30 December 2006

traffic calming & mountain roads

Wouldn't it be great if this last post of 2006 (well, probably the last post...who knows what inspiration tomorrow will bring?) ended with some good news about my adoption? Wouldn't it be fantastic to hear that all my documents were in and being translated in anticipation of being filed when the offices open again on 15 January?

Yeah, I think that would be great, too.

It would also be a big, fat lie. Nothing has been completed. This is not my fault. All of my work, save one document I've repeatedly asked for and not received help with, is finished --and has been for months. The facilitators for my agency are still making demands of my sw regarding the homestudy. They are still not answering questions I ask of them. I am very frustrated with them.

Last week I was really upset to think that 2006 would end without my papers being filed. I know 31 December is just an arbitrary date. I didn't even realize that I'd set it as a deadline in my head. But somehow...not filing by the end of the year was big.

I know, I believe, I am thankful for the fact that this adoption, like everything in my life, is planned for me. I know God's timing is not my timing. (Please--how many times have I had THAT lesson?) I believe that His plan is better for me than any plan I could devise for myself. (See previous parentheical remark.) I'm thankful that I have a loving Father who wants more that what is good for me, He wants what is best for me.

But, despite all that knowledge and sincere belief, I was still a little sad. That, too, passed and I'm now waiting again--and striving to do it as cheerfully and as patiently as I can. I'm trying my best to be thankful in all circumstances. I'm even thankful for the extra time it's taking for this to go through. It's not fun and it's not what I would choose, but, obviously, there is a reason for the delay. Either I'm not ready for her or she is not ready for me or there is some other reason that I cannot even begin to imagine that needs more time. Ripples. (Any Joan of Arcadia fans out there?)

So, the journey continues. In England there are signs that read "Traffic Calming" that come before speed bumps. When driving in the Rockies one encounters many twists and curves to keep drivers from going too fast. Slowly but surely, with twists and curves and traffic-calming speed bumps, I'm making my way through this. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Please stick around. I hear there's a beautiful sight at the finish that you've got to see.

2007 is the year of the pig. In elementary school we said "pig" stood for pretty, intelligent girls. Hmmm...sounds like my kind of year.

29 December 2006

maya padrooga, Dawn

In case she starts to chime in with her far greater first-knowledge of life in Russia (Well, former Soviet Union...though most here find the idea of Ukraine as a separate country preposterous. But, it's probably best not to tell them that.), I thought I'd show you who she is. These are pictures of her (on the left) and I in the Summer Garden last summer. These, I think, are the only pictures that both she and I would approve.

Can you tell which are the statues? We irritated the serious statue-lovers when we were doing this...

And, here's the Summer Garden now. All the statues have been boxed up. The un-boxing of the statues is as sure a sign of spring in St. P as robins and crocuses are in the US.

SNovim Godom

One of the boards I'm on asked for some more information about New Year's celebrations, particularly Dyed Moros. I thought some of you might find it interesting, too. (I'm hoping my friend Dawn, whom I'm not sure would appreciate being linked but I'll do it if she wants, will chime in here with her experiences living in Kyiv, Ukraine.)

So, we remember that the communists basically did away with Christmas and moved the celebration (tree, fireworks, Dyed Moros) to the non-religious holiday of New Year's. New Year's remains the big holiday in Russia.

Dyed Moros comes on New Year's Eve. He comes while the children are awake (parents arrange for someone to play Dyed Moros and give him the gift intended for the child/ren). After the child/ren recite and sing for him, Dyed Moros gives them their present.

[Dyed Moros came to our class at school. The children had to perform for him (they sang a song in Russian and a song in English), they joined hands and sang and danced in a circle (There is even a Russian word that means "to join hands and dance in a circle around the tree". My Russian teacher was not impressed that we didn't have a word for it in English. Somehow "encircle" didn't do it for her.). He asked if they had been good and then gave everyone an ice cream.]

Dyed Moros (and Putin's speech, special foods, etc.) all take place on the night of 31 December. They start eating at 11:00 p.m. to say goodbye to the old year, raise a toast beginning at the first stroke of midnight (after Putin's speech) while standing. Standing is very important but I don't know why. Then, they feast the rest of the night to welcome the new year.

