birdday girl

I’m going to keep this kind of short because it’s my birthday today (WHAT) and apparently the weather is nice so I’m going to leave my house (I took the day off work) and do something.

I didn’t plan anything for today. I’ve already had such a nice weekend. LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT.


small talk

Agatha (not her real name) and I went to college together, but we didn’t meet until much later, at the home of a mutual friend who had invited us both over for a St. Patrick’s Day feast. My notes indicate that we had corned beef made in a crock pot, Irish soda bread, and dessert from a now-closed Sicilian bakery in Andersonville. Also that we talked about the Duggar family because then, as now, they are never far from my mind, apparently.

Alex Chilton died that night. I might have gone home from dinner to stay up late, scrolling through Tumblr, liking everybody’s posts of the same three Big Star songs over and over again.

Meet Our Readers

We’re sending out March like a lion and a lamb with the theme of Booty Call. As always, we’re excited to do it with the ladies below. Gallery Cabaret, Wednesday, 7pm. See you there.

Stephanie Douglass

image (5)Stephanie Douglass is a performer, farmer, writer, and trainer. She co-hosts This much Is True, tells stories and plays on stages all over Chicago, and is a Moth GrandSLAM Champion. She is a co-founder of the New York theatre company The T.E.A.M, was the head writer for OLN’s “Outside Magazine’s Ultimate Top Ten,” and is currently a staff writer for The Paper Machete. Last spring, she had the pleasure of co-producing The 25th Annual Chicago’s Biggest Liar Contest. When not onstage, she serves as the Farm Enterprise Director at Growing Home, growing organic vegetables and training people with barriers to employment. She is also a co-founder of Cyahafi Blooms, where she develops sustainable programming for rural women and communities in southwestern Uganda.

Meryl Williams

missspoken_merywilliamsMeryl is a journalism and southeastern Ohio transplant who loves binge-watching Netflix, listening to upbeat indie music with starkly depressing lyrics, and shamelessly ordering the Kids Pack-size popcorn at the movies. Her writing appears regularly on Hello Giggles and DNAinfo, and she is one-half of the Addison Recorded podcast with Gina Watters. She has been known to overshare on her blog and she is okay with that.



Cara Brigandi

missspoken_carabrigandiCara Brigandi, is a native Chicagoan, writer, comedian and storyteller… always has been, always will be. She has a foul mouth, but she’s okay with that. She is the co-creator, host and segue aficionado of Grown Folks Stories. Started in October of 2010, Grown Folks Stories is monthly storytelling event that takes place at The Silver Room – 1442 N. Milwaukee, on the third Thursday of every month. There is no judging, no readings, no theme and no rehearsed material. The event has been hugely successful and is creating a community of diverse, nonprofessional storytellers.

Leah Pickett

leah pickett-miss spokenLeah Pickett is a Texas-born writer, editor, and storyteller. She currently writes for the Chicago Tribune and has contributed to the Baltimore Sun, TIME, Seventeen magazine, Consequence of Sound, and WBEZ, among others. Leah also co-hosts The Marrow, a monthly nonfiction reading series at The Whistler that explores the heart of story.



Tamara Matthews

TMatthews_533w_800hTammy Matthews is a Colorado girl in an Illinois world, according to Facebook ads that keep trying to sell her t-shirts. She is now a respectable communications manager – and don’t you forget it – but she has been many things in the past including an ESL teacher, a yarn bomber, a car hop, and a guitar soloist. She has written for Newcity, A.V. Club, and Chicagoist, and now has a blog like everyone else at 365 Days in Chicago.




Kelly Bolton

KB.Headshot.1Kelly Bolton is an Elgin native who made the 36 mile trek all the way to Chicago. She is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, where she received her BFA in acting. She uses that degree to smile and act like a proper administrative assistant during the day. In her free time Kelly performs with Off Off Broadzway and her solo show Lonely Flirty Weird. Previously she has performed with sketch comedy groups OneTwoThree and Dark Eyed Strangers. She enjoys crocheting and fart jokes. She hopes to one day have a dog and a cross eyed cat.

90 Day Guarantee

The baby turned three months old last Friday.

Everyone, from friends to websites, said this is when things would finally become less crazy.

