Sunday, July 26, 2015

In Memory of Dolly

So I'm finally ready to do this. I'll start with a question. Have you ever felt both extreme loss and happiness, both in the same moment? Think tears of sadness mixed with joy. That's been my odd experience handling the death of my Grandma Dolly earlier in July.
I always wished that I had my Grandma's blue eyes!

This woman drew a thread through the cloth of my life, weaving a pattern that shaped who I am today. She never took credit for it either-every one of my accomplishments was my own, even the smallest ones. Did she ever know how much she did for all of us? I hope so.

This blog post is for her

Her adventurous daughter Patty became sick. It was just the time too-around thirteen girls might find themselves changing. But this pain turned monstrous, landing her in the hospital. There in the adult ward they diagnosed appendicitis, fully curable with a few antibiotics. Patty hid those pills in her robe pocket, and they spilled onto the floor when they pulled her fragile body from the hospital bed. Grandma lost her only daughter, and the torture of continuing on seemed almost unbearable. "Some days I just put one sock on, then the other. Then a shoe. Then the other. A dress. Breakfast. Laundry. My two little boys...I had to tell that they lost their sister." Before I was born she taught me her strength, of rising to meet life when death had taken so much.
My Dad, Patty, and Uncle

Years later she found herself in another situation. Her two boys, my Dad and Uncle, grew into healthy, handsome men. My Dad in particular, athletic and outgoing, met a pretty Mexican girl at school. They sent love letters back and forth, loving in a youthful arrogance. Just after high school that pretty girl became pregnant, usually a hushed thing when involving unmarried parents. Grandma laughed "See Mo, it's a miracle!" Not long before, her husband, my Grandpa, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. My Grandpa's response? "No, not a miracle. They were just upstairs messing around..." Perspective, another of Grandma's lessons.
She loved going on the boat with my Grandpa

And then I was born, a great screaming December baby. I was immediately the apple of my Grandpa's eye, the only grandchild he would ever meet. His face lit up whenever I visited, no matter how sick he felt. The breathing tubes and hospital visits faded away with the sight of my chubby cheeks. Grandma cared for him at home, watched his life's light wane as mine glowed. She saw him die in his living room chair. From that moment on, her children and grandchildren would be her life.
She never remarried, and always missed him

We set the table, my sister and I, one of my earliest memories. The napkins folded just so. The little metal pitcher that kept the milk cool. Blueberry pancakes! Bread from the bakery! Bacon, thick-cut! We ate until out little tummies couldn't take another bite, and then we helped with the dishes. Lunch and dinner passed much the same with, with italian sausage, potatoes, and more bread. I picked chives from a pot beside the house. Oh my goodness this woman taught me to eat, to enjoy food to the fullest.
Adventure? Check

I remember the day Princess Diana died. My sister and I were at her little cottage, asleep in an upstairs bedroom. I awoke to her gentle prodding, "Come downstairs, you need to see this." My nine year old self didn't fully comprehend the tragedy, just the tea, cookies, and sunrise on the lake under a bundle of blankets. She needed my sister and I to "witness" the event, an otherwise ordinary day in America that had torn a family in England. She taught me to look, see, and remember.
Grandma and her only attempt at sledding

A visit from college, another trip to the cottage. We stopped for tea and baked goodies along the way. She settled in to her comfy chair overlooking the lake. The sun set on our conversation, my personal bragging time for my Grandma. I told her about my grades, my activities, my future as a teacher. She slapped her knee at it all, "That's my Granddaughter! A mover and a shaker! Just like her father." Grandma Dolly taught me to push, go above and beyond anyone's expectations. In her eyes I could do anything in the world, with that last name "Mrozek."
My sister and I with Grandma

Time has a way of speeding up and slowing down at odd intervals. Grandma became sick this past December, requiring numerous hospital visits and the eventual sale of her beloved cottage. I watched the ups and downs of extended medical care. I pushed her in a wheelchair at a nursing rehabilitation center. We both sized up a handsome nurse working on her floor.

Do you remember Greenfield Village this year? I had the opportunity to set up my shop in the main street, a unique privilege. What I didn't mention was the visit from Grandma, her last time leaving the assisted living center before she died. She walked around, my Dad's arm steadying her, marveling at my jewelry. She kept asking "Did you do that all yourself Kristen?" It was hard to see her so sick. I participated in the fashion show too. She sat in her wheelchair in the crowd, tired but proud.
Grandma loved hearing about my shop

And eventually the dialysis became too much. She was ready to see my Grandpa, her little daughter Patty. Her parents, brothers, a beloved nephew. Grandma told me she wanted to rest, and asked if it was okay, "Yes Grandma," I said, not crying in that moment. "We've had you for so long! It's their turn again." It seemed a thousand years away.
We ate so well at The Eagle Tavern the year before!

But it wasn't. I said goodbye to her before I left for Mexico, knowing it might be the last time we spoke. Not too long after that she stopped speaking, eating, and moving. She laid in the bed quite still, somehow hanging on to her existence here on earth. One of the hospice nurses, Pat (Patricia) helped my Dad and Uncle care for her. They agreed that she waited for my sister and I to return so we could say goodbye one last time.

