Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's been real

Dear 2008,
We need to try to make some kind of peace. Otherwise we'll be at permanent odds and that won't help 2009 any. So, instead of New Year's resolutions, I need a resolution with the old year. So, here it goes...You have been quite a year to remember. And, yes, I say it with some bitterness and sarcasm. Financial markets fell, fortunes got erased, jobs were lost, betrayals appeared in vogue, friends divorced, relationships suffered from impasse, funerals became too frequent ... Bad things happened to good people.

I also say it with a good doze of gratitude and humility. A bit contradictory? Please, allow me to explain:
  • I am angry, heartbroken, and sad that my grandmother died this year. I feel that we could have spent much more time together. But I am grateful for the years we've been each other's soul mates and that I helped her take her last shower.
  • I am anxious about the time when I'll have to say good bye to my grandfather as well. Yet I am liberated from that fear by seeing him gobbling up life by fistfuls.
  • I am sad and guilt-stricken that my parents are far away, that my mom is ill and that she doesn’t know how lucky she really is. But I am aware that it’s a gift to have parents at all, and that Seattle is still closer than the heavens.
  • I am disappointed with myself for allowing others to dictate my view of the world, for letting myself forget my own set of values. But I feel lucky that I crawled my way out of the emotional and spiritual ditch.
  • I am still shocked by all the news of the “stable” and powerful financial giants crippled or dead. Yet I feel grateful knowing that my gut has some brains and I should always listen to it. Plus, I am wiser today than I was a year ago. I know for sure that everything unimaginable IS still possible.
  • This year, still, I haven’t become the mother I want to be. I am still haunted by my “shadows” of someone I would rather not know. Yet, I am uplifted because I know that I am forgiven…unconditionally and always.
  • This year I attended a record number of funerals and I learned that I hate the smell of funeral homes. But despite it all, these experiences reminded me yet again to appreciate harder, to love better and live each day to the fullest.
  • I am still a bit breathless from the feeling cold metal of the mammography machine pressing against my breasts and the chilling thoughts of “what if”. But I am counting my blessings, thank God and breathe out.
  • I am still searching for wisdom and Light. But I am more at peace now because I am beginning to realize that the journey itself is the reward.
I remember, back in high school, one of my first friends was this American boy who wore torn jeans and a baseball cap backwards. We were both in the same summer history class, only for different reasons. I was there because I was a new immigrant who didn’t speak English, but there were no ESL classes in the summer and the school officials had to be put me somewhere. My friend was there because he failed history in the Spring semester and had to make it up, otherwise he wouldn’t see the 11th grade. We helped each other – he knew English, I knew history.

When we finally finished six grueling weeks of summer school, he extended his hand and said, “Good luck, Rina. It’s been real!” I said, “What? Real? I don’t understand." The boy smiled, “Yeah. It’s been real. You know, it means, ‘it has been pretty shitty, but it’s over, so no hard feelings’. Got it?” We shook hands and parted our ways. But I’ve never forgotten the phase.
So, Dear 2008, it’s been real. No hard feelings. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the lessons.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The great equalizer

Today, for the first time, I saw what a non-sectarian cemetery looks like. I can't stop thinking about it.

When we drove through the gates, my eyes kept searching for the mausoleums, angels made of marble and monuments of various size. But I found none of it, except for grass, trees, open and peaceful space all around.

I looked closer. There were small plaques on the ground with the names and dates. Some were carrying small religious symbols.

We all walked into a beautiful modern building at the center of the cemetery. Embarrassed by my ignorance, I asked "what's the process does it all work? (me and my constant need for the plan and the process...) The cemetery employee handed me a rose and said "you just say good bye and place a rose on the casket, if you want to. We'll take care of the rest..."

Now, sitting at home, I can't stop thinking about all of it. The wide rolling fields of green grass, tall trees and small plaques. No one stands out here. Everyone gets the same amount of space. It just seemed so peaceful, so right. Is that how God, the Higher Power, the Guiding Light intended it? Even though it was a non-denominational, non sectarian cemetery, I felt closer to God there than in many other places. I could hear a gentle whisper in the air, "You are all my children. I love all of you deeply and equally".

Non-sesectarian, non-discriminatory, a place where "they take care of everything", even the mysterious Her Highness Death - The Great Equalizer.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fathers and daughters

The resemblance was striking, yet the two figures standing in front of me on the subway platform seemed to have been made out of different material.

The man looked rugged, with large callus-covered hands. The kind of hands that are not afraid of anything and no job to them is dirty. Both hands were busy – one holding a large pink travel bag and the other “Dora the Explorer”-themed lunch box. The man himself was a sort of mix between Manny, from the Handy Manny show, and Shrek, from the popular children’s animation (since the birth of my son, I’ve resigned to the fact that characters from the cartoon network have become my primary points of reference).

His whole large square figure was completely transfixed on a little, delicate, white and pink, thin (my Russian heritage, where detection of bones on a child meant the kid was malnourished and his parents simply didn’t care, is demanding that I say ‘bony’) creature standing next to him.

