Saturday, December 28, 2019

Trying to wake up

Happy Solstice! Although I have been focused on celebrating Advent and the Birth of Christ, I breathe a sigh of relief when we are on the other side and the days are starting to get longer again. We did a little Hanukkah dinner, too, meditating on the wonder of the Light that stayed.

(I came in to write about being tired....and discovered my computer was drained of energy, how ironic! Trying not to be mad at The Person who goes around plugging and unplugging things.)

(The Internet is being slow, too...but at least I can write!)

A few years ago, I read a book about Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Then last winter (earlier this year, apparently) I wrote a post here about my findings.  https://lizinstpete.blogspot.com/2019/02/sleep-and-sad-can-you-ignore-weather.html

Side note: Winter Blues (Norman E. Rosenthal) is worth reading for the case studies alone. Many of us will recognize ourselves in those mentioned...

"The physical difficulties start first: eating more, sleeping more, and the slowing down of brain functioning. Initially, I'm not sad. I can still sit down and laugh with friends and enjoy my favorite TV shows. As it becomes obvious that I'm less able to function at work or with friends, mental depression starts taking over. I have trouble writing Christmas cards, which adds to my depression, since I am unable to communicate with people I really care about..." (Case study of Peggy, page 29 Kindle Version)

"In his work as a sales representative, he found his productivity declined markedly in the winter months. He would sleep late, cancel appointments, and spend much of the day at home, depressed. When he was able to get to work, he came home exhausted and would collapse on the couch for the rest of the evening." (Neal, case study and president of the SunBox Company, page 26 Kindle Version)

"More bothersome to Herb than his social isolation was his decreased creativity during his depressed periods. He would procrastinate at work because "everything seemed like a mountain" to him, and his productivity decreased markedly. It was only by grim perseverance that he was able to write up his research from the previous spring and summer. His sleep was disrupted, and his characteristic enthusiasm for life evaporated." (Case study of Herb, page 12 Kindle Version)

..and there are more, but you get the idea. Physical lack of energy leading to lack of productivity leading to depression leading to even less motivation and productivity. In these cases, directly corresponding to the decreased daylight hours.

Back to my observations: Turns out my findings this year are similar to last year's even though I didn't remember my observations from last winter until I went back and read about it.

Friday, December 20, 2019

December doldrums


Excited to be writing my 28th post of 2019, making this only my second-least productive blogging year. :) That's still more than 2 per month-not bad, right?

So, how has December been treating you? Are you on as much of a roller coaster as we have been?

December started out with a few inches of snow, fluffy and beautiful for the first Advent. It was so nice!

Speaking of Advent, I managed to get out the candles and a minimum of other decorations just in time. I couldn't find the Jesse Tree ornaments, so I had my son coloring a print-out. He did great! Speaking of print-outs, I used to search for Advent (and general Sunday school materials) back 10 years ago, before Pinterest was really used, and before people monetized their blogs. Maybe there was less on the Internet then...so not as much to choose from, but at least it was free! It actually took me a while to find a sheet of really simple Jesse Tree symbols to print out in black and white. I understand that monetizing is pretty widely accepted nowadays, but I also felt like...do you have to charge for EVERYTHING? I was so desperate I even registered for a Catholic newsletter just to get a "free printable" which turned out to not be what I was looking for.

Okay, that was a big tangent. We've been gradually acknowledging Advent, while on our 3rd family cold in as many months. It's not pneumonia, or even strep throat. We're all okay! But on top of very little daylight, it's just so draining!

I was feeling like I was doing okay psychologically, but with this latest round, I went completely stir-crazy. You know it has to be bad if I actually want to leave the house. We did a few rounds of holiday cookies, Christmas movies in pjs, etc. And then...I just couldn't take it anymore! Normally I like having a slow day at home...in fact, I was relishing the prospect of a slower week so that I could catch up on housework and the like. And I'm normally more productive when Andrei is at work. But the past few days, I can't stand him being gone! He doesn't have time to call between classes at all, and I just feel like I need him at home.

I probably had other topics to cover, but it's bedtime. In closing, a few gift ideas!

I have a bunch of gift ideas for the kids, but not grown-ups. Typical.

Disclaimer: I'm the boring gift-giver, but my husband's side of the family will take care of toys...no child will be deprived.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Bureaucracy Update- Part 3


Getting the kids registered long-term in St. Petersburg, Russia

News from last time: The process has been streamlined, meaning we can apply immediately for permanent residency for the kids, skipping the trial residency. And, processing time will be 4 months, not 6. That will come in handy...

Big application deadlines. I was trying to get this done by the end of the year, because then there are 2 weeks of holidays, and we need everything to be processed by summer, and we also have to do a border run soon.

I had a time cushion in there for unforeseen circumstances. That cushion is now gone.


1) There was a typo in our passport translations. We can only get them done when Andrei has the chance to go there before/after work, since it's not near where we live. So the translations took a few weeks when they probably could have taken a few days. Even if Andrei had noticed the mistake on the spot, it would have taken an extra day or two to redo since they have to notarize it and bind it specially.

2) Medical forms. This is what made me freak out: we were calling around trying to find a place to put the kids through their medical tests. This is part of why we've put this off for so long, especially with the horror of Sophia's latest shots and bloodwork. It was bad enough getting it for myself for residency, no idea how we're going to walk 2 kids through the whole list of doctors plus blood tests. (on the bright side: since we go immediately for permanent residency, we will only need the tests once unless we apply for citizenship in the future)

Now, TB is kind of a risk in Russia. Most people are vaccinated in childhood and have to get a chest x-ray for work every few years. Kids generally get the skin probe and then the TB vaccine.

I was going through in my head what extra steps we might need for the medical certificate. And I remembered that I'd had to go to another facility to do the chest x-ray. In fact, I was breastfeeding the second time, so got a special low-radiation scan. I started investigating where we could do that for the kids. But then someone pointed out...kids don't get x-rays.

Monday, December 2, 2019

How was your New Year's?


Looking at everyone's fun photos, I was suddenly hit by the realization that American Thanksgiving is a LOT like NEW YEAR'S EVE in Russia.

I've always compared American Christmas and Russian New Year's, because there are obvious similarities. Russian New Year's Eve is like a secular Western Christmas: snow, gifts, yummy food, Father Frost, nostalgic films, a Christmas tree, school vacation...basically the same holiday, right?

It would seem. In fact, I've seen "Advent calendars" come on the scene in Russia recently. Protestant families might celebrate Western Christmas, but others use an Advent calendar to count down the days until New Year's Eve. A completely secular thing!

Back to Thanksgiving. I'm struck every year by how meaningful it seems to be to almost everyone I know back in the U.S. Of course, there is that special American feeling of kicking off the winter holiday season...

There's a big meal with lots of prep, time spent reflecting on the year, and EVERYONE celebrates regardless of religion. Yes, it's true...I know there may be emotionally-charged political implications related to colonization, but even my staunchest liberal friends have been spotted in the kitchen laboring over a pot of mashed potatoes or homemade pie. We were invited by fellow ex-pats to a Thanksgiving dinner (we couldn't make it), and I saw lots of similar gatherings being posted, with no one wanting to leave an American behind without somewhere to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Christmas is more divisive. It's like we have to add the words "if you celebrate." You're welcome to our place, if you have nowhere to go, if you celebrate, of course.

The week that felt like a thousand years

Last Sunday, we went to church. I kind of figured it would be our last for awhile. By the way, we usually get around 15 people...but we do...