Nov 30, 2010

Works for me Wednesday


I had a hard time coming up with a practical advice when the idea fell into my lap. Practically. I really dread shopping for Christmas, mainly because I LOVE getting gifts for people that I know very well, but I usually have severe buyer's regrets 5 minutes after buying something.

I do love, however, shop on the Amazon, much like millions of other people. Duh, no surprise there. You all probably know this, but honestly - I don't get to shop too often so I just found out about the whole Wish List today. If you don't know about it, I hope this helps you.

Your Wish list can be searched for, and shopped by others, who can secretly send you the items from it. All they need is your email address. But wait, there is more! If your friend or family member doesn't have one, you can easily send them an invite poke right from there and let them know.

I so wish my whole family, whom I barely know what to buy for had their wishlists on Amazon. This would make it so much easier, honestly. God bless whoever created the Amazon.

P.S. To add something else to this, there are a couple of sites that I always stop in, because they help me find something unusual, cute, unique, or just darn cute:
Wists - Social shopping site, where you can find endless ideas. Some stuff people post is weird, but if you don't find what you need, you can at least find an idea.
Of course, don't forget Woot.com (they are having a woot-off today!).
And one of my favorite places: Neatorama store. Anyway, have fun shopping!

Nov 29, 2010

Yay, Im a winnar!

One less orphan, who were doing a several awesome prizes giveaway last week has declared their winners and I have won the apron set that I wanted. I am so posting pictures or me and Gio wearing them.

I've been wanting to get/make an apron set for us for a while now, and now we will have one. Yay! I'm so excited!

Obsessed with junk

I must admit, I am completely obsessed with having things. My husband knows that the week I say "Oh man, I have so many shoes, why do I keep buying them?!", will be the week that I bring home a new pair. He laughs. I despair at the inability to find space to cram things.

When we first moved - we had nothing with us, just whatever John could fit in our car. Myself - whatever I could fit in my suitcase. Oddly enough, of all things I brought with me were 3 (unmatched)spoons, a couple of forks, and a spatula. It's like I grabbed random stuff from the kitchen and ran out the door with my child under my arm. But our apartment was barren, empty, echoey and clean. Honestly, how much stuff do we need? Why do I have the never-ending compulsion to get more?!
Anyway, the reason this frustrated venting came out today is because of me succumbing to the drone of TV ads and internet alike about all the new deals I could get Christmas shopping. So I am already stressing over the gifts, what to get for whom this year. Most of my family members are just like me - have everything and usually two of each. I always wonder how would they feel if I bought a charitable donation in their name, instead of giving them yet another piece of crap they will toss somewhere and forget it.

So, I took a liberty of researching some of the crap-less opportunities to give gifts these year. They are also magical. In a way that one gift benefits more than one person.
How great is our god - gives some information about UNICEF and ways you could help the needy.
Drawn from Water - ran by an Ethiopian orphanage, and there are always awesome opportunities to donate or even sponsor a child.
Samaritan's purse - as I have mentioned in my older post, this is a great way to not only do some good, but to involve your whole family in this project.
Place called simplicity - ran a "Shopping with a purpose" blog sharing day, where you can visit one of dozens of bloggers who create and sell items in order to either raise money for adoption costs for themselves, or other organizations. If you had a chance to help give a child a family, seriously, is that not worth it for 5, 10 or 20 bucks?
Beth's Girls - help send a child in Zambia to school. A charitable organization in memory of Elizabeth Rachel Bowers, a Peace Corp volunteer, who died in a tragic accident in Zambia.

Those are just a few examples. The ultimate decision to give, and to whom lies with all of us individually. Please don't be afraid to research the organization that you are donating from. A good way to do it is through:
Charity Navigator
eHow - legitimate charity?


Ill be updating this list with more links to come. There isn't a shortage of ways, places, charities, and sites to donate or buy from. I am still, very curious, if any of you (my non-existent readers) have given to charity as a gift to someone else.
What was their reaction? Were they grateful, or were you no longer invited to holiday gatherings?

