Thursday, August 17, 2017

My 7 Necessary Self-Care Tricks for Busy Work Weeks


In a work meeting on Monday, one of my coworkers gave a short shpiel thanking all of us for the work we had already done this week & were preparing to do in the days to come. You see, I work for a Jewish organization, & in the wake of a rally full of literal Nazis, we had a lot of work to do: statements to right, membership to check in, campaigns to get off the ground, content to prepare & share... we knew we had a long, full week ahead of us.

As my coworker spoke, she reminded us all to take care of ourselves personally while we were working so hard professionally. I chimed in with something to the effect of, "Self-care is important during tough times!" She rolled her eyes & responded, "No, it's not self-care, you millennials. Just do what you need to do to take care of yourself." OK, well, that's what I meant. Isn't that what self-care means?

I think self-care is important, & maybe it is a millennial obsession, but since when is focusing on our mental & emotional well-being a bad thing? Perhaps the generations before us don't focus on self-care enough!

Look, this week has been really hard. It's been a lot of work, & only a little bit of sleep, because when I'm anxious or busy, I don't sleep very well. It's emotionally grueling, too, to keep up with the news cycle when the news cycle is all about racism & anti-Semitism & hatred & bigotry & the list goes on.

Here's how I deal during difficult weeks:
  1. Keep easy food on hand. I don't really cook - like, at all. When I'm busy, I make even less effort, which usually results in ordering takeout or buying chips from the bodega down the street & subsequently feeling like utter shit. This week, wary of falling into that old trap, I ran to Target & bought frozen veggie burritos & a few Lean Cuisine pizzas. Are they the healthiest? No, but they're way better than ordering Domino's or binging a bag full of Cheez-Its - & they're just as mindless, so I don't have to put in much effort.
        
  2. Sneak naps on my lunch breaks: I don't usually take lunch breaks, actually, but on busy weeks, they're a must - & when I've streamlined a meal plan like that, I need less time for lunch, which means lunch breaks become nap breaks. Sometimes even 15 minutes of shut-eye can calm me down & rejuvenate me so I feel ready to get back to work. Perk of working from home!
        
  3. Don't underestimate the power of a shower. During particularly busy work weeks, I tend to work through times that should include taking a shower & sprucing myself up & becoming a real person. When I do finally take a moment to clean up, the result is almost always a complete 180. Even if it's temporary, it's important. Again: perks of working from home, I guess, though, is it a perk to not have to prioritize personal hygiene?
       
  4. Find a mindless TV show to binge while I work: I love to keep the TV on (or more specifically, my iPad), while I work, but I can only work through really brainless shows. I just finished the first season of the CW's Riverdale, a sinister take on the Archie comics, & now I'm back to watching season three of The O.C. Oh, & amidst it all, my guilty pleasure Bachelor in Paradise started, so maybe it's my lucky week, after all!
     
  5. Read a book: During weeks like this, I end of working well beyond standard office hours. Still, I try to take time for myself where I can, even if that just means reading a book during bathroom breaks or for a whopping five minutes before bed. Right now, I'm reading Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, a book of short stories that isn't necessarily light-hearted, but it is incredible, & it feels incredibly appropriate for the times, too. It's nice to get lost in something that's not work.
     
  6. Seek out support: This might seem like a no-brainer, but I think that I, at least, tend to forget about it or downplay how much it matters, especially when I'm feeling overwhelmed. I tend to think I ought to deal with it by myself - but why? That's what friends, family, & fiancés are for. When someone asks how I'm doing, I am honest without being a whiner or a downer, which opens the line of communication to talk a little bit about where I'm at & get a little bit of support.
      
  7. Know my limits: I've said no to a few things this week. I said I couldn't take on an additional project request from a colleague; I told Mike I needed to go to bed early instead of doing date night. I haven't bailed on everything, but during weeks like this, I try to pay attention when I'm feeling overextended, recognizing that time is a precious resource when things feel hectic. 
The world's a scary place right now, you guys. Take care of yourself. And tell me: How's your week going? How do you get through particularly busy weeks?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How the Charlottesville March Reminded Me of My Favorite Havdalah Service


“A good week, a week of peace. May gladness reign and joy increase…”

These are the words Reform Jews sing during Havdalah, the ceremony observed Saturday evening at sundown to mark the end of Shabbat. We gather together to sing and to pray, passing around a snifter of fragrant spices to soothe the soul as we say goodbye to Shabbat, the day of rest, and welcome a new week.

