... bring May flowers, except in Minnesota where it’s still snowing
1 May 2013, Minneapolis MN USA ... where it’s snowing again
Happy Labor Day to all my friends around the world.
Did I fall asleep and wake up six months later? Perhaps, because while it was raining when I went to the Y this morning, it was snowing when I came out. Thick wet snow that was sticking to my car, the grass, the streets. What’s a girl to do? Well, go shopping, of course!
I called my niece Michelle who happily spent a few hours with me at Rosedale Mall, mostly at Herberger’s, a department store that I enjoy. When I was living overseas and Michelle was head of HR there, she’d bring clothes to the changing room for me. She has fabulous taste so I ended up with some great outfits ... and I didn’t have to keep re-dressing to get more stuff to try on. Oh, and Herberger’s has great sales ... like yesterday’s. I got four pair of capri-length pants in a new smaller size, two tank tops and a funky tunic top for half their retail price. Not a bad way to endure a yukky day.
While we were driving, Inga called to say that David will have another surgery next Friday. Made all of the arrangements to fly out on Tuesday and stay until the 20th.
I was awake at 5 am. Too many things on my mind. I’d made all the flight arrangements for the trip to DC. Then, before I went to bed, I was thinking about the side trip to Glasgow that I’ll take while overseas. My friend Connie is meeting me in the Amsterdam airport, and we’ll fly together from there to Glasgow. How to get from airport to B&B in Ayr was creating much ado in my head. If I were alone, I could wing it. But Connie will have endured the overnight flight from Minneapolis, so I want to be better organized. I finally decided to get up and go on line and see what I could actually do, instead of laying in bed and worrying. I found that we’ll need a bus to Glasgow, train to Ayr, taxi to B&B ... way too much work at anytime, and we’ll arrive as rush hour starts. So, I rented a small car. And I called hotels.com about the B&B reservation. It’ll be easier to get to the airport from the hotel we stayed in last year than from Ayr. Cancelled one night in the B&B, confirmed one at the airport hotel. By the time I left for my water ex class, I was decidedly less stressed. Action always does that for me.
Water ex was further de-stressing, and I stopped at Janet & Ed’s afterwards. I had been carrying around a jar of jelly that I bought Ed last month on the Eastern Shore because it contains three of his favorite things jalapeña, garlic and lime. They’d gone to Mankato in the snow so Ed could take part in a deposition (he’s a forensic economist and often gives expert testimony). Janet explored this “hidden vacation mecca” and found this web site that you have to check out. Read it all carefully ... it’s a hoot.
Spent the afternoon browsing boutiques in the warehouse district, visiting artists’ studios in an old Northrup King seed warehouse-turned-artist incubator with my friend Marilyn. We ran in to Nick and Rosie, who Northeast Minneapolis mainstays who were on the board of the local development organization I worked for post Poland. They have a recognized collection of local artists and were featured in the Strib not long ago. Nice to see them. I also found a painting that I may want for my living room; I have an “empty” wall, horrors! Marilyn and I did a late lunch-early dinner at a Mexican restaurant south of downtown, in the old Sears store-turned-Midtown World Market. She graciously did the driving, so I indulged in a sangria with my fish tacos. All in all, a wonderful way to relax.
Cinco de Mayo
CBS Sunday Morning had an interesting piece of the US-Mexican War and the origins of the Mexican Fifth of May celebration. And Andrew did deep water zumba in honor of Cinco de Mayo today. Don’t know that I ever was in step, but I worked hard and had fun. Then I took my niece Michelle to the airport.
I love my neighborhood. Took my sliding glass door screen to the nearby hardware store for repair last week. Walked it over on a gloomy, windy day. Since the hardware store is open today and re-screening is done, I walked over on this sunny, slightly warm day to retrieve it. Three people offered to help as I walked it home, but ridiculously independent woman that I am, I declined and managed to get it home, up three floors and into place. Phew.
