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.

Just Do It.

keep calm and cycle on

Today’s workout was Awesome.

Why?

Because.

I set a goal and I met it.

I told myself that no matter what — I was going to get to a certain number.

No excuses.

Recently, I’ve been feeling more lethargic during class and falling well below the level I know I can meet.

The burrito I ate before class didn’t help (stupid).

Neither did the lack of sleep last night (stupid).

But.  There’s always an excuse to pedal at a lower rpm.

A few things did help.

Friends. Music. Mental game.

I’ve found that the key to cycling consistently every week is getting your friends involved (evil plan).  I’ve introduced spinning to a number of friends who now go every week.  Knowing they’re reserving bikes pushes me.

The playlist was perfect (Careless Whisper by Seether is new favorite).

I put everything out of my mind.  For 45 minutes.  Nothing was going on in my life besides Enrique Iglesias (that’s right).

I sang along. I cheered out loud.  I passed my goal.

I was pumped.

Awesome.

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.

Beets, Lemons and a Little Mahi

cooking

Today’s Awesome was simple.

I cooked for myself.

I’m not sure what it is about having my own apartment (it’s my first!) but it’s making me want to get out all the pots and pans and make a big mess.

The history of my food preparation prowess is a slim novel at best.  I never thought I’d like it.  I used to detest the idea and figured that any future male would just deal with this (modern) woman.

Over the past couple of years I’ve taken a new liking to it and these days I find that it comforts, provides some zen after crazy days and allows me to keep track of the ingredients I’m putting in my body (some of the time).  I also find it’s a great way to spend with oneself.

SO.

After an intense workout, I took myself to Wholefoods to experience one of the greatest parts of the cooking process: the grocery store.

In my opinion, the grocery store is like a toy store for adults.  You no longer have to kick and scream in the aisles.  Just take the Frosted Flakes (pay) and go home.  Going in makes me giddy.

Plus.

Free samples.

Heaven!

After much deliberation and in-store iphone googling, I decided on a fish and salad.

I picked out healthy ingredients that would also facilitate a post-thanksgiving cleanse (see my family’s ability to eat) and walked home anticipating the next two hours of chopping, boiling, sautéing and grating.

I purchased the following main ingredients:

  • Radish bunch
  • Beets
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Eggs
  • Garlic
  • ½ pound piece of Mahi Mahi
  • Also two jugs of pomegranate juice, sparkling water (my favorite) and babybel cheese (couldn’t help myself)

vegetables wholefoods grocery store shopping

After unloading, I went to work taking care of the steps that would take the longest.  I’ve found that cooking is really a lesson in time management.  For example, boiling beets takes 45min-1hour whereas sautéing Mahi takes about 20 minutes.  And no one wants cold Mahi.

Therefore, the beets were up first.  I trimmed back the leaf stalks per instruction, and placed them in boiling water.  Then set out to chop up the vegetables and dice garlic.  I chopped the radish and cucumber and boiled and sliced the eggs.

At the 10 minute mark (on beet timer) I threw the Mahi in the pan as instructed with garlic, lemon and white wine (I drank some too).  I peeled and sliced the boiling beets, made sure the Mahi was taken care of on both sides and arranged everything on plate (presentation is key!).

mahi mahi

The entire exercise took about1.5 hours and was extremely calming.

I felt a personal sense of accomplishment.  AND, it looked good enough to eat.

I think mom would have been proud.

Awesome.

Russian Thanksgiving: An Exercise in Over-Eating and Food Hopping

thanksgiving vodka russian people celebrating

I am accustomed to wading through crowds, airports and screaming children to make it home for the family – oriented holiday of the year.

This year was no different.  I was home for thanksgiving.  However, having moved to Chicago (from NYC) a few weeks ago – my heart sang when the typical airplane ride home was replaced with a friend picking me up and delivering me to my hometown in Michigan a few hours later.

The rest of the weekend was business as usual.

Of course I say weekend because a Russian family’s thanksgiving couldn’t possibly consist of one evening or of one household.

Instead, we prefer to see how many times we can prepare an entire feast and how many other homes can provide the feast for us.

My arrival on Wednesday prompted the setting of a celebratory feast.  A visit to the grandparents called for a banquet.  A check in with family friends was the perfect opportunity for a ceremonial spread.

By the time today rolled around, I had eaten more than I had in the past month and was really starting to crave bare vegetables.

For those of you from the Ukrainian/Russian/Jewish/Immigrant variety, you’ll probably relate to the following:

  • Roasted chicken instead of the traditional turkey
  • Spanakopita (the always beloved Greek addition to thanksgiving)
  • Herring, sardines, lox, cheese, salami and prosciutto (favorites the pilgrims overlooked)
  • One too many toasts about being thankful (for a reason to toast)
  • Turkey (or chicken) for breakfast
  • Family members discussing your figure while simultaneously scoffing at how “little” you’re eating
  • And of course (my favorite)… using what’s left of Vodka as gravy (see picture above)

We watched our family’s favorite movie (Other People’s Money) for the 187th time (and recited lines together).  Sis and I told stories under the covers with flashlight (modern times: flashlight app) and engaged in cartwheel competitions that dad judged (I still got it!).  Days were culminated with family swim hour after our hearty meals (not advisable).

