Saturday, July 21, 2012

David and Monika's Polish/Greek Wedding

When my girlfriend Monika invited me to her wedding in Poland to her Greek husband David, she completely undersold the event in her typical, calm yet smiling style. She summarily said, "We plan for one bottle of vodka per person." What more do I need to know?

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The wedding cake was cut sometime after 1 am.

I didn't ask a lot of questions about it because it didn't matter, I had to find a way to go. We were invited to Poland, and then after the wedding, to Greece for more cultural experiences. There was just one little detail to figure out: what to do with my charming 2 year old while I jaunt across Europe for 2.5 weeks? I spent several months looking at travel itineraries and running through scenarios with my husband. It wasn't going to be easy, but I thought I could make it work and bring Liam along if Liam's grandma would come along. I will blog more later about traveling with a toddler and why I did it.

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We were shuttled to the wedding in a double decker bus. Liam wouldn't put his clothes on so we got on the bus with a naked child. I practice the whatever it takes style of parenting.

Getting to Poland was going to be complicated, we had to fly 10 hours to Amsterdam (oh hey, my friend Judith lives in the Netherlands! We should stop and see her, but that's yet another blog!) and then a 2 hour flight to Warsaw. Long story short, a storm in Warsaw caused flight delays and Eurocup madness added to the trouble so we flew into another town, Katowice, and drove all day to get to the wedding rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding.

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In case you haven't looked at a map of Europe recently.


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Hey my legs look great in this photo from the rehearsal dinner. Check me out! ;-)

The wedding wasn't until 5pm the next day, so I had a while to pull myself together but it didn't help. We had a power converter but couldn't get hair dryers or straighteners to work on full power. My eyes were puffy and red from jet lag, my skin was breaking out because it was hot and I was stressed, and my hair was a frizzy, wavy mess from the humidity. Girl problems. Thank goodness I wasn't the bride, who looked so stunning, I wanted to cry when I saw her.

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A prettier princess does not exist

My friend Monika is an impressive lady, as you can see, but even more so because she came to the US on a swimming scholarship and was able to get a masters degree while holding down a relationship with David, who lived in Seattle at the time, so Moni was shuttling back to forth from Oregon to Washington on the weekends while getting an MBA and working in the same office as I do. Upon graduation, she turned an internship at HP into a full time job in a down economy. She's smart, tough, and embodies grace under pressure. If you ask me about Monika after I've been drinking, I will tell you a whole lot more about her, I really can't say enough, and I have huge respect and love for my friend. David is a lucky and wise man to have chosen her as his wife. Plus, she's really fun which is enough for me in the first place.

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Meat, cake, vodka. What more do you want? Nothing! We're happy!

Finally, the wedding. It was held in a catholic church in Lublin (no photos in the church please) and then we took the charming double decker bus back to her hometown Swidnik for the reception. We were greeted by tables packed with amazing food. Then, they started serving the "formal" dinner which was something like 4 main dishes served throughout the night, the reception was to last until the next morning.

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We sat down to eat but little Liam was called to duty. The DJ had disco lights going, something my little boy had never seen before. The music and lights spoke to him, and before I could snag him, he ran through the tables to the dance floor and started doing something that looked like break dancing and everyone in the place had a full view of him. And me, trying to control him while wearing a totally non-mom-like dress and heels. Enjoy your dinner folks, I'm just going to try to herd my fun loving but slightly out of control child outdoors.

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Kiss each other and drink vodka, that's what I got out of this moment.

Meanwhile, my mom is back at the table enjoying the amazing food which is made all that much better by Moni's cousins who kept refilling my Mom's shot glass with vodka. By the time I made it back with Liam, she had 4 shots ("I didn't know how to say no!") and she was looking very happy. Meanwhile, I'm sweating, stressed, and not sure if Liam's fun is causing a cultural conflict since it is a somewhat formal dinner. Liam broke free again while Moni and David were trying to have their first dance together and I think Liam was trying to cut in on David. It could have been funny, or it could have been disrespectful, I wasn't sure what Polish people thought about kids. 

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Since it was already 8 pm, I thought it was a good time for grandma to take Liam back to the hotel so mommy could focus on the wedding and have some fun with the childless people. Nostrodamous! Oh, is that not how you say cheers here? It sounds like that to a drunk American.


