Food & Travel category

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ABOUT ME

Hi!
My name is Courtney

Just a twenty-two year old trying to figure out what makes me happiest in life, starting with this blog. What about you?

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INSPIRATION

Inspiration category

All of my favorite resources for finding purpose.

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Food & Travel

Destination Coffee: Winans Chocolate + Coffee + Wine

By recommendation from a friend at work, Lucia and I decided to make Winans our next stop in downtown Columbus. Can we take just one second to appreciate the name of this place… it literally has everything you could ever need in life. Pure marketing genius. Let me tell you, the spot itself exceeded the expectations the name plants in your head.

This is just a snippet of the interior. The other half of the space is set up with a wine bar & completely different aesthetic!

Courtney’s Order: Raspberry Truffle Mocha. Sour Candy Hearts, Sea Salt Caramel Chocolates, Peppermint Bark & 4 Pack of Truffles (peanut butter smidgen, coconut haystack, crunchy peanut butter cup & cookie dough).

  • coffee: A+ . I was really afraid that this would be too sweet or syrupy but it was done perfectly. It had a smoked flavor to it with a light aftertaste of raspberry. Ugh, I want another one now.
  • food: A+ . The chocolates are out of this world.
  • aesthetic (coffee): B . They are all made in to go cups, but they are still cute!
  • aesthetic (interior): A+ . They did such an incredible job of combining the two atmospheres surrounding both a cafe and a wine bar. The scene changes from a light and airy space to a darker and more serene setting on the second half. They transition in such a flawless way though, not awkward at all, instead intriguing and beautiful!

Lucia’s Order: Raspberry Truffle Mocha. Malted Milk Balls, Peanut Bar, Milk Chocolate “LOVE” Bar, Unbearably Hot Cinnamon Gummies.

  • coffee: A+ . Honestly, one of my favorites. It was made with half and half, which gives it more of a hot chocolate-like consistency.
  • food: A+ . If you’re looking for Valentine’s Day gifts still, this is the ultimate destination. May or may not have spent over $20 on chocolate but it is soo worth it.
  • aesthetic (coffee): B . Nothing special about the design but nothing disappointing about it either!
  • aesthetic (interior): A+ . Favorite interior thus far! So pleasing and unique. The interior feels large and small at the same time, giving feelings of both comfort and relaxation in just the right proportions.
Sea Salt Caramels!

If you’re ever in the downtown Columbus area, this stop is a must. Everyone there was incredibly nice and didn’t rush us at all, even though we both took about twenty minutes to gather all of our chocolates and decide on which drink (they all sounded unbelievable, it’s not our fault). They also offer specialty coffee beans for sale! Snickerdoodle, blueberry and so many more flavors are available. If you go in the afternoon, might as well stick around for happy hour (which starts at 4) and get a couple dollars off of some glasses of wine! Again, coffee + chocolate + wine… need I say more?

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Lifestyle

Valentine’s Day 2019

Although Valentine’s Day is widely recognized as only a “Hallmark Holiday”, it is still one of my favorites. Not only is everything a shade of my favorite color, pink (I know, typical girl, gag) but it’s also taking an entire day to just appreciate the people you love. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s never the gift itself that matters. It’s the quality of the meaning behind the gift that speaks far beyond the physical quality.

Now that we’ve covered the sentimental aspect, let’s cut to the good stuff… shopping (insert little smiling devil emoji here). This year I went to the one and only place that can take all of my money, without me knowing it and without me being upset about it. The culprit is someone we all know and love. The place where space, time and money have no true meaning. Any guesses?

Yup.

You would be correct.

Hello, my dear friend/enemy/true love, Target.

If you are looking for a one stop shop for Valentine’s Day, this is truly it. Not only does their discount section have everything you could possibly need, but their candy section is insaaneeely amazing.

This year, I decided I wanted to not only send cards out, but I wanted to spice it up a bit and add some candy or goodies as well. If you’re thinking about mailing a card out, here are some tips to add a little something extra!

  • Think flat: although this seems obvious, it’s really easy to get carried away with items that are bulkier than you may have thought.
  • Shortcut list of flat items: single tea bags, small valentines, sticker sheets, enclosed candy (I chose fun dip & Haribo gummy bear packs), polaroid or regular photos.
  • To add a little pizazz: Scour the discount section at the front of Target, there are so many cute options!!! I landed on small heart confetti (sorry to anyone receiving my cards, I know you’ll hate me for getting it everywhere but look how freaking cute it is!). Something that may be a little less messy would be petals of flowers, which would come with the bonus of a fresh scent when opened! Or you could pull an Elle Woods and spray a fresh scent on the card before you seal it up. No regrets.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not mail anything chocolate in a card!!! Let me tell you, this seems like a staple but I promise you will pick up at least one bag of chocolate and have to deeply contemplate why this feels wrong. Trust your gut. It’s wrong. It will melt and inevitably be even messier than the cute confetti you’re blessing your friends/family/loved ones with.

Here are some things I came up with, all found in one sitting at Target!

See, look how cute the little heart shaped confetti is!! Told you. You thought I was lying.
These little scratch offs decide whether or not the receiver is your galentine (there are losers, so look out!)
There are so many sticker options… So. Many.
My personal favorite are the puff stickers! Use them to decorate the card or send a sheet to let the person receiving them have a little fun!
Last, but definitely not least, is the candy. I tried to pick one thing everyone usually enjoys and one thing that was a bit of a throwback!

I’ll give you a quick breakdown of my purchases so you can decide for yourself if it’s worth it!

  • Heart Cards (6 pack) : $5.99
  • Sticker Sheets : $1
  • Heart Confetti: $1
  • Fun Dip (24 ct) : $3.49
  • Haribo Gummies (25 ct) : $3.49

That about sums up my Valentine spending this year! Sorry for the huge spoiler alert to anyone getting a card from me in the upcoming weeks!! Hope this is a good reminder that it doesn’t take much to reach out to someone you love on this holiday. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Destination Coffee: Columbus Edition

Coffee has been a long time love of mine. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without it. My biggest inspiration in this category is hands down my nana. Although my entire family is pretty impressive when it comes to caffeine consumption, this outstanding woman can drink a whole pot of coffee and then go straight to bed. I’m pretty sure she ends every meal, conversation or just general gathering of any type of audience, with the phrase “should I put a pot of coffee on?”. I love it. I strive to be on her level.

If you don’t already know, I am currently located in Columbus, Ohio. As a fast growing city it is definitely not lacking in fresh finds in the caffeine department. I realized that for the entire month of October, I spent five dollars every day at Starbucks getting the same. exact. drink. Every day. Grande pumpkin chai latte with skim milk, please! I know, I just lost all of my street cred from true coffee fans. Don’t give up on me yet, I promise I realize how wrong my ways have been…

I decided it was time to explore the underground coffee scene that this city had to offer. To be completely honest, these places aren’t really underground at all but that sounds so much cooler, right? Naturally, I forced my roommate and one of my best friends, Lucia, to join me on this mission (huge shoutout to Lucia, this definitely wasn’t the first time I had volunteered her for a task she’d never signed up for). We’re still on an active hunt for the best coffee in Columbus. However, we’ve found it very, very difficult so far, seeing as every single one of the cafe’s we’ve been to has been so incredible in their own unique way.

Okay, let me stop babbling and let’s talk coffee! Below you will find the ratings (on a very official letter grading scale) from both Lucia & I, along with a few comments about why we gave our grade. These reviews are brought to you by an avid coffee drinker since the age of 12 (I pin this as the reason I’m only 5’1) and the expertise of an Ohio State University barista (shouts out, Lucia! word on the street is you give people six butters for their bagels… you just know what the people want). Alright, let’s get brewin’!

The Roosevelt Coffeehouse

Courtney’s Order: Cranberry Cinnamon Iced Coffee

  • coffee: B+ . Loved the thought behind the mixture of flavors!
  • food: N/A
  • aesthetic (coffee): B+ . Really liked the fact that they took the time to top with fresh cranberry & cinnamon.
  • aesthetic (interior): A . Definitely the best destination if you’re looking for a study spot!! Great lighting, big tables and respectful atmosphere.

Lucia’s Order: Iced Vietnamese Coffee

  • coffee: B+ . Overall enjoyed coffee! However, and I quote, “not enough ice… 2/3 of the cup, my friends!!” .
  • food: N/A
  • aesthetic (coffee): B . There’s really not much that can be done with an iced coffee but the glass was unique.
  • aesthetic (interior): A . Loved the calm ambience and natural lighting. Great space!

p.s. they offer merch… t shirts, crewnecks, etc. They even give you free stickers, so +5 bonus points for Roosevelt (even though we’re using a letter grading scale, work with me guys, you get the point) !

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MMELO Boutique Confections

Courtney’s Order: Charcoal Honey Lavender Latte (minus the charcoal) . Earl Gray & Lavender Ganache Cardamom Shortbread Cookie Tea Cake. Lemon Ginger Jellies.

  • coffee: B+ . If I did it again, I would definitely get the charcoal in it…
  • food: A+. C’mon, hand crafted tea cakes?! Amazing.
  • aesthetic (coffee): B+ . The barista warned us that she didn’t know how to make foam art yet and I completely respect that honesty. You still crafted an amazing latte, let me tell you.
  • aesthetic (interior): A+ . This is the place you want to take your family when they come to visit. They aren’t lying about being a boutique style cafe. Cutest interior! (also best instagram photo stop!!!)

Lucia’s Order: Charcoal Honey Lavender Latte (minus the charcoal) . Banana Caramel & Pecan Shortbread Cookie Tea Cake. Spice Bar with Pumpkin Seed, Brittle, Papaya, and Edible Rose.

  • coffee: B+ . Agreed, would absolutely get the charcoal next time.
  • food: A+ . Little tea cake was so damn good…
  • aesthetic (coffee): B+ . The mugs were huge, which is always a positive!
  • aesthetic (interior): A+ . So precious inside! Perfect place to take anyone visiting. Would like to stay here forever, please.

