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

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.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Knitting frenzy

August, besides a trip to NM to revive some heart and brain cells and a full absence of Facebook presence besides one day to post pictures about such, has been dedicated to catching up on missed work hours/clients, house chores, and knitting frenzy. And by knitting I mean trying to a) reduce general amount of my 2-bin stash of yarn, and b) utilize yarns that were purchased in either small weird quantities not enough for anything, given by someone, or left overs from previous projects. And no yarn shopping!

That idea of yarn match-up game had lead to a number of cute items. Well, first of all, I used 2 balls of linen from Sedona, AZ store that I bought when we went to see Amy and John, and made a simple tank-top in a style that is, apparently, "in".


Then I had unwound one of my previous vest half-way and from that made a shawl as a gift for a friend and a new vest with different yarn - part given to me by Monika, and part is a 1 skein I bought when visited Tucson, AZ.
- These two, which I like much more from the one on the right - totally worth the effort!:


My next project included 2 balls of hemp yarn from Austin's "Gauge" store and 2 balls of linen from who-knows'where (see what I mean? I don't even remember where I got it from, my guess is CO, and I hate that I forgot, because one of my "things" is to buy yarn and tie it to a memory!). I actually used 2 different patterns - from a knitting magazine and from a website, not "knit as you desire"! I think it came together pretty well.

 Then I also finished up ALL the silk yarn - a little left from Japanese silk collection (in blue) combined with a little left from Arizona raw silk (brought from Phoenix since MM100 race and what was used for a dress). This is super-airy, even if super-simple!

The last big piece used up 1 ball of 100% organic cotton and 1 ball of cotton with 10% cashmere that I stumbled upon in, yet again, local Austin's Gauge store, when they had sale - just for the sake of the sale, I think, so I am happy I found use for these two random balls. I also managed to add last thread of cashmere left from my previous top - literally, to put a line on the bottom and to separate two yarns in the middle. Using it all to the last inch! 

Of course, a lot of "finishing up" was used to make 2 gifts for upcoming birthdays for a couple of girlfriends and also to finish the first "batch" of hats for sale I delivered to Austin Trail Running store.

Between all this work and knitting, we both got back on track with our training routine. I actually really love training, even if I don't have events ahead. Not only I dove in to a serious weight training with vengeance like I have another through-hike in the making, I went back to running and added some swimming. I may not have a name for my swimming style (with my head bobbling above the water, arms doing a variation of a breast stroke, and legs doing God knows what), and I don't even own a swimsuit (using my yoga shorts and bra), but I can kick butt of a guy in the next lane doing free style! Yeah, it happened! Ironman, beware!!! We also both curbed out eating habits and are now happily enjoying the fruits of all this hard work: me - keeping off the fat that I lost behind on PCT, Larry - moving into a healthy direction as the big 50 turned the corner. We are determined to be the healthiest ever and be ready for our future life in a paradise of a place, mountains, fitness, and many years included!

In the midst of it, we made a dash to one of Tejas Trails events - I guess we can call it our "annual", a.k.a. once a year, visit to old stomping grounds. It was the last race in the night series, and under new management (not that it's bad, but different) we didn't see much appeal to go more often (not to mention I work weekends as my biggest pay-out days). And this visit proved what we thought: life moved on. The parking now being charged (per person!), food is for purchase, out of some few hundreds of people we only recognized a dozen - and of those a mere half would be considered friends - and the buzz of friendship, family affair and camaraderie (even among those "new" trail runners) was not present. Nobody hugged, kissed, talked ears off - more like a road event, show up, strap a chip and a bib on, retrieve to your chair, then get to the starting line. Oh, well, life goes on, and, obviously, those very new comers all love it as is - it IS for them, after all, not for us, anymore.

August was also a month I celebrated 6 years since getting my official LMT licensing in Texas, and 2 years working at Myo Massage downtown (which comes with its own perks, ha!).

It is September 1st, and in Russia it is celebrated as a First Day of School (across the country, not changing from year to year, or from state to state), and it is also a Teacher's day (duh!). So, I called my sister, and we talked - about kids at schools now, our own kids, and other not-so-fun things related. In a few days I'll be off to Home-Land, Mother-Russia, for a quick visit of my family, to help them sort things in the garage of my passed away Dad, to clean up Mom's apartment, to keep my sister soulful company, and to be where the roots are. It's getting more and more difficult to travel abroad, especially now that in the last 3 years with aging and sick (and passing) parents I had to do it twice a year, but this is the price I have to pay for living so far away, and so it goes.

Once I am back, somehow the month is filled with so many social obligations (meeting friends), I might be sorry to ever complain of being lonely, again:) And Larry - with rebuilding our fence (he will never seize to amaze me).

On that note, I think summer is officially over, well, at least by Texas standards. It hasn't been above 96F in a couple of weeks, and I don't sweat buckets in the 2 minutes I walk from work to my car parked outside (or other way around). The water in the pool is getting cooler not heated up by the sunshine and the obscene temperatures (while it is heated, not enough for me, seems like), and my swimming days may be soon over (which is might as well, time to run, do some steps and plyometrics, and other "local winter variations"). I survived my Summer #7 - 2 more full summers to go (and a piece of a 3rd one, hopefully very tiny).

And speaking of "another through-hike in the making" ideas...I surely have plenty, and already working on a few!