Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Few Things I'm Obsessing Over Right Now (Pt. VI)

I feel like I haven't done of these for awhile, but apparently the last one was just in September? Ah, well, I fall in love with something new every day, I suppose. Here's a list of the latest. 
  1. Reciprocitee Aromatherapy Minis: These first came in my Bloom Bloom Beautifully box (that brand I modeled for!), & I stocked up on a couple extras. At $5 apiece, they last a surprisingly long time, & I love that each of the scents comes with an intention, like "love," "refresh," or "calm."
  2. This Is Us: I resisted this new, Internet-beloved show because I tend to assume that anything starring Mandy Moore is going to be too emotional for me to withstand. But this show? Is incredible. As if the first episode weren't excellent enough, the twist at the end has me totally hooked.
  3. Weird Beard Candle Co. Peanut Butter Coffee Porter Soy Candle: This candle was created to replicate the scent of a popular beer from nearby Willoughby Brewing Co., & while I've never had the beer - dark beers aren't my jam - the candle smells the way I hope heaven does. Everybody's gettin' these for Christmas!
  4. Bomb That Bath Organic Lemon Sugar Scrub: This, too, first came in a Bloom Beautifully Box. This homemade sugar scrub smells so good, & not at all like Lysol, the way lemon-scented products sometimes do. It also comes in about a dozen other scents, & believe me, I plan to try 'em all.
  5. World Market Prayer Shawl Kimono: I scored this piece for just $10, & I've never received so many compliments on an article of clothing. It's perfect for Ohio's unpredictable fall weather, cute over tank tops & sweaters alike.
  6. Urban Decay 24/7 Liquid Liner: I've blogged about this before, namely when I panicked because I learned that it - my favorite & most relied upon beauty product - was being discontinued. Somehow, it's still available, & so I stocked up. Now, every time I use it, I thank my lucky stars that I've still got it... for now.
  7. Biore Deep Cleansing Charcoal Pore Strips: These first came in my WalMart Beauty Box (don't judge me), & while they're totally reminiscent of the early 2000s, they also work really well. I know it's strange, but I love that feeling when I finally rip it off my nose (don't judge me).
  8. GrubHub: I was so happy to find that GrubHub finally delivers in my neighborhood, though it doesn't include as many restaurants as I'd like. It does, however, deliver from my all-time favorite Indian place, Tandul, which means I'm all set for the winter.
  9. The Knot magazine: I never thought I'd say this, but when it comes to planning a wedding, the Internet is too much for me. I can't handle Pinterest, which is full of everything ever. Magazines keep it curated, narrowing it down for me so I can get inspired without also getting overwhelmed.
  10. Peach Honest Tea: The pizza shop a few doors down from me sells this delicious, organic, peach-flavored black tea. It's only 100 calories, so I don't feel too guilty about it, & it's so refreshing.
What are you into right now? Gimme some recommendations! 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Autumn is My Sad Season

"When autumn comes, it doesn't ask. It just walks in where it left you last..." -John Mayer, "Something's Missing"
I've been feeling a little sad lately. I haven't had a lot to write about, because who wants to read about me being inexplicably sad? But I try to be honest in this space, & I'm a big proponent of that therapist-beloved reassurance that "All feelings are valid!" so here's a short screed on random sadness.

