Friday, August 28, 2015

I Finally Tried AirBnB & Now I'm Madly in Love

I'm the kind of person who loves the idea of something like AirBnB but is, in reality, more than a little bit wary of putting it into practice. Staying at someone else's house sounds so great! So adventurous! And such a likely scenario for being murdered or ripped off or just having a generally terrible experience!

Needless to say, I hadn't tried AirBnB yet. I'd browsed it a few times - I've had an account since 2013, when I considered listing my New Jersey apartment - but I'd never taken the plunge. I'll sleep in hotel beds & on friends' couches, thanks.

But when Mike & I booked tickets to California for a wedding in Redondo Beach, we didn't love the idea of staying in the wedding hotel all four nights of our stay. It seemed like the perfect time to get on board with the Internet's favorite rental site, if not absolutely late to the party. We found a private cottage two blocks from the Redondo Beach Pier, which played nicely into our plans not to rent a car.

When the time came to check out of our hotel - a very lovely Doubletree in Torrance, CA, within walking distance of an In-N-Out - I was skeptical about leaving it for any place that didn't have turn-down service. Our hotel bed was so damn comfortable, & the pool had waterfalls, for crying out loud! Whyyyy hadn't we just planned to stay put?

But as soon as we arrived at our AirBnB, a small, detached cottage in the backyard of a main home, all my worries disappeared. Our little studio cottage was essentially a freestanding hotel room, bathed in sunlight, outfitted with a fluffy king bed, & sporting sliding glass doors that led to a massive courtyard lined with lime trees. It was, in a word, perfect. These photos, taken on Mike's, uh, less-than-stellar phone, hardly convey its greatness.

The courtyard was huge & sunny, the perfect place for drinking beers & reading a good book. Mike actually started writing a book during the course of our vacation, & he got a bit of brainstorming time in out here while I napped in our cozy little cottage.

We had zero plans for the second half of our trip, which was pretty incredible & incredibly uncommon. We woke up every morning asking, "What should we do today?" & the answer was always, "Whatever the hell we want." Because we were located so close to the pier, we spent nearly all of our time there - reading on the beach, wandering the boardwalk, enjoying the sounds of the ocean, eating chilaquiles & drinking beer on a balcony, trying out stand-up paddle-boarding, consuming copious amounts of iced coffee & boardwalk churros, & just generally taking in the scenery & relaxing for a couple of days.

We couldn't have had the vacation we did if we'd decided to stay in a hotel the whole time, namely because there are no hotels near the Redondo Beach Pier - & there was no beach near our hotel in Torrance. Instead, choosing to hole up in an AirBnB allowed us to have a slightly more authentic experience, not beholden to all the standard touristy places (or their prices). We got to stay in a quiet cottage in a quiet neighborhood within walking distance of enough interesting places to keep us busy, but not so many that we felt we had to do something all the time.

We were only gone for five days, but they were five of the most glorious days I've had in a long, long time. I came home refreshed & relaxed & rejuvenated, exactly the way vacation is supposed to work. I also came home a believe in AirBnB, & I can't wait to try it again. Which city shall I visit next?!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hello, Helo! Meet the Cat that Reddit Gave Me

One of the many difficult aspects of my breakup in early 2014 was leaving my cat behind. It didn't make sense for me to take President Thomas J. Whitmore with me to D.C., knowing that I'd be living in the apartment equivalent of a shoebox, when he had so much space to roam at our place in New Jersey.

So Whitmore stayed in the Garden State, & I went to the capital, but I confess that I miss him even still, almost two years later. I've even been known to tear up when I think back on my time with him, much to the amusement/confusion/disgust of some of my anti-cat friends. I know Whitmore is happy & healthy in New Jersey, being taken care of by people who love him as much as I did, & certainly he has forgotten about me by now. Yet for some reason, I'd been struggling to do the same.

Obviously, a new cat sounded like just the ticket for moving forward.

My new apartment is just blocks away from the Cleveland Animal Protective League, & I had originally planned to go there to decide which of their dozens of orphaned cats was my perfect match. But then my friend Lindsey found a post on Reddit by a girl in my neighborhood - just three blocks away! - who recently found a stray cat on the highway, so malnourished they'd originally thought he was a kitten. Now that he was healthy again, she was looking for a forever-home for him.

Uhhh, sold.

Just like when I found my apartment online, I looked at the pictures of this cat & knew I wanted him. One night earlier this month, I went over to the Redditor's house for a quick visit, which only solidified my decision: This cat was comin' home with me. His foster owner agreed to keep him for another week while I was on vacation, & the day I got home, I went to get him.

