Do not Disturb

I’ve been sitting on my bed thinking about how melancholic I feel. There is no reason for my melancholy. Overall, I have great balance in my life.

This melancholic-for-no-reason feeling has been lingering for a few weeks. I have tried to stave it off by buying fancy new shoes, emailing Honda dealers to see who can give us the best deal on a new car (I am bored of that now and have lost my desire to purchase one), browsing CraigsList for a better apartment (there isn’t one for under $3000/month), browsing the Black Friday circulars for special holiday deals (all avoided), picking up books and movies and not getting through the first 5 minutes.

This is a common feeling in my life. As soon as everything is perfect, I start to look for something “more”. Something “different”. Something that will challenge me and make me grow and give me great adventurous tales to tell. But usually what happens is that when I make that change, I find that not only have I left something behind that I really loved, the stress of the adjustment almost leaves me too paralyzed to enjoy the change of which I dreamed. And then finally, I settle, only to find myself melancholic and longing for that something else.

Sometimes, I think, I am merely trying to avoid myself — trying to avoid the basic humdrummery and drudgery of life. Oh sure, there is always beauty. But when you see the beauty enough, it eventually becomes unobserved.

So I’ve been siting on the bed feeling melancholic, looking for an outlet. I tried to write, but it gave me a headache. I transferred the photos from the holiday weekend from the camera to the computer, but I could not find the motivation to upload them to the blog, flickr, or Facebook. I wondered if I should maybe put the laundry away and tidy things up before the week begins. But then I figured that my melancholic nothingness would still be there when I finished. So what good would that do? Only more things in my life would be in order.

My husband, the Ukrainian, thinks this melancholic endless searching for something all comes from the lack of a baby in our lives. Perhaps. Maybe I’ve done enough in my relatively-young life that it’s time to bring another into the world. But somehow, I feel like I will always want more.

Funny, I was only able to write this because the Ukrainian interrupted my melancholic thoughts. I was sitting alone on the bed when he entered the room to interrupt me. But my melancholy did not want to be interrupted. I told him to leave, to get back to work. I just wanted to be alone. I told him I would like a “Do Not Disturb” sign for our bedroom door as he had been interrupting me all day (I had to do some work for my job, which I did while sitting on the bed).

But now, I think of him interrupting me. He is so very cute. Not emotionally-distant at all. The perfect anecdote to my moody irrational self. That search for whatever it is that makes want something more will not go away, but with the Ukrainian at my side, perhaps I will find the tenaciousness necessary to figure out what it is without changing a thing.

Thankful for English Improvements by the Ukrainian

When the Ukrainian and I first, he did not speak English very well. He could read it with great comprehension. He could listen and fully understand almost everything being said. But when it came to speaking (and to a certain extent, writing), I couldn’t understand him at all. His accent was thick. His grammar lacking. When I could understand his words, I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say. Phrases like “What are you doing yesterday?” really meant “What did you do today?”. When he met my friends and they asked him how long he had been in the States, he would answer, “I am here for 3 months” when really he meant to say “I have been here for 3 months.”

The Ukrainian was dreamily cute and he was nice. These were all that mattered. I wasn’t looking for someone to “complete me”. And I didn’t need to be saved. All I wanted was someone fun to go out with who would treat me well. And the Ukrainian more than delivered on those accounts. But still, sometimes I wondered…What is going on inside that head of his? Anything? I knew he had a PhD in Economics from Kiev University, so I knew he must be smart. But due to the language barrier, we kept our conversations simple. “I want to go to the beach!” “When do you want to meet?” “What are you doing yesterday?” So we went to the beach and the movies and to Dolores Park where he would carry me around on his back while the dogs ran around us in circles.

Then, one afternoon, after he picked me up at work, he tried to explain something about economics to me. I *think* it might’ve been about his thesis. But maybe it was about an article he had read in a news magazine. It didn’t really matter. What mattered was for the first time he was trying to communicate to me about something other than the concrete here and now. I was relieved. And I had hope. Someday, I knew, we would have real conversations about anything and everything under the sun.

But “someday” did not equivocate to “the next day”. Evening after evening, he would ask me English questions. Happy, at first, to help. I began to resent the constant additional demands on my brain. I wanted our relationship to be relaxing, not ongoingly academic. I put a moratorium on the English questions: No English questions after 10 p.m. Only 3 English questions while watching a movie. The Ukrainian was hungry. He wanted to be fluent in English “right now”. I merely wanted to have a conversation where we both understood each other.

