Thursday, March 22, 2012


A facebook friend (or I probably should write "acquaintance" since we are clearly not on quite the same wavelength) wrote: Midlife crisis alert...Looking at converts online...

So, I think immediately that she left out some letters (which she did)....but I think she means "looking at converting online".   She goes to some Evangelical church.  But that seems like a strange spelling error - why the "s"?

Ah!  I get it!  She's looking at convents online!!!!

Only later, noticing other comments do I realize that she is looking at convertibles online!

So, at the very least, she and I do not have quite the same vision of "midlife crisis".    Oh, dear. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I am not a worrier.  Neither do I dwell a lot on physical infirmity.  I think that is a bit discomfiting to Maxim, who (I get the feeling) equates love with cluck-clucking over illness.  I never learned to do that because my mom was a "suck it up" kind of woman.  She still is.  I'm downright coddling, compared to her.  I'll offer kids aspirin (something we were not allowed except in the direst circumstances).  This morning Maxim was moaning about with a cough.  I suggested Nyquil (he said the cough had kept him up all night, so I figure he probably needed to sleep), but the Nyquil was gone.  My instinct was to shrug - well, too bad.  But, I remembered the Vick's Vapo Rub - you'd think I'd really found something there. It was as though when I brought it out, he relaxed.  Someone cared.  (And don't worry about Maxim - this cough is a good cough, as it comes from his quitting smoking.)

But this post is about Sergei.

Over the last few months I've found out about a lot of things in Sergei's life that I missed.  Injuries! Some which could have been fatal.  That boy's been through things that would even have had me distraught!  Of course, I knew he was a strong little guy.  Soon after we got him it came to our attention, after a visit to the dentist, that in Russia he'd had a root canal without anesthesia.  He recalls laying in bed and pressing his face up to the cold wall for comfort.  If you can take that, you can take a lot.

This spring he was having some back pain, and I took him to a physical therapist.  As she was evaluating his posture, etc. she chuckled, pointed to a scar on his side and said with amusement, "That looks like a gunshot wound!"

Sergei responded, "Yes; it is."  Mind you, he was standing; I was sitting in a chair and she on her stool, so she and I were eye-to-eye with him between us.  Oh!  The look she gave me!  Appraising.  Critical. Horrified.  I think she might have been getting her juices flowing to make some sort of "report".  Meanwhile, I was taking this in, too.

"What?!"  I exclaimed!  All the while I was dealing with my own astonishment, simultaneously, I was noticing that my not even knowing about it wasn't earning me any points with the PT, either.  "What happened?!"

"Oh I was out with my friend, and he accidentally shot me."

Horror on the face of the PT.  She asked, "Did you go to the hospital?"

"Well, no.  It didn't really go in very far.  And there wasn't any hospital we could get to, so he just dug it out."

If I'd heard this story previously myself, I'm sure I would have gotten much more enjoyment out of the PT's reaction, but I was so curious myself, and amazed - I asked him how old he was, and it turns out this occurred when he was six or so, and at the Children's Home near Rostov.....the same one where there had once been a swimming pool, but, disused, it had become instead a dump for anything too big to dispose of - and hence a wonderful place for Sergei to play, with large pieces of metal, and old machines and things.  This was also the place where crazed and wandering people of the area might stumble in to get some food.  Sergei has related sad memories of other kids making fun of some poor half-wit teenaged boy, who'd come begging.  He also remembered, with some horror, the day a mentally ill person showed up with a knife and after threatening the children, was chased away by a teacher.  Quite some place.  He was surprised he hadn't told me about this incident. Me, too.

Somewhere in there, you'll be glad to know, the PT was assured that Sergei was not in my keeping and not even in the country when all of this occurred, and she was able to relax.

This first orphanage was the place where Sergei was taken after his father passed away from TB and his mother lost her ability to care for him and his older sister.  Sergei has such warm memories of his father, but one particularly sad one was visiting his father in the sanitarium  and having to be separated from him behind a glass window.  Later, he was brought from the Children's Home, to this same sanitarium.  His records say he, too, had TB....but I rather think that they take any children who appear to be run-down or in need of its benefits to a sanitarium, where they get somewhat better food and daily vitamin shots.  Sergei did not like it there much, though, as it was boring.  He winced with embarrassment at one memory he shared from this place.  He'd heard that some of the children from his orphanage were getting to go back.  When a nurse told him that he wasn't one of the children leaving, as she exited the room, Sergei gave her the finger (truly this is not like Sergei, which is probably why it still embarrasses him).  In any case, while that nurse didn't see him do this to her back, there was a large window in the wall which allowed nurses at the nurses station right outside his room to see it all.   So, as the first one came out, her colleagues filled her in, and back she came under a head of steam to give him what-for.  I doubt he's given anyone the finger since.

His room there, which he had to himself, in addition to that window to the hall, also had two windows to the outdoors - facing a cemetery.  Sergei remembers standing at the window at night and remembering his father, who he'd last seen at that very place.  I can imagine it.....Since they don't light buildings with blaring great lights as we do, it must have been dark - just the light through the window from the nurses area shining....and that poor little boy, all by himself,  looking at the cemetery and thinking of his dad.  It just about breaks my heart.

Sergei at 9 at the Interdom
It must have been shortly after the incident of the shooting that Sergei was moved to Ivanovo, to the International Children's School, and one of the first things that happened there was imprinted on his memory - this was the injury that he did tell me about some time ago.  For some reason that he can't discern even now - he swears it was not intended to be mean - a girl tossed him a potted cactus. He'd already been warned that this particular cactus should never be touched.  But when she tossed it, it came at him in such a way that he had to catch it by the plant, rather than the pot and apparently those particular cactus spines were horribly painful.  Some spines have barbs on the ends of them which, of course, affect more nerve endings in more tissue than a simple spine and cause a great deal of pain. And some have a sheath covering their spines which damages tissue as it enters the flesh and adheres to the flesh when it is removed. Some spines will rip the skin off when they are pulled out. Sergei remembered the intense pain for hours after removing the spines.  Welcome to the Interdom!

The courtyard where "rockball" was played
Another incident which occurred at the Interdom left its mark. Literally.  Sergei has a big lump on his head to this day.  The children were playing another fine orphanage game similar to baseball, except it is played with rocks rather than balls.  Rocks would be lobbed at you and you had to hit them with a stick.  One of his friends, to be amusing, teased Sergei by acting as though he were going to throw a great big rock at him.  Of course he didn't - instead he threw it high - at the building - but when it hit the wall, it knocked a brick loose which then fell on Sergei's head.  

All in all, I think I am quite fortunate to have gotten him here in one piece - but how I love to hear these stories, which are like precious little jewels.  They give me a little window into the years I missed..  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Hevel haS an interesting little post, where he shares the titles of the posts he's begun and not completed.  I have a few of's the last few month's worth.

When I Tried  (to Start an Orphan Ministry)
Eleven in Eleven (I think this was a year in review....)
The Grinch (Christmas, I bet)
Catch the Shame (I'm sure it was brilliant)
Friends (probably about why I don't exactly have any....)
Too Much (taking my time and money....what else?)
Doubts and Misgivings (not sure I'm ready to share them)
Usually (no clue; I didn't get very far)

Most of these were begun when I had time but were interrupted.  Some of them were probably a bit lame...I prefer inspiration to a set piece like "Eleven in Eleven" (though I enjoy them when others do them).....  Some, like "Friends" and "Doubts and Misgivings" were just too personal, at least for the moment I was writing them.

What posts have you begun and not completed for some reason?  

Friday, March 9, 2012


I didn't vote in the Republican Primary.  I noticed (once again) that my absence didn't make a difference.  I wrote about my voter's ambivalence in a previous post so I won't go there again....though I will add one more story about the intelligence of  voters.  My mom told me that a friend of hers said that she would vote for Obama "because his daughters make their own beds".  OK!

The thing is, I do listen to the news (NPR usually); I do read the papers.  I have forayed into reading some of our candidates' statements, speeches, etc.  But, when push comes to shove there are two big problems:  every one of them shares some beliefs I hold dear, while simultaneously advocating for things that I am dead set against.  So, there is no chance at all for any sort of fervor on my part.  Secondly, I simply don't know enough.  Despite getting a significant dose of "education" every day via NPR and BBC, I still don't really know - or even have an opinion about how the economy could be "fixed"; I have no idea whether drilling for oil is, overall, a good or bad thing, or whether we should intervene in Syria or not.  I tend to think I will love "Obamacare" and rather like the idea of having a "European style" healthcare system!  I can't help but think that those people who oppose it must not be laying out a quarter of their take-home pay in medical expenses like we do....but so many people I really like and whose opinions I generally trust are dead set against it......  But mostly.....I really don't have the time to find out all I should find out about it in order to make what I would consider an intelligent vote - and that is considering only this one topic!

So, the other day after Craig jokingly asked me whether if he ended up in the hospital I'd keep him on life support, and I responded, "I'd have Monsignor Murphy decide!" (He's the wisest and holiest person I know.)  I found myself thinking......if only I could just vote for a wise and holy person who would vote for me....a delegate...a person who shares my values and beliefs, but a wiser person - who would devote the necessary time to finding out all the details, and then they could vote for the best candidate!  Then it occurred to me - is that what the delegates were originally intended to be and do?  I don't know.  They never mentioned that in Civics class.  But it seems like a good idea to me.

On another but related topic - I'm wondering lately if the media doesn't have just altogether too much to do with politics.  Seems to me that the various news organizations must be doing a lot more than just reporting the news.  For example....  This entertaining, but nutty revolving door of republicans in the "forefront".  What is that about?  First one, then another, are reported to be the "next big thing"....some of them seem downright absurd (well, seems to me).   So, how do these candidates get their popularity?  The only way I ever even heard about some of them (and my guess is that the main way other voters hear about them, too) is via the media.  So, if we hear on the news that Michelle Bachmann or Herman Cain is "taking the lead", becoming popular - whatever - how could this possibly come about if not through people hearing about Michelle Bachmann or Herman Cain via the media?  Were they household names for everyone but me?  I didn't think so.

I heard someone on a radio talk show many years ago advocating that instead of having all this electioneering, each candidate should write up as complete as possible a summary of his/her beliefs and plans, and then we should all read them, debate them, and vote.  No ads.  No signs.  No emotional pleas.  None of the nonsense.  Sounded good to me; so I was sort-of dismayed to hear him more-or-less laughed at by most of the callers.

But as it is, the whole political scene is for me confusing at best and embarrassing at worst.  And that's all I have to say about that! 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Russians have a phrase "laughter through tears" and that is certainly what I experienced yesterday - or, perhaps, it was "laugh until you cry" (or "laugh to keep from crying?")....   In any case I was laughing and there were tears in my eyes as Sergei described his experience with the ACT tests which were given yesterday at school.  In my day we had to sign up for these, and spend a Saturday morning at it, but nowadays, apparently, they give them at school - and in the junior year.....  I suppose [hope] that is so students can see how they did and study or get an ACT tutor to prepare to take them again.

Poor Sergei; he experiences a lot of test anxiety.  Whether he would have been the same if he'd stayed in Russia, who can tell, but English is definitely his second language, even after nearly eight years here.  Just for example, he described the testing room as "pitch quiet" - so you see what I mean.  I don't doubt for a moment that he could do and learn anything he set his mind to, but things do come harder....especially things like scence, that rely so much on a very specific, learned vocabulary.  About the science portion he said, "I know I didn't do well on that! I didn't even understand the directions, let alone the questions!  It was like,  'How thick is the skin of a cell if you multiply it by Pi?'"  

Oh.  Well, was there English?  "Yes, and I didn't think it was so bad; we had thirty minutes and there was a story to read and questions.  I thought 'I can do that,' and I did it, but then I noticed that you had to turn the page and there were two more, just the same!"  He could not fathom how the other students could read that fast.   By this point I was just nodding..... Fortunately, I don't have aspirations for Sergei to attend Harvard or Yale.  He has the goal of a peaceful, satisfied life, being of service as an electrician, dry-waller, or computer tech - something like that.  His aspirations are simply to enjoy a calm, non-hectic life. 

That's probably why I was stil in the mood to laugh as he elaborated on the experience.  You need to know that Sergei does like calm, but that seems to translate into not doing well with extremes.  He has long known about himself and shared, that two things which make him very stressed and tense are "pitch quiet" and bright lights.  He's wondered previously if he wouldn't do a lot better in school if the lighting was more subdued - something about the bright, overhead lights and the glaring white paper affects his nerves, and (probably in some effort to escape) makes him sleepy and confused.  But, of course, since Americans see that as the optimal test-taking enviroment, that was how it was.  Another thing about Sergei is that last year we discovered that he has a congenital weakness in his spine.  We discovered it because he had so much pain during school.  If he has to sit too long in a hard chair he experiences a lot of discomfort. And the ACT required not just the everyday pain of sitting for an hour in a hard chair - but three hours!

I did my "motherly part" and made Hevel's breakfast cakes - but Sergei has a very hard time eating first thing in the morning.  He did eat one of them, but told me that in no time at all he was very hungry.  "Starving hungry" to be exact.  And the school did provide a break and gave the kids granola bars. that time Sergei had been overcome by the worst torment of all - his contact lens slipped off his eyeball and back into his eye socket....where it was (in his words) "cutting up the back of my eye".   If the kids leave the testing room during the test everything is forfeit, so he had to stay put, rolling his eye around and trying to stick his finger up there to dislodge it. (Trust me, anyone who wears contacts will resonate with the misery of this experience.)  So, when given the choice between the needed snack and a chance to go to the bathroom and use a mirror,of course he made a beeline to the mirror.  And, though he worked feverishly trying to get the contact back in place - it was all to no avail.  Back he had to go to another hour and a half of supreme discomfort - until, he said, about ten minutes before he conclusion of the test, he yawned and the contact popped out onto the desk "all screwed up and out of shape".

So, all things considered, I'm not expecting any scholarships out of this.

NOTE:  I was contacted to see if I'd be willing to do some "product placement" on my blog.  I was hesitant, to tell the truth, because I strive for honesty and integity in this little gimpse into my soul.  But, I was assured that I wouldn't be asked to necessarily plug a product, or convolute what I want to say.  To my amazement, the first assignment was for an ACT tutor - so it turned out to be absolutely true in this instance, that I didn't even have to go back and revise anything to do that assignment.... so, we'll see!

Friday, March 2, 2012


My dear e-friend, Hevel, is doing a giveaway on his blog.  Here it is!

It is a fun one, and easy as he gives links to all the answers.

Hevel is one of my favorite people both on blogger and FB.  A true friend, with huge depths of understanding and a terrific sense of humor too.  Moreover, like me, he believes in commenting when he reads a post.  So - he is a gentleman!  And he's a scholar - a Jew, conversant in Catholicism and Mormonism.... And, an adoptive and bio parent!

Go visit. Go have fun.  Go win.   Go! Go! Go!