I had a dream about Thomas again last night. No, this was the night of November 15th, 2014 I think. I saw Thomas as a little baby in dark, bright colors. He was healthy and fat and shaped like a watermelon seed, sort of rain-drop shaped but rounded in the belly, like an up-side down cone with two crooked little legs sticking out of either side. He wasn’t a new born but he was little and full of life as babies should be. In my dream he could do things babies that age can’t do, like point to something they want.

So there was Tom as a baby and there was Arnold, an old old cat. I was terrified they were both going to die soon. Then I eventually figured out, wait a minute – he’s not old. He’s just a baby! He’s very young – he’s not going to die for a long time!! And I was so relieved and over joyed I could hardly control myself.

Then I remembered, still in my sleep, that he had grown to a teenager and then died. I was so grieved I can’t even describe how I felt. It was like I had just found it out all over again. I cried and sobbed and felt such horrible grief…

When I woke up, I soon remembered the dream. I went to church that morning because it was Sunday and I was still tired and I was crying at Mass. I was being at Mass and listening and remembering the dream periodically.

I looked at him and I suddenly hugged him, suddenly got on top of him and looked in his face, his eyes, and what I saw there was so beautiful that I was suddenly terrified, absolutely petrified… Something deep inside me said, “drink it in. drink in this moment because it’ll never come back. You might need to drink it in now in case you lose him in the future.” And I did drink him in, I hugged him and laid there and put my hand on his smooth skin, on his freshly-shaven face and on his hand. We were wearing our wedding bands. I wanted to tell him but I couldn’t speak; I wanted to beg him not to go anywhere, not to ever leave me, not to die. Promise me you’ll never die! (from that stupid puppet movie). But I knew all too well that such promises are impossible to keep, and that the people we love do die, and I shuttered to even begin to imagine for a second what it would be like if I lost him too. I hugged him again, tighter. He smiled at me, smiled back, then just looked in my eyes for a long time, then asked me “what? what is it?” I could not answer. I smiled and cried. I kissed and hugged him. I knew if he did die it would not be his fault, and I desperately wanted to tell him what was going on with me, to ask him to never be taken from me for any reason, but I knew it was out of his control. It was out of my control, IS out of our control. I leaned down and embraced him once more, tighter and again and again. I felt the warmth of his face on my face. Can he understand the breadth, the depth of this love? I don’t think I can understand it. Does he feel the same? How can I know what’s really going on inside another person, or even myself? “I can’t lose you too…” I wanted to say. But the emotions were so powerful I could barely say anything.


I was sitting in the kitchen at my husband’s friend’s house drinking tea at a last visit, saying goodbye before we moved to another country. He (the friend) said, “where there are black people, there you’ll find prostitution, drug use, assault, and illegal gun sales.” I was immediately infuriated, but I didn’t say anything. I don’t really know this person, he’s one of my husband’s best friends, and it was their last meeting in a long time, possibly ever. Just not the time to get into a discussion on racism, for me to lecture them and react angrily like I wanted to. Also, he provided entertainment at our wedding for free. I had to stifle my emotions and shove them down. The only thing I managed to slip in in that conversation, which was mostly between them, was, “if it bothers you to live near them, you’re going to be bothered anywhere. It doesn’t bother me.” (The conversation was about where we would live.)

But that night I couldn’t sleep. I had so many thoughts I wanted to express, to tell him how wrong he was and how unfair he was being and to shame him by proving that racism is the result of a psychological desire to consider yourself better than someone else. But it was too late. So I’m turning to this blog.

What is racism? I used to think that racism was ignorance. Uneducated people who don’t know any better just let themselves assume the worst about others, because it feels good and “to be on the safe side”. (They don’t know anything about the people they are judging, so they choose a negative judgement just in case.) But these are not ignorant people. They are young, educated people, both of whom have been to the United States and observed life there, including black people. My husband didn’t say anything at the time, but I was just as mad at him because I know he feels the same way. Both these young men are Russian, and Russians are racist. Wait a minute, how can I say that? Am I not judging them prematurely, being a hypocrite? I had to figure that out, too. And I did.