But like most of the advice or Facebook forum chatter about where you and your baby will be at a certain time, I haven’t found my experience to be exactly like any of them.

Here’s where I’m at now, three months later.

  • Our baby does not sleep through the night. The longest he’s ever gone is four hours. He naps, now for longer stretches, but no two days are alike.
  • Babies aren’t not always peaceful sleepers. Ours use to moan and groan while trying to digest. Now he turns himself 90 degrees in bed and often falls asleep by turning his had back and forth a thousand times.
  • We have only recently been trying the “cry it out” method. I swore up and down I’d be able to do this before giving birth, but it was a lot harder than I thought. Even now, we only do it once a day and don’t let him go more than ten minutes. And yeah, we both go back and forth on whether or not we should be doing it now or later or at all. (Update: I’ve been writing this post in draft form and yesterday did some research. Apparently, most “experts” say three months is too early, so guess we won’t be doing this anymore.)
  • I don’t care what he wears as long as it fits and is weather appropriate. All of my bullshit about not wanting him in super masculine outfits or those items that start with “Daddy’s…” or “Mommy’s…” has gone out the window. It’s on sale for 80% off? It’s a gently worn hand me down? Cool. He’ll take it and it’ll be fine (and thank you so much.)
  • Sleep is the only way I’ve survived and it’s also the reason I haven’t had to count on things turning around at three months. Due to some latch issues, I’m not breastfeeding. Instead, I pump five times a day and that gives him enough breast milk for the day and then some. I didn’t even know this could be a thing until he was having problems. Do you know how awesome it is that anyone and everyone can feed the baby and he still gets breast milk? Not to mention, I can go upwards of eight hours not having to pump, so even though it’s inconvenient at times, it’s not terrible. I don’t assume anyone can do this, but it’s an option I didn’t know about and am thankful for it.
  • Smiling is everything. The baby makes eye contact, follows our voices and even genuinely laughs at things. He is finally entertained by the activity mat and the dumb plastic mobile thing on his baby chair.
  • I only now see the point of “outfits”. I honestly did not understand putting him in an outfit for the day and then changing him into pajamas at night. I suppose it helped that we didn’t really leave the house for awhile due to the weather (and possibly my paranoia over the flu and measles.) So yeah, our baby wore one outfit (unless he soiled it) that was changed every 24 hours and that worked fine for the first few months.
  • Holding his neck up is also everything. We are almost at the point where we can put him in those assisted chairs and we definitely aren’t as crazy about making sure his head doesn’t flop off his body. Part of the reason to be excited is his development, but it’s also being able to put him more places. Though that’s assuming he’ll like the bouncy chair and excersaucer thingamajig.
  • OK, but back to the sleeping. I give every mom who breastfeeds a huge high five. In some ways, I’m sad it didn’t work out for us and I know I missed out on a bonding experience. But I’m 100% certain the sanity that’s been mostly maintained (after the first couple of weeks where I’d cry multiple times a day and worried constantly) has made all of the difference in how I feel about my kid, my relationship with my partner and parents and my overall opinion on how the first three months have gone. Not to mention, I’m sure I have a bit more patience and rationale. Even on days when I get four hours of sleep I’m a moody beast.
  • Sometimes relating to other moms is great…and sometimes it’s not. On one hand, it’s a really awesome thing to suddenly be a part of this weird club of motherhood. On the other hand, I sort of hate people. I’ll admit that I get kind of annoyed when I see some stranger on a Facebook forum post about how far along her kid is at an age younger than my own. I also have no problem admitting I think my kid is the cutest baby on the planet and obviously a genius. No, I don’t think these things are fact, but in my mind they are true. I have the double experience of viewing parenting as a nanny and now as a mom. It’s basically impossible not to be judgemental. For now, I tell myself that anything I THINK I’m going to do later is merely an unfounded hypothesis.
  • The time has gone too fast and yet it’s impossible not to talk about the future “when he can do” this or that. I think sometimes we assume because our kids hit certain milestones that they become easier in some ways. But one new thing leads to a bunch of other things that have to be considered.

He’s changed so much and I’m amazed at the difference between newborns and infants (apparently they are considered “infants” at three months.) I can’t wait to see what the next three months brings.


