Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Some pictures I snapped and Instagramed on my afternoon walk...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Death Day Party

I've heard that funerals are for the living and not the dead, and I tend to agree with it. Think about it, funerals help finalize the reality that our beloved is truly deceased, and allows for the grieving process to start (if it hasn't already). Additionally, funerals can serve as a reunion of friends and loved ones, and allow for good times to be remembered. But how does this help the deceased? I don't think it really does! But, that's a different blog post and my original intention is to blog about a related, but somewhat different topic which is, "If you could have anything at your funeral, what would it be?".

I can't take credit for that question, as I recently heard it as a subject of debate on a radio station. When posed, the audience responses included strippers to dance on top of their caskets, a full open bar and other un-memorable ideas. This got me thinking, what would I want at my funeral? Oddly enough, this question has stuck with me for a few weeks now, and I feel compelled to blog about it here, after all, I've put a lot of thought into it! I must admit though, even with two weeks of thinking, I still don't have all the answers to that question. 

First, I want to be cremated (this post really isn't meant to be morbid, stick with me). If life is supposed to be about living "outside the box", then I want to be dead "outside the box" too. I would want my ashes spread somewhere beautiful and peaceful, but I'm not quite sure where. As for the funeral itself, no viewing of the body - have me cremated before hand! I've always felt approaching the body (of anyone) at a funeral is the most stressful thing any one human can do. Therefore, let's avoid that at my death-day celebration. I mean, come on, if we celebrate birthdays, why not celebrate the end of life as a death day?

Ok, so if I'm cremated and there's nothing to view, how do I entertain my guests? I did mention that my visitors would be attending some type of charity event/walk and not a funeral home, right? While it may not continue forever, at least at the time of writing this blog, I'm actively involved in participating in charitable 5K walk/run events, and would want my guests to know how it feels to cross a finish line for a greater cause then themselves. Perhaps they'd create a team on my behalf, and raise donations for an animal cause (by now you know I love the cheetah, dogs, and everything at the Lincoln Park Zoo), so why not continue my love, in death, for those same things? (Hey, be thankful I didn't request you all to go zip-lining or something super adventurous!!!) Not a walker or runner? Then donate blood, volunteer your time, or do something you know I'd be proud of.

Of course no event is complete without swag, right? After enjoying your gourmet double chocolate, blueberry cheesecake, or red velvet finisher cupcake you've got to start digging through your goodie bag. Now this, I got covered! I'd give out beautiful sterling forks with a lavender ribbon tied around each one's handle. Why you ask? As a reminder to eat dessert first, challenge the norm, and enjoy the best things in life, which usually isn't work! Leave that damn desk behind!

What else would my swag bag include? A rose-bush suitable for planting outside. A vibrant pink perhaps to stand and serve as a reminder to stop and smell the roses. Yes, I DO actually do this! I stop often to admire nature's beauty, to smell the flowers, the rain, and the fresh air and don't think anyone can ever do this often enough. Life's best "stuff" is made up of the moments we don't plan for.

Lastly, my swag bag would probably include a copy of the Wizard Of Oz (where dreams really do come true) as well as a book of inspirational quotes. Be inspired by the brightness of Oz, and the simplicity of it's sentiments, and as for the quotes? Heaven knows some of the best ideas have already been written (and that I repeat them often) so why reinvent the wheel?

So, yeah...that's my death day party. Hopefully not too morbid of a post, right? How would you want your life honored? What would you want at your funeral?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Chipotle = epic fail for dinner last night. In a rush, I caved to the convenience factor of the fast food chain (with gluten free options) and was thoroughly grossed out. I ordered steak tacos, and while they looked appealing, the steak seemed to consist solely of inedible gristle and fat. (A reminder as to why I've only frequented the restaurant chain once since it's local opening.) The upside? Since I hardly ate the taco filling, I'm guessing I saved quite a few calories! *Sigh*

Monday, October 15, 2012


A friend posted this link on her Facebook page and I loved it so much I had to share. Happiness, to me, is not about your surroundings, or what you have (or don't have for that matter), it's seriously about making a mental choice and making the most of what you do have! I know life isn't always a bowl of cherries and we all get dealt a crappy hand from time to time, but how you deal with it depends on you, and you alone. Choose happy!!!

This post is not to spite or insult the medically/clinically depressed. Rather, my focus is the people out there (not in need of medical help) that just don't appreciate the important things in life and more so, don't know how to prioritize what it is in life that would make them happy. Trust me, more "stuff" is not the answer to happiness.

