Lessons from Luna (my furry friend)

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My Luna celebrates six glorious years of life today. And I am rejoicing every ounce of love that she showers me with every day. Life lessons too.

Baby Luna stole my heart the moment I laid eyes on her as a rescue puppy. She has since grown from a most adorable fluffy snow ball into a beautiful lady who teaches me the true essence of life each day.

Here’s what I’ve learnt from my Lunatic:

  1. Wake up with a smile.
  2. Greet everyone you see-despite their size- with enthusiasm.
  3. Turn your walk into an experience of the senses- smell the daisies, taste the morning mist..
  4. Take beauty naps often.
  5. Don’t be intimidated by your height. Quite simply, look up!
  6. Ask for whatever you set your mind on. What’s the worst thing they will say to you? No?

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Paws up my Luna and thank you for all the smiles, love, happiness and LUNAtic moments! C’est la vie after all, no?!

It’s not just about the race…

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I have flirted with the idea of a duathlon for several years now, so I vowed to finally make it happen in 2016! A gentle push by a fellow runner made me realize that it was indeed time to conquer my fear of racing on a bike. In January, I signed up for my first spinning class with the formidable Nireas Triathlon Club. I puffed incessantly as the group spinned tirelessly, but I was not ready to give up! A few weeks later, I inspired a friend to join along, and by February, we had both committed to participate in the Pervolia Duathlon, a run-bike-run event on March 13.

My first duathlon would be dedicated to the loving memory of a dear friend of heart, Kyriakos (Koullis) Pontikis (aka my Zen Master). