12 of My Best Celebrity Sightings

Friday, October 19, 2018

One of my favorite weird topics of conversation is celebrity sightings, meetings, & near-misses. I recently realized that I've had a surprising number of these for someone who's never lived in either New York or LA - & in fact, only one of these celebrity sightings (albeit admittedly my best one) happened in either of those places.

John Glenn (2008)

In my first year of work in Washington, D.C., I attended a memorial event following the death of Sen. Howard Metzenbaum. I spotted my boss, Rabbi David Saperstein, speaking with Sen. John Glenn, former astronaut & one of my favorite people of all time, & instead of going over to be introduced, I simply watched from afar, longingly, & never met my idol before he died. (Read about it here.)

Katie Couric (2009)

I was standing in line to get into the U.S. Capitol building, which can sometimes be a slow process because of all the security you have to go through. When my part of the line finally reached the entrance, the woman in front of me held the heavy door open for me & turned to apologize. "I'm so sorry," she said, "but it's probably going to take me forever to get through." Unsurprisingly, Katie Couric travels with a lot of gear - & is very, very polite.

Maria Bello & Maggie Grace (2009)

When my then-boss spoke at a press conference calling on the international community to help in Darfur, one of the other individuals appearing alongside him was actress Maria Bello, of ER fame. It was in a very small room, & to one side of me was the reporter who wrote the coverage I linked to above; on the other side of me was a confusingly familiar-looking woman who I couldn't quite place - Maggie Grace, who'd just come off her stint as Shannon on Lost. Why was she there?! I never found out.

Sen. Mark Warner (2010)

I was lost in the basement of the Senate office buildings while the government was recessed (which meant it wasn't very crowded & I wasn't likely to  run into any politicians). I asked the only guy around if he knew how to get where I was going; he didn't, but he tried to point me in the right way, looking pretty confused himself. As the elevator doors closed on his face, I realized he was the new Virginia senator I canvassed so hard to elect. (Read about it here.)

Mila Kunis (2011)

I was waiting on a flight from Boston to D.C. when I noticed that the woman sitting next to me was wearing matching Juicy sweatsuit. My friend Jonah always says you should dress up when you fly, & as I tried to determine whether high-end sweats qualify as "dressed up," I realized that I recognized the voice of the woman wearing them. Turns out Mila Kunis was headed to that night's White House Correspondents Dinner - where she was actually dressed up. And she flew Southwest, so no first-class! (Read about it here.)

Nick Jonas (2012)

When Newsies first hit Broadway, my best friend Christina & I bought tickets & met each other in NYC to be among the first wave of viewers to see it. While we stood outside hoping to catch a glimpse of the cast - just for fun, not because we needed autographs or anything - we realized that the handsome man standing next to us was none other than Nick Jonas, who had a night off from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which was showing next door. (Read about it here.)

Kelly Giddish (2012) 

I was in New York with a friend, standing in line for a latte at some some nondescript bakery. I immediately recognized the woman in line in front of me as Law & Order: SVU actress Kelly Giddish, although she was then new to the franchise in her role as Amanda Rollins. She ordered a black coffee & a croissant. It was all very cosmopolitan, I know.

Jason Mewes (2013)

When I lived in New Jersey, I often worked from the Starbucks in downtown Red Bank, which was across the street from Secret Stash, a Kevin Smith-owned comic book store & museum that features tons of paraphernalia from his movies. One afternoon, a long-haired dude came in to get coffee, & a teenager at a nearby table asked, "Does anyone ever tell you that you look like Jay from the Jay & Silent Bob movies?" Yeah... yeah, he gets that sometimes. (Read about it here.)

Cory Booker (2013) 

The same day I met Jason Mewes, I met Cory Booker, then the mayor of Newark, who was known for his many tweets responding to citizens' complaints & concerns. He was walking down the street with a flock behind him, & as I stood nearby to take a photo from a distance, someone in his camp asked if I wanted to meet him. Of course I wanted to! Now, he's the junior senator from New Jersey, elected later that year. (Read about it here.)

Justice Elena Kagan (2013)

My former boss is a well-known lobbyist & one-time U.S. ambassador whose circle of friends is a who's-who of... well, some big-name whos. At his annual Hanukkah party, I chowed down on store-bought latkes while gushing maniacally about them to my former boss's wife (a former NPR exec) &... Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. No, it was not embarrassing at all(Read about it here.)

Joe Biden (2015)

OK, fine, this one was less of a "sighting" & more of a very planned & highly coordinated event, but how could I not count it? The vice president was the keynote speaker at a major event hosted by the organization where I work, & I was working backstage, live-tweeting his address. "Do you want to meet the vice president?" my boss whispered. UM, YES. As he worked the line, shaking my coworkers' hands, I asked for a selfie - & Uncle Joe obliged. (Read about it here.)

Evangeline Lilly (2016) 

I was eating lunch at a neighborhood Ty Spot with two friends when we realized that the beautiful waif of a woman dining solo on soup in the corner was none other than Kate from Lost. She was in town to film Little Evil, a super-cheesy Netflix horror comedy co-starring Adam Scott... who my friend spotted in the parking lot of a local Trader Joe's a few days later. (Read about it here.)

Tell me about your best celebrity sighting! I love hearing about other people's. 

I Went on a Self-Care Retreat - Yes, Really

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

I'm not a woo-woo kinda gal. I don't, like... feel in touch with the universe, or whatever. I don't look down on people who do, it's just never felt like my jam. Sure, I bought sage to smudge my apartment, & before a recent doctor's appointment, I bought a crystal quartz to take with me, & yes, I recently bought the The Universe Has Your Back deck

And, um, OK, maybe I'm a little bit more into the universe than I thought I was - but still, I am fairly cynical & jaded & not really a sparkles-&-inspirational-quotes kinda gal or even, hell, much of a hugger.

That's why it's even more surprising that months ago, when I got an email announcing the first Soul Connect Retreat, something inside me said, "Sign up for this." It was described as:
A fall weekend escape to nourish your mind, body and soul right on the shores of Lake Erie. Disconnect to reconnect with yourself and like-hearted women.  
Super woo, right? Again, not my jam, on its surface, but somehow, it spoke to me, so I signed up - right away. Within 15 minutes of opening the email, I was registered to attend. 

And here's where the universe played an interesting little joke on me: The October retreat that I signed up for back in the spring? Well, it turned out to be in the exact same house my friends & I rented in Lakeside, OH, for a wedding weekend earlier that same month. I blogged about that, too - but I had no idea, at the time, that I'd be returning to that slightly haunted lakeside rental just two weeks later. What are the freaking odds?!

I arrived around 5pm on a Friday & was led to the third floor of the house, where I'd been assigned to share a room with three other women. Laid out on our twin beds (set with old-timey floral comforters, as seen below) were swag bags with welcome notes, a journal, a pen, a calming essential oil, & some other goodies. 

I was incredibly nervous to spend the weekend with 17 strangers, & I was even more nervous to share a room with three of them. I sleep a lot, & I sleep at weird times, so conferences & the like are always a little difficult for me - not to mention, like, standard anxiety at spending so much time with people I didn't know. But I settled in & tried to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This time around, the house felt much less haunted & much more homey. The house was decorated with a warm, welcoming, & cozy vibe - quite the change from a weekend of pre- & post-wedding drinking with 15 friends! 

Katie, who runs Soul Connect, had assembled a team of women to help her for the weekend, & before we arrived, they set up the house with all kinds of notes & signs & goodies to welcome us. So much love went into the preparation & execution of this retreat that, even though I still wasn't sure it was my thing, I knew I was going to appreciate the care & thoughtfulness of the weekend's activities.

So what was the retreat all about? It included two yoga sessions with Cleveland yogi Debi Darnell, but I've got to be honest: I slept through both sessions. I've never been much for yoga, if I'm being honest, so I thought my potentially narcoleptic self was better served by extra sleep! 

The focal point of the weekend was four sessions, or "connection circles." Indeed, we sat in a circle - wearing pajamas, notebooks & pens in hand - & just... talked, really. Katie, who is a licensed clinical social worker, guided the conversations, asking us questions about ourselves & each other & the world around us, compelling us to really think - about who we are, what we want, & how to get there.

There was also plenty of free time, which we spent hanging out, talking, journaling, reading, walking, exploring Lakeside, &, in my case, doing a little bit of extra napping. The Soul Connect team brought lots of books & various card decks for us to use for inspiration, & even though I'm not sure how I feel about "universe cards," I did get a kick out of doing a card-pull of my own (& promptly went home & bought the deck for myself, juuuust in case).

