Things I Love Right Now (Pt. VI)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

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I feel like I haven't done of these for awhile, but apparently the last one was just in September? Ah, well, I fall in love with something new every day, I suppose. Here's a list of the latest. 
  1. Reciprocitee Aromatherapy Minis: These first came in my Bloom Bloom Beautifully box (that brand I modeled for!), & I stocked up on a couple extras. At $5 apiece, they last a surprisingly long time, & I love that each of the scents comes with an intention, like "love," "refresh," or "calm."
  2. This Is Us: I resisted this new, Internet-beloved show because I tend to assume that anything starring Mandy Moore is going to be too emotional for me to withstand. But this show? Is incredible. As if the first episode weren't excellent enough, the twist at the end has me totally hooked.
  3. Weird Beard Candle Co. Peanut Butter Coffee Porter Soy Candle: This candle was created to replicate the scent of a popular beer from nearby Willoughby Brewing Co., & while I've never had the beer - dark beers aren't my jam - the candle smells the way I hope heaven does. Everybody's gettin' these for Christmas!
  4. Bomb That Bath Organic Lemon Sugar Scrub: This, too, first came in a Bloom Beautifully Box. This homemade sugar scrub smells so good, & not at all like Lysol, the way lemon-scented products sometimes do. It also comes in about a dozen other scents, & believe me, I plan to try 'em all.
  5. World Market Prayer Shawl Kimono: I scored this piece for just $10, & I've never received so many compliments on an article of clothing. It's perfect for Ohio's unpredictable fall weather, cute over tank tops & sweaters alike.
  6. Urban Decay 24/7 Liquid Liner: I've blogged about this before, namely when I panicked because I learned that it - my favorite & most relied upon beauty product - was being discontinued. Somehow, it's still available, & so I stocked up. Now, every time I use it, I thank my lucky stars that I've still got it... for now.
  7. Biore Deep Cleansing Charcoal Pore Strips: These first came in my WalMart Beauty Box (don't judge me), & while they're totally reminiscent of the early 2000s, they also work really well. I know it's strange, but I love that feeling when I finally rip it off my nose (don't judge me).
  8. GrubHub: I was so happy to find that GrubHub finally delivers in my neighborhood, though it doesn't include as many restaurants as I'd like. It does, however, deliver from my all-time favorite Indian place, Tandul, which means I'm all set for the winter.
  9. The Knot magazine: I never thought I'd say this, but when it comes to planning a wedding, the Internet is too much for me. I can't handle Pinterest, which is full of everything ever. Magazines keep it curated, narrowing it down for me so I can get inspired without also getting overwhelmed.
  10. Peach Honest Tea: The pizza shop a few doors down from me sells this delicious, organic, peach-flavored black tea. It's only 100 calories, so I don't feel too guilty about it, & it's so refreshing.
What are you into right now? Gimme some recommendations! 
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Autumn is My Sad Season

Sunday, October 23, 2016

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"When autumn comes, it doesn't ask. It just walks in where it left you last..." -John Mayer, "Something's Missing"
I've been feeling a little sad lately. I haven't had a lot to write about, because who wants to read about me being inexplicably sad? But I try to be honest in this space, & I'm a big proponent of that therapist-beloved reassurance that "All feelings are valid!" so here's a short screed on random sadness.

