Tuesday, March 30, 2010

TTT - Men

Essie had this churchworker wandering about all day daydreaming about attractive men....or the men that attract me - which, as you will see, may not be the same thing at all.

Idea is - we are to pick three....three gentlemen into whose arms we would gladly swoon, if we were thrown into some odd science-fiction or fantastically twisted Bermuda Triangle of time where no moral laws would apply.

My daydreams don't generally run to men, if you want to know the truth.  I must be undersexed.  Thus, it was difficult to come up with the three.  Sort of.

You see - there is always Hugh Grant.  I just think Hugh Grant is adorable, and I don't care about anything he may have done in real life, his on-screen persona is so, so, so appealing.  However, and I feel this so completely - in a dream, fantasy or even the wildest of science fiction scenarios, he is out . of . my . league.  Totally.  If I were in the same room with Hugh Grant, I'd gravitate to the corner.  Because I know, no amount of Puck's "love in idleness" potion would cause Hugh Grant to even go so far as to glance in my direction.

So, I must move along....to Denis Lawson who played the part of John Jarndyce in the PBS production of Bleak House.  I was in love from the first moment I saw him....earnest, kind, self-sacrificing.....oh, my heavens!  You can probably tell it is really John Jarndyce I'm in love with, but to my mind Jarndyce looks precisely like Denis Lawson, who I am afraid to see act in anything else lest I be heartbroken.

And, finally....finally....there is that extraordinarily attractive British man who was jailed for forging ancient Egyptian artifacts.  I have no clue what his name was.  No idea where he is now.  (Dartmoor?)  Quite a few years ago we were idly watching some sort of program on PBS about ancient Egypt , when they began to interview this forger.  Suddenly I was paying attention.  It was love at first sight.  This man was so breathtakingly appealing.....you know - for that one science-fictiony moment I felt he was the single most attractive man I'd ever laid eyes on...and possibly because of his fall from grace, not entirely beyond my reach, somehow.  I was so startled by the attraction that I mentioned it out loud, and to this day I remember the startled looks on Aidan's and Lydia's faces.  No.  Their mother noticing the attractiveness, or not, of any man was nothing they had ever imagined occurring - and that I should, moreover, make such a startling revelation regarding a - well, criminal (however artistic) - they were stunned.

But, there we are.  Life is strange. 

John Jarndyce

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


How blithely it always falls from the pens of advice columnists.  How easily from the lips of doctors, friends, acquaintances and anyone else, if you give them half a chance to share their two-cents' worth:  See a counselor.

See a counselor.
Why don't you see a counselor?

Advice so oft repeated and with so little variation begins to seem like wise advice indeed.  In fact, one begins to get the idea that if we can just "see a counselor" everything will fall together beautifully.  All problems can be solved - and easily - if we just see a counselor!

And when you are in trouble, when your own resources seem depleted, what a comfort it is, even if you are overwhelmed by the expense in time and money, to throw your cares on the shoulders of this counselor that everyone has so roundly recommended!

We've tried a few.  I loved the counselor that Maxim was assigned when he first came to us.  Unfortunately, the most basic requirement for a counselor to work is that you must talk to him, and Maxim was a) so offended that he would be required by "the State" (an entity he does not trust a bit) to share his thoughts with a stranger (and to be quite honest for him this was a very ill match), and b) the anger that it caused him when this required counseling pulled him from class or sports practice,  he refused to say a word.  Frankly, putting myself in his place, I couldn't blame him a bit.  However, I decided that if Maxim wouldn't talk, I would - and honestly, in the first four or five visits the counselor and I made some wonderful progress in helping me understand Maxim and how we might work with him.  However, the "powers that be", denying both the counslor's and my protestations that our work was valuable and very much in Maxim's interests - decided that the counselor could not talk to me.  He had to talk to Maxim.  Or, rather he and Maxim had to spend an hour together each week....and when Maxim would not talk, they spent this hour playing chess.  So much for our tax dollars at work.

