Climbing for my Sanity

When I was 20 I went through a very difficult time in my life. Sadly, this is mostly due to a boy. I went through a nasty breakup that left me scarred, hurt, untrusting, scared and with very low self-esteem. I was feeling sick and crummy for a long time and went to the doctor expecting he would tell me I had the flu or cancer. The diagnosis he gave me was shocking.


I knew I was having a hard time, but I still considered myself to be a generally happy person, after all, Hilarie does mean “cheerful”, and that’s the disposition I usually portray. Turns out you can appear mostly happy and still be depressed. He suggested medication and I said “No way Jose.” (Obviously I have nothing against medication now, but at the time I was terrified to take anything.) He said if I will not take anything, then I must promise to workout every day.

No problem!

So I did, and I did feel better. It’s true that working out makes you happier and less-stressed. Those endorphins do wonders, and even though it often feels like torture to get my butt to the gym I NEVER regret it once I’m there. Thankfully, my bout with depression was short-lived, but I still have my struggles with anxiety. Staying healthy and keeping active is a necessity. I need to be active in order to be sane.

I also need variety, which is why I do workout classes and physical activities all over this city. My most recent activity was rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulders. Husband and I used to rock climb fairly often in Tennessee. We rock climbed outdoors and indoors, and loved every minute of it. However, it’s been about 3 years since we’ve climbed. We were pumped to get to finally get to a rock-climbing gym here!

brooklynboulders climbers


To belay each other we had to get belay certified. This means one of the employees of Brooklyn Boulders had to watch us tie knots, belay one another and basically know how to rock climb safely. I was really nervous since it’s been so long, but luckily we both passed with flying colors. Whew…



If you cannot belay, the gym offers staff members who hangout and belay people AND they have automatic belay machines! I didn’t even know these existed! They literally belay you and allow you repel down. I must say, I was scared to try it.



I wore myself out VERY quickly, but we managed to stay for over 4 hours!



The gym offered a lot more than rock climbing too. They had weights, bouldering (at which I suck), rings, ping-pong, and a slack-line! We all tried the slack-line numerous times. Every time was unsuccessful and embarrassing, but still fun.

meslackline slackline


After our hard-work, we treated ourselves to Ethiopian food for dinner and fancy chocolate for dessert. We got home at 1am, absolutely exhausted. I may have woken up sore the next day, but I felt stronger and less-stressed. Climbing walls and falling off a tight-rope can do that to you! Can’t wait to get back to Tennessee for some more climbing.


Brewery with the Boys

When our Tennessee friends were here a couple weeks ago one of them suggested going to the Brooklyn Brewery, to which I responded, “Brooklyn has a brewery?!?!” I cannot tell you how many times someone who does not even live in NYC has suggested a New York attraction that I have never heard of. That’s exactly why I love this city. I will never run out of new places to visit.

We happily hopped on the train and headed to Brooklyn one morning in search of this so-called brewery. It turned out to be a pretty cool place with a free tour, a bar, and an enormous sitting area. There were hundreds of people drinking locally brewed beer, playing card games, eating pizza, and just hanging out in the very laid-back atmosphere.

We had to purchase tokens in order to pay for the beers.
We had to purchase tokens in order to pay for the beers.


IMG_2805 (1)On the tour, which consisted of one big room, we heard the most entertaining and interesting stories about the history of this brewery. The guy giving the tour had a knack for storytelling. The room was silent as he skillfully described the history with impeccable comedic timing.



Now I’ll do my best to give you the cliff notes.

Two guys (Steve and Tom) started Brooklyn Brewery. Steve live in the Middle East for six years where he learned to make beer in his bathroom, and Tom (a business man) had lots of money and wanted to use it to start a new hip business. They founded the Brewery in 1988, and moved to the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn in 1996. It was the perfect place for their business, but it wasn’t easy to get their brewery where it is today. Williamsburg was a sketchy neighborhood during that time. They were held up at gunpoint by one of their regular customers, had a forklift stolen, and even a run-in with the mafia. Yes, the mafia!

Anyone who opens a business in Williamsburg apparently has to pay the mafia off. The Brooklyn Brewery boys somehow missed this little detail, and the mafia basically said, “Pay us, or pay the price.” After refusing to pay, getting a badass lawyer, and standing up to the mafia, Tom had a scary face-to-face with a mafia boss. They took Tom across the street, emptied a warehouse, locked the doors, and said “We’re going to have to hurt you.”

