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  • Writer's pictureVicky

We lost the best of the best one month ago: The best mother, the best mother-in-law, the best granny, and the best great-grandmother.

For as long as I can remember, Granny has always been there. Living two towns over from my dad’s childhood home certainly helped. She was there for every school play, every dance recital, every graduation. For several years, while Val and I were still really little, my family’s only night out of the week was Friday pizza nights at Granny and Pop-pop’s house. Their house was the final stop of every trick-or-treating excursion so they could see our costumes.

Sleepovers at Granny’s were a treat growing up. I have fond memories of waking up to popovers in the morning, running through the sprinklers, looking through all the knickknacks in the sunroom pretending I was in the West Wing of the Beast’s castle (yes, I was that kid.) One summer, we ate at every hot-dog place in North Jersey we could think of just to find out which one was the best. (It's Hot Grill. It will always be Hot Grill.)

She was such a strong example of the way she lived her Catholic faith. She was a member of the rosary society at the same church that Pop-pop was a trustee of—it's also the same church where my parents got married. Whenever she would tuck us into bed, she would pray the Guardian Angel prayer with us, and it's something I still say between decades of the rosary. This was the reason I asked her to be my confirmation sponsor. The day before she passed, I was able to say a Divine Mercy Chaplet at her bedside. I was honored to repay her in some small way for the gift of faith she gave me.

At my Confirmation in 2008.

Granny and Pop-pop always hosted the big Wolak Christmas party, which also involved a pre-Christmas pierogi pinching party a few weeks before. My love for Polish cuisine was born around their kitchen table. Before my trip to Poland for World Youth Day in 2016, she tried to teach me a couple Polish words. One of the few I remember is piwo (beer).

While my parents’ current house was being built, we lived with her and Pop-pop. She was there for the morning rush to get out the door, the afternoon pickup/dropoff to all our various after-school activities, and dinner and bedtime. And it was while we lived there that my Pop-pop passed away after battling leukemia.

When she moved to a beachside condo on the Jersey Shore after Pop-pop's death, we kept up the summer sleepover tradition. During my weekend off of a month-long summer theatre intensive at Rutgers, I didn't see my parents, I saw Granny. We walked along the Asbury Park boardwalk, when there were only a few shops and one restaurant there.

Granny was my plus-one to another cousin's wedding.

One distinct memory I have is from my older cousin's wedding, for which I was a bridesmaid. It was the after-party at the hotel, way past midnight, and I was exhausted after an 18-hour day. Granny was happily sitting in a chair with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other. It was then I accepted the fact that Granny was way cooler than I could ever be.

Though her health declined significantly during and after the pandemic, she was in the front row when I married Charlie last September. That day, he put on my finger the same white-gold band that Pop-pop gave her on their wedding day. They made it to 50 years of marriage before Pop-pop's death. Charlie's godmother had convinced us to get a wedding videographer because one day, we would want to see the people we loved on film. She was right; we now have precious film of Granny on my wedding day that I will cherish forever. (And Chari Films did an amazing job!)

At her last birthday party in April, she couldn’t speak very much, but when she saw all of us gathered together, she said, “Lucky, lucky, lucky.”

No, Granny. We were the lucky ones. I miss you. I love you.

Frances Krassowski Wolak

April 15, 1931 - May 13, 2023

“Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all.” - Proverbs 31:29

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Happy belated new year, everyone! It's mid-January, and I've made zero progress on my New Year's resolutions so far...because I don't have any New Year's resolutions.

I know, I know, I've written about not falling into the New Year's resolution trap in the past. (Oh hey, Vicky La France, back from the dead!) But I have to be honest: I suck at self-discipline. Even as I've entered my third decade of life, I'm great at starting something, but I'm not great at following through.

As the start of a new year has come and gone, I've seen a lot of *~discourse~* about resolutions: how to make them, why you shouldn't make them, how to keep them, why you shouldn't keep them, why you're a lazy, awful person if you don't keep them (looking at you, Equinox). And for the first time this year, I didn't want to participate in any of it.

