Juicy Olive

The quest for “the good life” should never be complete but it should definitely begin now.

Bad Day / Good Day July 31, 2009

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Last Christmas season, a commercial kept running on television with that ridiculous Daniel Powter song as the soundtrack. The lyrics go a little something like this:

Because you had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don’t know
You tell me don’t lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don’t lie
You’re coming back down and you really don’t mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

I mean, seriously, what on Earth is he trying to say? He had a bad day? Or did I? Or did you? And are you okay? Or are you still having a bad day? Whaaaat?

My sister and brother and I got the giggles every single time that commercial came on during Christmas break and couldn’t help wondering what made this THE song for the holiday season.

Recently, my sister Caroline sent me a text that read, “the had a bad day song just came on the radio…I may have just barely vomited.” Of course, I laughed.

I honestly can’t imagine ever giving the song much credit, but I’ll tell you something: when you have a bad day (cue the melody in the background), it does impact your life. And it doesn’t have to be that a cab drives through a puddle and splashes your white dress or your inkpen leaks all over your freshly pressed shirt. Recently, I’ve had some bad days that have honestly amounted to me not feeling very useful at work and feeling a little lost personally. A friend of mine recently died, I’ve had a moderately slow workload at the office, I’ve been toying with vacation destinations but can’t decide where to go, etc.

In fact, every day this week, I’ve been a little “off” at the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed. But TODAY, things felt back on track. And you know what? It boiled down to me feeling more fulfilled at work and at home. I gave myself a million projects to do, and I actually completed them all. I signed up for another half marathon and set the training schedule for it. I brought my lunch to work for the fourth day in a row.

Honestly? I haven’t had a bad day recently, but I HAVE felt a little uninspired. But days like today, when I’m cranking out the goodness at work, focusing on a ship-shape household and identifying healthy opportunities for myself…these kinds of days make me able to weather the sluggish ones.

I’ll probably never get to a full understanding of “Bad Day” and its lyrics, but I’m hopeful that I can rebuild good days like today again soon. It feels good. I feel good!

If you’re in Bad-Day-Mode any time soon, I have two suggestions:

1) avoid that awful song (unless you’re truly able to get a good laugh out of it)

2) get focused and get busy – it’s a great recipe for good

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Joyeux Quatorze Juillet! July 15, 2009

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La Lavande - a sight seen (and smelled) everywhere in Provence

La Lavande - a sight seen (and smelled) everywhere in Provence

Today is Bastille Day – the celebration of the storming of the Bastille prison in France. Much like our Independence Day in the United States, it is a national party that allows the French to celebrate their history in great form. For someone like me, however, it brings such different meaning.

I love French

I love French

Come with me on a journey that we’ll call Mon Affaire Avec La France. When I was very young, my aunt Daina went away. I don’t think I even knew her at that time. I simply knew of her as this lovely lady we spoke fondly of and who lived in PARIS! She flew home to the States and directly to my home town to visit my little sister who had very recently entered this world, and I thought she was fantastique. Surely, much of what I felt was an adoration of a woman who was not my  mother (therefore, she was ultra cool), but there was something so exotic about where she had come from. And what I remembered most was that she had this ability to replace a word like “dog” with “chien” or “mother” with “mere.” This new vocabulary, this foreign place and her glorious Marilyn Monroe style hair made me instantly adore her, but it also made me begin a secret romance with France.

Over the years, I aimed to perfect ma mode francaise. A starting point was that I ate whatever my grandmother Walker put in front of me. She was a true gourmande, and her pantry was like going on a treasure hunt through Place Vendome. We would race to the couch where she was sitting (my siblings and I) and ask, “What’s this, Grandma?” “Those are white asparagus – marinated in truffles and salt,” she’d say. “Try them.” And we would. And they were scrumptious. My parents caught le bug francais – we’d eat pate and whenever we came into the city adored our opportunity to see the Impressionist exhibits at the Art Institute. I’ll never forget the way Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” beckoned me to picnic on the shores of the Seine, while my sister told all of us the exact history of pointalism. (Sidebar: To this day, I’m convinced 60% of why she enjoyed that discussion was to say the word “pointalism” – try saying out loud…it’s fun.)

As I entered high school, I never hesitated when I selected the language of my choice – French it would be. Even though Madame Behensky was less than erudite, I learned things like “C’est une feuille de papier.,” (this is a sheet of paper!) and I was hooked. Teacher after teacher, class after class – I knew French was in my blood.

At college, I had a rude awakening. Talking about sheets of paper and how big the orange is wasn’t that tough. Discussing existential philosophic novels in a francophone african dialict was more than challenging. But I persevered. I fought my way through the essays, the quizzes and the exams – and before you knew it, I had arrived in Aix-en-Provence.

There, I spent a luxurious six months and adored every minute of it. The experience of living abroad is worth a separate post (or ten), but let me tell you this: when I think of my time in France, every single sense is aroused. I think of diesel exhaust mixed with fragrant cigarette smoke mixed with tumeric and sea air. I think of mythic winds that knock you on your ass when you turn the corner in the dark of a damp, Mediterranean evening. I think of haggling with vendors for the price of a tablecloth and then toasting friends for our victorious (and still overpriced) purchase over a Syrop Fraise. I think of couscous royale, bouillibase, moules frites, ice cream cones in the shape of a rose bud, overpriced whiskey and budweiser, underpriced wine.

Bouillabaise a la francaise - fresh from the sea and heavenly

Bouillabaise a la francaise - fresh from the sea and heavenly

Every Bastille Day, I of course am thankful for the French having the ability to cheer on their country. But I’m so very grateful for the experience that country has given me since I was about 3 years old.

