Pain in My Neck

It’s 5:30pm, I’m lying flat on my back and Joe has a finger deep in the back of my mouth.

“And this? How does this feel?”

I stare into his light blue eyes, briefly glance over his Brad Pitt-esque face, swallow back saliva and mutter, “Yeah that hurts.” He gently cradles my head and massages deep, where my wisdom teeth used to be, exploring tiny muscles that I never knew existed. The pain is good and bad all at the same time. Before I know it, I hear the snap of latex gloves quickly being pulled off, a pat on the back and a “See you tomorrow.” One hour, $15 and plenty of soreness later, I feel like perhaps I’m the epitome of having insult added to injury.

Such is my first encounter with physical therapy.

I had been ignoring the spasming pain in the left side of my neck for about a year and, after finally dragging myself to the doctor for the umpteenth time in the past eleven months, she told me that my nightly jaw grinding, predominantly on my left side, had most likely caused this. I dabbled with the idea of asking her to run a sleep study on me but decided against it – all the jaw snapping, clenching and neck twisting probably would look like something straight out of The Exorcist or maybe a real life version of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Everything about my first experience in physical therapy seemed to go about backwards, beginning with me actually parking and entering through the back of the building which I swear the receptionist told me to do. I walked past “Employee Only” rooms and finally found myself in an open room full of old people. I took in my surroundings: Elderly people lifting three pound weights painfully slow, their Myrtle Beach t-shirts drenched in sweat, men and women looking almost corpse-like on tables, waiting for God knows what. It looked so much like a nursing home-turned Gymboree that I imaged for a split second that I smelled the sickly sweet odor of mildew, urine, and whatever else makes assisted living places reek in that most unforgettable way.

Damn Steve, where did YOU go for physical therapy?
Damn Steve, where did YOU go for physical therapy?

Joe took measurements of my neck and jaw movements only to find out, surprise surprise, that they were all extremely lower than average. He decided to start me on some exercises, right then and there.

I sat down on one of the tables and before I knew what was going on a large mirror was being rolled in my direction. Seriously, this mirror was ridiculous – it was like something you’d find in a Victorian mansion’s bedchamber, large and unforgiving. I was taught six different jaw exercises, including using my finger to stretch my top and bottom teeth as far apart as possible, sliding my jaw from left to right, and opening my mouth as wide as I could. I looked like what Edvard Munch’s painting would look like in physical therapy, to put it plainly. I opened my mouth widely for ten seconds at a time, silently screaming.

Staring at myself making these grotesque facial movements wasn’t enough, of course. Neither was the heat I felt on my cheeks as I noticed a few crotchety old men smirking in my direction. What, I thought, your wife can’t open wide either? Want to make an oral sex joke? Try me, I’ve thought about every single one under the sun as I was here gracefully doing my exercises, I thought. No, the icing on the cake was the young assistant I saw also watching me do my exercises and smiling. Smiling! And not in the kind way, either, but the sort of smile you’d give to a snotty cheerleader who happened to slip on black ice on her way to class. I gave him the stink eye and then realized my jaw was still awkwardly in one of my exercise positions. Whatever, that’ll scare the fucktard.


“Nate here went to John Carroll too!” Joe pointed over to the assistant, probably reading into my attempt to look like the old hag with the poisonous apple in Snow White . “Go Blue Streaks!” I yelled back, mentally kicking myself the moment I uttered the words. I had never even gone to one of my college sports games, and I certainly had never uttered that phrase before. What the fuck was I doing here? As someone who hates even sneezing in public, this whole experience was turning into a nightmare. I walked out of that place after an hour of torture and vowed to never go back.

And yet I did. Again, and again, and again.

Brad Pitt has done a great job with my mouth (wink), I’ve convinced the assistants that I don’t need their damn mirror to see just how fucked up my mouth is, I’ve had to ask for weights to be increased because my arms started getting so strong from exercises, and I even do my mouth-widening exercises on my way to work as I listen to Howard Stern. I feel like he’d approve of that.

As I get older, I constantly am convincing myself that there’s only so many experiences I’ll have that will be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Certainly, I thought before I had entered physical therapy for the first time, I was nearing my cap. I was mistaken. I’m never going to stop experiencing new, embarrassing things, but I’m glad that I’ve at least learned to laugh about them. Regardless, I’m always going to be the largest pain in my neck.

