It’s the Little Things

Hello, dear readers. Life continues to be weird. Time continues to feel more ethereal than normal. I still rarely remember what day it is. This pandemic continues to creep closer and closer to hitting home with me; I know for some of you, it’s already there. It’s a scary time.

I am trying desperately to hold onto what glimpses of light I can in the midst of all the uncertainty. Here are a few things that have been bright spots in my week:

  • It has been so bright in my “office” (our sunroom) when I start working in the mornings that several times I have needed to pull out my sunglasses. The sunlight, even filtered through our windows, is a welcome and wonderful thing.
  • There are trees immediately outside of our sunroom windows (we’re up on the 3rd floor). I have multiple times now experienced the joy of watching a squirrel take a nap on a branch. I think it may be building a nest in the tree, as I saw it gnaw off a twig or two yesterday.
  • I’m so enjoying watching nature from my sunroom. In addition to napping squirrels, I’ve seen house finches, mourning doves, robins, sparrows, and a woodpecker.
  • The trees are starting to bud. Before we know it, there will be fresh, vibrantly green leaves coming out, and it will feel like we live in a tree fort.
  • I’m getting ready to play a D&D campaign with some friends and family that I am incredibly excited about. I am so glad to have the distraction of play in the midst of all of this.

It is definitely a dark and scary time right now. I am rotating regularly from fear to anger to sadness to numbness and back again, and I know that’s a perfectly reasonable response to what we’re going through. It’s also why I think it’s so important to find those little moments of comfort and light.

I’d love to hear from you – what are the things that have lifted your spirits lately, however briefly? How are you holding up?

Good News!

Hello, dear readers! At long last, I can share with you the good news I’ve been hinting at for the past couple of weeks – I got a new job! Starting March 9 I’ll be moving out of the nonprofit world and into doing tech support at an app company. I could not be more excited.

It’s been a wild ride getting here. Back in October, I was very casually looking at positions online, and I came across a posting for this company that I thought looked really interesting. They were based in New York, but were gearing up to open a Chicago office. I applied, and in December ended up having a couple of great interviews with them. I didn’t get the job, but when they sent the rejection, they told me they wanted to stay in touch.

Now, I didn’t want to read too much into that, but it didn’t seem like quite the standard, “Sorry, you’re not a good fit for us,” email. So when I noticed a new, similar position go up at the end of January, I decided to take a chance. I emailed the HR recruiter I’d been talking to in December, and asked if the hiring manager was the same person, so I could address my cover letter more personally. I didn’t really expect to hear back…and I didn’t, for about a week.

Just as I was about to go ahead and apply, I got a response apologizing for the delay (she’d been on vacation), and letting me know that, yes, it was the same hiring manager. She also said she had a meeting scheduled with that hiring manager later in the week and would be happy to mention to him that I was interested. She encouraged me to apply, so I did.

The very next day, I got a response. They let me know that since I’d interviewed so recently and had already talked with the hiring manager, they were skipping over the initial interview part of the process, and dropping me directly into the next step, which was a trial project (basically using their help materials to answer some sample client questions). I took the afternoon off to go home and work on it (since at that point, I was too excited to focus on existing work very well). I did what I thought was the best job I could do, and sent it in.

About a week later, I heard back that they were impressed by my project and wanted to move me along to the final interview stage. After a last-minute reschedule, I ended up having the final interview last Tuesday. I had great conversations with three people on the team. The hiring manager made a point to let me know that my trial project was the best work he’d seen on that in a long time. I felt like I nailed it. I was told I’d hear back by the end of the week.

Fast-forward…about 24 hours. Wednesday afternoon I got an email from the HR recruiter saying she and the hiring manager wanted to give me an update, and could I spare 15 minutes for a phone call that day? I responded with my availability and sent several, “cross all your appendages for me!” texts to the friends who knew I’d had the interview.

I got an offer. I was expecting, based on the conversations I’d had in December, to be offered a salary that was a bit below what I wanted, and was prepared to argue for more. Instead, the number they offered me was my pie-in-the-sky, I-don’t-think-I’m-allowed-to-ask-for-this, never-gonna-happen number. I said yes.