Joining in Havdalah services at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., made for some of the most powerful and profound moments of my Jewish experience. On Friday evening, as I watched videos of neo-Nazis wielding torches and chanting slurs at the Jefferson memorial in Charlottesville, I am struck by some of the parallels – and the vast differences those parallels present.

Read the rest of this piece on ReformJudaism.org.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Northeast Ohio Rocks: The Most Joyful Local Trend

We all know Cleveland rocks, but have you heard of Northeast Ohio Rocks? Apparently this is a trend that started in other cities, but the Northeast Ohio group was established in the summer of 2016 by a local woman named Nancy Powell. It's such a joyful, fun endeavor that I can't help but love it!

The gist is just that people... paint rocks & then hide them around the state. Simple & weird, right? But it's so cute. The painted rocks include a note on the back or bottom about the Facebook group, usually accompanied by a hashtag referencing the rock's creator. When you find a rock, you're supposed to post a photo of it in the Facebook group, using the hashtag so its original painter can easily follow its journey.

This activity is obviously great for families with young children, who paint rocks with their kiddos & take a few with them on family outings so they can both look for them & hide them. I don't have kids, but even as a childless adult, I'm having a lot of fun with Northeast Ohio Rocks, staying alert while I'm out & about as I look for my next find.

One day, as I was walking to my favorite coffee shop, I struck up a conversation with a little girl who lives a few doors down & is always rising her scooter around the neighborhood. "Have you found any painted rocks yet?" she asked me; she was upset that she hadn't found any yet. The next time I hid one, I made sure it was close enough to her house that she'd spot it - & she did! There's pretty much nothing as joy-affirming as seeing a little kid so darn happy.

So far, I've found three rocks: The first one was in the little garden area around a tree outside my favorite coffee shop; the second one was in a part next to my house; the third was atop the mailbox on a nearby street corner, & I found it was I dropped a package in the mail. I haven't painted any rocks myself, but every time I'm out & about in my neighborhood, I keep my eyes peeled for the next painted gem!

Have you found any rocks yet? If you live outside the NEO area, is there anything like this happening where you live?



Monday, August 7, 2017

7 Wedding Traditions I Just Don't Care About (& a Giveaway!)



Let's talk a little bit more about weddings!

First things first: If you're local & planning your upcoming wedding, you definitely want to check out Handpicked, A Bridal Event, an intimate, cocktail party-style bridal fair on Tuesday, August 15th at HiHo Brewery in Cuyahoga Falls. My mom & I will be there... & I have two tickets to give away, too! To be entered win, just leave a comment here saying you'd like to attend (be sure to include your email address in the appropriate field), & I'll contact the winner this Friday.

OK. Now let's talk a little bit more about weddings.

Weddings are absolutely mired in tradition, both of the longtime variety & of the "This is a brand-new trend, but we're going to act like it's been happening forever!" sort. I recently finished the book A Practical Wedding, which reassures brides- & grooms-to-be that we need not follow the so-called rules when planning our own big day. This isn't to criticize anyone who does do these or love them; I'm sure you don't care about a few of the things I do. I think it's interesting to see what does & doesn't resonate with individual people.

With all that in mind, I wanted to confess a few wedding traditions that I just don't give a damn about - & luckily, Mike feels the same!
  1. Cake: My mom insists we've got to have some sort of dessert at our wedding, but... why? Neither of us even likes cake, for the most part, or desserts in general. We looked into the idea of serving doughnuts from local biz Brewnuts, but the cost was a thousand dollars for 200 doughnuts, so that was an immediate no-go. We may still come up with a dessert idea, but if we don't? Oh, well, I say!
      
  2. Sitting on "sides": The idea of a bride's side & a groom's side during the wedding ceremony has always seemed like a bit of a foreign concept to me. I feel like most Jews don't do this at their weddings, & lately I've been to primarily Jewish weddings, so I haven't seen much of it. Why not just sit wherever? We're all there to celebrate the same love!
      
  3. A bridal party table: I've never liked the idea of the bridal party sitting at a head table, which inevitably means that bridesmaids & groomsmen have to sit away from their dates all evening. I want our wedding to be fun for everyone in attendance, & that means not abandoning their husbands, wives, & dates through the whole of dinner. [Edited to add: After posting this, I learned that Mike & I are not in agreement on this one. Whooooops. Looks like we may have a bridal party table after all!
      
