Tag Archives: my family

The Starving Artist Jazzes Up Her Tap Water

21 Jul

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I might be the only person on the planet who likes humidity. It reminds me of being a child. Growing up in New Jersey, instead of blasting air conditioning, we’d cool off by swimming at night. The sky would be so dark you could see the Big Dipper as you floated on your back in the pool. The lights in the pool would attract moths that would flutter and hover above the surface of the water, occasionally taking a dip of their own. I can still hear the sound of my father’s repetitive splash as he swam back and forth, back and forth.

These days I don’t have ready access to a swimming pool, and in New York City the lights of skyscrapers are so bright that seeing even a single star is rare. Still, muggy nights bring back all the memories of childhood summers for me. Instead of cooling off with the rattling air conditioner by my bed, I drink a beverage that brings me back to my roots.

Behind our pool ran a small brook, and alongside the brook grew wild mint. This refreshing herb is perfect for jazzing up one of earth’s most precious resources, water. It’s easy to grow, but you can also purchase it at almost any grocery store. Here are a few super simple variations:::

  • Simply wash the mint, put it in your glass of water (with or without ice), and enjoy immediately
  • Muddle the cleaned mint in your glass of water and enjoy
  • Store a large batch of water with fresh, washed mint in your fridge
  • Freeze the mint in ice cubes and plunk into your water whenever you want — as the ice melts the mint flavor will become stronger
  • Try pairing the mint with other flavors such as fresh squeezed lime

It’s so important to stay hydrated, but water sometimes gets boring. Infusing water with mint is a great way to drink more water.

Starving artist might enjoy these other summer food posts:::

Should a New York Couple Follow the Husband’s Greek Tradition?

15 Apr

The other day a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about how his friend, a New Yorker of Greek descent, has taken to the internet because his wife doesn’t doesn’t want their unborn baby to be named Spyridon. Here’s how the headline read for the Daily Mail article:

Couple launches online campaign to decide if their unborn baby should be called Michael or Spyridon – after failing to reach an agreement despite months of arguments

A couple basic facts:

  • The husband’s name is Nicholas. A common name. An easy to pronounce name.
  • The name Spyridon is Nicholas’ father’s name. In Greek culture, it’s common to name your first child after the husband’s side of the family. Though a familiar Greek name, Spyridon is not common even in the diverse city of New York … well, unless you go by its diminutive, Spyro. Nor is it obvious to nonGreeks how it should be pronounced.
  • The wife’s name is Kseniya, a name I’ve never heard of until reading this article. A name I’m not quite sure how to pronounce. Kseniya thinks the name Spyridon is too “archaic.” If it’s a boy, she wants to name it after her own father, Michael.

Some have posited that the husband has “the right” to name “his” son after his father. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Should the New York couple follow Greek tradition?
  • Would it make a difference if they lived in Greece?
  • Why should the couple follow the husband’s tradition over the wife’s desires?
  • Does it matter that the child in question is a son*? Should a father’s opinion matter more for the name of a son?
  • What makes the child “his” son and not “their” son?
  • If the child is a daughter, would this be as big of an issue? Would you still say the child should be named after the father’s side of the family or if it’s a daughter would you side more with the mother?
  • Does Kseniya perhaps know better than her husband the frustration of growing up with a a difficult-to-pronounce first name?

*Here’s the kicker: they don’t even know yet if the baby is a boy or girl!

So yeahhhh this type of marital spat is kind of how I ended up with my name. In Greek culture it’s tradition to name the first child after the father’s parents so my father just assumed I would be named after his mother. My mother (a Midwesterner who is not Greek) didn’t want me to have two “weird” names. The result? The night I was born my father ended up storming out of the hospital when the nurse came around to ask for my name and my mother refused to name me after my father’s mother. While he was out in the midst of a New York City snowstorm, my mother named me. For the record, my mother compromised by naming me after my dad’s stepfather instead of his mother and gave me his mother’s name for my middle name.

As Shakespeare would say, “What’s in a name?”

Stepping into 2015

5 Jan

I thought it might be worth reposting this as a reminder to myself.

***


Last January, I posted these two articles I wrote for Burnside:::

Does God Laugh at Our Resolutions?

Christian New Year’s Resolutions

Reading them a year later, I wish that I had done so sooner and refocused myself.  I really love these two resolutions:::

Resolution:  Walk humbly with God.

Resolution:  Love others.

