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March 28, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #8 - And now a word (or two) about facial hair


Beards in particular.

This week’s Thursday Thirteen entry was inspired by a word of the day entry on wordsmith.org:

1. Pogonotrophy - is the act of cultivating, or growing and grooming, a mustache, beard, sideburns or other facial hair.

Pogonotrophy (po-guh-NAW-truh-fee) noun

[From Greek pogon (beard) + -trophy (nourishment, growth).]

2. Pogonology is the study of beards

3. And pogonotomy is a fancy word for shaving.

4. Did you know that facial hair is a secondary sex characteristic in human males? Most men develop facial hair in the later years of puberty, approximately between 15-18 years old.

5. There are blog postings devoted to the art of growing one’s beard. Two with the same title: Adventures in Pogonotrophy - go here and here.

6. There’s also an annual mustache contest. I am not clear on what the Grand Prize is but the entries are entertaining. Here’s the winner:


7. This guy won for the most extreme makeover:


8. This was the winner for the most pathetic mustache category:


9. I wonder which category Sean Connery would have won had he entered?


10. There also an annual beard growing contest called Whiskerino. Here’s their motto:

“We are alienated from our own facial hair.

Society tells us that full beards are unacceptable. Businessmen, politicians, bankers, and the like are all clean shaven; all demonstrating the standards that middle class society expects us to maintain.”

11. Beards, it seems, have a troubled history. Did you know that both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I taxed Englishmen with beards?

12. If you’d like to grow a beard, may I suggest going to Beards.org . They have been “growing better beards worldwide - since 1996.

13. And finally, there’s a Beard Community Bulletin Board where its free to post images of beardedness, as long as they’re family friendly. Go there to find images like this one:


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The Pause

In the course of time, inside us as well as outside us, certain pauses take place.

We hear this stop and come to a standstill, without being aware of it.

We’ve actually forgotten.
Our gaze stands still above our own unknown, trying to smile.

Pauses from one thought to the next, from one word to the next, from dream to fact, from recollection to now. A question hovers suspended from lips, which doesn’t want to be asked, so that no one hears it. And yet, this unspoken “why” can be heard inside this pause – an odd coupling of childlike sweetness and senile bitterness.

Maybe that’s why my father became more handsome in the course of his last months?

His entire face had become a smile – a distant smile, not towards anybody and not toward himself. A glowing smile, free of any purpose.

This was not always so.

When we met with the palliative care team for the first time in August, my father was animated and talkative. The list of medications and doses, daunting. Judy, who was to become his private nurse, gave us a large clear blue plastic bill box, divided into seven sections, one for each day of the week. Together we made a list of my father’s medications and dosages. And my father was given the task of organizing his pills.

I notice that my father’s smile changed soon after our fateful meeting at the Cancer Clinic. This new smile had a purpose: to bridge or conceal his pauses, to keep me from recognizing that our previous life, our previous interactions before his diagnosis, had been forever interrupted.

With each of Judy’s visits, my father’s smile became larger while his vocabulary became smaller.

“Hello Nick. Can I see your medications? Have you had a bowel movement today or would you like an enema?”

“I wanted to go to the bathroom, but instead of going to the bathroom, I went to the kitchen. Have you seen my garden? The fig trees are ripe with fruit. Ever made fig jam?” He burst out laughing. And we laughed too. “My goodness, how absent-minded. I’ve become.”

But now when I recall his laugh, I see it wasn’t like his smile those last few days: diffused, vague, holy. In August, it was a mask – trying to hide something.

Even his admission was misleading – in order to deflect us – to prove that he was the first to recognize his own absent-mindedness.

For the first few weeks, Judy left each visit with a bag or two of figs and other fruits that my father harvested from his back yard.

And I memorized his prescriptions, his dosages. I organized drawers full of tablets and capsules: Cemetidine, Ativan, Cytotec, Naproxen, Hydrochlorothiazene, Hytrin, Altace, Mesolon, Ms Contin, Haldol, Gravol, and MOS.

Gradually, my father stopped talking. For hours, he remained silent. Staring at nothing. He would open a book without reading and then close it, with one of his fingers still between the pages.

