Thanks to Sasha and Katya

December 4, 2012 • Posted in blindness, Braille, careers/jobs for people who are blind, Uncategorized, visiting schools by
That's Sasha and Katya helping me out in class.

That’s Katya (l) and Sasha helping me out in class.

Our nine-year-old friend Sasha and our six-and-a-half-year-old friend Katya invited their third-grade and first-grade friends at Dewey Elementary School to gather in the multi-purpose room yesterday morning to meet Whitney and me.

I talked with them about Seeing Eye dogs, Braille, and about how I manage to write books without being able to see. It’s important to me that kids understand that a disability does not necessarily prevent a person from working and doing interesting things. we just use different tools — and ways — to do them, and just like everyone else, we need help sometimes, too.

”I get all over the city with Whitney, I teach writing classes, I interview people for stories, “ I told the kids at Dewey. “One thing I can’t do, though? See if you’re raising your hands to ask a question.” I asked if Sasha and Katya would be willing to come in front and call on classmates who had their hands raised, and they jumped at the chance.

I have Sasha and Katya’s dad, Dmitry Karpeev, to thank for introducing us to his two bright and beautiful daughters and arranging our visit to their school. Dmitry was born in Russia, and his accent makes him easy to differentiate from the cast of other colorful characters I’ve met at Hackney’s, our local tavern. His command of the English language is impeccable – he’s corrected my grammar more than once — but he speaks to his daughters only in Russian, so they are bilingual. Sasha and Katya spend summers with their grandparents in Montenegro, which helps their command of their second language, too.

Dimitry with Katya and Sasha.

Dimitry with Sasha and Katya.

Dmitry began his mathematics education at Voronezh State University in Russia and wrote his doctoral thesis while a Lab Graduate at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. Dmitry holds joint appointments at the University of Chicago/Argonne Computation Institute and at Rush Medical Center, but he talks more about films and art and language when we’re together than he talks about work, so I used Google to find out exactly what he does. You should hear my speech synthesizer try to pronounce words like “stochastic” or “homogenization analysis of suspensions of interacting protein polymers”! But who needs Google? Our visit to Dewey Elementary School yesterday confirmed what Dmitry specializes in: being a great dad.

glivingston On December 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm

okay wait a minute–you were in Evanston and I didn’t know? I need to keep up with your very busy travel schedule!

bethfinke On December 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm

On our drive to Evanston yesterday I told Dmitry and his fiancée Carli that I’d visited a public school in Evanston years ago, and that the mom of the kids I visited is on the school board now. Of course that is you, Gretchen. Try as I might, I couldn’t recall the name of the school –was it simply called “Evanston Elementary”? I *do* remember the visit was a lot of fun.

Dmitry On December 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Beth, it was so much fun! You are such a star, it looks like the principal of every school in Chicagoland knows you before you even show up 🙂

bethfinke On December 4, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Yes, what a small world! Yesterday When I was introduced to Mr. Khelghati, the principal at Dewey, he told me we’d met before. Turns out he was the assistant principal at Reavis Elementary in Chicago when I visited there three years ago – you can see a photo of myy Seeing Eye dog Hanni and me with the Reavis kids on a blog post I wrote in February of 2010:

Unfortunately, I don’t hink Mr. Khelghati is in that photo…

Kim On December 4, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Sasha and Katya ARE beautiful and they’re lucky to learn another language while young. Dmitry is SO good-looking, plus the accent and his smarts. Gotta go to Hackney’s!

bethfinke On December 4, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Yes, Kim, you *must* come to Hackney’s if you ever visit Chicago. As you might have gathered from my reference to “fiancee” in a comment above, however, Dmetry is already taken — he & Carli are getting married this year!

Kim On December 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

Oh well. My husband of more than 30 years will be relieved that Dmetry’s taken. Smiling.

Joan McSweeney On December 4, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Beth, Ever since Laura gave me the link to your blog when she wrote her tribute to Matt I have been following your blog. I have shared your stories with friends and family because I find them so interesting and so moving. You are really incredible. I hope we can all get together this year to remember Matt and to catch up on each other’s lives.

bethfinke On December 4, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Thanks for your sweet words and also for sharing my blog posts –that makes me feel good. Will write you privately to figure out a time to get together in 2013, would love to share more stories about Matt.

Carli On December 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Beth, you are, indeed, incredible! Spending the morning with you was such fun, and I think I may have learned more than the kids. I certainly learned more about how fearless and fiercely independent you are. You inspire me, Beth!

bethfinke On December 4, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I’m blushing.

S. Bradley Gillaugh On December 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm

At the risk of turning this blog commentary into an insipid love fest, may I add I feel so lucky and proud to know Dmitry, Carli, Sasha, Katya, Beth and of course, Mike. Thank God for Hackney’s, Chicago’s Meeting Place.

H Hines On December 4, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I loved it, Beth!–Hollis.

bethfinke On December 4, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Brad and Hollis,

bethfinke On December 4, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Oops, got cut off — just wanted to tell Brad and Hollis that the comment I left for Carli applies here, too: I’m still blushing.

Barbara Timberlake On December 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm

I love to read the comings and goings of Beth and Whitney and to get to “know” the special people that surround them.

Hugs, Barbara

bethfinke On December 4, 2012 at 10:58 pm

I feel so fortunate to know so many interesting, wonderful people. Whitney and I are very lucky girls.

Carla On December 5, 2012 at 8:41 am

. Beautiful girls (including you and Whit) and handsome AND brillant dad. Wow!!!!! Amazing how much we can learn from people with foreign backgrounds.

Sounded like a great visit.

Katya On December 5, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Thank you for the blog, Beth. I loved reading it!!!!!! We read it in front of the fire together tonight! Love, Katya (typed by Carli)

bethfinke On December 5, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Oh, thank *you*, Katya, for having me come to your school and helping me in front of all your classmates. I’m hoping your big sister will write a guest post here, too. All the blog readers will want to know what hse thought of the big day, too.

bethfinke On December 5, 2012 at 9:56 pm

PS: Do you have a fireplace? Lucky duck!!

Katya On October 16, 2017 at 4:27 pm

I think that this blog is really awesome. Looking back i remember that time you came to Dewey and it was a lot of fun. I was in 2nd grade then and now that I am in 6th grade I think that I was just really cool and amazing. I fell really lucky!

Beth On October 17, 2017 at 1:58 pm

I loved being with you and your sister during that visit to Dewey. If the sixth grade ever lets authors come, I’d love to visit there, too. Thanks for writing, Katya!

Katya On February 14, 2018 at 12:09 pm

I hope to see you soon!!

Beth On February 16, 2018 at 11:11 am

What a coincidence: I’d love to be with you again sometime, too, Katya. I miss running into you down here in Chicago.

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