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Archive for January, 2010

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day – marking 65 years since Auschwitz, the abhorrent death camp where more than 1 million people were slaughtered, was liberated by Soviet troops. More than 6 million Jews and millions of others were tortured, enslaved, starved, beaten, and mercilessly killed during the Holocaust; and today, we honor all those persons who lost their lives as well as those persons who were fortunate enough to survive the horror. I am of Russian decent on my father’s side of the family and come from a long line of strong and courageous Jewish men and women. I have distant relatives who died during the Holocaust, and every time I look at the intricate family tree that my great aunt created for my father and see “dec. Holocaust” next to the names of some of my family members, I observe a moment of silence and pray to God for the peace, acceptance, and understanding this world needs so badly.

Since I was a little girl, I have so admired Anne Frank and her positive attitude and sunny disposition despite the circumstances she was forced to live in. At the young age of 13, Anne and her family hid in a secret annex attached to her father’s office in order to escape deportation to Nazi death camps. Two years after going into hiding, Anne’s family was discovered, and all the persons in the annex were eventually shipped to concentration camps. At age 15, Anne lost her life from Typhus at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp only a few weeks prior to its liberation by British troops. Long after her death, Anne will always be remembered, because the world has been so blessed with the chance to read her diary – a chance to experience her strength and optimism during the worst time in her life. Anne Frank is a true inspiration to all of us, and today, I want to share with you some of my favorite quotes from her diary. The beyond-her-years wisdom she had as a young teenager will never be forgotten.

“Whoever is happy will make others happy too.”

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.”

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”

“We all live with the objective of being happy, our lives are all different and yet the same.”

“I have often been downcast, but never in despair; I regard our hiding as a dangerous adventure, romantic and interesting at the same time. In my diary I treat all the privations as amusing. I have made up my mind now to lead a different life from other girls and, later on, different from ordinary housewives. My start has been so very full of interest, and that is the sole reason why I have to laugh at the humorous side of the most dangerous moments.”

“And finally I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside, and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and could be, if there weren’t any other people living in the world.”

Today, in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, please take a moment to remember all those persons who were killed and those that survived during this disgusting atrocity on one group of people by another group of people. We all can use a reminder of what happens when racism, prejudice, and hatred run rampant – and often go unnoticed.

Anne Frank: 1929 - 1945

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We are constantly moving, looking, planning, doing, wondering; in the midst of one activity, we are thinking about the next one. Our brains and bodies are eternally at work, and it can sometimes seem impossible to try and focus on only one thing at a time. For example, right now, my primary focus is on this blog post, but in the back of my mind, I’m wondering what I should eat for breakfast (okay, maybe that one is in the forefront of my mind…), what time I should go to the gym, and which clothes I need to take to the dry cleaners. I’m also simultaneously on Facebook, Gmail, and WSJ online.

You know, women are excellent multi-taskers – we can talk on the phone, watch T.V., peruse the internet, and flawlessly apply lipstick all at the same time. Just the other day, I had a rag in one hand in an effort to finally win the war against the effervescent dust bunnies occupying my space, my cell phone in the other hand so that I could catch all the gossip about my girlfriend’s blind date, and my eyes were intently focused on the T.V. watching Pauly D and “The Situation” “creep” on some girls Jersey Shore style. These days, multitasking is synonymous with action – if you want to get it all done, you have to do at least three things at once.

Because we have high hopes and expectations for ourselves, we work as hard as we can to basically just “get it all done,” and we drive ourselves crazy doing it. We wear ourselves out trying to be attentive mothers,  star employees, 5 star family cooks, holiday hostesses, selfless volunteers, fun friends, loving sisters, caring daughters, spic-and-span maids, etc. etc. We all need to pause for a moment and remember –  we aren’t machines – sometimes, we just can’t do it all. As my mom says, “we can’t always be everything to everyone,” but we sure do try don’t we?

It really is okay to say no, to put some of our dreams on the back-burner for the time being, and to ask for help when needed; and it’s definitely okay to not be the best at everything you do. Slow your roll and think about what’s really important. I’m sure your child’s bake sale will benefit from brownies in a box just as much as homemade brownies, and I guarantee your boss doesn’t care that much if you used the same word two or three times in a report. We are constantly assuring friends, relatives, and co-workers that “nobody’s perfect.” Well if nobody’s perfect, what makes you think you can be?

