Livin’ That Pączki Life

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I’m Polish. Well, I’m a plurality Polish. Somewhere, saved in the notes app on my phone, is a detailed breakdown of my specific European heritage. My cousin, a hobbyist genealogist, did the breakdown for me at the same Polish festival pictured above.

Most of the time, I don’t think about my Polish heritage. It’s only when I hear a particularly good joke about the Old Polish Navy, or when the sun’s reflection is blindingly white against my pasty, pasty skin. I think about it when I pound Bud Lights at the Family Reunion (hosted, of course, at a Polish festival), and when my family makes gołąbki every Christmas. I always felt distanced from my heritage, though; Polish was never a language I heard spoken.

For someone who was raised Catholic in the South, I don’t think about religion too much, either. When my family moved to Ohio (closer to both of my parents’ families in Michigan and New York), we also moved away from religion. My brother and I stopped attending Sunday School, we didn’t quite fit at our new church, and I never went to PSR on Monday afternoons. (My dad asked, once, if I wanted to go to PSR. I said yes, because that’s what all the cool kids from my middle school did on Monday afternoons. Then he explained that they were all learning more about Catholicism so that they could be confirmed. I think my response was somewhere along the lines of, “Never mind, hard pass.”)

One of the things that baffled me about the new church we would be attending was how casual it was. In Alabama, you dressed up for mass. Dresses for girls and women, slacks and button-downs for men. The first Sunday morning that my dad and I entered the church in Ohio, I was surprised to see jeans and pullovers. It felt too casual to be Catholic. I can also admit I was majorly peeved to find that you could dress so comfortably to hang out with God. Had I known this sooner, I sure wouldn’t have worn so many dresses in my youth. It’s been 15 years and I’m still bitter about the lime green dress with royal blue and purple beaded flowers I wore to Easter Mass circa 2001.

A few times in my youth my Catholicism and Polish heritage intersected. Most notably when my grandfather would tell me about the church he attended in Western New York. He was from a small town, small enough that late into his life the Polish and Irish churches in town didn’t have enough parishioners to justify having two Catholic churches. They ended up merging, and I accompanied my father and grandfather (despite a litany of protests) to the last Catholic service of my life save for funerals. It was a Christmas Eve mass and I remember being a little disappointed that the service wasn’t delivered in a foreign language, like some of the services I knew my grandfather had attended in the past. I also remember hearing an amateur guitar player in the balcony, a noticeable difference from the organ music of my youth. I looked up and thought, “Dave Rygalski, is that you?”

Both facets of my heritage intersect in February, with Fat Tuesday, when Lent and Easter are right around the corner. Growing up Lent meant giving up something I liked (usually something specific so that I knew I would be able to manage) and no meat on Fridays. There was no Catholic guilt in my young life like the guilt of accidentally eating a bologna sandwich on a Friday during Lent. Fridays were for PB&Js and fried fish. And then one year I found out about paczki.

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Could I necessarily explain why I am so in love with pączki? No, probably not. Can I enumerate what, exactly, differentiates a pączki from a donut? Not really! But it’s a part of my culture I can understand. Pączki are made in Polish households before Lent, to use up all the lard, sugar, and eggs in the house before Lent began and those foods were forbidden. So Fat Tuesday is married to Pączki Day, and it’s mainly celebrated in the Great Lakes region. Which explains why I didn’t know about it until I was older, living in Cleveland, and visiting family in Michigan. 

Living in Washington, DC was a wonderful cultural experience, but it sucked around Fat Tuesday because there were no pączki available. At least no that I could find. And believe me, I looked. DC is not a city with a lot of bakeries or Eastern European culture. Or, if it is, I didn’t know where to find it when I was living there. But now I’m spending Fat Tuesday in Syracuse, New York and when I found a box of pączki at the grocery store on Saturday, I did a little dance. I shouted with joy. I dug through the selection until I found a flavor I wanted (I went with the raspberry filled with a white icing). And then I went back today, actual Fat Tuesday, only to find they were sold out. I guess I shouldn’t have told so many of my friends about the awesome pączki opportunity.

Who knows if I’ll find myself eating pączki this time next year? I’m just grateful that this year I did, and that it gave me the opportunity to reflect on my heritage.

Television Tuesdays: iZombie

Up front, iZombie has a lot going on. It’s a procedural, but it’s a zombie show, but it’s a fake-psychic show, but, but but.

But it’s delightful.

Overview

The show follows Liv Moore (I know), who in the first five minutes of the pilot transforms from a promising young med student to reluctant zombie after a boat party goes awry. In order to sate her newfound need for brains, Liv abandons her surgical residency to work as a medical examiner in the morgue (alongside the beautiful, charming, hilarious Ravi).