  4. Chair covers: This is one that I don't entirely understand. I've never been to a wedding & thought, "Everything would be so much nicer if only these chairs were decorated!" I literally can't remember a single wedding where I've ever made note of the chairs at all, actually. So why spend money to cover them?
      
  5. Garter & bouquet toss: Again, these are traditions I haven't seen much of at Jewish weddings, & they've always seemed a bit old-fashioned to me. Someone is always made to be super uncomfortable (usually whomever ends up having to wear the garter), & it's all just too heternormative & awkward for me.
      
  6. A big exit: I've seen some cool wedding exits, like when my cousin & his wife paddled away in a canoe behind a stream of sparklers. Still, this isn't a tradition that matters much to me, & since we're having our ceremony & our reception in the same place, we won't need to do an in-between exit, either, the kind with bubbles or rice or butterflies or whatever. All the easier, I say!
      
  7. Honeymooning right away: It's stressful enough to plan a wedding; I don't want to have to plan my honeymoon at the same time! Mike & I are planning to do a quick winter getaway after the wedding itself, but we won't go on our "real" honeymoon until spring, when we've had plenty of time to plan, save, & relax after the big day - especially because my biennial work conference is less than a month after our wedding day! 
There are, of course, plenty of wedding traditions I do care about & am enjoying planning for. Check out my last wedding update (from June), a little bit about why I'm changing my last name, & a few Jewish traditions we're including in our wedding. With our wedding just about three months away, I'm looking forward to seeing what sort of almost-last-minute inspiration Handpicked, A Bridal Event provides me - & I hope you'll love it, too!

If you're already married, planning a wedding, or just considering your future options, tell me: What wedding-day traditions (or "traditions") do you just not care about?

Thanks to Handpicked, A Bridal Event for offering me two tickets for myself & two tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are my own! 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Return of Bear Bear: How My Instagram Pic Reunited a Kid with Her Stuffed BFF



I am 33 years old (as of yesterday!), & I still sleep with a teddy bear every night. His name is Jolly, & I've had him since I was 3 years old. You can see him in the photo above, sitting on my bed.

I don't sleep with Jolly because I need to - I can sleep just fine without him - but I prefer to. Just as some people hold onto a pillow at night, Jolly is the perfect size for me to clutch as I fall asleep. Plus, he's cute. When I was a kid, I called him my brother. (Any other only nerdy children out there? Holler.)

When I was a kid, my mom & I traveled to Disney World... & I accidentally left Jolly in our hotel room. I will never forget the devastation I felt when I realized I'd forgotten him, confined him to some dusty lost-and-found room until he was inevitably thrown out like trash; I sobbed for days. Conversely, I will also never forget the joy I felt, a week later, when Jolly arrived by mail, sent home by some kind member of the hotel's housekeeping staff.

About a week ago, I was on a walk around my neighborhood when I spotted a small, stuffed bear wearing a tutu, wedged into a chain-link fence so that it was propped upright like a tiny, welcoming ambassador. I snapped of a photo of it & posted it to Instagram, just a cute little find to share with the world:


A couple hours later, I got an Instagram DM from Emma, who lives on my street & is a barista at my favorite coffee shop. "Someone is looking for this bear!!!" she wrote, accompanied by a screencap of a post in our neighborhood watch Facebook group.

Whaaaat?!

I had inadvertently located a lost Bear Bear, some kid's beloved stuffed friend! Another resident had already posted a link to my Instagram photo in response to this parent's plea, but I followed up with the location of said stuffed friend (which I got by checking out the photo's metadata - thanks, Apple, for being both creepy & helpful). I crossed my fingers that Bear Bear was still there & waited to see if the original poster would respond with an update.

When I checked back the next day, Bear Bear had been retrieved, & its owner posted to the group with a note & a photo: Thank you so much Kate and everyone for your help. We have bear bear safely home! ❤️"


I wish you could see how adorable & happy this little kiddo looks, but far be it from me to be the jerk who shares a photo of somebody else's kid on my blog. Still, this should give you a bit of a feel for how freaking cute their reunion was. A day or so later, the original poster left a comment on my original Instagram photo, too: 
thank you so much for posting this!! This bear was given to my daughter on the day she was born and I was just sick when we thought it was gone forever. To tack on to your post- so maybe the bear was there as a friendly ambassador, but also as a sign that even in a place with a reputation for crime and misfortune, there are still good neighbors and great things happening all the time :)
I just can't express how happy it makes me to have been able to facilitate this reunion. May Bear Bear live a long & happy bear-life with this happy munchkin. Jolly & I wish you lots of joy together! 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Times When Money Can, Actually, Buy Happiness



A new study finds that money can indeed buy happiness - if you use it to save time. And a new study in my own life shows that this is indeed true, especially if I'm spending money to save myself the time & hassle of cleaning my home, something I haaaaate doing & am notably not-great at.

