The Olympics of Inspiration: The Olympics (what else??)

The Olympics are here.

This means precisely 3 things.

1)      Every tech gadget I own, including the original iPod touch, is in use, sometimes simultaneously, to stream events, watch replays, double check live standings, and re-watch live events in prime-time

2)      I’m digging up old pics of myself.  Like this one:

minnie

In a can’t-help-but-reminisce type of fashion.  Feel free to judge.

3)      I’m jet lagged.  In my apartment.

Watching the Olympics is like hooking yourself up to an IV of inspiration.  Yes, there are disappointments, the occasional curse word, and displeasing shows of emotion (I’m looking at you Ashley).  But then there’s sportsmanship, dream moments, heaps of stories about overcoming obstacles, language barrier breaking, and underdog winning humbling moments.

It’s the Winter Olympics in Sochi day 15.  These are my favorite moments so far.

Women’s half-pipe final run hugs.  I’m not sure if the snowboarding half-piping female athletes are just all friendly by nature, that’s the culture of the sport, (or they all had a drink before), but damn.  When the final scores were announced and Torah Bright, the defending gold medalist from Australia found out she won the silver, losing to Kaitlyn Farrington from the USA (go USA), she jumped up and down hugging and congratulating her.  You would’ve thought she had won.  It was refreshing.  And kinda funny.  Mostly refreshing.

The I love Shaun White series (and why Shaun White is awesome).  Clearly Shaun White has inspired many snowboarders in his time and will continue to do so.  But I’m pretty sure no one has been as inspired as Iouri Podladtchikov.  This young snowboarder has been pushing his own limits and hoping to rock out in the half pipe against White.  But as he clearly stated in an interview, with excitement and straight up glee – all he really wants is to meet Shaun in Sochi.

Dreams came true for Iouri; he met Shaun during the final round, when they were the last 3 athletes to go.  He won gold and beat Shaun.  And then he hugged him and wouldn’t let go.  I’ve never seen a happier person.  And Shaun handled himself in the coming days with poise and sportsmanship, refusing to complain about the course (like the other athletes), saying he was happy for the others, and showing humility in the face of defeat.  Go Shaun.

The figure skating underdog games.  Once upon a time there was a little girl named Adelina Sotnikova.  She won Russian nationals at the age of 12 and was hailed as the new representative of Russian Figure Skating (a program that, well, basically fell apart after the Soviet Union collapse).  Unfortunately, this little 12 year old is now a 17 year old, and was largely pushed aside during these Olympics, to make room for a little girl named Yulia Lipnitskaya, a 15 year old powerhouse.  Figure skating can be a cruel sport (no Kumbayah or hugs with the other athletes here folks).  So when Sotnikova was passed over for a spot in the Russian team event at the beginning of the competition, she got, well, pissed.

A big part of competing on a stage like the Olympics, is having the ability to step up and do the job in the moment when it needs to be done, under immense and unmatched pressure.  Sotnikova did just that.  While the world was checking their Olympic programs trying to figure out this girl’s name, Sotnikova skated two incredibly powerful and clean programs.  She gave Russia its first gold medal in female figure skating.  Ever.  And she beat a woman, who until today was basically unbeatable; someone who has been nicknamed “the queen.”

Ummm… you go girl, Adelina.

I’ve also enjoyed: a husband and wife snowboarding duo, whose events happened to be one after the other, and who happened to both medal with the gold and bronze, respectfully.  Watching these two bawl their eyes out together was an unrivaled newly-wed moment.  I can smell the movie rights.

It’s cheesy, but I love feeding off the inspiration.  Seeing the hard work of the Olympic athletes pushes me to ignore the sub-zero temps and trade in my warm blanket and the couch for a treadmill, for a figure skating session, for some off-ice practice, for a yoga/pilates class, for some stretching.

This week I had a burst of energy while running, something that’s admittedly been difficult this winter.  I started skating again and attempted jumps I haven’t in some years (pic below).

What can I say, I love watching these athletes kick ass and push themselves.

Awesome.

skating

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

 

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

This can only mean one thing:

New. Year. Obligatory. Post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cousins

Meeting second cousins for brunch

2)      Separate emotionally from surrounding drama

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

ice skating figure skating

Back on the ice – starting a session

4)      Furnish/decorate an apartment from scratch

The completed "living room" in my first personal apartment

The completed “living room” in my first personal apartment

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

greece

Taking it easy in Naxos, Greece

6)      Pick up a new fitness hobby

flywheel spin cycle

Attending Flywheel classes with friends

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

Yummy salad with homemade dressing

Yummy salad with homemade dressing

8)      Take advantage of new city

Hanging off the ledge at Sears Tower

Hanging off the ledge at Sears Tower

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

roller coaster

Roller-coastering with lil sis

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

11)      Learn to say no

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

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

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

Decidedly, 2013 was pretty good to me.

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

So thank you, friends, for making 2013 Awesome.

I think I’m ready for 2014.

Cheers!

For the Love of Role-Modeling

skating coach

This past week, a younger co-worker asked to shadow me at work;

I was offered the opportunity to coach a group of figure skaters ages 6-8;

I was assigned a prospective candidate to interview for my college.

My plate was pretty full and little sleep was had (nothing new)…

But I threw myself into each experience.

And in the process remembered how much I adore mentoring, coaching and passing on wisdom (used loosely here).

Each separate event had me deep in preparation.  I outlined appropriate questions to ask an ambitious high schooler, considered work tasks most interesting and even went on the United States Skating Association website to look up basic skills I may have forgotten (I admit it).

The result was worth the effort.

Offering work advice left me feeling humbled.

Speaking to a high school student determined to surpass insurmountable life obstacles was inspiring.