Tonight my sister Barbara, nephew Christopher and his girlfriend Jennifer are coming over for a “clean out the ‘frig’ and freezer” dinner. I need to use up and/or give away as much food as I can, just in case the refrigerator dies while I’m in DC or Poland. I think I mentioned that the LCD display is blank though all’s working well so far.
Getting organized for the DC trip and a bit too for Poland since I’ll only have about 24 hours here. Sorting clothes, finishing laundry, taking out recycling and trash, changing bed linens. As I was changing the duvet cover, it dawned on me how many practical household things I’ve learned from the men in my life. I turn my duvet covers inside out, put my arms inside to the far corners, grab the duvet, then pull it into the cover. Voilá. A properly covered duvet without a struggle. I learned this from my friend Larry when we were in Peace Corps, and it still comes in handy. Oh, and Tom, another Peace Corps friend (the one I took to Union Rooftop for his birthday) taught me how to dry freshly washed plastic baggies. Oh, I know. You don’t wash and re-use your baggies. But as PCVs, we had to “import” these from US-based friends who sent “care” packages. Tom, being the Felix member of the Odd Couple in Szczecin (friend Bill, now in Indio, was Oscar), perfected clean, dry baggies with insides that are untouched by dirty hands. Turn the baggie inside out, wash, rinse then either hang on a clothes line, as Tom did in Poland, or stand on a towel to drip dry. I still do this.
One last example. As a teen, I heard Gloria Steinem comment that men who’s shirts refused to stay tucked should talk to their wives about how they keep their blouses tucked (they tuck the tails into their undies). Yep, that’s what I do ... because my dad taught me that when I was a kid. I wonder who taught him?
7 May, Bethesda MD
Arrived safely to a gray, rainy day in the DC area. Inga met me, and as we arrived at the house, a deluge let go. Antonia’s bus passed us so we scooted down the street to pick her up, then a quick U-turn and home to the garage and a dry entry into the house.
On the way home David’s oldest brother Jeff called. Joe, the nurse who managed the original clinical trial that was considered for David, has suggested another trial that David qualifies for. (Joe also named us “David’s Army.”) It’s a one-dose drug (5-ALA) that is approved in Europe but not by our FDA, thus it’s in trial. It causes cancer cells to become luminous, making it easier for surgeons and oncologists to see what’s cancer, what healthy tissue and what’s scar tissue. David has agreed to this trial and will take the dose. Tomorrow we’ll know exactly when the surgery is to be on Friday.
David’s vision has worsened significantly, and since the house has many half flights of steps, Inga’s rearranged “bedrooms” so David doesn’t have to walk as many staircases. David and Inga are sleeping in his office, which has an en suite powder room and French doors to the back patio and garden. I’m back in my original spot, Inga’s office. Kim will sleep in “my” bed in the big room downstairs since David is using the bed that had been in “his” room.
Karen’s childhood friend Carol just called. I was about to try calling her as I was afraid she’d lost my number or something. It’s close to 9 pm. Karen’s surgery took 11 hours, but everything went well. Most of it was done by laparoscopy (through a small abdominal incision), minimizing the scarring and making recovery easier. She’ll be in ICU tonight, sitting up by tomorrow afternoon.
At 2:20 am 14 years ago today the “worst thing in the world” happened. That’s how my son’s best friend, Thom, told me Peter had died. Thom and our friend Dan were with him at the time; Peter and I had been living at our friend Dan’s house for two weeks. Peter had sent me home with my brother and his wife who had arrived from California late in the afternoon before, as had my best friend Jean. As always, Peter did things his way in his own time. Since I was surrounded by those from here and afar that I needed for support, he could let go. And Dan told me that’s just what he did.
Today, if I had been in Minneapolis, I would have said kaddish, the Jewish mourners’ prayer, at Temple Israel with my friend Susan. Because I’m in DC, I had hoped to find a synagogue here to do that. It’s a tradition that I gives me comfort. To that end, I emailed Karen, wife of Peace Corps friend Larry and mother of two of my adopted grandsons Jonah and Spike, to get recommendations of a local synagogue; they lived in DC before moving to Boston. She provided a long list of info, and I had one selected. Unfortunately, things got hectic here just when I’d planned to leave -- a thunder storm, an Internet that wouldn’t work and Tomek coming to fix dinner. However, after we finished dinner, Inga suggested a few moments of silent prayer for Peter, an unexpected gesture that I much appreciated. I also loved the huge bouquet of pink and white roses that she and David brought me “from Peter” in the afternoon.
