Art Show

Yesterday, we went to Parker’s first art show at his school. Art is a huge part of the program there (Parker’s head teacher has a Masters degree in Art Education) and the kids are allowed to choose their own colors and painting style. One of the things that we love about this particular school is that individuality and creativity are strongly encouraged and in a world of cookie-cutter people, that is so important! I have to say that for us parents, it’s really cool to see what the little guy’s been up to while he’s away from us. So, I’d like to take you on a little photographic journey of Art Show Day at Parker’s school.

The staff had set up the entire outdoor area with huge displays of the children’s art.

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Here’s Parker posing with art from his toddler class.

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Parker’s class tie-dyed T-shirts. His is right in the middle.

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Finally, here are some art projects that Parker has completed over the last month.

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Now if that isn’t talent, I don’t know what is.

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Comfort Zones

At a recent meeting of the Marathon Club (ok, so it was really just an email exchange), I made the observation that a lot of people who know me make some variation of this comment when they find out that I’m running: “Why do you want to run a marathon when you’re already good at swimming?” I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently (particularly since pansy ass is saying the same thing inside of my head) and I don’t think their question is really about swimming vs. running. I think the question is really this: “Why do you want to step outside of your comfort zone?” So, this is the question that I answer with a question of my own: “Why should we always stick to what we know or what we’re good at when there’s no financial risk involved?” In my opinion, self-discovery is a great thing and anything that challenges you to doubt yourself is a great opportunity to work on your weaknesses. So today, I thought that I would talk a little bit about comfort zones.

You see, we all have them. Humans are creatures of habit and we typically find ourselves doing the same old same old on a regular basis. I have one small problem with that…I hate the same old same old! I hate that feeling of being in a rut. I get antsy and before I know it, change is on the horizon. Whether it’s my car or my hair color, I feel a compulsion to switch things up. I think this is related to my aversion of people “letting themselves go.” One of my 5,000 personal mottos is that there’s always room for improvement. It’s mind boggling to me that there comes a point where people sit back and say, “well, this is as good as it’s going to get.” I actually heard someone say recently that, “it’s all downhill after 30.” Um, as someone who is staring 30 in the eyes within the next couple of months, I must say that this is total bull. People get lazy and they give up, but this has less to do with age than it does with a flaw in their personality. But, I digress.

Comfort zones serve a purpose for us. They give us the feeling that we’re in control. They offer predictability and stability to our daily routine. Well, as the reigning President of Control Freaks of America, I can tell you that in reality, comfort zones are only giving us the illusion of control. They make us feel safe and secure when they’re actually just dulling our senses.

Ask yourself, when’s the last time you really did something outside of your comfort zone? I have to say that when I ask myself this, it’s a loaded question because it’s almost like a personal dare. As soon as I realize that I’m operating in my comfort zone, I have to challenge myself to step outside of that. I was always a sucker for dares as a kid. Remember when your mother would say, “well, if he told you to jump off a bridge, would you have?” Well, if it was a command, absolutely not, but if it was a double dare..um, yeah. So anyway, here are some of my comfort zone breakouts.

Running is the first obvious one for me. I literally feel like a fish out of water, particularly on the days that I do both a swimming and a running workout. Not too long ago, I would have been the first to tell you that I don’t bother engaging in activities that I’m not good at (mainly because I’m such a sore loser), but since running is a solitary sport, I’m allowed to totally suck since I’m really only racing against myself.

Going out to eat by myself is another one. It wasn’t the actual eating alone that I had an issue with, but more so the fact that I’m such an introvert and I hate talking to strangers. Well, going out to eat alone seemed like I would be wearing a “talk to me!” beacon on my forehead. I am proud to report that I go out to eat by myself at my favorite sushi place on a regular basis and the only people that bother speaking to me are my favorite sushi chef and my favorite waiter. Hmmm, I have a lot of favorites there.

The final one I can think of is going out in general. Any place that serves alcohol is a social gathering place by definition, but I’m proud to report that I’ve gone out for the last 5 week straight. I’m not sure if I feel more social as a result and granted, I do go out with friends that I’m comfortable with, but I still think it’s a step in the right direction. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll even go out by myself…but I’m not sure that I’m there yet.

Our New Tenants

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So, I have a bad habit of leaving the garage door open during the day when I’m home. We have a quirky garage door opener that is as fickle as my cat, Luna. As a result, you sometimes have to manually close it from the main button in the garage and I’ve been really lax about doing that lately. Well, apparently leaving your garage door open means that you’re open for new tenants.

