I Bin Bad

Sowwy, nonexistent readers…I am sure that you have been outrageously disappointed that I haven’t blogged recently. I know I said I would blog three times weekly and I got your hopes up.  Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday you faithfully checked my blog, only to be consistently and outrageously disappointed.  You probably shed a tear or two.  Perhaps you swore at your computer as though it were to blame for my inability to follow through on my resolutiony promises.

The truth is that I’ve been busy.

The other truth is that that is a bad excuse.  But, since it was the beginning of a new semester I gave myself a bye as I readjusted my schedule and tried to figure out how to pack my life into a mere 24 hours a day.

Since this is a Monday and Mondays are whatevawhateveIdowhatIwant days I am gonna do just that.

TADA!

My first Monday back in Chicago I hopped a bus to Hyde park with the same amount of excitement that helped my pillow-wielding almost-ten-year-old self accidentally break the ceiling light on the eve of her tenth birthday.  I had three somebodies who I had missed sorely while I was in Minnesota and I wasn’t going to keep them out of my life for any longer than I had to.  We go for long walks on the beach or around the block and sometimes I throw things they want across a field and they bring them back.

In case you weren’t aware, my Mum is a Super Mom and, as such, has come to Chicago every weekend since we got here so she could see the last of my sister’s basketball games.  I’ve followed suit and trekked up to the north side to hang out and watch basketball a few times as well.  We eat good Swedish food for breakfast and good Chicagoan pizza for dinner and talk about ourselves and each other.  Sometimes I take pictures of us that make it look like I party with my Mum, even though we’re just sitting in the bleachers at a basketball game.

We also pay attention to the games and yell at the refs when the baby sister is on the wrong end of a foul.  Yay basketball!

Unfortunately, last Saturday she returned to Minnesota for the last time.  The streak is over, which is too bad, because it was so much fun to catch up with her every weekend.

Sisteepoo and I scored tickets to a Bulls game because we kind of know Dwane Casey (really, we only kind of know him, but I wish we knew him better because he’s AWESOME and REALLY NICE.)  This is him yelling at his team.

We saw beautiful swishes and dunks and I took lots of bad pictures and a few good ones.  This is one of the good ones.

Toronto lost, but we cheered for them anyways.  We were definitely in the minority cheering for Toronto on Chicago turf.  Did I mention that I got to go with my BABY SISTER?

Because I am broke and have an aversion to accruing debt, even in the somehow acceptable form of student loans, I have been hitting up sittercity like a crazy person looking for work.  I found a couple different families who I really liked and needed childcare on Fridays, which are no school days for me.  After my interviews one of the families invited me over for a trial babysitting job.  We made cake and I learned that if you love sprinkles, but are too much of an adult to put the amount of sprinkles that you want on your cake, you should just give them to a three year old without explaining the concept of “sprinkling”.  Best cake ever.

This cake was supposed to be for my Mom, but I squished it on my way home and I didn’t think it could survive another hour and a half up to the north side, so I ate it and sent her this picture so she could enjoy it vicariously.

I start babysitting them forrealsies on Friday.  Yay!

Also, Katherine and I celebrated her big 2-1 this weekend.  Because Katherine takes offense to the fact that I do not wear stage makeup on a daily basis like she does, she beautified my face and then we hit Maria’s.  Going off some advice from my friend Ian I bought her a drink called a one-up.  It sucked, which proves that going out on a limb and trying something new is always a bad idea.  Haha.  I kids!  I jokes!

Then she got an Amaretto Sour (my drink of choice since 2011…that’ll sound more impressive in a few years) and everything was great again.

And then (because we party rock) we went to Cheesies and ate grilled cheese sandwiches instead of going dancing like normal single 20 somethings.  In all seriousness, that place is probably my favorite place to eat in all Chicago.

We couldn’t finish.  Too much delicious for one stomach.

Stories without pictures:

Vicki and I drank tea (black tea with almond milk for me and bubble tea for Vicki) and ate pan fried noodles and talked about the church and behavioral patterns she notices in women who shop at Vera Bradley.

I flattened my bike’s tires by trying to ride on a freezing day without refilling my tires with air.  The air pressure was not what it should have been and now they busted.

