Tuesday, November 25, 2014


After going back to FlyLady time and again to see if I could make it work, I finally realized that it's probably not the best strategy for my personality type.

First I thought it was just the season of life or the fact that I have a toddler who will mess up whatever "zone" I've finished, turning 15 minutes of completed work into a new 30-minute job.

I also noticed that because I can't do all the rooms, and have to focus on the common areas, that preparing for guests will always involve cleaning the kitchen and neglecting the bedroom. I was so excited when FlyLady assigned the "master bedroom"....only to realize I had no time to do it that week as I needed to clean for guests.

"No-nonsense" can be good, but I put my foot down when she started talking about purging. "You don't need your school essays," she said. But I do. Okay, I don't. And my parents don't need them in their attic. But I'm not ready to throw everything away yet. That's a choice. And when she tells me to throw certain things away, she's making a choice for her own personality type, not for mine.

Maybe FlyLady would suggest scanning photos of the projects and artwork and throwing the originals away and then making each family member a memory book for that year or quarter, like I saw on one blog. But I haven't seen time for that allotted on the FlyLady calendar, plus she probably wants me to throw all my album-making supplies away.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Going Home

Advent is almost here, but somehow the Second Coming is on my mind more. I'm in this phase where I can't sing or listen to a song about eternity without tears welling up.

This includes Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons."

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
10,000 years and then forever more

And Brooke Fraser's "Soon and Very Soon."
I will be with the One I love
With unveiled face I'll see Him
There my soul will be satisfied
Soon and very soon

It's not that these particular songs are the best lyrically or grammatically or whatever, but the overarching message is there.

And that's true for a lot of hymns that have a sort of natural progression through the walk of faith up to the day we meet Jesus.

From "How Great Thou Art" (Boberg/Hine):

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

And "It is Well with My Soul" (Spafford):
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Once we get to those final verses, I can't make the words come out anymore, even though I try my best and want to proclaim them in faith. Even that song "I Can Only Imagine" might be a little overly sentimental, but it is the call of my heart at times. Will I be able to say something to Jesus, or will I be struck dumb, just as when I get to those words in the song?

Anyway, not sure why these particular words are speaking to me right now, but there it is.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One year later: another attempt

Funny story: I had all these unfinished Advent projects last year that I photographed and was going to write about, just to say...here's what I tried to do and didn't finish. I had even titled the post "The Advent That Wasn't." But it never even made it into my drafts folder, apparently. Or else it's there and I'm blind...anyway, here's a little Advent inspiration (or examples of what not to do)!

The postcard garlands that wouldn't stay up...

The Jesse Tree that didn't turn out to be very fertile...

A tipsy angel.../closest thing to a "Christmas Tree"

Felt figures I never finished cutting out...

The unfinished Jesse Tree symbols...

The scene of the "crime"

The lack of candle holders...

The toddler who didn't go to the Christmas Eve service. :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Orphanage Update (Structural Changes)

My counselor friend from the orphanage came to visit us again the other day, and as always she updated me on how things are going over there. There are some big changes going on in how the orphanage is run and funded, from an administrative standpoint.


-the orphanage was run as an institute of education (like a boarding school?)
-St. Petersburg orphanages had their own extracurricular classes led by onsite specialists (dance and music classes, academic tutoring, arts and crafts, etc.)
-orphanage counselors were by law (and academic background) considered educators and would therefore begin to receive pension after putting in 25 years of work in their field

-the orphanage is a social agency
-kids are transported around the city (non-profit organizations lend a hand) to their extracurricular activities since the orphanage is a social agency and not an educational institution
-orphanage counselors are now considered social workers (despite background as educators) and will "retire" with everyone else, when they turn 55 (60 for men)

It sounds kind of funny to an outsider because in the U.S. at least, social work and orphans go hand-in-hand. While I have no doubt that orphanage workers received apt training through their School of Education degree programs, it had always struck me as strange that anything to do with orphans (foster care, host programs) needed to be addressed via the Educational Committee. And that any inspections were done through them. There are a lot of other nuances to do with paperwork, attestations, etc. Whether or not this is a good move in terms of monitoring the care of orphans, the short-term effects may not be so beneficial...

