Pandemic-style Paczki Day adventures and me

Everything is an adventure around here, it seems. Including Paczki Day (Also known as Fat Tuesday).

The first thing you should know about me is that I’m not really a planner. In the writing world, they call me a pantser (because I fly by the seat of my pants — though I prefer to say skirt because I’m too precious for pants unless, of course, they’re yoga pants).

The second thing you should know about me is that I love being Polish (My mom would also like me to point out that I’m also Irish, English, and German, with a general American mutt quality that some might find endearing, and I love being all of those things too — most of the time).

So I prefer to get my paczki (pronounced poonch-ki) on the day of instead of pre-ordering. When I was fresh out of college, I would just hit up the local grocery store and get the imposter version of this sweet Polish donut, but as I got older, my tastes became more discerning. I would get paczki from a magnificent bakery near the bar I worked at or find another bakery close to home that was selling them on the day (pre-orders be damned) and pick up a few or ten. When I worked in the city, I would pick up boozy-filled paczki from a bakery that was on my way to the office and share them with the work fam.

In more recent years, I found a bakery that allowed walk-ups, where it was usually a breeze to snag whatever I wanted with minimal lines. I imagine Heaven is a place where there are no lines.

But we’re still living in a global pandemic, damn near 11 months after our first lockdown. And so things have changed with these here bakeries. Pre-orders, it seemed, were the way to go for some, while others navigated uncharted waters with weird systems and poorly updated websites. I had all but given up on eating paczki today.

Enter Michelle, one of my friends who spends every year perfecting her definitive guide to Chicagoland paczki. I haven’t seen Michelle since the Before Time, and standing outside in the open air while collecting paczki near my stomping grounds seemed like a winning idea all around. So I put on real pants, grabbed a meat stick snack, and left the warm comfort of my house around 11 am.

Michelle told me where she was and I made my way there through the sludge and snow of winter. I parked in one of those angled parking spots on the street directly across from the bakery and got out to look for her. She was nowhere to be found. Apparently, our wires had crossed and she was at a different bakery. No mind! I would meet her where she was because this bakery wasn’t ready to sell their paczki to the non-pre-orderers like me anyway.

I walked back to my car and was about to get in when a woman who was parked across the street called out to me, “Hey! Did you see the car that hit your car?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Oh I thought you saw it. The car next to you got your car. It shook the entire car. I tried to flag them down but they drove away. I got their license plate for you.”

Oh random stranger, you delightful gem. I looked at my car, and sure enough the bumper was solidly dented and the back panel had some scuffage as well. I took down the license plate (which had the word “rock” in it — I’m not usually one to judge a person based on their vanity plates, but this guy fucking hit my car and drove away so…)

So I called 911, gave them all the details, and lived that fun life of dealing with the after effects of an accident without the presence of the at-fault driver. (I also looked up the license plate in one of those websites that lets you look up people’s information, because I may not be a planner, but I’m thorough when it comes to vengeance (and by vengeance, I mean making their car insurance company manage the damage to my car, just in case you were worried I was going to go all vigilante in the suburbs — which sounds like a great band name btw).

It was almost noon, and I still hadn’t procured a single paczki, or really eaten anything but a meat stick. Michelle showed up, and we kind walked around the block a bit, waiting for this bakery to open up their online ordering form (which they would only put up after they finished giving out their pre-orders; no in-store ordering allowed).

I got to have a lovely conversation with Michelle (in person, though without hugging) even though we both kept checking the bakery website religiously. Unsure whether she would make it in time to her final stop (the first real bakery I ever got paczki from), she called to make sure they were still stocked. They let her place an advanced order and when she said, “key lime” I was all…well I wasn’t GOING to go all the way there…but there are few things I won’t do for key lime anything. So I placed my own order, and we decided to abandon ship in Glen Ellyn, IL.

I popped over to Starbucks on my way (I needed something more substantial than a meat stick and also something warm and liquidy). While I waited in the drive-thru, I noticed the website was finally taking orders. I placed mine (albeit without two of the three varieties I really wanted) and made my way to the Downers Grove bakery about 20 minutes away. I snagged my box and Michelle and I drove back to the first bakery for our orders.

By the time I got home, it was coming up on 2 PM. I had spent a total of $11.53 and nearly 3 hours driving through suburbia plus one minor car accident for 4 paczki. Was it worth it?

Key lime paczki from Busy Bee Bakery in Downers Grove

Absofuckinglutely.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

I just want to be perfect

Yesterday was my birthday. All my life, birthdays have been filled with anxiety and a little bit of disappointment. Partially because of my Clark Griswoldian dreams. I have hope. I believe in magic. I think anything is truly possible. And I imagine the most perfect of days for any special event, holiday, or vacation. I’m basically Riley from Girl Meets World.

Riley has Rileytown, a place where all her weirdness and happiness comes from. I have Chrissy’s World, where skies are pink and I am cool (with all my weirdness and happiness).

Riley has Maya, a best friend who stands up for her and loves her for who she is. I have Katie, who threatens to hit people over the head with a Corona bottle if they don’t stop teasing me or hurting my feelings.

It’s a good life. And it’s all mine. And for some reason, unbeknownst to me, a birthday never goes by in which I don’t cry at least once. I’m not saying this so you’ll feel sorry for me. I’m just explaining my weird little world for context.

So, yesterday, Brian took me out for breakfast and we planned our birthday adventure. We went home for a bit to digest and watch Game of Thrones. He took a nap (because I woke him up early to eat breakfast), and I called my mom for my annual cry.

It was at this point that Mama Bear offered to help. We were talking about Delilah, our beloved pool, who went to the pool graveyard in the sky a couple years ago, and how I could have been swimming while Brian napped. She asked if I wanted to go to one of the public pools in the area. My response was a mix of fuck no and lazy.

And be around all those people? I would have to shave my legs!

Mom knew I was right, and so she offered to left me come run through her sprinkler in her fancy, new, plush backyard grass(they sodded last year). I started laughing.

Come on! I’ll even do it with you!

At that point, I couldn’t stop laughing. It was uncontrollable and perfect. Everything I needed. I just kept picturing two grown women running through a sprinkler. I’m still laughing.

Brian woke up, and we took off for our adventure. A canoe rental in a beautiful hidden glacier-formed lake in the middle of suburbia. It was awesome!
image

image

After our canoe trip, we walked around the lake, chasing geese. Brian kept telling me to leave them alone, but it was his idea to find them when we were on the canoe!

Once they left the lake, they wandered the grounds, just like we did. And they were so cute! I loved them.

image

image

image

Afterwards, we met my parents for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Greek Islands. We drank wine, ate snacks, and they sang Happy Birthday to me before presenting me with a non-cake dessert and a birthday candle. All a girl wants on her birthday is to make a wish. Which I did. I’ll let you know when it comes true. We passed around the dessert, which was unbelievable coconuty custardy goodness, and my dad got the last piece.

As we nommed on our split dessert, Dad realized something was amiss, and he spit out the pink birthday candle. Apparently, he didn’t realize it wasn’t edible until it was too late. My parents and my boyfriend are pretty much the best. They know just what to do or say to make me laugh and give me the best birthday a Clark Griswold girl could have. A few tears turned into a magical day. Riley would be proud.

In the spirit of imperfection, I also wanted to tell you about a book that debuted this weekend. A book written, in small part, by yours truly. 37 co-authors produced the 4th book in the New York Times best-selling Pee Alone series, I Just Want to be Perfect. When Jen Mann invited me to contribute, I died a little bit with joy. It was the perfect title for me to be a part of and I hope you’ll all join me in reading this magical book of horrifying, hilarious, and true stories of women who try and fail at perfection.

I Just Want to be Perfect

You can find I Just Want to be Perfect in print and digital forms on iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Netflix Stream Team

This post was created as part of my work with Netflix (shameless plug excluded) as a member of the Stream Team. I received a device on which to shamelessly watch Netflix and an annual membership to stream all the streams I can stream. I binge watched Girl Meets World this month, and boy was I glad I did. Riley and I have a lot in common…you know, since I’m perpetually a 12-year-old girl. I had a Netflix account before the Stream Team, and no one pays me to say nice things about them. If you have Netflix, you understand. Even Mama Bear is obsessed with them.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Londonberry Lane

My mom wrote this story 13 years ago. It was published in local newspapers and came quite close to being published in Chicken Soup for the American Soul. This is her story; not mine. But on today, a day of remembrance, I think that it’s important for everyone to share their stories. 

