merry christmas anna maciejewska

Photo of Anna and her mother at Christmas, 2016.

Dear Anna,

Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia, Anna Maciejewska. Merry Christmas wherever you are. Maybe I will just talk to you directly today?

The photo I posted was lent to me by the people at Finding Anna Maciejewska on Facebook.

We never met, but I still think of you often. The mainstream media seems to have forgotten you, but me, your friendly neighborhood blogger and many others have not. So I thought I would write you a letter.

I have three women as friends who were Polish by birth like you. Two I worked with once upon a time, and one is a very dear friend and married to one of my oldest friends in the world. Like you they emigrated here and became citizens to live their American dreams. They are among the most genuine and lovely people I know.

They all love Christmas. I am guessing you did too. One of these friends of mine for years has been sharing the beloved Polish Christmas tradition of the Oplatek, or the Christmas wafer. I don’t have to tell you about what the wafer is, as you know. But for everyone else reading this, please enjoy what the Polish Women’s Alliance of America has to say:

Christmas Wafer – Oplatek

Sharing of the oplatek (pronounced opwatek) is the most ancient and beloved of all Polish Christmas traditions. Oplatek is a thin wafer made of flour and water, similar in taste to the hosts that are used for communion during Mass. The Christmas wafer is shared before Wigilia, the Christmas Eve supper. The head of the household usually starts by breaking the wafer with his wife and then continues to share it with everyone at the Wigilia table. Wishes for peace and prosperity are exchanged and even the pets and farm animals are given a piece of oplatek on Christmas Eve. Legend has it that if animals eat oplatek on Christmas Eve, they will be able to speak in human voices at midnight, but only those who are pure of spirit will be able to hear them.

This tradition dates back many centuries when a thin, flat bread called podplomyk was baked over an open flame and then shared with the family gathered around the fire on Christmas Eve. Patterns would be cut onto the bread to make breaking easier. This is why oplatki today still have patterns on them, usually of Nativity scenes. You can order Oplatki from PWA. Learn how here.

Everyone who knows me Anna, knows how much I love Christmas. Some of my favorite mercury glass ornaments are Polish made. The ornaments made in Poland and Germany and once upon a time in the Ukraine are just truly magical.

This morning I stumbled across two things. One was a post written by a man who took part in searches for you in 2018. I never knew it existed. Here, let me share a little bit:

April 30, 2018 Finding Anna (and Ourselves) :The Frustrating Search for a Missing Mother, Wife, Daughter and Friend By Larry Goanos

I spent part of my wife’s birthday recently looking for a dead body in the woods of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Yes, really.

I joined a group of about 20 people who had gathered in Malvern, Pa. to search for the missing-and-presumed dead body of Anna Maciejewska, a wife and mother who went missing in April 2017…Anna’s elderly parents in Poland, both cancer survivors, are grief stricken, frustrated and angry. And to make things worse, Anna’s husband has reportedly prohibited them from seeing their now four-year-old grandson.

Anna was not a young, attractive model or a wealthy socialite, and she didn’t fit into most of the other categories of missing persons anointed by the media as being worthy of intense and prolonged coverage. She was just an average American, like you and me, and she has vanished from the face of the Earth, leaving her family and friends distraught and seeking answers.

Most likely, you’ve seen clips on the news of packs of volunteers searching fields, woods and riverbanks for the remains of crime victims. It’s a horrid task and, in a way, nobody wants to find the object of the search – a body – as they cling to a sliver of hope that the person is somehow alive. That is, unfortunately, almost never the case.

But I can tell you that the search for a missing person is also a heartwarming act; it’s people banding together to help one another in a time of unimaginable stress and grief, especially for the victim’s family. An act of despicable inhumanity, the killing of an innocent person, paradoxically gives birth to an outpouring of love and unity among many, including people who did not know the victim….As one of mankind’s greatest minds, Albert Einstein, said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

Anyone with information about Anna’s disappearance is asked to call the Pennsylvania State Police at (610) 486-6280. 

And also this literally happened recently – a podcast I find intriguing The Ever Evolving Truth has picked up the mantle of talking about this. There is also a page on Facebook called Fresh Eyes on Anna Maciejewska. It gives me hope, even if I don’t agree with some of their take on your disappearance so far. BUT they are paying attention to what happened to you, and I pray their interest sparks other renewed interest from media, law enforcement, etc.  I also agree that even if you don’t agree with something, maybe see it through so every angle is covered, right? As an actuary you would look to all of the details to make sure you were correct, right?

Maybe the miracle of Christmas will help find you and bring you home? We all pray for that, Anna.

A Christmas wish and a wish for the New Year is for you to be found, Anna. You deserve to rest, your little boy deserves to know where his mama is, and your beloved parents deserve closure and answers along with your friends.

2 1/2 years missing is too long.

Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia, Anna Maciejewska.

Very Truly Yours,

Me

life’s little observations

s-l1600

Something occurred to me the other day.  And I am not a psychologist or expert in the field of how negativity affects people, especially where they live, so these are merely my opinions and observations.

Stress and it’s impacts on us is widely studied.  This article from 2018 was insightful-  Stress and our mental health – what is the impact & how can we tackle it?. So was this article- Psychological Stress, Physical Stress, and Emotional Stress, and this one – All the Ways Living in a City Messes With Your Mental Health.

We live in an area that was bucolic and peaceful. Agricultural and equine heritage and traditions.  It is now being overrun by development.  Every time you turn around, another community is threatened. That is stressful if you are directly affected/impacted, and it can raise your blood pressure just driving by a place where you used to see cows, or horses swishing their tails while they grazed to seeing how  it is now just a big pit of scraped earth or budding Tyvec-wrapped communities where everyone is or will be jammed in like lemmings.

And then there are all of the pipeline sites. They are ugly and raw and NOISY.  People’s property values are declining, their wells being poisoned by whatever the heck it all is they drill with (there are enough articles in local papers etc about this, right?) And we can’t forget the sinkholes. When I was first coming out to Chester County before I moved here, I used to love when I turned on 352 off of West Chester Pike if I came that way.  All of a sudden it was just green with rolling stretches of lawn and trees. Now it is a raped landscape that actually stresses me out just driving by it, so I can’t even imagine how directly affected residents feel.

Or other area stressers like contested sites within municipalities where state agencies like PennDOT are concerned.  Take the site of Route 352 (A/K/A N. Chester R or Sproul Rd) and King Road in Malvern.  This directly affects residents in East Whiteland and East Goshen.

And here we are at year end and no one knows what is happening for sure at that intersection, and that includes the directly affected residents.  Will they face any eminent domain? Will they face a complete loss of certain properties through eminent domain? It’s a big mystery. And I watch email after email by affected residents go by to municipal officials and PennDOT.  PennDOT never replies. It is like they are ignoring the residents utterly and completely, which adds to the feelings of stress, dismay and uncertainty.

Is it just me or have any of you noticed how people aren’t putting up their usual Christmas displays in some of these areas targeted by pipelines, development,  construction, and PennDOT? This is what I have noticed, and it bums me out to see houses usually bright and cheery at the holidays look dark and sad. But in all fairness, if you were facing any of these things, how cheerful and full of Christmas spirit would you feel?

Life can be hard, that is the reality of life.  But for a lot of these people, it shouldn’t be so hard. These folks moved here and bought their homes to raise their families.  Their piece of the American Dream.  You live right, pay your taxes, are part of your community.  And your home is indeed your castle, and for a lot of these people there are quite literally barbarians at the gate.

Elected officials NEED to think about how these scenarios are affecting their constituents. All they have to do is drive by and notice how the longer these negative issues persist, how they affect people. Real people. People who in a lot of cases voted for them. It shows in the little things like gardening and holiday decorations.  I think it is criminal to drive by homes where you know the owners were once so house proud and see these changes.

Just some of life’s little observations.  Wishing these people peace.

christmas magic

I never know who reads what I write when I talk about local businesses I patronize and special seasonal things and events I enjoy.

This morning I received a note I would like to share in part:

✒️🎄Hi ! You always have the best suggestions for events and shopping experiences! I wanted to say thank you!

Yesterday my husband and I went to Willowbrook Farms and enjoyed the beauty of Life’s Patina.

I met Jill at Huentalglas inside Gallery 222 and finally purchased a few of her glass ornaments!

We then traveled into Malvern for their Christmas event and had a great time navigating the wonderful stores and meeting their owners!

We went to Brick and Brew and after being told of a 45 min wait- we left and went to Christopher’s and were immediately seated with exceptional food and service (I recalled the blog you once wrote and I agree) .

Anyway thank you for your blog and for helping members of your community enjoy local events, stores and restaurants!🎄🖋

This means a lot to me. As I tell people everytime I write about a business or service or place, good bad or indifferent, I write from the perspective of a regular customer. I am not a compensated blogger.

If I enjoy an event, it’s because I attend it, and not just as a blogging assignment.

Earlier this year I was targeted by someone with a local business because my opinion, based upon my visit as a regular customer, was mixed. They took to the business’s Facebook page about me and then basically allowed anyone and everyone to trash me.

For a few weeks I literally also received obscene and even threatening and harassing messages. (Now those people are not the fault of whomever posted about me on social media from the business. People are just odd keyboard tigers on social media and any excuse will do.) I will also note that when it first happened, I reached out to the business as in telephoned them in an effort to discuss this. But sadly, they never contacted me back. They also amusingly removed comments to them that told them they were out of line or they had also had similar experiences.

When this happened, I also reached out to the appropriate local business association. Twice. Not even an acknowledgement that I contacted them. I also reached out to the group’s president individually because well, they know who I am and family members were customers years ago. No acknowledgement there, either.

I pay it forward by shopping local and dining local. But after my experience this summer, the whole episode made me feel unwelcome where I live.

But this one kind note today made me realize that paying it forward honestly is not a bad thing. These small businesses and events I so enjoy deserve our community support.

So thank you to the note writer for reminding me that nothing can take the place of shopping local.

Happy Sunday!

#ShopLocal

dumbest credit card thief…ever

The above arrived today via UPS. My husband had to bring it in because I can’t lift anything heavy right now.  It was from Mieli.

We opened the packing box. It came shipped to me in my married name, and billed to me in my married name. A very expensive vacuum cleaner.

Only I did not order one.

I thought it was a present from one of my family members for some reason so I called Mieli to find out who it was from.

The customer service lady sounded confused. Told me that I ordered it. And I said “How would I have ordered it?”

“With a credit card.”

Ding ding ding. All of the alarm bells go off in my head. I said to the woman can you please tell me the credit card number. She gives me my Visa number.

I don’t use it very often. And the only time I had used it recently was for a meal (not grocery but take-out) delivery service and I had ordered fruit from a grower in Florida.

Oh and did I mention I’ve had this Visa card so long it was in my maiden name? Yet this vacuum cleaner came addressed to me in my married name. I do not know honestly how this ended up on my doorstep because I am not a customer of Mieli.

So I initiated a fraud investigation and claim with my credit card company. They suggested I call Mieli back and initiate a return of this gold plated vacuum cleaner. So I did that. And the customer service lady said she would email me some number and I got off the phone.

Then lightbulb went off. How could she email me? I’ve never purchased anything from this company nor received anything from this company as a gift or even seen a catalog from this company.

So I called Mieli back again. I told them I wanted a copy of the original receipt but I also wanted to know right now what was the email address used to fraudulently purchase this item? They gave me the email address.

If your email address is thunt031@comcast.net you had better run. A fraud department is hot on your trail. And quite possibly the police as that is my next call.

My bank theorizes that somebody was supposed to call the Mieli back and change the delivery address or call UPS to change the delivery address and screwed up and didn’t. Or maybe they were just going to show up and steal it from my porch.

I also went through all of my transactions on this card which aren’t very many because I don’t use it very often.

I am quite sure my Nancy Drew activities have exhausted my poor credit card bank. But I was also able to give them the little detail that the phone number used was close to but not my home phone number.

Oh and did I mention that I think this was purchased on Black Friday? I didn’t do any physical or virtual shopping on Black Friday. And a $500 vacuum cleaner is not something I’m going to buy. 

So chalk this up to a learning curve and it could’ve been worse. I am very grateful that my bank is so on the ball. But Fa La La it’s the holidays so be careful where you use your card.

#nobillboardsintheburbs

Back to billboards. Happy Holidays affected residents, the issue that never seems to go away is back again.

May, 2009. That was the first billboard hearing about billboards in Haverford Township.

This includes the two ginormous billboards proposed for Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr across from the Bryn Mawr ACME and Our Mother of Good Counsel Church. Two ginormous billboards that would cast a ginormous shadow on lovely small neighborhoods in the vicinity.

Now mind you this was only one site proposed for Haverford Township, there were multiple sites. All in the shadow of churches, schools, small businesses, neighborhoods. And don’t forget the issue at five points in Bryn Mawr, which while technically in Lower Merion, also affects Radnor and Haverford Townships as this is the literal point where two counties and three townships meet. (To see articles about this topic, go to Main Line Media News and search “billboards, Bryn Mawr“.)

Well here we are at the end of 2019 and billboards are back as you can see above. This letter was sent out by Haverford Township 5th Ward commissioner Andy Lewis.

Andy said:

📌As per the attached letter, the hearing on the application of the Bartkowski Investment Group to install billboards in four locations in Haverford Township, including two along Lancaster Avenue at Old Lancaster and Penn Street, is scheduled to commence on Tuesday, January 21st and continue for three days. Please save the dates📌

I never know what the media is going to cover or not cover, and they have been quite devoted over the years to the residents potentially affected by these billboards. However, I have a lot of friends that still live near these billboards sites so I am posting this because how could I not? Back in the day I went to every billboard hearing until I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 2011.

I will also note this is the same company residents in Tredyffrin are fighting. (See Community Matters.) In Tredyffrin they want to tear down the historic toll house replica built by Okie at Lancaster Ave and Route 252 in Paoli. (Also see Ban Digital Billboard in Paoli Page on Facebook.)

