This Side of Paradise

the missing piece


I decided to join the #TerribleWritingClub. Follow along here from my entries.

The first writing prompt: So, good, bad and/or ugly, how has the pandemic shifted *your* perspective? Are you seeing things differently these days? How is your personal TERRIBLE more or less pronounced in this new reality?

The pandemic is scary, that’s for certain. But being pregnant for the first time during nationwide lockdowns has made it a particularly scary time. However, it’s not without some benefits. That sounds crazy, right?

Before you turn against me, I’ll start with some of the ways COVID has made my first pregnancy tough. For starters, I don’t want to get sick! Not that I would want to even if I weren’t pregnant, but recent research out of Northwestern shows that the virus can cause damage to the placenta. And while the placenta can function at about 50% and cause no harm to the baby (news to me!), it’s still an alarming update to learn about. And, it begs the question: What else do we not know about COVID-19’s impact on pregnancy?

On top of that, my husband hasn’t been able to come to our ultrasounds with me. He made it to our first appointment at eight weeks, when we got to see a little bean on the monitor. But we didn’t get to hear the heartbeat yet. When I went back for our 12-week ultrasound, I went alone. The office allowed me to video call my husband, but reception was no good and the video didn’t come through on his end. And, for some reason, they don’t allow you to record in the ultrasound room. Bummer. This time, the baby actually looked like a baby. And I got to see him jumping around, trying to avoid the tech. Another bonus: I got to hear his heartbeat for the first time.

Next up, we have our 20-week anatomy scan. This isn’t for two more weeks, but it’s unlikely that my husband will be able to attend, even though lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease up in Chicago (for better or worse). I’ve been told this is the most fun ultrasound. The baby’s big, active and you just get to watch him move around for 30 minutes.

While I’m obviously disappointed that my husband hasn’t been able to be there, it’s OK. It sucks, but it’s OK. It helps keep me safe, the staff at the office safe and other expectant moms/patients in the office safe.

And, lastly, while I’m not due until the end of October, there’s no telling where we’ll be then. Will there be a second outbreak? Will lockdown orders be back in place? Will my hospital allow spouses/partners at deliveries? There’s no telling, and that unknown is incredibly scary. I know I’ll be OK if I have to welcome our son alone, but I don’t want to. I want my husband to be there to welcome our first child into the world with me—even if it’s a scary place.

Add to that, trying to navigate introducing a new baby to his family. Can my mom come visit? Should she? How do I tell my mother-in-law that she has to wait to meet her first grandchild? These are not conversations I want to have, but I will. Of course, the baby’s health is what’s most important. And I’ll follow whatever recommendations are provided by my doctor and the baby’s pediatrician come his birthday.

So, after all that, you must be wondering: How in the hell is there anything good about being pregnant during a pandemic? Well, for starters, I haven’t had to commute to work in more than ten weeks. Which, living in Chicago, is a huge stress relief! No jamming myself onto a crowded train to make it to that 9:00 meeting, or rolling my eyes when the young 20-something men are too absorbed in their phones to give up their seats to a visibly pregnant woman. No long commutes during a bout of morning sickness or following an exhausting day.

While we’ve tried to stick to our typical pre-COVID routines, I’ve been able to sleep in when needed and take an afternoon catnap when I’m feeling fatigued. I haven’t had to worry about showing and wanting to hide my pregnancy before I was ready to share. I haven’t had to make up reasons to skip happy hours or after-work drinks. I’ve been able to follow a strict business-on-top, comfort-on-bottom fashion routine. I’ve been able to avoid unwanted attention as news spreads across the office. And, so far, I’ve encountered zero strangers touching my growing bump (knock on wood).

So, OK, now that I’m writing this out, maybe there are more cons than pros when it comes to being pregnant during a pandemic. But I’ve been happy to live in my little bubble with my husband and our pup as we anxiously await this little buddy’s arrival. Even though we’ve announced to our friends, family and coworkers, it still feels like we’re in our own little world soaking up every moment of our last months as just us two (or three, counting the pup).

I do worry that being absorbed in this bubble for what’s looking like the duration of my pregnancy will make a second pregnancy much more challenging. Not only will we have a toddler to add to the mix, but contending with the chaos of the outside world during round two seems unimaginable right now. Yes, I’m already thinking about baby number two.

I’ll Never Sink When You Are With Me

I’ve been begging myself to write about grief, hoping it would somehow bring closure. Yet I can’t wrap my thoughts around the pain well enough to understand or explain. It’s empty, it’s vibrant, it’s breathtaking.

The emotion of grief is so consuming, it completely takes you over. And that’s not necessarily in the form of sorrow or sadness, not always. It will fill you in ways you didn’t expect.

Recognizing the love for a life lost is inexplicable. Your memories wrap their memory in an embrace, and you can almost feel them. Here. It’s calming and chilling. It will make you weak and give you unbelievable strength. It will drive you and stop you in your tracks. It completely absorbs you in every possible way. You grieve for what you’ve lost and yet you celebrate what you had.

I’m not one for letting go. Especially when it’s not on my terms. And as time wages on, the more I’m left longing for what I’ve lost.

You’re My Best Friend

Maize was a very good boy. Dogs are inherently good, and if we treat them with love they will love us back—unconditionally. If you teach your dog how to be a very good boy, he’ll be the best boy. Our dogs are exactly what we need them to be, and that’s why Maize meant so much to me, because I needed him to.

When I moved to Chicago, I was uncertain and alone. I was worried about living by myself and didn’t know anyone in the city. I didn’t even have a fulltime job when I made the move. But I knew that I’d be safe if I had Maize by my side. He was someone to come home to, someone who counted on me and he was such a happy boy. He was my security alarm and my safety net.

And when I needed him most, he was up to the task. When I was released from the hospital following my biking accident, I was scared to see Maize. I thought he’d be too wild, too aggressive. I thought he’d jump on me out of excitement, that I’d be too weak to handle it. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Maize was gentle and kind. He was so sweet and sensitive. He wagged his tail in excitement, and gave me the space and tenderness I needed. Throughout my recovery, he stayed by my side, loyal and protective. He made me feel just as he always had; he made me feel safe. And he hasn’t left my side since.

Today, I said goodbye to Maize. I tried my best to help my good boy feel safe and secure, just as he’s always done for me. We had 12 wonderful years together, and I’m so thankful for all he gave me and all he taught me.

Thank you, Maize, for teaching me how to be responsible and independent. Thank you for teaching me kindness and patience. Thank you for your fierce loyalty and complete trust. You helped me grow up, you helped me become who I am today. I am so thankful I had the joy of loving you and being a part of your family.

Rest well, sweet boy. I’ll always remember you.

Never Asking for Perfection

I spent an entire marathon training season saying this year’s Top of Michigan Marathon would be my last full marathon. It’s such a time commitment and it is far too easy to get distracted. But, somewhere along the trail, I realized why I was driven to register in the first place. And when I crossed the finish line I was overcome with emotion.

For me, running is hard. I’ve wondered if I have some sort of exercise-induced asthma because it’s so difficult for me to breath. And both of my lungs collapsed in a traumatic accident, which may also be a factor. But, until a few years ago, I was not a runner. Today, I run 3-5 times weekly—usually training for my next race.

Why run

If I ever take time off from running, I can feel it. A few days, and my mood turns depressed. My body gets stiff and I start to ache. I’m tense and irritable. So I’ve become addicted to the adrenaline boost. A quick run can turn a bad day good. It washes away the stress of a long day at work, gives me a chance to think through issues and inspires me.

But running a marathon is hard. Those 26.2 miles are no joke and if you don’t train properly you risk injury and failure (something I don’t cope well with). So when I had to quit before I even hit the halfway mark at last year’s race, I was disappointed. I wasn’t surprised. I hadn’t taken my training seriously, the weather was hot and humid, my water supply was limited and I was just not prepared. When 2019 race registration opened, I signed up determined.

Marathon training

My training kicked off with a new, aggressive routine. I was logging 10-mile runs in the first month and incorporated speed and strength workouts into my program. But, with a month and a half to go, I got derailed. Travel plans, long hours at work and a lack of prioritization put me behind schedule. My first 16 miler was cut short by bad weather and stomach discomfort. I walked the last 4 miles of a 14-mile run instead. I was defeated and considered transferring to the race’s half marathon instead.

A few weeks later I finally logged that 16 miler and I felt great. Throughout my training, I never took more than two days off, but I hadn’t been hitting my mileage. So, I was determined to finish strong—and I did.

Race day

The morning of the race, I was unsure, but I knew my body was strong. At mile 10 I was keeping my pace. I passed the spot I broke down last year when I called my husband and told him I couldn’t finish. I continued running beyond the halfway point, pacing ahead of my time from the 2017 Chicago Marathon.

I reached mile 16 and realized how much better I felt than during my long training runs. At mile 18 I pushed on knowing this was as far as my training would take me. By mile 21, I realized I was going to finish.

This year, I knew my body and I was prepared. The course increased the number of aid stations and I made sure to utilize the resources. My husband refilled my water belt along the course and I maintained my fuel routine. I came out strong and steady, but even as I dropped off I was pacing to finish by my goal time.

At mile 25, I felt invigorated. I crossed the finish line knowing I’d logged a personal best. I sobbed to my husband, “I finished.”

Running is hard for me. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breath. I have to take deep breaths to remind my lungs to fill with air. I focus on my breathing a lot. But I can run, so I do.

Time May Change Me, But You Can’t Trace Time

Sometimes we make mistakes. If we learn from them, that’s supposed to make it OK. But sometimes there’s no coming back from a mistake.

This weekend, my once best friend got married. I wasn’t there. She didn’t even tell me she was engaged. We’ve not spoken in two-and-a-half years. People who are close to me who don’t understand why I can’t make things right have kept me in the loop, and now I’m here realizing it’s a good thing I wasn’t a part of her big day.

Toward the end of our friendship, I became selfish. I took on a mean girls mentality, and somewhere along the way stopped being kind. I started putting myself first and asking why she was never attentive to my needs. I took years of feeling like I was her support without any reciprication and let that fester and explode. Our friendship imploded.

In the days, weeks, months after, maybe I could have mended things. But I was far too proud to admit any wrong doing and I became angry. The longer I sat with my anger, the more I convinced myself I was better off.

And now, I’m mostly just sad. And it hurts.

It feels like it’s been too long to still grieve our friendship, but I think that comes from having regrets.

My 4-Minute Life Story

Per The New York Times’ 30-Day Well Challenge, here’s my 4-minute life story:

I was born on a Tuesday, shortly after my family’s house burnt down. The stress of the trauma put my mom into early labor, but we were both safe. In fact, the doctor told my mom it was probably pre-labor and encouraged her to have a glass of wine and relax. I came along shortly after.

Before I can remember, my parents divorced. I have no memories of my parents being married or living together. I remember being raised by my mother, with the help of my aunts and grandparents. And while I always thought myself a daddy’s girl, I think that was more a pipedream than anything else.

My favorite memories with my dad include watching and playing baseball and snuggling with our dog Sammy. Otherwise, most of my memories with him revolve around his joyriding through fatherhood with little consideration for his children.

As a kid, I spent my time writing. My grandma likes to tell me how before I could even write, I would scribble on page after page of my notebooks writing “stories.”

My brother and I fought like hell as kids. He was my idol but wanted nothing to do with me. In fact, that even lasted through high school. It wasn’t until college that we both finally figured out how to be friends. And, today, I consider him my best friend.

Anyway. My mom enrolled me in tap dance classes as a kid, which I loved. But I have one distinct memory of a photographer telling me to “suck in” my gut. I always knew I was chubby, but that was a real kicker. Enter a lifetime of self-hate.

By the time I was in 6th grade, I opted out of dance class and into sports. I was never very athletic but always very competitive. I played volleyball, basketball and softball through 8th grade, and while I was never very good I loved being apart of the teams (except when we were losing).

When I started high school, we moved out of Detroit and to the suburbs. Holy fuck was that a god damn nightmare. I went from classmates who were on food stamps to having a “friend” who received a Jaguar for her 16th birthday.

I can’t really say I have any good memories from high school. I spent most of my time listening to emo and punk music, sneaking off to shows solo and trying to forget things. But, really, nothing worked.

So when I got to college I immediately fell in love. I basically wasted 4 years on a trash human who did everything he could to control me. He broke up with me during our senior year when his family pressured him with questions about marriage over Thanksgiving break. We shortly got back together with a hell of a lot of rules and regulations. When I realized I was my own person and couldn’t deal with that shit, we broke up. Soon after, I ran away to Chicago.

During my freshman year of college, my stepmom died. She was the definition of a wicked stepmother, but I felt the need to gain some closure so I went to the funeral. It was then that my paternal grandfather told me he regretted not being a bigger part of my life as a child and asked for forgiveness. Of course, I forgave him.

That was an opportunity to reconnect with my father. It didn’t really go so well.

So, back to Chicago. I moved here in 2008, during the height of the recession. Getting a job sucked, so I spent the next few years freelance writing, walking dogs and waitressing. After a series of unfortunate events, I ended up working as a barista at Starbucks.

That job eventually led me to the Chicago Tribune. And while that job sucked, it dictated the future of my career. Gone were the plans to work at a publishing house and I found myself working in content marketing.

While working at the Tribune, I was in a really bad bicycling accident. I shattered my ribs, collapsed both lungs, fractured my pelvis and spine. I think that covers it? I spent a month at Northwestern and three months at my mom’s outside of Detroit recovering. As soon as I was strong enough to, I moved back to Chicago. In retrospect, I’m not sure what for.

It was then that I connected with who would be my future husband.

