DISCLAIMER: To anyone who may read this that doesn’t know me or our current situation. Here’s some things you should know: 1. I do not live (nor have I ever) as a victim of my circumstances, and trust me there are many. 2. One year ago we found out our daughter had dangerous elevated levels of lead in her blood and that it was my longtime home that was the cause. 3. We made the difficult but necessary decision to get out quick, putting all of our stuff into storage and began living with family in 4 different states while putting most of our money into doctors visits and getting the lead out. 4. Our girl is doing great and appears unaffected by the lead exposure, for this I am always thankful and forever worrying. 5. Without a hint of hyperbole, in the last 4 weeks I have personally looked at with my eyeballs, hands, and daughter in tow 139 places in and around Chicago. Only 3 of them were viable, and as we are learning are way out of our budget. 6. I am a good person, hard worker, good friend, loving human, fun, creative, outgoing, hilarious, and a great -nay a Fucking Fantastic- mother.
So, I write the following not as a self pity party of one, because truly that is not my style. But sometimes this is all just too much. And quite frankly this IS a part of the lead poisoning experience. We are still “in it.” We are still working through it. I mean for cry eye, we’re still living in my aunt’s spare bedroom in NW Indiana commuting to the city for work and to find a home, every day.
So, here’s my I Wish List:
I didn’t have to sit here on this cold, dark bathroom floor at 5:28 am -being awake since 4am with parental anxiety- having to write out my feelings.
I could just get my family out of this fucking hole we are in.
I would stop falling through the cracks in our social system that supposed to be set up to help people like us. Not forever, just for right now.
I could spend my days taking cute photos of my daughter sleeping with a puppy and have it go viral, thereby seemingly making me a more interesting and valuable human being.
I’d never heard of lead.
I’d been given better parents who didn’t give up on me at such an early age. (Respectfully, one is due to mental illness, the other is just a worthless asshole)
I’d not left that “good job” last year, even though it seems I would’ve had to have left at some point once we became homeless transients.
I could write some fantastic piece about our unique situation that would end up on Huffington Post, and give more awareness and very needed exposure to lead poisoning conditions in this country.
I could rejoin the workforce today.
I hadn’t lost my best friend this year.
My family could just get a break already.
Those ex landlords would have to be forced to live like how we have the past year or spend at least a half hour with me these last 4 weeks I’ve tried to secure a healthy home again.
It weren’t so hard just to “get by” in this country, state, city. It’s really fucking difficult to try and pull yourself and family back up after an entire year of struggling, traveling, doctors visits, and low wages.
People would get serious about lead poisoning prevention and awareness and stop making me feel like there’s something wrong with me for protecting my child.
My mom heart would stop aching for any type of closeness or connection with other people. This entire past year has been filled with isolation, stress, anxiety, and worry for me. To which all I’ve done is concentrate on making sure NONE of that carries over to our daughter. It hasn’t. Yet…
I fully understand that no one is forcing me to sit here and express or share myself in this way, so to any of you friends and family that read this, thanks. To be honest, things are not going so well for us over here. I had a lot of hope that this new fancy job with a fancy show at a fancy network would be the key to unlocking not just the door to a new home, but the door to our future already. I mean COME ON, it has been a god forsaken YEAR that we have been “in this.” But as we are learning, this job is not so good under its pretty packaging. Yeah, it’s a job and it does pay some money and will give one of us decent insurance (can you guess which one?) but it’s not what we thought it was going to be. With that said, please know that I AM thankful for the employment for my partner, I hope this helps him to further his career and can make him happy.
That’s a very funny word to me right now.
