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Magic Intervened

December 29, 2013 12 comments
Christmas Candles

©2013 HannahRoseTeich & I’mThinkingHappy.com

“Oh, Come All Ye Faithful,

Joyful and Triumphant!”

Even though the Holiday has come and gone, I’m still basking in that warm and fuzzy, lingering feeling of love and caring, otherwise known as Christmas Spirit.

Like many folks who celebrate, Christmas is deeply rooted in tradition for me. My European parents have always emphasized Christmas Eve as the more celebrated day of the two. Unlike my all-American friends who opened their gifts Christmas morning, Santa always came to our house after dinner on Christmas Eve. When I was a child we would trade off each year with my Dad’s sister, celebrating in Westchester or Upstate New York with my two, older boy cousins who lived in the woods. By the time my children were born, my cousins had already started their own families and carried on the tradition in their own ways. Ours was tweaked slightly so we could continue to celebrate Christmas Eve with my parents at their home and celebrate Christmas Day, the American way, in my home. Santa’s magical flexibility allowed for him to drop off a few gifts at Nana & Opa’s house after dinner before making his way to our house Christmas morning.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years however, it’s that like it or not, change is the only real constant. You can go with the flow, embracing it the best you can or be miserable.

An incident at the beginning of December unfortunately,  made it clear that this Christmas was going to be different, forcing me to rethink how we normally celebrate Christmas Eve. Even though my parents would be celebrating as they usually do with our extended family, being there for us, was not an option. Circumstances beyond our control and careful consideration made it necessary for me to decline the invitation, in effect, displacing us and leaving us with nowhere to be on Christmas Eve.

Each generation tries to do better, provide more guidance and opportunity for their kids but mostly we all just want for our children to be happy.  My kids love their extended family. Talking to them about why we weren’t going to celebrate Christmas Eve with my family this year was really hard.  And even though after everything my kids have been through, it’s been important to me to try to keep certain things the same for them over the past two years, I realize life is filled with hard stuff. All we can really do for our kids is arm them with the truth and let them know we will always be there to love and support them.

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©2013 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

“Sing Choirs of Angels Sing in Exultation,

Sing All Ye Citizens of Heaven Above!”

I believe in magic; Christmas Magic.

It’s the gift that appears from seemingly nowhere and has no tangible existence to speak of, like the unlikely turn-of-events in a situation that you couldn’t foresee working out — working out. It can come in the form of an unexpected act of kindness or an expression of gratitude.  It’s when all things align and the view is suddenly clear, making way for something special to occur, like the sighting of a shooting star or the appearance of a rare blue moon.

It’s getting what you need, not necessarily what you’ve been asking for and recognizing it when it shows itself.

I love Christmas because it embodies the spirit of giving (and I don’t mean of things) from one person to another.

An unexpected, greatly appreciated phone call came about a week before Christmas. My Dad’s sister, the aunt we shared Christmas with when I was a child invited me and my children to join her, a friend and one of my cousins on Christmas Eve.

xmas-5

© 2013 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

I haven’t spent a Christmas Eve with my Tante Christine in over 20-years.

She hasn’t spent a Christmas without at least two of her four grandchildren present in over 25-years.

This year Christmas Eve was different. None of her grandchildren could be there.

xmas2014 014

© 2013 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

My kids and I needed some family for Christmas.

My aunt, needed some kids.

We — needed each other.

Magic Intervened.

May the Magic of the Holiday Season fill your heart with joy and gratitude, as it did mine.

Into The Storm

December 15, 2013 11 comments

Storm3

She stood in the storm,

And when the wind did not blow her way,

She adjusted her sails.

                                                                                                                 ~ Elizabeth Edwards

Categories: Attitude, Challenges, Life Tags: ,

Pause

December 8, 2013 7 comments
Curtains 003

© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

The holiday season has been creeping up on us since right before Halloween. Like a strong, silent ivy spreading its way through cities all across the country. It’s been lighting up homes and leaving its mark on lampposts and in storefronts everywhere! Neighborhoods are all aglow with colorful lights and twinkling trees peering through living room windows. It’s a special time of year that promotes peace and giving and kindness, which my 12-year old daughter recently noted:  is free.

The Holidays can be magical, often making the seemingly impossible, possible and like so many other people, it’s my favorite time of year.

For some however, it can be a struggle; a sad and difficult time, especially this year, with fewer than normal days of  breathing room in between the great feast of Thanksgiving and the arrival of Christmas Eve. Hanukkah is already over! There’s a rush to the finish and the hustle and bustle of trying to get there, can quickly lose its charm and become frustrating, exasperating even.

