2/02/2018

It’s been a strange couple of weeks.

It started three weeks ago. No, it actually started a long time ago but it was three weeks ago when I finally noticed something was wrong. I came home from the office on Friday afternoon without having been able to finish my sermon for the next day. People who know me well know that I take preaching very seriously. I think about them for weeks in advance and then I usually write them down on Mondays or Tuesdays. But that week I couldn’t do it. I knew I had to peach, I knew my sermon was only half-written but I could not make myself click on the right folder and the right document to get it finished. I printed it out as it was on Friday, without an ending. It was only on Saturday morning that I scribbled some concluding thoughts on the manuscript while eating breakfast. Needless to say that I wasn’t happy with my sermon that day.

There were other things - small things - which left a nagging feeling inside me, telling that something was wrong. But I couldn’t put my finger on it. I went to work every day, trying my best but not getting much done.

It was only last week when I picked up my courage and told I. I needed to have a chat with him. I suspected I might be having a burnout. Our conference office has become known as a place where people work hard. And this is how it ought to be. I like to be in the middle of all that action, and I usually enjoy working in the conference leadership team – departmental leaders meetings, AdCom, ExCom, the Churches Council, lectures, seminars this, that. The leadership team is young and energetic, things get done and energy flows. It’s a wonderful place to be. But the coin also has a darker side – that of overworking, of burnout, of anxiety, of pressure, of expectations. There are times when it is not easy to balance between the good and the bad. Then the ugly might happen – as it did last spring. I won’t tell you when I finally got off sleeping pills last year...

So I talked to I. about my symptoms. I didn’t know what to expect from him – he as the conference president works harder than any of us and I wasn’t sure how he’d take it. But what he said and what he drew my attention to was like a revelation. It was as if the truth was spoken into my life and the light bulb went on. You need to look at your tasks and choose which are the most important ones, he said, and let the other ones go. You need to take a critical look at your preaching schedule, you can’t be expected to accept all the preaching invites. You also need a church – a home church, a place where you could go every now and then without any obligations, where you can just receive (I must have looked like a huge question mark - I've lost the concept of a home church). And you need to be a part of a small group where you don’t need to teach not lead anything. Because, in the end of the day, you’re not just a theologian or a pastor, you’re a simple Christian and you need to take care of your own spiritual life.

And then it hit me. This is a spiritual burnout I’m experiencing.

Things started to make a lot of sense after I realised it. Everything that had happened suddenly had a context. Weird „I simply can’t do this” moments became logical. I’ve given out so much I’ve burnt out spiritually. I’ve drawn from the well until there’s only a couple of drops left in the bottom of my bucket.

I don’t quite know how to recover. I had another meeting with I. today where we went over my preaching schedule. Most of the preaching appointments I can’t cancel so some tough months are yet to come. But I’ve decided to reduce the workload and to cut some responsibilities that have been draining me over the past months. But on a deeper level I don’t know what I ought to do. There’s no medicine, no-one can prescribe me anti-spiritual-burnout pills. I guess it will be a difficult road ahead of me. A road where I have to say no to kind invites and initiatives, where I’m not always understood, where I need to fight my own spiritual fight. And I need to find a way how to receive more and give less, even if just for the time being.

I usually have a Bible study with two teenage girls every second Friday evening. I can’t do it tonight, I can’t pull it off. There would be some readily shaking their heads. Well, that’s how it is. Instead, I am reading a little bit from Anne Lamott’s Help. Thanks. Wow, then reading one Bible story and going out to the Old Town for a long evening walk. This is what I’m capable of. Tomorrow scares me, even though I do not have any ’platform duties’. I’m thinking about skipping the church’s business meeting in the afternoon and having a long walk instead although it might not be easy to sneak out after the service. We’ll see.

These days I try to convince Jesus He ought to come back right now. I’m tired and I’m tired and I wish all this was over.

Do say a prayer for me.

