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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

For my granny... Για τη γιαγια μου...




(Addition 05/05/2017)     You are an angel!

(Scroll down for the English translation)



Σαν σημερα εφυγε. Αν και η λεξη «εφυγε» δεν ταιριαζει στην περιπτωση.. Δεν εφυγε ακομα εδω ειναι. Βεβαια, το παραδεχομαι δεν τη σκεφτομαι καθε μερα, δεν την αναφερω καθε τοσο... Τα «μαθηματα» απο τον παππου ηταν πιο εντονα νομιζω. Αλλα αυτο που καταφερε ο «Αλεκος» μου (ετσι την ελεγα) δεν το εχουν καταφερει πολλοι ανθρωποι στην ζωη μου. Με καθορισε, μου εμαθε πολλα οχι με τα λογια αλλα με τον τροπο σκεψης της, με τον τροπο που εζησε τη ζωη της. Με καποιες στασεις και νοοτροπιες της με διδαξε τι να μην κανω, τι να μην αφηνω να μου κανουν. Η Αγλαιτσα μας ομως ηταν αγαπη, ηταν δοσιμο, ηταν θυσια. Δεν την ενοιαζε ο εαυτος της, το εγω της. Την ενοιαζε η ευτυχια των δικων της ανθρωπων, για αυτους γινοταν θυσια. Αν ησουν στον κυκλο της θα εκανε τα παντα. Την ενοιαζε ομως και «τι θα πει ο κοσμος» και για μενα, αυτο την κουρασε πολυ. Κι ετσι αποφασισε να σταματησει να προσπαθει. Ειπε να παει να ξεκουραστει λιγο.  

Ειναι εδω ομως, ειναι μεσα μας, ακομα και αν δεν την αναφερουμε συχνα. Ειναι στη μυρωδια της κουζινας οταν βγαινουν τα γεμιστα απο το φουρνο. Ειναι στα ματια μας οταν ρωταμε η μια την αλλη «τι κανετε καλεεεε; Αργησατεεεε». Ειναι στα ρομαντικα τραγουδια – ειδικα στο «αν ερχοσουν για λιγο» και το «ποσο λυπαμαι». Ειναι στην καθε ομορφη θεα της φυσης. Ειναι στο ραδιοφωνακι οταν ακουμε ποδοσφαιρο της Κυριακες. Ειναι σε ολες τις λειτουργιες της Μεγαλης Εβδομαδας και οταν βλεπουμε Ιησου της Ναζαρετ του Ζαφιρελι. Ειναι στο «καλε δε ροχαλιζω, αφου δεν κοιμαμαι, το στηθος μου ειναι...». Ειναι στη μυρωδια της νιβεας και της κολωνιας Μυρτω (αυτη με το λεμονι).Ειναι στο περλε χρωμα νυχιων.

Ειναι εκει ΚΑΘΕ φορα οταν λεμε «εγω θελω εσεις να ειστε καλα, αυτο με νοιαζει» και το εννοουμε!!!




On a day like today, she left. Although the word “left” is not suitable for the specific case. She has not left, she is here. I admit it that I do not think of her every day, I do not mention her often… The “lessons” from pappous (grandpa) were more intense I think. But my “Alekos” (that is how I was calling her) has managed to achieve things that not many people had in my life. She defined me, she taught me much not with words but with her way of thinking, with the way she lived her life. Through some behaviours and mentalities, she taught me what not to do, what not to allow people doing to me. Our Aglaitsa (her name) was love, was giving, and sacrifice. She did not care about herself, her ego. She cared only about the happiness of her own people, for them she did not mind sacrificing herself. If you belonged in her circle, she would have done anything. She cared however about “what would the people say?” and that tired her a lot. And thus, she decided to stop making an effort. She decided it is time to go rest a bit….

She is here though, she is inside us, even if we do not mention her often. She is there in the smell of the kitchen when the gemista (stuffed vegetables) are coming out of the oven. She is there when we ask one another “how are you doingggg??? You are lateeeeee”. She is there in every romantic song – especially in the “as erhosoun gia ligo” and the "poso lipamai". She is there in every beautiful view. She is there in the radio when we listen to football every Sunday. She is there in all the church services of the week before Easter and while watching Jesus of Nazareth by Zefirelli. She is there in the “ah I am not snoring, I am not even sleeping, it is my chest…”. She is there in the nivea cream smell and the Mirto parfume (that with the lemon essence). She is there in the perly colour of manicures.


