PSA: You Don't Know What Anyone Else's Body Can Do

Friday, April 19, 2019


In January, gyms fill up with newbies who've made New Year's resolutions to get healthier, to get fit, to lose weight. I used to work at a gym, even when I didn't work out at said gym, so I'm familiar with the January rush: people who don't know how to use the machines but want to, & all the regulars who impatiently wait for the influx to die down. (P.S.: I have a lot of feelings about said impatience of said regulars, but that's for another day.)

When it comes to gyms & January, this is a known trope. I get it.

But I really got it, in a personal way, the first week of January 2019, as I stood in the lobby of my cycling studio waiting to take my first class of the new year. Regular readers may recall that I started riding last April, to serious struggle, but grew to love it & began proudly counting down (err, up?) to my 100th ride. There I was, awaiting class #82, & I made eye contact with a thin, fit girl standing against the wall alongside me.

"First ride?" she asked, smiling at me, & though I don't think she meant to sound condescending, she did - because I was about to take my 82nd ride. Most definitely not my first.

I smiled back, faltering. "Oh, no, I've been coming for awhile," I responded, & she nodded, eyebrows raised politely, & turned away awkwardly.

Let's admit what happened here: She thought I was new, not just because the gym is full of new folks after the first of the year but because the new folks are expected to also be fat folks, & of course, fat folks can't possibly be people who already work out. That girl looked at me, in all my 200-lb. glory, & she thought, "Oh, how nice, this overweight girl is trying to get in shape in the new year. I should give her some encouragement."

So she did. Except it was not encouraging.

On one hand, good for her for begin the kind of gym regular who wants to encourage newbies - & yet, at the same time, screw her a little for looking at my particular body shape & assuming she knew a damn thing about it or what it could do.

I've been thinking about writing this post ever since, but I finally sat down to bang it out after yesterday's ride, my 110th(ish?), after which a stranger said to me, "It gets easier!" This person presumably looked at me, fat & sweaty after a difficult class, & thought, "Oh, this poor fat girl is trying to get in shape. I should give her some encouragement."

Yet, again, it was not encouraging. Yet again, it was hurtful & awkward.

What I wanted to say was "After 100 classes, it has gotten easier, actually," or "Hey, I just did a really tough ride & it is totally appropriate for me to be sweaty," or maybe even "It's not supposed to be easy." Someone on Twitter suggested that I should've responded, "When does it get harder?" (SAVAGE.) And yet, all I did was mumble the same refrain: "Oh, actually, I've been riding for awhile."

So here's the thing, & I'm gonna say it REAL loud for the folks in the back: You cannot tell a damn thing about a person's body just by looking at it. Not mine, not hers, not his, not that body over there, not that body over there, not nobody's body except your own damn body. Period.

Part two: Because you cannot tell a damn thing about a person's body just by looking at it, you should not make assumptions (especially out loud) about what people's bodies can or cannot do. 

After my January knee injury, I took a month off of riding. When I returned, I was self-conscious of what others would think of me when they saw me ride: subbing push-ups for tap-backs, opting out of jumps, never hitting the dial to turn up the resistance. Would they think, "That fat girl isn't even trying"? I wished I could wear a sign: "I CAN USUALLY DO THIS, I'M JUST INJURED."

I started to think about all the ways judge other people's bodies, too.

I look at a thin, seemingly fit girl who can't keep up, & I feel secretly smug to be out-riding her. I watch somebody mess up the beat & feel amused by their inability to get it quite right. I wonder why that person rides in the back, or if that person should really be riding in the front, or how many classes he's been to or what kind of cross-training she does.

One day, I rode next to an older guy whose knee was in a brace. "Coming back from an injury?" I asked him (which seemed like an OK comment to make, because, again, he was wearing a brace & massaging his knee before class, as I was). He said yes & that the brace helped a lot during the ride; after class, I asked for the brand of his mobility brace, thinking maybe I'd get my own - not only because my knee needed it, but because then at least people would know that my knee needed it.

I never did get the brace, but I all three of those experiences got me thinking: Does it matter? Did I really have to wear a visible sign of injury in order to operate at the level my body needed from me at the moment? What about all the times people have no way of conveying why they're operating at the level they are?

And, wait a sec: Why does it matter to anyone else what level other people operate at?

Maybe you're slow in class today because you did a crazy-hard workout yesterday, & you're recovering.

Maybe you can't hit  those tap-backs because it's your third class in a row this week & your body is kind of spent.

Maybe you're not at peak form because you were in a fender-bender yesterday & everything just fucking hurts.

Maybe you are at peak form & the way you're riding right now, which looks "off" to someone else, is infinitely better than where you were when you began.

Maybe you lost 100 lbs., or you gained 100 lbs. Maybe you used to be a marathon runner, but then you developed a thyroid disorder. Maybe you're healthy & muscular, but you used to be anorexic.

Maybe it's your first class back after giving birth. Or having a miscarriage. Or an abortion. Or a car accident. Or the flu. Or cancer. Or falling on the damn ice on a snowy January day.

Maybe you're off the beat because you can't stop thinking about a loved one who's in the hospital, or a job you just applied for, or your pending divorce, or your kid's grades, & those constant thoughts are throwing you off.

Maybe you just got laid off or your dog just died or your boss just yelled at you or literally any myriad life issues that can manifest themselves physically, even if they have nothing to do with your body.

