Thursday, March 31, 2016

My Big Fat Greek Life Too

I have to say I went in with hesitation.  Perfectly content to have waited until the movie was available on Netflix or DVD, we succumbed to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 in the theater as part of our Spring Break celebration.  And I have to say, even before the movie was over I couldn’t wait to come home and write about it.  I LOVED IT!

Sure there were some raunchy themes and one-liners peppered throughout the movie.  My Greek was just good enough to get all of them.  This I regret.  But there were moments when I honestly laughed out loud and even moments I had to hold back the tears. 

As a first-generation Greek-American, I found the movie was honest.  It showed life for what it really was: confusing, unsure, constantly changing and never to be "fixed."  

I love being Greek.  We were a little like the Portokalis family.  We ate roasted lamb for Easter every year and seafood most people only saw in an aquarium.  Like Dancing Zorbas, my parents owned Athena Foods, a Greek grocery store where their friends would gather after a hard day’s work to shoot the breeze and catch up on the news from Greece.  

We all worked at Athena Foods and took turns carrying the responsibilities of our family.  We were always in your face and not quite aware that there were things you didn’t tell strangers because like Thea Voula, people weren’t strangers to us.  Everyone was always welcome.

There came a time though where I learned that this was called dysfunction and that people shouldn’t be that close.  I regret learning this.  Families are close, messy, loud and in your face.  I love that MBFGW 1 and 2 were not afraid to show the honesty and even the dysfunction of being Greek outside of Greece.

I hope you go to see this movie.  Leave your expectations at home and just enjoy the gift of honesty and family Nia offers you.  

What is your Cross?

Yes, we've closed two weeks and are heading towards our Third Sunday of Lent.  I love how the Church, in Her wisdom has brought the Cross to our attention.  What a great reminder of why we are doing this.

Lent isn't a simple discipline or a diet.  It is for salvation!  

Look at the Gospel of Luke 9:22-26: 

And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?    Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Lent is a time to look at what truly matters and to make daily life decisions that will draw us closer to Him.  Are we looking to gain the world?  There is no salvation in gaining the world!  

Are we ashamed of God, enough to be embarrassed to ask for a vegan meal at a catered event or when we go out to eat?  I am not saying we should announce to the world that we are fasting.  It's just that if there is an option, we should take it.  

And what about the struggles hunger brings.  I think of those Snickers commercials where they talk about "hanger," when hunger induces anger.  The tagline is “You are not you when you are hungry."  But you know what?  We are more ourselves because hunger reveals our passions.  It brings them to the forefront so we can deal with them in a healthy way.   

 And in some ways, this is how our Cross is revealed to us.  Is your cross Gluttony?  Jealousy? Fear? Pride?  When we remove ourselves from our comfort zone we see our faults more easily.  We even see our strengths we didn’t know we had.

I encourage you to take time to see what your Cross is as we approach Sunday so that you can know your weaknesses and your strengths.  Then you will have a more honest understanding of what we need to repent of.  

Hymns for Sunday: 

Resurrectional Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Let the Heavens rejoice; let earthly things be glad; for the Lord hath wrought might with His arm, He hath trampled upon death by death. The first-born of the dead hath He become. From the belly of Hades hath He delivered us, and hath granted great mercy to the world.

Apolytikion of Sun. of the Holy Cross in the First Tone
Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance, granting our rulers to prevail over adversaries, and protecting Your commonwealth by Your Cross.

Seasonal Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
To you, Theotokos, invincible Defender, having been delivered from peril, I, your city, dedicate the victory festival as a thank offering. In your irresistible might, keep me safe from all trials, that I may call out to you: "Hail, unwedded bride!"

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Parent's Guide to the Lenten Services

I recently posted an article on  It was written to help parent attend as many of the Lenten services as possible. 

Parenting Guide for Lenten Services

Lent is a three-legged stool of Prayer, Fasting and Alms Giving. If you try to balance on only one leg, you are sure to fall. It is very common for people to make this mistake when it comes to fasting during Lent.  We often get distracted by the foods we are or aren’t allowed to eat, and forget about the extra prayer services and opportunities for charity.

Take a moment to look at your church calendar. Does the service schedule seem impossible for you and your family?  The standard service schedule for Lent includes Compline on Mondays, Pre-sanctified Liturgy on Wednesdays, Akathist Fridays, Vespers on Saturdays and Liturgy on Sundays.

The article focuses on the following:

  • Know your limitations
  • Reward system
  • Pick a weekday that works with your family schedule
  • Prioritize the services.
  • Take turns
  • Hire a sitter
  • Bring a sleeping bag (but don’t set up camp)
  • Watch online services
I would love to know what you think about the article. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday of Orthodoxy

Apolytikion (Tone Two)

O Christ our God, begging forgiveness of our sins, we venerate your pure image O Good One. Of Your own will You condescended to ascend upon the Cross in the flesh and delivered those you created from the bondage of the enemy. Wherefore, thankfully we cry out: When You came to save the world You filled all things with joy, O our Savior. Listen »

Kontakion (Plagal Fourth Tone)

The undepictable Word of the Father became depictable when He took flesh of you, O Theotokos; and when He had restored the defiled image to its ancient state, He suffused it with divine beauty. As for us, confessing our salvation, we record it in deed and word.
- See more at:

Saturday, March 19, 2016

And Then There Were Six

We have closed a week of lent and here are a few thoughts running through my brain: 

It's not all about the food

It's so easy to get caught up in the fasting part of Lent.  When we focus only on food, we become very self-centered.  It's all about us and what we physically put into our body.  Yet, there are three legs to support this spiritual season we have entered and they are Prayer, Fasting, and Charity or more specifically, Giving Alms.  

What are Alms?   In an article on Compelling Truth, "...almsgiving was the act of filling a material need for someone less fortunate, usually by giving money."  When we give alms, we focus on what we physically give to other bodies.   We focus outside of ourselves. 

I want to work harder on looking outside of myself and offering to others. 

We need the proper supplies

Were you prepared for the vegan menu or were you caught off guard too?  I was not prepared and found myself in a drive-thru too many times.  So I reassessed my pantry and made sure I had the following: fresh veggies (spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, potatoes), chickpeas for hummus, flour and yeast for bread, tomato sauce, dried beans, frozen pierogies, rice milk, and pasta.  

I also had to be sure to fit a church service or two into my schedule.  On Wednesday, I lost track of time and missed the presanctified service.  I need to do a better job this coming week especially since Annunciation is Friday, and we have Liturgy.

We are different

As a first generation American, I often feel a little left out of things.  Now that My Big Fat Greek Wedding II is out, you have a good idea what this means.  Being Orthodox, and temporarily on the "Old Calendar" those feelings have returned.  We have just started our fast and there are wooden bunnies and Easter flags decorating my neighbors' yards (which seem too soon to me.)  By next week, all the Peeps, jelly beans, hams and egg dyes will be gone and the grocery shelves will shift to Mother's Day and graduations, leaving us in the dust.  

Temporarily being on the Old Calendar with such a late Easter/Pascha is interesting.  It reminds me that we are different from the world; separate and not part of it.  Sometimes I get distracted by trying to keep up with the world.  A late Easter can cure that. 

And yes, there is the added benefit of cheap candy...   

We won't be here forever. 

It's always good to "live like you were dying."  Why do we focus on the temporal things and not the eternal ones, like our souls?  I like how the Orthodox Church starts Lent off remembering the dead with three liturgies we call Saturday of the Souls.  It serves as a proper inspiration to stay the course.  

What we do during Lent is in preparation for our possible time in Paradise.  

May we all have the strength and courage to complete the Lenten Season with grace.