One of the most thoughtful aspects of the weekend was the envelopes hung on the walls to encourage us to write "love notes" to one another. It was such a lovely feeling to leave at the end of the weekend clutching a packet full of kindness from new friends. How often do we just, like, sit down & tell people nice things about themselves? We should do more of that.

Oh, yeah, & we ate a lot, too. Abra of She Said Celebrate & Lindy of A Linderella Story were on hand all weekend, working their butts off in the kitchen to bring us delicious, healthy food. Uhhh, who wants to come be my personal chef? Look at that milk-and-cookie bar below!

I really liked that we were encouraged to eat together as a means of fostering community & conversation. There was no dining space large enough for all of us, so we just plopped down with dinner plates & struck up a conversation with whomever happened to sit nearby. It made it a lot easier to talk to people & was far less scary than sitting in the middle of a crowded table trying to latch onto whatever conversation you happen to hear.

If I'm being honest, the Soul Connect Retreat was way out of my comfort zone, & I spent a lot of the weekend panicking - a lot more than I thought I would, & more than I even realized I was doing in the moment. I was constantly worried about what I said (did I sound dumb, was I talking to much, was I annoying, did that sound OK?) & what the others thought of me. Basically, I felt like a seventh-grade version of my current self, all my insecurities on display & all my nervousness ramped up. Not a great feeling, I know.

Why did I feel that way? Man. I... don't know, really. I've spent a lot of time thinking about it & trying to figure out what made me feel so weird all weekend. All I can come up with is that that was kind of the point, to make ourselves vulnerable & to be honest with ourselves & each other. That's all good self-work, but it doesn't necessarily feel good while you're in the midst of doing it, you know?

I was worried that I'd been so anxious all weekend that I hadn't, like, learned the right lessons in order to take anything substantive home with me, but in the week & a half since the retreat, I've found myself thinking about it a lot. I'm tapping into some of the tools I learned about (like writing myself a proverbial "permission slip" when I need to), & I'm just generally trying to channel the Zen that I left with - even if I didn't feel that Zen while at the retreat itself.

Incidentally, one of my favorite moments of the weekend came just before I headed home. I took a moment, by myself, to walk down to Lake Erie. It was sunny but chilly, & the water was calm but still noisy, & no one else was around - just me & the blue sky & the views, breathing in that freshwater air.

It was the first real moment of quiet all weekend (aside from my naps, but who can ever truly nap in peace with 17 other people in the house?!) I was able to take a breath, to feel like myself to again, to let go of my nervousness & anxiety but to feel armed with new hope, new inspiration, new energy, new friendships. I felt like me, but a better version of me - which is the whole reason I went, right?

I don't know what comes next for me & the universe, but I do know that I spent a whole weekend embracing the woo, & it felt pretty damn good. 

Have you ever been to a retreat? How do you feel about the universe? Let's discuss, please.

