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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Give Me a @#$!

So I may or may not have mentioned that I am "coaching" cheer during our summer school session at my place of employment.

I may or may not have mentioned that I used to cheer in high school and coach pop warner, a local organization that breeds tiny athletes and even tinier cheerleaders.

I may or may not have mentioned that I have NO business "coaching" people how to jump rope, let alone put together a dance or cheer routine.

But, I like a good challenge.

"G-O, Let me hear you say GO, GO
That's Right,
GO, GO
Out the Door,
You're Not 17
and Limber
Anymore!"

But I'm a good sport, and I'm sort of even excited about it all. I have a few willing girls who have no idea that they are about to embark on what would surely be a great Saturday Night Live Skit.

To prepare, I've been watching cheer videos every afternoon. So far, I have learned nothing, but noticed the following:

I am old.
Real Cheerleaders are not.
I am tired after one cheer.
These girls (I am only assuming they are human) on the video go for like EVER. Like little wind up toys. That you want to smash. With a hammer.
Yes. They do talk like "like oh my like gosh, clap it OUT!"
I can understand their language perfectly.
They have rhythm and stamina.
I can barely talk and walk at the same time.
They are so cute in their little skirts and ribbons, shaking their pompoms.
I have no pompoms, but plenty of stuff shakes when I move.
Watching them is better than any diet plan I have ever tried, because after only a few days, I have lost my appetite completely.
And finally, after making me replay chants and cheers over and over and over again, I discovered that Monchichi LOVES cheerleading.

That or he really wants the Wildcats to win.

Monday, June 29, 2009

We're All In This Together

Our family went to Sunday mass yesterday (our little attempt at purging ourselves of sin and making sure our Catholic Guilt stays within a certain range. j/k Big G!), and usually, while the priest is giving potentially life-saving and sage advice, I am thinking about equally important things, like that fantastic dress I saw on sale at Ann Taylor Loft, the one that would fit only after I went on The Biggest Loser (the actual TV show, not just the diet, because I think I would do much better in a gorgeous mansion surrounded by personal chefs and trainers....something about having an entire entourage making sure you don't eat that animal-style double-double from IN & OUT. I don't know, I'm just taking a wild guess here).

So I am in the middle of thinking about an animal-style double-double.....I mean........FINE! I was thinking about that damn burger....there, are you happy? Now I'm humiliated! And I have to take a break and rummage through the fridge, because that's what you're supposed to do when you don't want to confront feelings of unworth, right?

************************************************************************************
*smacking lips*


Ok. Much Better.

Now.

What I was trying to get at was that the priest caught my attention with one little statement that had a profound impact on me.

"We're all in this together."

Yep. Just those five little words and I'm still thinking about them today.
Because it makes so much sense.
And it goes above labels like dentist, teacher, rich, poor, (note that I did not intentionally place dentist/rich, teacher/poor in that order. That was my subconsious, so you can't blame me) mother, father, man, woman.

That statement puts us all under the same classification, the most meaninful and terrifying one of all: Human.

We are all in this together.

I see it all the time. Among co-workers, as we lean on each other during a tough day; when a student has disrespected us, or a parent has hurt us.

I see it at the stores, especially now, when we all reach for our coupons, or cringe at the register when the total comes up.

I see it in my classroom, among my five and six year olds who count on their friends to make them laugh, compliment their artwork, encourage their attempts at challenging material, and join in their imaginative games during recess.

I see it in my home, when my mom looks at me as I walk through the door, her eyes pleading with me to take over caring for her mother, so that she can escape for a few hours and forget about strokes and illness and the inevitable.

I see it with my husband, as he struggles to find work in an economic crisis, and wants support and understanding from his wife, rather than judgement and impatience.

I see it with my own children, who trust their parents to always protect them, and especially Superman, who, at the end of the night, asks why we have to get old and die.

We are all just Human in the end. Faced with struggles that may be cloaked in different shrouds but which illicit the same burning tears and feelings of despair.

