Camping with my ladies… and Lin!

Last Friday was one of the most challenging days I have had. It was personally and professionally a really difficult day, and I certainly needed some relief. I was excited to hit the road and head east toward Grand Rapids, Michigan to spend some much-needed quality time with my friend Crystal. She has been a constant during my year in Chicago, and I had actually never hung out with her in Michigan even though she lives there. It was nice to go her way and do some camping before the summer’s over.

Being me, I had let Crystal know that I was emotional. It was a long drive, and a long day in general, and I was mentally exhausted. Little did I know that Crystal had the best surprise waiting for me at the campsite!

With Linley in tow, I parked by her and saw someone else get out of the car. Of course I was polite, but I thought it was strange that she would invite someone else along when we had talked about quality time with just the two of us (three of us including the pup!). Who greets me at my driver side door but Donna! Donna has been one of my best friends since high school, and that’s how I actually met Crystal, and I started crying. Donna’s gesture and Crystal’s surprise were two of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. The entire weekend solidified that there are great people in my life, and there is always light in the darkness.

We spent the entire weekend reading tarot cards, floating down the river, cooking delicious meals and drinking by the campfire. I got great sleep both nights, and had such a great weekend away with two of my best girlfriends. I can’t wait to do it again!

Media taken Friday, August 26 through Sunday, August 28, 2022

Fun on the Farm

Last weekend, one of my closest friends in Chicago and I took a Linley to Cashton, Wisconsin for some fun on the farm!

KP is not as outdoorsy as I am, but we both have a deep appreciation for being immersed in nature and unplugging. About a month and a half ago, we found this cute little Airbnb in Wisconsin and knew we had to check it out and stay there before the summer ended. This quaint little family farm had donkeys, chickens, and even a turkey that tried to peck at my feet! He succeeded, and I made the mistake of wearing open toed sandals the whole weekend!

The ironic thing about the trip is that I am a project manager, which means that I literally get paid to be organized and plan assignments. Here I am being the most unprepared traveler from the get, haha! What I thought would be a one and a half or two hour drive instantly turned in to four one-way, and I didn’t bring all the cooking supplies and equipment that we needed. However, we had the best time, laughed our way through the ill-preparation and made makeshift utensils—and actually prepared some solid food over the fire.

We laughed the evening away with some board games, gin and tonic, and more exploration of the farm. My only regret is that I wish we would’ve had more time there together, but the time we had was more than well-spent. We even braved the cold river where fisherman were catching trout! It was the kind of peacefulness and quality time that we both really needed. And of course, Linley had the time of his life too!

Media taken August 20 and 21, 2022

Charmed by Charlotte, NC

I was expecting a nice, low-key weekend with two of my closest friends who just relocated from Asheville to Charlotte, North Carolina. I anticipated some fun at sporting events, some good eats and tons of laughs—but my weekend was much more than that. I had one of the best weekends of my life.

Last Friday, I flew to Charlotte from Detroit (my parents wanted to watch Lin!) and was exhausted. I was exhausted from the week I’d had—both physically and mentally. Although I was sleepy, I napped during my flight and couldn’t wait to be around Carolina and Matt again. They picked me up around 1pm then grabbed some lunch and margs at an amazing Mexican restaurant. Between lunch and our evening baseball game, I took an hour-long nap while Carolina and Matt ran some errands. As I got ready for the game, I decided to leave my phone at their place—to fully immerse myself in the moment and not feel anxious about incoming text messages.

The Charlotte Knights played two games downtown, and the three of us had the best time. We grabbed a couple drinks, some snacks, walked around and shared tons of laughs and stories. Carolina and I have been close since 2020 and I love spending time with her and Matt. The games flew by, and we even saw some fireworks at the end.

After the games and fireworks, we grabbed nightcaps at The Cotton Room downtown. It took forever for us to get our drinks, and while Carolina and I were waiting at the bar, Matt made a new friend. Nick, the one person who is as obsessed with their dog as I am, joined us for a drink and we all ended up making plans for the following day.

On Saturday, we hung out in NODA—the coolest neighborhood in my opinion. I felt like I was back in Asheville, Portland, Ann Arbor and Chicago all in one. Everyone had tattoos and dogs, and were super friendly! Nick brought his dog Jax along for the fun, and everyone was petting him as we grabbed coffee in the afternoon. We dropped him off and the four of us made our way to Optimist Hall, an old mill-turned-market where we enjoyed some tacos.

