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.

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Birthday Anxiety

I actually made realistic New Year’s Resolutions this year, and one of them was to blog at least once every month. Technically, I have. I’ve posted many, many times this month to Off Color TV, but not here. And when I made the resolution, it was with this blog in mind, so here we go.

I recently had a birthday. It wasn’t a seminal birthday, I didn’t hit a milestone, it didn’t feel like a big deal. The biggest change, really, is that there will no longer be a Taylor Swift anthem with which to associate.

But the whole week or two leading up to my birthday made me incredibly anxious, anyway. I had to really sit down and think about why, but I think, eventually, I came up with the reason. I’m terrible at making decisions. Rather, I’m terrible at making a decision if it could affect another person in any way, shape, or form. Like, never ask me where we should go to dinner.

I’ve never really been a person who celebrated their birthday. I think I’ve had two actual birthday parties in my life? Maybe three. And I think there are a few reasons why. One is that I’m a pretty low-key person. I can talk and talk, but I don’t really love being the center of attention. When my friend texted me to ask what my plans were for my birthday I said that I wasn’t sure because I don’t know how to celebrate myself. It took an hour for the truth of that statement to sink in. I really don’t. I don’t know how to really splurge on myself. I don’t want for that much and anything too big seems excessive. I don’t know how to ask for a birthday party because I don’t want to put other people out. I don’t want to be an inconvenience.

Which is… a thing I have. I don’t know. I’m insecure and have low self-worth sometimes. It happens. And it’s dumb because I have so many friends that would be willing to celebrate with me that that’s almost an inconvenience in and of itself. What a hard life, right? God, I hate even complaining because I’m so lucky to have all of these friends but there’s too many friend groups and no good way for them all to mix and I’m coming back from a brutal bout of illness that I’m 90% is mono and I’m just tired.

I don’t want to make a decision.

In the end, I didn’t really. That same friend that texted me about my plans took the reins. She asked me what I wanted (margaritas, maybe Mexican food), and picked a restaurant, gathered the troops and led the charge. It was just what I needed.

In the end, I had a pretty great birthday. I got to see a ton of my friends, including a few who happened to be in town for the long weekend. I got to go to some delicious meals, laugh a lot, watch Studio 60, and my friends gave me some thoughtful gifts (I now own ALL of the fox stuff, you guys. It’s wonderful). And then work was cancelled due to snow, extending the already-long weekend.

Just because my birthday and the weekend went well didn’t erase my anxiety surrounding my birthday, or planning parties in general. In those situations, I’d rather be someone’s second in command, helping them make decisions and execute plans, than having to hold the mantle alone. But a lot of my anxiety was assuaged simply because I had people to share my birthday with. It was realizing that a lot of the anxiety I was feeling came down to me not wanting to be alone, not wanting to think that people wouldn’t want to spend time with me. And I am so, so grateful that they all took time out from their lives for me. That’s what really made the day special.

Fantasy Christmas List

It’s mid-December and I still don’t have a real Christmas list cobbled together, so I thought I’d give you a peek into my fantasy wish list. All of them would be pretty much guaranteed to improve my quality of life, albeit to varying degrees. I’m going to start from the most realistically do-able and move to the more farfetched and fantastical.

  1. The ability to save gifs as phone/computer backgrounds. It is 2013. This seems like the most reasonable request I could make. Soundhound/Grooveshark can exist but this can’t? I think not. I would really like to be able to have a folder of gifs consisting entirely of foxes and Dylan O’Brien that would constantly rotate. This would improve my mood by at least 66% every day, I’m sure. How could I not smile like a loon every time I checked my phone? It would be impossible.
  2. Implantable microchip medical records (e.g. allergies, pre-existing conditions, medications, etc.) Update via wifi or bluetooth or something. I’m sure science could make it happen. Doctors could just scan and go. This would be so overwhelmingly convenient and would save so many lives. It’s ridiculous. Getting hold of medical records in emergency situations can be entirely too difficult between incapacitated patients and frantic EMTs. Realistically, this would probably be mostly used in first world countries, but the global impact is too great to ignore.
  3. Closets like Cher Horowitz’s in Clueless. Seriously, I don’t have time to mix and match the perfect every day for work. It’d be pretty great if I could get a computer to do that for me. It’d be even better if the closet came pre-loaded with clothes I would be guaranteed to like that were also flattering, but that might be a bit of a stretch.
  4. Videoscreen showers. Not, like, a TV in your shower as I’m pretty sure those already exist. Even I think that’s excessive. More like tiles that display images/video. How cool would it be to be in your shower but be in a forest? Or a beach? I don’t know, whatever you find tranquil.
  5. Enchanted windows a la the Ministry of Magic. Imagine being able to set the weather to your mood. My office workspace is in a walled-in area with no natural light. It makes me kind of crazy. And there’s nothing I love more than watching rain/snow, so this should just be a thing already.
  6. Moving tattoos. Listen. I want a tattoo, but what I really want is a moving tattoo. I read an article about a guy with a gif tattoo, which sounds cool, in theory, but then you have to watch it on your phone and I think that kind of defeats the purpose, you know? I don’t want to have to use a phone to see my tattoo. I want it there, on my person. Moving. Preferably to my moods. Like, if I’m restless and I had a fox tattoo it would pace or stamp its foot. Or if I were sleepy it would curl up and take a nap. I just think this would be adorable and awesome.

