CLE Adventures #10: Night Market

Monday, June 27, 2016

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The Night Market is one of the first Cleveland events I ever heard about... from a friend in Los Angeles. "Cleveland is getting cool!" he told me, "It even runs an authentic Asian night market!" Why did my LA-based friend know more about the 216 than I did? Man, I don't know, but I was a month away from moving here, & hearing that something cool in the CLE sounded cool to someone in LA gave me some reassurance.

The Night Market is only in its second summer, but its already become one of the city's favorite events, & certainly one of its most unusual. The event description says of itself, "Think farmer's market meets flea market meets food festival meets concert," which pretty much sums it up. It's a street fair in old Asiatown, with rows & rows & rows of little booths, some hocking wares & others selling hot food.

There's plenty going on at Night Market, but far & away, the best part is all that food. Local Asian restaurants, the ones that never come to food truck festivals or other street fairs, bring their A-game to Night Market, selling their most popular menu items & all kinds of culturally specific goodies you never, ever see at other events. Curried fish balls? Grilled squid on a stick? Inari boats? Korean poutine? Egg waffle sundaes? Yeah, Night Market's got all that.

While you chow down, enjoy parades & performances & weird hobo bands performing on the street corner... & possibly a Tom Hanks sighting?! Apparently Forrest Gump himself visited the Night Market last weekend, though that was a celebrity appearance that went completely unnoticed by my friends & me, probably because the whole place was jam-packed with people & dogs & did I mention all the food?

Wait, wait, let me just show you some of it.

Pork fried rice from Boo Long

Amazing pork buns from Li Wah

Crab rangoon & fried veggie balls from Wok & Roll food truck

Dragon parade passing by!

EGG WAFFLE SUNDAE! With scoops of taro & mango lassi ice cream

This weird band that seems like... grown-up Boxcar Children?

Full & happy!

I didn't even get many photos because my phone was so close to its deathbed, which means you can mentally multiply the joy & deliciousness of these photos by, like, five, & that's how much I loved the Night Market. It takes place on the final Friday of the month, June through September. See you at the next one!

Check out my other Cleveland adventures, which so far include activities like seeing the city from above, visiting a dead president, & drinking with dinosaurs - &, of course, stay tuned for more to come! 
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Who Needs Sleep? (No, You're Never Gonna Get It)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

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That Barenaked Ladies song was one of my favorites, played on repeat in my college dorm during sophomore year. Those were the days when I stayed up until 4am doing God-knows-what (no, really, what did we do online before social media existed?), & I crashed just as the sun began to rise. In those days, I slept until noon or beyond, & I never dreamed I would be anything but someone who slept like a rock.

But alas, the time has come.

These days, I sleep terribly. I don't fall asleep until around 1am, & it's all downhill from there: I get up to use the bathroom around 3am, wake up to my cat being a maniac around 5am, & awaken yet again when my boyfriend gets up for work around 7am. Then I fall back asleep one last time, ideally waking up at 8am, but realistically getting up at more like 9 or 9:30. Thank God I work from home, but this is still not sustainable.

Unsurprisingly, my FitBit's sleep tracker looks like a seismic monitor. I was so fatigued this week that, no joke, today I slept for 15 hours. Like I said: not sustainable.

It should go without saying, then, that I am trying desperately to become a better sleeper. Here are just a few of the many tactics I've employed to try to sleep better at night, all of which seem to help, but none of which are, ultimately, getting me more than six hours of shut-eye a night.

1. Eye mask

I got two satin eye masks in my last Bloom Beautifully Box, & they've become the most vital element of my attempts at getting a good night's sleep. The sun shines in my window at night, & our apartment gets bright in the morning, so this sucker keeps me in blessed darkness, which helps keep me asleep. Mostly.

2. Melatonin 

I don't actually love the way melatonin makes me feel - when I wake up, I'm incredibly groggy - but sometime,s it's worth it to take 3mg & try to knock myself out for the night, the natural way. Unfortunately, even that doesn't always work, & I don't want to take more of it, lest I get even groggier.

