Time for Change

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! I have been all over the place about what day it is this week – I spent most of Tuesday thinking it was Wednesday, most of Wednesday thinking it was Tuesday, and today it feels like Wednesday again. Not sure what that’s about.

Anyway, I’ve been hinting for the last few weeks that big changes were afoot that I couldn’t yet talk about publicly. I’ve announced this to enough of the right people at this point that now I can safely blog about it – my husband and I are moving back to Minnesota! We move into our new place six weeks from today, actually, which is wild.

When we moved to Chicago in 2012, we knew it wasn’t going to be forever – our families are still in the Twin Cities and we knew we’d eventually want to move back to be closer to them. We figured that’d be 7-10 years away. The trouble was, we never changed that “7-10 years away” number in our heads as the years ticked by. Nine years later and we’re realizing it is, indeed, time.

There are so many people I’m going to miss in Chicago, but the weird mixed blessing of 2020 is that most of the places/things we’d have to say goodbye to we’ve…kind of already done that with, since we haven’t been able to do anything in person in over a year. (I’m thinking in particular of the Old Town School and the songwriting community we’re part of here…it’s all been online.)

I will, at least, still be back somewhat regularly for work, so I know I can continue to connect with friends here. I am also genuinely excited to return to the Twin Cities and the friends and family we still have there. We’re moving into a beautiful apartment with in-unit laundry (which has been a dream for forever), and a den where I can set up my office space (no more working out of my dining room). I’m overwhelmed by the process of the move itself, but I’m looking forward to being moved into the new space. I’m super grateful I have a job that I can continue to do remotely even when the rest of my team returns to the office in some capacity.

It’s weird to leave this apartment, though. We got married in this apartment. We’ve learned how to coexist in this one-bedroom space while being together 24/7 over the past year. There have been enough minor annoyances around maintenance that I’m not exactly sad to leave it behind, but it is weird.

So that’s the big news! In other news, next week there will likely not be a blog (or it will go up late) – we’re headed up to Minnesota for a visit over Memorial Day weekend (hopefully bringing up a load of fragile things to store at my parents’ place until the move, and doing a tour of the building we’re moving into, and just seeing family) and will be driving on Thursday at the time that I usually write this blog. If I’m super on top of things and get something written Wednesday night, we’ll all be pleasantly surprised.

Keep hanging in there and taking care of yourselves and each other. I believe in you.

Joyful Travels

As I write this, I’m sitting at my kitchen table, getting a little work done from home before heading to the airport. By the time this goes live, I will be in Minnesota.

With all the darkness in the world this week, it’s nice to have something to be really, genuinely happy about – one of my best friends from my bible college days is getting married, and I’m so glad my partner and I are going to get to celebrate with her and her soon-to-be-husband.

Here are a handful of the things I’m most looking forward to over the weekend:

  1. The wedding. I’m not always the most excited about weddings, but I’m looking forward to this one. This friend and I have been through some things together, and I’m happy to bear witness to anything that is making her happy.
  2. I’m getting coffee with one of my professors from bible college (the only one I still talk to at this point), who I haven’t seen since before I moved to Chicago five years ago. She’s been through a lot recently, and I’m grateful that she’s taking the time to see me.
  3. I get to see my dog and my nephew. My little old lady dog is 15, and she’s slowing down. Every time I’ve seen her this year has felt like the biggest gift, because it was only a year ago that I thought I would probably never see her again (since I wasn’t back in communication with my family yet). I am painfully aware that every time I see her from here on out may be the last, so I’m not taking any opportunity for granted. Our visit to my parents happens to coincide with the time that they’re watching my nephew, too, so I’ll get to hang out with him a bit. From what little contact I’ve had with him, he seems like a bright, creative kid, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.
  4. This might be the least-packed weekend in Minnesota we’ve had in…well, in a long time. I’m sad that we can’t see everyone, but I’m also looking forward to just relaxing a bit. And I’m hoping it’ll make going back to work on Monday a little easier.
  5. On Sunday, after we get back, we’re going to meet up with a friend at an apple orchard in Wisconsin. Despite my allergies to almost everything outdoors, I love autumn, and apple picking feels like the quintessential autumnal activity.

Returning to Reality

Last weekend, I finally went on the solo retreat I’d been planning for over a month. I went camping by myself up north near Lake Superior.

Before I left, I had sketched out a rough plan for what I wanted to get done while I was away. I was going to spend a lot of time meditating and playing my guitar and hiking around the north woods.

