Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Changes




Seasons come and go. From spring to summer, from summer to fall, from fall to winter,when everything else is unpredictable the seasons are not. 

And my favorite part, she will always be there no matter the changes. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Leave a mark


As a family we built our ranch. And my favorite part of this process was the fresh concrete.  For my parents and us kids this slick slab of concrete was imperfect perfectly flat and untouched.

It needed something. 

And that which it needed was our handprints.  For every new driveway, new sidewalk or new porch that we poured we left our mark.  And every time I go back to these handprints I press my hand up against the indentation.  My hand still has the same lines in the shape of a ‘M’ on my palm, it still has the scar on my index finger where I dropped a bowling ball on it and no matter how much it has grown it will always be mine.  And so will our home. 

And the small and delicate handprints on the back porch of my new home that read ‘Ciel’ will always be theirs and so will a part of this home. They will always hold a special place and memory in their heart.  If they should return one day I hope that they will measure their growth too.  Although I don’t know those handprints they make me feel at home.  

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The case of the Sundays

My mothers’ favorite day was Sunday.  Not only was she an entirely faithful woman who attended liturgy nearly every Sunday but she also loved the endless possibilities of the day. You can go to church, you can sleep in, you can enjoy midday cocktails or you can curl up in front of the fire with a hot cocoa.  You can treat Sunday like a Monday, like a Friday or like a Wednesday.  I believe that there is no proper or improper way to enjoy a Sunday. My mother mostly loved Sundays because it was our day.  And this is the reason I love them too. 

Like I mentioned there is no right or wrong way to go about a Sunday but lately I feel as if it is improper to do a Sunday without my mother.  Sundays are still my favorite day, now along with being my favorite they have become some of my hardest days. 
This is the reason I have decided to write to you all every Sunday and have you share this day with me like my mother once did. We’ll make it our little tradition.  Whether I’m at the ranch,  and you’re in San Diego, or I’m in Greece and you’re in Chicago, we will have the case of the Sundays… together.
 So what are you doing today, enjoying cocktails or running on the beach, taking picture or wandering around the farmers market?

White wine, Cheez-its and a white porch


It is another night of chilled white wine, salty crisp Cheez-its and my favorite white porch.  This is how I wrap up every night here on the ranch.  Whether it is a day filled with checking cattle on the mountain or cleaning and sweeping, at mid-evening on any given summer night you will find me here with these three pleasures.  The wine is for relaxation, the cheez-its are for satisfaction and the white front porch is for exploration.  

The open spaces that lie beyond the white porch allow me to clear my often troubled mind and write freely as if no one will ever read the words I compose.  It lets me surrender to the desires to write about random things like white wine, cheez-its and a white porch. You should try it sometime.  All of it... writing as if no one will ever read your words and my three summer night pleasures, they all compliment each other charmingly.  And just enjoy... freely.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Beautiful Mess

All the couches were taken and blankets were strewn throughout the house.
It reminded me of a middle school slumber party except everyone was much taller this time. Country music faintly played in the background from the previous night’s kitchen dancing episode, and little whispers trickled throughout our three-level house as the sun started to rise.
When I participated in slumber parties in middle school, I learned fast that you never wanted to be the first one up or the last one up — you hoped that when you opened your eyes, you were somewhere in between.
I was sure this rule still applied.
One by one, each guest woke up from their slumbers, then came the aroma of roasted coffee beans, the popping sound of crisp bacon on the stove, and a string of continuous jokes that led to endless laughter.
The guests were all wearing a combination of each member of our family’s closets and it seemed as if all of us together were one big happy family, or maybe more a fraternity.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Getting My Feet Wet

The waves crashed in one by one, and each made a unique noise and had a different presence. As each wave crashed on the shoreline, I found myself taking a step closer for a look at this foreign piece of Mother Nature.
This was the first time I had seen the ocean and the first family vacation that I can remember.
I was 12, and couldn’t wait to get my feet wet, both literally and figuratively.
If I could just get one chance to explore, and mom and dad to turn their backs and shop in that store, I thought, I’ll jump in.
Every spring break from kindergarten until senior year of high school, I would beg my parents to take our family on vacation. Instead, I found myself turning a mud pit into a pretend concrete manufacturing plant with my younger brother, or starting my own taxicab service throughout the land of our ranch, with imaginary friends from all over the world.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Table for Two Please

I'm home alone.  The laundry is done.  The dishes are done.  Every room in the house is neat and tidy.  The mail is organized.  What about the fridge did I clean that out after my vacation?  Yes, that is done too.  And dinner has been served, an oregano seasoned salmon paired with roasted tomatoes, onions and garnished with feta.  Everything is done and the house is still.  The only sounds that filter throughout it are that of the olive oil popping in the frying pan, the lightening of a summer storm in the distance and a faint whisper telling me to pick up the onion I dropped on the floor.  I'm home alone and I miss her.  Usually I love the freedom and quietness of a night with the house to myself.  I used to urge my roommates to go run errands and leave me behind in the house alone.  If it were for 15 minutes or for the entire evening I didn't mind, there was just something about having the walls and the happenings of one house all to myself that I adored.  It is a moment to breath, it is a moment to walk throughout the halls aimlessly, a moment to turn up whatever music you please, but most important it is a moment to listen.  Whether you listen to your own thoughts, the meaningful lyrics of a song or someone's voice in your head, the motionless ambiance of an empty house makes you listen.

 "Missy, I saw you drop that onion behind the counter, " she whispers in my head, and I see her twirl her hand in a circular motion to pinpoint the exact area where it landed.

"Don't cry my love, and please get some rest, everything will be better in the morning," she comforts me as I shuffle through her closet to put away her dry cleaning as if she had work on Monday.

She is here, she is everywhere and I listen.

Yet still, the house whether it is empty or full is not a home without her.  I used to like being home alone.  That was before she left.  That was before she left her home to me.  And all those times before I wished for one moment that I would have the house to myself, so I could bake cookies, spread flour everywhere and leave the dishes for tomorrow...if I wanted to.  Or take a bath for an hour, sit on the patio for another hour and well maybe lay in the grass for another... if I wanted to.  All those times that I wished to be home alone to wander around carelessly, and yet I don't lay in grass or leave the dishes in the sink.  No, instead I do exactly what she did when she was home alone, I prepare the house for everyone to come home.  With beds freshly made, aromas of a perfectly marinated steak on the grill, the fire lit in the winter and the windows open in summer.  Not because she did it or because I feel like I have to.  I do it because this is when I feel closet to her.  This is when I hear her wisdom, this is when I feel her flawless hands resting on my shoulder.  This is when I can really be alone with her and just listen.  So I guess when I am home alone, I never really am.

Tonight I made too much food, probably because I am used to cooking for five boys, my dad, my brothers and of course their posse.  While most of the time I slap at their hands when they try to pick at the salad or the cookie dough, I miss the craziness of the kitchen when they are gone, even if it's just for a night.  So on nights like this, when I am home alone, I cook for two. My mother and I.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Her Garden...Your Garden



My Best Habit


As a little girl, I would sneak into my mother’s room while she was in the shower and rummage through her drawers. I didn’t have to be sneaky around her because she was a generous woman, one who would give the world to her children if she could.
Yet, there was something spontaneous about being sneaky and being caught. I wasn’t looking for her square-shaped princess earrings or her rose-colored lipstick. I wasn’t trying to play dress-up, I was looking for one of her simple, baggy and worn T-shirts.
I would press the tarnished seams up against my body, jump on top of my parents’ bed and admire myself in the mirror, peering over one shoulder, peering over the other and, of course, checking my backside to make sure the bagginess was plenty, the holes many and the comfort just right... 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Simplicity of Children



A paper shopping bag, two colorful bead bracelets and a stack of coasters, these are items that can keep a child amazed and satisfied for hours.  Children simplify life.  They remind us that a ketchup stain or a stumble on the pavement, can't keep you from playing. Instead these mishaps are stories to embellish our adventures.  With children it is just that simple. 

Friday, June 4, 2010

California Dreamin'







During the summer my mom always had a bowl of cherries on the kitchen counter.  I try to keep even these little traditions alive around the house. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Upside Down



"Everything looks cooler upside down," I said.

"Wow, it really does," she confirmed.

"How come my life doesn't look that cool when it is upside down?" I said.