Nov 26, 2010

Season for crafting crazies


Much like my mother's visit brings out the cleaning crazies, the Christmas season brings out the crafting crazies. All of a sudden, I find myself frantically searching the internet for ways to upcycle old greeting cards and how to make hand-made trinkets and gifts.

I comb the thrift stores in search of "something", and my crafting closet for remnants of scram paper and ribbons. I usually end up either making a bunch of weird stuff I end up never sending anywhere, or not making anything at all. However, each year,the desire to create is strong.

So, I just wanted to share a few ideas that I found online:
Ilovetocreate.com - offer endless ideas for creating all sorts of things. Recycling old cards has a bunch of ideas of what to do with them, without feeling guilty for throwing out the cards your family sent you last year.Mini present ornaments - a great idea to use up some cardboard and scraps of wrapping paper.

Possibly the coolest cookies on the planet.If you like me - have never heard of "luster dust" here, you can read about how to use it. I think I'm making some shiny gingerbread men this year.


Tell me those wouldn't absolutely look amazing in someone's cookie-tin this holiday?
Speaking of gingerbread men - I have never baked a batch. They will need to go on my "firsts" list this year.

Nov 24, 2010

The girl who smelled nice


Dear nonexistent readers, remember I mentioned the girl, who's parents were better off than most of us in school, the one who wore lacy cuffs on her uniform and smelled really nice?

I promised you I would explain the cuff thing. When I went to school, we were required to wear uniforms, which consisted of a woolen brown dress and an apron. Every-day aprons were black and holidays/special occasion aprons were white. The uniforms had white collars and cuffs which needed to be bought and sewn on the uniform (usually by the students themselves).

Now, the girl who worse slightly nicer cuffs was better off for two reasons: her parents could find/buy lacier cuffs and collars, her ribbons were shear and so was her white AND black apron. You see, the quality of all those meager accessories were a gauge of your parents' socioeconomic level. Back then (80s) you could buy nothing. And I mean nothing. Hunt for the various amenities was akin to a hunt for cheetahs. If a store happened to carry something, the women would call each other up, drop everything to run to the store to get it. Usually that also meant hours of standing in line for things like shoes, or ribbon, or pencils. But some kids' parents just "found" things. Some bought them in Moscow or other big cities, some had them "saved" by the store personnel for a little extra. Basically, things "fell of the truck". But kids like myself, we coveted the lacy cuffs and the sheer ribbons and aprons. Because those are the only means of decoration or distinguishing ourselves we were allowed in school. Beyond that were simple, ugly, uncomfortable, itchy woolen uniforms.

When I came to America, I was endlessly amused by the freedom of being able to wear what I wanted (within reason) in my school. Things that would get me sent to the principal's office back int he old country(read: jeans) were normal and expected things to be seen in. One thing I can tell you for sure that DOESN't such about having to wear Soviet uniforms is the weekly cuff sewing.

Cuffs got dirty quick. In my case (see: dirty girl) even quicker. Cuffs had to be bleached, ironed, then sewn on. By hand, usually. Same thing with the collar. It was a normal weekly routine that we did. Sometime my mom would combine this "fun family time" with mending of the socks. But I'll tell you all about it some other time.

Nov 17, 2010

No Control: Airplanes


Found this interesting article that you might find interesting: 35 Secrets Your Pilot Won't Tell You.

I don't like planes, but that did not used to be the case when I was little. I used to effortlessly and without any worry travel across Russia every year to visit my grandma. The biggest worry I had was timing my puking and making sure I hit the puke bag instead of myself or whoever happened to be sitting next to me.

Then at some point,and I think all of us have this defining moment or time in our lives, I realized that I was mortal. That things in the wold can hurt me, kill me, leave me to plummet down to the earth from the sky with no hope of escaping. That the world and life itself was completely, hopelessly and utterly - out of my control. The only thing that I have control over is whether I wear pants or not today (and thank the good Lord for that).