Almost none of that happened. The weekend wound up being somewhat¬†different (at least in terms of activities) than I had planned…but it turned out to be exactly what I needed:

  • I didn’t talk more than was absolutely necessary. (I was appropriately charming with the waitstaff and cashiers I encountered, but other than that, I didn’t say much.)
  • I didn’t check social media at all. (I had my phone on so I could use the flashlight feature and keep track of the weather, but it spent most of the time in airplane mode.)
  • I rested. I went to bed ridiculously early both nights I was camping, and spend a fair bit of one of the days napping as I listened to the wind ruffle the leaves of the trees.
  • I spent a lot of time thinking, but not much time worrying.
  • After I was done camping, I spent a little bit of time debriefing and catching up with a couple of particularly dear people.

And then I came home, feeling much more human and much more alive than I’d felt in several weeks. I have a lot more thinking to do, and there are other things that need to be done in order to stay in a place where I feel human and alive. But taking time to be quiet and relax seems to have been an important first step.

Post-Vacation Musings

Vacation was, on the whole, lovely (though I more or less forgot to take pictures, so I can’t show you how lovely it was). Here are some things I’ve been reflecting on when looking back at the weekend:

  1. Driving through Wisconsin in the fall is actually a pretty great things to do. The trees were gorgeous, and there wasn’t as much construction as we’ve run into on some other trips, so it was a pretty relaxing drive. Being a Minnesotan, I tend to poke fun at Wisconsin quite a bit, but this trip made me think that maybe it’s an okay state after all. ūüėČ
  2. I completely adore my nephew. Every time I see this kid I get more excited about being an Uncle Ommer and about knitting him all sorts of cozy things. (The Yoda hat was a smash, and I will shortly be starting a sweater for Christmas and a blanket for his birthday.) I was quite nervous going in, because I know he’s at that age where stranger anxiety is a thing. But though he wasn’t immediately sure of me, he never got upset, and warmed up to me pretty quickly. We were buddies for the handful of minutes I got to hold him, and that makes me unspeakably happy.
  3. While there were some frustrating things surrounding spending time with my family, none of them were so egregious that they couldn’t be outweighed by time with my partner’s family or with friends. We didn’t fit in visits with as many people as we often try to do, but the time we did get with friends felt extra special and left us feeling refreshed. Deep conversations were had, and I was able to vent when I needed to and move on.
  4. I’ve been working meditative time back into my schedule (not quite on a daily basis yet, but close). Making that time on vacation helped me feel much more centered and grounded, and I hope I can continue developing that habit.
  5. I have truly wonderful people in my life. I’m incredibly lucky.

On the Road Again…

It’s road trip time!

When this post goes live, my partner and I should be a little over halfway to Minnesota, where we’ll spend the weekend running around like mad people getting caught up with friends and family as much as we’re able to in the space of three days.

It’s a beautiful time of year for a road trip. I imagine as you’re reading this that we’re enjoying some gorgeous fall colors as we drive through Wisconsin. The weather’s cool enough to wear all the knitted things. Really, this might be my favorite time of year.

I tend to deal with a fair amount of pre-travel anxiety, and this week is no exception. There’s always too much to get done before we leave, and never enough time to do it all. But I know the payoff is always worth it.

I get to see my nephew this weekend. I get to give him his Yoda hat (which I finished Tuesday night, a whole 30 hours before our departure), and see in person just how much bigger he’s gotten since the beginning of August. I know he’s getting to the age where stranger anxiety is a thing, so I’m nervous that he won’t like me. I want us to be buddies.

This trip marks the last time I’ll be renting a car under this name. So that’s exciting.

It’s also the last time I’ll probably make it to Minnesota this calendar year…probably the last trip for quite some time. Starting next month, we want to really cut back on our spending (particularly what we spend going out to eat), and I want to start seriously paying down my credit card debt, so I don’t really know when our next trip will be. I hope I can keep that in mind this weekend and take full advantage of the time we have in our home state.

Hopefully next week I’ll come back with some interesting stories (and maybe even a few pictures)!

Vacation in a Three-Item List

Between the 24ish hours I drove while we were on vacation and the fact that I may have picked up a cold in the process, I’m feeling pretty muddled. I can’t even come up with the usual complement of five things for a blog. So here’s a three-item¬†list of what happened on our trip to Minnesota:

