Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Boys of Fall

Tonight is the first evening with Internet in my new apartment. Yes, I moved over a month ago, but apparently a modem requires a router to receive WiFi, and apparently an extender is not the same as a router. Ahh, technicalities. It seemed appropriate I stop by since I have been absent the past few weeks. I missed you, and returning feels like a nice, big hug. The fall air is creeping through my window, country music is playing softly, and I am feeling nostalgic. Perhaps it is because I heard Kenny Chesney's Boys of Fall this afternoon, but I cannot help but be whisked back to Friday nights in a small town.

For as long as I can remember, high school football was as much a part of life as church or Sunday dinners. My father was a coach, and fall evenings were spent calculating computer points*, dissecting the classic wing-t offense or bemoaning the fact that Catholic schools did not have to pull talent from within their district. We went to every game, and when my grandpa became too sick to make it inside the stadium, I sat with him and my grandma to watch from their car. They had priority seating because my father led the effort to build a new stadium.

The Hilltoppers were good. We won state in '94. My sisters' boyfriend, now husband and Chardon's head coach, led us to a state berth in '98, where we were beat with a hook and ladder. My heart still sinks slightly envisioning the play. I watched the cute football players and pretty girls who seemed so mature and imagined what it was like to be that old.

In my head, each season began the same way. The sky was a billowing gray with hints of sun, and the invigorating fall air penetrated your core with hopes of victory. The stands filled with fans in jerseys; the infamous superfans carryied the ever-classy blow horns. The student section assembled, led by mascots in ridiculous attire. Some were there to watch and some were there to socialize, but all of Topper land was there.

Every team was undefeated, and last year meant nothing. The players lined up behind the fence and clapped their ritualistic beat, one that is engrained in my memory. Excitement and anticipation mounted as they rushed the field and tore through the tarp for the first time. This was when the Hilltoppers collected on months of hard work. From kickoff until the clock struck zero, the only play that mattered was the next.

The season was always an emotional roller coaster. The eight minute drives, the quarterback on the keeper, the missed block and subsequent sack. The interceptions, fumble recoveries and touchdowns. You were lost in the moment, but in a different way than collegiate or pro, because these were your childhood play dates, the sons of your closest friend or your grandson. They were your study hall buddies, the class clowns or fellow nerds, your boyfriend. And you wanted them to win.

But why? Why did people travel hours to see a game and weather rain, sleet and snow? Why did people come long after their children had graduated? Why did you get butterflies when it was 3rd and long and we were down by 6?

High school football represents something. It is pure. It can be a sign of strength and normalcy after tragedy. There is a comfort in knowing that amidst outside turmoil, the game is constant. A touchdown is always six points, a false start is always a five yard loss, and despite possibly questionable refs, the scoreboard never lies. The boys play with an innocent and unadulterated passion. They are not yet tainted by the world around them, but, rather, are maturing before your eyes. Most of all, it represents a community and family that is able to put their differences aside for a season and stand behind one group of young men.

I was very close with many on the football team. Time has increased the distance between us, but with a simple song, I hear the stadium chants, feel the nervous excitement and smell the musty post-game locker room. Though I cannot say for certain, I believe with each new autumn, they smell the crisp air and are taken back, if only momentarily, to a time when they were the boys of fall.

*The mathematical basis of making the playoffs determined by the caliber of team you played, but also the caliber of teams they played.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

To Jules and Jerms - Congrats!

My least favorite part of having three older sisters is the four mothers during adolescent years. My favorite part of having three older sisters is after getting over myself and realizing they are right 96.3% of the time, I have four role models.

I look up to each of them for different reasons, but since my life situation is most similar to Julie's, I have looked to her especially in navigating (or not navigating) the ubiquitous world of dating.

Being single is difficult sometimes.* Aside from a natural desire for the intimacy and support found with another, one has to deal with single members of the opposite sex. There is also the occasional ignoramus* who asks, "Why is a sweet, smart girl like you still single?" as if being with someone validates you and a decent looking, well-adjusted woman should surely be in a relationship at this point. I think the question is supposed to be flattering, but a word to everyone - it is not. Really? How am I supposed to respond to that?

