Other People's Comments about Myself that I've Too Long Believed

Friday, November 30, 2018

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I recently finished Rachel Hollis's Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be - & I absolutely hated it. More on that to come in my November reads post, but it did get me thinking about what lies I've been believing about myself.

I want to be very clear: If you are one of the people who said these things to me, please don't feel like this post is an affront or an insult to you. It is not. I know that, for the most part, none of these things were said in cruelty or with malice. We can never know what we say that will stick with other people in the long-term, what will make an impact.

These are the things that have made an impact - & that I am trying my damndest to let go, some of them decades later.

"You look so funny when you dance."

A friend told me this when I was approximately 8 years old & we were rocking out to the B-52s while wearing our favorite Power Rangers T-shirts (yeah, we were weird kids). I was devastated. I'd taken dance lessons my whole short life, & while I was under no illusions that I was particularly talented at it, I did think I was a decent casual dancer, & hearing otherwise broke my heart.

Following that comment, I didn't dance for nearly two decades - no joke, not even for fun or as a joke. In recent years, though, I've discovered that I looooove to dance at weddings & don't give a flying you-know-what how dumb I look. It's fun as hell.

"You look nicer on the weekends than you do for work."

A coworker (whom I adore) said this to me not long ago on an emergency weekend video call. I'd just rushed back from being with friends, & I was dressed normally - jeans & a sweater, hair down, eyeliner on. Lately, though, I haven't been dressing up much for work or wearing makeup often, & when she said this, I started to feel bad, anxious. Do I look gross at work? Does it seem like I don't "try"? Should I be embarrassed of my workday appearance? Am I letting myself go?

But I keep reminding myself: I don't owe anyone a particular version of my face - not during the work week, not on weekends, not ever. If the version of my face that you see is one with makeup, so be it; it doesn't mean I value you or our meeting circumstances any more than when you see me bare-faced. Period.

"You don't seem to be holding back when it comes to food."

This is one of the most hurtful things anyone has ever said to me, & it was said in such a cheerful, casual, off-handed way that I did the aural equivalent of a double-take to be sure I'd heard it right. I was sitting in an NYC courtyard with a friend, discussing my recent weight gain - at the time, I was at my heaviest - when she commented on my Instagram.

Even now, years later, I think of this statement whenever I'm about to post a photo of something decadent online. How will it cause people to judge me & my body?

There's no way around this, really, because overweight people - women, especially - aren't given the benefit of the assumption of health. Like, just because I post a photo of a pizza doesn't mean I ate a whole pizza (but also, maybe I did). As I try to become healthier & make better choices, I remain aware of the judgments that come with my outward sharing of my decisions - & I decide when I do & don't care enough to post. 


"Fat bitch."

A nasty bouncer - himself an overweight man - said this to me on New Year's Eve 2012 when I was freaking out about my cell phone being stolen. Even now, I don't know why, but it stuck with me - like, really stuck with me. I still think of it when I'm feeling bad about myself, when I'm feeling fat or unattractive or unlovable or in any way equating my body to my worth.

For me, there's no way around this one, either - I can still hear his angry, spitting tone, the way he looked me up & down in disgust - but I have to remind myself that I am more than my body, that fat does not equal gross, & that one man's opinion of me (a stranger, no less!) is by no means the basis of my self-worth.

"You should wear higher-quality clothing."

A friend said this to me years ago, back when I was making a whopping $22,000 a year & trying to manage a life in Washington, D.C.  At the time, of course, all I could afford (& even then, barely) were clothes from clearance rack at Target. A wealthier friend with a slimmer body & a much better sense of style told me my cheap clothing made me look cheap - & larger than I was. She was probably right. 

I couldn't afford to buy better clothing, but I could try to disguise how cheap my clothing looked - which is why I started wearing nothing but black. These days, I still largely shop at Target, though only because I like it, & I still wear a lot of black, but again - because I like it, not because someone else says I should wear it to, like, look thinner.

"No one's ever going to love you, & you're going to die alone."

This one came from an ex, many years ago, & even though I knew it was unlikely to be true, it stayed with me for a long time. At the time, I was in the midst of a fairly severe mental breakdown, & I was deeply unhealthy; I'd treated him terribly, & I was fully deserving of this horrible insult.

Because of that, I don't blame him at all for saying such a mean thing to me - but it also set the tone for me to be terrified & mistrusting of relationships for years to come - like, right up until Mike. But, um, can you look at this photo below, please? So clearly not true.

What lies about yourself have you believed? How are you moving on?
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Where to Go & What to Do in Hilton Head, S.C.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

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For about the bazillionth year in a row. my family visited Hilton Head Island, S.C., which I wrote about just before Thanksgiving. That was an emotional-ish trip down memory lane; today's post is a travel-centric, telling you some of my favorite spots & things to do on the island.

First you should know that in the 1980's, the island marketed specifically to Ohioans, selling it as the "best family vacation" & not too far from the Buckeye State. When I was a kid, we drove, but now, Allegiant offers easy, inexpensive direct flights to Savannah, GA - & Hilton Head is just a 45-minute drive way. There are so many Ohioans who vacation in or have moved to Hilton Head - like, generations of us, by now.