Disclaimer: Nothing is wrong. My life is lovely, & I just got engaged to my best friend. But autumn always gets me down in ways I can't explain. Maybe it's the nostalgia, or maybe it's just the chill in the air, but the combination always knocks me out a little bit. Here are a few of the things getting me down:
  • I've been sleeping too much. Yes, this is the opposite of the problem I was having early this year, when I couldn't sleep at all. Now, it's not uncommon for me to sleep until 2pm on a weekend day, which is fine when you're 16, but not when you're 32. I am always exhausted, & I think I need to go back to my doctor & reassess.
  • Wedding planning is stressful. I've barely even done any wedding planning yet, & I'm already in the throes of despair about it. This shit is really hard. I've started reaching out to venues, but we haven't locked anything down yet, & I sort of feel like we never will. That's ridiculous, I know, but that's how stressed it has me.
  • I'm trying to get healthy. Recognizing that I've nearly re-reached my peak weight (ack), I've started to try to eat better - a salad a day, no bread during the week. It's going OK, but I'm always on high alert about what I'm eating, whether I'm "allowed" to be eating it, & how to do better while not giving up pizza forever. It's exhausting... with very slow results.
  • Election season is terrible. I'm going to the polls tomorrow to take advantage of Ohio's early voting opportunities, & as thrilled as I am to cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton, I'm also just... terrified. Even though I do, finally, believe Trump will lose, all this election season rhetoric has me in a constant state of nervousness, worried about the world & what's to come. The Washington Post confirms that I'm not alone.
  • I'm afraid no one likes me. Bear with me here. I know this isn't true, but it's my weird & perpetual number-one concern, this insistence in the back of my mind that everyone I know actually kind of hates me. It's always worse after a night of drinking, so today, I woke up with a feelings hangover, the false but persistent refrain that all my friendships are fake. This time, the New York Times confirms it.
  • I'm having some financial issues. When it rains, it pours, especially when it comes to money. Recently, my health insurance decided not to cover a bunch of standard tests, so the lab says I owe them $900ish. 1-800-CONTACTS insists that I owe them $107 from a past order that my credit card bill shows that I paid. I'm also planning a wedding & going to Peru next month, neither of which is cheap, & my wallet is feeling the pressure.
  • The Indians are going to the World Series. This one is actually great, & I'm really excited about it. But just like when the Cavs went to the playoffs, it means a week of nonstop socialization, drinking, & worry, all of which go hand in hand with my ever-present anxiety.
Like I said: Everything is fine, truly. Nothing is majorly wrong. I am OK. I know that. But all these low-level concerns mean that I'm constantly abuzz with some sort of nervousness, & that's, frankly, pretty exhausting (which might be why I'm sleeping so much).

I'm trying to take it easy & to remember my late friend Marcus's advice about worrying. I increased the dosage of my anxiety medicine & have been reading a lot during my free time to try to keep my mind calm; I even started journaling again, & I'm listening to a lot of John Mayer. But sometimes life just feels like a little bit too much, you know?

I hope fall's treating you well, friends. If you have any advice for kicking the unnecessary autumn blues, I'd love to hear it - & if you just want to tell me what's got you down, hey, I'd love to hear that, too. Keep on keepin' on..

Monday, October 17, 2016

It's a Love Story, Baby, Just Say Yes

It's taken me far too long to blog this, but it's been a whirlwind of a week & a half, & I needed some time to process. If you follow me on social media, though, you already know the news: Mike & I are engaged!

A week in advance, he told me he had a fancy surprise dinner planned for us on Saturday night. We often try to surprise the other by heading to a new restaurant or someplace else fun, so I didn't think much of this one - except that he told me I had to dress up for it. After trying on everything in my closet (& some from a friend's), I chose a floral-print maxi dress

The weather that day was gorgeous & I'd recently lamented our lack of decent selfies, so on our way to dinner, Mike suggested we stop at the script Cleveland sign in our neighborhood, which has a great view of downtown. It's a popular photo opp spot, so there's sometimes a line, but when we arrived, the only other person there was a photographer snapping skyline shots off to the side, so we moved toward the sign to take our selfie.

When we got to the sign, Mike pulled me close & began to talk about our life together, about starting the next chapter. Just as I realized what was happening, he dropped to one knee... & then I think I blacked out. OK, I'm mostly joking, but it was a total blur; I felt like I was watching this major moment happen from afar, as though we were characters in a movie.

"Will you marry me?" he asked, & I think I just stared at him for awhile, blinking & smiling, before I could even speak. When I finally did, the answer, of course, was "Of course!" And then I realized that the photographer behind us was photographing us - that she wasn't a random photographer but our photographer, someone Mike had hired to capture the whole moments on (digital) film. He waved over his coworker Ally of Allison Kurz Photography, who congratulated us & took a bunch more photos.


