How You Deal with Stress? You Bake!

I think many people can relate to this statement – baking is an excellent way to fight stress. Sometimes, when I am exceptionally stressed, and most often, this happens when I do not have time to do something important, I drop everything and bake. My Finnish friends are my never-ending resource of easy recipes. Remember, I said that I am afraid of complicated recipes with many ingredients? I have a couple of friends who provide me with those. 

I wanted to bake this pie in one of the two days earlier this week before I would head to Madison. And I was planning to bring a result with me. But I was so running out of time, that I didn’t. I felt it being a “non-closed issue.” I loved this recipe from the first sign because I do not consider plums, along with apples and pears, fruit. I put them into a dessert category right away.

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Fall 1992: Finding a Stable Daycare

In fall 1992, I had two problems to address: finding a second job and enrolling Vlad and Anna into daycare. I’ve already mentioned it briefly in previous posts, but I will elaborate more here. The daycare situation was really weird. Since the very early days of the USSR, it was proclaimed that women are liberated from the house slavery and can in enslaved at work. During 1920-30, women were encouraged to bring their babies to daycare at a very early age. Technically speaking the “nurseries” which would take children starting from 3 months of age existed even at my time. But you would be considered a horrible mother if you would send your child to a nursery. Since women were allowed to stay home until a child reaches the age of 18 months, the groups which would take smaller children have been closing right and left.

I found one nursery which still had a group for toddlers from 12 to 24 months, just one for the whole Gavan, the part of the city where we lived. This nursery was partially subsidized by one of the largest shipbuilding plants in the town, so I guess that was the reason.

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Making a Difference

It happened so that in August, I was able to come to ODS to cook dinner for three weeks in a row. And it opened me a completely new experience. When I first started coming to ODS, I was told that I could be flexible and come there when I have time. That was one of the reasons I chose this program -I thought I would be able to fit my activities in whenever. I can write volumes about how I started to come to the ODS (Open Door Shelter) and how I was slowly winning the trust of the residents, about all the ups and downs.

As for the flexibility, I was never required from me to come with a specific frequency or on certain days of the week. But then I started to hear the “old” residents telling the new ones “she is coming every week.” And when we were trying to film “a cooking show” a boy posing as a show host would say to the camera: Our friend Ms. Henrietta is coming every week. I also hated it when I was not able to tell the youth when I am coming next time. I knew that some of them would be gone by my next time, and a half of the others will forget what I said, but I hated this moment when they would go: oh, whenever you have time! We appreciate you coming โ€ฆ

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My Grandmother’s Birthday

Today is the 116th birthday of my paternal grandmother, whom I have named after. She died two years before I was born, so I never met her in person. People are saying I am looking a lot like her; I think this is more wishful thinking :), she was stunningly beautiful. I like this photo the best of all the pictures of her I have. The way she and my grandfather look at each other, not looking at the camera is something unthinkable for the age of staged photographs.

My grandfather, being a high-ranked officer in the Soviet Army, was probably thinking that he will be remembered for his victories on the battlefield. Or for his successes in expanding the communist regime into new regions. But he remained in history because she loved him.

My New Volunteering

This Saturday, I’ve attended the training for my new volunteering activity. I know that it sounds completely unreasonable and ridiculous. I am continually complaining, that I do not have enough time for anything, including my existing volunteering activities, and yet I’ve just signed for a new one.

However, this one is really important for me, and when I first heard about it I knew right away, I need to be a part of it.

I’ve been a part of the Illinois Clinic Escort Team for five years. The clinic escorts are people who come to stand in front of the abortion clinics and help patients to pass the “antis.” Antis are protestors, who are either trying to stop women from getting an abortion or curse them (and escorts for that matter) or trying to be intimidating in other ways.

Before I go further, let me tell you something. In my previous blog, I had several different levels of security so that different groups of readers could see different posts. There was a good reason for that, but when I’ve started a new blog, I resolved that all my posts will be public, that I will write the truth and only truth. If I am not comfortable making some information public, I do not need to blog about it.