Tom obviously flipped out and begged to be spared. After a few minutes of freaking out, Mr. Mafia man said, “Just kidding. We actually like you’re brewery and think it’s going to be great for Williamsburg. We are going to let you slide.” Now, the mafia works security for the brewery at night!

I loved the stories, the atmosphere, and the beer!



It’s Here: My Day of Hurricane Relief Video

Husband and I put together a video of our experience with Occupy Sandy yesterday. It was difficult to get a lot of shots because there was A LOT of work to do, but it’s a good compilation of our experiences yesterday. Keep in mind, this is footage from only Coney Island, and a little at the hub in Brooklyn. The devastation is so much more than what you’ll see here.

Thanks for watching.


“Hello Brooklyn B-B-Baby”

Even after a 45 minute train-ride home on Saturday night, we still managed to get up and make the trip back to Brooklyn again on Sunday. And while were on the subject, I’d like to point out that the absolute best thing about using the train as my primary form of transportation, is the free time it gives me. I used to consider these long rides as time wasted, but now I see it’s value.

If I was driving in my own car, I would only be able to listen to the radio (and maybe put on some eyeliner), but the train gives me “hands-free time”…well not hands free, i guess…more like “hands…utilized time”? I can read, freshen my make-up, fix my hair, play on my phone, and still listen to my music. The PROBLEM with these free time options is that 90% of the time I forget my Nook, book, headphones, make-up, brush, and I never put anything on my phone except solitaire. This weekend I managed to play 32 games of solitaire…BUT I did beat my record 3 times, so I guess it wasn’t a total loss.

Anyway, we started our day in Brooklyn at Atlantic Antic, supposedly New York’s biggest street fair. It’s “a mile of food, music, and fun;”…and basically the same as every other New York street fair. If you are like me and LOVE fried food, lemonade, corn-on-the-cob, and lots of cheap homemade crap for sale, then these fairs are right up your alley.

Instantly, we lost Husband and his friend, which, of course led to lots of jazz hands (our signal for being lost/finding each other).

Once together again, we walked through the streets, but as we walked, booths were literally being picked up in front of us. We had to basically run down the street to reach anything before they pulled down their curtains, or folded their tables, and said “sorry, we’re closing.” Upon seeing our disappointed faces, one vendor informed us that the whole festival had to close early due to the Jay-Z concert.

The Barclay Center, a multi-purpose arena, just opened in Brooklyn, which is like, BIG news for this borough. Not only will it bring more tourists, money, and  jobs (hopefully), it’s bringing the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn. Jay-Z, a Brooklyn native, is a partial (like a miniscule amount) owner of the Nets and has apparently been dreaming of moving his team to his hometown forever.

Jay-Z has been such a strong supporter of the Barclays Center that he is giving eight (yes eight!) concerts in a row to christen the grand opening! Every single show is already sold out; that’s one heck of an opening. I don’t know how we missed or ignored all the advertisements for his shows, but I’m sure they are/were amazing.

We stood and gawked at the center for a while, hoping to somehow run into Beyonce and baby Blue Ivy before we went to dinner at The Rose Water.

At our dinner, we were so famished that we just ate and ate and ate and drank and drank, never once thinking to snap a picture (I know no one is tired of seeing my dinner pics yet, right?). Just trust me that it was beautiful and delicious.

Brooklyn, you were a fun weekend fling, but to be honest, I’m not looking for anything serious. It’s not you…it’s me. So, maybe we can just be friends? I’ll give you a call some time.


Brooklyn Dumbos

While making plans for the weekend we decided to spend one day at the Dumbo Art Festival that we keep seeing advertised, and one day in Brooklyn hanging out with a friend who lives in Brooklyn Heights. Little did we know that “Dumbo” is the name of a neighborhood in Brooklyn, and before we knew it we found ourselves spending the whole weekend in in the Borough we typically avoid.

We don’t have any beef with Brooklyn. In fact, it’s actually a creative and trendy neighborhood with lots of good shopping, eating, and hipster sight-seeing to do, but it’s SOOO far away, and we are SOOO spoiled to our own Manhattan neighborhood. Spending two days in Brooklyn is equivalent to spending two consecutive days at Universal Studios when you work at Disney…it just doesn’t happen.

We have only ventured into Brooklyn a handful of times so all the different neighborhoods are still puzzling and different for us. People mention names like Bushwick and Park Slope and my mind goes blank before into thoughts of Sephora and shoe shopping. Thank God for Google Maps which give us the gift of getting around easily at the touch of a button. We managed to get to Dumbo in less than half an hour, and immediately discovered Dumbo is basically in Brooklyn Heights.

