Up a really big creek without a paddle…

I do not even know where to begin with this one. I’ve spent the last few days processing everything that happened in the half hour period it took to complete this challenge and I can honestly say I have never experienced anything like this in my life. I am sorry this post is WAY late. I’ve been traveling for my first event with my new job and didn’t anticipate the lack of Wi-Fi and free time I’d run into.

Challenge #24:

“Complete the Great Ohio River Swim on September 29th, 2013.” – from Bill Keating, Jr.

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The Keatings and the Haydens have a multi-generational history of friendship between our families, and while I will go into greater detail in a few weeks, I will give you a brief background now.  He’s just one of those genuinely good people and has subsequently raised his children to be equally genuinely good people. He has a little project of his own that arrives in my email inbox every morning. After turning off my alarm, I start each day with Mr. Keating’s Thought of the Day email, which has actually grown into an incredibly long list of email recipients.  It now reaches well over 14,000 people. His emails provide me with little tidbits of inspiration every morning before I start my day. Sometimes they are irrelevant to me, but still positive and thought-provoking. Other times they are exactly what I need to hear to motivate me to tackle certain obstacles in my life. The point is, I have come to rely on them every morning. And even though my parents know that I subscribe, they continue to forward the important ones my way – so on extra special occasions, I receive 3 thoughts of the day…

Mr. Keating also has two daughters. Liz, who is a good friend of mine, and Caroline, who was the inspiration for Learning to Hit the Curve. She completed a challenge project of her own awhile back called the Caroline Challenge. Inspired by what I saw her do, I asked to spin off of her idea and create this weekly adventure you all have come to know.

So the Great Ohio River Swim is an event put on by the Cincinnati Triathalon group and for some reason, 200 plus idiots decide to swim across the Ohio River at the crack of dawn on a random Sunday in September. Super exciting, right? ….right?

There are several reasons why this adventure was completely, utterly, undeniably the worst thing I will have to do in these 52 weeks and, quite possibly, my lifetime.

1) Um. It’s in the Ohio River. At the end of the summer. In the middle of the city. Where boats have been cruising up and down the shore line pretty consistently for the last 130 days, not to mention the year-round barge traffic and variety of other items, critters, bacteria, etc. lurking beneath the surface.

Well. Actually that pretty much sums it up. IT’S DISGUSTING.

So here’s the deal.  I have swum competitively since I was about 5 or 6 for my country club, the Anderson Barracudas and in High School for St. Ursula Academy. I wouldn’t say I was ever like Olympian-potential, but I really enjoyed it. The camaraderie of a swim team is different than any other sport. Well, any other sport that I have played. I’d guess gymnastics, track and field or tennis are fairly similar. Your events are mostly individual, but you spend a LOT of downtime at meets just hanging out, your scores affect the success of the entire team and the competition is really with yourself to beat your own times.


As you can see, I’ve maintained my girlish figure…and the hand on the hip…


All the cool kids wear a pin with their own face on it…all of them.


I had every intention of spending this summer in training for this event and for next week’s challenge, as well. If anything, I’d say I untrained.  I did the exact opposite of what I intended to do and was in absolutely no way, under any circumstances, physically prepared for this.  Worse than the physical was the mental. I’d taken walks down by the river to kind of psych myself up for it. All it did was freak me out. Then I started reading. Reading about swimming in open water. Reading about rivers. Reading about the Ohio River.

Then Shark Week happened and I found out sharks can survive in fresh water beause they have a gland in their bodies that puts saline into the water that makes it seem like salt water enabling them to thrive in rivers, lakes and streams. What.

While researching whether or not this was accurate I came across several stories of people dying from acquiring flesh eating bacteria while swimming in freshwater. Then I read about an amoeba that gets sucked up through your nose when swimming/breathing and eats away at your brain because that is its first source of nutrients it meets upon entering your body. You don’t know you have it until 2 days later when you’re a vegetable on life support and it’s too late to save you. THIS REALLY HAPPENS!!!!

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The overactive imagination I was blessed with has taken me to some really incredible places. Design school, acting camps, imaginary wonderlands as a child. And now, imminent death in the Ohio River. I couldn’t shake it. I discussed this with Liz who decided to get us nose plugs for the adventure.

So first, the fun part of this weekend… A couple of months ago I was talking to some friends at a dinner party about my blog. My friend Kenneth found this particular challenge so grotesque that he felt I deserved a reward. MidPoint Music Festival was this weekend and, well, you all know how much I dig music festivals…He hooked me up with two VIP passes to the festival and I bopped around taking in the sights and sounds with friends on Friday. The Head and the Heart performed in Washington Park and it was AMAZING!!! We caught the show from the VIP area and back stage.

For those that are into indie bands, MPMF is a fabulous opportunity to check out some new acts – both local and from afar- in one small radius. A bunch of local bars open their stages to these performances, drawing in a wide variety of concert-goers. There is an area called Midway that aims to tap into other areas of artistic expression. The street is lined with yellow box trucks and inside each one is a different activity. There is a poetry truck where they have set up tables and couches much like a living room. A group of writers patiently await your entrance to the truck so that they may converse with you briefly, pull some creative inspiration and draft a lyrical masterpiece for you to retrieve 15 minutes later. Naturally, I was intrigued.

I climbed the steps and entered the truck. I met a lovely man named Ben and we sat down to talk. He asked me what some of my interests were and I mentioned photography, writing, cooking – the usual things that pop into my mind like I’m writing a personal ad. Then I told him about Learning to Hit the Curve and he thought that was super cool. We also talked about my volunteering and stuff. Another writer on the couch adjacent to us (who actually wrote my friend Blair’s poem) chimed in and said, “Haha how do you feel about world hunger?” We had a chuckle. He asked what I hoped to achieve from this poem and I said that I wanted it to be “both hilarious and inspirational” and left him to his creative process.

Some of the other box trucks featured “decorate your own koozie” projects, some sort of fine arts creative outlet or photo booths. We took in a show and returned to retrieve my poem from its clothesline.

It read:

“How do you feel about world hunger?
I would like this poem to be both inspirational and hilarious. Nailed it.”

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Well. Who can top that!? I was very excited with my results. This pretty much summed up our interaction perfectly. Good job, Ben. We called it a fairly early night because I didn’t want to be tired. Same thing the next night, as well. Had SUCH A great time!! THANKS KW!!!!


Back to the swim…

I remember I started swimming for the Anderson Barracudas in elementary school and I was beyond thrilled when they’d bribe us with pizza parties and candy treats for goals met and jobs well done. My mother had a fundamental issue with this, but who cares. TREATS! I recognize these same instincts in my cousin, Bella, as she begins her own competitive swimming career. I asked her if she’d like to swim with me and received an immediate, “NO.” Regardless of my bargaining techniques, the child relentlessly declined my offer. It worked out in the end because she’s only 9 and was unfortunately too young to participate in the GORS with us.