Here is what I came up with in the arguments in my head in the following few days:
First of all, racism is a deep part of Russian culture. It’s fascinating to me to see the contrast of young, smart, educated and well-traveled people being racist anyway because it’s part of their culture. It has all sorts of implications about how deeply one’s culture affects one’s mentalities and view of the world. To say “Russians are racist” is not a judgement, because it’s a fact. It’s not that they choose to be racist, they are trained to think that way from birth. (But they fail to rise above it, too. More on that later.) To say a trait is an element of one’s culture is not racism. For example, Filipinos have a strong culture of not smelling and controlling personal body odor, whereas in other cultures smelling is permitted. Those aren’t racist statements, because they are overall cultural observations.

To say “Americans are fat,” isn’t racism either, because it’s based on fact. To say “all Americans are fat” would be ridiculous because it’s not true. To say “where there are Americans, there are fat people” would be not necessarily true, however likely. But “Americans” are not a race. I believe my husband’s friend’s statement was connected to the color of people’s skin and although he didn’t say it, he implied that they themselves cause and perpetrate these problems, because they are intrinsically a bad people.

If I had started to argue with him, he would have said, “Of course there are exceptions, but…” But what? But most of them are bad. So, a non-criminal black person is the exception to the rule? That’s just crap.

I don’t know statistics, but I would not have tried to argue with him by saying “that’s not true.” Yes, African American communities often suffer from a lot of problems, but these problems have more to do with socio-economic status than with skin tone. When are Russians going to realize that a person’s actions depend not on the “group” that person belongs to, but on the person? To think otherwise is just not logical. That sort of logic is … not logic at all. Not to mention wrong, tacky, primitive and sinful.

A person born in a poor neighborhood or country with limited resources and opportunities is more likely to turn to illegal activities. And why do African Americans suffer from under-privileged socio-economic status? Partly because they are denied opportunities by people in positions of power. Because of racism. It’s a vicious cycle.

So, although he didn’t say anything that is not true, his thinking is all wrong. For example, I could say, “where there are white people, there you’ll find…” and list lots of problems. I could say “Russians,” for that matter! Russian society is plagued with many problems, including alcoholism, drug addiction and selling, prostitution, violent crime such as robbery and assault, hate crimes, high instance of auto collisions (due to alcoholism and stupidity), corruption, domestic abuse, smoking, high instance of cancer and other health problems, due to smoking and not protecting themselves from the sun, lack of resources for the abused, lack of accommodations for the disabled, functional illiteracy, poverty … and racism! And often, human rights violations! Can I say these things about Russian populations in the US? Yes, with the exception of human rights violations, but how should I know? Maybe they’re engaged in human trafficking here in the US, for all I know.

I have yet to meet a Russian who is not racist. (And I have lived there many years and had all sorts of relationships with friends, colleagues, teachers, etc.) They don’t think of themselves as racist, either. They think of themselves as realists, acknowledging the facts. It’s like crazy people don’t know they’re crazy. There’s no sense talking to them. They’ll never see it your way.

defining failure and success

Ok, soul-searching time. Writing helps me to think.

Failure: not living up to my potential

two questions: why am I so terrified of this? -and- what exactly does this mean?

I’ve been exploring a career-fulfillment website lately that talks a lot about failure and encourages thinking about it in a whole new way.  One of the suggested activities is defining failure for yourself.  That’s just as important as defining success.  And visualizing them both, but that’s another deal. I asked myself, with just myself, what’s the REAL definition of failure for me, what i’ve been afraid of my whole life, what i’ve been terrified of, ironically, because the fear of NOT doing this (living up to my potential) is hindering me from livng up to my potential!  So — why is that so scary?  Is it because you’ve been blessed, and feel obligated to give back?  That’s part of it, but in a horribly contorted way – it’s not like volunteering will make me feel i’m “living up to my potential -” I feel i OWE the world, and it’s a burden.  My parents sacrificed for me, I was born in a country where everything’s possible, I have plenty of great education – but what will I do with all that?  There are several factors going on here – guilt, yes, but also pride!  I’m smart!  I’m way smarter than most people.  There, I said it.  How do I know?  because of GPA’s and class rank and results of standardized tests and because when I read other people’s work, besides the classics, I find TYPOS!!!  Most people don’t even have a good grasp on grammar.  Most people can’t learn languages as thoroughly and as well as I do… the list goes on.  …    Actually, no, that’s it, really.  But those are some good proofs that I’m smarter than most, or at least smart!  So why can’t I make my way in the world?  It’s because I suck at working the system, and I’m humble.  That might seem a bit of a non-sequester, after all that about being smart, but what I mean here is, I’m humble enough to be happy doing jobs that DONT actually require education, like cake decorating and esl teaching… well, now that I say that, cake decorating is something I do because it’s fun, I like it.  It’s artistic.  I wouldn’t call it a PASSION, but I do enjoy it very much.  I’ve had two cake decorating jobs, in supermarkets, minimum wage.  Here’s a girl who has a master’s degree and knows several languages, working at the grocery store for minimum wage.  But I’m o.k. with that!  But I’m not o.k. with being o.k. with that.  I should be doing something STUPENDOUS… shouldn’t I?  And teaching esl – no, that doesn’t technically use my education, but it does indirectly.  In order to teach esl part time for full-time money the way I do, you have to live in-country, where it’s really in demand, and I probably couldn’t do that so successfully for so long if I didn’t know the language.  Hmmm.  So it turns out that I haven’t yet “settled” – or settled without reason – but the fear remains that I might someday in future.

