Speechless

I am thousands of miles away from the devastation and chaos in Japan. It is a beautiful, sunny morning north of the “D”. My children are at school and I have yet to start on my daily to-do list. I keep thinking about Japan. The enormity of the situation there eludes me.

What can I say? There are not any words coming to my head. It’s impossible to know specifically what is being experienced. Can anyone imagine losing it all within a matter of minutes? I can’t. Urban landscapes and seascapes that were once thriving with life and activity are leveled and silenced.

A FB friend shared these NYT photos. I believe these are the best at telling the magnitude of loss in Japan. They capture the fragility of life; and how quickly it can be altered to a unrecognizable scape.

While on a date with my husband Saturday, we discussed earthquake activity in the Midwest portion of the US; and speculated on how unprepared this slice of the world is for a crisis. Just look at what happened in the Gulf leading up to and following Katrina and the BP oil disaster.

What to do? It’s human nature to put off preparing for future crisis situations; especially when my life has not been disrupted. There are so many more immediate “to-do” items competing for my attention. But, I thought Jamie Lee Curtis offered some worthwhile advice in a blog she posted Saturday on the Huffington Post. None of us know when disaster will strike. Wouldn’t it be better to be ready?

I Love Michigan: Ann Arbor

I can’t help it. This post and those that follow are going to read like a script for those Pure Michigan ads. However, I don’t need a script. All I have to say is off-the-cuff, from the heart and Pure Michigan.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of a date day with my husband. We stole away to Ann Arbor for the afternoon and then to his brother’s house later that evening.

Why Ann Arbor? It wasn’t for MTV’s casting call for the Real World at Scorekeepers. But, isn’t it great that filmmakers think Ann Arbor is a great city? It has urban appeal, a great mix of people, and the University of Michigan campus.

Anyway, why Ann Arbor? The bargain book shelves and tables at Borders’ flagship store on Liberty. Great people watching from Amer’s big plate-glass window. Nickel’s Arcade and the University of Michigan are beautiful even under a gray, cold March sky. March Madness at Buffalo Wild Wings on State Street.

Plus, Ann Arbor has a permanent signature on our relationship. My husband and I spent nearly one year of our dating lives there. Our first date was on the patio at Good Time Charley’s. Then there were Saturday afternoons goofing off at Pinball Pete’s, Middle Earth and The Little Brown Jug; a Valentine dinner at Palio’s; autumn strolls through the Arboretum; and haunted hayrides at Wiard’s.

One more very special connection to Ann Arbor is family. I am proud and boastful to mention a number of relatives live there or nearby. Rest assured, my husband, children and I will be spending many more fabulous Saturdays re-visiting and creating memories in this fabulous urban landscape.

Live Your Dash

Within the previous 24 months, I have experienced the death of many family members and friends. I have lost two grandparents, two uncles, an aunt, a long-time family friend and the toddler son of a cousin. The death of so many woke me up. I realized my time on this planet is limited; and the time my family members and friends have is limited, too. During the holidays, one of my aunts included the following with her annual letter …

HOW DO YOU LIVE YOUR DASH?

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend. He referred to the dates on his tombstone from the beginning to the end. He noted that first came his date of birth and spoke the following date with tears. But he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For the dash represents all the time he spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved him know what that little line is worth, For it matters not how much we own — the cars, the house, the cash — What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard — are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that can still be arranged. If we could just slow down long enough to consider what’s true and real. And always try to understand the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more. And love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before. If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile. Remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy’s been read with your life’s actions to rehash. Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?

— Anonymous

This reflection resonates with me because I believe its message is a common theme playing in current happenings around our globe.

Reality Check

Up until September, I was an avid viewer of The Biggest Loser. My interest sparked when contestants from Southeastern Michigan celebrated tremendous successes on the show. The Biggest Loser does extend a powerful, positive message: anyone can make lasting positive lifestyle changes given the right environment, support and resources. Also, the celebrity personal trainers, Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, appear to have a proven track records. Their exercise DVDs have been among my best fitness aids because they have helped me realize visible, lasting results.

With that being said, I also think the show encourages at-home viewers to develop unrealistic fitness and weight management expectations. For example, most of us do not have the luxury of leaving professional, parental, marital, social, and household responsibilities to focus exclusively on weight and fitness management for extended periods of time. Next, devoting all wakeful hours to exercise is not a consistent reality and it is unhealthy. Finally, it is unnerving to watch the weigh-ins at the end of each episode. With self-esteem hanging out for all to see, each contestant steps onto the scale for the moment of triumph or defeat. Smiles deflate, shoulders slump and words of disappointment come forth when losses don’t match expectations. I can relate to this. There have been objectives — some too grandiose — I have set for myself. Along the way, I encountered challenges and experienced frustration that zapped my confidence. But, I think contestants should be encouraged to stand proud for all pounds lost. A loss is a loss. Plus, it’s unrealistic for at-home viewers to expect losses comparable to what they see on The Biggest Loser.

