25 Songs to Raise Your Heart Rate

Monday, September 17, 2018

I'm gonna be reaaaaal honest with you: I don't listen to a lot of new music. Nearly everything I listen to is Top 40, either now or from the past, or early-2000s emo. When it comes to music to workout to, I never have any idea what to listen to, so it seems like every time I want to try running - which I seemed to have started & restarted, like, a dozen times over - I end up asking Facebook for ideas.

Last time I tried it - this summer, when I was preparing to run the bridges with Harness Cycle - I finally made a playlist.

I've been building on it, adding songs I like from my cycling classes. Of course, riding & running happen at different paces, but it can't hurt to list a bunch of my faves all in one place, right? And it's not like I'm making my own cycling playlists. That's what my instructors are for!

Why am I sharing my playlist now? The American Heart Association annual fitness-focused event, Heart Walk, is taking place this Saturday in downtown Cleveland. They've raised nearly $1 million so far! If you want to donate or walk or run or volunteer or take a cycling or yoga class at the event, learn more about all of it.

And don't forget your earbuds!

Disclaimer: I am an American Heart Association blogging partner & am not being compensated for my posts or promotions of this event.

Hey, Clevelanders: Let's Talk about LGBTQ+ Equality & Protection in Cuyahoga County

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Photo from LGBTQCleveland, which has lots of great info on this issue.

Hi. In the state of Ohio, you can legally be fired from a job, denied housing, or refused service in a public business because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. And the battle to pass legislation that would change this is getting a little messy. 

This is infuriating. This is not the Cleveland I know or love or stand for or defend - but I know that complaining isn't enough, & posting on social media isn't enough, either.

So if you, like me, are a Cuyahoga County resident who believes in liberty & justice FOR ALL, PLEASE take the time to write to the members of the Cuyahoga County Council urging them to pass. The bill is sponsored by councilmen Brady, Simon, Houser, & Miller - but you can write to all of 'em.
Got questions? Get at me, or check with Equality Ohio or ACLU of Ohio.

Nobody's free until everybody's free.

So stand up. Speak up. Fight for what's right. And help make our city the great place we claim it to be.

Let's Talk about My Sleep Disorder

Friday, September 14, 2018

I am 16 years old, & I fall asleep in the shower before school nearly every day. My show choir loads onto a bus for a 15-hour ride from my Ohio hometown to Florida before a cruise to the Bahamas; I sleep the entire way, waking up only at rest stops when prompted.

I am 18 years old & a freshman at Ohio University, a three-hour drive from my home. Every time I make the trip home, I have to stop to take a quick nap in my car, usually in a remote corner of a rest stop or, preferably, in the parking lot of someplace safe, like a church. My "drive" takes a total of four hours, nearly every time.

I am 20 years old & living in a sorority house with the immediate past president, a friend from high school, who wakes up around 6am every day to go for a run; her alarms never wake me up. Her primary complaint about living with me is that I sleep too much. I do.

I am 22 years old & have transferred schools. In my super-senior year, I need fewer credits than in semesters past, so I haven't scheduled my first class until 1pm every day. I think it will give me more time to do my reporting for the student newspaper, more time for errands & life, but instead, I sleep until noon... almost every day.

I am 25 years old & my grandmother & I are going on a trip together to Baltimore. "We're not coming home in the middle of the day to take a nap or anything," she tells me. "I know you do that sometimes - but I'll sleep when I'm dead." I drink four iced coffees every day to try to stay awake... & in the end, we still come home to nap.

I am 26 years old & dating a Coast Guardsman who wakes up before dawn every workday. On weekends, he tries to wake me up around 9am so that we can make the most of the day, have adventures. Every time I don't get out of bed, I hear him sigh; I hear the annoyance in his voice, the belief that I am lazy, & I feel terrible about it - but still, I fall back to sleep.

I am 30 years old, & although I work remotely, I sometimes work in my old office & claim their library space as my own, like I've done today - my 30th birthday. Around 2pm, I feel like I can't keep my eyes open; I go home to take a nap before my happy hour birthday party, which is when I learn that I slept through an office birthday party my sort-of-coworkers planned for me that afternoon.

I am 32 years old, & I have been having a bout of severe insomnia, something that's never happened to me before. I am so exhausted that I feel drunk, that I am afraid to drive, that I can barely hold conversations; I get the date of my doctor's appointment wrong & start sobbing at the front desk. My GP gives me light sleeping pills & tells me about "sleep hygiene" & sends me off to get better. Soon, I start to sleep again - & go right back to sleeping way, way too much.