Red Velvet Cafe

Courtney’s Order: Cortadito Cubano. Avocado toast & chocolate chip cookie

  • coffee: A+ . This was 110% the best coffee I have tasted on this journey so far. Perfectly crafted.
  • food: A . The. Avocado. Toast. nuff said. Just kidding, get the chocolate chip cookie too, it’s a damn dream.
  • aesthetic (coffee): A+ . Came in the tiniest of cups, matched with the tiniest of plates… you already know I’m sold.
  • aesthetic (interior): B+ . It was rather small but felt so comfortable. Wasn’t overcrowded, which is hard to find in this city.

Lucia’s Order: Matcha Latte. Avocado toast & apple cinnamon cupcake

  • coffee: B . To be fair, didn’t order a coffee this time, but would have liked a bit more matcha flavor!
  • food: A+ . The avocado toast definitely made up for the lack of substance in the cupcake (would still rate the cupcake an A- on its own!) .
  • aesthetic (coffee): A . Loved the coffee art!
  • aesthetic (interior): B+ . The bar itself isn’t much to look at, but the view facing the window is so nice! A warped wood counter, iron lettering on the wall with their name. Very pleasing to look at.
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Roaming Goat Coffee

Courtney’s Order: Honey Latte & Gingerbread Creamcheese donut

  • coffee: A+ . You guys. This large coffee came with five shots of espresso . What more could you ask for??
  • food: A . The flavoring of the donut was just the right amount of sweet!
  • aesthetic (coffee): A . As can be seen in the photo above, the coffee art was nothing short of perfection.
  • aesthetic (interior): B- . Very minimalistic, which is refreshing but also a tad boring (I’m sorry, that sounds so harsh, I don’t mean it to be!)

Lucia’s Order: Cubano & Raspberry Hibiscus donut.

  • coffee: A+ . Annndddd we have a winner !!! So far, this was my favorite coffee. It was the perfect mixture of coffee and milk that I’ve been looking for.
  • food: A . The donut was very good but I tend to appreciate a bit more over-the-top flavoring.
  • aesthetic (coffee): A . Just look at that coffee art!
  • aesthetic (interior): B- . Not too much to look at inside. A bit smaller due to its location in the Short North.

That wraps up our coffee journey thus far… ratings to be continued after payday on Friday. Stay tuned!

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Inspiration

Do. Not. Even.

What’s my biggest fear in life, you ask? Fantastic question. No, it’s not the clown from IT or those monstrous, too large to even be in my nightmares, spiders that they have in Australia (although those are very high on the list as well). My biggest fear is, and forever will be, settling. Just thinking about it makes me cringe. The thought of describing my life as “average” gives me absolute chills. I just picture myself on one of those suburban streets, where every house looks exactly the same, all of my walls the same shade of eggshell white, describing my work as “fine” and my husband as “he’s always just there”. I’m literally cringing while writing this and may or may not be a little nauseous. 

Let me define “settling”

Settling (v.) : forcing oneself to be content in a situation; ignoring literally every thought in your head telling you that you can do, and deserve, better; fear of the unknown, forcing one into a perpetual state of mediocracy 

For a quick example, I once had the following conversation with a friend of mine. 

“Okay, honestly, why are you with him?” I asked, referring to her current boyfriend. “Well, he doesn’t make me worry,” she said. That’s all she said. 

If ever asked why you are committing your time and effort into anything, whether it be a job, relationship, even a hobby, the response as to why you are committing your time to this should never begin with an explanatory phrase (such as “well…”). “Well, it pays the bills” or “well, she doesn’t ignore me all the time”. Not only does this indicate that you don’t already know the answer, it indicates that you are trying to convince yourself that your statement is true, as well as whoever is asking you the question. 

When I ask why you do something, the answer should be declaratory. The response that should happen when I ask why you are with someone is “they make me the best version of myself” or “I love the way this person takes care of me”. Referring to jobs or hobbies, the response should be “because this is my passion” or “I truly enjoy what I learn from doing this”. If those aren’t the answers, or if an explanatory response is the first to pop into your head before a declaratory one, something is in need of change. 

I realize that the definition I gave for settling is not in a dictionary anywhere (and may be a bit intense) but tell me that it isn’t true. This isn’t my biggest fear because it looks terrifying aesthetically or haunts me in my sleep. It’s my biggest fear because I’ve seen the way it creeps up on people, pulling on their insecurities and tricking them, brainwashing them, without them ever realizing it.

I want to take a turn and look closer at the effects of settling into an unhappy situation for a second.  

We’ve all been there to see this happen. I’ve seen the change. It starts off small. They start to take on the likes and dislikes of the person they’re with. They work their significant others’ name into conversation as much as possible, even when unnecessary. Plans start being canceled with friends, white lies start being told. 

It creeps up.

You finally get ahold of your friend, finally make a date to hang out. You realize every sentence begins and ends with this person, the conversation drifting when any other topic is brought up. You laugh, forcefully, wanting to be happy for them. But how can you be happy, when it’s not really them anymore? Where had your friend gone and who the hell is this person now sitting in front of you?

It consumes.