The notion of walking humbly with God is just so beautiful and peaceful.  When I visited my family over the holidays, we took a few walks together.  There was no agenda.  We simply walked leisurely around the neighborhood, taking in the bright pinks of the flowering trees and the azure sky as we chatted.  The walks were short — under half an hour — but that time we spent meandering cul-de-sacs and admiring palm trees made an impression on me.  It felt meaningful even though our conversations weren’t necessarily any more meaningful than any other conversations we had during our time together.  In New York City, I walk a lot, but I’m usually walking with an agenda — with a predetermined place to go and time to be there by — and am walking on my own against a crowd of strangers.  Walking with someone just to enjoy their company is a much different feeling.

* * *

That was from 2012. A lot has changed since then. My sister moved out of the city, and my mother had a stroke, so we haven’t spent the past two Christmases together. I’ve spent a lot of time walking in the city by myself. But new people have also come into my life, and I’ve spent time walking with them, both literally and figuratively. Most importantly, many of the new people that have come into my life have been helping me in my walk with God.

This week I was reflecting on 2 Peter 1: 3-11:

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[c] his own glory and excellence,[d] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[e] and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities[f] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers,[g] be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It seems like a good passage to continually focus on this year.

It’s All Karpouzi to Me

23 Jun

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That’s me as a kid eating karpouzi!

Last week I wrote about Feta burgers and how my family used to BBQ all summer long. Our BBQs weren’t complete without karpouzi—watermelon—at the end of the meal, so this week is all about watermelon!!

Now I may have grown up in a mono-lingual household, only speaking English, but there were a few words that for whatever reason (probably because my mom knew them) we always said in Greek—to the point that it felt more natural to say them in Greek than in English. “Karpouzi” was one of those words. Even when I went off to college, that’s the word I used, and my friends picked it up and used it too—just as I picked up words like “haole” and “okole” from my Hawai’ian friends and learned “hella” from my Bay Area friends. Funny how even when you live in one country your entire life, and even when your friends are American, regionalisms and ethnic identities can influence your language.

Tomorrow I’ll share one of my favorite recipes for karpouzi!

In the meantime, I’d be curious to know if any of you switch in and out between languages or if you’ve picked up words from a language that isn’t your own mother tongue?

 

 

The Longest Word in Literature Is, Of Course, Greek

10 Dec

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I always take a deep breath before I spell out my name for someone, a nonverbal warning to the person asking for it to prepare themselves. “N as in ‘Nancy,’” I say, then pause. “I-K.” Another pause, just like I heard my mother spelling it out so many times to credit card companies over the phone when I was growing up. The spelling out proceeded like that for some time, til all twelve letters were given.

Most of our friends get used to our long last name over time, so when I recently had to spell out the address of where my parents live in Greece for a family friend, I warned her to make sure she had enough room on the paper. This place name was long even for us.

I was not at all surprised, therefore, to learn via The Huffington Post, run by a Greek woman, that literature’s longest word can be found in a Greek play. Aristophanes’ Assemblywomen, an ancient comedy about the upheaval that occurs when women insert themselves in politics (things like: men must sleep with an ugly women before they sleep with a beautiful woman), contains a word that is 171 letters.

From Oliver Tearle:

Since you’re doubtless itching to know what this word is, I’ll give Aristophanes the final word: Lopado­­temacho­­selacho­­galeo­­kranio­­leipsano­­drim­­hypo­­trimmato­­silphio­­parao­­melito­­katakechy­­meno­­kichl­­epi­­kossypho­­phatto­­perister­­alektryon­­opte­­kephallio­­kigklo­­peleio­­lagoio­­siraio­­baphe­­tragano­­pterygon.

And if you’re curious what that looks like in Greek, I found it on Wikipedia:

λοπαδοτεμαχοσελαχογαλεοκρανιολειψανοδριμυποτριμματοσιλφιοκαραβομελιτοκατακεχυμενοκιχλεπικοσσυφοφαττοπεριστεραλεκτρυονοπτοκεφα-λλιοκιγκλοπελειολαγῳοσιραιοβαφητραγανοπτερύγων.

It’s the name of a dish that has about that many ingredients in it (okay, maybe only 16 or so but that’s still too many ingredients, and it sounds disgusting).

 

* * *

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Friday Links + More Than a Thousand People Like Our Book!

16 Aug

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Paul emailed me the other day that we’d crossed the thousand-“like” threshold on our Facebook page for Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I wrote him back: “!!!!!!!!!” …Give or take a few exclamation points.

I cannot thank all of you enough for your support. It means so much to me and for so many reasons. I’m not really a numbers person. Friends have asked me about my writing in the past, and I’ve said that all those Friday nights I spent at home in front of my computer instead of hanging out with friends and all that time I spend frustrated as I edit and rewrite will all be worth it if I reach just one person with my writing. I wasn’t speaking specifically about this book, but it holds true in the sense that if I can enlighten even one person on the fact that Jack Kerouac was a literary artist and not just some beatnik cartoon or if I can give hope to one writer out there who is struggling with yet another draft and thinks they’re rubbish because they mistakenly believe the myth that Kerouac wrote On the Road in just three weeks then I know I’ve done my job. Having a thousand people excited about the book, though, now that’s cake with a whole lot of icing on it!

I feel fortunate to have Paul as a coauthor. He’s so knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to writing about Jack Kerouac. He’s also really easygoing, and I think we’ve been able to work together well. Sometimes we get sidetracked and talk about things like woodland creatures and hot dog vendors and really bad sitcoms, and it’s all quite fun.

We also lucked out to have Igor Satanovsky as our cover designer. We get so many compliments on the cover. It’s usually the first thing people see when it comes to our book, so it was really important to us to have a strong cover and Igor nailed it.

We’ve been really privileged to have some people who have rallied around us and inspiring, encouraging, supporting, and even promoting us.

Most importantly, our families have given us time and space to write. My sister has attended almost every single reading I’ve ever given, Kerouac-related or not. My mom goes around sticking the postcards for our book anywhere she can. My father always made sure I got the best education I could get, which furthered my writing skills.

Many moons ago, before I even began working on this book, David Amram spent time talking to me about Kerouac and dispelled the whole idea of the so-called Beat Generation mythology. Since then, he’s invited me to read with him, has promoted my work in his own shows, and continually pushes me to think about life and art in new ways.

George Koumantzelis has gone out of his way to support our work. Oftentimes getting people to agree to an interview is like pulling teeth, but George actually invited me and arranged for me to interview his uncle Billy, who was Kerouac’s pallbearer. Billy and George have been tremendously gracious toward me. George often sends me helpful news links and posts my blog entries on Facebook.

The first time I ever got to read from Burning Furiously Beautiful was thanks to poet RA Araya, who invited me to read at The Sidewalk Café. He has since invited me many more times to read at various venues, and even when I haven’t read he’s passed out postcards for the book. He also frequently posts my work on Facebook.

One of the goals with our Burning Furiously Beautiful Facebook page was to create an inviting space for Kerouacians, those interested in Beat literature, road trippers, people who dig the history and culture of the ’40s and ’50s, writers, fans of the On the Road film, and the curious. We wanted a page that was informative and entertaining but also a safe place where people could ask questions and connect with each other. We don’t have a thousand people commenting on every single post, but we do have some regular posters as well as people who are actively engaged in leaving comments and forwarding posts. I’ve had the pleasure of even meeting a few of these people in person, which has been super fun. I never really had any friends that were into the Beats so it’s exciting to connect with others who are passionate about their literature.

There are so many people who have helped us get where we are today, in both small and big ways, specific to this book or in more general ways. The post would go on forever if I listed out each and every name, but the support is meaningful and doesn’t go unnoticed. It makes all the difference.

If you aren’t on our Facebook page yet, please do feel to join us. This isn’t some exclusive hipster club. People don’t try to one up each other on our page. We’re just super passionate and want to connect with others.

* * *

Reaching over a thousand “likes” by no means happened overnight. A lot of work goes into finding interesting things to post, responding to people’s comments, commenting on other Facebook pages, and getting lost in the time suck of social media. I’ve also done my fair share of going to talks on social media and scouring the internet for the latest hot tips. So, for today’s Friday Links, I wanted to leave you with a few helpful links for growing your social media. I’m by no means a pro, but some of these people certainly are.

 

Alt SLC registration just opened up! It’s a great way to learn about blogging

Dave Charest writes How to Get Facebook Likes for Your Page (The Easy Way!)

Author Laura Vanderkam writes about how to Grow your blog readership overnight! (or slowly over 3.5 years)

Conduit offers Ten Tips for Growing Your Target Audience Using Social Media

Photos tend to get more likes than just text, and Lark and Linen provides a Tutorial: Editing Your Photos

Samantha Murphy says that using “I” gets more thumbs up in How to Get More Likes, Shares on Facebook

In case you missed them, here are some of my previous links on social media:::

The true, true story behind the Facebook fauxlore of the Kerouac-Burroughs fight

I am one in a million

My Goodreads To-read list

How many stars should a book get on Goodreads?

