Everything What’s Going On

I have five blog posts in drafts which I panned to finish over the weekend, and they are not going to be finished. The current situation, and the ignorance of many regarding the situation does not let me focus on anything else. It’s not like there is nothing else in my life. I just can’t make myself to talk about all the rest of it…

State of Mind Update

Sometimes, I feel good. There are moments when I feel calm and content; when I can say to myself – I am feeling good.

But if I will be honest with myself – I am not the whole person now. I think that the primary reason for that is that other activities can’t replace the activities I had to cut. I enjoy all the things I can still do, and there are plenty, I was delighted with how I’ve spent the Memorial Day weekend.
But there are many things in all areas of my life which are currently off-limits.

I know that people hate what somebody says: “I want my life to be back to normal!” I do not think you should hate others for saying that. I think that everybody, including those who understand the necessity of the quarantine measures, would rather have their lives differently.

Although the EU is gradually relaxing the travel restrictions, the current regulations still do not allow me to go. The wording is extremely confusing, especially because now the “internal borders” are reinstated. I had to write a formal request to the Finnish Border Control, they replied with a lengthy and still not very clear message. I had to read the border crossing regulations of other EU countries to understand what it all means :). Now we are waiting for the next revision, which should appear by June 14. Some hints are indicating that I will be able to travel after that because they promise “more options for family travel.” I think that current restrictions on immediate family members of permanent residents to cross the external border are the only family restrictions in effect.

The thing is, however, that until the whole world is cured, there is no single country which can be OK. The world as a whole needs to come out of that crisis. It is not a competition. A single country can safe their citizen lives, but it can’t win solo. It was to be a world-wide effort.

As for me, I am going to continue to embrace all the good things in life which are still available and are becoming available. I am writing about good things (most of the time) not because no bad things are happening around, but because good things help me to move forward.

Oh, and did I tell you that Vanille Chicago is back?! And they are going to deliver my postponed order the upcoming Friday! Can’t wait!!!

CRESCENDO: A Movie by Dror Zahavi

I watched this movie, although I didn’t have time, and I had other things to do. I dropped everything and could not stop. And now I can’t do anything until I write about it.

As a Chicagoan, and as a music lover, I know about Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, how I could not know? He talks about this orchestra almost every time he talks about anything publicly. I also know that many people, both inside and outside Israel, do not like this project. Barenboim always says that that project won’t bring peace, won’t stop the war, but it helps to build understanding. Now I am wondering, to what extent this movie is “loosely based” on Barenboim’s story. Because it’s way worse. And hopeless.

Twenty years ago, I resolved that I will never speak or write publicly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is one of those conflicts, where everybody is right, and everybody is wrong, and there is no way to change anybody’s opinion. And sadly, this brilliant movie proves it.

I do not think that anybody who believes that there is a right side of that conflict, should watch this movie. There is a reason why on Vimeo, the comments for that movie are disabled. I wanted to cry through most of the movie. And I want to cry now.

Close to Home

I love Vanille Patisserie, and I am sure I mentioned them in this blog at least a dozen times. I love their European-quality pastries and cakes and their macaroons. One of their stores is located on the lower level of the Ogilvie station, and in the times of peace, I stopped there to pick up treats for both office and home. I ordered their amazing pies for two Thanksgivings in a row. I ordered Mom’s birthday cake from them. Last time I was in the city, I got a big box of macaroons from them to give to my eye doctor and her staff.

They were always great. They called me when they were making my mom’s cake to double-check all the details, and a week later they called to ask how everything was, and whether mom liked the cake.
When the quarantine started, they left only one store opened, had not more than twp customers in the store at a time, and extended their delivery options. They came up with so many funny and thoughtful quarantine specials.

I sent Vlad and Dylon their “Where is Lori Lightfoot” cake. I sent alphabet macaroons set to Nadia. I sent money to their Meal Donation program: you can buy meals for first responders, and the shop with add a couple more. I didn’t have any preference, where to send, and they emailed me two days before they were going to deliver “my” donation, that it will go to the UIC nurses. They asked whether I wanted to attach a personal message, and I replied – of cause!

May 8th was supposed to be a day of free delivery to the North-West Suburbs, and I ordered a bunch of things for our V-Day/Mother’s Day, including some frozen stuff. And then on May 6th, I received an email:

Continue reading “Close to Home”

“American Dirt” – a Book Review

I have to admit I decided to read this book after I saw a sharp criticism of it in the media (which means, it was in the beginning of March, so this is yet another very belated review). I was struggling to give this book a low rating because the book is very well written, and I could not pause until I reached the end of the audiobook. However, I have to agree with those who say the book misrepresents the issue of illegal immigration. Granted, stories like the one described in the book happen. But the author is trying to convince the readers that most of the immigrants are in a death-threatening situation. I think that the idea is that those who are unaware of the hardships the illegal immigrants are going through will understand that they have no other choices. I believe that such a presumption will lead to the conclusion, that if the crime rate in Mexica and Central America’s countries will go down, there will be no reason for people to try to immigrate illegally.