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This bottle says "Drink Vodka for Maximum Hangover"

If there is one thing I can tell you about the Polish people, in general, is that they don't mess around honey. There is a long, not so cheerful history in this country, and if you see a Polish person walking down the street, you might think, these people are a little stoic. Serious looking. Take driving, for instance, you are stopped at  a red light, then the light flashes yellow, alerting you green is coming so you can get your foot on the gas because these people don't mess around, they have to go somewhere and they aren't going to wait one more second. GO!

Then you stop at a gas station and find it outfitted with a full automatic espresso machine and nice looking snacks. Because they drink good coffee and eat good food here. Then you go to the hotel and she's offering you an espresso, or a gelato, or some cake, and No you cannot pay for it, she's giving it to you. And she won't let you pay for anything. 

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Caleb putting pantyhose on over his pants, of course,
because that's how you roll at a Polish wedding.

Then you go to a crazy Polish wedding, and these people are going to drink the place dry, feed you more food then you can eat in a week, and play music and dance all night long because the Polish people aren't messing around. I told you, Cheers! Or Nostrodamous! I mean Na zdrowie! I'll get there. I love it here. Poland is an amazing revelation. 

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Just guessing that Colin and I are feeling no pain right about now.

The best thing about traveling like this, when a group of people is involved, is meeting other adventurous people. People who are down for fun. These are my people, not full time of course, I'm not that energetic, but I love people who seek out life's adventures. 

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This is Florian and Agata. They met in Oregon where Agata was a swimmer with Moni and he was going to school. He's Dutch, but he sounds like he's Californian, where they live now. Florian loves Polish weddings, which is a very good thing since Agata is Polish and they are slightly in love with each other. At the reception, they had traditions an American would recognize, like tossing the bouquet (Agata caught it) and the garter (Florian caught it) so now they get to dance together in front of everyone, wearing flippers on their feet.

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The game part of the wedding was a blast, probably because I'm a married old hag and didn't have to participate. At one point, there was a race and two guys had to chew up and swallow a bunch of breadcrumbs, apparently a horrible thing to have to do based on the look on their faces. Like eating sand when you are drunk. Fun!!!

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Then we had the Greek part of the wedding, with lots of hand holding and dancing, and kicking and running around in circles. It was a blast. Then, the most universal thing happened. The freaking chicken song came on and the dance floor was flooded with people doing the chicken dance. The what? You know, the squatting, clucking, plucking, whatever it is you are supposed to do, that you thought was some horrible, corny thing only done at cheesy American weddings, oh no. It's international and they are loving it.

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The lovely couple in a rare quiet moment.

This Polish wedding makes an American wedding look like a snooze fest, sorry Americans, but most of you are trying to figure out how quickly you can get out of a wedding reception without offending. A Polish wedding is a commitment for everyone involved, because you are going to be up all night and you aren't going to feel good the next day. Or the next week if things go right.

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I left sometime after they served borsct, or beet soup, which seems like a wonderful way to cure whatever ails you. It was approaching 4 am and I was drunk and had a toddler to go home to, not a good place to be. There was another party the next day, to help clean up the reception hall. I couldn't make it, I couldn't even talk. All I could do is grunt, sleep, and drink water. I said goodbye to a few people who were leaving the hotel and that was the extent of my socialization. This is where grandma became the quarterback and entertained Liam for the day while mommy suffered.

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Erika, Monika, and Cheri, my girls, minus Heather, who was home and about to give birth so we gave her a pass this time.

I expected the hangover so it didn't feel like a big loss to me. The next day was Monday and we visited Monika's family's house and picked up Cheri to go to Warsaw for some sightseeing. I had reservations at a swank hotel and we were armed with a guidebook and GPS so it was time to roll... up next: Warsaw and the naked guy at pool.

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Moni with her swimmer friends from OSU. 

Friday, June 01, 2012

When the right person says the right thing

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My first painting, "Fertile Flowers" inspired by my strong friend, Kirsten

I have been fortunate in many ways, and less fortunate in some others, but to be less general and get to the point before the story gets long, because when I talk, the story gets long, I turn 40 this year and I have finally figured something out that I think is a revelation for me and where I need to go, and I hope you can learn from it too:

Get over it.

Yes, you. Me, everyone, we all hold on to memories and stories about ourselves that we are convinced are true and that we think define us and blah blah blah. There is a time to move on and get a new story. Please allow me to clarify:

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"Marching Soldiers" inspired by my hilarious friend, Gayle who observed the clouds coming to Spokane as soldiers marching in.