If I were to dissect each one of her features, a resemblance to Manny the Shrek (her father) would be undeniable. Yet, Mother Nature arranged it all in such a lovely sweet package, it was hard not to smile looking at the girl. With her pink ballerina slippers over her right shoulder, tied together by the long shoe laces, she was explaining some dance routine to her father. While delicate toes were moving in a wonderful coordination, worthy of any great subway performance, I could’t stop observing her father's reaction.

As the girl demanded that he would repeat the dance steps, he tried to imitate her with all his being, seemingly forgetting that he was surrounded by other subway riders. He was so consumed by the pink wonder that was his daughter, he was looking at her with the intensity that I can only compare to watching a thread going through the needle’s ear.

He tried earnestly to follow every step the girl was describing, sighing with relief every time she gave him her approval. On his face I could simply read, “my sweet little girl, what a smart little cookie you are growing up to be.”

I recently read that true gifts of love are not flowers and chocolate (contrary to the Valentines and Mother’s Day advertisements). The true gift of love is undivided attention.

If I had to sum it up in one word what I was observing that day, I’d say it was pride. No, I lie. I am not eloquent enough to be able to come up with one word that could adequately describe the love a father feels for his child. It was pride, joy, awe, spirit, hope, worry, appreciation, dedication, responsibility, generosity, respect……….… Wiping the sweat from his forehead, he was smiling. He was clearly engaged in a participatory listening (a sure symptom of true love). Wow! That’s the kind of love this little ballerina was soaking in. In her father's eyes I saw the warm rays of adoration that nourishes the child’s spirit.

There is a Russian saying that roughly translates into “whatever is hurting one, that’s what one talks about.” I wonder, is that why I am compelled to write and to idolize a father and daughter that I saw in passing on a subway (honestly, what do I know about these people?)

Maybe the answer is in the fact that it took my father nearly 30 years to find the generator that makes an abundance of love rays. I am grateful for that – I get to bask in their glory as long as we both shall live. But somewhere deep within will always live a little nugget of envy – why wasn’t it always that way? Why wasn’t my father showering me with his love since the beginning of time, my time? Why? Why? (Don’t I sound like a three-year-old?)

Whatever the answer, there is a soft spot in my soul. The soft spot for little girls in pink who remind me of me, and their Shrek-looking fathers, who remind me of the father I’ve always wanted.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Yesterday I was standing on a back porch of my new house. my son was taking a nap, so I knew I had a few uninterrupted moments alone.I was holding the wooden railing (or perhaps it was holding me?) and looked all around thinking "I am now a landlord. I own this piece of earth...
Landlord - speaking literally, I am the lord of this land." That sounded so funny I laughed out loud.I looked up at the sky. A plane was gliding through massive blueness of the sky. Clouds hugged it in their fluffy shawls. The untouched snow on the ground glistened under the sun. Two black crows hopped around making three-pronged footsteps. I saw the neighbors fixing an old Buick. The cold winter air was like a decongestant medicine for the soul.
In the movie "Birdcage" there is a beautiful scene with the two main characters played by Robin Williams and Nathan Lane - a gay couple, deciding the rest of their lives. Williams' character offers the other to co-sign a contract for a night club they founded. "Sign here" says Williams "and give me half of it". "Who owns it now?" exclaims Lane's character in bewilderment. "You do" says Williams. "You own half of my life or I own half of yours. What difference does it make?"
World lord. Yes. This is who I am. I own this land, the sky, the plane, the cold air. I own this world. My world...and it owns me. We are partners. We have a contract and it’s cosigned.
Landlord, World lord...a humbled human, a crow....What difference does it make?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Alexander Rosenbaum - "On the plantations of love" (translated from Russian by Rina)

Again my night is dark and my day is white
Whose fault it is that you are the only one in my life?
Even yesterday, I was different...
I miss you so much, my love.

Even yesterday, I couldn't say these words,
Even though your eyes were adoring me with warmth.
Now I became your slave.
And I am not asking to be freed.

On the plantations of love, there are no locks or keys.
I am not going to run away, don't try to catch me. Why?
When you are far, I can't move my hands and I can't find a rhyme.
I tried to sing, but my voice was breaking and the melody was escaping me.

I feel good when the fire is burning in my soul.
When I feel that I am necessary to protect you from the enemies
If you command me, in that moment,
I am going to catch an arrow in flight, for you, my love.

Like a stretched string, my soul is ringing and screaming!
Forgive me for what's to come - I live in a hurry.
I was born out of love, I came to this world to find you in a crowd,
And to take you by the hand, forgetting that it's not allowed, and to sing you these words.

The first ray of sunshine, the light from a lamp, cold tea...
My eyes hurt from the cigarettes, my head is pulsating
There is a cat on a roof with a tale up to the sky.
The cat and I miss you, my love!

On the plantations of love, there are no locks or keys
I am not going to run away, don't try to catch me - why?
When you are far, I can't move my hands and I can find a rhyme
I tried to sing, but my voice was breaking and the melody was escaping me.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Life is good

Today someone reminded me that life is good. Thank you! I needed to hear it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Today is a new day!

I finally got a blog!! Yeah!