Vitauts: May 22, 2017

Forgetting How to Cook

Vitauts peeling potatoes

I remember when my ex-ex-mother-in-law was ill or away for a few days. My ex-ex-father-in-law didn’t really know how to cook anything. This was a bit of a shock for me, but I guess it is a fairly common thing for American men of a certain generation.

However, this has never been the case for Vitauts. Dad has always cooked. He never relied on Liesma to prepare his food for him; in fact, he rarely ate what we were eating.

His recipes were spartan and masculine. Pork chops, fried in lard with potatoes and a small salad on the side. Lamb chops, fried with potatoes and some bread. Bacon. So many varieties of fried and baked bacon.

When we were little, on some weekends or days we were home sick, dad might have woken up before mom, and he would make us French Toast or his lamb chops. One of my friends liked his pork coutlets and his steak tartar. He was no gourmet, but he could hold his own with his fried crispy blood sausage or fried kielbasas.

So when he moved in with me, one concern outsiders had was, “Who feeds him.” Vitauts has never really been one to be fed by anyone. Each morning, I would see him with this beautifully balanced breakfast with a grapefruit and some sandwiches. When I came home from school at lunch time, there he would be, frying up some masterpiece to be enjoyed at the table with his newspaper. Supper was usually leftovers from lunch or some other prepared meal.

He would go through potatoes, pork chops, bacon and sausages quickly and need to replenish his supply every few days.

But lately, I noticed that he hasn’t been cooking as often. I wasn’t aware of what a trend it had become until I saw him put raw bacon on a sandwich. “Why don’t you cook that?” I asked. “It takes too long,” he said. Weird. I had to coax him to even boil some potatoes.

The bacon and sausages and pork chops sat uncooked in the fridge, so I asked him about them. I pulled out a pan and the chops for him, and eventually he went to cooking them. He enjoyed them immensely, and I warmed them up for his supper later. The bacon, however, remained.

So last night he was kind of sulking in the kitchen, looking for something to eat but claiming that he wasn’t hungry. “Cook your bacon!” I told him. And he said he would, but then he went back to his room to sit down and watch t.v. I went back in and asked if he wanted the bacon. “There is bacon?” he asked.

So I got the ball rolling. I started frying the bacon, and he walked into the kitchen to see what I was doing. He took over cooking with a fork, carefully crisping each piece. After it was finished, he devoured the whole slab.

Today, I went home for lunch at 12:30, and he hadn’t eaten yet. He was protesting as he does about not being hungry and this and that. I put an uneaten kielbasa and some boiled potatoes out on the counter. He walked in, looked at them, and after a few minutes he muttered, “These need to be warmed up. How do I warm them up?”

He was completely confused about what to do with cold food. Suddenly, the gift of cooking was now a mystery to him. He literally did not know what to do with it. I told him to get a pan, get some oil, and fry it up, but he looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. So I went into the kitchen, and got one of my cast iron pans with some grease in it, and set it on the stove. “You just put the meat and potatoes in here and fry it up.” He still looked confused, but soon went to cutting up the potatoes and sausage. He did a really lovely job of that.

I left before he started cooking, but I think I gave him enough tools and suggestions to get him going.

I can only hope that this is a temporary loss of memory. You can’t forget something you have known your whole life, can you? I suppose you can. You read stories about it all the time. But forgetting names and events is one thing, but forgetting the fundamental nature of your being? That seems entirely ludicrous and cruel.

On a side note, he has also forgotten at times what he did with his life. He didn’t know he was a pastor for over 50 years. One of my friends sent me a program from a school of divinity that listed Vitauts Grinvalds and three of his classmates from the Fremont Seminary: 60 Year Anniversary. Pretty amazing there, VG.

p.s. I’m still off Facebook. It’s been two weeks or so since my last actually login. This and other posts to FB come from my other social media accounts. Enjoy, but if I don’t respond, that’s why. JG. So send thoughts or comments to me via gmail. Thanks!

The Reality of Facebook Addiction

Riding bike instead of FB.

