In the Cloud

After my ex-husband Alex passed away in 2017, his parents insisted on bringing some of his things to my apartment so our daughter Nadia could use them.  We got a lot of blankets and pillow cases,  notebooks he bought, but didn’t use, from back in college, some kitchenware, even boxes of old pasta from his kitchen. Two of my friends helped me move the stuff, which was packed in thrash bags, to my one-bedroom apartment. One of my friends exclaimed: you need his old soap holders?! I didn’t, of course.  But my daughter Nadia declared that we should not throw out anything because the things were “soaked with daddy’s love.” She had obviously heard her grandparents talk about his possessions in that manner.  So I kept some things for a while and eventually convinced her that donating them would be better than keeping them in storage.

At the time it did not occur to me to ask about the technology Alex had used daily.  Months later I learned there were laptops, a hard drive, and other equipment which he purchased with his company’s funds. His business partner tried to retrieve it and wipe out any client data that certainly had been on it. For a business that provided security and identity management services, this seemed like a natural and logical thing to do. But nobody seemed to know where Alex’s laptops were. Then, I got a report filed with the probate court with regard to Alex’s estate. The report said that it was not clear where any of the technology was presently located.  I had previously received emails and texts from Alex (creepy, I know), but thought maybe his parents who are using his old iPhone had sent those by accident.

After hearing, now on official paperwork for probate purposes, that the laptops had been lost, I thought about the hundreds of hours Alex spent, for work and for leisure, using these laptops. I thought about my daughter’s birth certificate, our medical records, tax returns, copies of old passports, pictures from trips together, recordings from theater performances: it was all there. I also thought about how much Alex valued the security of his personal information. In a way, I could not help but think that a part of Alex himself had stayed with those machines, especially given his work as a software architect.

I chose to fight for finding the laptops and destroying the data that was on them.  My daughter heard me speak about destroying the laptops and once again said they contained her dad’s love. She felt sad, so I asked Alex’s brother to provide one of the laptops for her to use after cleaning out the data (he seemed to have now found it). The response was that a 6-year old had no business using a laptop. Instead of trying to explain this statement to Nadia, I did something we often forget to ask others (or even ourselves). I asked her: what do you want? “I want to have the computer daddy had when he was a child.” In response to this, a dear friend found, in his grandma’s basement, an old laptop he had received when he was 9. He gifted it to Nadia (picture below).

So, I said: this would have been the kind of laptop daddy would have used as a child if he had one. (It doesn’t matter that he actually didn’t.)

I kept moving with trying to figure out where the computers were. At some point during this ordeal, Alex’s sister in law from Texas proposed the solution she could think of: we find the laptops and we shoot them with guns at her parents’ ranch. I thought about Alex, whose LinkedIn profile headline used to read “Identity Management Guru” and I thought about how he really did spend more time with his laptops than he did with his relatives. And now, his laptops were about to get shot with a gun at a ranch in Texas. The irony, the laughter and tears that this image brought to me are hard to describe.  I try to describe them only because that is the only thing we have left to do in this life: describe to others how we really feel. After we are gone, that might just be all we have left them to remember. You may say, who cares? Does anything remain from us in the things we used and in what we created? Do we remain conserved in the things we touch? Are our possessions truly soaked with our love? Or is everything already perhaps “in the cloud”? Does a piece of us live on?

I did think about all of that as I pursued the legal battle and demanded that the the laptops and the data be destroyed. Here was I, trying to comfort a 6-year old and trying to figure out how $8K worth of property somehow got lost and why messages were coming to me from a dead person's account. I was in the midst of all of this, when someone had just proposed that we shoot at the problem. And that is when it hit me, pun intended, the proverbial “moment of clarity” just like in that song by Jay-Z.

Yes, sometimes we forget to ask ourselves what we want, but we also forget what we are fighting against and that is important.  It  hit me that I am in a rather absurd fight: fighting with legal paper against someone's lack of desire to do what is right.

But while some people around the world have to fight against corruption, violence, hunger, and disease, I think all of us are stuck with something much worse: choosing whether to fight against a combination of ignorance, lack of attention,  carelessness, a desire to always take the “easy way out,” untrustworthiness, indifference, and thoughtlessness.

Guns do not really fight this kind of thing.

Words do.


The Ever So Elegant Evita Griskenas Wins the Pan American Games

A very promising gymnast with unique style has won the all around this year's Pan American Games in rhythmic gymnastics. She also grabbed the gold with ball and hoop and is competing with ribbon and clubs tomorrow. Her main competitors included the new Canadian star, Katherine Uchida, the Brazilians Barbara Domingos Natalia Gaudio, her teammate Camilla Feeley and a young gymnast from Argentina who has shown great potential, Sol Feinberg.

"Elegance" would be the first word that comes to mind when you see Evita. But also: a gymnast with polished classical lines, musicality, apparatus technique and charisma.

Born to Lithuanian parents, who were both athletes, Evita Griskenas comes to the US national team from Chicago-based North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center. In 2015, she became the US Junior National Champion and placed 3rd at the  Moscow Grand Prix Junior International Tournament.

As a senior, Evita placed 7th in the team competition at the World Championships in Sofia and advanced to the all-around finals where she dazzled with beautiful performances and a great personal presence on the carpet.

Evita is coached by Natalia Klimouk and Angelina Yovcheva.

She has received ballet training from a very young age with Russian, Bulgarian and Cuban professionals.

I have no doubt that Evita will continue to place among the top 10 in the world if she will continue to show more original and memorable routines.

She fully deserves to be among the world's elite and in contest for the medals at large international tournaments.

Although Evita is less experienced than her powerful teammate on the national team, Laura Zeng, Evita, who is only 18, is already standing out among the world elite with her personal style.

I think her continuous participation will bring competition and improvement in the American team as a whole, and I really hope that her performances and achievements will inspire many girls in the Americas to try to follow in her footsteps.

Congratulations to everyone on the US team on their great work and fantastic potential!