29 November 2009

There's no use crying...

...over spilt coffee!
So, I'm sure at least some of you are familiar with the phrase, "no use crying over spilt milk." Well, I would never do that because I don't really like milk to begin with. The only thing it's actually good for is coffee and cooking. Technically, I spilt the milk that was inside my coffee, yet I was beyond crying at that point because my list of mis-haps had gotten so long, that I laughed and headed for a camera instead.
(I'll explain the glass jar inside the coffee cup later)
Have you ever had a day like that? Where everything just seems to go wrong? Well, I've had a series of them and thought I would share some of them with you and a little of what I have learned thus far. Hopefully you will get a chuckle out of most of them. For those of you who really know me, know this is normal. Those of you who know me only through Poland have been somehow spared from my clumsiness so far. (until Thanksgiving, that was)

Happy Birthday: Joshua's birthday (my bro) was Nov 14 and I called to wish him a happy birthday only to get his voicemail. I started into the song and got through "Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you...." and totally blanked on the words. All I could remember after that was monkey and too...not gonna call him that. Who forgets the words to Happy Birthday!?

Pumpkin Pie Party: We were going to start at 4 and the first people showed up at 5. Lots said they would come and then a number of them ended up sick. Sad! We still had a lot of fun - just a lot later than expected! Just one thing on top of others that didn't go as planned.

The Rotten Egg: My first and hopefully last experience ever! It was my turn to make Sunday lunch - and I decided to make quiche. It's easy, right? Got to the 5th of 6 eggs and it was ROTTEN. It squirted and landed on my upper arm, running completely down it, while the rest ran through my fingers and the crushed shell ruining the other eggs already in the bowl. With the overwhelming smell, no more eggs and quite grossed out I threw it away, opened the window washed off, etc. and ran out the door down to the bazaar for fresh eggs and finished making the pie filling where we have home group.

No Walnuts, Soup or opening car doors for me: I went to the dentist to get fillings (that should be one in it's own - can we say ouch?) and decided eating solids might not be the best idea that evening. I headed to a store to get soup - nope - it didn't want to scan so no soup for me. The lady tried explaining and asking if I really wanted it and I couldn't respond because my tongue and mouth were still numb from Novocain. (Not that my Polish is good enough anyway) The following day, the same thing happened with a bag of walnuts at another store. Was already a little bummed and went to get in the car. I kindly waited as this lady was trying to park next to us and she pulled in soooo close. I figured she would back up and straighten out but NOPE. My friend actually had to pull the car out before I could get in it.

The Kicker:
All this happened in a matter of ONE day -
- I fell out of bed while trying to stand and turn off my alarm, hurting my wrist and foot because my entire left leg was asleep and I didn't know it.
- made coffee and tried to open a small jar of sugar and the whole thing, jar included, fell into the coffee cup, splashing everywhere. (yes, that's what is in the coffee cup above if you were wondering)
- went to get the pie crust dough to start making the pumpkin pies for our Thanksgiving meal only to find the birds had gotten into it while on my balcony the night before. (There was no room in my fridge and this usually works just fine for free refrigeration but not this time!)
- was on the 2nd to last spice for pumpkin pie and dropped the thing into the mix. That was fun fishing it out of egg, milk and spice goop! Thankfully everything including my hands were clean.

Then the phone rings and I ran some stuff down to a friend, came back up to finish the pie... only to realize the following day during our Thanksgiving celebration meal that I FORGOT THE SUGAR after over half the pie was gone!!! OOPSE. I felt terrible. We had some of our Polish friends with us who had never had a traditional Thanksgiving meal before. Most had never seen a turkey cooked whole. lol... Out of all the things I could have ruined, I ruined the pies. Hopefully another first and last.

After all these things happened, at least I understand that it's so much better to laugh than to cry. You get out just as much emotion but you don't feel half as bad. These were all minor instances and distractions...but even those - over time - can become very overwhelming.
When you feel like nothing is going right or will go right.
When you add up the time spent fixing them or cleaning it up and you have lost almost an entire day of ministry because of timing setbacks.
When you have to ask "why!? why me? why now?"
When it's embarrassing or frustrating.
When you want to crawl in a hole till better luck comes your way
When it's topped off by you inbox being flooded with more bad-news emails.
When it's out of your control...

If laughter doesn't feed your soul, this knowledge will:
God is bigger than all of it and in complete control.
What is above our heads is under his feet and well within His capability to handle it.
That through everything, my needs are still met.

Forgetting the words to Happy Birthday and stumbling through the message actually caused a good laugh followed by a reminder of "yep, that's my sister". Family ties span oceans.

It's ultimately not my timing, but His. It's not my will but His. That because fewer showed up, I could spend more time talking with each person than feeling too stretched. (pumpkin night)

That when we run across a rotten egg in life, the smell doesn't last forever. And, that sometimes it creates a good reason to start fresh.

Although Novocain may numb the immediate pain, sometimes the pain is deeper than a quick-fix. Also, things don't always go my way, or the way I think they should. Accept it and find another way.

It can be one heck of a wake up call, but at least I'll be more aware, more cautious, and won't do that again. (falling out of bed)
As for the coffee - When my attitude is a little too bitter, add some sugar and everything smoothes out nicely.
And the pumpkin - sometimes we need to be humbled. We all make mistakes...I'm not perfect but as soon as I start acting perfect, I'm bound to screw up somewhere because you can only go so long without making a mistake - innocently or intentionally.

Some things have disaster written all over it from the beginning...do you take the challenge and learn through the process? or do you give up before you start and never find out what you can accomplish?

I still ask "WHY?" a lot...there's nothing wrong with that. Just know that you may not always get an answer...there may be no apparent reason that is revealed to you at that moment, or it may come years later. We may never know why things happen, but there is a reason.
I know who knows the reason, who can explain the why.
I know the Lord my God is in control - and in that, I find peace.

24 November 2009

Pumpkins and Photos!

So as you all probably remember, last year I decided I wanted to learn how to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. Everyone enjoyed it and I just couldn't help myself so we did it again this year!

We combined photo club with the event. Those who were interested in learning how to tell a story through pictures, had an opportunity to document what went on as well as participate in the process. The following Tuesday during our English Club/Photo Club, we gathered all the images and put them together in a series to tell the story.

We did have our minor glitches as a number of people were unable to come because they got sick. The others ended up showing up almost an hour later than expected although it all turned out fine...we just started later!

I wanted to share a short slideshow of clips I put together from the evening. I hope you enjoy it!

And, as a little humor clip... someone sent this to me in an email. I can't find the original source, but it was titled "how the pumpkin pie was born". I got a kick out of it!
If you are interested in knowing how we did it, there is a great website that we used both years. Click here or go to http://www.pickyourown.org/pumpkinpie.php to check it out and see all the other awesome cooking and canning information she has!

09 November 2009

Random adventures

Here's some of my recent stuff. Life is good, hectic and I've traveled a lot lately. Here's some of my favorites over the past few months... since my last update anyway. More explanations later.All Saints Day in Poland. Every cemetery is lit with candles and decorated with flowers. Its one of the major Catholic holidays, and always a big to-do in Poland.
Night shots right before All Saints Day in Poland.
All Saints Day in Poland.
View of Heidelberg, Germany from the castle. I had a chance to spend the day in this quaint, fairy-tale like town! It's gorgeous and this was about all the fall colors I get this year.
Watching the sun go down while hanging out at a castle on a hill in Heidelberg, Germany.
Frankfurt skyline - I like this city.
a sticker stuck on a pole in Frankfurt Germany...how pleasant.

Feeding the gulls at the Baltic Sea in Gdansk, Poland. Although quite windy, the weekend was good and relaxing. I enjoyed seeing another part of Poland!
sunset in Ursynow - a district in Warsaw after a nice bike ride. Always gotta put up my sunsets...
One of my favorite works of graffiti art on Pulawska Street. There's a street that has this long section of wall that people can graffiti. It has some of the coolest images.
A day out of Warsaw at a polish actor's home. He's got all kinds of cool and crazy old-timey things on his property.

Hope you at least enjoy the photos! Sorry I haven't updated in some time...

13 August 2009

Summertime Blues

Well, the summer isn't technically quite over yet - it's still pretty hot outside; but the hustle and bustle of groups coming in to do various service projects is. Since that hasn't allowed me much time to update, I get to bombard you with some of my favorite photos from the summer. I hope that you will make it through and read some of the stories, even if it's not all at once.

