Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Who's Emily?

Last week at Scouts, we carved Jack O-Lanterns. One of the boys expressed his distaste for "gutting" the pumpkin and too vocally announced he wasn't going to to it. That's all it took, the other boys pounced on him, teasing him and calling him by a girl's name. (For unknown reasons, they chose "Emily.")

The kid floundered; clearly he didn't expect this reaction.  His father tried to explain to him that he was "getting a reputation" by not cleaning his own pumpkin, but the kid didn't seem to mind - the other kids kept good-naturedly ribbing him. It wasn't really bullying - that would've be stopped immediately. But it still bothered me.

What irked me wasn't that he was getting needled for not shoving his hands into a bunch of cold, sticky squash innards. (Even I teased him about that being the best part of carving pumpkins, as I dumped his pumpkin's guts out for him.) No, I was concerned that he was equated to a girl - as if there was something wrong or weal about being female.

I told him that the way to stop it was either dig in, or to challenge the other guys about the way they see woman. Several of the other dads clearly got the point, and for the most part, the teasing stopped.

The whole incident made me think: the Scouts are about teaching boys to become men, and they should know that a real man understands that women are just as loyal, trustworthy and brave as he is.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Serial Killer Among Us

For generations, Hollywood has plastered movie screens with stories of serial killers. They live among us, hiding in the shadows, waiting to pounce on their next victim.

I suppose on some level we like to be frightened by the images of terrified teenagers hiding under a bunk in the last cabin at some desolate summer camp; their hushed sobs and streaming tears sending chills up our spines as we see the scene from the viewpoint of the homicidal maniac.

But homicidal maniacs are adorable too. I live with one. I even love one.

Today when we walked in the door from skating, Gus immediately asked, "Why are there feathers everywhere?" The answer was found motionless on the laundry room floor: Apollo had killed a bird. 

Remember, Apollo is a domesticated house cat. He has 24/7 access to food. He kills for sport. Just like any other serial killer. In fact, other than the gash down its side and the carpet of feathers, the poor bird looked like it was sleeping...uncomfortably, but still sleeping. 
 This is the second bird he's gotten. His first dastardly attempt failed when the boys and I interrupted him - growling at us as I pried the sparrow free, Apollo's teeth still gripping the traumatized bird's tail feathers.

Today's murder serves as a reminder to me, that this killer living among us could turn on me and my family at any time.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Heart of a Lion

A couple of months ago, I received an invitation from one of my priets to join the Gratitude Project on Facebook. Every day the "participants" post what they're grateful for on that day.  This morning I posted how incredibly grateful I am that my kids get to attend Saint Sophia Hellenic Orthodox School.

Last evening, the school presented their Ohi Day program. In Greek, Ohi (or Oxi) is the word "no." It commemorates the bravery and victory of the Greeks over fascism during World War II.  Mussolini had demanded that he be able to send troops into Greece, or he would invade. The Greek Prime Minister, Ioannis Metaxas, went to the floor of parliament and relayed the dictator's demand. He also provided his answer to Mussolini: OXI!

Italy invaded. Out manned and out gunned, Greece fought bravely. And won. Not only did the Greeks repel the invaders, they liberated parts of occupied Albania. It was the first victory of the Allied Powers during WW II, leading Prime Minister Winston Churchill to say, "We used to say that Greeks fight like heroes. From this day forth we shall say heroes fight like Greeks."

The Greek resistance - which lasted longer than that of any other defeated country - changed the course of the war. Mussolini's defeat meant that Nazi Germany had to invade Greece delaying their planned attack of the Soviet Union by more than two months. Had it occurred when it was originally planned, Hitler's troops likely would have taken Moscow, and the result of the war may have had a terrifyingly different conclusion.

Greece paid a heavy price during the war. She lost 14% of her population - more than any other nation. That would be like 39 million Americans dying today. She suffered more starvation than any other nation save Poland.

As the world sneers at Greece today, as politicians hold my ancestral home up as an example of dysfunction, I ask you to remember what Greece did for the world, what she is capable of.

The poem Eimai Ellinopoulo means "I am a Greek boy." It talks about liberty living in the heart and mind of a boy. Although not strong enough or big enough to fight, he has the heart of a lion. 

I am extremely proud to be an American of Greek descent. I am extremely grateful that my children have a blessed opportunity to attend a school in which Hellenism and the Greek culture are central to the curriculum; a school where my son can recite that poem, and where they learn that Greece has the heart of a lion.

Monday, October 15, 2012

We Thought You'd Marry One

Remember a few months ago I wrote about planting our first garden? We honestly didn't have much hope for it. The soil was rocky and clumpy having spent years trapped under blacktop.  And of course, neither of us knew a thing about gardening. We tossed in a few bags of steer manure and decided to let nature take it's course.

Well as it turns out, Mother Nature is a tough old broad. We had an amazing crop.

We also learned some lessons: plant the tomatoes a bit further apart from one another; pumpkins will overtake everything in their path like The Blob; and Sweet Baby Jesus 5 zucchini plants are 4 too many! I gave them away to friends. I gave them away to neighbors. If a kid made the mistake of coming to our place to play, he left with zucchini.

And with a bumper crop comes the question of what to do with it all. One moment you're delighted to have harvested 50 tomatoes, and the next you're trying to figure out what to do with 50 tomatoes. Well, I am my yia yia's boy: so following in her footsteps, I canned mine - even using her (now vintage) grinder.

I even shucked our sunflowers!
Years ago, after hearing that for Thanksgiving I had let bread go stale for our homemade stuffing and that I backed a fresh pumpkin for the pie, my brother John said, "Gee, Chris, we always figured you'd grow up to marry a nice Mormon girl, not become one!"  Hmmm, maybe there's something to that...

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Autumn has always been my favorite season. I know, lots of people associated this time of year with the approaching winter. But for me it brings the perfect temperatures, college football, and the world painted in reds, golds and oranges.

 This is what Autumn looks like to me.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Skips a Generation

Kelly's mom, Bonnie, was an amazingly gifted artist. Her paintings routinely received ribbons in county and state fairs, they were sold in galleries, and even hung in museums.

I've reminded Gus of that fact ever since he first said he wants to be an artist. I want him to have a connection with his late grandmother, and to understand talent runs in his family.

From the looks of his last couple of pieces he did in the art classes we signed him and Niko up for, I'd say he's well on his way.