They look exhausted. The zip in their step is long gone. You’ve gotten at least one call a day, your friend miserable. Guess whose fault? “It’s my fault, I shouldn’t even be upset over this. I’m overreacting”. They aren’t overreacting. 

Inevitably, it destroys.

You can’t listen to the pain in their voice anymore when they talk. You can’t hear the same story of them being torn to pieces. You tell them again and again how much more they deserve, remind them how things were before, point out all the faults they already see but refuse to acknowledge. “But we’re in love”. No, you aren’t. 

Here’s a reminder: someone who loves you is not capable of causing you this type of pain. Someone who loves you is not capable of seeing you at your worst, in no rush to make things better. Someone who loves you is not capable of ignoring you, hurting you just to get a reaction, keeping you hidden from the world. Someone who loves you would not change the person you are for their own benefit. 

Here’s an even more important reminder: Someone who loves you will make you laugh, even when you never thought you’d smile again. Someone who loves you will light you up in every single way possible. Someone who loves you will support you, even when you’re on some crazy ass kick of only drinking ginger shots and eating kale. Not only will they be the first to support you (and your ridiculous ideas), but they will be the one by your side, doing it with you the entire time. 

Settling is my biggest fear because I’ve seen what it turns into, a toxicity that people cannot escape. It doesn’t have to be a relationship. This toxicity can occur in any form of settling. It could be settling at a job you absolutely loathe. Hey, gotta pay the bills somehow and how tiring does it sound to spend hours applying for another dead-end job? Settling on friends who couldn’t even answer what your favorite color was, let alone be there for you when you really need them to be. But hey, they have the coolest Instagram, so many followers and so many connections. So, it’s worth it, right? Settling comes in all forms, shapes, sizes… freaking terrifying right????

“Do not let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game”. Yes, I did just directly quote Hilary Duff in A Cinderella Story. Do not let the fear of being along keep you in a relationship that you describe as “eh” to your friends. Do not let the fear of stepping out of your professional comfort zone keep you at a dead-end job. Do not let the fear of being “less cool” keep you from avoiding the people who could turn out to understand and care for you better than your current “friends” ever could. To sum this up…

Do. Not. Even. 

Do. Not. 

Do. Not. Even. 

Write it down, stick it on your bathroom mirror, think it, say it. Most importantly, believe it. Believe you deserve better and you will. If you’re having trouble reminding yourself, or find yourself slipping into old habits, reach out to friends. If your friends are the problem at the moment and you’re on the hunt for real ones, reach out to me in the meantime.

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Sidebar, Please

One of my favorite questions has always been “you believe in that kind of stuff, don’t you?”. I’ve had it asked to me in so many different contexts, so many different conversations. Yet, the answer I give without fail…

“Yes,” I respond, firmly, each time.

One quality about myself is that when I believe in someone or something, I believe with every bone in my body. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember, even all the way back to Santa Claus. I believed in Santa Claus until I was in fourth grade. Yup, that’s right, fourth grade. I can vividly remember being in fourth grade, sitting on the steps in our elementary school library. One kid from my class, Julian, came over and ever so bluntly stated, “Santa Claus doesn’t exist”. 

Excuse me?

Excuse me??

You, sir, are most definitely getting coal in your stocking next year just for saying that. Oh, and you’re a stupid head. My eleven-year-old brain was running. I can still feel my cheeks getting hotter, visibly turning pink from working myself up in thought. I’m getting heated again just talking about it.

(Sidebar, my argument tactics really haven’t changed much since fourth grade. I will for sure still call you a stupid head and feel completely satisfied. I one hundred percent just won that argument.)

Still reeling from the debacle that had occurred on the steps earlier, I jumped into my mom’s car, ready to get the heck away from school. My mom was on the phone, talking to my best friend’s mom about how their Christmas had been and did her daughter end up liking the laptop she got her. Hold. The. Effing. Phone. I looked straight at my mom while she was still talking, “I thought Santa gave her the laptop for Christmas?”.

When I tell you my mom’s face dropped, I am not exaggerating. She was sooooo busted. Hand caught straight in the cookie jar, crumbs and chocolate lining her mouth kind of busted. She told her friend she had to go and hung up the phone. She told me it was time that I knew Santa wasn’t actually real and that he wasn’t the one putting presents under the tree. She told me it had been her and my father all those years. I sat there for a second and let the life shattering information settle in. 

Look, I led a very fortunate life when I was younger, I’ll admit. This shit was shattering. After silently staring out of the window for a few minutes, I began to come to terms with it. 

“Wait…” I started, scared to finish my sentence. “Does that mean there’s no Easter bunny… tooth fairy… nothing?”. My mom just laughed and shook her head no. Jeez Louise, someone hand me a juice box, stat, I’m about to hit the floor at this point. 