She'd been calling him Chase, because she'd had to chase him down to rescue him. Chase is a cute name & all, but I'm big on naming my cats after TV & movie characters, & I wanted this little guy to follow in that storied personal tradition. I first thought I wanted to name him Omar, after Omar Little of The Wire & Omar Vizquel of the 1990s Cleveland Indians, but when I finally got him home, he just didn't feel like an Omar.

I brainstormed for all of 36 hours before deciding on a name: Helo, after a sleeper favorite from Battlestar Galactica. There are other BSG characters I like more, but somehow, Helo seemed liked the perfect name - & so Helo he is.

Things are going well so far, most of the time, except at 6a.m., when Helo is basically a tiny furry terrorist who meow-screams for food & hates when I close the bathroom door because it means he can't lay underneath my claw-foot tub. The rest of the time, he's adorable & cuddly & soft & perfect, following me around the apartment & headbutting me for forced petting & just generally being insufferably cute.

In other words? He is exactly what I needed to make my apartment feel like home.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Three Weird Interactions with My New Neighbors Thus Far

I live in a small building, just four units plus a commercial office of indiscernible mixed use right below me. My landlord owns both my building & the building next door, & when I came to look at the place, she briefed me on all the neighbors - older lady who's lived here forever over there, young professional couple back there, etc.

I figured I'd see them a bit but that that would be it. In the last three places I lived - D.C., New Hampshire, & New Jersey - I knew almost none of my neighbors. In New Hampshire, there was Chet, the shoeless, guitar-playing Libertarian across the hall; in New Jersey, there was Barbara, the crotchety note-leaver downstairs; & in D.C., I only ever met one neighbor, one half of the middle-aged Indian couple next door whose cooking produced such fantastic scents that they regularly sent me into bouts of sadness about my own lack of culinary ability.

Less than five hours after moving into my new place in Cleveland, though, I was already meeting the neighbors. So far, my interactions have gone as follows:
  1. The Girl I Already Know: As my friends & family exited my place after helping me move in, a voice came from over my neighbors' balcony: "Hey, is that Joey?!" Indeed, the young couple who lives there recognized the voice of on of my - our - dear friends who helped me with the move... because we all went to high school together.

    Jackie & I used to work together at the local swimming pool, where I was the manager of the concession stand for a few summers in college. Now, she & her husband live right behind me; our apartments share a common landing area, & our doors are just steps apart. We haven't talked for years, but what are the odds that we now live a couple feet apart from one another in a relatively large city away from home?

  2. The Guy Who Terrified Me in the Middle of the Night: Pat was smoking a cigarette on the devil strip (alert: Akron terminology!) outside my building while I tried to unload my car one evening, lugging my foldable bed frame (remember that one?) with one hand while I balanced boxes in the other. "Hey, you're the new neighbor," he said, chatting me up while I fumbled & eventually offering his help. He was incredibly friendly, the kind of neighbor you're immediately glad to have nearby.

    This was confirmed last night at 2am, when I heard a rap on my door & groggily opened it, kitchen knife behind my back, to find Pat, possibly drunk but fully awake: "There's a light on in your car," he told me. "I just wanted to let you know so you don't wake up to a dead battery." Indeed, I stumbled outside, boyfriend in tow, to turn off my dome light, & today, my car was blessedly not dead. Thanks, Pat!

  3. The Woman Who Thinks I Can't Shake Hands: As I got out of my car this afternoon, I saw a little old woman puttering about in the common driveway between my building & the one next door. "Welcome to the neighborhood!" she greeted me as I made my way to the front door. I was balancing an armload of stray things I'd retrieved from my mom's house, but I stuck my hand out, anyway. "Oh, it's OK," she told me, "My hands are dirty."

    Indeed, she'd just been taking out the trash, so when she stuck a gloved hand out toward me, I wasn't sure I was supposed to shake it. Instead, I just sort of... fist-bumped her & patted her on the top of the hand, like an utter weirdo. She was very kind, & we made small talk about the events in the park down the street, but I left our interaction feeling like she must surely think I've never shaken a stranger's hand before.
So that's where I am so far: three very weird interactions with three very lovely individuals, all of whom I feel fortunate, so far, to call my neighbors. It's a nice neighborhood, but still sometimes an unsafe one, so it's reassuring to be surrounded by good people. And I'll practice my handshake for the next one.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Confession: I Am 31 Years Old, & I Have a TON of Grey Hair

My mom stopped coloring her hair after my grandma died in 2011. My grandma didn't like it when my mom let her hair go, thought it made her look old when the grey started to show through. But my mom's hair is short & thick & grows like a weed, so the greyer her hair became, the more difficult it was for her to keep up with the process of coloring it. It was annoying, it was expensive, & her roots would start showing again after a week, anyway.

