Monday, August 31, 2009


Nastya with Dana, and friends Sasha, Vika and Anya.
My heart has been aching for the past few months. Right before Holy Week, I received some horrible news. The wonderful, amazing, loving woman who coordinated all of our adoptions, Dana (left with four Russian-American girls at the annual picnic), was told that she had stage 4 lung cancer.

Throughout the services of Holy Week I prayed for her as intensely as I've ever prayed, a delirium of prayer.....and continued as the weeks and months went on. And of course, everyone else who knows and loves her prayed as well. This is a woman who does her work because she loves the children. I can pretty well say that we could never have adopted without Dana. She is not only organized, she is attentive and careful and does the paper work right. So, I've not heard of any of Dana's families experiencing the horror stories that you overhear on planes and in hotel lobbies when you are adopting. Most of all, it was Dana who took no fee at all when we adopted Nastya, and Ilya, and only the smallest fee for herself for our first two adoptions. She helped a self-sufficient farm family with almost no income to speak of, adopt a son. She does what she does for the children, and has a particular heart for older children. She is absolutely "up there" for me....I owe my family to God and Dana.

Dana has always been slim, but at the picnic she looked like she could blow away... She wore a scarf to hide her hair loss. She had to avoid the sun, and only went out into it for a moment for this photo. It was heartbreaking to see her - yet when I talked to her that day, her optimism was bracing.

And this week - the news? Her cancer is in remission! Her doctor is flabbergasted. If anyone in this world ever deserved a miracle, it is Dana. Thank you, Lord! Thank you!!!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


This is a messy blur of a photo, isn't it? And that is so, so fitting. A mess - as my life at the moment is a mess. Blurry - a blurr I really don't understand.

This is the top of my dresser....that until a few months ago was always tidy and sweet-looking. Not that all my spaces are such, but this one was. Everything on my dresser was "useful or beautiful" (or just gave me joy) as William Morris would have suggested. The china dish given to my by my very elderly babysitter - the one that had been given to her as a child. A pink cut-glass dish given to my by a friend in Oregon....a heart-shaped ring box Sergei made for me his first year here...the cute little Red Army soldier toy that made me smile whenever I looked at him, and all of my favorite jewelry....nearly all of it antique or Russian or...having some significance.

It has all lain in this disarray since the early spring night when Maxim, angry about something that I suppose neither of us would remember came storming into my bedroom and woke me - looming above me and yelling. Usually he would yell without damaging anything, and probably the fact that it was dark was most of the problem....but he either slammed his arm down, or gestured, or something - the result was that everything on my dresser came crashing to the floor. I don't deny I screamed and sobbed and Maxim disappeared. I cried myself to sleep, unable to look at the results of this horror. A few days later, Sergei, dismayed that I'd left it all scattered around the floor, put everything back on the dresser - like this.

I do not know why I have not been able to clean it up. Perhaps it is simply because I don't want to see what was broken. I don't want to see what can't be repaired. I saw broken silver chains, the china feather separated (at least) from the lid of the jewelry box....pieces of the cut-glass dish.
I don't want to know.

And the longer it sits there, the less motivated I am to sort it out. I guess this mess stands as some sort of symbol of something. Something that doesn't entirely involve Maxim. I thought that when he left, I'd pick it up. But I don't want to. My past life in shatters? The pretty and the organized and the beautiful in shatters? I really don't know. I could pick it up. I could do it right now. But there is something that makes me want to just leave it there.

Perhaps I just lack courage. This might have been a sort-of depressing TTT (Too True Tuesday) post, but I also think I ought to give an update on Maxim.
I hardly know how to write about Maxim, but since I wrote about him so much when he was with us, I can't just drop him as a "character", particularly as that would give the wrong idea. I see him a few times a week.

But, really, I do not know how or what to write. It is early days, and I am not certain how things will turn out.....

I can write the good stuff....I think he is determined to do well at school this year. He has volunteered that he thinks he is better off where he is. When I asked why, he said it was because they "picked him up on time". I happen to know that they intend for him to ride the school bus and not be picked up at all, but I will save that for them to share. They also tell me that he will make it clear to them that life was so, so much better at my house. So, he plays both sides against each other, to some purpose of his own.

