Why I Marched (& Which Signs I Liked Best)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

"This is what democracy looks like!"

I was proud to march in the Cleveland Women's March on Saturday with three of my friends & 7,000 others Northeast Ohioans. We marched alongside sisters (& brothers & non-binary folks!) who were Black, white, Latinx, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, trans, gay, disabled, young, old, fat, thin...

I'll be honest: Based on some of what I'd read, I went into the event more than a little skeptical of the movement's commitment to diversity & inclusivity. I read that Black Lives Matter, in particular, was in disagreement with Women's March coordinators in a number of cities, including D.C. & Cincinnati. I also read a piece written by one of my dear friends, titled, "Getting intersectional means showing up when there are no pink hats," that had me questioning my motives for attending & wondering whether it was OK for me to participate.

Ultimately, I decided that participating in this march was just one piece of my broader activism efforts - & I need to remember that throughout the year! One march does not an activist make - so I've (we've!) got to keep it up.

Overall, I was really proud of our city's turnout & of the speakers on the docket, who spoke about everything from reproductive choice to violence against Black women to climate change to LGBTQ equality to education reform. The speakers themselves were diverse & representative of a variety of organizations across the Cleveland area. I did note that there were not nearly as women of color as I would've liked to have seen at an event in a Black-majority city - but I wonder if the aforementioned concerns kept potential participants of color away.

It seemed, to me at least, to be a day quite representative of the many issues & intersections that impact today's women - & indeed, all of us. (Side note: If you have a case against this, though, I'd love to know more, as I know there was a lot of discussion before the marches about whether they appropriately centered marginalized women.)

There were, of course, some incredible signs. A few of my favorites are rounded up here, but keep scrolling, because beneath the photos, i'm also sharing some important resources!

So, yes, it was a very powerful morning. But now what? Now let's keep it up! 

Whether or not you marched on Saturday, find ways to get involved this year. Figure out what matters to you, & take action. Looking for local organizations to support & get involved in? Here are just a few great ones:

May this be the year that we all choose how to become more involved - & may this be the year we trust women.

...that we listen to Black women.

...that we stand with trans women.

...that we support immigrant women.

...that we defend Muslim women.

May this be the year that we believe in women.

In 2018, the blue wave is coming. And next time, I'm bringing a damn sign to the rally.

10 Observations about the Dawson's Creek on Its 20th Anniversary

Friday, January 19, 2018

It was a whopping 20 years ago tomorrow that Dawson's Creek aired on the WB (RIP). My best friend Christina & I were in eighth grade, & even before the first episode hit the airwaves, we knew from the commercials & articles in Seventeen that it was going to be our favorite show. Ever.

And it was. It is.

Do you remember watching your favorite show, as a kid, with no inkling that you would ever be able to watch it again? Back then, seasons of TV shows didn't really even come out on VHS. Unless you recorded the episodes on your own VCR, each viewing was likely to be your only.

And so I watched each episode of Dawson's Creek like it was my only chance - which is also why it's the one show I've been so reluctant to rewatch. This show is seared in my brain as perfect, the show that influenced me, that grew up with me, that educated me, that gave me half my vocabulary (truly, those kids' mental thesauruses are impressive as hell). Yes, with time, it's become critically panned & much maligned, but in my teenage mind, Dawson's Creek was - & still is - the best TV show of all time.

I haven't wanted to sully or in any way taint that memory - but recently, I've watched (for the first time) other celebrated teen angst-centric drama, including The O.C. & Gossip Girl (both great). As much as I enjoyed their glitz & glamour, I found that in watching them, I pined for the regular-kid normalcy of the Capeside kids, who weren't cool or popular or bad or beautiful. They were just... they were real, even with that damn overwrought dialog.

And so, last week, I started watching Dawson's Creek again. It's all right there for me, on Hulu, to be rewatched & relived & re-enjoyed. Why not now? Going back to Capeside feels like coming home - even without the Paula Cole intro.

In celebration of the show I've always loved most - & hopefully still will, when all of this is over - here are a few observations about the show based on episode one of season one, the pilot that aired 20 freaking years ago. Say goodnight, friends - not goodbye.

