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

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The magic of letting go is a never-ending process of life.

And no, it has nothing to do with Marie Condo this time. It's about letting go of anger, disappointment, expectations. Of relationships, health, attachments. Of ego, insecurities, stability. It's just letting it be...

Either Universe conspired and kept pointing me to a bunch of articles reciting various lists of "Lessons learned in life" by random people, or everyone at large are doing navel gazing along with me. Whatever it is, lots of lists, most of which cross-over, so I just randomly picked one to add at the end of this post. Just because.

I had a very good trip to Portland. I know. Those who know the truth would roll their eyes. Well, actually, those who know MY truth, would understand. The anxiety for 2 weeks prior was riding me to the ground. As always, day 1 sent me into a deep shock of said truth. With a spiral "never again". Day 2 was calmer, more "it is what is". And by day 3, I longed to never leave, no matter the shock. This pattern never wears out, year after year. But simultaneously, my heart gets so large and full...in a completely bazaar way even I can't understand, not to mention a number of those who sort of "know" but not really. So I keep coming back. There will be more Portland trips...

The weather held on. It only rained for a couple of hours on the second day, even though the prognosis was gloom for all the days of the trip. Thank you, Portland! It's a blooming season in April there, always. Every tree, every flower bed in the front yard. The smells are intoxicating. I love Portland in April.
Monika was amazing. She chose to either work from home to be around me, or even took time off - we went to Forest Park one afternoon, after late lunch. Miles and hours, countless, thousands, ran on these trails. Life lived. Thoughts processed and shared. No, we didn't run this time, but a hike was magnificent, bringing me back into the past. I haven't been in Forest park in nearly 3 years, I think. Crazy. It was lovely, and so was the conversation. Thank you, girl. You are family.

Stan cooked wonderful meals every dinner, and in the evening I reveled in love and attention  of the two people who stood by my side for good 12-13 years. Monika took me to our favorite yarn store - not once, but twice! I indulged. I haven't done this in a few of my last trips, shock and all. And we talked, and knitted, and shared souls. With the new yarn, I got re-inspired, and now am working on 3 projects at the same time, with yarn and ideas for two more at hand. It was a good visit. Plus, I got to see two other people who I felt was important to meet on this trip. The time we spent together was incredibly valuable.
Back home...and letting go of some expectations of friendships. The circle gets narrower as the life goes on. It is officially now "count on one hand". I could be disappointed how my life turned out. I am grateful. 5 girlfriends. That is FIVE! I am one fortunate human. Of course, Larry and my sister Tanya. What more can I wish for? I had seen a quote many years ago: With age we don't loose friends, we just figure out which ones are true ones. Here's one more: Sometimes your circle decreases in size but increases in value. Yep, that is what I ought to focus on. The value surely skyrockets right about now, as all this "handful" provides support beyond any measurable quotas.

It's been difficult to run here last few weeks. Incidentally enough, I ran in Portland every morning, and there my pace was a full half-minute faster with a less put-in effort, just like in Colorado Springs. Make it a full minute, the way last 2 days went. I wonder if it's pollen here, in Austin (oak season), or the depression I experience that escalated lately. But I do get my butt out the door dark-o-daily. I even made a couple of trips to Mt. Bonnell for some repeats. Despite writing about longing for "3 S" in my previous post, I still got my "3 D".
There are 43 work days left, excluding the upcoming trip to Springs. Things have been happening at my beloved job that are not making me thrilled to come to work daily. I still love what I do, to the moon and back, and my clients still adore me. I don't want to get negative on a place and people who provided me with so much for the last 5 years, just that politics behind the scenes are not my thing.  In light of latest developments, I came to a firm conclusion I do not want to work for anybody. Not only as an employee, but as a contractor as well. So the summer break will be good for me to re-evaluate. If I want to continue to be in this field, I will need to figure out how to work for myself. Fear is holding me back. But being miserable and not being true to my integrity, at this ripe age, is unacceptable. Opportunities will come, I just have to keep my mind open.

