Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tomorrow's the big day

Well, we bought the train tickets yesterday, and so tomorrow at 7:45am I will head off to a conference center several hours away, to spend the weekend with Polish homeschoolers. I've thought and prayed about what to share with them. I'm taking along a few (English) resources that might be interesting to look at, too. I'm leaving room in my plans for altering what I speak on to meet their needs and answer their questions. I'm hoping it will all go well.

I'm nervous about the whole thing, but very busy today with last-minute prep. Thanks to everyone who has prayed and will pray for this weekend. I'll update when I get back!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I was in the city last week (by which I usually mean I was in the "old" city, the historical center of Krakow). I decided to look up an antykwariat that I hadn't visited in a long time. This one is located right around the corner from Florian's Gate and the Słowacki Theater.
This little shop, as well as its proprietor, could slip unnoticed into any Dickens novel. The tiny shop is crammed and crowded with books. I think there is some kind of table in the middle of the floor, piled high with books. The white-haired shopkeeper, sporting glasses and a neatly trimmed beard, sits in a tiny antique chair in one corner.
There is no kind of cash register or counter--just the old man, surrounded by books, and a tiny walkway one has to squeeze through to move around the store. I followed my usual habit of asking about English books, and he directed me to a shelf along one wall. I started to look through the titles, occasionally pulling a book off the shelf for closer examination.

One very old book, a Complete Works of Byron caught my attention. Inside the front cover was an inscription, obviously written in old-fashioned pen-and-ink, dated 1902. The former owner had written that he had purchased the book in London during his last trip to England, for one schilling, and then returned to Warsaw, where he had the book re-covered for one ruble (Poland was not independent in 1902, and Warsaw was part of Russian territory). I have no way of making a comparison between the value of a schilling and the value of a ruble in 1902, but it obviously meant something to him, because he wrote, "Holy Moses! What a difference between England and Poland. Pity my country." Then he signed and dated the inscription.

While I was reading this, the white-haired man came over to me and showed me that the book was actually missing about 3 pages, and he showed me where the pages skipped a few numbers. He told me proudly that being honest about the condition of the book showed what kind of character he had. Then he insisted on my sitting in his little chair, while he brought me other English books to look at. Most of them were very old paperbacks that held no interest for me, but I thought I might take the Byron, just for the sake of the inscription. I asked him if he knew what it said (it was written in English), and he didn't, so I translated it for him. That prompted a long discourse about the superiority of Poland over other countries in general.

I had thought I'd seen the price of the book marked as 24 złoty (around $8), but I was mistaken. He showed me the actual price of the book, printed at the back, and it was 180 zloty--around $60, and definitely outside of my budget. I didn't even have that much cash with me, so I had to tell him regretfully that I couldn't buy the book. He insisted I must want something--one of the paperbacks?--and I finally agreed to buy a copy of The Angry Wife by Pearl Buck for 10 zloty (around $3). I hate paying that much for these old paperbacks that have prices printed on the cover--35 cents when it was new!--but I didn't have the heart to leave without buying anything when he'd been so pleasant, calling me sympatyczna and elegancka (words you can figure out even if you don't know Polish).

This book was originally published under the pseudonym "John Sedges," and the front cover calls it "A compassionate, revealing novel of deep-rooted conflicts which caused war between men and women as they caused war between the states." We'll see. This one isn't exactly going on the top of my "to be read" pile.

Before I left the shop, the nice white-haired men begged me to stop in and visit any time I was in the city. I'm sure he wants to flatter me into buying more books, but I may take him up on it anyway. Going in there is like visiting another something you would read about in a book.

Update on the new mall

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the new mall opening up this month, and the derelict buildings facing it across a very narrow street.

Tomorrow is the Grand Opening for the mall, and I was near there today. How I wish I had had my camera so I could show you what they have done! Imagine a giant window-shade covering the entire facade of each decrepit building. The "shade" is painted/decorated to look like the kind of old building it covers, only nicely renovated and painted. It's like a stage back-drop or Hollywood prop. Very, very funny.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New life for old books

I suppose homeschoolers who teach Polish as a second language are few and far between, but it's always been our choice for language study, for obvious reasons! Some years ago, when J. and E. were quite small, I bought half-a-dozen of these fairy tale books which were intended for use in studying English. I thought they would work just as well to study Polish.