Basically I just want magic to be real.

I don’t hate my job…

but I don’t love it. This week marks the 3-month anniversary of me being hired, and the end of my probationary period. The end of the probationary period really just means that I can start accruing paid time off at an entry-level rate. And so, with these 90 days of experience behind me, I’ve been thinking a lot about this job and what I want for my future.

It’s weird to think that this is the point I’ve been working towards all my life. Entering the work-force – the one comprised of adults, those working full-time that have to commute and dress in business casual clothes instead of a uniform, those that aren’t simply filling the seasonal employment void – was the first thing I wasn’t prepared for, even though life up to this point was on on-ramp for success. Merging proved to be the difficulty, as it always has been for me. Am I going fast enough? Too fast? What if I cut someone off? What if I fuck up and wreck? I worried about everything that could go wrong, had contingency plans for contingency plans, but I never really stopped to think about what life would be like when everything went right.

Getting a college education was the first step. Years of indoctrination in public schools had prepared me for the classes; I knew I could handle the homework. Making new friends terrified me, but living with people I had already vetted via Facebook helped. I could handle living in a new city because I was ready to leave my hometown. The thought of only seeing my parents on a sporadic basis was difficult, but it’s not like we couldn’t call each other, and email, and videochat. And when it came time to graduate, well, I’d seen friends do it; I braced myself for how difficult it could be to find a roommate, to find an apartment, to be able to afford an apartment, to find jobs to apply for whose descriptions didn’t sound completely awful and like something I might like to spend my life doing. Everybody told me about the importance of internships and a good resume, GPA and references.

But no one really told me about the shift from the academic life to the ‘real world’. Graduating and getting a job didn’t suddenly change my perspective on life, the universe, and everything. My life isn’t that different – I have the same friends, I drink the same alcohol, I go to the same places, I can only make the same dozen basic dishes.

I always knew that waking up five days a week at 7am was going to be a bit of a problem. I’ll own that I still hit snooze four times before rolling out of bed 10 minutes before I need to leave for work. (I shower, pick out my outfit, and pack my lunch the night before.) I still struggle to go to bed before midnight. But I make it work.

The thing I wasn’t prepared for wasn’t finding the balance of business and casual to get ‘business casual’. It wasn’t the commute, or using a Windows computer, or drinking coffee regularly.

The thing I wasn’t prepared for is how mundane my day can be. The rote tasks, the vaguely uncomfortable swivel chair, the lack of natural light – I never knew how much I liked natural light until I was put in a walled-off office space, with my dual-monitors and fluorescent lights as my only sources of illumination.

In preparation for my 90-day evaluation, my coworker mentioned that my boss is considering the possibility that I’ll keep this job and work through library school and work here indefinitely. But I don’t think that’s what I want. This was a position with which I was familiar from my work-study experience and knew I could do well. I expressed interest in the field, knowing full well that in a year or two I’d want to leave to pursue a Master’s degree, potentially in the Library and Info realm. But it was never definite. And the more time I spend here, the more I’m sure that, even if I do end up with an MLIS, I don’t want to work in law again. I’ve seen the reference requests and they don’t pique my interest. To me, they aren’t something I think I would find fulfilling.

 

The other day I was told that my paid time off (PTO) accrual between now and the end of the year would be 6.5 days. The PTO at my office covers vacation, sick, and personal days. And it wasn’t until I realized I’d only have 6.5 days available for my use that I realized how badly I want to go home and visit. I didn’t realize how badly I wanted to go home until I figured out that I don’t know when the next time I’ll be able to is. I realized that I have to sacrifice going home for Christmas because, what with the way the calendar worked out this year, Christmas is the only day I get off. Most likely, I will go for longer than a year without seeing most of my extended family.

