Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Needing Help

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while, but I wasn't sure whether or not I actually wanted to post it. I share a lot about living with a disability, but this is a bit more of a peek behind the curtain of some of the day-to-day struggles. It's something that I'm currently dealing with, and I decided that it's important enough that I can't not write about it.
I've mentioned before that I have caregivers/aides that help me when I'm at home. Things like getting out of bed, showering, using the bathroom, getting dressed... these are all things that I can't do alone, so I rely on other people's help. I've mostly adjusted to the psychological aspect of needing help with a lot of basic needs, which is a whole other thing, but I don't think you ever really adjust to the logistical aspect. The fact that if someone has to call off for whatever reason, you're suddenly scrambling to find a replacement so you're not just stuck.

In an ideal world, there would be layers of built-in backups, and I'd never have to actually worry about not having anyone. The real world, however, doesn't exactly work that way. Finding caregivers is HARD. It's a really multilayered issue - caregivers are drastically underpaid (it's basically considered "unskilled" work), which results in lots of turnover. Agencies that hire these caregivers are so desperate to hire that there's often very little done, personality wise, to screen to make sure they're actually a good fit for the job, and even less to make sure they're a good fit for any particular person in need of care.

This is all one thing to hear in theory, but it's really really stressful and frustrating when it plays out in real life. My normal caregiver is on maternity leave right now, and it's been a real struggle as the agency I use tries to find someone to replace her. There are so few caregivers available that I don't really have the luxury of saying no to someone who isn't really a good fit for my needs - I'm forced to make the decision between not-great care and no care at all, which really isn't a choice. I even have the "benefit" of living at home, which means my parents are available to act as caregivers, too - for people living alone, there are even less choices available.

When you're not used to dealing with things like this, it can be hard to understand the impact it can have on your life. It adds SUCH layer of underlying stress to everything else already going on. I think it's one of the aspects of disability that doesn't get talked about as much, partially because not everyone needs help, but also partially because it's largely unseen - a lot of it happens at home, not in public.

And while I was writing this post and getting ready to publish it, I had a caregiver call off about 2 hours before she was scheduled to be here, which means there is a very low chance of them finding a replacement. So much hinges on the schedule running smoothly, and when it's so easily thrown out of whack it has a major impact. But life doesn't stop just because a caregiver can't make it, and it's that underlying stress that can make everything else already going on in the day that much more difficult.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Target's 20th Anniversary Collection

I can distinctly remember when Target announced their first designer collaboration collection. I was already a Target fan (who isn't, really), but the concept of a special collection just felt so exclusive. Now, I can't say that I remember if I bought anything from that particular collection, but they've had many throughout the years and I still felt the same excitement each time I bought something - it was like owning a little piece of (shopping) history.
It doesn't seem possible, but it's somehow the 20th anniversary of their first designer collection. To celebrate, they're releasing a limited selection of pieces from all of the collections that they've done over the years. As with the original collections themselves, things are selling out quickly, but there are still a lot of great things left! I picked up this leopard drawstring bag and this cute giraffe bottle opener, but there are so many other great things, too! Scroll through below to check out my favorites, and let me know what your picks are!





Friday, September 13, 2019

Friday Favorites


This has been quite the week. It's not even that anything in particular is going on, it's just one of those weeks where everything seems to drag and I feel like I'm constantly treading water. My fingers are crossed for a relaxing weekend - or at least a weekend where I have some time to relax in addition to cross off some things from my ever-growing to do list!
ONE - Representation Burnout
I really relate to this one - the concept that it can be exhausting to constantly be representing a diverse viewpoint somewhere. It's like you always have to be "on," and it can get really tiring.

TWO - Cashmere Wrap
It's no secret that I'm into wraps and capes. They're especially perfect as it starts to cool off a bit in fall, and you're not sure when you'll need to throw on another layer. This one looks so soft, and is an extra 30% off if you use the code SHOPNOW. I ordered it myself and can't wait for it to arrive!

THREE - Toxic Friendships
Unless you follow a lot of Instagram influencers, you might not be up on the drama going on surrounding one influencer, Caroline Calloway, and her once-ghostwriter, who just published an essay on their time working together. Even if you don't care at all about anything from that last sentence, the essay is a really insightful look at toxic friendships, and how something that seemed so amazing and consuming can go so wrong.


FOUR - For the Love of Men by Liz Plank
I've written about Liz Plank before - she has done some great coverage on myriad issues, and always makes sure to include disability when talking about diversity and society. She has a new book out about masculinity, and I can't wait to read it!

FIVE - Rain by Ben Platt
I love Ben Platt's voice - he sings so many different genres so effortlessly. This new song and video are so great - I will be listening a few (hundred) times this weekend.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Madewell Insiders Sale

Today is the last day of the Madewell Insiders sale, and it's definitely worth checking out. It's free to become an Insider - you just have to sign up! - and at a minimum, it gets you free shipping and returns (the rewards vary based on how much you spend). Plus, the sale items are ANOTHER 40% off, which is a great deal.

 I only discovered Madewell a year ago or so, but I've already added quite a few of their things to my closet! I've gathered some of my favorites from the sale below - some things that I own, and some on my wish list.

Dresses
I own this first red/orange dress in the widget below! I love it and think it'll transition well to fall, especially if you throw a leather jacket over it. There are some dresses with fun details and textures - I love the ruffle strap, and velvet dresses are so nostalgically 90s to me, in the best way.




Sweaters
If you're looking for something a little more fall-like, check out these cozy sweaters. I love the autumn colors, and they look so fuzzy and comfy. Plus, there's cashmere in the sale - never hurts to add to your cashmere collection, in my opinion!




Tops
If you're not ready to admit that sweater season is approaching, there's lots of other cute tops to choose from. The tiered sleeve top is basically just the shirt version of the dress in the picture above, so obviously I'm a fan. And I can never say no to ruffles and peplums - it adds the perfect touch.


Monday, September 9, 2019

Turning 31

The first year of my 30s is officially over. It feels really strange to type that, because I don't think that I necessarily feel like I'm in my 30s. It's not that I'm super young-at-heart - I'm more of an old soul than anything else - but I remember 30 seeming SO grown-up when I was younger.
I still feel in so many ways that I'm still learning and growing and figuring out where I want my life to go. I feel very confident about myself as a person, and who I am, but where I'm going? That's still a bit blurrier. One of my friends has three questions she asks people each year at their birthday: What was one thing from the past year you hope to never do again, what was your favorite thing from the past year, and what's one thing you definitely want to do in the next year?

I came up with answers for the first two, but the third one really stumped me. I realized that I don't really have anything concrete in mind for the next year. I think the past year has been so big for me that I've been so focused on short-term planning - this weekend, next week, next month - that I haven't really had a lot of time or energy to focus on the longer term.