And helping to mold a new generation of athletic character in the form of 6 and 7 year olds…

Was just plain Awesome.

Fueling the Entrepreneurial Fire

business

It felt like the coldest day in Chicago thus far.

A friend and I traded Uggs, hats and generally appropriate attire used in negative temperatures for heels and skirts.

We were headed to an alumni happy hour in our new city and chose to ignore frost-bite chilling temps (naturally).

After being outfitted with drinking wristbands in our school’s color at the pub (never gets old) we were ready to meet fellow alumni who called Chicago home.

And after first standing in the bathroom to de-freeze and run hot water on frozen fingers we were ready to go.

We drank 3 dollar beers on special (dream).  We caught up with old friends.  We made some new ones.

A few introductions later, I found myself deep in conversation with a fellow Gen-Y alumnus about the extraordinary ventures so many of our peers were engaged in post-college.

We traded our own desires for the future, discussed our jobs, personal projects and the spirit and creativity by which we were surrounded.

The conversation was the cherry on top of an entrepreneurial-themed week.

Exciting things people in my life are doing:

  • A friend taking her love of baking to the next level by launching a cake pop venture.
  • A friend working every week with her band, holding a debut concert and promptly booking a couple shows.

I can’t help but be inspired.

We “millennials” might have the reputation of lacking loyalty and feeling entitled but survey says we are also creative, collaborative and above all else – entrepreneurial – (reportedly we also “take no bullshit” – I’ll accept that).

Either way I’m feeling proud and motivated.

And impressed.

Awesome.

Let the Sun Shine in

skating

Today the sun came out.

Literally and figuratively.

Yes.  It was the coldest day Chicago has seen in 2 years.  And Yes. It felt like hypothermia was upon me after3.4 minutes out the door.

But.  The sun was shining.

So.

I indulged in this mood lifter by having myself a serious me day filled with fitness.

Although January is usually a hard month for me, for some reason, the winter, in particular, this year is hitting me hard.

Given the fact that I was born and raised in Eastern Europe, grew up in Michigan, went to school on a frigid mountain and spent the entirety of my life figure skating (summers too)… you’d think this was all routine by now.

Not this winter.

I’m shocked every time I go outside and it isn’t 70 and I stare at people who are dressed in anything less than Eskimo-wear.  Secretly I’ve been hell-bent on pretending I’ve never experienced cold while plotting to run away to the other side of the equator.

What I needed today was to indulge myself in the kind of days I love most.  The kind of days I used to have during the summers when my coach would pick me up at 5am for a day’s worth of stretching, working out and off-ice and on-ice training.

Today I pushed myself to remember all those moves that muscle memory ingrained for two decades.

I know I’ve written before about going back to the ice.  Today I felt more confident and trained as if I’d never left.

I thought of nothing but the task in front of me.

It. Felt. Great.

After practice I took the train an hour back downtown for some pilates and yoga where I crunched, stretched and zen-ed through the adrenaline I had left.

By the 7th downward dog, I was exhilarated and exhausted all at the same time and felt like I’d found my center.

I ended the day by watching my favorite show with some tea.

And honey.

And some chocolate.

Awesome.

Axles, Loops and Salchows

figure skates
Today I went back to the rink.

Although it might seem like I skate every day, given the fact that I’ve mentioned it about 63782 times since starting this blog, I actually haven’t laced up my skates in over two years.

I was introduced to figure skating at the age of 4. A family effort – if you will – was mobilized back in the Soviet Union (so they tell me) to let me try this popular Russian sport.

Skates were procured. Sessions for toddlers were found. Transportation was arranged.

On that fateful day, grandpa laced up my skates…and introduced me to my life-long passion.

Skating is one of my earliest memories. I skated when we were newly immigrated and money was tight. I competed through elementary school, middle school and high school. I skated through college. I skated through good times and bad.

Now my recent move back to the Midwest has reignited my desire to lace up my skates once more.

One train and one bus got me there.

I was overwhelmed and excited coming up to the rink. I was an ocean away from where I started and 300 miles away from where I skated most of my life. Yet my surroundings were familiar. It even smelled the same.

I warmed up a bit, laced up my skates, got onto the ice with other skaters at “my” level and picked up on what I suspect I knew all along…

Figure skating is hard.

I wish I could say it’s like riding a bike. But it’s not (unless relearning means toppling over a couple of times on a flat tire).

I was a bit shaky at first and spent half the session doing backwards and forwards crossovers but by the end of the session I was feeling more confident. I tried a couple spins and even threw in a couple (easy) jumps.

Most of all, I just loved being out there again. It was different but it felt the same.

Looking forward to training session number 2.

Awesome.

Babs: The Early Years

Barbra Streisand hello, gorgeous book signing

On Day 46, I attended the William J. Mann book signing pertaining to his new work:

Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand.

Yes.  I was the only person there under the age of 62.

Yes.  The older folk and I gave each other weird looks.

Cat’s out of the bag: I’m a Babs fan.  I realize I was born about 20 years after her big break, but I was born to parents who went to Barbra’s concerts, bought me her CD’s and introduced me to her movies.

I’ve seen Hello Dolly about a hundred times and I’ve choreographed about a dozen figure skating programs (as a 12-year old) to Tell Him (a duet with Celine Dion).

Highly reminiscent of my mom’s love for soulful love songs, I immersed myself in her inspirational story.

Some info on Babs: she was born in Brooklyn and lost a parent at a very young age. She didn’t always have the means or the support that was much needed to pursue her dreams.  She fought hard and achieved unbelievable success.

She might be from a different generation, but her story is inspiring and relevant to me just the same.

I listened to people speak up from the audience who had gone to middle school with her.  I thought about how my mom would have enjoyed the event. I met the author (who gave me a surprising and great compliment ;)).

Awesome!