Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions' time is up! Have you started thinking of your goal for the new year? You still have several hours to decide on it. Writing your ideas down is good, too. Our Wellness Director, Brandon Holt (see his healthy holidays tips HERE), has a quote by Lee Iacocca at his desk, "The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen." I love it! If I did not write things down, I would not remember anything.

Do you remember your resolution from the last New Year's? If yes, good! Have you followed your goal up to this day? Maybe less "yes" answers here. Well, you are not alone. Whether it is weight loss, quitting smoking, going to the gym, or picking up a new language, no goal is too easy to stick to. However, the studies (and other people's experiences) have confirmed that it is possible to increase your chances for success dramatically.

Apparently, people are much more likely to stick to their goals if there are stakes involved. Moreover, it is the fear to lose rather than desire to gain that motivates us like nothing else. For example,  losing $100 is more painful than receiving the same amount, in case you follow through with your goal.

Why don't we use technology to our advantage? There is an online "commitment store" called stickK that uses the two most important principles of achieving any goal - creating incentives and assigning accountability. If you do not fulfill your commitment, the site tells all your friends about it! Moreover, you can put your money at stake, and every time you fail, the site will be making an automatic donation to a charity (or, more effectively, to an anti-charity) of your choice. Feeling uncomfortable putting your money at risk? You won't have to pay a dime if you stick to your goal. According to Tim Ferriss and his book "The 4-Hour Chef", based on stickK's goal completion percentages from 2008-2011, the success rate with no stakes is 33.5%. Once we add stakes like an anti-charity, that success rate more than doubles to 72.8%!

Of course, you do not have to include any stakes. Last year, my Mom and I had a little competition right before the New Year (who would lose more weight during one month). We used stickK website and were each other's accountability partners. We did not put any anti-charity donations at stake (of which I regretted later), and... my Mom won because she had gained less weight than me. I gave her the prize, $100, but it was not painful, since it was my Mom, and I simply thought of it as a New Year's gift. I definitely want to include the anti-charity donation into my goal this year! 

If you are familiar with the Pinterest, you have probably spent hours and hours browsing through the pretty pictures. Unfortunately, not all the things on Pinterest are as great as they seem to be, but sometimes you can find a really useful piece of advice there. I have found a great one there recently - a workout tip jar idea. After each workout, you tip yourself $1. After a set number of workouts (for example, a hundred), you can treat yourself to new clothes or shoes (or a SPA visit), as long as it is NOT food (do not reward yourself with food, you are not a dog). It really motivates me to work out when I do not feel like it because I can earn another dollar towards my reward. 

New Year is a wonderful time when you can start your life anew. You get another chance to make a change to the better. I hope you are in great spirits and feel inspired to live the life you've always wanted. May all your dreams come true this New Year! 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Stay Healthy This Christmas

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... Actually, it began to look a lot like Christmas even before Halloween, with all the stores having holiday items on their shelves. But it is much more so now, when you are running around, doing your last-minute Christmas shopping, and enjoying goodies from the gift baskets at work.  I am definitely looking forward to all the wonderful sweets and foods in Germany where I will spend Christmas this year with my family, but I am a little anxious about damaging my health with loads of sugar.  Our Wellness Director, Brandon Holt, shared his advice with us at work, and I am, in turn, sharing it with you.  Hope you will find something that will help you stay healthy this holiday season! My comments are in italics. 

1. Be realistic: don’t try to lose pounds during the holidays. Instead, try to maintain your current weight. - Oh, boy, this will be hard!

2. Plan time for exercise. Exercise helps relieve holiday stress and prevent weight gain. A moderate and daily increase in exercise can help partially offset increased holiday eating. Try 10- or 15-minute brisk walks twice a day. - We are planning to do a ton of walking to see the German castles. Check.

3. Don’t skip meals. Before leaving for a party, eat a light snack, such as raw vegetables or a piece of fruit to curb your appetite. You will be less tempted to over-indulge. - I love baby carrots, even though my Mom doesn't... I hope she will get some for me.

4. Survey party buffets before filling your plate. Choose your favorite foods and skip your least favorite. Include vegetables and fruits to keep your plate balanced. - I always get protein and a ton of salad for my main meal and save my carbs allowance for dessert.

5. Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Savor your favorite holiday treats, while eating small portions. Sit down, get comfortable, and enjoy. - Try to keep a lively conversation with your family and friends. That way, it will take you longer to eat, and you will actually have time to feel satisfied before it is too late.

6. Be careful with beverages. Alcohol can lessen inhibitions and induce overeating; non-alcoholic beverages can be full of calories and sugar. - I love eggnog, but it is so bad for you...

7. If you overeat at one meal, go light on the next. It takes 500 calories per day (or 3,500 calories per week) above your normal/maintenance consumption to gain one pound. It is impossible to gain weight from one piece of pie! - Great to hear!!!

8. Take the focus off food. Turn candy and cookie making time into non-edible projects, like making wreaths, dough art decorations, or a gingerbread house. Plan group activities with family and friends that aren't all about food. Try serving a holiday meal to the community, playing games, or going on a walking tour of decorated homes.

9. Bring your own healthy dish to a holiday gathering. This will give you at least one healthy option. - For pot lucks, I usually bring a green salad... and cookies. Does that count as a healthy dish?

10. Practice Healthy Holiday Cooking. For example:

- Gravy — Refrigerate the gravy to harden fat. Skim the fat off. This will save a whopping 56 gm of fat per cup. 

- Turkey – Enjoy delicious, roasted turkey breast without the skin and save 11 grams of saturated fat per 3 oz serving. 

