Thursday, October 30, 2014

If You Can't Say Something Nice, Don't Say Anything on Facebook

A couple weeks ago, I joined a Facebook group for people from my hometown. Members use the space to post old photos, share memories of people/places/events past, & link to obituaries of well-known folks from the community. Mostly, though, the group serves as a virtual bulletin board where current residents can ask questions - everything from, "Where's the best place to buy new tires?" to "Why is there so much traffic on ____ Street right now?"

Another trend in this group is people posting photos of creepy-crawlies they find in/on/around their homes with captions like, "What kind of spider is this?" which means all these spider photos show up in my newsfeed & basically ruin my life. Example:



You're welcome for the light blur. Because I care about you.

But anyway.

Predictably, a lot of bitching also happens within this group. Like... a lot of bitching. There's a lot of bitching generally, but there's also a lot of bitching at one another, & things tend to escalate quickly.
Sometimes I turn on the notifications just so I can go back & scroll through the comments when I don't have anything better to do. (I mean, I always have something better to do, but that doesn't mean I'm actually doing it.)

Yesterday, for example, someone posted to the group asking where she should take her cat to be declawed. Her usual vet quoted her $150, she said, & she didn't think it ought to cost that much. When other group members asked that she reconsider her plans to declaw (given the Humane Society's analogy that it's akin to cutting off a person's fingers at the knuckles), a full-on comment war erupted. Just an hour after the original post, it boasted 146 comments & growing (including a few from people who pointed out that the original poster has twice mentioned her cat's destruction of her $300 curtains, but somehow thinks $150 is too much to pay for a surgical procedure on an actual living thing? Priorities.)

I really wanted to comment on the declawing debacle. I wanted to be all holier-than-thou & comment something like, "Perhaps the 'judgment' you're hearing is just from folks who aren't down with the idea of butchering our beloved family pets? How dare we, I know." Because I am not at all sassy or indignant.

But I didn't.

I've commented a few times on past posts, sharing suggestions for my favorite eye doctor or the local gym where I worked in college (because I'm nothing if not brand-loyal & also very opinionated). For the most part, though, aside from the occasional recommendation, I keep quiet for two reasons:
  1. My mother's job makes her what you might call a community figure in our small town. We have an uncommon, identifiable last name that easily links me to her, & she has more than once pointed out that my occasional loud-mouthiness, though always well-intentioned, has the potential to be pretty annoying for her,

    and also,
  2. Facebook's stupid algorithms seem to alert all of my hometown friends every time I comment in this group, which is terribly embarrassing. If I was humiliated the time it broadcasted my comment about where/how to exchange foreign currency, I'm definitely going to want to crawl under a rock when it shares news of my, uh, slightly snarkier comments.
I love my mom, & it's important to me, of course, that I not accidentally tarnish her reputation in any way. But (sorry, Mom) the second reason is equally compelling, because there's nothing more mortifying than Facebook's algorithms. While I'm not actually embarrassed of the words I think to post, I'm more embarrassed by the concept of being a person who posts in a community Facebook group. Actually, I'm embarrassed by the concept of being a person who blogs about posting in a community Facebook group, too, but a girl can't be too proud, yanno?

And so I stayed quiet yesterday, even when the conversation took a turn for the amusing & Laura, the original poster, started lashing out at any commenter who noted the inhumanity of declawing. Finally, this happened:


At that point, all I wanted to comment was "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA" because the whole thing had really jumped the shark. But I think the guy who posted this photo really summed it up best:


So carry on, Facebook. Imma be over here, watching from the sidelines & playing a comment reel in my mind.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Eatin' Good: My Culinary Obsessions Past & Present


My friend Jonah once referred to his younger brother as an "enthusiast," someone who gets briefly but intensely obsessed with something - a particular person or article of clothing or TV show or cuisine. I identified immediately with the label & have since co-opted it for myself.

I can mainline a Netflix show with the best of 'em, but most often, I find my enthusiast tendencies directed toward food. I'll go all-in on some dish for days, weeks, even months, with no concept of "too much of a good thing." I'll order the same thing every day until I finally tire of it, & then I'll move on to the next one.

