Saturday, January 31, 2015





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Moscow was mine from infant-hood until we left Russia, yet I saw it differently at  different times in my life. Out of all the cities where I've been, I loved and adored Moscow the most. Moscow, the Golden  Capped, as they call it in Russia, the cradle and the neglectful mother to many of her children. So much pride and pain, - and shame - and beauty - all contained in her walls. The culture and the heart of the country, for the longest time subverted by falsehood.

We lived well. My parents had good salaries, our apartment was roomy and comfortable Like most Moscovites, we had to go to a few stores to be able to buy the groceries we needed, and everyone always carried with them  a couple of 'avos'kas", the net-totes whose name translates as  'just in case' - really, just in case, if one saw a line for something, sold on the streets. The shelves in our flat, though, contained books from all over the world that taught us to look for more in life then just the physical well-being. We were lucky: although the Soviet regime did not tolerate any dissension, the terror of Stalin's time was the thing of the past. We were watched, our phones were tapped and the neighbors informed the KGB about any unorthodox activities, but there  was already some room to breathe, to have an open mind for knowledge and spirituality, which filtered to us through all the bans and restrictions. 
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I lived in a borough next to the Agricultural Academy. The woods and a lake were just five minutes' walk from my house. In the summer, hundreds of people spent their weekends there, walking and swimming (and drinking). In the autumn, the leaves of the birch grove on the edge of the woods turned orange, pink, yellow and red. They gave off the heady aroma of desire and nostalgia, that seemed to permeate our very skin. In the winter, the lake froze and it and the woods became a wonderful place for skiing. Some heroic characters broke the ice and jumped into the polar temperature water, to emerge red and steaming, like cooked lobsters. Whether I ever put it into words or not, being in those woods at any time of the year brought me immeasurable joy.

The center of the city was about thirty minutes away from where I lived. The past: the beauty and the heart of the country were looking and breathing from the walls of the old buildings and the pavements of the streets. My friends and I could always find some program in one of the many theaters or in the Moscow University, to inspire our thirsty imagination.

The night, when we left Russia, Moscow was cold and inhospitable. Sleet from above and wet, brownish snow on the ground emphasized that same feeling: despite everything that our parents and people gave Russia, despite our love for her, that land didn't want us.

Thirty years later, I still have dreams about Moscow's streets. They call and repel me at the same time, because my memories are always tinged with the sorrow and confusion I experienced there.

The next time I saw Moscow, it was the time of the "Perestroika". I came there as a part of a spiritual movement. We invited the Soviet teachers and students to the seminars in the Baltic states, and the response was overwhelming. Even though I was from Russia, I was surprised by the beauty of the people, who came. During the seminars, the Baltics separated from the Soviet Union, but the conservative elements in Moscow tried to overthrow the government.


They lost; we heard the name of Yeltsin as a new up and coming leader.

After the seminars I came to Moscow and found my old friends. Nothing was the same, of course: neither the friends nor the streets of the Russian capital. They seemed shabbier; there were peddlers selling everything, from raw chickens to electronics in the very heart of the city. But mixed with a heavy dose of skepticism, I could feel hope in people and the desire for a change.


Russia changed so much since my time there, it could be Jupiter, for all that I know about the situation in that country. I hear, it didn't change enough, though!

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Sunday, January 18, 2015


     Last night I prepared to tell you about our anniversary celebration and just couldn't find the strength. I was so elated the whole of yesterday and a little bit shocked by how things really turned out to be.
     First of all, I made an appointment to dye my hair. Roberta came with me to do her customary "shampoo and set", and Mary also showed up at a salon, where we were. She had a haircut and asked for the make up to be applied to her face.
     We were at a Beauty Salon and Spa in San Leandro, where I had my facial a few months ago. It was very busy. People were getting their hair done, the manicure and pedicure stations were also bustling with non-stop activity. 
     Mary was done first. She said good bye and: "see you at a party" - and left. I asked Sonny to pick up Roberta, since it still would be a few more hours until I was finished. 

     The lady-beautician did all kinds of stuff to my hair.

While waiting for "the paint to dry", so to speak, I decided to do a pedicure. One of my arms refuses to extend to it's fullest length, so it became impossible for me to cut my toe nails by myself. 

For the first time in their life my toe nails got pampered and painted. I was then given these disposable little yellow slippers to prevent smudging the polish.

It took a long, long time. I brought a thick book with me and wasn't too much in a hurry.
     At least three different people took care of me. They were all from Laos, I think, and very gentle. At a final "unveiling" it turned out that, my hair was bright ginger hue! It was quite a shock after looking in the mirror at my gray head for the last few years, but I told myself, I just wasn't used to something different. 
     All together, my hair was washed 6 times during that day, as well as undergoing all kinds of other treatments. No wonder, it was dry and stiff! The beautician curled and teased it this way and that. 

jpeg (200×200)I always avoided the style she tried on me, but, considering the state of my hair, there wasn't much she could do to make it look natural. I must say, the little beauticians were very smart, complimenting me on a wondrous dye job that I now had and making me feel very good about myself! 
     When I showed up at home, looking like a girl from the Wendy's logo, Sonny almost fell over from laughter. I gingerly opened the door to the bedroom, where Taka worked, and he, who, usually, notices a new hair color in about two weeks' time, jumped back in surprise. I didn't expect any kind words from him, and I didn't get any.  
     I put on a simple black dress and a necklace. Roberta lent me one of her pashminas (a long, wide scarf). I put some light make up on too.
     I, kind of, liked, how I looked. Granted, it was very unusual for me, but, sometimes, a change can be a good thing, right?
Remember, how I went to the anniversary dinner because Mary told me, she wouldn't otherwise have anyone with whom to hang out? Time and time again I fall for this thing! By the time we got to the restaurant (and not late at all), she was already seated at one of the long tables there. There was no place for us to sit near her, and we went to a different table. She just kept a steady eye on her plate and didn't move a muscle to join us. 
Mary. I don't know, what happened to
her new hair style and make up.

Do you see me at the end of this table on the left? I am smiling. 
We sat opposite to my other acquaintance from the church, Victoria, and her Japanese husband, Hoshin. 

Last year, at the same kind of an occasion, the people at my table spent all their time staring at their very smart iPhones. Well, this year I was prepared! I cut out a cardboard rectangle, wrote "mY dUmb pHone" on it's back and, as soon as Hoshin started fooling with his own device, I
whipped out my fake one! Some people, including Hoshin, noticed and laughed. He then suddenly opened a page on his phone with my blog (the House on the rock, the husband and the monkey" one) and showed it to me. I quickly began to shush him: I didn't want to spoil Taka's mood). 
     People kept complimenting me on my new hair color. Although I kept telling them, it was not the hue that I wanted, I began to relax and feel good about myself. That was until I went to bathroom and looked in the mirror. Somehow, my hair, stiff from hairspray and back combing, managed to curl up the wrong way on one side of my head, making me look like a dummy.  

Friday, January 16, 2015


     Hello, hello, hello! 
     Missed me? I missed you! Just didn't have anything to report...
     Or did I? 
     On the twelfth was our wedding anniversary. I wrote about the background for that. Now, I didn't write, what happened on the twelfth.
     Taka avoids bringing me gifts, like death itself. For the first ten years or so I pouted and nagged him about it, but then - gave up. Once he came home with flowers on the Valentine's Day (almost made me swoon from surprise). Then I found out, the company, where he worked, gave these flowers to the employees, and he didn't even have a good sense to present them to me from his heart. 
But - no means no, - no? I mean, you can bring the horse to water...Horse_Refusing_to_Learn.jpg (240×207)
     I decided, on the basis of my new emotional strength, to make a small celebration myself, to let Taka know, I appreciate being married to him and all his efforts for the family. On Monday, the twelfth, I got Sonny to go buy a cake and some Martinelli cider. I made dinner and we awaited Taka "with bated breath".
jpeg (294×171)     When he came in the door, I called out to him: "Happy Anniversary!". He mumbled: "Whah? Is it today?" - and kept on shuffling to his office. 
     "S-o-n-n-y, get the cups for the Martinelli! Plates, utensils, cake!!!"
     Everything was on the table by the time Taka walked up to it. We heard more mumbling: "Your mother likes to do strange things..." He left again. Fighting apprehension, I doled out cake for Roberta and Sonny. 
     He came back in a while. Silently made himself a cup of coffee, without looking me in the eyes sat at the table. I announced a toast in celebration of the twenty sixth year of our marriage. Taka hardly deigned to lift his cup. 
     To say, I was utterly crushed and humiliated, is not enough. I felt threatened. Taka showed me - in front of our son and Roberta - that he didn't consider that date worthy of celebration. In contrast to my trying to convey appreciation for his presence in my life, he exuded derision. Is he preparing for a separation?!
     I knew, I should talk, confront him, but didn't have the guts. 
     Today, when I told Mr. P. about it, he tutored me on how to approach the conversation with Taka. 
     - "You have a terrible habit of just gathering knowledge in your head, but never acting on it." - he said. He is right. 
     I was reminded of Jesus' words in the Gospel from Matthew, 7:24-27:
     Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
     I learned so much in this year of Mr. P.'s counseling, but, foolish woman that I am, I squandered my chance at making another step towards normalizing the relationship with Taka. Its so much more restful to co-exist in the family, like we are a boss and an employee, than to risk it all for a confrontation. 
     Mr. P. kept reminding me that, Taka also is a smart, sensitive man. Its irrelevant, how he'll respond to my words: the tuning fork of his conscience will catch their meaning and, despite what he'll show outwardly, he'll hear me. 
     Today,as Taka was finishing his dinner, I sat down opposite of him and said: I need your help with something..."
     I reminded him of my attempt to celebrate our anniversary. I said, I might've misjudged him, - "and, if so, please forgive me". I asked, why he was so cold, leaving me feeling scared and humiliated. 
     jpeg (267×189)Taka gave me some BS about being too full to enjoy cake, etc. I went on to say that, "if its possible, please, next time be more appreciative and sensitive." 
jpeg (212×238)     He made do, like a monkey playing cymbals. 

     I knew, this time I did what I had to do, and so I left him to digest my dinner and the words. 

      Praise be to God, He is great!