Sharing a Paximadia (Greek cookie)

lenthangIn Greek culture, Paximadia is a toasted Lenten cookie made with almonds and citrus. They have a hard texture and are a bit crumbly, and ideally dunked with your favorite cup of coffee. Or in my case, with a small bottled water.  I find it fitting that Paximadia was shared with me during this Lenten season.

My driver was in the hotel lobby at 12:15 p.m., right on time. He asked me how my day was going and helped me with my luggage. As I got settled in the back seat, I noticed a foil-covered pan in the passenger front seat.

I detected a heavy European accent when he spoke to me, so I asked my driver where he was from. He proudly told me he was from Greece and had been in the U.S. 40 years. I told him about the Greek community north of Tampa in Tarpon Springs that my husband and I visited. It’s a cute little town on the bay with Greek restaurants and shops. I told him about the annual “Epiphany Dive for the Cross” in Tarpon Springs. (FYI, this is the largest observance in the U.S. outside of Greece!).

He came to the U.S. 40 years ago to make money and send back to his family in Greece. He originally planned to be here a couple of years.  Two years soon became five. He was so excited to share that he made close to $25,000 after 5 years; “that was a lot of money back then”.  So he kept working and told his family he would stay a few more years and then never left.  He tries to go back to Greece each year to see his family.

He and his wife raised 4 children, 3 girls and 1 boy ranging from 22 years to 13 years old. He has 3 grandchildren, too. His wife cooks dinner every night for the entire family. The 3 married girls and their families live in the same neighborhood. Every night the entire family eats a home-cooked dinner together. I told him how rare it was for me to hear that a family spends quality time together every night and eats dinner together.

So I was too curious and had to asked “is that your lunch in the foil-covered pan?”  He said, “no, my wife loves to bake, too. Here you must try these cookies.” He opened the foil and handed the pan to me. I took a cookie, and he insisted that I take another. Since I hadn’t eaten lunch yet, I was grateful for the cookie. Then he handed me one of his water bottles he had in the front seat along with some tissues for a napkin. I wrapped the second cookie in the tissue to share with my husband once I landed in Tampa.

He chatted some more about his family, and we turned into the airport. As he pulled over to park, I asked how much I owed him. I couldn’t believe when he told me the flat rate because I had paid double the day before from the airport to the hotel!

I paid him cash and told him no need for change. He got out of the car and got my luggage out for me. As I reached out my hand to shake and thank him for the ride, he kissed both my cheeks – the European way, you know. He thanked me and said “God has blessed you to be a beautiful person.”

As I walked through the airport to my gate, I held back tears. It never dawned on me that he would thank me. I was just another passenger in his day . . . Maybe it was because I spoke to him. Maybe because I cared enough to ask about his life and family. Maybe because I shared a home-baked cookie from his wife.  Maybe it is because I was Positive!

 

FROM THIS DAY FORWARD, FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE

Wedding_rings

We had planned a private wedding ceremony in Key West, FL on September 9.  On Thursday morning, August 22, 1996, we set out to get our marriage license.  We drove to the county clerk’s office in Hillsborough County in Tampa, FL.

It was a very small trailer, and there were 3 other people there besides the lady Deputy Clerk.  While we filled out the paperwork, the clerk went to help the other 3.  She came back, asked for the necessary identification, reviewed the license application.  Then, totally unexpected, she smiled and asked “do you want to get married now?”.  We looked at each other dumbfounded, and then all of a sudden we both said “yes”.

She went to the back of the office, grabbed some silk flowers for me to hold.  She read the marriage vows to us.  When she pronounced us “man and wife”, applause and cheers erupted from the three strangers.

I am definitely NOT a spur-of-the-moment kind of person.  And we certainly weren’t dressed for a wedding moment!  Both of us had red pullover shirts and jeans . . . not the “fancy pants” I’m usually wearing.  We had no rings to exchange.  Our simple, modest real wedding day August 22, 1996 was in a little trailer performed by a Deputy Clerk.

Our life has been anything but simple and mundane and not without a lot of bumps and bruises.  Many tears have been shed – some happy, some heart-wrenching – but we’ve managed to survive all of life’s lemons.  Mostly, we laugh, we’re inseparable, and we always remember to “Bea Positive”.  So “from that day forward, lawfully wedded husband and wife, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”. 

So to my partner, my BFF, my soul mate, I say thanks for “Bea-ing” with me all these years and for “Bea-ing” the inspiration behind “Bea Positive”.

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Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

He picked me up at La Guardia right on time.  With a thick European accent, he asked “Madame, did you have a good flight?”  I told him it was “my lucky day – no bad weather, no delays”.  He took my bag as we walked to the car, and he said “Madame, you’re right about this being your day because there is no rain” (even though the clouds looked like they were about to burst).  We headed to the city and merged onto the highway.  He turned and said “Madame, this really is your lucky day because there is no traffic!”

Since he knew I flew in from FL, he asked me if I was from NY or FL, and I said FL.  He was happy to tell me about his only trip to Miami.  He and his wife had just gotten married.  They had heard about sunny Florida and wanted to honeymoon in Miami.  He said he’d never forget the date . . . August 1979 . . . their hotel was closed and boarded up because Hurricane David was headed to FL. 

Thankfully for him and his new wife, they had a compassionate and patient taxi driver.  They had no idea what to do or where to go.  Their taxi driver was kind enough to drive them away from the city and find a hotel that would take guests.  I wonder if that experience had any impact on his decision to chauffeur later . . .  and what a reminder for your anniversary!!

Believe it or not, that experience didn’t stop them from vacationing in FL.  He and his wife raised three kids in NY.  As a family, they would take vacation trips to Disneyworld in Orlando, FL.  They rented an SUV, spent 2 days driving down, a few days in the Magic Kingdom, and then drove 2 days home. 

He’s been in the U.S. 45 years now, coming here from his native country of Yugoslavia . . . or at least, that’s what it was called when he lived there.  He told me “there was this “crazy guy” over there who started killing people.  Thank goodness for America because they got rid of the “crazy guy” before he could kill more people.  Now, it’s called Kosovo.”  He doesn’t get back there much anymore. 

It’s amazing and inspiring to meet people who are Americans by choice and not by birth. My driver’s story reminds me of our very own “Miss Liberty” — “The statue is an icon of freedom and of the United States: a welcoming signal to immigrants arriving from abroad.“  (from Wikipedia Statue of Liberty)

As Independence Day approaches, I remind myself that every day is my lucky day.  I live in a wonderful country with benefits and freedom that are often taken for granted.  “Bea Positive” and “Bea Proud” that we live in the great U.S.A. – the land of the free and the home of the brave”.

 

“Inscription on the Statue of Liberty”

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Author: Emma Lazarus

Remembering Abraham Lincoln

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. “
Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln came from a very humble beginning to become the 16th President of the United States.  He was born on February 12, 1809, 203 years ago.  During his presidency, he led the Union in the Civil War, abolished slavery and sought to reunite the divided nation.  President Lincoln was dedicated to the principles of nationalism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy.

Mr. Lincoln has been consistently ranked by scholars and the public as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents.  

Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President from 1861 – 1865 (Wikipedia facts)

  • Lincoln was most self-educated and a lawyer by profession.
  • He opposed the expansion of slavery in the U.S. which secured him the Republican nomination and presidency in 1860.
  • In March 1861, seven southern states declared their secession and formed the Confederacy
  • In 1863, Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation and promoted the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery.
  • His Gettysburg Address in 1863, one of the most quoted speeches in America, was a statement of America’s dedication to the principles of freedom, equality and democracy.
  • He was the first president to be assassinated.  It happened six days after the surrender of the Confederate army.

I thought it fitting to end with this quote.  Like me, I hope you find that Abraham Lincoln did strive to be worthy of our recognition.

“Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.” Abraham Lincoln

  • Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, was never a national holiday.  In 1971, President’s Day was declared a national holiday which combined both Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays.
  • The only U.S. president to appear on a U.S. Airmail stamp.
  • U.S. currency includes the $5.00 bill and the Lincoln penny, which represents the first regularly circulating U.S. coin to feature an actual person’s image.

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