As if all that weren't joyous enough, we still had a dinner to get to, but Mike told me he'd miscalculated the timing because he'd wanted to be sure he had plenty of time to pull off the proposal. He suggested we make one more stop before we headed to the restaurant, & when we reached downtown Tremont, I immediately knew where we were going: The Treehouse, where we had our first date in April 2015. (He chose it because he thought I'd like the neighborhood, & he was right. Now we live just a couple blocks away.)

I always thought that if I got engaged, I would not put it on social media right away. Always the social (media) butterfly, I'd instead take some time to enjoy the engagement in peace & quiet before sharing it with the world. And while I did wait a full 24 hours to post to Facebook, it turns out that a fewww people knew the news ahead of time - because my fiancé (OMG) threw a surprise engagement party moments after asking me to spend the rest of my life with him! That's right, when we walked into The Treehouse & Mike headed for a flight of stairs that leads to the bar's private party room. "What did you do?" I asked...

...& when we reached the top of the steps, I saw 20 of our closest friends & immediate families, all with smiles on their faces & congratulations on their lips. My childhood BFF had even driven up from Tennessee! Do you know how incredible it is to be at a party full of so many of your favorite people? For the next few hours, we celebrated with tater tots & Great Lakes Beer & cookies iced with our initials as '90s tunes played in the background. It was perfect. And it was perfectly us.

When it was over, we gathered some friends & hit up our favorite dive bar to extend the celebration & enjoy the weather. The next day, we met my family for brunch at one of my favorite restaurants, & then we finally relaxed because we deserved it. Whew. What a weekend!

I knew within three months of dating Mike that I wanted to marry him, now that it's official - now that Iand know I get to marry him! - people keep asking us what it's like to be engaged. I guess I always thought it would feel crazy & stressful & OMG-so-romantic-at-home-all-the-time, but the truth is that life mostly feels the same. I'm thrilled that we've made it "official," but we're still just us, reading books on the couch at night & eating chicken teriyaki for dinner & messing with our cat - &, you know, planning a wedding. For the most part, life feels exactly the same as it does every day, in the best way possible, because we already led a life we love - a life that's full of love.

I am so honored to spend the rest of my life with this man by my side. He is my biggest supporter, my best friend, &, as cliche as it sounds, the love of my life. He has changed me. He has bettered me. He has made me happier than I ever knew was possible - & I look forward to many, many happy years together to come.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Remembering My Friend, Marcus, the Day After His Death

They say that people with chronic illness sometimes wait to die until they've made it to an important date, a milestone. My own father died the day after Father's Day, one last holiday with his only child. Just this year, my friend Jen's dad died on his 70th birthday; he told his wife he just needed to make it that far. And last month, Mike's grandmother passed away at age 96 - on the anniversary of her husband's death many years before.

Last night, just after Yom Kippur drew to a close, my friend, mentor, & former colleague Rabbi Marcus Burstein passed away after a long struggle with cancer. Writes his grieving husband, "It is just like him to want to wait until the close of this most holy day so that colleagues, loved ones, congregants, and friends could finish before turning to mourning."

When I began my last position at the organization where I currently work, Marcus was assigned to help me acclimate. A veteran staffer, he knew the ropes but was also kind & adept at guidance. I was the youngest person on our team, but Marcus knew how to relate to me, to help ease my mind, to commiserate with me, to tap into my sense of humor & keep me laughing. We had video calls once a week to check in; after the first one, I started to consider him not just a colleague but a mentor, & not just a mentor but a friend.

A few years ago, our organization went through a restructuring, & Marcus's & my position was eliminated from the staffing structure. I found a new role within the organization, but Marcus left to become a pulpit rabbi in New York, just outside the city. It was a blessing in disguise, he told me, & we were happy for one another - but without those weekly video calls, we lost track of each other.

Though I had been out of touch with Marcus for years, he's never been far from my mind. You see, Marcus once gave me the best piece of advice I have ever been given, one that has eased my considerable anxiety & helped me through difficult times simply because I can still remember what the words sounded like in his voice.

I can't quite remember where we were or what I was so worried about when Marcus gave me this advice, but I vaguely recall that we were on a charter bus. To where? I can't recall. But as I panicked about who-knows-what, Marcus told me: When you worry about events you can't control, you live every experience twice: once as you worry about it, & again as it happens. And isn't that exhausting, he asked? Why force yourself to do so much extra living when you could cut it in half & only live each experience once, as it is?