Sometimes my lack of understanding would cause frustration. I would ask him to repeat a word over and over again, hoping to try to understand what he was saying. He soon learned to spelled out the letters and I would explain how to pronounce it. He would repeat the word into his voice recorder, hoping to get it right and trying to burn the correct pronunciation into his memory. During our phone conversation, I found myself picking the simplest English words so he would hopefully better understand what I was trying to say. It was hit or miss whether we would fully understand each other on where to meet, when to meet, how to get someplace, what should be picked up from the store, etc. It was exhaustingly frustratiing. Sometimes I would break down in tears. I would cry into the phone, “I can’t understand you, I don’t know what you want.”

But the Ukrainian persevered. He kept his weekly appointment with his private English tutor. He made charts of English grammar. He made word lists and looked them up and not only memorized their meanings, but practiced their usage. He got a job working only with other native English speakers, so he had other styles to listen to. In time, the questions became fewer. The tears of frustration being cried into the phone stopped. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point correcting the Ukrainian’s English became a footnote in any conversation rather than being the subject of the conversation itself, or worse, being the conversation stopper.

Then, Wednesday night, the Ukrainian and I needed to go to Whole Foods downtown to purchase some fine foods for the Thanksgiving Feast. Not knowing how crowded the store would be or how long it would take us to complete our shopping, we opted to take BART (the regional train) rather than rent a ZipCar so we would not be pressured for time.

We had just sat down in our seats when the Ukrainian asked, “Are you feeling inspired?”

“Yes, why?”

“I want to ask you some English questions.”

“Ok, sure. I will do my best to answer them.” My brain was feeling relaxed. I had worked from home that day. And, I realized, it had been ages since he had asked me any English questions.”

He took out our grocery list. On the back of it, he had made some notes of several different kinds of sentences.

“When you mean X, is it better to say Y or Z?” he asked.

“Either way is correct, but Y sounds more natural and native,” I responded.

“What about when you mean B, is it better to say C or D?”

“Same thing as X, Y, and Z. C sounds more natural and native, but D is correct as well.”

“What about J? Which way is better to say?” he continued. His questions regarded phrases like “down the hall”, “email it to you”, “cc me on it”, and other office-related speak.

“Oh, that one is different. That verb is intransitive so there aren’t 2 ways to do it. And you need to change the preposition to sound more native. The other preposistion is correct, but doesn’t sound as natural.”

Suddenly, I realized most of his questions were questions of style, not of correctness. How far we had come in the past year and a half. He had made the transition from trying to speak English correctly, to trying to speak it natively. Wow!

“One more question,” he said. “When do you use ‘well’ and when do you use ‘good’. How do you know which one to use?”

“Oh, that’s a hard one. A lot of native English speakers get it wrong, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.”

“But how do you know?” He really wanted to speak English well — not good.

I struggled to remember the rule that ‘well’ modifies the verb and ‘good’ modifies the noun. But before I could put the words together in a way that made sense, the BART train screeched to a halt at the Powell St. stop.

“Ok, English lesson over. Let’s go get some food!” I answered.

We walked in the brisk night air down 4th Street. With the cessation of our English lesson, our conversation turned to our hopes and dreams for our life together. It was not an unfamiliar conversation. All week we had been discussing what sort of car would we buy if we decided to get one (Honda Fit, Volkswagen Rabbit, and Honda CRV are our top 3 choices). We often daydream about buying a house. (Currently unaffordable in San Francisco city proper on our salaries). But on Wednesday evening, our dreams turned from the concrete material to the philosophical. We don’t want our lives to be weighed down bills and financial obligations. We do want to travel a lot. We do want our not-yet conceived child to be multilingual.

These exact threads of conversation were not entirely new. We had discussed them before. But in shorter, more spurtful ways. But on our walk from 4th and Market to 4th and Harrison, we discussed them in-depth. Philosophically. Dreamily. We discussed them in a way where the Ukrainian did not have to struggle for his words. I did not have to limit my word choices to simpler English. We spoke at a native level.

And it was dreamy.

It did occur to me then that I got very lucky with the Ukrainian. It was always clear that he’s a very nice guy. What wasn’t clear was whether or not we had much in common on a more intellectual level. We don’t agree on vegetarianism vs. eating meat. He drove an SUV when we first met (it has since been junked) while I was all about car-sharing and bicycle riding. And while some of these differences seem large, they don’t seem so large as to what could’ve gone wrong in our relationship once he possessed enough English for us to truly disagree. His expression in English could’ve pushed us apart rather than brought us further together.

And so, I must say, that with each new level of English the Ukrainian reaches, I love him all the more. I am all the more impressed by what a great guy I married.

And I’m thankful.

