Sincerely, Stasia

Living and learning on a teacher's salary.

Let Me Tell You a Love Story… August 13, 2012

Filed under: Family,Life,Love — sincerelystasia @ 8:36 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I rarely discuss my personal or family lives here, but there’s one story that has to be told. I’ve mentioned that my family recently suffered the huge loss of my Pop Pop after a very long, very emotional battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. I’ve been bouncing ideas around as to how I could describe what our family went through and the man he was. I’ll do the best I can to tell the story the way I’ve understood, interpreted, and personally remember it.

My grandparents have the kind of love story you would see in a movie. In their younger days, Pop Pop (Eddie) was in the Army and Nana (Marge) sang for RCA and the USO. At that time, if you walked the much different streets of Newark, NJ, you would hear her beautiful voice being broadcast to the public. One night at a USO dance, Eddie asked Marge to dance. Even though she bashfully thought he was asking the girl behind her, the two danced and the pen was raised to write a love story that would span 70 years.

When Eddie asked Marge’s father for her hand in marriage, he replied, “You either take all of her or none of her!” And so it was.

When Eddie was deployed to the Philippines during WWII, Marge would write him a letter every day and twice on Sundays. Then, she would take the bus past the church in their town to go to mass at the church where they were married, several towns away. When he came home for good, the two had three amazing children. This was later to be followed by 10 grandchildren (that would be me, my brother, and our fabulous cousins!) and, much later, by 11 great-grandchildren.

Times were not always wonderful for Eddie and Marge. Despite the strength of their love, they had difficulty that stemmed from alcoholism. Eddie was a bartender for two decades, and wrestled with his demons in such a way that it nearly drove the family apart. But, Marge stuck with Eddie and Eddie eventually stuck it out. They were involved for many years with both Al-Anon and AA and helped countless others with their story, faith, patience and love. By the time Eddie passed away, he had been sober for 43 phenomenal years. Eddie and Marge would have celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary this October. When people asked how long they were married, he’d wink his famous wink and tell them the number of years, followed by, “I thought a title fight only went 15 rounds!”

I have many fantastic memories of my Nana and Pop Pop. We used to visit their home in Harwich Port, Cape Cod, MA every Thanksgiving and summer. My Pop Pop always had sparkling blue eyes, an infectious smile, that beautiful wavy hair, and the ability to make nearly anyone laugh. He was silly when it was time to be silly (as he had clearly been in the top picture, when he had me in a hysterical laughing fit) and serious when it was time to be serious.

At a wedding, dancing Pop Pop’s famous dance: sway, sway, sway, step, step, step…

One summer when I was very small, we went to a grocery store. Pop Pop and my dad stood me in front of the lobster tank and I was delighted to choose my very own lobster! However, there was a bit of a communication breakdown… When Pop Pop placed what I thought was going to be my new pet in front of me on the picnic table in their backyard, looking an awful lot more red and dead than I remembered him, I screamed and ran away in tears while everyone else erupted in laughter. To this day, I cannot take a lobster apart!

Later, as a teenager, Pop Pop had to find ways to entertain my brother and I during our visits. He would wake us when it was still dark and we would drive down to Bank Street Beach, head down to the jetty, and walk among the crashing waves, around the bend, all to the way to the end to go fishing. You’d think someone who grew up at the shore like me would know how to fish, but definitely not. Pop Pop and my dad were patient with me, though – They took turns holding my hand as we walked across the slippery rocks where I was sure I’d slip into the ocean, they baited my hook with squid, and they taught me how to cast. When I attempted my very first cast, they watched proudly as we found that I was so good at fishing, I managed to catch something before my hook even hit the waves: A seagull. I caught a seagull, mid-cast, who was thrashing around at the end of my line as I watched on, completely horrified. But Pop Pop and my dad were patient, unhooked the poor little guy, and cheered me on as we fished together throughout many more of those mornings.

If you’re not familiar with Alzheimer’s Disease, it’s a despicable and ugly disease. It slowly steals people’s lives and dignity. Towards the end, my grandparents moved to Jersey to be closer to family and lived in the same building – Nana in an apartment and Pop Pop in a hospital bed in skilled nursing. She spent time with him every morning, afternoon, and night. I was fortunate enough to live close by. Although I waited too long to start, I began visiting two-three times a week. By the end I made sure I was there every day. I’d sit by myself with Pop Pop… Hold his hand, stroke his hair, listen to music, watch TV. I’d introduce myself to him every 5 minutes or so, otherwise he could get startled or nervous because he didn’t know who I was. I’d tell him my name, remind him it was the same name as his mother, remind him I was his granddaughter and he was my Pop Pop, point out that I had inherited his blue eyes and they were exactly the same. I told him stories to remind him about things that happened when I was little and shared things that were currently happening in my life.

There were days his eyes would be alive and he’d wink at me in response to things I’d say, and there were days he seemed to look through me as I spoke to him. Just a few months ago, Nana, Pop Pop and I were able to have dinner at a table together in the dining room of skilled nursing – A fantastic memory. One evening I told Pop Pop how much I looked forward to seeing him every day, telling him, “This is MY happy hour now – Coming to see you!” A huge smile crossed his face and he belly laughed… Something I hadn’t heard in a long time. A week before he passed, he reached for my hand, winked, and I made jokes about how I might let him win if we arm wrestled. But through all of that, I was still introducing myself every five minutes, making sure he felt safe – A man who had always made me feel safe when we were together.

