The Olympics of Inspiration: The Olympics (what else??)

The Olympics are here.

This means precisely 3 things.

1)      Every tech gadget I own, including the original iPod touch, is in use, sometimes simultaneously, to stream events, watch replays, double check live standings, and re-watch live events in prime-time

2)      I’m digging up old pics of myself.  Like this one:

minnie

In a can’t-help-but-reminisce type of fashion.  Feel free to judge.

3)      I’m jet lagged.  In my apartment.

Watching the Olympics is like hooking yourself up to an IV of inspiration.  Yes, there are disappointments, the occasional curse word, and displeasing shows of emotion (I’m looking at you Ashley).  But then there’s sportsmanship, dream moments, heaps of stories about overcoming obstacles, language barrier breaking, and underdog winning humbling moments.

It’s the Winter Olympics in Sochi day 15.  These are my favorite moments so far.

Women’s half-pipe final run hugs.  I’m not sure if the snowboarding half-piping female athletes are just all friendly by nature, that’s the culture of the sport, (or they all had a drink before), but damn.  When the final scores were announced and Torah Bright, the defending gold medalist from Australia found out she won the silver, losing to Kaitlyn Farrington from the USA (go USA), she jumped up and down hugging and congratulating her.  You would’ve thought she had won.  It was refreshing.  And kinda funny.  Mostly refreshing.

The I love Shaun White series (and why Shaun White is awesome).  Clearly Shaun White has inspired many snowboarders in his time and will continue to do so.  But I’m pretty sure no one has been as inspired as Iouri Podladtchikov.  This young snowboarder has been pushing his own limits and hoping to rock out in the half pipe against White.  But as he clearly stated in an interview, with excitement and straight up glee – all he really wants is to meet Shaun in Sochi.

Dreams came true for Iouri; he met Shaun during the final round, when they were the last 3 athletes to go.  He won gold and beat Shaun.  And then he hugged him and wouldn’t let go.  I’ve never seen a happier person.  And Shaun handled himself in the coming days with poise and sportsmanship, refusing to complain about the course (like the other athletes), saying he was happy for the others, and showing humility in the face of defeat.  Go Shaun.

The figure skating underdog games.  Once upon a time there was a little girl named Adelina Sotnikova.  She won Russian nationals at the age of 12 and was hailed as the new representative of Russian Figure Skating (a program that, well, basically fell apart after the Soviet Union collapse).  Unfortunately, this little 12 year old is now a 17 year old, and was largely pushed aside during these Olympics, to make room for a little girl named Yulia Lipnitskaya, a 15 year old powerhouse.  Figure skating can be a cruel sport (no Kumbayah or hugs with the other athletes here folks).  So when Sotnikova was passed over for a spot in the Russian team event at the beginning of the competition, she got, well, pissed.

A big part of competing on a stage like the Olympics, is having the ability to step up and do the job in the moment when it needs to be done, under immense and unmatched pressure.  Sotnikova did just that.  While the world was checking their Olympic programs trying to figure out this girl’s name, Sotnikova skated two incredibly powerful and clean programs.  She gave Russia its first gold medal in female figure skating.  Ever.  And she beat a woman, who until today was basically unbeatable; someone who has been nicknamed “the queen.”

Ummm… you go girl, Adelina.

I’ve also enjoyed: a husband and wife snowboarding duo, whose events happened to be one after the other, and who happened to both medal with the gold and bronze, respectfully.  Watching these two bawl their eyes out together was an unrivaled newly-wed moment.  I can smell the movie rights.

It’s cheesy, but I love feeding off the inspiration.  Seeing the hard work of the Olympic athletes pushes me to ignore the sub-zero temps and trade in my warm blanket and the couch for a treadmill, for a figure skating session, for some off-ice practice, for a yoga/pilates class, for some stretching.

This week I had a burst of energy while running, something that’s admittedly been difficult this winter.  I started skating again and attempted jumps I haven’t in some years (pic below).

What can I say, I love watching these athletes kick ass and push themselves.

Awesome.

skating

Valentines Day

flowersIt’s February 14, 1994.

I’m 8.

It’s year 3 in the USA.

Somehow mama has assimilated fast enough to grasp the eyebrow-raising traditions of the Hallmark holidays.

Valentines Day is right up her ally.

My brother and I wake up to baskets full of goodies.

Stickers, random candy, small popcorn bags, hair ribbons, candy hearts. (Come to think of it, I have no clue what was in my brother’s)

It’s all pink and exciting. And it’s just like her.

And so she instilled in us not only the art of surprise, but the embrace of small things that make life fun. Like dressing up at 80’s parties. Or sending care packages for no reason.  Or taking Halloween too seriously.

This year?

Cheesy homemade photo albums for me. Surprise art supplies for the lucky lady in my brother’s life. Surprise care package for my little sis.  Flowers for my grandma.

May the traditions continue.

I hope you had a great day.

I know I’m late, but – Happy Valentines Day everyone.

Surprise Heroes

This week, while on vacation in South Florida, I received an e-mail from one of my managers notifying me that I needed to be present at a meeting in Florida and needed to extend my stay.

And since the high in Chicago this winter resembles the polar ice caps, I was more than happy to oblige.

It had already been an awesome stay.

I reunion-ed with my former roommates, beached it until we needed aloe, partied like it was 2007, had conversations I can’t remember, and made life plans that included first and foremost retiring on the beach (soon).

I took my vacation glow on the road, knowing that I would have little sleep over the next few days, but that seeing my co-workers would bring some necessary (and fun) team bonding.

Friday it occurred to me that I was exhausted.

Wednesday had been an 18-hour day, with dinner and drinks.  Thursday’s schedule wasn’t any less busy and long and I found myself dragging my feet on my way to a large work dinner with people I largely did not know.

And then I was seated next to Mary.

Mary has had a long incredible career.  The kind of career most dream of.

She’s retired now and carries herself like someone who’s lived a lot, loved a lot, seen a shit load, and my guess is made some fabulous friends.  I didn’t know her 20 or 30 years ago, but I’m betting she’s now just as glamorous.  Her laugh is contagious and she drinks like she knows how to indulge in life.

I felt excited to meet this incredibly accomplished woman who was appointed by three different presidents to serve overseas in a multitude of roles.  Someone who has lived in more countries than I’ve probably travelled to, who’s brushed shoulders with influential policy-makers, and who somehow had time to be married for 29 years and raise five children.

I didn’t waste my chance to get to know her.  I immediately notified her that I was going to ask her a thousand questions.

Lucky for me, her gregarious personality lit up.  She took a sip of wine and said, “well, what do you want to know?”

I asked about her career and how she navigated from one role to another.  I asked about her work for diplomats with strong personalities.  I asked about choosing the right person and making a marriage work for that long.

She told me about the 10 years she spent in her first job before applying to work overseas on a whim, setting herself up for a life she couldn’t imagine.  She told me about the characters she’s worked for/with and the trials and triumphs she’s managed through the years.  She told me that she believes the most important thing in a relationship is integrity.

What struck me most was her honesty.  She talked about her career with humor and humility and discussed her family life with passion and a tone that shed light on its importance.

I love meeting people that inspire me.  I love it even more when it takes me completely by surprise.

You can find Mary’s bio here.

Here’s to unexpectedly meeting heroes.

Awesome