#GivingTuesday: A Look at My Post-Election Donation Plans

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

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When I left for Peru, I knew I was likely to get questions from locals about the recent U.S. presidential elections. I was already planning to make donations to a few progressive organizations in the wake of the results, but as I headed abroad, I promised myself I'd donate to a different progressive organization in honor of each Peruvian who asked me how I felt about having Donald Trump as president (I still can barely write that).

On #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving, I wanted to share with you the donations I'll be making & the people whose stories inspired them. 

For Victor, the friendly, outdoorsy tour guide who led us up Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world, I'll be donating to EarthJustice.

For Nadia, the Cusco-born tour guide & mother of two who's looking for a job that will let her spend more time with her family, I'll be donating to EMILY's List.

For Joaquin, the twentysomething Mexican immigrant who's now an American citizen living in San Diego, I'll be donating to the Immigrant Legal Resource Society.

For Joaquin's mom, who lives in Mexico & worries that a border wall would impact her ability to travel for work, even on her legal worker visa, I'll be donating to Border Angels.

For the Frenchman whose name I didn't catch, who is scared for his daughter living in Florida & who, separately, insisted that American food is disgusting, I'll be donating to Feeding America.

For Francesca, my brother's 8-year-old niece who is now afraid to visit Disney World after learning of a hate crime against a Latino American man, I'll be donating to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

For Belein & Pablo, the psychiatrist & her boyfriend who sat next to us at the wedding, I'll be donating to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI).

And finally, I plan to donate to Planned Parenthood on a regular basis, with others rotating dependent on current events & my liberal whims.

Am I rich? No, not at all. Some of these donations may be as small as $10, & they won't all come out of my wallet on the same day. But I'm committed to making sure I do my financial part, no matter how small, to contribute to the ongoing strength & success of progressive organizations doing important on-the-ground work, especially in the scary era of President Donald Trump.

If you're looking for an organization to support, check out Jezebel's incomplete but very worthwhile "A  List of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations That Need Your Support."

What organizations get your hard-earned dollars? Did you make any special donations for #GivingTuesday... or in the wake of the election results?
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My 2016 Cleveland Gift Guide: Give a Little CLE this Holiday!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

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First things first: This post is not sponsored in any way. It's just a list I cultivated, of gift ideas, products, & local companies that I like, & no one is paying me to say so. I think that's important to say when sharing content like this.

With that out of the way: Here are 15 of my favorite Cleveland-themed gifts, whether they're made here, feature here, or otherwise celebrate life here. As you stock up on holiday gifts for the Clevelanders in your life, consider adding one of these unexpected CLE gifts to the mix - & hey, if you're not sure what to buy me, well, I want just about everything on this list!


Weird Beard Candle Co. Peanut Butter Coffee Porter Soy Candle

Forget BuzzFeed's "homesick" candle recommendation (since when does Ohio smell like honeysuckle?) & go a little bit more legit. If you've ever enjoyed a pint (or two or three) of Willoughby Brewing Co.'s Peanut Butter Coffee Porter ($14), you'll love the scent of the 8oz soy candle it inspired. I burn it throughout the winter to keep my apartment smelling cozy & delicious & extraordinarily Clevelandy.

The 2017 Cleveland Independents Deck

I received this in my stocking last Christmas & was so excited - what a cool idea! A bunch of independent Cleveland restaurants banded together to create this deck of cards - 52, like a normal deck - that offers savings at 49 of Northeast Ohio's best restaurants. The deck itself costs just ($30), & each card saves you $10 on any $30 food purchase (tax & gratuity not included) at a different local joint. There are even two jokers so you can get repeat savings at your faves!

Ohio-Shaped Beercap Map

Put your favorite state on display alongside all your favorite craft brews! This beercap map has room for 93 caps, & I personally like the vibe of the wooden ones ($39) - which is good, because their steel option ($49) isn't available in the shape of Ohio. Confession: I'm eyeing one of these as an eventual gift to myself, but then I'd have to stop drinking more than just Miller Lite & Dortmunder Gold... 