An old friend used to tell me that happiness was a choice. And I used to argue with him that no, happiness is causational (a word I made up back then and I’m keeping it). But secretly, I always agreed with him, because it’s true. You do need to find the happy and contentment or be the happy or some such business that meditation gurus and empowerment posters will tell you to do. And then sometimes, you just need a god damned mother fucking break. Am I happy right now? At now 6:23 am, still sitting on this cold bathroom floor, and needing a cuppa cuppa like its my job. Yes, I am still happy. I’m happy that I have a beautiful little girl and great friends who reach out (thank you Carma and Don). I’m happy we are not living in a cold shelter somewhere starving. I’m happy we have thanksgiving and weekend plans to see good friends and family and that we can travel to them. I’m happy my daughter is so far a normal toddler and doesn’t appear to have any issues that can be caused by high lead exposure. She is of course brilliant and the most beautiful child in existence that has ever existed, you know
So I would say that yes, I have some happy here. Of course I do, I’m not an imbecile.
I am also worn down and dog tired from all this.
One could say, “Well that my friend is parenting in general,” and I get that, I do. I try to keep that perspective going every day here. Some days it’s not that easy. The past few days and this morning, it is not so easy just to be like, “Oh here we are still without a home, my partner has some fancy new job that keeps him gone 60 plus hours a week, now we can’t even afford insurance through his work and will be penalized if we go through the marketplace, and his fancy new job does not afford him the luxury of providing for his child.” No big woop.
This is not to speak poorly about my partner and friend at all, he is doing his best and it really should be good enough. This is to speak poorly about our society where a man (or woman) can work as hard as I see this man work and not be able to at least get a decent home in the city where he works. Or let’s address the fact that this job is with a major network and the star of the show has no problem getting his big money, nor do any of the higher exces. How nice for them. How lovely they don’t have to worry about something as basic as getting a home that won’t poison their child. Or being on food stamps. No, this place is not stupid gross Walmart. It’s a decent job title with a successful show, and it’s not really taking care of its employees. And neither is this society. $48,000/yr should be enough to provide for a family of 3 in a city like Chicago. Period.
As we frustratingly discussed last night while trying to budget $790/m for health insurance through his employer (which is so not happening now): I need to go back to work in order for us to live in Chicago. And that’s great, that’s fine, I’m happy to go the effe back to (in the eyes of most people) having true value again as a human because I can earn my own money. We all know that this whole last year of raising our daughter while being transient is not worth a penny, right? Even though our girl is super bright and excelling at everything, including being the youngest player of this coding app called Kodable and we are being interviewed next week…. *mom brag moment over* Anyways. Because of our specific housing needs, we will not be able to live in Chicago or really anywhere that requires us paying more than a few hundred dollars a month until I can get a job that will offset childcare (good luck with that) AND add income to the household. That is where we are right now. And you know what? It sucks. And it doesn’t make me happy. It puts even greater strain on our relationship that sadly really can’t handle anymore, and it tears us apart as people thinking “we’re not good enough” “we’re not responsible enough” “we are not valuable to ourselves and others” because we are struggling right now.
Just FYI those phrases above in quotes are actual words out of our mouths as we try to figure out our next steps. We question our worth and value as human fucking beings because of our current socioeconomic status and struggles. How sad is that? Do we want to say those things? Nerp. Do we want to think those things about each other? Heck no. Do we want to pass this anxiety and depression down to our daughter? We will not. We are good, kind, smart, educated, creative, compassionate, caring, would-do-anything-for-anyone people. Who just need a little break. Or a hug, we could also use one of those.
I wish for all of you to have a good Thanksgiving time, however you celebrate or don’t.
If you’re reading this, then I am giving thanks for you.
Hellos from our NW Indiana farm fields Homestead,
(c) HELLOS FROM THE HOMESTEAD 2012-2013
Like I wrote in my last post, perhaps if people had to spend any part of any day in OUR last 11 months, they wouldn’t be so quick to pass judgements on us for being so diligent in our search for a new home. Sure it would be easy for us to have hopped on that big vintage okay-ish rehabbed place for a good price in Wicker Park. Or again another big beautiful place up in Evanston by the lake with a garage. Or the small but very nice gut rehabbed condo in West Town, yeah that could’ve been ours too. But why?
Why should we start out again in this city knowing what we know now, having experienced everything we have thus far, and still with so much more to go (more blood draws, more testing, a new expensive natural chelation treatment), just accepting the first thing that comes along? Or why should we even take the 2nd or 3rd thing that seems “decent enough?” Why should I feel weird when I have to bring up the need to test for lead on certain surfaces, especially in very vintage properties? Why is it that “everyone else seems to be finding really nice places pretty fast and easy” but we can’t seem to just land that decent place yet?
