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

Friday, January 04, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well, I am back…and my head is all but messed up with time zones, my butt is sore from sitting for about 48 hrs (the story is later), and my sleep pattern is broken to hell. But the week spent in Mother-Russia was awesome!!!

Stephen and I flew from Portland through NYC to Moscow, and it took us all of 20 hrs total time, then another 2 hrs on public transport to get to my parent’s place. My Dad came to meet us at the airport, but with age, and with traffic in Moscow, he doesn’t drive anymore, so we stuck with bus/subway/bus system. Stephen was a trooper to the end (although not very happy one), and we got to see my Mom and sister Tanya in high spirits. After a short lunch (or whatever you call a 3pm meal), Tanya and I hopped on a bus to go to Moscow circus for the tickets. We got there just on time to pick up a last pair – New Year is a time when anything is gone before you sneeze. So after a night of sleep (Stephen stayed at my folks’ apartment, and I was at Tanya’s) we took a bus to the circus (where we managed to get fined for a mistake in buying a ticket, bummer, ruined my mood for at least 2 hrs!). The time at the show was nice, although I have to say, artists are getting not as amazing as they used to be – the lions were lazy, the trapeze people didn’t have crazy tricks, and overall it was quite a poor performance (I am spoiled by a good solid Russian circus I saw when I was a kid). But still, it was an atmosphere of a holiday and we ate ice-cream during a break, so all was well.

Next morning I took Stephen to the movie of a newly released cartoon based on Russian folklore with added recent jokes, and it was fun. We spent the rest of the day shopping at the biggest Moscow market for the New year’s presents (for Stephen, of course). Later that evening I met with my Med school classmate Sveta – interesting, every year I drag meeting with her (and taking time away from my immediate family), every year to finds me and “makes” me come, and every year I have a great time chatting away! Such was this time as well – we met at Arbat, walked for a bit, set at the Coffee House for 2 hrs straight and it wasn’t enough. I usually say – real friends are not those who you communicate with every week or whatever, but who you meet up with at any point and never have problems picking up where you left off. Sveta is like that…I am a moron for not calling her first!

Next morning I grabbed Stephen and after subway arrived at a suburb train station – I was taking him to his other grandpa (my father-in-law) 60 miles away from Moscow. This time I obviously wasn’t about to stay there as well, so it was my day wasted traveling for not much pleasure (just look at that train picture – although the picture of Russian winter behind the windows with “running” by villages was pretty). I met with Oleg’s dad, shook hands and took a train back – getting home at 5 pm for some important stuff to get ready for my parent’s 50 wedding anniversary…

Can you believe people live that long together? Tanya and I have this thing of putting on a “wall paper” – a poster of pictures for such occasions, and we worked till midnight, sorting through photos and laughing about past times. There was an observation made – our dad, when he sent photos to mom (they met when they were 13, dad left for military school when he was 14, and they got married at 21, hardly having spent any time really together), used to write her poems and nice romantic notes, while mom would just say date and place. So different…so changed now…yet they survived and need each other. So on December 30th, a bunch of their old friends (I know them for 25 years, they are like part of family by now, not to mention my parents know them for at least 40+) got together for a real Russian style table to drink some vodka and sing songs, as well as listen to old stories…I managed 2 hrs of that (I was never good at sitting down and toasting, although they caught me just as I was trying to sneak away and made me say a few words, what I suck at by our culture standards). I hope I got across the most important (for me) thing – no matter how different they are and we are, how much we argue (and they argue amongst each other), whatever life brings – Tanya and I can always count on them. They had seeing a lot, from life and both of their crazy daughters, and they are here to land a hand as nobody else. Live long, guys!

My escape was for the classmates meet – a few of the guys from middle school found me through the classmate’s website and decided we need to refresh the 23 years of memory. We chatted there, and I recognized all 6 of them, then went to a little place to have a few drinks and some food . After initial small talk, it was fine not only trying to remember how we were (yes, I was cute back then, but I also cried for every “B” I got, and that didn’t look too good), but what we are now (of course, I understood little of all the economical part, and most of them looked like serious Russian men approaching their 40’s should look). I ran home to check in on things (and all those ex-generals of Soviet army were drunk by then, so I could easily go play some more) and then we all (guys from school #65, class 8A of 1984) went for a couple of rounds of bowling. Of course, I lost handedly, but it didn’t matter much – we laughed and talked about families and values, and no matter how some of them might have been on a “dangerous path” back then, now are all well respected and with their heads straight.

December 31st Tanya and I visited cemetery to cry and remember Michael, her son and my only nephew who passed away almost 3 years ago…scary how fresh it is every time you think about it. Just like yesterday was that horrible day, week…may he rest in peace.
Stephen came back from Zagorsk (his grandpa brought him as he needed to meet Oleg at the airport anyway), I wished my almost-ex and his dad happy next year, we shook hands and were left with most important people for the New Year’s celebration: Mom, Dad, Tanya, Stephen, Tanya’s boyfriend George (her classmate and high school sweetheart who she came across almost 30 years later after last time they saw each other) – missing on Alex (Florida is ways far) and Michael.

I am really out of it right now (as in: my head started to spin, I need another dose of coffee), so I’ll go short from here on. New Year is the biggest holiday in Russia, and it is met with style, lots of people on the streets all night, lots of fireworks and happy wishes. My parents building sits on top of big hill, so it has always been the best place to start fireworks, and we had bought a couple as well, not to mention how crazy went everybody around (the cannonade continued till 4 am, big time, non-stop). Stephen got a feeling how much it means to us and what the heck I was talking about all these years and had lots of fun, especially lighting up his “own” firework. From there on sleep got messed up even more…

On January 1st we had dinner at Tanya’s place, who always was the best cook (as she is a designer) and it felt very homey. I wish I could come visit more often and be there for them as much as they all are for me…

On the running front: as I was leaving, I knew I had 18 miles left to make it 3,000 miles for the year, so I packed my pants and headphones and decided to suck it up – yes, I went running every morning between Dec 27 to Dec 31. It wasn’t anything spectacular in speed or length, but I honestly shuffled around the block, freaking out neighbors and drivers. From January 1st I stopped that madness and didn’t run until this morning…

Our trip back was a disaster big time. As we got on the plain at noon on Jan 2nd, we spent there 6 hrs sitting on the ground while drunk mechanics were trying to fix some problem, after what we were released back to the airport, went through custom second time (another 2 hrs in lines), got on the bus and were put in a hotel (which was actually nice). They also gave us money (Delta that is) for dinner, and my sister and mom came to see us one extra time. Early morning we went back to the airport, stood in custom (1 hr), 3 hrs of waiting for delayed flight (couldn’t find drunk mechanics to thaw the plain from the night of parking), another hour getting through some gates, 2 hrs sitting on the plain again (still thawing), and finally we took off 24 hrs later then scheduled…what of course messed up everybody’s connections. The good thing for us was that in Atlanta we were able to snatch last 2 seats to Portland on last flight, and besides that we got first class upgrade for suffering! Stephen was elated, while I just napped.

We are home and ready to start 2008. It’s good to be back…as it was good to visit. I think we realize things like that only while traveling.


  1. Welcome Back Olga ...sounds like a great trip you had once you got there...that is some crazy traveling when its that far away, I' m sure ur Ultra skills kicked in--lol and then the mess traveling home (sigh))

    wow on 50 years...that is a long time! COngrats to ur parents!

    Stephen is a trooper also cause that was a travel battle to & Fro!

    Catch up with ya next week!

  2. Glad you had good trip! Welcome home and Happy New Year! : )

  3. happy new year beautiful!

    glad you had fun, even if it was exhausting :)

  4. Welcome back! Loved reading about your wonderful family and your traditions in Russia. Sounds like it was a great visit.

    3000 miles - wow! Can't wait to see what you do in 2008!

  5. Thanks for sharing some of the details of your trip with us. It sounds like a wonderful time except for the trip home. Glad it was a safe one. See you soon!

  6. Wow Olga, what a whirlwind trip! Thanks for sharing the pictures and stories with us. I'm glad you are home safe. Get some rest!

  7. Glad you are home safe and sound and that you got to celebrate your mom and dad's 50th.

    I agree the best friends are those with whom you pick up conversation as if you'd never been apart even if you haven't seen one another in years.

  8. Welcome back, Olga! Happy New Year.

  9. I'm glad you are back safe. How special that you could celebrate your parent's 50th with them. Happy New Year!

  10. Happy New Year, Olga. I loved the food photos. You sure know how to fill a day! :)

  11. Wow, what a busy and wonderful adventure. It must be great to experience your Russian culture and lifestyle again.

    Take care and Happy New Year

  12. Anonymous7/1/08 10:35

    Three thousand miles! In other words, you traveled the length of the PCT and then some, while raising a family and holding down a job. And you did it with a smile on your face. Congratulations on another extraordinary year!


  13. Welcome back ! Sounds like an awesome trip ! Happy new year.

  14. bushwhacker7/1/08 13:25

    Are you going for 3500 miles in 2008. I know you have a great start. See ya on the trail.

  15. Wow! What a trip, Olga! Stephen is a lucky boy to be able to visit his grandparents in Russia. Thanks for sharing-Welcome Home!

  16. Thank you for sharing your trip with us. Hope that your butt eventually recovers from sitting so long while traveling. You gave a wonderful gift to Stephen by taking him to see your family in Russia. My parents made the effort to get us back to Michigan to see family and those trips are some of my favorite memories.

    I had to stop running because of some knee pain on Sunday the day after Western WA Fat Ass. I'll try again tomorrow morning after a good pre-run stretch and some ice post run. I've felt the problem before and it's just overuse. If it continues I'll explain the issue in more detail.

    Happy New Year!
    Trail Scat

  17. Olga,

    Per your question on Lisa's blog I see that Road Runner Sports carries the Dry Max Socks. They have two stores up here in Kent and Seattle. Also have great on-line store.


  18. Ага - (у меня тут верблюдов днем с огнем не найдешь) - Знакомые виды - С Новым Годом Ольга! Все Будет Здорово!!!

  19. Great stories Olga. Glad to here that the New year finds you well. Get rested up and back to the trails soon.