Personal Stuff

This is the only wedding-related post I’ll ever write.

Last Thursday, I huddled in a corner of our house and decided to pull together a wedding invitation-sending marathon. I was on envelope 22 of 57, singing along to Fiona Apple’s “Not About Love” and geeking out over how awesome my brand new Sharpie Pen was. Suddenly, I realized it was the first time since becoming engaged in December that I was actually having fun doing something wedding-related. And it’s all, sadly, because I was doing two things that I love doing in my everyday life: writing with nice pens and listening to good music. And I guess sticking labels and envelope seals and stamps everywhere was kind of fun, too, because hey, who doesn’t like stickers?

I’m pretty sure Fiona Apple is not the artist of choice when it comes to choosing wedding invitation-stuffing accompaniments. In fact, she is basically the antithesis of anything lovey-dovey, happy or even mentally-sound. But that’s okay. It was my space, my time, and I could listen to anything I wanted, regardless of what the ‘proper’ soundtrack (and I’m sure some poor soul on TheKnot.com has created such a thing) for stuffing invitations is.

And that basically sums up how I feel about my upcoming wedding ceremony and reception.

I don’t like decorating. I’m way too cheap, I’m not crafty, and I have more trivial things to worry about, like what I’m going to get at Panera for lunch or why there have been three turkeys chilling in this person’s front yard the whole week I’ve driven by during my morning commute.  I like things as simple as can be, and that’s exactly how I’ve planned our beachside wedding to be: no frills, just the basics.

Okay, I lied — PERHAPS I would get excited over something as awesome as a tiered donut stand in lieu of a wedding cake.

People have questioned why I’m being so simple about the ‘most important day of my life,’ but I want to know – is that really the truth these days, or is it a standard set by companies and the movie industry? Call me a feminist, but I wasn’t born with the end goal of being married – I was born with a desire to learn, to work hard, explore the world, raise kids one day and hopefully read some really awesome books along the way. Everyone has different goals and priorities, and I think it’s okay for me, and others, to admit that sometimes planning a big wedding just isn’t one of those things that you dream of like other girls do.

When I was little, my big dream was to have an apartment and a cat of my own. I also had a desire to learn how to churn butter, but that’s probably because I was temporarily obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie books. I dreamed about being a published writer and learning a new language and going to college and joining a sorority. I don’t think I ever once played out a wedding scene with Barbies, but then again I wasn’t a big fan of them to begin with. I was too busy playing handheld electronic games and recording songs with my sisters. These dreams that we have when we are young, although sometimes silly, fuel our desires and goals when we get older. The more of them we accomplish, whether we end up truly liking them or not, the more fulfilled we feel. I guess this all leads up to my ultimate response when people ask how wedding planning is going: It’s going well, but it’s not something I can say I’m genuinely excited about because it just was never a dream of mine to begin with.

For all the gung-ho brides-to-be out there, I applaud you for your eagerness to match color pallets, your willingness to spend hours crafting things that I probably could never make, your unwavering interest in bridal magazines and websites and your general excitement over what you have always dreamed of being the best day in the world. Your dreams were different than mine, but that doesn’t mean we are different – we both are getting married because we’ve found a person that we want to spend the rest of our lives with, and that, my future veil-adorned friends, is certainly worth walking down the aisle for.


Guard those precious LinkedIn connections! My take on the scathing emails from Kelly Blazek.

Cleveland job seekers and recent graduates have spent the day discussing the terribly rude and self-centered email that Kelly Blazek, head of the Cleveland Job Bank, sent to an innocent and, from what I read, hardworking young professional and job seeker.

As a recent college graduate and a former job seeker myself, I feel it’s important to discuss Kelly’s response to the individual who requested her help because I fear her attitude is indicative of how many C-level professionals from other generations view  my generation. In particular, I’d like to discuss her “I love the sense of entitlement in your generation” comment.

First of all, what ambitious and educated person doesn’t have a sense of entitlement? After all, we were all told when we were little that if we studied hard and got into a good university, we could live a comfortable life and support ourselves. Keyword here? Support ourselves. Instead, upon graduation, we entered a world where the economy was bad, jobs were hard to come by and student loan debt was larger than ever before. Despite this, we worked unpaid internships, did volunteer work and tried to better ourselves in hopes of standing out from the many job applicants out there.

