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Quieting the Travel Bug

This gallery contains 10 photos.

I hate to set goals with deadlines for myself, I tend to miss deadlines, so by avoiding setting deadlines I can prevent the disappointment of not meeting them.  Still, I broke my rule and set a goal to achieve by … Continue reading

Bringing in 2013

I love all the year ending lists, the ones that look back on everything from 2012 and rank the best of the year. Top movies, top songs, top sport plays, top storms, top grossing products, top celebrity feuds, top political disasters, top-selling appliances, top exclamations shouted into crowds – you get the idea. It’s bewildering to me to look back on lists and comprehend how so much has fit into the last 365 days, and how did it go by so fast?

2012 was a high-speed chase to catch up with, stay on top of and try to control. Who am I kidding, I just sent out the last of my Christmas presents in the last day of December (sorry nieces and nephews – late though not forgotten.) I wasn’t really on top of anything in the past year. A top list of accomplishments I would create for 2012 would include things like “Was able to continue breathing,” and “Kept child alive.”

The month of December happened to be the craziest whirlwind of the year. With my grandma’s passing, an unplanned trip to Minnesota to go along with it, and almost a full week of celebrating holidays interrupted normalcy for me. I am embracing the new year for a fresh opportunity to maintain a routine and achieve goals. I’d like to be able to look back at the end of 2013 and recognize real accomplishments out of the day-to-day grind.

00On Monday night, New Years Eve, my husband and some friends of ours made plans to bring in the new year bowling. We figured it’s close to home, affordable and a potentially fun and out of the ordinary activity for us. It has probably been years since my last time stepping foot in a bowling alley, though, I like to think bowling is in my blood. My grandpa and all of his brothers were bowling champions. Last month I, along with several cousins and my sister, took a bowling trophy from the home where my grandma passed. I never knew my grandpa so it seemed appropriate for me to keep something that used to be important to him.

bowlOn New Years Eve I naively imagined the trophy might actually bring me luck, that maybe my grandpa could reach down from heaven and help the ball down the lane for strikes and spares. My first game wasn’t too bad, then it got worse. I am guessing my grandpa never tried to play with fake nails, yeah I’m sure those were my only problem.

Losing - Big Time

Losing – Big Time

Or maybe there is a lesson in being the big loser at bowling. In 2013, I need to practice skills regularly, show dedication to my interests and my family, not blame others or objects for my own failures, and continue to find happiness in every moment (winning or not).

Cheers - FREE Champagne at the bowling alley.

Cheers – FREE Champagne at the bowling alley.

Turning to Love – 99 Years

Adaline & Eleanor - born October 2, 1913

Adaline & Eleanor – born October 2, 1913

On October 2nd, 1913 twin girls were born the forth and fifth children into a Polish family. Their parents worked side by side operating their three Wines Department Stores in Minneapolis. They demonstrated a strong work ethic and provided well for their large family. In all, there ended up being seven girls and two boys, being raised primarily by nannies. One of the twins, Eleanor, remembered as she was growing up longing for more time with her sweet mom and developing anger towards her dad. She feared the times her dad would discipline her older brother Stan, she tried her hardest to protect him by laying under a bed hiding him behind her.

Eleanor and her siblings attended Catholic school, while she loved learning she hated school and vowed never to send her future children to a Catholic school. She recalls the nuns being unreasonably strict and generous with ruler slaps on the hands. With difficulties at home and at school Eleanor had one place she would turn to for unconditional love. Her grandma spoke only Polish, she was a terrific cook and provided all of the individual attention Eleanor craved. Each of the nine children were given days they would be allowed to spend at their grandma’s. Eleanor discovered early on how valuable this time was to her and used her pennies of chore money to pay her sibling’s for their time with her grandma.

GramInto her teen years Eleanor felt jealous of her sisters naively believing they were more talented, more outgoing and more beautiful than she. Her twin Adaline seemed to get all of the from boys. Despite comparing herself to her sisters, Eleanor wasn’t about to settle for any man to become her husband. She had been turning to love and knew how important it was above anything else. Her brother Stan introduced her to his friend Mitch at a baseball field. He was tall, handsome, one of seven hilarious brothers and exactly the match to be able to give and receive the love Eleanor had been preparing for. They were married on September 2, 1939.