Maybe it's your first class, or your 100th, or your 500th. Maybe someone thinks you're better than them, or worse than you; maybe they're thinking that they'll never be like you or that they're glad they're not you. Maybe someone think you're too fat to be 100 rides in, or too fit to be so bad at the ride.

And also maybe it doesn't fucking matter

Maybe you showed up & rode through & pressed on, regardless, & other people's bodies just don't matter because you've got your own body to focus on instead.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for community, for motivation, for encouragement. If the person next to you is actually new to class (like, you just watched the instructor set them up on a bike for the first time), say, "Welcome!" or end with "Great ride today!" Heck, maybe just introduce yourself.

Whatever we do, let's be sure we encourage each other in ways that don't also actually tear one another down. Let's check ourselves when we catch ourselves assuming other people's abilities (or lack thereof) based on the way their bodies look to us from the outside. In short, let's all be kind & ride hard, but let's stay in our own lanes - on our own bikes & in our own bodies - while we do it.

Adventure Time: My DIY "Best of CLE" Weekend with Friends & Faves

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Whaaaaat a weekend! Last week is now a distant memory, but there sure were a lot of memories packed into it. I'm usually a pretty chill weekend person (I go off my sleep meds on Sunday, which means I take sleep more than usual) but last weekend was jam-packed. I ate a ton of delicious but terrible-for-me food; I spent time with a few of my very favorite people; & I checked out a couple of places I'd never been.

This is exactly the way spring weekends ought to be.

While I certainly can't operate at this level of energy & enthusiasm every weekend, you've gotta capitalize on nice weather when you can - especially in Cleveland! Here's a not-so-brief, photo-heavy rundown of all the many places I went, food I ate, & people I saw in the span of 48 hours. 

A Shanghainese Date Night 

I invited Mike to a surprise date night on Friday night, which just means that I picked a restaurant & didn't tell him where we were going until right beforehand. Our destination? LJ Shanghai in Cleveland's Asiatown neighborhood, home of the best soup dumplings in the city (no, really, I wrote about them for Cleveland Magazine!)

Mike had never been, so we ordered a liiiiittle bit of a feast: soup dumplings, of course, plus two kinds of noodles. I don't even know what they were, really, or what was in them, but suffice it to say we weren't disappointed by any of it.




A Quick Caffeine Fix

On Saturday morning, I grabbed a latte from Foyer, a new-ish coffee shop managed by a high school friend of mine. Filled with art from colorful local genius Lady Noel Designs, it is quite the beautiful experience - yes, that's right, a beautiful coffee shop experience. Just look at this place!



Fried Chicken for Brunch

My friend Brittany, who moved to Columbus a few months ago, was back in the CLE for a day, so we headed to brunch at the Ohio City Galley, a sort of cafeteria-style restaurant concept that offers four high-end but casual fining options all in one building - like a very nice cafeteria. 

We both chose to eat at Sauce the City, one of the Galley's four food kiosk options, so we split the chicken & biscuits, the chicken & waffles, & the chipotle street corn - a veritable fried chicken feast, truly. We were seated near a door, so when people came into the Galley, there we were, like a real-life brunch billboard. 




Antiquing in Ohio City

I'm not much for vintage finds, but we'd both wanted to check out the new Helm Collective, a Cleveland Flea vendor that recently opened a brick & mortar shop in Ohio City. Helm was cute, but where we really had success was at All Things for You, a massive, two-story shop next door filled with furniture, home decor, estate sale items, you name it...

Not pictured here are our purchases: Brittany bought a yellow kitchen scale for herself & a pair of brass candlesticks as a gift for a friend; I scored a gorgeous silver platter for just $10, plus a set of four gold-toned goblets for $16 that Mike & I drank out of during the Game of Thrones season premiere the next day. 




A Colorful Photoshoot

When you're with a friend who also has a background in journalism & who likes social media alllllmost as much as you do, why not capitalize on the rare chance to take some Insta-worthy photos? Brittany & I took pics in front of two of my pieces of street art in the CLE - Erin Guido's "I ALWAYS HOPE" door & Joe Lanzilotta's yellow faces, both in Hingetown.

We also tracked down Lady Noel's beautiful new mural near the Masonic Cleveland building. It features the artist's signature bright colors & abstract style, on the side of a building that spans nearly an entire block. 



Cooking Class in The Flats

On Saturday night, I met up with my high school friend Marisa, who moved to Cleveland last fall, for The Cleveland Bucket List's first event: a cooking class with Jennifer Thornton of Buttercream & Olive Oil. Jennifer, who spent five years of culinary education in France & even competed on Masterchef France, taught a group of 12 attendees at Prep Kitchen CLE, a shared-use kitchen incubator space on the West Bank of The Flats. 

Together, our group made Nashville hot chicken, buttermilk biscuits, & fried green tomatoes, while drinking local craft beers donated by sponsors & the breweries themselves. At the end of the night, tipsy & proud, we enjoyed the dinner we'd created - & it was so freaking delicious.






Brunch with One of My Besties

I woke up early on Sunday to drive down to my hometown of Cuyahoga Falls, where my friend (& former bridesmaid!) Sammi was in town from Atlanta. We met up for brunch at Blue Door Bakery & Cafe, which is repeatedly named to "Best Brunch in Cleveland" lists, even though it's nearly 50 minutes away from the CLE.

It deserves to be on the lists, man, because this place is damn good. We ordered croissants on the side, & they were legitimately the size of our heads! We both had crepes - sweet for her, savory ham & cheese for me - so we took the croissants home as snacks (read: full meals) for later.





A Spring Fashion Show with Friends 

After brunch, I headed to... another brunch. Business owners Liz & Kristin of the mobile Maplewood Boutique hosted a fashion show & brunch event to show off their new spring collection. After sipping on brunch cocktails, munching on donuts, & schmoozing with other attendees, I got to sit in the front row with fellow bloggers Rachel of It's a Hero & Stacy of Styled by Stacy for the fashion show itself. So cool, right?!

After the show itself (there were dogs in it, people), we shopped Maplewood Boutique's new items. It was so crowded, though, that I skipped the try-on route & went straight for my favorites: accessories. Jewelry doesn't need a dressing room! I purchased a pair of handmade gold-toned earrings, which you can see below. Not in the area? You can also shop Maplewood Boutique online.









Brewery Lunch with Mom

Next up was my final stop of the day: Lock 15 Brewing Co., located in the same building as the fashion show. I was supposed to meet my mom at 2pm, but Rachel & I finished our shopping early, so we headed over there together. Rachel, who has three kids, knows my mom from her days as the head of the children's department at my hometown library, so we all hung out together for a bit.

My mom had wanted to try Lock 15 because she'd heard that their food was great - & she'd heard correctly. Even though I'd eaten, like, two meals by that point, I still ordered the Ghost Pepper Mac n Cheese because who could pass that up? It was made with radiatore & thin pieces of smoked beef brisket, & it was two of my favorite things: cheesy & spicy. I saved most of it for lunch the next day.

My mom absolutely devoured the shrimp & grits, & Rachel smashed her "nachos," too - thick, crunchy kettle chips topped with kielbasa, sauerkraut, pulled pork, beer cheese, & scallions. How Ohio is that? I also ordered their 1913 Pilsner, which was nice & crisp & not too hoppy.






On Sunday afternoon, I finally made it home... & took a serious nap before settling in with those new goblets for the premiere of the last season of Game of Thrones. By that time, I felt like I'd earned a little bit of rest, relaxation, & solitude because, like I said, what a weekend. It was a great one, though, representative of exactly the way I like to spend spring weekend here in the CLE. 

How's the weather in your neck of the woods? Any good weekend plans?

Together We Rise: My VersaClimber Workout at Rise/Nation

Monday, April 15, 2019


One of my April goals was to check out two new-to-me gyms or workouts, & I'm reporting in early to tell you that I have, indeed, accomplished that goal. One of the things I've tried? Rise Nation, a 30-minute VersaClimber workout (& if you, like me, have no idea what that means, read on).

My first class was so freaking hard that within two hours of my returning home afterward, I could barely walk. I took a scalding-hot Epsom salt bath, but that night, I barely slept because of the pain (& because I read that you shouldn't take Advil after a workout). Damn! Four days later, my thighs were still sore - but I decided that the best way out was through, & so I returned for a second class while still recovering from the first.

What It Is

Don't know what a VersaClimber is? I didn't either - & even though I Googled it, I couldn't really get a sense for what it was until I actually tried one in class.
  • The studio: Rise Nation's studio is set up like a spinning studio, but it's full of VersaClimbers, one for each participant.
       
  • The machines: Learn more on VersaClimber's website, but practically, a VersaClimber is a hybrid of a ladder & an elliptical, with pedals & handles that move all your limbs as you "climb." The machine tracks your progress in vertical feet, telling you how high you've climbed - without ever leaving the machine.
       
  • The classes: Classes are set to music, in a dark studio with pulsating lights & an enthusiastic instructor leading you through the movements. The class is "only" 30 minutes long - & any longer might just kill me.


What I Don't Like

I'm not a fan of starting out with the negative, but bear with me! And hey, this way we'll end on a positive note.
  • Intro, my (cl)ass: Rise Nation calls its Level One class an "intro" class, but don't be fooled: Both classes I've taken were full of regulars who knew exactly what they were doing & how to do it, which, as an out-of-shape newbie, is pretty intimidating. The people around me were flying through their workouts while I struggled mightily - & felt very much on display.
       
  • All those mirrors! Part of the reason I felt so exposed was that the studio is surrounded by mirrors on two walls, which means you're visible from anywhere in the room, & the set-up of the room itself (at least at the Cleveland location) means there's no way choose a machine in the back of the room. It's also not as dark as riding studios, so there's truly no hiding - which, again, is way intimidating when everyone else in class is doing way better than you.
       
  • Oh, my aching feet: There were multiple times when, even though my body & lungs could've kept going, I had to step off the VersaClimber to stretch the soles of my feet. They felt like they were on fire, cramped up & screaming in pain. Maybe from the weight of my body? I don't know, but that's literally been the worst part - & I have no idea what to do about it. 


What I Do Like

OK, OK, let's get onto the better stuff.
  • A friendly staff: The guy who checked me into my first class was nice & helpful, setting me up & not making me feel like a doofus who probbbbably couldn't keep up, although it was likely clear to both of us that that'd be the case. And both of my classes have been with the same instructor, who is upbeat, friendly, & supportive.
      
