Monday, May 18, 2015

Stumbling Across History

My awesome hometown of Houston, Texas was established in 1836. It's pretty old, not as much as New York or Boston, mind you, but still 176 years is nothing to sneeze at. 

However, one thing I've learned about living in Greece is that calling Houston "old" is a joke. Hell, the US is celebrating 240 this year and that's still only infant stage compared to ancient Greece. 

And the most amazing thing about living in a place rich in so much history is that it's literally right outside my door. 

The city is doing construction on the street next to my house. After taking my kiddos to school, I passed by two old men. They were staring down into the hole the workers had dug in preparation for the new trolley line. Both of them were in a heated debate, gesturing and pointing. Curious, I strolled over closer. I had to know what about this hole had them all riled up.  

Imagine my surprise when I discovered they were arguing about whether the workers had dug far enough down to hit the road that existed in Jesus' time.

Yes, Jesus.  

I thought these old guys had lost their marbles until I mentioned it to my husband, only to find out I was the ignorant one. Apparently the road I traversed everyday for the last several years existed in ancient times. They just built the modern road over the old one. 

And by ancient times, he means before Jesus. 

It blows my mind. When I dig down, or the water company digs down, in Houston they hit...a whole lotta dirt. Of course, we have some interesting things like dinosaur fossils, etc but those are few and far between. It's not in my backyard. 

In Greece, it's actually underneath every step I take. They have so much history and so many ancient ruins, they can't protect or isolate them all. They have to remove what is the most important and then build the modern buildings and roads over the rest. 

So if you visit Athens and you see some cornered off ruins on the side of the road, just remember, that's a small section of what truly exists right underneath your feet. 

And it's a lot older than 176 years. 

Pretty amazing, huh?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dragon's Cave

Over the Easter holiday, we took a visit to gorgeous Kastoria. It's a great town located on one of the largest lakes in Greece.  

There's a lot of really great things to do - visit the bear reserve and museum, hiking, wildlife parks, eating, drinking. Did I mention eating? :)

One of the most amazing things we did while on our trip was take a tour of Dragon's Cave.  

It was discovered by accident in 1940 by two young boys but only opened to the public in 2009. It's estimated to be over 6 million years old and has seven lakes inside. The stalagmites are still growing, fed by rainwater that passes through the openings of the mountain.  

It looks like a place you would find a dragon, doesn't it?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Face Lift

I've been very quiet on the blog recently because I've been busy doing this:

Okay, well maybe not exactly that but I did tear up my website, blog and other social media accounts and give them a new look. 

Take a peek for yourself:
Twitter: @LynnBalabanos

Pretty awesome, right? 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Greatness Achieved

Last Friday, Leonard Nimoy passed away. 

I believe most people, myself included, will identify him as the actor who played Spock from the original Star Trek series. Which, I think, is fair. Mr. Nimoy himself struggled with the separation of his career and Spock as evidence by his two autobiographies: I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock

But while Leonard Nimoy's legacy was shaped in large part by his biggest role on television and film, it wasn't all he left us with. In fact, some of his most touching work was as a quiet activist.  

He was an amazing photographer. His book, The Full Body Project, was released in 2007. It took eight years to make and was a unapologetic, raw look at gorgeous, full figured women in the nude. And he told the NY Times when interviewed about it, that the book was a "direct response to the pressure women face to conform to a size two."

2007 was not the start of Mr. Nimoy's activism. He'd been well on his way long before that. When it several members of the cast became aware that Nichelle Nichols who played the character Uhura was getting paid less, it was Leonard Nimoy who brought it to the attention of the higher ups and made sure she got what she was owed. This was in the 1960's, people. The 1960's! Mr. Nimoy was not only ahead of his time, he was decades ahead. 

In 1968, he penned a reply to an interracial girl who was dealing with feelings of being different and not fitting in. His response to her is moving and still resonates today. I would encourage you to read it here.

These are only a few of the numerous incidents in which Leonard Nimoy worked to improve, educate and change the world around him. Most of his actions were done quietly, without much flash, but they are profound all the same. 

So, to quote one of my favorite tweets about him: He lived long. We all prospered for it. 

RIP, Mr. Nimoy. And thank you. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Beginning of A Love Affair

I personally have a very hard time remembering the novels that made me fall in love with a particular genre. I think the first science fiction book I read was a Star Trek one, my first romance (I believe) was The Thorn Birds, and I have no recollection at all which mystery novel had me racing back to the bookshelf for more.  