This all happened in a span of 15 days.

Last Thursday, I turned in my two-weeks’ notice at my current job and informed my teammates. Friday I wrapped up telling the folks I needed to tell privately, and then Friday afternoon my boss sent out the official announcement to the agency. I’m getting a lot of practice in setting emotional boundaries and not trying to manage other people’s emotions (my therapist is going to be so proud). There’s a lot of sadness, and a fair bit of anxiety about what’s next.

And part of me is sad, too. I’ve worked with really great people, and I’m sorry to say goodbye to them. I’ve also learned a lot at this job – when I started, I had zero IT experience. I’m grateful for my time here.

I’m also really, really excited for what’s next. Every person I’ve talked to at this company has gotten me more excited about working there. It’s a great opportunity, and the way things fell into place, it feels like it’s exactly where I’m meant to be right now.

So that’s my big news! Special thanks to everyone who’s reached out in the past couple of weeks to check in and get updates – it’s been great to have your support. I’m a lucky queer.

Bursting at the Seams

Hello, dear readers!

I am having a really great week. I can’t talk publicly about all the reasons why just yet (feel free to reach out if you’re curious), but here are a few:

  • Last Friday, I ended up writing a song with a fellow FAWMer. I wrote the lyrics, sent it to them for music, they sent it back, I recorded the melody and guitar part, and they added harmony and ukulele. It sounds FANTASTIC, and I am so excited about it. You can listen to it here.
  • Over the weekend, a friend from the Twin Cities came to visit, and it was so fun! They are a very easy houseguest and it was a relaxing weekend for everyone, I think.
  • As of this morning, I’ve completed my personal FAWM challenge of writing a song for every card of the major arcana in the tarot. I’m very excited about that.

More to come next week on the rest of the excitement. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you – what’s making your week brighter?

Surprisingly Productive

So…I’ve had a shockingly productive first week of February (by which I mean: I’ve had a really successful first week of FAWM). I’ve gotten up at 5:30 to write four days in a row now. I’m 6/6 days/songs written.

I don’t expect that I’ll write a song every day all month. That feels bonkers (and also, we have a friend coming to visit next weekend, and while they are lovely and encouraging I don’t think I’m going to get a lot of writing done when there are three of us in our one-bedroom apartment – it’s hard enough when it’s just me and my partner). But I am really excited about how the month is going so far.

I’m trying to participate more in the listening and commenting on FAWM this year than I have in the past. As a result, I’m making some friends. I’m probably going to do a collaboration on a song with someone whose songs I’m really digging but who I’ve never met, which is just a cool think about the internet.

This year for FAWM I’m focusing on this 78 Songs project I’ve been “working on” for about four years with little success. I’m trying to write a song for every card in a tarot deck, and up until this year I had maybe half a dozen done. I decided to use this concentrated songwriting time as a catalyst to get some traction on this project. So I’m starting with the 22 cards of the major arcana. Since there are 22 and I only really had the first one done, I started working my way through a week or so ahead of time. As of today, I’ve gotten through XI – Justice, which means I’m over halfway there!

I’m going to leave you with my favorite of the songs that I’ve written so far. This song is for VII – The Chariot. I did not think this was going to be a 5 minute song, but here we are. This was largely inspired by a conversation I had with a friend. It was later pointed out to me that it’s also very queer, and I’m a little embarrassed and very amused that I didn’t realize it on my own. Anyway, here’s a song: enjoy!

I very nearly forgot to blog this week.

Yesterday was hard. Not because of anything that happened, really, but the whole day felt Sisyphean. I got out of bed late; it took what felt like eons to talk myself into going to work. I spent a lot of the day dealing with a pain flare-up. It was hard to be in my body. I got home and managed to get a few things done, but I was in bed before 8:30.

This morning I woke up still feeling pretty achy, so I made the decision to work from home. This meant that even though I made the questionable decision to crawl back into bed after turning my alarm off, I still had time to shower and take it a little easier getting ready for my day.

Now I’m sitting at my kitchen table with my coffee and my work laptop, getting ready to dive into some work projects, and I suddenly realized I hadn’t written a blog post yet, so here we are.

