Weekend Getaway Guide: Newark, Ohio

Beautiful Newark, Ohio and the surrounding small towns have a lot to offer for a variety of interests, which makes it a perfect destination for a weekend getaway! Whether you want to spend your days outside exploring and soaking up the lush landscape, wine and dine your way through the numerous bars and restaurants, or experience theaters and the local arts, you certainly won’t get bored. As my hometown, I’m so excited to share the parts of the city that make it great!

 

The Guide

 

Where to Stay:

 

Newark and the surrounding towns have a number of accommodations, for whatever traveling style. I’m always partial to AirBnB’s wherever I travel, and the area has some real hidden gems, most under $100/night! Welsh Hills Inn or Orchard House are great options for a real Bed & Breakfast experience, if that’s more your thing. Check out the Trout Club, Granville Inn or Buxton Inn for an upscale hotel stay, or try hotels like The Double Tree by Hilton, or Courtyard by Marriott for a more economical option. Since the area is nestled in lush, rolling hills, camping is always a fun choice for a weekend getaway, too!

 

How to Get Around:

 

Here’s the thing, if you’re used to having the luxury of public transportation or Uber to get around, throw those expectations out the window when visiting Newark. While Newark does have a small public bus route and Yellow Cab service, neither are very reliable or even available everyday. It’s best to stick with your own vehicle for this town, or a rented one.

The good news is that even with the town being a bit spread out, it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to get from end to end, and traffic is incredibly light, so it makes for easy drives! Newark also offers a variety of well-maintained bike trails, allowing a more scenic route through the city, and there’s a lot within walking distance in the Downtown Newark and Downtown Granville areas.

 

What to Eat:

 

The best part of any weekend getaway? The food!

Downtown Newark offers a unique variety of locally-owned restaurants & bars, a few of my favorites being Moe’s Original Barbecue (you have to try their award-winning smoked wings), Elliot’s Wood Fired Kitchen & Tap (wood fired pizza…need I say more?), and The Bootlegger for a fun way to end the evening.

Some of my locally-owned Granville favorites are Broadway Pub, Snapshots Lounge, and Day Y Noche. And if breweries are more your thing, there are plenty of those to go around, too!

 

Where to Go:

 

From taking in the natural beauty of the landscapes or enjoying a night of arts and entertainment, it’s unlikely you’ll run out of things to do in Newark and surrounding areas during your stay.

For a fun outdoor adventure, I recommend checking out Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve (not pet friendly!), Dawes Arboretum, or Lake Hudson in Granville.

Rather enjoy the great outdoors on the golf course? There are lots to choose from!

 

Newark also has a growing nighttime entertainment scene, found in beautiful and historic venues like Thirty One West and The Midland Theatre.

If you happen to be visiting during the summer, do not miss out on the Canal Market District Farmers Market and the Granville Farmers Market!

 

If you’ve been to Newark recently, tell me your favorite spot in the comments below!

What It Feels Like To Break Up With Your Best Friend

She and I met in middle school. She started taking one class a year because her parents wanted her to make friends in the local area (a difficult thing to do when you’re homeschooled and have been all your life). She came to school mid-year, and as most kids do with something shiny and new, we fled to her. She wore wild wigs & t-shirts under her spaghetti-strap dresses, and always had gum with her ready to hand out. I thought she was the coolest person I’d ever met. I was awkward, shy, and known as a wanna-be. So naturally, I hated her.

Despite my initial feelings, our friendship grew slowly as the school year was ending. The following year my parents decided to homeschool my brother and me moving forward, and it solidified our delicate new friendship.

Through high school we were inseparable. We were both aspiring musicians and writers, and spent our time creating and dreaming together. We did a lot of exploring, a lot of camping out on summer nights, and celebrated birthdays with shopping sprees and homemade gifts. We were obsessed with the Jonas Brothers, and I have a lot of fond memories of concerts, album releases, and dancing in our bedrooms. She and I also loved playing board games, and our favorite was LIFE where we got to create a pretend family and career. She always chose to go down the education part of the board first, whereas I always moved into the career part immediately.

Just like the board game we played as teenagers, our lives followed similar paths once high school ended. Things really got rocky for our friendship at that time - we were just interested in different things. She was very education-driven and was primarily absorbed in that. On the flip side, I was head over heels in an unhealthy relationship, unhealthy home life, and was motivated by my new career. We were exploring new friendships and adventures with people outside of the bubble we’d grown in together for so long, and a lot of jealous feelings that I don’t think we knew how to handle started to come up.

We broke up for the first time at that point after a fight we had. I wish I could say that I remember the details of the fight, but it’s probably better that I don’t.

Two years went by, and then I found out in the local newspaper that her dad was in a fatal accident a couple days before. I wish I had a better word to describe how horrified I was by the news - I’d basically grown up with their family and remembered her dad so fondly. Though we hadn’t seen each other or spoken in all that time, I wrote her a letter, expressing whatever condolences I could manage on a piece of paper. I never expected any sort of reply, positive or negative, but several months later she reached out.

Slowly we rebuilt our friendship, which is an interesting place to be after all that time together and all that time apart. You’re not starting from square one, but you’re not starting from solid ground, either.

A couple more years went by of trying to make our friendship work - I think we both really wanted it to work, but sometimes things, and people, just don’t.

Breaking up with your best friend feels like an enormous weight being lifted off your shoulders, while simultaneously being punched in the stomach. It feels like detoxing, and it feels lonely. It feels like you’ve been cheated when the band you both used to love so much gets back together and starts releasing music again and you can’t share that moment with her. It feels like nostalgia and resentment and heartache and hope.