So Liz has purchased nose plugs. Mr. Keating has purchased ear plugs. My father has let me listen to his voicemail from Mr. Keating – sharing bits of advice from his prior experience with the GORS. I have rented a wetsuit (not sure that’s any better) to protect me from the elements (and critters) in the river. Turns out you can’t wear them…I am still nervous as all hell. There is really no other way to describe it. My intention was to spend the summer training for this event and for my next challenge coming up. Incidentally, I actually un-trained. I did the exact opposite of what I’d intended. I have been living it up and now immediately regret that decision.  Saturday night I went to bed at a decent hour since I had to be at the Public Landing at 7:15 Sunday morning.

So I went to bed, got very little sleep as I tossed and turned restlessly while visions of horrible river amoeba and school-bus sized fish crossed through my mind. Eventually I laid out my stuff for the race, took two Benadryl and knocked myself out so I could get just a little bit of sleep before the big race.

I woke up and it was still dark. Unmotivated and incredibly unexcited for the morning ahead of me, I changed and dragged myself to the car. Upon exiting my garage I realized that the sun was just starting to come up and it was incredibly beautiful. I haven’t caught a sunrise in a long time and this did not disappoint. It made me feel a little bit better about the day. Funny how looking at something pretty just relaxes me.

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I immediately called Liz to see where she and her Dad were. I then discovered the line about 200 people long. Now, logistically, this event is not that complicated. It’s been going on for several years. People sign up, people jump in, people swim, it’s over.  What is the point of having me pre-register online if you’re just going to make me stand in this line again? I had brought with me some lovely iridescent goggles and a gold swim cap to match. Much to my disappointment, I was forced to wear the swim cap they had provided for me. It was yellow and did not go with my outfit as I had intended.  Yes. I coordinated my goggles and my swim cap for the Great Ohio River Swim. Do you expect anything less of me? I didn’t think so.  They also wrote my contestant number REALLY large in Sharpie on my arm. I also wore my GoPro camera on my head for the swim in hopes of getting some good shots of the whole event. I have some editing to do and will add it eventually, but I have been busy with work (!!) and must regrettably inform you that it is not finished yet. However, upon reviewing the footage, I had to relive what happened. I’m not sure if it was harder to watch or actually experience.

Dad and I before the race!

Dad and I before the race!

Father daughter duos before the race!

Father daughter duos before the race!

Me and Mr. Keating before the race!

Me and Mr. Keating before the race!

So we finally got through the line after the sheer brilliance of breaking it into two groups finally occurred to the people running the event. My dad and I are using this as part of his challenge to me so the winner of this was crucial. He received approval from his doctor, after receiving a hip replacement just over a month ago, and agreed to do the swim with me! We headed down to the serpentine wall where we would be pushing off from. By this point, my support crew was in full force. My best friend Christy, cousin Jenny and her daughter Bella, my Aunt Tessie and Aunt Debbie and my Mom were all there to cheer me on. Aunt Tessie was vital in calming me down as I had entered full on irritability and panic mode.

I must also commend my mother on her unwavering patience with me. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, whenever I find myself in high-pressure situations, my mother seems to receive the full brunt of my anxiety, anger, stress, whatever it may be. She takes it in stride and handles it like a champ, though there is no reason she should have to put up with it. I love you and am forever grateful for this, Mom. And I will apologize until the end of time. While it may not always seem like it, you keep me grounded.

My Dad was sitting on the steps looking out at the water so I went down for a quick father-daughter pep talk – he’s great at those! He and Mr. Keating got ready and hopped into the water. Liz and I would start two minutes after the men. They blew a whistle and off they went. I headed down to the water and had to talk myself into jumping in. In the midst of screaming I kinda just threw myself in. And then flailed about trying to scare off any potential creature that might be lurking beneath the surface. I was trying to prepare myself when all of a sudden people started swimming. This was it. I checked the GoPro and pushed off.

About 2 minutes in the worst thing I have ever experienced in my life happened. I somehow took on a huge mouth full, nose-full and lung-full of water. The amoeba immediately entered my mind and I was completely paralyzed with fear. I had an asthma attack which led to an all-out panic attack. Like dangling in the water, screaming for help, couldn’t move panic attack. I honestly thought this was the end. I was going to drown in the Ohio River. That is how unbelievably terrified I was.

A woman blew her little whistle and came over to me in her kayak. She instructed me to climb on the back so they could take me back in. Holy cow I’m having shortness of breath just thinking about this moment again. I informed her that I had to keep going and that stopping was not an option. I cried, I swore, I freaked out.  I asked if she would stay with me the whole way and she told me she couldn’t, but then called someone else over to paddle alongside me the remainder for the swim.



Flailing about...

Flailing about…

Me and Chris before the race

Me and Chris before the race

This is where Dave comes in. Dave saved my life. Dave was the man in the metal canoe that stayed with me the entire remainder of the race. He was there when I needed a minute to breathe or encouragement. I never regained my breath for the rest of the race. The next 20 minutes felt like the most miserable eternity in all the land. At one point I thought I lost him. I began to panic again…when I heard a reassuring “I’m right here, Katie!” and all was right again. I am not sure if Dave knows what an important part of that experience he was for me, but he literally saved my life and made it possible for me to accomplish something I never dreamed I would.


That man it that little cowboy hat in the kayak saved my life. Thanks, Dave. I owe ya one.

I continued on, face up out of the water for the remainder of the race, around the green buoy on the Kentucky side and headed back north to the Ohio riverbank.  I flipped over and started doing backstroke. This took the strain off my neck from holding my head out of the water and allowed me to relax. I watched the clouds and mentally coached myself the rest of the way. I used the Bridge as a gage to make sure I stayed straight. I realized I was getting close and rolled over onto my stomach. I was almost there.

I looked up to Dave and said, “Thanks Dave!! Couldn’t have done it without you!” He returned the gesture with a smile and a big thumbs up and I kicked my way into the shore. I started to hear the cheers of the crowd and suddenly felt incredibly motivated. I gave it everything I had left to beat two other women into the shore, but didn’t make it across the finish line on land before they did. I climbed out of the water, ripped off my cap and camera and pushed myself across the finish line where I immediately collapsed to the ground. I was shaking and breathless.  I thought for sure I was last and that feeling sucked a lot. Then I looked up. There were still like 30 people in the water coming behind me. Though I had not fully regained my ability to breathe, that made me feel incredible. I almost drowned and I still wasn’t last. Awesome.

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Christy sat down beside me to congratulate me and bring me down to center. I sat there staring at the water and the people that continued to come in. And then I started crying. I was crying because I was happy it was over, terrified from what I had just experienced and proud of myself for continuing even though I didn’t think I could do it. And she just sat there with me, talking me through it.  She and I lived together for three years and, during this time period, she developed the ability to tolerate my crap and bring me back down to level, much like my mother does. She knows exactly what I need when I’m in a tizzy and sits quietly with me until I regain my composure. I think having her by my side is the only thing that fully helped me catch my breath. Love you, Chris. Thank you so much for getting up early and coming to cheer me on.