My Russian friends are really looking forward to eating "holodyets"...which Dawn affectionately refers to as meat jello. It's layers of meat and veg in a garlic flavored gelatin. Marina likes to eat it over boiled potatoes. It's a BIG treat. Marina was telling me about how when she was little and lived in the village she would wake up FREEZING on the 31st because her mom had all the windows open to set the holodyets.

There are lots of "pies" eaten, too. They aren't made with pie crust, but with a sweet bread dough. They are filled with savory things like cabbage, chicken, meat or fish, or with sweet things like berries. (Chicken and rice is my favourite.)

Champagne and kissing at midnight! There are lots of fireworks (they've been going off for weeks now), too.

I'm not sure what I'll do for New Year's. Most of my friends are away--either in their homecountries or away at their dachas. A friend from the US will be coming back that night. There's a big party in Palace Square, but I've been advised to stay away. We'll see. I'm not really bothered. New Year's isn't really my holiday. Still, I'm looking forward to big events in 2007!

If I come across other interesting New Year's tidbits, I'll let you know.

inside shoes

Let's vote. Who thinks my friend Annette, who really likes handcrafts, should make me another pair or two or three of these slippers? Yes, she's busy planning a wedding, but I think it might help her to have something to do with her hands. ;> Motion carried!

I got these at Accessorize (and paid too much for them). I love how sweet and old-fashioned they are. Even the colour is old-fashioned. And, they're great to throw in my bag and take with me when I go visiting. That way I have a pair of indoor shoes always ready.

Actually, 'nette, d2b would probably love some, too. And they might be great gifts for the children's home...

28 December 2006

a good book

My Amazon package arrived today with two new adoption memoirs. One I was foolish when buying (self-published and poorly written; lacking depth and insight). But, the other--WOW!

The Waiting Child by Cindy Champnella is amazing. I cried repeatedly as I read it (and that's saying something). It's about a little girl who was adopted from China (my first foray into non-Russian adoption literature)and her love for another child in her orphanage that she, at the age of four, cared for and mothered. It's about her adjustment to her new family and new life in America. It's about her passion for giving "her baby" all that she had been given.

Aside from the amazing story, I found the insights into what an "older" child experiences very helpful. Those of you who adopted older children, I'd be curious to hear how her adjustment compared to your children's.

If you're looking for a feel-good tear-jerker, read this book and tell me what you think. (Did you know that women's tears contain endorphines and men's tears don't? Interesting, eh?)

26 December 2006

a better "B"

Books! I'd much rather here about everyone's book preferences than their beer preferences.

What was the best thing you read last year?

I have to say, I had a rotten year of reading. I read lots of adoption books, but they were homework. I re-read a lot of my favs--The Bridget Jones and Thursday Next books are always a safe bet and I can't go wrong with Austen or Shakespeare or Wodehouse. I re-read a lot of Russian authors... But the new books I bought (mostly when I was in England over the summer) were just rubbish. They were uninspired and uninspiring. The writing was weak. They just left me irritated that I'd wasted time, money and postage on them. And, this was the case with book after book after book.

So, help me out. I'm an avid reader. I enjoy a wide range of books--classics to chic lit, biographies and histories to mysteries, foreign translations to the backs of cereal boxes. Has anyone read anything clever recently?

I'm about to start David McCullough's 1776, which I'm sure will be brill, (he's another author I count on) but I'll need something for after. My friend Jen has sent me a load of paperbacks that I'm SO looking forward to getting! Talk about manna in the wilderness. What can you reccommend to keep me busy between 1776 and Jen's package?

(You know they say that your brain stagnates between the ages of 30 and 40. Do you really want the burden of adding to my mental stagnation?)


Or, since this was a tag by one of my British friends, I should say A-Zed.