  • Words of support: That instructor, Derek, often speaks directly to newbies, providing specific instructions, modifications, & encouragement. I appreciate that, especially in a class largely populated by people who know exactly what they're doing. Hearing, "If you're new & feeling discouraged, don't be! You're going to get better at this" really goes a long way.
      
  • Visible signs of progress (or not): The machine tracks your numbers & tells you exactly how you did - & it turns out I did get better at it! Even though I was sore in the lead-up to my second class, I climbed 200 feet higher than before. (I climbed 1650 feet the first time, while the girl in front of me hit 2700+; the second time, I hit 1865, while my friend Natalie hit 3300+. So I was proud of my personal growth, but also a little mortified, which maybe goes under "things I don't like." Ouch.)
      
  • SPEAKING OF OUCH: Dear God, that's a helluva workout. You can tell that the VersaClimber is destroying your body, in a good way! Even with my low numbers, I was sore as hell, & I can still feel it in, like, every single step I take (especially up or down stairs... ow...) After 100+ spinning classes, I'm trying something new & working some seriously underused muscles.
  • Adorable animal relief: When I arrived for my second class, there was a dog at the studio. It was adorable. It played with me while I waited for class. This one's self-explanatory.

The Final Verdict

I suck at it, but still, I think I really like Rise Nation, & I want to continue to go to classes when I can. Maybe "like" isn't the right word, given how hard it is - but the challenge of it compels me to want to keep trying.

My new goal is to hit 2000+ vertical feet and/or just to be able to move properly the day after a class. Can I do it? Only time will tell. But as Miley once sang...


Psst: If you're interested in ClassPass, my referral link will get you $40 off your first month (which basically adds up to one month free). I'll get $40, too, which I'll use to keep on climbin'.

If We Were Having Coffee...

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


If we were having coffee, I'd be really excited to finally order my warm-weather drink - a large iced coffee with a splash of simple syrup & soy milk. I'd also tell you that I'm excited that it's cheaper than my winter lattes!

I'd tell you about my recent trip to New York City, where my office is. They only bring me in once or twice a year, & this time, I barely spent any time in the actual office, because they brought me in for two days of off-site meetings. Hey, the building had a good view, strong coffee, & lots of snacks, at least! Have you ever worked out of a Convene meeting room? Very cool.


I'd tell you that before that trip, I experienced some of the worst physical manifestations of stress in my life. I was nervous about the trip, super-crazed at work, trying to meet multiple freelance deadlines, & attempting to wrap up some other loose ends before I left town - & it resulted in my body basically just, like, locking up. I couldn't turn my head, I had shooting pain beneath my ribs, & I could literally barely walk... it was bad.

I'd tell you that the trip turned out just fine. Honestly, I just never give myself enough credit for the way I thrive in big cities. I was worried that I didn't know how to, like, do New York - which is ridiculous, given that I've been going to this office for 11 years, & I lived in Jersey, & I am, at heart, a city girl. Sure, the subway stresses me out, but I've always been fine in busy cities - & still am. 


I'd tell you that I'm headed to New York again at the end of April. I convinced my boss to make it half a work trip, but it was booked as a personal trip to attend my best friend's father's memorial service. She's the one I visited Miami with in January, after her dad died but before they'd planned anything for him. I'm glad to be able to be there for her - & I booked the trip using credit card points.

I'd tell you that this trip will probably be busier but hopefully also more fun - aside from the memorial service, of course. I'm working from the office, setting up face-to-face meetings, & making plans with friends I don't see often. I'm also hoping to have a couple of blog-worthy adventures I couldn't otherwise have here in the CLE. Maybe a trip to The Color Factory or finally walking the High Line? And Corbin Bleu is in "Kiss Me Kate"!

I'd tell you that before that trip, I'm trying relax, unwind, & stay healthy. I'd tell you I'm mad at myself for getting the time wrong on (& thus missing) my first Rise Nation class, but I joined Planet Fitness & am planning to take full advantage of their weird hydromassage couches. I'd tell you I haven't done as much Harness Cycle as I'd like lately, but that I'm excited to try SoulCycle when I'm in New York. Oh, & I even signed up for ClassPass! Who am I?

I'd tell you that things are going well but that I need to work on stress management - as always. I'd tell you I'm rereading the Harry Potter series, slowly, & that I'm enjoying new TV shows like The Enemy WithinThe Act, & The Fix. I'd tell you that I've been listening to the new Jonas Brothers song on repeat but that I can never get enough of podcasts, including The Baby-Sitters Club Club & the brand new Jensen & Holes: Murder Squad.

Oh, yeah - & I swear I'd let you talk, too.

So tell me: What's new with you?