This post is inspired by Mika Brzezinski who was courageous enough to share a valuable life lesson she learned about slowing down and re-prioritizing when she caused her 14 week-old baby girl to break her leg. At the time of her daughter’s accident, Brzezinski had been surviving on a two to three hour power nap per day while trying to be a devoted wife, a perfect mother to her toddler and newborn, AND an on-top-of it, vivacious overnight anchor for CBS News. One day, she was hectically running around her house (described by Brzezinski as “zipping around like a wild windup toy”) with her newborn, Carlie, on her hip when she missed the top step and tumbled down the stairs with Carlie pinned under her. Carlie was fortunate enough to only end up with a broken leg, but she remained in a body-cast for eight weeks following the incident. Brzezinski felt so guilty that her mile-a-minute lifestyle caused her daughter’s accident, and she began to realize how her desire to “do it all” was wrecking havoc on all aspects of her life. She soon discovered that she was a human and she had limits. It took her daughter’s near-death experience to realize that in the end, “failure can save your life.”

I strongly suggest reading Brezezinski’s entire article so you can cultivate your own perspective, but the last paragraph really sums up the importance of her story and the reason Brezezinski feels so compared to share. I hope you will glean some wisdom from her inspirational words. And remember, it’s okay to fail. Sometimes unintended failure can result in the most unintended of successes.

“I’ve shared this story with you not because it’s my proudest moment, but because I want to remind women that perfection is a myth. As my girls move toward adulthood, the most important lesson I can pass on is: Pace yourself. It’s what all these years of running and gunning and accomplishing have taught me. It’s not about slowing down but strategizing for the long haul. Pull back when your gut says you should. In retrospect, my biggest failures always seemed to find me when I was trying to do too much too soon. But that’s OK; sometimes the only way to get it right is to get it wrong first.”

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So it’s about 4:00 A.M – scratch that – 4:30 A.M and I am wide awake. It must have been that late-night Diet Coke I gulped that is keeping me up – or maybe it’s the fact that I lost my job and my schedule is slightly off now. Regardless of the reason, I’m awake and these peepers aren’t closing anytime soon, so it’s a rather operative time to do what I enjoy most – write or read. 🙂

You know, January is usually a pretty mellow month; in other words, life is boring post holiday madness. Every year, I rely on experiencing an uneventful January – detox for the mind and body. In true Tiger Woods fashion, I was ready to hibernate through all of January and re-emerge sometime in February (albeit, my emergence wouldn’t be documented by a swarm of paparazzi but maybe a few friends would start to notice I’m back). I was to only make a January appearance for imperative events – such as work, church, book club, the Macy’s One Day Sale (that last one’s a joke of course! Okay, well kind of…). Nonetheless, January has shaped up to be a pretty exciting month. I’ve spent time with family, friends, strangers, and co-workers doing everything from trivia to shopping to eating to talking, and I’ve enjoyed nearly all 20, jam-packed days thus far. I even enjoyed the day I got laid off from work…

Why you ask? Well this past Monday wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows – I was rather upset when I walked into work at 9 A.M, Dunkin Donuts french vanilla-flavored coffee in one hand and a Whole Foods bag full of frozen lunches in the other, only to get booted out less than five minutes later. Apparently, while I was enjoying a relaxing weekend at my dad’s house in Columbia, South Carolina, the search marketing company I work for was losing a big-name client, and I was to be the first and only casualty of this loss. As my (now former) boss was informing me of the situation, my mind wandered (I mean – how much do you need to hear about why you got laid off – the point is – you’re canned, the “whys” are just an afterthought) to a scene in “Up in the Air” – the now very relevant movie I, ironically, saw less than two weeks prior to Monday.

Nonetheless, my boss’s lips were moving, but I was only hearing George Clooney (not a bad substitution!), as hatchet man Ryan Bingham, telling one of the many people he was hired to lay off that he now had the opportunity to do what he really wanted in life – in the cliche sense of the statement – to “follow his dreams.” This particular man had been working the same office job for years, because it was basically “his job,” and it was his duty to support his family. Whether he did or did not like his line of work wasn’t important. Now in middle-age, the newly laid-off man feared what everyone fears – who is going to hire me now? What will I tell my family? How will we get by? Bingham reminds the man that he’s been in this job, not because he loves what he does, but because he feels he has to stay in it. Now that a major decision was made for him, he is free to actually try and make a living doing something he loves – in his case, cooking. As unhappy and worried as the man in the film is, you can see a glimmer of hope in his face – maybe life isn’t over after all.

As one of my favorite quotes so eloquently states – “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” So I am going to take the cards I’m dealt and turn them into a win. Through no decision of my own, I have been given the chance to actually explore my opportunities and to discover a new chapter of my life. I think I’ll take Ryan Bingham’s advice (and the advice of my friends and family), and spend some time discovering my true passions and hopefully making a career out of them. And, it just so happens that I already have a few tricks and in-the-works plans hiding up my Northface-fleeced sleeve! 😉 I can’t stress enough how much I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Less than one month into the new year, my life has shifted quite a bit, but I know I have a great deal of excitement and unexpected surprises to look forward to, and I’m ready to play my cards to the fullest.

