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

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New Year’s Resolutions in Reverse: A Good-bye to 2013

 

The first few days of the New Year are upon us.

This can only mean one thing:

New. Year. Obligatory. Post.

Just in case the other 97627346 bloggers, hard-hitting CNN journalists (seriously – CNN – sometimes I think you’re punking me with your absurd headlines), and, as I found out today… , USA.GOV New Year’s Resolution website (what???) didn’t offer the right amount of predictable inspiration, I’m offering my two cents here.

Truthfully, I am a fan of this topic and New Year’s in general.

The ending of a year and the starting of a brand spanking new blank slate is pretty exciting.  It’s like the first day of school (brand new notebooks!!).

However, I don’t believe you can start a new chapter/list/notebook before you’ve properly closed off the previous one.

Last night, during a dinner party, one of the seven guests suggested we go around the table and have everyone say their “Best and Worst of 2013.”

The answers were real.  Some were funny.  All prompted reflection.  The worst: losing a job, learning of a family member’s illness, losing a pet; The best: passing an important exam, meeting newly special people, finding a new job.

In similar fashion, for today’s post, I’ve decided to recycle a popular idea I used a few months ago called The Reverse Bucket List and write a reverse New Year’s resolution list for 2013.

The following is a list of some self-improvements, goals, and personal attainments of 2013 (and, when appropriate, illustrative photos):

1)      Put effort into becoming closer with family members; find time to get to know extended family

cousins

Meeting second cousins for brunch

2)      Separate emotionally from surrounding drama

3)      Get back out on that ice and start figure skating/training/coaching again

ice skating figure skating

Back on the ice – starting a session

4)      Furnish/decorate an apartment from scratch

The completed "living room" in my first personal apartment

The completed “living room” in my first personal apartment

5)      Travel abroad for an “extended” vacation; leave worries/computers/cell phones behind

greece

Taking it easy in Naxos, Greece

6)      Pick up a new fitness hobby

flywheel spin cycle

Attending Flywheel classes with friends

7)      Cook for myself more – learn to make new healthy staples

Yummy salad with homemade dressing

Yummy salad with homemade dressing

8)      Take advantage of new city

Hanging off the ledge at Sears Tower

Hanging off the ledge at Sears Tower

9)      Take advantage of new found proximity to family (with move to Chicago) and spend more time with little sister

roller coaster

Roller-coastering with lil sis

10)      Take steps to show some semblance of putting yourself first

11)      Learn to say no

12)      Bring down the mile-high fence/barricade/guard and give trust and a new relationship a chance

Ice skating at the zoo.  It snowed.  It was perfect.

Ice skating at the zoo in Chicago. It snowed. A friend snapped this when we weren’t looking.

Decidedly, 2013 was pretty good to me.

A great portion of the positive in 2013 stemmed from this blog.  Writing these posts, however inconsequential they may seem, has come to be a huge part of my life.  I love connecting with readers from my  backyard as well as all over the world.  I love reading what others are generating.  I love finding commonalities.

So thank you, friends, for making 2013 Awesome.

I think I’m ready for 2014.

Cheers!

I Live Where Now?? What Happened This Year??

chicago

365 days ago my (former) roomie and I started a new life chapter:

The Chicago years.

It happened.

1 year ago today.

I would say I’m shocked at how fast it’s gone by but then… SO MUCH SHIT has happened.

And by shit I mean things.

Relationships, friendships, apartments, family and work dynamics, extra-curricular activities, travels domestically and abroad, animal relocations (roomie’s cat couldn’t stay) and Chicago-based family reconnections, among other things, were all changed or touched for at least one of us this year.

So, yeah.  It’s been a busy year.

But let’s turn the focus back to that day for a moment.  October 31, 2012.

Looking back, I think the sequence of events for the move went something like this:

1)      Wake up at 430AM.

2)      Wonder why head hurts.

3)      Wonder why we’re on the floor on a bare mattress… oh right. Moving. New state. Hurricane Sandy.

4)      Remember dealing with stranded situation by playing beer pong with everyone in building by candle-light.

5)      Find cat.

6)      Put mattress in trash room on another floor so no one thinks it’s us.

