A Thing or Two About Life: A Birthday Chronicle

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A photo of the besties in costume for their big performance honoring/teasing my aunt

My aunt turned the big 6-0.

She’ll probably kill me for broadcasting this to the world.  But I think it’s necessary for my purposes.

Mostly because, it’s kind of a big deal.  In Russian, we call this a “circular date.”  A milestone.  Something huge that deservedly requires something grand to mark its presence.

To commemorate, my aunt invited friends and family from our town, other states and other countries.  I’m pretty sure she invited everyone she knew.  Old friends, new friends, relatives I’ve never met and neighbors who treat me like family.

She decided to put aside that whole “shit I’m getting older” situation and decided to have a big damn blow out.

And we applauded her.

And we braced ourselves.

Because we knew this meant a “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” style party, during which we would eat enough food for 30 days and those of us “youth” would stare with mouth agape wondering how it was possible we ever made any friends.

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One of the tables. It could have fed a 1st world army. Instead it fed 50 of my aunt’s closest friends.

Unfortunately, this post isn’t about my eventful childhood (we’ll save that for later).  It’s about my aunt’s choice to ring in her important birthday with a positive attitude and a hell of a lot of fun.

She always tells me about the parties she and her friends throw together.  The kind of fun they conjure up, seemingly from nothing.  When she phones me to catch up, the conversation inevitably turns to some gathering these friends had and the songs, skits, poems, readings and/or ensembles they put together.

My aunt’s birthday offered me a peek into their traditions.

These weren’t ordinary toasts.  The MC’s main job was passing the microphone around from group of friends to group of friends so they could start on their “prepared piece” in honor of my aunt.

My expressions went from awed shock to laughter.

And at the risk of showing the world the insanity that is a birthday party in “my culture,” I’ve attached the video of one of the performances here – my favorite one.  Where they dressed up in “Ukrainian wear” and sang a Ukrainian folk song in jest to tease my aunt.

You don’t need to watch all 2 minutes and 48 seconds of this video.  I realize it’s a lot to ask.  But should you choose to click on the link below, keep in mind that these women are dentists, lawyers, doctors and engineers by day.  Also – I had no idea they even knew how to speak Ukrainian (my family speaks Russian).  Also – I had no idea our friend the MC could play the accordion.  Or that people still played the accordion.

It was absolutely ridiculous.

But so damn fun.

I’m thinking my aunt and her friends have a thing or 2 figured out.  Maybe they know how real fun is had.

Between catching up with my cousin and family friends, dancing with my boyfriend, my uncle and my dad, stuffing myself with deliciousness, taking hundreds of photos, and watching my family members dance together, I was absolutely caught up and living in the moment.

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My dad dancing with his sister, the birthday girl.

Admittedly, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

We laughed.  We danced.  We sang.

What more can a person ask for?

Awesome.

The Main Thing on My to-do List is Attacking My to-do List

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This week, my friend Irene (below) – the one who is always providing the food for thought that I incorporate into this blog – (I think her Internet is different than mine) – shared a posting by Jon Bell entitled McDonald’s Theory.

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In the post, Jon shares with us a personal experiment he enjoys conducting with his co-workers:

  • When the idea pool for lunch spots is empty, he suggests going to McDonald’s.

According to Jon, this suggestion is always followed by strong reactions to the preposterous nature of this idea and suddenly like “magic” the group’s wheel’s start turning and they come up with a slew of creative ideas.

Anything to keep from going to McDonald’s. (I hear ya guys).

The main idea behind this brilliant experiment lies in the fact that in order to accomplish something, you have to DO something.

Ground-breaking, I know.

Hear me out for a second though.  I’ve been mauling over this idea all weekend and it’s kind of inspired me.

As Jon puts it:

“There’s no defined process for all creative work, but I’ve come to believe that all creative endeavors share one thing: the second step is easier than the first. Always.”

Quite simply: get off your ass and do something.  Anything.  You’ve been meaning to start painting again?  You bought canvas and painted an oil-paint version of a stick figure?  Congrats.  You’re now at step 2.  You’re working on your process.  You’re somewhere that isn’t ZERO.

Recently, I’ve felt like the occupant of a giant entrepreneurial rut.  The creative facilitation of all the things I would like to accomplish has seemingly been stalled.

I have the to-do list.

Every week I tell myself I’m going to tackle that new activity/project/endeavor.

And every week the days escape me and by Wednesday I’m just hoping to squeeze in a nap after work.

Not.

Acceptable.