Curtains 004

© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

Most people come forward with their best. But honestly, you never know what’s going on just below the surface of a carefree wave, an absentminded smile or a soft, slightly distracted gaze. Everyone has a cross or two to bear. It could be anything from a forgotten appointment to coming off of the end of a long work shift or suffering from indecision about something. Maybe you’ve had an argument with someone or are recovering from an illness. Perhaps there is a sick child at home or you simply miss someone, terribly.

Whatever the burden, no one is exempt from worry. 

Curtains 008

© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

This season, if you can, pause to be compassionate toward the people you meet.

You never know what someone is going through.

peace

Peace & Good Wishes to All!

Categories: Holidays, Kindness, Life, Parenting Tags:

Masquerade

October 31, 2013 16 comments
group

Circa 1960s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

People wear masks all the time, covering up all kinds of situations and emotions.

Halloween is one of my favorite celebrations. In disguise, you get to openly be whatever you want to be and get a bag full of free candy to boot! My memories of Halloween as a child are filled with endless hours of trick-or-treating (mostly treating) first through the 5-stories of our apartment building and then, all over town until our legs could take us no further. After that, my Dad would put us in the back of his shiny, red, Volkswagen bus and drive us to friends’ houses until our bags were stuffed and our eyes were bleary.

I don’t cut my Dad a lot of slack when it comes to my childhood. I can’t sugar-coat fear or disappointment. No one ever wanted to be on the receiving end of his wrath. You never knew what kind of mood he would come home in, if, or when he came home. Every day was unpredictable. He enjoyed holidays and parties though and could really get into the “spirit” of things– when he wanted to. Despite his ominous nature, he was big on costuming and we could pretty much count on his help for a clever idea and creative way of making it happen. He had an impressive repertoire of costumes himself. I remember him spending weeks working on them before the annual masquerade ball he and my mom attended every February at the German Club they belonged to. (I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my Dad is from Germany.) Every winter, the German Club celebrated Fasching which is a German holiday that resembles our Mardi Gras and is similar to Halloween in that parades are held and “clubs” host costume balls.

My Dad’s costumes always won awards, if not First Place.

These are a few of my favorites.

mummy

Circa 1960s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

My Dad, the mummy.

The old man on the right is my Dad.

Circa 1960s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

This “old man” was only in his late 20s.

old group

Circa 1960s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

A group shot of my “old man” and his date who, of course, is my mom.

Third man on the right. My Dad is the Godfather.

Circa 1970s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

The Godfather (4th man in)– is my father.

One year my Dad went as the Statue of Liberty. Another year he was a Prize Fighter who lost to a midget. He even dressed in Blackface as a Minstrel which now-a-days of course, would be considered offensive.

The minstrel and my mom.  Circa 1960s

Circa 1960s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

The Minstrel and my mom.

Another questionable but winning costume; large, blond lady wearing a dress made from potato sacks.

This blond woman wearing the dress made out of potato sacks is my Dad.

Circa 1970s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

My Dad loved masquerades and wore many masks.

As an adult, I realize he was a resourceful, creative man and I often wonder how different his life might have been if he had been raised and educated in this country. Like many people, he had to contend with his demons while they competed with his redeeming qualities. He loved to cook and I have happy memories of him lifting me up and setting me on top of the refrigerator so I could watch him roll out the dough on the kitchen counter to make donuts or melt sugar and butter in a pan on the stove-top to make candy. He’d dribble the hot mixture into ice-cold water to form droplets of yummy home-made caramel. He took our family camping and taught us how to play Yahtzee and Monopoly and passed along his love for puzzling.  I love my Dad.

He did the best he could.

Children are resilient. Thankfully, despite the imperfections of our childhoods or the tumultuous relations we have with our parents, most of us also have unconditional love for them or at least forgiveness. I don’t deny the turmoil of my youth but I do try to have compassion for the fact that no matter how tough I believe some parts of my childhood were, my Dad’s was unimaginable; growing up in Germany during WWII. As a parent myself now, I realize we all just do the best we can and I hope that when my kids reflect on some of the mistakes I’m making, they will have compassion too.

Climb Every Mountain! Then Wait For Help.

September 22, 2013 8 comments
Country Playing

Summer 1971 Playing at the “country”
(L) Oldest Boy Cousin (M) Younger Brother (R) Older Boy Cousin
© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

Unlike the song in the title of this post, there is absolutely no inspiration in the following story.

Although, it is true.