I dread flying with every fiber of my being. The rational part of me knows the statistics, knows that I am safer there than in the car, that turbulence won't kill us all. But the rest of me - is a small frightened child, weeping in the corner, begging for God to stop shaking the plane. That's literally the prayer I am praying as I'm outwardly calmly listening to my iPod or watching TV on the plane.

It's funny how easy it is to say "I trust you completely, God", when my feet are planted on the firm ground, when my belly is full and my body is warm. When I am in a country where cops will come rescue me should I get attacked. When I will have place to go, should my house be taken away. When there is a hospital that will take me in, should I get hurt and have no money.

But way up there, in the air, I truly feel to be in God's hand - right there in his palm. And in the plane of course, but frankly, I still think that the only reason they are able to stay up in the air - is magic.

And its both - exhilarating and excruciatingly terrifying to say "I trust you, God". If I fall - that's your will, do as you will. But I trust You, because I have no control over this situation.

Nov 11, 2010

13 is not as good as 25.(Swiper don't swipe!)

I can explain! I'm talking money.
When I was little (don't you love when I start my posts out like that?), money was tight. Not only my mom was a single mom, living on meager salary, I also grew up in Soviet Russia - in a small town in Siberia. I think the richest girl I knew had her own room, a small fur coat and smelled really nice. Oh, and her parents could afford getting her the lacy cuffs for her uniform, instead of the plain white ones. But more about those later.

Anyway, growing up, I was no stranger to not having things. My mom rarely brought up the money with me, because - why bother? I lived in my own world of blissful childhood daydreaming. She got by with the help of her friends and family. One day, walking home after school I found a 25 ruble bill in the snow outside of a store. Now, back in the day - that was actually a lot of money. It's like finding a 100$ bill. Since I found it, I got to keep it, although me and my friends did stop in the bakery and treated ourselves with "muffins". The rest I brought home to my mother, because I really had no idea that I would ever need to keep the money or buy anything for myself.

I don't think I'll ever forget my mother's face when she saw the money. I think (and that is something that me and my future therapist are going to discuss at length) - I've ever made her happier. It was as if I handed her the moon itself, only better. She said that she did not know how she was going to buy presents this year or even food for the holidays. That money - basically saved us. I was so excited, seeing her happy and relieved, like I actually did something amazing. I kept going over and over, about every detail how I found it.

Eventually the excitement wore off, but I could not forget her happy face. I wanted to bring the joy back. So, I must admit I did something horrible and despicable to make my poor mother happy. I stole money.

Wait for it. Now here comes the somewhat funny and really bizarre part. I stole it FROM my mother. One day, when she was not looking, I stole a few bills (about 13 rubles worth) out of her wallet. I wrinkled it up, dipped in water, dirtied it up a bit, and as soon as the opportunity presented itself - gave it back to her, with a grand tale of how I found (can you believe it?!)some money again!

Of course, my mother was skeptical. No doubt she noticed the stack of bills missing from her wallet. AND I was never a really good lair anyway.
She was not genuinely happy. I was not happy, but ashamed. I stole from my mother so that I could make her happy. Not the brightest idea, but heck, I was only 8 or 9 at the time.

I think about this incident whenever the money gets tight in our household (which is too often). Year after year we get by, get ourselves in a hole at the bank, miss payments, and yet - there is God with "found" 25 rubles. No matter how bad things looked, we always had food on our table, roof over our heads and a promise that tomorrow will be better. But when I start stressing over the money, all it does is just that: stress me out. It changes nothing. It doesn't fix things. But God does. Miraculously, every time he provides for a way to get us by. Like that sparrow in the Bible, only we are His children.

Just wanted to share this story, and confess my dirty little secret that I'm a dirty little thief. But God is awesome to me, nonetheless. Thank you.

Nov 10, 2010

The Light show (Blog hop partay!)


Wanted to share this light-show, that I got a chance to see in my computer room. The squiggle on the wall is light reflecting through a plastic clam-shell packaging from something. I thought it was pretty amazing-looking.

