Music Monday: Learning to Fly


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I’m not a zealous Tom Petty fan. In fact, usually when I hear his name now, the first thing I think of is the scene in “This Is 40” where Leslie Mann tells her daughter’s friend that he looks like “a miniature Tom Petty.” My Petty repertoire basically consists of this song and “Free Fallin’.” But I heard this song in a movie about a decade ago, and I often go back to it to feel more centered, or sometimes when I need a bite of humble pie.


One of the things I like about “Learning to Fly” is that it doesn’t strike me as being over-the-top positive, or particularly negative. It just is. Kind of like life.

My favorite part is the last verse:

Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I’ve started out for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there

I feel like it’s the story of someone just trying the best he can, in the face of discouragement. He may not know where he’s going, but really, who does?

Feel-Good Friday: A nurse with a heart of gold


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I spend an excessive amount of time in the wormhole that is the internet. To make matters worse, my day job requires me to fuel that addiction by finding the best (or sometimes worst) things humanity has to offer.

So I’ve decided to use my powers for good by helping us all end the week right. I’m calling it “Feel-Good Friday,” sharing some of the most touching stories out there that are sure to make you smile.

Starting with this amazing lady:

That teen girl unexpectedly became paralyzed from the waist down for 11 days. The day she was able to walk again, she wanted to surprise one of her favorite nurses, with heartwarming results.

It’s wonderful to see a woman who clearly gives so much of herself to the people around her, who cares about what she does and wants to make a difference. It got me a little choked up!

Happy Friday!

Why I wish I lived more like my dog


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Anyone who knows me (or even follows me on social media) knows that I’m basically obsessed with my dog. So it was really just a matter of time until I dedicated a post to him.

It occurred to me that I should write about Mack today while we were on a run around my neighborhood–not because it was relaxing or fun, but because, as life with Mack often is, it was periodically embarrassing.

Yes, trying to run with my dog is a lot like trying to read a book to a toddler at Chuck E. Cheese. The fact is, there are just too many exciting sights and smells, and they all beat jogging at a moderate pace calmly beside me. Today was no exception.

My dog, Mack, chasing a squirrel up a tree on a recent walk

My dog, Mack, chasing a squirrel up a tree on a recent walk

We managed to jog about a half-mile to the lakefront park before Mack saw a squirrel he wanted to eat, dragging me behind him with dust in our tracks like a cartoon. About a minute later, after I dragged him away and got us back to our normal pace, I almost crashed into him when he stopped dead in his tracks to relieve himself. And this is what running with Mack is like. Every time.

But since I’m not that great of a runner, I like to let my thoughts wander when I run, instead of focusing on not being able to breathe. And since I’m still a sap when it comes to my pup, I started to think about how he could teach me a thing or two.

As humans, most of us focus way too much on what we “should” be doing, or what others expect us to do. My dog (and most of his species, really) sets a true example of the phrase “follow your heart.”

You want to sprint after that squirrel? I‘ll get him someday.

You want to stop to sniff that tree, and the next six after it? They each have a unique essence.

You want to lunge at the dude passing by on his bicycle? I didn’t trust that guy.

In all seriousness, though, dogs have a zest for life that we could all learn from. Every day when I come home from work, this mutt almost knocks me over when he puts his paws on my shoulders and tries showing how much he missed me. Why don’t we act that way around all the people we love? When I leave at night, and it makes him sad, he cries out. When he’s just overwhelmed with excitement, he rolls all over the place until he can compose himself:

The bottom line is, this dog is as true to his heart as anyone or anything could possibly be. He’ll show remorse if he messes up (and if I speak sternly), but he doesn’t know a thing about regret. And he certainly knows how to live in the moment.

So the next time this dog drags me through the park, I’ll do my best to laugh and enjoy it. Because God knows, the only one of us who gets embarrassed is me.

Cuddling with my pup, who's taught me a few things about living in the moment.

Cuddling with my pup, who’s taught me a few things about living in the moment.