1/09/2018


When I started the concert challenge with Dr A. N. in September I thought it would turn out to be a little sweet addition to my life. Like an extra motivation to check the concert programs and keep an eye on my favourite musicians.

Wrong answer.

Where this challenge has led me and how it has impacted my life, I could have never anticipated. It has turned out to affect my life in much deeper and wider ways than I thought. Here's how.

First, it has soothed my mind in a way I didn't expect. Often when I'm in a concert hall, Great Peace descens, and sometimes also Great Joy. There is something that makes me so joyful and I sit there, grinning from ear to ear, not even quite sure what I'm happy about or why. And on some very rare occasions it also has a reverse effect. Like this past Sunday. On Sunday night I was in Estonian Concert Hall, listening to the Nordic Symphony Orchestra's 20th anniversary gala concert. The orchestra was superb, the soloists (with whom they had worked together over these two decades) absolutely amazing. The trumpetist Sergei Nakariakov did with his trumpet what I thought was humanly impossible. Mihkel Poll to whose concerts I've been to quite often lately (and whose name, Dr A. N. is sure, will be tattooed on my neck before the concert challenge is over hahaha!) played Rachmaninov in a way that took my breath away. And the young Russian, Sergei Dogadin, created magic when playing Tchaikovsky's violin concert. And in the very end there were two encores which, obviously, were not on the program. So there was no way I could have put myself ready for Edward Elgar's Nimrod. For some reason I have always thought that this is how things will sound like when Jesus returns. A very naive thought, I know. But they played Nimrod and suddenly something broke inside me and I wept like a child. I had had a rather tough weekend, with some conversations I wish I didn't have. I can't say much about them but if there are two things I absolutely hate then it's hearing my friend's name and the word 'cancer' in the same sentence, and hurting someone I deeply care about. Well, both happened last weekend and I was rather shaken by it. So the music just made the emotion come out with such a force I didn't think was possible. But it was. After I had got back home, I was still crying, crying for my friends and for myself, and for the terrible longing for Jesus, and for the music.


But this is only one side of it. Something else has happened - which, honestly, I had no way of knowing could happen. It was the day after I came back from Christmas at my dad's that I cut my long and pretty fingernails, took out my violin from under my bed, and started practising again. I had thought I was so done with this. But something has inspired me to take it up again. The beginning, let's be honest, has been painful, in every sense of this word. First, it has hurt in a very direct physical sense. My fingers are not used to the strings any more and after first two days I had a blister on my finger tip and I could not practise for more than half an hour because of the pain. I've grown really weak. And secondly, I found in my old music folder two pieces that I can manage to play. Vivaldi's concerto in A minor and Telemann's Fantasy for solo violin. They're decent pieces, it's just that the first one I played in the second grade and the other one in the fourth grade. I know it is very unusual for a nine year old or an eleven year old child to play them but I did. And now, twenty years later, I'm back to them because I can't play anything more complicated, and it kind of hurts one's pride, let's be honest. But it's alright, it's good to eat some humble pie and to start from the second grade again. I just need to keep on going.

And even that is not all there is. Now I've taken to my head I need to study singing too. I took classical singing classes for a year before I went to Newbold and it was an amazing experience. Now I want to do it again. So I've written to the Music Academy and of course you can just take pretty much any classes from there. The price, goodness, is eye-watering but fortunately or unfortunately I don't have anyone at home who would shake their head and tell me - oh, come on, we're not going to spend money on that, are we?! So. I'm spending my money on it. I'm planning to take 10 classes to begin with, and am just waiting for the final confirmation from the Academy. Oh, how very exciting!

Who on earth could have believed something like this could happen? It's all quite amazing. And it reminds me that all the stuff I want to do, I need to do now. Because one day my name could be in the same sentence with the word 'cancer' (given my family history, it's more than probable) and even if it doesn't, sooner or later I will run out of time anyway. And that's why I want to do as much as I can now.

