Filling Big Shoes

MomMothers Day is tough every year — there’s just no way around it. I get a little pit in my stomach every spring when I see the ads starting, but I just know I need to take care of myself and do what feels best in order to deal. It gets easier every year. I used to feel a lot of resentment on Mothers Day, and feeling so negatively toward others just exacerbated the pain I was already feeling about not having a mom anymore. In more recent years, I’ve found it’s become a lot easier, and feels a lot better, to embrace the day — to celebrate, instead of mourn. Easier said than done, I know – I’m not telling anyone else how to feel or how to respond to their own feelings. No one can help what naturally comes up for them, emotionally. It does help, though, when others around me show that they remember that not everyone has a mom, or has a great relationship with theirs.

I am lucky to have known my mom for 21 years, and now that she’s gone, it’s not gone unnoticed by me that I’ve got a bunch of bad ass ladies in my life filling in for some of her job duties. I wrote an essay about it for HelloGiggles, and it ran the morning of Mothers Day.

Outside of those special women, I am a little weird about my friends’ moms, but at least I know it. Luckily they don’t mind sharing their moms with me, or at least their mom stories, so I can live vicariously through them. I love Stef telling me about her mom binge-watching Parenthood and Friday Night Lights; I visited Becca’s mom when I was vacationing in Utah, because I felt like I knew her even though we’d never met. I’ve loved my roommates’ moms when they’ve visited, and I am even Facebook friends with some of them. I have been looking for moms in my life since mine passed away, and the fact that she was one-of-a-kind probably means I’ll always be a little bit looking. Whoever I marry someday better have a pretty amazing mother, that’s for sure. A potentially stand-offish mother-in-law might just be a deal breaker for me.

I don’t begrudge my friends having the relationships they do with their moms. If anything, it would probably be harder for me to hear about if they didn’t. But then again, everyone’s family is different and you don’t know what a relationship is really like unless you’re one of the parties involved. I support my friends no matter their level of closeness with their moms.

That said, if your mom is around, I hope you do have a good bond with her. If not, I hope you’ve found other people in your life who can offer you the support you need. I am really glad for those ones I’ve found along the way.

10 Weeks

Monday, July 13.

That’s officially the day my dad and I will take off in a packed, blue Cavalier and head out on I-90 for a few days straight. We’ll take our time, stretching between four and five days on the road — a big change from the one other time I drove across the country with Liz and Eileen, from Columbus, Ohio to San Diego, in a mere two-and-a-half. I’m so glad Dad is willing to make this long trip with me, and I’m really looking forward to it.

This set date means I have 10 weeks left in Chicago: 70 days, and technically one-fifth of a year, but it’s also only 10 more Saturday nights, and nine more roller derby practices. I go back and forth between wanting to speed this time up and slow it down. This weekend has been a great one, and one in which I’ve felt both ways, back and forth. It was gorgeous all weekend, and I saw a ton of my friends. I was outside a lot, I got the season’s first real sunburn, and I saw a roller derby bout. I also looked at openings in Portland group houses on Craigslist.

Last weekend, I moved what few belongings I still own from the place Adele and I had in Albany Park to Christina and John’s house in Avondale. It took maybe two hours, and I “unpacked” in 30 minutes. Most of my stuff is still in taped-up boxes, awaiting their fate of either being shipped to Portland via Amtrack, or being mailed to me at a later date. Aside from clothes and a one-cup coffee maker, there’s not much out in the open in my room. Not owning things feels freeing. It will be a pain to replace stuff in Portland, but for now I feel very light.

This is everything I own.

This is everything I own.

It’s my old room, the one I lived in when I first moved to Chicago, before I started at Groupon, and before I knew hardly anyone. It feels familiar and comforting, albeit a little surreal. The bird and tree wall decals I put up back then are still there, right where I’d left them. I woke up my first morning there and had a strange feeling of someone who’d moved back in with their family after graduating from college. While I can’t help but think about who I was and what was important to me five years ago, this sensation has mostly passed.

Home, again.

Home, again.

Last week I found out about a new Chicago music festival called Mamby On The Beach. My much-cooler friend Brittany posted about it on Facebook, and I messaged her about it. Headliners are Empire of the Sun and Passion Pit, and others include Phantogram, Cut/Copy, and Tanlines — among tons of others. My heart sank when I saw the dates of the festival: July 11 and 12, the two days before I move. Still, it seemed like a big way to go out, so I asked Liz if she wanted to go. She seemed like the best person to ask, since she likes those bands too, and is a person would be willing to pay to go to Lolla were it not such a shit show. She said yes immediately, because she is awesome and spontaneous. I thought about it later and realized it was kind of perfect that Liz is the person I’ll spend most of my last Chicago weekend with; When I moved to Chicago, she was living in Evanston and was, at the time, the only person I knew in the area. Halloween was five days after I moved here, and she took me out to a bar in Lincoln Park to make me feel welcome.

