Travel to Kiev, and pray for the Ukrainians

As we follow the terrible news on TV and pray for the Ukrainians, I pulled my picture album and reminisced about my business trip to Ukraine in April 1997.

Located on the Dnieper River. Kiev (or Kyiv) is the capital and largest city in Ukraine with a population of three million inhabitants. It dates back to 560 AD and enjoys an authentic Eastern European culture.

Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) is on the historical boulevard Khreschatyky. It is the focal point of the Independence Day celebrations every August to celebrate Ukraine’s breakaway from the former Soviet Republic but it is also remembered for the Orange Revolution of 1994.
The Dnieper  is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in the Valdai Hills near Smolensk, Russia, before flowing through Belarus and Ukraine to the Black Sea.

As the program manager for a contract in Ukraine, I flew to Kiev with three people from our lab in Ohio, and met with our Belarusian driver, Sergei, who had driven from Minsk, Belarus, with two chemists we previously trained on analytical equipment.

We spent our first evening in Kiev, strolling through the main avenues, discovering the city, and admiring the beauty of the colorful cathedrals with golden domes, churches, statues and monuments.

Marinskyi Palace that serves as the official ceremonial residence of the President. The palace lies on the right bank of the Dnieper River in Kyiv.

Some of you may remember the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Two explosions resulted in radioactive dust spread around the area, mainly to Belarus which is at 20 km north of Chernobyl and to Kiev at about 130km south of Chernobyl.

In 1997, my company was contracted by the DOD to equip and deliver a mobile laboratory to a military base in Uman, in Central Ukraine, about five hours away from Kiev. The two GC/MS—gas chromatogram/mass spectrometer—and other smaller instruments we installed would allow the detection and analysis of toxic substances in hazardous waste samples.

After a week of work installing and testing the equipment, I left the staff to continue the training and returned to Kiev to fly back to Munich, and then to New York. For my bad luck it was May 1st or Labor Day in Ukraine and Europe. Little did I know that the big avenues were blocked for a military parade with the President heading it. Sergei and I had to use the backroads. I had the chance to visit St. Sophia Cathedral and a fabulous monastery, but I almost missed my plane.

Kyevo-Pecherska Lavra, is a monastery’s cluster of gold-domed Orthodox churches built on top of a labyrinth of ancient caves. 
Closer view of the green dome church in the monastery.
Motherland Monument on the Dnieper River. We could see it from far away.
Saint Sophia Cathedral is a unique monument of
architecture and monumental art of the early 11th century having the biggest preserved collection of mosaics and frescoes of that period.

Kiev is such a beautiful city. The pastry is delicious and the amber jewelry out of this world. I bought amber necklaces, brooches, bracelets.

Pray for the Ukrainians’ safety and for peace.

HEAL MY HEART is set in Belarus. In a far away country, a baby girl, four little boys, and a handsome doctor may teach Dr. Jillian the true meaning of Christmas.

AMAZON

College Application Responses

We’re done with Valentine Day and Super Bowl. Monday is President Day. But these are not important days for three young adults in my family.

“February 25 and 26 are the most important days of my life, Nonna,” my granddaughter declared this past weekend, her voice shaky.

This young girl who’s seventeen and two of her relatives who already turned eighteen are anxiously waiting for college application responses, the emails that would change their lives, or at least decide of their futures, and announce if they have been accepted or rejected by the colleges of their choices.

  • Review for college admission is based on:
  • Secondary School Academic Performance
  • SAT or ACT scores.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Consistent involvement throughout high school that demonstrates a student’s interests and passions, as well as how applicants contributed to their school, community and/or family.
  • The quality of thought in the admission essay.
  • Personal Background and Experiences: Students who show the potential and desire to succeed in an academic environment. Students who can be learners, leaders and thinkers.
  • No one single factor determines an admission decision.

I remembered my own children receiving the famous long-awaited letters with admission decisions from various colleges. Now everything is electronic.

So here I am, waiting and fretting with my first grandkid who is about to leave the family nest.

While the children are worried about the next steps in their lives, their parents are tabulating their bank accounts. “Do you realize how expensive colleges are now?” they often complain, conveniently forgetting that their own parents have gone through these anxious moments to pay their tuitions. “Oh, but now, fees are outrageous. They better get some scholarships to help.” Do they realize how much pressure they put on these young ones?

As a loving grandmother, I’m siding with my grandkids and praying they get accepted to the colleges of their choice, and start the next phase of their lives on the right foot.

I still have my tassels worn on graduation day caps, the yellow from Northeastern University in Boston, and the blue one for my Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati. They are proudly displayed in our home office.

Wishing our young ones good luck for next week and best wishes for a successful and happy future.

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Car Troubles

I’ve never been able to handle car problems. They make me seethe, curse and cry, and call for help. Whenever I took my car for repair, my husband would reassure me with, “It’s not a big thing. They’ll probably charge you $150 to $ 200.” The mechanic would find four or five defective parts to be changed for a total of $500 to $800. If I protested, I was treated to a patronizing lecture from a well-muscled hunk with tattoos and dirty nails, who ended his speech with, “If you don’t want to fix it, it’s up to you, but I wouldn’t want my mom on the road in a car so messed up.” Sure enough, I would panic and beg him to fix it. At home my hubby would throw his arms in the air. “What? $800 for this? How do you manage to let them cheat you like that?” Do I need to add that my self-confidence about car repair had often hit rock bottom?

When my daughter graduated from college she dragged me to a How to Handle Car Problems three-hour seminar with hands-on experience.

We learned how to interpret the warning lights on the dashboard, change a flat tire and replace a battery. We understood that weird odors indicate an issue under the hood — a coolant leak or mold in the vents. Strange vibrations such as a shaking steering wheel could be caused by unbalanced tires, warped brake rotors and damaged or worn suspension system parts. By the end of the long training, I felt so knowledgeable and confident. Our instructor concluded by saying, “Listen ladies, despite all I taught you today, the best thing for you to do if you run into car problem is to immediately call AAA, Geico, or any other insurance, a mechanic and your husband.”

I was driving from Columbus, OH. to Cincinnati when my car burped and shook. I pressed the brake pedal, waited a few seconds, and slowly raised my foot, steering to the side of the road. The car rolled a few yards along the emergency lane, and then shuddered, thumped, and hiccupped. A light on the dashboard indicated tire problems. I cringed and pushed down on the brakes, knowing I had a flat tire. For two minutes I debated on changing the tire myself. I remembered the theory well, but I also remembered our instructor’s conclusion. To be on the safe side, I called AAA, the insurance and my husband.

How do you handle car problems?

In LOVE IN THE ER the hero and heroine meet during a tropical storm as she’s stuck in her car with a flat tire. “The path to happy ever after is not a smooth one. Both have a lot of problems to solve. This is a good story, my favorite by this author. Lots of drama takes them to different places.”

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