And it also reminded me of this strange occurrence in my house in Florida once. It was Sunday, and I just got back from the Church. I don't recall whether I was depressed, or simply not feeling well that day, but I went straight back to sleep after I got home. My husband woke me up and asked me to come see something in the living room. On the wall, very close to the ceiling was a light cross - crisp and clear. We both stared at it, wracking our brains and trying to figure out where did the light shine from. We looked everywhere, but nothing was positioned in a way that would cast such an odd shape, in such an odd place. We have lived in that house for several years, and have never seen it before (and if you know me, I rarely move things in my house:). Yet, there it was - a cross made of light, shining brightly on my wall, with a light that seemingly came out of nowhere. What was also amazing is that putting our hand in front of it - did not cast a shadow on it, in the way it would if it was merely a light reflection. If you block the light with your hand, it should obscure part of the image, like a cloud passing in front of the sun.

Not that time. I have a picture of it somewhere, hopefully.
Thanks for visiting me, stay a bit, drop a line. I'm glad to see new faces. :)





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This ship is bananas, B-a-n-a-n-a-s..I am your follow-back girl..I am your follow-back girl..

Nov 9, 2010

Memorial Box Monday: Blood friends



When I was little, I used to have severe nose bleeds. Growing up in Siberia - the air was always cold (beyond cold) and dry, which aggravated my nasal capillaries all the time, whether I was sick with a cold or not. Sometimes my nosebleeds would last for an hour, sometimes longer - I guess I did not clot very well. It was something that I have gotten used to dealing with, but each time - it was devastating to me as a child. If my nose started bleeding - my little world would get even smaller. I would be confined to the bed, chair, couch, with my only view - the ceiling. The ceiling would be the only thing I would see for the next 10, 20, 60, or more minutes. My throat would get sore and it would eventually be difficult to swallow. My stomach would hurt from all the swallowed blood.
But the worst, in my mind, was when it would start bleeding when I am in public. Luckily, I don't recall it happen too often. In addition to having to stop everything I was doing, I was extremely humiliated by this condition. I would be terrified by the prospect of someone seeing blood pouring out of my nose.
I think I would mind less having been stabbed, rather than someone seeing my nose bleed.

I recall this one time, when I was about 10 years old - walking to school with my best friend at the time. Her name is Olga. We were the kind of friends that did everything together, including get in trouble. This morning, my nose decided to start gushing blood. I was devastated - not only I was humiliated, but now I was going to be late for school, unless I decided to walk across town while admiring the sky, and hope to make it across the streets alive. I was almost ready to cry from frustration. My friend, however, just sat me down on a bench and sat next to me. She showed no distress over being late for school, but every intention of staying with me until I was better.

She did another thing, which was a simple show of compassion, but it touched my heart in a profound way. She took a piece of snow and started cleaning my nostril from the blood. Here I sat with another person, embarrassed by this, and that person did not mind but rather tried her best to clean me up.She showed me that she wasn't disgusted by me, and that it was OK. I was going to be better.

I remembered that incident throughout the years. At that moment, my friend Olga was Jesus to me. She got saved many years later, as I found out from her letters and grown very close to the Lord. And I am so grateful for the Lord providing me with such a tender moment of someone's friendship, and His presence, when I was in a scary situation for a child.

I hope I can be a Jesus like that to someone else. To my family, my son, my friends, or even a stranger. It is amazing how God is an all-powerful being, yet such a gentle shepherd of every little lamb down here. My hope is that I don't miss the opportunity to be his hands when He calls me.

Nov 5, 2010

Enter 5$ - Win a Nintendo DS!

Folks over at One less orphan, one less broken heart running an awesome giveaway. Please enter to win a bunch of awesome prizes, including a Nintendo DS!

And also, more importantly, your donations will go to help families with adoption costs. Help to make one less broken heart in the world, and give a child out there a family!

Nov 4, 2010

My grandma was an orphan



for a while, at least.

When Germany attacked Soviet Union in 1941, and the War began - my grandma was just a child. She and her brother were evacuated, along with millions of civilians from the Eastern parts of the Soviet Union into the far west - away from where the battles raged.