Liz joined me as well.  They gave me water and as I drank it my hands shook violently, making it difficult to get the bottle to my mouth.  I kept replaying the moment where I flailed about over and over in my mind. I survived and I honestly thought I never would. The rest of my family congratulated me and told me how proud they were. Aunt Debbie was totally jazzed and that really helped a lot. I saw her hop up and down and clap her hands and it made me smile, something I desperately needed. I feel terrible because Mr. Keating came over to congratulate me and all I could think was that I had literally almost died. Sure, I’ve had that fear before, but I have never ACTUALLY narrowly avoided drowning.  That keeps crossing my mind and keeps shaking me. I’m very proud of what I accomplished and I’m still very surprised I did it.

In the end, all of the gross things that were freaking me out were the least of my worries. I saw not one single other life form while I was in the river. Hell, I couldn’t see anything at all. Not even my own hand a foot in front of me. The water was a “lovely shade of brown.” The problem here is that no amount of preparation could have made me comfortable with this challenge. It is literally the hardest and scariest thing I have EVER DONE IN MY LIFE.  I watched the footage to decide whether or not I should add it to the blog.  Upon reviewing the footage, I had to relive what happened. I’m not sure if it was harder to watch or actually experience. The shortness of breath, the panic, the feelings I experienced during that moment of sheer panic when I couldn’t breathe – couldn’t move, dangling helplessly in the middle of the Ohio Freaking River. I never want to know that feeling again. When I watched it, it all came back.

I haven’t been that uncomfortable or scared in a long time. That just made me realize something. I am actually sitting on my plane on my way to my first event in Philadelphia for my new job and it just occurred to me how much more comfortable I was when I was literally about to jump out of a plane a couple of weeks ago than I am at this particular moment.  As we cruise through some cumulus clouds, causing the plane to jerk with turbulence, I grip the arm rests, stiffen up into the back of my chair and search for the reassuring smile of the flight attendant. This smile is usually accompanied with an extra package of biscoff cookies…I have no shame. They’re delicious.  I was in a place of total peace right before I cruised at 120 miles per hour toward the ground. Right now, same altitude, no comfort. Swimming – something I am more than familiar with – total panic.   I wonder what this says about me…

Mr. Keating with his fellow Bearcat Alumni!

Mr. Keating with his fellow Bearcat Alumni!

Mr. Keating and I at the Finish line!

Mr. Keating and I at the Finish line!

I went home and took three showers and a fabulous bubble bath to reward myself (and relax after tumultuous morning) and still didn’t feel clean, though the river authorities SWORE we could drink the water…not buying it.


Mr. Keating, I must thank you for extending this challenge to me. While I hated almost every last second of it, it pushed me to the limits. It was easily the most difficult, most trying and most thought provoking challenge I’ll complete this year.  Thank you for participating with me. And finally, thank you for providing me with your daily bits of inspiration. They are the absolute best way to start my day.

(If you’d like to be added to this list let me know and I’ll tell you how to get in touch with him.)

Here are the race results:

The times came in and Mr. Keating beat Liz and my Dad beat me. We now owe them breakfast and breakfast dessert, per our usual tradition.

Bill Keating, Jr. 8th place overall, first in his age group. 12.40.8

Caroline Keating, 14.06.9

Liz Keating, 14.46.6

John Hayden, 22.24.2

Katie Hayden, 22.35.8

I may have lost amongst the five of us, but I’m just thrilled I wasn’t the last person in the river… Although, Dad, I did have that whole near-drowning incident which I’d guess took up AT LEAST a minute of my time. I’m gonna say I beat you. Rematch? In a chlorinated POOL?

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

Dog About Town

This week’s task was more of an adventure for Gus than it was for me, but I enjoyed it just the same. My mom playfully filled out a challenge card from my beloved little rescue pup so that he could be a part of the project, too!

Challenge #17:

Take me for a walk in a different neighborhood every day so I can explore all of Cincinnati!” – From Gus Hayden


The day I met Gus!

The day I met Gus!

He's always been a happy dog!

He’s always been a happy dog!

Gus is my three year old yellow lab mix. I got him in August of 2010 and he has completely changed my life. He has lots of personality, loves everyone and follows me around like he’s my shadow. He puts up with me mildly tormenting him and gets into things every now and then, but he’s the best dog in the whole wide world.

Happy Birthday, Gus!! Don't mind the hat!

Happy Birthday, Gus!! Don’t mind the hat!

Me and Gus at Walloon Lake last Labor Day

Me and Gus at Walloon Lake last Labor Day

He did a little light reading while I went to the gym...

He did a little light reading while I went to the gym…

Sleeps like a person...

Sleeps like a person…

He smiles whenever I take his picture!

He smiles whenever I take his picture!

It is important to note that Gus HATES riding in the car.  He does all that he can to hide his eyes from windows and shakes uncontrollably at the mere mention of getting into a vehicle. It’s actually kind of funny because we go to my parents’ house fairly frequently and when it’s time to leave, I ask him “You wanna go home?” Every time I ask the question he runs and hides because he knows what that means.  I was somewhat surprised to see he “selected” this challenge as it requires extensive car travel and unfamiliar territories. Way to step outside of your comfort zone, buddy. 😉

Doing everything he can to avoid looking out the window.

Doing everything he can to avoid looking out the window.

HATES the car. Must say something about my driving...

HATES the car. Must say something about my driving…

Hiding in his cage so that he doesn't have to get in the car.

Hiding in his cage so that he doesn’t have to get in the car.

In effort to make this more pet-friendly I did some research on pet-friendly environments for Gus. Outside of Hyde Park and a few OTR spots, there aren’t too many establishments in Cincinnati that publicly state they accept dogs. I did however find that if you show up with your dog, they don’t always turn you away.

One of Cincinnati’s best features, in my opinion, is the fact that there are dozens of little villages scattered around the tri-state area. Each one, lined with sidewalks, offers a different atmosphere with a variety of restaurants and small businesses adding their own little charm and atmosphere. Gus and I strolled through Mariemont, Old Montgomery, Newport/The Banks, Ludlow/Clifton and Over the Rhine. This will likely read like a visitor’s bureau brochure, but I assure you, Gus had a great time!

I would be doing a disservice to my sweet little neighborhood if I didn’t brag about it first. I live in Hyde Park. We typically stay pretty local whenever Gus and I go on walks.  We are familiar with the Area and Gus loves to see all the sights. He is not, however, a fan of school buses and trucks. They send him running, tail between legs, clear to the other side of the sidewalk.  When I was a child I remember I always wanted to live in a place that had side walks. It seems silly, but growing up in Anderson, there aren’t many places that actually had them. Now, I am surrounded by them. And they are constantly packed with locals running, walking their dogs, riding their bikes or simply enjoying the weather.

Hyde Park Square

Hyde Park Square

Hyde Park Farmers Market

Hyde Park Farmers Market

Hyde Park Square

Hyde Park Square

Tellers - killer everything - specially brunch!!

Tellers – killer everything – specially brunch!!

Indigo - lovely Italian!

Indigo – lovely Italian!

Dutch's! Bottle shop is walk-up and Thursday's are Burger Night, featuring a specialty burger every week! yummm!

Dutch’s! Bottle shop is walk-up and Thursday’s are Burger Night, featuring a specialty burger every week! yummm!

