Sunday, August 13, 2023

The Acropolis Museum and A Cancelled Flight

My absolute favorite museum is The Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece. This year I had time to visit it thanks to Delta Airlines cancelling my flight home. 

The thing with cancelled flights is they happen after you’ve hauled yourself to the airport. No small task. Then plans change and you haul yourself wherever and spend hours on the phone trying to find another flight home. THEN, if you’re lucky like I was, you have another afternoon in Greece! 

Technically, I never did get another flight home and eventually took one to New York City instead and rented a car and drove there. That doubled the journey. Fortunately, I do buy trip insurance and now that I’ve been home a month and spent hours of that time submitting paperwork and arguing, I got reimbursed! Woo hoo! Isn’t it great when insurance works? 

Athena in owl form stands outside the Acropolis Museum. I knew this for years. Not because I ever remembered to look up when I was there, but because I bought a journal at the gift shop there with the picture on it. So it was very exciting when I finally spotted her this year. (Someone reminded me to look!)

Another bonus of the cancelled flight was flying home through Amsterdam. I bought a bunch of tulips at an airport shop. Can you believe these aren’t real? I crammed them into my backpack and flew out of AMS in what turned out to be a massive storm. They arrived home looking stellar. My luggage arrived half full of rain from The Netherlands.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Greek Food


Since I’m coming to you via the Blogger app on my phone, in Greece, I have absolutely no idea what’s going to show up on The Glitter Globe when I hit post. Sometimes it’s nothing, a post swallowed by an internet glitch or a the app. Sometimes it’s part of a post. So let’s keep it light and hope for the best! 

All things watermelon! Καρπυζι

Fresh watermelon juice is my favorite! But watermelon salad with feta and mint is amazing too! I even bought a quarter piece of a watermelon and hauled it up and down hills and stairs to my room to have for breakfast in my room!

Anything seafood

Despite things I’ve read online, it is tough to get gluten free food here. Yes, the Mediterranean diet is clean and naturally gluten free, but it’s common to get some lovely dish like my lobster salad here, with a pile of decorative crackers or bread plopped right on top. That’s what happened with this lobster. Yes, there was a long conversation about gluten during ordering (in English and Greek). It still happens. More often than not. 

Capuucino decaf

Coffee is not my thing, yet I have an absurd amount of photos of me sitting with a cup of it in front of me in Greece. It’s meditative! I only drink it here! 

Monday, June 26, 2023

A Month

And so it ends,

As it always does,

The women leave,

Their words linger.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Artemida, Greece

This morning I arrived in Greece after a long day and night of flying. Lately long flights give me what I’ve come to call Flyers Knee, because that’s when I get it. A painful stiffness from sitting in one spot for so long—though I did get up and walk around as much as possible. I wasn’t the only one stretching my knees out.

This year I stayed at a family run hotel in Artimeda, about a mile walk to the sea. I decided to walk it despite the knee. I got a chance to try out my sad Greek when I wasn’t sure which fork in the road to take. One of the teenagers chuckled and answered me in perfect English (as most Greeks seem to do), pointing the way.

It was a perfect evening for a walk. The sky a bit hazy. The sea busy. I sat on the Rocky shore, I think it was marble. 


Kritamo grows wild along the shore!

It’s delicious with lemon and olive oil! 

The perfect start to my adventure—despite my flyers knee!

Sunday, May 7, 2023

My Dandelion Sea

This time of year my yard is a sea of dandelions. I've taught Roper to eat them. Yes, they're edible. On sunny days when they open wide. I pick them and holding tightly to the stem, I use my thumb to flick the head off. The yellow bud flies through the air and doggo jumps to nab it. The first time his owner saw me do it she wasn't too thrilled.

"It's safe," I promised. "Google it."

Roper's Mom calls my yard a Golden Retriever yard. He can run run run. We spend hours playing frisbee with an Aerobie. It's a round disc with a wide hole in the middle. I toss it on its side so it rolls away. Roper chases it like it's purposely running away from him—every Retriever instinct in high-gear. This is only one of the things I love to do instead of writing, or cleaning, or doing paperwork of any sort. 

