Monday, March 30, 2015

Book recommendation/Caveat

The "dog" ate my Kindle?
It's March, and I have just enough time to squeeze in a book review for Reading Month. Unfortunately, my Kindle bit the dust some months back, so I haven't been indulging in literature much as of late.

However, I have a series that I wanted to share. I've started to write about it a few times and always stopped just short. The first book in the series is called "Chop, Chop" (by L.N. Cronk) and you can download it free for Kindle here. 
And what's worse,' she went on, 'is that on Sunday we're going to get back onto a plane and go back to our houses and our TVs and our hot tubs and we're going to forget about all this.'
'No we won't, Laci. We won't forget.'
She wiped her eyes and glared at me.
'Yes, we will. You say we won't, but after we get home we'll feel differently. It won't ever feel like this again.' -Chop, Chop (L.N. Cronk) to describe this series? For one thing, the dialogues are all like the excerpt above; pretty down-to-earth banter from a group of friends. This first book features their years as members of a high school youth group, and the conversations are very believable. I felt almost like I was back in high school, writing in my diary or reading a note from a friend.

As the friends come of age, the subsequent books continue their stories throughout their adult life. Though the author realistically portrays the most mundane moments of daily life, she also tackles a multitude of "heavy" topics, including divorce, alcoholism, adoption, teen pregnancy, child abuse, terminal illness, car accidents, and murder (I keep remembering more and adding them in). There are also episodes where characters are on the mission field, which that same excerpt is alluding to. 

Since this is a series favoring Christian values, I really appreciated the handling of such tough events in the light of God's saving grace. Though there were moments of redemption, they weren't portrayed in a fluffy or cheesy way. When I read about the topics I'd dealt with personally, I felt myself nodding in agreement. Some of the conversations felt like they were taken out of my own life. And the other ones were dealt with so poignantly that I felt compassion for anyone experiencing them.

So why would I NOT recommend these books? Well, there are pros and cons to covering so many heavy topics. A little soap-opera-ish, maybe? Though I don't think the author necessarily exaggerated on the specific issues, I wonder what the odds are of them all occurring within one close circle of friends or even within the same town. Of course that takes a little away from the realistic factor.

But my main caveat is just in how many emotional triggers come up in reading this series. A few is okay, but constant heartache is a little rough. Again, these are stories of redemption, but that doesn't lessen the grief. I especially found it hard reading about the progression of Alzheimer's, as told through the patient's eyes! It stays with you.

So I really don't know how to conclude, as I feel like these are all really important topics for discussion, and I'd be interested to hear if any of you have read this series, or would like to give the first book a shot! Just keep in mind, you will likely need to have some tissues handy! 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Outings and non-outings

I'd been attending rehearsals for a "praise and worship" night for about the last 6 weeks, and then woke up yesterday feeling congested-yuck. So I stayed home.

It was a week of staying at home. Even though the sun came back, there was a rather brisk wind that made it pretty chilly for outdoor excursions. It was really nice to get caught up on some indoor activities. Andrei had a heavier teaching schedule, so David and I had lots of bonding time.

One day, we needed something to do and I had decided not to attempt naptime for scheduling reasons. So we stalled at home as long as possible and then headed outside to the tram stop to wait for Andrei. The last time we did that, we somehow missed him...we froze while waiting, and he came home to a missing family and no lunch ready or anything!

So I made the decision to hop on the tram in the direction of the metro. The only thing that made me nervous was that Andrei hadn't contacted me at all, and there was the possibility of him passing us on a tram going the other direction. That and the fact that David could have a meltdown and not want to get off the tram or go home or whatever. When we got to the metro, Andrei was just leaving work, so we went inside to wait for him near the escalator. David was squirming around and lounging on the ground as he's been doing lately....making his legs go out, if you know what I mean.

Eventually Andrei emerged, and he had run into his dad in the metro, so we all walked to the tram together. Mission accomplished!

Even though David can ride the tram now okay, errands are still kind of iffy (without the stroller) since he can run away at any moment. Plus, the stores themselves aren't always close to the tram stop. So I guess I would stick to stores with shopping carts he can ride in.

The other event this week was hosting Bible study, and that went pretty well. Nina brought some hand-me-down toys for David, and he enjoyed playing with some wooden blocks. There were also some random picture frames that were being discarded. I like the challenge of "re-purposing" something that's actually old, as opposed to specifically buying something in order to "hack" it. Got some fun art projects coming up on the horizon, can't wait!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Apartment Life

Before it snowed and got yucky again, we had some nice sunny days (including a partial solar eclipse last week!), and some spring maintenance projects were underway.

Like this one.

Action is towards the upper middle...

Every few days, a dump truck comes and dumps a full load of sand, then leaves. For the next week, a few workers gradually shovel the sand into a wheelbarrow, then take it over and lower it into the basement via the window. And then back for another load. And then the dump truck brings a delivery to the next building on the list. They started out with the building to the right of this one, and had already moved on to the one on the left, when we suddenly got snow again.

Definitely not a job to envy!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lenten Update

I haven't been doing much to prepare for Easter. Our church is having a series of sermons, but I tend to accompany D. to Sunday school during that time.

I dug out some old Sunday school supplies to make an Easter flannelgraph for David. It depicts Christ teaching, being arrested, on the cross, and appearing again to his disciples...yeah, I squeezed it all onto one board.

David likes listening to the story even though he doesn't understand completely.

I've run across many blogs featuring Easter "gardens" with a makeshift tomb covered by actual grass. I'd like to gradually gather the supplies to make something like that, maybe next year. Right now we have some onion and garlic tops growing as a yummy spring project.

On the decorating front, it's still a little bit of dilemma. Bunnies and chicks aren't relevant enough, yet crosses aren't really garland material. I think I might do some palm fronds or something for the front hallway, and then add a Resurrection message as the holiday approaches. Come to think of it, this would be a really good place to stencil a Bible verse or other uplifting message. Hmmmm....

Christmas/Valentine's decor, soon to be replaced!

In Bible study we are discussing the Ten Commandments right now, and I guess in a way it's an appropriate introduction to the Resurrection: realizing how impossible it is to measure up to God's law, and our need for salvation.



It's 11:45 pm and I've just put a load of laundry in, but I'm not complaining. :)

Baby shower shenanigans (I'm in the middle) 
I've just had 4 days of back-to-back church activities followed by 2 days holed up at home (and actually another church thing this evening). I think ideally it would be nice to be a bit more balanced. The days I was at home just happened to be very warm and sunny, perfect for being outside, but I couldn't handle getting the two of us dressed for outside.

A tamer schedule might mean more short walks on a regular basis, or more drop-by cups of tea. But that's not realistic for city life. It seems that it's all or nothing! Everything feels like a production, and that's why I want to hibernate after a day or two of social functions. And to catch up on housework, and spend quality time with David after being so busy.

I remember when I first lived here and initially found it odd that people would stop by the grocery store almost every day after work to get an item or two. I remember not wanting to heed my roommate's request to stop by the store after church for a few tomatoes. It seemed so inefficient to make all those short stops. But now I feel the opposite...why go out to the store specially, when one can combine it with another errand? Why break your back with loads of groceries when you can do small batches?

It is just such a different pace. And I will leave it at that, as I'm having a hard time finding the right words.


Today was sunny again and I woke up and cried because I felt like we needed to get outside to the Vitamin D right away, but at the same time I wanted to stay inside. I don't know if this is my personality or a season or just the particulars of the situation. Perhaps if I could just open the door and step out in my pajamas for a sun bath, I'd feel differently. We do have both an enclosed porch/ storage area and an open balcony, and lots of windows and sunlight with views of open spaces, so we're quite blessed in that sense.

Anyway, we eventually got outside. David did laps around an athletic field while I went over some thoughts. I suppose the athletic field is nice because it is enclosed and David can't just run off. Plus there is some exercise equipment like a balance beam, and plenty of gravel for one's rock collecting. However, this kind of walk is just short of relaxing for me. I do think the "fresh" air and sun are good for one's health, and we live in a nice residential area, but let's face it....the city will never be a nature preserve! Nevertheless, I am learning to find my own pockets of tranquility, and to see daily walks as their own brand of productivity. I like the walks themselves, but sometimes it is hard to separate the benefits from the struggles of dressing a reluctant child, keeping said child safe, and convincing him to go home instead of lying in the dirt! It is a learning process.

BEEP! The washer cycle from today's set of muddy clothes is complete. :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Origin of the Workweek

"It is a day of sabbath rest for you, and you must deny yourselves." -Leviticus 23:32

When I read this sentence recently, the wording surprised me a little bit. The funny thing is that when I went to look it up, I found other blog posts written by authors who had been just as startled by this very combination of terms.

We who spend our lives waiting for "weekends," "days off," and "vacation" may find it odd to think of a break as "denying" ourselves rather than getting a reward. To give up "productivity" in order to just stop and trust in the Lord's provision-I suppose that has something to do with the application. Or maybe to give up control, in general.