My friend Dianna, whom I met when we were leading USAID projects in Macedonia, has been working with the Departments of State and Defense in Fragile States and Nations in Transition on conflict mitigation, civil-military issues, peace keeping, inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations and more. She recently joined the board of an organization that might interest some of you, so I am passing along the link to the International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation. Check it out.
After getting the girls off to school and walking Beza, I drove to the east side of Baltimore where David had surgery this morning. Johns Hopkins-Bayview Hospital is across the bay, so I had to take a tunnel in both directions. Felt a lot like being back in Pittsburgh -- long curving tunnel with white subway-tile walls that could use a wash but aren’t too post-winter dirty and more importantly, vehicles that stayed in their own lanes. No passing or driving too fast as is the case in the very short, curved Lowry Tunnel in Minneapolis; these drivers understand what happens when there’s an accident in a tunnel and the bypass is a long way ‘round.
Before the surgery, David received a new experimental chemo that helped the surgeons by causing cancer areas to become luminescent. As a result, the surgeons were able to excise more than they could without the chemical guidance. David’s surgery went well although the prognosis is not what we wanted to hear. His brother Jeff talked with the lead surgeon: It’ll be a week or two before the final biopsy results are ready, but the cancer has spread to other, inoperable parts of David’s brain. I was able to spend a couple of minutes with him before I returned to Bethesda. For all he’s been through, David looked and sounded pretty good. His voice was a surprise -- deeper and very gravelly, definitely not the voice I’m used to hearing. Might just be the anesthesia.
I booked Inga a hotel room near the hospital. She’ll stay there for a couple of days until we know when David will be able to come home.
Talked to Karen’s friend Carol. Karen was having some breathing problems -- all those years of smoking have taken a toll. So she is still in the ICU. Otherwise she seems to be doing okay. And according to Inga, David is also doing well. She said he seems more like his old self every time she sees him. Hurray. Returning to the hospital from the hotel this morning, Inga made a wrong turn and ended up going the wrong way and into the tunnel. Quite the ordeal to find a turn around at the other end, then back through the tunnel etc. We had a good laugh.
Tosia and Frankie each went to a friend’s house for the night last night. Kim arrived around 11:30 pm, and we sat up until 1:30 and talked. We went to a funky little diner in Bethesda for breakfast this morning, then organized using the car today. Frankie and I finally went shopping for Mother’s Day at about 6:30 tonight.
Big event of the day was chasing Beza. I was on the phone with Carol and had my back to the deck door which I’d left open ... and she sneaked out without my knowing. Probably made a bee-line to one of her holes under the fence, even though I thought we’d covered them all. Christi from across the street heard me shouting for her and helped in the search. Thankfully this is a friendly neighborhood with lots of dogs, so everyone was helpful and understanding as we knocked on doors. Beza was apparently jumping a fence between the neighbors’ yard the the one behind them. We finally found her up next door.
12 May, Mother’s Day in the US
Inga came home today, and we celebrated Mother’s Day by giving her a few gifts. I bought her perfume from David, which he’ll give her when he gets home ... and that may be tomorrow. Hurray. Inga says he looks and feels better each day.
|David looking pretty good post surgery|
Inga brought David home today, double hurray. And while everyone was piled on the sofa around him, talking and snacking and watching TV and playing with an iPad, David said very quietly, “It’s great to be home.” I don’t know that anyone but me heard him, but I recognized how heartfelt that sentence was. Being at home with Inga, the girls, Beza is probably the best medicine David can have.
