Saturday, May 31, 2008

Will It Last?

This morning I was finally able to turn off the furnace! I think I have had it turned on since last October, or at least last November. We've had some nice weather during the days (so far we've hit 70 degrees 4 times in 2008), but during the night it has been getting down to the low 40's. Now I know, there are some in my family that aren't affected by the chilly nights. They even have their windows open during the frigid, cold winters. But I have a very small comfort zone - something like anywhere between 65 and 75 degrees. When the temperature falls into that range, I consider it a "Donna" day.

This morning, I took my break out on my patio. The sun was shining on my newly planted pots of geraniums, calla lilies, and impatiens. I treated myself to some fresh orange juice and several Oreo cookies (yum). Robins were flitting around, and I could hear Peppi singing from his newly cleaned cage. He seemed to be so happy to have me home. It's been a beautiful morning.

I just checked the temperature. It's 75 degrees right now. I think I'll fix my lunch and eat outside today. Thank You, Lord.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Early this morning, I met Peder, Sarah and Aurelia at a location near the Interstate and rode with them to Austin for the annual parade and ceremony at the cemetery. It was a gorgeous day! The sky was blue. The flowering trees in Austin were beautiful.

This year there was a very good turnout at the flag-raising near the court house, the parade, and also at the memorial dedications for the veterans at the cemetery. We saw some old friends and neighbors - - always fun. During the parade, little Aurelia waved the little American flag that her Great-Aunt Janet had given to her. She was so cute!

Following the ceremony at the cemetery, a young girl (about 9 year old) and her mother came up to my brother and a friend of ours. Both Jerry and Merlyn were wearing caps - Jerry's was a Navy cap from the Naval hospital where he worked while stationed in Japan, and Meryln's was a Marine cap. Her mother said, "My daughter noticed your caps and wondered if you are veterans." Upon hearing their positive response, she handed each of them a home-made note, white paper folded in half, with a patriotic sticker on the front. It's message inside read:

Dear Veteran,

Thank you for serving the Americans. I appreciate the freedoms you gave to the American people. Freedom from being slaves, and to decide what I want to do . . . like be a mom and a veterinarian when I grow up. I can worship in my own way.

Thank you,
I asked her if she had an extra one that I could mail to my son, Hans, who is currently serving in Germany. She lovingly gave me one. It will go in the mail tomorrow.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Aurelia Is Changing Every Day!

Last Tuesday I met Sarah and Aurelia for lunch. It was so fun to see them again. Aurelia smiles at everyone in the restaurant. It is so cute. I got to see her take a few steps, too.

Then yesterday when Peder, Sarah and Aurelia came to my office to deliver Heidi and Chad's precious letter, Aurelia smiled at my co-workers. She also walked - - and clapped! She 9 months old today. Wow!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


This morning Peder, Sarah and Aurelia came to my office to deliver this note to me:

Grandpa and Grandma,

Greetings from Seattle. I wanted to talk to you before Christmas shopping started. You see, I’m a little worried that with my birthday being in mid November, that you might forget about me when it comes to Christmas shopping and I feel that is completely unacceptable.

I hope I don’t sound greedy, but these are important things in my life. That being said, I’m working on a wish list. I don’t have all my parts yet, but when I do, I’ll have my people talk to Santa and we should be in pretty good shape.

Heads up, I’ve been told that my big brother Brian has called dibbs on any stuffed toys I may be given and reserves the right to share any balls that I leave lying around. See ya when I get out of here.


Baby Gilbert

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I'm very excited about this news!

Mission Trip to Ukraine and Austria - Day 1

Boarding the bus at Wooddale Church - May 4, 2008

Safely landed in Kyiv (Kiev)