Aside from the fact that comments such as “you should eat more” started to have negative effects on my aggression meter (I can’t fit anymore!), I’d say it was a perfect thanksgiving.

Awesome.

Australian Lungfish, Green Moray Eels and River Otters

jelly fish

On Day 4 of Chicago Awesome it was time for a little new-resident sight-seeing.

A friend came to visit to see my friends and I (and our new city!) and brought with her energy, excitement and … a list of things to do.

While the rest of us nursed our hangovers and just straight exhaustion from the past couple of weeks… visiting friend outlined our options.

A poll was taken and (acting like children at) the aquarium was picked as the mid-afternoon activity of choice.

We plane/train/automobile-ed it to the east and found Shedd Aquarium.  This iconic cultural attraction stands next to Lake Michigan in an enormous and gorgeous building better suited to be our country’s embassy.

However, no president or political figure was found inside this gem.  Instead, we feasted our eyes on 25,000 fish and 5,000,000 gallons of water.

As a child I basically abhorred museums.  I may have mentioned this in a previous post but 18 years ago I would take in a giant open space with things on the wall and think…. dance studio.  The only thing I tolerated was the science museum (dad’s favorite) where I could be kept preoccupied with hands-on exhibits.

Hoping to be sufficiently entertained, I decided to throw myself into this experience.

Our first encounter with those that live in the sea was an enormous aquarium (shocker) with sharks and string-rays and a host of other strange species.

Being surrounded by a plethora of small people under the age of 10 really inspired some of that science museum reminiscing and some age-inappropriate behavior:

  1. The purchase of a chocolate milk before heading into the first exhibit (absolutely necessary)
  2. Pressing ourselves to the glass of giant aquarium to say hi to sting-ray (move it kid)
  3. Group shot against green screen (thankfully we left that work of art at Shedd)
  4. Spontaneous eruption of excitement (SEA-HORSES!!!!!)……….(move it kid)
  5. Finding Nemo (no really. we found him. and his dad.)

nemo

3 hours later, having seen some pretty wild underwater life (such as the group-named “Snooki Poof” fish), we were exhausted and sufficiently smarter as far as fish are concerned.

snooki

Experiencing a part of my new city with friends…. Awesome.

Hurricanes, New Friends and Cross Country Migrations

T-0 came and went.

On the fateful day that I prepared to say goodbye to New York City and head West, hurricane Sandy arrived and forced upon my life tuna fish sandwiches, PB&J, cheez-its and beer pong by candle light.

My roommate (moving also!) and I found ourselves in an empty apartment on the 27th floor with no power, one mattress, one flashlight, 3 small candles and entirely too much alcohol for two people leaving the state (evidence of a good 5 years).

There was one thing left to do.

Explore the building (dorm?), meet new friends (fellow gen-y-ers) and try to conserve precious iphone battery for instagram (call dad).

beer pong

5 games of pong, 2 parties, 3 new friends from our Alma-mater (what are the chances?!) and 2 days later we were ready to hit the road to finally move to Chicago (there were about 7 collective goodbye parties between the 2 of us after all…).

It was time to go.

I slept in my jeans.  She didn’t sleep.  We were ready to spring to action like firefighters.  Having moved all of our stuff into the dimly lit hallway the night before (generator = key), we were up at 5am prepared to use the one manually operated elevator to move a mountain of clothes, kitchen utensils and chick-books into a rented minivan before building management found out our escape plan (turns out moving apartments is not advisable or permitted in the dark)

moving

2 hours later, with the help of 4 doormen, we were able to fill ever crevice of that van.  And we were off…

The drive was about 15 hours long and took us through 5 states.  The drive would have taken 13 hours had we not made a pit stop for food every hour on the hour, including a completely out of the way scenic tour of a town called Milton, Pennsylvania (think town from Hocus Pocus) where we had an incredible breakfast omelet in the cutest café and acted like tourists.

omelet

The rest of the trip went smoothly.  The highlights:

  • Hours of singing on part of friend…
  • Trying to make friend’s cat “go” in the car (this activity could have gone on for hours)
  • Watching little trick-or-treaters in small town
  • Playing the “how do you feel about this state” game (not advisable)
  • Playing the “would you rather” game
  • Using the EZ Pass lane and then getting out of car to read the 482-digit serial number to attendant (great pastime)

15 hours later… we arrived in Chicago.

It was worth it.  For this.

chicago skyline view

(View from my new apartment!!)

Awesome.

The Art of the Goodbye Party

goodbye party

On T-7 days until the big move (Chicago, are you ready?!), I got appropriately dressed for going away party number one.

Having come to New York right after college and spent five years in the glorious city – I decided (and friends approved) that inviting a slew of individuals to one of our favorite bars from our “just-out-of-college” days was the best way to proceed.

I reserved half the bar for myself and said brood of (sophisticated) jaeger-bomb loving friends.

