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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Oct 072014
 

My life is always changing, which means that the space around me is always changing. After my first update, I worked on my office closet again and here are the results.

I stated that I wanted convenience, space, lighting, and color. I think I have achieved all of that and more.

Here is my current space:

closed and open closet doors

And here is a close-up of the interior: office closet
Here is what I did to achieve my dream space:

For convenience, I had an outlet put into my dining room and it is wonderful. I no longer have to avoid cords sprawled across my floor.

For space, I purged a ton of paper. I still have one small bin that I need to go through, but everything else is in files on my desktop. Sure things need to be separated, but at least all of that paper is out of the way.

For lighting, I used a clamp lamp, which can be moved around anywhere. It’s a great tool to have. I couple that with my overhead light above and it works beautifully. I believe that a workspace needs plenty of light to be functional.

For color, I added a city scene that my son made and put up photographs and desk toys. These pops of color are like tiny pieces of happy energy that help me focus.

For organization, I added a DIY combination cork/dry erase board. I made it using an old cabinet door and a pack of square cork and dry erase tiles. I used stamps and white paint to make patterns on the cork, which gave it a little bit of personality. I love my cork/dry erase board and use it every day to keep track of ideas, to-do lists, and important reminders.

I also organized my writing books by color. Organizing books by color makes your space look well put together. Try it yourself.

The best part about my office closet is that there is a place for everything and when I’m done, I can just close it up and join the real world.

May you find your perfect work space in your home as well!

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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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Jun 192012
 

I recently joined the gym and I’ve got to say, I like it. I like the way I feel after I’ve finished a workout; strong and as if I’ve accomplished something huge for the day. This is why I keep going. I usually stick to the elliptical and the row machine in addition to the weight lifting machines, but I’ve also been taking a few classes. One such class was a boxing/kickboxing class. I’ve never taken one of those before and I was intrigued. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one because the class was filled with newbies.

We started off with some drills and if you remember anything from high school gym class, you know how drills are the bane of everybody’s existence. They are horrible, yet effective torture devices. These drills consisted of pushups, sprinting, jumping rope, and jumping jacks. Like I said, torture. The entire class was exhausted after fifteen minutes of warm up. Which brings me to this, why does it seem like some trainers/teachers derive some sort of sick pleasure by inflicting pain onto their students? It’s got to be some Schadenfreuden thing. But why? Is it the little bit of power over others that makes people go a tad crazy? I’m thinking yes.

I tried everything she said. I said I tried everything she said, not that I was physically capable of doing it. And then we got to the bag. Oh, for the love of God, not the bag! But I was ready. I lifted my leg to kick and barely skimmed the bag. Get closer, she coaxed. And so I did. Kick the bag she said. So I kicked, unaware that I was flexing my toes. I kicked straight into the bag and felt this sharp pain vibrate through my big toe. “Oh God, my toe hurts,” I said. Her response was something like, “Yeah, these bags are the hard ones.” Huh? What kind of response was that?! But for some reason I kept going and I don’t exactly know why. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to seem like a quitter in a room filled with newbies. Maybe it was because I thought I was tough and could handle the pain or maybe it was because I’m insane. But whatever the reason, it’s irrelevant. I was injured and that was that.

I hobbled out of class. When I got home I looked at my toe. It was swelling and fast. So much so that it felt like there was a marble underneath. I’ll spare you the photographic evidence, but trust me, it was bad. I started to walk on the side of my foot to compensate for the pain. And I thought, that’s it, it’s broken. It didn’t help that in the evening my leg also started to throb. I ended up taking several Aspirins for the pain and eventually fell asleep. When I woke up, I found that my toe was black and blue from the front to the back. Not good. But I needed to get some stuff done, so I was hobbling on it all day. That probably wasn’t the best course of action, but like I said, I needed to get some stuff done. That night I called the Nurse Hotline via our insurance and the nurse said that even if it was broken, there was nothing they would really do for me at the hospital except take some x-rays and bandage it up. So, she gave me some quick tips for pain relief; elevate, ice, Aspirin, and the buddy toe bandage. I did all that, but guess what? It still hurts and it probably will remain that way until the end of the week. The good news is that I’m hobbling less and I can almost walk on my foot again. Woot!

I intended to go back to the class this weekend, but I think I’ll pass. I honestly don’t need another injured appendage.

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Feb 132012
 

One of the best things about living in Chicago or any big city is having access to a plethora of restaurants, live theater shows, concerts, literary readings, sporting events, art installations, transportation, cultural events, and shopping among other things.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen some pretty fascinating stuff that has blown my mind. I’d like to share two of those things with you.

At the Bulls vs. Nets game, I got to see one of the funniest shorts put on by Big Ben and Benji the bull. Check them out below:

To learn more about Benny, Big Ben, Benji and the entire Bulls family, check out this site: iwantbenny.com.

Another cool thing I got to see was this incredible light sculpture at the Chicago Auto Show. I’ve never seen anything like it and I had to get it on video. Turns out, it was created by Chuck Hoberman, of the Chuck Hoberman Sphere. Check out what it does and be amazed:

Well folks, there you have it.

If I find any other cool things around Chi-town, (and I’m sure I will) I’ll be sure to post a video.

Stay tuned for more awesomeness and in the meantime, peace and happiness.

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