One hashtag. 39 days. 80 miles.

Patience is power.
Like most of my generation, I crave instant gratification. Thanks to technology, our world has become so accustomed to making things happen with the tap of a button. Unfortunately, there are some things in life that even the most advanced smartphone or robot can’t grant immediately, like finding the perfect job or getting over a breakup.

For me, it’s weight loss.

I can’t count how many times I’ve given up on trying to change the number on the scale. I tried eliminating certain foods, going to different fitness classes, tracking what I ate, but I never had the patience to stick with those changes long enough to see the results I wanted.

80.1 miles (that’s roughly three marathons), nearly 14.5 hours and 10,070 calories later, that all changed.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

This past Thanksgiving, I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw an article about the RW Run Streak by the magazine Runner’s World. The streak challenges participants to run at least one mile every day from Thanksgiving until New Years—39 consecutive days. I didn’t have to join anything, register or pay a penny to do it. By using the hashtag #RWRunStreak, I could keep myself accountable and harness motivation and support from the hundreds of other people doing it too. I ran several mornings a week when I was in New York City this past summer, so I was relatively comfortable taking on the challenge. Still—39 days seemed astronomical. And in the winter?!

So later that day, I laced up my tennis shoes, strapped on my iPhone armband and set out to conquer this monster.

SO THIS IS GOING TO TAKE GETTING USED TO…

I’m not going to lie—it was a pain in the butt for the first couple of weeks. But I had already committed by tweeting about it, and giving up was not an option. To keep myself focused and motivated, I used the Runmeter app to track my time, distance and calories and recorded the stats on a calendar in my bedroom. By doing that, my progress became my inspiration. After about 15 days, running became ingrained in my daily routine to the point where I looked forward to it. You know that “runner’s high” thing people talk about? Yeah, it’s real—and it’s the best.

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CAN’T STOP, WON’T STOP

The other obstacles I faced were dealing with inconvenient circumstances and horrible weather conditions. Icy sidewalks and roads, windburn on my face, you name it, I experienced it. I don’t have a gym membership at home, so it was me against Mother Nature. There were a couple of days when it was really bad outside, so I had to suck up the $8 day pass at the rec center in order to hop on a treadmill.
On the other hand, sometimes I had to make it work at super inconvenient times. For example, I met up with friends to study during finals week and would leave them for 15 minutes to go for a run around campus. On New Years Eve, I had 45 minutes to run, shower and get ready for a surprise party. Through it all, I didn’t let anyone or anything extinguish the fire within me.

MAMA, I MADE IT!

For the first time in my life, I finished what I started. And I want to keep going. 39 days later, I’m just now starting to see results and notice a change in my body. But it’s not all physical. I feel mentally stronger and more confident. I’ll probably never reach my true dream body (let’s be realistic here), and that’s fine by me. The biggest takeaway from this experience is that the old phrase rings true: good things do come to those who wait.

So if you’re making a resolution in 2017, work hard, be realistic about your goal and give it time. I know how impossible it is to be patient, but you can do it! If you need someone to count on for support, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Happy New Year, and thanks for reading!

CLEarly Proud

Just inside the door of John’s Diner, the smell of grease, bacon and coffee greets each customer before the seating hostess gets the chance to. If you brought a credit card, you might need to use the ATM at the entrance because they only accept cash payment. Call them old-fashioned.

Behind the traditional diner counter is a circus of servers and cooks rushing to put out the next breakfast order. Here comes a regular; he plops onto a vinyl stool and chats up the waitress as she pours him a hot cup of joe.
I help my grandma into her seat at a blue vinyl booth toward the back of the old boxcar restaurant. In his thick Greek accent, the owner asks us how we are doing, each tired wrinkle on his face lifting to form a sincere smile.
“We’re doing well, thank you,” I say while opening my menu.
For a not-so-glamorous place, the menu boasts a cheap yet diverse array of options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My mom, grandma and I have our breakfast delivered about eight minutes after ordering. It’s hot, too.
I take a break from digging into my strawberry topping-smothered pancakes to observe the owner and two men who must be of a similar age (in their 70s probably). One of them points to a framed faded photo of the Cleveland Indians baseball team.
“That’s the 1909 World Series,” he says.
“Well… I’ll be damned,” the other man whispers almost breathlessly.

