Is classical music HOT? Yes, get turned on!

A few months ago my friends invited me to a piano concert: “The Last Sonatas of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert” played by a world-renown pianist Sir András Schiff. I enjoy classical music, but I’m far from being a connoisseur. Deep down I was afraid I’d be stuck for three hours listing to some depressing, end-of-one’s-life music written often at the time of sickness and destitution. But I went along. As we sat down in our seats, I began feeling guilty for wanting to leave, or to take a nap, or at least to eat that dark chocolate cookie that I sneaked in. As the lights dimmed, my inner peace was taking a vacation elsewhere.

Sir Schiff—clad in all black that accentuated his Albert Einstein inspired silver hairdo—walked to the middle of the stage, bowed to the anticipating audience, and sat down at the grand piano. He gently placed his fingers on the keys and paused. The concert hall fell silent: no hushed sounds, no wiggling in the seats, no rustling of the program’s pages. There were only two of them. The master and his instrument. Two figures in black. Two partners about to begin an intimate rendezvous. And us, the audience, with eyes glued to the scene.

And then Sir Schiff stroke the first keys. I forgot promptly about my guilt (of wanting to doze off) and my guilty pleasures (the cookie). I thought about the undeniable talent of the composers and the pianist and how privileged I was to experience it. I laughed at myself for fearing the unknown only to truly enjoying it. I also thought that each of them must have studied, practiced, and performed 7-10 hours a day, maybe more, probably with no days off.

“When you knock on the door of success, it’s work that opens it,” someone said. Isn’t that true? Listening to the flow of notes created and performed by people who responded to the calls of their souls despite all difficulties and excuses (and the melting chocolate cookies) inspired me to get back to my own craft—creative writing. I’ll write a story when I get back home! My inner peace came back.

But the experience at the concert wasn’t only inspirational. As I watched in an almost hypnotic state the pianist’s long fingers caressing gently, stroking urgently, pressing hard, and gliding along the smooth and shiny ivory and black keys, I got turned on. Really on. Oh-oh, what if Sir Schiff, who was rocking back and forth rhythmically, was making delicious love right in front of our eyes? A mischievous smile danced on my lips:

I should go to classical music concerts for both spiritual and erotic experiences more often. And next time I’ll bring a vibrator instead of a cookie!


Photo credit: Maurice.


A tongue twister trouble, or what your Mom wouldn’t want you to say in public

Some 15-odd years ago I came to Chicago for grad school. At that time I could understand English better than I could speak. But my ability to understand English didn’t take me far when it came to idioms and other colorful expressions that make the language so alive – and so confusing at times.

They: “Are you still jetlagged?” Me: “Since when jets have legs?”

Me: “My friend is a drug dealer.” They: “Huh??? And you say it so openly?” Me: “Why not? She works at a drug store.”

They: “He is such a party pooper!” Me thinking: Somehow I don’t think that he goes to parties just to do number two.

But then I had a visitor who spoke no English at all, my Mom, and that’s when the real fun began. One Saturday we were invited for dinner at my professor’s house. My Mom, who was born in Ukraine but had the hair that would easily qualify her for Ms. Ukrainian Afro, wanted to straighten her hair. So we went to a local hair salon on Wabash Street. Three clients (women) were already sitting in their chairs, chatting with their stylists (also women) as the magic of hair coloring, cutting, and curling was performed. I held two thick textbooks in my left arm, aka close to my heart with the hope that the knowledge would somehow get into my blood stream and prepare me for a weekly quiz. You see, I was in a pickle: I wanted to spend time with my Mom, but I also had tons of homework. My plan was to catch up with class readings while she got her hair done.

No one paid attention to us when we walked in — despite a door bell that chimed its “ding-ding” quite authoritatively. I walked up to the empty receptionist desk with my two books and my Mom in tow and asked loudly with Russian accent: “Excuse me, do you do a blow job here?”