One of the ways I have been fortunate, is to allow people in my life to have an effect on me. Twelve years ago, a much respected co-worker told me I was too much. I had been getting attention at work for successfully implementing a project in a short time frame. I was taking vocal lessons with the intention of performing with a band, and I had just started competing in triathlons. The respected co-worker, truly a beacon of light who everyone respected, stopped at my desk one day at lunch and found me fiddling with a 35 mm camera, I was intending to go take photos of nearby trees that caught my eye. She had no malice in her voice, I think just she blurted out exactly what she was thinking, "You are TOO much!"

Those words hit me like a punch from Mike Tyson. And I still hear those words today, but from different voices, and in the look in people's eyes when I reveal some new hobby I am exploring. This hurt me so much that I have minimized my passion, lied to myself, held myself back, and started and stopped so many things that my life has been a meandering journey ever since the day she said that.

Ten years later, I found myself in a haze of postpartum depression, staring at a community college adult learning schedule looking for painting classes.  I needed something, something important to shake up my malaise, to challenge myself, to stop hiding from the fact that I AM A CREATIVE PERSON. I am shouting because the bullshit story I had been telling myself was that I can't draw, I'm not artistic, and that the universe was telling me to stay away from who I really am. Hide yourself, you hideous beast.

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"Autumn Welcome" inspired by Manito Park and my husband who moved to Spokane for me and went to the trouble of loving it here like I do.

And then I met Kathleen Cavendar. In a down economy, one of the top artists in our region was offering painting classes to help pay her expenses. In a few painting lessons Kathleen helped me see that I needed to stop abusing myself with these BS stories I was telling myself. Here is what she said:

"Everything you do, from singing, to writing, to painting, to screen printing, to running, they all inform each other. Writing improves painting, running improves writing, they all come together to inform your creativity."

With those words, I finally became whole. The phrase jack of all trades, master of none, is used to abuse people like me, people who are driven to explore. I appreciate those on the journey to mastery, it is something to marvel at, but I am not one of those. I like to read two books at a time, train in 3 sports, eat different foods, challenge myself in different artistic mediums, drink beer and wine and... I have a love of life!

But all the things I do, they are taking me somewhere.

And it is with love and appreciation for all the wonderful people in my life that I say this:

When someone says something to you that hurts, when the universe tries to knock you down, take the lesson, and then get over it. There are things I cannot tell you, things that hurt me deeply that I won't write down for perpetuity out of respect for the people involved, but trust me when I say: everyone has been knocked down at a critical point in their life. It's time to move on. Let your friends love you, and let those who care a little less for you move on. 

Thank you Kathleen Cavendar, for being amazing. Your heart and creativity are a gift to everyone who meets you. You say that when you tell people you are a musician and a painter, that people only ask about the music. I will always ask about you as a friend.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Centennial Trail mile 0 - 4 in Idaho now!

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Where have all the blue skies gone?

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The goal I set back in August was to run from west end of the Spokane Centennial Trail all the way to the eastern end in Idaho before the weather got too extreme for outside running. My tipping point is below 20 degrees and you can't predict when that type of weather is going to hit so I had to keep at it if I was going to get this done.

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We were having a mild enough winter so far, a little bit of snow and temps in the 30s-40s. Perfectly good running weather. No excuses, let's get it on! Unfortunately the doors were locked at the state line rest stop bathrooms so I was in search of some bushes or trees with coverage, all I got were these fancy trees, putting on a show with their fall colors.

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I found a suitable spot right before mile one and the highway section, of course, there was a porta-potty right up the road from here.

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OK, I have to be honest, I was starting get a little grumpy about this Idaho section. The trail was no longer following the river, instead it was bordering the freeway. The trees were gone. Nature was sparse.

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This is not my idea of great trail building. I had been spoiled by the Spokane section and since Coeur d'Alene is such a lovely little town, I had high expectations for Idaho.

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This section got away from the highway but there were run down trailers next to the trail instead. Right about here, some beast of a dog came running toward me from one of the trailers, gave me a hearty snoooorch and then went after my dog. Luckily, I had used those bushes earlier.

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I'm not too far from Lake Coeur d'Alene, so I'll just have to tough it out until I get to the lake. Just keep running...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Centennial Trail miles 6-1

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This day was one of THOSE days, the kind where you look out the window at the last sunny day in the forecast, and desperately search your schedule for time to get outside and run.

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I had to get outside. I asked Liam's sitter to work longer and to drive me to the drop off and pick up points so I could soak up the last bit of sunshine and warmth before winter hit.