When I am particularly craving a relationship similar to the marriages of Gail and Lydia, I think about Julie. I go back to a conversation we had in which she openly discussed a difficult breakup she had been through in her early twenties. Those around her told her that someone better would come along, and at a certain point, in something close to her words, "she had to let that idea go and embrace that someone may or may not come. And she would be happy either way."

It is very easy to stake a portion of your self worth in relationships. Julie did not. She used that time to travel and develop her career. She cultivated so many close friendships, evidenced by the nearly 450 likes on the engagement announcement, an unheard of number outside the world of celebrities. She started life in a new country, maintaining her values through hardships. And years later, in a manner she likely would not have outlined, someone did come along.


I am thrilled for Julie and Jeromy. To Jeromy, you are a wonderful man and bring a lot to the veritable Thanksgiving feast that is the Navatsyk table. Welcome. To Julie, I am glad there is a man in your life to share in your laughter and love. Though I do not always acknowledge it and at times resist it, your consistent encouragement and guidance have helped me define myself. Thank you for setting such a strong example for your little sis.


*I recognize being in a relationship is also difficult sometimes. And other times, they are both easy. For instance, it is super easy to book myself vacations on a whim when single.

*Perhaps ignoramus is a bit harsh, but I really do not like the question.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Crossfit Total

I know. Two posts in one week; this is unheard of and verging on indulgent. I was considering going to see "Wish I was Here" this evening and fantasizing about Zach Braff - though not really, his thighs are smaller than mine, but I love his quirky personality - but decided it was just too pretty a night to waste in a theater. Given the nature of my previous post, this entry had to be light. I began considering those aspects of life that make me most happy and realized that for all my musings and rantings, I had yet to write about Crossfit.

This is not without reason. After all, with little exception, every article takes one of two stances - Crossfit causes obscure and unnecessary injuries or it revolutionizes your fitness. So what do I have to say? Both. And then, naturally, something more.

I have been injured since joining Crossfit. My callouses broke and the Neosporin stung. I got a rash from excessive thigh chaffage, and rope climbs occasionally give me questionable burns. Every time I do double-unders, I fear kegel exercises will not suffice in containing all within my bladder.* That's not an injury, but it is a nuisance and makes me want to curse at the guy telling me to do faster double-unders. He has no idea.

Honestly, my body has responded extremely well to the programming. The nagging injuries I had in my knee and ankle have dissipated. Even had they not, I would not blame Crossfit. I would blame aging, old fashioned bad luck and my tendency to push myself beyond my limits.

I also claim in a most uncultly manner that Crossfit has revolutionized my fitness. My previous background was nearly fifteen years of tennis, and I have always craved the rush of competition. I was on the court or in the weight room at least five times a week, often more. My coaches, family and a handful of weight room stalkers can attest to my tenacity and dedication. When tennis ended, I maintained my gym routine with similar vigor, but I was not making gains.

Tonight, we recorded the Crossfit Total, your combined max back squat, deadlift and shoulder press. My total was 490 pounds. We performed this same routine in October 2012, and my total was 379. The scoreboard does not lie, mis amigos. I am markedly stronger**, and my speed, agility and stamina have improved as well.

More relevant than either of these is how the gym facilitates continual improvement. It fosters a casually unpretentious and driven community, no matter your skill level. When I first entered, the mechanics of Olympic lifting were completely foreign, and my kettle bell swing was as coordinated as Peyton Manning's dance moves.

It challenges me to leave my comfort zone and learn new movements, attack my lifts and actually talk to the other members.*** The coaches' enthusiasm to instruct and depth of knowledge motivate me to move with increased efficiency and safety. Their consistent support spurs me to work harder and with purpose. Rather than blaring my headphones as I enter, I look forward to authentic conversation with those whose friendship extends beyond the gym.

Fitness was such a huge part of my development growing up; it does not surprise me that it remains so. I am grateful to have happened upon a gym with such a solid core. Now if only Zach Braff would join and get thicker thighs, we could make that fantasy a reality.


* I definitely just scared some people who have never experienced double-unders and gave credence to the stance that Crossfitters are crazy. But I thought it was funny.
** Fear not, I do not look like a muscular lug and still look good in a little blue dress.
*** They probably wish they could get me to shut up now.