I wandered into Harold Washington Library for the first time and touched as many books as I could before hiding in a corner and reading a poorly written mystery novel about a kind of skanky screenwriter who has an attitude problem and a gay roommate.  300 some pages in a couple hours.  I can speed read like nobody’s bizniz now.

I started new classes, one of which makes me feel stupid on a daily basis for no good reason.  Another class is challenging and fun and actually has homework (not just reading), which I’ve realized is something I have missed.  The third class feels like trying to play doubles tennis with people who are really fricking good at tennis and really fricking oblivious to the fact that there are other people who are trying to play with them.

I took part in a small group that was supposed to be about social justice and wound up being a possibly unnecessary call to action.  And possibly futile as it was only me and the leader of the group there.  Whoot?

Alexis and I have started exploring churches in Chicago.  We started at Willow Creek, which is in a beautiful building and is otherwise unimpressive.

I’ve been to the Art Institute a few times and bought cards for cheap so I can write my weekly letters on pretty things instead of on notebook paper.

Katherine and I are working out pretty much every day and I already feel stronger, faster, fatter.  Hee.  Fatter.  Funny how you notice your body more when you are doing something for your body on a daily basis.

I also had one of the greatest study sessions ever the other day.  9 hours long, very little done, but there was spaghetti and chocolate ice cream and there were jokes and stories told about Wayside school, Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Goosebumps and things that have nothing to do with pop culture.

So yeah, I bin busy.

Wandering Wednesday – Home

There are two things that I need to say to preface this entry:

1.  One of my resolutions this year is to blog three times weekly.  I figure that structure will encourage me not only to write consistantly, but also to write quality material instead of constantly copping out with bad poetry.  My plan is to write every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Mondays are my free days, so I’ll write about something I’m reading, watching, thinking or feeling…typical bloggy stuff.  Wednesdays I am alliterationally calling “Wandering Wednesdays” and will be about a new place that I have visited or explored.  Fridays are devoted to fiction.  This way I get to explore three specific parts of myself (the indecisive free spirit with too many interests, the traveler and the story teller) on a consistent basis and my readers (all zero of them) will know what to expect on a given day.  So if that’s something that matters to you, that’s a win.

2.  I have had a few conversations since I returned home that have shocked me.  Not necessarily because of their content but because of their implications.  I am very close to my family.  I like to think that I know them quite well.  I know that I don’t know any of them perfectly, especially now that we have started moving out of the house and creating new chapters in our lives that have less to do with the Petersons as a unit and more to do with us as individuals who care about each other.  However, I am realizing that there are important bits and pieces of my siblings and mother about which I know nothing.  I have had 23 years worth of time to ask these people questions and grow in my understanding of them and I am still learning “new”, important things about them today.  I love that I learn new things about the people that I love.  I hate that there have been and will continue to be things that I never think to find out about them.

Today is Wednesday.  According to point one that means that I am supposed to wander somewhere new and unpack the untold mysteries of a place I have never seen before.  Due to point two, however, I thought that it would be fun to explore the house that I grew up in with fresh eyes and see if there is a part of this place that I did not know before.

I present to you…mi casa:

 

From the outside a house is almost less than a house.  It fades into the scenery just as much as the leafless trees and bushes in front of it.   The redness of my house is something I remember being proud of as a kid.  I liked that it stood out of the monotonous drone of grays, browns and light blues that characterize most of my suburb.  A red house with white trim was unique without being an eyesore like the odd pastel yellow or pepto pink ones we drove past in Minneapolis.

Workshop

I remember seeing beams of light shining through the cracks around the door to my Dad’s workshop when I brought a basketball or a bucket of chalk back into the garage after a day of play.  I would peer inside and wave at the man with sawdust in his beard.  I would jealously stare at the saws and hammers and journal about my dream (although by the time I was old enough to use the machines I’d given up on the dream) of becoming a carpenter like the two most admirable people I could think of:  My Dad and Jesus.  In that order.

I thought that if I was looking for the secrets my house has been keeping from me I should start in a place that I never spent much time in.  I figured that the garage and my father’s attached workshop were the best place to start.  They are crowded with things that I’ve rarely glanced twice at, but the only thing that I found out was that nothing there deserved any more attention than it had already received.

