What A Wild Ride!

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Are you feeling a bit like you just came through the eye of the storm? Me too.

The recent full moon eclipse in my sun sign of Aquarius has really wiped me out emotionally, physically and mentally. I spent most of the weekend sleeping and eating. It felt like I was grounding out A LOT of energy, like years worth of energy.

All of the advice I read from the powers that are plugged into the cosmic soup reported that we all would feel a major shift and need to practice some down time and self care. I do take in the forecasts but also listen to my own peculiar rhythm of living.

What I noticed most about me during this shift was how calm I was during it all. I attribute this state to my recent decision to accept what comes and release as much control as my controlling nature will allow. I truly do believe that my own misery arises from my resistance to that which I cannot control.

Seems easy enough, just give up control or roll with the flow as they say. It isn’t easy at all. Giving up control may be one of the hardest things I have ever done and I am not even sure that it is done. Maybe, maybe not. See how I gave up control over giving up control?

Love yourself today. Feed your body good food. And rest. The world will sort itself out without your worry. Maybe, maybe not.

Up For Grabs

The MeToo movement has made and continues to make major waves in the world. Victims of sexual assault and abuse coming forward with their accounts has brought public awareness to a rampant undercurrent of sexual violence that women have lived with silently for centuries. Coinciding with this movement I have been on my own healing journey through counseling, engaging with how my own boundaries have been crossed in my past and sexual assault. It is incredibly powerful and healing to put sexual assault or misconduct into words both written and spoken.

As a young girl I witnessed my brother on two separate occasions with two different girls pull down their pants. I was 9 yrs old the first time, he was 8 yrs old.  My brother opened the bathroom door too many times to count while I was using it. When we were adults in our 30’s and a group of us went on a cruise to Mexico, he pulled up my skirt and exposed me in front of our group of family and friends and all the surrounding guests on a cruise ship.

I didn’t do or say anything about the abuse. Ever. Neither did the family and friends that witnessed it. It was normalized. I grew up with my boundaries being assaulted every. single. day. It was normal to me for my brother to do whatever he wanted to me. I won’t even begin on the verbal and emotional abuse that happened daily as well.

This is sexual assault. I had to look up the definition of sexual assault in order to determine if it indeed was sexual assault. That is how prevalent and accepted this kind of behavior between a male and a female is in this society. How prevalent and accepted it is in my family, community, and society. I have been socialized to accept someone pulling up my skirt, pulling down my top, grabbing my chest, grabbing my butt, pinching my butt, grabbing my vagina, pulling my hair (oh he just likes you sweetie), throwing things at me. Violent acts. Sexual assault.

Not just in the United States though…this link is an account of someone being groped, skirt hiked and more in the U.K.  Here in Australia.

All the stories are the same, entitled, predatory acts of violence towards women that HAVE NO CONSEQUENCES. 

This is a global problem.

My own 15 minutes of research brought up more stories of the same kind of sexual assault as mine, all of them being treated as nothing more than everyday normal occurrences.

Here is a woman’s account of a man lifting her Skirt on the New York subway while on an escalator. She reported it to the Metro Police, read it to see what happens. Nothing.

My sexual assault happened 18 yrs. ago. I have no legal recourse now. My brother is a Major in the United States Army. How many people do you think he has done this to in the last 18 yrs.? That is just one of the questions that I ask myself. I am also sickened that men who sexually assault women are in positions of “power” in this country. These positions hold titles that automatically associate the bearer with prestige, integrity and honor, to which none of these describe my brother or any perpetrator of sexual assault.

Trust me, if I had legal recourse I would be pursuing it. But I have other recourse. I will use my voice. My written and spoken words will validate and seek justice. We can all stop this kind of sexual assault by calling it what it is and never staying silent or treating it as normal. No matter when it happened, say it, write it, tell everyone. 

Your mileage may vary

This is a great message for all…young, old or in-between! Go for the dream! Always go for the dream, everything else will work itself out.

Piaggia Del Giuggiolo

Libba Bray

Recently, I received a post that really got under my skin. It’s from Fiona (Hi, Fiona). I started to dash off a reply and then I thought that it required a much longer, more considered answer. With her permission, I’m reprinting her original comment below followed by my response. My response is lengthy; I apologize. But it is from the heart.

“I’m in a bit of a dilemma and I made a deal with my father that I would get advice from three people: my high school counselor, my voice coach, and an author. I want to go into the fine arts: writing, singing, composing. My father wants me to go to Columbia, Yale, or Harvard. I’d be fine with these but I want to go to a smaller school and then study abroad for at least two years. “It’s my life and this is a decision that will alter…

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Mykonos!