We all know what it feels like to be hungry.
We all know what it feels like to be cold.
We all know the pain of loss, no matter how great or small.
We all know what it means to thirst; for love, for friendship, for someone to tell us that our mistakes are forgiven.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that with you, for whatever it's worth. It was on my mind, and so I blogged about it. Which is why I have this thing in the first place. To make you read about my opinions and brainwash you into thinking that I am All Knowing and All Powerful. (Kidding again, Big G!).

So. The bottom line is that I sort of take comfort in knowing that in the end, we are all imperfect, like dented cans in the discount bin at the local grocery store.

Okay.

Maybe now I'm going off the deep end a bit.

But hey.
I'm only Human.

And blllllrrrrrrp.

So are you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hell to the No

So with my school's senior graduation happening this past Tuesday, I found myself a bit nostalgic and reminiscing about my own exit from high school and subsequent college years. And I came to a conclusion.

I was a total idiot.

Just because someone handed me a piece of paper that stated that I had completed the prerequisite math, science, english and most importantly, home ec classes necessary to finish high school, there was no evidence whatsoever that I was ready to take charge of my own life and make my own decisions.

In fact, all evidence pointed to the contrary.

Like my all-polyester wardrobe my senior year. Lime green and brown hued outfits that screamed "Future Walmart Employee" carried me through 180 days of school. There is not one picture that I can proudly display for my grandchildren someday.

My cigarette addiction. Yep. I was the badass that lit up like an imbecile and thought I was cool. I spent way too much time at a local coffee shop smoking like a chimeny and making friends with people who also shared my affinity for polyester. I wrote dark poetry in a bent notebook and waited to be discovered.

The only person that ever discovered me was my mother, who caught on to my little schedule and who would drag me, by the ear, back to my Econ class.

I got a student visa the moment I turned 18 and proceeded to go PAST my $700.00 dollar limit (which sounded like a million bucks at the time) in one afternoon at the local mall. I don't recall what I purchased but I do know that when the bills came I found the space under my bed to be a great filing/storage area.

I crawled out the Den window when my curfew did not coincide with my important plans, which usually began well after 11:00 p.m (a sure sign of an evening headed for trouble), almost always included some sort of questionable activity, and ended sometime when the sun began to rise.

I spoke in a God-awful british accent in order to gain access to bars and clubs and though it worked most of the time, my friends were horribly embarrassed and annoyed by my ameatur impersonations. Princess Diana I was not.

And that is only a mere glimpse as to why I disagree with the American sentiment that once a child turns 18 they are legally in their own hands.

Seriously?? Someone somewhere made a profound mistake when that law was passed. I needed way more intervention and guidance at 18 than I ever did at 9. I was a calm, cool, collected nine year old who had smart friends, loved to roller skate, and ate all of her Pickle Soup. But man, once 18 hit, I was a train wreck. I say let them go off into the wild yonder in third grade, where they quickly realize they can't live without you so that when 18 comes they still hang onto every word, trust every judgment you make, and cuddle with you while watching Sponge Bob Squarepants.

That, folks, is my idea of the American dream.

And if that doesn't work, and Superman or Monchichi appear to be showing any signs of independent thinking, I plan to squash it immediately with a steady stream of good old fashioned fear-based brainwashing.

Because that is what a good Mother does.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Because Engineers Are People Too.

Well.

Sort of.

My dad.

The Engineer.

He encompasses most of the character flaws...er, I mean, character traits that come with being one.

He's highly analytical. Notice the first half of that word. anal. Coincidence? I'm just saying....

He's very intelligent. Some would say brilliant. But not me. I like to compliment him in small doses.

He can design military aircraft in his sleep.


And.

He's critical. He has high standards that most human beings cannot meet. He wants your blood, sweat, and tears, all before breakfast. One of his favorite sayings, roughly translated, goes something along the lines of "The work that awaits you tomorrow, do today; the food that awaits you today, eat tomorrow." I don't know what the @#%$ it means, but we've been hearing it for years and so far we've managed to ignore it.

He notices every spot on the carpet, and thinks Superman doesn't speak enough Polish, and if we hear him coming down the stairs, we all jump off the couch in unison, yes, in our thirties, and pretend to be working hard at something.

Needless to say, my dad has his quirks and God help us, we still manage to love him despite them all.

