Surprise Heroes

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

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

It had already been an awesome stay.

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

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

Friday it occurred to me that I was exhausted.

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

And then I was seated next to Mary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find Mary’s bio here.

Here’s to unexpectedly meeting heroes.

Awesome

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Failing = Awesome

Recently, one topic has been popping up again and again in front of my face.

The necessary and often positive outcomes of failure.

The topic seems messed up, but upon further inquiry, it’s totally dead on.

My first intro to the idea of success through failure came from Barbara Corcoran’s book, If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons On Your Pigtails, in which she describes her turbulent, funny, disastrous, and random path to outrageous real estate empire building success.

I’m not sure she actually writes: failure = success.  But I’m pretty sure, looking back three years, when I first read it, that that’s exactly what I got out of it.

Or to elaborate: although the paths we take may not always seem to lead to the proverbial pot-of-gold, it’s the dead ends, unclear choices, and “failures” along the way that lead us to the outcomes we seek.

I had been thinking about the topic since the New Year began, and then stumbled upon Failing Well, an article Barbara happened to write on January 9 of this month, recounting the time she blew her first profit of $71,000 on an inspired idea to make real estate video tapes, so people could look at apartments for sale from the comfort of their home (what a crazy idea!!!).

It failed.

Apparently, no one wanted the video tapes.  And it seemed like a total waste of funds.

Except that a little while later, this thing called the I-N-T-E-R-N-E-T came to be, and Barbara was the first to put her videos’ contents online and eventually make a killing.

Seems like failing is basically inevitable.  What’s not inevitable, though, is our attitude.

And the more I think about my path to where I am now… the more things become clear.

  • Would I have found the job I have now if I hadn’t left the last one abruptly after the company went through an unfortunate restructure?  Probably not.
  • Would I have found my field of work, a small niche that I am passionate about, if my first job out of college hadn’t sucked / fallen apart during the economic plummet of ‘08?  Probably not.
  • Would I have been a founding member of a new sorority in College, if I had not fallen through the cracks and was not accepted by the sorority of my choice?  Probably not.
  • Would I have switched figure skating clubs and coaches and become the skater I am today if I didn’t fail at that competition and my earlier coach hadn’t lost faith in me?  Probably not.

Out of failure comes success.

I can’t wait to fail in 2014.

Awesome.

WAIT. Everyone doesn’t suck?

I was planning on writing about friendship bracelets and “friends forever” necklaces in the post-adolescent years, but then something monumental happened.

For a hot second, my entire day got flipped turned upside down (exactly like Will Smith).

OK, it was more than a second.

It felt like a few days where the Earth stood still…

And I was pretty much afraid for my life:

I lost my smart phone.

A brief history:

I’m not one to lose phones.

I have friends who could make a career out of losing their iPhones.

Not me.

They’d fire me on the spot.

In my entire life, there have been 2 prior phone-loss situations on record.  The first was someplace in Europe, at a dance club, circa 3 AM.  The second was a few months ago, 2 blocks from my apartment; someone took my phone out of my purse.  I never saw the phone again and with it perished a couple hundred photos (that had yet to be backed up).

Both times, I tried to locate the phones.  Both times, I called the establishments where they were last seen, hoping that a kind citizen had turned them in.  Hoping that someone had found them and was psyched to make my day.

Both times the answer was no.

I assumed today would be no different.

Today the phone in question fell out of my coat pocket on my way to work.  In the middle of a 4-lane busy intersection in downtown Chicago.

Clearly today was the day that I felt like the appropriate place for my phone was not in my purse, but in my giant winter jacket.  On probably the 2nd coldest recorded day in Chicago.  I made the decision to stuff my phone inside my pockets.  With 2 pairs of gloves, a hat, 2 packets of travel tissues, a chap-stick, and a winter facemask.

Clearly, I am not a morning person.

Once I realized it was missing, I went back to the intersection and walked back and forth during walk signs.  I found my case.  But I found no phone.

Maybe a car ran over it?

I walked to work.

I sent e-mails to friends claiming my anger for the entire human race.  Are old iPhones really that valuable?!?!

I called my phone.  Predictably, it was turned off.

I waited an hour.