Past targets of my enthusiasm have included:
  • Chicken kaprow: I didn't like Thai food until I moved to D.C., but once I discovered it, there was no turning back. My first year here, I lived across from Paragon Thai, which quickly became my go-to restaurant for take-out (&, when I was really sick or lazy, delivery). I'd order by phone as I left work, & by the time I got off the Metro, my food was ready. Once, the woman who answered the phone gushed, "Ah, the girl in the red coat!" referring to my notably bright winter jacket, & I was so embarrassed that I didn't go back for six months, thus ending this particular obsession.
  • Fancy grilled cheese: I can't cook. I try, sometimes, but for the most part? Nottt a chef. I can, however, "make stuff," like my so-called big-kid grilled cheese. I blogged about it in 2010: "It's muenster, goat cheese, baby spinach, crumbled walnuts, & a smear of fig jam on ciabatta & pressed in my George Foreman, panini-style...I AM A CULINARY GENIUS WITH THE PALETTE OF A SOPHISTICATED 10-YEAR-OLD." This fell off my radar when I felt (I can't believe it myself) all cheesed out.
  • Wontons with spicy peanut butter sauce: When my then-boyfriend deployed & left me alone with the cat, Pink Bamboo Hot Pot Cafe became my best friend. To hit the delivery minimum, I'd order two orders of wontons - one for dinner & one for lunch the next day. When the delivery guy dropped off my food, I'd try to act like there was someone else in the apartment... just so I didn't seem like the girl ordering 12 wontons for herself. But again, when the restaurant's hostess started to recognize my voice & remember my order, I called the whole thing off - but I'd kill for those wontons right about now.

And now? Now I'm obsessed all over again. A few weeks ago, I tried Pho 14's bún bò nướng for the first time, & now I can't stop ordering it. If you've never tried this dish, let me paint a picture for you: thin-cut, juicy, tough-but-tender slices of beef served over a bed of light, thin vermicelli noodles, fresh cucumbers & scallions, shredded carrots, crispy shallots, crushed peanuts, & a liiiittle bit of lettuce, topped with sweet fish sauce.

Oh! If my verbal picture-painting didn't work, I can show you an actual picture:


Maybe, if you're a white-bread kid from the Applebee's-lovin' suburbs like me, it sounds sort of gross. I know that 10 years ago, I wouldn't have come near it. But today? Today I'm obsessed. Today I'm an enthusiast of the highest order. Today I ordered Pho 14's bún bò nướng for the third time in less than a week, & I have no plans to stop any time soon.

Clearly, I've got it bad. But... it's probably better than an obsession with grilled cheese, right?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

When Imitation is the Shadiest Form of Flattery


I finally let my old blog domain name lapse in August, & yesterday I discovered that someone else has purchased it. I knew that was likely to happen, but you know what's worse? The fact that the new owner's name is ALSO Kate B., & she's set up a site redirect to try to make it look like I've moved to a new blog - hers! 

Her welcome message on the site now reads,
"Hey everyone, it’s KatieB and I’m here to deliver some exciting news. I’ve been secretly working on a new site for the past few months now and am just about ready to share it with the world. I’ll be redirecting this site to my new one, so this is just a courtesy message to let ya know. Looking forward to seeing you on the other side!”
It then provides a link to her (my?) new blog (which I refuse to provide a link to on principle).  This, of course, makes it sound like she's ME, former KateB-who-blogged-at-that-domain, & that I'm moving to a new blog. As far as I can tell, she's intentionally trying to mislead my old readers to get them to follow me (her!) to a new site, capitalizing on my high traffic all those seven years that I was SuburbanSweetheart.com.

To be clear, I don't really care what she does with the domain, but I'm creeped out by the intentional misdirect to snag anyone who might think I moved my whole site to hers. Luckily, anyone who's ever known me can probably guess that I didn't start a new blog on running & Paleo diets. BUT STILL.

All I really want is for Imposter KateB to change her offending wording so that it doesn't sound like she's trying to pretend she's been at that domain the whole time or that her new blog is mine. I left a few comments on her blogs to that effect, but given the general shadiness of the whole thing - & the fact that this was almost certainly an intentional ploy to increase her traffic - I'm trying not to get my hopes too high about the likelihood of her compliance.

In the meantime, I'll just be sitting around fuming... & learning my goddamn lesson about being too cheap/lazy to pay the $10 renewal fee.

But hey. I guess it's better than becoming a porn site?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Phenomenal Me, an Interview with @YettiSays

This week, you can find me at Yetti Says, where I answer questions from one of my newest Internet friends & insta-fave bloggers. I'm honored to be featured in her Phenomenal You series alongside four incredible ladybloggers. Click through for my thoughts on mental illness, self-worth, & five things I learned about myself when I decided to move (back) to Washington, D.C.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Where I'm From: A Tribute to the Buckeye State


I'm from big, shady oak trees & enough pollen to kill me,
From perennials that survive to find their way back in bloom every spring despite biting frost.
I'm from blindingly hot summer days & feet that blister on the scorching pavement as we let the car cool off after hours spent on the lake.

I'm from kickball on the cul-de-sac as the sun goes down,
And from autumn colors that rival New England's, but with people a hundred times nicer.
I'm from a foot & a half of lake-effect snow with no end in sight,
From no such thing as a day off school if you can get out of the driveway,
And from digging out your neighbor's car but knowing he'll shovel your sidewalk in return.

I'm from marrying your senior-year sweetheart & sending your kids to the same elementary school you attended, where half the same teachers still teach.
I'm from an aged but familiar face at every hometown dive bar,
And from still - always - identifying yourself by the year you graduated high school.

I'm from small towns whose Native American names you can't pronounce -
From Cuyahoga & Wapakoneta & Tuscarawas & Olentangy,
I'm from the North Coast & summers at Sea World & the best roller coasters you've never seen,
And flyover cities whose validity & worth are forever being underestimated.

I'm from brown & orange, wine & gold, & nemeses in the form of cities I've never seen,
From "Hang On Sloopy" & promising to call it Jacobs Field forever,
From witnessing & jersey-burning & ultimately forgiving,
From "Maybe this year" to "Maybe next year" to "Maybe some day,"
Because I'm from a home that taught us how to hope.

I'm from hard, nasally A's that come out after a few Dortmunders to tell you exactly where I began,
From middle class & white trash & never realizing that rich people think they're the same thing.
I'm from "two hours away" & a hidden cop on every corner,
From tree lawns & "needs done" & pop, not soda,
From the candy, the mascot, & the nut, in that order.

I'm from dollar drafts & homemade casseroles & half-priced appetizers at Applebee's,
From Friday nights spent listening to cover bands on the burning river you learned about in history books.
I'm from round on the sides & high in the middle,
And an enthusiastic "I-O!" shouted in return, no matter where else I may roam.

And I still believe that one of these days, I won't just be from here.
I'll be back here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Life Lessons: Apparently/Maybe/Probably You Can't Take Photos Inside Starbucks

I'm waiting patiently for my Starbucks soy latte - because I am one bougie, basic you-know-what, apparently - when I notice that one of the baristas behind the counter looks ticked. Really ticked.

I follow her glare to the end of the bar, where a middle-aged woman is sitting on a barstool, finishing up a pastry. She's staring intently at her iPhone, holding it up at an angle in front of the big, silver, behemoth of a sink in front of her. I instantly recognize the familiar, focused look in her eyes, the way she's tilting her phone just so: She's trying to capture the perfect Instagram photo. And then, satisfied with what she's just snapped, she begins to pocket her phone.

The barista has a thick accent, & at first I'm not sure exactly what she's said - but the anger in her voice is unmistakable. "None of this!" she says firmly to the customer with the iPhone. "No photos!" The customer looks startled, like maybe the barista is scolding someone else. She looks to either side, but no one is there except me, & I look just as bewildered as she does. Turning back to the stern-faced barista & gesturing to herself despite the cup of tea in her hand, she squeaks, "Me?"

