Sunday, February 22, 2015

HOUSEKEEPING: MY CLOTHES ARE TRASH



***Hey, Everybody! Just wanted to let you know that I'm playing hooky on Thursday, February 26, 2015, but I'll be back with a brand spanking new post on Monday, March 2, 2015. 
In the meantime, check out what we're up to on Facebook. Okay. That's all. 
Thank you for reading. Carry on reading the post below... <3***


Back in 2005 before I was married, before I became a mother, and before I had the responsibilities I have now, I lived a very different life.

I look back now and realize that -- when I wasn't working -- I had a sh*!-load of free time. I had free time coming out the wazoo.

I had so much free time, in fact, that I signed up for a week-long, extremely intensive yoga seminar, which I attended for nearly four hours each night for five days straight, and for nearly 12 hours on the weekend.

Following the course verbatim resulted in a ginormous change in my eating habits.

I stopped eating snack food.

I stopped eating sugar.

I became a vegetarian.

And, no lie, I lost nearly 10 pounds by the time the seminar was over.

You may be wondering what in the hell this has to do with hotel housekeeping throwing away my clothes.

It's got plenty.

Because in the months that followed the seminar, I found the best jeans I ever owned (a cheapo pair by Union Bay); Scott then gifted me with a shopping spree in New York where I was then able to find my most favorite blouse (It was beige; ruffled; silk; perfect); and the third member that rounded out this fashion trifecta was a pair of pea green suede stilettos.

Of course I packed this ensemble when I headed to Florida to work the Miami International Auto Show.

My initial plan was to wear this outfit one night when I had dinner and drinks on Lincoln Avenue with the girls.

But then an even better scenario presented itself.

Scott surprised me by showing up at my hotel door. (He was a varsity high school football coach in New Jersey at the time and had flown down to Miami immediately following his Friday night game.)

"I'm taking you to your favorite pizza spot after the show tonight," he says as I'm getting ready for work the next morning.

So I placed The Outfit inside a plastic grocery bag because I didn't have any space left inside my Kate Spade tote bag.

I had intended to take the bag with me and change into The Outfit at the convention center so as to be ready to roll when Scott picked me up. 

But in my haste to catch a cab to work, I left the bag by the door.

And this is precisely where sh!t begins to head south.

Fast forward ten hours and I'm getting off work.

I can't find the plastic bag. 

I retrace my steps in my head and realize that I never brought it with me. I call Scott and tell him bring it.

"What bag" he says.

"The bag with The Outfit. It's by the door, somewhere..."

I wait for Scott to respond. I'm anticipating that -- any minute -- he'll say, Oh, here it is.

And when he doesn't, panic sets in.

"I'm telling you, Courtney, there's no bag," he says with a hint of agitation. "I just got back and the room is all clean...I guess housekeeping..."

And that's when the lump in my throat grows to the size of a watermelon. 

You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to connect the proverbial dots.

I kid you not, I stopped dead in my tracks, dropped my cell phone, and screamed. Right there next to the huge neon yellow Dodge Ram pick-up truck.

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I can't remember what happened next. Even writing this post is triggering post traumatic stress disorder.

One of the girls from Land Rover caught a cab back to the hotel with me because everyone around me knew I should not be going anywhere unattended from the way I was handling things.

But I had regained some modicum of composure by the time I had returned to the hotel. 

I marched straight to the front desk and calmly requested to speak to the manager of the manager's manager. 

In other words, I wasn't leaving that desk until I spoke to The Top Dog.

The hotel took my diatribe very seriously and became Johnny On The Spot, which is why I am refraining from mentioning the name of this hotel in an effort not to throw them under the bus.

Over the next 24 hours, a frantic search ensued for The Plastic Bag which contained The Outfit.

To no avail.

The hotel cut me a check for $170 to cover the cost of my clothing, and I tried to replace the items. 

But I was never successful in finding those jeans, that blouse, and those heels ever again.

And The Plastic Bag was never found.

Well, duh

I bet you dollars to donuts it ended up in a Jacksonville landfill.

That Outfit was truly the one that got away.

Never mind that the only thing I'd probably be able to fit into now are the shoes -- the blouse and the jeans were a size 1. 

Because, again, I had lost 10 pounds...and I was already slim to begin with.

Come to think of it, I was teetering on Bobble Head Status.

Anyhow, believe it or not, I still have the jean's tag. 

I kept it as a momento because, even then, I knew that wearing a size 1 pair of pants was fleeting -- I knew full well that if I had so much as looked at a Cheeto, it would all go up in smoke:


If I tried to squeeze those jeans on now, I'm guessing I couldn't get them past my calf. 