A is for age: I am 37
B is for beer: I think it's nasty--smells bad, tastes worse
C is for career: Hmmm...I consider it a job and not a career. I am currently a teacher.
D is for my dog's name: Dog? No way.
E is for essential item used everyday: Angels on Bare Skin from LUSH
F is for favorite clour: charcoal grey followed closely by periwinkle...and the right shade of cranberry
G is for game: anything verbal or logical--especially if Nif and I are on the same team--or that I'm good at ;>
H is for hometown: Colorado Springs
I is for instruments I play: Still? Today? Nothing musical. (Though I have played piano, clarinet and French horn.) I'm a actor--my body is my instrument. ;>
J is for favorite juice: Tropicana no-pulp orange or cranberry
K is for who's butt I'd like to kick: I'm really opposed to violence.
L is for last place I ate: The Truesdale's--a family who had me over for Christmas
M is for marriage: Not yet. (Which one of you smug-marrieds came up with this for "M"? I'm contacting my singleton's-rights attorney.)
N is for my name: Kate
O is for overnight hospital stays: Nope.
P is for people I was with today: Today? No one. Loafed around at home.
Q is for quote: Today? "I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances." --Martha Washington
R is for biggest regret: Regrettably for those with inquiring minds, I will not share that with you.
S is for sport: to watch--American football
T is for travelled to: England, Scotland, France, Belgium, Russia, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia (when it was Czechoslovakia), Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Canada and across the USA
U is for current underwear: Yes. (What is this supposed to be?)
V is for vegetable I adore: cold, steamed asparagus in soy sauce
W is for wish: fervently
X is for x-rays I have had: foot x-rays to locate glass (exciting)
Y is for youthful ambition not fulfilled: to be an astronaut and own a lion
Z is for zodiac: Rubbish. (And believing that is, apparently, a characteristic of my "star sign". Go on--guess.)

Since this may not be everyone's cuppa, and many of you are busy during the hols, I'll just leave an open tag--copy and reveal all in your blog if you're so inclined! C'mon--play!

24 December 2006

Happy Christmas. And ducks.

Wishing you all a blessed, joyful, magical Christmas!

This is a photo from last year when we had snow in December...

...as opposed to this year when we have, well, ducks.

Benjabug and Lizzie-bee, your Auntie Kate is MISSING you and sending you great big hugs, sloppy kisses, silly giggles and lots of love. xoxo

secret dyed moros

This is a Christmas present for someone I don't know. If you're adopting a little boy (I'd guess he was three) from the Leningrad region who has crossed eyes, this present might be for you.

I saw your son last week. He was busy and happy. I came bearing gifts collected from my students. My students had wrapped them and put a sticker on them with a picture of either a girl or a boy. Your son managed to get a present away from one of the little girls. It had a little doll and a wand with a star on the top inside plastic packaging. Your son was intrigued and took the package from person to person asking them to open it. The caregivers told him it was for a girl and tried to discourage him. When he brought it to me, I pressed a button through the packaging and the star lit up. He was entranced! He continued to walk around pushing the button, watching the lights and then pressing his ear to the package to listen to the song it played. He was having a great time. The caretakers were concerned that it was a girl's present. So, they offered him a car instead. His eyes grew even bigger and he readily made the trade. He was so happy!

I just wanted you to know that he is doing well. He is happy and well-cared for. And, if you can find a wand that lights up, I'm sure he'd love that, too!

Merry Christmas,

23 December 2006

holiday lights

Edited to add pictures!

My sister, Amy, loves to drive around and look at Christmas lights. I thought I should post some here for you to see. I will, I promise, but first some musings on Christmas in Russia. While we do have holiday lights, and they are festive, they aren't Christmas lights. We look more like we're in a casino than a winter wonderland. Everything flashes.

I continue to be astounded at how thoroughly the communist government did away with Christmas. I think my opionions on life under communist rule were formed in junior high. That's when I first became fascinated with Russia. Reading Anna Anderson's life story started me reading about the Romanovs. And from there I just kept going.

When did the Sting song come out? It did capture how we felt. We were at the end of the cold war, convinced there was common ground between us and them. But, I think I created more common ground ideologically than there actually was. I put together my own personal inclinations with a heavy dose of American spirit and a dash of Nazi resistance from WWII (another big interest of mine in those days) and created a picture of what I thought life must be like in the Soviet Union.