Personalized shipments from Cleveland in a Box

I've now sent two of these customizable Cleveland boxes as gifts, one to a friend living out of state & another to friends who just bought a house. Choose from their selections of local & iconic Cleveland goods, from Dichotomy Popcorn to Cleveland tees to Pope's Hot sauce & beyond. It's $30 for a box of five items or $50 for a box of 10 - & they ship worldwide! 

Limited-Edition Jewelry from Bombay Taxi

This online boutique owned by my friend Shibani, an Indian immigrant & bad-ass Cleveland entrepreneur, carries limited-edition pieces hand-crafted by Indians artisans & imported from India. The ring I just bought from her is no longer available (because limited edition!), but my other faves are the Ilene ring ($25), the Huma ring ($30), & the Jiah necklace ($35). Support a Cleveland biz & invest in some year-round sparkle. 

"Cleveland 'Til I Die" Shirt from Fresh Brewed Tees

I always joke about how much people from Cleveland love wearing their Cleveland pride across their chests - but it's true, & I'm one of them. This company is one of my favorites of the many T-shirt companies out there, &this tee ($26.99) is just one of a few that I own from them.


Booze from Cleveland Whiskey

This local booze brand came onto the scene in 2013, & its patented technology to accelerate the maturation and flavor development of distilled spirits has earned it kudos from Forbes & Thrillist. This year, Cleveland Whiskey was named Whiskey Innovator of the Year at the 2016 Berlin International Spirits Competition. Pick up a bottle & take a swig of the Buckeye State.

Ohio Print Coasters from OhioExplored.com

This set of five exquisitely carved wooden coasters ($40) comes from the shop of one of my favorite Instagram accounts, @ohioexplored. They're made to order, which gives you just barely enough time to score them in time for holiday delivery - but they're pretty enough to be worth the wait. 

Subscription to Cleveland Magazine

Full disclosure: I interned here in the summer of 2007, just before I first moved to D.C., & it marked the summer I fell in love with the CLE. I still read the magazine religiously to see what's new & cool not just in Cleveland but across Northeast Ohio. A new yearlong subscription is $14, which is 75% off the cover price. 

Cocktail Goodies from Pope's Kitchen

Your booze deserves the best - & the Clevelandiest! Put together a gift basket of mixers from Pope's, a growing regional brand that uses fresh local ingredients in all their products. Try the Bloody Mary or chill a little with the Mellow Mary ($4-$11); get sugared up with the Strawberry Daiquiri mix ($11); or go a little unusual with a syrup like like lavender lemon or orange habanero ($10).

"Happy in CLE" Necklace by Oceanne Jewelry 

There are tons of of Cleveland-themed jewelry designers out there, but this French artist is one of my favorites, & I just love this delicate, gold-plated bar with hand-stamped lettering ($44). If you're looking for other state-themed jewelry, try the Ohio Love necklace ($30), the silver Cleveland Babe necklace ($44), or the Cleveland is My Paris necklace ($48).

Tickets & Memberships

Instead of loading up your loved ones with more stuff, consider investing in experiences instead. Check out tickets to shows at Playhouse Square or Cavs games, or memberships to any of Cleveland's many museums, the Botanical Gardens, the Zoological Society, the Great Lakes Science Center, the Cleveland Orchestra... the list is endless.


Great Lakes Brewery's Beer School

By now, most Cleveland's have been on GLBC's brewery tour - but did you know you can step it up a notch? Beer School ($35) provides a full tour of the production brewery & a tasting of six beers. plus a two-hour course (snacks included!) on the history of the company & the brewing process. All guests leave with a T-shirt, a tasting glass, and some serious beer knowledge.

A Christmas Story Leg Lamp

As I demonstrated in last year's leg lamp round-up post, Clevelanders love their leg lamps. The movie A Christmas Story was filmed in my neighborhood, actually, & is now a local museum. The full size is 50" & costs a whopping $199.99, but if that's too much for you, try the other options, including a desk lamp ($99) & a nightlight ($14.99). Careful, it's frah-jeeee-lay!