One day I went to my regular visit with Pop Pop and Nana, and a nurse told us that time was winding down. The next day I went back and some of the family sat together for a bit. The hospice nurse had told Nana that morning that it could be days; it could be hours. She wouldn’t leave his side. She held his hand the entire day. When they brought her dinner to the room, I watched as she held his hand with her left hand and ate her dinner with her right. Twenty five minutes after I left that evening, Nana was alone with Pop Pop in his room, holding his hand, when he slowly and peacefully stopped breathing. And then, she continued to hold his hand and sing him a song – Just her and the man she lovingly referred to as her “OAO” (One And Only) – The last sweet moments of the kind of love most people would do anything to find.

In this love story, so many people loved my Pop Pop, but no one more than Nana. That, my friends, is the kind of love that lives forever. I hope you find yours.

Sincerely, Stasia


My Foolproof Cure For Colds and Fevers March 5, 2012

Filed under: Life,Random Thoughts — sincerelystasia @ 4:42 pm
Tags: ,

As the proud owner of a sinus infection, I’m home from work again today (don’t even get me started on the stress of being out of my classroom on a Monday!) and cannot drag myself out of bed. Considering my head is so cloudy and full of pressure that I almost just fell down the stairs (graceful, as always), thinking is not a strong suit today. I’m currently being kept company by a fluffy down comforter, a super-snuggly Puggle, and a mason jar filled with chocolate (that I can’t taste anyway) from a baby shower I went to yesterday.

So, instead of treating you to a blog post filled with the kind of fever-inspired rambling you may or may not have just made it through in the first paragraph, I’m going to quickly give you my sure-fire cures for colds and fevers. And by sure-fire, I mean anything is possible. Still, give them a try if you’re under the weather. Note: They will not work at all unless you are wearing pajamas. All day.

1. Yogi Green Tea Energy with local honey. This can be found in my travel mug every morning. My brother introduced me to Yogi tea during a trip to Whole Foods and I was quickly addicted. And, each bag has a tag with a wise inspirational and/or spiritual quote. Whether it helps ward off illness, who knows. It’s irrelevant when you consider that my tea is clearly wiser than your tea. So there.

2. Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup OR Chicken Flavored Top Ramen. Let me answer a few questions here before we even start. Yes, I am an adult. Yes, I have seen the sodium content in both of these soups and am aware that dehydration is not exactly helpful when you’re sick. Yes, I’m aware that there are much healthier chicken soup options and, indeed, I prefer not to have any vegetables getting in the way of the noodles. This is what my mom always gave us when we were sick as kids. I will admit that I have been disappointed to receive homemade chicken noodle soup from a well-meaning family member. The magic healing powers in these two soups come from the understanding that they were always served with a kiss on the forehead from mom, which is all I really want when I have a cold or a fever. Call it the ‘comfort factor,’ but it works.

3. Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. I have no explanation for how this works, except magic. That’s a good enough reason for me.

4. Puppies. They have a healing power all their own. They know when you’re sick. They know when you need a little extra TLC and they’re happy to oblige. My puppy, Layla, hasn’t left my side all day. Literally – She was part of the reason I almost fell down the stairs earlier. She’s an expert snuggler/heating pad and will be happier than any living creature could hope to be if you’ll stay in bed and cuddle with her all day. And really, who doesn’t need just a little extra love and attention when they’re sick?

Now that I’ve shared my top-secret cures, I’m going back to sleep because, as you know, there is no way I’m taking another sick day tomorrow. G’night.

Sincerely, Stasia


Ready? February 21, 2012

Filed under: Random Thoughts — sincerelystasia @ 10:40 am
Tags: , , , , ,

This blog has been up and down several times over the past few years. As always, I continue my promise to undoubtedly be the laziest, most unpredictable, and unreliable blog poster person ever. Just throwing it out there in advance. In this blog you’ll find all sorts of random things that I enjoy – Music, recipes, ideas for teachers, etc. Promise #2: I am brutally honest, especially when it comes to sharing bits and pieces of my own life.

To get things squared away before we begin, here are some explanations for you. I am many things – including but not limited to a teacher, doctoral student, and lover of all things random. But the one thing, or person, I am not is Stasia. Stasia is my grandmother who, like my grandpa Hunny before her, was taken by cancer a few years ago. She was the most honest person I’ve ever met and by far the most headstrong. She was a very strong influence on me and this blog is my way of keeping her around just a bit longer.

So, as I take this journey into the blog world, here are some things you may or may not want to know about me.

  • I’m a teacher – Fourth grade English at a 4-8 middle school. I know the power of the smelly sticker and the creativity of a 10 year old mind. I love, love, LOVE what I do. I consider myself a lifelong learner and am always looking to learn new ways to inspire my kids. They make me laugh every single day and I love being able to do the same for them!
  • My absolute favorite thing to do is pour a glass of wine, turn on some music, and get busy in the kitchen. I love cooking and baking and I try to do it whenever I can. I’m always searching for new recipes and have an addiction to buying cookbooks.
  • I’m currently finishing my first year as an education doctoral student. While I was unsure about whether I fit in at the start, I’m proud of my current work and am really looking forward to starting my dissertation research within the next year and a half.
  • I am proudly from New Jersey. Not “MTV Jersey Shore” New Jersey, but the real Jersey shore. I grew up with my toes in the sand and that’s where I head whenever I need to center myself – There are fewer cures that work more swiftly than salty air and crashing waves.

Over the course of the next few weeks I’m hoping to get back into the blog world and share some info that I, as a working teacher and full time grad student, find interesting, helpful, and delicious. Now, if I could just find my original five readers, circa 1999.

Sincerely, Stasia


%d bloggers like this: