The Miracle of Human Flight. (in the digital age)

flight

I went on a business trip.

Yep. Like a big girl.

I know you’re not surprised, since I’ve blogged about my flying adventures before.

This time was different though.  I didn’t make a lobster roll spread on my way to Los Angeles by taking up a full row and laying out my condiments (shamelesssss) and I didn’t creatively procure free alcohol (it was weird).

I participated in the miracle of human flight in a different way and I got pretty excited.

Are you guys familiar with Louis C. K.?  I apologize if this question is akin to me asking if you’ve heard of Miley Cyrus. DUH. (Unfortunately) (although that “We Can’t Stop” song – pretty catchy).

Anyway. Louis C. K. Comedian. Hilarious. Sometimes takes it too far. But mostly dead on funny.

A few years ago he was on Conan’s show and ranted for a fantastic bit that has come to be known as “everything is amazing and no one is happy,” during which he recounts how freaking awesome it is – this invention of human flight (among other things) (and rants on humans in general).

(if you haven’t seen it, then you HAVE TO watch this clip. It’s the funniest shit ever. Click here. Or here. Or HERE.)

That’s how I felt.

Not only was it a gorgeous day for flying.

BUT I used the internet today. On board.

Not only was I 38,000 feet in the air, but I could TELL MY FRIENDS ABOUT IT.

In real time.

So I did.

I emailed my brother, my aunt, my boyfriend, my cousin, 10 of my co-workers, my grandma, several managers, my dad, and my hair stylist (ok my former hair stylist).

I realize in-flight wifi isn’t new. But it actually worked this time. And I actually felt like using it instead of taking some me time/had to dial-in (something about work).

I was totally going weeeeeeeee. (My row companion LOVED it. JK. But I did have an interesting convo with him that I’ll save for my next post. YUP. It’s a two-parter.)

Anyways, IT WAS AWESOME!

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Messin’ About On Boats: A Spontaneous Vacation

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I love surprises.  I love being spontaneous.  I love getting away.

Even when it’s to the neighborhood French bistro at 9:30 PM on a Sunday — that’s 2 hours where I forget it all, drink wine and stuff myself with truffled fries.  Or to the movie theatre on a Monday night followed by deep-dish pizza – that’s 3 hours where I pretend I’m having a staycation in the beginning of the week.

Point is.  I love being spontaneous and getting away.

So when that boy I’ve been hanging out with a lot told me five days before Thanksgiving that he’d booked a cruise to the Caribbean for this past weekend, I nodded and said:

I’ll go get my in-case-of-Caribbean-cruise-rolly-bag.

It’s already packed.

I was psyched.  All 3 aspects rolled into one.  What an incredible short, yet Awesome adventure.

I was beaming, but also kind of nervous.

Because I didn’t know what to expect.

Let me rephrase that.  I knew exactly what to expect.  I knew about the mountains of delicious food available to all passengers 24/7.  I knew about the on-board shows.  I knew about the endless photographs, Jacuzzis on the top deck, piña coladas, cheesy dance parties and the fact that they’ll deliver a pizza to your room at any time of day FREE.  I even knew about the safety drill (where you get to practice lining up like you did in elementary school).

But I didn’t know what to expect.

It’s been 6 years since my last cruise.

That one that my mom purchased for me – a last gift before she passed away – for my graduation from college.  I haven’t been on a cruise since then.

Similar ship.  Similar islands.  Similar environment.  Same desire to vacate.  Different time in my life.

What would it be like?

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atlantis

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The food was still there.  So were the hot tubs.  The stars still sparkled unlike anything I am able to see in the city.  The ocean’s turquoise colors still amazed me.  As did its blunt expansiveness.

We had fun.  We ate too much.  We drank one too many mimosas.  We tried Bahamian beer.  We went down the kiddie slide at the Atlantis resort.  We won some money in roulette.  We lost it all.  We ordered champagne and pizza at 3 in the morning.  We ordered the left side of the all-inclusive menu at dinner.

