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!

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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

Does My Bamboo Stick Make Me Look Fierce?

martial arts weaponry stickfighting

This week I got intimate with some sticks.

Bamboo sticks.

Full disclosure.  Last week a new startup called Vimbly reached out to me about experiencing something new. Vimbly finds activities, classes and date ideas in New York City, Seattle, Maui, Las Vegas and Chicago and compiles them in one place. They asked me to try out their system and engage in the activity of my choice.

I’ve actually never accepted any type of sponsorship before this.  Nothing until this felt like it was aligned with my blog or mission.  (Thanks for reaching out – gardening company and tattoo equipment re-seller – I can’t wait to introduce the self-airbrush kit to the blogging community)

However, new experiences, pushing the comfort zone and knocking things off my personal bucket list?

I’m game.

I browsed my options and thought seriously about laughing my ass off at an off-Broadway show, taking a glass-blowing class or learning to DJ.  But what really caught my eye was the list of martial arts and self-defense classes.

I’ve ALWAYS wanted someone to show me how to kick some ass. And since this opportunity allows me to try anything (in Vimbly reason), I immediately committed to the Filipino martial art of Weaponry Stick-fighting.

Now, when I say I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, I didn’t know what to expect.

So when I got to class, took off my shoes and was introduced to the other three long-term members of this semi-private class – Richie, Ryan and Matt – who have each spent years with bamboo stick in hand and was given the following demonstration… I thought – WELL OF COURSE.

My first partner was Ryan, a tall 20-something who quit his job and started his own law firm so that he could have the flexibility to practice stick-fighting as often as possible.

so, NO BIG DEAL.

I’ll use my ballet-influenced figure skating maneuvers to my advantage.

Really tall Ryan: do you want to attack first or defend?
Me: I would like to trade in this bamboo stick for a real sword.
Really tall Ryan: okay I’ll attack first.
Me: sir who is in charge – any qualms with my arrangement here?
Me: no?
Me: OK.

The good news is that Ryan didn’t take my head off.

We started class by going through five attack maneuvers in standstill, then we added footwork, then we did the same with defense techniques.  We tried these attack/defend moves on each other then added footwork, allowing us to fight while moving back and forth, attacking and defending with our bamboo-swords.

By the end of class, I had figured out the entire coordinated fighting dance.  I was able to perform the attack and defend movements in correct sequence with the correct footwork.

The build-up of the class alleviated any intimidation.  As with anything that appears difficult, breaking down the movements makes it extremely manageable.

I love new experiences because there’s nothing to lose.

From the moment I took off my shoes and walked through the door, nothing else was on my mind.  I left work, stress, busy schedules and deadlines in my neon pink sneakers and injected effort and excitement into my bamboo stick (still petitioning for real swords).

I’m pretty sure there were times where I looked like Monica on that episode of Friends where she tries to learn to tap dance (OK no one is THAT bad), but it felt good to be out of my comfort zone for an evening.

Plus, now I’m prepared the next time I’m summoned for a duel or I need to protect myself and I have a bamboo stick.

Awesome.

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

greece

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.

Accidental Naps

bra

I fell asleep after work today.

For 3 hours.

Instead of going to a party.

I think that’s a sign I’ve been having too much fun (according to my father) (who told me over the phone this week that I need to relax).

I was supposed to be at a “going away” party for one of my friends from college.  I quote “going away” because I’m using the term lightly.  Said friend is going on a 2 month vacation to Brazil as part of his bar trip.

(For those who are not familiar.  After individuals finish law school and take the dreaded bar, they are somehow due a 9 week trip to an exotic locale.  Yes this makes sense.)

So I don’t know if tears were going to be shed at this soiree.

But I am inspired to have a “goodbye party” every time I plan a vacation!

Ok it wasn’t going to be the most emotional night, but I’m pretty sure some A-w-e-s-o-m-e was going to happen.

Sometimes it’s just in the air.

Summer atmosphere and meeting friends of friends of friends mixed in with cucumber coolers usually leads to bonding, spontaneity and unexpected wonderful things.

Clearly that’s not happening tonight but there is a point to this entry (I swear!).  This is my all-things-awesome reminder to take some time for a nap, a bubble bath, a dance around the room in your underwear (Kelly Clarkson is a great aid to this), an Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition marathon (I am hooked on this inspiring shit!), a private cooking party (i.e. making yourself a feast) or a long distance run where you don’t time yourself or plan the route beforehand (just MAP-MY-RUN it later).

I was a bit surprised when I woke up at 10PM with my work clothes still on but I am now indulging in this rest and relaxation.

I know it’s a departure from my typical rhythm… but sometimes that’s cool too.

A 3-hour nap is sometimes just what the doctor ordered and exactly the “me” time that I needed.

I highly recommend it.

Feels Awesome.

An Autumn Sail in July

chicago boat

The old saying goes: “it’s all how you look at it.”

Never is this truer than when your oldest friend in the world comes to visit and you plan to bop up and down with a bunch of other boats on Lake Michigan….

And it’s 61 degrees in July.

(Yes, this is a first world problem post)

Let me lay out the significance here.

My friendship with oldest friend was kind of pre-planned in the womb.  Back in Soviet times, when our parents were perfecting the art of homemade vodka distillation well-behaved model Soviet children, their entire high school class started to like one another.  And then married each other.  And then had some babies at the same time (it’s like a backwards Brady Bunch).  And then moved to America around the same time.  And then vacationed every year together.

We were basically destined to be besties.  Mostly because no one else was going to understand the trials and tribulations of having parents who started their life anew in a new country with small children and little knowledge of English … but I digress (I’ll save this enthralling sociological theory for another post).

Back to the significant problem at hand.

Months of preparation, one flight, one taxi, one night of serious dancing and too many hours of hype, we were ready for my promised day out on Lake Michigan (how else was I going to get her to move to Chicago?).

I told her to pack nothing but bathing suits and get ready for pool, beaches and BOATS.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up Saturday morning, felt around for my iPhone, found the weather app while squinting with one eye (daily morning routine) and was told by Yahoo! That it was winter.

I quickly checked the calendar app to make sure I hadn’t slept through July, August and September.

Nope.

It was 61 degrees in Chicago on July 27.

glass half full

The Mother Nature Gods were testing us.

Do we throw in the towel and… see a movie??  Go sight-seeing with sweatshirts and fall scarves??

NO.

We put bikinis on.  Bring hoodies.  Buy snacks.  Go anyway.

After all, having fun is really about whom you’re with and our history shows that we can basically tear it up under any circumstance.  Like when we were 10 and our parents took us to Lake Placid for New Years and we decided to make memory cups by dripping candle wax into wine cups and… set her hair on fire.  We danced all night anyway (tears were brief).

Lucky for our positive attitudes, the friends we were joining (on their boat) were in too.

The ride out to the location of said boat party induced a bit of sea sickness and it was cold but we indulged in the day anyway.

sail

Once anchored and tied to a row of boats (for boat hopping), adrenaline (and beer) took over and we jumped in the water, made friends, played with water toys, took  pictures, laughed, drank, danced and truly vacated.

Most of all, there was a lot of laughter and bonding.  I’m pretty sure that was the whole point anyway.

I’m really glad we got out of bed on July 27 and went out to sea.

It was Awesome.

picstitch (3)

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.