Maggiano’s! My Personal Little Italy

Love, love, love this place!

I have to start by talking about the restaurant itself as a whole being one of my favorites. The atmosphere is truly family oriented. I have been to many Maggiano locations, but this one is by far my favorite!

The service here is incredible. I was greeted by the host staff immediately upon walking in. I believe the girl mentioned her name to be Cici. Reminds me of a childhood favorite pizza spot, so I was already enjoying talking to her. They had a bit of a wait that evening, but I wasn’t surprised because of how popular they are. The hostess assured me that I would be seated shortly, and offered a spot near the bar at high tops or the bar itself to grab a glass of wine while I waited. I really liked this offer because in my opinion she did a great job of comforting our group since we had a bit of a wait but kept us involved by recommending starting with a drink. She made sure to check in with us and kept us laughing till a table became available. That definitely made the wait seem much shorter, and we were seated before we knew it.

Once seated our wait staff was wonderful! Very attentive and kept making sure our water was full and our food was out in a timely fashion. The food was incredible per usual, and I love their portion sizes. They always have amazing deals going on and the take home options are the greatest.

I don’t even know where to begin about the food. It’s so delicious and the kitchen staff cooks to perfection. I have basically had everything on their menu, since I am a major food connoisseur. My favorite would have to be the Spaghetti & Meatball and Chef KB’s Lobster Carbonara (when I used to be able to eat seafood).

I have never utilized them for banquet services, but I sure plan to for my gender reveal and baby shower!!

Photo of Maggiano's Little Italy - Skokie, IL, United States. Spaghetti with meat sauce and meatballs.
Photo of Maggiano's Little Italy - Skokie, IL, United States. Maggiano's is a great place for lunch, brunch, cocktails, and celebrations!

Photo of Maggiano's Little Italy - Skokie, IL, United States. lobster carbonara

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Moretti’s I’m Sad to Say Goodbye

I hate having to say goodbye to one of my most favorite restaurants! I was probably the happiest person to have Moretti’s open in Morton Grove. It’s been a spot I have been coming to since opening day with my friends. It’s become a local hangout spot for us. We watch all our games here, enjoy evenings out on the patio, and I was even planning to use them for my gender reveal, baby shower, and large scale events through the University I work for. However, all of that has changed due to a particular staff member. Unfortunately, this staff member decided to personally attack me verbally after work hours through facebook. She brought in her personal opinion on my pregnancy and what I eat/drink at Moretti’s.

This was quite upsetting for me due to the fact that I am a well educated person who has several degrees, & I have the best doctors and medical professionals through my health insurance. I am in amazing health as is my baby. I enjoy Moretti’s because their food is not only delicious but their banquets seemed like the perfect fit for me. I have at least spent over a couple hundred to a thousand dollars in service here.

My doctor said it was perfectly safe for me to have a non alcoholic beer along with my food at this restaurant/bar with my friends because I am free to live my life. I am pregnant, not in jail. In no way would I ever dream of harming my child and this waitress assumed the worst and belittled me, as well as harassed me for days. She made claims that DCFS would take my child, that I am a bad soon to be mother, and many more allegations that were untrue.

I heard that during pregnancy everyone will weigh in their opinions; however, I never believed it would be to this extent!!

I do not like to call out staff members by name, but Sara Dolan caused quite a stressful experience for me at Moretti’s (especially during my pregnancy) and although I had a chance to speak with management and they assured me it would not continue, it did continue. She continued to message and harass me even when I was not responding to any of her messages or comments.I was also made aware by her that an upper management manager (Gary) ignored my complaint and supposedly, “He really doesn’t care” I have never felt more upset by an establishment.

I have to say, I will not be returning there and I hope people, especially expecting Mothers, take their business to more respectable places such as Maggiano’s or other restaurants that can accommodate woman who are pregnant and not make them feel as though they are a bad person for enjoying some food with their friends over a Bears or Cubs game. I feel extremely sad for this establishment, seeing as this is how employees treat well paying customers.

It’s a sad day for me to say my goodbyes! Take care my old friend, and if staff changes I hope to return one day.

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“Each of us can make a difference. But TOGETHER we can make a change”.

Recently a lot of people have gotten into the series “13 Reasons Why” on Netflix. This series displays a vast majority of mental health issues that teenagers face in their many growing years.

When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with a mental health condition. I suffer from severe depression. I have practiced self-care for many years along with therapy, to help alleviate my episodes of sadness, and writing was one of those tools. Writing has become a necessity for me, and proved to be an invaluable way to lessen my anxiety and to help with managing my depression.

