FAMILY/ Kids/Family

A Quick Family Trip To Chicago To Visit Dear Friends & My Recovery Discovery

We just got back from a quick, 4-day family trip to Chicago to visit some dear friends.

We stayed with our dear friends, the Porters. Todd and I met them almost 20 years ago when we were newlyweds at our church.

I have written about them a couple of times on this blog, one telling about the miracle that they are even here, and another telling of the priceless gift of care my friend Sharon gave during my mastectomy.

We have made it a point to see each other every couple of years (at least) throughout the past 20 years, despite living in different states.

We have created precious memories during these purposeful trips, and so have our kids as they have grown up together. It is unbelievable that between the two families we have produced 6 teenagers!

In a perfect world, we would live in the same state and see each other WAY more often, but the closeness we feel with their family despite the distance reveals what a gift their friendship is.

I’ve been reflecting on this friendship. We are all wired so differently and have much scoop on each other—-as meaningful friendships with history usually do—-yet there is an acceptance and love that is quite remarkable, one that has lasted throughout the years.

Keep reading for a few glimpses of our trip, and my discovery of why I often need recovery after trips and life events.


Porter (yep, he is called by his last name) grew up in Venezuela and their whole family are foodies, so we were treated to an amazing breakfast of Venezualian corncakes called Arapas.

Make sure you roll that ‘r’ when you pronounce it!

Porter has agreed to share the recipe and I promise to blog it soon! Arapas remind me a little bit of an English Muffin, but are different in texture and are made with cornmeal.

They are a versatile food that can be filled or topped with sweet or savory. Porter served them filled with eggs, ham, and cheese. They tasted as amazing as they look!

Porter works with plants for a living, and his yard gives a glimpse of his amazing talent. The above photo was taken early morning…do you see my coffee mug and journal?

Those moments made me happy! That was the same morning we had Arapas. THAT, my friends, was a good, good morning!


Later that morning their family took us on a day trip to Chicago (they live in the suburbs) and we visited Porter’s workplace on the way.

It was so fun to see where he spends his days and hear about how the company has grown and his part in it.


Teagan was in plant heaven, as you can see. She especially delighted in the orchids, cacti, and succulents. A girl after my own heart!


We headed down to Navy Pier. There were so many city sights and sounds that I loved, but my favorite was Lake Michigan.


We are lacking in the area of big water here in Nebraska, so it did my heart so much good to see the sun glistening off the water, and see the water hitting the sky at the horizon line. So beautiful!


Their oldest son, Declan, said a couple of times, “the weather could not be any better for you all to be here” and I could not agree more. It was in the 80’s, no humidity, a little breeze and the Chicago skyline was so clear!

How cute are these kids, all grown up! How and when did that happen?! So proud of them all.


The above photo is of two T’s that have my heart. My Todd and my Teagan. I was especially nostalgic this trip because Teagan graduated this year and I am not sure how many family trips we have left with her!

I found myself wanting everything to be perfect and go smoothly so that we could create precious but fleeting family memories.

I should know by now that perfect does not exist and traveling together and having SO much family time can create much opportunity to get one each other’s last nerve.

Yes, family frayed nerves happened. No, I didn’t capture it in the photos, because who wants to see that?

But…I must say this and hope it encourages someone…

when you find yourself on your next family trip and surprised that things may not go as perfectly as planned,

or when you get home and feel regret and failure for not making 100% good family memories,

or when you are struggling with seeing what looks like others’ perfect family vacation photos while scrolling through Instagram,

…take a pause and remember.

Remember that Instagram does not capture the squabbles in the hours spent in the car, the differences of opinions, and the less-than-perfect results of everyone being off their normal schedule.

It is ok.

Push into the good memories and release the not-so-good, accepting that life brings both.


On to more good memories…

We had an amazing, long day in the city that included an out-of-this-world Ethiopian dinner that we ate with our hands!

This is a Porter tradition that we have heard about over the years and we were giddy when they told us they wanted to experience it with us. It was sooo delicious.

They also took us to an award-winning cupcakes shop called Molly’s for dessert — ya’ll, I can’t tell you how good those cupcakes were!

After we got back to their house,  the 4 adults went out for a drink and had a chance to talk unfiltered. We had been surrounded by our teens up until this point.

It is beautiful when you find friends who share themselves, can nod their heads in a “us too” understanding, and compare notes on how all are handling life.

