Friday, December 31, 2004

The "wow" in my life...

So now it is New Year’s Eve (in the secular world). We had a wonderful Christmas with my family (Paul’s family lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin). And my sister has been down with her two little one’s (Pavel age 4 and Maria age 2… best friend of my little one, Pavlos age 2 1/2) for almost ten days. What joy, what fun to see these cousins play with each other. My sister and I have had many discussions about how wonderful it would have been if, when we were young, we had cousins our age. There is so much joy and wonder and amazement and happiness in those children.

It makes me reflect on something that Fr. Theodore said in a sermon (it must have been on Christmas Eve morning, I think) about what the different animals and people brought to Christ. The Magi brought gifts. The earth (creation) offered a cave and a manger. The shepherds (this is the best part) brought their wonder. Being illiterate, but being connected to God because of spending countless days in the quiet of the wilderness, tending their sheep, they were simple people on the outside with a depth that I cannot touch (with all the noise and books and learning I have in my life). And I see that wonder in Pavlos (and his cousins) everyday. No, wait, not just everyday, but at least once an hour, maybe even once every ten minutes. Pavlos’ favorite word right now is “wow”. Everything we see or do is a moment of “wow” for him. Where are my “wow” moments, I think to myself? They are, technically, every day, every hour, every minute. But, my heart has been hardened to them by time and sin. When I am told that my salvation is through my child and husband, I realize that through Pavlos, that hard heart may have a crack in it… exposing itself for just a moment. And that with each Pavlos “wow”, there is a small “wow” in my heart, too.

On Christmas Day we found out that our beloved Metropolitan, His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony, reposed after a five week battle with cancer. He was due to retire in the next year. May his memory be eternal!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Secular Christmas Reflections

I am making my yearly Christmas cookies. Most of them Greek. And it donned on my why these two different Greek cookie recipes call for "two jiggers of brandy"... you will need the brandy bottle handy for when you are completely frustrated with the in depth process you must go through to make these cookes:) Even the Artoklassia (five loaves of sweet bread as an offering to the Church) calls for ouzo to be sprayed on the top of the bread (another tedious recipe to follow). Yep, the Greeks know what they are doing:)

Yesterday I finished our Christmas shopping. Normally I'm the kind of person who is done by December 1. But this year, something special was released on DVD on December 21 and I wanted to get that something special for my brother. Can you guess what it is? Let me give you a few hints... idiots, sweet, liger?!?!? Got it now? It's Napolean Dynamite! I am going to add it to my favorite movies on my blogger profile. I saw it with my sister this summer in the theater. It is so hysterically funny... we were literally rolling in the aisles. My brother will love it! And, in case you missed the theatrical release, I hightly recommend at least renting it. It's about all the geeky people you knew in high school all rolled into one. And it's a high school movie that doesn't have swearing, drinking, drugs, or sex. Can you believe it? And it's still funny! Who would have thought.

Last night was Paul's work Christmas party (I should probably refer to it as a "Holiday" party because there was nothing "Christmassy" about this party). Not that I didn't have fun. We had a great time. He works for a fairly small company (there are only 20 employees here in Portland) so everyone knows each other. Very intimate. It was at Henry's Tavern in NW Portland. I guess that's a big hang out for the single, after work crowd. The cool thing is they have 100 different beers on tap. Talk about variety. We played pool, had an open tab (free drinks... although I can't drink because of my meds), and then had a delicious meal (food's not cheap... although we both had shrimp dishes). All paid for by the owner of the company who flew in just for the party. What a life. Some people got completely trashed and others didn't have a thing to drink. A good balance.

I don't know if I will have an opportunity to post anything until after the Nativity (which is, by the way, my name day, too) with family coming in from out of town tomorrow and all the services in the next few days. I wish you all a very blessed Nativity (I know it's early but Christ is Born! Glorify Him!).

Monday, December 20, 2004

Sick and tired of being sick and tired...

