Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In The Garden

It is a great feeling to wake up in the morning to a soul warming aroma of a freshly brewed pot of coffee. Varuzh is awesome! Ahhhh. After accumulating stress during the week, I finally started letting it go, and the cold that made me feel so miserable was finally gone...

I poured coffee into my favorite yellow mug, added a little milk, and, while still in my pajamas, headed out to my garden.

Varuzh was already there, getting ready to plant a few plants I picked up from Roger's Garden a week earlier.

As we were designing where to plant the flowers and where to plant the trees, I realized that our garden started to take some shape. Finally! It is not nearly finished, but it is no longer an empty place with some plants here and some plants there. Nice.

I suddenly felt so... grown up. As a child I have always thought that moms, aunties, and grandparents grow gardens, and kids play in gardens. I read so many books about greatest children's adventures that took place in gardens! And now I watch Alex play in the garden... in my garden!

So I kept sipping the coffee, chatting with Varuzh while he was placing the stones to create a little pathway.
Then I watched him planting the new plants. They looked so pretty and colorful. I was assured by my friend Mary Ann, that these plants are pretty easy to care for, and that they will soon take over the garden. And that is exactly what I want. I want my garden be a beautiful mix of colors, wild and chaotic.

Once I finished drinking coffee, I went to the kitchen to put the mug into the sink. On the way back to the garden, I grabbed my camera. I find it so relaxing to walk from plant to plant, explore their beauty. 

Plants are so peaceful in the morning and glow an amazing renewed energy.

Here are some of my beautiful finds!

I felt so refreshed.

With love always, 
xo Zuma A.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Doubts

At night Alex and I were reading one of Fancy Nancy books where she and her friends were hanging out at Monkey Bars and talking about stuff. "Do you hang out with your friends at Monkey Bars?" I asked. "No," he said. "I don't know how."

I felt my heart squeeze. It always does when I am being reminded of social difficulties Alex encounters as a child with autism - while he can solve an advance  math equation, he may need help to learn basic things like this.

"How about if I come by during your lunch break and we hang out at monkey bars together?" I asked. So the hang-out date was set.

The next day I woke up with a very unpleasant feeling - sore throat. Ah, really?

Luckily, I could work from home that day - I only had to review a few projects, have a phone conference with El Centro court, and hang-out with Alex for a half an hour during lunch. Late in evening I had to fly to Tucson, AZ, for a quick work trip, so I hoped to get rid of the sore throat by taking it easy and drinking lots of tea.

At around 9AM, though, I got a phone call from El Centro. Expecting to hear that my phone conference was confirmed, I was told the opposite - I had to show up to El Centro court in person. So you know, El Centro is 3.5 hour drive each way.

My promise to Alex was going to go down the drain, and that made me very sad. I know I said before that being a working mom is absolutely doable. And it is. But I never said that it is physically and emotionally easy.

So I left my tea unfinished, dressed up and got in the car. I did notice that there is less than a half a tank of gas in it, but I took a calculated risk and drove off - I was going to fill up once I get to El Centro.

The drive was long. Being bored at first, I started making work related calls and, before I knew, I was on the phone for hours. My head started warming up, and congestion started creeping in. I felt pretty miserable... until the car dash board lit the low-gas light. Then I panicked. I was in the middle of the desert, with GPS showing a nearest gas station being 19 miles away.

Oh, getting stuck in the middle of nowhere was not an option for me. While I know that turning air conditioner off does not really save much gas, I could not waste a drop. I turned the air-conditioner off and rolled down the window. The hot wind, 102 degrees to be exact, hit my face with a 70MPH speed. My body was hot inside and outside. My soul was tired, sad, frustrated and terrified - all at once.
That was it. I broke down and started crying. Why why why do I do this to myself? Why do I have to work in such a demanding job in addition to a having a family and another business? Why don't I settle for something different and simpler?!

While I knew that my car was not capable of hearing me, I started begging it to take me to the gas station safely.

The rest of my day and night passed by like a dream. Not sure if it was fever or if it was my sinuses that filled my head with fog. But I got the job done, drove back home, had dinner with my boys, drove to LAX, flew to Tucson, stayed in a hotel overnight, got the job done again, and headed back.

As I got to the airport, I had about two hours till my flight. I was glad to find at the terminal the Samuel Adams restaurant where I could order the curing meal - philly cheese steak sandwich with fries and beer. Heavy.
After a few bites and a few sips, my body and mind started to relax, finally.

I started thinking back, trying to understand what do I do and why. I guess this is a question that all men and women ask themselves at some point in life. Who am I and what do I want?

Interestingly, when I am on the top of my game, feeling strong and capable, I don't question why I do what I do - I enjoy my life. I am a person who is incapable of living a routine life - I like being challenged, being a mom, working on beautiful creative projects, making impact in human lives by helping them in their legal battles for survival.  My friends tell me that I am a superwoman and that they would love to live my life...

But once things get difficult, I forget the highs - I feel so... low. I feel tired and sad. I feel that my childhood dreams of living a fairy-tale life never came true.  So what do I do? Am I doing too much? Or maybe my understanding of what life is all about is somehow screwed up?

I was thinking and thinking and thinking, but could not come up with answers.  I was stuck.

I don't know if I do too much. I don't know if my view on reality is screwed up. But I do know that after I ate my philly cheese steak sandwich and drank my beer, I felt... better, and started looking forward to going home, seeing my boys, getting a good night's sleep in my own bed, and start a new day tomorrow.

Hmm. Whether I like it or not, life cannot be always zBeautiful. But thanks to these kinds of days, I can appreciate it and be happy when life is zBeautiful...

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

P.S. My dear readers, I would so love to hear from you. Am I alone? Do you feel this way sometimes?

Please talk to me. I need you.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Did I Jinx My Day?!

It all started when I pressed the Post button on my mobile facebook page… 

In the morning I was having a blissful moment sitting by the beach in Waikiki, Hawaii, drinking coffee and nibbling on apple bran muffin top.

My day was all planned:
 - 6AM breakfast by the beach
 - 7AM bus ride to work
 - 8AM work
 - 12PM head back to the airport
 - 2PM fly back home

Since it was still very early, I had the entire place at its most peaceful time all to myself. The air was warm and soft and the sound of waves was soothing. I took a picture with my smart phone and, being a product of modern social media society, posted this shot on my facebook page. 

“Life’s Good,” I wrote a comment and, suddenly, felt a strange feeling creeping into my stomach – am I going to jinx my day?

“Naaah,” I dismissed myself silly. Why wouldn’t life be good? What would I be afraid of – paying a price for a beautiful morning? The idea of being Jinxed does not have any scientific explanation whatsoever! So I pressed the Post button.

Once coffee was all gone, I was off to the bus stop to head to the Federal Building.

Life was good… except for the bus braking down, and I got to stand at the stop waiting for the next one, sweating that I would be late. Stress started simmering in my brain.

“Did I jinx my day?” I thought. “Naaah,” I dismissed myself silly and, a few minutes later, the next bus had finally arrived and took me to work timely. Phew.

Life was good… except for the work taking unforeseeably long, and I had to fight traffic to get to the airport less than an hour before the flight.  Oh no! I may miss my flight, I thought.

“Did I jinx my day?” The stress started multiplying in my brain as I was sweating my way to the airport. “Naaah,” I dismissed myself silly and, a few minutes later, I arrived to the airport. I still had thirty minutes to get through the airport security. Phew.

Life was good… except for the security line at the airport being unusually long and moving at a snail pace. What?!

After standing for fifteen minutes in a barely moving line, I had to beg the TSA agents and hundreds of travelers to let me in. I made my way through the security the entire ten minutes before the flight.

Life was good… except for the flight leaving a few minutes early, and I heard the announcement that the passengers to LAX have three minutes to get to the Gate 30 and board the plane. Never mind that the Gate 30 was five minutes away if I ran!

Seriously, did I jinx my day? The stress over floated my brain by then. I knew that I had to run, and run fast.

…As I sat on my seat feeling my heartbeat fast and loud, I realized that I haven’t even eaten today since that blissful moment when I nibbled on bran apple muffin top. 

So what was it? Could it be true? Did I really jinx my day? Why did the bus break down? Why did work take so long? Why was the airport security line so long and slow? Well, why not?!

And as my heart rate calmed down, and I ordered my food, and I sipped my drink, and, before I knew, I arrived home safely. I kissed my boys and thought that my day could not be that bad since I got to see their beautiful faces … except that it was passed midnight, and it was already tomorrow…

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Farmer's Market Dos and Don'ts

Last week, I decided to start another tradition in our household - taking a three-mile bike ride to the nearby Farmer's market every Saturday.

Yes, this is my next food related adventure. Not that supermarkets don't have tomatoes, or berries, or mushrooms, they certainly don't have such fresh, flavorful and delicious tomatoes, or berries, or mushrooms as Farmer's Markets do...

My interest in Farmer's Market produce started after I read an article about how long it takes for produce to get from farm to the market - it takes months, and sometimes quite a few months! So, do not expect finding freshly harvested tomatoes in the supermarket.

There is more! I remember reading in one of the Martha Stewart's books that store bought eggs taste nothing like freshly laid eggs (you may also remember A Simple Life about my unsuccessful attempt to keep chickens in my yard). Since then, purchasing freshly collected eggs from the Farmer's Market and comparing the taste with the store bought eggs was on my want-list.

We arrived to the Farmer's Market at about 9AM, and found it busy and beautiful. Apparently, many people discovered this market's beauty and taste way before I did!

True, produce is a bit more expensive here, but this is the only  place you can get just laid eggs with bright orange yolks, milk capped with cream, berries from the fields... Also, if you want to shop like a chef, go early in the morning. But you can also get a much better bargain if you go to the about 30 minutes before the market's closing.

If you are new to the Farmer's market like I was last week, it is very easy to get overwhelmed. To make your trip to the Market be a wonderful experience, here are five Dos and Don'ts:

Number 1: Be a good friend, bring small bills, change and bags.

Number 2: Walk around before buying - you may find better selection just a booth away. 

Number 3: Get to know your farmers, ask questions or suggestions on how to pick better tasting peaches or which sort of squash should be better for soups or grilling.  This will connect you to your food.

Number 4: Have a list of what you need, but also buy one ingredient you are not familiar with, try it out. 

Number 5: Bring your kids along, no matter how young or old they are. Let them smell and taste the produce, let them help you select each fruit or vegetable. 

It hurt so bad!
As you know, usually I come up with great rules or points... after I learn them from my own mistakes. So while on my first trip to the farmer's market by bicycle, I bought more produce that I could carry. I got two dozens eggs too because, after I got the first dozen, I found a booth around the corner where one-day-old eggs were sold - so I bought them too. When placing the produce into my bike basket, I carefully placed the eggs on the very top to make sure they don't get squashed by anything... except for that ...  on my way back home, thinking that a big truck driver may not see me, I tried to get onto the sidewalk to avoid it... but I lost control and flew out of my bike onto the sidewalk... together with the two dozens of freshly collected eggs!

Only six eggs were spared, so I made omelets for lunch. The eggs were amazingly fragrant, flavorful, and delicious. They were beyond a comparison to the store bought eggs. How could I not discover this sooner?!
With love always,

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Zzzzzzip Through the Mountains

Two years ago, when we traveled to Mexico, we got to see a few zip lining stations built throughout the Mexican Jungle. Ah, we love adventures, but ziplining through the jungle with a 5-year old kid was not something I was willing to do. So we put the idea of a ziplining adventure on our fun-things-to-do list which we securely pinned by a magnet on our fridge.

As you may have guessed by now, we take our fun-things-to-do list pretty seriously. And today, after we dropped Alex to school, we finally headed to Wrightwood, California, to experience zipline canopy tour.

I have to say that besides earthquakes, fires, mudslides and floods, nothing in the world could compare to Southern California. We have it all: beautiful beaches, warm weather all-year-round, snow slopes just an hour away, and now ziplining adventures!

Once we got to a front office of a small one story building, we were given "waiver forms" and were promised beautiful views, long and super high ziplines.

"Sounds like fun," I said nervously and signed the waiver... without reading. The idea of jumping off a tiny station on the top of a massive pine tree blocked my abilities to think.

A few minutes later, after everyone signed waiver forms, two cool dudes, Armando and Cory, took us to another tiny room and got us all geared up.

... Have you been on a Disney's Indiana Jones ride? Well, after a ten minute van ride on the rough mountain trails to the first ziplining station, I realized that the creators of the Disney ride probably tried to recreate this specific ride. Wow.

But I forgot all about it as soon as I stepped onto the small station on the tree where I was secured by a cable... except that I could not really hold on to it. Yikes! I did not feel alone though, I was there with Varuzh and Robert, two other couples, and two cool guides. And I've got to say that the initial comfort I got was from... the girls - somehow we supported each other with our silent bravery. Knowing that someone else goes through the same experience and feeling makes it so much easier! And, of course, by zip line five, I did not need any support any more. By then I was a pro, happily zipping through the mountains, breathing in the warm air sweetened by the beautiful pine trees.

The itinerary included ten zip lines, three rappelling experiences, 4 suspended sky bridges - four amazing adventurous hours!
Pumping adrenaline into my body system was a great way to take the pressures off a hard work week. Believing that I could overcome fears and step into the bottomless air over the San Gabriel mountains was empowering. Experiencing this amazing adventure with people I love was even better. Always thankful for everything I've got.
With love always,
Zuma A.

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