Category Archives: Life

Happy International Women’s Day 2017

Year after year International Women’s Day transforms just a little more, honing itself into a careful diamond that shines brighter as more women wake up.

We’ve had some incredible moments as women in the year.

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau stood up and declared himself a feminist.

Air India organized its first all-women’s flight crew. Their inaugural flight circumnavigated the globe.

Female artists showed us that we can be in the same space together and hold hands, not throw elbows.

Credit: Billboard.com Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage

The world stopped for one day and declared itself female.

Credit: Wikicommons Photo by Mark Dixon

It’s a heady time. I’m constantly full of emotions I can’t always explain. But these are good things. We all need these moments. I am so proud of all of us.

Keep going, ladies. We’re all in this together now.

Previous Posts:

Reminders in life

This sign hangs above my desk in my office. It pretty much covers all of life, be it business, love, relationships with other human beings, your spirituality, and even your health.

This sign hangs above my desk and when I am stressed or feeling down I look up and there it is.

A photo posted by Olga Kwak (@piratecakes) on Aug 12, 2016 at 7:50am PDT

 

It reads:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste and, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of years, gravefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

— Found in old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore; Dated 1692

There are many moments in my life when I could use this advice. Even today, as I sit here pining over this, that, and the other, I am reminded that whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. So I must be gentle with myself.

Do you ever find yourself in that mood where you feel stuck because of one thing or another isn’t going right or isn’t moving fast enough? Maybe this poster will help you as well. Feel free to share it.

Cause You Gotta Have Faith

I believe in God again. Oh, sure. I believed in God before. He was the omniscient and omnipotent being that lived outside of my understanding and scope, but I still acknowledged, cause for me it just felt right that there is a God. Except for most of my life I did not pay Him much attention, nor contemplate my faith in any kind of constructive way. I just believed in Him.

As I said goodbye to the Motherland, I was kindly given a clue as to why I believe in Him.

God’s love is eternal, compassionate, and, most importantly, forgiving.

When was the last time someone reminded you of that fact? Maybe you already know it and that’s why you’re such an awesome person. You already know that love and compassion and forgiveness are the elements of good living and you’re as cool as a cucumber about ’em.

Or maybe this is the first time you’re hearing it. I know when I did it felt like I’d just discovered the Pythagorean theorem. And I went to Catholic school. But maybe it hit me like a tonne of bricks because I finally understood it within the context of my life. You can lead a horse to water…

We all place a lot of pressure on ourselves to do the best we can in our lives. What if I told you that what you’re doing is good enough? What if I told you that God will love you despite any number of shortcomings you think you see? Would it set you free?

These were questions posed to me by a stranger on the flight back to Canada. I could have shaken them off. I could have dismissed him as a kook and burrowed my head into a book or my laptop and ignored him for the rest of the eight hour flight. But I listened. In allowing my heart to open to God, it began to fill itself with joy, love, and hope.

All of the stupid bullshit that used to kick up a storm in my head disappeared. I dismissed it. I forgave it all. I made my peace with it because I finally understood that God wants us to be at peace. He doesn’t want us to hate our lives. He wants us to rejoice. And yes, there are shitty times. People die. Hearts are torn asunder. Pets get run over by cars. Kids are mean.

But babies are born. Love is kindled or even reignited. There are a million adoptable pets in North America alone. And yeah, kids are mean, but they’re also the darnedest, right? Yes, there is darkness, but there is lightness as well. And without the darkness, the lightness hardly seems that bright at all.

Through the wonders of the Internet, this is an actual shot of that mug. I remember this font.For a good long while I lost faith, which is like developing vertigo. You can still live, sure, but it’s more like you’re hanging on to blades of grass while the Earth spins out of control. We used to have Irish coffee mugs with this saying on them – “An Irishman is never drunk as long as he can hold on to one blade of grass and not fall of the face of the Earth.”

That’s what it felt like when I lost faith – holding onto a blade of grass as the world spun and spun and spun.

