Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You Dropped The Bomb On Me, Baby

Cincinnati's BombShells have knitted another web of intrigue.

If you haven't been following along, the BombShells are this covert group of sassy gals who are blanketing the Queen City in the latest counter culture craze, yarn bombing.

I decided to walk home from work this afternoon and noticed their beautiful handiwork gracing several parking meters and the entry to HighStreet on Reading Rd.

Yarn bombing is similar to street graffiti in some respects. It brings unexpected art to the urban setting, complete with little tags left behind by the artists. These pieces clearly belong to the BombShell who goes by the name "Sushi Girl."

What I love about yarn bombing, other than the kick ass moxie demonstrated by this band of BombShells, is that it brings the soft, homey art of textiles to an unexpected, gritty environment.

Yarn bombing is kind of like wrapping up your favorite neighborhood block with one of the most beautiful blankets Grandma ever made.

I've got a pile of yarn skeins and needles - bamboo, thick aluminum, the circular kind - and am somewhat inspired by these ladies to pick up my needles and crack open my copy of Stitch n' Bitch.

Last week the BombShells released an awesome video highlighting their first assault on Downtown Cincinnati - Dressing up Presidents Garfield and Harrison.

My sources at Channel 12 tell me they're doing a story on the Cincinnati yarn bombing phenomenon tonight at 11 pm. Can't wait to see it!

Knit on, ladies! Art is everywhere.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Free Agent

Confession: I literally run away from anything that has a faint smell of clique.

Mean Girls (2004): "You got your freshmen, ROTC guys, preps, J.V. jocks, Asian nerds, Cool Asians, Varsity jocks, Unfriendly black hotties, Girls who eat their feelings, Girls who dont eat anything, Desperate wannabes, Burnouts, Sexually active band geeks, the greatest people you will ever meet, and the worst. Beware of plastics.

I don't really know why, other than that I was never really in a defined clique growing up. Okay, that's probably a shade untrue; my friends growing up were kind, brilliant and interesting, but we were never cool.

My wild days in college introduced me to a completely different side of the social strata, and these days I am pretty comfortable saying that I can hang with the best of 'em. Any of 'em. Anywhere and anytime.

So, I naturally shrink away from opportunities and experiences that have the potential to further cement me in any given circle.

I'm not a loner. I just want to like everyone.

And it's good to have options.

And when you're not locked in to one specific group, you have the luxury of bouncing between several of them. With the exception of my closest circle of friends, I am grateful to enjoy several wider circles of people... intelligentsia, folks on the scene, my social media peeps who I see online more than I do in person.

I am a horse of many different colors, and sometimes it's fun to play chameleon and try out something that was different than last night.

As a matter of fact, I really dislike hanging out in a big crowd. It's not a matter of hating the hoi polloi, but an inclination toward conversation.

Those nights when you say hi to 40 people but have zero engagement with a single person? Hate nights like that. I'd much rather an evening with five to eight other people sharing thoughtful conversation.

And some silly antics. Always silly antics.

And you can't have that kind of experience when you're high fiving 15 people while shimmying through a bar to get to the restroom.

When I was on vacation last month, I decided I was going to make a conscious effort to avoid the scene this summer. Whatever the scene may be.

Instead, I'm taking the time to foster individual relationships, tackle some personal priorities and goals, and otherwise enjoy moments of quality experience.

And I'm coming to terms with the idea that I don't need to be at the same place everyone else is (though I must say I've been to Japp's twice this week, and that's the delightful kind of place that could make me come out of hiding).

Because sometimes where I am, what I'm doing and with whom is better than an entire night of fleeting hellos.

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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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eat Me

A diner is a diner is a diner. Except for when it's not.

And that's probably true for the new diner coming to The Banks on Cincinnati's riverfront.

I've started regularly walking from OtR to the river, sometimes taking pictures of bridges and other times just crossing them. It was on one of these such walks on Sunday evening when I noticed a big, splashy sign advertising Huey's Diner 24/7 at the Banks.

