Your Body, Your Choice: Pregnancy, Plan B, & a Woman’s Right to Decide

Thursday, May 31, 2018

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #LetsTalkPlanB #CollectiveBias #ad

If I have one strongly held belief (OK, fine, I have a lot of them), it's that women deserve to be in control of their own bodies. Women should be permitted to make their own health decisions, to be listened to by their health care providers, & to be supported by policies that ensures their bodily autonomy & reproductive choice.

That includes:
  1.  The right to make their own medical decisions & to be listened to by their doctors 
  2. The right to decide whether to be on birth control & what birth control to take 
  3. The right to decide when & if to become pregnant 
Let's talk about that last one for a moment, shall we?

Today, I want to talk about Plan B One-Step, sometimes called “The Morning-After Pill.”

Do you remember when Plan B first became available without a prescription? I do. It was 2006, & I was a college senior (a prime audience, given that half of the women who take this emergency contraceptive are 18-24). It was a much-discussed development among my friends because before then, Plan B was only available at a doctors office and with a prescription.

Plan B must be taken within 72 hours of sex, so in its early days, women had to make an appointment with their physician immediately upon needing it, or try to get to a clinic to obtain a prescription ASAP. That’s a lot of pressure, hard work, & stress.

These days, Plan B One-Step is available without a prescription – no doctor, no ID, nothing. If you need it, all you have to do is pluck it off the shelf & buy it.

For some women, though, even that can be a scary barrier.

One morning, years ago, a friend approached me in a panic: She needed Plan B, but was too embarrassed to face the pharmacist, afraid of being judged or shamed or even just seen by someone she knew. I tried to reassure her that needing Plan B was no more embarrassing or shameful than taking birth control – which is to say, not embarrassing or shameful at all. In fact, seeking measures to prevent unwanted pregnancy is incredibly responsible.

As women, though, we're taught to be ashamed of our bodies, our sexuality, & even our medical needs. Even the most progressive & open-minded among us may succumb to that feeling of shame when it comes to needing emergency contraceptives. It’s like we’re supposed to be embarrassed that we’ve ever had sex!

But let me say it again: There is nothing to be ashamed of.

And let’s talk about the science for a sec, shall we? Levonorgestrel, the active ingredient in Plan B One-Step, is the same ingredient in many birth control pills – just at a higher dose, and works in a similar manner by delaying or preventing ovulation to prevent pregnancy. One more time for the folks in the back: Plan B One-Step is not an abortion pill, won’t affect existing pregnancy, & won’t impact future fertility. Period. If you're comfortable taking birth control, you can feel comfortable taking Plan B One-Step.

As for my friend? She finally agreed to go to the pharmacy, & I joined her for support. It went off without a hitch, like any other transaction. In fact, the kind pharmacist kept his voice extra-low so he didn’t embarrass her or reveal her medical needs to anyone else in line.

Plan B One-Step is available in the contraceptive/family planning aisle of the pharmacy, including the CVS at Target – so you can literally just pop over & grab it while you’re shopping for frozen pizza,  denim shorts, & hot pink statement earrings (OK, fine, those are just my recent Target purchases). If you're looking for the product & can’t find it, just ask the pharmacist to point you in the right direction.

As women, we should be in complete charge of when or if we become pregnant, & with whom. Plan B One-Step allows women that bodily autonomy, putting us in control of our own bodies & protecting ourselves & our families from unwanted pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a beautiful, wonderful thing – when it’s the right thing for you, at the time. And if it’s not? No shame.

If you or someone you love needs Plan B One-Step – or wants to have it on hand for a future “just in case” moment – you can use this coupon to get $10 off your purchase.

"The Bachelorette" Is Back! Tune Into These Podcasts About It

Monday, May 28, 2018

Now that I've officially admitted to this blog that I'm a big fan of the Bachelor franchise, I might as well go all in, right? Becca Kufrin's season of The Bachelorette begins tonight, & while I won't be able to tune in from Costa Rica, I'm still really jazzed about the new season - mostly because it provides new fodder for a few of my favorite podcasts.

Yes, I listen to Bachelor podcasts - even during the off-season. They're more fun, though, when the shows are airing. Now that I'm fully immersed in Bachelor Nation & Bachelor culture, I'm looking forward to a full season of both the show and the hilarious & surprisingly insightful podcast recaps that accompany it.

Here to Make Friends

Is a feminist Bachelor podcast possible? Absolutely - just ask Emma Gray & Claire Fallon, hosts of the weekly recap podcast that doesn't shy away from difficult issues & feminist takes. In fact, at the end of each podcast episode, they rank the recent episode of The Bachelor(ette)'s "Feminism Fails" on a scale of "Not cool, bro," to "Feminism is dead." But you'll find no feminist killjoys here. These ladies are just as funny & entertaining as they are smart, & they get some great interviews from Bachelor Nation.