P.S. – about sucking at working the system – I do. I have no “career” because I don’t know how to go about doing that.  It has something to do with my unique personality, although I can’t put my finger on it.  For example, people say they often find contradictions in me.  I’m not glued to social media because I find it boring.  I’ve realized that most people are crazy about it, but I can’t possibly care about people’s pictures of their dogs or kids, complaints or boasts.  BORING!  Why the hell do people find twitter and face book so fascinating?????  I’ve also realized that most people have successful careers by specializing in something and pursuing it for decades.  They often have a job or series of jobs in the same vein that require doing the same thing every day, all day, for years!!!  I can’t fathom that!  I need enjoyment, enthusiasm, change, new challenges!  My husband works at a bank, been doing that for 3 years.  How???  My dad worked in sales at the same job at the same company for 30 years.  WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT??????  I would die.  Or go insane.

Anyway, back to defining failure.  So, there’s the burden of guilt, the sin of pride, … what else?  Why is the idea of not living up to my potential so horrible?  Ah, yes.  Greed.  I figure any respectable person of my intelligence, experience and skill should be making at least $60 grand, but I usually do jobs for half that.  I want to start a family!  I’m gunna need some sustenance.  Actually, now that I say that, wanting to make 60,000 dollars a year is not greedy.  It’s pretty standard!

What else?  I also really, REALLY don’t like that idea because, it means not measuring up.  Yup, competition, comparing myself to others, caring what you look like in others’ eyes.  Wow, so not me.  Why do I care?  Truthfully, there are very few people in the world whose opinions I give any concern about whatsoever, on any level.  I don’t mind asking questions in class.  I don’t care if I let on to the whole auditorium that I don’t get something.  That’s what class is for.  I’ve also noticed that most people sit in the back at places like school and church.  Why??  I can’t imagine being there and then not participating actively.  You may as well stay home.  Huh.  I’ll never get most people.  Guess I’m very different.  But everyone likes to believe that, doesn’t he?  Part of the reason it MIGHT actually matter to me if I fail to live up to my potential (still speaking in the future tense, so I guess I haven’t yet, as if the jury’s still out, present and past activities will be taken into consideration only at the final judgement, at which time a pass/fail verdict will be issued) is because my family on my father’s side is a bunch of big-shots.  Lawyers, doctors, rich people… ouch.  Kind of makes the “I’m not playing” option… not an option.  I guess I’m just not strong enough to ignore what THEY think of me, my aunts and uncles, and one great uncle.  Oh, well.

So, we’ve endured a thorough psychological investigation, and come up with some painfully truthful facts about my fears and motivations.  What have we learned here, what conclusions can we draw?  What is to be done?  (A very Russian question, by the way : ) Stop feeling obligated to pay the universe back for my “privileged” life circumstances; stop caring what relatives and strangers think (friends and family are already on my side); it’s o.k., you’re not greedy; pride to some degree is a good thing – be proud of your accomplishments and believe you can achieve what you want to; Stop being afraid of not.  Get over it.  Don’t let it rule you.  Think of “living up to my potential” in new ways, open your mind, brainstorm.  Create your happiness.

More concretely, living up to my potential at this point means not settling for a minimum-wage job, or even a $35 grand one, and using my education in some way in the workplace, not letting it go to “waste.”  But there’s another thing.  (It’s a good thing I wrote this blog.)  Can education every really be a “waste?”  Doesn’t it carry intrinsic value?  Plus my education was very theoretical, at every step.  And I loved it!  So I’ll stop sweating that, too.  So far, God’s given me manageable loans and the means to make my payments every month.  Thanks for that.

