Friday, December 30, 2011
An update!!! =)
In the few days since returning Stateside, things have been so chaotic that I have not had a chance to sit down for evern ONE LITTLE BABY MINUTE on my computer. =) Today is my first day off of work, thanks to my coworker switching me shifts, and I decided to hang out at Chick-fil-A, where my sister works, and use the free wifi to update my blog. =) Unfortunately, all of my photos are on my camera, and I did not bring the cord with me. Oops. =) But I promise I will update with photos, soon!!
It is lovely to be back in the USA. I am still awed by the the cleanliness and perfection of this country. Everything is so orderly, pristine, and comfortable. People smile and wave. Cars move smoothly down accurately-painted streets. The sky of Oklahoma is huge and the sunsets breathtaking. In fact, the sunset out the window right now is really nice. =) Yellow and gold are touching the rooftops across the parking lot and feathery white clouds are turning grey in the coming shadow of nightfall.
I miss my family back home, of course, so very much. Every moment I wish they were around, so I could share with them everything that I am experiencing. Oh, well. Praise God for Facebook and Skype. =D
Being with my sister, Katrina, again after 6 months apart is absolutely wonderful! I missed her very much, and true to the saying, absence has definitely made our hearts grow fonder. =)) She and Jonathan, her boyfriend, have made my return very warm and welcomed me back with outings every night. It's been a blast! We went to see the Christmas lights on the mansions in Nichols Hills as well as in the public park in Yukon. I also discovered Jonathan has a penchant for really freaky scary movies =)) haha! We were able to celebrate Christmas together and I am looking forward to seeing my Heartland/Southwest friends on Sunday night when we plan to go to Bricktown to celebrate the New Years!! =)
Panera. What I can say. I love my job. =) My managers were ecstatic about my return and quickly issued me 40 hours for my first week, introduced me to the new foods we now offer, and swooped me back out onto register. The customers haven't changed. The routine hasn't changed. The atmosphere of the neighborhood hasn't changed. A lot of my coworkers have changed (transfering out to the new, snobby Panera with a drivethru lol) but I am enjoying the chance to make new friends. Praise God for saving this job for me. I am very grateful for His provision.
Today..... I got to hang out with some of my very best friends. My adopted brother Justin is back from his sunny vacation in Arizona (hoorah!) and the friend who saved my beloved computer from a sad demise, Levi, is back from the snowy mountains of Washington. We shared Ihop and Starbucks and Walmart shopping. I walked out with Cheez-Its, sharp cheddar spray cheese, a jug of eggnog,and a case of glass bottled Stuart's creme soda. =D Oohhhhh so much fun. =) Hello, New Years. Harry, my childhood friend from New Mexico, came by work to see me last night before he heads off for New Years. I was touched by the kindness I've been shown.
Well, I need to wrap this up. Thanks to everyone for the prayers during my travels. God kept his hand on every flight and there were no delays or problems.
Oh yes. Paris, by the way, was indescribably lovely. =)
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Some memories are just too special to write about. Sometimes it's not that the occasion was perfect or the plan went unhindered or that the weather was ideal and the timing flawless. Sometimes it's just the simple fact of dreams and planning coming together in one beautiful moment. And those are the memories that we carry forever.
Steven is back home!! And we went skating. =)
I fell. Twice. And he whizzed circles around me, fearless and dynamic and amazing. He is a much better skater than I could ever be! But I loved the look on his face when I did backwards crossovers. Haha. WIN! =D
I am so thankful to be home with my family for Christmas holidays. The only down is not having Katrina here! But I will be seeing her soon... I leave tomorrow! It has been insanely busy trying to pack in as much time with my family as well as clothes into my suitcases at the same time!
Please pray for safe travels to the US. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a special time with thier loved ones. Take the days we have and make the most of them. =)
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Time to pack!!!
This is a whimsical post because I'm determined to not think about leaving my parents and brothers and church friends in just FIVE days.
