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

Sunday, February 25, 2018


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. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


I figured I'd keep up with my own life by writing monthly reports of sorts, instead of describing trips. Although, of course, the excitement of my life is exactly that - trips. And no January would be correct without starting on my home visit - Moscow, Mother-Land, Russia. Even if I flew there just before the turn of the year and landed on December 30th...

With each visit, I have to say, probably due to combination of getting somewhat "older" (and wiser), and because I took Larry there now some 7 years ago and saw my city with his eyes (it was one of the top bucket lists for me, go figure, before I even married "a foreigner"), I really, really love and enjoy my short yet so profound trips. Between being more tolerant, some kind of renewed relationship with what's left of our Tchernov clan, and absolutely amazing wanderings about the old city's streets, plus a mandatory "culture breath" of a museum (and oftentimes a theater, and/or a symphony) - the 5 days I do spend there go in a fury and full of emotions. God, if only we had all that brain when we are 20!!

Time flew by full of helping mom and sister (Tanya always uses me to move furniture in two of her apartments because it's "her thing" and heavy lifting is "my thing", and mom allows only me to clean her apartment, yep, that happens only every 6-8 months since my dad died), visiting now two cemeteries, and yes, those "random excursions". I adore Moscow. Never thought I'd say that, and having always proudly remarked I am technically not a Moscovite but an unwilling transplant at the age of 12, after reading a couple of huge history books on Russia (written by American authors, mind you!) and exploring the streets full of that very history had made me a hard core Russian, much more than I ever was before (which was mostly Soviet anyway, and yes, there is a difference). And I ALWAYS was a Russian at heart! What a great time to visit - New Year's eve! We surely know how to celebrate it - no surprise Moscow was named this year in top-5 cities for New year. Decorations, people, closed streets with performances, lights, "Christmas" trees, and yes, great weather to help. I loved it! As my friend Ronda pointed out - with age we truly feel our roots better. We want it more, too. It grounds us. Grounding is a good thing. Solid.
Full Album
My sister's apartment, and our regular food.
One of the streets turned into "walking only" in Moscow center
No, we don't have Santa's, we have Ded Moroz! (Grandpa Frosty)
View on Red Square on December 30th.
Walking another (widest, oldest) Moscow street on December 31st, with dozens of live shows and thousands of people.
On January 2nd there was over 200 people at the Pushkin Museum of Impressionists in line for the tickets! Russians, no matter how bad times are, never stop loving culture.

Walking towards Kremlin from the "other" end.
Wandering on some of the Old Moscow streets, no direction or agenda.
Moving some pieces of furniture for my sister from one of her places to another - by human power, on public transportation, commuting for an hour and half. Yep, that's what we do.
The return back was twisted with a winter storm in NE of US; and I was to make a connection in JFK. We got turned around at the last hour and landed in Chicago (JFK shut down for basically 2 days). Because Finnair doesn't have a hub there, and because a lot of airtraffic was redirected, we stood on the runway for 3 hrs, then dispatched through custom in another hour. At 10 pm, time I emerged at the airport proper - all the counters closed till 3 am. Ouch! Lost people with their luggage everywhere...thankfully, I travel with a schoolbag. I didn't care how, but I was NOT going back to NYC (which our flight was to do next day at 4 pm - and then it took folks another 2 days to get out of there!). I was willing to pay any money, but Larry worked his magic over the phone, and was able to exchange my fair from JFK to AUS into O'Hare to Austin - free of charge! So, only a small detail - to spend 4 hrs on a metal chair at the airport (after 2 nights of no sleep), and catch 5 am flight home. Shower, grab food (starving!) - and off to work, massages for 6 hrs. Yep, I had full schedule I couldn't cancel. I was hallucinating and holding on to my clients!
My crabby night. To think I was so close to one of my best friends living in the area, and yet so tied up with the flights!
One night of sleep home did the trick on the tired body - but that body managed to catch something. Luckily for me, it wasn't a flu. Next week I had a 48 hr cold. Gotta be grateful both the complications of my return flights and the illness were so minor. I am.

With that (recovering from 60 hrs sleep deprivation and air-living and that cold) my normal routine got pushed by a good 10 days. It was cold here too - which I didn't mind. I bundled up every morning and went on my regular shuffling/walks/whatever, just to get back on the schedule, sick and all!
This is past the coldest days, and worst health conditions. We did have 16F for a few mornings!
Finally, by 15th, life settled in. Grocery shopping, food chopping, massage clients, dates with Larry, running (at good paces lately, too!), even some purchases of late gifts for ourselves and a coffee with a girlfriend. All's back to normal.
A "date lunch" at Whole Foods - whole paycheck, anyone?
On the good side, despite the trip itself, and hectic life for a bit after, I stayed on track filling up my calorie diary - and not only didn't sabotage my weight loss, but lost a couple more pounds. Ah, the satisfaction of seeing results!

One of the "gifts" was a purchase of a new backpack, slightly bigger (by 5 L) than one I took in my last hiking adventures, as this summer's backpacking craze is going to be longer, colder, and more arduous. Yay for challenges! I am planning to take it for a walk outside tomorrow! Another - a new yoga mat I wanted really badly, but didn't feel the old deserved replacement. Thanks to Mama Belinda, I got both items to spoil myself! And yoga classes continue on weekly.
We are also signing back up for the gym, because I need some serious squatting, more than home dumbbells can provide, to build those butt-muscles for high mountains. I do not regret taking 6 months off after my 3.5 year Pure membership expired - I needed a break, and as awesome as the gym is/was, I needed a change. Home workouts were ok, but only as maintenance. Time to kick ass.
What else is new? There was this...who knows, knows. My once a month appearance on FB - and I got attention of my older son, who had his once-a-month appearance, as well. Best gift, ever.
I am knitting, of course, and it's not new, ha!! In the past month I had produced 3 pairs of wool socks for my friends' birthday gifts, 8 hats as part of the 30-hat project to help Liza and donate to veterans in her running camp, and a couple things for my own pleasure.
3rd version of this pile-up alpaca cardigan.
Down of a baby-goat yarn from Russia.
Worked on it last year some, but finished recently, finally.
Technically, I completed it 4 hrs before the year's turn, but I love this - which was 5 different versions of cardigan before and never satisfied me. Now, though, oh, so wonderful...well worth the works.
So, all in all, the month is being a successful one! We continue dreaming of our move to Colorado Springs and learn its history and everything around (16 months left!), keep our friendships alive, relationship - fresh, feed our bodies healthy with good food, minds - sharp with new books (two down, more to go!), and hands - never idle.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Where did the time go??

It seems only yesterday we were getting ready for Colorado Springs trip, and it was January...which is a whole year back now! Another Christmas is upon us, another leaf is about to turn. And, like every year of every life, this one was filled to the brinks.

That Colorado Spring visit solidified our pick for the "last hometurf of the future". We do love it there, and have been dreaming about the day we move non-stop - especially Larry, searching for homes basically daily as a "practice activity". We actually know the exact perimeter we'll be buying that home in, and the style and footage we're looking for. Oh, the place with the weather seasons, the mountains, dry fresh air, and smaller town's living!!! Paradise. What do you know, it is less than a year and half away now!

February was a blur, my work always escalating with Valentine day trap (thank you, consumers, for that!). At the last moment I made a quick dash for the kids' visit - and the Gorge.

March rolled with a flight to Raleigh, NC - my buddy Eman moved there over a year prior, and I miss her so much! We, foreigners, seem to find each other as family here, because, no harsh judgement, Americans are just not the same when it comes to friendships and that "homey" feel when one stops by another's house. It was, literally, a 36 hrs adventure - but oh, so good for the soul!

April was a huge jump across the ocean towards the sunset - we went to the island of Kauai for Larry's sister Stephanie's wedding. Neither Larry nor I ever had a desire to go to HI (unlike, it seems, most of the population), but we were glad to have had an opportunity - and support the lil' sis. It was a 4-day stay at the beach house with hikes, food and wet mountains around. Not a bad time to remember!

Instead of a quiet end of the month, we were invited to be a part of a great get-together at the annual craw-fish party put out by a Cajun native couple. It was awesome to see all of us at the same place, like good old times. What a fantastic group of people I get to be a part of.

Before I knew it, a trip to the Mother-Land was in order, for my mother's 81st birthday nevertheless. Always much needed, indeed, to re-charge and remember the roots. This time it fell during our biggest holiday, Victory Day on May 9th (over Nazi army), and the amount of history and emotions was above any imaginable limits. Never forget. Of course, I had to go to an art museum, as my yearly culture feed. Europe, you know, has standards for its citizens:)

As only my life goes, in 3 weeks I was jet-lagging, again, to another "home" - Oregon. My life is so split...between the kids and the parents, across thousands of miles and time zones. But this is where my heart belongs, so I do what I have to do.

July was focused on the yearly solo backpacking trip. It had lots of snow navigation, hot days with limited water, and a few too many others around me doing the same thing at the same time. I have to admit this journey wasn't nearly as fulfilling as the first long solo on TRT was, or a 450 miles/2 weeks Oregon (for oh, so many different reasons), but common, darling, any time I can afford, physically, mentally, emotionally, time-wise and financially, to spend 8 days in the mountains by myself doing what I love most...who has guts to complain!!?? Wrong attitude! So, looking back, I am thankful for those 210 miles in Northern California on PCT, and for Larry and Harrison to join me at the end to spend a day relaxing on Lake Tahoe.

It is during that hike I decided to forgo the Washington section of PCT I planned to backpack in August, and, instead, made a hop with Larry to a small portion of it for a couple of days. It was all worth the change (well, besides that nasty fall I took).

September rang with a few important dates: our marriage made it through 8 official years (and our house ownership - 6, as we bought a house on our anniversary). I "clipped" 24 years of living in USA...what is a fact worthy to mention, because from that day going on forward I am a member of American society longer than a member of the one that gave me life, raised me and shaped me into who I am...It is both a sad and a great mix of feelings, ideologies and experiences. All I can say is that I am blessed to have been stemmed from Russia - and happy that I can live my adulthood here.

To celebrate those things, we went "cultural" and visited Dallas/Fort Worth museum district. Boy, did it impress me, and I am hard to be impressed, coming from Russia and Europe!

And ah, yes, almost forgot a day trip to San Antonio, the yearly pilgrimage to visit friends South.

In October, two good things were memorable. We put our annual "used-to-be's" party in the backyard with our running friends (oldies but goodies), and I am so grateful for the group of folks who treat me as a friend - all showed up, enjoyed time reminiscing, and what an amazing group that is. A week later we went to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to chase Fall colors. Oh, yeah, I turned 48 that month, too. Thus the party and the trip:)

November rolled with Thanksgiving looming, which meant Oklahoma, visiting family! By now I finally feel like I am a part of it, and I do love this small town Larry grew up in and where all of his extended family still lives. It was a great time to be there!

 As we came back - my girlfriend Eman flew to Austin, and we got to see each other for the second time this year.
And jetting across the country wasn't over! December always means Portland, because both of my boys were born on December 9th, and this year marks them turning 27 and 22. Gosh, this is really "where did the time go??" This post, or this blog in general, is neither the place nor the time to dive into my personal life deeply, so I'll just say: I will forever be coming, no matter how sometimes difficult it is - because it is far harder not to come. I spent 2 days hanging out with my sons - and friends who have become family for me over the years. And as always, my heart melts over the best mountain views ever, Mt. Hood.
Christmas is here. It is always a good time to evaluate the year - and boy, am I glad I decided to write this post. Because, as daily life goes on, we get swamped in the routine of it and don't see the "forest for the tree". You know, work, grocery, cooking, cleaning, knitting, repeat...It seems that all we do is mundane unexcited tasks, boring, day in and day out. But putting these photos together showed me just how INCREDIBLY BLESSED am I. To be able to make these trips to the most amazing places, to have a partner who loves me, shares my values and supports my dreams, to have the means and desire and ability to do all this exploring...I've always had great affinity and affection for travels, since I was a young girl, a teenager. In the past it often involved just jumping in the car and having a get-away for a day or few. That was East and West coast living. Unfortunately for me, the location of Austin in the heart of Texas does not allow us such luxury - it takes a whole damn day to just get out of the state, and hate it all you want, there is nearly nothing either Larry nor I find fascinating within its limits. But - we still manage to go places, even if at the cost of flying and sacrificing some other fun stuff in regular living to assure it happening.

One more important thought with comes with that: I am thrilled, now, 4-plus years after my body gave up on my running, that it happened. I went through depression, questions, all kinds of treatments and trials...and now, coming out of the deep end on the other side, I feel grateful for that to be gifted. Really. It IS a gift. I now get to explore life and places I want at the pace I want, not get consumed to always train and the tie all my traveling to racing (quick in, run, and out). Those were amazing years behind, and I am so fortunate to have them, to see so many beautiful corners of this country, meet interesting and truly awesome people, grow stronger belief in myself and my mental and physical abilities. And now I am blessed to have a different set of years, and if I wasn't forced to recognize it, I might have still being on a hamster wheel. Life has its stages, thank God for that, and is SO multidimensional!

What brings me to health and balance in life, to resolutions of sorts. This year marked me working one job only - and at one location only. Myo Massage Austin has become my single employer, and I am happy on so many levels there. I feel in the right place, I know what I am doing, clients love me (and say so in all kinds of reviews), I enjoy making others feel better and am really good at it, the people around me actually like me too, with all my quirks and odd ends, my pragmatism and sarcasm, and my "rough around the edges". With that, not only did I stopped doing out all kinds of side jobs and gigs, I also, slowly but surely, cut my hours from 38/week (it is a physical job, ya know) down to 25. And I forced myself to learn how to take a day off every week, and stick with it!

My biggest accomplishment in terms of exercise is that, despite this whole "I can't run as I know it", I went out 6 days a week EVERY WEEK of the year! I woke up every day before the crack of dawn, laced up my shoes - and got my ass out the door. Some mornings were better than others, and I appreciate the bouts of "I feel like a real runner today" thrill. But I take it as it comes, and never dwell on the many more days when it's a shuffle, a pain, a struggle...and as I make it back to the door, I have a smile on my face. I believe this is the proudest achievement in my running "career", and not the 120-some ultramarathons, 100 mile races, or even wins.

I also stuck with a class of yoga a week - if my memory serves me well, I missed all of 4 weeks out of 52, which is not bad at all! Those were hard and far travel weeks.
I knitted a lot, of course, but somehow I consistently felt unsatisfied with my work this year - so I kept un-winding, and re-knitting more than a hefty share of items. Only two pieces I considered completed "to love as is" - plus a set of 20 hats I donated to the Veteran's Running Camp (for which I'll be knitting 30 hats next year). But I made many a gifts for people I love, a huge many, and the passion never stopped. May be this "not feeling it" means something, may be not. I am ok with it. As long as I can still knit with love:)

In other notes, in April I, at the ripe age, started journaling daily, after reading a book - as a challenge. Before I knew it, I developed a habit, and I still journal. Last month I might have missed a day or two, but the simple act of writing had served me exceptionally wonderful, to sort through some thoughts, put ideas, or sometimes just to have a routine set. This task also helped me to stay off Facebook - something I keep trying. I was able to have my account deactivated for, I want to guess, 11 months out of the year, only popping once or twice a month to post a few pictures (as above) and check in on my friends.

Speaking of friends, I lived a real life, without social media, and had many a coffee with my local girlfriends, plenty of lunch dates, and Larry and I went for couples' dinner dates with people who we enjoy spending time with. I also kept up with people who matter via emails, texts, and phone calls - you know, things besides virtual "it's a beautiful life out there". On a related note - I stayed "deactivated" from FB during my birthday. I have 12 people (friends, besides relatives) whom I consider dear friends, whom I care about deeply, and hope I am for them as important as they are for me. On my birthday and around, without a social media reminders, all but 2 of those remembered - and I am so grateful to, without a plan, confirm, that life does, indeed, has true friendships, beyond the hype of "click and like". I am one lucky gal.

Without FB I had fulfilled another goal - I read "at least 12 books" this past year. I read more, and a hefty part of it was in the first half of the year (summer really sucks life out of me here), so I would love to keep up with it for the year(s) to come.

And I returned to a craft of cross-stitching. I finished a project and started a new one, and this very involved hobby really allows me to take my mind off the worries when the bad times strike.

This brings me to the final challenge I faced this year. Somewhere at the end of August I got very down on myself as my clothes became fitting tight, and looking into the mirror - painfully depressing. I gave a call to my friend, who happened to be a nutritionist, and she set me straight. Nothing ground-breaking, just a confirmation of what I always knew, and what always worked for me, empirically. I won't go into details, as she does do it for a living. But, on the brinks of "I need a liposuction!" scream, I started something so simple - yet so empowering. And the results blew my expectations away. Here we go, no filter, numbers don't lie. In a span of 3.5 months, I lost total of 16 pounds, 11 of them - pure fat, which constitutes 6.6% body fat loss. There was no plan for the "final number", yet it is so nice to be able not only button all the pants easily, but swing freely in them. And this was ALL in the KITCHEN only, since I quit my gym membership in July, and the state of my running training is marginally "maintaining" (still, though, hovering at 30 miles weekly). Simple does it, no pills, no gimmicks, no crazy exercise routine, no magic, no restriction on what to eat, no name-diets...You, too, can.

It was time to bring a Christmas tree back to the house. We managed to forgo the tradition for 4 years, for one reason or another...but not this year! It smells great, and brings smiles on our faces. As they say, we make the holiday what it is, nobody can do it for us.
And this wraps the year 2017, the year of Rooster, my year according to Chinese calendar. Come to think about it, it has been an INCREDIBLE year! One of the best. I used to think as we get older, we can't live fully, that we have "this and that" in order for that to happen. Bull! We forget, in a daily grind, the great things we do, see, hear, feel. We forget how wonderful our significant others are, what an awesome support they provide, how much they love us. What great friends we have, how they respect us and accept us, and when we need them most - they are here. How our kids teach us to love UNCONDITIONALLY - and this gets to a whole new level with events life throws at us, because only the love between a parent, a mother, and a child, can truly be truly called "unconditional". And that no matter where we live, we can dream bigger, and dreams DO come true.

I am about to set out, again, over the ocean, towards rising sun on the horizon, to the Land of a Firebird. Meeting and greeting the New Year with my mother and sister seems just right. Times are cherished when spent with loved ones. Things that matter most...As I peak over the calendar and see all the plans and ideas for the year 2018, I am excited - to put on the work, to share dreams with Larry, and to live, yet again, fully.

I heard a phrase today, and while it has been said many times before, in all kinds of books and personal workshops, it is worth repeating: "When you make choices, you choose consequences".

On that note, make your choices, live your life - and love every moment of it, damn it! Because it's the only one we got.