For the past few years, I've done Gretchen Rubin's "2[X] for 20[XX]" lists, where the number of goals goes up each year. But the thought of writing down 23 things to accomplish in 2023 didn't sit well with me. Whenever I've written these lists in the past, I've been tempted to think I will overhaul my entire life in one year. Spoiler: It hasn't happened, and I knew I needed to make a change...but it a different way. I love following Emily Frase on Instagram, and in a recent story, she talked about sitting in Adoration toward the end of the year, and asking Jesus what He wanted from her this year. I loved that idea, but it was late at night and there is no perpetual Adoration chapel near me—yet 🙏🏻—so I pulled up a livestream of perpetual Adoration on my laptop (just a quick YouTube search gives you dozens of options), grabbed my journal, and dove in.

As I sat in front of the screen, instead of being open and receptive to the Holy Spirit, I just kept telling Jesus of all the things I wanted to focus on this year: I really want to work on my physical health. I want to take on more freelance writing projects. I want to make my new marriage even stronger. I want to save money for X and Y. I want to... I've done Saints of the Year and Words of the Year (thanks, Jen Fulwiler!), but I never thought to have a Bible Verse of the Year, until I remembered a verse that was on a bookmark I had found on the subway platform several years ago: 1 Timothy 4:14. I had written 1 Timothy 4:12 on my college graduation cap—which I clearly decorated with my church friends—but hadn't read the rest of the chapter in a long time. I flipped to verse 14, and then quickly read verses 15 and 16 as well.

Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate. Be diligent in these matters, be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to everyone. Attend to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.

I just about fell off my chair.

It was like the Lord was encouraging me to finally giving myself permission to act upon the dreams in my heart. It wasn't selfish to have dreams or goals because the Holy Spirit inspired them. However, like Paul's words to Timothy, the Lord wasn't asking me to accomplish all the things in the span of one calendar year. He was asking me to show up, use my gifts, say no to other things so I could focus on the work laid out in front of me. In other words, take it one day at a time.

So yes, I do have specific goals I want to achieve this year, but I'm not going to quantify them or tie my self-worth to them with a pretty little bow. I'm just going to show up and try.

And in the words of the prophet Taylor Swift, this (post) is me trying.

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Photo by Jon Marquez.

New year, old series. My monthly $0 favorites are back! I'm hoping to really grow this series this year, especially since my budget is a little tighter because weddings are expensive.

As always, leave your recommendations for free things that make your life better in the comments below.

1. My local Buy Nothing Facebook group: The Buy Nothing Project began in 2013 as a way to “build community by connecting people through hyperlocal gifting, and reducing our impact on the environment,” according to its website. If you have anything you want to get rid of—or anything you want but don’t want to pay for—the answer could be just a few blocks away, or even next door! Through my local Facebook group, I’ve scored a set of four margarita glasses, Christmas decorations, and books. I also listed several items I didn’t want to bring with me when I moved, and they’ve been out of my hands and into new homes within days. “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure” has never felt more true. To get started, download the app from the Buy Nothing Project’s website or search for your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook.

2. Brown rice for breakfast?!: In preparation for moving out of my apartment at the end of January, I made a conscious effort to use up as much of the food in my kitchen as possible. Lunch and dinner were easy to plan, but I didn't have a lot of options for breakfast—until I discovered this brown rice breakfast bowl recipe on Running With Spoons. I know, I know, brown rice sounds like a weird choice for breakfast. But this recipe is delicious, filling, and perfect to use up whatever you have on hand. I swapped out the Medjool dates for craisins and it tasted like autumn in a bowl. Yes, I still eat fall things in January. Don’t @ me.

3. Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen: One of my goals for 2022 is to read 12 books that I already own—that means not bought, not borrowed from the library, but on my bookshelf as of January 1. Teeeechnically this book got in just under the deadline, as I bought it at the end of last year. But, I'm still counting it, and it was on the top of my list to read before my wedding. This book didn't disappoint. For all you theology nerds wanting to dig into the Catholic Church's teachings on marriage, this is the book for you.

4. Morning Brew: Is it gauche to plug my own employer on my own blog? Oh well. I truly am proud of all of the amazing work the Brew Crew is doing. In case you didn't know, Morning Brew is a free e-newsletter that delivers all the business news you need to know without boring you with a bunch of statistics or talking down to you. I work on the B2B side of the biz, copy editing Marketing Brew, Retail Brew, HR Brew and EmergingTech Brew. If newsletters aren't your thing, we've got podcasts, courses, and more fun stuff. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram. OK, shameless plug over...for now.

Thanks, as always, for reading. I'll be back next week with another post, and the February edition of this series will be coming later this month.

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