Poor Chester (my couch) has become the catwalk for a mountain of clothing and accessories as I waded through my wardrobe this last week. Packing always presents a problem for me. I like to have everything with me, whether in the States or here at home, and it is hard to leave a single item behind. I'm not sure why. I do not think it is normal to have separation withdrawals from a pair of suede pumps or a Calliope tee-shirt. But I cannot escape the sad feeling when I pull something from the "approved" pile and place it neatly folded into the "staying behind" pile. Very sad. =(
Clothes were the first hurdle but not the hardest by any stretch of imagination. Where do all the little things come from that compile mysteriously out of the blue over six months of living some place? A big part of home is familiarity - like the giant words scrawled on my mirror "Faith, Courage, Love," - or the little platter of Italian porcelain that catches all my loose change and yesterday's pair of earrings. These things can't go with me.
Maybe I'm just wildly sentimental? I have a box of every card sent to me. Well, several boxes now. Every time I relocate, I start a new box so that I can keep a tangible memory of the friends I've left behind and that they haven't forgotten me. Now what am I supposed to do with these boxes?? Someday, I imagine, I will make the world's most awesome scrapbook with all the notes and squares of wrinkled paper that represent the people in my life who send me cards. I doubt it will ever be a museum collector item, but it means a lot to ME. =)
Then there are my coffee cups. Oh so funny, this is a story in itself! But I won't digress. The happy little feeling I get from pulling a new mug off the rack and filling it with hot aromatic coffee is tampered by the admission I have a trail of coffee cups from my bedroom all over the house. It's just a tick. I can't stand using the same cup twice and am comfortably accustomed to making a round at night and finding where they all ended up, dumping them in the sink to wash so they are ready to go in the morning. I suppose... I can't take all fifteen mugs with me.... and I will miss them all, I know. I have 3 mugs at school and they hardly fit in my crowded cupboard next to the GrapeNuts box and cans of Spaghettio's. I had a fourth but there is some suspicion in my mind someone stole it to stop the collection from growing out of control. Haha. =)
While I'm sorting through odds and ends and wondering how I manage to get so attached to such silly material things, I come across my Bible with its pretty red cover and gold-tipped pages. Now THAT is something I will be taking with me, in my carryon in fact. People change, and time shifts everything around, and clothes go out of fashion and coffee cups crack (sad face). But the most unmovable part of my life is that knowledge that God lives within me, and loves me, and He's never going to let me go off without him. If the earth were to blow up, and I was being evacuated to Mars, all I'd need was my Bible.
(and my passport, of course)
(and my black leather boots)
(and a picture of my turtles and puppy)
(and that heavenly-soft pearl white blouse)
Monday, December 5, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Family gatherings. These two words bring to our minds memories of laughter, warmth, and timeless tradition. Certain holidays have become identified with the rendezvous of relatives, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July. But almost any occasion when a family apart is again united, becomes an occasion to remember.
Every New Year and every summer since I went away to the United States to study, I have returned home for a season. These days are the highlights of my year. In different ways, each return has been memorialized with an unforgettable day celebrating the whole family being together again. This year, my parents took the opportunity to pass down a second-generation O’Brien pastime.
Back in the day, as they say, my dad’s family would cross into Mexico to buy fresh black-tailed tiger shrimp from the fisherman right off the wharf. Then they would return home and make an event out of the meal. My mammott (dad’s mom) was an amazing chef, and she passed her touch along to my mom and dad.
Growing up in Kharkov, far from wild waters, I have never experienced this tradition. But now, with the modernization of the country and the arrival of grocery stores, we can buy imported food… like shrimp from the North seas.
A simple dinner of pasta and shrimp with butter and garlic became an unforgettable family event as my dad taught us how to clean and sauté the translucent crustaceans into a sizzling red entree. YUM! Garlic, butter, and lemon; a hot fire; and lots of napkins! Voila. Meal fit for a king.
Someone once said life doesn’t hand you perfect moments – you have to seize the moments and make them perfect. Sitting at my old place at the dinner table, I watched my whole family laugh and dine and felt that truly, the occasion was perfect.
Now the four O’Brien kids (well, young adults) can shrimp fest with the best of them! And someday, I imagine, we’ll be passing on the tradition to another generation of O’Briens.
I think, up in heaven, my mammott was watching us pull off the steaming shells and squeeze lemons, and she smiled. Because love and unity and family continues.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
The big moments in life should be remembered forever. Like my brother, graduating from high school. In a blink, he went from being the little kid in cowboy boots and hat, to a young man radiating poise and eloquence behind the graduation podium. As I watched him received his diploma, I knew it was a moment I would remember for the rest of my lifetime.
Just a week ago or so, the neighbor across from the church died. As all deaths go, his life of riotous drinking and corruption was transformed, it seemed, as everyone talked about the good in his life and how much he would be missed.
I began to think about eulogies. About the time taken to remember and honor a life, after its passing. But what is the point? It seems so tragic to wait until they are gone to extend this recognition.
So as my brother let loose a flock of balloons into the skies to celebrate his freedom from the school years, I watched and took a minute to think of his life.
Kendon Patrick Arthur O'Brien
Born April 24th, 1993 in Tucson, Arizona
He was two years old when my parents moved us to Wisconsin for Bible college, four when we began deputation, and six when we reached Kharkov. And he's been there ever since.
Kendon used to be my snuggle buddy. =) Back in the day, I remember letting him into my bed so many nights when he would be scared, and we would chase away the shadows together. Those were good days. =)
Lately, Kendon has been working out at the gym with passion. He is strong enough to pick me up and carry me around. So when the shadows come, it is me getting scared and running to Kendon to make me feel better!
The years have changed both of us. Being across the world, studying, has filled our relationship with a great deal of space it seems. But the love is still very much there. And when I got sick last year, and found myself hospitalized, it was my brother Kendon whom God let come to be at my side. I will never forget that, either.
This would be a very long blog post to recount his life.
But I wanted to share just a tiny bit with my readers, so they could say they knew my amazing brother and just how much he means to me... how proud I am of him.
Because I am so, so proud of him!
Sunday, June 5, 2011
where the sun begins rising over the orchards
by 4:00am and the birds flutter from blossoming
rosebush to rosebush, scattering petals on
the dewy grass.
A plane took off in the distant, passengers
sleepy and stewardesses serving hot grindy
But I wasn't in that plane.
For the first time this whole year, I woke up
in my very own bed in the room I shared
with my brother.
Like a bank of mist rolling back from a meadow
into the edges of a forest, memories of this
year chased each other across my mind. Madrid.
Chicago. Pekin. The long drive to Oklahoma City,
The months in Oklahoma.Back to Pekin. Peoria.
Finland. Kiev. And finally...the year half-
spent, I was safely tucked in my very own
It was nostalgically blissful. =)
The judge's parrot was sitting on my window sill,
loudly cawing, and squawking, and occasionally
whistling. I smiled. He was my personal
fascination... I would love a parrot someday
in my own courtyard. It was definitely one
of those simple things that I missed so
much over the months and many mornings waking
up without his whimsical greeting.
I looked around the room. Messy... a dusty candle
on the bureau... trophies and weight-lifting
magazines and my desk, now overtaken with
my brother's affects. If I closed my eyes
again, I could see the room as I'd known it
in December - with glittery butterflies and
photos on the wall in my corner, my corner
with my desk displaying my collection of Tattered
Teddy bears and my book in work, the candle
filling the room with their smell of spice.
Ahh... time is odd.
Unlike last May, when I moved in for 9 months..
this time I would only be sleeping here for
But I was home, and in this place, I had
grown up and knew that I would always be
safe, be loved, and find a long hug.
Breakfast was coffee and cream, a plate of
fresh strawberries, a piece of hot toast
smothered under honeycomb (no butter), ah -
yes - dried octopus. =D =D Long rubbery strands,
heavily salted, huge energy boost.
Ready for the day, tussle my little old man
puppy Zubi for a few minute. He's gotten
greyer! They grey beard and whiskers creeping
up his muzzle and around his eyes. But
those beautiful eyes still sparkled at me,
tail wagging, patiently waiting for his
breakfast and a little cuddling. Miniature
dachshunds age so sweetly...
Out the door and into town with my mom to
visit building supply stores across the
city. Then looking at interior design. It was
priceless - standing in the marble lobbies
of European design exhibitions, talking
pattern, texture, color. FUN! Getting quotes,
taking notes, making jokes... good memories =)
So many dreams in our heads, talking them
thru, envisioning the day they would be
Off to a light lunch at the Itaiano restaurante
Mafia. Mushroom ravioli. Mokhito, a local
drink, club soda and lime juice stuffed
with a profusion of fresh mint leaves and
lemon wedges. Mmmm. =) Perfectly hit the
spot! I do apologize, but... I really don't
miss cafeteria food ONE BIT!!!! =P
Tired now, but a long day still ahead. Head
to the church site, where the sun is thinking
about sinking towards the apartment blocks
across the street. Sawdust floats like snow
through the air, softly settling on every
I remember the skeletal building as I left
it in the black skies and ice of December, the
trusses of the roof dominating the workdays.