Music Monday: Bruises


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This is a song that spoke to me the first time I heard it on the radio, a couple of years ago. It’s not the most complicated song, in rhythm or lyrics. But maybe it’s the simplicity of it that really touched me.


“Bruises” is the story of two old friends, catching up on all their old hurts. When I first heard it, I was far from home, and hyper aware of how important my old friends are to me. So that element spoke to me.

And the chorus is just so universal, that it’s always a great reminder.

“These bruises make for better conversation
Loses the vibe that separates
It’s good to let you in again
You’re not alone in how you’ve been
Everybody loses
We all got bruises”

I think sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in whatever problem you’re dealing with and feel sorry for yourself. But the truth is, everyone has something. And there is something so cathartic about just letting it all go with a friend over a coffee or a beer.

There’s an understanding that we pick up these hurts along the way, and there’s nothing we can do about it. But after a while we can talk about it with a shrug and a smile, and the knowledge that life goes on, for all of us.

Sometimes even you don’t know what you want (or need)


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When I was a teenager, I went through a phase for like three years where I adamantly insisted that I hated hot dogs. Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, this was probably frustrating for my family, as hot dogs are kind of a “thing” here–and a staple option for dining out. But as teenagers tend to do, I got a little bratty when that option was ever brought up.

In fact, the smell of a hot dog did make me want to yack a little. But the funny thing is, I couldn’t tell you why one day, out of the blue, this random food became suddenly unappealing to me. I hadn’t had any bad experience with hotdogs, or gotten sick. I just hated them. Then, just as suddenly, I finally ate a frank, and everything was back to normal. Now, I even have moments where I crave them.

Proof that I like hot dogs again--from a trip to Superdawg with my dad.

Proof that I like hot dogs again–from a trip to Superdawg with my dad.

Bear with me while I switch gears for a second.

I’ve worked in television news now for more than five years, and for a time I swore that I would never work on a morning show. You see, in TV, working “mornings” really means working overnight (hey, it takes time to put a show together that starts at 4:30!). And as a girl who’s always valued her sleep, it didn’t seem like a shift that would work for me.

For the past two-and-a-half years, I enjoyed working 1-10 p.m. in Austin, and sleeping in like a college kid home on spring break. And when I was offered a morning show producer job at my current station in Chicago, changing shifts was what intimidated me the most. I asked other morning show friends what to expect, and prepared for a weeks-long adjustment period from hell.

Some days, working overnights make me feel like my dog and I are glued to the couch.

Some days, working overnights make me feel like my dog and I are glued to the couch.

Then a funny thing happened. I found that I was able to fall asleep at 3 in the afternoon a lot easier than I expected–and stay asleep (for the most part) until my 11 p.m. wakeup call. I’ve been coming home with hours ahead of me to use however I want! I’ve got time to cook (I haven’t), to exercise (I’m working on it), or to catch up on so many TV shows (no comment). Sure, the nature of my schedule means I’m getting a little less sleep (Goodbye, 10 hours a night…). But I’ve discovered how much I can do when I have more hours in the day. I came to a painful realization that–gasp!–I actually kind of like my new shift.

Are you starting to make a connection here?

I know claiming to hate hot dogs, when you actually don’t… and claiming to hate working overnight, when you actually don’t… are not exactly the same thing. Except, they kind of are.

The thing is, we human beings are stubborn. And we also sometimes think we know more than we actually do. Put those two things together, and you’ve got a lot of people missing out on a lot of things simply because they think they don’t like them.

Part of the problem is, very few things in life are all good or all bad. Food preferences may not be the best example here. But if you look at making life choices–like whether to take a job with an unusual shift–there’s a balancing act of pros and cons. So yes, there are nights when I wake up at 11 p.m. and wish with every ounce of me I could roll over and sleep until the sun’s out. There are afternoons when I hide under a pillow, trying to be tired, and hate myself for hating the kids laughing and shouting their way home from school. And there are moments when I question whether it is acceptable to eat beef jerky at 3 in the morning. (Answer: Beef jerky is always acceptable.)