I first discovered our new tenants when I opened the garage door one morning and a small finch flew out. Ok, I have no idea whether the bird is indeed a finch, but it looked finch-like to me and that’s the first bird name that came to mind, so I’m going with it. I thought it was odd that a small bird got closed in our garage overnight, but I guess it happens so I didn’t give it a second thought.

The next morning, the Irishman opened the garage door to find the finch trying to get into the garage. He noticed that the bird flew to this assortment of baskets that I have on a shelf in the garage.

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When he pointed that out to me, I immediately noticed that the pine straw in the smallest basket was not part of the basket display and when he brought it down for closer inspection, it turned out to be a nest with real live bird eggs.

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You know, it’s funny how parenthood changes you. Over the next week or so, the Irishman and I diligently opened the garage door as soon as we woke up and didn’t close it until just before bed. We became the landlord Godparents of these little unborn birds. When I let the dogs out in the morning, I would see little Finchy waiting for me on the fence to open the doors up so that she could go in and sit on her babies. Interestingly enough, we never discussed moving the nest because I for one could not imagine coming home to sit on my babies just to find them missing. (Ok, so I don’t sit on Parker, but you catch my drift). I’m not sure it I’m quite ready to have a full blown nursery in my house again, but I’ll be sure to let you know when the finch babies make their grand entrance into the world via the bird-loft in my garage.

My Favorite Place On Earth

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Well, it’s no secret that I love to travel. I’m one of those people that’s just addicted to it. I love everything about traveling, including the journey to and from my destination. As a result, I have a lot of places that I really like and want to visit again, but there’s only one place that has my heart: our Greek island. Ok, it’s not really OUR island, but it certainly feels like it to me.

A little back story for you. For as long as I can remember, my summers were spent in Greece. I don’t think that I spent a single summer in the U.S. until I was well into my teenage years. As a result, a large part of me feels like I grew up there. My aunt had a beachside condo that was in a gated community filled with kids my age. We’re talking 20-30 kids who would spend all day swimming in the ocean and all night having parties and bonfires. My brother and I were usually the only Americans, but there was always the occassional Brit or South African thrown into the mix as well. Those summers are probably my best memories from childhood.

Although my parents bought our house on the island back in the mid-1980s, I didn’t fully enjoy the house until I got to college where I had my fill of kids my age during the school year and I was really craving my solitiude. Our house was made for solitude and self-reflection. Set 3 kilometers up the side of the mountain, it’s a pretty steep drive to get up to where we are. Here’s a picture of the village:

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Notice how all of the house are staggered so that every single one has an amazing view of sunsets like these:

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The land that you see the sun setting behind is the mainland of Greece. I have to say that in the summers, I live for those sunsets. I absolutely refuse to leave the house before I get to see what beautiful sight I was granted that day. My father and the Irishman typically will take their beers down to the balcony and toast the sunset with “Mythos Time.” Mythos is a Greek beer that my husband greatly approves of.

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Island life really agrees with someone who likes alone time as much as I do. This is an average day of Cyndy island life: wake up, go running, eat, go to the beach, eat, take a nap, read a book, drink wine with the sunset, go out to eat. Now tell me, does it really get any better than that?

It isn’t just that I’m doing all of my favorite things there that makes me love the place so much. It’s that it seems like the planets are truly aligned and I’m constantly tapped into my inner peace. This is the only place in the world that the Irishman doesn’t stand a chance against me in any game (typically, he’s freakishly lucky and is incapable of losing at most things). I beat him regularly at gin rummy, backgammon and finally, darts. If you need further evidence that this house is my utopia, I’d like to bring your attention to a particular dart game where I needed to hit two bullseyes for the win (let me point out that I am a really poor dart player). Take a look at this picture and notice the two bullseyes right in the center. Yup, that was me.

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If I ever want a change of scenery, I can just drive around the island (about 60 miles all the way around). There are amazing views like this one from every stretch of the road and each beach is different from the ones next to it so in reality, it could take you an entire summer to explore them all.

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I’m pretty nostalgic at the moment because this is the first summer in 8 years that I’m not going to visit my island. It’s kind of like being in a long distance relationship. My soul aches to go there and when I’m there, I soak up every single second of every day; however, leaving the island is always hard for me to do. When I’m sailing away from the island on a ferry boat like the one below, I take comfort in the fact that my house and my island will always be waiting for me with open arms when I return.

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REAL Greek Salad

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There is one major problem with most “Greek Salads” in this country…they have lettuce! Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with lettuce and I consume copious amounts of lettuce salads, but I don’t care how much olive oil and feta you put on them, they cannot be called Greek Salads.