I found this little tidbit in The Atlantic:
It took decades for Saturday to change from a half-day to a full day’s rest. In 1908, a New England mill became the first American factory to institute the five-day week. It did so to accommodate Jewish workers, whose observance of a Saturday sabbath forced them to make up their work on Sundays, offending some in the Christian majority. The mill granted these Jewish workers a two-day weekend, and other factories followed this example. The Great Depression cemented the two-day weekend into the economy, as shorter hours were considered a remedy to underemployment. (Philip Soher, "Where the Five-Day Workweek Came From")

And that brings me to my next thought. 

If you go back to the Jewish tradition and work 6 days, then spend the 7th day "resting" (at church?), then when do you do everything else? 

You know, the errands, soccer practice, church stuff, and "having people over."

Has the 5-day week created this expectation of having many more extracurricular activities? If I worked outside of the home 6 days a week, my "day of rest" would definitely be spent catching up with my family. But what about ministry and spending time with other people? Honestly, I wouldn't view that as "rest," though it often must take place on a Sunday, which is some people's Sabbath... confusing. 

Basically, I came to the conclusion that if we were at work 6 days a week, that much of our social life and people we considered in our "mission field" would be more closely tied to our workplace, and we wouldn't separate those into different categories as much. But would we still have "church activities?" I realize that many people DO have 6 days' worth of week each week. But I'm talking about if this were an official thing...6 days being work days for all, and nobody allowed to work on the 7th day. 

The thought I had in pondering the a NT approach is that this is where "tentmaking" comes in. We can hone skills that allow us to earn a living, while still seeking a life of ministry. Maybe this even applies to the majority of church members who hold secular jobs. The problem I can see there would be an extreme case where the church forces members to give up their full-time jobs in order to more effectively serve. Just because Jesus had that kind of influence doesn't mean the church should have that kind of authority over people!

I forget what else I was going to write. I wonder if modern culture will ever see another big shift in the weekly structure...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Day in the Life...

This was one weekday last week that I decided to document!


Andrei made breakfast for us and then we went into the living room to drink tea and coffee while David had a little playtime. Then A. went into his office to work while D. and I commenced "getting ready to go outside" which is a process that takes about an the winter, at least. There are lots of interruptions and D. is pretty resistant. He's starting to understand the connection between going outside and the need to get dressed, but he just can't handle being in his coat for longer than 30 seconds while we're still inside.


It was a delightful sunny/muddy day with no agenda...except perhaps a photo or two for my blog. I didn't even really care if we got dirty. David is into rocks now and we got a dumptruck full of them and then spent our walk trying to make sure they didn't fall out when we went over bumps. There was puddle-stomping too, and D. eventually fell down and I decided it was time to head for home just in case he had a suddenly meltdown and needed to be carried. When we got pretty close to home, I got him ready for the transition and had him point out our building to be sure we were on the same page about where we were going.

That was before the nice day got weird.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

No Comment

Near our house...

Landscaping project "Primorskiy Square"...
26 April 2014 "in honor of the annexation of Crimea."

 In the meantime, let's put up a plaque..

Coming soon to this spot..."Primorskiy Square."

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

To censor or not to censor?

Sometimes I feel like this social networking debate is coming to a head. In all honesty, I don't pay much attention to the news and various privacy laws. But I do sometimes read articles or comments made by people I know.

I know a lot of people are worried about how much FB "owns" and controls, and I admit that it's a little scary if you think about it...essentially one agent practically watching you live your life. I wonder if there is any sort of equivalent in previous generations that we could compare it to.
Sneaking a peek while
on bath duty...

BUT....I still can't quite bring myself to care much. I guess I haven't really figured out the implications. Is there anything scandalous that could be used to blackmail me? No. Inappropriate photos? No. Do I care if people see photos of David? No. Is there controversial political commentary? Not really.

I'm sure you could find out a lot about me and my world views via my FB page. Once my last name got out there, there wasn't much anonymity left, at least for blogging purposes. But I don't know if that's a big deal or not.

I don't have FB on my phone. When another website asks me to log in via FB, I decline. Why would I want FB to watch over my shoulder as I make a hotel reservation or perform some other unrelated task? I would rather not make business transactions via FB, and I would hate for my computer to get hacked. I wouldn't want the personal contents of private messages to be shared-because it's personal. Yeah, I've made plenty of ditzy/Mommy brain/foot-in-mouth comments, but the benefits (from the interaction) are pretty significant, too. Maybe I will quit social networking one of these days, just to rid my life of something excessive. But other than that, I guess I don't really care if I'm being "watched." I do think we should stand up for our rights when necessary, and always read the fine print.

What about you?

5 years later

 After my latest  weird dream sequence , I found my mind wandering to an alternate scenario where our church never split up . I did the math...