Thereby, I am not going to hide the fact that I am pro-choice and actively volunteering for this cause.

Now I’ve signed for the new activity: I’ve joined Midwest Access Coalition, The mission statement says:

As a practical abortion fund, MAC helps people traveling to, from, and within the Midwest access a safe, legal abortion with support in the following areas: travel coordination and costs, lodging, food, medicine, and emotional support.

After some more formalities are completed, I will become a host for individuals, who are traveling to Illinois to obtain a safe and legal abortion. I am not sure yet, whether I will be doing it besides or instead of escorting, but I am going to do this because this is something much needed.

New Bikes!

When Boris was in town, I finally talked him into getting a new bike. Actually, I wanted really badly to give him a new bike for his birthday, which was in June. I already had two bike-related gifts for him, but this didn’t feel enough for me. Fortunately for me, the gear-switching mechanism on his old bike finally broke, and I told him that I do not like to listen to this noise when we are biking together.

He said he wanted a bike as traditional, as possible. Thank goodness, they do not manufacture bikes with foot brakes anymore; otherwise, he would get one! I’ve ruled out the more expensive models, and we ended up with this one, also pretty traditional.

While we were in Mike’s Bike Shop, a salesperson asked me whether I wanted a matching bike for women. And I am not going to lie – I was already looking at one of those!

The one which was on display was hopelessly pink, but the salesperson said, that there is a variety of colors, including (he said, looking at me) my favorite color! The bike also had a basket in front. Two years ago I rejected the idea of having a bike with the basket, but now I knew for sure that there are situations when I need exactly this! The advantage of having a wired basket as a part of the bike is that you do not need to unbuckle it each time you leave your bike at the bike rack. You just pull the actual basket out and go around shopping.

We took a time out till Sunday. And then on Sunday, we were busy, and the weather was not great. And I was not sure whether I want it. Then I got sick. And then the day he was leaving, I finally made my decision – I want a second bike.

We went to the shop, and it turned out that my favorite color has to be ordered, so I still had to wait for several days. It was only last Friday that I finally took my new bike home. Look at it! Isn’t it gorgeous?!

Attending the University in the Soviet Union: English and PE

The list of subjects we studied was very limited. In addition to math classes and very politicized social studies, the only other classes we were offered during the first and the second year in the University were English and PE.

We had two “pairs” of both of them each week. Since my English was considered to be very good (I will explain later why) I was assigned to the most advanced level. This didn’t have any effect on the grade and was not reflected in the final transcripts, I was just fortunate to attend the better class.

Even in this better class, we had very little of conversational English. We’ve studied tons of grammar (to be forgotten the next day after the test) and completed lots of grammar exercises. Also, each semester, we were supposed to “pass thousands.” In this case “thousands” stand for thousands of symbols. I forgot both how many symbols per page was considered a reasonable estimation. I also forgot how many “thousands” we were supposed to prepare. But that’s how the process looked like.

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To the 28th Anniversary of the Last Russian Revolution

The event as significant, as the last Russian revolution deserves more extensive description. However, for my whole family and me these days will be forever associated with the birth of Vlad and Anna, my extraordinary twins. Anna likes to joke that she brought down communism, and whether you agree with this statement or not, the connection will always be there.

I was eight months pregnant; the doctors did not believe there were any chances I could go full -term, so I was due to the hospital on August 24. The coup started on August 19, and we all understood that it was a coup. And the people said: no! I know, these days it is fashionable to question the latter statement. But that’s how we felt back then, and it felt damn good! The only thing I’ve resented back then was that I was in no condition to go to a protest to the Palace Square! Which tells something about me :).

The world was collapsing, the radio was turned on in the hospital delivery room, we were breastfeeding our babies while listening to the news about the Communist party offices being shut down. That’s how the new chapter for our family has started.

Note:

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.