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Williams-Sonoma: You make it look so easy

Oh so easy Ebelskivers

Oh so easy Ebelskivers

Oh Williams-Sonoma, you make it look so easy. You dazzle me with luscious foods that look oh-so easy to make if I simply come into your store and drop a benjamin on some special tools and mixes. You say, “Oh yes, you too can look the part of a gourmet cook with no effort at all!” Usually I’m pretty good at resisting your tempting ways. Everyone knows that Sur La Table has better deals on kitchen supplies and it’s where the real cooks go. Besides, I’m a pretty fab cook and baker on my own accord and I own enough tools to outfit 1953 housewife with 6 kids and an executive husband who likes to entertain clients in the home. But none of this was enough to resist a sultry Ukrainian husband who looked down at your catalog we received in October and declared, “I want that!” pointing to your beautiful picture of perfectly rounded and stuffed Ebelskivers:  Danish filled pancakes.

Now the Ukrainian isn’t much of an asker. He’s a giver, always bringing flowers, perfume and whatever else my little heart desires. Rarely does he ask for anything. So when he does, I truly do my best to deliver.

Prepwork

The KitchenAid mixer from our wedding registry

The KitchenAid mixer from our wedding registry

(Earlier in the day, I made homemade vanilla pudding to stuff the Ebelskivers. Sadly, I have no pictures of that. )

First order of business was to whip out the new KitchenAid Empire Red Artisan Stand Mixer we had bought the prior week. We had put it on our wedding registry as it seems you can no longer be married in America anymore without possessing such an appliance, but no one gave it to us. So we finally bit the bullet and bought it ourselves.

The Ukrainian unpacks the KitchenAid

The Ukrainian unpacks the KitchenAid

Here, the Ukrainian unpacks the KitchenAid. It is his rightful duty as a man to help out his wife who is cooking him beautiful stuffed pancakes. 😛

*Surely you realize that I am kidding here with the sexist tone of language.

mekitchenaid Here I am working quite hard on mixing up the Ebelskiver batter. Unfortunately, there are no pics showing how 3 separate bowls are required to make these babies. One for the egg yolks, butter, and milk. A second for whipping up the egg whites (which then fell flat for me because I was juggling bowls.) And a 3rd to fold it all in together with the dry ingredients. Must buy more KitchenAid mixer bowls now. Oh wait, no. No more shopping for me anytime soon because I have been busy buying shoes (see post to come in the future)

Gross! in my opinion. Yum! In the Ukrainian's.

Once I gave the batter a good whipping, mixing, and folding, I tasted it. Gross! Honest to God, I do not like Ebelskiver batter. My first temptation was to add more vanilla, maybe some sugar — anything to get rid of this oatey-barley-bitter flavor. But before I could reach into my pantry shelf for some nice sweets, the Ukrainian rushed, grabbed my arm, took it was from the sweets shelf, and had his own taste of the batter. “Ohhhh…this is good. Do. not. change. it” The Ukrainian loved the very flavor I had just choked on. And people wonder why we do not share so very many meals together? And why I don’t put on my 1953 wifely-talents to use more often?

Gross! in my opinion. Yum! In the Ukrainian’s

And then I almost set the kitchen on fire
I followed the Williams-Sonoma instructions precisely. How could anything go wrong? Unfortunately, I don’t think the instructions took into account that I’d be using their very modern coated ebelskiver pan over a circa 1939 Wedgewood open flame stove.

So much bubbling butter. So much bubbling batter. There is an open flame beneath it all.

So much bubbling butter. So much bubbling batter. There is an open flame beneath it all.

I tried reducing the amount of butter (thank god it wasn’t oil), and that did decrease the scariness factor in the cooking. But, in turn, it increased the burning factor of the ebelskivers. I was frightened that the Ukrainian would come in and see the brown-black ebelskivers with pudding leaking out of them and turn his nose up at them and then just politely eat one. That’s what I would’ve done. They looked pretty gross to me.

I present the slightly-burnt, leaking Ebelskivers to the Ukrainian.

I present the slightly-burnt, leaking Ebelskivers to the Ukrainian.

I called the Ukrainian into the kitchen for his sweets. But before I could even apologize for the sorry mess of his much-desired treats, the Ukrainian exclaimed, “Baby! Those look soooo good.” And, let me tell you, the Ukrainian wasn’t bullshitting. I know his bullshit. He has that beautiful Russian way of smiling and agreeing to everything good, when really he is thinking “No way in hell.”

The Ukrainian takes a bite.

The Ukrainian takes a bite.

The Ukrainian did not choke on the first ebelskiver, so he happily eats another.