In the mid-1980s, my grandparents bought a timeshare here, which is now in my mom's name. Each September, she stays in the same little house we've been in since my childhood (though this year, our trip was canceled due to hurricane!) A few years ago, my aunt & uncle bought a large rental house with private beach access, which is where we stay during this Thanksgiving trip.

Without further ado, here are just a few of my favorite spots on the island. If you're a Hilton Head-lover like I am, I'd love to hear your recommendations for my next visit! 

Rent bikes from Sharky's.

There are tons of bike rental shops on the island, but we like this one best. Their bikes are in good shape, & the guy who owns the place is super-friendly & easygoing. For $25 apiece, we got the bikes for seven whole days, baskets & bike locks included, & they picked them up when we were done with them. How convenient is that?!

Our beach house is about 1.2 miles from Coligny Plaza, where all the closest stuff is, & it's a nice, easy ride down a bike path. There are even two Little Free Libraries along the way!

Do a little local shopping at Coligny Plaza.

We always stay down the road from Coligny, a shopping & food plaza full of locally owned & independent spots (along with a few more corporate ones, like Francesca's & Chico's). Some of my favorites are House of Jerky, The Shell Shop, The Spice and Tea Exchange, & Black Market Minerals, an incredible shop full of hippie stuff like Himalayan salt lamps & crystals & driftwood masks & God-knows-what else.

Search for weird sea creatures along the beach.

Our beach house is right off a private stretch of beach that runs into Coligny Beach, the public beach. All along the way, we spotted horseshoe crabs (I'd never seen them here before!), jellyfish, fish, & all kinds of other deep-sea weirdness. There aren't many shells on this beach, but the weirdness makes up for it.

Get your seafood fix at The Sea Shack.

Mike wanted to hit up a hole-in-the-wall seafood joint while we were on the island, which led us to The Sea Shack. It boasts lines out the door during the busy season, but we were lucky to wait only about 10 minutes during the off-season. Still, the place was slammed throughout our visit.

Don't expect anything fancy of this place, which is what you'd expect from a place with "shack" in the name. They've got a letterboard menu & serve lots of fried foods - but they do it well. We both got the shrimp po' boy sandwiches, which Mike inhaled (though I wished they'd come with remoulade). My sides of choice were "field peas" - black-eyed peas, apparently! - & sweet potato cornbread, plus each meal comes with two hush puppies. Yum.

Watch the sun set on the beach.

We were lucky to have a few beautiful, warm-ish days during our visit, which isn't always the case during the off-season. When the skies were clear, we headed out to the beach to watch the gorgeous sunsets over the Atlantic... & to take a bunch of goofy family photos on a timer.

Taco 'bout the soup at The Sandbar Beach Eats.

This spot is located on the edge of a popular shopping plaza full of local stores. It used to be the location of one of my favorite restaurants, which has since moved into a new building - but the Sandbar has gained it's own place in my heart as one of the best little places on the island. My mom & Mike watched the Michigan v. Ohio State game there on Sunday while I finished a little freelancing.

Their tacos are huge & fresh, served in fried flour tortillas for a little bit of a crisp, & their she-crab soup (a South Carolina specialty) is a thing of delicious beauty. I'm a sucker for a coconut shrimp, too, & theirs hit the spot, served with a mango wasabi dipping sauce.

Get your tiki on at Pool Bar Jim's.

I was so excited when Mike discovered an oceanside bar that no one in my family had ever heard of! This place was super difficult to find, as it's located within a gated community & there are "No Trespassing" signs everywhere, but once you make it to Pool Bar Jim's, you'll feel like family.

Jim is an expert in tiki & exotic drinks - literally, he wrote a book on them, full of 200ish incredible & over-the-top recipes, We got rum painkillers, then Mike ordered a Jamaican milkshake - & Jim was kind enough to give me one, too!

As you can see, we did quite a lot of eating & drinking on this particular visit - even though we spent two solid days cooking & eating at home, thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday & all the leftovers it provided! Because it was colder than usual, we stayed in more than usual - not as many days spent sitting on the beach, lots of time hanging out on the porch of our beach house - but it was nevertheless a great trip.

I loved being able to show Hilton Head to Mike for the first time - & as always, I'm looking forward to going back!
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A Little 2018 Holiday Wishlist

Monday, November 26, 2018

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Whoa, whoa, whoa, it's holiday season already? Mike & I got home from our Thanksgiving trip yesterday, & we're going to put up our Christmas tree this week - & Hanukkah begins next week.

My family actually does our holiday gift exchange over Thanksgiving because we don't spend the December holidays together, so I don't have much going on on the gift front - but who doesn't like to dream up wishlists, anyway?

