Thursday, January 27, 2011

fabric poms

and now
if you please,
allow me to describe to you
the moscow craft store.

50% cross stitch supplies
10% embroidery thread
10% sewing supply boxes
10% felt
10% notions
10% tiny glass beads

and since i can't so much call myself
a big cross stitcher,
you can see that these craft stores
to me are next to useless.
a far cry from those american gargantuan markets
i knew and loved.

and so
when i resolved
to craft some fabric poms
for the girls room,
i knew exactly my vision,
but was stuck in my tracks
without a glue gun
and heaven knows a search for those
chinese lanterns was a wild, wild goose chase.
and so i was left to my own ingenuity.

and my mind took me back
to one of those craft projects
we occupied ourselves with
sitting around that dining room table in france
one summer afternoon
when i had found a box of tissues.
of course!
you know it from your childhood, too.
kleenex carnations.
why would the technique not work miracles for me,
in the absence of a chinese lantern?

well, it did.
it worked quite well, in fact,
i was actually surprised.
not to mention
that it took probably 1/20th the time
as the lantern method.

and now that time they pass
after retiring to bed for the evening
can involve
not only endless conversation into the night,
but also gazing up at these,
dangling over their sweet little heads.

email me if you want the details!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

revolving door

i've been close to that revolving door
only a few times in my life.
in my adult life, only twice, to be exact.

and what's ironic
is that i was right there at the door
to both send and receive
at the same time, both times.


the first time
was when i had come to new york
to give birth to avi.
i only spent a couple of months there,
but i had made it a point to visit tina.
that witty, eccentric, charming new yorker
with whom i had become acquainted
in our new york days.
it was already her later years,
and i had spent time even then
taking her to doctors,
and making many trips to visit her in the hospital.
by the time i returned to new york
she was already in an assisted living care center,
and was steadily declining.

and the last time i saw tina,
i was already overdue
but hauled my big self
way downtown on the bus that day
to see her--
though when i arrived i walked past her several times
before having to be shown to her--
she had changed beyond recognition,
and i knew her time was short.
she could hardly even remember me.
but touching her hand,
seeing her slip away,
and just walking through those halls,
i could almost feel the other side, beckoning. . .

and not only to receive,
but to send--
 my little avi came through that door
just a few days later.

and before i even got a chance
to walk away from the door,
tina slipped back through
to that place avi had just left.


and then just three years later,
i stood at the door again
to welcome my firstborn son into the world.
how many times i would sit and stare
at his little baby self,
counting backward the days
since he was in the presence of God--
in awe at the thought
of his freshness, his purity, the miracle of new life!

and then to return with him to moscow,
to resume our weekly visits
to his great-grandmother,
and to lay him on the sofa next to her
and watch their interaction--
her delight, her rapture!
to watch her weathered, withering, wrinkled hand
grasp his tiny fist, stroke his cheeks. . .
the smile that never left her face.
i believe she had held on, just for that moment.

while he stood just inside the door,
she prepared to make her way back through it.
they crossed paths here
for only two months,
before she returned
to where he had just arrived from.
but that vision
of their crossing
will never leave me.


as i drove her down the boulevard
i called out from the front seat
that routine question,
avi, so what did you guys talk about in school?

and after a pause she responded:
mama, your смерть (death) is going to come,
and you cannot move if your смерть comes.
you cannot какать or do anything when your смерть comes.

and as i tried to hide a tiny chuckle,
i realized that she was very serious.

it's not funny mom, it's sad.

and at that point, i too, lost my smile.
so you guys talked about смерть today?
what did they tell you?

yeah, and we colored часики (a clock)
(and i wiped my brow that that topic had passed),
what time it's going to be when смерть comes.

you did?
and what time is that, avi?

i don't know. . .
(and she paused as she looked out the window)
i think in a long time. . .

the fact is,
no one knows, avi.
that revolving door
swings round and round every day.
some are prepared,
some are anxious,
but most are unawares--
and nobody knows
what time to color on their часики.
and preparing for смерть
is perhaps not the best way to phrase it,
but in a sense,
living to be ready,
is something worth striving for.

Monday, January 24, 2011

vintage labels

and here's the part
where i share with you a cool link
for all your january organizing needs!

Friday, January 21, 2011


back in the day,
which was only five or six years ago
(but oh-so-much has changed!),
i whiled away many hours of my life
crafting jewelry.
i never did have a real job
during our new york city days,
and this little mini business
was definitely more for fun than for profit,
but now all that
is just a distant memory
of the days when my creative outlet
could occupy so much time
and even constitute my "job"
(okay, i could never call it that).

my jewelry box
i.e. box of yet unmade jewelry
sits in the closet getting dusty,
awaiting the inspiration and the motivation
to get it down
think something up
and then have the time
to actually pull it together.
until one day!
a dear old friend
from those new york days
had a special request
for a little something
spun together just for her.
and so i did the dusting off,
i did the groundwork,
i sought the inspiration,
i ran with it
and then i did the spinning.