Enjoying my new freedom in the daytime hours with a walk to Lake Michigan with my dog, Mack.

Enjoying my new freedom in the daytime hours with a walk to Lake Michigan with my dog, Mack.

But on the flip side, I miss out on rush hour, my weekend starts at 10 a.m. on Fridays, and I have hours of glorious daytime to enjoy when I get home. (Not to mention, it’s a job that’s afforded me a big step up and a move to my hometown.) If I had focused only on the things I thought I would hate about this schedule, I would have never taken the job. Instead, I got much more than an opportunity; by setting aside my expectations and being open minded, I’ve been able to go beyond tolerating my new lifestyle, and actually enjoy it.

Maybe I’ll celebrate with a Chicago dog.

Music Monday: The Heart of Life


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Over the weekend I wrote about losing my friend’s young son last year. There was one song that comes to mind that helped me get through that first surreal day and the months that followed.

After I answered the phone call from my friend, telling me Scotty had passed away, I left work early and went home. I needed something to fill the silence, and to give me some form of comfort. So I listened to this song over and over:


I turn to John Mayer’s “The Heart of Life” when I’m feeling pessimistic or sad, or like in that case last year, when I’m unable to make sense of why things happen. The lyrics are comforting, and they cut down to what I really believe, underneath it all.

I don’t really have a favorite lyric in this one, because it’s just all great, beginning to end. But the chorus really gets to the heart of the message:

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No it won’t all go the way it should
But I know the heart of life is good

I hope this song speaks to you the way it speaks to me, and that it helps you see the heart of life is good.

The youngest person who changed my life


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One year ago today, I answered the worst phone call of my life.

I will always remember where I was; the moment is emblazoned in my memory. It was around 2 in the afternoon and I was just getting started on my day’s work. My close high school friend’s name lit up my phone. I thought it was unusual to get a call from her in the middle of the day, and that’s why I was compelled to answer it.

“Scott passed away last night.”

There was a moment of confusion. The face of an old high school boyfriend popped into my head; who else could she be talking about?

“Jess’s Scott.”

I couldn’t make it to the door before the tears started pouring out. I almost managed to get into the daylight before a sob escaped. “What? What happened?” She didn’t really know.

Jess is one of my oldest, closest friends, and arguably the anchor of our friend group. Scott is one of her twin boys. When I received that phone call, he was a little over six months old.

I didn’t go back to work that day. I went home and booked a flight home for my friend’s son’s funeral. I called another mutual friend and we cried together. I washed a load of black and gray clothes and put them in a duffel bag. I lay on the couch and stared into space. I talked to my parents as I paced back and forth. I sat at the table with my boyfriend and forced myself to eat leftover chili, thinking the lights were too bright.

I thought about my friend. In the year that followed, I never stopped thinking about her.

Because this story isn’t about me. It’s about Jess, and her husband Andy, and their beautiful boys. It’s about the realization that hits you deep in your gut, that the moments that really count in life aren’t always filled with brightness and joy, but darkness and despair. And it’s about being touched and changed by a little person too young to even walk or talk.

There Is No Way of Knowing

The last time I saw Scotty was about a month before he passed away. I was in town from Austin for a long weekend, and Jess brought Scott and his brother Logan to my parents’ house for a get together with our girlfriends. When I asked who was who, she eagerly unzipped his onesie to show us the freckle on his leg that was sometimes the only way anyone could tell the brothers apart. At his funeral, the rabbi reflected on his nickname, “Scott with a Dot.”

The last time I got to hold Scotty, in March 2014.

The last time I got to hold Scotty, in March 2014.

As the night went on, the twins got fussy. I stood with Jess in a bedroom away from our other friends as she fed them bottles and bounced them up and down, at one point holding one of her boys while she propped a bottle up for another with her foot. She insisted I go enjoy my time with our friends; I insisted I enjoy this time with my two “nephews.” I’m so thankful that I did.