Nerf Dog Super Soaker

The Aerobie isn't for dogs. If I look away for a moment he'll chomp on it and break its little bird bones and it won't roll so well after. Sometimes we use the heavy duty Nerf Dog Super Soaker. Golden's are easy to please doggos. All you have to do to make them happy is never look away and never stop playing with them. Whereas kids are just waiting for you to look away so they can get your scissors and scotch tape without any adult supervision. 

When you look up, your sparest of spare rooms looks like this.

Fortunately that room has a door that you can just close while you play frisbee with Roper in your dandelion sea. 



Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Pathetic Dreams of a Chronically Stressed Out Woman

We were talking about flying dreams today, friends who'd had them or never have. It got me to thinking about dreams, especially those repeating ones you have for years or throughout your life, and how I learned to stop the worst of them.

My flying dreams had been wasted as I'd purposely never flown higher than the treetops. It's cold up there. After developing chronic vertigo, I begged my subconscious to stop them altogether because more often than not my spinning started while I slept. My flying dreams began to take a turn for the worse and I'd wake up spinning. They stopped one day, after dreaming I ran across a field and took to the air only to wake up to the dreaded swooping and swirling of one wicked case of vertigo. 

Long ago out of sheer desperation I found a way to stop dreams. A  friend lost her little girl in a drowning accident, and I'd dream that I found my own daughter floating face down in the pond in the back yard. I'd wake shaking and I still remember sitting up and saying, "No, no I will never do this to myself again. I won't have this dream ever again." Somehow it worked. When that dream would start, and I'd be walking toward the pond with cattails waving and skirting fire ant mounds, I'd say to myself in my dream, "I'm dreaming. I'm not having this dream again." And I wouldn't. I'd go on to another dream. 

Since then I can almost always choose not to have a dream. Though I have recurring ones that I apparently don't mind enough to fight. You know, the one where you're getting ready for work? You wake up and make your bed. Take a shower. Dry your hair. Get dressed. Drive to work, wake up and have to do that all over again in the real world? I hate that dream. There's a grocery shopping version too. 

After I had kids I'd be at work with them. One in a cradle by my desk. Another getting into things as I tried to juggle amusing the child and getting my work done. I had that dream for decades. The most ironic thing about it was that when my kids were that little I'd taken those years off of working. I didn't have to juggle both. Go figure.

Those variations of work dreams plagued me long after I changed careers and no longer had to race the clock with daily drudgery while I banged away on a computer and in my dream job the office slowly filled with water. I had to finish before I drowned. I never finished but happily woke up before the water got completely over my head.

Yet the most pathetic dream was my telekinesis dream. I've had this one since I was a kid and I still have it sometimes. In it I know exactly how to move things with my mind. It takes a concerted effort to do it, requiring a near painful focus. What do I do with this amazing talent in my dreams? Why, I flip light switches on and off as I walk through the house or office. After a night of that I always have a headache.  

The best part of these kinds of dreams is bringing them up in a group when you're struggling for conversation. Suddenly we all have something in common and something to say. One of my favorite early morning texts is from someone saying, "You will not believe what I dreamed last night!" At least I know it's not just me!


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The Thrill of Learning Greek—and why I work on it every day

Greek tavernas are not to be missed!

One of the things that inspires me to stick with learning Greek is my food allergies. Failing to communicate what's safe has left me eating eggs and fruit in my room more often than going out. Most Greeks speak English but I find that going off script when ordering food can lead to a variety of complications. It's the same thing when ordering in the USA, so it's not so much a language issue.

Despite my food allergy spiel in any language, more often than not my food will arrive with a big hunk of bread plopped right on top or worse, hidden gluten. I have a severe gluten allergy. It happened again right after I got home from my annual trip to Greece. At that point I was so sick of the hassle that vowed never to eat out again and to always carry a tin of beans in my purse with me. I was more serious than not. 

Fruit and cheese on my balcony works too!

My first few years of trying to learn Greek was with Pimsleur, a conversational language program. It helped me learn basic words but I am a very visual learner and it wasn't until I added Duolingo to the mix that I really began to understand. Plus being able to read Greek has been so empowering. In Greece this year I found myself listening to people speaking, trying to understand them, watching the news, and reading signs and menus. It was a delight. Plus I found gluten free bread and crackers in the supermarket! I couldn't wait to tell my celiac friend when she arrived.

Gluten-free bread falls apart in any language but toast!

An online polyglot said speaking languages isn't something some of us can do and others not. She told me you get out of it what you put into it. That's when I started putting a couple hours into it daily. It quickly made a huge difference. I'd also read somewhere that after a certain age we can't really learn another language. I may not be inherently gifted at learning languages but I am an incredibly tenacious human being. I'm learning Greek the same way I write books, always working on it and never giving up. 

Why does cappuccino taste better in Greece? 

This summer I could greet people, find where I wanted to go, order at restaurants, and hunt for things in supermarkets in Greek. It was a thrill. I'm not good at it. And here's the thing about trying to speak in a new language, you look like an idiot and you make mistakes and people really laugh when you mess up. But even when they laughed they would usually engage, correct my pronunciation, suggest clearer phrases, ask me to repeat it to their friend so they could laugh too, and at restaurants if they didn't know what had gluten or what didn't, they'd have me talk to someone who would. 

 Watermelon Juice & Salad!

Several people took the time to write things down for me, or tested me insisting I speak only in Greek to them. This year I didn't even get glutened in Greece once. I was so pleased. The Mediterranean diet has a lot of naturally gluten free foods, vegetables and seafood galore. I've still a long way to go but I'm slowly beginning to reap the rewards and already thinking about what language to attempt after this! Though I attended Duocon online and they've got a math app coming out that has my attention too!

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Twenty-Five Years of Monarch Butterflies

It started as a kindergarten project for my son. I volunteered to find milkweed and butterfly eggs. With no idea how to do that, I did what I always did, found a book about it. Then I searched parks, edges of the roadway, and examined weeds anywhere I could find them. Unsure if any of my weeds were milkweed or had an egg on it (it's amazing how many little dots of stuff are on weeds), I put the plants I had the most hope for into jars (with holes in the lids) and put them above the kitchen sink. 

Then I promptly forgot about them.

A couple weeks later my husband said, "There's a butterfly in one of your jars of dead weeds." I jumped out of bed and ran to check. I was much more excited than my five-year-old. Now I knew exactly what milkweed looked like and I had a better idea about the eggs too. 

Milkweed is the tall tree-like plant

What I didn't know was how far this little hobby would go. In Texas I started to find butterfly eggs on the plants about April. As soon as milkweed started to pop out of the ground there were butterflies laying eggs on it. In New York I found Monarch eggs late in the summer. I've found them as late as October too.

The eggs are tough to photograph. They're a pinprick of creamy white. Oval shaped and miniscule. Milkweed bleeds a sticky white substance that will ooze out of the plant if it's scratched or broken. The drops are flat. Eggs are much smaller. But there are aphids and other things on the plants. You'll have to figure it out if you want to raise them. A magnifying glass could help.

Monarch Caterpillars

It can be a big job. The caterpillars eat a lot. They also poo a lot. I used plastic shoeboxes, cut a large rectangle out of the top, and hot glued in window screen for the eggs and caterpillars. Every day I carefully cleaned out dried up milkweed and put in fresh. I had masking tape on the sides of the boxes with daily numbers written in marker to keep track of how many eggs or caterpillars were in each box. That way I never threw out the babies with the trash. 

When the caterpillars turned into a chrysalis and firmed up (never touch a chrysalis or a freshly hatched butterfly), I'd carefully remove the chrysalis from the roof of the plastic box. Chrysalises attach with webbing and it's easy to gently grasp the stem of a Monarch chrysalis and tug it free. The webbing will come with it.

I'd hook the chrysalises onto the top of a larger cage. I used large safety pins to attach them (through the webbing, handle a chrysalis with extreme care). 

Monarch Chrysalis

It still thrills me to watch a butterfly hatch. There is a general timeline for how long it takes an egg to hatch, the caterpillar to eat a lot of milkweed and grow into a big caterpillar, attach to the roof of a cage/stem of milkweed/bottom of the dining room table when they escape, shed their exoskeleton and form a chrysalis (not a cocoon, that's something else), and eventually become a butterfly. When they hatch it takes time for their wings to expand, they're wet and touching them will ruin them until they've dried and their wings are firm.

When I lived in New York I started tagging my butterflies before releasing them. Monarch Watch through the University of Kansas has an incredible program and sells the tags. We'd carefully log in each butterfly, sex, date, location, and set them free! My family and I learned about the migratory pattern of these amazing butterflies. We learned that they live only a couple weeks and head north in the spring and summer laying eggs. At the end of the season they hatch smaller butterflies that migrate all the way to Mexico (and other places). Those are the ones to catch and tag. They won't be laying eggs. They are on a mission to survive the winter. 

Monarch on Milkweed

From experience we learned not to collect milkweed from the edges of cornfields because for some reason the caterpillars tended to die when they ate it. We endured a few summers of exploding chrysalises due to a parasite that lays its eggs inside Monarch caterpillars. My kids may never get over that summer and they're adults now. 

There are far less Monarch butterflies now. I know this just from my personal experience. It didn't take much effort to raise a thousand of them ten years ago. Now, trying to get a few healthy ones is work. Many of the chrysalises are deformed now, and the parasites reign in Northern Pennsylvania and the places I haunt in southern New York. 

My husband jokes that their numbers are dwindling because I don't try to hit the thousand mark anymore. I'm not certain why their numbers are down. To me there's a direct correlation to those parasites. I'm not a scientist, just a nature lover and a woman who volunteered to help a kindergarten teacher twenty-five years ago. I fall in love so easily.

Friday, July 15, 2022

FOMO Has No Power Here—Happy in My Now

Once a newly graduated student admitted to me in a near-whisper, I have no interest in travel. Is that weird? It's amazing I said. Being content is highly underrated in the marketing world.

A cup of tea right where you are is perfection. 

Yesterday I fell into a hole on YouTube. I'm a solo traveler and I watched video after video of the adventures of other solo travelers. One that really got me was a young woman who planned an empowering and romantic trip to Paris all by herself. By day three she missed her cat and teared up when she talked. Trying to talk herself into the beauty of the city wasn't working. It made her sad. The old mom in me wanted to hug her, wanted to whisper, you're still seeing the fantasy you've been sold. You're seeing what you're missing and not what you have. 

I left no comment. There are things we all have to figure out for ourselves.

My solo travel is a choice. I have a perfectly good husband who has no interest in seeing the places I like to go to. After our centuries of marriage I began traveling solo so I could see the places that always called to me. I've no desire to see the whole world. Every year I go to the same islands in Greece. I write with the same group of women. I lay on the same beaches and float in the same sea as last year. 

Once I stayed longer in Rome, forfeiting Venice—which I've yet to see. I've never seen Santorini, Sifnos, Paros, or Crete. Over the accumulating years I've willfully missed much. To again lay on hot stones at Leftos Gialos or the Port Beach on my favorite island. Again, this year, I didn't take the ferry to Skopelos, preferring to stay afloat in the Aegean off Alonissos longer. Didn't make the snorkel trip. Didn't hit other beaches I've yet to see.

Instead to be quiet where I am.

Making quiet choices to sit or float in moments—lingering longer and longer—letting go of more and knowing enough. 

Why? I don't contemplate as I slide into now. Living in my moments. Not needing or truly wanting more. Filling myself with now's. Todays. Enough. Shhh, don't ask me why. It's something we figure out for ourselves.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Alonissos, Greece—The Northern Sporades

Getting to Alonissos from the United States

Since I live and fly from a small commuter airport I don't have much nice to say about this part of the trip. This year, 2022, I'm hitting three airports before I leave Boston for Athens. Some years I've flown from New York to Chicago only to turn around and then fly east all the way to Athens. Commuter airports are great. I love mine. They're just not all that convenient for big trips. Plus when I'm making a trip to Greece I've learned to give myself long layovers between connections. It gives me wiggle room for those inevitable flight delays and changes. 

The first reason I don't travel to a major airport to leave is that it takes me as long to get to one as it does to spend the whole day flying around. The second reason is that the cost is the same. So if I add the cost of travel to a major airport from my small town, storing my car or renting one, and likely needing to get a hotel overnight, it makes no practical sense at all. So I endure. I like to think it builds character. Little tortures can do that.

