Spin Wins: My Little Victories Off the Bike

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Photo by Tall Hair Creative

Before my sleep test, I had to fill out paperwork that asked me for my current weight, as well as for my "peak lifetime weight." The numbers were the same.

Let me tell you, it didn't feel good to write out that number twice. I was embarrassed & ashamed. I wondered what my doctor would think of me. And then I got to the next question, which asked me if I exercise, & if so, how often.

For a very, very long time time - like, 33 years long - I didn't exercise at all. Sure, I'd go on a yoga kick or do a few sessions with a personal trainer or periodically try to complete Couch to 5k. But I hadn't worked out consistently - not ever.

Until now. Filling out that form, I wrote in that I exercise three to four times a week - & it wasn't a lie. I do. I ride at Harness Cycle two to four times a week, & even if the scale - & the shape of my body - don't reflect that, it's true. And that? Well, that felt good.

I started to think about the things I've proud of, beyond just the potential for (& lack of) weight loss. I started to think about the way I feel when I ride, the way my body has changed & strengthened even if it's not visible to others.

And that? That felt good, too.

Here are just a few of the things my body & I can do now - things I never could have imagined prior to my newfound love of cycling.

1. I can actually speak/move/function after classes. 

After my first class (you know, once I was done crying), I headed to a local coffee shop, where I ordered a latte & sat for more than an hour... in part because I felt like I couldn't stand up without falling over. This was the case for the first five classes or so - & although it still happens every now & then, for the most part, I am back to normal (uh, aside from copious sweating) as soon as class lets out.

2. I can bend over & touch my toes while standing.

I always thought I couldn't touch the ground because of the rods in my back, the ones from my spinal fusion - but it turns out I couldn't touch the ground because I was inflexible & out of shape. These days, when I bend in half, I can nearly set my hands flat on the ground on front of me. That's huge for me - & it feels great.

3. I can bend over & touch my toes while sitting.

Do you remember that 1990s elementary school exercise called the V-sit & reach? Man, I was so good at it... probably because I had a spinal deformity. Oh. Once I got those rods in my back, I couldn't bend forward anymore, not like I used to - & I never regained that flexibility. After 75+ classes, I still can't do the V-sit - but I can definitely now bend forward & touch my toes, which is huge for me. And also feels great.

4. I can (usually) do the entire arm workout with weights.

For my first 20 or so rides, I had to put down my hand weights during the arm workout in the middle of class. I stuck with all the exercises, but I couldn't keep at it with weights. Now, while I admittedly sometimes need to work with one weight or shake out my arms in the middle of an arm workout, I can usually complete an entire arm workout with my 3-lb. weights in each hand.

5. I can do the end-of-class stretch where you balance on the handlebars.

What's this stretch called? Beats me, but I'll try to describe it for you: At the end of class, sometimes the instructors lead the class in a stretch where we stand on the pedals, lean our stomachs against the front of the back, & stretch, arms above our heads. In the beginning, I couldn't do this one because I had zero core strength. Now, I can do it pretty easily (that is, when I'm not using the bike beneath the speakers, which gets in the way of putting my arms up!)

I went to the doctor last week (for my pneumonia vaccine, ouch!) & while I was there, was tested for thyroid issues, just to see if there were any medical issues that might prevent me from losing weight. There weren't - which means it's time to work harder & figure out some new workouts.

What non-weight-loss victories can identify in your exercise routine?

OK, 2019, This Had Better Be a Dress Rehearsal

Monday, January 14, 2019

This year is going kind of weirdly. We're halfway through the first month of the year, & already a handful of strange & less-than-ideal things have happened.

I got a vaccine that did not make me feel great.

My pneumonia vaccine was incredibly painful, & the site location was debilitatingly sore for nearly a week. It also gave me a fever for a few days, so I was pretty out of it. I've never had negative reactions like that to a vaccine, so I was really caught off-guard.

A pipe burst in our basement.

There's nothing quite as panic-inducing as hearing the sound of a waterfall... in your own home. I woke up one morning to Mike yelling that a pipe had blown & was starting to flood the basement. Fortunately, the maintenance guy came out within the hour to fix it, but what a day!

I got the stomach flu.