The photo - can you guess?  Those of you who have been to Russia?  Yes!  For Ilya this past spring I found a Russian counselor.  I think I was so in the midst of it at the time that I didn't get to write about the crisis of misunderstanding that brought down our most recent attempt at a school setting for Ilya.  This little Christian school that Sergei and Anastasia attend, was initially intended to be a solution primarily for Ilya.  A small, loving environment where he would get individual attention.  Unfortunately, his lack of trust and lack of English, combined with the fledgling director's lack of insight and experience, was a catastrophe, and I had to take him out of there before he was thrown out.  What to do?  I was frankly beside myself.

We found "Mrs. L".  The quintessential Russian woman - down to the leopard patterned coat, which I might add went with a similarly patterned blouse and heels.  I thought she was wonderful!  So did Ilya.  Some great things came out of this association immediately.  Most especially, the interviews she did with him in the first couple of sessions.  That was when I heard all about how his mother began drinking one New Years, and after that no one - not grandmother, not her older brothers, not anyone, could get her to stop.  Soon Ilya went to live with his older brothers and grandmother on a farm, where grandmother worked.  Anastasia [unfortunately] stayed with mother.  I've never been so glad to know Russian in my life as I was then.  My Russian is not up to asking the questions, but I could for the most part, understand her questions and his answers and I got so many insights.  The most moving thing was when she asked him if he had any heroes.  He didn't quite get that.  "Anyone you admire - someone from a movie or TV, maybe?"  He thought about it and answered.  "My grandmother."  That answer just confirmed in me all I'd sensed and intuited about Ilya's depth of character and gentle heart. 

When I told Mrs.L about our situation, about Ilya's school refusal and the various things that had happened, she was horrified.  All of her energy seemed to be directed at making me understand how terrified he was, how horrible this transition to a new culture can be.  She related her own, and her daughter's miserable first couple of years in the US.  She did not blame him at all for not wanting to be at school.  Of course he must not be subjected to such things!  Whatever was I thinking to throw him in these environments where success would be so unlikely and the pain and fear so overwhelming?  Since she was just articulating the cries of my gut, I was beyond relieved to have her talk like this.  Thank heaven!  The expert agreed with my own deepest feelings!  He should be homeschooled in a way where he could gain the powers to achieve before being thrown into school.  We had had maybe four sessions and already things were looking up!

That week I began to explore some homeschooling on-line programs, I had Ilya go to the Russian teacher's house a day a week to study English for part of the time and read in Russian for part of the time.  I thought perhaps I'd make the final decision when Craig came home....only six or so weeks away at that point.  And we went to our next meeting with Mrs. L.  She asked how I was progressing.  I told her.  And a cold wind came rushing down the mountain side.  It was for all the world as though I were talking to her evil twin.  "What!!!??  He is not in a homeschooling program yet?  He has to be in school!  What are you thinking?  This is against the law!"  I was stunned; Ilya was stunned.  I looked at his face; he was as shocked, confused and desolate as I was.  We'd only been there for a few minutes, but I asked Ilya to go wait in the car.  I tried to tell her - I'm a certified teacher, I know that he is learning all the time....certainly as much as he was learning in school - and there are all kinds of homeschooling programs out there!  I can't throw $500 - $1,000 at something without really checking it out - and it has only been a week!  I haven't had time.  I wan'ted to involve my husband! etc.  "No!  He must be having some education.  I have to tell you, that I will have a duty to call the authorities and turn you in for neglect, educational neglect, if you do not have him in school."

Just barely keeping to together, I managed to find my coat and bag, and to shakily write a check, leave it on the table and rush from the office.  She followed me and caught me as I was trying to put my coat on in the hall of the office complex.  She said something like, "I really wouldn't turn you in...." but the harm was done - more than done.  She'd added to Ilya's trauma - I wanted to throttle her for having so quickly become a person he could rely on and trust to understand and protect him - and then, so suddenly reversing positions to threaten and terrify both of us.  I ran out of there crying and landed next to Ilya in the car where all I could do was sob.  The shock of the whole thing was simply beyond comprehension.

I have thought so much about it since.  Mrs. L actually called and left a phone message asking us to come back and talk to her.  But, as far as I could see both intellectually, and certainly in my heart - she had betrayed our trust.  She had behaved in a most bizarre fashion, and there was no way I could begin to put my son's feeling or mine in her care.  All I can think is that she was talking to someone, and they cautioned her that there could be some legal ramifications if she advised keeping a child out of school.  But, the harshness of her reversed attitude!  Even if that were her fear, she could have broached it, expressed it in an encouraging, helpful way.  But she certainly didn't. 

So, Craig came home and is homeschooling Ilya.  For a few months, anyway, we decided to go "counselor free"....until Anastasia's foray into trying on those false abuse allegations.  I decided to give counseling another shot.  To be continued.....

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Rachael very sweetly (remembering, I'm sure, how much I like to be included in such things) gave me the "Beautiful Blogger" award.  Hm.  I do love to be included, but I had just participated in another little "button" post listing ten unexpected things about myself, so seven more....  This could be boring! 

Then I thought - seven beautiful things about myself - but immediately realized -that is not only impossible - if I could do it, even in theory it would be highly egotistical.  How about just Seven Beautiful Things in my life?  Seven beautiful things I've seen, or exprienced....  I liked that idea and somehow (undoubtedly to avoid laundry) I started letting my mind flit.  And I wrote.  After three I realized that they were rich morsels, indeed, and no one could enjoy seven at once.  It would be a glut.  In fact, as I looked at my first three, I realized that three was too many.  So, I figured, I'll make seven posts out of it!  And this is the first. 

By the way - writing this I realized that this is so ME.  The suggestion is to make ONE easy post with seven quick button points; I somehow turn it into SEVEN posts, and fairly challenging ones.  (And why do I spend so many hours at work?) 

So, here is the first little post about one beautiful thing I've seen.

I just let my mind wander, and surprisingly the first beautiful thing that came to mind was a bit of embroidery....seen once for only a few minutes over twenty years ago.

A tiny piece of embroidery in the Henry Ford Museum....just a small thing - maybe 8 x 8 inches...what they call a "needle picture", very fine embroidery creating the image of a colorful little couple and a dog, I think...set outside, flowers and trees begun...because, it wasn't finished.  This little bit of fabric was from Elizabethan times....the very fact of it being so charming and alive, and yet so very old, that in itself would make it memorable, but to me the haunting part was not that it was so beautiful, but that it appeared to only have been put down a moment before. 

So little about it appeared "old" or separated from me so much in time.  There it lay in the case, but so "homey". So humble - so intimate.  What a beautiful thing to leave behind for all these hundreds of years....who was she?  Why was it left unfinished?  Just like one of us - did she become distracted by a new baby or a visit from friends, or something more important to do around the house so that this frivolity was put aside?  Did she take up quilting or beading or some other craft which she found more appealing?  Or, did this little piece of work lay untouched because of a tragedy?  Perhaps she became seriously ill?  Did she fear it would be left incomplete?  Had it been intended as a gift for a beloved husband or child?  Did she know she would never pick it up again? 

Or, the last time she put it down, did she fully believe that it would soon enough take its place as the top of a workbox, or as a book cover?  Did she die suddenly? or did something tragic turn her from such a light occupation?

And, who kept it safe all this time? Who picked it up after the seamstress was no more?  Not to finish it, or to give it away to someone who might, but to set it aside in such safety that it would remain as it was for hundreds of years?  Were tears shed over it?  Why?  Why?  Oh, to know!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

TTT - Have to Have It

This is my answer to Essie's TTT challenge for this week....  What can you not give up, even when you know you can't afford it, shouldn't splurge on it,  etc.?  What is it that you don't particularly want anyone to know you would change your ethical structure and life-plan to get?

Well, it isn't a huge splurge, you have to admit, all things considered.  But with our budget, it really is.  Considering I give the kids ramen noodles a few times a week, and almost always buy the dollar loaves of bread; keeping in mind that I don't even consider actually buying orange juice....maybe being sure I always have Diet Coke is pretty darned selfish.  I hadn't quite thought of it that way before, and moving right along.... I refuse to think about it that way now.  I mean, after all - I only drink one or two a day....it isn't all that big a vice.  Just a little one that packs a wallop.

The thing that I actually have felt a bit bad about is that I hide it.  Not that I drink it.  I hide them so the kids can't find them.  Not because I "worry about their health" or any of that nonsense, just because if they take them, there might not be one left for me when I want it.  I might have to get dressed late at night and go to some unsavory "party store" for my fix.  Worse yet - I might not be able to find cans, only bottles....and that is not the same thing at all.  Not at all. 

I've found a wonderful little hiding spot for winter - the back of the car!!!  They usually stay crispy-cold out there.  And only once this winter did they get too cold [OK, that was a little messy}....but there were weeks of the most glorious treat imaginable - a Diet Coke that is about one-third slush...that cold!  Oh, my gosh!  Sublime!

At the moment, unfortunately, there aren't any in the back of my car because eventually the kids discovered them there....and though they don't "go" as fast as they do if I were to actually put them in the fridge, they go too fast.  Furthermore, cans get left around.  It just can't happen.

What makes for a happy marriage?  Craig and I have this little fixation in common.  He also keeps Diet Cokes in the back of his car.  Except his car is in the garage - which being an unattached garage is actually a lot further from the house than my car.  So last night, when the urge hit - I had to run out there in my nightgown and slippers.  Imagine my dismay when the darned trunk was locked!  Shoot!  I tried the driver's side door!  Open!  So all I had to do was get in and crawl to the back of the van!  OK - I felt a bit pathetic at that point...but it was all well worth it.

Here is a dark little secret, too.  When we were going to go to Russia....  I actually double-checked that Diet Coke would be available there.  Otherwise - I was fully planning to take a few in the luggage.  Really.  I was ready to sacrifice orphanage donations to get my fix.  Fortunately, I discovered that they have Coke Light.  Works just fine; tastes the same.  No issues.  Was also relieved for Craig that he could get Coke Light in Korea. We didn't talk about this before he left - too emotional an issue, I suppose.  But he assured me in his first e-mail that all was well, quieting my anxiety on his behalf.

Why he did this, I don't know, but it worked out well for blogging....Craig took a photo of the inside of his refrigerator in Korea - you can see he is well supplied in Diet Coke and diabetic supplies.

A marriage made in heaven, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, March 14, 2010


This window is in the door right next to my office.  The school is not unattractive, in particular - it is just a school, but I get so much pleasure out of these windows.  Just a little bit of color, but I haven't gotten to the place that they don't make me happy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I just read the sweet post by the dad of a Russian Princess....about the songs he sings to his children.  And since I was about to take over his blog with my response, I came here instead.

When Aidan and Lydia were small, and bigger, too, we'd go to bed each night for years with "Rhymes and Songs"...it meant the recitation of nursery rhymes, primarily, some of which I'd sing, and maybe they'd sing, to the traditional tunes, or made-up ones.  And then, to transition into "sleepy time" I'd sing little medleys that I "composed" for them.  Mostly the verses are lame:

Aidan Kitching, Aidan Sprout
Best of boys, without a doubt
Sweetest baby in the land,
That's my Aidan Kitching man.

There were more, and varying verses to that one, but I don't recall any stellar ones....but hey, you start singing this stuff when they're babies and you can sing it to a ten or twelve year old and he accepts it readily [at bedtime only, of course].

For Lydia, who I called (one of umpteen zillion nicknames) "Lyddie Pearl", I was apparently inspired by the gift of lyrics and and the keystone song to her medley goes like this:

There once was a man who sold everything
For a pearl of great price to set in a ring,
But the ring he did purchase was never so fine
As this little pearl that I can call mine.,
Oh, my Liddie is darling, my Liddie is dear,
And I am so glad that my Liddie is here.
She's the best of all babies, the sweetest of girls
And that's why I call her my Lydia Pearl.

Of course I always have a pang of guilt for not only borrowing a parable, but convoluting it....but so be it - that was the way the muse set it forth.

Oddly, each of the older kids had a snappy little song that went something like this:

Miss Chick, Miss Chick,
You're the one I'd pick.
If I went to the baby shop,
I'd pick Chick

I found myself singing this one to Zhenya one night, with almost horror....  To sing of "baby shops" to your bio child is one thing; to sing of them to an adopted child is another thing altogether.

But somehow, after the first alarm, I knew it was all right.  Here is his verse which I sing him all the time now:

Oh, Zhen, Oh, Zhen
The best of all sweet men,
If I went to the baby shop,
I'd pick Zhen again.

And Zhen, being the loving heart he is, has made up "Mommy Songs", turning the verses around to fit me.  

As with RP's dad, I just know these songs would come right off the page in their dearness if we simply had the tunes....

Speaking of sweet bedtimes - last night as I am snuggling Zhen, he said, "Mom, you're a miracle."  I wasn't sure I'd heard right, "What?"  "Mom, you're a miracle; if it wasn't for you I'd still be in the detski dom."

Could anyone ever say anything that touched my heart more?  I'm not the miracle, but God worked a miracle using me.  And Zhen, who is the most spiritually attuned of all of my children, sees it.

Zhen is the miracle, because he has, or at least had for that moment, what so few of us are capable of - not simply love, but gratitude.  Gratitude is the heart of love*.

*an idea I first heard from Bro. David Steindl-Rast  

If the idea intrigues you, please follow that link. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

PROJECT 52, Eight

Obviously this is not quite a new photo, however, I am using it for this past week's photo because I just scanned it!  How about that?

Also, it reflects the ongoing thought I give to departing this soil for Korea.....  If only things were different, and my parish had not been turned upside down, it would have been very easy to take a leave of absence for a year to teach in Korea.  As it is.....  Not likely.

Craig still misses it.  But, as you can see here, he was very popular!  This little girl and her friend popped in to visit him at lunch hour - the gesture she is giving is the gesture for "I'm in love!"

Very cute.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Just a tiny tag of Russian poetry that has stuck we me through the years, and always comes to mind when I realize that I have been an idiot. 

My idiocy in this instance particularly fits the poem.  Fools are happy, because they are oblivious!  They don't think ahead!

I have a big problem now, because I cheerfully went along ignoring a large meteor careening toward my head. (Or, is it the farmer's wife with her carving knife that I ignored?)

Here's the situation.  [Lisa, Diana, Beth, Jeri - go ahead!  Slap me across the side of the head!  I need it.]  Anastasia attends a previously described small Christian School.  We like it a lot.  As mentioned, I think the world of her teacher, except that her teacher's faith in natural consequences caused us a melt-down of mammoth proportions not long ago.  In any case, this same teacher is "famous" for providing her class with a super-duper field trip at the end of each year.  Every third year (I think) it is a six-day trip to Washington, D.C.

Yes, you heard that right - a six-day trip to Washington, D.C.  for my daughter who cannot go to an overnight here in town without becoming so disregulated that she has some sort of major tantrum.   I am not sure why the enormity of this situation did not sink in until I was sitting at the parent fundraising meeting the other night.  As I sat there two things came clear to me.  One is that there is a reason Anastasia has not done her memory work, and much of her outside reading.  The reason is that Anastasia does not want to go to Washington, D. C.  Her teacher ostensibly makes the children earn their trip, by being paid in "bonus bucks" for doing these specific things.  I was wondering why my compliant daughter was just shining on some assignments.  Now I know.  (That night I checked out my theory by asking her, and sure enough, I was right.)

I also know that even if she did want to go, and for all I know she'll change her mind - there is no way she should go.  That came to me like a ton of bricks falling on my head as I watched one of the moms from the school (who was a chaperon previously and very likely will be a chaperon again) talk about the trip, and how the chaperon mom is with the three girls in her care 24 hours a day for the entire trip; it also struck me how sweet, how gentle, how kindly this lady was.....so much like the mother who inspired Anastasia  to relate all sorts of false tales of abuse at home.  The teacher who heard about how we also starve Anastasia also has this hyper-gentle manner about her.  Suddenly I could see it all - Anastasia bonding to gentle-caring chaperone and coming up with all manner of abuse stories, and/or followed by Anastasia coming home after six days and providing us with six weeks of melt-down fever, during which we are investigated for the third time.  I'm not sure which aspect of this scenario would be worse, and I can see great possibilities for every aspect of it occuring in all its glory.

So, what do I do here?
a) this trip is touted as "part of the curriculum" - and it is!  The whole year is geared toward it.
b) how can we possibly explain not letting her go in a way that won't make her and /or us appear to be misfit weirdos....to say nothing about really just setting her apart socially from the rest of her [very small] class.
c) I have no faith that the teacher will really understand our concerns.  What if she just thinks I am helicopter mothering?   

I know you will suggest this: I have considered going myself as chaperon.  I don't want to.  However, I would....except the teacher made it repetedly and patently clear (as in - if you ask to be a chaperon I will forever consider you a fool - and you will not be allowed to go anyway),  that she and she alone will select the parents who are going on the trip. 

I suppose I have to go in to talk to her.  But what do I say?  What do I say if she poo-pooh's my worries?  Why does she make me feel like such a loser-mother?   And how do I explain these very private issues to all the other parents who otherwise are going to think that we are all creepy Catholic people?  Oh, dear!  (I may also add that I am already on the "bad side" of the principal - who just happens to be Anastasia's teacher's husband....who thinks that we are horrible parents because Ilya was so disrespectful to him.)  Ilya refused to look him in the eye while being admonished about wearing his polo shirt not tucked into his jeans on "free dress" day.  I don't think Ilya understood him, "tucking in" not being vocabulary I expect he knows, and lack of eye-contact is just part of Ilya's mild (feral) brand of RAD. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

PROJECT 52, Seven

Here's one of the photos Lydia sent me of her marriage.  From what I hear among military couples, quick civil marriages are quite common as they are financially prudent.

Craig and I got married very privately for a variety of reasons, and my mom and dad did, too....so I guess I can't complain.

We hope to have a special get-together of some sort when they visit in late May or in June.  A brunch? 

I am open for everyone's ideas of what would be pretty and nice. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I simply love being "thought of" by people....and Hevel made my day by including me in a meme.  The rules are that you are to share10 things about yourself that no one or only few people know, and then tag 7 people to do the same.


1. My greatest day-to-day fault is not being on time.  Here is why:  I can't bear to waste time.  If I get somewhere five minutes early it makes me really distressed.  I guess I feel less upset about being late than wasting time.  I am very able to be on time; for example I am always on time for a class, if I am either a teacher or student; I'm on time for important meetings.  I am often late getting my kids from school, and I'm late to things like staff meetings....these are the sorts of things where - if I'm on time, it might well turn out that the kids don't come out, or the meeting doesn't start.....  This is one thing that made Maxim think I didn't care about him.  He could see it wasn't personal, but it didn't matter.

2. I suffer from a miserable seasonal dermatitis and can't take hot baths or showers or anything like that.  One year when I first became Catholic I took cold showers for Lent.  Little did I know that one day that would be all I could do...all the time.

3. Although I have read all the great Russian novels, in their originals - that was a long time ago, and I couldn't do it now.  My very most favorite books in the world, at this point in my life (and for the past ten or fifteen years) are by British Victorians  - Trollope, Bronte, Gaskell, Dickens....and many more obscure ones. 

4. Apart from people who actually make a living writing about her, I think I probably know more about Laura Ingalls Wilder than just about anyone.  I definitely knew more than the docents at either of her homes where we visited, or the museum.  And I've waded in Plum Creek.

5. It was once noted in The Shakespeare Quarterly that my Viola [Twelfth Night] was "better than Vanessa Redgrave's." 

6.  I once lived in a former brothel.  That should be a post in itself.

7.  I once lived in a former brewhouse.  Telluride Beer.  That should also be a post in itself.

8.  I grew up in Colorado, and once took skiing lessons, but never got off the bunny slope.  I really hated it.

9.  I once worked in the Empire State Building.  I was a secretary for men who found jobs for Korean people in the US.  I felt very sorry for the Korean people seeing the sorts of jobs they were getting, and where.  But now I know more about Korea - maybe they were very happy.

10. We actually slept here at church a few times. Those are probably posts in themselves, too.

I'll pass this on to:


And anyone else who would like to do this...  Supposed to be seven, but I never follow rules like this.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I discovered that someone was using my camera!  Apparently Zhen was playing spy.  For those who wanted a view of our house, here are a few tempting flashes that go by quickly enough you don't get to see anything messy....for those who wanted to see more of me - Zhen gets a great view of me at the end.