My year as Ms. Wheelchair USA was incredible in many ways - it helped me to make so many connections, which brought me to some really exciting opportunities. But knowing this was a year-long reign, my attention was highly focused on that year and that timeframe. Now, I have a little bit of luxury to look farther ahead. Where do I really want to go with all of the work that I've been doing? Where do I want it to take me?

So while I didn't come up with an answer when she asked me during dinner, I think I have an answer for my friend now. In the next year, I want to figure out what exactly it is I want to be doing after this year is over... or at least have a better idea. I'm excited to do some long-term, big-picture planning.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Friday Favorites

Why do short weeks always feel so long? Maybe in this case, it's because I'm looking forward to my birthday this weekend! Even though it's not a big one like 30 was last year, I'm still looking forward to celebrating. I also had a really fun week - I went to a scavenger hunt at the local library. We weren't really sure what to expect, but we ended up having a blast. Even though we didn't win, it was so fun and we are already looking forward to the next one.
This week's favorites...

ONE - Lizzie McGuire Reboot
I loved watching Lizzie McGuire growing up. I watched the show, saw the movie, had the soundtrack... could probably still sing every word to "What Dreams Are Made Of" (Hey now, hey now...). I am so excited for this reboot! I know there's still no release date, and not a whole lot of information, but I still can't wait.

TWO - Pointy Toe Flats
I bought these flats earlier this summer and have been wearing them basically nonstop. I love how comfortable they are, and the pointy toe plus the metallic makes them a bit dressier. They're on major sale right now, too!

THREE - Paper Rings
It's probably no surprise that I've been listening to Taylor Swift's new album Lover basically nonstop, but I especially cannot get this song out of my head. It's so fun and upbeat, I just can't help singing along!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Life Lately

August has FLOWN. I seriously feel like I blinked and missed it - I can't believe that it's already September... and almost my birthday! Because I traveled so much this summer (relatively "so much," for me) it almost feels like I didn't actually get a break. So much of my time was spent packing or unpacking, gearing up for one trip or winding down from the next. Hopefully, September ushers in a little more down time for me - my fingers are crossed.

It's kind of weird, because as much as I feel like I've had SO MUCH going on, when I sat down to write this, I felt like I had to wrack my brains to figure out what exactly it is that I've been up to. I did have one unexpected ER visit (don't worry, all is well now!)... but I'm not dwelling on that.
Over Labor Day, I went to Easton to celebrate a friend's wedding. We stayed at an INCREDIBLE hotel, the Grand Eastonian - it was so amazingly spacious and open!  I will say - we did get a room with a roll in shower (a single room, and the only room in the whole hotel with a roll in shower), but we also got the adjoining two bedroom suite, because it would have been impossible for the four of us to fit in a single room. The upside of that, clearly, is the space that we had - traveling with two people who use wheelchairs can make it a bit difficult to navigate tight spaces, and we had absolutely no issues here. The pictures really don't do it justice!
Lily has come with us on almost every trip we've taken this summer. It's been a definite process, because she doesn't love the car and can get a little anxious the first few hours (or sometimes, day or so) after we arrive and she does NOT want to be left alone. She's gotten so much better, though, and in each hotel she finds a "spot" - this time it was on a pillow we had put on the floor for her to use as a step onto the couch!
The wedding itself was so beautiful, and I was so happy to be able to be there to celebrate them. It was at a winery that used to be a silk mill, and the venue was so unique and fun - I want to go back to see what it's like when it's not an event space! The whole town, really, was fun to explore - lots of little restaurants and cafes popping up. It's also just across the river from New Jersey (literally... I made us walk across the bridge just so that we could say we left the state)!

I also started classes again, hopefully for the final time in my graduate career! I'll still have to do my essay before I officially graduate, but this should be the last of my classes. It has been SUCH a long journey getting to this point, and I'm so happy to have made it this far and to be this close. Here's to hoping that this final semester of classes goes smoothly!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Dressing for the Weather

As much as I am personally sad to admit, the hot and sticky days of summer are coming to an end. It's already starting to cool down here in the early mornings and late evenings - you can tell that the hot hot heat of summer is going away. My birthday is coming up, so I definitely don't hate fall... I just hate that it means winter follows!
But I do know that there's something almost magical about those first few crisp fall breezes. They remind me going back to school as a kid - all the nerves, but also the excitement and hopefulness - of starting a new school year. And even though I'm a very different kind of student now, and I never really "leave" school so there's no going "back" to it, I still get that same feeling in early September.

I also get the itch to do some shopping. The sundresses that I lived in during the summer don't exactly cut it anymore. But I want things that still don't feel too heavy and cozy yet - something that will still remind me of the warm summer days but keep me a little warmer than a tank top.

I found this yellow midi dress (well, maxi dress if you're as short as I am) at Nordstrom Rack, and I think it fits the bill perfectly. It's still easy and flowy, but the sleeves and length are enough to add some coverage for fall. The mustardy yellow color, which I love, is also perfect for the changing seasons. And it's hard to tell, but there's little polka dots all over it, which is so cute. I can tell I'll be reaching for this a lot in the next month or two!





Friday, August 23, 2019

Friday Favorites

This is my last free weekend before the fall semester starts, and I could not be less ready! I could basically use a whole other summer break, that's how not ready I am. I'm hoping that I get to enjoy this weekend at least a little before I have to get back into "school" mode. On the bright side, fingers crossed, this should be my second-to-last first day of classes of my MPH!
 Now onto this week's favorites...

ONE - ASL at Dear Evan Hansen
I loved this interview with the ASL interpreters of Dear Evan Hansen in DC. The show has so much emotion, and this interview captures how the interpreters really work to convey all the complexities of the show and turn their signing into art.

TWO - Jonathan Groff's Interview
Honestly, I just think Jonathan Groff is incredibly charming and I'd watch him in anything. I still have to watch season 2 of Mindhunter - they actually film here, and I've been trying SO HARD to figure out a way to meet him! But this interview is just so cute!

THREE - Mindhunter Comparison
Speaking of Mindhunter, this is a really cool comparison of the show and the actual people who inspired it. It's fascinating to read about all the psychology behind everything.


FOUR - Lover Music Video
Taylor Swift released the music video for her song Lover yesterday, and it's such an intricate video for such a pretty song. I can't wait to listen to the rest of her album today (and then to re-watch this video and look for Easter eggs about the rest of the album)!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Recent Amazon Buys

I still, sometimes, cannot get over how quickly Amazon delivers things - I once placed an order at 12:30 AM and the package was delivered by 9 PM later that same day! I'm sure that speed influences me to buy more things that I don't necessarily need... but I buy them nonetheless. Here's what I've bought recently from Amazon.
Airpods Case
When I bought the wireless charging Airpods earlier, I didn't realize that they changed the case design a tiny bit, so that the light that shows if the case is charging moved to the front. My old case covered up that light, this case lets it shine through.

Echo Show
I loved my Echo Spot, but because of the number of microphones and where they were, it couldn't always hear me. This one has so many more microphones, it's so much smoother now. I also love pairing it with my phone and using it to listen to music - the speakers are pretty good!

Amazon Basics Sheet Set
I've tried sheets of all prices (even the pricey Brooklinen ones!) and honestly, I think that these are just as comfortable. I can't resist a cheetah print, and the grey goes perfectly with the decor in my bedroom.

T-Shirt Dress
I now own this dress in too many colors to mention. It's just the perfect comfortable summer dress - so light and swingy. I'm sure that it won't last very many seasons, but it's so comfy that I'm okay with that.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Weekend Trip to Philadelphia

This summer has been filled with lots of short, weekend-long trips - I actually haven't even been fully unpacking because I know that I'll just have to re-pack things a week later! The most recent trip was to Philadelphia. My sister had a bachelorette party to go to, and I tagged along because it's actually easier for the whole family to travel together. I'd also never been to Philadelphia, even though it's in the same state, so it was the perfect opportunity to see the city!
We didn't have a ton of time in Philadelphia - Friday and Sunday were both driving days, so I really just had Saturday to explore. Our hotel was in Center City, which seemed like the "downtown" area. Luckily, it was also dog friendly, so Lily was able to come with us - she's still not the best traveler, but she's getting better! There were so many things within walking distance, which was amazing. I started my Saturday out at Drybar - I'm always so excited to find one in a city that I'm traveling to. Hotel bathrooms can be questionable, accessibility-wise, so knowing that there's somewhere I can go to get my hair washed and styled is a huge relief. And luckily for me, it was about a 10 minute walk from the hotel, which couldn't have been more convenient.
From Drybar, I headed to Rittenhouse Square - it's a really cute park-like area lined by tons of restaurants and coffeeshops and stores. I was hoping to get a coffee from La Colombe, but unfortunately there was a step to get in and no ramp! It's such a bummer when I'm really looking forward to something only to find out it's not accessible. It's not surprising, because I encounter it all the time, but it's still disappointing each and every time. Instead, I had a delicious macchiato from Joe's coffeshop, which didn't have any steps!

We walked to what I'm going to call the touristy/historical area next - Independence Square. This is where the Liberty Bell is and Independence Hall are, plus a few other buildings. I do not enjoy lines, so this did not end up being my favorite part of the city. We actually skipped the Liberty Bell line and just saw it through the viewing window they have from outside the building. Honestly, the view is almost as good, as we saved at least 30 minutes waiting in line! We also went over to see Independence Hall. We thought we had lucked out, because the security screening line was only about 5 minutes long. But then we found out that there was ANOTHER line once you were inside for the actual tour of Independence Hall, and that line had a wait of about an hour. Since we would have only been able to tour the first floor anyway, we decided it was not worth that wait.

We headed back to Rittenhouse Square for dinner - we were hoping to eat outside, but some of the restaurants had a strict rule about no more than 2 people at the outdoor tables, and they wouldn't push tables together, either. There were so, so many different places to choose from, but since we didn't have a reservation anywhere, most places had a super long wait. We ended up at Parc and had a delicious dinner!
I loved that Philadelphia was so walkable, because it meant that I happened upon incredible sunsets like this one. What I did not love, however, is that they decided to mill/re-pave so many side streets at once. When you mill a street but don't get around to re-paving it yet, you're left with a HUGE gap between the curb cut and the street - it basically becomes a step rather than a curb cut, and it's so incredibly bumpy to drive across in a wheelchair. One street would have been annoying, but I ran into at least 10 that were like this. In some cases, it was so bad I actually had to cross not at the crosswalk but drive on the street with car traffic just so I could make it across. Not the most comfortable! However, if you didn't want to walk, the city does have wheelchair accessible Ubers (UberWAVs), which is great.

All in all, though, I really enjoyed Philadelphia. I totally get the appeal - it's not as overwhelming as NYC, but it's definitely more of an urban city than Pittsburgh is. Hopefully I can make it back again soon, with a little more free time to explore.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday Favorites

I got an e-mail this week from J.Crew asking me if I was ready for sweater weather - and my answer is a hard no! I am holding on the end of summer and time spent reading outside for as long as I possibly can.
ONE - Separate is not equal
This letter to the editor from the Post-Gazette is a good reminder that sometimes, even the best intentions go to further stigma and separation rather than eliminating it. People with disabilities don't always necessarily need their own, separate programs. Just like the letter mentions, working towards inclusion is harder and takes more time - that just makes it more worthwhile.

TWO - Peace Out Acne stickers
I picked these up as an impulse buy at the checkout line in Sephora, and I love them. They do seem to make my acne clear up a bit faster, and they also keep me from touching my face, which is equally important.

THREE - Little Women trailer
I loved this book growing up, and I'm excited to see this re-telling of it. The actresses are some of my favorites, and I've read that they've done some updating to make the book a bit more modern and feminist. My fingers are crossed that it's as good as the trailer makes it look!

FOUR - Michelle Williams interview
This is a great interview with Michelle Williams - it touches on her time on Fosse/Verdon, which I loved, and also talks about her time at the center of the Hollywood gender gap pay discrepancy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

#SMAStripes - SMA Awareness Month

At the end of last week, someone who I went to college with reached out to me on Facebook messenger. I wasn't close friends with her, so at first I wasn't sure why exactly she was messaging me... honestly, my first thought with any out-of-the-blue message is that they're trying to sell me something (LuLaRoe, essential oils, etc.). But actually, she was reaching out to me because she was pregnant, and just found out that her child had SMA.
I love that social media helps to connect this way. When I was growing up, it definitely wasn't this easy to find other families affected by SMA. Having a community is really, really important when you're affected in some way by a rare disease like SMA. There's no guarantee that your local doctor is going to be an expert, or even familiar with, SMA. You have to become your own expert, and that's so much easier to do when you can talk to other people going through the same things that you are.

The thing that really hit me, though, is how much has changed since my diagnosis. My experiences growing up with SMA are likely to be so, so different than someone who is diagnosed today. For one thing, more and more states are adding SMA to genetic testing panels, so people know if their child is affected by SMA when their baby is born, or sometimes even before. And that's important because of the treatments available now, which are more effective the younger they're given. There's even a 1-time gene therapy treatment approved for kids up to 2 years old - how amazing is that?

