Tag: Moscow

My Computer Blew Up and the Red Piano

No, really. Okay, it was just the power source, and it was my fault. I knew that the computer, just like the monitor and other electronics we have, is dual voltage. But the computer, UNLIKE the other electronic items, requires one to flip the physical switch on the back to “220v.” I didn’t. I was trying to conserve transformer usage–I blew up a transformer a couple weeks before the computer, as I printed out the revised copy of SASHA’s DAD, my June 2010 Harlequin Super Romance.  Laser printer + 362 pages + small transformer = loud “pop,” smoke, horrible odor, tears of frustration.

A writer is a professional, though, and I finished and turned in the revisions on time. No excuses, ma’am. I didn’t like using the “family” computer but found myself practicing gratitude that I had any computer at all. How did Charles Dickens do it? By hand.

More good news is that the computer appears to have only lost the power source–I should be able to use it, eventually. The tech hasn’t returned it yet. And I deftly manipulated these events to justify the purchase of a new laptop for moi. I use an alphasmart (think small word processor, very portable) but I need Internet hook-up and an ability to edit on the road. The flight back to the States from Moscow is 10 hrs–that’s a lot of writing time. The laptop will be lovely to have.

I have so much to share about my new life in Moscow. I’ve been to so many fantastic places to include the honey market (think wine fest/tasting but with a rainbow of honey colors and flavors).

Last week I fulfilled an adolescent dream (that’s a long time ago in my lifespan to date) and saw Elton John on his Red Piano tour. His voice is so powerful at 62–he rocks! And he played the old songs I grew up to–many from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The number that remains with me a week later is Someone Saved My Life Tonight. While Elton and his marvelous band played, a mini-film of a younger Elton struggling (I interpreted) with his addictions lit up the screen behind the stage. While the images were sobering (no pun intended) and grotesque, I found the overall presentation to be incredibly spiritual. I left the concert wanting to write the best stories ever, to contribute my best work to the world of art.

I promise many incredible photos of Moscow and Russia in the next post, provided that my computer is returned and/or I receive my new laptop in the mail by then. Keep on doing whatever it is that brings you joy in life!

Moscow is for Writers

I’ve lived in Russia for over a month. An entire month–longer than most vacations, shorter than any Navy deployment I ever completed. Yet I feel the hands of the Russian culture as they beckon me to explore.

Reminders of this nation’s culture and history are everywhere. From the statues throughout the city, to the breathtaking views along the Moscow River, to the varied architecture, it’s obvious this is not a young country by any means. Moscow was founded in the middle of the 12th century. Keeps my own years in perspective–I’m still young!


What’s impressed me most is the constant flow of ideas for my writing. Whether I’m looking at a statue of Pushkin on the Old Arbat or watching folks sunbathe in Gorky park as I float down the river on a city cruise, ideas and themes abound.

I had an opportunity to visit Tolstoy’s estate, approximately 3.5 hours south of Moscow. Used to these types of bus tours, I packed appropriately. Knitting helps writing ideas come to mind, and I have a notebook with me  at all times.

The bus ride was bumpy and seemed endless at times, until we wound through the town of Tyla and then into Tolstoy’s estate grounds.

The Road to Tolstoy's EstateThe view as we started our walk is one I’ll always treasure and associate with Russia. The birch-lined road felt more like a cathedral as the sun filtered through the tallest boughs. The white bark contrasted with the lush greenery and it was clear this was a place of respite and serenity.

From the cafe-laden streets of Moscow to the majesty of one of Russia’s, and the world’s, greatest author’s home, I daresay this is a place for writers.

President Obama Talked to Me About My Book!