Now we’ve got everyone’s attention: The chatting died, the faces froze, the brains attempted to reconcile the situation. “My Mom needs it,” I added eagerly.

My words triggered a roar of laughter. In turn, their reaction made my Mom and me look at each other in utter confusion. “А что? Я не то что-то сказала??” (“What? Did I say something wrong??”)

When the laughter – and some serious snorting on the part of one stylist – died away, they took us in. My Mom got her hair straitened beautifully, while I finished reading an assigned chapter. We even got a discount for “making their day.” Whatever that meant!

When I finally learned the difference between “a blow job” and “blow drying,” I was mortified. For years. In retrospect, I’m glad that we didn’t have to change motor oil at Jiffy Lube that day. Who knows what I could’ve asked a room full of men.


Photo credit: Tim.

Songs, flies, and epiphanies, or “this too shall pass”

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Felix and I got married on a freaky cold December 15, 1997 in Columbus, OH. We were both international students. Our parents were not present at the ceremony largely because we eloped. That’s what you do on a cold day in Columbus, OH, I guess. But we did have a wedding reception the following May when our parents came to the States for our graduation.

That day in May didn’t start out right. My mom forgot my lacy bra and panties bought at a bridal salon with the “Mr. and Mrs. Right” print on them. Because her hotel was conveniently located across the town, we had to rush to Target to get the items so I wouldn’t become Mrs. Right with my butt naked.

Felix’s cousin refused to go to the reception in the evening because the last episode of the last season of her favorite sitcom, Seinfeld, was shown. We had to bow to a screaming 15-year-old and move the reception to the lunch time.

Felix’s uncle volunteered to be a wedding videographer. “Great, we will save some bucks!” we thought. Well, his uncle — after a drink or two or three — mixed up the Record and Stop buttons with a predictable outcome… But maybe it was for the better.

My salad plate came with more protein that I asked for: A fat black fly rested on its back in my Caesar salad with its legs spread as if it was getting ready for its annual ob-gyn exam.

But the best was the song played over and over during our lunch: “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic.

Staring down at the fly, I had an epiphany: “This ship will go down too. Give it five years.”

And it had. Nearly five years on the dot. But my heart did go on.


Let your body talk

In a writing workshop we were asked to write from a point of view of our body or a body part. To let our body talk so to speak. Here’s a whimsical dialog between my elbows inspired by the upcoming Independence Day.

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I say, “We are the most neglected part of your body!” And I agree!

“Always facing the outer world, always supporting your body’s other parts’ movements.”

“And what do we get in return? Nada.”

“No love, no kisses, not even a drop of hand cream.”

“When you’re pissed and you put your hands on your hips, we protrude into the space defining your boundaries. “Don’t cross them,” we warn the world outside.”

“When you’re deep in your thoughts, and prop your arms on a table, we support your arms that hold you head so it can give birth to Eureka ideas.”

“When you are hot, horny, and heavy and get on your knees, we are there to lean on, aren’t we?” He-he-he….

“And what’s in return?”


“That’s scandalous!” I say. And I agree.

“We claim independence. From you. To pursue our own happiness and unrestricted access to hand cream.”

“You don’t want to have the Boston Cream Party on your hands, don’t you?”

“So. I think we did well.”

“Yes, I bet she got our point.”

“Give me sharp five!”



You took a shower with what?!

To Alik who encouraged me to spill the shower and other life beans.

Yes, I did it. Did it last Saturday. Against my better judgment. If I were to tweet about my experience, I would have used #how-strange, #desperation-galore, or #SOS(sanity). Or was I thinking outside the box? So, here it is… I took a shower with my new, six foot tall… hibiscus plant.

I know, I know…And no, I’m not trying to starting a kinky trend here! Seriously. I just followed the instructions on how to get rid of spider mites in the most effective and harmless (for the plant, if not the pests) way! Oh, this know-it-all-and-show-it-all Internet. It does get us into trouble. “Just wash your plant in a shower to drown adult spider mites,” a hibiscus lover wrote on her blog, “but do it meticulously. Wash every single millimeter of each plant.” She also posted pictures of gorgeous, bright pink and orange flowers as evidence of what happens to plants that were well-taken care of. I wanted those blooms in my bedroom! All sounded quite good… until I got to the implementation part.