The Guardians Wall Clock by Christina Sadowski

This Etsy seller has tons of Cleveland-related inventory, but this 10" wall clock is my favorite ($45). It's available in black or white frames, with hands to match, & featuring a gorgeous image of the Guardians of Traffic that watch over downtown Cleveland's Lorain-Carnegie Bridge.

There you have it! Will any of these make it under your tree this year (or next to your menorah, depending on how you handle the holiday season)? And if you've got Cleveland favorites, tell me: What other CLE-themed gifts would you add to the list?
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A Trip 18 Years in the Making: I Went to Peru!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

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As a kid, I always told my mom I wanted an older brother. "Even if you got a brother," my mom told me, "he wouldn't be older than you." Damn you, science.

But then I found a loophole.

The summer before I started high school, my friend Emily told me about two foreign exchange students who'd been attending her church. One of them didn't have a host family yet, she said, so he was staying with the other student's host family. If he couldn't be placed with a family of his own soon, he'd be sent to another city - or even back to his home country of Peru.

"We have to take him!" I told my mom. I outlined all the reasons why we were a perfect potential host family: We had the space, & we had the time. I was going to be in high school, too, so she wouldn't have to deal with two different schools. And we'd been a little bit lonely ever since my dad died three years ago; wouldn't this be an adventure? We needed it, I insisted, & he needed us.

We met with Paolo at a local Dairy Queen. He spoke approximately no English, & as a 14-year-old almost-freshman, I had just three years of middle-school Spanish. In other words, we could barely communicate. He'd brought a book with him, a photography book about his hometown: "Es la ciudad blanca," he told us, pointing at images of grandiose white stone buildings. The White City, it was called.

He was so eager, so polite, & as soon as my mom dropped him off at his temporary host family's home, she confirmed it to me: "We have to take him."

I can't find an HS pic, but this is from Paolo's 2012 visit.
In the year Paolo lived with us, the three of us became a family - full stop. He & I argued like siblings, but we got along like siblings, too. When news reports said a serial killer was riding the rails & killing families that lived near train tracks, Paolo let me sleep on the floor of his bedroom because I was so afraid. We went to Disney World, where we tried on new accents every time we spoke to a stranger; we went to Washington, D.C., where I dared him to tell some tourist she looked like a celebrity. When he finally left to return to Peru, I cried for nearly three days straight.

Paolo got married last Saturday in his hometown of Arequipa, the White City I'd heard so much about for the last 18 years. And as he & his wife Ulda made it official, my mom, my aunt, my uncle, & I were all there to see it & to celebrate with them. After almost two decades, we made it to Peru.

We visited the top of Machu Picchu & boated across Lake Titicaca. We explored Inca ruins & petted llamas. We stayed in a hotel that used to be a monastery & another that was a mint. We drank coca tea & ate quinoa everything. And at the end of the trip, our trip culminated in a grand finale celebrating Paolo & Ulda's love. "This is my little sister!" he said as he introduced me to his friends. And when we left the wedding reception for our hotel that night, I cried again, just like that 14-year-old kid who didn't know how many years it would be before she got to see her big brother again.

I came home exhausted & battling a nasty cold, as I always seem to do when I get home from a big trip. But this was, truly, the trip of a lifetime for my mom & me, & even I, a prolific writer, can't fully express how much it all meant to me to be able to see Peru & to be there for my big brother's wedding.

If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen a lot of these photos on my #goldbigsdoperu hashtag, but here's a more complete look. Come to think of it, maybe I don't get to call it "the trip of a lifetime" if I plan to go back as soon as humanly possible?






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20 Ways I Snap Out of a Funk, Especially When Cold Weather Gets Me Down

Saturday, November 12, 2016

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"What's something you've been wanting to do that will bring you happiness?" Mike asked me recently. I'd been feeling a little down that day - for a little while now, actually - & I told him I had been meaning to order Seattle entrepreneur Moorea Seal's 52 Lists for Happiness journal. I loved her first journal, The 52 Lists Project, & have been working through it all year, so the new one sounded pretty appealing. "Go order it now," Mike told me. So I did.