It makes me really hopeful for the future. There's currently an oral version of a drug in the research pipeline, which I'm crossing my fingers about. I'm glad that research and drug development is being done for all ages - adults with SMA have a much higher likelihood of easily accessing an oral drug rather than one injected through the spinal fluid.

August is SMA Awareness Month - I'd love for you all to join me in raising awareness  about SMA. The more people that have heard of it, the more chance the SMA community has of coming together, and the more chance that funding continues for the development of new drugs and treatments. Together in SMA has created a fun filter that you can use on social media during August - you can see my picture at the top of this post! It's easy to access - follow these steps:

1. Make sure you "Like" the Together in SMA page on Facebook.
2. On your phone, click either the "+" to add to your story, or click to add a photo to a new post.
3. When the camera pops up, click the 😊 and scroll through until you find the SMA Stripes one.
4. When you share your picture, make sure you hashtag it with #SMAStripes so everyone can find it!
5. Share away!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Friday Favorites

I don't know about you, but to me, when August hits, it starts to feel like the end of summer is looming... and I am absolutely not ready. I've had so many weekend trips this year that the summer has felt so disjointed - it seems like as soon as one trip is over, it's time to start thinking about the next! I'm hoping that the rest of August is a little bit calmer,

It's been a while since I've shared a Friday Favorites post! I wasn't on the Internet a ton this week, but I still do have some great things to share.

ONE - My Summit in the News!
I'll be back with a more in-depth post about the Summit I planned for Accessible YOUniverse at the end of July, but for now, you can check out this short write-up that the SEEN column of the Post-Gazette did for the event!

TWO - The Hadestown Soundtrack
I have had this on repeat for the last month or so. The show is based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but you don't need to know the story to appreciate the music. It's just so beautiful!

THREE - Pittsburgh Airport Accessibility
The airport here in Pittsburgh just did a huge, inclusive renovation of part of their space, and added a sensory friendly room and an accessible bathroom with an adult sized changing table. It's so exciting to know that there's an inclusive restroom available the next time I fly! Check out this video to see two local advocates doing a "tour" of the restroom and explaining what an adult-sized changing table is.

FOUR - Being Toni Morrison's Assistant
The incredible author Toni Morrison passed away earlier this week. I loved this story written by one of her former personal assistants about his time with her and what he learned.

FIVE - Taylor Swift in Vogue
Taylor Swift's new album is coming later this month, and I can't wait. She's on the cover of the Vogue September issue, and has a great interview about her life and her work... plus some sneak-peak lyrics of new songs on the album.

SIX - Gourmet Pop-Tarts
I've shared a few of these "gourmet makes" videos before, where a chef in the Bon Appetit test kitchen makes gourmet versions of snack foods of her youth. This time, it's Pop-Tarts, and as usual, I love the video.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

What I Read in June and July

It's been a while since I've done a post about what I've been reading, and since I do a lot of reading in the summer, the list is long. I've been making a point to read outside for a little bit each day after work, and it's been so nice. So here are the books that I've made it through this far.
The Light We Lost
This is one of my favorites on the whole list. It follows the lives of two people who meet in New York on 9/11. You can really feel the connection between the characters, and I could not put this book down - I just needed to know what was going to happen. It's not that the plot is something crazy, it's that the characters are that engrossing.

Whisper Network
On the flip side, this was not my very favorite. It's not bad, but it just didn't grab me. It's a mystery of sorts, and I just never felt like I really cared about figuring it out, which isn't a great sign.


The Night Circus
This ties with The Light We Lost for being my favorites in the batch. Totally different topics, but equally engrossing characters. This is about a magical circus and a challenge between two magicians... but I hesitate to call them magicians, because it's so different from magic in the way that you're used to reading about it. I'd been meaning to read this one for a few years, and was reminded when I saw the author had a new book coming out later this year. Now I can't wait for her next novel!


The Friends We Keep
This is definitely a summer read - it follows three friends from college through their adult lives, with some twists along the way. It's not too deep, but it's not too light and fluffy, either.


The Rainbow Comes and Goes
A few years ago we did a boat tour of the Ft. Lauderdale canals while we were there on vacation, and as we passed one of the Vanderbilt mansions, I learned that Anderson Cooper was one of Gloria Vanderbilt's sons. I had no idea! After she passed away earlier this summer, I decided to read the book they'd worked on together. It's a really honest look at her life, and beautifully written.


American Wife
This book follows the life of a woman who eventually ends up being married to the President. I loved the mix of political and personal - I think we all wonder about the behind the scenes lives of people who are so well-known, and what it would be like to go from a "normal" life to one without real privacy. I ended up really enjoying this book, even though I wasn't sold on it when I started (based on nothing, honestly).


Prep
This is by the same author as American Wife, and after I ended up liking that so much, I decided to read her first novel, too. This is a story of a teenage girl in a private boarding school, and it captures the emotions of being a teenager so well - there were some moments I could feel myself cringing at the awkwardness and uncertainty. It's a sign of a really good book when I have physical reactions while reading it, and this one definitely had that.


Manhattan Beach
This is a period piece, and I wasn't exactly sure if I'd enjoy it. But I ended up really being into it - it had really strong female characters and a great feminist plotline, focusing on a female submarine diver and her struggle to prove her worth and be accepted. It was really deep and complex, and I enjoyed that.

Normal People
I couldn't put this one down, but it wasn't the easiest to read, at the same time. It was dark, and it was one of those novels where you just want to scream at the characters sometimes and tell them they're being dense. But it really does live up to its name - it follows two very ordinary people through their lives.

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Monday, August 5, 2019

Ms. Wheelchair USA Pageant 2019

I can officially no longer call myself the reigning Ms. Wheelchair USA - a few weekends ago, I passed on the crown to the new winner, Brittany Hawley.
I wrote a post here about my year with the crown. It was a really great, exciting year, and an experience I never imagined that I would have. But when I'm asked if I'm sad to be giving up the crown, my answer is an easy no. I'm excited for someone else to have the chance to experience it! And while the crown may be gone, the work that I've been doing is just getting started. My time as Ms. Wheelchair USA was the perfect springboard for my work, and I'm looking forward to continuing it.
The other nice thing about going back to the pageant but not competing is that the pressure is off! It was really fun to go and meet all the woman and get to spend time with them without having to be nervous about my interviews or my speech or remembering what to do on stage for each different section of the pageant. I'm so glad to have met them, and will definitely be keeping in touch with them and following along with the great things that I'm sure they'll be doing.

I also got to meet the host of Disabilities Redefined in person, because he was one of this year's judges (I was on his YouTube show, you can watch it here). It's always fun to meet people in "real life" who I've previously only known through the internet, and especially cool in this case because he learned about the pageant through me!

Even though my time with the crown is over, I still am so grateful to be part of what feels like a "club." 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Access + Ability at the Carnegie Museum of Art

One of my favorite things about working in Oakland is how close it is to some of Pittsburgh's best cultural attractions, especially the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. While it's true that I'm often at work during their open hours, on Thursday nights they stay open until 8 PM - their cafe and fantastic coffee bar stay open late, too. So it's the perfect time for me to check out the exhibits.

I'm SO excited to be able to talk about one of the current exhibits at the Carnegie Museum of Art - Access + Ability. The exhibit is organized by Cooper Hewitt, a Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City (actually housed in the Carnegie Mansion!). It showcases all sorts of assistive devices and technology. It really spans the whole spectrum of disability - from UNO cards designed specifically for people who are colorblind, to a cane with a sensor that depicts objects from the waist up that a blind person might not otherwise know about.
I had a few personal favorites from the exhibit. The first was this voting booth designed to be fully inclusive - it has headphones that can translate to multiple languages, a touchscreen tablet that can swivel down lower so that wheelchair users can reach it, and a large pad with arrows on the side for people who struggle with a touchscreen. The device even has the ability to pair with a smartphone, allowing voters to select their choices ahead of time and then transfer them to the device to confirm. I love the thought put into this design, and how many different concerns it considers.
This jacket is one used in Germany by a symphony. It takes the music being played live and translates into tactile vibrations, so that patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing can enjoy the music. Different sections on the jacket represent different sections of the symphony (strings, brass, etc.). I would love to see this brought to Pittsburgh - it's so inclusive and helps the arts be open to everyone!
Finally, I had to highlight this intersection of form and fashion. These are stylishly designed prosthesis, allowing users to customize their prosthetis and make it their own. I love anything that makes adaptive devices stylish - things that serve their purpose but look good, too. Just like clothes can allow a person to express themselves, their prosthesis can, too!

It was so amazing to see this exhibit on multiple levels. The first is that the exhibit exists at all. This is huge in terms of representation - it's not an exhibit in a museum that focuses on disability. It's an exhibit in a mainstream museum, open to all. The exhibit was also really well done. It wasn't condescending or preachy, it was just educational and informative and interesting! I also loved how interactive it was - they had so many stations set up throughout the exhibit where you could actually touch things.

If you're in Pittsburgh, or nearby, DEFINITELY go check out this exhibit before it leaves in early September!

Now, if only the Cafe Carnegie would provide plastic straws upon request instead of the paper ones they currently have...

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

My Year as Ms. Wheelchair USA

Tomorrow I head back to Stow, Ohio for the crowning of the next Ms. Wheelchair USA. I can't believe how quickly the past year has gone by! It's still surreal to think that a year before my crowning, I could never have imagined that I would take part in a pageant. It's been such a fun, exciting year. I've gotten to do some really cool things that I definitely would have gotten to without my crown.
For example - getting to go on the field at a Pirates game and meeting Leslie Odom, Jr. are definite highlights that stand out!
But of course, my year was more than just pageant-waving and smiling for pictures with my crown on. Being invited to be on AT&T's Advisory Panel on Access and Aging and getting the chance to speak at the SciAccess conference were both incredible opportunities to talk about the importance of advocacy and accessibility. I've also been working behind-the-scenes all year, making connections and building a community, all leading up to my upcoming Ramping the Divide Summit. Even though it's technically a week after the end of my reign, it still seems like the perfect culmination of everything that I've been working on.
I want to think you all for your support this past year! You've all been so wonderful and enthusiastic and excited for me and I appreciate it so much.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Amazon Prime Day

Before I start the post, a quick programming note: I'll post when I can until my Summit is over, but it will likely not be my normal 4 posts a week! Planning the Summit has been super exciting, but is also basically like doing a second job on top of my normal 9-5. There are only so many hours in a day, and I have to prioritize, but I haven't forgotten about you! Now, back to my post...

In honor of today being Amazon Prime Day, I thought that I'd share some of my favorite recent Amazon purchases. I can't guarantee that any of these are a Prime Day Deal, but check them out and then check out the special sales, too.
Travel Jewelry Organizer
I have about a million different travel jewelry cases, but none that are really exactly what I'm looking for. I'm hoping that this one is finally the answer! I always need more space for necklaces, rather than earrings/bracelets/etc., and this one looks like it just might do the trick.

iPad Case with Pencil Slot
I already had an iPad case with a built-in keyboard, but it's a little heavy for me to carry around when I just want to do some reading in Schenley Plaza after work. This case is might more lightweight, and even has a built-in slot for my Apple Pencil, which I love.

T-Shirt Dress
Just a simple, comfy t-shirt dress to wear when you don't want to have to think too much about your outfit. It's probably not the highest quality ever, but it's soft and not see-through, and I'm sold.

Oil Control Sheets
These are an absolute necessity for me! There's only so much that powder can do before it'll start to make your makeup clumpy and gross. These just work - they get rid of oil and don't mess up your makeup. I have these on me at all times!

Pet Brush
Because Lily doesn't shed, we have to make sure we keep her brushed so her fur doesn't get all knotted and tangled. The last brush that we had for her started losing tines every time we tried to brush her, so it was time for something new. This one has a great shape/grip and doesn't hurt, either.

Spray Sunscreen
I've written about this a few times now. It doesn't have alcohol and is lightweight enough that it doesn't feel greasy on your skin. Perfect thing to pick up for the summer!

Laptop Backpack/Bag
I bought this to use as a carry-on for a flight, and while it didn't exactly work out for me for that, I have started using it as an everyday bag that I keep on the back of my wheelchair. It has a padded laptop pocket, plus a slot for my iPad, and lots of other little storage pockets, too.

Clear Quart-Sized Bag
One more travel-related item - a clear quart-sized bag, TSA-approved. Nothing fancy, but it's a definite step up from the disposable Ziploc bag that I was previously using.

This post contains affiliate links; I may earn a small commission from any purchases you make.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Loving Leopard

This weekend, we pulled off an (early) surprise party for my dad's 60th birthday! I am not a surprise party person - they give me lots and lots of anxiety and stress - and this was even harder because we were holding it at our house, and needed to let him know that something was going on without letting him know it was something for him! Luckily, I was able to convince him to drive me to Drybar before the cookout we told him was for me and my friends, so it worked out well for everyone.
It was really fun to bring all of our friends and family together to celebrate. For as long as I can remember, my parents have always loved throwing parties and entertaining, so this was the perfect way to celebrate his birthday. We'll actually be at the pageant again for his birthday, so we had to do something for him! A surprise party seemed to be the perfect thing.
Of course, I had to pick out a perfect outfit for the party, too. Leopard is in this summer, but I've been an animal print fan for years and years. So now, I can just be glad that there are so many leopard print options for me to choose from! How cute is this leopard wrap skirt from Nordstrom Rack? And it goes perfectly with this smocked peplum top from Madewell. I love them together - it's put together without being too much (although to be fair, I always err on the side of too much rather than too little).