So, why wouldn’t we feel kind of entitled to at least have a job that could help us support ourselves? Is that asking too much?


Here’s another interesting thing to keep in mind: in order to get a large majority of jobs in this country, you have to get some kind of education. Even many blue collar jobs require some kind of vocational school or training of some sort, and we pay for this education in hopes of getting reimbursed in the form of employment. Not everyone is cut out for higher education, however, and that’s totally okay. Our brains are not all the same, and that’s okay. Making individuals pay for school just so they can get a low paying job, only to beat down their confidence and increase their debts, is not okay. It’s something I really hope to see changed in the future.

I’m sure Blazek had good intentions when she started the Job Bank. Perhaps she recognized the fact that we all don’t come from a circle of coveted connections that can easily let us obtain any job. I’m certainly not one of these people. My parents, both extremely hard workers and very smart individuals, felt terrible when I called them one day, only to explain that I asked my college advisor for advice on how to find a job after graduating, and received the response “The economy is bad. Use your family’s connections.” The Job Bank helped people who didn’t have those connections find jobs, and that’s great. I personally frown upon letting a less qualified candidate get a job over a better qualified candidate only because he or she had a good connection. Sadly, that’s the way things work, and there’s not much we can do about it.

Blazek’s response, however, didn’t help. To beat down a well-qualified young professional who is most likely already low in confidence from job hunting does not instill the hope that recent graduates need.  To refuse access to her LinkedIn connections is childish and, most importantly, sad. I’m sure those connections don’t even want to be connected with her anymore.

Kelly, here’s my advice, and it’s something I’m sure you learned back in preschool: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. Give us a white lie maybe… tell us that it’s becoming easier and easier for penniless graduates to get jobs, tell us that our talents will shine above the rest, tell us that Cleveland is a wonderful place to work and that its high-tier professionals are ready to welcome us all with open arms. If you can’t do that, or if you at least can’t decline someone politely, I’d suggest it’s time your bank closed.


Email Marketing

The Power of Images: A Fast, Simple Way to Amplify Emails and Websites

When I got my first email address around the age of twelve, I remember the sheer disappointment I felt when I composed my first message. Sure, it was cool to be able to instantly send someone an email, but I yearned for a way to make the emails more, well, pretty. Different font sizes and colors just didn’t cut it for me.

Things have certainly changed since the first days of email communication, as well as website design, but we are often led to believe that creating a truly captivating email message or website requires a large amount of expertise to make them look good. Don’t believe any of that! Instead, use the power of imagery to quickly and effectively make a email or web page pop.

Here’s an example:


Even though you can’t read the content, which page would you choose to read? The one that features a better ratio of text and images, most likely. You can use images to divide up a website that normally has very few layout options. The simplest way to do this is:

  • Determine how many sections your page will have
  • Decide if you can cut any text-heavy sections, or perhaps shorten them
  • Create image headers for each of the desired sections. In my example, I created a Photoshop template that I used for each web page in order to maintain consistency. Using a big, bold font to display the section names over the images is a great way to naturally draw the eyes to certain areas of the page!

What about emails, you ask? Enjoy the cheat sheet I’ve made for using images to make a nice-looking email blast in a pinch (click the image below to view the full-sized version):

Quick Image Tips for an Email BlastSome pointers:

  • Let’s say you want to create an email blast for internal use, or you are only planning to send the email out to a few people and require no tracking information (in other words, you are sending the email directly out from your personal inbox). Using this template requires zero HTML: simply open a new Word document, insert the header and footer, type your email message in between, and copy and paste it into a new email. Keep in mind that layouts/images tend to show up funny in Outlook sometimes, so I would recommend building a table of the layout in a Word document first and then inserting the images and text.
  • If you have Photoshop or similar image-editing software, create a template (a .PSD file, for example) of your header and footer. That way, if you end up sending out multiple emails for an email campaign, you can quickly replicate the size, colors and fonts of your previous emails.
  • Don’t have image-editing software? Not a problem. Microsoft Paint can help you create the images, too! Alternatively, you can insert an image in Microsoft Word, click in the Format tab and select to change the shape of the image to a rounded rectangle, which rounds the corners of the image.
  • Remember: the cleaner your email, the better. Rely on the bold colors of the header and footer, and the image you place in there, to call attention to the content of your email. Then, stick with as short of a message as possible. Have more information that you need to share? Create a PDF of that information and link it into the email or send it as an attachment. If people want more information, they’ll click on it. If not, you’ve still held their attention because the email isn’t text-heavy.
  • There’s plenty of fun, free fonts out there! Check them out. 
  • Need help determining a color scheme? This site has you covered.

Even if you’re on a strict deadline or don’t have much web design or graphic design experience, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t create an email or web page as pretty as the pros. Share your other quick design tips in the comment section below!


Move Away from the Cubicle! Why Working Out Is Great for Your Job

yoga at pyramid of Giza


From my junior year in high school until six months out of college, I worked in retail. I’ll never forget how I felt the first week on the job: my legs and back were sore from standing up so long, my glutes hurt from bending down and getting up again to restock the shelves, and I found myself constantly drinking water due to the humidity in the stock room. I felt exhausted and completely out of shape, and I was convinced I would never get used to doing my job.

Speed up to 2011 — I had just graduated from college and had landed my first “big girl” job. “Yeah, I get to sit down at this one,” I remember boasting to my retail co-workers. When the time came to set up my cubicle and bask in the luxuriousness of sitting down all day, however, I felt… lazy. I found myself itching to move around because I was so used to it. After a few months, I realized my body was less toned and I had even gained weight. I discovered what I had at my retail job, although painful at first, was actually really good for my body and well-being.

A few months ago, I decided to sign up for a membership at a gym about ten minutes away from work. My decision was based on two things: I wanted to stay healthy, and I also really wanted a way to move around on the days I was sitting down at my desk all day. After two months of going to the gym at least three times a week on my lunch breaks, I can confidently say it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. So, without further ado, 

Why Working Out is Great for Your Job

  • It gets you out of the office. It’s important to step away from your work environment and give your senses something new to experience. 
  • It refreshes your mind. Yes, sweating on the treadmill isn’t exactly the most relaxing way to spend a lunch break, but it puts your brain back on track. Boosting your endorphins, moving your body and gulping down a lot of water afterwards (so many people forget to drink water during the day!) can give the jolt you need to come back to work and really be productive. 
  • It is great ‘me’ time. Answering your phone, responding to emails and staring at a computer screen all day is not about you — it’s about doing your job right. And while that’s important, doing something for yourself is, too. I find that on some machines, such as the stationary bikes, I can actually double my ‘me’ time by multi-tasking: I’ll place my Nook in front of me and read a few pages of the book I’m reading while on the machine.
  • It saves you money. Before I joined the gym, I’d spend my lunch breaks going out to eat or trying on clothes that I didn’t really need. Yes, gym memberships aren’t cheap, but spending money on things you don’t need isn’t cheap either! Now that I spend my lunch break at the gym, I am forced to pack a lunch and only do my basic errands after work, and it’s really made an improvement on my finances. A lot of companies will reimburse or partially pay for gym memberships, too… make sure to ask your employer before you get a membership!
  • It manages your stress and helps you stay healthy. It’s obvious but true: working out is a natural stress reducer and can help you live longer and stay healthier. Take an hour to remove yourself from the stress in your personal life or job: get on a machine, sweat out those toxins and focus on your breathing instead of the crazy chatter in your head. You’ll be amazed at how you feel when you return to your desk. 






Are We Too Buried in Technology?

Xunantunich, Belize
I climbed that monstrosity behind me!

It’s been a dream of mine to see as many of the Mayan ruins as possible. In August, that dream came to fruition when I visited the ruins at Xunantunich, Belize. Being around structures that were so carefully built that they withstood the test of time was amazing. In the forests nearby, you could hear the screech of wild monkeys and you could see birds of every color in the trees. The energy of Xunantunich was both peaceful and mysterious.

I’ll admit that I, like almost everyone in our tour group, immediately pulled out my phone to take pictures. Sadly, I missed a good majority of what our guide was saying because I was so focused on snapping photos to upload to Facebook when I got back home. In the distance, a young man in our group had not one, not two, but at least four different professional cameras he was taking pictures with. Watching him scroll through his images on the bus later confirmed that he was doing this more as a hobby than a profession.

