Thursday, November 26, 2009

Give thanks and hope this Thanksgiving

Although a distinctly American holiday, Thanksgiving is a holiday that deserves to be adopted the world over because it celebrates among the most important human emotions – gratefulness – with one of the most enjoyable necessities – food!

Under olive trees in America today, we gather with family and friends to count our blessings around tables heavy with food, love and gratitude. Yet with the holidays approaching, it is important that turn our thankfulness into actions to help others who are somehow resilient in their thankfulness despite the need to overcome painful obstacles.

Please take a few moments to learn about a few ways you can make the difference of a lifetime with a few clicks of the mouse and a few warm fluttering of your heart.

FSU grad Lee Theodossiades awaiting bone marrow match in Phoenix

About a month ago, 22 year old Lee (Leandros) Theodossiades was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix to wage a battle against a very aggressive form of leukemia. A bone marrow match from a donor is his only hope to live. His motto is “faith not fear,” and now we have a chance to show he is right. If you are 18-50, please visit BEFORE Monday, NOVEMBER 30th, enter Lee as the promo code, fill out the consent form so that you can receive a swab kit via mail that you can use to help the doctors determine if you are a match to save Lee’s life. The process of bone marrow donation has benefited from medical innovations and is not as invasive as it once was; please consider giving the gift of life this year.

Please call Aubrie Vargas (602-277-1390) with any questions. Donations can also be made via the website or by sending checks to Aubrie Vargas, 2601 N. 3rd St. Ste. 201A Phoenix, AZ 85004

Join Macys’s to give brave little girl an incentive to fight Leukemia

Despite having undergone chemotherapy, two bone marrow transplants, radiation and isolation from her beloved brother and sister in the two years since her diagnosis, six year old Michaella is a wonderfully optimistic, kind little girl who LOVES Christmas more than any other time of year. By voting for her in Macy’s Believe program, you can give her another reason to continue her fight against AML leukemia – a chance to be a part of the 2010 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which kicks off the holiday season.

To vote, visit, click on the Believe banner at the bottom of the screen, then the “Tell Us Why You Believe” button on the top right. When you enter in the search box, Michaella’s story will come up below the search box. With a few clicks you can read more about her and vote for her, as well.

In the spirit of the holiday, thank you for sharing a few moments under the olive tree and for taking a few moments to make a difference. Happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving to you!

Friday, October 09, 2009

New Greek PM George Papandreou a Fan of the Olive

Only days into his tenure as Greece's new PM, it is nice to see that George Papandreou is a fan of the olive branch - both literally and figuratively. Upon his arrival in Constantinople for a summit, he made a point to visit the grave of a former Turkish counterpart with whom he worked closely during his time as foreign minister. When his ally passed on, Papandreou asked that an olive tree be planted at the grave, and upon his recent return he plucked a branch from the tree and laid it on the grave of the man who had once shared his vision of improved relations among the two countries.

As we sit under our olive tree, we see this as a testament to this fair symbol of peace and of what sincere and honest discourse under olive branches may bring for the greater good.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Greece Goes (PASOK) Green With Plan that Risks Putting Country in Red

With Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis ceding victory to PASOK leader Andrea Papandreou (pictured at right), Greeks decidedly gave the election to the country's socialist party after five years of conservative leadership that previously prevailed by a hair. Unlike these past years, which found the government in a perpetual stalemate due to the narrow margin of the previous victory, PASOK will likely hold about 64 more seats in Parliament than New Democracy. In the immediate term, this will be a silver-lining for the markets who'd be eager to see a definitive direction for the country.

Papandreou's campaign for leadership was paved with promises to end corruption, stimulate the economy and do so by taxing the rich. In contrast, the incumbent was promising a tough road ahead given the global and domestic economic environment. The match up amounted to asking a child whether they want hamburgers and a salad or chicken with vegetables for dinner. This gives optimistic credit to Papandreou's stimulus plan (the salad) so that it might provide some health for the country's economy, but in any case, the decision is easy to predict.

Now, admittedly, I do not [yet] live on Greek soil so I can't fully appreciate the factors that brought voters to cast this decision in PASOK's favor. I hope that it is fueled more by a disgust with the current situation rather than the sincere (and immature) belief that raising the pay of the public sector and plunging the country into debt will solve the situation.
As Greece now hopes that this decision will position the country for better days, here are my hopes for the incoming government and the tough road ahead.
  • Fiscally responsible stimulus program that creates jobs & avoids extravagant debt

  • Infrastructure investment that propels country to competitive position in growing industries

  • Systematized approach to internships/apprenticeships for graduates to more effectively introduce them to the workplace

While I know these might be just as optimistic as Papandreou's promises, I hope that the Greek people will take a phrase from his campaign, "roll up their sleeves" and take one individual step towards progress.

