Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gratitude Last

On my last November Gratitude posting, I am grateful to have access to technology in order to send my thoughts and ideas into the world; education to enable me to think about and write about concepts at all, and even better that what I put down is generally legible to other humans; consistent electricity; the freedom to access whatever web sites I like (well sort of, a bunch of USA sites won't let me in with my Russian IP. It's probably better that Target won't let me in overseas, it's bad enough when I'm home); and a warm house to blog from. With November being such a damp, dark, gray and dreary month, it's nice to remind myself of how good it is.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gratitude #27

Today I am thankful that my dishwasher broke. Sounds counter-intuitive? Read on:  The problem with the dishwasher was a pipe that couldn't be replaced or repaired, so GSO gave us a new (well, sitting in the warehouse, exactly the same as the old) dishwasher. But the new one had one life changing difference - it does not signal the end of a cycle with a blaring wake-me-from-a-dead-sleep beep. As people who routinely fill the machine by the end of the day and need the clean spoons and bowls the next morning, thus requiring a run around bedtime, this difference is blessed. 

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gratitude #26

Today I am grateful for how much Alex loves to learn. I'm talking crazy love. The first thing she bought with her first allowance was a math workbook. I can't wait for her to start school next year (and worry a tiny bit about her getting bored). The kids look nothing like me, don't really act like me in most ways, but I think we can all agree this one is all mommy, not a touch of daddy!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gratitude #25

Our housecleaner comes on Tuesdays. Today, in honor of not having dusted or mopped in 3 years, I am thankful that the wage structure here is such that I can pay my housecleaner a fair wage - in some comparatives a generous wage - and still afford for her to come every week.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gratitude #24

Today I am grateful for the cabin. As is only natural, it sometimes stings a bit to pay a mortgage on a building that sits empty 360 days a year, give or take depending on how often my in laws actually go and use the place. But, as Terry reminds me, "Have you ever left the cabin feeling stressed or unhappy?" Well, no. And some day we'll live there every day!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gratitude #23

Today is the IWC Holiday Bazaar! Today I am grateful for the opportunity to give a little something to people who don't have enough. It really puts my concerns in perspective when I know there are people who worry about having a warm place to sleep or enough to eat, and there is an emotional satisfaction of knowing that I'm having a tangible effect in someone's life.

[edited to add: And now that we are home from the Bazaar, I am incredibly thankful that I managed to get the last gingerbread house from the Finnish stall. I've been eyeing them for 3 years, but as I've always managed the USA table I never could get away.]

Friday, November 23, 2012

More on the foreign service child

A conversation that happened this morning:
Zoltan: Daddy went to the store
Me: Right
Z: And we're going to go on the bus, then the taxi, then the airplane
Me: You mean, for pretend?
Z: NO, for real.
Me: Honey, we aren't going on an airplane for real for 3 months
Z: You mean three, then two, then one? Days?
Me: No honey, months not days

Gratitude #22

Today I am thankful for whatever parenting survival instinct that led me to take a deep breath when the kids behaved so awfully I wanted to disown them, and ask quietly if maybe they missed our friend who came to visit and who left yesterday. Who knew a 10 day interaction could make such a strong impression?

Goodbye dear friend!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gratitude #21

Today I am thankful for ready-made pie crust. Do my pies taste as good? Heck no! Is the difference noticeable enough that it's better to not make the pie at all rather than eat the one with the store-bought crust? Heck no! Do I make more pies when I don't have to futz with my delicious but really delicate homemade recipe? Well, I should ...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude #20

In celebration of Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for the incomprehensible bounty that is mine. I have it all: health; love; security; friendship; intellectual stimulation; opportunities to see and do unique things; financial security enough that we don't fret when the restaurant bill is larger than we'd planned, we take vacations and go to the ballet. When I decided I wanted kids - they appeared (comparatively) easily. When I realized I really wanted to travel the world and not just as a tourist, the State Department had a job perfect for Terry and here we are more than 3 years in Petersburg. Is it all rainbows and unicorns? Of course not. But for today, I can recognize that it's pretty darned good.

And this is a photo I took that Terry actually liked! 

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gratitude #19

Today I am thankful for my October Moms. I remember very well the last day of January 2007, planning to get some immunization that day if I wasn't pregnant. The line was very light, so I did some internet searching to see if it was the Real Thing. I ended up on a chat board thing, where among other things people posted photos of how light the line can be and be Real. Also among other things, there were separate conversations for people giving birth the same month. I checked in with the October group and the rest is history.

I've met a few of these women in person, and hope/plan to meet others when our paths cross around the map, but even the ones I only know through photos and regular check-ins online feel as close - or closer - than people I see face-to-face. (Foreign Service bloggers, I know you know exactly what I'm talking about)!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gratitude #18

Today I am thankful for sunshine. Instant mood booster, holder of vitamin D, makes the flowers grow. Good stuff. We see it too little these days, it's like receiving a wonderful present when it breaks through.

Gratitude #17

Today I am grateful for Garmin. Even when it thinks I live somewhere else, or that I can turn onto that "no turn" road, it is a freeing and empowering tool to people like me, who get lost going in a straight line.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gratitude #16

Today I am grateful for good health. There's a great line in the book A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich to the effect that "A warm man cannot understand a man who is cold." I don't think I got it quite right but it's close. Even major illnesses normally only last a couple of days with me. Of course, it's to the family's best interest because heck, someone has to stay well to get the groceries purchased and the laundry done, but I am so thankful that when any or all of them are down for days or even a week or more, I can't fully understand how that feels :-)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gratitude #15

Today I am grateful for the woman (because it's been all women so far) who have given me not only instruction, but feedback and - most importantly - encouragement in my quest to learn Russian. It is still a thrill when I rediscover how far I have come and I am so excited to learn more.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gratitude #14

Today I am grateful for naps. Maybe I'm getting old, maybe I eat too much white flour and sugar, but for whatever reason there are plenty of days that I am so happy to be able to lay my head down for 20 minutes, and the rest of the day is so beautiful afterwards!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gratitude #13

Today I am grateful for the kids' детски сад (essentially, preschool). Although at times I chafe at some of the cultural differences - extra sweaters, I'm looking at you! - it is such an amazing environment. The teachers genuinely care for my kids. The largest class size I've seen is about 15 kids for 2 teachers. They eat food cooked from scratch that day. When they have dance class, there's a pianist not recorded music (see my previous post about Piter's cultural heritage). Various forms of artists visit the school each month to perform, from musicians to puppet masters to actors. They watch Peppa Pig once in a while in English class and that's the extent of television - in fact there are no TVs in the building, but the teacher sometimes brings in her laptop for class. My kids speak Russian without accent, it is such a joy to listen to them talk!

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gratitude #12

Today I am grateful for the amazing arts culture in Russia, specifically Petersburg. I took Alex to see one of the best ballet companies in the world last weekend, and the tickets were about $20 each. We did sit high up, but it's a small venue. We were in the front row of our section, so we didn't have to try to see over other peoples' heads.

Our view of the stage

She was delightful and delighted, as was I. She told me she felt more grown up, accompanying me to a ballet at night, walking and taking the metro - no stroller, and just generally behaving adult-like. She didn't get antsy or bored, although admittedly, it was a "children's ballet" - meaning lots of action, bright colored costumes, and it was relatively short - 2 hours with 1 intermission.

Ready to ballet (yes mom, she's wearing the gold bracelet you gave her years ago)

The coloring only came out during intermission

Zoltan has more ants in his pants, but I have still managed to bring him to the Hermitage Museum several times. Even when we live in the DC area next year, between the expense and the schlep factor we'll rarely go - for comparison, I get Zoltan to the museum with a 40 minute walk, or we can take the bus. Alex and I took the metro to the ballet. It is so accessible! And oh yeah, because State provides our housing we live in the middle of the city and walking distance to a metro (even when walking with the little ones).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gratitude #11

Today I am overwhelmingly grateful for friendship. A good friend arrives today from the USA for a visit, and although we spend way too little time with each other under normal circumstances - busy lives and a 9 hour time difference being what they are - having days in a row to be together is the best treat and most полезно experience.