Think about it, what is it in life that truly makes you sustainably happy? Sure, you might get a happy feeling buying that new car, new outfit or new technological gadget, but how long does that "happy" last? What I'm talking about it sustainable happiness! I know for me, sustainable happiness comes from my friends and family and the times I share with them. Not only do the original encounters provide hours of happiness, but reliving them in memory, and recounting them at future gatherings bring back the original (or even better!) version of happiness that I felt. 

I also do my best to appreciate what it is that I have, as I know others are far less fortunate then I am. Of course I'm human and I want "stuff", but I also know my over all happiness doesn't come from it. I "make do" with the simple versions of things like a value packaged car, a basic smart phone (admitted former flip-phone user and lover) and even basic cable. The fact is, all of those things meet my basic needs. The car starts and stops and allows me to drive to fun new places and explore new adventures. My phone calls, texts, and allows me more time on Facebook then one human needs all while keeping me in touch with those I value. My lack of cable options (at times) force me to find other ways to entertain myself, whether it's reading, exercising or reconnecting with my friends. My point is, more isn't always better. Having (or not having) what I have today affords me plenty of opportunities to enjoy life and be happy if I just take the time to focus on the "haves" versus "have nots".  

Additionally, I have learned to find purpose in volunteering, and helping others. Purpose doesn't always come from having the highest job on the pay scale. I don't have my dream job (yet), but I won't hate what it is I do in the mean time, either. Instead, I do what I can to feel accomplished in the role at hand, and more so, focus on ways to add purpose to my life outside of work. I enjoy numerous hobbies and volunteering. And believe you, me, there is no greater reminder to be happy with what you have then volunteering and being charitable. Be thankful, grateful and happy for what you still have and can use, whether it's financial or physical.

And finally, if I've learned anything from the dogs I've worked with, it is to live in the moment. Act, re-act if need be, and move on. You don't see dogs worrying about the past or future, and they sure do forgive and forget far easier and faster then their human counterparts. All too often I find myself thinking of the past and dwelling on what I could have done differently or thinking fifteen steps too far into a future that never materializes the way I thought it would. If I could harness that energy and focus on the moments at hand, I'd be even happier then I am today!

In closing, no, I am not happy every second of every day. I have my bad days (just ask my friends). I have to work at being happy, and believe indeed that happy is a choice so why choose to be miserable? I refuse to stay focused on the negative things that happen because life is too stinkin' short to only attend the pity party (you know you've thrown one in your own honor at some time!). Come on, get out there and be happy - you've got far better invitations in life to enjoy!!!    

Monday, October 8, 2012

High Knees

I'm in the gym 5 days a week, and torture myself love pursuing the Cross-Fit class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It's always a different, and quite the challenging, workout but the warm up is usually the same. Warming up includes jogging in place, jumping jacks and high knees amongst other moves. While I don't mind high knees, the move has always left me wondering (quite like the lessons from my Alegebra class), when would I ever use this in real life? 

Today I found out! High knees aren't just for the gym these days, high knees are quite the evasive move needed to avoid the random garter snake attack! During my afternoon walk a garter snake came tumbling out of the lawn onto the sidewalk right in front if me. I mean literally, it was as if the snake was tossed at my feet! It didn't slither, it just "jumped" out at me! Without missing a beat (and suprisingly without a scream!) I "high-kneed" it like crazy to avoid the snake and ran! 

Crisis averted, all I could think was that this crazy snake made today's high-knees the fastest and highest they've ever been. Woo! Talk about adrenaline! My Cross-Fit instructor would have been proud! Despite the entertainment I'm sure I provided to anyone driving by, I'm happy I finally put to use my "high knees" practice. As for Alegebra, I'm still waiting on that one. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I woke up this morning to cheers and whistles of encouragement. Music blared and moved me out of my bed in an exuberant fashion. I was energized and amped to start my day. Of course, I realized quickly that the cowbells and kazoos were really singing their songs of encouragement for those brave folks running the Chicago Marathon just outside my window today. But for an instant, I thought, wouldn't it be nice to have cheerleaders like this to wake up to every day?

Strangers gather along the streets to cheer on the 45,000 competitive souls who chose to conquer the streets of Chicago all with a common goal, to FINISH. So why don't we have our own cheering squads in life? Of course we have friends and family that (hopefully) help encourage us to live and pursue our dreams, but what happens when those cheers go silent? Where is our group of professional cheerers? After all, ours and the marathoners goals are quite similar, aren't they? We all want to finish life, earn some medals of validation along the way, and have others to share our accomplishments with don't we?