As part of my recovery, I got involved with different physical challenges. It started with Muderlla, a 5K obstacle course (in the mud). The proceeds went to the fight against violence against women, and I finished the race with three badass chicks.

Since then, I’ve finished two Tough Mudders, the Chicago Marathon, two half marathons and a boatload of other events. Currently, I’m training for my third marathon and after that, I’ve got my second triathlon to work on.

Today, I find myself focused on work and my career. My husband and I bought a house last year (in Chicago) and we’re making plans for the years to come. And while I don’t know exactly what the future will hold, I’m looking forward to the possibilities.

I’ve been through a lot of hardships and I’m at a point in my life where I feel happy, confident and comfortable. I’m thankful for that.

I Do it with a Purpose

traverse bay

Last month, I set out to accomplish a lot in 2019. Fourteen days in, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of sticking to my resolutions, and I have high hopes for what’s to come.

New Year’s resolutions

We’re nearly at the halfway point of Whole 30. My body is feeling refreshed. When I completed the challenge last year, I spent the majority of the month with a cold. This made it easy to avoid temptations, as my cravings were completely diluted. This month, however, I’m getting by with a strict workout routine and meal prep.

Marathon training starts next week and I’m feeling a bit uncertain. My first “long run” is only 6 miles, but I’ve not run more than a 5K in a few months. Instead, I’ve been focusing on strength training rather than endurance. So I’m hoping the transition is smooth.

The relaunch of Chicago Beer Club has been successful to date. With just one blog due for the month, it’s been an easy accomplishment. Working with has proven to be a huge asset, and I’m looking forward to future opportunities with that outlet.

Up next

As part of a healthier 2019, I signed up for The New York Times 30-day wellness challenge. Every day, there’s a new challenge in my inbox ranging from 6-minute workouts to planning healthy snacks to 4-minute meditation exercises. It’s proven to be a good motivator that requires minimal effort but sufficient reward.

With 23 days off this year, I’m hoping to dedicate more time and funds to travel. We’ll be taking trips to Pennslyvania for a family event and San Francisco for a wedding, but I’d like to squeeze in an adventure down to Florida or even the Bahamas to spend time with friends as well.

Work continues to be a lot of work with an uncertain future. I’ve been looking for the right company to maintain a career with and grow. And while my job shows signs of opportunity, I always feel like I’m playing catchup. 2008 was a rough year to enter the workforce and Tribune layoffs just added more momentum to the punch.

We always enter January inspired, ready to take on the year ahead. But something about 2019 feels different.

Today I Missed My Workout

Christmas morning seems like as good a time as any to reflect. Especially when it’s 6 a.m., you’ve been up for two hours and you’re at your in-laws trying not to wake anyone.

Whole 30

2018 has been a full year. I kicked it off with the Whole 30 program, a diet meant to help you learn more about the foods you eat and how they affect your body. I was proud, and surprised, when I hit the 30-day mark cheat-free and feeling good. As an avid cook, meal prep was something I looked forward to, even if it meant no booze, sugar, carbs and a whole lot of other stuff.


From there, I jumped into training for my second full marathon. Looking back on my training program, I don’t quite remember where I fell off. I know I hit my 18-mile run and missed the 20 miler. But I did a lot on the treadmill, big mistake.

Race day, Memorial weekend, was hot and humid AF. The Top of Michigan Marathon starts in Charlevoix and ends in Harbor Springs, hitting Petoskey along the way. And, unlike the Chicago Marathon, the course is slim. There were maybe 100 marathoners and even fewer supporters along the course.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish the race. At the halfway mark, I called it quits. The night before, my CamelBak broke and I wasn’t able to carry enough water to stay hydrated in the heat (water stations were limited and some even ran out of cold water). The humidity made it difficult to breathe and the lack of crowd support killed my motivation. Don’t worry though, I signed up for the 2019 race and plan to kick its ass.


The summer was consumed with our new house. We moved in in April and I literally never wanted to leave. From unpacking to decorating to yardwork, it kept us busy. While we still haven’t finished hanging our decor, we did just furnish the third bedroom.

I’m in love with our home, and I think the rest of the family is, too.

Friends and family

We spent time celebrating some of our closest friends throughout the year. Weddings, babies, engagements, big moves and new homes. Even our niece’s first birthday.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on what I’ve lost on here. It’s part of the purpose for my blog—coping, healing and remembering. But 2018 has shown me how lucky I am for what and who I have in my life.


Training for my first triathlon also kept me busy this summer. Part of the Chicago Triathlon series, the SuperSprint is awesome for first-timers. Event weekend takes place at the end of August and the course is manageable.

