Monday, February 23, 2015

Once Upon a Time

I’m not bragging, but this is the feedback I’ve been getting lately.

You’re so funny. You should write a book.

So many strange things have happened to you. You should write a book.

Please write a book. I’d definitely read it.

Alright already. I’ll do it.

Except I have no idea where to start.

I don’t see myself as funny. Sometimes when I write something on the blog and get comments that it was so funny, I am surprised because I wasn’t even trying to be funny. That’s odd, isn’t it?

I suppose that unusual things do happen to me. People say I am kind of a magnet for everything weird. From the outside, my life could look a bit strange, but from the inside I have trouble separating the strange from the regular. It’s just my life.

You’d definitely read it? That’s a lot of commitment on your side. That involves much more time than reading the occasional blog post. I am not convinced.

That brings us back to the first point. I do not know where to start.

Thanks to one lovely lady and Kielbasa Stories reader, I am writing some English texts for a school textbook, but that’s a different story. The author of the book sets everything up and then sends you quite specific information about what kind of texts are needed. You do your best, send them back, do some editing, and somehow all the puzzle pieces fit together, and you’ve got a book. I suspect it is a lot of work fitting all those pieces together, but I don’t see that part.

This would be all me. Yikes. That’s daunting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Yay me!

IX15 - Top 100 International Exchange and Experience Blogs 2015

Apparently there is some blog competition and Kielbasa Stories made it into the top 100. I don't know how many blogs participated so I am not sure if I should be excited or not. It's like when my friend started bodybuilding and came in 6th at her first competition. I thought 6th place was awesome for her first time out. She came in 6th out of 6 ;)

 I suspect the whole thing is some kind of advertisement for something, but anyhow, yay me!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Talk

We have already had The Talk with our girls. Actually, several versions of the The Talk have gone under the bridge, and I imagine there are at least a dozen more (each) in front of us.

My parents weren’t big on explaining the facts of life to my sister and me. Truth be told, they weren’t big on explaining anything and subscribed to the “be seen and not heard” school of raising children. My sister was given a book explaining all the details which she later passed down to me. That’s meant that I got my period before I quite understood how babies were made. That doesn’t seem right. And there was no internet back then!

Lizzie got her first talk when I was pregnant with Rosie. We looked at the pictures in my pregnancy book which showed the baby’s progress inside the mother’s womb starting from the egg and the sperm all the way through the stages of birth (neither one of us like looking at that page). Lizzie and Rosie both like to look through that book even today. And as they have grown their questions have evolved. We try to answer them all. They know that the egg is in Mommy and the sperm is in Daddy. They know that babies are part Mommy and Daddy and that the egg carries Mommy’s part and the sperm is a kind of a seed that carries Daddy’s part. They know how and where the baby grows and that when no seed is planted, the protection for the baby isn’t needed and comes out (menstruation). They haven’t yet asked for the details of how the seed gets to the egg, but they know that it is called sex. They know that people have sex to make babies and even when they don’t want to have a baby because they love each other and it feels nice.

That’s the story we have reached to this point. I think it is good enough and quite sufficient for their age. They know that they are going to get breasts. Rosie has her fingers crossed for big ones. I don’t know why - I often extoll the virtues of smaller breasts. They know that they will menstruate. We talked briefly about the decision to become a mother (so we weren’t really talking about sex), and they know that becoming a mother is an option in the future but not a necessity if that is not what they wish.

So far the girls come to us when they want to know something. We’ve even had a small accident with internet pornography. Lizzie was playing a computer game at her friend’s house something like old school Pac Man but the character is a school boy who has to go to the bathroom at school. There are all kinds of obstacles such as the teacher, bookshelves, other kids, and one annoying girl. If you run into that girl, the boy in the game pees on her. Such fun, right? I was cooking dinner and Lizzie was at the computer searching Google for that game. Some pretty interesting stuff comes up when you put “boy pees on girl” into your search engine, even when you use a filter. I quickly switched it off, but took the opportunity to discuss with Lizzie was we saw. She asked, “Do people like to do that?”. I said that apparently some people do. Lizzie replied that she didn’t think that would be nice. I agreed. End of story. We never did find that game, but we did find a really stupid game called “Kick the Principal” which involves kicking the school principal in his desk chair and sending him spinning into outer space.

 

Last year, my friend told me that her son had asked her about oral sex. Actually he asked her about the euphemism for a blow job in Polish which is translated to “making ice cream”. (You scream! I scream! We all scream for ice cream!) He was about 11 years old at the time and was aware that it had something to do with sex – and he asked his mother. I gave her a big bravo because at that age, my parents are the last people I would have asked about sex.

“What did you tell him?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she replied. “He’s too young and what if he asked if I do that with his father?”

