Life Lesson #3: It’s a Small World After All

What do you get when you combine six degrees of separation with the song, “It’s a small world after all?” Well, fine readers, you get:

Life Lesson #3: It (really is) a small world after all!

Disney World – one of the most magical places on earth!

A place where kids beg their parents to go on vacation, where newlyweds spend their honeymoon, and where generations of families gather together to take in the magic found here.

There’s so much to see and explore between the various parks that it’s often hard to decide what to do first! Should I go to the Animal Kingdom and go on a safari ride?

Or, should I start with Epcot where I can travel to Italy, France, AND Morocco without ever leaving the park?

Maybe it’s better if I just start in Magic Kingdom, see a parade and some of my favorite Disney characters, ride some timeless Disney rides, and go from there?

Growing up, I was lucky enough to travel to Disney World twice- once with my family and once with my high school band. Both times were wonderful and I can safely say that I was never able to see or do everything that I wanted while I was there. I saw many parades, watched fireworks shows, took pictures with my favorite Disney characters, and rode many rides. Thinking about the rides, the ones that stick out the most to me are: Splash Mountain (awesome, but wet-clearly), Space Mountain (super fun), the Buzz Lightyear ride/game (I rocked that game), and the It’s a Small World After All ride.

If you’ve been to Disney World/Land (or even if you haven’t), you’re probably familiar with “It’s a small world after all.” If you’re not, here’s what you would experience if you were on this ride:

As a kid, I didn’t really understand or appreciate the meaning of the song or the excitement of the ride. Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing all the different cultures and countries represented in the display…although, the song did get a little annoying after awhile. Nevertheless, I didn’t really see how everything was connected or realize how small of a world we actually live in.

 Now that I’m older and yes, even somewhat wiser, I’ve come to better understand how the song and ride is applicable in the real world.

Most of you may be familiar with the theory of six degrees of separation. It’s a theory that asserts that everyone in the world (yes, all 7.2 billion people) are connected to everyone else by six links or people.


It’s such a crazy idea when you take a moment to think about it.

When I think of this theory, it’s hard not to imagine I’m back on that ride in Disney World. Is it possible that a girl from a  small town in Ohio can be connected to a random stranger half way across the country? It seems crazy and doubtful.

I’m not saying that I buy into this theory completely, but I can appreciate it in the context of realizing that it really is a small world after all. When you move to a new place, start a job in a city where you know no one, and are feeling completely alone – remember this.

Remember that we are all connected in some way, shape, or form. Maybe not by six people. Maybe it’s a connection through an activity that you participated in when you were in high school. Maybe it’s through a university you attended for undergrad. Or, maybe it really is by a person. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Finding those connections may not even be intentional. You may have to work to make those connections and to put the puzzle pieces together, but I have a feeling that if you look for it, you can find the link.

Here’s why: When my family was in Egypt when I was a baby, we were in the Cairo airport waiting for our flight. From across the airport, someone began frantically waving to my family. From what my parents tell me, they had no idea who this woman was or why she was trying to get their attention. As she approached them, she addressed them by their first names. My parents didn’t recognize her. At all. Literally. It was 2:00 am in an airport half-way across the country from our real home and here’s this woman who knows us. Apparently, she was the sister of the priest of our church in Ohio and had recognized us from a single mass when I was baptized. Connection number one.

In July, Joni and I (and Sarah, too, but she wasn’t there for this part) attended a bachelorette party in Cleveland. As Joni and I were riding in a taxi that evening, we began talking to our driver. We were talking about various topics, when it somehow came up that we had attended the same university for graduate school (not at the same time). It was so random to be riding in this taxi in Cleveland and accidentally find out that we had the same alma mater. Connection number two.

During my first year of grad school, my mom came to visit me. Naturally, this trip involved shopping because what mother-daughter trip doesn’t?! When she was there, we went to Sam’s Club. Shortly after we entered the store, we saw a man who was clearly a Coptic Orthodox priest. So, not to be too creepy or anything…my mom and I followed him and his family to the checkout lane…to talk to them. As we introduced ourselves to the family, we realized that he knew my uncle (who is a priest) who still lives in Egypt. Seriously? In a country with over 80 million people, how could be possibly know my uncle? What are the chances that when my mom and I serendipitously (is that a word?) ran into this family that we would be connected?

It’s a small world.

