Monday, December 31, 2012

Weekly Creative Writing #5

I remember the days when this ten year-old sister of mine was once a babe and naive to the world, yet she would still smile and giggle every waking minute of the day.   Back in the day... when our business failed and we struggled for years, when every other night ended in tears, when hopeless feeling echoed in the caverns of my heart, when the world was vast and dangerous to my young eyes.   Yet she always smiled.  She never stopped laughing, and, in many ways, we attribute the reason for our sanity during those days to her and her laughter.  All those days I sat by her infant rocker and fed her mushed up peas and fruits... oh, she would laugh at me - innocently mocking my desperate attempts to feed her.  The corners of her mouth were eternally secured to opposite sides of her face, as she giggled and managed to get a colorful, fruity-flavored and scented mess on my face. Constantly grinning like a cheshire cat and I, being only six years-old, honestly thought her face must hurt terribly from such lively exertion.   Her laugh reverberates in my memories the same way it once effortlessly and gleefully echoed through our home and charmed all who heard it.   Such jubilance amidst struggle.  

I put the old pictures back into my drawer and close my eyes for a moment.  That’s what I hope to never end and remain enduring - that which my sister made us remember.  Laughter.   Non-contained, mirthful, pealing laughter filling the halls of my future.  Filling my mind are images of what could possibly be.  I see myself in college, laughing with classmates and age-old friends over some conversation.   Then marriage - I can smell the perfume, flowers, and taste pastries made by my adopted Greek yayas who filled every buttery, calorie-packed pastry with hours of laughter.  I can feel my future children running in from the outdoors, laughing their hearts out, grabbing my neck and kissing my cheek.   And, in my old age, I can hear laughter frolicking with my grandchildren and daintily embellishing the conversations with my, then, timeworn friends and husband.   And my musing is interrupted by my family downstairs - amused at some reality.  The sound of their laughter mirroring my current thoughts.. 

For the superb counterpart of this themed concurrent writing project:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Weekly Creative Writing #4

        I need to get out.  This room gets smaller by the hour.  Bullets hurdle above me and their torturous sound fills every empty space within me.  Raging and thrashing like the sea, blood surges through my veins and my breath quickens. Oh, to breathe.  How did William live with this torture during the war?  That’s right, he didn’t live.  Neither will I - not as long as the bullets and legions assail me in this tiny cottage.  The bullets. They’ve stopped again.  Stopped sporadically like they have all day as I sit here curled up by the coat rack for protection.   What babies the enemy troops are!  Thinking they can bring me out of his home.   My stomach groans.  Of course, I haven’t eaten in days, but why should I expose myself to these treacherous murderers?  My mouth is dry and the pain in my abdomen is becoming too much to bear.  And the bullets. They’re gone, yet the violent pounding still echoes in my mind.  Oh, food.  Maybe it’s worth dying, to get some nourishment.  At least I would be freed of the imprisoning echoes those bullets have created.  That waiting, devilish army can’t see I’m scared, though.  I must control my breath as I pass that open window in the kitchen.  William would want me to be smart about this.   In his letters, he mentioned tribal drums and how they echoed within his mind to temper his breath.   I attempt that, but nothing stops the echoes of bullets.  Still, I start dragging myself to the kitchen.   I freeze.  The world will collapse if I drag myself another foot.  I’m shaking violently.  One more meter and this world will collapse on itself.  The wood is so frail and paper thin - so close to snapping beneath my starved body.  “Never look down, Abigail, you won’t get anywhere.” William used to say.  So I look forward.  But, it’s so far away - that kitchen.  Miles away and continually fading!  The feeble floor following it and continuing into infinity.  But, I won’t look down.  I won’t disappoint Will.  I reach the pinnacle of my senses.  I stand - both feet are shakily on the brittle floor.  And it starts to crack and I feel myself falling.  I scream, but all that comes from my mouth is the sound of bullets.  I fall into a pit and it consumes me.

        The blackness that once surrounded me fades into an antique farmhouse.  The sound of the bullets... Oh, wait, the sound of the rain dances on the tin roof and I can smell its musky perfume through the open window by the kitchen.  I stand up, running my fingers through my hair.  It is wet.  A pang of hunger stabs me as I stumble across the room to the fireplace for support.  Post-war magazine articles are scattered throughout the room. William’s picture is on the mantle, beside what remains of his bullet-ridden uniform. 