Poor Pavlos. He's been sick since last Tuesday. Fever, cough, runny nose, and just feeling miserable. It's funny how when someone in the family is sick (except maybe when I am sick), our little world gets turned upside down. Thursday Pavlos and I were going to help the ladies in our parish senior ministry make baklava for a bake sale. Instead, we stayed home all day (I wrapped presents). Paul planned a month ago to take last Friday off. We were going to drive up into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and cut down our own tree for Christmas. Then we were going to go sledding. Instead, on Friday I took Pavlos to the doctor and Paul went to Home Depot to buy a tree. Saturday we were going to go with our church GOYA group (youth group) to pass out lunches to the homeless. Instead, Paul went to pass out lunches and I stayed home with Pavlos. Saturday evening I went to Vesper's (which I have to admit was very relaxing without a 2 1/2 year old) and on Sunday morning, Paul went to Liturgy (and he also admitted that it was really relaxing without a 2 1/2 year old AND he was able to sit in the very front row of church AND he was able to go to most of Orthros). Sunday, I stayed home with Pavlos. Sunday evening we were in charge of a trip to the Grotto Festival of Lights for people from our parish. Paul and I went. And so did my dad. Where was Pavlos, you might ask? He stayed with yiayia (my mom... Greek for grandma). Monday (today), Pavlos' fever finally broke, thank God (and St. Nektarios). We are home all day just to be sure (and he still has the sniffles) and I am making some Greek pastries.

The hardest part was hearing him cough. And with each cough, tears would stream down his little cheeks because it hurt. That's the difficulties of being a parent. And this is just a bad infection. I can not even imagine what life would be like for those countless families who have little one's with life threatening illnesses. Or my grandparents who lost their son due to illness when he was four years old.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Presents in the present

About a week ago, someone from Way of a Pilgrim bookstore called me to inform me that the book "The Ascetic of Love" (the life of Mother Gavrila) was no longer in print and so they were unable to order it for me. I have been looking for this book since I first laid eyes on our koumbaro's copy (he lives in San Diego so I was unable to borrow it from him). That was about five years ago. Ever since then I have been searching for this book. When we moved up to Portland, OR, I would periodically go to Way of a Pilgrim to see if they had it in, but they had always "just sold their last copy and there is more on order". Finally, about two months ago, I asked them to order it for me. I was so sad to learn it is out of print. Now my quest for this book will be a little more difficult. Fast forward to yesterday: I went to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church bookstore to look for books in Greek for my dad for a Christmas present (every year I try to buy my dad a book in Greek for Christmas... either a life of a saint or something about the Church). Needless to say they couldn't find their books that were in Greek (they are in the middle of doing an inventory on their books, icons, etc.) But, I looked up on a shelf and there it was... "The Ascetic of Love". And, in fact, there were two copies of this gem (I only bought one). A birthday present to myself was purchasing this elusive book (my birthday is December 14). I am so excited to read it! And it made the drive out to Holy Trinity extremely worthwhile! OH, and I did eventually settle on buying a book on the Greek war of independence for my dad. It's in English, but it has many beautiful pictures. I think he will like it:)

One final note, last night we went out to dinner with my family for my birthday. My brother's fiance was there, too. She is very sweet and we all like her a lot. Her gift to me was U2's new CD How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Even though I already own the new CD, Hannah (future sister-in-law) has scored major points with me. I'm starting to like her more than I like my brother (just kidding, Yianni). How could I not like someone who buys me U2?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Fr. Seraphim Rose, Parish Council, and Prayer Request...

"...And don't join a parish council anywhere. Avoid parish politics like the plague!" Fr. Seraphim Rose (I read that yesterday in the book Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works)

We had parish council elections last Sunday. My DH, Paul, was nominated and, this year, he felt that he did not have a valid excuse to not run (last year he was nominated and declined because he was working almost full time and going to school full time). Needless to say, Paul is now a member of the St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church parish Council. I dedicate the Fr. Seraphim quotation to you, my darling husband (from your lovely wife:)

Those of you that have the privilege of knowing my husband may have noticed that he is a bit shy. So I am surprised that he is now on parish council. Not that only wild and crazy outgoing people are on parish council, it just seems that (and remember, I have grown up in a couple of different GREEK Orthodox parishes) the schmoozier you are, the more likely you are to be on parish council (just my humble opinion). I was once approached, years ago, to have my name on the ballot. I wanted to decline because I was a full time grad student and I was working full time, but the person informed me that I didn't have to worry, I wouldn't win (wink wink, nudge nudge). I was appalled. Needless to say, I did decline. This did not happen at the parish we currently attend (St. John's was but a twinkle in Metropolitan Anthony's eye). Anyway, I am of the opinion that my husband is, of course amazing and wonderful and I am sure he will be a great asset to the group (he doesn't read my blog so I can say these great things about him).