Gratitude #10

Today I am grateful for my favorite "mom blogs". With these ladies who don't feel like strangers, I laugh a lot, I learn a lot, I discover how to be a better mom and I learn to cut myself some slack when I'm not.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gratitude #9

Today, for Veteran's Day, I am grateful for all the men and women who willing leave behind their families, friends, and safety in order to do their jobs in uncertainty and danger.  Even when I strongly disagree with the decisions made by civilians to put these people in harm's way, I fully understand and appreciate the sacrifices they are making for me.

Thank you.

Gratitude #8

Today I am grateful for the luxury of choice (no, not that choice. I mean, yes I am but it isn't what I am talking about). This week we had one of the best dilemmas - which of two good options should Terry choose for his next post. They each had pros and cons, risks and potential rewards. As we lamented and struggled to find something that made one choice a clear winner over the other, we had to remind ourselves how fortunate we are. In either case, he would have a good job doing interesting work in the general geographic area where we wanted to live.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gratitude #7

Today I am grateful for the friends who hand down to us their kids' outgrown clothes, and my mother who is desperate to fill the gaps and in fact increase her "market share". They save us thousands of dollars, enable us to get more wear out of perfectly good clothing - thus easing the burden on the earth a little bit, and when we pass the still-good clothes on it's incredibly gratifying to see other little ones being the 3rd or 4th "generation" of favorite items.

On the same note, I am grateful for family handing down similar volumes of perfectly good children's toys that their kids have outgrown. And for the multitude of family members who insist that the kids unwrap something from them during the holiday season. When so many people have so little, we are very cognizant of the riches in our lives.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Gratitude #6

I am grateful for the internet. It's a lifeline to people back home, a way for my kids to see their grandparents more than once a year. In places where I am skeptical of the quality of medical knowledge it lets me double check (reputable sites, like NIH or MayoClinic). When snail mail takes 3-5 weeks to arrive the internet lets me tell people I'm thinking of them when it would be colossally inappropriate to call them (we are now 9 hours ahead of the east coast). I can only imagine what this job, this life was like "back in the day" ... you know, 20 years ago.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Lynne and I have been kicking around the idea of starting a wordless Wednesday feature.  The idea is two fold.  One get me back on the contributing more since I tend to use the camera more then write, and second help the consistency of the blog.  We tend to go in waves a bit.  I will not promise that the photos will always be new ones taken that day.  We are going into winter in St Petersburg which means I can have as little as 4 hours of sunlight if it ever gets out from behind the clouds.  I will try to post something that represents or is associated with my mood/thoughts of the day.

So here is the first week and next week I promised less words.

Gratitude #5

I am so grateful the election went the way it did. Obama helps people who don't even want him in charge. And how much more he could do if the people who are supposed to work with him didn't have his demise as their #1 goal (rather than, say, doing the work that needs to be done to make America #1 again). I agree with my brother that we would have survived a Romney presidency, but why not thrive rather than survive?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Winter colds, Russian style

Normally I am pretty Polyanna about our posting here. So many things about Petersburg and Russia suit our temperaments and preferences. In general we're happy.

But, I was reminded recently of what I dislike about the culture here. See, when a Russian child sneezes or coughs, he or she is then kept home for 2-4 weeks, regardless of whether the child has any actual illness (Americans don't consider a cold an actual illness). Or if the child sneezes or coughs a second time.

Alex had the bare outlines of a cold last week. She coughed all week, no other symptoms. I humored her teacher and brought her to the doctor, who saw a bit of nasal drainage that she supposed must be causing the cough because she couldn't find anything else, but absolutely nothing outside the parameters of "It's a cold". She be prescribed/recommended an OTC cough suppressant, which I dutifully brought to school so they could give her the mid-day dose and hopefully keep her cough from bothering other kids during naptime.

Well, Friday I got reamed out by one of the other kids' grandmas for bringing Alex to school. For a Murther Furkin COLD. She doesn't have a runny nose, sneezing, headache, sore throat. No fever, no congestion. Not a damn thing except a pesky cough. Alex also reported that other kids were coughing, admittedly not as bad as her, earlier this week - meaning she wasn't the carrier (She started coughing Sunday, and I had kept her home Monday because I had to keep Zoltan home - he had a bacterial infection and hadn't gotten through enough antibiotics for me to feel good about sending him in, even though he looked and acted the picture of health).

