#OurChicagoStories Summer 2018

#OurChicagoStories Summer 2018

Our Chicago Stories Summer 2018 happened and boy was it good for the soul in every single way. There’s no denying that God was beyond present on this Sunday afternoon in CHC & Youth & Yarrow’s studio space.

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As I’m sitting here recalling our most recent Our Chicago Stories back in August, I remember walking away amazed. Rachel and I started OCS as a way to create space for people to share their Chicago stories, the struggles, the joys, the dreams, but I’ll be honest when I say that I in no way intended for God to completely invade the afternoons we spend photographing people, but boy has He. I’ll start by saying OCS is not a technical “Christian project” and follow that up by saying there’s no way you can share your journey without seeing God’s handprint all over it. The group that we gathered in August was one in which every person was open palmed ready to talk about God’s providence in their lives and how He is moving, and while we in no way require that, we sure are open to listening to how each individual sees, or doesn’t see, God.

I think I speak for both Rachel & I when I say, we left filled up to the brim. After an afternoon of us speaking of the changes that had happened since our last OCS individually and as a pair, and listening to the stories of people who were ready to open up and be vulnerable for an afternoon along that white wall.

I am beyond excited to share more about each of these people. So here you go, keep scrolling to read more about the Our Chicago Stories Summer 2018 crew!


 

NATALIE RUZGIS

Where are you from?

Chicago(land) born and raised! I was born in the city at Columbus Hospital. 20 something years later I moved into the place I live now…only to realize its literally next door to where the hospital was! I lived a few other places in the city in my 20’s and this place has always just felt like home to me. I had no idea the now multimillion dollar condo building next to my place used to be Columbus Hospital until my Mom and I were taking a walk and she stopped by The Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine thats located at the corner and told me how she went there everyday to pray for me. I was born almost 2 months early and stayed in the hospital for over a month until I was strong enough to breath on my own. The Shrine is a spiritual center and place of prayer- and was saved when they knocked down the hospital to build condos. It was a magical moment hearing about my moms faith. We later moved to the burbs where I grew up but I feel so connected to the city, always have.

Why do you love it?

Chicago Hotdogs. Thats literally the first thing that popped into my head and I wasn’t going to put it, but its true!

How has community affected your time here?

Recently I became an active volunteer and associate board member of a local animal rescue called One Tail at a Time. The community that surrounds this grass roots rescue astounds me. Its made up of the most badass women Ive ever come into contact with, I'm wildly inspired by their mission to create a no kill Chicago. When I got involved I could see exactly how my time and resources directly help Chicago as a community. That feeling of contribution gives me fuel to keep fighting for animal welfare and educating others on rescue work.

When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin?

100% when I am working. I love my work, sometimes I just want to pinch myself that I made it happen. I have spent the last 10 years absorbing all the knowledge I could, climbing every ladder I saw and surrounding myself with talent that challenges me. I know in my gut, in my heart of hearts this is what I am meant to do.  I am embarking on a new journey as an entrepreneur. I have never felt more like myself than I do in this role. The most empowering moments though are through education. I gain so much for my soul from teaching, and passing along my experiences. I saw a post on instagram the other day and it can sum up my feelings perfectly…

“You lack nothing. Use what I gave you.” -God




CORI LEWIS

What brought you to Chicago?

I moved to Chicago only after living in my parents’ basement (literally!) and working remotely in Northern Michigan for a several months after college. After many nights feeling hopeless about my job search and direction after art school, I remember reaching a point where I basically threw up my hands and said “God, you’re going to have to make it happen for me, because clearly it hasn’t been going so well in my own hands. What is your plan? What next?”

A few days later, I got a call from a job posting I’d given up on hearing back about, and in a whirlwind of a month I’d gotten a dream job, found an apartment and moved to Chicago. I feel like that always happens, that I reach a breaking point and then there’s something amazing right around the corner. Definitely a moment of synchronicity in my life.

When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin?

When I’m standing tall.

When I’m breathing deep. When I’m using my gifts to solve problems and tell stories. When I’m surrounded by people who love me unconditionally.