3. Vitamin D

Most people are vitamin D-deficient, & it can contribute to sleep disorders. I've been taking 2,000 IU of Vitamin D for awhile now to help with stomach issues, but it hasn't made a dent in my (in)ability to sleep through the night.

4. Mantras

I have a couple of silly phrases I focus on & repeat, mentally, over & over & over in an effort to fall asleep. Surprisingly, this works better than just about anything to calm my anxiety-ridden nighttime mind.

5. Backrubs

Sometimes, on the rare nights when I try to go to sleep before him, Mike will rub my back for a bit - not, like, a massage, just the way your parents rubbed your back when you were a kid to soothe you, you know? It's so relaxing that it puts me to sleep almost immediately.

6. Reading

I've been trying to read for a bit before I go to sleep, though it's probably problematic that I do most of that reading on my phone. It does work to get me help me calm my mind/get tired, but I can't fall asleep while reading, & I get too engrossed in my book to put it down until I literally can't keep my eyes open anymore... OK, this one isn't working for me.

7. Earplugs

My beloved is, unfortunately, quite the snorer, so I've taken to keeping half a dozen earplugs at my bedside to block out the noise. They always fall out in the middle of the night, so having a few on hand ensures that I can just grab another pair in the dark & try again.

8. White noise 

Isn't it weird that a room can be too quiet to sleep? I've long loved Ambiance, a white noise app that allows you to download nearly any sound you can imagine. My favorite is "Thunderstorm with Heavy Rain," a staticky weather loop that I set to a two-hour timer.

And there you have it. Is that the full list? I can't even remember, at this point, because I haven't slept enough for my brain to work. So tell me: Got any tips? How can I sleep?
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My New Ink is a New Reminder to Look to the Future

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

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Last week was so hard for so many people & for so many reasons. In the midst of such tangible, real, global pain, it sometimes feels selfish, almost, to struggle personally. How dare I, when I know others are suffering so much?

But then again, mental health isn't rational. I know that better than many - & so I always try to be kind to myself, to let myself feel my feelings, to let the moment pass into whatever comes next. To, as my dad used to say, "Press on regardless."

Last Thursday, amidst a tangle of difficult feelings & emotions in the wake of the Orlando shootings & some personal difficulties, I took a walk around the block to clear my head. I was just trying to give myself space, to care of myself, & yet I found myself walking into Kollective Studio, the little tattoo shop in my neighborhood. Originally, I just went in to ask for a quote, to see how much it would cost me to get this tattoo I've been thinking about for awhile. And then I asked how long it would take. And then I got to thinking...

And then, I got a tiny ellipses inked on my collarbone.

It's not the big tattoo I said in May that I might get, but it's still one - a much smaller, less obtrusive-but-still-noticeable-one - that I've been considering for awhile now.

So why the ellipses?

Because I am a writer, & because there is more to every story. Because there's always more to say, always more to write. Because, good or bad, we can never know what comes next. This tattoo is a reminder to let my story play out & to believe in the chapters to come.

Write on, my friends.

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The Curse Reversed, the Kingdom Restored

Monday, June 20, 2016

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In 2008, when Barack Obama was elected to become the 44th president of the United States of America, I had the honor of living in Washington, D.C., of being friends with a bunch of politically minded, liberal Jews. We watched the election results together, biting our nails & cracking jokes to ease the tension, hold signs that said "YES, WE CAN"... in Hebrew. And when the results came in, we cried & hugged & laughed & cried some more, & then I walked the mile & a half home from Dupont Circle to Cleveland Park, high-fiving stranger & whooping at honking cars as they passed. It was the most joyful experience of my entire life...

...until now.

Last night, I watched Game 7 of the NBA Finals from Hoopples, a dive bar on the edge of The Flats, with more than a dozen friends. The place was packed - completely out of seats, & they quickly ran out of all the good beer (& by the end, even the bad beer). In the first quarter, they closed the kitchen because the staff was too overwhelmed to keep up. The glorious thing about Hoopples is that it displays the games in the Clevelandiest way possible - by projecting them on the side of a derelict bridge. That means that every seat in the house is a good one!