I can already tell that this will be a go-to outfit for me - the black and white is so me, and the print gives it an extra pop and keeps it from being too plain. It worked for a party at our house, but I know it'll work for lots of other occasions, too.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Friday Favorites

I hope that you all had a happy Fourth! I celebrated at The Frick again (like I did two years ago! I wrote a post about it here - it was in my first month of blogging!). We had a delicious lunch at the Cafe at The Frick, then walked around Frick Park again before going to get soft-serve ice cream at the Millie's Summer of Soft Serve pop-up. It was such a perfect, relaxing way to spend the day.

I'm enjoying an extra-long weekend today (as I assume many of you are, too), so today's post is going to be brief! I haven't spent a lot of time online this week, and it's been a nice break. I've been speeding my way through some books, though, so expect an updated reading post soon.
ONE - Madewell Tie-Back Dress
I wore this on the Fourth, but it's not a holiday-only dress. It's a great, easy but cute summer dress - the slit in the front makes it cooler than a typical maxi dress. I love the tie in the back, because the adjustability means that it fits me really well! The blue color is mostly sold out, but there is a lilac version, and it's on sale, too!

TWO - Live Action Ariel Casting
They announced the casting for Ariel in the live-action remake that they're doing, and I'm so excited. I love Chloe X Halle, and I think Halle will be an amazing Ariel! It's one of my favorite Disney movies, so I can't wait to see the remake.

THREE - Drybar Detox Clear
I've been a loyal Drybar dry shampoo user for a while now, and I'm really loving their new clear version. It's a bit lighter than the regular version, but still holds up well against oil and really doesn't leave any powder showing on your hair. I'm sold!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Ramping the Divide Summit: Accessibility in Pittsburgh

Today's post is one that I have been wanting to publish for a few weeks now, and I'm so excited that everything is official and I can share the news!
On Saturday, July 27, Accessible YOUniverse, alongside The Dane Foundation, will be hosting the Inaugural Ramping the Divide Summit. The Summit will be a hands-on workshop, where members of the disability community and interested allies come together to discuss the "state of the union" of accessibility in Pittsburgh, and come up with priorities to address moving forward. I'm especially excited because I'll be holding the Summit in honor of the anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is perfect.

I think it's so important to bring the disability community together to discuss the pressing issues, and to make sure that whatever is tackled first is what we decide is most important! Too often, other people make decisions for us, but I want to make sure that the voices of people with disabilities themselves are highlighted.

I'd love for you to join me at the Summit! All of the event and registration information can be found here. I'm also looking for volunteers for the day of! If you're interested, send me an e-mail at accessibleyouniverse@gmail.com. I'm so excited, and I'd love to have you all there with me!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Flying When You Use a Wheelchair

Summer, to me, always means summer vacation. When I was growing up, we would always spend a week at the beach - first it was Ocean City, New Jersey, then when I was a little older it was Hilton Head, and occasionally Myrtle Beach. As my sister and I have gotten older, we’ve lobbied for other types of vacations, too - DC, New York - ones that are not as relaxing but area more exciting.

This year, we actually don’t have a summer vacation planned, because we have a lot of long weekend trips happening. Many of them are driving, but we did fly to Dallas earlier this year. And while I’ve written before about what it’s like to travel with a disability (you can read that here), I’ve never discussed flying, which is its own beast.
To start with - I almost titled this post “Flying In a Wheelchair,” but thought that would be misleading because the whole point is that I DON’T fly in my wheelchair! When I was younger, this wasn’t as big of a deal, but as I’ve gotten older and need more support, this has become increasingly difficult.

So - if I don’t fly in my wheelchair, what does happen? I’m going to start from the beginning of the airport process, right when we arrive. In my travel post, I talked about the number of THINGS we have to travel with. These all have to get packed into the car, and then unpacked again at the airport - we always do curbside check-in because it would take a while to lug everything through the check-in line inside. The good news is that you’re not charged for checking medical equipment, but you still have to be okay with checking it and crossing your fingers that it’s not damaged in the cargo hold. You can also carry on as many medical items as you want, but that’s more that you have to wrangle when you’re stressed and boarding. So we generally try to find a balance - carry on things that seem like they might get damaged in cargo, but check everything that we reasonably can.

Once we’ve checked our bags, we head to security. We do get to go to a separate accessible line that is generally much, much shorter than the general security line - but this #WheelchairPerk goes away very quickly, because we also have to wait for a female TSA agent to pat us and our wheelchairs down, and this can take a while. They pat us down, and then swipe tester strips over every possible surface of our wheelchairs to check for explosives. Because the sensor can also be set off by things like pesticide, we often have to get swiped more than once (I seem to have particularly bad luck).

After that, we head towards the gate. Usually, my sister and I both get something to eat and make sure we use the bathroom as late as humanely possible, because the bathrooms on planes aren't accessible! But we can't wait too long, because we have to preboard to gate check our wheelchairs, which means we have to report to the gate 30 minutes before the scheduled boarding time.

I know that preboarding sounds like a perk, but when it means you have to be there 30 extra minutes early, it's more like another required hoop we have to jump through. At the gate, we gate check our wheelchairs, which means we get to drive them down the jetway, as close to actually taking them on the plane as possible. But at the end of the jetway, we have to get out of our chairs and get carried on to the plane. They do have an aisle chair available for using inside the plane - it's skinny enough to fit between the aisles on the plane - but it has almost no support, and I can't hold myself up sitting in it. Once I'm out of my chair, staff at the airport takes it back down the jetway, down an elevator, and loads it into the cargo area of the plane. My dad always does his best to explain to the staff how to move the chair, and we've gotten incredibly lucky so far, but we never know if we'll get our chair back in one working piece.

Sitting on the plane comfortably is yet another challenge, and one that currently requires the use of many, many pillows. Airplane seats are too big for me - my feet don't touch the floor - so there's lots of propping involved in getting me comfortable. And no matter how good I feel a few minutes after takeoff, by hour three or so, everything starts to get sore. I also can't really eat or drink easily on a plane (it's the same issue of lack of support), so I'm always very ready for the flight to end.