It was different, but it was the same.  Appropriately tweaked for this time in my life.

And it was spontaneous.

Which made it that much better.

Good weekend.

Awesome.

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 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.

Dear Millennials and People of All Ages: Write a Reverse Bucket List

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These days, everybody’s got advice to give, it seems.

Just this morning, someone at work forwarded a list of the top 10 BEST pieces of advice according to some dude named Dan Schawbel (and Forbes, apparently) for all millennials.

According to Dan and the popular media of the world, we should never settle for a job we’re not passionate about, make a big impact IMMEDIATELY at a new job (haha), take risks early and often, spend more time with people, measure your work outcomes and SACRIFICE today to position yourself better for tomorrow.

Sure thing, Dan.

I’ll pencil this in for Thursday.  Wednesday’s already filled up it looks like……I’m uh….oh hmmm YEP, Wednesday I’m settling from 8 – 6:30.

Sometimes advice from every imaginable expert on success makes for great lunch-time reading.

Sometimes you just don’t want to hear it.

Here’s some Tuesday advice: take a break from world domination plotting and wondering what more you could be doing (I’m speaking to myself as well here) and write a reverse bucket list.

You’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about.

Just so happens that in the same hour that I was blessed with this life-changing advice, I also read a blog post from this Awesome woman who cleverly wrote a bucket list in reverse.

This inspiring Millennial, Amy, “[took] stock of all [she has] accomplished thus far” on her milestone birthday.

My advice is to take half a second to think about the things you’ve already accomplished in your young, medium, more medium age and revel in it for a second.

Swish it in your mouth.

Enjoy the moment.

Get some perspective.

As Amy puts it, “once you start recalling all the amazing things you’ve already accomplished in life, those looming items unchecked off your bucket list don’t seem too daunting, or out of reach.”

What follows is my reverse bucket list.

  1. Learn a 3rd language
  2. Visit Cuba
  3. Work for a Fortune 500 Company
  4. Compete in a National Figure Skating Championship
  5. Share my passion for figure skating with others
  6. Zip-line in Costa Rica
  7. Take my little sister to see the Statue of Liberty
  8. Cook for my grandfather in my NYC apartment (he flew in!)
  9. Shop in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
  10. Win a medal in the school district’s Optimist Speech Contest (I was 13)
  11. Swim on a swim team
  12. Experience high tea in a castle in London
  13. Take a cruise with my mom
  14. Drink a beer at Oktoberfest in Munich
  15. Have a spa day in Bath, England (the historic site of the Roman Baths)
  16. Connect with a stranger on an international flight
  17. Ride the Maid of the Mist under Niagara Falls
  18. Camp on a deserted island
  19. Celebrate my birthday on a beach
  20. Climb Sleeping Bear Dunes
  21. Ride a roller coaster with my little sister
  22. Graduate from a top university
  23. Live in Mexico
  24. Sail in Greece
  25. Be inducted into my university’s athletic hall of fame
  26. Play in a recreational league (softball!)
  27. Watch the sunrise from an old fishing boat out on the ocean in Puerto Escondido, Mexico
  28. Study in Madrid, Spain
  29. Write letters to a friend in another country
  30. Live in New York City
  31. Go prom dress shopping with my mom
  32. Run a half marathon
  33. Join a book club
  34. Sit front row at a broadway show
  35. Dance all night in Florence on New Years Eve
  36. Volunteer at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge
  37. Eat home-made Moussaka in Mykonos, Greece
  38. Ride an ATV
  39. Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s former home
  40. Attend a wedding in Europe
  41. Go tubbing on the Aegean Sea
  42. See Santana live in Mexico City
  43. Ski a black diamond trail
  44. Take a boxing class
  45. See the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace
  46. See the Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC
  47. Be a guest on a daytime talk show
  48. Take the Chicago Architectural Boat Tour
  49. Try wakeboarding
  50. Live in Chicago
  51. Start a personal blog

Thank you, Amy, for this wonderful idea.

I have 50 here (and 1 as the cherry on top).  I challenge everyone to write a reverse bucket-list.