Life is a long hard road, far longer then that of the 26.2 miles of a marathon and encouragement is needed often, and not just when things get tough. So I am sharing today's marathon lesson as a reminder for myself, and you readers as well, to cheer on, compliment and encourage those around us. Help lift others up on a daily basis, not just once in a while, and I guarantee you that the energy return rate is two fold. I am reminded of how often I've thought nice things about others, but failed to put those thoughts to words and kept them to myself instead of sharing them. What a difference I could have made in a person's day, or life over all, if I had just shared my positive and genuine thoughts such as, "Hey, you look nice!", "What a great job you did!", or even an, "I appreciate you!".

I know first hand what a difference cheers can make, whether it's during a race (my longest 7K distance race was finished with nothing left in my internal gas tank except determination and crowds of strangers screaming, "You can do this!", "GO!") or during a normal day. For most, like the marathon, life isn't a competition but rather it's about finishing and feeling a sense of accomplishment. So help someone finish their day, finish their race and finish their life, with a smile on their face. Take the time to share your positive thoughts with those around you. Be a professional cheerleader, not only for them, but for yourself too! What a difference a compliment can make to someone, so I encourage you to share away! Don't save the cheers for drinks and special occasions, make cheering an every day event! You can do this! Go!!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Was Going To...

I was going to share all the great things I learned at an educational seminar last night, hosted by the Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago. I was going to tell you all the cool things that the speaker, Patricia McConnell Ph.D., shared to allow the audience insight to the mammalian mind and how or what animals might be thinking. I was going to ask you to define the word, "thinking" as a thought provoking topic, but... 

...something is preventing me from typing.

Monday, October 1, 2012

September Close Out

I had a pretty awesome weekend. I spent most of it outdoors enjoying the crisp Fall days, and beautiful sun. My weekend started off with a gluten-free dinner with my girlfriend and ended up filled with walking, poop and pizza (I'll explain the poop, I promise).

Saturday began with a 5 mile walk through a beautiful nature preserve in efforts to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The walk was leisurely, and filled with lots of stops for pictures. I have been away from art (drawing) far too long, but felt truly artistic (in some fashion at least) to be able to snap some of these pictures below. God and nature, after all, are the best artists.

Later that same night, I participated in the Rosehill Crypt 5K in Ravenswood. While the event itself was amazing (running through a candlelit cemetery built in 1864, at night with a full moon!) I have to say I was disappointed that I couldn't run it, but rather had to walk it. So many times I wanted to burst into a jog, but, for hopefully the greater good of my back (degenerative disc disease) and bruised tailbone (Tough Mudder fall), I walked. I can only liken this feeling to that of bringing a racehorse onto a track, and then not letting him/her run...ugh. It's ironic, I started my 5K's ten months ago and HAD to walk them because I wasn't in shape, and now, returning to that state (hurt, not out of shape) is so disappointing. I have to keep in mind however, and be grateful, that I'm still able to move and walk, and that's more then some people.

After a twelve mile Saturday (almost a half marathon!), I got to spend Sunday with my Zoo Crew. One of the easiest topics to share with guests is Endocrinology, also know as poop! As a volunteer with the zoo's education department, I talk to/teach guests about a variety of topics ranging from Poop, to Prey Adaptations, to Zoo Diets and Enrichment, but my favorite is comparative Human/Animal Anatomy. Despite ALL the fun topics I cover, it's always the "poop cart" that turns the most heads. Peoples' reactions range from total disgust and avoidance, to "OH, can I touch it?!" (It's fake rubber models, by the way). Kids and their parents can play a matching game where they match the poop to picture of the animal they think it came out of. This is paired my spiel about how valuable poop is to the zoo in efforts to maintain the health of their animals. Poop is used to monitor general health, pregnancy and stress hormones! Despite the gross sounding topic, this gig is pretty amazing and I love all the new people I've met and get to interact with!

After the zoo, a late lunch was enjoyed outdoors. I splurged on a gluten-free pizza, and enjoyed every last bite of it, along with the sunshine and cool breeze. I have to admit, up until now I didn't know how much the food I had been eating, despite being healthy for me, affected my body in a negative way. I have (knock on wood) so much more consistent energy throughout the ENTIRE day, and feel like a fog has lifted now that I am eating gluten-free. Trust me, gluten-free is definitely not the easiest diet to follow, nor do I consider it a fad (it's too damn expensive!). Rather, it truly has eliminated (another knock on wood here, please) my stomach issues, and makes me feel like a different person - in a good way! I am loving feeling like a human again, without extreme intestinal cramps (I'll spare you further details), constant muscle fatigue, and over all exhaustion.

My night ended with me relaxing in front of the TV and watching my favorite (next to "Drop Dead Diva") TV show's second season premiere - "Once Upon A Time". The writers are so inventive in their ability to overlap well known fairytale characters and their woes into a modern day world. If you haven't seen it, I suggest watching it!

In closing, I sure hope your weekend and close of September was as good, or better than mine! Happy October readers!!!