6 Small Goals for April

Friday, April 5, 2019


OK, OK, so I wasn't quiiiite as successful in March as I was in February - but I didn't do too badly, either. Let's see...
  1. Finish & file our taxes. As of April 1, all that was left to do was write a check to the City of Cleveland for my local taxes - which I did before I left town on April 2. Thanks to my husband & our accountant for taking care of this... entirely without me! 
  2. Stop picking my eyelashes. Ugh, I've tried so hard, but I don't think I can mark this as done because, well, I'm still not there yet. I know this one is going to be a longer process than just a month - but really, I'm trying. 
  3. Keep a clean home. I mean, look, our place could definitely be cleaner - but it certainly doesn't look or feel unclean, thanks in part to my recent habit of picking up around the house every night before bed. I could sweep & mop a little more, but things do feel cleaner & more organized around here.
  4. Finish Michelle Obama's book. Ackkkk, I didn't do this one! I thought seeing her live would inspire me to finish her book ASAP, but I still haven't made it through. I did order it on Audible, though, so I'm planning to listen to it during travel this month. 
  5. Schedule a dentist appointment. Not only did I schedule a dentist appointment, I already went to my dentist appointment! In February, I announced a new partnership with Hudec Dental, & this week, I shared my going-to-the-dentist tips for scaredy cats based on that first appointment. I'm weirdly excited about dental health right now?! 
  6. Organize my books. Sort of, but not entirely. I went through all of my books, taking a huge stack to the local Little Free Library, & I reorganized my own bookshelves. I've yet to convince the husband to organize his, but I'm counting this as done because I  did my part, at least!
Onto April. To be honest, March was pretty stressful for me - I did too much, I overbooked myself, & I procrastinated on a couple of big deadlines - so I want to try to get things under control & feeling a little bit more calm.
  1. Get my airbags replaced. It is deeply unsafe that I have not yet done this. 
  2. Look into volunteer work. Engage! Cleveland's recent Next Generation of Women event encouraged me to start figuring out ways I might be able to volunteer in the city. Any ideas? 
  3. Try (at least) two new-to-me gyms and/or workouts.With my free month of Class Pass, I'm scheduled for an intro class at Rise Nation & a yoga class at Studio 111. I'm also hoping to attend a CycleBar class with a Annie & maybe even a SoulCycle class while I'm in NYC! 
  4. Write a pitch for an upcoming anthology. I don't want to jinx anything, so I'm keeping this mostly mum - but I'm really excited about the possibility of contributing an essay to a new anthology, & I've got to sort out my pitch so that I can be considered for it.
  5. Do something new-to-me in NYC. OK, OK, this is kind of a cop-out goal because there are lots of things I haven't yet done in NYC, but it seems that when I go, I usually do a lot of the same things. I want to try something fun, bloggable, & different this time around.
  6. Hit my Apple Watch move goals every day in April. Ideally, I'd like to hit all my Apple Watch goals - moving, exercising, & standing - but that seems a bit ambitious. For now, I want to hit my 500-calories-a-day burn goal & hit 10k steps at least 20 days out of the month.
How'd you do on your March goals? What are you aiming for in April?

10 Ways to Be Less Nervous about a Trip to the Dentist

Wednesday, April 3, 2019


Recently, I had my first dentist appointment - & teeth cleaning - in more than four years. I know, I know. This is unacceptable!

Last month, I wrote about my history of fear of dental work & announced a new partnership with Hudec Dental, a neighborhood dental office with 20 locations across Northeast Ohio. Now, having finally done a cleaning - & chatted with my amazing, kind, helpful, friendly hygienist, Sandra, for tips for scaredy-cats like me - I'm back... with tips for scaredy-cats like me!
 

1. Do your research.

Don't yet have a dentist? Ask friends & family where they go; if they have a dentist or hygienist they love, try to schedule an appointment with that provider. If you're going someplace like Hudec, which has multiple locations & providers, you can even call their customer care line or fill out an online request form to ask which provider might be best for you, based on your history, personality, nerves, etc. Hudec's professional staff gave me a list of four dentists I might like, & I picked the one closest to me - perfect combo!
 

2. Schedule your appointment for a low-key day. 

Especially if you haven't been to the dentist in awhile, try not to squeeze your appointment into a super-busy day, between meetings, calls, & projects. If possible, choose a day when the rest of your schedule is light, so you don't have to stress about work and the dentist and whatever else is going on that day.
 

3. Take it easy on the caffeine.

I love my morning latte, but I also know that if I'm already a ball of nerves, sometimes it makes me more jittery than usual. The day of my dentist appointment, I skipped my morning caffeine fix & instead treated myself to that latte after my appointment had ended - & my nerves had subsided.


4. Meditate a little.

In the same vein as not drinking extra caffeine, you can take proactive steps to chill out & feel more Zen before your appointment. Before I left home, I did a couple minutes with the Calm app to help me feel... you know, a little bit more calm. It did wonders for my nerves!
 

5. Be prepared.

Sandra told me, "From a clinical perspective, we are doing a lot behind the scenes and the more prepared the patient is, the better the flow of the appointment." Do your homework before your appointment, & come prepared: Bring your ID & your health insurance card, & if you don't have insurance, be sure to call ahead to sort out a payment plan. If you haven't been to the dentist in awhile, arrive a little early to fill out any necessary paperwork - with time to spare.

6. Write down your questions & concerns in advance.

On the topic of being prepared, prepare your own questions, too. If you're worried about one particular aspect of the appointment or about your dental care overall, write it out so you don't forget to ask about it. "The more prepared you are, the better the appointment will flow," Sandra advised - & isn't that true about all of life?!
 

7. Be honest about your nervousness. 

I'm a big fan of being up-front about my feelings, & a trip to the dentist is no different. Tell the office staff you're nervous, from the front desk folks to the hygienist to the dentist. They can't read your mind, so they won't know to give you special treatment unless you relay that you need it. Sandra pointed out, "Sometimes you're nervous about something that is not even going to happen, or is not even common practice anymore. If you know what to expect, it can calm your nerves."
 

