Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
- a lap top, tablet, or iPad with Skype installed
- a good internet connection at funeral home, portable internet for cemetery
- depending on device, any additional equipment to be better seen or heard
- power supply and perhaps extension cord
- someone willing to carry you around, park you in a good place, and check on you from time to time
- someone who will introduce you and will welcome the other mourners to interact with you
- whichever device gives you the best picture while using Skype
- a headset if needed
- a good internet connection
- a glass of water or tea (or something stronger)
- an extremely good reason why you couldn't be there in person
The day after my father died, I got a post card from him from our favorite breakfast joint with an invitation for breakfast with him. Today, we got our last mail from him - our Christmas cards. I guess I am not handling it all very well.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
I am pretty sure I used to believe in Santa Claus. I used to believe in god too – thanks Catholic school. I believe in neither now.
I am pretty sure my belief in Santa was short-lived. I have no memory of believing, but I do remember not believing. Plus my sister is four years older than me, and she probably filled me in. We moved to a new house when I was in kindergarten, and I distinctly remember my parents talking about Santa coming down the new fireplace, etc. and I didn’t believe then. That’s young, I think. I was 5.
This year I have a student who still believes in Santa. He’s 9. I haven’t had such a young student in ages. It was such a pleasure to listen to him describe how Santa brings him and his brother presents on Santa Claus Day at the beginning of December and how the magic star brings them presents again on Christmas Eve. He had magic and wonder in his eyes. It was sweet.
I wonder how he’ll feel when he figures it out.
I don’t recall any traumatic moment of finding out that Santa did not exist. I mean, I went to Catholic school, so I knew all about the Saint Nicholas part of the story and the Jesus part of the story as well. Santa in the red suit never visited our school, and I only remember one time I sat on Santa’s lap after the local Christmas parade. In fact, a successful Christmas means you don’t see Santa. He comes to your house when you’re asleep.
Misiu played Santa this year for the village Santa Claus Day party. Last year it was one of the moms. Two years ago it was the least drunk guy from in front of the local shop. Rosie cried that year and said Santa smelled bad. I am happy to report that Misiu did a wonderful job. He talked to the kids, danced with them, sang some songs, gave them their presents, and posed for pictures. Only one child cried, but it is understandable for a one-year-old. We told our girls that Santa was Daddy, but Rosie was still a bit scared. She said with tears in her eyes, “That doesn’t look like Daddy.” She cheered up when she heard Santa talking with Daddy’s voice. Misiu said it was a million times better than the last time he played Santa 20 years ago at college when he had a massive hangover.
We didn’t introduce the concept of Santa to our kids, and for the longest time I wasn’t even aware that Poland celebrated Santa Claus Day as a separate day. When our nanny found out that the kids didn’t get anything under their pillows, she took Santa Claus Day into her own hands and surprised them each year. Then they went to pre-school and the fascination grew. I tried to limit discussions about Santa, you know, to limit how much I had to lie to them. I still feel guilty about it and a little underappreciated as well, as it wasn’t Santa who went to 3 stores to find “Beautiful Hair Barbie” or whatever her name is in English, but me, Mom –without extra assistance from any magic reindeer.
I hope that my children don’t experience any long-term damage from the web of lies surrounding the childhood magic of Christmas. I find it fascinating that my children are interested in mythology and religion as legend, don’t believe in god, but yet believe wholeheartedly in Santa Claus. Every year we watch a cartoon which states explicitly that there is no Santa Claus and that we each honor the spirit of Saint Nicholas every time we do something nice for someone or give someone a present. They have noticed that the presents are wrapped in “our” wrapping paper and that they get the presents they asked for after writing letters to Santa.
When my kids ask me something, I usually give it to them straight. They know how babies are made, they know where meat comes from, they know that their friend’s dog didn’t go to live on a farm, they know that Mommy isn’t too busy to play Barbie, but that mommy simply doesn’t like playing Barbie. My friend said that it was cruel of us to tell our kids that god doesn’t exist. I never told them that god doesn’t exist. I just didn’t tell that god exists. I tried to do the same with Santa but it just didn’t work out. Oh well, they’ll figure it out sooner or later.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Monday, December 22, 2014
Years ago when my Grandmother was still alive a 6 a.m. or even a 3 a.m. phone call meant that Gram had gotten her time zones mixed up or she had called the wrong granddaughter. Since she passed away, 6 a.m. phone calls can only mean something (as Rosie says) “very not good” has happened.
