Caring for Your Whole Self: My Ongoing Attempts at Work/Life Balance

Saturday, March 30, 2019

"You don't have anything to give that you don't have." -Oprah Winfrey

I've never been a big Oprah person, but when I saw this video of her last week, I was completely struck by it - & it has stuck with me. It was the first part of the first presentation of the day at Engage! Cleveland's Next Generation of Women event, & it was one of the most moving parts of the day, especially when paired with a conversation with Jan Murphy, senior vice president of mission & ministry for Sisters of Charity Health System.

The session, titled "Caring for Your Whole Self," was about creating better balance & taking care of your mind, body, & spirit, while staying away from negativity, toxicity, & over-commitment. Murphy, a former nun with 40 years of health care experience, is a former COO for the Cleveland Clinic - which is to say, she probably knows a little something about staying calm, collected, & mentally sound while also being a career badass. (Is it OK to call a nun a badass...?)

7 Ways I Get in More Steps Every Day

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


My mother-in-law gave me an Apple Watch in the fall, & I am fully obsessed with it. It's not something I would've thought to buy for myself, but now that I have one, I never want to be without. It helps me track my daily step counts, calories burned, my workouts, & more - & it makes it all so easy to do it.

Until I started wearing it, I didn't realize exactly how little I move every day. Of course, I knew I worked from home & didn't walk a lot & wasn't, at the time, working out - but once I started wearing the watch, I realized just how sedentary I'd been. And frankly, I was horrified.

Since I started wearing my Apple Watch, I've stepped up (pun fully intended) my efforts to move more. Here are a few of the ways I try to hit 10k steps per day.

1. Picking up special deliveries from my cat

This is one of the key ways I get in some morning steps, & it's kind of a funny one: My cat, Dora, loves delivering sock balls to our bedroom door. She delivers five to 20 pairs every night! Each morning, I get up & put away her sock deliveries... one by one. I walk back & forth from our bedroom to our guest room, where we store clean socks in a basket (because Dora cries if we store them in a closed drawer). Would you believe that I can sometimes get in nearly 1k steps this way?!

2. Putting away clean laundry

This is another one that can net me 1k steps: After I've folded a load of clean laundry, I put away each item, one by one, again waling back & forth between rooms to do it. Yes, it's tedious to walk baaaack & forth putting away every single shirt or pair of underwear, but it also helps add some steps & movement into a must-do at-home task.


3. Taking the long way

Both at home & when I'm out & about, I try to take the long way when I do things: If I need something out of the kitchen, I'll walk around the whole room to get there. If I need something from that aisle, I'll walk down this aisle first. If I'm running out for coffee at the place next door, I'll walk around the block to get there, or at least

4. Parking further away

In a city where cars are practically a necessity, it can be all too easy to park right at the front door of the places I visit, & then pull into my driveway when I get home - necessitating all of, like, 20 steps, total. When I'm not in a hurry (& when the Cleveland weather isn't terrible), I try to park a bit further away, just to add a couple extra steps to my route.

5. Offering to help

The other day, my husband needed to return a library book, so I walked to the library & returned it for him. My mom needed a paper towel, so I got up & grabbed her one. Little favors here & there don't net me a ton of extra steps, but every little but counts.

6. Picking up the apartment

Similarly to the sock-and-laundry thing, I have begun to pick up & organize the apartment every night or afternoon, whenever I feel a need to get in a few extra steps. Not to call out my husband, but he's a liiiittle bit messy, so there's always plenty to put away!  Again, I put things about one by one, which keeps me moving.

7. Going for walks, duh

Saving the most basic for last: When I don't have enough steps in for the day - when the apartment is clean & there's no more laundry to put away - I just buckle down, bundle up, & walk around the neighborhood. Luckily, my neighborhood is adorable & walkable, & it feels like there's always something new to see or discover. Plus, I... still play Pokemon Go. Hey, it gets me out there!

Do you track your steps? What's your daily step goal, & what do you do to hit it?

