Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Bit O' Kidspiration

*Photo from Imageshack*

As an adult, I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to have a life-threatening medical condition.

For a child, having such a medical condition could mean the robbery of adolescence; the loss of blissful ignorance, days spent outside and birthday party sleepovers. To many, sick children are beyond comprehension and may raise the questions, "Why do children get sick?" and "Why do children have to die?"

As of today, I'm a true believer these kids are put here for a reason: to show us lucky ones how to live.

This afternoon I had the privilege of working with a client to host a fun competition with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northwest Ohio. Honestly, I was worried as I walked out of the office...I'm an overly-emotional person when it comes to seeing people (esp. kids or animals) suffer and wasn't sure if I could handle seeing sick kids. I envisioned the children showing up covered in bandages from being pricked with needles that morning or maybe even hooked to some type of medical machine. Thankfully, I was wrong.

The children arrived ecstatic; ready to show-off, ready to win the gold medal up for grabs, ready to have fun. Despite the friendly competition, the kids high-fived, helped each other out and laughed together. Always having a knack for relating to kids, they made me laugh too, and I had a blast walking around talking to each of them about their creations.

Seeing the "Wish Kids" have so much fun despite whatever might be happening in their medical lives, inspired me. Who am I to complain about life? I should feel fortunate to be healthy.

Of course seeing the kids all walk away with giant grins on their faces was a major highlight of my day. But, what was almost just as good was seeing the goofy, child-like grins on all the faces of the adults in the room.

I think all of us "older kids" walked away with a new appreciation for life. After all, why worry about what tomorrow holds when we could be laughing and living today?

Thanks for the reminder, kids.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Enjoying the Beauty of Northern Michigan

I just got through with an amazing, much-needed long weekend vacation.

Jason and I wanted to take a little trip to celebrate our first year together, so I checked into various places - Las Vegas or Florida (we decided it's just too hot this time of year) and Colorado (too expensive) before deciding it would be best to just spend a few days in our own state, supporting our local economy.

Boy am I glad we did decide to make our own Michigan adventure...We began our trip bright and early on Thursday and traveled through Grayling, where we stopped at a place I had discovered during some online research - Dawson & Stevens classic 50's diner. I'm a sucker for diners and 50's music and since this wasn't out of our way at all, we stopped for lunch (and a Boston Cooler). It was a lot of fun!

We continued our drive up the Leelanau Peninsula, stopping at a few wineries along the way to sample the local use of grapes. We winded through the infamous M-22 all the way up to the northern-most tip on the peninsula, a small town called Northport, where we tent camped for the night at the Leelanau State Park. We hiked to the beach through a beautiful forest, grilled hot dogs over a campfire and slept on an air mattress. My phone didn't get service and we were away from it all...in the beauty of northern Michigan. I know camping isn't for everyone, but to me, it was a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of the D.

We woke and packed up our camping supplies and headed down the peninsula once again, stopping to stroll around downtown Traverse City and chill at the beach to wash away the smell of campfire. We checked into our hotel (the unsexy, but totally economical, clean and friendly) Travelodge and showered to prep for a wine tour along Old Mission Peninsula. It was SO much fun! We stopped at nearly every spot along the way (it was like an adult treasure hunt), sampled some great wines and purchased enough wine to last us awhile...I don't know which winery I liked most - all had unique qualities and wonderfully-tasting vino. We closed out the night at the Blue Tractor (also in Ann Arbor) to taste the creative mac n' cheese and hit the hay early-ish, mostly due to our comfort food coma.

We woke early on Saturday to head to Ludington. We opted for the scenic route along M-22 instead of the straight route down US-31 (if you're a Michigander, you need to make this drive). We enjoyed the cute beach towns along the way, stopping a few times at random places that caught my antique-and-craft-loving eye and to picnic at a beautiful scenic turnout overlooking Lake Michigan. In Ludington, we enjoyed the beach again and supported the local beer hot spot - the Jamesport Brewery (amazing blueberry-infused beer) and a downtown dive bar where Jason and I competed in a trivia game for a few hours (it was fun for us!). Our motel, the Four Seasons, was quiet, quaint and most importantly inexpensive and close to everything.
Overall, it was a great and romantic getaway. At the end of the trip, it was refreshing to think about how much we were able to relax and enjoy our amazing state and reflected on why we need to have more pride for living here year-round.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday Song: "Keep Me in Your Heart for Awhile" by Warren Zevon

Last night I saw the new-ish Adam Sandler/Seth Rogen movie, "Funny People." Although it definitely had the classic Adam/Seth voices and one-liners that have me LOLing every five minutes, it wasn't the BEST movie of the summer by any means. Regardless, as a typical Judd Apatow movie, it was pretty entertaining and besides, there was one thing that trumped the plot line anyways: the use of music. The soundtrack was stellar, incorporating music from some of my old-time faves: Paul McCartney, Robert Plant and James Taylor.

One song that I kept in my head throughout the whole movie (so I could go home and download it) was "Keep Me in Your Heart for Awhile" by Warren Zevon. I liked it the instant I heard it playing in the movie.

Upon Googling a portion of the lyrics so I could figure out who sang the song, I came across the reason the song was written in the first place. Warren Zevon had been diagnosed with cancer before writing this song and knew he only had a short time to live, so this was written as a gift to his family. The lyrics are somewhat sad, but lead the listener to believe that regardless of his looming death, he's still in his family's heart as well as with the listener. When you watch the movie, you'll understand why this is so fitting.

For anyone who has dealt with the death of a close loved one, this song seems just as comforting as it is beautiful.

Sometimes when you're doing simple things around the house
Maybe you'll think of me and smile
You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

For You, America: A Happy Playlist

Study: 27 Million Americans on Antidepressants
Tuesday, August 04, 2009

WASHINGTON — Use of antidepressant drugs in the United States doubled between 1996 and 2005, probably because of a mix of factors, researchers reported Monday.

It's headlines and news leads like this that inspire me to attempt to help make people smile.

And since I'm only here in cyberland, I've decided instead to make a happy music playlist and dedicate it to anybody out there feeling down.

Below you'll find my HAPPY playlist. Download/Google these tunes and listen up. Hopefully the peppy beats and cheerful words will bring a smile to your face.

ABC - Jackson Five
Easy as 1,2,3 baby!

Great Day to Be Alive - Travis Tritt
This may be the song for A.A., but darn it brings a smile to my face.

Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
Love these lyrics. Fave happy line: "Drench yourself in words unspoken // Live your life with arms wide open"

Just Dance - Lady Gaga
It'll be OK, do-do-do-do. For the record, I hated this song when it first came out. Now I love it!

Don't Stop Believing - Journey
Hold on to that feeeeeling.

Hold On - Wilson Phillips
Just hold on for one more day!

Jamiroquai - Canned Heat
Napoleon Dynamite, anyone?

Walking on Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves
One of the best one hit wonders ever!

New Shoes - Paolo Nutini
Nothing like new shoes to make you feel better when you're depressed. :)

What are your happy songs?

(Yes, I will make you a mix soon, Sarah! xoxo)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lessons Learned From Steve's Place

Last Friday I had the privilege of meeting Sophia and Steve Francis, the proprietors of Steve's Place, a bar just outside of Greektown in Detroit.

We were prompted to meet them by a friend we were with who had visited the quirky bar before and had one heck of an experience.

So, looking for adventure, we entered the shady spot next to Saint Andrews and had a drink. I had a cranberry and vodka (3/4 vodka and 1/4 cranberry I might add), poured by Sophia who maneuvered slowly with the bottle of Ocean Spray. Apparently most folks just drink beer when they visit...and after I ordered it I felt slightly guilty for asking her to make it. Jason commented how she looked like a ghost walking around the dimly lit bar. She was wearing a flowery housecoat and she smiled when she handed me the drink. She had a thick accent, so I asked her where she was from. "Greece," she answered.

While we enjoyed our drinks, we all looked around in amazement, gawking at the bazillion oddities that lined the bright blue and green bar, from a giant plastic swan and punk rock band stickers to several old non-working beer clocks and a collection of lunchboxes from the 70's. A few Tigers fans were clumped together at the end of the bar, otherwise the bar would have been ours. Blues music from the "Greektown Blues Man" blared behind us and we giggled as he sang his own versions of songs we love.

As we looked around in wonderment, Steve entered. We had guessed he may have been napping because he looked slightly disheveled. He was wearing drawstring pants, up way past his belly button. He walked away for a moment and came back with a tie on, instantly giving us the vibe that he put it on just for us -- clearly the newbies at the bar.

He shook our hands, introduced himself, asked us if this was our first time visiting, poured more drinks and began talking to us about his life -- stories about the FBI and the Detroit riots, WWII and Vietnam and how he met his wife. We couldn't make out most of what he was saying (he has a very soft voice and a thick Greek accent), but were able to read his expressions well enough to see how happy he was that we were there -- so much so he gave us free shots of Peach Schnapps (apparently a common practice of his). "Yamas!" we said ("cheers" in Greek).

I was profoundly touched by Steve and Sophia, who we learned came to Detroit from Greece in 1961 and have worked their 70-something (we're guessing) tails off ever since. Wanting to know more, I got home and Googled "Steve's Place + Detroit" to see if there has been any stories written about this diamond in the rough and came across a great story from the Metro Times from 2002. (The photo of Steve that accompanied the story is below.)

I learned some interesting facts from the story:
  • Steve and Sophia have run the bar for the past 39 years. The bar is open from 10 a.m. - 2 a.m. everyday except Christmas. Steve and Sophia live in a flat above the bar.
  • Steve was raised in Greece and lived through the German occupation during World War II. He says his father died from an injury suffered in World War I.
  • Steve doesn’t know his age because he doesn't have a birth certificate.

The last lines in the article sum up Steve's Place perfectly:

"There’s a real dying-on-the-vine beauty to the bar. It’s unaffected by pretense and trend. Steve’s Place stands alone, traditional and ghostlike, quiet and almost heavenly."

It's weird the lessons you can learn from people in an hour-long encounter. We walked away dumbfounded, yet smiling about the odd experience we had shared at Steve's Place.

If you're ever in the area, stop by and say hello to Steve and Sophia. You'll not only walk away with a new appreciation for life and the value of hard work, but you'll have gained two new and interesting friends.