7)      Feel guilty for a few seconds.

8)      Shrug.

9)      Use landline system to call downstairs to ask for little man to manually bring the only operating generator-backed up elevator to the 27th floor.

10)  Stealthily begin the escape out of NYC by doing what we were told NOT to do under ANY circumstances: move out. Or leave the building generally.

11)  Leave roomie to bring our (my) stuff down the elevator.

12)  Walk through pitch black streets to the side of Manhattan with no blackout.

13)  Find our beacon of light: Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

14)  Rent Suburban.

15)  Realize it’s too small.

16)  Rent Mini-Van.

17)  Suddenly understand soccer moms.

18)  Drive through Manhattan streets with no traffic lights.

19)  Feel scared.

20)  Feel excited.

21)  Reflect on the fact that you need a shower.

22)  Pull up to building.

23)  Convince 4 doormen to risk their jobs by packing the mini-van with all of our stuff.

24)  Give doormen handles of Vodka as a going away present.

25)  Pretend we’re NOT moving out when manager shows up to work at 6AM.

26)  Put cat on roomie’s lap.

27)  Drive away.

28)  Don’t look back.

moving away nyc

Lining the hallway with our stuff so we’d be ready to go in the morning

We drove about 794 miles in 12 hours.

The actual drive was eventful in itself.  If I wrote a list of things that happened, I would definitely include roomie’s desire to SING THE WHOLE TIME, roomie trying to make the cat “go” IN the car at the McDonald’s parking lot while in godknowswhere and stopping in quaint Pennsylvania town to eat and then somehow hanging with trick-or-treating preschoolers.

It was a journey.  We couldn’t predict hurricane Sandy’s premiere in our life the night before we were supposed to move and we couldn’t predict the past year.

me on couch

One of our friends in midtown Manhattan had electricity so we went to plug in my computer and phone so I could check work e-mail and ya know tell my family I was alive (and drink water out of a wine glass apparently)

It’s been busy.  But the good news is that a lot of things have stayed the same.  Like her desire to constantly get me up to do shit in the morning.

Per usual, she forced me to wake up this morning for a breakfast outing – to celebrate our 1-year anniversary in Chicago… before work.

Per usual, I couldn’t get up and was more than late.

Per usual, she was mad but then it was ok after we had eggs and hash browns.

Celebrating the move this morning!

Celebrating the move this morning!

We toasted with sunny side up eggs while sitting in the diner around the corner from my apartment.  We chatted about this past year and talked about upcoming plans and then we went about our lives in this city which was new last year but is suddenly so familiar.

Looking forward to year 2 ya’all.

Awesome.

Note: There were 3 of us living together in that last apartment. The 3rd one did not move with us.  Something about family and the whole having a great stable relationship with someone who had just gotten into law school in NYC.  Still trying to figure out what all that’s about.

we will miss you nyc

Helping other roomie paint

Inspiration Fridays

inspiration

That time has come upon us.

It’s Friday.

The first day of the weekend.

Time to reflect on the week and plan weekend adventures.

Today I’m getting listy.

Here are the people, in no particular order, that are inspiring me this week:

This Amazing Old Guy

Harry Rosen is 103.

He eats out in New York City’s trendiest restaurants every single night. He gets his usual corner table and he eats by himself, often striking up conversations with people.  He says it “lifts [his] spirits.”

He’s not your typical 103-year-old.

He’s living life and he’s doing his best to enjoy it.  He’s eating out and he’s even trying to date.

He enjoys the simple pleasure of being out among the people.  It helps to be out, since his wife of 70 years passed a few years ago.  Since then, he’s even tried participating in singles groups.

This guy’s enthusiasm makes me want to get up in the morning, throw back the curtains, and declare in one magnificent gesture, hands on hips – like I imagine Tarzan, naked in a loin cloth – TODAAAAY WILL BE THE BEST DAY EVER!!!!!!

He’s also freaking adorable.  And everyone from my 20-something friends to friends’ moms to my grandma want to be his dining companion (I’ve taken a poll).

I think this has something to do with the fact that people tend to be drawn towards the positive.  And Harry – you’ve got it down.  I can only hope to make it to 103 and have half the spirit and drive you do (Rosen says the secret is sleeping on your back).

