Food in Greece

“I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.” ~ Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

One of the things that I miss about Greece is the food.  There are no other words to describe the food in Greece.  Even the “bad” food there is good.

I believe that the freshness of the ingredients is what made the food taste so good.  The sandwiches I ate did not feel like a boring and dry sandwich.  The sandwiches were fresh, rich, and tasty.  I am salivating a little just looking at these pictures and remembering.

I had this caprese toast on my second to last day in Athens.  I went to Syntagma Square and had lunch at the rooftop cafe of Public.

However, Greece, I am sorry to say, but pizza in Italy and New York is still better.  It was a decent try, though.

But your drinks, especially the ones surrounded by ancient ruins, were absolutely perfect.

Hope

“Memories are bullets. Some whiz by and only spook you. Others tear you open and leave you in pieces.” ~ Richard Kadrey, Kill the Dead

Wednesday, April 10, was National Sibling Day.  It is mostly an internet holiday designed to honor the sibling relationship.

Wanting to celebrate the bond that I had with my late sister, and the one that I still have with my brother, I searched through old photographs of the three of us together to post on Instagram.  I found one from around the early eighties.  My family had moved to Omaha, Nebraska for about six months to be with my father, who was on a company project in the cornhusker state.

The picture was of the three of us standing in front of the fireplace.  Off to the corner, in front of the bar adjacent to the fireplace, sat my friend, Hope (name has been changed to protect her identity).  I was a bit surprised that the photographer, presumably my mother, would include Hope in the picture with us three siblings, but then I was hit with a particular memory about Hope that made whatever my mother’s reasons were make perfect sense.

Hope was always at my house.  She always insisted to come over every day after school, and she even wanted to have sleepovers at my house every weekend.  I had never had a sleepover before, and I had thought it was weird, but I finally acquiesced to her constant begging, and I finally asked my parents if I could have a sleepover and let Hope stay at our house.  I remember my mother was not too keen on the idea, but Hope was so insistent, and her parents agreed without so much as blinking an eye.

The plan was for Hope to come over Friday night and to stay until Sunday because her parents were going to take advantage of the fact that Hope would not be home for the weekend, and they had planned to go to Des Moines for the weekend.

Friday night came.  My mother had laid out blankets, and Hope was to sleep next to me on the floor.  My mother had made sure we were all settled before she turned off the lights and closed the door.  I was just about to fall asleep when Hope whispered, “Hey, are you still awake?”

“I’m just about to fall asleep.  You should sleep too before my parents get mad,” I said.

“I want you to do something first.  It helps me fall asleep,” she answered.

“What is it? I asked.

“Get underneath the blankets with me,” she said.  “And I want you to put your hands down my underwear.”

Innocently, I asked her why.  I told her it was gross to touch someone else’s private parts.  She then said that she wanted to put her hands down my underwear.  “It will make you feel good,” she smiled.  I refused and said no.  She shrugged when I said no, but she said that I still needed to make her feel good before she could sleep.

I was just about to touch her down there when my mom suddenly knocked on the door.  I jumped out from underneath her blanket and hid under my own.  My mom opened the door but did not turn on the lights.  I yelled out that we were fine, and that we were about to go to sleep.  I was afraid that she would come in and see that Hope was naked from the waist down.  But she closed the door and walked away, turning off the hallway light before she went into her own room and closed the door.

My mom had broken whatever spell had come over the room, and Hope didn’t ask me again to touch her.  The next morning, I became very ill with a fever, and my parents had called Hope’s parents to come pick her up.  Her parents were not happy that their weekend plans were cut short.  My friendship with Hope had faded after that.

Now, looking back almost forty-years later and recalling the events of that night, I can only surmise that Hope was being sexually abused by her father or even her mother.  I never told my mother what happened that night, until recently.  I asked her what made her come into the room that night, and she said she didn’t know, but that she just felt strangely that night.  I wish I had said something back then to my mom.  I feel sick knowing that I could have maybe saved her.  But I was just a kid myself, younger than my daughter is now.  I told my daughter this story and I emphasized that I hoped that she would always tell me everything, even if it was uncomfortable.