When my grandma passed away, my mom decided to just let her grey do its thing. Some people - my uncle & my dad's best friend included - gave her grief for it. But I thought it made her look beautiful, vibrant, natural. I loved it then, & I love it now, & I think our family has come around on it, too. Strangers certainly have.My mom gets so many compliments on her grey hair, in part because, like I said, it looks amazing. Also because my mom is 61 years old, & at her age, grey is A-OK.

But me? I'm just two days into 31, & I still think that's a little young for a full head of greys.

It started a few years ago. At first, it was just a small patch near my right temple, a few white hairs sneaking in amongst the browns. I imagined that if I stopped coloring that spot, it would grow into a chic, Stacy London-esque streak.

OK, maybe not. I tweezed those first few greys right out of my head, tossed them into the toilet & colored my hair as usual, the way I'd been doing for years. I didn't think twice about them or my brief dreams of resembling Rogue from X-Men.

Until recently.

I haven't colored my hair in, oh, seven months? It's been awhile, in part because I'm a little lazy & in part because I'm a little broke frugal. I'd certainly like to look a little bit more put-together - for a long time, I prided myself on having good hair, & my mom has recently reminded more than once that my hair it's starting to look pretty ratty. These days, though, there are other indulgences more deserving of my money, like my upcoming trip to Los Angeles, or my November trip to Denver. My hair? Whatever.

The greys are taking over, though. I don't have to look closely anymore, don't have to dig through my brown hairs to find them, because there they are. They shine bright white & stand out, glinting in the sunlight & calling out that I've gotten older, that I've "let myself go," that I'm no spring chicken anymore. That I turned 31 next week.

In my early 20s, I teased my friend Ben about his many greys, jokingly tried to pluck them out of his curly, would-be Jewfro when he wasn't looking. "They bring me wisdom," he insisted, but on special occasions, he'd like me pull one out, just for fun (thanks for indulging my weirdness, friend).

I think of Ben now when I look in the mirror, wondering what wisdom my greys have brought me (he's notably wiser than I am). I wonder, too, when & if I will ever feel confident enough to stop coloring my hair, to stop insisting on ombre & fielding questions about my natural color.

Because these days, my natural color is, well, mostly grey. I know now that if I let it grow out, the effect would be decidedly more Storm than Rogue, but I'm still not grey enough to look good doing it. If I thought my natural hair would look as good as Storm's - or my mom's! - I might even go for it now, just let myself turn full-on grey.

As it stands, though, I'm just looking, well... kind of ratty. I know, Mom. I know.

Still, part of me doesn't want to cover them up. I'm officially into my 30s now, & I don't know what wisdom these years have brought me, but I know there's some in there somewhere. I know that I am finally not scared or ashamed to grow older. In fact, I'm even a little proud of it.

And that? Well, I think that's a sign of aging with grace, greys & all.

Friday, July 31, 2015

I Knew I Loved You Before I Met You: An Ode to My New Apartment

L to R: Celebrating saying yes to my new place; getting the keys; waiting for the utilities guy

I had a dream about the apartment the night I emailed Craigslist poster who'd shared the listing online. In my dream, the landlord sent me back a harsh, one-line message informing me that the apartment had gone to someone who she deemed a better prospective tenant. The listing was online for less than 24 hours before being snatched up by someone who was faster on the hunt than me.

It was one of those "Did that really happen or did I dream it?" scenarios, so realistic that I woke up feeling like I'd just read a rejection email dashing my Cleveland apartment dreams. That next day, I compulsively checked my email, certain my dream was actually a premonition.

I don't know why I felt so immediately attached to that apartment. I'd only seen four photos of it, & they weren't even particularly descriptive ones. But I saw the bay windows, & I saw the wood floors, & I saw the affordable rent in a difficult-to-afford Cleveland neighborhood, & I just had a feeling, you know? I had a feeling that apartment was going to be my home, & I desperately wanted it to be.