8. Squeeze a stress ball.

When Sandra started to examine my gums, I got really nervous about whether it would hurt. Spoiler: It didn't - but in anticipation, I was gripping the arms of the dental chair so hard that you'd have thought I was in a turbulent airplane situation. Next time, I'm going to bring a stress ball with me so I have something softer to squeeze. Sandra & her coworker even wondered aloud if a Hudec-branded stress ball might be a good piece of swag for the office to start offering!


9. Put on your headphones.

I received this tip long ago from a dentist in D.C.: If the sounds of the dentist's office give you the heebie-jeebies, pipe your favorite tunes into your ears throughout the process. It totally works for me! Sandra explained, "There is a lot of noise, and if you are anxious, hearing the noises of the office can make it worse. To patients, everything sounds like a drill. By all means, ask your provider if you can wear headphones so you can play music and mask the sounds of the office!" - just don't be surprised when you have to take them off to, you know, talk to your provider about your teeth.
 

10. Don't be embarrassed.

If it's been awhile since your last cleaning, you may feel inclined to fudge the truth or just feel generally humiliated when talking to your provider, which can heighten those nerves. I was sure my dentist would chastise me for not having been in sooner, but both he & Sandra were incredibly kind - & reminded me that this appointment was the first step toward doing better for myself & my teeth.

I'll let Sandra's words wrap it up for me, on this front & overall:
"Remember: The longer you wait, the more things progress. Almost 65 million Americans have periodontal disease, & it's a progressive disease that does not typically hurt - so the longer you wait to see us, the further & faster it can progress. 
"Similarly with cavities, bone lesions, and abscesses, they do not always hurt - but the sooner we catch them, the better so we can treat them before they become a greater concern. 
"We have seen and treated a wide variety of cases, & we are not judging you. This is a specialized area of study; we care deeply & are passionate about what we do. Your health is our priority."
Are you scared of the dentist, too? Got any tips to add? 

What I Read in March

Monday, April 1, 2019


Another good reading month! I was hot in the beginning of March, flying through books, & then slowed down significantly toward the middle - but I still got plenty of reading in. Did I read any of my Book of the Month picks? Ummm... not yet. That TBR list keeps growing!


A Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson

Rawson was in her mid-twenties when she learned that her beloved father, Dennis Rader, was the serial killer known as BTK ("Bind, Torture, Kill," a reference to his heinous methodology). In this brave & emotional memoir, Rawson shares her family's story - including what her dad was like as they knew him, & how they coped with learning about his horrible crimes. (A note: Rawson became deeply religious while dealing with the knowledge of her father's identity. Though the evangelical element of the book did not appeal to me, it did not bother me, as it was important to her personal story. Just a heads up in case this may negatively impact your reading experience.) ★★★★☆

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance 

It took me ages to read this one, but now that I'm in the habit of listening to nonfiction audiobooks that feel like long podcasts, well, this felt like a perfect choice - & it was. Vance, who is my age, grew up in rural Ohio & Kentucky in a family of self-proclaimed Appalachian hillbillies. Vance, who went on to serve in the Marines & then receive his law degree from Yale, write poignantly about hillbilly culture, unknown & misunderstood to so many of us. ★★★★★

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

I really like Haddish, but her book didn’t do it for me. Co-written by the world’s biggest misogynist d-bag, Tucker Max, I felt like it was more Max than Haddish, at least when it came to some of the most NSFW stories. Listen, I swear like a sailor, but this particular breed of vulgarity is not quite my jam - & I especially disliked the way she talked about fat people & people with disabilities. I will continue to enjoy Haddish’s comedy, just perhaps not in written form. ★★☆☆☆

This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps

I've read a lot of celebrity memoirs but am not usually a big fan - until now. Busy Philipps - best known for shows like Freaks & GeeksDawson's Creek, & Cougar Town - is quiiiite the personality, & she's recently acquired new fame through her down-to-earth Instagram Stories, her podcast, & her late-night show Busy Tonight. In telling her stories - from acting to abortion, post-partum depression to potential divorce - she's real & funny & genuine & sometimes deeply unlikable in the way that actual human beings are - which, frankly, makes me like her all the more. ★★★★★

Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

After my last Kinsella read, I knew I wanted more from her, so my best friend recommended this one, from the early 2000s. Emma is a low-level marketing employee who spills all her life's secrets to her seatmate on a scarily turbulent airplane ride airplane ride; of course, he turns out to be the CEO of her company! Emma was kiiiind of an insufferable idiot, but if I suspended reality on that particular point, I found her & the story really likable. ★★★★☆

The Secrets of My Life by Caitlyn Jenner 

Yes, Caitlyn Jenner is a Republican & a two-time reality TV star. No, I do not necessarily agree with her politics or views. Yes, I still believe that her story, as the most visible celebrity to ever transition in the public eye, is important to hear & understand. As Bruce (which Jenner allows others to use when speaking about her past & especially her athletic accomplishments), Jenner-the-Olympian was once considered the height of masculinity & athleticism - yet struggled the whole time with debilitating gender dysphoria that impacted literally every part of his life. Caitlyn's story is powerful, eloquent, & well-crafted, whether you agree with her politics or like the Kardashians or not. ★★★★☆