I’ve never felt so connected to my roots in Cleveland as I have throughout the past six months. After breakfast that day, my mom took my grandma and I down Arden Avenue in Lakewood (the city in which John’s Diner is located) to see the house where I was raised as a baby. My mom mentioned how the porch, garage and paint job were still holding up rather well; Dad put a lot of money and elbow grease into those projects 23 years ago. Though I don’t remember my days there, I felt this powerful connection as I gazed at the house. My first home.

Next, we drove on I-90 E to downtown Cleveland to pick up some heartworm medication for our puppy Finley. This was the same route I took for my commute to the Cleveland Magazine office over the summer, so some major déjà-vu was brewing inside me. It was a euphoric sense of nostalgia; I recall switching between KISS-FM and Q104 to catch up on the news and celebrity gossip. Elvis Duran made sitting in rush hour traffic so worth it.

I learned more about Cleveland from my internship this summer than I can put into words, but that never would have happened without actually being out and about. When the Cleveland Cavaliers made it to the NBA Finals, ESPN camped out on East 4th Street and reporters from all over the world roamed the streets. Being at the epicenter of something historic is an indescribable feeling, and I’ll never forget the palpable energy that permeated through the whole city.

I attended several Indians games (no shocker there, since I’m a major fan). I chowed down at a new restaurant almost every Monday with the other Cleveland Magazine interns. I immersed myself in every opportunity possible. I even ran my first 5K at the annual Turkey Trot downtown this past Thanksgiving.

While we are criticized for our poor performance in the world of pro sports (go ahead and rip on Manziel for the millionth time), us Clevelanders are proud of our city as a whole. It’s that loyalty and pride that makes up a large part of who we are as individuals. Yeah, we know deep down the Browns won’t make it to the Super Bowl in the near future, no matter how many times the fans say “There’s always next Sunday’s game” or “There’s always next year.” But in the big picture of things, Cleveland is so much more than sports. We are a city rich in history, loaded with passion and dripping with pride. I wouldn’t trade my Cleveland roots for anything.

A Furry Farewell

IMG_7258With the spirit of a puppy trapped in her aging body, Reilly was a dog unlike any other. She had a special way of putting a contagious smile on the faces of neighbors, friends, relatives, and even made fast friends with the other neighborhood dogs. Between eating two bags of Hershey kisses (with the foil), remnants of a turkey carcass, a box of Clif Bars, packs of gum, and even cinnamon-scented Christmas ornaments, her stomach of steel could handle just about anything. The only thing stronger than her digestive system was her tail– it wagged nonstop, up until today when she slipped into an eternal, peaceful sleep.
Reilly’s health had been going downhill for quite a while; she endured cancer, two torn ACLs, tumors/cysts growing underneath her skin, allergies and a narrowing trachea. The past few days, she couldn’t catch her breath and could barely stand for longer than about 15 seconds. As heart-wrenching as it was to admit, putting Reilly to sleep was the only right way to put an end to her suffering.
After leaving the Cleveland Magazine office in tears, I met up with Mom, Dad and Hayley at the animal clinic this morning. In the parking lot, Reilly looked up at me, tail wagging, and sweet, brown eyes shining. My heart instantly shattered into a million pieces. It felt as if tiny shards of glass were desperately trying to pierce into the reality of what was about to follow.
The vet technician guided the four of us into a tiny exam room with a soft floral blanket on the floor. Poor Reilly was too worked up to settle down, yet she looked happy as a clam. That’s what made it so difficult.
Once the vet explained that this was the best option and we decided to go through with it, everything happened so fast. Mom, Dad, Hayley and I held down Reilly and fed her treats as the vet slipped the needle into her back left leg.
In one blurred moment, Reilly went from quickly gobbling up treats, to drifting in slow-mo to the floor. After about 10 seconds, reality struck.
“Yeah, she’s gone,” the vet murmured.
I didn’t hold back a single tear. The sobs came harder as I rested my head on Reilly’s motionless body. I hugged her with more love in my heart than I ever had before. In a
shaky voice, I whispered in her soft, golden ear. I stroked her silky fur, just taking in all of her beauty, reminiscing on the good times we shared. While it was sad beyond words to experience that today, I’m grateful that I was able to say goodbye before heading back to college, grateful that she passed in the most peaceful way possible, and grateful for her unforgettable and unconditional love she gave to us for nearly 13 years.
No one else could ever replace the permanent pawprint that Reilly has left on my heart.
Rest in peace, old girl. I miss you already.

