Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Car-Free in the Queen City: One Year Later

Can someone survive in Cincinnati without a car?

It’s a question I asked myself a year ago this week, moments after my gunmetal-colored 2001 Saab 9-3 was towed away from my parents’ home in Symmes Township. Its turbo engine full of sludge, I decided replacing an engine on a ten-year-old car wasn’t the most practical thing a gal could do.

But was giving up my wheels just as silly?

A resident of Over-the-Rhine, my employer at the time was two miles away from my home. I chewed on the logistics for a day or two and then made a solemn vow: I’d give public transportation a solid effort for one whole year.

I knew Cincinnati’s climate was full of springtime downpours, winter wallops and summertime swelter. This would be a challenge that would test my tenacity, my discipline and my ability to adapt. Would I take up cycling? How far would I be willing to walk? Would I become dependent on cab rides?

All questions that deserved some pause. And then I threw caution to the wind, screwed off the license plates, and sold the Saab for scrap metal.

I’ve discovered quite a bit in the last 365 days and counting since I said goodbye to that hunk of junk. I learned that, naysayers be damned, Cincinnati has a pretty decent public transportation system. The Metro maps and schedules take some getting used to, but guess what, they take getting used to in London, San Francisco, and Boston, too.

More Cincinnatians could give this effort a try if we had even more transportation options. The streetcar isn’t a panacea for the Queen City, but it is a great start and would be complemented beautifully if it were someday joined by light rail, high-speed rail, etc. Hope springs eternal.

My bank account is quite pleased with this new lifestyle - I am saving hundreds of dollars a month thanks to embracing this change. No car payment, insurance, gas, maintenance and repairs, parking tickets and the like – I have a lot more money to my name thanks to scrapping my wheels. I’m investing more of that money in my 401k and I’m able to enjoy a better quality of life – a life that includes more theatre tickets, more special meals out with friends and more opportunities to travel.

At the end of the day, I know those travel adventures and occasions with friends will mean far more to me in the years to come than the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat for a trip to Kroger.

Speaking of money, I quickly discovered that my sans-car lifestyle had an unexpected but direct affect on where I spend my money. Quick trips to Kenwood or West Chester for shoes and Swedish meatballs is but a memory; these days I buy locally made candles at Park + Vine, the freshest produce around at Madison’s at Findlay Market, and couture fashions from Over-the-Rhine fashion designer Lindsey Lusignolo.

I’m still spending money – I’m just spending it in a concentrated economic footprint, and I really like that. I’m supporting business owners and neighbors who call OtR/CBD home, and that makes me feel good. I’m not making a car payment to a bank that’s far, far away from the Tri-State, and I’m not driving out of the city to pick up a pair of stilettos.

My parents would argue I have plenty of shoes, anyway.

My waistline is another place enjoying the benefits of my new lifestyle. When I ditched the car last December, I embraced a change that required me to walk a few blocks to the bus stop. In warmer months, I’d forgo the bus and instead would stroll down Reading Road after a day’s work. Car-free means walking to the Aronoff, Great American Ball Park and Music Hall. It means hopping on my bicycle for a trip across the river to Newport and the Southgate House. Car-free, paired with my new found love of running, has helped me lose 33 pounds and counting.

Walking the streets of OtR and CBD, my neighbors are more familiar to me. Mark Anthony is my favorite Streetvibes vendor and I can always count Danny Korman at Park + Vine for a friendly wave or good news of the day. I know I wouldn’t be able to have as many interactions with friends and neighbors if I was stuck behind the wheel of my car.

By ditching my car, I am taking full advantage of living and working in a walkable neighborhood.

A year into this challenge, many friends are curious about my next step. Am I buying a car? Am I sticking with the car-free lifestyle? I am happy to report that no car is on order, though I have dreamed on occasion of plunking down some cash for a zippy, two-seat sports car.

The fact is, I love being without an automobile. I am getting ready to add a new dimension to this challenge: I have my motorcycle permit and intend on buying a hot, red scooter this spring.

At nearly 100 miles a gallon, I’m still doing a lot of good for the environment, but this time with some style.

Who knows what the future holds. I am just glad I’ve been able to prove to many friends and myself that – yes – you can live in Cincinnati without a car.

A simple challenge by some standards, but for most, it’s regarded as a minor miracle.

But it shouldn’t be. 

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Marketing In The Eyes of A Three-Year-Old

"Why does all the girls have to buy pink stuff, and all the boys have to buy different colored stuff?"

As someone who played with trucks and Legos as a little girl, I say "Right on" to Riley.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Cincinnati sure loves its holiday traditions.

Back in the early 1990s, WLWT reporter Michael Collins pulled together a video featuring local celebrities reading the classic Christmas story by Clement C. Moore.

The clever and ever passionate Joe Wessels decided to revive the video, but this time with some new faces.

The latest edition features some of Cincinnati's newest politicos, personalities, small business owners and other ardent supporters of the Queen City.

And, somehow, I made the cut.

Kudos to Joe Wessels and his partner in crime, Margy Waller, for pulling together this great piece.

Good night!

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Home in 2012

I am a sidewalk philanthropist.

There are a handful of charitable organizations I support with significant (to me) donations - organizations that focus on human services and the arts. I am committed to contributing to United Way, and I love supporting local cultural efforts by investing in ArtsWave.

But most of my contributions happen very organically.

I attend lots and lots of charitable functions and support local organizations by buying tickets and bidding at silent auctions.

Buying Streetvibes is another little way I try to do my part to help others. It's a credible, alternative newspaper sold by vendors who are trying to find and maintain permanent housing. Streetvibes vendors are friendly and hard working, and I suggest you give them a chance. They earn 75 cents for every paper sold.

Mark Anthony is my favorite Streetvibes vendor. I regularly see him walking the streets near my home. A hustler in the kindest way possible, this guy washes cars, sells newspapers and takes on other tasks to make a buck or two.

He calls me "Smiley Face" when he sees me, and he once offered to wash my car for free as thanks for being kind to him.

I didn't have the heart to tell Mark Anthony I don't own a car.

Mark Anthony aspires to ownership of his own. The U.S. Army veteran (he says he was shot in Honduras in the 80s) would like to buy a home on the West Side. It's a home someone else owns and is willing to sell to him for $2500.

Mark Anthony already has several hundred dollars saved, but he needs to come up with the rest of the cash by December 31, or the property will transfer to someone else.

Touched by his story and the sincerity of his hopes, I fished a ten-spot out of my wristlet and handed it to Mark Anthony.

"Are you serious? Glory to God! Thank you!" he replied.

His enthusiasm sparkled and shined better than any toy under the Christmas tree.

This holiday season, find your own Mark Anthony. Seek out someone in need, have a personal exchange with them, and offer them whatever kindness and generosity you can afford - financially or emotionally.

I promise you'll come out the winner.

People interested in contributing to Mark Anthony's quest for home ownership may send contributions to the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, ATTN: Mark Anthony Shears, 117 E. 12th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. You can also reach Mark Anthony via mobile phone at 513.319.6979.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Santa Baby: 2011

I've been an awfully good girl.

Between all my running, volunteering, and this year's professional successes, I have a lot to write Santa about.

Rather than pop a letter in the post, I thought I'd give St. Nick a show-and-tell about the things on my wish list. Any one of these items would make me a happy girl (or any lady on your shopping list).

Hunter wedge heel wellies

Perfect for the downtown-working, downtown-playing, downtown-living lady - this boot will keep your tootsies dry while elongating your leg a bit thanks to the stacked wedge heel. It's just a matter of time until you see these boots on my feet ($175).

Bond No. 9
I am a sucker for good fragrances.

On men, on myself - I love a delicious scent, and Bond No. 9 is my favorite line of the moment ($160-230 depending on size). I wore the Andy Warhol Success is a Job in New York fragrance when I accepted my Forty under 40 award in September. Lately, I've taken to wearing the Westside, Chinatown and Nuit de Noho scents (the latter reminds me of my previous winter standby, Angel by Thierry Mugler).

I'm thinking of ringing in the new year with a new bottle of the Coney Island scent. Its margarita and chocolate notes are just what the doctor ordered for the start of 2012.

I unexpectedly received a second iPhone at work on Tuesday. Now I have my pesonal iPhone 4, and an iPhone 4s for my professional needs.

They're both white, and other than Siri, I can't tell the two apart.

It's time to get some fun cases to give each smartphone some intelligent personality.

Kate Spade has a variety of classic, stylish and colorful versions for iPhone 4/4s devices. They run about 40 bucks, which is comparable to a simpler case you could pick up at the Verizon store.
Christmas is eleven days away, and the great thing about being a grown up is that we can pick up whatever our heart desires if Santa forgets to place a special gift under the tree.

Do you think I should tell him I want an iPad, too?

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Be The Change You Desire

I had no idea a trip to India would have such a profound effect on my life.

There I was, trudging through the sweltering 110 degree heat of Jaipur in May, steering clear of contaminated ice and white knuckling it on tuk tuk rides, when I realized something needed to change.

That change was me.

Overweight, 34-years-old and single, I had a moment of self actualization somewhere between the Taj Mahal and my 15th broken ATM.

I can wait for life to happen, or I can make the life I want.

Chances are, if you wait for life to happen, it's not going to end up the way you'd choose.

And so I started running.

That was the first pivotal thing I did to make the change I wanted in my life. You've read a little bit about my running efforts. I started running, slowly, in the beginning of June. I continue to run as part of my training for a half marathon I'm running in 44 days in California.

I've lost 30 pounds and counting. I feel healthier, my heart is stronger, and my body fat continues to melt away.

I made that change all on my own.

My second big change. I haven't talked about it much here, and out of respect for those involved, I'd prefer to keep it that way.

We can be consumed with love for another, but if that person is not able to love us back, we are wasting one of the greatest gifts a human being can offer.

My love is a treasure.

90 days ago I walked away from the closest relationship in my universe. It still hurts, but since I made that choice, I've broadened promising horizons and have rediscovered the value of my solo self.

I know my hopes and dreams hinge on this change.

And today marks another significant change. After almost four years of working for a noble and well respected employer, I am embarking on a new opportunity with exciting challenges.

I have a distinct vision of myself in five, 10 and 20 years, and that vision requires me to aspire to professional growth. As much as I have enjoyed the current station of my professional life, I know myself well enough to know that a change would better suit my hopes and dreams.

Monday brings with it a new job title, a new office and a heap of new things to learn.

I know that I'm not even fully aware of how this change will impact my life.

What I do know is that, on a hot and sweaty day in India, I had my "Ah ha" moment.

I need to start living the life I want, and I'm the only person who can make that life happen.

So, here goes.

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." - Pericles 

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Fashion Plate

I've hired my own personal fashion designer.

It sounds so glamorous - very Old Hollywood. "Dahling, let me ring the designer and have her whip me up a gown for the party at the club."

The thing is, Over-the-Rhine is starting to turn into a solid destination for fashionistas.

