Sunday, December 8, 2019

It's been five years since my grandmother's death

Today, December 8, is the 5th anniversary of my grandmother's death. I spent it alone, hiking in the local reservoir, reminiscing and remembering the woman I loved very much.

My grandmother was a difficult, complicated person, a force of nature. To me, she was formidable and solid, an authority that you never questioned. She didn't knit, tell bedtime stories, or waited for us to come home from school, but she made the best ever cranberry-infused vodka and chocolate cake.

You would never dare to call her "granny", "grandma" or "nana". She was GRANDMOTHER, and that was all.

Her life was not easy; she was born in the 20s, lived through World War II. On one of my last visits after her death, my mom and I read the diary that Grandmother kept during that time. It was haunting. One of the most powerful entries read "The Germans are bombing us; I have to get home somehow because I want to die with my mother". She was 18 at the time.  I often think of that line and how it must have shaped her.

One of her friends brought her a rhino's hide from Africa, and she custom-ordered a coat: it was thick, unbendable and showed no signs of wear and tear for decades. If I close my eyes, I can still picture her coming home from work: purse, grocery bag, grey knitted beret and that leather coat.

She loved being the medical examiner. When I was a teen, she would spend hours sitting at the kitchen table with my girlfriends, telling us stories about her conquests, professional and personal.

She had a complicated relationship with my mother, her only child, but she loved me. She loved my brother too, but our bond was special. I miss her optimism and her guidance sometimes, and wonder what would she think about me now: would she be proud? Disappointed? Happy for me?

Her last years were marred by a battle with dementia and I couldn't be there for her. I chickened out, removed myself because it was too painful to watch the independent, sharp person turn into an angry, confused shell of her former self. I wish I was kinder, I wish I visited more, I wish I spent time with her and gave her an opportunity to see her great-granddaughters.

The day before her death from heart failure, my brother dropped her off at the hospital because she had some heart palpitations. She passed away in her sleep sometime during the night, and the nurses discovered she was gone during the early rounds.

Her last words to my brother before he left were "make sure you bring me my makeup bag in the morning".

Friday, January 25, 2019

Circling back and lurching forward: The dreaded D-word

This blog quickly became a neglected, cobwebby forgotten corner of my life. Events happening in real time took precedence. My marriage ended, rather abruptly and at the same time not surprisingly at all. The last couple of years for me were just postponing the inevitable. Waiting for the right moment, the right catalyst to begin the chain reaction of conversations, separation and divorce. I lost the essence of ME. I felt torn to tiny, bleeding pieces of Lida that were flying into so many different directions and I had to, for my own survival, to put myself back together.

The low point was reading the "Bell Jar" and contemplating if I can pull a Sylvia Platt. My bed became a pit of sleepless nights, my days filled with feeling caged. I raged, I drank, I cried. I spoke the unspeakable D-word. I got a motorcycle. I dumped the motorcycle. I ran a Spartan race. I got another tattoo.Then something else happened and the shit storm hit...

Divorce is fucking hard. I did everything wrong: timing, preparation, choosing a divorce attorney, dealing with my children's emotions, dealing with my own emotions. I lost weight and friends. I cried so hard I thought I would go insane.

Here's my post-divorce regret and fuckup list:

First, my divorce attorney sucked ass. She talked up a big game, but in reality she was the most scatter brained, overwhelmed and unorganized person I've ever met. Nothing happened on time, nothing happened the way she told me. What should have taken 6 months took a year. One very expensive, very emotional year. My advice to any boys and gals there: be very strategic with attorney selection. If you hear something that's too good to be true and gets your lizard brain alarmed, trust your instincts and walk away from the beginning. It's fucking difficult to change attorneys mid-way, so do it right the first time. I am still not done, by the way - certain financial arrangements are being done at a snail's pace and I've just about had it. Ugh.

Second, I gave up too easy. I didn't want to deal with dirt and emotions, I just wanted out. I also felt guilty as shit. So I got my wish: I moved out of the home I cared for 14 years into a two-bedroom apartment and left most of the furniture to the ex. Another expensive proposition. DON'T MOVE OUT. Divorce is very much a staring contest. When it came to the house, I blinked first. When it came to the division of assets, he was sneaky and cheap, and I didn't want to spend the money to get what was rightfully mine. Big mistake.

Third, custody. My ex is a spiteful and vengeful person. He saw me as his property and viewed our kids the same way. Right from the beginning, a man who barely spent quality time with the zaiki all of a sudden developed unquenchable love for them. He couldn't bare me to "take away HIS children". Not that I ever would. And, since New Jersey is a state that doesn't fucking discriminate, he got 50% custody. This move had a lot to do with the fact that he doesn't have to pay child support. A man always had hard time parting with money.

I HATE being a part-time parent. I have always been there: day in, day out, sick, healthy, happy, sad. Now, when the girls need me most, I see them half the time. There is no advice here: the setup really depends on each state so everyone has to work with what they have. It was painful to see what this 50/50 shit did to my children. I felt the blame, the rage, the fear. We are still dealing with it, but it is infinitely better than it was. Time heals and children are resilient if they feel loved and guided, and that's what I'm trying to do now.

 I do believe in letting the fate happen and watch my life unfold. We'll see where this path takes me.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

When friendships end

So I was washing dishes tonight after another zaiki-filled day, and, as I often do, I started to think back to my carefree student days. I had many friends. In fact, there was a huge group of us who went to college together, had fun together, fell in and out of love together. I thought that this bond of youth, happiness is time-proof. So when did it end? Was it abruptly or overtime? Did it happen consciously or without us even realizing it?  People change, ties become weak and they prioritize their time and emotional investment accordingly. As someone who studies psychology of interaction, these processes are fascinating!
I distinctly remember several instances from my own experience when I just knew that this tie can be safely cut or left superficially tangling on social media. One was back during my first visit to the Motherland, when I was completely taken advantage of and this memory still makes me feel uncomfortable as it changed my impression of certain people forever; another one was when a person was in NYC and never made an effort to see me, despite having my number and knowing how close I live. I pondered the reason and then realized that we had nothing to say to each other anyway- they live across the globe and I can't offer any glamour their NYC hosts could: my world revolves around zaiki and research. I guess friendships end when you no longer have the need for something the person has to offer. I always thought friendship is selfless and now I see that it is the opposite. Age gives you perspective and I wish I had it at 18 or 20, but I think I was meant to travel the road I did to get where I am: feeding dinner to happy kids who drive me nuts. :)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"Strange Magic" review from a "Star Wars" fan

I really liked animated flick "Epic" that came out in 2013. The world of woodland fairyland appeals to me ever since I read "Thumberlina". "Epic" dealt with evil "rot" king, cute slugs and snails, unexpected love - zaiki and I watched it a number of times. So when I found out that George Lucas is releasing another fairy-themed animated adventure titled "Strange Magic", I was all about it. We made it a family affair and went to see it last night. Well...Let me just say that my time would have been better spent doing burpees, or cleaning the house, or chewing on broken glass, or shoving needles under my nails. The movie was awful. Not just cutesy-kid-movie-bad, but outright awful. It had no real plotline, instead revolving around pop and rock songs of the past few decades. Bad karaoke and bad animation. The combination raped my senses.

One of the reviews I read on it (after the fact, unfortunately) states that "the movie uses a mix of classic and contemporary pop and rock songs to further the plot". It is the worst animated movie I have seen in a while (and I LIVE in the world of cartoons at this point in my life). The only way to describe it is that George Lucas got too full of himself one night, sat down with a bunch of minions and ordered them to record his stream of consciousness while he listened to bad pop songs for two hours. I can picture him yelling "And there must be a possum-looking thing there!!! With no obvious ties to the plot! Just because I like it and I AM GEORGE LUCAS!!!!And mushrooms, lots of talking mushrooms!!"

The idea behind the feature was to empower the girls by having the girl-protagonist who kicks butt. It fell flat on its face with a thud. The main fairy was whiny and unconvincing as a warrior-princess. In the end, she picks an ugly bog king instead of pretty blond dude, and I guess that is supposed to be THE twist? Come on, Disney had done it in Beauty and the Beast many nano-years ago. Oh, and don't even get me started on the elves. 

Bottom line: Don't waste your time. Awful.

And, by the way, on the subject of George Lucas as a director: HAN SHOT FIRST.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Learning about grief

The end of 2014 has not been very kind to our little family. My grandmother, the unstoppable force she was, passed away December 8. Husband's uncle, his mom's baby brother, suddenly died from a heart attack December 9.
My babushka's heart just stopped. She died peacefully in her sleep at the ICU unit. She did not suffer, good merciful Lord took a pity on her. She had struggled with dementia and was not herself for the past seven years. Her passing was not a surprise, and she is finally at peace. And though I understand all that, I am grieving. It comes in waves and without notice. I am grieving the finality of death, its irreversible nature. I'm mourning that I am no longer the grandchild. I am mourning the loss of someone who was a force of nature and a formidable presence in my life. I was not able to go to her funeral and I can't be there to organize and sort her belongings. This feels final yet somehow incomplete. Being with the loved one is important for closure. My husband gets a chance to mourn his uncle with his family and I envy him. All I have at this point are the memories, and they are shitty company...

Friday, August 1, 2014

[Corporate] Culture Shock

There have been some changes in our little lives: I got a new job. This was a long time coming, but my natural cautiousness prevented me from taking a leap from hated, yet familiar surroundings of Dread Incorporated into the big unknown. I’ve gone on tons of interviews, some good, some bad, but nothing felt right. There were many factors to consider and no offer was worth it. It had gotten pretty bad at Dread Incorporated, though. Scheming, pantyhose-wearing, hair flipping, shrill-voiced management. Supervisors who smile in your face while collecting your mistakes to be used against you during your review a year later, but who don’t give an ass about anyone else’s work success but their own. No regular, flowing work – sporadic projects that ended up mostly in the garbage bin. Ugh.

So when I got a phone call with a job offer 20 min after I left the interview, it was a huge confidence
boost. I took the position and haven’t looked back. Adjusting to a functioning, normal work environment took some time: working with people mostly my age who are funny and interesting. Casual Fridays, relaxed yet productive work environment. Steady work flow that makes the days fly by. Ability to say “You know, I need to work from home tomorrow” and not get it tallied against you. Management that actually communicates with you regarding your performance on a regular basis. All these things have come as a huge culture shock. It’s been a steep learning curve.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

the Bunnygate

Husband and I decided to take the zaiki to see the Easter Bunny this year. The one at the local mall did not look particularly mangy - so the date was set. Much talk happened on Maya's part regarding the bunny's superpowers: how can he bring gifts to all the kids at once? Dreamy-eyed, she pondered questions like where does he keep the eggs? Where does he leave the presents?

Then, in response to my question about what presents will they ask for, Sonya blurted out: "I don't want to go - what's the point? It's not real - it's just a guy in a suit". This was more than Maya could handle. Her face became all eyes, lips quivered in the unmistakable pre-sob sadness every parent of a little child knows oh so well:

We quickly changed the topic, but the innocence was gone. Bunnygate had happened. Life will never be the same again.

On the day of the photoshoot, dresses were ironed, braids were made, special "grown up" tights were worn. Sonya received a stern warning not to ruin her sister's fairytale. Here's the final product, one for the picture wall:

 Full disclosure - I pictured the Bunny plumper and less mangy...Bad hungry winter perhaps?