Living in the Moment

A few weeks ago, I watched Piers Morgan interview Oprah on CNN. One of the most engaging, memorable sound bites was when Oprah talked about living in the moment. She talked about being able to thoroughly enjoy the dialogue with Morgan because she was focused specifically on life in that particular moment; not about the past and not about the future. Oprah identified living in the moment as one of her greatest life achievements.

I have been thinking about this portion of the interview for some time. Living in the moment is an ability to aspire to. But, is this a reality anyone can really achieve? Can anyone truly filter out — completely — all past reflections and forward thinking while doing something else at any given moment, consistently?

As I write this post, I am living in the moment; focused on the topic at hand. I am also listening to Foo Fighters and thinking about making my daughter’s lunch for school in 30 minutes.

But, I believe Oprah’s challenge was to savor each living moment we have; because our past is just that; and the future is unknown. Anything could happen. The irony of my reflections is that a girlfriend and I discussed this very issue just a few nights after the Morgan-Oprah interview. It was Janurary 15 and we had attended a Pistons’ game with our husbands. We were nicely surprised to witness a win against the Sacramento Kings. As we drove home from Auburn Hills, the roads were slushy and snow flurried across the windshield. It was a cold, dark night. All of us expressed how anxious we were for spring. My girlfriend agreed, but noted we were wishing our lives away. By thinking forward to March and April were not allowing ourselves to truly enjoy what we had that evening.

She was so right. The fun, cozy night began with a delicious Mexican meal at Miguel’s Catina in Rochester, Mich. Our good times continued with coffee at Caribou and then the Pistons’ game with fantastic seats in Section 102, Row E complements of a charitable organization I made a donation to in November. The four of us had it all; and we still do even in arctic-like Shelby Township, Mich.

Seven, Silent Monsters

I have seven, silent, but ever-present monsters prowling around in my head. Winter blahs, cabin fever, parental stresses, unrealistic expectations, inner negative talk, ever-growing to-do list, and time thief, are “The Seven”. For a lack of a better term for these negatives, I call them monsters. They remain silent because until now, I have not given any outward indication to their existence.

“The Seven”, however, have drawn swords, and are challenging me to a fierce battle this winter. I am motivated to fight and banish these silent monsters. Ignoring them is not my style. Giving into their negative energy is not an option. I refuse to encourage them toward a more public presence.

By nature, I am an optimistic, extrovert, who enjoys social occasions and people. It is foreign to identify a struggle with “The Seven.” Acknowledgement — I believe — is the first step to winning these solitary, inter-connected wars. Next, is to fight.

Upper cut to the winter blahs. No more thumbing a nose at snow, arctic cold, and limited daylight. I will take Zumba classes, ice skate, and run indoors until frogs croak Spring’s arrival.

Box it out to cool cabin fever. Stirring a little crazy is just what I need to break out for good times with family and friends. Ann Arbor is on my list for the next two weekends.

Front kick parental stresses. My faith prevails. I am ready for whatever is on deck. My ability to love, nurture, teach, inspire, learn and discipline strengthens every day.

Knock out unrealistic expectations. Spotless and always-organized are not realistic daily goals for my house, which is home to four active people and a lovable, playful dog. There will be days — in the near and distant future — when performance please me, but not you. So be it.

Round kick inner negative talk. Body types, genetics and past experiences brought on by school mishaps, social challenges and stupid choices cannot be undone. I learn valuable lessons from living life and from others. I will cheer loudly for positive thoughts.

This fight is nearly won. I am sweating. Are you? I saved the most notorious confrontations for last. One is with ever-growing to-do list and the last is with time thief.

Swipe a blade to that ever-growing to-do list. My concentration is on action items already occupying PDA space. Child care, academic success, professional development, volunteerism, household chores, pet care, family relations, friendship development, social calendar, marital bliss and new acquaintances are just a cliff-note version of what my responsibilities include. When does it stop? Does it ever?

Fast feet catch time thief. Set the clock for me. I am taking time to read books, spend time with family and friends, volunteer, strengthen spirituality, pursue hobbies, develop professional ambitions, pamper my body, watch quality entertainment, and listen to good music.

What a match-up. The adrenaline is pumping through my veins. I feel better already. Do you see any monsters? I don’t right now. But, seeing some green along with a dose of Spring-like temps wouldn’t hurt, either.

5 in 30

My goal is to make five miles in 30 minutes on the elliptical. Tonight, I clocked 4.90 miles. Missing with such a small margin infuriates me to no end. I even fueled up with two cups of coffee before stepping on.

March 7, 9:30 pm – I attempted this again and missed by the same puny margin. This time I am pointing an angry bird at a new show I love watching while running my elliptical. I tuned into to catch the last few minutes of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel. He was in Cambodia tasting some happy pizza. I was laughing so hard, the focus on my goal wavered. This also made me think of some happy chocolate truffles I tried at a party once.

March 14, 10:00 pm – Did it! I made my goal with seconds to spare! No extra caffeine necessary. Now, I need another goal. I ran while watching One Fine Day starring George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer. Remember that one? It’s an oldie. I had been dating my husband for a few months; and we smuggled a six-pack into the premiere at that Ann Arbor Showcase.