My Very Serious Holiday Tradition …

Leading off with 3 things …

Current song in my head: I’ve been listening to lots of Chris Stapleton this week – you can’t go wrong with Traveller. My work fuel this week has been lots of random YouTube shuffling starting with Chris and dipping into Adele. It’s not that big a leap, check it out:

 

I’ll forever be indebted to my boy Anthony Lewis for turning me on to The Steeldrivers a dozen years ago.

Recent CBus adventure: I’d have to say this is a toss-up between driving to Target in the dark 2 weeks ago (I don’t see very well in the dark, people! This traffic is scary!!) Or taking LifeBarre class last week – which was super fun and just hard enough.

West Virginia fun fact: ‘Tis the season to spend lots of time in the car, so you may need some entertainment. I saw a list earlier this week of the top podcasts to listen to right now. The list is a little old, but it includes “Death, Sex & Money,” a podcast hosted by WV native Anna Sale – who I used to listen to on WV Public Broadcasting – which is also home to several other great podcasts, including everyone’s favorite, Mountain Stage!


So, listen. I’m not even going to take time to apologize for the huge gap (again!) in my blogging. I’m practicing this whole self-love thing where I take it easier on myself, and I’m thinking if this is an occasional blog … well, it’s already been more prolific than that awesome podcast Chad and I put together (which we almost tried to rebirth while we were together in Nashville for a weekend wedding last month). Let’s all just enjoy when I do manage to blog 🙂

And now I will jump in on this timely topic: BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPING!

My dear former work wife Kim Freda reminded me last week of some super-fun TV segments I did back in 2014. The news director asked for some fluffy holiday pieces, and I mentioned that I was something of a professional Black Friday shopper. This led to me doing several short shopping tips (we filmed in a morning & I edited in an afternoon!) that aired during each newscast the day before Thanksgiving.

So this reminded me, I really have some Columbus weight to lose, but also I should BLOG some Black Friday tips for y’all!

A little history: Black Friday shopping started for me I think in 2007, 2008. Both my brothers and their amazing wives had moved to the Cranberry Township suburb of Pittsburgh. This was the first time any of us had access to shopping that wasn’t 25 minutes away. After family dinner with my parents in Moundsville (which is usually a big, late lunch) I went to my sister-in-law Rebekah’s parents’ for evening Thanksgiving dinner (yep), because I was going to ride up to their Pa. apartment to spend the rest of my weekend with them. This was a typical holiday for me back then: Drive from Charleston to my parents in Moundsville, spend a night or two, then head north again for  fun with the Pittsburgh family.

When we got to our oldest brother’s house in Cranberry that night, my sister-in-law Kim was looking over the ads and debating a few big sales happening early the next morning. It didn’t take long for us to reason that Best Buy, Kohl’s and Target were just a few minutes away. Why not? So we got up in the middle of the night, huddled together with leftover pumpkin bread and got in line.

People, it was so much fun. Now, granted, my 2 sisters-in-law and I can have fun together doing just about any damn thing. But we didn’t really experience much, if any, pushing or ugliness. The staff at Kohl’s handed out chocolate while we were in line. The ladies got my brothers some SiriusXM receivers. I got myself clothes, and we all got super soft $5 fleece blankets, along with some other great finds. And our tradition grew from there. The next year, my oldest brother went with Rebekah and I because they were after a TV and he wanted to carry it, so Kim stayed home with the kids. After a few years, we started to wonder if we should ban my brother Matt because he hates people and was a little bit of a damper on our fun. (Sorry, dude, we love you, but you hate people and crowds). We formed alliances to grab things that were in limisted quantities. And it was awesome for me to be able to grab toys for my nieces and nephews while their parents were right there to give me a thumbs up or down. Maybe I’m more vain than I realize, but it’s kind of awesome to feel like you’re saving Christmas when you get the iPad for the young’erns at a deep, deep discount. Or when you stumble on that sweet, sweet Nerf machine gun that wasn’t on anybody’s list but definitely hit the spot back on Christmas 2009.Christmas 2009 012

Over the years, our shopping has tapered off. There isn’t always something we HAVE to go out and get. Sometimes you’re better off shopping online. I’ve gone with my parents recently, now that Walmart is about 2 minutes from their house, and I’ve gotten my husband in on the game. We went on Thanksgiving night a few years ago, and he thought it was fun.

For folks who think it’s appalling to shop on Thanksgiving, let me just say this: My family’s big holiday meals are always mid-day. So by evening, we’re good to move on to another activity. And, yes, I feel for people who have to work and are not able to spend time with their families on those days. But as someone who’s worked in news for a long time, my husband and I both have spent Thanksgiving and Christmas away from families and each other several times. Emergency responders have to work, too. My feeling is that’s just the nature of some jobs. And I’m a huge, huge fan of shopping local year-round. Just because I buy a toy at Target does not mean I don’t also spend plenty of money with independent shops, artisans and other small-business owners.

So – on to the tips! All of these are on YouTube for your enjoyment, but here’s the short list:

1 – Plan. This is a big one. Look at what you’re really after – what’s the one big thing on the deepest discount or most limited quantities that you must have? Where is the best place to get it? When does that store open? Have a game plan of which stores you’re hitting and when.

2 – No browsing. This is not the time to poke around. Know what you’re after and git ‘er done. But, caveat: Be flexible once you’re in the store. You may stumble on a great find you weren’t expecting. (That’s how we ended up with all the $5 fleece blankets!)

3 – Know when a deal is a deal. If you can get something online at the same price and without much hassle, go for it. If that’s the same price you’ve seen at other times during the year, save it. And take your ads with you so you know you’re getting the right make/model at the right price.

4. Dress the part! Comfort and warmth is good – Try to avoid the big heavy coat if you can, because once you get inside and move around, you’ll get hot. I’m a fan of the puffy vest. A cross-body bag is great, so you have both hands free – and please don’t get a shopping buggy unless you have to. Ain’t nobody got time (or room!) for that on Black Friday. And if you pack a snack, you’ll probably last a little longer.

5. Have fun. This one should be easy. Take a friend. Keep your cool, be nice and don’t rush to join a crowd just because you see one. No Tickle Me Elmo is worth a fist fight.

6. Check the map. Things aren’t always where they should be inside the store. A lot of times electronics are in the shoes or other strange areas because they need the space for people to line up or just to hold a big pallet. One year, mid-Walmart shopping, we realized we needed some plastic spoons to take later that day to our WVU-Pitt tailgate (that was a long, long day!) and the store employees would not let us in the aisle to get the spoons because they were setting up some limited-release video game. Grrr. But grab a store map online ahead of time if you can, or as soon as you get in the store. Look around and look up – pay attention to any balloons or signs to get to the right spot for your item, and you may have to get in line in a totally different spot, too.

7. Prepare for checkout. You’ve made it this far, and if you bought something electronic, you’re probably going to get asked if you want to add a warranty. You may also need something special to get a rebate, if that’s part of the deal you’re after. Don’t get caught off guard, and ask your cashier questions if you need to.

So now you have all my best tips for hitting the aisles this weekend – I haven’t drafted my shopping plan just yet, but share your success stories with me, I want to hear them!

 

I’M SO ASHAMED! … and: Do Clothes Make the Man?

Leading off with 3 things:

  • Current song in my head: “Ignition” – R. Kelly (I’m not saying I’m a huge fan of this song, but I am a huge fan of the station “Hip Hop BBQ” on Pandora. I’m pretty sure I can accomplish anything if I turn that on first. I don’t skip many tracks.)
  • Recent CBus adventure: Don’t judge us, but breweries are our favorite local places. We celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary with a late dinner at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing, home to one of my new favorite beers, Cinnamon Toast Brunch, and went last weekend to a PACKED house for their 4th birthday party. It’s got such a cool vibe, with a relaxed taproom/bar and a more fancy restaurant & we’ve been pretty big fans of all the beers we’ve tried so far.
  • West Virginia fun fact: You can check out the new documentary “Heroin(e)” on Netflix, a different kind of look at West Virginia’s opioid crisis, directed by the insanely talented Elaine McMillion Sheldon, a Peabody award-winning documentary filmmaker proudly from West Virginia.

