[GUEST POST] Mothers

We’ve got another guest post on moms from Denise Medina. More about her after the story, but most importantly she can be seen TONIGHT at The Alley in Highwood.

My mother passed away almost seven years ago. She was only fifty-nine. We were very close, and I was lucky to have her involved in my family’s life (hubby and two girls) on a daily basis. We were suppose to be old ladies together, because she was only seventeen years older than me.

Right after she passed, I was sort of but not really (but maybe) looking for signs from the spiritual world that she was still around. A couple of weeks went by and I was a little more sensitive, wondering if maybe spirits couldn’t read your thoughts. I don’t know the rules.

I found myself alone in the house, so I shouted out loud, “Mom, I just need to know that you still exist.”

Not that night but the following night I dreamt that my friend Helen and I were reconciling – mom knew how distraught and confused I was over our falling out – when I suddenly and softly cried, “Helen, I have to go. My mom is here.”

Mom appeared in a pink, fuzzy bathrobe, wearing knee-high cow print socks. She loved all of the kitschy, knick-knacky cow things. She was illuminated and breathtaking. I knew I was asleep but it didn’t feel like I was dreaming. It felt like I had met her somewhere. I wasn’t dreaming of my mom in the past or the future. I don’t remember any scenery, inside or out. There was just blackness and space around us. We hugged, and I could feel her body, solid in my embrace.

As I held her, I lingered in that hug with my eyes closed. Relishing the strong physical touch, I remember thinking, “Hold onto this moment. Don’t let go because you don’t know when you will ever get to hug her again.”

Then I spoke to her, something to the effect of “Can you believe this shit?”

Not, “Hey, how is Gramma? Have you seen Jesus?” No. There were no profound questions about the afterlife or heaven. I didn’t know how much time we had.

She simply replied, “Yeah, I know.”

We held on for awhile, and then I woke up. I remembered everything, every detail, every feeling.

Two months later, I received a phone call from Helen.

Denise Medina was born and raised in Chicago. Although she currently resides in the northwest suburbs, the phrase “You can take the girl out of Chicago but you can’t take the Chicago out of the girl” totally applies to her. She performs stand-up comedy in the city and surrounding suburbs at such places as The Lincoln Loft, Improv Playhouse, Madame Zuzu’s, and the Kates.

Blood Is Thicker

Three days ago I got back from an eleven day road trip. Nine of those days were spent in North Carolina, where the majority of my partner’s family lives.

I was meeting them for the first time.

Somewhere in the middle of the trip, he asked me how I thought it was going.

Other than it going exceptionally well, there was something that I was struggling with.

The baby came on to the scene automatically related to all of them. A new grandson, nephew and cousin. I, on the other hand, was still only the baby’s mother. While I would never assume to instantly be viewed as family just because my partner chose to be with me in that moment, I still felt removed, separated somehow without the proper titles.

Not because I was being treated differently. If anything, I was welcomed with open, kind and loving arms. I felt comfortable and safe and didn’t mind long stretches alone with them.

I think that I was just a little bit sad to not be an aunt, sister or daughter-in-law. My son got a new family, blood related to a group of wonderful people just by being born. And the only way I can “earn” the familial bond is to be married.

It’s total crap and yet it was another example of how being someone’s wife is recognized above everything, almost more than being a mom in some ways.

It’s something I didn’t consider at all until I was in the situation and found myself wondering exactly where I fit in.

Again, not because I was made to feel like an outsider. But because my being a stranger was only slightly elevated due to being one half of the reason this baby exists. Sure, no small feat. Still somehow less because he was born out of wedlock.

In the confines of my relationship, I’m content in knowing I’m bonded to my partner because of our child. Whatever that relationship evolves into is yet to be seen, but we are forever tied.

In the eyes of the outside world, however, we are two unmarried people with a kid and for outdated, old fashioned, yet still acknowledged social reasons, don’t get to hold certain titles unless we say “I do”.

I’m not sure what my dad thinks of my partner, but it was just easier to tell the AT&T customer service rep that he was his son-in-law instead of his Daughter’s Baby Daddy. I mean, I get it.

For the time being, everyone goes by their given name. Maybe one day, when more years have passed, I can call these fine folks my nieces/nephews/sisters/brothers/mother/father-in-law.

Until then, I’m happy to have met my son’s family, who he is certainly lucky to have.


the Michael Fassbender of fish & chips

I spent nine days traveling around Ireland with a good friend.