 I’m so sorry Will...I’m trying so hard to bring you back...

For the brilliant counterpart of this weekly themed writing project:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Weekly Creative Writing #3

I inspected my watch once more, muttering under my breath about the time.   I always got snagged into babysitting at these get-togethers.  Exasperated, I watched the children play in the leaves under the magnanimous, leafless oak tree - completely heedless of time and most especially heedless of my schedule.   They chased each other and fell into the leaves - their faces bright and animated.  I sat smugly on the log a few meters away, wishing time wouldn’t move so slowly.   Each minute seemed to stretch itself to no visible or pleasurable end... 

At last, I saw our guests leaving the old farmhouse, bidding each other goodbye.  Sighing with relief, I walked towards the children under the skeleton-like oak to corral them.   I pointed towards the house and collection of cars in the close distance.  I smiled a little - as their tiny feet resounded like a miniature gaggle of elephants as they passed me. Of course, they’d want to race each other.  

I stood under the vast oak.  They were so very happy - just running.  Running across those shimmering fields of grass that reflected the sun which set like an amber stone in the west.  I laid down on the crisp, brown leaves; staring into the sky.   The lanky limbs of the oak sketched irregular shapes into the golden, cloud-blushed sky.   Memories came flooding back.  The ones I stored away years ago, like precious jewels from the sly feet of robbers.  All those days I would come out here and stare at the sky - never worrying about what the future might hold, but basking in the glory of my childish fancies.  I remembered how the clouds used to wave at me - laughing like jolly old men as they looked down upon my small existence, but me, proud as ever, feeling superior to any other creature in the “farmworld” that engulfed my life during that time.   So small, yet remarkably immense.   I was so contained as a girl, yet more free than I had ever been.  I closed my eyes.  Thriving beneath me were the roots of the oak; a tree which all others saw as a wrinkled, blackened shell of bark.  It grew - it never stopped growing, but it looked so dead especially this time of the year.  Quite like I must look at times.  Always growing, but worn, uninterested and cynical to those who observed me. 

Finally, I heard nothing, except the gentle whispers of the swaying branches above me.   I opened my fatigued eyes again.  The amber-studded sun was being cradled by the saffron horizon - almost gone.  Oh, time had passed so quickly.. just like springtime of my childhood had evaded me unconsciously.   I vowed right then to embellish in the blessings of the moments that drew themselves out, the ones I will never recapture.  But that vow, as with time, too, will pass quickly... 

For the amazing counterpart of this themed joint writing project:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Weekly Creative Writing #2

The Merciful Rain

Every part of me was feverishly hot - every thought grasping wildly to hold onto sense itself.  I resented reality.  Passions surged through me, but the ocean matched it with a roaring wave that gushed onto the wet rim of sand that made its perimeter.   Push me. “Make me let go!” I inwardly screamed at it.  “Make me feel small. Break me, if You can!” I muttered; now, towards Something different.  Burning tears fell like ribbons down my face.  My shield of confidence was eroding quickly - thin and breakable like a Christmas ornament.  The saltwater stung the wounds on my heart as it thrashed out there.  Gritty sand blew into my face as a gust of wind bellowed over a dune-speckled beach.  “Answer me!” I screamed again. “I’m here because of You! I’m here because nothing else worked!”   The ashen-clouded sky did nothing but remain placid.  The wind ceased, but the ocean kept on thrashing - playing with its power.   I closed my eyes and moaned.  Falling to my knees, I let the salty liquid soak my dress.  Why did I try?  Why did I still hope that there was something true, real, and pure out there?  Had I wasted my time searching - scanning the corners of humanity - playing the fool by attempting to sail that theoretical world in eighty days?   

I gave up.  I let go.

And, at that moment, the burning stopped.  The world became very simple and very vast - but, I wasn’t alone.  Even when I tried, the feverish anger wouldn’t return to me.  I released the fists my hands had made and they throbbed.  Oh, they hurt, yet not with a stinging pain.  Instead, a pain that a child feels as their bones stretch and grow.  The fear, the anger, the doubting - it streamed out of me, like the sand streaming out of my open hands.  At last, He had broken me. But, more than that, He had answered me.  The rain began to pour mercilessly from the massive cloud-swallowed sky.  But, I no longer need the rain to cool me...

For the counterpart of this themed joint writing project:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Nightfall in Georgia

(raindrops on an ancient cedar tree at church) 

(dancing silhouettes under lamplight {photo credits to Maria Hagen for this photo})

(country roads)

(the mailbox... a world within itself)

(my corner...)