Now, doors and windows are in, walls are up,
and it is a sealed, clean structure. Interior
walls are the project of the season.
There's not too much I can do with my limited
construction skills (i.e. hitting a nail
straight-on with a hammer demands tongue-
biting concentration). But I can fetch nails,
sweep piles of wood shavings into trashbags,
and hold up the walls. It feels so good to
be helping out. After all, this is my church,
my home... and I missed being here, being
Go home, and say hi to my turtles Lex Luthor
and Lester, splashing away in their tank in
my dad's office. Pull off my shoes, head
straight for my bed and curl up, tired enough
to rest my head for just a moment.
Quiet moments later, and my sister is waking
me up for dinner. The smell of homemade
pizza (garlic, fresh basil and tomatoes) makes
my stomach rumble, but I'm too sleepy to
eat. The room is dark and the shadows deep.
Even though it's only 8:30, I pull the
blankets up to my chin, say goodnight
in my head to my friends in the USA just
starting their days, and close my eyes.
It was a good day to be back home. =)
Saturday, June 4, 2011
I've revamped my blog!
Obviously, I am no longer "new" to school, or Oklahoma City, or Panera Bread. As much as I detest time, its power to change things is unstoppable. So a little rethinking, reconstructing, modifying, editing... and this is the result.
It was challenging to find a new title. I used to be The Kharkov Girl (fondly reliving my Memoirs of an MK days...) and then The New Girl, but I decided to give that theme a rest and come up with something a little broader. Classifying myself always seemed frighteningly claustrophobic, anyways!
So many people, when they sit down and get talking with me and hear the vast reserves of stories that have been my life, insist I should someday write a book about all of it. Arizona, deputation, the White House, the medical evacuation, the KGB, the university days, Chicago... But I don't really feel I'll ever be able to take those memories and publish them into a real live book.
So here's my story, ever continuing (until, yeah!, God takes me to heaven!) - unpublished, but here for all to read. =)
I hope that it continues to be a bit of a blessing and make a difference in someone's life out there.
To all my friends and my family, thank you for your support. I would not be the person I am, or the writer I'm aspiring to be, without you all these years.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
So blogger.com and I had a bit of a breakup a while back... but I think we talked it through and it's going to be okay now! =)
Joking aside, I apologize for the blog being down for a few weeks. I assume the blogging site was just having troubles, as I lost access to my blogs and to publishing new posts! It was frustrating, because I'd wanted to post the progress of the wedding... ah, oh well.
For those catching up, I'm home in Kharkov (Ukraine)!
And I'm renovating the blog for the summer holiday. YEAH for classes being out. YEAH for being back in Europe for a while. YEAH to getting done with the wedding. YEAH to sleeping in till 9!! =D
I need a new name for my blog!
I hope everyone's summer is going well. I know it can be stressful, too... =/
Glad to be back.
Miss the blog.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
After just a few minutes, I saw a really awesome spectacle: a helicopter flying low over the trees, coming down the street with its powerful beams sweeping back and forth. It hovered slowly, low to the street, and rumbled along with the steady speed of a dumptruck. I was enamored, watching with the curiosity and fascination of a little child. I'd never see one that close. =)
A bottle of water for the stress, a tootsie-roll pop for the nerves, and I was sitting on a stool talking to a serious-faced, midde-aged lady copy to give my report. She was actually one of the officers who had been in the cars that carried out the chase and arrest, and so she was very interested to hear my perspective of the incident.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Hanging out later at Bricktown...
Bricktown, Oklahoma City...
Bro. Copes and wife, the executive Vice President of Heartland...
Bro. John & Ms. Grace Lande, college and career director at Southwest Baptist Church....
The last Sunday at church, my Pre-teen Sunday School class went out to watch Bro. Ben kiss a pig....
My Heartland coworkers at Panera Bread!
Southwest Baptist Church, view from the balcony....
Monday, May 9, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011