Poem-ish: XOXO Best Summer Ever!

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Toasting a marshmallow for a s’more is stressful if you think about it too hard.

Like flipping over the grilled cheese before it’s melty or flipping over the omelet ever.

Like tip toeing across a parking block on your way to the beach.

If you think about what you’re doing for even one second, you’re doomed.

Don’t slow down.

Don’t look.

Don’t burn the damn thing.

Summer’s all physical. Muscle memory discerned from decades now of practice.

Pushing a mallow onto a stick feels as familiar as rolling off a wet swimsuit, a chlorine condom.

A little resistance that’s only slightly uncomfortable. But necessary.

Off to bed with no supper and a thousand salty-sweet licks from the sun.

Golden brown on the outside, with just a little crunch. You must respect the heat and know the exact moment to remove the softness from the jumpy flames.

You must know how it feels when the mallow melts in a tempestuous but subtle shift. Your full attention is required.

Walking home I see a bird pecking at a worm. Which one is shriveling and squirming its murderous way through the mulch depends on how you look at it.

The bird is just hungry.

Don’t slow down.

Don’t look.

Don’t let the damn thing get away.

Blog-ish: Cleveland FTW

MOST YOUNG KINGS GET THEIR HEAD CUT OFF: Jay-Z on Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Charles The First.
MOST YOUNG KINGS GET THEIR HEAD CUT OFF: Jay-Z on Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Charles The First.

I generally think professional sports fandom is kind of dumb.

Not stupid.

Just kind of dumb.

There’s a difference.

My watching of every Pretty Little Liars episode is kind of dumb.

My old flame for Perez Hilton (dot com… circa 2009) is stupid.

Sportz! I don’t understand why people care about it all so much. It’s not like those players come from the town they play for.

So do they really represent your people or your city or state? Your struggle?

They’re just the outward-facing arm of huge corporations taking your money based on selling you a dream that isn’t yours to have. And sometimes they hide terrible truths so you keep cheering and filling the stands and buying $7 hot dogs.

Maybe I’m just jaded.

I’m maybe definitely jaded.

But justifiably so, right?

Have we not learned you can’t really trust your heroes? They’re desperately human too. Tiger. OJ. Cosby. Clinton. Clinton. Jackson. Martha. Etc.

But I just watched LeBron and the Cavs break a 52-year championship losing streak for a city in my home state. The sultan of scoring has dribbled his sport’s silly little way into this cold, listless heart.

I believe(land)!

The best part of this story is that he was a Northeast Ohio boy. Born and raised and prodigal sonned. It doesn’t get much better or relatable than that.

However, I think my favorite part about sports is how reliant they are on structure and time.

There are rules and penalties for breaking them.

It doesn’t matter how hard you played or how far you came back or what you scored.

If your number isn’t higher by the time we get to zero, you lose.

The answer is clear.

Man, in today’s ambiguous world, that shot clock’s exactingness is some straight up poetry.

Everything changes.

Even in Cleveland.

Inspo: Fishy marketing, Alaskan Tapes, and Juice-y storytelling

Sink Swim Chicago

Marketing a fish restaurant would be so fun! There’s so much you could do with it. Sink Swim’s take reels me in. Sophisticated but cheeky. Love it — and that little sailor hat logo. The chef is a Kent State grad, too, which means we used to swim in the same school? Eh?

Sink Swim Chef Sink Swim home Sink Swim welcome

Alaskan Tapes

This Ontario band has been my jam lately when I need to not jam. Ambient and chill as a creek in a long-forgotten woods, Alaskan Tapes’s music has been perfect lately when I need to calm down and focus… or calm down and zone out. DON’T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN.

calm down

I found this song, through Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, which updates, you guessed it, once a week. Spotify curates the list well. It’s on point for delivering deep cuts for genre surfers like me. It’s like someone picking the best of every city’s local scene and putting it on a playlist for you. Every week. I can dig it.

“OJ: Made in America”

Oh my gawd. Have you been watching this? Get to it. Stat.

“OJ: Made in America” is a five-part series on ESPN about OJ Simpson’s career and absolutely unprecedented historic crash and burn.

It is incredible just in terms of the way the documentary delivers his pre-trial and juxtaposes his denial of his race at a time and in a place where racism was literally making things explode. This is outstanding storytelling.

OJ’s life hits on everything that is still relevant today.

Systemic and soul crushing racism.

Domestic violence that turns into murder.

Class privilege.

Self denial.

Phony celebrity.

Athletic entitlement and hero worship.

It’s disheartening how similar many of these cases of racism and power privilege are to ones we’ve seen in recent years.

This series asks viewers to consider transcending your Otherness and how best to do that or if it’s even possible. Do you fight for the cause, for your people, for yourself? Or do you ignore it in an attempt to have everyone else, including those who are oppressing your and your people, ignore your Otherness too?

