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“The secret is not to dream,” she whispered. “The secret is to wake up. Waking up is harder. I have woken up and I am real. I know where I come from and I know where I’m going. You cannot fool me anymore. Or touch me. Or anything that is mine.” – Tiffany Aching, The Wee Free Men

For me it’s like this: I’m gonna check my privilege here first. I am a white cis gendered woman who grew up middle class. I didn’t have everything I wanted, but I never had to WORK for what I needed until well after high school. I may be queer and have a documented disability now (epilepsy), but those parts of me didn’t impact how I moved through the world until well into my adulthood.

When I reached the point in life where my parents no longer paid my bills, it dovetailed with us splitting on beliefs and ideology and sometimes really simple things, and I had this hard realization. My parents didn’t exist to take care of me. I existed to take care of me. My blood family is a good thing, but it involves a lot of negotiating and often because I’m queer and now married, they can be difficult negotiations. But nothing changes with them unless I stand up for myself.

I’m feeling this way about the US government, especially today, because through history we’ve (we = white people) expected the government to be our parents. We put presidents in power and expect them to take care of us. Presidents, senators, reps, governors, all the way down the line, and clearly that’s not going to work. It’s not how it’s ever worked. Those folks have abused their power. I, personally, have felt safe the last eight years, knowing that Obama is in the White House. And that’s just like letting my dad pay my rent. It’s passive and irresponsible. It’s me not taking care of my country or my rights or my future. It’s me putting all my trust in one guy.

And people of color have known this is how it works all along. They know the government isn’t their friend. Their protector. Their buddy. They’ve had to fight, protest, resist, organize, etc, all along to get any rights.

And now liberal, white folks, those of us who want to wake up instead of dream, we are learning the lessons of a young person meeting the real world. Daddy’s not gonna bail you out anymore. And honestly, Daddy wasn’t doing you any good bailing you out in the first place, because it made you believe that having your person in power meant you were going be taken care of. Like some spoiled college kid. That shit ain’t gonna cut it anymore it. Sorry.

Basically, all this is to say, is we gotta grow up. Americans need to be adults about self-governance. Because regardless how it was with cool Dad Obama, we don’t have parents now. We’re on our own. We’re gonna have bills to pay and have needs to address. You’re going to need to negotiate with that government. Local and state government, first. We are gonna have to step up and govern ourselves. Every damn day.

I’m not saying I want to be here. I am saying we have to be.

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Here’s the thing: when I decided to marry Kristl and settle down in Chicago, I thought the idea of “Life by Wandering” was kind of done.

The idea being that I would live a whole bunch of different places, and get to know this country, this world, by living in for a year or two in them. The best way to understand a place is to live in it, get to know the locals, make a few friends, set down a few roots, and pick up the essence of the place.

I’ve done this in several places in the midwest: Grand Rapids, MI; Toledo, OH, Detroit, MI; Chicago, IL (yes, the actual city of Chicago.) I’ve also lived in Denver, CO, San Francisco, CA, and Tokyo, Japan. Some of these places I only spent a couple months. Some I spent years. But up until my relationship with Kristl, I was convinced that I was going to be constantly on the move.

Bear with me if you know this, but Kristl was an acupuncturist and she had a significant brick and mortar practice. In fact, by the time she decided to sell that practice and move on, she had her own practice space with three treatment rooms and was grossing over six figures of income. She was successful, but it was unlikely that we were going to leave Chicago with that kind of career.

However, my dream of travel, living all over, and seeing the country and the world in a very intimate way didn’t die. It intensified, and I wasn’t alone. About a year ago, Kristl heard a podcast interview of a couple who both have location independent jobs and live in an RV together. And they weren’t in their 60’s. They were a little younger than us.