P.S. I post a lot of smiling baby pictures on Instagram. Don’t be fooled. He can be a serious fussy face.

Zen and the Art of Meat

Cooking was definitely something I grew up with, but I wasn’t interested in doing it myself until well into my 20s. I knew homemade food was good and sometimes better, but I didn’t care. There was a McDonald’s under the Loyola stop and a value menu with my name on it, Gharweeb Nawaz with one-dollar lentils and saag paneer, and about six million good Mexican places. I was set.

(if you don’t care about food or cooking, now might be a good time to revisit some other posts)

But sometime around my third apartment I started to miss it. So I started doing it, and long story short I am an okay cook. I don’t do anything fancy but my cookie and casserole game is solid. I don’t suck at vegetables either, especially the roasted and slaw variety. Every once in awhile I’ll bust out the food processor and make my own crackers. They’re basically teeny cheddar pie crusts and make me feel a lot more “foodie” than I really am.

The term “foodie” makes my teeth hurt, like to the point where I don’t want to say I like to cook because people get all oooooohhhh do you make your own seafood broth with leftovers from your homemade beer-steamed mussels then save them for later? (no, though I’ll happily eat the delicious bi-valves at Revolution or Hopleaf). And okay, I went to Sean Brock’s pre-fixe dinner at The Publican and I still think about those freaking heirloom carrots and crab-studded hushpuppies. I like herb-flecked artisanal goat butter as much as the next guy. But copping to making your own food and not blowing at it feels like aligning with a sanctimonious culture that doesn’t have a lot of room for being human or White Cheddar Cheez-Its, my one true love.

Despite not worrying too hard about the origins of my asparagus and a deep and abiding affection for Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden, I like cooking. I read a lot of food blogs. The abundance of Mariano’s excites me. I think it’s taught me some things too, which I will now share with you in a hopefully non-preachy manner.

things that i have to take care of now that it is sorta spring

Put away puffy black winter coat. But not too far away because whenever I do that is when Chicago is hit by a freak storm.

Move glossier, brighter lipsticks and lip glosses up in rotation of red lipsticks.

Catch up on watching “Empire”.

Clean blinds on windows and blades on ceiling fan.

Mentally prepare for season five premiere of “Game of Thrones”. Tell friends you will only respond when called “Khaleesi” or “My Queen”.

Get new friends when they refuse.

Buy and send birthday cards to Carly, Leah.

Start figuring out piece for 20×2.

Send out invitations for birthday outing to the Music Box to see A Day at the Races.

Buy hiking boots for trip to Ireland in April.

Buy trekking poles for trip to Ireland in April.

Break in hiking boots by wearing them around at home and at the office to prepare for trip to Ireland in April.

Google “hot Irish actors” and spend more time than is appropriate given that it is 10:0am on a Wednesday looking at dreamy pictures of Michael Fassbender.

Write fan fiction about meeting Michael Fassbender while hiking in Ireland in April.

Begin checking local supermarkets for butter lambs.

In Da Club

The bachelorette party was a success!

After finding someone to carpool with (who had a Prius and drove us there and back and we had so much to talk about the radio never went on), I felt really good about taking the out of town trip.

The bride to be’s college friends are sweet, fun and hilarious ladies who I always enjoy seeing on the rare occasion. I realized it had been a really long time when many of them were engaged or married and had been single the last time I saw them.

The restaurant we went to kindly divided the check SEVENTEEN ways, which was basically the best thing ever because group dinners give me anxiety when it’s time to deal with the bill.

After dinner, the party moved to a bar that had dancing.

I can’t tell you the last time I went dancing. I always want to…er, what I want is to be in a room with just my friends dancing to all of our favorite songs and drinking and actually having “the best night ever”.

But as we ALL know, these nights do not actually exist. After all of the clubbing I did in my 20’s and early 30’s, a total of zero of those nights went down in history as awesome. Instead, the best I could muster was a good laugh or a “I can’t believe that happened”, but mostly in an embarrassing or ridiculous way.

In fact, I’ve talked to a few friends about wishing Rob Gordon’s “Dance Music For Old People” was an actual thing (you know, from “High Fidelity). We wanted to rent out a room and not let anyone under 30 in (except for our cool under 30 friends). IT’S A BRILLIANT IDEA.