Playing around on Google+ I found an article about, well, me

Why I Tweet and post on Facebook

Building your book before you write it

My takeaways from Cup of Jo’s advice on blogging as a career

Social media lessons from last year’s SWSX

I heart social media

Galley Cat’s advice for writers on Pinterest … and I’m on Pinterest

What are YOUR tips for growing your social media?

Photos from the 2013 New York City Poetry Festival

31 Jul

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I feel incredibly honored to have been invited to read at the 2013 New York City Poetry Festival. I had such a blast hearing so many great poets read at last year’s festival, and it never occurred to me that just a year later I would be joining them on stage. I have poet RA Araya to thank for continually supporting my writing. He invited me to read Homer in the ancient Homeric Greek and from the literary biography I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr. entitled Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” so I read two road trip pieces.

For my Homer selection, I chose the opening passage from The Odyssey. Growing up in the Peloponnesus, my father had to memorize part of the epic poem in school. To this day, he still can recite the lines! I studied Classical Greek at Pomona College (while a student at Scripps), which is different than Homeric Greek. We never really read aloud in class because it’s a “dead” language, one that is no longer spoken but read by scholars. There are debates about how ancient Greek dialects were spoken, as the pronunciation is, according to some scholars, different than modern Greek. I am therefore definitely not adept at reading in the ancient tongue, but if someone asks me to read something specific, I do my best. Fortunately, there are many great English translations of The Odyssey out there too!

It was a no brainer to choose one of the passages about poetry from Burning Furiously Beautiful. In telling the story of the making of the novel On the Road, it was important that the literary biography also explored Kerouac’s poetry and his friendship with other poets. Although he is mainly remembered as a novelist, Kerouac wrote poetry throughout his life, including the period when he was on the road. There’s a really strong section in the book about how Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg influenced each other’s writing, and I wanted to read that, but in the end I found a passage in Burning Furiously Beautiful that seemed to better encapsulate the mood of the Poetry Festival. In the passage, Kerouac has been walking along the highway, hitchhiking, and finds himself composing a poem about everything he sees around him. It reminded me of how out on Governors Island we were all a bunch of writers lofting in the grass and translating the world around us into poetic language.

I read directly after RA, who opened up the event with his famously short-but-sweet poem, and then came Hillary Keel, Sarah Sarai, Carmen Bardeguez-Brown, Kate Levin, Carlos Manuel Rivera, Sparrow, Bonafide Rojas, and Keith Roach. They were amazing! Seriously. Hilary read in German and a couple of the other poets read in Spanish, and I suspect our reading—under the name Miguel Algarin’s Brooklyn Poetry—was the most linguistically diverse at the Festival. I had traveled over the Governors Island with Kate, and I think this was her best reading yet. In addition to poetry about Manhattan and our value as people, she read from her punk novel, which I would’ve thought was a poem if she hadn’t said otherwise. I always enjoy hearing Sarah read, and in particular enjoyed her poem about meeting an angel at a bus stop. The poet who had me in stitches, though, was Sparrow. I’d heard him sing at RA’s birthday party last year, and I loved hearing his one-liner poems this time around.

Special thanks too to our stage manager Liz von Klemperer, who did an excellent job. There were a lot of volunteers who kept the entire event running smoothly. The New York City Poetry Festival is put on by The Poetry Society of New York and is organized by Stephanie Berger and Nicholas Adamski. For the full lineup of the two-day event, check out NYCPF 2013.

I also want to thank my family and friends who trekked out to the island—some coming from as far as Jersey and Brooklyn—to support my reading. The photos here were taken by Leslie Marks, except the last one which is a self portrait. For more photos of me and all the other amazing poets, check out asterix611’s flickr.

My Clothes Still Smell Like My Grandma

4 Jan

When I was growing up in Closter, New Jersey, there was beautiful blue fir right outside my balcony window. I can only recall one white Christmas. The snow blanketed the pine needles, turning the outdoors into a winter wonderland. It was even more fantastical than anything Hollywood could produce.

Over the years, my mother suggested we go on vacation for Christmas. I was dead set against this. I don’t recall ever believing in Santa Claus, so it’s not as if I was afraid Santa wouldn’t find us to drop off the gifts. Rather, I knew that if we went on vacation that would mean less gifts because the money would go toward hotel rooms.

Also, even as a young child I felt it important for my family to be all together in our home. My father was usually working so we didn’t spend a lot of time together as a whole family. Holidays represented a time for us to come together, and it seemed like for something as holy as Christmas we should   be in our house instead of each running off in different directions on the beach and distracted by landmarks. We’d done enough traveling for me to know that trying to please children with seven years of age difference and parents with dissimilar interests never worked.