 

Under Construction

No, I’m not talking about the parade of neon orange cones and barrels that seem to never end on the freeway these days. I’m not talking about the West 25th Street exit that’s finally open on I-90 E.

I’m talking about me.

It may sound silly, but it’s true. When I came home for the summer, I realized how truly unhappy I have been with myself for years. Since my elementary school days, it’s been a vicious cycle of trying to achieve perfection in everything. No matter how hard I push myself to make the outcome perfect, it backfires more often than not. The next step is to flood my mind with negative thoughts, punishing myself for failing to reach the ridiculously high standards I set.

This summer, I made a promise to myself to put an end to that cycle. There was only one way that was going to happen though, and it started with something most of Generation Y can’t fathom—giving up social media.

Yes, I know I’m crazy for doing so. But you know what else is crazy? How obsessed we have become with how many “likes” we get on our Instagrams (only 59? Why not 60?), how many followers or Retweets we boast on Twitter, how many people match with us on Tinder, and even how many people write “happy birthday!” on our Facebook wall. Tease all you want, but you know it’s true. And you know what? For someone to rely on social media to determine how much value they hold—on the inside and the outside—it’s not healthy, and it takes away from any self-esteem that is there.

My body has been my biggest enemy, above anything else. For me, it’s always been about trying to lose enough weight to fit into the same clothes as my sisters (they swap closets all the time); I would get jealous and comparative. Once I sought help, I realized that focusing on fitting into a specific size or number was setting me up for failure. Instead, I recently started focusing on becoming the healthiest I can be; so, I invested in a membership at the rec center (the price has motivated me to get my money’s worth). I don’t really care if I’m late to the “get your beach body” game, because what matters is I made that first step in the right direction. And frankly, it’s going great! Since I stopped obsessing over measuring my progress, I’ve actually gotten rid of some weight. I say “getting rid of” and not “losing” because I have no intention of “finding” it again. The secret is, you can’t expect to see a change if you don’t make one.

So for now, my confidence, self-image and path to happiness are under construction. A project like this requires a super strong foundation, and that means shutting down the tempting pressure of comparison on social media.

Believe me, this process has been the hardest one I’ve had to go through in my entire life. Some friends agree that this “cyber cleanse” is a good idea, and others make fun of me for it (which can sting, I admit). But if it means not having eating disorder-related thoughts, picking out every imperfection on my body when I stand in the mirror, or trying to please everyone, then that’s worth more to me than missing out on what’s trending on Twitter or clicking through a Snapchat story that—well, do you really care about which girl has the better duck face for five seconds?