Speaking of bars — another friend (forgive me for not remembering who) was joking recently about how I should hold a farewell tour for myself instead of one big going away party. I know they were kidding, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do. If I have a handful of opportunities to see people, no one will feel insanely pressured to come to one big, final hurrah. And if I know there are still future chances to see people, it will never really feel like goodbye. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

These dates are tentative, but here’s what I’m shooting for. If you’re in Chicago, come on by:

If you can’t make it to these, I still have a Chicago bucket list of mostly (burger) restaurants, so let’s grab dinner.

Derby Practice: The Next Level

Like butta

Like butta

I wrapped up my 12-week intro class, Derby Lite Start Out, at the end of March. Last week, I went to my first practice at the next level. I signed up for the Tuesday night class, which is held at a roller rink in Lombard, IL. Since it’s far from my house, I stay in the suburbs after work and head there after traffic has died down. The other option was to do the verrrry early Saturday morning class in Oak Park, and so I decided to do whichever my friend Lisa was doing.

Lombard is possibly the best rink around. The Windy City Rollers just recently switched to the Lombard rink for hosting their home games, and its floor had been described to me as “buttery.” That sounded confusing (and unappetizing) but as soon as I set foot on it for the first time last week, I knew what that girl had meant. The practice space at Oak Park is fine, but it’s not a dedicated skating track — it’s a multipurpose floor, for things like playing basketball and other sports. It’s tiled, whereas Lombard’s floor is one gigantic, marble-smooth surface. It’s a huge difference, and you can go a lot faster than you mean to, as a result.

Going accidentally faster can only help me at this point, because in level two, almost everyone is faster than me. My days of speeding past my teammates are done — the level I’m in now is stacked with former derby players. They may not want to play the sport on a league team anymore, but they still want to skate, and this level is their place to do it. And now, it’s my place in which to get lapped.

We did speed trials on day one, which I was really excited about. I hadn’t done one since my pathetic 20 laps in five minutes back in January, before I knew how to do crossovers. Because there are about twice as many women in this level as there were in my intro class, we couldn’t all skate for five minutes and get timed. Instead, we were timed, two at a time, skating three laps. I felt pretty confident in my time, but was disappointed to see it in hard numbers, listed next to the new teammates’ times, once we were done.

I did my laps in 54 seconds, or at 18 seconds a lap. Most of the former derby girls had done theirs in well under 50 seconds. At the rate I skated, it would take me a sad eight minutes to get in 27 laps. To get 27 laps in five, I’ll need to shave my time down to 11 seconds per lap.

To get from 18 to 11, I’ve got some work to do. We don’t do another speed trial until 11 weeks from now, at the end of this level, on July 7. The good news is, friends and family are allowed to come see us skate that day. If you want to hitch a ride to Lombard with me, I’ll thank you forever for shooting some video of me going.

The class I’m in now is different from level one in almost every possible way. I know how to do the basics now, but I still struggle with my T-stops and turning around (gracefully). In level one, I felt like I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted to. Now, I’m struggling to keep up. I can’t complain — I wanted to feel more challenged, and that’s exactly what I’m getting.

I don’t think I mentioned this before, but after every class, we do some stretches to cool down. We sit on the floor, still in our gear, and basically do yoga in skates. Every single week, I start stretching feeling disappointed I have to stop skating, and not really wanting to waste time stretching. And every week, by the end of our stretches, I am so comfortable lying on the floor that I don’t want to get up. After my first level two class, I lingered longer than usual, closing my eyes, laying on smooth, cool butter.

I was starving after that class, having worked harder than I’d expected. A craving for Arby’s struck me out of nowhere, and I was suddenly a woman obsessed. Luckily, I was in the suburbs, and I suspected the odds were pretty good there was one between me and the interstate drive home. I looked on my phone, and there was an Arby’s less than a mile away. Being able to sense the presence of mozzarella sticks is a pretty underrated superpower, in my book.

Branching Out

Recently, with Stef’s help, I started a TinyLetter for the Addison Recorder. This was mostly done so we could try to get traffic to our posts that isn’t reliant on Facebook, which tends more and more toward a pay-to-play model we can’t keep up with as a free site without ad revenue. It was fun to lay out, and really easy. Then, after the first Tiny Addison Recorder went out, I read this article, which discusses the merits of freelance writers having their own email newsletters. It got me thinking, and I decided since TinyLetter is so quick and easy, it could be worth my time to put my own out on a bi-weekly basis. And so, may I introduce The Sleeper Hit TinyLetter.