(literally the culmination of my life right now... haha. books.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Calvin Jones

This man’s music is amazing.  I absolutely adore playing his compositions.   The first and only time I saw him perform was the day my love for music, specifically piano, was reignited.  =)

This is my all time favorite song by him.  Forgive the rather cheesy intro, haha, but it’s possibly the ONLY youtube video he has actually made.  The only other ways to hear the other songs is over CD, playing it yourself, or going to a concert.  Otherwise, I’d post a million other songs with this one.  

Performing Whitewater Chopped Sticks is possibly the most fun I have ever had when it comes to piano.  I love drawing out a stunted and primitive Chopped Sticks beginning just to see the aghast expression of the audience, then jumping right into the actual song.  :D And it just makes me so happy that the entire composition is based on the chord structure of Chopped Sticks, the song we all learn our first piano lesson.  

Maybe someday I’ll find the time to do covers on all the other songs I love from him... haha. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Weekly Rapid Creative Writing

        Oh, that dreadful moment - that foreboding moment when the rapidly approaching reality of parting souls stares you in the face.  Your chest tightens and your hands become clammy.  Every nerve in the human body is awake and strained, it seems.   You will never see this face again - not in this world.  That kills you.  Part of her is already gone.  Her eyes are looking into deep things, frighteningly splendid things - things that you ever will never know in this life.  And they shimmer - they shimmer with joy.  Tears blur any detailed vision of her face and you are paralyzed by her side.  You wish you could join her - to gaze on what beauty she must be seeing. Yet, terror fills you as the chilling breath of death brushes the back of your neck.   She grasps this world by a silken thread - thin, fragile, and straining under the pull of life and death.  Within you, you hear a sound similar to people singing across the cold chains of centuries.  The last flickering light of life leaves her and you can sense her soul soaring into eternal time.  The room drains of energy, turning into every shade of gray.  You are trembling under an invisible pressure.   Struggling to remain composed, you walk over to the window and look out at the vast, star-freckled night.  The stars are burning brighter than any other night you’ve ever seen.   The pain lessens.  She’s up there, playing among the stars, happier than she’s ever been.  And you smile. Someday you might frolic with her. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Lives I'm Not Living

All of those books, paintings, fables, and fire-side stories... all thrown into a single moment of reading and observation -  a window in the imagination that opens and closes mercilessly.  Leaving fragments of nostalgia and fantasy scattered throughout our life and memory.  Something that appears to be reality for seconds - soon fading into the shadows of the walls and whispering for me to follow it into another dimension.   My bones strain under the weight...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Being Vulnerable..

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. 
- C. S. Lewis

This quote taught me volumes about life.   Yes, the scripture is peppered with this same concept - but, like anything in life, sometimes you can only understand things when they are put in a certain way, at a certain time, by a certain person.  

My heart will become unbreakable and impenetrable without freely loving others.  If I ignore the reality of feeling - oh, the cold-hearted person I would become.  If I was afraid to be honest - oh, the friends I would deceive and lose.  If I was afraid of being hurt - oh, the dreams that would never become reality and the bitterness I would cultivate against the world.    I am a dead soul in a living body without choosing to love and being vulnerable.  Stone and ice.  Eternally unbreakable.

And, my heart will be irredeemable if I choose not to love - choose to not be vulnerable.  Christian theology deeply echoes loving, communal relationships.  Not just toward our neighbor, but toward God as well.  After all, isn’t the Trinity a relational reality?  The Father of the Son, the Son of the Father, the Spirit eternally proceeding from the Father... all interconnected, and all loving the Other in eternal communion and oneness.  Can I really be saved if I choose not to be vulnerable and ignore that beautiful revelation of the Trinity?   Oh, certainly not.. I will, indeed, be irredeemable.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Robert Frost

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of the easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day 2012

Thanksgiving is the best smelling holiday known to the world.  There is absolutely no debating that fact.  We Americans certainly know how to feast. =D  

Anyway, I had some leisure time now and then today to take photos in the midst of baking, cooking, trampolining, driving to the grocery store a number of times, eating, watching White Christmas, making camp fires and all the other activities which surround this holiday. 

Mulled Cider, strawberries, and a doughnut muffin for breakfast... 