David looks good, so much better than when I saw him in the ICU but even better than I had envisioned. His eyesight is worse than pre-surgery, more limited peripheral vision, so we cleaned up all extraneous stuff off the floors. He’s moving slowly and scanning from side to side to ensure he doesn’t fall. Inga instructed everyone to remind him to scan.
I’ve been remiss again at keeping up to date. But we’ve been busy. David, Inga and I had an interesting “cultural” conversation out on the deck the other evening. It kind of started because Inga got a Mother’s Day card from her former sister-in-law, something totally uncommon in Poland. Also a nephew has just been graduated from college, and she wondered if they were expected to send a gift ... something they hadn’t done when others had graduated. Again, not commonplace in Poland.
At 4:30 am yesterday the loud ding-ding-ding-ding-ding of the doorbell awoke Inga, Antonia and me. Inga got to the door first, but I heard someone say the garage doors (car and ‘people’) were open, and there had been burglaries in the neighborhood. (Later learned it was a Bethesda policeman patrolling the area.) I headed to the basement -- no one hiding and nothing appeared remiss, pushed the garage door opener and locked the inner door. We all went back to bed although I didn’t fall asleep.
I was wide awake when my alarm when off, but for the first time this school year, Franciszka slept in. Ironically I had slept in, for the first time in all my visits here, on Thursday, and Frankie got herself off to school as she does when I’m not here. Anyway, after finishing my lemon water, I looked at the clock and saw it was 6:20, the time when she usually grabs her lunch, backpack and coffee, puts on her shoes and dashes out the door. No light under her door when I went upstairs to check, so I knocked, then stuck my head in to find a sound-asleep teenager whom I woke. About 20 minutes later she came down, finished her morning tasks and I drove her to school.
We’ve had intermittent rain today, and despite that forecast, Frankie went off to her country-western concert in shorts, a light sleeveless top and a long-sleeved shirt-jacket. Oh, and a straw cowboy hat. She looked terrific ... but as David just noted, she is probably shivering right now. Ah, well, teenaged girls. No amount of concerned discussion or rational suggestions convinced her to be better prepared. But she’s with her friends and I’m sure she’s having a good time. She was definitely looking forward to this.
In other news, I called Karen the other night, and she had just arrived in her hospital room (out of ICU) that afternoon. She was, and sounded, tired but otherwise seemed okay. Once she’s healed, she’ll have to start chemo again. Not sure how long she’ll be in the hospital.
Marilyn from Minneapolis emailed today, then I called her. She’s taking her granddaughter to Art-a-Whirl, the annual art crawl in Northeast Minneapolis. This event has grown and grown over the years, and I’ve lost touch with this fun event. My sister used to go but said in the last few years, it’s rained heavily ... which it’s doing today, Marilyn said. Since the artists will show their works in their studios, I don’t think the weather dampens attendance too badly ... though I’m sure the shops that do “sidewalk” sales at this time may suffer.
David just said that his legs are almost 100 percent back. He has said that he is slowly getting full “awareness” of his body parts.
Happy birthday to my youngest nephew, Christopher (center below), dwarfing his older sister, Tomery (left) and girlfriend Jennifer (right).
|Inga & her Bugzooka, ready for action|
Drove each of the girls to school today, then went to meet my friend David for breakfast. I think I’m getting the hang of the traffic circles. I’m so ready for driving again in Scotland!
Later, Reagan Airport, Washington, DC
Overheard while waiting to get a bottle of cold water, “Well, if she has anything to do with him, she’ll go to jail too.” TMI!
Still Later, my condo, Minneapolis MN
Feels good to be home, albeit a quick trip.
Despite my email that confused whether I’d arrive today or tomorrow, Janet answered when I called from the plane and picked me up less than 30 minutes later. The thermostat said 83 so I put on the a/c to cool things off, started laundry, sorted mail (mostly junk), finished packing and went to dinner with my nephew Christopher. I have been craving a burger from Cuzzie’s, a neighborhood bar/cafe that has fantastic hamburgers, fries and onion rings. I indulged. Now an hour or so to veg with “MI-5” on the telly, then off to bed. I’ve decided to go to water ex in the morning. I know I’ll be awake and the exercise will feel good before the long flights.