An RV? Remote work? Location independence? These terms were like fresh spring water after a long walk in the desert. The truth behind Kristl’s practice was that it was successful in it’s own right, and it was paying the bills, but it wasn’t touching her student loan debt. Also, she felt chained to it. We love Chicago, but we were both ready to try something new. We reasoned out some viable timelines, two to three years to build up the practice and transition out, five years at most. I would do farming and sustainability coaching. Easy-peasy.

Then I had a life threatening illness in May and the picture changed dramatically. A cozy three to five year plan seemed foolish. Why waylay your life goals when you never know how much time you could have?

We decided to move to North Carolina in the fall. Kristl would sell her practice. We would start a business together. We would figure things out. The most important thing was to be healthy, to find joy, to move closer to the goal of being able to freely see more of the world and by that understand more of who I am.

We moved at the very end of October. It’s mid April now. This road has not been easy. I am not a natural entrepreneur. I have learned much about myself, and I have had opportunities to redefine many parts of who I know myself to be. I think if you knew me in college or grad school (or even high school, if we’re going that far back), you’ll find me a much less flamboyant, more willing to listen individual than I ever was.

Regardless, I realized that I thought I had to completely let go of this wandering dream to be with Kristl, and suddenly here we are, in a much bigger way, pursuing it together. I never would have thought to pursue remote work or to start my own business to live in many different places. It is through this partnership that the legacy of Life by Wandering lives on.

We are getting our things in order. We may well be in North Carolina for a while yet, but that dream is slowly becoming a reality. The nuts and bolts of a life of real travel are coming into focus. Time is a construct, frustrating though that truth might be. Anytime something is trying your patience, remember that you don’t know all the beauty, magic, and infinite good that is taking place to make the thing you are waiting for come into being exactly as it is supposed to, at exactly the right time.

Allllllll of this is to say that I LOVE that I don’t need to rename or restart my blog. I can just restart exactly where I left off. If you ever feel like you are a wanderer, remember you don’t have to wander aimlessly, you can wander with a purpose. You can wander with a map, and use Google maps. You can live your life by wandering and see the whole damn world. That’s what I’m doing.

 

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Does that sound good? It’s been years since I wrote on this blog. Did you even know it still existed? So much has changed. I won’t boooooore you with the details. You can find them other places. Or you can ask me. Well, I suppose, a cliff notes version won’t take too long.

  • I started blogging with Kristl on Sustainably Queer in 2012.
  • We got married in 2013. I also got diagnosed with epilepsy after a grand mal seizure.
  • I quit my higher ed job to pursue Urban Agriculture in early 2014.
  • I did an awesome internship at the Chicago Botanic Garden that summer.
  • Kristl and I finally made it to Italy in the fall of 2014.
  • In early 2015, I start to learn about entrepreneurship, coaching, social media marketing, fancy stuff, and I tried to monetize Sustainably Queer.
  • In May of 2015, I had an emergency surgery because of a life threatening ear infection that went rogue, and it kind of turned our world upside down.
  • In the fall of 2015, Kristl and I left Chicago for Chapel Hill, NC and have been here ever since.

That’s the briefest of the brief. Oh the internal work. Oh the lessons I’ve learned.

Dearest friends: career changes, working for yourself, life threatening illness, not knowing where your support system will come from or your next money to pay they bills. These are significant challenges. I’ve been through some excellent times in the last four years and I have been through some significant trauma.

I can safely say I am coming back to myself, now with the help of some healers, some wonderful friends, and my dear partner who has been by my side through it all.

Want to test a young marriage? Try all of the above. Especially the part where you move to a new state and don’t have any money, any support system to speak of, and any jobs. That’s a goooooood test. Try it.

I’m not bragging. I’ve got only my heart to show for it. I’ve only really kept myself through it all, and I lost part of that for a while. Well, I didn’t so much lose myself, as I wasn’t able to see and access myself. It wasn’t safe for me to be me.

But here I am again. Ready to share. Ready to be vulnerable. Ready to laugh and play. Ready to post, show you my thoughts and hear your feedback. Because life is a give and take. It’s gotta be both. Stay in the flow, my friends. May you be well.