2 Black Girls, 1 Rose

I discovered this podcast after Arie's season ended, but I was so enamored of it that I went back & listened anyway. Self-described as "two black-ass girls invade the whitest show on Earth," hosts Natasha & Justine engage in good-natured & truly hysterical ribbing of the show's contestants - & though they clearly loathed last season's lead, they never go more negative than is hilarious, which I appreciate. This podcast has me laughing out loud at points, & I can't wait to see how they tackle Becca's season.

Bachelor Party

I consider this to be the quintessential Bachelor(ette) podcast, though it's admittedly not my first listen of the week. Host Juliet Litman is the ultimate Bachelor Nation fangirl, & she usually scores the best interviews - like her crush, Ben Higgins, notable douchebag Nick Viall, & folks who've worked on the show. Even Chris Harrison! I wish Juliet would be a little more critical - or at least more critique-focused - but there's something endearing about her unabashed love & unwillingness to say anything even slightly negative about the franchise.

The Ben & Ashley I. Almost Famous Podcast 

Apparently this podcast exists during the Bachelor(ette)'s off-season, but I'm only in it for the good stuff - recaps & behind-the-scenes insight from these two show alums. If you've previously been annoyed with Ashley "Crying Girl" Iaconetti in previous iterations of Bachelor shows, fear not; she's way more tolerable - & even surprisingly insightful - on this show, & her friendship with former Bachelor Ben Higgins makes it all the more enjoyable a listen.

Will You Accept This Podcast? 

I'm new to this podcast, as in, I only started listening after Arie's season ended, but I'm excited to have found it so I can listen to it the whole way through Becca's season. Hosts Leslie & Lara are sisters, so this podcast feels very much like you're sitting in on a low-key brunch conversation. It's not the funniest, the most insightful, or the most feminist of the bunch, & to my knowledge, they don't bring on guest stars, but given that most of my real-life friends aren't Bachelor fans, I like the idea of just listening to a regular old chat between friends about the show.

Are you a Bachelor fan? Do you listen to any guilty pleasure podcasts? Please tell me I'm not alone in this! 

A Few Places I'm Loving in the CLE

Friday, May 25, 2018

This is a pre-scheduled post because I'm currently in Costa Rica for my slightly belated honeymoon. HOLLERRRR. I have a little bit of content scheduled in my absence, including this one about places in Cleveland that I'm newly loving. Some of the places themselves are new, & some are just new to me. Without further ado...

Cleveland Tea Revival

This Hingetown spot is just so... soothing. It's small & minimally decorated, done all in wood & glass, & they have a massive & delicious tea menu. They even offer kombucha classes! That's right, Cleveland's hit the bougie big-time. I like to hit up Cleveland Tea Revival after Harness Cycle classes, where I order a large peach peony iced tea - which tastes like neither peaches nor peonies - to refresh my very sweaty post-workout self. It is worth every penny.

Boaz Cafe

This Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant is owned by the folks behind local favorite Aladdin's, bringing DIY bowls (think Chipotle but Middle Eastern) to Ohio City. My go-to bowl is lentils & beef shawarma topped with Israeli salad, chopped radishes, slivered carrots, pickled turnips, hummus, hot sauce, & garlic sauce. I've always loved Aladdin's hot sauce, but the garlic sauce is new to me - & my God, is it incredible.

Noce Gourmet Pizza

This takeout pizza joint is right down the street from me, so it's a good thing I committed to ordering less pizza in 2018... though their deliciousness & proximity to me sometimes make it a tough resolution to stick to! Everything is locally sourced & made from scratch, with no substitutions, so order something you want in its entirety. As for me? I love their BBQ chicken pizza more than I have ever loved any BBQ chicken pizza, ever.

Thai Thai

Thai food was my gateway food away from being The World's Pickiest Eater, & it remains one of my favorite cuisines. Lakewood's Thai Thai is small & unpretentious, with very few tables & a heavy takeout business. Their menu is focused on Thai street food, with large, filling, & incredibly flavorful portions for around just $10. Their chicken ka prow, my go-to dish, is one of the best I'd ever had - with ground chicken, the authentic Thai way, which is so hard to find here!

Harness Cycle

Yeah, yeah, you already know how I feel about this one. I've taken 12 classes so far, & when I get back from Costa Rica, I'm planning to buy a new pack of classes so I can keep going. Right now, I'm making it to about two classes a week, which is a pretty good pace for me right now. If I make it through another 10-pack of classes, I decided, I'll reward myself by buying my own cycling shoes instead of renting them for $3 each time I go. (Wanna check it out? I have a referral link.)