Sorry for the morbid ending. I didn't mean it. :)

Here's Tchaikovsky's violin concert. I mean, just listen to it!

I have the most photogenic violin!

1/01/2018

I finished last year’s 40th book yesterday at 8.30 p.m. Phew, that was close!

I really like this New Year’s Eve reading thing. Last night was wonderful, I took a long walk in the Old Town, I had a lovely dinner, finished my book, sent a number of messages, talked to my dad, had a long conversation with God, went to bed before 11 p.m., missed all the gatherings and parties and invitations, missed the new year and fireworks, and felt wonderfully old and cosy. I just might be the nerdiest person in the world.

Now, books. When I try to come up with my Top 5, the implication is that I want to bring out the most surprising ones. Because there are some authors who are so much a part of my life that I don’t feel like putting them on that Top 5 pedestal, not because they are poor authors but because their goodness is nothing new & surprising to me. EGW and Frederick Buechner are the ones I have in mind in particular. So, bearing that in mind, here is my list:

1. Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes. I’m more used to read about crippling poverty than enormous wealth. This book offers a unique glimpse into the world and lives of one of the richest family of the 19th century Europe, the Ephrussi family. It is a surreal feeling to read about palaces in Paris and Vienna, about numerous paintings by French impressionists on your walls, about yearly vacations in different European resorts, and yes, also about the cruelty of fate as the Nazis took over Austria and Ephrussis, like many other wealthy Jews, lost absolutely everything. The author describes his trip to Vienna and to the palace where his grandmother was born but which is now owned by the state. And I was waiting for him to start complaining any moment about their lost fortune, but he never did and I’m eternally grateful to him because that would have certainly ruined the book. He talks about this injustice with a bit of melancholy and it’s very touching. It’s a beautiful book from cover to cover, made of grand history and personal tragedies, lost fortunes but also of life and hope that springs up even from the worst of circumstances. If there’s one book I’d recommend, that’s the one.

2. Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Family Moskat. They say it’s one of the best descriptions of Jewish life, and I believe them. It’s a sweeping family history of Warsaw Jews from the beginning of the 20th century until 1939. I knew it was fiction, but the description of their last Yom Kippur celebrations with Hitler already behind the borders was still heartbreaking. I couldn’t put that book down.

3. Nuha al-Radi, Baghdad Diaries 1991-2002. It is a different thing to read something from a war correspondent (like Asne Seierstad who’s book on Iraqi war I also read last year) compared to a native who perceives war and its injustice in a completely different way. Seierstad’s book got on my nerves because she was always hunting for stories – which, of course, is what a journalist in such a situation is ought to do. But to read a local’s diary... it’s different. It hits you in a different way. Al-Radi was a member of a wealthy family of Iraqi intellectuals and the little details about the war she mentions are as surprising as they are touching. She tells about how the power plants would be the first things to be hit in the air raids and how they organised big dinner orgies because all the food in their freezers started melting as soon as the electricity was gone. She tells about birds who lost their mind when the bombing hit Baghdad and who started to fly upside down (I had never heard this before). And she tells about the powerlessness and anger when you see life being bombed out of your country because there are great evils fighting in this world and you, an ordinary citizen, happen to get caught in the middle of this fight. It’s a tough book. But it’s honest. If I could, I would make every American read it.

4. Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air. Kalanithi was an acclaimed brain surgeon who was used to see death and tragedy, human resilience and hope from a doctor’s perspective. And then one day he didn't feel very good. And then a fourth stage cancer was discovered, and in one day he went from a brilliant doc to a dying patient. He recorded his story, and writing that book was the last thing he did. His wife wrote the end of the book after he had passed away in 2015. It’s a strange reading, so many things rang the bell because I too have seen someone die of cancer. I did a fair share of crying when I read this book, and it was therapeutic. I’m not sure I would recommend this book to anyone but it was important for me to read it.

5. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun. It’s embarrassing how ignorant I am when it comes to African and Asian history. I mean, whole wars and genocides have taken place without me knowing anything about them, also inventions and progress and achievements which I am not familiar with. So that book was one of my attempts to educate myself (last year I also read Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Jung Chang, Shusaku Endo etc). It’s a story of a family who got caught up in the civil war in 1960s Nigeria. A gripping read.

Of course, I didn’t read only about death and destruction. There were many lighter books as well - history, theology, travel books, fiction etc. But those five touched me in a unique way.

So here’s to 2018 and to all the books whch will find their way to me this year. Happy new reading year!

12/23/2017

It was the 4th anniversary of my mum’s passing yesterday.

I’ve been thinking about the whole thing a lot recently. And the main conclusion is that time is relative, it is relative to the point of losing some of its meaning. What do these four years mean? I don’t know. There are some memories from her last days that are so deeply engraved in my memory that I remember these moments better and clearer than anything I did last week. Time doesn’t mean much. Yet, it means something – I have dutifully tried to do the hard work of grieving, and four years is quite a time in that sense. What is hard about grief is that it doesn’t come with a manual. So many times over these past years I’ve been lost, not knowing what to do exactly. Visiting her grave would be a good idea, a friend tells me. Write about it, the other one says. Try not to think about it. Cry. It’s good advice, offered out of love and care, but it hasn’t made the working through the grief considerably easier. Most of the time it still feels like I’m inventing a wheel as I go. I would like to think I’ve come a long way since it all happened but occasionally I am not sure. Life goes on, but death also goes on. Four years, or even ten, could not possibly take away my motherlessness, my longing for our family to be whole and happy again, my longing for intimate conversations with her. All these things stay, and time cannot take them away.

I was finishing Vasily Grossman’s A Writer at War a week ago. The closer I got to the end, the tougher the book got. The closer the Red Army got to Berlin, the more raping and looting took place. Not to mention the concentration camps - I had never read such detailed descriptions of gas chambers and furnaces. It was terrible. And then suddenly in the middle of all this destruction, there are two letters which Grossman wrote to his mother. He found out only in the end of the war that his mother was one of those numerous Ukrainian Jews who had been shot as soon as the Nazis arrived in their village. And now this tough guy who has seen war and despair, concentration camps and Hitler’s bunkers, writes a letter to his deceased mother. And he writes: „I can feel you today, as alive to me as you were on the day when I saw you last, and as alive as when you read to me when I was a little boy. And my pain is still the same as it was on that day when your neighbour in Uchilishchnaya Street told me you were dead. There was no hope of finding you among the living. And I think my love for you and this terrible sorrow will not change until the day I die. /.../ My darling, twenty years have passed since the day of your death. I love you, I remember you every day of my life, and my sorrow has never left me in these twenty years. /.../ I’ve been rereading today, as I have for many years, the few letters to me which have survived out of the hundreds that you had written. /.../ I cried over your letters because you are in them: with your kindness, your purity, your bitter, bitter life, your fairness, your generosity, your love for me, your care for people, your wonderful mind. I fear nothing because your love is with me and because my love is with you always.” And this letter was so unexpected that it shocked me. And it made me cry. And it also comforted me – there are many people who have lived with grief that never left them. There are many people who have loved someone more than their own life. There are people who every day have to balance between the life and the death that are always present for them. It is such a comfort to know I am not the only one but belong to a tribe of tough and gentle people who live with their losses and their love, and not only live, but live meaningful and rich lives.

Just in case, I made sure I would be busy the whole day yesterday. I was not going to sit alone and drown in my grief.