Hundreds of thousands of families were torn apart. Very often, the children were sent on one train and the parents - on another, each going to separate parts of the vast country. Like many of the children in those times, my gramma was separated from her parents and was sent to one of the random orphanages. Her cousins were also separated from their own parents and were sent to yet another orphanage.

My gramma does not talk much about her time in the orphanage, but I know she remembers the hunger. She told me once, when I refused eating an onion in my soup, how they once found a bunch of fresh onions. It was like a holiday - they ate them as if the were apples. She still remembers the sweet taste, because they were living on scraps most of the time.

During and after the war, parents and children alike were frantically searching each others. My gramma was very fortunate - her parents were able to find her. Her aunt, however (my other gramma) had never found her children. She searched and searched, but the records were scattered, and the children were moved frequently - she never found them again.
It must have been an awful and tragic time for her, but to make things worse, her own family had never forgiven her for "loosing her children". For some reason she had became the mother who lost her kids.
My family is just one of the millions of families that were casualties of the War. It is both fascinating and painful to think that somewhere out there, there is a whole other family that share my blood, that I, nor my mother or my brother will never meet.

I've been thinking about my other gramma a lot. How much pain and suffering she went through. How many times she had probably tried to imagine her children growing up somewhere, healthy and happy. And how many times she probably thought the worst.

Nov 3, 2010

Works for me Wednesday: Recipe sharing


Recipe is such a funny word, especially when you read it as "re-cipe". Come on, read it out loud. When I think of fall recipes, I think of pumpkins and beans. I never had made anything out of a pumpkin, in fact I am very much intimidated by them, so I will share my favorite bean recipe.

The OMG Lentils:

What you will need is:

Lentils
Curry paste
Lime
Cilantro
Chicken broth
Onions
Garlic

I don't really measure things, to be honest, and this dish is very hard to mess up. So add as much or as little of everything as you want, really. This dish can be made vegetarian or with added grilled chicken, ham, roast - I've tried it with anything and it tasted fantastic.

First, boil the lentils. Boil until they are nice and soft. They might look a bit ugly in color - that's just the lentils, they are kind of ugly.

When the lentils are ready, drain them in a colander and let them dry up a bit. While they are drying off, get a skillet or a frying pan. Drizzle some oil (I use veggie oil) and dice up some onions. Let the onions start cooking up. Do the same with garlic.
Then toss in your lentils. Stir often, let the onion and garlic get in the beans all over. Then I add some chicken broth and curry paste. Chicken broth is optional, you can just season it with salt and pepper. Then I pour some lime juice over it all, dice up the cilantro and toss it on top.

Once the dish is ready, I cup up some firm tomatoes and toss in. They go great with spicy lentils, cool it off and add nice fresh taste.

Voila! (say it out loud as voy-lah).Nice, fun, exotic and simple fall lentils!

Please visit www.wearethatfamily.com for other people's recipes, and join in the party!

Nov 2, 2010

One voice - Pray for Artem


Ever since I have been researching Russian adoption and the situation of the Russian orphans, I feel like Alice, falling down the rabbit hole. Not a happy wonderland hole, but the nightmarish reality that used to be my homeland.
This is not a happy post, but a grim reminder that Russia, as much as it pains me to admit - has not changed much since the Soviet days. Things change on the outside, but on the inside - it's dark and grim, where the rich and powerful have control over the weak and poor. Wait this has not changed since before the Revolution, I guess.

I would like to tell you about a young man named Artem. He used to live in in a Orphanage - he is an orphan. He found out from other orphans that one of the 13-year old boys in it was raped by a group of older boys. He found one of the rapists and beat him up. Ever since then, his life has become a living hell (as if it was not so already) - he was accused of various things, threatened, beaten. He tried bringing the case of rape to the director of the home, to law enforcement, but the case was "forgotten" - no one wanted anything to come up to the public.