Each story is divided into six two-page spreads. On one page, the text is in Polish, and on the other, the same text is in English. Each text is only about one good paragraph long. I remember working through these with J. and E. I would read the text slowly (I didn't know all the Polish words myself). We would go over each sentence in Polish multiple times, and I would encourage them to tell me what it meant. There were a lot of vocabulary words we didn't know, so we'd take the time to check each unfamiliar word, then read the sentences again. After we'd gone painstakingly through the whole paragraph, I'd read the whole text at one time, hoping we'd grasp the sense of it. I'd always read the English translation at some point, so they did know what was supposed to be going on. I'm sure we always spent two to three teaching sessions on each page, reviewing older pages as we added new ones.

I have no idea how much Polish the kids learned by doing this, either.

I'm using the same books right now with K., but in a completely different way. She already knows much more Polish than they did, and has even had enough instruction in reading to be able to manage on her own, with a little help from me. When she and I sit down for a Polish lesson, she reads through a full paragraph. Then I reread the paragraph to her, sentence by sentence, and she translates for me. Neither of us needs to look up words, at least not more than one or two per book, and we usually work through two pages per session. We'll soon be finished with all the fairy tales I have, and I've already purchased a book about a dog who rides a train (O Psie, Który Jeździł Koleją by Roman Pisarski) which has very short chapters. I think she'll be able to manage it quite nicely, and I may just have J. and E. give it a try, too!

Monday, September 25, 2006


Poland, like all of Europe, is part of what used to be referred to as "the old country." It's quite literal. It is an old country, and Krakow is a very, very old city. There are buildings here that were standing when Columbus was still begging for a ship.That doesn't mean that everything is old. New building is going on constantly, and some of it is very, very modern. Several blocks of run-down buildings behind the main train station in central Krakow were torn down to make way for this extremely large mall, scheduled to open at the end of September. I have to catch the bus right in front of it when I'm on my way home from the city center, so I had leisure to sit and contemplate this gargantuan modern building and its much humbler neighbors across the street.
These buildings are not as historical as the oldest part of Krakow, but most of them were built in the 1800s. They are called kamienice because of their stone/brick construction.
As bad as these look, such buildings can be gutted and remodeled, and can be made to look quite nice. This part of town hasn't had much of a face lift so far, but I couldn't help but think that these decrepit buildings couldn't continue in this state right across the street from the fancy shopping center, which is going to include a hotel and high-end office space.

In the first picture, you can see that the windows are open, and it was obvious that folks were living there. It was a warm day, and I saw laundry, an ironing board, shoes on the window sill, and a cat. In the last week or so, I saw that all those people had had to move. All those windows are now boarded up.

I still don't know the fate of the buildings. They will either be torn down or renovated. They just don't "belong" in the neighborhood, now that the upscale mall has moved in. In this case, I think change is a good thing. This wasn't a very nice part of town before, and now it will be. I wonder where the people who were living here went? These flats must have been very cheap, and housing in Krakow is extremely expensive.

I don't think those buildings will exist long in their present condition, if they continue to exist at all. They are being squeezed out or upgraded to match their glossy neighbor. Someday soon, while I'm waiting for the bus, I won't be seeing derelict buildings across the street from a modern icon of materialism. The stark contrast will be erased, one way or another, so I thought I'd preserve the moment a little longer here.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Arte Prima

This post is a little bit about my home decorating, but mostly about a talented Polish artisan. I still remember the first time I ever saw any of her work. It's sort of funny, but we were visiting the Japanese Cultural Center here in Krakow, and in their gift shop I found a few little trays. The outer part was made of clay or stone, and the base was made of melted glass. I thought they were extremely pretty, in a rough sort of way. This was back when I was in the stage of trying to figure out what kinds of things I liked.
Sometime later, probably during one of the fairs that are held in the main square, I was pleased to find a whole booth selling items similar to the one I had seen at the museum. They are made of clay and fired, but the clay has some kind of sand or cement added to it for a rougher texture. The pieces are tinted slightly in different colors. I discovered that all of the work is done by one artist, a woman, who impresses her work with the label Arte Prima. My family knows I love this stuff, and I have been given some very nice pieces as gifts over the years, including the clock at the top and the big oval tray.
Some of her work is made with the melted glass, often with multiple colors that have melted and blended together. Her other "special" feature involves impressing the images of leaves or flowers into the clay before it is fired. She used real leaves, flowers, weeds, and grasses for this.
One of the most interesting things she does is a large bowl in the shape of a cabbage leaf (sorry, no picture). She makes trays, candle holders, clocks, trivets, trinket boxes, and vases, as well as some smaller things meant to be decorations on the wall. I have quite a few of her things in my house, and I suspect I will continue to add to the collection as long as I live in Poland. I really love these Arte Prima pieces.
I have a matched pair of "vases" on my desk that I use as both pencil holders and bookends. Most of my pieces are green, my favorite color.