“You tell him that it is private business between Mom and Dad. Don’t you think you should tell him what it is? He came to you first,” I argued.

“I know, he was checking it on the computer.”

“So tell him. Do you not ever want him to have ice cream in the future?”

And after that the conversation went all to hell. Because as it seems, some people think “making ice cream” is a perversion and some parents do not want their children to have healthy sex lives in the future. My girls are far, far away from sex but step by step, year by year, my goal for them is to have a healthy adult life which will, gasp, include sex.

It’s important to me that my children go out in the world able to make their own decisions armed with information and support from their parents. Maybe an 11-year-old is kind of young to talk about oral sex, but if your kid is asking maybe it isn’t too young at all. I try to use the real words for things and adjust my explanation as they get older. I ask them to explain it back to me to check how much they got. I don’t want them to be teenagers and not understand how their bodies work. I remember back to my days as a high school teacher in the States when I had to explain how babies were made to a 16-year-old student. That’s not part of the history curriculum, but I could see she was worried about something. She hadn’t got her period for a couple of months and was worried that she might die. Yes, die – that’s what she said. When she confirmed that she was sexually active, I told her that she might be pregnant, not dying. She knew nothing about sperm or eggs and thought love was the key element to making babies. The fact that she loved her boyfriend but “he don’t love me” was for her enough to protect her from pregnancy. I did my best to explain how it really works. “But my grandmother said that when two people love each other…”

Did you get The Talk from your parents? How different was your talk from the one you’re planning to have with your own kids?

Oh, and how to explain the whole bj situation to an 11-year-old if he is asking?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Believe



I am an atheist. In the popular nomenclature I am referred to as a non-believer.

I really don't like that name, non-believer. I believe in things, lots of things. 

I have also been pitied and prayed for because of my "empty life". As I look around the room at my little family this Saturday morning, my life could not feel any fuller.

I believe in love.
I believe in the family unit.
I believe that vaccines work.
I believe in real food.
I believe you were born that way.
I believe in myself, except on the days I don't.
I believe in making the world a better place.
I believe in re-using and recycling.
I believe in cleaning your plate.
I don't believe in karma.
I don't believe everything happens for a reason.
I don't believe everything people say, anymore.
I don't believe the hype.
I don't believe in big pharma.
I don't believe in soul mates.
I don't believe in god.
I don't believe in the power of prayer.
I don't believe the conspiracy theories, except the ones that I do.
I don't believe that drafts make you sick.
I don't believe that might makes right.

The list goes on. What do you believe in?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

I finally got the answer

It’s not the answer I wanted, but it is the answer that will make me stop asking the question.

What question?

Are you going to visit us?

Over the years, I have asked that question a lot. Maybe I am a glutton for punishment. Maybe I am just hopeful.

My father always answered - Not now. Next year. I have to think about it. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. I can’t sit in the plane like that. (he was a pilot with an active pilot’s license)  I can’t go without your mother.

My response was - You’re not going to live forever.

I guess it is true.I am always right.

My mother always answered - Maybe later. When the weather gets better. Next year. I don’t know. I’m too old. I can’t sit in the plane. I’ll think about it.

I’m a parent. I know what “I’ll think about it” means. It means no. But I kept asking, hoping to hear a different answer. Something that would convince me that my parents really couldn’t visit us, not that they just didn’t want to visit us. That they didn’t want to see us or their grandchildren, see how we live, where their grandchildren go to school. It was just too awful. I had to keep asking because there had to be a reason.

My mother said that after she gets all the formalities of my father’s death taken care of, she just needs a short change of scenery. I invited her here complete with an offer to go there and fly back with her here.

Her answer, “It’s just not worth it”. No, not that it is not worth it for me to fly there just to fly back with her. No, no. “It is not worth it to be uncomfortable on the plane,” is the full answer. Too bad the “it” is us, her daughter, her grandchildren. We are not worth it. That’s a fact. I got my answer.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

No hope?

I know my way around Auschwitz. I have visited the camps many times. And every time I walked out of there, I thanked my lucky stars that I was there as a tourist, a guest, an historian.

I know my way around Auschwitz. I know it so well that once while visiting the camps with my parents, I was asked how much my tour cost and when the next tour began. I did not know as much as one gentleman walking with his wife who stopped, pointed, and said to her in Polish, “When I was here, there was a platform right there where the band played for all the new prisoners.”

For people who plan to visit Poland probably just the once, Auschwitz is usually at the top of their list of places to visit. I’ve been so many times because I don’t want to deny any friends or family their opportunity to visit such a monumental location in our recent history. I’ve been in the summer when it has been packed. I’ve been in the winter when it was just us and a few other souls knocking about. I’ve been there mixed in with tours of Jewish visitors from Israel and with school trips from Germany. I’ve been there with my husband, with my parents, with my friends.