Stranded in a sea of technology

One minute, I was mindlessly staring out the window at the rolling hills of Pennsylvania blurring by, and the next minute I started rummaging through my black purse. Between the pockets that held a tube of red lipstick, a dented pack of Trident spearmint gum and a few crumpled receipts, I pulled out my earbuds. Check. Behind the other side of the divider, I reached into emptiness, expecting to find the 4″ rectangular box that contained my life– my iPhone. That’s impossible, I thought. I unplugged it on the kitchen counter before I left… right? Nope. I searched everywhere around me, but it was nowhere to be found. It was for sure still charging where I left it; the futile image seared into my mind as I sat there, unable to do anything about it. A whole weekend without my phone. Without social media or texting. And to top it all off, it was one of the most exciting weekends of the year: my sister Hannah graduating from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. How did I let that happen? How did I not double check? Much to the surprise of Generation Y… I survived. Yes, people, I didn’t die from deprivation. I guess you could say it was definitely a wake up call. It’s in a way saddening to see how much people let their phones dominate every aspect of their life. While everyone else played games on their apps around me, waiting for graduation to start, I sat there studying the endless columns of names in the program. I spotted only a few digital cameras while observing the flurry of smartphones snapping every photo op. I couldn’t possibly express in words how eye-opening of an experience it was, being iPhone-less. If anything, living in an era where capturing the moment with technology takes precedent, it made me appreciate the value of living in the moment. There’s something about soaking up every second possible, knowing you won’t be able to relive it, no matter how many times you re-watch the Snapchat videos or stare at the pictures. I had one chance to watch Hannah walk in her blue cap and gown across that stage with her head held high, sporting her 1,000 watt smile from ear to ear. My other sister Hayley had her attention and phone focused on the jumbotron above while my mom and dad took video and pictures of Hannah onstage. It felt good to sit there and take it all in.  I challenge you to do that this week. For just one hour for at least one day, turn off your phone, and take it all in. Whether you do it in the morning, at lunchtime or in the evening, unplug yourself from the tech world for 60 minutes. If I can make it through two and a half DAYS without using my iPhone, I promise you can do it too. After missing seven Facebook notifications, 13 Snapchats, 28 e-mails and 44 text messages… I survived. Some call it a miracle. I call it a learning experience. IMG_3236

This is what I wished for on my birthday…

Between presents, cake and ice cream, decorations and more, what’s not to love about a birthday? As a little girl, I can remember looking forward to picking out a new place to celebrate– from the somewhat dingy bowling alley to the local nail salon– with my friends (who received some of the cheesiest invitations, might I add). Man, those class birthday parties were the best, too! The nostalgia is real, my friends.
Most children are too young to realize the true value of this innocent yet significant occasion, which is the way it’s supposed to be. What’s funny is how extreme people get when it comes to their birthday; it’s almost comical to me. Remember how on MTV’s “My Super Sweet Sixteen” just about every pretentious girl found something wrong with her excessively exquisite bash? To bring it down to a more realistic level, there’s always someone who complains about having to go to work on their birthday, or having homework/an exam to do on their birthday, or even complaining about something as small as the weather. There’s plenty more examples, but you probably get the gist. This year on my 20th birthday, I’ve realized how distorted the true meaning behind a birthday has become.
Birthdays serve as our primary reminder that life is to be celebrated. Life: as in having the blessed opportunity to breathe in and out each and every day. This world can be filled with such tragedy and grief sometimes when we lose a loved one, massive numbers of fallen troops overseas, victims who have lost their lives in homicide, you name it. We turn a blind eye and say, “Oh that wouldn’t happen to me or anyone I know.” And we are so, so wrong– not for saying that, but for taking for granted the day that awaits us when we wake up each morning. Birthdays remind us that we have been blessed to spend another year on this amazing earth. And when it’s time to celebrate, let us recognize and celebrate who and what makes our lives worth living. I value the family, friends, education, shelter, clothes, and food I have been graced with, just to name a few. Believe it or not, gifts don’t always come in pretty patterned wrapping paper and gift bags, carefully garnished with bright bows. This year, I’m all about focusing on the other kind.

No, I’m not going to dispute that I will be going out tonight to celebrate the big 2-0 with all my friends here at OU. Yes, I am a college kid, so you can put two and two together. But at the end of the day, I want to focus on what matters most in my life.