Why? Because like it or not, we are the parents of a child who was lead poisoned by our last home. The home that nobody would’ve guessed had as much lead exposure as it did. The home I got pregnant in and am lucky, LUCKY, that I had a healthy pregnancy. There are women who have lost pregnancies with way less lead exposure than we had going on. So big ups to my body for protecting this baby and protecting me thus far…. Granted we weren’t living in the Gold Coast, but our neighborhood was nice. Our building for the most part was nice and big and spacious and not renovated properly. Still old existing brick duct work from when the two flat was first built? Not okay. Still old old old furnace in the basement blowing up lead paint through that old duct work and into all of our lungs? Not okay. Peeling chipping straight up lead paint (not even painted over) on the back and front porches? Not okay in the 2000′s. And the the other big shocker, all that beautiful wood work throughout still had original lead varnish.
Because of all that AND the constant doctors visits, the blood draws that are completely traumatizing, the constant worry about what the numbers mean, the bouncing around the country to stay with family, the amount of money that has been poured out of our middle class pockets, and the worry-worry-worrying by just this mama for our sweet little girl. Because of ALL OF THIS, we are absolutely not compromising when it comes to moving back to Chicago.
It is also because of ALL OF THIS that I am indeed part of a very exclusive club now…The People Like You club. As told to me a few times now when I start talking about my knowledge of lead poisoning that I never wanted to have. Or like yesterday when a casual walk through of that big vintage apartment in Wicker Park, yeah the 3bdr plus a den plus a fire place with radiant heat and mostly new windows- yeah the old old old building that is decent enough- tested hot for lead just in a doorway. That place where the owner and landlord who through casual conservation told me all about his lovely home in the Gold Coast that probably had lead paint too but they fixed everything up as soon as they moved in there years ago. Yeah that apartment over on Damen where I walked through and of course was considering putting in an application, especially once I brought up our unique situation and the guy was very sympathetic and almost defensive for us when I told him how things went down….till I brought up needing to test just a few places in his place.
And this is how it always seems to go down when a Person Like Me meets a Person Like That:
Him: Oh, well this is an old building you know. So there almost assuredly is lead paint somewhere in the apartment. Either under the many layers of paint or out on that enclosed back porch. But I’ve never had it tested.
Me: Oh I understand that. This is what I’m up against if we look at any vintage place, which almost everything is a vintage place in Chicago.
Him: Yeah you guys should probably only look at newer developments from the 80′s and beyond.
Me: (still casual at this point although the tension started building): Very true, but its a bit hard in our price point right now. So we are looking for really good rehabs.
Him: Well, I don’t know if this place will fall into that category.
AWKWARD LAUGH…AND PAUSE…
Him: So would you like an application?
Me: I am interested but per my daughter’s doctor and the health department I have to test for immediate lead exposure. It will only take a minute.
Him: Well, I’ll tell you I don’t feel comfortable with that. But I will make you a deal. You can test so long as if the results come back for lead (they did), you won’t tell me, you won’t rent from me, you won’t report me, and I’ll never hear from you.
Please Read that man’s statement again….
But this time, add the context that a 4 year old little boy lived in the place and that a young woman has a new baby downstairs…..
He then went on to talk about how if he knows that there’s lead present he will be obligated to disclose that to all tenants and future tenants and he won’t be able to rent the place. And how “People like you are going to have a hard time finding a decent enough place in this city until you are able to afford a new development.” I just sat and listened, because I find all of this so terribly disturbingly interesting. We agreed this was not the place for us and I bid him farewell and quickly tested just a couple places. They both tested quick and hot for lead exposure….
You tell me how we are supposed to just hop on a place.
You tell me how I should stop being so picky.
You tell me how I should just accept that we’re going to have lead wherever we go.
