December 31, 2015

2015, a year of learning.

Over the past few years, I've made a point of writing an annual lookback. At first it was just a way to document each year's highlights so that I could remember them, but it's actually become more of a practice in gratitude. I called 2012 my "favorite year yet," 2013 was a year of firsts, and 2014 was a year of opposites. 2015, I think, was a lesson in balance — a year that called for grit, grace, and some serious endurance. There were rough patches, and there was a whole lot of good. A lot of people and moments to be really, really thankful for. Here's to 2015, a year of learning:

January: Oysters on Hog Island. Cozy dinner parties. The annual PopSugar winter bash featuring (lots of) dancing and a pretty strong romper game.


February: A rosé picnic in the park with Alex. 80 degrees in the middle of winter. A sunny Valentine's Day weekend in San Diego, where we basically relived our college days. Sunburns. A return to chilly Chicago to see my six nieces and nephews.




March: A weekend on the Russian River. Girls' night in Chicago. San Francisco visits from my two oldest friends. A trip to Denver to meet little Madison Mae, who stole my heart right away. The big Game of Thrones premiere — where I just about died meeting Kit Harington in the hallway.





April: NYC for a work trip. A night with the lovely Meg. My BFF Kira in San Francisco. An interview with Michiel Huisman, who's as charming as you'd expect. Week-long birthday celebrations. A late-night toast with friends who fully committed to the birthday cause.







May: A wedding weekend with my handsome date, who tore his ACL that week. Date nights in Sausalito. Long afternoons reading on the deck. The mountain play, aka a Peter Pan production at the top of Mt. Tam. A night out with Britt for the Jenny Lewis concert, where she sang "Portions For Foxes" and we could barely handle the nostalgia.





June: A Chicago trip to see the Stanley Cup playoffs — and a Blackhawks victory! The PopSugar summer party. An array of photobooth props. A four-hour drive to see the Salt 'N Pepa concert (!!). A hilarious Lady in the Tramp-inspired shoot at work. Margaritas and card games with Sam.







July: The Fourth of July in my hometown — my favorite place on my favorite day. Humidity that was out of this world. On my bookshelf: Among the Ten Thousand Things. (Loved it.) Radley's ACL surgery and a whole lot of Friends marathons. Novel writing late, late into the night.




August: Our third wedding anniversary! An afternoon with my hilarious grandma. Mumford and Sons, Elton John, and Leon Bridges at Outsidelands. The 1989 concert, confetti in my hair. Interviewing Zac Efron and marveling at his ridiculously perfect skin. Napa wine tasting... with a baby.






September: A much-needed week in Santa Barbara. Cocktails. Card games. A waterfront wedding and late-night dance parties. The arrival of our best friends' daughter, sweet little Charlee Sue!




October: Britt's 30th birthday festivities. (See: giant balloons.) A surprise visit from my sweet mom. The historic moment when *NSYNC retweeted my story and changed my life forever. Quiet afternoons at home. A long weekend in Cabo to lounge on the beach and celebrate one of our favorite couples.





November: Elizabeth Gilbert's first-ever writing workshop. New friends. The moment when I surprised my sister-friend for her engagement party. Sun and snow. PopSugar editors filling my house to transform it into a Harry Potter wonderland. (Best photoshoot ever?) My 10-year high school reunion — and the very, very long letter I wrote to my future self when I was 18.




December: A whole month of holiday celebrations. Another Chicago weekend for my childhood best friend's gorgeous winter wedding. The sweetest moments with my nieces and nephews. Hosting Christmas Day in our living room-turned-dining room. Houseguests. A really, really special visit from Mom and Dad. So much gratitude and so much love.





2015, you were a big one.
Cheers to 2016!

December 9, 2015

feeling rooted.

It's a strange feeling when you realize that home isn't just one place to you anymore. I mean yes, of course, I'll always be a Midwesterner at heart, and Chicago will always be where I'm from — home in its most rooted, comforting sense. By now, though, between my San Diego college years and these past four in San Francisco, I've lived in California for more than eight years. Eight years! 

Last fall, I said to Radley, "I wonder when this will really feel like home. When this place will feel like it's mine." In many ways, it already did. For one thing, anywhere feels like home if he's there, and for another, a steady job and close friends helped me settle into San Francisco fairly quickly. I was happy, and I was established. Still, for a long time I felt a pull between here and there, as if I was back in college and this whole West Coast thing was just temporary.

Over the last five weeks, thanks to some weddings and celebrations, I've made three trips back to Chicago. It's been a whirlwind of travel, and in the back and forth, something shifted. 

Here's the thing: Airports make me think (Seriously, what is it about travel that makes us so introspective?) and something about the trips between here and there seems to have kicked up the dust and let it settle differently. It hit me during my last flight back to San Francisco. As we were landing, I looked out the window, the bay water blue and still, and I had that overwhelming feeling of gratitude that falls over you when you return to what's familiar. It's happened, I thought. I'm home.

There was a split second of sadness — maybe even guilt, as if building roots in California meant I'd betrayed some piece of who I've always been. That sadness lifted quickly, though, because the only thing more comforting than being back where you're from is the ease of knowing that you're okay without it, too. That you still carry it with you, and that the home you keep inside yourself is made up of all the best parts of the one you remember.