Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gonna Make It Myself

Isn’t she a beauty?  Clean, white, and ready to work!
This year I got a sewing machine for my birthday.  Learning to sew is about #4 on my “bucket list.”  So, yes, I’m gonna mark that one off this next year!
The first night I got it Anton helped me pull it out of the box.  We set it on the table, looked at it, we were speechless from ignorance.  
“Looks good.”  he said.
“Yeah, I like the colors.”  I answered.
The next night we gathered as a family to learn about the new machine. 
Anton was at the helm (he was seated behind the machine, ready to move things), I was the navigator (at the computer, reading the step-by-step instructions from the web manual), and Sophi was 1st Officer (gopher.)
We got the basics done:

  • hooked it up
  • threaded a bobbin (Wow!  was that cool and FAST!)
  • threaded the machine
  • threaded the needle (has an automatic needle threader that is a little confusing)
We were ready to ROLL!  
Anton graciously turned over the helm to yours truly . . . 

Started it on the lowest speed - the basic stitch - WHOO HOO!  Look at me go!

Getting brave now - 
“Look Mom!  I’m one-handing the “wheel!”  
“Free-stitch’n, BA - BY!” 
We decided to practice the different stitches and actually try to make something.  

Here it is - a little purse for Sophia!  (Did you notice?  We put a handle on it!  What can I say? We’re just that good!  : )  
Later, we learned that for some of the decorative stitches we used you are supposed to change the FOOT!  Whew!  Sure am glad we didn’t break a needle!  I’m pretty sure that would be considered a really bad omen in the 
sewing-for-the-first-time world.
A little review of the machine:
              Janome DC 50 

  •    Japanese!  Enough said.
  •     Ran great - smooth - fast
  •     Easy to figure out - except for that auto threading    needle thing . . . 
  •     Looks great!  : )  
My Sewing Plans:
  • make a skirt for Sophia for summer - maybe several, since they are all she wants to wear now
  • make several pillows
  • make Christmas ornaments from some of my cross-stitch work
  • make a skirt for myself - for summer
  • make all the curtains for the new house 
  • make Sophia’s wedding dress  (cue in hysterical, crazy laughter!)
Problems Sewing in the Russian World:
  • hard to find simple nice pretty cotton fabric
  • hard to find good thread
  • really crazy Russian patterns with ALL new vocabulary for me
Blessings Sewing in the Russian World:
  • a really good friend who is an excellent seamstress (my pastor’s wife)
  • Anton’s grandmother was a professional seamstress and has offered to help me if/when things get tough.
What advice can you give me?  Any ideas about what I should do first?  Any exercises/skills training?  Any other equipment that I simply must have?
Any websites I should check out?
I’m ready to roll!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Train Things - and a story.

There used to be a wonderful second-hand store in Smolensk- right on Kirova, not far from the city center.  
At that time, I lived about a 5 min walk from the store.  
Every week I would go in and sift through the treasures - 

  • old Soviet and “New Russian” furniture, 
  • plates and cups, 
  • beautiful silverware, 
  • all kinds of glass and crystal, 
  • strange kitchen gadgets, 
  • clothes, 
  • old fur hats and coats, 
  • tall leather boots, 
  • artificial flowers 
. . . everything you could possibly imagine and some things, you never, in a million years, would.

On one of my visits, I made my way around to one of my favorite glass display cases, looked in, and gasped!  
My pulse was pounding . . . “Oh my goodness!” 
There, sitting everso nonchalantly, was the find of the century 
- ok, maybe the find of the decade, but anyway . . . 
TWO perfect Smolensk train tea caddies!  
I hurriedly called the saleslady over, learned the price, ran back to the cashier, paid, got my check, took the check back to the saleslady, and she took the caddies out, wrapped them in paper, and gave them to me.  

I OWNED them!  

I could drink out of them any time I wanted and dream of travel . . . 
And, I do, drink out of them, that is.  
Every day.  
I LOVE my Smolensk train cozies!
I have some Gzhell ones that are nice, too.

Hand-painted in my favorite colors, with beautiful crystal glasses.
But, I’ll tell you, I prefer the the old metal and the thick glass of the “stakan.”  