“Anne Lamott advocates “shitty first drafts,” Nike tells us to “Just Do It,” and I recommend McDonald’s just to get people so grossed out they come up with a better idea. It’s all the same thing. Lamott, Nike, and McDonald’s Theory are all saying that the first step isn’t as hard as we make it out to be. Once I got an email from Steve Jobs, and it was just one word: “Go!” Exactly. Dive in. Do. Stop over-thinking it.”

Starting this week, I’m inspired to push myself forward on all those things I’ve been meaning to do.

I’m going to:

  • Write that e-mail to that non-profit I’ve been meaning to get involved with and find time to volunteer
  • Call the ice rink and figure out the schedule for the new season so I can finally skate again (post wrist fracture situation)
  • Figure out the yoga schedule so I can get my ass in that studio regularly
  • Google “Road Race” Chicago
  • E-mail those friends I haven’t seen in 3 months who actually live 10 minutes from me so we can get together and not be those people that get too busy for their friends
  • Read the first page of that book
  • Find one person at a local newspaper and ask them about guest writing so that I can fulfill my dream of contributing to a local paper

I’ll start with that.

I hope you’ll tackle those projects hanging over your head by taking any step forward.

I don’t want to be the only one drawing stick figures.

Time to make an Awesome dent.

Note: I never thought Nike’s “Just Do It” would make it into one of my posts.  On the other hand, I think I just figured out the genius behind that innovative marketing.  Obviously this will cost me hundreds of dollars in spandex, but hey, anything for forward-propelling inspiration.

Life Lessons for Everyone’s Monday. With Harry. Take II.

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My new favorite celebrity popped back into my life this weekend.

This guy is quite charming and recently, I’ve been learning some life lessons from him.

I first mentioned this stud a few weeks ago as part of an Inspiration Friday’s people who were inspiring me that week.

Harry Rosen is at the top of my list these days and I’m psyched by any update from the media as to his whereabouts.

I’m JUST like any serious fan of a famous band, a Hollywood star or like, Selena Gomez, except my recent celeb crush is a 103 (soon to be 4) – year – old guy named Harry.

The world met Harry Rosen a few weeks ago through the eyes of Corey Kilgannon, the New York Times writer, who was lucky enough to eat a meal with him.

Harry is an incredible dude who, at 103, still gets up every single day in his New York City studio, puts on a suite, and makes his way to the city’s finest restaurants.  He usually dines alone.  And he usually makes friends.

He’s been lonely as of late because his wife, and love, of 70 years passed away.  For this reason, he has begun to date.  And is seriously looking for a companion.

This past week, the famed Alan Richman, a contributor to GQ Magazine (I mean clearly this was in GQ, folks) sat down with Harry for a meal at the famed Eleven Madison Park (for a meager $225 per person pre-fix) to taste some food.  For 4 hours.  But really to talk about life.

And if anyone holds the secrets to what the F is going on with this whole life business, I definitely think its Harry.

And I definitely think this has something to do with the reason famous writers, chefs and the general community, young and old, are obsessing over Harry Rosen.

Some things I’ve learned about life from Harry, to ponder as you start your week:

1)      Sometimes, it is not your list of accomplishments that defines you, but your will and drive.  These things can never be taken from you.

2)      Lying about your age is totally cool.  Regardless of how old you are. (Harry uses it as a tactic to draw attention away from himself.  I’m not 103, just 90.)

3)      Dating is hard.  At any age. (direct quote)

4)      It really, really IS the small things.  A glass of wine.  A bite of good fish.

5)      You are never too old to try new things.  Get out there.  (for Harry it was Oysters last week)

6)      Remember the past.  But live in the moment.

7)      The secret to living a long life = sleeping on your back.  (Anyone care to try this experiment and let me know how it goes?)

8)      Should you be fortunate to receive 15 minutes of fame, and you deserve it, take advantage.

9)      Be nice.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is to bring out the best in people.

10)    Don’t take life too seriously.

11)    Life can be a bitch.  Put on something nice and go eat something.

Harry’s reaction to his dinner?

“I didn’t know life would be so good to me”

Makes me think about all of the simple pleasures I enjoy.

Harry is content with life as it is.  He finds energy to get up every morning, which I imagine is a tougher feat for him than for me.

Time to put on a smile and head out there in anticipation of Awesome.

Happy Monday.

Note: I think it’s kind of cool that Harry and I both immigrated from the Eastern European part of the world.  Although I imagine that his journey to America sometime around 1915 was different than my family’s direct flight.

Note2: Read the article here.  It’ll melt your heart.

The Judging of Oneself Through the Bookshelf: A Study of the Relaxed and Restless

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This weekend I tried to relax.

