Michigan Renaissance Festival

Last weekend, my dad and I were looking for something fun to do nearby. We were originally thinking a golf trip up north, but we were both exhausted from the previous week and wanted to spend more time doing something fun instead of driving far away. When I saw signs for the annual Renaissance Festival, I knew that’s where we belonged!

Although it was such a hot day and the humidity was making us unbearably sweat, we had the best time strolling around, grabbing a couple drinks, watching some incredible performances and of course—people watching. Oh man is the people watching great at the Ren Fest! We enjoyed a “wenches” show, where two women pulled men on stage to do embarrassing things, bought some attire (a corset and kilt to be exact!), mingled with vendors and even saw some jousting. My dad and I felt like little kids again, and it was awesome spending the day with him!

The following day, I wore my full attire and visited my friend Terry in the mermaid tank. Between visiting him and hanging out after his shift, I watched another wenches show, saw a little more jousting and witnessed some cute birds disobey a falconer—all while sipping on some peach lemonade. Even though I was having some health issues over the weekend, feeling like a kid again at the Ren Fest was the perfect distraction! ☺️

Media taken Saturday, September 10 and Sunday, September 11, 2022

Empire Bluff Trail and Beach

Knowing that Labor Day weekend was probably the last glimpse of summer we would see in the Midwest, I dedicated a day toward hiking and soaking of the sun with Linley. We traveled north to the Traverse City area and did our fourth-annual Empire Bluff Trail hike together.

Having had Linley for five years now, I’m constantly researching the best dog-friendly areas for us to explore. Empire Bluff Trail was a gem I found four years ago, and we’ve made it an annual tradition to do a hike and lounge at the beach afterward. This year, it was just the two of us and we slept on the the dunes AND on the beach this time!

Feeling the sun on our skin, the sand in our toes (and paws!) and soaking up the last bit of summer was the perfect way to spend Labor Day weekend. The hike and sun beating down on us tired both of us out, but we enjoyed the sunset and quality time curled up on the beach together. I can’t put into words how much I love this little fella—and all of these moments we share!

Media taken Sunday, September 4, 2022

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

Sunrise > Sunset

One major perk of living on the east side of Chicago is seeing the sunrise over Lake Michigan!

There’s something really beautiful and special about a sunrise. Sunsets are pretty and all, but it symbolizes the end of something, whereas sunrises are the start of a new day—and being awake before the rest of the city is something to cherish.

To make things even better, I get to cherish these moments with Linley. What a perfect start to both our days!

Media taken Wednesday, August 24, 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

Warren Dunes State Park

A few years ago while I was unemployed at the beginning of the pandemic, I took a Linley on a spontaneous trip to new dog beach and some beautiful hiking trails along Lake Michigan. Since then, this has been one of our favorite places to visit. While heading to my parents house over the weekend, we decided to take another last-minute trip there — which was much needed for both of us.

I was worried when we first got there because it looked a little overcast and started to rain slightly, but during the nearly four hours we were there it was sunny and warm the entire time. Linley loved being in the water no matter how cold it was, and we both really enjoyed hiking the dunes nearby. We spent most of the afternoon laying on the towel or in the sand watching the waves in the other dogs and people go by. It’s no wonder he’s my favorite little adventure buddy!

Linley and I both enjoyed the sand in our toes and the sun on our faces. I look forward to more August camping and beach day adventures with my little guy!

Media taken Saturday, August 13, 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. ❤️

“Makin’ waves” in Indiana

Last weekend I needed a little break from the hustle and bustle of the city, so I ‘ventured over to Indiana Dunes National Park with Linley. We spent the late afternoon and early evening at a dog-friendly beach and did some light hiking before heading home. Sometimes spontaneous “get in the car, bud!” kind of trips are the best 🙂

Media taken on Saturday, July 16, 2022

Chicago has “lost its magic”

Allow me to explain… and disclaimer: this is my personal experience, not a generalization of the city or Chicagoans as a whole.

During yesterday’s therapy session, I was vulnerable with Erin about my grief. Grief of my marriage/ten-year relationship coming to an end, grief of a city I’ve always wanted to live in and will be leaving soon, and grief of a life I wanted to live and share with the love of my life.

For several months, I struggled with emotionally and physically absent loved ones, manipulative and rude coworkers, a few friends who have proven to be more about status and materialism than the “warm hug” feeling I receive from my friends who live elsewhere, and not feeling a sense of community or belonging here in Chicago—despite all of my efforts. All of these situations and feelings caused me to question the validity of my marriage, my newfound friendships, and decision to move here in the first place.

When I was six years old, my mom, brother and I took the train to Chicago from Flint to see my dad who worked here at the time—as we did most weekends. I saw big city lights, lots of diverse people, the bustling streets with seemingly important and busy people heading to work and looking stylish, and heard new noises as we approached the city. I turned to my mom and said, “I’m going to live here one day.” Despite many of my favorite childhood and college memories taking place in this incredible city, it has lost all its magic.

“What does it feel like to you, Cate?” Erin asked me. “Why do you need Chicago so much?”

To which I answered, “It feels like I’m relearning that Santa isn’t real and never has been. And I guess I needed Chicago because this used to be my happy place, and I’m sad that it isn’t anymore.”

BUT the world is my happy place. The memories I’ve shared here with friends and family (including Lin of course!) can never be replaced—and nothing can ever take that away from me. I have also had incredible memories in the 24 countries I’ve visited (three of which have held addresses in) and the over 30 states I’ve explored within the US.

I look forward to reclaiming this city as a staple favorite when I move—whether that be one, three, six… months from now. Tomorrow I will start by kayaking downtown with a Michigan friend, but today I need some space from her (her being Chicago, NOT my Michigan friend haha!).

As a 28-year-old young woman now, I would hug six-year-old me looking out the Amtrak at the big city, and say “You did it. And now it’s time to go on even bigger adventures.” 💛

I am grateful for…

Learning that consistency is one of the best qualities anyone can possess. My friends who have been supportive, encouraging and consistent — not just now, but always. My support system who have helped me pivot from self-deprecating thoughts and into better boundary-setting. Going on adventures in Chicago with friends, new and old. Having friends who even want to go on those adventures with me.

Walking away from people who aren’t serving me — who aren’t showing up for me physically or emotionally. Not having a relationship with certain family members who would certainly bully me and verbally abuse me because of my personal life right now. Having the courage to even stand up to/walk away from those individuals and groups of people anyway. Finding my chosen family; feeling like I belong with my friends and some of their families (e.g.: Donna’s siblings and parents).

Having the courage to move out here despite the circumstances. Finding my way back to the healthiest work environment I’ve ever experienced — albeit in a rather roundabout way. My health and my body, even though I may not love her and appreciate her everyday. My mobility and the freedom I have to explore and keep going on these fun adventures.

Linley. The fact that he is such a great travel, hiking and adventure buddy. The fact that I have him right now, when all else seems fleeting. Lin getting me out of bed and out of the house everyday; teaching me that there’s insurmountable beauty in the simplest of moments and things.

The fact that I even have things to be grateful for as my heart breaks.