Dec 212016
 

A few weeks ago, my family and I were at the Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago) to view the Christmas Around the World exhibit. The Christmas trees are decorated by volunteers and “represent holiday traditions from cultures around the globe.” They are quite beautiful and something you really need to see with your own eyes to believe. The amount of work that goes into decorating each one of these Christmas trees is quite remarkable.

While walking through the museum, we also stumbled across an exhibit called, The Art of the Bicycle. This exhibit examines the history of the bicycle and pays close attention to its design elements, which were meticulously folded into the construction and practicality of the bicycle over the years. This exhibit was equal parts fascinating and whimsical.

Check out my photos below for more:

If you’re in the Chicagoland area, I highly recommend taking a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry to check out the Art of the Bicycle exhibit. Happy Holiday’s everybody!

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Nov 062014
 

I just had a piece published by Chicago Literary Map.

If you haven’t heard of Chicago Literary Map, you should check it out. Here’s what it’s all about:

“Beyond the bright lights and cityscapes, stories unfold. Some are true, others are fiction, showing you a side of the city that often goes untold. Chicago Literary Map is charting the text and putting it in the palm of your literary-loving hand.

Navigate Chicago on a new level, guided by the voices who have been, where updates bring new vignettes from around the city.”

Rad, huh?

Please check out my piece called Ohio Street.

If you’d like to more about the creator of CLM, Stephanie Plenner, please follow her on Twitter: @splenner. You can also follow Chicago Literary Map here: @literarymap.

Your turn. What was it like where you grew up in Chicago?

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Feb 232014
 

If you’ve tuned into the news lately, you’re aware that the weather in the Midwest and beyond has been intense. It’s been snowy to say the least, but we’re tough. We can handle it. Except when people get stuck in the alleys. That’s where we draw the line.

A few weeks ago on Saturday morning, I was awakened by the sound of spinning wheels. I looked out and saw a truck stuck in the snow. The alley hadn’t been plowed and I wasn’t sure it would. Alleys aren’t top priority in Chicago after a snowstorm.

The driver kept hitting the gas. The wheels spun. This went on for an hour and a half.

If you’ve ever been awakened by somebody stuck in the snow before drinking your first cup of coffee in the morning then you know how blow-out-your-brains inducing this can be. Think I’m exaggerating? Watch for yourself:

Imagine hearing this for an hour and a half.

Just as I was about to go out and bring the driver a shovel, I saw my neighbor trying to help. Strange thing was, the driver didn’t seem to want his help. Eventually, two burly men arrived and pushed the driver out of the snow.

A beautiful calm fell over my alley and all I could think was, silence is wonderful.

Note to self: emergency shovels are essential and rather cheap.

Note to others: Chicago winters aren’t something to be messed with. Prepare well.

 

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 Posted by at 12:15 pm
Aug 232013
 

My sister and I recently finished our collaborative picture book. I’ve got to tell you – it feels amazing! It took a lot of hard work, motivation, and serious revision, but we’re finished. It looks awesome and I like the way it reads.

I am proud of us!

This work is especially important to me because it’s about growing up as a multiracial kid, a subject I know all too well.

I grew up in Chicago in an area called Ukrainian Village and went to a grammar school in Humboldt Park; a neighborhood that was a stone’s throw away and mostly Puerto Rican. Many of the students that attended my grammar school were 100% Puerto Rican. My sister and I were not. We were genuine Poliricans – half Polish, half Puerto Rican. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal now, but it was back then. I didn’t and still don’t speak Spanish or Polish. To people in these very strong communities that is a no-no. It looks lazy and like you don’t care enough about where you came from, but that is incorrect. All that means is that neither language was available to you. If you were not immersed in a particular language, chances are, you did not pick it up. That’s what happened to us. It had nothing to do with us being lazy or not wanting to connect with our cultures. It didn’t have anything to do with the kinds of people we were or the kinds of people our parents were. It did however, have everything to do with the environment we grew up in. Now try explaining that to a child. I can tell you from personal experience that all of those things don’t matter because kid world is different from adult world and it comes with its own rules. Kids can be loving and enthusiastic, but at their worst they can be as cruel and illogical as any adult.

I was told that I wasn’t Puerto Rican because I didn’t speak Spanish in the 7th grade. When I stood up for myself, my classmate asked if I was calling her mother a liar because that’s who she got that idea from. She was the tallest girl in my class and she was towering over me in a threatening way. For a moment, it scared me. Would she really hit me? I didn’t know. All I knew was that you never wanted to call somebody’s mother a liar in grammar school because it could get you punched. So I did what any kid my age would do, I backed off and let it be. I never believed what she said, but I never liked her or her mother again. From that day on, I refused to be her friend.