Going to the soccer game was so much fun, and I didn’t think my weekend could get any more exciting! Boy, the atmosphere with the crowd and the booing and the throwing things was so much fun. We all got right into it!

The game ended, but our night certainly did not. We grabbed dinner and drinks nearby, and made our way back to The Cotton Room. We cried laughing and shared stories just like the night before. It was so fun to spend time with two of my best friends—and make a new one who is so much like me. We all went back to Carolina’s and Matt’s place, where we stayed up until 3:30am (about five hours past my normal bedtime!). What a great night.

Sunday was also great, mainly because I had a later flight home. The four of us were extremely lazy in the morning, but eventually grabbed even more tacos (see the theme here?) for lunch. Before heading home, we went to a dog park/bar and were joined by Carolina’s brother, Matt’s parents and his sister. The eight of us – plus Koko and Matt’s parent’s dog – had the best time. Nick and I hugged goodbye, followed by Matt and Carolina hugging me at the airport. Once I made it through security, I teared up because I missed them already—and can’t wait to make my way back to this amazing city with even better friends.

Media taken Friday, August 5 – Sunday, August 7, 2022

Kayaking in Chicago

Crystal and I were finally able to get on the river and kayak downtown last weekend. When I say we had the best time and shared tons of laughs, I’m not kidding! We walked around downtown with our Vitamin Waters and Kettle One peach vodka mixes and headed to Urban Kayak. We were definitely the rule-breakers and tipsiest ones out there – and we may or may not have been reprimanded a couple times – but had the best time and really needed it.

After kayaking, we took ourselves to Caffe Oliva, a beach restaurant right on Lake Michigan with the best view of the city. We instantly felt like we were transported to Miami or something, and of course grabbed another peach vodka cran.

Crystal and I have both been struggling with relationships – and our dynamic with Chicago lately, due to said relationships – and really needed a girls day and quality time together. We’re going through heartache now, but we’ll both be okay in the end. ❤

Photos taken Sunday, July 31, 2022

My heartwarming week in Michigan

I was in Michigan for the week and returned to Chicago yesterday evening. My week didn’t go according to plan, but it went better than expected in more ways than one.

The original plan was to meet my team on Tuesday through Thursday, with team building dinners and activities in the evenings. However, our get together was postponed to next month, but I still wanted to visit the office—as well as friends and family.

I took Monday off and spent the afternoon on the river with one of my best friends, Donna. We floated down the cascades in Ann Arbor – one of our favorite pastimes – and exchanged deep conversation and support for one another. We have both been struggling with one-sided friendships and overall relationships in general, which made our quality time even more meaningful. We used to spend every Monday or Tuesday evening together, and I can’t wait to pick that back up sometime soon. We ended the evening with some dinner and gin cocktails near my parent’s house—our go-to routine.

A photo from our float last summer

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in the office. I haven’t felt like myself at work in… probably ever… and being around new and some familiar faces was great. I met my boss Justin, my friend Ray, my teammate Jeff and others for the first time, and was able to see Heather and our CEO Jason in person—which hasn’t happened since 2019. My favorite coworker was William, Ray’s dog, who was my buddy the whole day!

What a good boy!

Tuesday evening was great because I grabbed dinner with Veronica, a new and quick friend from work. We both started in May and have quickly found that we have a lot in common. We both are obsessed with Whose Line, Seinfeld, Anthony Bourdaine, The Twilight Zone and so much more. We’re even going to see Whose Line live this November! It was awesome meeting Veronica in person and we’re both amazed at how quickly we’ve connected over these past couple of months.

Wednesday was just Justin and me in the office, but it was really nice because we were able to get to know each other a little better. Justin has been incredibly supportive of me – personally and professionally – and I have so much respect for him as a leader. We enjoyed a nice lunch together, and luckily he also laughed at my silly jokes throughout the day!

That evening, I was finally able to spend quality time with my brother from another mother Ter Ter B! We spent over three hours laughing, tearing up, and hugging at one of our favorite Mexican places in town. Seeing him again was much needed and even though we usually talk on the phone four or five days a week, being in each other’s arms and presence again was insurmountable.