It feels like growing pains.

People come and go, and I’ve accepted that she’s one that needed to go. We’ve followed the paths that we created for ourselves, and unfortunately, they don’t align with each other anymore. So no, we won’t have houses right next to each other one day, and our kids won’t explore or camp or dream together, but I’m ok with that. I really hope she’s happy.


Tips For Taking Your Pup On Your Next Adventure

This post contains affiliate links and I am eligible to earn a profit from purchases through the links labeled "Buy on Amazon". 

Whether you’re an avid camper or a trail newbie, wilderness adventures are made that much better when accompanied by your four-legged pals. While it’s a lot more work than simply picking up and heading out on your own, with a little know-how and preparation, your next adventure can be that much more special with your dog tagging along.

Check The Park Rules

Before packing up and hitting the trails, be sure that wherever you’re going is dog-friendly. Most National Parks, for example, don’t allow dogs to share the trails (sad face), and rules vary quite a bit in National Forests and State & Metro parks. Rules for how to conduct yourself and your pup in the parks may vary too, but no matter where you go, leashes are almost always mandatory.

Trust me when I say Park Rangers do not take the offense lightly when you forego those rules. A couple years ago Zach and I took Daisy up to Conkle’s Hollow in Hocking Hills, a place I’d taken her hiking before with no issues, and a place I’d seen other dogs (even that very day). I walked out of there with a $150 fine after a Park Ranger stopped us on the trail headed out. Always, always check the rules first.

Make Sure They’re Up To Date

This means all vaccinations as well as flea/tick medicine. Parasites, insects, and diseases are all a risk for a dog when outside at all, let alone in the open country. Make sure they’re prepared to not only protect against anything spreading to them, but also to protect the land from any foreign cooties your dog might be carrying.

A quick check-up to the vet will give you a better idea as to if your pup is ready to hit the trails with you (both with vaccinations and general stamina/health), or if preventative measures should be taken first.

Pack Their Bags

If you’ve ever gone hiking for an afternoon you know that packing a few light snacks, extra water bottles, & a first-aid kit are automatic essentials, right? Your dog deserves the same. Especially if you’re camping overnight, make sure they’re equally prepared for wherever the trails take you. Besides food and water (and bowls for both!), don’t leave the house without a few trail treats, poop bags, bedding, a spare leash, a towel, eco-friendly wipes to clean quickly and easily, and perhaps a favorite toy if your pup happens to be a little anxious about the new environment.

Ease Into It

Just as you will need some time to build up your endurance for long hikes, you can’t expect your dog to automatically have the amount of stamina needed to hike for miles and miles with you through the wilderness all willy nilly. Take your pup for a few practice hikes in some parks or trails near you, starting small and building your way up to more strenuous trails and longer distances. Be sure to check their energy level afterward - if they’re still excited and active, then you know you can safely increase the distance next time around.

Along with the hiking itself, if you’re planning a camping trip with your dog it’s a good idea to get them used to the tent and campsite set up. Do a practice run in the back yard before heading out, even sleep out there if you think your dog might need it or seems very hesitant about the tent. Make sure they have a comfortable place to sleep (if you don’t want to sleep on the ground, neither do they), and they are used to being on a leash line around the campsite.

Be Mindful Of Them

Whether or not you’ve prepped your pup for the adventures ahead of you, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on the whole time and to keep in mind natural trail hazards. Dogs (tragically) cannot talk to us, but there are signs of distress that are sometimes missed, especially when you’re busy soaking up all the beauty of the nature around you. Naturally, their heart rate and breathing will be excessive during more strenuous hikes, but during breaks watch to make sure that they’re coming back down to normal levels (just as yours should). That means taking breaks long enough to achieve that.

Generally, you should also be keeping them on a leash at all times, only allow them to drink from treated, potable water, and ensure they don’t chew or ingest toxic plants.

 

Daisy and I have been on countless adventures together over the years - she’s my absolute favorite hiking companion. It takes a lot of work and awareness to safely bring her along on trails with me (then again, what part of dog ownership doesn’t take a little work and awareness?), but the extra work is welcomed by a rewarding adventure for the both of us.

 

Have You Taken Your Dog On Adventures With You? What Was Your Favorite Place?

5 Lessons I Learned Living Alone

2019.

I’m moving in with Zach…eek! I can’t express how excited and relieved I am that we are finally in a place where we can do this - it’s been such a long time coming. That said, my heart is a bit heavy leaving behind a home, and a life, that I’ve loved so much for so long. From the time I moved out of my parents’ nest until now, I have always lived alone. I built a life and a safety net for myself that I could call my own, and the thought of opening it up an sharing it with someone else is terrifying and exhilarating and messy (quite literally on that last one, we both have a lot of stuff to consolidate).

So since I’m embarking on this new and exciting journey, I thought I’d reflect on some of the finer life lessons I’ve learned during my precious years of solidarity.

Any Furniture Is Good Furniture

Being only 20 and having just spent almost my entire savings on a home and all of it’s upfront and costly repairs, I realized I had very little left to spend on the furnishings to actually fill the place. I spent weeks frantically scouring the internet for as much used, often mismatched, furniture and housewares I could find to complete my new little home. Coupled with hand-me-downs and Goodwill treasures, I piece-mealed each room into its own unique space.