Well, well, well. Look who decided to show up! I made it back. Guys, I hate that I’ve slacked on blogging for the past month.

You want to know the worst part? … I had a blog all written Sept. 7. Ready to publish. But my husband had just walked in the door from a long day of work, I wanted to proofread and fine-tune one more time before I posted, so I thought “I’ll just leave this puppy in drafts and go back to it tomorrow. One day late isn’t so bad.” I know better.

I’m really big on doing what I say I’m going to do. I’m also a touch OCD (see photo below) and I’m big on routines. After 33 years, I know myself, and I know once I fall off a wagon, I have a damn hard time climbing back on. (See any recent photos of me where my Ohio eating and drinking has weighed me down, big time!)

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So when people ask me about my dedication and commitment to things … it’s maybe more of a stubborn, OCD thing than an iron will. And now that I think about it, maybe that’s why so many of my gym friends in WV had a touch of the OCD?

Anyway – here’s MY question for anyone who’s reading: How do you make yourself do things you know you should be doing? A lot of people ask me this, and my answer is “I just do it,” but at least with working out, I know it makes me feel better when I do it and I think it’s pretty deeply embedded into my routines. I’ve had to get a lot more flexible lately and do DVDs at home or put in time on the treadmill, but I do something almost every day. Two hobbies I know I need to put more time into: knitting and playing guitar. I like to do both. I’m not great at either. I just very rarely pick up the tools and get to work, and I really don’t have a good answer. I don’t want this blog to be the third thing I frequently think “I should sit down and do that,” and the only way I know to stop that from happening is to just do it!

So let me dust off the blog I had worked on for Sept. 7. It was the idea that popped out on my keyboard, completely unplanned, after spending that day wondering “what do I have to write about?” The suggestion from my dear high school friend Nick Nash, a guy who’s way more local famous than I am, but he keeps it super low-key.

Nick asked me to weigh in on his fashion choices from high school, so we’re talking 2000-2002. He’s also curious if it could have any affect on a potential political career. So let me first say, dude, I’m not going to fish out old pictures to try to scan, but you definitely had a look back then … that may not lend itself to garnering votes right now. I don’t think anybody digs back into high school fashion choices when they run campaigns (or counter-attacks), but I also don’t know if West Virginia voters are ready to put their trust in a former emo kid, despite how friendly and awesome you were in 2001. It’s more of an overall image thing, my man. But, people our age are getting elected to public office just fine, so maybe I’m thinking too conservatively.

Our generation, I think, is when Goodwill shopping started to become a thing, so you weren’t alone in your ironic fashion choices, Nick. The Huz & I have been watching a lot of “Fresh Off the Boat” on Hulu, and it’s so 90’s-tastic. I love it so, so much. We actually watched the episode about JNCO jeans last week. Two years ago during a gathering of high school friends, our fashion choices came up and several agreed these were comfortable jeans they wished they still had. I never had any. Never really appealed to me, but I respected all my friends (male and female) who loved them. Maybe people would understand and sympathize!

I don’t think the early ’00s are ready to come back around quite yet, though. Almost. I think it was Jeff Foxworthy who told the joke that you can tell what your parents’ best decade was because their fashion never leaves it. Nick, I know you’re not still wearing red pleather pants and T-shirts from Hot Topic, but I am a little curious if your clothing choices will change when we start seeing the awful, ugly fashion choices of 2002 come back around.

Almost any time you analyze politics, there’s some brief mention of fashion choices – from tie colors to lapel pins. “Was he dressed down enough for flood cleanup?” Sooooo, yeah, Nick. What you wear now kind of matters. What you used to wear … you may be safe. But I’m working mostly from home (or Panera or Starbucks) which means I’m living in yoga pants, so what good is my advice? That leads me to my first encounter this week with Le Tote – a sort of clothing rental company.

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Yep, it’s like the Netflix of clothes. You pay a monthly fee and you get clothes and accessories shipped to you as fast as you can wear them and ship them back. You can rate things and “heart” things to improve what Le Tote picks for you, and you can look at what they pick for you and swap items before it actually ships. You don’t even have to wash the clothes before you mail them back! And you can buy things from your Tote if you love them, but you don’t have to. So I’ve been wanting to try this for over a year. I thought I was “seen” at events enough that I needed a rotation of new clothes and maybe this would be cheaper? easier? than buying, but I couldn’t ever justify the cost. Flash forward to now. … I’m not spending as much on my gym membership, I’m starting to need to attend a variety of events for work … And, maybe the real clincher: Not many of my clothes fit right now.

After going through the motions on the site, I was in their system and started getting emails tempting me. The one offering 75% off my first Tote did me in. Here’s what I got – I didn’t LOVE anything, but boy was the presentation nice.  All wrapped in tissue with a little brochure that read “Dear Ann” on the front and had the low-down for all my items inside and what they would cost if I bought them. My off-the-shoulder top is a little tight in the arms, the super cool motorcycle sweatshirt jacket is a little bunchy, and the dress is a tad short, but I’m going to wear it Friday for work. I’ll keep y’all posted on how my Le Tote relationship goes … if I see any opportunities to add JNCO to my Tote, and hopefully I’ll renew my dedication to the blog world!

 

 

Settling In & Throwing Out

Leading off with 3 things:

  • Current song in my head: “Moving Out” – Billy Joel (I half-listened to the “Last Play at Shea” documentary on Hulu this afternoon. I actually didn’t realize it was a documentary and thought it was a Billy Joel concert. It was heavy on the Billy, thankfully)
  • Recent CBus adventure: Vivi Nails on Gender Road in my very own Canal Winchester. I did a lot of web recon before I got a pedicure. Pretty typical experience here, I was pleased 🙂
  • West Virginia fun fact: I learned this one doing research for work today. Half of everyone on the planet receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS is taking a Mylan Pharmaceuticals drug. Mylan was started 55 years ago in White Sulphur Springs, WV and has grown to a generic drug powerhouse anchored in Morgantown where it employs 3,400 people.

I made it to Blog #3! Coincidentally, I’ve made it to three Friday morning yoga classes in a row, too. I’m really hoping another week or two will solidify these two new habits for me.

I love everything about my new Friday morning yoga hour habit.

A post shared by Ann Ali Semenik (@annsemenik) on

Steve and I are feeling settled in the area, which I think means we can cool it on all the eating out and heavy beer sampling in the name of “new town exploring.” My waistline can’t take any more! I made progress with decorating the new apartment and sort of stalled out, but we’re definitely ready for visitors, y’all.
I took advantage of the holiday weekend and visited my family in the Northern Panhandle – pretty nice to be just 2 hours away now instead of 3 or more.
I’ve been saying there is literally nothing in this world that will make you throw away a huge percentage of your belongings quite like moving. I thought when Steve and I moved together into a bigger Charleston apartment that we had pared life down to the bare necessities. We both got rid of SO MUCH STUFF! But somehow … there was more to shed in our move to Ohio. (Then, in a cruel irony, you get to your new place and want or need to buy lots of new stuff, which actually isn’t as fun as it seems.) I’ve had a few friends who have gone total minimalist (all boys, go figure) in their moves, and I don’t think I could do it. I need more than a suitcase. I just do!
I know the tips – don’t bring something new in the home without throwing something out. Toss anything that doesn’t bring you joy. Haven’t used it in a year? Let it go! … It just doesn’t always work like that, people! (Right? … right?) My friend Ed told me this week he has a “strict no accumulation rule.” I want to say I could try that, but I don’t know if I have it in me. This can’t be a boy-girl thing. I know plenty of boy packrats. Is there a happy medium? Minimalist in moderation?
In my Labor Day afternoon at my parents (who assured me they aren’t moving) there was a pretty active campaign underway to throw out things nobody needs anymore. Luckily, my brother had warned me the day before. He parted with action figures and old toys. The way he saw it (and I agree) if anything was super important, we’d have grabbed it for our own homes by now. So my dad asked me if I wanted or needed any of the trophies in a big box in his storeroom. I immediately answered no, but then of course thought … I’d better look. I ended up parting with every single one of them – most I had forgotten about. I was born in 1984, but apparently the “participation trophy” trend was already happening. But I was reminded of my 1997 win at the school spelling bee.

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I then agreed to clear off the bookshelf in my bedroom there. I only got through a huge shoebox I didn’t even realize my mom had been compiling over the years. That sucker was a time capsule of my nerdery. Report cards, newspaper clippings, cards from teachers, letters from school. I threw away all but 2 things – my high school graduation announcement and a copy of the Moundsville Daily Echo from 2003 with my story about George Bush’s visit to Marshall University on the front page. My learner’s permit was in there and some other horrifying old pictures. I know clearing out your things at your parents is a normal rite of passage, I’m just glad I did some of it while the horror of moving was still fresh in my mind and my “just throw it out” muscle was still strong. So many things I had forgotten about – including a semester at MU when I got a 4.0. I didn’t think I got much above a 3.5 from high school onward. And several things just made me scratch my head. Like this puzzler. Still not sure what was going on there.

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No Sophomore Slump Allowed!

Leading off with 3 things:

  • Current song in my head: “That’s What I Like” – Bruno Mars (heard a piece of this in an hour-long mash-up during gym class this morning, and of course this is what sticks. He’s too catchy for his own good)
  • Recent CBus adventure: IKEA! Honestly, this visit was the fastest, most peaceful and efficient Ikea trip I’d ever been on in my life. We bought a picture frame, dish drainer and huge new entertainment center. No domestic disputes, in and out in probably an hour. We walked in there with a mission, people!

  • West Virginia fun fact: This one is somewhat timely, and just in case someone stumbles across this little ol’ blog, I want to make sure they leave here knowing – Katherine Johnson turned 99 on Aug. 26. She was born in White Sulphur Springs in Southern WV, graduated from college at age 18 and grew up to be the extraordinary NASA mathematician who calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space. You may know her from the movie “Hidden Figures.”

Hello again! Welcome to Blog #2! Life in the Buckeye State is still wonderful, and I hear tomorrow night is OSU’s season opener, so it may be a great time to go shopping or explore the city while everyone is distracted. I made two quick trips back to Charleston, WV this week – Saturday for a Rotary assembly to speak about attracting new members and yesterday for my eye doctor. I’m due for a drive to the Northern Panhandle soon! I have some exciting news on the job front, just as I was starting to get a little antsy about all this time on my hands, but I can’t share too many details just yet. The important thing is I’ll be working part-time, which may be the best kind of funemployment, I’ll let you know! 🙂

I’d been thinking of what to write about this week, and I had a few very rough ideas, but on my way home from the gym today (It’s #WritingWednesday! The pressure was on!) I glanced at my Twitter alerts, and this was one of those “in case you missed it” Tweets, which I almost always appreciate Twitter telling me about.

My lovely friend Candace Nelson (who helps promote WV on social media for a living, literally wrote the book on Pepperoni Rolls AND has a killer food blog you may have heard of!) had asked her Twitter-sphere for the best advice they’d ever received. My other lovely friend Jessica Wintz-Adams (who is super involved in all things WV and also has a fun blog that is a must-read for any bride-to-be!) responded with advice that made me stop and nod my head. I always loved doing Q&A interviews that asked a variation of this.

And then the light bulb went off. This is what I want to blog about this week! Then, as if my hard-headed self needed another hint, lovely friend Amelia (who works as the editor of The Contributor and covers homelessness and poverty issues) sent me the sweetest message a few hours later about adjusting to all the new and different things in my life right now. Her words of wisdom for me?

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Wow. My brain was already stringing this together after seeing Jess and Candace’s exchange. Each chapter of my life so far I’ve been blessed with words of wisdom that ring so true and carry me through, either to calm waters or to the next rough patch to get through. Isn’t it funny how you sometimes just latch on to a lesson or mantra for a few weeks or months or longer?

Some of my favorites?