A real Greek salad is amazingly easy to make. These are the ingredients that you need: tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and oregano. Yup that’s it! The other sanctioned ingredients in a Greek Salad are feta cheese and kalamata olives, so feel free to add those too if you have them.

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First things first. Lets slice our cucumber. I prefer the seedless European cucumbers, but only because they are closer to the ones we eat in Greece than the conventional cucumbers.

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No go ahead and throw your sliced cucumber directly into your bowl. If you’re like me, you’ll have to slice twice the amount that you actually need since you’ll eat about half of that during this process. In fact, I sometimes don’t even get around to making the actual salad. I just eat the cucumber and serve a tomato salad. I’m sweet that way.

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Now we’re going to cut our tomatoes into wedges. If I have tomatoes to spare, I’ll usually snack on one like an apple and sprinkle a little bit of salt on every bite. It’s no wonder that Greeks eat multiple lbs. of produce a day, I swear it’s in our blood!

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Add your beautiful tomato slices directly into your bowl so that they can start slow dancing with your cucumbers.

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Ok, now let’s slice up our onions. I usually use about a quarter medium-sized onion and I like it sliced not diced.

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Add the onion into your bowl as well. Now, we’re going to add the rest of the ingredients. Let’s start with the olive oil. I generally eyeball it, but 3-4 tablespoons would probably be a good place to start.

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Now we’re going to add the vinegar and I usually add half of the amount of olive oil I used (so 4 tablespoons of olive oil would need 2 tablespoons of vinegar, etc…)

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Finally, let’s add a healthy pinch of salt, pepper and oregano. We mix it all together and we’re done! If you want to throw in some feta and olives, feel free to do so. Unfortunately, I ate our feta and olives (you guessed it) by themselves and right out of the container, so they never made it to the salad. Listen, I never claimed to be perfect and I have a certain weakness for, well, a large number of things including fresh produce and salty Greek products. I’ll have to look into whether a support group exists for people like me.

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Now run off, be Greek Salad making machines and educate the masses!

Just Do It!

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The other day, while I was lovingly styling my Nike hat for its close-up, I started thinking about brands and what their logos are meant to say about you or to you. Now, for the most part, I don’t really have brand loyalty for too many things and if I do, it’s because of the way that something fits or tastes and not because of what the purchase or consumption of that product is supposed to say about me. Well, the exception would be some of my more expensive purses, which are all about female status, but let’s get back to my point.

I have to say though that something about Nike’s logo completely speaks to me. So many people have so many excuses for why they aren’t reaching their goals or pursuing their dreams. My response to them is this: “JUST DO IT!”

While some of us definitely go through life with fewer obstacles than others, at the end of the day, you are your own biggest roadblock. People use a variety of excuses to explain away their immobility. For some people, it’s fear of failure. For others, it’s fear of change. Of course, there’s always the old standby – sheer laziness. To be honest with you, I don’t have a single problem with any of those things, as long as you understand that they’re of your own creation and you don’t complain about being where you are.

And really, if you’re completely fine with where you are in life I want to be the first to give you a big round of applause because being happy with where you are RIGHT NOW is what life is all about for me. However, if you aren’t happy or if you know that your potential is not being fully realized, what’s holding you back? Don’t wait until the first of the year or until your life slows down or until you get a raise. Whatever it is you want out of life, “JUST DO IT!”

When I used to work at Blockbuster over a decade ago as a high school kid, there was a sign on the back of the employee break room that said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.” I walked by that sign more times than I care to recall and I can remember exactly when the truth of that quote hit me – I was two steps out the door and it stopped me in my tracks. When the light bulb went on, my brain translated that slogan into this message:

Life happens. Good things and bad things will happen. The only thing you have control over is your own reaction. When life knocks you down, go home, lick your wounds for as long as you need to, but whatever you do, get back up and just do it.

Of course, the “it” in “just do it” is different for everyone. Whether it’s getting a better job, losing those extra 30 lbs, traveling to another country, finishing a marathon or just forgiving yourself for your flaws, there is no better time than right now to get going. So take a deep breath, have an honest conversation with yourself about what’s preventing you from getting there, and (you knew it was coming) “JUST DO IT!”

Father’s Day

Seeing as how today is Father’s Day, I thought I would do a tribute to the Irishman who is, without a doubt, one of the best dads that I’ve ever known. Since I’m not a fan of cards or flowery expressions of flattery and gratitude, I thought I would show all of you what I see every day, which is what an amazing dad my husband really is. Irishman, sorry for calling you out, but this ones for you.

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Thanks for being the best – lots of love,
Cyn and the Clan