  1. The most vacation-y part of vacation was probably our day in Duluth on Friday. It was really wonderful to not be in a big city for a day. Neither of us was feeling particularly great when we woke up, and we almost didn’t go. It wasn’t the best day ever, but I think my soul really needed that time by the lake. We didn’t really do much; mostly, we sat on a bench by the boardwalk overlooking the lake, and my partner knit and I sketched some things and we talked and got a little sunburned. It was a nice day.
  2. I got to see my nephew, who is now five months old and increasingly fun to interact with. It’s been really cool to see him more and more aware of his surroundings each time I’ve visited. This time around, he smiled at me a lot, and let me tell you: there’s something incredibly wonderful about having a cute baby smile at you. It gives you the feeling that really, you can’t be all that bad if this kid thinks you’re worth smiling at that hugely. Before that, we had breakfast with my best friend (who is wonderful and who we don’t see nearly often enough), and I had a massage, which was much-needed. (My massage therapist pointed out that I kind of did things backwards in getting the massage before spending time with my family. Thankfully, cute babies are good buffers for potentially uncomfortable situations.)
  3. We saw Paul McCartney live. It was incredible. The man played for nearly three hours and never once took a drink of water. May we all be so full of life at 72. I wasn’t raised on the Beatles, and to be honest the most exposure I’ve had to their music has come from the movie Across the Universe and the Beatles Ensemble at the Old Town School of Folk Music that meets across the hall from the school’s Resource Center where I volunteer each week. But I enjoyed the concert immensely, both because Sir Paul is incredibly good at what he does and because my partner’s family (who we were with) were enjoying themselves so much. It was great, and I’m so grateful to have had that experience.

A Tiny Blog…with Art!

I’m writing this Wednesday evening as I crawl into bed and hope for quick and restful sleep. At 4am, five hours before this posts, my partner and I will be packing up a rental car and heading to Minnesota for a mini-vacation. I’m beyond excited.

I’ve been so preoccupied lately that I didn’t come up with a topic for the blog this week. Part of what’s been keeping me busy, though, has been a different sort of creative pursuit. When I was a kid, along with being a voracious reader, I was a fledgling artist. I was never great, but from the time I could hold a pencil, if I wasn’t reading or making up stories, I was drawing. Last weekend, somewhat on a whim, I picked up a 5.6mm lead holder, some different types of lead, and a couple of sketchbooks, and started to draw. I even incorporated some of the fountain pen ink that’s been sitting around on my desk for a while. Here’s the proof (the turtles are concept sketches for a tattoo I’m dreaming about):






Five Happy Things

This week has been relatively drama-free (woohoo!), so I think it’s time for a positive post, don’t you?

  1. I’m finally getting away from DepressedBrain. Cyclical highs and lows are just part of life for me, but this latest low spot lasted longer than any I’d had in at least six months. While ManicBrain has its disadvantages as well, it at least comes with the feeling that I have enough energy to sometimes be a productive human being.
  2. With the extra energy, I’m finding a renewed passion to create. It’s hard to focus on any one project for any length of time, but at least I want to try.
  3. I officially have a new job title: I’ve gone from being an Administrative Aide to an IT Support Specialist, which sounds a lot more like what I’ve been doing for the past year. It also comes with more money. Yay!
  4. Over the course of the past week or so, I’ve been making a little bit of time each day to meditate. This has been really helpful and centering for me. My brain is constantly working on numerous levels, and I’m not always paying much attention to what’s going on beneath the surface. Meditation (even when it only lasts about ten minutes) is helping me to get back in touch with those deeper thought processes.
  5. Next weekend, my partner and I are taking a road trip to Minnesota. Planned highlights include seeing my nephew, going up north and getting away from the city for a day, getting a massage, and seeing Paul McCartney in concert. Admittedly, it is very hard to focus on the present with so much fun in the imminent future!

Weekend Reflections

One of the perks of working for a Jewish social service organization is that I wind up with extra paid days off for religious holidays that I don’t observe. This past week, we had Monday and Tuesday off for the last two days of Passover. I decided to take the opportunity afforded by a long weekend and take a little road trip up to Minnesota, mostly to meet my new nephew. My partner wasn’t able to join me for the trip, so I had a lot of hours of solo driving in the car to do some reflecting on what I was heading toward and, later, what I was coming home from.

The trip was full of excitement of varying sorts (my dad had an emergency appendectomy the evening I got into town, for one thing), but there are just a couple of things I really want to get into.

First, today (April 24, 2014) is the three-year anniversary of my grandfather’s death. He passed away Easter Sunday, ten days after his 90th birthday. Since his grave is in Rochester, MN (an under-two-hour drive from the Twin Cities) and I happened to be in town over Easter, I decided to get up early that morning and drive down to pay him a visit.

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I think a lot about my grandpa. He was a man of deep faith and quiet love, and to this day I respect him immensely. I found out five months after he died that my dad had told him that I was queer; I never knew that he knew, and it is one of my few major regrets in life that I never shared that part of myself with him. I was too afraid, and I thought I was doing what was expected of me.

