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.

Advertisements

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!

A Thing or Two About Life: A Birthday Chronicle

lala bday party 1 - Copy

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.

food

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.

brother sister

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

photo (94)

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.

friend

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.

Inspiration Fridays

I kicked off this week by sharing with you all this note my friend wrote me.

why i like you

It was unexpected and Awesome.

Today, I’d like to end the week keeping with this theme.

Shortly after I posted Sometimes, the following link/experiment was brought to my attention.

It’s called The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude, which states that showing and giving gratitude raises our happiness levels exponentially.

In order to prove this, the people behind Soul Pancake decided to bring in a group of individuals to try this theory on and well, embarrass wholly for our benefit.

These individuals took a test regarding their current happiness levels and then were asked to write a short essay about the person that influences them the most.

And then they were asked to call that person.  And read their letter aloud.  On video.

The video is here.

It’s worth watching it for yourself.

Today I decided to try the experiment for myself.

I wrote a short letter about my dad.  Then I called him at work (he’s a consultant) and asked him to step out of his meeting.

…..Papa – Thank you for always listening to me and hearing out any issues I’m having – no matter how crazy they are……..I appreciate all the advice and love……When I was super little you always told me to stand tall and encouraged me to go out and be my best. And you still tell me that all the time.  And I still need to hear it. All the time………… I know you don’t hear this enough, but… thank you……  I love you.

me happy thankful gratitude

Pretty sure dad was utterly shocked and scared for a good 30 seconds. (WHAT. I can be sweet!)

And then I’m pretty sure there were smiles on both ends of the phone line.

Even if you don’t try the experiment yourself, watching the video will make you smile.  Promise.

Awesome.

The Art of Growing Up/Life Lessons Waiting on Your Hard Drive

college 80s party friendship

80’s Party – 2007

Last night I dug up that rusty old laptop from college.

I dusted it off and waited for the old processer to bring my MacBook to life.

The same MacBook that I wrote such riveting literary works on like: “Living in Oblivion” and “My Figure Skating Team: An Environmental Investigation.” (Yes.  I went to a liberal arts school.)

I was hoping to find some pictures from college.

As I started to go through the files, I noticed a folder I could barely wait 2 seconds to open:

“College E-mails”

Little Me saved hundreds of e-mails from college for my viewing pleasure.  She categorized them into folders marked “friends”; “boys”; “special e-mails”; “e-mails from mom”; ETC. (Goddamnit she was organized).

Naturally, all other plans for yesterday evening were postponed.  Dates were rescheduled.  Exercise regiments were put on hold.  Wrist-hurting pity parties were suspended.

4 hours were devoted to reading of college e-mails.

All the good stuff was in there.  Endless beer pong plans, inside jokes, important rendezvous’ (when WILL we eat lunch???), notes from boys, e-mails from ex-boyfriends, embarrassing e-mails written to boys, thorough recaps of classroom mishaps and enough T.M.I. to make me blush/warrant a reality show.

Around hour 3 of bursting out loud with laughter I began thinking about little me.

I thought about growing up, life’s unexpected changes – good and bad, love, friendship, family.

She didn’t know it, but little me had some things pretty figured out.

The following are some lessons little me and her friends left behind:

Love Wholly and Completely

It doesn’t matter if it’s your mom, a friend or a great professor, make sure everyone in your life knows how much you love them.

Telling them 5 times a day is totally acceptable.

Date: 13 Mar 2007 03:14:22 -0400
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject: and also
To: Little Me

I love you!

Date: 27 Jun 2006 06:56:47 EDT
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject: MORNING
To: Little Me

Good morning, poopy!*

Have a great day!!!

Call/text about tonight.

I LOVE you.

Date: 09 May 2006 16:25:28 EDT
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject: Re: one more thing
To: Little Me

— You wrote:

I LOVE YOU MY LITTLE PUMPKIN OF LOVE.

— end of quote —

I LOVE YOU CINNAMON PIE HEAD.

We woke up on many mornings to e-mails that simply said I love you.  What an Awesome reminder.  (Seriously… who needs a boyfriend).  We are still a tight-knit group, but not only am I not waking up at 6AM if I don’t have to… but I sure as hell am not getting up at 6AM to send all my friends love texts.  And truth be told… we are still a pretty mushy group.  SO.  It might be time to start a 7:45AM love text chain.

Tell your friends EVERYTHING

Date: 24 Apr 2007 19:51:55 -0400
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject:
To: Little Me, Whitney Larken, Hanna Mason, Nicole Sperry, Harper Emerson

i just farted in the library.

Enough said.

It’s All About the Little Things

And when I say little things I mean the basics.  Judging by the amount of food e-mails that were saved, being well-fed was the ticket to absolute bliss.  We played beer pong.  We studied.  And we ate.  And that was enough.

Date: 02 Mar 2006 00:32:10 EST
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject:
To: Little Me

if it werent for breakfast, id have no motivation to wake up

well, except maybe lunch

From: Hanna Mason
Subject: mmm
To: Little Me

i feel very lucky because there were girl scout cookies left all alone in the [library cafeteria], so i had one and it was good

Support Your Friends

Seems simple.  But then you get into the real world and everyone is caught up with their own lives.  Life starts to move faster and efforts to keep up with the Jones’ trickle in.  I find the ability to support those around you to be a pretty amazing characteristic that I’m grateful to say exemplifies so many in my life.  This was a great reminder.

Judging by the mountain of e-mails, I’m not even sure I would’ve graduated college without their support.