Then when we land, the whole process of bringing the wheelchairs around and back to us has to repeat itself. On a good day, this can take 30 minutes; if the elevator is farther away from our gate, it can take even longer. As soon as we have our wheelchairs and confirm that they work, my dad takes off ahead of us for baggage claim, because by that point, everyone else on our flight has already picked up their luggage. This is also usually when I beeline for the airport Starbucks, because I am worn out.

All this being said - I actually like to fly! Long drives aren't really any easier for me, so flying is my only option for going anywhere more than 5-6 hours driving from Pittsburgh. But I do wish the process were simpler. I didn't even mention yet that there are so many smaller airplanes now, and those don't even have the space in cargo to fit my wheelchair, so I just can't fly on them. What I'd love, more than anything, is to be able to take my wheelchair on the airplane. If you want to learn more, check out All Wheels Up - it's an organization founded by another SMA family, and dedicated to working towards increased airline accessibility.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Speaking at SciAccess

June flew by for me, mainly because I spent two weekends in a row traveling. I love to travel, but it's also pretty tiring for me, so I don't say yes to two trips in a row lightly. This trip, however, was easy to say yes to - I was asked to speak at the SciAccess conference at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
As you might be able to guess from the name, the conference was all about science + accessibility. It covered all different aspects of those intersections, and even included talks given by Anousheh Ansari, the first female privately-funded astronaut, and Temple Grandin, an animal science expert and autism advocate. It was amazing to see so many people coming together to talk about accessibility in the sciences.

I spoke about my own personal experiences with accessibility in the sciences, both as an undergraduate while studying engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and now with my work and studying in public health at Pitt. The talk went really well, and the very best part was the current students who came up to talk to me afterwards about their own experiences, and how they connected with hearing about mine. I'm hoping to continue working with some of them to continue to improve accessibility in the sciences, and that's so exciting!
I'd actually never been to Columbus, even though it's only about three hours away, so it was exciting to have the chance to explore a new city. I stayed about 10 minutes away from campus, in downtown Columbus in a great pet-friendly hotel. I didn't have a ton of time to explore, but I did get a chance to walk around a bit and check out some restaurants in the area, and stumbled on a really cute outdoor farmer's market right across the street from our hotel! Of course, I also had to make sure I made it to the zoo - Columbus's zoo is run by Jack Hanna, so it's basically a "celebrity" zoo. I even got to feed a giraffe, so basically... life made.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Easy, Breezy, Beautiful

 I had an unexpected ER visit last week (why does everything happen to me outside of Monday-Friday, 9-5?). While I'm feeling much better now, it left me pretty drained. I decided to take the week off from blogging to really focus on recuperating and making sure I was getting plenty of rest. Sometimes when you start to feel better (especially if it's something that came on quickly in the first place!), you don't realize that your body isn't quite caught up yet, and needs some more time to heal. I wanted to make sure I gave myself that time. I also had a trip to Easton this past weekend for a friend's bridal shower, so I knew I needed to be well-rested and recovered for that.

On that note, back to the regular posting... (There's no way to smoothly transition around an ER trip, I'm realizing!)
There's nothing like finding the perfect sundress for summer. Something light and flowy, that still looks cute but isn't too hot. It feels so much more effortless to wear, and yet it still looks put-together.

I've basically been on a quest to find this perfect dress, and this one from Madewell is a definite contender. It's not super fitted, so it's perfect when you need something quick to throw on. The material is a little more "dressed-up" than a plain cotton dress, but it still feels light and just easy! I love the bright color - I've been trying to stay away from buying black sundresses, both because I own more than enough and because it gets so hot wearing black in summer sun. This red-orange is so bright and fun.

My work is pretty casual, so this has become one of my new go-to work outfits, but if you have to dress a bit more formally, this is a great weekend dress, too. It really is the perfect "easy, breezy, beautiful" summer dress.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Friday Favorites

As much as I love summer, my allergies have been so bad this year - I think they're the worst they've ever been. I love being outside, but when I went to the Arts Festival this week, my eyes and throat were both burning within minutes of getting there. It's made it a bit tough to get in all the outside reading that I'd like to do, but I'm surviving, somehow.
This week's favorites ahead!


ONE - Lawsuit against Uber
Big and exciting news here in Pittsburgh - a lawsuit was just filed against Uber for their failure to provide rides for people who use wheelchairs. I know the lawsuit is not the first nationwide, but I'm hoping that this helps put a little pressure on them to increase access for people with disabilities. (Note: Do not look this article up on Facebook and read the comments there! Very disheartening.)

TWO - Ali Stroker Interview
I wrote my own post about Ali's amazing win at the Tony's (here), but this is a great interview. She talks about people's misconceptions, and about the need to make the backstage areas of Broadway theaters more accessible, rather than just focusing on the audience-facing areas. You can't expect to see more actors with disabilities on Broadway if they can't even get to their dressing room and the stage!

THREE - Everlane Choose What You Pay Sale
I love Everlane - I love their transparent pricing, their style, and their sizing options that ACTUALLY fit me. They're having one of their "Choose What You Pay" sales, which is too good to pass up. I particularly love this tank dress for summer!

FOUR - Taylor Swift's New Album
Taylor Swift announced her new album and her new single (which will actually be out already when this goes live), and I'm so excited. Unashamed #Swiftie!

FIVE - Late Late Live Tinder
I'm asleep well before the Late Late Show comes up, but I do love watching segments on YouTube. The Live Tinder one makes me laugh every time! 


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Sunscreen for the Summer

I mentioned this briefly in one of my Friday Favorite posts, but I consider sunscreen an absolute essential in the summer. I burn really easily - I actually barely tan, I basically just burn, peel, and then burn again. I know that's super unhealthy, and it's also painful! I am really mad at myself, because I accidentally got sunburnt earlier this summer when I ran out of the house in a rush without thinking. I am still in the midst of peeling, and it's made me more certain now than ever about the necessity of sunscreen.

I'm really picky about the type of sunscreen that I use, though! I use it daily on my face in my moisturizer, so I put it on every single day - in the winter, in the rain, it doesn't matter. But because I'm wearing it daily, I need something that isn't too heavy and greasy, and that I know won't break me out. My favorite for a few years now has been this one from Paula's Choice. It's really light - the texture is really liquidy - and it dries down to a nice matte finish and works really nicely under my foundation. I haven't tried it personally, but I've also heard rave reviews about this one from Elta MD.

As for my body, there is only one that I use - this spray lotion from La Roche Posay. So many of the sunscreen sprays have alcohol in them, which is actually damaging to your skin! This one isn't as much of an aerosol as those are (you still need to rub it in a bit), because it's the alcohol that makes it so light and able to be sprayed so easily. It does, however, do a great job protecting my skin, and still takes less effort since it sprays all over evenly. If you're not a fan of a spray, just make sure you pick one with SPF 30 or higher.

