dispatches from suburbia, vol. 1


Here’s one of those “I said I’d never! and then, I did, and hey, it’s not so bad’ essays. I grew up in ‘the city’ and I’ve always been so proud of that and I dreaded moving to the suburbs. I grew up on a quiet little street where I remember when the first family that didn’t look exactly like us moved in. Two other kids were on our block where in my same grade for 9 years at the private school; nearly all the others when to the same school, or another private one equally nearby, just in the opposite direction. All our houses where old and charming and all the dads (I don’t remember any families that were not 1 mom and 1 dad) got in their sensible cars and drove to their jobs as lawyers, doctors, professors or accountants. There was a factory at the end of our street but we didn’t know anyone who worked there.

I was so afraid of these suburban houses, all made of ticky tacky, all the same. Where all the moms stayed home and brought Pinterest to life while the dads got into their sensible cars and drove to their jobs as lawyers, doctors, professors or accountants.

And then.

I bought a house in the suburbs. Granted, it isn’t the fanciest suburb off 270 but while all our houses were built in the 1950’s and look do really much the same, I’m surrounded by families with grandparents, kids and grandkids living together, families where mom works downtown and dad stays home, families with deep religious convictions that are not Protestant Christian, that are Trump supporters, that are Hillary supporters.

I’ve started doing that thing I *hate* about suburbanites, I’m calling it my ~town~. I’ve meet with local City Council candidates and talked about revitalizing our Main Street. I walk to the park to push the kidlet on the swings, I know the waitresses at our local bistro. There’s a Lustron house around the corner.

And you know what, I don’t know why I had so much vitriol for the ‘burbs. Everyone is doing the damn best they can. No matter where I’ve been in the world from here at home in CMH, in Madrid, in London, in my favorite apartment in Chicago, in Beijing – everyone wants the same things for their kids. Fresh air to breath, clean water and healthy food, good schools and a fulfilling career. We’re all doing the best we can to give that to our kids.


The State of the Make Up

As part of my efforts to actually use what I own (shocker!), I did an end of year updated make up inventory.

Currently, I have 79 total make up items (not counting 15 brushes or 6 perfume, including 4 roller balls I was just given at Christmas) and 36 of those are STILL powder eye shadows; I count each shadow individually. I’m SO CLOSE to finishing my first one and in this process, I have realized exactly how hard it is to really, truly use up a whole palette. I’d really love to half this number by the end of 2017. Doubtful without some serious effort.

sporting my favorite red lipstick, BITE Gazpacho

I did finish up a few lip products this year, as well as two mascaras and a foundation. Those continue to be the easiest products to use up. Currently 35% of what I own is cruelty free and 19% is also vegan but 100% of everything I purchased this year is both. I am focusing on using up older, non cruelty free, non vegan items this year.

I know that this probably seems trivial to some, but this practice helps me be a more mindful consumer.

How I Work From Home

First, let me just say that I know exactly how lucky I am to be able to work from home. There are several people on my team who also telecommute and there’s a pretty great system of support there. Here’s what’s making working from home a success for me.

how i work at home~the comyn space

1-Have a dedicated work space. I have a desk in our office, which also houses M’s drafting table and our sizable book collection, but I really only do my ‘work’ here. Blogging usually happens on the dining room table, Internet surfing on the couch. Sitting down at this desk is a trigger that it’s time to enter ‘work mode.’

2-Tidy room, tidy mind. Since this is really the only place I work, it can get cluttered with post-its and print outs pretty easily. If I don’t complete a task before the end of the day, I create a ticket for myself and toss the post-it. Similarly, I do my absolute best to keep the trunk clear of clutter and the closet organized. It just helps me to focus on the task at hand if there are less distractions.

how i work at home~the comyn space

3-Establish a routine. I do have to keep office hours for my company so that really helps with that routine. I log on that the same time every morning and do my best to log off 9 hours later. That doesn’t always work out, of course 🙂 As I also get emails to my phone, it can be very hard to shut down ‘work mode’ and just relax with M. Using my personal computer for blog stuff and turning off email notifications have helped. But I still check emails before I go to bed…I’m working on it.