Swim, bike, run. That’s the basics of a tri. The atmosphere was electric and the participants were incredible. So much support and inspiration. While not as physically difficult as a marathon, a triathlon is more mentally taxing.

This is another race I’ve already signed up for in 2019. This year, my goal was to finish. Next year, I’m keeping time. My hope is to one day complete a full triathlon. Until then, I’ll be working on my open-water swimming.

Work, work, work

The end of the year has kind of been swept up with work. Professionally, I’ve been given a number of opportunities to grow and advance, all of which I’ve embraced with open arms. For the first time in a few years, I’m not only satisfied at work but excited for the future.

Personally, I’ve been focusing on my beer blog. The focus the past two months has been on social media, but I’m planning for a 2019 relaunch of the blog. Until then, check us out on Instagram: @chibeerclub.

To help expand my reach, network and knowledge, I joined PorchDrinking as a copy editor and social media coordinator. I’ve only been working with the team for a couple of weeks, but it’s been a positive experience so far.

2019 and beyond

I think 2019 will look a lot like this year, only refined. I’ve learned so much and have so many things I want to accomplish next year. More travel. More learning. More growing.

I Never Trusted My Own Eyes.

beer and work

November is National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo). To put a spin on things, yet still get inspired, I’ve chosen to work on re-launching my (other) blog: Chicago Beer Club. If you thought this blog was poorly maintained, my craft beer blog is way worse off.

My goal is to develop it as a portfolio for myself. While I enjoy sharing personal stories here, it’s not something I would feel comfortable citing in a job interview.

On top of that, #ChiBeerClub is much more than a blog. It’s a social presence (currently on Instagram and Twitter, with more platforms to launch in 2019). This fits nicely with my professional role as a social and digital editor. While I work at a content marketing agency in our financial services vertical, the craft beer industry is much more interesting and exciting (to me, anyway). But the beer industry hires from within, so I’m just looking for a way to get my foot in that door.

In deciding to re-launch ChiBeerClub, I considered making a greater commitment to Bee Sophia, as well. With an editorial calendar, getting ahead on my writing and automated social publishing for my other blog, I’m hoping both can be manageable. While I’m likely biting off more than I can chew, my goal is to continue sharing here. In the meantime, check out ChiBeerClub to see what I’m up to and to keep tabs on whether or not I’m living up to my goals.


Story Stayed the Same

To say that writing saved me would be dramatic. I’ve had a strong, supportive network of humans to help along the way. But I won’t let that diminish the role writing has played in my healing, understanding and acceptance throughout the years.

Time and time again, I’ve turned to writing for support and guidance. I’ve told journals things I wouldn’t dare tell another sole. Putting pencil to paper allowed me to work through emotions, understand my internal struggles and come out at the end of a page with the ability to move forward, or at least an idea for how to get started.

Historically, I’ve done all this through the form of poetry. I spent my high school years pining over the tragic life of poets Sylvia Plath and her husband Ted Hughes. I romanticized the stereotypical emotionally sensitive lifestyle of a poetic personality and threw my childish words into prose poetry. And it made me feel good. It made me feel excited and understood, even if I never felt quite like I fit in.

As a creative writing major in college, I spent many roundtable sessions editing my peers’ work and also had my own put on the chopping block. And, somehow, I always felt as though I was coming up short. Either I wasn’t eloquent enough, profound enough or “deep” enough… whatever that means.

So, following college graduation, I didn’t head back for a master’s degree in creative writing. I was far too inferior for that. My best hope was to go into publishing, but 2008 Chicago had other things in mind.

Instead, I found myself writing and editing for a plumbing and piping consultation firm and a trivia company. Research became both as interesting and important to me as writing had always been. And as my career continued, research would be the driving force behind it as I dove into content marketing—a field where I must become an expert in whatever industry my client is focused.

And while this was never a career I saw in my future, it’s where I’ve found myself excel. I get to write, and sometimes I can even weave in a little creativity. It’s also helped me find my passion and expertise in editing. While this is something I always had an interest in, creative writing is a tricky form for the editor’s eye. How can you correct someone’s poetry? That shit comes from the soul.

But through all this, I find that I’ve lost my poetry. I think I started this blog with the intent to draft from that poet’s mindset. But, instead, I find myself focusing on research-driven topics or drafting in stream of conscious. The digital disconnect is easy to blame; there’s just something about putting pen to paper and scribbling until your hand hurts—capturing every error, rewrite or addition along the way.

I’ve toyed with the idea of poetry challenges. Signing myself up for readings, workshops or just about anything to get the creativity flowing again. The thing is, I only want to write for me.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” – Cyril Connolly