So, why am I telling you this? I think it’s as much for you as it is for me. I think it can help you realize that no matter how far you go from home that you’re not alone. You’re not disconnected. The connections are there, you just might have to look for them. You might think you know no one. You might think that there’s no one around who can possibly understand the uniqueness of where you came from. But, in some way, the connection is there. It may be unexpected and not in the way that you had anticipated, but I have confidence that you’ll figure it out.

Now, go forth and enjoy the ride! Find those connections.

Who knows, maybe you’ll discover how you’re connected to your favorite actor, musician, or politician!

Daycations: The Best of Northeast Ohio and Pittsburgh

If you found your way here from Once Is Enough, welcome! We hope you’ll click around and check out our other posts!

Earlier this week, I wrote my first ever guest blog post for Sam over at Once is Enough while she went on vacation. I focused on daycationing, outlining several tips to help you have a great time while being a tourist in your own town. Head over to her blog to read more about finding the best local spots to explore and save money — great for the college girl on a budget! While you’re at it, read posts from Sam and the other guest bloggers for the week. 

If you’re still in school, summer is pretty much half over already… unless you’re in graduate school, and you’re very likely still in class till very late at night or early on Saturday mornings. I feel your pain. I’m currently still looking for a job, and while I’m cutting back on unnecessary purchases, I still plan on taking a daycation or two. I’m lucky that I live in an area filled with hidden cultural jewels, right between two large metro areas with experiences totally unique to each of those cities. It’s unlikely that people from outside of the area plan to vacation in Northeast Ohio, there’s much to do for those who are willing to explore, and do a little research ahead of time. Here are four of my favorite day-trips for a quick weekend excursion. Click through on the links to each of the attractions for more information about hours of operation, admission, and directions. 

Youngstown, Ohio

Home of my alma mater and Ed O’Neill from Modern Family, Youngstown is in the middle of a cultural revival, working to rebuild itself from the fall of the U.S. steel industry and shed it’s image as hub of organized crime. It boasts a rich ethnic heritage, and on any given weekend in the summer, you can sample Greek gyros, Italian sausages, or Polish pyrohies at any of their popular festivals held each year. In the six years I spent living in Youngstown earning my degrees, I learned to love the area and discovered many of the gems of the city and surrounding area. 

First, visit the Butler Museum of American Art, the first museum of strictly American art in all types of media, dedicated in 1919. Featured on the National Register of Historic Places, admission to this museum is free. Take time to reflect on paintings by Edward Hopper, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keefe, and Robert Rauschenberg. For lunch, take a very short drive over to Casesse’s MVR, one of the most popular restaurants in the Mahoning Valley. While you wait for a (massive) plate of cavatelli, or any of the other old school Italian dishes, look around at all of the Youngstown sports memorabilia, from the years the YSU Penguins won four national championships under Coach Jim Tressel (just before he went on to coach for Ohio State) and boxing greats, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Kelly Pavlik. Take your to-go box and head to Mill Creek Park, the second largest metro park in the United States. With over 4,400 acres for you to explore, its easy to spend an entire day here out on the hiking trails, paddling around Lake Glacier, or simply relaxing and enjoying nature. You might even happen upon a wedding in any area of the park, especially in the gorgeous Fellows Riverside Gardens and its visitor’s center. As the sun sets, head back into town for dinner and drinks at the Lemon Grove, part bar and restaurant, part performance venue, and part art gallery. Almost every night of the week, you can catch live music, poetry readings, or events like trivia games or karaoke at this lively downtown establishment. Don’t forget to check the schedules for the Dana School of Music and the Department of Theater and Dance at YSU, bringing top notch vocal, symphonic, and theatrical performances to the valley. 

Bonus Youngstown Sites
Charlie Staples’ Original Bar-B-Cue
Mahoning Valley Scrappers Baseball
The World’s Largest Pair of Drum Sticks, in honor of Warren native Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters 
Oakland Center for the Arts

Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio

Geneva on the Lake has become one of my favorite weekend getaways for two simple reasons: there’s a beach and the wine is plentiful and delicious. The beach is on the shores of Lake Erie, and though I don’t think I would take a dive into it, it is quite beautiful to look at. Start your day at Geneva State Park, and don’t forget to pack your towels, sunscreen, and a good book. Bring a picnic lunch, too, and soak up the sun watching the waves coming in from the lake. After relaxing at the beach for a few hours, head over to Lake Road for food, drinks, and entertainment. For family fun, stop at the Adventure Zone for mini-golf, bumper boats, and go-carts. You can also rent bikes, golf carts, and surrey limos. To sample some of the area’s best vino, grab a map and choose your destinations. I recommend Ferrante Winery, Chalet Debonne Vineyard, and The Lakehouse Inn & Winery.  In the evening, park your car along the strand and grab a bite to eat at one of the many food stands that line the road, or pop over to my personal favorite, The Old Firehouse Winery, for a breathtaking view of the lake and live music nightly. Don’t miss their Ferris wheel and the wine slushies! Find your favorite wine and bring a bottle or two home to enjoy for the rest of the summer.

Bonus Geneva-on-the-Lake Sites
Eddie’s Arcade (on Lake Road)

Laurello Vineyards
Old Mill Winery

Cleveland, Ohio

While you could easily visit their amazing visitor’s page, I thought I would highlight some of my favorite things to do while in Cleveland. Since Brian and I love going to zoos, the first place I would go is the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo & Aquarium, featuring The Rainforest and the new African Elephant Crossing. It doesn’t matter how many times or how many different zoos I go to, I’ll always take pictures of the penguins and the bears. They’re just too cute. After a hot morning and afternoon wandering around the zoo, head over to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a uniquely “Cleveland” experience. Nowhere else in the world can you find such an expansive collection of rock n’ roll memorabilia and learn so much about the music and it’s roots. See tour costumes, handwritten lyrics, and other belongings of your favorite musicians and watch films featuring all of the inductees. In the evening, find dinner and drinks in the East 4th Street entertainment district. I prefer the House of Blues for dinner — their cornbread is nothing short of incredible — but there are plenty of great little restaurants in the area, including Flannery’s Pub and the Corner Alley Bar & Grill.

Bonus Cleveland Sites
The Christmas Story House
CLE Clothing, Co. <– Stop here! The shirts are brilliant!
West Side Market
Great Lakes Brewing Company

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Ok, so this one isn’t necessarily in Ohio, but I live within 45 minutes of Pittsburgh, hence why I’ve always been a Steelers fan over the Browns. Recently, the city appeared as part of Gotham City in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, and I won’t pretend that I didn’t get more than a little excited to see Bill Cowher’s face on the sidelines during the Heinz Field scene. I must insist that you take the Fort Pitt tunnel entrance into the city. There’s no other way to arrive, as Pittsburgh truly is the only city with an entrance, and it blows me away every time. Start at the Phipps Conservatory and immerse yourself in the beautiful botanical wonderland, featuring art glass hand-blown by Dave Chihuly. For lunch, make your way over to Oakland and stop in at Primanti Bros. for one of their famous sandwiches.  Take in the architecture of the University of Pittsburgh and other universities in the area as you head to the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. Admission gives you access to Dinosaurs in Their Time, the Hall of Ancient Egypt, Monet’s “Water Lilies,” the stunning Hall of Architecture (can you sense a pattern here?). Cross the river to Station Square for dinner at Bar Louie, and at sunset, take the Duquesne Incline to the observation deck for the most beautiful view of Pittsburgh.

Bonus Pittsburgh Sites
Warhol Museum
Carnegie Science Center, IMAX, Laser Shows, and USS Requin
The Mattress Factory Art Museum
Pittsburgh Public Theater <– Always check for Student ID discounts!

While I could go on for days about the cool things to do in Pittsburgh, I really recommend checking out this link for lots of free ways to explore the city. Let me know if you’d like more ideas about where to go!

Locals, did I miss anything? Have you been to any of these places? Add your must-see attractions in the comments, or give me the daycation of your city!

Channeling John Lennon: Ralph Rich is a Musician You Ought to Know

It’s no secret that we Dames like music. Pop, rock, classical, hip hop, and even some rap. We’ve also had our personal experiences with music. Abbie personally knows Red Wanting Blue, Jeannette has touched Josh Groban’s hand, and I wish I had touched Josh Groban’s hand…

Much of my high school experience was spent surrounded by music. Particularly, during long hours of choir and theater rehearsal where for weeks on end we would try to get the harmonies just right — to the point that we were sick of the songs, sick of each other, and physically sick. So not only do I love music, but I’m pretty skilled at discerning good music.

One of my new favorite artists is someone who I’ve known for nearly my whole life — even longer than I’ve known Jeannette (and I’ve known her since I was six.)

My new favorite artist is Ralph Rich.

A Northeast Ohio native (from Hubbard, a suburb of Youngstown), Ralph Rich has been involved in the local music scene for about 4 years, performing both as a solo artist and as a member of various bands including Krave, The Fuzzy Dice, and Super Cheef. He has played at multiple venues big and small including The Lemon Grove, Cedar’s, O’Donold’s, and Barley’s Pub in the Youngstown area, The Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Red Hook, New York, and Sadie Rene’s in Canton.

Rich, 24, began playing drums at age 4 and has played guitar since high school. He cites his main influences as The Beatles, John Lennon, Dashboard Confessional, and The Killers. Rich’s sound, however, also evokes the spirit of artists like The Goo Goo Dolls and John Mayer.

Rich has been writing music since high school, using personal experiences as inspiration, and his hard work is paying off. Looking forward to an eventual move to Los Angeles, Rich has just released his first EP. Comprised of original songs written by Rich over the last several years, the EP features six acoustic tracks that capture all of Rich’s influences.

The self-titled EP highlights all of Rich’s talents and his promise as an artist. My favorite tracks off the EP are “For You,” “Gia,” and “Leaving You Behind.”

“For You”: (Sample)

“Gia”: (Sample)

“Leaving You Behind”: (Sample)

Equally as fantastic, are the EP’s remaining 3 tracks, “I Want to Know,” “Think Back-Remember Me,” and “Heartbreaker.”

“I Want to Know”: (Sample)

“Think Back-Remember Me”: (Sample)

“Heartbreaker”: (Sample)

The CD version of Ralph Rich’s self-titled EP is available now directly from the artist. It will be available for digital download on iTunes and on June 1, 2012. It will also be available on Spotify on the same date.

Make sure you check out his Facebook Page here: Ralph Rich on Facebook.

Rich’s new EP is truly excellent and a representative of the talent housed here in Northeast Ohio.

Abbie may have Red Wanting Blue, but I’m looking forward to the day when I can say: “You know Ralph Rich? I knew him in Kindergarten…”

DISCLAIMER: All images and audio included in this post are the property of Ralph Rich.

“From the Vanishing Point” – A Fangirl’s Review

I know my fellow Dames are well aware of my love of a certain “rock n’ roll band from Columbus, Ohio” called Red Wanting Blue. However, I’ve been a little silent about them on Facebook and the Twitters recently, but that’s because I’ve wanted to do a post about them, about why I’m such a huge fan, and their new album “From the Vanishing Point,” which will have it’s wide release on January 10, 2012. (Although some fans may have already pre-ordered it and will find it under their Christmas trees this year…)

I attended my first RWB concert as a sophomore in college, when a friend asked me to come with him to Barley’s as sort of a wing-woman, which is kind of one of my pro-skills. We sat towards the back, and it was pretty loud in there anyway, so I didn’t hear much of the music, but from what I could tell — not so bad.

The second time I went to see them was actually a total fluke. I was at one of the pre-party concerts at my university seeing another band, and there was a raffle for tickets to see RWB at the House of Blues in Cleveland. A friend of mine won the tickets, but was unable to take them, since she had plans for the next night, and offered them to me. The opening acts were… weird… but I loved what I heard from RWB when they started playing. We had to leave before the show was over, but stayed long enough to hear this song, accompanied by a trumpet player, which was the only time I’ve ever seen them do that live. New fave song. I hunted the band’s page down on MySpace (chyeah, MySpace.) so I could friend them and listen to the five or so songs they had on their page over and over. (It’s probably one of the best off of “These Magnificent Miles,” along with Gravity, Where You Wanna Go, and US Bumper Sticker.)

Fast forward to my junior year when my little sister, Carmen, had just started her first semester at college. I asked her to come with me to see them play at Barley’s because I totally wasn’t going to go by myself. She semi-reluctantly agreed, but we’re both glad she did, since now, I have someone who goes to every concert with me.  I can’t count how many shows we’ve been to in the last 3.5 years in the Youngstown-Cleveland-Kent area, but it’s definitely in the double digits. With the college-student-friendly ticket prices, guaranteed quality of entertainment, and friendliness of the band, it’s difficult not to go.

Seriously though, these guys are wonderful to their fans. I have this picture and two autographed posters to prove it. (L-R: Mark McCullough, Scott Terry, me, Eric Hall, Carmen, Greg Rahm, and Eddie Davis.)

Just a note: That picture is from early 2009. Since then, Eddie has left the group (and I think is actually working on his Masters at YSU), and Dean Anschutz (also a YSU grad) has taken over on drums. Not pictured is Eric’s beard.

It seems like the guys are constantly on tour, with shows just about every weekend. This past year has been pretty big, as this indie band signed with Fanatic Records, a small part of EMI, and it lead to the nationwide re-release of “These Magnificent Miles.” You can get it on Target and Best Buy’s websites, but save yourself the postage and get it directly from their merch booth after a show. Leading up to their recent performance at The Newport in Columbus, the band, through Fanatic, released a track from their new album, “From the Vanishing Point,” each morning for 13 days.  Listen to the album, in its entirety, here:

Stay On the Bright Side: Very strong start to the album. They did the same distortion-y opening on “Magnificent Miles,” and that song is one of my faves.
Audition: Not a new song, but a fun reincarnation of a much older tune I’ve heard several times at shows, minus the shoutout to Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.”
White Snow:  I love how the lyrics always seem to tell a much deeper story. The chorus is super catchy, but its structured a little differently than I’m used to. I’m interested to see what they use to get the fuzz sounds at live shows..
Playlist: I’m really trying to get into this one. I am. As many times as I’ve listened to it, I can’t figure out what about the song doesn’t do it for me.  More listening required. This song is fantastic, and kinda sexy (not gonna lie). It finally clicked for me when when I heard them play it live at YSU this past January. (Updated July 18)
Love Remains: This song will most assuredly be making an appearance on my “Sexy & I Know It” workout playlist. With lyrics like “don’t give up, you can keep up, keep on moving. chasing the sound of the sun somewhere going down…” how could it not be?
Cocaine: Yes. This. Scott played this originally as a solo acoustic piece when they were road testing it, and I don’t know which way I prefer.  Kind of a rough love analogy, but its perfect.
Walking Shoes: This song is all kinds of fun and cute and happy.  I love how simple they kept it, and the autobiographical lyrics about “living life through postcards and telephones.” Great harmonies in the bridge, which I’ve never heard from RWB before. Neat.
Dinosaur: Much harder than the song before it. This one also has workout playlist potential. Definitely more alt-rock than “Americana.”
Running of the Bulls: I always like to hear the lap guitar in their songs. This one reminds me a little of “Finger in the Air” in it’s defiant spirit, which I appreciate.
Ballad of Nobodies: This is another story-telling song, really highlighting the beautiful tenor of Scott Terry. The way this song is written reminds me of any of Jimmy Buffett’s ballads. Yes, weird comparison, but its true. Listen to him, too.
Hope on a Rope: This is how I feel about graduate school. “Dream is a whale, and I am Ahab. I am the captain of this rusty bucket ship… I promised my family that I’d break the mold.” I love every part of this song. My boyfriend likes it because Scott yells.
Pour It Out: This song gets me a little bit each time I listen to it, which is probably why it’s my favorite on the whole album. “For every dream that’s in my mind there’s another butterfly that I can’t catch… Maybe I caught the wrong dream runnin’, but this one just ain’t mine to live, all I know is right now something must give.” These lyrics are incredible, and so is the sound.  Or maybe it’s because I love Ohio so much. I don’t know.
My Name is Death: Bonus track. This playful, tongue-in-cheek song is a witty and clever way to end an album I can’t wait to get my hands on.

I can’t wait to see that yellow bubble mailer sitting on my kitchen island in December.

July Updates!

The first time Carmen and I heard them play “White Snow,” we were anxious to see what they used to create the distortion. As soon as I saw it, I turned to her and said, “It’s a #&*%@ Yak-Bak.” At least it’s something like a Yak Bak, which is pretty cool.

On June 29, Red Wanting Blue played for their largest audience in the state of Ohio at Rockin’ on the River in Cuyahoga Falls, hosted by 91.3 The Summit. They were joined by Modern Electric, A Band Called Ashes, and We Are Public Radio, which is fronted by another local favorite, Andy Dolson. Despite the inclement weather, all of the bands put on an amazing show. Red Wanting Blue was even joined on stage by a few mini-fans who led the crowd in cheering for the band, showing us all again how much these guys appreciate their fans.

They’ll be making their network television debut on July 18, 2012 on The Late Show with David Letterman, and you know I’ll be in the front row… in my living room, but still super excited!