My parents are immigrants. I’m first generation American. Growing up was interesting—to say the least. Our extended family were all back in Europe except for two, older, boy cousins who grew up about an hour north of where we lived in Westchester. Their house sat on 6-acres of rustic, rugged and crude land which we lovingly called the “country”. Abundant in fields, woods and streams it provided a whole host of exploratory (if not dangerous) opportunities for kids who were allowed to roam free in the wilderness, which they were. I loved it there. Complete with a full-size barn and chicken coop, I have some interesting memories of our play-time together there as I’m sure they do too, for the times they came to terrorize visit us. Our environment was the extreme opposite. We lived on the 4th floor of a 5-floor walk-up that offered dumb-waiter service and pick-up kickball games with random neighborhood kids in the concrete parking lot behind our building. Instead of hiking through woods and streams in the summers, we walked to the local beach or tanned on tar-beach which was conveniently located on the rooftop of our apartment building and also doubled as a laundry facility for hanging clothes to dry. My cousins were a little “rough around the edges”. They had NO FEAR of anything or anyone and always left a clear and decisive impression if not ABSOLUTE FEAR in the hearts and minds of the neighborhood kids they encountered in our neck of the woods. When gone, the other kids often referred to them as “your crazy cousins” which, they were. Crazy and my cousins. Not that we couldn’t hold our own of course, but truth be told, it wasn’t the worst thing for a gal growing up across from one of New York’s many “Projects” to be able to say,

“Oh yah? You just wait til my cousins come back!”     Ahh, family.

Back to Europe.

When I was eight, my mom took myself and my younger brother to Ireland to meet her family. My grandmother lived in an authentic two-room, thatched cottage that had a red front door. The living and kitchen area was dominated by a constantly burning hearth. Inside, a black iron kettle always seemed to be bubbling or brewing something. I wasn’t surprised to later learn that the townspeople often referred to my grandmother as the local witch doctor. During our visit my mom got sick one day and whatever my grandmother gave her to remedy her sickness blinded her temporarily for several hours. My six-year old brother and I were my mother’s walking guide back to the outskirts of town where we were staying with my aunt. Later during that trip, my brother took ill and whatever was given to remedy his condition caused him to have fierce hallucinations in where he saw leprechauns in his room and feared my dad would be an old man when we saw him next.  Ahh, family.

Three years after that European vacation, I took a trip to Germany to meet the rest of my clan. While my other friends went to day-camp or Playland or the Jersey Shore, I was sent went to Germany.

For six weeks.

Alone.

I was eleven.

Did I mention I didn’t speak German?

Giving Oma a Rose

1976 Giving my Oma a rose upon arrival in Germany.
© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

The upside of that trip was that one of my boy cousin’s from America was also going to Germany later that summer with his mom. At least I could look forward to some English speaking kin after a month of speaking very slowly and loudly and using multiple hand gestures to try to communicate. Why is it that people think people who don’t speak their language can understand them if they just speak slowly and loudly?  It was fun and tough and a whirlwind of meeting relatives before my aunt and 13-year old cousin got there. Sadly, my grandmother had Alzheimer’s and didn’t know who I was or why I was in their home. After a few weeks I began to understand the language much better than I could speak it and I could tell she was confused about the strange child staying in her house. I’d overhear my grandfather trying to explain to her over and over again that I was her son, Guenter’s daughter.

When my aunt and cousin finally arrived from the U.S., it was a welcome reunion. After a few days of re-adjusting, my grandfather took us on a tri-country tour. By car. Compact car, that is. The five of us (six if you count my Omi’s over-stuffed white handbag) drove from Germany, to Austria, to Italy and back again.

Me and Opa 76

1976 Me and Opa in Austria
© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich and TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

The most memorable part of my trip lies within the Austrian mountains of Tyrol near the city of Innsbruck. We stayed in a small village surrounded by mountains for a few days of sight-seeing. After a day or two of exploring the village’s architecture and taking a cable car to the snowy top of one of the mountains, my cousin and I set out for some play-time of our own. After all, he was used to roaming free in the wilderness. Why should that be any different in Austria? And why wouldn’t I follow him when he said,

Hey, let’s climb the side of this mountain.

You never really know someone until you climb a mountain with them.