Some of our favorite pet-friendly hotspots are the patios of Dutch’s, Indigo and Cock and Bull.  The lovely firefighters of the Hyde Park Fire Department always have a large bowl of water and a plethora of dog treats ready for passers by. Like owner like dog, Gus likes to look at his reflection in the store windows. If you are out for a stroll, most shop owners will let you bring your pooch pal in while you shop. It would be silly for them to discourage it as there are so many dogs in tow.

Places like Arthur’s, The Echo and Teller’s are also restaurants and bars I frequent. They are all in walking distance from my house and serve up delicious bites!  I’d also like to point out that rumor had it Hyde Park Meats was closing. It did in fact close, but has since reopened under new ownership. Stop in!! If they don’t have something they used to carry, the new owner is taking suggestions to satisfy the clientele!

Onto the challenge…

We’ll start with Mariemont.  Gus and I parked off of the square to that we could walk around and do a little exploring. The architectural style is one of the things that I love most about the area. The square is surrounded by tudor styled buildings that house specialty shops, cafes and a quaint little movie theater. The National Exemplar is a little restaurant in the Mariemont Inn that has been around since the early ’80s. They have a delightful Sunday brunch and I have never had better French Onion Soup in my life. Seriously. It’s amazing.

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The Mariemont Movie Theater shows old classics and some new releases.

The Mariemont Movie Theater shows old classics and some new releases.

Dilly Cafe and The Quarter Bistro are two of the other fabulous restaurants in Mariemont. With fantastic menus, outdoor seating and great wine selections, they are the perfect place for delicious evening out!  Tucked in between are shops like Pomegranate and Lime,  a great little gift shop, or The Top Drawer, a needlepointer’s paradise.

The patio at Quarter Bistro

The patio at Quarter Bistro

Dilly Cafe and Wines

Dilly Cafe and Wines


We just so happened to arrive on the day they host a little farmers’ market in the parking lot! An organic pet food store gave Gus a treat, but he didn’t seem to enjoy it.

Next we will visit Old Montgomery. It’s a smaller area and if you blink, you’ll miss it, but it boasts a sense of familiarity and longevity, welcoming all who come through. The streets and brick-paver sidewalks are lined with lamp posts and hanging floral baskets that make for a pleasant backdrop to a stroll through the neighborhood.  Restaurants like Montgomery Inn (the original location) and Germano’s have been delighting the tastebuds of locals and visitors alike for decades.  Just outside the village is Carlo and Johnny’s, part of the Jeff Ruby’s family of restaurants.  The European Cafe has a patio that is in fact pet friendly, but if you’d like to grab a coffee to-go, you must leave the pooch outside. Lesson Learned, haha.

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For baseball lovers, a members-only museum called The Green Diamond Gallery offers some incredibly rare and highly coveted memorabilia in a place where “baseball heroes never grow old. ”

The Green Diamond Gallery

The Green Diamond Gallery

Montgomery is also home to one of my favorite places in the city, The Woodhouse Day Spa. As a connoisseur of spas around the world, we are lucky to have one of this caliber in Cincinnati.  Woodhouse, a favorite amongst my friends, offers a variety of treatments that are sure to make your stresses drift away. If Gus wasn’t with me I’m sure I’d have dropped in for a visit. Sadly, it is not a doggy spa.



On Sunday, my Aunt Debbie and her dogs, Bonnie and Clyde, joined Gus and I for a three-hour tour of Newport, Kentucky and The Banks of Cincinnati. Both she and my parents have recently taken up residence in the SouthShore condominiums and we thought it would be fun to do a little exploring. We strolled along the river bank, across the Purple People Bridge, through Sawyer Point, up to Smale Riverfront Park and onto The Banks.

Our route

Our route

Bonnie and Clyde, on a mission. Gus, distracted, per usual.

Bonnie and Clyde, on a mission. Gus, distracted, per usual.


Gus in front of the Ohio River


The Purple People Bridge was redesigned as a pedestrian path across the Ohio River.


Gotta love that skyline! I’ll be in that river come September…ick.

Sawyer Point and Yaetman’s Cove, recently host to Bunbury Music Festival, semi-weekly Party in the Park, and a variety of other pubic events is a mile-long stretch with tennis courts, volley ball courts, playgrounds, stages and Serpentine Wall.  There is literally so much to do there you can’t accomplish it all in one visit.

The pups on Serpentine Wall

The pups on Serpentine Wall

Sawyer Point

Sawyer Point

Smale Riverfront Park is part of an ongoing project to spruce up the Cincinnati Riverbanks, one of our greatest assets. Due to the effort of many private donors and LOTS of hardworking people, especially the Women’s Committee, this place is really taking shape. Here’s a flyover of the Smale Riverfront Park vision:

They have recently added large swings for relaxing and taking in the view.


Gus having a leisurely swing!

Gus having a leisurely swing!

After that we headed up to Wine Guy at the Banks. They do not regularly accept pets on patio, but since we were there and it wasn’t very busy, they let us come in for a beer and a flat bread! Jenna joined us briefly for our break before we headed back to the Southbank.

We spent a day alone strolling around my old stomping grounds in Clifton and Ludlow. I spent 5 years here while I attended University of Cincinnati and the growth the area has seen since 2007 is insane.  They recently constructed U Square at The Loop between Calhoun and McMillan. This is home to apartment buildings, restaurants, bars and shops. UC is really turning into a fantastic place and I’m quite jealous we didn’t have these amenities when I was a student there. Naturally, we walked past Uncle Woody’s (my very own Cheers during my undergrad years) and Gus tried to go in. Closed and not pet friendly.


Gus wanted to go to Woody's. Sorry buddy, they're closed.

Gus wanted to go to Woody’s. Sorry buddy, they’re closed.

We strolled past Tri-Delt, my old sorority house. He tried to go in there, too. It’s like he knows the places I love 🙂


Gus visiting T-Delta!

Gus visiting T-Delta!

After that we headed down to Ludlow. I know there are so many eclectic shops so I thought I’d see who would let us in. To my surprise, none of them open until noon! What is that about!? But since we were in the area we walked around anyway. If you are looking for foreign cuisine, this 4 block stretch has more to offer than any other area in the city.

I mean like wow. We’ve got Indian, Mexican, Thai, Ethiopian, Mediterranean, French and the list goes on. They also have Skyline and Graeters, two Cincinnati staples.

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Sorry kids. They turned The Golden Lion into a hookah bar...

Sorry kids. They turned The Golden Lion into a hookah bar…

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My favorite aspect of the Ludlow area is the Esquire Theater. If you want to see an indie film, something completely obscure, a good viewing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show or a small handful of new releases, you should check it out. They offer a full bar and a wide variety of snacks. It’s owned by the same people that run the Mariemont Theater and the Kenwood Theater.  It’s old and doesn’t offer new high-tech reclining seats, but it’s awesome. Sometimes you can even bring in carry out from local restaurants.

The Esquire Theater

The Esquire Theater

On Tuesday, Aunt Debbie and the pups joined us again as we ventured to OTR.  If you’ll remember from one of my previous posts, I loooove Over the Rhine.  It is also one of the most pet-friendly areas of the city. Washington Park has created a dog park specifically for Gus to run around and play in. He absolutely loves going down there and exploring. Many of the shops will let you bring your (well-behaved) dogs in for a quick browse. Not likely to turn away business, most patios will let you enjoy a quick bite, as well.  My favorite hot spots are Lackman, Rhinehaus, A Tavola, Bakersfield, Anchor and Senate.