Duru Armagan opened Sloane Boutique in the Gateway Quarter (the shop's name is a hat tip to the Sloane Rangers of London), and you can also find ready-to-wear fashions at Couture Couture on Main Street.

And I have to give a shout out to my favorite vintage hot spot, Mannequin (and if you go, tell Moe I sent you. Really.)

If you want something that's more custom in nature (and will fit you like a glove), I suggest you visit Lindsey Lusignolo, also on Main Street.

Known for the stunning wedding gown in the window, Lusignolo's studio brings true couture designs to Over-the-Rhine.

I had the pleasure of working with her in June when I needed a blouse made for the sari I picked up in India a month prior.

Rather than design a simple and traditional blouse, Lusignolo crafted an amazing, off-the-shoulder piece that highlighted fabric from my sari, all while creating a shape that was flattering for my curvy form.

I recently decided I'd employ Lusignolo's services for a grander project - a custom gown for the Junior League of Cincinnati's CinSation gala.

The theme is "Shaken, Not Stirred," and I decided I wanted a hot gown that would be like no other at the event.

Working with Lusignolo is a multi-step process.

The designer first meets with the client to learn of her desired vision, preferred fabric, and view images of inspiration.

A return visit involves sketches by Lusignolo that capture different features highlighting the client's desires.

For my CinSation gown, I told my favorite designer I wanted it to be sexy, classic, and something that celebrated my body's curvy physique.

Lusignolo and I poured over the sketches above and I pinpointed a few features I'd like to carry over in my design. The next step involves meeting with her once again to see a muslin mock-up of the dress that emulates the pieces I want in my design.

I'll have one more opportunity to edit the lines, and then Lousignolo and her team will begin crafting my gown.

Will it be red? Gold? Black?

One thing I can tell you... it will be all Bond Girl.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Urban Family

We single girls stick together.

One of my dearest friends and I have birthdays three days apart, and rather than split the party up over two days, we were excited to celebrate with one big extravaganza.

You see, Candace is part of my "urban family," the people with whom I share my successes, my trials, my hopes and dreams, and we wanted to bring our little family together for something spectacular.

Our merry band of friends and family headed underground for an unusual dinner party in the old Kaufmann Brewery tunnels in Over-the-Rhine.

After some careful arm twisting, begging and the calling in of favors, the evening came off without a hitch, and we are forever grateful.

We single girls are a force to be reckoned with.

Some people have spouses and babies and anniversaries to celebrate and warm beds to claim. Married folks have that one person they can turn to for counsel, commiseration, and compassion.

We say, why settle for just one person?

Yes. It's absolutely said in jest. We'd love to have a partner in crime. I'd love to find my soul mate. But between the board meetings, volunteer work, collecting passport stamps and other (mis)adventures, it can be hard to find the Nicky Arnstein to my Fanny Brice.

So, I turn to the "family" around me.

These are the loved ones who help us celebrate birthdays and professional successes. They are loyal to a fault and will fight tooth and nail to defend our honor. Our urban family showers us with phone calls, observes annual traditions, invites us to their dinner table, and will shame any man who wrongs one of their sisters.

We are thick as thieves.

Women make up most of my urban family - some married, some not. But we also have men in our urban family. Guys who do the heavy lifting, offer genuine compliments, and let us sharpen our talons through political sparring. They are just what a girl would want out of a brother, but without the smelly clothes and spiteful teasing.

I love my urban family.

I have no idea what the future holds. I wish I could take comfort in knowing all my life's wishes and dreams will come true. Unfortunately, this is no fantasy and I'm pretty certain Prince Charming isn't going to stride up Walnut Street on a white stallion to whisk me away.

But who said I needed whisking, anyway?

What I need is a life partner. And until I find a man who's worth commingling assets, I'm going to stay right where I am.

Life is not easy, and I know hard days are ahead. Some of us will get sick. Some of us will mourn the loss of immediate family members. Some of us will weather financial troubles and relationship drama.

Through it all, I know my urban family will be by my side.

And sometimes knowing that is all I need.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Santa, Baby

Someone, somewhere, is going to get a ring worth a second mortgage.

We spied it during a special cocktail hour kicking off the holiday season at the venerable Tiffany & Co.

(Ed. note: true connoisseurs of baubles wrapped in Pantone PMS 1837 blue know it's Tiffany singular - there's no possessive here. We do not say Tiffany's with an S, because that would be like saying we went to Wal Mart's with an S... which is something we never say, anyway... but you get the point).

Pictures of the ring in a moment, but first, we must set the scene - and that means cocktails - Tiffany Blue cocktails. The "Tiffanytini," as they were called, were delicious, and just the perfect shade of blue, thanks to vodka, pineapple juice, Blue Curacao, and a few other secret ingredients.

My dear friend Ms. M joined me on this excursion for drinks and diamonds. As it turns out, a cocktail and a nosh on a couple crabcake bites is just the stuff to get a girl to saunter toward the jewelry case.

We adored many things. My little girl self has always been in love with the Elsa Peretti open bottle pendant. We have a family friend who had big deal job at Kenner Toys. The toy designer would jet off to New York City all the time, where her daughter said she enjoyed fancy lunches with Estee Lauder and trips to Tiffany.

I was always enamored with the silver bottle she wore around her neck. Tiffany & Co. retired the design a while back, but recently brought it back to market.

For a mere $695, it could be mine. Or yours.

If you want some sparkle without breaking the bank, might I suggest a new collection featuring locks.

Tiffany introduced the Keys collection a couple years ago, and they were an instant smash. The new Locks line aims to capture some of that fervor, featuring a variety of charms, pendants, bracelets and other designs that bear a classic lock design.