In my birthday wishlist post, I mentioned that I bought myself the gift of hiring someone to come clean my apartment. Mike suggested it, actually, & I was all in. Sure, we only moved in two months ago, but hardwood floors get dusty very fast, & our cats shed a lot, & our bedroom has carpet, &, well, cleaning is just not our strongest suit. Our home wasn't dirty, by any means, but it definitely needed some work... which neither of us felt fully equipped to do.

"Let's book it as soon as possible," he said. So we did.

I made an appointment online with Cardinal Maids, which I'd called once in the past but never actually used. There's a longer story there, one I couldn't share on the blog at the time: Basically, my then-landlord screamed at me & made me cry in front of the cleaning lady, & the cleaning lady gave me a big hug & a coupon for a future service before leaving (without cleaning my place, which is part of the long story). In short, it was a really bad day, & her kindness went a a long, long way - so when it came time to book a housekeeping service, I knew I wanted to go back to that company.

It was really easy to book online, & they have straightforward pricing that made clear exactly how much I'd be paying & for what. I also found a $30-off Groupon, which brought down the cost a little - though I knew it would absolutely be worth the full price.

The morning of my appointment, two cleaning ladies arrived a little bit before their scheduled time of 10:30am. They even called me to tell me when they were on their way! I was afraid it might be awkward that I'd be there the whole time, working from home, but they told me they'd clean my office last so that I could work throughout their cleaning. I put on a headset to take my morning call, & I mostly couldn't hear the vacuuming at all.

The whole thing only took about an hour because we didn't have them clean our guest room (which is still filled with unpacked boxes), & they didn't have to do much in the office (which isn't really set up, aside from two desks). They dusted, swept & mopped the floor, scrubbed the sinks & shower & toilet, & even took out the trash.

When they were done, I stood in my living room & basically just twirled around like a princess in love with her castle. Everything was so freaking sparkly-clean. There were no tumbleweeds of cat fur blowing in the ceiling-fanned breeze, no jam-like residue tracked in from the mulberry tree in our front yard, no slivers of carrots & onions on the kitchen floor that sometimes escape Mike's cooking creations. It was like our home was a hotel.

Truly, I can't explain how happy I was to stand barefoot on a freshly vacuumed rug, sunlight streaming through the windows, & take in this spotless apartment. Sure, it was an added expense - but if we have to cut back on a night out or a few frivolous purchases here & there to work it into our budget, so be it. What's extra income for, if not to make your life easier every now & again?

This is an expense I'm happy to pony up for. Because that kind of happiness? Well, it turns out you can buy it, after all.

Have you ever hired someone to clean your home? What's your favorite time-saving "money can buy happiness" indulgence, when you can afford it?

Note: This is not a sponsored post, & I paid full price (aside from my Groupon) for my service with Cardinal Maids. I just liked them so much that I wanted to raise them up! 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What I Read in July


Hello, hello, hello, & happy August! My 33rd birthday is in three days, & yet I spent most of July reading books written for seventh graders. I have no regrets. I read three books in one series (& am halfway through the fourth), but I managed to fit in three other books, too.

Know what I didn't read? Any of the three books I ordered from Book of the Month Club last month. Oops! I try to read one of them a month, but I have a bit of a backlog right now - which is fine, because it means I've always got something good in the queue. Today is BoTM's reveal day, so check it out if you're interested in getting new reads before they hit the shelves. My referral code will get you three months for just $30, plus a cute tote.

And now, onto the reviews!

