The Zookeeper’s Wife

The Zookeepers’ Wife is a film based on the novel (of the same name) which is inspired by the real life story and diary of Antonina Zabinski and her husband Jan. During the Nazi invasion and control of Poland, Antonina and her husband utilized their responsibility as the Warsaw Zookeepers to create a safe and transitional space for Jews. They are responsible for save hundreds of lives, which is a pretty amazing thing, but it wasn’t just that. Antonina created a world for them in which they could not only process through and begin to heal from the loss and hurts they’d seen, but embrace a sense of normal and happy again, inside those walls when the regime was not looking. This is what struck me the most about the book, the film and the life of Antonina. Saving lives is incredible, but then helping them gain back the ability to live is one step beyond.

Antonina’s deep love for animals carries on, into her love for others. She is the sort of soul which love simply flows from. Her husband Jan is passionate about the lives of others and the resistance. The two of them together change the world for many.

Most people I have talked to are familiar with the story, so honestly I won’t get too far into it. While I did find myself enthralled by this story, as it played out on the screen, it fell a little short of what I had hoped. The nudity, for instance. This is the sort of movie that I would want my more mature kids to see because it is real life and it is important content. I wouldn’t, however, want my kids to see Jessica Chastain’s breasts. This isn’t because I’m a prude, I’ve seen lots of movies with nudity. I was just raving about Nocturnal Animals not even a week ago, after all. It is simply that this nudity (no matter how small) adds NOTHING to this story. In fact, it takes away from it. I always think about Knocked Up, when Ben and his buddies are creating a website cataloguing every movie with nudity and at what point in the film it’s at. This story is not made better by making a list like that, it cheapens it. The nudity cheapened it.

There is so much within the time frame of this film which is painful to watch, but so necessary because it is true. Many of us have lived such a sheltered existence, missing completely the horrors of war. For example, I had never even thought about what would happen to a zoo should a bombing occur? What other element of real life horror would that add? The film also shows us how cold and callous human beings can be, in power. We tend to forget that sometimes, and seem to need regular reminding.

All in all, The Zookeeper’s Wife is a beautifully filmed story, timely within the American climate of what is happened in lashing out against our Jewish neighbors. There is a hope that this story will wake people up and challenge us to help others, love others and step up even when it places us at great risk, and then to take it a step further and breathe life into whatever we do. I do not know that I could watch it again, much of it was painful and the important things I have gleaned from this film are with me permanently.

Do you plan to see The Zookeeper’s Wife?

Forty one…

When I was 23 I fell in love with the Dave Matthews Band. As a child and teenager I had often got caught up in the way music felt, and how it made me feel. I was led to believe this was a teen thing, and I’d grow out of it, so I did. In the years between 16 and 23, I followed music trends over content and struggled with the focal point areas of my life, such as marriage and my desperate need to have a baby when all that continued to happen was miscarriage.

Then, I really heard the DMB. Not the first couple of songs that hit the mainstream radio market, because let’s face it- that is NEVER the best tracks a band has to offer. I was given the cd of Crash, by a friend. It sat in my cd rack (that’s taking it WAY back) for months, and then one night I was sitting on the floor amidst my swirling, out-of-control life and I decided to pop the disc in.

It literally changed my life.

Nearly every song reached and then fed a place deep inside of me, which had been dormant for a long, long time. This album would walk beside me through my husband’s affair, through divorce, through an uncomfortable relationship (ie: catfish, BEFORE catfishing was a thing), becoming a mom, reconciliation in my marriage, and so much more. It would see me through the start of beautiful friendships, (it was our mutual love of Dave which first connected my beautiful friend Laura and I, and she is one of my most dear, going on 17 years!) and the necessary end of others. Whenever I still hear the song #41 my heart soars in a way that nothing else can cause. It is fair to say that, since I was 23, this has been my absolute favorite song, above all others. If my life were a movie, or tv show, this song would play a lot. In fact, I would imagine that the instrumental version would be known as Misty’s theme, on the soundtrack. (sidenote: if you have never, ever heard this song, do yourself a favor. Go listen to it. Take a quiet 6 min and 39 seconds and really listen, to the words, the music…) Fun little bunny trail, when I saw DMB the first time, I was so bummed they didn’t do #41, but it was such an awesome show and I had waited to long to finally see them, that the good outweighed the bad. When I saw them the second time, they again didn’t play it, and so I was a little more sad. When I saw them the third time, with my best friend and my husband it was an amazing experience. There I sat between two of my most dear, and DMB played my song. I literally sobbed, it was such a perfect moment. Also: this is the ONLY time I have sobbed at a show.