Wok 'n' Roll Food Truck

This Asian-inspired food truck is owned by Cleveland's most esteemed food Instagrammer, Tricia of CLE Foodies, who I finally met when I ordered the okonomiyaki fritters you see below. The food from this truck is consistently the best food truck food I've had, so I'm prettttty excited to learn that they'll be at the Tremont Farmers' Market every Tuesday of the season! Hold, please, as I work my way through their entire menu.

Saucy Brew Works

I was determined not to like this brewery-slash-pizzeria when it opened in Hingetown because I wasn't a fan of the name. Now, though, I can't remember feeling anything but love for it because damn, their pizza & beer are second to none. I love their Habituale, a kölsch, & their thin-crust pizza - surprisingly unsaucy, given their name - comes in all kinds of creative varieties. I like them best for brunch, when you can get this chicken and waffle pizza, which is exactly as tasty as it sounds.

If you're local, do you love these spots, too? Anyplace else I need to try? Share the love!

11 Things We're Gonna Do on Our Honeymoon in Costa Rica

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Mike & I celebrated six months of marriage on May 11th, & now, we're finally on our honeymoon, starting... today! Here's what we've got planned: 
  1. Relax by the beach. I'm admittedly not much of a beach-goer, but how can I go to Costa Rica & not spend time on the beach? We're staying right on the Pacific, & I am truly pumped to sit in little cabanas & on lounge chairs, enjoying the views. 
  2. Sit by the pool. I intentionally chose hotels based on how beautiful their pools are, though to my dismay, I couldn't find any place with an infinity pool (my vacation dream).
  3. Read a lot of books. I maxed out on the number of books I'm allowed to check out on Overdrive on my Cleveland library card, which is to say: I'm ready to read. Got any beach reading suggestions? Cuz I have another library card that's not maxed out yet!
  4. Check out some waterfalls. We're going on a waterfall tour on our first day in San Jose (mostly because I'm told San Jose itself sucks), & what could be more beautiful than a goddamn waterfall tour? Seriously.
  5. See a volcano. Part of the waterfall tour also includes a volcano tour. I live in Ohio, so I have no effing idea what to expect of a volcano. I guess it probably just looks like a mountain - though we don't really have those, either. 
  6. Drink some coffee. We're going on a coffee tour in San Jose, & while I'm not usually one for black coffee, I'm been told that this coffee is delicious, even if you're not typically a drinker of black coffee. 
  7. Coo over wildlife. Sloths! Monkeys! Iguanas! Crocodiles! OK, I'm less excited about that last one, as I'm bizarrely terrified of crocodiles (not a fear I need to deal with in Cleveland). I'm so excited about all the wonderful wildlife we're going to see.
  8. Swim up to the bar. There are a bunch of places in Tamarindo with swim-up bars, & you'd better believe I'm taking full advantage. I mean, I'll drink beverages handed to me on dry land, too, but I prefer the swim-up variety.
  9. Eat everything. Fine, not everything. No fish with heads still attached. But lots of fish tacos, I hope. And plantains. So many plantains.
  10. Go stand-up paddleboarding. I haven't done this since Mike & I visited Redondo Beach, CA, a few months after we started dating. I'm afraid of water activities, but somehow I love this one, as much as it also terrifies me.  
  11. Get an in-room massage. One of our hotels offers in-room spa services for an extra $10, which is small potatoes compared to, like, how much it would normally cost to have such a thing done in the comfort of your own residence. 
Have you ever been to Costa Rica? Got an recommendations for us? We haven't done a lot of formal planning, so we still have lots of free time to fill, if we so choose!

What I Read in (the First Half of) May

Friday, May 18, 2018

I only read four books in April, so I felt like I needed to step it up in May... & step it up I have. Normally, I do one big book roundup at the end of the month, but it's barely mid-May, & I've already finished seven books! I plan to do a fair amount of reading while in Costa Rica for the second half of the month, so it seemed like it made the most sense to split up my book reviews for May, lest I overwhelm you with one massive post later.

Here's what I've finished so far this month. How about you?