What I didn't know is that the lock is a powerful symbol of lust.

Apparently "love locks" started popping up all over European bridges earlier this century. Ms. M told me she and her husband noticed a bridge covered in locks while in Paris last summer.

It's quite romantic when you think about it. Lovers meeting to leave a lasting symbol of their burning desire, each keeping a key that unlocks that steely symbol of passion.

Until I make a trek to Paris with a man I love, I would happily settle on one of the above designs. The necklaces run $250-450; I'm eying the bracelet as a future reward ($500).

And then  we went to go see The Ring.

Oh, the ring.

I've always heard it's bad luck to try on another woman's engagement ring, but I suppose unclaimed diamonds are fair game, especially when you're browsing at Tiffany.

We eyed this whopper - the price tag comes in at just under $100,000 - and we couldn't help ourselves.

Kasmira told me Tiffany & Co. operated on an exchange policy, meaning I could exchange one of my rings from India (lovely gems, but really, they don't even begin to compare to Tiffany) for one of the big diamonds.

Ms. M and I both thought about living out our own Thelma-and-Louise diamond heist moment in Downtown Cincinnati, but she astutely remarked, "But, we won't get our parking validated."


If you don't have time to make it to Vine and 5th streets, you can drool over Tiffany's engagement rings here (note: in that case, Tiffany's is possessive, and the "S" is appropriate).

I also scoped out a beautiful strand of pearls, in anticipation of a big purchase I plan to make this coming year. I've decided I want some pearls for my 35th birthday, and while Tiffany pearls are lovely ($5000), I will probably keep searching until I find something that's just right.

That's probably a good way to operate for most lifetime commitments.

Santa, we've been very good girls this year. Please don't forget to leave some Tiffany Blue under the tree.

We promise we deserve it.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

Every celebration deserves some sweets, yes?

I have had cupcakes on the brain ever since I settled on two beauties from Magnolia Bakery in New York.

I know, I know. Everyone knows about Magnolia.

The Manhattan bakery was heralded in an SNL video and made a cameo in SATC. Other movie credits include The Devil Wears Prada, and Prime.

I get it. You know about Magnolia.

But did you know Grand Central Terminal has its very own Magnolia cupcake? A version they don't sell anywhere else?


I scored the Grand Central version because, well, when in Rome the train station, right? And of course I had to snag the iconic chocolate-chocolate duo.

Let's examine further.

Ol' Grand Central, on the left, features a marble swirl cake topped with vanilla buttercream icing (in a lovely turquoise color) with a dark chocolate disc featuring Grand Central Terminal's logo, all dusted in gold flecks.

The chocolate cupcake is a sweet as can be, punctuated with white sprinkles, or jimmies, as they're called in New England (of which, New York is not).

But I digress.

The chocolate cake. Incredibly rich, moist and quite decadent for a Monday afternoon. But it was phenomenal and worth every damn calorie I had to work off running the next day.

The Grand Central. it was good, but man, that thing was icing overload. Something about eating food that bears colors not seen in nature... for the life of me, I could not get over the icing. I felt like I was eating a jaundiced Smurf.

I pretty much pitched the cupcake after I took the above photo.

The cupcake craving continues... Jenn Hardin of Cinsational Sweet Treats is making me some cupcakes for my looming birthday (she even has a "Katy Cupcake," my beloved chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting!)

What size was Marie Antoinette, again?

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Things I'm Thankful For

A list.

No explanation needed. In no particular order.

A colorful family including this year's newest edition, Liam Michael
Several close friends with deep, honest connections
Even more pals who make my days entertaining and worthwhile
A beloved neighborhood, warts and all
The Junior League of Cincinnati
My newfound love of running
Far flung adventures that open eyes and make me feel
The strength to act on those feelings
The courage to stand alone
Limitless optimism. It will always get better. Always
An enriching job, complete with amazing colleagues
Manhattans (up, of course) with good bourbon
My B.A. from the University of Kentucky
A kick ass pie crust recipe
My straight teeth - thanks for the braces, Mom and Dad!
Bono and the entire U2 band (in the name of love..)
Aww, hell. Bacon, too
A loft apartment with a stellar view
My bike!
My singing voice
Food in the refrigerator, a warm bed, and a clean shower
The ability to read
My subscription to Vanity Fair
My iPod Classic/iPod Shuffle/iPhone trio
NPR (especially Jian Ghomeshi)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
My Nana's WWII coin bracelet
hair bleach
Clean drinking water
My innate curiosity and sense of adventure
A valid passport
A love of public transportation
A kind heart
Limitless opportunity

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Settling Down or Just Settling

Sometimes I feel like my friends are planning an all-out offensive on my singlehood.

"What about XXXX? He's a nice guy. Have you ever thought of him?" It's not the kind of email I expect from a Council Member-Elect (who also happens to be a dear friend), but I'll take it.

Last Friday night, the Newport Posse combed over my dating history to consider prospects from the past as we noshed on cocktails and the best tacos in town (side note: I suggest the pork belly. Hands down).

My relationship status has gone through a transition of sorts as of late. I am traveling solo these days, and my closest friends are ready and willing to offer up suggestions and strategy to turn me into a +1.

Our conversation at Nada meandered down memory lane and future inroads quite frenetically.

B: "Remember that guy? That guy! What was his name, M? Remember him? He came over for dinner to our house once."
M: "But B. What about that guy you know? You know the one. He has the kids? Katy, is it okay if he has kids? B., he loves volunteering, so does she! It's a perfect match."
B: "But that guy. The one? He liked outdoor stuff? What about that one? Remember the guy?"
M: "Or what about one of the twins, B? Not the player twin, but the other twin? Wouldn't he be nice? The nice twin? They'd go great together. Really great."
B: "But what about that guy?!"