The book must have felt terribly mournful, forgotten like this on his lap.

Often he asked the same question three times, five times, ten times, “Where were you yesterday, Christina?” “Edo emouna, Baba, mazi sou” Two minutes later, the very same question: “Where were you yesterday?” “Right here, beside you daddy, where else would I be?”

Even if he asked the same question a thousand times, the nurses, my mother and I would answer him as if it were the first.

And at once, darkness fell. On morphine for most of his waking hours, my father’s eyes became empty and white.

I noticed the wildflowers in his garden were sad stars, which had fallen from the sky, sad for my father, and I felt sad too.

Three days before his death and on my birthday, my father gave me his final gift.

“Christina,” my father called to me, “a newborn comes into this world with his fists closed as he has the desire to grab everything he sees before him. When an old man dies, he dies with his hands open because he has realized that there is nothing he can take with him, only those intangibles imprinted on his heart.”

His eyes became white again, completely empty. He could see without looking. Perhaps now, he could see the invisible in its entirety, the empty, the absolutely white.

It seems that the pauses inside him had become wider, until they fused and all of them became a single pause, an infinite, absolutely white serene pause. His face became more sweet, more distant, like some disembodied saint.

And in this absence of colour, I reached for my father’s hand.

dad shot.jpg

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March 26, 2007


Our secrets
have no voice.

They are unclaimed packages.

Words -
we do not want

but cannot

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Snapshot of Xine at 3

I am wearing a very short and very frothy bubble-gum pink dress with matching panties. I am watching my reflection on our old black and white television set as I twirl, twirl, twirl.

My mother has been cooking all day. Something important is going on as I am not allowed to run around outside. I am not to touch all the pretty things on our dining room table.

I am bored. Tired. Cranky.

My father comes to the rescue. He brings out a shiny new red car. Scared, I cling to my father’s legs and cry. I want to play horsey. My father places me in the pedal car. I can pedal, fast. All over the place.

When my grandfather finally arrives and we are introduced, he kisses me on the forehead.

Then I am up, up, up in the air as his lifts me way above his head. We are laughing. I feel so happy, so light; I can almost touch the ceiling.

Papou died when I turned three, soon after our first meeting.

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How much?

My blog is worth $31,049.70.
How much is your blog worth?

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March 25, 2007

List #8 - Unconscious Mutterings


I say … and you think … ?

  1. Groovy :: Austin Powers
  2. Jealousy :: Sappho

    Poem of Jealousy

    That man is peer of the gods, who
    face to face sits listening
    to your sweet speech and lovely

    It is this that rouses a tumult
    in my breast. At mere sight of you
    my voice falters, my tongue
    is broken.

    Straightway, a delicate fire runs in
    my limbs; my eyes
    are blinded and my ears

    Sweat pours out: a trembling hunts
    me down. I grow
    paler than grass and lack little
    of dying.

    * translated by Williams Carlos Williams, 1958

  3. Watching :: Observant

  4. Kenny :: Rogers

  5. Games :: Cranium

  6. Bread :: Homemade

  7. City :: Urban

  8. Stems :: Florist

  9. Birds :: Bats and Butterflies - National Audubon Society

  10. Listener :: The Night Listener (movie)

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March 24, 2007

Sunday Seven # 3 - Small Wonders


Sunday Seven is a thanks and gratitude meme designed for sharing the good things in our lives.

1. My husband surprised me with a huge flower arrangement at work this past Wednesday, for no particular reason, other than to let me know how much he loves and appreciates me.

2. Our 19 mos old chicken is beginning to string two words into simple sentences: “Sit there,” “Mommy coming,” “Bye, Bye,” “Down, please,” and “Thank you.” To come home, after a long work day, and be greeted with a loud cheerful “Mommmeeee!” ~ makes everything that I do worthwhile.

3. Despite the non-stop rain, Spring has arrived - cherry blossoms, daffodils, crocuses - all harbingers that warmer weather is around the corner . Across the street, I notice that our neighbour’s majestic magnolia tree is about to bloom - another sure sign that the rain will abate soon enough.

4. I am back at weight-watchers (second time is a charm) and I’m slowly starting to see my body change - 5 pounds lighter and counting …

5. I’ve been asked to be one of the guest speakers for an upcoming literary night (May 5) for the Victoria School of Writing. My topic: writing and blogging. I was pleased to learn that my chicken-scratch readership is growing!

6. Our plans to celebrate Easter with a traditional Greek lamb roast are coming together nicely. The lamb’s been ordered and our guest list is being assembled … more details to follow in the coming weeks.

7. Tomorrow, March 25th, is a Greek National Holiday - Independence Day. It’s a day that brings up such wonderful memories for me, growing up in a Greek-Canadian household - parades, poems, family outings. It’s now my turn to pass along this tradition to our little chicken EM.

We’ll be going to the Greek church tomorrow where after the Divine Liturgy, the community will be hosting a luncheon to commemorate all those who fought for Greece’s independence in 1821 (against the Ottoman Empire), including philhellenes like Lord Byron.

It is also important to note that when the cry “Freedom or Death” resonated over the enslaved Greeks, a number of American philhellenes started a lobbying campaign in the United States for the support of the Greek War of Independence, a campaign that captured the imagination of many influential political and civil leaders in America.

The Greek Revolution also captured the imagination of many European leaders, artists and writers. Below is one of my favourite paintings from Eugene Delacroix:


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March 21, 2007

Thursday Thirteen # 7 - "Of zaftig zaddicks drinking coffee with zarfs"


Of zaftig zaddicks drinking coffee with zarfs … 13 weird and wonderful words beginning with the letter Z:

1. zaddik
a just and virtuous person

2. zaftig
pleasingly plump


3. zarf
an ornamental metal holder for a handle-less coffee cup

4. zemblanity
[fr. Zembla, an Arctic island to the N. of Russia once used for nuclear testing]
the inexorable discovery of what we don’t want to know (contrast serendipity)

5. zenzizenzizenzic
the eighth power of a number

6. zerk
[fr. Oscar U. Zerk, American inventor] a grease fitting

7. zetetic
a skeptic

8. zoanthropy
the delusion that one is an animal

9. zob
a weak or contemptible person; a fool

10. zomotherapy
the treatment of disease with a diet of raw meat

11. zucchetto
[It.] (R.C. Church) (also zucchetta, -etto)
the skullcap of an ecclesiastic; the pope’s is white, a cardinal’s red, a bishop’s purple and a priest’s black

RTS 5-5-04 912am.jpg

12. zugzwang
[G.] in chess, when all possible moves weaken the position

13. zumbooruk
a small cannon fired from the back of a camel


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March 20, 2007

Read and Release at Bookcrossing.com

The bookplate below says it all. Now I know what to do with the books in my storage locker.


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March 19, 2007

Ah, spring!

Realized that my two most recent posts are a tad bleak … and so, I bring you “chickens in love” created by the very talented Girl with Fabric.


Can you guess the sex of these two fine birds?

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Believers of the Holy Death

Believers of the Holy Death.jpg

MEXICO CITY—Believers of the Holy Death, 2004.

© Maya Goded / Magnum Photos from Slate’s slide show commemorating the Ides of March. Although I think it’d be more appropriate for a Day of the Dead celebration.

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3:00 A.M.

I awake to rain, a cold breeze and the faint taste of soap on my tongue.

In my dreams my father came back, dressed in the clothes we’d buried him in. In his right hand he is carrying a stammering candle of the Resurrection services. His left hand holds a half-eaten mango; it is a gaping wound of bruised skin and burned orange flesh.

His navy wool suit seems hardly worn. It is then that I notice his feet. Sockless and shoeless, his ankles and bare feet are a dull frightening gray. I begin to cry, realizing he walked the whole way. I think of him climbing up from his grave and then, obeying some paternal instinct, walking the miles west along the highway toward his only child. It must have been some time ago, since he had completely wreaked his shoes. Where along the way did the brown leather crack, the seams pucker and the stitching come undone?

When did he begin his journey?

I am ashamed, disturbed by the thought that while he looked for me, I was unaware of his arrival, since no one ever told him where to find me. It hurt to think of him walking day and night; talking to no one; walking, walking, walking until he finally found me.

My tears have woken him up. He has heard me calling him.

He walks over telling me I must go with him. When he asks if I want to go with him, I lie.

Then he is gone, leaving as he had come with the night breeze.

According to my mother, the deceased are never far from us. There is a fine line between our reality and theirs. My father knows I have been mourning and has come to comfort me.

When I think about him now, my pain is the color of his bruised blue hydrangeas.

My memories of him, crushed chalk on my tongue.

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March 18, 2007

List #7 - Unconscious Mutterings

  1. San Francisco :: City Lights Bookstore
  2. Sadness :: Melancholy
  3. Spirits :: Absinthe
  4. Harriet :: Tubman
  5. State :: Fascist
  6. John :: Baptist
  7. Offense :: Accidental
  8. Timeless :: Perpetual
  9. Account :: Outstanding
  10. Refuse :: Debris

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March 16, 2007

The Machine is Us/ing US

Michael Wesch is an assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. This visual essay on Digital Ethnography has been viewed 1,850,463 times since being posted on You Tube at the end of January. For your viewing pleasure and comments, I bring you …

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March 14, 2007

Thursday Thirteen # 6 - Yoga for Chickens and Other Things


Before chicken-scratch and little chick press, I never thought much about chickens and their influence on our modern culture. So for this week’s Thursday Thirteen , I share with you thirteen poultry-related things to feed your imagination:

1. It seems that chicken are fitness gurus. For your reading pleasure, I bring you: Yoga for Chickens


2. It seems that chickens are prognosticators. Let me introduce you to Ruprecht, the psychic chicken:


3. We’re all familiar with the ubiquitous rubber chicken. The new kid on the block is the flingshot flying chicken:


4. Chickens, it seems, make wonderful pets:

My bride thinks it would be fun to have a pet chicken.

She wants one that she could put on a leash with a rhinestone collar to make it look cute, and she was wondering if she could take it for walks and how well it would travel should she decide to take it with us when we go on trips. I can just see us going through airport security .

You can read Henry Wolff Jr’s charming article in its entirety here.

6. Perhaps, Henry Wolff Jr’s bride would want to own a White Silkie Hen - like this one:


7. Chickens come in all shapes and sizes. Read all about these Extraordinary Chickens here.


8. Artists draw inspiration from chickens. Katherine Plumer has an entire series of fine art prints, like the ones below:


9. Red Chickens by Govinder Nazran


10. Chicken Run by Elena Gomez


11. Even Picasso was seduced by the majestic Rooster:


12. Chickens have inspired an entire art movement in Dubuque, Iowa. Check out: Operation Chicken Art

13. Sadly, chickens can also be the cause of marital strife: Man shoots chicken, wife shoots man

Man shoots chicken, wife shoots man By Rebecca Nolan The Register-Guard Published: Wednesday, September 6, 2006

CHESHIRE - A woman was charged Tuesday for shooting her husband in the back after he shot her pet chicken, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office said.

Mary Kay Gray, 58, was arraigned Tuesday in Lane County Circuit Court on a charge of felony assault. She was being held in the Lane County Jail.

Her husband, Stanley Edward Gray, 43, was recovering from a single gunshot wound to the shoulder. The chicken died at the scene.

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March 11, 2007

List #6

My Unconscious Mutterings for the week of March 11, 2007:

  1. Contribution :: Monetary
  2. Ryan :: Reynolds (Canadian Actor)
  3. Minimal :: Ikebana (Japanese Flower arranging)
  4. Cleansed :: Refreshed
  5. Centered :: Grounded
  6. Arrow :: Bulls-eye
  7. Beyond :: Horizon
  8. Execute :: A program or command
  9. Intuition :: Reflection
  10. Apology :: Formal

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Sunday Seven # 2


What am I most thankful for?