Because.

He's also the man who, when I was a teen and needed to start medication for something I was diagnosed with at the time, took a pill with me because I was terrified of the side effects. We stood side by side at the kitchen counter and gulped it down with some tea. It wasn't until many years later that I learned he stayed up all night puking his guts out and I slept like a baby. On the bright side, my diagnosis was correct and the medication helped me.


He's the man who couldn't afford two cabbage patch kids for his daughters for Christmas, and so he went to the local craft supply store, bought fake dimpled limps and yarn-haired heads, and proceeded to spend the next few weeks sewing them to perfection. We strained our smiles and later cried in the privacy of our bedroom that our dolls weren't the real deal because the cursive signature was missing from their butts. I think somewhere in my early 20's I realized the significance of what he had done and spent days rummaging through boxes and closets, shameful tears running down my cheeks as I thought of how ungrateful I had been. The absuridity of youth, you know?


He's the dad who drove a used Volvo to his prestigious job at an aerospace company for two decades so that the aforementioned rotten daughters could travel to their Motherland and go to summer university programs where they proceeded to make lifelong friendships and have the vacations of their lifetimes.

He has a wise @ss comment for everything and he loves to have the last word. He hates gluttony and rolls his eyes when I come out of the car with shopping bags.


Growing up, he drove us crazy with family road trips and we spent the greater part of our childhood sleeping in tents and dancing around campfires. He thinks golf is pretentious and would rather go fishing instead and his MBA, which he earned in his forties as a side project, hangs precariously in some cheap frame on an obscure and hidden wall somewhere in the house.

I remember the day, in my early twenties, as I sat across the kitchen table from him and realized that he was a human. Not immortal. Not faultless. Not without pain or doubt or suffering. It was such a pivotal and horrible moment for me. It changed the way I looked at him and at life forever. Clarity almost always comes at a price.

He was the last child in his family, the only boy, and he knew how to sew skirts by the time he was 18. He can fix any car, anywhere, and he's rescued all of the women in his life at one time or another when our cars have become disabled (usually, he says, because we were mistreating them).

When I look at him, I can pinpoint the wrinkles on his face that were caused by my wild and reckless past; the wrinkles that symbolize sleepless nights when his sixteen year old broke curfew and dated older boys. He is a handsome man, though, and has, as most men do, aged gracefully. Which of course pisses my mom off to no end. He is a softspoken man. Rarely raising his voice. I can count the number of times I have heard him curse on one hand. Okay. Mabye two. He is generous with his money, but compliments quietly, and we usually hear that he is proud of us through our mom.

He is a gentle giant. Someone I love beyond the measure of a simple blog post, or hug, or endless thank you's. He has guided me, forgiven me, angered me, motivated me, and most of all, he has given me the tools to become a decent human being. Someone I so desperately want him to be proud of.

Because he's my dad.
A volvo-loving, dress-socks-and-shorts-wearing, proud-to-be-Polish-declaring-Superhero.

Kocham Cie Tatusiu

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Hello? Yes, this is she....."

Personal growth and valuable life lessons can come from some unlikely places.
And come in unpredictable packages.

Like a thirty minute personal phone call from someone who has caused you great grief and anger over the course of several weeks.

Someone who you thought was a source of negativity, who you felt was out to bad mouth something very special in your life.

And this someone felt the tension that was rising between the two of you. So she chose to make a phone call and set the record straight.

And your EGO had to get in the backseat for a while, which gave you a chance to be a good listener and stop making everything about you for five seconds.

Not easy, I might add.

And once EGO was out of the way, you really heard what this person was saying and you began to value the honesty with which they spoke and the integrity it took to make this phone call and the insight that they showed when they said "you have to grow a thicker skin."

Because your skin is freakin translucent.

And as this person is speaking you have a half dozen epiphanies about what it means to be a grown up and a professional and a friend and a human being just trying to sort it all out and do a decent job.

And you find yourself thanking this person, that has been challenging you, because you finally see the challenge as an opportunity to grow and better yourself and contribute to the community you love so dearly.

You come to a very poignant realization that anything else is just status quo and she says you have far too much potential for that.
(And that's when EGO snickers from the backseat because she gave you a side note compliment).

You feel envigorated by the conversation, and feel a twinge of guilt for all of those faces you've been making everytime her name is mentioned in conversation.

And you feel a sense of calm and gratitude that you have been given a chance to learn something new today and after all isn't that what life is all about anyway?

So you say goodnight and hang up the phone and watch as EGO makes its way towards the living room, eager to share your encounter with anyone willing to listen.

Because it's no fun to learn something new, if you can't brag about it a little.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Just Another Appointment

It is morning
And
We are just the three of us
I watch daddy guide you across the parking lot
And I wish we were heading to
Disneyland
Or
The zoo
I ask the man
In the striped tie
For a miracle
Because his eyes are kind
And he seems to know so much
He offers me a gentle smile
But makes no promises
Because he can’t
Because no one can
And so we discuss things
Like how much you weighed
When you were born
and how old you were when we knew something was wrong
And as I answer questions that I have answered many times before
I go back to the day
Your tiny body disconnected from mine
And I looked at your dark hair and hoped a mistake was not made
While the nurses measured and cleaned and I said thank you over and over and over again
Would I have let you leave the safety of my womb
If someone had whispered the future into my ear?
I am trying to stay strong
But my hands shake when I look too far ahead
Or regret the days that are gone now
So I glance your way
And see your golden curls
And your generous smile
And I know we would go
into the fires of hell
into the center of combat
all the way to eternity
and back
for
YOU

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Because It's Tradition Dammit

So yesterday was a pivotal day for Superman.

He graduated from Polish School Kindergarten.



It was a momentous occassion for us, because it marked three years of whining and crying and begging not to have to go to Saturday school, which of course we ignored.



Because it's tradition, Dammit.



You see, I am a veteren of Polish school myself, as is my younger sister.

We spent the bulk of our childhood dreading the weekend because it just meant that instead of sleeping in we would be awakened by the shrill voice of our mother alerting us to the fact that we had ten minutes to get our asses to the breakfast table before we were driven to the most miserable place on earth: Polish School.



Please. Try and keep up with me if you will.



Our American Counterparts couldn't wait for Saturdays because they knew it meant morning cartoons and sugar drenched cereal eaten on the couch (probably with a friend who had spent the night before which is a whole other level of childhood pain that I can't get into right now) where they were free to become useless zombies for the day.



We shuffled our feet towards the bus each Friday afternoon because we knew what we were in for the next day; early breakfast which consisted of rye bread, some sort of sardine/cream cheese spread, and boiling tea. Because if you drank anything below boiling temperature you were subjecting yourself to pnuemonia. After our meal, we endured a fifteen minute drive to Polish church. Once we arrived, our parents would cheerfully shove us out of the car and leave us there for six hours. We were allowed to speak only Polish during school hours, and our teachers were strict ladies who disliked acid washed denim jeans because they weren't "classy" and who smoked like chimneys during the breaks.



We learned obscure poetry and read about our country's horrific and painful history. We memorized the Polish alphabet and learned to write in that Eastern European scrawl that is so beautiful but impossible to decipher. We studied our ancestors and quickly realized that ours was not the longest last name in all the world.



We made grammatical errors and played silly children's games that were inapporpriate for our age group. We cooked and read and whispered in forbidden English when the teacher wasn't paying attention. We did things that we wouldn't be caught dead doing in our American school. We were living two lives, and it was exhausting.



We were freakin miserable



And I am so happy that I am passing this misery on to my son. It's one of the smartest things I have done as his mother and I know he's going to hate me for it for a really really long time.



Which is exactly what I expect him to do.

It's all part of the plan, you see.



Because Polish school was also the place where my cultural roots were nurtured and watered and fed. It was the one place where lunchtime was not stressful because all of our sandwiches had Polish sausuage in it with soggy tomatoes. The church hall was the stinkiest cafeteria in the greater Los Angeles area and no one thought anything of it. The people we went to Polish school with were our brothers and sisters (unless we had a crush on someone, because then that would be considered incestous and wrong and Polish people as a whole do not promote those kinds of relationships). We shared more than just our stinky sandwiches. We shared the same confusion about how to balance our Polish-American backgrounds and why our parents spoke with that ridiculous slavic accents. I mean, how hard is it to say Vegetable???!



We compared notes on our American friends and how no one bothered to pronounce our last names correctly. We felt a comraderie that is hard to describe to someone who does not feel a sense of belonging in two different worlds at the same time. Polish jokes were safe in the halls of our little church property and no one felt defensive or weak or ashamed about where they had come from. It was at once a pain in the ass and a reprieve from the Monday-Friday American grind.



A necessary evil, if you will.



And so, it is my duty, as a mother, as a Polish-American mother, to drag my son out of bed each Saturday and revel in his whines and protest, knowing that the gift I am giving him will keep on giving long after he stops kicking his way to the car and begging me to let him stay home "just this one time, pleeeeeaaaase!"



So Congratulations Superman.

On completing Polish Kindergarten.

You have until September 26th, to live it up, American style.



And then it's on to First Grade. Where I think you will learn the Polish National Anthem and study the autobiography of Tadeusz Kosciousko, who was born in a small village by the name of Mereczowszczyzna.



Until then, enjoy your Saturday Morning Honey Nut Cheerios and Spongebob Squarepants Marathon.



You've earned it.













Thursday, June 11, 2009

Happy Secret Anniversary to Me

Three years ago yesterday I made a choice.

People were getting really sick and tired of what was going on, and I was losing my footing very quickly. There was nowhere else to go but down.

Ultimately, it had to come from me, but really, I owe it to God and my family. I think I had very little to do with it myself.

I won’t get into specifics here, because they are personal and painful, and I’m saving the really good and juicy stuff for my book, which you will have to buy if you want to know what the hell I’m talking about, and because I have my eye on a king bed that is just to die for. So I hope your curiosity is peaked.

And if you already know, then shut up.

Anyway, the day passed by uneventfully, and that’s just the way I like it.
Because once I climbed out of that chaotic darkness and back into the “real” world, my first concern was that I was going to be bored out of my freakin mind.

And you know what? Sometimes I am bored.

Bored with the same dinner menu.
Bored with the same dishes stacked in the sink.
Bored with the same phone calls that come in, each day, like clockwork.
Bored with checking my email when I wake up.
Bored with my lesson plans at school.
Bored with Superman’s whiny voice asking for fruit snacks at 6:30 a.m.
Bored with my size 12345 jeans
Bored with taking the same road to the same place with the same people

I get stuck in a rut like anyone else and suffer from discontent.

But I would never wish for that life back, the one I left three years ago. The one that prevented me from feeling this boredom, reveling in the mundane, taking comfort in a life that moves forward, like clockwork and expects me to show up and deal with it.

So yesterday I humbly celebrated three years of freedom and a sometimes boring life by hugging the hell out of my husband and thanking him for sticking it out.

Then we had boring old broccoli and bbq chicken for dinner.

And it was Delicious.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I'm a Mom

In other words, I’m also a......


Transportation Coordinator

Maintenance and Repair Manager

Quality Control Supervisor

Financial Analyst

Bookkeeper

Appointment Scheduler

Executive Chef

Supply Purchaser

Waste Management

Human Resources Manager

Graphic Designer

Photographer

And

Customer Service Representative.


But today I'm feeling more like a disgruntled employee.



I am so freakin glad it’s Friday.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

He Ain't No Hansel

I have followed my share of trails left behind by my kiddos since they began the fine art of walking and eating at the same time.

Goldfish crackers have led me to hallway closets.

Honey Nut Cheerios have taken me to the guest bathroom.

I've followed paths of pretzels and winding remnants of puffed rice.

But today I got a special treat.

Today I was able to retrace the steps of my eldest son by following the poop pellets (which were extremely proportionate and evenly spaced out might I add) that gave away his exact whereabouts. When I finally reached him, the grand prize so to speak, he was climbing our play structure with his bare butt exposed and a giant grin on his face.

*sigh*

He's lucky he's so darn handsome.

I'm lucky his fiber intake was on the low side today.

Okay.

I'm done.