My mom did something very important after that. She reminded me that even though the person wasn’t real, it didn’t mean the thought or spirit behind it wasn’t real. I think a lot of parents forget to say that part, when in fact, it’s the most important part of the entire experience. It was never about the actual person behind Santa Claus, never about the physical present left with his signature on it. It was about spending hours with my family decorating the tree, placing every ornament in its most perfect position. It was about helping my nana bake every single type of dessert to ever exist, taking extra precaution to not mess up her classic baking perfection. It was my nana yelling “Tim!”, and pretending to chase him with a rolling pin, as my papa ran away with all of the cookies we had just made (there wasn’t a hiding spot in the pantry that he couldn’t find). The spirit behind this holiday, that’s all anyone was ever trying to convince me of. I was convinced. 

That was my first encounter believing in something I couldn’t see. Let me continue to connect the dots.

As I got older, I always enjoyed all of the small stuff, like reading my horoscope in Seventeen magazine, watching psychics on television, all that good stuff. That’s not to say I took everything literally. I can promise you my Seventeen horoscope was not accurate at all, because my seventh-grade crush and I are not happily married right now. Annoyed. But I think it’s important to note that being open and being willing to envision things on a larger scale is a part of who I am. 

This is taking a sad turn for just one second, a millisecond, I have to include it, it’s crucial, don’t hate me. Okay, just a couple of years ago my papa passed away. It was sudden and very unexpected, but we were able to turn it into something very beautiful in a very short amount of time. At his funeral, the wife of one of his closest friends came up to chat with us. She mentioned that she forgot to bring a white feather and we all kind of turned to look at her. Were we out of the loop or? She explained that it had been her husband’s custom. He would place a white feather on every casket or give one to the family that he knew. She apologized for not bringing one, but we assured her it was more than okay and told her how much we appreciated the gesture. 

I don’t remember who was the first to find one. Suddenly, they were just everywhere. We all kept finding them. First in explainable places, under our pillow, next to our bed, on a piece of clothing. Then they started appearing in stranger places, at stranger times. 

My mom was trying to decide to if moving to a new state with her boyfriend was the right choice. As the prior residents moved out and cleaned up their things, my mom and I walked through the house. She found white feathers in the corners of almost every room of the house. 

My uncle was trying to buy a car. He drove hours away from home to look at this car he had found online, got to it, absolutely loved it. He told them this was the one and he’d be back tomorrow to buy it. They drove all the way back the next day, only to find that another employee had just sold the car an hour before, not knowing that he had intended to purchase it. Him and my aunt started their drive home, when they passed this little dealership with a similar model. My aunt made him stop and look at it, which turned into him loving it and buying it on the spot. On the way home, my uncle reached into the glove box of his new car to read the manual (He is literally the only person I know on this planet who reads car manuals. He knows he has google on his phone but no, no, he will read the manual. Love you, dork!). When he opened the glove box and went to reach for the manual, he glanced down and saw a long white feather sitting on top of the manual. 

I was sitting on my floor, pouring my thoughts onto paper as my entire world collapsed around me while reading Maxie McCoy’s brilliant book. I can’t even express the amount of anxiety I had about publishing what I had written for others to see. I couldn’t even text my family to tell them what I was doing because I was so nauseated just by the thought of it. I got into bed, only to realize my roommate’s cat had knocked all of the pillows off of my bed. I reached down and picked them up, ready to place them back in their normal spots. I noticed a little white feather underneath the position the one pillow was normally situated in. I put the pillow on top and went to sleep. The next three days I worked on my writing, trying so hard to convince myself to share it. Each night before I went to sleep, I checked under the pillow to see if it was still there. I was just curious. It was there, every night. I finally made the website, posted the piece, turned off all phone notifications, and went to workout for what ended up being over two hours. When I finally looked at my phone on my way back up to my room, I saw the overwhelming amount of support I was receiving and immediately felt the weight of the fear and anxiety I had been carrying, lift off my shoulders. I got into my room, cat asleep in my bed, everything in its place except one pillow that had been knocked off my bed. I picked it up, placing it back in its spot on the bed. I realized the little white feather was no longer there. It was no longer needed. 

Let me reiterate what I have known since I was in fourth grade, what I wish I could make everyone believe in as passionately as I do. It’s not the object. It’s never the object. It’s the meaning behind the object. You can tell me I’m foolish, childish or stupid for believing that my papa placed those feathers in all of those places. I would shrug and allow you to believe that, because I know you’ve missed the point.

Santa might not have been the one to put the presents under the tree every Christmas, but his spirit was the one who brought the entire family together for that one special day, every year, without fail. My papa might not have been the one to place those feathers in our rooms, in our cars, in countless other places. However, his spirit is the one who brings the feeling of safety, of comfort, of familiarity, all in the face of the unknown. 

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A Letter To My Father

Part 2

I was sitting on my couch at my apartment, studying for my calculus final (that I was sure I was going to fail. We all know I’m terrible at math, nothing surprising here). Stressing over the inevitable doom that was my final, I was so very happy to hear my phone ringing. Any distraction is a good distraction in those situations, right? 

Wrong.

It was your wife, my stepmom. I answered and she told me in an unsteady voice how you were in the hospital. It had finally been too much. You couldn’t talk, couldn’t move. Your brain had basically re-booted and they weren’t sure how long it was going to take to get you back to normal. “One more binge like this and he’s not making it back” they had told her. The next day you started to speak again. She called to update me and relayed, in confusion, how every time they asked you what the date was, you responded that it was April and told everyone to be careful because it was probably snowing outside. It wasn’t April. You were stuck on the day I was born, April 2, being in a similar room back then, but for a very different reason now. You were there for three days. 