Now I get why I have faith in God. And it’s so comforting. Even as the earth continues to spin around, I keep a tight grip on that blade of grass, but now it’s coupled with a conviction that feels like a pair of moonboots that anchor me to the ground even more firmly. Thanks for the kickass pair of moonboots, God.

Rememberance

World War II is never far from anyone’s mind in Poland. This year marked the seventy-first anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Uprising.

While I was visiting family I got a chance to take some photos that I’m particularly fond of at this time of year as we’re thinking about our loved ones and how they served and fought for freedom.

DSC_6720

DSC_6773

DSC_6787-(2)

Mending a Broken Heart

Two years ago, when I had my first episode of psychosis, a mental state I wish upon no one at all, my doctor told me that I needed to take things slowly and not rush the healing process. My mind, after all, had a heart attack. Heart attack victims can’t just get up and go after their heart attack. The same can be said for a “head attack”.

This past summer I had a heart attack of a different matter. I let go of a person I love because our paths are going in different directions. This is not my first time at this particular rodeo, but this may be the hardest I have to live through. But, as my aunt says, somehow we must live through it anyway.

Some days are harder than others. Facebook is a particular minefield that I tread along carefully, but, of course, despite my knowing better that, as Gloria Steinem once said, “There is no there, there,” I still take a look and feel that ache that although is beginning to heal slowly, is still there. Maybe not as acute as it once was, but still definitely there.

About a month ago I hurt my thumb climbing an old foundation in Lublin to take a photo of a castle. As I hopped down, I heard something go in my thumb and for a frightful few hours worried that I had broken it. Turned out to be nothing more than a sprain, but that pain lingered, much like this heart pain lingers. And although I know time will heal this wound as much as it did my psychosis or my thumb sprain, because this particular pain I feel in my heart, my mind, my lips, my eyes, my stomach, my fingertips, it’s much harder to let it go.

It takes time. Time and patience.

Paying Our Respect

There’s no better place to visit than a cemetery on a hot August day, said no one ever.

Regardless, we decided to head to the cemetery to lay a memorial down on my grandparents’ grave. First we had to find them, though. I had little knowledge since it was only my second visit and mom had only been there a handful of times herself, so our supercharged march began to flag a little, then a lot, when after about twenty minutes of searching we concluded we couldn’t find them.

It didn’t help that I wore the wrong shoes and did I mention it was a hot August day, and we left at 10:30 in the morning?

Eventually we found them, though. We were off by a lot, so it wasn’t like we didn’t see them the first time around.

DSC_6705-(2)

DSC_6706-(2)

Afterwards, I snapped some photographs of the cemetery while waiting for our ride. We sat under a grove of trees near the entrance.

DSC_6707

DSC_6709

DSC_6710

Settling Into Nałęczów

Staying with my aunt and uncle outside of Nałęczów has been peaceful for the most part. The biggest issue thus far has been a couple of bad thunderstorms (one that knocked the power out right as we arrived) and throwing a dog toy too high and watching it land in the branches of a very tall tree. Thankfully my uncle has a tall ladder and was able to rescue Misiu’s toy (more about the dog later).

As for me, I have been doing my best to catch up on client work, read a lot, write a lot, and rediscover my love for photography. I’ve been taking pictures more or less every day and I’d like to share a few of them with you. I’ve been experimenting with black and white composition because I really like the look of it.

DSC_6578

DSC_6579

DSC_6581

DSC_6587

DSC_6595

DSC_6604

DSC_6606

I have had more fresh-picked fruit in Nałęczów than anywhere else in a long, long time. Plums, sour cherries, apples, raspberries — the bounty of Poland’s fertile countryside is not lost on me.

Then there’s this special character.

DSC_6598

DSC_6592

DSC_6570

Misiu (Polish for Teddy Bear) is one and a half years old, very smart, and full of energy and joy. He’s not exactly the world’s greatest guard dog, but he sure looks like he could take anyone on if they tried to break in. Or steal his toys. Boy, does he love his toys. And he refuses to listen to me when I give him a command, mostly because I’m way lower on the totem than he is thanks to my complete inability to act as an alpha around him. My curse means more cuddles for me, though. That’s a win-win in my book.