I took pictures of whole rooms and trinkets.  I opened drawers and sought out things that I remembered from once upon a time but haven’t seen in ages.  I tried to get as much detail into every picture as was humanly possible and even as I tried to manipulate my house into telling the story that I wanted it to tell it fought back and reminded me exactly what I learned earlier this week.

The stories aren’t in the big picture.  They are in those insignificant, dusty details that remind us where we came from and edge us toward where we are going.  And no matter how hard we try to shape them it is always they that shape us.

 

 

My house is the mailbox I never adjusted to.  The boring, identical black box that never really replaced its mottled, rusty predecessor.  Reddish brown spots threatened to poke holes in the matte, white metal.  In retrospect it was kind of embarrassing that we didn’t get rid of the mailbox sooner, but in retrospect I still wish we hadn’t.

 

 

 

My house is the pair of rubbings that hang in our entry way.  As a young adult my mother went to cemeteries with a crayon (a fancy crayon, but I don’t know the actual terminology) and sheets of long black paper and find stones with beautiful etchings.  Then she would bring those beautiful etchings home on her long sheets of black paper.

 

My house is the broken, unused and unusable lanterns hanging in the workshop.  With one parent raised on a farm and the other in the back room of a tiny small-town store they whisper of a past that is only mine by association.  Forgotten and broken, they are a secret in their anonymity.  I love them for that in a kind of misplaced nostalgia that doesn’t even belong to me.

 

 

My house is the license plate frame we were never tacky enough to keep on a car, but with which we agreed enough that instead of throwing it away we hung it up in the garage.

 

 

 

 

My house is the bunch of dead roses hanging above a probably dried out package of shoe goo where nobody will ever see them.  A love for the beautiful combined with an aversion to throwing anything away leaves them tucked away where they are rarely appreciated, but never degraded to the level of trash.

 

 

 

My house is the wall of wedding photos and the last family picture we took before my Dad died.  It is the school photos that represent every member of my family, including my father and a silhouette of my mother and all the nieces and nephews.

 

 

My house is the dog tags hanging in the laundry room.  Not used since our dog was put to sleep when I was in elementary school, they remain a reminder of the dog I still remember chasing down the driveway in a panic. My father swept me into his arms before I reached the street.  I saw visions of my puppy getting lost or run over and never returning as it ran into oblivion, but he convinced me she would return the next morning, no worse off than she was at that moment as she faded into the distance.  He was right.

 

Final Summation:  My house isn’t made of secrets.  It’s made of memories.

Painting and Daisies

My room started changing colors today.

It has been blue and green for a decade.  Today it began its journey toward pinkness.

Before I could begin painting, though, I first had to remove everything that I didn’t want to be a casualty of an unwieldy paint roller.  The accompaniment to my work was supposed to be the recording of the Odyssey that I checked out from the library, but a new This American Life was downloading in my iTunes and an hour long presentation by Ira Glass seemed a lot more palatable than eleven hours of mandated Homer.

I hit play and started pulling books off my bookshelf with the energy unique to the beginning of an arduous task.  Ira explained that he had heard the following story in a theater and had been inspired to broadcast and fact check it, which is all that this week’s show really was.

And it was powerful.

Mike Daisey, the original teller of the story, opens up by confessing his addiction to technology.  I laughed along with his live audience as I stacked books in my sister’s room and dumped the clothes I’ve been meaning to bring to Goodwill on my other sister’s floor.

He mentions the curiosity sparked after seeing four pictures posted on a Mac “news” (rumor) site. Someone had found them on their brand new iphone and shared them with the internet.  They were clearly test photos, taken in the factory and accidentally left on the phone when it was packaged and sent from China to its eager new owner.  I smirked, thinking of test cameras in places like Best Buy and took the peacock feathers from my godmother and the Kenyan doll from my brother off the ledge by my window.