1. Waking up to the sound of our little chicken laughing and babbling each morning.

2. Being greeted with “mommmeee” when I come in the door after a long day at work.

3. Finding our kind, patient, loving and extremely capable Nanny to take care of EM.

4. Having EM all to ourselves each weekend and spending quality family time.

5. Attending church as family each Sunday.

6. Eating dinner together as family each evening.

7. Having some “alone time” each week where I can spend time on my creative pursuits.

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March 8, 2007

Check it Out:

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March 7, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #5 - The Writing Life


If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. ~ Anais Nin

13 techniques to nurture your writing life:

1. Find the Music: If you are writing about a specific period, spend time listening to the music from that era. If you are writing about a foreign place, surround yourself in the sounds of the particular culture.

2. Make a List: List-making is valuable at any stage of the creative process. If you are writing a book and feeling stuck, start a list of chapter titles.

3. Study a Photograph:

Like this one:


Or this one:


Let the picture inspire you to write about the time, incidents or emotions the image evokes.

4. Eavesdrop: Many writers are notorious eavesdroppers. When standing in line at the grocery store, coffee shop or post office, have a notebook with you so you can jot down the odd things you overhear. Pay attention to the rhythms of speech, the vernacular and tone.

5. Explore a Dictionary: Pick a page at random and spend the next five to ten minutes reading every word. Make a list of odd words that you would like to incorporate into your writing. Gain new insight by learning the etymology. See my recent post on navel-gazing.

6. Build a History: Make your characters come to life. Imagine the 13 most significant events in his/her life starting with birth and ending with death. Describe your character’s favourite music and food. Add information on all their health, financial and relationship issues. Where do they live, work, play? What stage of their lives are they at when your reader encounters them?

7. Write a Letter: Many books start out as letters to loved ones. Many of my poems, or longer prose pieces have started out as letters or journal entries. I find writing a letter gives me permission to explore new ideas without worrying about creating a perfect piece of prose.

8. Get Specific: Take a look at something you’ve written and highlight any sections that are vague. You want readers to see the same things that you see. The more details you provide, the more your writing will ring true. A reader can always tell when the writer doesn’t understand his/her topic. Don’t be afraid of research; and, don’t be afraid to write down what you know.

9. Eliminate Words: Bad writing is part of the creative process. Give yourself the freedom to write really bad first drafts. Get it all out. Put it away in a drawer for a week or two. Give your writing time to settle. Then, revise, revise, revise. Circle places where your writing is vague - either delve deeper, cross it out or move it someplace else. A beautiful phrase or sentence may be just that - it may not fit the piece you’re working on. Save the phrase, sentence, paragraph, even character for another day.

10. Slow Down: Always read your writing aloud, slowly. Listen to the rhythms of your prose. Give your writing a chance to expand, to breathe. Does the format you’ve selected match what you’re trying to say? Allow yourself the quiet that you need to really pay attention to your work. It’s amazing what you’ll discover in 20 minutes of quiet time.

11. Feed the Senses: The main character in my novel-in-progress is an artist named Magda. I was having difficulty describing her paintings because the last time I attempted to paint something was in high-school. So I took a painting course at a local college. I also have a membership to our local art gallery.

Magda’s also single (I am not). She’s having a tough time in her relationships. Whenever I want to conjure up some dating angst, I pop in one of my “Sex in the City” DVDs.

Writing doesn’t exist in a vacuum - it is directly related to our other senses.

12. Read, Read, Read: Newspapers, periodicals, books and other blog sites are often good sources of information and inspiration. You may find inspiration in the classifieds or obituaries (not than I’m obsessed with death).

Here are three site that I visit daily: Salon; Arts and Letters Daily; and, Slate.

What are yours?

13. Act Successful: To be a writer, act like a writer. Give your writing the respect it deserves. Give yourself time to write and then do it!

Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

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March 6, 2007

Guess What? Chicken Butt

I’m going to order a T-shirt from One Horse Shy because they “pander to everyone!” I’m quite taken with their Chicken Butt T-shirt. Check it out:


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Snapshot - August 2000

As August draws to a close, it seems like I finally have some time to sit down and compose the group update I that I have promised so many times before. I have made many false starts: I am coward. The words I write are difficult, intimate and exposed. My father is dying.