When I am having panic attacks - when I lie awake at night worrying about everything to come - I remember Marcus. I remember that advice, the way his voice sounded when he said it, the way his smile looked as he reassured me. Last week, when I learned that Marcus had been moved to hospice, I wrote him a card telling him of his lasting impact on me - telling him that I think of him often & will continue to, that I am grateful to him for his friendship & his wisdom & for this lasting piece of rabbinic guidance that has stayed with me through times of struggle.

I waited too long to send the card. It sat on my kitchen table for four days & only went in the mailbox at the end of last week, & I feel quite sure that Marcus could not have received or read it before his passing. I should have sent it sooner! I've been thinking about it for years! How could I have let this acknowledgement go unspoken, let a friend go to his death without expressing to him how much he affected me?

But instead of beating myself up about it, I now hope that his family will eventually read my words to Marcus, & perhaps they will find additional comfort in yet another story of how he touched lives & made a permanent & positive impact on the people he met & cared for, even the ones, like me, who they've never met or heard of.

In Judaism, when someone dies, we say, "May his memory be for a blessing." The world is a darker place today without Rabbi Marcus Burstein, but his memory is already a blessing. I am forever grateful to him for his friendship & his advice, for his kind smile & his easy sense of humor & his infinite wisdom. And I am confident there are so many others like me out there, a web of lives Marcus touched & influenced, mourning him but celebrating his life. We are better for having known him.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

What I Read in September

After reading a whopping 10 books in August, September was a bit of a slow month, reading-wise, but it was still a pretty darn good one. Even the books I gave lower ratings to were still enjoyable enough while I was reading them, so overall, I'm calling it a win.

Pottermore Presents by J.K. Rowling (kind of)

These three mini e-books about J.K. Rowling's wizarding world read like Wikipedia entries, but I kind of liked that - just a little bit here & there to give background on magical people & places we already know & love (or, in the case of Dolores Umbridge, those we know & loathe). I loved the little peek into Rowling's brain to hear more about what she envisioned when she created this world. ★★★★☆

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

This is the second book we chose for book club, the story of old friends & former rock stars now in their 50s & living in Brooklyn. It's also about their children, who are - surprise - falling in love with each other... sort of. I thought it was a poignant & likeable look at aging gracefully & all the issues that crop up along the way - & hope maybe we never really feel grown up, even when we are. A really comforting, enjoyable read. ★★★★☆

If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski

Man, I can't tell how I felt about this book. One star or 20? I hated it, & I loved it. The author is the founder of To Write Love on her Arms, a nonprofit that helps people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, & thoughts of suicide. In some ways, the book was very, very difficult for me to read; it felt too much like it could've been written by my dead ex-boyfriend. I hated that Tworskowsi didn't use capital letters, & some of his writing was just too emo for me to bear - but at the same time, it repeatedly brought me to tears. It made me glad to be here. It made me want to do more to keep others here. ★★★☆☆

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

I'm not usually one for sci-fi, but then again, I'm not sure this book is sci-fi. I have no idea what it is. It's about a guy who gets mugged & wakes up in a different reality, one where he's the same person but on a path not taken - & then he tries like hell to return to his reality. Could a mutliverse exist? Is there more to life than this life? I liked this book for 3/4 of the way through, & then I hated it. If I could, I'd give the first 3/4 five stars & the last 1/4 zero of them. ★★☆☆☆

The Last Letter by Susan Pogorzelski

When Susan, who I know from blogging, asked if I'd like a copy of her first full-length novel, I responded with an enthusiastic yes. This YA book is a semi-autobiographical account of her own experience living with Chronic Lyme Disease, written from the perspective of a teenager in the early 2000s. It was hard for me to follow in the beginning, but that turned out to be part of the point - that Amelia, the main character, was losing herself to her illness. A really good read that's sure to bring comfort & support to others struggling with, as Amelia repeatedly calls it, "this damn disease." ★★★★☆

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.