That was nine days of her hiking and driving and generally kicking ass all over the Emerald Isle, and me being slow and whiny and snoring at night and coughing throughout the day and basically being the worst.

It is, I think, not a small miracle that she did not actually kill me.


Our last day in Killarney was a rainy one. Most of our time in Ireland was rainy and gray, so a morning spent driving a length of the Ring of Kerry followed by a bus tour of Killarney that took us past the house that maybe, MAYBE, was the very same house that the South Side’s own Michael “Lord of the Dance” Flatley managed to buy out from under Michael “Lord of My Ovaries” Fassbender followed by a whiskey (Redbreast 12 Yr. get on it now – they sell it at Binny’s, Chicago) at Courtney’s and finally fish & chips at Quinlan’s was not at all dampened (get it) by a few drops of rain.

By this point in the trip I’d finally stopped whining and bought myself a nice sweater to keep me warm, and cold medicine to keep me merry. The whiskey made things… interesting.

I got the hake, my friend got the plaice. The plaice was so good I very nearly snatched it out from under my pal’s nose. I stole bites between inhaling my own dinner.

I declared solemnly “It’s, like, the Michael Fassbender of fish”. So tender and beautiful and delicious, sweet and buttery on my tongue.

Just like I’d imagine the actual Fassbender would be.


Jobby Job

I haven’t had a full-time, on the books job in almost six years.

Even though money has been tight and my spending habits have changed, I was pretty happy. I didn’t suffer from Sunday night dread. I didn’t come home exhausted and annoyed. I didn’t feel hopeless.

Perhaps I’ve just never worked at the right place or had the right attitude, but the whole 9-5 thing hasn’t gone well for me. It sort of sickens me to be a cog in a wheel, spending time and energy doing something pointless just to not have the time and energy to do the things I want. I’m a good, hard worker. But if I only have two hours of work in an eight hour day, if a guy who spends most of his time at “business lunches” and golfing with potential clients is making 1,000 times more than me, if I have to jump through hoops of fire to get a day off, I don’t really see the point in living like this, save for the fact that I need money.

I’m not sure how long I could have floated by on part-time nannying. Maybe I would have gotten tired of never having new clothes or sick days or not being able to take a vacation. Maybe not.

But I don’t have that choice anymore.

It’s probably the most selfish I’ve felt so far to not want to find a 40 hour a week job (which, lets face it, is more like 50 when you count the commute). And yet the idea of not being able to provide for my kid makes me feel like I should be applying for jobs every hour of the day. He’s growing out of his clothes every second. Our stash of gifted diapers is gone. Soon we’ll be feeding him solid food, so my free breast milk will no longer be enough.

I broke out in a sweat when I realized I was running low on toothpaste, face wash and soap all at the same time. Even though I know my parents wouldn’t let me go without the basics, I can’t keep relying on their generosity when I’m a smart, able bodied person that needs to suck it up and get back into the real world.

My resume looks terrible. At best, I could say I’m trying to “re-enter the work place” and at worst, beg for an entry-level job, all the while playing down the fact that I’ve been a supervisor twice at two different times.

I’m open to nannying, but the instability means I can’t be a breadwinner, even if I wanted to.

Some days I feel fine. I have a roof over my head, a shirt on my back, hot water, good food, and a loving, supportive environment. Other days I feel like I’m going to be stuck in my parents basement for the rest of my life and while that may not be the worst case scenario, it’s too much of a “failure” for me to handle.

Mostly because I don’t want my son to look at me that way.

So yeah. I may be the person prepping your grande latte, finding you a dressing room, or taking your order.

If I’m lucky.


Old Enough for Allowance

Miss Spoken will be a year old this May! We’re a little blown away and very excited to celebrate our birthday with you. As part of this, we wanted to tell you about a change in format.

Starting with this month’s show, we’ll be accepting a suggested donation of $5. All of it will go to our readers. The reasons for this are simple.

  • We value their time, energy, and creativity, and believe it’s worth something tangible.
  • We think you feel that way too.

It’s suggested. You can cheap out and we won’t give you side-eye. Your presence is our present, to use the worst phrase ever, and we understand being broke. But if you can spare one fancy beer and like what we’re doing, this is a great way to show it.

See you on the 27th. There will be cupcakes.