10 Lessons I've Learned from Harness Cycle

Monday, October 15, 2018

I'm now 60+ classes into my participation in Harness Cycle, & sometimes, to keep my mind off how hard the rides are, I think about what the rides are teaching me. I wrote "Why I Ride"; now, here's what I've learned from riding.
  1. I can do anything for 45 minutes - or at least this thing. I've never, ever liked working out, & these classes are so hard for me. But now that I know the structure of the class & what to expect, & I know that if I can just make it a little bit further, I'll make it through.
  2. The best way to make it through a workout is to think about anything else. I have the hardest time when I think about what I'm doing & how much longer I have to do it, but when my mind goes elsewhere - to my to-do list, to my work, to my writing, whatever - it's a lot easier to make it through a difficult class.
  3. Boutique workouts aren't just for fit, athletic women. I mean, sure, there are a lot of fit, athletic women in these classes, but there are also plenty of not-fit women, & plenty of men, both fit & otherwise, & plenty of older folks. I am not out of place just by, like, being me & having the body I have. Working out is for everybody, even if the gym seems fancy & the Instagram is full of only skinny people.
  4. Fit, athletic women aren't scary or terrible. I knew that, of course, but as a plus-size woman & someone who always feels slightly disheveled, I've long been intimidated by fit, athletic women (who by their very nature seem to have it all together). This class has helped me see that whatever our bodies, we're all just people.
  5. I am the world's sweatiest human, period. I sweat so much that I ride with two towels. Once, I stopped by my favorite Lebanese place after class, & the sweet, elderly woman making my shawarma bowl exclaimed, “Oh! You are catch in rain?” Alas, no. The skies were clear. I was just that sweaty. I'm trying to live with it & own it & just accept it. Ew.
  6. I am more comfortable than ever with my bare face. Lately, I've cut back on my signature winged eyeliner, in part because I like to ride at the end of the day & don't like to have to wash my face beforehand - so on ride days, I don't wear much makeup at all.
  7. I do best when I set small goals for myself. Let's be real: I am not actually very good at cycling; I still can barely ride "up & out" (off the seat). But if I set smaller goals, like, "I'll ride up & out for 30 seconds, then I can ride in the saddle for the next 30," or "Just make it through this round of booty taps, then back to the saddle," I can usually push through.
  8. Good moves make the bad moves worth it. There's some "choreography" on the bike that I really enjoy, & if I tell myself that those moves are coming up soon - next, if only I can get there! - it's easier for me to push myself forward. They don't always come, but when they do, I feel rewarded for making it through the moves I hate (lookin' at you, jumps).
  9. I like working out at the end of the day. I know that for some people, working out in the mornings is a way to wake up & start the day off right. I'm basically never awake in the mornings (see: "Let's Talk About My Sleep Disorder"), but I also like riding in the evenings. It helps me flush out the stress of the day & end it on a positive note.
  10. Strong feels good. I haven't lost any weight - not a single inch or pound. If anything, I think I've gained weight, which feels deeply unfair. I do, however, feel stronger & more flexible than ever, which isn't a trade-off, exactly, but it's not bad, either. I may not look different, but I feel different, & that? Well, that feels damn good.
What have you learned from your workouts? What's your exercise of choice? 

My Favorite Fall Flavors... from Right Here in the CLE!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Are you a fan of fall? It's far & away my favorite season, not least of all because Northeast Ohio is the perfect place for it. The trees are beautiful, the produce is abundant, & the activities are the best - pumpkin patches, hayrides, haunted houses, & all things related to autumnal food...

I'm still burning the "Autumn Escape" candle I made at CLE Candle Co. last month, & now that the fall is in full swing, I'm also tapping into some of my favorite flavors of the season. Here's a little bit of what I'm loving right now, all made right here in Cleveland.

Platform Beer Co.'s Yammy Yammy Beer

I'm not usually a fan of Oktoberfest beers, which are too heavy for my liking - but I'm all about this unusually light sweet potato beer, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves. Sure, it gives me heartburn - what doesn't these days? - but that lightly sweet taste is so worth it. It's best sipped on Platform's patio on a cool autumn day.

Pastina's Sweet Potato Ravioli

Mike & I were recently invited to a menu preview at Pastina Rustic Italian in Mentor, OH, about 35 minutes outside the city, & goddamn, was it ever delicious. We tried everything from pizzas to calamari to arancini balls to cavatelli bolognese, but my favorite was the sweet potato ravioli with zucchini & pumpkin seed pesto hash, which I also had for lunch the next day.

It was honestly one of the best dishes I've ever eaten - & everything from Pastina is made by hand, from scratch, using as many local ingredients as possible.

I also loved the Harvest Pizza, a white pizza topped with mozzarella, butternut squash, & zucchini. Are you sensing a theme? Yes, I am a big fan of autumnal veggies.

Tremont General Store's Old-Fashioned Apple Butter

This local shop is just a block down from me, & I hit up a couple times a week for "essentials" like crackers, goat cheese, & bacon. On a recent visit, I asked the owner, Kevin, what he ate with their apple butter. His answer? Vanilla ice cream. I bought both, & now this treat has become on of my favorite fall combos.

Mitchell's Salted Caramel Vegan Ice Cream

This flavor delicious all year round (as does all of Mitchell's ice cream), but it tastes especially delightful in the fall, which I think of as caramel season. I'm not a vegan, but this ice cream flavor is, hands down, one of my favorites.