It reminds you of the Awesome in your life.

Brunch: a Study in Friendship, Personal Growth and Chili

That Time I Saw Walter Isaacson Speak and Spent 8 Days Trying to Write About It

I went to brunch with one of my best friends this weekend and something unexpected happened.

She pulled out a notebook and told me she was going to interview me.

It was 11am on a hung-over Saturday.

I gave her the best death stare I had.  She gave me the “yep this is happening” look.  And I gave up.

Friend was headed on a leadership retreat with her company and was given the assignment of interviewing 2 people she felt had “influenced” her.

I was pretty surprised she chose me.  And Kinda honored.  (OK really honored).

But definitely surprised.

Not because our friendship isn’t Awesome (it is) but because I had never stopped to think about the types of life-altering effects we’ve had on each other.

Best friends are not strangers that inspire you during a chance meeting or teachers, professors and superiors that you look up to.  Best friends are, in some ways, extensions of you.

And this friend in particular could very well be my right arm, since we’ve been more or less inseparable for a decade.  We met during orientation of Freshman year, lived on the same hallway, lived together Sophomore and Junior year, shared an apartment in New York City Junior summer when we were super cool and doing internships and lived together Senior year on the same floor.  Post college we moved from one apartment to another in New York City for 5 years and then casually escaped Hurricane Sandy last Halloween when we drove ourselves (in a rented minivan) to Chicago where we became grown-ups and got our own apartments (less than a mile from each other).

It’s been 10 years.  That’s more than 1/3 of my life that I’ve had this one friend by my side.  Through the coming and going of boyfriends, tragedies, births, deaths, triumphs, games of flip cup, book clubs, travels to exotic destinations, costume parties and that one time we were “guests” on the Rachael Ray show (true story).

We’ve shared clothes, experiences, laughs, hugs and tears for 10 years.

So when friend pulled out a notebook on a sunny fall day and told me I had influenced her, I was forced to put down the eggs benedict menu and give her a look that could only read “what are you talking about.”

During the next hour or so, while I devoured my much needed comfort food, friend fired a number of questions at me.  Some I’m sure she knew the answers to.  Some that brought up experiences I forgot existed, buried deep where I keep my childhood memories.  Some that brought up new topics and conclusions we had never spoken to one another.

What is your favorite trait about yourself?  My ability to connect with others.

Who has influenced you the most?  My mom had the greatest influence on me before she passed.

Name a moment that stands out as time when you recognized your own leadership skills.  When I was named a “team leader” while studying abroad in Madrid, Spain during my junior year of high school.  I had just transferred to a new high school and was feeling out of place in my environment.  Being so far away from home and in a new setting with other teenagers from around the world forced me to bring out my extroverted personality and gave me a clean slate to run with.  There was a moment that I’ll never forget, when one of the program organizers pulled me aside after an event, and told me that the spirit I had shone through and she could foresee big things for me.  I think my confidence grew twofold on that day.

How do you think you’ve influenced me?  I think we probably push each other.  I believe in surrounding myself with positive influences and support systems.  I imagine it’s similar for you.  My drive and ambitions push and inspire your own, as yours do for me.

What is one trait that you would change about yourself?  I would like to be calmer and take things in stride.  I would like to accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to change the things I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.  Just like the quote.  I’m working on it.

It was an unexpectedly deep Saturday morning.  And definitely not your typical Friday-night-recap brunch.

Luckily, they had a Do-It-Yourself chili (It’s a thing) to which I added poached eggs, avocado, sour cream, chips, mushrooms and cilantro cream.

The chili was amazing.  So was connecting in new ways with someone you lived with for 10 years and still see almost every week.

Maybe everyone should bring a list of life questions to brunch dates?

Awesome.

Big Lessons come in Small Pints

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I spent this weekend at home with my little sister.

She turned 13 a couple weeks ago.

Which means she’s a teenager.

So naturally – she knows EVERYTHING.

To celebrate, I surprised her at home and spent the weekend shopping, getting our nails done and swimming.