You tell me how I should just sit back and not be a Person Like Me. A person. A mom. An intelligent woman who cannot just accept the first, second, or third thing that comes along. Parenting includes differing levels of sacrifice. And right now we are sacrificing comfort and ease of getting into a place quick to make sure we get a healthy place for our daughter.
What I experienced yesterday was the SECOND time in less than a week I’ve dealt with some rich A-hole in wicker park like this, and it truly is the “norm” for how people handle lead in Chicago. It makes me sick to my stomach, for my own child and for those children living in that building who’s parents probably have no idea they should even get their kid tested for lead. I don’t know what it is going to take for landlords, owners, parents, and health professional to get serious about lead exposure. More serious than some stupid photo copied pamphlet on LBP and a waiver you sign as a new tenant. And surely more serious than my burying your head in the sand and acting like it doesn’t exist or that People Like Me are the crazy ones for questioning, digging, testing, and conversing.
And real quick, on the flip side is this wonderful family who owns an old two flat in Lincoln Square. Everything else in the first floor cozy beautiful proper rehabbed (I want it) apartment tested fine, but the bathtub came up with lead. These people did not freak out on me. They did not tell us to go away. They instead are open to at the very least having the tub glazed, and also having their own tub glazed because they live upstairs with two kids. And as I just received an email two seconds ago, whether we rent from them or not they are thankful we came by and tested. They want to do the right thing for any future tenant and their own family. They are good people. And guess what, we may just end up renting from them.
I am a proud member of the People Like You club. I do not shove it down people’s throats, but I will gladly have a detailed conversation with those who are interested for themselves and their families. My years in protest, volunteer, and advocacy work taught me how to properly handle and speak to people so that they don’t shut off from you and stop listening. Most people who have listened to or read our story become motivated enough to take care of their own families. And then there are others who tell me I’m making a big deal, being too picky, or should just shut up and go away. If there is one thing you can count on, it is that i will NOT be shutting up and going away. I may be a reluctant member of the People Like You club because I just want our daughter without lead and have a new home already. Till that place is found then I will proudly advocate for my daughter and for our family. We may not be wealthy enough to have some beautiful fully rehabbed place in the Gold Coast, but that does not mean we can’t have a healthy and safe home for our family.
Hellos from our “In Search of a Good New Home” Homestead,
(c) HELLOS FROM THE HOMESTEAD 2012-2013
I wish we could just stop time for a bit so I could get some sleep already. I know, I know I’m a parent so when am I ever going to get a real good night’s sleep again? Probably never. And heck, I would even take a good snooze during the day, but that’s not happening either. The trouble is, it’s starting to ware on me and wear on me in the form of all these new grey hairs I now have. I’ve also become a cliche of a cliched mom, wherein I really truly GOTTA HAVE THAT CUPPA CUPPA otherwise I will cut a bitch for looking at me the wrong way.
The truth is right now and for the past 11 months, my sleep is less important than anyone else’s because I’m just a “stay-at-home-mom.” Which would be fine if WE HAD A HOME!! But we don’t. We do have a couple prospects as (very thankfully) given to us down the friend pipeline. But right now, Saturday Nov 1st we still have no home and we still have a kiddo with elevated lead levels. Yes, they are “only” elevated to 4 but I can’t tell you how deflated my mom heart was when I heard that number out of our doctor’s sad mouth sounds. “Well, its still higher than I’d like to see it for her but it did go down.” Thank goodness we have a doctor who doesn’t think any level of lead if considered safe. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not an over the top dramatic panicky doctor by any means. She just is very educated and real about the dangers that any constant blood lead level can present to a growing child.
I think she heard my disappointment immediately, or maybe it was because I started to cry a little, when she quickly said, “Look, think of where we were last year and where we are now. We WILL get this lead out of your daughter’s body, it is just going to take some time, and a different plan.” She then went on to remind me, “You did the BEST thing you could for her which was getting her out of that old apartment. And now you are doing the best you can with finding a safe and healthy home again. You will find one.”
Thanks Dr M for the vote of confidence because this sleep deprived, grey hairs, staying upbeat and positive every day mama needs it. I could also use a hug. And a nap. But mainly a hug. Because my mom heart hurts right now and my eyes are watery. And maybe I just indeed need to get more than 3 hours of sleep a night. Or maybe I just need to know that my girl is going to be okay and will have a full and happy life. Because she really truly is the light of my mine. She is absolutely the love of my life and I feel like I’ve let her down because I couldn’t stop this from happening to her.
THIS FEELING of absolute lack of any control over what happens to your child is (pardon me) the fucking worst. I don’t even know how to describe it properly with a metaphor or a simile. I’m actually at a loss for words (which is pretty rare for me) on how to fully express the worry, fear, anger, and deep sadness that immediately overwhelms me when I get test results that come with a “it could always be worse” predicator. Trust me, I KNOW it can always be worse. In another life I volunteered at Gilda’s club doing storytelling and puppet making with the kiddos there. Watching beautiful children with that disgusting cancer disease not only ripped my heart out, but gave me great strength and appreciation.
Thankfully yes, we are not dealing with a child with cancer or some other type of horrific illness. But, we are dealing with a child who was lead poisoned by our home. Which if most people’s reactions to our story the past 11 months are any indicator of the education of parents, we are all in a mess of trouble. Most Chicago parents have no idea about the Healthy Homes Initiative or think its just for lower income families or “those people in the projects.” Ugh, I shutter when I hear that on a number of levels. Most people think lead was eradicated after it was banned in 1978. But the problem here folks is that The Paint Industry was and still is not held liable for putting lead paint out there in the first place. And much like the tobacco industry had been found culpable with the spreading of lung cancer, I do think big ass profitable companies like Sherman Williams (who knew in 1908 that lead was poisonous) should be forced to help families and communities remediate lead paint from all surfaces. Not because people shouldn’t take responsibility for their choices or we should just blame everyone else for our problems. But when your choices are not healthy because of someone else’s choice to put profit above all else, you tell me where the responsibility should lay?
You tell me how I’m supposed to just be okay knowing that my daughter’s body has lead moving through it, going to each of her organs continuously, was at a really high level at one point, and could have drastic affects on her emotional-physical-psychological-reproductive-and mental development. You tell me how I’m supposed to be okay with that, now knowing that it could have been avoided if one privileged white male had done the right thing and actually had the property tested for lead. Instead of lying about it to his insurance and signing a waiver stating that no lead had been found. All so he could save some money on his insurance premiums. YOU tell ME how I’m supposed to just be okay with that and not look to blame and shame? And where is the responsibility in that? We do (and have done) everything as parents to make sure we have a healthy and safe environment for our daughter. From watching the food I ate while pregnant to choosing wisely with vaccinations, being uber communicative and educated with our doctors, to eating organic and healthy everything no matter what the cost. But at the end of the day for us, it all relied on ONE person and his choice to save a buck. This is how things work in Chicago. This is why I’ve been reluctant to move back to the city. This is why I’m up at night not sleeping. This is why I’ve aged through my hair follicles. This is why I have even been keeping this blog in the first place, because this is wrong. Plain and simple.
But lets not just talk about Chicago here. Lets get broader and talk about the lead paint industry. Because guess what folks? That whole selling point that “lead paint will last forever,” well it isn’t true. Not only is it completely and utterly false, but it is deteriorating now at higher rates and there is a whole resurgence of lead poisoned children happening. Especially in places like Chicago that proudly market their “Vintage” or “Vintage Rehabbed” apartments to the rest of us. Just yesterday I looked at a nice beautiful pricey apartment up in Evanston and its a good thing I had my lead test kits because ALL of the windows came up high for lead…and their painted over….thereby giving the illusion of safety. I’m not saying the owner of the building is knowingly trying to poison children. They just have an older building that they spent more money fixing up the kitchen with granite countertops and oak cabinets (barf) instead of getting new windows or even knowing about lead content in their space.
The other BIG part of the problem, as I’ve seen it from talking with hundreds of people of the past 11 months, is that people’s attitude on lead exposure is very Blaise. Look, I get it. It’s easy if you’re an older person who says “Eah, we had lead paint all around us and we did just fine.” And my question always back to people is, “Did you really do just fine?” “Are you really okay?” “Are you’re kids and grandkids okay?” And this is not to be some some righteous asshole, it’s an honest question. Because then the next part of what I talk about, or ask about is whether they actually breathed in lead dust? Most of them (older folks) reply with, “We may have eaten a few paint chips here and there, but for the most part everything is in tact.”
Folks, here is where the problems live……
#1 The idea that kids eat paint chips is a MYTH, FALSEHOOD, LIE
It is very easy for lead lobbyists (and oh yes they are out there) to put blame on a little child than accept the terrible truth that large paint companies knew for YEARS that lead was toxic to human development. I mean why talk about the toxicity and culpability of something when you can blame a little wee human who “always puts things in their mouth.” Well, that’s worked so far. Even in our situation, it was immediately assumed that our Lil S was eating paint chips. Except funny thing about that is SHE WASN’T. She is and was not a very “oral baby.” No pacis or dummys, no bottles, no typical teething on that stupid expensive French giraffe. So, we knew something else must have been going on with our apartment and *surprise* there was. My point here is not to brow beat anyone who may read this, but just WAKE UP ALREADY to the dangers that can exist in that nice, unique, quaint, vintage home of yours…Especially if you rent.
Which brings me to #2 Any landlord or realty company is not required to disclose the presence of lead, except for that basic LBP booklet your handed along with the waiver you sign, until a child has been lead poisoned on the property.
And as I found out in the case of our old place, even after we left and they did a shitty rehab job of just painting the front and back porches (which will deteriorate and will expose high amounts of lead again), they did not inform the new tenant that a child was lead poisoned recently. Pretty cool huh?
# 3 You are NOT annoying or in the wrong for questioning or wanting to have a conversation with your landlord or realty company about the presence of lead, especially if you’re planning or plan to have children.
Ooh boy, this just came up for me less than a week ago when (thank goodness) I went to look at a place we were going to take base on pics, word of mouth, and talking to the landlord. Thank goodness I went there myself because as soon as I walked in and saw the old old (beautiful in another lifetime for me) built in cabinet in the dining room, along with all the old stain wooden doors, window frames, and baseboards I knew we could not live there. But still I was looking for a way to work with the (what had been up till then) wonderful landlord. Which I am up front with everyone when it comes to our situation and what we’re looking for, because I am not wasting anyone’s time. I had been communicating all along with this landlord about needing to test for lead if there are older questionable pieces in the apartment to which he repeatedly told me that he rehabbed everything himself, new drywall, new paint…blah blah blah. So when I said, “I will need to test all the exposed wood because it looks unsealed.” He became I immediately defensive. Told me if it came up for lead (it did) he would not do anything to change the integrity of the beautiful old woodwork. Which is great for him. For us, for ME, I will not do anything to change the integrity of my growing family for health and development purposes.
#4 Nobody wants to hear your story and for the most part will think you’re making a big deal out of this “whole lead business.”
For us, for me, for the most part we are surrounded with love and support. But. And there’s always a butt isn’t there? There have been a significant amount of losses this year regarding our choices and issues. We have been met with resistance from friends and strangers when talking about what’s been going on. And you have got to have a thick skin if you’re going to go through something like this and not give one single solitary fuck what anyone thinks of what you’re doing.
Because until someone has to sit there and hold their child down while vile after vile of blood is taken and they are screaming “Help Mama Please!” And there is nothing you can do because you’re just holding on to the hope that this next test will be the last one for a long while… And until you have to quickly get out of your home and put all your belongings in storage…..And until you have to put all your money in doctors and medical bills…..And until you have to travel around staying with different family members because their house appears to be safe…..and until you have to survive on 3 hours of sleep each night…..and until you have to repeatedly say no to an apartment because it is not safe but you’re desperate to have a home again….and until your mom/dad heart breaks because you know there is nothing you can do to change any affects of what exposure your kid has had…..Until then, you cannot dare to judge us.