I disagree with that. There are economic reasons for illegal immigration, and they are present on both sides of the border. There is nothing wrong with people looking for better lives. They should not face death threats to justify their decisions. It’s legislation problems which make the current situation illegal, although there is a willingness to work, and a need for work. That’s what should be addressed.

State of Mind, State of Health, State of Body, State of Finances, State of the State of Illinois

Today is May 1st, and the weather was gorgeous. I will do my best not to write about what I didn’t do today, but instead, to write about something I did :).

This week, I started to wear contact lenses again. On Tuesday, there were eight weeks past my second cataract surgery, and by all medical advice, I could start. I was freaking out because the implants are so close to the surface, I can see them. And I only started to wear soft contacts in October, and then stopped at the end of January, so I am not very skilled with them. Taking them off is the scariest thing because you almost scratch the eye. Besides, my eyes are still dry after the surgery, 

I started from just two hours on Tuesday and wore them for eight hours today. Some days, I can’t put on or take off one of the contacts for a very long time, but overall, things are fine. The only weird thing is that my close vision is way worse in the contacts than in glasses. 

Unfortunately, my eye doctor won’t start seeing patients in May, which means I won’t have a better prescription for a while.  

Continue reading “State of Mind, State of Health, State of Body, State of Finances, State of the State of Illinois”

How Things are, and How I am

It calmed down in many different ways. In the beginning, I was calling Boris at least three times a day. I told him upfront that I will be not a normal person, and that I need his help to get to some stable set of mind.

I think that what affected me most was that things were changing so rapidly, and that was giving a sense of everything falling apart. But recently, I got back to almost normal. There are no logical reasons for that. The situation in the country and the world didn’t become better; in fact, it became worse. I even somehow started to accept the fact that Boris and I might not see each other till the end of the year. 

It would be the longest time ever for us being apart, and it does seem like “never.” I told him the other day that I want to put his things away, out of sight. I did not want to do that, because the only time in my life I did it was when I thought we are going to divorce. But he said he is fine with me putting his things away if later I can make a show of putting them back. 

We talk for 30-40 minutes every morning before I start work and, most of the time, for another 30-40 minutes later in the day. And our usual long talks on the weekend. We talk about work and research, and various home improvements, and yet another new computer. And we never talk about how much we miss each other. 

A couple of days ago, Boris told me that Finnair called him about the flight on March 20, which he canceled online. They said to him that they are going to “uncancel” it and that he will be able to choose any other flight before the end of the year. They said “for now,” assuming that based on the situation, the extension may go to the next year. For some reason, I felt very encouraged by that exchange, although I know that nobody knows:)


On one of the first quarantine days, I went out to take a walk right after I finished working. And when I was passing the mailboxes, I saw four of my five closest neighbors staying at a distance from each other and talking. I said: Hi, neighbors! So nice to see everybody at the same time – I do not remember whether it ever happened before!

Everybody these days behaves differently. Some people had isolated themselves way before the actual quarantine measures were announced. Some were and still are ignoring official guidelines when it comes to their relatives and neighbors; they think that the closest people “do not count.” I am trying not to judge anybody. It’s very difficult to tell at the moment which combination of measures, if any will work. Different doctors, different scientists, often disagree on the best course of action. I am trying my best to be a responsible citizen, and sometimes it is tough.

One of my neighbors is very strict in following social distancing. She was covering her face with a scarf way before it became a requirement, and she keeps the six feet distance all the time. When we talked on the porch, and I asked her whether she wants some of my soup (she loves it like anybody who ever tried it :)), she asked me to put a container on the steps. I did, and then stepped aside, and then she picked it. (She returned it to me in the same way, texted me her thanks, and left a container in the bag on the doorknob).

My other neighbor, my next-door one, still wants me to visit from time to time, and I do stop by, although I understand that when I am inside, the distance is less than six feet. She is heartbroken that her children and grandchildren do not visit. She was telling me that she suggested they come and sit on her deck, keeping the distance, but they said they want her to be safe. She is usually very calm and does not show her emotions, but she was visibly upset. We talked, and after a while, she said: I should not complain, we are better off than many people.

Yesterday, I was returning home from my midday bike ride. And another neighbor, the one who lives here only for a couple of years, waved me and asked how I am doing. We walked towards our houses, and out of nowhere, she asked: so when is next time your husband coming? I caught my breath: maybe, never! I don’t know at this point, perhaps not this year. She continued: it must be very hard… – It is what it is! Not until the planes will start to fly again. She went on: oh yes, that’s right, but I mean, in general … that he is away… is it because of his work? I replied: It’s a long story! And then I tried to increase the distance to the size required by the State of Illinois 🙂


It is tough for me to write about everything which is happening now. As Anna pointed correctly, the fact that Boris and I won’t see each other in person indefinitely is the worst. I didn’t even realize that that’s why all other things hurt me so badly that I am losing control over my life.