Dreams do come true–it’s one of my mantras. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to meet the President of the United States. It took several decades, but it finally happened. I met the President of the United States, Barack Obama. And even more special–I met his lovely wife, our First Lady, Michelle Obama. I’d planned to have my first blog from our new posting to be about where we’ve transferred (Moscow, Russia) , the culture here (incredibly different, challenging, and exhilarating),  my take on it (I’m awed). But one of my childhood dreams has come true, so this is my blog about meeting President and Michelle Obama. We are stationed in Moscow as my husband works at the American Embassy. The President’s visit was announced well before we left the States in June, and I’d hoped I’d get a chance to see him, maybe shake hands. Most of all I really wanted my children to see him. The first great surprise was that Michelle Obama was coming to see us, too. I’ve been following her interest in military families and thought “great! what a chance to thank her for her support.” Should I write a note? Bring flowers? No, I’m a writer–so I brought my book. I would have brought my February 2009 release, What Family Means, but it was in my household goods shipment which hadn’t arrived yet. I did fortuitously have one copy left of my first book, A Rendezvous to Remember with me, thanks to several friends back in the States who requested copies before I left for Russia. I said a prayer and signed the book to Michelle Obama. If I couldn’t get it past security, at least I’d known I’d tried. I’m a HUGE believer in positive thinking, by the way. I wrote an inscription with a sincere heart, and then let go of the outcome–if I could give her my book and say “thank you,” wonderful.

Official White House Photo. All other snapshots on this page: Kristi Stephens. Bottom photo inset created by Waxcreative Design, Inc.

The families who wanted to meet with the President and First Lady had to go through security and wait for nearly 3 hours under a large white tent on the embassy grounds. Presidential schedules are always in flux. At one point I wondered if the event would be canceled–I knew the President had more events to attend in Moscow that evening. Fortunately for all of us who waited, the President and First Lady did arrive and were announced to us by the U.S. Ambassador to Russia. After a brief informal speech, the President and Mrs. Obama stepped off the stage and came around to shake hands. It was soooo exciting to realize that yes, we might all have a chance to shake their hands. But then their staff started looking a little antsy (wouldn’t you if you had to keep the President on schedule and it was already 3+ hours behind?). I looked at a fellow spouse and said “what should I do, do you think I should wait and see if Michelle gets to us?” She didn’t hesitate and replied “I think you should take the first opportunity that comes your way.” The President shook my daughter’s hand, then my son’s, then our friend’s daughter (you can see her with the braids). And then–I put out my hand with my book and handed it to President Obama. I had a moment of  “uh-oh” as his eyes narrowed and I thought for sure he would say “thanks, but no thanks,” or just hand it off to his assistant, the “body man” Reggie. But then the President smiled, a big, wide smile, and held up my book. “This looks sexy!” He raised his eyebrows as he challenged me. “No, it’s not that sexy–it’s a World War II romance. I signed it for Michelle.” At this point I was flabbergasted that the President was talking–to me. And I didn’t want to embarrass my kids–since they’ve become teenagers, it’s easily done. The President read the back flap, looked at the cover again, then started thumbing through the book.  Thank goodness several other people took photos, the ones posted here. We chatted some more which really involved the President laughing and teasing in the nicest manner, and then I shook his hand and thanked him for his service. He’d handed my book to his body guy, Reggie, who started paging through it and looking at my business card. He had an expression of “who is this chick?” on his face. I elbowed my friend and showed her what was happening. Without hesitation, she shouted out, “Hey Reggie, do you want your own copy?” Reggie looked up and gave us a broad smile. I waved and said “I wrote it–I’m an Academy grad.” His eyes grew big “You are?” I laughed and nodded “yes.” Within moments, Michelle Obama came by, and I let her know that I had a gift for her, my book, but the President had it. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll get it back from him.” I got my chance to thank her for supporting military families, and she looked so humbled. “You know we love you guys.” Her voice was sincere and her statement simple. She thanked my kids for being part of a military family, which they thought was cool as ever. She spent time with all of the children there, big and small, and made a very positive impression. This was exactly one week ago. It took me three days to come off of the emotional “high” I was on. My kids were so excited. My dear, supportive husband? He was there, but when the President and Michelle started to meet and greet, he got called away by his cell phone ringing. He was one of the worker bees for the visit, and it was only luck that he was able to come out for the event at all. By the way, you can see the top of my head in the second photo (which is an official White House photo–the others are snapshots), just behind the lady with her face in her hand. Do you think I’m inspired to keep working on my story set in Russia?