1. There's a lot of very frank body talk.

Off to the races! In the show's very first scene, Joey talks about "breasts & genitalia," & later, Jen tells her horrified, religious grandmother, "I'll go to church when you say the word penis. Clinical & technical: penis." And of course, when it comes to less clinical & technical terminology, there's that now-famous scene in which Joey asks Dawson when he "walks his dog," a new euphemism written just for the show because they couldn't technically discuss masturbation on the cable. (His answer, in case you're not familiar with the scene, is "Usually in the morning, with Katie Couric.")

2. This show was ahead of its time on a number of fronts.

Sure, Dawson's Creek was the first show to reference, you know... walking the dog. But it wasn't all sex & body talk. The show also featured a number of unusual-for-1998 themes, right off the bat, including Bessie & Bodey's interracial relationship & Jen's outspoken, unapologetic atheism. Later, it would also delve into other serious social issues, like Jack coming out as gay & Andi grappling with severe mental illness. As an adult liberal, I very much appreciate that Dawson's Creek just got into it.

3. I am deeply uncomfortable with the phrase "Mr. Man Meat."

Very early in S1E1, Dawson & Pacey walk in on Mr. & Mrs. Leery gettin' their freak on... on the coffee table. As the missus buttons up & leaves for work, she kisses Dawson's dad &, in front of her son & his teenage friend, refers to her husband as "Mr. Man Meat." As a now-married woman, I cannot think of a grosser nickname, truly.

4. Wait, what is Pacey short for, anyway?

I'm still dying for a backstory about how a main character ended up with a name that isn't even a name - but since we never meet Pacey's mom (& his dad really sucks), we never learn this detail. Inquiring minds want to know: Is anyone in the world actually named this?

5. Jen's arrival is very cliched &... billowy.

We first meet new-girl Jen Lindley when she climbs out of a yellow cab, blond hair blowing in the breeze & buttoned-up skater dress (ah, the '90s) clinging ever so lightly to her lithe frame. It's all very girl-in-a-music-video & very ridiculous.

6. Oh, yeah. Pacey & Dawson work in a freaking video store.

Long before the advent of Netflix or iTunes or online pirating, the boys worked in an old-fashioned video store, the kind with VHS tapes lining the walls - & it's no Blockbuster, either. It's that independently owned type that has long gone the way of the dodo.

7. This show gets right to it on the affair-with-a-teacher thing.

As a teen, I thought this story line was over-the-top but still kind of cool in a TV drama kind of way. As an adult, this story line  really bothers me - & it has since showed up in nearly every teen drama, from Pretty Little Liars to Riverdale. Tamara is so overtly sexual, right off the bat, from the day she waltzes into the video store & flirts with a smitten teenage boy as she requests The Graduate, of all movies. This lady has zero self-control, & her remorse feels absolutely disingenuous.

8. Pacey literally says, to his teacher, "I'm the best sex you'll never have."

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Just before a very brazen & ridiculous scene in which Tamara makes out with her young high school student on a public dock in full view of God-knows-who - in a small town, no less! - this swaggering 15-year-old manchild actually says this to his teacher. Again, as a now-33-year-old woman, I am deeply uncomfortable with his self-confident hotness because I do not think teacher/student scenes are hot. And yet... here I am, feeling 14 again & thinking Pacey is just so cool?! No. Stop.

9. "No" is a complete sentence.

What an underrated lesson from the first episode of this much-maligned show. How I wish I'd internalized this one long ago! It comes from a film teacher whose class Dawson wants to take; the teacher insists the class is full & that he can make no exceptions. "'No' is a complete sentence," he tells Dawson, a sentiment that would, in the late 2010s, become the mantra of anti-sexual assault activists & self-care advocates alike.

10. Nineties music was the best music, don't @ me.

The first episode alone includes Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping," The Pretenders' "I'll Stand By You," & "As I Lay Me Down To Sleep" by one-hit wonder Sophie B. Hawkins, which swells & booms as a lovestruck Dawson spots Jen sitting on the dock with her feet in the water & her hair blowing in the damn wind again. I also remember fondly the show's soundtrack, which featured nineties names like Sixpence None The Richer & Sophie B. Hawkins & introduced me to Jessica Simpson.