Friday, July 25, 2014

On Being Lonely

It's a funny thing, loneliness. I have experienced it on numerous stages at various levels since moving, but I was not anticipating this last bout. Indeed, I am very blessed to have such a strong community in Charlottesville and incredible support in family, but apparently that is not immunizing. It is a quiet loneliness, spurred by various factors, but those really do not matter. What matters is how one confronts it, so I will offer nuggets I have gathered from family, friends and personal exposure. It is certainly not fool proof, but perhaps someone will appreciate another's experience. Plus, that nagging voice compelling me to write will not shut up. Sometimes, I think writing gives the feeling an element of tangibility, for better or worse.

A) Acknowledge the feeling, but do not indulge it. One is entitled to emotions, and they are not crazy. Give them their time, but no more. Perhaps you need a good cry, an IPA, an extravagant sundae or a really long chatsky with a friend. Have that. Then continue.

2) Seek comfort in the right places. There are a lot of easy, immediate sources, but they are also fleeting and unfulfilling. Be cognizant of your motives.

Thirdly) Adjust expectations. Your closest friend has a boyfriend and spends time cultivating that relationship. The job comes with different challenges than you expected. The people you left behind go on living their lives without you. That is natural, and if your stability hinges on these outside factors, you will inevitably be disappointed.

Cuatro) Be thankful. I am grateful for the kindness of others and the strong relationships formed when you allow yourself to be open, and even more so for a family so strong, I still miss them so much.

E) Look at yourself, and be completely honest. At the end of the day, you are only in control of your attitude and actions. Decide what you need to do, and do it intently. For me, answers have ranged from forming new bonds and breaking old ones, to physical outlets to cutting unhealthy habits or thought patterns. Most recently, the answer has been, "be content to go on quietly." Honestly, this is the hardest answer yet because I am an active person, but trusting God to work has been a neat challenge. Slightly annoying, but neat.

6) Then... Get outside yourself, and gain perspective. When I first moved to Charlottesville and in one of our many conversations, my mother told me to volunteer. That was not what selfish post-grad Anna wanted to hear. I wanted pity, but instead I got practical advice.* Incidentally, I started volunteering and have been working with a group of high school girls the past four years, facilitating their growth into young women. Seeing their lives offers a humbling perspective to the blessings in my own life.

It is so easy to be consumed with ourselves and forget that we are not the only ones facing struggles. We begin to compare ourselves to others, the most dangerous and fruitless of slopes. The one lesson that has resounded especially during the past couple months is that everyone has difficulties*; those can be used to help others face them down the road.

Finally) Decide to be happy; smile when you would rather not. Sometimes, life's just hard, for no real reason at all, but in the illustrious words of Jimmy Doogan, "The hard is what makes it great." Yep, I just quoted Remember the Titans and A League of Their Own in one sentence. Dad would be proud.

I hope this does not sound soap boxy. If it did, though, you probably would not have made it to this point. I have a sense this bout is drawing to a close, but for now, thanks for listening.

*Written with the caveat that I do not always follow my own advice.
*I love you, Mom.
*Of course, not everyone blabs about them on the Internet.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Thank you, Friend.

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!" Psalm 34:8. My mom has a verse for each of her children, and that is mine.

I have been mulling this post over more than most. It began as a tribute to this blog being a vehicle of vulnerability the past four years, but I knew I could not tell the small story of this blog without recognizing God. Yikes. Avid followers certainly have heard mention of God, but it does not make the public confession less intimidating. It is easy to casually acknowledge the existence of a higher being, but to claim He is actively working in your life is bold. Readers may consider me foolish and silly or worse, roll their eyes, thinking, "Dancing Anna at two o'clock on a Saturday night does not scream Christianity.*" It is certainly comfortable to tell stories of awkward moments or random musings, both of which are all too real. This is real, too, though, and it would be a disservice to all parties for me to write only about what I felt was safe.

From a young age, I was taught the practicality of God. A common mantra of my church's leaders was, "We believe this because it works." Not because it is easy or lavish, but because God's power and presence is undeniable. The underlying caveat of this is that it does not always work within the confines of your desires, and thus ensues the battle of will versus surrender. I have fought this battle numerous times, and upon reflection, find that only when I relinquish an arrogant insistence on self-reliance do I find myself fully aware of God's intricate planning.