It's easy to read that conversation in a Yiddish dialect, but I promise these folks are Xers who used to live in L.A.

Sometimes I think a Yenta would be far easier than some of the other modern devices. Plenty of Fish. eHarmony. At one time or another, I've tried them all, and I insist on holding the line on my standards.

And I guess that's the rub some 30-something women (and perhaps men) face.

Settle down by settling.

As my dear friends kibitzed over carnitas as to whether my standards are high (and brought up an entirely different blog topic related to birth control, women who get around, and "The Sisterhood" of years gone by), I stood my ground and insisted that I'd rather stay alone than sacrifice who I am for the sake of getting married.

"I'm not going to move into a split-level and start eating at Applebee's!" I exclaimed in a conversation with my mother later that weekend.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with split-levels and Applebee's. I know very nice people who live in split-levels and eat at Applebee's.

They're both just a huge departure from how I currently live, my preferences and how I see my future.

And I guess that's my point.

I want to find a man who can compliment what I've already got going on in my universe. I don't want to have to scrap what I've been working on for years to accommodate a situation that isn't quite right.

I don't want to compromise too much, find myself tied down, disappointed and longing for a dissolution.

That's a recipe for disaster for everyone involved.

So, I plod along the already existing circles of myself, firmly believing that someone else's orbit will compliment mine beautifully. It's only a matter of time until we meet.

And when we do, we can smash the glass, yell "L'chaim" and pour champagne for everyone.

Man, my Catholic church is in for some surprises regarding wedding traditions.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Secret Society

Yes, Virginia. They do exist.

When I jetted off to Connecticut last weekend, I anticipated fine dining. Every ounce of my being salivated at the thought of revisiting my old hometown. I expected visiting some of the local hot spots.

Those elements are de rigueur when it comes to traveling.

I had no idea I'd stumble on a secret along the way.

Last weekend we had the thrilling pleasure of snagging an invite to one of the secret societies at Yale University. Not this one, and not this one, and not this one, but yet another one on campus. There are 12 such societies on the ivy-and-stone walled school.

So. These secret societies. What are they all about?

Established as far back as the 1830s, they all have gorgeous buildings (they affectionately call them 'tombs') that feature few windows, beautiful masonry and tall walls or gates.

Mostly social in nature, these societies typically offer membership to a select group of seniors. Only current members and alumni are allowed inside the tomb (though I assume members and alumni make exceptions for pretty girls).

We grabbed our wine glasses and padded our way through the building. A brief dance party erupted after someone flicked on a strobe light, and we busted moves hardly seen in the place a hundred years ago.

Then we passed through a secret door and took a staircase to a sort of meeting chambers - complete with upholstered chairs and a podium for members to address the crowd.

I won't admit whether any photos exist of our secret society jaunt. That just wouldn't be a wise move. Thankfully, Google features a lot of secret society-related photos for the curious.

I'd always wondered about these Ivy League secret societies. They sometimes get heavy play in Hollywood's hits, and I grew more curious years ago when I learned that GWB (and GHWB and John Kerry) was a member of Skull and Bones.

Both GWB and Kerry were asked about their membership in "Bones" during the 2004 election. Both remarked they didn't have much to say about it, "...because it's a secret."
I'll oblige the sentiment.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Whittling Away - Body, Mind and Soul

It's not every day you lose 30 pounds.

Actually... it's taken me many days. I started changing my diet in April, and I started exercising after my trip to India in May.

It started first with long walks - a two mile jaunt home after a long work day, sometimes a seven miler along the Ohio River.

And then I bought the running skirt.

I hit the pavement in June and watched the numbers drop. Five pounds down. 12 pounds down. 18 pounds down. 22 pounds down.

With each new, impressive number, I recommitted to the mission of this effort, which is just one facet of a personal revolution:
  • Commit to genuine relationships that involve pure intentions and honest emotion. 
  • Treat my body as a gift, invest in it, and take advantage of the opportunities God has given me. 
  • Allow my heart, mind and soul to digest only "quality content."

You already know a lot of what's happening to my body. I'm running at least three times a week as part of the Hal Higdon half marathon training program. I've joined a gym. I'm investing time in my future by making healthy choices - I'm preparing a lot of healthy food, watching my alcohol intake, and drinking water like I'm a fish.

The water. The exercise. The fewer cocktails and fatty foods. These are the essential points to weight loss.

There is no easy way to do it.

But this reinvention has led to a variety of other changes in my life. I stopped watching television at the end of August. I found that television was a vapid time suck for me, and I wasn't spending time putting smart content in my head.

These days, my brain is full of NPR, the pages of Vanity Fair and a variety of other smart sources I read day and night.

I watch a few quality TV programs and select movies thanks to Netflix.

Media is like food. You can put sweet junk like Snooki and the Desperate Housewives in your head, and that's what your brain is going to think about.

Or, you can let your neurons nosh on thoughtful content, and I tend to think it will turn you into a more thoughtful person.


As for relationships, I've come to the conclusion that I have a finite amount of free time in my life, and I only want to spend that time on people and experiences that will be enriching for all parties.

I'll take a deep conversation and a cup of coffee any day over shallow quips traded during happy hour.

My social interactions are intentional.

Many of my actions are intentional, and that's a far cry better than where I was a year ago.

I'll take it.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Senior Moment

The time is running out on my youth.