4-Podcasts. Sometimes I crave silence but there are loads of times when I want something humming in the background. Some of my favorite podcasts include: Filmspotting, Filmspotting SVU, The Dinner Party Download, The Splendid Table, Welcome to Nightvale, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Sawbones and the Savage Lovecast. I know that’s a big list but they only come out once a week so I gotta spread it out 🙂

how i work at home~the comyn space

5-Show yourself grace. You work from home! Take the extra few minutes to fix yourself a healthy lunch and clean up afterwards. Make a cup of tea and leave the computer on the desk for a few minutes in the afternoon if you need to reset. You’re work product will be better for it.

Do you work from home? How do you make it work for you?

Emergency Backpacks

I am embarrassed how long it has taken me to get this project finished! I’ve been working on getting all our emergency supplies together. Both mine and M’s are still a work in progress, but it’s better to be started at least. Here’s what’s in mine:
emergency backpacks~the comyn space

a back pack (duh)
pink nalgene contains fire starters (matches and a lighter), flash light, extra batteries, plastic baggies, flare
wool socks
garbage bag
yellow box contains lighter, steel wool, whistle, compass and thermometer (to be carried apart from the main backpack, should we become separated from it)
toilet paper
toothbrush & deodorant
premade first kit

M’s bag is essentially the same things, with the addition of a cooking pot, some food, a camp stove and a small blanket. Not pictured in my bag is a light coat with a hood, feminine care items, and a clean pair of skivvies. I’ve never seen those things on other people’s lists but I think they are important.

We aren’t planning on anything terrible happening but we do want to be prepared in case it does. The city of Chicago’s emergency plan is to evacuate to Milwaukee, mostly via car. But we also wanted to be prepped to hike out if required. Most of what we put together are items we already had scattered in our camping/hiking stuff and I just put them all together. We are much much more likely to use them in September when he head to the boundary waters this summer 🙂

Making Space for Quiet

Like so many others, I’ve been hit pretty hard by what’s happened this week in Boston, in Congress, in West Texas. I’m so saddened by this suffering.

I’ve been off the wagon this week. I haven’t cooked a single meal I planned but I have had banging nachos with TVP and gnocchi with the fastest sauce ever. I haven’t been running at all but I did make time for quiet yoga. I haven’t accomplished anything on my to-do list but I have perfected the vodka tonic.

And for this week, that’s enough.

In 2013…

I feel like you can really see the blog seasons show their true colors at the holidays. Its all desserts, happy holidays & well wishes and then ‘light’ and ‘hearty’ potato soups and news years resolutions. What’s up with THAT? Potato soup is meant to be full of cheesy goodness, if you ask me.

And so I’m torn. Between wanting to really enjoy life and be present and the need to document each and every thing. Between wanting to grow and find a voice of my own and wondering if there is a need for my humble cry in a sea full of voice shouting.

I am so grateful for this public/personal diary-each time I read back I remember something I would have forgotten. But there is a touch of falseness too. We don’t typically eat in perfect light and each day isn’t end capped in rainbows and unicorns.

As so, here I am, writing about a list of things I’d like to accomplish in 2013. We have big grown up financial goals (like paying down student loan debt and finally filling up that emergency fund), little goals like moving to a new apartment (which will be aided by all that decluttering), and personal goals, like running a 1/2 marathon again and sew a quilt for our bed.

But what’s more important-I want to see our families more. Watch our niece and nephew grow up more than we have. Have friends over despite the fact I haven’t dusted in 2 weeks. I don’t want to look back at my life and have it be a list of things I checked off of my Pinterest boards.

And that’s an intention I’d like to live into.

Thank You 2012 & Looking Towards 2013

What a wonderful year! We’ve had new jobs, grown in our first full year of marriage and tried so many new things. Here are some on my favorite memories.

visiting the great north woods
North Woods

a visit from my sister in law!
Cubs Win!

getting an inside tour of essanay studios

baking bread in the crock pot
crock pot bread

I am very much looking forward to 2013 and all it will bring! I am hoping to bring more to this space & to grow as a photographer with a 365 challenge. Have a happy and prosperous New Year!


Celebrating Success

I heard a really hard ‘no’ this week. I wasn’t even expecting a yes, but for some reason, this ‘no’ really hit me where it hurts.

So I mopped and cried and called my mama yesterday.

Today I wore my bitchin’ boots with the steel in the toes. They always make me feel strong.

And today, I remembered some really good ‘yeses’ I’ve heard too.

Like finishing the marathon. That was a ‘yes’ I told myself. One powerful, ‘I can do anything’, yes.

I’m the second from the right.

Yes. I can do anything.