And in case you were wondering… of course I’m not revealing what I really wished for. Hint hint: it may or may not involve the Cleveland Indians and a record-breaking winning season.

As always, thanks for reading! Any feedback is appreciated and encouraged 🙂

My sister Hannah added me last minute to the DQ cake she bought for my other sister, Hayley, this weekend (her birthday was April 3)!
My sister Hannah added me last minute to the DQ cake she bought for my other sister, Hayley, this weekend (her birthday was April 3)!

From stressed to blessed: 7 tricks to make you instantly happier today!

To say us college students are busy people would be the biggest understatement. Actually, let’s be real…  all adults lead chaotic, stressful lives. However, for us college students, we are just hitting the tip of the iceberg when it comes to responsibilities and obligations of all sorts (finances, eventually maintaining a family, etc.). Our priorities aren’t exactly always as straight as a ruler when it comes to the temptation of watching Netflix over starting that midterm paper, skipping class over sitting through that hipster professor’s boring lecture, yada yada. I’m in the seat right next to you guys on the struggle bus.

While I can’t exactly eradicate all your stress, I do have a few easy tricks to making you feel instantly happier, which will help you recharge your mindset and attitude in a positive way, guaranteed. Seriously, they’re so easy and most of them won’t cost you a dime!

Do a social media/technology sweep.
I did this right after New Years, and it felt amazing. Go through your Facebook friend list (do you really need any more Candy Crush requests from that kid you used to sit next to in geometry?), the Twitter and Instagram accounts you follow, all that stuff. Also, delete any contacts in your phone you don’t need anymore. This, along with unnecessary texts from weeks ago, call logs, old voicemails, etc. will free up a TON of phone space!

Follow the news.
True, I may be a bit biased considering I am a journalism major. But still! If you want to be treated like the adult citizen you are, at least follow a few of the major (and/or local) news networks on Twitter or something. Or, turn on a news channel while you’re getting ready in the morning. There’s no excuse for not being informed on what’s going on around you!

Record the best part of your day.
I like to do this right before I go to bed. Even though not every single day is going to be an all-out adventure, it’s entertaining to look back on these things at the end of each month/year. Plus, it makes for great stories.

Send out cards or letters to loved ones.
Sorry, I lied… this is the only thing on the list that might cost you a few dollars– but it’s worth it! Actions speak louder than words, and it really impresses family and friends when you take the small effort to show them you care. Despite being in this digital age, everyone loves getting cards in the mail. There doesn’t have to be an occasion, but you’d be surprised at the great card selection CVS has. I dare you not to feel warm and fuzzy after!

Call your distant family and friends.
Hey, did you know you can use that iPhone to hear someone else’s voice? If you really don’t want to cough up a couple bucks for sending a card or letter, you should at least give that person a call. I didn’t realize how much the older folks enjoy hearing about my college experiences until a week ago when I phoned my grandma and then my great aunt just to say hello. It made my day knowing I made their day.

Make the most of your resources… seriously!
Before you roll your eyes at probably the most common tip given in college, hear me out. In the midst of my sophomore year, internship searching season is nearing its end and OU is almost halfway through the semester. In other words: continuing to slack off lets others get ahead! Instead of groaning about my new randomly assigned academic advisor, I made an appointment to go and get to know her. Guess what? I came out of her office with the contact information for a handful of big-time magazine editors in NYC. Go to the office hours of your professors if you aren’t following those difficult homework problems. After all, these people are getting paid to help you! Take advantage of every resource, because you deserve nothing short of success.

Thank your friends. 
I’m not talking about uttering just those two simple words and that’s it. In college, we all go through some really rough stuff, often too rough to conquer on our own. Find your true blue friends, the ones who would drop whatever they were doing to come to your rescue, and tell them how much you appreciate their support. And let them know that you are always there for them when they need it the most.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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