As person who works in marketing, it is definitely a good thing to be in the know when it comes to social media and technology in general. There is no way that I can avoid it. At time same time, I wonder — how much are we truly missing because we are staring at screens?

Buried in technology

It’s odd… our world is more about “sharing” than any other time in history. We want to share our pictures, our friends, our experiences, our game scores, our thoughts, our complaints… but most of this sharing is self-centered. We do it because we feel that we need to keep up with everyone else. Now, it seems like we live in a society that shares more yet is also more self-absorbed.

Don’t get me wrong; I love technology. I love the fact that I’m able to talk to friends in different countries so easily. I feel that, overall, my generation and generations to come are more accepting of other cultures and ways of life because we have so much interaction and information at our fingertips. I just think that we all need a little reminder that sometimes, we can leave technology out.

How can you make sure that you’re not too buried in technology?

  • Whether it’s once a day or once a week, give yourself a “time out” hour. Turn off the phone, hide the laptop and tablet, and focus on what is around you.
  • Use social media as a reward for doing work instead of a distraction that interrupts your work day.
  • Go to an event where you would typically reach for your phone as a barrier — except don’t bring your phone. This could be social gatherings where you do not know many people (networking events, for example), work meetings, eating alone while traveling for business or even family gatherings. Learn to embrace any insecurities and get to know the people around you.
  • Instead of instant messaging a friend that you may not have talked to in a while, give them a call instead. Listen to their voice… hear their emotions… make your connection more personal.
  • Challenge yourself. Tempted to use your GPS to find out where your next destination is? Thinking about using Wikipedia to do some research? Do it old school instead: use a map, read a book or use more traditional avenues to find your answer. You’ll be surprised how much more you remember/learn when you don’t have a computer doing it for you!
  • Remember what’s important. This is your life — everything going on before you will never, ever occur in that same exact way ever again. There’s beauty in that, and so many of us don’t notice that beauty anymore. See, touch and hear the world in front of you. Leave your phone behind on your next trip and make memories that will last longer than a photo album. Take your children away from their computers and TVs and go on a walk. Whatever you do, do it in a way where 100% of you is present.

Me and My Good Friend Victor Hugo

Got bored with some of my old books laying aro...
Got bored with some of my old books laying around the house. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After many years of being very anti-eReaders, steadfast in the belief that they would singlehandedly promote the terrible writing of online fanfiction novels and eradicate brick and mortar bookstores completely, I caved and bought a Nook. I was tired of lugging books around whenever I wanted something to read, and I had a feeling I would actually read more if I had a lightweight and simple eReader nearby.

Boy, was I right.

My Nook gave me the perfect excuse to read books that were a bit on the heftier side… definitely ones that wouldn’t be fun to carry around. After finishing The Fountainhead, I decided to read a book that had been on my list for years: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.

I could write plenty on what I think of Les Miserables so far and how beautifully the story is written. Instead, I wanted to share a wonderful quote that I found while reading today:

“For there are many great deeds done in the small struggles of life. There is a determined though unseen bravery, which defends itself foot to foot in the darkness against the fatal invasions of need and degradation. Noble and mysterious triumphs which no eye sees, which no renown rewards, which no flourish of triumph salutes. Life, misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, poverty, are battlefields which have their heroes; obscure heroes, sometimes greater than illustrious heroes.”

Reading this quote helped me have an attitude adjustment of sorts today. We live in a world that seeks instant gratification (and if you are on social media networks, you want instant gratification in the form of fifty “likes” or twenty re-tweets), and we do many things in our personal lives and in our professional lives simply because we know others will recognize them. But it is the personal struggles that we all go through – the small victories that we do not share because we worry that they may seem trivial to others – that shape our lives the most.

One of the many reasons that I love reading novels, especially the classics, is because you can still find passages that resonate with you and help you re-think the way you live, regardless of whether the novel was written one hundred fifty years or two weeks ago.

Think of the struggles that your co-workers may not know that you’ve overcome. Think of the hardships that you’ve faced that may seem small to others but were gargantuan to you. Celebrate them, guard them and remember them. Be your own obscure hero.