Would I have loved to decorate my house like my dreamiest Pinterest board right out of the gate? Of course. But when you live alone, and especially when you’re in your first place or two, you realize pretty quickly that those things don’t matter as much. There are bills to pay and food to buy and many more expenses you never even realized could occur, so settling for a $25 dining room table from Craigslist or living off a single frying pan for nearly 3 years becomes a welcomed accomplishment.

Prioritize Yourself

This lesson took me a while to really grasp. Sure I paid my bills on time and I made sure Daisy didn’t starve, but I certainly did a shit job of taking care of myself for a while. I would routinely go days without leaving the couch, even to sleep. I avoided the grocery store until it was absolutely necessary, and only ate until it was absolutely necessary. I neglected my hobbies and isolated myself a lot. And sometimes I would do the opposite and “friend binge” for weeks at a time, partying and doing as much as I could to avoid responsibilities and the thoughts in my own head.

While it took me some time to figure out I was depressed, it didn’t take me nearly as long to figure out how pull myself out of it. I started working part-time at a local coffeehouse to meet new people, I went on more hikes with Daisy and took trips by myself. I started making time for friends and family, and dedicated time for myself to re-charge and reflect. I realized that living alone, and being an adult in general, meant that I was responsible for my own well-being and happiness. No one was there to check up on me to make sure I got dressed in the morning or didn’t spend all day in front of the TV. I had to prioritize myself first so the rest could thrive.

Your Standards Will Change

For better or for worse, they will change. Living alone, you may find yourself not wearing pants (or any clothes at all, I’m not judging) around the house, or going days without doing dishes because no one else is around to nag you about them. Oppositely, you will realize that utilities are expensive, and come winter you might opt to throw on another layer instead of raise the thermostat.

My personal standards for how I keep myself and my house have changed drastically over the past few years, most of which has to do with me simply growing up a little. I don’t leave lights on like I used to, nor do I let the dishes pile up or the floors stay dirty for too long. I hate having clutter and waste, so these standards I’ve set are ones I can live with, but ultimately living alone gives you the freedom to set those standards, whatever they may be. And boy, that’s freedom at its finest.

Get Comfortable With DIY

When you live alone, and especially if you own your own home, mastering DIY projects can feel like an enormous challenge at first. You’re either faced with fumbling through it on your own or hiring someone, and both options suck when you’re inexperienced and broke. In my first couple years of living alone I navigated broken toilet handles, ripping up carpet, painting, leaky sinks, frozen pipes, landscaping, and more.

These sorts of necessary home projects aren’t always my favorite way to spend an afternoon, but I have become a lot less fearful of tackling them on my own…or at least trying to before calling a professional!

You’ll Love Yourself More

Living alone gives you ample quality time to get to know yourself better. You’ll learn new hobbies, pick up new friends along the way, and learn things about yourself that you otherwise might not have had the chance to explore if not for the solitude of your own space. Living alone gave me the chance to read more, write more, play music more, explore more, and enjoy more, and do it all on my own terms and on my own time.

HAVE YOU EVER LIVED ALONE? WHAT WAS YOUR MOST OR LEAST FAVORITE PART? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS!

 

7 Easy Ways To Save Money On Christmas Shopping

 

Oh yeah, I’m going there; Christmas is far too expensive. With all the new, ever more costly things that exist on the market nowadays, Christmas shopping and Christmas in general has become entirely too stressful. Who knows, maybe because I’m finally a real-ish adult this is just the reality that I have been blissfully sheltered from my whole life. If that’s the case, I’m making it my mission to challenge it. I fully believe Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, can be equally enjoyable and affordable if you put in enough planning, effort, and time.

Here are 7 truly easy ways you can cut back on excessive spending this Christmas season, and help you enjoy he holiday without breaking the bank!

 

1. Make A List & Commit To It

Nope, not the naughty or nice list.

Making a list of who to shop for helps set the stage for everything else (ie. how much to spend, what to buy, when to buy it, etc), and it will help you stay organized when shopping, ultimately saving you money. Start with your must-haves, the people you actually need to gift something to, usually immediate family and significant others. Then move on to friends, extended family, and co-workers. This is where it might get tricky, because this list might be a bit more lengthy. Remove anyone that you aren’t expecting a gift from, anyone who you don’t talk to or hang out with on a regular basis, and anyone who you otherwise wrote down because you felt obligated to. Pick your core group, and add them to your shopping list. Once you have your list of people, stick to it. Don’t deviate because a last-minute straggler popped up that you feel obligated to shop for, or because you found something that “they would totally love!”. While it’s incredibly thoughtful, it’s not good for your wallet.

Use this list as your road map during the holiday chaos. I usually use my list to keep track of my gift ideas, actual gifts purchased, budgets, and dates for gift exchanges. It’s the best way I’ve found to keep my priorities and my money on track.

 

2. Set A Budget

So while you’re diligently figuring out who to include on your shopping list, set each person with a budget. I personally like the person-by-person budgeting method because it gives me a clearer idea when I’m shopping what I can and can’t buy, otherwise I’d go overboard on everyone right out of the gate. Some people on my list are usually set a little higher, depending on what I’m either willing to spend or what I want to gift them, while some are set lower. You could also just set a spending cap for your shopping as a whole, which is an effective way to make sure you don’t get wrapped up in last-minute spending or unexpected expenses (like I always forget about gift wrapping…always).

Once you’ve decided on your budget, set that money aside, either literally with cash or figuratively by just keeping track of it through your bank account, and stick to it while shopping. It’ll make the whole process a lot less overwhelming and it’ll save you money in the long-run.