- Don’t eat things that you simply don’t love… a lot of calories are wasted on Aunt B’s green bean casserole that you only eat because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Save the calories for the good stuff only. 

- Desserts — Make a crust-less pumpkin pie. Substitute two egg whites for each whole egg in baked recipes. Replace heavy cream with evaporated skim milk in cheesecakes and cream pies. Top cakes with fresh fruit, fruit sauce, or a sprinkle of powdered sugar instead of fattening frosting.

I definitely feel motivated to make conscious food choices this Christmas. Have a wonderful, healthy, and tasty holiday season!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Who Does Household Chores In Your Family?

The other day, I overheard the following conversation in the elevator on my way to work:

M: My wife does not do my laundry.
F: I do my husband's laundry, but I do not wash his clothes if they are lying on the floor around the house or next to the laundry basket.  I absolutely hate when he does that!

I was listening and smiling quietly.  It is so interesting how different families do things differently.  Two people with their own points of view on absolutely everything come together, create a family, and try to live in peace, while imposing their views on each other.  It is good when you two find a compromise: the husband deposits his dirty socks INTO the basket (and not on the floor NEXT to it), and the wife is nice enough to do his laundry along with hers. 

Who does household chores in your family? Do you share responsibilities, or does one spouse do everything?  In Russian families, women almost always do everything, including groceries, laundry, vacuuming, cleaning up, cooking, gardening, and putting nails into the walls if the need arises.  Since our family is half-Russian, half-American, we do it the "mixed" way.  My husband cooks, does the dishes and laundry, vacuums, takes out the trash, and waters flowers.  I clean the kitchen (after he cooks and does the dishes) and clean up the house.  I also cook whenever I come home first (which is rare).  We do groceries and make our bed together.  I know that I must sound like a terrible wife if my husband does almost everything at home, but serving is his love language, and I, of course, let him express his love this way (lucky me!).  Well, this was the way things used to be before he got deployed.  Nowadays, I do it all by myself, of course. Needless to say, I am longing for my husband to come back home!

According to the 2010 London School of Economics study, a marriage in which the wife works full-time and the husband doesn't help much with chores is 44% more likely to fail than a marriage in which the man helps out more.  I think this is true, even though, according to statistics, about 65% of all stats are made up.  A healthy balance would definitely help save any marriage, but I also think that it depends on the family.  If the husband is the only provider, it is okay for the wife to take care of the home and most chores.  But what if both of you work?  One option is to hire household help if you absolutely don't have time to take care of all the chores.  For me, it would definitely be an issue of trust; I would have a hard time letting an unknown person into my home and into my life.  Maybe the maid would even drink my liquor, like one of my co-workers' housekeeper did.  However, today hiring help is more widely spread, and there are sites that can mitigate the risk of hiring a wrong person.  For example, and will let you comparison shop for individual housekeepers.  They do background checks and provide references.

I am not sure if we will hire help soon (or ever), but as of right now, our chores sharing seems to work for both the house and our relationship.  Would you be comfortable to hire a housekeeper?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My (Not Lonely) Happy Birthday

In Russian culture, birthdays are always special, no matter how old you are.  When I first came to the States and went to high school, I was very surprised when some of my friends did not wish me a happy birthday, even though they knew about it.  I guess it is treated differently here, even though it does not make sense to me - American culture is quite individualistic.  I had never spent my birthday alone, without my husband or my family.  Not until this year.  I had to blow my candle, though, so a (pretty lonely) piece of cake from Kroger was a given. 

The day before my birthday, I almost had a breakdown from the mere thought of being by myself after work.  I cried because I thought I would feel lonely (I bet only women can cry about something like that), but my husband calmed me down and promised that I would feel special on my special day.  And I did!  He called me on my way to work, which absolutely made my day.  Then I got flowers from my wonderful husband who made me feel loved even while he is deployed.  

My co-workers were very nice, too, and wished me a happy birthday (thank God I am not in high school anymore!).  I got calls from my family and friends from all over, including, among others, Kazakhstan, Russia, Germany, North Carolina, New York, Kansas, Missouri, and Hawaii.  I wish my family were with me, but since they are not, it is nice to be able to say that people from all over the world were thinking of me.  And what I had been dreading so much - spending my birthday evening at home alone - did not happen!  My new Russian friend drove an hour one way just to have dinner with me.  I am surrounded by truly amazing people!

To make my birthday last one extra day, David sent me chocolate-covered strawberries to work yesterday.

The day that I was so afraid of turned out to be one of the best birthdays in my life.  I prayed, and the Lord granted me my wish - to feel loved, blessed, and cared for.  I am truly never alone.  Thank you so much, my wonderful family and friends!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Amazing Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know that sugar is bad for me, but sometimes it is so hard to resist the temptation. Especially when I have dried cranberries and white chocolate chips at home. I was not planning on buying any more but needed to get rid of the ones I had. My husband's upcoming birthday and Boss's Day were my perfect excuses to bake, and I made mouthwatering Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip cookies.  Moreover, we have an unannounced competition at work called "Become an Awesome Baker like Laura Borsick," who spoils us with her yummy creations by sending them with her husband who works with us.  As you see, these cookies were meant to be!

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

- 2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups oats
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 5-ounce package dried cranberries
- 1 1/3 cup white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Soak cranberries in hot water for about 20 minutes. I put them in a bowl, boiled some water in a kettle (you can also microwave some water in a mug for about a minute) and poured it over the cranberries.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat softened butter (or margarine) and brown sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy.

Butter and sugar together before beating

Add eggs and olive oil, mixing well.

Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate mixing bowl.

Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition.  

Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  I baked them for about 16 minutes because they did not look done to me at 12 minutes, but I think it will vary depending on your oven.  Cool on wire rack.

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies (I used two cookie sheets).


*If you are sending them in the mail like I did for my husband's birthday, add a piece of bread to keep the cookies moist. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Job Is To Wait And To Miss Him

What a gorgeous view! God created these beautiful mountains for people to enjoy and to live in peace among them.  But no, we are never satisfied with what we have.  We always want more.  Sometimes it leads to progress, but sometimes it leads to war. 

War is terrible.  I have never experienced it first hand like my husband or my friend from Croatia did.  They experienced different wars and to different degrees, but I consider myself blessed I have not.  Majority of the Americans have never experienced it, thanks to the boys who are fighting on the enemy's territory.  I am happy that the war is far away from us, but I am not happy that my husband is the one fighting it far away from me. 

Soviet Union was there, too, and it did not end well.  Even though I had been just born at the end of the Soviet-Afghan war, I did get to see the aftermath of it.  Wounded warriors begging for money on the streets, with broken lives, no one caring for them, not even the Government for who they had fought.  The movie "9th Company" is based on real events from that war and is available for streaming on netflix, if anyone is interested in seeing just a piece of that war. Warning: the movie is tragic and very difficult to watch without tears.  Almost every Russian is full of hatred towards this country. 

My great-great grandfathers disappeared in the battles of the World War II, and I surely did not expect that my life would be again affected by war after I moved to the United States.  Only this time, it is in a more real, personal way.  I do not have to fight directly or participate in the battles with the enemy, but I have my own battles here, back home.  Every day I have to fight tears and a feeling of pity towards myself.  A lot of my friends are taken care of by their husbands, but I come home to an empty apartment.  I sit at the dinner table alone, and I go to a cold bed alone.  I need to be strong to take care of myself and to be safe, so that my husband will not worry about me and will concentrate on his job.  I did not get married to take care of myself!  But this is my calling at the moment.  If I were not able to handle it, the Lord would not have put me through this. 

My husband's job is to protect us and to make sure we can drive to work, come home, eat our pizzas, and watch TV safely.  My job is to wait here and to miss him. He will return to where people think of him.  I know he will come back to me because I always wait for him.  That is my calling, and I pray I will be strong to fulfill it. 

How can you not love and wait for such a wonderful man?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Counting My Blessings

I really like the idea that when you cannot change a situation, you can still change your attitude towards it. Realizing that we are in control of at least something feels pretty good. It was a long week for us at work, and I didn't get to go to my hot yoga class, which made me upset. Now, just to point this out: I RARELY, if ever, get upset because I can't work out! So, this was huge for me. And then I made a conscious effort to see the bright side of it all. Here is what I came up with:

- Got awakened by a neighbor above stomping across the room to the bathroom AND heard him use it at 5:40 am?! - Yay! I still have 30 more minutes to sleep!

- Got up at 6:20 am, feeling like I didn't get enough sleep (remember, the neighbor woke me up)? - Awesome! The new day is here! And I get to wear my favorite business clothes and drink my creamy milkshake for breakfast on the way to work.

- Hit traffic on I-65? - That is fine; today I get to enjoy my beautiful new Honda a little longer.

- Worked late? - A perfect opportunity to spend more time with my co-workers, to learn from them, and to grow professionally.

- Drove home after dark? - Sweet! No traffic, cruise control, and I enjoyed the warm wind through the open window and some loud music.

- Cold at home? Like, 69 degrees cold... - I can enjoy the hot shower longer! Thanks to a fixed monthly pay without actual measurement of my water usage.

And even though my husband wasn't home to comfort, feed, and warm me up, we got to talk and to see each other on Skype. I am very, very blessed!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Are You Hot or Just Lukewarm?

How does the word "lukewarm" make you feel?  What things come to your mind?  Lukewarm coffee?  Nasty.  Lukewarm water in your shower?  Terrible!  Lukewarm attitude to something?  You are probably not too interested in it. 

On Sunday, our pastor preached on Christians being lukewarm in their faith.  In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus tells to the people of the Laodicea church, "15 I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." Quite graphic, but He gets the point across: being lukewarm in faith is not pleasing to Him.  God should be first in every Christian's life. 

A lot of Christians go to church only 50-60% of the time, and they feel that it is enough.  What if they went to work only 60% of the time?  Would they still be working there?  How about your kids missing 40% of school?  Would they still be in school?  They would fail, and that would be unacceptable.  Yet, failing to attend church seems to be okay.  The same goes about general, unspecific prayers, not confessing your faith in public, and not reading Scriptures.  As long as we go to church once in a while, listen to the preacher, and bow down in a silent prayer, we are good to go. 

When I started thinking about it a little further, I realized how being lukewarm with family and at work can also be disastrous.  Imagine this: I do not kiss my husband, we do not have dinner together, and I do not take care of myself (which means, my husband is deployed! Just kidding.)  How would it affect our relationship? I do cook for him, I clean the house, and I go out with him to see our friends.  Is going through the motions enough?  When I am not passionate about our marriage anymore, my lukewarm attitude slowly poisons our love.  However, if Christ is in the center of our marriage, we share unconditional love and make effort to express our love to each other even when we do not feel like it. 