And listen: I'm a grown-ass lady. Maybe I'll buy my own gifts!
  1. Women in History print by Lady Noel
    I've long been wanting to own a print by local artist Lauren Mckenzie Noel, whose work is bright, colorful, & female-centric. How great is this print ($42) of powerful & impactful women throughout history?
  1. Boho Babe Sea Salt Spray from Revival Body Care
    In October, I bought a bottle of this incredible sea salt spray ($14.95), made by a local beauty brand, & now I know I'll never be without it. It's hands-down the best of its kind.
  2. Speed-Up Tight from Lululemon
    OK, lemme just be real for a sec: I don't own any Lululemon leggings ($108), ostensibly because I am too plus-sized for them, but they do come in my size, & I kind of want to see what all the fuss is about. Come on, can you blame me?
  3. Macrame Earrings in Mustard Yellow by Terra Blue
    My social media friend Morgan turned her longtime craft habit into a bonafide business selling macramé earrings ($17) & teaching macramé workshops in her city (which is sadly not my city). How gorgeous is this statement pair?
  4. Bluetooth Sleep Eye Mask from Amazon
    I asked for a similar gift last year & received it & loved it, but it had one fatal flaw: no bluetooth. I kept getting tangled up in the headphones part of it as I slept, often losing my phone in my be. This version ($24.99) would clear up that little problem.
  5. Balm Dot Com Trio from Glossier
    I looooove the Glossier balm dot com lip balms  ($30 for three), especially in the coconut & cherry flavors. In fact, they're the first lip glosses I can remembering running out of rather than losing. I keep close track of them because I love them so much!
  6. Retreat Backpack from Herschel Supply Co.
    I have one backpack I love, a Puma that I use to travel - but it looks a little bit too athletic for me to want to use it as an everyday bag. I'd love to find a backpack like this one - or, you know, this exact one ($79.99) - to use as a computer bag & for on the go.
  7. Stainless Steel Watch Band in Gold from Edmond & Co.
    I'm not wedded to any particular gold-toned watch band, but I found this one ($34.99), & it seems nice enough, in my kind of style, so why not? My mother-in-law very kindly gifted me her old Apple Watch when she upgraded, & I'm obsessed.
  8. Blood Orange Soy Candle from AromaSoy
    I was gifted one of these candles earlier this year, & I burned through it in no time because it smelled so darn good. I've since purchased a few other scents, but I think this one ($16) was my fave - & I'm currently all out, so it's time for a restock!
  9. Harry Potter Golden Snitch Clock from PBTeen
    I am so in love with this snitch clock. lIKE, I've been wanting this thing ($39) forever - since it came out. Should I just buy it for myself, at this point? Yes, probably. And... wait, OK, maybe I will.
  10. The Petite Coventry Bag in Hazelnut
     by FOUNT
    This beautiful hazelnut-toned leather bag handmade by a local leather goods boutique is my dream gift. I've been saving up for it in my TipYourself app, giving myself $5 each time I work out so that I can eventually buy this bag for myself as a reward. ($240)

What's on your holiday wishlist this year? 
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My 2018 Cleveland Gift Guide: Give a Little CLE This Holiday!

Friday, November 23, 2018

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Happy Black Friday, friends! Errr, is this a happy day? Let's be honest, I kind of hate it. I do, however, love the concept of Small Business Saturday, which is coming up tomorrow - & of supporting local & handmade businesses all year round.

For the last two years, I've written local & handmade-centric holiday gift guides here on this blog: Here's the one from 2016, & here's my 2017 guide. (I still stand by the items included in both of them, though of course, not all of these things are available anymore. Still, check 'em out if you're so inclined!)

This year, instead of writing a gift guide for my own blog, I wrote one for the good folks at Cleveland Plus, a blog run by Team NEO (a local business development nonprofit focused on job creation). This gift guide features 20 of my favorite CLE-themed items - a few featured in my gift guides past, plus a few new ones, too. I've gotta say: I think it's my best one yet.

Without further ado, click through to read...

A Very CLE Gift Guide:

20 Cleveland-Themed Gifts to Give this Holiday Season

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An Ode to Hilton Head, S.C., My Family's Go-To Vacation Spot

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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When I think of Hilton Head, I think of photos from my childhood that depict moments I don't actually remember but feel like I do. In one of them, we're all in a hot tub together; my dad is holding a tiny, baby version of me, his mustache a thing of '80s glory. In another photo, I'm jumping into the swimming pool, with my grandfather there to catch me on the day he taught me how to swim.

When I think of Hilton Head, I think of the house we've rented since I was 4 years old, a little bungalow in a beach development. I think of the mirrors that used to line the living room where our mothers slathered my cousins & me in sunscreen; I think of the kitchen table where we served "fancy dinner," with written menus; I think of the room upstairs we I shared, my youngest cousin always forced to sleep on the floor.

When I think of Hilton Head, I think of that little beach development we've always stayed in, Port O' Call, & the swimming pool where my cousin Emily & I made up synchronized swimming routines that were always far from synchronized. I think of that pathway to the pool where my grandpa fed overly friendly squirrels by hand & taught us to escape from alligators by "running in a zig-zag" - though luckily, we never had to! 

