I’m On Public Aid

In case you were wondering how someone that makes $300 a week can pay her rent, eat and have a baby, it’s because I’m receiving public aid.

Yep, that includes WIC, food stamps and Medicaid.

And HELL YES, for all of that.

I am not embarrassed. I am not ashamed. I know that even if I were making double that and couldn’t qualify for it, I’d be much worse off.

How, you ask? As many of you probably experience, there are a lot of co-pays and deductibles associated with regular insurance. Maybe some of you have a lot of available credit or a sizable savings account. Or perhaps a significant other who covers the bills. I don’t. There is no way I could afford out of pocket expenses for anything.

Even if I wasn’t pregnant, I’d still be dealing with finding $500 lying around for a crown I need on my back molar.

Oh and by the way, the health center I’m going to has covered all of my basic dental work including six cavities. For free, people. I should also mention I’m in individual counseling. Again, gratis.

This is how socialized medicine works. And it totally makes sense. Insurance companies, big pharm, hospitals, all they want is your money. They are not properly regulated by the government, who, by the way, don’t give a shit about you either, in case you hadn’t noticed. Fixing your healthcare problems is not even a blip on their radar when all they’re focused on are the funds they receive from lobbyists.

We live in a country that places a VALUE on human life. As in, we let people die all of the time because they can’t afford preventative care, prescription medication, or life saving procedures.

Think about that for a minute.

The good thing is: I’m not completely reliant on this aid. It is supplemental. There is basically no way I could live on the $54 a month they give me in food stamps plus the weird things I’m eligible for on WIC. In other words, I don’t claim to be in a position that many, many people who receive this aid are in.

But it’s helping. A lot. So is paying $3.90 for every prenatal doctor’s appointment and so far, not having to pay a cent for either of my routine ultrasounds.

Certain people complain that some folks are purposely trying to stay on the welfare program. To be honest, I believe that. Who in the hell would want to work 60+ hours a week making minimum wage to be just above the poverty line, struggling everyday, versus getting a little help from the government?

If they really wanted people to be less dependent, they’d force multi-billion dollar companies like Walmart and McDonald’s to pay their employees $15 an hour or figure out the actual livable wage in each city. It’s baffling that a good portion of these employees are on public aid and are also the ones we point fingers at for supposedly abusing the system. The face of poverty isn’t laziness. It’s a whole workforce of underpaid people who are trying to make ends meet.

Call me a socialist. Call me a communist. But I am not comfortable with ONE PERSON MAKING 296 TIMES MORE THAN THE AVERAGE WORKER. One in five kids go hungry in America while some undeserving asshole is making $296 to your one. And I say undeserving because no ONE person is working THAT HARD to justify THAT MUCH more money. He’s an asshole because obviously. He’s probably paying a lower percentage of tax than you and in relation to how much he makes, is donating even less. And He is a He because duh.

You know that saying “it takes a village”? It’s absolutely true. And the government RELIES on that shit. They are looking to churches and community organizations to fill in the gaps where they refuse to as if it’s not their job to look out for their own citizens. Not only have I received public aid, I’ve had the support of friends, family and an employer who are literally giving me things. Even strangers on Facebook exist just to help one another. I am very lucky and very grateful.

So please don’t be mad at me.

I know that I won’t be relying on this forever. Just so long as my kid gets good coverage.




Not That You Asked: Gay Marriage

Over the weekend, I went to Minneapolis to attend my uncles’ wedding reception.

He and his partner have been together thirty one years and it took about that long for them to be able to legalize their relationship.

As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of marriage, it perplexes me even more that anyone would have a problem with people of the same sex getting married.


What. Is. The. Problem.

The idea that it is ILLEGAL in some states for two people to get married just because they are both men or both women makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. Who has the power to make these kinds of decisions and why are they even made?

Just wondering these things out loud is ridiculous to me.

Let me be clear: If you are not a supporter of gay marriage, we are not friends and never will be. I’m not interested in your politics or your religion when it comes to this matter.

In fact, calling it “gay” marriage makes even less sense to me. It’s just marriage, no? Everyone wants equal rights because that’s what we deserve. It should not be a special consideration, a subset of what the rest of us, and by rest of us I mean women who marry men, are allowed to participate in.

But even I found myself in an unexpected thought process when I realized that while I’ve always considered my uncle’s partner/now husband my uncle, I’d never really addressed myself as his niece. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s always been labeled a partner only or because my own view of their relationship not being a man/woman dynamic meant something different.

I have a closer relationship with him then most of my uncles. I may not see him often, but he knows more about me than a lot of my family.

It was a really joyous, celebratory occasion, one that I’m glad I was a part of.

And there is absolutely no reason sex should determine whether or not you can marry.

Plenty of homosexual people get married. We only seem to have a problem with it when they want to marry someone of the same sex.


Meet Our Readers

Summer Love. Hot, sticky, fleeting. 1967. According to Urban Dictionary, “When you meet someone of the opposite sex during summer or on vacation and you think you’re in love but in actuallity you’re not and it’s more lust…” There might be more to that definition, but Megabus has blocked that site – I’m making this post from the road, which sounds way more Kerouac than a pleasant, somewhat bittersweet trip to Ann Arbor. The couple behind me are experiencing it, and they’re so cute I want to take their picture but I know that would be super creepy. Anyway – come hear about it next week at Gallery Cabaret from these flower children:

Lily Be10154397_10203293764494702_2018195754845190571_n

Lily Be is a momma, a nanny, a friend, and a storyteller. She’s a wise Mexican badass from Humboldt Park with a straight from the hip style of storytelling that has made her stand out in the storytelling community. She is the first Latina Moth GrandSLAM champion, WNEP Maelstrom champ, The Spotty Truth Late Night Storytelling champ, and host/producer of The Stoop at Rosa’s Lounge. There is really nothing a bio can tell you about Lily Be that her stories can’t do better. Her stories are featured on the RISK podcast and The Moth Radio Hour.

ccooperheadshot2Cinnamon Cooper

Cinnamon is a 17-year resident of Chicago and considers this home because she’s never lived anywhere else nearly as long. She’s a bit of a crazy cat lady who will one day find out how to combine all of her interests in food, crafting, feminism, class, race, and of course, cats. Until then she’s still trying to get over the writing fatigue she got writing a cookbook a few years ago. If you want to know about cast-iron cooking, pick up The Everything Cast-Iron Cookbook. It’s wicked cheap, and subtly political.



Corrine Mucha

Corinne Mucha is a Chicago based cartoonist, illustrator, and teaching artist. She grew up in southern New Jersey and studied illustration at RISD.

Her most recent graphic novel, a hilarious break-up memoir titled Get Over It! is out now from Secret Acres. Her other comics work include the Xeric-funded My Alaskan Summer, the Ignatz award winning The Monkey in the Basement and Other Delusions, and the YA graphic novel Freshman: Tales of 9th Grade Obsessions, Revelations and Other Nonsense.

In addition to comics and writing, she is interested in glitter, houseplants, chocolate, bad puns, running, and gluing googley eyes onto things. Her website is www.maidenhousefly.com.

yellowElizabeth Gomez

Elizabeth Gomez is an entrepreneur, stand up comic, world explorer, and a founder of an all female roller derby league. She currently spends her days agonizing on whether to put on pants. She is a Beast Woman Rising and you can see her at the kates at the Book Cellar on Saturday, August 30th. You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter @JuannaRumbel since she’s too lazy to put together a website.

185570_862610279926_832975987_nKaren Shimmin

Karen Shimmin is the co-host of All Write Already!, the “completely unpretentious” literary podcast. Karen also co-hosts and co-produces Essay Fiesta, a monthly live lit show, which takes place at the Book Cellar on the third Monday of every month. Karen graduated from Northwestern’s creative writing and theatre programs and has performed around the city.

Season of Social Excuses

Alternate title: I Want to Hang, but I’m Anxious and Broke

What I did on my summer vacation:

  • Got a new job.
  • Started this business you’re reading right now, which I hope makes you 1/8 as happy as it makes me.
  • #1 and #2 started the same day.
  • Got multiple IT certifications. I know. I might be the most interesting person in the world.

How I dealt with it:

  • Freaked out, over and over.
  • Fought with my dude.
  • Slept really badly.
  • Made a lot of lists, because they’re soothing.

What I didn’t do:

  • See much of you.
  • Go to your event.

So yeah. I’m sorry. I would love to do that thing with you, but when I turn into a wad of nerves (see “How I dealt with it”), all I want is space, time, and plenty of it. I will not enjoy what we’re doing because I’m thinking of the 10,000 things I should be doing, and it’ll make me even more squirrelly and awkward than usual. I’ve been like this since I was a kid – it’s hard for me to like something if I think I’ve left something unfinished. It’s neurotic and lame. I’m this guy incarnate. Plus, I’m in a bucket of debt. It makes it even easier to turn down that beer, that dinner, that fun and money-sucking thing you want to do, because I can always fall back on “I shouldn’t.”

