Category Archives: Chicago

My Word of the Year

word of the year persist

2014 was thrive.
2015 was strong.
2016 was peace.

Each year, my word of the year has seemed to fit right into how the year would end up.
In 2014, I wanted and found so much change and growth and newness. I thrived in a new city, job, and a relationship I fell deeply into. Though I’d end up leaving all of these things, 2014 was for thriving in all aspects and being intentional about the joy in my life.

In 2015 I needed to be studying and to leave and get out of an awful situation. I needed strength to persevere through what would turn out to be a few almost impossible months. I needed, gained, and used strength in 2015 for big changes and building a steady foundational ground under my own two feet.

For 2016 I wanted peace. Peace with my decisions. Peace with my season and place in life. Peace with myself and those around me. I wanted to keep a reminder of peace on my heart and mind throughout the year. I finally felt like I’m reached a place where it was possible. I found my peace.

2017

This year, nothing felt right. Or at least, I should say, no word felt right. Starting around December I started reflecting on the past year and thinking about what word I wanted to focus the coming year on. I thought up a few good options,- stay, reach, aim, work, go.

However, none of those felt right. They all had a piece of what I wanted this year to bring and what I wanted to bring into my life, but none of them stuck out as bringing a rounded view of my focus.

Then this past week happened.

And Elizabeth Warren persisted.

nevertheless she persisted

And it hit me.

Persist.

It took me until now, the middle of February, to realize what word I wanted and I needed to build my year around. An incredible and amazing woman persisted through every challenge put before her. And that specific word- persist- has continued to jump out at me. It is everything I tried to find in a word for this year. This year I will do my best to persist through every challenge put before me, every barrier I come across, and every burden put upon me.

In 2017, let me persist.

Living Alone, Not Lonely

alone not lonely

I live alone now, but before living in Chicago for some time I’ve always lived with people. A roommate my first year here in Chicago. Roommates (and soulmates) in college and after. And family in between all of that. There are so many benefits to living with people (I’ve written about it, actually!) and I absolutely loved the time I spent with various roommates throughout the years. Coming home to someone else who knows and understands you can be so beneficial.

Now, however, I’ve been living on my own for over a year. I wake up in my apartment by myself, I come home to myself (well, and my cat), and I hang out by myself on many weeknights and weekends. Lonely, yet? Don’t feel bad for me too quickly. There are a lot of benefits to living on my own and learning the difference between being alone and being lonely.

The first couple nights on my own, I’ll admit that I was a bit lonely and woke up to just about every little creak and bump in the night. I triple checked my door and window locks and kept a weapon of sorts under my bed (still do, don’t mess with me). After about the first week, however, I settled into a rhythm. I still make sure to check my locks (don’t worry Mom!) and take precautions as most people do to stay safe, but I don’t get startled by every floorboard settling or horn honking outside. I’ve become more comfortable in my apartment and feel secure, but I’ve grown to feel better about life alone in so many more ways than physical safety.

I enjoy my own company. Yep, I said it. I enjoy reading on my couch in my sweats or watching Netflix by myself. I’m pretty cool with hanging out by with myself. I like that if I don’t want to do the dishes for a couple nights because I’m sick/tired/feeling plain lazy, no one else is going to judge or think less of me. I like that if it’s 11pm and that’s the time I feel like getting up and working out or cleaning the house top to bottom, I’m not going to disturb anyone by turning on my music or the vacuum cleaner. I also like that if I want to watch 4 episodes of Fuller House in a row, I can do just that, whenever I want, without considering what someone else may want to watch or do. Selfish? Maybe. In my world, though, this is a form of self-care. I spend a lot of time with other people so my time alone is treasured and needed so that I can recover and recharge and feel calm, relaxed, focused, and happy.

I teach small children with disabilities all day. I love my job. Goodness knows if you know me you know I love my job and all my kids. It gives me life and fills me with so much joy. After a full day of it, however, I still have a couple hours of paperwork to do every day. Thankfully I’m done with grad school now, but my free hours are still few and far between. I love this busy lifestyle and I enjoy what I do, but when I come home, it is time to focus on myself for a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a full social life and friends I love dearly. Weekends are full of outings and relaxing after a long week and time spent with other people both in and outside of my apartment. Home, though, when everyone has left for their own houses and I’m left by myself, is a peaceful sanctuary just for me.

I live alone, but I am anything but lonely.

7 Phrases That Have Different Meanings in Chicago

Phrases Different Meaning Chicago

“Oh no! You got a boo boo?” I said on my 2nd day of teaching in Chicago. A student had just come up to me with a scratched knee from falling on the grass. I was so surprised when he gave me a weird look and said “NO!” before running to the other teacher and asking for a Band-Aid.

WHAT DID I DO WRONG?

Turns out, I had asked the kid if he had poop. Here in Chicago, “boo boo” doesn’t mean a small injury to a little kid. It only took me one extra day to figure that one out.

Here are 6 more phrases that mean something different here in Chicago than they do anywhere else I’ve ever lived.

“Push the door up” – Close the door

“I gotta use it” – I need to use the bathroom

“That’s high” – That’s expensive!

“Washroom” – Bathroom

“LSD” – Not a drug. “Riding down LSD” does not actually mean you’re on some type of drug trip. It just means you’re on Lakeshore Drive, a main road along the lake here.

“You’re stupid!” – Does not actually mean someone is questioning your intelligence. Just means “Oh you’re funny!”

Have you hear these in your area of the country? What are some other phrases that mean different things depending on where you live?

To Chicago, With Love

chicago love

 

Today, I wanted to share a letter. A love letter. To the city of Chicago.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that I’ve started using a new hashtag on photos that show my newfound love and adoration of the city I’m living in.

#ToChicagoWithLove

Oh Chicago,
We’ve had quite an up and down relationship, haven’t we? Our first few months together turned my world upside down, tore me apart, and threw me. But, my, how we’ve grown together. I’ve come to accept you as a part of me and come into my own, while also being a part of you. Throughout the first winter, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through a second. But, here we are having survived a second winter, and more in love than ever as we enjoy the brief, perfect summer.

That first winter I was cold, unsure of myself, my teaching, and what meaning it all had. I didn’t know if I liked you, Chicago, and I wasn’t quite sure that I liked myself. Then spring arrived. It came in and warmed everything up, renewing and breathing new life into the earth and trees around me. My eyes opened up as I learned about everything you had to offer me. I explored and adventured and discovered so much to love in this city. I let go of unneeded loads, taking so much off of my shoulders that I felt I was being renewed as well. I realized that being alone doesn’t need to mean being lonely, and that time alone can be oh so sweet.

I now love and treasure the precious little alone time I have- I’ve found that I’m quite good company on my own (and with my cat). I’ve moved 3 times since moving here to Chicago, and have finally found a place that I call and consider to be truly a home. My little apartment with its mis-matched furniture and plants has become a gathering place for friends and meals as well as a hideaway when the only voices I want to hear are those on Law and Order: SVU coming from Netflix on my laptop.

brunch chicago

Birthday brunching with the sweet friends this city has brought me.

A year ago, I never knew that it was possible to be this happy or confident. Now, I am so grateful that we’ve been through everything we have- it’s made me a better woman, a stronger woman, and more myself than I’ve ever been. I’ve completely fallen in love with this life that I’m living here and the people I surround myself with.

I don’t yet know if this is a forever thing, sweet Chicago. But I do know that this love has taken a hold on me and has changed me for the better. For that, I am thankful.

To Chicago With Love,
Always,

#TheStruggle

the struggle

My goodness. This super blood moon thing has me all sorts of mixed up and struggling today. I know I’m not the only one who has those times where I’m just going through “the struggle.”Mostly this means making hard decisions or really adulting.

A lot of times, my thought process goes like this:

Kinda wanna work out,  kinda wanna take a nap.

Kinda wanna go out,  kinda wanna stay in my yoga pants and watch Netflix.

Kinda wanna be around people,  kinda don’t wanna talk at all.

Kinda wanna start dating again,  REALLY don’t wanna deal with jerks.

Kinda feel like I should post an Instagram post because I haven’t in 1058329 days, but I haven’t taken any fun pictures lately.

Kinda wanna get a hair cut, kinda want to grow it out.

And the ultimate:
Kinda wanna get out of bed and get a drink, can’t move the comfortable cat laying on my feet.

So what’s your #TheStruggle ? I feel like that might be one of my most used hashtags on Twitter just because I know someone will be able to relate!

Making the Most of Post-Vacation Blues (with candy)

Note: This post was sponsored by Lucas candies. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

Let’s just take an honest moment here.
Vacation rocks.
Going to work everyday is hard.

aruba

I mean, why would anyone want to leave this behind?

