2022 Reflections & Gratitude

Although I am grieving my marriage and what I’d hoped was “home” in Chicago – and despite some of the hardship I’ve endured since being back in Michigan – there are several moments and people I am beyond grateful for.

It’s been challenging to put all of my emotions into words lately (both positive and sad), but I will say this: If you made me smile or gave me hope in these last few months, thank you from the bottom of my heart! 💛

Media taken August 15 through December 31, 2022.

New Friendships

Many people warned me that my friend circle would change during and after my divorce. I pondered that and thought there was no way my friendships would change during that process, mainly because I felt that I would need a good tight knit circle of support around me. However, I found that some of this is true; certain people I thought would be by my side haven’t been, whereas others have (or have tried). I’ve also been guilty of closing myself off and not being as vulnerable around certain friends. I think this has to do with the fact that I’ve been pleased with newer friendships that have emerged from my new phase of life. It’s a mixed bag of emotions, really, but I’m loving the people I’ve met in recent months who make me feel at home.

Work and travel to Florida and Toronto have brought me the majority of these beautiful, new friendships. From Veronica, Mer and Jenna, to Catherine, Baylen, Giacomo and Cosmo, to Cynthia and Mina… I’m beyond grateful. Wherever I end up moving in 2023, I look forward to meeting new people – and making new friends – along the way. 🖤

Fun in Florida

I feel like Florida is an extremely polarizing state in the U.S., but if you know where to go it can be a blast! I was there last Sunday through Wednesday for an on-site client meeting—my first business trip of this sort since joining the company in May. My boss, one of my favorite peers and I had a productive – and fun – time together in the sunshine state.

I arrived Sunday, a full day before Justin and Cosmo landed (yes, I work with the coolest dude who happens to have the coolest name!) and enjoyed some relaxation in the sun. There was a music festival right next to the beach resort I stayed at in Fort Lauderdale, so as I read my book I heard some punk rock bands going at it—giving me major early 2000s energy. Feeling the sand, salt water and base beneath my feet was (oddly) just what I needed.

Later that evening I took myself to dinner—which led to a good night full of great conversation. I met Cynthia at the bar, a woman from Montreal who is also experiencing the pain of divorce, and we spent probably four or five hours talking about life, travel and overcoming our current hardships. One of my favorite travel experiences is connecting deeply with a stranger-turned-friend, and my time with Cynthia is something I’ll always cherish. We’ve actually been texting ever since we met a week ago!

The rest of my trip was filled with last-minute preparation for my client meetings, working from a hotel room when I’d rather be order gin and tonics at the pool, and making fond memories with some of my favorite coworkers. The conversations, laughs and words of encouragement shared over nightcaps and good food was the kind of relief I so desperately needed in my life. In between the meetings and visits with our client, I was luckily able to enjoy the sunrise, warm water and “me time.”

Media taken Sunday, December 4 – Wednesday, December 7

My week in Norway

I miss visiting Kjell and his family—who have quickly become my own over the years. I miss Kjell’s and my hiking adventures, laughing and sharing memories in the car, our time spent fishing and reminiscing about the last time I visited—all while creating new memories together. Mangus, Markus and Hildegunn made me feel incredibly welcome and one of their own during Kjell’s mom’s 82nd birthday party—where I was surrounded by at least 30 or 40 other Norwegians! Mangus and I spent an entire day strolling around Bergen and having a nice breakfast together. I miss joking around with Markus about things 17-year-old boys joke about (it made me miss the times I’ve shared with my own brother at that age!). I miss laughing with Hildegunn over chocolate cake and “brown cheese.” I fucking miss all of it. Until next time. 💛

Media taken Sunday, October 23 through Sunday, October 30, 2022

My week in Germany

I’m slowly waking up from a deep sleep—that I needed ever so desperately. As work, family and personal stress come to a head, I needed rest and have been reflecting on the pain I’m feeling this month. Juan and I would’ve been married four years in a few days (and went on our first date almost ten years ago today). The holidays are painful without him, and without being close to some of my immediate family. I’m feeling so lost when it comes to my health problems and with some of the difficult conversations I need to have with others—including the one(s) I need to have with myself.

When I reflect back on my week in Germany last month, I was obviously feeling some of this physical and emotional pain, but I was able to live in the moment and feel the love of friends-turned-family; I didn’t realize how much I needed that until I was there living it.

Here are some of my favorite moments from my week with Saskia and her parents—full of love, laughter and happiness. 💛

Photos taken Monday, October 17 through Sunday, October 23, 2022

October

The first month being without a husband, the first full month of being away from Chicago, the beginning of losing people left and right, my body shutting down on me and my first full month of not being at peace with my current circumstances.

HOWEVER, what an exciting month it has been! AND what incredible people I have in my life—who have showed up like none other.

Here were some of my favorite memories last month, and hope this kind of support and hope continues into November.

Celebrating my best friend’s birthday at Ren Fest!
…and spending time with new friends, too!
Supporting and celebrating my friend’s tattoo shop grand opening!
Leading the way in the scariest haunted house
Veronica’s and my first RHPS!
Our third annual Witches Night Out!
Celebrating my best friend and her little one!
…and my parents watching Lin while I was away!
Reuniting with my best friend and her parents in Germany!
Saskia surprised me with the best sushi dinner!
…and the sweetest birthday brunch!
Clubbing, just like the good ole days!
Parting ways at the airport
Saying hello to my Norwegian Uncle, Kjell!
Bergen: My happy place!
Fishing for my dinner
“Getting arrested” by Kjell and his partner!
…and finally meeting his oldest son, Mangus!
Always good to reunite with Markus!
Parting ways with Kjell at 4am
Reuniting with Lin!
Handing out candy with dad!

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