Anyway, I was reminded of why these nights are always disappointing this past weekend. For one, it’s no fun being old. I felt like it was obvious this was “my night out away from the husband and kids”. Everyone looked like a teenager and even if they were twenty-two, same difference. Not that I was there to hit on anyone, but when these boys were born in 1994 (my freshman year in high school), it’s hard not to feel like a creep just being there. (Maybe like me you went to underage clubs where you had to be sixteen, and there were upper age limits [I think 25?], but this time you are the old weirdos hanging back and watching the action.)

Second, the DJ was horrible. And it’s not because he was playing new music only the kids would know about. He was just bad. He did not play good songs. There are so many good songs. So. Many. I would rather dance to Taylor Swift and Katy Perry then pretend I’m really into this dubstep version of “Come On Eileen”. If you’re the kind of DJ who is just going to play one whole track after another like a human playlist, get your act together. Though to his credit, I was only there for about 90 minutes tops.

Third, girls are the worst. I’m sorry, but they are. Men are terrible, but women? Women in clubs may as well be wild animals. It’s bad enough having to dodge erect penises trying to grind on your ass. But a group of girls who’ve decided they don’t like you and your group of girl friends are horrible. I wanted to shout to every one of them who purposely elbowed their way through us or tried to box us out of our space that we were DEFINITELY NOT TRYING TO HOOK UP ANY ONE OF THE DUDES there and the only reason we got up on a stage (that was not lit and at the very back of the bar) was to get out of the way since we recognized how large our party was. Why do we act like another woman is a personal affront to us?

It was a sad reminder that this is what it’s like out there sometimes, especially when you’re single and looking. I remember those days ten years ago when I’d put on some stupid outfit and ill fitting shoes, forgo a coat in winter and jam my ID, credit card, cash, phone and lipstick in the smallest purse I owned to go to some trendy bar hoping some guy would buy me a drink. Without fail, I’d come home alone and half (actually most) of the time cry myself to sleep.

One scan of the room and I wanted to pick up a megaphone and yell “Look around you ladies!!! Are these guys worth fighting for??? Lets all just dance and have fun and ignore these dudes because that would be way more memorable. Also, we can stop looking each other up and down as though we’re competing with one another. While we’re at it, lets buy our own drinks because we shouldn’t be here to talk to anyone anyway!”

I really just wanted to say “Hey, my friend is getting married and we’re out celebrating her because we love her. I’m sure you’ve been there. And if you haven’t, I know you care about your girl friends, so lets all be respectful and kind because peace and shit. Why does it have to be this way? Geez. Sigh. COME ON…”

And lastly, what is with all of the making out in public? Seriously? Was it always like this? GO HOME. You can accomplish so much more behind closed doors. No one wants to see you touching tongues.

Really though, can someone make this “Dance Party For Old People” a real thing? I would pay cover AND stand in line.


The Dress

This weekend, a friend of a friend posted a dress on Twitter and I fell in love. Parrots and palm trees on smooth white polyester. Size 8. H&M. Shift cut. Dreamy. It made me think of bare arms and good times. Pool parties and Lost Lake. Not waking up in icy darkness with a head full of dread.

That dress was a tropical vacation in a long and shitty winter.

It’s at the Unique on Irving and Kimball, she tweeted back. If you go it might still be there. I went back to her post and looked at it. Looked at it again.

And I went. And I ruffled through a million other inferior and just plain weird dresses but I got it. It was $3.40 because Unique has half-off days. And then I got fancy cat food for my fancy cat and the bus came on time and it was perfect.

Sometimes when I’m in a particularly bad one, I complain to my dude that I need a big win. A really big win, a windfall, my ship finally coming in, a Powerball-level punch to my racing heart and sad sack mind and all the things I want to change or go away. And then I realize I’m an educated white girl of average build with features in a more or less okay arrangement – my whole life is a win. (I still want to win the lottery. I still want everything to suddenly work out all at once.)

But sometimes it’s not the big win. It’s a three-dollar dress. And sometimes it’s not even that, although yes it is perfect. It’s the walk there, the anticipation, going slightly off path and succeeding. It’s breaking routine – a reward and more often, a necessity.