It’s like they always say – when one door closes…another one opens – I just have to go and find it.

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Yesterday, my wonderful friend Keeli (whom I miss dearly, because she has been living in Seattle for a year-and-a-half now – I think she got stuck on the Space Needle and just hasn’t been able to get down…it’s my only justification for my constant state of dissaray as I anxiously anticipate my next dose of ‘Kee Kee’ 😉 ) sent me an email entitled “Handbook 2010.” Keeli knows me oh too well as she so poignantly stated in her personalized note: “This is right up your ally! :)” As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I find immense inspiration in quotes and axioms – a few short, too-the-point words can put your whole life in perspective (and they are easy to remember – always a plus!). So when Keeli sent along these “instructions for life,” I immediately reveled in their wisdom and felt a new sense of hope for this upcoming year. We may already be halfway into the first month of 2010, but it’s never too late to start a resolution or to change your life for the better. You can find inspiration in a variety of forms – in a child’s smile, a good cup of coffee, an early morning sunrise, a refreshing walk, a motivational sermon, and the list goes on and on. I hope you’ll find some sort of inspiration and unending hope for the year ahead in the words signified below; remember – “We are made wise not be the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility of our future” (George Bernard Shaw).

***I bolded my favorite lines that have provided me with much-needed inspiration and/or are words I strongly believe in, and I also provided a little life instruction of my own for #40 – Enjoy!

Handbook 2010:

Health:
1. Drink plenty of water.
2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a beggar.
3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.
4. Live with the 3 E’s – Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.
5. Make time to pray.
6. Play more games.
7. Read more books than you did in 2009.
8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
9. Sleep for 7 hours.
10. Take a 10-30 minute walk daily. And while you walk, smile.

Personality
:
11. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
12. Don’t have negative thoughts on things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive, present moment.
13. Don’t overdo it. Know and keep your limits.
14. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
15. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip.
16. Dream more while you are awake.
17. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
18. Forget issues of the past. Don’t remind your partner with His/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don’t hate others.
20. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.
21. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
22. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class, but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
23. Smile and laugh more.
24. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

Society
:
25. Call your family often.
26. Each day, give something good to others.
27. Forgive everyone for everything.
28. Spend time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of  6.
29. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
30. What other people think of you is none of your business.
31. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

Life
:
32. Do the right thing!
33. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful, or joyful.
34. GOD heals everything.
35. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
36. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.
37. Always remember that the best is yet to come.
38. When you wake up alive in the morning, thank GOD for it.
39. Your innermost being is always happy. So, be happy.

Lastly:
40. If you are touched by these words, share them with someone you care about – always spread love and fill other’s hearts with joy as often as you can. MAKE yourself a better person by just BEING a better person and be ready to relish in the unremitting happiness that follows.

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If you were minding your own business, going about your life as usual, and you stumbled upon an inordinate amount of cash that someone had clearly lost, what would you do? Would you pocket the money and never look back? Would you spend it all right away? Would you spend some today and save some for later? Would you invest it? Or…would you do the right thing and try to find the rightful owner?

Unfortunately, a lot of people would push aside their conscience and keep this new-found pot-of-gold for themselves. They would easily “forget” how it would feel to be the person on the other end of the equation – the person who had misplaced the money. And many other persons would assure themselves that they would give the money back right away until they were actually in the situation and faced with the decision. All virtue could fly out the window when holding an obscene amount of money in your hands.

Well Mukul Asaduzzaman, a New York City cab driver, encountered this type of situation when he found a purse containing $21,000 in the backseat of his cab. Asaduzzaman’s quick decision came easily; he recalled the advice his mother had given him when he was 5 years old – “Be honest, work hard and you will raise your station” – and went out of his way to find the rightful owner and return the money. He drove approximately 50 miles to a Long Island address he had found in the purse, but when no one was home, he left his phone number and a note saying, “Don’t worry, Felicia…I’ll keep it safe.” Felicia Lettieri, a visitor from Italy, got her money back a short time later.

Mukul Asaduzzaman is clearly a man of strong virtue and character, and he has most certainly increased his “station in life” like his mother informed him. As Albert Einstein once said: “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” We should all follow Asaduzzaman’s example and remind ourselves that the satisfaction of doing the right thing is far greater than any “reward” you may gain from doing the wrong thing. I think it’s safe to say that a clear conscience is worth more than $21,000 any day.