Absolutely amazing.

A Neighbor

I received some 8AM inspiration from a new neighbor this week.

I overslept one morning and decided to take a cab to work (low point, I know).

While I was waiting, an older gentleman happened to come down to head to work as well.  And we struck up a conversation in my building’s lobby.

This man (probably in his 60s) told me (in the span of 20 minutes) essentially his entire professional life story (I asked).

He told me about the teams he used to work on for automotive clients, dreaming up new inventions for cars (silly things like windshield wipers).  He told me about the 150 patents he penned in the U.S. and abroad.  He told me about how he keeps working now well into his retirement because he loves it.

To quote my new friend Eric: “It’s not always giggles, but I’ve loved what I do for decades.  Life’s way too short not to love what you’re doing.”

This Spunky Personal Training Entrepreneur

My building invited a Chicago personal trainer/life coach to train residents in Yoga and Pilates.

I couldn’t make the classes previously, due to my work schedule, but had the opportunity to attend the last couple.

I love her class – and I love feeding off her energy!

I’ve had some opportunities to chat with her since then and I’ve been pretty inspired.

Stephanie Mansour started her own business in her early 20s (Step it Up With Steph) and five years later is well on her way to building her own personal fitness empire.

I look forward to her blog articles and her advice.  Why?  Because she’s honest.  And anyone who blogs will tell you that being honest is key.  Putting yourself out there is HARD and blogging or sharing your life takes guts (that I’m slowly finding).

Steph believes that her business is “not JUST about exercise and eating right – it’s about emotions and the connection we have to ourselves and others.” (from her blog) – I couldn’t agree more.

She is equal parts inspiration due to her entrepreneurial skills and her attitude about life.

——–

Thanks for the inspiration ya’ll!!

And HAPPY FRIDAY.

Awesome.

Note: None of these people knew that I was going to write about them.  Although, I do wish Harry Rosen knew.

Note 2: Somehow another photo shoot happened this morning.  If you haven’t tried putting on ridiculous things from your closet and being expressive for no reason, I HIGHLY recommend it.  I also recommend dancing around your home/apt/living abode by yourself to music in said outfit.  it’s AWESOME.

Home-Running it Through the Bucket List

chicago sport and social softball

Number 11 on my bucket list this summer was to join a summer sports league.

I put it on my bucket list because I’ve never actually joined a recreational sports team for young professionals.  I’ve seen many a group walking around sporting ZogSports or Chicago Sport and Social Club t-shirts… and really wanted one.

There are a host of excuses for why in the 6 years post college I have not yet participated.  I’m busy.  I’m a figure skater (i.e. not a soccer/football/baseball player).  None of my friend groups have ever organized a team.  Games are held in inconvenient locations.  The last time I played football in fourth grade I was tackled and couldn’t feel my body for a bit.  The other girls have more experience.

Basically, I’ve been too chicken-shit.

Time to amend this issue.

This summer I’ve joined a Chicago Sport and Social Club softball league with about 20 of my co-workers (read: public humiliation is even more fun when carried to the workplace).

And today was the first game.

Today was also, conveniently, the hottest day Chicago has seen this summer.

Let the shirt-soaking fun begin.

I took a cab found my way to the field and joined everyone for beers warm-ups.

I quickly found out that laying low wasn’t in the cards.  Turns out league rules state that each team must have at least 4 girls on the team at all times, 4 girls in the outfield and must rotate a girl batter every two players. (I haven’t decided how I feel about this gender equality driven rule-book as of yet).

Either way…we had 5 girls.  I had to woman-up and learn fast.

I started the game as the Center-fielder.  By the grace of some guardian angel, the other team’s first line-up couldn’t hit a ball the size of a kickball had some trouble and struck out quickly.  I had another beer with my teammates/coworkers and prepared to bat for the first time.

Everyone started to cheer me on as I went up.  I swung once and missed and then got a walk to first.  I was pretty psyched.  We struck out shortly after, but I was starting to get the hang of it.

My next turn at center-fielder, I was the recipient of a giant welt on the side of my knee stopped a ball hurled straight towards me and was able to get it to the second-base in time to hear “out” called on the other team.