"Yes! You cannot take photos in here!" The barista is really mad now, glaring something fierce. This isn't your standard "Sorry, but..." or "Thanks for understanding..." sort of customer service. This is harsh & unfaltering &, frankly, confusing, because trying to take artsy, amateur smartphone photos has become something of an international pastime. Have you been on Instagram lately? It's positively replete with attempts at capturing creatives images of Starbucks cups.

The budding photographer splutters a little. "I was just taking a photo of the faucet," she explains meekly. "It's just a photo of a drop of water." She pushes her phone forward, & the photo on screen corroborates her story. But for all the anger in this barista's eyes, she might as well have flashed a photo of a thousand slaughtered kittens. 

Another barista, the one who's making my drink, mutters toward her coworker: "It's fine, I'm not even in it. It's fine." I wonder for a moment whether the angry barista is defending this one, somehow, if there's some reason she can't be in photographs - if she's a victim of domestic violence, or... I don't know, some other reason she shouldn't be photographed. But the customer's photo is as she explained: just a drop of water from a big, silver sink. And why all the anger? Can't she at least get an explanation or a little bit of kindness?

As the baristas mutter to one another, the woman with the iPhone turns to me. "I guess I shouldn't try to take artsy Instagram photos," she says, shrugging her shoulders & trying to laugh. I laugh a little, too, & shrug back at her in response, "What a Monday," I murmur. We're both still processing this weird & hostile scene.

But even with her coworker's placation, the angry barista is still angry: "You have to delete the picture," she insists. "Why are you taking it? You can't take photos in here. Delete it & leave!"

The customer, who looks exhausted by this point, turns & walks away. When she's out of earshot, the barista mutters, loud enough for me to hear, "No class. No class at all." She catches me staring at her, mouth wide open, but she doesn't seem apologetic or embarrassed - just as angry as she's been all along.

As I stop to grab a napkin on my way out of the store, I catch up with the customer to tell her what I've just heard & to say that I'd be emailing corporate Starbucks with a complaint. Maybe it's silly of me to inject myself into her scenario, but I want her to leave feeling like she has an ally, even if it's in a complete stranger.

She tells me she's going to send an email to corporate, too, & she seems pretty downtrodden, like maybe the day has just taken the mickey out of her. But then her face lights up a little, & she half-smiles at me: "You know, you can't take pictures in a Starbucks, but you can take a gun into one," she tells me. "How's that for priorities?"

***

Actually, Starbucks has a strict no-guns policy as of last fall, but I appreciate the sentiment. No guns, no photos, "no class," & never a dull moment, apparently.

At it turns out, this woman wasn't the first Starbucks customer to face the ire of a barista set on shutting down an amateur photography attempt. A rep confirmed for Business Insider last year that personal photography is permitted inside Starbucks stores, but the Internet is still full of similar stories & confusion about the company's in-store photo policy. For me, though, the issue wasn't that this woman was being prohibited from taking photos (although that's absurd). It's that she was being treated so rudely - as though she'd committed an actual crime - without being given even the slightest explanation as to what she had done wrong.

The Golden Rule applies all the time, even - & perhaps especially - in the service industry, going both ways. Drink your coffee & Instagram in peace & just be nice to other people, period. You're on notice, Adams Morgan Starbucks.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Cultivating a Personal Style & Trying to Become a Jazzy Old Woman



I've never thought much about fashion. I wouldn't say I have a great sense of style, but I don't feel like I have a terrible one, either. I wear what I like, which is usually a combination of comfortable, neutral, & classic, with a little bit of bohemian thrown in on occasion. I don't much like prints or colors, I don't wear anything structured or that requires ironing, & I haven't worn a skirt since 2009, when my very fashionable roommate admitted that even she felt they were too difficult to coordinate. I frequently  wear leggings as pants, I have a soft spot for anything cozy & oversized, & I love big, loud gold jewelry.

In other words, I'm a girl who knows what she likes, even when what I like isn't necessarily what's cool.