What about work?  Are you dreading Mondays and cannot wait for Fridays to come?  How does it feel to live only on weekends?  Are you growing professionally and enjoying your job?  A lot of people hate their jobs, but they do not do anything about it because of either fear to lose income, laziness, or unwillingness to change.  You are spending majority of your time at work, so you might as well enjoy it!  Being lukewarm at your job means wasting time, degrading, and aging quicker.  Not good.  However, being passionate about what you do brings joy to your life.  We were all made for a purpose, and when you are not loving your job, it should be a good sign that you are in a wrong place.  Making change is difficult, but it is worth it. 

So, the key to a wonderful life is being "hot," or passionate, about God, family, and work.  Bad times are definitely stressful, but keeping focus on what is important will help you to go through anything.  I strongly believe it, and that is what keeps me going day in and day out, while my beloved husband is far, far away. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Milkshakes for breakfast? Yes, please!

I am sure you know how important eating breakfast is.  It kicks off your metabolism, helps you wake up, gives you energy, and keeps you from overeating later in the day.  My ideal breakfast would be fried eggs with turkey franks or an omelet, but in order to eat that every day, I would have to wake up 30 minutes earlier.  Even though I love eating, it is still not enough to make me get up at 5:40 am every day.  And what about those of you who have kids?  There is even less time in the morning to take care of yourself.  I guess I could go with oatmeal for breakfast, but my husband is really against carbs (unless it is sweet potato chips we are talking about).  Moreover, I like having my breakfast on the way to work, and eating oatmeal while driving on the highway would be quite dangerous.  When I started thinking about what could be fast to make and easy to consume on the way to work, protein shakes came to mind.  Protein satisfies hunger and keeps you full longer than carbs, so it was an easy and convenient option.  

My usual shakes consisted of chocolate protein powder, peanut butter, water, and ice, all mixed in a blender.  They tasted very good, and I did not get tired of them.  However, there is always room for improvement, and I was looking for ways to change it up a little.  I was looking mainly on Pinterest and found something that was actually worth trying (unlike many other Pinterest things).  I found a blog called Dashing Dish that had amazing recipes for protein shakes that would taste pretty much like milkshakes.  It is hard to express my excitement in words!!!  I was truly inspired to find the best combinations of flavors and experimented throughout the last two weeks.  Even if you do not plan to drink these wonderful creamy milkshakes for breakfast, you should definitely give them a try to satisfy sugar cravings!

The Base of Any Shake
- 1/2 cup of low fat cottage cheese (about 80 cal)
- 1 scoop of protein powder (about 120 cal)
- 0-2 pkts of low-calorie sweeteners
- 1/2 cup water
- 15 ice cubes

Just a couple of notes about the base:
- Cottage cheese gives the shakes creamy consistency, adds calcium and protein, but not its flavor! Do not worry!
- Vanilla protein powder is the best neutral base to add flavors to, but you can get flavored protein powder to cut calories (i.e., if you absolutely love bananas, just get banana-flavored protein powder and do not add real bananas to the base)
- Add sweeteners at the very end after you try your shake, if you still want it to be sweeter
- Add more water and less ice if you want your shake to be thinner
- The base would be about 200 cal

And now to the best part: you can add anything you want to your shakes to make them taste delicious! Below are my 6 favorite shakes, but you can be as creative as you want to.

Peanut Butter Nutty Shake (these ingredients are added to the base)
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- 2 tbsp sugar free butterscotch pudding mix (optional)
- 1 tbsp Vanilla Butter and Nut extract (optional, can be found in the baking aisle)

Pistachio Shake (this ingredient is added to the base)
- 2 tbsp sugar free pistachio pudding mix

Snicker-doodle Shake (these ingredients are added to the base)
- 1 tbsp sugar free hazelnut extract or 2 tbsp sugar free hazelnut dry creamer
- dash of cinnamon
- 2 tbsp sugar free vanilla pudding mix (optional if you are using vanilla protein powder)

Peanut Butter Java Shake (these ingredients are added to the base)
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 tbsp instant coffee
- 1 tbsp chocolate chips (optional)

Banana Cream Pie Shake (these ingredients are added to the base)
- 1 banana
- 2 tbsp sugar free vanilla pudding mix (optional)

Oatmeal Cookie Shake (these ingredients are added to the base)
- 2 tbs oats
- dash of cinnamon 
- 1 tbsp chocolate chips (optional)

Be creative, let your imagination take you as far as you want to!  Bananas, strawberries, pineapple, and different extracts can bring flavor to your protein shakes.  You will love your mornings!  And do not forget to take good care of yourself.  As it is said in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.  Therefore, honor God with your body."  If you feel like you do not have enough motivation to treat your body nicely, realization that by taking care of yourself you are honoring God should be quite a boost!  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Roasted Pears With Feta

I found an interesting recipe not long ago, and we decided to give it a try. Since we are open to new things and like experimenting, roasted pears with feta sounded fun. We bought two pears, a green one and a red one, to see which one would turn out better. We both liked the red pear better, since it was sweeter. The green pear was crispier and less sweet. 

You will need:
- Two pears
- Two 1" cubes of crumbled feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425 degree F. Wash, halve, and core pears. Spray each half with cooking spray; place on baking sheet, skin-side down. Sprinkle slightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes. 

2. Remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly, then sprinkle with feta.

3. Enjoy!

Makes 2 servings.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Thriving During Deployment

I think we are more or less ready for my husband's deployment. I mean, as much as you can get ready for the love of your life  to leave you for several months. However, it is all about attitude, and we are trying to be positive. A good attitude will encourage and give us hope when we are confronted by this challenge. 