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

This was a Book of the Month Club pick that I wasn't sure about. It's got a funky, bright cover, sure, but I feel like essay memoirs by hipster millennials are all the rage lately (saysas someone who wants to eventually write her own), & I just wasn't sure I wanted to bother. I'm glad I did because Koul, the daughter of Indian immigrants who's now a culture writer for BuzzFeed, has a funny, relatable voice & a lot of great stories. ★★★★★

The Gone Series (Book 1-3) by Michael Grant

I bought Gone, a dystopian YA novel, cheap from Loganberry Books - & immediately set to work tearing through it. The premise is that one day, everyone in town aged 15+ simply disappears - poof, gone. The result is a community full of youth in a beach town with a nuclear power plant at its center. The kids start gaining strange powers, the animals start mutating, & nobody knows what to freaking do. As soon as I finished Gone, I started on Hunger, which was even weirder than the first: talking coyotes, an abstract villain called The Darkness, a kind with a whip for a hand. And yet, I just could. not. stop, which led me to the third book, Lies. It was just as weird, & I loved it just as much. Must keep reading. ★★★★☆

A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration by Meg Keene

Keene is the chill-bride mastermind behind the website of the same name, APracticalWedding.com, & boy, was this book ever a reassuring lifesaver of a read. It's all about the many options for throwing a wedding, including some I'd never thought of, & more importantly, it gives you permission to ignore everyone's expectations. There's lots of great - & practical - advice in here for a wedding that doesn't bankrupt you, turn you into bridezilla, or make you lose your ever-loving mind. ★★★★


True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray by James Renner

As a true crime addict myself, I knew I wanted to get my hands on this non-fiction book, but what I didn't realize what that the author is from the Akron area. The book opens at a bar in Kent & mentions spots in my hometown. So weird! Renner investigates the disappearance of Maura Murray, a 21-year old nursing student who went missing in 2004 after crashing her car in a remote part of New Hampshire. Simultaneously, he tells of himself & his own life, including a lifetime of true crime obsession & how it affected his relationships, his family, & his mental health. ★★★★☆

Comment to tell me what you're reading, then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch & see what I've read in months past.

My "What I Read in..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but if you do, it will help me buy more books.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A 33rd Birthday Wishlist


I make a birthday wishlist every year, not because I expect anyone to buy me gifts but because I think the older we get, the less we think about frivolous items we want, replaced instead by practical items we want, or even items we need - stuff we wish we didn't have to pay for ourselves, purchases we're putting off but know we'll eventually buy.

Once a year, at least, it's fun to think about items I just plain want, not stuff I need. On this year's list:
  • Tie-Waist Jumpsuit from Old Navy:  I look dumb in rompers but loved their long-legged cousin, the jumpsuit. I already own two casual, black-&-white printed jumpsuits from Old Navy, but if I'm being honest, both are a little snug around the midsection right now. I'd love a well-fitted one, & this all-black beauty is just the ticket. ($34)
       
  • FabFitFun subscription: I've got one box left on my existing year-long subscription to this, the mother of all subscription boxes, & I'd love to continue getting it after that. Alas, I've sworn off subscription boxes in the lead-up to our wedding, so I haven't renewed my subscription. How will I get my quarterly trinket fix without it?! ($179.99)
       
  • Red Fan Earrings from Gudbling: Do I need more statement earrings? Probably not. Do I want more? Always & forever, yes. I've long had my eye on this edgy homemade pair, which is way more colorful than my standard style - but unfortunately more expensive, too. ($47.45)
       
  • Sherpa Bedrest from Target: Lately I've being doing a lot of reading in bed, which is wonderful & cozy except my pillows aren't sturdy enough to keep me comfortable. This backrest pillow is part of Target's college line, surely designed for 18-year-old dorm life, but I still want it for my 33-year-old self. ($13.49)
       
  • Ceramic Cactus Fragrance Diffuser: What cuter way to send soothing essential oil blends into the apartment air than with this adorably disguised cactus diffuser? I don't actually, um, use essential oils, but maybe I would if I owned this. That's how that works, right? ($20.99)
       
  • Oy Fucking Vey Bracelet from The Curated Gift Shop: This Etsy shop sells bracelets with nearly every engraving possible ("I KNOW GUAC IS EXTRA"), but as a good little Yid, this one is the most applicable to my life. You don't want to know how many times a day I say/think this sassy Jewish phrase. ($28)
       
  • Prints from Madame Talbot: I first discovered this macabre print-maker while visiting the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, & Mike & I quickly fell in love with her spooky Gothic/Victorian style. She has so many prints that I don't know which I like best, though as our wedding day approaches, I'm partial to the creepy "'Til Death to Us Part" option.
        