Glad we got that part out of the way.

Now, I LOVE my job. If you’ve been around me for more than 10 minutes at a time you’ve probably heard a few stories about my students and the ridiculous and incredible things they do and say. Being their teacher is the greatest privilege and I wouldn’t trade this job for anything right now.

However, after a summer of relaxing, traveling, hanging out at the beach, and sleeping, it’s pretty hard to get back into the swing of things going to work everyday. In my previous jobs I’ve found myself feeling similarly after a vacation. Heck, sometimes even after just a long weekend! At work, I need to be on 100%, energetic, on point, at all times. After a few too many groggy Mondays, I think I’ve finally figured out a good formula for NOT feeling awfully when I return to work.

Step 1- Caffeine. Oh, yes. I don’t normally drive coffee or caffeinated drinks, so on days that I do, my energy level shoots up and I feel good for quite a few hours.

Step 2- Pump up the music. While going through my morning routine I turn up the music. My favorite playlist for this purpose right now is my 2000s hip-hop playlist. Yesss.

Step 3- Small boosts throughout the day. My boost of choice now are these spicy candies from Lucas. When I was first invited to try these candies over the weekend, I have to admit I was a little hesitant. These are the newest creation from the spicy candy brand Lucas.

lucas candies

The Mexican in me is always saying yes to spicy ANYTHING. Spicy candies are usually right up my alley. Mango with chili? OH YES. So I’m not so sure why I even hesitated. It turns out I shouldn’t have been nervous at all. They were SO GOOD. They’re little candy coated balls flavored with watermelon, tamarind and chamoy.

Lucas candy

This final step is pretty important because I know, for me at least, I get groggy around 11am. And then again around 2:30pm. And then sometimes around 6pm. Popping a few of these candies in my mouth throughout the day helps me keep alert because of the intense flavors!


And that’s it! I definitely recommend trying them out when you get a chance!

What are your favorite kinds of candy? Are you a sweet, spicy, or sour lover?

This is Not the Life I Planned (Part 2)

 

not the life I planned

 

In the spirit of vulnerability and keeping things real over here, I feel like I need to do an extension of a post that I wrote a little bit ago.

Yes, it’s 100% true that this is not where I pictured my life going.

And yes, most of the time, I’m ok with that. I trust that my life will turn out as it is meant. This isn’t to say, however, that I don’t have moments of doubt, worry, and absolute panic.

I worry about where I’ll be next year when my service commitment is over. I worry about where I’ll be 6 months from now in the midst of my second year of teaching. Heck, I worry about a month from now when I’ll be into the school year and hanging out with my students and doing grad school stuff at the same time again.

I sometimes doubt that I’m in the right career.

I doubt that I’m taking the right steps relationship-wise that will lead me to be the most fulfilled.

I wonder if I really can have it all.

I panic when I think about 5 and 10 year plans. (Spoiler- I don’t have one!)

What I mean is that this is all a part of it. Despite the worry, the panic, the doubt- in the end I have to tell myself that it will all work out as it should.

I may not have my life planned out. I don’t have a timeline.

But I have hope. And dreams. And goals.

And faith that it will all work itself out.

Somehow. Someday.

It’s all going to be ok.

This is Not the Life I Planned

This is not the life I planned

I’m not where I thought I’d be by now.

But that’s ok with me.

Throughout my teenage years, I had a few different versions of where I thought I’d be at this point in my life.

There was option A:  The one where I get married young.
I’d stay home with the kids for a few years. This one is what is common where I grew up in small town Idaho and it works out great for some people.

Option B: The one where I traveled.
See, at 18, I didn’t know what it meant to stay in the United States for more than a year at a time. Post-college, I saw myself continuing this pattern.

Option C: The one with the fancy job.
I’d be working at a big important job by now as a leader in some big industry.

Along with each of these options came a similar timelines. Get a job, get married by 27, baby by 30. Stable. Secure. Settled. 

The thing is though, I didn’t plan for setbacks or mistakes. I didn’t plan for life to get in the way. I didn’t plan on learning more and having my eyes and heart opened to new possibilities. It’s funny, because we can plan and plan as much as we want. In the end, the universe gives us what we need and takes us down paths we never imagined.

I never saw myself where I am now. I never thought I’d be single for over a year, much less by choice (another post for another day).

I never saw myself feeling so fulfilled by my work that seems so simple from an outside perspective, but means so much and matters in this world so much to those of us involved.