This new platform is not intended to replace this blog, but to supplement it. It will serve as a digest of things I write about here, on Hello Giggles, for other sites, what I post about on social media, and more. It will be a bi-weekly wrap-up, but it will also always include some new content I haven’t already posted elsewhere.

If that sounds interesting to you, sign up — the first edition goes out next week, in which I’ll be updating folks there about my life and upcoming move as well as my writing.

How Twitter Bridges Gaps Between Cities

I’ve written before about how much I love Twitter as a freelance writer, but it’s also served me very well so far as someone moving from one city to another. After my initial Portland foray last fall, I began following lots of news outlets, writers, and local businesses out there. I keep most of them tucked away in a list simply called “Portland Folks” but I check in on it with enough regularity to feel pretty well versed on what’s happening there. I feel much more informed about Portland than I did about Chicago when I moved here in 2010.

It’s also helped me network from afar. Shortly after I started following Portland accounts, I also started seeking out roller derby ones. That’s when I realized there’s a handful of women who:

  • are freelance writers
  • play roller derby
  • live in Portland

I nearly fell over. What are the odds? One might worry that this means Portland metro area may be over-saturated with smart lady writers who love roller derby but I don’t think of it like that. I see it instead as further indication that someone like me will be very happy somewhere like there. I had been following a couple of these women for a while, and was interested in their books. Both about roller derby, but each is very different — and both are still different enough from the book I’ve been working on.

I bought Frisky Sour’s first, a how-to guide for those starting out in derby. Her book got me to reluctantly try washing my gear in the top rack of my dishwasher! (It really does work — you just have to make sure your velcro is all sealed up.) And while I was aware of it, I didn’t actually buy Roller Girl, the new graphic novel by Victoria Jamieson, until I heard my hero Stephen Thompson plug it on my favorite podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour. I recognized her name and the book title right away, and tweeted at her. She responded, at first, with:

But THEN, this made my day, when she replied to me separately:

I fully intend to transfer to their derby program the minute I move, and I can’t wait. I told her I’d even seen the Heartless Heathers play when I was in Portland last weekend!

Even before now, I’d “met” some Portland folks on Twitter and through Instagram. I even met met one guy, when Stacey and Shane and I went to the Portland Beer and Wine Fest. One of the organizers had messaged me on Twitter and told me to introduce myself at the event’s info booth, so I did. He’s a writer too, but also a radio host and active member of the Portland craft beer scene, so we had a lot to talk about.

It’s awesome that I’m slowly making connections in a new city I’m not actually living in yet, and it makes the whole thing feel a lot less daunting than it did five years ago when I moved to Chicago.

Chicago Bucket List 2015

I’ve got less than four months to do it, but I want to check off as many of these items as I can. Granted, most of them are food related (and, toward the end, burger-focused), but let me know if you want to come with me. I am worried my weekends will fill up fast, but I want to see as many people as I can before I leave.

  • Monday night music in Millennium Park at least once this summer
  • Zumba in the park!
  • Bike at least 200 miles of my total goal of 500 for 2015
  • Run at least one 5K downtown OR one by the lake/Montrose Harbor
  • Drink outside and on roof tops
  • Have a picnic by the beach
  • Dinner at Fish Bar
  • Burgers and chips at Kuma’s
  • Cheesesteaks at Monti’s
  • Brunch at Rockwell’s
  • Pastries and iced mochas at Beans & Bagels
  • Brunch AND dinner at Cafe Selmarie
  • Burgers and beer at The Grafton
  • Burgers at Au Cheval
  • Burgers at Butcher & The Burger
  • Sausage and cheese pizza at Pequod’s

Approaching Moving Day(s)



My last month in Albany Park begins this week, and I know I need to start packing for my three-month residency in Avondale. This will be a stranger move than usual, because I hope to get rid of the majority of my belongings before that point. After careful consideration, and some input from my dad who has a stake in this as well (more on that in a minute), I’ve decided to sell everything I own rather than move it 2,100+ miles. And if I get rid of it now, I won’t need to move it to Christina’s.

My belongings are currently divided into categories in a Google doc: Sell; donate;  mail; move with me in my car. I’m having a big-ass yard sale April 11 and I will be thrilled if I unload most of my furniture that day. When I pack for this move, I will stuff books and records and kitchen utensils into flat-rate shipping boxes, to be mailed to an address in Portland at a later date, $18 at a time. Are all of those seasons of ‘Friends’ on DVD worth $18 to me? They are not. At Christina’s, I will leave unpacked only what I’ll need between April and July. I’m getting a bike rack for my car and one of these crazy zipped up luggage things that straps to the top of sedans so you can fill it with camping gear. Or, in my case, whatever I realize last-minute I can’t part with after all, because I am a flawed, materialistic human.