When facing separation, some couples look at it as the time when their relationship and lives are put on hold. They often say, "When this deployment is over, then we will start living again." Simply surviving during separation is not a good option, since life, as you know, is short. Why waste this precious time when both you and your spouse can grow individually and as a family instead? Our firm decision for this separation is as follows: We don't want to just survive. We want to thrive! 

Do you have a list of things that you want to do but keep postponing them to some later, unknown, time? Is there a book that lies on your shelf and collects dust, and every time you see it, you remind yourself that you want to read it one day? I know I have such a list. When I was studying for CPA exams, I made a list of things I would do as soon as I passed the exams. Some of them were learning how to play piano, re-reading my favorite book, "Master and Margarita" by M. Bulgakov, cross-stitching, and improving my Spanish. However, even after I passed my exams (and got licensed), I never got to doing those things. Something seemed to be always in the way. We are actually excited about this deployment because it will be a unique opportunity for us to do all those things we always wanted to do. My husband, Lord willing, will be able to work out consistently and to plan our future. I will be able to read that book and to spend more time growing professionally. Finally, we will be able to focus on our spirituality and to grow closer to our Lord. 

However exciting it may sound, we will need to be very mindful of each other and to include each other in our lives. I do not want to discover a completely different person in place of my husband when he returns home. Likewise, I  want him to recognize me. While we will be growing individually, we will share our new experiences with each other. We will still support and care for each other. I want to become a better wife for my husband, and I will take every minute of this deployment to improve myself, spiritually, physically, and mentally. He is my main motivator to be the best companion for him!

Separation does not have to be a dark and difficult time. We cannot control our circumstances, but we can change our attitudes about those circumstances. After this deployment, my husband will never leave me for a long time again, and we will start growing our family, Lord willing. These several months may as well be my last chance to get to those things from the to-do list! And I am not going to waste it. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

16 Simple Things To Change Your Life

We have just seen off my parents who came to visit on their way to Germany. Before that, my husband's parents came over for a couple of days. We are by ourselves, at last, and I have time to post on my blog again, especially now that my husband has taken up the living room with his pre-deployment packing, and there is not much space for me to do anything else.

I was looking through the Russian version of facebook the other day and found the so-called 16 rules to turn your life around in an instant. Some of them got my attention, and I wanted to share these ideas with you. 

16 Simple Rules That Will Change Your Life

1. Do not watch TV. Ever. (Не смотрите телевизор. Никогда.) - Well, easier said than done! I guess this way you would have more time to spend with your significant other and kids and clean out your closet. We have been together for almost three years, but we bought a TV only several months ago. We still do not have cable and are not planning on getting it. However, I must admit that we do have Netflix account and watch movies from time to time. So, we kind of are following this rule #1.

2. Keep going despite anything. Try it; it works. (Есть такая штука как «Двигаться дальше несмотря ни на что». Попробуйте, поможет. ) - It is true, from sticking to a healthy lifestyle to looking for a job. Troubles do come, but you will be successful only if you get up and keep going after every failure. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger! When my parents were here, we were eating my Mom's crepes with red caviar (blinchiki) and Russian ravioli (pel'meni), but we are back on a healthy track starting today :)

3. Did you think of an idea? Write it down. (Пришла в голову идея? Запишите.) - A thousand thoughts go through our minds all the time, so it is easy to forget a good one. I forget things if I don't write them down, which is kind of a bad thing, actually.

4. Are you running late? Find a way to let the person who is waiting know about it. (Опаздываете? Найдите способ предупредить об этом.) - I love this one! Probably because I do not like waiting for others and really appreciate if they let me know when they will be a little late.

5. Do not laugh at others' dreams. (Не смейтесь над чужими мечтами.) - Dreaming is beautiful! There is nothing wrong with that. Society's progress has always been driven by dreamers.

6. Do not come back to the people who betrayed you. They do not change. (Не возвращайтесь к людям, которые вас предали. Они не меняются.) - Unfortunately, it has been true for me, even though I desperately want to believe that people do change.

7. Spend more time with your parents. The moment when they are gone always comes unexpectedly. (Проводите с родителями больше времени — момент, когда их не станет, всегда наступает неожиданно.) - We do spend as much time with our parents as possible. Mine left us only yesterday! It will be hard to see David's parents who are in Houston and mine who will be in Germany, with me living in TN and David deploying to Afghanistan... But we will do our best to keep in touch! However sad death is, we know it is not the end, and this knowledge and hope make all the difference.

8. Politeness conquers cities. Use it more often. (Вежливость покоряет города. Пользуйтесь почаще.) - Politeness is just nice. I would like to think of myself as of a polite person, and I believe it has helped me a lot in all spheres of my life.

9. Be able to admit your mistakes. (Умейте признавать свои ошибки.) - This one is very important in your marriage. You should not be afraid to be vulnerable with your spouse, since you most probably trust that person with your life. Admitting your mistakes is a huge step towards resolving any conflict.

10. Give up a habit to complain all the time. Nobody cares about other people's problems. (Откажитесь от привычки всё время жаловаться. Никого не интересуют чужие проблемы.) - I like complaining from time to time, but I mostly complain to my husband and to my Mom. I hope they care! I know I should be grateful in any circumstances, but this area still needs work. Nobody is perfect.

11. Do not gossip. (Не распространяйте сплетни.) - Yet another area that needs work :)

12. When you are not sure what to do in a certain situation, go to bed. Also, it is great to remember that "this too shall pass." (В непонятных ситуациях всегда ложитесь спать. Также в любых ситуациях полезно помнить, что "и это пройдет".) - I remember when my whole world collapsed because of difficult circumstances, but going to bed did make it better. We have a saying in Russia that "morning is wiser than evening," and it is truly a pearl of wisdom.