And don't forget - sunscreen only lasts for the season! If you're still hanging on to one from last summer, make sure you toss it and pick up a new one.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Represented at the Tony Awards

You all probably know about my love of musicals very well by now. I know... you're probably sick of me mentioning Hamilton every single time I possibly can. But don't worry - this post is NOT about Hamilton!

This past weekend was the Tony Awards, which is Broadway's version of the Oscars. Since I don't live in New York, and don't get there very often, the Tonys are a great way for me to see and hear some of the current shows on Broadway, before they begin their tours and make it here to Pittsburgh. This year's Tony Awards was especially exciting for me to watch, because Ali Stroker was nominated for, and won, for her role in Oklahoma, and Ali is the first person who uses a wheelchair to win a Tony!
When she accepted her award, she started her speech with: "This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation, or a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena. You are."

Ali is actually the first person who uses a wheelchair to ever perform on Broadway, and as far as I know, the only person who uses a wheelchair to currently be on Broadway. While there is a lot of talk about diversifying Broadway, it doesn't seem to have included disability in that diversification. This isn't a Broadway-specific issue - often, diversity issues and disability issues are considered separate.

But seeing Ali Stroker on stage, and hearing her speech, was really special. I think that people often don't understand the importance of representation because they're so used to being represented. But when you have never seen anyone like you in a certain place - whether it's on stage, on TV, or somewhere else - it's not just that you don't have someone to look up to. It's that you feel unwelcome, like there's some invitation you haven't received, some guest list that you were left off of. You think that it's probably not even possible for you to ever get there, because if no one ever has, why would you be the first?

It's 2019, and the very first ever person who uses a wheelchair won a Tony Award. It's a little bittersweet - as exciting as it is, I can't believe that it's taken this long. My fingers are crossed that Ali's win brings more disability to Broadway, and that I get to see more people in wheelchairs on stages all over.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Wheelchair Wash and Tune Up

When you think about it, in some ways, using a wheelchair isn't all that different from using a car. Just like a car gets dirty when it's outside and dealing with salt and slush and rain and dirt, my wheelchair does, too. Except there's no equivalent of a car wash for me to take my wheelchair to when it gets too dirty. So honestly... I usually just ignore it! I can't see it, so it doesn't bother me. I did have my parents help wash it last year before the pageant, but that may have been the first time that chair ever got washed (much to my dad's chagrin, and constant nagging about it!).
My current wheelchair is less than a year old, so it's still (relatively) clean. But when I saw a Facebook event for a Wheelchair Wash and Tune Up at UPMC Mercy, I knew that I had to check it out! It did not disappoint. When I got there, I was so impressed - the turnout was amazing, and there were also so many volunteers! I didn't even have to wait five minutes before a whole group was ready to start washing my wheelchair. They did such an incredible job and my wheelchair looks so shiny and like-new!
They also had someone on site to do minor wheelchair repairs, so I was able to get some screws tightened that had been really annoying me. Plus, they had tables from other disability organizations set up, free food, and lots of tables for people to sit and chat and get to know each other. I can't wait to go back next year... especially since it's likely that my wheelchair will not be washed again before then!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Friday Favorites

This week seemed to fly by for me (although there was a moment where I thought it was Friday on Thursday, so...). I have lots of different projects that I'm trying to balance right now, and then trying to balance those with my personal life... the free time just seemed to go away very quickly!

This weekend starts Pittsburgh's Arts Festival, and my amazingly talented friend Katie has a booth there - I'm really looking forward to seeing it! You should definitely check out her art even if you're not in Pittsburgh - her website is here.

I'm really excited about this week's favorites - I feel like I came across some really cool things this week.
ONE - IKEA Recreates Rooms from TV
How fun is this?! IKEA took rooms from some famous TV shows - Friends, Strangler Things - and recreated them with their furniture. I'm so impressed by both the execution, and the thought behind it too!

 TWO - Apple's Voice Control
One of the things that Apple announced earlier this week was the ability to use voice control to use your phone, computer, or iPad. This is different than just Siri - you can actually direct your computer to open a file, you can type, and even direct it to save the file all without ever having to touch the mousepad. This is huge for people with mobility impairments - so cool! Watch the video for yourself to see it in action.

THREE - When They See Us
If you watch one thing this week, you should make it When They See Us on Netflix. It's about the Central Park jogger/Central Park Five case, and while I knew some of the basics, I definitely did not know all of the horrible details. It's definitely not the easiest thing to watch, but its really important.

FOUR - Musical Mash-Up
On a lighter note - the Hamilton YouTube channel is creating musical mash-ups to celebrate the Tony Awards this coming weekend. I had just started listening to the songs from Hadestown this week, so the timing of this was perfect!

FIVE - The Comfiest Flats Ever
These flats are the most comfortable that I've ever worn - I may have to buy them in every color possible. One of my friends at work was actually wearing them on the same day that I was, and we both said they were our favorite flats! The sole of the shoe is so cushioned - I call them my "cloud shoes. Worth every penny!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

What I Read in May

Sitting outside and reading is one of my absolute favorite things to do in the summer. It helps me wind down after work, or gives me an excuse to relax for a few hours on the weekend. I think that with reading, the more you do it, the more you want to do it - it scratches an itch that mindless TV watching just doesn't (and I love TV).

I got through some really good books last month, including one so good that I have not been able to get my mind off of it. Please leave me your recommendations in the comments! I love getting personal recommendations more than trying to scroll through pages and pages of Barnes & Noble's website!
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
This was, by far, my favorite of everything I read during the month. It's spread over two different timelines, but with connected characters, and it just tells the story so beautifully. It's partially set during the AIDS crisis in Chicago, and it really makes you think about how it might have felt to lose so many of your friends to a disease without a cure or any real treatment. If you read anything this summer, make it this book!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I didn't really know what to expect from this book - the lead character is sometimes so socially awkward in ways that made me physically cringe while I was reading! But the story has turns in ways that you wouldn't expect, and its a really interesting story. I don't want to give away the plot, but I enjoyed it.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
After I read The Female Persuasion last year, I knew that I wanted to read more books by Meg Wolitzer. She writes characters in a way that makes you really identify with them and their stories. This book follows a group of friends from camp through adulthood, and by the time I was done reading, I felt like I was part of their group, too.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
It took me a little to get into this one, because it's written as if it's one long magazine interview, and I wasn't sure how I felt about the format. But it actually is perfect for the story, and I really loved it. It follows the story behind a fake musician and band, and when it ended I almost Googled to confirm that it wasn't actually a real story!

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
This one is my current read - it's the real-life story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. I've listened to the ABC podcast and watched the HBO documentary already, so this seemed like the next step.