Monday, February 13, 2017

What My Parents Taught Me About Love

Confession: If a Facebook memory pops up, I read it. I had a lot of emo lyric statuses during college – ie "if you’ve never stared off into space, then your life is a shame." Come on, Anna, you’re better than that. Although that is a good song... More recently, they’re generally humorous. The other day I opened the memory, and my status five years ago was: “I have a hole in my sock, but I don’t mind, because I just got a pedicure.” Here’s where the story gets crazy. I looked down, and I had a hole in my sock. But I didn’t mind, because I had just gotten a pedicure. To make the story even crazier, this was the only pair of socks that had a hole in them, and my only pedicure in six months.

I relayed this riveting tale to a friend, and he responded: Wow, you haven’t changed in five years. How does that feel?

So, of course, I began to consider where I was five years ago. I was training for a marathon – my one and only race ever run. I’ll be honest; I take unnecessary pride in that fact. I was lonely, not sure what I was doing in Charlottesville, and I found solace in running as a cathartic outlet that I understood. People asked if training for the marathon was hard. It wasn’t. It was defined. I had a schedule, I followed it, and I exceeded my goal. But navigating life – jobs, dating, uncertainty about the future, friendships. That was hard.

Five years later, I still confront the same fears and doubts. But those confrontations are not nearly as intense. I still need reminders to wait, to trust that “God will give you the desires of your heart,” but that no longer comes during an emotional outburst. I have learned to remind myself in bouts of loneliness that, in the wise words of my father, it is better to have no man than a bad man, and when I doubt my future, I remind myself of the times God has been faithful to this point. Indeed, all, I am a relatively emotionally stable woman.

Some things, though, remain as true as they were five years ago. I still find solace in athletics, although now I turn to Crossfit. I PRed my deadlift for the first time in three years last week, and I failed on a back squat for the first time - normally I'm too scared to get to the point where I fail, so that was breakthrough.

I went home last weekend to celebrate my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. I write about them nearly every year around this time, as their anniversary is always February 5th. They have taught me so much about love; below are some of my favorites.

Love is steadfast. My parents start each morning the same way. They proclaim Bible verses, and they pray for their family. Every time I come home, whether it's been a week or six months, I know I will be greeted with a huge hug, a kiss, and an I love you.

Love has faith. Always. Maybe this is in love, or maybe this is just in life.

Love is respectful. "Hun, please don't interrupt me." "I'm sorry, my dear. Go ahead." That is the extent of arguing between my parents. I'm sure they had their moments, but I cannot remember a negative comment made by either of my parents about the other. They don't even join when their children jokingly mock one of them. And we're hilarious.

Love supports the other person's passions. Like my mom scorekeeping for my Dad's little league baseball team for the 16 years he coached my brother. And now as he coaches my nephew.

Love is joyful. And laughs. I hope my husband still thinks I'm funny after forty years. Obviously, I'll still think I'm funny after forty years.

Love is a decision. Earlier this year, I spent some time in New Zealand with my sister and Mom. Julie had recently lost her baby at 24 weeks, and of course, Mom was there in an instant. I didn't have much to add by way of words of wisdom, since the most difficult moment of my life was that time I had to decide whether I wanted the brownie sundae or frozen oreo pie*, but as always, Mother oozed wisdom. She told of one day in particular with Stephen, my severely brain damaged older brother. I was a crying baby (although still adorable I'm sure), she was taking care of Stephen, and my older sisters came home from school in the whirlwind fashion children do. She allowed herself a moment of depression - and a relatively justified one at that. She and my dad woke up every day and loved someone who was never able to recognize that love in full. Who would in all likelihood never walk, never hear, never speak. She had a moment: "I could choose this. I could choose depression. Or I could choose to love." My dad fasted forty days, praying that Stephen would be healed. Even now, when they talk about the Big Mon, they don't talk about what he wasn't. They talk about what he was. This little guy trapped in a body that wouldn't work. And rather than tear them apart, that period of time drew my parents together. They chose love for each other and for their family.

Privilege is a common term these days. Spoiler alert: I have all the privilege - white privilege, middle class privilege, and on a good night, I even have hot girl privilege. But the privilege I believe to be the most valuable is my parents. When I consider the times I lost my way, the times I felt unloved or unworthy, the times I needed someone to ground me, I see my parents. I see who I want to become.

