24 Like Never Before Part 2

As we enter 88 mph, I roll down my window and let the breeze touch my skin. I blast sad music and let it touch my soul. As we approached night-time, I would crack my window about a quarter of the way open and allow my eyes to gently close, drifting on and off to sleep. Absolutely magnificent.

I have never been to Texas before, so I was looking forward to seeing what Texas had to offer. I must admit, Southwest Texas is where most of the magic is. My mother and I went to a small town in Texas called Marfa… a hidden gem for sure. Marfa is on the border of Mexico and it is an artist colony with exquisite scenery. The town is surrounded by desert sand, concrete grounds, unique architecture — stained glass, and small gas stations. To me, it looked as if I were in the movie “Cars.” During the time we were there, we ended up staying at a very chic hotel called “Paisano,” which happens to have a lot of history behind it. In 1955, the movie Gaint was filmed here, staring Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. When I found this out, I had an entirely new appreciation for where I was resting my pretty little head that night. My mom and I went to a bar called ‘Planet Marfa.’ This particular bar was located between a bunch of trees, overlooking the desert that went on for hundreds of miles. As we walked up to the bar, a nice gentleman approached me and asked me what my favorite drink was. I giggled and told him, “Mike’s Hard Lemonade.” Not quite fully understanding the reason behind why he had asked me, he kindly bought me a Mikes Hard Lemonade. I don’t think he will ever understand how appreciative I was of that. I thanked him and we went our separate ways. I climbed a spiral staircase to a wooden platform, which fortunately for my mother and I, only fit two people. I met my mom at the top and we talked. We chatted about a lot of things. We talked about life and who we wanted to be remembered as after we passed. We drank our beverages and watched the beautiful sun as it set across the desert sky. What an unforgettable night!

The sound of birds chirping woke me up the next morning. The bright sun beamed through the curtains and I opened my eyes as a small grin developed across my face.  “This can’t be real,” I silently told myself. With my mom lying beside me, I felt protected, happy and at peace. That morning, we drank coffee and had a delicious breakfast, a pastry from a local farmers market to be exact.

A few hours later, we hopped into the car and headed west towards our next destination, Sedona Arizona. Now, before I progress, I’d like to inform you that if you want to view scenery that will make you cry, do yourself a favor and go to Sedona. Sedona is known for its red rocks. These red rocks will take your breath away, quite literally.

Mom and I decided that we didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time at Sedona because we still wanted to go to the Grand Canyon that same day. We decided to go on a 5-mile hike through the red rocks of Sedona and then leave to head north to the Canyons. Sedona was beyond spectacular. In fact, it was so spectacular that I would fall walking upwards… towards the mountain. I was clearly not paying attention. As we approached the top of the cliff, an array of red rocks came into sight. I took a deep breath and blew it out with a sigh of relief and overwhelming joy. I didn’t say a word. I was letting my emotional instinct take over. Wow is all I have to say. After our hike in Sedona, we ate some delicious ice cream for lunch, I held a snake and then we headed to the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is a place that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. It’s definitely worth seeing. In my personal opinion, it’s known for it’s kindred spirit — (if ya know what I mean). Ha. The beautiful thing about the Grand Canyon is that each rock formation has its own unique structure. Depending on the where the sun hits the rock, could make or break the beauty. It’s hard to describe, but it goes hand in hand with lighting that makes your skin look either beautiful or downright awful (boring). Because the Grand Canyon is a major tourist attraction, it’s hard to go without seeing several people there. If I were to be there alone, with my mom and no one else in sight, it would have been a different experience, more intimate and heart felt. Unfortunately,  that wasn’t the case. The chances of that happening were and will probably always be slim to none. It’s okay though. It was still spectacular. I’m happy for my mom that she got to experience the Grand Canyon, as it has been on her bucket list for a long time now.