However, what I can remember, so tangibly, is the moment I fell in love with reading. 

The book responsible for the beginning of my infatuation is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. 

I was in the second grade and my teacher was introducing chapter books to us. She had decided to read a class book aloud everyday for a specific period of time. The reasons for this are hazy for me, I can only remember that we were doing it. 

Now I had read books before, both on my own and with my parents, but this particular story touched me in a way I had never experienced before. 

Where the Red Fern Grows is a story about Billy, a poor child growing up in the Ozarks whose dream is to own two hunting coons. He saves up his money, working odd jobs, and by the end of the summer is able to finally purchase the dogs he so desperately wants. When they arrive, Billy patiently trains them in order to enter them in a coon hunting competition. 

I have to say, as a kid, I remember being completely wrapped up in this story. The author painted a life that was so different from my own and yet, I could still see myself in Billy. I connected with his love for his dogs, as an animal lover myself, and became invested in what would happen to him and the beloved pets he adored. 

I won't spoil the ending but needless to say, it's a tear jerker. Like awful, awful, awful. And this is also the part I remember most. Sitting in my classroom, in front of the teacher, crying my eyes out over the ending of this story. And I wasn't alone. The teacher was so choked up she could barely finish the book.

That's the moment I fell in love with reading, right there on that classroom carpeting with tears running my cheeks. It was the first time I remember being so invested in a set of characters that when something bad happened to them, I cried as though it was real. 

And I remember being so enthralled with that feeling. 

I still am. 

What about you? Do you remember the book that had you falling in love with reading? 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Foreigner Alert

I recently learned I've been telling strangers in my neighborhood that I'm a foreigner, completely by accident and without meaning to. Allow me to explain. 

Here's a photo of the area near my house. 

Gorgeous, right? So several times a week, I run for exercise along the marina. I get the double enjoyment of being next to the sea and not having to deal with many cars since a large section of the marina is closed off to most vehicles. In addition, I take my dog with me. 

Louisa is very sweet but she needs her exercise, otherwise she's bouncing around the house like a Mexican jumping bean. And I quickly discovered that a long walk isn't really enough for her. She needs to run.  

So there I am several times a week, in the marina, with my dog, running. Now I've noticed lots of people watching me, including the small boat owners, but I didn't initially think much about it. I mean, people watching is a favorite Greek past time after all. But during a conversation with another woman about my exercise program a few months ago, she said, "Oh, that's a very American thing to do."

And I realized, right then, that I was announcing my "foreign" status pretty loudly even without saying a word. 

Now I don't look American, at least not right out of the gate. I've got dark hair and green eyes and several people have mistaken me for a Greek person they know. (I promise you this has happened at least three times, most recently it was in an airport on my way to Vienna.) Even my hubby has said that I look a little Greek. Of course, the minute I open my mouth and start talking, the accent gives me away but before that time, most people don't know I'm a foreigner. 

Unless I do something weird, like run with my dog. After my friend made her comment, I realized I had never seen anyone else doing it. I've seen people walking their dogs in the marina. And I've seen people running for exercise. But I have never seen another person jogging with their dog. Which would explain why I get a lot of attention when I do it. 

And it's not bad attention. Most people think it's neat to see Louisa running right next to me, a happy dog grin on her face. I keep waiting to see if another person will join me and start jogging with their dog. It hasn't happened yet but I know if I keep at it, someone else is bound to start.

Maybe I can start a new trend. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Blog Housekeeping

In September, I made the commitment that I would start blogging once a week. And, with one minor exception, I've kept that promise. Go me! But - there is a but here and you knew it was coming - I think I might have bitten off a bit more than I could chew. 

I've reviewed my schedule for the last few months, plus made the schedule for the next few and wow, it's getting hectic. In order to keep doing the blog once a week, I'm going to have to cut into my writing time. Which I'm not willing to do. Writing my novels is the most important thing. It's the biggest part of my job and I have to be very vigilant about protecting that time.

On the other hand, I don't want the blog to fall off my list. The commitment of once a week posts was really good for me because it kept the blog moving forward. Posts were appearing in a consistent and regular manner. I want that to continue. 

So I decided to change the commitment to twice a month. It provides me a little breathing room schedule wise, but still follows through on a post commitment. It makes for a good match, don't you agree?