Disclaimer: Nothing is wrong. My life is lovely, & I just got engaged to my best friend. But autumn always gets me down in ways I can't explain. Maybe it's the nostalgia, or maybe it's just the chill in the air, but the combination always knocks me out a little bit. Here are a few of the things getting me down:
  • I've been sleeping too much. Yes, this is the opposite of the problem I was having early this year, when I couldn't sleep at all. Now, it's not uncommon for me to sleep until 2pm on a weekend day, which is fine when you're 16, but not when you're 32. I am always exhausted, & I think I need to go back to my doctor & reassess.
  • Wedding planning is stressful. I've barely even done any wedding planning yet, & I'm already in the throes of despair about it. This shit is really hard. I've started reaching out to venues, but we haven't locked anything down yet, & I sort of feel like we never will. That's ridiculous, I know, but that's how stressed it has me.
  • I'm trying to get healthy. Recognizing that I've nearly re-reached my peak weight (ack), I've started to try to eat better - a salad a day, no bread during the week. It's going OK, but I'm always on high alert about what I'm eating, whether I'm "allowed" to be eating it, & how to do better while not giving up pizza forever. It's exhausting... with very slow results.
  • Election season is terrible. I'm going to the polls tomorrow to take advantage of Ohio's early voting opportunities, & as thrilled as I am to cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton, I'm also just... terrified. Even though I do, finally, believe Trump will lose, all this election season rhetoric has me in a constant state of nervousness, worried about the world & what's to come. The Washington Post confirms that I'm not alone.
  • I'm afraid no one likes me. Bear with me here. I know this isn't true, but it's my weird & perpetual number-one concern, this insistence in the back of my mind that everyone I know actually kind of hates me. It's always worse after a night of drinking, so today, I woke up with a feelings hangover, the false but persistent refrain that all my friendships are fake. This time, the New York Times confirms it.
  • I'm having some financial issues. When it rains, it pours, especially when it comes to money. Recently, my health insurance decided not to cover a bunch of standard tests, so the lab says I owe them $900ish. 1-800-CONTACTS insists that I owe them $107 from a past order that my credit card bill shows that I paid. I'm also planning a wedding & going to Peru next month, neither of which is cheap, & my wallet is feeling the pressure.
  • The Indians are going to the World Series. This one is actually great, & I'm really excited about it. But just like when the Cavs went to the playoffs, it means a week of nonstop socialization, drinking, & worry, all of which go hand in hand with my ever-present anxiety.
Like I said: Everything is fine, truly. Nothing is majorly wrong. I am OK. I know that. But all these low-level concerns mean that I'm constantly abuzz with some sort of nervousness, & that's, frankly, pretty exhausting (which might be why I'm sleeping so much).

I'm trying to take it easy & to remember my late friend Marcus's advice about worrying. I increased the dosage of my anxiety medicine & have been reading a lot during my free time to try to keep my mind calm; I even started journaling again, & I'm listening to a lot of John Mayer. But sometimes life just feels like a little bit too much, you know?

I hope fall's treating you well, friends. If you have any advice for kicking the unnecessary autumn blues, I'd love to hear it - & if you just want to tell me what's got you down, hey, I'd love to hear that, too. Keep on keepin' on..
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It's a Love Story, Baby, Just Say Yes

Monday, October 17, 2016

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It's taken me far too long to blog this, but it's been a whirlwind of a week & a half, & I needed some time to process. If you follow me on social media, though, you already know the news: Mike & I are engaged!

A week in advance, he told me he had a fancy surprise dinner planned for us on Saturday night. We often try to surprise the other by heading to a new restaurant or someplace else fun, so I didn't think much of this one - except that he told me I had to dress up for it. After trying on everything in my closet (& some from a friend's), I chose a floral-print maxi dress

The weather that day was gorgeous & I'd recently lamented our lack of decent selfies, so on our way to dinner, Mike suggested we stop at the script Cleveland sign in our neighborhood, which has a great view of downtown. It's a popular photo opp spot, so there's sometimes a line, but when we arrived, the only other person there was a photographer snapping skyline shots off to the side, so we moved toward the sign to take our selfie.

When we got to the sign, Mike pulled me close & began to talk about our life together, about starting the next chapter. Just as I realized what was happening, he dropped to one knee... & then I think I blacked out. OK, I'm mostly joking, but it was a total blur; I felt like I was watching this major moment happen from afar, as though we were characters in a movie.

"Will you marry me?" he asked, & I think I just stared at him for awhile, blinking & smiling, before I could even speak. When I finally did, the answer, of course, was "Of course!" And then I realized that the photographer behind us was photographing us - that she wasn't a random photographer but our photographer, someone Mike had hired to capture the whole moments on (digital) film. He waved over his coworker Ally of Allison Kurz Photography, who congratulated us & took a bunch more photos.