But I like you. I think you’re pretty and smart. I want to hear about what you’re doing and like, be supportive in the way you are of me – our only interaction shouldn’t be hey you should come to my show and yeah I can’t make your thing. I don’t know if I’ll ever get good at being busy, new challenges, or not running a mental hamster wheel of anxiety, but I’ll keep trying. For you – for me – for that thing we should do in October. Also, you should come to the show next week.


Oh Boy

Welp, don’t tell my son about the post saying I really wanted a girl.

To be honest, I wasn’t as disappointed as I feared I would be.

The very first thing the ultrasound technician showed us on the screen was a very prominent penis between two very active legs.

So that’s that.

As my fantasies of pigtails and tutu’s float off into the ether, I’ve been trying to pick more things on my registry now that everything doesn’t have to be gender neutral.

I’ve skipped over dressing my kid up as a football or wanting the “transportation” print pajamas and instead have focused on various animals, robots and anything monster-like instead. It’s incredible how much this baby that hasn’t even been born is becoming a person, based solely on its genitalia. I’d much prefer he pop his head out and declare his favorite color is orange and that he prefers dragons over dinosaurs.

Mostly because I don’t want to superimpose my likes and desires on this developing kid without him having a say or making assumptions about what boys “should or shouldn’t” be into.

However, having been nanny for a good chunk of time, there are plenty of toys and t.v. shows I pray he’s not into. There are only so many things I can watch on repeat (like Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba) before completely losing my mind. I may have to invest in some really good earplugs if his favorites are Dora or Thomas.

I’ve also decided that I will remove the batteries from every toy that plays music, talks or makes noise. Just kidding.

Not really.

But yeah, I’m totally into the onesies with bowties printed on them all the while trying hard not to choose the unfortunately hyper masculine items that start in sizes as early as “newborn”.


So Long “606”…For A Bit

The last time I lived outside of Chicago was my brief stint in Evanston back in 2008.

Yes, I’m that person who will tell you I was born at Illinois Masonic, that my dad is a Lane Tech alum and that my cell number has been “312” since 1999. If you really want to know how Chicago I am, I’ll list all of the neighborhoods I’ve lived in.

I know, you don’t.

Anyway, I’ve decided to move in with my parents when my lease is up (November 30th). It is, as of now, the most ideal situation. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a part-time nanny and between now and the birth of this kid, there’s no way I can save enough money to pay my rent for the months I’ll be unable to work.

I will not make promises of getting into the city as much as I can once summer rolls around again, nor do I expect any of you to make similar statements about visiting me in the burbs. I’ve seen it happen before and I don’t think I’ll be some kind of exception to the rule.

However, if you feel like coming 45 northwest of the city (there is a Metra station in the town over and I’ll gladly arrange for you to be picked up), our door is open.

My friend J has been asking what I’d like to do before I leave city confines and aside from all of the craft cocktails I’ve been missing, I suppose I just want to eat my way through these final few months. If you’re into that, hit me up.

As for the future, I assume I’ll try to get back into good ol’ Chicago once this kid is a little older and I’ve been able to put away some money to get the apartment of my dreams. Though I don’t know if the city will be my forever home. I love this place like no other, but having a kid may change the feasibility of it all.

So yeah, I’m gonna be a suburban mom for awhile and I’m pretty OK with it. I’ll just live vicariously through your Facebook posts.


August is for Lovers

Happy August, gentle readers (aka my mom and three other friends). Summer’s almost over and it’s bumming me out. I like heat (I know, you don’t), and there hasn’t been enough of it. It’s been a really busy few months for me, for mostly really good reasons: I got a new job, you all got married, my dude published a book. We put on some shows. Again, good things. It’s just been different. Not a lot of time for drive-ins, roller coasters, or porch drinking, all the lovely things you can do outside when the weather permits for a few precious months. I haven’t even gone to the most awesome rec center swimming pool in the world, whose location I won’t reveal because it’s clean and perfect and never too crowded, and I want to keep it that way. Plus, late summer always makes me weird. It’s amazing and timeless then I get melancholy towards the end, suddenly feeling the need to reread Dandelion Wine for the umpteenth time. It’s getting cooler. My birthday’s coming up, I’m getting older. Winter is coming. Shit.

But you know what? I’m not complaining. Because busy with good things is the best kind of swamped, aging is inevitable, after winter comes spring, and August’s theme is Summer Love. We’ve got a kickass lineup ready for you. Come on down in a couple of weeks, and we’ll enjoy the fading warmth together.



Unsolicited Advice

I hadn’t seen *Joann in years. In fact, I think the last time was when she had either just gotten engaged or married.

And how she was surrounded by four children, two of which were hers.

