Penny Palace

Penny Palace

Monday, April 29, 2013

Act on FAITH

You all know about the building of the miraculous Penny Palace over the past 2-3 years.  Well in the past 6 months I have had a new “Project of Passion” to work on.  I call it the  "The Sasha Project”.

In a nutshell:  Nine years ago I went to Russia with my brother and his wife to adopt two boys.  Kept in touch with Sasha - our interpreter, driver and so much more.  (There are a whole bunch of miracle stories there).  It was always my dream to bring Sasha to the U.S. to visit our family.  So I began working on that dream a few months ago.  More details of the Sasha Story have just been posted for you.  The simple 2-week visit has now blossomed into 5+ weeks with 12 adoptive CA families who will be hosting Sasha!

Last week Sasha had to fly to Moscow to have his VISA interview at the U.S. Embassy.  Each applicant gets about 5 minutes to present his case.  The agent refused Sasha’s entry!  Sasha does not currently have a job, nothing in savings, and he lives in the family home (his mother is owner), so he owns no land.

Within 24 hours I had set an appointment with an immigration attorney.  He was wonderful with his insight, but said our chances were not real high.  He recommended that Sasha think long and hard about the time and cost to try a second time.  That night Sasha and I made the decision to “Go Forth!”  and “Believe”

For the past four days we have been scrambling. Pretty much working it round the clock (Sasha’s time zone is 11 hours ahead of mine).  There have been numerous glitches, hiccups, and delays.

This morning we FINALLY obtained our new interview date: June 6, 2013.  When Sasha gets his OK (notice that I did not say IF he gets approved), it will take a few days for processing, then a few days for courier mail, etc.  That ought to give me about 3 days to book the flights! 

That brings us to today’s story …

This morning I was in my stretching/exercise class.  At the end of each session, the instructor has us sit in a circle, tell about our experience in class, and then she shares a word for the day.

My report this morning: “I have zero idea what my body did because my mind was racing about 150 mph on the Sasha Project!”   The rest of the ladies gave more normal reports.

Right at the end, the “Nudging” said, “Go home and book Sasha’s flight!”  Huh?  Again, I sensed, “Go Book Sasha’s flight!”  My Engineering / German background argued: “The Embassy websites advises NOT to make travel arrangements because VISAs are not guaranteed”.  “No. This is NOT logical”.  The Nudging persisted again.

Within two minutes of that argument, the instructor said, “Today’s Message is FAITH. ACT on Faith!”  I burst out laughing and the other ladies wondered why?  I told them about how I had just been wrestling.  That gave me the opportunity to share about the Sasha Project!  The ladies all said they would all be adding their prayers to this project.  The Goodwill is Blossoming!

I went home to book Sasha’s flight. I had only a few moments because someone was expected at my house.  I was frantically working when my guest called to say she would be delayed by an hour!  Thank You Angels.

I did a search for flights.  My “ideal flight” would have Sasha flying in Sunday afternoon (thus avoiding downtown LA traffic) to join our family for a Father’s Day dinner.  The return flight would be after work hours on the planned Thursday in July,

I searched for flights from Moscow to LAX using my Frequent Flyer Miles.  Search #1 had ZERO results.  Search #2 had ZERO results.  I was getting discouraged.  I told the Angels that THEY were the ones who told me to do this.  What were they thinking?
Attempt #3:  Arrival flight 1:40 Sunday afternoon, Departure 9:10 pm.  I could not believe it!  And get this --  the arrival flight had one seat using only half the Frequent Flyer miles I was expecting!!!  Talk about AWESOME!!!!

I have booked the tickets, paid the various airport taxes, and have the Confirmation number!!!!  “ACT on FAITH!”

I can’t wait for Sasha to wake up and read this posting.  He will probably think he is dreaming…

The Sasha Project

In 2004 I accompanied my brother and his wife to Russia as they adopted two children.  It turned out to be quite helpful having 3 adults managing two active 2 year olds, navigating the transportation systems, completing documents, and overcoming all the other challenges which we encountered.

During my visit, I became acquainted with Alexander (Sasha) Romanov.  He was our driver, translator, shoulder to lean on and so much more.  He was a very helpful and humble man.  Sasha was working as a translator to earn a few extra dollars, but more importantly it gave him the opportunity to speak live with Americans and practice his English.  Sasha is passionate about learning the English language.

In the past 9 years Sasha and I have kept in touch periodically via emails.  He would sometimes ask for clarification on one of the American books he was reading or a phrase he had heard.  I was so inspired by his desire to learn.  My husband and I teach at the local university, so education is important to us.  It is exciting when you encounter a student who is on fire to learn (versus those who are there warming a chair).  It makes you desire to work with them and see them succeed!