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

I loved McManus's thriller debut, One of Us is Lying, so I was excited to read her second, in the same genre. It didn't disappoint! This YA read tells the story of twins Ezra & Ellery who move back to their mother's hometown... when beauty queens keep disappearing. What does their opioid-addicted mom know about it - & who's next? A lot of Goodreads reviews peg this YA read as predictable, eye-rolly, etc., but I thought it was a lot of fun - & while the ending wasn't a huge, crazy twist, I definitely hadn't predicted it. ★★★★☆

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

I loved this book. Yes, the plot is totally implausible, but to me, it reads like a modern-day heroine story, what we wish we could all do or enact or create in this #MeToo era. Three friends, the school weirdos - devout Christian Grace, Mexican lesbian Rosina, & autistic Erin - anonymously form a group called The Nowhere Girls, meant to take on the three boys in their school who raped another girl the year before & got away with it. As their movement grows, the girls find friends, allies, love, & support - & ultimately, at least some form of justice. Awesome read. ★★★★★

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Another book down in my HP re-read, & what a delight it was! I love this one, from our first views of The Burrow to our first interactions with Dobby to all the weird ghosts who feature prominently in this story. I'd like to give it a million stars, of course, but I'll settle for five. ★★★★★

Tell me what you're reading, then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch & see what I've read in months past. You can also follow my bookstagram account!

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.

Caring for Your Whole Self: My Ongoing Attempts at Work/Life Balance

Saturday, March 30, 2019

"You don't have anything to give that you don't have." -Oprah Winfrey

I've never been a big Oprah person, but when I saw this video of her last week, I was completely struck by it - & it has stuck with me. It was the first part of the first presentation of the day at Engage! Cleveland's Next Generation of Women event, & it was one of the most moving parts of the day, especially when paired with a conversation with Jan Murphy, senior vice president of mission & ministry for Sisters of Charity Health System.

The session, titled "Caring for Your Whole Self," was about creating better balance & taking care of your mind, body, & spirit, while staying away from negativity, toxicity, & over-commitment. Murphy, a former nun with 40 years of health care experience, is a former COO for the Cleveland Clinic - which is to say, she probably knows a little something about staying calm, collected, & mentally sound while also being a career badass. (Is it OK to call a nun a badass...?)

One of my favorite pieces of advice of the day was such a straightforward one: "Make it simple for yourself so that you have a happy life." With Jan's & Oprah's words on my mind, I thought I'd share what stood out most to me & how I try to apply it to my own life.

1. Practice gratitude. 

"Write down what you're grateful for," Jan suggested, telling us about the time that, throughout the course of a week, she had her employees write down what they were grateful for (anonymously) on slips of paper. At the end of the week, they read the slips aloud, which inspired everyone to better recognize the little blessings in their life - even after a difficult work week.

While I am not in a position of leadership to institute such a practice at work, I do try to practice everyday gratitude in my personal life. I wrote about it in the blog post "5 Easy Ways I Practice Gratitude," paired with my convo on the podcast Get Well, Girl. It's an ongoing process!

2. Be compassionate toward your colleagues. 

Work is a large part of what we do, but it's not all we do. "People don't come to work & leave their family & all that behind when they walk through the door," Jan told us. Good leaders, she emphasized, recognize & have compassion for the outside lives of their employees.

It's so easy to get frustrated with coworkers - especially when you work remotely & don't often interface with coworkers on a casual, face-to-face basis. For the sake of my stress level, it's important for me to recognize that my coworkers are people, too, & they're dealing with other life stuff that has nothing to do with the job, even if it manifests itself there.

This helps me better have compassion for the people with whom I work - & ultimately, it keeps me from being annoyed or stressed or frustrated. Now that's self-care!

3. You can't do it all, but you can do what matters to you.

Do women stay away from leadership roles because it'll mean more time at work & less time with family? Sometimes, Jan said, but not always - & there are ways to do both. "If you want it, don't give that up," Jan said to women who want families. "There will always be career opportunities out there." You decide what matters to you, & then you figure out what configuration works for your life.

"Do your homework & understand what the demands are [of any job you're interested in]," she told us, saying that some jobs will simply not be the right fit for anyone who also wants a family or a strong work/life balance - but many employers are compassionate & flexible, allowing parents to work from home, to work odd hours in order to accommodate their family needs, etc.

As someone who loves my job & wants a family, this resonated with me. I want to continue to work & to maintain a career, but I don't necessarily need or ever want to be top dog. I just want to figure out a structure that will allow me to feel fulfilled at work and as a parent.

4. Book time for your mental health.

"I have to have some quiet time in the morning, or I'm like a hummingbird on crack for the rest of the day," Jan joked. She emphasized the importance of taking time for yourself - & scheduling that time for yourself.

This is something I'm still working on. I'm not a morning person, so I rarely have time to do much before jumping into the workday; at night, I keep working or start freelancing, which leaves very little "me time." I've started doing exactly what Jan suggested: scheduling non-negotiable time for myself in my calendar, when I need to unwind & just be.

5. Stay organized - but don't overdo it. 

"Design what is really going to work for you," Jan said of personal organizational systems. She has a personal assistant but also uses the Notes app, her Outlook calendar, notebooks, & journals to stay organized - & she works hard not to overbook. "If [the calendar] starts to look ridiculous, like it would take 10 of me to do it all, I step back," she said.