You cannot sit there and roll your eyes because, “Oh here goes Jess again talking about this stupid lead stuff.” You cannot sit there and say, “It’s no big deal. We grew up with lead paint and we all turned out fine.” You cannot ignore that ADD, ADHD, SPD, Autism, and whole slew of other kid brain development diseases are on the rise and there are direct links to early childhood lead exposure with a significant amount of cases. You cannot look at another apartment or home for your family and not notice the alligator looking peeled paint, or the varnish and stain that may be deteriorating-because guess what folks it was in ALL the old varnish and stain too-bonus! You cannot see that a furnace is in a lead filled basement and think its okay for your family to breath that stuff in.
And yet still, as I have learned these last 11 months, you cannot keep your child from all harm. It sucks. Truly, honestly it wholly fully fucking sucks. And you CAN drive yourself nuts being too meticulous or shielding your kid from too much. You can feel like the control and choices are taken from you because you still are getting some higher than expected readings on a test. You can make the best and healthiest choices for your family, like not compromising on your next living space no matter what anyone says. And you can want to cry your eyes out because you look at your beautiful, happy, expressive, playful, joking, laughing, running little girl and all you really have is HOPE that everything will be okay. She will be just fine. She will have a good, full, happy, healthy, and fun life.
I’ve had strangers ask me what all this has been like.
It has been everything you’ve read above and so much more.
And that’s okay.
We are a very strong family unit.
We have very loving and supportive people surrounding us.
We will continue to get through this and excel.
We have to.
Dear Chicago Rental Market,
Please No Whammies-No Whammies-No Whammies
Stop! Our family from worrying about where we’re going to live.
(c) HELLOS FROM THE HOMESTEAD 2012-2013
Since Open Letters seem to be all the rage in pop culture right now, here is mine to this City of Big Shoulders, City on the Make, The Windy City, Our Sweet Home Chicago…again:
Good morning. I hear its only 35 degrees and chance for snow is possible up in ya today. Sheesh, you’re laying it on a little thick, don’t ya think? I mean I know you like to make your citizens gripe and complain about the winters (and construction) but its a little early don’tyathink? Hammer it back a little. I would like to show our dear little Chippy how beautiful your fall/autumns can be. We will be back late Saturday night dear friend, so you have 4 days to get your s#%t together….please.
I’m conflicted about you Chicago. Some days I get all Brokeback Mountain and ask myself, “Why can’t I quit you?!” Other days I’m all Heathers up in here and like, “What’s your damage?” Okay, if we’re gonna be real, I’m ALWAYS all Heathers up in here because I’m a late 80′s/early 90′s kid. But after the past 11 months I seriously have been questioning whywhathow I’ve remained in your fair city for so long….
Because let’s stay real here Chicago, YOU ARE CHALLENGING. Back door deals for privatization of parking meters, corruption at virtually every level of government, now all this muck and mire with the forced no choice Ventra cards, high high high taxes, shady landlords with no ethics (I know that can be found anywhere), old buildings that aren’t properly maintained, the South and West sides basic alienation, CPS, construction, traffic cameras, parking tickets, gun violence, the city sticker, and oh god fucking CPS makes my heart weep. Yes Chicago; you are a big, huge, sometimes annoying, CHALLENGE. But I fucking love you.
I love you with all my heart because you helped me to find mine. I love most of your people, at least all the ones that I know personally. I love that first day in springtime when it’s kinda-sorta-not really-that-warm-but it is- and everyone-is-outside-and-happy. I love the crisp fall nights and even the slushy winter mornings where it takes forever to get anywhere and everyone is cranky but we can all revel in the crankiness together. I love your lakefront and your parks. I love all your different neighborhoods and how proud everyone is of them. I love your firemen…no really they are awesome. I love the cycling culture even though it can be a huge point of contention. I love most of the restaurants and a lot of the bars, mostly because (at this point in adulthood) I know at least one person who works at one of them. I love the movies in the park and the free music Mondays at Millennium. I love that I get to discover a whole new Chicago through my daughter’s eyes.