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Skipping over Thessaloniki and Athens for now as I just processed the Mykonos photos. I felt the need to revisit. Ahhhh Mykonos, such a magickal, mystical island. When my son, Chad and I landed on the shore by ferry boat from Athens it was windy and a bit cold. It was mid-March and way before the tourist season was to begin. Everything was closed for the season and many were out painting and doing construction to get ready for opening day. We literally had to eat in one small section of the island as the only cafes serving were down on the bay front. I missed the wonderful veggie crepes that my daughter Stacy and I bought and ate back in 2005. The crepe stands are everywhere and are delicious! All of the bars were closed much to my sons disappointment. But we did linger in the waterfront cafes over very good pasta, pizza and risotto while drinking Greek wine and gazing out across the blue waters. Enjoy the gallery of images here.

Sofia to Thessaloniki

My son joined me in Sofia, Bulgaria in early March and we were at the apartment for about a week before we left the snow behind us and went on to sunny Greece. Here are a few pics taken in Sofia.

Sofia
A building on our street next to our apartment building
Our apartment building in Sofia, Bulgaria
Our apartment building in Sofia, Bulgaria
A bar at the end of our street that was hopping every weekend.
A bar at the end of our street that was hopping every weekend.

I was so very happy to finally be on the train and headed to Thessaloniki, Greece. We had a train compartment all to ourselves and we were very comfortable for our trip through what looked to be Siberia out our windows. Arrived after dark in Thessaloniki to an empty taxi stand and deserted street but eventually a taxi pulled up to drop people off and we flagged him down. Our hotel was in a great area with plenty of places to walk to and no taxi needed to just wander around and reach the cafes and waterfront.

Our hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece
Our hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece

We immediately set out for a restaurant since we hadn’t eaten in awhile. We were directed by the desk clerk to a local buffet style cafe that looked to be just closing and had no customers but the man greeted us enthusiastically and welcomed us to come in which we have come to learn is the Greek way. Instead of menu he told us our options and we both chose the soup. Nothing like a great big hot bowl of soup after a long trip. The waiter brought out a plate of big thick slices of homemade bread to soak up the soup. Of course we had wine with dinner and at this point we hadn’t yet learned that it is pretty much served automatically like water in Greece. We were pretty happy. And it is in those few moments that come here and there and often without warning that you learn to cherish the adventures of traveling. Alas I have no photos from the place as we were too busy enjoying the experience. In the above photo you can see the outside seating for the restaurant where we had a great first meal and incredible hospitality.

Some local art across from our hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Some local art across from our hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece.                               

After a good nights sleep we ventured out to an outdoor cafe stand a couple blocks from our hotel. My daughter and I ate at these throughout our backpacking trip in 2005. They are a chain in Greece and sell pizza, sandwiches, drinks and cappucinos. We had a cappucino and pizza for breakfast, which is perfect if you ask me. The sun was already shining and it was glorious to be in the Mediterranean. We set out for the waterfront and along the way passed many churches and ruins of some awe inspiring gazing.

Ruins in the middle of the city! Thessaloniki, Greece.
Ruins in the middle of the city! Thessaloniki, Greece.
Walking the streets of Thessaloniki Greece was inspiring.
Walking the streets of Thessaloniki Greece was inspiring.
The hub of activity seemed to be more relaxed down at the waterfront .
The hub of activity seemed to be more relaxed down at the waterfront .

My son was a little uncomfortable at the open stares his way but I tried to explain that he looked pretty different and was wearing many labels on his clothing. Meaning that the looks were probably just looks of interest and wonder. I personally think his style is eclectic and stands out even in the U.S.! Open staring in many other countries like Greece and Italy, the two that I know of, where staring does not carry the same meaning and is not rude or mean hostility, like it often does in the U.S. We generally experienced a great deal of interest and hospitality while in Thessaloniki. This is just one of the many reasons I love traveling in Greece.

Here are some more photos of Thessaloniki, they have quite the cafe culture there and we enjoyed hopping from one cafe to another for a bit while there.

A bright inviting bar for a cool drink.
A bright inviting bar for a cool drink.
Interesting things to read everywhere.
Interesting things to read everywhere.

We took a taxi out to an indoor skate park on the outskirts of Thessaloniki for my son to meet the owners and skate the park for a bit. My son is a pro-am skate boarder and so is always promoting his team, Lib Tech while he is out traveling. He was over run by roller bladers at this particular park though and we didn’t stay long.

As soon as I get my photos organized I will upload more. After returning a little over three months ago I am just now beginning to feel like I am rested. This trip took a lot out of me in so many ways. It was so worth it though! I fell in love with Greece all over again. I will return to my beloved Greece.