That was the thought this morning as I slathered my face in a beta carotene-Vitamin C serum, followed by a moisturizer that promises elasticity and glow.

Whatever "glow" is.

It's no coincidence that I am grappling with my age. In two weeks, I turn 35. An age that sounds more like pearls and pinot grigio than it does tequila body shots and platform dancing.

Sometimes I miss those days - the wild ones. The ones that end with forgotten nights and remembered mistakes. But honestly, as I grow older, I am more consumed with the human experience - my human experience - and am desperate to soak up any true connection I can forge.

I've started re-watching Sex And The City. Carrie Bradshaw, the first famous blogger, and the rest of her motley crew of wanton mamas, and the hard fought crusade through their 30s.

Fiction or not, the series has become a sort of bible for single 20 and 30-something women.

In one recently watched episode, she remarks to Mr. Big that she is sick of the merry-go-round, and instead just wants to enjoy the stillness, and that she hopes he wants to enjoy the stillness with her.

The stillness.

That sounds really nice.

The frothy dreams of my mind imagine that stillness includes deep conversation, warm embraces, trust and hope. The stillness is the reward for fighting through all those years of vacuous relationships, unfulfilled endings, and a disappointing lack of honesty.

It sounds so much nicer than disco lights, cheap beer and throwaway come-on lines.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yankee Patriot

New York City is an unbelievable place to observe Veterans Day.

I stumbled across the pomp and circumstance last Friday as I walked along 57th Street, approaching Carnegie Hall.

I couldn't figure out why the Boys in Blue had stopped traffic for an assembly of bikers on Harleys.

And then I saw their leathers.

Tricked out with patriotic patches of the Stars and Stripes. American flag-themed bandannas.

Beaming grins spread across weathered faces.

They were beautiful.

Veterans Day in New York feels a little bit different because it doesn't just honor the servicemen and women who have fought for our country.

It honors those who were lost, and those who served in those horrific moments our country fought for itself on our own soil.

Before the parade started, the crowd walked down Fifth Avenue, which was shut down to passing traffic.

It was a little surreal to see one of the major thoroughfares of Gotham shut down to all vehicles. Couples stood in the middle of the road and posed for photos, trying to capture the moment's strange stillness.

Never forget.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Bite Out Of The Big Apple And Beyond

Flight attendants, Connecticut commuters and drug mules - they all spend just a few hours in New York City.

On Friday, you can add my name to the list, too.

I am so jazzed to jet off to the East Coast this weekend with one of my dearest friends. She's speaking at a startup conference focused on web and mobile applications, and I'm tagging along to play tour guide and soak up some of my old stomping grounds.

My trip starts solo in NYC, where I'll take in the sizzle of the streets from about 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The entire day in New York? I'll take it! I love any opportunity to wander the mean streets of Manhattan, and my taste buds are already drooling at the prospects of taking a self-guided macaron tour

The one random thing I Googled in planning this trip: "best places to take a nap in NYC."  Let's face it, the 7 a.m. flight means this girl is going to be rising well before the sun, so I will probably need a bit of downtime unless I decide to mainline a few hits of Five Hour Energy.

As it turns out, I'm not the only one who wants to sleep in the city that never does.

YeloSpa offers a special treatment room where you can dim the lights, enjoy some aromatherapy and recharge your batteries. A 40-minute nap runs $30, and you can pay less if you don't mind sleeping less.

A haven of serenity amidst the melee of humanity. I heart.

Next up. Lunch. We don't just stroll through the city. We conquer the concrete and steel with reckless abandon, and we do it thanks to a great lunch with local flavor and a friendly price point. 

On Friday, I will probably turn to the resources of Midtown Lunch - a great site with the following definition: "mid • town lunch n. (mid-toun lunch) 1. An inexpensive (under $10), authentic, unique and interesting quick service lunch, preferably near where you work. 2. An adventure in urban lunching."

I dig.

I started running in June and have since lost 30 pounds, meaning my wardrobe could stand a few updated pieces. Thankfully, Zagat's tells me Vintage Thrift is the best second-hand store in the city. The Gramercy Park-near venue features clothing, accessories, fine and costume jewelry, and other great finds.

Screaming Mimi's, Buffalo Exchange and Tokio 7 look like great options, too.

Relaxation. Food where the locals graze. Recycled high fashion.

What more could a girl ask for in New York City?

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Meet Me At The Polls

As people do better, they start voting like Republicans - unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing.
-Karl Rove

I never thought I'd quote Karl Rove on the blog. There's a first time for everything.

Tomorrow is Election Day, and I wanted to take this moment to remind your of your constitutional right to vote.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Constitution does not specifically provide you with the right to vote. It's a right that's passed down to us from state - not federal - government. The Constitution, however, has made provisions ensuring women, minorities, and people 18 and over have the right to vote.

But I digress.

Tomorrow, millions of Americans will head to the polls to cast ballots in elections that will have a big impact on how their local and state governments operate. Federal elections only happen in even-numbered years.

Here in Cincinnati, many constituents are focused on Issue 48. A little editorializing here, but this is an issue that has the potential to completely cripple the Queen City, and dare I say, turn it into southwest Ohio's version of Youngstown.

Half of my family is from there. I can say that.

Issue 48 has the potential to stop Cincinnati in its tracks and make it regress for the next ten years, the same ten years that our urban competitors will build their own streetcars, light rail, commuter rail, high speed rail, and any other form of rail-based transportation.

The city of Youngstown rusted out when the steel mills closed up shop and it couldn't find other forms of industry to replace those glowing furnaces.

