Modern American Marriage in 2013: An Institution between Two Adults of any Religion, Color, Race, Gender or Sexual Orientation?

Note:  I have been moved by this subject matter for over a decade and most recently my personal world has been rocked by how this topic has proceeded in our country causing division and confusion.  This post is meant to help myself and others see that we can’t ignore the issue and must see the truth—regardless of what our personal comfort levels may or may not be.  –RVSB

Jealousy Felt Around the World

What’s both great and arrogant about our United States of America is the plethora of freedoms that we really do enjoy in comparison with the rest of the nations on Earth.  While there is debate as to whether or not our economic status or stock market powerhouse still yields the same influence as it has in decades past—there can be no argument that this is still the best nation in the world when it comes to our religious and social freedoms that natives and immigrants (and even not-yet-legal immigrants) have access to thrive.

What is the Definition of Marriage?

When most of us were children, it never occurred to us that anything other than a man and a woman defined the basic ingredients for a marriage.  Needless to say, it’s 2013 today and our world’s consciousness on the matter has hit an open range of possibilities.  Consider for a moment that in Islam, for example, a man can take for himself up to four wives as long as he can provide for his respective spouses and offspring thereof.

What dictates the definition of marriage usually depends on who is answering the question: for instance, someone of a conservative Christian background will repeat their religion’s conventional or Bible scripture wisdom on the matter while there remain sects of Mormon believers that still practice polygamy.

There’s no doubt, however, that public opinion is in a full debate whether the same gender or various sexual orientation unions should or should not be considered as standard marriage material.  Why is this even a question anymore?

What’s Not New Under the Sun

Here’s what we do know—anthropologists and historians would agree—there have always been heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals in our human race.   Most recently we’ve had the medical-breakthrough ability to manipulate hormones and such that individuals committed to doing so can change their sex (especially in the case of those who may be born with both sexual organs and seek to be one or the other).

It can be verified and inferred that there have been countless marriages involving homosexuals that have married a heterosexual, a bisexual married a heterosexual or any other combination.  Throw in any transsexuals or cross-dressers and the complexities continue.  We are lying to ourselves if we don’t already recognize the fact that these legal marriages have existed.

Common law marriage?  There have probably been more homosexual and/or bisexual unions that qualify to be a common law marriage than in the strictly heterosexual circles!  It’s just that they haven’t been detailed as recognizable by our state’s laws.

What Matters Most: Comfort or Conformity?

 The truth remains that in the U.S. you can get married either by a secular or a religious person and be recognized as a legally married couple by federal law according to each state’s laws—the lines between church and state have been blurred at this point and therefore leave room for the freedom of two legally consenting adults to be married despite their physical gender, religious or political affiliation, race (like bi-racial as in the case of our very own President of the United States) or sexual orientation.  In other words, there’s really no reason that gays (or bisexuals, etc) cannot be recognized as a legal marrying sort.

How Do We Go Down the Aisle of Acceptance?

While the U.S. Supreme Court has been in the news recently because of two cases before them, including a proposition situation in California after the elections in November 2012—they cannot ultimately fix this unfortunate glitch.

The hopeful signs, however, are that more lawmakers by the weeks and months passing are beginning to break their silence over the matter and show support for those seeking the ability to get married regardless of whether they are the same gender or have a sexual orientation other than “heterosexual”.

If there is one thing I would like to say in terms of a request from my American peers, it would be that we please stop trying to politicize this issue of allowing non-heterosexuals to participate in the legal action of marriage and its rights therein.  Although it may seem like it’s mostly Republicans against this, it’s simply not fair to those Republicans that don’t mind or simply don’t care.

Love is love and in America where we pride ourselves in being created equal, we must accept that whoever wants to walk that aisle of selflessness to bond with another imperfect person to face the world’s joys and sorrows is truly an inalienable human right.

R.V.Saridakis Bean

P.S. For those who are Christian like myself and would tell me that I should consider that homosexuality is regarded as a sin in various scripture quotes and interpretations–I would immediately remind them there is nothing seen or unseen that goes unnoticed by our Creator.  We are all sinners.  Again, this question as to whether non-heterosexuals should be able to participate in a federal/state-recognized legal marriage is irrelevant as American marriage is not exclusive to only those in the Christian religions.

