As many of you know my beloved French bulldog Charlie passed away a couple of weeks ago at the age of nine. It’s been a tough year for me.

During the quarantine, I spent a lot of time in my apartment in Manhattan, which never quite felt like home because I had to make a very quick decision to move there when my ex suddenly ended our relationship and told me to move out of what was originally his apartment.

Now that the weather has gotten nicer, I have found it very important to be outside. Flowers, nature and fresh air are good for your mind and body – as are exercise and meditation. There are so many parks in New York City of which to take advantage, but I’m also finding it very important to be outside of Manhattan. I love the city and I always will, but I also really enjoy fresh air and open green spaces.

A week before Charlie died he got to see all of the people in his life who are most important to him.

We went for a visit with my best friend and her family, and then we went to see my family. I keep wondering if that was God’s way of giving Charlie some closure.

For the most part, he had a great time during his last week. He played outside, he got belly rubs, he ate great food. I hadn’t seen my family in months due to the pandemic. My nephew was born during this period and my niece who means so much to me and I hadn’t seen each other in three months. It was a great few days but then Charlie died in his sleep.

Even though he had health problems for most of his life, the end was very sudden and anti-climactic. It was a shock to me and everyone else.

Right after Charlie passed away, I left NYC for the burbs to stay with close friends who are truly family. I did not want to be alone, and I needed support. New York City is not necessarily the most calming place to be right now. I spent the week there and cooked for this extended family who have a newborn baby and a number of dogs. It was exactly what I needed to cope with the sudden loss of my dog.

We laughed. We ate. We cried. I ate an entire cake by myself. Then we repeated all of these several times. They all loved my dog too. These people are the epitome of selflessness. They took me into their home, took care of me all week long and treated me as if I was one of their family members. I am eternally grateful to them.

I returned to the city and spent a few days alone to catch up on work, but I found it pretty isolating to be in my apartment, especially because I missed my dog.

Not sure if Olivia likes aunt Stef

Two of my very close friends, Jill and Chris, recently moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut, and invited me to spend the weekend out there with them as they set up their new home. We cooked, we drank rosé, we listened to music while sitting by the pool. We even picked our own lettuce from their herb garden. I helped  them unpack and organize their home. It was exactly what I needed.

Me picking kale from Jill’s herb garden. Who am I lol?

I’ve come to appreciate the simple things in life so much more than I ever did since the pandemic and losing so much last year.

I’ve also come to appreciate the people who stand by me and love me in spite of my quirks and faults. I hope you can also embrace those people in your own life, forgive more and cut people slack.

Take the time to do things that make you happy and bring you joy, for me it’s cooking and entertaining (while being socially distant) and making people laugh. I will always have a dog (or two).

I also realized that I don’t need a lot of friends, I just need a close-knit trustworthy group of them. I cut out a number of people in my life who I felt were opportunistic and fair weather friends. I now have an incredibly supportive social circle.

My ex started dating someone from our friend circle very soon after he falsely accused me of doing something and left me. It was hurtful and inappropriate. I have cut out of my life anyone who supports their relationship or who knew about their flirtation. To me it’s very black and white, if you’re friends with them you’re not friends with me. I never clicked with her – I thought she was superficial, self-absorbed, boring and opportunistic. In many ways they are the perfect match.

It’s never been more important to find the little things in life that bring you joy as well as the people who have your back, and love and support you unconditionally. Find people who truly understand you and let you be yourself.

Time really does heal everything. It’s almost a year to the day that my ex left me. It was the biggest blessing in disguise. He freed me from a relationship that was unhealthy, controlling, emotionally draining and unfulfilling.

Always set healthy boundaries for yourself. Always be able to be yourself around your friends and significant other. It’s okay to take time for yourself. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to put your needs first. It’s not okay to be walking on eggshells in a friendship or relationship or to be criticized by your loved ones. Sending you all much love.

Note: I do have a little bit of happy news to share. I am getting another dog. While no one will ever replace Charlie, I have decided to get another French bulldog. Meet Lucille (Lucy) who is named after my late mom who passed away from multiple myeloma a few years ago.

Meet Lucille (Lucy) named after my late mom