In my hour of grief, you ran to me.

You fed my body.

You held the pieces of my broken heart.

You lifted downcast eyes.

You chased away shadows.

You filled my hours and kept my hands busy.

When the world’s weight seemed to crash down on me, you took the burden and let me crawl out from beneath it.

You helped me find normal again.

New normal.

In my darkest hour, you ran to me.

I am forever grateful for the love that I have in my life.

Mary

 

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Loss

With a heavy heart, I share the news that I have lost my father.

To have known him was to have loved him.

I am heartbroken.

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John George Smaragdis died peacefully at his home on September 29, 2017, in the loving embrace of his family. He was 89 years old.

John was born on August 29, 1928, in Anatoliki Frangista, Evritanias, Greece. John met and married his beloved wife, Litsa Smaragdis, and the two immigrated to the United States in 1967, where they raised their four children.

In Greece, John worked as a bookkeeper. In the United States, John worked in the hospitality industry. He also owned and operated the Sweet Shoppe ice cream parlor on Pershing Drive in Arlington, Virginia, for many years.

John nurtured, cared for and loved his family with great compassion and complete generosity, and he extended this love to everyone he encountered throughout his life.

He is survived by his devoted wife of 53 years, Litsa Smaragdis. He leaves his son, George John Smaragdis and his wife, Amy Kort, and his three daughters, Carolina Nakas and her husband, Art Nakas, Mary Smaragdis and her husband, Haris Riris, Joyce Smaragdis and her husband, Bill Davis, and his nine grandchildren, Elene Nakas, Konstantinos Nakas, Joanna Nakas, Eleni Riris, Evangelia Riris, John Riris, William Davis, John Smaragdis and Andrew Smaragdis.

John’s funeral service will be held at Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church on Monday, October 2, 2017, at 11:00 a.m., 3149 Glen Carlyn Road, Falls Church, VA 22041. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory can be made to Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church, 3149 Glen Carlyn Road, Falls Church, VA 22041.

 

What Excellence Looks Like

Before dawn, on Friday, September 21, 2017 a group of teenagers gathered on a hilltop in Arlington, VA.

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They were invited to watch the sun rise on the Autumn Equinox — hours before the school day was set to begin — with Mr. Summers, their IB Philosophy teacher at Washington-Lee High School.

Each of these kids had to find a way to this hilltop on their own, which is miles away from the school. There was no bus. They had to walk/bike/figure-it-out to get there.

Here’s the kicker: This was an optional activity. It won’t make much of a blip in the grade book, and it certainly will not make-or-break any student’s grade.

What happened next astounded me: Dozens of kids showed up.

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Mr. Summers inspired these young people to go well outside of their comfort zone, and do something different. He helped them see a moment in a new light. He brought them to this hilltop to inspire and motivate them in a quest for wisdom.

And it was joyful! It was full of energy and optimism and adventure and fun and community.

I’m the parent of three teenagers. I know precisely how hard it is to get a young person out of bed and moving in the morning.

And as a general rule, teenagers tend to resist doing anything associated with school work that is not “required.”

(And in all fairness to kids, it’s because the academic pressure on so many of these students is so intense you can literally see the burden on their shoulders. I have my own views on that. That’s a whole different story for another time.)

Today, I want to show you what a person who defines excellence looks like:

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I know that Mr. Summers inspires excellence because I was first person witness as he inspired each and every one of these students to find excellence within themselves and to bring it to this hilltop before dawn on a Friday morning in September.

I also know that Mr. Summers inspires excellence because I learn Philosophy through my daughter. What she’s learning in class becomes the topic of our dinner table conversations. Mr. Summers’ excellence inspires excellence in my kid, and I learn through her. Just as I learned Government through her from Mr. Kuhn last year, and Biology from Dr. Hoo the year before. There are so many teachers who have taught me over the years, through my children.

Teaching is T-H-E most noble profession. Teachers literally shape the future. Our society does not appropriately recognize or compensate teachers for the contributions they make.

Which is why I remain eternally grateful, and perpetually inspired, that people like Mr. Summers continue investing their talents in our future. The world is a better place for it.

 

Love Mercy

It’s so easy to get caught up in the “life is not fair” hamster wheel.

It’s so easy to have that mantra repeating in your head, again and again, as you struggle with a burden that seems like it’s more than you can bear. Yet every day, somehow you manage to stumble through it. Only to get to do it all over again the next day.

(I know there’s a hidden message in there for me somewhere, given all the Greekness I’ve got in me.) :-)

This morning, I found a card that my firstborn made for me a while back.

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Love mercy.

When you’re stuck on the “life is not fair” hamster wheel, you’re mad at the world. You have been betrayed. You keep shaking your head and muttering this:  “good things do not happen to good people.”

This whole frame of mind is toxic. It literally poisons the soul.

Love mercy.

I know that when I’m really, truly able to do this, that my heart will be light again.

If I could just let go.

And yet I have such a hard time with it.

“As we forgive those who trespass against us…”

Every time I say those words they get caught in my throat.

I think one of the hardest things about being human is being able to forgive. To really and truly release it. And to love mercy. And to let mercy fill your heart.

This is what I want so desperately to be able to do. This is what I pray for. I know it is the key to my own salvation.

Pray for me.

Mary

 

 

Find hope.

My least favorite sentence in the world begins like this:

“We have the diagnosis ……”

I hate this sentence because even before a doctor begins saying it, you already know how it will end.

Somehow, deep in your gut, you already knew.

I’ve never had a doctor say these words about me.

But I’ve heard them spoken about people that I have loved.

It’s been more than four years now.

Alzheimers.

And every day it is harder than you ever imagined it could possibly be. Every day it gets harder than the last.

I use every molecule in my body in a desperate search for one thing: hope.

Mary

 

Smaragdine Sisters

I have the B-E-S-T sisters in the world — both the ones I was born with and the ones I married into.

I grew up sharing a room with Joyce, and I’ve been sharing with her ever since. We’ve shared secrets — both the kind that make your heart dance, and the kind that break it. We’ve shared clothes and shoes and books and cars and all manner of stuff. We’ve shared dreams of amazing adventures and magical futures. Some of those things we’ve checked off the list. Some of them we’re still working on. :)

When I have something that is weighing me down and I share it with my sister Joyce, she always finds a way to lighten my load. She may already be carrying a mighty burden. But if I say “help” she always — and immediately — finds a way to ease what I am struggling with. (Lina’s pretty good at this too.)

Here’s a picture of the three of us from way back in the 80s. :) L-R it’s me, Joyce, Carolina.

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(Carolina doesn’t really dial into the blog-o-sphere, or any kind of online “sharing,” really. I’ve got a lot of love for her too, but I’ll need to find another form factor to get it to her…. that’s why we’re all about Joyce on this one…) :)

To know my sister Joyce is to love her. She’s just like my father in that way.

Joyce helps me believe in all of the things I really need to believe in. I love and admire her so much.

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So at the tail end of an incredibly difficult week, Joyce sends me email to let me know that today (March 17, 2017) is our day!

Here is today’s word of the day on Dictionary.com:

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Joyce is a gem on this earth. She is a treasured treasure to her Treasure. She’s the best mother on this earth. She is my radiant beauty and my faithful friend. She’s my partner on some of the biggest dreams I’ve had in life.

Here’s to Joyce and to all things Smaragdine! And to a happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!

Mary

p.s. for those of you who don’t “know” know me, my last name (and Joyce’s) is Smaragdis. I didn’t want you to go away thinking we were really emerald-green in color, or anything nutty like that. :)

p.p.s. If the two of us got to play lead roles in Wicked, Joyce would let me be Elphaba because I’d tell her I’d want to defy gravity and she’d say OK, I could go first. That’s the kind of person she is. And if we did that, then I guess I would be emerald-green in color.  wink, wink. :)

 

 

It might be *my* last time

It was a perfect day in Washington, D.C. today. (As far as the weather goes, anyway.)

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Papou and I played hooky. We went walking — all over the National Mall. We went to the MLK Memorial, the WWII Memorial, along the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial.

My dad used to be the most active, healthy, athletic person I knew. He used to climb mountains. He would walk at least five miles a day. Every day. Into his seventies, he could run faster than me. It was exactly four years ago today — right after he got diagnosed —  that my father and I were horseback riding in Mendoza, Argentina.

We move at a slower pace now.

I hate Alzheimer’s with a burning passion.

Today, as I was walking with my father through the majestic columns of the Lincoln Memorial, the thought occurred to me that it might be the last time I manage to bring him here. It made me weepy, that idea did…

And then, I realized, that it might be *my* last time. You never know. Who’s to say he’ll go first. Once I got my head around that idea, I decided we had time to go around one more time. :)

When I’m with my dad, my mind always drifts to “what if it’s his last time doing this… ”

Today I realized that if I flip that coin and consider “what if it’s my last time… ” I manage to squeeze a little bit more fun out of the adventure.

:)

Mary