Saturday, March 29, 2008

BROKEN CUP


The other morning Zhen spun around in such a way that he knocked my favorite mug to the floor. This is Gzel pottery, made in Russia, and this was beyond my favorite mug - it was really one of my favorite things. It reminded me of all I love about Russia, of every happy moment I've spent there. And in the years since I brought it home, it had even taken on the gentle aura that accompanies "mommy-daddy" time over the paper in the morning. It just had so many happy associations. Furthermore, the blue and white Gzel is simply beautiful to me - and from a practical point of view, this mug fit my hand just perfectly.
Zhen knew what an unfortunate accident this was. All the children know this cup is dear to me. He and Sergei carefully picked up every shard and left it all, like this, on my desk. Clearly, though, it is past repair.
But I didn't hesitate a moment before wrapping Zhen in my arms and crying out - "Zhen! It is just a Russian cup! I don't care! What is important is my Russian boy!!" I hope I convinced him of the truth. I'd rather have that cup in a million pieces, than see Zhen sad.
And, this marked for me a sort of personal and parenting milestone. I am really not very materialistic. But there are just a few little things that mean a lot to me because of all the memories and emotions I invest in them. When Aidan and Lydia were little, I do not think I had progressed to the point where I would have so immediately thrown those emotions aside to comfort them. I was more attached to "things" in those days. I was more selfish. I am glad to see a little spiritual progress, anyway.

Friday, March 28, 2008

OUR SPRINGTIME WEATHER

We actually woke up on Easter to snow, and last night another load fell on us!

This has been quite a winter, even for Michigan - it seems like we have had more than our share of snow. Of course that is undoubtedly "good" for us - so I'm not complaining.

I took Sergei and Ilya on an after-supper trip to Sears last night and they devolved into a bit of horseplay as we left. When I got my camera out to capture what I thought was really a beautiful snowfall, that was their cue to throw snowballs at ME! Sergei got a good one down the back of my coat and it dripped down my arm and gave me significant shivers!

Note Sergei with typical 14-year-old aplomb refuses to dress for winter - in fact, he was loudly declaring that beginning Monday, they are "allowed to wear shorts" as part of their school uniform. Yahoo!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

FUN ALONG THE WAY


As I struggle along with tantrums and traumas, trying to figure out God's plan, I have been blessed with the ability to have fun all the while.
I have had such a blast adapting something I found somewhere else, to come up with this project for our Confirmation students. This is a "Life of Christ" bracelet. Starting with the star, which represents the star which led the shepherds and wise men (represented by the ugly little brown beads and the sparkly purple ones) to Jesus our TRUE king (the gold bead)...we also see that Jesus became a carpenter (wooden bead), then a fisherman (fish bead), that he chose 12 apostles (12 little beads) to go out and share the truth (beautiful clear bead), until one dark day when he was 33 (black bead) due to envy (green bead) and our sin (big black bead), he was crucified on a cross (wooden bead), shed His blood (red bead) so that our souls might be made pure (pearl), all though His love (heart) we gained new life (butterfly).
We are having each child make a bracelet which can be sold at the Christian bookstore in the Silver City Mass in Ivanovo, and a bracelet "kit" with directions in Russian, that can be given to the children in Alexei Kotchan's craft class.
Anastasia and I had such fun picking the beads, and figuring out the whole thing. Isn't life fun?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

FIGURING IT OUT

When you adopt older children, you are sometimes taking on a kind of mystery that you must solve. It is like reading a book backwards. Sometimes you find yourself reading madly in hopes of discovering clues to open your child's heart and mind.

That is the way it has seemed for the past few months with Anastasia. Since Christmas vacation when I allowed her to spend three days at a friend's house, things seemed to change subtly with her. I could no longer count on her good behavior. Would never know when she might begin to "lose it"..... When she came to us she was prone to tantrums. Mostly I found that ignoring them was key, and giving her tons of attention and love the rest of the time.

But now the tantrums came back into her vocabulary. And now older, they are worse and more disturbing. Add to this that Anastasia has an iron will. No one will ever vanquish her; I am confident that she would allow someone to kill her rather than let them subdue her. What a wonderful trait, if used correctly, but when used to defy mama and papa it is terrifying. It became clear, when we finally had to resort to it, that spanking was not going to work. In fact, it was like throwing gasoline on a fire. We had some rip-roaring miserable, out-of-control events, let me tell you. I found that ignoring her (or pacifying her by setting her in front of TV) were about the only ways to stop the acceleration.

Last week I took to walking around praying fervently nearly non-stop for an answer to what was wrong. I believe that God has given me some glimpses. Thank you, Lord.

Coincidentally, and ashamedly, I think it stems in part from what I revealed a couple of posts ago. I am a bit of a "disorganized mom". The whole structure of three meals a day is not all that important to me. If I am on a roll working, and no one asks for lunch (particulary when they have gotten up late and eaten breakfast at 10 or 11) I don't bother to serve lunch. Then, of course, at 4 or 5 they are begging for food, and I am insisting they hold off until dinner. This is not an all-the-time thing, obviously, but occurs often on a Saturday or Sunday. These are the days when the kids might sleep in and when I am often overwhelmed by urgent church work.

Well, this Saturday, instead of just whining or nagging or being annoying (or, as is more usual, just having an apple or some bread - fruit and bread is always available for the hungry), Anastasia went into tantrum mode....but what she was yelling is "You don't love me! You don't feed me!" Those words went right to my heart. That was the clue I needed.

In her paperwork is the record of the court hearing when Anastasia's mother lost custody of her children. We were told by the social worker in Ivanovo this was rather a "famous" case, and was even covered in the newspaper. According to her, the children were found living in an abandoned house, and eating from garbage cans, or from handouts. Over the years, honestly, I had begun to doubt the truth of this. For one thing, Anastasia swore it was not true. She said they were just "playing" in the other house. The only time I wondered was once when we drove past a building where someone was standing looking into a big dumpster and from the back seat I heard Anastasia comment, "You can find good things in the garbage." then a little quieter, "I shouldn't have said that." And she wouldn't say any more about it.

But I suddenly have realized that for Anastasia, my being casual about feeding her, translates to not loving her. I feel heartsick for having given her this anxiety. I said a few things to her about this, and also immediately began to be far more physically affectionate with her. I realized in doing so, that her frequent tantrums had actually been making me feel less affectionate toward her, and that things were probably beginning to spiral downward partly because of this. I also think that though she begs to go spend the night with friends, that when I allow her to go it frightens her on some level, that I "give her up" that easily.

Since I have been more "nurturing" food-wise, and more cuddly with her, she has begun in the last day or two to articulate what was in her heart. "I thought you didn't love me so much anymore." "I thought you loved daddy more than me."

The "daddy" issue is a big one. Her biological mother's abandonment of Anastasia was always due to her going off with a man, so Anastasia is not comforted by loving parents so much as threatened by it. That is to deal with another day, I think, when she is older and better able to understand. For now, I will become more of what I am - the protective mother and there will be no more overnights. I will also become as well as I can, what I am not. The organized mother, at least in terms of food-supply, because for Anastasia some things are more than they seem.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

POLITICS

On another blog I ran across the link to this site where you can figure out which candidate is the closest match to you on the issues that matter most to you. Very interesting.

http://glassbooth.org/

Saturday, March 22, 2008

ZHEN DAY

Meeting Zhenya

What a miracle it was when we met our Zhenya! Tomorrow is "Zhen Day", the third anniversary of Zhen being a Kitching. I am so grateful for this photo. Although I always carry my camera with me, I was so overwhelmed by this whole experience that I never even took a photo of Zhen when we first met him! Our coordinator in Ivanovo, Irina, took this one, to my everlasting gratitude.

The way we met Zhen was a bit startling. We had hosted Sergei for a summer program, so this was our first trip to Russia - our court trip for Sergei. I was SO exhausted! I think it would have been a little easier if I knew no Russian - but as I know some, I was straining with every bit of my being to understand everything being said. In addition, I had finally arrived at this land of my dreams....though I majored in Russian in college, I never had gotten to go there. So every moment was there to be lived to the fullest. "Heightened awareness" doesn't even begin to describe it!