21 May, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport ...
... where I will sit and walk for a couple of hours since we have to be here so early for international flights. First use of my new passport, and it feels weird to have such a pristine, thin one. I miss the old, fat, well-worn one I got while in Uganda. But alas, it expired. My Godson Craig drove me here. I was hoping that if he made that commitment, his and April’s son would decided to be born this morning. I know how badly she’d like to get this over with; she’s been on bed rest for a long time. But that little kiddo is determined to do this in his own time. Must be a Hagen!
Heard on the news this morning that Prague is establishing separate train cars for singles to assist them to meet their “soul mates.” Now there’s an interesting government program. Might have to immigrate to Czech Republic!
Water ex was the most energetic it’s been in ages, and that’s saying something. Lindsay always has a high energy class, but she’s back from an international Y training conference with lots of new ideas. She tested one learned from the Italians ... and it tested us, mind and body. She had 80 trainers take part in her water tabata class and 50 in the land version. Forgot to ask her what size the swimming pool was. We get crowded at a dozen in ours.
22 May, Sandomierz, Poland
Feels good to be home! Yes, I know I wrote that a couple or three days ago about my condo in Minneapolis. But as I’m sure I’ve written before, returning to Poland also always feels like home. Especially returning to Sandomierz.
And since it started to pour rain just as my board-colleague Steve and I got into the car at Warsaw airport to drive here, it really felt like home. We had quite a lovely thunder-and-lightning storm just as I was going to bed the one night I spent in Minneapolis ... and it rained off and on for several of my last days in DC. The farmers should be happy, right?
Sandomierz is overrun by student-tourists today. As in the US, it’s wycieczka season, the time when teachers run out of energy to contain their classes indoors and take them on field trips. Because of its historical significance, Sandomierz is one of those places that virtually all Polish student visits at some point in their schooling.
This morning I made my semi-annual trip to the “salon kosmeticzny Nefertete” to have a mani/pedi and my eyebrows and mustache waxed. The owner received a micro loan and support from the Center to start up this, her first, business. That’s one reason I decided to give her a try several years ago. Because she does a nice job and the price is incredible (80 PLN today ... less than $30!!!), I return twice a year. I’m always pleased to see that micro enterprises not only continue in business but also develop. She now has an assistant, something new since my December visit. The assistance massaged moisturizer into my hands during my pedicure, just as relaxing as the back-massaging pedicure chairs I’ve experienced in the US ... and far more cost effective for the owner as she continues to build her business.
Long day. We were supposed to take a “retro tour” in an old touring vehicle to various old sites, then end at a winery owned and operated by the son of a former Center employee. Despite the rainy weather, in the morning the tour guide confirmed he could manage the non-paved roadways we’d visit ... then in the afternoon cancelled because he’d blown out his engine at the end of his morning tour. We all crammed into a couple of Center cars and headed directly to the winery, of course.
|Steve, Jadwiga and Marcel before the winery tour|
Jadwiga had told me previously that her son Marcel was going to grow grapes and start a winery. But since I moved away from Poland, we usually have lunch or coffee in Sandomierz or once we met at her daughter’s place. So I literally have not seen Marcel, her son, since his First Holy Communion year. Needless to say, he’s all grown up ... he looks a lot like that little boy though, same gorgeous smile and straightforward approach. He showed us the vineyard, where he grows six varieties of grapes, and told us about the handful of other wineries and grape growers in the area. Then we went to the tasting room -- a cellar in the hillside below the vineyard. It was constructed even before his grandparents owned the property. Because we worked with the Macedonian winery owners on their presentations, I know a little about such things. And I can say that Marcel did a lovely job. His presentation about his wines was without hesitation or sounding boastful. The white we tasted was young and not as sweet as I expected when he described it as semi-sweet. The red was too young and lacked a good finish but seemed to have some potential. I’ll have a chance to see him and Jadwiga while I’m here, and I’ll send on comments from our group.