Instead of taking the dirt path that wound itself upward, we — he, chose for us to rough it, climbing partly on the mountain’s side and partly on the concrete boulders that were wedged into the mountain every 50 to 100 feet or so. There were several of them, leading upwards. Their purpose was to slow the onslaught of a rock or mudslide that could come crashing down into the village below. They were several feet wide and about 5 feet high, massive to a girl of eleven and vertically challenged. As height was not an attribute of mine, it was necessary for my cousin to climb first. He’d haul himself up and then extend a hand to help me up to the somewhat smoother part of each boulder as we made our ascent. Every so often the dirt pathway appeared off to the side of one of the concrete slabs and our intention was to take the path down when we were done with all of our climbing. Soon after our adventure began, my cousin started collecting “rocks” and insisted they accompany us on our journey. As the cool morning hours turned into a warm afternoon, his rocks grew larger and heavier and by mid-day there were far more than I wanted to deal with. I was exhausted hauling them up to him one, by one before he extended his arm for me. I was thirsty and hungry and tired and finally sometime in the late afternoon, I refused.

No, I cried. I’m not carrying your stupid rocks up this mountain anymore!

Fine, he said, then I’m not helping you up the mountain, anymore.

With that, he jumped off the concrete slab and onto the side of the mountain. He climbed his way up onto the pathway and vanished. After hours and hours of climbing together, he disappeared in just a few short minutes, leaving me with his stupid rocks, stranded, atop a huge concrete boulder, on a mountain, in Austria.

Alone.

I was eleven.

It was nightfall and several hours later before I heard the dogs barking and the men shouting. Flashlights blinded my eyes when the Austrian patrol finally found me and lead me safely to and down the pathway to a frantic grandfather and somewhat hysterical aunt.

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My Cousin and I in Austria 1976
© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich and TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

Life lessons I suppose begin when life does. I’ve said it before and it’s warranted again:

If it doesn’t kill ya, it’ll make you stronger.

I am a bull, who is afraid of heights BUT not afraid of being alone in the dark.

It’s all good.

I’m not quite sure what happened when my cousin descended from the mountain without me that evening. I remember being given “medicine”  when I got back to my grandfather’s room. He fished a bottle of pills out of my grandmother’s big white handbag and gave me two, to calm me when I started to cry for my dad and wanted to call home. Whatever it was gave me a similar feeling to one I had thirty-five years later when I was prescribed Valium before having a dental procedure. Only instead of lasting a few hours, it lasted the whole next day which I remember as a haze, literally. I didn’t call my dad and my fearless, crazy, rock-loving cousin was much nicer to me for the rest of our trip. Things resumed to normal. As they eventually do, with family.

These days my cousin lives far-away in another state and I don’t get to see him much but whether it’s two years or ten that pass between meetings, it always resumes to normal.

I miss and love him dearly.

Restitution

September 8, 2013 6 comments
bees

© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

“Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat…..Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive…..Forgiveness does not excuse anything…..You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness…..” 

~ Wm. Paul Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity

Three years, thirty-three checks and $10,544.28 later, recompense has been paid and restitution made for some of the items that were taken from my previous home over a period of several months.

I’ve “let go of his throat.”

Now that all the money is in the bank, the question is, what should we do with it? How do you spend restitution money? Do you split it two ways or in our case, four ways? Should it be put toward education or bills? Should we go on vacation? Give it to charity?

What would you do with it?

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© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

After catching this “burglar” in our home three years ago, we’ve moved on, mostly. Although the journey continues. Two of us have left that house and relocated.

My Edward still stands guard in the window where I left him, where the rest of my family lives, right next door to where this thief lives.

The sun has faded Edward some but his effect is the same. Creepy, like my former neighbor.

Edward

© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

An Order of Protection remains in effect until June, 2015. It’s a silly piece of paper if you ask me, considering the Order prohibits our neighbor from being within 100-yards of any of the four of us, yet there’s barely ten-feet of shared grass that sits between his house and ours.  Even though I’ve “let go of his throat”, truth be told, every time I drop off or pick my kids up from that address, I’m tempted to call the police. He is after all, in constant violation. He has been since the day the Order was signed, despite the pictures I provided the court. He’s also Caucasian, in his early twenties and always wears a hoody. I was suspect of him before I knew he was the one repeatedly breaking into our home and I will continue to be leary of any person, boy or girl, that chooses to hide their identity beneath a hood in public. I don’t care what color skin they have. I trust my instinct.

Two days before the last check was deposited, Diane from Probation called me.

It’s Diane, she said. I’m just checking in to see if you can speak on the 26th?

The other two woman who have sat on the panel with me since Diane started it two years ago will also be there. Twice a year this Impact Panel speaks before an audience of convicted felons. They’re required to attend as part of their sentence.

Yes, of course I will, I said.

It’s hard for me to say “no” to Diane when she was the only person in the judicial system who took the time to really listen and try to understand the impact of what happened to my family. She stood by my side when I spoke before the court the day of the sentencing.