It reminds me of the “old days,” 
  • when every household used these glasses to measure flour and sugar; 
  • when every school served these with steaming cacao or watery compote to noisy, moving children; 
  • when there was one sitting in the water dispenser on the street and EVERYONE used the same glass . . . 

But, most of all, it reminds me of the Russian train - 

  • the smell of oil and early morning or late night; 
  • the rush on with bags and people; 
  • coming into a compartment; 
  • making the bed with still-damp white sheets - stamped black with the name of the train; 
  • the rumble and clack of tracks that gently rock to sleep; 
  • the conductor, with her little leather ticket book and an exchange of paper for rubles and the aforementioned sheets; waiting and wondering who will be your compartment-mate. . . 

All of this reminds me, I promised a story with your tea . . . 
On one of my many Russian train travels, several years ago, I boarded late at night - traveling from Smolensk to Moscow on the overnight train.  This train left at around midnight and arrived in Moscow just after 6 am.  I was hoping to get a good 5 hrs of sleep that night.  
You can imagine my delight when I came into my 4 person compartment and there was no one else!  I waited - hoping that I would really be the only one!  
I let myself dream - 
“What wonderful sleep I will have tonight!  No one will be snoring, no one drinking vodka and eating smelly smoked fish . . . ahh, the bliss of quiet sleep.”
Just then, he walked in.  
I don’t know how to explain it . . . 
but I KNEW . . . 
I just KNEW . . . 
I knew exactly what would happen that night.
There was nothing on the outside to hint at it.  
He was dressed very nicely in a black suit.  
It was a little wrinkled, but then, he had been traveling.
He got his sheets, made his bed . . . and I waited . . . 
And, then, it happened . . . 
He took off his shoes.
It was immediate and biting - like a moldy metallic chemical - and it saturated every molecule of air in that compartment.
Oh, I tried, I really tried - 
I covered my mouth and nose with my sheet.  
That didn’t work.
I covered my mouth and nose with my sweatshirt and my sheet and buried my face in my pillow.
I’m telling you, IT was ALIVE.
I lasted a good 15-20 min.  By that time, I was choking.
I got up, took my purse (who knew, maybe this was a thief’s strategy), went out into the passage way, stuck my whole face in the opened window and BREATHED. 
After a few minutes, the conductor came by and asked me if everything was ok.  I told her that I would just stay in the passage way that night.  I tried my best to explain to her, in broken Russian, that I just couldn’t sleep because,
    my compartment-mate was . . . 
                                              his feet were...
She looked at me a little funny, opened the door to our compartment, stuck her head in for a second, pulled her head back out, put her arm around me and led me to her sleeping room.  
That kind woman had pity on a weary traveler and 
I had the best sleep I’ve ever had on a Russian train.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Maslenitsa - “Butter Week”

Blini” (thin pancakes, like crepes) - piled high, butter slathered so thick that it drips over and onto the plate.  

Lots of toppings:  fresh sour cream, homemade jam, honey, caviar.

This, is Maslenitsa!  

Sophi and I hopped on Tram #2 and went to our local Maslenitsa celebration.  
It was held not far from our district’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

In fact, right next door, at the “Ice Palace” skating rink. 
A fitting place for this holiday which is part religious, part pagan.
Maslinitsa is the celebration of the SUN!  - the party at the end of winter and the beginning of Spring. 

It is the last week before Orthodox Lent.  
Meat is already forbidden during this week, but milk products are still allowed.  
And so, blini, like little ‘suns,” yellow with butter, are eaten in huge quantities.

There was a long line at the blini table.
Tea, from the Samovar.

Some like their blini with caviar . . . and, apparently, mandarin oranges.  

Sophi was happy with her balloon!

There was lots of music - mostly Russian pop, with some folk music thrown in for good measure.

There were games for the children.  

And, Sophi joined in the fun.

All the while, holding tightly to her precious balloon.

At the end, we all went to a little snow hill, where the “Maslenitsa Girl” was waiting.  

She is the symbol of winter, 
of cold and snow and ice, 
of all our hardships, 
of our cold hard hearts - toward God and toward each other. 
And so, we say “Good-bye!” to all she has been . . . 
and, with her ashes, we will plant the seeds of Spring.  