After that, everything was different. A curtain had finally been shifted, door finally opened, light finally shed. You changed, slowly, but in such a significant and wonderful way. 

I can’t say enough that everything happens for a reason. The universe had allowed you a second chance with my step brother, who was young enough to need your guidance, your love. I saw you trying harder, paying more attention, taking the time to explain things to him. When I came home from breaks at college, I saw you packing his lunch every morning. You even gave him extra cookies to trade at lunch for other snacks from his friends. You know all of his friends’ names. You know what he likes and dislikes. I honestly can’t express how happy it makes me. 

When I talk to you now, I know you actually care about what I’m saying. You tell me how proud you are of me, of how far I’ve come, of where I’m going. I love my step family and couldn’t be more grateful to have each of them in my life. 

Sitting and watching Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen every time I come home. Listening to my little brother explain for the umpteenth time that no, hiding in the tree until you’re one of the last players left in the game is not the correct way to win Fortnite. Taking our dog for a nightly walk during the summer, you holding Cammie’s leash, my stepmom and I walking side by side, my little brother whipping circles around us on his scooter. These are my favorite things about being home now. These are the moments I would choose again and again. This is what I am eternally grateful for the universe giving back to us. 

I hope this doesn’t hurt you and I hope you can forgive me for telling my version of the truth. I’ve held onto it for a long time and I think it’s time now. Everyone deserves to heal, and I think it’s only fair that we get a chance at that too. I love you. 

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A Letter To My Father

Part 1

Before I start, I would just like to say how immensely proud of you I am, for getting where you are today. I admire you and I love you. I always have and always will. 

It’s funny thinking back to what I heard from everyone around me. Mantras of “you know he loves you right?”, “he’s proud of you, I promise”, “your opinion means more to him than you know”. I used to compare those to what I heard from you, which was only and always “good job, kid”. I filled in the blanks with their words. 

Going back in time, I remember being in awe of you growing up. You took the time to play with me, put your big hat on my tiny head and helped me learn how to have fun. When you’re little, you have this extra special skill of only seeing the best in people. I only saw the best in you. 

Your favorite baseball team was the Indians, so my favorite baseball team was the Indians. Your favorite number was two, so my favorite number was two. I listened intently to the stories of you and your friends growing up, how you were a superstar at anything even remotely athletic. I absorbed it all, thinking you were the coolest human being my six-year-old self had ever come across. 

As time passed, the play time quickly started to fade, along with any time with you at all. Your patience with me grew very small. I realized I was going to have to try harder, step up my game in order to get your attention, your love, back. I used to watch you and your friends play poker, I saw how happy it made you to be around them. This was my in. I pretended to be a waitress, asking you and your friends if I could bring them anything, refilling chips and pretzels, accepting quarters as tips, all just to be around you. It didn’t work. Your attention never lasted long. My favorite memory from that should be helping you win the tournament against all of your friends. But it’s not. My favorite memory is helping one of the guys who was at the table win the tournament, because you didn’t trust me enough not to give away your hand, passing me off to someone else instead. 

The best part about that is I didn’t get hurt by you not trusting me. I took it as I hadn’t proved myself to be good enough yet. So, ask me what I did. 

I learned every single rule of the game Texas Hold’em. I learned how to deal, what a straight, flush, full house, three pair was. I learned what it meant when someone said they had “ace high”, they were “all in”. I learned to fold when the cards were down. At this point, the only thing I hadn’t mastered was the infamous bridge. I had seen all of your friends do it while shuffling cards and I knew this would be the skill to win you over. It was so freaking impressive, how could it not?? I asked you how to do it, what the secret was. You responded by saying “I don’t know, you just kind of fold the cards and do it”, then walked away. I sat there, flopping the cards again and again against the stupid green table. I wasn’t going to give up though. After about twenty minutes of miserably failing, I finally got it. I did it. I literally felt the surge of adrenaline rush through me because of the excitement. I screamed out to you to come look at what I had just taught myself. You came in the room, I reshuffled the cards, focusing in fully on bending those cards in the perfect formation to allow them to make that ever impressive bridge. The last couple cards flopped, but overall, I was pretty proud for it only being my second time doing it. I couldn’t wait to hear your response, positive you would recruit me immediately to be on your team during the next tournament. “Cool, could still use some work though” you said, walking out of the doorway. I put the cards back in their pack and left them on the table. 

Ironically enough, I still do a bridge every single time I shuffle cards today. Except now, I do it perfectly, without even one card slipping out of place. 

At around the age of twelve, I started to realize that I hadn’t been alone in fighting for your attention this entire time. They always say it’s hard growing up in the shadow of someone else, but they never mention how impossible it is growing up in the shadow of something else. 