The Washington Park Dog Park

The Washington Park Dog Park

There is a shop called Pet Wants on Vine Street and it is awesome! They make all of their products, especially organic canine cuisine, in-house and have a shop at Findlay Market.  Also, their sidewalk is actually painted to look like wooden planks! Check ’em out!!

Gus wants Pet Wants: The Urban Feed Market

Gus wants Pet Wants: The Urban Feed Market


OTR Storefronts

OTR Storefronts

They have all kinds of shops like Switch ( a high-end lighting store), Mica (a fun gift shop mostly consisting of locally handcrafted wares) and Joseph Williams Home (a furniture and decor wonderland) that draw in a variety of customers.

Mica 12/v on the corner of 12th and Vine.

Mica 12/v on the corner of 12th and Vine.

Joseph Williams Home

Joseph Williams Home

My favorite hot spot in the city, also notoriously known for their acceptance of the canine crowds, is Neon’s, or The Famous Neon’s Unplugged. They offer craft beers and very creative cocktail specials. In the winter, they have fire pits and hot apple cider = heaveeeen. Gus also loves going to Neon’s and he just so happens to be a dude-magnet. Thanks, pal 🙂

The Famous Neon's Unplugged outdoor beer garden

The Famous Neon’s Unplugged outdoor beer garden

Gus has gotten SO good at walking that I no longer need to hold his leash. I simply wrapped it around his collar and he walked himself.  I’m not sure if it’s because he’s terrified to leave my side or if he just knows that’s what he’s supposed to do.

Gus walking himself.

Gus walking himself.

He came home completely exhausted every day, but I think he really enjoyed his little tour of the town. Now go visit all of the places I talked about because they’re FABULOUS. Many of the masterminds behind these small businesses are friends or friends of friends that took big risks. Buy local! Support them!

Wakeboards, Music Festivals and Family! Summer Vaca at its finest

Hey, guys!! I have returned from family vaca, music festival madness and some much needed R&R! I hope you all have had a lovely last couple of weeks! Those that were in Cincinnati suffered from quite a bit of rain and are now entering the hot, humid dog days of summer. We had perfect weather while we were up in Michigan at Walloon Lake so it was difficult to come back to.

The sunsets on Walloon are priceless.

The sunsets on Walloon are priceless.

I have had a crazy couple of weeks since my last post and have a lot to fill you in on! My next official challenge will post next week as I’m just getting back into the swing of things in my normal every day life. It’ll be a good one so be sure to tune in!

I spent 10 days surrounded by my family relaxing at our place on Walloon Lake. I got my cherries, spent time with my grandparents, learned how to drive a boat, fished, watched a parade, cooked, roasted marshmallows and took in some of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see. I also stood witness to the most incredible fireworks show I have ever seen, standing directly beneath it!

Just because I took a little vacation from the blog does not mean I did not see my fair share of challenges along the way. For starters, I learned to wakeboard!! I’m a bit of an odd man out in my family in the sense that I am incredibly uncoordinated. Like constantly tripping, bumping into things and seriously injuring myself uncoordinated. My brother, John, and sister, Abbey, are both athletically inclined and are generally successful at everything they attempt. As mentioned before, I’m the artsy one. That being said, I have been wanting to try this for awhile and since water skiing didn’t go so well, I figured I stood a better chance at wakeboarding.

The reason: both legs are strapped to the same board and can’t get twisted all around, spread into splits far more than my flexibility allows and if you catch an edge, your whole body falls in the same direction. These are the same reasons I prefer snowboarding to skiing.

My parents got us a new MasterCraft wakeboarding boat for Christmas so I have been planning on conquering the sport since I first looked at the pamphlet. This thing is pretty sweet. It has more storage than any boat I have ever seen in my life. Naturally, this is to conceal all of the sweet water sports accessories he got to go with it. We have skis, tubes boards, surf boards, knee boards, etc. It has a killer sound system and definitely isn’t hard on the eyes. They said it was for us, but I’m pretty sure it’s dad’s new favorite toy.


Determined to pick this up, I asked my Dad to take me out on the boat and give it a whirl. He had arranged for a pro to take us out the next day and I did not want my first attempt at the sport to be witnessed by someone who competed professionally. I know that sounds kind of backward because he could obviously teach me better than my family members, but whatev. After receiving some guidance from my siblings and reviewing a few instructional videos I found on YouTube (because everyone does that kind of research first, right?) I strapped the board to my feet and got into the lake.

For those that aren’t aware, this is the hardest part for me. There is something about sitting in water where I cannot see what lies beneath me that causes me to become compleeeetely unglued. So after a small fit of squeals and Ohmygodohmygodohmygod’s and a bit of splashing around to scare away lake creatures (like that really works…) I adjusted. Dad put the boat in gear and off we went!

Look how good I am! Just kidding! This is Brett Dense, our pro that showed us how it's done!

Look how good I am! Just kidding! This is Brett Dense, our pro that showed us how it’s done!

Popped up on my first try!!! Sure I face planted 4 seconds later, but the point is I got up!! Feeling slightly defeated, and again floating helplessly in the fish-ridden abyss while the boat circled back around, I analyzed what I thought I’d done wrong, grabbed the rope and gave it another go. Up again. Down again. Followed by a few bouts of being dragged through the wake when I didn’t make it up. I’m a *bit* stubborn so my sister is hesitant to provide criticism on my technique, but I asked nicely and she obliged. We concluded that this kept happening because I couldn’t figure out how to stay within the confines of the wake. For some reason my alignment is off and I pull to the left. I also wasn’t pulling my knees close enough to my chest and instead of letting the boat pull me up, I tried to stand on my own too soon. I tried a few more times and had a few successful 10-30 second rides. And after a particularly wicked wipe out, I mastered the graceful landing by surrendering the rope once I realized I was going down. After the 6th or 7th time I sat defenseless in the lake water, I became acclimated and didn’t mind it so much. It was actually kind of pleasant. I guess there’s an adjustment period for everything. I’d had enough for the day so we boarded the boat and returned home.

The next day, Brett Dense from Action Water Sports (the pro I mentioned earlier) arrived to show us how it was done. After watching my sister do her thing and learn to jump the wake, it was my turn to show him what I was bringing to the table, which was not much. He was, however, impressed that I managed to get up on my first try. He saw my first run and I pulled off a decent ride, though he told me that my legs were too stiff and my body was too squared up with the boat. We also adjusted the rope. Contrary to popular belief, when first learning to wakeboard, the rope should be as long as possible. My sister put his advice into terms I would understand by comparing my stance to what I would do in Pure Barre. Pelvis in, shoulders back, core tight. This solid gold information proved extremely beneficial when I not only popped up and stayed up, but I also stayed within the wake. We hit a bump that shook my ego and I let go, circling around and sinking gracefully into the water. My brother called this my “pirouette.” Armed with a new sense of confidence and the tips of keeping my arms straight and leaning on my toes or my heels to steer my board, I tried again. I glided along the glistening waters of Walloon Lake like a pro, weaving from side to side within the wake. Then I got a little too close to the waves, caught a wicked edge and ate it. Bad. And my brother caught it allll on film.