When I think of Hilton Head, I think of the year we decided to follow through with out family vacation even though my father had just died a month or so before. We did the best we could to celebrate my mother's 40th birthday, decorating the rental house with balloons & "Over the Hill" signs & ice cream cake, anything to try to bring her happiness in a hard time. 

When I think of Hilton Head, I think of the friends I made one summer when my cousins couldn't join us for the week. Their names were Michael, Jason, & Kate, & I spent my entire vacation with them. Afterward, Michael & I became penpals for a year, & I kept all the letters he sent me locked inside a small, red lockbox lest my mother know that I had a huge crush on a boy five states away. 

When I think of Hilton Head, I think of the summer I was allowed to bring my friend Marisa. That summer, we stayed in a different house than our usual, one too far away from the town, & couldn't go anywhere unless an adult was there to drive us. We watched tons of TV & gossiped & enjoyed the Jacuzzi & complained heartily about being so isolated & so far from the beach - oh, & my grandpa accidentally insulted Marisa with a rude comment about her double-pierced ears. Oops.

When I think of Hilton Head, I think of the last time I saw my grandmother relatively healthy, before she died of an aggressive form of cancer just a few short months later. We took a family walk down the beach, even though it was incredibly cold, & she drove me to the airport to catch my flight back to Boston - though I'd gotten the flight time wrong & ran to the gate just as the doors were closing.

When I think of Hilton Head, I think of the summer my mom rented some weird place called Xanadu, seriously, & invited me to bring my best friend, her brother & his boyfriend, & their cousin, who I was dating at the time. We played board games & laid on the beach for hours & mastered stand-up paddleboarding & jumped as high as we could & had an all-around amazing time together. 

When I think of Hilton Head, I think of the mother/daughter vacation we took here a few years ago, when I spent much of my time working on a freelance essay - my first for The Washington Post. I conducted interviews on the empty second floor of our beach rental, banging out my piece & trying to perfect every word before I sent it off for potential publication & my biggest-ever byline.

When I think of Hilton Head, I think of this year, Mike's first Thanksgiving spent with my family. We've only been here for a few days, so who knows which memories will stick? I can't wait to find out. 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I hope you make some memories worth thinking back on.

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12 Beers of Christmas (Or "Why I'm Thrilled Not to Drink Crappy Beer Anymore")

Monday, November 19, 2018

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I used to think I only liked crappy beer. Like, really. All I drank was Miller Lite! At fancier events, I was totally stumped. You just don't want to be the girl at a black-tie wedding requesting a Miller Lite, you know?

Luckily for me, I turned 30 & learned about hops - specifically that I don't like them, which opened me up to a whole wide world of non-hoppy beers that I've come to love. Now I know that I dislike IPAs & stouts, sours give me heartburn, & I love saisons & kolsches.

Newly armed with beer knowledge - & love! - I was excited to be invited to a preview of Der Braumeister's 12 Beers of Christmas event. (Pro-tip: Even if you're not local to the CLE, you're gonna wanna read on for some delicious beer recs.)
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5 Easy Ways I Practice Gratitude

Saturday, November 17, 2018

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Just before Thanksgiving, my friend Marisa invited me to be a return guest on her podcast, Get Well, Girl. The topic? Gratitude, of course!

Here's a sneak peek at (& an expansion of) some of the content of our conversation - five ways I try to practice the act of gratitude. Listen to the podcast to learn more about how & why - plus a few funny stories from Thanksgivings past.

1. Naming three good things.

Sometimes at the end of the day, when Mike & I are lying in bed, I'll ask him to name three of the best things about his day. It's a nice, low-pressure way for us to reflect on the day behind us & to identify specific moments or experiences that we're thankful for.

While it's a fun exercise to do on good days, it's an especially meaningful one on bad days, when it can be difficult to see the positive. It's always there, if you take the time to look!

2. Writing in a gratitude journal

I purchased a daily gratitude journal on Amazon, & though I've unfortunately since left it in a hotel room, I'm planning to repurchase. I love the idea of practicing gratitude both first thing in the morning & last thing at night, following simple journal prompts designed to help me identify my hopes for each day & the best parts of the day behind me.

3. Saying " Thank you."

A coworker once told me that I was the only person he worked with who regularly said "thank you." How is that possible? Now, I make it a point to respond to work emails with a simple "thank-you"; it can be all too easy to neglect to do so, but it's so important.

We may not think of thank-yous as acts of gratitude, but that's exactly what they are: outward expressions of our thankfulness to & gratitude for others. Don't underestimate the power of how good you can make someone else feel just by recognizing them & appreciating them.

4. Writing snail mail.

I'm a big fan of snail-mail notes. Remember this piece I wrote for Country Living magazine? I sent thank-you notes for just about everything, from friends hosting us for dinner to gifts from my mother - but I also love writing simple snail-mail notes of hello, those old-fashioned letters to friends that are all too frequently replaced, these days, by one-off text messages.

Sending a snail-mail note says, "I am thinking about you & I care about you & I am grateful for you." Plus, what's better than getting actual mail amidst all the junk mail?!