People often think that because we do not live together all the time, and only see each other every several weeks, it’s not something which should affect us so severely. However, all of the periods between our visits to each other are planned and pre-calculated. Most of the time, we know our schedule for several months ahead. And we try not to be away from each other for more than six weeks.

This time it was supposed to be longer – eight weeks. But there was not much we could do: I had my surgeries (and three and a half weeks before the first surgery to be contacts – free). And then we were going to go to New York for the conference, and there was supposed to be a week full of talks, presentations, training, meetings with different people. It was supposed to be our professional highlight of the year. Because of all that, I was OK to wait for two more weeks – we did it before.

Continue reading “***”

Honoring the International Women’s Day

Last week, my friend posted about the 150th anniversary of the first women college in Cambridge, and I could not resist commenting that Knox college accepted female students from the day it was founded. 

My daughter Anna graduated from Knox, and I firmly believe the Knox was one of the best things that happened in her life. And one of the best things about Knox and its history is the fact that it would accept females and blacks from the very beginning, and never rejected any student based on lack of funds.  The college founders stated:

It is beginning to be believed, and not without good reason, that females are to act a much more important part in the conversion of the world than has been generally supposed; not as preachers of the gospel, but as help-meets of those who are, and as instructors and guides of the rising generations, not only in the nursery, but in the public school. It should therefore be an object of special aim with all who pray and labor for the conversion of the world, to provide for the thorough and well-directed education of females.

George Washington Gale

However, the history of women’s education at Knox was not so straightforward. First of all, the college founders belonged to their times, and although they believed the women should have access to education, they thought it should differ from what men were offered:

Under the influence of the Gospel a different station is allotted to her, she is regarded man’s equal in worth; and although her cares, labors and responsibilities, to a considerable extent, be in a different direction, yet they are no less honorable, and require no less of intellectual and moral culture than his

Hiram Kellogg

It took several years to come up with courses designed for women.

…fiscal restrictions delayed plans for an advanced female course of study at the College’s outset. When the means for a women’s course were finally realized, seven years after the College’s first class of men had entered, courses were initially held in the new Academy building that had been built for the College’s preparatory students (due to a lack of sufficient public education, the College maintained a preparatory school for younger students, male and female, seeking admission to the College courses).

It was not until 1856 that the College’s finances finally allowed for the construction of separate housing for the seminary students. 

Knox college

Separate social standards for men and women contributed to the perception that men’s and women’s education had separate purposes. When Knox College incorporated a college program for women in 1848, it was based upon the programs of other female seminaries and therein upon a tradition of separate education.

In 1860 – 70s then Board of Trustees President Howard Curtis was strongly supporting separation of men and women education, while Miss Lydia Howard, a principle of the Seminary worked on expanded curriculum

Here is what happened next:

On Friday, March 20, 1867, the debate came to a head. President Curtis and Principal Howard were engaged in an argument over the programming for the next year’s catalogue for the Seminary when President Curtis forcibly took the catalogue from Miss Howard’s hands in an act of physical violence. When word of Curtis’ behavior reached the students the fallout was immediate. The following Saturday morning the students, who largely disliked President Curtis but admired Principal Howard, turned out in numbers on the lawn of Old Main, ringing the building’s bell and causing a commotion. From one eyewitness account, “20 or 30 of the College and Academy students … had cut the rope of the bell [in Old Main] and were turning it over and over,” in protest. The students organized a sit-down strike on the lawn, staying away from classes that following Monday and Tuesday, and demanding President Curtis’s resignation. Late on Tuesday, the Board of Trustees acquiesced to the students’ demands, and asked for Curtis’s recognition.

As part of the controversy, Howard tendered her resignation as well, leaving the Board of Trustees with questions about the future of the Female Seminary at Knox. A Trustee “Committee on Seminary” reported that their actions in hiring Miss Howard to revamp the Seminary’s curricula had been “a new and somewhat hazardous experiment.” The Committee recommended changes in the oversight of the Seminary, saying that the interests of the Seminary should be decided upon by the Seminary faculty.

The actions of President Curtis and Principal Howard had focused attention on the Female Seminary, and in the 1869 catalogue it was reported that growing interest in women’s education had prompted the Board of Trustees to consider a plan of co-education. The catalogue further called it “a happy day … when the brief, irregular, superficial, and too often contemptible style of female education shall give way to a culture which shall furnish the same facilities for success in life … now accorded to men.” By the next year, 1870, the Board of Trustees took the final step of merging the men’s and women’s courses and awarding women Bachelor’s degrees for the first time. Although the Female Seminary would remain open to accommodate women who did not desire a degree, women who were adequately prepared could follow the same coursework as their male counterparts.

I think it’s a great story, and it is very appropriate to remember on the International Women’s Day. Nowadays, when you visit Knox college and look at the graduation pictures of the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th century, you can see approximately the same number of male and female graduates.

Still earlier than Cambridge 🙂