I was only lucky enough to see Scott three times in his lifetime, but I cherish those memories. He taught me to strive to appreciate every moment with the people I love–happy, sad, laughing, crying. I look back on those six months and wonder, “What if we knew?” 

Would our moments together have been sweeter, or more painful? Would we be filled with anxiety, counting down the minutes and seconds? Or would we have been at peace, soaking in every snuggle and smile?

Scotty taught me that those we love can be gone in an instant, with no warning, and sometimes much too soon. Why waste our time with anything but love?

In The Darkest Moments, Look For Love

I still feel guilty when I express the struggles that I had coping with Scotty’s death. I know that my pain is dwarfed by the darkness that swallowed my friends and their families. But my heart was deeply touched to see how they have been there for each other this past year, and how their network of friends came together around them.

I spent two days at Jessica’s parents’ house for Scotty’s shiva. I was in awe, seeing hundreds of people come through, expressing how much this family has touched their lives. There were in-laws in the kitchen, keeping everyone fed, and friends making sure Jess and Andy were eating and drinking water. I hoped I was doing enough for my friend by quietly holding her hand or sitting with her son Logan while he slept.

It was in those first dark days that I was really hit by the realization of how much we all depend on each other. I saw a lot of sadness, but I saw a lot of beauty, knowing these are the times when stepping up for the ones we love matters most.

Give Without Expecting Anything in Return

When the shiva was over, most of the people went away but the pain didn’t. In the months that followed, being there for Jess became an exercise in the true meaning of being a friend.

I still lived a thousand miles away, so since I couldn’t physically be there most of the time, I tried to show my love in whatever ways I could. I texted my friend every day, anything I thought might lift her spirits–old photos, inspirational quotes, funny memes, words of encouragement. I probably overused the heart emoji. Sometimes I didn’t hear back. But she always told me later how much it meant to hear from someone who cared.

It was a hard year for me in other ways, and yet being there for Jess seemed more important than anything I was going through. There were times when she would insist we talk about what was going on in my life instead of hers. While I’m sure she was tired of thinking about what was weighing on her heart, it was another meaningful lesson in friendship; she wanted to be there for me, even in her darkest days.

Put Your Problems in Perspective

Jessica insisted that even though my problems weren’t as crushing as hers, they were still important. And yet, seeing what her family has been through made me feel they weren’t as important as I’d once thought.

In the year that followed, I found my perspective shifting dramatically. I found patience when it came to dealing with “the small stuff.” Frustrations at work, flaky friends, traffic–I started to realize the day-to-day annoyances would make no difference in the long run.

The first time I got to meet and hold my little nephews, in December 2013.

The first time I got to meet and hold my little nephews, in December 2013.

At the same time, I felt my priorities shifting. Losing Scotty made me realize I didn’t want to lose any more time with the people I love the most. I loved living in Austin, Texas, but seeing my family and friends just a few times a year wasn’t cutting it for me. That feeling was a major motivator when I decided to move back to my hometown.

The past year has been a roller coaster, as I’ve learned to cope with something I never dreamed would happen to someone so close to me. I still feel angry; I still feel sad. But I also feel incredibly proud of the strength and resilience I’ve seen in my dear friends and their families.

Scotty’s life was much too short. But the impact of that short life was not lost on me. I know we will never forget his sweet spirit, and I pray I never forget the lessons he’s taught me.

Scotty (left) holding hands with his brother, Logan, in March 2014.

Scotty (left) holding hands with his brother, Logan, in March 2014.

**If you were touched by Scotty’s story, you can give back in his memory. Please donate to the Rock The Dot! fund for youth education.

When finally coming home means leaving home behind


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This year, Easter had a special energy in the air. I don’t know if anyone else felt it but me. It may have been the near-perfect, sunny spring weather, or the adorable antics of my cousin’s kids. But for me, what really made the day stand out was this: Every time I hugged or kissed my cousins, aunts and uncles, and wished them a Happy Easter, they each warmly responded with, “Welcome home.”


