Welcome to What does the world need now? My guest this week is a mother and grandmother who has experienced single parenting, hosted foreign students while they studied English and has shared her travels to China in a fascinating series that has taken us all along for the ride.
Tess (Teresa) Karlinski is a wonderful support to other bloggers and although we have never met I feel that one could enjoy discussions on many topics and also find an attentive and helpful ear for one’s problems.
Apart from a love of writing that we share, it is also great to meet a fellow music lover and I was delighted to find out in my research that Tess intends to keep dancing and singing as long as she has breath.
Apart from the absorbing posts about her trip to China, Tess also is an aficionado of ‘Flash Fiction’ and on Tuesdays and Fridays if you head over to How the Cookie Crumbles with a cup of coffee, you will find plenty to keep you entertained.
I also found a very interesting article on shared home ownership with her daughter and her family which I am sure will open up discussion on extended families living together and how that works for all concerned.
Tess lives in Ontario, Canada with her family which includes an interestingly named cat, Lady Gaga…. I am sure all will be revealed about that choice.
Hi Tess and welcome to the hot seat. Perhaps you could fill us in a little on your background and childhood, who you consider to have had the most influence on you growing up?
My mom and I came to Canada from Germany when I was four. My father had arrived months earlier to prepare our way in a village in north-eastern Ontario. None of us spoke English like a lot of the immigrants in town. We had varied nationalities in this French community: Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, Swedish and English. Despite language barriers, everyone pulled together, helped each other, and looked out for each other’s children. Another thread holding the town together, an invisible one with the strength of silk, was the gold mine. Except for the shop-keepers, all the men laboured underground extracting gold. A blast gone wrong, a scramble too slow, a spray of rock in your eyes, and anything was possible: broken bones or death. The town lived by the clock. Husbands home late by a minute and the women stopped breathing. The atmosphere thickened with paralyzing fear even I sensed as a young child. We were a lucky family; many others were not.
Two years of English school, my tongue and the new language battled each other, but English won. I soon discovered the library. In those days these were sacred halls of book worship which demanded silence. Agog with wonder, “Wow,” I said out loud. The librarian laughed and didn’t hold back. I visited every Saturday till we moved years later.
Over the years, four more siblings came along—all girls. The family moved farther south a couple of times. I worked in an office as I’d always imagined. Forty-two years later, I retired to my books, which I don’t have enough time to read. I see you want to ask what I do all day. Too much of everything else it appears.
My mother, who began life as a puny, sickly child, has had the most influence on my life. She had almost no education, had been ripped from her home in Poland at fourteen, pressed into forced (farm) labor during the war, met my father (also in forced labor), taught herself to cook, knit, sew and read the newspaper in English. She had no mother to help her. She accepted the move to a foreign country, had no concept of the language, but made a solid and loving home. She continued to amaze me with her adventurous spirit her whole life.
Now the 64,000 dollar question – why is your cat called Lady Gaga?
All my pets have come from the SPCA (animal shelter). A couple of years ago after my previous cat had been gone for some time; my daughter tricked me into going to the shelter with her children: a Saturday morning diversion for the youngsters, she said. She knew me so well. I fell in love with a cat with unusual fur. On the way home we joked about her coloring and tried out names. One of my granddaughters said, “Don’t make fun. She can’t help she was born this way.” My daughter and I bellowed the song in unison, Born This Way. We had a new Lady Gaga.
Who’s your favourite author and book that you read again and again?
I have many authors I’ve re-read. I cut my teeth on Hemingway when our next-door neighbour (also my Latin teacher in high-school) gave me three of his books: The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. I’d given her some of my scribbled stories and I suppose she thought I could use lots of help. At fifteen, with little life experience, what did I understand about his books? Not a lot but I re-read them and enjoyed them every time. To this day I thank Anna, who I never called by first name, for this introduction.
You are also a music lover so who in your mind is the greatest band or musician and the song that you feel is your signature tune?
My signature song used to be Autumn Leaves, but I’ve listened to classical music for many years while I read or worked. Chopin felt familiar; Rachmaninoff too loud and Tchaikovsky too energetic. I enjoyed Handel’s water music, but on the opposite end of the sphere, I have enjoyed easy listening and old jazz. One of my long–time favorites are piano versions of The Shadow of Your Smile—I know, I’m an old fashioned kind of girl. The last few years, I don’t like the distraction of music no matter how low, because my brain won’t co-operate. I’m not familiar with the new musicians and artists but I do remember the oldies.