I woke up the first Sunday of the year & threw up. I originally thought I had food poisoning, but food poisoning shouldn't last 48+ hours! I didn't eat anything for a full two & a half days, nor did I really leave bed. Apparently it's going around, but I was so relieved when my turn ended.

I was diagnosed with a neurological disorder.

If you've read my earlier post about my new diagnosis, you know that I'm actually kind of happy about this one, not upset about it - but I mean, it's still a lot to take in, so I'd sure count it under that "going kind of weirdly" umbrella.

I was a victim of credit card fraud.

On Friday night, I checked my bank balance to make sure I was doing OK, then I headed to the grocery store - where my card was promptly declined for insufficient funds. In the 30 minutes between those events, someone used my debit card to make a huge, fraudulent Nike purchase! I paid by credit card & had to shut everything down with my bank.

Perhaps the worst thing, though, is that my best friend's dad passed away after a short illness. They're not doing a funeral; instead, they're holding two memorial services in different states, next month or later. She booked herself a few days in Florida to decompress, try to deal, & maybe do some planning - & she asked me to join her.

So that's where I am right now, as you read this: in Fort Lauderdale with my best friend, getting rid of some of the bad juju from the first two weeks of the year & trying to look forward. Together.

Let's start to pick it up 2019, shall we?

Today is the Day I Wake Up

Friday, January 11, 2019

Yesterday was my follow-up appointment with my neurologist following the 24-hour sleep study I did last month. I'd been so worried about it - worried I didn't "pass," that my brain waves, or whatever it is that they study, wouldn't show what I have been struggling with for so long. I worried that nothing would change. I worried that I'd leave just the same as I'd entered.

"It's very clear-cut to me, based on these results," my neurologist told me. "I have no doubt about it. You have what we call idiopathic hypersomnia."

I have what he thought I had, but now it's official - now my brain waves say so, on paper, for sure.

Idiopathic hypersomnia is a rare neurological disorder, a cousin of narcolepsy but 10 times less common. I didn't even know narcolepsy was common. IH is characterized by "excessive daytime sleepiness," some kind of problem with the brain's ability - my brain's ability - to differentiate between sleep & wakefulness.

I cried when my doctor told me. Like, right then, as he was talking, I felt my face twist into that pre-crying face, where you know it's about to happen, & then there you are, full-on weeping in front of strangers - medically inclined strangers, yes, but strangers, no less. He gave me tissues; he reassured me that I'm not the first person to cry in his office for relief of a diagnosis. I kept crying.

I've basically been crying ever since.

I cried during last night's Harness Cycle ride; "Your excuses are all in your head," our instructor told us, except sometimes they aren't, & your doctor proves it for you.

I cried while I read article after article about hypersomnia, everything I could find, from Wikipedia & the Mayo Clinic & WebMD & sleep clinics in places like Alaska & Australia.

I cried when I read this corny, hashtag-driven phrase used by the Hypersomnia Foundation (which is, yes, a real thing) - "Let's get #beyondsleepy" - because I have, frankly, never been able to get beyond this sleepiness that never fucking goes away.

And I cried when I picked up my new medicine, when I held one of the pills in my hand & thought about everything it could change for me, everything it could do for me. I'm scared as hell to start on a new medication, sure, because bodies are scary & mine seems half-broken all the time, but I'm really hoping that this one works, that this is the one that saves me.

So today I start my medicine.

Today I start the rest of my goddamn life.

Today I wake up. 

7 Movies I Watched Over "Winter Break" - All Based on Books

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

I'm not much of a movie-watcher, to be honest, but when I have the time & inclination, I can tear through a few - which is what I did during the holidays, when I took a full week off of work & just relaxed & slept &, OK, freelanced a little bit. I later realized that all the movies I'd chosen were adaptation of books, which seems very on-brand for me!

Love, Simon

I was skeptical of this film, given how much I loved the book, but in a rare turn, I think I loved them both equally. The movie was so good, so charming, so heart-warming, with the actor who plays Simon really bringing him to life - & I was surprised to love Jennifer Garner & Josh Duhamel as Simon's supportive but occasionally misguided parents.

Crazy Rich Asians

This was an audiobook I didn't finish, not because I didn't like it but because it was returned to the library before I had the chance to finish it - so I was excited to watch the film version, which I'd heard great things about. Indeed, the movie is opulent, beautiful, luxurious - & with really great acting from the cast. How great is it to see an all-Asian cast rocking the box office?!