My dad is a champ, because I asked him to drive across the country with me and he said yes. Now we are eagerly planning our route. We’re taking I-90, which neither of us has done, and I am excited to see the Badlands and Mount Rushmore.

I don’t have a job in Portland yet, but part of me is okay with that, for now. It lets me do things on my own time, instead of for a new company’s start date. The plan, as of today (it gets tweaked on a weekly basis), is to sell everything, and drive out with Dad in mid-to-late July. The exact date depends on whether or not I have to measure out my vacation time. If I don’t have a job anymore, we can leave whenever we want — silver lining. Once we get there, we’ll stay at an airbnb for a couple of days before he flies home. I’ll spend two weeks in a hostel while I apartment hunt, and then hopefully I’ll find a place for August 1. I’ll combine part-time work for my current company with freelance writing and fill in the gaps with my savings.

My cousin talked me into embracing Portland’s group house living. This whole time I’d been looking at one-bedrooms in apartment buildings, because I want to live by myself and adopt an elderly Portland cat. Those apartments are more than I can afford, and I’d need my future job to come with a significant raise. However, in Portland, it’s not uncommon for a bunch of 30-year-olds to share a house and split the cost five or six ways. I had assumed it was just college kids who do that, but that’s not the case. I can live for a lot less if I go that route, and a lot of those situations are month-to-month. If I hate it, I can leave after I get a full-time job and go get that cat after all.

Living with a bunch of people at first is probably better for me anyway, since I know from my Chicago move that I am more prone to homesickness than I realized. I shouldn’t let myself be cooped up alone in an apartment in a new city, at least when I get there. I can’t wait to transfer to the Rose City Rollers new players program and meet people. Plus, a friend recently inspired me to start a live lit show — something I’d joked about, but now am really interested in.

It’s scary to spell out the exact details of your dream, but I want this more than I’ve ever wanted anything. I feel like I am in such a weird place right now, like I have senioritis. My time in Chicago is dwindling and I am torn between wanting to speed it up and slow it down. I signed up for level two of Derby Lite, on Tuesdays from April 14 until July 7 — just before I leave. There’s so much I want to do in Chicago, and I wish it would just get warm, and stay warm, so I could go enjoy this city.

I’m flying to Portland again this week, for another five-day trip like I did in October. I’m not going by myself this time, though — two Columbus friends are going with me. We have no plans beyond my wishes to see the Rose City Rollers play, and there’s a beer and wine festival happening Friday and Saturday. We’re staying in the Alberta Arts District, which is one the neighborhoods I’m considering moving to. We’ll be taking the MAX, which I missed out on in the fall because I biked and bussed everywhere.

It’s going to be a busy few weeks, and then a busy few months, and then a busy year. Maybe by this time next year when I turn 30 things will have settled down a little — but I really doubt it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On 29

I am a 29-year-old now. I asked a lot of people if 30 was hard for them or not, and got a lot of varied responses (spoiler alert: men were unanimously unfazed, or claimed to be).

I was telling a friend this week about my first Chicago birthday, when I turned 25. I applauded myself on being so much smarter and mature than I was when I was 20. That was true then, but it’s funny to me now that I saw myself that way at 25. I look forward to the person I’ll be at 30, 35, and beyond. But for now, I think 29 will be my best year yet.

Thanks to these folks for celebrating with me.

A Modern Mix Tape

When I announced in summer of 2010 that I was moving to Chicago, I made a general request to my friends and family that they make me mix CDs to listen to in my car on the drive to my new home. I received more than a dozen CDs, from everyone to old newspaper co-workers to my best friend’s mother. My brother handed me a carefully curated disc of classic rock and my friend Stacey gave me a compilation of the current tracks she was obsessed with.

I was blown away by the response, and remember being delighted again and again at the choices made by a ton of folks. And so, I am making this request once again, for the long drive across the country to Portland. While a CD is my preference, so I can play discs in my car or put playlists on my phone, I realize it’s now five years later, and maybe you don’t even have a CD drive in your house, much less a way to burn a disc. If that’s the case, I’d love a Spotify playlist. I will be gladly/greedily accepting these lists between now and mid-July.

If you want to mark the occasion with a gift, please refrain — I am in the process of selling most of my belongings. I will, however, gladly accept an iTunes gift card so I can make some of these upcoming Spotify playlists my own. I’m still old fashioned, after all, and like paying for music. Some things never change.

