family

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

A short lyrical piece; as always, feedback, thoughts, encouragement, etc. are appreciated and can be sent to sojustmethen@gmail.com

It all started as a regret, or maybe a worry about a regret. Or maybe a worry about worrying about regrets. I can’t quite remember. All I know is that once it started, it grew like a weed in fertile soil. Suddenly the little nagging voices became a cacophony. They turned into raindrops that fell so hard and so fast that they left welts on my skin and blurred everything around me. I thrashed and I screamed in my mostly blind state. I felt my fists sink into flesh, but I didn’t stop, couldn’t stop. I was soaked and cold and lost and confused.

With time the deluge lessened to a shower, then a sprinkling, then a mist. And one day without me even noticing, when the end credits on that drama were done scrolling, the rain was gone. I blinked in the newfound clarity, and looked around. Everything was clear for the first time in a long time and all I saw was emptiness. I knew you had left but I couldn’t for the life of me remember when, or why.

I forced myself to stop looking for you and instead, looked at the mess I had become. With a sigh, I picked up the chunks that had fallen off and superglued, duck taped, stapled them back on as best I could. I saw that I had grown a whole foot in the rain and my heart had a distinct squeak. I had come through better. I reached up to the sky trying to grow even more when I felt a pang in my heart. Confused, I cracked open my chest to see what was wrong. I pulled out a microscope and saw nestled in my sparkling ventricle, a single grain of sand. It didn’t look like much, but I could feel it rubbing and scratching my tender new heart.

At first I was annoyed. I tried to get rid of it. I hawed and I clawed trying to rid myself of it. The more I fought the more I shrank until I was almost the same size as before.

I stopped.

I don’t know when I became such a super sleuth, but I realized that this grain of sand was what was left of the beautiful crystal heart you once shared with me. I realized, that my rain had devastated the landscape around me, and I could not even fathom what it had done to the fragile thing you gave me for safekeeping.

And that’s where I am now. Every time I move, every time I breathe there’s a little itch, a little irritation, but I stretch my hands up to the sky anyway. I will treasure that pinch as not only a memory of you, but as a reminder of what I am capable of. I can’t shrink anymore for fear of wasting away to nothing, so instead I grow.

Besides, I have heard it said that every pearl of wisdom begins as a grain of sand.

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Grow Up!

Growing up is hard. Everyone knows that. What everyone doesn’t know is about my growing up process. Well, I’m going to change that. I grew up normally as a youngest child. This means that I have been and still am to some extent a brat. However, I have gone through some things that made me grow up real fast, real quick. Luckily, every negative experience I had made me better, stronger, and happier in the long run; so, no need to bore you with them. Instead I’m going to show you how I’ve changed

Things I Don’t Like Then vs. Now:

venn diagram

Spiders are always the enemy.

First Facebook Profile Picture vs. Current:

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Notice the progression from cheesy quotes to cheesy pictures of questionable makeup decisions to cheesy pictures of a professional adult with her nephew.

How I Spend my Money:

pie chart 2003

pie chart 2013

To be fair, most of my food/drink cost is still candy.

So there you have it, definitive proof that I’ve grown up. I mean, just look at all those adult things I buy and dislike.

Šaltibarščiai

Šaltibarščiai
(Cold Beet Soup)
1 lb. red beets
2 cucumbers
3 eggs
4 c. buttermilk
2 scallions
Pinch of fresh dill
Salt
Cook whole beets; cool them. Peel and grate coarsely. Peel cucumbers; cut into little squares. Chop the hard-boiled eggs, chop the scallions.
Mix everything except buttermilk together. Pour buttermilk in and stir, salt to taste. Put in refrigerator to cool. Serve with boiled young potatoes sprinkled with chopped dill, or hard-boiled eggs.

Look at that. Have you ever seen anything tastier? If you’re American you’re probably like, “Yes, Julija, of course I have seen something tastier than bright pink soup.” To which I say, “… it’s really good, I swear.”

My mom has been making this soup for us since we were children, and I’ve always tried to get my friends to try it. I’ll talk about how refreshing and cold it is. I’ll talk about how putting hot potatoes in the cold soup adds a whole ‘nother layer of creamy, warm goodness. But inevitably, as soon as they see the bright pink color, they cringe and decide they don’t want any. I never really understood why this particular color was so off-putting. It’s really a lovely shade of pink. In Lithuanian tradition we use beets a lot. So, we also have a cold pink salad called vinegretas and a hot pink soup called just barščiai. I guess I just grew up used to pink food, and thus don’t have the aversion. It’s kind of like a super power. Lithuanians eat some weird stuff, (jellied fish… actually jellied any meat, pig’s ears, smoked eel, and pickled everything) and I have tried everything at least once and liked most of it. I can try almost anything, no matter how strange it looks, because that’s what I have been doing my whole life.

Of course I went through a period where I wanted to not be Lithuanian anymore. I wanted to not eat weird things for dinner and be just like everyone else. Not anymore. Not having Lithuanian food readily accessible for four years made me realize how great it is. I, like the X-men, have embraced my super power. I am a super-eater! I know other cultures have these kinds of things too, and kids growing up in America may feel that they don’t want their food to be weird anymore. But I say, embrace your superpower. Your food is one of the things that defines you, and your culture. So, kids of the world, stand up and be proud of your weird food. It’s probably delicious, and if not well… it builds character.

Varškečiai

Today’s post is brought to you by the Lithuanians Are Weirdly Not Dying of Heart Attacks Association or LAWNDHAA for short.

VARŠKEČIAI

(Gnocchi? Dough pillows?)

2 c. flour

2 lbs. Farmer’s Cheese

6 eggs

2 tsp. salt

Mix together above ingredients, and form into a ball. Cut ball of dough into four parts and form four balls. Roll out dough into snake of desired thickness and flatten top. Cut into 2 inch parallelograms and cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. When cooked remove from water.

 This recipe is not my family’s recipe because there is not set recipe, just a general set of  guidelines for how to make these wonderful little pillows. My grandma says that  varškečiai (or selnėkai) are all about the texture. The dough cannot be grainy or dry, but  it also cannot be too sticky. The perfect dough is slightly firm, but springy. As for the  taste, well, they honestly don‘t really have any. They, like gnocchi, are meant to let the  sauce shine. And our sauce… is terrible for you.

In order to make our special sauce which accompanies varškečiai, you need a whole tub of sour cream and two or three whole stick of butter. You put both in a saucepan, stirring occasionally until everything is melted. Then you pour it over the varškečiai while still hot and you‘re done. Our sauce (which we put on a lot of things) is just butter and sour cream melted together. How my family manages to avoid obesity is a mystery to all of us. I always marveled at the fact that this is the only dish I can think of (besides the ones we eat at Kūčios) that doesn’t involve bacon in some way. I have some theories:

  1. When this dish was created the last piece of bacon had been used and since then it’s become tradition.
  2. This is a dish the pigs themselves developed because they were sick of being eaten.
  3. This dish was meant to be eaten on Fridays during lent when fish was too expensive or not readily available.

I’m pretty sure it’s number three. The way I have been raised, Lithuanian and Catholicism is one and the same thing. I grew up thinking that all Lithuanians were deeply religious and that Catholicism was one of the main principles that shaped the country. Although that is fairly accurate, I now realize that I grew up in a community that was all about preserving the Lithuania my grandparents knew. I grew up in a community where communism could not oppress Catholicism and thus it flourished. But in Lithuanian, that isn’t anywhere near the reality. In Lithuania, Catholicism had to grow in concrete and barbed wire, under heavy boots and rifles. It had to grow in dank underground caverns and ‘dangerous’ books In constant fear and oppression. But grow it did, if only little by little.

There is a hill in Lithuania that is completely covered in crosses. People have been leaving crosses on this hill since the late 1800 in order to remember fallen brothers whose bodies were never found. It was never a big deal until the Soviets came along. They bulldozed that hill at least three times. And what happened after the place was leveled? Within days the hill would be covered in even more crosses. The people used this as a sign to the Soviets that they were still there and true to their faith and country. If only in secret.

My great great-uncle was a catholic bishop in Lithuania, and he died defending his  faith. I have seen his face only in museums and books. But he was a minority. Many  abandoned their faith to avoid torture or death. My uncle died for no reason. He did  not inspire a great uprising, or become a saint. He died and was forgotten. That is  until Lithuania was free again. When Catholicism was free again. The people sang of  his faith, and his name has become familiar to many, but he died alone.

I’m considering becoming a rebel and trying the varškečiai with bacon. But then I would have to make them, and they are incredibly time consuming. When I grew up enough to help my grandma in the kitchen I saw how much labor went into each and every little perfect bite, and I developed a great appreciation for my grandma and the varškečiai. After having worked so hard on them each bite was sweeter and more delicious. The work and struggle make them better, stronger. Like a faith grown among weeds.

Sorry I took a break, but look……. things. :)

Hi there! Sorry I took a break yesterday; I was working on a plan for this blog! Yay! I finally figured out a schedule of what I’m going to do (that I’m going to share with you so you can avoid days you don’t care about).

The schedule is:

Monday – Nerdiness

Tuesday –Story Time

Wednesday – Marketing and Media

Thursday – Wild Card

Friday – FOOD!

So, unfortunately I missed yesterday, but today is a new day and story time! This one is brought to you by my family again. Enjoy!

My dad rarely had to cook for us when we were kids. My mom was a typical stay at home mom, and thus it normally fell on her shoulders. When I was about three or four, she planned something that forced her to be out of the house at dinner time.

“Just give them Mac-n-Cheese. It’s really easy, just follow the box.”

Of course it wasn’t that easy for my dad. He read the box and decided that he didn’t need those precise measurements. He knew what a tablespoon was and that was good enough. My dad overestimates his guestimating abilities quite a bit.

I wasn’t actually paying attention at the time the flour was added but I have heard this story so many times from my brother and sister that I feel like I saw every little thing. First, my dad did not put in enough milk. Then, he put it too much butter. Finally, he put in more milk and the “easy” mac-n-cheese had turned into mac-n-cheese soup. Drawing on all of his “vast” cooking experience, my dad had a brilliant idea. When dough is too watery you add more flour, so when pasta is too water clearly you must be able to do the same! The resulting goop looked like no other mac-n-cheese I had seen or have seen since.

Being the well behaved children that we were (wink, wink), we withheld our complaining until after we had taken a bite. The travesty of my favorite dish was somehow gummy and gritty at the same time. It tasted like salty death, and my fork barely managed to free itself from the swampy goo. To this day we don’t let my dad anywhere near the kitchen.

Introducing THEMES!

Well hello there, again.

I’m glad that you decided to come back (I wasn’t sure you would).

Since yesterday was such a struggle for me, I decided that I needed a theme to make my life easier. So the theme for the time being is…

FOOD!!!! YAAAYYYY!!!!

I’m going to start off the theme by sharing a story from my childhood about the most perfect food ever, grilled cheese.

I was probably around four when we went to some nice restaurant downtown with my grandparents. We stood by the door waiting to be seated and my brother and sister were reading the menu to figure out what they wanted for dinner. My brother would comment on something he read and my sister would respond, then I would chime in pretending that I could read it too. I already knew what I wanted, of course, but I didn’t want to be left out. After a while my brother turned to me with the saddest look on his face I’d ever seen.

“Julyte, they don’t have cheese…”

“WHAT? How do you know?”

“It’s right here on the menu.” He pointed to a line at the bottom. “Looks like they don’t have bread either. I’m so sorry. I guess you’ll just have to get something else.”

I sputtered at my brother then stared at that small line of text at the bottom of the menu trying to make sense of the squiggles that were ruining my life. It couldn’t possibly be true, could it? A waiter came to show us to our table, and I dragged myself away from the menu on the wall. I stared at my feet, trying to hold back tears and be a big girl. The walk to the table was miles long, and all I could think about was the rumbling in my stomach and how I would surely starve. I looked around at all the happy people eating their gross grown up food and fought the lump in my throat.

When we sat down I continued to stare at my hands, contemplating death. My siblings and grandparents buzzed around me saying things that I could not or would not comprehend. How could they just keeping going like normal? Did they not understand that their precious little sister/granddaughter was going to suffer the most terrible death imaginable? I wanted to scream at them for not understanding the severity of the situation.

I was once again interrupted by a waiter, I was starting to think he was very rude, setting down the food my grandpa had ordered for me, a grilled cheese. Grilled cheese was my favorite, and that was one of the best I’d ever had.