 

3. Start Early

Fellow procrastinators, here is my challenge to you. I challenge you to even just consider Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving and see how that feels. Scary? Maybe. Too soon, perhaps? Halloween just ended after all. But is it any less terrifying or overwhelming than ordering that last-minute scented candle for your aunt because you think you remember her saying once she liked the smell of cinnamon and you can’t think of anything else to get her and it’s 3 days before Christmas and you’re hoping that your AmazonPrime doesn’t fail you this time?

Yeah, start early. Get a game-plan (the list!), and don’t put it off. You’ll have time to really think about something meaningful to give, and you won’t feel rushed, which is where a lot of impulse, and expensive, purchases tend to to happen.

 

4. “Treat Yo’ Self” Less

The more you spend on yourself, the less you can spend on others, plain and simple. Do yourself, and your wallet, a favor and cut off big-ticket, splurge spending on yourself mid-to-late October. No shopping sprees, no additional spa days, and nothing off your wish-list. Take it a step further & limit your everyday non-essential spending, too. Maybe skip that 5th trip to Starbucks this week, or pack your lunch more often. A little here and there saved goes a long way, and it can really help boost your funds for Christmas gifts.

Does this mean you have to live off beans and rice the last 3 months of the year? Definitely not. But being conscious of your extra spending habits, especially during the holidays, will only help you better keep track of what you can and can’t spend on gifts. Not sure where to start? Read #6.

 

5. Get Crafty

If you really want to flex your DIY muscle this Christmas, handmade gifts are always an excellent option for anyone on your shopping list. Projects like handmade pottery, decorated glassware, or photo collages all are completely do-able (trust me, I’ve accomplished all of these and more, and my crafting skills are moderate at best). Not only will it show that you really put extra time and thought into your gift, but it’s also super effective in saving money, especially if you have a lot of people on your shopping list that are hard to shop for. Use inspiration from Pinterest, or browse crafty bloggers like Earnest Home Co. or Poppytalk.

Growing up, the tradition in my family became gift baskets. Each member in my immediate family would contribute one or two crafted items that they were responsible for to include in the basket. When this tradition started, we had a lot of extended family to shop for, so doing it this way cut down on time and costs because we did a lot of things in bulk (food items mostly), while saving dedicated time for the more personalized crafts. The tradition, happily enough, still continues to this day. This year, I have even taken the lead on my own gift basket to give to some on my shopping list. SOS.

 

6. Shop Sales

This one kind of feels like a no-brainer, but I feel it bares repeating. Sales. Are. Your. Best. Friend. I know the Black Friday sales and Cyber Monday sales and whatever other day of the week sales they come up with always seem very flashy and kind of unnecessary, but if you’re looking to save an extra buck, sales are the easiest way to do it. Take advantage of them as much as you can, even the ones in your inbox you ignore every other day of the year.

My one and only Black Friday experience (I’m sorry, but Cyber Monday exists now sooo…) I stumbled upon a dramatically cheap tablet that I gifted to my mom that year for Christmas. It was one of my better, more useful, gifts to her over the years, and I wouldn’t have even considered it at full retail price, so I’m extremely happy that I found it, and found it at the price that I did. (Mom, since you’re reading this, I’m sorry you had to find out this way.)

My point is, don’t let your pride get in the way of a good deal. A lot of retailers purposely discount and clearance items around the holidays and there’s no reason not to jump on it. When you go to a store, shop the clearance rack first. Hell, even hit up a Goodwill or another thrift store. Those places are gold mines if you look hard enough. It might take more time to do more diligent price comparisons and thrift shopping, but it’ll save you big bucks this Christmas.

 

7. Use Cash-Back Rewards & Price Comparison Apps

On the subject of price comparison, do yourself a favor and install Honey. This isn’t a paid plug, I just genuinely love this extension. Every time you shop Honey does all the heavy lifting for you as far as scouring the internet to find cheaper prices for whatever you’re buying, or finds relevant coupons for that store that you can automatically apply to your checkout. It even has a cash-back program, so after a while of online shopping (which, let’s face it, you’re going to do anyway), you can end up earning some of that back.

Cash-back rewards are also available on a lot of major credit cards, and that’s something that can definitely help save (or at least recover) costs during Christmas. It’s really simple; every time you buy something on your cash-back credit card, you’re expected to pay it back right away anyway, but as an added bonus your credit card rewards kick back an extra few dollars to you just for using the card in the first place. As long as you don’t spend yourself into more debt than you can reasonably pay off, this strategy can work really well.

 

tell me some of your favorite shopping hacks in the comments!

5 Ways To Reduce Anxiety Right Now

 

It’s completely normal to feel nervous before a big event or a life change. You get a little sweaty, your muscles tense up, and you’re on alert. Anxiety disorders, medically speaking, are a little different. Anxiety disorders can range from a Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), characterized by a relentless and excessive worry about everyday life, to a more severe Panic Disorder, accompanied by heart palpitations, trembling, or dizziness.

Whether or not you fall within the spectrum of anxiety disorders, anxious and stressful feelings affect all of us in some capacity. While there are a lot of really beneficial ways to reduce stress and anxiety long-term (eating a balanced diet, reducing alcohol and caffeine intakes, exercising regularly, etc), when an anxiety attack or overwhelming thought starts to take hold, there are some small, meaningful things you can do to regain a sense of control and clarity.