Even though life goes on and we’ve all moved on, they need to know. They need to hear first-hand about how their actions can affect the lives, for years to come, of  the people they’ve committed crimes against. In our case, months of trauma was endured while we tried to figure out who and why? My kids were only 8 and 11. Now, we’re a family that’s been torn apart and all of our lives have been changed forever.

While it’s important not to dwell on the past, it’s equally important not to forget it.

The past can not be changed. It is, what it is. Our lives today are what they are, not because of the past but because of how we chose to deal with it at the time.

Hey, if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger. Right?

I am a bull.

Besides, restitution has been made, a debt has been paid and I’ve “let go of his throat.”

LastCheck

© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

Full Plumage

August 19, 2013 10 comments

Bus2

I’ll leave an envelope in your mailbox with a letter explaining what this is all about, he said.

It’s hard to believe school starts again in just a few weeks! Where did the summer go?

Where did the years go?

During the school year, my kids are super spoiled fortunate to be driven to school every day. Not like the early years when they actually wanted to get up early and take the bus; at least Noah did. Gone too, are the days when I’d follow the bus, every day, ensuring that my son didn’t get abducted along the way OR so I could be there, just in case he needed me in some way along the route OR God forbid, there was an accident and I needed to jump into rescue mode for my little boy on the big bus. Nope, those hovering masterful parenting skills vital to ensuring my son’s safe transport to school, are no longer needed. Indeed, it is no longer required of me — by me — to make a mad dash to my car as soon as the big double-wide doors are pulled shut. Trailing, oh-so-not-discreetly, behind the big yellow boat carrying my its precious cargo is something I just don’t have to do anymore.

Bus1

September 2003 ©Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile

Back in the day and during his entire first year on the bus, I’d follow and then veer off at the corner of Dunkin’ Donuts and Route 9 while the bus would head into Princess Circle where a cluster of apartment buildings were. The apartment-pick-up allowed me just enough time to run in for a cup-of-Joe and be back outside standing on the corner, ready to catch a glimpse of my then 5-year old who’d be peering out of the window directly behind the bus driver. The bus driver would make him sit in the seat right behind her every day.

I make all the little ones sit behind me, so I can keep an eye on them, she told me one day.

Bus3

September 2003 ©Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile

Thank you, Jan.

An older woman with a big heart, there was no pulling-the-wool over Jan’s eyes. And instead of balking at my stalker-ish behavior, she’d honk the bus horn two or three times and I’d over-hear her through her cracked window telling Noah,

Look, there’s your mom. Wave to her!

He and she, would, as they rounded the corner from Princess Circle to route 9, every time.

It made my day.  Every-day.

And, to-this-day, if Jan sees me around town she honks her big yellow bus horn and waves to me with a big heartwarming smile on her face.

Thank you, Jan.

But, I digress.

My 5-year old is now going on 15 and he can sit where he wants to on the bus. Plus, these days, he has a companion. Well, sort of.  He and his sister take the bus home almost every day together. Although I somehow doubt they actually sit together. And they don’t always get off at the same STOP. But people know they’re siblings, including their current bus driver, who Hannah has had now for the past two years in a row.

It was the end of June, school was over when the man on the other end of my cell identified himself as “Vinny”, my kids’ bus driver. He told me he would leave an envelope in my mailbox explaining what the call was all about.

According to the letter, each year the Federation of Workers representing nine units (including bus drivers) in the school district we live in, take part in a program that allows for 40 out of the well over 65,000 children served, to be recognized for exhibiting outstanding behavior.

WCSD Letter

Accompanied with the letter were 4-tickets to a Renegades game; our local minor league baseball team.

If our name comes up, Vinny said, we choose a student that we’ve come in contact with during the year that has shown exemplary behavior.  We’re only supposed to pick one but I chose both your kids because they’re both great kids and really deserving. They never give me a hard time. They say hi and thank-you, are polite and Hannah helps me out with the little kids all the time.

Like a peacock fanning her feathers in full plumage, I could feel the pride swell inside.

peacock mama

Since my last post boasted the sibling rivalry that exists between my pair, I thought it fitting, to highlight their cooperation; even if they don’t always realize or recognize it; sometimes, other people do. Way to go Hannah and Noah!

Thank you, Vinny!

 

True Story

July 28, 2013 7 comments

In just about every family that has more than one child, I’ll venture to say, you’ll find some type of sibling rivalry. It’s a natural, normal part of growing up. Sometimes it even extends into adulthood, but that’s another post for another day. Maybe.

This post is about the sibling love between my kids. I’ve written about the dynamic between my son and daughter before. They’ve been playing and bickering together, loving and fighting each other since the day I brought my baby girl home.