It’s been a long week, for sure. But here are a handful of things that have kept me going:

  • I finally saw Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker on Friday after work. I know some people found it disappointing, but I really enjoyed it. I cried, I laughed, I held my breath, I occasionally rolled my eyes. It was a fun ride and I found it a satisfying conclusion to the series I was raised on.
  • Saturday we got breakfast with a friend who lives in our old neighborhood. When we moved, we decided to set up a routine of breakfast dates every other weekend, and I’m so glad we did. I am trying to be more intentional about making time for friends. We have such a great constellation of friends and communities here, and I think when I’m struggling I sometimes lose sight of that.
  • I made it to Tai Chi class for the fourth week in a row. It feels good to be doing something to move my body aside from all the walking I do.
  • I wrote three songs last week. I’m getting increasingly excited for FAWM!
  • This weekend I have a couple of things scheduled with friends that I wish I saw more often, and I am very much looking forward to those.

Remarkably Healing

Hello, dear readers, and apologies that this post is going up late – it’s been a weird week, and I nearly forgot what day it was.

I wrote last week about my grandfather’s passing, my complicated feelings around our relationship, and my anxiety about going to the funeral, which was last Saturday. I am pleased (and still a little surprised) to report that going to the funeral, while hard and sad, was actually a remarkably healing experience.

My extended family, including the folks I was most nervous about seeing, all either called me Alyx or avoided names altogether. I heard one aunt use the wrong pronouns once, but she corrected herself smoothly and moved on. I didn’t feel othered at all – I was included every step of the way. I felt…well, like I had a family, in a way that I haven’t felt in a while.

I know that some of the responsibility for my prior estrangement from my family is on me. I chose to pull away rather than engaging with them. I still feel like I had good reason to (I didn’t have the mental or emotional resources to manage their potential responses when I first came out), but I also recognize that I did not give them a chance to prove me wrong about how I thought they would react to my coming out.

I’m also 100% certain that a large part of why the weekend went so well has to do with my grandmother. She and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but since we reconnected this spring, she’s done a phenomenal job of showing up and showing me love and respect, which I am doing my best to return. I think the fact that my nearly-92-year-old grandmother can manage to call me Alyx and meet me where I’m at meant that no one else had any sort of excuse to do otherwise.

It was a long day (I drove from Chicago to northeast Iowa on Friday evening, and back to Chicago on Saturday evening after the funeral), but I’m glad I went. I was genuinely disappointed that I wasn’t able to stick around and spend more time with my family (it was snowing in Iowa by the time we finished lunch, and I decided to head straight home rather than risk icy roads as it got later), which I was not expecting.

One of my aunts, as we were saying our goodbyes, gave me a long, firm hug before telling me she was so proud of me, and that if anyone wasn’t, that was on them, not on me. I still well up a bit every time I think about it.

I guess what I’m saying is people are surprising, complicated creatures, and I need to do a better job of remembering that rather than jumping immediately to worst-case-scenario planning when I interact with people who I expect to disagree with. (I’m also grateful that this funeral was not a place where politics came up, because I’m sure a lot of the warm fuzzies would have been…well, less warm and fuzzy.)

Move and Vacation

We are inching ever closer to our move date, and the number of packed boxes in our apartment has increased since last week. We’ve been coordinating some maintenance needs with the new landlord so that we don’t need to have them come and fix things when we’re actually there.

We’re down to the wire for packing now, though.

My partner has been in Minnesota for the past few days, hanging out with his parents before borrowing his dad’s car to drive to Song School. He gets back into town this afternoon. We leave for Song School tomorrow.

I am so excited for Song School, for seeing dear friends and digging into the practice of songwriting. I am also worried that I’ll struggle to be present, knowing that we move two days after we get back. I’m hoping I’ll be able to set that aside and fully engage while we’re on this trip.

On that note: there will be no blog next week, as I will be in Colorado and off my phone as much as possible. The next time I write a blog will be from our new apartment!

Bleh

The weather in Chicago has returned to its pattern of bouncing all over the place, which means I am having a bit of a rough week. I’m achy and tired and having a hard time focusing. I’m anxious about some things that are kind of out of my control at this point.