Cincinnati will rust out, too, if we willingly kiss goodbye any forms of rail-based public transportation.

Well educated, skilled workers will move to forward-thinking (dare I say it, progressive?) cities that appreciate the value of public transportation and understand the pending economic shift tied to rising fuel prices.

Fortune 500 companies will consider uprooting from Cincinnati, instead seeking places with better transportation options.

Scoff at what I say? It's already happening.

Put aside your feelings about the streetcar.

I love the streetcar, but I know it's not beloved and adored by everyone. I'll explain its value another time.

Issue 48 is a living, breathing political example of the expression, "Cut off your nose to spite your face."

Some people are so vehement in their quest to squash the streetcar that they would like to annihilate any chance for rail transportation.

That's a brave, grave move, Cincinnati.

And it's a move that brings with it dire consequences.

Vote NO on Issue 48.

The success of Cincinnati depends on it.

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Friday, November 04, 2011

I Was Brutally Bullied

It's true.

You wouldn't know it, looking at my brazen confidence, optimistic outlook and a trajectory destined for leadership, but I was the kid who got bullied in school.

Not teasing and name calling, but vicious, severe bullying.

It happened here in Greater Cincinnati, at one of the most elite public schools (wait, is that an oxymoron?) around... you know the one. Nice homes. Picket fences. Every kid plays soccer.

I was always bookish, and I already explained to you that I was nerdy/dorky.

I was such an easy mark.

Sensitive and not yet socially confident, I was an A+ target for several spiteful classmates' cruelty. And it was a cruelty that swept through the school like a wildfire in Malibu.

Literally hundreds of students would taunt me daily. That's not an exaggeration.

I won't criticize their parents, though those kids should have been taught better. What I will do is celebrate my parents, who were supportive and wrought with care.

"No matter how bad it gets, Katy, you never have to end your life." It's something my dad said to me when we were on a ride together. I don't know if he worried about me committing suicide, but I think about those words often, and know that, yes, it does get better. (Side note: The Trevor Project is a great resource for anyone coping through a tough time as a youth - LGBT or not.)

I reveal this, not to display my wounds, but to champion the success that is me.

I survived this. I conquered this. I surpassed this.

Today, I am a young professional with a treasured group of friends, limitless potential, an exciting social calendar, and several passports full of international stamps.

I am literally going places.

My confident, 34-year-old self is really irked. No, I am incensed after reading that the state of Michigan is close to embracing legislation that would allow religious-based bullying.

Michigan's GOP-controlled state senate has passed a bill that allows children, adults - whomever - to bully students under the guise that it is religiously or ethically motivated.

As in, "Well, I beat the shit out of/harassed/otherwise tormented Johnny because he's gay, and that is against my die-hard evangelical beliefs."

Are you kidding me?

Seriously, What Would Jesus Do?

This sickening kind of legislation makes me think that the Christian Right, Neo-Cons, Tea Partiers and everyone else on the Right side of the aisle needs to re-examine their spiritual beliefs.

I'm sorry, but your religious freedoms do not open the door for the harassment of another human being.


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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Social Calendar

The calendar is getting fuller and fuller.

Here's a rundown on things I'm doing, places I'm going and things that are happening in the days ahead.

Thursday at 6 p.m.: The CinSation Launch Party at Bartini. I know, I know. Not on my list of regular hot spots, but I am happy to swing by for a martini to celebrate the announcement of the theme for the Junior League of Cincinnati's annual spring fundraiser.

I'm on the Board of Directors for the JLC and I happen to have some special insight for the March fete. All I can say is, WOW. I am really excited, and I've already got some wheels in motion with regard to what I'll wear that evening.


Saturday at 10 p.m.: "Support Your Troops" After-Party of the USO Tribute at Duke Energy Center. I am a sucker for any event that lets me put on a fancy frock and hit the dance floor. This event has a really nice price point - $20, including a midnight snack and dessert buffet, live music and DJ ETrayn, Framester (who doesn't love a photo booth?) and cash bar.

I will be the gal in the navy blue dress sipping out of a flask.

Tuesday, October 8: I am jetting to an exclusive tour of Cincinnati's underground brewery tunnels. After that, I will be hitting the town for the Election Night parties. If you can't make it to one of the Downtown Cincinnati celebrations, please make it to your polling place, at the very least.

You don't get to bitch about the results if you don't cast a ballot.

Friday, October 11: a plane is whisking me away to the coast of Connecticut, and I am so sad that I'll miss the 11.11.11 Emery Preview. For $75, you can enjoy one of the most entertaining evenings I've heard about in a long, long time. Enjoy performances by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Ballet, and Madcap Puppets. Headliner Over the Rhine will take the stage for a legendary performance that is sure to go down in Cincinnati history. Concert:Nova and Exhale Dance Tribe will also perform for the crowd, and guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a special art show featuring several local artists.

Whew, that's a lot going on in one night!

The same evening, you can enjoy the 5th Annual Friday Night Lights at Paul Brown Stadium (tickets $50). A fundraiser for Mercy Franciscan at St. John, this event features heavy appetizers, cocktails, live entertainment by Big Whiskey, and a great silent auction with all sorts of Bengals memorabilia. Cincinnati Bengal Kevin Huber is the honorary chair and will be at the event to entertain you with all kinds of tales from the gridiron.

I am a host for both of the November 11 events, and while I will be out of town for both big occasions, I hope some of you will go in my place and have a cocktail for me.


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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

An Unabashed Nerd

Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one. - Bill Gates

On the inside, I am all nerd.

On the outside, I am good hair and nice shoes and jewelry sourced from hot spots around the world.