For many years I had a quiet dream to bring Sasha to the US and immerse him in the language.  I didn’t figure I had the time or the resources to do that.  There were many other things demanding my attention.

At the end of last year I had an idea …
My husband and I had saved up our frequent flyer miles (from purchases made in constructing our retirement house) and were planning to use them on a trip to Australia to celebrate our retirements.  What if we used some of those miles to bring Sasha to CA?  I timidly asked my husband if he was willing to do that?  He agreed!

When I tentatively asked Sasha about visiting the US, he said that was merely a dream of his.  Persons like him do not just hop on a plane and go to America.  I probed further and asked him if there were any other adopting families he kept in contact with. (Christmas cards or emails?)  He mentioned 3 or 4.

Earlier this year I made phone calls to several families regarding a possible visit by Sasha. I was absolutely blown away by their responses and stories.  Each of them wanted to see Sasha again and to host him for a few days!  They spoke of how much Sasha had helped them while they were in Russia.  They wanted to thank him and have him share in the Joy of their now established families.  One lady even named her daughter after Sasha!

What initially began as a 2 or 3 week trip to visit me, has now mushroomed to include 12 families over a five week period!  One family (who now lives in Ireland) is scheduled to meet Sasha in San Francisco for dinner.  Sasha’s Itinerary has activities for each day including visits to the Space Shuttle, Queen Mary, the Getty Center, Home Depot, a California Mission, the Golden Gate Bridge, a 4th of July Parade, horseback riding, a drive along Route 66, a Giants baseball game on July 9th and so much more.

Since Sasha tutors 20 students in Basic English skills, we thought it would be a great way to promote Russian / US friendships.  We planned to set up a Blog where Sasha could share his experiences while in the U.S.

This is like one of those “Make A Wish” stories.  The Ripples of goodwill are reaching far and wide.  It is going to be such a positive journey for all the people involved.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Branching Out

Most of you know that the Penny Palace has lots of “items of interest”.  (Weird stuff).  In the past three months I have been working on the idea of creating a 9 ft. tall  Eucalyptus tree in the Australian-themed Guest Area.

A while back I did a favor for a friend and in a phone call she said “Thanks. Is there anything I can do for you?”  I sarcastically said, sure!  Find me a section of Eucalyptus cutting to make my tree”. She did!  It was gorgeous, but only 6 ft. long.

Then when another friend and I were walking she asked if there was anything I needed.  I jokingly replied, “Sure - a TEN ft. section of Eucalyptus tree”.  Within a day she had one for me!  WOW!

Doc, a neighbor and I spent a few hours yesterday creating the trunk.  Looks good.  We needed branches.  So I posted a WANTED ITEM this morning on  Within an hour Linda emailed and said I could cut branches off the tree behind her house!

Doc and I gathered an 8 ft. ladder, cutters, bow saw, bags, gloves and other gear.  As we were driving to Linda’s we noticed dozens and dozens of Eucalyptus trees along the streets and freeway. Most of the lower branches were at least 15 ft. above the ground.  Yikes!

We arrived at Linda’s and found several Eucalyptus trees with branches at heights we could reach. Whew!  Then I spotted a huge, very old and grand looking tree.  It had so much character.  It almost seemed to welcome me.  Lying at the base of this magnificent tree was a branch such as I was seeking!  The only tools needed to retrieve it were my fingers to pick it up!

ASK, then have FAITH!

Dinner on the Patio

Note:  This evening Doc and I ate dinner on the patio accompanied by the music of the running waterfall.  First time the two of us had a sit-down meal together out there. Wonderful!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


This afternoon I visited the local Post Office to investigate the options for getting our 3-ring notebook of documents from my house to Sasha in Russia within 2 weeks.  I was quoted the prices and it was suggested that I keep the weight under 4 lbs. and in a box with roughly certain dimensions.

My "conversation" on the way home (out loud) with the Angels was "It is 3 miles from this post office to home, with no stores between here and there.  I do not have time tomorrow to search for the right sized box.  Please provide the box for me on my way home right now."

I was "nudged" to go down a certain street of houses.  One of the neighbors had his garage door slightly rolled up and I could see his legs, so I stopped.  He asked why I was there?  I replied, "I was nudged to stop here for a box".  He looked around and found 2 or 3 boxes which were way too large.  Then he found a good sized box with much writing on it.  He cleverly cut the box, turned it inside out, taped it back together and handed it to me along with his blessing of the Sasha project.

Needless to say when I brought the box home, it 'fit like a glove' around the precious notebook.