When the phone rang at 6 o’clock this morning, I just repeated to myself, “Let it be a wrong number. Let it be a wrong number.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t. How I wish it had been.
My father passed away unexpectedly.
He was prepared with all the necessary paperwork and insurance policies, but he certainly wasn’t ready. Nor am I.
I am at least able to say that I spoke to him a few hours before his sudden death. My last words to him were “I love you, Dad” and his were “I love you, too”.
Today has been a very hard day, here so far away.
I came home this afternoon only to find a post card, just delivered, from my father. It’s from a local restaurant where my father likes to eat breakfast and hold court with his local friends. He wrote in his careful script – “You are invited for breakfast. Love, Mom and Dad”.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
What could you accomplish in 24 hours? How about 24 hours spread over a couple of months? 24 hours all for yourself. Would you read a book? Would you learn how to cook? Brush up on your piano playing? Get in shape?
Since the beginning of the school year in September til now, my kids have spent over 24 hours each in the dayroom or the library while their classroom has been occupied by a catechism teacher. They haven’t had English for a month now because their English teacher is out sick. Those facts are not related, but you know, I’m just saying. You can learn a lot in 24 hours…or nothing at all.
Friday, November 21, 2014
I know that when my mother calls early morning here (middle of the night there) that either it snowed a lot and she can’t wait to tell me about it or somebody died. I saw on the news that it’s been snowing there in the northeast so when the phone rang…
I cannot believe we have lost another family member to heroin overdose. That’s two in the last 6 months. Another 1st cousin. We just saw him in April.
He visited my parents the day he overdosed. My mother thought he was coming down with the flu. He had just started a new job where he worked outside in the cold. My parents were worried about him.
Heroin is for other people – those kind of people. Not us. Not normal folks like us. My family is as run of the mill as it gets. Kind of a big family, weddings, funerals, family reunions, family newsletters, the whole shebang.
I've always had a stereotype in my mind of people who do “that sort of thing”. I have learned that “that sort of thing” is done by all kinds of people. Good people, bad people, rich people, poor people, people with a future ahead of them, people who have lost all hope. Heroin has gone mainstream.
Monday, November 17, 2014
I don’t mean this kind….by Marta Frej.
I mean this kind…by Lizzie Lou.
Here’s a closer look.
And now the poem. I know it has got a few mistakes (which give it character), but when I read it the first time I laughed so hard, I cried. Enjoy!
Kiełbasa jest podstawą.
Sunday, November 9, 2014
I like to think of myself as a Good Person. Misiu easily fits the mold of a Good Person too. We both try to be Good Role Models to our children. We don’t drink (too much), smoke, take drugs, swear (all the time), drive recklessly, lie (that they know of – I apologize in advance for the whole Santa thing, kids), litter, gossip all the neighbors (in front of them), or ignore someone in need of help. We hold doors open for others, help neighbors with heavy bags, volunteer our time and give to charities.
I am just one small insignificant person. We are just one tiny family unit here on this planet. We cannot help the whole world, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
As we drive in the dark and fog each week from the city to the village, we are always on the lookout for wild animals - first to catch the interest of the girls and second to not smash those animals to bits in the grill of the Jeep. Wild animals are not the only thing on our winding forest road that you can smash with your car. Each week we encounter cyclists with and without lights and also pedestrians sometimes walking with the traffic, sometimes against it with no flashlight or reflective clothing. Occasionally, these folks are travelling na podwójny gaz (on double gas), meaning they are under the influence of, most likely, alcohol.
This Friday was not unlike the other Fridays where we have had to swerve at the last second to just miss hitting someone who basically fell in front of or under our car (from the side). I never understood the Polish description padł pod koło samochód (he fell under the tire of the car) until we started to drive this road.
