Thursday, February 27, 2014

Victim or Victor?

I'm not a religious person but I know a good message when I hear it.  That message was delivered years ago by Father John Kefalas while I sat in church during one of his sermons that he was kind enough to do in both Greek and English, at a time when the English-speakers were but a handful in that community.  The message was clear: "Are you a victim or a victor?"

He was pointing to the depictions of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection on the church walls of

 St. John's Greek Orthodox Church

So I'd sit there on Sundays, in that church, looking at my watch, waiting for Sunday School to finish so I could take my children to our customary breakfast at Airport Diner -- a reward for sitting through what felt like a necessary monotony, before I dropped them with my parents and then ran off to work. Nick, having started his workday at five that morning, would collect them when he got home in the evening.

And I was sitting there in the pew, mapping out plans for term papers due and laundry that sat dirty on bedroom floors, of children's homework that needed monitoring and naughty behavior that needed addressing and the thoughts swam together in my brain among so many other worries as the choir sang  and the chanter chanted and the fragrant incense wafted through the air.

But somehow those words leaked through and the fatigue and the fear that I was feeling at not being able to finish the monumental tasks I had begun, began to melt and I heard it: "You are a victor, not a victim!"  Were those his actual words?  Maybe not, but that is the memory I have of that Sunday morning and the message that I would see on subsequent visits to the church with that visual reminder--Christ depicted on each side of the altar: one in defeat on the cross and one of empowerment in the resurrection.

That phrase--You are a victor, not a victim--has become my mantra and has gotten me through many a challenging time. It was a gift from Father John and I lay it out here for whomever feels the need to share it.

We were fortunate to have Father John perform my daughter, Nikki's, wedding five months before he passed away in April of 2012 at the young age of 68.

I'm pretty sure he had NO idea of the influence he had on me.

That being said, look around you.

Who are you influencing?

I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Something Sweet

How about some all natural, organic honey?

In the Greek village of Margariti, Fotis attends to his bees with the love and tenderness of a true beekeeper. The great variety  of flowers only seen on the Epirus countryside is the primary reason for our golden-colored honey with its unforgettable delicate sweetness. The hives line the walls in Fotis' garden and guarantee the pollination of the surrounding fruit trees, which in turn, give us all those yummy nuts and fruits we get to pick in the summer.

Fotis knows, as do all the farmers in Margariti, the importance of bees for sustaining a food supply.  Unfortunately, the bees have had some difficulty in the past years as their populations have dwindled. It seems that corporate farms could use some basic advice . . . perhaps from the Margariti farmers and beekeepers.

Here is a 15 minute video that tells us why the bees have decreased so dramatically in the last several  years. I think it is a worthwhile 15 minutes.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Hidden Gem

Alonaki Beach:

There are so many beautiful beaches hidden between the mountains and cut within the rocky cliffs of the Epirus coastline along the Ionian Sea.  Before we had a car in Greece, we were limited to those we could get to by bus.  But once we were able to drive around and discover some of these hidden beauties, we found places where we would be the only two people on the beach for hours at a time.  Granted we had to hike down mountains after having parked the car on the road above, but it was well worth it.

The problem was that we were very ordinary Epirotians, so like us, most people returning to that area for summer vacation were beginning to bring cars and, like us, they were looking for those hidden undiscovered beaches.  But we were still able to find some beautiful secluded places, those areas only the locals knew about.  Or places so difficult to bring electricity and water to, no one had built it up with cafes and hotels yet.

Alonaki Beach is still like that.  It's well known and it can get crowded at times but it seems to be one of those areas that may not have access to water and electricity for a long time -- if ever.  What I love most about it besides the spectacular view and geographical formations that make snorkeling really fantastic, besides the warm water temperatures and the giant boulder to swim out to and jump off of,  besides the protective alcove shape that keeps it as calm as glass, I love the little cafe that someone set up.  It reminds me of the old days before the onslaught of tourists. Here is a little video to show you what I mean.  Look at the steps and the railings.  (My apologies for the quality of the video.  It was made before I learned to hold my phone horizontally for videos.)

The proprietor sells coffee, ouzo and soft drinks from a small trailer (the size of an ice cream or hot dog truck in the U.S.) and his "cafe" area is made up of 3-4 tables with the surroundings created from the nature found there.  Look at the palm leaf "umbrellas."

If you're unable to get there just yet, here is the next best thing!