The Ukrainian did not choke on the first ebelskiver, so he happily eats another.

The Ukrainian is quite satisifed with his ebelskivers.

The Ukrainian is quite satisifed with his ebelskivers.

I am pleased to report that out of 21 ebelskivers made on Sunday, the Ukrainian ate 10 of them that night. 5 on Monday morning. And the remaining 6 that Monday evening. Then, over the course of the next few 2 days, he ate all the remaining vanilla pudding — not once thinking I might want some pudding. He truly is a hero!

Today’s Agenda

* Take dogs to Dolores Park (done)

* Work on java code (in progress)

* Go to gym

* Go for bike ride

* Tidy house

* Sweep (kind of goes with tidy house but the black dog sheds so much hair it’s a separate task)

* Make Ebelskiver (danish stuffed pancakes) for the Ukrainian

* Make homemade vanilla pudding to fill the Ebelskiver mentioned above

* Go to grocery store to get said Ebelskiver/pudding ingredients

* Laundry (yes, more chores.)

* Email O in Moscow, C in Rotterdam

* Email T here in SF about December dogsitting

* Get a mani/pedi (manicure/pedicure for those not in the know)

* Find the NetFlix movies that need to be returned and drop them in the post box

Ok, hmmm…we don’t even have children yet and already my life feels so busy. What happened to this summer’s “Lay about the house posting blog entries, eating chocolate, and getting lots of sleep trying to cope with all the changes in my life?” Well…it was an unsustainable lifestyle. The Ukrainian has begged me for over a month now to make him Ebelskivers. I’ve never made them before, but he has complete confidence in my culinary abilities that he thinks I will have no problem. He rarely asks me for much, so this I will do for him.

And with each point the dow drops and gyrate, I become more and more intent on keeping the job I do have. It’s a good one. I’ve had enough jobs to recognize that.

I really, really wish the agenda included things like:

* Post pictures/videos of our trips to Seattle, Mt. Diablo, and Iowa

* Finish blog post about how I reawakened my inner hidden feminist and as much as I am jealous of all the folks in Iowa being able to afford a house, me and the Iowa Stepford wife thing wouldn’t jive.

These things could happen, you never know. But I make no promises.

But hey, if you are reading this…let me know…What are *you* doing today? Just tell me in the comments section!

Hi! :)

I think I read once that happy people don’t write. That saying should be rephrased that super-happy, really-busy people don’t write. I’ve started a couple of entries, but haven’t had a chance to finish them. Why?

1) I started a new project at work last Monday. Getting my head wrapped around a bunch of technologies that are either new to me or I haven’t used in years always drains me mentally (sometimes physically too).

2) After the wedding in July, I kept eating as if everyday were a wedding feast with the all the dancing and commotion that usually keeps the feast from sticking to the hips. But…uh…the new job and all the other changes in my life kept me from dancing, and bicycling, and hiking, and everything else that usually keeps me on the slimmer side of the average American adult woman. So now my jeans are a bit tight. While my weight is still perfectly healthy and not-at-all-fat on the BMI scale, I don’t feel like putting on jeans in the morning and I’m afraid that my mini-skirts have become a bit more mini with the added baggage on the behind. Soooo….I’ve kicked it up a gear and have been making a conscious effort to resume my active lifestyle: e.g., bike to work, weights at the gym several times a week, long walks with the dogs after work, etc., etc. This adjustment doesn’t leave much energy for lounging on the sofa writing freestyle. Lounging on the sofa tends to turn into passing out on the sofa and regaining consciousness at 5:30 a.m. to do it all over again.

3) The Ukrainian and I have been having lots of fun together. We’ve been to Mt. Diablo, a party in East Palo Alto, late lunch in Little Italy, jeans shopping (to have something comfortable to wear while I work on reducing my rear load). These have all been bloggable adventures with pictures (well maybe not the rearview of the jeans trying-on expedition), but I’m usually too tired from it all to want to record it.

4) Lastly, of course, the Obama victory. Every dog with a blog has been writing their joy over this. I too was happy. I literally cried tears of happiness. The Ukrainian had a slightly different reaction. This difference gave me a huge pause for thought. I started to write about it, but then #s 1 -3 got in the way. I promise, promise once the SF winter rain begins again, I will become all melancholic and complete the entry.

Now, for what it’s worth, I am no longer homesick for the midwest. Sure, I miss my family and certain friends. And I miss being around the most honest, salt-of-the-earth people that surely walk the face of this earth. But every single person I know there seems to be complaining about a broken furnace. And they’re cold. Meanwhile, I am going to go ride my bike to work in the (relatively) warm California sun

Toodles y’all!