Just as I waited for you to come home and find out that I had already completed all my homework and gotten A’s on all of my assignments for the week, something else waited for you at home. I guess I never thought much about the pack of beer that was constantly being restocked in the fridge. Before I could tell you about my grades, you’d ask me if I’d want to take a ride with you down the street to the beer distributor. They had suckers there so of course I was in. Before I knew it, we were back at home, you in the garage with a whole pack of something to hold your attention, me in the house holding the tests I wanted to show you. I waited for mom to get home and showed her instead.

Now that I knew what my competition was, could see what I was up against, I was more determined than ever to beat it. At this point I was in competitive sports. My coaches always described me as hard working, but I always thought I could do better. I remember my swim coach saying, “she’s the smallest one on the team but can lap everyone here”. I quickly moved my way up in the lanes, swimming and competing with older kids in practice. I was always the anchor, the pressure on to be the fastest one to close the gap and win the race. I put so much pressure on myself to win every single time. I was never happy getting second, getting anything after that I didn’t even want to talk about. 

I would be so nervous before every race, biting my nails down to nothing. I couldn’t talk to anyone in the moments before I swam, I had to focus, I had to be in the moment and had to do my best, no distractions. My least favorite stroke was butterfly. My arms and legs were too short to be able to get the distance other girls could. One meet, my coach called my name and told me I was swimming the fifty-yard butterfly. I have never felt my heart drop so hard. I started to tear up, knowing I wasn’t getting this one. I sat next to the two other girls on the bench I was competing against, both having more than a few inches on me, easily. 

I got up to the block, you were timing me. I bent to grab the block, heard the beep and dove in. I can’t even tell you how much of a blur this was. I knew that I had to give literally everything in me, had to push myself to the max. I swam as fast and as hard as I could, hearing the screams of parents each time I came up for air. I hit the wall and looked up, seeing no one else around. I sat there thinking everyone else had finished and gotten out of the pool already, completely embarrassed and disappointed in myself. You kept saying “You did it!” and I realized the other girls were half a lap behind me. I tried to get out of the pool and realized I couldn’t lift myself and I couldn’t move my legs. You had to lift me out of the pool and put me on my towel. I didn’t even care that I had literally given every single ounce of energy that thirteen-year-old me had because I had finally made you proud, had finally got your attention. 

Funny how I had to get my body to the point of complete and utter exhaustion to get your attention and approval. All the beer had to do was sit in the fridge. 

It felt like every time I pushed harder for your attention, the more you pulled away. By the time I was in high school, I had all but given up. I knew I had been defeated. I was exhausted, confused and disappointed. I stopped playing sports because I couldn’t take seeing that look of complete and utter disgust from you one more time, after I missed one out of ten shots at my basketball game. I stopped showing you things, stopped telling you things, stopped trying. The worst part is, you didn’t even notice. Or if you did, you didn’t even care. 

In the middle of my high school career, mom and I sat at home, waiting for you on Christmas. We were just going to spend time together, watch a movie or something. After a while of not hearing from you, we decided to go through the drive thru at McDonalds and treat ourselves to a couple dollar menu sundaes. On our way home, we passed the bar down the street. There was your car, only one in the parking lot besides the workers. There you were, only one in the bar besides the workers. You weren’t alone though. You had your beer to keep you company, better company than we could have offered you at that point. We drove home in silence. 

This part ends in a whirlwind of dinners without eye contact, my family separating, a lot of crying, a lot of hurt, and a lot of pretending everything was fine. 

Please don’t stop reading yet. There’s always a silver lining and we have to make it through the bad to get to the good. 

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Court, For The Love Of God, Put Down The Planner

I was just sitting here reading the next chapter of my book when I thought I might take a break and make a little list of goals for myself. After spending a solid ten (or fifteen) minutes very, very carefully drawing out the script “Short Term Goals” in the most Instagram-worthy of text in my little notebook, I got to the good stuff. I started drawing line after little line of things I wanted to accomplish this year. I had basic ones like graduating college in May, learning and experiencing more, traveling, etc. I had specific ones like to get an apartment in a bigger city than Columbus, host my own Christmas party next winter, etc. 

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am the definition of a planner. I plan literally everything. Not only do I get excited over making grocery lists, I’m the friend who will research and plan an entire girl’s trip in an hour (oh yes, there will be print outs of the itinerary available, as well as an emailed copy that I just sent to you). I honestly wish I was kidding but I don’t even think I’m skimming the surface. I once planned out an entire day’s worth of events for a date… anyways, moving on…

I figured I had given myself enough to work on and to keep myself motivated for the upcoming year, so I went back to reading. Low and behold, the subtitle of the next section is “Forget the Big Goal”, which I had just spent a solid thirty (sixty) minutes working on. F***. 

I thought this would be complete bull due to the fact that I picture every single successful person as being organized and having plan after plan of attack in place for every situation possible. I skeptically continued to read on about how honing in on the bigger picture goals does not allow you to get to that goal any easier. Not only did I realize that was true, but I realized that I made one of these lists every single year… multiple versions, actually… 

How many goals had I already completed and completely moved on from, immediately, due to the looming presence of the ten other goals I had listed on ten other little lines right next to that one? I can tell you. All of them. I had a sudden flashback of the past four years and memories came flooding in. I hadn’t rewarded myself for any of the tasks I had completed in the short term that had ultimately led to the bigger picture of where I am today. 