For the first time in my life, I have a walk-in closet, & it was a pretty thrilling moment last fall after I moved in & hung everything up, then stepped back to admire my handiwork. "Look at all my stuff!" I told myself triumphantly. "I have so many clothes!'

But, like, why do I need all those clothes? Why does anyone? As the year wore on, all my clothes on display in front of me every morning, I realized just how few items I actually wear. I'm forever returning to the same 20 or so pieces, dressing in black because I prefer it to just about anything else. I never want to wear my patterned GAP button-ups or my structured business dresses or my bright red corduroy pants. Why do I even own these things? This is someone else's style.

And I'm 30 now. Somehow, turning 30 has provided me with a new-found sense of entitlement - but not in a bad way. At 30, I feel like I'm allowed to own my style, to stop trying to be something I'm not, to wear all-black if I want to, to cultivate a style that works for me instead of one that I see working for everyone else.

So I'm getting rid of everything that doesn't suit me, & I'm only going to wear the things I love.

Since making this decision, I've listed nearly half of my wardrobe on Poshmark (which you can join, by the way, using my promotional code HMUGD to get a $5 credit). While I'd love to be able to just donate it all, money is tight, & I need to bring in extra cash where I can. Whatever doesn't sell there will go to ThredUp or the local Martha's Table thrift store.

The money I make selling my old wardrobe will go into my new one, a more carefully cultivated style that brings in only items I love & that fit my recently pinpointed aesthetic. I want more black, more textures, more drapey cardigans, more bold accessories that make other women say, "I couldn't pull that off."

You know those sort-of-crazy oldish women, the ones who are past middle-aged but not quite elderly yet, either? They're, like, 65 or 70, & they're wearing thick, plastic glasses & big capes & massive pieces of jewelry & crazy scarves & big, billowy pants made out of, like, curtains? Yeah. Them. I look at them - I saw one at the Arby's at the airport today, of all places - & am blown away by their ability to look chic despite the fact that nothing they're wearing is magazine-standard trendy - & despite the fact that they're too old for magazine-standard trendy, anyway. They dress for style, not sex appeal, & they always look comfortable & quirky & damn good.

My goal is to dress like one of those fabulously quirky middle-aged woman - long before I am actually middle-aged. And if I may say so myself, I think I'm off to a damn good start.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Can You Run When You Know? #WeAreKentState


In the early 1970s, not long after the May 4th shootings, my parents met at a house party at Kent State University, where they were both students. When I was born in 1984, they still lived within the Kent city limits, in a tiny house across the street from Stoddard's Ice Cream. I may have been born down the road at a hospital in Akron, but in every other way, I got my start in Kent.

In the early '90s, I began attending day camp at Kent State for Kids, held on the KSU campus. My dad dropped me off at camp on his a way to work each morning, & I spent my days in "classes" that I'd chosen out of a booklet designed to look like a course catalog. I took archery & swimming & miming (?!) & Korean in the same buildings where my parents had attended their college classes - & where I would later attend my own. I wrote poetry while lying on the May 4th memorial with my creative writing class, which produced my first piece of "published" writing.

Later on in the '90s, my mom returned to Kent State to pursue her masters in library science. I remember waiting in line with her at the registrar's office & begging her to let me spray paint the giant rock at the front of campus, a college tradition that seemed like the ultimate in adulthood to my childlike understanding. "Maybe when you're older," she told me. In 1997, when we hosted my bat mitzvah party in the Rathskellar, a bar at the student center, I again begged my mom to let my friends & me paint the rock as part of the celebration. I was unsuccessful in my plea; I have still never painted the rock.

In 2001, when I was applying to colleges, I lied & told my mother that I had sent in my application to Kent State. I had not. (Sorry, Mom.) I loved Kent State, but it felt like my childhood, not my future. I had no interest in attending a college I'd known so intimately for my entire life.

And in 2005, when I decided I couldn't stay at Ohio University for another second, I moved back into my mother's house & began attending Kent State University, just seven miles down the road. I felt like a massive failure; it seemed seemed like the ultimate embarrassment to have transferred to the hometown school, the school my parents went to, the school half of the population of my high school went to.