I never saw myself living in Chicago. Alone.

I never knew I’d be this content with NOT knowing what comes next. And that’s the thing I’m learning most- it’s ok. Not too long ago, I would have been terrified of not knowing what comes next. Now, though, I know that things will turn out as they are meant to. I know my life will go down the path it is supposed to, because I will continue to grow and learn just what it is I need to get down that path.

This isn’t the life I planned.

This isn’t where I thought I’d be by now.

But this is exactly where I’m meant to be.

And it is good. So good.

8 Years On | Travel Tuesday

life is adventure travel tuesday

This week marks 8 years since I studied abroad in Mexico. Timehop so lovingly informed me of the statuses I posted about my homecoming after a year away and the roller coaster of emotions that I broadcasted on Facebook because, hello, I was a teenager.

It got me thinking though, about how that was what really got me started with being comfortable traveling alone and made me so much more confident in myself. At 16 and didn’t know a whole lot of anything, but I knew more about myself then and had more confidence than ever. This was before a lot of insecurities about the future had set in (college? five year plans? marriage? TEN year plans?) and my only real focus was getting through high school, spending time with friends, and figuring out what it all meant.

After my year abroad, a year has hardly gone by that my passport hasn’t gotten some use. And I am so grateful and so blessed to have had so many opportunities and people in my corner helping me make so many travel dreams a reality. Thanks Mom and Dad, you guys especially! These past couple of years, though I’ve largely stayed in the States, a couple cross-country moves had taken place, I’ve started and quit perfectly good jobs because another city and another opportunity called out to me. That need for newness and adventure never left.

This week, after reliving the days of my international travels through pictures and talking to a few friends from those days, I couldn’t help but realize that I’m not exactly about to move to another country any time soon. But what happened to the girl who was always scheduled on some kind of adventure? When did I become so… normal? Which brings me to a change in mindset.

life is adventure quote

This whole life is a journey to be explored, regardless of where I am. It may be in the United States, but my goodness does it feel like a different world sometimes. This is still where I feel called to be, and I still feel like I am making a difference here for others, and I know I’m growing and helping myself. My point being, just because I’m not on living abroad or jaunting around now doesn’t mean my life and what I are doing is any less- any less worthy or important or valuable.

And this goes for anyone who may be wistfully reading travel blogs or wishing that that life was your own. Where you are right now is important too. Normal isn’t boring or bad. And really, there’s something different, exciting, and completely not-normal in each of our lives that keeps us all going. This life is so good, right here, every day.

This isn’t to say that I’m done traveling. I’m still breaking out my passport later this summer and plan to more next summer, but where I am right this minute is perfectly great too.

What do you think? What adventure are you on right now? Every day life is pretty cool, isn’t it?

 

Travel Tuesday

A Different Kind of Independence Day

independence day domestic abuse

I’ve been quiet in this space for a while, taking an unintentional hiatus through the last months of this school year. I think I’ve had such a hard time writing anything because in my heart I knew the words I needed to write, but I was too afraid to let them go out into the world. Today, it’s time.

I moved to this city in a mix of excitement and feelings of absolute terror. I was lost in the beginning stages of a completely unhealthy relationship. The “I’m so sorry” and “It’ll never happen again” sayings were plentiful and I believed it. I didn’t see the push to move here as the isolating move that it was- I couldn’t have. And I was silent about it, unable to tell anyone what was happening. In public we had the perfect relationship. In public, he treated me like the only woman in the world. I felt ashamed of myself and it got worse as time passed and his words and actions made me feel more small and insignificant.

After moving here it all became more frequent and more severe. He became a man I no longer knew, but would fight for all the same. His actions became unspeakable, and yet I stayed. I stayed and fought for too long. And he controlled and hurt again and again until I finally was able to stand up. To drive away and not go back. To tell small pieces of what happened to close friends. To live again.

Now, I refuse to live in the shadow of his abuse. I refuse to live in this city in fear or seeing him or being reminded that he had that kind of control. He doesn’t have it anymore.

I do.

I moved here because of one of the greatest opportunities I could ask for. A prestigious program that allows me to get this master’s degree while still teaching the children that I love. I am in a city full of beauty and culture and am surrounded by people who I love and who love me back.

I may have come to Chicago partially under the worst of circumstances, but now, a year later, I’m ok. This city is not his. I am not his.

This is mine.

#HappyIndependenceDay

#HappyAnniversaryToMe