I haven't heard much about Huey's arrival in Cincinnati, so I figured some of you probably didn't know it was on its way, either.

A New Orleans original, the offerings of shrimp etouffee and jambalaya sound quite different from the Greek leaning menu I recall enjoying at diners up and down the East Coast.

When I was in high school and college, my friends and I would stop by the Guilford Diner on Route 1 and nosh on moussaka and baklava. A plate of late night greasy food always hits the spot after a night on the town, and the diner was where we found our salvation.

Looks like Huey's will offer the same to folks frequenting watering holes along the riverfront (don't worry - you'll be able to get the requisite burger and fries, too).

Open every hour of the day, New York Magazine has a brief write up that indicates the diner features an art deco look and "quick-fire comfort food."

The diner aims to have an August opening, according to this story from Channel 5.

Huey's has other locations in Phoenix, Nashville, Tampa, Minneapolis and a new outpost in New Orleans.

Don't know if it will trump my other late night mainstays (Hello, Mama), but considering Cincinnati doesn't have a ton of 24/7 options, Huey's is a welcome addition.

See you on the riverfront!

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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.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Father's Daughter

I am my father in female form.

It's a statement my mother has said many, many times, usually stringed along with an explanation of why I drive her so damn crazy, but also why she loves me so, so much.

From the outside-of-the-box ideas to the thought out introspection, my dad and I are quite a lot alike.

I am probably a little bit more gregarious in nature, though when he was 34, I was four years old, so I didn't take a lot of notes about whether Dad was the life of the party back then.

Knowing my dad, he probably was.

The connection goes back one generation further, to my grandmother. With some exceptions, I look like a taller, more slender version of my grandmother. And my father looks like his grandfather, my great grandfather. It must be something with the Allen line of our family tree.

But I digress.

Dad and I both share traits of thoughtful passion, congenial disposition and offbeat creativity.

A salesman and later marketer by trade, my dad spent long weeks on the road in exchange for the means to provide our family with a nice living complete with summer vacations, a swim club membership and comfortable home.

All that hard work made weekends precious, and I loved any opportunity I could get to spend time with dad. Sometimes we'd just run errands together, dropping off his dry cleaning and taking trips to the bank. Along the way we'd sing together when the radio played Electric Avenue and Funkytown.

To this day, I can't hear the song Funkytown without thinking of my dad.

These weekend errand jaunts - my mom loved them because it was an opportunity for us to get out of her hair. I loved them because they usually involved stops at our favorite low key dining spots - Decent Deli and Blue Ash Chili.

At the deli, I'd get a bowl of matzo ball soup, a potato pancake and a Doctor Brown's soda. We'd nosh on the kosher pickles in the tub on the table and talk about what I did in school and other important points of conversation.

Dad has always been my great protector, one of my strongest advocates and big challengers. He pushes me to be more, be better, work harder, even when I don't want to.

A former high school and college quarterback, these days Dad is happy to sit on the sidelines as one of the loudest, most dedicated cheerleaders in his children's lives.

And I am so, so grateful for that.

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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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yarn Bombing

I am so freaking glad I had my camera for the walk to Brooklyn.

A few weeks ago, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and turned a corner and found the most magnificent sight.

A yarn bombed bike.

I've been meaning to post these pics for a while, and was reminded of them this weekend when I ran into local artist Pam Kravitz, who is currently sporting the most adorably decorated crutches.

I learned about yarn bombing last winter. Local Twitterati @librariangrrl and I tweeted about it and even tossed out the idea of yarn bombing Over-the-Rhine.

Can you think of a more fantastic idea?

I first learned to knit and crochet during visits to my grandparents' house in Youngstown when I was eight or nine-years old. Nana didn't actually teach me. Nana was a lot of amazing things, but crafty wasn't one of them.

Alberta and Warren lived next to my grandparents. The four of them would sit beneath a big tree and smoke cigarettes, watching the neighborhood pass by. Alberta didn't have any daughters or granddaughters of her own, so she poured all of her domestic energy in me.