It didn't take me long to realize it was one of the best decisions of my life.

I graduated from Kent State in 2007 with a Bachelor's of Science in News. Most of it was earned in Taylor Hall, the journalism building - the building whose parking lot paves the area where the unthinkable happened on May 4th, 1970. Each year on the anniversary of the shootings, I joined Kent State Hillel in placing rocks on each of the blocked-off spots where four students died. These days, Taylor Hall is the May 4th Visitors Center, dedicated to preserving the memory of what happened that day & why - what it meant for the school & the country & for history.

On my last day of classes at Kent State, I called my mother in tears: "I'm going to come back," I promised. "Maybe I'll get my masters here, too."

I never wanted to go to Kent State - but I have always been Kent State, intentionally or otherwise. Today & every day, I am proud to call myself a part of a university that carries so much history & still has so much pride - & oh, yeah, this degree is pretty nice, too. I am a Kent State alum from a family of Kent State alums. And #WeAreKentState.


This post was written for #WeAreKentState, a Facebook event asking Kent State supporters to wear blue & gold today. It was organized as a show of pride in response to Urban Outfitters' recent decision to sell a "vintage" KSU sweatshirt that appears to be splattered with blood.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I Found a Warning Note from a Ghost (OK, or a Stranger)

I've worked from home for the last 3.5 years (!), which means I often work from Starbucks & other various places that seem hospitable to day-long camp-outs. Recently, I've taken to working from hotels, which offer all the desired amenities: a nice space, reliable wifi, clean bathrooms, & some sort of coffeeshop. No one thinks twice about a girl with a laptop set up in a hotel lobby for a few hours (though I've accumulated a mental list of excuses, should anyone approach).

I became enamored of the Marriott Wardman Park in 2009, when I lived two blocks from the back entrance. My roommate thought it was terribly weird that I'd sometimes take a book up to a sunny nook on one of the floors to hunker down for a few hours. Still, I had no idea of the hotel's size until I attended a conference there... a few months ago. Turns out, it's enormous - & perfect for working from home without actually working from home.

After half a day of hard work in the lobby/café, I decided to take the scenic way out on my way home. I wandered down a long hallway that took me to another wing of the hotel - a fancier wing, a quieter wing, a wing with no people & no noise but lots of mirrors & extravagant furniture. The whole area overlooks gorgeous gardens. I spent a few quiet moments taking it in, enjoying this space that somehow felt uncharted despite the fact that it was likely inhabited, even at that very moment, by dozens of wayward travelers. In one corner, I found this gorgeous old desk:

 

I started to take photos of the ornate gold rose twisting up off of the wood because, you know, I gotta Instagram my life. But then I wondered, "Is there anything in these tiny old drawers?" I figured they were empty because hotels in general - & this hotel in particular - are pretty clean placed. It seemed likely that housekeeping swept through the area on a daily basis, no matter how remote or Secret Gardeny it may have been.

I opened three of the tiny drawers, & they were mostly empty. One of them contained a broken gold rose; nothing too exciting. But the fourth drawer? Ohhh, the fourth drawer. 

I like to imagine the possibilities behind what I found in the fourth drawer. Did it come from a bored teenage boy, tired of spending time with his family & looking for ways to amuse himself? Did it come from a sneaky employee, communicating a warning message to a fellow staffer who had done something wrong? Did it come from drunk hotelgoers, laughing too loudly in the hotel lobby as they brainstormed a practical joke whose results they could never see? The possibilities are endless.

I thought about taking it with me, tacking it to my mirror to give me a laugh every now & then, but I decided to leave it where it was. I hope someone else finds it & thinks it's just as hysterical & creepy as I did.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hard River to Cross: Two Lessons in Facing My Fear of Water

 

I'm afraid of open water, & I always have been. I remember being a little kid, 9 or 10 years old, & being terrified to go into Crystal Lake, the perfectly nice, members-only body of water that I went to with my best friend Christina what seemed like every day of the summer. I'd yelp whenever my toes touched something that wasn't just sand, & I finally stopped jumping off the diving board because I couldn't bear to feel the slimy stuff that grew on the ladder back out.

Before you ask: Yes, I can swim! I'm not afraid of, like, drowning. I'm just afraid of... I don't know, of stuff. Of creatures. When I'm in a lake, I'm scared of fish, of feeling something brush up against my foot or my thigh that I can't see through murky waters. And when I'm in the ocean, I'm scared of the same thing, but on a larger scale - of God-knows-what lies beneath the surface wriggling up against me or worse. My fear isn't even of sharks, specifically, like it is for most people. I mean, sharks are scary, yeah. But I'm also afraid of crabs & eels & jellyfish whatever the hell else lurks in there.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I recently went on a week-long vacation. To an ocean. To the Atlantic Ocean, specifically. I spent seven days relaxing on Hilton Head Island with my mom, Christina, & three other beloved friends in celebration of a few milestone birthdays, including my own. Because we were on an island, it follows that we spent some time at the beach, which was... hard for me. I waded about hip-deep into the water a few times, but I ran flailing out of it whenever sea creatures revealed themselves to be in close proximity. I yelped when I stepped on a sand dollar, I called it a day when my mom got stung by a jellyfish, & I nearly cried when I saw a guy catch a stingray.

Still, I wanted to force myself to keep facing my fear - so I bought a Groupon for a two-hour stand-up paddleboarding class on the May River. Early one morning, four of us drove out to Bluffton, SC, where we were greeted by our instructor, a toned & tanned 50-something yogi-slash-photographer named Roddy. After a brief how-to during which I nearly keeled over with anxiety, we got out on the water. 

And it was... so, so pleasant. Not scary at all, despite the fact that I was scared as hell. Maybe I was compelled by the fact that I'd spent $100 on it, or maybe I just didn't want to ruin the experience for everyone else, but I wasn't nearly as panicky as I thought I'd be. It was a surprisingly calming experience, out there in the sun, in the peace & quiet, trying something new & foreign & borderline terrifying. Ever vigilant about water-dwelling critters, I committed to not falling into the river, & no one was more surprised than me that I was able to stay on my board the whole time. But as it turns out, I was so proud of myself that at one point, as we hung out on our boards on calm waters, I decided to celebrate my accomplishment... by jumping in! 

(That part was short-lived, but... hey, I did it.)


 

I had a great time stand-up paddleboarding, but it didn't cure me of my fear of what lies beneath. Still, I decided to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone by going sailing on the Potomac River last weekend with my friend Emily, who kindly invited me to join her on her father's boat.

Yes, I'm scared of boats, too. Obviously. Because boats could collapse, you see? And then I'd be in the water with all the creatures. Shudder. (And yes, this was quite an ironic & amusing fear for me to have while I was dating a member of the U.S. Coast Guard - & even for both of these recent water excursions, when I was joined by a friend who's a Navy vet. Sailors, man.)

Early Sunday morning, four of us made our way to an adorable marina in Alexandria, VA. With the new Capital Wheel visible across the water, we boarded a little boat & set off... which is when my anxiety kicked in. Thankfully, I only succumbed to about three minutes of serious panic before finally evening out & enjoying the morning, albeit nervously. If I thought too hard about where I was or what I was doing, I started to freak out again, but for the most part, it was a perfectly lovely two hours on the water - & it helped that the shore was visible on both sides. I mean, how perfect are these blues?


Am I still afraid of water? YEP. But I'm proud of myself for pushing past my absurd fear of fish & sharks & other slimy things & making some memories I can hang onto for awhile. 

Because while I've moved around a lot, I've always lived along major rivers - the Cuyahoga, the Ohio, the Potomac, the Piscataqua, the Navesink. I'm not much of a nature gal, but if there's one thing I find comforting, it's the sight of open water, no matter how much I don't want to go in it. Blue sky over blue water? From Ohio to D.C. & everywhere in between, that's what feels the most like home to me - & it feels good to make some peace with it.
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