1. Take A Walk

Stand up, go outside, get moving, and be mindful. There’s so much science behind the idea that exercising has a direct and positive affect on your mental health, but simply put, walking or doing anything active will force you to focus on exerting your energy physically instead of mentally, distracting you for a moment of the anxious thoughts that are running around in your mind relentlessly. Allowing your focus to shift elsewhere is an extremely effective way to work through those thoughts, I’ve found. While I’m taking in the scenery and boosting my endorphins during a walk or a hike, my mind isn’t immediately concerned with what’s been bothering me. When I come back to those thoughts later on, I’m usually in a much better mood (again, endorphins) and in a clearer head space in order to tackle them.

2. Breathe

If yoga has taught me anything, it’s how to breathe. While I’m pretty sure the human body was purposefully designed to do this on auto-pilot, there’s a lot of benefit in practicing mindful breathing, especially during moments of extreme anxiety or stress. Start by just noticing your breath. How long are your inhales and exhales? Focus on lengthening them. Count to five on an inhale, five on an exhale. Inhale deeply and hold it for several seconds, then release it slowly, holding it for several seconds again, then repeat. Whatever counting method you want to try or make up on your own will work just fine, honestly. The purpose here is to pay attention to your breath for several minutes, bring your heart rate down, and feel in control.

3. Fact-Check Yourself

The problem with anxiety is that often times it stems from a fear of what might be. It’s a tendency to fixate on worst-case scenarios, thinking that you can solve the problem before it even exists in order to be more prepared or to feel safer. The fact is, that’s cray. I can tell you for a fact that a good majority of the problems I obsess over are ones that fall into one of two categories. Either one, they’re legitimate problems that I can’t do anything about or, two, they’re imagined problems I’ve made up. Things like, “my dog is going to run away when I’m not home”, “my boyfriend doesn’t love me anymore”, “my boss thinks I’m not working hard enough”, “that person doesn’t like me because I said something stupid”, and the list goes on and on and on… The problem with both of these categories is that they’re not worth the mental energy I spend on them.

Whatever your own categories look like, I bet they’re not worth the energy, either. Next time you’re panicking about something, ask yourself first if it’s a legitimate problem or one you made up. If it’s legitimate, can you do anything about it? If yes, great, do that thing. If no, then don’t stress about it. It’s that simple. It sounds really counter-intuitive to just not think about a glaring issue, however, the point here is that if you’re fixated on that issue so much to the point that you can’t focus on anything else, you’re not doing yourself or the people around you any favors. I promise, whatever it is won’t be a problem forever, and you sacrificing your own happiness for the sake of it isn’t going to make it any better.

4. Call In Reinforcements

If you’re like me, you probably have a really hard time remembering the point above. I’m talking goldfish-level memory. Yea, it’s bad. Thankfully, I have an amazing circle of family and friends who I wholeheartedly trust and seek out when I’m anxious or panicked or stressed (often all of the above). For example, I’ve been going through a legal matter regarding a property I own, and it’s been a really lengthy and exhausting process. My pride has been shattered, my patience has been more than tested, and my nerves have been shot with anxiety. I’ve cried more times in the last 2 months than I have in the last year. I don’t know what I’d do without my support system reminding me daily that it’ll all work out in the end, and that some problems can’t be solved today.

If you’re overwhelmed with anxiety, call someone. Call your mom, your dad, a friend, your sister, your brother, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your teacher, your co-worker, your neighbor - someone. Talk to someone, let it out and let it go. Let them listen, and let them help.

5. Laugh

When all else fails, laugh. Pull up a funny video on YouTube or watch an episode of your favorite sitcom, anything that will make you laugh organically even when you’re tense. Science, once again, shows that there are tons of short and long-term benefits to a good laugh, especially in times of stress. Thank god for the ability to binge-watch The Office, right?

You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.
— Dan Millman

Asking For Help Is A Strength, Not A Weakness

 

I'm here to announce that I have a problem. And I'm not talking about my split ends, chewed fingernails, or my obsession with cheap bottles of wine. I'm talking about a real issue I've been dealing with probably forever that I've only just recently realized was actually holding me back, and probably causing me more stress than necessary (though, when you're in a constant state of mild anxiety-induced stress who even notices, right?).

I'm talking about asking for help. I am the worst at asking for help and the queen of proclaiming "I got this". I wear that phrase like a badge of honor, holding myself upright by it and planting my flag in its safe and familiar soil. In all honesty, that phrase has gotten me through the really tough days, the days I want to quit trying. The days that I’m too overwhelmed, too scared, too tired and beaten down. "I got this" is my mantra that keeps me going.

It's also one of my biggest weaknesses.

Carpet in the bedroom to rip up? I can do that. Large client at work need managing? I'm your girl. Mountain to climb on the other side of the country? I don't need you, I can do this by myself. That's me; independent, strong-willed, type-A, and drowning. Drowning because I, up until very recently, have had a really hard time letting go of control (ahem, still struggling). Until very recently, I haven’t been able to admit to myself that I was letting the ideas of how others might perceive me get in the way of my growth. And up until very recently, I haven’t felt vulnerable enough to share them.
 

Asking for help, in my mind, equates to:

  1. I’m being a burden to them

  2. They think this is a stupid question

  3. I’m too weak to do this on my own

  4. They trusted me with this and now I’m failing them

  5. They won’t trust me in the future if I can’t figure this out

  6. They’re already stressed/overwhelmed, I can’t add to it

  7. They’ll think I can’t do my job right

  8. I’ve already asked this question, if I ask again it’ll be annoying

  9. I want to be seen as a leader and leaders do things on their own

  10. I should be able to figure it out


All. Lies.