Kate Spade’s recent passing has started an uproar of awareness regarding suicide that was no where to be seen before. No one was aware she was suffering from mental illness the same as Robin Williams. Why is it still such a taboo to speak out on mental health when it’s very real?

I’ll tell you why, because in today’s society we have found it to be more acceptable to discuss visually noticeable diseases and traumas. The brain cannot be seen; therefore, goes unnoticed. However, everything happening to us, each thought we have, each emotion we face, all comes from the chemicals and hormones our mind releases. This is how our brain controls the messages it relays.

I recently spent a couple of days in the hospital in a psych unit where I was able to purely witness things from a journalistic capacity. I felt like I was ripped out of my normal environment and placed in an episode of American Horror Story Asylum. People had real illnesses and it made me shift the lens from which I viewed even my own mental illness. Although not as severe as many others, people battling mental health rarely ever become completely aware of it. There is still a part of us that wants to believe we are perfectly healthy, because of the stigma.

Until this stigma is removed from “mental illness”, and our current society truly, genuinely accepts it as an illness.. those suffering from these illnesses will continue to hide their condition(s).

Depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, anorexia, substance abuse, anxiety, borderline etc. are just a few very common mental health disorders. They feed the mind messages that are not true. Our mind will send mixed signals sometimes. We start to become fearful of daily activities or things that we should not be fearful of. Our mind begins to set in this feeling that we are not good enough or don’t deserve to live because our mind feels as if things won’t get better.

Our brain is a tricky beast. It will have you convinced that everyone is out to get you, looking at you, and/or judging you. And sadly, the last sentence comes with TRUTH! People do judge those with mental illness!

Yet would you judge someone with a visually acceptable disease such as heart issues, or cancer? Or would you tell them to just “get over it?” As though people suffering from mental ILLNESS could somehow just wish it away? Don’t you think we would if we could?!

These mental illnesses may impact us daily, but I’ll let you know they won’t ever define us! We are daily survivors who fight a battle no one will ever be able to see. “Each of us can make a difference. But TOGETHER we can make a change”.

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The Truth About Starting Over After Divorce In Your 20’s

Help, I lost myself again. Almost divorced at 27, I shamefully turn out to be the statistic I fought so hard not to be. I have looked through blogs, articles, and pretty much anything that would help me make sense of how I am feeling. I was starting to become desperate, with no luck. So I figured why not, set the trend, maybe it’ll help others who end up in my situation.

To be painfully honest, it is going to be extremely heartbreaking. I have felt like a failure for many months now at a time. It continues to hit me in the form of waves. Even when I wouldn’t feel sad about the act of divorce itself, I knew I had the right to mourn the loss of my eternal future.

In the beginning people who knew looked at me with nothing but pity, paranoia, and all of the above. The whispers were getting louder and clearer and then came the social media unfollowing. These actions are just some of the things you encounter, learn, and begin to tolerate when going through divorce… even if the divorce is amicable.

In the United States, about 50% of marriages end in divorce.

Just breathe that in for a minute.

In thinking about life, imagine you thinking that you are starting your life at 25, trying to enjoy your husband, get pregnant in your marriage, all while focusing on the new life you started because that would mean the world to you… but honestly should you have to “try”? It should come pretty naturally and it didn’t for us. It felt more so like we were stuck. My words of advice? Move on.

Backstory:

I knew the night of  my wedding that I would end up divorced. If you even have an inkling of that feeling, trust me and save yourself a lot of heartache and headache. My husband and I were relatively young but most certainly in love. The day and night of our wedding we danced, drank, and enjoyed ourselves with our families and friends who were in from out of town. Shortly after I knew for sure it wasn’t what I was meant to be doing. However- I stuck through it. I saw my husband get visibly upset the night of our wedding due to his groomsmen all arguing with significant others, not being attentive to bridal party pictures, and much more. Which in turn began upsetting me. People were visibly TOO drunk, not that it should matter at a wedding, but these people were becoming belligerent, rude, and sloppy. I saw myself growing angrier and angrier along with my husband. He began taking his frustration out on me during the wedding, as well as once we were settled in our hotel.

That night should have been the most special night of my life, but it felt like a complete disaster internally. I cried myself to sleep that night and woke up to find my husband still on the couch in another room. We had fought the night of our wedding about our toxic friends and him being extremely drunk went to sleep without me.