I have to admit, it was a little scary for Sophia.  She asked me several times why the doll was being burned up.  
The deep “narodni”/ folk wisdom was a little beyond my almost 4 yr old. 
On our way home, as we waited for our Tram #2,  we played “Hide and Seek” - “Peek-A-Boo” style.
“Here I am, MOM!  Do you see me?”

“Mom, you can’t see me!”
Finally, our tram came.  
Quiet and warm. . . 
gently rocking back and forth on iron rails . . . 

Like a mobile metal lullaby for a tired, little red-cheeked girl...
holding on to her precious balloon. . . 
      which burst as soon as we walked in our apartment door.

Monday, February 1, 2010

For The Next Year - I’ll be learning to breathe.

This is my birthday week. I’ll soon be entering a new year of life.
All of my life God has been at work. Calling me, wooing me to Himself.  
Loving me out of myself and into His Life.
He has taught me so many things. 
3 times He has completely changed me, my world, my way of thinking about Him.  All 3 times were a total wipe off of the old and a bringing in of the new. It was so radical a change that I couldn’t go back to the old, even if I had wanted to.
1st -  Relationship - in High School I came to really KNOW that God wanted to have a relationship with me. 
2nd - Holiness of God and a Love for His Word - in my 30’s I came to know Him as Holy. In this time, God gave me a LOVE for His Word - I couldn’t get enough of reading/studying/meditating on His Word.  
And now, just in this last year, I have been experiencing the 
3rd - LOVE of God
I wish I could put into words the wonderful newness of my walk with Him - of His Walk with me. . . 
Love - Love - Love - it is like I never understood this word or this Truth before. 
I am learning about Love anew.

Learning to Breathe
This morning, I was taking a shower and thinking with God.  (this is often one of the few times in my day when I am actually alone with my thoughts!)   
And, it came to me, that this year will be the year of LOVE for me.  
I will be immersed in all that has to do with God’s Love:
God as Love 
Living in His Love 
His Love expressed in and through me, my personality and gifts
 . . . not sure what all will actually be . . . 
As I was thinking, a wave of bright warm Love flowed over and around me and I was so surprised (and not surprised) that I began to cry . . . 
it was beautiful.  
I started to try to categorize it:
“God, I’m floating in an ocean of Your Love”
        -no, that wasn’t it . . . closer, IN  and AROUND
“Lord, Your Love is My Air.”
        -yes, that’s it - it is the AIR - around, in and out -
                as simple and amazing and natural as breathing - air
Later, I started researching some Scripture to memorize about Love and this one came to me first:

Deut. 30:6
    your God, 
will cut away the thick callouses on your heart, 
and your children’s hearts, 
freeing you to 
love God,
 your God, 
with your whole heart and soul, and
really live...
What an amazing Truth!
God will:
  1. cut away the thick callouses on our hearts
  2. free us - with the callouses gone, we will be free

Then, we will:
  1. Love God 
          with our whole heart
          with our whole soul
  1. Live 
        really live
What are the callouses that harden our hearts so that we cannot love God?
It came to me . . . shame . . . 
It is the shame of failing Him over and over - over and over.  
The same shame that made Adam and Eve cover themselves and hide. The same shame that pushes Sophia under a chair . . .
 “Mom, I know you are going to be angry.  I did something not right.  I know you are going to say, ‘Ohh-ohh!”  
It is impossible to Love in shame - the relationship is gone, we run from the former object of Love.  
Live in shame long enough and your heart develops callouses.  Now, there are a million reasons why it’s not possible to even be in the same room with that person.  You avoid until there is no “feeling” left.
But, your heart still aches.  There is an empty place that should have been
What if the shame was removed by Love?
What if the Other said,

 “I Love you just the way you are.  Nothing can ever change my Love.  All you have ever done or ever will do against Me, I forgive. You are forgiven - past, present, and future.  
Now, let’s put all that behind us and live together again. 
 I have so much to show you!  Just wait ‘til you see all I have prepared for you!”
The chains fall off - - FREEDOM!  
Now, we are free to LIVE
            with the One who made us
                                        loves us
                                        has so much for us!
I’m ready to learn more about My God and His Love!
I’m ready to LIVE in this freedom!
I want to learn to really BREATHE . . .   

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