I am 34 years old & finally decide to find a sleep specialist who will take me seriously. I am given a next-day appointment at the Cleveland Clinic.

As the neurologist asks me questions about my sleep habits, I see his eyes grow bright with knowledge, like he knows exactly what is going on. He seems excited, & I am, too, presumably not because of what he's about to tell me but because he is about to tell me something. He has been able to put together my puzzle.

I am diagnosed with delayed sleep phase syndrome, which essentially means I am nocturnal. The neurologist says it's not uncommon, but that people with this syndrome typically adjust their lives to work atypical jobs - artists, writers, service industry folks, people who can work after dark. He says people with delayed sleep phase syndrome can lead very normal lives; their bodies simply prefer to be awake at night.

But that doesn't explain the constant exhaustion, he says. People with delayed sleep phase syndrome sleep at irregular times, but in regular amounts.

More importantly, then, I am also diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia, a rare form of narcolepsy. "Idiopathic" means its existence has no known cause; "hypersomnia" indicates excessive tiredness without relief. In other words, I sleep & sleep & sleep, but I never feel any more rested & refreshed. If allowed to do so, I would sleep & sleep & sleep for God-knows-how-long. It goes in indeterminable phases; sometimes I am fine & sleep "normally," while other times I sleep for 14 hours a day.

Yes. That is is exactly.

I cry with relief. I knew I wasn't lazy.

To be sure - although he says he's already pretty sure - my neurologist books me for a 24-hour sleep test, not the regular kind for people with sleep apnea. Most sleep testing facilities run from, say, 10pm until 7am; for people with severe sleep disorders, he says, more testing is needed, & so my test will take place at a luxury hotel within the hospital system. It takes place on a Thursday evening at the end of September, & it will run from 11pm until 11pm.

"It's a really boring process," the neurologist warns. "Bring your laptop & books & movies & other stuff to do while you're in there. We come in every two hours to ask you to take a nap."

"That actually sounds kind of awesome," I tell him.

"...spoken like someone who probably has a severe sleep disorder," he responds, laughing - but he's right.

I am 34 years old, & I have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder so severe that it is considered, for some, a true disability.

I am not lazy. I am not bored. I am not just out of shape or lacking in vitamins or not trying hard enough. I repeat: I am not lazy.

I start to let myself sleep when I need to, on days when I have the time & the capacity to do so - on Sundays without plans or holidays off work. Most importantly for my mental state, I try not to feel guilty about it; I try to tell myself that if this is what my body needs, I don't need to feel bad about providing it - but I have a lifetime of guilt to try to unlearn.

I am 34 years old, & I have a sleep disorder. I have probably had it my whole life. And even though it sort of sucks? I have never been so relieved.

Hot Town, Summer in the City: Highlights of Summer 2018

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Photo by Stephanie DeLacy of Big Hair Creative
Goodbye, sweet summer...

While summer is admittedly not my favorite of the seasons (because, as previously established, I am the world's sweatiest human), I have to admit that this was a pretty good one. I realized I didn't blog about some of the highest points, so - as much for the benefit of my own memory as for your reading enjoyment - I thought I'd round up some of them here as we bid an almost-official farewell to the season.

Taylor Swift's Reputation Tour

By some act of God, my friend Marisa ended up with two free tickets to Taylor Swift's Cleveland show, which were on the floor - like, prettttty good seats. It was the perfect night for a concert, & damn, does TSwift put on a good show. Neither of us knew all of her recent songs, but we still had a great time, & it was really fun to catch up with an old friend just before she moved to the CLE. Free Taylor Swift tickets, can you even imagine?!?

InCuya Music Festival

Cleveland's first music tour was my first, too, & I loved the whole experience. I especially loved Robert Finley, the 63-year-old rocker who didn't start making music until he was 61. We checked out a few of the bands & some of the booze on & off during the two-day festival, & the weather was absolutely perfect for such an event. Looking forward to whatever performances next year has in store! (Read the full post.)

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors

I never blogged about the fact that my little cousin, Grace, called me up one morning & asked if I wanted to go to that night's Cavs/Warriors finals game in downtown Cleveland. I will only say that we paid handsomely for the tickets, which turned out to be for seats in the very top row of the arena, & the Cavs lost badly. But now that LeBron is gone (sob), it's one of those things that I'm just very glad we made happen.