Not sure what to include? That’s okay. You might pick stuff you think I’ll like (thanks!) or maybe you’ve got a couple songs that make you think of me or a time we shared. If nothing else, I want to hear what music you’re into during this time in our lives. Thanks in advance.


image via

image via

I have moved 14 times since 2007. My life has been dotted with weekends in all seasons, of paying friends and family in pizza and beer as they carted all of my things between points A and B. I haven’t lived anywhere for more than 18 months since I was a teenager.

Sometimes these moves were for good things, like new jobs and new cities and new boyfriends. Sometimes they were for bad things, like breakups. Mostly breakups.

The story of my Chicago

I told my dad I was quitting my job and moving to Chicago five years ago, while I was serving jury duty in Franklin County. It was March, just a couple weeks before my 24th birthday, and I was on a COTA bus going home after another day of not being put on a jury. I’d had time to think. Weeks earlier I had left my college boyfriend of five years after months of us growing apart. I loathed my job and had found the distance from it imposed by jury duty to be a strange relief. The idea of picking up and starting over elsewhere was intoxicating, and from the moment the idea planted itself in my mind, it dominated my thoughts.

My dad, on the other end of the line, was not thrilled, and gave me a list of reasons why my plan was flawed. He called back the next day and sighed.

“Do it anyway,” he said. “Now is the time.”

I saved up for six months. On October 25, I packed my Cavalier with two weeks’ worth of clothes and moved in with a relative in the suburbs of Chicago. Days later, I met Christina, my first Chicago friend and shortly after, my roommate and closest confident.

Give it time

I was lucky to have Christina, but I was incredibly homesick. This was something I had not anticipated — not because I don’t love my family, but simply because I had believed Chicago wouldn’t feel all that far away. I’d been so excited to live in a new place and I was ashamed for feeling afraid and maybe a little remorseful.

My dad, to his credit, didn’t tell me I’d made a mistake or tell me to come home. Instead he said, give it time.

I loved Chicago from the start, but I also expected a lot from it. Before I even arrived I had felt like there, finally, my life could begin — as if I’d been treading water just waiting up until that point. I wanted to right what I then saw as wrongs from my time spent in Columbus.

I fell in love my first summer in Chicago; I got my heart busted three years later. I spent the majority of my Chicago time making another person a large part of my identity and it backfired once he was gone.

Even though I knew it wasn’t fair to Chicago, I did hold it somewhat in contempt. It didn’t help that days after my ex-boyfriend moved out of our apartment, my car was vandalized. It didn’t help that I endured more incidents of street harassment and intimidation in the year I was without him than I had in my entire life previously. It didn’t help that I had 95 percent believed I’d met the person I was going to marry and while 5 percent of me knew I was wrong all along, it was still a harsh reality to face in the end.

A growing year

I made myself busy. I got a great job. I found a better apartment. I spent Saturday nights on girl friends’ couches and became a better friend. I called my dad more. I mailed care packages to my nieces. I wrote with relish and abandon. I cut my hair, I did standup, I took up roller derby.

I learned to forgive — not just other people in my life, but myself.

I took myself on a vacation. I spent several days in Portland by myself, where I met strangers and made them my friends. I rode a borrowed bike everywhere and stayed out late by myself, unafraid. I ate brunch on bar stools and struck up conversations with those beside me with ease.  I like who I am in Chicago, but I liked who Portland made me even more.

I came home to Chicago and found a parking ticket on my car’s windshield.

A plan for Portland

I thought about Portland for weeks. What was coming was inevitable, I think, but I still knew it was ill-advised. I’d written and said many times over that I’d never move to out of state again, especially not without a job. But I was suddenly beginning to feel like doing the hard stuff all over again really was the best thing for me. I could do it better, I would tell myself going to sleep.

I have gotten to know myself well in the last 15 months on my own in Chicago. But the more I’ve listened to myself, the more I have come to understand that my time in Chicago is coming to a close. It isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s just time.

Two days before Christmas, I made the decision to move in the fall — it would be capping off five years in Chicago, and I’d have until October to save money and apply for work. By February, I’d already moved the timeframe up twice.

When my lease ends this spring, I’ll be moving back to Christina’s, while I continue to save up and wait for July to arrive. I’ll have part of one more Chicago summer, and I won’t be in love with anyone this time. I will love only places.

Today, I told my boss. In mid-July, I will move for the 16th time with a U-Haul trailer hitched to my poor Cavalier. I will see the Badlands and I will take my time. I will give in to my own stubborn will again. I will move westward for miles and miles.

I can’t wait to see where I land.