13. Even during a serious quarrel, do not try to hurt the other person's feelings. Most probably, you will reconcile, but the painful words will be remembered for a long time. (Даже при серьёзной ссоре не пытайтесь задеть человека за живое... Вы помиритесь (скорее всего), а слова запомнятся надолго...) - True, especially with your significant other. I am very grateful we have not had a single fight with my husband!

14. Tell the truth, so you won't have to remember what exactly you lied about. (Говорите правду, и тогда не придется ничего запоминать.) - No comments ;)
15. Try to do the most difficult and unpleasant task at the beginning of the day. When you are done with it, you will have the rest of the day free of unnecessary thoughts. (В начале дня делайте самое трудное и неприятное дело. Когда вы сделали его — остаток дня вас не одолевают ненужные мысли.) - Oh, I am trying! I definitely start my day with the overtime project at work and am so happy when I am done with it! :)

16. NOBODY owes anything to anybody. Forget the word "to owe." Get rid of it. Otherwise, you will drown in financial and moral debt. (НИКТО никому ничего не должен. Забудьте слово "должен". Выбросьте из активного лексикона. Иначе действительно увязнете в долгах, да не только материальных, а ещё и моральных.) - My Mom always taught me this when I was a kid. If I remember anything from what she told me, this was it. It helps me not to take things for granted and to appreciate when people are nice and generous to me.

What do you think? Do these sound like anything worth pondering over?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Somebody That I Used To Know

Do you ever think about your previous relationships or times when you liked someone? Maybe you were very close and had big plans for the future together, but now you find yourself alone or with a completely different person. You may sometimes think, "What if?.." or not remember about the past relationships at all. You may wonder what brought you together in the first place, and now that once special person is just somebody that you used to know. Truth is, feelings come and go. People change. Everything changes. They say, "Out of sight, out of mind." Why does it happen, then? 

Time heals for sure. If you had a painful breakup, you would be better off if you hid all the pictures from the once happy time. Do not follow him or her on Facebook, either. It won't help. The quicker you get rid of the constant reminders of your past, the quicker you will be able to move on to the future. But does it mean that if you are in a long-distance relationship, you are bound to forget about each other and go your separate ways? Not necessarily, but it takes time and determination to stay close when you are apart. 

Military families have to deal with separation all the time, from short one-week training sessions to year-long (or longer) deployments. Some families do fall apart due to this, but I want to believe that ours is different. The Lord brought us together for a reason, and He will help us go through all the difficult times. Divorce is definitely not an option, so we will just have to find ways to stay close while my husband leaves for his deployment.

When we are at work and something happens, we text each other to make sure we are included in each other's lives. Little things that happen to us during the day are fun to discuss in the evening. When my husband is away for a short time for training within the U.S., we continue texting each other and talk on the phone or Skype in the evenings. When he will be deployed, I will be writing emails and real snail mail letters to let him know that he is still a big part of my life. I will be sending my husband care packages to show my love and that I still care about him. Without communication, we will fall apart, and that is not why we married. I do not want him to return in nine months and find a strange person in place of his wife. We both will grow and change during these months, but we will make sure we grow and change together. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Delicious: Bacon-Wrapped Cream Cheese Jalapenos

Keeping up with the food theme, I wanted to share my mother-in-law's recipe for a delicious snack to prepare the next time you have friends over for a poker night. Or a Super Bowl party. Or just over for a movie. Here you go:

Bacon-Wrapped Cream Cheese Jalapenos

1. Get jalapenos, cream cheese, and bacon. Each jalapeno pepper will make two servings. I used one Philadelphia cream cheese block for 15 peppers to make 30 jalapenos. 

2. Next, cut peppers in half length-wise and scoop out the insides with a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works great!). Please wear gloves during this stage because jalapenos are very hot, and you do not want to get their juice into your eyes. 

3. Fill up each half with cream cheese. A butter knife would work. 

4. Cut each bacon piece in half and wrap jalapenos, so that the edges of the bacon are on the back side of the peppers. 

5. Place jalapenos on the baking sheet and preheat the oven to 400 F. Bake for about 45 min or until bacon turns golden brown. 

6. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Learn How To Cook

Have you ever taken a cooking class? I had not until yesterday, and let me tell you: it was fun!!! Kandy Steen taught us how to make several Cajun dishes, even though I thought we would be making only one. The kitchen was filled with wonderful aromas, and we cooked amazing things, including bacon-wrapped shrimp, soft-shell crab in lemon butter caper sauce, and shrimp etouffee. Now I know what to make when we have guests for our house-warming party. We actually found a wonderful place near Nashville and will be moving there in the middle of August. So, back to the cooking class. It is better to use butter with seafood, but oil with chicken and beef. The secret to a good cake lies in the filling and frosting, not in the cake batter itself. You can make a box cake and add great filling to it to have the best cake ever.

If you ever find a cooking class, make sure you go! Wonderful time of meeting new people, making good food, and worshiping the Lord. 

Cooking with wine makes it extra fun
Just fried the soft shell crabs!
About to bathe them in the lemon, butter and capers
Learning how to make roux

Make sure to finish your feast with Nutella Chocolate cake!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Love My Huge Family!

People say that when you get married, you marry not only your husband, but also his whole family. I have heard about many families struggling when a husband's or wife's parents do not like their child's beloved. 

My husband and I have been greatly blessed with each other's families. David met my parents on our very first date when he came to pick me up, and he was lucky my Mom liked him. I say he was lucky because if my Mom did not like him, we most probably would not have ended up together. My Mom has proved that she is much wiser about life than me, and by the time I was 20, I finally got it and started listening to my Mom (better late than never!). I would have trusted her if she told me that David was not right for me.