Come to think of it, should I put apple butter on this cream?! Make my own caramel apple ice cream combo? Holy crap, I'm a genius.

OK, fine, I have one more fall favorite that's not made here in Cleveland: those caramel apple suckers. Remember those? Man, I've gotta go get me some. I have to have at least one every autumn!

What are your favorite fall flavors?

Disclosure: Pastina Rustic Italian invited me & a guest to attend a complimentary dinner for influencers. As always, all opinions are my own.

CheeseHaven: Documenting My Effort to Explore Every Weird Cheese Shop I Can Find

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

First things first: Would you eat chicken & waffles taffy?! I was both fascinated & horrified by this giant basket of flavored saltwater taffy. I bought a few pieces... & was pleased to discover that they taste fully of syrup & not at all of chicken.

Where did I find such a terrible & delightful candy, you ask?


So let's back up a little.

I love cheese. Thus, it follows that I love stores that sell cheese. One of my favorite cheese chops, of course, is Grandpa's Cheese Barn, which is advertised on dozens of highway signs from here to Columbus. I've been a handful of times since my first visit in 2015, & I somehow love it more with each visit.

While I was in Lakeside, OH, for a retreat (yes, the same Lakeside I visited two weeks ago!), I decided to stop at CheeseHaven on my drive home. Would it live up to Grandpa's? Would it sell cheeses I'd never tried before? How much money is too much money to spend on cheese?

You really can't miss Cheese Haven because, as you can see, its signage is... pretty bold. I'm actually, like, pretty impressed by it. Some graphic designer got to have fun with this place!

As you can imagine, CheeseHaven specializes in cheese, but it also sells all kinds of other stuff, like smoked meats, old-fashioned candies, jellies & jams, booze, etc. Their mouse logo is equal parts creepy & adorable, as evidenced below.


One thing I don't love about Cheese Haven is that they have a strict one-sample-per-customer rule. When I say "strict," I mean, "strongly worded signs indicate this rule but no one enforces it, so I still had three samples because how else will I know what I want to buy?!"

Rebel that I am, I tried the ghost pepper spread - it was very hot - but I bought the blue cheese spread instead. So good. I like it with pretzels, though, instead of the Saltines they offered.

Mike loves smokies, so I came close to buying a pack of them as I perusedCheeseHaven's extensive meat offerings. I couldn't decide which to go with, though, & then I remembered that, you know, we live within walking distance of the West Side Market, where we can get them all the time!

I didn't buy this pumpkin butter only because I already have a jar of pumpkin butter at home. Per a recommendation from the owner of the Tremont General Store, my new favorite fall treat is pumpkin butter on vanilla ice cream. Have you tried that? It is incredible, go do it right now. I'll wait.

How was it? Delicious? Good.

So I didn't buy more pumpkin butter, but I did buy CheeseHaven's Blueberry Bourbon Jam, which I have a feeling will be amazing with goat cheese.

Like any good food-centric novelty store, CheeseHaven features a case of weird sodas, including a few really disgusting-looking ones, like "Pimple Pop" and "Martian Poop." I've never tried a strange soda, but for some inexplicable reason, I'm always sort of endeared by cases full of bizarro flavors.

Don't forget the booze! Cheese Haven has a whole section of beer, as welll as weird alcoholic offerings like Kinky liqueur & Bitch wine - & a few extraordinarily Southern flavors & varieties.

All of the booze is kept in a special section, designated by a strongly worded (& grammatically incorrect) sign. This is where you'll find wine & gifts, some of them jokey & vulgar. Even at age 34, sections like this always feel excitingly taboo to me. Anyone else?! It's like sneaking into the back room of a video store!

Finally, as evidenced by that giant taffy basket at the top of this post, CheeseHaven sells tons of candy - though visitors are advised not to let their kids loose in that section, for obvious reasons.

They have tons of taffy, in nearly every flavor imaginable (& some I never would've imagined, like, say, chicken & waffles). I grabbed a couple taffies apiece in pear & caramel apple. Seasonal, right?

I was also fascinated by some of the weird, old-timey candies I found - stuff I'd never seen or heard of, despite having explored plenty of stores like CheeseHaven & other old-fashioned candy shops. I'll say, that Goo-Goo Cluster sounds pretty delicious, doesn't it?

Either the giant jawbreakers are super popular or not popular at all; I can't tell. Did they sell out, or did they not have many to begin with? Either way, all that remained in this basket during my visit was one sad, crumbled jawbreaker that surely won't break anyone's jaw, given that it's in tiny pieces.

That jawbreaker photo brings me to another strange thing about CheeseHaven, which I suspect is the result of my having visited during the off-season: The Lakeside area is heavily touristy & a very popular destination for summer travelers - but in the colder months, the crowds thin way out. Though CheeseHaven was still very busy when I visited, many of its shelves were less than half-full, which made it feel... well, slightly abandoned, despite heavy foot traffic. I wanted moooooore of everything!

All in all, though, I was glad I stopped to check out CheeseHaven, if only to say I did - & to snack on my goodies on the hour-long drive back to Cleveland! I'm less pleased that I somehow spent $60 at a cheese store in the middle of nowhere, but the heart wants what the heart wants, I suppose. 

Are there any cheese stores near you? What's your go-to purchase at kitschy shops like this?

What I Wish I'd Known about Self-Care in My Twenties

Monday, October 8, 2018

My college friend Tara is an established self-care coach & speaker who founded The Self-Care Suite, which "creates affirming spaces for women to flourish." She's also the founder and chief creative curator of The Bloom Beautifully Box, a self-care subscription box for women (currently on hiatus). In other words, Tara knows self-care.

Recently, she posed a question in the Facebook group she runs:
"I’m doing my first self-care workshop for young women (ages 19-22) this week and I am so excited to be spreading the gospel to women at the very beginning of their journey. Tell me: What do you wish you had known about self-care back in your early 20s?"
My response was long-winded & not posted in time to be of help to Tara. Still, it got me thinking, feeling, remembering - so I thought I'd share it with you here.

What do I wish I had know about self-care back in my early twenties?

I wish I had known & really internalized that self-care isn't just for older women, or career-established women, or women with kids. Self-care is for everyone - maybe especially twentysomethings, who are way more overworked & overwhelmed than the world seems to acknowledge.

We expect them to do everything, & to do it with enthusiasm, without recognizing the strains & stresses these expectations put on their fragile ability to balance it all. At that age, I was running myself ragged with work, school, side gigs, a social life, & trying to learn how to be an adult. I had more than one anxiety-induced meltdown that left me feeling completely useless & hopeless & horrible.

Two such memories stand out. In college, I quit my newspaper beat - the prestigious administrative beat, which had made me the senior-most non-editor reporter on staff, with regular access to the university president & other execs. There just weren't enough hours in the day, & I couldn't do it all without letting something fall behind - it was either my deadlines or my grades or my sanity. I beat myself up about quitting, sure that I was a failure & a disappointment who would never amount to anything. I was reassigned to a more flexible beat, but I was embarrassed to show my face in the newsroom around colleagues who seemed to be able to balance all so much better than I could.

In my second year of work, I was asked to travel on a whim to accompany the head of our company on a meeting with the ambassador to Israel. It was a huge responsibility, & I was honored - but I was also petrified. I had a ton of work on my plate in the office, & I didn't feel that I had the time to take this trip and complete my everyday work; I didn't think I would be given leeway on the latter, & I didn't feel as though I could ask for it. I remember this time so vividly because it was the first time I had a panic attack, though I didn't know what to call it.

I felt I was too young to "deserve" self-care or downtime or relaxation or a mental health break.

In my mind, self-care was for other people. I hadn't yet proven myself at work, hadn't worked enough hours, didn't have the excuse of being a mother or a wife, should've simply been able to handle it all by myself. I though that if I admitted that I needed a break or to take some time for myself, I would be chastised or looked down on or ridiculed, whether publicly or behind my back. I was certain it would hurt my career, my friendships, my professional relationships, & my social standing. Self-care seemed like a detriment, not a necessity.

In short, I thought I had to earn my keep in order to earn the right to rest from the pressures of daily life. 

Now, at 34, I know this is not true, & in retrospect, the way I treated myself in my early twenties is one of the main reason I focus so heavily on self-care & mental health today. I can very obviously see how the stress of daily life weighed on me & so negatively impacted my mental health when I was young - in a go-go-go mentality, an amped-up social life, never saying no to any opportunity or possibility, even when I was maxed out. I worked long, late hours; I ate dinner at work, usually Taco Bell or Chipotle; & when I did have free time, I spent it drinking with friends, not taking care of myself.