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Actress/Comedian Andrea Martin once said: “For pragmatic reasons, I love the routine. I love the structure of it. I love knowing that my days are free. I know where I’m going at night. I know my life is kind of orderly. I just like that better.” Mitchell was clearly a creature of habit – a proponent of routine – and I will admit, I am much the same way. I like to know what I’m getting myself into, when I’m getting into it, and how I’m getting into it. Let’s be honest – if I didn’t have a routine, I probably wouldn’t get a lot done. If I can plan it, then I can do it.

Every weekday morning, I wake up between 7:00 – 7:30 A.M and flip on Today on NBC as I get ready for work, make my bed, and pack my lunch. I drive the same route to work, listen to the same radio show, and park in the same spot every morning. Between 9:00 – 9:15 A.M, I pop open a diet coke, tear into a Luna Bar, or heat up a packet of oatmeal for 1 minute and 10 seconds, and check the same websites while I gobble down my breakfast. I check my blog, Facebook page, email, and calendar as I plan for the day’s events. Yup – this is my standard weekday routine…and I like it. In my world, a combination of 75 percent routine and 25 percent unexpectedness creates a fulfilling recipe to a satisfying life. (Make sure you NEVER forget the importance of the unexpected – it gives life its sweet, and oh-so-divine flavor… 😉 ).

No matter how much we like our routines, or how much we can’t escape them for that matter, sometimes we all just need to shake things up a bit and get out of the “routine rut.” We all need those days where we put the “ab” back in front of “normal.” Well, hundreds of New Yorkers decided to do just that – they went about their daily lives and methodical routines – but yesterday, they did it with a twist – they went pantsless. Yup, they read the paper, played on their iPhones, chatted with other passengers, and typed away on their laptops – just as they would always do – but this time, they went about their business while donning their Calvins and Fruit-of-the-looms for all the world to see. I mean, it is always “Shirt and Shoes Required” – no one ever says anything about “pants” being needed, right???

2010 marks the ninth year that participants have stripped down to their skivvies for a New York City subway ride. “No Pants Subway Ride” is organized by Improv Everywhere, a group whose mission is to cause “scenes of chaos and joy in public places.” With this mission in mind, hundreds of New Yorkers shook up their routines, and the routines of those around them, by participating in the annual event yesterday afternoon. Whether they were entertainers or observers, I guarantee all those involved enjoyed a Sunday a little less mundane than those from previous weeks.

Sometimes, tweaking your routine, even slightly, can cause you some much-needed inspiration and/or relief. Whether you drive a different way to work, order a new entree at your favorite lunch spot, or part your hair on the opposite side, look to occasionally “going wild” and switching up your routine. Take a cue from the underwear-clad New Yorkers and embrace a few minutes of unplanned chaos. And heck –  if you decide to make like a New Yorker and strip down on MARTA or wherever you are – wear your “Thursday” day-of-the-week underwear on Sunday – NOW we’re talking crazy! 😉

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I was perusing the internet last week when I stumbled upon a quiz from PARADE entitled “How Fast Are You Aging?” I had a free moment at work, so I decided to check it out. The quiz contains 21 questions, and you receive a certain amount of points based on the way you answer the question. Each question asks you about an aspect of your life and/or behavior, and after you answer the question, you are presented with a “Why it Matters” section explaining why the issue is important to your health and how it can affect your rate of aging. You are placed into 5 categories of aging based on the number of points you accumulated throughout the quiz. See the below example of question #2 I took directly from the quiz to give you a better idea of its format:

2. Do you smoke?

a) Add 10 points if you rarely even smell smoke
b) Add 5 points if you’re exposed to some second-hand smoke every day, but you don’t smoke
c) Add 2 points if you live with a smoker, but don’t smoke yourself
d) Add no points if you smoke

Why It Matters

Smoking is one guaranteed way to age your body faster. You know the effects–wrinkled skin, clogged arteries, emphysema, cancer, and impotence, to name just a few.

But the most important reason to stop smoking is that it overstimulates the immune system, which in turn speeds up aging. A May 2005 study from the American Heart Journal revealed that smokers showed signs of high immune activation including elevated CRP levels, as well as higher levels of macrophage-stimulating factors, which trigger our white blood cells to multiply, proliferate, and kill. (We’ll talk more about that later.)

Even second-hand smoke causes immune activation. A February 2004 study in the American Journal of Medicine showed that people exposed to second hand smoke at least three days a week had higher white blood counts, as well as higher CRP levels, than people not so exposed.

If you have some free time, I suggest taking the quiz (answer all questions honestly – the computer isn’t going to judge you!) to gain insight on how factors you both can and can’t control are affecting your health. Hopefully, it will provide you a much-needed push to change negative behavior that is currently impeding your health. The quiz actually persuaded me to take a daily multi-vitamin and to step up my flossing habits. Once you’ve implemented a healthier lifestyle, take the quiz again and to watch your points sky-rocket while your rate of aging plummets. 🙂

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