We had a long weekend for a Russian holiday so today was the first day back at school. When I dropped her off the teacher asked how she was doing, I said fine, and she said that's good because the other parents were ready to strangle me. Grrrrrr.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gratitude #4

November 6
I am grateful for my husband Terry. Not only loving and supportive, not only funny and good hearted, he has taught me so much. We are so comically different in almost every way except, as it turns out, all the ways that actually matter.

But I will say one last time in my own defense, NOT everyone knows about mile markers.

Tver Statues

As Terry never got around to doing anything with his own photos from Tver, I thought I'd post a few of mine. For a small city, there's a lot of sculpture in the various parks. Some of my favorites ...

This guy is part of an entire walkway strewn with statues. It's just a couple of blocks from the Institute where I studied.
 This threesome is just past the bridge I crossed every day, on the side of the river where my host family lived.
Kalinin is EVERYWHERE. It was fun when I went to the Academy Theatre with my host mother and she showed me the frescoes on the wall of the great hall (where people hung out during intermission) and there he was, with the farmers, the workers, the students, the construction workers building the Theatre, etc etc
Blue skies for Lenin!
 This is a monument in honor of victims of repression.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gratitude #3

November 5

I am so grateful for my kids. I joke about Terry talking me into it, and he sort of did, but they are so amazing and I am just not the same person I was 5 years ago - for the better in every way.

Gratitude #2, once again late

For November 3 and 4

I am grateful to have consistent electricity. This is not only driven home by Hurricane Sandy, but also from having the experience of living in places where it is not consistent.

I am grateful to have traveled places and had experiences way outside my comfort zone and enable me to look back at my own country with open eyes, appreciating the good and seeing other ways to approach the bad (ah, if only someone would appoint me Benevolent Dictator).

Friday, November 2, 2012

Liquidators Monument

It seemed random enough, in Tver there is a monument to the liquidators of the Chernobyl disaster. Then I went to see it, and it turns out more than 2500 people from Tver went to Chernobyl to help with the cleanup. Hence, the monument.

On the way to the monument I saw a strikingly colored building that i first thought was a church and then realized was the mosque. It was pretty so I took some photos. 

The little park the Liquidators monument is in is right next to the mosque.

As I walked toward the monument I could see an older man sitting on a bench right in front of it but didn't think much of it. I read the notice about the monument - handily in English and Russian, and I took some photos. The man started speaking to me. He asked if it was interesting to me and if I understood what it was for. I said yes, and then he told me he had been one of the liquidators. He said lots of other stuff I didn't understand. I asked about his health after being there and he said it was ok then something about his friends so I imagine some of them didn't come out of it so well. he then showed me something, it was clearly an official document, had his name and photo and it was in a case like we would use for ID or Russians use for their passports but it was just the 2 cards/pieces of paper, one on each side. When I got to an internet place and looked up Liquidators of Chernobyl, Wikipedia helpfully explained that special certificates were given to 600,000 workers who helped with the cleanup, so I imagine this is what he showed me.

 The gentleman then offered for me to take a photo of him with the monument so I did.

A month of thanks

Over the years I've seen friends do a "gratitude posting" every day for the month of November in honor of Thanksgiving. I've always thought it was a cool idea but never quite got around to doing it. So this is the year, albeit a teensy bit late ... so today I'll do 2.

1. I'm thankful for modern medicine. I have a headache right now, which sucks, but it isn't a migraine, which would suck a lot more.

2. I am thankful for the State Department perk of receiving US Mail while overseas. It means I can order my Tylenol Sinus online and not have to worry about the efficacy or veracity of Russian alternatives. Because, quite frankly, nothing in the world horrifies me more than vomit and being sure that my medicine will prevent that is critically important to me. (if the connection isn't obvious, for me at least the way a migraine works is awful head pain so bad I can neither sit still nor walk around, followed by vomiting, then I start to feel better)