All is Right

It was really cold yesterday. I came back home after the Night Ministry Youth Christmas Party and felt the warmth of my home. I paused for a moment and got this definite feeling that everything is going right with my life. I sat down on the floor, which I like to do in such moments of tranquility, and listened to the inner self again. Everything was right. Nevermind, I am still behind with my Christmas cards and presents, nevermind I have a cold for several days, nevermind work. My life is right. All around.

I was thinking about all the conversations I had at the Youth party, all the laughs, and hugs. I thought about an important presentation Boris is giving the next day, and how great is it that he was invited to present. I thought about my daughter and all the big changes which are coming to her life next year, and I thought about my new hire and how happy I am with his progress even though he has been at work for just a couple of days.


i thought how right it was that I decided to bring my Mom here two years ago, and how right it is that Igor is going to New York for Christmas to brighten his friends holidays.
I smiled when I remembered email my friend Lena sent to me the other day, that she comes on Friday night after all so that we have more time for baking, and that she misses me. And then I was thinking of how she will help me with a couple of house projects for which Vlad does not have time. And then I remembered how Vlad came to visit my Mom last week, on one of his only two days off for the whole month, because he could not make it for Thanksgiving, and grandma was missing him.


My life is right. All around. And I will figure out the rest 🙂

What was Going On with Me

Not like the whole world needs to know, but for a benefit or my friends who are following my life events here. Now, that the worst crisis is over, let me describe what was happening in my life starting from last Wednesday.

Last Wednesday was a Thanksgiving Eve, and my daughter’s family and Boris were arriving almost at the same time, and I had to be at two different places simultaneously. It ended up being not so bad, the planning was close to perfect on my side, but it was an intense day, and the previous three weeks were pretty loaded.


As my friends may remember, I am going to have cataracts surgeries soon, and in preparation, I had to switch from hard lenses to soft lenses. I wore hard contacts for most of my life (since I was 19), and since my prescription is high, I can’t wear glasses without significant vision decrement. Because of that, I do not own a pair now, which would be up to my current prescription. When I switched to the soft contacts, the doctor told me that my vision would be changing, because the eyeball would be returning to its normal shape. Because of that, she didn’t want me to order a whole box, but rather have a pair and then come back to her and see whether the prescription needs to be changed.


Since the start of the process, I’ve already changed it twice; and I was supposed to come in on Saturday morning after Thanksgiving.


Wednesday night, when I took the lenses off, I did something really stupid – since I do not have all the soft lenses process in my fingertips, I accidentally washed the good pair off! I was scared for a moment, but then I thought – fine, I still have one good lense, and one of less strength and I can manage for these two days.
It was inconvenient, but OK, I could not drive, but my daughter and my son in law were here so that they could do all the driving. Then on Friday, when I put to lenses in, it started to hurt, We went to the city, as planned, but it was getting worse. While we were watching the Wreathing of the Lions ceremony, I got a call from my eye doctor’s office. They said: you know, the doctor ordered several lenses to try, but they didn’t come. Do you still want to come in? I was crushed! I told – of cause! Maybe, she had some of the previous prescriptions left, because now I can’t see a thing! My daughter insisted we go to the nearest Walgreens. I bought the solution and tried to switch the lenses. It was still hurting, so after another half an hour of struggle in the Museum I announced I am going home. I walked to the train station, and then in Palatine Boris walked to the station to meet me, and we headed home together.

Continue reading “What was Going On with Me”

Taking Selfies

Yesterday, I came across a question in one of the blogs I follow: why people are posting selfies and how you react to somebody posting lots of selfies. 

I can tell you how I reacted: I immediately remembered that I took several selfies in our office gym after I was done with my personal training. Now, why I made these selfies in the first place? 

I like to post my selfies in the gym not because I want people to admire me (eeem… for this as well :)) but mostly to demonstrate that even way after 50, you can be fit and active. I am fifty-six now, and I had very serious back surgery less than two years ago. I still have some limitations, and most likely, I will never be the same person as I used to be, but it does not mean that I should “accept my age.” Actually, thirty-five years ago, I was in the worse shape :).

This morning our office gym was empty; it looks like half of the people started their vacations earlier. So I was able to take these pictures without disturbing others.

Home Movies from the 1970s, Part 3

That is the last of the three digitized movies. It covers the period from summer 1972 to winter 1973. I am nine years old at the beginning and ten at the end. In the beginning, you can see that my front teeth are broken. That was due to an accident at the carnivals when Mom and I were riding a tiny electric car and bumped into another one. At that time, there was no easy way to fix them, and they remained broken until I was nineteen or so.