I saved lots of photos from these old Haverford Township hearings and I’m posting a few of them here. I want people to see things like when the firetruck shot their ladder up in Haverford Township above houses to show how tall the billboards would be. Or when residents in Haverford Township made a mock-up using big blue tarps of the actual size of a billboard screen being proposed. and photos of residents taking to the streets over this issue.

I no longer live in or near the areas of Haverford Township being threatened, nor do I live close by to the proposed site in Tredyffrin in Paoli. But as a citizen of this country until they revoke it, I still have my First Amendment Rights… which interestingly enough has always seem to be one of the arguments for why these billboards should be allowed and I’ve never understood that and can you understand that?

#NoBillboardsInTheBurbs pass it on. Please support the residents of Haverford Township, Lower Merion Township, Tredyffrin Township, and any other township who objects to these monstrosities in their communities.

I will also note that four states—Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine—have prohibited billboards. Yes, they banned them. So why can’t we say no?

I wonder would the folks from the billboard company want BIG digital billboards on their front lawns? Probably not and I doubt their neighbors would either, right? So why shouldn’t these communities be able to say “no thank you”?

BILLBOARDS = BLIGHT

why are we perpetually punished by politicians over healthcare in this country?

I just completed my open enrollment for next year’s health insurance. My premiums will double each month starting in January, 2020.

Double.

I am literally back to the pre-Affordable Care Act premiums yet the Affordable Care Act is still in place. I don’t live below the poverty line yet I am punished for being solidly middle class and these premiums make you feel like you are dancing on the edge of precipice of living at or below the poverty line, and why? Why does it have to be this way?

I didn’t necessarily wish to embrace the Affordable Care Act at first if I’m completely honest. But it did make it much easier as a self paying insured to get insurance that was a bit more affordable for a couple of years.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, I was self-pay. The reason I was self-pay in corporate America is because my employer at the time was not required by law to offer employees insurance. Before that job I was always covered under employer plans. Now as a self-employed person I continue to be self-pay. I’m fine with that. But whether you are self-pay or through an employer plan health insurance is crazy expensive. And does it have to be?

Now before I became self-pay, the employer plans had already started to slip. We were paying more and getting less. And that has nothing to do with what the employers actually allowed to be covered via the underwriting. It has to do with what the insurance companies gave us out of the generosity of their hearts. Their hands are outstretched for premiums, but what about the quid pro quo? Do we fairly and equitably get what we pay for? And what about the medical providers? Have you ever looked at what they actually receive versus what is paid into the insurance companies?

We have had a healthcare system in this country that has continually broken down by bits and pieces over the decades because there is one consistency that is never addressed: the insurance companies themselves. There have never been any comprehensive reforms of the insurance companies. Yet corporate executives keep their private jets and other perks, right?

I will pay my insurance premiums. I always do. But I will be forced to economize in other areas.  I have no other option for benefits, so I will make do. I am a rule follower not a rule breaker, but I don’t think the rules are fair and equitable with regard to health insurance in this country or in Pennsylvania.

I don’t cheat at life, I pay my fair share. But when it comes to health insurance in this country I feel like I am cheated at times, don’t you?

As a cancer survivor and still active cancer patient I have paid extraordinary amounts of healthcare related expenses for many years at this point. And that is in addition to monthly health insurance premiums. And I’ve paid it all off. It takes time, I have to do payment plans, but I’m not asking for handouts. But year after year when open enrollment rolls around I feel like Sisyphus with the healthcare rock to roll up the damn hill.

I don’t think as Americans we should be punished every open enrollment period for having health insurance. We are told by law we have to have health insurance, I also always had health insurance before it was the law to always have health insurance.

Yet, I look at elected officials on both sides of the aisle fighting about health insurance and everything else in this country. As taxpayers we pay towards their health benefits that they don’t really pay for. But they want to tell me how I’m supposed to spend my money on health insurance just like they want to have control over a woman’s reproductive rights? And I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat, that’s bullsh🤬t.

Americans, average everyday Americans, are the perpetual pawns of politics and politicians. Depending on which party is in power, you get something for a few years, then the next administration takes it away and so on and so forth. It’s a vicious cycle without end and there should be an end to it.

We didn’t ask for political parties to battle it out and for politicians to beat their breastbones telling each other how fabulous they are at our expense.

Elected officials aren’t so fabulous because they won’t sit down and figure this out. It is just a perennial game of whomever gets all the toys wins with regular every day Americans as the losers in perpetuity.

I am grateful I am able to get health insurance. But not everybody can. And the prices go up but the services don’t necessarily coincide do they? 

I will note for all you far more conservative than me, I have never ever expected someone else to pay for my health insurance. I just would like it to be priced fairly and consistently.

We need real and lasting healthcare reform. Not more extremes in politics.

Rant over.