The Dumbo Arts Festival presents over 500 local artists, has tons of free galleries, lots of fun projects for kids, AND is set right on the water between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Our first stop was Dabney Lee, the cutest little stationary and trinket store, and stocked up on their free wine and snacks offer!

what a sweet card

Once we felt slightly tipsy and less hungry we left to explore the art world. We explored lots of local artists’ little galleries (where more free booze was given out), and then watched a performance piece that involved a bonfire in the middle of the street –I think, I did have a couple glasses of wine at this point.


a “foot bag” competition
Art in an old train car

The best part came when we discovered the park by the water. Brooklyn Bridge Park is gorgeous with some beautiful views! Plus, the park was spotted with more art and entertainment. There were Cirque type girls gracefully moving up and down column type thingy’s; there were pirate-ship bicycles, playgrounds, more art displays, and a rock-covered shore to sit and take in the views.

Lucky kids, getting to play in front of such scenic backdrop

We decided to stay in Brooklyn for dinner, which was three orders of fries at Five Guys. Saturday in Brooklyn was great, so great that we agreed to go back on Sunday. Tune in tomorrow for another dose of a day in Brooklyn!


Fun Day Numero Dos

Today is dubbed Brooklyn Day! Our trio (Husband, Zoey, and myself) spent the whole day discovering what Brooklyn has to offer. Brooklyn is SOOOO far away from our apartments. It takes 45 minutes by train to get to this borough, which is just not worth a frequent visit.

Our first stop was the Dekalb Market. This market is created by Urban Space and is made from old shipping containers (old train cars). They made a small community from these containers and created several little shops, a performance space, and little eateries. It’s a little pricey, but it’s worth a trip to walk around this crazy recycled space full of really nice hand-made products.

After shopping, we took a couple more trains deeper into Brooklyn to get to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. This place is enormous and beautiful; it reminds me a lot of Cheekwood in Nashville. They have a really large field full of cherry trees that I am dying to come back in visit whenever they are in bloom. We spent hours walking around the floral exhibits and stealing fruit and veggies off the many low-hanging branches.

This tree is so beautiful, but hundreds of people have carved their initials into it.

They actually had a sign up that basically said they do NOT use the produce they grow, which to us was an open invitation to help ourselves. We weren’t the only ones either. While trying to reach some very high kiwi growing on the terrace over our heads we somehow convinced two male strangers to climb the lattice and the vines and pick several kiwi for us to share.

After all the walking and illegal snacking, Zoey got bored and left us to fend for ourselves. Husband and I hopped yet another train to get to the most trendy and hipster neighborhood in Brooklyn…Williamsburg.

There is a make-your-own jewelry store here called Brooklyn Charm that I just adore. I had a special jewelry project in mind that would require their help.

While visiting my Grandma last week in Texas I found an old coin that belonged to my PawPaw. It’s not of any value, it’s just a Grand Master’s coin from the Mason’s Lodge he was a member of back in the day. I do not have anything of my PawPaw’s so I politely asking my Grandma if I could have it to make a necklace with, and she was happy to give it to me. I spent a little while coming up with a design for the necklace (with Husband’s help), and when I finished, the awesome girls at Brooklyn Charm put the whole thing together for me in a matter of minutes. The finished product only cost me $15!

Before saying good-bye to Brooklyn, we decided to have dinner at Fornino’s Pizza.

my mouth is watering just looking at this…

We arrived in our own hood right as the sun was setting. We weren’t ready to call it a night so we grabbed Belle and headed to the roof to watch the sun set. We laid on the warm rooftop gazing at the city lights and skyline for a while, and I realized how similar this was to laying in the grass gazing at the stars in the country. Both are beautiful, relaxing, and make you feel so small and in awe of the world around you.

Husband and I often have conversations about where life has taken us. We both had dreams of living in a big city and traveling, but when we met over seven years ago did we imagine living in Manhattan? Together? Snuggling on our rooftop? Of course not. We know we are lucky ducks, and love these special moments together.

I have not written about anxiety lately, but I should mention I’ve been on the verge of panic lately. (I’ll have to write more on this later.) Lying on the roof with my favorite person and favorite dog, taking in the city that never sleeps was comforting. There is something about this city, knowing that there are so many people around; working, playing, eating, shopping, living, that is calming. It’s soothing to have busyness all around me. I guess if I’m not busy, it’s nice to know that some people are. It’s kind of like they are keeping things productive and making up for my down time.

Thanks God for these summer nights, and thank Brooklyn for it’s trendy attractions. We had a great day.