Sidewalk sweeper outside the Kyiv Borispol Airport

This day was actually more than 24 hours in length. It started with our choir singing at the 9 and 10:15 am services at Wooddale Church. At the conclusion of our singing at the 10:15 service, we hung up our robes, grabbed our boxed lunches and boarded the bus to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. Since there were not enough open seats on the plane when the tickets were purchased, we flew on two planes, one hour apart.
When I boarded the second flight, a flight attendant asked me if I was part of a choir? I told her yes and that we were going on a mission trip to Ukraine and Austria. She said, "Do you think the choir could sing a song for our passengers?" I replied, "I'm not sure the other passengers would like it." But she seemed to really want us to do this, so she told me she would check with the purser. In a few minutes she returned to my seat and said it had been approved. She asked me the name of our church, our city, my name, and the name of the song we would sing. I told her we could sing Make a Joyful Noise Unto the Lord. She told me she would introduce me and the choir after the pilot made his announcements.
After my introduction, I stood in the aisle (I was seated pretty close to the front of the plane) and started the song. The choir immediately joined in. At the conclusion, I said, "Let's sing it once more. If any of the others on the plane would like to join in, that would be great." I was surprised that many of them did. This is an easy song that our director wrote. We usually sing it in a round.
When we arrived at O'Hare in Chicago, we met up with the rest of the choir, which included our director, Dave. One of the folks from my flight went right up to Dave and said, "You should have been on our plane. We were asked to sing - and we did!"
O'Hare was very hot inside. We had a two hour lay-over, so I decided to get an ice cream cone. Later I bought a bottle of apple juice. Once on board the plane, I got cramps. They were still boarding, so I was forced to use the "business class" restrooms. Not once - but three times. I had diarrhea and felt really tough. So tough that I considered getting off the plane and flying back to Minnesota. But I toughed it out and by the morning of day 2 I felt completely fine.
I watched the movie The Bucket List from Chicago to Munich, Germany. It was a very good film. From Munich we flew to Kiev. This was a long day - about 12.5 hours in the air, plus the waiting time between flights. After checking into our hotel in Kiev, I took a shower and went to bed. I slept all night (skipping dinner) and felt really good in the morning.

First Whole Day in Kyiv (Kiev) - Day 2

There is only one known street in the city center that has no trees.

The University of Kyiv

There are steeples and domes throughout the city.

One of the few remaining hammer and sickles in Ukraine

National Security building

One of the many statues in Kyiv

After a good night's sleep, we awoke at 7:30 and dressed for the day. Our breakfast buffet was served in the hotel dining room. What a variety of food! There were hot and cold cereals, rolls, jam, cold cuts, eggs, sausages, bacon, yogurt, teas, coffee, fruit, cheeses, and more. Each table seated 4, so early on, Gayle and I decided we should try to sit with different people at each meal so we could get to know better more people. We found this to be so much fun.
At 10:00 we boarded our double-decker bus to tour the city.

Tours in Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine - Day 3

Breakfast in our hotel

Contrast of women's clothing

Mykhailivskyy Cathedral

Mykhailivskyy Cathedral

St. Sophia's Cathedral

Dave (our director) and Wanda by the Golden Gate

The Golden Gate

"eastern" toilet


Lunch at Kyiv Central Baptist Church

Kyiv Central Baptist Church

Our day started with breakfast in the hotel. Then we boarded the bus and drove to the Mykhailivskyy Cathedral. It was really interesting. There was lots of gold on the domes and in the interior of the church. No photos were allowed inside, so I decided to buy a book. This is an orthodox church.

Secondly, we toured St. Sophia's. This was built in the 1100's. It had beautiful Fresco paintings on the interior walls. This was impressive as they weren't discovered until some plaster from a more recent time had fallen off making the paintings visible. Light streamed through the windows in the dome area. I wished I could have taken photos - but once again, it wasn't allowed. I also bought a book at this cathedral.

We toured the Golden Gate, one of the original main gates to the city of Kyiv, built in 1100. It was amazing to see something so old.

We are seeing all kinds of clothing on the people here - especially the women. The older women wear dresses and their heads are covered with babushkas (scarves). The younger women were stiletto shoes, short skirts, tight pants, etc. What a contrast.
At 1:00 we went to the Kyiv Central Baptist Church for a delicious lunch. We were served borscht, salad (lettuce, radishes, vinegar dressing), rice, pork and gravy, bread, a hot raspberry/cranberry drink, cookies and small cream puffs. We sang The Doxology before sitting down to eat. There were 2 dining rooms in the basement of the church. 3 nice ladies served our food. The ladies restroom had 6 toilets with ceramic holes in the floor and 2 "western" style.
In the afternoon we had our first rehearsal. The church is lovely - plain compared to the ornate gold we saw earlier in the day. The pastor of the church gave us a welcome, and Steve, our tour guide, interpreted for us. The pastor had a great sense of humor. After listening to our rehearsal, he asked if we could stay to sing a few songs at the evening service. We later learned that they have church services every single evening of the week! It was explained this way: what else do they have to do? Interesting. Steve conferred with Dave and it was decided that we could stay, but would have to sing in our casual clothes as our concert attire was back at the hotel. We were scheduled to sing our concert at this church on day 5.

The church service started at 6:30. There were about 250 - 300 people gathered. It was interesting that each person stood to pray when they got to their seat. One of the four pastors opened the service with prayer. Then Steve told the congregation who we were and explained to them that we were in our travel clothes, but would be returning to sing for them on Thursday.

The first anthem we sang was Alleluia. As soon as we started singing, the audience rose to their feet. It was an emotional time. I had tears rolling down my cheeks and could barely sing. Steve later told us that they stand whenever the word "alleluia" is uttered.

Off to Bila Tserkva - Day 4

Bila Tserkva Central Baptist Church

Sanctuary of the Bila Tserkva Central Baptist Church

Yours truly in a shelter at the arboretum.
Our choir singing in the colonnade in the arboretum.

Lunch at the church

Ina and Jenna

Jenna and yours truly



Silhouette on the door with the tub and sink

Silhouette of a little boy

Kitchen sink

Following breakfast this morning, we checked out of Hotel Rus, boarded the bus, and headed southwest of Kiev for Bila Tserkva. This is a city of about 200,000 people, 75 miles southwest of Kiev. We pulled into the city about 12:30. The pastor of the church met us on the outskirts of the city. He led the way to an arboretum where we stopped and walked around for about 2 hours. This was an unexpected treat. The weather the entire time we were on the mission trip was just beautiful! It never rained. The skies were blue with occasional puffy clouds - the temps were somewhere in the low 70's.

In the arboretum we saw flowering trees, lilacs, birds, ponds, swans, and a few shelters. In one shelter (it resembled a Roman colonnade) the choir sang one of our favorite anthems, Adoration. It was just beautiful. There were a few people sitting in benches nearby. They sat quietly listening to us.
Next we boarded the bus and drove to the Central Baptist Church to eat the lunch the church women had prepared for us. We were served borscht (a soup with a beet juice base and shredded cabbage and shredded carrots). It as actually very good. They also served macaroni and fried chicken patties, tea and cookies. Following lunch, we drove to the House of Organ and Chamber Music in Bila Tserkva and gave our first official concert. The people loved our music and clapped and clapped. All age groups were represented. I was amazed at the young people who sat so still and listened to every song. Some of them looked to be three years old! The people of Ukraine really love and respect good music.
After the concert, we boarded our bus and returned to the Central Baptist Church and had a light supper, also prepared by the church women, and then took our places in the church sanctuary for our concert there. I recognized a few people who had come to the afternoon concert. The congregation never clapped at the church concerts. At the conclusion of all of our concerts, the spouses of some of our choir members who had come along on the trip to help with ushering, passed out free DVD copies of the Jesus film to each of the family units. One of our choir members bought and donated 3,000 copies of this film for this purpose. They were produced in the Ukrainian language.

Following the concert, the choir was assigned a home for our evening stay. Gayle and I were assigned to Natasha. Since she had to stay at the church to help do dishes and clean-up from supper, her adult son and daughter - and granddaughter - drove us to Natasha's apartment. Natasha is a widow who I would guess was in her 60's (just a guess). Her apartment building was old and looked to have been built by the communists. We went to her floor in a small elevator that may have had a 2-watt light bulb in it. I think she lived on 7th floor. There was graffiti on the walls - both in the elevator and the apartment hallway. Her efficiency apartment was very clean, but compact.
Her daughter, Ina, and grand-daughter, Jenna, got busy turning her couch into a double bed. Jenna pulled out a frame from under the L-shaped sofa and promptly took off the back cushions to form the mattress over the frame. Then together they covered the base with freshly ironed linens and tucked blankets into 2 duvet covers. They wouldn't allow me to help them. Ina put the Jesus film into the DVD player and started to play it.
Thankfully, Jenna and Ina spoke a little English. I asked Jenna if I could use the restroom. She shook her head and pointed toward the hallway. But when I looked into the room which I thought was the bathroom, I saw only a sink and a tub. Oh no, don't tell me they have an outhouse???? But in the same hallway I discovered another door with a silhouette of a little boy peeing into a pot. Inside that door was the toilet! The toilet seat was made of pink plastic and was held together in a couple of places with tape.
Once our bed was made, Ina and Jenna left. Natasha wasn't home yet, so Gayle and I made our way around the small apartment and took photos in all the rooms. By the time she got home, we were in bed with the lights out. We stayed quiet so that Natasha could get some much needed rest. We knew we could talk to her in the morning. Natasha slept in a twin bed in the kitchen.

Big Day - Two Concerts - Day 5

Natasha and me at the breakfast table.

Yours truly, Natasha, Gayle

House of Organ and Chamber Music

Traffic in Kiev - gridlock, cars driving on the pedestrian way.

Early this morning I was awakened by the ceiling light being turned on and our host saying something to Gayle and me in Ukrainian. I had no idea what she said, but Gayle had just been up to use the restroom and hadn't flushed since she didn't want to wake anyone. Gayle said, "I think she wants you to get up to use the restroom." So out of the bed I climbed. After that it was impossible to go back to sleep. Gayle and I started to get ready for the day. Our host began making our bed back into a sofa. We had slept in the living room of her tiny efficiency apartment. Her bed was a twin size located in her small kitchen. We knew this because her adult daughter and son had brought us to her apartment the night before following our concert at their church. Our host, Natasha, had stayed at the church to help with clean-up in the kitchen. She hadn't gotten home until close to midnight and Gayle and I were already in bed with the lights out. But prior to getting into our bed, we looked around the apartment and took pictures. [No, we didn't snoop, if that's what you're thinking.]
Natasha had been up, preparing our breakfast. After she made our bed (she wouldn't let me help but motioned for me to sit in a chair). She put a table cloth on the coffee table, set out plates and cups. She served blintzes (filled crepes); buttered white bread topped with red caviar; sausage and cheese; left-over from the church supper macaroni and breaded chicken and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. She offered coffee. I asked for boiled water and fixed a cup of hot chocolate. Natasha seemed interested in what I was drinking, so I offered a packet to her and she seemed to enjoy the taste of it. I tried the caviar, but immediately knew I wouldn't be able to eat it. It was salty, fishy tasting, and crunchy. I could barely get the bite down. Then it occurred to me to find my Russian dictionary to try to find some way to communicate with her. She knew ZERO English. I found the word "expensive." Showing the word to her, she nodded yes. I did the best to motion to her that I was sorry but couldn't eat any more of it. To compensate for this, I took 3 servings of the blintzes and she looked pleased.
Next she opened a large, decorated box of chocolates. They were about the size of a chocolate-covered cherry and had some sort of filling in them. I thought they tasted good which she must interpreted as "Please, may I have some more?" She went to the kitchen and brought back two plastic bags and proceeded to fill them for Gayle and me to take with us. [I passed my bag around on the bus.]
During our breakfast Gayle and I showed Natasha the photo albums we had brought with us. Mine was filled with photos of my 3 kids, their spouses, and my 3 grandchildren. I included a photo of my house in spring time and one in winter, plus a photo of Peppi, my canary, and a photo I had taken of Wooddale, our church. With the aid of my dictionary and our actions, she seemed to understand what she was seeing. She got out a photo of her husband and was able to tell us her he had died 5 years previous. She showed us photos of her two kids and 2 grandchildren. Then Gayle and I gave her our hostess gifts. I gave her a purple prayer shawl I had knit and the first four Love Comes Softly books by Janette Oke, printed in Russian. I pointed to Janette's photo on the back covers and found the word "friend" in the dictionary, indicating Janette is my friend. Natasha was so pleased. She had a little tear in her eyes.
Soon it was time to gather our things. Natasha had called a taxi to take us back to the church. Even though we couldn't communicate very well with language, we understood each other by our actions. After talking with other choir members on the tour, Gayle and I felt we most likely had stayed with the poorest person. It was a very special time for me. One of the things that helped me decide to participate in this mission trip was knowing that these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are going to be with us in heaven. How nice it would be to get to know some of them before we get there!
We drove back to Kiev, about a 2.5 hour trip. Traffic in Kiev was very heavy. Impatient drivers drove onto the pedestrian pathways to get ahead of the grid-lock. Our bus was a double-decker, and Gayle and I always sat on top, near the front. We had a fantastic view of everything. The Ukrainians, for the most part, drive very nice cars. We saw Mercedes Benz, BMWs, Chevrolets, a few Toyotas, and VWs. Our bus driver maneuvered our bus through amazingly small, tight passages.
We drove to a beautiful catholic church in the city. During World War II, the Russians closed all of the churches, so this one has become the House of Organ and Chamber Music. It was there that we gave our 4th concert. At the beginning of the rehearsal, I was told I would be giving my faith story during the program. Following the rehearsal, I met Masha, my interpreter, and she and I went over my text. The only part for which she needed clarification was "I dropped out of college." She didn't know what "dropped out" meant. When I said it means, "I quit," she understood. I had prepared two identical copies, making yellow bars after each sentence. I told her I would pause at each yellow bar indicating to her this was when she would interpret what I said.
When the time came for me to deliver my faith story, I felt very warm and my heart was racing. Masha and I stood before the crowded church and I was able to read it without crying. The sound in the church wasn't good - no microphones - so many of the choir members, seated off to the sides during this part of our program, told me they could not hear me.
After our concert, we visited with the people in the audience a little and then boarded the bus and left for the Kiev Central Baptist Church. We were stalled in lots of traffic, arriving at the church around 7 pm. We had 7.5 minutes to use the restroom and line up to process into the sanctuary.
Mid-way into our performance, our choir director pointed up in the choir and motioned, "you're next." I was certain he was pointing at me. I thought, "Am I to give my story again since choir members had said they could hear me at the afternoon concert?" So I began to get warm and nervous. At the conclusion of the anthem, I stepped past the sopranos and was about to round the piano to the podium when I noticed a woman coming to the stage. I thought, "This isn't Masha, my interpreter. Am I having a different interpreter at this concert?" I was nearly ready to walk out onto the stage when in my peripheral vision, I saw Nathan, our tenor soloist coming from the rows behind me. It was then that I realized our director had pointed at Nathan and not at me! I was so embarrassed! Following the service I apologized to our director and he said it was no problem.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sight-seeing Day in Kiev - Day 6


More choices

A crafter knitting at one of the many stands

Posing with a couple of veterans on Victory Day

My lunch at the cafeteria

Monastery of the Caves

Dressed for the catacombs

WW II Museum

Today is "Victory Day" in Ukraine. It is similar to our July 4th. There were big parades in Kiev for the veterans of WWII. It was a national holiday and there were throngs of people everywhere. Many were in uniforms. In the morning we had our first chance in 5 days to shop! Prior to this, we had been on a pretty tight schedule. Our tour guide gave us 1.5 hours to walk down the mile of shops. Then we had 30 minutes to buy lunch and eat it in a cafeteria at the bottom of the steep hill. I bought three things: a hand-thrown, glazed clay bowl, a hand-painted wooden plate for my wall, and a Russian veteran pin with a hammer and sickle for Hans.

Once in the cafeteria, I proceeded to the women's rest room. Oh no, there were two stalls, each with only a ceramic hole in the floor. What to do? Well, I mustered up courage and went into one. When ready to leave, I couldn't unlock the door. It was stuck! I called out, "Help!" I heard a woman with broken English say, "I get you some help." After what seemed like 5 minutes, a man came and pried the door open. Whew! Now I had about 15 minutes to go through the line, grab some food, choke it down, and return to the bus. I chose a dish of steamed vegetables, a piece of cake, and some pop. I managed to swallow it in time.

After lunch we toured the Monastery of the Caves and the catacombs. This monastery was begun in 1052. It had gold leaf domes and lots of gold in the interior. It was actually spread out over a big area. There were monks that ran a hospital; some tended the orchards; some were cooks; some presided at the masses.

To tour the catacombs, one had to purchase a bees wax candle. I think it was about $.50 in US money. We were instructed to hold the candle in our left hand, palm up, between the ring and middle fingers. This was hard as it didn't feel secure, and I had to pay attention so I didn't start the person's hair in front of me on fire. The pathways were small, and no talking of any kind was permitted after crossing a certain line. Also, the rule was that women had to have their hair covered and must be wearing a skirt or a dress. I hadn't worn a dress that day, so someone loaned me one of their scarves which I wore on my head and wrapped my scarf around my waist so it appeared I had a skirt on. My coat covered my back. It was very interesting. We saw glass covered coffins. The monks were covered in beautiful embroidered blanket-type things. The only thing that remotely resembled a body were the little embroidered slippers at the foot of the coffin. We were to toss our snuffed out candle in a bucket at the exit of the catacombs. I kept mine for a souvenir.

After the tour we boarded the bus and went to the Ukrainian National Memorial Museum. This was fantastic!!! We were to have toured this in the morning as we had a 10 o'clock time set up, but because the President of Ukraine was in town for the Victory Day festivities, he took the 10 o'clock time and we were postponed to tour it at 1:30. We had our own tour guide for the museum. Our choir had to pay for one of our choir members to have the privilege to take still photos throughout the museum and one for take videos. There were 16 rooms to the museum. Each one was meticulously created to show the events and conditions that took place while Stalin and Hitler ravaged Ukraine from both sides. The land of Ukraine was very fertile and thus desirable. In many towns and villages, all the men and boys were lost in the fighting. After their bodies were burned, they put their bones in machines and ground them up for bone meal to fertilize the land. It was horrid. I cried more than once while on this tour.

The final chamber, room 16, had a long funeral table in the center. On one side of the table runner were glass goblets. These are memory of the millions who never came home in 1945. Opposite the table runner were canteens and tin cups. The wall nearer the glass goblets had photographs - floor to ceiling - of women and children. The wall nearer the canteens had photos of the soldiers. In effect, the photos were looking at each other. It was very moving. I decided to buy a souvenir book so I could read more about this terrible atrocity.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Early Departure from Kiev - Day 7

Roadside scenery on the Autobahn
Orange Fanta and Florentine

We arose at 3 am, checked out of our hotel, and were on our way to the Kiev airport by 3:45. Everyone went through immigrations and customs without a hitch. We flew Lufthansa to Munich flying over Ukraine, Slovakia, Austria, and then into Germany. The plane was about half full, so I opted to sit in a row by myself - in a window seat. The sky was clear. The snow-covered mountains were lovely. The flight and arrival into Munich was uneventful. We went through customs and boarded a nice bus. The drive to Salzburg, Austria, was about 2 hours. We stopped along the way at a rest stop with a McDonald's. I had a "Happy Meal" for lunch and really enjoyed it!

Our hotel in Salzburg was within walking distance of the old city. After Gayle and I dropped our luggage into our room, we set out to see some sights and do a little shopping. The weather was gorgeous. In fact, we had no rain the entire time of the mission trip.

The shops were abundant and fun. We ran into Wooddale people here and there. But eventually I set out on my own as Gayle and some of the others were more interested in souvenirs. I found a darling shop with Delft and other things. I made a small purchase and asked the proprietor if she could direct me to a yarn shop. While walking in the direction she gave, I spotted Pat and Janet. They came along with me to the yarn shop. There I bought a Bavarian sweater pattern book (in German) and yarn to make a Bavarian vest for Annika, and hopefully one for Aurelia when she gets bigger.

We ran into others from our tour and eventually Pat and I took off together. We found a darling confectionery shop where we treated ourselves to Florentines (cookies) and an orange Fanta drink. It felt good to sit down for a little bit. But not for long, as we had more shopping to do!!

The dinner that evening was a nice salad and turkey medallions plus rice and vegetables - carrots and yellow squash. It was delicious!