Please note that 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 please also don't judge me too harshly for including them.   

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A List of All My Sins

In Judaism, there is a prayer called the Ashamnu, an acrostic of sorts – or whatever the right literary word is. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, we read the Ashamnu aloud, together, as a congregation, going through a literal ABCs of all our sins throughout the past year.

I relate to the Ashamnu & always find it to be one of the most compelling elements of the holiday – but I don’t always relate to the sins outlined in the prayer. This year, in the lead-up to the holiday, I found myself jotting down an Ashamnu of my own, specifically tailored to my own sins & mistakes. What would yours  include?

For the sin of projecting my anxiety onto others.
For the sin of boozing too much on the weekends.
For the sin of being cold during arguments.
For the sin of letting my apartment get so damn dusty.
For the sin of not exercising enough.
For the sin of occasional financial irresponsibility.
For the sin of gossiping with friends.
For the sin of being way too hard on myself.
For the sin of impatience & hurrying through life.
For the sin of not doing enough to fight for justice.
For the sin of not keeping in touch with those I love.       
For the sin of shelling out too much on lattes.
For the sin of not spending enough time with my mother.
For the sin of neglecting my plants so badly that they died.
For the sin of regularly oversleeping on work days.
For the sin of playing Pokémon Go at inappropriate times.
For the sin of staying quiet when I ought to speak out.
For the sin of not always knowing when or how to relax.
For the sin of taking too many selfies.
For the sin of indulging in trashy books & reality TV.
For the sin of eating unhealthy foods.
For the sin of vanity that compels me to buy $22 eyeliner.
For the sin of almost always wasting my leftover food.
For the sin of using social media to check up on my ex.
For the sin of coveting youth & not appreciating age.
For the sin of not pursuing Zen.

In the coming year, may we strive to do better & to be better. L'shanah tovah umetukah, may you have a good year & may you be inscribed for blessing in the Book of Life.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Today's Been a Real Monday So Far

I don't usually have any issues with Monday, not really. I like my job, & as such, I don't dread the start of the work week. Like, would I rather still be living in the weekend? Yeah, sure. But Monday & I don't have any beef.

Except today.

Today went pear-shaped right away, within the first few seconds of waking up - & it continued to move downhill from there.
  1. I woke up sweaty: Sorry if this is TMI, but lately I've been having very anxiety-ridden dreams, & I've woken up with rill bad night sweats. Apparently night sweats are symptomatic of lots of health issues, including anxiety - surprise! - but also, you know, cancer. So that's a little worriesome? And either way, it's gross as hell to wake up sweating through your clothes & sheets & to have to shower when you weren't planning to.
  2. I went broke overnight: I woke up to an email from Facebook saying that, because I had hit a $500 billing threshold paying for September's work ads, I'd been billed immediately, rather than at the end of the month. The problem? My work ads are currently billed to my personal debit card. Now my bank account is $255 in the red, & though my boss tried to expedite a reimbursement, I apparently cannot be repaid until Friday. The worst part? I had a meeting scheduled with the finance guy this afternoon to switch out my personal card for a business card.
  3. I split my pants: It's pouring rain & no warmer than 65 today, so I got to wear actual fall clothes. Great! I put on my favorite sweater & a new pair of black & white LuLaRoe leggings, then sat down to work. I quickly realized that one butt cheek was... very cold. The culprit: a huge, horizontal hole in my brand new leggings, resulting in bare flesh against wood. Good thing I noticed before I set out for my morning coffee, I suppose.
  4. I got soaked: Speaking of heading out for my morning coffee, it is, as I mentioned, pouring outside. I texted Mike to ask if we have an umbrella anyplace before realizing that we do - in my car. Super-helpful, past-Kate, thanks. The coffee shop is nearby, so I braved it &, you know, got soaked. I returned home with a latte, a yogurt, &, for the third time this morning, very wet hair.
It's now just a little after noon, & blessedly, the day seems to have evened out, despite the fact that I'm hundreds of dollars in the hole & down a pair of (leggings-as-)pants. I'm of the ridiculous & unscientifically based belief that bad things always happen in threes, which means I have two more to go today, though I suppose I could make the case that getting rain-soaked wasn't bad luck; I willingly opted into that one. So maybe I'm all set on today...