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?

I get to be creative for a living and design for one of the largest nonprofit arts organizations in the city, which is really rad. The people I work with are extremely talented and hardworking, but what really stands out is their kindness and generosity. Through hard, mostly thankless work they sacrifice their time and comfort to bring access to art to a wider audience.

I see creativity in everyday life too, all over the city. I see it in carefully tended gardens, in murals and graffiti, in subway performers…these unexpected moments of beauty in the chaos of city life inspires me to be more present and open to creativity where I didn’t see it before. I believe we are are all creative by nature, and seeing all the ways that manifests in daily life gives me hope.

I’ve been going through this book study called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and it’s all about unblocking and tapping into your creative potential. Tapping into your inner artist. I wish everyone could read this book. I’ve grown so much this summer already and I’m gaining confidence in my identity as a creative person. Opening myself up to what’s next. It’s uncomfortable, but since when was any worthwhile growth comfortable, right?


ADAM GRABER

Where are you from?

When people ask me where I’m from, I like to tell them “the Midwest.” They eye me suspiciously. I love it. I think it’s my being a younger brother: that insatiable pleasure of being a nuisance. And in 13 years of living in Chicago, I don’t think that answer has ever satisfied anyone. So, after my inquistor’s eyerolls, I rattle off: OhioMichiganIowaMinnesotaIllinois. They pause, look at the ceiling, absorbing what I just said, and then, “Yep, that’s the Midwest alright.” Little brother, vindicated!

After I stop gloating, people usually ask, “Why did you move around so much?” And I explain that my dad’s job moved us around—from the automotive to agriculture industries. And then college in Minnesota, before landing in Chicago for work.

I’ve been in Chicago now longer than anywhere else—13 years last month. This past year I traveled to Europe and met a lot of people unfamiliar with the U.S. When they asked me where I’m from, I didn’t say the Midwest or Ohio or Illinois. I told them, “Chicago.”

What brought you to Chicago?

I spent a year after college looking for a job in Minneapolis, but nothing was really panning out. It was so disheartening. But eventually, I landed an internship in Chicago. My sister and her husband were living here already, so when I landed the internship I crashed at their place. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to continue building my resume as an annoying little brother. Plus, now it came with a college diploma.

It must’ve been okay because I ended up living with them for a year. After that, I found some new roommates who weren’t married to each other. I was glad for that year though: My sister and I got to know each other as adults (I’m probably being generous about myself here). We hadn’t lived in the same space really since I was 11, when she’d left for college in Chicago.

What do you find challenging about living here?

When my parents lived in Iowa, I would visit them and the pace was just so much slower. I know Iowa has a reputation for its farm country culture, but to me it felt like exhaling. It felt like the end of my yoga practice. Just relaxed. Present. Unhurried. And after a weekend there, I’d drive back to Chicago, and I’d be on 88 way out past Aurora. I would pass under the Orchard Rd overpass, and the expressway overhead lights start there. That’s when I felt Chicago’s pace pulling me back in. Something about those lights, that threshold. That pace, I would breathe in again. Like holding my breath. My sister describes that same feeling as life being pumped back into her veins. She and I are different that way. For me, I think there’s still a Midwestern boy in me that loves the horizon and a Wendell Berry contentedness. But I’ve learned from moving around a lot, that you can’t go back to where you’re from. I’m not the same person as that kid who left Iowa to go to college. Every place gets into you.  And that shapes you in new ways. I know if I moved to a smaller city, I’d realize how much of Chicago is inside me now.


JAIME RAGLOW

What do you find challenging about living here?

Winter. Not that the seasons are really any different than in Ohio.  But in a city where you walk everywhere, winter stinks. I already have some social anxiety, (although you wouldn't know upon meeting me) and I never want to leave my house in the winter, which makes me feel like I have no friends even though it's often my choice to stay in. Plus, the seasons effect my mood tremendously. I get really unmotivated, scared, and I lack a lot of confidence in the winter which is hard because that's when a lot of auditions take place.

