Wednesday, February 3, 2016

If you didn't catch the vision

There have been some interesting posts this month lately (whoops, it isn't January anymore) about what people are hoping for in the new year.

The "one word" theme seems to be especially popular. I wonder if that has always been true or if it's a more recent phenomenon. Some popular ones seems to be "focus," "simplify," "engage," "listen," etc. Interesting because some of those seem to be a natural part of a cycle. We get tired and find the need to simplify and be still. Then we get rejuvenated and start to dive into things with a new intensity. Then we have too many commitments and try to hone in on one thing more intensely. And then we get tired...

Do you have a word or verse for this year? I'm curious to hear. You could leave a comment here or even email me.

But...I probably won't join you. Partly because I don't understand how one goes about "choosing" a word. Certain things will be on our hearts in any given season, and those are the things we will pray about. If we are planning a move, we may have "home" or "dwelling" or some other such word running through our head. Naturally we may search the Bible for that theme. But I guess I wouldn't read any more into it.

And my other question is about whether or not we can join someone on the journey. One person feels called to fast...can we join that calling too, or should it be individual? Should we feel bad if we DON'T get the same nudge or feel moved by someone else's urge to make changes?

What about at a "corporate" church level? Should a church congregation have a particular verse for the year? What is the basis for choosing it and encouraging everyone to focus on the same verse?

I understand that many people believe that God is "giving" them a word. I don't doubt that, but for me it is as spontaneous as remembering a certain hymn which reminds me of a certain aspect of faith.

Is there a difference between "choosing" a topic/word, and God dropping one into our laps divinely? I do like to do word studies and I see a benefit in that. I think that the desire to study something in depth can come from the Lord. But I guess I just wouldn't go so far as to call it my Word of the Year.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Enter Winter

No Advent or Christmas posts in December 2015, must be a first for my blog! I did just now find a draft from November called "Preparing for preparing," in which I had written two words: "fermata" and "Sunday school." I guess I was going to mention the Advent/Christmas choir...but that's old news now.

So here we are in 2016! As usual, we are still in the midst of holidays here in Russia: another week off and Russian Christmas yet to come. Andrei already gave his exams, so he won't start up with academics until the next semester in February.

We had our typical gray period which I probably complain about every year on here. The shortest days of 2015 were dreary and overcast and it seemed to continue for about a month. And then recently I was ecstatic when it cleared up and the frosty days began. Beautiful. Unfortunately it then went down to about 0 F and I keep chickening out about going outside, simply because child-corralling doesn't always keep me warm enough. Maybe if I did jumping jacks...

It's light until 4-5 pm now, so I don't have to scramble to get us outside before lunchtime anymore... there is still some time in the afternoon.

The fireworks continue every night. Sometimes I feel like I am hearing Mordor in the distance. I wish it weren't the reality for people living near conflict zones. :(

No New Year's resolutions here. Lots of things to catch up on, as usual! And just looking forward to David continuing to hit milestones. He'll be 3.5 in a few days, so I'll have to post an update. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sleep Challenge: Week 1

The other day I stumbled upon an article offering X number of ideas for achieving Y. You know, ones that often turn out to be click-bait. In this case it promised tips for improving sleep quality:

I was pleasantly surprised to find some good ideas in there, as opposed to just time management ideas for making yourself go to bed on time.

A few that I can say I've already tried:

-taking Magnesium
-cutting out caffeine
-making the room dark for sleep
-getting some light exercise

Although I get around the same amount of sleep most nights, the quality varies. Sometimes I have trouble falling or staying asleep and other times I wake up in the morning unable to remember how the night went.

What I'm trying right now:

-switching computer to warm light in the evening with the software they recommend:
-getting out in the daylight earlier in the day (which is only possible before 3 or 4 pm)

Results so far: These sleep "hacks" are all pretty difficult when it is so dark outside! This week has been a tiny bit less overcast, so I feel better when I'm outside, and I don't feel so "confused" about the time of day even though I still feel sleepy.

When I first installed f.lux, I loved the effect as the screen was bathed in warm light. I felt like it was lulling me to sleep. Since then, however, I feel that I have "adapted" and once again learned to push through and have a second wind. I'm thinking about fiddling with the time zone so that it goes to warm light even earlier, in order to send me to bed!

Other steps I want to try:

-Using a "wakeup light" to mimic natural sunlight in the morning.
-Turning off wi-fi at night.
-Going to bed before the second wind kicks in.

And something I haven't figured out yet:

-Keeping the bedroom cool for sleeping. (forced hot air and the radiators don't seem to have any sort of knob for adjustment)

I recommend checking out the blog post! Have you ever tried to kind of reset your body clock?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Latest cooking fun

One thing that has made me happy lately is experimenting in the kitchen! And at other times going back to some simple comfort foods.

Every once in a while I like to treat myself to a trip to a different grocery store that is a little farther away and has more variety. It has a lot of imported products which of course can seem more familiar to me. But once I realized that my bill was nearly doubling, I decided to make it more of a special thing, or I get the staples at the regular grocery store and just go here for specialty items.

Recently I had a particularly satisfying trip where I treated myself to artichoke hearts, avocados, eggplant (imported) and frozen strawberries. I also bought some chickpea flour to experiment with. We don't have a "gluten-free" section or anything, but I do try to incorporate alternative items into our diet just to change things up. Oh, and I stocked up on oregano and cumin, two of my favorite spices that are sometimes hard to find.

Meanwhile, Andrei went to the store the next day and bought me a head of cabbage and a large butternut squash. These items were special because they're normally too heavy for me to carry home by myself, at least if I have other groceries! :)

Some things that I cooked:

1) Artichoke hearts: Tried making sort of a "skinny" spinach and artichoke dip. It worked out well when I snuck it into some quesadillas. But as a "dip" it tasted a little bit too healthy. :) It's really exciting to find preserved artichokes, but these didn't really taste good on their own, maybe due to their being canned. Sometime I will try the jarred version.

2) Avocados: For once I got some good ones! They ripened nicely and were a good enough texture to just eat with a spoon. I drizzled a mustard vinaigrette on top. I would love to eat avocados more but they end up being more of a special treat.

Ate two in one day. Need MORE!

3) Frozen strawberries: I got these to go in smoothies. Usually I just add one of David's banana rejects (he takes 2-3 bites and won't continue) to some kefir and blend. Sometimes I add a cube of defrosted spinach, and now I have the strawberries. I love the taste, but unfortunately I got some "threads" of something, couldn't tell which ingredient it was from. Maybe it was the spinach. Obviously the strawberries would work for baking, too.

Monday, November 16, 2015


If I've ever wanted to quit social media, it is now.

I have about 750 friends on FB, and most of the time I REALLY like all the different posts. There are definitely certain categories of posts that can be emotional triggers, depending on what I'm going through at the moment. But for all the chuckles and uplifting posts and fun photos, I don't mind one or two that are hard to read.

Lately, though...the negativity is winning. It has just seemed so...passive-aggressive lately, or something. I wonder if that's true or if I'm just in a phase where I'm sensitive to things like that.

A lot of times, the standard procedure is to post a quote, image, or link to an article that reflects the person's viewpoint. And it makes sense when what you want to say has already been wrapped up nice and tidy by someone else. But for someone reason this is where that passive-aggressive vibe comes into play for me.

A few months ago, it was Planned Parenthood. There were videos surfacing, with Christians speaking out against killing babies, while PP supporters accused critics of wanting women to suffer without cancer screening, Ob/Gyn care, etc (not to mention birth control and abortion). I had friends on either side who were equally passionate. And yes, many changed their profile pictures to reflect their views, which meant that I thought about the issue whenever their names came up in my newsfeed.

At the same time, many were mourning the plight of refugees, and a lot of posts came up about that.

Oh, and the CUPS. Starbucks cups generated this year's annual Christmas cheer controversy. EVERYONE had to comment on it. I literally thought the FB world had gone mad.

Usually after the first round, the "Christian" response pops up in the form of blog posts that tell us what we should do, sometimes in the form of a letter "to the abused," "to the mother who had an abortion," etc.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Table for one

Today was a little bit of a crabby weird day! David had a screaming fit in the middle of the night and wouldn't tell us what he wanted. When we asked him in the morning of course he said he had wanted something like a snack, but why all the screaming??? Thankfully Andrei is always really patient with him, as I found the yelling physically painful.

Anyway, we were all a bit crabby in the morning, and Andrei was trying to finish some curriculum work that is incredibly draining and time-consuming. But David and I were in and out a lot, embroiled in various conflicts related to potty-training and the like. Yesterday's problem was that I couldn't get him dressed because he made his legs turn to jelly and wouldn't stand up!

David's new favorite game is for us to "switch" roles. He is Mommy and I am David. He gets to boss me around and it is pretty funny hearing his impressions of me! However, he somehow thinks of this game around bedtime. Then he gets to just read me a story and go off while I go to sleep in "my" (fit for a toddler) bed!

I've been trying to get David to strengthen his muscles more, so I've been letting him jump on furniture more, and setting up sort of obstacle courses. It's hard to get him to run around outside and he just isn't a risk taker in this area, which means fewer injuries, but also a lot of pent-up energy that he isn't letting out! I saw this great blog post today about boys and energy:

Meanwhile I was a little bit ready for a break and then Andrei stepped in and I started getting ready for worship practice. I just assumed it was time for me to go since he was taking over. I even thought I was going to be late! So I took the tram to the metro, and then actually had a few minutes to spare, so I decided to take a little side trip to Palace Square, since I haven't been there in ages! I was going to see if there was still a memorial to the plane crash victims, but it seemed that everything had already been taken down. I did take a little picture for my Instagram, and as I was doing that, a young man approached me and thrust one of those paper lanterns at me saying it was free. I put my phone away very carefully and tried to keep track of my pockets, flute, purse with phone inside, and a bag of clothes I was carrying to church. He then said that they were looking for donations for an orphanage, but didn't have any actual paperwork. I took out a small bit of cash and gave it to him, but he didn't really react, and I handed the paper lantern back, too. And then I kept rechecking all my zippers and pockets as I walked away.

I looked at my phone and it was 5:45 pm.

I got to church and climbed up the stairs, got through one set of doors, and the next set was locked! I went back to the hallway to wait, but started doing the math in my head. If it was 5:45 when I was at Palace Square, then it wasn't 7pm when I arrived at was only SIX! I had completely lost track of what time I should leave the house and what time things started. Not to mention my family didn't notice anything either. There I was, having dutifully walked from the metro to get exercise, but now completely exhausted AND hungry and not even at the right place at the right time! I could have been at home sweet home for a whole additional hour!

I headed outside with all my baggage and walked toward a pizzeria where we'd had the rehearsal dinner for our wedding. But everyone inside looked like they were on a date, so I passed on that. Next I found my way to a local coffee house chain. I made myself get something savory instead of a piece of cake. Big disappointment! The "burger" I ordered (costing a small fortune) was mystery meat with a mustard sauce and cilantro, and a side dish of pickled olives and peppers. I forget how different Russian "other" cuisine can be. I find that it's better to order something Russian, which is more predictable, rather than order some other cuisine and be surprised by the Russian spin on it (steer clear of the quesadillas). So, I'm glad I got a few burger fixes when I was in the UK and U.S. recently!

When I finally arrived at worship practice at the CORRECT time, it turned out other people had arrived early too, and visited the Starbucks around the corner. I could have been with them the whole time! Oh well.

P.S. There is no Starbucks cup controversy here in Russia.