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.


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.





Today I got to hear my 87-year-old great uncle recount life in Poland during the war, with his brother, my grandfather. So many things to comprehend. I’m exhausted. I took copious notes. I strained to hear and understand. I’ll need my mother to fact-check.

My roots continue to unfurl before me. There is depth where I once saw nothing at all. My dad’s eyebrows. A curiosity for motor vehicles. An inexhaustible sense of direction that spans decades and street names named and then renamed over wars and occupations. A love and easy grasp of language. In my grandfather’s — and my great uncle’s — case: German. My father: English. Me: Polish. Without it, I would be nowhere in this country, unable to make any connections, with any family member, or friend.

As it happens, thanks to this genetic predisposition for language, I have rekindled family relations, made connections with cousins who, for years, were only part of photographs that I long forgot to look at. Even my childhood girlfriend, who was born a month before me, in the same hospital, our mothers shared the ward, we were able to talk like old friends, thanks to our connected language.

Amid the conversation tonight, a 14 month-old babe, my cousin’s son, hung around, watching us all with curiosity as we strained to make funny faces to make him smile. My mom was the biggest hit. He’s learning language too.

But I was all ears for my great uncle. I don’t know what sort of relationship he had with my father, or my grandfather, although from the way he spoke about Dziadek, he seemed to respect him a whole lot. There aren’t many people in this world who ever did. My grandfather was not well-liked by members of my family. I was too young to really know why or care all that much, and I was still far too self-involved to get to know him before he passed away in 2006. But at least I got a glimpse of who he was to someone else tonight. And I got to learn what life was like in Poland — at least one little corner of it at least — when the Germans came to town.

I won’t forget this night.


Three generations. Not pictured: the golden-haired baby!


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.

Reading in Polish

I began reading in Polish once I finished the English books I brought. Half the books I brought were actually already read by the time I got here. I read them inordinately fast, as though I wanted to be done them as quickly as possible. The first time I saw a secondhand bookstore in Wroclaw I couldn’t stop staring at all the undiscovered (to me) writers in the window. Names that I had never heard. Titles I had never read. All the mystery lay before me like a cave of treasure.


Eyeing my aunt’s collection once my books were done, I landed upon an old familiar title. I’ve read Eat, Pray, Love already. I even watched the movie on cable a few years ago. I knew this would be a good introduction. A familiar story in different words is a perfect transition to a new language. I’m over a hundred pages in and the task of reading in Polish is no longer such a task. The words flow freely most of the time. There are still hiccups when I come across unfamiliar words or phrases. Polish isn’t exactly the easiest language to read. There are a lot of S’s and Z’s. But, like all things that start out hard and build with momentum, my ability to read is improving.

It’s a lesson that will serve me well in life. Sure things start off hard when they’re unfamiliar. Sometimes you need to give it a try more than once. This is not the first book I have attempted to read in Polish.

Sometimes you need more than one try at something. But once it clicks, the horizon looks bright and beautiful.

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.



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




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.








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.




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.