August 2001 ©TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

Sometimes, I think my son was so sweet to his sister the day she was born because he thought she was going to stay there — in the hospital that is, in Poughkeepsie. He cradled her and sang “Rock-A-Bye-Baby” to her the first time he met her. Precious. Truly. Actually, even the first few days after she was brought home were filled with curiosity and a few tender moments. It wasn’t until a few weeks later, when he realized, this baby-doll was here to stay, that the two-year-old-tantrums began. Hey, it’s good to be the king! He had a good gig being numero uno for a while there before she came along. Can you blame him?

Mom!!

©TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

Twelve years later, it’s still sometimes difficult for him to accept that she’s not going away and the fact that she’s two inches taller than he is right now doesn’t help much either. Poor guy. He truly finds himself irritated by almost everything she does.

Just last week he came to me with this:

Mom!

She’s doing it again!

Who? What?

Hannah!

Good grief. What now? What is she doing? What is the problem?

Reading!

What??

Reading!

She’s reading again!

That’s when the dumbfounded, quizzical look appeared on my face to which he retorted:

I’m serious!

That’s all she ever does now and she’s wasting her life away reading!

mishmosh 003

And so she was,

is

and continues to do so — read that is.

Yes, she is “wasting her life away with it”.

Nine books in five weeks.

I’m just a mom striving to live life on life’ terms while taking my kids the world on with a smile

True Story.

She’s Baaccckkk!

July 21, 2013 4 comments

And better than ever.

Click on the blue letters below and check it out….

My one true love.

Categories: Family, Parenting, Poem Tags: ,

Grace. Equanimity.

July 14, 2013 12 comments

grace

“When we make peace with life events, even when things don’t go the way we want, we exhibit grace. When we manage stressful situations with humor, we exhibit grace. When we are accepting of others, we exhibit grace. Grace is not about physical beauty or having a ballerina’s poise. It is composed of generosity, forgiveness, and equanimity in the face of trying times.” 

~Sarah Brokaw

Putting life’s challenges into perspective.

You can’t let an event in your life define who you are. It’s not what happens to you but what you do; how you respond to what happens to you that becomes part of who you are, defining your character to yourself and others.

Living life on life’s terms is not always easy or easily understood. In times of confusion it’s important to seek calm, and trust instead.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”       

                                                                                      ~ Martin Luther King Jr

What matters in life is the motive behind our approach; how we treat one another and the messages we send through that treatment.

What matters is what we learn; that we learn, in order to affect change.

Grace.  Equanimity.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Categories: Challenges, Life, Love Tags: , ,

Strawberry Fields…

June 30, 2013 15 comments

strawberryshortcake

“Let me take you down

‘Cause I’m going to

Strawberry Fields

Nothing is real

And nothing to get hung about

Strawberry Fields forever”

~ The Beatles

I love strawberries with fresh cream. I love my kids too. They do not necessarily love the same things I do.

It was the first weekend in June, last summer.

Even though I met with a fair amount of objections, I managed to persuade my kids that this outing would be fun. As we approached the annual Strawberry Festival at the waterfront by the train station in a neighboring town, we came upon a young police officer diverting traffic away from the train station parking area which was full. Ten minutes later we finally found a spot. This diversion along with a blazing, hot sun, hastened the regression of both of my kids to those early toddler-tantrum days. The sweltering heat which hovered in the mid-nineties that day didn’t help. It caused my kids to moan, groan, rebel and resist as we embarked on the half-mile decent from the very tippy-top of a winding hill. By the time we reached the entrance-way to the festival, my kids were toast; hot, sweaty and agitated to a point-of- no-return. That happens with teenagers sometimes and it was clear, no one was going to have a good time. I all but gave up trying to convince them they would. We decided to abort this mission and just leave.

Before making the steamy ascent back up to the car however, I needed to use one of the several port-a-potties lined up at the start of the festival.

Ugh! Gross! And Yuck!

I’ll be right out. I explained.

Three times in two minutes, someone attempted to enter the stall I was in, even though I’d made it clear that someone was inside. I left flummoxed and aggravated. When we were all finally back in the car my motherly instincts to try and salvage the afternoon kicked in and I declared that we would stop for ice-cream before heading home.

I can’t think of too many things that would be more embarrassing for an 11-year old girl and a 13-year old boy than for their mom to force bring them into a sit-down ice-cream parlor, chat-it-up with the new owner and then discover she had no money or credit card with her to pay for the three sundaes they just enjoyed when presented with the bill. That’s right, nothing. Not-one-penny did I have, despite the fact that I distinctly remembered putting cash, a credit card and my license into the back pocket of my jean shorts. ‘Gone’ I thought in a panic and Oh. My. God. there was only one place they could be.