Mother’s Day Weekend Guest Post

We’d like to welcome guest writer and former reader Tori Szekeres for today’s topical post. Thanks, Tori! More about her at the end.  -Rose

My mother is really open about sex.

It was never to the point where she’d slip a condom into my bag if I were going out – she encouraged me not to make the beast with two backs until I had a ring on it – but as a kid, she made it clear she was a sexual being and someday, I would be one too.

As a result, she would embarrass me because she would talk about that part of her relationship with my Dad sometimes. I didn’t want to think about my parents doing the horizontal mambo, and as I grew up, I didn’t want her to think about me getting my freak on.

But as we edge ever closer to Mother’s Day, I want to tell you about an accidental gift she gave me last Christmas.

We were going to the ultra chi-chi Sundance 608 Theatres in Madison, WI on Christmas Eve to see Wild with Reese Witherspoon. We sat in our seats, popcorn and bottles of water at the ready when the trailers began. A cover of Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” began to play, and a young twenty-something sat nervously in a reception area in a corporate office.

“Mr. Grey will see you now,” an assistant said to the young woman.

Uh oh uh oh a no no no no, the music said. I found myself whispering, “Oh my god.” It was the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer! I haven’t read the books, nor am I into kinky stuff, but I know the story. Who doesn’t? “What is Mom going to say about this one?” I thought.  My mind raced. Would she ask if I was into S&M? This is the woman who has encouraged me in front of my entire family not to engage in anal sex – anything was possible.

Just then, she turned to me and said, “This is like The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann.” I nodded and the trailer ended. We watched the movie without incident.

Thanks, Mom. For this and everything else.


Tori Szekeres is a stranger from a strange land. You may have heard of it; it’s known as Wisconsin. She ventures into the city from the Northwest Suburbs to do stand-up and storytelling with venues such as Zanies, Guts & Glory, Just Dickin’ Around, the kates, Beast Women Rising, Flabby at the Abbey, and Serving The Sentence.

King Spa

Last Sunday, I caught a glimpse of my half-naked body in a mirror and grimaced, a flash of disgust at the extra weight around my middle. I couldn’t even think spare tire because that made it sound practical, when in reality it was weighing me down in every sense of the word. Way to deal with your problems by pounding cheeseburgers, I thought, that’s working out well for you. Keep up that beer and couch therapy.

I shook it off and kept stripping down, pulling off socks, bra, underwear. I was among friends. And a lot of naked strangers. I was at King Spa.

King Spa is located just northwest of the city, but it feels like you’re in another country – and actually, that’s not true either. It feels like a sanctuary in that it’s removed and peaceful, but it’s more like a Chicago United Nations, black and white and brown people chilling out in a series of pools and saunas.

No one wears clothing in the gender-segregated pool area. I can feel you squirm, but hear me out.

a postcard from Ireland

Dear Chicago,

I haven’t seen you in a week. I’ve been traveling around Ireland with a friend. You would know this if you followed me on Instagram.

All of my pictures have been of food, with the odd shot of flowers, sky, or animal. On Wednesday, I saw no less than three rainbows on the drive from Galway to Connemara. THREE. Did Ireland do this on purpose? Like, “Jasmine and her friend will be here for the first time ever so lets make sure our rainbow game is solid.”

The rainbows and the lovely people who are so warm and sound like they are singing sometimes when they talk. The Guinness does taste better here. Brown bread is wonderful but I’m still figuring out my feelings about the brown bread ice cream at Murphy’s.

I have consumed a lot of delicious seafood and beef and lamb. Also vegetables when they were snuck in (usually under the seafood and beef and lamb).

Can we talk about the butter and cheese? Can we go on a European cheese and butter tour that consists of rolling our pudgy selves around Ireland, England, and France?

Do you suppose I can bring back a wee lamb to give me wool for a sweater? Or maybe one of the many well-behaved dogs I’ve seen strolling, off-leash (!), around Dingle and Galway and Dublin and Killarney?

I bought myself a sweater at the Aran Sweater Market in Killarney. It came from the men’s department. It’s very form fitting but I suspect it will give a little after I wear it more. I very nearly got it in black because then it would have looked like this sweater that Tom Hiddleston wore once on “Top Gear”.

And you know how I feel about Tom Hiddleston.

I think I like him almost as much as I like Ireland.

Miss you. See you Monday.


Mother of a Son

When I found out I was having a boy, I was a little disappointed.