My New Favorite Leggings - & All Your Questions About Them

Monday, March 25, 2019


First things first: This is not a sponsored post. I own two pairs of Girlfriend Collective high-rise compression leggings & one of their bras, all paid for with my own hard-earned dollars. No sponsorship here - though I can't say I'd turn one down if the company happens to see this & come askin'.

With that out of the way, hi, let's discuss Girlfriend Collective leggings.

My second pair arrived on Friday, & when I posted about them on my Instagram Stories, I got so many DMs asking about them that I thought I'd just whip up a blog post that answers everything in one place & shares why this is my newest favorite brand.

I think I first learned about Girlfriend Collective via Instagram. Ahhh, 2019. Their products are made out of recycled plastic water bottles & other recycled items, so I was immediately intrigued. And while the sustainable fashion angle is what hooked me, it's the leggings themselves that have be fully obsessed.

These leggings make me feel body-confident in a way no other clothing, especially workout clothing, yet has - & if you ask me, that's worth sharing. Here, I've a few of your questions about them & why I like them so much.

What do you mean, they're made from water bottles?

Girlfriend's site says of their compressive leggings, which I own: "made from 79% recycled polyester (or RPET) and 21% spandex; our leggings are made from 25 recycled post-consumer bottles." No, the fabric does not feel weird or thick or plasticky; it feels soft & buttery & smooth. (Their LITE leggings are made with recycled fish nets - but I haven't tried them yet.)

Where/how are they made?

Sadly, not American-made. From their site, "Our facility in Taiwan that specializes in eco-friendly and high-quality textiles has developed one of the best processes for turning recycled water bottles into safe, soft fabric." More on that here, if you're sciencey!

Are they opaque?

Yep! I own the plum & indigo leggings, & both are completely opaque. The only caveat, noted on the tags when your leggings arrive, is that their ivory leggings are not guaranteed opaque; they recommend pairing them with nude or light-colored undergarments. That said, I'm not the kinda gal who's going to wear white leggings, so I, for one, don't need to worry about that.

Can you move in them?

Yes! A friend told me she'd tried the brand a couple years ago & found that the waistband restricted her movement, but I haven't experienced that, at least with the high-rise compression leggings. They're completely movable & breathable, & I don't feel constricted at all when wearing them - which is how leggings should be, right?!

Are they thick enough to hide panty lines? 

I can't see my own butt, but I think so! I wear regular old bikini undies when I ride, & I don't thiiiink you can see them or tell when I've got my Girlfriend leggings on.

Do they wear out around the crotch?

I haven't owned mine for long enough yet to be able to tell, but because they're made of polyester & Spandex, it seems unlikely that this material will wear out in that way. They're definitely not made of the kind of fabric that will pill or, like, stretch so much that it loses its shape.

Do they have pockets?

There's one small pocket inside the back of the waistband, large enough for a credit card & a key, but my iPhone doesn't fit in it.

What about the bras & tops?

The only non-leggings item I've tried is the Topanga bra, which, to be honest, just doesn't offer enough support - like at all - for someone with, uh, a chest like mine. My bobs are spilling out the sides of it! I'd like to try the Paloma bra but haven't gotten to it yet.

They're expensive! Are they worth it?

This is, of course, a matter of opinion, but in my opinion, yes, if you can afford the splurge. I don't own Lululemon leggings, but these cost less & come in many more sizes than Lululemon offers (up to 6XL). They're thick, comfy, high-quality, & slow fashion, & there are usually a couple discount codes floating around - so, to me, they're worth it.

Any downsides?

They're pricey & not American-made, either or both of which may turn folks off to the brand. They also take a long time to arrive because they're shipped from Taiwan & have to clear customs. One annoying thing: It can be tough to snag the items you want in the colors & sizes you want. Because they're "slow fashion," it can take awhile for Girlfriend to restock - & things sell out quickly! If you've got your eye on something, check back regularly for it.

Do you have a referral link?

OK, fine, no one asked me this, but yes, I do! Unfortunately, it only works if you're ordering $95 worth of apparel or more, but hey, if you're spendin' big, here you go: This referral link will give you $10 off your first purchase of $95 or more.