Ready Player One

I'd heard terrible things about the film adaptation of Ernest Cline's now-classic book, but I actually really enjoyed it. Sure, the movie has changed plenty of plotlines, but given the level of CGI it required, I'm not surprised that they had to make some cuts - & frankly, I liked the film. It was probably difficult to follow for folks who haven't read the book (much like the third Harry Potter movie...), but hey - I read the book, so it worked for me!

A Simple Favor

This book is on my to-read list, but now that I've watched the film, I may not bother - not because I didn't like the film (I did!), but because the twist is blown, which might not make for as enjoyable a read. Starring Blake Lively as a high-powered businesswoman/mother who disappears without a trace, & Anna Kendrick as her neurotic vlogger best friend, it's both suspenseful and campy, one of my favorite combos.


Ohh, this book was so lovely & so well-done & so insightful & sweet - & the movie was more of the same, although the actor who plays Augie didn't have nearly the extent of facial deformities that his character in the book did. I suppose that's understandable, but it did make the film a little bit less realistic than the book. Oh, & I loved both Daveed Diggs as Augie's schoolteacher Mandy Patinkin as the principal, Mr. Tushman, a.k.a. Mr. Tuchus - great little Jewish joke there.


This was another book I really enjoyed, & the movie was no exception to its adorableness. Danielle Macdonald plays Willowdean, the happy but overweight daughter of the organizer of the local beauty pageant. When she & a few not-standard-pageant-queen-material friends decide to join the competition - just to mess it up & thus mess with her mother - Willowdean never expects the camaraderie & confidence she finds instead.

Bird Box

Hey, guys, what the actual fuck is this movie? This was so terrifying that I screamed out loud, like, seven times - & then, at the end of it, I wept. Suddenly, the world has gone crazy, with unexplained forces urging nearly everyone to commit suicide in the most horrifyingly brutal of ways. A pregnant Mallory falls in with a group of fellow survivors, interspersed with scenes of her & her two kids blindfolded on a canoe as they try to escape - to what? Holy crap, this movie.

What have you watched lately & enjoyed? Anything I ought to add to my list? 

The 5 Worst Books I Read in 2018

Monday, January 7, 2019

Photo by Tall Hair Creative

This post feels a little bit mean, but I suppose it's no meaner than sharing one-star reviews on Instagram, right? Like, this is how book reviews work. I'm just putting all of last year's one-star reviews in one place - my little attempt to keep you, my friends, from reading books that felt like a mistake of my reading time.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

This book seemed to be so well-loved that I thought I'd give it a try, even though I could've known by the touchy-feely title that it wouldn't appeal to me. I didn't know who Hollis was, but I also feel like I somehow should've realized that she is an evangelical Christian woman writing for a Christian publishing imprint & that this book would therefore contain a great many eye-rolly platitudes, general sentiments/values with which I wholly disagree, & statements of unchecked privilege that are just not my jam - oh, & an entire chapter dedicated to fat-shaming.

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Actually, I loved this book for, like, 90% of my reading of it... but I was so freaking angry about the ending that I ended up hating it. It felt so tacky & cheap & demeaning & made me so mad that I'd wasted my time. Before that, it was about two women who become friends despite the fact that one is secretly sleeping with the other's husband - or is it a secret at all? She begins to wonder what's happening in her friend's seemingly tumultuous relationship. But again: Though I can't say why without a total spoiler, let's just say that I hated this book by the end.

Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour

I'd looked forward to this book about one writer's struggle to be diagnosed with & to manage her Lyme disease - & while I hesitate to judge anyone's memoir, it was, in her own words in later interviews, "kind of messy." The look at chronic illness & traumatic brain injury was fascinating & painful, but I found the author so self-obsessed, shallow, & unlikable that it was a difficult, slog of a read. An editor should've done a lot more work on this one & perhaps held off on publication until the author was well enough to determine that this was, in fact, the version she wanted to show the world.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I find myself deeply angry that this book has received such acclaim & won so many awards because, in my view, it was all porn & gratuitous swearing, basically a sleazy romance novel attempting to disguise itself as something more. Stella, a successful businesswoman on the autism spectrum, wants to be better at sex so she can feel comfortable dating, which leads her to hire an attractive young escort to teach her - &, of course, they fall in love. It was a great idea for a premise - but it was executed with such trashiness that I couldn't even begin to enjoy it.