Before He Hunts by Blake Pierce

This is book number eight in my favorite guilty pleasure crime series, & I'm going to go big here by saying: I think this was the best of the series so far. In it, rookie FBI agent Mackenzie White goes back to her small, Nebraska hometown to investigate a crime that has followed her since her childhood: the murder of her own father. While this is likely wildly improbable (I doubt the FBI lets daughters lead the investigations into their dad's deaths), it made for a better-than-usual storyline. But who am I kidding? I love these books. ★★★☆☆

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I first heard about this book on an ad on My Favorite Murder, where host Georgia Hardstark referred to it as "post-apocalyptic as fuck." When I spotted it in a Little Free Library in my neighborhood, I grabbed it, even though the plot didn't particularly appeal to me. What a lovely surprise to find a book that was beautiful storytelling at its finest, combining unusual elements like pandemics, cults, comic books, & Shakespeare with characters that are so wonderful, so real, so complex. If you want a fast-paced apocalyptic novel, this one isn't for you - but if you like character-based stories that will make you think & feel, you're going to love this one as much as I did. ★★★★★

Forever by Judy Blume

How had I never read this YA classic?! I scored it from the library book sale after Jaclyn blogged about it in her post "4 Books that Influenced Me." At 33, I'm far beyond the proper age range for this novel about high school love & lust, & as sad as it makes me, it's safe to say that this naive, still-chaste-although-it's-about-penises book feels quite dated - & not just because of my age. Still, when viewing it from the lens of the time it was published - & the serious controversy it created - it's amazing it was allowed to be published at all. Judy Blume is a trailblazer & a treasure. ★★★★★

This Book Will Teach You How to Write Better by Neville Medhora

The title of this book is sort of a misnomer: This book will teach you how to write snappy sales copy better. It's not going to tell you a damn thing about blogging or novel-writing or any other kind of writing. Given that I don't really need to write sales copy, it wasn't as relevant to me as I'd hoped, but I did still get a few good tips from it. I was very distracted & frustrated, though, by the utter lack of punctuation. If you're gonna write a book about writing well, can you try to, you know, write well? ★★★☆☆

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

I stayed up late to finish this one because I couldn't wait to see how it ended. A group of new moms goes out for a night of fun for the first time since their babies were born... & while they're away, one of their children goes missing. This is exactly the sort of book I love in the thrillers-for-women genre - creepy but not scary, edge-of-your-seat anticipatory but not violent or gory. It had some solid twists & turns, but no Big Twist™ like every book seems to try to do these days in the vein of Gone Girl, which, to be honest, I appreciate at this point. ★★★★☆

The Power by Naomi Alderman

This book was... over-hyped, for me. Have you heard of it? It seemingly came out of nowhere when, suddenly, everyone I knew was raving about how life-changingly feminist The Power was. To be honest, I hated reading it until, like, 65% of the way through, when the individual characters' stories finally began to come together & make sense. The ending, for me, was so genius & well-done that it redeemed the whole thing, made it all feel worth it. When I finished that last sentence, I almost forgot how much I disliked the book during the majority of my reading - but I guess that's how a lot of classics are, right? I think this will (or should) probably become one. ★★★★☆

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is one of those books that I think everyone but me had already read - & I have to say, I really enjoyed it. Set in 1986, it brought me back to those innocent but unbearable days of first love, the bumbling teenage kind that's unlike anything else. I found both Eleanor & Park to be really likable, realistic characters, which made it easy for me to feel for them & to root for them. One star off for Rowell's racist language about Asians, which she has doubled down on in defense of her writing. I think she meant it as, "Oh, how 1980s!" but I'm still not a fan. ★★★★☆

That's it for now. Stay tuned for my end-of-May recaps, too. We'll see how much reading I get in while I'm in Costa Rica!

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.

My "What I Read in..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but if you do, it will help me buy more books.

Why I Blog

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

This August, I'll hit my 11-year blogging anniversary. That's right, I started this site on a whim one night in August of 2007, sitting in my rented bedroom in a condo in Silver Spring, MD. (Any readers remember when I lived there?!) At the time, I never dreamed that this blog would see me through five states, about a million moves, & five different jobs (four of them for the same place!), plus so many other life markers.

Truly, this blog has grown up with me.

Cleveland is Getting its First Cat Cafe!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Something very exciting is happening: A cat cafe is coming to Cleveland! In my neighborhood! Practically on my street! I literally cannot overstate how excited I am about this news.

I first learned about affoGATO Cafe (cleverest name ever, right?!) on Instagram account. Upon discovering them, I immediately tweeted my excitement at realizing that their location is suuuuper convenient for my cat-loving, work-from-home self.

A local reporter sent me a DM asking for more info, which led to her contacting the affoGATO folks for an article on Exciting, right?! Kind of cool to be able to accidentally be the one to give a local reporter a hot tip on an upcoming business.

Last week, I grabbed coffee with Mandy & Eddie, the co-owners of affoGATO, to chat about what they have planned for the cafe. Now, Helo & Dora would like to help answer your questions about affoGATO Cat Cafe & how to visit (& even adopt!) the kitties who will soon live there.

"Where will affoGATO Cat Cafe be?"

They're moving to 761 Starkweather Ave. in Tremont, a spot soon to be vacated by Lilly Chocolates, which is relocating to the Old Brooklyn neighborhood. Look, I like chocolates - but I like cats a lot more. (Give Lilly some love at their new spot, 2032 W. Schaaf Road).