I realize that I kind of want to quit. Even though I’ve only surrendered a few times in my life I start thinking ‘is this even worth it?’. And I know it is. I know this job I don’t like is paying for that apartment I really do. This job is the thing that’s keeping me surrounded by friends instead of living at home with my parents (where, let’s be honest, I’d be way more miserable than I am now). And really, and I know this – not even deep down, but superficially! – my job isn’t bad. I like it.

I know that this job is a stop-gap. It’s giving me the time to decide what I want to pursue for my Master’s degree and will give me a bit of a financial cushion when I do take that plunge. It’s giving me time to write, paying me a better salary than I expected, getting me out of the apartment five days a week. So I need to suck it up. And I will. It’s just taking some adjustments.

I Made History… Kind Of?

Last week I admit that I was facing a bit of a conundrum, dear readers. I was all ready to ask  for your input. It was the night before President Obama’s 2nd Inaugural and I just couldn’t decide whether or not I should go. For regular visitors, you’ll know that I am a staunch supporter of Obama. And for that alone I wanted to witness his second inauguration. But there are a few things that made the decision difficult.

1) Obama’s actual second Inauguration took place on Sunday the 20th, in a private ceremony. See, the thing is, since the date of Presidential inaugurations changed from mid-March to the 20th of January, swearing-in ceremonies typically don’t happen on Sundays. Therefore, the official ceremony happened on Sunday in the White House, and the President was simply upholding tradition by having a secondary ceremony on Monday. Did I really want to go see a ‘fake’ ceremony?

2) I’d have to get up at the ass-crack of dawn. I’m a college student, okay? I value my sleep. It is precious to me like little else. Did I really want to be up not at but before 6am on Monday to haul my ass to the National Mall.

2-a) Even if I got myself up and awake before 6am, I still didn’t have an actual ticket to the Inauguration ceremony. The best I could hope for was a prime location in front of a jumbo-tron.

So I guess my dilemma was this: Get up and see the ‘fake’ ceremony just because I could? I mean, I’ll admit that I’m lucky to be living in the nation’s capital. That’s not the question. Rather did I want to bother to get myself up and out of bed to trek the 8 blocks to watch the ceremony on a jumb0-tron or do I watch it from the comfort of my couch? To hike down to the parade route or watch from the window? Go to the Mall for the ceremony AND the parade or do I go for one or another?

I know by now you’re all dying to know so I’ll fess up: I went. I woke up at 6am, layered on an obscene amount of clothing, zipped into my boots and walked. And walked. And walked. And then, just when I was really excited to be done with all the walking, I got to stand around for a few hours. I’m sorry – did I say a few? I meant five hours. In the cold.

And yes, whatever, the ceremony was nice. Yeah, sure, I got to ‘witness history’. And, okay, I admit, I almost cried at three separate points during Obama’s speech. And only 2 people near me needed us to shout for the medic. And I had a good view and our jumbo-tron stopped malfunctioning by the time the ceremony started. But damn did my feet hurt later. Seven hours in boots was not my best idea, I’ll admit. But you know what was a worse idea? The mile walk I made in heels later that night.

Yup, that’s right. Later that night I donned a ball gown and strap myself into high heels and walked a mile to a fancy dinner before cabbing (thankfully) to my university’s Inaugural Ball. The blisters, they were ugly. My feet, they were pained. But dammit I looked pretty and I had a nice time. It was way too crowded, and drinks were way too expensive, and there were too many ballrooms (I kept getting turned around), but it was fun. And I guess now I know what I was missing when I decided not to go to prom.

In Which I Apologize Profusely for having been Absent from the Blogosphere

Seeing as how I have once again been MIA from my blog for awhile, I thought I’d ease us all back into things. Slow and steady, no? So we’re just going to play catch-up. Last I posted, I wrote about my time in Dublin. Wow, that seems like forever ago. So much has happened over the last two and a half months (has it really been that long since I’ve posted? I’m the worst), so here’s the quick and dirty:

December:

  • I returned to the States! I finished my time abroad and flew into DC to hang out with my friends at GW during their reading week. This was really important to me since a lot of my friends are now abroad. Visiting in December was my only real opportunity to see them before our Senior Year started. Waiting that long to see all of my wonderful friends just wasn’t going to cut it so I did what made sense – I came to DC for a visit. We watched the requisite winter movie Love, Actually. We watched political debates. We ate peppermint bark. We went out to dinner. We reconnected.
  • I visited family. No matter what, winter break is a time for me to visit family. I managed to squeeze trips to both Michigan and New York out of my four week break. I hung out with my cousins, ate amazing Polish food, hit the outlet malls, cleaned out my grandparent’s kitchen, drove through Allegheny National Forest. It was a grand ole time.

January:

  • I watched my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide trounce LSU. I made caramel corn during half time and wore my Roll Tide t-shirt.
  • I moved back to DC and into my new dorm. I’ve been really busy with school and work, and spending time with my friends (none of whom live in the same building as myself) but I like my room well enough. It’s tiny and doesn’t have enough storage space, but it’ll do for a home away from home until May.
  • I celebrated a birthday! It was really low-key, but I was with my friends, and that’s all that matters. We ate chocolate-covered cheesecake. Need I say more?
  • Band started up again! I basically spend all of my time with them, bouncing between Symphonic Band and pep band rehearsals and basketball games, but it’s always fun. We have traditions and inside jokes and a lot of love for each other. It’s wonderful.

February:

  • Celebrated the first annual Alan Rickmas. What is that, you may ask? The Sunday before Alan Rickman’s birthday you get together with a bunch of your friends and day-drink while watching Alan Rickman movies. This year we watched Nobel Son, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Galaxy Quest, Love Actually, and Die Hard. It’s a grand day that we hope to replicate for years to come.

Can’t you see I’ve been super busy? I hope y’all understand why I haven’t been posting. I’m also taking a creative writing class this semester which is taking a lot of writing focus. So is my recapping duty over at Off Color TV for Parks and Recreations. You can find my posts here.

In my free time (when not hanging out with friends, obviously) I’ve been trying to catch up on all of my TV watching. I’m floundering to keep up with my regular shows week-to-week, but I’ve managed to watch all of Party Down (loved it so much; can’t wait for the movie), and have worked my way into season 4 of Supernatural (enjoying it a lot).

Trying to spend more time reading because I feel like I’ve been neglecting my books. I’m halfway through the third Hitchhiker’s Guide book. I finished Downtown Owl, finally. I just purchased Bossypants and The Hunger Games to reread over spring break and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? because I love and admire Mindy Kaling.

Nothing too exciting is in my near future. I’ve been applying to summer jobs/internships so that I can (hopefully) stay in DC over the summer. I’m impatiently awaiting March 23rd because I just want to see the Hunger Games already and… Guys. I have a lot of feelings about this book. Expect a post about it in the near future. Suffice it to say for the time being that I’m in need of a good cry and the dam’s going to break when I see that movie. I’ve already warned the friends I’m going to see it with (midnight premiere, what-what?). I plan on packing lots and lots of tissues.

Have a listen to one of my favorite songs from Brighton, which I’ve been told is finally starting to be popular Stateside. Just remember, I heard/liked it first.

The Late Autumn / Cold Weather Mixtape

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it’s practically winter. In two days I depart the relatively balmy temperatures of the UK for the frozen tundra that is America. As much as I’m looking forward to my return across the pond, I’m not looking forward to the cold. Despite the fact that it currently sounds like there’s a hurricane raging across campus, I have not yet embraced the deep chill I am sure will greet me when my plane lands in DC on Saturday. So, instead, I will finally post my autumn playlist. While I’m still in a place where the temperature hovers in the low 50s.

Use this playlist when you’re curled up in front of the fire on a cold night. Listen to it when you want to drown out the storm that’s raging outside your window. Put it on in the background as you work on your novel or while you’re writing love letters. Listen to it when you’re driving through the countryside, in the warm confines of your car. Listen to it on the bus, on the train, on the way home to your family for the holidays. Listen to it as you wind down from the stress of finals. Use it to keep calm in the face of family drama once you’ve been reunited.

Radical Face: Welcome Home

Bon Iver: Holocene

Mumford & Sons: Timshel

Of Monsters and Men:

Fleet Foxes: He Doesn’t Know Why

Deas Vail: Desire

Black Keys: Ten Cent Pistol

Dry the River: New Ceremony

The Shins: Young Pilgrims

The Dodos: Walking

Wilco: Handshake Drugs

Damien Jurado: Ohio

Florence & the Machine: What the Water Gave Me

Radiohead:  Reckoner

And relegated to Honorable Mentions position because it doesn’t have any video links:

  • Crush: I Look Good