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

Valentines Day

flowersIt’s February 14, 1994.

I’m 8.

It’s year 3 in the USA.

Somehow mama has assimilated fast enough to grasp the eyebrow-raising traditions of the Hallmark holidays.

Valentines Day is right up her ally.

My brother and I wake up to baskets full of goodies.

Stickers, random candy, small popcorn bags, hair ribbons, candy hearts. (Come to think of it, I have no clue what was in my brother’s)

It’s all pink and exciting. And it’s just like her.

And so she instilled in us not only the art of surprise, but the embrace of small things that make life fun. Like dressing up at 80’s parties. Or sending care packages for no reason.  Or taking Halloween too seriously.

This year?

Cheesy homemade photo albums for me. Surprise art supplies for the lucky lady in my brother’s life. Surprise care package for my little sis.  Flowers for my grandma.

May the traditions continue.

I hope you had a great day.

I know I’m late, but – Happy Valentines Day everyone.

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

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

sparkler happy new year resolution

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!

The Miracle of Human Flight. (in the digital age)

flight

I went on a business trip.

Yep. Like a big girl.

I know you’re not surprised, since I’ve blogged about my flying adventures before.

This time was different though.  I didn’t make a lobster roll spread on my way to Los Angeles by taking up a full row and laying out my condiments (shamelesssss) and I didn’t creatively procure free alcohol (it was weird).

I participated in the miracle of human flight in a different way and I got pretty excited.

Are you guys familiar with Louis C. K.?  I apologize if this question is akin to me asking if you’ve heard of Miley Cyrus. DUH. (Unfortunately) (although that “We Can’t Stop” song – pretty catchy).

Anyway. Louis C. K. Comedian. Hilarious. Sometimes takes it too far. But mostly dead on funny.

A few years ago he was on Conan’s show and ranted for a fantastic bit that has come to be known as “everything is amazing and no one is happy,” during which he recounts how freaking awesome it is – this invention of human flight (among other things) (and rants on humans in general).

(if you haven’t seen it, then you HAVE TO watch this clip. It’s the funniest shit ever. Click here. Or here. Or HERE.)

That’s how I felt.

Not only was it a gorgeous day for flying.

BUT I used the internet today. On board.

Not only was I 38,000 feet in the air, but I could TELL MY FRIENDS ABOUT IT.

In real time.

So I did.

I emailed my brother, my aunt, my boyfriend, my cousin, 10 of my co-workers, my grandma, several managers, my dad, and my hair stylist (ok my former hair stylist).

I realize in-flight wifi isn’t new. But it actually worked this time. And I actually felt like using it instead of taking some me time/had to dial-in (something about work).

I was totally going weeeeeeeee. (My row companion LOVED it. JK. But I did have an interesting convo with him that I’ll save for my next post. YUP. It’s a two-parter.)

Anyways, IT WAS AWESOME!