I received a gift card for Christmas, and decided to invest in four Jillian Michael’s workout DVD’s. Abs, yoga, quick blast and long cardio workout – the actual names are far too long, and quite silly. We (Courtney has spent several mornings yoga-ing around our living room with me) have decided that the music attempts to be pump-y/techno-y/edgy and completely fails, while the graphics look like they came from my most basic design class.

However, the workouts kick butt. I consider myself in shape, and am still panting pretty quickly. I needed something new in my fitness routine, and I got a jump-start complete with sore everything. Arms, shoulders, abs, obliques, butt, thighs, hamstrings, calves… it’s pretty impressive. Seriously, people. If you want something easy to do in a smaller space that works everything and doesn’t require braving the cold, bring some Jillian into your life.

These days I walk around feeling the effects of her prodding and yelling and gotta-prove-I’m-so-tough-ness. As irritating as she is (though she’s not as bad on these video’s as I was expecting), I like what I feel in my body.

And, I do like much of what Jillian says. She talks about not being perfect, but being perfect in what your body can do. About taking the positive energy you feel after a workout and carrying that through your day. About making the most of every moment – in exercise, work and play. No wasted time. Sure, she has some ridiculous things, like a “health tips” segment that spent far too much time talking about Oral-B power toothbrushes (not-so-subtle product advertising, thank you). But still. She balances the shouting with the advertising with the encouraging.

I’m now giving myself Jillian-style pep talks. How fun.

Sometimes I am so grouchy, whiny and grumbly. This is different from being stressed, or being upset. The grumbly-ness is almost playful. Almost.

Usually it is because I want to do something fun or relaxing, and have work to do instead. Or I want to be go somewhere, and my car doesn’t work. Basically… when I don’t get my way, but it’s not a big enough deal to really be upset. It’s a small tantrum.

These days, Grumblufagus comes out when all that is graduate school demands my attention, and I simply refuse to acknowledge it. Instead, I like a movie, popcorn and a blanket on my couch. A fun and patient boyfriend doesn’t hurt either.

The concept of the world getting smaller means little when people you love are around the globe.

My parents and younger brothers boarded a plane back to Brazil this afternoon. The first State-side Christmas in seven years has come to an end. I haven’t been with them in a couple of weeks, but I was spoiled to have them a phone call away at any time. My cell phone was at my ear for two hours today, making the most of their accessibility.

© 2011 Jonathan Stephanoff

The goodbye in Ohio, when I left them, was hard. I’m not an overly emotional person – except when it comes to family. There were quiet tears as they packed the car, tears during a “safe travels” prayer, then real tears saying farewell… and tears for a while after.

It’s not that they live so far away that’s hard (though certainly it has its difficult moments). It’s the leaving that’s hard. Once they’re gone, and we’re back on a regular weekend Skype schedule, life is dandy. Once I land in the US from a Brazil trip, I’m fine. It’s the goodbye that hurts.

And I’m finding the older I get, the harder those moments become. Strange how that works. So now life is back to normal: the weekend call, jotting down things I want to tell them during the week, the prayers to keep them safe (God knows the payers mean more when they go international), the sports/school/church/video game updates… normal stuff. From 5000 miles away.