It was the morning of our brunch, and I knew I had obligations to fulfill. So I got up, took a shower, woke him up – still incoherent partly, got us both ready. I ignored the previous day/night (again which should have been the most special day of my life) and left to meet our families for brunch.

It was comforting to see my parents there and smiling. This made it relatively easier and made me feel as though last night was just another bad night. I pushed past the feeling from our wedding day/night and enjoyed brunch with ONLY family and family friends. That’s when I began realizing the issues were not us or our families, it was our friends. We each had a group of people in our lives who were not taking our relationship or marriage seriously. They were all either single, dating casually, or not quite ready for that next step. Which made it difficult to get them to feel serious about the MOST important day of our lives. They were all pretty selfish and caused a lot of pain to my husband and I unknowingly.

This made me start to resent them more than I already did due to previous painful encounters both him and I were put through. As we left for our honeymoon the following day, I was feeling much better. I was starting to see a glimpse of what married life is really like. I was growing happier by the minute knowing we were leaving Chicago for a week. On our honeymoon things were great. We rarely had any arguments until we returned home. This is when I knew it was safe to say, it was the people in our lives, because I encountered more pain than ever before caused by his friends.

Almost a year into our marriage, I was still being mistreated by certain females that were friends with my husband or dating their friends. I was made out to be delusional but in reality the truth unfolded on its own once we separated. My husband stood by me like a rock once we were married, and tried very hard for them to not mistreat me, but things had gone too far by 4th of July. I genuinely helped his friends throw a party at their home, to find myself becoming the issue because one of the females in the group was upset, bad mouthing me behind my back, but also accusing me of mistreating her when that was not the case. I was keeping my distance from toxic people (such as her) and that turned me into the wrong doer somehow. I was almost always blamed for things I did not do or act on.

6 years of roller coaster emotions, screaming matches, horrible communications, more tears than I’ve ever had in my life, I made the scary decision to leave my husband. I felt that we both have stable careers, and can start over. For the record- it really WAS like a light switch– when you know it’s over, you know, DON’T question your gut. Your gut is NEVER wrong. You deserve to feel loved. You deserve more than being ignored, or mistreated by your significant others friends.

Now- let me be clear, the gruesome and painful details of what happened in my marriage will remain in my marriage. That was what we agreed upon during our separation. Plus my husband is an extremely amazing guy!! I have nothing but love for him, and I would never bash him to anyone. However, between the two of us, there were issues that could not be fixed. Once the communication, trust and love is gone.. there’s nothing left to fix in my opinion.

Once you begin to feel this way, or have been through this, you should not be afraid.

Moving On:

Getting an apartment on my own was extremely terrifying the following year. I was going backwards in life. Having individual responsibilities such as bills, food, going out to learn who you are in your new life is all going to feel daunting. These things are all expensive, but every penny is worth it. I lived off of $100 a week for months, and while it was tiresome, nobody was in my space making me wonder if I was loved or not. Finances were tight, but my best friend was supportive, and that’s all that I needed.

Once you learn who you are, you find the best part of your life. If I had taken the time to do this soul searching earlier, I could have avoided all the pain I felt during my marriage and relationship for so many years. I questioned every group outing with his friends because I was fearful of what encounter I would face. I began to wonder if the person on the other end making me look/feel bad is going to attempt to take my husband and stability away from me. Many times I ran into other women being disrespectful of my marriage. You know who you are, all of you. Shame on you… but I guess I also owe you the biggest thank you in my life. You gave me my freedom back. You gave me the key to happiness. So even though you’re sucky people, thanks. 

Post-divorce or separation you learn some of the biggest lessons in your life. You may have made the decision that you deserve better. If so, you are on a roll! No one will stick up for you the way you will stick up for yourself. Speak out when you are feeling certain ways, tell yourself and people around you that you are better than this.. even if it’s hard to quite believe at the moment. You will eventually be ok!

People ask, what comes next? Learning how to love yourself and date again. Dating, the most daunting of tasks you have to embark on. You’ve been in a committed relationship for many years, and you didn’t have to worry about things like shaving your legs or someone judging you, or being home alone. You were comfortable with these things and so was your significant other.

Whereas, dating is just plain hard! You have to just pick someone and decide whether or not you two are compatible. It’s definitely the most awkward thing ever. It shouldn’t seem so foreign since that is how you got your husband in the first place, but it becomes a completely foreign concept. You will find yourself spending hours having sometimes what’s considered a pointless conversations with this date over Mexican food to find out this might not be what you were looking for. Or you find a pretty decent guy who ends up selling pot out of your kitchen, forms sentences that he thinks sounds smart but don’t make sense, and is high 99% of his awake time. Dating is plain ugly! It’s not always sweet and romantic, it’s awkward, lots of times uncomfortable, but sometimes it can be gratifying.