Projecting

“Of course I care. To a certain extent we all care, but we can’t care to the point that we live in fear of others’ opinion, that we allow them to change who we are. We must be willing to stand up and defend what represents the very core of our being. Otherwise what is the purpose of individuality? We’d be nothing but imitations of each other, and I daresay we’d all be rather boring.” ~ Lorraine Heath, In Bed with the Devil

I got into a fight with someone whom I have known for almost ten years now.  I was very close with this person (R) and told this person many things about myself.  Through the course of my friendship with R, I also shared my frustrations and complaints about various areas of my life.

I met up with R during my trip to Greece.  R was kind enough to accompany me as a quasi tour guide as I made my way through various locales in Greece.  On the second to last day, we had walked around Plaka, the area beneath the Parthenon.  R took me to one of Athen’s most famous bars, and we ended the evening with a few cocktails.

During the walk back to my hotel, we started to discuss mutual connections.  R gave an opinion about one of my friends, J, and opined that J may be lying about her situation so that I would pity her and be more sympathetic towards her.  I did not agree with R about this assessment of J’s character and I said as much.  R then opined about another friend, P, who also happens to be R’s sister, and said that P, as well as J, makes excuses about their past and their current lives, and that they do not own up to their actions.  R went on to say, “Actually you do as well.  You also make excuses for your past.  You never own up to why your marriage failed, and instead make excuses.”  I told R that I really was not in the mood to hear any opinions about my past, especially considering that I did not agree with how a particular situation was handled in R’s own life.  Suffice it to say, in retrospect, both R and I were not particularly open-minded or welcoming about opinions regarding our lives, but sensitive words were exchanged.  I told R to stop and that I didn’t want to hear any more.  R has known me well, and knows how hard I already am on myself, for everything in my life, especially my past.  But for some reason, R felt the need to express every judgment, and was even quite adamant that I hear every last negative assessment of me, despite my requests that the discussion be dropped.  I started to become angry, and I felt very insulted that R chose to tell me and insist to tell me during my vacation how screwed up I am.  I simply lost the desire to continue my remaining time of my vacation with R, so I became dismissive and told R that I could continue the rest of my vacation alone.

Whether or not R’s assessment of my life is correct is not the point.  I was on vacation.  I took time off from work to get away from my life, not to face whatever issues R thought I had to face.  I read somewhere that most people who are so judgmental are actually projecting how they feel about their own lives.

Social Media Envy

“If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you can bet the water bill is higher.” ~ Debbie Macomber, Mrs. Miracle

I deleted all of my social media accounts, with the exception of Twitter and Instagram.  I kept Twitter to read daily snippets of news, and Instagram because I genuinely enjoy looking at photography.  I no longer use the social functions of those applications, however.  I had found myself feeling pangs of envy whenever I was scrolling through friends’ pages.  While I was honestly feeling happy to read the successes of my friends, there was a part of me that had started to feel inadequate somehow.  My age group is particularly competitive.  Being at the lower end of middle-age, society demands a certain level of financial and relationship success.  We are middle-aged, so should we not already be stable financially, and should we not already be in at least a decade old relationship?  Most of my friends have socially enviable lifestyles, with their beautiful kids, beautiful homes, and beautiful cars.  While they drive through life with their Porsches, I literally and figuratively drive around in a Honda.  Scratch that.  I actually donated my nineteen year old Honda to Goodwill in January.  So actually I am going through life on foot, while everyone else is cruising through life in a Porsche.

Lest I sound like an ungrateful person, let me just say here and now that I am very grateful for what I have in my life.  I have a daughter who gives me love and happiness, and a purpose in life.  I have a job that I love, one that challenges me and allows me to live a comfortable life.  I have a family that gives me consistent headaches, but whom I love beyond words.  I have friends – amazing, extraordinary friends who have been with me through thick and thin, ride or die.  Really, I could not ask for more in life.

But social media is toxic.  It is like a poison that seeps through your skin, flows through your bloodstream, and before you know it, your thoughts are on fire and your self-esteem levels rise and fall according to the amount of likes and hearts you receive on your posts.

I decided that I did not want to live my life that way, constantly assessing the success of my life based on the number of new followers I gained, or on how many people “liked” my post.  And I no longer wanted to know that X bought another new and expensive accessory, or that Y was on her sixth lavish vacation this year.  Many of these X and Y people were not even really my friends. Most of them were just acquaintances, and many of them I had not seen or even spoken with for many, many years. So did I really need to know all this information about them?  The answer is no.  Although I am happy for everyone that their lives are all pomp & circumstance, while my daily life is rough and tumble, I do not need constant reminders.

All I can say is, now having deleted my social media accounts over half a year ago, ignorance really is bliss.  

19 Years

“That was the thing. You never got used to it, the idea of someone being gone. Just when you think it’s reconciled, accepted, someone points it out to you, and it just hits you all over again, that shocking.” ~ Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

Last week marked the nineteenth year since my sister died. She’s been gone almost as long as she was alive. I am sure there are some people who wonder if I still miss my sister, or if I still grieve for her. Admittedly, I no longer think of her every single day like I used to do for the first five years after she died, but I still miss her. Of course I still miss her. Birthdays and holidays are difficult. Whenever things are bad, I miss her.  Whenever things are really good, I miss her. When there is something funny to share, I miss her.  When I am depressed, I miss her. When I see something that she would have liked or even hated, I miss her. Whenever I hear certain songs from the 90s, I miss her. Whenever I think of my childhood, I miss her. So, yes, I still miss her. I do not miss her in the every day kind of way, but I miss her in the important kind of way – in the way that you feel empty in parts of yourself, like missing a limb or an eye, and you can still go on with your life, but you are forever changed.

Gone and Back

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” ~ Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach

I took Lindsay‘s advice and I took off to Greece a few weeks ago.  It was a last minute trip.  I met up with some friends who live near Athens, and we explored Plaka (the area beneath the Parthenon), Sounion (the ancient Temple of Poseidon in the southern most tip of the Attic peninsula, Nafplio (the romantic town named after the son of Poseidon), and the Isthmus Canal in Corinth, which connects mainland Greece with the Peloponnese.  It was a whirlwind of a holiday that lifted my spirits during the course of my time in Greece, but violently brought me back down to earth upon my return.  The going is always easy.  The coming back never is.

Heavyweight

“I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.” ~ Katja Millay, The Sea of Tranquility

I felt myself feeling heavy lately.  After a good long run of feeling light and inspired, the weight of the world has seemingly fallen on me again.  I feel my weight the most in the mornings, as I would get up to start my day.  I would make myself even heavier, by pulling up all the blankets, and sliding my entire body underneath the covers.  I would curl up in the fetal position, force my eyes shut, and drown out the noises from beneath my window.  I lay in bed for a few minutes, and endeavor to get up before the second alarm starts to blare.  But I am heavy, and the weight of the blankets on top of me are comforting, and all I want to do is sleep and never wake up.

Despite all the heaviness in my soul, I manage to get up everyday, promptly before 6:45 a.m.  I even manage to hit the gym several times a week in the mornings, prior to work.  I am a functioning heavy person.  I manage to live a high activity lifestyle, despite all the weight I carry around in my soul.  Sometimes I wonder how I manage to get to all the places I go, with the heaviness I drag around with me.  I even manage to crack jokes, smile at strangers, and hold open doors for others.  All the weight I carry is in my thoughts and in my feelings, and nobody knows that I am tired, or that I am praying for someone or something to come and take it all away.

24 Hours in DC

“Washington, D.C., with its wide streets, confounding roundabouts, marble statues, Doric columns, and domes, is supposed to feel like ancient Rome (that is, if the streets of ancient Rome were lined with homeless black people, bomb-sniffing dogs, tour buses, and cherry blossoms).” ~ Paul Beatty, The Sellout

I traveled to Washington, DC last week for a case I had been working.  It had the distinction of having reached the highest court in the country.  I had the honor of being invited to watch the oral argument that was to be heard at the Supreme Court of the United States.

I flew in on Tuesday evening.  I woke up on Wednesday morning to soft falling snow.  Washington, DC is funny in that the city becomes paralyzed with a mere few inches of snow (slush, really).  I was afraid that our hearing was going to get postponed as the rest of the city operations were closed, but fortunately, the Supreme Court was tough, and they remained open.

The rest of the city, however, was a ghost town.

My 17:30 flight back to New York was delayed, so I decided to just cancel the flight entirely and book a 15:05 train back home.  It was a good move, and I was home by 19:00.

There really is no place like home.