As clear as day, I remember the click-clacking of the aluminum needles and the subtle scratch of the Lion Brand yarn.

We'd perch on lawn chairs in their back, screened in porch, sipping limeade and knitting to soap operas.

Over the years, I've explored more complicated techniques and expensive yarns (I even have a signed copy of Stitch 'n Bitch), but I've yet to master the ability to make anything really magnificent.

I wish I posted these pics a week ago; International Yarn Bombing Day was just this past Saturday. How fantastic would it have been to organize a massive counterculture yarn bombing effort across the Queen City?

I'd take that any day over a bunch of ghost bikes.

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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.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer Reading List

Everywhere I go, people are talking about books.

It's no surprise, really. Summer is here, though the calendar says otherwise, and that means people are pouring through the pages as they lounge by a pool, recline on a patio or otherwise pass the time this steamy season has to offer.

I, for one, am engrossed in a fantastic read - Little Bee by Chris Cleave.

I won't tell you much about it because part of the book's beauty is the shocking story that unfolds. What I will say is that it's about a Nigerian teenage girl and a British couple. The three meet on a Nigerian beach, and some unimaginably dramatic events unfold that connect the three for life.

I implore you to avoid Googlng for more information, and instead pick up a copy of your own. It's a page turner and will have you contemplating life and your personal breaking point.

Some of my friends have offered up their own suggestions.

I ran into Julie this weekend, and she mentioned that Thirteen Reasons Why has her glued to the virtual pages of her Kindle. She explained it's a YA book about a teenage girl's suicide and the audio tapes she left behind describing the reasons why she premeditated her suicide.

The book switches between the girl's internal monologue and that of one of the tapes' recipients. The book has received hundreds of Amazon five star reviews and is said to gracefully handle content that reflects the magnitude of how people treat each other.

I'm adding this book to my list.

Apologies to the person who told me about Sarah's Key. Prime suspects include my mother or my friend, Megan. It's a book about a woman who delves into her life in Paris and discovers that echoes from Nazi Europe are influencing her present day life. I've always had a bit of a fascination with the Holocaust and will no doubt pick up this book this summer.

I do know that both Megan and her husband, Brian, have heralded Laura Hillenbrand's latest effort, Unbroken. The true life story of a man who was destined for greatness as a track star in the Olympics, his dreams are put on hold because of World War II, and he instead enlists in the Army Air Corps. His willpower, determination and strength are put to the test when his plane crashes and he weathers an entirely new set of challenges brought on by Mother Nature, war and other extreme circumstances.

I loved Hillenbrand's first release, Seabiscuit, and can't wait to see how she uses her exact mastery of words to paint this piece.

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has a pretty clever program running right now - Team Read. The goal is to get more kids, teens and adults reading. Through July 31, you can track your reading online and be eligible to win cool prizes including tickets to Cincinnati Reds games, Kings Island and other seasonal offerings.

Check it out, sign up, pick up a page turner and share it with a friend.

And while you're at it, leave a comment and tell me what you're reading! I'll add it to my list.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Go Back Where You Came From

I honestly never thought I'd hear someone say that to me in my neighborhood.

"Go back where you came from."

I happened to catch the man in my frame while I was shooting the backside of the old paint supply store on Vine Street. I think it shows his middle fingers flying high.

I initiated the conversation. I said, "Hi there, how are you?" It was delivered with an earnest kindness. I was trying to be friendly. A good neighbor.

And that's when he said, "I don't associate with your kind. Go back where you came from."

Where I come from is a complicated story.

Do you want to know about how I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and have lived in four other state since my birth?

Do you want to know about the opposing dynamics involving my two family lines?

Do you want to know the personal journey of growth I've experienced the past seven years?

I didn't say the simple answer. "I came from Walnut Street. I live here," is what I should have said.

Instead, I felt a twinge of hurt and disappointment.

We can't win 'em all.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Home Food

"I want a hamburger or a BLT. That's all I want when we get home."

It was all I could utter, the day before we left India. Sweaty and flush faced, I looked at Wingman and rolled my eyes as I picked up a fork of my chicken fried rice at a barely cool outpost outside of Agra that was struggling with brownouts.

I'd long tired of eating anything with nary a mention of curry.

We were on a long, dusty ride back to Delhi, headed to the airport for our 12:05 am flight back to JFK, and I was consumed with the thought of meat.

We really didn't eat a lot of meat in India. Certainly not any beef or pork. Most of what we manged on was vegetarian, though we did try lamb and chicken a few times.

It's funny. After a few days of battling extreme (read: 110 degree) heat, Delhi Belly and the incessant harassment by touts, all I wanted was a meal from "home." It didn't have to be cooked by mama or covered in gravy, it just had to have a flavor of familiar.

It needed to be meaty. Apologies to my veg friends.

Fast forward, oh, 17 hours. We landed in New York and took a black, shiny car to our hotel. They wouldn't let us check in, so we dropped our bags and headed for Chelsea Market.

It was 9 am and some of the stores hadn't yet opened their doors. We wandered, soaking in the sounds of American English, the sights of our homeland and the smells of something delicious.

The yeasty wafting of baking bread, freshly caught crabs on a heap of ice, the dust of coffee beans fresh through the grinder.

We were home.

We padded through the market, a bit bewildered, exhausted and noncommittal. I'd made it through the worst of Delhi Belly but Wingman hadn't, so he wasn't as hungry. The choice was up to me, and I chose Friedman's Lunch.

Part diner lunch counter and part quasi street cafe, Friedman's is full of long, wooden table tops and the servers bring you water in de-labeled wine bottles. It's vintage-y, hipsterish, homey, all rolled together.

Wingman ordered a bagel and water (really, Delhi Belly will make even the best eater cower at the sight of food), and I ordered the BLAT Sandwich - applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado on sour dough bread with herbed aioli ($10).

Sweet Jesus.

Now, I'll admit the whole applewood smoked bacon thing is played out. Anytime you start seeing a fast food mainstay or megachain promoting the use of something, it has culinarily jumped the shark.

That said, the BLAT was not saag paneer, chapatis, a kabab or a laundry list of other things I was sick of eating.

The BLAT was crispy, fatty bacon, dressed with a juicy slice of tomato and the creamy goodness of avocado.

It was just what the doctor ordered.

After lunch, we wandered the market and I was drawn to the cutest brownie shop, Fat Witch. These brownies are apparently legendary in NYC (so says their web page).

I stepped in because I loved the name - sometimes my mom refers to my sisters and me as witches (believe me, if you know anything about sisters, they can be very witchy at times), and a smile cracked across my face when I saw one brownie called Blonde Witch.

I think I know what I might be getting my mom for her birthday.

We strolled onward to the High Line, a public park space that was once a train line high above Chelsea's streets. It's amazing how New York reclaimed the line and turned it into a functional place where people walk, picnic, enjoy cultural performances and otherwise soak up the sun in the city.

On the flight from Delhi, I read a Vanity Fair peice about the most fascinating art gallery collection featuring Picasso's work highlighting his muse and lover, Marie Therese.

We happened to be only a couple blocks away from the Gagosian Gallery (522 West 21st Street), so we decided to step in and see the collection, which was assembled by Picasso and Marie Therese's granddaughter.

It's free to see and runs through July 15, so if you're in New York City, I suggest you check it out.

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Bug

You would think that I'd be happy to stay put for a while.

I did, after all, just spend 12 days traipsing to the East Coast to spend a couple nights in Connecticut and NYC, a nine-day jaunt to India and then another night back in the Big Apple.

For some people, that sounds like enough travel for an entire calendar year.

The thing is, I am not sated. In fact, I am hungry to plan excursions aplenty to places far and wide.

My finger twitches, and then all of a sudden I find myself Googling about trips to Montreal or New Orleans or Colorado. I pour over last minute travel websites, comparing offers for whirlwind weekend getaways to places near and far.

I check Orbitz over and over and over to compare ticket prices for an anticipated trip to Atlanta next month.

I am awash with wanderlust. And I don't know why.

Introspection came as I toddled along on Metro's Route 45 this morning. There I was, reliving my youth and listening to Billy Joel's Greatest Hits, when the Piano Man himself crooned, "I can see a time coming when I'm gonna throw my suitcase out."

It's a lyric tied to the idea of settling down and being in love.

For the rest of us - do we keep traveling, going places, seeking the inspiration that will make us still?

The ink in my passport is barely dry, and I'm already contemplating a lofty, lusty adventure to someplace exotic for my 35th birthday. Buenos Aires? Rome? Athens?

I want to see more. I want to do more.

And I think it's because I want to be more.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Beautiful People

India's beauty is seen not in its vibrant colors, but in the determination of its people.

Yes, the brightly colored saris and kurtas are arresting in their beauty.

A line of visitors waiting to see the The Bahá'í House of Worship, or Lotus Temple

Everywhere we turned, the people of India - not just the women - dazzled us with flourishes of technicolor textile. But what is most disarming is their ability to persevere in the face of adversity.

Within 24 hours of landing in Delhi, I was simultaneously overcome by a feeling of profound gratitude: Wow, we have so much! and feelings of self loathing and disgust: Wow. We have so much.

Everywhere you look, it is easy to spot abject poverty and complete despair. And for some of these people, it's a cycle they can never break.

India's culture is weighed down by a caste system - a defined, iron clad rule of class. Developed in ancient times, the archaic standards establish communities of class based on hereditary or ancestral groups.

Basically, you are born into a line of Brahmins (the scholars and teachers) or Kshatriyas (the kings, warriors and administrators), or you're not.

It's a complicated system that is defined by blood line, faith and other dynamics, and essentially inhibits an individual's ability to become a Self Made Man and rise above the standards set in place.

Because of these defined groups, the wealth appears to be concentrated within a minuscule minority. India has a handful of wealthy people, and everybody else is poor, poor, poor.

In fact, India's middle class only makes up about five percent of the current population, though the nation is becoming industrialized and that number is expected to increase to about 40 percent in the next 20 years.

For perspective, different class models show the American middle class currently makes up between 25 and 60 percent of the nation's population.

When you visit India, poverty is all around you. It's quite different than America, where you need to drive to specific inner city blocks or rural roads to come face to face with it.

The poverty is jarring and disheartening.

It's quite normal to see hackneyed huts or shelters assembled along well traveled roads that pass through dusty, Indian towns.

The photo above is a man's home, and the wooden structure with the pink cover is a makeshift lounger. When I saw it, I thought of it as a front porch of sorts, allowing the man to recline as he watched the world go by.

When traveling in India, you get used to these scenes.

My favorite stop on the entire trip involved a village outside of Jaipur. I'll share a lot more about this village in a future post, but what I was predominantly struck by was how little these people had, and yet how happy they were to have it.

They were a group of over a hundred and they lived in structures that shared common walls. They cooked in shallow pits in the dirt. They owned two American cows which produced milk they sold to a dairy (side note: Indian cows are typically not used for milk, though Indians believe it is good to drink their urine.)

This group of people had so little, compared to American standards.

And yet they were gracious hosts, freely inviting us into their homes. They eagerly displayed how they earn money and the vastness of their farmland. The women offered warm smiles and respectful nods. The men were proud, honest and optimistic.

 The villagers had peace, happiness and the purest of spirits.

And you can't put a price on those gifts.

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

In My Defense

It's a strange coping mechanism, really.

Cutting people out of my life. That's how I deal with emotional adversity. When the going gets tough, and my heart has difficulty meandering through painful dynamics, I choose to surgically extract myself from the scenario inflicting the pain.

It's my 34-year-old version of running away.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of setting out with my purple Kelty backpack and a box of cookies under my arm. My blonde streaked, freckle faced self imagined pacing along Montgomery Road, destined for my nine-year-old utopia.

