Monday, December 31, 2007

Cha, cha, cha, Chaaanges.......

So, I haven't made any new-year resolutions for the past several years.  I used to make them but then I always broke them, so instead of setting myself up for failure, I just stopped making them.  I think this year might be different, though.  I've been thinking about everything that has happened in my life over this past year: my mother-in-law passed away; Brianna was born [I became a (pronounced with a whisper) grandparent]; pets died; Shelby ran away and converted to Islam; I graduated from MBA school; started a new career in a new industry; started living in Atlanta during the week; made new friend/relationships; my son, his girlfriend and Brianna moved into my house; found old friends and I've traveled.  That's a lot to happen in a year.

Overall, I think there has been a lot of positive things happen this year.  Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of paying closer attention to the negative rather than the positive.  In a previous blog, I wrote about my propensity to have feelings of depression and not be happy.  While I do think biology plays a significant role in that, I also want to believe will power can trump it.  So, one of my new-year resolutions is to try and look for the positive in things, people and situations.  Now, I'm not gonna deny my natural inclination to look at the negative (because I think it's important to be able to see things fully), but once I evaluate the negative side, I am going to make a real effort to look at the positive, with equal weight and gravity.

It seems the older I get, the less tolerant I become: I'd like to change that.  I'd like to become more patient with people.  I get easily annoyed and can turn into a bitch in a second, but I'm going to make a conscious effort to be more patient with people.  I have a strong personality and get frustrated with people who do not immediately see things the same way I do… it wrong or right.  I will admit when I'm wrong and I think I am pretty good at self-evaluation, but people usually have to uncomfortably suffer some pain until I realize that I was wrong and/or just being a complete bitch.

I am going to make an effort at being more compassionate—to try and appreciate different personality types.  Now, that doesn't mean that I am going to allow people to take advantage of me, nor does it mean that I will not voice my opinion, but I will try to understand the opinions of others more, and ask myself what kind of value I can get from listening to them or allowing them to proceed without a fight.  Yes, I am a fighter (not physically—just mentally and verbally).  I know, hard to imagine, uh? ;-)

I am also going to try to be nicer.  I think that if I can practice tolerance and increase my patience and compassion with others, the niceness will naturally follow.

Last, but certainly not least, I am going to focus on my health/fitness lifestyle.  I've vowed to lose 30 pounds by April 1st, and I've lost about five pounds so far.  I'm going to continue exercising in hopes of achieving that objective, but I'm going to try and change my thinking from just "I want to look good naked" to "I want to look good naked and feel good about good who I am—mentally and physically."  Even if I do lose the 30 pounds by April 1st, I still won't be at my ideal body weight.  By this time next year, I'd like to be at my ideal body weight for at least a few months and feel good about all of the hard work I've done.  I know I can do it.  I just need to apply the perseverance and tenacity I have for my other passions to mental and physical fitness as well.  I need to make health and fitness a passion.

So, this next year, I'm working on me—inside and out.  I know I can look the way I want to look and I know I can treat people the way I want to treat to them……I WANT to be nice, tolerant and compassionate (but not stupid and/nor taken advantage of) and look HOT while doing it.  I have to admit that I am afraid people will mistake kindness for weakness and I also don't want to feel like I am exchanging one for the other, so it will be a difficult transition, but I am going to work on it.  For my family, friends and loved ones—please bear with me.  Please help me.  If I am being intolerant or rude, please tell me so—but please tell me in a kind way.  And please don't use this self-profession of inadequacies against me.  I need you, your patience, your confidence and your smiles.  Your smiles will help me smile—which I need to do more of.

"Life without passion is unforgivable." ~ Sean John

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas in Athens

So, Mike was suffering from a severe case of wanderlust and booked us a trip to Athens, Greece, for the holidays. I had been to Athens before, as a teenager (hence the profile picture), but since I was a cantankerous teenager, it was completely wasted on me. This trip had a whole new promise to it.

We left Atlanta around lunchtime Christmas Eve and after a brief pit stop at JFK, arrived in Athens Christmas morning, around 9:00am. We tried to sleep on the plane, as much as that is possible, but we were still exhausted when we got to the hotel. We decided to crash for a few hours before hitting the town. Let me just say that the Delta flight attendants were the nicest I've ever seen. They're Greece based.....naturally.

Once we awoke, we headed to the Syntagma Square for the Christmas festivities. It's so neat seeing how other cultures celebrate holidays. There were hundreds of balloons in all shapes and sizes, consisting of favorite American cartoon characters. There were also lots of Santa Clauses, all with at least one pony and a photographer--to take photos of tiny tots on the pony they will probably never receive as a gift under the tree. A carousel played music as crowds surrounded it. Across the street shone two golden arches......yes, Mickey D's. We took in the festivities and travelled around via foot until it was dark and then headed back to the hotel. Below are some photos.

December 26th is Boxing Day, another well-known and celebrated holiday. Everything was closed and we had booked an all-day cruise to visit three Greek islands. We waited in the hotel lobby but nobody showed up to get us, as they were supposed to. We had the receptionsist call the number of the agency but there was no answer. We eventually hired a Taxi to take us down to the dock to see if we could still make a cruise. All of the scheduled tours had already left so we just ended up buying a ticket aboard a ferry to the island, Aegina. We spent most of the day there and took a quick carriage ride.