This leads me to our prayer request. We currently live a 30 minute drive (on a a good day) from St. John's. Where we live is less expensive than where the church is located. We have been looking for a home to buy (we live in a home that my parent's own... can't beat the rent:) and we were going to stay here, in Vancouver. But, after much prayer, thought, and discussions with our spiritual father (and with Paul having to go to meetings at church) we are looking in the Beaverton/Hillsboro area. We are praying that God will find a way to keep me at home (with Pavlos) and that we can make ends meet only on Paul's salary. It will be difficult. Please pray for us! Thank you...

Monday, December 06, 2004

All Hail the (Crimson) King of Literature(?)

My sister and I read Stephen King when we were in high school. What he lacks as a master of literature he makes up for as master of mounds and mounds of fire fuel er, I mean, books. The guy writes a lot. I haven't read a Stephen King book in years... EXCEPT the Dark Tower series which is Stephen King minus some of the blood, guts, and horror of his usual works (not to say that the books in the Dark Tower series do not have bloody scenes, they do; it's just that this series of books are more apt to be described as fantasy fiction than horror fiction). Over the years, I have definitely left the horror side of fiction behind (don't know why I even read it in the first place... I'm what you would call a voracious reader... I will read just about anything that I can get my hands on... thank God I have grown to be a little more discerning as I have left adolescence behind:). But I have continued to read the Dark Tower series because I WANTED TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS! That's it. And, so, a few weeks ago, my sister lent me her copy of the final installment in the series (aptly titled "The Dark Tower", creative, huh?) Now I can get through a Stephen King book in a few days (sometimes a few hours), I'm just a very fast reader (good when I was in college, bad when I am trying to savor a book). And, obviously Tolkien he ain't, so it's a pretty easy read. I finished it. I will not give away the ending here (although I don't know how many of my blog readers are avid Stephen King readers) but I do want to comment on it, at least a little bit.
I can see where fans of Stephen King, and fans of the Dark Tower series especially (keep in mind that he started the first book in the 70's, and just recently published the last book) may not have been thrilled with the ending. I would like to remind them that ka is a circle and that Roland still needs to come to terms with his past. He needs to forgive himself and that is why he is still in the circle. Maybe the next time around, Roland will actually find what he is looking for... (remember, I don't want to give away the ending:), but I thought the ending made total sense. And, anyway, real life (which this books is so far from) isn't about happy endings. In fact, I usually respect an author more if the ending is not what I suspected or it isn't some Hallmark contrived commercial ending where everyone is happy, happy happy! Thanks for reading...

***NOTE*** I wrote this while I was subbing sixth grade science (during my break). Please forgive me if it sounds a bit random and all over the place.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Too Tired to Think...

The gears are grinding slowly this week. I think that Thanksgiving did me in! So, here are a few links for you to browse at your leisure. Hopefully, my brain will start working again and I can write something with more depth.

St. John the Forerunner Monastery
in Goldendale, WA is on-line! They sell wonderful soaps and wonderful Greek pastries.

Our family website!
On the first “page” it says it hasn’t been updated since May, but that’s not true (I just haven’t updated that page). Go to Christina’s page to see our pictures from Greece (and, yes, I’m still working on getting the pictures up from Paul’s visit to Mt. Athos… sorry for the delay). If you want to see the pics of Pavlos, please email me privately and I will send you the password.

Orthodox Images!
We love the painting "The Secret School" and have now found a place where we can purchase a copy. This is a link to the painting (and other Icons, paintings, etc.). This is a very famous Greek painting (it was on the 200 drachma bill) showing how the monk/priest is teaching the children how to read, write and about their faith secretly, while an armed Greek guard stands watch. Beautiful...

***NOTE*** if anyone knows where I can get books in Greek, let me know. I am trying to avoid ordering directly from Greece and am having no luck searching the net. Thanks!