Sometimes

Sometimes you have an emotionally draining week.

Sometimes you’re fatigued and need a push.

Sometimes you’re feeling disorganized.

Sometimes you feel like there’s too much to do and not enough time.  So you do nothing.

Sometimes you feel like everything is a bit out of your control.

Sometimes you need something to bring you back to center.

Sometimes your friend gives you this.

why i like you

And you smile.

And you feel better.

And you breathe.

And you get excited to find out what kind of Awesome lies beyond Sunday.

*Note: Baking.  Not my thing.  I rather spend hours stirring milk curds to make cheese.

*Note 2: The “why I really like you” list might need to be paid forward.  Kind of a genius idea.

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.

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.

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.

Lean In and Get Over It

inspiration

Last week was rough.

I was in the midst of working hard (showing off my tan) in my third day back in the office since my Greek odyssey, when I was unexpectedly cast in a commercial for everything-that-Sheryl-Sandberg-leans-in-about.

An unexpected altercation with a female superior left me blind-sided and wondering why certain individuals feel compelled to push others down.

It was a blow.

It was surreal.

It shook me up a bit.

I needed to bounce back. Shrug it off. Stop caring. Look the other way. Forget about it.  Look on the bright side.  Accept the nature of the business (thanks dad).  Learn a lesson.

I took the advice.  I took some deep breaths.  And I went back to re-centering myself in much the same way that started this blog:

Remembering things I love to do (big and small)… and doing them.

Over the past few days I have pushed my physical boundaries by going back to the dance room, this time in the form of the make-your-muscles-shake Bar Method.  This class kicked my butt, but left me feeling accomplished.

Also – I can’t remember the last time I did 40 push-ups.  7th Grade Gym?

bar method

I took my love of tea and the belief that anything can be solved over a hot pot to the Drake Hotel, where a friend and I hashed life out over a tradition known as high tea.

We each had about 5 pots of tea and took some liberties with the butter-on-scone action.  We might not be cut out for Pride and Prejudice the sequel, but we left feeling uplifted (and hydrated).

high tea

I frolicked, danced and swam with friends and family.  This involved seeing my cousins, experiencing a Chicago Beer festival and enjoying the budding Chicago summer on my rooftop.

pool

And I did some shopping.

In the form of a “shopping party” that a friend happened to win that came with champagne and discounts.

(Yes, I’m secretly Cher Horowitz)

(And Celine Dion plays while I’m finding myself at the mall)

shopping finding yourself

At some point during the shopping extravaganza, while trying on dresses with my best girls to the inspiration of Kelly Clarkson appropriately playing in the background, I turned my defeat into mental power.  Re-energized from doing what I love and enjoying my favorite people, I felt calm and empowered.  I remembered the inspirational women I’ve been lucky to have in my life.  I thought about the fact that I too can say that I am a strong, ambitious and passionate woman.

And I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

I actually think it’s Awesome.

Finding Family Abroad

plaka beach naxos greece

One of the best parts of traveling abroad, for me, has always been tied to the connections you make.

The notion that somewhere across the ocean are people totally different than you and yet absolutely the same perplexes, fascinates and makes me giddy.

The second part of this week, we found ourselves on the Greek Isle Naxos, about a 2 hour ferry ride (cruise) from Ios.

Naxos is a small island known for local wines and a family atmosphere.  We figured that after the insanity of Mykonos, Santorini and Ios, we could use a few relaxing days.

By the time Tuesday came around and it was time to say goodbye to Ios though, we weren’t ready and even considered an extended stay.

After a quick mental pro and con list (over morning cocktails), we decided to press ahead as planned.

Today we’re pretty thrilled we did.

On Naxos we found an authenticity missing from the other more touristy islands.

Naxos isn’t the top beach party destination or the most well-known romantic spot on the Aegean so it draws a smaller crowd.

The old town has old passageways and stone streets with charming character.  The beaches are incredibly beautiful and the hotels, beach bars and restaurants are all family-run.  Food is fresh and goats roam the exterior of our hotel.  Travelers come from all around the world and have a habit of coming back year after year. The greetings between locals and visitors are akin to a family reunion.

Unfortunately for us, this time of year is still considered low season and beaches were largely empty.

It was time to adapt to this new atmosphere and plus…

We wanted in on the family fun.

Within an hour we had located the oldest beach bar and restaurant on Plaka beach and decided to grab a drink.

About 6 hours later we were still there, with local liquor shots, sangria and vodka drinks, laughing with the owners – two brothers -, their extended families and their friends (visitors to the island with whom they now spend every Christmas in England).

We talked and told stories as if we’d known each other for years.

It’s incredible to know that strangers with completely different lives, languages and backgrounds can come together uninhibited and laugh their asses off for an entire afternoon.

Also – the Ukrainian girl inside was thrilled for confirmation: vodka can bring anyone together.

Awesome.

Improv Shows and Musical Performances

tall heights

Recently, I’ve had the chance to support friends while they pursue their passions.