It’s important to fully understand what was happening around this case. I still have to finish the series, but I’ve been most surprised at how big of a star, renowned by the media for his “character,” OJ was (as a ‘90s kid, he has always been that OJ) AND how little I actually know about the specifics of the racial horrors happening at the time and the murder victims of this case.

I also hope this documentary sheds a little light on why women stay in domestic violence situations, what it can lead to, how abusers so often dupe outsiders, and how other women perpetuate the problem (his first wife, who is probably righteously angry at Nicole, brushes his violence off in an interview snidely, that it’s something she’d never let happen to her…).




List: 10 important things I learned from my dad

Happy (belated) day to the man who always knows where to find the farm kittens and who taught me the value of vanilla.
Happy (belated) day to the man who always knows where to find the farm kittens and who taught me the value of vanilla.

Eat breakfast every morning.

A good farm pun never hurt no bunny.

Cows love being rubbed under their necks. 

Owls say more than who.

That’s a woodpecker I hear while I wait for the school bus.

Mashed potatoes and squash from the garden need only a little bit of butter and salt. They’re best enjoyed at dusk while the crickets sing and a rickety old box fan hums along.

You can’t dilute the whiskey bottle in hopes that your dad will never find out someone else drank most of it. Watered down whiskey tastes like watered down whiskey, even to a teetotaler.

We all believe in the things we do for a reason. Coping answers to many names, faiths and ideas.

Work hard. It makes you respect yourself. And sometimes your work ethic and your discipline are the only things you can control.

Simple people are too often overlooked. Vanilla ice cream can reveal life’s most complex secrets.

Essay-ish: Gay clubs were my place of healing after trauma

I started going to gay clubs my freshman year in college. My best friend’s older brother was gay and we would tag along with fake IDs or we’d sneak a flask for the drive to Akron or Cleveland. We always sat in the backseat. Younger siblings trying to play with the big boys.

At the time, I had experienced one too many foggy nights with questionable outcomes. There were experiences that ached with grayness; heavy and important but I couldn’t face them yet. Where being a victim and being accountable for my actions intersected wasn’t something I would delineate for years.

But I did know this: The disrespect toward women at some college parties was palpable. And I was stunned that it wasn’t more progressive at college than it had felt in my hometown (or I just hadn’t found the progressive spaces yet).

There was a rage unraveling inside me about how women were treated unfairly, the ways we were taught different things from boys, how often we were relegated to object status. I was acutely aware of how we spoke of girls and boys differently. How we expected different things of them. That a little girl who was flirty was “going to be trouble” but the outgoing little boy was a “ladies’ man.” Girls were sluts. We were so frequently debased to one aspect of ourselves.

So I began to remove myself physically from these places. As a heterosexual woman deeply wounded by the effects of subtle and overt misogyny, gay bars offered me a respite. I know it was nothing compared to the sanctuary these spaces offer the members of the LGBT community, but these bars became a place for me to feel safe out in the world again.

A place where I could feel like my body was my own, dancing or drinking or just hanging out, with no fear of being touched without being asked or hit on or offered up as a target (gay men didn’t want to touch me unless it was to dip me in a faux waltz and lesbians seemed to be able to tell pretty quickly that I was not swinging for their softball team).

Members of the LGBT community, at these clubs and bars, respected me for who I was as a whole person. I sensed that they too knew what it was like to feel devalued to one, singular aspect of themselves. I never felt judged for anything other than my terribly thrown together outfits. It was exactly what I needed at the time. A safe space. A place to heal. A way to feel accepted without hiding.

I began to feel protective of these places.

I would get angry at straight bachelorette parties that would come in like it was some kind of freak show. How insulting to celebrate something most of the people at this club couldn’t do in the only place where some of those people felt safe enough to kiss the person they loved.

These women would take their shots and giggle at the man in a wig and go back home to get married in a church that says those human beings they surrounded themselves with the night before are damned to hell. Or a church that let child rapists get away with it.

A lot of those wounds in me have healed and the outrageous anger that accompanied them have become reference points for productive discussion about change. I recognize how nuanced so many of these situations and people’s belief systems are, but I feel that fierce desire to protect this community returning — always, but especially now.

Because the Orlando victims were innocent human beings killed because of hate. But for very personal reasons, too.

The Orlando shooting feels like someone came in and tried to burn down something in my heart that was the foundation for a recovery that made me feel happy and peaceful again. It feels like a hand trying to push me back down.

I am furious someone did this to people I consider part of my soul tribe. I am furious that there are 49 less people on this planet who would fight for what I believe in: love, respect, equality. I am furious that someone took advantage of our country’s freedom and the bumpy attempts to get human rights right once and for all.

I am furious that someone used religion and sexuality and a gun to make all of us feel fearful and small again, even if just for a moment. Worthless. Damned.