ETA: Small post-publication edit here, because apparently this review is upsetting people, which was not my intention. Look, I hated this book - really hated it. But I'm realizing that what really bothered me was that this book was marketed as a contemporary romance novel, not as a standard romance novel (which is what it was). If it had just been marketed as the latter, I wouldn't have picked it up, because romance novels aren't my jam. But the reviews made it seem like something it wasn't, which sort of tricked me into reading it, which I really don't like.

The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani

I was intrigued by the premise: a beloved, caring nanny brutally murders the two children within her care - & no one knows why. The book opens with a violent scene, then moves into a plodding narration that I found tedious, cold, & distant. Perhaps this was due to the fact that the novel was translated into English from French - but even translation couldn't have changed the story's lackluster, dissatisfying ending. Skip this one, please. I wish I had - yes, even though the Washington Post named it one of the best books of 2018.

What's the worst book you read this year? Do you disagree with any of my one-star reviews? I know a lot of these ones were pretty popular with other folks! 

6 Small Goals for January

Friday, January 4, 2019

With all these end-of-2018/beginning-of-2019 posts, I can't help but feel like I've been writing about goals for the last two weeks or so. And yet, yearly goals aren't the same as monthly goals, so here I am setting monthly intentions again - & revisiting 2018 one final time.
  1. Get an oil change. It was so beyond time for this one. Thanks to Take 5 in Lakewood for making it easy to check this one off the list. I didn't even have to get out of my car! 
  2. Starting using the Calm app. I didn't start using the Calm app, but I'm marking this as done because I did spend some time checking it out & just... didn't love the interface. Instead, I started using the Gratitude Journal app, which serves a different purpose but which I'm still finding very fulfilling. I may try Calm again in the future.
  3. Complete my sleep study. This is done - AND I just got the great news that my health insurance covered all of it. Every single penny! I have a follow-up appointment with my neurologist this month to go over the results & figure out what's next. 
  4. Get (or at least schedule) a haircut. Done! Thanks to Jeanan at Stella & Shay Beauty Bar in Lakewood for a solid chop.  
  5. Search for a new therapist. Fine, fine, this was arguably the most important goal of the month, but I didn't complete it. I sort of started the process but didn't make it anywhere. I did get a recommendation from a friend, though! 
  6. Successfully host Christmas dinner. Our Christmas holiday was so, so lovely - even if our apartment was a little bit too small for all 10 of us. We joked that no one else in the family can ever bring home a new significant other! But really: such a nice day, so much food.
Five out of six isn't a bad way to end the year! I don't usually do this, but I'm adding the incomplete goal to my January list because it's so important. 
  1. Search for a new therapist. Gotta do this one. Really.
  2. Color my hair. I may go back to Jeanan, or I may do it myself - but either way, I'm tired of experiment in growing out my grays! 
  3. Clean out my car. I swear to God I am going to do this. Do you hear me? I'm going to do this... someday. Hopefully in January. 
  4. Hit 92 Harness rides. This is an "at least" goal, as I'd of course be happy to hit more. I completed 12 rides in December, & I'm well on my way to 100, which I hope to hit in mid-February - & which I can only do if I hit this goal first. 
  5. Help my mom get rid of stuff. I'm staying at my mom's place for a weekend later this month while she's out of town. I'll be watching her dogs & want to help her downsize so that she can eventually move into a smaller place. She's lived in the same house for 32 years! 
  6. Cook once a week. OK, this feels kind of lame, I know, but I do basically zero cooking. Mike does it all, or we eat out (or, most frequently, I get healthy takeaway from nearby Boaz Cafe). 
Annnnd there you have it: my small goals for January to start out 2019. What are your goals for the beginning of the year? Or, hell, for the whole year? Is there any way I can help you achieve them? Let me know!

Cleveland's Cat Cafe Opens Today!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

It's here, it's here! As of today, AffoGATO Cat Cafe is officially open in Tremont. Whether you're looking to adopt a kitty or just want to grab a coffee & get in a little cat therapy, Cleveland's first cat cafe is up & running & open to you. 