My Godson’s son arrived at last! Alijah Peter Hagen finally decided to come into the world on his own late yesterday afternoon/early evening. I’m sure his mom, April, was glad to have it over. She had been on bed rest for some time and had some false labor earlier. I know Craig is happy and proud. And I can’t wait to meet the little fellow.
|Welcome, Alijah Peter Hagen|
26 May, Hala’s farm in Czermin village near Sandomierz
Woke up very early to the smell of coffee brewing. Michał is always the first up. But it’s Sunday so I didn’t get up. I could hear the broadcast church service that Hala and Michał “attend” with her parents at 7, finally got up at 8 and found Michał making his usual delicious fresh garden salad for breakfast, and Hala assembling ingredients for kanapki (open face sandwiches) for her parents. I sat down and buttered bread for her while the coffee re-heated. I had a lazy day, helped with laundry, read, actually took a nap. I tried to buy a movie on iTunes and all of a sudden it doesn’t recognize me. Had to change my password twice, but it still won’t let me buy the film. Annoying, frustrating and weird considering I bought a year of NCIS: Los Angeles when I was at Hotel Basztowy the other day. Maybe I can figure out how to use the free introductory Amazon Prime that I have and use it when I run out of things to watch. Tonight Michał made a fire under the gazebo. He and his friend Tomek upgraded the fire pit from a hole in the ground to one surrounded by nicely laid bricks all around the circumference. The fire took the edge off the cold air and cooked the kielbasa perfectly. Nice end to a nice day.
|Michał and his new fire pit|
27 May, Sandomierz
It’s cold, gloomy, raining and by noon I’d already walked at least five kilometers. I must be in Sandomierz.
At 8, Hala dropped me at the swimming pool on her way to work, so of course it was closed until 10. Thus began my first schlepp between the pool and the Center. But I was determined to exercise and returned at about 11 for half an hour of lap swimming and water exercises from my Y class. Now, the combination of the pool and walking on hard cobblestone and concrete have made my back stiff. Thankfully I have an IcyHot at the house.
Hala and I had a interesting discussion on Saturday about the kind of programs the Y offers for us “Silver Sneakers” as well as in general. Silver Sneakers is the Y’s designation for those of us in the Medicare generation. Hala wanted to know how much my water exercise classes cost and who paid for them. She was boggled when I said my insurance company paid all of my Y membership fee because I’m on Medicare (and for those under 65, most health insurers in Minnesota will pay some portion). I also take part in a seated-chair Yoga class that’s one of many classes and activities specifically aimed Silver Sneakers. The idea of helping older people stay physically active and mentally stimulated hasn’t taken root here, and Hala’s especially tuned in because she and Michał have had responsibility for caring for her aging parents for several years. Hala’s father, 93, has done virtually nothing for himself for several years. But until the last year, her mother, who had been a school teacher, kept pretty active, raising turkeys, chickens or geese and peeling potatoes for my dinners there. That last is an “in” joke -- when she learned that I like mashed Polish potatoes (they are fantastic!), Mrs. Kozłowska starting peeling and boiling kilos of them when I was here. So I ate more than I would have normally. Now 85, she has dementia and cannot go outside alone and doesn’t peel or cook. She seems content but it is sad to see what had been a feisty woman so docile.
Hala’s daughter Marta arrived about 9:30 last night with Clara and Zara, as Hala expected, and Arya, very unexpected. Clara and Zara are Marta’s cats; she’s had them for several years. I met them as adorable kittens in Warsaw and have spent time with them as they’ve grown when I’m at Marta’s flat there. This trip Marta met me at the airport on my arrival in Poland so that I could give her the Kindles and such that she’d ordered and I brought. She told me then about Arya and showed me pictures of the adorable English sheep dog puppy that she and her beau Łukaś got. Łukaś has been wanting a dog, and Marta said, why not? Arya reminds me of Buffy who lived down the street from us back in my married days. Every so often she’d get loose and lumber playfully down to the cul-de-sac where our house was.
|Arya in the front hall|
|Clara on the bottom step|
|Zara on upstairs landing|
29 May, Warsaw, Poland
So, I decided to ‘make it easier’ and take the Warsaw bus that at 8:51 am stops in Dwikozy, which is less than 10 minutes from Hala’s farm rather than the one that only stops in Sandomierz, 20 or more minutes away depending on traffic and road repairs. But the bus never arrived in Dwikozy ... apparently the schedule changed very recently. We drove to Sandomierz and I caught the 9:35 and finally got to Warsaw at 2:10.