My first time wakeboarding!

My first time wakeboarding!

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My brother gave it a go after I did, but he’s been doing this for years- well over a decade if my memory serves me right. He worked on the technique of trying to jump from one side of the wake to the other. He had a few wipe outs, but he had some pretty impressive jumps!! Brett gave us a treat by showing us some pretty great tricks and acrobatic feats that I could only dream of accomplishing. It was a very impressive show.


Wake surfing followed. I have never even seen this before so I was intrigued when they brought out the board. John and Abbey mastered it almost immediately. Wakesurfing is different from wakeboarding in many ways. For starters, you are like RIGHT behind the boat. The idea is to ride the wake coming right out of the prop. The rope is MUCH shorter and eventually, if you get in the right spot on the wave, you can release the rope and continue to surf as your normally would on a regular surf board. Since you’re just surfing, your feet aren’t strapped into the board like they are on a wakeboard. It was pretty cool to watch, but sadly, I was not lucky enough to figure out how to do it.

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Other than that, my dad and I spent some time fishing on what I presume to be is an almost fish-less lake. He hooked one by the fin and I had 2 on, but didn’t bring them into the boat. We spent the week with Belle, all completely fascinated by the little munchkin. She is walking (everywhere) and starting to learn how to talk. She mastered “Mama” while we were up there and my mom seems to think she is now Gaga instead of Grandma. I continue to be completely enamored by her and her development. Since my mom is sick we all took turns taking care of the meals that she normally puts on the table so effortlessly. We celebrated my Dad’s 56th birthday and my twin uncles’ 54th birthday. My uncle brought his kite surfer over to test out on the water to no avail, but it drew quite the audience and was hilarious to watch him try. Becky and I also spent some time tubing in the new three seater that dad got to go with the boat!

Becky tubing!

Becky tubing!

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I returned home for a day and immediately headed up to the bustling metropolis of Ft. Loramie, OH to spend the weekend in a field with 35,000 of my closest country-loving friends at Country Concert. It’s a three day music festival in the middle of nowhere Ohio. People come from all over, set up tents and RVs, camp for the weekend and listen to a pretty impressive list of country music performances.
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This was my second year attending and, let me tell you, it was MUCH better than last year. Last year we camped (yes, I camped) in a tent in 110 degree heat and I woke up each morning expressing my hatred for the entire experience. For $6 a piece you can shower in a semi truck trailer hooked up to a well water line. The lavatories are either porto potties or a similar semi truck trailer offering 6 disgusting stalls a piece. This year, to my delight, my friend Mike rented us a top of the line RV featuring air conditioning, a flat screen TV, a refrigerator and our very own bathroom. I will never camp-camp again. Troop Beverly Hills style from here on out.
Country Concert 2012

Country Concert 2012

Cards Against Humanity: A Party Game for Horrible People

Cards Against Humanity: A Party Game for Horrible People

I even purchased a pool off of Amazon in preparation for the heat. However, mother nature decided to be kind and treated us to a weekend of blue bird skies and 85 degree days. It was magnificent.
Kevin and Mike sitting in my pool! We filled it with well water, which quickly turned an awkward shade of brown. I think the Porta Kleen team drained it because it looked rancid...

Kevin and Mike sitting in my pool! We filled it with well water, which quickly turned an awkward shade of brown. I think the Porta Kleen team drained it because it looked rancid…

Our sweet RV that took us all of 5 minutes to destroy

Our sweet RV that took us all of 5 minutes to destroy

Our American Flag Beer Ping Table really sets the tone

Our American Flag Beer Ping Table really sets the tone

We got up early Sunday morning and hit the road to head back to Cincinnati, exhausted, covered in dust and ready for a night in my own bed in my own house. On the way, I asked Adhrucia to look up the line up for Bunbury, another music festival in Cincinnati that coincided with Country Concert, featuring many of my favorite bands. It was a tough decision but the atmosphere at Country Concert is worth it. The moment she mentioned that The Knocks were going on at 2:45 and I made the executive decision to drive faster and tack on another music festival to the weekend. My friends said I was ridiculous, but Christy Samad, always at the ready, gladly attended! She even got me a free entry bracelet!!
The Knocks are two DJs out of New York, Ben “B-Roc” Ruttner and James “Mr. JPatt” Patterson, that play fabulous jams that I cannot get enough of. Their name references the early days in their career when neighbors would knock on their door for playing music too loudly. Had I been their neighbor, I’d have asked to come in and listen. You should listen to them immediately.
My faves:
Christy and I were charging our phones in the Techbury tent and Ben and James walked by us and Christy was like, “Um Katie…aren’t those the guys you came to see?” I immediately leapt to my feet and ran after them, you know true fan-style asking for a photo and to chat for a minute. They were super cool, totally obliged and mentioned some of the acts they were there to see. It’s refreshing to see artists acknowledge their fans! Thanks guys! Totally made my day! You rock!!
Ben "B-Roc" and James "Mr. JPatt" of The Knocks

Ben “B-Roc” and James “Mr. JPatt” of The Knocks

Bunbury, along with MidPoint Music Fest, have brought some pretty impressive acts to Cincinnati that I might not otherwise have had the chance to see. I am sad to say that I missed some of my favorite bands on Friday and Saturday, like Youngblood Hawke, Atlas Genius and The Mowgli’s. I did have the pleasure of discovering Camera Obscura and Bethesda. Christy and I also caught Night Terrors of 1927, The National and another personal fave, A Silent Film.
In case you haven’t figured this out, I’m a music junkie. Shazam is my favorite app and I use it about 30 times a day. This is also the reason I’ve spent an exorbitant amount of money on iTunes lately…life needs a soundtrack. I sing in my car without shame. Sometimes I dance, too. Deal with it.
And to conclude this summer vaca of amazingness, MY MOM FINISHED CHEMO!!!!!! How cute is she, seriously?! Thank you all for the well wishes and love you’ve sent our way. My family is forever grateful!!
Mom made it to the finish line! NO MORE CHEMO!!

Mom made it to the finish line! NO MORE CHEMO!!

Tune in next week for the official challenge to bring it all back to action. It’s gonna be a good one!!!

When the moon hits your eye…

This was, by far, the most delicious challenge I’ve had yet!! I’ll gladly do it again if anyone wants a repeat performance!!

Challenge #13:

“Learn how to make pizza and throw a pizza party for friends and family!” – from my cousin Taylor and his wife, Sarah!

Taylor and Sarah's wedding on the beach in my favorite place on the planet, Boca Grande, Florida.

Taylor and Sarah’s wedding on the beach in my favorite place on the planet, Boca Grande, Florida.