Earlier that day, I had come home from a Fourth of July weekend in Cincinnati feeling like I was going to explode if I didn't start looking for apartments immediately. After spending some time in a city again, I remembered that I just really love cities & desperately wanted to live in one again. I also realized that I'd become uncomfortable with my standard response to people who asked what I was up to since moving home. "I'm planning to move to Cleveland," I'd tell them, but it was just an intangible dream. I was doing no actual planning because I was scared.

But then my desire to get the proverbial ball rolling bubbled up & spilled over, & I had to do something. That same night, I took to Craigslist & PadMapper, to &, emailing anyone whose listing seemed like it fit my criteria, which included:
  • Apartment, not a house
  • Preferably in a managed building
  • No roommates
  • In a desirable neighborhood
  • Preferably with an actual Cleveland address
  • Allows cats
I sent out a dozen email inquiries that night, figuring I'd look at a few apartments to start feeling comfortable with the process but that I wouldn't actually move for awhile. Still, the apartment with the bay windows in Tremont stood out. I wasn't quite ready to move yet, but I felt like it was supposed to be mine.

That night came the dream, & the next day came all the repeated refreshing of my email inbox. Halfway through the day, a response arrived. My palms sweating & my heart beating loudly, I felt certain that when I opened it, it would tell me the place had already been claimed.

Taking a deep breath & bracing myself for disappointment, I clicked "open" to read a message from Anna, the landlord of the apartment with the bay windows. It began,
Hi Kate. This might get a little windy, but bear with me, please. I pre-screen potential tenants by whether or not, and how, they reply to my questions. I've also spent the last 45 minutes or so getting sucked into your blog. I love how you write! Fabulous combination of proper language skills, American lingo, and honest, thoughtful stories. As a landlord, clear, honest and open communication is critical, and I hope you'll become my tenant!
I was floored. I was ecstatic. I was so proud of this little blog for being a good enough representation of my personality that it convinced the landlord of a charming Cleveland apartment that I was a worthy renter.

I drove up to Cleveland that night, where I was overjoyed to discover that the apartment has not just one but two huge bay windows, plus two cute coffee shops within easy walking distance. The kitchen is huge, the wood floors are lovely, & the apartment has four rooms, which is more space than I've ever really dreamed of having while living alone. And to top it off, the landlord reminds me of a hybrid of my mother & an older version of myself.

Basically, it was a no-brainer. I said yes to it on the spot, & I got the keys last Friday. I moved some stuff in last weekend but stayed with my mom this week, & we'll move all my furniture in tomorrow afternoon.

And then? Then I'll be a real Clevelander, this thing I've dreamed of for the better part of a decade now.

Tomorrow, I'm going home.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I Went Camping & Did Not Even Come Close to Dying

The first/last time I went camping, I was probably about 7 years old. My Uncle Jim & my dad took my younger cousin Emily & me to God-knows-where campground in bufu Ohio for a quick weekend in the woods. We probably stayed near a covered bridge, because my dad & my uncle used to explore them together. Neither of them is/was particularly outdoorsy, though (sorry, Uncle Jim), so I can't imagine we were very hardcore about any of it. I remember that a raccoon stole our food in the middle of the night & that we might've gone home early because of it.

As you can imagine, when my boyfriend Mike asked me if I wanted to go camping this month with him & his friends, I was both skeptical & enthusiastic.Mostly, I was very gung-ho about making my triumphant (ha) return to the activity of communing with nature.

Uh, did I mention that I am basically the opposite of outdoorsy?

I am so indoorsy, in fact, that Mike made fun of me when he arrived at my mom's house to pick me up. I had chosen to forgo my anxiety medicine in favor of being able to booze with the gang that night, so I was, shall we say, on high alert. I was all packed, with no idea whether I'd actually brought any of the right things, & no one was sure whether my parents' old tent, purchased circa 1992, still had all the right accoutrements to make it a passable outdoor dwelling. I had brought, like, four small bottles of Purell & was planning to subsist on PB&J sandwiches & small bags of goldfish crackers all weekend.

In other words, I was ready.

The campground where we were headed, Mohican Reservations in Loudonville, OH, is less than two hours away from my hometown, but the differences between them blew my mind. How is it possible that there's so much old-timey farmland just around the corner from my suburban oasis? On our drive south, we passed half a dozen Mennonite churches, three Amish buggies, two men standing in a field pushing a cow, & a man in overalls asleep on a riding mower in the middle of a field. Though we'd agreed to turn off our cell phones once we got in the car, I couldn't stick to it because everything was passed along the way was hilarious enough to deserve its own tweet. I felt like I'd time-traveled to the early 1900s.