I was thrilled to be invited to stop by for a pre-opening visit the day the Cleveland Animal Protective League delivered the first of the adoptable kitties to their new temporary home. Here are a few shots from the sneak peek that left me so freaky happy & well-cuddled. 

AffoGATO is located at 761 Starkweather Ave. in Tremont, at the corner of Starkweather & Professor, in the former home of Lilly Handmade Chocolates (which you can now visit in Old Brooklyn!) 

Right now, six kitties live at AffoGATO while they wait to be adopted into their furever homes, with more to come. They will have about a dozen cats in the house at any given time (except, of course, when some of these cuties get adopted out!) If you're in the market for a new fluffy friend, you can learn about all their adoptable kitties on their website before going to visit

I hit it off with Damien, the handsome guy you see above, who was very happy to get in some head butts. I even went home & tried to convince Mike that we should adopt a third kitty (this one, specifically), though I don't think he's going to budge on this one. Still, I'll be back to visit Damien & his furry friends while they wait for their new families to find them.

Most folks, of course, want to adopt pets that are friendly & personable - animals that do well with people & maybe even with other pets. Having all these adoptable kitties in one place, roaming free & engaging with customers & with one another, helps acclimate them - which means that, hopefully, by the time they're adopted out, they're friendly & comfortable & maybe even a little outgoing.

I, for one, am more than happy to oblige when it comes to acclimating cats to humans. Let me pet youuuuu! (But also, I respect your personal space & autonomy.)

AffoGATO Cate Cafe has a chic, cozy vibe that makes it feel like a well-designed home, focused on some seriously adorable, kitty-centric details. Unlike a home, though, it offers lots of intentionally designed opportunities for its resident cats to explore, nap, hide, & play.

And oh, yeah, don't forget about the cafe part! Of course, it wasn't yet open when I visited, so I can't yet report out on the coffee, but the space itself is cute, quiet, small but with a little bit of seating if you want to do some work, read the newspaper, or catch up with a friend.

So how does it all work? The cafe is open to the public & free to enter, with regular coffee shop prices for a variety of beverages & treats. There are no kitties on this side, though a glass wall looks into the cat room. To visit the cat side, you need to make a reservation, which costs anywhere from $8-$12. Only 15 people are allowed in the lounge at a time - you know, so the kitties don't get overwhelmed or stressed.

Learn more about AffoGATO Cat Cafe & check out their site to make your reservation to go pet cats. I, for one, will be allotting a small "cat therapy budget" each month so that I can go visit all these sweet kitties & make them feel as loved as possible before they find their new homes.

That's all for meow! See you at AffoGATO.

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. I reach out to the owners of AffoGATO Cat Cafe when they were in the planning stages, & because I live so close, they invited me to come visit before the cafe officially opened! 

What I Read in December

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

End-of-year roundup time has come & gone, but I still have a bunch of December books to share with you - & one of them (The Girl Who Smiled Beads) would've made my "best of 2018" honorable mentions if only I'd finished it a little bit sooner! I must say, though: This is the ugliest batch of covers I've ever read. Those damn nonfiction books are messing with my aesthetic!

Here's what I read in December, officially hitting 100 books, plus one - & I'm halfway through a bunch of other books, though, too, so I expect decent numbers in January to start off 2019.

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

After the end of Pinborought last's thriller, Behind Her Eyes, did me so dirty (like, genuinely, I was furious about it), it's kind of a miracle that I wanted to pick up another book by her - but when I saw that this one was available through my library, I decided I'd give her another shot. I'm glad I did, because I was really drawn into the story of Lisa & her daughter, Ava, who seem to be hiding from something. Just when you think you know what they're hiding from, the game changes. ★★★★☆

Twinkle, Twinkle Social Media Star by Kate Kennedy

My cousin sent me this book, written by a friend of hers - an adult parody on kids' fairy tales. Cute idea, right?! The rhymes don't always rhyme, but they
are incredibly clever, & the illustrations are almost better. One thing's for sure: Don't read this one to your kiddos. ★★★★☆

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay 

It took me a looong time to finally pick up this book because I knew it would be a difficult read. It was, in fact, a very smooth & easy read, in that it was incredibly well-written & each page made me want to continue to the next one - but much of the subject matter is, indeed, incredibly difficult to take in, including the graphic details of Gay's gang-rape at age 12. ★★★★★

