Seizing the opportunity… Part 2

This the second post in a three-part series. My trip took place June 18-21, 2022.

So much anticipation, and now it’s here! My trip to Chicago for Father’s Day and Juneteenth weekend, and it couldn’t come soon enough.

Flying into O’Hare International Airport is an experience… one which many Southsiders choose to forgo if they can fly in and out of Midway. In this case, the price was right, the departure from Austin was good, and it offered a unique opportunity to start my adventure. My plan was to take my time getting to the Airbnb house to meet up with the family, to see some of the city via public transit, and ease into the trip. While many would avoid public transit at all costs, I eagerly awaited my chance to live like a native again.

Once my plane landed and arrived at a gate, I found my way out of the airport and onto a Blue Line train. Let the walk down memory lane begin, or The This Was Your Life tour, as I jokingly called it.

Photo by Albany Capture/Unsplash.com

My grandparents lived on Montrose and Kedzie when I grew up, and the Blue Line passes the Montrose exit on the Kennedy Expressway. Along the way, messages started pouring in from the family and they were in awe of my choice to take many modes of transit rather than an Uber ride to the house. I enjoyed the sunshine and the beauty of the Northside – memories of visiting my grandparents, concerts and comedy shows Husband and I enjoyed, the wooden porches, window box gardens, travelers and natives just going about their day. Thank God for sunglasses while I let a stream of feelings come and go.

Before I knew it, the Blue Line train arrived at the Thompson Center, which made for an easy transfer to the Orange Line. As rode the trains, all the news stories of crime and chaos on public transit and in Chicago came to mind. I saw none of the on this ride nor on the trip, not to say that it didn’t happen elsewhere on the trains or in the city. I was really enjoying this beautiful day, and I hoped many others were too. I took in the view of downtown as the Orange made its way south and west, all the way to Midway Airport – the one I didn’t fly to.

I soaked in the city as the train rolled on, and I thought about the countless times spent downtown and about all the great memories throughout my life. Always something new and exciting to see or do, good food to eat, and way too many choices… Art, music, the lakefront, sports, shopping, architecture, freedom, and escape. I know what Chicago has become in many ways, but I know what it still is and what it can be – corrupt, violent, nasty, the worst of the worst and yet, good, kind, hard-working, full of opportunity, beautiful, and the best of the best. There is nothing like it, hands down.

My ride on the Orange Line took me through many areas from my past life (before Texas), including past McKinley Park, one of my favorite places in the city. Lots of areas looked the same, save for a new Dunkin Donuts or other small changes, but I saw new construction many places, too – it almost looked like areas that needed opportunity were thriving. I hoped so. Stops at 35th St/Archer, Western, Kedzie, and Pulaski all reminded me of different times in my life and people nearby. Friends from high school, old co-workers, things that made me the hardy person that I am. As I neared Midway, I called Weber’s Bakery to see if cakes on display were still available – yes, they were. I excitedly hopped on the Westbound Archer bus, and I reminisced about late nights drinking, playing board games, and eating Villa Rosa Pizza with old friends… I loved seeing familiar businesses and news one I wouldn’t have time to try, at least not on this trip.

A Weber’s Cake to help us celebrate, and a clean slate to start fresh.
Photo by Chrell

I thanked God for the nice weather for my travels and was grateful the heat wouldn’t melt my Weber’s cake – whipped cream with strawberry filling – while I waited for my Uber to complete the final leg of my commute to the Airbnb house, mere blocks from my family home in Mt. Greenwood. I mentally prepared myself for the occasion – I would finally get to meet my nephew and reunite with my family, though unfortunately Husband was able to join us. I was excited and grateful, though I also reminded myself that people are complicated at times, and I can only control myself. All I could do was try to best the best version of myself and, while I was optimistic others would do the same, I would not put unrealistic expectations on this experience.

I will soon write a Part 3 to complete my story, but I will tell you that I am glad I took the trip. There are many moments that will stick with me forever, including the first time I held my nephew and made faces with him. No matter what apprehensions we all came in with, we hugged, laughed, and acted like a family – a rare and unexplainable feeling of love and belonging that I don’t know when I last experienced with them.

