Waiting for Godot

It’s been ages since I’ve posted. Yes, I know. I promised to finish the fairy tale. And that promise has been nagging at me every night as I fall asleep on the sofa, with my hands still typing the computer code my day-job demands. And it nags at me every time I step into Borders to browse the ‘New Fiction’ and ‘Staff Recommendations’ sections, looking for the perfect story  to take me away from my present life — or, even more so, insight into what it means to be a modern wife in an age when marital commitment is a choice and not a societal requirement.

But I realize the story I am looking for is the one I have inside, the one that is built by the choices I — we, the Ukrainian and I — make. And these choices are as much of choices in attitude and approach kind than of the physical.

See, our fairy tale has been interrupted. Neither of us are sick or dying. No great devastation has become us (though there have been a couple of severe disappointments). But, this summer, as we were painting, decorating and buying new furniture for our new castle in the sky, we realized that certain aspects of our marriage and lives here are unsustainable and might be unresolvable if we continue living in the Bay Area. As such, the Ukrainian is taking a huge risk and pursuing potential opportunities that would relocate us to a different time zone within the year or so.

This decision has opened up my old wounds of insecurity. For so long, I’d been looking for a place to call home. And finally, I thought I had found it when we moved into our new place. Finally, I had stopped looking to leave San Francisco. I let myself fall completely in love with this city. And started to invest myself in it. And now, I feel myself back to being an uncertain temporary visitor, the kind who is just waiting for the arrival of the next train.

Intellectually, I always knew that marriage would potentially mean sacrificing your own happiness/security for the happiness/security of your spouse — or to sacrifice what’s best for you to gain what’s best for the two of you. But I always imagined these were sacrifices made by military wives, housewives, women who married straight out of university and relied upon their husbands for their material livelihood. I didn’t imagine that these challenges would come up in my own marriage — a marriage I chose as a financially independent, well-traveled and educated career woman.

And so, the latter half of the summer has been tough. It was one filled with thought rather than words. But in the end, I have decided to support the Ukrainian in his quest — no matter how uncertain it makes our day-to-day lives in the coming year. Now, I must find that difficult balance between fully living life while awaiting the outcome of his quest and maintaining enough detachment from this city so that I won’t be heartbroken if/when it becomes time to leave.

Live, love, and let go. I am no Buddhist. But if I were, these words would be my mantra for the coming seasons.

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Fairy-tale

I expected to miss our old place. I expected to feel some nostalgia for that 1890s Victorian railroad flat that hadn’t been considered modern since 1939. But I don’t. It had been exactly 3 years since I had moved in as a depressed, numb, unemployed, almost clinically underweight refugee from everything I knew in life. During those first few months in that apartment, I considered it a major accomplishment if I made it through the day. I woke up, I walked the dogs, I dressed, I rode my bike to work, I worked, I bought a $2 batch of french fries for lunch, I worked some more, I rode my bike home, I walked the dogs again, I ate some cheese and crackers for dinner, and then I waited for night to come. I waited for sleep and respite from all the pain and heartbreak I had experienced in the prior 2 years.

I slept on an air mattress borrowed from a friend. I also owned 2 lawn chairs and 3 Ikea Lack coffee tables purchased from Ikea. Rounding out my possessions were a $120 worth of goods purchased by my mother at the Wal-mart in Indianola, IA. The items ranged from 1 blanket and a set of sheets to a broom to dish detergent. They were the items that my mother had determined without which I couldn’t live indepently on my own. I was 31 years old and had traveled the world. But I was too broke — financially, emotionally, and spiritually — to purchase my own basic needs at Wal-mart.

Soon the summer turned into fall. In that time, I finally ended things with the Bulgarian ex-boyfriend, once and for all. Work took up more of my time and so I spent less time waiting for night to come.  I was still in contact with the Dutchman in Europe for I needed him to close out my business there. But I only had 2 friends to my name in San Francisco. I spent my time with my dogs. I walked and walked the hills of San Francisco. My weight stayed low. I cut my own hair. When I became inept at my own cutting, I ventured into the heart of the Mission looking for someone who could do it on the cheap. I came back to the old Victorian flat with a crew cut. I cried and mourned all the material things missing in my life, beyond my missing hair. I figured out how to finance the return of my goods from Europe. I took a roommate to help with it all. I reconnected with another ex-boyfriend to atone for my sin of breaking up with him 3 days before he was to visit me in Europe the prior year.

