I am a girl who loves mountains, changing seasons, running, true backpacking, strong coffee, and knitting with high quality yarn.

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

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, March 29, 2018

March

As I hinted at the end of a February post, March was a designated "Friends and Family" month! It wasn't really planned like that in advance, but as the winter wounded down (whatever winter we have here, in Texas), it was apparent that people, like bears, were coming out of social hibernation, and like bluebonnets, flowering their wings in getting together face-to-face.
It all rolled on the first day of March. I had a long-overdue with my Russian (or, rather, Belorussian, as this is important to us both) friend Luda. It's nice to once in a while stretch the tongue and speak in a native language I get very rusty at. Laugh if you will, without consistent practice, even your birth speaking fades away!
And on the heels of that coffee, that very night  - a dinner date! Our CPA (Larry has been with him for a good 20 year stretch, and I am an added partner in crime) and his lovely wife maintain not only a business relationship, but share many things in common and truly enjoy each other's company. Just wish we were doing it more often.
That was Thursday - and guess what, on Friday my Mother-in-Law and her husband drove to Austin to see us! I always love those visits, and as the time passes by, we become more like family that we're meant to be, less awkward and more close. I often think (and Larry used to say that to me) that if I and Belinda met in our previous life as more of an age-appropriate peers, we would have been very good friends as we share many qualities and views (shaped by our life hardships).


Before I knew it, it was Wednesday, and my scheduled flight to Portland was dark'o'early. I was off to my favorite city, to see my kids, my BFF/sister-from-another-parents Monika and her honey Stan, and my Russian BFF Anna! This was by far the best trip I had experienced in my near-9 years away and coming. In so many ways! To begin with, without details, the visit with my boys was nice, calm, productive, and in a peaceful way I was finally able to "let it go", sort of things. Detach, not stop loving, Gosh, no, but let them be, not anxiously waiting/trying to change. Hope, but not fidget. Not many words can be said without more information getting out in the world, so I'll just wrap it with: I will always love them with every fiber of my heart.




The lighter and fun and hearty part of my visit was Monika and Stan's expression of their love for me. I mean, I ALWAYS knew they are FAMILY, after all, they truly were that as I was going through divorce, shattered both financially and emotionally, they sheltered and fed and talked and offered all and any support I could ever wish for. Every time I go to Oregon - this is a HOME I stay at. I have a room, a hug, and a no-question-asked feel. This time, though...topped my word. Hugs, tears, more hugs - may be we are getting older and more sentimental. Like Monika said, "with age I grow my relationships deeper, not wider". Quality over quantity. It felt amazing. I am still basking in those touchy emotions...
There were plenty of celebrations. The first night happened to be Stan's mom's birthday - and his Mom and Dad also accepted me in their big happy family long time ago, and we are thrilled to see each other every time.
Next morning was Monika's turn to have a birthday! That's right! I finally made it on time! :) Plus it was an International Women's day, and since we're both quiet "International" (Monika hails from Germany), there were reasons to celebrate. We put down a great yoga practice at her home studio - and were off to a sister's breakfast!


I love this girl. I wish I could be closer, but I will never stop coming, and I hope once we move to a much more interesting place to live - she'll come visit too!
This day #2 was the only rainy one on this 3-day trip. Even my son Alex noticed that in my, oh, a good 20 times I went in the last eight and half years, it rained may be 5 days total. It's like Oregon is trying to lull me back, showing its best side! So, this is the day I used for the "productive" side of the trip - and yarn shopping! Portland has some amazing yarn stores, indeed...
Day 3 gifted me with more sunshine than I can handle - and a visit on the other side of Columbia River, Vancouver, WA, where my last remaining Russian friend put her roots now, Anna. This gal has a huge heart (and a busy mind), and it is always a very hug-touchy time together. She took me to the land she and her husband own up North - 11 acres of paradise! I was in heaven, and the weather was my blessing.






Of course, no Portland visit goes without absolutely BEST coffee brews - and lots of knitting while sipping on the good dark brew - and in my particular lucky event, a Subaru (my car of choice twice prior the one I am driving now - and my car of choice for the next term). And if it's Spring - it's blooming trees in all kinds of color!






The last night Monika put together an awesome party for friends - "Stitch and Bitch", where, you guessed it, we knitted and crocheted and talked! It was a very relaxing and inspiring and easy atmosphere to do just that, as well as to meet Monika's other best friends - who all heard about me from her (aw, my heart is so full...).


