Monday, January 30, 2012

Fed Up!

I am fed up with everything and almost everyone lately and I don’t see the situation improving anytime soon.

So, how do I cope?

Have I started drinking?

No way, gives me a headache.

Have I started smoking?

Not with these lungs. I’d be dead in a week.

Have I started eating?

Uh-uh, then I’d gain weight and have to go to the mall to buy bigger pants. I don’t like the mall.

Nervous breakdown maybe?

Sadly, can’t afford one.

So how do I cope?


My kids.

Here are some of the fruits of our weekend labor – homemade masks for the mask contest at school.


Masquerade Hands and the Sleepy Owl

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jesteśmy w Polsce i mówimy po polsku

Czy mówi Pan po angielsku? (Do you speak English, sir?)

Czy mówi Pani po angielsku? (Do you speak English, ma’am?)

Czy mogę mówić po angielsku? (May I speak English?)

How many times have I asked these questions? Maybe a hundred times or more. These are the kinds of answers I usually get:

Nie, nie mówię po angielsku. (No, I do not speak English.)

Nie, nie mówię po angielsku. Może po niemiecku? (No, I don’t speak English. Maybe German?)

Nie, niestety nie. (No, unfortunately not.)

Nie za bardzo mówię ale rozumiem. Prosze mówić po angielsku i ja po polsku. Damy radę. (Not very well, but I understand. Please speak English and I Polish. We’ll manage somehow.)

Tak. (Yes.)

Yes, a little.

Yes, of course.

Sometimes I get a nice surprise like with the insurance agent last year who inspected the Jeep. He had worked a few years in Scotland and in addition to being handsome, had a beautiful Scottish accent. Unfortunately, his cost projections for repairing the Jeep were considerably lower than our mechanics.

Or many years ago when I was in hospital in Gdynia and I met a nice sailor, well a retired sailor, in his seventies. Our conversation started when he invited me into the elevator saying in English, “Please go first. Beauty before age.” How sweet.

Or just recently the building inspector who came to check our new central heating installation at our house surprised me with her fantastic vocabulary, of course, concerning home installations – her specialty. It was a real pleasure to talk with her and ask her some questions about our home.

You see, it is a surprise and a pleasure when someone speaks my language. I don’t expect it from anyone. And why should I? This is Poland. People don’t need English in their everyday lives. These days, I try to do everything in Polish but when the issue is complicated or I am feeling especially tongue-tied, I occasionally give in to my weakness and ask if my conversational counterpart speaks English as I did this week. Now I have a new answer to add to my list. Can you guess what it is?

Nie. Jesteśmy w Polsce. Mówimy po polsku. (No. We are in Poland. We speak Polish.)

And that from someone who has authority over my children.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bills, Bills, Bills

Oh how good it is to be mortgage-free. It’s like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I feel so light and free…until the next mortgage ;)

My general attitude to my previous mortgage was to ignore it, especially the exchange rate. I was much happier that way. You see, my mortgage was in Euro and I earn in PLN. In the future, I plan to borrow in the currency that I earn – less stress for me.

But I have to remind myself that no mortgage does not equal no bills. Chris, remember, bills…you have to pay your bills…and they do add up.

First of all there is ZUS. That’s like Social Security and healthcare tax. Next is income tax, invoices of teachers and accountant fees. After that is car insurance and gasoline for 2 cars (leasing contract is finished – cars are mine). We move on to utilities – electric, heat, water, landline, internet, sat TV, and maintenance fees for the apartment and electric, water and gas for the house. I almost forgot property tax, water co-op fees and cell phones (2). Add to that pre-school fees for 2 kids and I think that is about it without food and repairs and clothes and shoes and doctors and medicine and entertainment (ha, what’s that?).

Actually, that is quite enough thank you very much. Perhaps I will continue to plead ignorance.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I should write about so many things, but just can’t find the time. I should write about how our new year started out with a bang when a guy rear-ended us on January 1st. I should write about my broken washer and the mountain of dirty clothes piled up until the new washer is delivered tomorrow. I should write about how Rosie somehow attended Religia at pre-school and informed us that “good boys and girls go to church” and “Jesus helps Mommies and Daddies”. I should write about how when you split your time between 2 domiciles, you need 2 of everything. I should write about my lack of motivation for any kind of resolutions this year.

I should, I should, I should, but I’m too busy.

I guess I am just “blessed with work” as my Grandmother always put it.

Wishing you many blessings in 2012…especially the blessing of work :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How many hats do you wear?