Hollywood Beach

Eddie worked in my dorm’s cafeteria and I don’t remember how we got to talking. But we did get to talking, a short, awkward 17-year-old and a tall, big Mexican guy in his early 20s. He told me about his boyfriend, how they’d moved up here from El Paso for their careers. They both wanted to work in fashion but weren’t having much luck yet, and lived all the way up north by the lake because it was cheap. I lived in the dorms which I knew were not cheap, but my school had rules about moving off campus and I was too chicken to break them.

It sucked sometimes because rent really was good in this almost-tip of the city by the Granville Red Line. There were still more hookers than brunch places in the early 2000s, and four convenience stores at one intersection. My roommate and I called it the UN of Convenience Stores, though in retrospect he UN of 7-11 would’ve been more clever. The owners were Korean, Mexican, African, and Middle Eastern respectively, a not-inaccurate reflection of Edgewater and immediate neighbor Rogers Park’s demographics.

Eddie and I were a couple blocks north of the UN when we ran into some people smoking a joint on the sidewalk. We were on our way to the beach. And we didn’t run into them so much as a measured amble. You could smell the pot from a block away. We looked and each other and slowed down. Two women and a man. A good combination. I relaxed a little. We wavered at the corner of their group until one woman gestured to us.

“You want some?”

I was too chicken to rent an off-campus apartment, but not too chicken to smoke with a stranger.

I sucked in deep and coughed, tearing up (it wasn’t the most quality stuff, I wasn’t the most experienced smoker), then passed it to him. He took a neat and delicate drag, letting smoke seep out of his nostrils like twin dragons. I was impressed.

I felt it curl through my body, releasing some of the ever-present tension. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them everything was soft and glowing, the streetlight an orange bloom. This was a good idea, I barely thought, it is good to be here. The woman was gesturing to me.

“Hit it again, girl, hit it again.”

I was already reaching. I offered it to my friend, who flipped his hand no thank you. We should go, he murmured quietly. I nodded.

“Thank you!” I chirped. Everything was great. Everything was so, so great.

We met his boyfriend at their apartment. He was small and thin, eating a baloney sandwich on white bread in their spare kitchen. I don’t remember what we talked about. I could smell the yellow mustard. I think we smoked a little more.

“Are you going to swim in that?” He gestured to my jeans and t-shirt.

“Uh. Yeah.”

He rolled his eyes. “Hang on.”

I ended up wearing his clothing as a makeshift swimsuit. It fit really well. One pair of metallic booty shorts and a mesh top later, we strode towards the beach. I tried to refrain from swinging my arms as I walked.

I was swinging my arms when we reached the lake. It glimmered in the moonlight, little waves lapping a curving shore of high-rises. I took off running, feet pounding the dark sand. I had to be in it, could not wait to feel that cold water around me. Eddie’s boyfriend followed. We waded out until it came up to our hips, screaming and splashing. I went out deeper so I could do somersaults and handstands then dove under, wet hair  streaming down my back like a mantle as I rose up.

Throughout all of this Eddie did not join us. He stood on the beach watching, hands in his pockets.

By the time I got back to the dorms I was freezing, bra and underwear sopping under my clothes. My roommate was gone for the weekend, a small joy: I stripped naked, wrapping my gooseflesh in as many blankets as I could find.

The clock read 2pm when I woke up. For a long moment I wondered where I was.


Mrs. Potato Head

I got my hair cut a few weeks ago. It went fine. It went great, actually. I went to Rev. Billy’s Chop Shop and Billy did exactly what I asked him to, which was to keep the length (my hair’s super long right now) and get rid of the split ends and general bullshit that comes when you don’t get a haircut for over a year. He cut a few layers in the back but kept it looking blunt and we talked about how my head, my hair, or my head and my hair I don’t remember, is a sculpture and it took all of 15 minutes (seriously that’s how long the cut took he is FAST) for me to feel like a human lady again.

My hair was getting kind of gross but I hardly noticed. I was just sort of used to having a massive nest of fine black hair interspersed with white strands (NATURE’S HIGHLIGHTS AMIRITE LADIES) and, I shit you not, occasional bits of lint.

Note to self: clean your damn house, Jasmine.