5. Leaving positive reviews. 

Whenever I have a good experience at a store of restaurant, am on the receiving end of stellar customer service, or purchase a products I love - especially from small & locally owned businesses - I try to show my gratitude to them in the form of writing a public review. A positive rating & review on Yelp or Google can go a long way to a business that doesn't have the power of its own marketing team.

This also applies to iTunes reviews, especially for podcasts: Taking the time to leave a four- or five-star rating for a podcast you love helps boost their overall numbers & thus become more discoverable & more successful. What says gratitude like spreading the world? (Psssst, if you're feelin' it, wanna leave one for Get Well, Girl?)

Want to hear more from Marisa & me on the topic of gratitude? Give us a listen! You can download the new episode of her podcast, Get Well, Girl, on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast fix. 
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Why I Joined a Coworking Space

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

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I'm a proud new(ish) member of Limelight, a coworking space in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood. Having been a full-time remote staffer for nearly eight years now (oh my God), I've definitely gotten the hang of working from home - & every coffee shop within a five-mile radius. But sometimes, I want something more like... well, more like a real office.

Enter Limelight, an absolutely beautiful new space that opened in May.

I was invited to work out of Limelight for free for a few days during their two-week soft launch, when they were still completing some of their construction & decor. I spent about three days there & was absolutely in love with the space, so in September, I took the plunge & joined.

What do I love about being a member of a coworking space? Let me count the ways:
  1. Switching it up: I love my coffee shop life, but just as I'm perpetually searching for new coffee shops to keep things interesting, Limelight offers yet another space to choose from. It's huge, there's always somewhere to sit, & you can stay all day, if you want, which is decidedly not the point of most coffee shops. It's also a gorgeously decorated space that's just pleasant to work in.
  2. Faux coworkers: The best thing about working from a coworking space is working around other people. Sure, I work around other people when I sit in coffee shops, but there's a certain hustle & bustle there that doesn't always jibe with my need to crack down & work. Limelight feels like a real office (because it is), & unlike at coffee shops, the conversations with strangers are friendly but not intrusive - because we're all there to work.
  3. An office, when I need it: My apartment doesn't always feel like the most formal of spaces (um, because it's not). Working at Limelight allows me access to some office amenities I don't normally have, including a printer & a fax machine - & it has both better wifi & cell service than my apartment does.
  4. Safe space: At coffee shops, I can ask a stranger to keep an eye on my stuff while I run to the bathroom, praying no one robs me (no one yet has, knock on wood) - but if I need to grab lunch or take a walk around the block, I have to take everything with me. At Limelight, I can claim my space & leave my things throughout the day - like at an office.
  5. Fun benefits: Limelight offers free coffee & tea, they have snacks for sale at low prices  (including Gushers!), & there's a full kitchen/pantry area for keeping your food cold/warm/whatever. They also host events, like happy hours & networking opportunities. I like that my membership includes worthwhile extras that make the space feel more like a community & less like a... well, just a space.
  6. Convenient location: Limelight is in the heart of Ohio City, about a mile from my home. It's next to a grocery store (easy lunches) & near lots of restaurants & bars (good for quick meetings, after-work happy hours, etc). It's also in the same neighborhood as my riding studio, which is probably why I only ever show up to Limelight in workout gear. I wear real clothes, guys, I swear! 

The only bad thing about my Limelight membership is totally my own fault: I'm having a hard time figuring out how to space out my visits! I don't want to use up all my days at the start of the month, so I hang onto them... & then by the end of the month, I don't have time to use them all. I'm still searching for that perfect balance, but I'll figure it out.

Moral of the story: As someone who's worked from home for so long, joining a coworking space - & Limelight, in particular - has been a gamechanger for me in terms of opportunities, community, & the ability to feel like an actual, professional human who puts on pants during the daytime.

Have you ever tried a coworking space? Are you interested in Limelight? Let me know, & we can go together! 
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A Short List of Good Things