What she said to me divided us. It made me feel like I was not good enough to be Puerto Rican, that even though I had this blood running through my veins, until I spoke Spanish, I would never be good enough for that girl and all of the other Latina’s that spoke Spanish. To them, I would be just be an imposter, a fake, different.

Being different is the worst thing you can be in grammar school. Nobody wants to be different. Everybody just wants to fit in and blend and exist because nobody wants to be made fun of. Everybody just wants to be left alone. Most days, I was, but some days, I wasn’t. So, I just got quieter and quieter. All I wanted to do was disappear. And I was disappearing or at least my self-esteem was. That’s how it all started. That’s when I learned how to bury my feelings. That’s where it lay until this one day when I took my son to the park.

This older kid singled him out and told these little girls not to play with him because he thought my son looked weird. Weird to kids nowadays seems to be the new racial epithet. And he wouldn’t let it go. He was berating him and my son didn’t know what they were saying because, well he was two, but I did and it brought back all of these horrible memories of being ostracized by ignorance. All because he looked different. It made me angry.

So, in order for my son to be accepted into their world he had to look like them? Who told them that nonsense?! Where did they pick up that ideology?! I wanted to leave and never take my son back to that park, but my husband said no. That we weren’t going to just walk away and hide. That doing so would be teaching our son that he’s not welcome to play where ever he wanted to and that is not a good lesson to teach a child. You know what? He was right!

And then one of the little girls said something that changed everything. She said, “WHO CARES IF HE LOOKS WEIRD. I DON’T CARE!” And I wanted to applaud that little girl and I was, on the inside, because even though she didn’t know it, she was standing up for my son, for people of color, for me. I knew then that my son and this world would be okay. And that is how our picture book was born.

It’s a book that is long over-due, a book that kids like my siblings and I have been waiting for our whole lives. We are currently shopping our PB around and we’re hoping that it gets picked up soon. This world needs this book and more books about being multiracial; about acceptance and love.

Our fingers are crossed.

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May 122013
 
I sketched these two fellas using Paper by FiftyThree

I sketched these two fellas using Paper by FiftyThree

When I found out Roger Ebert passed away, I felt hollow and sad. Much like the way I felt when I found out that Ray Bradbury had died. He was my favorite short story writer. Most of that sadness has passed and I now feel inspired by the work they’ve both left behind.

Ray Bradbury was a brilliant writer. Most people would probably know him by his novel Fahrenheit 451, but I know him by his short story, “All Summer in a Day.” It’s the story of a girl named Margot who lives on Venus where it always rains and where the sun only comes out once every seven years. It is a wonderful short story I recommend checking out if you haven’t already read it. I read it for the first time when I was eight. It was one of the stories in the Great Books series given to me by my teacher. I read it over the summer and fell in love. I was most drawn to the human aspects and emotions of the story. “All Summer in a Day” changed the way I viewed story telling and writing by opening my mind to the possibility of constructing unhappy endings.

In the same respect, I found Roger Ebert to be a ridiculously talented writer and reviewer. I looked up to him in more ways than one. He went to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, was in an interracial marriage, and loved the city of Chicago. I can relate to all of these things. I went to U of I, am in an interracial marriage, and love the city of Chicago.

Ebert wrote a great piece about his love for his wife. Check it out here: Roger Loves Chaz. It’s a good read. I have yet to write such a beautiful piece about my husband, but that’s another post for another day.

I attended the Overlooked Film Festival in Champaign, Illinois with my husband one year. Roger Ebert showcased a brilliant documentary about amateur boxers. Afterwards there was a Q & A session with the director, which I found fascinating. My husband and I were talking about the movie while exiting the theater when I looked over and saw him walking with two gentlemen. To be honest, it caught me off guard. He was so close. I’d seen him on television so many times, so to see him in person was surreal. I wanted to talk to him, but I didn’t know what to say and by the time I did, he was gone.

My husband and I finally made our way outside and started to walk towards our car when I looked back and saw Ebert. He turned his head and looked directly at me like I was the only person on the street. I said to him, “That was awesome!” His reply? “It was, wasn’t it?” And I shook my head yes. He could’ve very well left me hanging and not answered at all, but he didn’t. It was like he actually cared. I will forever cherish that memory.

I actually thought I’d have the opportunity to discuss his take on writing one day (it’s good to hope), but nope. Now, his books will have to do.

What an amazing legacy Ray Bradbury and Roger Ebert left behind.

I wonder if anybody else will ever come close to their genius.

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Feb 192013
 

If my alley could talk…

A week ago, at 3 a.m., I heard shouting. I sprung up from my bed, darted towards the window, and lifted the shade to see two guys screaming at each other. One was thin and dressed in white t-shirt and jeans with an open windbreaker. He was wobbling as he walked and I couldn’t tell if it was because he was completely inebriated or if it was because of our icy alley. I soon came to the realization that it had everything to do with alcohol. His friend, a big burly man with shaggy red hair and a beard was screaming at the top of his lungs. “I’M NOT GOING TO LET YOU DRIVE HOME.”

The conversation went something like this:

James Dean Dude: “Why do you care dude? Huh, why do you care?!”

Red Haired Dude: “Because I f’ing care about you okay. I don’t want you to f’in kill someone. I don’t want you to kill yourself!”

James Dean Dude: “Who cares if I kill myself?!”

Red Haired Dude: “I f’ing care okay! I F’ING CARE!

James Dean Dude and Red Haired Dude get into a scuffle. Red Haired Dude comes out of it with an accessory.

James Dean Dude: What, so you’re a tough guy now? YOU’RE A F’ING TOUGH GUY? Give me my glasses.”

Red Haired Dude: “No, I’m not giving you your glasses! You’re not driving home. I’m not letting you drive home!”

James Dean Dude reaches for glasses, but Red Haired Dude is way too strong for drunken James Dean Dude.

James Dean Dude: “Give me my glasses.”

Red Haired Dude: “No.”

James Dean Dude: “Give me my glasses, give me my glasses, give me my glasses, give me my glasses dude, GIVE ME MY F’CKIN’ GLASSES, GIVE ME MY F’CKIN’ GLASSES, GIVE ME THEM, GIVE THEM TO ME, GIVE THEM TO ME.” X 10.

Red Haired Dude: “No, you’re acting like an f’king dick.

James Dean Dude: FFFFFFFFFUUUUU!

Red Haired Dude: “FU you F’king dick! You are f’king wasted, you stupid piece of ish.”

James Dean Dude: (Stomps around with arms flailing.) “Give me my glasses or I’ll call the cops.”

Red Haired Dude: “I’ll call them right now. Here’s my phone.” (Lifts phone into air).

At this point I’m hoping he actually does it, but of course he doesn’t.

They continue screaming like this for five more minutes and I decide that this is my cue to call the cops if I ever want to get back to sleep again.

James Dean Dude: (Stomps around again minus arms) “I can’t see! I CAN’T SEE WITHOUT MY GLASSES!”

Red Haired Dude: “Walk to the street.”

James Dean Dude: “I can’t see. I can’t see.”

Red Haired Dude: “Walk to the street. WALK MFK’er. Walk!”

James Dean Dude: “I can’t see!”

Red Haired Dude: “Put one foot in front of the other and walk.”

James Dean Dude: “I can’t see!”

This is when I realized that the James Dean Dude had some major problems beyond being a little drunk. I was watching a full blown alcoholic with severe mental problems. I started to feel really bad for the Red Haired Dude because I could tell that he really cared for him and I could see this friendship ending very soon. I could also picture the Red Haired Dude being completely broken up by the friendship and I could imagine the James Dean Dude being indignant about it.

I wanted to open up the window and tell the Red Haired Dude that it was useless; that he was wasting his breath. I wanted to say that the James Dean Dude’s problems were way bigger than he could ever imagine and that no amount of trying to make him see that he is screwing up his life will make him change, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t my battle to fight.  It wasn’t even the Red Haired Dudes battle to fight. It was the James Dean Dudes fight and he was in a battle with himself.

The cops were supposedly on their way, but probably not.

A few minutes later, I saw another man walking down the alley and I was scared for him. The two guys were so aggressive I thought they might beat him up just for being around. Luckily, they didn’t. They just moved out of the way and continued on with their argument. And just like out of a movie, a homeless man erupted onto the scene. He walked right up to the two dudes, completely fearless, and said, “Come on guys. Don’t argue. Why all the screaming?”

They both looked at the homeless man and I thought maybe, just maybe they were going to realize how ridiculous and rude they were being, but no. They just shook their heads at him like he was the crazy one and turned the corner.

The alley became silent again.

I learned two things from episode:

  1. Alcoholics make miserable companions.
  2. I fear Wicker Park in the summertime.

Stay tuned for more stories from The Alley From Hell.

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Nov 192012
 

Why does living life seem to take up so much time? There are twenty-four hours in a day to spend however we’d like, which seems like a lot, but it’s not. Not when you have to spend eight of those hours recharging. Not when you’re getting ready for work, commuting, actually working, commuting again, eating dinner, spending time with family, cleaning up, decompressing, and getting ready for bed. In that case, twenty-four hours may as well be one.

I think the lack of time is getting to people. Well, it’s getting to me. There are way too many distractions. I’ve noticed that I’m happier when I spend time doing the things I love. Don’t people seem to be happier when they’re spending time doing the things they love? It’s like a personal road map to happy.

What would happen if we took a few moments during the day for ourselves? How awesome would you feel if you did something you truly enjoyed? Now how often do you do that for yourself?

I vow to spend a few moments of each day on myself and you should too.