Date: 31 May 2006 01:11:17 EDT
From: Little Me
Subject: Love you
To: Hanna Mason

I believe in you

Date: 13 Oct 2006 04:21:14 -0400
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject:
To: Little Me

GOOD LCUK TOMOTRROW!

Love Uninhibited

Love.  Where to even begin.  You grow up and you realize that love can be Awesome but it can also suck.  What I wish though, is that I can erase those experiences that brought me to this worldly and wise view and live in the moment, stop planning 10 years from now, enjoy the company of others for what it is and patiently see where life takes me.

Reading the following advice I wrote for a friend inspires me to let go a little.

Date: 23 Apr 2007 23:46:48 -0400
From: Sarah Parker
Subject: Re: yo
To: Little Me

— You wrote:

Sarah.  ok this is out of love.  you see, what freaks him out (and me, haha) is that you’re already talking about whether you’d be “up for dating” when you haven’t even hung out enough to figure out if you even want to date each other.  Geeeeez just forget about the talks and just hang out and have a good time and it’ll happen NATURALLY.  i promise.  if not with him with someone and you’ll live happily ever after.

— end of quote —

haha
i love your little nuggets of wisdom!

Date: 23 Apr 2007 19:44:31 -0400
From: Little Me
Subject: Re: come home loser
To: Sarah Parker

And SECOND OF ALL…. stop thinking about the future.  Seriously think about TODAY TODAY TODAY and this week.  When 2 months from now comes then you can figure it out but dont keep yourself from something because you think it MIGHT be hard later.  thats silly.  chill out, have a good time and then see what happens.

Six years ago I was sure that everyone’s love life ended like a chick flick (I prefer 10 Things I hate About You… or Clueless… or You’ve Got Mail.  Yes definitely You’ve Got Mail).  Six years ago I was sure of this because I had yet to feel true heartbreak.  Six years ago I was anxious about what working in the “real world” really meant.  Six years ago I was stunned that there was no longer a neatly carved yellow brick road for me to follow.

Today I am fiercely independent and proud of what I have accomplished.  Today I’m a bit more cautious with my heart.  I still eat like I just finished my last final exam.  My friends still make my world go round.

I’m wondering what the next 6 years will bring.

Either way, I’m saving my e-mails.

Awesome.

Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 18:01:41 -0400
From: Leigh Bloom <Leigh.Bloom@university.edu>
Subject: It’s My Day
To: Little Me, Jordana Brooks, Julia Hunter, Emily Hunter, Jackie Bank, Maggie White, Hanna Mason, Harper Emerson

Leigh Bloom finished college at 230 pm

HOW THE FUCK DID THIS HAPPEN 

i dont know

im so happy

and wanted 2 thank you all for being such a large influence in my life throughout all of college….

quite an accomplishment we all stayed so close in 4 years of me being at a different school

i love u all

college party dress up friendship

*Note: My college nickname was poopy.  I wish I could tell you how it started but I can’t remember… I know a bathroom incident was not involved.

Note 2: Names have been changed to protect my friends (i.e. save my ass).

Note 3: My College had its own communication system that replaced cell phone use.  It translated to regular e-mail, but on campus was used instead of texting and calling, which is why notes are short… and ridiculous… and had to be saved to a folder before the account was discontinued.

Awesome List Thursdays

gift

Let’s take a 5 minute break from the sarcasm.

In light of the whole breaking the wrist thing and some other mishaps that occurred this week, I think this is a good time as any to come up with all the good things that have happened over the past week.

It’s a trick I came up with about 6 years ago when my mom passed.

Take a small notebook and write down all the good things that happened that day/week.

It’s called perspective people.

And it works.

And I think this week I need it.

Making a list of the Awesome (or just nice) things that happened is a must.

Without further delay – here are some of the things on my list big and small:

  • One of my favorite people in the world has nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award.  This remarkable woman has not only supported me since I started blogging, but has somehow never missed an entry or the chance to send me a message to let me know she is reading.  Our families’ friendship made us like sisters and our relationship has evolved into a lifelong bond.  Thank you for this amazing award – I’m honored and GRATEFUL for the encouragement, which I often need to keep going!  You can find her Awesome blog here.
  • One of my co-workers sent me a care package/gift in the mail this week.  I was totally caught off guard and SURPRISED.  I love surprises.  Especially when they come in the cutest gift wrap paper EVER (see pic above).  To be thought of out-of-the-blue puts a bit of spring in your step and air in your splint!!
  • A reader told me I inspired them to make a list of the things they loved and to do those things.  Pretty much the whole point of blogging.  (Besides feeling super cool about myself).  You can read her list and blog here.
  • Received a postcard in the mail from a friend who is traveling with her family up the California coast. Postcards are definitely the coolest.  Especially when they offer pertinent information like how much wine your friend is having with her grandmother while on vacation.  Thanks for putting a smile on my face friend!
  • Bonding with a friend over drinks at sunset on the Chicago river is what summer nights are made of.
  • One of my neighbors came and hung pictures in my apartment yesterday.  Just to help me out.
  • My co-workers initially told me that they would whip out the 1990s bedazzler tool should I need a full cast (so I can look like Mariah Carey).  And subsequently purchased 1400 Lisa Frank stickers to outfit my splint. (Lisa Frank makes going to elementary school in the 1990s Awesome).  I felt loved.
  • Got the chance to ride around in a convertible… the wind in your hair and summer breeze makes any day OK (and reminds you why hair ties are of extreme necessity).
  • Dad texting me every night to ask if my spirit is up.
  • A friend helping me with laundry.
  • My little sister turning the big 1-3.

Some unfortunate things happened but surprisingly I’m feeling pretty zen and even happy.

Good things are happening too :).

Awesome.