It's quite a different picture from my youth. My hair, naturally freakishly thick and kinky in texture, I rocked a style that I now fondly call, "White Girl Afro." Other kids at school taunted me with the nickname Pyramid.

If the hair wasn't enough to ruin a teenage reputation, I had the God awful penchant for hideous clothing my mom would find on sale at Gold Circle or Value City in Sharonville. Yes, they bore the coveted Esprit and Guess? brand labels, but they were the castoffs, and boy, were they hideous.

Red-and-white checked pants that looked better suited for the table top at a Bob Evan's. Fitted jeans (complete with the brass ankle zips) emblazoned with white polka dots.

My appearance stood out ten fold, and it did little to help me fit in.

Ditto for the cover story in the school paper about how I was one of three people who checked out the most library books during my 8th grade year.

Nerd. Squared.

I recently referred to my passion for words and semantics and grammar and vocabulary. I didn't know what to call it. Is it dorky? Is it nerdy? Is it geeky? I needed to know the definition of these quirky personality traits.

A cursory search on the internet turned up several sources, including a clever Venn diagram.

As it turns out, a nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A geek is someone who is passionate about a particular area or subject - usually an obscure or difficult one.

A dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations or interactions.

I took a very official and completely authoritative online quiz about these segments and discovered that I am 83 percent nerd, 13 percent geek and 35 percent dork.

My inner nerd was first perplexed by the percentages, which add up to a dubious 131 percent.

After I overcame this mathematical conundrum, I thought back to the ways I'm passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

When I was in high school and college, I would frequently read the dictionary. By choice. For kicks.

I still love learning new words and find myself referring to a dictionary or thesaurus almost daily.

I listen to NPR for pleasure. Both in the morning as I get ready for the day, and in the evening when I retire to my abode, I listen. I hang on Jian Ghomeshi's every word at night as I lounge on my couch combing through the latest issue of Vanity Fair.

I Google news. Almost uncontrollably. I will click on one link to read something, that makes me want to learn another thing, which makes me search Wikipedia for another and another, until two hours have passed by and I've learned about book depositories, Dallas traffic patterns and its landscape, Italian rifles and how Marina Porter met her first husband.

I like knowing things.

Sometimes obscure things, like the history of the Habsburg dynasty, and other times I get off on knowing trivial randomness - like the pronunciation of the Austrian fine glass manufacturer, Riedel (rhymes with needle, not Ry-dell).

I suppose it's this passion for knowing that makes me nerdy, whereas the occasional debate about said knowledge makes me dorky.

And yes, I debate about my knowledge base.

Debating is one of my favorite things to do in the company of good friends. Most of my closest relationships involve people with intellectual heft - business leaders, politicos, academics. We exchange ideas, challenge theories and rekindle each other's passion for the art of knowing.

I also am acutely aware of my inner dork. Placed in situations with people I don't know well, I can either demonstrate limitless charm and pleasantries, or the complete misfortune of awkwardness and silence.

It's really a crap shoot in those moments - I never know whether my A game is going to show up, or if I should relegate my gawky self to a bathroom stall.

And if the latter applies, at least it's a good opportunity for me to read up on the latest headlines in the New York Times and primp that good hair back into place.
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Monday, October 31, 2011

Eat, Drink and Be Scary

Everyone is a moon and has a dark side, which he never shows to anybody. - Mark Twain

Happy Halloween!
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Champagne and Schlitz

When things are good, they're very, very good.

I had the unusual experience of riding on a private jet this past weekend. A Lear 60. Beautifully appointed leather seats, a bar stocked with crystal decanters. It turned a four-hour trip by car into a 35-minute jaunt with G force.

It was quite the thing.

And the next day, I was back on the bus, commingling with humanity on Route 43.

That has come to be the very definition of my life - lavish penthouse parties juxtaposed by cold pints of cheap beer in neighborhood watering holes.

And I love both ends of the strata equally.

Over time, I've come to learn that life isn't about getting what you want, but rather, a finite experience that teaches you to want what you've got. By some standards I don't have much, but I feel incredibly, incredibly blessed.

Between my endlessly quirky (but usually hilarious) family, my loyal, dazzling friends, and a variety of professional and personal endeavors that allow me to flex my talents and pursue internal growth - I have a lot for which I'm thankful.

And that includes the highs and lows of my life.

The past few years have taught me to embrace whatever the universe throws at me - sometimes it's the wallop of an unexpected bill, other times it's a spectacular invite to experience how the other half lives.

These challenging lows let us appreciate the good stuff. They allow us to stay grounded.

They keep us real.

And the amber waves of awesomeness? The fireworks that erupt in a stolen kiss. The crisp 'pop' on a bottle of well earned bubbly. The opportunity to whisk away somewhere far to earn some new passport stamps.

I'm grateful for those moments, too.

They offer just enough sparkle to keep this girl plodding through the hard stuff.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion

I am not above using my social media channels to promote my work.

Especially when it involves highlighting my colleagues' amazing dance moves - and a curtain call of 5:30 a.m.

The LIVE UNITED Dancers hit the floor of Studio A at Local 12 for Dance Party Friday with Bob Herzog.

I prefer to leave my dancing shoes at home, but I was happy to pitch for the office and the campaign, which ends October 28.

Do you believe in education, income and health in Greater Cincinnati? We'd love your support.

It's easy to give online - whether you can give five bucks or $50,000, every contribution helps United Way make an impact in people's lives across the region.

And heads up - I'm getting those roots touched up this afternoon. My vanity can simmah down.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.