Category Archives: folly


Lithuanian is a delicate language. We like to use the diminutive whenever possible, managing to make even the most sinister of words if not altogether cheerful, then at least palatable. Even if we’re trying to tell you that your butt looks big in those jeans, we don’t want to offend.

Unfortunately, this cultural tendency carries over into swear words, which was always a problem in grade school when kids would ask us to say a bad word in Lithuanian and the best we could come up with was, “You toad. Go pee upside down.”

I was poking around the Internet today, doing research for one of the many projects that has precluded me from writing much on the blog lately, and I found a treasure trove of friendly Lithuanian curses. They are perfect for those occasions when you’re hopping mad, but a child or old person is within earshot. The next time somebody wrongs you, try one of these:

“Kad tave perk?nas vidur? dienos trenkt?!” (May you be struck by lightning in broad daylight.)

Kad tau pilve nerimt?” (May you get an upset stomach.)

Or, worse yet, “Kad tau sk?tis pilve išsiskleist?.” (May an umbrella open inside your stomach.)

Kad tave zuikis subadyt?.” (May you be mauled by a rabbit.)

Kad tavo kakta nuplikt? – ant pakaušio kuodas likt?.” (May you go bald only in the front and have a tuft of hair sticking out in back.)

Kasyk sliekui pažastis.” (Go scratch a worm’s armpits.)

Kad tu ištintum, kaip avilys.” (May you swell up like a beehive.)

Kad tau ežys keln?se išdygt?.” (May a hedgehog sprout inside of your pants.)


Have a nice day! And may your children never draw on the floor in pencil.

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Was it the Toe Twigs?

I’ve always been one of those mothers you see running after her kid brandishing a wet wipe. But last week, at Lithuanian camp, I perfected the art of embarrassing my children.

You see, every year at camp (also sometimes during the Saturday school Christmas pageant and at the occasional cocktail party) my friend V and I do a little schtick. The schtick changes depending on the venue, but it’s always built around our stock characters – her John Cleese to my Hugh Laurie.

This year, one of our evening programs at camp was a full-out Lithuanian folk dance-off and my friend V and I were the emcees. She played a militant Lithuanian folk dancer, hell-bent on discipline and perfection, and I was her tree hugging, interpretive dancing, ancient pagan goddess worshiping comic foil. V was all business in full folk regalia, while I wore a flowing white dress and a wreath the size of a car tire. I had a butterfly on my bosom and some oak leaves tucked into my flip-flops.

Whenever I do a summer camp skit, I think deeply about my character. What are her interests? What is her history? What is it that makes her tick? Playing a spaced out hippie required that I sing off-key, walk around in a stupor, and intermittently flap my imaginary butterfly wings.

At one point during the act, my character heard the ancient Lithuanian earth goddess, Žemyna, calling to her. I stretched out on the asphalt, which was serving as our stage, to receive her message. And just as I was putting my ear to the ground, I caught a glimpse of my daughter sitting three feet away from me, surrounded by a little posse of her camp friends.

She was not amused.

But it was going to take more than the cold shoulder of a third-grader to get me out of character. I forged onward with the skit, doing a little interpretive dancing here, a little flapping of my imaginary wings there.

Then I looked over and saw my son.

He wouldn’t even look at me.

I knew then, that neither of my children would be talking to me for a couple of days, at least.

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The Depth of my Depravity

The problem with having young children is you just can’t devour a chocolate bar without being noticed.

The other day, I gave my kids a healthy after school snack of apples and wheat germ. Then I planted them in front of an educational television program and scurried back to the kitchen, whereupon I opened the pantry and proceeded to stare inside.

I noticed a chocolate bar.

I took that chocolate bar and began to unwrap it with the stealth of a sniper. I even paused my breathing. The first velvet bite was mere inches away from my mouth when two small humans, about yea big, materialized behind me.


Lickety-split, I tucked that chocolate bar into the elastic waistband of my yoga pants.

“Oh, just some raw almonds. Would you like one?”

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I Used To Be French

Legend has it in my famiglia that a great-great-great grandmother on my father’s side married a deserter of Napoleon’s army when it marched across the fatherland. I have always blamed this soldier personally for my short stature and the fact that I don’t possess your typical Lithuanian blond-haired, blue-eyed looks.

But the French ancestor has also served me well, especially as a conversation starter at parties.

“Hello, are you enjoying the party?”

“Yes. I am directly descended from Napoleon.”

I always chalked up the ease with which I picked up French to this particular family member, and felt pretty confident that with my beret, baguette, and striped boatneck shirt, I easily passed for a native during the time I spent living in France.

Whenever someone would comment on my impeccable accent, I would say,

“Thank you. It’s because I’m part French.”

But all of that changed last weekend.

I’d been hounding my father to write down his childhood memories of Lithuania for years, and every time I asked him how it was going, the conversation would go like this:

Hey, T?veli! Kaip tau sekasi prisiminimus rašyti?” (Hey, Dad! How’s it going with your memoirs?”)

And my dad would always tell me that he’s making good progress.

Kiek tu jau puslapi? parasiai?” (How many pages are you up to?”), I’d press him.

And he would say:

“Two paragraphs.”

But last week my Dad presented me with three single-spaced pages of his completed memoirs. He packed a lot in those pages – everything from how his family was separated while fleeing, to how he used to amuse himself in the refugee camps by picking apart detonated bombs.  I’m thrilled with it (and very grateful – a?i? T?veli!).

As a bonus, he included a family tree, which begins with the infamous French ancestor.

Whose last name was, “Felice.” Or maybe, “Feliz.”

I did a little bit of research about this surname and about the history around Napoleon’s path through Lithuania.

It turns out the name is Italian or Spanish. What’s more, Wikipedia told me that thousands of Spaniard and Portuguese conscripts deserted Napoleon’s army in Lithuania during the summer of 1812 and went on to loot, pillage, and terrorize the locals.

I took it pretty hard. It’s not that I’m not thrilled to be one-thirty-second Spanish or  Portuguese or Italian, only that for these past thirty-nine-years, I have believed myself to be one-thirty-second French. Also, my great-great-great grandfather might have been a marauder.

There would be no easy way to break it to my dad, so I went over there this afternoon and told it to him straight:

“I hate to tell you this, but we are Spanish, not French.”

He was clearly devastated.

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised,” he said.

“It’s just as I always suspected,” added Mama.

“That explains the moustache*,” my friend V said when I broke it to her.

And indeed, now that I’ve had a few days to take it in, I am very excited about my Spanish or Portuguese or Eye-talian blood. Of course, there are many things I will have to adjust accordingly (note: buy some pirate shirts and leather pants), but it does explain my fondness for paella and Spanish wine.

The only drawback so far is that the P-Dawg has started calling me, “Gomez.”

That’s the jealousy talking, right there.

The New Me

* I don’t really have a moustache.

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