When we arrived at the campground, I was surprised to find that it was nothing like I'd expected. I knew we'd be, like, on the ground in the woods, but I'd imagined it it to be much more "Fend for yourself" than "You can buy toilet paper & marshmallows at the general store at the center of camp." As it turns out, Mohican is basically a huge, open plot of land along a river (the Mohican River, incidentally), & there are literally hundreds of people camping there at any given time during the summer. This wasn't, like, stranded-in-the-woods camping. I was both relieved & disappointed.

We were camping with a group of about 30 (!!!), so we were relegated to a portion of the campground that was somewhat segregated from the rest of the guests. We could hear them, & certainly we could see them as we trekked the quarter of a mile to the outhouses in times of bodily need, but for the most part, we didn't have to interact with anyone else, which lent a more secluded vibe to the weekend.

And it went so well.

Our tent wasn't missing any pieces, even though we assembled it drunk. I slept on a sleeping bag set atop a yoga mat & somehow got a good night's sleep. I sweated so much that I had five bottles of water on Saturday morning & never had to pee. We tubed down the river, full of beer & covered in mud, & I somehow wasn't afraid of aquatic life. We cooked copious hotdogs over the grill & a very kind veteran camper let me make breakfast bacon on her grill (OK, she mostly did it for me). I did not eat a single PB&J sandwich, but I did consume a lot of PBR & exactly as many Goldfish crackers as predicted.

I don't know what I was expecting, but I didn't need that Xanax, after all. I sneezed more than usual, but not as much as expected (thanks, Zyrtec). I wore zero makeup but lots of extra-strength deodorant, & my organic bug spray miraculously shielded me from every single mosquito that might've bitten done me harm. I rinsed off in the campground's communal showers after floating down the river, & I felt like it got me cleaner than I'd ever been in my life. My back hurt from sleeping on the ground, but at the end of the weekend, my heart was so full that it didn't really matter.

Camping had me out of my element, to be sure, but it was also one of the most relaxing, enjoyable experiences I've had in a long time (not mention one of the sweatiest). I'm already hoping to do it again - but maybe I'll wait until autumn?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

11 Things I'm Going to Miss About Living with My Mom

As excited as I am to move to Cleveland & strike out on my own again, there are a lot of things I'm going to miss about living here in the 'burbs with my mom:
  1. Spending time with my mom: Truly, the best thing about living at home has been living with my mom, which is maybe a thing I'm not supposed to say at age 30. But really, after seven years of living hours away from her, it's been great to be able to watch the new episode of Grey's together or meet her for happy hour on a Friday after work or grab lunch in the middle of the work day.
  1. Eating homemade food: Speaking of meals, my mom is an excellent maker-of-things & a very kind soul who occasionally makes me: fruit smoothies, veggie juice, dirty chai lattes, turkey wraps, BBQ pulled chicken, & other such delicacies. I'm, uh, not awesome at fending for myself when it comes to nutrition, so I'll miss her occasional interventions in the form of healthy food.
  1. Cuddling with the puppies: When I first moved home, I wasn't a big fan of my mom's two chihuahua mixes, Chyna & Jed. In time, though, they've become my little buddies. I'll do just fine without their barking & shedding, but I'm definitely going to miss the times when they're my A+ adorable furry BFFs.
  1. Living in a whole house: Aside from living with my mom, I've only ever lived in apartments - & usually small ones, at that. While the apartment I'm moving into is way bigger than past pads, it's been nice living in a house with rooms! and stairs! and a basement! for a bit.
  1. Having a yard: If I'm being totally honest, I don't spend a lot of time in our yard. I'm not a gardener or a sunbather - I'm a little bit, how you say... indoorsy - but having lived in apartment complexes for the better part of the last decade, it's been a luxury just to know the yard is there. I love sitting on the patio on sunny weekends or listening to the rain fall from our porch on stormy nights - activities you can't enjoy sans backyard.
  1. Watching cable: I'm sure I won't spring for cable once I move because it's spendy & when you have Netflix & Hulu, why bother? But there's something comforting about settling in on the couch on a lazy day, scrolling through the channels & landing on something totally random. With Netflix & Hulu, I have to, like, decide what I want to watch. That can be, like, soooo stressful. [Dramatic sigh.]
  1. Working from "my" Starbucks: I have grown to love the Starbucks location that I work from at least three days a week. It's big & bright & comfortable, & the baristas are usually friendly. Some of them know me by name & occasionally do nice things, like give me a venti when I pay for a grande. There are other regulars here, too, people I've never spoken to but trust to keep an eye on my stuff if I need to use the restroom. It's the little things, man. 
  1. Hearing the train: Our house is just yards away from train tracks, & though passing trains always scare the bejeezus out of visitors, I've always found the sound comforting. It blares all day long, in mid-afternoon & in the middle of the night, & while it's usually loud as hell, it just  sounds like home. When I'm away, I fall asleep to a white noise app that includes train sounds, but nothing beats the real thing
  1. Not paying rent: OK, OK, I know, I'm an adult, & I know adults pay rent - or mortgages, or whatever. Adults have to pay to to live wherever they live. But it's been really nice to take a quick break from that - to save money, to pay off some of my loans, & yes, to indulge in some luxuries I couldn't otherwise afford (hello, subscription box obsession). Thanks, Mom, for letting me pay you in dinner dates instead of rent checks.
  1. Having a driveway: I technically have a parking spot at my new place, but it's one of those weird ones that's sort of on the sidewalk & will definitely be a pain in the butt in the winter. I'm glad to have parking at all, but I will certainly miss the reliable little driveway sidecar spot I've got at my mom's place.
  1. Being in familiar surroundings: I know Cuyahoga Falls. I feel comfortable in Cuyahoga Falls.And while I don't want to live in Cuyahoga Falls for the rest of my life, I have absolutely enjoyed being back here - much more than I expected to, actually. I used to think this place was so podunk, & maybe it is, but the older I get, the more I value home. Every small-town resident complains about running into high school classmates at the gym & ex-boyfriends' mothers at the grocery store, but I secretly love it. Yeah, I said it: I love Cuyahoga Falls.
But I'm gonna love this next step, too, I just know it. I get the keys to my new apartment on Friday, & then it becomes official: I'm about to become a Clevelander!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Time I Cheated On Cleveland with Another Ohio City