An Abundance of Katherines by John Greene

I'm a big fan of Greene's writing, even though his stories are wildly improbable & his characters are overly quirky. Sometimes you've gotta suspend disbelief & enjoy! A friend told me this is her favorite Greene book, & it did not disappoint. Best friends Colin & Hassan head on an aimless post-high-school road trip that leads them to podunk Gutshot, TN, where they decide to stay awhile. The theme of story is "Will Colin break his streak of dating only girls named Katherine?" but it's really, at its core, about friendship - as most of Greene's books are. ★★★★☆

Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media by Brittany Hennessy

Hennessy works for Hearst, booking digital influencers for $100,000 YouTube gigs & the like, & in this short book, she shares what she knows about what makes influencers followable - & bookable. As it's primarily geared to & focusing on fashion influencers, this read was, overall, more than a little annoying, but it was also a lot helpful. It's given me some good idea for how to grow my online presence in 2019. (And I'm sorry that sentence is so douchey.) ★★★★☆

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War & What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya

Wamariya is a Rwandan refugee who left her home country at age 6, accompanied on by her older sister. Together, they traveled through various countries, by foot & by boat, trying to find a safe place; they stayed in multiple refugee camps & in the homes of kind strangers, her sister always hustling to be sure they had the connections needed to survive. Now a Yale grad & noted activist, Wamariya tells her story with grace & power, humanizing refugees & providing even the smallest look into the life of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people worldwide. ★★★★★

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Backderf, a Northeast Ohio-based cartoonist, went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer & was loosely friends with him - or as much, it seems, as anyone was friends with Dahmer, an oddball & an outcast. This graphic novel is, essentially, a memoir of Backderf's memories of Dahmer from that time, with some commentary about how bizarre it felt to reflect on their teenage years with one of the most notorious & depraved serial killers in American history. ★★★★☆

Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech by Sara Wachter-Boettcher 

Long review coming: This book was my first Feminist Book Club delivery, & it was brilliant & techie, but written in a digestible, accessible, & down-to-earth way for those of us who don't work in tech. I had no idea of all these problems - like Google Photos identifying black faces as "gorillas," mobile ads targeting people in low-income areas with ads for for-profit colleges, or a gym chain in Britain where a woman couldn't get into the locker rooms because the locker rooms were coded by title, like Mr. or Mrs. - & hers, "Doctor" was coded as male. This book tackles problems small & large, including how they occur & how they can be stopped. Read this. ★★★★★

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant

My final book of the year has the worst cover of the year, too - what the hell is that?! - but it was a perfect read to close out 2018 & to hit 100 books. This is essentially a TED Talk distilled into a long-form brochure, but as I always say, if The Cat in the Hat is a book, so are adult short-reads. This one was actually sort of mind-alteringly, life-changingly important to me - & I'm not saying that to be dramatic. It is already impacting how I think about myself & my life & the world, thus impacting how I exist as a person in the world. It's worth the very quick read. ★★★★☆

This Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes 

When Genevieve wakes up in the hospital, her YouTube star boyfriend, Dallas, is dead - & she can't remember the car accident they were in together. The man accused of causing the accident is being mercilessly tormented on social media, & Genna feels overwhelmed by all the attention she's receiving, both positive & negative. When she gets out of town to try to recover & recoup, she also remembers. So what next? An enjoyable YA read that really highlights the dangers of social media bullying. ★★★★☆

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.

Looking Back on 2018: A Good Year, Really

Sunday, December 30, 2018

I started last year's year-in-review post like this:
"I've been pretty lucky to have a few good years in a row. What does it say about me if I'm perpetually living in fear of waiting for the other shoe to drop?"
In fairness, nothing bad has happened; that other shoe hasn't dropped, per se (& thank goodness for that). But 2018 wasn't quite the year that the last three or four have been. As 2018 draws to a close, I just feel... tired. Exhausted, really. I feel like I can't keep up with my own life. I feel like I can't get anything right. I am, in short, having a hard year.

But I'm trying to count my blessings, too. There are so many, even when things don't feel great - & looking back on 2018, there have indeed been plenty.

I started the year at the Women's March & continued with activism throughout 2018, in various ways - mostly by writing to my members of Congress on a regular basis, & of course by voting in the midterms. It was a difficult year, politically, but I did my best to stay connected & future-focused - & found a new-to-me podcast, NPR's Up First, to help me stay in the know.

We went on our honeymoon to Costa Rica in May, with 10 days together to explore, relax, & eat all the tostones we could find. We befriended the seaside bartender at our beautiful, luxurious hotel; we posed with a toucan named Bob; I spent a full hour standing beneath a mango tree watching monkeys swing from branch to branch. (Read all about it.)

We attended the weddings of friends & loved ones, including two here at home, one in Geneva, NY, & one in Lakeside, OH. It was a fairly low-key year for weddings, without us ever needing to travel too far out of town for any of them - & each of them was unique, joyful, & so much fun.

We took a few low-key vacations,beyond those wedding weekends: We visited friends for a weekend in Pittsburgh, PA, & spent a few wifi-free days in Bear Hollow, PA. We also spent Thanksgiving in Hilton Head, S.C., Mike's first holiday with my family.

We celebrated our first wedding anniversary with 24 hours in Ann Arbor, MI, just because. We didn't know much about the city going into it, except that, as Ohioans, we're supposed to hate it - but it sure was cute! We stayed at an adorable B&B (the real, old-fashioned kind, not the AirBnB kind) & said cheers to many more years together. Blog post to come!

I attended my first weekend retreat, a decision that was way outside my comfort zone & extremely, well, uncomfortable for me in so many ways - but also a really lovely, gratifying experience full of lessons learned & interesting women met. (Read about it here.)

I traveled a bit for work, including to New York in February. It was a heck of a time to visit, given that there was a huge snowstorm that kept most of my coworkers from coming into the office. For a change, they worked from home while I worked from the office! I also attended the Women in Digital conference in Columbus & locked in two work trips for early 2019. Stay tuned!

I wrote my mental health story for Cleveland Magazine, published in their August "Best Doctors" issue. I haaaate the photo that accompanied the piece (bummer because it was such a cool photo shoot!), but I'm really proud of the piece itself & so appreciative of the support I received after it ran. (Read the story in Cleveland Magazine.)

I started riding at Harness Cycle with a particularly terrible first ride that made me feel absolutely terrible about myself & my abilities - or, rather, my inabilities. I was committed to try again, though, & now I'm well on my way to 100 classes. (Here's that story.)

I had some great Cleveland adventures, including attending Brite Winter for the first time, rocking out at the InCuya music festival, going to lots of great blogger events, seeing Hamilton for my birthday, sitting very close to the stage at a Taylor Swift concert, checking out the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art, hosting a little get-together during Taste of Tremont... it was a good year for adventures.

And there were more adventures, too. Like seeing the podcasts My Favorite Murder & Serial live with friends, or going to a Lake Erie Monsters game with girlfriends while our husbands & boyfriends played board games at home. Like being part of a fun book club with some of those same girlfriends. Like the Halloween party where Mike & I dressed up as Aaron Burr & Alexander Hamilton (the musical versions, of course). 

I became an aunt - twice! My "brother," Paolo, & his wife, Ulda, had a baby, Gianluca, who is absolutely the cutest, smiliest little guy I've ever seen - though they live in Spain, so I've yet to see him in person. And my best friend, Christina, had her first baby, a sweet little girl named Cara, in the fall, though I haven't yet met her, either. I love them both so much from afar.

I enjoyed lots of visitors, including co-hosting a baby shower for my out-of-town BFF, Christina, in June; a visit from my friend Sammi (accompanied by a Jimmy Eat World concert!) in July; some quality time with high school friends just last week... I miss all my out-of-town friends but feel so lucky for the visits, when they happen.

We said goodbye to loved ones, first my dear friend & mentor, Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, who passed away in February after a long illness, & then Mike's sweet, wonderful grandmother, Mary Ann, who died just this month. They were both hard & painful losses that we will feel for a long time...

We hosted Christmas at our home, our first time doing so, & it went really well, if I may say so myself! There were 10 of us - our first Christmas without Mike's grandma - & while it was difficult to fit everyone in, not to mention difficult to celebrate without her, it was a really festive day together.

And that's it, I guess: That's what I can remember of the year, at least. I also wrote about some of my personal achievements in 2018, & the best books I read in 2018.  

What will you remember of 2018 - & what are you looking forward to in 2019?

In 2019, I Will...

Friday, December 28, 2018

I've got to be honest: 2018 is the first year in a long time that has ended with me feeling less than great - & I've been feeling way less than great lately. I don't totally know why because, in reality, 2018 was a pretty darn good one - but right now, I'm looking forward as much as I'm looking back, trying to figure out how I can start feeling better in 2019.

That's what these resolutions goals are focused on: looking forward & feeling better. Here's what I've got on deck in the new year - to start.

Go back to therapy.

This is my number-one goal for 2019. I stopped therapy in mid-2015, & I haven't felt like I've needed it since then - until now. I didn't look for a therapist in December as planned, but it's the first thing I need to get on top of in the new year.

In 2019, I'm pursuing mental health... again. It feels disappointing & borderline embarrassing to relapse like this after a few years of doing so well & feeling so healthy, but I guess that's how it goes, right? Just gotta take it as it comes - & take care of myself.

Complete 100 Harness Cycle classes... & keep going

At the time of this writing, I've got 20 classes to go, so if I stay on track, I should hit 100 Harness classes by early to mid-February - but I have no plans to stop once I get there. Anyone want to come celebrate my 100th ride with me?

In 2019, here's to many more rides - including the ones designated only for Club 100 members!

Try (at least) 10 new kinds of workouts

Of all my goals, this feels among the most daunting. Since starting to work out today, as I've written before, I haven't lost a single pound - & have, in fact, gained quite a few. I know, I know, "You can't out-exercise a bad diet" (we'll get to that in a sec), but I'd also like to diversify my exercise in an effort to try to be healthier.

In 2019, I'd like to try some other workouts. I certainly don't plan to abandon Harness, but I'd like to put my newfound workout confidence to use & try a few new places.

Focus on healthy eating

I eat like crap. I know it. I try to tell myself that I don't - & I have, to some extent, gotten better about it - but overall, man, I eat poorly. And it's time for that to change.

In 2019, I'd like to... eat better, period. I barely know where to begin, but I swear to God, this will be the year I not only begin but continue

Take a solo vacation of some sort

I've been daydreaming of a week-long vacation/staycation to some sort of cabin or yurt or treehouse or something else outdoorsy & barely wifi accessible. I've never done this before, but maybe this is the year for it?

In 2019, I'll explore a few options & book one & not feel bad about taking a frivolous, just-for-me week of work to not even go anywhere amazing. Know what's amazing? Mental health.

Save at least $5k

This goal is so elusive to me. This year, I paid off my credit card bill, but truth be told, I still didn't quite figure out how to live within my means, as evidenced by the fact that I wasn't able to save as much as I wanted or intended to. That's gonna hit me hard come tax season (uh, like, a week from now).

In 2019, I'm committing to not withdrawing from my savings account, like, ever, unless it's for something huge & unexpected, like a health bill or car issues. No drawing from my savings to supplement my daily living... or spending.

Read 80+ books again

This year, my goal was actually only 75 books, & I blew through it to hit 100. I don't like to set the goal of 100, though, because reading isn't a race, & I don't want to turn down long books out of fear that they'll take me so long to read that they'll be a detriment to my ability to read more... or something.

In 2019, I'll aim for 80 books, which is pretty easy/average for me, & if I go beyond that, great. I'll never be upset to read more than planned - but I don't want to set myself up to leave behind great books in pursuit of a random numerical goal.

Participate in some sort of professional development

I feel like all my friends have masters degrees, & here I am, plugging away at the same job I've had for 6+ years (at the same place I've worked for 11+ years). It's time for me to do something that will make me feel good about my skills, empowered by my efforts to learn more, & equipped to do more, better, & with new knowledge.

In 2019, I'm looking for some kind of online class or course that will help me become a better digital marketing and/or overall communicator. Do you know of anything like this? Get at me!

Focus on friendships

I don't feel like I have a lot of close friends here in Cleveland. I love the folks I know, but I wouldn't say we're close, which means that when I want that debriefing-out-with-a-BFF feeling, I'm at a loss - unless I turn to FaceTime with long-distance friends.

In 2019, I'd like to put extra effort into being a good friend & cultivating closer friendships, whether with the people I already know or new people entirely. So, um, does anyone wanna be my friend?

What are you aiming for in the new year? 
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