I didn’t realize until recently what a big word that can be. This Easter, it resonated deeply. I haven’t been home to celebrate the holiday in six years. Those warm greetings spoke to my deepest and simplest definition of the word–the place I grew up, the memories I grew up with. It’s amazing how those familiar smells and sounds, the pictures on the walls, can put you back in the shoes of a younger you.

This was the first Easter I celebrated with family in six years.

This was the first Easter I celebrated with family in six years.

The younger me at age 16 decided one day that my best career would be broadcast journalism; I envisioned a career at one of the Chicago news stations I watched growing up. 19-year-old me was told in order to achieve that goal, I’d have to fly the coop first. 22-year-old me did just that, packing up my newly-gifted furniture from mom and dad and driving three hours to Lafayette, Indiana. And my 24-year-old self got really crazy, chasing adventure, my boyfriend, and a producer job down to Austin, Texas, without ever having stepped foot there before.

I never lost sight of that vision I had when I was 16, even though I’ve since become an entirely different person. A few months ago, a sudden inclination coincided with opportunity, and before I knew it, I was offered a TV producing job in my hometown.

Then a funny thing happened. I had realized a goal that was more than a decade in the making, and I was so proud of myself. But as I packed up my things and started what I dubbed my “Austin Farewell Tour,” the emotion I felt the most was sadness.

On the one hand, my heart couldn’t wait to be reunited with my dear friends and family whom I missed terribly. And in fact, after being home now for nearly two months, I can say the benefits of living near my loved ones are stronger than I imagined. But I realized as I prepared to move home, that I was also leaving a home behind.

Waiting in line for barbecue with some of our friends as part of my "Austin Farewell Tour."

Waiting in line for barbecue with some of our friends as part of my “Austin Farewell Tour.”

During the weeks I was in limbo, not yet leaving Austin but having no idea what my new life would look like, most of my friends and family had one of two reactions: “I can’t wait for you to move here!” or “I can’t believe you’re leaving us!” It was kind of funny the way the people in my life perfectly mirrored my conflicting inner voices.

But one day, one of my best friends called me to see how I was doing. She told me, “I am so excited for you to get here. But at the same time, I am sad for you. Sad for all that you are leaving behind.” It takes a good friend and a particularly thoughtful person to recognize the state I was in. When she spoke what I was feeling out loud, I realized I was never going to have everything that I wanted. And that’s what life is about–choosing the set of options that fits you best.

Seven weeks after arriving in Chicago, it’s starting to feel like home again. But sometimes I still pine for the homes I’ve left behind. It hits me when I feel a pang of longing for our favorite Indian restaurant, or nostalgia wishing I was sitting at the coffee shop on the lake. Sometimes it’s as simple as the doubt I felt when it was NEGATIVE FIVE DEGREES on my first day of work, as I checked the weather in Austin, which is still on my weather app. Or moments when I almost blurt out an inside joke with former coworkers that I know no one here will get.

And it’s not just Austin that makes me feel this way. Just the other day, I got a little sentimental when I told someone about how my boyfriend and I used to walk across the street from my Indiana apartment to rent DVDs from the library. I had a flood of memories when my old address from my quarter in Washington, D.C. popped up during my apartment rental process. And a recent conversation about martini bars reminded me of the one I used to frequent with my good friends during my time in Champaign.

As I embark on this new chapter, I’m already seeing that there are moments when I will feel like I’m back in a home that never really left me and I never really left. But there are as many or more, where I’m once again carving out a new place in the world until it feels like mine.

Just a few weeks after I arrived in Chicago, an old friend shared a post on Instagram that really spoke to me:


I know now that part of my heart has been left behind in so many places, with so many people. And never for an instant will I regret the path I have taken, or the homes it has given me.

Music Monday: Still Fighting It


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One of my biggest musical regrets is that I didn’t discover Ben Folds until my senior year of high school. I could listen to his stuff for days at a time without getting bored. And because I’ve been in a thoughtful mood the past few days, I’m going to share with you one of his songs that makes me cry:

“Still Fighting It” made me cry when I graduated high school and headed off to college. It made me cry when I put it in a photo montage for my sister’s high school graduation. It made me cry when my friend’s son passed away. And it made me cry at pretty much every life change in between.

