Marky Mark

My husband never ceases to be amazed by my knowlege of the trivialities of our cultural references. You may not realize this, but Americans really talk in cultural reference all the time. TV shows, books, movies from the 50’s or 70’s or 80’s. Try explaining an “ET” reference or “Hammer Time” to someone from another country. I dare you. 

In an older Eminem song (which my husband would have never even heard if he hadn’t married me – yes – I’m cooler than I look) there is a line that says “Back when Mark Whalberg was Marky Mark…” Well – the hubbs wanted to know what this meant. I proceeded to explain that Mark Whalberg – as sexy and good at acting as he is now, was not always such a mega star. That at ONE point in his career (when I was in junior high) he was the little brother of one of the New Kids On The Block. He then became a rapper/hip hop artist named “Marky Mark”. Just look at all of the cultural references there – NKOTB, Donnie Whalberg, 90’s rap, etc. I ended up finding some old videos on youtube and we watched them. Boy was Marky Mark skinny!!!

THEN, just to add a little flavor to the mix, my husband tells all of his friends at the next get together we have (after several drinks of vodka) all about Marky Mark and his career.

They weren’t as impressed as my husband. Perhaps he left out all the cultural references I explained in detail. Perhaps “back when Mark Whalberg was Marky Mark” just doesn’t translate well into Russian…


Ways to get sick in Russia

The Lake with Grandpa

This weekend my 5 year old son and I went on “spring break” to my parent’s house. One of the days my Dad took us up the canyon, to a lake, to a small farm, and to a small museum. My son and my dad threw a lot of rocks in the river and lake, and driftwood sticks into the lake as well. My dad let my son get his shoes and socks and pants all wet, even though the water was freezing and the day was only tepid. I had extra shoes in the car and it wasn’t a big deal. This made me thankful that a. I had parents that let me get wet and cold on occasion, and b. that my MIL wasn’t with us. She would have freaked out. Which brings me to the real meat of the story. Apparently there are different ways to get sick in different cultures.

Ways to get sick in America:

  • bacteria
  • viruses
  • food poisoning

Ways to get sick in Russia:

  • wet feet
  • wind in your ears/ face
  • wet hair
  • playing in cold water
  • not wearing a hat in temperatures less than 50 degrees F
  • drinking cold drinks
  • drinking drinks with ice (wow did they think I was crazy when I did this in Russia!)
  • putting ice on sore muscles, especially the neck or back
  • taking a cool shower or bath
  • swimming in cool water
  • eating certain foods when sick – for example, if you have a sore throat don’t eat nuts
  • sitting on cement (it either has to do with the colder temperature of cement, even in extreme heat or “radiation” from the cement itself, I’ve received two stories on this – and it’s equally bad for prostates and ovaries)
  • letting your privates get cold in the winter – especially children – tights, long johns, etc. required
  • not wearing enough layers in the cold
  • an infant not being wrapped and layered to the point of heat rash – no I am not exageratting
  • eating certain foods with alcohol
  • not eating enough fish, soup, tea, or warm cereal – all extrememely bad for lifelong stomach issues – for example, if a child refuses to eat soup he will have digestive issues when he grows up
  • playing with animals such as cats or dogs

Please note, there are no “germs”, “viruses”, or “bacteria” on the second list. When I tell my MIL we have a virus she just shakes her head in disbelief and tells her husband she doesn’t understand why we have so many viruses in this country. She also doesn’t understand why I let my son do crazy things like play with the hose in the summer – he is “going to get sick” and then for the next 7 days if he is stuffy from his allergies or anything I have to hear about how his “nose is closed” for hours. Letting him play in the lake is close to child abuse. Interesting enough they DO wash their hands a lot. Especially when returning to the house from being out. I am not sure why they do this since they don’t seem to believe in germs…..

I baby sat a girl of about 10 after school last year. She would go to school in a tanky top, a t-shirt, a turtle neck and a sweater, underpants, tights, pants, 2 layers of socks (one long) and boots which she wasn’t allowed to change inside. Plus her coat, hat, gloves, and scarf. I asked her once if she ever got cold in class. They seem to keep my son’s classroom very warm in the winter. She said yes, but if she takes off her sweater she gets in trouble. I simply can’t imagine. Isn’t that the point of layers? To take them off and add them as needed? Even the boys wear tights – they have cute ones in boys colors over there. I suppose I will just keep on abusing my child by dressing him in a t-shirt and sweater and jeans (no tights). Poor kid.


I am still trying to figure out this whole “blog” thing. Like – how to link the blogs I love to share with others. And do I have to ask permission to do so? So forgive me if I am sharing something I shouldn’t, and let me know if I should take it down…

ANYWHO, a blog I love led me to this blog. I warn you – the particular story I am posting is very heart-wrenching. But I had to go back through the blog to kind of find out what was going on in this family. And there you have it. One day a mom is talking about the first day of school, the next there is a memorial to her son. She describes in heart breaking details the night they lost their boy, and then in posts after that talks about how they deal with it.

I read this today – on what would have been her son’s 13th birthday.

There has been an outpouring from all over the world of love and hope for this family.

I’m sure that helps. But I know that a family truly deals with the pain of what has happened alone. In this blog she writes about the things she realizes her son will never do. The normal, every day, ordinary things that kids, teenagers, boys do.

I know this pain from another side of the tracks and reading it put into those words made me thankful, for perhaps the millionth time in the past five and a half years, that it is I who was sick with cancer and not my son. I have had many of these moments. I have seen the kids in the cancer ward, and the mothers holding their hands. I have known some moms who have lost kids. To all different terrible things. And I am thankful every single time that it is me in pain, me who has to think “what if I’m not here for his wedding, or his graduation, or his first child?” It is easier, as moms, to feel the pain, than to watch your child go through it. Worse, to loose a child and have to find a way to continue on through your life.

I am thankful today, after reading this blog, that my son is here with me. He has gotten me through the past 5 years. He has changed my life. And I am reminded to hold onto the times we have together. Life is fleeting and precious.


“We experience moments absolutely free from worry.  These brief respites are called panic. “ ~Cullen Hightower

I truly think I should be beyond the anxiety – the worry, the fear.  Today it reared it’s ugly head again. Today was an almost 2.5 year neck ultrasound after my last surgery. I felt ok going in to the appointment.  I know that what is to be can not be changed by me tapping my foot, wringing my hands, clenching my teeth or holding my breath. Those things just make it worse. So I went in with some calm and some good music on my Ipod and I was ok. Then the ultrasound started. The tech was going over and over the lymph nodes we are “following” and I honestly started to tear up. She was doing a great job – getting the pictures we need. This was at least my 10th ultrasound since my thyroid cancer ordeal began more than 5 years ago.  (probably closer to 15) So why was I so upset? It doesn’t make sense. But that’s what anxiety is. It is the worry that if you lie down on that bed one more time, they just might find what you aren’t looking for. If you have a device pushing and massaging your neck too hard the cancer may decide to pop up. If you close your eyes for too long the world will go back to black. That if you don’t watch the screen (which you can’t because you have to look up and to the left, right, left) they will find more cancer and the nightmare will start all over.

This is the fear that cancer patients live with all the time. It is this fear that is more paralyzing then the actual disease.

(I’m cheating here – I wrote this a few weeks ago as kind of a journal entry.)

Random story I just thought about and had to share with the world. #1

Yes, it does need a #1 behind it, because honestly, this happens every hour.

7th grade. Algebra class. (the stupid algebra class, because honestly, I was terrible at math) We all know that young teens have a terrible self esteem and hate being singled out in class. (hint – if you don’t know this, you are probably a junior high math teacher and need to learn it before you continue to crush young souls).

My math teacher: tall, skinny, unwashed hair, thick thick coke bottle glasses – god knows how he saw through them – they were so dirty with oil and dandruff and…. BLECH. You get the picture.

So there I am, young, obnoxious, full of my self… maybe a little entitled at that point.

Mr. S is trying to teach us how to calculate the slope of a line. I am honestly not getting it. (I told you I sucked at math.) Instead of trying to help me he ATTACKS me.I mean truly attacks me. He says “you have to learn this because if you don’t you will never get anywhere in life.” (what a jerk, right? I was SO offended. HA)

Now, I know this isn’t true, because my mom is terrible at math and she is a professional woman who speaks her mind and kicks ass and takes names.

So, I say “Tell me, when will I ever have to use this in my real life.”

Yes, I did.

And Mr. S – who is now pissed off on top of being frustrated with me – says “If you want to dig a ditch, you will have to calculate the slope of…”

I interrupt him. In front of the class. I say “If I ever need a ditch dug, I will simply hire someone to dig it. They can calculate the slope.”

True story.

Did I get in trouble? No. My mom knew my argument was sound. After all, she had never had to calculate the slope of a line either.

(the ending involves the principal’s office and Mr. S treating me like a moron for the rest of the year… but, you know, the interesting part is up above.)

My New Blog

Well, world, here I am. Many friends have been suggesting I should write a blog. Or perhaps have a reality TV show. As I can’t imagine all those people following me around every day, I opted for a blog, at least for now.

I have a bi-cultural family. I am American. My husband is Russian – of Armenian descent. He grew up in the former Soviet Union (in what is now known as Georgia) as well as in Russia. They lived on the Black Sea in a lovely area. He considers Sochi, Russia to be his hometown. The whole Armenian/Russian thing involves a lot of history and politics. Basically around the beginning of the 20th century a lot of Armenians moved to that area – as it was sort of across the sea from Armenia. I choose to leave the politics out of this first post – to avoid negative comments. Have no doubt, the Armenians are a proud people and have clung to their culture even in different areas of the world. The Russian/Armenians I met are different from a lot of Russians I have met in some ways. They still have a lot of their Armenian culture and are proud of it.

Learning how to negotiate being from two completely different cultures and family types has been much more of an adventure than either of us could have expected. Add to that other factors in our lives, and it has already been a wild ride. My husband and I married about 6 years ago. We have a 5-year-old son, and we live in Colorado. There is a large Armenian and Russian immigrant population here and it does help us to keep some of his culture in our lives.

But this blog is not just about culture. It will be covering many aspects of my life. I am a thyroid cancer survivor, I have lived a very colorful life in my past, and will probably share parts of those adventures as well. I make no apologies or explanations – some things may offend some people. I will try to keep the more “un-family friendly” posts in a different category, so people don’t need to be afraid to read my blog. Please know, if you stumble across this blog and I have written something about my in-laws culture that offends you, I mean no harm. I am simply sharing my view of another culture – sometimes with humor, but always with love.

Please enjoy the story that is our lives – past, present, and future.

Lost in translation.

My FIL is learning English. I have tried to learn Russian. I am not a very fast study and I don’t try very hard. Honestly, if I spent 20 minutes a day on Russian, and not on Facebook or Pinterest, or reading blogs I love, I’d be speaking fluently by now. 

This morning my son said to his grandpa “Dedushka, come play with me.” My FIL had just come down to have breakfast. He said to my son “I make breakfast. Then play.” My son is pulling his grandpa’s arm off, and trying to point and grunt to tell him what he wants (he learned this method pretty quickly when my in-laws got here). I said “Son, Dedushka said no, you have to wait.” At this point my son has completely stopped listening. We are working on his listening skills – he has some “troubles” in school. So I tell him he has to listen. Which he doesn’t hear.

I grab his hand, walk him to the couch and said “A, why didn’t you listen – you have to listen when your grandparents say no. Why didn’t you listen?” He says – very exasperated – “MOM! He speaks Russian! I don’t know Russian!”  I said “He was speaking English. You need to listen better.”  “Mom. That wasn’t English. I know English.”  

I guess my poor FIL had to practice some more. 

Pickled Cabbage

As the title of my blog suggests, some of the culture shock I have encountered has been based on, or at least influenced, by food. Believe it or not, people around the world eat completely different things. I have heard of a lot of crazy things in this world. I had a friend who went on a foreign exchange trip and ate monkey brains. I had a brother who went to South America for 2 years and there they ate cavies. (guinea pig type rodents). I have both been to stay with my in-laws for a month in Russia, and have been to many functions here – dinners, BBQ’s, weddings, and more.

Having the family live in your home and prepare their preferred foods on a daily basis is a completely different story. If you were to go visit your husband’s family in another country for a month, no doubt your mother-in-law would be the kind, caring type who would mostly make food she thought you could eat. She wouldn’t want to shock your system too much. All of the food I ate in Russia was delicious. We went to a couple restaurants, we ate at several family member’s homes, and my MIL is a terrific cook. I ate really well there. 

Now my Mother and Father-in-law have come to America. They live with us. They have been here about 10 months. I’m not sure when they are leaving, so don’t ask. Over that 10 months there have been several things I have not enjoyed that she has made. I know it is just a personal preference / cultural difference thing, because she is an excellent cook. She has also introduced me to some foods I really love, and has tried to show me how to make them myself. I also know there are a lot of things they do not like that we eat. For example, they hate meat that has a sweet sauce on it – like BBQ sauce or maybe sweet and sour chicken.

Yesterday my MIL made a huge batch of cabbage – several types. There was a cabbage soup, a cooked cabbage salad, and at my husband’s request, pickled cabbage. 

Here are some things you might not know about pickled cabbage:

  1. Pickled cabbage is very high in vitamin C.
  2. Pickled cabbage is pretty in the jar – especially the red kind.
  3. Pickled cabbage is surprisingly high in calories and carbs. (I googled it.)
  4. Pickled cabbage stinks. I mean it stinks. It stinks while it is being made, it stinks when it is done pickling. It stinks up the fridge it is in (luckily we have an extra fridge in the garage). It makes your breath and skin smell like pickled cabbage after you eat it. How do I know? My husband ate some yesterday afternoon. At 2 am when I got up to use the facilities, I could smell pickled cabbage on him – his breath, his skin… After he showered and brushed his teeth.

Apparently this is just an inherent risk when eating and making pickled cabbage. You will smell like it. In fact, I smelled like it when I went to pick up my son from preschool. How do I know? Another mom said “Oh, did you go have Chinese for lunch?” To which I replied “No. I just stink, but thanks.”