Once I dropped everything at Marta’s flat, I took off to shop. Tomorrow is Corpus Christi Day, one of those national religious holidays when NOTHING will be open except churches. It’ll be like Zamość during Easter when I was a Peace Corps volunteer. My PC Bestest Susan, our PC colleague Len and two Dutch friends of Susan’s decided to spend the holiday in Zamość, a beautiful Italianate town that’s a couple of hours northeast of Sandomierz. Anyway, none of us stopped to think about what we’d do for food on the holiday only to find virtually everything closed, including the hotel dining room after 3 pm. We ended up eating hotdogs in a very small, underground-level jazz bar that we found by following the music. Hence, my mad dash to find a store and food.
Just as I was finishing fixing some food, my friend Violane in Belgrade Skype’d. We spent about 15 minutes catching up. Depending on what happens here (and airfares!), I may go to Serbia for a few days. I haven’t seen V in ages miss her, one of many colleagues and friends scattered around the world that I can only touch base with via Skype and email. How did we ever maintain relationships across land and sea before those?
Well, now I’m listening to thunder and seeing the occasional lightning flash and wondering where the beautiful, warm sunny day went. Well, at least I have a decent bottle of cheap chardonnay (is that an oxymoron?).
It’s cottonwood season in Warsaw, a time I remember well from the days when I lived here in this apartment. Back then, the windows were the old style that opened like doors into the flat and I used a huge junk of recovered glass as a window stop. During cottonwood season if I left the window open in the morning, as I often did, I’d come home to a fuzzy pile of cottonwood on the floor and puffs around the room. It had flown in from trees in the preschool yard behind us. Marta had new windows installed, so they can lean in from the bottom and only be open at the top, allowing fresh air in but generally keeping cottonwood and such out. I would love to get these for my condo. I had a sliding glass door in Kosovo that worked the same way too ... very slick. Need to go on line and see what’s possible.
My newest great-nephew Alijah is home from the hospital with his big brother Jaden and mom and dad. I’m anxious to see him and pleased that Craig sends photos and updates while he awaits my updated blog.
Have been online checking Belgrade airfares and also hearing from Warsaw friends, so I’m postponing Belgrade until the December board meeting. On return from Scotland, I’m going to Kraków for the weekend to see Ula. She said her mother ‘broke her spine.’ I don’t know details, but it doesn’t sound good. I’m staying at Hotel Pod Wawelem, a newish hotel right around the corner from David and Inga’s flat. I’ve walked by it many times and wanted to check it out. I booked after hotels.com offered a good rate and rating. Besides, I know the location well and how to get everywhere from there, a big plus when you’re on foot or riding the tram or a taxi. From Kraków, I’ll return to Warsaw for the weekdays, staying with Dorota, Jacek and their son Franio and the weekend in suburban Milanowek with Maryla, Staś and maybe their son Tomek who’s an adult now and lives in their city flat. Maryla says they are beginning the interior renovations, a long time coming, and I don’t mind the dust for the chance to see them. I also plan to get together with Małgoscia, Gina, Anna and Laura at some point that week. While I see Małgoscia, Gina and Anna fairly regularly on these trips, I haven’t seen Laura since I came here from Uganda the year her daughter was born (2002?). These are all old friends from my Peace Corps and Fiesta Consultants days. (BTW, Fiesta didn’t plan parties. We did HR consulting/training and media training.) I should know before I leave for Scotland whether David and Inga are coming to Poland in mid June. His follow-up visits with the surgeon and oncologist are this afternoon (DC time). David’s oldest brother Jeff will go with them, and our friend Kim’s going to DC for the weekend, so they will have support. When I Skype’d Inga yesterday, she promised to call me if they are done at a reasonable time. I’ve been saying prayers, sending warm, positive thoughts, keeping my fingers cross and thumbs buried and trying not to worry since his last surgery. I don’t always succeed.