You see, I have this bad habit of looking at the past through rose-colored glasses, holding it up next to the ups and downs I’m trudging through, forgetting anything bad that’s happened, and wistfully saying how “It was better then.” (I could write an entire post on this, and probably will someday.) Add that to the fact that with the majority of my 20’s behind me, I still occasionally marvel that I am able to accomplish the basic tasks of being an adult–getting an oil change, buying an airline ticket, feeding myself vegetables–and this song is a recipe for a wave of nostalgia that’s easy for me to get lost in.

The story is from the perspective of a dad talking to his son, telling him all about how “it sucks to grow up.” (And doesn’t it?!) My favorite part is the chorus:

Everybody knows
It hurts to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it

Then Ben Folds ruefully tell his son, “And you’re so much like me, I’m sorry.”

I love the song because to me, it perfectly describes The Human Condition. It hurts to grow up; it sucks. But we’re still fighting it. We can still have fun, we can still love, we can still strive to be in the present moment and throw away the rose-colored glasses we use to look at the past. So while it still makes me cry, it also makes me smile.

Good Riddance 2014, But Thanks (Lessons From The Worst Year of My Life)


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2014 was the worst year of my life. I think.

Have you ever had one of those awful days where nothing seems to go right? And at some point you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that this is a “bad” day, where if even the tiniest set back pops up you want to (or actually) throw your arms up and yell, “And now this?!” Picture that feeling that lasts an entire year.

Early this year, my uncle passed away tragically young, in a drug-related death. My sister and her ex-fiancé broke off an eight-year relationship, two months before they were going to get married. Then in April, the 6-month-old son of one of my best friends died suddenly.

It sounds selfish to pile these things on to the list of “Bad Things That Happened to Me This Year,” when they clearly hit others much harder and more directly. But as a very sensitive person who cares deeply about the people in my life, it was incredibly painful to see the people I love suffer, as I also learned a harsh lesson about the frailty of life. And living 1,000 miles away from my hometown, I felt like I was powerless to help.

I also started 2014 with some lofty goals for my personal and professional life, that I didn’t exactly land. Add all of these things together, and by the time the year was halfway through, “This has been the worst year of my life” became sort of a messed up, backwards mantra that echoed in the back of my head more often than you could imagine.

Me in February, not yet jaded about the trials that were to come.

Me in February, not yet jaded about the trials that were to come.

At some point, I remembered a conversation with a friend from around this time last year. She was wishing me happy holidays and said, “I think this is going to be a really great year for you.” Thinking of all the great things that were sure to happen in 2014, her comment made me glow. One year later, there have been times when I literally cursed her, convinced that she jinxed this year for me.

Suffice it to say, as the final hours of 2014 roll on, I am more than ready to put this year to bed. But as I reflect upon the year that was, it pains me a little to admit that I’m uncovering a wealth of gratitude. I have grown more this year than any other that I can remember. I learned what my priorities are, who I can count on, who counts on me, and roughly what direction I want my life to head.

I feel like I owe this year an apology for not giving it enough credit. I let it be defined by a handful of moments. I forgot to remember the late-night tacos with good friends, bad jokes with coworkers, romantic trips with my boyfriend. I discounted the beautiful moments I experienced leaning on my loved ones, and being someone to lean on. I spent so much time feeling personally victimized by tragedy that I discarded my typical belief that without darkness, you can’t appreciate the light.

Ending 2014 on a more positive, optimistic note.

Ending 2014 on a more positive, optimistic note.

So as I head into 2015, I’m praying that no one tells me how great it’s going to be. I don’t need the pressure or the expectations. While I appreciate the opportunity a new year presents to change lives, I’m not making any resolutions. Not really. I just hope I can remember to follow my heart, love deeply, appreciate the quiet, little moments of peace, and remember that a year is just a year.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy New Year, in whatever large or small meaning it holds for you. No pressure.