Thursday was such a happy, heartwarming day! I worked from home but drove Linley down to his former doggy day care—his home away from home. When we moved last year, his favorite camp counselors were heartbroken to see him go, so seeing some of his favorites was fun for both Lin and me. When I scooped him up after my work day, one of his favorite employees Sam had given him/us a toy, some treats, Camp Bow Wow swag and wrote me a kind note. I teared up reading it on the way home! I love and miss that place for Lin as much as he misses it for himself.

The four of us wrapped up our day with a concert in downtown Fenton, which played all of our favorite 60s and 70s music. I absolutely loved dancing around and enjoying some vodka lemonades with my parents. It was the perfect end to a fulfilling day. ❤️

Clearly Lin enjoyed himself, too!

After work on Friday, my parents and I grabbed dinner and drinks at their favorite place in town. I enjoyed a gin watermelon drink and some vegan drunken noodles. We chatted about life and it was just nice to be with them again. Really the whole week had been nice, business and all.

What was really fun and surprising was hanging out with a coworker Ray in Ferndale (who owns our office dog!). We hopped around a few bars in the area and had a nice time together.

Saturday morning was spent with my Little Sister Aniya, who just graduated high school, and her mom Marcion, who just celebrated her 37th birthday. We grabbed breakfast in Saginaw and shared some tears and lots of laughs. I love them so much and they have truly been a second family to me. ❤️

My Aniya is all grown up!

The rest of my weekend was spent with my parents. We spent some time outdoors, watched some Twilight Zone and even shared some moments of profound conversation. As difficult as things are right now – and as confused as I may feel – I know I will be okay thanks to the support I have back home. ❤️

South Haven with Mom and Linley

“First my mother, forever my friend.” – Unknown

…this may not have always been the case for my mom and me, but all in all we have overcome some difficult times together. And despite whatever we have endured together and apart, we have always had deep love for one another. Boy did I need her last weekend!

A few weeks ago, my mom called me and left a nearly two minute-long voicemail (if you were born in or before the 90s, you probably have a parent or parent-figure who does this as well, haha!) about this dog dog-friendly “resort” in South Haven, Michigan. We love spending time together with my dog Linley, and we had the best weekend at the Sun and Sand Resort.

Friday was our busiest day with the nicest weather. We met at the resort, where my mom’s huge pieces of luggage exploded all over the room, then headed to Pilgrim Haven Natural Area for some swimming and relaxing on the beach.

Pilgrim Haven was quite rocky compared to other dog beaches we’ve visited together, but the three of us enjoyed it nonetheless. We strolled the beach which led to a cute “pool” and scenic river, found some cool rocks and camped out in a sandy, shaded spot for Linley. He spent the majority of the time in the water, but surprisingly splooted (what dogs do when they lay on their belly with their arms and legs stretched out) in the warm sand for a while. As simple and easygoing as our time was, we had so much fun and I really needed it – almost as much as Linley needed the stick from Lake Michigan!

The rest of our evening was spent in downtown South Haven and at the lighthouse. We ate at a cute local restaurant – where my mom even brought some cooked chicken for Linley. After some great cheesy bread, caprese salad, good conversation and the waitress giving Linley some love and attention, we quickly drove to the lighthouse to watch the sunset. This is where things got interesting…!

Without further ado, my mom face planted on a hill full of sand! She wasn’t hurt and is totally okay, but it was hilarious and had both of us laughing so hard we almost peed! Linley laid in the sand as though we were burdening him by making him wait for us to gather ourselves, which made the “incident” even funnier! Once we wiped sand off of my mom’s face and ears, we laughed our way to the ice cream stand for a much-needed treat. I continued laughing about my mom’s fall the entire evening, and my mom did too! I’m just glad she was okay and a good sport about all of it. A couple summers ago, we were walking Linley near her house and I completely wiped out – making us even now.

After the sunset and some scoops, we went to the front desk of our resort for some fire starters. We were craving smores and some time in front of a warm campfire. Of course we’re amateurs and didn’t use the fire starters correctly, so my mom grabbed a lighter from home. After smore laughs (see what I did there?) we called it a night.