There is no eloquent way to phrase this.

The “undifferentiated mass” the oncologist recently discovered is eating away at his spine and third rib, turning his bones to mush. When my father and I go to the Cancer Clinic to discuss the results with Dr. Chi, the pictures he places in front of us are hypnotizing. As Dr. Chi explains our options, I am silent. My father nods continuously and manages a weak “OK”. I choke back tears and ask about time frames. A vague conversation takes place about time vs. quality ratios. Everything is as muted, as dull, as the gray walls of the examination room. Our talk is very clinical, very short and seemingly non-emotional. All the while my father stares at the stills captured by the CT scan. We will have time, Dr. Chi informs me, to discuss all these things at our next appointment. In the meantime, my father is booked for more tests and I am sent to the pharmacy to sign for morphine.

My education has begun. I am introduced to terms such as “breakthrough medication” and “pain management.” As the week progresses I add the phrase “non-resuscitation order” to my lexicon.

When we finally emerged from the Cancer Clinic, the afternoon August sun had managed to break through the clouds. Our usual five-minute walk back to the house turned into a half-hour as we stopped to look at the houses and gardens in our familiar neighbourhood. I have never felt as close, and as protective of my father, as I did that afternoon. Conversation flowed effortlessly and I found myself ignoring everything around me.

My father and I spent the rest of the afternoon talking continuously. Just being with him filled me with a calm, deep knowledge. There are people with whom you feel mute. In contrast, there are those who can reach straight into your chest and pull songs and stars out of your heart. My father is one of those people.

Talking with my father that afternoon, as we watered the garden, made me feel like I was availing myself to whatever was extraordinary in the world. Like my mother, he has a special interest in the lives of Saints, but unlike her, he takes a special interest in all things botanical. His fig trees (we have four) and his hydrangea bushes are his pride and joy. This year his fig trees are heavy with fruit while his hydrangeas are a sickly lot. He tells me, once again, that in Greek folklore, if you fall asleep under a fig tree you become deathly ill; I secretly wonder whether our bruised blue hydrangeas have suffered because our fig trees are so bountiful. Is there a natural order that my father has somehow interrupted?

All poets I think are natural storytellers too. Our afternoon turns into evening as he shared stories of his long journey to Canada, of love, betrayal, and the importance of family. It is a bittersweet day and we both know that is probably one of the last times we will spend so effortlessly and innocently.

My father is on morphine for most of his waking hours; his moments of lucidity come less frequently now and he tires easily. When I look in his eyes, stroke his head and kiss his cheek, I look for confirmation that he recognizes me, that he understands that I am his daughter - his Christinaki. He is tired, withdrawn.

I want him to “tell me a story”, to laugh so hard that tears stream down his face and he has to hold onto his stomach to catch his breath. Instead, I notice that his attention span is limited; he drifts in and out of conversation. He is fixated on the Odyssey Television Network constantly playing in the background. He likes the mindless “Greek noise” the programming in his mother tongue provides. I watch him struggle as he takes deep breaths and gathers his strength.

As Wednesday becomes Thursday and Thursday turns to Friday, I find I have been, inadvertently, holding my breath. For the first couple of nights I do not sleep at all. I find myself crouching over the air vent that connects my living room to his bedroom. I strain, in the dark, to hear my father’s breathing. When I think I hear him snore, I drag myself back to bed and know that we have cheated death for one more night.

He still has rosy cheeks and his big belly. The home care nurse tells me not to be fooled by his “robustness”. This is a tricky illness.

I know now that from where we sleep, the shadows of secret things lurk, forever calling our names.

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March 5, 2007

Hands & Hearts

My father has been gone for almost six and a half years. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. One of the things I frequently think about are his hands.

How big they were compared to mine.

How rough they were compared to mine.

How strong they were compared to mine.

My father could do anything with his hands: build a boat, plant a garden, tile a floor, dig a ditch, paint a house and even knead bread. As a young child, I remember wanting to hold my father’s hand all the time.

And now, I watch our little chicken reach for my husband’s hand. “Let’s go,” she says pulling at his fingers. “One, twooo, one, twooo,” she says counting each of his fingers on his left hand.

