Day 55: Proekt 365 (Blackbird singing…)

There is something so comforting and uplifting about the first songs of the various birds as they return to our neighbourhood each spring. Some of these birds return much earlier than we ever expect. Some disappear far too soon with summer solstice. But, from the Annoying Bird of Spring to the plentiful blackbirds and nightingales, we’ll take them all. And, most of all, we’ll delight in their songs.

Yesterday evening as The Cuban and I enjoyed the lengthening day which also marks the beginning of the end of winter and the imminent arrival of spring, we were delighted to hear the blackbird’s song and its return to our hood.

For whatever reason, both of us love the blackbird above all others. Its song is so joyful, almost playful. Even the worst days are made somehow better when the blackbird sings from high atop the trees across the street from our flat. Maybe it’s that its song rings loudest at the end of the day just before darkness descends, somehow serving as a beacon to guide us home. In the woods near our flat, the blackbird’s song is the loveliest of all. Its resonance and pitch almost light up the woods even as the sun fades below the horizon.

Maybe we simply love the blackbird’s song because we both love the Beatles.

Day 53: Proekt 365 (A story for Caturday)

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So, Saturday is also known as Caturday in this house. In truth, every day is Caturday given the size of our darling beastie’s personality.

But, there was a time when we had not just Che Fufu, but also Kissochka—a thoroughly Russian cat with an equally large presence and personality, although very different to Che Fufu. Kissochka was my cat when The Cuban and I met. Later, we adopted Che Fufu. Kissochka was not amused but was also wildly protective of the tiny furball who invaded her territory. It was ever-so sweet and ever-so confusing.

Today, The Cuban sent me the sweetest of stories retelling this history from his perspective. In my first reading of it, I didn’t realise it was his writing for whatever reason, although I chalk that up to the utter lack of focus I’ve been experiencing today and other issues weighing on my mind. (Also, his writing in English has improved tremendously in the 8+ years we’ve been together!) But, this story is so accurate and so lovely to read given that it’s how he experienced that time, it’s made my Caturday.

So, I give you, his Story for Caturday, unedited and in his own words:

On Pet-religion.

When I was a kid we had a dog and his name was Lobo. That’s Spanish for wolf. Mean Little-Red-Ridding-Hood-for-breakfast kind of dog. It’s easy to see growing up with a dog would make anyone a dog person. But Lobo didn’t last long. My mom had to give him away because he was so protective he wouldn’t let anyone get close to the kids. I still became kind of a dog person because of my dad. He loved dogs and he had a very smart and sweet Doberman. Not so sweet if you crossed the garden fence uninvited.

Growing up in a misogynist patriarchal society meant having a dog was the typical reinforcement of macho attitudes. Cats were for pussies, that was the mindset.

When I finally could live by myself I didn’t get a pet. I always thought a dog was not suitable to live in a small flat. And when asked about pets I would reply I was a dog person. That was the pet-religion inculcated into me.

One day I got a girlfriend with a cat. I would explain I was not a cat person but didn’t mind cats. When she moved in with the cat I started to realize pet-religion was hogwash. I went through long periods of doubt, insecurity and despair thinking I would end up in dog hell.

It was my dad’s suggestion I’d take some quantum physics that led me to solve my uncertainty. First we had a cat, then a second cat was added to the equation. The cats interacted with each other showing love, hate, and both – love and hate at the same time. I thought it was interesting and sweet… if I was awake. Not so much if I was sleeping and the eye of the cat-storm was passing over my head. How accurate could I predict cat-one’s position knowing cat-two’s momentum? It was all too complicated but the fact Schrodinger used a cat for his famous entanglement experiment made me see the light in the end.

I guess the point of the story is let your child grow up to decide which pet to worship.

And this is how I became a Catheist.

Day 52: Proekt 365 (Sweetness in the morning)

Day 52: Proekt 365 Sweetness in the Morning

Day 52: Proekt 365
Sweetness in the Morning

Today was an odd day. I woke up entirely too early (~5 am) and in a rather annoyed mood. The mood subsided quickly, but by about 14.00 this afternoon I needed much more caffeine and a disco nap. My plan for a proper vehicle for the go-go juice didn’t quick work out as I’d hoped or intended, and there was no disco nap. First World Problems at their finest, eh?

It wasn’t a bad day at all. Just surreal, largely due to a lack of sleep which resulted in a complete inability to focus or make a quick decision of any kind.

But, all of the best-laid plans which didn’t quite work out and all the annoyances of the day don’t really matter.

I snapped this photo this morning as my darling furry beast slept sweetly and soundly with my other not nearly so furry un-beast. It melts my heart now along with all the annoyances of the day immediately, just as it did when I saw them this morning. As I opened the photo this evening, I could also hear her sweet somber-induced snores — The Cat’s not The Cuban’s (yes, she does snore, and quite loudly, too!)

My family. My sweet, sweet family.

Day 51: Proekt 365 ( A new do)

Day 51: Proekt 365 Something there is that loves a new do

Day 51: Proekt 365
Something there is that loves a new do

(NB: I realise this is my second post today, but I’m trying to catch up and post on the proper day rather than a day or two later. Best laid plans and all…:))

Perhaps this won’t mean much to the fellas out there. But, there is nothing quite like getting a new hair cut.

For me, the last time I’d gotten the ‘works’ (cut, colour, style, head massage, etc.) was more than a year ago. For whatever reason, I just hadn’t gotten around to calling my trusty stylist, and months became a year. What a reunion it was.

Juuso is my third stylist in Helsinki. He will be my last. Whenever The Cuban and I decide to leave here, I will want to take Juuso with me simple because he has yet to disappoint me. A friend of mine described his technique as akin to trimming a bonsai. He is so meticulous, so careful with each snip and so incredibly thorough. I never really know if he is done until he takes the drape off and hands me the mirror for the final inspection and approval. And, what’s most important, he always, always, always seems to know precisely what I want done, even when I am not entirely sure myself. In his words, ‘simple, hip and hippie’.

Yeap. That sums it up perfectly.

Today’s reunion was just what this girl needed. I may still look pale and pasty and desperately in need of some sunshine (and iron). But, something as simple as a bit of TLC for the hair made my day. Thank you, Juuso! See you in 2-3 months!

Day 50: Proekt 365 (Coffee for the masses)

Day 50: Proekt 365 Coffee, coffee everywhere; not a drop to drink

Day 50: Proekt 365
Coffee, coffee everywhere; not a drop to drink

Finland consumes more coffee per capita than any other country on the planet, and by quite some margin. On average, 12.0 kg are consumed per coffee capita each year in Finland. (Yes, I did actually type ‘per coffee’ there, before realising what I’d done.) I’m guessing that we lie at the higher end of that particular scale, and possibly represent outliers.

But, I like this stat. In fact, I love it.

Yesterday, a friend and I spied this scene from a renovation site in the Helsinki city centre. Rather appropriate given where we are. We didn’t see any of the individuals who consumed these various cups. Perhaps they were on a coffee break.

Day 49: Proekt 365 (On randomness)

Day 49: Proekt 365 A random find in a random place

Day 49: Proekt 365
A random find in a random place

I’m continually amazed at how meaningful seemingly insignificant moments can bring such pure and simple joy — random finds, random acts and examples of kindness and goodness and chance meetings can make such a huge difference on days which seem mundane. Yesterday, when meeting up with two friends, we sat down at the table to find this tiny little origami scene. A random bit of loveliness on an otherwise dreary day.

So many moments on most days are utterly random and governed not by careful planning but by the intricate and delicate mixture of us and the various pieces in any particular scene. Change one ingredient and the result can be vastly different.

The Cuban and I took a taxi a few days ago and it was without a doubt the best taxi ride ever. Why? Well, the music didn’t hurt (i.e., blues, more specifically, B. B. King) coupled with an amazing sound system the driver was obviously proud of. But, mostly, it was the taxi driver himself. He was chatty from the moment we opened the door and on the entire route home, hilariously witty and obviously enjoying himself as much as we were entertained and amused. The typical taxi ride in Helsinki consists of a whole lot of silence. This ride was anything but that. What made it even more meaningful was just how random it was that we sat in that particular taxi. Best taxi ride ever. We’ll probably never see that guy again, but all other taxi rides will be measured against that one.

Yesterday’s origami find was equally random and no less lovely. As we were searching for a table, we noticed some folks getting ready to leave and waited. Had we not waited or had we arrived either an instant earlier or later, we most probably would have missed the little paper goose, tiny boats and cranes.

Many of the people we meet come into our lives in much the same way. Chance meetings may result in a whole lot of nothing; but, occasionally, they result in life-long bonds which withstand distance and circumstance and time. That The Cuban and I met was somewhat random. So many individual pieces in our lives had to have fallen into place in just the right way, sequence and time to have allowed us to be in Moscow at the right time. Shift any of the pieces and who knows?

Just as the randomness can cause unimaginable chaos, it can also bring boundless delight. I’ll gladly take the chaos just to experience that unexpected delight as much as possible. Bring on the randomness—at the end of the day, it’s a thing to behold and results in one hell of a ride.

Day 48: Proekt 365 (El Día del Maestro)

Day 48: Proekt 365 Día del Maestro

Day 48: Proekt 365
Día del Maestro

This post could easily be entitled ‘Like father, like son: part 2’. But, I’ve opted for Día del Maestro for a reason: today is the birthday of my beloved father-in-law, El Maestro.

If we could, we’d be spoiling him rotten today. Hell, we’d declare it the week of El Maestro and throw the man a parade if we could! Alas, half a world away, we can only send him loads of love from this side of the globe, and that we have in abundance.

He’s a rare treat of a man. Kind. Incredibly witty and bright. Compassionate to a fault. Moments of both brilliance and extreme silliness abound when he is near. Thoughtful. Contemplative. A brilliant cook. And, a great father judging by the quality of the man he raised. As nervous as I was meeting him for the first time, that quickly subsided and all that replaced it was a sense of being home and of being completely accepted as a member of his family. If only I could return a gift that carries a fraction of what that has meant to me.

My only wish is that I spoke Spanish. I’d love to take a class in physics from him—the man is obviously loved by his students and colleagues alike given the number of accolades he’s received and students who continue to surround and adore him. He is El Maestro for a multitude of reasons.

¡Feliz cumpleaños, El Maestro! We’ll save the homemade brownies for you, we’ll always find the Russian mustard for you and our casa is forever your casa. Thank you for being the most awesome father-in-law a girl could ever ask for. ¡Felicidad felicidad felicidad! Besitos x

Day 45: Proekt 365 (Me & My Valentine)

Day 45: Proekt 365 Me & My Valentine

Day 45: Proekt 365
Me & My Valentine

What more do I really need to say? I love this man. And, I love that he is in my life each and every day.

I’m grateful that he came into my life not just because he is my love, but because he is my best friend. And, in Finland, Valentine’s Day is about more than love — it’s about friendship and letting your friends know just how important they are to you.

So, here’s to my bestest friend on the planet. Thank you, sweetpea, for being so incredibly awesome!

Day 44: Proekt 365 (Snail mail surprise)

Day 44: Proekt 365 Surprise snail mail

Day 44: Proekt 365
Surprise snail mail

Remember snail mail? Yeah…other than bills, junk mail and the occasional order from, me neither.

Today, though, this little postcard of sweetness dropped through our mail slot with a few bits of junk mail. What a treat it was to see — the postcard, not the junk mail!

A close and dear friend once again planned ahead when I did not and sent this to show me her gratitude for our friendship in honour of 14 February — otherwise known as ‘Friendship Day’ (Ystävänpäivä) and a Finnish tradition which I gladly embrace, but always forget. The caption on the card reads: ‘Friendship makes the world a better place’.

Indeed, it does. And so do pictures of cute, adorable cuddly kittens!


Days 42 & 43: Proekt 365 (No complaints here)

Day 42: Proekt 365 Good thing the deadline was yesterday....I have no complaints!

Day 42: Proekt 365
Good thing the deadline was yesterday….I have no complaints!

I spied this sign yesterday at my new favourite lunch spot–Roslund. I can’t imagine that they’d have any complaints at all because the food is fabulous.

But, this sign also resonated with me for other unrelated reasons. I’ve found that by holding off on immediately reacting to situations, things seem less dramatic, less pressing and dare I say less annoying. Even if something is troubling or a bit of a concern, mulling it over or letting it lie helps. At least that seems to be the trend as of late.

Plus, given that I had several large and looming deadlines this past Monday, I loved the whole ‘deadline’ synergy.

Day 43: Proekt 365 A bit of pastrami and an (unreal) taste of home

Day 43: Proekt 365
A bit of pastrami and an (unreal) taste of home

Today brought another little bit of simple pleasure to my world.

A friend of mine who lives in Pennsylvania has been torturing me the last several months with pictures of mouth-watering mounds of pastrami. Not intentionally torturing me, but… each photo reminded me of just how much I love pastrami. Pastrami. I miss pastrami. Desperately.

Yesterday, I finally found proper pastrami at a butcher shop. (Insert the ‘I scored’ dance here!) It wasn’t cheap, but it also wasn’t prohibitively expensive and I didn’t have to figure out how to make it myself. (One day, I will. But, not now.) An added bonus—the butcher sliced it incredibly thin, so it’s perfect for sandwiches. (Seriously, if you can’t find me elsewhere, chances are I am camped out at Roslund’s.)

For lunch today, I made myself a sandwich. Just a simple little sandwich. And, I swear, I nearly cried it made me so happy. There is nothing quite like a big deli sandwich in my book. Today’s may not have been quite the same height as a pastrami on rye from one of my favourite haunts in New England, complete with fresh rye bread, fresh and not swimming-in-sauce cole slaw, crispy fries and deli pickles. But, oh… pastrami. How I love thee.

Nope. Not a complaint in sight. Regardless of the deadline for their submission, I have no complaints at all.