Time to wrap this wonderful trip, and I was on my flight back - to Larry's arms (and his flowers for the Women's day! My man knows what's more important for me, it surely is NOT a Valentine day).
Next 10 days were work, and more work - to catch up on the missed days (when will I ever stop doing that? Almost broke me down, again). But, I still managed to have not one, but two (2!) coffee dates with my 2 Austin girlfriends! Janice A. and I share our "out-of-racing" reminiscing, and our pure "loosing weight is a simple math" path (no photos! But we did come up with a plan that her husband's upcoming 70's birthday requires proper celebration). And Cris and I...well, we calculating that we've been doing coffee dates and catch up chats for a good 5 year stretch now! And then there was a birthday lunch with Marta, my UT former co-worker who became my very best confidant and friend. That Italian! The sharp humor and big heart and a lot of wisdom. I say I tell this woman everything without ever thinking of looking over the shoulder, afraid of judgement. I hope she knows that, and that I would always pay the same price to her. She saves me, Universe setting up our short meetings right at the time I need it most, often without realizing it. Friendships...require work and commitment to exist.
Coffee with Cris
On the 22nd we had dinner with my boss Levi and his wife Stephanie - it's been "in the making" for well over a year, but busy times prevented us from making it happen (Myo Massage is expanding and getting a new space adjacent to our present, what means a lot of contract fighting, then waiting, stressing, and now - the remodeling time). It was a nice time to connect outside work life.
That Sunday we also had a "new to us" couple over - Pam, a local Trail Running Store owner (I used to knit hats and sell through her store for couple of years, and in general, she is a great asset to our community), and her husband Peter. They hail from East Coast, and with a vast background that is not your regular Austinite, we had a lot to talk about and share! That was a bunch of fun!

Somewhere in there there were KNITS of the month! On March 1st I finished a "mix-n-match old yarns" pullover and wore it to that dinner night. While in Portland, I made a shawl that will be a gift (to not be named yet publicly) and a hat from some discounted skein I picked up randomly at the store, and then during March I also made a sweater for my ever-patient husband (just in time for damn Texas summer!). There was also a baby cardi for my future little niece to arrive in May (yay for baby clothes!), and another shawl knitted during the last trip of this month - another gift for my beautiful friend I can't share the name of yet here:)

I am back to reading, though it took till mid-month to pick up a book, but I got the "2-a-month" done and they were much more interesting than those I tried in February. I figured out if I borrow books from the library, I read faster - duh! Deadline! I even got out my cross-stitching project I haven't touched since October! I might finish this thing by summer...;) 
And I also pushed through and finished all the yarn brought from Russia for the Veteran's Running camp donation - and I was short, what meant trip to the store for a little more.
And yes, you bet I've been exercising! My "Running Spell" continued on, thank you Lord! Over 2 months (the longest ever lasting) - and I am NOT doing anything to jeopardize its stay. I mean, I am going to have to be ok if it does go away, again...but I will not do anything that even remotely can threaten it's potential sticking around. The paces are "quick" and keeping, I am putting the "longer" miles at the front of the week to ensure I am not tired from both exercising and work (I have a Sunday off any type of activity, and the work day is short there). Monday-Tuesday are loaded with a 10 miles flat followed by 8 miles hills. The rest of the week - all by feel, between 4.5 and 6 miles, with Friday's Treadmill intervals for 2 miles. And yes, the lifting sessions at the gym are progressing nicely. While I do upper body twice a week (for 35 min), and lower - only once (but a full hour), I surely focus by far more on the legs. Arms - just to look appropriate, no other reason. Legs needs to be strong for the tasks ahead this summer! Ah, yoga! I caught up with the class I missed in February, and added some extras! Feeling back in the swing of healthy living for sure. New-to-me studio in the neighborhood made it easier!
The month of March - the "Friends and family" - was culminated with a trip to Sedona, Arizona, to see another very good soul friend Amy C! Last time I paid her a visit was almost 2 years ago! Why, oh, why, my best, most soul-touching lovely girlfriends are all spread around the country! But I will never stop nourishing those relationship, as they are the cornerstone of my being.











Amy is a beautiful, kind, amazingly talented soul. I am forever grateful for a life giving me a chance to reconnect and develop a deep friendship with her. It has been an amazing little getaway 6 months in the making I knew I can count on here, with Amy. A perfect combination of soulful friend, soulful nature, and personal no-strings-attached time. She is a wonderful human. And the red rocks against green brush and desert trees... absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. As always, I cry as I set out to explore. This kind of nature is not a part of my being - it IS my being. There were hikes, runs alone and together, endless open conversations about anything and everything, and smiles, and lots of hugs and live in the air. I am so blessed. Not a single moment goes without realizing it.

I will finish this month with a link to an article Larry sent me, on the benefits of having "busy hands" so to speak.  I always claimed it is extremely unnatural for humans to NOT do anything with their hands. And if one doesn't have such involving hobby or job, then that's who spends all their time on computer/other devices (a.k.a. look at the new generation and also old-er who jumped all the technology/iPhone addiction). And then there is this. :)

All in all, the red line of this month is how blessed I am with people surrounding me. I am overwhelmed and touched beyond words by their acceptance and friendships. My true one and only life's asset are my friends and family. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

February

Another month came in swinging! There is so much packed, it seems, yet not much to show...for the vultures of extra curriculum. February marks full-on work (which included Valentine day, therefore, for those of us in service industry, a very crazy and money-making-busy 2 weeks around it) and full-on training. Larry and I are back at the gym! And we are REALLY back! We missed it, for sure. Both of us had to eat a humble pie and back off the weights a lot - and I mean it. I went down 30% from where I left in July, despite doing some house-bound workouts in August-December and visiting gym once a month on a free pass to pile some more. In a month, I built up and now am only 20% behind (with few exercises less than that) in terms of dumbbells/barbells/etc lifting weight. Between that (3 times a week, mind you!) and a sudden pick up in my running - yeehaa! since last week of January! - I've been tired. My weight is consistently staying at just below 117 lbs, and I am looking forward to that muscle growing stage.

Speaking of running - on Monday (which now has transpired to be my "long run" day of the week) the 19th, despite coming off 11 days of working (with extra hours) and some sleepless nights (for reasons I won't go into), I ran my longest run of 10 miles since September, and broke 10 min/mile average barrier for that (meaning there were definitely good quality miles in there, as I start slow, but alas, I don't have devices to track them). And that happened on the morning Texas winter gave in to that summery warm and humid air of 65F/90%. Yowser! #nevergiveup
That running kept on giving. The following day I put down an 8 miler in the local hills (roads, of course, I don't bother driving to trails I despise here by now, until mid-Spring, when the backpack training starts) averaging a pure 10:00, and a tempo-ish of 5 miles at 9:45. On a rainy Friday morning I made a return to Treadmill intervals - and got 6 x 2 min at 8:40 pace with a mere 30 sec recovery (at 10) - and it felt easy. Wow, I did not see that coming! (p.s. it may not seem so exciting for the majority of my running friends, but in my case, I gave up on anything remotely called "running" for myself over 4 years ago. So, there, let me bask in this little glory before it's gone, again).

The Valentine craze almost put me down. Fortunately (and almost surprisingly) not so much physically, despite upping the hours, but threatening my introverted personality. My regular Thursday day off turned into a working day, that week also saw all my handful of house clients showing up on top of Myo extended schedule, and being surrounded by people without time for myself put me over the edge of handling things. Not to mention there was some semi-crisis going on I had to tend to and manage through 3rd party...sigh. Anyway, that Thursday the 15th I drove to a yarn store, bought a nice replacement for my seriously reduced yarn stash, came home, praying Larry is still not there, brew a cup of coffee, locked a door in my craft room - and cried a bit.

All was good after that. The yarn is delicious! And yes, I am seriously working through the "old random" yarns I collected, some of which I don't even remember the origin! Well, only one of those...but still, I feel bad. The couple of projects this month is my continuing efforts on that stash-redux, and took a lot out of me trying to find correct color combination for it to work. The cowls were more or less easy in decision pulling funky different quality yarn left-overs.

The pullover though... it took 3 tries of fully re-making all parts (back, front and sleeves) to figure out the correct pattern to have enough yarn, and I kept adding an extra sky-blue color (in 2 varieties, which made for 2 full unwinds), until I realized the 3rd color here is just not fitting, so I resigned to buying an extra skein in grey (the whole purpose of redux means using up what I have already). But it was a great visit to a store 30 min away in a small town! I've only been once to, and I forgot how great their selection is. Good thing they'll be moving a little closer to Austin this summer! It was incredibly difficult to walk away with only one thing I needed. The original yarn came from 2 different stores: Longmont, CO in 2015 and Park City, UT in 2016. I finally felt not only satisfied, but proud.
Of course, there were a couple more pairs of socks for gifts from a small local mill in Mora, NM (almost done with that stash, one more pair to knit left). Plus 5 more hats on a way for the Veteran's running camp donation of 30 total (17 more to go - Holy molly!). And an "update" of a couple summer tank tops - re-made the neck and armhole lines for a more proper look for a woman of a particular not-spring-chicken age

I did finish a gorgeous dress (if I may say so) at the beginning of the month, and "took it out" for a dinner night! Yarn is Merino wool from my latest Portland trip past December, shopping spree with Monika in a newly discovered store.
My friend Eman flew in to Austin for a work conference, and we squeezed in lunch (and a massage!). There was the same combination with Marta. All that requires planning, as we are all busy adults. But oh, so worth it.
As far as fun stuff, the biggest thing was on February 1st - I had an impulse to look at my Colorado Trail map, and just like that, planned days out (tentatively, of course), booked tickets, arranged pick-up with a friend Kristen in Denver and a car for my way back from Durango...Larry, the Mister Map guy, studied the courses - and mapped out potential converging with Hardrockers on their day 2 as CT goes along the race's course. Wouldn't that be nice - to see and cheer on friends in one of my favorite race, and may be even pick some aid station food. :) All this, of course, is only if the schedule works out, but a dream nevertheless.

For the food part of this month, that very Valentine week was also "maslennica" week in Russian Orthodox calendar. Which, in a nutshell, is a "gorge yourself before Lent and eat lots of buttery stuff" week. I made crepes one morning, syrniki - another, and pel'meni for dinner - all consumed with sour cream from the Russian store. Larry's favorite time of the year:)

I've been asked if I am giving up anything for Lent this year. This time around Lent came almost without warning, I was so consumed with daily living. And I wasn't prepared. But as I thought about it, I realized I had already given up a lot of material sort of items/tasks in a normal existence and exercised my will power enough to know I got it. So the thing I decided to go with is sort of a personal and internal commitment I don't care to share publicly. But I am absolutely certain it will improve quality of our life. Lets see how this goes.

On the 22nd it turned 2 years since my father lost his battle to cancer at the age of 79. He fought hard to the end, just as he did all his life. The words following are the ones I said when he died, repeated at the first year's anniversary, and say again, as they are the truest words about my Father. He might have not been the best dad, but he was the best at what he did, in his field - a bomber pilot and an air-force commanding officer. He was a father to more people than his own two daughters, his subordinates loved him - and feared him, with that very great love. His calling was to serve his country, and he did it at all costs, all-consuming. He taught us by example, not by words: overcoming life's obstacles with toughness and a smile, not complaining, having a huge work ethic and discipline, honesty, bullheadedness in reaching the goals, rule following, military precision and punctuality, zest for life and love for friends. He carried those traits to the very last moments - and being a "white bone officer". Most of all, he loved the sky, the high blue sky. It was his true passion like nothing else. May the Earth soil be soft as Feathers for him. May his soul soar high where it belongs...
Life settles in, but I can still hear his sarcastic remarks. They used to hurt (although I often laughed with him). But in a way, I am a lot like him. It could feel difficult to be around me, but I wouldn't change it for the world, and I thank him for that.

Somewhere at the end of the month we met with our CPA and fed Uncle Sam - he is always hungry, this man. But I digress. Just part of living here.

To offset this event, Larry and I went straight to Waco, home of Joanna and Chip Gaines, main characters from our favorite HDTV show "Fixer-Upper". We happen to enjoy their antique and seemed-to-be real family interactions, and despite a dreary weather, visited their Silos, Bakery and The Magnolia Store. The baking goods were great, store - not so much (or, rather, not what I would have wanted and expected to see). I hoped the store is filled with a locally produced handcrafts they promote in the show, but it was rather a weak collection of China-made stuff with Magnolia stamp on it). Anyway, another "get to see and do while still in TX" item off the list checked. A local coffee shop smoothed the experience:)




When life gets in a way, yoga is the first to go - and I missed one week's practice. Reading, too, was a bust, but for a different reason. After a couple of great books in January, I tried to read a few of paperbacks I brought from Russia...made it through one and half, then flipped pages of two more. Post-Soviet life is just not relate-able to me and hard to read, apparently. I shall stop bringing those from my home visits.

On an unrelated note, lately, every time I have that actual Thursday off and then drive to work on Friday, it feels surreal and I am bewildered anew each time: what am I doing and where am I going? Don't take me wrong, I still like what I do and enjoy my workplace and helping people live a better quality life (and I surely love it by far more than my last 5 years in academic science, working at UT, under a worst asshole professor - 3 years as I left that 20 years science career!)...but, suddenly, with 5-0 approaching, I wonder...May be it's a sign of outgrowing (all those degrees, and?). Larry claims it's a way of emotionally detaching as the move and potential changes in that area of my life, along with all others, are coming closer...

So this pretty much how February went - which is the end of our normal hibernation period. March is going to be a full-on awaking and a blast, in many kinds of ways.