The next day, I woke up exhausted and a little bit anxious. This was the day we would drive from the Grand Canyon to LA. The night before, we had stayed at a very cheap and sketchy motel in the middle of nowhere. This is partially the reason I didn’t get much sleep that night. We woke up at 7:00am to hit the road early.  I mostly drove the entire way from the Grand Canyon to LA – except for the last 50 or miles or so. My mom drove us into LA. As we entered LA, I was full of anxiety because I realized how bad the traffic was. I asked myself, “Will I be able to do this?” My mom reassured me that I would be just fine. She smacked some sense into me and told me to relax. As we pulled up, there was my brother Alex waving to me and welcoming me to my new city, the city of angels.

 

 

 

 

24 Like Never Before, Part 1

I’ve realized that 24 has been quite a year for me (so far). It’s not because “cool” things have happened to me, but because my thoughts, dreams and perspectives have changed a lot in the past 6 months. Driving across the country is something I had anticipated doing when I was 40 or 50, but definitely not at the ripe old age of 24.

One day, I dreamt of driving across the country and exploring the golden lands. Little did I know this dream would shortly become a reality. But, it wasn’t all cake and pie.

I fought with myself day-in and day-out about what I wanted, versus what my family and friends wanted for me. The decisions that I’ve made over the past 4-6 months have been a journey of heart ache, triumph, battles between the heart and the mind and realizing that I really do only have one life to live. Boom! There, it hit me. “I need to do this for me,” I told myself. I have to stop listening to other people’s opinions regarding what I “should” or “shouldn’t” do and start living my own dream. Metaphorically speaking, I have to keep swimming in the ocean, no matter how many times the waves knock me down.

On June 7th 2017, I will be departing the East Coast to drive out to the West Coast with my mom.  This will be a wonderful opportunity to bond with her and see more of the world, which I don’t do enough of, especially considering how much I love to travel. We’re hoping to stop at these specific locations and do a little sightseeing along the way — Nashville TN, Austin TX, Sedona AZ, The Grand Canyon (south rim), and perhaps some other places as well. Yes, we’re taking the south route. We will be driving no more than 12 hours each day to give us time to recuperate. Mom and I have downloaded podcasts and other forms of entertainment on our cellular devices — (did I really just call my cell phone a “cellular device”)? Yes, I did. Okay then.

None of this has actually hit me yet, which is somewhat surprising considering I’ve been so excited for the past week. In other words, I haven’t experienced that “Wow, I’m actually doing this” moment. Nevertheless, I’m sure that moment will arrive June 7th – or let’s hope so at least.

I’m sure my love for travel will take care of the high expectations I have for this road trip and overall experience.

Let’s do this!

I’m Not Sorry

A wise family friend once told me to stop saying “sorry” all the time. That got me thinking about just what I’m apologizing for when I say this overused word.

I see people saying “sorry” every day, and it’s not just saying sorry when we bump into people by mistake or step on their feet. I see people using the word when they give their opinion about a topic and then feel they need to qualify that opinion with the word sorry.

We are taught from an early age to express our feelings and say what we’re thinking. As we grow into adults, passing through schools, sports leagues, and then into our business and professional life, apologizing for our opinions and thoughts reflects how cautious we’ve become in navigating personal and professional relationships. How many times have you found yourself starting a sentence with “I’m sorry?” To a guest at my hotel, “I’m sorry, but is there a problem with your room?” To my boss, “I’m sorry, should I have handled that differently?” You could have just said, “Should I have handled the situation differently?”

Saying “I’m sorry” puts you on the defensive side. At work, saying it too often can actually lead your boss to make the assumption that you’re unsure of what it is you’re doing. If my boss asks why I did something a particular way, shouldn’t my response be to answer that question and not start with an apology? Don’t assume that just because your boss asks you a question, that what you did is automatically wrong. No!

I’ve also noticed that women will apologize when they become emotional in front of someone. In my experience, people who apologize for crying in front of me makes it seem like I can’t handle their emotions, and well, that bothers me to a certain extent. “I’m sorry I’m upset,” just isn’t necessary. We’re all human. Yes, we can say sorry when we bump into a stranger at the store, but when it comes down to doing our best at work, speaking our mind, especially when we’re asked to, or showing our emotions, let’s not say that word. It’s overused, and just a habit that we’ve created in our society.

I have the habit of saying sorry. That being said, ever since my family friend told me to stop saying sorry, I’ve been more aware of when I use the word and naturally don’t use it as frequently. That, my friend, is a beautiful thing.

Oh, and don’t get me started with “you know.” No, I don’t know, so tell me.

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   I ain’t sorry, honey! 

Leave Your Mark on The Ice

Writing about a professional ice skater is something I’ve never thought I’d do before, but then again, it’s easy to write about something that is so meaningful to me, not to mention absolutely beautiful.

I’ve watched many ice skaters on television and online, but nobody can compare to Yulia Lipnitskaya, a young Russian Olympian. The very first time I watched Yulia, I wondered aloud on how a 15-year-old could be so graceful and poised in her presentation. She is, by no means, the best ice skater in the world, but what captured my attention the most is the age at which she performs flawlessly and without much effort. Simply put, Yulia slides across the ice just like water runs down a water fall; silky smooth.

The Schindler’s List soundtrack is one of the most beautiful soundtracks I have ever heard, and then to put a sensational ice skater in the picture simply makes the whole package mesmerizing. In my opinion, Yulia is one of those rare phenomenons who can capture the attention of a large number of people in seconds. Her body moves fluidly with the music. In other words, during a high note, she will either jump or twirl. During a low note, she’d flair her arms gracefully or bend her body. I will never forget the feeling I had during the first note of her performance. She slowly pushed away with her hand, as if she were pushing away from an invisible wall. And as she did, I cracked a smile. After the third or fourth jump, she puts her hands together in a butterfly position as she skates backwards, and please, do notice the music at that time. I am surprised that a 15-year-old would consider performing to this song. It’s not everyday you see a beautiful and talented young lady skating to one of the most recognizable and emotional soundtracks there is. I’m pretty sure her coach had a slight edge on which song she performs to, but in the end, it’s still a spectacular performance.

Another admirable quality that Yulia has is her uniqueness. During the times where she’s not twisting, jumping or bending, she’s doing something with her body to keep the flow of the music going. Like the times where she delicately moves her arms out to the side, it appears to me as if she’s welcoming her audience in. She connects well with the music.

There is another video of her skating to “Je T’aime,” by Lara Fabian. During the last segment of that performance, Yulia slides into a split and moves across the ice with such ease. To explain it here would result in nothing. It’s something that must be witnessed. All in all, Yulia is an incredibly talented phenomenon who has the ability to move people with her presence.

When I watch something inspiring, I become emotionally attached. I have always been that way and I genuinely hope that never goes away.  I will let you see for yourself. Enjoy!

 

Sochi 2014

Seeing Clearly

If someone asked you to look a stranger directly in the eye for three solid minutes, do you think you could do it?

Well, yesterday, I did just that.

I have been taking a mindfulness meditation class and it has been nothing short of inspiring.  Gina, our meditation instructor, is a peaceful person who is passionate about her craft and wants to share it with the world. This class is partially designed to challenge an innate spirit that lies within all of us and to deepen the meaning of why we were brought into this world. During this class, we have done a number of activities to calm the mind and body such as walking meditation and Yoga Nidra. There have been several activities throughout this eight-week course that have resinated with me, but there is one activity in particular that really struck a chord and I would like to share it with you.

As our class sat in silence, waiting for the next activity to arise, Gina quietly whispered, “Grab a partner and face each other.” Without hesitation, we did as we were told. I chose a partner that I had never met before. We introduced ourselves. I don’t recall my partners name, but he seemed nice. “Now, look at each other in the eye and don’t look away until I tell you to. If you feel the urge to laugh, laugh. If you feel the need to cry, then let the tears come,” she said with a gentle voice. My immediate reaction was discomfort and embarrassment. Thinking he would take the lead, I looked at him, struggling to keep a straight face. I was pre-occupied with what his thoughts were and if he felt, at all, awkward. Nonetheless, I knew I needed to focus. Gradually, my urge to smile faded. All of a sudden, a strange emotion abruptly came over me. I felt happy and sad at the same time. As I gazed into his eyes, I saw a human being. I saw a generous man who may have endured a lot of challenges in his lifetime. In my mind’s eye, I thought of him as a wise and gentle person. If I were to pass him on the street, I probably would have not given him two looks. Boom! Three minutes were up. 

Gina softly rang her yoga bells to get back our attention. As we faced her, the tension in the air slowly drifted away. We could all breathe again. We went around the room and shared our experiences with each other. Surprisingly, I raised my hand to speak first. I said, “I realize how infrequently I look at someone and connect with that person. I’m often too distracted by my own thoughts to truly notice someone else.” I typically don’t like to share my experience first because I want to hear other insights before I share mine.  However, on that evening, I felt confident enough to share my experience first. I was eager. I felt alive, fueled by companionship.

So, how did this simple endeavour change me you ask?

After this experience, I have started to make small efforts to say good morning as I pass people on the street, or to say hi to someone when they sit next to me on the subway. I have found that this helps with my inner self-confidence and makes me an, overall, happier person. Also, saying hello could really turn someone else’s day around. Most importantly, I realized that taking the time to truly see someone can be a positive force for good. And, I have to say, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

maddie 5

“And if your mind wanders a thousand times, gently and kindly bring it back a thousand times.” – Gina

A World Away From Home

FAQs: 

Q: Do you think you will ever meet your birth parents?

     A: No.

Q: Do you think your birth parents might look like you?

    A: I want to believe so.

Q: Have you been back to Russia since your adoption?

    A: No.

Q: Do you want to go back to Russia?

    A: Yes.

These are some of the questions I typically get asked when I reveal to people that I was adopted. To be honest, I often forget that I was adopted. Well, I don’t actually “forget,” of course, but I don’t think about it as regularly as some adoptive children do. My parents never treated me any different than my brother. My adoptive parents, Susan and Ernie, are just as protective of me as they are my brother, who was not adopted. I have never, even for a fraction of a second, felt left out. Nor will I ever. My mom and dad raised me to the best of their ability and did one heck of a job. The beauty in my adoption is that I will always be able to say that I was adopted with a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye.

Meeting my birth parents was never a serious desire of mine. I choose the word serious because some adopted children constantly struggle with not knowing who their real parents are. They feel like they have been abandoned and left out of their ‘adoptive family.’ This colors their outlook on the world and can often lead to depression. They find themselves in inner turmoil wondering how and why their birth parents gave them up. I consider myself lucky because I do not feel this way. In fact, I feel extremely grateful and loved. I am a crucial part of my family and I understand that to the core of my being. Who knows where I would be if it weren’t for my adoption.

Although I can easily tolerate not knowing who my parents are, I am still inquisitive. As I grow older, I become increasingly curious about what my biological parents look like. Yes, I want to know about their physical features. I want to know how tall they are. I want to know if they have the same hair and eye color as me. I want to know if their personality is similar to mine or far removed. It may just be that the closest thing to knowing what my birth parents look like is comparing what I looked like when I was ten years old, to what I’ll look like when I’m fifty. It’s only in fleeting moments like this that I wonder what they look like and what kind of people they are. Now, this is the time in which I really begin to stretch my imagination. If I had to guess what my biological mother and father look like, this is what I would say: Mother: She’s 5’1 (I’m 5’3). She has light brown hair (I’m dirty blonde). She has hazel eyes (I have blue/green eyes). She is muscular (just like me). Father: He’s 5’7 and muscular. He has light blonde hair and brown eyes. See what I mean by stretching the imagination?

One troublesome matter that all adoptees have to come to terms with is not knowing about any health risks they may have inherited. When I go in for a physical and I have to fill out my parent’s health history, it’s then that I am reminded that I have no idea of my genetic makeup. Does heart disease run in my family? What about cancer or diabetes? I do my absolute best to eat as healthy as I can and exercise to ward off any inherited risks. That’s all we can ever really do, isn’t it? I have to be pro-active and set my mind straight. Worrying gets me nowhere and only increases whatever risks I may have.

The last question that I presented at the beginning of my post in the ‘FAQ section’ is one that I think about most frequently and that is – “Do you want to go back to Russia?” Yes, I do. When the time is right, I will go back. I’m curious about my “homeland” and what my reaction to it might be. Will I be happy? Will I be sad? Will I be frustrated? Who knows. But, I do know for sure that someday I will be able to answers these questions truthfully and with dignity. No matter what anyone says, I am certain that I am the luckiest girl to be able to live in a world where I am free – the beautiful and wonderful United States of America.

And a world away from home….I am not alone.

little maddie

 A wish was made that day.

Jackie Evancho

After four years of watching Jackie grow from the 10-year-old who captivated America, to the 15-year-old who continues to captivate America, I can’t help but wonder how she does it. After America’s Got Talent, Jackie’s career skyrocketed. She has performed for President and Mrs. Obama, for the Royal Japanese Family, and has sung with legends such as Barbra Streisand and Susan Boyle. Her golden voice has taken her all over the world. I’ve watched Jackie bloom in her career and she has done a remarkable job. It isn’t always easy being raised in the public eye at such a young age, but Jackie has definitely made it appear that way. With the support of her parents, she has managed to stay sane and is comfortable in her own skin, which is rare for someone her age. Now, a high school freshman, Jackie continues to pursue her dream of being a notable singer.

Like with any young successful person, some people are bound to be jealous. “Her voice is going to change when she’s older.”  “She’s going to become a diva.” “She is going to turn into Miley Cyrus.” As any other close follower would, I have questioned why anybody would want to put her down.

When I first heard Jackie sing, I instantly fell in love with her voice. Jackie has the ability to move people, multiple times her age, to tears. Because the depth of her emotion, she attracts adults more so than people her own age. Perhaps her choice of songs and her style are reasons why she appeals to adults. Here is an interesting concept that I am quite fascinated by.  I do not like opera. In fact, I’ve never liked opera. However, a lot of people mistake Jackie for an opera singer, but she is not. She is a classical crossover singer with an operatic voice.

Aside from the voice and her mature nature, Jackie has exceptional interviewing skills and a very broad vocabulary. Her parents have clearly taught her well. In an interview on NPR, Michelle Norris says to Jackie, “It is clear that you are in touch with what you’re singing.” Jackie’s response didn’t surprise me. “I’m kind of possessed by the music,” Jackie chuckles. I enjoy listening to Jackie’s interviews because she has something new and interesting to say each time. When I listen to her, sometimes I’ll pause and ask myself, “Wow, could I have formulated those words at her age?” If you think I envy Jackie, think again. I am a proud fan and I’m impressed with what she has done.

I’ve listened to Jackie in private for four years because I was criticized every time I mentioned her name. Neither my friends nor family wanted to share my enthusiasm. That being said, I no longer care what others think. So here I am, setting my own trend. I will never regret anything that puts a smile on my face. In fact, no one should. Jackie is a role model because she does what she loves and follows her heart. I will forever be grateful that I discovered her. If I could give Jackie advice, this is what I would say: Don’t give into peer pressure, be who you are and please, sail on silver girl. Maybe, just maybe, this is good advice for everyone.

Enjoy Jackie’s rendition of Ave Maria (Live)