#OurChicagoStories Winter 2019

#OurChicagoStories Winter 2019

Let’s be real, I went to start writing the blog post for the Summer Our Chicago Stories and realized I never wrote one for the Winter series- ha life! 2019 has been quite a year, full of a rollercoaster of joys and challenges and some things got pushed to the side for more self-care time, and apparently this was on the list too. What’s beautiful about that, is that this is what OCS is all about - real life, through every season.

It was sweet to sit down, look through the photos and responses from an afternoon back in March. That’s what so special about these photos and words, they bring you right back to the moment. You can feel the emotion again, you can remember the words.

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Our Chicago Stories has become such an integral part of the seasons of life Rachel & I are in, mostly because it reminds us to pause, take a breath, and look back on the months we just lived through. It’s a forced (and welcomed) reflection.

We begin every OCS Sunday by taking a turn in front of the camera, to remember what it feels like to vulnerably share where you’re at while someone captures your movement and emotion. It’s refreshing, awkward, challenging and beautiful each time. It always seems to be more challenging to think of the words to say when you’re looking into a camera, but the moment both of us drop that fear or guard, beauty always reveals itself whether it be through hand gestures, movement or words.

I’m excited to share more about the individuals who participated in the Winter series of OCS. Keep scrolling to read more!


 

KORI PODSZUS

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

I feel most empowered and comfortable in my own skin when I find myself in the position of being able to gather people and relationships together in settings where community and connection can grow and develop. For the first few years when we moved to Chicago, I clearly remember the great sense of loss and feeling of being untethered that came from lack of community. We were not in a position to gather because the dynamics didn’t exist—in fact we were entirely at the mercy of others to hopefully include us! But slowly, we began making connections through school, work, neighborhood, kids, church, etc. And over time, we realized we finally had developed a wide and deep enough circle to host a holiday gathering and bring lots of people together. After doing the planning, inviting, hosting, making the play list, etc., I remember standing in the middle of our crowded, loud kitchen, feeling so full—tangibly experiencing the dynamic community that, by God’s grace, we had built.

How has community affected your time here?

I would add that building community has taken effort, commitment, and time… lots of time. I think typically it is said that when moving to a new place, it takes about 3 years before you start feeling settled and like you have found your place in community. But in a transient, often disconnected city like Chicago. I would say the time line is extended- more like 5 years- and requires intentionality and perseverance. But it is necessary, rich, and worth it.

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

I feel greatly inspired by the greenspaces and gardens found throughout Chicago- the Lurie Garden is my favorite. To me, it is at once both ethereal and ruggedly beautiful. And it is right in the heart of Chicago; right in the middle of the hustle and bustle! When I am there I am transported to another place—removed and heightened and stilled. And, this is just one of many of the horticulture treasures in Chicago. Walking through neighborhoods and peering over gates into gardens is a favorite past time.


KARA GAZZO


JESSE TREVINO

How has community affected your time here?

My community has taught me compassion and resilience. I grew up in a diverse low-income community on the Near-West Side of Chicago. My neighborhood was filled with equal parts love, violence, hard working blue-collared workers, gangs and drugs, old-school mexican catholics, baptists, christians, and jehovah witnesses, and the best-ever block parties. I grew in the 1980s - a product of hip-hop and pop music, Atari and MTV, and the remnants and shadows of the Vietnam war. I didn't understand it at the time, but racism was wide-spread and socio-economic issues were prevalent (how things still seem the same, don't they). As a teenager, I've witness a tremendous of amount of pain (and joy) within my community. And yet, I am not only lucky but very grateful for growing up in the place and time in which I did. My story is that of poor, humble beginnings. I'll always remember myself as that skinny kid that grew up on Campbell avenue. That memory makes me appreciate all the experiences and people that I have encountered in my life. You see, everyone is a good person at the core. And, we are all going through our own obstacles and battles. I try to be mindful of this at all times; this presence of mind has really helped me to embrace my fellow man. And it is amazing what a simple smile or a "how are you doing today" can help lift the spirits of your neighbors.

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

Maybe it is my latino and spanish/french heritage, but I love me some fashion. Since I was a kid, I remember falling in love with fedora hats, suits, and fancy shoes. I favor purchasing long-lasting quality versus low-end items. My fave store in all of Chicago is a long-time hat store called Sid's Hats and Clothing. I feel like a kid in a candy store every time I walk through Sid's doors. After every memorable closing (I am a real estate agent by trade), I always reward myself with a new hat!

Do you have an experience or a specific encounter that has moved you/stayed with you that you’d be up for sharing?

Yes indeed. My father passed away about 5 years ago. My folks had divorced a long time ago so my dad was living in New Mexico. I was flying from Chicago to New Mexico for the funeral. On the flight next to me in the middle seat sat a older gentleman (perhaps in his late 60s or 70s). I was in no mood to fellowship during the flight and and I knew right away that the gentleman was ready to socialize. I recall his warm presence to this very day: a tall slender black man, with years of wisdom in his eyes and smile, sporting a newsboy cap and sport coat. He was eager to chat with me, and I'm certain he must have sensed that I was a bit uneasy. I sparked up minor conversation with the man (to be cordial), hoping that the pleasantries would end after a few minutes. However, something special occurred. We shared an endearing chat for the entire 2 1/2 hours of the flight. It was as if I was being visited by a past-life version of myself. Like, the universe did me a solid and placed that wonderful human being in the center seat in my exact row, as a way to say "Jesse, you're going to be alright - we got your back here." My only regret today from that special encounter is that I do not remember the gentleman's name. But, he will always remain in my memory.