Once you get to Athens

Usually it takes me about thirty hours of flying around to get to Athens. I have some small health issues that demand I sleep there. My favorite place to stay in Athens on my way to Alonissos is at the Athens Airport Sofitel. You walk right out of baggage claim and cross the street to the hotel. You can also grab a subway car or taxi to go someplace else. The Sofitel can be a bit pricey but the convenience is unparalleled. 

Leaving Athens

The easiest way to continue the journey toward Alonissos or any island in the Northern Sporades from Athens is a flight. It's a short flight to the island in the Northern Sporades with an airport, Skiathos. Do give yourself two hours at the Athens airport to board this quick flight. It's a busy place and can take a while to check in to your little island flight. I use a Greek travel agent for interior travel in Greece. If you'd like the contact info just shoot me a message to the right of this blog. 

When you're taking one of these flights you're going to check your luggage at whatever area your airline is at. You'll pass through security and when they begin boarding at your gate, you'll get on a bus and be taken to your plane from there. So hit the restroom beforehand and you might want a bottle of water. Not all of the little carriers provide drinks because they're fast flights.

Arriving in and leaving Skiathos

Skiathos recently updated their airport. Airport is "Aerodromio" in Greek. The airport's name is Papadiamante. He was a writer from the island and you can tour his home while you're on the island if you have the time. First though, pick up your luggage and get transportation into town. I always use a taxi. It's not expensive but you may need to scoot over because they often put other fares in with you. 

From the Skiathos airport you'll probably be heading to the port (port in Greek is "Limani") to get your ferry to Alonissos. Right at the port is the ferry office. It's wise to have already booked your ferry before arriving, but you will probably still need to dart in there to exchange your ferry voucher for a ferry ticket. There's a difference and don't wait for the ferry to show up before you do it. The ferries go in and out fast. 

By the way there are slow moving ferries with cars and trucks in the hull and also hydrofoils. You can't go outside of the hydrofoil to sit and watch the sea and stops at ports as you pass by the island of Skopelos. I recommend the slow ferry. Sit outside (wear sunscreen and a hat), buy something nice to drink, and watch for dolphins as you slip into Greece mode.

Arriving in Alonissos

You'll need to get your luggage out of the ferry fairly quickly once you arrive. There are only four taxis

on the island, but they're efficient and will get you to where you're staying if you need them. Many of the hotels provide pick up services too.                                                                                                                                                                        On Alonissos you can stay in the port area, Patitiri, or one of the other towns on the island, or even up in Old Town (Hora). I like to stay at the port where I can walk to shops or dinner and beaches. Although my favorite beaches are a taxi or bus ride away. (Leftos Gialos is my all time favorite beach.)                                                                                                            Hopefully this information can get you to Alonissos. Enjoy your stay! It's magical!

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Every Introvert Could Use a Moat

Here I go again. Traveling to the ends of the earth to write. Granted most air travel feels like you're heading for the ends of the earth anymore. Add in travel from a little commuter airport and it's hardly an exaggeration. Especially since it'll take me about fifty-six hours of travel to get to Alonissos, Greece. We're currently living in interesting times but it's never been an easy journey. 

The reason I go to Alonissos is to attend a writing workshop. The reason I go early and stay later is because it's my absolute favorite hideaway. It's not fancy like more popular Greek islands. It's also possible to go on a budget. It's a marine park for the protected Monk Seals. The water is crystal clear and so blue. It makes the best moat on earth. Your writing will rarely be interrupted here.

For as long as I can feasibly stay, I go there and write. Sure, I write at the beach sometimes. Sometimes I hike up to Old Town and write at a café at the top of the island. My moat looks different up there.

During the lockdown I figured I'd get plenty of writing done at home. The truth is I didn't really. I spent a lot of the lockdown taking online classes and worrying. Most of us probably did the second thing. Last year I took myself to Alonissos to write even though the pandemic kept my writing workshop from happening in 2021. After missing it in 2020, the island called to me and I had to go. I missed my fellow writers but I wrote almost non-stop.