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I’ve been pretty quiet on this blog.  To be honest, I’ve been pretty quiet on every blog I’m connected to.  I contemplated a list of thirty interesting goals for my twenty-ninth year, and posted them here last September, not really considering what the last year of my twenties might have in hold for me.  Let’s be real here for a moment.  I will go back through that list and tell you what I got to at some point.  I have read most of the books (because I’m a good reader; I read well over thirty books a year anyways, it’s not a stretch goal by any means).  But as for the list of thirty goals… well that hasn’t gone so well.  Because I’ve been doing this instead:

1. Getting married (pretty awesome, thanks Iowa, reception to follow…)

2. Getting diagnosed with epilepsy (less awesome, but now we know)

3. Quitting my full-time job in higher education (missing the steady $$, not missing the steady database time)

4. Going back to school (so, so, so, so good)

5. Switching careers to Urban Agriculture (the best)

6. Trying to come up with a satisfying business plan for life coaching to make ends meet while I do points 3-5 (an interesting tight-rope walk)

7. Helping Kristl open a storefront for her acupuncture business (way more work than you could possibly imagine, but it’s a beautiful thing)

8. Deciding to move our abode (albeit to a much nicer place) without a whole lot of notice (steam shower! way nicer kitchen! free laundry!)

9. Digging up our previous back yard and putting in a garden plot (with the help of neighbors, it’s all good)

10. Dealing with really interesting side effects from epilepsy medications (so drunk)

11. Taking on a challenging summer internship as part of my Urban Agriculture program (read: challenging supervisor)

12. Learning how to run a farm stand (everything must go)

13. Planning a baby shower from another state (harder than it sounds)

14. Planning a wedding reception on a very small budget (challenges, challenges everywhere)

15. Planning a trip to Italy on a small budget (workin’ it)

16. Becoming comfortable with the title of “house spouse” (so much cleaning!)

17. Learning how to make better boundaries with my dear mother who doesn’t deal well with boundaries (Oh, Nona…)

18. Learning how to do basic plumbing, construction, tool sharpening, hose repair, etc (highly recommended)

19. Finding a whole lot of sanity by getting away from a computer desk and spending all day in a field with plants for work (peace and calm)

20. Connecting with friends and family from other states that I haven’t spoken with in a while (see also, wedding reception invitations)

21. Taking on leadership responsibility in my community choir (real talk)

22. Trying to keep up at least with monthly posts on sustainablyqueer.com (nine on the ninth)

23. Studying as much as I can about the fruits and vegetables that are in season while I am working with them (a whole book on cranberries is not enough)

24. Planning for the post-school part of my life, where I need to start earning money again, in my own gardening business or otherwise (I can tell you anything you want to know about potatoes)

25. Keeping track of all friends who are also caught up in this crazy year, getting engaged and/or married, having babies, traveling, starting businesses, changing careers, moving… it’s a big year for a lot of us. (keep it up, work it out!)

26. Being honored for the Windy City Times 30 Under 30 (a big, lovely surprise!)

27. Doing our best to live as sustainably as possible, meaning eating most meals at home, eating out at restaurants that source their meat and vegetables at local farms, and doing our best to conserve water, gas, and electricity. (we try, it doesn’t always work out, but we try)

28. Working to build relationships and network in the local food and sustainability community.  There is a lot more of this to come for me, but I’m starting to get my feet wet.  I’m hoping I will get into a networking rhythm. (Networking is professional bullshit talk for learning how to get strangers to like you… usually I ignore strangers, or try to charm them by being goofy… please give me some networking tips in the comments below, because these approaches do not always work, especially in more professional settings)

29. Finally getting off of my parents family plan and having control over my own cell phone and my own cell service. Woo! (Now I am completely financially independent, also, I am saving $15-30 a month.  Try out Ting everybody!)