Before their vows Eleanor didn’t know how to cook or clean, she threw herself into being a housewife and tried to hide her lack of skills at first. Eleanor and Mitch loved each other with fairy tale affection and admiration for each other. “I even loved ironing his clothes,” she recalled “Because it was for him.” They were married three years before their daughter was born, then Eleanor stressed for three years when Mitch was drafted into World War II. Finally reunited with his return they had another two children, both boys. Mitch’s job at an insurance agency afforded Eleanor to be able to dedicate herself to motherhood in a way she never got to experience from her own mom. And the practice of turning to love made her an excellent mom. She sewed dresses for her daughter and took her to dance classes. She adored her sons and worried when each of them found love in their early teens.

True Love - Eleanor & Mitch

True Love – Eleanor & Mitch

“They are too young,” she would recall believing. For the years of life she had lived she had come to have beliefs about age and developed fears about what was appropriate. And as her apprehension proved to be wrong, Eleanor turned to love, she embraced the two young women and accepted the error in her perception. Eventually all three of her children had moved out of the home, their daughter and first son married and their youngest son was away at college. Eleanor and Mitch became grandparents, “I hope I could be at least a quarter how wonderful my grandma was to me,” she would say.

Only a few years into being a single couple in love, Mitch died unexpectidly from a heart attack. She turned to the love of family to share in their grief. And in the love she had for him and for her own life she found strength to begin again. Eleanor and her daughter started a business and opened a gift shop called Two’s Company in South Minneapolis. The shop’s patrons returned to the store as much for the warmth in their presence as they would to buy beautiful things. Eleanor exuded love for living through her passion for her family, business, travel and laughter.

Grammy and me, 1982

Grammy and me, 1982


She adored being Grammy and had four grandchildren already before her younger son added another three, including me. Grammy was always thrilled to greet us at the door and require a buzi (Polish for kiss). She shared her affection for flowers and birds, she demonstrated how to engage in conversation with people in a genuine way and she modeled incredible sales skills when we tagged along at the shop. We drank old fashion malted milkshakes, searched through her hard boiled eggs for shells and charged her quarters when we caught her swearing. She loved politics and sports. Proudly cheering on the Minnesota Twins and Vikings, she would anxiously call in from another room to check on the score if the game was too intense to watch.

Grammy was an honest cheerleader. You are so beautiful. You are so talented. You are so smart. Even though I know she said the same thing to everyone, I knew she truly meant it every time the words escaped her.

Eleanor, her 3 children, their spouses and 7 grandchildren - 1993

Eleanor, her 3 children, their spouses and 7 grandchildren – 1993


As I grew into a young adult I became more aware of her amazing life and her gift at finding happiness. She continued to work, travel the world, drive her car, live in her own home and maintain a garden into her 90’s. She attended some of her grandchildren’s weddings and began having great grandchildren. Her love of life and for those around her grew, and in turn she stayed youthful.

When I was in college Grammy asked me, and my friends I brought over, about dating. “You’re so beautiful Holly, I bet you have so many suitors,” she would tell me. My friends chimed in telling her I have been too picky. So when I was finally in a relationship worth telling her about I became nervous. I introduced my boyfriend by photograph and tried to communicate my feelings for him. As my nerves had predicted, she was honest and fearful of me being in an inter-racial relationship. My heart deflated when I heard her response, “I didn’t marry the first man I fell in love with.”

Her approval was important to me and I was disappointed, yet I couldn’t be mad at her. For the 90 years of life she had lived she had come to have beliefs about race and developed fears about what was appropriate. When she met my boyfriend for the first time the initial apprehension she showed by the sight of his picture was gone and she turned to love. Her perception of what was correct had never been challenged this way before and she accepted she didn’t have to fear.

She has inspired me with her acceptance, her unconditional love and her willingness to change. A few years later she shocked me again when she questioned me about gay marriage. “Can you believe they want to get married?” She asked me. We talked about rights and why it is important for people beyond what is acceptable in a church. “I never thought of it like that,” she said. And in that moment she turned a page on almost a century of beliefs for a powerful demonstration of turning to love.

Grammy celebrated her 99th birthday this past year. She continued to live at home, the home she shared with her husband, raised her kids and created memories for generations more. She maintained her memory, her humor and her youthful spirit, though her energy faded. Knowing her time on earth was drawing to an end she had been surrounded by family; children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all voicing their love for her and appreciation for the wisdom she has provided. She passed this afternoon fully alert to her loved ones surrounding her and to where she was going.

