The book

I woke up at 5:30am, made myself a coffee, a few sandwiches for all of us, and then woke up the kids. I seated them in the car with blankets, their neck pillows, and doudous and we were on the road before it was 6. It was dark and warm inside the car. And then there was a heavy smell of smoke as we passed Sonoma and it made us all dizzy for a few minutes. Close to 7 we saw the first rays of sun on our right. The road was smooth and empty.

The book with the red cover and the word “Persepolis” in white letters was on the passenger’s seat, next to my handbag and the black winter jacket. I saw the book with the corner of my eye as we drove north through villages and hills.

That day the fall occurred suddenly as we were on the last stretch of the road before Tahoe. The trees were yellow, red, and green. And there was some snow on the branches. The mix of colors became fall and reminded me of how it was in Moscow in my childhood. The kids were singing on the back seats when we parked at the coffee shop for breakfast at 9. We had arrived to the lake. For an hour I read the book. I did not notice how I left my coffee unfinished and I have no idea how the kids entertained themselves meanwhile. With the book I stepped into some other life, that life was not mine, but nonetheless was very familiar. Almost as the fall in its present colors.

The whole day we hiked and played in the snow. And as I enjoyed the simple things with kids I was also thinking about my uncle that was sick in Moscow and I was worried about him. And then I told myself that there is nothing I can do and I just have to live my life and take care of the kids. In any case, if I would be very sick, this is what I would like others to do. I would not want my family to be worried about me. Life was this way – you have to live through things finding balance between being present to every side of life and not worrying worthlessly.

I opened the red book again when the kids were swimming in the pool. I first read in the hot tub, but then it became too crowded and I sat on a sofa facing the pool. I stretched my body under the last beam of afternoon sun, my legs were still wet and I was getting cold. And then the book got the rest of me.

The moon was beautiful that night. It was the thinnest moon I have ever seen, with the outline of the full round moon as a shadow. It was low, right above the mountains, and I looked at it while the kids ate their candies. I held my son’s hand, it was small, cushiony, and a little bit sweaty. We had an argument before dinner and I had to raise my voice at him quite a bit. And he cried and I felt the pain of having to be angry at him. He looked helpless, as if he never did anything right. And the pain was the shadow of my love for him.

I finished the “Persepolis” book laying in diagonal on the opened sofa bed in our hotel room. The kids were getting ready to sleep in the bedroom as I read the last page and closed the book. I remembered how I was left to live by myself when I was 14. I was in Barcelona and I could not remember if I was scared or not. I just remember how my dad bought me a table set that consisted of a few plates, a cereal bowl, and a tea cup. It was purple and made in Portugal. And when my parents left I looked at this set on my kitchen counter and I felt very hollow. But then I had committed to a new life and there was meaning to it.

I still had two of the purple plates and the tea cup. The cereal bowl broke years ago.

I went to the hotel lobby and as I was going down the stairs there was a couple. They were American, in their fifties probably. He had a kind and simple face and grey hair, and she was making some remarks about fishes in the pond. There was no complexity behind his wrinkles. And I suddenly understood why I could not fall in love with American men. It was not the lack of kindness.

I got an espresso from the bar, went back to my room, filled the bathtub, and kissed the kids goodnight. In the bathroom I took off my clothes, got into the tab, and did not think about anything. Or else I was afraid I would cry. I just sat there peacefully feeling the water on my skin.

How being a girl affects my time managment


As most people I have hard time setting time for myself, be it for reading, learning something new, writing a blog post (since I’ve started I have been interrupted twice by Skype questions from my coworker, and I replied), or even for watching a movie. With years I got disciplined and made a few rules for myself that I try not to break.

  1. I set time for work. And even if I work from home I am not going to touch our dining table or sweep the floors. I literally forget that I am at home and do not stress out about that piece of cucumber on the floor, our lunch today or the guinea pig cage that desperately needs cleaning.
  2. I set time in my calendar with clear start and end time. For example, Tuesday from 8:30am to 2:30pm work on community building for the brand. I figured out that six hours is good enough time. And I do not schedule any meetings for these hours. I also do not answer calls that are not project related.
  3. I leave 30min slots between each large task or project, this allows me to walk around, breath through, and answer this urgent email from my mom or text a friend who is inviting us for dinner on Saturday. Generally speaking I lose these 30 minutes. However, losing them allows me to save chunks of 4 and 6 hours of uninterrupted time without feeling bad that I am not being responsive to my family and friends.

These three steps allowed me to concentrate on my work and to do a good job when it comes to business. However, I am still struggling to find time for my own growth.

For growth and “feeling good about my life” I need:

  1. To read in chunks of 1-3 hours
  2. Study (I am fan of Coursera courses)
  3. Write my thoughts (via email, blog, or just in a notepad)

And it has been challenging, because I never seem to find a solid block of time to do these things daily. It seems the reverse of my working scheme. I focus on something for 30 minutes and then lose 3-4 hours on just stuff, mostly small stuff (helping kids with homework, fixing dinner, finding my son’s lost sock, scraping magic putty from my daughter’s bedsheets – No, she did not put it there, my son did. And if you are interested, you can only get it off by scraping the putty with a butter knife from the wet and soaped sheet.)

Today a friend sent me two articles on time management and maker’s vs. manager’s schedules. Here they are:

Article about Google email about time management strategy

Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule by Paul Graham

After reading both I started to think how come I have such hard time finding chunks of time for myself when I am not working. And then I thought, what’s the purpose, I am going to be interrupted anyway. And this is it: we expect to be interrupted.

As a kid I grew up first in Russia and later in Spain. A girl, a woman, is always supposed to help at home. When my mom would be cooking I would be asked to help clean the counter or set the table. When she would be cleaning I would be asked to help water the plants. When the friends were at the table I was asked to serve the tea or bring something from the fridge. Those were not hard tasks at all, and most of the time I enjoyed doing them. However this daily routine set me for “I am going to be interrupted” mode. It made me not start anything that would require deep concentration and absentmindedness. On the other hand, my brother, who by the age of 10 was sitting long hours at his computer playing and then programming, was considered a lost case. He was hard to get hold of, everything would take him 30 min more, considering it got him 30 min to just get off his chair, and at the end he was asked much less than I was.

I grew up expected to jump off my sit and help right away. I think that most of the girls are raised this way.  When it comes to simple household tasks girls are asked more than boys to help. And we grow up with the “schedule” where we can’t sit at home for 3 hours without being interrupted. Most of the time we will be asked to do something every 30 minutes if not more often. This sets us up for future manager’s schedule, but prevents us from working as makers. Those are my thoughts on why I find it so hard to set 2-3 hour chunks for myself every day to just read and learn.

I am raising two kids. One girl and one boy, and the truth being said, I ask my daughter to help more, exactly as I was asked to help more when I was 10. The simple reason is that my son would be so involved with his legos or books or whatever he is doing that it is hard to get his attention. I would need to repeat the same thing 5 times and to go fetch him, and then chase him, and then he will negotiate with me (in most cases unsuccessfully) trying to get more iPad time in exchange for help. My daughter would just come and help. And I chose the easy way.

Ok, as the next steps, I will set up some uninterrupted evening / night time for myself. And yes, I will have to do something with my kids’ schedules. In the past few days I had to leave them for a few hours at home by themselves, and each time I wrote for them a list of tasks they had to do before they could play iPads. Miraculously every time I got back home everything was done in the best possible way (I mean it! They literally cleaned what I asked them to clean). I think I can try this strategy for a bit and see if it works. This way they can do things at their own rhythm, and my daughter gets a chance to be a maker as well.

Small red light

A close friend told me his son got sick during a vacation trip. And I vividly remembered that night in a Croatian port. And how I was scared then.

We were on a short trip to Dubrovnik. My husband, our then five-year-old daughter, and me. On a third day of our trip our daughter got sick. She started having fever towards noon and we thought it would go away by itself. We returned to the hotel and watched her. By dinner time her fever only got higher and she was shivering. Since the trip was a very short one we did not have any medicines with us. We were staying in a hotel in a touristy downtown. At nine I went to a pharmacy that we spotted earlier, but it was already closed. It had a note on the door with the address of a 24-hour pharmacy. The pharmacy was far away, outside of the touristy area. I got back to the hotel with the address. We checked the location and decided not to go there.

By eleven our daughter’s fever only got worse. I told my husband that we need to get some ibuprofen for her. He said he is not going anywhere at that hour. I told him I would go and left the hotel room. I was able to catch a taxi and gave the piece of paper with the address to the driver. He told me it was far away in the port. Not a good place to be at night. I said this was the 24-hour-phramacy. He did not say anything in return. We drove out of the bright tourist city to the dark everyday Dubrovnik. There were no people on the streets and soon instead of the houses we were driving through the industrial hangars till we reached the port. Next to the port there was a small square with some trees and the driver stopped on the side of the square. “Here it is,” he told me and nodded towards a dark house with a metallic door and a small red light over it. I paid and got out of the car. I asked him to wait. But I am not sure he understood me. He stood with the inside lights on for half a minute while I was ringing the bell and then left. The truth is I was so scared of this darkness and the strange city that it took me a few seconds to realize that he had left. And then it was too late to run after the car.

It was dark. No lights except the small red light over the pharmacy door. The park on the square looked dark too. Across the park were the port docks. I rang the bell. It said “24-hour Pharmacy” over the door. And I had a hollow feeling that nobody was going to answer. Still I rang it again and again, because I did not know what to do next and I was scared. Probably ten or fifteen minutes have passed. It was clear that the door was not going to open. I had some money with me and no cell phone. It was past midnight.

Slowly I started crossing the park to reach a wide street that the taxi driver took. In the park I saw a group of Croatian men, may be 4 or 5 of them. They were drinking and talking. They said something at me when they saw me. And I just imagined that I was made out of steel and did not have a heart, and kept walking looking straight ahead. I was scared and my shoulders got tense. The men did not follow me.

On the wide street I felt better. There were almost no cars. I walked in what I thought was the direction towards the tourist center. Shabby houses on my left and shipping docks on my right. No people. I do not remember how long I walked but I reached a bus stop at some point. I stood there looking at the bus schedule which I did not understand. Then a bus stopped. It was empty. The driver asked me something in Croatian and I just told him I was a tourist. He switched to English. He was an old man and his English was not good, but we understood each other. “Tourist center?” he asked me. I nodded. “Go in,” he said. Then he handed me a tourist booklet and said. “Read. It is a long road.”

“The bus is off service. But I do not want you to stand alone there. Not safe.” he said. He continued talking as I sat on the second row. I rested my head against the window and felt asleep as soon as the bus took off. I think he kept talking all the way.

I woke up when the bus stopped and the doors opened. “Tourist center,” he said. I offered him money for the ride, but he just waved his hand and said “No, no. Go.” We were at the entrance of the Dubrovnik fortress, a few minutes away from the hotel.

It was close to three in the morning when I got inside the hotel room. My husband was sleeping. My daughter was laying feverish next to him. I went to the bathroom, soaked a towel in cold water and put it over her body. He woke up and told me he was worried and I should not have taken so long. I told him the pharmacy was closed.

I sat next to my daughter and kept changing soaked towels on her body and forehead. At seven the pharmacy under the hotel building opened and I got some ibuprofen there. I gave it to my kid and when she was feeling better, towards noon, I took her out, to the hotel terrace and ordered a coffee. And we sat there calmly. She coloring her new book and me enjoying the coffee on a bright October day.

Then I did not want to think about what have happened the night before. The darkness and fear seemed so far away in that colorful touristy city.

But when a friend told me his son was sick during a vacation trip I suddenly felt the fear of that night in Dubrovnik. Ringing the doorbell under the small red light. Shipping docks, dark streets, men drinking in the park. And me, blonde, blue-eyed, in jeans, beige sweater, and high heals. And the hollow feeling of nobody answering.


Heart of a warrior

Smart is sexy. When people think and say what they think I want to fall in love with them. And sometimes I do.

Falling in love is like a dance. A dance on your own orbit. No need to greet the other or to say good-bye. No need to say anything. It is a flow. You never really say good-bye to people you love. You move with your orbit. They move with theirs and the love flows.

And I am asking myself why we build barriers against out hearts. I have built so many of them.

May be because when we are young and our hearts are tender we protect them with barriers. We call them “point of view”, “habit”, “tradition”, “religion”, and “the right thing to do”. As we grow our hearts get stronger, but we keep the barriers there. They are no longer needed, but they make us feel safe. They also take away the free flow. And without the flow the dance and love do not happen.

Love is acceptance. Full acceptance of the other person. It is love of all the traits, of all the wrinkles, and of all the smooth sides. If I am attached to my “point of view”, or any other of my barriers, I can’t accept you, and as a consequence I can’t love you. Love means I do not want to change you. I do not want you to be any different from who you are right now.

Love is flow. And through love, and because of love, and for the sake of love I am learning how to take all the barriers down. What I used to call happiness turned out to be a glimpse of feeling the flow. Because when you smiled one of my barriers felt down and I stepped into the flow for just a moment. For just one moment till I put that barrier back up.

With the barriers I can’t think freely. Because thinking is also a flow. To truly think, as well as to truly love, I need to free the heart from all the barriers. This is why thinking is sexy. It is a part of the flow. It is a part of a dance.

I will grow a heart of a warrior that is not afraid to be free.

I will become a dancer with a heart of a warrior.

Moonlight People

I woke up and was laying quietly in my bed. The sheets were warm and smooth. As smooth as they get in the morning when the first rays of sunlight hit the opposite wall and it is almost time to wake up. But it was still dark and the moonlight was squeezing through the half closed blinds. Light breeze moved the trees outside of the window and the moonlight moved with it too. Then it slowly filled the room.

It felt very peaceful. And suddenly I was not worried about anything. I noticed that my hair was spread on the pillow around my head and had the shade of the moonlight. The skin wore moonlight color too. My body, now half made of moonlight, slid under the sheets until it touched his warm skin. Another half-moonlight-made body. I put my hand on his arm and he reached for it in his sleep and I held his hand our fingers interlaced. His eyes closed while moonlight kept crossing the blinds. He was breathing peacefully and the smile settled on his lips like a beautiful night butterfly, slowly moving it moonlit wings with each breath. I kept my eyes on the butterfly and knew that nothing could happen to us while the butterfly kept moving its wings. Light sound of the breeze outside and the moonlight.

I woke up again a few hours later. The room was recovering its morning colors and I kissed him lightly, got out of bed and turned on the coffee machine. In the bathroom, while brushing my teeth I looked at myself in the mirror. I liked what I saw. I was still half made of moonlight.

I went to check on the kids and they were sleeping in their beds cuddled with their stuffed toys. It was too early to wake them up for school. They could sleep for fifteen more minutes. I stood in the doorway looking at them. And it felt as if moonlight was looking at them too. I took the coffee from the kitchen and sat on the bed. He never had coffee that early in the morning. But he knew I was back and he opened his eyes and looked at me. And we both smiled. I half closed my eyes as if I were looking far far away and looked back at him. And we did not say a word because moonlight people do not have to talk to love each other. Or may be they talk but very slowly and in low voice and almost nobody can hear them. Silently. And I stretched my body along his till it fit perfectly and then only my hair reminded us of moonlight. And we did not know how much time has passed.

Finally we all woke up and had breakfast. And he prepared kids’ lunches while I cut fresh fruits and toasted the bread. And we sat at the table together and I realized that I have never loved the kids that much before. I was looking at their eyes and I was seeing them. And I was not in a hurry. And nothing worried me because I was full of moonlight.

He had to leave to a meeting before we left the house. I was brushing my hair and he interrupted me with a kiss and I loved being interrupted. I did not mind it at all. As we kissed I could feel the night moonlight butterfly on his lips, and I was extra careful to touch his skin with mine. His lips were as soft as the the wings of the butterfly. “Whatever moonlight touches…,” and I did not finish the thought because he left through the door and took the rest of the sentence with him.

I looked at my face in the bathroom mirror and saw a little blue bump on my nose. I touched it and it hurt. It must have been from yesterday’s kickboxing. I tried to remember if I was hit in the nose, and I thought that I was. I looked at myself and realized how moonlight has changed my body. It was smooth and elastic and there were no signs of past fights. I did not have to defend anybody any longer. I raised my arms as I put on dark red sweater. And as I stood there with the raised arms I instantly knew that the future will move with the grace of the moonlight.

There is no better warrior than a butterfly that sits at nights on your lips.

  *                        *                          *

After I dropped the kids at school and before I headed to work I had coffee with another mom from school. We had never had coffee before. We sat next to a big window in a cafe with red brick walls and she asked me, “What else can you be as a person?”. She must have been a witch but I did not mind.

And I thought that I could be made out of moonlight. Or at least half out of moonlight.

Birthday Cake

I waited for him to call in the morning. It was eleven o’clock and he has not called yet. I decided that it was too late to go out for lunch with him. I called the lady who was going to babysit the kids and told her that I had a change of plans. Then I told the kids to put on their shoes and take their jackets. I told them we were going to a cafe and then to get my birthday cake.

Close to the cafe there was a lego shop. I parked at the lego shop entrance and told the kids that they can get one lego set each. A gift to them on my birthday. The lego store was closed, the sign on the door read that it would open at noon. I promised the kids that we would come back when it opens.

We got pastries and coffee at the cafe. The kids jumped excited around me, they loved the cafe; they were also very happy awaiting to get the lego sets. Kids get so happy with gifts. I thought of when I was a kid and how I felt asleep excitedly on the night before my birthday all wrapped in the magic of what I will wake up to.  I still loved gifts. I just rarely got any in the last years.

I looked at my phone. It was half past eleven. Then I took the book and started reading. The kids were running on the street in front of the cafe. I was sitting at the high bar table facing the window. A bouquet of fresh flowers in a transparent glass vase was standing next to my coffee cup. I thought that this cafe always has beautiful flower arrangements on its tables. It was pleasant to look at the orange flowers. Then he called and it was noisy at the cafe. Besides as we talked I started to feel sad and I thought that my voice sounded like an echo and I had to make an effort to talk. I would have liked to see him on my birthday, but I understood that I could not. There were too many family things happening for him on that day. And I wanted to end the conversation because I was afraid I would start crying.

I left my coffee unfinished and called the kids. We went to the lego store at noon and it was already open. And they each selected a toy and I was glad to see them that happy. Their smiles and the fresh air made the desired effect. Then we drove to get the cake. I let the kids chose the cake for me too. It was a chocolate decadence cake at the end.

After lunch kids placed handmade cake decorations on top of the cake. And as I lighted the candles the decorations caught fire and I had to blow it all before making a wish. And it was quite funny and we all laughed. The cake was dense and good. And there was a lot of it left.

I had a work call with my team and then decided that I will go to the gym at night for the open mat. I wanted to see people. Seeing him would have felt like a gift. Seeing people at the gym felt like a gift too. You get to love people after you have been wresting with them on the mats for over two years. And all I wanted was to spend time with the people I loved. Kids were happy to play a few hours at a friend’s house and I dropped them there on my way to the gym. I also thought of taking the rest of the cake to the gym, but then decided against it. May be he could come over the next day and then we could finish that cake together. I smiled at the thought of it and left the cake in the fridge.

He called as I was approaching the gym. And we talked for a while. The connection was breaking because he was driving on some mountain road, and I did not hear a good portion of it. He said he would not be back the next day and he hoped that I was having a good birthday. He asked me how I was doing and I said I was doing ok. And I wished I was. I thought to myself that I should have taken the cake to the gym. And I felt silent. And then he asked about work because the conversation was getting very quiet. And after a few minutes the connection broke. It was windy on the parking lot. I sat in my car for a few minutes staring at my phone, through the large glass window I saw people moving inside the gym. I took my bag and went in.

It felt peaceful inside. I smiled. First half crooked smile, and then widely. Happy birthdays and hugs. I missed that warm human touch of other shoulders. My sparring partner walked in. We put on our MMA gloves and started. The world was quiet and simple and warm. And you felt like a kid rolling in the snow. And in the second hour we rolled with all other guys in the gym too. And I did not notice how my right hand got bruised. And I also did not notice how all the sadness was gone. When you are fighting you are never sad. That’s the virtue of fighting.

We finished the last sparring round at eight. I took a quick shower at the gym, picked up the kids and drove to my best friend’s house for dinner. Her family had just returned from Hawaii and it was good to see them all. We drunk wine, ate food she cooked and I told them to come over the next day for coffee and birthday cake. And they said they would.

And then at home I did not know if I wanted to write about it all. I did not feel like writing it because I did not want to tell the truth. But I did not want to fake it either. I just wanted to write.

So I said to myself ,”If you are going to write it, at least, write how it really was.”

Driving at night

It felt pleasant when on the curves my hair touched the sides of my face. The hair was thin and the touch was light and gentle.  The car drove smoothly on the night road. My son was sleeping on the back seat. It was past ten. The serpentine road opened up new curve with more pine trees. Then the road went up the hill and then we were driving on the top for a little while.

The air was clean. The moon was high and round. And the road was lit with the moonlight and it did not seem night at all.

I had picked up my son from the friends’ house where he had spent the whole day together with his sister. My daughter stayed for a sleepover, my son wanted to come home with me. He told me we will make a deal, he would only stay for sleepovers when I needed to be in the city till late for work. All other nights he would sleep at home. I told him it was a deal, he does not have to sleepover at his friends’ if he does not want to, unless it is needed. Reassured he felt asleep in the car. He liked to sleep at home. He liked to sleep in my bed, and on Saturdays I let him sleep there, because I did not have to wake up early on Sundays. He was the only person who sometimes slept in my bed. He curled with his “doudou” (this  is how you call your favorite plush toy in French) and he did not move much the whole night.

And now he was asleep on the back seat of the car and we were driving. The car felt safe and the night forest was all around us. You could hear the night like a melody, a little bit sad and easy to hum. And tears started rolling down my face. It has been a long day and I have been working since morning. I have been typing work emails and having calls with my advisors and the developer. And talking. And yet I did not hear one gentle word in the whole day. And I barely said any. Of course we talked, but there were no love in those words. And I was wondering now if a day was worth living if no love was in the words one said. The kids were getting used to the rooms where no words of love were pronounced.

And then I thought that people said it was good to cry. And I wondered “was it?”. And it occurred to me that it was not. It was much better to laugh than to cry. It was much better to love than to cry. Crying is just a part of our humanness, love is the whole.

As we were driving the road was like velvet. Smooth and even, and the wheels rolled calmly and the whole world was calm. And finally I was calm too. And I thought how we would arrive home and how I would help my son climb into my bed and how peaceful his face would be. And I thought that there was still a lot of life ahead of us and that I should build our next house with love. They need to know what love is. They need to know that love is not two people who live under one roof fighting. They need to know that love is more than one person alone doing pretty much everything but rarely laughing. They need to know that love is balanced, abundant and makes all people under the roof happy. Or else how would they learn to build their families with love?

And it was quiet in the car.

And then it got even quieter.

Driving down the hill, after another curve, two stars became visible high up in the sky and, surprisingly to myself, I prayed.  And on the next turn my hair flew over my face and the touch was sweet and gentle. Like a loving hand. And combed by the moonlight the night road shined at the bottom of the hill.

Letting go of emotions

cibo-dec-14jpgIt was part of our conversation when we had coffee. I asked her if she detached herself from her emotions in her marriage and she said yes.

I was trying to play a simple piece on the violin earlier that day while I was feeling uneasy. I took the violin in my hands because I wanted to calm down and get all the emotions out. And I could not play well. I was too focused on what I was feeling, trying to express something. I was not focused on the music. And you can’t play well if you are focused on yourself and not on the music.

Then it occurred to me that I could never fight well if I had any emotions. The only way to enjoy the fights and to improve was to be completely emotionless and to focus on the technique of the body moves.

The same was at work. If I had emotions I most probably said the wrong thing, wrote that email at the wrong time or made a bad decision. I had to have my head clear to be good. Clear means no emotions.

If I ever want to be able to love someone I can’t let emotions interfere with it. And the reason being: emotions make us focus on ourselves. Emotions are all about us. Emotions are rarely about the other person or thing. Emotions is our status quo, it is our way to protect the “fairness”, it is our way to feel important.

Focusing on emotions we revolve in our own self. We can’t improve, learn, grow, build, and love if we focus on ourselves. Passion has nothing to do with emotions. Passion is the contrary of emotions. Passion is this light we have in our hearts, it is a light for something or for somebody. Like a candle we light for a loved one.

May be the way to love is to be detached from the emotions. To love technically is to do the right thing. Meaning you focus on making the relationship work and not on your own emotions and how you feel about everything.

Of course you should be happy. Letting go of emotions and focusing on the “building process” actually makes me happy. It is a different kind of happiness though. It is a deep calm happiness.

Late at night I took the violin again and played the same dance over and over just focusing on the notes, on the bow movement, on my hands, on my fingers, on the rhythm. With my mind clear and not trying to express anything. And what I heard made my heart happy. Like if I learnt something new and beautiful.

Men & Women


We are standing in the changing room after training. All of us tired. But also lighter and “happier” than before training. Smiles. And our faces look easier. Today we were about 12 or 14 people, all men and myself. And I say that I decided not to lose weight. And Dave says that I should not, that I look great. And I say “Thank you” and explain that I meant for U.S. Open.  That I am exactly in between weights. 135Lbs with the gi. The cuts are 129Lbs and then 141Lbs for women.

I usually train with men, just because there are more men than women at the gym and in this sport. The lightest one is probably around 165Lbs. This means I am so used to work against a heavier fighter. If I opt for losing weight I have to starve myself, and with all the work load and training it weakens me up. Thus, the weigh is fine.

I get into the car. My both kids, who were waiting for me to finish training, are with me. I feel bad that they have to spend all this time in the gym, but they always say they do not mind. I look at them and I feel this deep love in me. Love that translates into care. As I drive home I think about this recent spark of articles about how hard it is for women to work in tech or to get funding in tech or to be tech company founder. And I think that this is true. Or it might be true in many cases.

It is the same way that it is harder for a woman to train in a mostly men team, where all your opponents are at least 30 pounds heavier. In sports I never think of it. I am the one who wants to enter this game and play here. And I do not mind the difference, I do not think I am in a disadvantage. I might be, but I do not care. I am going to train and fight anyway, because this is who I am. And I like it. I like pushing myself till I can feel my muscles giving it all for a few seconds. I like the sweat. I like grabbing the gi and pushing the other person around. I like to sprawl and control his head. I like when I can get out of a bad situation, after thinking that I was done, but not giving up. I like the eyes of my partner right before my head will go into his shoulder. I love the physical concentration of our bodies. You are never sloppy when you fight. I love every detail of fighting. This is why I do it.

The same is true to building a tech startup. I started working on my project two and a half years ago and I fully went into it this July. It is hard. It is mostly a male dominated world where women are welcome but a few stay. Because it gets really tough along the road. Getting a team is hard. Raising money is very hard. Dealing with a lot of men and a few women who will meet with you and reject your project. For different reasons, because they do not see how it is going to monetize, because I do not have a male cofounder (yes, people said that, and then rectified, that they meant a technical cofounder), because I am a mom, because they do not see the product market fit, because they just do not feel it. My male advisors look at my deck and the MVP and say I should not have problems raising funding. And then when I go for it I have all problems I could ever have. I think many just want to see if I stick around long enough working on the project after I have been rejected hundred times. May be men just stick around longer and women quit easier. I do not know.

I believe in what I do. I know that ultimately my product will help hundreds of people get jobs and live better. It is a long road though. And my natural way to deal with it is how I deal with fighting. I am not going to focus on disadvantages. I will fight regularly with a heavier opponent. I will train. I will show up. No matter how hard things are, how sad I am or how sore I am from yesterday. I will fight my way into improving myself. I will become good. I can do this because I know who I am and what I care about.

You have to know who you are. Once you have it you will find the way to achieve it. I think the major disadvantage is not sex or weight, it is not knowing yourself. This is what makes us less resourceful, this is what makes us give up on things we try to achieve. I guess the question is “What do you really care about?”.

Every small thing

It was quiet at home. I was baking. Kids’ friends were coming over with their mom. My coffee got cold while I was working on the website. A small side project just for cash sake. I almost forgot about the coffee. I took the white cup and sipped the coffee while baking the cake. It was windy outside. The trees were making lots of noise. And quiet at home. The smell of the cake in the oven and the cold coffee.

I moved silently inside the apartment. I knew my steps and I did not make any noise. Smoothly. I always walked barefoot. My right foot hurt with every step. But even the pain was smooth and common. It did not bother me. It was soothing in a way.

This month was hard. I was stressed out and with a lot of pressure. Mostly financial. I woke up in the mornings before the alarm and could not fall back asleep. Just lay in the bed worrying. Every small thing that went wrong broke me down. My sunglasses broke. Those were cheap sunglasses from Spain, I always bought them cheap on purpose, if they break or I lose them it is ok. This time they broke and I cried. Every small thing made me cry. A comment, a knife that falls on the floor and breaks, spilled detergent…

It is hard to get through bad months alone. There is nobody at home who would hug you and tell you that you will make it. It is hard at work when you are the only founder. There is nobody in it with you. Nobody to cheer you up. Nobody to tell you that “we” will get through it.

I know I am strong. I know I will make it. I know who I am and I can depend on myself. It is extremely lonely and damaging too. Like walking with an injured foot and not noticing the pain. Loneliness is drinking cold coffee in the early afternoon. It is crying over broken sunglasses. It is standing next to the kitchen counter and being very quiet.