When you find the person that you decide to date, good for you.. they’re not paying your bills, so who cares?

Dating someone post-divorce is hard. You constantly have doubts, question every decision you make, and even if you don’t want to admit it… it’s always on your mind that he or she may betray you like you’ve been betrayed before. You’re not alone though. What you can’t do is act upon it. Learning to trust your judgement and your new partner is a scary process. Scarier than you’ll ever let them know, and I think that’s a little normal. Just don’t allow your insecurities to project on your new partner. He’s not your ex (for a reason). ALLOW YOURSELF TO BELIEVE YOU DESERVE TO BE LOVED.

In terms of losing friends.. you need to be prepared for that. People will pick sides, talking about what you’re doing to your ex, rumors as if there weren’t some there to begin with and much more. You will end up losing more friends than you thought you would. It will hurt, but if they don’t want to stick around, it’s their loss. This part of life is inevitable, unfortunately. Go through your friends list and cut ties with anyone you question. People will not like it, but this is your new life.. YOU have control.

Want to know the TRUTH about starting over after divorce in your 20’s? You need to look past the pity and pointed fingers. Know you WILL get through this, be grateful that you got a second chance to live your life the way you want to. Even though it isn’t what you planned, be a little thankful that at least you got to cut ties with the toxic people that faked liking you the whole time. They were really awful anyways. Find a healthy way to vent it out, and put one foot in front of the other and start taking steps. You’re not the first or last person to go through this. Your heart will mend, and I promise you will be okay!

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Shhh.

WHY DO WE FIND IT SO HARD TO TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH?

Hello,

There’s a question I ask myself nearly every day and there are so many ways in which it could actually be answered …

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Why do we find it so hard to talk about Mental Health, when 1 in 4 people will be affected at some point in their life and around 450 million currently suffering?

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I know when I was in school/college, mental health was not something that was discussed openly, which is one of the reasons I didn’t tell anyone sooner.  I was young so I didn’t really understand what mental health was. I didn’t know the thoughts and feelings that I was having/experiencing would turn out being a mental health diagnosis.

So why don’t we speak out?

Lack of Help

We all know that when there is physically something wrong with someone when they are the priority and in most ways, I can see why patients who suffer from a mental health illness should not get neglected due to this and unfortunately some do. 

There are people who are meant to be there specifically to help, like doctors for example, but I don’t have the best experience with doctors and my mental health after I turned 18 but that post is yet to come! I don’t believe we have enough help and support being offered for Mental Health nowadays.

My family has always been supportive, since the day I finally spoke openly about it. Although they’re not specifically trained or the most knowledgeable in the subject (unless you have a mental health professional in your family), so the main thing family can offer is support, which believe me is much appreciated! 

Lack of Understanding

I don’t believe that anyone really understands mental health, there are so many ways it can affect different people.

No two people suffer the same!

 You can always try to understand by listening, but I think unless you’re educated in the field or have experienced a mental health illness in one way or the other you may struggle to understand & that’s more than okay because if you lend your ear and take the time to listen it will be appreciated that you dedicated your time.

This is what I believe health care professionals are missing. They may have the medical knowledge of Mental Health but they don’t care about you, as they would their own family or friends.

People suffering are also some of those included when talking about ‘understanding’ mental health. I didn’t have a clue when it first started happening, even to this day, after battling my mental health for around 10 or more years, I still struggle to explain what I’m feeling, how it happens and what it means. This is why we need further education on the subject.

Independence

 I don’t know if this one is as big of a reason as the rest, but I believe this is something that I felt when I had just started experiencing my mental health symptoms. 

You know when you’re young and you think you don’t need anything or anyone? You think you’re finally becoming confident & mature on your own? … but then your body takes a different route.

That’s what happened to me and probably many other people, it doesn’t even have to happen when you’re young. No matter what your age, you want to be independent and conquer things on your own but sometimes this isn’t the best way.

There is no shame in needing help! If you take anything from this post, please, if you’re suffering in silence, ask for help.

It took me 8 years to finally talk to someone about what was happening because I thought I could deal with it by myself but I was so wrong!

Embarrassment/Fear

I think these two fit perfectly under the same umbrella here because they’re both fairly similar. My mental health is pretty much an open book nowadays but in the past, I have been so embarrassed by it, especially my self-harm scars but that is something I have learned to love. I call them my war wounds, as I continue to fight it and stay strong.

No one knows exactly how someone will react to anything so it can be really scary talking about it for the first time … & many times after actually.

You may be scared what people think and whether they will treat you differently – Most people have been supportive of me throughout this part of my life but I’ve also had a select few people who have decided they ‘didn’t want to continue being my friend, until I had gotten over it’ safe to say that I cut them out of my life! 

Make sure to put your health first and stay strong!

Stay Weird …

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She’s not a bitch, she’s just real

She’s not all antisocial. She’s not lying alone in her beds, staring at her phone and waiting for someone to call and make plans, to invite her to do things.

She’s not blowing you off because she has something better planned.

The truth is she likes being alone. She appreciates good company of course, but that’s not the only thing that she looks forward to. Just because she sometimes looks and acts like she doesn’t know how to talk to people, how to interact, how to make friendships or relationships stick, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want a person, or people around her.

It’s the exact opposite.

There is so much more to a girl who likes her own space than she will ever lead on.

Because she has hobbies that she doesn’t need a companion for. She knows what she wants to do, she knows what makes her happy.

And trust me, she really isn’t willing to put her wants and needs on hold because someone doesn’t support them or understand them.

Because she has been there before.

She used to be a social butterfly, out every night, making tons of plans with every person she ever knew.

Until she finally saw that not everyone in her life needed to be her friend. Not every guy she dated had something to offer and not every BFF saw her and liked her for the things that she wanted to do for herself.

She’s very down to earth, and when everyone she knows is out, hanging out, doing the same things they would do by themselves with friends, she smiles.

Because she knows that she needs to take care of herself. Mind, body and spirit.

And she doesn’t believe that interaction is something that should never be turned of.

She has time to think, to listen, to observe, to wonder, to dream.

She might even be the smartest girl you will ever meet.

And the most loyal.

Because when she does makes connections, she does everything in her power to keep them, whatever it takes, she’s always down to make something work. Be it a friendship or relationship.

It’s not that she’s closed of, that she isn’t fun, it’s just that she’s too smart and seen too much to make time for anyone who doesn’t make time for her.

So the next time that you met a girl like this and think to yourself, she must be really lonely, remember that she has done this by choice, not by force.

And for that, she’s stronger than most anyone you will ever have the pleasure of knowing.

I’m the best damn *enter expletive/word of your choice here* you will ever meet!

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

For years I’ve written, and people would ask me, over and over, WHY don’t I share my work?

You see, when I was between the ages of 13-18 in the middle of being bullied by people, I began to believe them.  I would write in a journal, which soon became a secret blog.  I have kept my past as my “past,” until recently; I was victimized once again, but as an adult this time. I felt helpless, hopeless, and enraged. Yet, we still don’t tend to talk at length as adults about a very common problem.

Bullying

Kids get bullied; the “weak” get bullied.  Adults presumably are neither targeted nor affected by bullies.  However, the reverse is true.  Adult bullies, whether in work or within social situations, will target very specific individuals.

For those bullied by their so called, “friends” there is no Human Resources department to whom you can turn to.

Social exclusion and isolation are very powerful weapons in a bullies court.  They will wield these brilliantly once a target has been identified and enablers are present.  Enablers are NOT bullies themselves, but sheep who will turn a blind eye through silence or fear of their own social exclusion.

This is where phone calls/texts don’t get returned. Group activities get arranged without your invitation.  During the times when the rest of the group meets, you are belittled, branded delusional and laughed at.  You can challenge it, you can complain about it, but it’s ultimately pointless.  As wrong and as devastating as this sort of behavior is by the BULLY or the SHEEP, there is nothing you can do but withdraw.


So today, I decided to talk about being bullied.  I thought you bullies have a lot to call me, well, I’m the best damn *enter expletive/word of your choice here* you will ever meet!

The thing is, I’m not a what you bullies portray me to be.  I never was.

I am just Nida.

I am someone who WAS a victim, and someone who found the strength to fight back. I am someone who believed that I was worthless and fought hard to realize that I wasn’t.

So now it’s time for a change.  Change is scary.  Change is good.  I want to share more of myself than just my bullying stories.  I AM more than my bullying stories.

I’m a good writer.  I like music.  I love concerts.  I like fashion.  I’m a wife.  I’m a sister.  I’m a daughter.  I like making friends and I really like helping others to know that they are pretty terrific, too.

So, I have decided, I am no longer allowing bullies to control my life.

I am just Nida.

And that is pretty perfect for me.

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