We bit our proverbial nails through every minute of that game, yelling & cheering & panicking & hoping. And when it came down to those final minutes - nay, those final seconds - there was that same old fear this city knows so well, the fear that the game would, in the end, conclude the same way every Cleveland sports game has for, like, ever. It was more than a fear: It was, in some ways, an expectation.

But they say you can't spell "miracle" without C-L-E, & we haven't been calling this place "Believeland" for nothing. We didn't expect to win, but we still hoped we would. We still believed we could.

And so there it was. The win. The fucking win, the win this city has awaited for 52 years.

You've never seen a place go crazy like we saw Cleveland go crazy last night. There at Hoopples, where we watched history in the making, there was screaming & crying & laughing & hugging & more crying. We came together in a huddle, a pile, a mass, & I almost blacked out because I realized I was so excited that I wasn't even breathing. We watched grown men cry. We watched everyone cry.

And then we took to downtown to see what a city full of happy chaos looks like. As we walked across the bridge into The Flats, the cars that passed us honked & we whooped in response. People hung out of their car windows & sat on top of their sunroofs as they made their way out of the city. We high-fived or hugged nearly every single person we passed. As when we turned the corner into downtown, we were stunned by the thousands - I am telling you, thousands - of people who were, just like us, meandering around the city, aimless, in sheer joy. I have never touched so many damn strangers in my life - old people, little kids, black people, white people, men, women, the whole of Cleveland all in one place, celebrating together.

Finally we gathered under the LeBron sign, the huge banner that adorns the side of a building at the entrance to downtown. Above it, there was a new addition: the word "champions," alight, with the Cavs C glowing in the night. Down the street, Terminal Tower blazed red & gold. Across the city, the state, the country, social media lit up, too, with pride & shock & pure elation.

Mike & I walked the two miles home & fell asleep, incredulous & thrilled. We woke up this morning knowing it wasn't a dream. And like the rest of this city, we went through today bulletproof in our joy, hanging onto the kind of happiness you can only find from a city that's never, ever known a win like this.

When asked why this championship win was different than his other two, LeBron James, who wept openly on the court in the wake of the win, said plainly, "I'm home." Well, so am I, & I have never been prouder to call myself a Clevelander than I was last night. After all those other moves & all those other cities, I am finally home. Cleveland is forever.

Two won six, y'all. They did it. We did it. Cleveland rocks.

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Hot Town, Summer in the City: 19 Things I Dislike About Everyone (Else)'s Favorite Season

Thursday, June 16, 2016

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I know a lot of people eagerly await summer's arrival, but suffice it to say that summer & I aren't really friends. We're, like, barely on speaking terms. I tolerate summer because I have to, because I live in an apartment in a city instead of, like, an igloo in Antarctica (much to my June-through-September dismay). I know summer is supposed to be everyone's favorite time of year, or whatever, but it's definitely not mine. It's just not. I am a normal, not-hermit human who loves me some sunshiney Vitamin D, but I like it in shining down on me in the spring & the fall, when shit is cool instead of unbearable & when there's some semblance of a breeze instead of all this thick, stagnant, disgusting hot air.