I really didn't know what to expect. Months earlier, our agency had suggested that it was always "safer" to get INS permission to adopt 2 - just "in case" there was a surprise sibling or best friend. Well, that piece of advice certainly opened up my sense of possibility...and I said that maybe we would be interested in meeting a second child.

Now, here is what I envisioned - that we would be there in the orphanage and my soft-hearted husband would see some adorable child and would suggest this idea himself. For that reason I hadn't really mentioned to him the concept of adopting two. I had no idea that we would be OFFICIALLY meeting a second child - and certainly not within the first hours of arriving in Ivanovo, after an all-night train trip preceded by an overnight flight!

I will never forget the wild-eyed look in Craig's eyes as the translator explained that we would first be taking care of "the business about the second child". I actually went into panic mode myself. I had begun to wonder what we were doing by adopting ONE! I'll never forget that car trip - the wild driving, through these completely strange and unknown streets in the company of two extremely serious Russian ladies (had not yet tuned into that aspect of the Russian character), in a state of being that passed both mental and physical exhaustion.

At least we weren't offending Irina and Galina by being too jolly ourselves. Craig was probably in shock. I have never in my life prayed more fervently for God's will to be done! We went to the MOE (Craig every so often throwing me a "what have you done??" look) We signed all sorts of papers committing us to things we didn't understand regarding a child we hadn't seen. Then we were driven to #2, and placed in the director's office where you see us in the photo. They brought in this little boy. I will never forget how adorable he was, dressed in a little outfit with navy shorts and a matching white shirt with a little tie. White knee socks and turquoise patent leather sandals. My heart swelled until I though it would burst. There was no way to pour out the love and motherly feelings I had for this little guy.

A doctor came in and gave us all sorts of information about him, only child of a deceased single mother, making him sound like a child about to die from consumption (he actually spent three months after that in a TB hospital). They had in hand a three-inch-thick pile of medical records and x-rays. But, he didn't seem sickly and, indeed, when he took us out to look at the playground, he showed us how fast he could run and how high he could swing. Then he put his hand in Craig's as we walked back in.

We were only there for twenty minutes or so. When we got back to the hotel we prayed and fell asleep exhausted with all our clothes on in the middle of the day. Craig was not at all sure that we weren't in the hands of criminals of some sort....and anyone who had adopted from Russia will understand this first impression - we'd already handed over an envelope containing $7,000 to a stranger in a side street in Moscow.....and we'd not even seen Sergei! We agreed to keep praying, and after we saw Sergei, we'd re-think this "Evgenii" situation.

Later that day we saw Sergei again (and what joy that was!) We continued to pray, talk, sleep. And we decided that we would go visit Evgenii again. But when we asked to do that we were told - too bad! All the children had just left for the country. I have to credit my husband with amazing faith. He was quite convinced at that point that were were being scammed. But he agreed to continue in the direction that it seemed God was leading.... And an appropriate nine months later! we went back to Russia for our Zhenya.

Zhen has been such an amazing blessing. He is a robust little guy - who has never been sick a day since he came to live with us! Yet he has memories of many hospital stays in Russia. Zhen does everything vigorously - bathing, eating, dressing, playing. I love his energy. And he is one of the most loving and affectionate people I've ever met. He fills my heart up with hugs and kisses every day. He'll give me a big kiss and exclaim "You are the best mommy I ever had!" I don't even know if he understand all that that means, but it means the world to me!

Thank you, God, for our Zhenya!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

THE DISORGANIZED MOTHER

Walgreens at 5:30 a.m.
I chanced on a blog the other day where someone was querying whether or not she ought to be the mother of a large family as she was not a social person. For some reason her self-analysis made me immediately think of my own major flaw as mother of a [moderately] big family.

I am not very organized. At least not in the housekeeping line.