I didn't think that anyone could actually believe in communism. (Sure, it's great in principle, but since it's executed by imperfect people, it will never work.) I thought people in Soviet Russia knew that and were just playing the game. I thought that agreeing with the government was just self-preservation. I thought people were worshipping in secret. I thought that when the Iron Curtain fell, people would rush to embrace their new-found freedom.

Some of this may be true. But, much of it was not. I remember being on a trip with a girl from China while we were in college who really believed in communism. This blew my mind! And, living here with people who grew up under communism, I 'm astounded by the world view that they have. All of the people who are in power now grew up in Soviet Russia. And, they were the ones who were most strongly inculcated in those beliefs. They didn't know anything different. They had never experienced anything else.

This world view strikes home in many ways, but the lack of Chirstmas makes a huge impression on me. Russian friends tell me often that Christmas is not an important holiday in Russia--that new year's is. And, everytime they tell me, I expect a wink. But I don't get it. Sadly, Christmas really and truly isn't important here. There is no rejoicing for the birth of Christ. There is no wonder, no awe, no peace.

I said when I first came that St. Petersburg reminded me of a gracious lady waking from a long nap with her attendants scurrying around to make her ready for a grand dinner. During the holiday season that gracious lady is nowhere to be seen. The city is all tarted up in a too-tight dress and too-bright lipstick, staggering around on stilettos with a bottle waving in her hand.

This is Nevsky Prospekt. Has anyone read the Gogol story about this street? I avoid Nevsky whenever possible--both on foot and in the car. It's too busy. It's hard to see the lights in this one but they're there.

More lights...but aren't the uplights on the building the prettiest part? St. P looks like a giant music box all winter with these lights on.

That's the Admiralty in the background.

For Tracy, here's Snegoritchka...

...and Dyed Moros..
...in the car park in in front of St. Isaac's. (St. Isaac's was the domed cathedral in the last two pictures. I couldn't get a picture of the front of them with St. I's because of all the cars.)

The Hermitage on a misty night. They have the same tree and Dyed Moros that we saw by St. Isaac's in Palace Square. They're also setting up a big sound stage for new year's.

A close-up of the lovely (sarc) decorations adorning the Hermitage.

New Year's lights in front of Peter and Paul fortress (sorry for the blur--night setting)...

...and on a government building. (I don't know what they do there...no one I ask knows.)

21 December 2006

the newest grinch


Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small--Kate
The Grinch--the USPO/APO

St. Petersburg, Russia


Much like the original, the "grinch" will attempt to stop Christmas from coming by equating Christmas with presents. In a new twist, rather than stealing the gifts, this grinch will simply not deliver them. The Whos (played convincingly by Kate, though "the tall" was a bit of an acting stretch) must thwart the grinch's plan by celebrating with a joyful heart. Thus, the grinch will learn that Christmas came "without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!" and will realize that Christmas "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

**It was felt that the plot as it stands would be too harsh for our targeted audience who could suffer extreme distress at the thought of Kate with nothing to open on Christmas morning. So, Kate will be allowed two Christmas cards. And, in accordance with current animal safety regulations, there will be no dog with reindeer horns tied to his head dangling from a cliff. Instead, a torti-cat will sleep on the couch.

Realizing his error, and that "He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming! It came! Somehow or other it came just the same!" the grinch will then deliver the generous gifts of Kate's friends and family over the coming weeks--effectively extending Christmas rather than eliminating it.

I know the senders of parcels are more upset than I am that they didn't arrive. I don't mind being a Who this Christmas. But, I do draw the line at roast beast. ;>

carrie's queries

Carrie started her adoption journey just before I did. We were both headed to Russia, but she's made a detour and is now waiting to bring Baby Grace home from Guatemala.

Carrie asked if I'd been to the figure skating championships that I mentioned earlier. (Remember when they were throwing pigs?) I did. After last year's phenominal Olympic figure skating tour, I was really excited.