As if all that weren't joyous enough, we still had a dinner to get to, but Mike told me he'd miscalculated the timing because he'd wanted to be sure he had plenty of time to pull off the proposal. He suggested we make one more stop before we headed to the restaurant, & when we reached downtown Tremont, I immediately knew where we were going: The Treehouse, where we had our first date in April 2015. (He chose it because he thought I'd like the neighborhood, & he was right. Now we live just a couple blocks away.)

I always thought that if I got engaged, I would not put it on social media right away. Always the social (media) butterfly, I'd instead take some time to enjoy the engagement in peace & quiet before sharing it with the world. And while I did wait a full 24 hours to post to Facebook, it turns out that a fewww people knew the news ahead of time - because my fiancé (OMG) threw a surprise engagement party moments after asking me to spend the rest of my life with him! That's right, when we walked into The Treehouse & Mike headed for a flight of stairs that leads to the bar's private party room. "What did you do?" I asked...

...& when we reached the top of the steps, I saw 20 of our closest friends & immediate families, all with smiles on their faces & congratulations on their lips. My childhood BFF had even driven up from Tennessee! Do you know how incredible it is to be at a party full of so many of your favorite people? For the next few hours, we celebrated with tater tots & Great Lakes Beer & cookies iced with our initials as '90s tunes played in the background. It was perfect. And it was perfectly us.

When it was over, we gathered some friends & hit up our favorite dive bar to extend the celebration & enjoy the weather. The next day, we met my family for brunch at one of my favorite restaurants, & then we finally relaxed because we deserved it. Whew. What a weekend!

I knew within three months of dating Mike that I wanted to marry him, now that it's official - now that Iand know I get to marry him! - people keep asking us what it's like to be engaged. I guess I always thought it would feel crazy & stressful & OMG-so-romantic-at-home-all-the-time, but the truth is that life mostly feels the same. I'm thrilled that we've made it "official," but we're still just us, reading books on the couch at night & eating chicken teriyaki for dinner & messing with our cat - &, you know, planning a wedding. For the most part, life feels exactly the same as it does every day, in the best way possible, because we already led a life we love - a life that's full of love.

I am so honored to spend the rest of my life with this man by my side. He is my biggest supporter, my best friend, &, as cliche as it sounds, the love of my life. He has changed me. He has bettered me. He has made me happier than I ever knew was possible - & I look forward to many, many happy years together to come.

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Remembering My Friend, Marcus, the Day After His Death

Thursday, October 13, 2016

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They say that people with chronic illness sometimes wait to die until they've made it to an important date, a milestone. My own father died the day after Father's Day, one last holiday with his only child. Just this year, my friend Jen's dad died on his 70th birthday; he told his wife he just needed to make it that far. And last month, Mike's grandmother passed away at age 96 - on the anniversary of her husband's death many years before.

Last night, just after Yom Kippur drew to a close, my friend, mentor, & former colleague Rabbi Marcus Burstein passed away after a long struggle with cancer. Writes his grieving husband, "It is just like him to want to wait until the close of this most holy day so that colleagues, loved ones, congregants, and friends could finish before turning to mourning."

When I began my last position at the organization where I currently work, Marcus was assigned to help me acclimate. A veteran staffer, he knew the ropes but was also kind & adept at guidance. I was the youngest person on our team, but Marcus knew how to relate to me, to help ease my mind, to commiserate with me, to tap into my sense of humor & keep me laughing. We had video calls once a week to check in; after the first one, I started to consider him not just a colleague but a mentor, & not just a mentor but a friend.

A few years ago, our organization went through a restructuring, & Marcus's & my position was eliminated from the staffing structure. I found a new role within the organization, but Marcus left to become a pulpit rabbi in New York, just outside the city. It was a blessing in disguise, he told me, & we were happy for one another - but without those weekly video calls, we lost track of each other.

Though I had been out of touch with Marcus for years, he's never been far from my mind. You see, Marcus once gave me the best piece of advice I have ever been given, one that has eased my considerable anxiety & helped me through difficult times simply because I can still remember what the words sounded like in his voice.

I can't quite remember where we were or what I was so worried about when Marcus gave me this advice, but I vaguely recall that we were on a charter bus. To where? I can't recall. But as I panicked about who-knows-what, Marcus told me: When you worry about events you can't control, you live every experience twice: once as you worry about it, & again as it happens. And isn't that exhausting, he asked? Why force yourself to do so much extra living when you could cut it in half & only live each experience once, as it is?