These changes will have an impact in terms of personnel. Nearly all of the counselors I had known at the orphanage will be leaving. Why? Because they are educators, and had been promised a pension after 25 years. My friend Galina is 5 years away. Another counselor I know only had 6 months to go. But if they stay on at the orphanage, their status gets changed to "social worker" and those benefits are lost (or downgraded). So those that had only a few years left are leaving to finish out their careers at schools and kindergartens...maybe to return, maybe not.

Who will be working at the orphanages? Most likely, a combination of younger social workers (who do not have enough years of experience to mind the loss) and older staff who are already getting their retirement benefits and working practically as volunteers. Galina told of one older academic tutor who is now listed as "housekeeping," because it just doesn't matter for her at this late in her career.

What about the kids? The orphanage is seeing a lot of troubled kids these days. It's uncertain whether intake is being handled differently (one girl is suicidal, yet was placed in a regular orphanage?), if they're hurting because of all the staff changes, or if it's just a sign of changing times. What will happen to them when the good educators leave and the new, inexperienced ones come aboard? Where is the incentive for professionals to work in orphanages? I didn't used to be of the "leave it to the professionals" mindset, but there is a certain skill set needed for working in an orphanage...street-smarts, too.

As for the extracurricular activities...it sounded annoying to me at first; to have the kids running all over town. But then again, that's what non-orphanage kids do. And they do have their own transportation. But still, the orphanage was always a place where you could see rich culture in action: artwork, amazing performances, and the most festive of celebrations. I wonder if they will be able to keep that up in the future.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Food Chronicles

I decided to look at what our family was eating to see if I could make some changes.

Breakfast: Omelets

Lunch: Homemade soup (chicken or pork w/ veggies using homemade broth), + sandwich (1 piece of rye bread with a slice of cheese or leftover roasted pork/chicken)

Dinner: Various kinds of meat+rice/pasta/potatoes +salad or other veggie

We have tea after every meal with a small treat of some kind (ONE piece of chocolate or ONE cookie). And snack on fruit or homemade croutons, etc.

Verdict: I know that I don't eat enough of some things, like fruits and veggies. But it's hard to believe that with 90% of our food made from scratch we could be way off the mark. People keep talking about the evils of grains and sugar and it's hard for me to believe that having a few slices of bread or a few cookies per day would be ruining my digestion.

A lot of women in the fitness discussion groups I frequent seem to talk about "real food" and "Paleo" all the time. So I decided to check out a new e-book written by a woman I'd run into before in the blogosphere. She blogs at http://trinaholden.com/blog/.

-My Thoughts-

Even though I am not sold on the "real food" movement, I really enjoyed this book. Yes, I rolled my eyes about all the "staying close to the source" and buying local everything and finding a raw milk source and whatnot. I wish someone would put out a book like this for urban life! And the dessert section is frustrating...I don't know where to buy sugar substitute or eggs that can be consumed raw.

But aside from the shopping side of the equation, Trina definitely has a knack for making things sound doable, and she assigns some simple tasks for those who like their checklists.

Here are a few sections of the book I found applicable:

1) Bone Broth

Making my own chicken broth seemed like a no-brainer. If I make soup, I use homemade broth, but I don't actually make it that often because I don't have stock vegetables on hand like onions, celery, and carrots.

"Your Real Food Journey" suggests: use bone broth in almost everything as a substitute for water; use it to boil your rice, pasta, etc. Again, that wasn't a new idea to me, but I'd never purposed to do it regularly. The life-changer was that she mentioned simmering just the bones. No soup veggies needed, just cover the chicken bones with water and some vinegar and simmer away for several hours. Then you have some broth you can use the next day for cooking your dinner. We eat chicken so often that I could definitely see myself doing this a lot.

2) Cultured Foods/Homemade Yogurt

Fermentation is a part of the Russian food culture, and I could see myself getting into it. "Your Real Food Journey" claims that fermented foods have special enzymes that can aid your digestion if you include them in every meal. Kefir and sauerkraut are the main ones around here, but the book has recipes like "Gingered Carrots" that sound edible as well.

As far as homemade yogurt, she suggests using some whey, which I'm pretty sure I could find in the supermarket here. The dairy section in Russian grocery stores is huge, and that includes cultured products. Hopefully I will make a yogurt attempt one of these days. If not, I can always just buy some kefir. Homemade is "better," but sometimes baby steps are necessary. Extra dishes have to be factored in!

So those are a few projects I'd like to try. As far as cutting out foods/food groups, well....the jury is still out.

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