The Second Half

A middle-aged lady (or old, depending on perspective) sharing this and that with whomever strays into her digital property. Of course there are cats involved ;)

Godspeed, tornado girl! — December 21, 2020

Godspeed, tornado girl!

“Getting old is a gift,” declares Danny DeVito towards the end of Jumanji: The Next Level. Until that point, his cantankerous grandpa character had been railing against senescence while also fuming about the perceived betrayal of Milo, his friend and former business partner.

This is about a friend who was denied the gift of growing old. Mona, whom I once described as a human tornado, passed away on March 16 at the age of 35. “Unfair” doesn’t even begin to describe it – no person I know relished life more than Mona, and she made the most of it, probably because she fought tooth and nail for every day in the past few years.

I once told you that she awed me, and her intensity was scary at times, which made her an acquired taste. On some occasions, it was surreal to be around this petite woman because you felt as if the air around her vibrated. Mona never stood still, and she always had a thousand things on her mind while also being physically engaged in at least two activities at any given moment.

A happy mother-daughter moment

Such a vibrant and inspired person should not be gone at 35! I understand the mechanics of her demise, but it still defies acceptance. The reason I’m paying tribute to my friend months after her passing is my realization that I will never move past the denial stage of grief. Perhaps this is unhealthy from a psychiatric point of view, but I’m certain it will do me greater harm to accept that Mona will never pick up the phone when I call, reply to my messages, or settle herself with a glass of beer for one of our video chats. Yes, I am shutting down reality in this case, but nothing will convince me that embracing the cold, hard truth can do any good.

In reality, Mona lost the battle with a brain tumor after beating breast cancer a couple of years earlier. She spent her final days bed-ridden, her eyesight and speech impaired, barely able to move a limb. A formidable fighter she may have been, but her poor body was ultimately unable to meet her indomitable spirit halfway. What makes it even more heart-breaking is that she couldn’t even get a proper burial because the virus was already raging by the time of her death.

In my mind, however, Mona is busy making plans for the day, cramming as much as possible into every minute. At some point, she will message me to share something funny, outrageous, or bizarre she has read or seen online. In the evening, we’ll probably get together for a video chat, swilling beer, discussing our day, and letting off steam.

Enjoying the rugged beauty of Scotland

You may wonder what I tell myself now that no messages come and the chats have ceased. If you must know, I sustain the delusion by attributing her absence to trips out of town (Mona used to spend almost every weekend with her beloved aunt), an evening out with friends, quality time with her daughter, or a competition at her film trivia club. The point is that I can always make excuses for her not showing up – she was the human embodiment of a busy bee, and her plate was full at all times. It is truly a wonder that she spent so much time with me, albeit virtually, which couldn’t be helped because we lived in different cities.

Regardless of your thoughts on my coping mechanism, I ask you to join me for a moment of silence to honor the life and times of an incredible young woman. Wherever you are, my dear girl, I hope it is a place where you are never without beer, shrimp, and Netflix!

Special birthday girls, Part 2: Mona — September 10, 2017

Special birthday girls, Part 2: Mona

Buckle up now because a human tornado is coming this way! That would be the other birthday chica, whose name is Simona.

Most call her Mony, but she looks and feels like a Mona to me. Mony is fine and all, but it’s kind of a girly, wimpy sobriquet. Mona, on the other hand, packs a solid punch and perfectly reflects the pluck and pep of the person. Of course, the association could be in my head alone. Whatever…moving on.

To this very day, it remains a mystery to me why Mona thinks so highly of yours truly. We used to work for the same company before plunging into freelance waters, and she goes on about having learned a lot from me or some such. You know what I think? Beer is at the bottom of it all. Our shared passion for the frothy, golden elixir (we favor lager) tuned out to be a great foundation for our bond. Laugh all you want, but far crazier things have brought people together.

How should I start my introduction to Mona? Maybe by telling you that she is an acquired taste. I didn’t take to her right away, and her intensity and oomph still send me running for cover sometimes.

You wouldn’t believe the force of nature this girl is! She fears nothing and no-one and pursues her goals with dogged determination, even if said goals are no loftier than procuring the latest pair of sneakers that have got her all a-tingle (she’s a sneakers fanatic, this one).


You do realize that’s just a teeny-tiny fraction of her collection, right?


How deep does her passion for sneakers run? She calls her favorite pairs “my precious”…Need I say more?



Mona is also clever, witty, loud, obsessively neat, and frighteningly determined. Yeah, yeah, I know I mentioned her determination, but I really need to drive the message home.

Mona keeps going on about how lazy she is, but I allege that’s all a massive ruse. If she’s not working, she’s cleaning her flat or her car, reading, out doing stuff with friends, traveling to some place, having quality time with her angelically cute little girl, or sorting out family messes. I swear to you I get dizzy and exhausted just by listening to the accounts of her activities!

And Mona is a fighter! She fights for everything and everyone that matters. She fought like a champ for what matters most: life. Mona grabbed breast cancer by the privates and squeezed until the vile thing screamed for mercy and slunk away! You can’t help but be awed by such willpower and lust for life.

This girl is 18 years younger than me, but I often feel like an immature brat around her. And don’t get me started on the debt of gratitude I owe her: Mona was the one who delivered the precisely timed, vigorous kick in the derriere that sent me flying from a dead-end job into a whole new work dimension.

Mona is a giver, plain and simple. She generously shares her time, energy, and money, rushing to the rescue and tackling your problem with the abandon that characterizes everything she does. Trust me, you want Mona in your camp when tough times come a-knocking. Actually, you want her in your camp no matter what: this one is also great fun and a party animal the likes of which you rarely see.


mona middle
Striking a “moody, cool dudess” pose


Let me wrap it up by saying this: You overwhelm me, girl, and I mean that in the good sense. Sending you love, kisses, hugs, and the best of wishes on your special day. Don’t ever let up because the world might go down the crapper if you do!

Special birthday girls, Part 1: Ina — September 9, 2017

Special birthday girls, Part 1: Ina

Yaaay, it’s September! Why the jubilation, you ask? To begin with, this is the month that ushers in my favorite season. Besides, it will provide me with some writing material as quite a few special people were born in September. Some of them move in a different world, like French film icon Brigitte Bardot – the most captivating woman to ever walk the Earth!

However, I won’t be taking you into the realm of decadent luxury, swoon-worthy men, ravishing women, and jet-setting lifestyles. Nope, we’ll remain firmly planted in real life. But who says special people don’t cross our path every day? In their inconspicuous way, they achieve extraordinary things, touching the lives of those around them.

I’m lucky to count two such not-quite-regular people among my friends. These girls were born in September within a day of each other, both turning 33. I got to know them as colleagues first. Sadly, we don’t meet in person very often as they live in another city, but that doesn’t make them any less important for me. Anyway, enough of the preambles, let’s get down to the essential bits.

Today is Ina’s birthday. Everything about this girl is delicate. She’s slender and soft-spoken, and her presence breeds serenity. Ina radiates tenderness and kindness. When I’m around her, I feel at peace, and all is right with the world. Even when we indulge in gossiping, bitching and venting, she does it in a way that makes these vulgar pastimes seem almost decorous.

Ina often tells me she has a short fuse and sometimes flies into rages worthy of a Homeric narrative. I’m yet to witness such an outburst, but I’m sure she remains every bit the lady even in those tempestuous moments.


ина и бонбони
Aren’t they just dazzling??!


You only need to observe her little boy for a while to see the impact Ina has on people. Yoni is a sunny child; he was constantly smiling and gurgling happily from the moment he became aware of his surroundings. It’s a joy to watch the video clips she sends me: the two just make you want to smother them with kisses and hugs!

Hey, don’t you make the mistake of thinking that Ina is some meek lamb who walks about with a beatific smile plastered on her face, rainbows and unicorns shooting out of her orifices. Hell no! There is a steely layer beneath that velvety facade. Ina will tell you in no uncertain terms what she thinks and will stand her ground with iron resolve. Yes, there’s a tigress lurking inside this delicate doe.

And just to dispel any doubts that Ina is a great gal, I’ll tell you that she’s heaps of fun to be around. You can sit down with her for a few beers and laugh the evening away, talking about anything and everything, acting as imbecilic as you want without fear of being judged or frowned upon.

Ina is the type who would give people the benefit of the doubt and is quick to focus on their strengths, never missing the chance to praise and encourage. I can’t count the number of times she’s boosted my confidence, be it with lavish compliments on an article, peals of laughter over some lousy joke I’ve cracked, or relentless insistence that I look amazing even when I’m actually in one of my fat periods.  It may not sound like much, but who doesn’t want to hear nice things when they most need them? Ina dispenses them generously, and her natural goodness precludes those whiffs of insincerity we often catch when others say the same things.

My love and best wishes for your birthday, you lovely girl, and may it be a memorable one! Keep smiling, be happy and never change because you’re perfect just as you are!



Yep, the whole bunch are too adorable for words 🙂



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