So, I sat there and remembered things. Things as little as the one day I forced myself out of bed, even though I would have done literally anything on the planet to never leave it again, in order to go into work. Things like the moment I decided I was switching my major a few years ago and felt like I was on the right track for the first time in a long time. Things like the fact that I pushed myself every single day to get to where I am at this very moment. I did that. No one else did that for me. I did it. I had never let myself say that before and honestly it felt amazing. 

No one else needed to hear the things I was grateful for accomplishing. I didn’t need to shout it off the rooftops or get anyone else’s verification that what I had done was meaningful. I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone else. I let myself sit there for a minute and gave myself the acknowledgement I should have been giving myself the entire time. For the big things and the small things, I gave myself a pat on the back, because I’ve forgotten to do that for the past few years. 

There’s absolutely no way I’m going to stop planning, let’s not get crazy here. However, I will vow to stop at the end of each week and tell myself I am proud of me for getting these amazing tasks done, no matter how menial (I am including making my bed. I hate making my freaking bed). 

Side note not only does Target have the cutest full-sized planners BUT they even have the cutest tiny ones. Yes, tiny. Like pocketbook size. You’d be right in assuming that I did buy a full sized one and a miniature one. Even though, let’s be real, I’m not nearly business enough for one planner, let alone two. But it’s so cute and tiny. (And that was an exclusive glimpse into my thought process at every store I have ever entered. Welcome to the female brain). 

Also, just to prove to you how much of a nerd I really am, here’s a little screenshot of a convo between me and my friend. Arguably, she might be just as nerdy as I am… feels good to know I’m not alone on this one. 


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Cinnamon Rolls & Mimosas

…I swear that’s not what this whole piece is really about

So, at the moment, I’m sitting here on the floor, feeling my brain shatter into a million pieces, as I frantically eat a cinnamon roll and wash it down with a mimosa as a faint attempt at a coping mechanism. This may sound like the definition of a hot-mess but I swear to God, I mean that sentence in the best way possible. Let me back up and explain myself…

Seeing as I’m about to graduate college, I found myself feeling a little lost about what the hell I was doing in life. When I say a little, I mean a lot. Currently sitting with a good GPA, plenty of experience in the field I was getting my degree in and having what I thought was plenty of confidence, I was very confused why I was feeling this way. I did what I always do when I feel confused with life. I drove myself to my safe haven, Barnes and Noble. I ended up spending more than I’d like to share on books, ranging in genre from budgeting 101 to fairytale poems. In the mix I also found the book You’re Not Lost by Maxie McCoy. This book is how I ended up on the floor, reading a text from my mom, crying (again, all in the best way possible). 

Let me preface this by saying I am only on chapter 3 so everyone hang on to see how much I can overreact by the time I’m done with this book.

 Here’s what happened (small spoiler ahead if you’re planning on reading the book, which I still highly recommend). 

Chapter 3 of this book asks you to look at your past and think about your “spark” or what has made you happiest throughout your life. The book has little activities throughout it and one of the little activity bubbles said, “call someone who has known you throughout your life and ask them what you cared about most when you were little”. Texting my mom, I thought she would reply with my favorite hobbies, like watching Annie six million times while singing and dancing along or walking down the hallway in her heels practicing my America’s Next Top Model walk, fully convinced my future 5’1 self would make it all the way (yes, that really happened). Instead, I got this…

Honestly, I don’t think I had ever been hit this hard with the truth before. Ever. It made me realize that all this pressure and anxiety I had over this huge list of goals I had created for myself wasn’t even to satisfy me. I was working so hard to get straight A’s, get the best internships, make the most of my college experience by taking on the most work and hardest classes, all for what? All just to prove not to myself, but to everyone else that I could. If no one was watching or cared, would I have done half the things that caused me to lose countless nights of sleep due to stress and anxiety? No. If it were just me that I had focused on, I would have had much different goals. Not that these goals would have been easier or harder in any way, but they would have been worth more because they would have been for me.

By the end of this conversation with my mother, I realized that my parents would have been proud of me no matter what I did or how I did it, as long as I was happy. I also realized that even if they weren’t proud of me, I would be proud of myself. Even if my mom wouldn’t have responded to me in that way, I would still be sitting here telling you to do things for you and literally no one else. Because that is who you are living your life for. Not your parents, not your friends, not your significant others, only for you. 

I wouldn’t change anything I did in the past. Yes, I took on stress and responsibility that no child that young should have had to take on. However, this led to my dad getting a second chance at being an attentive and loving father, to a new little brother I always wanted through my step family. It led to my mom meeting the man she needed, when she needed him most, and who now loves and supports me just as much as she does. It led to me being here, having the realization that it’s my turn to be selfish and to do things for myself. 

Everything is going to be okay. Everything happens for a reason. You will end up exactly where you are meant to be. 

Thank you, Maxie McCoy, for making me realize this by only Chapter 3 of your book. You’re amazing. 

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