Also, as an aspiring actor in Chicago, I know surprisingly little about the theatre scene here.  No one really spells it out for you, and I get anxious about not knowing, so I don't ask. I have plenty of college friends and people I've met through my work in Chicago who I almost guarantee would be happy to sit down with me and help me out, but I get nervous about taking advantage or wasting their time. Also, sometimes when I reach out, I have a hard time locking down plans. I'm the queen of no follow through, as hard as I try. I have the resources, I'm just weirdly afraid to use them.  It's something I'm slowly trying to reincorporate into my life so I can get a jumpstart back into auditioning and performing.

Lastly, the cost of living isn't easy. My line of work isn't about the money-- I love it, but I've been scraping by pretty much since I graduated college. I need to work on budgeting! And as a teacher at multiple locations, I have to puzzle together my schedule to make sure I am making enough and filling my time. Last year I had 6 W-2s!!


Why do you love it?

Biking! Summer. Being able to walk everywhere. The beautiful diversity of the neighborhoods. It’s still midwestern like I’m used to, but it’s a big city. I love everything this city has to offer-- amazing theatres, dance companies, connections! I've been taking Aerial classes which are amazing and can't be found everywhere.  There are so many wellness businesses, and a healthy lifestyle is often emphasized in big cities, so I like that I have options to find what works for me. There are incredible opportunities living in a city. And more recently, I've discovered the incredible nature surrounding the city too. It's an easy drive to the Chicago Botanic Gardens which may be one of my new favorite places, and hiking at Starved Rock just 2 hours out is awe-some!

Something else new and exciting about the city is my boyfriend finally lives here.  We were long distance for almost two years. It's amazing having him close!

I also love the city for the people. Now that I've lived here for seven years (wow!) I actually run into people in the craziest places! I was biking down a street I hardly go down, and I happened to see an old classmate walking the other direction, so I stopped and we chatted for a good 15 minutes! It reminded me that while I've been feeling like I've been horrible about keeping in touch with people, especially from college, I'm not the only one.  We're all just trying to navigate our own journeys here in the city, and it's cool when we can cross paths along the way!!

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?

A great example of my experience with the creative community is in my alma mater. I think Loyola demonstrates beautifully the direction of Chicago theatre and dance. Loyola's social justice goals are present in everything that the dance and theatre departments produce. I'm especially impressed with how the dance program gives opportunities to its students to use their art to make change.  Chicago is an artistic community that demands tolerance and inclusivity and that feels extremely passionate about making the world a better place. I see Loyola's dancers choreograph for the climate change conference held at the school. And in the greater community in the city, I see, and was able to be a part of, many all-female leadership teams in theatre. The "not in our house" movement that was in response to sexual harrassment at a theatre called Profiles, since closed, happened even before the bigger #metoo movement started. Chicago is a town that looks out for its own.  We stand strong together and use our art to fight for change. Just writing about it makes me want to create. In college, I read a play called "Woyzek" about a man who went insane and killed his wife. It was a crazy play, but I clung to the style and the themes of what unchecked mental stressors can do to a person. I wrote a paper about how that would make an incredible dance show, but never did anything about it. Now, I'm feeling fired up! And the cool thing is, I know of spaces I can use to rehearse, I have a pool of people from my dance company or my school that I could cast, and I probably can coerce some of my friends to help me pick or even create music to fit. Because the Chicago dance/theatre community also loves innovation, new work, and the idea that if you want work, you need to create it for yourself!  And I think the performance could help fight for a better understanding of mental health, which our country so desperately needs right now. Chicago is definitely the city for this kind of work!


NATE FORSE

How has community affected your time here?

I’ve formed an amazing community of world changers around me and been a part of their lives and mine also.

Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach what you purchase / invest in. If so, how?

I am a huge foodie and coffee snob now.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your time in Chicago?

I’ve loved my time here, but ready for the next chapter of my life in Los Angeles.


MANDY BRUGGEMAN

Why do you love it?