I preached my Christmas sermon in the morning and was very happy with how it turned out. Then I had a long lunch at my auntie’s which I was so looking forward to because my cousin had come home for Christmas after two years. He’s doing his doctorate in Harvard Medical School. I understood very little of what he told me about his research but I listened nevertheless, with my eyes (and probably occasionally also my mouth) wide open. And I came to the conclusion again which I have come to many times before – hard work and serious self-discipline does something to people, there’s a certain moral character to people who give their very best in whatever it is that they do. I am a great admirer of talent and intelligence – they’re one of these few things that really knock me off my feet - and I can honestly say I admire my cousin. And on top of all his brains and incredible career, he’s so modest and down to earth and polite. Let me take your coat, can I get you something, may I pour some more tea... I just kept staring at this young man – who, honestly, used to be one of the most annoying kids in the world some 15 years ago – and marveling. My cousin! Such a wonderful man! Oh my.

And then the evening I had saved for a real treat – the last concert of this year. Bach’s magnificient Mass. It is such a monumental piece, it is difficult to take it all in at once. My favourite bit, no doubt, was a choral piece with the lyrics Et expecto resurrectionem morturorum. Et vivam venturi saeculi – "And I await the resurrection of the dead. And the life of the world to come." There will be a resurrection.

I’m not sure whether I should mention it or not but the general elation of the concert and its atmosphere was almost shattered to pieces by one of the soloists, who, for the better part of the Mass, just sat on the stage. The bass singer, a very handsome Latvian guy, sat on the stage and, I kid you not, winked at me and kept looking at me throughout the concert. I sat right in front of the stage. First I was greatly surprised and mightily disturbed – I thought there was a law forbidding any kind of contact between the musicians and the audience. How unprofessional! You're supposed to look only heavenward, sir, and sing Bach with your angelic voice! But then I found it absolutely hilarious. I have to cover my head with ashes and admit that Mr Bass made me divide what I thought would be my undivided attention to Bach’s heavenly music. Very unexpected and yet, so human. Once I had landed at home around midnight (because I ran into some friends at the concert and we decided to have some tea afterwards) I had one last laugh about it.

So the day turned out to be a good and a funny one. Which, I believe, is the grace of the Almighty.

Merry Christmas, dear friends! Appreciate the loved ones who are still with us, take time to be grateful and don’t eat too much. And maybe winking at random strangers isn't such a great idea either lol.

12/13/2017

The Christmas time has begun in earnest. As one can't rely on weather in this regard - one day it snows, the next it rains, and it's all very confusing - one has to do something else to start feeling Christmassy. Our church planting group organised a Christmas party to underprivileged families yesterday where we distributed 35 shoe box presents to children, and that's when it began to feel a lot like Christmas. We collected the presents in our conference office so for the past week my workplace has looked like a Santa's workshop. I've done a fair share of wrapping and glueing and adding candies (also eating some) and writing name tags these days. I've really enjoyed the whole process. And even now there's about 15 presents left as the children with special needs will have their Christmas party this coming Saturday. After Saturday we're done with this project. Until the next year.

The Christmas party was sweet. The city district elder was there and greeted everyone, there were candies and ginger bread and Christmas songs and games and Santa, the whole shebang. Seeing the children being so excited about the gifts made the whole effort so worth it.

I don't care too much about Christmas presents - neither the ones I make nor the ones I receive - but about these presents I cared a lot, a lot. There's something special about charity.






We have the sweetest team!



I was terribly disappointed last week when I got ill and had to miss a good concert, having to give the ticket to my auntie, teary eyed. So I decided to take revenge this week and I happened to stumble upon an ad for a concert by American/Armenian pianist Sergei Babayan. I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it but I rushed like a madman through the city last night after the Christmas party and I made it to the concert hall. It must have been the most magical piano concert I've ever been to - he played in almost complete darkness but his genius and sensitivity were as plain as in broad daylight. I understood why some have called Babayan a genius. I got breathing problems when he played Chopin - I simply forgot to breathe. And my hands shook for a long while after the concert.

Music is divine.

I just checked his schedule, he'll be playing Tchaikovsky's 1st piano concert in Milan in February. Oh goodness, I wish I wish I wish...