My mom was the only one I could cry to. And I was the only one she could cry to. It was our thing. We could only cry to each other.

When the day got the best of me, and I couldn't cry to my mom, I wasn't sure who to go to or where to go. I just wanted to be a kid again. I wanted to go back to when she was young and free of pain. The time in my life when she could wrap me up in a ball, kiss my forehead and tell me to free my troubled mind. Sadly, I can't bring her back. So instead I decided to bring my childhood back.

It is just two chains and a piece of rubber. It is simple. It is forgiving. It is a swing. And its' simple construction creates endless opportunities and an incredible sense of liberation. It takes you back to when you were you young. When you could cuddle up in your mother's arms and be entertained for hours just by her sparkly gold jewelry. It is the child in all of us. And while turning your life upside down can be scary, experiencing this rush provides a valuable perspective.

My Career Plan

I have always followed my heart and my gut instincts. For me, the two go hand and hand. And while some people map out a five-year and a ten-year plan by the time they are twenty, I prefer a different method when planning my career. My to-do list used to look like this: laundry, ten page paper, mach interview and English midterm. After my mom passed away I did some renovating to my to-do list. Now my to-do list looks like this: check-in with Dad, plan a trip to see YiaYia, make sure you tell Nouna (godmother) that I love her. I now concentrate on my special relationships instead of saying; “I’ll call you later”. I now surround myself with people who constantly inspire me and focus on developing myself first. Then I tackle my essays and tests, as they need to be done. I do one thing at a time. I believe that by doing this I will develop consistently everyday and my career will grow along with me.

Four years have come and gone. And it seems that when you are halfway through a good thing that is the time when you realize that it is almost over. In that moment you wish you could be back at the beginning. When it is your last time you wish it were your first. But that is part of living, remembering the past, seizing the present, and planning for the future. And sometimes the future plan is so close, that when something that you have always planned and wished for in your future suddenly comes before your eyes you panic, questioning whether you are ready. Life is a continuous gamble, a gamble on uncertainty. The beauty of this uncertainty is that we can wear many hats in our lifetime. Life is not a perfect straight line; there is plenty of room for mistakes and risks. I will wear many different hats in my lifetime and I know that these trials and risks will be worth every gain and loss that I encounter. We all race for the finish line, placing bets on our future or where we will end up. We place bets on whether we will become a doctor, a millionaire, a cowboy, a movie star or a stay at home mom. We place bets on which hat we will wear. Some of us stay inside the boundaries of the track never trying on another hat, never testing the uncertainty because this uncertainty might lead to failure. While some people are scared of this uncertainty, I am anxious to use my palette and color the world. I am a product of my family, my faith, my mother, my Greek culture and my education and one day I hope that my palette will create a beautiful portrait.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Now.

Over the past month, my life has made a drastic change. She was my rock, the only person I cried to. She was my biggest fan and biggest critic. She was my storyteller and my interviewer. My life started with her. But I believe that my journey started when hers ended. It seems that each lecture, lesson and heart felt conversation I had with my mother were preparation for her departure. This is the reason instead of starting at the beginning and tracing my life up until this point, I find it most appropriate to start at the present moment, because the most important thing to me now, is the now. Now what am I going to do? Now where am I going to go? Now what do I want to do when I grow up? Now. Now. Now.

“Your cross is beautiful hun,” he said as his dark and daring eyes stared at me from behind the counter.

“Thank you it was my mom’s, I got it for her in Greece,” I remarked.

It was my moms’. My mom was… and then I fill in the blank. She was a fighter. She was a friend. She was an inspiration. WAS, the word itself still makes cringe. I still struggle with the idea of putting her existence in the past. My story starts at the symbol of the cross, of her cross. As a child my family and I would go to church nearly every Sunday. My mom and I always sit next to each other in church. She cradled her warm elegant hands up against mine and pressed my three fingers together to make a point. And then she would guide my arm up to my forehead, down to my stomach, to my right shoulder and then to my left. And I would practice this motion over and over before I went to bed. I would hold my gold cross in between my hands and rubbed it gently until I finally fell asleep. I was terrified as a child to sleep alone and this routine calmed my nerves.