One of these years, I’m going to write about the wonderful man who is taking me to the NBA All-Star weekend for Valentine’s Day. Until then, I'm grateful my parents have provided such a beautiful example of love and commitment.

The most exciting aspect of five years ago is that if you had asked me where I would be in five years, it wouldn’t be sitting at a bar in NYC on a Monday at noon drinking Delirium*.

Where will I be in five years? Yikes bikes I have no idea. But I’m excited to find out. And hopefully I will have stopped keeping socks with holes in them.

* Oreo pie. Duh.
* To which the bartender said, wow, that’s an aggressive way to start the day.
Sidenote: the bartender just gave me a free pen. Made my week.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

All of My Thoughts about Recruiting

Caveat: I thought about writing this after recruiting, because what if a recruiter reads it and does not appreciate my humor and marks me off the list. Then I thought, if they don't appreciate my style, it's likely not a great fit. More than that, I think it's good to write about uncertainty in the middle of uncertainty, as the emotions are more raw. Finally, I very much appreciate the fact that Ross positions you to succeed in the job market, presenting you with a veritable smorgasbord of opportunity. However, that doesn't mean there's no stress involved.

Ooo this is nice. All these companies are here, fawning over me. Courting me.

Yay! Free food. Mmm and free beverages.

Am I interested in that company? No, no I'm not. I wish I was, but I'm not. And I'm bad at faking it.

That was a good night. I think we really had a connection.

How many ways adjectives are there for "great company"? Can I use the word awesome, or is that inappropriate?


Should I be stressed? Other people are stressed. Maybe I should be stressed. Shoot. I'm stressed. Why am I stressed?

Maybe I should have applied for more internships.

I didn't come here to just get a job. I came here to get my job. The job. The one where I can make the biggest difference. Why would I want less than that?

Ahhh I don't know if I can eat any more free food. Anna, who are you and why would you ever bemoan free food?

May I please have your grandmother's email address, so I can thank her for birthing your mother, who in turn birthed you.

O, sweet professor. You really want me to care about the efficiency of a cranberry plant right now?

Thank you, dear classmate who I speak to in passing, for reassuring me I will get a job now that you have one. As patronizing as that sounds, I prefer it to hearing you complain about how you don't have a job yet.

But seriously, where am I going to be this summer? How about next year? How about in five years?

Hey, everyone, how about instead of talking about interviewing, we talk about music, or how Grayson Allen is the biggest pre Madonna in college basketball, even by Duke standards. Or talk about Chipotle. I can always talk about Chipotle.

Hmmm. Maybe I want a boyfriend. No, Anna, that literally has nothing to do with right now. You just don't like uncertainty. And you want a back massage.

Why is it so gray outside?

Alright, God, close all the doors except the right one. And maybe keep a couple others open for the sake of my sanity.

Why didn't they like me? How could anyone not like me? I thought we had something special.

They didn't like me? Well, fine, I didn't like them, either.

Maybe I'll die alone and never contribute anything to society.*

Get it together, Anna. Go work out.


I woke up at 4:30 this morning. Normally when that happens, I go to the bathroom and return to bed. Since it coincided with the Australian Open men's semifinal between the recently rehabbed Federer and Wawrinka, however, I decided to watch. I joined the match after Federer had won the first two sets and was seemingly cruising to the finals. He dropped the third set 1-6. They fought through the fourth set, until Wawrinka broke to go up 5-4 and closed the set. Federer fought off two break points in the fifth and will be in the finals Sunday at 3:30 AM, which I may or may not watch live.

I know ya'll have missed the tennis metaphors*, so here goes.

Tennis requires a unique mental strength to succeed, different than that required in team sports. You are completely alone. No teammate will compensate if your shot is off, and no coach will calm you down, except for a brief look into the stands. And there's an opponent that's fighting the same fight. I think the pitcher/batter matchup is a similar battle, but if a pitcher is having an off day, the GM pulls him from the mound, and the offense can redeem the performance. Boxing certainly requires a similar mentality, but it moves so quickly that you don't have the time to think.

In tennis, you have 30 seconds in between points to think about what went wrong, what could go wrong, or how to compete in the next point. You have two minutes during changeover to regroup or unravel. And five minutes in between sets to dig deep, make strategic adjustments and finish strong, or panic. It's your choice.

If you watch the sport enough, or play it enough, you can see this internal battle raging. You can predict the momentum shifts. The single points that completely alter the tone of the match.