and i may have returned that box
to the closet afterwards,
until a further unknown rendezvous,
but a happy reunion it was.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

avi's castle

st. basil's at night
is pretty darn cool.

especially in the quiet of a snowy night,
with GUM all lit up on the square,
the tourists all long gone,
and the glow of the lights
seeping into the sky.

avi is convinced that this is her castle,
and every time we drive by
she says,
"there are all my princesses,
waiting for me!"

tonight as we read
eloise in moscow
we opened up that four-page spread
of the kremlin,
and as she hugged st. basil's
in homage,
she then kindly told milla,
milla, you can have that one, or um, that one. . .
as she pointed to the other little churches
scattered within the kremlin walls.
milla wasn't interested.
but at least she wasn't upset
about avi's claim on st. basil's.
not tonight.

we have known
a st. basil's squabble or two. . .

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

hall time

so let's just say
we're smack in the middle of that stage
that keeps us spending a fair amount of time
(i.e. most of the time)
in the hall at church.
i mean,
i guess it could be worse,
hall time could mean disciplining
and obnoxious 3-year-old,
or taming a 2-year-old's tantrum,
or more recently for us
teaching a 6-year-old
that giggling during the sacrament is not okay--
but instead it just means
that he's too old to sit and shake a rattle,
and too young for the nursery class.
and with him taking his first little steps
all on his own last sunday,
well, i fear that improvement
on that hall time
is not on the near horizon--
not until we hit that magic 18 month mark,
and can drop him in the nursery
to run until his little heart's content,
while i sit
and become reacquainted
with the sunday school class.
that is,
if i can stand the separation.

Monday, January 17, 2011


now milla, my girl,
is doing quite fine in her little school.
what she's attending
are some preparatory classes before 1st grade
(a kindergarten of sorts).
i will say that there's a lot of pressure,
and that the russians take school
much more seriously
than the average american school.
there are no songs and dances,
no cutesy bulletin boards,
no toys, no play time, no nonsense,
no games, and no hugs from the teacher.
i did once
get special permission to sit in on a class,
so that i could at least picture
what my daughter was doing all those hours.
it definitely made me wish
she could keep attending her jewish preschool
on into teenagerhood
instead of shifting over to this cold & dry
public system,
but it is what it is.
and she is already busy perfecting her letters,
memorizing poem (after poem. . .)
adding and subtracting,
and doing story problems.
but i was glad to see
that she keeps her individuality,
her creativity
and her sense of humor through it all,
and that she loves a good embellishment
as i always do. . .

Friday, January 14, 2011

kiev temple

way back when--
many, many moons ago,
i served as a missionary
among the people of western siberia.
i saw a good handful of faithful saints
make their first trek
to get to a temple.
they would travel by bus, then by plane,
then by train, then by boat, and then another bus
until they reached their destination--
stockholm, sweden--
where the closest temple was.
they would spend a week,
though much of the time was spent
getting there, and getting home.
but they were ecstatic at the chance
to make the trip and to serve.

then in july, 1998
the planned construction of a new temple was announced--
one to serve the russian people--
in kiev, ukraine.
we were shocked, we were excited,
we were hopeful!
it wasn't russia, but oh so "close!"
i knew i wouldn't see friends leaving
during my mission to serve in that temple,
but one day. . .

and then the news of the kiev temple
faded into the background,
and i returned home.
later a temple was built in helsinki,
shaving off part of the trek
for the russian saints.
but the kiev temple plans were long silent.

and after we moved back to moscow,
the helsinki temple became "our temple,"
although we still have never made the trip
the russian saints did.
but soon we heard news of the groundbreaking
in the ukraine. . .
and finally,
12 years after its announcement,
the kiev temple broke through the red tape,
the dust, the history
and rose out of the ground
to become the first and (so far) only temple
in eastern europe and the former u.s.s.r.

i didn't have too many goals
on my 2010 list.
but a trip to the kiev temple
was one of them.

now i can't really tell you
what it was like
to drive down kiev's peripherique
glued to the taxi window
searching for that structure
i'd only seen in photos. . .
and then to see that beautiful monolith
becoming clear through the fog in the distance,
in the midst of that dreary, gray
soviet landscape,
so out of place,
so unexpected. . .
such a symbol,
such a triumph. . .
and such an experience.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

3-day getaway

so our holidays this year
didn't so much provide for us
the respite from the cold & dreariness of moscow,
but if not a beach vacation,
we were able to escape
just the two of us
for a little 3-day train trip
to kiev.
weather was just as fa-reezing,
and we couldn't have been more grateful
for animal skin coats, boots and mittens
(we even did the unthinkable
and got ourselves some uggs this year,
horror of horrors, and i can now
even see why they have taken over the world)

the city itself
resembled moscow in smaller form,
though definitely quainter and more charming
(not hard to beat moscow);
we visited the great patriotic war museum,
the chernobyl museum
(refrained from taking the tour to chernobyl),
the kiev pechersk lavra monastery,
the saint sophia cathedral,
and of course hit the main thoroughfare
with all its shopping, restaurants,
and grandfather frosts.