Eventually these photos inspired Mr. Daisey to take a trip to China where he spoke to people who worked in the factories.  He saw huge nets outside of the surprisingly large building and learned that they had been put in place because in a relatively small window of time twelve workers at the plant had killed themselves by jumping from the windows.  He mentions a chemical used for cleaning screens that dries faster than alcohol, but put tremors into the hands of the people who used it.  He met fourteen year olds who told him how easy it was to get and keep a job at the big technology factories, despite supposed age restrictions.  The bright humor that had laced the beginning of Daisey’s story became increasingly subdued and I furrowed my brow a little as I attacked my light switch and power outlets with a screwdriver.

Daisey described how an eight hour work day was a “joke” to the employees to whom he spoke.  They usually worked twelve hour days, sometimes sixteen, sometimes more.  He mentioned a man who died after working a thirty-four hour shift and said that such an event wasn’t irregular.  I thought about the 16 hour shifts I worked in Alaska.  I remembered swollen legs from too much standing, an alien cracking feeling in my back from leaning over conveyor belts that were painfully close to the ground and sore wrists from constantly flipping one identical fillet after another.  I shuddered, imagining 34 straight hours in a factory and started pushing my furniture into the center of my room where it would be safe from paint spatter.

Labor is cheap, he said.  The visions of robots creating iphones that he had once entertained were obliterated when he witnessed even the tiniest parts of cellphones and computers being put together by hand.  Labor is cheap, he said.  It turns out that our desire for our possessions to be handmade is less fanciful and more realistic than we ever imagined because it is cheaper to pay people to make these things by hand than it is to build machines to do the same jobs.  Deciding that I wanted more space in the middle of my room while I painted, I pushed my dresser into my sister’s room and thought about how when I get a permanent apartment or home of my own I will seek out a carpenter or learn to make my own furniture, rather than stapling together thin pieces of plywood stacked in flat cardboard boxes together and calling it a bed or a dresser.

I turn to my now empty bookshelf and unscrew it from the wall.  I pull it gently, not sure how heavy it will be.  It is stuck to the ten year old paint.  Daisey met a man with gnarled hands who used to make ipads.  His hands were destroyed from doing the same tiny task too many times with no variation. Daisey pulled his ipad out of his bag and showed it to the man who played with it for a little while and called it “some kind of magic”.  He had never seen one turned on before, even after working on thousands in a factory.  With one last ferocious tug I dislodge the bookshelf from the wall and drag it into the hallway.  My back hurts and my room is ready to be painted.

A few years ago I was talking to a family friend about development in third world countries.  I said something about how other countries are “behind” the Western world, that the problems they are currently encountering are ones that we encountered some hundred years ago.  I said it was unfair for the West to expect them to somehow fastforward through their development to meet us where we are.  Self-informed development is just as important to the stability of a person or nation as the end goal if for no other reason that growth is stunted if it is imposed by an exterior force.  The person I was talking to said that she didn’t think it was right to say that one country has progressed more or less than another, which would be a valid point were it not for the fact that one country was forced to suffer the imposition of another’s culture.  What was once essentially apples and oranges became apple and genetically mutated orange that better learn to be an apple if it knew what was good for it.

There was and is a process of adjustment where the first culture struggled to remain true to itself, but there is only so much pressure any institution, culture or individual can take before it inevitably crumbles and crumble it did.

Daisey suggests that Western countries and the corporations that use the labor from places like China have a responsibility to impose the same labor regulations that we fought for here, there.  I am inclined to agree with him.  Why only spread the diseased parts of capitalism without the salves?  The world we live in is a global one now, and much as I want to lift my hands defensively, recognizing that we’ve broken more than we’ve ever fixed, the reality is that we are neighbors now.  As neighbors, we have a responsibility to help rebuild what has been broken, especially, but not only, if we are responsible for the initial destruction.

Clearly I am contradicting myself.  There is the orange that was forced to become an apple that deserves and probably requires the journey toward applehood to be its own, but as neighbors in this ever-shrinking world, we also owe the orange any constructive assistance that we are capable of giving.  I think.

There is a lot more that can be drawn from Daisey’s story than a meditation on what happens to a group of people or a country has their values overridden by a more powerful country.  Not only that, but it’s captivating, well told and funny to boot.  I strongly suggest giving it a listen.  I linked it at the beginning, but I’ll link it again here, just in case you missed the first one.

My room is three quarters pink now.  Yay.