By the time it arrived, I'd already started working on a list to get me started. Earlier, I'd posted to Facebook: "Hit me with your best tips for combating the seasonal blues. Please." The result was 50 comments worth of ideas - everything from exercising to Michel Bublé songs to antidepressants to Melt Bar & Grilled's turkey sandwich. Reading through the list of suggestions inspired me to create my own list of go-to pick-me-ups.

I plan to revisit this list on days when I've got the blues - & truth be told, there are more of them during cold weather seasons than there are during the spring & summer months, & perhaps even more of them post-election. Without further ado...
  1. Write it down. I've started keeping a journal again, a place to vomit out the thoughts I can't seem to sort out in my head. This is, hands down, the best way for me to start feeling better.
  2. Listen to '90s radio on Spotify. It's full of some of my favorite long-forgotten hits from bands like Vertical Horizon, Destiny's Child, & Matchbox Twenty
  3. Pet my cat. He's the softest little dude in the world & doesn't usually mind when I try to use him as a pillow, especially if I seem down
  4. Read a book, especially fiction. Losing myself in someone else's world is the perfect way to get out of my own head.
  5. Take a nap. I have to be careful not to overdo it on this one, though, especially if I'm feeling too sad, because although sleep can sometimes be the perfect pick-me-up, sometimes it makes everything worse. 
  6. Hang out with friends. Sometimes the best way to snap out of it is to force myself out of it. I can't be a mopey bummer while I'm out with friends, so sometimes, even when I'm down, I'll accept an invitation to hang out - & it almost always helps me even out.
  7. Switch up my routine. Whether it's eating a cuisine I don't usually have or switching up the coffee shop I work from during the day, doing something slightly out of my ordinary always shakes me up in a positive way.
  8. Do yoga. I haven't done this for awhile, & there's really no excuse for it, but I do still love Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley, a series of videos I can do from my living room when I need to stretch my mind and my body.
  9. Go for a walk, especially when the weather is nice. Even when it's not, getting out of my apartment & into some fresh air does wonders for my mood.
  10. Make plans to look forward to, even if they're not big ones. If I'm feeling down, I plan my next trip or set up a dinner date with a friend so I have a calendar I can be excited about.
  11. Call my mom. Unless my funk is induced by an argument with my mom, a quick chat with her can almost always raise my spirits.
  12. Have a dance party. I can only do this when I'm home alone, but when I do, my favorites are anything by Taylor Swift or on the aforementioned '90s radio station. Dance it outtt.
  13. Clean my apartment. I don't particularly enjoy cleaning, but I do love the feeling of a clean, put-together apartment, & the I dig the sense of accomplishment that goes along with it.
  14. Give myself a facial. This is a new-to-me way to relax, but I've started to love face masks & my charcoal mud mask from Perfectly Posh. So refreshing!
  15. Write snail mail. This is a great way to touch base with my friends without having to actually be too social - & getting snail mail always brightens people's days!
  16. Light candles. I have a living room full of delightfully scented candles that I've been lighting after the sun goes down. They make everything feel cozy.
  17. Get dressed up. The better I look, the better I feel - & so sometimes, even when nothing sounds worse than changing out of sweatpants, that's exactly what I need.
  18. Take a hot shower. Along the same lines of the above, wallowing in sadness & dirt never brought anyone out of a funk. I don't do baths, but long showers are lovely.
  19. Turn on some comedy. This could be my favorite funny movie, Bridesmaids, or my favorite funny podcast, The Shepod - anything, really. Laughter is the best medicine, right?
  20. Take my antidepressants. Speaking of medicine, I make sure to take mine, especially during times when I know I might be moire prone to bouts of sadness. No shame, folks. 
I'm also loving this post, "How to Hygge," which includes 29 ways to embrace the Danish art of warm coziness during the winter months. So tell me: How do you combat the blues, especially those brought on by cold weather & lack of sun? Anything I need to add to my list?
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5 Things to Do for Yourself the Day After Traumatizing Election Results

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

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Like so many Americans, I woke up this morning hoping it was all a dream - a nightmare, really. I slept restlessly, & I woke up with a jaw sore from clenching in stress. I've yet to eat today. Truly, the only way to explain it is that I feel consumed with grief, with trauma.

