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, April 26, 2018

April

Colorado dream living.

It was, indeed, the month with Colorado in mind, two-fold. One was a trip to our "final life's destination", Colorado Springs, a mere 13 months away (who's counting? heck, you bet I am crossing the days on the calendar already!), and another - a vast increase in training for my solo backpacking of Colorado trail's 485 miles comes July.

While the trip to Springs was only for 5 days (4 of which were in the city itself), it made a huge impact on our month - both prior, during, and after. And yes, it did firmly confirmed - we wanted to move exactly there, exactly to the neighborhood we picked up in other trips and searches, into the house of the style we outlined, and in the projected price range we agreed upon.
That said, April 17th to 21st were days wrapped in a smile of a dream living. The day we arrived the winds were fierce - gusting up to 60 mph, and our tiny rental was having hard time making it along the highway. Larry had a wise idea to drive over the other side of the mountain (Pikes Peak that is) to ensure more clear visibility (even if no lesser winds). Past Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, and Woodland Park we went, to Mueller State park - OMG, clean, beautifully maintained trails, and great views on the back of Pikes Peak range! I cried. Of course. What else is new?

We had lunch on the way back in a cutest coffee shop the Leo - great food and espresso.
By 3 pm we checked into the VRBO house we stayed last year's visit - right in the neighborhood of our choosing, did some grocery shopping to stock up the fridge, and off we walked downtown, only a mile away, to visit the yarn store (for sure!) and a small Mountain-Trail store - where a book "Colorado trail" popped right at me! Yes, I bought it, I figured it must be a sign from God or something along those lines.

Ah, yes, one still can see Pikes Peak from ANY street of the city!

Next day, the winds died out - with the temperatures staying at the lower range. We love, love not being hot, even if we feel somewhat not fully acclimated coming from Texas. The start of our hike lead us to a) bundle up, and b) move faster. We picked a 7-bridge trail to begin the venturing into the backcountry, and out there - it was gorgeous, quiet, and with many discoveries, including one of the log underground cabins (built by a local math professor from late 1800's). We sort of loosely got lost (not really, but having no maps provided for stops and decision makings), as well as foolishly didn't carry any water or food, so last couple of miles felt strained mood-wise, but overall, a great introduction into our future backyard. And we met a pig!

The rest of the day - more walking around and dwelling, checking out (and crossing off the potential list) the near-by (another) neighborhood (as well as coffee shop - "our" is still the best!). Later that evening Larry looked for info on the trail he wanted to do - and it was closed. That allowed me to voice my personal desire - a repeat of the Incline (a 1 mile 2,000 feet vertical staircase built on the old railroad and known as a brutal workout). I love that kind of stuff!
We topped it off a full 5 min faster than we did 2 years ago, and it felt easier already - I can't wait to add these stairs as my weekly training! Larry took us via "local knowledge non-trails" path to a jeep road called J-pipe, and we turned towards a saddle between Pikes Peak and Mount Manitou. The views of Pikes Peak that opened up to us - breathtaking! It was a slow walk full of gratitude.
I used to say Mt. Hood was "my" mountain. Finally, as of now, Pikes Peak feels like "IT". I have a new "MY" mountain that makes my heart skip a bit. Welcome home.
Eventually we popped up the Barr trail at its mile 4.5 (of 11.5 miles up to Pikes Peak), where I remembered that Barr Camp is about half-way point, give or take. It turned out to be at 6.5 M up, and we got there soon enough to ask about Zack Miller (quite famous ultrarunner who works the camp). 10 min later we took off running down, "air in the hair", laughing inside. What a great day!

Once at home and cleaned up, we headed for lunch to "our" coffee shop, where we later met with our future realtor. Yes, it's that serious. Larry researched real estate agents downtown, and picked the one who grew up there, lived there, knew his stuff, and was a nice guy overall. The meeting went great! A couple more walk-arounds, and we were ready for bed. 

Next morning, there were no more big hikes or runs on our schedule, a more lazy kind of day, along with the weather being back to windy and somewhat grey. I decided to start the day by heading out to a local yoga studio, to check it out. Not a bad place at all, close-by, inexpensive, lots of options. That's a start.
 Then we drove for less than 10 min North - to visit trail system (25 miles!) of one (of the many!) inside-the-boundaries city parks, Palmer Park. A different kind of beauty, rock and trees and single track, and even wild life.
More coffee - a stop at former high school that was remodeled by locals into little shops inside the classrooms and connected all via the hallway - and we took ourselves for a walk in Garden of the Gods. After that - one more yarn shop, to commemorate a National Local Yarn Store day (for real!), and then Memorial park (very touching).

Indeed, we only scratched the surface of living in Colorado Springs - but up until this point, there is nothing (absolutely nothing) we don't like about this town (yes, that, what scares some - too; and no to what pleases many others). Can't wait!

It started snowing during our last evening of stay, and it did so the whole night - and on and off during the first half of the day. It was perfect. Just divine feeling, fresh white snow, covering surrounding area.

We drove back to Denver, stopping on the way to visit my friend (hailing from Oregon) Kristin - so awesome to re-connect, and meet her husband Scott and son Jacob (where did the time go??)!!! - and Larry's sister Stephanie with her husband Skye (they are about to have a baby - to think, exactly a year ago our trip was to Kauai for their wedding...).
Sadly, that concluded our get-away, and as much as we didn't want to return to Texas living, we did want to return home. We are both not big travelers - frequent, yes, but not for long periods of time.

On the home agenda, there is lots of training, work, and more training (for me). I added Mt. Bonnell stair repeats (no backpack yet, 100 steps, 10-15 times up, weekly), backpack walking (hilly roads as of yet, 30 lbs in it), and my yoga practice is blossoming (having an extra studio near is helpful). By the end of the month, trails came into picture as well - local hilliest parts of it. Short, sweet and hard.
I also had my body composition measured (last time was exactly 3 months ago) - and without any serious focus towards it, by simply adhering to the same caloric intake I had implemented back on September 1st (and logging my food), yet adding a lot of weight training to my routine - I lost a full 2.5% body fat (totally unexpected). I am now officially in "single digits" - something I had never in my mind even dreamed about (nor wanted to, really). In the last nearly 8 months I lost total of 24 lbs, and 9.6% body fat. While happy about results - and proving the point that age is not a factor, and gimmicks don't work, just dedication and discipline - this gotta stop, or I will have nothing to loose on the trail! In the same token, being light is extremely satisfying, I feel great - and while I have no idea if it has something to do with my running, my running keeps improving (knock on wood, pray to God, and make a wish that it is on its way to a full return and will lasts forever!). I've been running same miles weekly as last 3 months, still not wearing any device but a simple watch - and my overall/average pace kept falling from 10's to mid-9's to culminating a 10.5 miles on the 23rd at 9:05 pace. As a side note, my "long" runs (a.k.a. Monday's 10 milers) are always my fastest. Go figure.

During this month, we also visited to our friends for a couple of celebrations: Gabe turned 70 (and we got to see our running friends from the tumultuous past), and Marta had a birthday as well (so I was able to present her a shawl I knitted for her while in Sedona).


And oh, yeah, the knits and the crafts! Big item's month, very timely - heavy wool sweaters, even if only two (one for me, finished a day before our Colorado trip and one for Larry, made during said trip). Must be the wind of our impending move to Colorado is blowing! 

Also, finished all 30 hats for Liza's veterans camp - a 4.5 months project of doing it only at work, between clients, a few rows at a time. Go, me!
My cross-stitch project has also moved along via concerted effort on my part. I really want to tie all the ends of unfinished projects and pick up all the new yarns I bought, in Portland, Sedona, Colorado Springs, and even online (reclaimed cashmere lace, anyone?)!
12 years apart
This month wasn't without some challenges, on personal/extended family/couple's front, but we've overcome, and got stronger with that. No families go without occasional impact, it is important to keep talking, connecting, and being true - to ourselves, our partner, and our relationship. Stay working - love is a verb, not a noun.


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.