I play many roles in my life, as we all do and when I meet someone (officially with introductions) or in passing (the cashier at the check-out lane) I wonder about all the roles they play…for I see only one……hats

You could suppose that I am voyeuristic or plain nosy but actually I am just curious…in a healthy way. It doesn’t matter that I live (and have lived for more than 10 years) in a different country. I still want to learn about what makes us different and what makes us the same. Maybe that’s the reason some people read my blog too.

So please indulge your voyeuristic desires. Here are some of my roles…

Mother: No 1 most important, rewarding, time-consuming and brain-cell sucking. Becoming a mother changed my whole life. It changed how I see the world. It has made me a better person. I cannot say the same for my manicure.

Wife: You’d have to ask Misiu how he feels I’m doing in this role but I feel that when I have to cut corners of one my roles, I usually cut ‘wife’ corners before I cut ‘mother’ corners. Sad, but true. Sorry Misiu for forgetting our anniversary this year :(

juggling motherCook: I’m getting better. Nobody is starving in our household and thanks to the computer located basically in the kitchen, a new recipe is just one google away.

Housekeeper: Don’t even ask.

Friend: Ok, this is the one that actually gets cuts the most – first out of necessity/practicality- I mean I can’t seem to meet with some friends because one of us (or our children) is always ill. With “friends” (I really mean acquaintances/workmates) they are understanding and meeting once a year sometimes has to be sufficient. I am no longer the one seeking out my friends. I learned from Misiu - if someone doesn’t check if you even exist for more than a year, then what kind of friend are they anyway? We’ve each got a handful of friends that we love and trust (and who would lend us money). That’s enough for us.

Parent: Of course this should go along with mother, but I am talking about the perspective of others, for example teachers at school where I am “that parent”- the one who thinks rajstopy are not necessary on an everyday basis. The one who doesn’t allow her children to attend religion lessons. The one who sometimes doesn’t iron her children’s clothes.

From the perspective of my children, I guess I will know for sure how I am doing as a parent some 20 years from now (with a time about 10 years from now in which I will learn that I am ruining their lives). Currently, Daddy is the best and Mommy is chopped liver.

Neighbor: I think I am a good neighbor. We are clean, calm, pretty quiet, helpful. I used to be known (and maybe still am) as “that neighbor”. When there was a problem in the building one neighbor said to me “maybe you can do something about it….they already know how you are”. You mean totally cool? Of course they know how I am. Smokers in the hallway…I’ll take care of it. Stinky garbage in the hallway…done. Crazy cat lady and the funky smell coming from her apartment…double done. Dog poo every where in front of our building….still working on it.

And we were rewarded for our good neighborly relations last Halloween and the Halloween before that when our neighbors allowed our little trick-or-treaters to come to their doors.

Teacher: I have my good times and my bad. You’d have to ask my students. Wait. Better not.

Employee: Misiu is my boss per se but we have a good system.

Daughter-in-Law: Or basically anything-in-law is totally ok now. I can speak enough Polish and anything which disagrees with the expectations of how I should perform this role is blamed on the fact that I am American. That is a very convenient excuse.

Churchgoer: My performance in this role ended a long time ago and while my lack of church going is often blamed on the language barrier we all know the reasons are deeper than that.

Patient: I’m a pain in the ass patient for many doctors because I ask a lot of questions (something I learned almost too late from the time I was ill). I follow the philosophy of my former doctor…

1. “In the medical profession, I trust no one, even myself.”

2. “Chris, be careful. This town is a kurwidół (a whore pit) and we (doctors) are all kurwy (whores).” He really said that.

The practical application of these philosophies means that my approach to medicine is at best cautious leaning towards suspicious, sometimes borderline paranoid.

Confidante: I’m real good at this one. People will tell you everything at English lessons, about their upcoming divorce, insider trading, shady pasts, and the good stuff too like how much they love their kids or think skiing is the best sport ever, etc.

Writer: I decided to add this one. I mean what does this role really require – that I write something (I do write some stuff) and somebody reads it (not even sure that is required). I guess I fulfill the minimum requirements of this role :)

Sister: I do very poorly in this role, but I suppose it is because no one is particularly interested in me fulfilling it.

The role that I am struggling with the most is daughter. Maybe because I haven’t played that role in over 7 years and for the 10 years before that it was played only on a part-time basis. My parents also do not know me in the roles of mother, parent, teacher, employee, friend, patient, writer and so on. They only know one slither of me and they don’t even know that slither very well. I’m planning a visit to my parents (not soon but planning). That gives me some time to figure out how to introduce them to me, the whole me.