There are people out there who are down on France. I get it. They go to Paris and Nice and feel they’ve experienced the country. That’s the equivalent of visiting Times Square and Hollywood Boulevard. If you are ever interested in learning more about the country and getting off the beaten path, please let me know. I’d happily give you tips about where you can visit to experience la vie francaise. It’ll be worth it. I guarantee you this time next year you’ll be craving a crepe, longing for watercolors, dreaming of the Alps and considering a long-term investment in an olive grove.

Vive la France!

Vive la France!

 

Getting Back on Track July 13, 2009

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As readers of my previous post know, my friends and I suffered a great loss recently with Laurel’s passing. It’s been a tough week and a half, and I spent some time wrapping my head and heart around this news. As a result, I put my writing on Juicy Olive on hold, as well as a lot of other things.

But today, I’m feeling like myself again. I got a great night’s sleep last night, perhaps supported by watching one of the most ridiculously boring movies ever moments before my head hit the pillow. (for anyone interested in an entertaining summer rental, I highly suggest you do NOT pick up “Knowing.” I won’t ruin it for you, but just trust me that this can go in the ever-growing pile of Nicolas Cage’s flops.) After a good night’s sleep,  I packed my lunch ths morning, and I actually remembered to bring it to work today! Tonight, I’ve got a five-mile run scheduled followed by a healthy dinner prepared by moi.

I’m hopeful that this energy and focus are signs that I’m leaving the fog and getting back into the real world again. It’s amazing how much stress can impact all that we do and how we see the world; giving myself time to feel that stress, deal with it and begin to pick up some of the pieces has been very helpful to me.

In determining what would help me get back on track, I thought a lot yesterday about what else brings me comfort. And I realized that writing in the Juicy Olive – to all of you anonymous readers – is quite therapeutic. So, thank you, all of you, for being the receptacle to read and (hopefully) understand these thoughts and ideas and theories and philosophies. The catharsis of opening myself to the world via Juicy Olive has been quite rewarding.

Here’s to keeping the quest for the good life alive and well.

Merci.

 

Goodbye Laurel July 4, 2009

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Laurel Miller (1976 - 2009)

Laurel Miller (1976 - 2009)

Laurel Miller died yesterday. She was my friend. My cohort. My Colorado roommate. A partner in crime. A sports fan. A smiler. A lover. A laugher.

Laurel lived well. She loved much. She was silly. And sensitive. And real.

Laurel was a sincere and honest and true woman. She lived out loud.

When I think about The Juicy Olive, it’s about being true to yourself. It’s about knowing who you are. It’s about not taking shit from anyone. It’s about how to be a lady (or gentleman) without sacrificing your inner punk-rocker. It’s about never letting the quest for the good life be intercepted by lame-o-same-o. A Juicy Olive knows how to kick haters in the tail. A Juicy Olive knows to tell mean girls where to cram it. A Juicy Olive knows how to make the opposite sex croon. A Juicy Olive knows how to make your friends KNOW friendship.

Laurel Miller was a Juicy Olive.

When Laurel died, her organs were donated to others who were able to thrive from her loss. PLEASE – if you are open to organ donation, PLEASE let everyone know you are in favor of organ harvesting. In the past 24 hours, Laurel Miller saved lives. That is an incredible way to leave a legacy.

 

The Race to Myself July 2, 2009

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“Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re probably right.”
-Henry Ford

When I was a little girl, my parents enrolled me (and I obliged) in activities such as golf lessons, art appreciation classes and swim tournaments. I tap danced my way through childhood at Carol’s Dance Studio and later won medals on my high school’s speech and debate team. In short, while I was a healthy and in-shape person, I was no athlete. Instead, I favored more esoteric and relaxing forms of recreation. And, in time, I came to believe that I simply wasn’t cut out for athletic endeavors. I was certain that I would never be the person whose bat would make contact with a softball, whose serve would make it over the net or whose feet would firmly cross the finish line.

As the years have worn on, real stress has presented itself from time to time in the form of budgets, jobs, relationships, etc. And somehow my college days technique of drinking margaritas, eating pizza and then going for a leisurely stroll the next day no longer keeps the disquiet at bay, nor does it keep my waistline whittled.

So, a few years ago, I decided it was time to get down to business and find a better way of managing life AND the numbers on the scale. I have no idea what made me decide to do it, but one afternoon I laced up my sneakers and decided to go for a run. This, coming from a gal who detested the idea of cardiovascular exercise to the point I had convinced myself I was incapable of it! But, I figured, what the heck, it can’t hurt trying.

Slowly but surely, my shuffle turned into a jog and the jog turned into a run. I couldn’t believe it! I was actually a runner!

About a year passed, and then major change hit me. I was switching jobs, travelling a lot and a severe Chicago winter hit us. Yuck. Somehow, running lost its luster, and I retreated.  I gained a few pounds and found myself irritable and gloomy. NO GOOD.

So, last winter – with the pace of the new job finally managed – I decided that come hell or high water I wouldn’t let a dismal winter keep me from my fitness. I readjusted and became better friends with my treadmill. I played games with myself to oscillate between going for distance or speed. In short, I got back into running!

Today, I’m back up to clocking 4-5 miles a few times a week. My friends and I are participating in a 5k next week. At the end of the month, we’re running in a 10k. And starting in early August, I begin training for a half-marathon!

As the girl who once couldn’t fathom walking all 18 holes of golf, the fact that I’ve singlehandedly turned myself into a distance runner is an accomplishment. I own this victory. I am the creator of this success. The strength it takes to exercise day in and out is mine. And it feels good!

Now, just don’t ask me to pinch hit in your volleyball game – my serve still doesn’t make it over the net. But I’ll have fun trying!

“It doesn’t matter whether you come in first,
in the middle of the pack, or last.
You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.”
-Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder