Category Archives: Chicago

2017: A Year in Review || 2018: A Year of Goals

Oh, 2017. What can I say about this year that other’s haven’t already? It was a year of ups and downs and lots of in-betweens. This year gave me incredible community and friendships. It also taught me lessons that I loved and dreaded, sometimes at the same exact time.

Dear ones, we cried, marched, laughed, protested, and resisted, and most of all, we persisted.  

In 2017, I:

  • Started teaching online at a job that has made me a morning person. I get to teach and touch lives on the other side of the globe from the corner of my apartment. AKA I talk and sing and laugh with some of the cutest kids ever- at 4am every day
  • Was chosen to teach for a pilot program bringing English language classes to the most remote and rural schools in China. My class of 53 smiling faces squished in a room make Mondays and Tuesdays my favorite days.
  • Fell in love with China
  • Stood beside one of my best friends as she married the man of her dreams
  • Traveled to San Diego to celebrate a friend of over 20 years getting married as well
  • Traveled to New Orleans to visit my college roommate and solo explored the incredible city
  • Attended White Sox, Cubs, Bears, and Bulls games! Go Chicago!
  • Watched my sweet Mama graduate from college this year. I could not be more proud.
  • Traveled to Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Macedonia
  • Met some incredible people and went to fun events thanks to the blogging and Instagram communities that I found
  • Lost my sweet baby Sylvester and mourned and grieved and hurt in ways I didn’t know were possible. He was truly my companion, support, and child
  • Spent a weekend surrounded by friends celebrating a friend’s birthday and each other
  • Ended my 3rd and started my 4th year of teaching at the same school I was hired in for TFA. Being able to watch my kids grow over the years is an honor. I love my job and my amazing kids.
  • Coached a winning season of volleyball.

This year, in 2018 I plan to:

  • Dance more, sing more, move more, laugh more
  • Stay consistent and commit to improvements
  • Step back- on things that no longer bring me joy, take too much time, or make me overly stressed
  • Travel to Alaska
  • Travel to Canada
  • Begin saving for a trip to China in 2019
  • Focus on the things that I can change, let go of those that I can’t
  • Make my house a home this year – decorate, enjoy, personalize
  • Take a weekend trip or two to somewhere fun
  • Cultivate community and truly invest in the friendships I have made
  • Focus on my word of the year (that post coming soon!)

If you’ve been around for a while, you know that each year I choose a word to focus on for the year. This year will be no different. I’ve already decided on my word for this year, and I am SO excited to share it with you all soon!

It’s been a heck of a year, and I’m excited to see what 2018 will bring!

10 Things I Wish I Would Have Known at College Graduation

what i wish i knew when i graduated

Graduation season is here and upon us! I’ve just finished up my school year with my students, and my mother just graduated from college! She has been working so hard for this and I couldn’t be more proud to be able to stand and cheer for her to congratulate her on everything she’s accomplished.

Now, it’s been a few years since I graduated from undergrad and I’ve learned a few things. I absolutely don’t regret the experiences I’ve had since then because it’s all made me who I am now, but if I knew then what I know now… I can only imagine the differences it could have made.

I wish I’d known…

That I didn’t have to have it all figured out. It’s ok to still be a little lost. I put so much pressure on myself to have everything all worked out and planned. Little did I know I’d end up on a much different path.

I wish I’d known…

I deserved so much more than I thought I had to settle for. I now know I am worth so much more than all of that. In relationships, work, and life in general.

I wish I’d known…

You’ll be a different person in a few years, and that’s ok! You’re most likely an incredible person now, and life and experiences will continue to shape and change you, especially within the next few, very formative years of adult life. Allow yourself to grow and change and stretch yourself as life goes on.

I wish I’d known…

Being intentional about keeping in touch is so incredibly important. Facebook and other social media may make us feel pseudo-connected to others but taking the time to reach out and have a conversation can go so far in keeping up friendships and other relationships.wishidknown

I wish I’d known…

There were so many amazing things ahead of me. They say college has the best years of your life, but there is SO MUCH good that comes after. Late nights spent dancing, days full of laughter, lessons to be learned- they aren’t over!

I wish I’d known…

You can still make new friends! It definitely gets harder to make new friends after college because you aren’t all in the same place anymore, but new jobs, hobbies, and experiences will all bring more friends your way!

I wish I’d known…

Staying in on a Saturday night can be SO satisfying. Adult life can be exhausting. Between work, social obligations, and keeping up with all other responsibilities, sometimes you need a Saturday night to just stay in and relax with some Netflix. If you’re lucky enough to have a cat like mine, they’ll definitely appreciate the extra attention time as well.

I wish I’d known…

Invest in relationships with as many people as possible, and do it with meaning. Fostering relationships and networking is so important to make sure you stay connected in your community. These people will be your keys when you need a new opportunity or just want to meet more people. It’s also important to keep connected to your friends and social circle to make sure you don’t let yourself feel lonely.

I wish I’d known…

You’re going to have to give yourself the recognition you want. There are no letter grades anymore so you have to keep track of how you’re doing on your own. No one is going to give you gold stars (ok, maybe my students DO give me stickers sometimes!) or A’s, so it’s important to make sure you’re always doing your best work and give yourself small rewards sometimes. Which leads me to…

I wish I’d known…

Find small ways to treat yo’ self. They don’t have to be expensive shopping trips or vacations, but small things throughout your day to make yourself feel good and special. Next week I’m posting a list of fun (and cheap!) ideas for how to do this, so stay tuned for that!


With my mom at my undergrad graduation and then my grad school graduation!

Your turn!
What do you wish you would have know when you graduated? Is there anything you wish you could go back and do differently?

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.


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.


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.


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.


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,


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.


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.