Who would've thought that my blog post, Blame Game would get me a ticket to Cleveland for some much needed me time (yes, Cleveland, you'll be surprised!) A friend and colleague of mine from Boston University, who now lives back home in Ohio, contacted me after reading that blog and said, "This might sound crazy, but would you want to come see Howard Jones in concert on March 14th?" I just had to go!
I quickly looked at the calendar and strategized every conceivable childcare, pick-up, drop-off plan imaginable with Steve and my mom. I would be gone from Thursday afternoon through Sunday afternoon. This was going to be a test for my three-year-old Anna given she has been by my side, caring for me, being my nurse for as long as she can remember. But, I knew that Granny would be a good distraction!
I think I was a travel agent in my previous life. I love the challenge of finding low-cost flight options (one-way flights on different airlines are great ways to fly cheap and use frequent flyer miles or segments). It turned out I needed to get a rental car too; AAA, Costco, and the Attractions/Entertainment Books have such good discounts. When I got to the Alamo counter, the customer service lady smiled at me and gave me a free upgrade to a Kia Soul. A much appreciated gift given I had barely made my connection in Philadelphia to Akron-Canton and was fearing I would never see my luggage (it did come after about 45 minutes).
I took advantage of the fact that I had another friend living in Cleveland, teaching at a nearby university, so I spent Thursday night at his house and had a wonderful time catching up with him. It certainly didn't hurt that his housemate was baking - she is a Cupcake War episode winner! Ohio friends - use Save Room!
I can definitely see why Time.com has listed Cleveland in the Top Ten of American food cities because I started eating immediately and everything I ate was truly good. My friend, Ken and I had a delightful dinner at Banana Blossom Thai - authentic, fresh, and made to our specifications.
Friday morning, the number one item I had on my list was to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; I wanted to be sure that I got there right when they opened at 10am. Ken and I said our good-byes at Gypsy Beans & Baking Co.. I loved their passport drink menu - I had an "Around The World" latte that combined hazelnut, almond, and macademia flavors along with a terrific asparagus and feta popover. It was a perfect way to salute my first 12 hours in Cleveland!
I'm glad I got to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame early on weekday and that I had alone time to explore because music has been an important part of my life and for me, it was like I explored the hall with my dad's spirit walking beside me.
Later that day I met up with my friend who orchestrated this journey at the Hall of Fame. Mindy took me on a driving tour of the city, which was fabulous!
If I was a travel agent in my previous life, then Mindy was a tour guide. I sincerely appreciated her thoughtfully putting together an itinerary for me, but also giving me necessary down time too.
Remember, I said I started eating the moment I got to Cleveland. Mindy really picked a winner by taking me to Pier W, a 50-year old lakefront restaurant with a gorgeous view of Cleveland. Their Happy Hour menu and drink selection was truly divine - the kind that almost makes you order one of everything. What makes a friend like Mindy great is that we had a nice time at Pier W, eating "fancy" food and drinks and then headed right to the local bowling alley. This alley, Bay Lanes, hasn't changed in 35 years - think Big Lebowski.
Of course, I was nervous that I was going to bring these league teams' scores way down, but I found myself being very welcomed and supported. This was pretty much the theme of my time in Ohio - people are kind.
My day had been long and I was so very thankful for my guestroom's king-size bed (mommy gold!) and my magazine, lip balm, and footies supplied by my host -- great ideas for the future ;-)
It was Saturday, the big day had arrived to see Howard Jones! We knew to take it slow and just hang out with Mindy's family so we had plenty of energy for our evening's festivities. I am a sucker for all things Food Network and celebrity chefs. So, I appreciated Mindy's willingness to go to Michael Symon's restaurant Lola's before the concert. My mom and I have watched his show, The Chew, together, often when I've returned home from treatments, so he has a special place in my heart. It turned out he was in the restaurant that night and Mindy got to talk to him! Her mom knows him - I love how "small town" the whole experience felt. This restaurant was of the highest quality with a very comfortable atmosphere. I got my mom an autographed cookbook - maybe a trip to NYC to see The Chew is in our future!
We walked our dinner off and headed to the church, that's right, the concert was in a church! I am really impressed with the Trinity Cathedral for coming up with their Cathedral Concerts series. It definitely tops the list as one of the best places I've ever seen a concert, where else can you have a beer in church? It was such great therapy for me. I forgot how many songs that man had written and couldn't believe I still remembered lots of the lyrics. Thanks to Mindy for taking the better pictures...
Sunday morning I woke up refreshed and ready to head home. Having had some time to reflect on my trip, I'm really glad I accepted the gift that presented itself. I think the word "can't" comes to mind too fast when it comes to doing something for me (I'm sure you other moms out there know what I mean) and I'm glad that I'm learning better self-care. Taking care of myself, after all, is the best lesson I can give that little three-year-old nurse of mine.