Monday, November 12, 2018

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OK, OK, last Friday's post was a bit of a downer, I know. I;m trying to focus on some good things to keep my spirits up. 
  1. My new "niece": My childhood best friend, Christina, gave birth last week to her first child, a healthy baby girl named Cara Joy, & she is beautiful. Christina had to have a surprise C-section, but she's home now & recovering well, with her husband & her parents at her side to help out. Auntie Kate is doing her best not to request a thousand photos a day.
  2. Vacation! My family is headed to Hilton Head, S.C., for Thanksgiving, where we'll stay in the spacious, ocean-side vacation rental home my aunt & uncle own. Everyone's coming in at different times, but my mom & I will be there for a full week - & it'll be Mike's first holiday with my side of the fam.
  3. Freelancing: I've just wrapped up a number of cool freelance projects, including two interviews for Cleveland Magazine's Most Interesting People issue, coming in January. This work is so fun & so enriching for me, getting me all over the city to explore new experiences, new foods, & other worthwhile new places - & I always love seeing my byline in print.
  4. So much fall TV: Everything will soon come to a halt for winter break, but for now, I've been loving having new episodes to watch every day of some of my prime-time favorites: Grey's Anatomy, Station 11, Chicago Med, The Good Doctor, New Amsterdam, Manifest, Criminal Minds, Law & order: SVU, 9-1-1... fine, yeah, I keep up with a lot of TV.
  5. Oversized sweaters: Realizing that my winter wardrobe was seriously lacking, I picked up a few cozy but inexpensive sweaters from Marshall's, & they've perfectly rounded out my closet. And get this: Two of them aren't even black.
  6. Working for good: I've been assigned to my organizations' Disability Rights Task Force, & I'm enjoying both the presentations from experts within the disability field & considering how we can better implement inclusivity within our work. This is a topic I've long cared about, thanks to my late mentor, Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, & I feel honored to carry on her legacy in this way.
  7. Podcast appearance: My friend Marisa invited me to be a guest on her podcast again! Are you listening to Get Well, Girl? Give it a listen, & stay tuned for my Thanksgiving-themed appearance, coming soon.
  8. Booooooks: Earlier this fall, I reached my goal of reading 75 books for the year. I've surpassed it by reading 86 of them - & I'm still goin'! I bought an Audible subscription so I can give more audiobooks a listen, given that the library waitlist for them always seems to be forever-long. Speaking of forever-long: my TBR list. (Psst: Do you follow my bookstagram account?)
Tell me: What's a small list of good things going on in your life right now? 

PS: The title of this post was inspired by Your Wishcake, even though she hasn't done one of these posys for awhile! 
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It's OK to Admit: I'm Having a Hard Time

Friday, November 9, 2018

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I haven't been doing all that great lately. 

It doesn't feel good to say, especially as someone who has struggled with mental illness in the past. I'm definitely not there right now, nor do I feel like I'm on the road to there - but I worry, you know? I worry that I could end up back there, no matter how hard I try not to, so whenever things start to shift in a downward direction, well... I get nervous.

First, I had two back-to-back busy weeks, filled with Harness rides, blogger events, freelance interviews, meetings with friends & colleagues, & more than a few late work nights. For the most part, they were all fun things, but for literally 14 days straight, I didn't have a single night to myself. I got through it by knowing that, soon, I'd have nothing but free time - that my busy weeks would come to an end & I could rest then.

Except then the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting happened. I work for a major Jewish organization, so not only was I personally devastated, I was suddenly, professionally, very busy. By now, given our past responses to global crises, I'm used to launching into go-mode when something awful happens - but given the specifics of this incident, it was incredibly difficult not to be able to take the time to process my own feelings.

When I was finally able to do so, I took a day off just to sleep - & no joke, some days I can sleep until 4pm. Horrifying, right? I haven't had my sleep study yet because of a scheduling error (the hospital's fault, not mine); in the meantime, I feel like my sleep disorders are getting worse, if that's possible. I sleep way too much, & sometimes I can hardly function during the workday. I have to leave the house just to convince my body to stay awake, & even then, it barely works.

I'm also struggling with money. I'm dealing with medical bills that haven't even reached full capacity (hello, upcoming sleep study), & I freelanced so much this year that I'm my taxes will likely wipe out a massive chunk of my savings. I'm trying to make better everyday choices, but I continue to never get it quite right. I recently read The Financial Diet, which inspired me but also made me feel worse; how am I 34 & still sucking at all this?Am I ever going to get this right?

In the vein of feeling bad about myself, I'm the biggest/heaviest I've ever been, despite the fact that I've been working out more - & more consistently - than ever before in my life. COME ON, body.I know, in theory, that I'll only see actual results if I start eating better & probably doing some sort of cross-training, but, well, it just feels bad. And it feels incredibly discouraging, which makes me not want to ride anymore, which is absolutely not the right decision.

Oh, & my house is a mess, too. Mike & I rent a duplex, in part because we know we wouldn't be able to keep up, right now, with owning a whole house - but that makes me feel kind of inept sometimes. The floors are always dirty, the sink is always full, & I've always got four loads of laundry do. A clean home brings me mental peace when everything else is crazed, but I can't ever seem to get to the place clean. (And I'd hire cleaners again, except for that whole money business!)

God, this doesn't even touch on the politics of the world right now & how all of that feels... I can't even begin to get into that.

In other words, things have been feeling kind of tough lately. I'm having a hard time, even though I know it won't be forever. I know I am fortunate & privileged & overall, doing just fine, but I've been feeling, well, off. I feel sad & discouraged & overwhelmed & tired & just never good enough. I want to be better than I am at... well, at everything, really. At time management, at self-care, at health, at cleanliness, at finances, at cooking, at... the list goes on.

OK, I'm getting carried away. I am, all things considered, a perfectly good & high-functioning adult - but sometimes it's difficult to give myself that credit, especially when I see so many ways I could be doing better. Right now, I'm just I'm trying my hardest not to retreat into a sad winter hole, a.k.a. my bed.

How do you make it through the downswings? What do you do when you're feeling bad about yourself &... you know, everything else?
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Spooky, Scary: Exploring Haunted & Historical Spots

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

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I was excited to be asked last month to write my first story for Ohio Magazine, a look at haunted spots around Cleveland. While that piece won't be published until fall 2019, I thought I'd share a peek here of some of the cool places I've recently explored as part of my research for it.
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All My Potions: Some of My Favorite Natural Products, Oils, Etc.

Monday, November 5, 2018

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I've become a big fan of all things scented & relaxing & essential oil-based, aside from, like, actual essential oil diffusing itself. Why haven't I gotten into that? I don't know, but perhaps it's because I currently have enough scented stuff to keep me busy for awhile. Here are just a few of the products I'm loving lately, some of them made in Cleveland & all of them delightfully & naturally scented.

In My Home

Aura Mist (Grey Moon Botanica)This pretty, shimmering "protective room spray" is made with sandalwood and lavender essential oil, rose water , & a piece of mica that slowly disintegrates into the spray over time (& is what makes it to sparkly). It smells strong but soothing, for when you don't have time to burn a candle but want to feel relaxed by scent. ($20)

Palo Santo & Jasmine Purifying Spray (Lesley Saligoe Botanicals)
I know, I know, how many room sprays does a girl need? Well, I do have a few more rooms... I bought this one after seeing a friend rave about it on Instagram. This "liquid energy cleanser" is made with distilled water, an undisclosed essential oil bledn, & a piece of honey calcite, said to "increase feelings of self worth, confidence, and courage and assists to overcome obstacles.." Hey, I'll take that. ($10)

White Sage Smudge Stick & Palo Santo (Positive Life Haven)
This white sage & palo santo bundle came from a local business owned by a girl I met at an event a few months ago. I also ordered a few crystals from her because, yeah, apparently I'm trying out crystals now, I don't know, OK? I haven't used the sage yet but love burning the palo santo. I've also purchased a few of these "cleaning" bundles for friends who have moved into new places. Made in Cleveland. ($5)

In My Bedroom

Stress-Fix Composition Oil™ (Aveda)
This one feels great on sore muscles, & it smells nice, too, because it's made with lavender, lavandin, and clary sage. Sometimes I put a few drops in the bathtub for some aromatherapy while I soak. The description says you can also massage it into your scalp, but that sounds... well, oily, so I haven't tried it yet. ($30)

Calm Balm (Lesley Saligoe Botanicals)
This is probably my favorite product, like, ever. It smells so heavenly, made with coconut oil, grapeseed oil, lavender, ylang ylang, & beeswax... with an amethyst in the middle because apparently the stone "is a natural vacuum for negative energy and aids in restful sleep, sobriety, and helps ease fears." OK. Well, it smells incredible. I rub it on my palms before bed & take a huge breath in to relax me as I head to sleep. ($10-$20)

Post-Training Massage Oil (Way of Will)
I use this one on my back & neck when I'm done a little bit too much (or just enough) riding during the week. It's made with sweet almond, apricot kernel oil, jojoba oil, all of which help the skin, plus cooling agent like peppermint, spearmint, & German chamomile, which are incredible for soothing muscles.it smells good, but surprisingly, it has no lasting or long-term scent. ($29.50)

Midnight Shift Overnight Facial Oil (Moonlit Skincare)
This night oil is made with ginseng & papaya to "help fuel skin cell turnover," plus grapeseed oil for "a firming collagen boost." I don't know about all of that, but I do know that it's very light, & it both smells & feels soothing, with a lovely lavender scent. I use this one on nights when I'm especially tired & want to be sure I get a good night's sleep. ($34)

Breathe Touch Respiratory Blend (doTERRA)
I'm not a fan of MLMs (multi-level marketing businesses) & I try not to give them my money, so I wouldn't have purchased this on my own, but it came in a swag bag, & damn it, I love it. when I'm feeling stressed, I put a few drops on my temples, under my nose, or even on my chest to help me breathe better. ($17)

On My Body

LEO Essential Oil Blend (Venus in Aquarius Apothica)
I purchased this at a Cleveland Flea & could not love it any more. Venus in Aquarius creates roll-on scents for each zodiac sign; this one is called "I Will." It's made with frankincense, rosemary, neroli, & lemongrass, infused with dried hibiscus & sunflower petals - plus a tiny peridot crystal, my birth stone. Do I believe in its power? Um, probably not, but I believe that it smells amazing. Made in Cleveland. ($20)

Rose+Yarrow+Tulsi Facial Toner (Venus in Aquarius Apothica)
This light, crisp, spray-on toner is made with rose water, yarrow flower essence, hibiscus-infused witch hazel, and tulsi (holy basil) hydrosol. It's designed for sensitive, acne-prone, and combination skin, none of which I have - but it feels refreshing, & I love that its all-natural. Made in Cleveland. ($16.95)

Face Oil Cleanser (Olive Me)
When I first ran out of argan oil, I won this cleanser on Instagram, & I started using it as my daily overnight oil. It's a blend of olive oil, jojoba oil, chamomile, and neroli oil. Now, I swap it out with argan oil every other day or so. Made in Cleveland. ($8)

100% Argan Oil (Aria Starr Beauty)
I'm not loyal to any one particular brand of argan oil, so long as it's pure; this just happens to be the one I own right now. Yes, I put oil on my face overnight; yes, I have really nice skin that, no, is not disgustingly oily. I swear it works wonders... except for when my cat tries to lick it straight off my face? Ew. ($10.95)

In My Bath

Handmade Soaps (Puget Sound Soap Shop)
I mentioned these soaps, made by my friend Stevie, in a previous blog post, but since then, I've ordered even more of them, in a variety of scents. They're all handmade & smooth & lovely. ($5-$7)

Olive Oil Body Scrub (Olive Me)
Sure, I could probably try to make this body scrub myself, but Olive Me does such a good job of it! This simple scrub is made with olive oil, raw cane sugar, and neroli oil, sloughing all all the wintry bits & helping my skin feel as good as new, even in cold Northeast Ohio weather. Made in Cleveland. ($10)

Aura Quartz Geode Bath Bomb (Lesley Saligoe Botanicals)
Can you tell how much I love this brand? It's so great, I swear. These geode bath bombs are amber scented & sparkly, because they include mica, & they make every bath feels divine. They also made with coconut and grapeseed oils to help moisturize. Did I mention that they're sparkly? ($5)

What natural products are you loving right now? Send me your best recs!
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6 Small Goals for November

Friday, November 2, 2018

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Oh, hi, it's almost the end of the year. Time flies when you're an adult, huh? I did a pretty good job of my October goals - except for those damn carbs! Here's how things panned out:
  1. Don't feel too overwhelmed. I'm not sure what a great job I did at this, but I tried really hard & I think I succeeded in the first half of the month, at least. Toward the end there, things got really stressful (I work for a Jewish organization, so the Pittsburgh shooting resulted in a ton of feeling plus a ton of unexpected work). I bought some scented candles, took baths when I could, & got enough sleep, reminding myself that soon, I'd be able to relax. That time hasn't come yet, but I'm looking forward to it. 
  2. Work out my health insurance woes. Done! My $5k doctors bill is almost paid off (not by me; thanks, work), so I'm good to go in continuing to pursue wellness. My sleep test has been rescheduled for December, & I can't wait.  
  3. Excel at my social media webinars. Also done. Sure, I waited until the very last minute to finish both PowerPoint presentations, but they went well, I didn't vomit beforehand as I sometimes do, & I got lots of positive feedback. I even volunteered to do another future webinar sooner rather than later. Unheard of! 
  4. Plan something for our anniversary. Donnne. We're working out details of an upcoming trip to Ann Arbor, MI, for our anniversary weekend. we don't have a place to stay yet, but we'll figure that out. And our list of places to visit is full of spots I'm really excited about. Got tips? Leave 'em in the comments! 
  5. Cut way back on carbs. Yeah, yeah, here's the one I didn't excel at. Surprise, surprise. I love my bread, OK?
  6. Start "tipping myself" for cycling classes. I started this at the beginning of the month & saved $50 by the end of the month - which means I hit 10 classes in October. Not bad! Planning to keep it up in the month to come.
So what am I aiming for in November? Let's see...
  1. Relax. I feel like I didn't get to do any of this in October, so I'd really like to prioritize a little bit of relaxation, where I can, in November. That means books, Harry Potter, & cuddling with cats.
  2. Finish my holiday shopping. I like to get my holiday shopping done early so I can shop for myself in December. Ha! Thanks to Shop Cleveland Market, which I visited in October, my holiday shopping is actually almost done - but I'd really like to wrap it up (no pun intended) this month. 
  3. Cook more. There's a very low bar here because I don't really cook at all. I've looked up a few recipes I'd like to try, &, well, I'd like to try 'em. Any of 'em. 
  4. Do the laundry in a more timely fashion. Weird goal, but hear me out: I have a bad habit of starting the laundry at, like,  8pm, & then Mike goes to bed before I finish it. The laundry room is off our bedroom, & I don't want to wake him, so I leave wet laundry in the washer overnight... & then have to rewash it in the morning! This is such a pain and such a waste of water, so I'd like to prioritize not doing it that way anymore. 
  5. Go to 10 Harness Cycle classes. I sort of dropped the ball on cycling in October, in part because the studio where I usually ride was closed for renovations. It's open again, so I'd like to pick it back up & make sure I get another 10 rides in, even though I'll be gone for a whole week.
  6. Consume less sugar. I have never been a big sweets person, but I ate a ton of candy & desserts in October. I could blame it on Halloween, or I could suck it up & promise to tone it down in November.
I'm looking forward to this month, especially two trips coming up: Mike's & my anniversary trip to Ann Arbor next weekend, & a week in Hilton head, S.C., with my family for Thanksgiving. This will be Mike's first time spending a holiday with my family, & I could not be more excited for that. Keep an eye on the Insta for photo updates! 

What are your goals for November? What are you looking forward to? 
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