What I didn't know was that such a place never existed.

These days, life requires us to be responsible and hold down jobs and pay bills and keep up appearances, even when we're weathering a personal crisis or internal heartbreak. We're forced to go through the motions and attend meetings and throw out the milk when it ages out of its expiration date.

We still have to do the laundry and floss our teeth and check our emails, even when all we want to do is crawl in bed and lay in the fetal position and moan until it all feels better.

If only it was that easy.

And that's why I cut people out. Sometimes a hard line of emotional detachment is the best way for me to maintain a stiff upper lip and keep calm and carry on, even when the bombs of personal crisis are tearing me part inside.

Swift extraction is how I defend myself.

I don't really know how I developed this severely extreme tactic. I suppose I've always been one of those people who retreats in times of distress. My tail between my legs as I mope away from a painful exchange with a loved one.

At some point, I must have realized that cutting off a relationship, though isolationist in nature, left me with the one person I could completely trust/rely on/understand.


I don't know if it's the most sound coping mechanism. What I do know is that sometimes the pain of closing a chapter on a relationship is sometimes easier to bear than its perpetually flawed patterns, unfulfilled disappointments or maligned words and deeds.

I don't know if I'll ever find my grownup version of utopia. I don't know if I'll ever stop running away.

What I do hope is that someday my life will include someone I'll want to run to.

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Friday, June 03, 2011


The words we choose say a lot about the kind of person we've become.

When talking to friends, family, even strangers, our conversation and disposition reflect our insides like a crystal clear, well lit mirror.

Years ago, my words and attitude implied confidence, jaded aggression and inflated ego. I was in my mid 20s, working in an incredibly stressful profession and coping with somewhat empty relationships and heavy drinking.

It was medicine that I thought made me more fun, more relaxed and easily entertained.

In reality, I was bored, approaching burnout and flailing in the waters of aloneness. My reckless behavior after hours was paired with egotistical grandstanding and bravado in the office. My false confidence cloaked a variety of insecurities about my talents, my appearance, my abilities.

I wasn't a very nice person.

The television news business is akin to a sailor ship, and I fit in with the best of 'em. I'd tell people to "Fuck off" if they didn't comply with my orders or failed to perform quickly/proficiently/to my satisfaction.

I'd issue demands to my fellow news colleagues, saying it was for the good of the show and the news operation. Because of my title (and the competitive nature of the industry), most people willingly complied.

I'm sure there was a nicer way I could have asked some folks to do their job. I'm sure I didn't always demonstrate that nicer way.

Flash forward a few years. Maturity sets in with life experience. Unexpected opportunities and heartbreaks put the big picture in perspective.

I've mellowed, I've accepted, I've gained a better sense of reality.

Swear words rarely cross my lips, and these days I make a point of profusely thanking people for their kind deeds or the work they do to compliment my own projects.

Sure, I've occasionally fallen into the trap that is called snarky, but by in large I try to live with an open heart and mind and only kindness in my words.

Man, snarky can be fun. It feels good when we say something that makes everyone chuckle or roll their eyes or respond.

Doesn't it feel great when people think you're funny?

Humor has a way of making us each an easy mark. Go ahead. Make fun of my hands with their chewed off nails. Some of the clothes I wear? They've probably got a target on 'em. Some of the stuff I do? Yeah, I bet you can find the humor in that, too.

Snarky can sometimes cross the line to bold faced, blatantly, intentionally mean.

And that's the kind of stuff I really try to avoid.

When we pick someone to shreds because we think it's funny, that reveals there's a lot more beneath the surface.

Humor with an intent to hurt makes me question the source's motives. It makes me question the source's insecurities.

It makes me think about how that person is likely dealing with some of the same old issues I weathered ten years ago.

I'm grateful for all of the challenges I've fought through in the past decade. They've made me stronger, and they've given me the right to only care about the stuff and people who really matter.

Adversity is a gift.

And I'm choosing my words carefully.

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