Hamilton at Playhouse Square

I bought Hamilton tickets for Mike, my mom, & me, for three celebrations: Mike's & my dating anniversary, Mother's Day, & my birthday. We went at the start of my birthday weekend, & though I hadn't listened to any of the music ahead of time, I was absolutely blown away by the whole experience. For as highly rated as the show is, I feel like it's still somehow underrated. It was just that incredible.


As you all know, because I talked about it incessantly this summer, I completed a 30-activity challenge at my riding studio. It was hard & took a lot of planning on my part (not to mention a lot of riding!) but it felt so worth it in the end. The photo above is with one of my favorite instructors, Spies, right before my final class of the challenge. (Read the full post.)

Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals

Marisa pulls through again with the good tickets! As a partial season ticket holder, she invited me to join her for a game on Labor Day, which one of the hottest days this city has seen all year (hence the flowy maxi dresses me wore instead of, like, denim shirts & baseball tees). We never even made it to our seats because we watched the whole game from one of the covered bar areas at the field. It was way too hot & we are way too pale to have been out in that sun!

Taste of Tremont

In July, one of my best friends, Sammi, came into town for the day with her partner, David. It happened to be the same day as Taste of Tremont, a food festival that takes place on the street where I live. We invited friends over, bought beer that was much cheaper than what was being sold at the event, & just hung out for the day, enjoying the vibrancy of this neighborhood. There was even a little music stage set up right across the street from our house, so we could listen to live jams from the front porch!

Jimmy Eat World concert

The same night as Taste of Tremont, Sammi & I went to House of Blues for a Jimmy Eat World concert, for my... fifth? sixth? time seeing them. One paragraph is certainly not enough space to tell you how much this show meant to me, but Sammi & I have a long, complicated history, starting with the death of my ex-boyfriend, & going to this show with her felt like peak friendship. Did I cry? Yes. Yes, of course I cried.

#InfiniteKusama Exhibit

Renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama came to Cleveland - or her art did, at least - when a huge exhibit went up at the Cleveland Museum of Art in June. Tickets were said to be so difficult to acquire that Mike & I first became members of the art museum to ensure that we'd be able to go. I was completely enamored of & in love with literally every single part of it. (Read the full post.)

Geneva, N.Y.

In early July, we traveled to the Finger Lakes for our friends Sam & Ryan's wedding at a castle. Mike turned out to be fairly disappointed in the castle itself ("It's a building with a turret!"), but the wedding itself was great - & the castle still had a wine spigot in the lobby, soooo. I also loved the views from the nearby lake. So beautiful & so close to home! (Read the full post.)

Two trips to Pennsylvania

In June, Mike & I went to my family's cabin in the woods of Pennsylvania; in August, my mom & I did the same. The first one was fun & drunken; the second one was relaxing & laid-back. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to take these annual - & sometimes biannual - getaways into the middle of nowhere with friends & family, & I love showing Mike this place that reminds me so much of my dad & my childhood. (Read the full post.)

In all, a great summer, with lots not covered here. What was the best part of your summer?

Ladies' Night Out: Making Candles & Spa Goodies for Fall

Monday, September 10, 2018

Three things about me:
  1. I am allergic to most commercial candles.
  2. I am newly into taking baths.
  3. I have very dry skin come winter.
How are these random facts related? They all pertain to my recent experience making candles, bath bombs, & lip balm at the Cleveland Candle Company's new location in Ohio City. They invited a group of bloggers to come in on a Thursday night to get the lay of the land, shop their new store, & make a few goodies to take home with us (& to encourage us to return, of course!

1. I'm allergic to most commercial candles... but I'm not to the candles from the CLE Candle Co.

Most candles are made with, well, lots of chemical crap, & they make me sneeze much worse than is worthwhile. I've owned a few candles from the CLE Candle Co. in the past... & not a one of them has made my eyes water or my nose tickle.

The CLE Candle Co. makes its candles the simple, natural way: with a soy wax blend & phthalate-free fragrance oils, period. They're also committed to sustainability & buying local: 90% of their oils come from Ohio, they use U.S. soy beans, & all of their glass is U.S.-made.

They have about 200 scents on display, all divided up into categories like food scents, plant & flower scents, specialty scents, & seasonal scents, which makes it easy to hone in on the kind of scents that you like best. I'm partial to food & seasonal scents - no flowers for me please (achoo) - & I knew I wanted to create a fall-scented candle of some sort. 

The staff asks you to write down a few of the scents you like best, then they help you identify which of those might smell good together (including suggesting additional scents, if necessary). I chose a blend of Hot Cinnamon, Whiskey Bar, & Coffee Cake & Spice, adding more of the third scent to keep the candle sweet (& not smelling like shots of Fireball).

Final verdict? My candle smells like the epitome of autumn! I am verrrry embarrassed to admit, though, that I spelled the word "autumn" wrong on my candle label. I guess I was so focused on getting all the letters to fit onto the label that I just, uh, left one of them entirely. Oops.

2. I'm newly into taking baths, & now I have two new bath bombs to soak in after a cycling class.

I've always thoughts baths a little gross - like making human tea of yourself, steeping in your own dirt. When I started riding, though, there were times when I felt I didn't have any choice but to draw a bath to try to soothe sore muscles. I started buying bath bombs, Epsom salts, & other bath items to try to try to make my body feel better.

While we waited for our candles to harden, Tanya, one of the co-owners of CLE Candle Co., took us to a table in the back of the shop, where we made our own bath bombs. 

I picked a scent called Black Tie that I thought smelled like... sexy man, I don't know - the way you imagine Justin Timberlake or Idris Elba might smell, like a light cologne. When I asked Tanya what scents were actually in Black Tie, she told me, "I've always thought it smelled like Dial soap." So now I can't un-think that one! (Still happy to bathe in it, though.)

We made two bath bombs apiece, each of the same scent - but I made a deal with Julia of Beard & the Broad to swap so that we got to take home some different scents. 

3. I have very dry skin come winter, so I stock up on very serious lip balms at the start of the season. 

Forget all those adorable, sweet-smelling lip glosses; I need the serious stuff. A few years ago, my lips were so dry that they started cracking, peeling, & bleeding, no matter what I did or put on them. OW! Now, I'm starting off the fall/winter with five lip balms from the CLE Candle Co., all handmade & containing shea butter & soothing carrier oils - and they smell great.

When the bath bombs were done, we began making our lip balms - again, with lots of choices to make. I decided on shea butter, grapeseed oil, blood orange fragrance oil, & vanilla extract. I chose grapeseed because it's supposed to be great for moisturizing & anti-aging. Yes, please! Other bloggers chose avocado oil, sweet almond oil, & a variety of other options - all with medical benefits. 

We chose our ingredients, melted our beeswax, & hand-poured our mixtures into little plastic containers. Let's be honest: I sucked at this part. I had to re-melt my mixture, I knocked over my containers, & I poured most of them unevenly. Still, it's pretty hard to mess up this process, overall. All my lip balms turned out fine! 

Because we'd each made five in the same flavor/type, we again did some switcheroos so to get a bit of variety. We also created our own labels, getting as creative as we wanted, so we could tell which was which. I accidentally copied Jen of Why CLE?, naming my concoction "Orange You Glad." Hey, great minds think alike! 

It was such a fun event, spending a few hours with fellow Cleveland bloggers & getting to know an independent local brand. The CLE Candle Co. was so generous with their time & products! Their candles burn forrrrrever, but next time I'm in the market for a candle (which, let's be honest, is all fall & winter long), I'll be hitting them up to try out more of their scents. 

If you're curious to know who else joined in on the fun, check out the blogs of the other lovely ladies who attended this event:
Shop the CLE Candle Co. in any of their three locations (Mentor, Coventry, & Ohio City) or, if you're not local, check 'em out online. I promise you'll fall in love with their products!

Disclosure: I was provided free product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions & candle-love are my own. Thanks, CLE Candle Co.! 

Get Well, Girl: Catch Me on This New Podcast!

Friday, September 7, 2018

As a lover of podcast, I've long wanted to be a guest on one. I got the opportunity to do so a few years ago, when my Internet friend Peter DeWolf asked me to appear on #ThePeteCast - but it was so long ago that I can't even find the episode anymore! Ah, the Internet.

My high school friend Marisa recently moved to Cleveland & launched her new podcast, Get Well, Girl, "a breakdown of all things wellness AND the shit you talk about with your girls." Marisa is pursuing a PhD in therapy, so wellness is her jam - & she also loves all thing pop culture. She has a background in radio production, so she decided to come all of her loves into one big podcast.

I was honored to be on the podcast as Marisa's first guest, appearing in episode two. The topic? Staying well & taking care of yourself during the always-stressful act of moving.

At the time of recording - in her new apartment - Marisa had lived in Cleveland for less than a week, & I, as longtime readers know, have done quiiiite a lot of moving in my life. I counted, & I think I'm moved 15 times in the last 16 years, which works out to about one move a year. Damn!

Suffice to say, it was a topic I felt qualified to talk about.

At the end, we transitioned away from the moving convo & into pop culture topics like The Bachelor franchise (my fave, duh) & our recent experience at a Taylor Swift concert, among others.

Want to give us a listen?

Download Get Well, Girl on iTunesStitcher, or wherever you get your podcast fix. 

6 Small Goals for September

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

And just like that, it's September! Cue the Amy Grant: "Oh, how the years go by..." (Tell me I wasn't the only one who looooved AG back in the day?)

Gotta be honest. I did a decent-but-not-great job of my August goals:
  1. Get my car fixed. Much to my surprise, I finished this one. Given that I had "clean out my car" on my to-do list for months (& still haven't done it), I had a feeling I wouldn't do this - but I took my car to a local auto body place on a whim one Tuesday, & it was fixed within an hour.
  2. Finish the #HarnesstheSummer challenge. I finished this, & it was the best & proudest feeling ever. Seriously, I couldn't be happier with myself for making this happen. I did it!
  3. Seriously curb my spending. I did a pretty good job of this one during the first half of August, then I did terribly at it during the second half - & I never did focus on a designated "no-spend week." Ummm, consider this one ongoing.
  4. Make some doctors appointments. In August, I met with a pulmonologist, a neurologist, & an allergist. I had a sinus CT, various breathing tests, & a slew of allergic tests, & I have other things scheduled, including a sleep test. I think it's safe to say that I'm rockin' this goal - & my body thanks me for it!
  5. Plan my upcoming webinars. This is still slow going, so I'll have to crack down in September. Ughhh, the procrastination is killing me!
  6. Start the Cleveland Brewery Passport. I finally grabbed one of these while at Great Lakes Brewing Co. for our friend Darren's birthday, & I have four stamps right now. Hoping to step it up this fall!
For whatever reason, I had a surprisingly hard time coning up with my September goals. That's not to say I have nothing to work on - I certainly do! - but everything felt kind of "meh" to me in the goals department, like, "I'll work on that later," or "I've listed that as a goal in the past & then failed at it." You'll see one repeat goal here because it's time to get this ish done.
  1. Swear less. Lately I've been feeling like I swear more than the average bear. I don't know when or why it happened, but I am definitely a parental-warning kind of communicator, & I think it's time I tried not to be. I'm considering getting a bunch of quarters & putting them into a jar, or something, each time I swear - & then giving whatever's in there to a charity I don't agree with. That should motivate me to tone it down! 
  2. Give my car some TLC. My mom sent me an article that says my car is a model that will run, like, forever if taken care of - & I haven't exactly done that. My little 2010 Mazda 6 has less than 70k miles on her, though, so I need to. She could last for infinity! I want to clean her out, get her vacuumed & maybe detailed, & at least get an oil change. 
  3. Do something meaningful during the Days of Awe. The 10 days between Rosh HaShanah & Yom Kippur are known as the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, & they're intended for self-reflection & repentance. During this time, I'd like to complete the 10Q project & at least begin the #10Days10Ways racial justice project from Temple Israel of Boston. (These are both open to people who aren't Jewish, too, if you're interested.)
  4. Change my name with my banks. I said I wasn't going to add this to my official goals list anymore because I keep putting it off, but it needs to be here precisely because I keep putting it off. This has to happen before the end of the year. Why not do it now?
  5. Make the most of my upcoming work conference. I'm headed to the Women in Digital conference in Columbus, & I'm a little nervous about that I don't know anyone else in attendance. I want to do my best to attend a bunch of sessions, learn as much as I can, & maybe even network a little (which is way outside my usual comfort zone). 
  6. Make a Goodwill run. Or a thrift run, or whatever, really. I've got a few boxes of things that need to go, period; I'm sick of looking at them! Bonus: Doing this will help me achieve #2, too, as a few of the boxes are currently taking up space in my trunk. 
What are your September goals? 

What I Read in August

Monday, September 3, 2018

Another month down. Damn, it's almost September! I didn't feel like I got a lot of reading done in August, but looking back on it now, well, I read 10 books & am about halfway through three others not listed here. Guess it was more productive than I'd realized!