The toughest matches are won not because of strength or technique. They're won because you can dictate momentum. You know which points will cause your opponent to unravel, and when you're the person unraveling - when you've temporarily lost your shot or can't seem to convert - you know how to stop the spiral. To snap out of it. Point by point.

Life seems to be a constant sequence of momentum shifts. There are times when you are converting on all cylinders, times when you're a little off, and times when not a single shot seems to fall. How you react to those periods dictates your success.

Over the years, you learn to curb your internal momentum shifts. Every player has marquee matches, and the longer you play, the more you have. Those matches when you were steady, smart, and strong. And when you're in the middle of match, knowing the next point could determine momentum, you remember those matches.

So right now, in the middle of recruiting, when my mind can wander in many fruitless directions, dwelling on past errors or wondering what might happen in the third set when I haven't even finished the first, I remember those past victories. When I quit my job and began serving tables, when I joined a startup, or when I left that job without knowing if I had been accepted to graduate school.

Most tennis players have a ritual between points. It could be Nadal picking his wedgie - why don't you just get bigger shorts - or Federer brushing back his hair - don't ever cut your hair, Federer. I always took a moment to remind myself to compete. And in the middle of uncertainty, I hold on Philippians 4:6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And then I work out.

* I renounce that. Plus, I've already contributed this blog.

* As I wrote this, I realized it's been nearly two years since one has graced my blog, and new readers may never have experienced my favorite metaphor. What a shame.

* And frankly, I think under appreciated by the masses.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Home with the Navs

First. Remember last year, I thought adding elbow holes in sweaters could be the next fashion trend. I'm seeing sweaters with shoulder holes all over the place this winter. I should be fashion blogger. Until that transition...

Coming home for the holidays after living alone is always a bit of an adjustment. For instance: I can't do my own laundry, my meals are cooked for me, I have to continually be ready when Mom asks what I want from the grocery store, delicious treats are constantly calling, the 86'' TV sometimes hurts my eyes. It's difficult, but I press through. I do always forget to bring home my lufa which throws a major wrench in my shower routine.*

Everyone knows I love my family. We all have our idiosyncrasies, that I believe each has embraced, so no one will mind if I share them. It's a difficult task to provide a window for outsiders into a week with the Navatsyks, but that's not going to keep me from trying.

I stop by Gail and Mitch's first. Colt, the three year old tornado, is extremely excited to see me, and I savor the moment, because soon enough, he will be asking when it's time for me to go home. Or our friendship will end because he trips over a pillow while playing tag. Ahh, the volatility of toddler affections. Briella, who's 8 going on 28, runs into my arms and within a minute asks if I have started dating the quarterback yet. I tell her I'm going to wait until he's legal to make my move.

Gail and Mitch are taking their kids to Miami in a few weeks. Gail is considering recording their vacation, putting it on Youtube and monetizing it. After all, it's about time they make money off their good looks. I agree, and if I didn't have school, I would definitely manage the production. Of course, Mitch would make me delete half of what he says, so maybe a reality show won't work. Gail could make videos coaching Moms to have their children sleep through the night. Or Mitch could tour the country giving motivational speeches. If not Mitch, Briella could. She is reenacting her inspirational speech: "You go hard. You better have nothing left at the end of the swim!" she had spurred her teammate to a relay victory.

Gail and I discuss her most recent nail salon drama - anyone who has entered the world of nail allegiance knows that switching between salons is a difficult line to cross without consequence. She had a procedure recently and is recovering very swiftly, as I anticipated she would. By procedure, I mean boob job. Mitch's gift to both of them. Yes, for everyone scrolling through pictures on Facebook and wondering: they're not real, and they're spectacular. I had to cop a feel, obviously. And don't worry, I know you're scrolling, because we do, too. And Mitch rolls his eyes but secretly enjoys our commentary. For anyone scrolling through my profile page, here's the synopsis: I have big thighs and this blog where I ramble about my life as if people care. Don't try to make fun of my forehead. We all know it's glorious.

Personally, I plan on botoxing my forehead to preserve the beauty of the dome selfie, so I'm in no position to judge another taking advantage of the medical advances at one's fingertips. Plus, I think after you have four kids, you have the right to do whatever you want to your body, and as our President-elect once proclaimed, "It's impossible to be flat chested and a 10." If there was doubt, Gail's now a ten. The addition to the Hewitt household does offer a multitude of material, and if Mitch were not in a position of civic service, this blog post would be a running recording of commentary. I will simply say: he's not demanding his money back.*

Phil and Courtny are in for a brief 24 hours during which we watch the 45 minute compilation Philip made of our time roadtripping through Eastern Europe together. And Courtney watches the whole video and laughs, which is why he married her, because most people would probably leave after five minutes, though I don't know why, because we're hilarious. The opening scene is the two of us belting out T-Swift. There is a lot of made up history on our self guided tours, that's what she said moments, complaining about the speed limit, and one scene where I molest a gummy bear. Pure gold.

Philip's trying a new method to wake up Courtny - bacon. She seems a little startled and even annoyed the first time bacon slides under her nostril as she slept, but the second time, she is much more amenable, and even seems to enjoy the bacon. They're prepping for their 45-day honeymoonth. Forty-five days seems like a totally appropriate amount of time. Any more may be unreasonable.

We manage to squeeze in a Christmas tree sleepover with Caleb and Bri, and while Courtny and Phil opted for a bed, I lay under the tree and talk with the kiddos about school, their little brothers, and sports. I hope they skip that stage when they are too cool for their aunts.

Christmas comes and goes, and the Cavs beat the Warriors.

The day after, I join Mom and Dad for dinner. They seem to go out more since no one lives with them, and they may be my favorite couple to join as a third wheel, because as of now, they are the only ones who pay.* I had forgotten to get Dad a present, and I saw this as the perfect opportunity.

"Excellent. I'll cover some of the meal, and that will be your Christmas present, Dad."
"So let me understand. We go out to dinner. You pay for yourself. That's my Christmas present?"
"Correct."
"How is that my Christmas present?"
"Because, Dad. You get to spend time with me. And you love me." Merry Christmas.

I do go out with a few friends one night. Mom informs me the following morning that according to the track your iPhone app, I was at Pub Frato then a Hibachi restaurant and somewhere else in between. Good thing I nixed the strip club idea; that would have been an awkward conversation over coffee.

The Christmas tree down, her latest mission is to get rid of my Playmobile Victorian house from childhood. I'm not totally ready to part with it. I'm not sure when or why I will have any use for it, but there's so many pieces, it seems wrong to say goodbye. Incidentally, that's exactly why she wants it gone. I hold my ground, though, by simply not responding to her pleas for me to give her permission to throw it away*, and she's giving me until age 30 to remove it from the premises, lest it be removed for me. It was in two boxes, but if stacked properly, it can be condensed to one, which is a minor relief for her. Win, win.

The Amish woman Mom befriended is cleaning our house, which brings the cleaning lady tally to two. I'm not sure what they do, though mother did say that when my dad's car lights hit the ground just right, you could see bits of dust. She would later find a bit more dust when the sun shone directly on the living room table at 5:07 PM. I contemplate how I can get these ladies to my apartment and really show them some dust, when Dad comes down with big news.

"Jim Lyons called the other day and said he met a shortstop that was better than me. I went on a diatribe on how that simply wasn't the case. Today someone posted a picture on Facebook of the 1973 All Star team. I was the shortstop. I sent Jim the picture and said, 'I rest my case.'" Additionally, Dad has tweeted at Kimberly Gildoyle of Fox's Five at Five, telling her to part her hair on one side or the other because the part down the middle is no bueno. It's been bugging him for a long time, so the household's glad that's off his mind.

Before heading back to Ann Arbor, I have communion with Mom and Dad, something they have started doing daily. Dad prays for me as he always does: that I would be a leader, not a follower, that I would find favor in the eyes of those I work with, that the right doors would open and every other door close. I give both a big hug, grab one final treat and hop on the road, grateful as always for such strong roots. And sad that I have to do my own laundry.

* Simple solution: spend two dollars on a lufa to keep there.
* I ran this section by Gail and Mitch and have interpreted their silence as tacit compliance.
* Every other couple, please feel free to step up your game to compete.
* Thanks for teaching me negotiating skills, MO 503.

Friday, January 6, 2017

2016 Winners and Losers. 2017 Goals. World Domination, Always.

Alright, guys, the countdown to world takeover by age 30 is ticking.

I'm supposed to be writing an essay for an application. The theme: resilience. You know what I'm going to use? A tennis analogy. Surprising, I know. In order to get my creative juices flowing, I thought it wise to partake in my annual reflection and goal setting ritual. In addition to a brief assessment of 2016 goal accomplishment - I found the sweet spot and got very close to getting a drink named after me - this year's reflection takes the form of post-weekend football analysis, with winners and losers. Appropriately, we will begin with fantasy.

Winner. Steel the Win and Sugga Momma Bears. In a demonstration of dominance, Steel the Win took the victory in league one. Thank you, Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson. Unfortunately, the cardiac kids, Sugga Momma Bears, fell in the championship, a defeat that would have been more palatable if the winning lineup had not been sitting on my bench. Still, considering I had the 11th lowest number of overall points in the regular season, second place is a victory.

Loser. Fantasy football team names. My pun game is weak. I plan on spending the offseason considering alternative names, which will inevitably lead to me figuring out how I can cleverly combine Ezekiel and some obscure part of the male anatomy.

Winner. My laugh. I was nominated for best laugh in high school, but alas, I lost to Alison Piccioni. I don't think I laughed to the extent I do now in high school, as much of my time was spent sleeping during class. This year, however, I received my section superlative award for best laugh. Is this the greatest accomplishment of my MBA career thus far? I'm not saying it's not.

Loser. There are no losers when I laugh, unless you're a dog that detects high pitch frequency. Then, it might hurt your ears.

Winner. My ability to differentiate between Coors Light, Miller Light, and Bud Light. I think it's improved.

Loser. My self-respect. Why am I 28 and drinking light beer? Apparently, when in grad school, ones' tastes revert to age 21. Sometimes, so do one's dance moves.

Winner. My funeral. I recently listened to a podcast about "the town that talks about death." The gist of it was: an end of life caregiver started broaching the subject of death with patients long before the threat was imminent so when the time did come, families knew what the individual wanted, subsequently lowering healthcare costs and improving end of life quality. The town took a sensitive subject and made it commonplace. Very interesting. Anyways, it got me thinking about my funeral, and I have a few requests: a slideshow of dome selfies, which I imagine at that time will be plentiful; no need to wear black, people should wear color, but by no means does this excuse anyone from crying. Brownie sundae bar at the post-lunch. Also, if people would like to have a competition of who can share the most embarrassing Anna story at the post-lunch, the winner could receive an Anna bobblehead.

Loser. My wedding. Haven't made much progress on that front, although I have started answering creatively when old family friends ask if I'm married yet. "No, but I'm getting my business degree so I can get rich and buy myself a husband..." Awkward pause.

Winner. My apartment. Possibly my best decision of 2016 was getting an apartment fifty feet from the business school. Was I a bit skeptical when I awoke the first Saturday at 6 am to undergrads pre-gaming? Yes. However, now that it is a balmy 5 degrees outside, I am grateful for the proximity.

Loser. My mail. I've had this issue with my mail where nothing that is sent to me arrives. You have one job, postal service. Wedding invitations, birthday cards, Christmas cards, checks. Not receiving them. The obvious answer is that I am giving the wrong address, but I am receiving packages, so that's not the case. I asked my landlord about this, and he told me, yes, it's an ongoing problem, and I need to talk to the postal service, which I have yet to do, because I fear they will be of little help. A possible thought is that I need to start telling people the end of my zip code, because all the junk mail I receive has 48104-3554 on it. Are those last four digits important?

Winner. The Cavs. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but they are the reigning NBA champions.

Loser. The Browns. It's a building year. Also... Golden State. Since I called out Golden State, I feel obligated to acknowledge that the Indians gave up a 3-1 lead to the Cubbies, although they did so without their best player and best pitchers, so the loss was not quite as humiliating.

Winner. My driving record. I received zero moving violations and zero parking tickets in 2016. I believe this is a first. It's likely because I was out of the country for about five months.

Loser. My sense of direction. Technology is great, but I had to enter Trader Joe's into my phone the first three months in Ann Arbor, and I still am not sure how to get from the east side to the west side of the city. Or if there even is an East side.

Winner. My thighs. I say this because twice in the last week I have been asked what sport I played that made my legs so strong. I responded, "I was born with these beauties."* The Navatsyk thighs, finally getting the recognition they deserve.