Sofia, Bulgaria

Sofia, Bulgaria draped in white
Sofia, Bulgaria draped in white

A big title for a small post. I have been in Sofia now for 12 days, 10 of those days were spent in a jet lag fog and briefings at the embassy were probably lost on me. Let’s hope not the important ones! I am an introvert by nature and whenever I need to adjust to new places or ideas or comfort levels, I draw inwards. So, my number one priority when I know I will be adjusting is to find a rental space that is private, secure, and comfortable. My apartment in Bulgaria is all that and more. I hit the motherload here and it has seen me through my adjustment period very well. It has a wonderful shower complete with rain showerhead, heated towel rack and heated floor. A balcony, microwave, TV with cable and many shows in English, lots of light, comfortable mattresses and pillows, chocolate, good cookware, an espresso maker and more…

I sit here now on a Sunday morning feeling a bit guilty that it is my second weekend here and I haven’t ventured out further than to the grocery store and the embassy and back. I am sure the owners of the apartment, who live downstairs and have invited me out more than once are wondering what is wrong with me. I have to do this on my schedule and I have plenty of time to see Sofia and the rest of Bulgaria. So yeah, I just got over jet lag and now I am taking a beat to gather my thoughts and organize a plan. Sofia is covered in a mass of white snow and it is beautiful to see from my windows. Not sure I want to be out in it however. Except for maybe a walk in the park across the street later.

While I am nesting I am reading about Bulgaria’s history and trying to get facts and names to stick in my mind. Some of the plans I had about my research are changing as new information comes into play here in Bulgaria. A new layer of understanding trumps the old distant one gathered in bits and pieces online. Even the online material content available is different when viewing from Bulgaria and the embassy than back home in the states. All previous assumptions or knowledge are in suspended disbelief…pending further research. This process is exciting to me. Diving in deeper water and getting to know information that cannot be found anywhere but by being here in Bulgaria. This is why I came. Now to do the information justice by recording it and accurately disseminating it to the interested parties. I can only hope to brush the surface and give my slanted opinion mixed with some historical facts, sprinkled with interesting photos.

The Medieval Manuscript class that I am taking, half in class before I came and now online is curating an exhibition for an intact manuscript at the Millar library on PSU campus. This new (to me) view on the curatorial comes at an advantageous time for me. The focus is helping shape my direction on the research and photos I will be taking in Bulgaria. My work at the embassy will be focused on the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation and the work it has done in the past and present. We will be returning to the sites and photographing them. An exhibition could be forthcoming and perhaps parlayed into my independent research on the monasteries here in Bulgaria as some of the AFCP sites are monasteries.  So working out puzzle pieces and seeing where and how they fit together is what is happening. Along with this is my own personal take on Bulgaria and what it means to me.  Right now Bulgaria is just starting to show her self to me beyond the facts and so we shall see…with new eyes, we shall see.

Internship in Bulgaria

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Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Sofia, Bulgaria

My next journey will be to Sofia, Bulgaria in late January. I have accepted one of four offered internships at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria. I was offered internships in Milan, The Holy See and Romania. It was a tough decision to make but I chose Sofia for a few reasons, including the rich history of the area and my fascination with how they have maintained a cultural identity given the many invasions and rulers that have occupied Bulgaria.  I intend to research and photograph some lesser known story. I will also be spending forty hour weeks at the embassy learning all about public affairs and cultural affairs in addition to working on a research project on Byzantine sources supervised by one of my professors and a PSU class online on Gothic art. I will be busy!

The internship lasts three months and then my son will be joining me in Bulgaria and we will travel to Greece and possibly Turkey for a couple weeks. Then make our way up to Germany to see my brother and sister in law who live in Stuttgart.  Another reason I chose Sofia is to take part in a fresco photo documenting expedition with the Balkan Heritage Field School. I support their efforts to document and archive the frescoes that are being destroyed and lost to history.

I have so much to learn in the next few months before I leave, I hope my brain will expand and contain it all!  I am still learning Italian, because I am tentatively planning on applying to graduate school in Lucca. I am learning some Bulgarian, which is really hard because it uses the Cyrillic alphabet. I am brushing up on my microsoft skills (ha) and learning to use excel (I use google docs for everything).  In addition I am putting together a cookbook for my son who will be living the bachelor life and does not know how to cook, some of his favorite dishes in easy to read format.

My life is really full but it is full of the things I dearly love and as my vision of how I always wanted to live becomes a reality, I can only look around in awe and say, Thank you, I am so blessed.

Fearless

I entered a contest that is based on being FEARLESS.  After studying in Italy for three months and taking my autistic son with me, coupled with my age and all the challenges that come with getting older and trying to accomplish great things…I think I am FEARLESS. Please consider following the link and casting your vote by “liking” my photo.

http://fearlesspsu.com/gallery?sort=recent&i=105

The name is Charolette S. and in the photo am standing in the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy. It seemed a fitting image for FEARLESS.

Thanks! Image