Thursday, June 4, 2015

30 for 30: Day 4

I am truly buzzing right now. While it might be from the vegan mocha muffins my boss ordered to celebrate my birthday (obviously another non-raw vegan exception), I'm pretty sure it's because of the amazing interactions I've had today. As a classic extrovert, I gain energy from social encounters and my current energetic state is proof of that.

My day began with a cardio and ab session at the gym, and then I headed to work where I sifted through my email inbox while listening to 18 new songs by Florence + the Machine that my friend Lenneal had shared with me.

The excitement of my day began this afternoon, though, when I had a chance to interview rising band Phase Five on Periscope at the Famous Birthdays office. In doing so, I interacted with 5 new people who were inspirational, as they are pursing their musical dreams of stardom. I was particularly inspired by group member Alex Odon, as he talked about how Celine Dion's (yay - Quebec pride!) transition from French to English motivated him to follow in her footsteps. Before ending the interview, the group also serenaded us with a couple impressive a cappella numbers, adding more new songs to my list (photos below).

Interviewing Phase Five on Periscope (pictured here with Jeremiah)

Phase Five singing at Famous Birthdays on Periscope

Phase Five singing at Famous Birthdays on Periscope

Once the Periscope ended and we said our good-byes, I was honored to hear band member Jeremiah's feedback to me, as he noted that I was a great interviewer and made him feel really comfortable and at ease. This brings me to my positive affirmation of the day:  I am talented. It's so encouraging that I've been getting so many wonderful responses lately to my on-camera work, both at Famous Birthdays and with Unbreakable Missy & Lori. My mom even emailed me today saying, "I keep watching your 1st episode of Kelly Smith, and I get more of a kick out of it each time I see it. Cool indeed!!"

After the Phase Five team departed our office and I left work, I wanted to soak up some sunshine while I could, after the quite overcast day. So I walked to the beach and meditated while I basked in the glow of another successful Periscope session.

On my way back from the beach, I realized that I had completely forgotten to ask Phase Five group member JayC if he has seen the show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. While preparing for today's interview, I had noted that JayC was from Indiana, and must be familiar with the series, due to the titular character's home state being the same as his. So I reached out to him on Instagram and discovered that he is indeed a fan!

I was happy to hear that, since during my prep, all I could think of were two Indiana-related jokes from the show. Upon hearing that Kimmy is from Indiana, the following two lines are said:

1. From Lillian: "In Diana? But I hardly know Diana!"
2. From Titus: "That explains why you're so basic."

My social interactions continued this evening, as I met up with my friend Steph, who caught me up on the details of her recent engagement, a wonderful story of love. As we sat at juice bar The Hive (a cool new Santa Monica locale), we shared our life updates and strengthened our friendship. Steph also surprised me with a wonderful birthday card and gift, a beautiful orchid pictured below, and told me that she was delighted I was able to reschedule so that we could meet today rather than Tuesday. I expressed my gratitude for the continued birthday wishes, and yet again, I am truly thankful for the talented, amazing, and reliable network of people I know.

Orchid from my friend Steph

With yet another exciting day behind me of doing exactly what I wanted to do (and another social media post for Unbreakable Missy & Lori up), I would say that Day 4 was quite a success.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

30 for 30: Day 3

Today's positive affirmation:  I am loved. My 30th birthday was spent receiving wonderful birthday wishes from loved ones near and far (including messages from friends in South Korea and Russia!). I could truly feel the love from everyone around the world. On this day of gratitude, I am appreciative of all who spent the time to wish me well on this special day.

When I awoke to begin my 30-minute workout (arm day at the gym), I already had messages from friends and family on the east coast. It was a wonderful way to start my day of surprises. But before I discovered what was in store for me, my morning consisted of reaching out to two press contacts regarding Unbreakable Missy & Lori. And in continuation of yesterday's conversation with Beth, she sent me the following inspirational quote that made her think of me and my 30 for 30 challenge:  "You get in life what you have the courage to ask for" -Nancy D. Solomon. I also came across a Shape article about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Ellie Kemper. Kemper's honesty and openness inspire me, and I love that she pushes herself but not to extremes.