After a bit of struggle, I managed to put my rather heavy plant inside the tub. I covered the plant’s base with a plastic bag. The bushy plant – an eye candy to look at when it’s basking its full-body green foliage in the sunshine by the window – now looked too big to fit into the shower. I wondered, “And how exactly am I going to spray water under every leaf?” As I was trying to close the shower curtain on one side, the leaves peeked out on the other. “I can’t play peekaboo with you for the rest of Saturday!” I told my plant feeling annoyed. “You’re talking to a plant,” I informed myself in case I missed it. “Besides, every time you shake the plant, spider mites might take a flight…on your head.” Good point! Just in case, I put a shower cap on.

Now that the plant was in and the curtain was drawn, I still had a problem of washing it under every leaf and around each twig. Sigh… I realized that I couldn’t do it without getting inside, which would put me in intimate proximity of a frantic colony of spider mites. I continued an internal dialogue:

“But you’re already halfway through! Besides if you start taking the plant out of the tub now, the rest of the mites will fall down on the floor.”

“Maybe I should get my wetsuit?”

“No, you can’t offend a beautiful memory of surfing in the Pacific with this dreadful pest job!”

“Get in for cake’s sake!”

“I’m going to put my glasses on. Sunglasses! To pretend it’s not me.”


I washed the top and the bottom of most leaves turning the plant carefully. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. Except my look: A shower cap, sunglasses, and white lace underwear. (Don’t even ask!)

0:1 in my favor.

After I cleaned up and put everything in order, I finished reading the article. “Repeat this washing process 2-3 times every 5-7 days.” WHAT????


How resting is your “resting face”?

The benefits of public transportation are plenty. One, perhaps underrated, perk of riding a bus or metro is people watching, especially if we are not glued to our i- and other e-devices. Thanks to a dead phone battery, I was able to observe others and to learn something about myself in the process.

A woman in her late 40s walked in my rail car at a metro stop before mine. I’m not sure what caught my attention as she didn’t stand out in any remarkable way from the rest of my fellow metro riders. Maybe, it was the look on her face: The cheekbone muscles were tense; two deep wrinkles marked her forehead between the eyebrows; the lips were tight as if she wanted to say something but had a change of heart and caught her words in the last moment. I couldn’t tell whether she was disappointed, upset, concerned about something, or just deep in her thoughts.

As I was studying her face, I wondered if she was aware of her facial expression. What if she were to look in the mirror right now, what would she think about her reflection, her so-called resting face expression? What if I were to look in the mirror right now, what would I see? Where are those candid cameras when you need them!

With the idea of mirrors and reflections planted in my subconscious, I stopped by at DSW, conveniently located on the way from the metro to my house. (Full disclosure is needed: I didn’t plan to go to DSW when I left the office. It was all my subconscious’ fault ;-))

I was walking between the rows of nicely-displayed shoes searching for that perfect pair of black booties for the fall when I suddenly saw myself in the mirror. “How did you look?” you might ask. Well, I looked like a woman on a shoe-hunting mission: My eyes were slightly narrowed to bring everything into laser-sharp focus; my upper body leaned forward to charge ahead; my teeth were clenched. No idle talking is permitted. Seriously.

This is it. This is how I look without even realizing it. Eeek!

So, what if I imagine that I’ve already found that awesome pair of black suede booties and that I’m about to take them out on their first walk? I closed my eyes getting into the image of me strutting down the street in my brand-new, high-heel (but pleasantly comfortable) booties. Ok, got it. I opened my eyes and walked to the next mirror.

Quite a difference, my friend! My body was erect but relaxed, my chin was up, and a playful smile lit up my face (and DSW more generally). Here’s my lesson of today: Awareness coupled with vivid imagination is a powerful tool that we have right at our fingertips, yet we do not often use it, or do not use it often enough.

I walked out of DSW feeling gorgeous and in style – in the booties of my imagination. 

Looks and outlooks, or how our bodies react to stress

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The other day a friend shared her feelings about her parents-in-law’s visit. With a heavy sigh, she vented that not only they came for a whole month – the eternity in a life of two young parents who juggle busy professional careers, social activities, and a boisterous 5-year old – but also that her husband’s parents wanted to sit on the porch and talk for hours and hours — mostly about why my friend and her husband did everything the wrong way.

During our chat, we agreed that a longer visit made sense: After all, the parents travelled half the world from a small village in Thailand to Los Angeles to have some quality family time. We also agreed that well-meaning parents almost by design feel obligated to “fix” their less-experienced offspring and have a wide repertoire of methods to accomplish this. Even if they live in Thailand and you live in the States, somehow they still know better. But can they really expect that the lecturing would be received with love, gratitude, and undying interest every single day from dawn to dusk? According to my friend, her in-laws’ expectations regarding this are high, and so is her blood pressure. So, we talked how lower the stress by meditating regularly, finding a different perspective on their words and actions, and most importantly, how to channel their “we want to be relevant” energy on innocuous tasks such as gardening… or moving rocks.

I can commiserate with my friend as her story stirred the memories of the visits of my ex husband’s parents. Like my friend’s in-laws, mine are good-hearted people and expressed their love in the way they could. But it was hard to be around them because they dealt with cross-Atlantic travelling, lost baggage, new foods and new environment with the coolness of the boiling water. Our house would turn into a minefield of social interactions. An extra step to the right or to the left, and you’re toast. Anything could have set off arguments and occasional crying: the way the furniture is arranged, our diverging views on politics, wasted money on travelling, and even how loud it is appropriate to slam the car door.

I recall that during one of their visits, my entire face broke out in hives. Not the small ones that could be overlooked as pimples and covered with some foundation make-up. No, they were bright-red, penny-size blisters with an attitude: “We’ve got you covered, girl, and you can’t do much about it. Ha-ha-ha!!!” I was pissed for a serious reason. These annoying attention grabbers devoured the entire bottle of my new Chanel liquid foundation in just three days. Imagine that!

“Oh, you must have eaten something,” my concerned mother-in-law told me. “Yes, I had a fat Big-Mac portion of the two of you!” I wanted to say that. Instead, I went along with her explanation. A typical family visit, I guess…

Like my friend, I was counting minutes to the time my in-laws go home. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Shortly after we dropped our guests off at the airport, the hives took off too, like by magic.  And to make my day even better, I went to Macy’s and bought another bottle of Chanel foundation. Talk about a different look and outlook!

So, what do you do to lessen your stress level?


Photo credit: ^CiViLoN^.

From dominance to self-worth

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This morning I saw a brawny guy leaving an LA Fitness club. His smug grin said it all: “I worked my butt out hard and I look pretty good.” But it was the sign on his t-shirt that caught my attention. It read: “Prepare To Dominate.”

Dominate who, what, and, most importantly, why? I don’t know what the designers of his t-shirt had in mind, but I all I could think of was numerous social relationships and interactions that I participated in or observed, in which people tried to assert their self-worth by putting others down. I have to admit that at some points I was the guilty party too. In retrospect, my attempts to present a better picture of myself at the expense of others had mostly to do with my own insecurities, my own fears about my role in the relationships or interactions that went south. Busted!

But it feels good to know that by now I developed  – by trial and error, of course – enough self-confidence and self-love that I don’t need to climb on someone’s back to appear “taller,” to feel valued.

What truly uplifts me today is to see people around me who respect others while maintaining a high regard for themselves. I also dig helping those who need my hand in discovering their true selves and gaining self-confidence.

What lifts you up?

High heels and push-up bras do not count!