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

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

Warm Weather, Warm Heart

Spending so much time outdoors last week made me exponentially happier 💛

Linley and I spent five days at the dog beach, including one morning at sunset. We also met some new neighbors on our block – both human and dog! – and enjoyed some lemonade stands along our afternoon walks. These kids are gets salespeople around here! Chasing Lin at the beach and watching him play with other dogs and kids was incredibly heartwarming—and exactly what I needed 🙂

Here are several photos and videos from our week:

Happy Birthday Day, Ter!

It’s my brother from another mother’s birthday! Happy Birthday Merman Ter Ter B! And most importantly, “SMOOCHIES!” 😗

Ter and I have grown closer over the years, and he is truly the older brother I never had but always wanted. Even before I moved, we talked on the phone every morning (7:15ET… 6:15CT!) and seldom missed a weekday check in with each other. We’ve cried together, laughed together, sat and did nothing but be in each other’s presence together, and built each other up in recent years—especially when I needed it most. ❤️

Ter is and HAS an incredible light that is one-of-a-kind. This talented human (and merman!) has the largest heart, soul and presence, yet is the most humble and grateful person I know. I can’t get through this post without crying, because he is and always has been a blessing to me. He sure knows how to live in the moment, and is the most giving, creative and hilarious fella I know! 😀

Thank you for making me laugh, crying with me, giving me the best hugs, wanting to take a million selfies with me (while spinning me around!), always knowing what to say and for making me feel unstoppable in an instant. You’re the bestest!!! 🥰

Love always,
Cate 💛

Third Anniversary

Nine years of knowing each other, eight years of schooling combined, seven job changes total, six states visited, five countries together, four years in Saginaw, three years of marriage, two homes and one cute pup!

New season of life

On Friday, September 24 we said hello to our Chicago home. And on Sunday, September 26 we said goodbye to our first home. What an emotional “changing seasons of life!” Seeing it empty reminded us of our first time viewing 747, and made us realize all the memories shared over the past two years. Saying hello and goodbye simultaneously is never easy, but the memories will always be cherished and it’s not a goodbye to our neighbors: simply a “see you later.” Wherever the three of us go, the house will always become a home 🏡❤️

A spectacular September in Michigan

As my last couple of weeks in the mitten come to a close, I move into my new season of life with a full heart. I was able to spend time with my best friends and although no time spent is ever enough, I’m heading to my new home with happiness and peace in my decisions. I could think that my time in Michigan was filled with “lasts,” but I’m truly elated for all of the upcoming “firsts” to be experienced with my small family unit 😌

September 1 – spending the evening with an old neighbor/friend, and our dogs

September 2 – celebrating a friend’s birthday with sushi and cocktails in Ann Arbor

September 3 – a long overdue phone call with one of my best friends from Asheville

September 4 – all-day quality time with one of my best friends and our dogs, filled with much needed conversations and exploring

September 5 – breakfast with a dear friend who instantly makes me feel at home, and floating in Ann Arbor with two friends and Linley

September 6 – a morning walk along the river

September 7 – floating down some rapids with one of my best friends, right before the storm

September 8 – spending nearly all day on the couch with Juan, watching Never Have I Ever while I worked

September 9 – Linley’s “Gotcha Day!” festivities

September 10 – we received an offer on our house and took Linley on a nice afternoon walk

September 11 – Linley’s third Doggie Splash and dinner with good friends

September 12 – our last hike at the arboretum

September 13 – morning snuggles with Juan and Linley before work and a much-needed phone call with a dear friend

September 14 – a night on the town, all on my friend Donna

September 15 – another great night with a friend in Detroit, and watching Lin run and play with his friends

Cliff Bells

With heaviness in my heart, I reminisce about my times at my favorite Detroit jazz club. After moving to the Detroit area a few years ago, Cliff Bells instantly pulled me in with its allure and 1950s Art Deco. Now that we’re moving to Chicago next month, we won’t have the luxury of visiting every so often. I wish I could bring Cliff Bells with us, as selfish as that sounds…

Juan and I almost got married here.

Some of the better moments with my parents were shared over dinner and drinks here.

The best live music I’ve ever heard was played here.

Milestones were celebrated here.

Here, I laughed more than I’ve ever laughed in my life.

Here, I truly felt alive.

How can anywhere else compete with all that this jazz club has given me? Has given us?