I might have been playing big sis but she was schooling me the whole time.

Here are the top things I learned over this weekend.  From my 13 year old sister.  In no particular order.

1) Boys can be dismissed if they bore you with sports stats.

True story.

She said it calmly, with a classy hand wave, as if shoo-ing the imaginary boy in front of her away.

She’s 13 and already knows that boys’ evolutionary obsession with sports stats is bound to drive you nuts.  This notion appears to be a given.  What also appears to be a given, is that you can dump them for this reason.

Whereas my twenty-something counterparts are putting on jerseys and being the cool girlfriends, lil sis and her friends are rolling their eyes and deleting their numbers from their parent-provided cell phones.

Last week she was watching her new boyfriend play baseball.  Today he is nowhere in sight.

Me: How’s Nicholas?

Lil Sis: He was boring me with sports stats.

Me: Oh.

2) Boyfriends have 3 duties. Bring you flowers, kiss you on the cheek and carry your stuff.

Holy shit.  I’m doing it wrong.

Attention women everywhere: chivalry* is not dead.  There’s an entire generation of middle school boys begging their moms to buy them flowers so they can give them to their “girlfriends.”  In return, they’ll get to kiss them on the cheek and carry their stuff.

What a revelation!

So simple!

So Cavalier!

Moving forward, it will be made clear that flowers are important. Kissing on the cheek is admissible.  As is hauling my laundry upstairs.

It’s time to revert to real courtship… the middle school way.

3) Miley Cyrus sucks

Direct quote.

I already knew this but it felt good to have it confirmed.

After her fantastic show of low moral value on stage at the VMA’s, I was thinking two things.  Why do all my favorite Disney stars turn into train wrecks?  And I hope lil sis isn’t watching this/liking this/planning on debuting new moves at her next co-ed “party.”

Luckily she’s not.

But it did make me think for a hot second about all those furious moms and dads out there whose little girls have Hannah Montana taped up all over their room.  For a moment, I understood why they were pissed that precious Hannah turned out to be kind of a slut.

When lil sis told me about her feelings regarding Miley in the car, I was pretty impressed and relieved.

Mostly relieved.

I didn’t want her to be upset.

Like Little Me is. Regarding her favorite redhead from The Parent Trap (the remake).

4) It’s the small things

I told her she could pick one big item or a few small ones at the nice mall as her present.

We went into stores she’s never shopped in and tried on clothing that cost the equivalent of my monthly apartment rent.

I figured she would be thrilled.

And she was.

By the size and décor of the fitting rooms.

The first had “the biggest pillows” she’d ever seen and a bench she wanted to lay on.  The next one was “like a bedroom” where she wanted to “hang out all day.”

I was slightly bewildered but totally uplifted by this absurdly happy child, mesmerized by fitting rooms.

In the end, all she wanted (besides candy) was “cool yoga pants.”

Which I gladly bought her.

After she hung out in the fitting room for half an hour.

sister fitting room life

5) All it takes is a little “applesauce”

Teenagers are loud and hyper creatures.

I do remember being afflicted with this loud and hyper bug.

(there’s a chance I’m still suffering).

So you’d think living under the same roof for a few days with a child that resembles a bouncy ball would be easy.

It’s not.

But it does teach you a thing or two about happiness:

You can be happy whenever.

Her new thing with her friends is picking a “happy” word that they say constantly.

This month’s gem is “applesauce.”

She texts me this word, she calls to yell it over the phone, she uses it as code for things, she drives my dad up the wall singing about applesauce all day.

I wish I could explain it to you.  Except I don’t totally get it.

All I know is that she can be having a bad practice at gymnastics and feeling down one second and then just totally uninhibited running around screaming “applesauce” the next.

My dad says “she’s just  a happy child,” which makes me think about my 13-year old uninhibited hyper days and makes me want to run around being happy for no reason at all.

Awesome.

* Note: I looked up “Chivalry.”  Wikipedia says that Chivalry is the traditional code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood.  And I am totally down with this.