This competition was not as interesting on the ice (Where are all the American skaters? Who are these people?), but the experience was great. Remember the big judging scandal of a few years back? Blocks of judges were scoring their friends more leniently than others. Well, the Russians certainly cheer this way! The few Russian skaters got HUGE applause (only natural), Chinese skaters got big applause, Hungarian and Bulgarian skaters got applause. The rest of us...not so much.

If a skater was not in the friends group, they could still earn some applause if they were really good. Once a skater made a mistake, however, all applause stopped--no matter how strong the performance after the mistake. There was certainly no cheering for the underdog or encouraging a struggling skater to overcome. While "really good" skaters could earn applause, excellent skates could not. When the Canadian dance team (who were excellent) scored tops--beating "friends" they were given the cold shoulder. No applause.

There was a group of children sitting in the balcony across the rink from me. They broke all the cheering rules. They would chant, "Mal-la-dyets!" whenever they felt like it. Sometimes it was for the skaters. Sometimes it was to hear themselves chant. I was surprised at the loudest cheer-ers. It was the Japanese! Not only did they applaud and cheer, they gave lengthy dissertations to the skaters.

Our only-in-st.p moment came when they announced that the competition would be delayed because two of the skaters were stuck in traffic.

While she's waiting, Carrie has been indulging in some serious retail therapy. She's asked all PAP's (pre/prospective adoptive parents) to post four pictures of previously unposted purchases. (I think it will make her feel better to see that others are indulging in the same therapy.) So...here are some clothes that are filling the closet. You can see that they're in a variety of sizes. (These are more interesting than the socks and tights and underwear.) They're photographed on another d2b (but previously posted) purchase.

I love this little black dress. I have one for myself. (Mine is a little bit bigger...) I have this in three little girl sizes, too. (What if I do adopt sisters? I needed it in three sizes.)

Isn't this georgous? Ask Juls--it's even better in person.

This little star dress is another one I have in two sizes. It's probably my favourite.

And, a pair of Gap jeans (We could use some plain ones, outlet-shopper-friends--Kerry, once we know what size, you'll have to do a shop for me!) that were another eBay purchase. Some days I like them, some days I don't... They're actually better than they look in this photo. There are more green leaves further down the leg--hence the green tee-shirt.

So, I'm passing the baton. Anyone else want to share what they've bought while they're waiting?

19 December 2006


Here's a quickie to see if we can get our lurkers to comment...

In addition to an oral and a written tradition, a visual tradition of storytelling has evolved over the last 100 years or so. I'm a firm believer in the importance of storytelling of all types. It seems that the holidays bring out the need we have for the re-telling of favourite stories.

So, what holiday movies do you watch every year?

I watch It's a Wonderful Life, the old Miracle on 34th Street, Meet Me in St. Louis (not exactly a Christmas movie, but...) and the animated Grinch every year. This year I finally tracked down Animaniacs Hellooooo, Holidays and am looking forward to seeing it again. (Don't judge--I also used to watch two Santa Barbara episodes I loved with the cast acting out the nativity story while Brandon was is a coma, Mason & Julia reunited and Cruz & Eden playing Santa by going into homes through the television set--not everyone has a chimney these days--annually, but in my many moves it's been lost.)

Edited to add: Humph. Hellooooo, Holidays didn't contain the song I wanted. BUT this is the youtube link for it... Even that's missing a verse. It should have "A B C, D E F G, H I J K M N, O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z No L, No L..."

18 December 2006


It snowed today! We haven't had snow in ages. And, while I was excited to see some fat, fluffy flakes drifting down, I wouldn't have minded if they'd waited until tomorrow.

I woke up early after a day of washing clothes and stuffed animals and wrapping them. (This got me my wrapping fix for the year. I wasn't able to wrap my Christmas prezzies this year as they were traveling to the US via a friend's luggage.) I thought I'd dash to school for my camera, fill the car up with gas and then have a leisurely morning wrapping the animals that had been drying on the radiators overnight. WRONG! I got to the car and the alarm was going off. This is the same alarm that hasn't worked in months--since my last meeting with the MOE committee when I found my car's battery dead. Yep--dead battery today.