Seizing the opportunity… Part 1

I started this post at the beginning of June and did not have a chance to post it before my trip to Chicago. Below you will find the intro to my trip.

white airplane on mid air
Photo by John McArthur/Unsplash.com

I will be boarding a plane to Chicago in two weeks and a day, and it will be my first trip since September 2019. That trip, although great in many ways, was complicated and emotionally charged. The high points in Chicago: seeing Off With Their Heads and meeting the lead singer, going to the White Sox game, and visiting a few friends and family. The high points in New York: going to the US Open, spending time with my brother and his wife, and eating at various places. However, those positive moments were offset by the blowout with my dad at a suburban train station after he abruptly ended the visit at my aunt’s house and decided he was taking me to the train immediately. This, after he pouted and made many embarrassing comments in front of my relatives.

three assorted-color joy signage
Photo by Tim Mossholder/Unsplash.com

The short of that situation is that I let someone (my dad) not only get the best of me, but I allowed him to ruin what was otherwise a nice time for my mother and I with her extended family. There is/was tension, bad blood, etc. between my dad and my aunt (God rest her soul, she died in April 2021) to an extent of which I am not fully aware, I just know what has manifested in the past and continues with the remaining family members… I try to stay out of it the best I can, and I will not revisit that experience during this trip. My hope is that we can move on, and that we all take the opportunity to enjoy time together along with my brother, his wife, and their baby before life prevents another opportunity. With the ongoing insanity of crisis after crisis – real, imagined, or exaggerated – we all need to realize that life is short and so much is out of our control.

The first casualty… truth

Anger is my first inclination but, mostly, I am heartbroken. So much of life, opportunity, potential, and more are gone in ways most people don’t realize while they wait for normal to return. The truth is always the first casualty, but most don’t know that the truth has been a lie for a very long time.

Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

Once you know, you are changed forever. You might take a breather now and again, to live and just be – away from the constant barrage of bullshit, propaganda, and disinformation from all directions.

Take the whole COVID thing, for instance. Only sick, vulnerable people need masks. No, wait… everyone needs masks, maybe even two or three masks. Remember flatten the curve? The curve has flattened several times, only to flare up when masks get mandated or re-mandated. Anyone with eyes and critical thought looking at these graphs for any major city or country can see that the case number increases, which are based on inaccurate and misused tests, typically come after the mandates and after each new group gets their jabs.

Pardon my cynicism and tinfoil hat wearer speech, but after seeing videos and articles about Terrain Theory, how “viruses” are isolated, what a “virus” is and its function, what Kary Mullis (inventor of the PCR test) said about the PCR test, the AIDS epidemic, and Anthony Fauci, and you actually take an objective look at all of this info (and much more), just WOW. Here’s the good news, you have nowhere near scratched the surface of the way life and its happenings have been wrongly portrayed to all of us, for almost our whole existence!

Anyone who things I’m crazy, read “None Dare Call It Conspiracy” by Gary Allen , “War is A Racket” by Smedley Butler  or books by Jesse Ventura (this and this) to see if you have been taught the truth about some of our wars and other historical events. People deserve to know the truth, but sometimes you have to seek it out on your own to find it. Many people look to YouTube, but Brighteon.com has many great videos and documentaries not found on other video platforms. My hope is that more of us will seek answers and keep those in charge accountable, with the hope that life can somewhat improve and we can possibly prevent the next major crisis.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If we were having coffee…

I would tell you that I had an awesome breakfast with my husband, Pumpkin Spice Pancakes, and Vanilla Bean coffee. He puts love into and makes them perfectly every time.

Image by vextok on Freepik.com

I would tell you that I had a great week, which started with meeting a friend for brunch last Sunday. I hadn’t seen her since shortly before the shutdown last year, but we hung out for a few hours catching up like we had just seen each other or were still co-workers. My week continued with a couple of good chats with friends and co-workers, receiving early Christmas gifts, and time to relax and hang out with my husband.

If we were having coffee, I would ask if you have tried Jack Daniels coffee. Talk about delicious! We will have to drink some next time we get together for coffee. Also, have you had Lou Malnati’s pizza? Definitely try the cheese pizza, it’s like a tasty, warm hug.

I would tell you that I am looking forward to several days off this coming week, with Christmas and the way the holiday falls on the calendar. I will have 5 days off, including a day I added to an already extended weekend. I am sad that I will not see my family but I know that we will have some calls and video chats. I hope the time that the rest of the family has together goes well and that the crazy travelling I won’t be doing also goes well for them. I’m sure I already told you the reasons I am not going, which include not wanting to leave my husband alone for the holidays but also that the rest of my family believes in the COVID vaccines, testing, etc. and is already a little concerned about exposure. Me, I’m still here, have been mostly healthy throughout this whole thing minus a few days. We are all entitled to our beliefs and freedom to make our own decisions.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I am excited to soon eat homemade waffles, which we will make with our newly received waffle maker given by my parents. Breakfast is my favorite! And, we will be feasting on Lou Malnati’s Pizza, given by my brother and sister-in-law and by Husband’s godmother. Yes, two different groups of people gave us the best deep-dish pizza ever! We will be eating well, if not healthy, for quite a while.            