Bonus thoughts from episode two: Dawson wears a lot of vests; Jen has the cheesiest dialog of the whole cast; there's no way Tamara is not yet 40.

I am having a blast rewatching this show, & I can't wait until it makes me cry for the first time. Is that a weird thing to say? Bring it on, Capeside. I'm here to feel 15 again.

Did you watch Dawson's Creek? What's your all-time favorite teen-angst drama?

11 Feel-Good Books That Will Warm Your Heart

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

When I think about the times in my life when my anxiety & depression were at their worst, I spot something else those periods of time have in common: I was not reading any books. These days, reading is my favorite go-to for an escape from the real world, & it's probably no coincidence that my anxiety has been much more well-controlled than usual in the time since I recommitted to regular reading.

Studies have shown that reading does, in fact, reduce anxiety.

Reducing anxiety is good for your health.

What's good for your health is good for your body.

And what's good for your body is good for you!

February 2nd is National Wear Red Day in the U.S., a day devoted to women's heart health & to overall wellness. In anticipation of this educational day, I'm one of a few Cleveland bloggers partnering with the American Heart Associationto talk about preventing heart disease, the number-one killer of American women. The AHA's Go Red For Women® movement aims to provide women with the tools & resources to reduce their risk for heart disease & stroke.

Anxiety & stress can cause high blood pressure, asthma, ulcers, bowel issues, & migraines, & can have other negative effects on the body. Stress can also lead us to seek unhealthy ways of coping, including drinking, smoking, & doing drugs - all of which are, of course, not good for the heart or body. In short, reducing stress can reduce your risk of heart disease & other ailments, contributing to your overall health & wellness.

So let's talk about my favorite healthy way to relax my mind & body: reading!

In partnership with the Cleveland American Heart Association, I've curated a list of some of my favorite feel-good reads that will warm your heart (in the proverbial way, of course) & help you chill out. So go read a book - it's good for your heart!


To Motivate a Positive Outlook...

Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes
Sure, "No" is a complete sentence - but are you saying "no" to too many things? Are you saying "yes" enough? Grey's Anatomy creator & all-around media powerhouse Shonda Rimes (a perpetual naysayer, apparently) shares her experiences in saying yes to all manner of experiences, an effort to push her b oundaries & test her comfort zone. Exhausting? Sure - but the results are worth it, & they may just inspire you to a few more yeses, too.

To Make You Feel Nostalgic for the Past...

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
When Ava interviews her 85-year-old Grandma Addie for a school project, she's enraptured by the detailed & fascinating stories her grandmother tells of growing up in Boston as a Jewish immigrant during the turn of the century. With humor & grace, Addie weaves lifetime of tales of friendship, family, feminism, & more, stories so engaging you'll feel like she's your own grandmother.

To Remind You to Cherish Friendships...

A Man Called Ove by Frederick Bachman
This book snuck up on me! I didn't initially like it, but the further I got into the story, the more I found myself enamored of it. Curmudgeonly Ove, widowed & newly unemployed, is planning to take his own life - until his meets neighbors who, despite his best efforts, become friends - & eventually begin to feel like family - who make his life worth living.

To Escape into Another World...

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I would've thought them too obvious to include in such a list, but when I learned that a coworker of mine has never read any of these classic books, I realized that I need to preach the gospel. When you want to get your mind off the real world, there's no better way to do it than by visiting the wizarding world. Just reading about Hogwarts is enough to make you feel warm & cozy, & there's nothing more soothing than getting lost in the literal magic of this beloved series. It gets better with every reread!

To Tap Into the Feeling of Young Love...

The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt
Try to remember your teenage days: Was there any feeling more wonderful (&, OK, more agonizing) than that feeling of first love? Blitt's YA romance novel is so much more than that, delving deep into the personalities & personal struggles of teens Abby & Zeke, who meet during a summer French class & fall for one another, despite the fact that they couldn't be more different. This is a light-hearted but well-written read that will have you feeling nostalgic about those feelings of first love.

To Feel Inspired to Fight for a Life You Adore...