We took those moments to hold up each other’s heads, hearts and glasses (beer, whiskey, wine and a diet coke–I’ll give you one guess which one was my Todd’s!) and cheers to the beauty of life and all that it brings.


The last day we visited the Fashion Outlets of Chicago because teens love to shop, plus…deals!

On our way out of town, we hit the Sugar Factory to experience their famous shakes, and sit in the same booth that once housed famous people like the Kardashians and the Back Street Boys.

The shakes were amazing, and I may have had a burger that had white chocolate drizzled on it, and it may have been surprisingly delicious! Yes, yes it was.

We made it home and I have spent the last day and 1/2 recovering….and not from a white chocolate drizzled burger.

I needed to recover from a whirlwind 4-day trip.

I hesitated writing this because there is nothing worse than someone complaining about a vacation….but this is so not that.

This is me wanting to be real with you and share with you what I am discovering about myself, and it is a positive thing– as discovery that leads to growth often is.

I am so very grateful for the opportunity to see our dear friends, the time we had together as a family, and all that we were able to experience. Needing to recover after can seem like a “first world problem.”

I really don’t see it as a problem though. Just a ‘what is.’

I am learning to accept that I am wired to need to recover from life that is outside of my normal.

I had this same experience after the lastest women’s conference I went to. I also had it after my daughter’s graduation open house party.

I was surprised to feel depleted both physically and emotionally after all of these amazing life events and it has been quite puzzling.

I am now starting to understand, by reflection and a great book I am reading, what is happening, and I’m finding healthy ways and thought patterns in order to recover well.

I will write more about this in an upcoming post, but if you are familiar with what an  HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) is, you will understand why.

I am definitely a highly sensitive person and too much of a good thing can just be too much of a good thing for me!

This is more than just being an introvert, and it is different than anxiety. It is having a sensitive nervous system, which really is a normal, neutral trait as it is shared by 15-20% of the population.

It means that I am aware of the subtleties in my surroundings, and am more easily overwhelmed when I have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long.

I have always said I ‘feel’ everything, and now I’m exploring what that means and how to live well with that trait.

This HSP part of me also makes me the very intuitive, sensitive and incredibly caring person I am, and that, my friends, is a positive, beautiful thing that I would not trade, even if it meant not needing recovery after life events.

Let’s talk more about this in an upcoming post, shall we?

In the meantime, you will find me journaling, jogging, going to bed early, a bit more quiet than normal, taking my magnesium (the calming mineral) and making some detox salad. These are all ways I practice self-care and recovery.

How about you?

Any family trips for you this summer?

Can you relate at all to the definition of an HSP and needing a bit of slow recovery at times?

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  • REK981
    July 16, 2018 at 10:11 am

    HSP, Empath, anxiety sufferer are just a few of my attributes. I always factor recovery into major trips of social outings. I am glad you show yourself such grace and allow the recovery.

  • Patty
    July 14, 2018 at 9:25 am


    I admire your strength and your sense of purpose so much. I am recovering from my own bout with Ovarian Cancer and chemo and my sense of myself as well as my strength have been totally shattered. I have yet to travel away from home. I feel the safest here. I have just started doing things that I always used to do…my hair is growing in and I feel stronger but mentally and sometimes physically I am exhausted by life outside of my home. When I read your words…I feel so much better. Thank you!

  • Kristen
    July 14, 2018 at 9:08 am

    I didn’t know what a Highly Sensitive Person was, but the experiences you mentioned sounded very familiar. I did some research (and a few internet tests, highly accurate I’m sure), and I think I fall pretty well into that category. Glad to know about it for myself and also for giving some leeway to others for being non-highly sensitive. For years I’ve wondered how other people could be so oblivious to certain things (bad smells & tastes, noisy environments, off-hand comments, other people’s bad attitudes, piles of trash/clutter/dishes, etc.) and chalked it up to them being rude jerks, but now I’m gathering they’re not personally affected by those things, and that’s ok too.

  • Dee Tracy
    July 14, 2018 at 7:25 am

    Oh my goodness, Amy, I can totally relate to this! I am both an introvert and HSP and with age I’ve learned to embrace it. I used to berate myself and felt like such an oddity compared to most of my friends. But now I am fine with being “different” than most people and I understand what I need to do to take care of myself. I require a lot of quiet time, I draw, eat healthy and don’t allow myself to compare. I’m not sure if this came with age, wisdom or maybe a bit of both!

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