Mostly because I was looking forward to dressing my girl up in fun clothing. We had a “perfect” name picked out. I’m sure somewhere not so deep down inside I hoped I could somehow make her a better woman than I sometimes think I am.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that maybe it would be easier. Or at least challenging in a way that I could handle better. This all remains to be seen of course, and I’d rather not describe things in terms of difficulty.

I didn’t want to put my boy in all blue or sports themed onesies or shirts that claimed he was “handsome” or a “ladies man” or “Daddy’s Little Tough Guy Pro Athlete All-Star Dude”. But his drawers are filled with gray and navy pants and socks with footballs on them and it’s fine. For now.

Recently, I’ve been around a lot of toddlers. I’ve definitely been zeroing in on the boys, trying to figure out how my little guy might turn out. Basically I’m scared shitless.

There is a hyper masculine four year old who is constantly going on and on about how girls are not allowed to do this or that, how girls don’t have muscles, how girls must like Wonder Woman. He actually orders a girl he’s friends with to sit and watch him and yell “Go Insert Boy’s Name Here” while he pretend fights his friend (who he also bosses around). He insults other kids by calling them “Mom” and berated another boy for using a pink crayon.

And. I. Just. Can’t.

I cringed as I overheard a dad telling a little boy who asked him why he was putting his daughter’s hair in a ponytail that girls have long hair and boys have short hair. I was sad when a sweet five year old who sat and colored with me, decided one day to make a gun out of Legos and declare he was a cop. He contorted his face into a menacing scowl and ordered me into jail.

A woman recently wrote a listicle on HuffPo about being the mother of three boys and the reasons this is great. One of them being that she can set an example for how women should be treated. While I appreciate the sentiment, this won’t work in the real world unless her sons see actual examples of men treating women right.

I can tell my son he should respect me and that women and men are equal in terms of their human worth, but I doubt very much that he’ll see this in practice in situations outside of the house. He’ll benefit more from seeing a healthy, balanced relationship between his parents than a mother who lectures him on feminism.

Not to say that the latter isn’t important. Of course I will do everything I can to guide him into being a feminist.

But even my own words and actions can have a gender heavy tone when I put him in a shirt with a fake tie on it or joke that perhaps he’ll be tall and play basketball.

I want my kid to be whoever he wants to be because that’s what he decides for himself, not to please me or society.

I hope I can provide that kind of environment.


Meet Our Readers

Bee Eff Eff. According to Urban Dictionary, BFF has two definitions, the most common of which is: Best Friends Forever. The other is the complete opposite and is: Big Fat Fuck. We’re going with the first one. Probably. Either way, we’re doing it with the ladies below. See you tomorrow night. Details on the sidebar.

Naomi Huffman

Huffman_picNaomi Huffman is the editor-in-chief of Curbside Splendor Publishing, and an editor at Featherproof Books. She’s the curator of the Book Fort, a roving interactive book fair that this year will appear at Printers Row Festival and Pitchfork Music Festival. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Newcity, Bookslut, and elsewhere.


Tori Szekeres

photo-2Tori Szekeres is a stranger from a strange land. You may have heard of it; it’s known as Wisconsin. She ventures into the city from the Northwest Suburbs to do stand-up and storytelling with venues such as Zanies, Guts & Glory Just Dickin’ Around, the kates, Beast Women Rising, Flabby at the Abbey, and Serving The Sentence.


Danette Chavez

DCDanette Chavez is a culture writer and editor but she took the scenic route getting there, spending over ten years in the hellscape that is newspaper advertising sales. She’s been published in the Chicago Reader, Chicagoist, Literary Chicago, XOJane, and the A.V. Club.




Catherine Eves

971549_10200982378339686_824572717_nCatherine Eves is an editor for Curbside Splendor. She was born in Australia, but basically grew up in Iowa, and now she lives in Chicago. She likes to read and sometimes likes to write, mostly nonfiction scribbled in the margins of her date book that will probably never see the light of day.


Lauren Hooberman

LH_PicLauren has called Chicago home for over 14 years. Her favorite job in the city has been a bartender, but she makes the big bucks in education. Lauren recently completed an all-women’s comedy class called Feminine Comique, and is looking forward getting more experience! In her free time, she rides her bike in the city and practices martial arts. She lives in Lakeview with her anxious and neurotic cat, Jen.


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