These friends, although practicing different crafts, have one main thing in common: the stage.

While visiting New York this month, the stars aligned and I got the chance to watch a close friend perform in a stand-up improv comedy show, something she had wanted to do all her life (in pursuit of being Tina Fey).

As someone who is well-versed in “performance,” I can honestly say that it’s hard enough to get up in front of others with a planned routine, let alone with nothing planned and people screaming from the audience.  Not surprisingly, friend was super nervous and had purchased a new wardrobe in anticipation of the night (great calming tactic).

I did my part by bringing my most inappropriate friend.

After waiting like anxious teenagers at our first concert and feeling nervous (!), we were finally seated and prepared to laugh our buns off courtesy of an improv troupe in which friend was taking part.

The troupe worked off each other and between sketches, the host requested that the audience yell out scenarios.

Friend busied himself with sexual innuendos while I yelled out everything that came to mind (finally, an activity where my lack of filter is rewarded).

Where should they be?  Pool!  First date!  Yacht!  Roller derby!  Naked in hot tub!  Naked in the ocean!  Naked on an island!   What life moment are they in?  Kindergarten!  Teenagers at prom!  Losing their virginity!

Some great things resulted, including my favorites: a play on “Stacy’s mom” having it going on and a girl who was in the gospel choir until she realized that everyone was sleeping with each other.

Friend held her own and produced some excellent comedy.

I was astounded.

This inspirational event lead to another when I was given the opportunity to see a good friend perform while on tour.

Paul and Tim have been touring as part of a two-person duo known as Tall Heights since college.

During our decade-long friendship, I have heard these two discuss their goals in pursuing their musical dreams and work hard to make that dream a reality.

When I found out I was in the right place at the right time, I did everything I could to make it to their show.

Yes, I was in a bar wearing pink leg warmers and had just finished skating practice, but it was worth it.

They sounded incredible.  The dynamic friendship between them was evident and inviting.  The words had some real meaning.

Tall Heights released a new album this week called Man of Stonewith a video debut on the Conan O’Brien website.

Both performances left me excited for my friends, proud and inspired.

Turns out watching your friends follow their dreams is pretty… Awesome.

The Birthday Wish

candle birthday wish

I like making wishes.

Not with magical genie lamps (although I’m game if one surfaces).

But during that time of the year when it’s respectable and even expected.

Your birthday.

The only thing better than making that wish and blowing out those candles… is doing it more than once.

Luckily, I have found that birthday celebrations are never a one day affair.

Inevitably there several bday “parties,” one on one birthday dinners and belated congratulations.

Tonight was one of those nights.

A friend I hadn’t seen in 6 months flew in for a visit and took me out for some belated birthday dinner and sangria drinking.

Towards the end of the meal, we decided on a slice of tiramisu.

I’m not sure if friend asked the waiter or the waiter had a unique sense of intuition (still a mystery to me), but I do know that the cake came out with a candle in it.

I got to make my wish again.

Sweet.

Channeling little Max Reede from Liar Liar, I really put my heart into this iteration.

Hope it comes true.

Awesome.

Dinner Party on the Run

wine

Last night I hosted a dinner party (aka book club).

My friends came over circa 8pm to find a spotless apartment (ready for its debut), a homemade three-course meal and wine (most importantly).

It was clean.  The food was tasty (so I’m told).  The apartment was show worthy.

Success.

If only they had been there one hour prior.

At 7:05pm CST, I was wearing pajamas (long underwear) while googling “fast salmon bake” and using my handheld vacuum to hoover everything from the kitchen floor and counters to the bathtub (admit you’ve done this).

I didn’t mean to be in such a crunch.

But what I’ve learned is that the old saying is true.

When it rains, it pours.

In all respects.

This week was one of the busiest I’ve had since moving to Chicago.  My working hours experienced an upward spike, I was needed to coach at the rink and I had plans to attend two events with some friends.  Not wanting to pass up any experiences in my new city, I was determined to do it all.

It was never a question of if but more a question of how.

For that reason, I found myself on the phone with my aunt poaching recipes at midnight the night before, at Macy’s during lunch (near my office) buying plates, at HomeGoods at 6:30pm purchasing wine glasses, at Trader Joe’s picking up dessert at 6:45pm, at the Jewel down the street picking up onion soup mix (secret ingredient not available at Joe’s) at 6:53pm and at WholeFoods at 6:59pm picking up a second bottle of wine… (just in case).

Yes.  I hit up 3 grocery stores in the span of half an hour.  Yes.  I may have scared some customers.  And yes. I looked like a crazy person with bags from 3 grocery stores.

But it was worth it.

Last night was the first time I hosted any kind of sit down meal in my new apartment (actually having seating is key).

We discussed our book of the month (The Newlyweds).  We enjoyed homemade cranberry juice like grandma used to make, deviled eggs, crostini with prosciutto, homemade spinach dip, avocado salad with heirloom tomatoes and baked salmon.  We discussed the book and planned our next dinner/book club meeting.

It was Awesome.