We were driving as we do between Rzędziszowice and Ludgierzowice when we caught a glimpse of a man face down in the ditch on the side of the road. You know, the ditch, that mythical and magical place your mother imagined you were whenever you came home late from anywhere.There were a lot of other cars but nobody stopped. I’d like to think that they didn’t see him. We stopped the car, hit the emergency lights, and explained the situation to kids. Misiu went ahead with his flashlight lit to find the man in the ditch.
While Misiu was looking for the man in the ditch, the whole time I was waiting at the car with the kids saying to myself, “Please don’t be hurt. Please don’t be dead.” In my mother’s story they (whoever “they” are) find you “dead in a ditch”, so I was really hoping this case wasn’t going to prove my mother right. And here I am going to make a confession. It’s just you and me here and I trust you. I was thinking that there is no way I am going to call emergency and say, “We have a man down here on the road between Rzędziszowice and Ludgierzowice”. It is just physically impossible for me to say it. Szczebrzeszyn, no problem, but not Rzędziszowice and Ludgierzowice.
It turned out that the man was not hit by a car. He simply fell in the ditch and could not get out. This is understandable - the ditch was deep and it was completely dark. He was drunk as well, but otherwise uninjured. He could talk and remember where he lived so Misiu decided to walk him home. Did I say walk? It was more like a combination of carrying and dragging, on a dark forest road, with a lot of traffic, in the rain. I was worried about that guy but I was also worried about Misiu walking back along the side of the dark road. You don’t have to be drunk to get hit by a car. Thankfully Misiu came back - cold, wet, stinking of eau de’drunk-man-in-a-ditch, but satisfied that the man was delivered home safe and more or less sound. What’s a little stranger’s stink when you may have just saved his life? The two foxes we saw after that, normally something that would be the highlight of our drive, were anti-climatic. We gave ourselves big mental pats on the back. Misiu even joked that if I really had had to call emergency for that guy I could have dragged him to the next town - Bukowice which I can easily pronounce.
Basking in our own do-goodery, we were in a hurry to get home, at least to wash off the man’s unpleasant odor. Just a winding road, a few more twists and curves and we’d be home to stew a bit more in our good works. That’s what we were thinking when around the next curve, straight in the middle of the road in the darkness, a man sat. He seemed completely unaware that he was in grave danger of becoming a spot on the road. Bathetic meets pathetic, nie? We swerved to the left and thankfully no car was coming from the other direction. Once again we stopped the car, put on the emergency lights, explained the situation to the girls, turned on the flashlight and went –this time both of us. I wasn’t worried about calling emergency. Wierzchowice I can say.
We quickly determined the man to be drunk but conscious, sort of. There were houses around so Misiu went to try to find out who he was and where he lived. I stayed and tried to get the same information from him and coax him over to the side of the road. I was not successful in getting him to safety nor was I able to get a word of sense out of him. He repeatedly called me “Agnieszka niezłośliwy”. He didn’t say niezłośliwa (harmless) which is the feminine form. He said it as if it were a last name, not an estimation of my character. After that he how-how-ed at the barking dogs between random mumbling. Then I asked him if he could make it to the side of the road if I helped him.
For future reference, a 55-kilogram woman cannot move a 100-kilogram man using one hand and carrying a flashlight in the other hand. For additional future reference, physical contact with a drunken man from the middle of the road is ill-advised especially when this man has not recently bathed and has very recently pissed himself, shat himself and vomited all over himself. Would we do it again? Of course we would do it again, and we will always stop to make sure that random stranger is alright. However, having said that I must admit that driving the rest of the way home with your rzygi hand out the window will really reduce your satisfaction in most likely saving a man’s life from the impending log truck rolling down the hill.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
It seems like only a couple of months ago, but a year ago in honor of my 40th birthday I decided to get my shit together. I even made a plan. So how is it then possible that I have my shit less together than a year ago? How is that even possible?!?
Anyhow, we are getting our Halloween together, more or less. The girls got their Halloween cards from their grandparents perfectly matched to their little personalities.
I got my annual, ultra sappy birthday card too.
I keep them all. I am a card hoarder.
Here’s to another year of trying to get my shit together and most likely failing miserably…to the day I die. Cheers!