One of my New York coworkers confused Cincinnati & Cleveland the other day, & I scoffed, "Cincinnati is practically Kentucky." My boss chimed in, with one of those laughs that is not really meant to be funny, "And Cleveland is practically what? Western Pennsylvania?" Low blow, people who think Ohio is the sticks.

But I love Cleveland, & Cincinnati is, well, Cincinnati. It's nearly a four-hour drive from home &, like, what's even there? My aunt & uncle & cousins live in the suburbs, & I've always enjoyed visiting them - not least of all because they have a great swimming pool in their backyard - but as a city, Cincinnati has never held much allure for me.

When I visited the family over Fourth of July weekend, I changed my mind.

As it turns out, Cincinnati is kind of awesome. My family & I went downtown the day after the holiday to spend some time exploring the city's many recent developments, & I was so impressed by it that I even had a moment of wondering, "Should I move here instead of Cleveland?" I mean, my mind wasn't that changed. But I had such a good time that I'm already planning my next visit.

The city had long been readying itself for the 2015 All-Star Game, which meant everything was in tip-top shape & full of quirky details like... mustaches everywhere? I'm not sure why they chose mustaches, but there was one painted onto a tall building, & there were funny little statues of them all over the place (both seen below).

In the center of it is the Roebling Suspension Bridge, which connects Cincinnati to Covington, Kentucky, across the water. When the bridge opened in 1866, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, at 1,056 feet long. By now, it's fallen to 145th on the list of the world's longest suspension bridges (the Verrazano-Narrows is the longest in the U.S.), but I still think it's beautiful.

We spent most of our time at the newly renovated Smale Waterfront Park, set along the Ohio River  overlooking Kentucky. It's 40 acres large & one of the coolest parks I've ever visited, despite the fact that it's still unfinished in the midst of a $120 million renovation. When we visited, it was still under construction & awaiting elements like an esplanade & a farmers market, which I know because we made small talk with a chatty woman who's studying for the Cincinnati Parks Foundation's docent test.

There's so much to see in this park. It's full of creative playground elements, like interactive fountains, a rope bridge, some wacky-looking slides, & a big, metal pig with wings on a high-up pole, which kids can climb into for a quick "flight." It's designed to create opportunities for "inadvertent exercise" so that kids can get healthy while they have fun - & obviously it's also a site for lots of adorable scenes.

One of my favorite parts of the park were these massive, metal porch swings that overlook the river. They would be the perfect place to sit on a sunny day (which was not exactly the case on the overcast afternoon we visited) to eat lunch or go on a little picnic date. 