Yesterday I turned 41. I can say, without any question, that the last few years of the journey to this birthday have been the hardest. Since right before my birthday, 2012, my life has seemed to go downhill a little more with each passing month. For a good bit of those 5 years, I wasn’t really learning or absorbing anything. Instead I found myself praying that it would just get better, that peace could come for at least a little while, and then I simply pretended like everything was ok. My life fell completely apart when I was 39. I found myself in all of the bad places I had feared I would end up (homeless, alone, unwanted and unloveable by the people I desperately wanted to want and love me) and I was ok. I was finding a way that I didn’t know was possible, and though life was not quite what I wanted, i was ok. The bottom wasn’t as unbearable as I had always imagined. (that being said, I do not EVER want to go back to that place)

As a girl who has always struggled with her birthday, the absolute worst was my fortieth. It was a living nightmare and as yesterday came closer, I found myself worrying about it. Then I remembered what last year taught me, (well, one of the trillions of things) it really was up to me to spend my birthday how I wanted. One’s celebration is NOT a reflection of their worth in the eyes of others. Just because I love the birthdays of people I love and celebrate them as thoughtfully as I can, it DOES NOT mean anything if I have to plan my own. So I did.

I bought a birthday cupcake package of the classic illustration of Alice in Wonderland, because I love it so much. I then baked two types of cupcakes (vanilla filled with lemon curd and chocolate filled with blackberry buttercream) and then did not even eat one. Gen had a couple and the rest were delivered to others. I loved it! It was so much fun and something I plan on making an annual tradition! I opted for sparkling moscato with my birthday cake, over the traditional ice cream. I spent the morning having a fun little Twin Peaks inspired breakfast and then retreated to my favorite coffee place, with a book. In the afternoon Gen and I caught a movie (which turned out to be the very best movie for yesterday, The Last Word ) After that, I took Chw as my plus one, to a press screening in Detroit and we had a really great evening. Met some really cool people, were forced to interact with an unsavory few and had an amazing dinner of Indian food. All in all, it was a perfect day. It was busy, but simple, which was perfect! Honestly it may have been my best birthday ever and this was completely because of me.

This morning I woke in the same way I do every single morning. I laid there, grabbed my phone and looked around at various things. As I lay there I questioned if I could go back to sleep, or if I should get up. I really didn’t want to get up. Knightley whined a bit and I groaned. Apparently the first morning at 41 would be exactly like the mornings at 40. Before disappointment crept in I told myself that it didn’t have to be that way, and I got up. I played with the puppy after his breakfast, I broke out my macbook and wrote a little. I drank my coffee and opened a window. It’s chilly out, but a little perfect. I started some laundry and mapped out my day.

What does 41 look like? I don’t know, but it is up to me to decide. I can tell you one thing, #41 sounds even better today than ever before. Here’s to the year of my favorite song!

Her Children Will Rise and Call Her…

Decades ago there was a woman who identified herself as wife and mother. She had a heart for Jesus, and this would come to sustain her more than she may ever have imagined. It is easy, in such a role, to find yourself in the details of sack lunches, ironing shirts and after work embraces, greeting your husband at the end of his day. When her husband found himself unfaithful and interested in a life & family with someone else, leaving her and her four daughters, it may have been hard to imagine herself at all- for a minute…

These days this scenario is almost expected, and there are programs and plans to help. Decades ago, this was not the case. To be the left, carrying the load, well- I can only imagine she endured judgement and bigotry at times, at the hands of others maybe so trapped in their fear. An absent husband/father and the either compassion or disapproval of others will not put food in your daughters’ bellies, so this beautiful woman had no choice.

She rose.

In an era where men were still handed most opportunities, she marched into a bank and offered them herself. She presented herself with such honesty: this would be her first job, she was an abandoned single mom, she knew she would work hard, and she did. Many years later she would retire from that very same bank. Times were so different then that, truthfully, we may have a tough time even understanding how isolating and brave this all had to have been. While her friends were lunching and sharing in each others lives, this beautiful soul would miss class parties and the like, just to keep power on in her very modest apartment. These days single motherhood is such a thing, and working mothers are very common, but this story is more. Even though single motherhood and working motherhood are among the most common elements of todays society, the fact that this woman’s life fell utterly apart and she rose in the morning, rising to give her daughter’s life. Rising to create a life that was so full of something bigger than any dollar could buy.

Rising up and moving past is not something common these days either, but maybe that has never really been on trend…

Beyond that, any of us who have been parents for any point in time know that parenthood is hard. So hard, and going at it alone only multiplies that. This incredible woman raised four incredible women. Women who went on to raise incredible kids. While no one is perfect, these 5 women have set the standard for keeping family at the center of the vitalist of priorities, also in a time when family grows less and less important.

There is not a person out there who could not learn something life affirming from knowing these girls or their mother. These days, most of girls themselves find themselves grandmothers. Their family has seen illness, loss, struggle, death and heartbreak. The tragedy which altered their world at the start of this story did not cripple or eternally victimize these five women, though it could have. It did not create an opportunity for them to settle down and live off of charity. It did not inspire deep, life long rebellion and acting out. Did it devastate them? yes. This woman, whom I admire beyond words, worked hard every day for her family.  In rising above and with such courage, she planted the seeds which would grow what was necessary, in her daughters, to stand throughout the heartaches and struggles they would face. She fought hard, for her family. She prayed hard, for her family. She was in the trenches for these girls, without ceasing. What began as clothes on their bodies and heat in their home continued through dating, marriage, childbirth, some divorce, heartbreak, health problems and even burying one of her own beautiful daughters. She still stands strong for these girls and their children, and their children’s children. Having known this beautiful soul since I was sixteen, I have to believe that if we are earning “jewels in our crown”, in heaven, for the beautiful things we do on this earth, this woman is going to have a castle filled to the brim with jeweled crowns.

Her daughters continue her legacy, rising up and fighting for the ones they love. They are united, kind and supportive and their children have become this as well. Among them is so much success, many geographical locations and, at the core of everything, family.

When I was challenged to write about a woman, a heroine, whom I have known in life who has gone above and beyond, sacrificed and inspired, there was no one else I could imagine. I met this soul when I was sixteen, visiting her tiny apartment with her granddaughter, who was my friend. I had no idea the ways that this woman would be so important in my life. She has stood beside and fought for me more than any one I’ve had. She is tiny in stature and fierce in heart, even so much as going up against my husband 18 years ago for his own adultery and abandonment. There she stood, taking him on and this man of 5′ 11″ towered over this tiny little woman and yet the only thing he was feeling was terrified. She, one of her amazing daughters (who would become my mentor and one of my dearest friends) and her own mother made three of four people who attended my wedding shower, when the world I’d lived in had all but thrown me away. I have recovered from miscarriage in her home, cried on her shoulder, prayed beside her and had so much loving conversation.

Any popular story I hear about people moving great obstacles to accomplish bold things simply does not hold a candle to her, in my book. What she had to do (and really, when she had to do it) combined with how her own daughters turned into loving mothers, fierce advocates for their family, and wild supporters of others- that is everything right there. She is a heroine with an amazing heroic legacy.

There is a film releasing on the 31st called The Zoo Keeper’s Wife. (It is based on the novel of the same title, and you can see the trailer here.) It is the story of Antonina and Jan Żabiński, a Christian couple who save and house hundreds of Jews during WWII. This not only an inspiring and life affirming story of heroism and faithfulness, but in a time such as this, it is a necessary story of humanity tearing down the walls of religion to help others, regardless of theirs. 

The world is scattered with brave souls, their beauty and their stories there for us to learn from and do with. I am so blessed by knowing this beautiful woman who I have shared with you. Who would you have written about? I would love for you to share. On the 31st, at 12:00 a.m., I will choose a winner (at random) to receive a $25 Fandango card… (comment additionally if you tweet or FB share to be granted extra entires.)

Spring is here, and has taken up residence in my face…

Happy Monday morning, to you!

And of course, happy Spring! Hopefully you are fortunate enough to live in an area where Spring is actually Springing. The jury is still out on our little corner of the world, here in Michigan.

I am currently deep within the throws of a sinus infection. After making it through thirteen nearly sleepless, new-puppy nights, and managing no real headaches to speak of (MIRACLE!), I of course have a whopper of one now. We made it to see Beauty and the Beast yesterday, and then I was done. The rest of the day was spent dying on the couch (ha, not really, but you know) while Gen binge-watched 90210. I got to the point where I didn’t even care if the puppy had an accident, which he did not, so that was a win.