I turned on iCloud.

Miraculously, my phone was suddenly on and was located 5 blocks from work.

I sent a message to the phone begging the individual who had it to call or e-mail.  I offered a reward.

I waited.

And waited.

I called the phone 7 more times.

I waited.

I waited some more.

Around 1PM, a girl called me to tell me she had found my phone by the side of the road.

I was beside myself with joy.

I immediately ran to buy her a gift card.  And took a cab to her place of work.  And was stuttering out of gratefulness, that she would return it me.

As soon as I got the phone, another e-mail went out.

Guess there are good people in this world.

How quickly a day goes from good to bad.  How quickly a day is turned around completely.  How quickly faith is lost and found.

Over a stupid iPhone.

Time to celebrate.

(by Instagram-ing.  Obviously.)

smiley

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!

Messin’ About On Boats: A Spontaneous Vacation

bahamas stirrup cay

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?

bahamas

atlantis

photo 2 (4)

IMG_1095

IMG_1097

photo (98)

photo (99)

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.

Life Lessons for Everyone’s Monday. With Harry. Take II.

photo (92)

My new favorite celebrity popped back into my life this weekend.

This guy is quite charming and recently, I’ve been learning some life lessons from him.

I first mentioned this stud a few weeks ago as part of an Inspiration Friday’s people who were inspiring me that week.

Harry Rosen is at the top of my list these days and I’m psyched by any update from the media as to his whereabouts.

I’m JUST like any serious fan of a famous band, a Hollywood star or like, Selena Gomez, except my recent celeb crush is a 103 (soon to be 4) – year – old guy named Harry.

The world met Harry Rosen a few weeks ago through the eyes of Corey Kilgannon, the New York Times writer, who was lucky enough to eat a meal with him.

Harry is an incredible dude who, at 103, still gets up every single day in his New York City studio, puts on a suite, and makes his way to the city’s finest restaurants.  He usually dines alone.  And he usually makes friends.

He’s been lonely as of late because his wife, and love, of 70 years passed away.  For this reason, he has begun to date.  And is seriously looking for a companion.

This past week, the famed Alan Richman, a contributor to GQ Magazine (I mean clearly this was in GQ, folks) sat down with Harry for a meal at the famed Eleven Madison Park (for a meager $225 per person pre-fix) to taste some food.  For 4 hours.  But really to talk about life.

And if anyone holds the secrets to what the F is going on with this whole life business, I definitely think its Harry.

And I definitely think this has something to do with the reason famous writers, chefs and the general community, young and old, are obsessing over Harry Rosen.

Some things I’ve learned about life from Harry, to ponder as you start your week:

1)      Sometimes, it is not your list of accomplishments that defines you, but your will and drive.  These things can never be taken from you.

2)      Lying about your age is totally cool.  Regardless of how old you are. (Harry uses it as a tactic to draw attention away from himself.  I’m not 103, just 90.)

3)      Dating is hard.  At any age. (direct quote)

4)      It really, really IS the small things.  A glass of wine.  A bite of good fish.

5)      You are never too old to try new things.  Get out there.  (for Harry it was Oysters last week)

6)      Remember the past.  But live in the moment.

7)      The secret to living a long life = sleeping on your back.  (Anyone care to try this experiment and let me know how it goes?)

8)      Should you be fortunate to receive 15 minutes of fame, and you deserve it, take advantage.

9)      Be nice.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is to bring out the best in people.

10)    Don’t take life too seriously.

11)    Life can be a bitch.  Put on something nice and go eat something.

Harry’s reaction to his dinner?

“I didn’t know life would be so good to me”

Makes me think about all of the simple pleasures I enjoy.

Harry is content with life as it is.  He finds energy to get up every morning, which I imagine is a tougher feat for him than for me.

Time to put on a smile and head out there in anticipation of Awesome.

Happy Monday.

Note: I think it’s kind of cool that Harry and I both immigrated from the Eastern European part of the world.  Although I imagine that his journey to America sometime around 1915 was different than my family’s direct flight.

Note2: Read the article here.  It’ll melt your heart.

The Judging of Oneself Through the Bookshelf: A Study of the Relaxed and Restless

books

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.

halloween

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.