I walked to school, eventually got a jump sorted out and was on the way to pick up Valentina by 11:30 a.m. She, it turns out, actually works for a Lutheran missions group. She provides medicine, shampoo, diapers, etc. to several Leningrad region orphanages. She took me to one of "her" orphanages (Her proprietary manner made me erroneously assume she was a government employee.) to deliver toys and clothes our AASSP students had donated.

Our drive was made more exciting by the fact that my wipers didn't work. Snow, slush, trucks headed to and from Moscow and no wipers.

When we arrived, everything was quiet. The children were resting after school. (It was about 2:30). But, we needed help unloading the car. Five, grinning boys tumbled out of their room and scampered into shoes and coats. They were so excited to see Valentina! These boys were just about the most precious thing you've ever seen.

We were told that the girls were all sleeping, but they soon joined in the unloading. When the car was empty, I was taken from groupa to groupa. I heard a young music class sing and a school-aged class recite. The children were all given gifts, but didn't open them. The little ones (aged 1 1/2-4) did! They were fascinated by my camera and wanted to see themselves on the screen. When asked to recite a poem about Dyed Moros (Grandfather Frost--similar to Santa Claus) a four-year-old refused saying Dyed Moros wasn't there. Valentina told him I was just like Snegoritchka (the snow maiden--granddaughter and helper of Dyed Moros). He then recited happily. Two of the little boys in this groupa are in the process of being internationally adopted.

Impressions? Well, this was a small dyetsky dom. About 30 children live here. The staff were warm and flexible. No one seemed to mind interrupting their schedule to let me come in. They were kind and affectionate with the children. They were proud of them. I was a little surprised by all of this--and relieved. It was a really nice atmosphere. The children seemed generally happy, well-fed and healthy.

The shame is that this facility will soon be closed. A new dyetsky dom is being built and two current facilities will join together. There will be nearly 150 children. Some staff may go with the children, but many will not. I think it's a shame.

I was surprised at who I was most taken with. The school-aged boys really tugged at me today. Maybe that's because I let them, knowing they were not on my I-171H. But, they really were so cute--like a bushel basket of golden retriever puppies. There were many more boys in this home than girls.

Valentina told me that all of the school-aged girls had been "adopted" by Russian families and then returned. She said this is quite common. She said that Russians who adopt want a child who is perfect--a credit and a source of pride and bragging rights. She says Americans are concerned with the life of the child, but that Russians are not. She said that many orphanage directors do not want to adopt children into Russian families. Now, the directors have NO say over policy. But, I thought it was interesting to hear. It also made me wonder if perhaps this attitude has something to do with the age-old Russian attitude that people are expendable. Think of the tsars and their campaigns. They may not have had weapons, but they did have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of people. People were expendable. Is that same attitude what makes it possible to return a child you've adopted in a nation where it's impossible to return an incompatible computer keyboard? Things can't be returned here, but children can.

We gave a worker a ride back to the city. She makes 6000 roubles a month because she has advanced degrees. That's about $240. She said she stays there because she is provided with living accommodations. She shares a communal flat with, according to her description, an alcoholic who drinks the utility bill money. She is not planning on going to the new, bigger dvetsky dom. Workers without advanced degrees start at salaries of 2200 roubles--$90-- a month.

I was really smitten with the school-aged children. I couldn't help my mind racing ahead to the day when I'd quit my job, live in the dvetsky dom and teach those children. Never mind that I don't speak Russian and wouldn't make any money. Mentally, instantly, I was THERE.

I really do need to learn more Russian. Lessons are scheduled for three times a week after the hols.

In all, it was a good day. And, since I came with the snow (sneg) bearing gifts, it didn't seem like such a stretch to the little ones that I was Snegoritchka. I hope I brought a little bit of joy with me today, too.

17 December 2006


I'm wondering if this is a St. Petersburg craze, or if pigs are taking over the world. In the last week I've seeing pigs everywhere. Children are wearing hats that look like pigs. (The hats are cute...but why pigs?) Stuffed pigs were not only a huge hit at our White Elephant Gift Exchange, but gifts of stuffed pigs were also tossed to the skaters at the Grand Prix International Figure Skating Finals. Calendar choices for 2007 are kittens, puppies or pigs. What's up with this? Anyone else noticing an uprising in the popularity of swine?

