Juicy Olive

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

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


The Sun Sets on a Star June 26, 2009

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Like all of you, I was stunned to hear that Michael Jackson died yesterday. It’s not that I have illusions of immortality for the King of Pop – or anyone else for that matter. It’s just that I felt so sure he’d be entertaining us for much longer. He’s been a musical presence for my entire life. This morning on The Today Show, Meridith Viera commented that she remembers dancing to Jackson Five records in her room when she was in junior high. I mean, think about it, for almost as long as he was alive, he was a source of entertainment and, sadly, a spectacle.

Like Meredith, I have my own Michael Jackson memories. I stayed up late at Becky Gordon’s house to watch the primetime premiere of Thriller. I had a silver glove. My sister and Christina Johnson had a multi-year romance with his albums. My elementary school music class performed We Are The World.

This man – no matter how kooky you think he is – has taken up permanent residence in the lexicon of our past. And yet I’m comforted that the passing of greatness does not mean his influence is gone. Two of the most important musical acts in my life are The Beatles and Bob Marley and the Wailers — both groups had essentially disbanded by the time I was born. But thanks to my father’s nonstop encouragement of their music on us, my brother, sister and I have those songs forever recorded in our heads and imprinted on our hearts. I have a feeling that Michael Jackson will have a lasting effect as well. Life comes full circle – so share your favorite Michael stories with others. Play your records for your kids. Do the moonwalk. Sustain a legacy.



Words to Love By June 25, 2009

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As many of you know, I’m a huge music fan. On my playlist at any given time is R&B, acoustic jazz, rockabilly, 60s Brit-pop and piano solos. I love a wide variety of songs, artists and groups. I just finished listening to a great Caribbean roots band – very tribal and upbeat. Before that, I was rocking out to a groovy Lollapalooza mix a friend of mine burned for me.

And while I’m always on the lookout for stellar new music, there are certain artists or songs I return to time and again. When I’m feeling nostalgic, The Beatles – White Album. When I’ve got a crush on someone “1963” by Rachel Yamagata. And when I’m feeling introspective – like today – I find myself putting “On the Radio” in my playlist. Regina Spektor, in my opinion, nails it when it comes to the cycle of putting yourself out there to be loved:

 This is how it works
You’re young until you’re not
You love until you don’t
You try until you can’t

You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took

And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood

And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again

 Whenever the elements of being single in the city start to get under my skin, this song pulls me back to center. It reminds me that there is something important and exciting about meeting someone new and giving it the appropriate energy to explore the connection. And you hope you don’t get harmed – surely, but as Regina puts it, “even if it does you’ll just do it all again.”

And that’s okay. I’m okay with doing it all again and again and again. It’s exhausting. And it can be disappointing. But it can also be illuminating about the kinds of people you need and want on your team. It teaches you more about who you are than you ever imagined possible. And it defines for you the meaning of hope.


An Abusive Relationship June 19, 2009

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When Charlotte and Chicago first got together, everyone was envious. Chicago was big, dynamic, sparkly, sophisticated and appealed to all of Charlotte’s interests. She’d send emails to her friends about how awesome Chicago was and quietly felt sorry for them that they hadn’t realized the kind of relationship she had with Chicago. With Chicago, Charlotte tried new things, reached new heights and felt certain she had at last found a long-term relationship with a quality partner.

Hello, Lover...

Hello, Lover...

And for many months, Charlotte seemed content. But then she started to notice the subtle signs that something was off. She had gained a few pounds. She was scowling more often. She was always cold. The bottom of her pants were always dirty. She would sweat inside that damn puffy coat but shiver without it. She got dark circles under her eyes and her skin took on an unsavory gray pallor from being held captive inside her condo night after night.

Bruised and Battered...that's no kind of romance

Bruised and Battered...that's no kind of romance

Those who were friends with Chicago defended Charlotte’s relationship. Somehow they saw redeeming qualities: great social life, theater dates, easy transportation, variety, etc. But people who hadn’t met or barely knew Chicago wondered what Charlotte was doing with her life. She complained – a lot – about the lack of sunshine, the gray days and the seeming dearth of green pastures.

Yet again, months would pass and Charlotte would perk up. Her friends thought, “At last, Chicago has started to treat this lady the way she deserves.” She’d become active again. She felt comfortable leaving her home. Charlotte would  laugh more often and you could visibly see that she was less stressed. And this would remain…until November.

Over the years, people have reluctantly come to terms with Charlotte’s abusive relationship with Chicago. Time and again, winter after cold, dark winter, she gets beaten up, and yet she returns to Chicago’s open arms each May. The promise of flowers, al fresco dining and sex…I mean SUMMER…lure her back.