"When does it open?"

affoGATO moves in to the space on June 1st to start getting the place in tip-top, cat-ready shape. There are a lot of rules & regulations to sort through - layout, health department, security, etc. - but if all goes well, affoGATO should open sometime in July.

"What about the cats?"

affoGATO has secured a partnership with the Cleveland Animal Protective League, also located here in Tremont. (Mike & I adopted Dora from them.) Aside from a few "house cats" who will live permanently within the cafe, all cats on the premises will be available for adoption, should you fall in love with a kitty while you're visiting - & they hope you will!

"How can I help?"

The affoGATO folks are running a GoFundMe until June 16th to raise some of the money to get their construction & logistics efforts underway. They're offering lots of "purrrks" to those who donate, from $10 all the way up to the $1500 "purr-emium" level. Here are just a few:
  • $10: Make your reservations before they're open to the general public
  • $15: Above, plus an affoGATO vinyl sticker
  • $30: Above, plus an open house early-access tour & a free coffee
  • $50: Above, plus an "exclawsive," donors-only T-shirt
  • $75: Above, plus two free cafe reservations
  • $99: Above, plus a pair of "launch pawty" ticketsfor their opening event
  • $100 & up: The purrrks continue! Check 'em out & donate now. 


Get yourself to the Cleveland APL to pet (& adopt!) cats at any time. Or just be a little bit patient & wait until July so you can do it with coffee at affoGATO Cat Cafe. See you there! 

This Blows! (No, Really, I'm Newly in Love with Glass-Blowing)

Friday, May 11, 2018

I'm no artist, but I've always wanted to try glass-blowing. My friend Sean, an education major, took glass-blowing classes in college as a creative release, & his home was full of paperweights & vases & other beautiful things he made amidst term papers & finals. Seeing what he created only made me want to try it more.

I was thrilled to be invited to a glass-blowing event at The Glass Asylum, a studio in Chagrin Falls. I get to go to a few cool blogger events here in the CLE, but this was far & away one of the coolest I've ever attended - & I can't wait to go back on my own time to see what else I can create.

Chris Crimaldi, owner of The Glass Ayslum, is an electrician by trade, & he didn't get into glass-blowing until 2009. When his glass-blowing mentor took a job in Alabama, he purchased her studio & grew it into what it is today: a place that specializes in workshops, events, one-of-a-kind artwork, & custom lighting (because electrician + glass artist = some incredible, unique lighting options). 

The space is huge & airy, located in the same building as M Italian - who kindly provided us delicious pizzas & other goodies for this blogger event (& who will serve you in the glassblowing studio, should you want to eat while you're there). The 10 bloggers in attendance chatted for a bit &  chowed down before we got to work creating our masterpieces.

Full of pizza, we got a safety spiel from the staff artists, & then, two at a time, we paired up with studio staff to start working. 

First, you choose from The Glass Asylum's menu of options to decide what you want to make. I went with a bud vase, an orb-shaped vase with a flat bottom, & because I'm terrible with colors (all black everything!) I decided to go the easy route: party confetti! Rather than choosing a singular color, I chose a combo of all of them, in a speckled design. Other options include, as you can see below, paperweights, glass flowers, garden orbs, beer steins, business card holders, shot classes... you name it, you can probably make it. 

Guests have creative control over the style, size, & shape of what they create, but because it's such a precise (& potentially dangerous) activity, much of the technical work is done by staff. They let you help them out, though, holding your unformed glass blob over the fire like a marshmallow, doing the actual glass blowing, & tapping your creation off the pole after it's fully fired (you use a big wooden paddle to get it off!). 

The whole process takes only 20 minutes, if you're making something small. The staff is super friendly & make it not-at-all awkward. They're all local artists with massive artistic knowledge bases, so they can answer just about any question you could ever have about glass & the glassblowing process. For example, we learned that green glass is the cheapest to make, which is why you see so much of it - & pink glass is the most expensive, so it's far less common. 

Karen of Glam Karen even brought her own safety glasses. Science teacher FTW! 

Samantha of The Samantha Show was one of the first to give it a try.  

Rachel of It's a Hero watches her piece go into the flames... which they call a "glory hole." 

I feel like Shana of Black Girl in the CLE did not love me for taking this photo, haha. 

Tara of The Self-Care Suite made a big, glass flower. Look at that cool, swirly stem!

Here I am rolling my glass blob in colorful metal pieces before we form it into a vase.

I told you this blows!

It takes a few days for your pieces to fully cool & be ready to take home, so I don't have it yet - but I can't wait to see how it turned out. I plan to fill it with some of the leftover paper flowers from our November wedding.

My mom doesn't usually read my blog, so I'll tell you that I'm already planning my next glassblowing experience: I'm going to gift her an experience there for Mother's Day! We probably won't go until summer, when I'm back from Costa Rica, but I think it'll be such a fun thing for us to do together. 

Want to plan your own trip to The Glass Asylum? I'm excited to be hosting a giveaway for a $50 gift card to The Glass Asylum! Check out this Instagram post to enter.

Disclaimer: I was provided a complementary workshop experience at The Glass Asylum, along with food from M Italian & Jim Alesci's Place, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Happy List: Do You Have One?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

While listening to a recent episode of the Girl Be Free podcast all about putting your needs first, I was struck by the simple suggestion of creating a go-to list of things that make you (me) happy. I've done it before, like when I was using Moorea Seal's 52 Lists for Happiness, but it's been a long while.

Spring is a season of renewal & joy, & it seems like exactly the right time to document all the things that make me happy - just so I can look back at it on days when I'm feeling stuck or down. Here goes:
  1. Reading a good book
  2. Having a clean, relaxing apartment
  3. Watching medical & crime dramas
  4. Exploring my city & the areas around it
  5. Reading magazines - the old-fashioned paper kind
  6. Looking at my wedding photos
  7. Petting/cuddling with my cats
  8. Traveling & planning my upcoming travel
  9. Seeing flowers in bloom
  10. Drinking an iced coffee made just the way I like it
  11. Being out in nature (but not around spiders)
  12. Healthy, inexpensive meals from my favorite restaurants, like Corner 11 & Boaz Cafe 
  13. Taking a midday nap
  14. Meeting friends for weekday trivia
  15. Taking a long, unhurried shower 
  16. Cleaning (if I'm in the mood for it)
  17. Snuggling up under a bunch of covers
  18. Reading in an Epsom salt bath 
  19. Going to the Cleveland Flea & other local events
  20. Listening to early-2000s emo music
  21. Going to the theater
  22. Getting in a good laugh
  23. Going out with friends on the weekends
  24. Going on date nights with Mike
  25. Writing blog posts
  26. Spending time with my mom
  27. Listening to a good podcast
  28. Going to bars to watch Cavs games
  29. Working on the patio at my favorite coffee shop
  30. Going to my favorite vacay spots in PA & SC
  31. People-watching in busy places
  32. Going to the movies or out to eat alone
  33. Watching new episodes of my favorite shows
  34. Catching a quick happy hour with a friend
  35. Spending time with my super-wacky family
  36. Making other people laugh
  37. Writing snail mail to friends
  38. Visiting my hometown
  39. Taking spontaneous road trips
  40. Finding a good deal 
  41. Putting together care packages for others
  42. Talking to strangers (usually)
  43. Wandering aimlessly around Target or Kohl's
  44. Reading in Lincoln Park
  45. Reminiscing/getting nostalgic with friends
  46. Wearing a brand-new outfit or article of clothing
  47. Sleeping in on the weekends
  48. Petting other people's dogs
  49. Getting subscription boxes in the mail
  50. Spending time in airports (but not for delays!)
Tell me: What's on your happy list? 

All Right, Anxiety, You've Gone Too Far

Monday, May 7, 2018

When I was a freshman in college, I started experiencing something new: Whenever I'd get really stressed, I'd start having dreams... about running errands. I'd dream that I filled a prescription at CVS or turned in a class assignment, only to discover, upon waking, that I hadn't yet done these things at all. It got really confusing because the more dreams I had, the less I could determine which were dream-errands & which were things I'd done in real life - in case I wasn't already stressed enough!

These days, something new is happening: I'm not dreaming about errands anymore, but my dreams feature such anxiety-inducing situations that I wake up in a full panic. Even though I know they're just dreams, sometimes that anxiety sticks with me all day, & it becomes difficult to separate dream-anxiety from real anxiety.

Like my errand dreams, there are a few recurring scenarios - but this time, it's not just picking up groceries or getting my oil changed. Here are my most common recurring anxiety dreams.

1. I have to go back to college or high school.

I'm 33 years old, but in these anxiety dreams, I discover that my long-ago graduation is invalid because I've yet to finish one damn class. Usually that class is something math- or science-related, the exam is today, & I haven't studied the subject since approximately 2003. Sometimes there's even a locker involved - & no, of course I don't know the combination. And I usually can't find on-campus parking, either, because my brain is very thorough. 

2. I'm late for my wedding.

I thought I was forever done with wedding stress, but oh, no, here it comes again - & this time, I'm running late for my own big day. Sometimes I can't find the altar; sometimes my dress doesn't fit or my hair & makeup folks didn't show. One time, I missed the wedding entirely... so someone else used my wedding set-up & got married under my chuppah instead.