He tries to hurt me because on some level - though he begged for a different family "without all these kids" - he feels rejected, and does hurt me by telling me they did more for him in three weeks than I did in three years. He means he went on vacation with them, I think. And he had a good time. And, from my point of view they do do more for him, that there are three adults in that house - the at-home pastor, his at-home wife, and a grown daughter who teaches at a Christian school. They have the time and the energy to give him the attention he needs and a lot of intelligence in their approach to him, I think. He is chafing under their rules and under other constraints, but basically I think he is doing better. Mrs. P is home during the day as is the pastor, so she makes a cooked lunch - something Maxim suggested I ought to do. Yet, they tell me he constantly complains about her cooking, saying mine was much tastier and with better quality food.

He is no more honest than he ever was - with me. I'd started carrying a bit of cash in my purse and the night he invited himself to stay the night, it disappeared. My charge card suddenly got x-box charges on it. I'd forgotten that since this was Sergei's x-box and not his own, the ban I'd put on his own machine with the x-box Live people was not in force. Trust him to remember it and take advantage of me.

We had our worst set-to earlier this week. He was at our house when I got home. I was dead tired, had to haul groceries in from the car, needed to make dinner, but Maxim at first cajoled, then urged and somehow succeeded in getting me to drive him home in my car. Once in that confined place he asked me to buy him cigarettes. Told me he was dying. School was too hard. he couldn't take the homework; the football coach wasn't playing him; he needed to smoke. He was going to quit school and run away if he didn't get a smoke....and I was supposed to buy him cigarettes.

There was a short period of time when, to prevent the boys from smoking the butts they found on the street - and prior to enrolling them in an anti-smoking program, I bought them cigarettes. Well, he wanted to revisit this, which I had sworn I never, ever would do.

My protestations that it was illegal, that I didn't have money for cigarettes, that he needed to buck up, that he'd get kicked off the football team if they knew he smoked, were all interrupted by the above claims that he could not go on - he would not go on, without cigarettes. He was yelling, saying absolutely horrible things to me - even worse than the above claim that they'd done so much more for him. Well, I hardly knew what to do. As his anger level was rising, all I could think about was my new car and I surely didn't want to see the windshield broken as he broke the windshield on the van. At this point I was leaning over the wheel, crying, determined I wouldn't be threatened into buying cigarettes for this kid, but not wanting to have my car and belongings destroyed. Fortunately, I was saved by the door opening in the house across the street. He got shaken and dashed out and into his own house.

Later in the week he called and apologized and asked me to go to his football game. I forgave him, of course. I said I'd come to the game if I could, but would not give him a ride home because I didn't want to be alone in the car with him again. He said he understood and just wanted me to come. In the end it was cold and raining and I already had chills and a terrible sinus headache, so I didn't go. I wouldn't have gone to anyone's anything that night. Though he'll never believe it.

Friday, August 28, 2009


We did use the "Clunkers" opportunity to get a new car. Our new car is a KIA Rondo, which has high ratings all around, and it suits us well because it will seat seven. It drives well, it gets good gas mileage. The children are not wallowing in humiliation because of our vehicle any longer....

But it was hard to trade in the Blazer. This was my dad's car, which my mom gave us when he died eleven years ago. He kept it pristine, and it became Craig's car and he kept it pristine, too. I cannot keep any car pristine. As I saw in a cartoon one time, "I don't think of it as a car; I think of it as a large purse!"

In any case, saying good-bye to the Blazer of course raised some of those lingering sadnesses of saying goodbye to my dad. If you can't see in the photo, if you click on it, you can read my dad's bumper sticker, which my husband heartily appreciated: Politically Incorrect and Proud of It.

There are other memories on the back of that car, too. See the license plate? It is a "Pearl Harbor" license plate. My dad was at Pearl Harbor and proud of that, too. Craig enjoyed having that license plate, and every so often seeing someone look at it, then at him, then at it..... No; Craig doesn't look that old! I'm glad we get to keep the license plate.

There is also the East Lansing LaCrosse bumper sticker - that was Aidan's. He played and then coached that team. It was fun to see him "find" his sport, finally. He started out as a hockey goalie, then a roller hockey goalie....but lacrosse goalie was just right. I see this and remember wincing at the ball-shaped bruises all over my poor son's legs - but of course he was proud of them.

Then there is the Quinn School of Irish Dance sticker. That was the school's first sticker and the design leaves something to be desired - the subsequent ones have been really nice. But that brings back Lydia's dancing and all it entailed. And, as I've written before I don't think anything will ever give me the joy I got from that. Heaven will be a big Irish dance competition - surely.

So, when I said goodbye to the Blazer, it was parting with all these little fragments of the past. So, I couldn't be as unadulteratedly excited and pleased as people seemed to expect. (To say nothing about taking on a car payment where there had been none!)

Right now the back of our KIA is blank. I wonder what it will come to say about us?

Thursday, August 27, 2009


One of these days I'll have the time and emotional energy to write about the various stressors I am undergoing. But, I not only need the time and emotional energy, I need a sufficient dose of humor or I will seriously discourage my loyal readers. So...until then, I'll share the most remarkably sweet and wonderful answer to prayer that I've ever received - and just when I really needed a little encouragement, too. God is so kind!

As you know, my parish has been "overtaken" by another. It is officially a "merger" but frankly, when I look around me and I am one of the few people I know, it feels more like we're being occupied than anything else. It is so surreal - the place is the same but the people are different. And the rules are different. And most of the credit I've built up over twenty exemplary year's service (if I do say so myself) is also gone. And the bold proclamation at the first meeting of the "merged" staff was: some of you won't be here next year. (OK - in the interests of honesty I have to say that was the shocking statement made by the secretary at the other site, but it was dismayingly met with agreement by the pastor. So.... you see my situation.)

It is the one in which I find myself when I am given three shiny new keys to the doors of the three widely distant spaces in which I am to attempt to work (wait! that's another post). Anyway. Three IMPORTANT new keys on one of those flimsy little rings. For some reason, probably profoundly significant on a psychological level, instead of putting these new keys on my key ring, I put them in my purse - in the little side pocket of my purse, where my cell phone is.

So, over the weekend, I get the idea I will go to workspace #1, where my phone is. I reach for my new keys. No new keys. No key ring. No keys. No nothing. No keys!!! I search my purse completely. I search my car, my desk, various other chaotic spots in which I daily find myself. No keys. Well, THAT fact sat like a dark, miserable ball in the bottom of my stomach, I can tell you.

Life went on (without my checking phone messages on the weekend); I looked everywhere I went. Whenever I thought of the lost keys, my stomach would turn. Losing the keys to the church doors is NOT a good thing. Especially when doing so is one of the first actions your new boss would see you take. Deep anxiety was my middle name. But I could forget it - most of the time. It became just an intermittant torture.

Finally, the other night, I was sitting at my desk in workspace #3, in about my fourth hour of processing registrations. The key situation entered my conscious memory again and I cried out from the depths of my heart (aloud, being alone) "Oh, Lord! Please, please, let me find those keys!!!!" But meanwhile, I'd not really stopped processing the registrations, and as I intoned the word "keys" I was reaching for a check that was in my in-basket. At that very moment - I am not exaggerating.....the very moment I uttered the word "keys" - my hand was ON THE KEYS! There they were, in a corner of the in-basket. They'd been hidden by papers until that very instant.

I cannot begin to describe how it feels to have a tactile answer to such a heart-felt prayer at the very moment that prayer is uttered.

So - you can imagine, overall I am feeling quite a lot better about things.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


OK This time I will share something kind of embarrassing.

EXHIBIT A - Plant food. I have some aspirations to make things grow. Make a few efforts here and there.

EXHIBIT B - Beautiful vine. I thought this volunteer could use my nurturing, yes? Don't you think it "warms up" this corner of the garage rather nicely?

EXHIBIT C - Remember Zhen's horrible reaction? Well, I never mentioned that he had several more attacks of this miserable whatever over the summer. We thought it was from sleeping near the fan - we moved him. We thought it was from sleeping too near the floor - we put his mattress up on a real bed. I stopped giving him does unfortunate things to his digestion, so perhaps it was now attacking him in other ways....

Then, a couple of weeks ago - just in time to go pick Sergei up from his cadet camp - MY face broke out! It was not quite as swollen, but horrible welts all over that sort-of itched, but actually was better described as "discomfort". It was an interesting spiritual discipline to go meet people who at the first glance at me recoiled. Gave me insights about what the disabled must endure day in and out, too. And the kids were not particularly glad to be seen with me. Plus - it was SO MISERABLE! I'd find myself moaning out loud over it!