And, I smile.

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March 4, 2007

List #5


My Unconscious Mutterings for the week of March 5, 2007:

  1. Nude :: Lip-gloss
  2. Support :: Sponsor
  3. Rachel:: Weisz
  4. Crane :: Origami
  5. Candy bar :: Twix
  6. Material :: Construction
  7. Mind games :: Mensa
  8. Eviction :: Removal
  9. Produce :: Create
  10. Joke :: Quip

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Smyrna - The beginning

My grandmother and her husband were married in a small chapel on the outskirts of Smyrna in the fall of 1919. Smyrna was then a Greek stronghold; as myth and legend go, there were more Greeks living in Anatolia than there were in Athens.

My grandfather, Georgios, was handsome in the way most Greek men are handsome. Their courtship was brief because he was a soldier in Venizelos’ army.

They lived with my grandmother’s parents, helping to run the family’s small grocery store by the waterfront. Smyrna was thought to be the land of milk and honey and the Greek merchant class prospered.

Within the year, my mother’s sister was born. In August of 1922, word of the approaching Turkish Army reached my grandfather’s ears. It was right before the sacking of Smyrna that my grandfather, dressed in women’s clothing, was smuggled out of Turkey back to his homeland.

My grandmother was forced to flee Smyrna in the middle of the night, leaving everything and everyone she had held dear behind. With her small child clinging to her skirts, she began the terrifying trek back to her husband, back to Greece. The occupying Turkish Army wanted to cleanse ‘Infidel Izmir’ and began to set fire to the city’s Greek Quarter. The piece of wood that she tripped over during those treacherous dark nights turned out to be an Icon of the Annunciation from one of the small churches that the Turkish Army destroyed.

When my grandmother and her husband were re-united in Greece in the early months of 1923, one of the first things they did was place an embossed silver faceplate on the icon to protect it from further damage.

It was now 1924 and the couple finally settled in a small village, in a one-room home, outside of Athens. There were only three other houses remotely close to where my grandparents lived. My grandfather was working, six nights a week, as a watchman in a small factory about one hour away from his home. His days were spent laboring around his property received as compensation from the Greek Government for his efforts against the Turks. He had been seriously wounded in war, long before he met my grandmother, and had never fully recovered. He quickly discovered that this part of Greece was a rock garden of juniper, thyme and oregano – but very little else. The climate was dry and unforgiving but, through his determination and his uncompromising, unfaltering faith in God, his efforts bore fruit.

The long hours eventually took their toll and in August of that same year, he fell gravely ill. For three days and nights, he suffered terribly. The dangerously high fever rendered him unconscious. When the doctor from the neighboring village finally arrived, he told my grandmother there was nothing he could do. It was best she begin planning his funeral.

My grandmother fell to her knees in front of the iconostas and prayed to the Virgin Mary. Please, my beloved Theotokos, you who lost your only son, must know the pain I am feeling. I rescued you from the Turks, please do not let my husband die and leave my young daughter and I orphans in this unfamiliar place. Please, stretch out your veil and make my husband well.

It was then that my grandmother noticed a shadow leave the icon, fly out the window and enter through my grandparent’s front door. It circled the bed, three times, where her husband lay. And then, just as quickly, the shadow disappeared. My grandmother was trying to process what had happened when she felt a firm hand on her shoulder and a voice inside her head. Don’t worry Maria, your husband will get well. There is nothing wrong with him. Take a candle from the Anastasi service and place three drops in his nostrils.

Almost immediately after my grandmother followed the instructions she’d been given, my grandfather’s fever broke and he opened his eyes. Maria, I’m hungry, were the first words he uttered.

And then the second miracle happened. With her husband ill and a small child to take care of, my grandmother had pretty much subsisted on bread and water. Any milk, eggs or meat had been fed, long ago, to her daughter, who was by now, also clamoring for food. Neighbors starting arriving as if on cue, with fruit, eggs, bread, vegetables, meats, honey, cheeses, wine and olive oil.

It is our tradition that at the conclusion of Anastasi services, We take the lighted Paschal candle home. In Greek tradition, it is considered a good omen if one manages to do this without letting the flame go out. The man of the household upon arriving on his threshold traces the sign of the cross. He does the same to each of the windows and door-frames. In order to keep the Divine Light in the in house all year, the Paschal candle is then used to light the small votive light burning day and night in front of the family iconostas.

In my family, it was my father, using Canadian ingenuity, who modified this custom. We had long ago replaced our traditional votive candle for an efficient, economical 10-watt red bulb, so my father, in his best judgment, decided that an equally effective substitute would be our gas stove. This was his thinking: our gas stove was in constant use and provided warm, delicious food that kept us healthy. Besides which, our religious life centered on the kitchen. So each year, for as long as I can remember, until our last Easter celebrated together, upon returning from Anastasi services, we blew out the pilot lights and my father re-lit them using the Divine Light.

The Easter candles themselves are never thrown out. I too have a drawer full of such candles in my kitchen to use in case of a physical or spiritual emergency.

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March 3, 2007

Sunday Seven # 1


Taking time to enjoy the simple pleasures in my life …

1. I have much to be thankful for today: my handsome husband, our little chicken and I spent the entire day in our pajamas enjoying one another’s company. Our perfect day began with a pancake breakfast based on my beloved Mama’s recipe.

2. My favourite vignette from the day: sitting as a family on the couch, reading “Gossie” to EM.

“Gossie is a gosling, a small yellow gosling, who likes to wear bright red boots every day.”

EM has brown boots that she likes to wear almost every day. She also drags her little stuffed monkey along with her wherever she goes. So, it should come as no surprise that we had to make room for her monkey to sit with us while we were reading.

3. Spending time with my own daughter brings back such wonderful memories of my own childhood and the times spent with mama. Hearing EM’s laugh and calling for “mommmeee” makes my heart sing and eases the emptiness of my mom’s passing.

4. I am amazed at how quickly EM is changing. It’s hard to believe that she will be 19 mos old tomorrow. Part of her bed-time ritual is to say good-night to us and the handful of stuffed animals that share her bed. She’s recently begun saying good-night and thank you to God.

5. I am truly thankful that our miracle baby is happy, healthy and well-adjusted. For a person who was told that she’d never have a child, each moment spent with EM is a gift. I wake up in the middle of the night, go down to her room, and watch her sleep. EM snores! I am amazed that someone so small could make so much noise.

6. I am thankful that I don’t have to cook or shop for groceries - my husband takes care of those chores. I am more thankful that my husband understands my love for the written word and is equally amused when I find words like “omphaloskepsis” to post on my site. That he is also a tea-drinker and hard-core scrabble player also rocks my world.

7. I am thankful that I have such a challenging and satisfying job. I get paid to write and to use my brain. I sometimes get cranky at having to work long hours - who wouldn’t? - but I love working in communications.

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Bless This Chick

The Bless This Chick Emporium allows you to create free e-mail signatures/avatars for your website. Below is mine:


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Adventures in Food - March 2007

TASTE- Victoria Tea Festival
March 11, 2007
Victoria, BC
Meet with tea purveyors, enjoy tea tastings and food pairings, and take in some tea education and lore. Tickets required.

DRINK- Victoria Festival of Wine
March 14 & 15, 2007
Victoria, BC
The tag-line says it all- music, wine, and food. Tickets required.

FESTIVAL- Pacific Rim Whale Festival
March 17-25, 2007
Vancouver Island, BC
Hosted by Tofino and Ucluelet, this festival celebrates the annual whale migration. Gastronomic activities include a gala dinner, a chowder chow down, and a barnacle bash. Tickets required.

TASTE- Chocolate Fest 2007
March 25, 2007
Victoria, BC
Chocolate-y games, demos, workshops, exhibits, and tastings to raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria. Tickets required.

FUNDRAISER- Dining Out for Life: Vancouver Island
March 29, 2007
Vancouver Island, BC
Dine at participating restaurants on Vancouver Island, and 25% of proceeds will go towards AIDS Vancouver Island.

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