But there have still been some happy things. Chiefly among them? This book:

American Hippo by Sarah Gailey

Back in February, our friend K came to visit one weekend. We ended up going to a new-to-us bookstore, and I was not going to buy anything (heaven knows I have enough books). But then I passed this book on a shelf, and I picked it up and read the foreword, and I was hooked.

Y’all. This book. It’s so good. Its premise is based on a real thing that almost happened in US history – evidently, importing hippopotami into the States to be ranched in Louisiana bayous was a proposed solution to a meat shortage in the country in the early 20th century. So this is hippo-riding cowboys, which is a delightful premise all on its own.

But the book is so much more than that. The cast is diverse across genders, races, and body types. No one really makes a big deal out of any of it, but there’s so much representation packed into the two novellas and two short stories packed into this book. I was sad to finish it, because I wanted to keep hanging out with these incredible (and incredibly flawed) humans. If you’re looking for a fun, quick read, I’d recommend picking this up!

The author, Sarah Gailey, has a new book coming out the day after my birthday, which I am excited about. I thoroughly enjoyed their writing style in American Hippo, and I expect I’ll enjoy whatever they’ve got coming next.

I have been super distracted this week.

Some of this is probably the continuation of holidays – having so many extra days off has me feeling a little discombobulated about what day it is. (Which is not at all a complaint, because the days off are lovely. Just an observation that it’s hard to keep track of what day it is when I’m out of a routine.)

I’m also fighting a bit of a cold, which has had my whole head feeling stuffy, including my ears. This is also disorienting, because I have to focus harder than usual to hear and absorb auditory information.

It hasn’t been a bad week, though. The weekend was fun – lots of time with friends, and I was able to make it to my LGBTQ+ rock ensemble class at the Old Town School. This week has been pretty laid back. I worked Monday and Tuesday, and then yesterday went with a friend to the Art Institute, which I’d only ever been to once before (and not under the best of circumstances), so that was a lot of fun.

Tomorrow my partner and I are both taking the day off to go to an all-day songwriting seminar/workshop at the Old Town School. I have not been writing much at all since getting back from Song School, so I am looking forward to that and am hopeful that it will give me some solid inspiration and motivation to get back in the saddle.

I hope your weeks are all going well, dear readers! I’d love to hear about what’s making your weeks fun in the comments.

Temperature Regulation

Hello, dear readers! First, allow me to apologize for the lack of blog last week. The site crashed on Tuesday night and I didn’t have time until Thursday morning to deal with it. Thankfully, we’re back up and running. And now, on to the blog!

As appeared to be the case in much of the northern hemisphere last week, it was HOT in Chicago (with the added midwestern bonus of humidity on top of that). I…don’t cope well with heat. I’ve been having some issues regulating my body temperature anyway (I seem to never be cold when everyone around me says it’s freezing indoors), and then our air conditioner went on strike in protest of having to work so hard to keep up. So last week was pretty miserable a lot of the time, and I was pretty focused on just getting through it. The heat finally broke over the weekend, and that was absolutely lovely.

This week has been more manageable in terms of temperature, and after giving our air conditioner a cleaning over the weekend, it seems to be working better. I still feel gross a lot of the time, but it’s better than last week.

Despite the weather, there’s been a lot to be happy about the past couple of weeks. Here are a few of those things:

  1. Good movies. In an effort to be in better air conditioning than what our sad little window unit could provide, we went to about as many movies in the space of a week as we often do in a year, and they were all great. We saw Ocean’s 8, which totally lived up to the trailers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the Mister Rogers documentary, which left the audience in sniffles, and Incredibles 2, which was hilarious and adorable. All highly recommended.
  2. Good friends. Between seeing movies and just making some other plans, I got to see a lot of friends in the past couple of weeks, including a couple we almost never get to see anymore. That was lovely.
  3. Good news. While yes, there’s been a lot in the news to be horrified about, I’ve gotten some personal good news at work – I got a bonus, and managed to move some projects I’d kind of been dreading forward with a minimal amount of distress.