I love Chicago for SO many reasons. I love the diversity of the city dwellers, the different walks of life and cultures you come in contact with. As a woman who suffers from wanderlust - I love living in a city with accessibility to two major airports. I love the architecture, art, beautiful public spaces, and the creative community. I love, love, love summer evenings at Jay Pritzker Pavilion. I love that I feel like I can make a difference here. I love the opportunities and experiences that I’m afforded here. I love my church family here. I love the social justice movements that are alive here. I love that you can be both known and anonymous here. But maybe one the biggest reasons is simply the feeling that I’m free to be myself here.  

I come from a small town in Indiana, and the natural progression of life is: you go to college, you get married, and you have kids. It’s just what you do. Well, I’m 38 and single. When I go back to visit - it’s so easy to start comparing my life with my classmates. Most all are married with kids, they own houses, they’re settled - I feel “behind” or awkward because I’m not doing these things. But my life here in the city? I don’t feel like that at all. I can completely reinvent myself here. I have friends from all walks of life, doing life a dozen different ways from “the norm.” I live life at my own pace, I travel, I serve in a women’s ministry, I create, I don’t spend time wondering about what other people think or if I’m hitting milestones on some imaginary life timeline. I’m incredibly blessed in ways that are different from my hometown classmates. I feel free to live into my calling here, and I love that.


How has community affected your time here?

Community in Chicago changed my life. I joined my first small group in 2009 and God used that community of women God to bring me back to Him and to true faith. Having accountability in my life, encouragement to live into my design, discipline to get in the Word, and seeking God with that group of girls made all the difference in my life. Many of them are still some of my closest and most trusted friends to this day. I’ve met many more amazing women in new small groups through the years - which has opened so many doors. These women are so supportive and so encouraging and life giving and selfless. There’s no community like your church community, and I’m so thankful for the way God has used Park Community Church to grow me and mold me. I am not the same person that I was when I arrived in Chicago in 2006.

Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach what you purchase/invest in? If so, how?

Chicago has certainly affected the way I purchase/invest in my interior style and neighborhood. I love, love, love street art and graffiti style. I want unique art in my home and I try to support Chicago artists - I have a gallery wall in my apartment that is only Chicago prints/artists. I love the Chicago Truborn boutique shop or collecting fun sketches by popping into Atomic Sketch at the Green Eye Lounge.

Another way the city is affecting what I invest in - after living in my Lincoln Park apartment for TWELVE impressive years, I am house shopping on Chicago’s west side. I decided that this year will be the last in my apartment and in Lincoln Park. I am painfully aware that I live in this safe, privileged bubble that allows me to ignore other areas of the city that struggle. I’ve gotten VERY comfortable over here, and I feel like comfortable is where the gospel goes to die.  My roommate is preparing to go live with refugees in the Middle East, and I had this moment of “if my roommate can abandon comfortable and travel across the world to love the broken and vulnerable….why can’t I move across the city to do the same thing?” I decided that I’m ready for a change - and told God that I would give him my next location. He has graciously laid the west side on my heart, specifically East Garfield Park. I know to some it seems a little crazy for a single woman to up and buy a house in a neighborhood with high gang and gun violence, but, as John Piper said “Anybody who belongs to a people movement with a crucified Lord at the head of it can count on a Calvary Road themselves.” Embrace risk for kingdom purposes. I know there is more to this neighborhood than what is shown on the news. I’m excited to see how God will orchestrate this move and how I will grow and invest and find the beautiful in this new neighborhood.



Our Chicago Stories Winter 2018

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JAIME RAGLOW

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MANDY BRUGGEMAN

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NATE FORSE

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CORI LEWIS

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NATALIE RUZGIS

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ADAM GRABER


Our Chicago Stories is so close to both Rachel & I’s heart, and we are already planning for our next one coming up in a few weeks.

Remember to follow along for updates about OCS on our personal accounts, @devin_sutter & @rachel_loewen and most importantly @ourchicagostories!

New Salon Home!!

New Salon Home!!

2018 Akron Marathon.

2018 Akron Marathon.