I decided to quit Facebook… again. This will be my third attempt to get this social media monkey off my back. I knew I had a problem when I found myself checking my phone for updates, posting all the time, and just sifting through posts that I had seen more than once before. “Show me something new! Show me something interesting!”

Today, I woke up in a bit of a funk, and it has taken me all day to realize that it’s because I haven’t checked Facebook. I have tried to satiate my addiction by looking at Twitter… which is kind of like methadone or something. It’s okay; but it’s not the real thing. I even made a couple posts on Instagram just to feel alive for a minute, but no one responds. There are no reactions.

So here I am, just kind of lulling through my hump day trying to figure out what all my “friends” think of Trump firing Comey? Or how they feel about the Omaha election yesterday. What happened to Mello?

Ultimately, Facebook doesn’t really matter. I know that intellectually. But I also know that I am feeling this withdrawal as sure as I can feel the rain on my head.

I realize the irony here is that this blog post will make an appearance on Facebook. And I think that’s the point. If you read it, just ask yourself if you’re being mindful. Are you on here because you want to be… or because you’re addicted?

Spilled coffee on myself. Withdrawal symptom?


Moving to Latvia: Part 1 “The Plan”

Latvia Freedom Monument

He’s Leaving Home

I was trying to go to sleep to be fresh and ready for Wednesday. I have an early morning AP Comp class, but something inside of me just needed to write. I have been contemplating how to phrase all of what I am feeling for weeks now, and I suppose it’s time to just let it out.

Džefrijs Grīnvalds

Many of you already know that I plan to move to Latvia at the end of this school year. I already put in my leave of absence at Westside, and they even hired a replacement. If I come back in a year, I will get a job with the district, but I may not get my old position back. It’s good to know that I have a place if things don’t work out.

As of right now, I’m taking a CELTA course through Missouri State University.  This is kind of an insurance policy that should make me pretty employable anywhere in Europe. I currently have my Latvian citizenship, and, as long as the EU holds together, this means I can live in any EU country and work. Latvia may just be a starting point. We will see.

People ask me what my plans are and why I’m going. It’s hard to say exactly. Let me start where my mind left off as I was getting ready to write.


I started digging through my memories wondering how I’ll feel to leave Nebraska and to leave the people I’ve known all of my life, mainly my family. I’m not sure I will be that affected. In my travels from place to place, I have never really felt homesick. I remember feeling that way when I was first married and on a trip somewhere. I couldn’t wait to get home to see my wife and small children. But since my first divorce, at least I think that’s when it started, I’ve been pretty okay with being anywhere with anyone.

Alex the Cat

I don’t want to get too pop-psychologyish, but I think it’s a good thing. My daughter, Maija, is estranged. I literally have not seen her or talked to her in over a year. We had a falling out, and she moved in with her mom. I still have her cat, Alex.




My son, Kyle, is 23, and he has been on his own ever since he graduated from high school. He was the kind of kid who could sleepover at anybody’s house for weeks at a time and never really miss anyone. I have gone months without seeing him, and it doesn’t really bother either of us. We get along fine, but there is not a neediness between us. He’ll be fine, and I’ll be fine wherever we end up. I hope he can come to Latvia to hang out, but his jobs keep him busy.


I love my family, and I’m very close with my father and siblings. However, it will likely be a good thing for me to get away and be on my own. As the youngest of seven, I have always been at the bottom of the food chain, fighting for attention and a place at the table. I think I’ve earned it over the years, and I feel really good about where I’m leaving everyone. It’s just time that I found out who I am without constantly being in the shadow of everyone else.


He’ll be fine!


The biggest worry, and the most often asked question is, “What about your dad? What about Vitauts?” This has been nagging me for months, but after our official Grinvalds’ family meeting on Sunday, we have a plan. Paul is going to buy my house, and Chris and dad will stay here together. We will hire a nurse to come by a few times a week to check on dad. We are also getting him a medical alert system and a GPS tracker for his car just in case he gets lost. He is still quite capable of taking care of himself. He is forgetful, and he really shouldn’t be driving, but so far, he’s okay.