To start the night, we held a “pre-game” at my brother’s apartment and appropriately took some shots and made some toasts to start the night.

Feeling pretty happy and ready to party like its 2007…. We made our way to one of my beloved bars to properly say goodbye to New York City.

The night was a fantastic success.

I found the following to be essential to my fond memories (in no order):

– A tiara (No, it’s not my birthday. Yes, I pretended it was half the night.)

– A throne (The bar had a wooden throne. I utilized this surprising item to my fullest enjoyment.)

– Vodka

– Friends from all walks of life that reminded me of the great life I’d built

– New friends (brought by old friends.)

– My brother

– Angry bouncers (how I’ll miss your spunk old friends.)

I was my hyper self.  I took random photos that looked absurd in the morning.  I shared nachos with 20 people.  I danced.  I hugged (a lot of people). I made new friends.  I spent time with old friends.  I celebrated.

Hung-over breakfast was even sweeter than usual.

Awesome.

Packing: A Cleansing Exercise

packing

T-12 days until the big move (to Chicago).

I was finally forced to get to the dreaded packing portion of the life-changing exercise.

Where to begin!

After surveying the contents of my room, I found clothes I haven’t worn since 1998 (homage to my high school fashion glory), cell phone chargers for every model made since 1999 (hmm might need to revive that Saved By The Bell phone…) and jewelry I picked up during college travels that once was “silver” but is now a gorgeous pewter at best.

After giving it some thought, I decided not to give friends and family reason to nominate me for Hoarders and thus spent time going through everything.  I opened up pre-packed boxes, took everything out from under the bed and dug deep into bins that traveled (as is) from high school to college to NYC.

Favorite finds:

  • The ever popular “spank me it’s my birthday” t-shirt (size kids small) – KEEPER
  • Hair ribbon I wore in my last figure skating college nationals
  • Complete sequined one-piece suite (worn on Halloween 5 years ago)
  • 15 tube-tops (naturally)
  • Cards my roommates and I wrote to each other in college.  Absurdity at its best.

Ultimate favorite: card my college (and current) roommate gave me on my 23rd bday:

birthday card

birthday card

I can’t remember how the nicknames “poopy” and “crappy” came about, but I do know that 8 years later, I still yell “crappy!!” in public places when trying to find her.  Neither one of us can remember what the “little something” is that was provided for the start of my day.  I’m assuming a Keystone Light. Or beer pong paddle (?).  Either way: solid gold.

I donated bags of clothing, shoes and blankets.  I gave away skirts, tennis shoes and workout outfits.  I spent hours reading every note, postcard and diary.

The result is: a great deal less to move.  Some proper reminiscing.  A feeling of lightness.

Turns out cleansing and “spring cleaning” (in October) is Awesome.

Highly recommend it.

Giant Statues and Pink Wallpaper

Day 47 commenced my official countdown to my move from New York City!

I know I’ve mentioned it in previous posts but here it is officially:

I’m leaving the big (crazy, yet fun) apple to head to the windy (more balanced and clean) city.

Friends, followers and random passerby’s, as of around 8pm on October 29, I will officially be a resident of the state of Illinois.

During these last 14 days, I am aiming to soak up the Awesome (what else) in my NYC life (no real complaints here).

I’m going to take this opportunity to count backwards…..

On day -14 I found myself in a living room.  6 flights of stairs up from the ground.  In the middle of one of NYC’s busiest intersections.  Sitting on a (very comfortable and purple) couch. Staring up at the room’s centerpiece:  the famous 70-foot statue built in 1892 of Christopher Columbus.

discovering columbus

I wouldn’t have believed it myself had I not accompanied a friend to the exhibit (one of our last outings!), complained and moaned the entire 6 flights of stairs and spent more time than was allowed in the “living room.”

“Discovering Columbus” is an exhibit created by Tatsu Nishi that allows visitors to experience the famous Columbus statue as if it were in their living room.  The room’s expansive space, covered in pink wallpaper, adorned with modern furniture and over-sized windows, is a surreal and a one-of-a-kind experience for several reasons.

1)       Seeing a 70-foot statue brought to life in touching distance is not an everyday sighting.  Sitting on the couch, I studied the details of the work.  Everything from his dress to his face are etched in a type of accurate precision I would never have suspected

2)      The sheer idea of something so large and grand that one would never see up close to be in a home setting is bewildering (not something you pick up while “antiquing”).  Not surprisingly, my jaw dropped when we turned the corner on the top floor.

3)      The exact views we saw can’t be replicated.  Out the fake living room windows was a sea of lights coming from cars speeding down Central Park West.  The top of buildings on the other side of the island were peeking over trees and Central Park was spread out before us.

central park west

On a personal note, Columbus Circle is one of my favorite parts of this city.  It’s the place where I ate my mac and cheese and sushi rolls during lunch as an intern.  It’s the place where I’ve gone to clear my head.  It’s the fountains my brother and I played in just a few weeks ago (errrr I mean watched the children play).

I loved experiencing this part of the city in a completely different way.

Awesome!