3. I pooped in public.

OK, this is a weird one, so bear with me. I'm not one to discuss bodily functions, but this is just a dream version, right? I continue to have this super-gross anxiety dream in which I've had an "accident" or have, for whatever reason, chosen to relieve myself somewhere other than in a toilet. Once, I did my business on a friend's basement floor; another time, the toilet didn't work in a bar bathroom, so I just went in the sink. I'm always mortified & trying desperately to clean/cover it up. Yes, it is horrifying.

4. I'm lost inside a hotel.

For whatever reason, this is one of my most common anxiety dreams. Sometimes I'm at the hotel for a wedding, other times I'm eating at the hotel restaurant, & sometimes I'm just a guest, but each time, the result is the same: I get lost, or it takes a really long time to get back & forth from one place to another, which means I'm late for something or someone is angry with me. Sometimes I'm locked out of my room, sometimes the elevator breaks, & sometimes the staircases move, as in Hogwarts. Once, I had to break into my hotel room, only to discover it wasn't mine at all, & someone else was in the shower in there. Security!

5. Mike wants a divorce.

I've had a few dreams where I've apparently cheated on Mike & am trying to keep it a secret, to my desperate guilt & dismay. I've also had a few dreams where absolutely nothing seems to be wrong in our relationship & then, out of the blue, Mike tells me he wants a divorce & that there's no convincing him otherwise. I usually wake up from these dreams on the brink of tears.

6. My teeth are falling out.

I know this is, apparently, a common stress dream, but it's still terrible every time I have it. Basically, for whatever reason, my teeth are crumbling like gravel into my mouth. It usually starts with a chipped tooth (which I have in real life & fear having more of in real life), & it escalates from there, with my teeth falling apart & weighing down my entire mouth. Sometimes, I visit a dentist who doesn't have the time to help me or tells me I'm a lost cause.

It's just so stressful to wake up in a panic. Sleep is supposed to be relaxing, soothing, rejuvenating - so to wake up feeling like I've just had a terribly anxiety-inducing experience is not relaxing at all. I don't feel particularly stressed in my real life, so I don't know why my brain is doing this to me. I've done some Googling to try to figure out what, if anything, these dreams could mean, & the answers are muddled.

Do you know anything about dream decoding? Any idea what these mean... or is my brain just freaking out a little?! And how do I make it stop? 

A Perfect Bachelorette Weekend in the CLE

Friday, May 4, 2018

My friend Lilly is getting married later this month at the Lakewood courthouse, followed by a reception the next day at Music Box Supper Club. They're keeping everything very chill, & the same was true of Lilly's bachelorette party, which she mostly planned herself. She made & shared all the plans, which included her & two friends crashing at my house for the weekend - because her fiance's bachelor party was happening at their apartment at the same time! Since we were going to be spending some time - minimal, but still some - at my place, I tried to add a few little surprise touches, too - gift bags, champagne, etc.

We went out of state for my bachelorette party, but Lilly's was proof that you don't need to go far from home to have a celebratory weekend! Here's how our weekend looked.

Po'Boys & Mini Hurricanes at Bourbon Street Barrel Room

No pictures of these because we inhaled everything prettttty quickly, but suffice it to say this was the perfect spot for a casual dinner to kick off the weekend. I ordered a pulled pork po'boy & enjoyed a mini hurricane (just 1.5 oz. of booze instead of the standard 3 oz.) We got there during happy hour, so everything was pretty inexpensive, too.

Mystery Drinks by Candlelight at The Spotted Owl

Next, we headed around the corner to this underground, speakeasy-style bar, which has a distinctly Hogwarts vibe - think brick walls & wrought-iron gates - & is known for its unusual, exquisite craft cocktails. They have a small printed menu, but they recently instituted a new way of ordering: They encourage you to choose a vibe you're feeling & a flavor you like, then the server asks you a few questions about what you do & don't like in order to come up with a drink s/he thinks you'll like.

I said I wanted something made with bourbon & fruit, & I got... something with bourbon & fruit?! I have no idea what it was, but it had a lightly cinnamon taste, & it was almost exactly what I was hoping for. I think we were all surprised by how happy we were with our drink results.

Boozy Brunch at Punch Bowl Social

I've only had brunch at Punch Bowl once before, & I was looking forward to reordering their chicken & waffles, which I once declared to be the best in Cleveland. Unfortunately, they fell from grace this weekend, when I found a bone hidden inside my fried chicken - despite having asked the server ahead of time if it was boneless (& being told that it was). I discovered it after crunching on a gross piece of cartilage (shiver) & when I told our witress, she said, "Oh, thanks for letting me know." Wait, what? Needless to say, I didn't eat the rest - but did snack on my friend Stevie's leftover carnitas nachos.

Other than that, though, Punch Bowl had the perfect vibe for a boozy bachelorette brunch. Though most everyone else ordered Bloody Marys or mimosas, I went with a bourbon-based cocktail called It's a Mer-Man's World, mostly because it reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from Zoolander.

Beauty Treatments & Cocktails at Manifest

This downtown salon offers full spa services & also has a full bar & a drink menu rife with Cleveland references. We all chose different spa services - I went with a matte black gel manicure, like the former emo kid I am (& with sadly stubby nails) - & we had a few drinks while hanging out: I tried The CLE (Titos with lemon juice, rosemary, honey simple syrup, & bubbles) & the Ohio City Martini (Titos with muddled blueberry, lime, St. Germaine, simple syrup, & cranberry).

It was nice to take it easy as we waited for one another to get blowouts, braids, eye makeup, & pedicures. Two of the girls had run a 10-miler that morning in nearby Lakewood, so they were extra deserving of those pedicures!

Champagne Toasts at My Place

We took a quick break to change, freshen up, & toast to Lilly over glasses of prosecco (with gummy bears in the bottom!) back at my apartment, which was loosely decorated for the weekend. I also distributed little gift bags that included a few goodies, including a few types of candy, 14k-gold face masks, big, plastic rings that doubled as shotglasses, "Bride Tribe" flash tattoos, & Beyoncé-themed koozies (the bride's said "Drunk in Love" & everyone else's said "Just Drunk"),

I bought most of the decor items - glittery champagne glasses, a pretty serving tray, mini desserts, a bar sign, a faux chandelier, & gold YAY balloons - from Target's Dollar Spot, & honestly? I think I did a pretty classy job of it. I'd promised Lilly nothing penis-shaped, which was the rule for my own bachelorette party, but hey, I couldn't help that her friend Emma brought the straws you see below!

Tacos & Margs at Bakersfield CLE

This is one of my favorite spots for dinner in Cleveland. It's a chain (only eight locations), but if I'm being honest, I still like it better than the local favorite, Barrio. Bakersfield's tacos just aren't as wet - & they feel like they're of higher quality overall. Their Asian-inspired pollo al sesamo taco is one of my favorite meals in town, & their queso is second to none.

The group split two pitchers of margaritas, & while we waited for our dinners, I asked Lilly to answer a series of questions that I'd had her fiance answer earlier in the week - a "How Well Do You Know One Another?" game that turned out to be pretty darn funny. We also scratched off Bachelorette Night Dare Cards, which were fun but largely a little too crazy for us to actually complete.

Rum Cocktails at Porco Tiki Lounge

This was Lilly's number-one, must-visit destination for the weekend, named one of the best tiki bars in the country & one of Thrillist's Best Bars in Cleveland. Though we had to wait about a half hour to even enter the building (max capacity!), it was so worth it.

I ordered the Heart of Darkness, a very boozy passionfruit & honey drink that comes with an edible flower & a plastic marlin, & a few of the girls ordered The Maiden Voyage, a drink for four that's served in a metal pineapple with a bottle of champagne upside down inside it, smoking with dry ice & containing a few blinking fake ice cubes. It was sent to our table by a server who banged a gong as she presented it to us. Needless to say, that drink was... a lot to handle.

...Plus Beers & Shots at Hi & Dry

We ended the night back in Tremont, where we hit up Hi & Dry, a bar & duckpin bowling alley. Though they have a substantial cocktail list, they also serve plenty of very laid-back beers (I went with a Bud Light, the perfect night-ender). I bought the bride a green tea shot, one of the girls ordered shots of whiskey for the table, & someone else ordered "pickle fries." Half of the group headed home around 1am; the rest of us closed out the damn bar... & got Edison's Pizza on the way home.

We fell asleep around 4am, woke up around 9am, & got brunch from Prosperity Social Club at 11am, after which I returned home & promptly fell asleep for... hours.

By the end of the weekend, it's truly a miracle that I hadn't ODed on all the sugar. I'm not usually much of a cocktail drinker, but it seems like all we drank throughout the course of this bachelorette party was fancy mixed drinks, many of which were very citrusy and/or very sweet. I woke up Sunday morning with no hangover but instead with killer acid reflux & a desperate need for as much water as humanly possible! I'll be taking it easy for awhile, to be sure.

This was my first time doing a bachelorette party right here in Cleveland, an opportunity to explore the city & pick out a few favorite spots to check out for the weekend - while celebrating a friend's upcoming nuptials, of course. Lilly & Darren are getting married next month, right before Mike & I leave for our honeymoon, & we can't wait to celebrate with them!

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