I'm quite sorry that this artist does not have a website. She told me that she does not sell any of her work outside of Poland, but I think she must do fairly well within it. Her studio is here in Krakow, and she always has a booth at every fair--not just just the craft fair in August, but also at the Christmas and Easter fairs. I rarely fail to pick up something at those times. My daughters have grown attached to her style as well, and both of them like to receive her trinket boxes as gifts. I should add that none of these are at all expensive, but they are heavy.

This is my last post with pictures from the craft fair, so I guess it is finally over!

Friday, September 22, 2006

As if I needed more books...

But they are so hard to resist!

I went into the city today and paid a visit to Massolit. I had the vague idea I'd look around for some books that might be suitable Christmas presents for the kids, but naturally I found more for myself than for them.

I came away with The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I've never read anything by James, and this is sort of short and seemed like it might be an interesting story. I found a second volume of three novels by Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott, so even though I have one novel left to read in the first volume, I picked this one up for later. On the recommendation of Mama Squirrel from Dewey's Treehouse, I've long had The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver on my wish list, and found a copy today. It's a much longer book than I imagined (over 600 pages), so I won't be starting this one soon, but I do hope to read it this winter.

Finally, for myself, I also found Year In, Year Out by A.A. Milne, with illustrations by E.H. Shepard. This appears to be book of rambling essays for each month of the year, not about nature, but about whatever happens to be crossing the author's mind. It's quite funny, if the bits I read are any indication.

And I actually did find two books eminently suitable for Christmas presents for two of the kids. For J., I bought Frightful, by Jean Craighead George, a second sequel to My Side of the Mountain. For E., an aspiring author and illustrator, I found a fictional, but semi-autobiographical book called The Silver Pencil by Alice Dalgliesh. All this lovely books should keep me well supplied with reading soon as I finish all the other books I'm working on.

And no, I haven't finished War and Peace yet.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Too clever for their own good

My nine-year-old, K. was struggling with her math today. She kept asking me questions, and I kept giving her hints to help her solve the problems on her own. Finally, she took a break for lunch leaving part of the work unfinished, and I checked over what she'd done. When I compared the problems on the page to the questions she'd been asking me, I realized she had been making each problem more difficult before she tried to find the answer. All of my hints and helps were essentially already there in the problems to start with, only she ignored them and made the problems harder. Just as an example, one of the problems was 60 + 30 = 6 x ?

K: Mommy, how am I supposed to figure out how many sixes are in 90?

Me: Well, start with ten. Will the answer be more or less than 10?

You see what I mean? She made the problems harder to solve instead of using the "clues" already there.

Thirteen-year-old E. overhead much of our discussion, and immortalized the event in verse:

K---- G---- G----
Worked at her math,
An angry frown on her face.

“Addition! Subtraction!
It has no attraction!”
She cried as she sat in her place.

“Is the answer nineteen?
Or maybe umpteen?”
She pondered the words on the page.

“The answer’s a trick!
It’s making me sick!”
She flew into a great rage.

“Work!” Said her Mother,
“The answer’s no other
Than the one that is so plain to see.”

“I’ll work,” Said the Girl,
“When the answers unfurl!”
So she sat there until after tea.

Of course, when this was read aloud, I laughed so hard I couldn't eat my lunch properly at all. Sometimes homeschooling is a chore, but thank heaven there are days...many of them, really...when the kids show me that they are thinking and learning. When I showed K. what she was doing to make her work harder, she finished up rapidly, and E. was in a good enough mood to give me permission to share her humorous poem on my blog, and C. took a nap this afternoon. What more could I ask for?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Yes, we had a birthday this month!

With a few notable exceptions over the years, I generally make and decorate my children's birthday cakes in a theme that reflects their interests. It's getting harder as they get a bit older.

J. turned 16 on September 11th this year. In the past, I have made him a dinosaur cake, a coat-of-arms cake, a cake with a gel-candy snake slithering through the grass, and a lego cake (rectangle cake with cupcakes on top, iced in bright yellow--looked just like a lego). Most of his current interests involve martial arts and weapons. I just cannot bring myself to decorate a cake with guns, so this year's cake was an attempt at a mallorn tree. It's not obvious, of course, but this was a spice cake with cream cheese frosting (his choice).

Most 16 year old boys dream of car keys and drivers' licenses, but J. has to wait for those things. In Poland, the minimum driving age is 18 years old, and a license is issued only after 50 hours of on-the-road experience through a certified driving school. The streets are always clogged with drivers-in-training, who are easily identifed because the training cars have a large "L" sign standing on the roof.