Monday, October 20, 2014
Our warm autumn weather is fleeting, soon to give way to gray, rainy days. It’s time to enjoy the sunshine while we can.
Our options were to rake the leaves in the yard or leave those leaves for later and get out of the house.
I think we made the right decision.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Today is Teacher Appreciation Day a.k.a. Teacher’s Day czyli Dzień Nauczyciela a.k.a.Dzień Edukacji Narodowej. Whatever you call it, it is a day to bring something nice to school for your teacher(s).
I remember my first Teacher’s Day in Poland. I was a teacher, and I did not know that it was Teacher’s Day. I didn’t even know that such a day existed. I also came to school on November 1st because nobody told me it was a public holiday. Anyhow, the kids in my first group gave me chocolates, flowers, best wishes and promptly informed me that we cannot have a “real” lesson in honor of Teacher’s Day. They said we should play hangman and eat the chocolates. In honor of Teacher’s Day, I would have much rather gone home and eaten all the chocolates myself, but when in Rome…
In my daughters’ school they had a special assembly in honor of Teacher’s Day, so they had to wear galowy strój today. Lizzie found a mug with her teacher’s name on it. She was very happy to give it as a present along with a box a tea, some chocolates, and a homemade card. Her teacher has an unusual name, the kind of name you almost never find on a mug, so the teacher was pretty happy about it.She hugged and kissed Lizzie, said thank you and then immediately brewed up a cup of tea in her new mug. Lizzie was so proud. Lizzie’s classroom teacher, the IT teacher, the English teacher, and the priest all got flowers as well. The parents of one of Lizzie’s classmates own a flower shop. They played games the rest of day.
Rosie’s group arranged to buy flowers and a box of chocolates for their teacher and for all the kids to make cards at home. They had a poem recitation contest for 1st graders and then played games the rest of the day too. I sent Rosie in with “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. She must have done a good job because Lizzie, Rosie and Misiu ran into one daddy from school at the supermarket and he said it was impressive. Great job Rosie!
I am happy to report that there were no kartkówki today.
Monday, October 13, 2014
40-year-old smart, sexy, witty mother/wife/human being extraordinaire, czyli ja: Lizzie! You have a kartkówka tomorrow.
Lizzie, 3rd grader extraordinaire: What!? Karkówka for dinner tomorrow?
Ja: No, not karkówka (pork neck), karT-kówka. I’m checking your Librus (e-grade book) and it says that you have a kartkówka tomorrow. (stern look from mother)
Lizzie: Ooooh myyyy gaaaawd!!!! (long pause) What’s a kartkówka?
Ja: It’s a quiz.
Lizzie: Ooooh myyyy gaaaawd!!!! (long pause) What’s a quiz?
Ja: It’s like a small test. It comes from the word “kartka”.
Lizzie: Ooooh myyyy gaaaawd!!!! (long pause) A quiz on what?
Ja: I don’t know. It doesn’t say. I thought you’d know.
Lizzie: No idea. Oh well.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Who would have thought the beginning of October would be so busy. We’ve got school, homework, dance lessons, soccer practice, and then more homework and work, work and more work. But work is good. Work is a blessing. Even if it is correcting endless texts about erectile dysfunction. Okay, who am I kidding? Endless texts. They just seem endless because I'm still on the first page.
The rainy season has started which allows us to play our favorite morning game as we walk to school – kupa czy ślimak? (poop or slug?) – Sometimes they look identical. They are each gross, but if I had to accidentally step on one or in one, I’d prefer the ślimak. I guess if I am a celebrity I should probably Instagram that, right?
What else is up? Politicians and priests have said so many out-there things lately, I have given up trying to pay attention. Notorious Krystyna Pawłowicz has announced her contest to re-name “gender” which is used in Poland in English or something similar to English, but as far as the meaning of the word it is used almost exclusively incorrectly. I've stopped referring to Krystyna Pawłowicz as Professor Pawłowicz, well, because. Here’s her quote on the topic,
“Jak po polsku nazwać to, co lewactwo ukrywa pod słowem ‘gender’, walki z naturą, z kobietą, mężczyzną i dziećmi, walki z wiarą w Boga?”