Londonberry Lane

by Patricia M. Wojdyla

The sky is blue with pale yellow clouds, slowly turning pink. As the sun sets, there is no sound. The date is September 12, 2001. One day after the Attack on America. One cannot express the mortification we all feel.
 
At forty-three years of age, I am a typical American suburban wife and mother. My husband of nineteen years, Larry, owns and operates our family business. It has been the local bar and grill on Main Street for the past twenty-two years. Our children are typical suburban teens. Chrissy, a freshman, attends Bradley University. She has always been involved in school functions, cheerleading, and civic volunteer work. Brian is a senior at Glenbard East High School. He, too, actively participates in football, wrestling, and he has volunteered with church. We work hard, and are parishioners of Christ the King Church. We care about our community. 
 
Our neighborhood is a very diverse one. Many people from many nations live on Londonberry Lane. We are White, Black, Hispanic and many new Americans. They have come to the United States from India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan. Our faiths include Christian, Islamic, Mormon, Hindu — whatever we want. This is America. Each day, our street bustles with the sounds of children laughing, screaming, playing, riding bikes, and rollerskating. People walk around the block daily. The teen boys playing basketball is a common sight.
 
Not today.
 
Not yesterday.
 
The sky is empty. No planes. What an eerie feeling. Having lived within a few miles of O’Hare International Airport my entire life, I have never known this phenomenon. Airplanes are a part of life. Through all sunsets, sunrises, blue skies and cloudy days, planes fly unconsciously by. 
 
Televisions blare endlessly on, airing the latest accounts. We see horrific images again and again. More buildings are falling as countless lives are lost. War is a real threat. It is beyond belief. This is the United States of America. New York, Washington, Pennsylvania. So far away from our house. But it is our American family that has been killed. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, kids, friends, lovers. Altering the lives of millions of people forever. Entire companies wiped out. The whole scenario is completely mind boggling.
 
We will continue to go to work, our children to school. Our prayers will take a little more effort and time. 
 
As the sun sets on the American flag, it brightens our house on Londonberry Lane. 
 
So quiet, one could hear a pin drop.
 
No children playing.
 
No women walking.
 
No laughter.
 
No planes. 
 

We remember.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Confession Friday: I Have a Planning Problem

In the last several weeks, we’ve been browsing house after house after house looking for OUR house. From hundreds of houses online to dozens of showings, we’ve/I’ve spent countless hours looking for just the right house.

Several times in the last few weeks, we’ve even thought to ourselves is this our home? And truly meant it. So we plan. We plan what we would need to do to it to make it ours and often…it’s too much.

Well, we’d have to knock out that wall.

We’d want to add on an entire section to make that room fit for a grown adult and not a gnome.

We should refinish those kitchen cabinets.

We need to remodel the entire kitchen.

Why don’t we just MAKE that room part of the kitchen?

That bathroom needs a nice tub.

I veto the claustrophobic shower.

We need wood trim throughout the house.

Oh dear God! Why would they paint that beautiful trim?

The list of random suburban home planning goes on. We realized that none of those houses were our house. We need a mix of old house bones and charm wirh modern conveniences like air conditioning for hot Chicago summers and a large kitchen for all the parties I can’t wait to host.

I also plan for parties. How we would decorate for Halloween and Christmas. Because I want to host Christmas. And you already know how I feel about Halloween.

The other day, Brian tried to rein in my Christmas tree problem by telling me that we couldn’t get a new tree if we end up with vaulted ceilings…which is ridiculous because I’ve already planned for the giant ass Christmas tree I’m going to put in whatever giant ass room I can.

So I have a planning problem. Because right now, I’m sitting here with a notebook and a pen…writing a list…drawing diagrams…planning.

For a house we haven’t bought.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!