I'm trying to make amends with summer this year, though so far I'm not exactly excelling in that department. In an effort to air all my grievances so that perhaps they'll evaporate
  1. I am the sweatiest person alive. This is not an exaggeration. You are not sweatier than I am. Don't try to tell me you are.
  2. I am so sweaty that my makeup slides off my face. I had an actual meltdown (no pun intended) about this a couple weeks ago, & I've hardly worn eyeliner since.
  3. I am so sweaty that my clothes look wet. No, I didn't just get thrown into the swimming pool. I'm just swimming my own bodyjuice.
  4. I am so sweaty that my hair is wet. No, I didn't just get out of the shower, but if you want to think I did so that I seem less disgusting, well, I certainly won't correct you.
  5. I get dehydrated really easily. Probably because I'm sweating so damn much. The solution for dehydration is to drink more water, but know what that does? Gives my body more stuff to sweat out
  6. I look terrible with my hair in a ponytail. The last time I wore my hair in one was circa age 9, in a dance recital, & then never again because it makes my head look lumpy & my face look fat.
  7. And my messy buns suck. I don't know why, but this is an style I cannot master, which leaves me with these options: A) look dumb with my hair up, or B) look extra-sweaty with my hair down.
  8. I am jealous of everyone. I went to an outdoor concert last week & looked like a swamp monster. WTF is with all these other women who look pristine & pretty & so damn dry? Did I get all the sweatiness genes that skipped them, or...?
  9. I am embarrassed to be in public. See reasons 1-8.
  10. I'm allergic to everything. In the summer, I take two Zytrec-D a day. Do you know how much money that costs me? The alternative, though, is a perpetually swollen, itchy, watery face, which I will happily pay not to have.
  11. My apartment does not have air conditioning. In fact, it has basically the opposite of air conditioning, which is that it's somehow always 15 degrees warmer insider than outside, so even when it's nice out there, it's an inferno in here.
  12. I can't hear my TV over my fan. This is the first-worldiest problem I've ever allowed myself to admit, but my TV only gets so loud, OK?
  13. I look better in winter clothes. OK, wait, I retract my last statement. This first-world problem definitely takes the cake. (In the winter, I can eat cake & hide my weight gain under sweaters, BTW.)
  14. Chub rub hurts. And wearing tight bike shorts under every dress is sweaty. Can't win.
  15. It's too hot to work from my apartment without suffocating. And I can only spend so long at the coffee shop next door without paying them actual rent.
  16. It's too hot to sleep. I already sleep like a colicky baby hopped up on Ritalin, which is to say, often not at all. Please, now also add in a gallon of sweat. No sleep 'til Brooklyn autumn.
  17. It's too hot to cook. And I hate salads. (Fine, who am I kidding? My boyfriend does the cooking. But still.)
  18. Kids are annoying when they're not in school. No joke, I bought a secret care package of not-loud activities to leave on the doorstep of my backyard neighbors so their very bored kid stops throwing a damn ball at the side of the house all day long.
  19. Humidity. Hellllp, I can't breaaaathe.
Real talk, friends: If given time & unlimited bandwidth to dedicated to my own whininess, I could probably get this list up to about 37, minimum, but I'll spare you. Just like I wish summer would spare me.

Wake me up when September end, OK? (If only I could sleep through the heat...)

PS: I do like Popsicles.
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My Scoliosis Story (Plus a Very Unflattering Photo from 1996)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

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It was the summer after fifth grade when I came down with my standard, once-a-year case of nasty bronchitis. My mom took me to the doctor, who ran a lung X-ray to confirm it before prescribing me antibiotics. 

I remember thinking, "And this is just the beginning. I'm going to feel like this every day."

"Well, you do have bronchitis," the doctor said, "but you also have a pretty serious case of scoliosis." He held up the X-ray to show me an image of my spine, which was visibly crooked. I was 10 years old. Needless to say it was not the diagnosis I was expecting that day.

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is a curvature of the spine that appears in late childhood or early adolescence. It's most common in young women, and children are at risk for a worsening curvature as they grow.

Although many schools conduct screenings to try to catch students' scoliosis early, mine wasn't one of them. Had anyone ever asked me to bend and touch my toes, they would've noticed that I had developed a significant hunch on the right side of my back.
The initial curve of my spine was significant enough that my doctor immediately referred me to an orthopedist, who said I'd need to start wearing a back brace right away.

Keep reading on Dr. Oz The Good Life (where you'll also find that '90s photo I promised you).

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I Accidentally Let a Homeless Stranger Use My Phone for a Probable Drug Deal

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

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A homeless guy approached me yesterday as I sat outside my favorite coffee shop, where I was working on my computer while sitting on their patio & enjoying the sun. He was young - probably younger than me - but I could tell he was homeless because he was toting around a suitcase & had sores all over his face... & also because he eventually told me he was homeless. He was with a girl who was also covered in sores & who had one of those weird labret piercings that give me the willies.

He asked if I had a phone he could use to call for a ride, & I begrudgingly said yes. I wanted to say no, but I just didn't know how - & I know, I know, the way to do that is to just say no, but I felt terrible, looking at these actual human beings, in need, & being like, "No, I don't have a phone." I mean, I was holding it when he asked. Clearly I had it. I said he could use it as long as he didn't walk away while he was using it... so they sat down at my table.

Throughout my interactions with them, the three middle-aged men sitting at the table next to me looked at me like, "Are you crazy?!" & they purposefully didn't leave until the whole thing came to an end, for which I'm grateful.

The couple seemed harmless, but they also didn't seem particularly trustworthy. I don't say that simply because they were homeless - homeless people are people, too - but because they seemed... weird, mostly. I don't know how, but just off. Entitled. And he made some weird statements, like saying that the banana on my table "probably tastes so sweet" & asking if I knew where to sell laptops without batteries. (Yeah, I should've been putting together the pieces...)

As he started making calls from my phone, a thousand thoughts ran through my head. You need a password to open my bank app, right? Are drug-induced sores transmittable via cell phone screen? What if he's making, like, international calls? None of his calls seemed to go through, until finally, someone picked up, & he made a few cryptic statements about having... something. Something with an "as seen on TV" sticker. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew he wasn't asking anyone for a ride.

When he was done, he handed my phone back to me (which I gingerly accepted), & they took off. I saw that he had made nine calls and sent a text:


In reading it, I realized: He was talking about selling something. And as I fiiiinally put together the details, I realized I had probably just been part of something illicit. Like a drug deal.

I immediately took my phone into the coffee shop & asked the barista if I could use the hand sanitizer kept behind the counter. As I Purelled the crap out of my phone, he shouted at me "You let them use your phone?! You know all those times in life when someone told you you were being a bitch but you weren't? You've stored up karma. This is a time when it's OK to be a bitch! Take some bitchiness out of your bitch bank!"

Touché, sir. I told him he'd be the first person I asked to serve as a witness on my behalf when the cops seize my phone during some kind of inevitable heroin bust. How do I get myself into these situations?

Fittingly, I'm reminded of the D.A.R.E. slogan of my childhood: Next time a stranger asks me to use my phone, no matter how compelling the reason, I'll make a withdrawal from my bitch bank & "Just say no."
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How I Finally Broke My Eyeliner Addiction and Learned to Like My Face

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

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I don’t really know how to do makeup. Blush, contouring? Not a clue. I can’t really even apply eye shadow without looking like I have a black eye. When it comes to the finer elements of makeup application, I may be a lost cause.

But eyeliner? I know my eyeliner.

In seventh grade, my mom took me to the Clinique counter at Macy’s, where a kind, middle-aged makeup artist taught me the basics – dots of concealer on my acne-prone skin, a bit of foundation, a swipe of mascara… and the eyeliner. Oh, the eyeliner.
It was the start of a long-term love affair.

I never built upon my minimalist makeup process because, in the days before YouTube, I never learned how. But every day, I applied the crowning glory of my routine, a perfectly drawn line across both lids. Eventually, I graduated to liquid liner, perfecting the art of the cat-eye.

In high school, a popular girl lamented that she couldn’t get her eyeliner to look as good as mine did. Years later, on Instagram, pretty, successful bloggers commented on my selfies to say the same thing. The world agreed: My eyeliner was my superpower. These compliments only intensified my attachment to my makeup security blanket.

Read the rest of this essay on Her View From Home. 

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I Want You To Know That I Love You

Monday, June 6, 2016

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Someone I love had a seizure last week. It's not my place to say who – that's her story, not mine – but suffice it to say that when I woke up to her text about it the next morning, I wanted to go to her immediately & do whatever I could to make sure that she was well.

Of course, there's nothing I can do. And she is well. Her doctor said it shouldn't happen again, now that they've identified the cause. She's home and resting, & she expects to be fine. Still, the mere idea of this person who means so much to me, suffering something as serious as a seizure... I lost it for a little bit that morning. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I still can't.

Life is good for me right now - like, really good. Any complaints I have are of the most minor variety. I am happy & healthy & in love & financially stable, & there is not a damn thing in the world for me to gripe or fret about. For that, I feel incredibly fortunate.

But I am always, always conscious of the fact that life can change on a dime, that what is great right now can be terrible tomorrow - or, heck, what's great right now could be terrible within the next 10 minutes. You never know what's about to happen to you or what sort of phone call you're going to get from someone you love.

And we all know that, in theory, but how often are we really living like we understand it?

How often do we ignore a text from a friend or family member, thinking we'll get to it later... & then forget to?

How often do we consider picking up the phone & calling someone we love while we're in the midst of a long drive & then decide we'll just listen to the radio, for now, instead?

How often do we cancel plans with friends because the physical exertion sounds like too much work, spending our time reading books & surfing the Internet instead of forging real-life bonds with our loved ones?

How often do we see via Facebook that someone we care about is going through something major - be it an illness, a death in the family, or a moment of joy, like a wedding or a graduation or the birth of a child - & simply comment online instead of taking the time to send more personal well wishes?

I think sometimes of my friend Elissa's death three years ago (wow). After she died, I read back through our texts throughout the five years of our friendship, & I was devastated to see the number of times I bailed on plans or forgotten to respond. Sure, I wrote her while she was in the hospital & even went to visit her in Chicago, but why did it take me so damn long to show her I cared? Why wasn't I a better friend sooner, when she was well? Why did it take a major illness to shake me out of my friendship complacency?

I don't want to be that person.

I know keeping in touch is difficult, & it requires significant effort, but isn't that effort worth it? I think it is. I'm not saying we need to be in touch with out friends & family even day or even every week or every month. I'm just saying that I want the people I love to know that I love them. And I'm going to start trying a hell of a lot harder to make sure they do.
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What I'm Focusing On in the Second Half of 2016

Friday, June 3, 2016

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Yo, it's June. June. I'm rarely one of those people to be like, "Can you believe how quickly time passes?" but this is one of those times when I do feel like, "No, really, can you believe how quickly time passes?" Life is good, & all is well - 2016 has been good to me - but there is, of course, always room for improvement. Inspired by Amber's recent post "3 Areas of Intention I'm Focusing On," I put together a little list of my own to drive my efforts for the second half of the year.

1. Being a better friend.

I suck at keeping in touch. One of the blessings & curses of being active on social media & this blog is that people feel like they're up to date on my life, & usually they're right; I'm an open book. The problem? I have no idea what they're up to! I'm terrified of talking on the phone, & I usually choose books over Skype dates, but I miss my damn friends, & I want to keep in touch with them much, much better.

Maybe this means writing more emails or snail mail letters, just to check in. Maybe it means sending birthday gifts or "thinking of you" texts. Maybe it's calls & Skype dates. Maybe it's a happy hour with in-town friends or a weekend visit to see out-of-town friends. Whatever it is, I'm going to try to do it better.

2. Making an effort to network.

I've been in Cleveland for nearly a year now (!), & I've made approximately three professional contacts. It's way too easy to say, "Well, I like my job & am not looking for anything new, so why network?" but even if that's true, networking can only bring positives into my life - & you don't have to be down & out in the middle of a job hunt to benefit from it. Networking connects you to a larger, well, network of people - people with ideas & connections & resources.

My anxiety is so bad that I'd much rather opt out of talking to people I don't know in any sort of "official" capacity, meaning I'll chat up a storm with the barista but clam up at a networking event. As a bona fide adult, though it's high time that I work on conquering this fear. In the next six months, I want to send a few emails, make a few connections, & expand my Cleveland horizons. Who knows what it'll bring my way!

3. Writing more.

Don't get me wrong, I've been writing a lot. This year, more than any year before, I'm killing it in the writing department, by my personal standards. I've  been published in Seventeen, Cosmpolitan, Redbook, Women's Day, Good Housekeeping, Esquire, Elle... & yet, it doesn't feel like enough. I want to do more writing. I want to do better writing. I want to write until there is nothing else left to say (which will never, ever happen). I want to be able to call myself a writer & not feel like a fraud when I say it.

This year, very quietly & with my boyfriend's encouragement, I started writing a book. I don't know if it will go anywhere or be anything, but I want to finish it. Maybe that's too much to ask of myself in the next six months, but it's certainly not too much to ask that I try.


So there you have it. I can think of half a dozen other areas I'd like to improve upon (um, financial literacy, anyone?), but for now, these three top the list. Tell me: What are your goals for the rest of this year? Got any tips for working on mine?
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What I Read in May

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

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Uhhh, I had no social life to speak of in May... & that was just fine by me! For the most part, I spent all my spare time reading. You'd think I'd be more inclined to read in the winter, when I'm cozy at home & it's gross outside, but actually, nice weather gets me reading more. I love grabbing an iced coffee & cracking open a book on the patio at my favorite coffee shop, or taking a beer & a book onto my back deck - which is why I made it through an astounding eleven books in May, with some serious highs & lows. So tell me: What have you read lately? What are you reading next? Here's my May list:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This one's been on my to-read list for a long time now, but it just seemed so... heavy. A book about military-occupied Nigeria & post-9/11 America? And yet, it's also one of the most beautifully written books I've ever had the honor of reading. I feel as though I know Ifemelu & Obinze, as if they are close friends who I've known all my life; I care about them, I care for them, I want the best for them, I want to know more about them. This is an incredible novel about blackness (African, American, & otherwise), about life as an immigrant, about the challenges of poverty & wealth - & about the struggles unique to each of those elements that are, somehow, still universal, relatable, & human. This is one of the best books you will ever read. ★★★★★(x100)

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

This book started out great. From the very first chapter, it was totally taken in. Couldn't stop reading. I recommended it to a friend before I was halfway through! And then… it changed. The book's brief synopsis - a family tragedy brings together estranged sisters, who end up investigating their older sister's long-ago disappearance - doesn't come close to hinting at the level of violence, gore, & misogyny within the pages of this novel. I love crimes & thrillers, even of the super-messed-up variety √† la Criminal Minds, but this book is just too much. The detailed, gratuitous descriptions of violent rape & murder are, to put it mildly, incredibly disturbing. ★☆☆☆☆

The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day

I picked this one up on a whim at a local book warehouse (60% off!). It takes place in the aftermath of a seemingly random act of violence, when Dr. Amelia Emmett was shot in her office by a student who she had never taught or even met; he committed suicide & left her to die. Ten months later, Amelia is back & work with a new grad assistant whose thesis topic is... her shooting. I thought this book, Rader-Day's debut, was well-written & compelling, though it could've been about 25% shorter, & the main character, Amelia, could've been 75% more likeable. Unfortunately, the long-awaited ending was a bit too convoluted to be entirely satisfying. ★★★☆☆

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso 

I looked past this book's terrible title because I thought the founder & CEO of Nasty Gal might be an interesting voice on the topic of getting shit done. Alas, I was sorely disappointed. I couldn't help but think that Amoruso, a self-proclaimed "badass bitch," could only wax poetic about her youthful shenanigans - including stealing thousands of dollars worth of merchandise - because she's a pretty, white woman who's now also a millionaire. This book was a lot of empty platitudes about inspiration & working hard, built on repetitive reminders of how much money Nasty Gal brings in & how different & awesome Amoruso is. She writes, "It’s not cool to get drunk on your own success," but I wish she'd taken her own advice. ★☆☆☆☆

