The Adventures Continue

The great thing about Los Angeles is that it has its beaches, mountains and cities. I will never have an excuse as to why I am bored on my days.

I recently went on a hike to the Hollywood sign. Everything about the Hollywood sign experience was thrilling, except for the fact that I got extremely sunburnt on my shoulders. I happened to meet some lovely friends along the way. So, here is how that hike went.

I walked from the bottom of Griffith Park to the top, to the “Griffith Observatory.” I wanted to go the the Hollywood sign alone, but I was a little fearful to go all by myself. However, that didn’t stop me. I decided to go because that’s just the kind of girl I am. When I reached the top of the Griffith Observatory, I told myself that if I don’t do this now, I will highly regret it later. I know myself too well. I had made an executive decision to go by myself that day. I was going to go and nobody was going to stop me. When I reached the sign for the “Hollywood sign,” my nerves quickly built. The sign read, “Want to see the Hollywood sign? Be prepared. Bring plenty of water. The sign is nearly 4 miles away. Take W Observatory Rd (behind you to the left) down the base of Mt Hollywood Drive. Follow the signs from there.” After reading this, I took a deep breath and quietly muttered “oh shit.” I was not nearly prepared for this hike, as I had already drank half of my water bottle from just going a quarter of the way up the mountain. I had a limited amount of sunscreen, but enough to get by. When I walked away from the sign, I glanced to my right and saw a nice couple whom I quickly realized did not speak English. They were pointing to the Hollywood sign and so I stopped dead in my tracks. I didn’t say anything and just watched them for a second or two. Then, as they were about to walk away, I stopped them and said “Excuse me. Hi there, are you looking to hike to the Hollywood sign?” I was desperately hoping they would say yes and was also hoping they spoke a little bit of English. The girl turned to me and said “Yes, we are. Are you?” I said yes, too. I then introduced myself and she introduced herself as Caroline. She also introduced her husband to me, Rodrigo. Right from the getgo, I could tell they were both outgoing and friendly. I knew next what I wanted to ask, and I hesitated for a moment, but then got the courage to ask if I could join them. The time between my question and their answer was slightly painful. To my surprise, Caroline said “Well of course. We would be lost without you.” I was in complete shock, yet still ecstatic. A huge grin spread across my face and onward we marched.

When I usually meet new people for the first time, it can be a little bit uncomfortable in the beginning because I feel as if I am always trying to break an awkward silence. However, for some reason this was not the case. Caroline, Rodrigo and I just clicked. Perhaps this is because I am more outgoing and confident these days. I felt comfortable with them, just as they did with me. My first question to them was, “where are you from?” They said they were both from Brazil and they were here for vacation. I was glad to hear this. We walked further away from the city and deeper into the mountains. There was an increase in altitude. Luckily, we chatted the entire way, which was a great distraction from how tired I actually was.

Caroline’s English was not that good, but it was good enough to where I could understand her and to where we could have an intelligent conversation. Whenever she thought she said something incorrectly in English, she would kindly ask me to correct her…and I did. I find great comfort in knowing that a transcendent connection between two people does not have my created through noise, but rather can be generated and maintained in silence. Sometimes, Caroline and I would look at each other and just smile, without saying any words. Isn’t it a beautiful thing when a simple glance followed by a smile is enough? I believe so.

At a certain point during our hike, we hit a dead end. We could have either gone to the right or to the left. If we were to turn left, it would have taken us in front of the sign and if we were to turn right, it would have taken us farther up the mountain and to the back of the sign. My immediate thought was to go to the right. However, Caroline wanted to go to the left because she wanted to get pictures in front of the sign. I convinced her that we should go to the right first. I told her that she will have wanted to get the entire mountain and city view behind her. She admittedly agreed with me and onward we went. By then, I was getting tired and I had no water left. Yes, how stupid of me for drinking my entire bottle before I knew what I was getting myself into. I announced out loud that I was thirsty, which was a poor decision. As friendly as Caroline and her husband were, they sweetly offered me their water. I politely declined, per usual. I didn’t want to take their water and so I just suffered in silence. As bad as that sounds, I was okay. I was going to live. I told myself that I have suffered in silence before, when I was on my travel soccer team and so badly wanted to be benched due to pure exhaustion. Again, I was going to live.

There came a point during our hike where we hit a beautiful scenic view on the backside of the sign. We stopped to take pictures. She took one of me and I took one of her and Rodrigo. Up the mountain we trekked.

We finally hit the back of the Hollywood sign (to where we could physically see it). Finally! I was relieved. I plopped my butt down and relaxed for a second. The thought of having to hike back in the 100 degree heat taunted me. I convinced myself that I wasn’t going to be able to do it – lies! As we approached the top, we took many pictures and I almost fell flat on my face. My shoes are not meant for hiking, only for running. Caroline silently chuckled (if this isn’t a sign that we clicked right away, then I don’t know what is). Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We went from the back of the Hollywood sign to the front. During this time, Caroline had taken out a chewy bar and asked me if I wanted a piece. Even though my stomach was growling from hunger, I declined. She then asked me, “Are you sure?” This was torture. I wanted that chewy bar so badly, but didn’t want to eat their food. I would have felt terrible. I hesitantly said, “Yes, I am sure. Thank you though.”

As we continued to walk and talk, I nonchalantly asked her what type of music she was into. She mentioned that she liked the type of music that’s from her country. Country music. She played me one of her favorite songs and I really liked it. It had a wonderful beat to it. I can’t recall the name of the song, but it was in a different language and had a beautiful melody.  We sang, danced and walked. All of a sudden, I had a boost of energy and I think they did too. When we turned the corner, the Hollywood sign appeared right in front of our faces. Unknowingly, Caroline and I both squealed with delight. Rodrigo was directly behind us shaking his head at our craziness.

At this point, I was very dehydrated.  At the time of questioning whether or not I was going to make it back to planet earth, Caroline and I both saw a sign that said “Cold drinks this way.” I couldn’t believe my eyes. She too had no water left. We sprinted towards the drinks. I saw three good looking gentleman sitting in rocking chairs right outside of their small home. As we approached them, one of the guys said “Ladies, have at it. It’s $3.00 for the small bottles and $5.00 for the big bottles.”  I splurged on the $5.00 bottle because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t pass out on the way back from our hike. Water never tasted so good. Each penny was worth it. We took many more pictures in front of the Hollywood sign. In that moment, I felt grateful because here I was, knocking this adventure off of my bucket list.

On our way back to the Griffith Observatory, we weren’t as chatty as we were in the beginning of the hike. We were all tired and wanted to be alone with our thoughts for a little bit. It felt like a much shorter trip on the way back, which was a blessing considering how tired we were. I broke the silence with a question I had been wanting to ask Caroline the entire time, but was somewhat hesitant because I didn’t want to come off as rude. She looked to be around my age, but I wasn’t so sure. And so, I asked. She’s only 3 years older than me. Not too bad. At what age does it become rude to ask someone their age? Any takers? Before I knew it, we were back at the Griffith Observatory. I did not want this day to end. When we said our goodbyes, Caroline surprised me with a big hug and yes, we exchanged our social media sites. I will never forget the first time I hiked to the Hollywood sign – a day to remember.

24 Like Never Before Part 2

As we approached 88 mph (in an 80 mph speed limit zone), I rolled down my window and let the breeze touch my skin. I blasted sad music and let it touch my soul. Then, as night time began to fall, I cracked my window about a quarter of the way open and allowed my eyes to gently close, drifting in and out of sleep. Magnificent!

I had never been to Texas before, so I was looking forward to seeing what the state 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.” It also felt as if I were the only person in the small town. Being in a place that I am unfamiliar with, yet have someone familiar with me, is what brings me great joy.

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 Giant 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,’ which was highly recommended by some folks we met at dinner. 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 kind gesture. 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 peacefully woke me up the next morning. The bright sun beamed through the curtains and I opened my eyes as a small grin spread across my face.  “This can’t be real,” I silently told myself. With my mom lying beside me, I felt protected. That morning, we drank coffee and had a delicious breakfast, a pastry from a local farmers market to be exact.

A couple of 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, or just stop and stare, 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 have time to spend all day 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 distracted due to being mesmerized by the sights. 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 smile. I didn’t say a word. I was letting my emotional instinct take over. 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 you 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 loads of 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. That’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. I’m not exactly sure how this motel received a 4 star rating when it was more like a -10 star motel. This is partially the reason why 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 patted me on the back and reassured me that I would be just fine. She smacked some sense into me and told me to breathe. As we pulled up to my brothers apartment, there he was, 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.

   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 resonated 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 really 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 this particular evening, I felt confident enough to share my experience first. I was eager. I felt alive, fueled by companionship and love. In this moment, I believe we all shared an invisible connection that can only be felt from the heart.

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

Well, 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 must 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.