That summer I was at the same place in Estonia, and I play with the same dog Neron as a year earlier. We went on a trip to see an Orthodox Convent. A cat named Dunia lived in the house where we were renting. Also, I think I’ve visited an exhibit of Rodin’s sculptures because I am trying to present them :).

In the last scenes of this movie, I am already wearing glasses. Mom and I are going cross-country skiing, and most likely, my Grandfather was filming us.

Enjoy 🙂

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.

What Your Card Can Tell About You

Chicago has some public transport, which makes it better than many other US cities that don’t. Chicago Transit (CTA) has several different types of transit cards.
I have the one which perfectly fits my public transit usage pattern: it is linked to my credit card and automatically loads additional funds in a $25 increment when money is running low. One of the best things about it is that several people can use this card on one trip – I just need to tap it for each person who rides with me. It’s always the easiest way when it comes to giving tours to the out of town visitors.

I often think about my CTA card like a perfect sample of my life, if you look at where does this card go with me, and who uses it with me. Within just one week, it was used to get on the train the Great Magnus, my friend who was taking CTA for the first time in her life, and a homeless man, for whom I tapped one more time 🙂

For the Love of Dresses

I bought this dress four years ago (if not earlier) in Helsinki. It was a new fashion back then, and as it always happens with the trendy European clothing, you can’t be sure whether they will ever become fashionable in the US.


This one never did, which made it timeless, and now I can’t even tell why I didn’t wear it for the past three years. At some point, it felt too short, or that there is no proper occasion… I don’t even know! I wore it last Monday when I was taking my friend to Vlad’s bar, and I was like: OMG, I love this dress so much, it’s a perfect fit!


Here for me to remember to wear it more often 🙂

Home Movies from the 1970s, Part 2

Here is the second movie from the 1970s. It starts in the summer of 1971 and ends in February 1972. 

As I’ve mentioned earlier, good mothers were expected to rent a summer home somewhere “on the fresh air.” Like many other leninradians, my relatives from my father’s side were renting summer houses, or more often, a couple of rooms in a home in Estonia. Saint – Petersburg (back then – Leningrad) is situated very close to the border with Estonia, and from 1940 to 1992, Estonia was a part of the Soviet Union. The Estonian city of Narva was just across the border, and there was a resort Narva-Joesuu, which was renting out almost each and single home during summer. 

We rented a room and a veranda, which served as a kitchen. My great aunt Fania would stay there pretty much all the summer. My aunt Kima, my cousin, and my Mom were there periodically; my uncle Misha and his wife Nadia were renting one more room at the same house. 

  • This movie starts with us going on a tour somewhere nearby, I do not remember where exactly. 
  • Then there is me in a costume of the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley, I read something about here that year. I was so fascinated with her story that I wanted to impersonate her. Most of the costume is assembled from different pieces of adult clothes and jewelry. The wooden sword was made by the younger brother of my cousin’s best friend. I know that it sounds too distant, but they both were around quite often and felt like family members. 
  • The big black dog is a Newfoundland owned by the friends of the family. He was not a purebred and was given away for free. His name was Neron, and I loved him and used each opportunity to stop by the house where he lived and play with him. 
  • “A Musketeer” episode. Traditionally in Russia, both adults and kids would dress up for Sviatki – the time between Christmas and New Year, culminating at the New Year masquerade. Since all religious holidays were forbidden in Russia, the tradition reduced to the New Year masquerades. This costume was constructed for my school New Year’s party, and I wore it at home for the actual New Year celebration. I was eight years old (almost nine) and was at the peak of my musketeers’ fascination. Everybody pitched in for this costume. My great aunt sacrificed her dark blue pure silk dress, the top was used for the jacket, and the skirt made the cloak. One of my great aunt friends lent a dark-blue velvet hat, another friend – some real antique lace collar and cuffs (all to be returned after the holidays :)). Not Brabant, but most likely old Vologda :). The baldric was made of dark blue bookbinding material (acquired by my aunt who worked in the publishing house) and decorated with the pieces of colored foil collected from the chocolate candies consumption:). The feathers on the hat came from two sources: the black one was a real ostrich feather my great aunt owned, and the white one was made of paper by my aunt – that’s when I learned how to make them, and I still can do it on the spot. I think that covers pretty much the whole costume.
  • The figure skating competition. The caption reads: getting ready for the White Olympics 1980. But that time (February 1972) I was nine, and I was taking the figure skating classes for three winters. We rarely got a chance to train inside, so it was always “weather permits.” I loved figure skating (and I still do :)). Our coach arranged for us to have a very close-to-real competition with the obligatory figures to be performed and with your own freestyle program. The competition was graded by three judges. My great aunt hand made the figure-skating dress for me. It was made of dark red wool with the giant grey snowflake on the chest and beautiful patterns on the skirt – and that’s what I wore during this competition.