Obviously a moat isn't necessary to write but for this introvert peace and quiet is. I get that by running away and focusing only on writing. Nobody is going to interrupt from Alonissos. Sure, I could get that other places and on occasion I have. But I'm telling you an ocean makes an excellent moat and the Aegean Sea makes a gorgeous one. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Mystery of the Girl in Blue


Ghosts of the past

Recently I visited my hometown, the first one, the one Kahtar lives in.  Willoughby's an idyllic place with art galleries and coffee shops. Very small town America. It was nothing like that when I lived there, full of tattoo parlors and biker bars before any of that was cool. I stayed in a Bed and Breakfast during my recent visit so I could walk everywhere. I bought myself a gnome and a meteorite from local shops and every day I wrote and drank too much chai at a funky coffee shop that used to be the hardware store.

Willoughby when I was a kid was practically designed to produce writers. You couldn't go very far without tripping over stories and even now the shadows of them remain. I visited Squires Castle, because despite my hometown being in Ohio, it has a castle. 

The small hills around our house had so many railroad tracks that even now a train whistle makes me nostalgic. In the woods off my backyard were the remains of an old cabin where I discovered a wagon wheel and dolls floating inside an old well. Before Indiana Jones was a thing I was digging up rocks and china doll treasures. A narrow river wound nearby, its banks were covered in purple and white flowers in spring and lilies in summer. A long fence separated our yard from a park and in the summer when I was a kid our pet monkey would sit on it. 

The house is gone now, a parking lot for the park, but I could still see ghosts of memories that have inspired me for years. 

My grandmother is buried in the Willoughby cemetery, and I took her  flowers and wondered what she'd make of the current pandemic. She was a little girl during the Spanish Flu and since I grew up with her I can tell you that she took flu season very seriously. I miss her and I'm lucky she let me be the free-range kid I needed to be.

The Girl in Blue 

As a kid I never once tried to climb between train cars, or run over the tracks to beat an approaching train. I didn't even need my grandmother to remind me not to. (She did though.) There were plenty of stories about people who got too close to trains and stories, unlike mathematics, stick in my brain. 

One of the most heart-breaking local legends was about The Girl in Blue. That's how we referred to her. In mental caps. The Girl in Blue is a hauntingly tragic story. Her tombstone reads:

In Memory
of the
killed by a train
December 24, 1933

Mysteries and Memories

Growing up that's all we knew about The Girl in Blue. All we knew was that she wore a navy blue skirt and shoes, a scarf, a blue wool overcoat, and a dark blue hat. No one knew why she arrived in Willoughby off a Greyhound bus, not her name or her business in town, or even if she knew someone there. All we knew was that she got hit by a train and died long ago on Christmas Eve in 1933. 

The town, taken by the tragedy of the young woman, who despite having been hit by a train suffered no visible wounds or blood loss, buried her in the town cemetery in a donated plot. 
The Girl in Blue story haunted me. No one knew if she planned to jump in front of the train or what had happened. Local legend said that the train engineer saw her, saw a blur of blue, saw her stop running far too close to the train. They say he made eye contact and she looked terrified.

Growing up I couldn't find anything more about her. By then she'd passed from living memory into small town urban legend. In the 70's and 80's there were no books about her, no internet, no way to find out more about The Girl in Blue.

In the coming years when I had access to those things in other places, I'd remember and try to hunt for answers. I wasn't the only one because part of the mystery of The Girl in Blue eventually got solved.

Google made the World Smaller

Despite new information, there are still unanswered questions about The Girl in Blue, though we now know her name was Sophie. When I read the details unearthed by the newspaper article, I realized that she was from a town not so very far away from where I live now. We don't have a castle here, but we have fossils, waterfalls, and an occasional old headstone covered in leaves in the woods in our own backyards.

Do you ever find yourself bumping into the same story over time? Asking yourself the same questions again and again? I'm kind of hard-wired to dig for endings when it comes to stories. You don't grow up in a house with a monkey without having questions. 

One thing that life/death/this pandemic has taught me is that life can change in an instant. People can disappear on us. Sometimes they leave behind a story, and sometimes you never know more than fragments of it.