I always assumed "L" stood for "learner," and I suppose that's where the sign came from (it's ubiquitous in Europe), but I realized one time that "L" does not stand for the Polish word "learner." I asked someone what the "L" stood for, and the answer was, "Nothing!" It made me laugh.

In any case, J. cannot officially be a "learner" here in Poland, and I'm grateful for his patience and forbearance. He's my oldest child and my only son. I hope this year is a wonderful one for him, even without car keys.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Bible and the task of teaching, Chapter 3

It's taken me a while to get back to this project, but I don't want to let it completely fall the by wayside. This was such a good book, it's worth taking the time to read again slowly and thoughtfully.

Chapter 3 is entitled "The Word Became Flesh," and the basic premise is that the Bible has its first direct affect on education when the teacher himself is shaped by the Bible.

As Christians who are also teachers read the Bible, it "shapes their sense of self and of who they should be."
If these people are also teachers, then this process is likely to have some impact on who they are when they are teaching. This will in turn affect the educational experience of their students. At this basic level, the bridge between the Bible and the present day classroom is not so much a set of deductions leading to general principles as the teacher herself or himself, shaped by interactions with the biblical text. Put simply, the Bible shapes people, and it is people who educate.

So, the first step toward a Biblical education is a Christian teacher who is following Christ.

However, there are pitfalls here, and it cannot be assumed that a teacher living out the Christian virtues in the classroom is all that is necessary. Christian teachers also have the responsibility to evaluate their curriculum and information to make sure it is in line with Biblical teaching as well. The teaching of a virtuous Christian teacher could actually make the teaching of lies more effective.

This chapter also addresses the way in which modern educational techniques which view man as mechanical entity rather than a living soul can hinder a Christian teacher.

There is an interesting concrete illustration in this chapter which discusses the way in which an educational goal (speaking a foreign language) may conflict with a higher, Biblical ethic (honesty). Students are generally encouraged to speak and answer questions in the foreign language, even if the answers to the questions are not true. If the student knows the words, it is okay to say, "I live in a green house," even if the truth is that the student lives in the basement apartment of a stone building. In what way can a teacher incorporate the Biblical injunction to "put off falsehood" and still work on language development?

There is not a concrete answer in the chapter to every possible pedagogical problem, although some solutions are offered for this one. It is more of an invitation to Christian teachers to think deeply about their subject matter and consider how bringing the Bible into the classroom, in the form of their own person, should engender changes in how they teach.

I'll end with this lovely quote, that reminds me both of Charlotte Mason's maxim that "education is the science of relations" as well as the essentially integrated nature of classical education:
good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a compex web of connections between themselves, their subjects and their students...the connections made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts--meaning heart in its ancient sense, as the place where intellect and emotion and spirit and will converge in the human self.

If you're interested in reading a copy for yourself, here is one place to look for it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Curious Incident of the Book at the Thrift Shop

Do you shop for second-hand clothes? I do. I like those huge thrift shops in the States with rows upon rows of blouses, sweaters, and skirts to scan through. It's not like that in Poland. Oh, we have second-hand shops. You could hardly toss a pebble without hitting one, in fact. The average thrift shop is half the size of a single car garage. I've been in one or two that were as large as a double car garage, and they seemed huge. But mostly they are small, small, small.

Considering that they usually have a selection of children's clothes, ladies' blouses or sweaters, ladies' pants, ladies' skirts and dresses, ladies' jackets, men's jackets, men's shirts, and men's pants, as well as linens, lingerie and occasionally purses and belts and scarves...well, let's just say that your selection within any given category is meager at best. There is a solution to that, of course, and that is, to visit a whole bunch of different stores. Which you can do, on foot, and it probably won't take you any longer than working through the huge one-stop-shop in the states.


Tangent: Since this topic probably won't show up on blogger radar again for a good while, let me add an interesting tidbit about these shops. A few of them price merchandise individually, but most of them sell the clothes by weight. They get new inventory once per week, and on that day, the price per kilo is the highest. As the week dwindles down, and the selection is reduced, the price per kilo drops until it is sometimes as low as $1.25 per kilo (2.2 pounds). This has a curious effect on the price of clothes. Winter clothes are more expensive than summer clothes. Children's clothes don't cost very much, while baby clothes are practically free. A ratty, worn, pilled woolen sweater costs more than a silk blouse. Cotten sweaters, which are very heavy, are relatively expensive, while 100% cashmere sweaters (and I've never even seen a cashmere sweater at a second-hand shop in the US) are dirt cheap. But that's the pricing system, and that's how they do it.