Once I even witnessed an argument break out. I do not speak German at all. OK that is not exactly true, but all the German I do know comes from war movies. It is pretty hard to make casual conversation out of halt, achtung, kaputt, hände hoch, arbeit macht frei and zwei Bier bitte. Anyhow, back to the argument…It was during a summer visit and the place was very crowded. We all were patiently waiting in line at the “Death House” in the first camp. Part of the exhibition is in the basement and includes a kind of chamber for torturing people. It was like a very small walled-in place that could only be accessed from a hole in the wall near the floor. Basically if you were forced to crawl in there, you’d have just enough room to stand up. It’s like an upright casket. I don’t know what happened when somebody collapsed from exhaustion in there because there was no door and not enough room to kneel, rest, or even lean. Anyhow, we were waiting patiently for our turn to see the exhibition. We were behind a group from Germany led by a very large tour guide. He made some kind of joke, patting his stomach, and the whole group laughed. I do not know what he said, but I speculate it had something to do with his not being able to fit in that chamber. Well, a Polish gentleman near us let him have it. It was the one time in my life I was sorry I couldn’t understand what people were saying.

World War 2 and Auschwitz are just as much a part of the German identity as it is the Jewish identity and the Polish identity. I don’t blame that German tour group for what happened 70 years ago, but shame on them for making jokes in a place like that.

Another time in the second camp a group of teens from Israel criticized us for walking near them as they were praying. They were marching in a column. We did not block them or disturb them in any way. They were quite rude actually saying something like they had more right to be there or something like that. It was very unpleasant.

Additionally, the parking attendant at the first camp criticized our parking skills (parking in a field). She wanted us to park closer to the tree near our car. We explained (I don’t know why we even tried) that the driver would not be able to get out of the car and that the 20 centimeters she hoped to save no longer made any difference as 10 other cars had already parked in our row. She was adamant. My father didn’t understand anything but figured this lady was having a bad day. He went and bought her an ice cream cone.

That just made me think that if we cannot even be nice to each other at Auschwitz, is there no hope for us at all?

Monday, January 26, 2015

No more wire hangers!

 

Yeah, that's me. Crazy mother. Worst mother in the world. OK sans face cream, wire hangers, and blatant child abuse, but still. Just this morning I made my child sit at the table and forbade her to get up until she ate the last bite of her breakfast. There were no "starving children" threats. There were no "other kids don't have it this good". Nope. Simply szlag mnie trafi when I prepare a meal and my kids leave one or two bites. Not because they are full, but because after eating a whole plate of something they suddenly don't like some ingredient in it. The same ingredient they just shoveled in. The same ingredient they requested.  And it's not a case of an allergy or intolerance...it's plain old widzimisię. Yes, they see bears and I see red.  

It's not like my father-in-law's reaction to not having enough to eat as a child. As a married man he never served his own plate even at weddings or buffets. His Polish wife always did it. He always left some food on his plate, at least a bite or two. "Nobody will tell me how much to eat." In my opinion, a better solution would be to serve your own plate than to waste food. He always did the dishes though. That was their deal at home. I thought that after a childhood without enough food, waste would be a problem for him. It wasn't. I suspect my mother-in-law ate that last bit anyhow. She hated waste. My grandmother also had to do without food sometimes as a child and she reacted the same way as my father-in-law. She disliked eating and threw away the last bits of food. I just cannot do it. I hate waste and since I am not a human garbage disposal, I think the kids should have to eat what they put on their plates especially when they've only got two bites left and are chomping on their third piece of bread.

So here I am. Kid finished her plate and is now cleaning her room, voluntarily, and I still feel like the worst mom around.

The above meme is Joan Crawford portrayed by Faye Dunaway in the movie Mommie Dearest. In this famous scene Joan scolds her adopted daughter for not changing out the wire hangers from the cleaners to wooden hangers as she had been told. She then beats her with those hangers, later forcing her daughter to repeat, "I love you Mommie dearest ". In one scene, the daughter is forced to sit at the table and eat liver which she detests. She refuses and is served the same cold liver, meal after meal, until she finally attempts to eat it and vomits all over the table. There were no good memes for that.



Well, maybe this one below. That's a whole other movie altogether, but this Exorcist crochet project is pretty cool.



I hope your Monday is starting out better than mine.

Szlag mnie trafi, which I am never sure if it is szlak or szlag, means damn it or even damn it to hell.
Widzimisię is a capricious whim, but split up in Polish is sounds like widzi misie which is I see bears.
To see red n English means to be angry, so when he kids refuse to finish their meal on a whim, it makes me angry.