To start, of course, a sunset from my balcony. Yes, these seriously are the colors that showed up that day. I just couldn't believe it. I had a number of people over for my birthday just to hang out and they all got to see how gorgeous it can be. The last people left at 1:15am. Fun times :)
One of the things we did this summer was help at a kids camp in a neighboring town. A father and son came from the States to help teach the kids American sports. We taught them baseball, kickball, ultimate frisbee, disc golf, etc. On the last day, the kids went to a local castle for the day. The theme was fairy tales, so they acted out their stories on the castle grounds. The kids had a chance to dress up in baseball gear and/or football pads. I took portraits of whoever wanted one.
The very next week, we took our English Club to Zakopane, the mountains in Southern Poland. We had a blast. I had been in 2005 for a week, but we did almost entirely different hikes this time. One of my favorites was to a glacier lake, Morskie Oko. It means Sea Eye.
My friend, John Mark took this one of me. It was getting a little chilly and started raining right after this was taken. I'm actually surprised I managed this smile. I think I just finished exclaiming how cold it was!
So I grabbed my jacket. At least we had a little fun before the drops came down though.
This is a view with the waterfall that feeds the lake. It was such a magnificent view and the perfect breather half way up to Black Lake. God truly is creative in His beauty.
On one of the latter days, the Americans copped out of a hard hike and took the "easy hike" to Black Lake - above Morskie Oko. (Where these 3 pix are taken from) Needless to say, it wasn't necessarily easy. Just easier than the hike our Polish friends took to Five Lakes. Here's what part of the trail up to Black Lake looked like. I think half those steps up my knee made a right angle. At least the end was rewarding! A dip in cold glacier water will certainly numb any pain in your feet. So, off came the shoes...then the socks... followed by an "OOOOHHHH!!!! that's cold!"Not only did we have a relaxing time at the lake, but we had a few "cultural moments" too. It's not uncommon to see women hiking in their bra, bikini top, etc. and men in just shorts. Well, apparently one guy was quite hot...and I turned my head in time to get a full, bent-over shot of his olive underwear. My teammate, Joe got the best shot expressing the situation I think. My face says it all. We laughed for days at this!
We had barely a week before the next group came in to work. The team of 8 was helping to clear brush in a Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw. However, before they began working we took them around the city to various areas of Jewish importance. Included were part of the Ghetto wall, the only surviving Jewish Synagogue in Warsaw, the "train station" where Warsaw Jews were loaded into cars and taken to Treblinka, Treblinka itself, and finally the Warsaw Uprising Museum.
As it would happen, we planned to go to the museum on the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. I had one of the coolest experiences ever. We stood in line to purchase commemorative coins and they closed the window for a moment of silence. One of the Americans walked up and pointed to a gentleman sitting on a bench and said that he was a survivor of the uprising. His daughter, standing in front of us said it was her father and to go talk to him. So we did!
84 year-old Wladsylaw Mazur was shot 3 times, twice in the neck and once in the arm. He worked in a machine shop in Warsaw before the war. Recalling what happened, he explained that he laid very still at first and they thought he was dead until they noticed he had moved closer to a puddle of water. After shooting him again, they left. Still alive, somehow he managed to crawl to a place where he was rescued. As his brother had always told him, beautiful nurses took care of him until he was well and then transported to Flossenburg concentration camp in Germany for 8 months. Mazur made his way to Italy and eventually England where he met his wife and lived for 4 years before moving to the USA in 1951 where he lives in New York to this day. Talking with this man made the walls of the museum come alive. I've always walked down the streets of Warsaw's Old Town with some understanding of what had happened so many years ago. To hear it from the lips of someone who survived was a treasure I will hold to for many years.

We took the group back across the Wisła river into Praga to their hotel behind this church. I just had to dig my camera back out when I saw the golden light make the bricks seem to glow.
It only got better that week. We drove home in time to see the sunset over Warsaw. I didn't have my long lens with me, but the tall building near the center is the Palace of Culture and very much in the heart of Warsaw's center. It was a "gift" from Stalin, showing his power over the people.Now for some fun stuff. The group worked in the Jewish Cemetery clearing off gravestones so they can be photographed and documented before the jungle of weeds and trees grows back up around them. The cemetery covers over 70 acres (33 hectares) of land. The longest stretch of Ghetto wall still stands, separating the Jewish and Catholic cemetery. A bunker and tunnels in back sections were used to enter and exit the Ghetto.
The stories continue...
But, this is what struck me most this time. These are photos of the most harmless yet most interesting of the bugs and icky things we found in the "back 40". I sadly discovered that ticks like me, that snails make sad crunching noises if you accidentally step on them and that orange slugs aren't as gross as they are fascinating.The light hit just perfectly after clearing off the stones. Then you get some beautiful images.At the end of the week, we took the group to Treblinka and to Sucha - the Wood Architecture Museum. This is of some of the buildings at the museum by a lake where some guys were fishing. It was quite relaxing after visiting such a hard place to see like Treblinka.On their last night, we went back to Old Town for some last minute shopping. I grabbed a cup of coffee and started people-watching. The evening grew darker and things got interesting. I noticed spotlights not normally there but didn't think much until we were bombed with poems on bookmark type flyers. Thats when we noticed the red mood rising.It's the best I could do but you can actually make out the shapes in the moon when I pull it up a little larger.After catching the moon, I photographed the flyers falling into the Old Town streets. One hundred thousand fell; red or black with poems in Spanish and Polish on the back. Warsaw is the 4th city to take part in The Bombing of Poems. Cities that have experienced ariel bombings in the past have taken part in this. We found something about it on facebook explaining the event. Here's a link - it's in Spanish, but there's a few videos of the event. I was right there near the flame throwers. http://www.loscasagrande.org/
People scurried about the streets trying to catch them in the air and gathering as many as they could. I think it's a neat concept. I can't really read what is on the back of my flyers, but I will probably keep them as a reminder.