I've been making the rounds recently, looking for fall and winter things for needy family members, and yesterday I stopped in one of my usual shops. This particular shop gets a lot of their inventory from England, and they devote one corner to books, videos, and music. Most of this stuff is junk, hopelessly outdated, and hardly worth the time it takes to look through it all, but I usually do it anyway. Because you never know what you'll find, do you? (Once I found an English video about otters just when we were reading about otters in William Long's Secrets of the Woods, and it made a nice birthday present for 9yo K.)

So yesterday, I peeked at those shelves again, and immediately spotted the book pictured above: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. Now, I've read about this book on lit blogs all over the internet. (Forgive me for not linking, but there were multiple blog posts and none of them were very recent.) I had filed the book away in my mind as one I'd like to read if the chance arose, although I had not gone as far as to add the book to my Amazon wish list. But there it was, priced $1.35 in a small Polish thrift shop on Grzegórzecka Street. I was amazed, since most of their books are of the pulp-fiction romance or thriller type, and then a couple of decades old on top of that. This isn't a bookstore.

I snatched it up right away (as if there was likely to be competition!) and I'm still gloating over my find. I bought the book yesterday, and I must confess...I've finished reading it. But I've spent so much time telling about finding it, I don't have time to share my thoughts on the book itself, so I'll save that for another day. I will just say this much--it's an amazing book and made me very sad.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

One of the most beautiful sights in the world

A sleeping toddler.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

One of the human race

I needed a break from everything else and nothing satisfies like being immersed in a book. I'm longing for a bit of escapist literature (maybe later, along with a hot bath!), but lately I've been feeling starved for some meaty reading.

I pulled The Literary Discipline by John Erskine off the shelf. I was "introduced" to Erskine via Jacques Barzun's Teacher in America, and I deeply desire to read much by both of these men.

This book is a series of essays, and in the course of a lengthy essay called "Decency in Literature," Erskine describes part of the mental thought process that lead a man from ignorance to wisdom.

When you begin to take an interest in other men, you notice of course that their lives are not like yours, not so important nor interesting nor promising, but in their drabness they are all curiously alike; they all, with slight variation, are born, are brought up, fall in love according to their lights, marry, earn their living, have children, grow old, and die. When this uniformity begins to interest you, you are making your first intelligent acquaintance with life; and when you have looked at mankind and included yourself in the picture, when you have admitted however reluctantly that the single addition does not change the total effect, that life is still simple and uniform and that you are less peculiar than you thought--then you have seen yourself at last as one of the human race.

To see this calls for imagination and for the Greek virtue which we translate as magnanimity--great-mindedness. The virtue is not to be acquired all at once. We have made a great advance when we can think of life in terms not of ourselves but of moral and material aspects and powers--in terms of youth and age, for example, of strength or beauty or pride. This is the allegorical stage of our pilgrimage in wisdom, no mean stage to reach, though it happens to be out of fashion just now.

Erskine is describing the effects of reading great literature, or it may be said, the effects of a classical education by the "Great Books" method. The first and fundamental principle requires the humility of mind to lay aside our innate selfishness and take a larger view of life. I'm not sure our current society and culture are conducive to these habits of thought. Far from seeing mankind as a whole, governed by universal principles, we seem determined to fracture mankind into groups based on race, religion, ethnicity, and a host of other things. Our culture is the culture of the "self"--self-esteem, self-actualization, self-awareness, self-pity, self-help, and self-reliance.

We are not even in a position to be aware of what we have lost because, as a society, we cannot see beyond the end of our noses. Nor are we trying. We are staring in mirrors instead of casting our eyes out the window to the greater world beyond. So what is the hope that we will ever reach the next step Erskine describes:

But our advance is greatest when we can recognize these aspects and powers in the individuals around us--when our observation includes at one and same time the general truths of life and the particular instance.

In terms of literature, particular instances are most powerful, and escape being indecent, when they reflect larger themes and universal truths. But if no one is thinking this way, who will write the books?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Since I showed you my crocheting...

You know how sometimes when you have a lot to do, the easiest thing to do is...find something entirely different to do? Okay, I'm probably not making sense. Yesterday I posted my crocheted bookmarks, but I've been doing a little tatting for the same cause. These are my invitations to our next Ladies' Tea, and I trimmed the front of them with very easy little tatted flowers.