Chill, Monday. Is this how you treat your friends? No wonder nobody else likes you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When Celebrities Descend Upon the CLE


I've had some pretty good celebrity sightings in my 32 short years. There was the time I ran into Jason Mewes from Jay & Silent Bob at a Starbucks. The time I sat behind Mila Kunis on a Southwest flight from Boston to D.C. And the time I realized I was sitting next to Maggie Grace at a Congressional hearing. Oh, & that time Katie Couric held the door for me at the Capitol. And also, notably, the time I was too chickenshit to introduce myself to my all-time favorite human, former senator & astronaut John Glenn.

But you don't really expect to see famous people in Cleveland, Ohio. It's a city, sure, but it's not, like, a glamorous, celebrity-filled, hotspot of a city. Maybe you'll catch a glimpse of Michael Symon at one of his restaurants or LeBron James visiting the local swimming pool (speaking from experience), or you might spy Usher & the Biebs as they take in a Cavs game... but celebrities on their own? Just, like, chillin' in Cleveland? Less likely.

Yesterday night, though, over Thai iced teas at Ty Fun in Tremont with my college friends Brittany & Jen, we spotted a celeb in the wild. A big celeb. Walking in the door, sitting just two tables away from us, there she was: Kate from Lost. Evangeline Lilly in the flesh, looking beautiful & casual & low-key in a flannel shirt & flip-flips. She settled in with a script & ordered a bowl of soup.

I can only imagine the looks on our facing - the highly embarrassing looks on our faces - as we realized who she was & confirmed with one another. As she slid into her booth & caught us staring, she gave us a small smile that said, "Yes, I know who I am," & went about her business (script, soup, et al). We tried to play it cool but in actuality spent a lot of time eavesdropping on her conversation with the server (she wanted her soup to be spicier)  & Googling why she was in Cleveland.

Turns out she's here to film a Netflix original TV show called Little Evil, co-starring Adam Scott... which means he's here someplace, too. Not that we spied on Evangeline Lilly or anything, but she seems to be staying at an apartment complex in my neighborhood, which has me wondering: Is she AirBnBing? Renting? Where does she go besides the Thai place? Does she want to have coffee with me? No? Damn.

After The Avengers & Fast & the Furious #58673632 filmed here, I'm excited to see Cleveland getting a little bit more play - in my small neighborhood, no less! - with another project filming within city limits. I hope our fair city is treating Evangeline & Adam well & that they'll spread the word to their fellow celebs that the 216 is where it's at. Or something. At the very least, I hope I didn't creep her out by staring a lot.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Story Behind My Big Modeling Debut (Yes, Really!)

One weekday morning at the start of the summer, I trekked out to Lakewood, a suburb of Cleveland, & arrived at the Old Screw Factory to meet my college friend Tara for my modeling debut. Yeah, you heard me: modeling debut.

OK, OK, it wasn't quite as fancy as it sounds, but it was still pretty darn fun.

This year Tara, ever the entrepreneur, launched the Bloom Beautifully Box, a bimonthly subscription box designed to help women focus on self-care. At $40 (though there's usually a discount available), it's full of goodies to get you to chill out & treat yo'self. She's only a few boxes in so far, but past products have included loose-leaf tea & a tea ball, fizzy bath products, & Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration, among others.

When she first launched the box & its accompanying website, Tara was using stock imagery, but as the business grew, she wanted to personalize it. Enter... me! She reached out to me & her friend Siobhan of The BeFree Project, asking if we'd be interested in doing a photoshoot for the Bloom Beautifully Box. Of course I said yes.

I arrived with my makeup done as well as my skills would allow & my hair looking damn fly, if I may say so myself. Tara had asked me to wear a light-colored top & jeans, but I didn't own any jeans (!), & nearly all my clothes are black, which presented a problem. I put on black ponte pants & a flowy white & grey top from Francesca's (even though I'm still mad at them), & I brought a couple alternatives along in case I hadn't hit the mark.