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It was worth it. So many people I talk to about using babysitters act like its a crime to pay someone to watch your kid(s) to get a workout in. Ridiculousness! It was one hour, my son got to run around outside in the sun with his buddy (the sitter's son) and mommy got what she needed. The world would be a better place if all mommies ran on sunny days.

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Four miles to the border to Idaho, I'm going to make it today!

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This part of the trail starts to near I-90 so you start to get the noise of the freeway. Not my favorite section although just up ahead I have a great memory of Bill trying to cross a low section of the trail after a rainy day on his bike... he came home with 2 wet feet but I turned around. Winning is in the eye of the beholder when you are married.

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At least the Spokane River is on the other side of the trail. Doing these runs has made me appreciate this lovely river. Thank you Centennial Trail designers.

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3-2-...

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This section needs a little TLC. Must be an old road.

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One mile left to the border and there is my child. Next time mommy. We'll cross the border next time.

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My kiddo loves to run like his mommy and it was a great day to get out. This effort has been so worth it. It was fun to run in new places, to challenge myself to get out when it wasn't convenient, and to stick with it even though it took longer to get done then I originally thought. Goals, no matter how small, are motivators. When you have a toddler to fill up your heart and your schedule, you need a little motivation to do something good for yourself. Up next: the border crossing, what will Idaho bring?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Centennial Trail miles 10-6

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Mile marker 10 is about 3/4 of a mile from the Mirabeau Park trail head which is pretty heavily used year round. Its near the Valley YMCA so we try to ride our bikes on the trail here to swim in the summer. This is a lovely section of the trail and I have a lot of nice scenes in my memory from these miles.

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The trail here passes behind the valley mall and around mile marker 9 you can actually smell Krispy Kreme doughnuts which sits just above the trail. You can't see it, but you can smell it. I like to take Liam there occasionally when we are out riding bikes (he in the bike trailer still) as a diversion. He licks the "chalk-it" frosting off a doughnut and we share some milk and get back on the trail. I love sharing little things like that with my little love, the small things are absolute joy.

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I'm behind on blogging but I remember this day, we had been following Ironman Hawaii online and when we left the house the pros had started the run. I was thinking about Raelart trying to catch Crowie and my pace kept picking up as I thought about it. I have an active imagination which is one reason why I don't run with an iPod. 

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Daddy, baby, doggy running the other way. Mommy got some time to herself. So bittersweet. Bill drops me off at the start and then runs the other direction while I run toward the car to go get him. Or he does an out and back and runs with me which means I have to pick up the pace to impress him. More bittersweet.

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The miles are ticking by, we have to pick it up though so we can catch the end of the Ironman race online.

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Something to meditate on. Bumps in the road, all smoothed out.

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Never in such a hurry that I can't enjoy a good view.

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Blue sky, dry grass, pine trees, and the Centennial Trail. That's how I will remember this summer.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween with a 2 year old

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There's this thing about 2 year olds, they are incredibly entertaining and charming while being nightmarish and mind numbing all at the same time. Example: I bought the DVD "Rio" for Liam a few weeks ago and he will watch nothing else. He will point at the TV, all hours of the day, and say "PB! Birdies! Watch! On!"

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Halloween presented a problem for me, I had to make a costume for someone who only wants to wear his "Cars" jammies. Inspired by Liam's new obsession with birdies, I bought a glue gun and a feather boa and hoped for the best. "Rio" features a pair of blue macaws and several obnoxious songs that are constantly looping in my head so I had no trouble envisioning a costume while singing "Everybody loves samba, the music is wild and free..."

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For his costume, I made a blue fleece hat and glued felt circles on for the eyes. At one point, hot glue got on my finger while I was gluing the eyes on and I whipped my hand around while my skin burned off, losing the felt eye in the process. We searched everywhere for it but didn't find it until bed time when I noticed it was stuck to the side of the dog.

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I made the birdie tail out of felt, pipe cleaners, and feathers. I made a belt out of felt and a buckle I had around and then did my best to convince Liam to put it on by dancing around in it myself.

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Liam at Kindermusik class with the other toddlers on 10/31/11.


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After Kindermusik, we had a quick dinner and then took Liam around the neighborhood to trick or treat. He  picked it up amazingly fast, funny how that is. He kept saying, "More punkins!" as we went from house to house. When we got home, he had to show us all of the treats, one at a time, and then show us again. He didn't eat any of them, if he remembers tomorrow, we'll let him have one. He likes a little "Chalk-it". So does mommy and daddy bird.