On a cold and rainy evening…

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It’s a cold and rainy evening
I am sitting all alone
And my thoughts can’t help but linger
How you’re far and on your own.

Does the city make you anxious?
Are the dogs behaving well?
Do you know you can’t stay out late?
Please don’t hide it – call and tell.

I can’t help but think and worry…
Even though I know you’re smart!
That you’ll conquer the Big Apple
With your kind and caring heart.

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If You Love Me, Let Me Go.

I’ve got mountains to climb,
Countries to seize,
Rivers to cross,
Dreams to achieve
If you love me,
Let me go.

I have villains to kill
Pathways to tread
Flags to raise up
Words to be said
If you love me,
Let me go.

I have lands to discover
Titles to claim
Stories to weave
A fire to tame
If you love me,
Let me go.

If you don’t let me go
And call me to stay
I will still love you
But I will betray
All the countries and rivers and dreams to achieve
Pathways and flags and words to be said
Lands and titles and stories to weave
Most of all the fire; It will burn me instead

You must let me go,
If you love me…

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You do not complete me. I complete myself.

I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I come from a society that has a deep-rooted belief that a woman’s number one priority in life is to get married and wholeheartedly serve her husband and children.  She is defined as a woman by her ability to get married, and stay in a marriage where the husband is happy. It is assumed that if he is happy, that has to mean that she is happy as well.  In school, my fellow female classmates either discussed their current plans for marriage, or dreams about meeting an amazing guy to whom she would be a dedicated and loyal wife.  There were very few girls who said that they wanted to get a college degree first, so they wouldn’t have to rely on their husband for financial support, and cases of girls saying they didn’t want to get married at all were unheard of.

Weddings are just about always an extravagant affair, with music, fireworks, and romantic slideshows.  But most girls never wonder what follows afterwards…Usually, they assume, it is eternal bliss.  However if you ask women like my mother, who has decades more life experience then my past classmates and I have, she would tell you that in most cases (not all), what follows is a mundane life with everyday problems, where your obligations include running a household, and being the perfect wife for your arrogant and controlling husband.  The belief that these girls are forced or coerced to get married and serve the husband is absolutely not true.  They are often more than willing and happy to be dutifully wives and mothers.  It takes many years before they realize that their husbands never gave them the happiness they were searching for.

Before you assume that this story only relates to the girls I went to high school with in Russia, I urge you to stop and reconsider.  When I started college in 2013 in America, I quickly realized that the same idea is replicated in the minds of American girls as well.  It seems that in the world in general, young girls seem to think that in order to be a happy and complete individual, they must, absolutely must, meet a guy, fall in love, and have a relationship.  That is their priority in life.  I listened in on my conversations of friends and acquaintances alike, in which their sole problem was their significant other, or lack of thereof, and their inability to cope with being single. I can write thousands of words recounting the cringing tales of how young girls I personally knew allowed themselves to be treated inferior by guys, and who were unable to walk away knowing that they deserve better.  What angered me more than watching young girls, who had their whole lives ahead of them and who carried the ability within to accomplish amazing things, was that they were absolutely fine with settling for an average (or below-average) life, as long as an average (or below-average) man was in it.

I wish I could shout from rooftops for all women in this world to hear DO NOT SPEND YOUR ENERGY ON FINDING A PARTNER, SPEND YOUR ENERGY ON FINDING YOURSELF.

Oprah Winfrey, on a 2005 segment of her show, recounted the popular 90’s film Jerry McGuire, in which the line, “You complete me” melted the hearts of girls all around the world.  To this, Oprah said, “You have to complete yourself.”

Dr. Robin Smith added, “Part of it is being able to develop you into a human being who is rich enough and broad enough that no one is necessary for your existence.  They add to your life, but they aren’t your life.”