Why the photo of the Walgreen's 24 Hour Pharmacy? you may find your self asking. Well.... I took this photo on Wednesday morning at 5:35 a.m. And why was I there at such an hour? Why, indeed? No; not an emergency, at least not the sort of emergency an organized mother would imagine. This was MY kind of emergency - no bread! In fact, not only no bread - no juice boxes; no chips; no cookies. In fact, all I had ready for school lunches was sacks, baggies and carrot sticks. Buying these items at the Walgreens, and at that hour of the morning, is embarrassing, frankly.

However, having to do it TWICE in one week is more so - and I will now admit - I had already been there on MONDAY.

Please be kind. I know what you are thinking, but churchwork requires me to work all day Sunday...and much of Saturday. However, the organized mother, knowing she would be at church all day Sunday would of course, plan a shopping expedition at some point on Saturday. Not me, though!

I am also a disorganized housecleaner. And while I have certainly seen worse, my house is not always at the level of cleanliness, I'd like to see. And, the way the cleaning gets done has a haphazard oddness about it the just seems wrong (as Sergei would say). For example, Anastasia hates to be alone in the bathtub so rather than just sit in there and keep her company the other night, I used that time to scrub the bathroom floor and clean the toilet! I scrubbed the kitchen floor the other morning while waiting for the coffee to perk. Though I must say that that had the double benefit of my being only partly conscious as I did it.

I am capable of organization! When I put together activities and programs at church I have to be organized. I just really don't know why I don't put some of that energy into the work I do around the house. But I don't. Maybe the next step is to figure out - why the heck not????

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

MY SWEETHEART BOY

By Zhen

I was walking through the school today when my eye fell on this picture. The hall was decorated all up and down both wings, with pictures the children drew to illustrate the "Virtue of the Month" - this month, thankfulness.

Most of the pictures were of animals, or nature, or toys, pets, treats of all sorts - this was the only religious presentation I saw - and was I proud!

What a dear and loving boy my Zhen is - I was really impressed that Lent and Holy Week are making an impression on him.

Monday, March 17, 2008

THE HAPPIEST ST. PATRICK'S DAYS

Lydia dancing
For years St. Patrick's day was a whirl of gaiety - the happiest day of the year. Now it is back to being pretty much an ordinary day. Very much an ordinary day.
It is strange as you get older to actually realize that the word "chapter" can be used to describe a part of your life. I'm not sure I like that! Anyway, Irish dance was the most delightful, most fun, most joyous "chapter" of my life....and I actively regret that it is over.
Lydia danced from the time she was ten until she went into the army...a year and a half ago. She was lured into this art/sport by her Irish godfather, and I thought Irish dance sounded wholesome enough even though I had no clue what it was. By the time she quit she had become a Championship Level dancer, and had performed with the Chieftains, Cherish the Ladies and several other top-notch bands - as well as the Detroit Symphony!
Though we started in ignorance, in no time we realized that this was what we had been waiting for - that activity in which Lydia shone, the pastime that made her blissfully happy and which seemed the thing that was most reflective of her personality and gifts. And I can only say that I, too, loved it. Part of what I loved is that it is so thoroughly a family activity. Like all "chapters of ones life", I guess, that chapter had its own set of wonderful people that we grew to know and love, and treat as family. People who seemed to share our own values, people with wonderful humor and great generosity and kindness.
Yes; I have actually begun to enjoy basketball. But - Irish Dance! Within the Irish dance community is everything! Not just the fun of competition (for Irish dance is a sport, on one level), but also the joy of putting together performances, parades, and all the social events attached to all of the above. There are beautiful costumes, enchanting music, and of course just the beauty of the dance itself. I also found a niche embroidering dance dresses - and how I loved that!
But with some things, when it is over, it is over. Lydia went into the army, and by the time she got back her feet were ruined - ruined for the army by all the pounding of dance, and ruined for dance by marching in army boots. She has plantar fasciitus and is now lucky to have a day without pain.
I tried "hanging on". Sergei, Zhenya and Anastasia all had a year of Irish Dance lessons, and it was quite clear that this was not what any of them had been waiting for! No one shone (to say the least!). And though there are some "hangers on" in the Irish dance community - those who just are there by association - my life is too busy to spend time on peripheral things.
So St. Patrick's day is a rather sad day for me, even when I tell myself firmly to stop being silly! When I hear the lilt of a reel on the radio I can't help but feel a huge loss not to be in the middle of it all any more.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

LAMBING SEASON


Lambs of all sorts...

For the past many years now I have organized the butter lamb sale at our church. Butter Lambs are a traditional Polish custom. The butter (which was long ago forbidden during Lent) and the lamb shape reflecting the joy of the Easter season on a couple of levels.

So my Lenten penance for years was creating these butter lambs (no simple feat, I might add!) This year, to my delight (and amazement) one of my assistants took over the butter lamb task. Yahoo!

However, I was not off the hook. A couple of years ago I got the bright idea to sell chocolate lambs, too. That is a perfect update to the tradition since many people give up chocolate, candy or sweets for Lent. Anyway, I've spent the last week making chocolate lambs and crosses every spare moment.
Today is the sale. The proceeds are going towards my proposed mission trip to Ivanovo. I hope we can pull it together for next summer.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

$80,000

Last night Anastasia and I were in the kitchen with the radio on when they reported that Eliot Spitzer spent over $80,000 on prostitutes. I was thinking to myself how many people could have afforded to adopt if they'd been given that money, when Anastasia popped up, "Mom, do you think we could afford to get me a sister?"

She didn't understand what the story was about, but she heard the money mentioned. Funny thing when to the whole family money = adoption.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

YOU NEVER KNOW

Potatoes Ilya

Turns out that our Ilya has an unexpected talent - he can make the best fried potatoes I've ever had! I actually had him show me his secret.

He puts the cold potatoes in the hot oil, then he puts the lid on for 5 minutes. Only then does he open it up and turn them. I suppose my fault has been "messing" with them from beginning to end, and not having enough grease, and that not hot enough. Anyway, I think I can do it now!

Last night Ilya was making potatoes to go along with a fritata I was preparing. I had previously fried the onions for the fritata in this pan, and in preparation for his potatoes which he was then peeling, I poured the oil into the pan for him. He finished his potatoes (by the way he completely scorned my potato-peeler in the way only a Russian can, in favor of a plain knife). He surveyed the frying pan, which I had ready for him and informed me with a pained look that it was "no good" - he didn't like the "residue" of the onions in the oil I guess, and before I could tell what he was up to, he had grabbed the pan, gone to the back door and heaved the "bad" grease into the back yard! Well - we don't do it quite that way in this country.....

Still, the potatoes were wonderful, and with luck I can do them this well by myself now. Ilya said he learned to cook potatoes from his grandmother. Thanks, babushka!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

WOULD YOU STAND BY YOUR MAN?

This photo seems like a "repeat" of one we've seen any number of times...
most clearly in my memory of Hillary Clinton and her loving husband.

I do not understand these photos! Why is this woman standing there? What is she trying to tell us?

I suppose she is trying to say something to the effect of: "He is such a wonderful man, that if I can trust him again, you can, too." But really - presumably she just found out, like we did - how could she have evolved to forgiving and trusting that fast???

But, frankly, my first impression is that she is taking part of the blame, as in, "If I were a better wife, it wouldn't have come to this." or "I guess we are dysfunctional couple; I'm sorry."

On only slightly further consideration, though,my impression boils down to her presence conveying this message: This guy is my meal ticket, and since I am hoping he remains my meal ticket, I will have to pay the price and take the humiliation. In Hillary Clinton's case it seemed to me that she had long ago made a devil's pact to stick with this guy for the political "ride" no matter how personally embarrassing it would turn out to be. And her decision has, it appears, paid off (at least so far.)

Frankly, if this were me, I would still be white hot with rage. Never in a million years would I got to a press conference, of all things, to discuss what is a very personal humiliation. Of course I would forgive him eventually, but the hurt would be too profound to display for all and sundry, and I might even think that it was no one's business how I "handled it", how I "felt" or what I was going to do about it, so to speak.

Am I crazy? Inappropriate? WHY do these women do this?

Monday, March 10, 2008

LOOK WHAT I WON!

Finally! My new bag and my camera in the same place!
This is the bag I won from Rachael. She has a neat little Etsy Store, Simple Wishes. As part of some
"market research" she had a contest and I won!
Two cool things here: the fabric from the lining of the bag is from a fabric store in Moscow, and profits from Rachael's Etsy Store go for supplies (gifts, etc.) for orphanages in St. Petersburg. How cool is that. The wonderful distributor of these gifts is one of my favorite bloggers Kate. Of course the only downside to using this bag as a make-up bag is that I have to be preternaturally careful not to let the lining get "yucky". However, this is the bag I keep at the office; it doesn't joggle around in my purse or anything, so I think it will be OK.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

HAPPY WOMEN'S DAY


In Russia this is a big day! I hear it is celebrated not only with special attention to women of all ages - candy, flowers, poems and so forth, but also the usual alcoholic carrying-on by the menfolk.
We celebrate in a more puritanical vein here. This is a card given to me by my beloved Zhenya. And Anastasia and I went out to a coffee shop with a couple of lady-friends.
Happy day to you ladies!

LITTLE SERIOZHA

After finding out about the possibility from Christine
I decided to have a regression photo done for Sergei. Curiously, he asked about the possibility of finding some baby photos just at the time she posted this, so it seemed "meant to be". I ordered one from this place, which actually turned out to be here in Michigan. This week I e-mailed them because it had been so long! Turned out our completed photo had gone into the spam box (I hate the new e-mail system they installed at work....it takes you twice as long to go through the so-called "spam", but if you don't you can miss important messages). Anyway.... Here is our little Sergei.

At first it didn't quite resonate with me. But over the day and a half I've had it, frankly, I've fallen in love with it! I believe they have the face just right. At first I was a little put-off by the clothing. This is not typical Russian orphanage wear! My other thought is that the hair is a little too thick and a little too red. Sergei actually has no red in his hair (and I'm irritated I sent his school photo as one of their models, which oddly makes it look like there is). I think that they can make the adjustment with the hair....but I don't even care anymore!

I keep looking at this picture and I swear it is as if I held this darling little boy. It is SO Sergei to me now.

Curiously, it is just possible, now that we have found Sergei's sister Nadia, that we'll someday get to see a real baby photo of Sergei. And, of course, I can get Nadia's impressions of this photo, too (though she is only seven years older than he is, and she may not really remember what he looked like.)

Sergei's reaction? He didn't like the clothes - not because they didn't have versimilitude - but because they weren't "cool" enough. And he didn't care for the background for the same reason. I had forgotten for a moment he is 14!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

THE NEWEST BIG THING

A few weeks ago I got a bright idea. Our family goes through so many frozen waffles that I thought perhaps I should make my own and save some money. I figured that I could even make an extra batch and freeze them. Surely homemade ones could later be toasted, too. So I got out the old waffle iron (and had to dust it off, to be frank).

The homemade waffle idea was well-received. This photo is somewhat deceptive because I made these one Saturday morning before anyone was up, to test the "toasting" possibilities. (Yes; they warm up nicely from room temperature.)

I do not yet know if they warm up nicely from the frozen state, because I did not allow for one eventuality: everyone likes the homemade ones so much that even the day I made two large batches, they all got eaten. None to freeze for another day. So, I have realized that considering the time involvement and the fact that so many more are required, frozen waffles are probably more cost-effective in the end. Nevertheless, the waffle iron gets a work out two or three times a week...even occasionally, like today, on a school morning. They are not really that much work.

I am opposed to syrup on general principles. The chief principle being: Nothing in ones home should be sticky.

But we have a variety of other scrumptuous toppings: Greg likes chocolate butter. Anastasia wants butter and powdered sugar. Sergei likes jam. Zhen and I have hit on absolutely THE BEST combination - frozen Cool Whip and mandarine oranges. Oh, my gosh. Beyond good. Try it! And if you don't have the oranges, the frozen Cool Whip alone is good enough to write home about. I think it is something about the contrasting textures and temperatures....but they are surely a great way to start the day!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

WHAT DO I STAND FOR?

A little, beautiful thing.
One of my favorite blogs in terms of really terrific subjects is Peter's Peapod, newly added (see sidebar) to my favorite spots around blogville. I am blatantly borrowing this topic.

What do I stand for?

The endeavor to love others unselfishly. (Not to say I meet my goals...to say the least! I don't! I can say that I am truly trying.)

Loyal devotion to those I have chosen to love, no matter how hard it is.

The effort to love God, and to grow in that love. I see that as the goal to become more and more unselfish.

Forgiveness. This is not hard for me, as God has given me the grace to forgive and forget - thank You, Lord. I am not grateful enough for this gift.

Believing the best of people. Why believe the worst? What good would that do? An elderly priest once said, I'd far rather give freely to someone who is cheating me than fail to give to someone in need. I agree. The same goes for taking offense. I undoubtely have given offense without meaning to, so I owe it to others to give them the benefit of the doubt. Actually, this is another area where God has blessed me. People would have to go a long way before I would ever realize that they were trying to offend me.

Cherishing the little moments. Life can sometimes be very hard, but never for me, without joy mixed in. The way the sun comes into a room, or glimmers through leaves. The smell of my children's hair, the feel of Zhen's cheek. The pleasure I get from my dining room wallpaper, its pink roses never seem to grow old for me. The pleasant creak of the oak floors in our old house. The taste of coffee in the morning. The satisfaction I get from ironing, or taking clean clothes from the dryer. The joy of creating something pretty - an arrangement of items on a shelf, a fluffy, clean bed, or a piece of needlework. Things can be pretty dire in the big picture, yet there are always so many little "presents" every day.

Now, in a future post I will need to write about all my faults and failings. I surely do not live up to my aspirations. But I do try. And in so many ways God has blessed me and given more than a bit of a boost in my efforts.




Sunday, March 2, 2008

IN HONOR OF TONIGHT'S ENJOYMENT

I am Anne Elliot!

Take the Quiz here!




Anastasia and I look forward to our Sunday night with Jane Austen, as Masterpiece Theatre continues.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

MY FAVORITE VACATION SPOT




I love Russia. Not a day goes by that I don't think about when/how I can organize and finance a trip to Russia!

Though I just ran across this photo from the website English Russia of a beach in St. Petersburg that reminded me of my first and most startling impression of the country.

This beach has much in common with the "beautiful" square near the university in Ivanovo. A lovely site, set near a large hall, on the river....yet it looked like this: awash with garbage. For some reason now I remember with warm delight the way the people walk in twos and threes along the river paths on a spring night....groups of young people, women and children or men, clustered around the benches, chatting, smoking - yes, often drinking, and sometimes singing together. I find it all quite idyllic. How quickly I have come to ignore what the Russians themselves apparently ignore quite readily - the fact that all of this activity is taking place amidst mounds of garbage. There might be a garbage can next to the "picturesque" bench, but it would be mounded over and surrounded by garbage of all sorts, including liquor bottles of all varieties. And if there is no garbage can nearby - well, that is no obstacle to getting rid of trash!

I now recall that my amazement over the garbage was at the top of my list of things I wanted to understand. But of course, it is hard to ask even Russians now living in America a question like - Why do you people throw garbage all over? I tried to hint at it a time or two, and my husband shushed me, appalled. So, I still don't know.

When I heard that the first mafia families in NYC made their millions on garbage collection I thought "Ah! Ha!" A way to get to Russia and make a million too! Except I can't for the life of me figure out how those mafia guys made a million from garbage. And I'm not sure I would have the gumption to start a garbage business in Russia (surely if it were a good idea someone would have beat me to it?)

And, seeing this photo, I realized with surprise that the last couple of times I have been in Russia, I, too, have completely disregarded the garbage! In fact, I recall sitting for quite a while down by the river in August, on one of those garbage-surrounded benches. Ilya was playing around on the path with his brother, Sasha (playing a sort of soccer with some discarded item our surroundings had provided) and rather than tut-tutting critically, I was idly checking out the various liquor bottles adorning the area, and even a medicine bottle that offered distraction in my picturesque spot.