Friday, April 26, 2013

4-Day Juice Fast

In the spirit of Spring (or at least the yearning for it) I dedicated this week to fresh starts. And added a juice fast to the equation to aid in the quest to refocus. Here's a mini-diary of my inner dialogue during the process.

Day 1: I LOVE this! Prepared juices for the entire day and went easily about my routine. I feel better just having this much produce in my house! And there's something to be said for spending time in the kitchen...I feel so put together!!! Thrilled for a fresh start!

Day 2: This really is far easier than I remember (JuiceFast.NYC.2011 was the first). I could probably do this for a month and be fine with it. Juice is tasty. I'm really not as attached to food as I thought. Going strong. 

Day 3: Little thrown by the morning juice prep...clearly no slacking allowed in the morning or it means not eating all day. So long extra half-hour of sleep. Luckily this is going so well. 
First hunger pangs! Forgot to juice between coachings and concert...this would be so much easier if I could just attach myself to a juice IV.

Day 4: SO. TIRED. 6 hours of Russian class, 6 metro rides AND work can't possibly be done on only juice! If I can just make it to my train without passing out this juice fast will be a success...I might never need to drink juice again.
Such a drama queen. Survived the rough stretch of the day. Which was...well, most of the day from 9-5.  Note to self: work on continued attitude adjustment.

And was over. And despite my dramatics on Day 4, the process was actually relatively painless. There was actually a moment mid-fast when the thought crossed my mind, "Shouldn't I really be suffering a lot more?" And now we get to the life lessons portion.

Making a change doesn't always have to painful. When we focus on the thing we want to change, or effectively eliminate from our behavior, it seems like removing all those weeks, months, or years of routine can only end in misery. BUT really all that's needed is a new habit. Look at it from the perspective of creation and formation and it's far more rewarding.

While I'm most definitely not trying to build the habit of only drinking juice for the rest of my life, spending more time in the kitchen for me is a must. I hardly ever do it. And even making only juice this week quadrupled the amount of time I spend "cooking" during the week. Why this is important? It's me time. Me caring about my health. Me not feeling victimized by my choices at our cafeteria. And me not being so rushed that I convince myself I don't have time for the little things. Like actually making a meal.

Eliminating the ability to eat your emotions enables you to evaluate them more effectively. For the first month I was in Russia, I considered the woman at the local bakery my closest friend. I saw her nearly every day and she was always prepared to recommend the newest sweet. Without chocolate to run to, you're forced to actually acknowledge and deal with the feelings that you so desperately want to eat.

I love food. I love the taste and texture. I love the social element it adds to life. I love the experience of trying new things. I love the insight food brings to a culture. Basically...I'm grateful to be eating again. With improved judgment and perspective in doing so!

For those interested, my all-time favorite juice recipe!

Spinach (3 large handfuls)
Kale (Around 6 stalks)
1 cucumber
2 green apples
1 lemon
small handful of parsley 

I end up doing some estimates, but keep the spinach and kale ratio about 1:1. Unfortunately I have yet to happen across kale in my current country...if you're in the same boat, just stick with spinach. Still tasty! Add celery or pineapple to the mix if you want to switch it up!

I also experimented with beets a lot this time around, as we have them in abundance here in Russia. I loved this blog and tried several of the recipes included, with slight variations. My only complaint would (strangely) be that the green juice recipes posted all came out too sweet for my taste! But it's a great site for inspiration on all fronts of healthy eating!

Here's to juice, spring, renewal, and a Saturday off! 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Life Lessons in Moscow: The Do's and Don'ts of PDA

If you think of Russia as a frozen wasteland, covered in ice and snow and inhabited by an equally chilling population sporting every type of fur're partially right. On the surface, things can be a bit cold here. But catch a glimpse of the Russian soul and you'll be convinced of the fiery heat that lies within.

Take it from Tolstoy (Lev):

Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love.

The whole world is divided for me into two parts: one is she, and there is all happiness, hope, light; the other is where she is not, and there is dejection and darkness...

Such passion is not a thing of the past. (Though it's quite possibly less eloquent). Step into the Moscow metro...or any public arena for that matter...and you'll find that the fire is alive and well. EasyJet recently began non-stop service from London Gatwick to Moscow and asked me to a "Snapshot of Moscow" video. Said video can be found here. (Side note: I don't know why, but this process was exceptionally embarrassing for me. VBlogging? Never going to happen!) But here's a different angle from the outtakes:

My reaction while filming did not nearly do justice to the laughter that continued afterward, as nearly every shot I attempted inevitably included some Moscow makeout.  Welcome to my of the most serious PDA I have witnessed in my life! In the metro, you'll witness it within moments. Likely on the escalator on the way down, while you're waiting, and in the actual train. But we're not limited to public transportation in this city. Anywhere is fair game. If you're feeling it, you go for it.

I would not call myself a proponent of PDA. Especially not when it borders on pornographic. But I will say, the Russian "emotional readiness" has its advantages. Part of the profound amount of PDA stems from the ability to more openly express love. (NOT equivocating PDA and love...just noting the relationship.) I come from a culture where saying "I love you" often seems as serious as reading a death sentence. (Or maybe this is just me??) Those "three words" mean commitment, responsibility, future, and maybe even're vulnerable if you say it first, right? While I don't believe that love should be treated lightly, and true love does mean work and commitment, there's a refreshing emotional freedom in acknowledging only it's pure emotional form and being able to easily express it. Just because you feel it.

Here in Russia, my girlfriends use an abundance of endearments: my sunshine, my happiness, my little bird, my dear, my beloved...the list goes on. In America? I can only come up with girl, girlfriend, and lady at the moment. I'm not advocating adopting "my little bird" in English. Somehow it doesn't have quite the same ring. BUT, I have found myself, after talking with one of my close friends, wrapping up by saying "I love you." Because it's the truth.

So, those are the perks that come along with PDA. But it most certainly comes with some downsides as well. To address those, I have compiled a list of what I consider the "Dos and Don'ts of PDA," based on my personal viewing experiences in Moscow. These are not what I would consider city-specific, however. Feel free to observe them regardless of location.

1. Do keep it short and sweet. If you have to ask how long that is? Too long.

2. Don't display your tongue techniques. If we can see tongue, the technique you should really 
work on is subtlety. And's likely you've already exceeded your time limit.

3. Do hold hands. Do not hold other body parts.

4. Do not moan or produce similar noises. Especially if it's that loud enough that we can still hear 
it in the metro. Also, moaning likely means you've broken Rule #1. Yet again.

5. Do limit kissing to the facial area. Or at least above the neckline.

6. Don't unbutton, unzip, or unfasten. No explanation needed.

7. Do keep aware of your surroundings. While we're impressed with your balance and multi-tasking, we do fear your safety when the metro brakes and you fall.

8. Don't straddle your partner while there is more than enough bench space available immediately next to them. Straddling will imminently lead to the breakage of all the rules on this list.

9. Do dance with inner joy as you rejoice in your love. Do not dance for each other. In public.

10. Do tell her she's beautiful. Do say you love him. Do not say what adventures that combination will be taking you on for the evening.

The list could go on, but ten seems like a lovely number for now. Contributions, however, are more than welcome!

Embrace a culture. Embrace emotion. Embrace each other. But when you're embracing the moment, think about embracing this list.

Love you, my little birds!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spring Cleaning: Day 1

Last night after two fantastic "therapy" sessions with girlfriends (thank goodness for Skype and my girls!!!), I came to the conclusion that it's time to make some changes. And luckily, Spring seems like the perfect time to do so.

Wait...Spring?! "Does that happen in Moscow," you ask? ANSWER: Yes. Well...sort of. Our weather here has been a bit of a tease. Last week was sunshiney, glorious and warm enough that I vowed to not wear my winter coat (and daily companion of 6 months) again until NEXT WINTER! As the snow was vanishing, causing the streets to fill with small oceans, this seemed perfectly doable. But this week, we experienced a more realistic version of Spring and I was longing for that winter coat. However, I stoically layered up with my Fall/Spring jacket and have held fast to said vow. Albeit a bit chilly still, I'll take it. It's warmer than it was and the snow in our wood will quite possibly be gone by mid-May, something that seems barely short of miraculous.

As Mother Russia is coming out of hibernation, I decided I should as well. Aforementioned personal realization? Here it comes:

Sometimes I put the person I want to be on hold, waiting for the "perfect" set of circumstances which will allow me to embrace and become that better self. "When I actually have a stable, full-time job", "when I have a house or apartment of my own", "when I get married", "when I have more time". Somehow there's a subconscious conviction that when said events occur, I'll magically metamorphoses into the fabulous version of myself which can only be had in those conditions.

"When" I have a place of my own, I'll obviously invest the time to transform house into home. This clearly means that my organizational skills will be flawless, I'll very likely discover all my very-deeply-hidden crafting talents as I unleash my design goddess, and I'll obviously find the time to sit peacefully on my porch swing while watching the sunset and enjoying a light summer breeze...even in December.

"When" I find my knight in shining armor and decide to hop off my porch swing so we can ride into the sunset together, I'll of course be perfectly put together. I would never even think about falling asleep with my makeup on and wearing it to school/work the next day. (Yup.) I'll possess the utmost patience and be a superb communicator. I'll be an expert in all things domestic. I most definitely will cook meals at home more than twice a month. In fact, I'll likely be running a whole-food, fantastic cooking blog, spreading my domestic and ever-so-tasty bliss throughout the world. I would never even think about running crazily out of the house without making my bed. Crazy isn't part of this picture.

"When" I have a full-time, stable job, that means I'll be financially prepared for retirement by 50. That by not moving every few months I can be a flawless neighbor and friend...someone people can really count on. I won't miss important family events. I'll make it to all my close friends' weddings. I'll be more calm because I won't spend at least 5 months of the year worrying about where I'll be working the next.

Waiting for "when" clearly leads to some flawed thinking. Like the thought that I could ever be crafty. (I just joined Pinterest this weekend and the whole concept seems like some horrific refining school nightmare! Teach me, oh wise ones!!) But seriously...the day I actually do have a house? Or a relationship? Am I going to be magically transformed into any of the above? No would be the correct answer. And while my aim actually isn't to fit into the idealistic mold I've outlined (I actually love my quirky, passionate, hard-working, often out-of-balance self), there are attributes behind these scenes that I do want to work to develop. Now. We aren't limited by our circumstances, but by ourselves.

So...Spring cleaning. Refocusing, rediscovering, re-prioritizing, and even recovering. I'm starting with some time in the kitchen.
In my life, this much produce can only mean one thing: JUICE! The cleanse began this evening and I'm planning on 4 days. I consider it a jump-start for my hibernating system and an opportunity to reevaluate my eating. But more importantly? It's an outward expression of an inward endeavor. Clearing the clutter, recognizing and retaining the good, and then...adding to it. Seizing the moments in current situations and boldly becoming, rather than waiting for the "when..."!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Moscow Month of Madness

Last week in a coaching one of my singer's asked if I had fallen in love.

Perhaps my mysterious disappearance from the blogging sphere had you thinking the same? Let me assuage your curiosity: No. Well...with maybe just a little hint of yes.

What's really been going on? I've been working like a CRAZY person! And I just happen to love my job to the point that when I reach slightly obsessive levels of involvement, it apparently produces the same euphoria that a brush with romance might (hence my singer's questioning). Why so obsessive?

A little over 3 weeks ago, I took a trip to Berlin. This was a first for me and it will not be a last! Fantastic city.

Don't be fooled by the blue skies. It was FRIGID...and this comes from a girl living in Moscow! I managed about 2 hours of sight-seeing and by the end had mascara smeared all over my face, due to eyes tearing up from the cold. Luckily, the weather wasn't hugely important on this trip. My primary views?

This was an audition trip, or what non-musicians might call a job interview. While I flew in on a Thursday, the audition wasn't until Saturday so I spent a fair amount of time peacefully practicing, with the occasional break for a Wagner opera. Or three! Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin, and Tannhäuser. I was in German heaven. Especially since this is where I happened across the German love of my life. Stay tuned for that story...

Post-audition, it was back to Moscow and her familiar, heart-warming sights.

Unfortunately my return was accompanied by tragedy.

Moral of the story: don't hurriedly fish through a bag in darkness that contains a razor. It will attack you! (Note: forgot that I had put said razor in makeup bag specifically for "safety" purposes. Now just need to remember when I make such safe decisions...) This, as a pianist, was pretty dramatic. And it meant a week of working/playing the piano without the pointer finger of my right hand. Not an easy task. ESPECIALLY, whilst trying to learn a little opera called Pelléas et Mélisande. It's French and fantastic, but not without its headaches. Add with my partially-amputated finger (yes...drama queen) and it made for a couple of stressful but every-so-engaging and fulfilling weeks!

As shows have a tendency to do, this one went on. I was thoroughly pleased and actually quite giddy afterward. Not only was it a lovely performance with a stunning group of musicians, but the next day was my first day off in a month! (I still get slightly excited when I see my name in a Russian. See if you can find it!)

The past month was truly one for the books: Germany. Audition. Fairytale romance at the opera. Debussy. Crazy amounts of practice. Even crazier amounts of Khachapuri. Traditional post-flight, week-long sickness. Job offers. Traumatic injury. Rediscovery of self. Lots of life decisions. MUSIC! And ever so much enjoyment and joy along the way. Almost enough to be confused for falling in love.


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