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Bathroom Rock Bottom: Mid-Year Musings

Bathroom Rock Bottom:  Mid-Year Musings

This morning while on the floor of the bathroom trying to organize and clean out the linen closet, drawers and cabinets I wondered aloud to myself why I had waited so long to do this task.  Isn’t it the way things go for many of us? We think about doing something, whether it is practical or not, and for various reasons we delay until the stagnation of doing nothing paralyzes us.

While everything in this humble bathroom looked like a small-scale tornado had come through and strewn random bits everywhere I decided I was not going to shy away, try to put some clutter away in a drawer for another day or throw everything out.  Why can’t we try to approach even our dreams with the same sort of devotion?  If you are interested in doing something like trying to play an instrument, why not do your research, find that instrument in your hands and a way to learn it whether on your own or with others?  What is it that keeps us from growing and pursuing those things?

Limits. How do we find ourselves within limits? Was it how we grew up, what high school we attended or dropped out of? I guess there are reasonable limits like I shouldn’t just jump off the roof right now because I crave the flight I enjoy in my night dreams.  But why are we saddling ourselves down with limits that really don’t exist?

Whether your current stage in life involves children of your own, spouses, partners or any sort of combination of factors, the only real obstacle remains yourself when it comes to continuing your path of learning, loving and contributing to others.

The silly thing about this bathroom train of thought is that it came about as I was attacking a ridiculous mess that I had allowed to get out of hand because of one thing or another.  It took the crisis of having a terrible case of food poisoning the other day to make me realize that I HAD to deal with this clutter because I couldn’t locate much needed pedialyte in the bathroom closet which helped lead to becoming so dehydrated I was taken to the emergency urgent care center down the road.

We shouldn’t wait until some crisis strikes like family discord, relationship difficulties be they platonic or romantic or an unexpected upheaval at the workplace for us to pay attention to the inclinations we have for certain goals and dreams.  If we follow our spirit’s drive (for those who believe in God, you may say the Holy Spirit, YHWH, Allah or Father/Mother God, et cetera) for what we do in our life one day at a time, it will not only benefit ourselves but our loved ones and others within the “ripple-effect” distance of us.

On a lesser philosophical note, if you haven’t cleaned out your bathroom lately I highly recommend it.  Great way to fleece all those expired over-the-counter medications as well as those prescription drugs no longer needed.  For most folks, the bathroom acts as the ready room or “green room” for the start of another crazy day–it’s nice to have a bit of order to it to assist as you prepare for the battle of living and loving life.

R.V.S.Bean

Jesus Christ Had It Right: Be Like Our Children

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it'” –Luke 18:16-17

This particular New Testament Bible passage has always fascinated me–especially when I was a Greek Orthodox girl in an elementary Roman Catholic school where the nuns outnumbered the lay teachers.  I didn’t understand or know many of Christ’s teachings during those years but that one stuck with me because it told me that Christ loved us kids no matter how noisy and unruly we could be.

Taking this thought a step further, this passage came to my mind again in recent weeks as I’ve had the honor to witness my youngest child take his first steps and continue at an unbelievable pace.  My son is almost a year old and the progress he makes on a daily basis makes me feel like as busy as we adults can be, it doesn’t seem we’re making the same advancement as this little guy.  He greets each day with an awe-inspiring smile in the morning, ready to receive whatever the adventures du jour are.

So in simple framework exegesis, we can agree that this short passage alludes to the impatience and annoyance that Christ’s inner circle initially felt at people crowding him with their babies and children beckoning for touch/acceptance/blessing.  They tried to shoo them away and Jesus immediately “rebuked” them and then called the young to him directly while declaring that it should be understood that we must try to be like our children in order accept the gift of the kingdom of God.

While in church with my children, I must remind myself to not get trapped by the concerns of sticking to the current status quo in regards to how well we sit, stand and whatever other physical ritual we have in our worship time.  What is most important for our children to know and understand?  That they are loved and accepted.  That they are desired and destined for greatness in their individual development.  That love is God’s gift to us all and we are able to receive it and share it.

These restless and tiresome years with the little ones are so fleeting and one day they’ll have more challenges than we’d care for them to have to encounter.  However, we can learn from them right now how to accept that there is nothing we can do to earn or win the love of God.  It just Is.  Love without fear, doubt or rejection–let’s be like a little child with the kingdom of God at our fingertips.

R.V.S.B.