And that's that. I don't usually shill for brands like this, but there was so much interest when I first shared on Instagram that I thought I'd make it easy for people to learn more & to read my honest opinion all in one place. Hope it's helpful to you, if you were curious about this brand!

Have you tried Girlfriend Collective? Are there other athleisure brands you love?

The One Where I Took My 100th Cycling Class & Celebrated Pretty Hard

Friday, March 22, 2019


You know that thing I'd been working on for, like, a year? That thing that, 99 rides ago, seemed beyond impossible? Well, I did it.

I hit 100 rides at my spinning studio, Harness Cycle.

When I took my first class last April - an introductory class, just 30 minutes long - I felt... pretty terrible about myself. The class seemed impossible, & my body seemed broken, & I was just so mortified by my inability to keep up.

Why did I want to stick with it? God, I have no idea. I cried in that first class, & I cried after it. I blogged about it, ending that first post with, "I have 10 classes to use up by June, after all. I have to do something - & I guess, for now, it might as well be this, right?"

So I went back. And then I went back again. And then I went back 97 more times - until I hit my 100th class last Friday.

There are days I still cry on the bike - not because it's hard but because it's emotional, because it makes me feel things, because the instructors say thing that hit me right in the gut, in the best way possible.

And no, I still can’t always keep up. I am by no means in shape or an athlete, & some days I still feel like I can’t do a damn thing well enough to be there. But I show up. I walk through the door & ride even when I don't feel like it, even when I'm not very good at it, even when my knee hurts or my lungs burn or I'm sweating so hard I can barely see straight.

Three wonderful friends rode with me for my 100th, & one of my favorite instructors, who is such a badass, played some of my favorite songs, from Lizzo to the Backstreet Boys to Alanis Morissette to Bonnie Tyler (that's ride, we rode to "Total Eclipse of the Heart"). We rode & danced & laughed & cheered & could barely breathe at the end, & damn, was it ever fun. Afterward, my friend Marisa & I went across the street to Saucy Brew Works, where we ate my favorite pizza & drank beer & caught up... & then, when I got home, Mike had three cupcakes with "100" candles waiting for me.




I am so grateful to everyone who supported me & cheered me on & sent me DMs or left me comments or showed me any kind of love on my road to 100. I know this is the kind of thing that other people - athletes - do all the time, & I am under no illusions that I am somehow special for doing it. But this is huge for me; this has changed everything for me. I am a better person, a growing person, a stronger person both mentally & physically. And I just so proud of myself for it.

I'm now at 102 classes, & while I won't keep up a public count anymore (for now!), I have no plans to stop cycling any time soon.

Thanks for everything, Harness. Let's keep ridin'.

What Career Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Me at work, circa 2008

I've worked for the same organization since I graduated from college, with the exception of a few months, when I worked elsewhere... & then came back. Bear with me, though: Yes, I've been at the same place for a long time, but things change, people change, & growth still happens.

I'm 34 now, more than a decade out of college (yowza!), & when I look back on my career, sure, many of the faces look the same, as does the employer on my pay stub - but I have learned so much. There are so many things I wish someone had told me... or that I'd figured out for myself just a liiiittle bit sooner.

Here are a few of the lessons I've learned & that I'd impart to my younger self, if I could.

True Life: I'm Afraid of the Dentist... but Not for Long

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


My grandfather was a dentist in my mom's hometown of Lima, OH (yes, the one from Glee). Throughout my childhood, visiting my grandparents meant getting my teeth cleaned by Grandpa – especially at Thanksgiving, when he'd take my cousins & me into his closed-for-the-holidays office & do exams, cleanings, etc. We always got little prizes are rewards at the end, like Beanie Babies.

Ahhh, the '90s.

His practice was called The Smile Shoppe, & though it's long gone now, just thinking of it makes me, well, smile. The business logo was a hand-drawn caricature of my grandfather himself, working on a smiley-faced patient; we owned red & green T-shirts galore featuring that logo.

It's Fish Fry Seasonnnnn!