And there’s always a but isn’t there?
I am a bit apprehensive. A bit nervous. And if I’m going to be completely honest, I’m still a bit heartbroken from the past 11 months. I’m still working through some pretty big losses and big upheavals. Which is okay right? I mean a lot of shiz went down since December of last year and its okay that I’m still figuring out how to respectfully and healthfully (yes, thats a word) move forward. At this point, I’m basically running on fumes from the big Winter ONEderland party.
December 1, 2012 we threw the greatest most magnificent birthday party for a one year old that I’ve ever been to or seen. Throughout the day and evening, we had 60 plus of our dear friends and family come drink from our hot coco & cider bar and eat from our plentiful platters of food. Gifts were brought, cake was had, and I still have never sent out thank you’s to everyone who came and celebrated with us. Because as we all know now, on Monday Dec 3rd everything got flip turned upside down.
Which is why when I say, “I’m basically running on fumes…” I mean that I need to have again that community back, that we had last year. And I’m not just talking about the 60 or so people themselves, though most of them are still very involved in our lives -as much as they can be with our wanderlust-ness and travel. No, what I am referring to is the feeling of community and that sense of family that surrounded us back on Dec 1st. That’s not to be taken as a whining plea of “please be our friends and spend time with us,” but it is an open and honest plea from a mama here who has been through a lot the past 11 months.
I want to start anew with you Chicago. I don’t want the past 11 months to screw up what the past 14 years have meant to me. I don’t want to be the bitter ex or the oblivious new girlfriend. I want to be exactly who I am: The seasoned traveler of most of Chicago’s streets. The SAHM of a now toddler who is eager to get all up in ya and see what you’re about. The college educated community minded theater storyteller artist who’s got a whole lot more oomph to give ya. The cyclist who’s ready to give her daughter the city from the perspective of a bike. The (now graying) fun, energetic, outgoing, loves-to-dance friend who’s ready to maybe oh I don’t know go out from time to time. The mama who wants to protect her daughter from all harm but give her the world. And lastly; I’m the woman who arrived here as a young girl back in winter of 99′ and I’m ready-willing-and able to let go and continue building a good life for me and my family.
So, whatdoyasay Chicago….
Can we be friends again?
Can you make some room in your heart for me and my family?
Can you help me protect my daughter while also not shielding her from the truths of living in a large city?
Can you help me heal my broken heart?
Oh man can can we please go to Honey Butter Fried Chicken already? I have been dying to go to that place since it was just an idea being whispered about and all my jerk friends keep posting pictures and its driving me nuts. And Bang Bang Pie Shop, I miss you. And Grandma J’s. And Revolution Brewery. And Flying Saucer for brunch. And Belly Shack to see Cedric and eat good foods. And Dark Matter to get my buzz on. And Sprout Home because I love it there. And Archie’s tavern because I could use a god damned drink. And Kumas because I want some loud ass metal and a bunch a meat in my mouth (pun intended). And The Empty Bottle because well, just because I miss live music. And La Tizias for a fucken lemon cookie (they have the best lemon cookies). And Nightwood, because I never got to go there. And Tank noodle because I don’t care how many times they get shut down I love their Pho. And Rainbo, because Nate is the best human on planet earf. And Blvd bikes because I needs help getting my bike in working order. Ohmygosh and Hot Dougs, Xoco, & Pizano’s. And Heritage Bikes, because they’re awesome and I want to be all of them. And Heritage Littles for our girl. And Lincoln Hall for a show. And even dummy Navy Pier for WBEZ. And I miss my WWDTM people. And…And…And….
I know I forgot a lot of places like my favorite pizza place on the south side that I can’t remember the name of right now. And mark my tattoo words Chicago, I will be getting more ink in the next 3 years…I have waited and created long enough. And trips up to Evanston and out to Oak Park, just cause. And the museums and libraries and parks and pools and well the list goes on. Because I really do love you Chicago. You are and will always be HOME.
So as the kids say, “Let’s Do This.”
Love You, Mean It
(c) HELLOS FROM THE HOMESTEAD 2012-2013