Story: How do we handle scandals with hurt women in them differently?

Donna, we’re like so proud of you for being cool about Alex being gay. I mean. Wow.

Yeah, that couldn’t have been easy. How did you even find out? Have you told the kids?

I’m not sure if they will get it yet. They’re young. They just care about the fact that daddy isn’t living at home anymore.

How are your parents handling it?

About as well as expected. Daddy said the church board called a meeting to talk about it but I don’t think he went. I think they all should back off. Most of them are divorced too.

Yes, but their spouses weren’t gay.


What? It’s true.

It’s OK. That’s fair. We hadn’t had sex in years. I should have known.

Well, if that’s true, Michael is gay too.


You’re so bad.

<wine glasses clink>

Seriously, though, so proud of you for supporting him on his new journey and not being mad he cheated on you. You’re so strong for standing by his side. And he is so brave for following his heart. I’m glad I’m your friend. We’re such good people.

Yes. We are.

So who are you smart ladies voting for this election?

Anyone up for Hillary?



Are you joking, Susan?

She couldn’t even keep her scoundrel of a man in line at home, how the hell can she run a country?

<wine glasses clink, hooves high five>

Inspo: Summer Goal List

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Career: Finish the first quarter of my next book

OK this is the most ambitious one, just because writing can be so tempestuous. Perhaps I write what is meant to be the first quarter and it’s total shit. Then what? Do I not scrap it because I wrote this list one day and now have a bloated sense of duty toward it? Or do I scrap it and bear it with a smile, faithful that this was just a study in getting the crappy part out first, like pushing the hardened chunks from the toothpaste tube to get to the juicy stuff? The latter, Mantey! Making this a goal will force continual writing to be part of my routine, even if it blows on take one.

Health: Run four times a week

So my goal when I moved to Chicago was to quit smoking and hot damn I’ve done it. Except I definitely hit a few when I was back in Columbus last time. Mmm. It’s not addiction I need to break. It’s habit. But that’s fine. I’m proud I have resisted in Chi, my willpower undoubtedly boosted by the fact that they’re outrageously expensive in the city. Also helping? I’m running regularly. Look at this view. How could I not? I don’t track myself or time myself. As long as I wake up and do it, I’ve won.

Chi town view

Wealth: Grocery shop regularly

Oh, baby, I’m so bad at this. I hate grocery shopping. It’s the worst. I get anxious spending a bunch of money at once, even though it’s saving me money in the long run. I get overwhelmed by all the options. I get angry at the people also shopping and getting in my way, even though duh, they have to eat too and that is, like, the most silly of first world problems. This summer I vow to have a plan of attack before I go to the store, which will happen every Saturday (experts of good-life living say picking a regular time to do the things will make the things happen). Having a plan will help me buy just what I need and not too much that I end up wasting, which also stresses me out. Can’t a girl just eat without going into a mental tailspin? THIS SUMMER SHE CAN!

Heart: Eat lunch outside on the harbor at least once a week

I’m not good at making time for myself, giving myself room to breathe. During work hours, it’s particularly difficult for me to step away. Working from home has made it even harder, which I expected and planned for, but not being in the office available to my colleagues physically makes me feel even more obligation to be available 24/7 technologically. A once a work week break to enjoy Chicago in the summer is a good first step to for creating space for myself during my nine to five.

Head: Visit three Chicago museums

1 – The Field Museum

2 – The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

3 – The Chicago History Museum

Yay, summer!

Essay-ish: I’m a feminist that hates the term Mansplain. Here’s why.

1) It immediately shuts down the conversation.

How to deal: Point out why a tone or approach is making you feel defensive. Listen, we’re not going to get through this together unless we can communicate in a way that is unafraid of sticking around through the sticky parts. Being respectful to someone you’re arguing with is how we teach each other change and learn from each other. At the very least, it’s how we compromise and not blow this whole thing to the ground. There’s something about arguing about things online that have made us immune to the healing powers of conversation. It’s just a bunch of animals beating their chests.

2) It assumes ill intent.

How to deal: It’s OK to attack if you are being attacked, but in a lot of “Mansplain” situations I’ve seen, I think the dude didn’t know he was acting in a way that made the woman feel talked down to. Men often Mansplain to each other; this is how we (general, societal we) have taught them to talk man to man. They are taught to be confident in what they think they know. Women are so sensitive to Mansplaining because we are so painfully taught the opposite — our faces and bodies are not perfect, we’re bad at math, we need to be nice, we should question what we feel and think, etc. Maybe the other person doesn’t realize how he’s coming across. Coming into a situation with an understanding of why he might be talking that way and offering a different way to discuss something will lead to better results than just calling him a Mansplainer. Because that’s not dropping the mic, that’s being a child.

3) It’s as equally condescending as the action it’s trying to call out.