Monday, March 11, 2019



I had never been to or even really heard of Lenten fish fries until I moved to Cleveland in 2015. I grew up with plenty of Catholic friends, & I know how Lent works, generally - that they put a hold on bad habits, that they don't eat meat on Friday, that it leads up to Easter, etc. In fact, as a teenager, so many of my friends observed Lent that I typically "gave something up for Lent," too, because it was the most supportive time of year to try to ditch bad habits.

In Cleveland, which has a large Eastern European Catholic population, the best thing about Lent is all the freaking fish fries. They're everywhere, a true Cleveland tradition even for those of us who don't observe Lent. Last year, I wrote about my first fish fry experience - & this year, I'm stepping it up.

I had the honor, this year, of writing four small blurbs for Cleveland Magazine's 2019 Fish Fry Guide. I wrote about the Latin-flavored fish fry at El Carnicero in Lakewood, the one-woman fish fry at Marta's in Euclid, the brewery-adjacent fish fry at Hansa in Ohio City, & the year-round fish fry at Union House in Parma.





That last one - a fish fry held every Friday throughout the year - that got me really excited. So before Lent even began, Mike & our friends Darren & Lilly & I hit up Union House for a little bit of pre-fish fry fish fry- & what a delicious decision it was.

If you've never been to a fish fry, the gist is this: Restaurants & church basements offer platters of fried fish, usually hand-battered. The fish itself is often a variety you'll find in Lake Erie, like perch, though cod, pollack, haddock, & walleye are popular, too. (Learn more in this piece from the magazine.) Some places offer grilled fish (like the branzino at Hansa), or a seafood option, like shrimp, & a few spots offer less-traditional fish formats (like the tacos at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church).

These platters always come with sides. Big sides. Lots of sides. Think coleslaw, french fries, hush puppies, potato pancakes, cabbage noodles... and pierogis. This is Cleveland, after all. Even the Greek church serves Polish pierogis at its fish fry!




We loved the fish fry at Union House, which came with coleslaw & french fries, & we ordered lots of pierogis to go with it. Mike went with classic potato & cheddar, but I found myself enamored of the ricotta-filled "sweet cheese" pierogis, which I'd never had anyplace else. They're like a dessert pierogi!

It was just so quintessentially Cleveland, to head out to this dive restaurant & bar in Parma (which is a super-Polish suburb), where we ate this big, old-Eastern-European-style meal, washed down with pints of Yuengling & Bud Light. I introduced myself to the owner, Michelle, who I'd interviewed for my piece on Union House, & she was so friendly & welcoming - yet another very Clevelandy element of the evening.





To cap off the night, we headed to Murphy's Law, an Old Brooklyn bar best known for its appearances in The Drew Carey Show (though it was then known as The Warsaw). Again, we drank Bud Lights & talked to locals & even met a regular who's close friends with Drew Carey's brother. The bar doesn't serve food but did have a large platter of eggrolls out on the bar for... I'm not sure. For anyone? For everyone? They seemed to be there for the snacking.

Again: So Cleveland.



It was one of those nights that made me remember, all over again, how much I love this city & its traditions & all the people & places within it.

If you observe Lent, may it be a meaningful season for you - & whether or not you observe Lent, may you find yourself a delicious fish fry to enjoy during the most delicious of seasons.

My Cleveland Restaurants Bucket List

Friday, March 8, 2019


There are so many incredible restaurants in Cleveland - with more opening every day, it seems - that I decided it was high time I set up my very own Cleveland restaurants bucket list. I'll be working my way through it this year, or however long it takes, & I'll update you along the way... with the hopes of
  

Addy's Diner

Addy's, a family-owned legacy diner, has newly reopened in the 5th Street Arcades in downtown Cleveland, where Jack Flaps used to be. Their menu isn't available anywhere online, so I don't have a clue what's in store, but I'm a big fan of all things brunch, especially from diners.

Batuqui Cleveland

I've tried Batuqui's food, only once, at a fundraising event, but even that one small plate was good enough that it has stayed with me. This East-Side Brazilian restaurant is on the more expensive side, but for a menu of options you can't find anywhere else in the CLE - lookin' at you, bolinho de bacalhau & prato misto - it's probably pretty damn worth it.