But all that tatting...the feel of the shuttle in my hand...gave me the urge to work on something else, so I've intermittently been working on this little motif. It's a small portion of a MUCH larger pattern by Jan Stawasz, the well-known (in some circles) Polish tatter. I was going to make another round of this, but I made a serious error in the pattern (six rings where there should have been seven) all the way around. So, it looks okay by itself, but I can't build on it. I may try again later. Much later! I don't really like re-tatting the same patterns any more than I do crocheting, but I'm such a beginning tatter, I should make myself do it.

If you want to see what really gorgeous tatting looks like, these folks have been instrumental in re-awakening my desire to tat.

I think this is what is called "minimalist blogging." I make a post, but there's not much to it. I'm trying to keep up the habit of a daily post, but it's anyone's guess when I'll be able to post anything substantial!

Friday, September 08, 2006

This seems to be as close as I'm getting to a book these days!

I've been working diligently to get all the bookmark favors finished as soon as possible. While I'm crocheting, I can be thinking about my devotional or my homeschool lectures, and so I'm getting double return for my time.

I'm positively allergic to repeating a crochet pattern, but right now I don't have any choice. I don't have enough patterns that I like to make each and every bookmark from a different pattern, so I must content myself with varying the color, which helps a little bit.

The bookmarks are an endless source of fascination for C, who hovers over them, exclaiming, "Prittee! Prittee!" As each new bookmark joins the ever-growing queque, K declares it to be her absolute favorite and begs me to save that one for her. I have promised to make her a bookmark from any pattern in any color that she likes, but I have to finish these first.

After writing about Jane Austen the other day, I pulled Persuasion off the shelf and dipped into it a little bit. War and Peace is hovering at the top of the "to be read" stack threatening to fall on my head, which could be serious. From Dawn to Decadence is gathering dust because I can't possibly start a second long book right now. W Pustyni i w Puszczy stares at me day after day, reminding me that I'm neglecting it. Several homeschool books (research for my speaking engagement) are clearing their throats severely, reminding me that they are obligatory. And there are books that I brought back to Poland six months ago that I haven't touched, although I truly expected to have time to read them this year, such as Thomas Cahill's Gift of the Jews or Northrop Frye's The Educated Imagination.

I'm crocheting bookmarks when I'd rather be reading books, and that's the simple fact. Fortunately, the books are mine; they live at my house and will be here when I do have time for them. Hallelujah.

In the meantime, if you feel like crocheting a bookmark, I found all these patterns and more on the internet.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

When it rains...

A funny thing happened while I was checking my email today...

Not long ago, I was complaining because I couldn't find a copy of Bezpieczna Kryjówka (the Polish version of Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place). Also, I have lamented on more than one occasion the lack of a US source for purchasing The Bible and the task of teaching.

And, lo and behold! What happens today? On the same day, I receive two emails telling me where the books may be obtained. I am shaking my head over the coincidence, but feeling quite chuffed about it all. The publisher of the Polish book (a private Christian publisher) still has copies of the book and doesn't even tell me how much it costs--only asks for a donation to cover the shipping. And I have a note from a man at Calvin College, telling me that they now have copies of The Bible and the task of teaching available. One of the authors, David I. Smith, is on faculty there, and it is their custom to sell books written by faculty, so there you go.

If you're interested in a copy, call 800-748-0122. I have another, private, number and the name of a contact person, but I don't want to post that publicly. If you're interested in ordering and would rather use that information, contact me privately.

Now instead of trying to obtain reading material for other people, maybe I should buckle down and get busy with my own "current reads" pile, huh?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Let's revisit the fair!! Fibercrafts galore...

I know I said I was going to do a post on woodcarving, but you see, I had already uploaded these pictures, and I haven't uploaded the woodcraft ones. I'll save woodcarving for next year, or for some bleak month when I have nothing to blog about. Take a look at these beautifully tatted necklaces!

If it can possibly be created with a crochet hook and yarn or thread, this lady has figured out a way to do it.

All these log-cabin patchwork items were made with corduroy material. See the round drawstring bag right in front? I bought that one, and right now it is holding all my colored threads, crochet hooks, and scissors, while I'm working on the bookmark project. It's a nice little "work bag"--very portable!

Traditional Polish costumes are elaborately hand-embroidered. Traditionally, each village or region was identifiable by the designs adorning vests, shawls, skirts, and trousers.

These doilies made by bobbin lace are beautiful and represent an unbelievable investment of time. This is much, much slower than crocheting. See the lady in traditional dress demonstrating on the "lace pillow" below?