She is there EVERY time we say “I want you to be fine, this is what all I want” and we mean it. 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Me and running, running and me


We returned back home, I found a position in bed where none of my muscles were hurting, I put the medal on the bedside table, and I fell asleep while touching it, with a big smile. That feeling the last three years, the emotions of that exact moment, is what keeps me going...

I had never been an active person in my life. I was the kind of child that always had some problem to avoid athletics and anything else at school that required getting off your chair and move. Maybe I got a little bit hooked with basketball at some point in my life but that was mainly because the clothes and attitude was cool. Oh and because I was the tallest in class and I felt they needed me…until other girls grew taller or taller girls came from other schools. I will blame hence the environment and conditions for never being active (nonsense, utter nonsense, only me to blame for but anyway…). Later, I came to South Africa, and I was “accused” of not being active as if that was a crucial negative aspect of my character (am I the only one that prefer to sit on the couch to watch movies on a Sunday afternoon instead of mountain biking?).

And then I met the Prince. Not only an active person, but one of these crazies that state “I ONLY ran 21 kms the other day”, run marathons, and ultra marathons, and Comrades marathons (between 86 and 89 kms on foot, not by bus or car!!). THAT crazy! And not only that but he comes from a family of crazies: tens of medals between him and his father and his brothers. “If we have kids one day, the genes are very strong here…I might have to change my attitude”. But not even that convinced me to change my behaviour towards exercising. Yes, I started going to the gym, and walk every now and then but still. Then I met more of his crazy friends; and I just wanted to go for breakfasts with them ( koiliodoulos in Greek means a slave of the stomach… I did not admit anything, but you thought of the connection, right?). So, I started to run 5km races here and there and waiting of them to finish torturing..hmm, enjoying themselves to go have breakfast.

After having the second precious boy of my life, I knew I had to do something to live a healthier lifestyle. The 30s had hit me and I have heard horror stories on how your metabolism changes and now the cupcake you had for breakfast will return viciously as a nice extra on the hips.
But there were two factors that switched my mind to start tackling the long distances, both of them related to peer pressure and pride. The worse thing one can do to a person with my personality is to keep them out of a conversation “because you don’t know”. Well, worse or best, it is the greatest challenge I can hear in my mind, when someone tells me “you can’t” or “you haven’t”. So, when I was excluded from discussions in my new family, my stubborn self said “I can” and “I will” and then I will have an opinion based on experience. The other decisive moment was my friends’ decision to make an effort to run a half-marathon. Well, it was more of a “lets have an excuse to go on a weekend together, and do something special for a friend’s 30th birthday!”. My character would not allow me to be the one that “can’t”. And that’s how my long-distance experience started…
Fast forward to yesterday and the emotions of a half-marathon…

There is one crucially important moment in every race. No, it is not the finish! It is the 1 minute before the start, where your heart pumps, where all the training sessions you did or you missed pass through your mind. That is when the muscles are getting ready! When you can almost touch the tension around you, and then 5, 4,3, 2, 1…boom…. All this energy released, the passion, the excitement and the fear all together is what keeps you going the first few kilometres.

I posted early in the morning before the race, that a half marathon has the following phases for me:

  • why…why am I here? Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I not in my bed sleeping?
  • why not… hey this is not as bad as I thought so, why not doing it? Why not me?
  • oh yeah… I feel good now, I have a good rhythm, my legs feel fine. (Phases a and b many times change places and repeat themselves a couple of times within a race).
  • when again… this is the feeling that comes only at the end, when I stop my watch, and I look at the time, and I am happy and content (and ready for a beer…).


Many times, non-runners ask us (oops, did I qualify myself as a runner?? Oops) why we run. There are many different reasons that get different weight and importance depending on the specific race, and time period of our lives. Firstly, the one reason I run is my kids. It sounds as an oxymoron that I leave them alone almost every Saturday morning and Easter weekends but I do it for them. Well, kids do not understand lectures and talks, they understand examples and role models. If we as parents show them that the normal life is the one that we go outdoors and enjoy time with family and friends, keeping our body in a good health, then they might want to follow the example, or more importantly, they will think this is the norm and adopt the lifestyle. I feel content when my boytjies proudly announce that their parents are running a race or when we get back home and they proudly wear the medals around their necks.