And, around then the neighbor's tree fell into our back yard, and the man who came to pick it up pointed out..................

My lovely vine? POISON IVY.

Somehow, on our faces, the reaction was not at all like the poison ivy rash I've had before. But, just as if to confirm that he was right, last week I got it on my hand. That reaction is just what I remember - miserable, unbearably itchy, red.

So much for my "green thumb"!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Here is a sweet photo of two little Russian girls in real Russian hairbows. It was taken this week in the middle of Ohio, where I met Karen and her daughter Julia (left) in order to pick up my Nastya (right) who had just spent a couple of days with them. Nastya and Julia are soulmates. Nastya has never had a friend with whom she plays so well, or whom she loves so dearly as Julia.

How Julia came to be in America is a part of the pretty tapestry that I'm exploring in this post.

Long ago, before we went to adopt Nastya, I had found the yahoo group for people adopting in our region in Russia (Ivanovo). Of course, you know me, I was effusive in sharing my love for the country and language. Dear Svetlana, a member of this group - not because she was adopting, but because she had volunteered at an orphanage in Ivanovo - e-mailed me off the list and asked if, when we went to Russia, I would like to meet her friend, Alla, who lives in Moscow. She had met Alla when they were both volunteering at #5 in Ivanovo. Svetlana knew that Alla liked to practice her English and was glad to show people around Moscow. So Svetlana made the connection and Craig and I did meet Alla and her wonderful family in Moscow both that time, and on subsequent visits. My experience and understanding of Russia is so much richer because of Alla. I owe her so much.

We had a wonderful time there with Alla and her husband and son, Andrei. Before we left, Alla shyly showed me a portrayed two adorable little girls, two of her "favorites". Alla wanted from the bottom of her heart to find homes for these two little girls - for Sveta, because with a few learning disabilities, Sveta was destined for a "not so good" internat and this worried Alla. She was also deeply concerned about Julia. Julia had some severe heart problems, and in fact had already undergone several surgeries....once being sent all the way to Moscow so that cardiac specialists could do her surgery. Alla stayed with Julia throughout her operations....standing in the place of family for her....and grieved that the prognosis was not good. But Alla felt in her heart that perhaps in America....and with a family who loved her...there would be hope for Julia.

Back in the states, I carried Alla's precious photo wherever I went and showed it to anyone who showed the slightest interest when I spoke about adoption. Karen, who was at the time the aide in Zhenya's kindergarten class was most interested - she took the precious photo home to show her husband....and the rest is history! And Alla was certainly right! (Hope you followed that link above?!)

And little Sveta? Well! Isn't God good? Soon I found out - and I honestly can't quite remember how, that Alla's other favorite, Sveta - was also being adopted! And Sveta, with another cutie from #5, Anna, now lives in California in the wonderful Reed family.

Meanwhile, in my more recent e-life, I mentioned to Tina's thoughtful and sweet daughter Tamara (Moscow Mom), that I'd tried to find "real" hairbows when I'd been to Russia last and hadn't succeeded. This kind lady brought two with her when she visited her mom this summer - and I just received them in the mail this week! I might have kept both for Nastya (hoping her hair grows out enough for braids...) but since these two Russian sweeties were together - sharing seemed to come naturally.

And, a connection to be (I hope).... Alla has been so wonderful in helping me keep in touch with Sergei's sister Nadia. When fellow Michigander and my favorite mother of 4 went to Russia last spring for a fun visit with her friend Tamara she generously hauled big boxes of goodies from us to Nadia and from us to Alla. Due to a good deal of traveling on the part of both Alla and Tamara they have not yet connected. So, I'm hoping that soon Alla and her fellow Moscow Mom will soon meet. (And, I am confident, become fast friends!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


This week's TTT challenge, post is not about something I am embarrassed about, exactly, but it
is certainly about something that I'd never have any reason to reveal, but for this challenge - and something I am sure no one would ever expect.
At one point I was a Magician's Assistant! Yes, indeed! I was with Elsom the Magnificent. (Who I have now discovered, through the wonders of the internet, to be doing something somewhat different.)

Elsom the Magnificent was the manager of a theatre company I was in. When the tour was over, and I was "resting" briefly in Fresno, California, I took him up on his offer to be the assistant in his magic act.
So, I learned a bit about magic. To begin with I learned what you undoubtedly know already: that it is not really magic; it is tricks. Obvious, but believe it or not, this was disappointing to me. I already knew it was tricks, too, yet I think on some level I still was convinced that it was magic. I hated learning the tricks; learning the tricks ruined the fun. I expected it would make it better, but the converse was true. But, I couldn't do the job (obviously) without learning how to do the tricks...and it was a job. And! a job moderately related to acting - I could put it on my resume!

I also got to take care of the animals involved - the duck and the rabbit. The duck and the rabbit lived pretty well, but I felt sorry for them during the shows because - let's just say....they didn't just "appear" in the hat, etc. They had to hide in there, ready for their big scene. But this was made up for by a good deal of freedom in their "off" hours. Elsom the Magnificent lived in a house with a pool, and the duck and bunny had the run of the backyard. The duck enjoyed the pool. I think this did not make swimming in the pool any nicer for E the M, but he lived with it....until the dark day when a large dog got into the yard and the magic show was diminished by two members.

So, while I do remember that it was definitely tricks, not is someting funny....try as I might I CANNOT remember how the tricks were done. I mean, I remember doing something with the duck - so that it would appear, but I can't really recall where, what, or how, or what was not "hatlike" about the hat - or anything!

The highlight of the act and the most fun for me was the part where I got cut in two. Yes! I have been cut in two and reassembled! Many times.

One time, I was cut in two and left very much unassembled for a long time. That was the show in Chowchilla. Crime afficianados may recall the horrific crime committed in Chowchilla, where a bunch of children were kidnapped and hidden in a buried schoolbus. Well, what Elsom the Magnificant discovered in Chowchilla is that traumatic experiences like that leave an impact on the victims, and those victims might even find the concept of locking a woman securely in a box, with the threat of cutting her in two, to be an idea inconsistent with interior harmony.
A young man who had actually been buried in the bus, several years before, was at that show and went crazy during this act. The young man didn't just start crying, or call out, or faint or anything manageable -but literally went crazy, throwing chairs kicking, hitting, yelling obscenities, etc. I recall Elsom the M. running, as much in character as possible, out into the house to try to calm the hysteric (as well as those around him, who were more than a bit distressed by now, as well). Meanwhile, I lay, locked in the box with only my head and feet showing. For me, I think, remaining in character was a bit more difficult. I think an actor really needs to use arms to remain in character. I've never felt so ridiculous in my life - although, as you can imagine, I was not getting a whole lot of attention.
Though I considered it a distinct honor to be cut in two and put back together - surely a highlight for any Magician's Assistant - I don't remember how that was done, either! I remember getting into the box and laying there. (Doing this stuff "elegantly" was my primary consideration.) I remember the amazement of the audiences. I remember getting up again and attempting to walk gracefully away from the box. But how it was contrived? Beats me. I am uselessto explain it; it's like I never knew.

Perhaps E the M used some of his later-to-be-honed skills on me. (And, if you don't understand that it is because you didn't check the link.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009


The other day Aidan called me on my cell phone and of course I told him where I was, which happened to be getting at cold Diet Coke at Louie's Party Store. His response was surprise, and an admonition that I shouldn't go there! It isn't a safe place!

I realize that I didn't used to go here. I wouldn't have dreamed of going here. Craig would occasionally, but me? The kids? Never! I can't quite understand how it came about that I now go here frequently....either for the above mentioned reason (usually) or to let the kids pick up a candy treat or cold Vitamin Water.

I think it is safe enough. But Aidan would be right to wonder if it is a "nice" environment. Coincidentally, shortly after Aidan's comment, I was standing in line and overheard a loud and jolly conversation between two other patrons regarding the comparitive virtues of the food and accomodations at the county jail in our county (Ingham) or in Detroit (Wayne). I stood there with my purchases, finding it all quite interesting...and only later, in the car, wondering what they were in jail for. Perhaps it would be good to know, and though - since both had experienced both facilities - they are clearly "repeat offenders" still, they are obviously "safe" enough to be out on the streets. So, why worry?

Lansing is a very odd city. At least, no other city I have ever lived in has the spotty character of Lansing. There are a couple of large, safe and middle or upper middle class neighborhoods, but most of the city is pocketed with "good" neighborhoods running within a few blocks into "poor", less safe, poorly kept-up, neighborhoods. Our own neighborhood is sweetly picturesque with two half-circle streets that lend a picturebook air, as the houses curve away from you. The yards (mine being one of the few exceptions) are nicely landscaped and maintained, the owners take pride in them. There are a lot of retired people. There are a lot of young families. A couple homeschool. A couple of other send their children to a closer Catholic school than the one my children attend. The parents have jobs like, EMT, nurse, teacher. The man behind me is in the Marines; his wife is a nurse's aide. Across the street is an accountant, whose wife stays home with the toddlers. A nice, middle class neighborhood. But a small neighborhood. Louie's is just a few blocks away.

A few years ago I got the idea that I'd get exercise of both a physical and spiritual nature by walking the mile to early-morning Mass before anyone else in the family got up. It was lovely in every way. The walk through the dawn light, the chance to think and pray and be alone. And did I ever feel virtuous! That lasted only a couple of days before I noticed police cars, orange tape and ambulances ahead of me..... I approached and was accosted forcefully by a policeman wanting to know my business. The first officer didn't seem to even understand the concept of early-morning Mass-going and appeared to be about ready to throw me in the back of a squad car for being out at that hour; fortunately a more-savvy colleague overheard and nodded that I should be allowed to get the heck out of there. Later, back home, over coffee and the morning paper, I discovered that there had been some drug-related stabbing there in the wee hours before I happened by. Of course Craig insisted that my early-morning walks to church cease forthwith and they did. The church was in a nice neighborhood; we are in a nice neighborhood.....but there was that little patch inbetween......

A few years ago they built a nice, new Kroger supermarket a few blocks away. The first time I went there, I remember being horrified by the dirty diapers and emptied car ashtrays in the parking lot. In the store itself, amidst its beautiful, bright newness - there were troubling issues - frozen foods left sitting on canned good shelves. Olives from the "self-serve" gourmet olive stand strewn amongst the frozen meats. They'd made a neat little coffee shop amidst the bakery section, but cold cups of coffee would be left sitting in the machine and pastries crumbled up on the floor despite available trash recepticles nearby. Gum stuck on the table. It wasn't long before I only went to this store in an emergency. I would witness brazen shoplifting and was ignored when I tried to point out the culprits to the staff. Then came the day when I hit the wall, so to speak. A woman stood in front of me in line, and as I waited I found myself reading the words on her filthy t-shirt. The shirt had apparently been given to her as a gift at a good-bye party where people added their comments in marker. Goodbye to what? My stomach literally turned and I became nauseous reading the things written on her shirt. Obscene, degrading things. Things I cannot repeat here - specific crude references to her anatomy and what she'd do with it, among other things. Then, in horror, I noticed that she had three small boys with her; each obviously from a different father (one appeared black, one hispanic, and the youngest one white). The youngest one was whining for candy. "No, sh*t!" she exclaimed and slapped his hand, hard! He bellowed. Another of the boys took a candy bar and opened it and began to eat it and wandered away; she didn't notice him, but again slapped the little one's hand and again used that word, "Sh*t, cut it out! Damn you!" He started crying and went to wait for her by the window, messing about with items displayed there. I was in shock, I tell you - mostly from her shirt, but also from the absolutely filthy state of the children and herself....and the awful way she spoke to her little one. Then she finished her shopping, and was calling the boys to follow her. She looked around for the little one, then saw him, "Come here, Sh*t! Hey, Sh*t, come here, we're leaving!" And horror washed over me as I realized that that was his name. At least that is what she called him. That was the last time I shopped at Kroger for years. I couldn't bring myself to go near it. Not long after that there was a shooting in the parking lot.

Now I shop there all the time. I am not sure when I started going back....but I realized that they do have some good bargains. The store isn't much better. They have eliminated all the "niceties" that might be abused. They appear to be more vigilant at cleaning their parking lot and the shelves. As at Louie's, I occasionally hear and see things I don't want to hear or see. But, I realize that I have become less innocent, more accepting, I guess. My adopted children heard and saw and perhaps experienced worse. I no longer have to be so untiringly vigilant at my "innocence protection program" like I was when Aidan and Lydia were small. In fact, so often it is Sergei or Ilya trying to protect me.

Times change, and I change with it. I guess.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Too True Tuesday Two

I thought my last TTT post was really well-written. And I was rather proud that I came up with a topic that both fit the requirements of the assignment, while also having some greater merit in terms of "discussing values" and "revealing character" and so on. But so few comments! When I don't get comments it is like getting a bad grade on an essay. Depressing. Anyway...this time my TTT post may have less literary value.

A few years ago I casually let slip in conversation something which apparently startled my listeners a great deal more than I expected. And what was startling? My brush with fame? My wild past? That I had any past that didn't quite "fit" with my present? (Don't we all have pasts that don't quite fit with the present???) Here are the two points to be considered:

Which aspect of this sparks more (any?) interest?

Someone brought William Hurt up in such a way that it didn't seem at all braggy or weird (I don't think!) for me to offer "I once went skinny dipping with him." But, woweee! That put a screetching halt to the normal course of the conversation! Then later I referred to him as "Bill" and that added a bizarre level of fuel to this particular fire. How intimate can you get? "Bill" indeed!

I was once a professional actress. I don't talk about this much now and didn't when it was actually my career, because the really dreadful thing about being an actress (or artist, or musician, I suppose, too) is that when people ask "What do you do?" and you answer, "I'm an actress." they expect you to be able to tell them that you are in a) a movie, b) a sitcom or, at the very least c) you are in a soap opera. NOW. Not last month or last season, but NOW. If you are not working NOW the look you get is that you are a pretender. And in this country we don't even have that lovely British conceit that a non-working actor is "resting".

So, revealing that I was a stage actress, and usually working in a) a show touring to schools and community centers, or b) in a Shakespeare Festival, or c) in a regional theatre....and that (as often as not) my show had closed a few weeks ago and I wasn't sure what I was going to do next....well, that elicited looks of pity from my listeners! Since pity is not a nice thing to be shown, I kept my career path as mum as I could most of the time. I continue to do this now, because, frankly - the response is usually the same. "So, what were you in?" Saying I toured the western US doing childrens theatre by Brian Way leaves blank, yes blank expressions - the same expressions on your faces right now. What if I said, "I played Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit at the Idaho Summer Rep." Right....same expressions. Uh, huh. Worse is when I mention something that (to me) has a bit of sheen... "I was a member of the Oregon Shakespeare Fesitval company the year they won the Tony Award for Best Regional Theater." (Doesn't that sort of mean I won a Tony?) Nope. No excitement generated. It is the really, from my point of view, the stupid stuff - commercials, a stint as an extra in "The Shining" that gets people excited.

From my own point of view, one of the brighter points in my theater career was a season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and while there Mary Beth Hurt, Bill's wife at the time, came to visit someone she knew....a director we'd both worked with, as I recall. [Wow; I'm amazed I found that link!] Bill came, too, and one afternoon someone suggested that a group of us go on a picnic. So we went up in the hills, and had a fun picnic by a lake, with lots of theater gossip....all very pleasant, but it got hot, and the lake was inviting. Of course, we were adults. We were not anxious to drive back to town in wet clothes...and someone stripped down and jumped in for a swim and we all did, and we got out eventually and modestly dressed and got ourselves back to town in time for the evening performance... And that was that. Except that, apparently, mentioned in passing at a family lunch after church, many years after the fact, it makes more of a conversational bomb than I ever would have imagined.

All very innocent. Really.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


We saw Sergei graduate from his cadet training yesterday morning. I packed everyone into the car and drove the seven hours down to Millersburg Kentucky to the National Cadet Training Center for the ceremony and to pick him up. Looooong trip in our new car, which drove beautifully. But it was still a looooong trip, including Cincinnati at rush hour.
The program was much like actual army "Basic Training" as they could make it without calling down the authorities. There was strict discipline, a LOT of physical training, but the kids (there appeared to be four girls in the bunch) got to do a lot of the things they'd dreamed of - repelling down a tower, shooting, judo, etc. I am sure he grew closer to his dear friend, Misha (also from Ivanovo) and they found another Russian there - Pavel is the son of Russian immigrants. These three made a good team.

However, I think Kentucky has to be the most beautiful place on earth...rolling hills, green, green, green....trees with glorious flowers in purple and in a story-book. Lovely stone walls. The photo is of the training facility early Saturday morning.... I was enchanted, and had wanted to stay longer, but after his very hard two weeks, Sergei wanted nothing more than to go home. And, honestly, to hear him speak so fondly about how much he loves our house and his room - and even Michigan (?) I was really touched. It made the return seven hour trip, with no "vacation" to speak of, worth it. I had had some idea we'd stay an extra day in Kentucky just to see the sights and so forth - or, if the hotel pool wasn't nice (it wasn't) to drive part-way back and find another fun place (maybe a hotel with a water park) to stay in.....but the courteously stated wishes of our "honored" (and exhausted) family member took precedence so home we came.

It was wonderful seeing Sergei again; I'd really missed his gentle, happy, stable presence around the house. I know this was a memorable and character-building experience for him.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I just had to participate in Essie's "Too True Tues" challenge. I have only a couple of weeks to finish an on-line college course on "Research-Based Instructional Strategies", but somehow reading Essie's blog was just a little too much of a temptation for me. Problem with an on-line course is that you have to be on-line to do it and that makes me so, so, so, so very close to my blog friends.... We Catholics call it "near occasion of sin".

I doubt there will be too much problem with my coming across with TTT tidbits for weeks to come, and I had no problem with the first one:

We spent years without TV. Just about. My older children will attest to the fact that they went years without TV; years; until they moved out. When we went on vacation, the big excitement was staying in the motel with a TV! We'd wake up on Saturday morning and what fun! I would let them watch a "Fishing Show" (because their mama would not allow the taint of children's programming into their little heads). Just in case you didn't know....on Saturday morning, if you don't have cartoons and commercials on, you have a choice between several different shows involving fishing. Men in boats whispering about fishing, and occasionally catching fish, displaying fish, measuring fish. That's what Aidan and Lydia got to watch. Very rarely there would also be a hunting show.

At home, we had a TV, but it was on the third floor - freezing cold in winter, and unbearably airless and hot in summer. There our little family would gather on Fridays and Saturdays, for "Family Nights" - to watch videos. We watched all of the "classics" - Charlie Chapman, the Marx Brothers, lots of the early silents, and then we moved into British programs like Sherlock Holmes. We bought the All Creatures Great and Small series and Jeeves and Wooster. Surely we watched other things, but those three series we watched a number of times. We would also, in summer (when no one had to get up early for school), creep up there and watch Masterpiece Theatre. That was it.

Of course Craig was up there all the time watching sports. He put up with the cold and the heat because he realized (I think) that if the TV were in a more convenient location he might have to let someone else watch something occasionally.

So, eventually Aidan moved out; Lydia was in high school....and somehow the TV got moved downstairs. (Why do I think it was Craig's idea?????) And that's when I - queen of the nose-in-the-air, superior, holier than thou, non-TV watchers..... saw my first Forensic Files. Heaven only knows why, but I got hooked. I didnt' get hooked on television in general. No; I still hate it. (I would say, I "disdain" it....but it is hard to "disdain" it when you are secretly watching Forensic Files every chance you get, I have to admit.)

Forensic Files ought to scare the heck out of me. I have always seen the best in everyone, expected the best in every one. Trusted everyone. So why do I watch this show where people - real life people, mind you! - are seen to behave in unimaginably low, despicable, violent, vile and criminal ways? I look at myself and ask, "What are you doing? Why do you like this stuff?" Beats me, but nothing is quite as relaxing to me as settling into the easy chair with a Diet Coke, a candy bar and a couple of Forensic Files episodes in front of me. (OK, I will also relish any movie based on a nineteenth-century British novel, but they take a little work, a little have to risk getting emotionally wrought given the choice I confess, that I will sometimes actually choose FF.)

The arrival of Anastasia and Zhenya have put a near end to that little pleasure of mine. They need books. Peaceful bedtime and classic, quality children's literature, read aloud by mama. But....let me confess, if someone were to invite them both for an overnight? You know what I'd be doing.