For the sake of relative brevity*, we will begin this account at the turn of the New Year. I took a short online marketing course instructed by Seth Godin, my favorite of marketing gurus, and a simple seed was planted: I want to create. I did not know how, when or what. I was by no means unhappy in my current position but recognized that while I was contributing, I was not creating, and while my career trajectory could lead to the upper echelons of middle management, that would not ultimately satisfy me. I assumed God would call me to act upon this seed at some point in the distant future, especially because quitting a job twice in two years could be considered resume suicide. Wrong again, Anna. Have I not learned this lesson before?

At the beginning of last month, I felt a bit stagnate so shifted focus to adjusting aspects of life within my control. The first was fitness. My need to justify the exorbitant price of Crossfit already compels me to work out five times a week, so I began eating strict paleo, anticipating an improvement in performance. The second was stimulating my mind in a productive manner; I registered for the GMAT, knowing the scores last five years and business school could be an option. Of course, I would rather bypass the debt associated with obtaining an MBA, but studying for the test keeps doors open and is a better use of my spare time than eating bacon and watching the entirety of The Wire. Arguably.

As far as aspects outside my control, I made a concerted effort to earnestly give those to God. I prayed God would show me what was next in His plan while opening my heart to all possibilities, no matter the discomfort they may bring - though I prefered He did not call me to a convent, because abstaining from all forms of alcohol, though tolerable, was proving a bit difficult.

The final weekend of April, my pastor spoke of God using an act most personal to Peter, fishing, to reach him. He then encouraged us to pray for a similar revelation, and so I did. Later that week, I received an email asking if I had interest in a position at a local start-up. The position entailed various admin, personnel and ad hoc duties; it also offered the opportunity to help build their marketing program. Immediately, I got butterflies - the ones you get before a rival tennis match that scream, "This is it." When we met to discuss the position, I received a compliment that ranks in the top three of all time - it may even surpass Sam Bradford telling me he liked my hat at Foxfield 2012. They read my blog and were impressed with my style and flow.* Indeed, God used my most personal act, my writing, as a means to reveal Himself.

God is neat. I say neat for two reasons. It has a slightly juvenile connotation, and God's manner of working evokes a child-like sense of wonderment in me. A liquor poured neat is pure and smooth, unadulterated by opulent embellishments. At first glance, it may seem as though this came lavishly out of the blue, but it did not. Among other practical factors such as the company's need for personnel and my qualifications, it stemmed from a consistent effort to be authentic. When I began writing, I did not anticipate the journey leading anywhere in particular. I wrote when I felt ridiculous, sad, nostalgic or simply for the discipline of writing. I occasionally tracked my dashboard* to see how many times my blog had been viewed, allowing myself to wonder who may be reading and how my writing may affect them. Whenever I wrote, I held true to my promise that it would be honest, and God used that in a manner I had not considered.

There have been plenty of times the past four years I have given situations to God and he has closed doors that I, in my finite wisdom, would have preferred open. Retrospectively, I am always grateful He did. I am genuinely pumped for what lies ahead, as it is an opportunity to work hard, learn, create and make an impact.

I have other seeds: I want to live in a city and Spanish speaking country; I want to travel to Eastern Europe, attend every tennis grand slam; I want to be CMO, own a restaurant; I want to get married, coach college tennis, compete in an Ironman. I do not know if all or none of these will come to fruition, but I do know that refusing to settle means change will be an inevitable part of life. The comfort that God is real and He works makes those transitions exhilarating rather than daunting.

So, yes, I thank you for being a means of sincerity and personal growth. More than that, I thank God for working in a way that is so unmistakably relevant to me, I would be foolish not to follow.


*Of course I do not always behave like Christ. Hence, the need for Christ.
*Am I ever actually brief?
*Bahhh I have style and flow!
*And then got sad when I realized I was tracking my own pageviews.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Superlatives: A Tale of Tickets

"You gotta be kidding me!" My father moaned indignantly as the sirens glared in his rearview mirror. "This guy's got nothing better to do than sit there and pull me over. Kids, put on your seat belts." We knew the routine. While he may have been "going with the flow of traffic" and "his car was not made to go 35", within five minutes, Dad would receive a ticket, and the cop would be one closer to his quota. That is, after all, the only reason they gave tickets - that and money.