By the time I arrived, local photographer Kamron Khan was already on-site at Bella Ellie, a gorgeous, chic little boutique that sells restyled vintage jewelry, curated vintage clothing, & home goods. Once she'd set up the room just so, we got down to business - the fun part!

Kamron & Tara directed Siobhan & me as we opened & reopened Bloom Beautifully boxes, trying out a variety of facial expressions: "Look surprised!" "Look content!" "Look like your friend just gave you a gift!" I practiced looking much softer & kinder & more feminine than I think I usually do in real life. At one point, Siobhan & I got to talking & forgot we were even being photographed, which really broke the awkwardness as we tried to play BFFs for the camera.

And then, as soon as it started, it was over, & I was back at work, like any other day.

I confess that I am a little embarrassed by the final images themselves. Kamron is an incredible photographer, don't get me wrong. She did a great job! It's just so weird to see myself looking so... unlike myself, you know? It's hard not to be too hard on myself: I should've colored my hair, I could've had someone else do my makeup, I have double chins, I wish I'd worn something else... But I know I'm just being picky. In actuality, it's pretty cool that I got to do this, that my face is on this website selling a thing.

It was so much fun to push my boundaries & do something different & fun, especially to help a friend's company. Do I have a career in modeling? Yeah, OK, no. I know that. But I'm proud & excited to be one of the non-stock photography faces of a great, woman-run, Ohio-based small business.

Want to see the rest of the pics? Visit www.theselfcarebox.com, where you can see Siobhan & me get our model on and sign up for 15% off your first purchase. My fourth box arrived today; check out my Instagram for a look at what I think is Tara's best box yet. 

All photos copyright Kamron Kahn Photography & the Bloom Beautifully Box. Do not use without express permission.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My New Favorite Way to Find My New Favorite Books

I like reading. Maybe you've noticed? Growing up, I was one of those kids with my head under the covers & a flashlight in my hand as I devoured whatever book had my attention at the time, long after bedtime hours. When I was in middle school, my mom began pursuing her masters in library science; for most of my life, she's been a children's librarian, so I've spent lots & lots of time around lots & lot of books.

At the beginning of the year, I pledged to stop buying books. Why buy what I could so easily borrow for free from my local library? For the most part, I've stuck to that commitment, checking out hard copies from the Cleveland Public Library branch three blocks from my apartment & borrowing Kindle versions through Overdrive using the four library cards to my name.

But I started to miss having a small library of my own, too. Aside from my intentionally collected stack of Bret Easton Ellis novels, most of my own books weren't even ones I really liked. I cleaned out my meager bookshelf & donated more than two dozen books to my local Little Free Libraries (& a few more, recently, to this week's kickoff of Cleveland Book Week)... & wasn't left with much of my own.

Enter Book of the Month Club, a monthly subscription box... of books. OK, really just one book, unless you pay extra for more, but the gist is basically that at the start of each month, BoTM reveals five brand new, just released book choices, each reviewed & recommended by literary judges & celebrity guest judges (recently Andy Cohen & Allison Williams, for example). Based on your preferences, BoTM chooses which of the five it thinks you'll like best, but you can easily change your selection - &, if you'd like, add another (or any book from months past) for an extra $9.99.

Their books are thick, sturdy hardcovers with beautiful, colorful covers, each stamped with the BoTM logo to identify them as part of a collection. (Whenever I start reading one, I slip off the cover for safekeeping until I'm finished!) The BoTM site also includes forums on each book so you can chat with other readers. So far, books I've gotten from BoTM include Siracusa by Delia Ephron, Shrill by Lindy West, Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner, & most recently, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. And the company has a stellar Instagram presence.

Why am I telling you this right now? A) Because I like spreading the word about things I like, & B) If you sign up for Book of the Month Club using my referral link & the discount code FRIEND50, you can get 50% off a three-month subscription. That's a month & a half free, which frees up some cash in your wallet... to buy more books, probably, if you're anything like me.

Fine, there's a C), too: If you use my referral code, I get a free book, & basically nothing makes me happier than free books - except reading them. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to read one of my Book of the Month Club books (Modern Lovers by Emma Straub) for my upcoming book club.
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