I posted this on Facebook earlier & thought it might be worth sharing here, as well, while so many of us are struggling. I've already heard from friends whose workplaces have brought in counselors to deal with the stress & fear of the future, & I find myself wishing I had similar access.

I made this short list of things to do for yourself today - things I'm doing for myself today - & I hope that it will, in some small way, help bring you any comfort. Today is so difficult - & the days to come will be worse, I suspect. But we are not alone.
  1. Turn off social media. Turn on music, soothing white noise, or a beloved favorite movie.
  2. Pet a cat. Or a dog. Or hold a baby. Basically, make contact with anything that is soft & physically comforting.
  3. Seek out wisdom & guidance from a rabbi or a pastor or an imam or a therapist or all of the above.
  4. Do something - anything - that brings you happiness, so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. Eat your favorite food or light a scented candle or do yoga or take a nap or write out all your damn feelings.
  5. Above all: Be kind to yourself & to one another.
As scared as I am for our world, I am also terrified by all the language I've seen about suicide, about self-harm, about utter despondency. And as much as I understand - because truly, I do - I want you to know that however you are feeling today, tomorrow, & come January, you are not alone in it. If you need help, please seek it out, & if you see someone in need, please take their pain seriously. You can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.

In this frightening & unpredictable time, please take care of yourselves & of each other. We are still, after all, stronger together.

I love you.
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10 Reasons Why #ImWithHer in This Presidential Election

Sunday, November 6, 2016

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We're two days away from Election Day, & if I'm telling you the truth, I've been kept awake at night with my worry about what will happen on Tuesday. I've tried to do my part - donating, phone banking, talking to friends who are undecided or third-party - but I still lie awake at night wondering how the chips will fall & who will become our next president.

Two weeks ago, it was my honor to take advantage of Ohio's opportunity for early voting & to cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton to become the next president of the Unites States. I know I won't tell you anything you've not already heard or read, but I'd like to take a moment to explain why I voted the way I did & why Hillary Clinton is the candidate for me.
  1. Her opponent is bananas. Let's get the obvious out of the way: I could write an entire list of reasons I'm not with the villainous, hateful Donald Trump, but let's keep this list upbeat, shall we? He will get just one bullet point here, noting that he is, in literally almost every single way aside from being a human being running for president, the exact opposite of Hillary Clinton. I do not agree with his policies (or lack thereof), his temperament, his views, or even his taste in reality TV.
  2. She's a woman. I would never vote for a candidate simply because she is a woman & I am a woman who is for the advancement of women. But the fact that, in this case, the smartest & most qualified candidate is, in fact, a woman, makes me beyond proud to cast my vote for Hillary Clinton, our first ladyprez.
  3. She's the most qualified. Hillary Clinton is indeed the smartest & most qualified candidate for president. She has a law degree from Yale & significant experience advocating for women & children. After her time as First Lady, she went on to serve as a senator & was secretary of state for four years, arguably one of the next most difficult jobs in the U.S., aside from, you know, being president. The idea that she has to defend her qualifications against a repeatedly bankrupt billionaire reality TV star is laughable at best & misogynistic at worst.
  4. She has extensive foreign policy experience. And as a reminder: Her opponent has none. Having served as Secretary of State, Clinton is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, holding China accountable, standing up to Russia, supporting Israel's right to defend itself, & fostering a positive relationship with Cuba. She has a proven history of negitiation, relationship-building, & fighting terrorism.
  5. She knows taxes are vital. Look, I don't like paying taxes. Nobody likes paying taxes. But I believe that we are all responsible for one another, & that in paying taxes to fund social services, we raise one another up & look out for the poorest & most vulnerable in our communities. Hillary Clinton believes in making sure the wealthy, Wall Street, & corporations pay their fair share - while her opponent brags about avoiding his.
  6. She's committed to gun violence prevention. Every day in the U.S., 90 people die from gun violence. Hillary Clinton has a record of advocating for commonsense approaches to reduce gun violence, including supporting legislation to end the gun show loophole & enforce stricter background checks. She has the endorsement of key anti-gun organizations, including the Brady Campaign & Everytown for Gun Safety - & the NRA hates her.
  7. She's pro-woman. Hillary is fighting to close the wage gap & to promote paid family leave policies. She's proudly pro-Planned Parenthood & supports a woman's right to choose what happens to her own body. She's fought against sex trafficking domestically & abroad.
  8. She cares about social issues - & the people behind them. Hillary Clinton knows our country's struggle with race is far from finished, & she's committed to reforming our criminal justice system & protecting the right to vote. She's pro-disability rights, promising to fulfill the promise of the ADA & to continue to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. She believes LGBT Americans deserve to live free of discrimination & supports passage of legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  9. She supports compassionate immigration reform. Hillary Clinton believes in humane immigration laws that respects immigrant as human beings, supporting comprehensive immigration reform with pathways to full & equal citizenship. Her opponent wants to card Muslims & build a wall between the U.S. & Mexico, for starters.
  10. The Supreme Court is serious business. We've been without nine Supreme Court justices now for the longest stretch in American history, all because our Senate refuses to hold hearing on President Obama's nominee. They say it's up to the next president - & if you believe in progressive values & justice like I do, we simply can't afford for that president to be anyone but Hillary Clinton.
This list isn't enough; I could go on for two dozen more bullet points, easily. But these are the issues that are tops for me, & I hope you've thought about what matters most to you - & which candidate is truly most qualified & best positioned to lead our country forward. And don't just vote for president! There are so many people on the ballot, vying for so many important positions - & they all matter, every single one of them.