We left with an I-OWE-YOU and headed back to the port-a-potty at the Strawberry Festival from hell.

This time when meeting up with the young officer directing traffic to the tippy-top of the hill half-a-mile away from the festival, I gave him that get-out-of-my-way-and-let-me-pass look that only a mother in distress, who means business can give. If you’pottyre a mom, you know the one. You know exactly what I am talking about. It’s the same kind of aura you emit when your child is in danger and the strength to lift a vehicle or move mountains automatically fills you.

With my son in the passenger seat and my daughter in the back, I rolled down my window smiling that no-nonsense-smile and before he could get a word in, I said,

I’m going down there with my car to get my wallet, drivers license and credit cards.

Without hesitation, he stepped aside and waved me through. 

Of course, there was no available parking in the lot by the entrance to the festival where the port-a-potties were, so I did what any other good, mortified mom in this desperate situation would do: I drove to the end of the lot and parked head-on at the wall, blocking in at least four parked cars, two on either side of me.  Then of course, I did what I’m sure every other mother in my sad and sorry situation would do: I left my car running with my two kids in it. The temperature after all was in the nineties.

Don’t move. I’ll be right back! I bellowed to the blank stares looking back at me.

Of course, I was not, right back.

How many embarrassing moments can happen in the span of one hour?

There was nothing to be found in the port-a-potty that three people walked in on me, in the span of 2-minutes nearly an hour earlier, so I did some inquiring and sprinted over to the “Lost & Found” booth at the far end of the park. In the middle of the park a stage had been setup for bands. One was getting ready to play. The pleasant woman at the Lost & Found table said nothing was brought over but,

We can make an announcement, she said. Come with me.

Unwittingly, I followed, passing all the luscious booths selling the strawberries and cream and shortcake in a variety of mouth-watering versions that I had come for but would not have that day. Instead, I found myself standing in the center of the stage where the band was setting up. The woman I followed stepped over to the microphone and in a very matter-of-fact motion removed it from its resting place and handed it to me. I stood bewildered until she snapped her head toward me in a, “go ahead” nod of affirmation. Startled and stunned, I stumbled over my words as feedback from the microphone penetrated the park and the hustle and bustle of the festival’s activities came to a screeching halt. All eyes curiously gazed upon me. I have no idea what I said. All I remember is that my mouth moved and words came out. When I was done, I bolted toward the parking lot where my kids were waiting in the running car.

Could there be any more embarrassment?

Of course there could. Indeed, there was a not-so-happy man trapped in his car as a result of where mine was.

Oh, my God, Mom! I heard as I jumped into the driver seat and proceeded to back my way out. That man is so frustrated. He kept coming up and asking us when you were coming back!

Uh-huh. That’s right. I left my kids in a running car where they were approached by a strange (aggravated) man more than once.

They were mortified. So was I.

The ride home was a quiet one. I kept trying to tell myself it could be worse, it was only money and a credit card and my license, all things that could be replaced. Once inside I retreated to my bedroom. Now, I was toast and needed to change into something more comfortable. When I opened up my closet door there was a pair of jean shorts laying on the floor, ‘right,’ I thought, the ones I had on first this morning and Oh. My. God.

…. the ones with the cash, credit card and license in the back pocket.

Life has a way of throwing a wrench in even the simplest of plans. As parents we try our best without a lot of training. For me, finding the humor is key. Thankfully, hindsight is a wonderful gift and today my kids and I laugh a lot and out loud about the calamities of that day.

 

Silly Sightings In A Single Swoop

June 1, 2013 14 comments

Life takes it’s toll in one way or another.

When the opportunity arises for you to stop and smile, do it!

Ever take the same route over and over again so many times you could do it in your sleep? Not that it would be advisable that you do it in your sleep of course but you feel fairly confident you could, if you had to?

For me, it’s the morning school route with one carpool stop.

E-v-e-r-y-d-a-y.

A few weeks ago, as I set out on this everyday journey and slowed at the first traffic light, something that’s normally not in my peripheral vision at this point caught the corner of my eye.

sink 005

Once a year a neighboring town hosts a Hot-Air Balloon Festival but that’s not until July.

This was a little out-of-the-ordinary.

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As I rounded the corner at yet another traffic light along this established route of travel, I came upon an extra-large cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee — on two legs — waving to me.

This does not happen every day.

