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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Victorious Moscow

There are a lot of pictures in this link as I didn't bother to filter or choose to post here as photos, so only a few will get through - and that's ok. I also decided against writing a long blurb about a lot of things I got to think about, as even fewer would get it - and that's ok too. The one thing I will say though, when you are, in light of these days and age, trying to form an opinion about Russia and all Russian, give a chance of thinking about it through the lenses of knowing me. You know, sort of "I like Olga a little (I hope so since you're here, reading a private blog), so would she do/say/whatever?". And if you do have questions and want to know more - have a coffee with me and a long talk...But if you don't, that's ok too.

The weather never got above 50F, and there was even snow once - which is greatly unusual (so don't tell anyone it's always cold there), but I didn't mind one bit. I was blessed with plenty of sunshine to do family stuff and play a tourist too, and I am thankful from the bottom of my heart. I love my home, and every year I love it more, even if don't love the changes or everything in general. I am grateful I got to not only visit my mom and sister and help with as little as I could, but be there on my nation's most important holiday, one that unites us like no other (and as no other country know of). Because every - each and every - family in Big Russia (and that includes the republics left since) has a personal loss and a personal story - and we carry it, still, to our great-grandchildren as it's not a page from a history book. I am a part of it, forever. And yes, we, as every nation, have things to not be proud of, but "the one to cast a stone"...


So here I am, trying to make a short post. As we say, Russians don't do small talk.


I am taking vacation from FB, again. There are more important things in life.

Here is a link to Moscow trip pictures.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Artist's Way to Aloha, Kauai

My friend and a part-time life coach living in Tucson, AZ these days, Tommie, had suggested a book by Julia Cameron to read, The Artist's Way. Actually, she mentioned on her website that she is assembling a group of ladies who need to unblock creativity in their lives and this will be the book they would read and work on. I am always in a search of new book recommendations, so I jumped on a wagon and got a book in the library (I did not join a group, though, as I am more of a solo pursuer of any tasks). You know, I am an artist. I knit, cross-stitch, quilt, and I write. In fact, everyone of us is an artist, some know what field their talent lays, some have not discovered it yet about themselves. And while right now, at this point, I do not feel blocked, I go through spells of it for sure, and I was curious what I could glimpse from this author - and again, I am always on a lookout for a new book.

From the first pages I loved it. Well, the first pages were all about how great she is and how many people she helped, and I didn't love the self-promo (common, if the book sells, it means it works, I bought it/borrowed it, lets move on), but then it was great. Right from the start the first suggestion was to start writing "morning pages". You know, diary type of thing, 3 pages at the minimum. Somehow this spoke to me loudly. I have to admit, I am far from a diary sort of girl. I never had one as a teenager, or a young adult. All my life I preferred to do things, not day-dream on the paper, and I was way too busy working a bunch of jobs since I remember I could, and my creativity in writing went onto paper assays Soviet school system had us do a lot of. Straight "A's" and pages written on all kinds of topics later, this, of course, also brought me to blogging. But diary - never. The only things I did put down in my life were quotes - I love writing quotes from books I read into journals, and I have two of those, one from Russia written in Russian, from my early days, and one in English, written in my first decade here. With blogging I sort of dropped it and put quotes into my posts (and I am sad about that as now I don't have a "one place for all", because I could follow my life's interests and thoughts by what I read and what I chose to put down for memories).

Well, "never" a diary will be lying. I did start writing in January of 2014, exactly in this journal I have now - one I gave Larry for his first birthday of our dating life. I forgot about that since it went for about 2 months, sparse and short, and felt forced. Then last year, 2016, I wrote 3 daily gratitude notes in it for 9 months and 9 days - I stopped on my birthday. That was fun and helpful, but some life's events made me more aware of "wrongness" of during that period. I needed time to process without squeezing cute affirmations.

Still, this time this diary idea, the morning 3 pages, felt natural, and I pulled the very same journal right away, as soon as I read the suggestion. And I wrote. And wrote. 3 pages were easy, it went 5, 6 in a morning, and the only reason it wasn't even more was time strain and my hand and arm would be getting so tired I even managed to get a serious muscle knots in the forearm! Handwriting is a task long forgotten...It helped with the thought flow that from day 3 the pages were written while in the dark, with a sound of crushing ocean waves below from the window...

Oh, the sound of the ocean. Welcome to Hawaii, island of Kauai. Aloha to us. At the end of last year Larry's younger sister got engaged, and as her husband-to-be grew up in Kauai and still has family here, this is where the wedding spot was picked. After a little hesitation (it is a crazy expensive trip after all, and a long flight, not to mention Larry and I never had an urge to go to Hawaii - I know, shocking), we decided that a) we can't miss such an event when Stephanie's already not going to have much family besides mom and dad, and b) we'll use an opportunity to actually make a visit, form our own opinion, and check it off the state's list. But besides being thrilled for the bride, we weren't really thrilled for the rest of it - and when we voiced it, people scolded us. Common, folks, don't get defensive! Some people are just not into water/ocean/swimming and/or humid/muddy/populated/short trails. But we were totally up for an adventure with an open mind.

And the moment we stepped off the plane, inhaled the ocean air and saw palm trees - we were smiling. Vacation time, and we are on Hawaii!!!

First order of things to do - coffee shop (check!) and a yarn shop - YES! They had one! Surprised me.
Then, a shore drive from the bottom (south) end of the island where Lahui airport is to the north-east end where we were to stay (and where Napali coast trail begins). The views were great, the wind blew the humidity away, chickens roamed freely (Kauai has a thing with wild chickens - and wild cats, as in cats and chickens running wild and multiplying on their own) and the mountains shot straight up. Gorgeous scenery!

We stayed pretty much on the beach (which is not a swimming one, with rough water dangerous even for surfing, about a mile before Tunnel beach), and Mom was the one renting the house and sheltering us in a process - gratitude from the bottom of our hearts! We got in, and went for a short drive with mom to check out some more shore, before dropping to bed exhausted.

                               

And, of course, with 5 hrs time difference, I woke up at 1:45 am. I managed to stay in bed until 3:30 am - and then gave up on that idea. But it turned out that my 3:30 am mornings were by FAR my most favorite times during the whole trip! Sitting in the dark, sipping dark coffee, writing my morning pages, as the ocean waves crushed into the shore...then taking Larry and walking to the beach in the darkness still, and walking on the coarse sand, watching the sun rise. This was a paradise for sure, and those were my favorite moments of the 5 day stay and of Hawaii in general.



That second day we checked off the list a very important thing to do when on Kauai - a Napali coast trail. Since we didn't have a permit for the whole 22 mile out-n-back, and the first 2 miles are "for all", we did that plus another 2 miles to the tallest waterfall on Hawaii - Hanakapai Falls, some 300 feet tall. The hike went straight up without hesitation, steep steps, rock, roots, mud and all - and those first 2 miles provided for beautiful coastal views for sure. We even ran some!






As we reached the intersection and some rocky beach access, we entered a real jungle - and a real jungle trail. Narrow, sweaty, muddy, and bad footing, it took us with no views, but the waterfall was worthy working for.




The way back was completely unexciting though. First of all, the nature of out-n-back is that you've seen it all already. Secondly, we did not carry any water (or food), and the sun and humidity were rising by 10 am. And lastly - the people!!! The tourists! On that narrow trail, dozens and dozens of slow-pocking tourists not knowing the trail etiquette and I can not believe they started that late too! Anyway, totally took the wind out of our sails. We were glad to be done. And frankly, from there on, as far as "Hawaii experience" goes, we figured we've seen what we had to, and we were right in our assessment: it is totally gorgeous, indeed, just not our thing.

But the Hanalei coffee shop was THE best with 3 shots of mighty awesome espresso per cup of anything (Mocha for Larry and Americano for me), and relaxing was good for a change. In the evening, we had a pre-wedding dinner with family and friends of the bride (pretty much just us and parents) and groom (about 30 people total). It was at another beach house catered with Hawaiian food, and we got to meet our new family extension.


Day 3 started with a bunch of morning pages - by far my most productive morning - and then a 3 mile walk on the beach all by myself, sunrise and solitude and all the good things I crave. I was able to recharge from all the people I had to meet the previous night - as an introvert, I get drained badly when I have to socialize. In fact, I had a panic attack a day before our leaving for the trip that I will not make it - really, not funny, an anxiety feeling with tears. I have to thank those beach walks and early morning hours by myself - as well as Larry and I's explorations of things away from majority of tourists - for my calm, and for my positive experience. That morning was definitely the best. It stormed during the night, in fact, it only finished at 5:30, right in time for my pre-dawn walk. The ocean was angry, and the sky was dark - yet the sun rose, even if not conventionally expected round circle. It was magnificent, and the waves were loud, and it was Easter, Jesus's risen, and I had time and space to think about that too...

Since it was wet everywhere, we did more of a mellow touristy stuff - checked out a pier into the ocean, a lighthouse, drove around to another waterfall in the middle of the island, then found a private plantation growing mahogany trees - largest in US! We hit the 4 mile loop-around with a secret garden just before the rest of the vacationers started waking up - and had all that place to ourselves! We learned a lot, and it was totally wonderful.








Then it was time to rest - and get ready for the wedding at the beach! It rained, again, poured, and were weren't sure how it's all going to happen - and then the bride and the groom put their leis on - and it stopped raining. Talking about magic! May they live happily ever after:)

  

By the end of the evening I, Larry and Stephanie (the bride), being introverts that we are, hid downstairs for a few moments to quietly recharge for the cake cutting ceremony - and before we knew it, it was time for bed.

My day 4 had me sleep in until 4:30 am! The morning pages felt rushed, and the sunrise walk didn't happen, as we were in a hurry to drive over 2 hrs around the island to a north-west shore to beat the tourists - that's the other end of Napali coast, but the road doesn't connect on the north end. That West shore is drier and somewhat different, and we played vacationers ourselves, stopping at the view points, doing only 2 miles out-back hike (on the muddiest ugliest trail, may I add!) and admiring the views of sharp knife-edge mountains splitting into the ocean, and the ocean merging into horizon with the sky. We even saw another island! But by 11 am the people came in drove, buses, cars parked everywhere, elbowing each other to take a picture - and we ran away as fast as we could. If that's the "shoulder of the season", what is the season then??!!









After that was all said and done, we had two more educationally great stop. One was by the former Russian fort (!!!) from 1800's, which was established to help trading between America and Russia (and per agreement with Hawaiian king). There were 3 forts total back then, all by the river necks, and this one was the same Captain Cook entered when he came to this island. He (Cook) was killed on Kauai, and to my surprise, I put two and two together - back in my childhood we had a song how "Aborigines killed Cook", and to discover that a) Cook is a historical figure, b) he was killed by locals, and c) the tail of ti reached Russia because Russian had a fort here - wow! Folk art has roots, for sure.



And a second stop was by a real coffee plantation - a LARGEST in US, with 4 million trees (they counted!). We learned how the coffee trees grow (and get trimmed), how the beans get collected and  dry (and roast eventually), and which ones have more flavor versus more caffeine. We got to try different varieties, and of course I bought a bag for myself! Drinking it as I type:)


The afternoon was free, and we actually made an effort to do what normal people do when on Hawaii - go to the beach, lay down on sand for a few minutes (may be 10?) of tanning, and walk into the ocean to submerge into its clear water (swimming was not advisable in those waves, but the water was very warm and clear, indeed). All chores - checked!



By day 5, our date of leaving, we were edgy and ready to go. To us (I repeat, to us, not in general) there was nothing more here to do, we helped mom to clean up the house, packed, and made it to the airport without stopping 3.5 hrs before our departure time. Yep, you can say 3 days of vacationing for us is top. I mean, it's one thing when I just hike for days on end. And another when you're sort of somewhere where you have to do things, but once you do a few of them, they run together in their sameness and laying on a couch I could while at home, absolutely for free. Aloha, Kauai, and Mahalo.


I guess I was afraid of not being able to blog anymore since I started my "morning pages" in a journal, that I would use all my creativity, my inspiration, my desire to share, to put thoughts "on paper" - there, on real paper, leaving my well dry. Here I am, trying to get back to normal life, and one of the first things I had to do - is to write a post about our experiences. Like an affirmation, a final dot, so we can move on.

Larry and I are both creatures of the routine. I love traveling a whole lot, and do it often, but every one of those trips, even a tiny 2-day-away, takes me out of my comfort zone. I want to eat my vegetables that I cooked myself (I always fall prey to eat whatever when travel and don't even try hard enough) , I want my routine of exercise, sleep pattern and wake up calls, my work not to be strained (around every trip I work more hours as an hourly employee without vacation time to make up the money lost when not working), and I definitely want my "back room" as I call it, my creative room with lots of yarn in the baskets, cross-stitch framed pictures on the wall, needles in a glass, my laptop (I don't really like using my smartphone that much), my books, and a pile of ready-for-hiking stuff.
Speaking of the hike, a conversation transpired last night about the state of shape I am in (or not). Due to my overwhelming feeling of "all the sacrifices during Lent with eating restrictions and harder training are lost in my 6-day pigging out/not exercising HI venturing", Larry asked where I think I am comparing to last year (taking out of equation these 6 days). Without hesitation I said "much worse". I had a night (and morning pages" to think about it. "Much worse" may be not quite as bad. I am for sure weaker somewhat. I had a longer non-running break this year than every previous year (and during this break I had a stretch of 1.5 months when I didn't even shuffle at all). My cardio machines are limited more than before (I just hate them for too long and really fed up by now). I am afraid to squat and deadlift too much due to a fracture in my vertebrae a year and half ago. According to the Fit-testing machine at the gym, I carry a good pound less of muscle overall and some 5 lbs more of fat (which accounts for 2% extra comparing to the same time last year). I look flabbier than I remember in many years, my clothes don't fit well (and I still refuse to buy new sizes), and I feel more tired overall in other aspects of my life. But, while I just started back to running (a full 2 months later than last year), I began my backpack walking earlier, as well as I am much more diligent with stairs training and going to the real trails - and I do more of those things than I did before. I also remembered that I was in a better shape prior Tahoe Rim Trail in 2015 than Oregon PCT in 2016 - but I made it. Granted, this time it will not be about the miles walked or elevation accrued - but about snow post-holing (an incredible difficult task physically) and swift freezing river crossings, not to mention route navigating and trying not to slide off the side of the mountain. But as with morning pages and creativity, what I have to do is work the steps - and training what I can is really all I can control and do. So, I do the steps.

"The morning pages are both our wilderness and our trail". Gosh, how did she write THAT in her book? My wilderness and my trails are my soul, and they are in my daily work. I do what I have to do, and the inspiration comes, and if I enjoy the journey - the outcome is already spectacular.