Brains aren’t the only big change in her life. She’s now preternaturally pale and depressed as hell. In order to avoid infecting her perfect fiancé (Major Lilywhite), Liv dumps him. Once you’ve seen his face, you’ll understand what a travesty this truly is. Her family is under the impression she is simply suffering some mild PTSD after witnessing the veritable massacre that was the boat party, but Liv is struggling a lot more than that.

Thankfully, Liv is given some purpose again with the realization that the brains she consumes give her flashes of the deceased’s life and their graphic deaths. Using this new information, Liv joins forces with the local police department, partnering with skeptical Detective Babineaux to solve the murders.

Perfect for…

  • Veronica Mars lovers. It’s got the same procedural roots, witty characters, and snappy writing that viewers have come to expect from Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright. It’s current and polished and refreshingly diverse. And great news Veronica Mars-lovers: Major is not just another Duncan Kane! He is so, so much more.
  • Fake-Psychic show obsessives. It’s hard to believe there’s still a market for this very niche genre, but iZombie fills the Psych-shaped hole in my heart.
  • Those who’ve missed seeing Sark / David Anders on their screens. (I’ve just started watching Alias, so his presence is especially delightful.)
  • Fans of Merlin – Bradley James (Arthur) makes some recurring appearances as rock star/Liv’s hot British boyfriend.
  • Science! – Ravi tries to reverse engineer the zombie virus as well as attempting to create a potential cure.

What Else I Love

It’s not just a fake-psychic show. Or a zombie show. iZombie has the added bonus of a deftly implementing a twist in which perimortem flashbacks aren’t the only side-effect of Liv’s condition: she also temporarily exhibits some of the victim’s personality traits, from kleptomania to a peppy cheerleader persona. What could be an annoying trope has been cleverly used as a nice comedic tool.

Season 2 premieres October 6th on The CW.

Television Tuesdays: You’re the Worst


The thing about this show is that it’s all in the title, You’re the Worst. Both of the main characters are the actual worst. They would be nightmarish in a relationship – emotionally distant, slovenly, filled with intimacy issues, and then some. And yet… there’s something relatable about them.

Yes, they’re both the worst, and no, being together doesn’t mitigate their awfulness. But there’s something almost endearing about watching these two hot messes stumble through the awkward stages of navigating turning a one-night-stand into an actual relationship. The fact that the show is hilarious and charming helps.

You should catch up on Season 1 now, because Season 2 premieres on FXX Wednesday, September 9th.

Overview

The show revolves around Jimmy, a struggling English novelist, and Gretchen, a publicist. They meet in the pilot at a wedding, that of Jimmy’s ex-girlfriend/Gretchen’s best friend’s sister. Instead of celebrating the happy couple, Jimmy insults the bride and gets kicked out of the reception, where he runs into Gretchen, who is charmingly stealing a wedding gift.

From the very first moment, Gretchen and Jimmy have chemistry. They’re two awful people drawn to each other’s awfulness. At the end of their wild night, Jimmy settles down for bed, expecting Gretchen to go home. Instead, she turns over and promises to be out by the morning. There’s a blatant disregard for each other’s feelings, but it works because they’re not malicious. It’s a fine line to walk, making the characters relatable and likable while still exhibiting the worst parts of ourselves. It’s the least romantic rom-com I’ve ever seen and yet it’s also one of the most accessible relationships I’ve seen depicted.

Gretchen is a slob with a truly disgusting apartment, a revoked driver’s license, and an inability to please her parents. Jimmy is narcissistic, lacks empathy, and has a boatload of daddy issues.

Each of them has a sidekick, as well. For Jimmy it’s Edgar Quintero, an army veteran who struggles with PTSD and lives in Jimmy’s spare room. Gretchen’s is her best friend Lindsay who suffers a boring husband and monotonous life. Both of them are fully realized characters, but nothing makes you sympathize with them more than the moment they realize that they are the sidekicks in Jimmy and Gretchen’s lives. Even so, acting sometimes as foils of their friends, they have their own flaws and dickish behavior that makes you understand why they don’t abandon Jimmy and Gretchen once and for all.

We also have occassion to see one of Gretchen’s clients, a rapper named Sam Dresden who is DELIGHTFUL. He is crude, full of himself, and truly hilarious. He also has a keen eye for interior design. His entourage all have dumb names like Shitstain (he takes good instagram pics #nofilter) and Honey Nutz. When he realizes that Jimmy is dating Gretchen, he gives the other man a shovel talk.