  • A vacuum cleaner: This item isn't linked to any specific brand or type because what the hell do I know about vacuum cleaners? I have a Dirt Devil that does the basics, but with a bigger place & a carpeted bedroom, I'd like a real vacuum - I just don't want to do the research to find one. And fine, this is probably closer to an adult need than a frivolous birthday want. ($why are these so expensive)
       
  • Book of the Month Club subscription: Here's another existing subscription box that's about to wind down for me - & it's far & away my favorite. Each month, I choose one of five curated new-release options, & BoTM populates my home bookshelf with pretty hardcovers that I get to read before they hit stores. A book lover's dream! ($44.97)
Because I'm about to be 33 goddamn years old & no one buys you gifts when you're a freaking adult (except my best friend, Christina, who gave me an awesome gift over the weekend - thanks, Christina!), I went ahead & treated myself to a few of my wishlist items. They are:

  • Barrow Flats from MooreaSeal.com: I've never owned a pair of shoes I like as much as these or am complimented on as often, so naturally, I decided I needed ("needed") a second pair. Less than a week after my new charcoal pair arrived, I broke my tan pair... so I ended up treating myself to not one but two pairs of these shoes. Really, though - they're worth it.
      
  • Schwinn Hybrid Trailway Bike: Yes, I bought a bike from Target - but it's a reliable brand, & it was on sale! I'm a little afraid to ride it lest I die in a pothole, but I've started by riding it the five blocks to my favorite coffee shop. Luckily, remembering how to ride a bike is like, well, riding a bike.
          
  • A house-cleaning from Cardinal Maids: With a slew of positive online reviews, Cardinal Maids was the obvious choice when Mike & I decided to pay someone else to clean our place. I'm neat but hate cleaning, so this sounded like a great way to take off some of the pressure. They're coming tomorrow, & I've literally never been so excited about a clean home.
Whether or not your birthday is coming up, tell me: What's on your personal wishlist? Hey, Christmas & Hanukkah are only a few months away! 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

On Birthdays: Thankful for Today & Thinking about Forever


I turn 33 on Saturday, August 5th, a little more than a week away. I knew my birthday was coming, of course, but I just didn't realize how quickly, how soon. I kept thinking, "I'll make plans for my birthday. I've got time!" - & now, all of a sudden, time has just about run out. I'll be 33 next week.

I've been thinking, lately, about my last few birthdays, or at least the ones I remember. I can remember & differentiate as far back as 27, I think, but it's my thirties that have been on my mind.

I wasn't upset about turning 30. In fact, I was excited. I was excited that I'd made it, especially after a suicide-by-30 promise that I'd made to myself about a decade earlier. And I was excited to feel like an adult, to have my opinion heard & trusted more than I ever felt like it was in my twenties. The night before 30, I had a panic attack; I hardly slept, worrying about what I was doing with my life & what the next decade had in store for me. But then, the day came & went, & I was 30, & all was fine.

I turned 30 in D.C. just a few months before I decided to move back home. It was a slow, laid-back day; I went into the office that day but then headed home a little but early & missed my office party. I hosted a get-together with friends at a taco place I loved, & my boss showed up. It was his birthday, too, & everyone in attendance sang to both of us, then passed around 30 cupcakes, 10 apiece from the best bakeries in the city. I drank late into the night with a college friend who didn't mind heading into work hungover the next day.

I turned 31 just a month after moving to Cleveland, & it was a day that went by without much fanfare. Mike & I had been together just a few months, so we got a little fancy for the first birthday we'd ever celebrated together, making dinner reservations at Spice Kitchen + Bar in Lakewood. The meal was just OK, but what really stands out is the birthday gift Mike gave me: The complete boxed set of the Harry Potter series, the kind that comes in a Hogwarts trunk. It was accompanied by a two-page letter that I still cherish.

I turned 32 last summer, & my actual birthday was the hottest day of the year. I took of work to go feed giraffes at the Cleveland Zoo, but I bailed because it was just too hot. That night, Mike & I drove to Columbus & stayed in an AirBnB before heading to the Ohio State Fair (a.k.a. my favorite place in the world) very early in the morning. We spent the day eating fried foods & marveling over the Butter Cow & walking about 20k steps

I've just been thinking lately about... well, life, I guess. I've been thinking about how much life changes over the years, for all of us. We've gained new friends & lost old ones & gotten married & gotten divorced & had babies & moved across the country & gone to grad school & gotten new jobs & bought new houses & God-knows-what-else. At almost-33, I finally feel like... yeah, I'm an adult. I may not always be a good one, but I do, finally, feel like I supposed to be here, like I'm allowed to be here.