She looked distracted and explained her youngest was past his nap time. Her husband barely looked at me and both seemed to be waiting for someone/thing.

I made a quick exit and she said in a low tone: “Don’t get married and don’t have kids.”

I laughed a bit and answered “Well, I’m due January 3rd, so…”

“Oh!”, she said surprised “Are you married?”

“No, just a boyfriend.”

“OK, well, just have one then.”

This is the second time someone has uttered those words to me.

The first time came from my mom, who took me out to lunch as a teenager and said the same exact thing, stressing I should live my life and not be tied down. At the time, I was sort of offended. I mean, she was essentially saying she’d wished she hadn’t had me. I was also a teenager and not open to an adult’s advice.

But now that I am an adult with a lot of hindsight, some of it 20/20, I’ve been thinking more about these words of wisdom. I wish I could tell my eighteen yourself not to major in radio, to pay off her $500 credit card in full instead of making minimum payments, to develop a real sense of style, to not waste time on certain people…you get the picture.

So when someone who is married and kids tells me to not do what they have done, it’s hard not to believe them.

I watched the HBO documentary “112 Weddings”, where a documentarian turned wedding videographer decided to follow up with some of the couples he’d shot. None of them seemed particularly happy, most definitely disillusioned. The look in some of their eyes, a sort of defeated, bewildered and overwhelmed gaze, begged the audience to reconsider taking the plunge.

I suppose it’s too late for me now on one of two of those counts, but I can’t help but wonder what’s in store for me and what some of you know that I don’t about motherhood that would make me warn someone else not to do it.


Hi. It’s Me.

Being pregnant is weird.

It’s not something I’m thinking about ALL of the time, but for a lot of it, I am.

There are thousands of ways to think about it, and most of the time, I keep a good portion of them to myself because I’m not sure who to say it out loud to.

I don’t know how to ask for advice because for some reason, this is the one time I’ve felt like this experience is so unique and singular, no one will have the right words for me. Which is kind of funny because each of our lives and how we deal with living those lives is an individual experience and yet we are still comfortable calling up a friend or asking the Internet for help.

I feel alone. Sometimes a lot. I can tell because I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time at my parents’ house in the suburbs. And mom, if you’re reading, please don’t be worried about me. It’s been a comfort to be in a familiar place with people I love.

My boyfriend who is endlessly patient, still doesn’t know exactly what I’m going through. Can’t, really. And between my mood swings and crying, I can only ask so much of the guy.

Since finding out I was pregnant, I’ve felt a distance grow with some of my friends. It probably started when I got into a relationship, meaning I’m partly responsible and had less time to spare, but this is also different. I think some of us (“us”) take those first few months to experience that all encompassing “honeymoon period” and our friendships are neglected. But just as I was coming out of that La La Land, I got the news. I don’t want to re-emerge only to dominate the conversation with talks of doctor’s appointments and baby crap. But this is sort of 90% of my day now. Whether it’s what I can or can’t eat, how I’m sleeping, or why I can’t do this or that because of my condition or financial constraints, it’s a reality.

This is not a criticism of them and I know they are here for me. I could pick up the phone and call them for anything. I just don’t. Because I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to tell them that sometimes I’m anxious, worried and sad. I don’t want to scare them. I don’t want to interrupt their lives, even though I know that’s what friends are for sometimes. I feel exceptionally needy lately and conflicted about contacting them versus waiting for them to contact me.

I also feel guilt. Guilt that is tied to some notion that I’m undeserving of expressing all of this because I got myself into this situation. Guilt that maybe I wasn’t doing that great of a job building a community I now need. I only want to talk about how excited and happy I am because it seems wrong not to.

This is not some kind of test of my friendships. This is my inability to ask them for something simple like a phone call or initiating a get together. I want to tell them “hey, I still really care about you and want to know what’s going on with you and this is not just about me needing an outlet for all of my un-relatable crap”. In general, I’m navigating new waters with my relationships and I’m sure whatever is happening is in direct relation to how vulnerable I’ve suddenly become.

My friends who are moms have reached out to to give me much needed baby items, which I’m so unbelievably grateful for. They want to know how I feel, to offer positive thoughts and support. But even with them, I haven’t been totally honest and forthcoming with how overwhelmed I feel.

I know that I’m not actually alone in this process. It just seems that way sometimes. Everyday I wake up with this human being inside of me, no way to check its vital signs or see a picture. I feel like the only person who gets this and not because I don’t acknowledge that it’s been done a billion times before.

But because I don’t know how to ask for help dealing with what I’m going through and if anyone will really have the answers I need.

Still, I want you to know: Hey, I still really care about you and want to know what’s going on with you and this is not just about me needing an outlet for all of my un-relatable crap.

I’m sorry if you felt like I’ve abandoned you. I’m sorry that I don’t socialize the way I used to and haven’t quite figured out how to have fun while also feeling the way I have.

Your friendship could really come in handy right now. I just didn’t know how to tell you how much I need you around.


Stop Selling the Suburbs

I probably want kids someday. I don’t want or plan to move to the suburbs. I don’t see these plans as mutually exclusive, but the older I get the more I have the following conversation:

Co-worker/party guest/friend of a friend: “Where do you live?”

Me: (says where I live)

CW/PG/FOAF: Is that downtown?

Me: No. It’s north and west of downtown.

CW/PG/FOAF: Oh, is that still in Chicago?

Me: Yes.

CW/PG/FOAF: We used to live in the city…then we had kids.

Me: (suddenly and intensely wants a strong drink)

First of all, what is up with everyone who thinks Chicago falls into “downtown” and “the suburbs”. THERE IS SO MUCH OF CHICAGO THAT IS NOT DOWNTOWN. A very small percentage of people actually live within the these parameters. There is like, miles and miles of city outside of this. So much city. Chicago is sprawling and giant. Plus, most of what’s great about Chicago is the neighborhoods.

Getting back to the point. The phrase above is usually delivered in a tone that’s part defensive-apologetic and part condescending, with an implied “You know how it is.” I don’t know how it is. I know why you’re doing it- actually, that’s not true either. I know what I usually hear:

  • It’s safer.

It’s not. I can provide studies upon request, but it’s not.. There are some parts of the city that are dangerous. There are some suburbs that are safe. There are some suburbs that are dangerous. There are some areas of the city that are safe. It’s not necessarily safer, so much as you feel safer. And what makes you feel safe doesn’t make me feel safe. Being surrounded by people and resources makes me feel safe. Not depending on a car makes me feel safe. Isolation terrifies me.

  • The schools are better.

From what I read and friends who work for CPS tell me, the public schools in Chicago are a mess. Point for the suburbs. I think this is the only point that’s somewhat true. And that really, really sucks.

  • Housing is cheaper, and I want a big house. 

Sometimes it’s cheaper. And the belief that your kids need x amount of physical to be happy and thrive is just that – a personal belief. I don’t want to raise FutureBaby in a studio apartment: though you can, and they can turn out amazing – I’m just saying, cramped living conditions plus the normal stresses of raising a kid is hard. But as far as I grow, a kid’s growth isn’t stunted without acres of house and lawn.

  • It’s closer to my parents.

It’s not closer to mine. But this is valid.

Despite all these reasons, people never sound really happy about these decisions – in fact, these points are usually punctuated by “But man, it was great living here! I miss it so much!” or a wistful “I loved being able to walk to everything.”

It’s not something they wanted. It’s an inevitability, something they had to do, and reading between the points above, the strongest, generally unspoken reasons are:

  • This is how I was raised, and I want my children to have that experience.

This is a fair point. I get it because I want the same thing – I don’t want my kids to grow up in the suburbs, because I didn’t grow up in the suburbs. I grew up in a big city then a small city. We moved to the smaller city because my mom didn’t want us to grow up in the suburbs, and if we’d stayed in the larger city that’s what would’ve happened. That might be the route I end up taking. It makes sense to me. I love being very, very close to everything. I love not having to drive. Being in the city is being part of a larger whole, which is important in many small and medium daily ways and sacred on a soul level. Yeah, I said soul level. I was born in San Francisco, California, and I have the right to say hippie-dippie shit like that and own it.

And if my kids revolt and move to Naperville, I’ll cry but I’ll deal. But I want them to grow up how I grew up: surrounded by activity, people, architecture, and history. I know there are downsides – getting into a good school is incredibly hard, I may never be able to afford property, and some areas are pretty bad. I’ll take it.

  • I have an amorphous yet pervasive sense that this is better, and popular opinion supports me.

This is the truth behind many of the points above, and it’s not always evil. People want the best for their kids, so they do what they think is best. I can’t fault someone for that. But it’s not fact, or logic, or in any way objective. You chose to move to the suburbs not because it’s objectively better, but because of the reasons above. They are your reasons. I can respect them a lot more when you don’t act like your choice is the only valid one.

Let’s make a deal. I’d like to propose replacing “We used to live in the city…then we had kids.”, your voice creeping with a mix smugness and sadness, with the following:

“We used to live in the city. Then we moved out to the suburbs.”

I will smile and nod, and probably change the topic to food or movies. And instead of making an awkward break for the host’s liquor cabinet, we can enjoy a beer together.