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
This is the second memoir from bestselling author & activist Melton, who created the online community Momastery. It tackles difficult topics like self-esteem, eating disorders, mental illness, & marital strife (she has since divorced from her longtime husband & remarried soccer star Abby Wambach). I promise, the book is not nearly as touchy-feely as the title makes it sound like it should be - & by the time you finish it, you'll feel ready to take on the world, warts & all.

To Welcome Old Age with Grace...

I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
This collection of short stories from the late, great Nora Ephron doesn't sound like it ought to be uplifting - & it isn't always, because life isn't, either. Overall, though, it's an honest, hilarious, & heart-warming look at what it's like to grow old as a woman in today's world, & if you've ever worried about aging (who among us hasn't?), this is the perfect book to help you approach it with a healthy sense of humor & readiness.

To Get You Laughing Out Loud....

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
Indian-American Buzzfeed writer Scaachi Koul is a twentysomething with stories to tell & the perfect voice for telling them. Her collection of personal essays are deep & powerful, but she manages to tell them with a cleverness & wit that keep the book from feeling too painfully heavy, even when she's addressing subjects that are. Bonus: The bright pink & yellow cover art is of the feel-good variety, especially on dreary days.

To Inspire You to Fight for Your Life...

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Even if you've seen the movies & think you know this story, Collin's YA trilogy will suck you into the world of Panem, a dystopian world consisting of 12 struggling districts under the thumb of an opulent - & oppressive - Capitol. When teenage archer & survivalist Katniss Everdeen is chosen to fight in the annual Hunger Games, a death-match Olympics from which only one competitor emerges alive, she starts a revolution no one expected - least of all the Capitol.

To Activate Your Imagination...

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
Even if you're not a person who considers fantasy your genre jam, Mafi tells a story so beautiful & so imaginative that you can't help but fall in love with the world she creates & the characters she introduces. Alice, marked with milk-white skin & hair in a world of brilliant color, embarks on a journey through the made-up land of magical Ferenwood in an attempt to rescue her long-lost father - & what a colorful, magical, marvelous journey it is.

To Encourage You to Be Yourself...

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Soon to become a full-length film, this YA novel tells the story of Simon, a very closeted gay teenager who has only told one person about his sexuality - his anonymous pen pal, also closeted, whose identity he does not know. As Simon determines just how to share his secret, he wonders: Will his pen pal like him when he does? What about his family & friends? Simon's courage & humor will have you thinking about your own identities & how to better live as your authentic self.

To learn about more about heart health & healthy living, join me & other Cleveland-area bloggers on Friday, Feb. 2nd, at the 2018 Go Red for Women Expo & Luncheon, hosted by the American Heart Association. 

Can't attend? Follow the Cleveland American Heart Association on FacebookTwitter, & Instagram for ongoing tips about healthy living in 2018. Cheers to that!

Disclosure: The Cleveland American Heart Association invited me to write about heart health & to promote the Cleveland Go Red for Women Expo and Luncheon in exchange for a ticket to attend the event. All opinions - & book reviews! - are my own.

Cleveland Starts Here: Learning More About My Favorite City

Monday, January 15, 2018

I'm a sucker for Cleveland. Maybe you've noticed? Before I even moved here, I knew I'd love this city - & right I was.

Something I don't know much about, though, is Cleveland's history. Sure, I read Cleveland Magazine, & I'm a member of the Western Reserve Historical Society, & I once went on a cool walking tour that taught me about Moses Cleaveland, who founded our fair city & then never returned. (Insert Cleveland jokes here.) I know that a Cleveland deejay coined the term "rock & roll," & that one time, our river caught on fire.

And that's... kind of it.

I'm not much for museums, to be honest, but when the Cleveland History Center debuted its new permanent exhibit, Cleveland Starts Here®, I was really excited to check it out. The exhibit is the first thing you walk through when you visit the history center, with two rooms chock-full of CLE paraphernalia & info.

Suffice it to say, I'm more of a history nerd than I give myself credit for, & I found everything at the history center to be really cool. Here, a few highlights:

Upon entering the CLE Starts Here exhibit, you're faced with a huge timeline wall, which includes photos, videos, artifacts, & interactive elements that tell the city's history through the decades. In the surrounding room, you can read about various elements of the city's past & present, from the founding of the Rock Hall to the Cavs' 2016 win. But it's not only the good stuff: The exhibit also talks about the Tamir Rice shooting & subsequent protests, among other less-savory elements of our city's history - much of which continues today.

The best photo I took of the day was of the giant Chief Wahoo right behind the admission desk, but I feel pretty uncomfortable about that, given the mascot's offensiveness. This massive neon rendering used to live atop the sign over Jacobs Field, but it was removed in 1995 when the field was renamed (though it'll always be Jacobs Field to me!) A sign about the mascot's history asks museum guests to weigh in on the controversy, so here's my hot take: Nostalgic? Sure. Offensive? Deeply. Get rid of 'it - & rename the team altogether. 

Though the exhibit itself isn't huge, it's full of small bits & pieces of history & includes rotating features of the center's many Cleveland historical artifacts. For now, you can see a DeLorean, Cleveland political buttons, & a detailed replica of Terminal Tower, & Gay Games medals, among other items. 

From there, we moved into the rest of the museum & its many exhibits.

As someone with political curiosities, I was especially interested in Carl & Louis Stokes: Making History, highlighting two of the city's most impressive brothers. Carl Stokes, Cleveland's 51st mayor, was the first elected Black mayor of a major American city, & his brother Louis was Ohio's first Black congressman. Both have since passed, but their legacies continue to inspire. Cleveland has since had two Black mayors (including current mayor Frank Jackson), & Louis's House seat - my district! - continues to be held by Black politicians: the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones & the formidable Rep. Marcia Fudge. 

Speaking of politics, my favorite exhibit was Power & Politics, which opened during the 2016 election season. Did you know that eight presidents came from Cleveland? Two were assassinated (Garfield & McKinley), plus an attempt on a third (Taft). The Western Reserve Historical Society possesses one of the country's largest collections of campaign ephemera, which is (fun fact!) a long-time interest of mine. Maybe it's the marketer in me, but I love old campaign buttons.

I particularly love old Eisenhower paraphernalia, in part because I did my second-grade presidential report on him. Don't laugh! Those reports were a big deal, man, & we all became very possessive & defensive of "our" presidents. Plus, how great a slogan is "I like Ike"? My kingdom to anyone who can help me get my hands on an Ike button of my own!

Mike & I split up for part of our time at the museum, based on our interests. I spent a long time wandering the Wow Factor exhibit, which features 100 garments, accessories, & pieces of jewelry worn by Clevelanders throughout the last 150 years. I even spotted a dress created by Project Runway contestant Valerie Mayen (who owns a local shop called Yellowcake) & one worn by Cleveland blogger & DJ/PR gal extraordinaire Reena Samaan Goodwin.

There's much more to the museum, including the Bingham-Hanna Mansion & Hay-McKinney Mansion galleries, the Setting the World in Motion exhibit (which includes a huge Goodyear gondola!), the entire Crawford Auto Aviation Museum (so many cars), a kids' section, & plenty of Cleveland-themed art, plus a gorgeous courtyard that was, upon our visit, covered in snow.

To cap off our trip, we went for a quick ride on the 1910 Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel, relocated & restored more than 40 years after the park's closure. The price of general admission includes two rides! Have I ever told you that I love carousels? Mike was a good sport about it, though he didn't quite share my level of enthusiasm. (I chose a horse named Gertrude, in case you were curious. Yes, they're all labeled with names.)

If you live in Northeast Ohio & are looking for a fascinating but low-key museum day, I can't recommend the Cleveland History Center highly enough. I look forward to continuing to visit as the exhibits & featured artifacts change. Know thy city!

And one last thing: I'll also be attending the Western Reserve Historical Society's upcoming fundraiser Somewhere in Time: Satin & Soot, held January 27th. Tickets for this 1870s-themed costume party begin at $50, with all proceeds benefiting WRHS in providing continued education & public programs. Join me!

Disclosure: I was provided two tickets to the Cleveland History Center to visit the Cleveland Starts Here® exhibit in exchange for my honest review, & I will be attending the Satin & Soot event as a member of the media. I am a member of the Western Reserve Historical Society. All views are, as always, entirely my own!
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