I think¬†because my grandpa never treated me any differently, I have sort of built him up in my head as being this paragon of tolerance, a rarity in my family. I’m not entirely sure that this is fair to¬†his memory, though. I know that, ultimately, he loved me, and that was the most important thing. But I also know that he probably struggled with the idea of having a granddaughter who liked both boys and girls. About six months after he died, I adopted the name Alyx, and started walking a bit more boldly down the road of gender variant identity. As I stood by his grave (and in the car on my way back to St. Paul), I wondered how he would have handled the knowledge of my decision to start on testosterone.

I don’t have an answer. In the end, I don’t know that it matters. I have hope that the view from where he is now offers a greater sense of perspective, and that he’s able to be happy that I am happy. I hope that he is still proud of me, even though I know I am not the person he imagined his grandchild would be.

Being with my family this weekend was challenging. My mother very pointedly avoided using any names or pronouns in reference to me, though there were ample opportunities for both. My brother called me Alyx when talking to my nephew, but addressed me by my given name at dinner and apparently never gave it a second thought (he also called me “she” a lot). My dad is clearly trying, but it’s still hard.

But it was worth it for the handful of minutes I got to hold my nephew.

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I was crazy about this kid before he was born; I’m even crazier about him now. He is absolutely adorable, and I realized as I held him that there is nothing I wouldn’t do to keep this child safe. While it’s still frustrating that my brother has declared that I’m not allowed to be his child’s uncle (ommer is the title we’ve settled on for the time being), it’s something I’m willing to put up with if it means I get to be involved in the kid’s life in any way.

My strongest enduring memory of my grandpa is of the fact that every time we said goodbye, he’d give me a hug and say, quietly and earnestly, “You’re special.” As I said goodbye to my nephew on Sunday, I found myself saying the same thing to him. I hope that if I have any influence in this child’s life, it’s to teach him that he’s special and loved, no matter who he grows up to be.

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The Naked I: Insides Out

Assuming that things go roughly according to plan, but the time this posts, my partner and I will be very nearly to Minnesota, where we are headed for a long weekend to spend time with family and friends…

…and to celebrate the opening weekend of a show that I have a piece in!

So I’m going to take a break from life updates and plug the show: The Naked I: Insides Out.

The show has been created and is being produced by 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities, a wonderful theatre company that focuses specifically on work by women and transgender artists. The following is the show description from the 20% Theatre Company website:

20% Theatre Company Twin Cities is thrilled to present the world premiere of THE NAKED I: INSIDES OUT Рthe 3rd in a series of NAKED I plays that explore queer and trans* experiences through monologues, short scenes, and spoken word poems. This production will take place at Intermedia Arts February 13-23, 2014 and will feature the work of over 100 LGBTQ artists and allies Рincluding contributing writers, directors, performers, designers, technicians, and more! This show will include 25 pieces chosen out of 119 submissions! 

There are an infinite number of stories to be told, and as a company focused on social change, human rights, and the voice of queer and trans* artists, 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities is determined to tell as many of these stories as we can – thus creating/producing a new NAKED I show every few years.

The first Naked I production, The Naked I: Monologues from Beyond the Binary, by Tobias K. Davis, was produced by 20% in 2009. In 2011, 20% put out a call for submissions for a second Naked I production: The Naked I: Wide Open. My partner and I both had pieces in that show, and I ended up doing the layout work for getting the script into a publishable book format. It was an incredible experience, not just for us, but for everyone involved and everyone who came to see the show (which sold out two runs, was in the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and toured around the country a bit in 2012).

Last year, when the call for submissions for the next iteration of the Naked I went out, I submitted a handful of pieces, and one of them wound up in the show. (I did the book layout for this script, as well.)¬†The Naked I: Insides Out¬†is every bit as beautiful and important as its predecessors. If you are in/near/able to get to the Twin Cities in the next couple of weekends, I strongly encourage you to check it out. The first couple of performances have sold out already, and I’m sure the others will as well, so if you’re interested, be sure to grab your tickets (sliding scale $5-$25) at that first link I posted. (If you can’t catch the show, all of those links attached to the titles up there will take you to Amazon, where you can pick up a copy of the script. It’s powerful stuff, and well worth the read. Also, I made it look extra pretty.)

We’re going with a bunch of wonderful friends to the sold-out performance this Saturday, and I am so excited. I had a little bit of contact with the director of my piece, but I really wanted to just let go of this rare piece of work that I’m actually pretty proud of and see what happened to it in the hands of the director and actor who are taking it on. I have every confidence that it will be amazing. I am thrilled and humbled and honored to be a part of something so important and poignant and hard and lovely. While a part of me will always be terrified waiting for the reaction of the audience to the words I’ve written, I still can’t wait to share this with the world. It’s an immense privilege to be able to tell my stories, and, as an extension, the stories of the other people like me, and it’s a privilege I hope I never take lightly. Stories have the power to change the world, and this production is full of world-changing stories.