WHY BOTHER? FOOD AND RELIGON FOR THOUGHT

WHY BOTHER? FOOD AND RELIGON FOR THOUGHT

As I wrestled last week with my very hyper older son while trying to hold on to my squirming infant son in our Greek Orthodox church pew during worship service, I thought: Why bother? The same question pops into my mind when in the middle of a grocery aisle with two restless little souls while trying to decide which dry food good is healthier for my family’s pantry. It seems there are a couple items I’m quite passionate about when raising our children, one rooted in spiritual sustenance for their souls and the other being physical fuel for their bodies. I’m guessing that I’m not the only mom out there in any given country that feels the same way.

WHAT’S IT ALL FOR? Sense of Incense and Icons

So back to last week: As I chased the rabbit in my mind who was screaming “why bother?”, I reminded myself to look around and remember why I do bother, along with my husband, to go through our weekly ritual of attending our Greek Orthodox church. I cannot speak for other faiths such as Jews, Muslim, Hinduism, et cetera—but in my faith, besides the obvious theological tie to the miraculous belief of the Trinity and Christ’s Resurrection…I appreciate the hope of things to come and that while we’re going through the rumble-tumble ride that life can be, we can find ways to help and love each other. There are so many things about our world and the creation beyond our atmosphere that I don’t know that I’m in awe of the God force behind it all and I’m grateful for the chance to live and participate. If I can share this with my children in a way that inspires them to embrace life, love and respect for others then I will be at peace at the end of my journey here. This can be a tough philosophy to re-enact when dealing with a temper tantrum or a tired-tot meltdown, however, I encourage perseverance if not to help you remember what’s important to your belief system in your practicing faith. My husband and I do agree that ultimately if our hearts are not in it, then it does our children no good and it would be a moot point for us to attend church if we are only bitter shells of ourselves in the congregation.

FOOD IS FOOD, RIGHT? Discerning What’s Best

The ridiculous part about this food subject is that many of in the “civilized” world have way too many choices. It’s sort of like how women hundreds of years ago didn’t have so many choices when it came to family planning but now are sort of paralyzed sometimes in whether or not to have children. When it comes to planning our family’s menu day to day, I make countless choices in the lead up to the final product that arrives on the table for the main meals and snack times. For my own crazy methodology, I like to seek out organic and locally fresh ingredients when possible. Organic and even local can mean very high prices: in those instances I may purchase conventional or just skip that type of meal until later. It helps to educate one’s self on the foods you and your family prefer to eat so as to know if you want to make a concession or not. But don’t peg me for a purist, either. I often tell family and friends that in the end there’s a reason I give thanks and pray before every meal, especially when eating out at a restaurant: I can’t control every single ingredient sometimes and as we’re finding out in recent news, I may unknowingly purchase something under a false label or omission of vital information (Google search the recent news on meat labeling for items such as poultry and pork-evidently many of those meats are injected with solutions like water, broth and other things to plump them up and they’re not currently mandated to be labeled as such). Let’s not forget-for some of us, fixing food is our way of loving our family and friends, so it’s worth the hassle even with the “bewitching hour” for parents (I highly recommend Crockpots!)

FOOD AND RELIGION, IS THAT ALL? The Countless Other Things

As a lover, mother, daughter, sister, friend and wife that I am these days, there are many other things that I strive each day to share and instill in my children. I know that I’m not perfect and many times can be hypocritical in my beliefs—sometimes even changing my views on what I thought was my solid opinion beforehand. What’s most important must be how we love each other and when it comes to our children that’s truly what they need the most is our unconditional love, all the rest of the countless other things we try to give/share with them are just the details of life that make us all unique.

RVSB

When Your Child Gets a Right Hook from Another Child…

What happens when you witness your child get a right hook square on his mouth from another child?

This is a question I don’t ponder very often until actually faced with its reality as happened earlier today.

My son and I were at our local beach park this morning and enjoying the shallows in a small inlet area that protected us from the full fury of the Atlantic ocean (thanks Hurricane Earl).  It was a pretty uneventful morning that included our friends with their son about the same age.  The boys were enjoying the sand, water and exchanging food and toy dump trucks. 

There were other parents with the same idea who had come to the same watering hole and were scattered along the small shore as the kids played together or apart.  It’s always great people-watching in specific groups like today where you could mentally label yourself and the other moms around.  There’s the sun-phobic mom with her kids covered head-to-toe in protective fabrics, there’s the junk-food mom handing her kids unlimited amounts of Cheetos and Pepsi soda, there’s the granola-mom with her organic celery and carrot sticks for snacks and I’m no exception as I probably resemble the crazy-European-mom with my son running around in a swim brief diaper alone with organic strawberries in his hand and all over his face!

With this flavorful but simple setting described in full detail, I now can properly relay the following shocker.

A mother and her son had been close to my son and his friend for at least an hour.  This child was probably in the range of 4 to 6 years old.  He had one of those sun hats on that cover the ears, neck and tie underneath the chin.  He also had a long-sleeved swimshirt on and trunks that fit like capri-length.  His mother was the only one at the shore there that hadn’t taken off her coverup.  The boy gravitated to our two boys and they gladly shared their beach toys with him, impressive for toddlers!  We had gone in for another dip in the water when the mother was preparing her son to leave.  Most of us Florida moms will take our children to the shower or water faucets provided to wash off the sand and such–many with smaller children will just strip their child in a tasteful manner in order to remove the excess sand and then quickly towel them and take them to our respective vehicles.  This mother may not have been aware of the local custom as she proceeded to strip her older son right on top of the little beach wall next to where everyone was wading into the water.  Perhaps it wouldn’t have made such a sight if the poor child had some color instead of South Pole Polar Bear white.  Nevertheless, I caught myself in my mental judgement and shrugged off that maybe she was having a bad day as I watched with my girlfriend as she began to dress the older boy in (surprise!) a long-sleeved shirt and pants.  She had been scolding him almost nonstop that morning and said something to him again (in a language I think contained Spanish, but might be Portuguese or even Argentinean).  At that same moment I was watching as my son was walking along the sand behind them and stretching his arms with a yawn.  In a moment too quick for a breath I witnessed this other boy suddenly turn to my son, give a terrible glance and then his right arm extended fully straight and swung straight at my baby smacking him squarely on the mouth. (!) I lunged forward as my son’s eyes darted immediately toward me as he stumbled back for a moment but didn’t fall.  His face paled and eyes widened as his hands dropped to his side and his mouth made that pitiful upside-down “U” that many of us parents are familiar with but it makes your stomach churn.  As that moment passed, my son’s arms reached for me as I sped toward him and scooped him into my embrace.  My peripheral vision caught the mother pulling her son toward her and asking what happened.  I cannot properly distinguish all the different emotions that hit me at once, besides obvious shock, although I do admit there was the irrational “I want to go smack that child back and then pummel the mother while cussing her out in Greek!”.

After a blurry minute or so, I ended up slipping on the sandbag pilings next to the sea wall–making sure to get my son into the water safely while allowing my all my toes on my right foot be simultaneously stubbed and sprain my ankle.  My friend gathered him up while I regained my composure.  I looked at the mother and son now about 25 feet away from us and decided on impulse to do the following: I took my son back into my arms, made sure he was okay.  Besides clinging to me like a newborn monkey, he hadn’t cried one tear or made a sound.  I then proceeded to explain to him that I was sorry this just happened to him but he must try to understand that this boy may not be aware of what just happened and that I hoped if the child did that he may have not meant it.  All the while, I’m walking up to the mom as she is frantically finishing his buttons and such.  She asks me quickly and quietly in her thick accent, “Is he ok?”  I respond, “Yes, he’s fine, he’s just in shock.”, without looking at me again she tells me, “Well, yes, so am I”.  In turn I no longer try to engage visual contact with this mother but instead look straight into her son’s eyes and proceed to address my son that, “It’s okay, baby, this boy didn’t mean to hurt you and as his mom is saying, he is sorry”.  She was telling him at the same time to say sorry but he didn’t start saying it until I said that to my son.  The child is now saying “sorry, sorry, sorry” repeatedly in a voice just above a whisper.  I tell my son that “see, he apologizes and says sorry”, then I took my son’s hand and reached and took her son’s hand and put their hands together telling her child that we accept and thank you for the apology.  We then spun around and left them promptly as they hastily left the beach park as we waded back into the water.

I honestly don’t know what possessed me to go the extra mile after that shocking incident even though the mother had made no effort to check that we were okay after her son’s violent outburst.  But looking back at it tonight I realize that it may have been my personal nurturing instinct.  At the same time of wanting to help my son recover from that blatant injustice I also wanted to reach out and touch that other child’s life if it’s the only time I ever see him in this world–I wanted this child to know there is such a thing as reconciliation, forgiveness and the opportunity at another chance to do better.  As my friend astutely noted, we don’t know what this mother’s life is like.  Maybe she’s abused by a man or maybe she’s the abuser and the child is only repeating what he sees.  It could be the child just is a troublemaker with no clear reason as to why.  Either way, I guess parents do share the awesome responsiblity of not only trying to raise their own children to be better citizens of the world, but also other people’s children as well.

I can’t tell you what to do if you see your child having an injustice inflicted upon him or her.  If I may, though, I would encourage you to try to pursue the reaction that would be best for all the children involved even if it involves reprimand–it can be constructive and hopefully healing.

Parent on,

R.V.S.B.

The Art of Saying “No”…Does It Really Exist?

I’m still amazed at the frenetic pace of my life sometimes.  I wonder does everyone else feel the same way about how quickly and how many things we go through on a daily, weekly and monthly basis?  Is it really within our power to simply our lives by saying “no” to people and circumstances?

FAMILY

I begin with this subtitle because it is what many of us are most familiar with.  Our parents. Our siblings. Our cousins. Our aunts and uncles. Family consists of many different titles but the urgency is usually the same.  I really can’t say “no” to family but I can try to set boundaries and perhaps corral requests as a cattle farmer herds his cows.  This is never an easy task, however, and I caution that some forethought should be involved before speaking.  My standard habit is to ingest the request(s) and let it filter through my mind while managing small talk in between.  If it’s a low-key item or two, I can easily respond in the positive.  If it’s more complicated, I usually stall an answer and say I’ll get back to them on that or some other clever response.  In my heart I would never really want to be able to say no to beloved family since I do love them and truly desire to help them through the bumps of this physical life we lead.

FRIENDS

Being in my thirties now I’m definitely learning some hard lessons in the friends department as well as enjoying the immense blessings.  I’ve read many a magazine article that breaks down all the “types” of friends one can have and how to mitigate conflicts that may arise.  Many times I try to pre-empt my colleagues by offering to be available whether by verbal communication or by spirit in prayer because I do want them to know that I’m not just a fair-weather type of friend. Yet life has a way of predetermining which friends can weather my personal storms of life and I need to just let go and know it’s okay to say “no” inside when I wonder if I should reach out one more time.  Also, if a friend is a constant drain on energy sources then it may be time to set some distance to help recharge and reassess the relationship.  Again, never easy.

WORK

Our jobs seem to have spilled over into our personal lives since the advent of cell phones, internet communication and long, unnecessary hours.  Add to that the scarce holiday, vacation and personal days and we have a society filled with stressed singles, marrieds and parents that try to balance their lives with the constant demand of “the man”.  I’m not a sage in this department as my past decade of life included working in the halls of the U.S. Congress, Treasury Department and countless corporate firms where money and hours spent at your job was your merit.  I still can taste the bitterness in my mouth of biting my tongue when the days would grind on endlessly and the boss was a nightmare and I in turn reflected nightmarish tendencies.  At the same time, I remember the day I submitted my resignation when I became pregnant with my son.  I had been looking forward to it for weeks, I knew it was the right choice for me at the time.  Weighing all the pros and cons, I decided it was time to say “no” and consider other options in the aftermath.  I have never regretted the decision.  This is not shared with you to encourage quitting your job in a tough economy such as ours, however, I hope it can inspire you to really examine what is important to you, your family and what type of career would truly complement your zest for life.

BOOKS/SELF-HELP

The art of saying “no” is the soapbox for many writers, psychologists and others.  You can certainly find a book that suits your needs or a CD set that talks about how to get a better grip on your hectic life and hopefully help you lessen the load.

My personal experience is that I seem to move things off my plate just in time to welcome new things.  Perhaps the goal should be to find a “balanced diet” on this life plate that sustains itself through the years.  As my family and close friends know, my spirit always relies on the strength of our Lord as God has an inextinguishable amount of energy sourced by the Universe and Creation itself.  But that is my way of living, you can only know your way yourself.

So my conclusion is that saying “no” is the wrong focus, rather how can we say “yes” and follow through?

R.V.S.B.

Can Friendships Endure in Different Seasons?

After returning to South Florida following several back-to-back weeks of traveling, I’ve got a heavy heart in regards to friendships.

We all have family, we either adore them, tolerate them, despise them and the list goes on.  When it comes to friendships, they are usually a mature result from starting as knowing someone as an acquaintance, friend-of-a-friend, colleague, work-mate and so on.  Difference is simple: we’re born into families, it’s friends that we can choose in life.

When various seasons of life befall us, it’s usually a hands-on-deck type transition and we all hope and pray that our friends will stand by us or at least keep talking to us even if it seems like all of sudden we have nothing in common. 

For those of you who are reading this, if you are a parent you may be particularly sensitive to my tone already.  If you are a DINK (double income no kids), then you possibly may know where I’m going if you have a lot of single friends and other friends with tons of children.  If you are single, perhaps you understand this pain more than any of the above.

The pain I’m referring to what can be felt during the endurance-action phase of a friendship when the two parties are in completely different time zones, planets, maybe even opposite galaxies in the universe.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had several clashes in understanding another with separate friends.  Without naming anyone I can honestly say that looking back at the situations, I admit I may have been in the wrong but certainly never intended to hurt/insult/ignore/lose touch…et cetera.

One recent acquaintance of mine has two children under the age of four right now.  She told me, “When you become a parent, you’re not the captain of your ship anymore”.  I couldn’t say it better.

At the same time, I grieve for the fact that while I am immersed in my current status as “married with child” plus all the specific responsibilities on me, I seem to lose touch or empathy for those beloved friends of mine who are in such different stages from me.  Neither is in a better or more mature place, it’s just DIFFERENT and difficult to catch each other in appropriate conversation or give the necessary attention.

I insulted someone because I couldn’t pay more attention to them while my toddler son was running a 103 degree fever at a social function…it devastated me that they were so hurt and left before I could properly pay them their due respect.  When you’re a mother you hardly are able to wash your hair enough or keep your nails pretty or make your husband happy—basically the deck of cards is stacked up and  taller than Mt. Everest when you’re a parent.

In the past year I lost touch with a friend of over a decade because we were on such opposite spectrums of life for a moment in time as well as opposite sides of the continent.  It tears me apart inside now that I missed major moments of joy as well as sorrow in her life that I would gladly desire to walk beside through but just couldn’t.

Then there are those I’ve weathered every possible ‘weirdness factor’ and we are still friends for life and I don’t doubt that we always will be.

A beloved friend of mine finally ‘came out’ to me in the past year and though we hadn’t spoken in so many years, we picked up where we left off as if nothing ever happened.  I expect us to sip that metamucil mimosa one day as old farts in our eighties on some beach cottage porch together.

Another friend and I have seen her through singleness, courtship, engagement and finally married to settling in their own new home and by God’s will a family to boot in the future. What a joy and peace I feel as we have seen each other through thick and thin, even our own disagreements with each other.

I share these tidbits from countless others to demonstrate that there is a way for us to continue our relationships in life through even the most drastic of seasons…however, it does take two to help give it strength to grow and sometimes as much as it hurts, we must let go of a friendship if it cannot be nurtured.

Again, I admit that unfortunately I’m not the greatest friend. It was one thing when I married my husband, it took me a couple of years to get into the swing of being aware of my friends’ needs.  When I became a mother, I could hardly keep up with sensing what my husband and family needed, let alone my friends.

Any friends of mine reading this, I hope I’ve personally apologized to you whenever I’ve slighted or downright hurt you in present or past. If not, please forgive me for that and additionally for having to write it in a website blog post as it is impersonal and perhaps downright tacky.

Alas, I am R.V.S.B., a fallen soul like the rest on Earth that keeps trying to learn how to love God and my fellow souls better.

R.V.S.B.

A is for April: And 3 Other A’s

It’s amazing that we’ve plowed into April, already a fourth of the year 2010 behind us!  This past weekend I’ve been saturated in three other things starting with April’s first letter: Alithos Anesti, Agave and Aveda.

ALITHOS ANESTI!

Yesterday and for the next few weeks, Christian Orthodox all over the world will greet each not with hello, but with “Christ is Risen!”, to which the receiving colleague will answer “Truly He has Risen!”.  In my Greek language the phrase is “Christos Anesti!”, response is “Alithos Anesti!”.

It is a religious tradition that to me is infectious. We not only celebrate our belief in the conquering theme of eternal life with our Creator over death, but we continue to remind ourselves of it as we proceed in the days following Easter (or in Greek known as Pascha).

As a family we attended several Holy Week evening services and on Saturday, my husband and I were able to leave our son with his Great Aunt as we went together for the Anastisi service that begins at around 11:30pm and didn’t conclude until sometime after 2am.  He helped the priest and deacon along with the acolytes behind the altar while I served as a chanter in parts of the service.  The beautiful tones, smells of incense and general euphoria of watching the candle light proceed forth from the altar and spread from person to person until the entire church was alight was very moving.

If you are not Christian or just don’t care for Easter, please don’t be offended by my saying that it truly is the best Christian holiday in my heart.  Although Christmastime commemorates the arrival of God in flesh, the celebration of His conquering death with renewed life offers so much hope to us all.

No matter what our cultural, racial or religious differences, I do believe that most humans sense there must be more than just this physical life experience that has limitations. Easter/Pascha marks the mysterious veil of death in our life cycle with the Joy that there is Life and Love ever after in His (He, She, It…whatever) Creation Eternal. Christos Anesti!

AGAVE

Random right? I was first introduced to Agave Nectar by a beer my husband brought home one night. Was pretty tasty, didn’t think much of it afterwards.

Recently, however, in my personal endeavors to learn more about the food my family eats and how to manage our nutrition better I have come across the notion of sweetening foods with agave nectar instead of sugar or honey.  Apologies that I can’t even think of the magazine that I recently stumbled upon a quick sentence or two about agave’s benefits because of its classification as a low glycemic sweetener-so I did I quick internet search to offer some links in case you’re interested.

No joke that there is a website called www.allaboutagave.com and I found it to be quite informative and extensive in specifics that you may have questions concerning agave and its possible health benefits.  Also it turns out I wasn’t the only one on the agave mind wavelength: evidently yesterday Ms. Karla Heintz posted a blog entry about using agave over sugar at http://www.parentdish.com/2010/04/04/should-you-use-agave-nectar-instead-of-sugar/  And then for you seekers of feel-good newspaper articles, here’s one from a day ago about a Colorado man finally hitting gold with his new soda invention containing agave as the sweetener: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/economy/colo-man-hits-sweet-spot-with-agave-based-soda-89862337.html

The common refrain is that agave is considered a low glycemic index (GI) sweetener that is therefore is slowly absorbed into the body that helps prevent the standard spike and crash that we encounter with table sugar.  Another claim is that it’s 25% sweeter than sugar so less amounts are needed for recipe conversions.

I’ve only just picked up the double-pack of Organic Blue Agave that was available at my local Costco and since used it in my morning coffee.  Definitely found that it had a lighter taste than the honey I’ve been trying to use instead of sugar in my daily cup of joe.  Couldn’t resist trying a drop of it on my finger as well and it seems to resemble a color of honey with a consistency of maple syrup but not as sticky.

If you are into gluten-free and low sugar nutrition, I recommend trying agave as it seems to be the new product becoming more available in our merchant centers.  If you’re curious for recipes containing agave, this was a fun site: www.OrganicSyrup.biz

AVEDA

As some of you may have read or heard from me personally, I have recently endured a miscarriage.  It has been a rollercoaster ride in terms of the physical, the hormonal, the emotional (not helped by the hormone frenzy) and probably the spiritual as well.

As a personal believer that all our senses are connected and can transcend even to our souls, I felt that this was a good time to take myself to a place where my physical body would be attended to so that my mental state could just relax and begin to heal.

I called my local Aveda spa that I’ve been to once before for a pedicure and manicure session that I took my mother-in-love to in recent months.  Having come across their literature before, I noticed that they had min-spa packages available for 3-4 hours that you could customize.  Given that I’m mother to a toddler, that seemed like a plausible scenario for this past Saturday.

I selected their Night on the Town package and got with that a peppermint manicure and pedicure, a light lunch, wine and tea to my heart’s desire, my hair washed, dried and put up, ending with a make-up session.  Usually I scoff at the idea of spending money on myself for such services, but having weathered one tough week as a woman, I welcomed the doting and the coddling by these generous Aveda women at Aveda’s Aspen Falls Spa in Jupiter, Florida: if you live here and would like to check them out http://www.aspenfallsaveda.com/

I’ve been loyal to Aveda products over the past decade since I was first introduced to them through a store that opened in one of my local Florida malls. Admittedly, they can be pricey, so I really tend to buy 2-3 products a year from them.  However, in my personal quest to seek the more natural, less synthetics ways to pamper or maintain my skin and hair, Aveda has come into my buying habits more often.