Loser. Errands. While I have no problem prioritizing working out, it took me three months to register my car in Michigan, two months to return text books, and four months to return some WiFi device to Comcast. When I finally focused on each of these tasks, I completed each in thirty minutes. Why are errands so hard? And why do I still not have a life secretary? And why hasn't Amazon created a drone secretary to run these errands for me?

Winner. Ann Arbor. I moved here.

Loser. Charlottesville. I left there.

Alright - to resolutions. I was listening to Tim Ferriss the other day, an inspirational Podcaster whose yoga obsession I take with a grain of salt, as I do all yoga obsessions, and he suggested looking at what you could 10x. A very obvious answer to this is my blog readership, so if everyone reading this could simply click on the links to my posts 10 times instead of 1 (or 100 times instead of 10 if you're creepily already reading my posts 10 times to memorize them), I can hit that goal. Thank you in advance. Momentary shoutout for this blog: I hit a record number of posts last year with 27. Also, someone told me it was hilarious and inspirational which was in the running for the greatest compliment received in 2016.* I should have a Podcast.

Speaking of which, while my goal is not to have a Podcast, I am breaking tradition by stating a real, tangible goal: to build a business plan. I'm not going to pressure myself to start said business, but I will do the work prior to launching. Or at least read a book about building a business. I may start a blog segment called Anna Builds a Business. And not to give away any spoilers, but the sole product may be an Anna bobblehead with an obviously huge dome that laughs when you walk past it. Coming to your office workspace, 2018.

* Also, I played tennis.
* Next to, of course, the comparison between Elle Woods and me

For inquiring minds:

2015 Goals
2014 Goals

Monday, December 26, 2016

My Favorite Christmas Traditions

Being an only child would have sucked. It's Christmas morning, and I'm the only one at my parents' house. It's eerily quiet. And my dad didn't build a fire, because it's not worth it for an audience of two, so there's no crackle. And I can't find the Bose speaker, so it's even more quiet.

Christmas as a child was magical. We spent Christmas Eve with Mom's side of the family. When we got home, we read the Christmas story, which I half listened to, but mostly wanted to go to bed so Christmas could come faster. I woke up around eight o'clock and walked down to see the glorious tree adorned with gifts. It was pointless to wake up early, because Julie and Gail were too-cool-teenagers, and we had to drag them out of bed at ten o'clock. Do you know how many seven year olds wait until ten o'clock to open presents? Not many. My mom made Christmas rolls, so Lydia, Philip, and I ate those as we waited. One year, she couldn't find the recipe and it was a near tragedy. Traditions were not meant to be broken.

We lined up for a picture - one normal, and one posing at the beginning of a race. Mom took the photo, and we were off to open our stockings. Stockings ended at age 25 or after your first year of marriage, whichever came first, much to the dismay of my eldest sister, Julie. Really, though, the stockings were great, full of essentials - socks, bras, underwear, makeup. I realized this year I may have to actually buy adult socks for myself, something I have never done. I don't even know where to begin. Where are socks sold?


Mom stalked us as we opened our gifts, collecting the wrapping paper and throwing it away before we were finished opening the present. She was not about to let the morning make her house a mess. Secretly, she was also itching to take down the Christmas tree as it was starting to shed needles at this point, but she allowed it to stay up through Christmas day. We thanked her then threw in a thank you to Dad, though he had no idea what we were getting. He asked to see our gifts, though, and at least feigned enthusiasm as we showed him our new sweater. I can't imagine he was very excited, but he certainly liked seeing us happy. Mom usually had one present tucked away - a little something extra she just couldn't resist in the generous spirit of the season. We gave Mom and Dad a gift, but it never compared to everything they gave us.

Before Grandpa got sick, he and Grandma came each year and spent some of the morning with us. They smiled and laughed as we showed them our favorite presents. We went to their house to have lunch (at one o'clock sharp - hurry up Julie and Gail) with the rest of the Navatsyk clan and get one last Christmas present from Grandma and Grandpa. They always gave us a card with a little bit of extra cash in it, too, which I thought was very generous because there were so many of us and their house was so small. Hearts and tummies full, we went home, and from a young age, I knew I was lucky to be able to enjoy the day with gifts and a family that was so loving.

We've broken many traditions this year in the absence of other siblings - thanks for getting married, everyone. No Christmas rolls. No picture. I didn't even open presents at my house. We went to Gail and Mitch's and enjoyed the mayhem that is four children on Christmas morning. The clan now has a small arsenal of Nerf guns, and their home is a veritable war zone waiting to happen which makes for endless entertainment as long as you stay out of the line of fire as Mitch learned.