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And when I got to our morning carpool, this fella was waiting in the driveway to greet us. ‘Nope, it’s not Turkey Season’, I thought. Heck, it’s not even November. Like the balloon, the walking cup of coffee and the rain-shower that came out of nowhere just before we got there, this occurrence was random.

But, not as random as seeing this scene or rather, this scenery, being pulled along the main street of our fare city as I continued on my way to work, after dropping the kids off at school.

When was the last time you saw something like this on your regular route?

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All of this randomness in such a short period of time, didn’t feel so random all of sudden and it made me stop and smile.

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(This smile was not random. It’s not even mine but it was spontaneous, taken on that same day and it seems to fit here nicely.)

Maybe the universe was trying to send me a message. At times it seems as though life is taking it’s toll, daily.

Maybe these silly sightings in a single swoop on a morning that began with clear skies that quickly turned cloudy and even rainy before returning to sunshine within the span of 4o-minutes, were meant to be the gentle reminder of that which I already know but often forget:

The only certain thing about life, is that nothing is certain.

You never know what may present itself to you at any given moment, in any given day. You never know who will enter your life or who will leave it. It is however, worth appreciating here and now, as it is, before it changes because for certain, it will.

A Noble Profession

May 19, 2013 12 comments
A5

©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

“….He doesn’t know what lies ahead

But he’s always willing to try,

And he hopes he’s always alert to hear

The sounds of a little child’s cry…”

~ Walter J. Hall

This weekend a local firehouse had a party and invited a few close friends.

Many came on foot but most rolled into town, all donning their Sunday Best. They were sparkling and shiny and ready to party!

Pride and dignity accompanied them.

They came to help our Hughsonville Fire Company celebrate 100-years of service. One-hundred-years. It was a sight to behold, one that stirred emotion and awe; something you may only have the opportunity to see once-in-a-life-time, at a centennial celebration.

Among the rolling revelers were The Beast, The Beast from the East, Big Mother II, Foam Boy and Always Ready

The Beast

The Beast
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

A14

The Beast From The East
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

Big Mother II

Big Mother II
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

Foam Boy

Foam Boy
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

Always Ready

Always Ready
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

On hand and in honor of this celebration were a few “old-timers” as well…

Old Timer

Old Timer
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

1952

1952
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

Millbrook

Millbrook
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

The trucks were impressive. The men and woman were inspirational. Are admirable. Often the first to respond to an emergency scene, Firefighters arrive ready to react. These men and women endure rigorous training and are expected to maintain a calm demeanor in the face of crisis, instantly assess a situation and make sound decisions on how to proceed. Many of them do this on a volunteer basis and do not get paid.

Who chooses such a physically demanding career that requires rock-solid resolve and the ability to summon a courage that surmounts all traces of fear in a moment’s notice?

They are the moms and dads at any given PTA meeting, the neighbor who keeps odd hours, a friend whose always working on the weekends. She might be your sister or a cousin. He could be your son or …

My nephew, Peter. ©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

My nephew, Peter.
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich

…my nephew.

Whoever they are in your life, be grateful they are in your life.

One day, they may save your life.

Taking a Break…

May 5, 2013 2 comments

gone-snowboarding

boarderqueen_129235

Categories: Life

My Rose

April 28, 2013 6 comments

Just remember in the Winter

Far beneath the bitter snow

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love

In the Spring becomes the rose.

~ “The Rose”/Lyrics Amanda McBroom

seedThe season has changed and Spring has finally found us. The promise of renewal, rebirth and hopeful thoughts surroroseund us. The sun is shining warm again. Seedlings that were planted falls-ago have taken root over the winter’s long days and new life is emerging. Vibrant bursts of color are popping up daily. The unexpected is happening. Everywhere. Be alert with eyes wide open or be jarred, as I was the other day; halted by beauty; startled in an unanticipated moment, forced to pause and see the sweet rose that shot up before me.

How did this happen right before my eyes without me seeing it?

Parenting is busy, worrisome work. It’s constant, at times, all-consuming. It’s a life-long learning adventure. Like most things I become immersed in, the deeper I’m in it, often times, the harder it is for me to step out and back and linger in the minutes of  the milestones and accomplishments of our ever-changing, day-to-day lives. Hours become days. Days extend into weeks which turn into months that become years. Even though I’ve been there all the while, the details are clouded and what seems like, in the blink of an eye, the bud becames a blossom and I’ve been caught completely off guard.

That sweet seedling that was just laughing-it-up in the park yesterday...

Hannah @ Playpland Park

…has grown into a flower, more beautiful than I could ever have imagined…

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… and is laughing-it-up on her way into the Spring Dance today, in concert with these other lovelies who are flourishing in their own beautiful gardens.

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