Saying Goodbye to 1995

The year 1996 was fast approaching, my last year in Russia, although I didn’t know about it back then. To be precise, the first call from Vin.NET International happened in December 1995, but they didn’t offer a job for me then, and I didn’t think there will be any followups. So I didn’t know what the New Year had for me and celebrated it’s coming.

New Year was always a big deal. As I already explained, the New Year festivities were reinstated in the early 1930s to compensate for banned Christmas and Sviatki – the week between Christmas and New Year. Since Orthodox Christmas was celebrated two weeks later than the Catholic one, on January 7, all the festivities would start right before the New Year Eve and would continue for a week or more. The “Old New Year” was celebrated on January 13, and the school winter break started on December 30 and lasted until January 10.

The New Year concerts and parties at schools were usually held on one of the last days before the winter break, and between January 2 and January 10, there were lots of events. Most of the Children’s theaters were running their New Year specials, and also, there were tons of “yolkas.” Yolka means a fir tree or a Christmas tree, but according to an old Russian tradition, Yolka also meant a party, mostly for children, with some New year-themed performance, games around a New Year Tree, and at the end, everybody gets presents. Presents were usually bags of assorted candies and chocolates and maybe a pack of waffles and a mandarin orange.

The first picture, however, was taken at Vlad’s and Anna’s detskiy sad. They had. New Year party and I took Igor to watch it with me. After the party was over, a photographer suggested that he take additional pictures of the children, whose parents would be interested in purchasing more. That’s where this picture came from.

The next one was taken in the Children’s Theater, which we frequently patronized. It was called “Skazka” – a fairy tale. They put on some New Year show, and we went there with two other families. Families meant mothers and children because it was very uncommon for fathers to participate in such activities. A mother was considered to be enough 🙂

I already mentioned, kids (and sometimes adults) dressed up for New Year parties, and Igor, Vlad, and Anna are in their costumes (I have better pictures of costumes, which I will include in the next post). After the show, everybody could take pictures with the cast.

There is a Prince (Tsarevich) and a Princess (Tsarevna) on the back. Next row: a girl who’s name I can’t remember, to my shame, then Igor dressed as a Vampire, and then our friend Ania, who participated in so many activities with us. Finally in the first row: Snow girl (Snegurochka), a granddaughter of Grandfather Frost, Anna dressed as a Little Red Riding Hood, Vlad dressed as a Dwarf and Grandfather Frost himself, is his blue and white coat.

We had more pictures with the cast, but for some reason only this one survived, and I am glad I have it!

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.

Sandhill Cranes

I saw sandhill cranes in the forest preserve, when I was biking this morning, so close, that I nearly ran into them on my bike. The didn’t walk away from me, and I was staring at them, and taking more and more pictures lighted by the rising sun – how beautiful they were in these morning hours!

All The Books I Read And Did Not Review

I am trying to write this post for more than three weeks, and the list of books I’ve listened to or read is growing and growing, and I already lost hope to write even a paragraph about each. But since people are keeping asking me about what I am reading, and since I read a lot of really good books, I will try at least to compile a list with some notes.

This list covers the past four or five months, and includes only the books I liked.

First, I finally read all of the “Call the Midwife” trilogy. I can’t tell why it took me so long, I wanted to read it forever. Loved it to the last word:). I never had an opportunity to take a close look at the life of the impoverished population of London. I guess, I had no idea about what was happening between the times of Charles Dickens and nowadays. I could not help but noticing, how much the healthcare for the poor was developed in the UK even in the middle of the previous century, something which the US underprivileged population can’t even dream about.

Too Much And Never Enough – that was a classical example of “everybody is reading it, and I should, too.” It’s not like I didn’t like the book, but I guess I expected more of it after all the buzz.

The Book of Lost Friends – a beautiful book. The two threads of the story stand a hundred years apart, but even the “modern” part, which takes place in 1987 looks horrific from the nowadays point of view. Unfortunately, many schools in the underserved neighborhoods even these days have the same lack of resources and same limited expectations from their students. But I hope that school boards like the one described in this book, no longer exist!

Childhood, interrupted. Raising kids during pandemic – a short but charming essay by Sanjay Gupta, very personal and sincere.

When you finish saving the world – this book is available from Audible Originals, and does not exist on paper. The rating on Goodreads is somewhat low, but I really enjoyed the story, all three parts.