I did manage a phone conversation with my husband, who is luckily stuck deep within the mountains in Utah, suffering through a business trip. I say suffering because he gets a hotel life, mountains all around him, a weekend in Park City, mountains, eating at some of our favorite restaurants (that we don’t have), and then there are the mountains. (you are smart, you can likely guess which part of his trip I am the most jealous of.) He’s pretty lucky to make up and drink in the ranges every day, but I am pretty excited for him to be home at the end of the week all the same. Missing that guy, for sure. It has been nice to have my little guy here to assume the role of man of the house in Chw’s absence. Knightley does a good job of keeping us girls in line, I have the bloody scratches and teeth marks to prove it. He’s got me wrapped around his paw, that’s for sure. His adorable little bow-ties do me in, every single time.

How is it almost April? HOW? I have many things to do, this week, including getting a new driver’s license and baking a massive quantity of cupcakes. Alas. my face feels like a rhino is stampeding through my left sinus cavities and the very idea of wrangling a puppy AND being productive feels overwhelmingly impossible. Also, I have a mystery in my life. We have a coupon for Bucca De Beppo which reads “for dine in or carry out only.” As opposed to??? My sinus swollen brain cannot understand this. I need sleep. And a cloth for my face. And a puppy nanny. And a housekeeper.

And the mountains outside my window too.

 

To do…

Winter came out of nowhere and slammed Michigan over the weekend. I am sitting in an apartment that I will finally admit we pay way too much for, when our water is disgusting and we freeze with the weather outside. We will not be renewing our lease here for a variance of reasons, but I can understand why people do… Apartment hunting is no fun anywhere but this area is a joke. The income is not high enough here to charge the rates they do. We found a lovely option, over the weekend. If only it were about $300 less a month and with a deposit half that size.

Geez, adulting is tough.

Ideally I am mentally putting a plea out there for someone, in the right location, to have a lovely little condo they will rent for a reasonable rate. Thus far my mental plea is going unanswered.

In other news, I started out the year with a long list of fun things that I wanted to learn how to do, or get better at. Here we are, mid march and I have only managed to learn that my body will not tolerate most medications, and that we pay too much for our apartment. These weren’t exactly the things I had in mind.

I have wanted to be a cupcake baker extraordinaire for years. To date I have attempted this process three legitimate times. It was fun. It was delicious. The problem? I’m not sure. Gen and I have been watching the Great British Bakeoff on Netflix and my baking bug has hit, hardcore. The issue is that I have a horribly unworkable kitchen in my incredibly overpriced apartment. At least eleven times Gen and I have said “oh, I want to bake ________, we should totally do it!” Only to then venture in to our “kitchen”  and assess our less than 1″ of workable space. Yep, it is  sad day when contestants on a baking competition have a better kitchen in their tiny strip of space, than we have. In all fairness (and hindsight) our apartment is made for foreigners here on business, with infinite bank accounts, so you can kind of understand, I guess.

So yeah… in thirteen days I celebrate my birthday. One month ago I romantically answered Maybe i will make a dinner of homemade gnocchi* and cute little Alice in Wonderland cupcakes**! When asked what I wanted to do on my birthday. (*I have never made gnocchi from scratch so this seems like a really stupid idea, as the 28th approaches. Especially considering the kitchen I have.) (**no. I later ammended that I really love Whole Foods coconut lemon cake. Like REALLY love it.)

In case you missed it, Gnocchi is also on my list of things to learn/master. I aim small.

While watching the Great British Bake Off I have lengthened my list a bit, (which ironically was a 2017 goal list, so my time table has shortened.) I would love to make a beautiful braided loaf of bread, master pies (sweet pies, no meat pies here) and wrap some poached pears in swirly dough… Of course, the afore mentioned kitchen may be an issue. Also, re: the pears- the bakers did say it was the worst, so I may scratch that from the list. (which also means rewriting the entire list because the flawed “scratch off” list would be below my highly ambitious standards.) (Perhaps in the new list I should head it “Things to learn and master before I am 50”, which would, obviously, make my 49th year of life incredibly busy…)

I guess the moral of this diatribe is that I need to be a little more honest with myself and my limits. Keep sight of my goals, but honestly accept that I can’t do everything. Some days I can’t do anything. Currently I can’t become an amazing baker and gnocchi maker, and that’s ok.

If I can just manage to find a decent rental I’ll consider it good. :)