MATT PODSZUS

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

I feel the same way (as Kori). There’s certainly something so powerful about seeing great people connect and become part of one another’s lives—to play a role in that is energizing. I would also say that I have days when I am sort of boinging between connections with people—students I’m mentoring, staff I’m coaching, friends or colleagues I am learning and engaging with—and those can just be such great days. Sitting across from someone and getting deep into an important topic. There’s this story where a crowd of people are pressing in on Jesus, but a woman squeezes her way through and touches his cloak and is healed. The story says that she feels it immediately, but what is also cool is that Jesus stops and says, “Who touched me?” Of course the answer was, “everybody!” But Jesus says, “No, but power went out from me.” Kind of strange, but also kind of awesome. This lady feels something happen in her. Jesus feels it too. Some days are like that. Hard to explain, but you come home and think, “Something powerful was going out of me, and I think we both felt it.”

Also, and this has become almost a liturgy for us, just ambling out to the dog park every morning around 7:30 and then again around 5. There’s just this wonderful gathering of people who all basically like each other. We just stand around talking about our dogs and little life things. It is such a warm and unpretentious crowd. (Especially in the summer. People will linger for well over an hour.)

Beyond that, when I am emotionally and mentally buoyant, writing about the topics and thoughts that I’m trying to make sense of can be a pretty zen space. Sometimes (like now) things are coming at us too fast—its like Tetris—and it’s hard to feel like all the thoughts and ideas are more than a cluttered mess. But there are these periods of lucidity during which it is a joy and outlet just to make sense of things through writing. I think it was Flannery O’Connor who said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I’ve read what I’ve written.” That’s kind of true for me.

If you’re in a season of distance with God, what are your questions/struggles?

The longer I walk through life, I almost feel like the times of distance and closeness with God intermingle. I’m also kind of a moody person, and can’t always predict which version of me will get out of bed on any given day. I’m grateful for the scripture I’ve memorized during such times—although my memory isn’t what it used to be! Verses like Lamentations 3:22 are oftentimes a lifeline, “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed; for his compassions never fail; they are new every morning.” Or Psalm 42:11, “Why are you downcast, my soul? Why are you are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God—for I will yet praise him, my Savior and God!” These are both versions of “talking to yourself instead of listening to yourself.” It’s this holy moxy thing that can be pretty inspiring. Chicago developes grit in people, that’s for sure. I do think that verses like these—telling yourself the truth when you are deluged in discouragement—allows me to maintain a level of kindness and calmness even with the grit. Living in such an unpredictable city as Chicago has caused me to relate to God as Savior in a less apologetic way. We so often feel in over our heads here, and throughout the psalms you see God related to as Savior. The American ideals of “rugged individualism” often make us abashed for needing “saving”—I’m learning to just come into God’s throne room, and say, “Well—we’re needing some more saving.” I think God just smiles back knowingly and says, “Sure thing.” I’ve also been increasingly helped by re-examining the mode of scripture. Like I said earlier, it’s mostly poems and stories. It is decidedly not tidy or neatly resolved. I think so many of us have grown up in churches and Christian communities that did damage to the nature of scripture by making it a user’s manual or some overly triumphant and straightforward thing. Scripture is like Jesus: exactly what we need, but not exactly what we would have asked for. There is a great joy in taking a deep breath and just receiving God’s self-revelation as it is.

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

I have more recently jumped into a few contexts that are so enjoyable: namely storytellingand improv. Again, these spaces have this unpretentious atmosphere where magical stuff happens. I told a story at a Moth Storyslam last summer. I put my name in the hat, and sat there very nervously. But, after a few storytellers had gone, I was so aware that this was a room gathered around a mutual value of people’s stories. I could literally feel the pressure lifting as I sat there—telling my little vignette that night was very cathartic. That seems like an underappreciated piece of living in a city like Chicago—a release valve! You don’t have to kick the dust and hang your head when you say you’re writing a blog or doing a podcast or acting in a play or starting a community garden—so many people are probing the arenas into which they can offer themselves. That’s part of what we love about Chicago.


BEVERLY ALLOR

What brought you to Chicago?

A job. I'm pretty career-driven, and have really high expectations for myself. I'm in a phase of my life where I'm okay with working long hours and weekends - in fact, I kind of invite the opportunity. One day my priorities will shift, but for now this is one short phase of my life where I am unapologetic about throwing everything I have into my career. 

For all the dissonance between myself and Chicago at large, this is where I feel like there's harmony. People in Chicago are dreamers, and their self-expectations and life visions are higher and broader than what I've found in more rural, suburban areas. 

At the same time, there's a modest, down-to-earth framework in the way Chicagoans dream. It all comes into focus comparatively; in New York and LA, people want their names up in lights, but in Chicago everyone seems to have grand dreams of comfort. It's all about the good life. It's about getting really rich, having a nice house, a nice family, and nice vacations.


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

I've always struggled with my weight, and in the past several years I've taken up backpacking trips to prove to myself that I can still do amazing things with my body despite my weight. I go for the natural beauty and to build memories with friends, but there's an undercurrent of defiance. I will not let my weight hold me back.

Why do you stay in Chicago?

At this point, I can't think of a single reason to leave. The only magnetic pull I have is my family back in Michigan - once my siblings start having babies, I don't think I'll be able to stay. In all honesty, as much as I feel integrated into Chicago and have a strong community, nothing compares to blood family. And once they enter into a phase of life where they'll need more support, I want to be that person that shows up for them.





MIKE GAZZO



Our Chicago Stories Winter 2019

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MATT PODSZUS

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THE GAZZO’S

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BEVERLY ALLOR

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KARA GAZZO

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KORI PODSZUS

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JESSE TREVINO

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THE PODSZUS’

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MIKE GAZZO


Our Chicago Stories is so special for so many reasons. It was such a treat to look back on these photos from March and share each of these stories.

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

#OurChicagoStories Fall 2018

#OurChicagoStories Fall 2018