I would tell you that I am excited for family and friends to get the gifts we gave, and we are hoping to make cookies and brownies to share with them as well. I am disappointed that my work unit didn’t have a Christmas gathering for the second year in a row – last year because we were all working at home, this year because we were in the office on different days, some co-workers have a lot going on, anxiety about everything, etc. They are like a second family, for better or worse, and it’s nice to eat together and be out of the office trying a new restaurant, playing puzzle and gift-exchange games. Maybe we’ll do something in the New Year…

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that some days I feel great and I can handle all that life throws at me, while there are other days when getting out of bed is a struggle. When you read the backstory to so many things going on that most people don’t want to hear about and pretend don’t exist, it’s a tough boat to row. Sometimes I stick to shallow waters and stay off the boat.

I’m glad we were able to have coffee today. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts and experiences. Maybe it made you feel less alone, or maybe you think I’m crazy. I’m just a girl trying to get through each day the best I can.

Have a good weekend!

Complicated…

No one looks forward to uncomfortable conversations. Some people do anything and everything to avoid the person and the conversation as long as possible. Others user a “bring it on” attitude and dive right in. Another camp talks to people they know about the impending conversation so they can prepare, all the while trying not to drown in anxiety and sadness because there is no real way around it. 

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

The holidays will bring about the uncomfortable conversation for me and my family, and it sucks. My brother, his wife, and their baby will go home for Christmas to see the family and introduce him to friends and relatives. The baby will get to see his father in his old neighborhood and will experience the other side of his family. There will be a few people missing from this holiday experience – my aunt, two of my cousins (one died, one is in a care facility), me, and my husband.

Holidays should not be complicated. They should be joyous and celebratory, which is usually the opposite of our experience.  I love my family in spite of the holidays. Many of my most enjoyable holidays were spent with friends and their families around college time or have been peaceful because Husband and I were not the family, except for the Christmas my brother and his wife spent with us in Texas. When we still lived near our families, Husband and I had a hard time seeing both families for the same holiday because of the inevitable energy drain, conflict, etc. Over time, his remaining family is more or less nonexistent, and mine is best in small doses. The last time I was in the presence of my parents and overlap with relatives a little over two years ago, and it did not end well after we left the family gathering. My parents and I have recovered the best we can from the debacle, a story for another post, and I enjoyed the rest of my trip with friends and time to myself. My relatives were happy to see me and I feel fortunate to have spent time with my aunt, our last in-person visit before she died earlier this year. 

Photo by Marina Shatskih on Pexels.com

This brings me to the currently approaching holiday season. After close to two years, the COVID thing is still lurking and is complicating people’s lives. Many people have natural immunity, while others insist on getting vaxxed and that everyone around them be vaxxed. Like many people, I fall right into the middle of this debacle. Most, if not all, of my immediate and extended are on one side of this while we are on the other side. I know a few people in the same situation but they, like us, have a few people on their side as well.  I don’t feel comfortable traveling during the holidays and leaving Husband alone, especially with the airlines in chaos, my job having legalized discrimination policies related to traveling and quarantining (punishing healthy people who make individual medical decisions), and the fact that one of parents shared that my brother and wife has already inquired about the status of family members. Oh, and they scheduled my parents for all of their shots. I have already expressed some thoughts on the matter months ago before this whole situation continued to progress and escalate to mandates in different cities and states, and even at the federal level. I have noticed communication with some members of my family have dwindled after a certain conversation with one person, um… so much for freedom and individual opinion. The unsaid uncomfortable conversation just hangs out in the atmosphere for now. It just sucks. Good time to use radical acceptance skills.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

As I’ve gotten older, my childlike glee for holidays has greatly reduced but does flare up around Christmas. I’m not a big decorator, but having little get-togethers with co-workers and festivities that make work enjoyable won’t happen again this year because my agency has decided against it. I have an office now, that doesn’t usually see more than me or a few colleagues due to back-and-forth restrictions. I’ve debated with myself about decorating for me and to contribute a bit to the building-wide décor or to skip it, but I’m still not sure… wait a minute, people can decorate several trees in groups but not have parties or meals together?

For the few people who might read this, I realize my opinions will stir up a myriad of feelings – how insensitive of you, how irresponsible, you selfish #!%&*(&,  f#ck those stupid Covidiots or good for you for standing up to the medical tyranny, and everything in between. As someone who has been sick only twice in the past two years, (right before the virus was unleashed and again right after jabs were widely available), I believe that I have a healthy, functioning immune system and that the most irresponsible people are those who perform ongoing medical experiments on a naively trusting public with no idea who this will turn out. However, I believe in personal freedom, mine and yours. All that keeps happening is that people allow themselves to be divided along the newest line in the sand that someone else draws and broadcasts it 24/7 on cable news until the world panics. 

On that note, I hope people can find some holiday cheer and that they can remember why holidays exist (other than to generate revenue for retail and travel industries) – family and friends celebrating and sharing. I pray for an end to the manufactured conflicts and emergencies, and for a resurgence of common decency, critical thinking, and humanity. I hope it’s not too late, or too complicated… cards hanging on Christmas tree