When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Monday, October 31, 2016

Moving at the speed of life.

Where did the time go? I kept thinking I am going to write a blog post for my birthday, and before I knew it, October slipped through the fingers like water through the crack. There is a reason the saying goes "The older we are, the faster time is". Even though on the most days nothing special is going on, before you blink, another Monday rolls, another run, leg workout, grocery...wasn't all that just yesterday? No, that was last Monday. And so here I am, 3 weeks past my 47th birthday...

I always loved my birthdays. Well, as an adult, I actually love them more. For no particular reasons - I don't do parties, we don't do presents, and I even work as usual (including this job of mine of serving others) - yet this is the day that is MINE, and I like this definition. However, despite making some (mild) fun of Larry's last summer's turning 50 and his uneasiness about it ("It's all downhill from here"), somehow I, too, turning "only" 47, realized: it really IS all downhill. Not in terms of "no good can come out anymore", but simply in the fact that it is LESS time left on this Earth than had been lived already. And it is a slightly unsettling thought.

So, with renewed energy, the commitment to not waste any of that precious time, neither on actions, nor on people which do not bring joy or purpose, I walked out on my Massage Envy job I stayed at for the last 4 years (gasp, the comfort of ALWAYS having clients!), quit my running coaching and any inklings of yoga teaching, announced to my go-to clients I am not traveling with a massage table anymore, and even cut home business to a bare minimum of those I practically consider friends by now. With that, I focused all my work-related efforts at Myo Massage, where I am now one of the "top of the crop" thank you very much. I also freed a day off a week...

Oh, the sound of it still ringing in my ears: Day Off! In fact, last 2 weeks of October I had two of those each week (since I quit Massage Envy a full 3 weeks before I planned it initially), and yet they, too, like time in general, flew by doing things like general house cleaning, legal/business/bank visits, visiting a friend on the opposite side of Austin who broke her arm (and giving her a hand and a ride to a doctor)...but it also did include 2 trail outings, 2 girlfriends' coffee dates, and a trip to a store for one kitchen item I wanted for the last 6 months. Yep, shopping for anything besides groceries is not on my list, like, ever.

Not all of the October was flying in doing mundane things. There was a REAL birthday celebration, that came the following week. Back in August, having just completed PCT and gone with Larry to hike Pecos, I was already getting depressed on settling in Texas for the long "before-summer" season and thinking I want Fall to make an appearance. Not simply the months of Autumn come by - and nothing changes (we are still in 90's here in Austin), but have the leaves turn all kinds of colors, the temperatures drop, the air being crisp during the night, may be a frost, then the leaves fall off the trees, the sky get grey and cloudy...you know, NORMAL season of Fall. So, I was considering between CO and UT and asked my friend Ronda how is UT in her experience in October. Before I knew it, we were offered to stay in Ronda and Bill's condo near park City, in Deer Valley resort. And what a blessing that spot - and the offer - was! While not intended as such, it was one of the best birthday gifts ever - and definitely best birthday time I had in my life so far.

We arrived to the condo at noon on Tuesday the 11th, and after Larry worked a little from his computer, I inhaled all that was ours for the next 3 days!
The stay-cation started just the way I envisioned paradise -  - the air, the views, the mountains, the elevation, and yes, the colors of Fall and my knitting - right at our back door. After a couple of hours of simply sitting, we put walking shoes on, and made a 2.5 mile journey to Park City proper, to the coffee shop Ronda highly recommended, where they also made their own chocolate - and it was all worth the trip, the coffee, the chocolate, and the walk on a path surrounded by Autumn-fired trees.

Basically, we had a very relaxing rest of the day, like "normal" adults, not crazy active people. After returning (on foot) back to condo, we stopped at the local grocery shop, picked up breakfast stuff for the next 3 mornings, along with a pizza for the night, and retrieved inside, binging on TV (something we rarely do as we don't have cable at home, nor the time) and consuming pizza, which cost was as if we were dining out, but tasted awesome and was worth not getting off the couch:)

It's the next day that we indulged in the high pristine mountains. Larry planned the hiking trip to Uintas Wilderness, a 17 mile loop an hour away, which included high lakes and granite walls and laid between 10,000 and 11,000 feet. And boy, was it cold at the start! 8 am met us with 28F and frosted ground, and we were not prepared! Dawned all we had on, and trying to generate heat, we walked first couple of miles fast and quietly, but after sun started to shine on us, and as we broke the sweat, life became what we love about it - mountains, silence, solitude, together, just the two of us. The words can't describe all that we felt - and spoke about - but I will share a number of pictures we took.

I don't believe you ever see us smiling like that anywhere else BUT in the mountains. Our souls belong there, plain and simple. Soon. Very, very soon...

Anyhow, that was an amazing day, although being honest with ourselves, the effort and the altitude did kick out behinds. Last couple of miles we were ready to be done, and to end the day, instead of going out as planned, we bought another pizza, took a short walk around the ski lifts, and crashed at the condo. And that was good too...

Our last full day was supposed to be mellow, as we didn't even dress up for a hike, more of a walk - from the back door of the condo one can take miles of trails onto the mountains of Deer Valley ski slopes. Before we knew it, our way wound around and on single track we couldn't resist, and 8 miles later we we hungry and satisfied, yet again. The wandering provided all the gold, red and orange our hearts desired!

We did make it to Park City that evening, for yarn shopping, and another coffee place, and for dinner out, to properly (finally) celebrate my birthday, and our last push of Texas living, before we can make a move to our dream place. Having achieved a number of financial and other goals this year, we can, at last, be more optimistic and realistic when thinking about the future we wish to have. It's so close, we can almost touch it...The night ended with a bus ride back (free!!) and a hot tub included in "package" of Resort living.

Now fully back into the swing of living, there are jobs, house updates/remodeling saga, a hat knitting season (madness? I am not complaining, this is the time I sell enough to fuel my own yarn addiction), and trying to patiently await for the Austin "winter" - or whatever you call it. Please, somebody stop the humidity and allow me to wear my new shawl!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A quick one to Home Land.

As I am coming onto my 23rd anniversary coming to US, I squeezed yet another 5-day stay (and 2-day travel) to Mother Russia, a land where the reality of what hardships in life are hit you, and you came back angry at any and every whining person in America. That is with Moscow being a "prospering" city. Try live in any - ANY - other, and you will suffer so greatly coming from the Land of Opportunity, you'll likely not even survive. But despite all that, Russians are hardcore people, a nation that, in the words of Larry, had perfected the art of suffering and made it almost beautiful. Embargo on European goods? We'll stick with potatoes and fish. No car to afford? We have legs. And a subway system. And buses (thought the traffic in Moscow forbids this kind of transportation as much as cars, which I witnessed standing still for 5-10 min in one place before inching to another spot in a rush hour). Salary is $200, but food costs about the same as in America? We manage that too. The survival skills honed in, and complaining is useless.

I always have mixed feelings. It is home, still, and despite half of my life spent in US, I haven't lost the skills we own since birth, inherited in our genes. I can make it as well as any Russian. What I find difficult is the sexism of Russian men, the lack of freedoms - I never thought I'd use those words, but as I get older, I see it now. Women "fighting" for feminism here should shut up and try make it in a country of Men Power, where, if you are single, you can't call a plumber and not be taken for a ride/fooled, where sex is expected as part of payments for small favors, and where you are looked down upon - yet expected a lot from: full time job and "bringing the bacon", house chores, grocery shopping, cooking, kids taken care of - and oh, yes, looking beautiful, always. Payingfor services does not guarantee its accuracy, or even having them done, and nowhere to complain. Men are forgiven for everything they don't do: in these days, jobs are hard to get by, so they, proud roosters, often don't work, yet still don't pick slack at home. They cheat, drink, yell. They alienate, laying lazily on the couches. Yet they are fought for a hard battle among women. Having a man (who are few and far in-between) is a status.

But inside all that, I still have my mother and my sister there, and I will keep coming, as long as they are hanging in there. Mom is doing OK, I guess, Tanya - running around like a maniac: working, getting food for the two of them made and taking it to mom's house (a mile away, walking, almost daily) and trying to have a social life too. The reality of Tanya getting old - and subsequently, eventually, dying - completely alone is starring at us. Due to my father's job - military - and often moving, we never lived close to any family members, never developed close connections, and now they are far away (and again, no cars, flying is expensive). Moscow is huge - and a very lonely city.

I love coming to help. Being youngest - and strongest - I am used as a physical power, and I am ok with that, proud even. I give my mom and sister a haircut, clean mom's place (on my hands and knees, scraping rugs with a little cloth, because the vacuum died a long time ago, and she doesn't let anybody touch her dirt but me, so it happens twice a year), help my sister unload dad's garage from possibly useful stuff (no way those scraps can be used after 20 years sitting in there!), visit 2 cemeteries (my nephew, and now my father - the number of graves grows, the number of living relatives, well, gets smaller...), and simply provide moral support and help with decision making. We are family.

This visit, I also haven't missed a bit in gym visits - Tanya has a membership allowing friends to come. Speaking of male dominance, there is a sign there saying: "Men, put weights away". Not "all, members, friends...". And the air was tense when I lifted heavy weights, without looking around or saying a word and not looking cute and in desperate need of help. We did go to the City Center and walked in two museums with wonderful exhibitions - despite the despair, Russians haven't stopped being art lovers. And that makes it all worth living.

By day 5, I want to be home. Not because it's difficult there - I thrive in difficult, I seek it here - but because I want to be in my own place, not a visitor, not a guest. I want to manage my time myself, and I want to be able to talk to Larry daily, tell him all my thoughts, share what happened, exchange opinions. I want to be heard. I also want to walk around with my head high, and not try and "fit in", because somebody might be useful for my family, and I can't hurt anyone's feelings. I want to be myself.

Torn between two worlds, this is my life. The life of a first generation immigrant. I didn't choose it at first, but I live it now. And so it goes.
Walking (illegally) across railroad tracks to the garage place.

This is what visit to mom looks like - hauling stuff.

My Mother.

A row of garages (we live in buildings, and garages are far away).

The inside of a little box called "garage" hasn't been cleaned in 20 years.

Dragging heavy objects from the garage to Tanya's place.

Pushkin Art Museum.

Private Art Collection.

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour - it was blown to pieces in 30's and rebuilt recently.

Icon - one of the exhibition pieces.

Russian Samovar.
Golden Autumn - my favorite time of year.