Just had an email from my brother that our last remaining relative from our parents’ generation has died. I’ve written about visiting Uncle Frank and Aunt Betty in Michigan over the years. Dad’s youngest brother, Uncle Frank, died while I was in South Sudan last year. Aunt Betty had been in hospice care for about three years. I have been thinking so much about her this last week as I had hoped to visit before I came here, then David had a second surgery. Having been there when she moved to the hospice facility last fall, I knew she was in good hands. She would not have known if I were there or not, so I chose to help those with the greater need. I think she’d have understood. Aunt Betty was such a positive, warm, friendly woman. She enjoyed telling the story of her first trip to our house in the ‘60s. She had just had all of her teeth removed in advance of getting false teeth, but Uncle Frank insisted she accompany him on the trip to his hometown. She was mortified, but my mother’s unconditional acceptance of her made her feel welcomed and at home. I was a teenager and to be honest, I was more embarrassed than loving but could not have shown that for fear of the wrath of the General (our nickname for Mom), so I’m sure I was more aloof than engaged. That changed in adulthood after I spent time with her and Uncle Frank post-Peace Corps. Their devotion to and love for each other and the real equality in their marriage was something rare, and it lasted until the end. I miss them both.
What a month this has been. I’m so grateful for some positive news -- the birth of Alijah and the good news this morning that David and Inga can come to Poland. David remains in general good health and spirits and will start a new IV chemo that’s only administered every six weeks. On the down side, in addition to Aunt Betty’s passing, I learned that a cousin, Jimmy, also had died ... last November at age 85. We last saw Jimmy at Aunt Betty’s 90th birthday in 2010. Uncle Frank was especially happy to see him since my brother, sister and I were the only relatives he ever heard from. Daddy’s family was never especially close. Jimmy promised to keep in touch but never did. Now I definitely need to pay attention to the time zones and check on Karen to see how she’s doing.
Two very small solid black rectangles have shown up on my laptop’s desktop. Two days ago the top margin was all black until I re-booted iTunes. That isn’t working this time. The screen of my very first Mac laptop (one I bought second hand from friend Darren) needed replacing after a very large black rectangle showed up on every screen, not just the desktop. Thus my feeling that this screen is going. I only pray it holds on until I get home.
Guys, move to the next paragraph; you won’t be interested in this one. Today’s New York Times had a piece about Jockey’s attempt at new bra sizing. As a woman who (a) hates to shop for bras, (b) can never find one that’s comfortable and (c) usually ends up with beige, white or black, I read the article with interest. I actually did a bra fitting once years ago and discovered that my bra was way under-size. But I’m still not sure I want to make the investment in the sizing kit ($20) nor the bra ($60!) for white, beige and black. But as we say in Poland, zobaczymy (we shall see).
I’m doing some laundry while I wait for a delivery for Marta. She just called to say that it would not arrive as scheduled. She also said the Łukaś was glad to hear that she’d talked to me about this. At dinner last night I told him that I usually get up early, between 5 and 6 am. This morning after awaking at 5:30, I decided to go back to sleep and actually slept until 8, something that doesn’t usually happen. The apartment has no doors, so Łukaś could see that I was asleep when he got up around 6, and when he left, I was still in exactly the same position he’d seen me in earlier. I forgot to mention that I don’t move when I sleep. He wasn’t sure if I was alive or not. Marta and I had a good laugh.
Later ... The day turned out pretty well. After a bit of rain in the morning, the sun came out and it was kinda hot by the time I walked home. Walked for several hours, did some shopping, bought my Kraków train tickets, had lunch, didn’t eat ice cream. Nice way to end the month.
As my friend Dan wrote in his Wandervogel blog today, “Life’s a crap shoot. Never lose heart.” Amen.