My cousin Taylor married the greatest lil lady named Sarah. She is ALWAYS on the move, always having a blast and fully embraces the joy in life. On top of that, she is one of the most motivational people I’ve ever known. And (after we’d had quite a bit of wine at family dinner on the eve of her rehearsal dinner) she decided to let me do her makeup for her wedding, which was far more exciting for me than it was for her, I’m sure. That has actually inspired a couple of other challenges coming down the pipeline so keep an eye out for ’em! Taylor is the definition of entrepreneurial. He has incredible ideas and then makes them happen! succeeds. He is one of my toughest critics, but biggest supporters and I greatly admire that in him because it reminds me of his father. The two of them love cooking and creating and I’m pretty sure this was the perfect blended adventure for them to give me!  The entrepreneurial nature of the restaurant I’ve selected just brings it all full circle.

One of my longest friendships is with my friend Stacey Harrington. We met at college orientation and became fast friends. (She’s the one I planned the wedding shower for not too long ago). She has been dating an awesome man named Steve Mitchell for quite some time and they actually just got married a few weeks ago.  These two are always willing to bend over backwards to help me out with stuff and once again, they’ve come to my aid.

stace steve stace wedding

Little known fact…Steve is also a retired freestyle rapper and Doc Optimo made an appearance at their wedding reception – easily the highlight of my evening! Don’t worry, Steve, while your rhymes were sick, I’ll keep the video off the blog. 🙂

Doc Optimo serenading his bride!

Doc Optimo serenading his bride!

When Steve is not dropping the beat, he is the front man/bar manager at A Tavola, a pizzeria and authentic Italian eatery in Over the Rhine. For those that aren’t from Cincinnati or are unfamiliar, Over the Rhine is one of Cincinnati’s shining stars. It is our oldest and most historic neighborhood. Rich with character and artistic flare, this area has become quite the hot spot for independent restauranteurs and small business owners. Similar to Market Street in Louiville, KY, Vine Street has created a magnetic draw bringing people from all walks of life to feast in the same place.


A Tavola Storefront

A Tavola Storefront

The restaurants run the gamut from Bakersfield‘s fabulous tacos and Senate’s gourmet hot dogs to Anchor’s freshest seafood around and Mayberry’s deliciously upscale, yet affordable, cuisine. I am devastated to share that Mayberry has made the difficult decision to close its doors on July 7th, ending with a final brunch. If you haven’t been check it out ASAP. It truly is one of my favorite spots and I’m very sad to see it go.

Tucked in between eateries are a wide variety of bars and shops, as well.  Whether it’s your corner chill spot, an outdoor oasis filled with activities or the “hottest” dance floor in the city, you literally cannot go wrong. Shopping covers everything from clothes to furniture, mostly featuring local craftsmen’s wares.


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I spend quite a bit of time in the area as a good majority of my friends live around there now. Christy, who works for 3CDC, a non-profit organization devoted to creating a bigger, better Cincinnati, and lives in the heart of it all, is always telling me about different happenings and new events that either her company or other local establishments have going on.

The point is, if you haven’t been down to visit, I don’t know what you’re waiting for.

Back to pizza…

A Tavola has an advantage over the other places I may have considered because of my ties to Steve and his friends. After traveling the country exploring his love for pizza and a run of successful “Pop up pizza nights” at Take the Cake, a fabulous bakery and eatery in Northside, Jared Wayne decided to open up shop in the up and coming neighborhood of OTR. His background was in real estate development and he saw a good thing coming in the area.


After getting a couple of his friends involved, the dream became a reality. They imported a giant handmade brick oven from Naples, Italy and hit the ground running.

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I watched the whole process unfold as we caught sneak peeks of the construction progress on breaks between rounds at The Lackman, my favorite bar and one of 4EG/Bob Deck’s masterpieces, located just across the street. Seeing the excitement of it all made me really want these guys to succeed. They took a huge risk with minimal experience in owning or running a restaurant. Somehow, they knocked it out of the park. The wait is generally quite long and the line is out the door. It’s great though. You put your name in, then bop around the area until they call your cell phone to tell you your table is ready. Forget having one of those pesky beeper things that only let’s you roam so far! You can go wherever you want while you wait!  They even signed a lease to open up a new location in Madeira! Get excited, suburbanites!



Steve and the gents at A Tavola were gracious enough to let me come in and try my hand at tossing some dough. I’d like to thank Leroy for being so particularly patient with me! My parents, Aunt Tessie, cousin Terri and best friends Megan Stacey and Christy Samad came down to join me and taste the food I’d created, as well as my other faves on the menu. Christy filmed some of the footage and joined me in one of A Tavola’s finely crafted cocktails. I had a Corpse Reviver 2 and Chris had a Gin and something or other. It was served with an ice ball, which I thought was pretty cool.




Here is a link to A Tavola’s menu/website. It’s not just pizza and they offer weekly specials on drinks, pizzas and antipasti items. They make the cheese fresh and cure all of the meats in-house.  All of their veggies and produce are locally grown, with the exclusion of their tomatoes. They only use Italian tomatoes. And my oh my, they are delicious!  They even have items on the menu that my mom can eat with her current dietary restrictions! (One chemo treatment left, by the way!!!! So pumped for you Care Bear!)

It is magnifico and perfect for all ages!  Without further ado, my pizza tossing abilities:

Having some trouble embedding this one. Watch the video here:

I’m gonna take a minute to promote small business while I have you listening to me on my little soapbox. The news of Mayberry closing makes me genuinely sad. There are lots of people out there testing their entrepreneurial strength in an economy that makes it tough to survive. These small businesses and restaurants are part of what are making Cincinnati thrive these days. There are so many great assets to our community that rely on our support. Visit them. Love them. Return to them. They need you.

That is all 🙂

Buon Appetito!!

Will Work for Money! (this makes more sense if you know what I’ve spent the last year doing…)

You’re hired! Those two little words are something that I’ve been dying to hear for the past 8 months. (So have my parents…) After losing my job last August, I took some time to really think about what I want to do with the rest of my life, and while this blog has taken me in so many different directions and revealed so many of my talents, I think I’ve always known what I’m meant to do. Change the world! One event at a time!

I’m having an internal struggle with how I should approach writing about this on the off chance that the people interviewing me peruse my blog, but as this is a full-disclosure kind of thing, here goes nothing.

Challenge #12:

Apply for 5 different jobs that you see as possible careers.” – from my cousin Terri Hafertepen.


I have had a wide variety of experience throughout my career. I’ve been everything from a Cocktail Waitress at Montgomery Inn Boathouse to an Account Coordinator at Powers Agency. I’ve planned fabulous events for clients and driven all over the Tri-State area to create a preferred vendor list for a new marketing plan. I’ve served as a self-proclaimed concierge to our fabulous little city. I’ve networked my heart out. I’ve shot incredible promotional videos for well-deserving non-profits and escorted Big Boy around the Greater Cincinnati Area prepping him for his Founders Day Celebration. I have evaluated home inspections and built incredible relationships with general agents over the phone, having never once met them in person. I’ve written columns for company periodicals. I’ve designed promotional materials. I’ve scanned twitter feeds and unintentionally ended the serving career of a few less than stellar employees. (I still feel very bad about that, but you should know better than to bad mouth your company in a public forum.) I’ve pretended to be a potential customer to evaluate competitor programs in an effort to help improve our own products and services. (I’m not entirely sure that one was ethical, but it was fun!)