Brewella’s

Crepes & coffee? Yes, please! I stopped in for some caffeine during their first week in business, last summer, but I need to get back to get the full experience, including dining in their gloriously vintage-decorated dining room, where most of the collectibles that hang from the walls are also for sale. One tomato/basil/mozzarella crepe, plz.

El Carnicero

It's truly unconscionable that I've yet to visit either of Chef Eric Williams' popular Cleveland restaurants, & I'm desperate to try this one, in particular. That brunch menu, though! The tlayuda & the blue corn enchiladas, in particular, are calling my name - & I can already tell they'll be totally worth the trip to Lakewood.

Johnny Mango World Cafe & Bar

"Inspired by Mexico, Thailand and other faraway locales," this Ohio City spot features entrees from the world over, including a long list of "Meatless & Delicious" section. Their margaritas & cocktails are city-renowed, too, so it feels like this would be a great spot for a low-key celebration of sorts.

L'Albatros Brasserie

I'm willing to give French food a go for this popular East Side date spot, owned by Cleveland chef extraordinaire Zack Bruell & set in an old carriage house on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. They specialize in cheese & wine - yes, please - & their root vegetable cassoulet sounds right up my alley.

La Plaza Taqueria

I can't believe I've yet to visit the city's most beloved & authentic taco joint, which recently expanded its in-house menu & seating options. Owned by a Mexican immigrant who says Cleveland didn't have any real tacos in town when he began, La Plaza still remains tops among Clevelanders who want the real thing.

Larder Delicatessen & Bakery

There’s a new(ish) Jewishly inspired deli in town - one that's up for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant! While I’ll have to be careful of mushrooms here (the owner is an expert forager, & they end up in lots of his recipes), I'm dying to try... well, just about everything. Modern takes on Ashkenazi Jewish favorites? You had me at hello.

Le Petite Triangle Cafe

Another French eatery! This little spot in Ohio City is, indeed, little, seating only a few folks at a time. It has lower prices than L'Albatros & offers different options, slightly more casual - with a brunch people adore. The roasted chicken croissant with mango chutney & currants is giving me heart eyes.

Lola Bistro

RIP to Lolita, the companion restaurant that caught fire in 2015 - but why have I not yet made it to the original Lola, Michael Symon's flagship spot on East 4th St.? I confess that the meat-heavy menu is not necessarily of major appeal to me, but I still feel like this is one of those Cleveland restaurants that every Clevelander needs to try.

Lox Stock & Brisket

Another new take on a Jewish deli? I'm in. This one is on the East Side, owned by Chef Anthony Zappola, who worked for celebrity Chef Tom Collichio before returning to Cleveland just over a year ago. I'm very interested in the Lincoln Park & the Larry David & The Mirage &... fine, everything, really. L'chaim!

Marble Room Steak House & Raw Bar

You don't have to like steak or oysters to find something to love on the menu of this new-ish downtown hotspot. I've got my eye on their diver scallops, jumbo lump crab cakes, & curry coco shrimp roll - but I know my husband will be in it for the steak & oysters. Perfect pair! This is a higher-end spot, so it'll be a "celebrating something" kinda meal.

Mason's Creamery (Ramen)

I've enjoyed Mason's Creamery's ice cream in the summer months, but starting this winter, when the weather gets cold, this Ohio City biz transforms into a ramen shop! They're another eatery without an online menu, or even any hint about it, aside from "ramen," but... well, ramen alone is enough for me to want to check it out.

Momocho

This is Chef Eric Williams other spot, a modern (read: Americanized, but extremely creative) take on Mexican cuisine, & one I remember hearing Clevelanders rave about long before I moved to town. I want to try the salsa fruta, all the many kinds of guac, the butternut squash flautas, the chorizo tostadas... yeah, I may need to visit this spot more than once, huh? Time to get on it!

Superior Pho

I've been to & love Number One Pho, just around the corner, but it's past time that I try its number-one competitor, Super Pho, just around the corner - you know, so I can make an informed decision (or perhaps my informed decision is that I love all Vietnamese food equally!) Once I've tried their bún bò xào, I'll be sure to report back.