I inherited numerous favorable qualities from my father: love for Big Ten sports, Eastern European facial features, the ability to throw myself into a fit of laughter. I am not saying aggressive driving is unfavorable, but as evidenced by the following superlatives list chronicling my tickets, there has been an undeniable cost.

1. Most related to Zoolander. I turned left. At age sixteen, I nannied infant triplets five nights a week, possibly my most stressful job to date. I rarely enjoyed a night out, and when I did, there was a 40% chance I would break down because the radio played a sad song. This particular Saturday, my family was going to an Italian restaurant promising bread assortments, hearty pasta and rich desserts. I rushed from the children after their evening feeding and proceeded to gorge myself to the point of needing to unbutton my pants. Feeling a bit over satiated and exhausted, I drove about the massive parking lot, and upon finding an exit, realized I could not turn left. My destination was to the left. Were I to obey, I would have to U-turn or pull into a driveway and turn around, a far more dangerous alternative than turning left onto the temporarily abandoned road. I made the logical turn, and with that, sirens flared. My natural state was one on the verge of tears, yet I could muster nothing but resigned, slightly perturbed compliance when the cop asked for my information. I did not even have the presence of mind to zip my pants. After he left, I wept uncontrollably for ten minutes, not realizing this was merely the first in a saga of hopeless encounters accentuating the moral juxtaposition of assuming responsibility for my actions while seriously questioning the legitimacy of the rules which I was breaking.

2. Most bland. 67 in a 55. The cop was uninteresting, the circumstances were ordinary. It was your basic interaction where I accepted the consequences of my actions.

3. Most likely to get dismissed due to seduction. When I say seduction, I mean I had just worked a double at the Cheesecake Factory and had removed the sweaty polo, leaving only a camisole. There was probably hot fudge in my ponytail which may have been sexy. I was not dismissed. 75 in a 60. Classic speed trap. Yet another victim fell to the 5 mph differential between counties.

4. Most bizarre. Turning right. Near my alma mater, there is a street. There is no stop sign prior to said street, but there is a sign that says No Right Turn (6 AM - 6 PM). Cars park along the street leading to this sign, so it did not become visible until I was turning. When the cop pulled me over, he informed me the residents "had been complaining a lot about the excessive turning." This is not beyond belief, as the University Heights residents sometimes forgot they lived near a University. However, logic would follow that if there is no right turn from the North, there would be no left turn allowed from the South, but that is not the case. Cars can turn left onto the street all day. Seriously? I can't make this stuff up.

5. Most honest mistake. I turned right at a red light. Sirens flared. There was a sign that said No Turn on Red (School Days Only), but it was a snow day, so surely the caveat prevailed. He was not pulling me over for turning right, but rather a license plate eight months past expiration. "Interesting", I told him. "I was not aware they expired." This did not elicit sympathy, and I cannot say I blame the man. I blame the government for creating yet another annual fee.

6. Double Whammy. 37 in a 25 and no license plate. The irony of this particular ticket is that I received it in Euclid, Ohio. For those who are not well acquainted with the Cleveland suburb, it is home to numerous miscreants and deviants. Yet, of course, the cops preyed on the girl whose foot got a little heavy as she listened to T.I. The cop was also kind enough to point out my lack of front license plate. I tried to tell him that drilling holes into the front bumper ruined the aesthetics of the vehicle, but he did not appreciate the fact that both the license plate and my insurance card were in my dad's office. Two tickets. Two hundred fifty dollars.

7. Biggest plea for mercy. 87 in a 65. I was returning from an interview in Charlottesville earlier that day where I solved problems on the dry erase board in front of the CEO. I had tennis practice at six o'clock the next morning, and my bed beckoned aggressively. I momentarily lost myself in a T.I. song, and before I realized my speed, the cop had clocked me. The Ohio turnpike has no excuse for not raising the speed limit on a three lane highway void of hills and curves, but now was not the time for arguing. I tried to plead my case when he approached the vehicle, to which he replied, "Do you know how fast you were going? 87 in a 65. I am going to write you a ticket." He turned, and I leaned in desperation, pleading, "Pleeeease have mercy on me." He answered, "87 is really fast," and wrote me a two hundred dollar ticket.

8. Most attributable to my car. 37 in a 25. Fun fact about this ticket: I interviewed on this day as well, so perhaps there is a causal relationship between the two. I was driving home from tennis practice and stopped at a red light, I knew this particular light took an eternity, so I put the car in park and reflected on my interview responses. Looking up, I saw the light had turned green, and knowing the short window in which to make my move, I jerked the car in gear and stepped on the gas. Two seconds later the cop I had mentally noted on my way to tennis turned on the sirens. He had been anxiously waiting in a residential driveway. Questionable, to say the least.

9. Most legit. 77 in a 65. Ohio turnpike. I still hold my aforementioned grievances with the turnpike, but foolish is the one who makes the same mistake twice.

10. Most hopeful. In the spirit of optimism, I will end on a positive interaction. When the officer approached my window, I immediately confessed, "I have a terrible record, sir, but I cannot afford another ticket." He replied, "Yes, it is pretty bad," and graciously granted me a warning.

Interestingly enough, I never lost my license. While I partially blame my record on an inherited love for speed, my father's involvement with the court system also allowed me to get a few reduced to very expensive parking tickets with an exorbitant court fee.

I am happy to say I have been clean for two and a half years, save the occasional parking ticket. I walk to work and no longer live amongst the pettiest cops in the force. When I do go on road trips, I listen to audio books, a more soothing alternative to T.I. and the Ohio turnpike increased the speed limit to 70. Should I get pulled over again, though, I am prepared to contend that Maleek's engine was simply not built for the confines stipulated by the rules of the road. It would be an insult to the Pontiac engineers.

Monday, March 24, 2014

What Do You Do When You Have Writer's Block?

You write, of course. It is indeed a worthy exercise. I will attribute my lack of inspiration to increased communication in other aspects of life, namely work. Believe it or not, I have a limit to the amount of talking/writing I can do, and that capacity seems to have been stretched as of late. Perhaps it is the seemingly endless winter. Living in Cleveland, I was mentally prepared for the season stretching thru the ides of May, but my expectations have definitely shifted in the past four years. I am tired of sweaters, sweatpants and a full hamper after only four days.

Speaking of hampers, I am attempting to perfect my laundry system. So as not to overwhelm myself, I switched from a "do two loads of laundry because you are getting weird looks from people in the gym" to "do a casual load every 4 - 5 days." By casual I mean I wash the clothes in the evening, put them in the dryer the following morning, and fold them upon returning home from work. Stretching the task over a 24 hour period and lessening the load makes it much less daunting, though I may be using a bit more water. To offset this indulgence, I now follow the recommended detergent measurement. I realized my extra splash for good measure is actually wasting valuable cents so have discontinued the process. I also adjusted my expectations regarding matching socks. If I happen to retain all socks after a load of laundry, I am thrilled, but the loss causes me little mental anguish.

The same is true of the Buckeyes fate in the tournament; alas, they were ousted the first round, but now I can watch the remainder unfettered by emotional attachment. Indeed, much of the weekend was spent imbibing the sweet competitive spirit that is exuberant announcers, bodies on the floor and cameras focused entirely too much on crying fans. I remember the days of yore when CBS had sole rights to the tournament. All games were broadcast in a glorious cluster of mayhem on Sunday. We sneaked into the high school library to catch the closing seconds of first round action, I had massive crushes on the beautiful men. The network had not yet introduced that annoying camera angle that films from the opposite end of the court that causes dizziness. Don't get me wrong, I still thoroughly enjoyed my viewing experience. I just could not stay awake for the games on Sunday, had to work through the Duke loss and realized the beautiful boys may be out of age range. Maybe. I am still holding out for Aaron Craft.

I have not written much, but there is a theme, and that is adjusting expectations. Certainly, you should work to maximize potential concerning those matters within your control, but for those outside your control, expect less, whether that is the weather, laundry* or your favorite team**. Sometimes, you even have to lower expectations for yourself, knowing that while this may not be your best work, the practice is at times more beneficial then rigorous insistence on perfection.

* No, I do not believe I have control over whether or not the socks that entered the washer will also exit the dryer.
** Being from Cleveland, Ohio, it is very easy to expect less from sports teams.