I made a short video about this very thing. Take a look.

Thanks for watching!

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Nov 172012
 

Hey all,

I’ve finally completed some projects. Yea! Check out my projects page to see what’s new.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve also added some new photos to my Chicago Picture Project, which is seven years strong. Enjoy!

What projects do you have in the works?

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Sep 092012
 

Once upon a time there lived a little boy who woke up very early one Saturday morning ready to go outside. He shook his sleeping parents awake and told them of his plan. After eating breakfast they headed downstairs and began walking towards Division Street for they heard there would be a DIY festival of magnanimous proportions. To their delight the festival was filled with beautiful and magnificent handmade things!

The little boy and his parents walked from booth to booth looking for the perfect item and finally, they saw it – a light blue whale sitting inside of a colorful honeycomb. It was the most wonderful toy the little boy had ever seen. He picked it up and squeezed it with all his might as it was love at first sight. He would name this little whale Wally.

He loved Wally as much as any other toy and carried him around where ever he went, even to Costco. While walking around, the little boy’s mom asked if she could carry Wally so he wouldn’t get lost, but the boy said no as it was his toy to care for. After their shopping trip they went home. That is when the little boy noticed that Wally the Whale was missing!

His parents called Costco and found that it had not been turned in to the lost and found. The little boy was so heartbroken and distraught that he cried and cried. His parents tried to console him, but his pain was immense as he had lost one of his greatest friends.

The little boy would ask to start a search party, but his parents told him before they did that they would try to locate Wally on their own. They called Costco again, but Wally the Whale had not turned up. This upset the little boy so, but his parents had a plan.

It was the festival’s last day of operation and his parents went to the same booth to see if another Whale was available for purchase, but it was not. Instead, the little boy picked up a small, blue squid and gave it a huge hug for he loved it almost as much as the Wally the Whale. The squid made the little boy so happy that he asked his parents to buy it for him and so they did.

On the way home, the little boy told his parents that he loved his new squid, but that he would always have love in his heart for Wally the Whale should he ever return.

The end.

This is a totally true story! The Whale and Squid toys are available for purchase from Zooguu. Check them out if you get a chance. Their toys are super cute!

The other two businesses that caught my eye at Renegade were Tumbleweeds and Stak Ceramics. Tumbleweeds makes amazing wooden sunglasses. My favorite ones were heart shaped. Come on people, who doesn’t like hearts?! You can check them out here. Stak Ceramics makes some of the most unique and beautiful pieces I’ve ever seen. I especially love functional pieces of art and if you do too, you need to check this place out. For more info about Stak Ceramics click here.

I had a great time at Renegade and hope you did too! If you didn’t get a chance to make it this year, remember there’s always next year. For more information, please visit: http://www.renegadecraft.com/.

Laters!

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Jun 012012
 

Chicago summers are fabulous and this year’s Kite Festival at Montrose Harbor added to the fabulousness. It was that fun. Check out my video below.

Being at the Kite Fest reminded me of how much I missed being a kid and just having fun for the sake of having fun. It reminded me of late night soft serve from the ice cream truck, biking around the neighborhood, and playing those games like “It” and “Red light, green light,” and those awesome “hand games.” Remember those? Being a kid was fun.

Here are some of the songs we used to sing that accompanied those “hand games” I was talking about.

Uno Dos Siesta
To the East, the West
I met my boyfriend at the candy store.
He bought me ice cream, he bought me cake.
He took me home with a belly ache.
Mama, mama, I’m so sick. Call the doctor, quick, quick, quick.
Doctor, doctor, will I die? Count to five and you’ll be alive.
One, two, three, four, five.
I’m alive on channel five.

Mrs. Marry Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons all down her back, back, back
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For 15 cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
She jumped the fence, fence, fence
She jumped so high, high, high
She touched the sky, sky, sky
And she never came back, back, back
Till the 4th of july, lie, lie

Here’s how we picked “It.” We made everybody put in a single foot and used our pointer finger to go around in a circle and for each word of the song or rhyme, we moved our finger one shoe over until one person was singled out. (Yes, these rules were very intricate.) Here is some of what we said:

My mother punched your mother in the nose, what color was the blood?
“Blue.”
B-L-U-E
And you are out of this entirely game
Not because you’re ugly, not because you’re clean
Just because you kissed a dirty man behind a dirty magazine

Then there would be three of us left and we’d say something like:

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, Catch a tiger by the toe. If he hollers, let him go, Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

Whomever was in the last “moe” position was out. Then there’d be two people left so we’d say something like this:

Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?
“five.”
One, two, three, four, five
and the whole, and you are out of this entirely game rhyme would start.
And whoever was left was “It.”

Do you remember any of these? Do you know a different version? Did you sing completely different songs? If so, what were they? What awesome memories do you have from childhood?

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 Posted by at 7:18 pm