  • Worry Less, Rock Out More (I once had this printed and hanging in my cubicle as a reminder from my mentor who soon went on to much, much bigger things. He may have been over-served at the Red Carpet when he told me this, but damn if I didn’t embrace it for the next year or two while I built some early career confidence.)
  • If you can’t enjoy your own company, who the hell can? (This came from my older brother Matt, which was really comforting when I got through the agony and sadness of a bad breakup and started to find myself again.)
  • Keep Your Head Down and Run Your Own Race (I don’t even know when/where I first heard this, but it helped push me through a lot of long, grueling work days and projects. I’ve repeated it to many co-workers. It’s really easy to get distracted by comparison. It can derail you if you’re not careful. But if you do what you know you need to do or you’re supposed to be doing, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.)

I’ve gotten so much amazing advice from friends, family and coworkers over the years. I’m a big fan of positive sayings and uplifting quotes (which a dear friend picks on me about. It’s OK, Meg, I know I’m an annoying optimist sometimes!) and I always think if something resonates with me, it probably will help someone else. I even bought an app that helps you create word-heavy graphics, and I LOVE it, but I did make some practice quotes like this one to help me get the hang of it. Dre can be very motivational! 🙂

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Let’s get this party started!

Leading off with 3 things:

  • Current song in my head: “Everybody wants to rule the world” – Tears for Fears (I have no idea why or how this got in my head this afternoon, but now it’s yours. You’re welcome.)
  • Recent CBus adventure: Sunday afternoon, the Huz and I went to Pins Mechanical Co. downtown. He’d been there already with friends, and some other friends had told me I needed to get there. It was hipster-rific and very cool. Lots of pinball machines, duckpin bowling, ping-pong, giant Jenga and lots beers on tap, along with of different spaces to sit, stand and hang out. They don’t have a food menu, but they have rotating food trucks to serve up snacks. During our visit, they seemed busy (several families there – I always take note when fun places are niece and nephew-friendly) but Steve said when he was there Thursday night it was too crowded to move.
  • West Virginia fun fact: The Shoney’s restaurant chain was started as a drive-in restaurant in Charleston, WV in 1947. It became known as the “Big Boy Restaurant” chain 5 years later, but that name only lasted 3 years until it returned to the Shoney’s name – a nod to its founder Founder Alex Schoenbaum.

Hi, everybody! I’m closing in on two weeks of funemployment in the great metro area of Columbus, OH, and if you know me at all, you know I’m honest to a fault. So I’m here to tell you … it’s been really enjoyable so far. I promised my dear friend Steve Hicks I’d start a blog to force myself to keep writing, so here we are. I may be singing a different tune next week, but it’s been a peaceful change of pace for my main priority to be which gym class I’m doing that day.

My gym families were a big part of my life in Charleston, WV (Brickhouse Cardio Club for HIIT classes 2-3 times a week and Grind Time Training for weight training and conditioning 3x/week) so finding a new gym routine was really important to me. I tried an Orangetheory class for the first time last week, and it was HARD! You strap on a heart rate monitor under your sports bra (when you join, you get a brand-new monitor of your very own) and the goal is to get 12 minutes in the orange zone to hit peak fat burning. You can see your color and your “score” on a giant monitor at the front of the room the entire class. We cycled through a rowing machine, treadmill, and body-weight floor moves (mountain climbers, burpees, push-ups, etc.) to ratchet up the heart rate, then take a breather. I’m going back tomorrow but I don’t think I’ll be joining or doing it regularly. It’s a little farther from home than I want to be traveling every day, and even though your workout changes each time, I think I want more variety.

I did join Lifetime Fitness, and I’d never heard of this franchise before my Columbus-area gym search, but if you’re into gyms and you get a chance to try one out, do it. I joined the Pickerington gym, which I believe is a “Bronze” level gym – that means it doesn’t have the super-extra features like a salon or rock-climbing wall. But it is convenient, clean and friendly. I’ve done yoga (it wasn’t even hot yoga, and I was SWEATY!), barbell fitness (a lot like Les Mills Bodypump but slower, more deliberate lifts), cardio kickboxing (like Zumba mixed with Tae-Bo!) and a few other classes so far. It’s given me exactly what I wanted – variety, routine and a reason to leave the apartment every day. And on my way back home each day, I’ve tried to run an errand or take a detour so I learn something new about my area. Granted, one of those lessons was how you can get an extra % off the Gold Star Clearance at Kohl’s, but, honestly, what’s wrong with that? 🙂