How to deal: Remember the integrity of your own convictions. I’ve been called a slut, bitch, cunt, etc. and all of those words have been used to demean me to one element of my personhood. That’s what Mansplain does. It corners them into their gender. Part of me thinks that’s hilariously validating. “But, ugh, that’s so unfair and not what is happening!” YES. WELCOME TO THE CLUB, STRAIGHT WHITE MALE. But… this wonderful feeling of gender justice doesn’t really do any good long term. Men are not the enemy, the lack of respect is. Gender is not an excuse to act like an asshole and calling someone a Mansplainer gives assholes an easy reason to not listen to you anymore. Feminism’s goal is to eliminate these gender biases and differences that happen so young; we want to even the playing field so that Mansplaining doesn’t happen anymore. How can you make something better if you just resort to the same tactics that are causing the problem in the first place?

4) It takes attention away from the real issue.

How to deal: Bring up the real issue. OK, the term Mansplain comes from a genuine place of outrage. We don’t feel listened to as women — because a lot of times we’re not. This article on HuffPo is excellent and its title (clickbaityness not withstanding) says it all, “Men Just Don’t Trust Women And It’s A Huge Problem.” Just look anywhere. From the headlines (Bill Cosby’s victims didn’t come forward because they knew they wouldn’t be taken seriously; any article ever about Hilary Clinton) to pop culture (women are drama queens not to be believed, just ask “Pretty Little Liars,” “Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23,” “Real Housewives”). Women feel misunderstood and made to be one-dimensional. But here’s the thing. It’s time to evolve past Mansplain. It put a word on a real sense of dismissal that is rooted in gender relations. And that’s fine! We need to work through those things and words help us put our fingers on what the issues are. But now it’s just a term befitting a playground bully. I think a better way to fight back is to keep crushing it with your own knowledge, opinions and arguments. Heads up, sisters. Not fists.

Inspo: Burnham, Ali and Dillard

Calling out Faux Country

Bo Burnham’s new special “Make Happy” is on Netflix and it’s great and smart and catchy, as expected. His bit about stadium country music is my favorite.

“Why is it when Bruce Springsteen sings about a fucking turnpike it’s art, and then when someone sings about a horse, it’s dumb inherently? … But stadium country music, a Keith Urban brand of country music, it is not honest. It is the exact opposite of honest.”

Another sticks-to-your-ribs quote from this bit: “If you’re writing honestly, that is art.”

This song kind of reminds me of a hilariously absurd take on “country music” by “Bob & David,” also ready for a meaty Netflix binge.

The Greatest

RIP Ali. PBS’ show “In Their Own Words” did an episode about Muhammad Ali last fall and it’s totally worth a watch in memoriam. He is a legend of freedom and self love (a legacy made especially powerful by the fact that his confidence, conviction and unwavering independence were so very radical at the time). Full episode here.

“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.” Ali

Annie Dillard

Oh, how I love how dark Dillard can go — swift, sharp and as subtle as a moth. But the chunk of her writing that I’ve been particularly helped by this week is one about starting over on a piece you’ve spent a lot of time on… You can gut-feel when it needs to go (and sometimes you literally have someone telling you to start over), the question is are you brave enough to tear it up. “Are you a woman, or a mouse?”


Story: Quiz — What Quiz Are You?

Distract yourself with another Pavlovian-style quiz that subliminally makes you feel like things are within your control!  Add together the numbers of your responses to find your result. Can’t add? That’s what your smartphone is for, silly.

1. Under which rock would you prefer to live?

1 – Fraggle

2 – School House

3 – Rosetta Stone

4 – A 1992 Chevy truck

2. Which bumper sticker do you scoff at most frequently?

1 – 26.2


3 – The family stick figures but they did something that they thought was really clever with it, like made the stupid stick baby ride the stupid stick dog.

4 – None. I don’t see color.

3. You think you’re really special don’t you?

4. If you had to eat one condiment for the rest of your life because a zombie apocalpyse happened after all those planes that went missing reappeared and they came back as flesh-eating aliens that made zoo gorillas their masters, which would it be?

1 – Mustard

2 – Hot sauce (But don’t you the fuck dare try carrying that in your bag if you’re white and running for president, OK?)

3 – Mayo

4 – Sriracha

5. Which Donald Trump pun would you fire?

1 – Make America Steak Again

2 – “I got my degree from Trump U! My MRS degree!”

3 – Hispanic = His panic! Heyo!

4 – You’re liar-ed.

6. Where is dog hair most likely to land on your person?

1 – Arm

2 – Leg

3 – Face

4 – Back


1-5 = Which hashtag should you marry?

OMG picking out a wedding hashtag would be SO easy.

6-13 = What day of the week should you have been conceived on?

Yeah, like if your parents actually cared about you.

14-20 = If we lived in a parallel universe where things were fair and just, which celebrity would you be?

Living or dead!