The next day, we headed north about 20 miles to Saugatuck Dunes State Park – a place where I’ve taken Linley once before. It has a beautiful hiking trail to one of the prettiest dog beaches in Michigan, full of sand dunes and warm water. Although the weather wasn’t as sunny or warm as the first day, we enjoyed some our time lounging, hiking and people watching on the beach. After a few hours of that, we made grilled cheese over the fire for a later lunch, then repeated our first day by revisiting Pilgrim Haven and the lighthouse before the rain came in.

Instead of my mom wiping out again, we walked the pier and met some really friendly people along the way. Once we were near the car, it started to rain and we headed back to our resort for the evening. Even though it would’ve been great to see another sunset, we were content with calling it a day and playing cards in the room. The funniest part is when my mom wanted us to look at all the rocks we found from Pilgrim Haven. She pulled out this huge stone and said, “And here’s yours!” I, dumbfounded, said, “That’s not mine, it’s yours…” She used the rock to hold our sheet down in the sand, and had been carrying it around in her beach bag for two days! What a goof…

Sunday, our last day together, we pretty lowkey. It was another overcast day, but still nice enough to have a lazy morning and do some hiking. We found a nice trail nearby, where Linley made a new friend and peed on everything his heart desired. It was bittersweet because as nice as our walk was, I knew our weekend together was coming to an end. We wrapped up our two-mile hike with Linley not wanting to ride in his bike basket, and jumping out of it in the parking lot!

In 2020, we had taken two trips up north: Empire and Petoskey. In 2021, we had a falling out due to tension between my brother and me – with whom I still don’t have a relationship. Being able to spend time with my mom again this summer really meant a lot to me, and I hope we continue to navigate our relationship and a better path forward!

Letting It Out & Letting It Go

Yesterday evening we ventured over to the AIDS Garden Chicago, memorializing the HIV epidemic and honoring those who live with the disease today.

I hadn’t had a good cry in a while, until yesterday. I’ve been putting a smile on for my new team at work, my neighbors, myself… and the tension I’d been feeling was building up to more I could handle.

Darkness covered us as we enjoyed some cheese and crackers along Lake Michigan when Juan started talking about all our good times together. Knowing that we may not have more of those times together broke me in ways I couldn’t imagine possible—and I just cried. Cried so hard and didn’t have any support from him—not even a hug. I was angry and hurt and scared and alone… until Linley comforted me. He sat right next to me and gave me a hug (yes, my small dog can give hugs!). I made me laugh so hard, and even during one of the saddest moments I’ve had in quite some time, he gave me hope that things will be okay—even if they aren’t right now.

When people say things like “animals don’t have feelings” or “animals aren’t that smart,” I wholeheartedly disagree. I was never allowed to have a dog growing up, but I’ve had my fair share of rodents, and even those little critters had personalities! But Lin is different. He’s the most intuitive fella I know. Others (Airbnb hosts, my friends, complete strangers…) even say that he knows me so well, that we’re a good pair. Even as I type this as I sit at my desk, this is how close he is:

I don’t know a better way to channel my love – and receive it – than being with this guy 💛

Media taken Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4, 2022

March Adventures

This month has been *a rollercoaster* to say the very least. But I’m incredibly proud that I lived by my core values in my actions and in my words: Empathy, Expression and Courage.

Now that I can breathe, let go of the past and dive head-first into my exciting future, I’m proudly taking a pause from work until May 2—planning some much needed and well deserved adventures for me and my wonderful travel buddy, Linley.

All things considered, I’ve had a really good month. I attended MerMagic Con with my best friends in Virginia and saw another best friend who lives in D.C. I also spent the weekend in New York City with my cousin/sister—which was long overdue and insurmountably fed my soul. Traveling this much again and spending time with my best friends is something so sweet to me, I can’t even put it into words.

The week I was liberated from my previous employer, I also landed a position at a company I deeply admire. What better way to celebrate than see one of my favorite indie rock groups in concert? Seeing Glass Animals was a total riot—Dave Bayley certainly delivered and didn’t disappoint! Live music is something I’ll never take for granted because I’ve missed it oh so much…

These moments and everything in between — including some nice meals, days at the dog beach and get togethers with friends — made March a wonderful month in the right direction for me.

It’s only up from here! 🙂

Don’t forget to follow my dog and me on Instagram!