We're meeting with a local real estate agent tonight. The Austin house is going on a market in the next couple of weeks. Huge step, even bigger anxiety. Both in anticipating and eager to sell, and sadness to let go of our home of 7 and half years. So many things going on at once...

Harrison is graduating before Memorial day. Larry's boy is all grown up. He got accepted to Texas Tech and will be closer to us than if he stayed in Austin, but still. For Larry, as for every parent, getting your baby bird out of nest is difficult.
I can't fully relate to this experience as my babies flew away so far, so early, so crooked...Normal parenting goes like: you give them your best, and then watch them spread their wings in a real world. Mine is: you give them your best, and then watch a freight train (make it two) go downhill, the farther the faster. I've been in a state of grieving for so many years, going from one of them to another to both at the same time...but I get it, theoretically. I feel for Larry. I wish I could say something or do something, but every parent goes through this process on their own terms. I'll just stay quiet, right by.
Yep, these are my birdies...
I guess it's time to stick aforementioned list of lessons. Not the best, not the worst. I adapted quite a few of them to my own wording and experience, but I didn't add anything to this particular list. Otherwise it'd grow way out of proportion:)

1.       “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Shakespeare said that. So did the Stoics. This is such a powerful belief to haveto be able to step back and see every event in your life as neutral. This is not a moral statement; it’s more about personal perspective. 
2.      Vulnerability is strength. Every great friendship I have has been built upon a story or two that are deeply personal.  Surface level conversation is abundant in this world; vulnerability and honesty are rare. This makes them valuable.
3.      You can overcome any obstacle with the right toolkit. When something feels impossible, it’s because you aren’t experienced or knowledgeable enough to handle it yet. Don’t stop there. You can build up the emotional, physical, intellectual, and mental resilience you need. A different mindset, belief, book, idea, or conversation could be the solution.
4.      “You cannot underestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” John Maxwell said this. I try to think of it when I start to get overwhelmed by small details. In the scheme of things, does any of this matter? Not in the slightest. Why waste the energy?
5.      Food is fuel (and medicine). Exercising daily. Enough said. I eat mindfullylow simple carb, lots of veggies, no sugar, no processed foods, less meat, etc. It’s just the way I eat now, it was a process developed. Some people think it’s crazy. I don't "never" indulge, but I weigh every time I want to give in to a cookie. I want to show up everyday at my best.
6.      Social media and caffeine are just like any other drug. They’re an addictive crutch, and to some extent, offer minimal benefit in return. I do love me coffee though.
7.      “Discipline is freedom.” This is the title of one of ex-Navy Seal Commander, Jocko Willink’s, NYT bestsellers (which I haven’t actually read). One of the goals of life should be to stop mentally negotiating with yourself. When you say you’re going to do something, you should be able to consider it done before it even arrives. 
8.  The “thinking mind”the roommate in your head that insists on compulsively talking all the timeis not you. You are NOT your thoughts. You are watching them in a 4D theater, which makes you think you are them. But when you can disengage and sit back, you realize almost everything can be manipulated and redesigned for your benefit.
9.   Depression is a natural, yet impermanent result of deep grief. You can’t fully prepare for grief. But you can note that depression is a natural result ahead of time. I often think I am "broken". I am not.
10.  State Story Strategy. This idea is from Tony Robbins. When you are trying to make a massive change, your instinct is to implement some new strategya productivity tool or diet. This makes so much sense in the moment, but rarely ever works. Why? Because it feels like a drag. And we do things based off emotion, not intel. If you address your emotional state first, and then the story that’s playing out such as, “I suck because I procrastinate all the time,” you can actually create results.
11.  You can’t pour from an empty cup. We all have limitsemotional, physical, and mental. We have to respect them and take time to rest and recover.
12.  People are always doing the best they possibly can with whatever beliefs, skills, knowledge, experience, and physiology they’re working with. Everyone has a story. The thing is: we are all doing our best with what we have.
13.   “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”And not just people, either. You are quite literally the ideas you think about, the podcasts you listen to, the books you read, and televisions shows you watch. Your beliefs, ideals, and values come from the people around you and are reconfirmed by the news channels you watch. If you don’t like where you’re headed, begin exposing yourself to new inputs.
14.  Don’t do for the sake of doing. Figure out what will move the needle forwardin your relationships, career, and lifeand then do those things. Focus your energy and attention on what may have a disproportionate long-term impact or make you happy in the moment. And remember: it’s human being, not human doing.
15.   Be the person with the questions, not the answers. You can’t possibly know everything. The direction of life is going to be determined by what you’re willing to ask. Life gets exponentially more interesting when you start listening as much as you speak.
16.  Nobody really cares. Everyone is so concerned with what they have going on that they’ll barely pay attention to you. Your ego wants you to believe otherwise; stop listening. Have some humility and remember that you are just a tiny spec in a seemingly infinite universe full of people who are innately self-centered.
17.  The external is just a vehicle. The money you have, the career you’re in, the way you dress— it’s all just reflective of what’s going on inside. It’s the chance to manifest in the world what it means to be youyour purpose in this world. It’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and discover. There is no other reason to be or do.
18. My future self is always happy when I do it now. The dishes, laundry, client work, whatever. Whenever I don’t want to do somethingI try to remember that my future self will be VERY happy that I did it now, so she doesn’t have to do it. This motivates me not to procrastinate.
19.  Read. Read. Read. The average CEO reads 52 books per year. That’s one per week. Why? Because they know to get ahead and stay ahead you have to be learning. I’ve found that reading is the best way to learn, not that it can outperform experience. On that note, Haruki Murakami wrote: “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Read obscure things. Read things that stretch the limits of your mind.
20. “Without a goal you can’t score.” Without a goal, you’re stuck in the matrix. Living day to day, waiting for the weekend. With a goal, you are compelled by growth and a mission to move forward. You have to have a goala big goal. And it has to be almost sickeningly specific or else you can’t achieve it.
21. Have principles.  I was recommended to read Ray Dalio’s book Principles. We all have rulesfor how we make decisions, prioritize, and operate in the world. But how often do you think about yours or write yours down? This will probably be my last book ordered at Austin Public library, as it goes now. I have 2 more on the "wait list", but I doubt I'll get a chance for it here. Colorado Springs Library has the same system (pre-ordering books for pick up), so I am coming for you!

Monday, March 18, 2019

"Put your hands on your heart"

I was going to say something like "A month for the soul", but might as well use a phrase/suggestion I encountered in one of the books I am indulging this month in.
It started with a simple Marie Kondo decluttering re-cap, as our move date approaches, then transpired into deeper meaning, picking up at the library a bunch of literature on simplifying life. I dove into those, one by one, and can't get my head out of them. I wavered between writing here - or in my journal - what I do, Gosh, coming on two years, who knew I'd stick with it at my ripe age? - but it turns out I type faster than I write (despite the fact I type with 2 fingers, pecking style), and there are so many thoughts swirling in my head, books or not, I just have to, absolutely have to put them down, so here is where it goes. Although I get angry at internet - who ARE the people still browsing my posts? The list of those who "signed up for updates" is all hailing from the days of my racing "glory". Common, folks, unsubscribe! I haven't raced competitively coming on 6 years, and haven't set a foot at any race at all in nearly 4! Get out of here, nothing to see, nothing to read about, no inspiration, crazy shit, just life, like anybody else's! I am trying to create space to maybe, just maybe, attract those who are in a similar way of thinking, stumbling along the life's edges, figuring out who they are, whatever age they are, and that requires exactly that, a space in the Universe!

Who ARE we? Who am I? More often than not it comes to my mind that we are all impostors here, on this Earth. What we do in the outside world - and even moreso in the social media outlets - is presenting ourselves as a package. Nice shiny package. Look at me, admire me!

Yep, exactly how one of the sentences in one of the books jumped at me. Would you rather be shiny and admired, or real and loved? Isn't it what we all want - loved, but substitute it, oftentimes without even realizing or acknowledging, for admiration? That whole racing scene, or, yes, admit it, I've done it, it starts as "I want to prove to myself I can", and then it's a race after "good job!" sort of thing. Isn't what "likes" are for on Facebook and Instagram? More, I want more. I take breaks from it, months at a time, and I feel my heart quiets. It sits in my hands...

"I've always given my best to things outside myself, believing that's I'd be fine, that I was a workhorse, that I didn't need special treatment or babying up or, heaven help me, self-care. Self-care was for fragile, the special, the dainty. I was a linebacker, a utility payer, a worker bee". ("Present over perfect" by Shauna Niequist).

Indeed, she, literally, described me. I've always been "more is more" person. The one with "the more you have on your plate, the better you at organizing it and completing it". Until one day my body said "no more". At some point it was no more running. It gave me warning signs, oh, it did. I ignored it, tended to it halfheartedly if that. So it just shut down, period. Like that, overnight, I lace my shoes, get out - and in half a mile I stop and can't go. I could never explain it to a normal person (although now the other stragglers hit with it speak up as well, but it is still nearly impossible to put into description) what it means "I just couldn't go on". General fatigue over your body as if you had just finished a 100 miler. Not a high heart rate, but chest is tight. Not a panting breathing, but difficult and shallow. And heavy, heavy legs.

And it lasted, and lasted, no matter how much time I gave it as a break. And when it made an attempt to come back - I took it full-out, the only way I knew it. And it shut down, again. I went through this "routine" a few more times in the following 4 years, until past January, on its come-back, I vowed to be gentle to it. To listen to my heart. I let go of expectations, force, "more is more", "I am tough and known for that only". I never went "more", and I never went "faster". And it thanked me, my body, with ability to run. Now in my 15th straight month , I just run. I run 5-6 days a week, giving it a Sunday of Sabbath. Got rested on 7th day, too, why not me? So I rest.

And I finally applied it to my weight training I jumped into head on as the running collapsed - and even to my yoga. I do it, oh, I do, but so gingerly, only so, only how much body lets me. I hold my heart in my hands and listen to what it says.

And then there's work. More is more shines here brightly. I nearly broke down last of my cycles of 40 massage hours a week (50 hours at work) for 30 straight days. I've been known as a workhorse, I invented that name for myself! Look at me, you 20-something year olds co-workers, slackers, bunch of sissies with hurting hands and backs! I am twice your age and pulling the doubles of your efforts! I am admired, sang praises to, and I get paid loads - in my world, of course, whatever it means. Until one day I realize: I am empty. My tank is empty, physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally...I can still go on, but I absolutely don't want to! (as a side note, I believe feminism as we view it in general terms will backfire one day. I should know. My country instilled it during revolution, 100 years ago).

I backed off in March. I am on 32 weekly massage hours (40 present at work, even if still 7 days, but spread wiser), and in 2 weeks I feel re-born. I suddenly think to myself: wow, such small adjustment, and such noticeable benefit! What will happen if I cut it more, in half? Cut it altogether?!

I've been riding anxiety high. With the upcoming move, it is imminent that I will not work. During the summer I will not work AT ALL! First of all, there is a LOT to do for the house and to settle in and to help Larry transition into working from home and do projects...Secondly, there is a LOT to explore! Why else are we moving? And lastly, in my line of work, summers are pretty dead, clients are traveling, money is tight for them with vacations and kids at home... trying to ramp up new clientele is simply a dead end. Of course, as fall will approach, I will look into places - though the market is far skinnier there (you would think with all those health-conscious folks? but alas, fewer allow themselves such care), and the pay-out from the establishments are far lower. Open my own business? I am an ex-Soviet gal, I prefer to have a job, even if on contractor bases, and NOT do any leg-work for advertisement and self-promotion. So what's next for me? No income to bring into our family, no "my share" (damn feminism), no applying my skills (forget the brain, that hope long gone). And way, way too much time on my hands...I have never-ever been "doing nothing" kind of person.

With these books, though, and my running-death example, I suddenly thoughts yesterday: maybe this forced, yet again, work-death, is exactly what I need? Because I seem to be completely unable to make changes, big, visible, changed my body and mind requires to exist - life "makes" me do it, creates situations where I have to. And then I'd exhale. Slow down. Look deeper into my soul. And only after that, whatever time it takes, I could possibly re-build my practice as a massage therapist or any kind of other health provider, on a new level, with a better schedule...or maybe I will find myself elsewhere. My good friend, Pastor Craig, emailed recently a phrase that stuck with me: "You (and your sister) are very good at re-inventing yourself". I sure hope he is right. Why am I not seeing it in myself?

Why self-hate on such level? Because at the end of the day, all this running around and busying yourself, whether training, working, tasking with household, obligations to friends, co-workers, strangers...is running away from pain of silence and running for substituting love with admiration. Activity - of any kind - keeps me away from feeling, so that becomes a drug, too. Addiction to chaos, like any other, is damaging to a human being. I surely know this part way too well...

What people think about you - if they think about you at all, as it is a known fact they don't for more than 2 seconds - is nothing in comparison to what you think about yourself. I definitely don't think much about myself. The hustling was/is an effort to outrun deep insecurities in me, not believing in my own worth. The stillness feels a little bit like walking on the ceiling, scary, awkward, uncomfortable - to say the least. Very unstable, for sure. "Busyness is an illness of the spirit" (Eugene Peterson).

All my life I've been committed to prove - to the whole world, and to myself - that I can handle it all, whatever life throws at me. Physically, mentally, emotionally. Bring it! Challenge me! I built a reputation of it. I am known as a definition of it - Wikipedia example as they go. I am not weak, and I don't operate on "later"! My motto is 3-D: "Dedication, Determination, Discipline".

What I truly crave, though, is 3-S: "Space, Silence, Stillness". That is why the mountains are calling me.  I get all 3 there.  The real question to ask, instead of busying yourself and overcoming, is this: "Am I loved? Do I matter? Am I going to be safe?".

I know I've written pages on that before, at one level or another. I've been going through a lot of personal "adjustments" in the last 15 years. Life is like a spiral spring, you come back to the similar turn and land on a spiraling line, again and again, but on a new level, sometimes higher, though occasionally lower. It's ok to be both. It's ok to have a narrower spiral or a shallower, stronger or not so much, even almost at the same place. I need repeating this excursions into soulful reading - I need reminders, so that I can come back to my heart. Time and again.

As I run, I wonder: if I apply my 3-D in search of my 3-S, where will it land me? Will my questions be answered, will I hear them, will I ever believe in positive replies? Can I create the mountains right where I am?

There is a Portland trip coming up. It is always a difficult time in my life, the most difficult of all. For months I am trying to piece together my broken heart, adding glue, painting stitches...and then I go, and my heart shutters in even smaller pieces, again. Yet with that, each and every piece of my heart is filled with so much complete unconditional love, I keep on going. Sometimes hearts need that, too, the breaking down, breaking up, filled to the capacity. I could say it gets stronger - but it really doesn't, I don't think so, not anymore. It just is. Just as we all are. Just as the Universe, the Higher Power, Life itself. Not good or bad or getting anywhere. IS.

I put my hands on my heart, covering it gently, and I sit here, quietly, and I listen. I hope to hear God, because I know He knows those answers. I hope He whispers them to me, one moment. I just need to be very silent, and very still...
If you don't like something you knit, you unravel and knit anew, sometime from the first row. If you don't love the life you live, do you have the courage and patience to start all over?

Thursday, March 07, 2019

It feels like a count-down.

February was hard. Between the day after I arrived back from Moscow, on January 27th, and the day we arrived to Colorado for a few days' stay, on February 26th, I worked 30 days straight with my massage practice...for approximately 40 hrs of massages given each week. But indeed, if there's a "why", there's a "how". This is my final stretch of full-time heavy-duty job. It's not that I am not going to work comes the move - I truly can't even imagine myself not working, period - but in my line of work, and with transition to boot, the downtime is inevitable, and getting older means being wiser, pickier with the potential employees and clientele. So I pushed...

Somehow I survived, although getting older also means breaking down more easily and faster. Last week I was holding on to a dear life, counting days and hours until this mini-vacation. And the trip didn't disappoint.

As always, Colorado Springs hit us with dry high air, extremely friendly people, and amazing weather (which, actually, was a good change from the previous couple of visits). 20's at night and 40's during a day was my idea of paradise. We took it to the streets for daily before-dawn runs, and whenever one looks over the shoulder, either right one (on the way out) or left one (on the return) - there it is, Pikes Peak, in all its glory, changing colors with the rising sun.

One morning I actually ran all the way to the Garden of the Gods, which constituted my longest, hilliest, and yet fastest run to date since last June. Go figure. Somehow, I always run faster (not by much, but still) in COS at 6,200 feet, than I do in Austin, at mere 800 or so. Whatever kind of miracle it is, it gives me hope, or, rather, confirms the hope I have held in my heart all these last 5+ years since my body gave up on my running, that I will, indeed, come back, re-birth, re-kindle, of course not to the capacity I used to be, but to the state of free gliding and feeling the natural state of movement as part of my being.

One mid-day we spent visiting Air-Force Academy. Larry once had been here, when he was about 14 years old, with his family - and for me, it was a dedication to my Dad, who served in Air-Force (of a different country, but who cares about such details) since he was 14 until mid-50's. As a military brat, my life is coming full circle - from a childhood growing up on air-force bases to a mature adult living my sunset years near one, again. I shed a few tears visiting a museum and a Chapel there.

On another afternoon, we ventured to a Pioneer Museum downtown, completely free for visitors, and enjoyed learning history of COS, as well as eyeing Van Briggle collection of pottery and art.

This time, because of the weather treating us nicely, we also made our way to the mountains and scratched the itch of real trails - and what an amazing paradise within 15 min from downtown these mountain trails are! We can not even begin to comprehend what at store for us. Total playground!

One of those 2 days was to check out the beginning climb of a race course we gingerly signed up for as a welcome in...sheesh, this will be so incredibly humbling! Personally, I am just looking for the finish line,,,and for checking out the trail running community. So I am good with coming in near-last!

We checked out local burger place, and lounged on a couch, and I knit, and read, and cooked meals...and COS is becoming more home than I thought it would prior the move. This city was meant to entice us, invite us, showcase itself, and welcome us in. The air, the views, the people, the history, the architecture of old homes...our hearts are filled with love and peace and calm.

Now it's a 3-month count-down. It is practically scary, how close it had suddenly come, this time. Dreaming for so long, and here it is...so much to do, the head is spinning, the emotions are rampant, swinging from low to high and back. What's life holding ahead of us? No reason to fret. For now, we need to focus on what's at hand. Here and now. 

And the knitting and reading, too.

I didn't want to cramp it all in one post, being it emotional and such, so here's more to life than the future move to a place of our dream.

I had a good span of knits, even if most were for somebody else. There were a couple of hats for a co-worker and his girlfriend, a cotton top for my Russian friend in Austin (her 50's birthday coming up this month), an endless scarf from an amazing always cherished New Zealand possum with cashmere blend for my other friend's birthday, a finished re-make of a white Japanese mohair/silk cardigan, a re-make of an angora cowl (neck warmer) for myself, and a summer-ish top from a rare possum/cotton yarn.

Of course, I wasn't satisfied with the cardi, despite it had been through 3 transformation as it is. I consistently felt like what I make does not do a justice to this fantastic yarn I got at a yarn show. So, yes, I unraveled it to the bottom part (and let me tell you, frogging of mohair is super-difficult and tedious!), and am now totally immersed into this idea of a boxy sweater. Oh, the softness and lightness of this beautiful yarn...I can not wait to see how it'll be. From the yarn that I used as an add-on, I am making 2 smaller other items.
I also got a taste of a short return to sewing. Jeez, I haven't done it in ages. I brought this awesome felt fabric from my sister for a reason. All the hats and mittens, no matter how wonderfully knit, are letting cold winds go through (knits, you know, have holes), so I hand-stitched a pair of under-mitts and an under-hat liner. Still didn't pull my sewing machine out of the storage. This has to change.
I made a couple pairs of fingerless gloves for two friends (one pictured as a show-case for underliner), and that spurred me into wanting to take on a challenge to knit fingerless gloves - with fingers, all 5 of them. After making countless mittens, that was new, very detailed, time-consuming,  frustrating for the amount of needles in my hands to hold it all - but I got it done, utilizing the precious possum/cashmere yarn. Very proud and excited! But probably will not knit another pair any time soon. :)
My sister-in-law finally got a chance to put her baby (our little niece) into a sweater I knit some 9 months ago, and sent me pictures. Made my day!
That's about the knits (plus, there were simple hats for gifts and donations too, but those are just work-break hands-moving projects).

I've managed to read a few books, some serious and big, some smaller and less involving of brain power. I keep my grey matter under scalp moving swiftly, I hope. Although I recently read an article that while keeping your neurons occupied with reading and math helps, as well as staying physically active, in prevention/postponing dementia, the biggest positive input has been noted as a correlating to staying socially engaged. Thus, family and friends, and communicating often, in real life, a.k.a. in person! This, too, we plan to have far more of once we move to COS. The sense of community was one of the identifying factors for picking the place, both the city, and the neighborhood.

Of course, I am still a part of Russian community, whether it's obvious or not. And this week I had to make a quick turn-around trip to Houston to visit Russian Consulate. My passport expires by the end of September, and since a bunch of Russian Embassies/Consulates got closed for agendas I won't get into, that narrows down folks of my homeland to only 3 left: NYC, D.C., Houston. Obviously, it is much easier to get to Houston from Austin, not from Denver, thus I jumped at the chance to set up an appointment. The folks in Houston branch couldn't be more friendly, polite, helpful, on time, and overall providing a great experience (despite still, 25 years later, living under the impression our home-grown bureaucracy is mean, long and almost dangerous to engage in). I was in and out of the office in 10 min, and that included taking photo on-site and asking unrelated questions (all of which were answered, and they almost wanted to start that process for me as well). Very impressive.

I want to end these two posts/updates with some diving into sorting through The Stuff. As the move approaches, and the move to a rather pretty much smaller house in the future than one small we already have, we have to make decisions to part with some things. Technically speaking, I was a minimalist and de-clutterer before the movement even started or had a name tag on it. For me (and my sister) it is almost like a disease of sorts, getting rid of things we own, and that's despite the fact that we both don't like buying things to begin with. Moving what seems like thousand times in my life (only in US I had changed a physical address 13 times) helps pairing down with possessions, always identifying what to leave behind. The whole KonMari Method "keep what sparks joy" I got down by the age of 12. Yet I have to admit, even though I consistently go through my belongings (and from time to time pressure those I live with to do at least a bit of the same), stuff slips in through the cracks. This last house we're in, by the time we are done, will be the longest one place I will have ever lived in. Also living at this stage of our lives (a.k.a. much more financially stable than, say, at the age of 20 or 30) and being married to a pretty normal American dude (who is wonderful in a gazillion ways, yet is normal in respect of people deserve to have things they "want", not only "need") means accumulating, you guessed it, stuff. Great, useful, serving us well at various points of time, but stuff, nevertheless.

So, armed with a couple of exerts of Marie Kondo's book, I began my quest of unloading, slowly, in steps. I am bewildered at what I allowed myself to possess. I am easy to let them go, those are just things, yet it certainly reminds me of the fact that complacency and staying put has its own side-effects. Let it be lesson for the home we intend to live "forever" to the end. Because, you know, there is more to life than consumption of stuff...