These days, there's nothing I value more than a "mental health day," be it a workday I'm taken as vacation or simply an unscheduled weekend to myself.

I understand the value of quiet time, just for me - in listening to my body & my mind & my emotions & figuring out what they need in order to operate at full capacity.

I see how health & wellness play into the whole self-care picture, how exercise & movement & healthy foods are related to my overall well-being.

I know that a pizza & a Netflix binge are, in themselves, not sufficient acts of self-care - except for the times when they are.

I see the maintenance of my friendships & other relationships as vital to my own ability to thrive & to feel supporter, loved, & surrounded.

I try not to feel guilty about needing more sleep than the average bear, especially since being diagnosed with a rare sleep disorder.

With all of this in mind, what would I, at 34, tell young women today who are struggling with self-care?

I hope young women today truly take in the lesson that self-care is for them, too - that they are deserving & worthy of mental, physical, & emotional health simply by virtue of existing.

We Went Undercover with Elliot Ness... & Won!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Prohibition Agent Eliot Ness helped bring down Al Capone, then went on to clean up Cleveland of its mafia & mob ties, with undercover work that resulted in the jailing & firing of dozens of corrupt officers. He fell out of favor in the Cleveland area for his actions during the era of the Torso Murders, but his legacy remains here in the city - most popularly in the form of a beloved beer from Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Now, there's also an escape room named after him & dedicated to him!

Earlier this week, Mike & I were joined by our friends Jeremy & Taylor as we checked out Perplexity Games, an escape room company in Ohio City. I'd only done one escape room before, & it was a pretty bad one; Taylor has done three others, without any escapes; the guys have done lots of them, with equal successes & failures. We had no idea what to expect from this one - which made it all the better when this place turned out to be really fun.

The business is family-owned & operated, & Diana, the owner, brainstorms all of the escape rooms with her family. None of it is, like, bought boxed from China, so it all feels very personal, very high-quality, & very creative. They're even working on a Christmas-themed room for the holidays! Diana used to work in antiques, so she conceived of a 1930s-themed theme game that would allow her to outfit a room in period-appropriate decor.

Enter... the Eliot Ness Escape Room.

Our backstory was this: We were Ness's undercover operatives, trying to find a mafia ledger in a city hall office so that we could prove corruption. With 60 minutes on the clock, we got to work, starting in a small office that included nothing but a big, wooden desk, an old-fashioned telephone, & art on the walls - plus a big, locked door.

If you've ever done an escape room, you know nothing is ever as it seems, so we started rummaging through the desk, inspecting the artwork, searching a key, & doing anything else we could think of to get the game started. Each escape room includes at least two rooms, & for me, part of the fun is seeing what's behind closed doors - literally.

We finished the game with five minutes to spare, & I couldn't have been more proud (despite the fact that I was only, like, minimally helpful throughout the game). I felt like there should've been fanfare & confetti! Instead, we took a victory photo, thanked Diana profusely, & headed to Phnom Penh, an awesome Cambodian restaurant nearby, for a celebratory dinner.

It's hard to tell you about this escape room without giving too much away (which is also why I haven't included many photos). I don't want to spoil it! Suffice it to say, though, that it was really cool - lots of twists & turns & unexpected technology & hidden compartments & such.

What I loved about this game was that it appealed to all of our strengths. Again, without saying too much, there was a little bit of everything. Mike used some map skills; Jeremy bet on some horses; Taylor & I did some decoding... whenever one of us was stumped, another one of us usually had an idea to move things forward. The game played to everyone's skills, & while it definitely wasn't easy to beat, it was logical, thoughtful, & genuinely really fun to try to figure out.

If you're in the area, I can't recommend it highly enough - & the fact that it's Cleveland-themed makes it all the more fun. We have a friend, Kevin, who lives in D.C. & is known for his love of escape rooms. I have a strong suspicion we'll be hitting up the Christmas room when he's home for the holidays!

Disclaimer: I was invited to bring a few guests to try out Perplexity Games's Eliot Ness Room in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are, as always, my own. We genuinely had so much fun!
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