Enjoy 🙂

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.

Home Movies from 1970s, Part 1

In 1971 my Mom bought a movie camera and started making home movies. We both enjoyed the process a lot. She soon acquired a magnetic board with letters, and we began to add captions to the films.

I do not remember what happened to the movie projector, but it disappeared a long time ago, and I was wondering whether I will ever be able to watch these movies again. Fortunately, nowadays, many companies can digitize your old movies, and several years ago, I sent the first two reels to convert them to mp4. I liked the result, and now that Mom brought several more back, I finally sent them to the same company, and I liked the results even more. 

Today, I am posting the first reel, which covers the time from early spring early summer 1971.

Apparently, if I spent enough time, I should be able to add captions to this movie, but I do not have time neither now, nor in the next several years, so let me just briefly mention what it is about.

The title says “Lialia’s school break.” Lialia was my nickname, and a break was a spring break in the first grade.  Everything was filmed in Saint-Petersburg (back then – Leningrad) and near suburbs.

By episode:

  1. I play with a big doll, which could “walk,” when you hold her by the hand. Her name was Walking Nina.
  2. I am walking around in the city center, close to the Church on Blood, not restored yet back then.
  3. In the Zoo
  4. In the courtyard of my home, playing “classes” on the asphalt.
  5. A canary named Solka. That was an amazing story – one cold November night, he flew inside our apartment when my aunt opened a window leaf for a minute. We tried to find out whether he was a runaway but didn’t succeed. Then we had to buy a cage and some books about canary care:).
  6. Waking at the Strelka – the edge of Vassilievski Island, then on the roof of the Peter-and-Paul Fortress, and then inside the fortress. Then I take a camera and record Mom.
  7. At Strelna, a near suburb. We are there with Mom and Grandpa Fedia, and it’s hilarious how he is trying to help me to climb on a tree, and then helps me to get off, and this all happens three times in a row.
  8. Walking along the Neva River, and then taking a trip on a small boat
  9. In the Alexandrovskiy Park, close to the St. Isaac Cathedral, and by the river again.
  10. Later in spring. Since we see balloons, it should be May 1 or May 2 – we didn’t have balloons on regular days, only for big holidays, and May Day was one of the occasions when kids got balloons. Mom is filming, and I am there together with Mom’s friend Alla and her twin daughters Sveta and Lera. They were three or four years older than me. As a prank, we attach our balloons to the teeth of one of the Griffons on the Neva embankment. 
  11. All of us are back to my house, and we play with a collie puppy in the courtyard (he is not my dog, somebody else’s).
  12. Later in spring, probably mid – May. Mom and I are in Central Recreational Park. First, everybody is casing a squirrel – they are unseen in the city. 
  13. Then – intensive rope-jumping:)
  14. We are visiting an exhibit, which is called “Made in Poland.”

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.

Health Updates

Most of my friends are aware that out of my multiple vision-related issues, the most annoying is my double vision. I went for years without any treatment until about five years ago, I got special prism-only glasses to address to issue. I can’t wear these glasses all the time, but I use them for driving and while in the movies or other shows. It helps a lot.

Recently, however, it became worse, and at my annual checkup, I’ve
complained to my eye doctor. She gave me a referral to the specialist, who is primarily dealing with that particular problem. That other doctor examined me and told me that she can work with my double vision, but first, I need to have my cataracts operated. That was news for me; I didn’t know I have cataracts, but that explained a lot about how I felt recently.

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Attending the University: Math-Mech Days

What else were we doing as students except for the studies? There were not many sports. Actually, among nerds it was not cool to do any sports, it was a strong presumption, that only people who can’t use their brain for anything productive, do sports. And the only sport I remember somebody was doing was our gymnastics team. If there were any other, they wouldn’t have any visibility.


There were obligatory political activities. There ere mathematical clubs in schools, which were called YMSCH – Youth Mathematical Schools. They were clubs, after-school activities, but we called them “schools.” And I will write about them at some point.


One of the highlights of student’s life was the Math-Mech Day. I can’t recall now, what was the way of choosing a date for it, but it was some time in spring, far enough from the finals. Later, it was transformed into the Math-Mech Week with different activities every day. But back then, it was not even a day, but just a performance – a student play, written, staged and performed by students, undergrads, grads and postgrads. That was probably the only one informal gathering I can recall from the Soviet era, definitely the only one in the University.

Continue reading “Attending the University: Math-Mech Days”