Sergei Kourdakov, a former KGB agent and Soviet naval intelligence officer, defected from the USSR at the age of twenty. A year later we met at my Federal Government office in Washington DC. We were watched and followed. “Even you could be spy,” Sergei whispered. My book, A Rose for Sergei, is the true story of our time together.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


The summer before my senior year of high school I worked as a clerical assistant for the Federal Government in Washington DC.  I was 16 years old, the year was 1968.  That summer was life changing for me because it was my first grown-up job and I fell in love.  Not with an individual . . . I fell in love with the idea of working and the importance and satisfaction that goes along with it.  By the end of the summer I discovered I wanted to work full-time for the Federal Government after I graduated from high school.  If I had chosen a different path I never would have met Sergei Kourdakov four years later.

That summer of ‘68 I met a unique U.S. Air Force Major at work.  In A Rose for Sergei I tell how this person made it a point to share a few “words of wisdom” with me.  It was almost as if he had insight about my life and he was trying to shield me from heartbreak.  At the end of August, when my job was over, I returned to school for my senior year and I never saw or had contact with him again.  His words of wisdom, however, stayed with me always.  It wasn’t until many years later that I realized the significance of our meeting and how relevant his words were.

I believe people come into our life at certain times for a reason.  They touch our life for that moment, provide information, friendship and advice, and then they are gone.

Some people are not meant to be in our life forever. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Maybe a Cupcake Will Help

I was in the middle of writing when I received a text from my friend Suzanna.  Her mother had just mailed her a rubber stamp inscribed with the words, “Maybe a Cupcake Will Help.”  It was the perfect gift.  One, because Suzanna loves everything cupcake.  And two, maybe . . . just maybe, a scrumptious treat like a cupcake might really help.  Somehow, we find the thought comforting.  Wouldn’t it be great if all of our concerns could be solved simply by indulging in a cupcake? 

For those that are new to my blog, here is a quick summary of my forthcoming book, A Rose for Sergei.  Sergei Kourdakov was a former KGB agent and Soviet Naval Intelligence Officer who defected to Canada more than forty years ago.  Some of you may already be familiar with his book The Persecutor, which was also published under the title Forgive Me, Natasha.  Sergei spent several weeks in Washington DC talking to Government Officials in the fall of 1972.  We were introduced when he came to my office where I was working as a secretary.  We were both 21 years old and we had an instant connection.  My book is the story about our time together and the remarkable person Sergei became.  

How is the book coming along?  I get asked that question frequently.  It tells me it’s time for a book status update.  Because I worked for the Federal Government when Sergei and I met, it was necessary for me to have my manuscript reviewed prior to publishing.  It took close to two months for that process but I finally received word from the Department of Defense prepublications office.  My manuscript has been cleared for publication!  That is the best possible news I could have received.  It means I still have a book.  It means I can tell my story.

There are still a lot of steps left – editing, rewriting, cover design and marketing.  Do I self publish or find an agent?  The list keeps getting longer and it seems a little overwhelming at times.  Whew, I just need to breathe and take it one step at a time.

Maybe a cupcake will help.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Life is an Endless Struggle

I have been going to the same place to have my hair cut for quite a few years.  During that time I have become very good friends with a number of the hairstylists that work there.  I’m not sure why we feel compelled to “tell all” when we are sitting in that rotating chair at the hair salon.  Maybe it’s because the stylist has a very sharp pair of scissors or razor blade so close to our eyes and ears.  Maybe it’s because we have a captured audience – they can’t walk away.  The hairstylists have to stay and listen until the shampoo, hair cut and styling are complete.  You have their rapt attention for at least an hour.

The young ladies I chat with the most at my hair salon are young, pretty and up to date with what is going on.  They have listened to stories about Sergei Kourdakov and the journey of my writing A Rose for Sergei.  During a recent visit I mentioned that I was starting to get cold feet.  I was struggling with the publishing dilemma and my apprehension about making this story public after 40 years.  I wondered if maybe just writing everything down, for my eyes only, would satisfy the need I felt to preserve this story about Sergei. 

Their comments provided encouragement:

“It would be normal to feel nervous about publishing a book, no matter what the subject is.  There's always a level of excitement, you would expect that feeling.  It’s a normal reaction.”

“If it is written from the heart then it will be good.”

“I always say to go with your gut feeling.  What is your gut telling you to do?”

I appreciate their insight and support.  They are right.  All those feelings are a normal reaction.  Their anticipation for me to finish and publish A Rose for Sergei is heartfelt.  They encourage me in a way they will never understand.  Thank you Erin, Lindsay and Andrea.  Your enthusiasm and optimism are contagious!

The small framed sign at Lindsay’s work station sums everything up nicely.

Life is an endless struggle,
full of frustrations and challenges,
but eventually you find a hairstylist you like!
     -Magnetic Graffiti©


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Marriage Material

“If you didn’t think you could marry me, then why did you go out with me in the first place?”

Whoa – let’s back up and take it from the start.  This was a question from a young man I dated before I met Sergei.  I cut the section from my book, A Rose for Sergei, because it digressed from the story line.  It was about the reasons to not date someone you worked with.  I do think the quote is an interesting topic, however, and still applicable today.

The young man credited with asking that question was a military officer, intelligent and kind, and a co-worker.  I didn’t anticipate that his feelings would develop into something much stronger while mine remained friendly.  One thing I had never considered at the time was what would happen if we stopped dating and still had to work together.  And that’s when he wanted to know why I went out with him in the first place if I wasn’t interested in marrying him.  My answer was honest and to the point, “I went out with you to get to know you better.  Isn’t that the reason people date?” 

We ended things amicably but it was difficult to work together in the same office after that.  It helped that I was not the “kiss and tell” type of girl.  The not-so-happy outcome resulted in my self-imposed rule to “never date anyone who worked in my office.”  Only dating someone you could potentially marry was a strange concept to me and the furthest thought from my mind.  

I wonder if that is what guys/girls ask themselves before they consider dating someone today, “Are they honest, fun and adventurous?  Could he/she be marriage material?"  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Face Your Fears

In one chapter of my book, A Rose for Sergei, I write about having to “face my fears.”  I was referring to my silly fear of driving in Washington DC.  It wasn’t the actual driving that bothered me.  It was the fear that I would somehow get lost driving in a big city and not be able to find my way home.  I didn’t have the security blanket of a GPS, smart phone or Google Maps to boost my confidence.

Being concerned about driving and getting lost seems so inconsequential compared to what Sergei had to face when he swam towards the unknown and a new life.  He never even had a place to call home.  But Sergei seemed to take everything in stride.  He faced his fears head on and trusted the outcome.

“With little hope left, I nevertheless started slowly swimming away from the Elagin.  I thought of the documents around my waist.  Would someone find them?  Would anyone know who I was?  Would anyone ever learn the story behind the body they found?  My mind became dizzy as thoughts drifted in and out.  All my life, from six years of age, I had been alone – no mother or father.  It seemed cruel that I would die still alone, lost in a watery grave.”

-Sergei Kourdakov, The Persecutor (Chapter 2, pg. 19)

Facing my fears today brings a whole different view of circumstances to light as I write – fear of failure, of embarrassment . . . of criticism.  As I near completion, and closer to publishing, I realize the book is not turning out exactly the way that I expected.  But it turned out the way it was supposed to be.   

Face your fears . . . they push you forward to do the unexpected.