Happy days are here again

Happy days are here again

Some day – who knows when – Charlotte will probably leave the hot-and-cold, back-and-forth life she’s created in Chicago for a more consistent and mild lifestyle. But for now, cut the girl some slack. It’s June. The running trails are open. The sidewalk cafes are packed. The music from the street fairs is rockin’. It’s clear she’s in love. Let her be – for now. But don’t go too far. She’ll be needing a shoulder to cry on come January.

So, let's get this straight, I'll be seeing this tough guy again in only six months?

So, let's get this straight, I'll be seeing this tough guy again in only six months?


X’s and O’s to PDX June 17, 2009

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A few weeks ago I visited Stephanie in Portland, Oregon. It had been years since I was there. Boy, can that city impress. The weather was remarkable, the beer was delicious and the scenery was breathtaking.

Since returning, I’ve reflected frequently on that visit, and I can honestly say I really love Portland. The people there really have the right idea about how to live. For the most part, everyone I met had great jobs and professional ambition. But unlike other cities, it truly seemed that people’s careers were important, but not center stage. Instead, Lifestyle (with a capital “L”) was the star. Everyone was focused on fitness. Around each corner of The Pearl neighborhood was a health food store or a fitness retailer. People got up early on the weekends so they could take a hike – a real one…on a mountain. Instead of racing from one party to the next, everyone seemed very content with hanging out on someone’s porch the whole afternoon or having a quiet dinner and calling it quits for the night.

Sometimes living in a big city does me in. The pace, the people, the frenzy…they can overwhelm and underfulfill. Now, even a few short weeks after my return from Portland, I’m struggling to figure out how to retain the Oregonian mindset here in hectic Chicago. How can I find a slice of the simple life? Where can I find gorgeous outdoor scenery that isn’t packed with people?

I suppose until I find those little nooks in the city, I’ll recall my fun weekend in Portland. For anyone considering a visit there sometime soon, let me know. I’ve got a wealth of recommendations for you. Whether it’s the delicious beer in the Brewery Blocks, the hidden gem Italian food at a neighborhood trattoria, a hike through Multnomah Falls, wine tasting in the Willamette Valley, watching the windsurfers in Hood River or trying on the darling hats at Bonnet – there’s something for everyone in such a beautiful city.

A gorgeous setting at Multnomah Falls

A gorgeous setting at Multnomah Falls


Words To Rely On June 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — juicyolive @ 10:13 pm

I recently read that “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” True, this sounds like something that should be featured on an inspirational poster in Dunder Mifflin’s breakroom, or perhaps inside a card whose front image features a color-tinted vintage photo of a little kid dressed up like an adult. But after you get past the trite tone, I do have to admit that this quotation has stuck with me.

 Frequently, I get stuck in the mindset of feeling like I need to get past A before I can work on B. For example, a few years ago I was dating this guy who was a total turkey. Nice guy, but didn’t have his act in gear in the slightest. I knew I needed to end it with him. But I also knew that it would be stressful, a tad dramatic and (even though I was ready to call it quits) sad to endure a break-up. Simultaneously, I was hunting for a new job. Talk about intense – the secrecy, the anticipation, the hopes, the rejection, the fantasizing, the waiting – all of it made me want to pull my hair out. I kept saying to myself, “I’ll break up with him as soon as I get past this job hunt.” For some reason in my mind I felt like I needed to tackle one obstacle at a time in order to deal with the stress-storm life had handed me.

Eventually it dawned on me that while I was slightly at the mercy of others for the job hunt, the only obstacle from finding resolution with the boyfriend was me. So I tackled the issue head-on and broke up with him in the midst of a highly stressful time for me professionally. Was it fun to have my small shit storm turn into a hurricane? (bad visual…sorry) No. But I knew I had to address it. And so I did. And I was fine. In fact, I was more than fine. I found myself more confident for having rid myself of an unproductive relationship; it gave me the faith I needed in myself to keep looking for the right job. And you know what? I got a great job. Even better, the guy ended up marrying his hairstylist who was “way more fun than [me] because she stayed out really late and liked to party.” I’m pretty sure my ability to persevere through the stressful times helped produce a win-win for me

I think at complicated times in life, we need to remember not only that we can’t just wait for the storm to pass, but most of us already know how to dance in the rain. Figure out how to two-step your way through a problem and maybe even enjoy yourself while you’re at it.

Ahh, the exact way to inspire me through my tough times. How about you?

Ahh, the exact way to inspire me through my tough times. How about you?

If all else fails, try your hardest to laugh your way through the storm. Check out the funny posters at Despair for a pick-me-up!