Urban Farmer Steakhouse 

I'm not a steak gal, but this downtown spot is beloved by just about everyone who's ever eaten there, which means I've got to give it a try! They partner with local farms, ranches, & fisheries to be sure everything is locally sourced, high-end, creative, & delicious. I've got my eye on their squash pasta with veggie bolognese.

Ushabu

Located just down the road from my apartment, this upscale shabu restaurant has extremely limited seating &, from what I'm told, extremely delicious food. They specialize in Japanese nabemono (cook-it-yourself hotpot), yakitori (chicken skewers)& even a seven-course omakase-style tasting menu (where the chef chooses for you). Do I like any of these things? Look, I'm more than willing to find out.

Have you tired any of these places? What's on your must-try list?

6 Small Goals for March

Monday, March 4, 2019


I'm feelin' pretty good about February, lemme tell ya. In some ways, it was a difficult month - but nowhere near as difficult as January was. I hope March is a little bit kinder to me than either of them were, but overall, I can't complain.
  1. Heal. My knee still hurts - it's definitely significantly bruised - but it no longer feels loose, wiggly, swollen, or unstable. Phew! I went to Harness Cycle only twice in February, both times too soon, but feel like I'll be ready to return for real this week. I have two free passes, so let me know if you want to join me!
  2. Complete a modified no-spend month. I'm going to cross this off the list because I did, in fact, make a big effort not to spend frivolously in February. I fell off the wagon toward the end of the month, but spending less on unnecessary things did, overall, allow me to buy items I'd needed but hadn't been prioritizing - & to sock away more into savings than usual.
  3. Sort out my medications. Done, I think! My neurologist & I have agreed on my medication & dosage, though I encountered some issues trying to get my last refill. My pharmacist is trying to sort that out, so I should be good to go very soon - & the medication itself is working wonderfully. Instagram explanation here, with a full blog post to come.
  4. Take down the Christmas tree. Not to be revisited until the appropriate season returns! 
  5. Eat better. I'm really excited to say that I have been doing this - & hope to continue, of course. I started using Noom, a health app (get 20% off with my referral link, if you're interested), & I've been using it to track my food & exercise, better understand my habits, get support from others in a similar phase of their Noom experience, etc. I also signed up for meals through Raw Trainer, which ensure that I always have something healthy and tasty on hand. 
  6. Get my airbags replaced. I haven't done this yet, but only because my car started rattling, & I needed to get it fixed urgently. My uncle, who is a mechanic, had time to take a look, so my car has been with him for the last week. (I needed four new tires. Ouch!)
All in all, it was a pretty successful month, especially given that the one thing I didn't complete was for a good reason - that I was taking care of my car in another much-needed way! 
  1. Finish & file our taxes. This is kind of cheating, because we've hired an accountant - a longtime family friend - to do our taxes for us. Still, I want to be sure it's all done & out of the way well before the April filing deadline. 
  2. Stop picking my eyelashes. Ugh, this has become my absolute worst habit. I used to suffer from trichotillomania, & while I don't overall have problems with it anymore, I do find myself picking at my eyelashes again lately - mostly at my mascara, but eyelashes come out with it, & I don't have any to spare! I switched mascaras to one that I feel less inclined to pick at, but I really need to just try harder not to pick. Anyone else have this problem? Any tips to share? 
  3. Keep a clean home. I've been doing a really good job, lately, of keeping things neat & organized - in part because cleaning the house helps me get in steps on cold winter days when I'd otherwise not be inclined to move much. I'd like to focus on making this a habit that I can continue in the long-term. 
  4. Finish Michelle Obama's book. I know, it's a little weird of me to include a specific book on my goals list, given that I usually read so much & so quickly. For some reason, I haven't yet gotten through Becoming, & I need to make sure it's all read before my mom & I go see the First Lady at Playhouse Square later this month! 
  5. Schedule a dentist appointment. I've got some blog news to share soon, related to the dentist - yes, really, & it's fun news! - so stay tuned for that, hopefully coming in March. I haven't been to the dentist in... um, an embarassingly long time.
  6. Organize my books. I feel like Mike's & my books are taking over. I read a lot on Kindle... but continue to hoard paper books that I then don't get to (because I prefer to read in bed, in the dark); he has books everywhere, including about 40 of them in the trunk of my car. We need to purge, give away, & maybe take some of them to a secondhand store - & then organize the rest. We also have two new-to-us bookshelves that we need to assemble, which will go a long way in making this goal a reality. 
What's on your docket for March? Let me know!