I’ve realized that the problem with these thoughts, beyond the fact that they’re downright toxic to my mental health, is that by me being too scared to ask for help when it’s necessary because I fear any of the things listed above, I'm doing more harm than good for all parties involved. I’m living in my comfort zone, the space in which notoriously nothing grows. I’m not getting new perspectives or ideas, nor am I being very productive with my time and resources. Do I want my hand held every step of the way? No. But I understand now that there are moments that I do need assistance, guidance, direction, moral support, emotional support, etc. because, let’s face it, I’ve not lived enough life yet to do all of it alone, at least not well.

I’m learning to be at peace with that.

We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone … and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.
— –Sandra Day O’Connor

I’ve always told myself that I’m brave, strong, capable, and able to do anything I set my mind to. To be clear, I still absolutely believe those things. But I’ve forgotten, so selfishly, that I have a lot of people to thank for helping me remember these things on the bad days, and many more people to thank for helping to guide me through the really tough problems, whether they knew they were helping or not. I know with absolute certainty that these people are on my side and ready to draw their swords at a moment’s notice, and I, them. What a beautiful feeling of security.

It's taken quite a bit of self-reflection, several professional performance reviews, and a few fall-flat-on-my-face moments lately to make me see this problem more clearly than ever before. But as you can guess, as with any problem that needs solved, I got this (now with a little help).

When Was The Last Time You Asked For Help?

Creating Healthy Boundaries

 

I grew up understanding two crucial things; one, you will never please everyone, and two, you're responsible for yourself. Despite these lessons, social expectations and my own mental deception during adolescence and early adulthood started pushing me into a much different (and much more self-destructive) belief system. I started to believe I was nothing without my friends or family, that I could never say "no" to a social event, that I would miss something important or worth-while if I wasn't a part of everything, my relationships would wilt, I would disappoint someone, someone would stop loving me. I've never felt more alone during that time, and I've never felt more misunderstood by myself. 

It's taken a lot of self-reflection, time, and patience with myself to learn how to actively practice creating and keeping healthy boundaries in my relationships. And note, I said "practice", not "master". I never expect to be finished growing and learning myself and my boundaries. But since I've become more conscious of my needs and feelings, I've become a lot better at controlling my emotions when things get overwhelming, and keeping healthy relationships.

So, where to begin?
 

Become Self-Aware

First thing's first, you need to be able to tune into your feelings and become self-aware. You can't begin to create boundaries if you can't identify what it feels like to have them violated. Usually feelings of discomfort, anxiousness, resentment, and guilt are red flags. Follow those feelings, ask yourself what about the interaction made you feel that way. Where did it cross the line? Do you feel taken advantage of or not appreciated? Take notice, and identify patterns. Noticing patterns in behavior of yourself and others will help you take the next steps more confidently, because you'll have a clearer starting place. 
 

Know Yourself

Not only need to be able to recognize your feelings, ideas, and beliefs by tuning in and listening to yourself more, but you also need to understand them. Dedicate yourself to learning them and really get to know who you are as an individual. The more you learn to love and respect yourself you'll notice that it becomes easier to allow only people around you that follow suit, and to dismiss the ones who don't. 
 

Be Direct

This has been the hardest part for me when setting boundaries for myself. I hate confrontation, and I hate upsetting people, so being extremely direct goes against every fiber of my being. At least it used to. As with any skill, I had to practice feeling comfortable operating outside of my norm, and accept myself there. Since we all have varying ways in which we communicate or like to be communicated with, I've found being direct the most efficient way to bridge all gaps. Whether someone communicates similarly to me or not, being direct, clear, and honest eradicates all uncertainty. It not only makes conversations a lot simpler, but it also makes setting boundaries a lot easier. Don't be rude, just speak your truth.
 

Separate Yourself

There will come a day where you realize that not all of your relationships are healthy. I have always adhered to the belief that it's best to cut those people out entirely in a "rip the Band-Aid" like fashion. However, I've had to come to terms with the fact that that's not always possible, nor is it always the best solution, especially if the person does, in fact, bring some sort of value to my life. It is fair, though, to separate yourself enough to maintain a healthy relationship with that person again. Here's the thing, not everyone needs or deserves 100% of you (emotionally, psychologically, physically, intellectually), nor should you be giving that much of yourself to everyone. That's a recipe for burn-out and for heartbreak. Instead, create room for yourself and that other person to express yourself on a personal level without entangling emotional and psychological messes (save that for the real homies). Maybe that looks like workplace friendships, acquaintances you know through others, or just simply people you get along with on a surface level. Sometimes a little distance is vital to creating harmony within the relationships that would otherwise combust. 
 

Take Charge Of Your Choices

By taking charge of your choices, you're taking charge of your life. Simply put, this is the practice of saying "no". Say no to the things that are draining, to the tasks you don't have time for, and to the people who don't respect you. You don't owe anyone anything more than you are willing to give, and you retain the right to change your mind or your direction at any time. Taking charge of your choices is the outward activity of exercising and implementing your boundaries.
 

