Monday, September 21, 2015

A little Russian healthcare before leaving...

No idea where the past month went, but I was planning for the past two weeks to be pretty productive, and instead I've been sick.

About 10 days ago, a virus hit our church (as usual). I started to feel weird about the same time, and before I knew it, I felt completely sapped of strength. Stayed home from church last Sunday and finally had to just put on some TV for David because I needed to lie down.

Then I waited for the usual cold symptoms to arrive. My eyes got reeeally red and watery, and I was sure the sniffles would be next. But instead I got this really specific type of pain in my throat, and once I checked in the mirror, I knew it wasn't just a cold...more like strep. :/

Andrei tried to make an appointment for me at the new fancy clinic just down the street. But unfortunately they were completely booked for the next day. Hopefully in an emergency they would have something.

However, the next place he called did have an opening. As I found the address, I realized that I'd been there before, the last time my throat hurt...when David was a baby (I can't find a post about it on here). I walked in and everything was as I remembered it.

After I had waited for several minutes, the doctor took me into sort of a closet-sized room as the others were occupied. As we got to talking, I decided that he was definitely the ENT I'd seen before, a sort of grandfatherly type. It seemed to be God's provision that Andrei had just "happened" to find that clinic (without knowing I'd been there already), and that the first one hadn't had any appointments.

After examining my polka-dotted throat, the doctor prescribed antibiotics and a few things to gargle with.

The antibiotics seem to be finally bringing some improvement, but not completely.


David and I are leaving for the U.S. in three days! I'm in complete denial. I've done nothing to prepare except dump a mix of clean and dirty clothes near two suitcases. All we need to do is make it on the plane...and then the second one, of course. And then we'll see what happens from there!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Traveling (internationally) with a 3 yr old

Behind the scenes of our most recent getaway...

Basically been working on this post for a month now, and figured I'd better get it up before we travel again! (hint: in less than a week)

David turned 3 shortly before we went on our trip to the UK this summer. No more nursing this year, but still in diapers. Pickier than ever and co-sleeping more than before!

But on to the travel...

Plane/train/bus rides

As you've probably discovered when traveling with a young child, you have to plan ahead of time to make sure you have enough hands for all the pieces of luggage/gear. Out of "baby" gear, we only brought a stroller this time. We don't use a carseat on the plane, and rent or borrow one when we arrive.

If we had a newer or more expensive stroller, I might think twice about bringing one, since they can get broken in luggage holds. But ours is on its way out!

Taking the stroller means that one person's hands are occupied, but it also means that the child is restrained and out of harm's way!

Baby niece !
As far as layovers, 2 hours is perfect for stretching your legs and making the necessary stops before security and boarding. 3-4 will do if you would also like to sit and have a meal. Less than 2 would probably make me nervous.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Incline your ear

What's your worship style?

As a member of a worship "team," I sometimes feel like I'm under scrutiny. Do I have the right stage presence? It's not a performance, but there is still pressure to behave properly and have a certain look.

I have been in churches that described their own worship sessions using terms like "freedom" and "Spirit-led." To me it seemed like it gave extroverts an excuse to scream, cry, and dance around. I don't take issue with their expression; only with it being labeled as something more spiritual. I only mean that others can be touched deeply too, without it coming to the surface. Does there have to be an outward manifestation? Are there other ways to see fruit?

People can adapt to different cultural norms for worship, which isn't a bad thing. It is completely respectful to rein in one's personal preferences, to sit and stand (or clap your hands!) on command, or to sing songs that are in a different style than desired. Casting off preferences is an act of service, too. There is plenty of this that goes on at our church in Russia, as many songs are translations of Western songs, with different keys and lyrics than might be common in the Russian tradition.

But I'm getting kind of sidetracked. Without going into all the intricacies of worship music and personality differences, I was once again meditating on how I was to worship. And the words came to me: Incline your ear. Which occurs in scripture in several places, though the wording is different in different translations.

For example:
My son, if you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,
Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding...(Proverbs 2:1, 2 NASB)

For simplicity's sake, we'll say it means to listen. Except that when I'm singing, I often feel like I actually want to tilt my head and lean in closer, as if I'll hear it better-as if the words might have a better chance of reaching my heart.

And that's what I think about when I'm singing up there...or offstage, or at home, or wherever! I just want to absorb the truths in the words as best I can. Maybe it's not straight scripture, but I can stand with others in agreeing about whatever it is the worship songs proclaim.

You could say that I'm just being an introvert, wanting to stand there and listen, and not show any reaction. Even when I'm in a community worship setting and even when I'm supposed to be helping lead, I just want to listen. But it's not necessarily a passive thing. However, I guess you could say I do lose some inhibitions, as doing anything onstage is normally a bit intimidating.

Is there anything wrong with just being yourself when you sing to God? Have you ever received a personal revelation about how you worship? Do you think your everyday personality changes when you "enter in" to worship?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Planning a "destination" family reunion

Behind the scenes of our most recent getaway..

Getting the cousins organized...

Family reunions are sometimes hosted by family members, perhaps over a holiday weekend. Other families might have a time-share, like a beach house that they visit every year. But every once in a while, it's fun to plan something a little more ambitious.

My siblings and I are scattered across the globe at varying distances from each other and our parents. I guess it's fair to say that there are a higher concentration on the East Coast, but then again Florida is pretty far from Massachusetts. Suffice it to say that any gathering is going to mean traveling a long way for at least a few people. So, might as well try out different rendezvous points, right?

We started bouncing around the idea of a trip to the UK for my dad's 70th birthday. It's his ancestral home, and truth be told, I was excited to be going somewhere LESS than 5 hours away by plane (sorry, everyone else). So the decision was made to get 22 people (15 adults and 7 children) over to Scotland.

Here are some notes from trip planning:

1) Planning the planning

In a large group, you will inevitably have planners and non-planners, leaders and followers, etc. You will have people who never read emails, and those who read and respond multiple times per day.

If you are going somewhere where you will be participating in any sort of sightseeing or cultural programs, you need to think about how you are going to organize everyone. It's not fun for negotiations to take up precious time that could be spent together...though that is part of being in a family. Everyone needs to eat at least 3x per day, and children (and some adults) will need naps. I don't know of the best universal approach, but we did fairly well considering all the logistics.

When everyone is from out-of-town and no one is necessarily familiar to the area, some extra research will be required.

Bagpipe concert was first on everyone's list, right?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Smiles and Drinking Water

I kind of gave away the post with the title there, but I wanted to start from the end of our trip when we'd already come back to Russia.

Visiting the UK was like visiting the West for me. Sure, British and American culture are not one and the same, but when compared to Russian culture they are very similar. I even ate most of my favorite foods while in London. Yum.

I know the "smile" thing is controversial, but upon return to Russia, I realized that I had enjoyed the friendliness of Great Britain. You can analyze whether or not smiling and being friendly is "natural," but since it was instilled in me from an early age, I feel like I'm myself when I can make eye contact with strangers and greet them, or make some random comment in commiseration, or even crack a joke. Suddenly it turns out I'm not so socially awkward after all. I saw an article recently about expats who turn into introverts while abroad, but I didn't even read it since I consider myself an introvert to begin with. And yet...there is definitely a goofy side of me that doesn't come out unless I'm reeallly relaxed.

So now I'm back to the old dilemma of how exactly to be a polite and gracious individual, while living in another culture! If I behave like a friendly American, I might actually win someone over, but I wish I could be culturally-appropriate, like the young lady that came to visit today bearing a bouquet of flowers and some cakes wrapped in a box with a ribbon. What is selflessness? Does the Golden Rule transcend cultures? Is it better to be stiff and follow cultural norms, or let go and just be your clueless, bumbling self? It is so relevant to missionaries and other cross-cultural workers, as we often put passion into serving people the way we know how, acting with completely pure intentions but a moderate degree of naivete.

And the other item, the drinking water. How nice it was to just put a cup under the tap and have water to drink. Like a small wedge in my pie chart of daily stress was lifted. When I don't have drinking water with me, I worry about being thirsty suddenly, being stuck on hot public transportation or walking somewhere without water...or getting a migraine, or feeling sick to my stomach. On one of the planes we were on, we hadn't purchased water again after security, and David was thirsty already when we were boarding. He kept asking and asking for water, and we had to wait. I was more careful after that to always buy some. That is one of my hang-ups, I guess. I have to add, though...I had some intestinal troubles while traveling. So perhaps I was TOO casual about the tap water, but it was nice while it lasted!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Summer in the 11th hour

Earlier this month, we were traveling in the U.K., so fun! Even though traveling is challenging, I have to admit it was quite nice to go somewhere a little bit closer. No overnight flights or jet-lag or anything like that. I'll be giving more details in some upcoming posts.

It's been harder to motivate myself to blog since I joined Instagram. You can look at my photos even without signing up. I've been trying to post there every day and it reminds me of the regularity of blogging and of the journal aspect that used to be more prevalent. Like those "Day in the Life" photo projects.

It's been a very mild summer and just in the past week it's gotten close to 80 degrees a few times. That's a hot sun, so I tend to wait until evening to go out walking with D. I feel like we've been attacked on all sides by various insects who have just been waiting for the perfect moment to party summer-style. I realized that it's not as much of an issue when it's light at night both outside and inside. But now that the evenings are darker, the bugs gravitate toward whatever lights are still burning. Not having screens on the windows makes for a pretty populous kitchen ceiling when I'm in there late at night!

David has been sleeping horribly, so obviously we have, too. I'm still kind of waiting for him to be a good sleeper. Lately he wakes up in the middle of the night and announces that he's "all done." No idea what happened there. Crying fit and eventual surrender to sleep. Then he wakes up still too early for our liking, has meltdowns all day, and cries hysterically at naptime. He had tummy issues last week and I suppose the flea bites (neighbors with cats...) are bothering him now, but I can't help feeling there is something else. I'm realizing that this is making its way to the top of my prayer list. We're tired, and Andrei will be teaching again, potentially in less than a week.

More trip stuff and news soon.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Looking Back and a Heads-Up

I've got a pretty old printer. It works fine, just takes its time. So I thought it might be fun to crank out a blog post while each page prints. :) I think my printer probably has me beat at wpm, though.

I've been pretty frantic (to say the least) over the past few weeks with trip preparations. Since it's more of a "destination" (UK) holiday, there has been a lot of general information gathering to do. Even though there will be onsite activities, we also don't want to pass up chances for sightseeing, but with 22 people it requires some initial scheduling if we are ever going to actually get anywhere!

And now I'm printing it all out, and we leave in...less than 18 hours. Very exciting.

Even though we've had lots to do (and trip preparation has taken priority), we've tried to make time for family lately, too. Andrei and I celebrated our anniversary this week, and went on a little date, finally! So for that day we were more focused on celebrating and not doing anything else.

It's been a whirlwind though, and we've been planning for a year practically, so needless to say expectations are high!

We'll be seeing my parents, all of my siblings, and their families. David will get to see his 6 cousins.

I did want to mention, though: I'm not bringing my computer this time around. Trying to cut down on baggage. Check out my Instagram (link in the sidebar) for photos, or contact me via email. But blog posts probably won't be happening until we're back, unfortunately.

See you in two weeks!