At some point during the game the other team started to kick our ass play really well.

Any judgment passed in the beginning of the game flew straight out the window (lesson learned).  This team didn’t have matching uniforms, seemed disorganized and had one member with an artificial leg.

You’d think the score would have at least been close.  NOPE. (I will refrain from divulging the actual score)

We lost.

I’m pretty sure that bystanders couldn’t tell the difference though.  We immediately began toasting and drinking beers on the field and continuing the hyper excitement of the past 2 hours.

After on-field drinks, we moved the matching t-shirt party to a local bar where we toasted to our next game.

Playing with a team of coworkers/friends/new team members at sunset on a summer day was Awesome.

Looking forward to next week’s game.

Turning it around… part II/Random Acts of (Kind) Surprise

reflection

Today was day 4 of the elevators in my newly renovated building not working.

If you know me… then you know that I don’t take to these types of injustices well.

I live on the 23rd floor.  And hiking up a mountain at the end of the day is not on my list of things to do. Regardless of the exercise bonus (I just got my ass KICKED in booty ballet and I refuse more exercise).

SO.  Waking up this morning to find the elevator button simply non-operational brought up my heart rate instantaneously.

I was ready to fight management (physically), call the Better Business Bureau or hurl myself down the stairs to give them something to deal with… maybe all three at the same time.

I somehow made it through the lobby without attacking anyone and took the bus downtown to work.

As I got off the bus, I noticed a man walking toward me in the all-out chaos of rush hour in downtown Chicago.

I debated conking him in the face.

He came over and gave me one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever heard.

I was stunned for a moment.  Looked awkward.  Said thank you.  Turned.  And smiled, despite myself.

I walked off smiling.  In that embarrassing way that surely had people thinking… “issues.”

This stranger quite literally turned my day around with one comment.

(I’m considering the missed connections portion of Craigslist).

Nothing left to do… except pay it forward – Since random acts of kind surprise are just…

Awesome.

Lean In and Get Over It

inspiration

Last week was rough.

I was in the midst of working hard (showing off my tan) in my third day back in the office since my Greek odyssey, when I was unexpectedly cast in a commercial for everything-that-Sheryl-Sandberg-leans-in-about.

An unexpected altercation with a female superior left me blind-sided and wondering why certain individuals feel compelled to push others down.

It was a blow.

It was surreal.

It shook me up a bit.

I needed to bounce back. Shrug it off. Stop caring. Look the other way. Forget about it.  Look on the bright side.  Accept the nature of the business (thanks dad).  Learn a lesson.

I took the advice.  I took some deep breaths.  And I went back to re-centering myself in much the same way that started this blog:

Remembering things I love to do (big and small)… and doing them.

Over the past few days I have pushed my physical boundaries by going back to the dance room, this time in the form of the make-your-muscles-shake Bar Method.  This class kicked my butt, but left me feeling accomplished.

Also – I can’t remember the last time I did 40 push-ups.  7th Grade Gym?

bar method

I took my love of tea and the belief that anything can be solved over a hot pot to the Drake Hotel, where a friend and I hashed life out over a tradition known as high tea.

We each had about 5 pots of tea and took some liberties with the butter-on-scone action.  We might not be cut out for Pride and Prejudice the sequel, but we left feeling uplifted (and hydrated).

high tea

I frolicked, danced and swam with friends and family.  This involved seeing my cousins, experiencing a Chicago Beer festival and enjoying the budding Chicago summer on my rooftop.

pool

And I did some shopping.

In the form of a “shopping party” that a friend happened to win that came with champagne and discounts.

(Yes, I’m secretly Cher Horowitz)

(And Celine Dion plays while I’m finding myself at the mall)

shopping finding yourself

At some point during the shopping extravaganza, while trying on dresses with my best girls to the inspiration of Kelly Clarkson appropriately playing in the background, I turned my defeat into mental power.  Re-energized from doing what I love and enjoying my favorite people, I felt calm and empowered.  I remembered the inspirational women I’ve been lucky to have in my life.  I thought about the fact that I too can say that I am a strong, ambitious and passionate woman.

And I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

I actually think it’s Awesome.