Make Self-Care A Priority

I know, I know. "Self-care" is such a buzz-word right now. But I 100% agree with the hype, it's so so so important. Self-care not only reinforces your boundaries and reminds you why you set them in the first place, but it gives you the necessary time you need to decompress, de-stress, and re-evaluate so you can come back to the table a better, more well-rested person. Plain and simple, it makes you a better human to other humans when you've taken time for yourself. For me, my favorite self-care activity is cancelling plans. I know that sounds kinda strange, but if I'm feeling really stressed, burnt out, overwhelmed, etc., there's nothing more freeing or more empowering than saying "you know what, as much as I'd love to hang out tonight, I really am not feeling 100% and I need a night to myself. I hope you can understand. Let's reschedule for next week?" While it depends very much on the event in question, most friends will absolutely understand (because remember, you've already weeded out the ones who wouldn't!), because they, too, are free-thinking individuals who need time to themselves. Self-care takes many forms, but no matter your preferred method or style, it's important to recognize your limits and take the necessary steps to preserve your sanity. 


I'm still learning a lot about my own boundaries, but while the lines might change form to allow for life changes or new responsibilities, there are a few thoughts that still hold very true to me:

  • Being a doormat is not synonymous with being a good person.

  • Accepting poor treatment of yourself because it's comfortable and conflict-free should not be confused with love, joy, or happiness.

  • Real relationships cannot be sustained without healthy boundaries, and respect for them.

  • Saying no to things that don't honor your self-worth is okay.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments below!

Free (& Nearly Free) Places To Go In Columbus

Phew! Is it just me, or is summer just flying by? I've been slacking on getting posts up here, mostly due to a lot of big changes & simply navigating the summertime buzz that is my social life right now. Ya girl is pretty tired over here, but embracing the chaos! 

Now, for those of you who know me personally, you know that I love me some freebies. This summer I've made it my mission to spend as little money as possible while still doing what I enjoy (ie. I've visited a lot of parks), and I've compiled a list of my favorite free (& nearly free) places to go in Columbus, during summer or otherwise.

Get out there and get exploring!

 

Inniswood Metro Gardens

This little gem in the suburb of Westerville is full of stunning landscapes, flowers, and art, and is one of my favorite parks in Columbus. Bonus points: it's dog-friendly!

Within the park itself there are several "themed" gardens to wander through, all of which have their own quirks and surprises. I particularly like the Sister Garden for the fact that it has a tree house (and since I'm actually 5 years old and can't say no to a tree house), as well as the Herb Garden, Fern Garden, Woodland Rock Garden. All of the gardens are beautiful, though, and even though the park isn't very large, there's plenty to see. It makes the list because it is absolutely free to go!

 
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The Columbus Museum of Art has always been one of my favorite "rainy day" spots in town. I cherish it more so probably considering my Grandma would take me here frequently as a kid, and I've loved seeing it grow over the years.

Besides the steady, impressive art collection housed within their walls, the museum offers a ton of regularly cycled exhibitions that fall usually within range of contemporary art. They also host a ton of really neat events within their museum and outside of the city, and offer a full floor of kid-centered arts and activities (which actually are fun for adults, too, if you like crafting in any capacity).

This museum makes the list due to its free Sunday admission - can't beat that! 

 

North Market

If you like farmer's markets, cultural diversity, food, shopping, and more food, the North Market is the place for you. This indoor public market hosts 35 vendors, consisting of produce, meats & fish, baked goods, bars, restaurants, and gift shops, and has something for just about anyone. On an open afternoon, my favorite thing is to walk through here and grab a bite to eat for lunch, maybe pick up a bouquet of flowers or a specialty baked good to take home, and enjoy people watching at the bar (don't pretend you don't).

North Market makes the list because while nothing is truly "free" at the market, it's only as expensive as you make it, and truthfully it's not necessary to spend a ton to have a good time here.

Bonus points: parking can be validated with any of the vendors after a purchase, which will save you money!

 


This magical park is exactly how it sounds; chock full of roses (and other flowers) of every variety, color, and size. If you've ever dreamed of strolling through an English rose garden outside a stone castle while reading poetry and drinking tea, this is (almost) your dream come true.

Spring and Summer months are obviously the best times to go, June being when the roses are at their peak bloom. Talk about a beautiful sight! The park itself runs along Olentangy Trail and Whetstone Park, so it makes it a great starting or ending place for any other walking or biking adventures, and it makes the list because it's 100% free to go. Win-win.

Bonus points: it's dog-friendly!




 

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Huntington Park: Clippers Stadium

What's better than a ball game, beer, and hot dogs on a summer evening?

Even if baseball isn't really your thing these games are a ton of fun. Take it from a girl who doesn't ever pay attention to the actual game while there. The stadium is designed to be very open, airy, and inclusive, and tickets are sold as low as $7 (and I'm not talking nose-bleeds). My personal favorite is hanging out at the bar/restaurant on the upper level and watching the game from there while dining or grabbing a drink - it's gorgeous view of the city, and a fun, inexpensive way to spend an evening in Columbus! 

 
 


I am in love with this bookstore in all honesty. It has an unmistakable charm about it that I have yet to see in all the bookstores I've wandered into so far - really, the only thing they're missing is a resident cat that sleeps on the cashier's counter. If you're a book lover, you'll understand what I mean.

It's incredibly easy to spend an afternoon wandering the 32 rooms of this store (I mean, there are 32 rooms...it's sort of expected), and since this shop is located in the heart of German Village, it's a great launching point to all of the other wonderful places within the neighborhood.

When I'm feeling a bit blue or maybe just bored, I come here to escape and get lost in the maze of rooms. I never leave empty-handed, and while the books aren't exactly free, they're fairly priced and often marked down (they have an entire room of clearance books!). And hey, it's free to read while you're there.