“How to call it in Polish, this what the leftists are concealing behind this word ‘gender’, a fight against neighbor, between women, men and children, a fight against faith in God?”And on the same topic, a quote by archbishop Stanisław Gądecki,
“Niektórym rodzicom podoba się uczenie chłopców, że winni po sobie sprzątać, a nie czekać, aż zrobią to za nich dziewczynki.”
“Some parents like to teach their boys that they should clean up after themselves and not wait for a girl to do if for them.”
He warns of "lansowaną pod płaszczykiem programu równościowego ideologią genderyzmu".I don’t know if it comes out clearly in English but he’s against boys cleaning up after themselves.
There were some other politicians who said something weird about incest but I don’t even want to think about it or write about it.
I went to a lovely event last week. It was a kind of fashion show event and Misiu accompanied me which took a lot of scheduling, but we did it somehow. It was very nice and very well-organized czyli da się. Either this city is small or I know a lot of people because I got to see some old acquaintances and catch up. I had my make-up done professionally so I was rockin’ that smoky eye. I got a lot of compliments too…did I mention there were a lot of gays there? It was compliments galore for Chris.
I learned a new word – szpaner, something like 'a show-off'. There were a couple of celebrities that were paid to be there. That means they have to talk with you even if they don't want to and that they encourage you to take pictures with them…to the point where their assistant may ask you if you want to take a selfie with said celebrity. Apparently answering 'no' is kind of a faux pas, but you're a hit with the gays after that. Anyhow, people were crazy, jumping around, posing for selfies, taking pictures on the stage and on the catwalk. My friend said, “I think we are some of the few people here having an actual good time instead of an Instagram good time.” One guy took a picture with me and then walked away as I was introducing myself, asking the girl with him if I was “somebody”. Cra – zeee.
Oh, and by the way, I am somebody.
Monday, October 6, 2014
I don’t know what it is about that Polish pottery, but we Americans just really like it. I was initially attracted to it most likely because it’s incredibly expensive in the States, and I associated it with some kind of luxury. I know, lame of me.
I had held off on buying any because I planned to return to the US and that stuff is heavy. Additionally, I don’t like things matchy-matchy. I’m kind of a messy with my style. But then I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner hosted by two friends, one American and one British. They were roommates and shared a love of Bolesławiec pottery, but different patterns. Due to the number of guests, they had to mix up their sets, and it was lovely. After that I bought my first pieces and have continued to buy more and more each year.
Noticing that we were down to just one mug that wasn’t chipped and that we’ve recently broken a couple of bowls, we thought it was time to go for our trip – let’s say to replenish. As we pulled into the parking lot of our favorite shop, we were pleased to see that there were just two other cars there. Sweet shopping in peace – not like one time when a bus full of Americans from Germany converged on a bus of shop owners from Ukraine. It was chaos.
A bus pulls in.
Hundreds of people pour out. (OK, it sounded like hundreds)
We are surrounded by mom jeans, sensible shoes and “Oh my gaaawd. Isn’t this place so cuuute?!”
It’s as if a bus with my mom and all her friends have invaded the store.
If you are American and you have arrived here by Googling “Polish pottery”, you must know that I speak with the utmost affection for my fellow Americans who get their pottery fix here in Poland…and that I am so jealous the ladies from the military can ship the stuff home free (that’s what one lady from the group said).
I understand that these ladies (well, predominantly ladies) have been cooped up in a bus together for who knows how long. They are happy to get out and stretch their legs. They’ve got a bit of party bus atmosphere going on which is great. They take over the shop, talk, shout, compare sets, select what they want, pay for it, and get out of there. I have always wondered where they go after that, if they visit someplace else or if they are just coming back from some other trip destination.
Maybe I should ask them, but it’s kind of nosey, isn’t it? Anyhow, they share a lot of information amongst themselves so sometimes you don’t have to ask.