Invisible City by Julia Dahl

A coworker recommended this series to me... in part because it's written by her friend! It's a murder mystery novel in the vein of Mary Higgins Clark-style stories, but with an added element: It focuses on Brooklyn's Hasidic Jewish community. I'm fascinated by Hasidim, so this quick, easy read shared an interesting (if unsurprising, for me) look into the insularity of the ultra-Orthodox. It's told from the perspective of 22-year-old reporter Rebekah Roberts, a secular Jew, who's never met the Hasidic mother who abandoned her at birth. I immediately got on three library waiting lists to borrow the sequel! ★★★★★

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han  

This is the sequel to To All the Boys I've Loved Before, a YA romance novel I devoured in April (see my review), & it's possible that I liked this one even more than the first. It's an honest, refreshing, & surprisingly feminist look at growing up & facing real-life high school dramas & tragedies, with a "This is totally happening in every high school in the country" plot line narrated by the naive but feisty Lara Jean. As she navigates first love, second love, & friendships lost, I couldn't help but think, yet again, how much I don't miss being a teenager - but that I really enjoy reading about them. I'm looking forward to the third book in this trilogy. ★★★★★

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

My interest in cult-like religions continues! At Christmas, a very smart Secret Santa sent me the actress's memoir, which I then temporarily lost in my boyfriend's overflowing bookshelf. Remini, who grew up in Scientology, famously left a few years ago & took the LAPD to task for not trying hard enough to find Shelly Miscavige, the missing wife of the church's powerful & volatile leader. I like Remini's brash Brooklyn attitude & her refusal to conform to either Hollywood standard's or Scientology's, though because I'd already read Beyond Belief, much of this felt redundant to me. ★★★☆☆

Is It Evil Not to Be Sure? by Lena Dunham

I know I'm supposed to hate Lena Dunham, but I just... don't. Her writing sounds like my writing; her brain looks like my brain; she feels familiar in a way that makes me say, "Oh, you, too? Thank goodness." This "book" is a cop-out, though, a collection of entries from Dunham's journal from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2006. I enjoyed the peek into her mind, but it seems ridiculously self-important to publish something like this & call it a book. Each entry - sometimes mere snippets of sentences - could be a whole story or TV episode of its own. I wish there'd been more to it. ★★☆☆☆

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

I knew within two pages that this was going to be a book I enjoyed. Riley's sister, a teenage violin prodigy, committed suicide when Riley was just 2 years old - or did she? After their father dies, Riley begins to uncover family secrets that indicate that her sister may still be alive. But what, exactly, has she been running from all these years? Even though I guessed all the plots twists long before they were revealed, this was still exactly the sort of character-driven page-turner I love. I look forward to checking out this author's other books. ★★★★★

Run You Down by Julia Dahl

This is the second book in the Rebekah Roberts series, which I started at the beginning of the month. I was so impatient to read it that I went ahead & bought it on Kindle! In it, journalist Rebekah Roberts is asked to report on the seeming suicide of a young mother whose husband doesn't believe she went willingly. Soon, Rebekah's family's own story overlaps with that of the victim, & she finds herself reconnecting with long-lost family as she tries to get to the bottom of the murder. I confess that I didn't like this book as much as its predecessor - the story was a little bit more far-fetched & convoluted - but I like Dahl's writing style enough that it was still an enjoyable read.   ★★★★☆

The Killing Forest by Sara Blaedel 

You may recall that I read two of Blaedel's books in April, & now I'm devastated because this is the last of them that's been translated into English! This novel is book two in the popular Danish author's Missing Persons series, & it's another impeccable murder mystery. Its focus is the disappearance of a teenager named Sune, who, in the opening scene, witnesses a gruesome crime & goes into hiding in the woods. His case is investigated by detective Louise Rick & her partner-turned-boyfriend Eik, though soon, nearly everyone she loves becomes a part of the case, too, as one crime leads to another leads to another & everyone else in town seems to be a suspect. More English books, please, Sara Blaedel! ★★★★★

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Please note that 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 please also don't judge me too harshly for including them. 
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