I think the highlight of the family meeting was when I got to the agenda item asking everyone, “Should dad still be driving?” And there was a chorus of “Nos” from all of my siblings. But Vitauts said, “Yes, I will still drive.” And that was the veto vote that won the day. He really doesn’t drive much anymore, but I think it comforts him to have that option open. He actually made it to and from the barber in Rockbrook by himself. He hasn’t been able to do that in a year or more.


So all will be well in my absence. Chris even assured me tonight that Alex the Cat will be welcomed. He admitted that dad loves the cat, even if no one else really cares for him. Dad feeds him and pets him. Talks to him, even. Alex is a good companion even if he isn’t very bright.

So what is my motivation? Many people say it’s because I’ve fallen in love with a Latvian woman. And it’s true. I have. I didn’t expect it. It wasn’t on my to do list when I went back there last summer, but it happened. I had been planning on moving to Latvia anyway, but Rita just sweetens the deal. We weren’t sure exactly what we had until we met in Washington D. C. over spring break a few weeks ago. We got along very well, and are looking forward to reuniting in July.

For those of you who are wondering, Rita is the head of the National Archives of Latvia. She lives in Riga with her 13 year-old daughter, Anna. We have no plans to live together or get married or anything yet, but we are calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend. It’s cool. She’s incredibly smart, beautiful and fascinating. She likes my writing, and I love her soul. It’s a good match.

Juris, Gita, Dzefs

We met in the summer. She was a schoolmate of my cousin, Gita’s, and she invited Vitauts and I to come see the archives. It was a nice, uneventful meeting. We started emailing and eventually Skyping and the relationship just grew from there.





My Plan


The original plan to move to Latvia was planted by my cousin Ansis who said that I was welcome to stay in his guest house any time. After house sitting for him over Christmas, and checking out the premises, I couldn’t get it out of my head that this little cottage outside of Riga could become my own little Walden. I thought how nice it would be to strip away all the possessions I’ve accumulated throughout the years, eliminate my financial burdens, and just live a solitary life in the country reading and writing for a year or so. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

This is still my plan, although I have also been looking for teaching jobs. Ansis tells me that there is a general shortage of English-language teachers throughout Latvia, so I think I’ll be able to find something. My biggest worry is that I should learn more Latvian. I know more than I ever have, but I’m still not even close to proficient. Language has never been my strong point, but Rita assures me that once I live there for awhile, I’ll start to pick it up more easily. My goal now is just build my vocabulary a few words (daži vārdi) at a time.

The Future?

How long will I stay? Will I return to Westside? I do not know. Who knows what the future holds? As of right now, I am keeping my options open. I don’t want to burn any bridges, but I am selling or gifting most of my possessions. I am trying to figure out what is absolutely essential. I told Rita that I must bring a pillow and an American towel because they don’t seem to be able to make those very well in Latvia. They also struggle with making bed sheets and blankets big enough to cover an entire person. You’d think as cold as it gets there, they’d have that technology down.

I was making a little list of things I’ll miss, but sharing these will offend someone. Sorry if it’s you. I will miss Nebraska sunrises and sunsets. Cribbage and beer with friends. Cycling the trails in Omaha. My car. I will most definitely miss the Honda Civic Si, Squeaky Penny. I will miss the comfort of this house, and the familiarity of my career. My coworkers, and so on.



I was trying to think of creature comforts that will be lacking in Latvia, and aside from the aforementioned pillows, towels and blankets, I think I’m good. It will be interesting to live without Nebraska football, but I know other people have moved away from the Huskers and survived. I also have many long-distance friends already, so other than the 8-hour time shift, not much will change.

Technology has definitely made the world feel much smaller, so I’m not too terribly worried.

I have a to-do list, of course, and I will welcome any suggestions anyone has as I plan my move. Right now, my target date for leaving is July 27th. I am hoping to book a flight to Milan to meet Rita for a final summer vacation before taking one more flight to Riga. We’ll see how that plan goes!

Questions? Concerns? Please let me know! I’ll keep you posted as time keeps moving and the clock keeps ticking.

Oh yeah, and I’ll miss the eclipse. Sad.




Hopefully, I’ll be as happy in Latvia this time as I was in this photo.






And if all goes well, I won’t be holding up one of these signs stranded in the snow!