It seems that the company has made much headway in terms of expansion in America and has done a great job of committing to charities like those supporting clean water initiatives for those in other countries that lack it.  Their products have an uncanny way of smelling so good and even better in your mind as you read what the ingredients are and actually know what they are (like clove or bergamot oil instead of cocamidopropyl betaine?).

So, as I appreciated the light buzz after two glasses of wine along with a pedicure and manicure session, I enjoyed the sounds of Enya and other ethereal music in a quiet room with my rabbit salad and ginger vinaigrette–washing it down with the Aveda tea that is seriously addictive (sweetened by licorice root-who knew?).  I actually read through some of the Aveda product line and company information pamphlets and found that I really was glad that I was paying them for these services as they certainly served me and also contributed to a business whose practices I support.

If you’ve never walked into an Aveda store, check out their website at www.aveda.com if you’re interested in learning more about what they have and what they’re about as a company.

As for me, it was wonderful, simply awesome to walk out of Aspen Falls having been polished, catered to, a fun up-do and make-up on my face that smelled so good for hours afterwards. I was able to greet my husband afterwards on his birthday as a refreshed wife, lover and friend and go out and enjoy our Easter midnight service where we shared with our brothers and sisters in Christ that though we suffer death, there is Life.

RVSB

Fasting: Good for the Soul and Body – A Short Commentary

As an Orthodox Christian wife and mother, my mind tends to focus on the fasting days on our religious calendar.  It has only been in recent years that we have really started to pay mind as it was about 2005-2006 when my husband entered a Greek Orthodox church with me in Northern Virginia in the DC Area where we lived at the time.  He was born and raised a Protestant from South Carolina. I’m what they refer to as “cradle Orthodox” as I was baptized in the Church and then went on a life path of Catholic school upbringing and church-hopping as a teenager and college student. 

So when my husband and I finally rested in the Greek Orthodox church as couple and later small family, we encountered the complex world of fasting not only effective during the 40 day Lenten season, but also weekly and during other special festive occasions.

For instance, unless there is a special time ongoing like Lent or Advent season, every Wednesday and Friday in the Orthodox church we are called to fast.  The fast on those days is supposed to be a ‘strict’ one meaning omitting meat and dairy products.  We are also supposed to abstain from eating the morning prior to receiving communion on Sunday morning.

It was a bit daunting when we came across these calls to fasting.  At first we were pretty sure this stuff was reserved for the monks and nuns up in some remote monastery in the Greek mountains and foothills.

But slowly we both decided that we’d like to make an effort to honor these days of fasting and found that it made us look at our days differently.  Certainly our home dinner menu was adjusted fairly easily.  It was the work day lunches that were a little more complicated but we navigated that by packing our own lunches especially on those days and if we had a business function, we tried to make mindful choices based on the fast.

Overall we have found that habitual fasting throughout the year, whether it be the Lenten season or the regular Wednesdays and Fridays, helps us get our souls in tune with our Lord’s Holy Spirit.  But I’ve also noticed that it’s cleaned up our bodies as well.

If we think about it, Americans really do consume a lot of meat.  Definitely more than many of our ancestries did a few hundred years ago on a daily basis. Most of that is because of supply being greater and more easily accessible, however, that doesn’t mean it’s all the more good for us.

By fasting I’ve found out just how much of meat and dairy we seem to rely on habitually but do fine without when we take the effort to do so.  While spiritual tuning we are also cleansing our bodies ritually speaking and it does both soul and body good.

If you’re not a Jew, Christian, Buddhist or affiliated with any other organized religion, you may not be familiar with fasting at all.  Yet, your doctor may have asked you to ‘fast’ the night before a health test or procedure.  It lends a hiccup to your routine, but not usually a harmful one.  Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to abstain from certain foods at times to help our souls and bodies recalibrate.

In my own family’s case, it isn’t easy to do so especially during the throes of busy and inconsistent schedules.  Still, we continue to try to seek our Lord through not focusing so much on carnal desires and at the same time find our bodies reaping the benefits as well.

RSVB