When I was 17 years old, I thought the only road to happiness was to fall in love and get married.  Many young girls believe this as well, because it is what we are taught to believe.  Music, movies, books, and quotes all revolve around one thing…love.  While I would never denounce the greatness of love, rather it is because of my utmost respect for it that I urge you should find yourself and love yourself before you seek love from someone else.  You should come go into a relationship with enough confidence, self-respect, and a base to fall back on (education, money, etc.) so that the only thing you need is a pure and honest kind of love, and if it is not given to you or you cannot reciprocate it, you have the power in you to simply walk away.  And you walk away knowing that you deserve better, and that that something better is out there for you.  Most importantly, it is far better to be alone, than to be with someone who doesn’t add value to your life.

You are an individual.  When you meet someone your intuition tells you is the one, remember that they are not there to complete you, but rather to add to your greatness.

I hope you have a happy, happy day.

Much love,

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Lessons from a Sunday morning.

Three weeks ago, I was sleeping over at Katie’s house after a concert.  I’ve been blessed enough to belong to two families — my own and Katie’s.  I love waking up on Sundays to a family morning.  Sundays are simple — no one has to work, and most weekend plans are completed on Saturday.  So on Sunday you wake up, and you can be slow in eating breakfast and watching television.  Sundays, seemingly the most uninteresting days of the week, are the ones we will remember as dear to our hearts forty years down the road.  Because we won’t recall the concerts or the parties with as much fondness as we will recall spending a simple day with the ones we love most.  You should treasure your Sundays!  Wake up every Sunday, and look into the face of the people you love, and have deep conversations with them, and drink coffee, and sit on the coach, and watch random shows, but most importantly just spend some simple, quiet, quality time with your families.

This Sunday, I was having a family morning with Katie and Brenda.  I woke up to find Brenda watching a Sunday morning news show, one of which had Benjamin Scheuer as a guest.  She was drinking coffee (or maybe it was tea?) on her side of the couch, and the sun was fresh and bright — the kind that comes out early in the spring and lasts until late summer.  I had oatmeal for breakfast with green tea, and later on Brenda and I made guacamole with only one avocado (we made up for that lack of avocados with tomatoes) for Katie and two of her other friends to have with their scrambled eggs.  It’s very important to remember the small details!  Years later when you look back to these days, the details will matter to you.  Anyway, Brenda was watching Benjamin Scheuer on a show which had an older man as the host.  Fascinated by his story, from getting over the death of his father to surviving cancer, she made us listen to his upbeat folk songs.  That Sunday morning, we listened to two that really struck a chord with us.  I wanted to share them with you.

Weather The Storm, by Benjamin Scheuer

The Lion, by Benjamin Scheuer

“I always show my teeth when I am smiling, I only say I love you when I’m sure!

Inside my gentle claws, I’ve got some devastating claws…!”

No matter what you are going through in life, I hope these songs will put a smile on your face.  I know that they do just that for me, if only because they make me think of Brenda, guacamole, and that Sunday morning in early Spring.  Thank you, Benjamin Scheuer, for sharing your strength with us.

Much Love,

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A few of my favorite things

When we first moved to America in 2003, my family did not own a VHS or DVD player (back then DVD players were the hot new thing), and we only had the basic few channels you could watch when you broke a sweat twisting the antenna in all directions before finding an awkward position that removed the static.  I did not start watching Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel until years later, and as I look back now, this was a true blessing.  Instead, I watched the only movies that were offered on the basic channels — the classics.  The original Annie left me with such an impression that right afterwards I put on a skit for my parents in which I played Miss Hannigan (I always loved being the villain) and my brother tackled the role of Annie.  I felt the same way about Little House on the Prairie, Mary Poppins, and, of course, the Sound of Music.

I hum along tunes from my favorite movies throughout the day, singing “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow!” when I’m having a bad day, and “So long! Farewell! To you, and you, and you!” when I am leaving my shift at work.  Diane Sawyer did a 20/20 special with Julie Andrews on the Sound of Music, and I was reminded of another one of my favorite musical hits.

“Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things”

Here are a few of MY favorite things (in no particular order).

1. Drinking coffee in the mornings with my mother.

2.  Watering flowers on a warm spring day.

3.  Sleeping-in on Sundays.

4.  Driving with my windows down, belting out One Direction.

5.  Long car rides and road-trips with Katie and Brenda.

6.  Having black bread with butter and a slice of deli meat along with a hot cup of coffee.

7.  Cannolis from Bella Fresco.

8.  Landing at the JFK airport in New York and Grozny airport in Russia.

9.  Preparing pasta dishes.

10.  Hot bread.

11.  My niece Aiyana.

12.  My few dear, close friends.

13.  My family.

14.  Writing.

15.  The beach in July.

16.  Laughing until I get tears in my eyes.

17.  Reading a paranormal romance novel.

18. Kneading dough.

19.  Singing (even though I am really bad).

20.  Truly believing that great things are ahead.

“When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

I wish for you to have many favorite things to remember when you are not feeling so well.

All my love,

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Righting the Wrongs

“I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.”
              – Maya Angelou

When I was attending high school in Russia, I was often told the popular saying, “Beauty is power.”  Young girls are led to believe that by being appealing to a man, they hold power in the world.  If you are considered unattractive, than you are pitied and destined for unhappiness.  Most girls choose to get married right after graduating from school, never believing in themselves enough to pursue an education.

Because we are girls, people often only look at our appearance.  They don’t see how we struggle to get through our days as we work hard to multitask between working and studying.  They are not aware that we have stayed up until three in the morning reading textbooks, only to wake up for work just three hours later.  They don’t see us fighting, crawling, and digging our way towards becoming individuals.  When they look at us, sometimes all they can say is, “You’re not wearing make-up today.”  With that sentence, they demean us to being “ugly” girls, considered lazy no matter how hard we truly work.  But I say let them for now, because we are going to make something out of ourselves, and then they’ll be forced to look at more than just our appearances.

In the United States, 2,319 men have served as Governors, and only 35 women.*  Women make up for approximately 50% of the world’s population, yet even America does not have true gender equality.  The media objectifies women as sexual objects with flawless skin, perfect features, and exposed bodies.  This is what the youth is influenced by.

Women continue to be oppressed in most of the world.  While countries such as Saudi Arabia frankly forbid women from going anywhere without a male chaperone, others such as the United States discreetly discriminate by paying a woman 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.*

Girls are in desperate need of role models who show them that women are capable of so much more than flaunting their bikini bodies at a photo-shoot.  I want to go down the road that Barbara Walters, Valentina Tereshkova, Jeannette Rankin have paved for aspiring young women such as I.  By continuing to shatter barriers and pushing beyond limitations, more and more women will realize that they are capable of achieving anything.  When this happens, men who hold power in business, law, and politics will have to move over and make room for the women, and gender equality will prevail.  In my bid for success, men play an insignificant role.  I’m doing it for the girls, so that when they look at me they will think, “If she can do it, than I can, too.”  I want for young girls all over this planet Earth to understand that beauty is not power.  True power is an education, a successful career, and most importantly, independence.

With all my love,

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* [Source: Miss Representation]

Life and writing… as I know it.

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My best friend, Katie, has been pushing me to start blogging again for what seems like forever.  It’s something that I loved doing for a long time.  But you know how sometimes you change, and your life circumstances change?  Well, shifts like this affect writing.  And I’ve been in a two-year funk that I wasn’t sure how to snap out of.

This week, Katie started her first year at college, and after spending the last three months in Russia, I went up to visit her.  It was a “reunited and it feels so good..” sort of moment, since whenever I’m in Russia, I miss my friend terribly.  We stayed up late into the night catching up (as we do after every trip) on everything that had happened to us this summer, and after we were all talked out, and it grew quiet in her college dorm room, she asked, “Why don’t you write anymore?”

In this honest, raw moment with my dearest friend, whom I often trust more than I trust myself .. I did not know what to say.  I did miss writing, but when you stop, it can be so hard to start again.

She made me admit something that I never admitted to myself, let alone accepted that it was the truth.

“I don’t know, Katie…I just don’t want to…fail.”

She made me promise that I would start writing again.  So here I am, typing up my first blog post in almost two years with the prime-time Emmy’s playing on the TV in the background.

I’m writing again, and I couldn’t be happier.

“Reunited and it feels so good…”

With all my love,

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