But not every tradition was broken. Mother was still extremely generous, Father still feigned interest in my boots, and Grandma still hosted Christmas lunch. I still love seeing my family. And Christmas Eve, as we finished an episode of some Netflix original series about a sheriff in the Pacific Northwest, I requested Dad read the Christmas story, even if it was only to an audience of two.

We read from both Matthew and Luke 2, and this remains my favorite verse: "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord."* Now is the point where I add a small insightful comment that really humbles you. I don't have one. But I do love that verse, and I love that it hits me the same way every year. Simply, how blessed am I that in spite of all my faults, or because of them, God thought I was worth saving? And that my mom is such a good buyer of gifts.


Total side note, but as I was looking for a Christmas morning picture, my mom showed me this:


I mean, come on, that face screams conqueror of the world.

Merry Christmas, all!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

909 Packard and My Favorite Funky Friday

It was the first day of Kindergarten. I was huddled by the big tree on the playground, scared to talk to anyone. Stephen came up to me and introduced himself. "Hi, I'm Stephen." I looked up. "Hi, I'm Anna." "You want to be friends?" he asked. We've been friends for 23 years and counting.

Many times since, I've lamented it's not always that easy to make friends. Especially with guys, and especially as a single chica. Sure, it's easy at the beginning, but there's often underlying emotions, expectations. You ask how his day is, and he hears, "I want to jump on you." Or he asks how your day is, and you hear, "I want to take you to dinner. And buy you roses. And chocolates. And tell you you're beautiful.*" More or less. Point is - it can get complicated. But every once in awhile, people come along and remind me it can still be that easy.

It was the first Friday of school. Our section just finished last in the MBA games, but we dominated flag football, which I’m pretty sure is the lead indicator of athleticism. My personal fave of the highlight reel was Joe catching a pass, thinking he had scored, and celebrating as if he had just caught the winning TD against the Buckeyes. We all yelled at him to get to the line of scrimmage, as his flag had been yanked at the two yard line, and we had five seconds to score before halftime. But I also smiled, because his eyes had lit up like a boy at Christmas.

As I was leaving, I stopped to say goodbye to my teammates. Ryan told me they would be playing beer pong later, and while I’m terrible at the game, I thought that was nice and told myself I would go. I was determined to make friends at school, and tapping into my twenty-one year old self seemed an excellent avenue to do so.

Nine o'clock rolled around, and I walked over to 909 Packard for the second time. The first had been a welcome barbecue for our section, and I credit the house's extreme hospitality as one of the reasons our group of classmates is so close. I peeked in the front door, and it was not nearly as crowded as the barbecue. In fact, there were just five housemates eating dinner. I was nervous. What if they didn't want me there? I could just go back to my couch and binge watch Netflix. I told the butterflies in my stomach to fly away and knocked on the door, because I was going to make friends, darn it.*

They graciously invited me to pull up a chair and join their meal. No one else ever came, but we spent the evening reliving the nineties, belting out everything from Kelly Clarkson to Everclear. And leading the sing-a-longs was Joe.

Joe is captivating. He will regale an entire room with his opinions of Matthew McConaughey's unparalleled greatness, all the reasons the Dayton Flyers are a team worth rooting for, or a humiliating story from his past.* He's persuasive. He can convince a room of grown men to chug milk for good luck. And he's contagious. He loves life to the last drop and brings a smile to those around him, whether it's the hockey team he helped coach or a group of MBA students reliving their youth on a Saturday night at Circus. Like many at Ross, he's smart, driven, and humble. And he's an inspiring fantasy football coach who pushed his team to a victory against Sugga Momma Bears, a bet on which was the catalyst for this post.

But I would have written it, anyways, because most of all, he and his housemates made my transition to a new stage of life so very simple and entertaining. For that, I am extremely thankful. And I think we will still friends in 23 years.*

* Playing gender stereotypes, I know.
* Little did I know I would be spending many a funky Friday night there, and they continue to tolerate me - even when I request my favorite song fifteen times in a row.
* I think he may have a wider range of embarrassing stories than I, which is an impressive feat.
* Even if it's only him rubbing a Cleveland loss in my face.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Thank you, God. Love, a Cleveland Fan.