So, what does happiness look like?  What does success look like?  TBC!


not all people are men

Every time I am at Mass, I try to listen, pay attention and pray the prayers with all my heart.  But I get extremely distracted every time I hear sexist language at Church.  The Church should be inclusive, not oppressive and exclusive.  Some of the language in our Mass and in our prayers is blatantly sexist, and this needs to change.

I know with all my heart, mind and soul that my God would never want me to be treated like a second-class citizen.  Why, then, is the Church speaking of me as if I don’t count?  When we use the word “man” to mean “people,” we exclude females from the human race.  Can you imagine if the term “white men” were used to indicate all people?  How racist would that be?  Or, guys, can you imagine the reverse – because of a history of oppression all over the globe, the word “woman” being often used to designate all people?  Would that be right?

“For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven…”  

Really?  For you men?  I’m pretty sure he did it for us girls too, for our salvation, for me.  I know that’s not what you mean, but you’ve got to admit, that is what you’re saying.  And it’s offensive.

There are alternatives.  Our language includes perfectly acceptable words that both mean and say what they ought to, so why not use them?  Why not say “for us humans and for our salvation”?  Or “for us people and for our salvation?”  Or “for humanity,” “for the human race,” or quite simply, “for us”?

“… he was born of the Holy Spirit, and became man.”  A simple addition of the word “a” would do the trick here.

Some of you may be thinking, “we have much more important things to do than worry about our choice of words!  Saving unborn babies from abortion – alleviating poverty – spreading the Gospel – saving souls!”  And indeed you are right.  Compared to those monumental tasks, changing Church language may seem unimportant.  But keep in mind that during a Mass, during prayers, what we SAY is what we DO.  We say prayers, we say the Mass, and these actions that consist of language have a deep impact on all who hear them, for better or for worse.  Also keep in mind that sometimes, winning is just cutting your losses.  Perhaps fewer people would be turned off by the idea of the Catholic Church if it didn’t use sexist language in its ceremonies.  So please revise your language, take out the hurtful and incorrect parts, be an establishment in which everyone feels at home.  Prayers and the language of the Mass, a most holy sacrament, should be … well, true.  Fix it, please. Jesus will thank you.

sick-minded double meanings

I just realized that the phrase “process of elimination” has a double meaning.  *snicker, snicker*  Also, “grand opening” is a catchy name for a sex shop.  I love those “that’s what she said” jokes when they come up in ordinary conversation, truly spontaneously.  My aunt was just saying “it’s time to stuff it in there.”  My cousin quickly quipped in with the aforementioned joke.  The given context had nothing to do with “that kind” of subject matter, and my aunt had been speaking completely seriously.

Although cliche, this one never gets old.  The contrast between previous and newly introduced meanings, as well as the unexpected nature of the joke, get me every time.  Care to share any stories, contexts in which people have said this?  Or other sick double meanings?

real-life tragedy, real-life heros?

Do we have any control at all?  When we get to heaven, will all wrongs be righted?  And I’m not just talking “all that petty stuff doesn’t matter anymore; let’s just praise the Lord.”  I’m talking “you did _________ on May 8th, 2005, or failed to do __________ on December 25ht, 2008… What shall we do about that?”  Will we suddenly remember everything we ever wondered about, but this time, know the answer?  Do the good guys ever win in real life?  On t.v. they do, but, as much as I love zoning out from reality for a little while, even as I watch detective shows, I find myself slightly repulsed by the contrast between justice dealt so swiftly, so thoroughly on the screen and the horrible injustices that eat away at my heart every day.  What can a person do when he feels powerless?  Grow bitter?  Forget about it?  Work tirelessly for the rest of his life to right a wrong, although it’s a losing battle?  Hope against hope?  Pray?  Or just die, in hope that divine justice does exist?

On t.v. all the interesting, multi-dementional hero characters are first victims of a tragedy.  Monk, the Mentalist, Beckett on Castle, Bones, … even Batman, for fuck’s sake!!  And that makes those of us who have never experienced horror and tragedy admire and pity them, puts us on their side.  But for those of use who have — (and these are two different worlds; I’ve crossed that line) — we just see how fake it is, and hate ourselves even more for not becoming some sort of super hero for the sake of our lost loved one.  Can anybody feel me?????????????????????????????????????????????????