David brought me to Houston to meet his parents around Christmas time, about 3 months after we met. I did not realize that I was being brought to his home as a future bride, but since I was the first girl ever whom he brought home, I guess that was to be expected. David's parents have a wonderful philosophy: they trust their kids (all seven of them) in their choices of life partners. I doubt they would say anything to my husband even if they did not really like me because they trusted he was wise enough to make a responsible choice. Plus, they know that the Lord will take care of their family and bring just the right partners into their kids' lives. Therefore, they welcomed me as a family member from the very beginning. 

We have been to Houston for five days, and it has been wonderful. I love my in-laws and always look forward to meeting with them and with our numerous nieces and nephews. We even got to go to the beach the other day, and the kids kept us busy. 

I cannot imagine having any problems with my in-laws or David having any trouble getting along with my parents. And I hope we will never have to experience that. Good relationships are always important, and more so within your family. Life can be hard, and having support (and knowing that you will get that support when you are going through tough times) from your family is life-saving. I hope that the Lord will bless all of you with amazing parents and in-laws, like ours!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dancing Through Your Life Together: Filter Before You Get Married

We have just had our two-year anniversary on June 19th, and I thought about how quickly time flies. Out of these two years, we have been together for a little less than a year. The rest of the time my husband has been either on training or deployed. I guess that is our secret to staying newlyweds for a long, long time. This is an inevitable part of military life, and it is by far the hardest thing military families have to go through. 

My good friend Kaitlin McGuire has recently told us that she is getting married soon! So exciting! Her fiance is in the Navy, so they will have to experience military lifestyle together, too. I wish them strength, patience, and wisdom, because military families need those virtues especially. I have never been disappointed in my decision to marry my wonderful husband, and I hope they will never be disappointed with their choices, either. 

Back in school, I took a speech class, which I quite enjoyed. Honestly, I did not start liking public speaking any more than I did before, but our professor was a man of great honor and wisdom. I learned a lot from him, and today I want to share his advice on what to think about before getting married. I consulted this list before marrying David (even though it was after I said yes) and was happy to find out that we were compatible on all levels.

Dr. J. David Turner's Filter Before You Get Married:

1) Match Worldview: Making sure you have the same (or at least similar) outlook on things will definitely save you a lot of time that you could spend fighting. When we went to Houston to meet David's parents over Christmas, David's father gave us a book, "101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged" by H. Norman Wright. Going through the questions was not only fun, but also eye-opening. We saw how similar our worldviews were, and I believe it got us closer to the big decision.

2) Match Goals and Vision: Do you both want to pursue a career? Or is one of you okay with the idea to be a stay-at-home parent? Determining what you want to accomplish in life on early stages of your life together is critical. It is much better when both partners support each other's decisions rather than trying to change each other. 

3) Great Character: If your partner drinks excessively or acts aggressively when angry, beware: chances are high that he or she will not change after you say your vows. Ask yourself if you are ready to spend the rest of your life with the person who behaves this way. 

4) Match Personality Profile: Does one of you enjoy quiet evenings at home, while the other would rather spend a night at a club? When married, both of you will have to compromise, and it is easier to do if both of you have compatible personality traits.

5) Old Enough To Make Decisions: Both of you need to be mature enough to get a job, pay mortgage, and look after your dog. Every family will have some variation of "adult" decisions to make. Would be great if you both are responsible enough to make them. 

6) Able to Make a Living: When you are married, you will most probably have to work in order to support your family. Parents do often help, but living with them would only put a strain on your marriage. Even if you love your parents to death. 

7) Tried and Tested: Both Are Faithful:
- Emotionally
- Physically
- Spiritually
- Sexually
- Financially

All of these tests are important, but I want to comment on three of them. When you are faithful emotionally, you no longer look around in search of someone else. You know that you've got the best man or woman in the whole world, and there is no need to look any further. To me, being faithful spiritually is to have the same faith and to be on the same page. We made a decision to get married only after we both were strong enough in our faith to unite our lives and to put Christ into the center of our marriage. If one of you is a believer and another one is not, the conflict will arise for sure, one way or another. Finally, being faithful financially is to keep your partner and your future family in mind when making serious financial decisions. Buying a luxury coupe right before the wedding is probably not the best decision, unless both of you have more practical four-door vehicles and enough money to provide a place you both will call home.

Getting married is a very important decision that will affect the rest of your life. Giving it a little more thought than just dreaming about a beautiful wedding dress can be a true life saver. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Husband Is Coming Home Soon!

My husband has been gone for a month already, but he is coming back soon! I am very, very excited and not anxious at all, unlike I was when he was coming home from his deployment. Of course, he had been gone for much longer then, but that being the first experience of a long separation made me quite nervous. I had talked to some friends who were also dealing with deployments, and some of them experienced problems when their husbands returned. Therefore, I was expecting that we both would have difficult time re-adjusting to our life together. 

Before we got married, we did not live together. I was afraid that all the stories with dirty mugs and socks around the house would be true in our family, too. However, when we started living in one apartment, the process seemed very natural. I never caught myself thinking that it felt weird to have someone else walking around my home or to cook for two. But, since it worked out just fine, I never tried to dig any further. When he returned from his deployment, there was no re-adjustment whatsoever, at least, for me. My husband said it was pretty natural for him, as well. The Lord did not let his war experience affect him in any bad way, and we feel very blessed. 