Once the last of the children had flown the nest, we stopped spending Christmas as a family altogether.

Nine years later, we reunited for Christmas in Florida. Instead of a blue fir, there was a palm tree outside my window.

I remember the first time I ever saw a palm tree in real life. I was in fifth grade and had gone with my family to Florida to see my grandma and go to Disney World. We got off the plane, and pulling out of the airport I saw the many palmed leaves of a palm tree against the backdrop of a blue sky. It looked like a cheerleader’s pom-pom or a wig on a Muppet. I was enamored.

We spent Christmas this year in my grandma’s condo. I remember playing out in the backyard with my little sister, taking photographs of us with the exotic palm trees. The same palm trees still shake their confetti heads into the coastal breeze. But so much has changed…. My sister, for one, is no longer little. She is a woman with a life of her own. She has a career in which she speaks about resolutions and treaties to delegates from around the world. She will one day, maybe before I’m even ready for it, have her own family.

For every new beginning, there is also an ending.

Many years ago, my grandma died. She died on the day of my sister’s high-school graduation.

That was more than a decade ago, and her immaculate white condo still reeks of the cigarettes she smoked that caused her lung cancer. The cigarette smoke is in the white chairs and in the white sofa and seeped into the white carpet. And when I flew back to New York City, I realized my grandma’s smell had clung to my black puffy jacket. A part of her came with me.

I miss my grandma a lot. It was hard for me being back in her place without her even though I’d been there only two other times since she passed away. Various members of my family have spent significant time there, but it’s still her place to me. Her presence lingers so strong that even all these years later her smell is still a part of her  home.

In another day or so, the smell of cigarette smoke will leave my jacket, but for now I want to hold onto it. I want to hold onto her.

If you would like to stop smoking, here is a free resource.

How I Spent My Name Day

31 Dec

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For my name day, my family took me to Delray Beach, Florida. It’s a cute little oceanside town with lots of restaurants, antique shops, surf shops, and galleries. My favorite part of the trip was looking in the display cases at the antique store with my mom. When I was a little girl, she used to always take me with her to the antique stores we both loved so much. When we all moved, we had to give up a lot of our family heirlooms. Tea cups from my grandma’s side of the family. Handmade doilies from my yiayia’s side of the family. Exquisite purchases my parents had made when decorating their own home. I loved reminiscing with my mom in Delray Beach.

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Photo via Cupcake Couture.

We also went to a super adorable cupcake shop my sister loves called Cupcake Couture.  All the cupcakes are named after fashion designers. I got the Jean Paul Peanutier, pictured above. So yummy! The frosting was a light whipped peanut butter. Oh my gosh, I’m salivating just thinking about it.

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Photo via Wags to Riches.

We also stopped into a fancy pet shop called Wags to Riches. It was the type of place that sold rhinestone collars and designer-looking clothes in miniature form for dogs. They had some adorable puppies. I’m currently looking for an apartment right now that will allow pets because I’d like to get a dog of my own. I’m thinking of getting a Maltese. If you’ve ever had one, let me know in the comments section if they’re easy to train. Otherwise, I might get a poodle, which is what I had growing up.

After Delray Beach we went out to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. It wasn’t my choice, and it was bittersweet for me. The last time I’d been to that particular Cheesecake Factory was with my grandma, who has since passed away.

I Am Crowned

27 Dec

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Have you ever noticed that Greek families all seem to be named after the same relative? It’s customary in Greek culture to name the firstborn boy after his papou, the father’s father, and the firstborn girl after her yiayia, the father’s mother. Subsequent children are named after the mother’s side of the family.

According to the Greek Orthodox faith, though, children are supposed to be named after the saint whose feast day they are born on.

A child born on December 27 would be named after Saint Stephen. Stephen was one of the first deacons of the Church. However, after a vicious argument, he was accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death by stoning. Standing up for himself and his beliefs, he said that those Church leaders were the very people who persecuted the prophets. He is now recognized as a martyr.

The name “Stephen” comes from the Greek word “stephanos,” which translates to “crowned.”

My birthday is not December 27 nor was my yiayia’s name Stephania, so my name is a bit of a break from the Greek culture. I’m actually named after my father’s stepfather.  And yes, family reunions can get a bit confusing, with my cousin Stefanos and I both responding to “Stef.”

Today I’ll be celebrating my name with my family!

How did you get your name? Do you celebrate your name day?