And then…one strange morning, just before Christmas 2006, that ex-boyfriend who I was trying to get back for the mere sake of assauging my guilt of dragging him into and then dumping him out of my messed- up life called. There was somone else he liked, he said. He thought I should know that. I thought back to our hour-long slow dance at my friend’s holiday party the previous week. I recalled the way his hand slipped up my leg at my corporate holiday part only days before. I thought of the multi-hour-long phone calls we had many evening. There was someone else he liked, he said. He thought I should know that. These words replayed themselves over and over in my head before he had even finished saying them.

“Do you still want me to come to your party?” I asked in response.

To be continued…

Happy Defender of the Motherland Day

Where have I been? Working hard, long hours. There has been time for little else, though the Ukrainian and I did have a lot of fun the weekend of Valentine’s Day/President’s Day. It was the weekend of the one year anniverary of our engagement. So fun was mandatory. The best therapy. Maybe, one day, I will post pics.

Where has the Ukrainian been? Also working hard, long hours. We are both tired. Not too grumpy as we have re-discovered our love in this non-fun time when everyone is fearful of losing his/her job. But tired nevertheless.

The Ukrainian’s mother back in Zaporicchia (sp?) keeps asking us “Where is the baby? Where is the baby?” What can we say? We are so tired, so stressed about our jobs. So happy that we have our jobs. We want to keep them. We daydream of having a baby. We even have arguments about what we would call it if ever one was conceived. But, deep down, our superstitious selves know that we have a very smart baby up in the sky of dreams who knows that now, right now, is not really a good time as it seems we can barely take care of ourselves and the dogs. Adding a little one to the mix might make all the stress too much to bear.

But yes, today was Defender of the Motherland Day. Don’t think I didn’t know this. I have a friend in Moscow who’s Facebook status updates keeps me well-informed of the going-ons in the Ukrainian’s Motherland-Region. While the Ukrainian was hoping to get a day full of his every fantasy, I got him the only things a loving, very tired wife could get her most beloved man: a cake.

This cake was not just any cake, but a very special magic cake. See, the Ukrainian and I had shared a very special Princess Cake on Valentine’s Day from the Noe Valley Bakery. Despite the Princess’s cake girly-sounding name, it was quite indeed fit for a grown-up Malchuk (aka man) as the cake itself was soaked in Triple Sec liqueur and each layer was line with Raspberry jam and cream. The Ukrainian loved this cake and wanted nothing more in the world (besides every man’s fantasies of his wife) than another cake just like the Princess cake. But the Noe Valley Bakery insisted that suck a cake could only be made on Valentine’s Day — NOT on Defender of the Motherland Day.

I was disappointed. The Ukrainian is so good at getting me special cakes on all the holidays that are important to me. I wanted to do the same for him. I thought of a 2nd-best cake. A cake of hazelnut, strawberries, and cream. It would have to be special-ordered. The Noe Valley Bakery doesn’t normally carry such cakes on a day-to-day basis. But my lazy, overly busy self didn’t call and order the cake.

*Sigh. I wanted to put a Loser “L” on my forehead for such oversight. But instead, I went over this afternoon to the Noe Valley Bakery to see if perhaps they’d have any fruit tarts left. But they didn’t. The glass counter was all but empty except for…are you ready?….yes!…the Noe Valley Bakery glass counter had only 2 cakes left. And yes, both of them were hazelnut cake with Strawberries and cream. Just as I had imagined! It was like I imagined the cake into existence.

The Ukrainian was quite happy to eat his Defender’s Day cake when he got home. He said it reminded him of the cakes he used to eat back in Ukraine. Could you get any more appropriate cake than that for the Defender of the Motherland Day? There is no way he could’ve eaten a heart-shaped princess cake on Defender of the Motherland Day back in Ukraine.

I really am a good wife.

Even if I haven’t delivered a baby to my mother-in-law.

We are busy working, dreaming of babies, and dreaming cakes into existence.

Maybe, one day, we will dream a baby into existence. But not now.

I hate this economy

I am fine. Well-employed. Bought a new 5 year old used car the other day actually. But I hate this economy. I hate the bail-outs for Wall Street. I hate that Wall Streeters can’t seem to live on $150k – $180k per year. I know things are expensive in NY. But San Francisco is right up there. And we live on less. Go ahead and give some super-hotshot ethical Wall Streeter his $250k/$300k. But really, bonuses in the 7 figures or upper 6 figures. No.

We have no children. Together, we pull in a decent salary, though not one large enough that will make it easy to raise a child in this city (no, we’re not expecting one yet). We own no real estate. So we can deduct nothing from our taxes. We pay a very large amount in taxes. We are paying for this bailout.

I don’t hate this economy for the lack of consumerism. I think it’s good actually. And I want to be given our bitter pill so that the economy can sort itself out without ‘the bubble’ being propped up by the government.

But I do hate this economy for its murdering of hope. People can believe in Barack Obama all they want, but everyday the numbers come out. More jobs lost. And when you are new in a country and you are trying to change your life when the language and absolutely everything is different from everything you’ve ever known, it’s too easy to think “Why bother?” Everyone is losing their job.

But this economy will prove what kind of American do you want to be. The kind who loves the easy money of the properous years, who inherits the famed attempts of the California goldminers in seach of luck — whether in gold, an internet start-up, real estate, or whatever the next bubble brings. Or are you going to be the type of American echoing the anonymous legends of the past, who pulled themselves up by bootstraps, worked hard, and gave their attempts at success every ounce of sweat and sacrifice they had.

25 Things

Sorry I haven’t written lately. We were working on our wedding album and didn’t get much sleep during that time as there was a tight deadline. And now, there’s this little thing called a ‘recession’ going on in the world. 62,000 jobs were announced to be cut yesterday. We are feeling especially dutiful towards our employers right now.

Despite our fears about the economy and our job security in the latter 1/2 of 2009 (we feel safe for the 1st half), we are going to go look at purchasing a used 2004 Volkswagen Golf tonight from a dealer. We have been searching and searching for the perfect car at the perfect price for months and have finally found a contender. I’m wearing purple right now for luck.

And lastly, there’s a game going around right now on Facebook where you write 25 random things about yourself that people may or may not know. Mine are here:

1. I’m always trying to balance roots/wings. Wanderlust with nesting.
2. I don’t eat bread. It’s not an Atkins thing.
3. Fashion is an art, not a status symbol. (Thanks Kara!)
4. I spent a term studying at a Catholic Seminary. I now never go to church/mass.
5. I have 2 60-pound wonders dogs that have their very own European passports. They are my first loves.
6. I’m married to the absolutest nicest guy in the world and love him deeply. He tolerates my profound devotion to my dogs. Luckily, he loves them too.
7. I would rather drive a good, used German car than a new Japanese one. I never even look at American cars.
8. I never meant to be a software engineer. It just turned out to be something I could do when I got sick of being a poor student. Now my brain is too trained to be anything else.
9. I’d rather be working in fashion. But I like the economic security of engineering.
10. I’ve learned that wherever you go, you tend to take your problems with you. So best to solve them before you leave.
11. By the same token, I’ve learned it’s great to take advice and listen to other people’s insights. But at the end of the day, we’re all different people and have to do what’s right for us.
12. I’m usually happiest when I’m listening to my own intuition. Even when I make mistakes, they’re my mistakes.
13. I’m usually late by at least 15 minutes.
14. I once went back to my “hometown” after being away for many years and got weirded out that the people there seemed to remember more about my life there than I do.
15. My brain is pretty good at garbage collection.
16. My dad was a butcher for much of his life. He hunted. I grew up in Iowa and watched him hack of the heads of chickens to cook for dinner and I frequently arrive my parents’ house to a dead deer in the garage. But I’m a vegetarian.
17. I commute by bike to work.
18. Nothing is more beautiful than the Pacific hitting the rocky California shore at sunset (though the Amalfi coast comes close).
19. I really want a baby but have doubts about how well I would balance the demands of motherhood with the demands of a full-time+ job that is filled with 90+% men.
20. Even though the nature of my career was unexpected, I’m a bit proud of myself for making it this far.
21. I dream of a flat/house with such basic modern amenities as insulation, heat, a non-shared hot water heater, dishwasher and washer/dryer. But I would never give up my original hardwood floors or prime hip location.
22. I still get all drooly-eyed whenever I see my husband. He is just too cute for words.
23. I prefer Modern Art and Design to traditional/masters.
24. Van Gogh’s early works of the field workers in Holland are my favorites of his as they remind of the low, dark, dreary Dutch winter sky. Makes me love California all the more.
25. I’d put a Miro on my wall before I’d hang a Van Gogh.

Happy Old New Year: Update

We just realized that the Old New Year (Orthodox) isn’t until the 13th:  tuesday. It’s only the 11th. Our only redemption on this error is that it’s already the 12th in Ukraine, so we are off by only 1 day. But still…we really must chalk this entire holiday season up to being the one we got entirely wrong. Some holidays we all but missed altogether, others we tried but failed, and some we didn’t want to celebrate, but went out into the world anyway with a smile on our face. And this one, we celebrated too early and too little.

We tried for the cake. We went to the Noe Valley Bakery where we get almost all our cake. But since we had not specially ordered one, we had to get a pre-made one off the shelf. Unfortunately, when we brought it home and sliced it, it had the distictive texture of a cake that had been sitting out on the shelf a day too long. It’s edible, but not tasty and moist. It’s a bit dry. I think I’ll be consuming more of the buttercream frosting than the cake itself.

We also tried to rent Irony of Fate (Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром!) at Lost Weekend Video on Valencia St. But sadness again. The video store does not carry the movie. We considered watching Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (Москва слезам не верит) again, but opted not to. We chose to return home and procrastinate do our respective work and chores.

Once the 13th comes and goes, I think we can officially count the 2008-2009 holiday season as over. It will haven been our first holiday season together as a married couple. Short of somebody dying (though everybody does die eventually) or the economy faltering so much we find ourselves standing in a soup line for our holiday meals, we can only improve in our celebrations and establishing our own traditions. Next year, I think my inner control freak should be sufficiently rested to get out a calendar and make a battle plan to tackle all the days that fall between Thanksgiving and the Old New Year.

*****

I wish I could capture the day that was San Francisco today. It was so beautiful. So warm. The way the light bounced of the pastel-wooden walls of the houses. The very softness of the air. The pinks and oranges overlaying the blues at sunset. A hot pink jetstream cutting across though very pinks and oranges. The hippies sitting outside their houses on the stoop watching the sky change its colors. The single star glistening surrounded by sea blue sky. The mission hipsters riding their bikes acoss and down Valence. The Cubans outside Radio Habana with the salsa playing. The Ukrainian and I kissing each other at each crosswalk, so rich the air was with love and romance. The sadness I felt, thinking that I must be on holiday and tonight is the end of it all. The world is so beautiful. I keep thinking I will wake up and be surrounded by cold and barrenness and a pale gray sky that gives life to nothing. But tomorrow’s forecast only call for more beauty. 

I once fell in love with a Bulgarian. He introduced me to San Francisco and all the beauty and misery it has to offer. I thought that it was him that had opened my heart after it had been so hardened by New York. But then I went away. I moved to Northern Europe where there was only rain. So little light. (But the grass was greener than any I’d ever seen.) When I returned to San Francisco, I had a moment when I was riding on the back of a motorcycle, returning from a date in Half Moon Bay with an Irishman. We flew over the hills of Dolores St. We were coming back at sunset, heading north, the palm trees dividing the the street in front of us and the city below. It was then that I realized that maybe I did not love the Bulgarian as much as I had thought. But I loved the city. San Francisco. So beautiful that you can not help but love everything contained within her limits.

San Francisco, your beauty hurts me sometimes. You are so beautiful you hurt the eyes in front of my heart. Only such beauty could bring me back for more.

Happy Orthodox (Old) New Year!!!

Happy Old New Year! We are off to get cake. And try to get ahold of the movie “The Irony of Fate”. No presents though. But we have spent the afternoon lounging in the sun and trying to narrow down all our fabulous wedding photos into 100 favorites for an album. It’s 70 degrees (F) and sunny here in San Francisco. We are happy.