Now, I am especially excited about David coming home because I will no longer have to perform his duties of a husband, until he deploys. My car broke again, after being fixed last weekend, so we need to figure out the transportation problem. We will need to find a new apartment in Nashville area and move soon, which will be quite stressful. We will celebrate our two-year anniversary, but this is an exciting one. David will have to make sure he leaves me in a good home, with a dependable car before he deploys. I know figuring it all out will be hard, all while preparing for the deployment, but I will be there to support him in any way I can. Oh Lord, thank you for making me a woman! 

If I were still single, I would have to deal with all these things by myself. Of course, thousands of women make important decisions all the time, but I am so happy that marriages exist. What a great idea it was to unite a man and a woman, to unite two minds and two sets of skills to play our roles! As we say in Russia, one had is good, but two heads are better. It is a great relief to know that my husband will come home soon and will take care of me. Getting married has been one of the greatest blessings I have ever been given. If you are married, I hope you will feel blessed as well. If you are not, go find yourself a partner! And may you not be disappointed. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

My View On Bringing Up Kids

Last night, I went to the movies with friends to see The Snow White and The Huntsman. The movie was very beautifully made, and Charlize Theron's acting was breathtaking, but I actually want to write about a family that was sitting behind us.

The movie started at 9:40 pm. The couple behind us brought in their kid, who was about 2.5-3 years old. I did not actually see him, but I figured out his age by the kind of questions he asked. "Mommy, who is that girl?" and "What was that?!" were very cute, but bringing a young kid to the movies at 10 pm? He should have been asleep by 8. Furthermore, the movie had several very graphic scenes of murders, battles, and a ton of blood (I still think the movie was beautiful.) Is it really a good time for a 3-year old to learn about that side of life? I don't think so. 

In my culture, bringing up of the kids is very different from the way they are brought up here in the States. When I first got here, the fact that very young kids go with their parents everywhere, including restaurants and movies, and annoy others with their crying shocked me. In Russia, when you have a kid, you, as a mother, pretty much forget about any kind of social life. You sit at home with the kid and go out only to walk around the block with the stroller. I know, it is not fun, but that is just a part of a mother's life. No one likes crying infants and misbehaving toddlers in public places. 

After seeing how kids are brought up here, I have become more tolerant and have actually found several ideas absolutely great. For example, it is not that awful to bring your child along to the restaurant to meet with your friends, as long as you step out when your kid starts crying. That is, step out with the crying kid. Also, the idea of a little one running around outside barefoot does not terrify me anymore; children need to be exposed to bacteria and cold temperatures to build their immune system. In addition, babysitters are more readily available in the States compared Russia, so it is easier to go out without your child. 

Even though we do not have kids yet, I can already anticipate that bringing up our children can potentially be the subject of our disagreement. I pray that the Lord will open my heart to the ideas that David will propose. He is better with the kids anyway, so I hope my motherly instincts will not fog my mind. But I know one thing for sure: we will not bring our toddler to watch an inappropriate movie that starts so late! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why Did It Happen To Me?!

A couple of days ago my wonderful car started acting up. All the lights on the dashboard would suddenly come on, the car would not lock remotely, and it would make a loud sound when it was not supposed to. I probably should have expected problems with a 200,000+ mile-car, but I hoped that mine would serve me for a long, long time. Of course, as most of us think, bad things happen to others. Right...

As I was getting on the highway on my way from work today, all the lights came on again, and the speed started dropping, even though I kept pushing on gas. I was so scared! I had never been in a dangerous situation before where I had to act quickly. Good thing I remembered where the hazard lights button was! So, I turned it on and stopped on the shoulder of the road. 

What is a normal reaction of a normal person? Probably, to calm down, to assess the situation, and maybe call the road-side assistance. That would be ideal, except for: 1) I was scared, so I started crying immediately; 2) I felt helpless because my husband is in Louisiana and couldn't come and rescue me; 3) I cancelled my road-side assistance service a year ago when I moved to Hawaii, while David was deployed. Not good.

I called David and, thankfully, he was not busy and picked up. He tried to calm me down and called his friend to come get me. Since I was still about 45 miles away from home, I decided to give it a try and drove slowly with the hazard lights on. The friend did not have to come help me. Eventually, I made it home safely. 

It is interesting that this morning I started listening to the audiobook called Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. He uses very strong and good arguments to prove the sovereignty of God. Many Christians thank God for the good things that happen to them, but they refuse to believe that bad things happen to them and to others because God caused them or allowed them to happen. It is difficult to believe that a loving God causes or allows devastating earthquakes and famines kill thousands of people every year. It is very, very hard to believe that God allows our loved ones to become sick and die. However, the truth is, all the things, both good and bad, happen because of the Lord. He is in total control, and everything He does is for His glory.

When I was on the side of the road in my nearly dying car, alone, without my husband being home and without road assistance service available, I started praying that the Lord brings me home safely. In that moment, I understood that He is the only one I can lean on. I could have still been out there at this hour. I could have gotten into an accident if the car started dying, while I was driving at 75 mph. Instead, I was just merging into the highway and had not accelerated to a higher speed yet. Yes, I was stressed out and now have to worry about how to fix my car. I have to take my husband's car to work for the next several weeks, and his car is a manual. And it does not have cruise control (I am really spoiled with my good old car!) However, I do see how this unpleasant event is for God's glory: my husband and I turned to Him and prayed. We thanked Him when I made it home safely. Finally, I am writing about my experience and sharing His glory with you.  I definitely learned a good lesson today: that God is always in control, and that I probably should get the road assistance service again. As we say in Russia, "God protects those who protect themselves."