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  • Writer's pictureAmy Kraft

Updated: Mar 19, 2020

Let's address the microscopic elephant in the room: coronavirus. A lot of people are scared and panicked about this mysterious virus that is circling the globe at breakneck speed. I am nervous, too, which is why I have taken as many reasonable precautions as possible. Now I haven't gone all hazmat suit on the world like Naomi Campbell. But I am keeping myself and my family members far away from others, washing my hands frequenty, and wiping down doorknobs, light switches, and elevator buttons with disinfecting wipes as often as possible. It may get worse before it gets better, but I plan on taking this one day at a time.

How do I keep my sanity during such a trying time, you ask? One thing I've learned is that when life gets me down, it helps to make a list of all of the things I'm grateful for as a reminder that it's not so bad. So here goes my list:

1. The End Of Handshaking

I for one have never been a fan of shaking hands with people. To me it is on par with high fiving, which Jerry Seinfeld considered to be the "lowest form of male primate ritual." And everything Jerry Seinfeld says and has said must be true because it was on TV. I've also lived with hand-shaking anxiety for years. I never know when meeting a person necessitates a hand shake or if I'm pumping too strong or not strong enough during a handshake. In fact, some people have called me out on a weak handshake. To them I say, fuck you and good riddance to this social norm.

2. Men Who Wash Their Hands After Using the Bathroom

I am not a man, but I am married to one and he tells me what goes on inside the men's bathroom when a man thinks no one is looking: The whizz and run out of the room. It's disgusting. And now I know why I want to vomit everytime I shake a man's hand. Also, shame on you men. I hope you'll do better from now on.

3. Waived Cancellation Fees

Before the shit started to hit the fan in Chicago, I signed up for one of my regular weekly barre classes. At the last minute though, I decided I was too tired and canceled. Now normally, the service I use charges a $20 fee for canceling, which I figured I'd have to fight by lying and saying it was out of fear of the virus. But, magically, no cancellation fee has appeared on my credit card. Guess they were one step ahead of me, and this can be our little secret.

4. Free Stuff

Now I'm not talking about looting. That is wrong. But I often limit the number of activities my daughter participates in because of cost. Now, though, so many companies and organizations are offering free online classes so Evelyn is never stuck counting the pieces of lint on her bedroom carpet after school because mama's too cheap to put her in a music class. Something tells me if the quarantine lasts much longer these free activities won't. But for now, I'm making the most of it. I've signed Evelyn up for so many free virtual yoga and music classes she is going to be able to play Beethoven's 5th Symphony on the piano while doing a down dog into a Vinyasa flow by the time she can go back to school.

6. Everything is Clean

Thank god the Chicago CTA was compelled to clean out the El trains. And I thought New York's subways were bad.

5. The Best Excuse in The World

Before the closure of most restaurants and businesses I begrudgingly signed up to attend a workshop for which I barely had any interest. I had already met with the organizer who graciously answered my questions on the topic over coffee, and didn't see the point to hearing any more about the subject. She seemed to think it would be good for me to go, so out of kindness, I said yes. As the day of the workshop neared, I struggled to find a way out. I scoured medical sites to find a weekend work-related event to attend while trying to diagnose myself with a rare disease to no avail. But then, a few days ago, a miracle occurred. The organizer canceled the event due to coronavirus. That gives me more time to come up with an excuse for when the event is rescheduled.

Feel free to comment with your own gratitude list.

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  • Writer's pictureAmy Kraft

I was out to dinner with some people I recently met last week and we were talking about podcasts we like.

"I'm really looking for podcasts about Chicago or made in Chicago," one woman said. "There are so many about New York City and I want people to know that this city is cool, too." The woman looked to me for confirmation.

"Well you're talking to a woman who just moved here from NYC, so..." I didn't know how to finish the sentence and hoped someone would chuckle uncomfortably to fill in the void.

"Oh how do you like it here?" she said.

I dreaded that question, because, well, I'm not a good liar. I tried deluding myself into thinking the move was going to be great, even went so far as to joke about starting an Instagram account titled, "Chicago is Better than New York," but it turns out, that would be like selling my soul to Satan.

Let me be clear, Chicago is not a bad city: it is just not for me. Everything's too spread out, winter is way too long, and Chinese delivery takes an hour to arrive! The first time we ordered I remember getting a phone call from the delivery person 50 minutes after I called in the order because he couldn't find anywhere to park. "You're in a car?" I said, astonished by his preferred mode of transportation.

Sebastien and I have discussed moving back to New York. It was our home for 12 years and so many important life events happened there: I started a career in journalism, we got married and had a child, and I was an extra in some poorly recieved movies and a sitcom that didn't make it past season 1.

Now I know I can have these things too in Chicago, it just takes time. And I'm a really impatient person. Perhaps that's why I bounced around from city to state to country so often before finding my home in New York City. I told Sebastien that I was willing to give Chicago a year before deciding this place isn't for me. "Let's at least experience spring and summer here," I said. Surely the third largest city in America has some redeemable qualities.

But I'm still having trouble with my discomfort in not having a place to call home. And I'm looking for outside things to blame. Currently the city of Chicago is getting a taste of my wrath. Every mistake, every wrong, every minor injustice is the fault of this inanimate, unfeeling city. "Dammit Chicago," I'll say whenever I miss a bus or a train, looking to fellow delayed passengers for confirmation. But they're usually looking down at their phones or have ear buds in so pay no attention to me.

The other day I grabbed a yogurt from the fridge and when I sat down to eat it, noticed that the top was slightly opened. Unsure if I had done that when I got it out of the fridge or if it had been sitting open and exposed to the elements for days, I opted to get rid of it. "Fucking Chicago, what kind of a city is this?" I said, tossing it in the trash.

And I'm reluctant to even try and embrace this city. I refuse to do the typical things a person does to help themselves get better acquainted to living in a new city, like getting a new I.D. card. I have to get a Real ID by October if I want to travel domestically without carrying my passport, and I'd rather take on that extra burden if it means I can keep my NYC license a few years more. I haven't been to a doctor for my annual check-up because I'm not ready to say goodbye to the one I had in New York, and I need to find a way back home before I go into labor with my second child because both of my kids have to be born in New York City.

My only source of comfort in these dark times is finding things that remind me of home. I'll go out of my way in the morning to visit the NYC Bagel Deli even though I wasn't a big fan of bagels to begin with, or I'll find parks that are central to something so I can identify them as Central Park. And I've decided that we have to move to the Chicago neighborhood that's equivalent to the Upper West Side so I can hopefully recreate my life in New York City, for a third of the price.

For now though, I'm stuck in a bit of a rut. It's getting to the point where outside help might be required, but as mentioned, I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to a doctor in this city, aside from the obligatory doctor for the sake of my unborn child. On the bright side, though, I do really like my gynecologist here.

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  • Writer's pictureAmy Kraft

I missed a self-imposed writing deadline yesterday because I was too busy engaging in retail therapy. I've been restless lately, ill at ease. And instead of spending my money on tried and true self-help techniques, I've been taking matters into my own hands. So I've got a lot of new clothes, and sunglasses, and a couple of pairs of shoes.

I still don't feel any better on the inside, but I will get there, when I've run out of money to spend on other things, I'm sure.

In keeping with tradition, I also got bangs the last time I went in for a haircut. I'd been on the fence about this hairstyle choice for well over 10 years. Actually, I haven't had bangs since the early 90s when women would spend hours in the bathroom blow drying whispy hairs over their forehead with a curl brush the size of their head then topping it off with a half a bottle of hairspray. Needless to say I was a bit nervous about how it was going to turn out.

But fortunately, I started to notice a positive response right away. Strangers seemed more open to engage in conversation with me or to smile at me as I passed them in the street. I began to wonder if getting bangs was the answer to my problems. Perhaps I had an intimidating forehead that, when combined with my resting bitch face, made me unapproachable? Or maybe it's common knowledge that people with bangs happen to be nicer. Whatever it was, I started to feel better about myself.

But just as my current existential crisis started to lift, another worry cropped up. Why hadn't any of my friends or loved ones, the people who endured my montrous forehead for decades and stood by my side despite my shortcoming, noticed that I changed my hair? I mean it was so obvious that something was different about me. Yet none of them said a word.

Was I suddenly living in an alternate reality, similar to the main character in La Moustache? Like Marc Thiriez, the protagonist in that film, would I angrily demand answers from the people cloestest to me, only to hear that I my alteration was a figment of my own imagination? After shaving off his decades-old moustache, Thiriez is told that he never had one. Would my loved ones tell me that I always had bangs. This possibility troubled me, and I questioned whether it was time to seek out professional help from a therapist.

While trying to decide what to do, I found myself watching the parody to La Moustache, Ghost Tits, and decided to drop the matter. Very anti-climatic, like most French films.

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