He continued to persist trying to bring the rapists to justice. A minister of Children Rights heard of this and looked into the case, but from the sound of it - not much was done. As Pavel Ostahov (the minister) said :"It is difficult to find proof and facts in such a situation."
Right now the governor of the region, where the Orphanage is is looking into the case.

On his Lifejournal the boy tells almost daily of what the life is like. But his main purpose now is to let the orphans voices be heard across Russia - via internet, because no one nears or sees them otherwise.
If you speak Russian, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_3PD5opUZg&feature=player_embedded.

Currently Russian orphans:

- Have no rights whatsoever. Until they are 18 years old, they remain under complete control of the director of their home, who decides their fate and their life.

- Majority of the "graduates" become criminals, homeless, drug users, prostitues.

- Staggering amount of them have no prospects, skills or hope to ever have a normal life, normal job, or a normal family.

- Large number of "graduates" commit suicide.

- If they become the victims of any crime - they are helpless. Law enforcement does not care at all what happens, and majority of the cases are not even heard of outside of the walls of the Orphanage .

- Majority of the homes have very little resources or financial ability to provide adequate health or even necessities like food, hygiene items, or education to their children. Theft of the money and supplies from Orphanage's is quite frequent.

- Orphans papers falsified quite often, and healthy children are marked as ones with mental problems (even though they are perfectly fine) in order to cover their asses in case of negligence, or rape, or even death. They can always say - see, the child is crazy!

- Orphans documents falsified, and healthy children are marked as sick to prohibit foreign adoption - the kids could be basically sold unofficially to someone else for more money.

- Orphans with health problems - their health issues might not only be undiagnosed, but sometimes covered up, just to get rid of them.

- Sometimes unstable, violent, or simply loud children are given injections to make them quiet. Pretty much like mental patients in the beginning of last century.

- Orphans are returned back from their (Russian) foster parents quite frequently, because the government doesn't not educate nor provide adequate financial compensation for housing them.

- Currently Russia have little to no laws, regulation and processes for fostering or adopting children. Government basically does not oversee it, and that makes inter nation adoption that much harder.

- The news keeps hammering Russian people with stories of Russian adoptees being murdered or sent back (the case a couple of years ago). These scare tactics bring out a knee-jerk reaction to stop adoption program to the US. Currently this matter is under the review.

- There are more orphans in Russia now than there were after WW2. And if you know anything about WW2 - that is a staggering, frightning number.

Artem is at war with the Orphanage where he became privy to the horrible crime against another orphan. He has been going to the Milia and the court for the past 6 months, trying to get justice for the rape victim and other children in that place, but more importantly to get the lawmakers to change laws for the orphans. To give them voice and rights the same as all human beings.

He has a gradnma, with whom he lives now. But he is still fighting. Sometime it takes just one voice to make a difference. I don't know what to do to help. The boy does not ask for money, or any kind of material help. He only wants to change the world.


I call all to pray for him, for protection and strength. He is just a kid, but he has a heart of a warrior. And he has seen things that I cannot even fathom to exist in a country that claims to be civilized. I would also like to call to pray that his plea would be heard and the laws will change to protect those who right now are without any voice or hope of protection.

Nov 1, 2010

New month, new hope: Teraffa


Little Teraffa is only 2 years old. The Drawn from Water orphanage fought hard for this little guy's life. His tribe meant to murder him, as he is considered an "unclean" child. The orphanage has many children that they have saved from this fate. Unfortunately, to add to the fact that he was basically marked for death, his family starved him deliberately. Little boy had nearly died, and possibly will have liver complications for the rest of his life. Around Christmas time the orphanage got him, and thought he looks plump and healthy on the outside, they found out last week that he has serious issues with his lifer.

Please take the time to read his story. As a mother, I cannot fathom how can someone deliberately starve their child, but he was born and grew up in a completely different culture where people still very much are governed by ancient beliefs and traditions.
The good thing is - he is at the orphanage now where caring and loving people will continue to fight for his life and health, pray and hope go hive him the best life they can.

You can read his story here, at Drawn from Water.

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