Mulled Cider

The Angel Biscuits baking. Which, by the way, taste amazing with cranberries and cream cheese. :D

Dad and Jessie Mae sitting by a smoky fire.  I smell like a camp fire. And I LOVE it. 

Prepping the dining room table. 

Jessie playing with her dolls.

The candle Mom saved for Thanksgiving. :D

The traditionally annual thermal effect webcam photo with Jessie. ;) 

Messing around. =)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Glory to God for All Things

The Solovetsky Monastery in Northern Russia is one of the greatest citadels of Orthodox Christianity in Russia.  However, only seventy years ago, this monastery was turned into a prison camp by the Soviet Union.    In fact, it was one of the first communist death camps of a group called the GULAG - which stands for “Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies.”   Not only that, but this monastery/prison camp became the “guinea pig” for all types of torture and prison camp research - the prisoners becoming war experiments.    

But, something beautiful, shining, and rejuvenating came out of the bitter pain and anguish.  A stack of paper - a hymn - was found under some papers as the prison camp was being taken back.  This hymn, known to the Orthodox as the “The Akathist Hymn: "Glory to God for All Things” or “The Akathist of Thanksgiving” is a series of kontakions and odes that one of the captives, Fr. Gregory Petrov, wrote shortly before his death in the camp during 1942.  The part of the title “Glory to God for All Things” are the words of St. John Chrysostom as he died in exile centuries earlier.  

Can you imagine that? 

Can you imagine...In the middle of a prison camp, most likely being tortured regularly, and yet writing hymns of Thanksgiving?   But, that is truly what we should try to imagine during these next few days, and throughout our lives.    

        Giving thanks despite the circumstances.   

Being faithful despite the pressure.  

                                   And loving in the face of our enemy.  

Below are some of the hymns from the The Akathist Hymns: 

Kontakion 8
How near Thou art in the day of sickness. Thou Thyself visitest the sick; Thou Thyself bendest over the sufferer's bed. His heart speaks to Thee. In the throes of sorrow and suffering Thou bringest peace and unexpected consolation. Thou art the comforter. Thou art the love which watches over and heals us. To Thee we sing the song: Alleluia!
Kontakion 11
Across the cold chains of the centuries, I feel the warmth of Thy breath, I feel Thy blood pulsing in my veins. Part of time has already gone, but now Thou art the present. I stand by Thy Cross; I was the cause of it. I cast myself down in the dust before it. Here is the triumph of love, the victory of salvation. Here the centuries themselves cannot remain silent, singing Thy praises: Alleluia!

For the complete series of hymns: 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sunrises and Running

The fall sunrise that greeted me on my run this morning... 

Running at night is exhilarating - a dark, cold mass surrounding you.  Running from it, but never really escaping.  Quite mysterious. 


Running in the morning is like witnessing something beautifully Divine touching the earth.
 As someone once said, "Opportunities are like sunrises - if you wait too long, you miss them."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

May we never forget... 

‎"If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under." - Ronald Reagan 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Les Miserables

Who else can't wait to see this movie? :D
I can't.
The best musical known to man put to film?
I. think. yes.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Hallow's Eve

Well, I got the job of chaperoning the Halloween crew this year... but I have to admit, getting to dress up was worth it, even if it feels like my very bone marrow is frozen. =P

(And yes, I went as a witch.. no judging, please. haha.  Old dance recital costumes, some black jazz tights and old leather boots are great to have when you're short on time.. XD)

(We went earlier in the evening, because apparently more that half of the kids were scared of the dark... =P)

(Jessie in her traditional Greek dancing costume and me in my improvised witch costume, striking a traditional Greek dancing pose.. haha)

(My absolutely gorgeous sister!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

These photos pretty much summarize most Veritas Press students...

(pick me! pick me!)

Monday, October 29, 2012

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day. For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. 
- Audrey Hepburn  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Death by Biscotti

This recipe is heavenly.  Crumble it in coffee ice cream - you will thank me. That is, if you don’t die from deliciousness... 

Biscotti with Dried Cherries, Chocolate And Almonds
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1 1/4 cups pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil  
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest or a tablespoon of orange juice 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries, finely chopped (or, 3/4 cups mixture of cranberries & cherries)
  • 1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped (I find pecans taste better for this recipe)
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (scant 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl beat together the sugar, eggs, oil, orange zest and vanilla extract until well combined. In batches add the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a dough. Beat in the cherries, almonds and chocolate.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead several times. Shape into a log about 10 inches long and 3 inches wide. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. With a serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch diagonal slices. Arrange cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the cookies over and bake the biscotti until golden, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For the love of history...