Once she finally fell asleep after an 11-year battle with cancer, I grabbed her cold elegant hand and pressed her three fingers together to make a point. Then I guided her arm up to her forehead, down to her stomach, to her right shoulder and then to her left. In my head I could hear her say, “Pass it on”. Now, I wear her gold Grecian cross across my chest to remind me that she lives within me and her spirit will never have to be associated with the word WAS.

I hear her little lessons and axioms everyday, proving that even though she is a heaven’s away, her lessons will never cease.

“Pass it on,” I heard her say. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, pass it on. Do everything in moderation, pass it on. Always take one thing at a time, pass it on. Who you marry is one of the most important decisions that you make, pass it on.

Now, the most important goal that I have is passing on her lessons.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dash

I read of a man who stood to speak, at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on this tombstone from beginning...to the end.

He noted that first came his date of birth and spoke the following with tears. But he said what mattered most of all, was the dash in between those years.

For the dash represents, all the time he spent alive on earth.
And how only those who loved him know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own; the cars, the house, the cash, what matters most is how we live and love and how we spend our dash… So think about this long and hard. Are there things you’d like to change?

For you never know how much time is left, that can still be rearranged. If we could just slow down enough, to consider what is true and real.
And always try to understand, the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger, and show appreciation more,
and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect, and more often wear a smile…
Remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash would you be proud of the things they say and how your spent your dash?


(By Linda Ellis)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Don't forget to remember me


‘Don’t forget to pack your Soniccare toothbrush Missy’, ‘Do you have your I.D. and your laptop’, ‘Make sure you fold that shirt nicely Mari Katherine’, ‘Are you sure your flight is at 4 p.m’, I heard her say as I packed up our memories in my little red suitcase for my return to San Diego.

I make this trip often, nearly every holiday weekend or celebration. And no matter the distance I always end up at home with my family. Coming home is always easy and leaving never gets easier. Today, I purposefully forgot most of the essentials when I packed, like socks, shirts, pants and my toothbrush.

Yet my bag as usual bordered the weight limit.

“Wow, what did pack in here mam?” she said.

“Well everything but the kitchen sink.” I joked with the flight attendant.

And too be honest, if feasible I would have brought the kitchen sink, because to her the stainless steel appliance was just as important as any other possession. I can remember coming home from college and walking through our front door, the blinds would always rattle as it closed. This noise was my mom’s cue that I was home.

“Honey is that you?” she yelled.

And even though I couldn’t see her, I could hear her vivacious smile in her voice. Usually I came around the corner to find her hovered over the kitchen sink either rinsing fresh vegetables and fruit or just finishing up the last dishes, always with a smile. Nothing was a chore for this woman, she made even dishes look fun. This is the reason I would have brought the kitchen sink with me to San Diego, because her loving memory is instilled in nearly every aspect of our home and lives. And I am determined to find a suitcase big enough to carry all these memories along with me.

When packing for San Diego, instead of the essentials I brought the memories.

I brought the 21st birthday card she gave me where she thanked me for coming home for the summer to be with her.

I brought her 25th wedding anniversary ring that my Dad gave her. He commented when he saw it on my finger today, “it still sparkles like it did when she wore it”.

I brought the holy icon that she always kept in her purse. She would pull it out about every hour and pray for someone or something. As one of the most competitive women I have ever known, my mom religiously prayed to her icon during our sporting events. And as one of the most selfless women that I have ever known, she rarely used that icon to pray for herself.

This time I zipped up my suitcase with a smile, to know that I wouldn’t have to say bye to her at the airport. Instead I would be carrying her love with me, from Craig down to San Diego.

“Don’t forget your little black dress Missy and call me when you land,” she said.

Cowgirl Don't Cry


I love flying more than ever NOW.




Because when I fly in the sky, I feel like I am closer to her.





Like I could just reach out and TOUCH her.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Her Famous Raspberry Trifle


When a loved one passes in the Greek Community, the comforting words that follow are: may her memory be eternal. Now two weeks have passed and this saying is becoming a reality. Keeping my mother around has been easy in our home and daily routines. From her glasses on the nightstand to her infamous raspberry trifle recipe, she still manages to keep her memory alive in all of us.






Friday, April 23, 2010




We found that in the end all we really have is each other... and hopefully a bottle of wine.