I haven't yet read the book I received as my August Book of the Month Club Pick - Caz Frear's new thriller Sweet Little Lies - but I'm hoping to make it through that one in September. It looks so good! If you're not yet a member, you can get a free book when you sign up for Book of the Month Club using my referral code.

The One by Kiera Cass

This was the final book in The Selection series (though it's followed by two related books that take place two decades later), & like the others, I listened to it on audiobook - at 1.5 speed, which made it go extra-fast. Unfortunately, this was my least favorite of the three, if only because it ended too quickly & tied up too nearly. I wanted to see more of the rebellion, more of the politics, know more about America's family's secrets, etc. It all just felt too fast & too clean. ★★★☆☆

Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls by Ann M. Martin

I'm working my way through the Babysitters Club series in order to be able to listen to & fully appreciate each episode of The Babysitters Club Club podcast, as recommended by Stephany. It seems very silly of me to really review these or give them star ratings, so going forward, I'll just note them with a line or two. Either way, this is a fun, easy reading project for me - with lots of nostalgia mixed in, to boot!

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Ware has quickly become one of my favorite authors, so I was thrilled to get off the waiting list for her newest book, about Hal, a young tarot card reader who is mistakenly identified as the granddaughter of a presumably wealthy & recently deceased woman. Desperate for money, Hal decides she can use her cold-reading skills to fake her way to an inheritance that's not rightfully hers. Can she get away with it? This book was less of a thriller than Ware's other novels, more of a standard mystery - & while it took me longer to get into it, I really enjoyed the ride. ★★★☆☆

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán

I think this was a Kindle First read, one I didn't even know I had on my device, but it seemed appealing enough while I was out in the woods sans wifi & hadn't updated my Kindle with my current library loans. I'd expected something much more serious out of this novel, whose lead character, Libby, is diagnosed with terminal cancer the same day her husband tells her he's gay. It turned out to be an easy & fairly frivolous read that still packed an emotional punch toward the end. I literally ended it with a smile on my face, whispering, "Good story." ★★★☆☆

Sick by Porochista Khakpour

Khakpour, an Iranian-American author, writes about her struggle to be diagnosed with, to understand, and to manage her Lyme disease. I hesitate to judge anyone's memoir, & in interviews, Khakpour has explained that the book came about after a Lyme relapse and a car accident that left with her a traumatic brain injury, so, in her own words, it's "kind of messy." The look at chronic illness was fascinating & painful, but I found the author so self-obsessed, shallow, & unlikable that it was a difficult read for me for a myriad reasons. ★★☆☆☆

The Heir by Kiera Cass

This book in The Selection series takes place more than two decades after the first three books, so it's a continuation but also kind of a separate story. It tells the story of America & Maxon's daughter, Princess Eadlyn, who's going through a Selection of her own - albeit under very different circumstances than her parents did. This book was decidedly not as good as the part of the series that came before it, & I haven't yet felt compelled to read the final book that follows. ★★☆☆☆

Life After Darkness: Finding Healing and Happiness After the Cleveland Kidnappings by Lily Rose Lee (a.k.a. Michelle Knight) 

Knight (who changed her name a few years ago) was one of three women held captive & tortured by Cleveland bus driver Ariel Castro, who committed suicide in prison. Since her rescue in 2013 alongside fellow victims Gina DeJesus & Amanda Berry, Lee has been telling her story & speaking out about abuse. Though this book was not the best-written, it was incredibly compelling. Lee is, truly, one of the most resilient people I've ever read about. ★★★★☆

Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert

Why did it take me so long to read this one?! This Book of the Month Club pick tells the story of Suzette (known to her brother as Little), who is Black, Jewish, & bisexual, & Lionel (a.k.a. Lion), who is white, Jewish, & recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Their parents aren't married, but the four of them have been a family since the two kids were young; they consider one another brother & sister, & they are best friends. This was a beautiful story of family & identity, & a fairly easy/compelling read. ★★★★★

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer

This book was authored by my cousin's friend & former coworker, who used to be a Latin teacher at the high school where he teaches. In it, four best friends go up against For Art's Sake, a reality show filming at their arts high schools - & it feels very clear to me that it was written by someone with serious knowledge of Latin &, well, just about everything. The high schoolers in this novel are wayyyyy smarter than I am, & I loved learning random things about language & history through reading it. It was a fun & original plot. ★★★★☆

This Is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today by Chrissy Metz

I'm not usually one for self-helpy memoirs, but I had a feeling this one, written by one of the stars of This Is Us (which I don't watch), was gonna be good - & I was right. Chrissy Metz has such a positive, charismatic strength about her, & I loved reading her story. She was abandoned by her father, abused by her stepfather, & loved but not protected by her mother, who chose to keep the family together at the expense of Chrissy's safety/health. Today, she stars in one of the most popular TV shows on the air & was nominated for an Emmy. ★★★☆☆

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

I found this YA read on a list of books by & about women of color, & whoa, what a read it is.When Claudia's best friend Monday falls out of touch over the summer & doesn't show up to school in the fall, Claudia is the only one who seems worried - & the only one looking for her. Despite Claudia's repeated insistence & begging to adults - & her own dangerous investigation - she can't figure out what's happened to her best friend. This book is equal parts regular YA fiction & holy-shit kind of thriller, with an ending I did not see coming. I hung onto every word & stayed up late to finish it. ★★★★★

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

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

Why I Ride

Friday, August 31, 2018

Earlier this week, I finished #HarnesstheSummer, the summer challenge set by my cycling studio, & I can't remember a time in recent memory when I felt more proud of myself. Why? Well, for starters, you may recall that I cried at my introductory class in April - yet I somehow felt compelled to return, maybe precisely because I cried that first time. Four months later, I still prefer to ride on bike 37, the one wayyyy back in the corner of the room, but now that preference comes from a place of comfort, not fear.

I've finished 42 classes, & my new goal is to hit 100. So what is it about riding? Why do I ride?

I'll tell you.

I ride because at the end of a difficult day, I can zone out to 45 minutes of blank space, of nothing but music & beats & words of motivation. I ride because at the end of a good day, I can celebrate with 45 minutes of music & beats & words of motivation.

I ride to feel strong, to feel like my body can do hard things despite its size. I ride because I have never had a particularly positive or loving relationship with this body, but when I ride, I feel like maybe, eventually, I could change that about myself, even if my body itself never does change.

I ride because, yes, I want to lose weight, even though I haven't dropped a single pound since starting & have maybe even gained a few. I ride to feel more toned, at least, though I'm not sure that's happening, either, even though I don't know how that could be possible after all this damn riding.

I ride because more than I love riding, I love to eat, & I can eat a donut or half a loaf of asiago bread with sightly less guilt if I also spend three nights a week riding for 45 minutes. I ride because of guilt, sure, but also because I used to eat those things & not ride, so this has to be a step up, right?

I ride to get out all the stress of being overwhelmed & feeling like I can never get my to-do list in order, personally or professionally. I ride because I was recently diagnosed with two separate sleep disorders that have me feeling like I am damaged or lazy or weak, & riding reminds me that I am not.

I ride because I live with chronic pain & have tried everything under the sun to alleviate it, including medication, physical therapy, acupuncture, & various weird apparatuses purchased on Amazon. I ride because consistent movement is the only thing that has ever made me feel as good as I feel right now.

I ride because even though I mostly love my job, work is still work, & work days are still stressful. I ride to cancel out bad days & to rid myself of feelings of inadequacy - to forget about tasks left unfinished, to block out harsh critiques, & to take a break before I go back to even more work.

I ride because I have grown enamored of the community that riding fosters, of the people who are maybe nothing like me but with whom I still have this one thing in common. I ride because each one of us matters, in that room, when it comes to riding as a pack. I ride to be a part of something.

I ride because politics are stressful & our president is a freaking monster & my heart hurts for every minority who lives in or wishes to come to this country. I ride because sometimes fear & pain need a physical escape from the body, & for me, it's either riding or crying.

I ride because the room is dark & no one can see me (especially on my trust back-corner bike), which means I can do my best or my worst or somewhere in between, & no one will know it but me. I ride to the beat, to take in the tunes, & to really just feel the music - & allll my feelings along with it.

I ride because I want to be like my mother, who discovered her love of exercise at age 56 & who has inspired me in ways neither of us ever imagined possible. I ride because I don't want to end up waiting until I am 56 years old to follow in her footsteps, at least on this front.

I ride to feel proud of myself, not just for the riding but for all the things I do now that I once thought I couldn't. I ride because I have overcome death & surgery & heartbreak & mental illness & because I am not & have never been the terrible person I once insisted I was - & I'm damn proud of that.

I ride because I've never worked out consistently in my entire life, even thought, at 34 years old, that's totally unacceptable. I ride because I was always too cynical to believe people who said, "Once you find a workout you love, you'll want to do it," & now I have to repay the universe for my skepticism.

I ride because I want to.

I ride because I have to. 

And now? Well, now I ride because I love to. 

InCuya 2018: My First Music Festival Was Cleveland's First, Too

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I've never been a music festival person. The bands I tend to like most aren't usually the kind that appear at festivals, save from, like, Lollapalooza 2004 (what I wouldn't give to see Morrissey....). More importantly, festivals have never much appealed to me because once you get there, you're sort of captive - no leaving, no showing, no comfortable seating, lots of people & lots of sweating... just not my jam, literally & otherwise.

And then came InCuya. For the curious, that's pronounced "in-KYE-ya," like the first half of the word "Cuyahoga," the county where & the river upon which Cleveland is located.

When I heard that Cleveland was getting its own music festival, my interest was piqued, despite my usual reservations. The idea of an at-home festival - one I wouldn't have to shlep to or heavily prepare for - appealed to me, as did InCuya's in-and-out permissions: Once you had a festival wristband, you could come & go as you pleased, meaning attendees could catch some of the bands without having to be there for all of them. 

I hit up both days of InCuya with Mike & our friends Lilly & Darren, who are seasoned festival-goers & music-lovers. We all had different primary interests: Darren was excited for '80s Brit-rockers New Order, who headlined on Saturday night; Lilly most wanted to see high-energy folksters The Avett Brothers, who headlined on Sunday; I just wanted the whole festival experience; & Mike was just along for the ride. 

Unfortunately, we didn't get there in time to see the band I was most excited about J. Roddy Walston and the Business, who played early on Saturday afternoon. K.Flay rocked the stage as we made some booze purchases (frosé for me, the Platform Tourbus pilsner for Mike), grabbed BBQ sandwiches from the VIP section, snagged free samples from event sponsor Vitamix, & explored the grounds a little. I was especially excited to spot the #ThisisCLE sign, which roves the city - & which I've never taken a photo with before!

We had a great time, though we didn't see as many musical acts as I would've liked - in part because, unfortunately, I was suuuuper sweaty (as usual, even though the weather was pretty mild on Saturday), so I made the decision not to do full days.

One of my favorite acts was Robert Finley, who put out his first album at age 63 after he was discovered while performing on the streets of Louisiana.

He released Age Don’t Mean a Thing in the fall of 2016 & a year later released Goin' Platinum an LP with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Let me tell you: He was such a gem, with a truly epic voice & energy level. I look forward to lots of repeat listens to his two albums, hopefully with new ones to come.

We arrived later in the day on Sunday, unfortunately missing Cake but arriving in time for Sza, who I don't know much about, to be honest, aside from the fact that one of my best friends told me repeatedly how jealous she was that I was getting to see one of her favorite artists live. Sza, too, had high energy & a really positive vibe, even if her sound wasn't my favorite.

Mike wasn't feeling great, so he left early, but Lilly & I stuck around for most of The Avett Brothers' set. Damn, those guys have some pipes. Again, I don't know a ton of their music, but I knew I wanted to see them, in part because they're just so talented & unproduced; I knew they'd sound just as good in person as they sound on Spotify. True to form, they didn't disappoint - though it turns out that the one song of theirs I thought I knew is actually by Mumford & Sons. Oops.

Ran into one of my favorite bloggers, Crystal of Eat*Drink*Cleveland

And that's a wrap on Incuya 2018! The festival's organizers - including my Instagram friend, Sunny Nixon, who was running the show - did an incredible job of the event, & from an attendee's point of view, at least, it seemed like everything was in order & very successful. I wish my PBR hasn't cost $10, but I guess that's to be expected at event, right? 

So am I festival person now? 

Let's be honest: Overall, probably not - but I'm already excited for future iterations of Incuya, which is definitely my kind of music festival in my kind of city. This is one festival I can definitely get behind!

Disclaimer: Thanks to InCuya 2018 for providing me with two complimentary tickets to the festival in exchange for my help in promoting and publicizing the event, including hosting an Instagram giveaway. All opinions, as always, are my own - & I paid for that PBR (& all other on-site purchases) with my own cash dollars!
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