If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you are lucky enough.

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

Saturday, December 28, 2019

And it's a wrap.

I guess 2019 is almost over. It quietly snuck, the end of it, that is. I shall do something as a year review, but in reality, I don't want to bother.

December flew by in a few ski trips and more house stuff, plus a work trip for me to Austin, this time alone, flying, for a main purpose - make some money and feel needed. Because no matter how much I like my boss here and enjoy her quiet office and my seemingly insane amount of time off work every week - I do like to make money and feel useful. And since it'll never happen here (as I expected, but really, didn't believe, yet here it is) - I'll be making my way back to Austin as long as my clients keep being committed and my management keeps being receptive to this idea.

I stayed with a couple of friends on those 3 nights/4 days trip, and I am really touched how lovely they are in hosting me - the conversations are what always makes my soul smile. I worked crazy hours, 29 hrs "hands-on" from Wednesday 3 pm to Saturday 3 pm (and I'd guess 40 hrs "in the office"). The clients are, too, so amazing, happy to see me, share their lives, ask about mine. Relationships that had been built in years and with open heart...

The weather in Colorado Springs continues to deliver winter, to my delight (and a little grump from Larry). Apparently, he thought snow only happens at ski resorts. :) As someone who lived my whole life (besides fugly years of Texas) in places where snow and winter are one and the same - for a few months at that - coming here feels natural. No, I am not a big fan of driving on icy roads, or running all bundled up in blistering cold, or shoveling snow every week (at least not every day!) - but it's just, still, normal. I don't have any other words besides that. It doesn't irk me. It just is.
We put our Monarch season pass to use and went skiing at Monarch once more in December, and then utilize its partner-pass to have a full day at Copper mountains and a half-day at Ski Cooper.

Copper was really huge, and 6 hrs non-stop barely covered maybe half of the terrain. That was fun - and tiring. Despite gobs of people at the bottom, somehow everyone dissipated along the slopes, and I rarely felt squeezed in. We did pop on a couple of black diamonds, and even once ended up facing a double-diamond mogul run with no way out. We made it through safely! I continue defying odds of still not falling, and still refusing to succumb to shame by relatives (Larry's) and friends who insist on me getting a helmet. The answer is "no", and I don't owe anybody explanation.

Ski Cooper was a complete opposite. It seemed to possess even less people and runs than our "home-base" Monarch, yet the runs were beautifully even (something between green and blue on all as far as we could see), long, and empty! That was a treat in its own right. We simply enjoyed mindlessly gliding for 2.5 hrs, almost always alone, and the views were hard to beat.
After a quick lunch we, literally, crossed the parking lot, and went cross-country skiing at Tennessee Valley. Their groomed Nordic track ski area bared 30 km of tracks, of which we covered 16 km - it was a forgotten (5 years ago last time for both!) hard workout, but to me, still so peaceful and amazing! I want to do it more than downhill. Unfortunately, despite living in CO and all the technically falling snow, we don't have an area suitable for cross-country skiing closer than some 2-plus hours drive away. That feels stupid and unfair (and Larry still prefers downhill, sigh).

We stayed in Leadville, and the added perk of these 2 days of skiing was the fact that both ski areas are what I went through as I backpacked Colorado trail past summer. Gosh, I miss those days so much! Reminded me how wonderfully hard it was.

December marked completion of the 2-months saga of roof insulation. After putting ungodly amount of hours into cleaning, sealing, prepping, whatever else (all done by Larry) work to perfection, one Saturday (before Christmas) we finally bought all the bags of insulation, borrowed a machine, and hammered 3.5 hrs of work. It wasn't hard at all, took a few bags to settle in (for me how to push, and for him how to spread up there), but now we can check this off our long (and growing) house-improvement list of tasks.

A couple cultural events happened: I took Larry to a theater performance locally (a real play, by Cheryl Stray's "Tiny Beautiful Things"), where I cried non-stop for an hour; and then on Saturday (between blowing insulation and then going for our 2-day ski trip) we drove to Denver for a Claude Monet traveling exhibit in Art Museum. 120 paintings, largest at-once display! Amazing! Ah, I miss all-things culture...

We quickly checked out the Denver's center with its Capitol, stopped by the Russian store, where I indulged in a few too many things that were pricey yet reminded me home, and drove home the back-way. The views of coming to Springs never disappoint...
In other, more social kind of news, we attended a Holiday Party at my boss/doctor's house (and had a blast at that), and I managed to join a FB group for local Russians and organize a knitting meet-up (which now is, apparently, going to be a monthly hit).

I suppose I could say something at the end of December write-up, though I really don't know what. I could say it's been a good year - and I guess, on the account that long-awaited move to CO (out of TX!) has finally happened, and, more importantly, it was all I (we?) hoped it to be. Well, no regrets, that's for sure. I love it here, my soul is renewed, I don't dread a day outside. I do wish I spent more days/hours outside, but alas, the balance is yet to be found between my non-existing work load, guilt feeling for leaving a husband working at home, alone, bringing the "bacon" while I flap my wings for pleasure, and other mundane house chores. I read some, knitted a lot - including an insane number of Christmas and other surprise gifts, and ate more food than I should be if I am to feel and look the way I desire. The Miracle, though, didn't happen - I am still hit-or-miss with my running in terms of this stupid over-training fatigue (7th year and counting), and while I continue running 5-6 times a week like a clockwork, I dare say it'll ever get better consistently. I still don't know how I feel about my job, it's complicated. I like my doc, and her small homey office. But we've exhausted clientele base (I got all I could from her, the mostly-old folks on Medicare), and it's almost nothing, and they come rarely, and the hourly pay sucks, and nobody tips...yet I am so mentally drained with my own gremlins that I refuse to look for another job. So here.

It's been a great big year for Larry, besides the move to the mountain itself - he adjusted to his new job position nicely, and work from home went into a new norm, his son graduated highs school, started college, and is doing exceptionally well as an independent young man (knock on wood, kudos to all involved). Larry lost a bunch of weight with this move to high dry air, he handled the Austin house sale and leaving a place he spent 25 years of his life pretty well, fully immersed himself in Springs' house upkeep, and overall, doing as good as it gets.

As far as "no miracles" for me, though, my kids are...well, that's a story not for this place, yet as always, this is exactly why I can never say "I had a great year". I don't. I am trying to manage my state of mind the best I can, and at times it gets pretty fucking tough. I don't give up, though, and have no intention to. I am a fighter, and a survivor. And despite all this shit, from any outsider's view, I live a pretty sweet life. I do. I recognize it, and I appreciate it greatly. Nothing is taken for granted, I promise. So, while I am not expecting no miracles next year either, where miracle would be the only thing desired, the rest of my life will continue to be awesome, with goals, successes, failures, lessons, and a bunch of non-essential stuff.

                                Happy New 2020, y'all.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Seeking Gratitude

There are two places on this side of the Earth where I can, quite literally, feel like a Divine Grace (Благодать Божья) descend upon me: high in the mountains as the sun rises, and inside Russian Orthodox Church. To my delight, Larry had stumbled on the existence of one not only in Springs itself, but really close to our home.
At the beginning of November I was standing through the liturgy of the service, probably one of a handful of times I ever made it. Indeed, Orthodox service is long, but oh, so beautiful. The singing of the choir for Holy liturgy is like Angels speaking from above. I cried, not the tears of sorrow, or joy, but the tears of my soul being touched.
Say what you will, Russia is not the last 70 years of 20th century everyone here despises so. It is over 1200 years of history, from 862, which adopted Christianity in 988, and from there on, Russian culture and Orthodox faith are two inseparable entities. We don't have to be "religious". It's in our blood, part of being.
And whether I stand on top of the mountain, alone, or walk into a Church, alone, it's there where I never feel lonely, where all the outside, normal, world with its worries, disappears, and I am given hope, not sure what for, and it's not even important. It's an eternal hope, however rarely I get to experience.

"The thing about hiking PCT...profound yet simple, was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay...There were only two [option], and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go. The bull (the problem) could be in either direction...I could only choose between the bull that would take me back and the bull that would take me forward". Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.

This was a passage speaking to my heart. So, it is with high expectations I purchased tickets to a local performance theater for same author's another book's adaptation, "Tiny Beautiful Things". And it did not disappoint. Four actors (on a stage set at the Art Museum) spoke aloud letters from real readers to Sugar, a writer who wrote them back. I cried, pretty much, half of that play. Some hard life has been lived behind, and is still being in developing, and while all social media, even this blog, mostly portray all the good things, I, still, have so much absolutely heart-breaking experiences...and there's no end on sight. As they say, "life is a struggle, and then you die". Pretty dark, isn't it? Or, contemplating. Look on the bright side, seek it out...
And so I did. I did have plenty of good things. A friend from Austin flew to visit. We were not very close back in Texas, however, just like that, she promised to come - and she did. Thank you. It was so amazing to share my new home with her - and fall in love with it deeper. We live in such a great place! Three days was barely enough to scratch the ground. Incline and the city of Manitou, hike on Section 16 on cold morning, and Pioneers Museum, downtown and Fine Arts Museum (first time for her, wow!). Garden of the Gods, Pulpit Rock climb, Glen Eyrie castle. Walks, talks, Russian Church, Environmental Botanical center. I cooked Russian food. She bought lots of yarn so I can knit for her (and a tad for me). It was a good time, and it flew by in a blink of an eye.

Janice caught a good spell of the weather, because November really showed us, new transplants to Colorado, what winter is all about here. It dumped snow so many times! And it was cold! But, having being on a lock-down in Texas, I, the true Russian, missed snow and winter, and it didn't phase me one bit. In fact, it brought me so much joy! I ran when I could, walked when it was nearly impossible (a foot of fresh snow on the streets and no plowing), we shoveled snow, drove new Subaru carefully, and opened a very early ski season! The snow is just such a pure thing, it makes soul hope that one can start from the fresh new white page. Every day, every minute. Eternal pure hope.

We had our bestest ever neighbors for dinner, and I cooked so much Russian traditional food, in a longest time everything I could to offer! They are amazing people, active, funny, and as far as neighbors go - I haven't had that since I moved to US. That's a high standard to reach, and Jess and Josh (and Shae) are right there.
As far as the house goes, Larry has been spending his free time in the attic, quite literally. Removing old garbage thrown around and left behind, sealing little crack, re-doing all the pipes exhausts, putting boards and mesh...and we haven't even come close to putting actual insulation. I feel bad he's got so much work to do up there, in the horrible dust, but my husband is a perfectionist, and he is doing it with love our last home deserves. One thing for sure, after all said and done, there'll be no errors found up there.
We also had purchased new blinds for every room in the house to replace old ugly stuff left to us. And then the Tree Removal company came to cut down a tree in the front of the house (ruining the curb), one behind between Blue Spruce (junk Poplar that cuts nutrients and light to our State trees) and one HUMONGOUS Poplar in the back with dead branches (the size of trees themselves) hanging over our garage and neighbor's house, plus it was shading our Apple tree. That was an ordeal! And it's not done quite yet, another day of cutting ahead. Guys did an amazing job though!

Of course, I knitted, though between the friends' stay and our ski trips, it's been slow. Plus, my fingers cracked a whole lot in this cold dry high altitude air, and the yarn I was using is very thin (I unraveled a huge poncho I made last year and wasn't using much) - with which I decided to use a pattern of tiny cables. Took me longish (2+ weeks), but I am happy with the outcome. I also made some gifts for my small office members and a friend.
And then, of course, there was Thanksgiving. As tradition goes, we drove to Oklahoma to see Larry's family. It's a longer drive then it used to be from Austin (11 hrs), but much lore uneventful. Lots of food was consumed, as always, and in 2 days too much sitting for me - but I did manage to get out for a run around local streets. I still gained 5 lbs, and I got my work cut out ahead. I, of course, barely participate in family's conversations - having not grown up around, so I spent my time knitting those gifts and I heard enough football (the TV was on the whole time) to last me until next trip. 😅😅😅

There were, of course, many a discussions about all their kids - from little Stella, youngest baby (and her being right there, a joy at her 18 months), to Harrison and Hayden and Taylor...all wonderful young adults doing fantastic and making their parents proud. And there was a lot of anxiety for me deep inside, tears I hid as I set and listened - and was thrilled for them all, especially, of course, Larry - yet it was not easy. What brings me right back to that "seeking joys in a dark place of life". I kept a gratitude journal last 2 weeks, to remind myself that there are things I am thankful for, and that I do deserve to go on and live life. And I prayed. Then I come home - and heard some news for that "dark side". May be not amazing news, but news, nevertheless. And in my life, this is as good as it gets.