But I've been thinking, too, about how, at the same time, so many things feel the same as they ever have. Last night, I got together with my longtime best friend & soon-to-be maid of honor, Christina, who lives in Tennessee. We are vastly different people - than each other, than we used to be, everything. And yet, when we get together, we are exactly the same as we always have been: We laugh so hard it sometimes hurts, we reminisce, we tell stories, we find the stupidest things to be hilarious. We sat in her childhood bedroom working on a craft project for my upcoming wedding, wearing pajamas & watching Newsies & eating Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, her parents asleep downstairs as we laughed well into the night.

I thought getting older would be so scary. I thought getting older would be so scary that I once legitimately planned to die before I had to face it. Now? God, that seems laughable. Life is so good. Not always, of course, not every day, but overall, life is so fucking good. Things change & life moves forward & we become new, different - but somewhere in there, too, we're still just us. Older versions of the same people we've always been inside, finding ourselves & working it out & trying our damndest.

I am not afraid to be 33. I think of my friends who didn't make it here, of Dave & Elissa & Zach, & I am not afraid to turn 33 or 35 or 40 or 60 or 100. I am not afraid to grow old, to feel like an adult, to be someone's wife & mother & grandmother, to be a grown-ass woman who pays my bills & goes to bed early but still laughs until she cries with the same best friend she's had since she was 9 years old.

I feel lucky as hell to have today, to hope for tomorrow, & to dream of a whole, big, beautiful life, for however long I've got it. Happy almost-birthday to me - & here's to many more.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

8 of My Favorite Summer Treats


I don't have much of a sweet tooth; I'm more of a salty snacks kinda gal, truth be told, with little ability to resist the likes of flavored cashews, BBQ chips, or Chex Mix. In the summer, though, there are a few treats I just love - & even if I don't indulge in them very often, they're simply better consumed during the warm-weather months!

Here are a few of my faves. What are yours?
  1. Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Milkshake from Tremont Scoops
    I'm not a vegan or lactose intolerant or anything like that, but if all dairy-free foods tasted as good as this milkshake, I'd commit in a heartbeat. Truly, this shake is the best I've ever had - & you can even get it with vegan whipped cream on top.
      
  2. Sweetened Iced Coffee with Soy Milk from Civilization
    This is my everyday go-to, though I try to minimize the "sweetened" part. I go through about two of these a day in order to achieve my desired level of caffeination. I usually pay for my refill when I buy the first one!
      
  3. Arnold Palmer from anywhere that serves it
    For some reason, I can never remember the name of this drink, which is half lemonade & half iced tea; I've been known to ask for "a Tom Collins but without the booze" (because a Tom Collins is just a boozy version). Embarrassing... but so deliciously summery.
      
  4. DK Smoothie from Beviamo
    Sure, I could make this smoothie at home, but when a local joint makes it this well, why bother? It's made with just peanut butter, bananas, & vanilla protein powder, & I get a free smoothie after every 10 purchases... which I've reached more often than I care to admit.
      
  5. Dinosaur Plums from the West Side Market
    I'd never heard of dinosaur plums until a fruit vendor at WSM offered me a free sample - which is probably because they're just colloquially known as pluots, a plum/apricot combo. I don't love either plums or apricots on their own, but something this hybrid is incredibly tasty.
      
  6. Mango Lassis from Tandul
    As Ron Burgundy once said, "Milk [is] a bad choice" on a hot day, but when it comes to mango lassis, that's somehow just not true. This yogurt-based dairy drink is so cool & refreshing, & I'm fortunate to live very close to the best mango lassi-maker in town.
      
  7. Phat Beets Smoothie from Beet Jar
    I don't even really like beets, but somehow I'm loving them in smoothie form. This thick, healthy smoothie from Hingetown's healthiest joint is just the right amount of beetiness - not too earthy, but not too sweet from the other ingredients, either.
       
  8. Bubbles Rosé Ale from Cidergeist
    Is it fair to include booze in here? Hey, I'm doin' it. This pink-hued ale is made with apple, peach, & cranberry with a crisp taste that's not too tart or sweet - & is totally refreshing, especially when consumed on the front porch on a sunny day.
What are you indulging in this summer?
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