30. Budgeting! This is on hold for the moment, but Kristl and I have had great success with You Need a Budget (YNAB) software and the accountability it brings into your spending life and getting out of credit card debt life. It’s AWESOME!

(SIDENOTE: I have codes for those last two that get you a discount, so let me know if you want to buy YNAB or sign up for Ting because yes they work and YES they are amazing.  Ok, cool.)

Anyways, all this is to say that of course I wanted to finish all the lovely things on my 30 by 30 list. They were worthwhile things.  They were important. And I think I will still end up doing them. I did write some letters, and I did get engaged and married, so check that off. But I wrote that list with out the smallest inkling out how huge this year was really going to be. I had no clue I was going to take a huge plunge professionally. I had no clue I was going to get married so soon and move over the summer and that Kristl was going to open a store front. Everything that’s happening is amazing and beautiful and meaningful and completely overwhelming. Yes, it would have been ideal to have it spaced out a little bit, but we cannot have everything we want. And maybe I didn’t really need to have it all spaced out. I don’t suppose I needed to have epilepsy either, but it certainly is humbling and it keeps me pretty empathetic towards others whose bodies may not be functioning at full capacity. On the other hand, having a congenital brain disorder hasn’t really stopped me one bit. The side effects have been difficult this summer, but they haven’t taken me out of the game, and I’ve learned that if I really want to have a career in agriculture or horticulture, or if it turns into something else entirely, they way my brain is formed is not going to stand in my way.

Decades are nice little square boxes for humans to divide their life periods into, but in reality they don’t mean a whole lot.  I have felt like I have been in a “next stage” for at least a year already. I’ve been telling people I’m thirty for two months already; I’m not good at odd numbers. According to astrology, the period of transition of late twenties into early thirties is particularly impactful on a person’s life path because the planet Saturn only returns to it’s same alignment every thirty years or so. So, your Saturn Return happen about every thirty years. If you are going to see a big natural change or refreshment in your life (again, according to the planets) this is the time when you can really hit that restart button.  

I guess I would say this is true in respect to my peers, many of whom really didn’t get their work in order until they were around thirty, anyways. Whether or not the planets have any quantifiable impact on humankind, which I’m sure we could argue about for days, I’ve also noticed that people in their second Saturn Return tend to find a new focus or renew an old one right around 58-60, so maybe astrology does have something going for it. All this is to say that, whatever is aligning for me, it is aligning all at once and it has gotten in the way of my super mundane middle-class, white-person goals, and I have been pushed to the limit to stay awake and stay focused this year. God, the Universe, my sweet departed ancestors, whomever/whatever is pulling the strings, even if it is my own thoughts and subconscious ambitions, needs to cool it because what was supposed to be a somewhat low key year of learning and regeneration, has become a year of supercharged, full-forced, “do all the things” type day-to-day.  Kristl and I need a freaking vacation.

Don’t worry, we have one planned… in a couple months… In the meantime, tell me, oh wise, older ones who are better at networking than I am, all your networking tips and tricks.  And then, seriously, who else has had a crazy year? Big wins, big losses? SO MANY CHANGES? The Chinese Zodiac calls this the year of the Wooden Horse.  Read the description of the Wooden Horse: 

The Wood Horse year is a time of fast victories, unexpected adventure, and surprising romance. It is an excellent year for travel, and the more far away and off the beaten path the better. Energy is high and production is rewarded. Decisive action, not procrastination, brings victory. But you have to act fast in a Horse year. If you are not 100% secure about a decision, then don’t do it. Events move so quickly in a Horse year that you don’t want to gallop off in the wrong direction.

Anyways, so, if this year has been moving at a blinding pace for you too, blame it on the planets, or the Chinese horses.  Next year is supposed to be more about creativity and relationships.  Something warm and cozy to look forward to.

2014-chinese-year-of-horse-Wallpaper-HD-18-780x555

I have about five weeks left of my twenties.  I have about five weeks left to read some these books and maybe take some dedicated Instagram pictures and do some yoga.  I could easily complete some of these 30 by 30 tasks, but what will I have gained? I set up the exercise to have accomplished something by the time I turned thirty, but I did not set any really high bars, because I think I knew this year was going to hold really big surprises.  Maybe I should set 33 goals for 33 now, and set them really high (I really want to ride in a hot air balloon!) Three years to garner my resources and plan.  Make some big strides and get ready for 33 because 33 is the best number of them all. 😉

Thanks for reading!

 

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I will be turning 30 on September 26, 2014, and I am planning on doing 30 things this year that I have wanted to do for a while.  Included are items related to my work, my hobbies, my relationship, and other life stuff.  It’s a grand mixture, but hopefully you will encourage me as the year goes on.  I plan to blog about my experiences and I will strike through items on this list as I finish them AND my third decade.

Note: I have this list saved as a page, so we/I can refer to it easily!

1. Perfect home made tom yum soup

2. Make kimchi at home

3. Take a romantic moonlit lake walk with kristl

4. Write letters to my 5 best friends telling them why I love them

5. Write letters to my parents telling them why I love them

6. Volunteer with Chicago food depository

7. Write letter to self at 40

8. Master basic Italian in mindsnacks

9. Do the Whole 30 for one month

10. Complete 5 self portraits in 5 different mediums

11. Do yoga every day for one month

12. Buy nothing for a week (intentionally)

13. Create handwriting font

14. Learn basic html

15. Learn advanced squarespace/wordpress editing

16. Kayak in the Chicago river

17. Take a Chicago architecture boat tour

18. Go on a silent retreat (weekend of silence)

19. Take a photo a day and post it on a dedicated instagram

20. Launch my life coaching business

21. Study the … and put it into practice (shhh)

22. Get rid of everything I don’t use or need in my closet

23. Clean out the junk at my parent’s house

24. Go geocaching in Chicago with Kristl

25. Make our tabletops into tables

26. Finish current crochet blanket

27. Open an etsy shop for lino cut cards and chakra bracelets

28. Go to an outdoor fitness class (tai chi/qi qong)

29. DJ Dance Dance Party Party

30. Get engaged and plan wedding

(30 books to read by the time I’m 30 on the next page…)

30 books for 30 Years

I also plan to read thirty books while I’m 29 which were suggested by my friends.  I haven’t 100% solidified this list yet, but the suggestions so far are listed below.

Lamb by Christopher Moore

The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

The Snow Train by Joseph Cummins

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Book Store by Robin Sloan

When the Stars Fell to Earth by Rebecca Tinsley

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Be Here Now by Ram Dass

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Harley Loco by Rayya Elias

The Guernsey Library and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows/Mary Ann Shaffer

Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz

Chinaman by Shehan Karuntil

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

The View from Saturday by EL Konigsburg

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

East of Eden by Steinbeck

Sexing the Cherry by Winterson

The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Native Speaker by Chang Rae-Lee

So Far from God by Ana Castillo

Revenant Road by Michael Boatman

 Bonuses: Dr. Sleep by Stephen King (because I have to)
Blankets by Craig Thompson

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It’s that time of the year again.  It’s the time of the year where you are assured of getting at least one music post from me.  I love listening to music and absorbing it and spitting out pretty well informed judgments about it. I have not been as astutely tuned in as I usually am when it comes to music this year.  Thankfully, not paying attention doesn’t mean my taste has suffered.  For the most part, other top album lists will agree with me.  I’m not going to rank these albums, but I will give more attention to the ones to which I’ve paid the most attention.  For a while, I was determined to give you my top 10 albums of the year, but I don’t want to give praise where praise is not due, nor do I want to endorse an album I have largely ignored, but sounds good at first listen.  I’m so diplomatic.

Kishi BashiKishi Bashi – 151a: I stumbled onto Kishi Bashi when I went to a concert for which he was the opener for Tinariwen.  I knew I wanted to see Tinariwen, but what I didn’t know was that I really wanted to see Kishi Bashi.  Listening to his album does not really do this artist justice.  He simply must be seen live.  The man is a classically trained violinist, a human beat box, and a wiz with a looping machine.  He was touring with the banjo virtuoso Tall Tall Trees.  Together they basically floored us.  It may have been one of the best concerts I have ever seen (and I’ve been to a few). I was an instant Kishi Bashi fan, and picked up his all white vinyl with free digital downloads. The album itself is hard to find on other “best of 2012” lists, because his strength is live music.  However, having seen the live music side of Kishi Bashi, I am equally charmed by his album.  Also, there is a tiger on the front.  I’m sure once he will be blowing up everywhere in no time.  While the aesthetic is decidedly hopeful, joyous and lively, “I am the Antichrist to You” is super emo and a delicious depressed-day hit.

lordhuroncoverLord Huron – Lonesome Dreams: I fell into the lap of Lord Huron in mid November, and while it’s not my most listened-to album of the year, it has made it’s mark.  Some reviewers have given Ben Schneider a hard time for sounding a lot like Fleet Foxes and My Morning Jacket, but let’s be honest here, who doesn’t want to listen to something that sounds like bands they already love but also distinctively itself.  I think the majority of people didn’t give this album the time of day because it was heavily influenced by other bands.  I think Lord Huron will hit their stride in album two or three, in terms of pleasing the indie-choirboy gods.  For me, though, this was an entirely pleasant way to accompany an after working through paper work or writing a blog.  It’s good music and it’s pretty majestic.  You can turn it way up and let it wash over you.  Described as “lush and haunting” in one review, I can’t begin to tell you how the combination of ghostly and full begins to describe this album.  Let’s call it a sleeper hit and move on.  I mean, listen to it, then move on.

kendricklamarcoverKendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city: It’s nice to hear a hip hop album that is by a new guy who is really talented and really likable.  Kendrick Lamar is sort of a rap genius.  When I think about my favorite artists in this genre, they come across to me as endlessly creative, pulling lyrics and themes and beats from a depth I can barely conceive of.  Lamar is blasting his way to top of the list of brilliant rappers in my mind.  It’s smart and it’s genuine; it speaks to faith issues and social issues. I would list out the songs I like best (Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe, Backseat Freestyle, etc.) but then I’d end up listing basically almost the entire album.  If you like to listen to hip hop and like to have your limits pushed a little, you will love this album.  It’s equally good for engaged listening, work listening (on headphones, lyrics aren’t exactly SFW), or sitting around doing whatever listening. The album tells a story, as any good album should, and there is the tension of a good film or novel as you move through the songs. Multi-layered goodness. Straight outa Compton.

altjcover

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave:  I find this album really surprising.  Sometimes it sounds like hip hop beats, sometimes it sounds like Moby, sometimes it sounds like Radiohead.  It’s electronic, but also charmingly crafted.  It’s referred to as “art rock” and the primary single from the album, “Tessellate” hit the top charts in the U.K. and has been played over here in the States as well.  In “Tessellate”, the lyrics mention a triangle being the speaker’s favorite shape.  Evidently this is related in some way to the name of the band. The Alt-J  keyboard combination will make a delta symbol, or triangle, on any Mac computer.  Alt-J = ∆.  So that’s a nice tidbit for you tidbit whores. My favorite song from the album is probably “Breezeblocks”.  (Based on the names alone, this could be a Radiohead album, sheesh.)  Part of me is always surprised when “Dissolve Me” comes on, because it has an upbeat, almost Toto-like, sound to it. So much for being the next Radiohead; Radiohead is never THIS upbeat.  Being Art Rock, though, to appreciate this album, you will need to give it a close listen before idly playing it in the background.