Rest in peace, The Outfit. 

Nine years later, I bet you're still the best looking ensemble in the landfill.

That is, if you heaven't decomposed yet.

The takeaway -- which is pretty much common sense...common sense that I apparently didn't possess that day -- is this: NEVER put your best outfit inside a plastic grocery bag and leave it by the door of your hotel room.


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Thursday, February 19, 2015

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS DAY 2015

Random Acts of Kindness Day -- which fell on Tuesday, February 17 this year -- is an unofficial holiday increasingly celebrated around the world in an effort to encourage acts of kindness.

And this day certainly did not go unnoticed by the Detroit Lions.

The Hubs (Scott; #76) and several of his fellow Detroit Lions alumni made a special trip to visit and brighten the day of ‪cancer‬ patients at Henry Ford Hospital as part of the Game On Cancer initiative, which is a joint effort between the Detroit ‪‎Lions‬ and Henry Ford’s Josephine Ford Cancer Institute to raise funds for cancer research and patient experiences. 

Here are five random facts about the Lion's visit on Tuesday*:

1. The Lions' mascot, Roary, was there to join in on the fun. (Side note: Did you know that this cat's got his own Facebook page? He does. Because he's cool like that.) 
Here he is with Henry Ford medical doctors:


2. Cancer patient Ella Mays was laying under her own Detroit Lions blanket (presumably one that she brought from home) when the Lion players arrived to her room. Scott asked Ms. Mays if she would like it signed, and when she said, "Certainly!" And they did so:


3. Tuesday's visit was designed to lift the spirits of everyone at Henry Ford Hospital -- including the staff, who work tirelessly to provide care and comfort for patients every single day. The oncology team and caregivers at the infusion unit were just two of the departments that the players visited:



4. Lions players are required to wear their football jerseys during volunteer appearances such as these, and the jerseys are provided by the Detroit Lions organization:


5. Unbeknownst to the players, this event would be covered by WDIV-TV Local 4, Detroit's NBC television affiliate. It was also a surprise to our daughter, Kennedy, who, while playing restaurant with her big brother, looked up and saw Daddy on TV. (From left, Herman Moore (#84), Pete Chryplewicz (#81), Channel 4 reporter Paula Tutman, and The Hubs.):

*A VERY heartfelt thank you to Henry Ford Hospital for providing the lovely photos for this post!


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Sunday, February 15, 2015

MY FAVORITE EXERCISE REGIMEN

Author Erich Neumann said it best when, in his book The Origins and History of Consciousness, he wrote, “The world begins with the coming of light."

That, in essence, is the very foundation of the single most important component of my yoga practice.

When people learn that I'm a yoga instructor (I earned my RYT 200 certification from Sattva Yoga Center, a Yoga Alliance registered school, in 2011), chances are pretty good that their discovery will prompt the following response: Yoga? Cool! I can't do yoga, though. I'm not flexible.

But guess what?

Literally every body stands to benefit from stretching their muscles and calming their mind.

The more inflexible we are, the more we need yoga.

And the Sun Salutation is a fantastic place to start.

The Sun Salutation, also known as Surya Namaskara in Sanskrit, is a sequence of 11 (or 12; depending on the variation) yoga postures performed in a single graceful flow with each movement coordinated with the breath. The Sanskrit word namaskar stems from namas, which means “to bow to” or “to adore.” (The familiar phrase namastete means you—also comes from this root.) 

It is recommended that three to five Sun Salutations be completed prior to starting your yoga practice as a means of warming up the body, which is what I instruct my students to do -- and this is what I did myself, back when I was afforded the luxury of enjoying a one-hour-plus daily yoga practice.

And then I had kids.

I'm telling you, it became a struggle to simply set foot on my mat every day, let alone practice for an hour or more.

But I always convince myself that there's enough time to do a few Sun Salutations.

Even in the final minutes of my children's nap time, I'll unroll my mat, set my timer for, say, 10 or 15 minutes, turn off the noise in my mind, and repeat Sun Salutations.

Check out my video below in which I demonstrate a classic Sun Salutation, also known as Sun Salutation A.

Lastly, here's another awesome resource on your road to better health: Check out the American Heart Association's My Life Check. It's a simple tool that let's you know where you stand on your road to good health. 

Thanks for stopping by, and Namaste. :-)


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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A BRIEF LESSON IN THE LAW OF GRAVITY

Our daughter Kennedy is 16 months old and currently possesses a vocabulary of well over 20 words.

But I can tell by her expression alone that she understands a good 95% of what I say.

This, of course, wasn't the case when she was seven months old and would chuck her sippy cup off the tray of her high chair and then look at me as if to say "We'll, look at that! The sippy cup landed right there on the floor!"

Like clockwork, I'd retrieve the sippy cup, give it back to her, she'd take a few sips from it, and then toss it right down again.

The cycle continued, and I indulged her for a while, but now the jig is up.

I know she understands gravity.

So I took it upon myself to educate her even further during dinnertime last week -- I served her a bowl of mac 'n cheese with a little side of science.

Near the end of dinner, she tossed the sippy cup again.

And then she laughed afterward.

The move pissed me off.

She stared down at the cup, looked back up at me, and then whined.

I did nothing.

And that pissed her off.

I pulled her high chair in close and looked Kennedy square in the eyes.

Although she didn't verbalize her response, I knew she understood exactly where I was coming from.

Her expression spoke volumes...

Kennedy: So you're really not going to pick it up?

Me: "Nope."

Kennedy: But I'm thirsty now. And I want my cup back.

Me: "Tough."

Kennedy: I don't like that answer.

Me: "I don't, either. But it's true, my dear. Gravity is real and unforgiving and there's no way around it."

Kennedy: I don't believe you.

Me: "Well, you should. Look at your cup. It's still on the floor. Why? Blame gravity."

Kennedy: That's cruel.

Me: "Oh, it is. Gravity is so cruel. Want to know what's worse than a fallen sippy cup? Fallen boobs and a bum that sags."

Kennedy, I swear, looks straight at my chest and gestures with a nod: Gravity?

Me: "Yup. Damn gravity. It affects everything. Well, gravity and pregnancy.

Kennedy: Interesting. Wouldn't abstaining from sugar and doing yoga more often (like you used to) actually reverse gravity...and the aftermath of pregnancy? Boom!

Me: "Stop getting fresh, young lady."

Kennedy: Sorry. I'm just saying.

[Pause]

Kennedy: Mom?

Me: "What?"

Kennedy: I really want my sippy cup back.

Me: "Well, I really want my tighter bum back."

Kennedy: This is going nowhere. "DADDY!"

[Scott, whom Kennedy has wrapped around her little finger, appears, picks up her sippy cup, and gives it right back to her.]

And that was the end of that.

Oh, and she hasn't dropped her sippy cup since.



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Sunday, February 8, 2015

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD AND ME

Although I made this discovery in 2009, I still can't believe it.

Because it literally blows my mind every single time I stop and think about it.

I mean, really.

Wouldn't it blow your mind, too, if you found out that slaves once slept where you danced around in your underwear, studied for mid-term exams, and devoured bowls of Cap’n Crunch while watching 90210?

So let me go back to the beginning and how this all started.

During my junior and senior years as an undergrad student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I lived in a studio apartment that was located inside 604 East Washington, a large, old house behind the Michigan Theater, on the fringes of central campus.

One low-key Saturday night -- ten years after I had moved out -- I'm relaxing on my living room couch, doing research for an article I had been summoned to write for the Ann Arbor Observer.

I had just learned that the city of Ann Arbor was part of the Underground Railroad (who knew?) and that it had played an integral role in how slaves were transported to Canada. My article would, in part, focus on a local woman, Danni, who, after studying the landscape and connecting the proverbial dots for years, now gives an Underground Railroad tour through Ann Arbor.

But more on that in a minute.

I'm poring over an article which lists the names of local agents (people) involved in helping slaves move through the Underground Railroad lines that passed through Washtenaw County, Michigan, the county Ann Arbor resides in. 

It is, in fact, the night before I am scheduled to experience Danni's tour.

So, I'm nearly done with the article, when I come to James Morwick. 

County history sites that Morwick, an architect, was a “prime mover in the famous Underground Railroad.”

He built and lived at...wait for it...Wait. For. It...

604 East Washington.

And that’s when I nearly drop the coffee mug I am drinking from.

And cry.

I not only called 604 East Washington home for two years of my life, but I called it home during two of the best years of my life at the University of Michigan:



As I sit, flabbergasted, my mind pulls up the image of the house’s interior, responding to what seems to be a primal urge to put two and two together. 

The very first thing I think of is the inconspicuous – almost hidden – deep and narrow closet above the stairwell: It would have been perfect for hiding people

I cry some more.After a night of tossing and turning, I meet Danni the next day. 

I am so nervous, I cannot even think straight.

Like most Americans, I had been given a crash course in the Underground Railroad in grade school, but at the risk of sounding unintelligent, I hadn’t really envisioned what it looked like. 

But, come to find, I not only had an accurate depiction of the Underground Railroad, I had just learned that I had lived in it.

Fast forward to 6 p.m. 

It is dusk and Danni, my husband Scott, and I are traveling south on State Street, and my former residence is one of the last stops on the tour. 

I am self-conscious that Danni can detect my wildly beating heart through my coat. 

I pick off familiar landmarks – the church on the corner; the parking structure that used to smell of hot chocolate (strange but true), and, finally, she hangs a right on East Washington and we arrive at the house.

I cry. 

Again. 

Here it is, ten years after I had graduated, and the house looks even better than I had remembered, thanks to renovations.

My eyes remain fixed on the second level, an area I remember all too well. 

I wonder, though, if these walls could talk, what more would they reveal? 

Yes, once upon a time, my ancestors inhabited that space. 

But did one or more of my relatives also?

For the first time through all of this, I am now able to accurately characterize precisely how I feel. 

It is pride. 

And I am completely taken aback that the institution of slavery could have anything to do with eliciting such profound gratification. 

Here were these slaves – running for their freedom, and their lives   who had landed at this house due to circumstances that were, for the most part, beyond their control. 

Then I show up at the same house nearly 150 years later.

By choice. 

I was not only a free woman, I was pursuing an education; I could vote; I was living life on my own terms. 

And I think that if these men and women could have seen me now, they would have been proud of me.

Having this kind of connection to my past is uncharted waters. 

Ironically, I can only liken it to meeting a long-lost family member for the first time: It doesn’t explain everything about you, but it's the missing piece of a puzzle that serves as the foundation for the bigger picture. 

Even if only in theory.

Of course, it is highly unlikely that I’ll ever learn more about what went on in that house. 

But I feel sated by what I already know: My quest to uncover the courageous lives of those who came before me led me back home.   




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Sunday, February 1, 2015

HIS FAVORITE SUPER BOWL EVER

It's the morning after.

The Super Bowl, that it.

And by now, the Internet is abuzz with various commentary on what happened last night -- or didn't -- and employees everywhere have already gathered around their office water coolers to debate the game's best commercials.

Because that's what we do after the biggest day in American sports.

My husband Scott, however, had a much different morning-after-the-Super-Bowl experience several years ago.

Of course, that is to be expected when you wake up at a military base in Bosnia or in a hotel room in Bahrain.

But, first, some background.

It technically all started when, in 1941, the United Service Organizations (USO) was launched with the mission to bring a touch of home to America's military personnel and their families during peace and war. (A not-for-profit, the USO receives no direct government funding and is supported by contributions from individuals and corporate donors, United Way and the Combined Federal Campaign.)

A mere three months after the USO was founded, Bob Hope led a group of celebrities to perform for airmen stationed at March Field (now March Air Force Base) in California.

Then, in 1966, the NFL was brought into the fold. 

Looking for a way to demonstrate the NFL's support for America's fighting forces in Vietnam, then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle conceived the idea of sending NFL players to Vietnam on "goodwill tours" to visit U.S. troops. 

The NFL became the first sports organization to send a group of players to Vietnam and other parts of the Far East.

Since then, active and retired NFL players and coaches have made numerous USO tours visiting troops in such locations as Somalia, Bosnia, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Germany, and Kuwait.

Now back to Scott.

The year was 2000, and Scott, who had retired from his career as a Detroit Lions offensive lineman three years prior, was invited to participate in Operation Super Bowl Bosnia -- in Bosnia -- and the objective of this tour, as with any celebrity tour -- was for the NFL players involved to meet and talk with as many troops as possible.

Here's a summary of Scott's experience -- in his own words...

En route to Bosnia, we traveled on a military cargo plane while wearing military travel attire, and when we arrived, I got a chance to experience military life on base. I slept in army barracks, ate in the mess hall, and showered in their facilities. It was a true army experience...

Before the Super Bowl party, I toured the base and conversed with an array of troops who also represented other countries, in addition to the United States...

Watching the Super Bowl with the men and women of our armed forces was particularly fun because they were from all over our country -- fans who represented virtually all 32 NFL teams, including Lions fans! But they all had one thing in common: A genuine love of the game. We're talking about true die-hard fans, here...

They appreciated everything we as players put into the game in order for them to enjoy it. But, actually, they are really the true heroes and warriors. I felt proud to be there with them because our presence kind of gave them a piece of home -- even though they were so far away. And some of them even articulated this to me, that watching our games was such a comfort for them...

It was an honor to watch one of the world's greatest sporting events in the company of the men and women who serve and protect this country and afford us the opportunity to play this game that we love.

Scott also participated in a similar USO tour in Bahrain during the next Super Bowl in 2001.

Here are some photo highlights of his tours:





Thank you to all the men and women of our armed forces for all that you do!

For a complete history of NFL players and coaches on USO tours, please click here.
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