One day in the life of Anna Sergeevna

Wake up! (wake up)
Grab a brush and put on a little make-up!

It’s 6am, still dark outside, the home is sleeping peacefully. In my near-sleep I go through the familiars of waking up. Of course there is no make-up, and a brush only on a slow day. Which is not today. Waking up has lost its sting years ago, and even now on a good day I will wake up at least 2-3 times. Someone invariably wants to go pee, or drink some milk (the never-ending cycle) or has a scary dream. The problem is not getting up. It’s staying up. But that comes later.

Half an hour sputtering around the house, and now I am driving to work. There, I prepare to interpret at a teleconference on software development for the International Space Station mockups. I have never done this topic before. I brace myself for the worst as 7:30 am rolls around, and the telecon gets underway.

I get what I asked for. The connection with the Russians is terrible, nobody really knows what they want and/or what they’re looking for from their counterparts, I don’t hear half of what is being said, and don’t understand the other half, and towards the end of the conversations, comments like “I don’t think we’re understanding each other” and “I am very confused” start popping up more and more often. I sort of want to shoot myself.

As the US specialist makes closing remarks, the Russians are completely silent. The tension is palpable. Then, to top off an already miserable hour, he throws in: “I just have a last quick question: is the functioning described in single or multiple form?” Say what? I translate, sort of, and wait for a reply. None comes. After a pregnant silence, the US gentleman continues, “Well that’s Ok. You don’t have to answer that today…” Awkward!!! Still silence. Turns out, the Russians got disconnected several minutes ago. I thank all of the interpretation gods for this one bit of mercy, politely close the telecon with the Americans, and schlep myself out of the office.

Then…madly dash to the car, drive home, dress and mostly feed everyone, stuff them all in the car, drive the kids to school, talk to the principal about painting a mural for Miss V’s classroom, back to the car and back to work. An hour passes.

At work I work. This is the slowest eight hours of the day.

I leave work early. Right as I step outside, Hubby pulls up, perfect timing, and we drive home together. There, another whirlwind through the house, as if a perfect reflection of the rush in the morning. Dressing down. Grungy paint-colored shorts, Revolution! shirt, grab them keys and fly out the door. Destination? Climbing gym. (I’ve been here before).

On my way to the Space City Climbing Gym I call Dad. It’s becoming a habit – calling Dad while driving to climbing. I talk to him about the myriad of fascinating information I picked up while not really working at work. Particularly, I dwell on fairy tales and their grotesque nature, and how they were never really meant for children. Dad mentions that the realities were different “back then”, and so perhaps it was not so shocking to think that, for instance, parents would take their children into the forest to be eaten by wolves because there was a major famine in the land. I also mention that haunting tale of Bluebeard, written by Charles Perrault. Great story line for a Hannibal sequel, not so much for a bedtime story. Gory, gory…I cannot fathom what the author or the publishers were thinking (and continue to think…I mean, violence, deceit, rage, vengeance…are these the values we want to be teaching our children?)

Dad talks to me about tilapia.

A few years ago, when I was studying at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, one of my professors mentioned a great, just-getting-started business opportunity: tilapia farming. The key is that it should work as a closed circuit: you grow plants (like tomatoes) in the pools where the tilapia is raised. The excrement from the fish is perfect food for the plants (no need for soil, even), while the bacteria growing on the roots of the plants is perfect food for the fish. In theory, this is a lovely, sustainable scheme. I shared the idea with Dad back then, and he’s been thinking about it ever since.

Problem is, the food provided by the plants is not enough for the fish, and the excrement from the fish is not enough to feed the plants (unless you have a very high fish density…which is not healthy). So it turns out that in practice, much of the cost of this whole enterprise is the cost of the fish food. Dad has been thinking about how to create this fish food for free, and make the whole system more sustainable and independent…A very interesting idea which must be developed and realized. Only not at this moment, as I have reached the climbing center.

There, I am reminded of the most debilitating quality in any adventurous endeavor: fear. A few years ago I went through an experience that made me feel, through and through, that I am, in fact, mortal. Since then I have been more fearful, on a nearly unconscious level, and less eager to take risks. And with climbing, risk-taking is a necessity. I may boulder peacefully over the lower strata of the climbing terrain, but as I clamber higher (note: bouldering is done without a harnass – if you fall, you just fall. There is a limit to how high you are allowed to climb this way, and that limit is a line drawn across the entire gym, about 13 feet off the ground), I begin thinking of the discomfort I may experience if I fall. If I am on a sloping down part of the wall (one that looks like this /, with me on left), I begin imagining how that jagged hand-hold or foot hold will feel as it graces my entire abdomen as I glide down the slope to the bottom. If I am on the other side of the /, hanging on for dear life, I start picturing the breath knocked out of me if I fall flat on my back. Of course, nothing happens. But it does make for a more careful, and thereby less adventurous, climb.

Then…back to the car, drive to pick the kids up from school, rush home for a quick dinner, and out to dancing lessons for little Miss V. While she is plie-ing and tumbling her heart out, Mr.Leo and I hit up the near-by grocery store, load up on cellulose and vitamins A-E, grab a sausage for good measure, and head back to pick up the ballerina.

At home there is grocery unloading, crying, tired children, bedtime routines, books read, teeth not brushed, house not cleaned, lullabies sung and children finally asleep at around 10pm.

Their shell-shocked mama bums around for another two hours or so, picking up a stray sock here, munching on a carrot there, oh yeah, having some dinner at around 11pm, and dozing to guitar serenades by her guitarist husband. Sometime later…

The house is quiet, everyone is sleeping peacefully, and I clock out too. A day well spent.