As to books, I am, slowly but surely, approaching the milestone of 40 books. I set this goal in the beginning of this year and despite my eye surgery taking a good chunk of time out of my reading time - almost a month - I'm now in the middle of book no 38. It's on the legendary war correspondent Vasily Grossman and his journey with the Red Army throughout the Second World War. It's called A Writer at War. It's a tough reading, the descriptions of battles and casualties and atrocities from both the Soviet as well as from the Nazi's side are at times almost too much to take in. But I am a human being and I need to know about these things, I need to remember. But I promise I take on a book more cheerful once this one is over. I should read Astrid Lindgren.

12/09/2017

It was Finland's Independence Day last Wednesday, our neighbors celebrated the 100th year of their independence. Estonians seemed to have gone all crazy that day, and I thought it was very sweet. I was listening to the National Radio in the morning before going to work, and they only played Finnish music. They also had a quiz where people had to guess the speaker by the voice. I think they were Mika Häkkinen and Sofi Oksanen who were to be recognised. All the buses and trams in Tallinn had little Finnish flags on them and there was a big fireworks in the evening. The fesitivities had surely made their way over to our side of the Baltic bay, and we were so happy for our Finnish sisters and brothers.

I caught a nasty virus that day, and ended up not going to see the fireworks but instead throwing up all over the place and generally feeling like my life had come to an end. But I still thought about Finland and history, both that of our sister countries as well as my own family. And the next day, although still feeling like dying, I dutifully went through a whole photo gallery from the last night's presidential ball and I had to admit, with a little sting of jealousy, that at least when it comes to the presidential balls in our respective countries, the Finnish ladies have more class and grace than ours do. I mean, starting with their First Lady, who's the epitome of elegance.

But the history is so hard to make sense of. I remember walking in Tallinn's Old Town with Dr A. N. last summer and as she looked at the town, built mostly in the 15th and 16th century, she said, Well, we on the other side of the bay we were still living in the turf huts when you already had such high civilisation and culture. And I suppose in a sense it's true. We were quite a few steps ahead in this respect. But fast forward a couple of hundred years, and it was still Finland who beat us, declaring independence from Russia three months before we did. We'll celebrate our 100th year of independence in February. But of course our "100th" is not to be taken literally as we then went down two very different paths. Finland had the courage to fight the Soviet Union, and not only to fight, but also to be one of the very few countries ever to win a war against them. And to prosper after the war. We, on the other hand, spent 50 years out of the last 100 under the Soviet occupation, a repressive, meaningless and downright stupid occupation which did a lot of damage. By the end of the occupation, by early 1990s, in many ways we were as far from Finland as could possibly be. We had next to nothing and had grown up in a paranoid society while Finland for us embodied freedom and plenty and the absense of fear. I remember how Finns took it as their duty to help us, and honestly, my whole childhood and teenage years I grew up wearing the ADRA clothes that were sent from Finnish churches. In the very first years of our independence in early 1990s we even needed food parcels. I remember rice and packages of some weird powdered (babies?) food, and the sweets we had never seen before. Everything that came from Finland seemed to be shiny and new and wonderful.

My great-grandfather was a Finn. He was a wealthy factory owner and he lived in Estonia with his family. My geat-grandmother was their housemaid, and then, well, my grandmother was born. The Finnish family left Estonia once the Soviet threat got worse in 1930s, so I have a whole bunch of relatives over in Finland. I don't know anything about my great-grandfather's ancestors but thinking of how my grandmother looked like - she had dark hair and eyes, very high cheekbones and almond eyes - it's not entirely impossible that she had some Inuit blood in her. In my early childhood I often heard about our half-mystical Finnish relatives although never, now that I think of it, about the circumstances of my grandmother's birth... Well, the relatives are not mystical any more since some of them have started to join our yearly family reunions. I never know exactly who they are or how we're related but they seem to enjoy our company very much. And the feeling is mutual. So by now Finland has lost a lot of its mythical shininess and newness but it's become a land of many wonderful people, related or not.

