Monday, January 1, 2018

2017: Year in Review

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I allow certain negative words to spill out of my mouth.  I'm not talking about swear words (although God knows I could do better at that, too), but such commonly uttered phrases as "I don't...", "I can't...", and "I'm not." 

Long ago I decided I wasn't good at math.  Why did I do that?  I always got good grades in math and was always the one nominated to figure out the dinner bill among friends.  And if you know me at all you've heard me proudly proclaim, "I don't run!" but in elementary school I was the fastest girl in my class and gave the boys quite the chase (I wish this was a euphemism, but I'm being quite literal).  To this day I confuse the terms "artistic" and "creative," constantly labeling myself as "not creative," while being skilled at problem-solving, and even writing this here blog.  

Now, don't get me wrong.  One of the greatest things about growing up is learning what you do, and more importantly what you don't, like or have an aptitude for.  And that's a fabulous thing!  I don't like pickles.  I can't remember the names of things.  I'm not into video games.  We make choices.  We try things.  This folds into the fabric of who we are. 

The difference is when we begin to limit ourselves with these antipathies. 

I've actually thought before, after years of thinking marathon runners were certifiably insane, that maybe a 5k charity run (or walk) would be fun.  Get outside, stretch my legs, live a little.  But inevitably the voice in the back of my head chimes in, "I don't run."  And so far I've allowed that voice to win.  I haven't gone backpacking or returned to skiing because "I'm not adventurous or sporty."  But I bet if I gave myself the chance,  I'd really love both those things. 

Of course, as women, we are more likely to cut ourselves down before we even begin, to presume our skill level as well as our prospective enjoyment.  It's less that we actually believe we're not capable than that there's so much negative, suppressive energy projected at us, that we begin at very young ages to believe it. As a result, we put ourselves right into our own boxes and tie a pretty little bow on top, proclaiming, "I'm so not into ____________, it's the worst," or "I could never!"

So in 2018, while I know there's no way to eradicate these words or thoughts from my vocabulary and very being, I want to at least be more self-aware of when I'm doing it.  To challenge myself to peek out of, and occasionally even break down those invisible barriers.  To focus on all the things I am good at, and to continue to build those skills.  And when that voice in the back of my head starts to whine, to tell it to f*** off.  I encourage you to join me.  Then maybe in 2019 I can focus on the swearing.

In 2017, I...

Hiked Diamondhead, swam in a waterfall, and chilled with sea turtles in Hawaii with Britt
Joined WILpower, a women's skill-building and networking program and community
Cast spells in Hogsmeade
 Hugged farewell as several friends moved away from the bay
Made significant progress in reading with Lucero, my tutee
Welcomed a new member (and our first boy!) to book club
Really upped my own reading game, with 43 books read this year!
And while we're on the topic, got to meet our favorite book club author
Celebrated my dad's retirement with friends and family
Kept on calling this magical, crazy, beautiful city home for the 5th year
Got promoted to Manager
Toasted to 30 many times over...
 Choreographed and performed a baller nostalgic dance for my best friend
Helped make a watermelon explode by rubber bands alone 
Did acroyoga, terrifyingly, for the first time
Got lots of baby and doggy cuddles!
 Enjoyed a magical summer night of silliness, ice cream, and shovel guitar with my family
Saw The Great Comet (NYC), Hamilton (SF), Our Ladies of Perpetual Soccour (London), An American in Paris (SF), and Aladdin (SF) in theater
Laughed my ass off at the magical lighthouse 
Won the office kickball tournament (shocked the hell out of me) #tourists
Tried to smile as Kasey moved out of the apartment
Started up a Supper Club, eating so far at Californios and Acquerello
 Bought myself a fur for the burr!
 Explored London with my two favorite Ls, Letizia and Lauren
Was reunited at this beloved table with my adoptive Italian family
 Nonno peeled me a peach (it's the little things, guys)
 Went on a Calabrian Safari
 Rode on a train...on a boat
 Discovered there exists such a heavenly thing as ricotta-stuffed crust
 Enjoyed aperitivo from this breathtaking balcony
Successfully baked bread
Transformed into my favorite Disney princess
Started meditating daily
Tried to do good in the world by organizing volunteering events at work that benefit children, disaster victims, the homeless, and more
Got down with our bad selves while celebrating Alex and Maryana in Puerto Vallarta
Upped my points game, and got almost all my flights this year free
Persuaded Box's Women's Network to sponsor WILpower, providing scholarships for more women to participate in this transformative program
Celebrated love at both Ian and Maryana's weddings
Finally got to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree!
 Celebrated my birthday on the west and east coast
 Not rang but sang in the new year
 Smiled and thanked my lucky stars for the life I've been given and built

  1. Oahu, Hawaii
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. Ukiah, CA
  4. Denver, CO
  5. Whiskeytown, CA
  6. Austin, TX
  7. Chicago, IL
  8. Lake Berryessa, CA
  9. New York, NY
  10. Pescadero, CA
  11. England (London) and Italy (Calabria and Sicily)
  12. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  13. Guerneville, CA 
  14. New York, NY

This year was quite slow for shows (I think I substituted live theater)...but I'm already looking forward to two big names next year!
  1. Dua Lipa @ GAMH
  2. DJ Snoopadelic (aka Snoop Dog) @ Bill Graham 
  3. Aquilo @ The Chapel
Became obsessed with:
  • Meditating (Download Headspace now!  Seriously, try it!)
  • Buddha bowls (I know I'm really starting to sound like a hippie now, but these are just delicious)
  • Non-fiction (Who knew!  I've learned so much.)

Good to meet you, 2018.  Let's go get it!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Maryana + Alex

On November 11, our little firecracker married her perfect match, Alex.  And the rest of us got to experience a Jewish-Ukranian black-tie wedding!

The morning started before the crack of dawn, because by golly it's hard to be a woman.  By 6:45am, bridesmaids already had butts in chairs getting blown out, twisted around, and painted up.  We snacked, danced, and toasted in between our turns, and tried to enjoy the relative peace before the momentum of the day really caught up with us.

As for the bride, Maryana was frighteningly calm.  She kept insisting that she was now "on the ride" and refused to fret about anything.  Another great pacifying phrase was "Let go and let Svetlana" (her wedding coordinator).  It was smooth sailing!

Mid-way through the morning, half the groomsmen came dressed in togas to deliver champagne!  We also learned about their gifts from the groom, hilarious personalized bobbleheads:

Maryana very thoughtfully selected individual gifts for each bridesmaid.  It was really nice to have a special moment just with her (granted, plus a few photographers/videographers). 

And then, about six hours later, we were presentable to the world...


...and it was time to make moves and meet up with the gentlemen.  We gave Maryana and Alex some time to have their first look without an entourage!  Alex may or may not have sobbed.

Said entourage

Lauren flew out all the way from London and it was so lovely to get to spend the day with her!

#twinning to the extreme with Lauren

 The lucky groom

A few lovely professional shots from the garden at the Fairmont:

It was really fun to be reunited with the gang from Mexico (plus a few more) to continue the party. 

After photos at the Fairmont, we jumped on the party bus and headed to Congregation Emanu-El for the main attraction.

Once there, we did family photos under the chuppah, during which the most memorable moment was Maryana's grandfather leisurely strolling up toward his place in the photo, moving at a snail's pace and stopping to bow and sincerely greet those sitting in the pews, as if everyone was there to see him.  It was a crack-up!

The next couple hours, while guests started spilling into the hall for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, the groomsmen and bridesmaids were upstairs in separate areas, snacking, refreshing, and either getting hyped or meditating, depending on what group you were in!  The rabbi pulled Maryana and Alex each away for a few minutes for them to reflect on the momentousness of the occasion, and to recognize that these were the last moments in which they would be unmarried. 

Soon, it was time.  The most magical part of the whole day, rather unexpectedly, was the ketubah signing.  Before the ceremony, and while the guests were mingling during cocktail hour, the rabbi brought the family and the wedding party into a beautiful side room, and we had a private mini-ceremony in which he talked about the weight of the moment, the parents gave personal blessings, the couple and witnesses signed the official documents (both civil and religious), and pretty much every single person in the room cried.  There was this amazing sense of peace and stillness as we all acknowledged the rabbi's words.  My tear ducts were thankful the majority of the parent's speeches were in Russian, although it might have made me even more emotional since all I could read was the feeling behind the words!

And then we lined up, tried to remember all of Svetlana's guidance, and made our way down the aisle.  Maryana walked down to an instrumental version of "Tale as Old as Time" from Beauty and the Beast, which made everything feel a touch more magical.

 They exchanged vows and rings, Maryana's toddler brother made rose petal angels in the aisle (fodder for the speech Maryana will give at his wedding 25 years from now), and in a flash Alex was breaking the glass (mazel tov!) and they were sharing their first kiss as husband and wife. 

Mr. and Mrs. Kessel

The wedding party danced into the reception to "Uptown Funk" as we were announced, donning feather boas, crazy hats, and other silly accessories.  Then we encircled the bride and groom and had our own private dance party before integrating into the fold of wedding guests. 

The room was decked in flowers, with white tulips and roses and orchids overflowing from the ceiling and the tables.  That is, where there was room on the tables, as they were also packed with platters of food!  Each setting was set with your usual glassware, plus a shot glass.  We were at a Russian wedding, after all, so we made sure to keep the vodka topped off for all toasts!

A favorite moment from the toasts (again, most of the touching ones were said by grandparents, in Russian), was when Kostya, one of the best men, in a very somber, seemingly nervous manner told Maryana to put her hand on the table, and Alex to put his on top of hers.  Then he hit the punchline as he said to Alex, "Enjoy this moment; it's the last time you'll have the upper hand in your relationship."

Keeping with tradition, as Americans would tap glasses for the couple to kiss, the Russians would chant "Gorko" (pronounced gor-kuh) and would then count how long the couple remained lip-locked.  The best part of this tradition was the group at our table who was convinced they were chanting "Vodka" every few minutes, and consistently took the crowd up on the suggestion.  

Maryana and Alex surprised us with a beautiful, choreographed first dance to James Arthur's "Say You Won't Let Go."  She even managed a secret costume change! 

Dancing along with the live band was a huge part of the event.  Many of the attendees, including Maryana, have formal ballroom dancing training, so there was a lot of sweeping and twirling (tan)going on, and at one point glow sticks were passed around, which really took things up a notch.  We had a blast!


The rest of the evening, in between eating and dancing, they squeezed in lots of fun traditions, including breaking the challah, being hoisted up on chairs, cutting cake, and of course the garter and bouquet tosses.

Couldn't imagine these two finding a better match than each other.  So excited for your future and to see what this life will bring you.  Mazel tov!