Anyway, sorry if this was long, but I hope you enjoyed the new photos from the summer!

11 July 2009

More about Greece

Hey all!

There has been so much going on lately - I love it! I just spent 2 fabulous weeks in Greece. One for work and one for vacation. While I was there, I saw some of the most amazing sights and had some of the most incredible experiences. I highly doubt that I will forget the journey.

I felt that I had white feet for a week from all the marble. My stomach was full of olives, my ears full of languages foreign to me, my eyes full of wonder and my heart full of joyous adventure. I discovered intricately built marble temples to various gods of ancient Greece, as I hiked up the back slope of the Acropolis. I was in complete awe. I've always heard of this stuff ... I mean, Greek Mythology was one of my favorite sections in school. You can get lost in the stories. But thankfully, thats all they are ... stories. For I know that I serve the One True God.
Yet, who wouldn't appreciate the magnificence of such architecture? It truly was beautiful. As we hiked up the southern slope, I wondered what it would be like to live there. At first, it was cool but by the time I got to the top I had decidedly changed my mind and am very appreciative of elevators.
I didn't realize how huge Athens was until I got to the top. Buildings seem to stretch as far as the eye can see, until you reach the mountains anyway. You could spot temples, the original Olympic Stadium and churches everywhere.
We looked down one side to spot Mars Hill. We hiked down the front of the Acropolis (the easy side) and made our way to the top of Mars Hill. Although insignificant to those who haven't read Acts 17 or are unfamiliar with Paul's missionary journeys, this was my favorite.
To stand on top and imagine seeing what Paul did - to look around and to begin to hear, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands..." (Acts 17:22-24)
(view from the top of Mars Hill)
Open the Bible and keep reading if you will... but for now I will continue on -

After a full day of museums and hiking around, we continued our adventures. My vacation consisted of time on Crete and in Athens.
We visited various beaches - some rock and others sand
found and walked over huge rocks to a teeny tiny church (so small I totally hit my head on the doorway when I was exiting)
had some of the most amazing olives ever
wore a miss-matched bathing suit after half mine got swiped while drying
discovered how awesome overnight ferries are (like a plane but cooler)
watched the sun rise over a harbor
did laundry by hand
got sick on a bus
puked in a squatty potty
laughed at misspelled menus
ate the biggest baklava I've ever seen

took a boat out to 2 islands
went snorkeling
and enjoyed relaxed evenings as the sun set.

I could have chosen to have Glilled Lamp in lemon saus with shrimps in flowr for dinner one night. (actually, that's a lie - thats just a combination of my favorite misspellings but lamb was readily available as was shrimps but they looked at you funny from the plate before you ate them.)
I was informed by a restaurant owner on Crete that the pieces of the Parthenon in London should be returned to it's rightful owners in Greece, I mean "we built the Parthenon when you were, oh I don't know, living in caves and maybe not discovered fire yet!"

oh, it was just too much fun!
To top it off, after running from gate 18 to 35, we missed our flight back because it left 5 minutes early and we were over an our late leaving Athens. We ended up staying in a 5 star hotel in Munich. At least I can honestly say I've been to Germany - and not just the airport!
Now back to work and reality I guess. It's rained almost every day I've been back in Warsaw. Crazy. It's like the eternal winter cuz it's July and C O L D! It barely hit 70 F today! Not normal. My birthday is tomorrow and I'm having a bunch of people over to just hang out. It beats being alone, especially when your family is in the place you love most in the world (Litchfield By the Sea) without you! (shrug) I hope the weather is warm.

If you get a chance, check out my facebook album, It's all Greek to Me.

29 June 2009

Greek vacation

So, I have been highly entertained on my Greek vacation. I have so many stories and so many photos its not even funny!
However, in the few minutes I have of working internet, I will give you just a taste of what is to come :)
1. Greece is amazing! It's so warm and absolutely beautiful. (see sunset below for proof!)
2. My feet stay white because of all the crushed white marble in Athens
3. Overnight ferries are even cooler than flying.
4. Why it's good to bring more than 1 bathing suit...
5. Quotes, quotes, and more quotes
I am seeing some of the coolest things and having an absolute blast! Aside from having the bottom half of my bathing suit stolen, that is. It was great to see friends and co-workers and am now relaxing from having too much fun ;) We hiked up to the Acropolis the other day and walked all through parts of Athens. I got to see Mars Hill - where Paul spoke to the people on one of his missionary journeys.
Greek beaches are rocky... and the water is really clear.

More to come :)

02 June 2009

Photo Club and a grumpy Polish lady

Ah! So many stories to tell... where do I start? I think I need to blog more, haha.

So, I participate in an English Club every Tuesday night. For the month of May we decided to do a series in photography. Everyone seemed pretty interested, so I planned out 4 sessions.
First, we talked about getting to know your camera - you know, all about the fun little settings that no one ever really knows what they mean. Then compositional elements that make better photos followed by choosing your subject and a little about style. I loved this because we got to look at some of my favorite photographers and their work. 
We took a Saturday to go practice what we had learned and the last session, which was stretched into 2,  was critiquing our images and narrowing them down to the top 2-3 photos.

After we had discussed everyone's pictures and picked out our favorites, I quickly stuck them in an iMovie file and threw them up on the projector for the group to see. They did so well! I think we will continue meeting about once a month! I'm so excited about this opportunity!

But, I want to tell you about our Saturday out. Unfortunately, it was raining, so we went to our second choice - Zołte Terasy - a mall in the center of Warsaw rather than a park.
This place has some awesome architectural design though. Unfortunately, I didn't get to shoot as much as I wanted, but I was teaching and answering a lot of questions. 

However, in the one down time that I had, I got chewed out by an old Polish lady. Now, this has happened before - that was no surprise. The shock was when I told her in Polish that I didn't understand what she was saying and she started speaking English! OOPSE!

I understand enough Polish, and am learning, but usually when I say I don't understand, they stop....or, if they don't I still don't know exactly what they want, but at least they realize this now. 

No, this lady was different - not only did she proceed to say that it was inappropriate to be taking photos in a Polish restaurant, aka mall food court, but then reprimanded me for living here and not knowing Polish. I tried to tell her I was learning... It seemed to ease the burn a little, but not enough. She wasn't satisfied with me sitting at that table either. I was taking up too much space and what if someone wanted to come eat? 
Anyway, I sit and endure this woman for what seemed like eternity but was probably only about 10 or 15 minutes. Either way, it was long enough for some businessman to come and lightly put his hand on the table and say (in English) 'you have every right to stay here, don't listen to her'. I replied with a brisk 'Thank you, I know, but thank you!' I realized that sadly a small scene was being created and I was unwillingly in the middle of it.
Finally, this woman pointed out that my friends had been gone for more than "a few minutes" and asked again how long until their return... fortunately, someone rounded the corner at that moment and I was off the hook - yeessss!
As we left, someone looked over at her as she was still griping at all of us and said they hoped she had a better day...

Sometimes I wonder about that woman...I wonder if she ever has better days. Of course, knowing the Lord, even my bad days are probably 'better days' than she will ever have. I kinda feel bad for the woman, even though I was quite uncomfortable for a good 20 minutes that day! My heart was touched and I know that even in being griped at and being really uncomfortable, that I had more joy than she probably ever will unless she comes to know the Father personally. I realized again that the world is full of people who need 'better days'. Also, I hope that my actions reflected my faith...I hope others who saw, noticed that I didn't fight back or yell - hopefully that I handled it differently than most.

Things like this happen on a regular basis. At the time I was flustered and just endured it, but now I get a good laugh out of it and add it to the list of embarrassing moments, cultural fo-pas and crazy stories that I wonder if anyone would actually ever believe.

27 April 2009

Łazenki Park

This is some stuff I shot today while meeting a friend for ice cream and a walk through the park on a beautiful day.
They are actually backwards from the way I shot them, but I don't feel like re-arranging. 
Enjoy! :)

us :) in "that's not traffic" aka, it gets worse than this - a lot worse!
pretty duck! with a not so pretty duck and pigeon behind him. Someone said his name comes from mandarin. I guess because of the orange color.
their squirrels are red instead of grey. This one let me get about a foot away and just stared at me while he ate his bread. I love his fuzzy, pointy ears!
a bad attempt at a good idea. I liked how he matched the hole in the tree with his shape, but he wasn't being a very good model. Plus I probably needed my other lens.
the ice cream :) mint - yummy