twinshadowcoverTwin Shadow – Confess: This is probably the most understated of my picks.  George Lewis Jr stays pretty solidly in the 80’s for his influences.  You might listen to this album and think, “Did I accidentally put Prince on?” It’s easy listening and the lyrics are not super challenging, even though they do make Lewis come out like a bit of a bad guy (Just ’cause he chases you doesn’t mean he really likes you). All the songs are self-recorded and self-edited. So, if you have a thing about people who take a name for their “band” when their band is just them and a synthesizer, this is the band for you to love/hate. I like to put Twin Shadow on when I’m working, mostly because I like to listen to obscure independent while I’m working so my coworkers don’t know what to think.  When I was reading reviews of this album on other sites, people called it 80’s New Wave Synth-Pop or slick, dapper Pop-Rock, or lustful Funk-Pop, if that helps any.  Basically, you are going to have to listen to it and make you own decisions about the genre and the motivations of the singer.

frankoceancoverFrank Ocean – Channel Orange: Even if I didn’t like this album, I would feel almost 100% required to include it in this list because Frank Ocean has almost single handed-ly ripped the closet door off it’s hinges in hip hop circles.  Not only did this golden orange album come out this year, Frank himself came out and basically told the “no homo” past of hip hop to suck it. Brave and talented man. Anyways, the album is pretty amazing, social issues aside, and it goes down so smoothly you could pretend to not notice you were listening to a modern masterpiece. Channel Orange is so honest, genuine and substantial, it doesn’t even need to hype to speak for it. This is his first album, but he’s was a founding member of Odd Future and has already collaborated with such hip hop giants as Kanye West and Jay-Z. And you all know how I feel about an album being more than the sum of it’s parts.  This album works seamlessly as a whole, even though I’m sure at least one more single will be carved from it’s depths.  I will warn you, therefore, that if you are going to start listening to this album, you should set aside time to listen to the whole thing at once.

dirtyprojectorscoverDirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan: This was, without a doubt, my most listened to and sung along with album of the year.  I made Kristl crazy by singing and playing it non-stop during the summer. This is definitely the best music to come from the Dirty Projectors and definitely the best thing to come out of American independent rock this year. (In my humble opinion, they sound a bit like Canadian independent rock, as if all Canadian music has a certain sound to it.) You need to listen to this album with the volume up, or you will miss the beginning of the first song.  There are claps and vocals and a forceful bass drum groove.  There’s some acapella singing, electric guitars, an acoustic section, you are gonna get everything from the Dirty Projectors. The melodies are contagious and complex. The lyrics are a little odd, but there’s a message there.  Oh who cares if there’s a message, this is really interesting music to listen to.  Listen to the first three songs three times through and then tell me you didn’t have one of the melodies floating around in your head for days afterward. (I’m feeling defensive about this, but I really thought more writers would have put this album in the top ten of their choices.) Listen to it already, gosh.

Well that’s it.  I could only decide on 7 albums and others I could not feel comfortable recommending because I either didn’t listen to them enough or didn’t think they were all that great.  I also liked Shields by Grizzly Bear, the new Fiona Apple, and Blunderbuss by Jack White.  Other people liked the new Beach House, Japandroids, Tame Impala, Passion Pit, and Hot Chip.

I hope to put together my favorite videos from 2012, but you know how it goes when I PROMISE I’m going to write a blog post (it never happens).  Happy New Years and here’s to even more delightful music in 2013!

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Way back in January of this year, Kristl and I were discussing ways we could help fund our trip to the national GALA choir conference in June. We were very much new to fundraising and we didn’t really know where to start. Kickstarter seemed a little out of our scope of fundraising, but we came across Pledgie.com as a feasible alternative. We emailed our friends and posted on facebook and were able to raise about $1000 towards our trip. As part of our message to our donors, we promised to do one hour of service for every $10 we raised. We were hoping to start that service early in 2012 and complete our pledge by the end of the year, but as it often does, life got in the way. Today, finally we were able to start our “paying it forward” so to speak. Out of 100 hours of pledged service, we are 4 down, 96 to go! Woo!