When I am having panic attacks - when I lie awake at night worrying about everything to come - I remember Marcus. I remember that advice, the way his voice sounded when he said it, the way his smile looked as he reassured me. Last week, when I learned that Marcus had been moved to hospice, I wrote him a card telling him of his lasting impact on me - telling him that I think of him often & will continue to, that I am grateful to him for his friendship & his wisdom & for this lasting piece of rabbinic guidance that has stayed with me through times of struggle.

I waited too long to send the card. It sat on my kitchen table for four days & only went in the mailbox at the end of last week, & I feel quite sure that Marcus could not have received or read it before his passing. I should have sent it sooner! I've been thinking about it for years! How could I have let this acknowledgement go unspoken, let a friend go to his death without expressing to him how much he affected me?

But instead of beating myself up about it, I now hope that his family will eventually read my words to Marcus, & perhaps they will find additional comfort in yet another story of how he touched lives & made a permanent & positive impact on the people he met & cared for, even the ones, like me, who they've never met or heard of.

In Judaism, when someone dies, we say, "May his memory be for a blessing." The world is a darker place today without Rabbi Marcus Burstein, but his memory is already a blessing. I am forever grateful to him for his friendship & his advice, for his kind smile & his easy sense of humor & his infinite wisdom. And I am confident there are so many others like me out there, a web of lives Marcus touched & influenced, mourning him but celebrating his life. We are better for having known him.
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What I Read in September

Saturday, October 1, 2016

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After reading a whopping 10 books in August, September was a bit of a slow month, reading-wise, but it was still a pretty darn good one. Even the books I gave lower ratings to were still enjoyable enough while I was reading them, so overall, I'm calling it a win.

Pottermore Presents by J.K. Rowling (kind of)

These three mini e-books about J.K. Rowling's wizarding world read like Wikipedia entries, but I kind of liked that - just a little bit here & there to give background on magical people & places we already know & love (or, in the case of Dolores Umbridge, those we know & loathe). I loved the little peek into Rowling's brain to hear more about what she envisioned when she created this world. ★★★★☆

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

This is the second book we chose for book club, the story of old friends & former rock stars now in their 50s & living in Brooklyn. It's also about their children, who are - surprise - falling in love with each other... sort of. I thought it was a poignant & likeable look at aging gracefully & all the issues that crop up along the way - & hope maybe we never really feel grown up, even when we are. A really comforting, enjoyable read. ★★★★☆

If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski

Man, I can't tell how I felt about this book. One star or 20? I hated it, & I loved it. The author is the founder of To Write Love on her Arms, a nonprofit that helps people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, & thoughts of suicide. In some ways, the book was very, very difficult for me to read; it felt too much like it could've been written by my dead ex-boyfriend. I hated that Tworskowsi didn't use capital letters, & some of his writing was just too emo for me to bear - but at the same time, it repeatedly brought me to tears. It made me glad to be here. It made me want to do more to keep others here. ★★★☆☆

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

I'm not usually one for sci-fi, but then again, I'm not sure this book is sci-fi. I have no idea what it is. It's about a guy who gets mugged & wakes up in a different reality, one where he's the same person but on a path not taken - & then he tries like hell to return to his reality. Could a mutliverse exist? Is there more to life than this life? I liked this book for 3/4 of the way through, & then I hated it. If I could, I'd give the first 3/4 five stars & the last 1/4 zero of them. ★★☆☆☆

The Last Letter by Susan Pogorzelski

When Susan, who I know from blogging, asked if I'd like a copy of her first full-length novel, I responded with an enthusiastic yes. This YA book is a semi-autobiographical account of her own experience living with Chronic Lyme Disease, written from the perspective of a teenager in the early 2000s. It was hard for me to follow in the beginning, but that turned out to be part of the point - that Amelia, the main character, was losing herself to her illness. A really good read that's sure to bring comfort & support to others struggling with, as Amelia repeatedly calls it, "this damn disease." ★★★★☆

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

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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