My other favorite part of the park was Carol Ann's Carousel, a gorgeous, brand new carousel housed in a large glass "box" that, of course, overlooks the river. It costs $2 to ride, & you get an adorable, old-timey token after you've paid. There are 44 animals to choose from, including standard horses & more uncommon characters like a ladybug, a bat, & a housefly. My mother opted for a large rabbit, & I, perhaps unsurprisingly, chose the cardinal - Ohio's state bird, duh. I also got really excited about the term #carouselfie, though I suppose that because someone else took this photo, that term doesn't actually apply here. Just go with it.

We weren't in downtown Cincinnati for long, & despite a very full afternoon, we actually didn't get very much sightseeing in, so I'm already thinking of making another visit that way in the near future. I'd like to check out the American Sign Museum & the Underground Railroad Museum & also maybe some things that aren't museums, like... I have no idea what, because I don't know what else is actually in Cincinnati - but I love the idea of  continuing to explore Ohio & falling further in love with all the mini adventures this state has in store for me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Birthday Wishlist, If I Were a Dreamer (& I Am)

I turn 31 in a couple weeks, which is a pretty lackluster birthday age. I mean, I guess that's how it goes from here on out, right? The next time you hit a milestone, you're turning 40, so you're probably also weeping a little - & so it goes forever...

The world basically says that once you turn 30, you're not supposed to, like, do stuff for your birthday anymore. Just the other day, I read a Twitter conversation about how you can't have a party or expect presents once you're an adult, but I think that's sort of bunk. I mean, you shouldn't expect a party or presents, but you can definitely invite your friends to happy hour or ask your significant other to go to dinner at your favorite restaurant or whatever the hell you want to do. I firmly believe that birthdays still get to be fun. Forever.

But I do agree that you shouldn't expect presents anymore. What are we, 5? This is not a birthday party in a McDonald's Play Place, you guys. Everyone's got bills to pay & lives to live, & probably no one's sending you gifts anymore. I think, though, that when you hit an age like 31, you should buy yourself a gift - treat yo'self, as the kids say. And if you can't buy yourself a gift because you're putting all your money into a new apartment & the indulgence of monthly subscription boxes? Well, then you should just spend a little time formulating a mental list of future gifts to buy yourself.

Here's mine.
  1. A back massage: I have chronic back pain from that time I had two stainless steel rods inserted around my spine. Like everyone else on the planet, I also carry all my stress in my neck & shoulders, which makes for extra pain on top of chronic pain. I've been aching (literally) for a good back massage, the professional kind, & have thus been scouring Groupon for a good deal at a decent place. Deep tissue grind, I'm comin' for ya.
  1. The Harry Potter boxed set: Why do I need this? OK, I don't need this. But this is a wishlist! It's not about things I need. I own most of the Harry Potter books, but they're all mismatched - some paperback, some hardcover, some in good shape, some battered. I'd love a pretty, matching set that I can show off on the bookshelf in my new apartment. And while I'm on the topic of Harry Potter, I'm also desperate to own a large, framed print of this incredible Hogwarts art from Anne Lambelet Illustration.
  1. Car detailing: I'm not even sure if that's what this is called because I'm still not used to having a car again. Basically, I want someone else to vacuum my vehicle. I'm a relatively not-dirty person, & I've only had this car for seven months. Why is it already full of, like, crumbs & hair?! I found a spiderweb in the door frame the other day, which really made me feel like a trashball of a human. Who wants to do this for me? No one? Goddamnit, adulthood.
  1. Starbucks gift cards: I go to Starbucks every day, maybe you've heard? Granted, I probably won't go nearly as much once I move to Cleveland, because there are none close by & I'll be about two blocks from two independent coffee shops. But as someone who works from "home," I still hoard Starbucks gift cards so that I can score paid-for-by-someone-else drinks on days when I'm a little bit more broke than usual.
  1. An iPhone tripod: I feel like such a social media-loving millennial d-bag for even wanting this, but, like, sometimes a  blogger just wants to take a killer non-selfie-looking-selfie & doesn't want to have to prop her phone up on the back porch railing, you know? So sue me.
  1. A flight to Denver: OK, OK, so I'll buy this for myself eventually, but I've been keeping an eye out for low flight pricing so that I can visit my blogger friends Jess & Dominique in Colorado in November for a weekend-long sleepover vacation. This sounds like the best thing ever, especially because it's happening just a few days after a major work conference that will have me all burned out & in need of some relaxation & boozing with ladyfriends.
  1. The 31 Bits Tribal Verdana Necklace: I ordered a 31 Bits necklace a few weeks back & I luuuurve it, all the more so because it's handmade with recycled paper by women earning a living wage in Uganda. The Tribal Verdana necklace is exactly my style, big & bold & kind of weird, perfect against black (the only color I ever really wear), served with a side of social justice.
  1. A giant TV: In my dreams, I watch my Netflix marathons & Game of Thrones binges on one of those movie theater-style screens that you, like, mount against your wall, all flat & beautiful & chic. In real life, I have a 32" flat-screen that my ex gave me that works perfectly fine & absolutely does ot need to be upgraded (if only I could find the remote). A girl can dream though, right? Right. Especially on her birthday & as she plans a move to an adorable new apartment.
Is your birthday coming up? What do you want? Hell, even if your birthday's not coming up, tell me: What's on your personal wishlist at the moment? Let's dream together!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Confession: At Age 30, I'm Scared to Move Out of My Mom's House