That being said, this pledge to do service together to pay back by proxy our generous donors is not to meant to be an end all be all. The goal, really, is to start a tradition and a pattern of service in our household. We want to donate our time and our talents to organizations that we believe in and who need a couple extra hands every once in while. I have always admired those volunteers who were regulars in their organization. They were clearly there often enough to know the staff and patrons. They were established and invaluable. I want the spirit of service to be that ingrained in my life; that it is as much a part of my vocation as the work I do for money. It’s a long and lonely life to live for only your own gain. Serving others or working with others towards a common goals is the stuff the good life is made of. So, Kristl and I are committed to finding that part of the good life; to creating it and cultivating within our times of service.

We started our journey tonight by doing data entry for Equality Illinois. We are gay and hope to be married someday, hopefully in the United States, specifically in Illinois. So this issue is near and dear to our hearts. Data entry hardly has the immediate emotional payoff that, say, making a meal for the homeless does, but the whole time I had our goal in mind. The best part of the evening, aside from the pizza and the silly jokes of the coordinator, was the content of some of the data cards. They, of course, included contact information from individuals supporting marriage equality in Illinois, pretty standard stuff. At the bottom of the card was the payoff. People were given an option to explain why they supported marriage equality. Some were very simple and straightforward, like “I am a gay male,” or “We have a civil union, but want the same rights as everyone else.” Some were more personal, like “my brother should be able to marry his partner” or “my grandchild should be able to marry whomever she loves” or “our child should be able to see her parents legally married.” Some were a little funny, like “it’s not that bad” or “everyone should have equal rights no matter how they sex”. But most were moving and simply stated that they saw it as a matter of civil rights, equality, and at the base, fairness. The best part for me was that the majority of the cards we were entering were from Central and Southern Illinois, which are known to be much more conservative parts of the state. Honestly, if the question of gay marriage were put up to Chicago right now, I could assure you the measure would be passed. To change the law of a whole state, however, it will take a lot more movement and explaining, campaigning and changing minds.

As I was sitting there typing, I realized that I would do as much as was possible for me to do to make this a reality. Not only for myself, or for other gay couples in Illinois, but as an act of social justice. The comments on the cards made it clear to me that the people who support gay marriage are not merely making a concession; they see it as a necessary stop on the course of history. It is a destination on the arc of justice Dr. King envisioned. People should be set aside because of who they are or how they were born. I want to believe that even if I weren’t gay I would see this as a matter of justice and not misconstrue it as a matter of religion.

My mom always bristles when I tell her about one friend of mine or another who doesn’t get married in the church or doesn’t have a pastor do the ceremony. She very clearly sees the institution of marriage as a Christian institution. I hope that she is willing to open her mind to the reality of marriage as a civil institution outside of the church. I have no doubt that I would be able to find a pastor to marry Kristl and me, but for that marriage to come along with some real rights, we need to have the law of the land behind us. I grew up feeling like I would never be able to get married because I kinda already knew I was gay. Every straight child can spend their childhood dreaming in some way about their fabulous wedding day; gay children should also have that option. The goal Equality Illinois is working towards has been realized in other states and none of those states have dissolved. It’s going to happen and when the work is done, the solution is going to be relatively painless. In the mean time, we will continue to do the work. I am totally willing to head back to EQIL and do more data entry, or whatever they need me to do. If you are interested in helping too, I will include the contact info for the organization below.

One final note, we are going to start a separate blog to keep track of our volunteering activities. Please keep an eye out for when we create that blog and switch over so you add it to your reader and subscribe. Both Kristl and I will be posting on the service blog. The only holdup right now is deciding on the best name for the blog. Nothing has really jumped out at us yet. More updates soon! Lakeview Pantry is next! Thanks for reading!

Info for Equality Illinois:

Equality Illinois

Address: 3318 N. Halsted – Chicago 60657

Phone: 773-477-7173

Website: www.equalityilllinois.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/equalityillinois

Twitter: @EqualityILL

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