Grammy turned to love for 99 years, she gave unconditionally, she accepted when she was wrong and practiced forgiveness to others who wronged her. I am blessed to have had her in my life and to witness how she lived and loved. I imagine a world with infinite possibilities if everyone were able to turn to love and seek happiness the way she did. And someday, if I am a grandma, I hope to be at least a quarter of how wonderful my Grammy was to me.
me

Bedtime Stories

Parker with Muno, one of two “Yo Gabba Gabba” characters she sleeps with every night.

Her second birthday was celebrated the first week of October, and we are oh so thankful for some shreds of baby we are hanging on to.  Mainly sleeping in a crib.  At some point parents have to make a decision about when the timing is right to make this transition to a big kid bed.  Some kids, like my nephew (now 2 1/2) make this choice for their parents by making it impossible to secure them safely in a crib.  Parker, on the other hand, has proudly called me in to her room saying “Look Mommy” as she got herself stuck straddling the railing with no where to go – and has not done it since.

In the last few weeks she has given me reason to hope she can stay in her crib until she goes off to college. I’d hate to think of all of the re-training of bedtime rules which will have to be implemented and reinforced when the time comes for her to begin sleeping in the toddler bed. Needless to say this might also trigger the end of nap-time, I just can’t imagine her staying mattress bound if toys are within sights and reach in her bedroom.

In the past few weeks there have been several nights of waking up after being asleep for a few hours. The first night I went in to find her baba (pacifier) and remind her it was bedtime. A few minutes later my husband gave the same thing a try. Finally for the third visit I returned and laid her back down reminding her it is time to sleep. As a final plea to get me to come back after her door was closed I could hear desperately “Mommy, peas, Foofa needs you.” As if her stuffed character resembling her beloved TV show cast could get me to come running back in. When this cry didn’t work she gave in to a good night’s sleep.

Last night my husband went in to check on Parker when he heard her calling several hours after she had gone to bed. “Wheremommyat,” she wanted to know.

“Going night night, PJ, it’s night night time.” He informed her. Only to be further interigated about the whereabouts of all the family pets to hear the same response. “Harper’s going night night, Macy’s going night night too. Everyone’s going night night Parker.”

He talked to her a bit more telling her he loves her and asking her if she loves him. Parker said “Yes,” and added, “Mommy loves me.” (insert the sound of my heart melting here.) I guess she really does hear me when I tell her these words on a daily basis.

Unfortunately it didn’t end with this for Parker, after Daddy left the room we continued to tune in on the monitor to hear various songs, pleading for us to come back and play, laughing at herself and the discouraged “ahh man” remarks when she was giving in to sleep. She sang “Be nice to everyone” from the TV show Yo Gabba Gabba and it sounded as if she was acting out “Ring Around The Rosey” while she sang it. The other song I remember hearing is her own version of a children’s song, though, rather than singing Thumbkin or Pointer, she fills in with mommy or daddy.

“Where is Mommy, Where is Mommy? Here I am, here I am. How are you today sir, very well I thank you. Run away, run away.” My ear is finely tuned to her language so I know what she is singing often by the melody more than the words.

Well, the new bed is due to arrive next month yet I don’t know how ready we will be to use it. Now is as good a time as any to give it a try.  I’m just crossing my fingers she will stay in her big girl bed when she is feeling restless and wants to sing.  And I don’t even want to consider what life will be like when she grows out of naps.

Baby Doll, Parker

“Baby,” she asked as quickly as her feet hit the ground this morning.  “Wha es baby?”  She looked and gestured towards her play cradle in the corner next to her crib for her doll.  Parker is the third generation to play with this cradle, my grandpa originally made it for my mom.

“I don’t know where you put her, where is baby?”  I replied to ensure she knew I understood her inquiry.  Her language is rapidly developing in the past month and it’s amazing to witness progress from one day to the next.  She is formulating her own statements and questions in a way she only used to be able to repeat after hearing.  And for each exclamation she is able to create it is met with equal or greater insistence for someone to verbalize acknowledgement of her new found vocabulary.

When properly rested she can communicate almost anything, both with her language and continued use of signing.

“Maybe baby is in mommy’s room,”  I encouraged her to go look.

The doll could not be found, though, she was happily distracted by a bottle of body spray her daddy left within reach while shrugging  “Wha es baby, I unno wha es baby?”  She easily gives up the bottle of spray as I sent her to the kitchen to search again.  My last memory of the baby doll was Wednesday evening when she got upset because the doll didn’t swallow the jello dessert she was trying to share with it and we had to wash it’s face.  Again a reminder of why I shouldn’t try to wash dishes while she is eating.

A minute later Parker returns with the doll, pleased with herself for the safe recovery.  She carts the baby off to her room and back to the cradle to tuck the doll in.  Shortly after I hear a small thump and whimpers from Parker.  In the corner of her room I can see she was attempting to climb into the cradle herself when the bottom fell out.  When I was two I got in the cradle with my baby dolls too, although, after three generations of play the wood and glue is just not holding up the same.  

I crouched down to gently remind Parker the cradle is only for the doll and not for Parker while I reassembled it back together.  When it was ready for use again I helped her put the doll back in place and tucked under the blanket.  At this point she tried to tell me “Pawker, Pawker, Pawker,”  pointing straight down into the crib.

Curious of what she was trying to tell me I guessed.  “Did you name your baby doll Parker?”  My guess was obviously wrong.

She gave me a very serious frown and bawled up her fist to use her thumb pointed towards herself.  As if to say Are you stupid, I’m Parker.  

 

Abode of Peace

Rabindranath Tagore was a name I had never heard of before visiting India.  Not that I know all of the Nobel Prize recipients, or have heard of all the top influential poets, and I definitely don’t recognize every major historical leader’s names.  After stepping foot in Kolkata, it’s impossible to ignore the name Tagore.  He was a philosophical and spiritual leader through his literature and later through his University and world traveling.  His influence in West Bengal is undeniable, though his lessons in music and poetry continue to ripple throughout the world.

His family’s home is now a museum in Kolkata which we got to tour early in our travels to India.  Several weeks into our excursion we took a train to Bolpur and Santiniketan.  Tagore and his family traveled this same path many times as Santiniketan was their family’s second home.  Tagore’s father actually gave the name to the town with the translation meaning abode of peace.

Visva Bharati – Banyan Tree

Rabindranath Tagore built a school, which grew into a university in Santiniketan with the principle of learning with nature – or utilizing outdoor classrooms.  He named his school Visva Bharati and aimed at joining India with the world in arts, languages, philosophy and literature at his campus of banyan trees.  Not far from his university was another Tagore treasure we got to witness.  It is a river gorge with picturesque trees and red sandy earth, a scene Tagore used to treasure to escape to write.

Visva Bharati – Sewing House

Tagore’s Prayer House on campus

Banyan Tree

Tagore’s River Spot

Rural Bolpur, West Bengal

Rural Bolpur, West Bengal

In Bolpur, our group of students met with women who participated in micro credit programs.  Our teacher translated their statements and our questions to discuss how the system works and how it has helped them.  The women appeared to be full of pride to talk about how they are given a small loan in order to create a business and better their family’s

situation.  The women work to repay their loans within a year – making small payments.  Their yearly loan amounts range depending on their experience with the program and what they intend to do with it.  Some women purchase goats and sell their milk, some women use the loan to purchase supplies for making crafts or sewing clothing.

Although micro credit is intended to empower women and allow them an opportunity to create an income for their families, many women reported how the money they received as a loan went directly to their husband.

We were welcomed into the villages in Bolpur, women excitedly greeted us and proudly displayed their business ventures.  The energy of happiness was all around despite how it was apparent that everyone had so little.  The huts didn’t have running water or electricity, they had very little space, privacy or personal belongings.  Yet, the smiles shared between the residents of Bolpur and their foreign visitors exuded joy and contentment.  

A documentary film crew creating musical masterpieces from intertwining musicians from around the world also ended up in Bolpur & Santiniketan.  “What About Me,” has been shared as a series on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.  One of the film makers and world traveler, spoke highly of the people of this community.  In the below clip he talks about how he thinks when people are good, friendly and kind enough to reach attainment they are reincarnated and sent to Santiniketan.

Colorful Fun at The Color Run

The first week of July, Kansas City played host to The Color Run, the self proclaimed “Happiest Run on Earth.”  While I don’t usually equate running with happiness – everyone appeared to be enjoying this colorful 5K.

All participants came dressed with a white t-shirt which was drenched in a different color powder at each kilometer.  Over 30,000 runners of all ages, including tiny ones in strollers and wagons, joyfully made their way through the track around Arrowhead Stadium to one central ending point where the party really took place.  The finish line had a DJ pumping pop hits, engaging participants to dance and cheer for additional color packets for Color Throws.  During Color Throws the crowd launched color packets into the air for clouds of color and perfect photo opportunities.

Laughter and smiles were all around Kansas City following the funnest run on earth…  And to top it off proceeds were donated to The Ronald McDonald House.