The family unit today has changed very much in certain cultures to where it was 30 or 40 years ago. You have experience of being a single parent and understand the challenges that presents. You have also taken young students into your home and been a foster parent to them. What advice would you give a mother or a father faced with bringing up a child or children alone?
What I learned as a parent is never play one parent against the other. This is true whether you are as single parent or not. The child should never be placed in the middle between you. Never compete with the other parent even as your child or children try to force the issue. You are the responsible adult; you cannot fall apart nor cave in to their wishes. Your deck of cards may be missing a king, but you have to play out your hand. No spouse to back me up, during the rebellious teenage years, was tough and my daughter gave me all the grief she could muster. Although her father is still around and comes to family gatherings on occasion, my daughter celebrates Father’s Day with him, but also a separate one with me.
I had only one child. When she left home my house felt like a tomb. An ad in the newspaper sparked the idea to host international students. I felt needed again and know I was a good mentor, especially to the girls (average ages 18 to 23) who were miserable in a strange country, where they needed to absorb so much culture shock. This time was a Win-Win for everyone. I am still in touch with a number of them, but after ten years I needed a breather.
Now to the core theme of the post. What do you believe is the greatest lesson you have learned in life and what impact has it had on you today?
The greatest lesson I have learned is hard work. If you have work you enjoy, what a bonus! Life is never that simple though. I’ve never shunned work because that’s all I’ve known from the start. My siblings had errands now and again, but being the oldest, I bore the brunt of the chores. Hard work is the best foundation I can think of for learning to face what life throws at you. If you’ve never had to make-do, or pick up the slack even when it’s a little tough, how will you survive when the unexpected stomps into your path? Life is not becoming any easier. You must be willing to show up, work hard, and know how to come up with new answers. This competitive world we live in is not for wusses.
I learned to stick to my guns and grit my teeth to get what I needed to raise my daughter in a loving environment. I had to pull myself up by the bootstraps many times, like it or not, and I always managed.
There are many issues that are very concerning about the present and the future of the world. I get the sense that family is very important to you and also the welfare of others. What three key issues do you believe are in need of addressing and how can we as ordinary people help bring about change and improvement for future generations. (please feel free to write as much as you need to)
Global warming is worrisome. On the one hand we’re told we are the cause and on the other, it’s all bunk. Who to believe? Let’s get our priorities straight and come clean. Which is it to be? Our children’s future is at stake as it is everyone’s on this planet. What can we do as individuals? We must take an interest. We must care. We cannot keep doing the same old. How long before all those buried containers of pollutants poison the earth and seep into the oceans? We have to stop burying more. We cannot just pillage and rape the earth and move on. Soon there will be no place to move on to. You’ve heard the stories about exploration for man’s inhabiting of other planets. What a perfect solution. Right. Pillage, rape and move on some more. We must stand together and force the changes required to benefit mankind. It’s time to put our heads together, to push for resolution. The clock is ticking.
Poverty: I cannot close my eyes to the poor and hungry of the world, but we have our own poor at home who need help as well. Is it insensitive to worry about our poor first? This is a conundrum I have wrestled with for some time but haven’t settled on a positive answer. Some will say poverty will never disappear. Well, I don’t want to give up on it yet.
War: Will there ever be peace everywhere? The 100th anniversary of the war that would end all wars has brought little change. So many skirmishes over land here and there, on and on and on. Innocent women and children continue to starve, are shot and live in constant fear. Our men are dying on foreign soil or come home maimed and shattered in mind and body. They aren’t even paid their due properly as governments cut corners. I say bring our boys home. Let those who want war resolve their own hostilities.
As a final word do you have a piece of advice or perhaps a quotation that you would like to share? I am not a complicated person. I like to keep life simple. My roots have stood me well my whole life. One quote, which keeps coming back to me time and again, “To thine own self be true.” (Thank you Shakespeare.) Be honourable, kind and thoughtful. Follow your dreams and cause no harm along the way.
Thanks so much, Sally for this exciting invitation. It has been an honor and a pleasure to chat with you today. I love the title of your blog because I agree wholeheartedly, “Variety is the spice of life.” You sure have spiced mine up today.
It was certainly my pleasure Tess and look forward to seeing you here again soon.
LINKS for Tess.
Teresa Karlinski writes and blogs from Canada.
Read her blog at how the cookie crumbles
http://1perspectives.webs.com/pmjuly2012.htm (read: Friends – page 6)
http://twistedendings.webs.com/sept2013 (read: Slammed – page 11)
These came out this summer of 2014
“Russ Towne of A Grateful Man blog, compiled the stories for Palpable Imaginings and Slices of Life. I’m thrilled he chose to include my stories in his anthologies. Thank you, Russ.”