of batteries).


Here are the pictures I took with my super crappy cell phone (when I am going to learn that I need to use my actual camera for things??) of our snow.  I am much to lazy to go outside - but you can catch the general drift (hehehe, drift).

Out our front windows.  Some background info - we live on two fairly major streets in the some-what North part of the city.  When we first woke up they were both plowed pretty well - and then it started snowing again and I guess they gave up.

Same view - but here you can see the bus stop shelter (bottom right corner).  Last night a Ford Escape-esque Cab ran into the side wall (the skinny side) and totally shattered it.  When I walked past there was glass ALL over the sidewalk and the teenage passengers and cab driver were trying to push it out of the snow bank.  It was a total disaster and I just walked away (since I was completely frozen and very close to being home).  Now I am terrified that if there are people walking around out there they are going to slice open their feet on glass that is now buried under about a foot of snow.  I have tried calling 311 but its been busy every time (no huge surprise there).

And then I was going to take a picture of our back deck but when I opened the back door there was a surprise.  Snow INSIDE the apartment!  Not enough inside that I am going to do anything about it - but just enough inside that I am not planning to go out any time soon.  Also the entire top of the screen door is covered in snow so you can't really see much anyway.

I plan to spend the rest of my snow day inside.  Boyfriend and I are working at our wee little kitchen table that we never use because it was easier to drag close to the fire than our huge dining room table.  We're both in our jammies sipping tea and being quiet.  Just enjoying our very, very lackadaisical snow adventure.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Okay Chicago.  I am calling uncle.

I spend a lot of time giving East Coasters a hard time about being such weenies in the snow.  As if the universe hasn't been dropping dump truck loads of snow on the East Coast for the past hundreds of years.  You would think that maybe, at some point, you would buy a plow or two.

Chicago, though, Chicago defies the snow.  It laughs in the face of snow.  It plays the game, "let me tell you about yourself," with the snow.  And for the most part I agree with this philosophy (if you don't like snow, why would you live here?  And further more - why do you think you can complain about it? You knew it was coming).

But there is a time and a place for everything.  And this was the time AND the place for recognizing that you are really no match for Mother Nature.

While I do give the East Coast a ton of crap, I also have to give them credit - they cancel business.  They know that you shouldn't drive in the snow and so they will tell you not to.  And then you will drink hot cocoa and stay in your jammies - and it is quite simply glorious. 

Right now - Chicago is in the middle of a snowstorm that EVERYONE said was coming.  Everyone has been talking about it for days and I know that there have been occasions where these storms do not live up to their hype BUT when the storm has already started other places there is a pretty good chance that it is going to happen.  Like, you don't bet the house but you take into account that if you stubbornly decide to pretend like everything is fine, there is a very real chance that things are going to go poorly.

CPS - You cannot decide to cancel something an hour and a half before its going to happen.  Especially when you are the third largest school district in the country.  Why?  Because you can't call all those people that make you the third largest in an hour and a half.  So what happens is that people who shouldn't have had to go out in the first place are stuck going out because the schools are like, "I know its supposed to be canceled by the parents are expecting them to be here and we can't call all the parents and we can't pay the teachers to stay here any longer and we're paying you any way EEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeee, sorry." 

And its not just CPS - there are other schools that were like "We Are Having Programming No Matter What."  Oh - okay, so are you going to pay people for the additional 3 hours it takes them to get home?  Rules are rules, but when your rules put lives in danger - then guess what?  they're bad rules.  No two ways around it.

Today was pure awful - for the most part because I spent nearly the whole day Waiting to find out if I had a snow day tomorrow (I do - thank the thing high atop the whatever).

And there people in Chicago who are STILL saying, "Its not that bad out."

Guess what - you're wrong and you're kind of crazy.  It is that bad out. There are things flying off the roof of Wrigley Field.  There are 25 ft. waves in Lake Michigan.  YOU CAN'T SEE.  Literally - you cannot see because of the snow and the wind and your own misery blocking your view. It is that bad.

McKim: It is a blizzard.
              Stop trying to be a hero, Chicago

me:        seriously

She's pint-sized and amazing.