FYI - Although I did not vote in this election since I do not yet live in Greece, my vote would have gone to the Eco-Greens this year for the sheer reason that I think that theirs is a viewpoint that should be considered in Parliament based on a proposition that is beneficial for Greece and Greeks - a healthy patrida.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Greek Elections at First Glance

While a more educated post about the elections will soon follow, I am compelled to share my immediate reactions to the whole scenario after watching the debates and reading about the parties' respective positions.

New Democracy... will lose since status quo is naturally challenged at a time when the economy has hit rock-bottom. Add to that that their years in power were marred with corruption scandals and two major devastating fires that ravaged the country, and the outcome is an easy bet. That said, there is some truth to PM's Karamanlis point that the opposing candidate's many election-era promises amount to bubbles that will burst as soon as the election outcomes are announced. This not out of malice or contempt, but simply a reality that impactful change and improvements cannot be delivered overnight and without feeling the pinch in the short-term.

PASOK... currently promising the world, when all it really needs to promise is improvements. The challenge is that the party had relative dominance in the Parliament since the last elections yet rarely flexed its muscle for little more than to point out the opposing party's problems when it could have rallied to actual move the needle towards all the great progress it's now promising to the Greek populous.

Syriza... is blessed with a young, charismatic leader and the fact that it is not either of the two main parties that people believe are now largely interchangeable. Yet I have a real issue with a party leader who says that the country's youth would be justified in taking the streets (not clear whether he means in rioting or in finding entrepreneurial opportunities in black-market activities) since the country's leadership is not clearing the way for them to find jobs. It is true that employing and empowering the country's largely well-educated youth should be a priority, but those same young Greeks of able mind and body should be encouraged to take some accountability themselves... if not for anything else, to be unlike the status quo and prove that they are fully-capable of an impactful revolution of the mind rather than the fist.

is just a conundrum to me. While some of this party's tenants are easily supported by a majority of Greeks, such as the resistance to Turkey's ascension to the EU and the position against acknowledging FYROM as "Macedonia," certain positions of isolationism taken by party leadership counter the respect that a party who claims to bridge the differences that others exploit is trying to gain. For a country that makes up a key part of Europe's southeastern border, isolation is not a realistic solution to real problem, including the human trafficking that brings illegal immigrants to Greek shores.

Eco-Greens... are a needed voice that was previously weak in Greek politics, particularly in the aftermath of natural disasters that have comprimised one of the country's most important economic resource - the natural elements. While some of their political positions are just as unrealistic as isolationism, I'm interested in seeing how the Greek nation will respond to the environmental trend, particularly as other international leader, including U.S. President Obama, seem to think green is the new economic frontier.

Despite what might be an obvious frustration with the available options, I will spend the rest of the week digging in to the variables important in these elections. Please share your thoughts about the upcoming Greek elections either via comments or the poll.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Change is Coming and It is GOOD!

Hello friends and I'm sorry for my absence from under the olive tree this summer. While I have not been posting my thoughts lately, I can promise you that the past few months have been filled with many discussions, thoughts and almost painful decisions about the future.

Having sheltered you from the decision-making, I am thrilled to let you know that you'll soon see the benefits of my agony, which only came from the fact that all change, including the best kind that has you living out your dreams, is hard.

I can't wait to spend more time with you here - I hope you enjoy it too!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Britain's Got Talent and a Soft Spot for Greek-Irish Dancing

By now we know that an amazing dance group received this season's crown as the top act of Britain's Got Talent, beating out now-famous Scotswoman Susan Boyle, but you may have missed the Greek-Cypriot dance duo that had all judges grinning from ear to ear and frankly in stitches for the entire performance.

Father and son Demetris and Lagi squared off during a spoof of Michael Flatley's famous Irish dance in a shirtless and comical performance that was part jig and part Pentozali, that had the audience on the feet, judges clapping and Simon smiling for what seemed like an eternity by the show's standards.

The two received a resounding "yes," one nai (Greek for yes) and Simon's acknowledgement that it was one of his "favorite ever dance acts." And they walked off into the sunset to the tune of Zorba the Greek.

I LOVED IT! I'm still smiling.

Due to show copyrights, I'm unable to embed the actual video, but click here - you won't be disappointed!
Read about Demetri and Lagi Demetriou in the UK's Daily Mail.

Special thanks to my sister-in-law for sending this my way!

The Greek & Irish combo is particularly fun in our family!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Prayers for the Crew of the MV Irene During Orthodox Holy Week

Days after the Easter miracle that saw an American sea captain rescued from the Somali pirates that are terrorizing the gulf of Aden, a Greek-managed ship by the name of MV Irene was overtaken early this morning. Early Reuters reports indicate that the 22-member is safe, but prayers go out to them and their families for a peaceful resolution. Somali pirates vowed to increase the level of violence against hostages after the rescue of the American captain over the weekend.

Does increased pirate activity mean that shipping companies should consider arming commercial fleets? While Somali pirates are reportedly armed with AK-47s, would they be less apt to succeed if Blackwater-like security firms served as armed security guards of the seas?


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