In the last year or so, I've gotten way more organized, & it's improved my quality of life so freaking much. Who knew?! Women like Jan knew, I guess. I'm still refining my organizational tactics & may share some of them here soon to crowd source ideas from readers. Any interest?!

6. Set technological boundaries.

"Keep private time sacred," Jan encouraged, speaking about the advances in technology that allow us - & sometimes require us - to be connected 24/7. She talked about the stress of 3am emails & always being "on-call" & how companies are going to have to figure out how to deal with these challenges if they value their employees' mental health - & not burning them out.

Again, because I work from home and in digital media, I do feel pressure to be on, literally - on the ball, work-wise, & online, generally. I check email on days off & before bed; I've been known to send 3am emails. "What big thing is going to happen that cannot wait?" Jan asked, & indeed, I ask myself this all the time. I need to ask it more often & really force myself to step awayyyy from the Internet.

7. Stop doing things you hate.

Jan spoke about this concept in a couple forms, starting with finding a job you like. She first became a nurse after her brother was badly burned in a fire, which led to her passion for health care. I am grateful to have a job I love, focused on a mission I believe in, so this rang true with me. It's easier to overlook the grunge work of any job when you feel positively toward it overall!

She also talked about trying to "do it all" when it comes to housework & the everyday stuff: "Figure out the things you like to do & the things you hate to do, then hire it out." This got a huge applause from the audience, myself included. I've started occasionally hiring cleaners when I feel overwhelmed by apartment mess, & I occasionally order pre-made meals from Raw Trainer so I can eat healthy without having to cook or meal-prep.

Why do we make money if not to occasionally spend it on making life easier for ourselves?!

8. Ignore your impostor syndrome.

As someone who frequently thinks, "How the heck did I get here?!" it can be overwhelming to delve too far into those thoughts & eventually wonder if I'm supposed to be here - or if I'm just faking it. It was reassuring to hear that so many other women - even those in positions of high-up leadership - feel this way, too, & none of us is actually an impostor (unless you're, like, a con artist & total scammer, but I'm assuming the best in people here!)

"No one can ever take your power away from you unless you give it to them," Jan said, closing out her presentation. To that I say: Amen.

What helps you stay sane, at work & in the rest of your life?

Disclosure: I was asked to promote Engage! Cleveland's Next Generation of Women event on social media, in exchange for a complimentary ticket to the event. As always, all opinions are my own. 

7 Ways I Get in More Steps Every Day

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


My mother-in-law gave me an Apple Watch in the fall, & I am fully obsessed with it. It's not something I would've thought to buy for myself, but now that I have one, I never want to be without. It helps me track my daily step counts, calories burned, my workouts, & more - & it makes it all so easy to do it.

Until I started wearing it, I didn't realize exactly how little I move every day. Of course, I knew I worked from home & didn't walk a lot & wasn't, at the time, working out - but once I started wearing the watch, I realized just how sedentary I'd been. And frankly, I was horrified.

Since I started wearing my Apple Watch, I've stepped up (pun fully intended) my efforts to move more. Here are a few of the ways I try to hit 10k steps per day.

1. Picking up special deliveries from my cat

This is one of the key ways I get in some morning steps, & it's kind of a funny one: My cat, Dora, loves delivering sock balls to our bedroom door. She delivers five to 20 pairs every night! Each morning, I get up & put away her sock deliveries... one by one. I walk back & forth from our bedroom to our guest room, where we store clean socks in a basket (because Dora cries if we store them in a closed drawer). Would you believe that I can sometimes get in nearly 1k steps this way?!

2. Putting away clean laundry

This is another one that can net me 1k steps: After I've folded a load of clean laundry, I put away each item, one by one, again waling back & forth between rooms to do it. Yes, it's tedious to walk baaaack & forth putting away every single shirt or pair of underwear, but it also helps add some steps & movement into a must-do at-home task.


3. Taking the long way

Both at home & when I'm out & about, I try to take the long way when I do things: If I need something out of the kitchen, I'll walk around the whole room to get there. If I need something from that aisle, I'll walk down this aisle first. If I'm running out for coffee at the place next door, I'll walk around the block to get there, or at least

4. Parking further away

In a city where cars are practically a necessity, it can be all too easy to park right at the front door of the places I visit, & then pull into my driveway when I get home - necessitating all of, like, 20 steps, total. When I'm not in a hurry (& when the Cleveland weather isn't terrible), I try to park a bit further away, just to add a couple extra steps to my route.

5. Offering to help

The other day, my husband needed to return a library book, so I walked to the library & returned it for him. My mom needed a paper towel, so I got up & grabbed her one. Little favors here & there don't net me a ton of extra steps, but every little but counts.

6. Picking up the apartment

Similarly to the sock-and-laundry thing, I have begun to pick up & organize the apartment every night or afternoon, whenever I feel a need to get in a few extra steps. Not to call out my husband, but he's a liiiittle bit messy, so there's always plenty to put away!  Again, I put things about one by one, which keeps me moving.

7. Going for walks, duh

Saving the most basic for last: When I don't have enough steps in for the day - when the apartment is clean & there's no more laundry to put away - I just buckle down, bundle up, & walk around the neighborhood. Luckily, my neighborhood is adorable & walkable, & it feels like there's always something new to see or discover. Plus, I... still play Pokemon Go. Hey, it gets me out there!

Do you track your steps? What's your daily step goal, & what do you do to hit it?
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