The prepared birthday surprises began at 12:50 PM today, as Missy provided me with a time and location to meet her then. I arrived to discover that we'd be doing a yoga/meditation class with a sound bath. Missy handed me a notecard from my girlfriend Nicole that provided details regarding our activity, and Missy explained that she would be spending the day with me carrying out the surprises Nicole had arranged. This first activity was a deep and fulfilling experience, and much needed with my busy schedule lately. While in the yoga studio, I focused on the familiar scent of Nag Champa incense burning, a smell I instantly associate with calm, peace, and meditation.

Unbreakable Missy & Lori at yoga

After the class, we sauntered into the bead store next door and I got to touch a unique texture, a squishy bead (On a side note, when I was five years old, I asked for a bead for my birthday. Just one. 25 years later, my wish has been fulfilled.) I then followed Missy as we walked to the Santa Monica Pier and learned that we'd be taking a ride on the iconic Ferris wheel. The view was absolutely stunning; I revelled in my time in the sun, soaking up the sunshine and landscape. Following the ride, Missy handed me a package where I discovered that Nicole had printed Unbreakable Missy & Lori stickers. I was told to hand them out to passersby as I made my way to my next destination. During this escapade, I interacted with about 10 new people, including a tourist from Prague who was also celebrating her birthday today.

My final stops were A Real Treat Candy Boutique (one of our filming locations for Episode 1 of Unbreakable Missy & Lori) and Real Food Daily, where I received lots of vegan goodies. Although my goal was to eat raw vegan for 30 days, today's exception for my favorite treats was well worth it!

At the end of my adventures, Missy presented me with her gifts, thoughtful presents (photos, a picture frame, and writing tools) that represented our strong friendship and bond. I feel so blessed to have spent such a wonderful day with Missy and Nicole (in spirit), surrounded by so much love and kindness. I am so honored. Thank you again to all who took the time to wish me a happy birthday. It was happy indeed.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

30 for 30: Day 2

I'm exhausted, but I'm going to quickly provide some status updates on my 30 for 30 challenge because my second positive affirmation is "I am determined."

My day began with a jog along the beach, checking off my 30 minutes of exercise. The morning was further successful, as I discovered that Episode 1 of Unbreakable Missy & Lori had already surpassed my goal of getting 30 more YouTube views! As of this moment, we currently have 699 views and I couldn't be happier (okay, maybe just 1 more view and I could be happier). We also got closer to our 30-day crowdfunding goal, with a current standing of 4% funded.

Singing words of praise for our debut funders of Unbreakable Missy & Lori's Indiegogo campaign

At today's work meeting, our boss told us the cool fact that Mark Zuckerberg wears the same T-shirt every day. As my boss and this Business Insider article explain, Zuckerberg does it because then it's one less thing for him to think about during his busy day. Let's just say I'm already onboard with this philosophy.

During my lunch break, I had an opportunity to reconnect with a fellow sorority sister who I hadn't spoken to in almost 10 years! Beth had reached out to me a few days ago asking for my help in making some big decisions, as she thought I would be able to assist her. On this day of gratitude, as we spoke on the phone, I thanked her for thinking of me and provided her with my best advice. She said that my words of wisdom delighted her, and our conversation certainly helped to strengthen our friendship.

There were two other relationships I was able to strengthen today. One was with the Director of HEC Montreal's MBA program, as we corresponded by email to provide each other with our life updates. The second was through a fortuitous text I received from my friend Harry. He informed me that his new app just launched in the iTunes store. He asked me to help spread the word about his free app Linechecker. Seizing this golden opportunity, I agreed to help him spread the word about his app if he helped to spread the word about my Indiegogo campaign. A deal was made.

I also reached out to three press contacts, listened to one new song sent to me by a friend, sent one personalized message about Unbreakable Missy & Lori, continued to eat raw vegan meals, wrote for 30 minutes, and did exactly what I wanted to do. Now I will meditate and try to rest to be prepared for whatever surprise Missy has planned for me tomorrow!

Monday, June 1, 2015

30 for 30: Day 1

Today was the first day of my 30 for 30 challenge, and I am very excited to say that I am off to a great start!

I started the morning with my easiest task:  Work out for 30 minutes every day. Exercising every day is perhaps the only thing that keeps me sane. I love weightlifting and jogging, so I typically do one of the two each day. I included this goal on my 30 for 30 as a gift to myself, one task I would be sure to accomplish each day, as it's the thing that gets me out of bed every morning. This morning, as I waited at the bus stop to head to the gym, the sweet smell of fresh donuts wafted toward me. As I truly focused on the sweet scent, I realized I was accomplishing one of my other goals:  Smell 30 scents. I loved having the sweetness surround me, engaging my senses so early in the morning. Curious, I Googled "How many scents can you smell?" The answer:  1 trillion! According to Live Science, "the nose can tell apart at least 1 trillion different odors, and possibly many more." So that certainly accounted for 1/30 of another goal: Learn 30 cool facts.

By the time I arrived at work, I was already feeling great about my day. During a meeting with my boss, I provided a clear explanation for an internal database update that would help me immensely. After requesting this change, I told my boss about my 30 for 30 project, specifically my goal to provide 30 recommendations for Famous Birthdays. He was elated and said he can't wait to be bombarded with more suggestions from me this month. At the close of our meeting, he told me that he'd brought back hats from his recent trip to Costa Rica. Fittingly, they say "pura vida," which can be said as a way of giving thanks. I thanked my boss for the gift, seizing this opportunity to fulfill my express 30 days of gratitude goal. 

"Pura vida" hat from my boss

Later, during my lunch hour, I spent 30 minutes in the sun as I ran an errand and meditated (checking off meditate for 30 days). I also prepared for my listen to 30 new songs task by asking my cousin Dan, Associate Editor of SPIN to send me a "best of" list of songs. When I get a chance during this month, I will sift through the list to find some new tunes.

After work, I rushed home to launch the crowdfunding campaign for Unbreakable Missy & Lori. With $225 raised within the first 3 hours, we've already met 3% of our funding goal. I immediately posted about the campaign on our social media accounts, meeting my promise to post 30 social media posts for Unbreakable Missy & Lori. I also reached out to (one of the) 30 press contacts in an attempt to gain some steam for our campaign and YouTube series.

I then zipped over to a raw vegan restaurant to meet my former coworker Lex who delighted in my dining choice, as I explained to him that I am eating raw vegan for 30 days. We share a passion for healthy eating, but importantly, healthy living. As we caught up, he told me about his decision to move to the Eastside of LA. One of his closest friends had announced that he and his girlfriend were having a baby. In order to be closer to his friend and the new baby, my former coworker moved. My heart sang listening to this story, and it's a beautiful start in my mission to record 30 stories of love.

When I finally returned home, I read my girlfriend's blog (she's embarking on 96 days of courage) and I found yet another story of love. It was wonderful to read her gratitude towards her mother on her mom's 50th birthday today.

As this day comes to a close, I'm reflecting on my gratitude and appreciation for the people, places, and things in my life. I'm especially appreciative of my home in Santa Monica, where I've discovered (more than) 30 cool things, but today I'm loving the park near my office and the sheer number of healthy restaurant options. Now that I've written for (well over) 30 minutes and I've said one of my 30 positive affirmations ("I am strong"), I can safely say that Day 1 of my 30 for 30 has been spent doing exactly what I want to do.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

30 for 30: Prep

I can hardly contain my excitement for tomorrow! I'm so eager to begin my June journey and to start my 30 for 30 goals.

In order to prepare for my raw vegan diet, I shopped at the local farmers market to select some of my favorite fruits and vegetables that are in season in June. From the looks of my picture below, I'll be happily "eating the rainbow."

Seasonally fresh fruit and vegetables from the Santa Monica farmers market

I also tested out a raw vegan version of a dish from my favorite Montreal restaurant Aux Vivres. The dragon bowl at Aux Vivres is made with rice and tempeh, so I eliminated them for this variation and it still tasted absolutely delicious. I also tested two versions of dragon bowl sauce, recipes which I found online, but this one was the winner. To be honest, I'm not quite sure if soy sauce, nutritional yeast, and olive oil would be considered raw (my guess is no), but I don't think the raw vegan police will come after me. 

Raw version of the Aux Vivres dragon bowl

Lastly, tomorrow will be the launch of our crowdfunding campaign for Unbreakable Missy & Lori. We already have over 500 views on Episode 1 of our series, and we're thrilled at the reception thus far. For fun, I created a post on BuzzFeed entitled "7 Things That Would Be Different If Kimmy Schmidt Stayed In LA Instead of NYC." I've never written a BuzzFeed article before, so it was great to try something new. Besides, isn't that what this month of June will be about for me? June cannot come soon enough!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

30 for 30

In less than a week, I’ll be turning 30. To celebrate the occasion, I had an early birthday party with approximately 30 of my closest friends and family back home in New Jersey. As if that wasn’t apt enough, the theme of my party was Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, just like Kimmy’s 30th birthday party episode, though fortunately my fiesta was a more positive experience than that of the titular character of the new Netflix original series.

My Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt-themed 30th birthday party

These appropriately synchronous “30”-focused items have arrived at a pivotal point. To explain, I’d have to back up a bit to note where the Kimmy Schmidt hype has begun.

Several years ago, while working at Canadian immigration law firm Campbell-Cohen, my co-worker Matt Cohen looked at me and asked, “Do you know who you look like?” I’d heard this question before and was usually satisfied with the follow-up answer provided by the inquirer. I was always changing my hairstyle and was typically compared to whichever Hollywood celebrity had a similar look. In the moment of Matt’s inquiry, I was sporting shoulder-length dark brown hair and bangs reaching my eyebrows. His answer? “The new secretary from The Office.” As someone who was familiar with the show but had never seen an episode, I immediately searched to see if I could find the person he had in mind. While perusing the cast, my cursor stopped on Ellie Kemper. With her similar haircut, I was pretty sure I had found the right gal. I posted on Matt’s Facebook wall with a link to her IMDB page asking, “Is this who you meant?” “Obviously,” he commented, and I remember his friend Ally Kemper also commenting something about her similar name.

I still never watched an episode of The Office after that. It wasn’t until the smash hit Bridesmaids released in theaters that Ellie Kemper popped up on my radar once again. While watching her onscreen, I was satisfied that my doppelgänger had a sweet, funny role and didn’t make me embarrassed to show my face. Though we no longer had similar hairstyles, other people were now telling me that I resembled Kemper.

Fast forward to 2015. While spending some downtime on Facebook, I started noticing a few of my friends posting about the new Netflix original series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Though I had not yet heard of the show, I was happy to see that Kemper had nailed a starring role and that my friends’ posts were all positive. Eager to check out the series, I began watching the show soon during my first available day. After only four episodes in, and with my upcoming 30th birthday party on my mind, I sort of jokingly posted on Facebook saying that I should have an Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt-themed party. Eerily, a few episodes later, Kimmy celebrates her 30th birthday on the show.

Now I was enthralled. I had binge-watched the whole first season and seriously wanted to combine these synchronicities. Since I work at Famous Birthdays with a lot of web video stars who create viral six-second videos on Vine, I was inspired by them and thought I could figure out a way to do Vine videos for my party. The idea wasn’t fully formed, but I started telling my friends about my thoughts. While telling my friend Missy, we started discussing creative projects in general that we could do, such as YouTube videos about things that we’re passionate about. “Missy, I think we should have a serious business meeting. Let’s set a time to do dinner and we can come up with some things we can work on,” I insisted. Missy was onboard and I’ll never forget when we met at Pono Burger on April 1. Missy opened up her notebook and said, “Okay, so I think let’s not do Vine. Let’s do a web series.” I immediately looked at her, excited, and with the biggest smile said, “Oh my god, yes! You are Xan!” I suddenly realized in that exact moment how similar her wardrobe and look were to Xanthippe Voorhees, one of the characters from the show. And that is how Unbreakable Missy & Lori was born.

Missy and I agreed to come to our next meeting with outline ideas for a 10-episode series. We knew that Missy would do the editing for the project, but didn’t have any other production roles solidified. However, I went home that night and just started writing and writing and writing. Although I had never written anything fictional like this before, ideas were suddenly spewing out of me like volcanic lava. Before I knew it, I had five episodes written and was excitedly telling my parents and Missy the good news. Though I was never convinced of the existence of angels before, I was pretty sure that my grandmother’s theatrical writing spirit was creatively assisting me with this project. (Of course, coincidentally enough, my grandmother’s maiden name is actually Missy’s last name, though Missy and I are not related.)

While Missy and I had originally set a goal for 10 episodes, before I knew it, 17 episodes were scripted for our LA-based parody of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. One thing after another started falling into place as we began production on Unbreakable Missy & Lori. So much positive energy seemed to surround us as we set to work.

The synchronicities continued as Missy uploaded our completed first episode (below) the day of my 30th birthday party in New Jersey. Though Missy was in LA at the time, I had the opportunity to debut the episode alongside Missy’s parents, as well as mine, in our home state.

Now that Episode 1 has launched, I’m preparing for the next big things arising on my schedule, which include our 30-day crowdfunding campaign, as well as my 30-day birthday month of June. On my return flight to LA, I began thinking about the constant reoccurrence of the number 30. With this in mind, I set to work on a list of 30 goals for my 30 days of June. The final list is as follows:

1. Work out for 30 minutes every day.
2. Achieve my 30-day crowdfunding goal.
3. Do 30 creative things for my girlfriend Nicole.
4. Spend 30 minutes in the sun.
5. Meet/interact with 30 new people.
6. Eat raw vegan for 30 days.
7. Find 30 cool things in Santa Monica.
8. Meditate for 30 days.
9. Discover 30 inspirational quotes/stories/things.
10. Have an Unbreakable Missy & Lori launch party with 30 attendees.
11. Write for 30 minutes.
12. Add 30 followers on Instagram.
13. Get 30 more YouTube views.
14. Spend 30 days doing exactly what I want to do.
15. Send 30 personalized messages about Unbreakable Missy & Lori to friends/family.
16. Reach out to 30 press contacts.
17. Post 30 social media posts for Unbreakable Missy & Lori.
18. Express 30 days of gratitude.
19. Explore 30 new destinations.
20. Listen to 30 new songs.
21. Smell 30 scents.
22. Touch 30 textures.
23. Strengthen 30 relationships/friendships.
24. Learn 30 cool facts.
25. Delight 30 people.
26. Provide 30 recommendations for Famous Birthdays.
27. Learn about 30 people from West Orange, New Jersey.
28. Do 30 creative activities.
29. Say 30 positive affirmations.
30. Record 30 stories of love.

I’ve entered each of these goals on a spreadsheet, and I’m ready to embark on my 30-day journey.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cracking the Code

An interesting phenomenon that's been occurring lately is the growing number of women's tech events. I recently spoke to the organizers of the VCs & Angels: Women Tech Startup Investors Panel and Wonder Women Hacks, both of which are excellent ways for women in the LA tech community to meet and interact, so I am eager to promote them within my network. On that note, one of my favorite quotes that I've seen recently is from a very young female programming student who stated, "Girls should code because they are just as good as boys!"

As I peruse tech job postings, one of the things that I tend to notice is job title. A particular favorite of mine is "Evangelist," which you can find on Buzzfeed's "The Worst Startup Job Titles Ever."

This past week, I've had an opportunity to go to Hearst Castle, attend my friend's first photography exhibit, go to my third happy hour at the YouTube Space LA, and volunteer with Yogurtland for the Richstone Easter Bunny Breakfast (photos below). I am so fortunate to have spent time with the families involved with the Richstone Family Center, even to just bring some fun and cheer to the adorable children who are in challenging situations.

At Hearst Castle's Roman Pool
Outside Hearst Castle
From left to right: My friend Chris, my friend JC exhibiting his photography, and me
Volunteering with Yogurtland for the Richstone Easter Bunny Breakfast
Yogurtland team at Richstone