You know when you don’t understand a foreign language people are speaking and you think everybody is arguing or talking about you? I used to have that feeling in Poland, but it usually turned out to be my sister-in-law telling a story (she’s very expressive) or a group of German tourists who are a bit louder than the average group of Poles on the street. Well, American ladies, I understand what you are saying and I have to tell you that you are pretty loud there in those pottery shops. I know, I know, you’re excited to get off the bus and get your pottery on, but for the other shoppers you are really, really loud…but polite. You don’t push. You say excuse me. But you do shout at each from across the shop which is unusual for the other shoppers, and you often sit down on the floor to examine the selection on lower shelves which is so strange for the other shoppers that they comment on it. I wouldn’t even comment on it here except that every time I have been there, an American customer has plopped down on the floor to sort out his/her patterns and the other shoppers have commented on it. Because for them (I guess now I can say us) it is very unusual. Polish shoppers don’t do that and I haven’t noticed that German shoppers do it either. Plus, right before entering the store, I have lectured my kids on proper pottery store behavior, and it is pretty hard to explain to them why they can’t shout or sit on the floor if they other shoppers can do it.
So here I am torn. It’s like when you hate on your siblings, but look out when the neighbor kids start talking shite about your little brother. I guess it is like that. I just want you to know that it’s cool that you visit Poland and that you spread your pottery passion, but you should know that your behavior is unusual for others and they sometimes comment it. I’m not asking you to change. I’m just letting you know.
Anyhow, I overheard the best conversation. Maybe I don’t need to use the word overhear if the people were shouting –just hear. OK, I heard the best conversation. It was like listening to my mom and her best friend.
Joanne: Carol, Carol, Carol (clapping of hands to get Carol’s attention), Carol! I am talking to you!Carol (pronounced here as Care – All) is way across the store and finally hears Joanne. Carol joins Joanne on the other side of the store.
Carol: Joanne, look at this pattern. Isn’t that just precious? It looks just like that one from the other place we were the last time we were here.
Joanne: Do you know if they have wi-fi here? They had wi-fi at the other place, but I do not know if they have wi-fi here.
Carol: Heavens, I do not know. Why do you need wi-fi?
Joanne: Well, I want to use my iPad. I wanted to take some pictures of these here dishes.
Carol: You do not need wi-fi to use your iPad to take pictures.
Joanne: Well, I did not realize that. Thank you very much for telling me that. I did not realize that. My, my.It just made my day. Carol and Joanne, I am sending you a heartfelt “cheers” from my morning tea in my new Bolesławiec mug. To you!
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Halloween is coming in one month! Yippeee!
Have I mentioned that I love Halloween?
Yep, I’m one of those idiots. Count me in!
It’s true, if you don’t warn people (or even if you do) sometimes they don’t answer the door. We’re probably not going to trick-or-treat this year.
I choose that American one, definitely the American one.
Halloween falls on a Friday this year so we will probably have a small party Saturday afternoon in the village just for us and the neighbor kids. Trick-or-treating in our neighborhood in the city has always worked out well. One neighbor in our building made a poster informing the building that we were going to be trick-or-treating and if they wanted a visit to hang a paper pumpkin on their door (paper pumpkins provided). It worked out great, and we were always sure that we weren’t bothering anybody who didn’t want to see us. In the village, we asked our immediate neighbors if they’d accept a Halloween visit at the door. Most of them invited us to come and seemed excited. They know that I’m American ,and we offered them candy for their kids and candy to give back to the trick-or-treaters…but…when it came time to actually answer the door only 2 houses answered. One family even switched off the lights after we ran the bell.
We’ve been planning out our costumes as well. Rosie is planning to be Katy Perry so basically she will dress as she normally does each day for school plus a wig and some lipstick. Lizzie is planning to be Onslow from the British comedy “Keeping up Appearances” which is her favorite television program. He looks like this -
I’m thinking – tank top, sweater vest, jeans, trucker hat, drawn on tattoos, a beer can (empty), a packet of fags (empty) and a well-rehearsed, “Oh nice!” - his catch phrase.
I’m planning to be a hipster so I just need to cuff my skinny jeans and grow a beard – maybe grab a craft beer and walk around talking about the importance of quality hops.
Misiu will be dressed in a costume which I call “SuperTrans”. He doesn’t really like that name. He’ll be Clark Kent caught in the middle of his transition to Superman, hence the name SuperTrans. At least I think I’m clever.
I’m just wondering who’s going to grow out of Halloween first, me or the kids?