There Will Be a Fish

“Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.” ~ Ovid, Heroides

Last year, I made a life-changing decision to try one more time.  One last attempt, I told myself.  I fought with myself for weeks, oscillating back and forth from “should i do it?” to “I will definitely do it!” and I did definitely do it, and looking back, I am glad I did.

It was not easy.  I felt as though I had to swallow every last shred of pride and dignity that I had left, and I had to stop my mind from going back to those dark years of my life with him, but I somehow managed to pick up the phone, dial his number, let it ring, hear him answer, and simply talk to him.

The first few minutes were awkward, strained even.  But I was determined.  I had to let him understand that I was not reaching out to him for any other reason other than to try to bridge the years and the distance and the time lost between my daughter and her father.

He did not believe me at first.  Too much time had passed, he said, and he didn’t see the sense of it all.  Deep down I felt that he was scared.  Scared to make the effort, scared to feel the fatherly feelings towards his daughter, only to find her rejecting him in the same way he had rejected her all these years.

I begged him to try.  Not for me, but for her.  Because no matter how we felt for one another, she was innocent.  And she deserved to meet him at least one time in her life.

I told G that I had contacted her father.  She immediately wrapped her arms around herself and her body stiffened.  I felt her bracing herself as I summarized my phone call with him, and told her of our plan to meet.  She was silent.  She looked apprehensive.  After a few seconds, she said, “Ok.”

She met her father for the first time on a cold night last January.  It was anti-climactic in every way.  There was no big crying reunion scene between father and daughter.  Instead, it was an awkward and tense evening that left all of us emotionally drained.

If one were to ask me that night how I would envision the next year to be between us, I never would have imagined the situation that it is now.

Now, one year later, after many rough months of ironing out of differences and building trust, she divides her time between her father and me.  Sometimes she is with him (and his new wife and her son), and other times she is with me.  While he and I will never be friends, we get along better now than ever before.  It is a relationship born out of the mutual love we have for our daughter, and while far from perfect, it is better than I had even hoped.

I am proud of myself for giving him one more chance, even though I felt at the time that he never deserved it.  But G deserved it.  And I’m glad that I fought for her chance.

Twenty Nineteen

“Where did feelings go when they disappeared? Did they leave a chemical trace somewhere in our minds, so that if we could look inside ourselves we would see via the patterns of neurons some of the important things that had happened to us in our lifetimes?” ~ Evelyn Lau, Inside Out: Reflections On a Life So Far

So, here I am.  Back again.  It is now 2019.  I cannot believe that the last time I was here was in 2017.

Much has changed since the last time I wrote.

For one, I am significantly older.  In many ways.  Physically, emotionally, mentally.  2018 was the year of growing up.  I left a great job in the early part of last year, and went on to an even better job.  The new job is challenging and has brought me to what I thought were my limits, but I have been able to shatter previous ceilings and reach for higher elevations.  It has been an exhausting but rewarding ride, and I have graduated to the next level of my career.

Last year was also the first time that I noticed the middle-aged pouch developing around my midsection despite my attempts at healthy eating and moderate exercise.  I had to step up my game, and so I decided to join a gym in October.  This week will be my third month, and I am proud to say that I have been able to workout at least three times a week.  So far, I have not lost any weight, but I feel better and my clothes fit nicely.  My posture has also improved, and the increased circulation seems to have brightened my complexion.

Mentally and emotionally, I have made significant strides.  I am less depressed and I feel more positive in general.  I have been battling bouts of depression my entire life, and I am sure that I will have those down cycles again, but for the moment, I am grateful that I am feeling good, and without any chemical help, thank you very much.  Consistent exercise and eating well have been effective at healing my mood swings, and I will do my best to stay on track.

For those of you who have been following me from the very beginning, my daughter, G, is turning twelve in March.  Remember how I used to call her Baby G?  Well, she is now Tweeny G.  She is almost as tall as I am. She is spunky, smart and quick-witted, and unfortunately for me, good with the clapbacks.  There have been moments when I have pictured strangling her for how she talks back to me, but deep down I am proud that she is a person who will not accept BS or abuse from anyone.

I promise that I will do better in coming back here as often as possible.  Please let me know if you are still around.  I hope to reconnect with all of you.  Cheers!