Apartment-hunting is notably The Worst™. Everyone knows that. 

As an added deterrent, though, it can be extra  difficult to convince yourself to buck up & undertake the dreadful process of searching for a new place when you're currently residing with your mom, who you happen to like a lot, in a hometown where you feel comfortable & mostly happy.

By "you" & "yourself," in this case I obviously mean "me" & "myself," as this has been the exact story of my life for the past eight months. 

I have to admit: It's been so, so nice living at home since moving back to Ohio at the end of November. There were a rough few weeks there at the beginning, but once I settled in, well, it became a pretty sweet deal: friendly mom, cute dogs, big space, familiar town, &, oh, yeah, no rent. I wanted to find my own place, but I wasn't making active moves toward it. Maybe I should've felt a greater sense of urgency, but for most of the last eight months, I just haven't been in any big hurry to move out again.

But I'm going to turn 31 next month. I feel mostly fine about it; I certainly don't feel like I'm on the verge of some late-night emotional meltdown, as I did in the weeks before I turned 30. As my birthday started to loom nearer, though, I began to feel like I should be moving toward something - like maybe it was time to move out of my mom's house & into my own place in Cleveland, the thing I came home to do.

It's not that I'm embarrassed to be living with my mom. I'm mostly not. I'm not here because I'm down & out & falling apart; I have a full-time, well-paying job, & I made a fiscally smart decision to save money by living here for a bit. On top of that, being in such proximity to my mama, especially after so many years away, has been a dream ("59 out of every 60 minutes," as she likes to say). I told myself I'd stay here until I found something I liked, something that felt right, because it's pretty A-OK here, & I didn't want to rush this & end up in some crummy apartment that I wanted to move out of yet again in 12 months. 

For the last seven months, I felt comfortable with that decision, & I wasn't looking for apartments. Honestly, I wasn't even thinking about looking for apartments, despite the fact that I was still telling people I was "planning to move to Cleveland." Sometime during course of the last month, though, with 31 in the horizon, I started to realize why I wasn't making any forward motion, & it wasn't because I didn't want to. It was because of fear

I wasn't just being fiscally savvy or enjoying living with my mom. I was also inexplicably terrified to strike out on my own again, afraid of falling flat on my face. I was - am- afraid of paying rent again, of not being able to afford things I want, of having to act like a real adult, of the possible loneliness of living on my own, of living in a new city, of maybe not having any friends, of starting over yet again... One of my worst habits is that I am always so afraid of new beginnings, & despite what I thought were my best efforts, this time is no different.

When realized that I had begun to use my "I'm just being responsible!" explanation as an excuse, I also realized that it wasn't resonating with me anymore. During those months when I really meant it, I felt OK about it when I realized that I had begun to use it as a means of getting out of trying - & of possibly failing - I started to feel uneasy. I wanted to move. I was just too scared.

I've always been the kind of person who doesn't until I do. I don't feel compelled to take action until all of a sudden, it feels like time to take immediate action - & this process of finding an apartment was no different. All of a sudden, I decided it was time, & so the hunt began, quickly & with a vengeance.

If you follow me on Instagram or we're friends on Facebook, you probably already know part two of this story: I found an apartment in Cleveland! That is a story for another post, & it's one I plan to write soon. But for now, I'm trying not to panic as the countdown to moving day begins.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'm always panicking; that's sort of the point. But I'm also finally taking steps forward. I decided to do this - I came back to do this - & I'm finally about to do it. Fear or not, I will become a Clevelander - this month.
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