Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26th, 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

June 17th, 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!

Congratulations, Kendon.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June fifth, 2011

It was a bright morning in Ukraine, the kind
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
4 weeks.

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
exposed surface.
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
a part.

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

June fourth, 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.

S lubovyu,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June first, 2011

So 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!
Coming soon!

I hope everyone's summer is going well. I know it can be stressful, too... =/

Glad to be back.
Miss the blog.