I’ve also had quite a lot of experience doing things people don’t pay me to do. I volunteer. A LOT. I’ve coordinated large, fabulous galas. I’ve put on cooking classes. I’ve helped provide hundreds of new moms with necessary lessons and supplies to ensure a healthy, productive start to their child’s life. I’ve mentored a sweet, bright little girl named Destiny, whose growth and development surprises me more and more every day. I have delivered rack cards to every single hotel in a 40 mile radius of Cincinnati. Just this morning I helped reveal a new Augmented Reality feature for the Ultimate Dinosaurs exhibit at Cincinnati Museum Center. It’s so awesome. I highly recommend you check it out.

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This little lady seriously is my pride and joy.  She’s a straight shooter, tries so hard at everything, says what’s on her mind and makes me laugh so much. I hope I don’t screw her up… 🙂

The point is, I’ve done a lot of different things that have provided me with a set of skills that could really lend themselves to a variety of opportunities. I’ve also put a lot of miles on my car. I have a lot of interests, as well. Rather than applying to thousands of positions, like I have before, I decided to be more calculated about it.

My parents are both very intelligent and great at what they do. My mother, who inspires me to be just like her every single day, is an incredibly active community volunteer. My father is one of the brightest, most driven businessmen I’ve ever met. They try very hard to help me in this process, but I’m kind of a pill about it. I’m stubborn and want to do it on my own. I decided to reluctantly take my parents’ advice and read a little book called StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. They gave it to me and my siblings for Christmas a few years ago and it continued to sit on my shelf and collect dust. Then I cracked it open and wondered why I’d never done it before…

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You read about 30 pages and take a brief (180 or so questions) online assessment and almost immediately, it evaluates your answers and provides you with your top 5 qualities or things that you do best. This book teaches you to focus on the things that you are inherently good at, rather than trying to improve the skills you don’t naturally possess.

I mean, duh. That makes total sense. All our lives we are evaluated on our progress through school, through jobs and throughout our every day activities. Have you ever received less than satisfactory reviews on your performance? “Needs improvement” should now be read as “Not your strong suit, let’s try something else.” For example, I’m the first one to admit that I have flaws or things that I’m not particularly good at. This is why I’m not designing jet engines. It’s in everyone’s best interest. So I sat down and took my assessment.  These are my results:

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Now, for those that have not read the book, you have no idea what that means. Fortunately, it also provides a handy little description laying out exactly what each of those represents. Then it goes further to tell you what you should do with these strengths and 50 different aspects of an action plan for EACH THEME to help utilize it to the best of your abilities. Awesome.

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For those of you that know me, most of these probably come as no surprise. I’m a wear my heart on my sleeve, upbeat, life of the party kind of girl. I’m sensitive and intuitive. I’m also an ENFP, for those that are familiar with the Myers Briggs system of measurement.

For more information on what that means, visit: http://www.personalitypage.com/ENFP.html

So after looking at these two systems of evaluation, I narrowed down my skill set and starting scanning the job boards, as I generally do every morning. My first choice is ALWAYS The ArsWave Job board. ArtsWave features all kinds of career opportunities for local creative-based nonprofit organizations. I imagine that no matter what role I eventually end up with, it will have been posted on this page.

I have set some criteria for what I want to do.

1) I want to work for a non-profit. I am not a sit in a cubicle, filling our paper work for the man kind of girl. I want to make a difference and know that the hard work I put in every single day is for a greater cause.

2) I want a different day, every day.

3) I want to interact with others on a very regular basis. Solitude is not my friend.

4) I want to experience new things in an environment where there is opportunity for growth.

5) I want to be inspired by the place I work and the people that work alongside me.

6) I MUST love what I do.

I woke up Tuesday morning and, low and behold, right before my very eyes was the job I was born to do.

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Job #1: Event Coordinator for the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Reasons why this is perfect for me: (though, if you have been reading any of these blog posts, or, I don’t know, talked to me…ever, I’m not sure that there is really a need for explanation)

1) I love to plan events. A lot.

2) I love art.

3) I love to talk to people. A whole lot.

4) I love to solve problems. Really tough ones like the caterer is stuck in traffic and the event starts in 4 minutes. WHAT DO WE DO!?

5) I looove Cincinnati.

6) I looove non-profits.

I realize there is a lot more to this position than those 6 things, but when it comes down to it, fundamentally, everything I’ve ever wanted from a job lies in this very position. I was so excited after reading over the job description that I immediately set into action. I drafted a new cover letter, created a relevant resume, put together some writing samples and sent it on its way. I also contacted anyone I knew that might be able to help connect me with the powers that be at CAM. Disclaimer: If any of you have any interest in applying for this job, don’t. It’s mine.

I just got word that I have an interview tomorrow. If any of you know anyone and should feel so inclined to call in and tell them how incredibly amazing I am, I’d genuinely appreciate it! For those that have already helped me, I genuinely appreciate your support and guidance! Fingers crossed!

Then I came across another incredible opportunity.

Job #2: Development Manager for JDRF.


Development is a bit like sales. Except, by giving money to the organization, you don’t actually get any product in return. You get exposure. You get a tax deduction. You get the feeling that you’ve done something good. But other than maybe a table at an event or your name on a building (if you give a whole, whole lot), there isn’t anything tangible you get in return. Imagine trying to sell someone something and then say thank you for your money, I don’t have anything to give you. It’s not an easy task. But for some reason, it seems to be something that comes naturally to me.

I like the challenge of getting to know your donors, building that rapport, finding common interests and eventually, going in for the ask. Making the ask is a very delicate situation and should be handled differently with each individual. Determining how each situation should be handled is part of the reason I love it so much.

I reached out to a family friend for some sort of connection to the powers that be, but received confirmation today that they have already filled the position. Thank you for your help, as well.

Job #3: Pretty much everything I qualify for at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.


This is another job board I frequent. I love kids and would find working for CCHMC to be an incredibly fulfilling work environment. I reached out to one of their HR recruiters whom I’ve been working with over the past year and applied on their less then easy to use job site. This list of options includes:

Communications Specialist – Patient Services

Marketing Associate

Project Manager

Business Development Manager.

Job #4: PR Manager at Newport Aquarium


How cool would that be?! I know it’s not a non-profit, but I would definitely be excited to go to work every day and see all the incredibly cool animals. I bet I’d get to play with the penguins…though, last time I did that it was not as desirable as I’d imagined it’d be. Is it appropriate for a 29 year old to spend her lunch break like this every day:


‘Cuz I will.

Job #5: Accessories/Purse counter at Nordstrom


Just for kicks. If one of these other career opportunities doesn’t work out, there’s always time for a part-time gig slangin’ handbags to housewives!  Commission + discount = Happiness.

I think it’s pretty clear which one of these I want the most.  While I spend most of my mornings looking for potential opportunities, Terri’s encouragement came at just the right time. I was reinvigorated and I basically stumbled upon what I’m hoping is the perfect job. While I’m not positive this will end with those two little words, I’m incredibly hopeful. Fingers crossed!!!