What I Read in February

Friday, March 1, 2019


I made it through six books in February, all of them good ones. I likely would've read more had I need been out of town for five days for a work conference, which had me, well, working non-stop, which left absolutely zero time for reading. Still, I can't complain about six, right?

My plan was originally to read only books by black authors during Black History Month, & I am a little embarrassed to note that I didn't stick to that at all. The last three books on this month's list were all ones I'd been on long waitlists for, & I couldn't pass up the opportunity to read them when they became available to me. More importantly, I am committed to reading authors of color's voices all year long, not just during February, & I suppose that's what really matters? I'd like to make up for it a bit in March, though. (If you're trying to do the same, start with my recent post, "For Black History Month & Beyond: 15 of My Favorite Books (so Far) by Black Authors.")

March's TBR list includes Michelle Obama's Becoming, which I have to finish before I see her live in the CLE (!), & Angie Thomas's On the Come Up, which was my most recent Book of the Month Club pick. I'm also halfway through Tiffany Haddish's The Last Black Unicorn on audiobook & Maid by Stephanie Land, another BoTM pick.

Ummm, speaking of BoTM, this month, I chose not one, not two, but three new books. Get a free book if you sign up with my referral code, & join me in this monthly obsession.

What are you reading this month? Here are my January reads.

Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me by Janet Mock

After a long waitlist, I finally got this audiobook again from the library & got to finish it up. I started listening in the fall! I love Mock, her writing, & her narration style, so this was the perfect memoir for listening rather than reading. Anyone who's read Mock's first memoir, Redefining Realness, will want to follow up on her story & her insights with this second installation & look into her life. ★★★★★

I'm Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

Shraya is a trans musician, writer, & visual artist who writes about her past experiences withs men, both while living as a woman & as an effeminate queer young man (prior to recognizing, in adulthood, her desire to transition). This is a very short memoir, but it's a powerful, worthwhile one that all women will relate to in some way, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Bustle called it "an essential guide to being a good ally to trans women," too, so, you know. Read it. ★★★★★

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

I started an HP reread because why not? I'd long been wanting to, but I was moved to start when I learned that it was available to borrow for free via Prime Reading - only to discover, when I finished, that it's the only book in the series available to borrow. Ugh! I don't even have a review here, of course, because this series is golden & this book is golden, & now I need to read all the others again, ASAP. Goodbye forever. ★★★★★

Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky

A coworker recommended this book, & while I wouldn't normally have thought it up my alley, I found it fascinating. I listened to it on audiobook, learning the storied history of New York City's Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the United States - including its founding, its significant medical progress, its controversial psychiatric ward, its handling of 9/11 & Hurricane Sandy, & of course, its early & ongoing racism/xenophobia/anti-Semitism. ★★★★★

Educated by Tara Westover

I read this one for my work book club, but the library waitlist was so long that I just bought it. I'm glad I did, because this is a can't-miss memoir. Westover grew up in rural Idaho in a family of Mormon survivalists who didn't believe in government-run education. Her parents claimed she was home-schooled, but in reality, Westover & her siblings received no education whatsoever. Despite her family's unconventional ways, her father's destructive & untreated bipolar disorder, & significant abuse by an older brother, Westover went on to receive her PhD from Cambridge. ★★★★★

American Fire: Love, Arson, & Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse

This is another I listened to on audiobook, which I felt like one long podcast. (I think that's my new favorite way to read nonfiction.) How did this story not make bigger news?! Starting in 2012, someone set more than 60 fires in Accomack County, VA, mostly to abandoned buildings. Local law enforcement did everything within their power to catch the perpetrator(s), but in the meantime, fighting & investigating the fires depleted local resources & plagued residents. ★★★★★

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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.
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