As I finish up the last assigned pages of The Landmark Thucydides, I try to remember this quote...

Don't give up. The book may be 3 inches thick, but reading it, really reading it, will pay off.

The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid. - Livy

Friday, October 26, 2012

World Religions and Christianity

Today in a discussion with Fr. Barnabas of St. RNI Parish, I learned about a curious new term called “σπερματικὸς λόγος” (spermatikos logos). 
What exactly does that mean? Why would that term be floating around in a Greek Orthodox parish? 
Here’s why...
Without anyone telling you, “spermatikos” makes you think of the biological term “sperm” right?  Right. What is a sperm?  Well, a sperm is a type of “seed.”  Where did that word come from?  The Greeks!  It comes from the word “sperma” which literally means seed.  
And, “logos” is a well known Greek term for reason/word. 
It turns out you already know what “spermatikos logos” means without looking deep into the Greek.  A rough translation of the term would be “seed reason.”  A literal translation is not far from it:  
“Seminal reason” or “the seed of reason.”

There you go - a Greek language lecture. :D 

Now, why is this tiny language gem important to the Church? 
I love asking questions, so here’s another one... Who do Christians call “the logos” or “the word?”  
Jesus Christ 

Turns out “spermatikos logos” was a major philosophical and theological term used in the Early Church. The theological idea surrounding the term is relatively simple, although it can be developed and discussed at a deeper extent.  
It basically says that:
-If Christ is the word, and in the beginning was the Word.. etc (John 1:1) 
-and if  “God so loved the world...”, meaning, God has opened His hand to the world and extends His love to everyone, including those of different religions,
-Then, God’s love, and the “word” of God has been around since the beginning and available to everyone - whether they quite like it or not.  
     And that is where the concept of “spermatikos logos” comes in.  Orthodox Christians believe that all of mankind has the “seed of the Word.”  If we really do hold to the statement that “God is love” then every culture, every civilization, every village has the ability to participate fully in that Love and Good, or at least find an ounce of it and apply it to their culture. 
      Islam is a Christian heresy, for example.  They have some very “Christian” ideas in their thinking - they have a “spermatikos logos” a “seed” of God’s Truth.  Are they right?  No, but we shouldn’t try to extinguish them for it.   
     Instead, Christianity uses the term “spermatikos logos” to express how we should look at those of different religions.  There is a “Seed of the Word” or a “seed of truth” in every culture, religion, and civilization.  As Christians, then, it is our job to find that Truth and call it for what it is.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that other religion is going to bring about the Salvation of those partaking in it - it merely means we try to find the “good” in that religion, the connection Christians can make to that religion. 

     Most of us are familiar with pictures like that... a picture of all the lights in the world from the viewpoint of a spacecraft. 
     However, it’s also a perfect example of “spermatikos logos” and how Christians use it to look at the culture around them.  
    Think of Christianity as one big beaming light - the “city set on a hill.”  Now imagine those lights in that picture are really “seeds of the Word” found in different religions.  Imagine them as little bits of Truth scattered throughout a dark world.   Imagine them as “spermatikos logos’s.” 
      Although Christians shouldn’t accept other religions as valid, we should not reject them as totally wrong either.  We should be the Light, and we should look for that Light in other religions and cultures of the world... using that “seed of the Word,” or the “Light of the Word” to bring others to Christ.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Coffee used to make me shake like a chihuahua on a sugar high in the middle of the Arctic ... now it stabilizes those frantic brain cells that zing the insides of my brain on those rainy mornings/late evenings when the soul is far from tired, but the body is limp. 
Thank goodness for caffeine. Agreed? :D

The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can 
grow separately without growing apart. - Elisabeth Foley

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Thus September begins - the most magical month of the year, I believe.  The month that still lingers with a smell of the salty ocean in every suitcase you pull out.  The month that the fireflies finally go away, but the camp fires start up.  The month that brings the fiery South back to sleepy winter, and brings the burning passions of both the Southern people and landscape to a calm for a season. 

However, along with that, the school year also officially begins.  And, with school comes a number of thoughts that tend to weigh quite heavily on the soul.   This blog is for the release of those thoughts... in attempt to put them to words.  Bear with me, my friends. =)