It's amazing to see so much talent, both traditional and innovative. I didn't get pictures, but there were a couple of people selling gorgeous cushions, and one lady had made a type of wall-hanging that was covered with pockets, so that it could be used to store....well, anything you wanted to. In a child's bedroom, they would be a cute place to stash stuffed animals, or you could hang one in the laundry area or even the bathroom. I thought it was a really cute idea, but I couldn't think of a spot to put one at home, so I shelved that idea for another time.

I still have one more post about the fair that I simply must make. There is one particular artisan who makes items that are unique. I've never seen anything like them, anywhere. I think they are gorgeous and it is a shame that she isn't known at all outside of Poland. She sells everything she makes here. And not all of it to me, although I have acquired a fair collection over the years. So one more fair post sometime soon, and then it's really all over until next year!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My to-do list

September is shaping up to be one of the busiest months of my life. I rarely have so many things on my plate as I do right now.

A. Prepare for next ladies tea, to be held in my home on October 6th.
1. Make and send invitations, to be trimmed with tatting (made by me) in honor of our theme, "The work of his hands."
2. Write devotional
3. Translate devotional into Polish
4. Crochet at least 15 bookmarks to be given as favors (lace crochet, from thread)
5. Clean house for tea, and...
6. Prepare some of the food and freeze in advance because...

B. Speak three times to a group of Polish homeschoolers from September 29th to October 1st. (Notice the proximity to date above.)
1. Write three 90 minute lectures which needn't be 90 minutes long as there will be translation (that takes time).
2. Pack and take train to town I've never heard of. Alone. (I've also managed never to ride a train here before.)
3. Make sure family has food for meals and good instructions for looking after 2yo.

C. Homeschool my three older children while caring for the toddler. (I can't list all that this entails!)

D. Finish War and Peace

E. Prepare to welcome and assist another missionary family returning from furlough.
1. Prepare meals as needed.
2. Possibly help with setting them up in their new home.
3. Spend time fellowshipping?

F. Be prepared to host yet another missionary family in my home, on short notice, as needed.

G. Celebrate son's 16th birthday.
1. Bake and decorate cake
2. Find and wrap presents already purchased
3. Possibly buy additional last-minute gift?

H. Potty-train the 2yo? (Naaah....probably not this month. But definitely before she turns 4.)

I. (Oh wow, are we on I????) All the usual household stuff that any mom has to take care of.

Fortunately, I have great kids who can pitch in and help with a lot of things. However, no one is going to crochet those bookmarks or write my devotional in Polish or prepare my lectures for the homeschoolers.

So why am I sitting here in front of my computer? Why indeed?

I was checking ebay for one of those fairy-godmother wands, but no such luck.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

It happened on Main Street

Sometimes peculiar things happen--things that are so unlikely we doubt their authenticity when they are related to us. One of those very odd things happened to me last year while I was in the States.

Our family was visiting the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida. One of the exhibits is the recreation of "Main Street, USA" circa 1943.

We were not visiting alone, but with an old friend that we hadn't seen for years and years. As we enjoyed the museum together, we also caught up on each other's lives. And of course, she had lots of questions about what living in Poland was like.

As we walked down Main Street, I noticed a little shop that reminded me very much of shops in Poland. Like the old "general store," all the goods were behind the counter, with just a little room in front of it for customers to stand and ask for what they needed. I stopped my friend so we could go into the shop, and I could explain the similarity between that little store and many of the shops I visit here.

When we stepped inside the store, there were two young ladies already looking around and discussing the exhibit. It struck me forcibly that they were speaking Polish. Suddenly the little museum display took a giant step closer to the Polish shops I know! I spoke to the girls in Polish, which in turn gave them quite a shock. They were university students spending the summer in the US as part of a work exchange program. We all got quite a charge out of meeting in a museum in Florida and chatted away in Polish for several minutes, to the delight of my friend who enjoyed hearing us speak with native Poles.

I actually forgot all about that incident until today. You just never know what's going to happen, do you?

Because that reminds me of a similar strange event that occurred within a few months of that one. We were driving south on I-65 and stopped at the welcome center just inside Kentucky. Krakovian overheard an older man speaking to the attendant with a heavy accent that he recognized as Polish, and since the man was speaking of living in Germany, he asked him where he was from. When he said he was Polish, Krakovian launched into a conversation in Polish, and they stood there chatting away happily, to the astonishment of the attendants.

Do things like this happen to everyone? When was the last time you ran into a native Polish speaker? Is it coincidence or divine appointment?

I honestly don't know.

Friday, September 01, 2006

An Open Letter

My children refer to "golden birthdays," although I never heard of them before. Apparently, your golden birthday is the day that your age matches the date of your birth. If you were born on the 1st or 2nd of the month, it will definitely pass unnoticed, or if, like me, you were born on the 28th of the month, you will have to wait a long time for your golden birthday. My son was looking forward to celebrating his golden birthday in 2001. However, he was born on September 11th, and his golden birthday will always be remembered as one of the saddest days in American history. I will not write much about that day, except to say that because of the time difference between Poland and the US we were fortunate enough to have some happy family time before the devastation.

As we approached the first anniversary of that day and I pondered how to celebrate J's birthday, I wrote the following "open letter" for my son and for other children affected in the same way.

I have other things to think and write about in the next week, so I am going to post this now. This year will be the fifth anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks on the United States. I wrote the following letter on the occasion of the first anniversary, but I share it again, just in case there may be someone who might be blessed by it. Even after five years, I can't read it without crying.

An Open Letter to Children Whose Birthday is September 11th

September 11th was an important day for you before the year 2001. Youprobably had it marked on the calendar and had been looking forward to it. September 11th is your day--in many ways, the most important day of the whole year. Your birthday is a celebration of your life--a day to be happy,a day to be the center of attention, a day to add a year to your age and let everyone know that you are growing up. You thought September 11th was a very special day before 2001--and it is!

On your birthday last year, 2001, the United States of America was attacked in a shocking and horrifying way. Instead of smiles and songs, most of us were filled with tears and choking sorrow. So many people were hurt and killed that day--we could hardly think of anything else. It was right for us to share in the anguish and pain of those who were suffering. But we don't want to forget you.

Birthdays are very, very special days when you are a child. You probably won't care so much about your birthdays after you become an adult, but they mean a lot to you now. You only get one 6th birthday, one 10th birthday, or one 12th birthday. All in all, there are only a few childhood birthdays to celebrate, and every one of them is important. Last year, your day was spoiled by the hate-filled actions of wicked people. It wasn't only planes that were hijacked--it was your celebration. I know it hurt to have your special day ruined--as if someone took your nicest gift and trampled it underfoot. For you, and for every other child with a September 11th birthday (you know you're not alone, don't you?), you lost something very precious in 2001.

Even though we can't give you back your celebration for September 11th, 2001, you need to know that it is okay to feel happy and celebrate this year, and every other year to come. Your one lost birthday does not mean that you cannot enjoy and celebrate your day this year and every year in the future. Remember that September 11th belonged to you before it was "hijacked" by terrorists. When we refuse to be fearful or afraid, we win a victory against them. It's okay to have a cake with candles, sing songs, play games, and be joyful on September 11th. You will have to share some part of your day with us in remembering what happened in 2001, but in this way, you share a part of history with many children who have lived before

There have been other tragedies, other attacks, other horrors down through the ages. In every case, some children have had birthdays or special days that were overshadowed by dark events.

Brother Andrew was a missionary who took the gospel behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. He was a child in Holland, however, when Hitler went to war against Europe. He remembered the day that the planes fell over his village, dropping bombs on the airport near his home. His family huddled together all night, listening to the planes and the explosions--his homeland was being attacked. Even as a man nearly 40 years old, he looked back and recalled--"It was my twelfth birthday." He did not forget that.

As you grow to adulthood, you will not forget that your homeland was attacked on your birthday, either. None of us will ever forget September 11th, 2001, but this event has touched you personally. Your life has not been changed in the same way as those who lost loved ones that day, but it has been touched in a way that you will probably always remember--even when you are as old as 40.

Of course, we understand that you don't want anyone to be sad on your birthday. Your friends and your family are having some of the same thoughts that you are--they want to be happy for you, but they can't help feeling sad about what happened last year. You are in a unique position, and perhaps you have to grow up a little faster than we wanted you to, because you are learning at a young age that sometimes good things and bad things, or happy things and sad things, happen at the same time. In this case, you are in a special position to hold your head high and let the world know that the
terrorist attacks on America will not defeat you.

Celebrate your birthday! Many people died on this day last year, but we are still going to celebrate your life this year. You can show us all that September 11th is more than a day for grieving, although we do mourn. You can help remind us that hate and fear are conquered by love. The Bible says, in Psalm 118:24, "This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." That goes for September 11th, too--especially for you.

God's love is more powerful than the hate that men feel and demonstrate toward each other. This year, on your birthday, we have to remember that hate and violence are part of our world, but at the same time we will not forget that love conquers all. We love you, and we celebrate your life. We will not forget those who died on this day in 2001. But we will not
forget you, either.

Happy Birthday to You!

Copyright 2002