Friday night.  While the other youth were out parading the streets in what I know to be their third Halloween costume of the season, I was at home throwing bath salts into hot water and filling champagne flutes with sparkling water.

Don’t judge me.

I find that I usually GO GO GO until I can’t go anymore.  And then I crash.  And then I NEED to live a life resembling that of my 80-year-old grandfather for at least 24 to 48 hours.

It was break time.

I’m not surprised I hit a wall.

In the past 7 days, I have: attended a three day Indian wedding in a different state, drove 4 hours to take a friend out for her birthday, hosted a friend from London, took said friend to a 12-course/8-bottles of wine dinner (it wasn’t just us 2), attended a little breakfast meeting, went to the Opera (I know I know boohoo my life is hard) and did Halloween justice.  OH and I took care of that whole full-time job situation.

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So yeah.  Not shockingly, I told my family, friends and that boy I’m dating that I will be MIA on Friday.  And should they need to keep tabs on me, they can feel free to call the NSA.  Or my doorman.

The bath salts did wonders.  So did the 6 hours of Law and Order SVU.

At some point, around 3AM, after I had watched the 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie, Xenon: Girl of the 21st Century  some On-Demand film, I got a bit restless.

And I didn’t feel like going to bed yet.

So I paced.  And found myself in front of my small bookshelf and thought about its contents and what it said about me.  And what someone who didn’t know me would think.

I’ve spent some time this weekend mauling this thought over and I’ve decided to publish a list of the books currently sitting on my top shelf.

In order:

  • The Catcher in The Rye – J. D. Salinger (we didn’t read this in school – my brother gave it to me and told me I HAD TO read it because it was the BEST book ever.  On the fence.  Still.)
  • Landing It: My Life On and Off The Ice – Scott Hamilton
  • A Skating Life: My Story – Dorothy Hamill
  • Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons – Lorna Landvik (this title makes me giggle)
  • The History Of Love – Nicole Krauss (an incredible book – be prepared to cry your soul out)
  • What I Know Now About Success: Letters From Extraordinary Women To Their Younger Selves – bunch of women
  • I Was Told There’d Be Cake, essays by Sloan Crosley
  • Rich Boy – Sharon Pomerantz (a book club book we read)
  • The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a 40 Year Friendship – Jeffrey Zaslow (another book club book.  We actually spoke to the author during our meeting by phone.  He sadly and shockingly died in a car accident last year)
  • 501 Spanish verbs (I mean obviously)
  • I Hate Everyone… Starting With Me – Joan Rivers (one of my first posts during which Joan signed this for me)
  • The Way To Make Wine: How To Craft Superb Table Wines At Home – Sheridan Warrick (because everyone has to have something like this book at home)
  • The Big Book Of Juices – and Natalie Savona (because people need to know I don’t sit around and just make wine at home)
  • The Idiots Guide To Amazing Sex – Sari Locker (a gift!  From a friend.  During college.  I swear)
  • The Wharton MBA Case Interview Study Guide Volume One (I did not go to Wharton and now that I think about it, I wish I had done a much better job studying this puppy during senior year job recruiting)
  • Something Blue – Emily Giffin
  • Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  • For One More Day – Mitch Albom (his books will make you cry and look within yourself.  They are awesome.  And Albom is from my home state)
  • Confessions Of A Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella
  • 1000 Places To See Before You Die – Patricia Schultz
  • Made in Russia: unsung icons of Soviet design – Michael Idov (a book I bought for my grandma before she passed away last year.  I was hoping it would allow her to reminisce about the things she was surrounded by for most of her life in Ukraine/The Soviet Union)
  • Conditioning For Figure Skating – Carl M. Poe (I’ve been meaning to do everything this book says since I was 16 I think)
  • If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons On Your Pigtails And Other Lessons I Learned From My Mom – Barbara Corcoran (pure inspiration.  Corcoran ended up building a real estate business worth in the many many millions.  She started with nothing and her life lessons are Awesome.  A recommendation from my dad)
  • Heartburn – Nora Ephron
  • Nora Ephron – Nora Ephron
  • I Remember Nothing – Nora Ephron
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck – Nora Ephron

I’m probably obsessed with classic gems like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle (all Nora Ephron’s)I probably love to laugh.  I probably think introspection is worth quite a bit of my time.  As is learning from those who have more wisdom and life experience.

I found this to be a more personal exercise than I expected.

Feel free to use these as recommendations also – I would recommend everything on this list.

Especially 501 Spanish Verbs.

Awesome.