What I’m saying is, this is a good show. It’s a funny show. It’s mean, but in a way that you absolutely can be when you’re with your friends. Basically, it shows the worst side of people whom you like despite their flaws. And it manages to do it in an amazingly funny way.

Highlight Reel of Awfulness

  • They steal a cat from a bookstore
  • Gretchen burns her apartment down because of a faulty “back massager”
  • Gretchen sleeps with an old flame just to steal his cocaine stash for her client
  • Jimmy only befriends his neighbor, a 9 year old boy, because he gets advanced copies of video games. Jimmy never remembers Killian’s name.
  • Jimmy and Gretchen believe that Cameron is the villain of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

WRITE Wednesday

WRITE Wednesday is a blog hop hosted by my dear friend Poppy Simeri and Vera James every Wednesday. As What’s Up, Wednesday has wrapped up, I’m excited to jump into this new feature! It will focus on writing & reading, regular blogging, and blog friendships.

W: Writing

I’m wrapping up the first round of edits on Delia this week so I can send them to some friends for initial critiques. I can’t believe I’ve managed to cut over 30,000 words already. (It was depressingly necessary.) But I’m more excited about the story than ever since it finally has some coherency. And just yesterday Poppy herself texted me about an exciting new writing project for us to work on together. It’s going to be fun and challenging and I’m already frantically brainstorming fun things to put into it.

R: Reading

I still haven’t finished my Great Harry Potter Re-read, but I have made it to the 7th book so. It’s on the horizon. I’m hoping to be done by September 1st so that I can have read them in one year.

I also just picked up City of Bones by Cassandra Clare on a couple of friends’ recommendation. I’m about five chapters in, and I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m not 100% sold, but it’s something I can read pretty quickly, so I’ll stick with it.

I: Inspiration

I’m inspired by good writing. Books that are so good I have to set them aside to write something of my own. Books that are so beautifully written I want to do yet another round of edits to make my writing stronger. Having author-crushes makes something warm bloom in my chest that pushes me to be better, better, better.

T: Thinking Ahead

Having these Delia edits done! Seeing what wonderful and terrifying and insightful notes my friends will have for me and how I’ll possibly manage to do them while balancing grad school.

E: Encouragement

Writing friendships and crit partners! Knowing there are people cheering for me that are excited about what I’m doing is the best inspiration to keep me writing. They especially help push me toward the finish line and make the best version of the book possible. I try my best to be my writer friends’ cheerleader as well, because they’re all so amazing and I am so amazed by how talented they are.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

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Cripes, I’ve been busy. Since the last time I’ve posted I feel like my life has gone from boring to stand-still to FULL THROTTLE. I can’t stop effusing about how happy I am and it’s such a great change, it feels so wonderful, that y’all are just going to have to deal with good-mood Molly.

Let’s see. I guess the last thing I mentioned about life changes was that I’d heard back from grad schools. I was fortunate to get in to every school that I applied to (all three of them), and I settled on Syracuse University where I am happily, besottedly studying Television, Radio, and Film. I’m half-way through the summer semester and head over heels in love with it.

Which means that since my lease in DC ended in May, I have moved twice. First was a short stint at my parents’ house back in Cleveland. It was nice to be home. I think being able to spend some quality time with my family and have some semblance of a summer vacation was the best thing I could have done for my mental health. Then, on the first of July, my Dad and I each packed up a car and I moved to Syracuse, the place that I’ll call home for the next year. My house is super cute, and I’m more than a little in love with the front porch. (I will admit to desperately missing air conditioning.)

Clocking in at eleven months, 160 pages, and 67,000 words, I finished the first draft of That Golf Story. Kate and Bailey kept convincing me to add more make-out scenes, but I am done! It feels great to have another manuscript under my belt and it’s given me a chance to really sit down and focus on editing Delia. I managed to shred the first half and really rebuild it. With 50 pages left to edit, I’ve already cut out 30,000 words. I’m hoping to get the rest done in time to send it to K & B by the end of the month for preliminary feedback.

Life is almost moving too quickly, but I’m loving every second of it. I’d managed to forget that productivity breeds productivity, so after having a quiet six weeks at my parents’ house, I’m getting an absurd amount of work done. Aside from my personal writing projects, I just revised a script that my production class and I will be turning into a short film over the next three weeks. I’ll also be starring in it!

I’ve never felt a closer kinship with my heroine Hermione Granger in my entire life. We’ve been sorted (into production teams), the class selection is so overwhelming I feel like I need a time-turner, my hand snaps into the air at every opportunity, and there’s even a castle-like building on (the surprisingly gorgeous) campus!