 

Highbanks Metro Park

If you don't feel like driving an hour away to hike Hocking Hills, Highbanks is a great alternative. It's nestled right between Polaris and Powell, but once you're there you instantly feel like you've been transported far outside the city. There are tons of beautiful trails for hiking or mountain biking, and some that allow pets (Coyote Run Trail is a great choice for pups!) One of the most popular trails is the Overlook Trail that winds you through about 2 miles of woods before dropping you at a stunning overlook spot (didn't see that coming, right?) above the Olentangy River. 

You guessed it, the park is free. Hike away!

 


The Conservatory is another cherished spot of mine thanks to my Grandma's frequent trips here with me as a kid. I find this place incredibly enchanting, and it's a favorite on my list of, you guessed it, rainy day spots. 

The indoor spaces are climate controlled year-round, and are amazing replicas of other climates and landscapes (ie. it's humid, guys). Between March and September the Pacific Island Water Garden room becomes home to hundreds of freely flying butterflies, and let me tell ya, it's magical. 
 

Though the conservatory building itself is filled to the brim with nature and art (did I mention the Chihuly glass art collection they have?), the Botanical Gardens also offer an overwhelming amount of beauty in their large outdoor space. The expertly manicured gardens and park are the only admissions-free part of the conservatory as a whole, but I'm lumping the whole damn place onto the list because it's a must-see for anyone visiting or living in Columbus. 

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16-Bit Bar+Arcade

Hey, I wasn't going to make a list including my favorite places in the city and not include a bar...

While bars are not free in nature (could you imagine, though?), this bar in particular is special due to the fact that it's filled with old-school arcade games that are 100% free to play as long as you buy a drink! Everything from Galga, Pac-Man, Mario Bros, to Mortal Combat, they have it. There's even a couple Nintendo gaming stations set up that house literally every Nintendo game (probably) ever.

And while they're not free, the drinks are half of the fun - they have a huge beer selection on tap and a truly unique cocktail menu (I recommend the Kevin Bacon, the Patrick Swayze, or the Uma Thurman). 

Weekends are obviously the busiest (and most crowded), but their weekday calendar is always full of fun tournaments, special games, and discounts. It's definitely a must-see spot. 

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FREE (OR NEARLY FREE) SPOT IN COLUMBUS? IF YOU'VE BEEN TO ANY OF THE PLACES ABOVE, LEAVE A COMMENT AND TELL ME WHAT YOU THOUGHT!

Things I Learned Growing Up On A Farm

 

When I was 10 my parents moved us from the suburbs of Columbus to Newark, Ohio, to a small stone house built upon itself over generations and nestled in a lush valley. In Columbus, we'd already kept a thriving garden, chickens, ducks, and even turkeys in our tiny fenced-in backyard, but all of a sudden we had 6 acres of wilderness to roam, play, and grow, and grow we did. 

I remember Dad telling us to not wear shoes in the tall grass so that our feet would toughen up, and I remember our first garden being plowed through the acres of unused land. I learned it was really important to make friends with the neighbors, especially the ones who had proper farm machinery, and I learned why you have to alternate corn and soybeans in fields. 

I remember us bringing home a little orange kitten that was for sale up at the corner store, and I remember when that kitten got eaten by a possum. There was a great deal of death on the farm, especially living on a busy, high-speed road, but there was even more life. There were chicks, calves, puppies, and kittens, nearly all of which we witnessed entering the world and leaving it. I learned how to properly kill, clean, and gut a chicken, and how to cook one.

I remember thinking the woods were magical, and I remember following the deer paths until I was thoroughly lost. I learned how to find my way home every time, and I learned who's property to not explore through. I learned that deer are territorial, fawns will hide in the underbrush, and vines are really fun to swing on. Dad built us a fort in the woods to hide in, and I learned boredom breeds imagination. 

I remember spending summers in the creek, and learning how to catch crawdads with my bare hands. My brother and I learned to build a shelter made of branches and leaves, and how to start a fire to cook said crawdads on (not good for eating). I learned that the creek bank changes with the seasons, as do some of the creatures who inhabit it. Snapping turtles are no joke (good for eating), and it was a good time to fish after a solid rain.

I remember Mom and Dad buying me a horse for Christmas when I was 14, and I remember wishing I could ride her bareback through the meadows like a country princess like I'd imagined I could be. I learned that dream was unrealistic, horses are expensive, and they take a lot more work and care than I was prepared for (despite the countless books I read). I also learned that if you offer a free horse on Craigslist, you'll make a lot of friends. 

I remember incredibly hot, humid, non-air-conditioned summers, and learned that before sunrise and after sunset were the best times to get work done. The creek was the only place to find relief, and I learned that rain, no matter the season, was a good thing. In winter, I learned that ice could knock out power but it was really fun to skate on.

I remember taking produce to the local Farmer's Market early every Saturday morning during the summer and fall, and how excited I was to get my cut from the daily earnings. I learned how to accurately count back money, talk to adults properly, and make a damn good salsa. 

I remember wanting to leave home really, really badly, and that the city lights seemed more enchanting than the lightning bugs on summer nights. I've taken for granted the things I learned and experienced growing up on that little farm, and how those lessons shaped the adult I am today. I've learned to equally love walking through the woods as much as I do the sidewalks of a city, but more importantly, I've learned to make my own way, brush the dirt off if I fall down, and always be home for Sunday dinner.