Want to know more about Hillary Clinton on the issues? Stop reading articles posted to Facebook & start reading her position statements in her campaign's own words. This is what Hillary Clinton stands for. 

This is up to us, America. Let's do it right.
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Cleveland Against the World: Some Thoughts on Chicago, the World Series, & Lasting Pride

Thursday, November 3, 2016

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Late last night, in a sad stupor after an overtime World Series that resulted in an Indians loss, I posted to Facebook. It was 2am, & I was very busy emo-snarfing a frozen pizza & crying actual tears (for no real reason at all), & I was amazed, I wrote, to learn that Chicago has actually won a World Series much more recently than last night, given that the White Sox won in 2005.

Of course, as it my unfortunate tendency when I'm feeling spontaneously passionate about Cleveland, I said it a lot more forcefully than intended & used a lot of capital letters. Perhaps rightfully so, it struck a nerve with some people.

This morning, I woke up to comments & private messages from friends telling me I have no idea how baseball works; one even told me I was embarrassing myself with my post & that it made me look like an idiot. Needless to say, I woke up feeling pretty embarrassed, & like a jerk, to boot. I apologized individually to a couple of folks, then I deleted the post & planned to crawl into a hole & pretend like it never happened. But then I remembered that I have a blog, where I can rant & rave & clarify if I want to - & I want to.

I guess my point was just this: I love my city more than I love any particular sport within it. And I just want Cleveland to win, period.

That's why, when I realized that Chicago has another Series-winning baseball team, in addition to all their other winning sports team (see: Bulls, Blackhawks), it suddenly made it harder for me to understand or continue to feel fondly toward the sad Cubs fans who'd been lamenting their 108-year dry spell. You live in a city full of winning sports teams! You live in a city that's not the butt of national jokes! It just made me feel like maybe Chicago was being a little greedy.

I get it, you don't just root for both of your city's sports teams, especially if you're a diehard sports fan. Each team has a dedicated fan base, & the lines don't blur just because they're from the same place. But also I don't get it, because I can't imagine ever not rooting for Cleveland. And that's the difference, I suppose: I'm not a sports fan, not really. I'm just a Cleveland fan. Maybe that means I shouldn't make grand statements, then, about sports, but sometimes I get a little overzealous in my love of this city. Maybe you've noticed?

Look, I do feel like, if we were going to lose the World Series, it ought to be to a team that hasn't won in so long, even if they're from an otherwise winning city. I love, too, that this Series was a battle between two Midwestern cities, with the whole country tuning in even though they call us "flyover states" all the rest of the time. And at the end of the night, even after the Indians lost, the dive bar we watched from still played "Cleveland Rocks," that godawfully annoying tune from The Drew Carey Show that has somehow come to represent our fair city.

I know that I'm, like, always writing a love letter to this city & that you guys are all probably annoyed by it now. I just love it here. I am proud to be here. I am proud to stay here for the rest of my damn life & never, ever leave again. And win or lose, I will be here rooting for our sports team - yes, even the Browns - the whole time. 
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What I Read in October

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

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Such a good month in books! While I didn't rate everything highly, they were all pretty enjoyable reads - no real dud in the bunch. I also love realizing that I read only books written by women. What'd you read this month? And what's next on your list?

Siracusa by Delia Ephron

I kept putting off reading this book because the name seemed very... serious. Once I finally started it, though, I was so glad I had. Two highly unlikable couples & one possibly sociopathic 10-year-old travel to Italy together, & significant drama ensues. It's mostly an in-your-head psychological novel, not a lot of actual action, but I love books like this, where each chapter is told from another character's point of view. This one was no exception. ★★★★★

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

Anna has spent eight years wondering what happened to her daughter Julie, who was kidnapped from their home at age 13 while her younger sister looked on. When Julie appears at their doorstep one day, the family is overjoyed - but is Julie who she says she is? I was excited to read this "thriller within a thriller," but this book was a little much for me. It was enjoyable enough, it just felt like it was written to be made into a movie - though, frankly, it would make for a good one. ★★★☆☆

Sex Object by Jessica Valenti 

Valenti, the founder of Feministing.com & a well-respected, highly visible activist, which is why I expected more from this book. What I got was a lot of disparate essays about her drug use & sexual escapades, which eventually, finally, turned into a few great essays about motherhood & having a family. She's a good writer & a brilliant mind, but I wish this book had felt a little bit more cohesive, educational, &, well... meaningful. ★★★☆☆

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

Based on this book's touchy-feely title, I spent a decent amount of time trying to figure out, in advance, whether the memoir was a Christian one. When I found no evidence that it was, I dug in - & while I was wrong (lots of God & church references), it wasn't done in a way that made me uncomfortable. Melton, a recovering bulimic & alcoholic & a mother of three, is one of the most incredible writers & most insightful humans I have ever had the pleasure of knowing via memoir. ★★★★★

It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell

A friend recommended this book to me, & it was already on my to-read list, so it got bumped up. Mitchell is a food blogger who lost 135 lbs., & this memoir about how struggling with her weight impacted & overlapped with issues with her family, relationships, & more. She's an incredible writer, but I found her to be fairly unlikable, which made it tough for me to enjoy this book as much as I think I otherwise would've. ★★★★☆

Waiting to Be Heard by Amanda Knox

I didn't following Knox & Sollecito's murder trial when it was happening, but when the documentary about it came out on Netflix this fall, I watched it right away. After watching, I couldn't decide how I felt about her involvement in the murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher, so I picked up this memoir to learn more. My verdict? I don't find Knox particularly likeable, but I also don't think she had anything to do with her friend's death. ★★★★☆

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Former Book of the Month Club selection that I found for $1.99 on BookBub! After a hit & run accident that kills a young boy, Jenna moves to a cottage in the woods to escape her previous life & to mourn the child she's lost. In the vein of books like Gone Girl & Girl on the Train, this novel doesn't have quite the same caliber of gasp-inducing twists & turns, but it's one of the best in the genre that I've read in a long time. This is a painful, emotional read done in a very engaging way but not too tough on the heartstrings or the anxiety levels. ★★★★★

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