We had an early night, since everything was pretty much closed. The next day was a scheduled tour of the Acropolis. The Parthenon was amazing! I remembered it, but my memory mostly consisted of sitting on a step waiting for my parents. I had a completely different experience this time, especially after studying Plato, Aristotle and Socrates. To think that I stood where they did and looked at the same things they's amazing.

We walked our asses off yesterday. After leaving the Acropolis, we walked through the city and visited the famous flea market....picking up uneeded trinkets and cheap souvenirs. We had been wanting to eat at a local restaurant, to get a taste of local cuisine (well everyone else did...I was just along for the ride) but it had been closed until last night. Around 6:30pm, we made it to the Attikos Restaurant and knocked on the door (I know). A lady answered and said that they do not open until around 7:15pm or 7:30pm and to come back then. Can you imagine? That's how most of the restaurants were....they didn't open until 7ish for dinner. We walked back to the hotel and waited, and returned for a traditional Greek meal. Mike got some sort of chicken and Shane and Liz both got a lamb dish. I ate spaghetti with red sauce--no meat. Have I ever told you that I'm pretty much a vegetarian outside of the United States? I just don't trust it.

Today, we hopped on a plane to Turkey. Right now, as I sit and write this, I am in Istanbul (not Constantinople).

We flew Turkish Airways and it was great. I'm telling you, our American airline companies could really learn a lot from these foreign airlines--especially when it comes to customer service. We even got a meal--for only an hour flight. Go figure.

We checked in to our hotel and headed out to walk around the town. This is by no means a little town. There are some 15 million people in Istanbul. We asked the concierge for a dinner recommendation (again something traditional) and he sent us to Haci Baba. We are staying very close to Taksim Square, which is the European part of Istanbul, and there are numerous restaurants around. We finally found it. Again, Mike got a chicken dish, Liz and Shane both got lamb and I got a beef-filled eggplant, but removed the beef. It was all very good.

My favorite part of the night was finding something I had been without all week. Starbucks! After we ate, we headed over and sipped on some Starbucks. We came back to the hotel, checked email, MySpace and Facebook and worked out at the gym. Now, I'm writing this blog. I do have to say that I was unable to log into MySpace nor Facebook the entire time in Greece and I was having little withdraws, in addition to my jonesing for Starbucks. I was not a very happy camper. I am now somewhat civilized and easier to deal with. I think. At least I'm easier to deal with now than when I was 13 years old. So there.

More later.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Okay, so I've seen this movie twice now, and it hasn't even opened yet.  I know, hard life, right?  I love the perks of my job.

I have to say, I LOVED this movie.  The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, directed by Julian Schnabel, is a French film, subtitled.  The story is about a man, Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffers a stroke and has to learn to live with "locked-in syndrome."  Basically he's completely paralyzed (with the exception of his left eye-lid) but his mind and cognitive abilities are untouched.  He fully understands everything and can see, but cannot speak.  He is, however, able to communicate with the world one blink at a time.  In fact, with the help of an assistant, he is able to write a book about his experience.  His story is told through fantastic cinematography and a compelling soundtrack.  The song on my profile is one from the film.

The movie has to be one of the most beautifully shot that I've ever seen.  The story resonated with me for several reasons, but the most obvious is because it reminded me of my mother-in-law.  She wasn't paralyzed but there were quite a few parallels.  My favorite part of the movie was the way in which Bauby dealt with the change in his life.  Prior to the stroke, Bauby was a successful editor of Elle magazine and enjoyed the lavish lifestyle that someone in that position receives--women, money, travel, etc..  Now, isn't it logical to think that a devestating event, like a stroke, will make you rethink your life and actions, take note, and try to make amends while you still can. That's what makes this movie so great.  Schnabel did such an amazing job at not falling into that cliche.  I, however, am not as skilled.

So, at what point in your life do you stop to take stock?  Are you happy?  If not, are you willing to do something about it?  Or, do you settle?  Is it okay to settle for something less than what you want?  Bauby, a Frenchman, had many lovers, one of whom was the mother of his three children.  He loved his father, who had also been a man around town and a lover of the ladies.  While it was clear that Bauby thought about his playboy days, it was also clear that he still loved the ladies--even trapped in a diving bell.  Bauby had a true love but she never came to see him in the hospital.  Celine, the mother of his children, regularly visited him and made sure the kids knew they still had a father.  During one visit, Bauby's true love calls, and he stays true to himself.  It was somewhat painful to watch (because Celine is the one who takes the call), but it was true.  It was honest.  That moves me.

We often think about how much people matter to us.  If I asked you to name three people who matter the most to you, then asked you to name the three people that matter the most to those three, how many matches do you think there might be?  It's so easy to know how we feel about others but not know how others truly feel about us.  We create scenerios and beliefs and meaning.  Yes, we create meaning.  But, is the meaning mutually equitable?  Probably not.  It's during the most difficult times in life that illustrate whether or not those feelings/meanings are truly equitible or reciprocal.

What I loved about Bauby was his inability to give up--to give up his search for meaning.  He held on to the hope that the woman he loved would come visit him, even though she never did.  He still loved her more than Celine, who clearly loved him and visited him often, with three kids in tow.  He dreamt and fantasized about things that turned him on pre-stroke, illustrating true-to-character traits--a real-life person, not some stoic Hollywood creation.  Although, I have to say, anyone who can author a book with only the blink of an eye does possess a great hero quality.

Go see this movie.  Create meaningful relationships.  Laugh often and Love hard.  Live passionately.  Otherwise, it's a waste.