Also, I keep forgetting and then remembering that Aaron Sorkin went to school here, and I keep dying little happy deaths. I hope you, too, are having the best July of all time.

What’s Up, Wednesday? //10\\

Welcome back to WHAT’S UP WEDNESDAY,hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. To learn more about it, you should really visit their respective pages. I use it to keep me writing, to make myself think about writing, and to force myself to think positive and find things to look forward to.

What I’m Reading

Well, let’s see. As predicted, I cried my way through the last 50 pages of Code Name Verity. It was agonizingly beautiful and I already picked up Rose Under Fire from the library.

I’m almost done with Adverbs by Daniel Handler. I loved A Series of Unfortunate Events by Handler (written as Lemony Snicket) and I didn’t expect Adverbs to be the same, it’s an adult book after all. But I don’t love it the way I wanted to. The vignettes are all woven together with a common cast of characters, but none of them feel compelling. None of them feel fleshed out nor the world well-developed enough for me to really be hooked.

The Great Harry Potter re-read is still underway, and I’m currently working my way through Order of the Phoenix. I expect to sprint through the first four hundred pages and have to force myself to finish it. I’m not ready for that kind of emotional pain.

What I’m Writing

That Golf Story – I’m making some serious progress! Just about three chapters to go if all of my plotting and pacing in my outline is accurate. Everything’s coming together and it’s equally exciting and nerve-wracking because I’m not ready to let go of these characters yet. But only one more golf match to write (thankfully – you can only make them so interesting) and there are relationship developments happening between the main characters. It’s all coming together.

Delia – I’m trying to use the weekends to revise, but *insert panicked laughter here* oh boy is that difficult to dive into. So I’m still just trying to jigsaw the plot of the first half together, re-tooling character introductions and meet-cutes alike.

What Works for Me

Bribes. I’m not even kidding. Once, I put off writing a kissing scene for literally weeks until Kate bribed me with a bottle of wine to finish it. And now it’s not been explicitly stated or anything, but I really revel in it when Bailey and Kate send me positive feedback and general exclamation points as they read new chapters. It gets me excited to keep writing and to think of how they’ll react to what’s to come.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

I heard back from grad schools! I got in! The relief and joy have now taken a back-burner to my frantic list-making. I have a spreadsheet of pros and cons and costs and benefits for the two programs I’m seriously considering, so that’s been my main focus.

What’s Up, Wednesday? //9\\

Welcome back to WHAT’S UP WEDNESDAY,hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. To learn more about it, you should really visit their respective pages. I use it to keep me writing, to make myself think about writing, and to force myself to think positive and find things to look forward to.

What I’m Reading

I just finished The Wonder Boys. It was like reading a mid-life crisis.

Tonight I’m very excited to re-start Code Name Verity. I started it last summer and put a pin in it because, while I loved it, it had to go back to the library. Then, because I couldn’t bear to see the story disappear from my life, I bought a copy. Unfortunately it arrived right after I got distracted by my Great Book Marathon of 2014 when I got Unmade, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue and had to re-read all those series before I could sink my teeth into the new additions. But now I’m ready to start it again and give it the attention it deserves because I was so in love with it last summer and I can’t wait to revisit that feeling.

What I’m Writing

That Golf Story – Last night I finished up a super fun chapter for Bailey and Kate. I can’t wait for them to read it for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I know something about how the chapter ends that they don’t. Making them wait for the next chapter will be really fun for me to torture them with.

Delia – I think I might implement a system where I force myself to revise a chunk of Delia for every chapter of TGS that I finish. Since there aren’t that many chapters of TGS left to be written, this might be a good ramp-up to the serious revision this story needs.

What Works for Me

I’d been using Google Docs to work on my WIP while away from my laptop and it was fine. Sometimes it got laggy, but on the whole it was good. My problem was actually that I kept my outline and draft in the same document and it felt cluttered. Last week I switched to using Celtx as my browser platform and I really like it. It feels cleaner and more efficient than GDocs. I also like that I can insert chapter breaks that correspond to a handy navigator. I’d only used Celtx for screenplays in the past, but it’s really easy to use and I’ve been really productive since switching to it.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Despite having the cold from hell last week, Friday was a great day! I woke up from a nap to an email that notified me of my acceptance to grad school!!! Immediately after, my roommate invited me to go see Jupiter Ascending (which was a-mah-zing), and on the way to the theater we stopped at a book store so I could finally get my hands on a copy of VE Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic.

I’m also obsessively refreshing the Classic Alice indiegogo page. Please donate if you can!