The things we cannot say – I mentioned this book in one of the recent posts, and I still hope to write more than a paragraph about it; it raised a storm in my mind. Same to the book Truths I Never Told You – these two books are painfully related in my heart.

As I said, I am only mentioning the books which I rally liked. I should probably mention the books which I started and didn’t like and didn’t finish, but it’s just not interesting to write about them 🙂

Our Outdoor Gym – One More Time

I am trying to use to the fullest the last days of summer when it is still warm enough to exercise outdoor, and there is still a possibility to catch some daylight before work. The latter possibility will be over pretty soon, but I am still able to use our outdoor gym for now.
I start my strength training sessions at home, in my home gym, and use my TRX and dumbells and my yoga ball. And then, I walk to the “Outdoor fitness park,” as I now know, it is called! I was very pleased to see this plaque and to learn that our outdoor gym is nationally recognized! It deserves that!

That’s Why We Are Here!

Today’s clinic escort shift was very quiet, almost no antis, when suddenly, we saw a group of athletic-looking men, walking on our side of the street with visible intention to stop by us. We were puzzled for a moment – is it a new group of antis, yet unknown to us? When they reached the first person in the escort line, they stopped and started to reach to their pockets, and we heard: I knew there was something else I forgot! In a couple of seconds, we realized that they saw us in masks and put their masks on. They kept marching to the clinic entrance, and only when they stopped there and started talking again, I realized that there was one smaller figure in jeans and a t-shirt among these athletic males.

“Well, ask them!” said the tallest guy, responding to the question I didn’t hear. The small figure turned to us: “I have no idea where I should go now!” “Do you have an appointment?” our team lead asked, – “then just go in!” (The challenging part is that these days no accompanying person can go into the clinic). The two embraced and said to each other, “just call me when…”

The small figure disappeared in the clinic, and the trio still stood awkwardly, and then one of them said to us: sorry… we just thought we all come, because, you know… in case somebody…

We all laughed, and our shift leader said: no problem, that’s why we are here! And you know – on a quiet day like this one, you wonder – why I am here? What’s the purpose of me standing here in a pink vest? That’s why: because not everybody can bring three bodyguards to accompany them…

A Date With My City

This week, I started to go to the office again, and for the next couple of weeks, I am planning to be in the city three times a week.

I can’t even start to describe how much I love being in the city. Coming to the office gives me a lot of structure. Yes, I am a very organized person, but I still do not know why, but I always get more things done in the office. Also, for many years, I used the time on the train as “my personal time.” It was always that I had almost two hours a day when I could reply to my personal emails, ce=heck the social media, write my own blog posts. And when I work from home, it is like: when I sit down at my desk, it means work.

Walking in the city feels different, as well. I do not know why. Today, my Apple Watch shows more than fifteen thousand steps, and it feels like nothing. When I am in the city, I walk fast, and nothing hurts.

On Tuesday, I had lunch with Vlad (belated birthday lunch), and I didn’t get to walk much, because I had to carve time between meetings. But today – I walked and walked.

I went to the Art Institute. The same El Greco exhibit, which I saw on my last visit to the museum before it closed, is open again, and I felt infinitely good looking at these amazing paintings.
Afterward, when I realized that I have over an hour till the next train, I headed to the Riverwalk (actually, I half-planned it to be that way). That way my first real date with my city after months being apart, and I was breathing in this twilight, and the opaque water surface…

Birthday lunch with Vlad
Continue reading “A Date With My City”

Some Thoughts About “The Second Shift”

I read this book accidentally. I didn’t even know that the book in which the term “second shift” was first introduced. I saw a Russian blog post, in which was saying something to the effect, that “I saw that book review, and that review had an excerpt from this book, and it looks so dumb, this couple does not have enough money, it is not about sharing responsibilities. That didn’t sound right to me, and I decided to check out the book they talked about and turned out that it’s that classic. The translation was not super accurate, and in any case, you should not judge the book by just a couple of pages. I tried to reason, got a dismissive reply of “we do not need any of your American experience,” and walked away (that’s why I am trying not to get into any discussions on Russian blogosphere these days). 

I was going to return the book because I thought – well, I already checked to source and proved that the author of the blog post was wrong, why should I finish this book? I do not need to know anything about the “second shift at home.” But the book already captured my attention, and I ended up finishing it – after all, it’s classic 🙂

And then I thought – why I am saying I do not care about the second shift? Why is it that I never felt it’s a problem in my life?

The answer is obvious: my first marriage was brief, and in the second one, we rarely shared the house. And then I remember something else, from the times which I described in my previous blog post. One of my co-workers talked about her daughter, how she does not have time to do things with her children, because she is busy with this and that. And I said: well, how come I have time to do this and that, and some more? For which she replied; It’s easier on you! You do not have a husband!

Funny thing, I agreed on the spot. I knew that it was easier when you do not need to sync with somebody else on your schedule, parenting style, food preferences, and million other things. 

Which makes me wonder: why the amount of housework multiplies when people start to live together? All these families from the book had some household chores issues even before they had any children. And when you live by yourself, you need to do stuff for yourself, and you can’t blame anybody except yourself when things are not done. People usually do not complain that they have “too much to do” when they are single. It should be less work for each of the two people when they move in together. Why is it more?

I hope that eventually, somebody will explain it to me!

The Rest of 1995

When I think about my life before we relocated to America, I mostly think about the last year before we left, precisely the period I am describing now. I want to describe our “life in general” during this period, rather than specific events.

Vlad and Anna attended detskiy sad – the preschool-daycare ran by the Department of Educations for only a nominal cost, which was a huge relief to my budget. They were lucky to have great teachers, and I invested my time and effort to be in good relationships with all of them, always showing them how much I appreciated their hard work. They were paid little, and their salaries were often late, as with almost everybody at that time.

In Igor’s boarding school, the building remodeling was finally over. He stayed there from Monday morning till Friday afternoon, which was also a relief for monetary and time budgets. I was a research associate at the University, which still paid close to nothing. Besides, after many thoughts and hesitations, I applied for government child disability payments for Igor. That was a small but reliable additional income, in addition to Igor having room and board for five days a week in his boarding schools. Still, more than half of my income had to come from some side gigs, which I was always searching for. I never requested child support from Igor’s father for several reasons. When we divorced, my earnings were higher than his, and I didn’t feel it fair to ask for more. I have to mention that the way the child support amount was calculated in Russia, it didn’t take into account mother’s income, it was plain 25 or 30 percent of the father’s income (I forgot the exact number, I think it was 25% for one child, 30% for two and 50% for three or more). Second, I felt that because it was my initiative to divorce him, I could not make it worse. And lastly, I told him that the only thing I want from him was to visit Igor often and never ask for money if he will keep in touch with his son. He ended up visiting way less than I would hope for, but that was my intention.

Continue reading “The Rest of 1995”

Please Help Us to Win!

The World of Data

Dear friends and colleagues! Do you remember the same time in 2019? Do you remember how I asked you to vote for me and to help me win the “Technologist of the Year” award? Ok, it case you don’t remember – Here is my last year call for support. and here is a my victory post – thanks for all of your support, I won the nomination, the first female in the history of this award.

Now, it’s time to vote again, this time – for our amazing CEO Stephanie Klein who was nominated as a finalist for the Outstanding Tech CEO Award! Let me tell you – she should win!

She has a vision, she is not afraid of challenges. She thinks big. And most importantly, she really values each and a single employee of Braviant Holdings.

I’ve being in IT for thirty-seven years, and each CEO…

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Happy Birthday, Vlad and Anna!

Today is Vlad’s and Anna’s 29th birthday, and for the first time ever we won’t be able to celebrate together even on a different date. Below is a picture from our last year celebration, I am posting it here to remind myself that time will come and we will celebrate in person again:)

I just scrolled my timeline and realized that I do not have any post about the day Vlad and Anna were born. And this brings me to the conversations Anna and I had when she visited. Now, we talk a lot about parenting, and we are finding out tons of details I never mentioned. Each time Anna says that I should write a blog post about it, I hope that I will eventually. 

Some topics are easy to write about. In other cases, it isn’t easy to separate the historical details and personal emotions, and I know that I am trying to put off writing about some topics. We talked about me writing “about everything,” and I am leaning towards writing some protected posts, for which my children will have a passcode. 

Just this morning, I finished listening to the book The Things We Can’t Say. I loved the book, but it also prompted me to think about keeping secrets regarding someone’s past. There may be many reasons which seem perfectly rational, but you never know what will happen if you take these secrets to the grave, and your children and grandchildren will desperately try to solve these mysteries. 

So here is my children’s birthday resolution – I will do my best to write about everything  It will take time, but I hope I will be done before I will start to forget things 🙂