I am beyond grateful for this incredible place, and hope to find something similar (not a replacement!) in Chicagoland 🥲

Friend & Family Breakups

I wanted to put a pause on my regular travel posts and write about something that’s been lingering in the forefront of my mind this year.

I’ve been struggling with long-term extended family estrangement and somewhat short-term immediate family drama, as well as some pretty upsetting friendship breakups. I won’t go into specifics in order to protect those around me, but I’ve been in a dark place for about a year or so now. As one can imagine, this has taken a toll on my mental health.

I recently heard a quote on one of my favorite podcasts that goes a little something like this:

“Depression is the greatest acting teacher. I can smile through anything even though I just want the ground to open up and swallow me whole.” If that doesn’t hit you like a semi truck, I’m not sure what will…

I’m not a therapist or licensed professional by any means, but I wanted to share some strategies I’ve been applying to help with the pain of broken friendships and family relationships. It’s important to note that all of these points coincide with each other and this is the “flow” as I see it. Remember: everyone’s journey is highly personal and individual.

1. Don’t change who you are for those around you.

I have a lot of people in my life – family members in particular – who will never be proud of me, no matter what I do. In the past and present, I have been laughed at or mocked for my dreams and ambitions. Family members have and will continue to make me feel small to build themselves up. About five years ago, I chose to let them go as opposed to clinging onto the gaslighting and the guilt (e.g.: “well, I guess it’s your choice if you don’t want to be here” comments when THEY were the ones hurting ME).

2. Create your own closure.

Oftentimes we find that friendship and family breakups seem abrupt, without true closure. I was best friends with someone for nearly 12 years and I’ve been thinking about our good times lately. But with that, I’ve also been thinking of the bad. The truth is that she was like an older sister to me, whereas I was her “plan b”/“second choice” friend for a very long time. Write a goodbye letter. Get rid of photos. Do something that allows you to create your own closure. Remember, don’t change yourself to fit others’ narratives of you.

3. Try not to hate the person on the other end.

It would be so easy for me to say, “She was a horrible person because of X, Y and Z.” Although there are times I’ve been hurt by family and friends (and honestly still am hurting from recent experiences), I try my damnedest to acknowledge that we all have flaws and shortcomings. I realize this is much easier said than done, but I’m hoping this will make me a better, stronger person in the end.

4. Allow yourself to feel all the feelings.

Conversely, it’s okay to be angry, hurt, frustrated or upset. As long as you aren’t taking it out on the other person, allow yourself to reflect on your feelings in the present moment. Thinking of a past memory you miss? Cry. Thinking of how good things were in the past? Smile. The more you hold back and shove your feelings into a corner of your mind, the longer it’ll take you to move on.

5. Focus on yourself and the great relationships in your life.

I may never have a best friend who reminds me of an older sister ever again, but I do have amazing friends in my life. I feel loved every day, even if it isn’t by a family member. I may never be close with my family, but I have several friends-turned-family relationships that fill my heart. Be around like-minded, supportive people who will always be there for you (and always be there for them, too!).

Every day of 2020 has felt like an overwhelming struggle, but I am much more resilient than I was before. “When life hands you lemons, they say to make lemonade, but you can’t make lemonade without any sugar.”

I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me 🙂

What will you do with your “hyphen”?

While listening to one of my favorite people on one of my favorite podcasts (Mayim Bialik and Freakonomics, respectively), I was moved by every word she relayed to her listeners.

Mayim discovered that our lives are hyphenated (e.g.: Catherine Olivia Spader, 1993-20??). She asked us, “What will you do with your hyphen?” My jaw dropped. It’s never been explained so simply.

Life isn’t a dress rehearsal: this is our one chance to do something amazing. Although 2020 has been the most challenging year of my life – and has been for many others – I’m going to focus on exploring sights unseen, as well as the true passions of “my hyphen.”

Back to the Beach!

Our last evening at Pictured Rocks was by far my favorite. After some epic hiking, we returned to Lake Superior Beach to enjoy our final sunset and some good night’s sleep. Juan and Linley needed a quick nap in the Jeep when we arrived, so I re-explored where Linley was digging around the day prior. I was drawn into the creek and the way the light was reflecting off the water.

I went back to the car to wake Juan and Lin up from their nap, and we settled in to enjoy the sunset. We didn’t take many photos because we were living in the moment, but it was a wonderful way to end our time on Lake Superior!

I can’t wait for my next adventure with my little family 😊

Photos taken Sunday, August 16, 2020