And my name, Mervi, is a Finnish name. Yes. That's important.

So. Here's to Finland and to the next 100 years!

I feel like reading Tove Jansson's book now.

11/27/2017

The Concert

It was my dad's concert on Saturday evening, and I was looking forward to it more than Christmas or annual leave. And yet I really enjoyed the preparation process because it meant that dad was in Tallinn more often than usual, and after or before the organ practice we would go out and have a lunch or a dinner and would have long conversations about life and theology. And then we would go to the church for a practice, and he would play all kinds of stuff and it would be so much fun to sing and to assist him on the organ. One time it was around 11 p. m. when we left the church. Ah, so much fun!

And the concert was well worth the preparations. Tallinn church was absolutely packed on Saturday evening and the unfortunate latecomers had to stand up in the back of the hall for the whole time. Some seasoned church members noted later that they hadn't seen such a crowd in our church for decades (we were sitting in the very front because we all sang in the choir - S., H., K. and me - and S. said he wasn't looking around much (good upbringing lol!) and he almost got a shock once we went up on the platform as he had no idea the church would be full to its limits). So many friends came, family, colleagues. I was especially happy to see two of my dad's professors from the Music Academy, the Grand Old Lady of conducting, and the organ professor who has encouraged dad to write more pieces for the organ. The chamber choir was well prepared, the soloist - a church member who has been an opera singer in the past - did an excellent job. I don't know how it all looked or sounded to others, I was emotionally and in every other way too closely connected to it to evaluate it from an objective point of view, but for me the whole evening was a whopping success. I was so terribly happy for my dad, and so very proud. I was afraid he'd never get back to composing after mom died but thank heavens the springs of inspiration have not dried up. There were a couple of songs for which last Saturday's concert was the premiere. All in all, when we got to my place, dad and me, late at night (because there had to be a little after-party at my auntie's) and we unloaded the car from all the gifts and bouquets, a great calm decended. The hard work was done, the concert was over, we were happy, and very very tired.

I'm so immersed in my dad's music that it has become the fabric of my life. There's no way I can separate myself from it. From my earliest memories - when my mom and dad led another chamber choir - to the latest award-winning song in the Christmas carols contest (the official premiere's coming up this Sunday, whoop whoop, guess who's going:), dad's music has been the most natural part of my life. He has a lot to do with my deep and emotional love for music.

--

I'm trying to think of any other noteworthy things but not much comes to mind. It has been busy time work wise, and I don't mind the least. I've celebrated the 500th Reformation anniversary at the Arch Bishop's reception on October 31. I stood there, among a great number of men with very black suits and very dark robes, with my very pink blazer, and felt exceptionally good haha! I've been to the National Television to shoot some Christian programs - it was my third time there and I always love it - everyone's so nice and polite to you, and you get a really nice tv make up. Oh, vanity of vanities! I've been to the Churches Counsil's committee meeting, giving a presentation on our church's view on ecumenism (I've had easier and better presentations in my life but fortunately the Catholic church's rep with his two PhDs was missing, phew), I've preached and given Bible studies. The lovely doctor who performed my eye surgery was in church this past Sabbath morning (I had invited him), and I made sure I told the story of getting back my eyesight in my sermon. He sat in the first row and beamed. The Newbold semester is ovah and the Greek exams have been graded and will fly to Newbold tomorrow. So much good stuff, now that I actually start thinking about it.

Other than that, my blog hit the bar of 20 000 page views last week. I don't know if it's much or little for these years but it's a nice milestone in any case. I never go back to read my old stuff but I wholeheartedly enjoy writing those silly posts. Please don't take them too seriously. Too often I write that stuff with my tongue in cheek.

Books wise, I've come back to Ismail Kadare.

Music wise, have I already mentioned Tchaikovsky? Heavens, I think I'm properly obsessed.

And Christmas is around the corner. Sweet.