But the most important motivation is the feeling of setting a target and achieving it. That sense of achievement. I read somewhere that we should all make our beds every morning when we get up. It is a trick to tell yourself “see? We had a task and did it- let’s start our day on positive thoughts”. It is the same with running long distance. You start with a target “I want to finish a or the specific half-marathon in April” and then you make all the necessary steps to reach it. What I love about this is that every single race – or step towards this big target – provides an individual sense of achievement. Every time I reach the finish line… and even more every time I stand at the Start, I feel stronger as a person. I feel I can do anything I put in my mind, especially knowing in advance that it involves pain and tears and frustrations. But my wise mother-in-law taught me the “te” rule in Afrikaans. Nothing “te” is good…. “te” is too much. So the moment one feels that it is “te”, I feel I need to stop. Having said that of course, at the same time, some pushing of the limits is healthy. It is proof that we can do more, we can achieve more, and we can strive for more. And THAT exactly is long-distance running for me: the evidence that I am capable to do whatever my heart desires, that I have the strength in body and in mind, and that mountains are there to be climbed: the road up is steep and difficult, but the view is always amazing!



Saturday, 1 April 2017

Business cycles in "social life"

Do you know what a business cycle is? Let me be the economist for a second…
A business cycle is “the fluctuation in economic activity that an economy experiences over a period of time. A business cycle is basically defined in terms of periods of expansion or recession…During expansions, the economy is growing in real terms (i.e. excluding inflation), as evidenced by increases in indicators like employment, industrial production, sales and personal incomes. During recessions (contraction), the economy is contracting, as measured by decreases in the above indicators”[1] The main elements in a business cycle are peak (top) – recession – trough (bottom) – expansion.


I have observed that these types of cycles exist in my desire for social life. You know what I mean? The one period of time, I am a social bee; I organize events, I say yes to all invitations, my calendar is full, while at the same time, family and work obligations keep me super busy as well…and the next period, I am a hermit…I keep my social interactions, to the absolutely necessary and unavoidable, and I have this deep desire to wake up and stay in bed (preferably under the duvet) not even talking to myself. 

Peak (top): This is when you have to book me in advance for weeks. This is the period where not only I say yes to every single invitation but I tend to look at my calendar and say “oops why am I not seeing anyone before or after work that day? Let me start calling to see who is available”. I am in the mood to get dressed up or down and do anything and everything: with kids, without kids, for alcohol, coffee, dinner, lunch, breakfast, coffee before breakfasts, coffee after breakfast. You get the point. Those peaks do not last long. They are tiring and usually end gradually by other me missing my boys (all three) or by my boys expressing or showing that we need to slow down. That is when we pass to…

Recession (contraction): This is the period when slowly the “busy bee” calms down. This is the period when firstly I stop organizing and inviting friends and family and just accept invitations. Some of the weekends, I book them “free” or “just the four of us” in advance to save them. Towards the end of this period, I become very selective and I respond to invitations depending on how obliged I am to be there. In this period, I have missed quite a few fun events and occasions, which admittedly I have regretted afterward. The work obligations and the stress of work is not necessarily high; oftentimes, on the contrary, there are not important and pressing challenges that will keep me on my feet. This period slowly reaches stages of melancholy, until the stage of…

Trough (bottom): The definition of depression, or close by anyways. I do not want to see anyone. I am not in the mood to get out of my pajamas. I do not even like to think about anything. I am irritated with the world, and I feel nobody understands me. Unfortunately, the current rhythm of life and generally, lifestyle does not allow us to do that, and even more when one has the role of a mummy. When I was single, I was sinking (and in some ways, enjoying it) during troughs for long. It is the time when I need to feel that someone has missed me; I need to feel needed and others to show it; I want my friends and family to acknowledge my absence. Of course, as stubborn as I am I do not vocalize my needs – I expect others to act for themselves; which can be proved a double-edged sword: it might disappoint me more and extend the trough point time-wise or it can quickly pull me out (if it comes from the right people at the right time) and can lead to the next stage…

Expansion (growth): slowly, I “go out” again. Initially by accepting invitations, mainly for short visits, coffees and generally, events that finish early in the day and where, I am sure, only a few and very close friends and family will be attending. With time and as my confidence builds up (and my feeling that people want to see me – and not have to see me), the “busy bee” makes an appearance and returns until reaching the peak point again.

As with business cycles, the exact time spent in each of the four elements differ. The factors taking me from one phase to the other might be exogenous (some disappointment at work, or not sleeping well when one of the kids are sick) but mostly, the process is endogenous (too much of one thing leads to another…a pendulum). Decoding my behavior and analyzing the factors will help me to assist myself transit from one to another and control my moods. But most of all, appreciating the different “phases” will assist in controlling my dependence to and expectations from others.

If you ask me, though, in which phase I am now? I would say “if you knew me enough, you would know”…still some work to do with myself, yes?






[1] http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/businesscycle.asp