@westiepoo.linley and @adventureinspades

Photos taken March, 2022

Swanky Speakeasy

One if my favorite spots in my tiny hometown of Fenton, Michigan is the Relief and Resource Co. – a speakeasy with amazing cocktails, great eats and superb service. The ambiance and artwork are bar none! My friend Donna and I enjoyed gin cocktails and charcuterie here this week, and had a wonderful time per usual.

The only thing that would’ve made it better is if Linley could’ve joined us 😌

Photos taken August 31, 2021

August Gratitude

August was, admittedly, a month full of turbulence, and was my last full month in Michigan. Despite all of this, there’s always light in the darkness. Here are some highlights that made me smile 😌

August 1 – kayaking, hiking and dining in Ann Arbor with Juan and Linley

Hiking at Gallup Park

August 2 – dinner and hot coco with my favorite cousin who visited from New York

Reunited with Katy

August 3 – an evening on the lake with one of my best friends

August 4 – Linley enjoying himself at Home Depot (and loving all the attention!)

August 5 – back to Home Depot!

August 6 – a good night with a great friend

August 7 – profound conversations

August 8 – checking out the Chicago home

Wrigleyville here we come!

August 12 – a night out with an old friend, and some new ones

August 13 – meeting Mindy, Tom and Autumn at the dog park

Lin’s favorite spot

August 14 – heading to Detroit’s infamous Eastern Market with one of my best friends, and being a friend’s plus one to the greatest wedding I’ve ever attended

August 15 – lots of small pups for Lin to play with at the dog park

August 18 – Linley getting Bark to School photos taken at camp, and playing with his friends at the dog park (again!)

August 19 – a dear friend taking my late-night phone call, and making my evening brighter

August 20 – a fun night in downtown Detroit

August 21 – Linley finally cooperating for a bike ride

August 22 – an afternoon at Belle Isle and eating ice cream

August 23 – getting to know my friend’s new boyfriend and having a little too much to drink on a Monday evening

August 25 – dinner and drinks with a bestie

August 26 – a best friend being a great listener

August 27 – celebrating Juan’s “big promotion” at our favorite jazz club

August 28 – reuniting with two of my best friends and spending the day together

Gonna miss Rochester Brunch House!

August 29 – family bonding in Ann Arbor

August 30 – seeing Lin run around with his friends at the dog park

August 31 – dinner and drinks at my favorite speakeasy with one of my closest friends

Speakeasy in my hometown

And, Lin was just grumpy all month long 😂

Weekend in Washington (Part I)

I did it again: I had a lovely weekend away with a friend, and didn’t journal once. I tell myself every time I travel that I’ll write down what I did each day before I go to bed, but I was out as soon as I hit the pillow every night (I blame this on working late and adjusting to the three-hour time difference). At least I have memories and photos I can reference…

Bethany is my go-to travel and adventure buddy. We travel remarkably similar: we hate itineraries, we enjoy going where the wind takes us, and we laugh often! Our four nights together flew by as they always do, but we packed quite a bit into our weekend in Washington.

Thursday, March 25: Hiking at Discovery Park & Dinner at Pike Place

The best part about our first full day together? Seeing Bethany’s dad! Steve is the kindest man and is perhaps the best board game strategist I know (and is fully vaccinated!). We started our day with a beautiful hike at Discovery Park in north Seattle. With a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean and the lush greenery surrounding us, it was hard not to have an enjoyable afternoon in each other’s company.

What we loved most about our afternoon hike was the contrasting sunshine peeking through the trees as we approached the beach, but the ominous, eerie feeling we felt on the shoreline. Bethany and I felt this exact same way in Iceland a few years ago, which I will post about at a later date 😊

Soon after the three of us grew tired from our multi-mile hike, we drove into downtown Seattle to relish in the sunshine a bit more. Despite it taking us far too long to find a restaurant I could enjoy (I’m gluten free and vegetarian, which tends to make things difficult…), our dinner was much-needed and well-deserved. Bethany and her dad enjoyed some burgers and fries while I scarfed down the best falafel salad of my life!

Our evening was full of gin and tonics, a few rounds of Rummikub, and we watched the crows migrate and settle in for the night. Who knew watching crows could be so entertaining?!

Photos taken Thursday, March 25 in Seattle, Washington