16 December 2006

Monday's trip

Our trip to the orphanage is scheduled for Monday. I'm amazed at how well this has worked out to calm my fears. (And people wonder how I can believe that my steps are planned.) In the very best of all arrangements, I'm going to a children's home that is outside of the city--so far outside that I have to get permission to travel there. I was a little concerned when a surprised volunteer told me that this home has been closed for ages due to Hep A, but all seems to be well now.

How did we arrange this visit? Well, first I asked my agency and my facilitators if they had children's home that were in need of donations of gently-used clothing and new toys. I didn't receive an answer from either. So, a parent at school put me in touch with a woman who seems to be an overseer for many children's homes in the area. I'm looking forward to hearing more of her story.

Because this is so far outside of the city and is not connected to my agency, it has relieved my romantic mind. It is VERY unlikely that my d2b is waiting there. This helps. I won't be searching little faces wondering. I won't be hoping. I think I'll be able to do what Debbie suggested--to just enjoy my time there. I'll tell you more after the fact.

11 December 2006

political corruption

I'm the faculty advisor for the lower school student council this year. We meet very earnestly twice a month and decide on spirit days, school projects, etc. We're also supposed to be focusing on leading by example...but that's gotten forgotten of late. Because they are primary students, it's up to me to suggest projects. So, guess what we just did. (BTW--a major pet peeve is having a "guess" statement punctuated by a question mark. I'm not asking you to guess, I'm telling you to guess. If'd I'd said, "Can you guess what we did?" then it would get a question mark. Sorry. Digression. Had to be done.)

We held a used-clothing and new-toy drive to help local children's homes! We collected lots of clothing. I was disappointed by the amount of new toys we received, but we did receive some. Later this week we'll wrap the toys and load everything into the back of my car. I'll drive the donations out to the children's home on Saturday.

I'm a little nervous. I haven't done any volunteering with local orphans because I thought it would break my heart. How could I go amongst these children and not fall a little in love? I have a very susceptible heart--which leads to much heart-breakage and deep, purple bruising. And, believe me, when it comes to these injuries I'm a s-l-o-w healer. I just didn't think it was smart for me or fair to d2b for me to go and fall in love with other orphan children. But, the children's home who will be receiving our donations asked me to deliver, so deliver I shall. When I find out which dom it is, I'll let you know. And, of course I'll post more about the delivery itself.

One other abuse of power (Okay, it's not really abuse. It's just influencing the student council. Do you know what they call lobbyists in the UK? Pressure groups. I'm a pressure group all on my own.) resulted in last Friday being Read-and-Relax Day. Was I glad! We had conferences on Monday and Tuesday night after teaching all day, had a dinner on Wednesday with the big boss from Moscow, and stayed at school until 8:30 p.m. painting the bathrooms on Thursday (mine looks great--I'll take pix.). On Friday we NEEDED a little R 'n' R. It was a great relief to come to school in my jammies and read all day long. Even so, I left school about 45 minutes early with a migraine looming. Some medication and 23 hours of sleep helped tremendously! We had our Christmas party Saturday night. For a homebunny (so much nicer than a homebody) like me, that's WAY too much command socializing for one week. My union rep (well, it's just my friend Kat) laughed at that complaint, but admitted the legitimacy of it and took it under advisement. ;>

That's all for now. We're counting down the days until Christmas break (FOUR!!). Then, I'll have time to live the life of a person again and not that of a teacher. Look forward to more pithy posts (Posts that are more pithy than this, not this is a pithy post and there will be more. Eegad, no.) soon...

08 December 2006


A big thank you go my blogpal! Today, I received a package with American goodies--instant oatmeal, spices and sauce mixes and some JIF!!! Manna from Heaven. ;>

05 December 2006

we need a little Christmas

My friend Kat and I have been singing that song this week. Truly, we are in need of a little Christmas NOW!

I went into her classroom this morning to give her some Christmas cd's (Amy Grant and Barenaked Ladies). I mentioned being so excited yesterday on the walk home to see Christmas lights--well, a Christmas light. She said she'd been equally gobsmacked when she'd encountered this glimmer of holiday spirit. This started us giggling about going to see all the Christmas light in St. Petersburg. We decided to stand under the light (which is decidedly un-Christmasy but is still a light that is not usually there--so it counts) and sing a Christmas carol. We were howling and crying at the absurd picture we'd present. It was a nice way to start the morning.

Here is the Christmas light. Note the warning sign to the right. If you drive straight ahead, you will fall into the river.

This was our sky on Friday morning at about 9:30 a.m. My class was enchanted! In the time it took for me to grab my camera, it changed. But, for a few minutes we had a pink sky with purple clouds. We wondered aloud if we were to paint a realistic picture of that sky if anyone would believe us. We decided they wouldn't. So, for the scoffers of skies that aren't blue, here's the closest we could get to securing proof of an alernate colour palate. I wish you could've seen it in all it's glory!

Wishing you a day filled with the wonder of the unexpected!

03 December 2006


Warning: post is about church and written by an unhappy bunny.

I am so homesick for my church in Tennessee. I think it is especially hard to be in unfamiliar churches at Christmas and Easter when I'm longing for familiar hymns and readings. I can put up with the unfamiliar the rest of the year, singing and reading on my own, but the holidays are different. And, as advent begins, I'm feeling low.

What would I love? A vital, warm, alive Reformed Presbyterian church with lots of hymns sung loudly and joyfully by the congregation. Here are my choices of churches in St. Petersburg that have services in English:

Church 1 is a Charismatic Church with a congregation of about eight. My little Presbyterian self was not exactly comfortable and I sat with hands down and nary an "amen" crossing my lips. And, in a congregation of eight, I felt very conspicuous. The people were nice, but this was not the right church for me.

Church 2 is a Calvary Chapel Church (I don't know exactly what denomination they are...are they a denomination unto themselves?). It's a 45 minute walk from home. The service is in Russian with the sermon translated into English. There are no hymns--only unfamiliar praise songs sung in Russian. It's a very alive church. It's also a very student-oriented church. I like this church, but long for the chance to sing!

Church 3 is an Anglican Church. It's a ten-minute walk from my house. I'm not Anglican--I don't like reading church. But, the service, after two years in England, is somewhat familiar. It's a rather...staid church.

That's it. (Makes you look spoiled for choice back in the US, eh? Count your blessings!) I go to both church 2 & 3. This year, feeling I needed to just make a choice and attend one church, I've been at the Anglican Church most. I get frustrated, though, and am so homesick each Sunday for my church. You'd think that my years in Enland and my year and a half at the C of E Church here would have made the C of E service...comfortable, but this is not the case.

Besides my dislike of "reading church", the hymns are a source of constant frustration for me. No offense, my C of E friends, but I think the hymns are mournful and unmelodic. AND the hymnals (newly purchased) have only lyrics and NO music!! How does this help? Every once and awhile (today included--Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus) a familiar hymn will get my hopes up, only to have them dashed yet again as the familiar words are set to unfamiliar...music. (I can't really call them melodies or tunes.)

I also have lyric issues. I know that Jesus was sent to Earth to pay for our sins. I know that. I know that even as He was born, his death--for me and my sins--was pre-ordained. I know that. I believe that. But, I don't really want to sing about it at Christmas. Maybe I'm frivolous or shallow, but at Christmas I want to revel in the magic and the mystery. I want to be Mary holding an amazing miracle in my arms. I want to be a shepherd worshiping in awe and simple belief. I want to be in the party of the Wise Men present my best gifts and misleading Herod. I want to sing and rejoice and revel.

Check out this verse from one of today's hymns:

"Men scorn thy sacred name, and wolves devour thy fold,
By many deeds of shame, we learn that love grows cold."

That was from a song about why we need Christ. I agree. But, as is the case with many C of E hymns I've sung, the whole hymn is about the terrible state of the world and never gets to the joy.

But, even though I didn't return with a light and joyful heart, I went to church. I was obedient. I took communion and knew that my I was in communion with members of my church back home and believers worldwide. I just wish I were home singing along with you.