i love maps. i’ve always had a fascination with maps. globes, atlases, new maps and historical ones. i love them all. when i was a kid, i’d lay on my bed with a rand mcnally map book and plan out my life and the adventures i’d have traveling the world. i planned out future road trips and vacations. i circled cities i wanted to move to. when my wife and i moved to chicago, i knew exactly where i wanted to live, after all i had been studying the map of chicago most of my life.

there is just something about maps.

the room i am writing this in is filled with maps and globes and pictures of neighborhoods.

maps create dreams and plans and memories. they create endless possibilities. everyone loves endless possibilities.

maps also create direction. no one likes to feel lost. it’s a scary and lonely feeling. we’ve all had those moments of being lost in a different city and have felt that panic come over us once we realized we had no clue where we were. it’s the worst.

but we feel that way in life a lot don’t we?

i’ve realized over the past few months that i’m not really a “live in the moment” type of person. i’ve been spending a lot of time mapping out my life. i always need a plan. i have this unending need to know what’s next, what i can expect.

except that you cannot plan for life. not really.

 road blocks and speed bumps happen. plans change. jobs change. our ideals change. when we think something will last forever, it ends the next day. that’s just how life works.

i’m never going to stop looking at maps and daydreaming about what could be and i’m good with that. even though i think i need to know what is coming, there is something about the mysterious that is intriguing. i just think i need to change how i look at maps. instead of looking down the road and around the curves, i need to focus on what is right here.

when you are looking down the road, it’s easy to miss what is next to you right now.

there are special moments to be created, lessons to learn from and dreams to be re-born. every day is another opportunity to grow and become closer to who we want to be. we don’t have to stop dreaming. i can’t imagine myself not dreaming and planning for the future.

we just have to remember that today is part of the journey.


building walls.

being vulnerable is no one’s favorite feeling. it’s kind of like that feeling when you are presenting a project in college and when you are done, you ask your classmates if they have any questions. you know that feeling? you are sitting there waiting for them to ask a random question and it is all quiet and awkward and the class is staring at you and you stare back and the moment seems like it will never pass. all you want is to not be in that situation ever again.

after i wrote my post about my desire to move back to chicago, that’s how i felt.

it opened up a vulnerable side of me that i don’t normally allow. i still cannot decide if writing that post was cathartic or more like pouring salt on a wound.

but it is how i feel and i had to own my thoughts. expressing them made them more real. i knew i couldn’t live my life with my thoughts in a cocoon.

being vulnerable isn’t my favorite. at all. building walls seems more natural. i don’t enjoy the thought of other people knowing what i think (which might seem to contradict the idea of being a writer in the first place).

i’ve lived my entire life trying to build a fortress around myself. but what i am learning is that being vulnerable leads to openness. allowing myself to simply be honest led to difficult conversations, but at least it was me being honest with myself and others. i also realized that i am really okay with just being me and no one else.

being vulnerable means allowing ourselves to admit that we don’t always have it figured out. and to be okay with that.

that’s the thing about life. we only get one, so why not just try to be more open with each other? why not just be ourselves? we live most of our lives afraid of what everyone else thinks, trying to follow a certain pattern we think we are expected to follow but didn’t draw ourselves.

that’s not how i want to live my life.

i’m not the “well that’s how it’s been so that’s how it is” type of guy.

tearing down the walls we’ve surrounded ourselves with means that we have to be ourselves all the time. that’s sorta scary isn’t it? i mean, that means we cannot hide behind someone else’s plan. it means we might clash with others and it means we have to be who we are meant to be. who we were designed to be.

we have to follow our own desires, our own interests and our own plans for our lives. we have to be willing to be different, even if people look at us funny. we have to be willing to say that is who we are, regardless of the response. that’s being vulnerable.

we have to own who we are. we shouldn’t let anyone else own us. who would we be then?


i’m not sure where to start. not with this post, in life.

more like i don’t know where to re-start.

you probably know that in october 2013, my wife kelli and i moved to chicago and i sort of assumed that’s where i’d be right now. i assumed i’d be there for a long, long time. i didn’t assume we’d own a house in michigan a year later and be looking for paint colors and fixing stuff around the house and shoveling snow off the roof.

i wasn’t expecting to be here.

living in chicago was a dream of mine for over 20 years. i always knew one day i’d live that dream. i didn’t see leaving the city as being part of any plan really.

i guess life can take you by surprise when you aren’t expecting it.

and it’s been hard. real hard. i’ve never really experienced anything quite like what i’ve been experiencing the last few months.

it’s strange to feel homesick. before leaving chicago i’d never experienced this before. i’ve now experienced it every day since we moved. it’s that sick to your stomach, heartache, desperation type of homesick. in one year i became a chicago guy. sometimes people say “oh james is from chicago…” or “you’re from chicago right?”… i don’t object.

i’ve been silent on here the last couple of months because in life, we are conditioned to only speak about positive things. even if it isn’t true. i’ve struggled with this a ton. i’ve learned a lot about positivity and looking on the bright side of things. and i’ve learned a lot about being honest. even if it’s just with myself.

but let’s be real.

if i’m being honest with myself, i can say that in fact, i don’t really like not living in chicago. that’s simple enough and probably a surprise to very few.

i want to go back and live there again, for good this time. i miss the hustle and the noise, but not the traffic. i miss the connections and friends and the community we were a part of. i miss the way kelli and i began something new together there. i miss the bars and restaurants within walking distance and taking our puppy to the dog park. i even miss going to church in chicago at willow chicago, which is no small thing for me. i truly love that community.

the thing i thought would’ve been easy would be taking our life there and the changes we made and the experiences we had and implementing them here in grand rapids. i figured we’d just pick up where we left off and it would be no big deal.

it’s actually been a big deal. it’s been impossible.

it’s not that people here have changed, it’s that we have changed. kelli and i aren’t who we were when we moved to the city. we became better versions of ourselves, together and individually. basically, we grew up. we found our spot, no matter how hard it was. we forced ourselves to be more, to live and experience. we learned to go to different grocery stores besides meijer and family fare. kelli discovered trader joe’s. i fell for mariano’s. i’ve even switched allegiances to the bears. it’s okay lions fans, don’t worry about it.

living in grand rapids is not bad. it’s really not. i just don’t want to compare. we have good things here and there is plenty to look forward to. i am excited to spend the summer near the beach again. the beer in grand rapids is the best. we don’t have to get all geared up to take the puppy out for a walk three times a day, though we probably should. it’s good here.

it’s just that, it’s not everything i want. good is okay, but i want great.

and i feel selfish for wanting everything. i feel wrong for wanting great. but why?

by the time we moved, i was already starting to feel nauseous about it. riding in the u-haul with my father-in-law, we talked about how much i didn’t know if i really wanted to move from chicago. actually i knew i didn’t. i told him that. i told him that it seemed like a great idea and an awesome opportunity for kelli and i but now i didn’t think it was really what i wanted. my boss in chicago was even trying to give me my old job back, without me asking for it, and i wanted to take it back. it was too late. the house was already being prepped for us and our belongings were in a 24 foot truck.

we’ve been gone from chicago just over 4 months now and it’s been the toughest 4 months i’ve experienced in quite a long time. the thing about not being there is that it re-affirms for me that that is where i want to be. i wish that i had that affirmation before i decided it was a good idea to leave. in fact it probably was a good idea, for someone else.

i’ve learned a lot about honesty. i’ve learned it’s tough to convey. i’ve learned a lot about making decisions. i’ve learned that sometimes making decisions doesn’t always make you feel better. life changes don’t always feel good.

i’m trying to put together the pieces of my life here. i’m trying to understand what this all means for kelli and me. we are woven together so much that it’s not just decisions that affect each other, our thoughts do too. i’m trying to understand what the future holds, even though i spend much of my time trying to dictate it. i’ve learned to be honest with myself, even though it’s not just about me.

 growing up is not for the weak.

i’m here.

i can’t say i legitimately saw this coming.

we’re back living in grand rapids after a year in chicago. not only that, we bought a house. in grand rapids… the gilmores are staying in grand rapids for the foreseeable future.

this is where i’m supposed to say “never say never” or “you cannot predict the future” and any other applicable cliches and metaphors that fit here.

i didn’t really see myself as ever being a michigan resident again. like… ever again.  it’s not that i don’t love the state of michigan, i do. the summers here are beautiful right? and being able to use my hand as a map to point to where i live in the state is invaluable.

but there’s more to it than geography.

deciding life changes is never easy. we can sit and mull the opportunities and wonder and fear and doubt and get excited all day. and that’s what i did. one minute i’d think, “let’s do it, let’s go back home!” and the next i’d say… “nooooo, why do i want to do that?” moving is hard, switching jobs and leaving friends sucks sometimes. i’ll be honest. i didn’t enjoy that.

there is a comfort here in grand rapids, you can relax here.  chicago is the best city in the world, in my opinion. but comforting? relaxing? i’m not sure if those words fit. it did really feel like home though and i’ve felt “homesick” nearly every day for the last month since we left. when people ask me, “oh so, are you from chicago?” i am tempted to say, “yep!” and maybe i have a couple of times. i find myself saying “Go Bears!” more than “Go Lions” and i think i’m cool with that. i’m guessing a majority of my posts from here on out will have a chicago reference or two, i hope you are okay with that.

right now i’m sitting in my house thinking, wow i own a house. i am settling down a bit! this is no small task for someone like me. settling down, establishing roots and general commitment to  anything is not something that comes natural to me. i’m naturally more of a nomad to be honest. i could roam the earth and be cool with it. i could blame this on a lot of things, but i won’t in this space. that’s a separate entry on it’s own. but this time i’m tackling my commitment issues head on and i’m proud of myself for doing so.

i guess go big or go home… or just buy a home in this case i suppose.

but grand rapids really is home. and it’s a pretty damn good city. it really is.  i don’t think i’ve ever really admitted that. i’ve always looked every other direction for a home, for a comfort and a place to set roots. it’s still difficult for me to say this is it forever… because as soon as i say that the plans may change. but it is good to be here. i’m not sure the structure of this home is what establishes my roots here as much as the dozens of legal documents with my signature stating this is my primary residence does. plus i love this house, it’s pretty cool to say “this is mine, like really mine!”

i’m here, in more ways than one.


[ personal note: i haven’t done much writing since moving to chicago, which is somewhat surprising to me. the lack of writing is not due to any lack of inspiration, i’ve just been missing the key ingredient that mixes all my muses together in a cohesive unit. so i decided to just bust out a bunch of my random thoughts i’ve been grinding on the past few months. enjoy.]

being in a city as fierce and bold and busy and loud as chicago has taught me to slow down, relax and be stronger.

moving away is hard. and awesome. and painful. and rewarding. and empowering. whenever you dream about doing something and then do it, it makes you feel like anything is possible. the idea that dreams come true is somewhat true, but you have to work towards it, make it happen. and you need at least one person in your corner who also believes anything is possible.

i hate bad grammar. except when i’m writing my own stuff. then i just create my own grammar and label it creativity.

you can be whoever and whatever you want to be, but if you aren’t making this a conscious decision, whoever and whatever you surround yourself  with will take that decision from you.

i have so many friends and family who are pursuing passions. it inspires me to pursue mine. thank you for helping mold me into who i am supposed to be. keep grinding.

 chicago is building me into the best version of myself. as much as i love where i came from, i know that where i am now is where i’m supposed to be.

i find myself wondering where the years are going.  it makes me want to embrace everything about today. today creates our history.

when i was a kid, my mom told me not to rush growing up, to enjoy life’s stages. i see people today who are going as fast as they can to get places they don’t really want to be. i’d rather take my time getting where i want to be. the journey can be just as amazing as the destination.

few things are as satisfying to me as completing a writing assignment. few things are as frustrating as writers block.

in the past i’ve gotten frustrated when i was told no. obviously. who likes being told no? the older i get though, the more i realize that stop signs are for our protection and not discouragement.

when i get further and further away from good music, the less and less creative my writing life becomes. it’s amazing how much music triggers thought and action.

it’s true. my wife is the better part of me. when she is away for work, my life is only half as good as it could be. i love this life we have together. i’m more excited than words can display about what we are building in this city and what the future holds for us together. she is not simply my wife and best friend, she truly is my co-pilot, my rock, my inspiration.  this adventure of being in a new city has shown me that our home is where our hearts are. i’ve witnessed how strong she really is and how hard she works to be the woman God made her to be. there is no one i admire more. sometimes she puts on a brave face, but mostly she has a tenacious sense about her. nothing is outside her reach. we climb mountains together.

i think that about sums it up.

a new picture.


 i’ve been busy painting a new picture, not with paint but with a new city. i’ve been busy trying to plant roots that we picked up and moved to a new scenery.

recently my wife and i re-located to Chicago with a new job, a new sense of adventure and a lot of… “wow this is crazy” and “whoa, this is weird”. life is funny that way. you can dream and push and pull and hope for something to happen and when the opportunity presents itself, we better know what to do with it.

Chicago has been a dream of mine for a very long time. in general big-city living has been my goal (i also dreamed of playing in the NBA and being Michael Jordan’s replacement with the Bulls, but… whatever). one thing i’ve learned about dreams is, unless you are willing to actually do something about them, they just stay up there in your mind. dreams are nothing without a plan. without action it is pointless to dream because without action, dreams won’t get you far. people who have known me for quite a long time know that my existence in Grand Rapids was with one foot in and one foot out a majority of the time. I was usually busy day dreaming about being somewhere, sometimes, anywhere else. that’s not an indictment of Grand Rapids, it’s home for both my wife and I and it’s a beautiful city. sometimes you just have to try something new and uncertain.

so the question, is Chicago everything I dreamed it would be? well i have always been a big dreamer, and yet Chicago is still even bigger. it’s a funny sort of mix of fancy and gritty. it has it’s beauty yet knows how to flex it’s muscles when it needs to. i’m proud of my midwest roots and i’m proud to still call the midwest my home. midwesterners in general, we are down to earth, we are passionate, we maintain our values but we still love a good time. but you push us, mess with our friends or family and you have another thing coming. that’s Chicago in a nutshell. that’s why i love this city, you can get the big city feel and feel right at home.

i like this life. i like the ability we have to change our scenery if we want to. i like that we can hold on to our roots and still push for something more and different and bigger or smaller or whatever it is we want. we can re-set  when we need to, we don’t ever need to let life get stale. has this change been hard? of course. it’s never easy to flip your life upside down but that’s the challenge we get to pursue, to flip it back. or to paint a new picture. i’m not quite sure what the future holds, and for once in my life, i don’t think i’m all that concerned. i think i finally have both of my feet in the same city.

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