I found her on her deathbed, gently snoring. I stroked her cheek and her eyebrows twitched. The family joked and talked about who her favorite grandchild was. My Dad sat with a very blank expression, looking at his hands. Grandma was not really there, but kind of. The thin veil between life and death became nearly sheer. I could feel things in the room, things I could not find words for or explain. I said "I love you," one last time, knowing full well it would be the last. I took home her wooden clock that began ticking again on my shelf. My Grandma died on July 3rd in her sleep.
This will go in the room when I get married

Life meanders on in the summer heat. Yesterday we buried Grandma's ashes just above Grandpa's coffin. They're under a tree in a peaceful cemetery, not far from where they both lived. Afterwards we went out to eat at a place that serves delicious bread. It's one of those Polish traditions that I plan to continue with my future family. Until then I'll do my best to honor her memory.

I'll do my best to move and shake the world for her.

~Kristen

Friday, July 17, 2015

Las Vegas

The past few weeks have been a constant blur. Running tired from Mexico and my Grandma's funeral, I decided to take a break...for three days, and fly to Las Vegas!
The view from our hotel

I've been to Vegas twice before, each time with family. So it was a real treat to make the trip with people my own age! We stayed at the Hilton Elara, on a floor high enough to make my ears pop in the elevator. See that red stripe down the side of the building? It's a little sitting area that STICKS OUT INTO THE AIR LIKE A FLOATING ROOM OF DEATH. It was a nice place to relax.
Did I mention the Starbucks?

We packed quite a bit into the 6 day vacation. As soon as we were on the strip, we walked around the hotels. I came to a few startling conclusions:

1. There are NO FLAMINGOS at the Flamingo Hotel.
2. The Bellagio's underwater garden actually uses flowers.
3. Thousands of Swarovski crystals make for a pretty bar at the Cosmopolitan 
 No flamingos!
The fish aren't real...

From there we ran around and did about 10,000 things. It's easy to do in Vegas. One can find amazing shows every night, delicious restaurants open 24/7, and entertainment on every corner. Vegas is like a big play place for adults. Businesses line the streets begging for attention and $. There is so much to do in such a small space!
My view for the show
 The Bellagio water performance!
The Luxor faux Chichen Itza
My newfound fear of heights in the Stratosphere

A few of the exhibits at the Luxor were especially interesting. First I saw the Bodies exhibit, complete with fully "animated" human remains used to educate the public. Next I jumped into the Titanic exhibit...and loved it! I saw both shows during my past trips, but seeing them again as an adult gave me a different perspective. Unfortunately no photography for either,

We packed a bit into the last day too. Our last dinner in Vegas? The Heart Attack Grill!
350 lbs eat free!
 Yes they offer that size
 I encountered high culture...
 ...and the vegan menu?
My Civil War people should love this...
 I definitely finished my "single bypass burger"
 But not all of my cream shake (yes that is a chunk of butter)

Our last show? Cirque du Soleil's Ka.

But alas, all good things must come to an end. By the last day I was ready to come home to my own bed and avoid that 110 degree heat. Las Vegas was fun, but nothing beats a Michigan summer!

This just goes to show, what happens in Vegas...

...goes on my blog!

~Kristen


Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Rhetoric of the Confederate Flag Debate

So as you may have read, I spent time in Mexico. 6 sweet days. And when I returned, my Grandma died. It has been a very busy two weeks for me, filled with a wedding and a funeral. I'll be posting about my Grandma soon once I find more of her awesome pictures, so I'm spending a bit of time on that post before you'll see it.

When I was in Mexico, two big things blew up. First, gay marriage was passed. I'm not even going to open that can of worms. Next, the flag. I was here in the U.S. during the Charleston shooting-I did not see the explosion about the Confederate flag. The South Carolina Senate voted to remove the flag from the Capitol's front lawn. Afterwards, Walmart, Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, and Google Shopping removed Confederate related items from their offerings. TV Land pulled Dukes of Hazard.  These are things that happened, and no one is disputing that.

No, the dispute is whether or not this is right. As a Civil War reenactor, I am in a unique position to protect history. I have never felt personally insulted by the flag itself, and I see that it represents heritage to some, and slavery to others. I find that dichotomy in other symbols during the 19th century. To me, a snake can represent eternal, everlasting love. To another person, that evil creature tempted Adam and Eve (also, icky!). We both exist in the same reenacting world, living in harmony side by side.

Yet this flag debate is bringing out a deeply-rooted rhetoric. I have always been interested in language; its twists and turns shape many of my blog posts. My degree focused on the study of discourse. So as this controversy unfolded I took snapshots of these debates. These are pulled from all over the internet from various sources. They are not just in one thread, not just one group or person. Please read.

****Warning: Be prepared for very strong language****








































The internet is a dark, shadowy place. It's easy to type a message to a nameless, faceless audience. This debate has shown a grim sentiment crawl into cyberspace, using rhetoric as a tool. What do you think of the language used in these posts?

For my part, I've seen the bickering rage across the network, with businesses capitalizing on the debate by touting "heritage" items in an attempt to make quick cash. As a reenactor, I know the importance of the Confederate flag in terms of historical reconstruction. As a person, my heart is troubled by the hate. Hate from all sides.

I'm not posting this because I believe this country is terrible. Despite your position on the Confederate flag, one thing remains true; we live in a place where you can take a stance. As much as you have a right to say your peace, so does the next person. Freedom of speech is allowed; we just may feel the consequence of our words through the disagreement of another person. Please take that into account when engaging in this dialogue. Anyone can express the antagonistic words I listed above...

So goes the blessing and curse of free speech.

~Kristen

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