We were all exhausted, and we were too nervous to acknowledge it. Fourth quarter. Under two minutes remaining. In the back of our minds, there were two competing thoughts - "We're gonna win!" and "We're gonna blow it!" My mom took a sip of my beer. My mom never sips beer, especially Coors Light.

Game tied.

Shoot. It's a breakaway. Curry passes to Iguadola. Easy layup - Unless! James out of nowhere - like a radiant, massive gazelle. You gotta be kidding me! That's definitely going to be on sports science. No time to consider - we're still sick to our stomachs.

Kyrie at the top of the key. Him and Curry - mono a mono. He pulls up for the three. Swish!!! Holy cheese. Holy cheese. We're up by 3. Less than a minute. Okay. Keep it together. A lot could go wrong. Ball's in Curry's hands. Wow! Kevin Love playing D! Better late than never.

Curry with a ridiculous jump shot that has a miraculous 87% hit rate. Not this time!! Deep breath.

Twenty seconds and we're taking it up the floor. They have to foul James to get into the bonus. Cavs inbound. Kyrie dishes to James for the decisive dunk and - bahh no dice! But a foul. James lays on the floor with 10 seconds left. I think he was just soaking in the moment.

I double high five my sister. "Gail, I think we're gonna do this! This could really happen!" James misses the first. Makes the second. That's all we need. But four with 10 seconds isn't comfortable. They could hit a three, and we could foul. They could hit a layup, steal the inbound and score a tres for the win. Continue breathing.

Waariors inbound. Curry throws up a prayer. No foul! It misses!

BAHHHHHHH!!!! My niece and nephew jumped. Everyone hugged, high-fived, and said the words that none of us had been able to shout - "We're champions!"

This week, I sat on the couch watching game seven, extra innings. We were ahead in the series 3 - 1, and I ignored the pessimism. The map that showed every state but Ohio cheering for the Cubs; those who reminded me of irony and Cleveland's 1-3 comeback; those who touted the random statistic that the last time there were two NFL ties, the Indians lost the World Series in Game 7.* This was our year. Down two pitchers, down our best player, we were the real Cinderella story.

The runs on a passed ball, the two run homer, Lindor's third out in the ninth. It was destiny. Tying run is on second. Series ending run is at bat. Walk off homer. Right now.

And then, a groundout to third. Game over. Cubs win. Another game seven heartbreaker. People will tell me, "At least you lost to the Cubs,"* but that's not what brings me solace.

Twenty-eight-year-old was nearly as devastated as 9-year-old Anna, with one small exception. In the back of my mind, I remembered, "We are a city of champions."

I wrote you this prayer after the Cavs lost game four. I'm not sure how much of a role you played in the historic comeback, but for whatever role you did serve, thank you.

I'm currently taking a Management Organization course (the first class I missed because I was attending game six of the World Series), and a recent article discussed misaligned incentives. It provided many examples of areas in business and life where we ask for one thing and reward another, and As it relates to sports, the article claimed that while we promote team performance, we ultimately reward individual performance with scholarships, MVP accolades and the like.

I disagree. And I get it. There's are selfish, arrogant athletes who are only focused on themselves. But those exceptions aside, the ultimate reward, the prize that every athlete desires, more than individual prowess, is a championship. I imagine Lindor would give up his gold glove prospects for one more shot at the Cubbies.

My brother-in-law and dad coach the local high school football team that recently capped an undefeated season. They had the number one scoring offense in the state of Ohio, led by quarterback Benanati. When interviewed after the game, the quarterback did not speak to his individual performance, but humbly deferred credit. “If you saw the gaps, the holes that were open. I think they were 10 feet wide. It was just the blocking. Anyone could have done what I did tonight.” More than that, he's not satisfied with his stats - he, and everyone on the team - wants more.

Maybe that's what is so impressive - sports have figured out what businesses grapple with every day: how to award individual behavior while truly uniting everyone under the goal of a championship.

When the Cavs won, James didn't say, "This one's for me." He said, "This is for Cleveland." So thank you. For the excitement, the spirit, and the one thing that has eluded the Cleveland faithful for decades - a championship.*

* Seriously random statistic.
* How is that supposed to be comforting? We lost to a fan base from a city with three Stanley Cups and six NBA championships within the past 25 years that insists on crying about their one sports team suffering from title depravation.
* And then for reminding us we're still Cleveland with a game 7 loss.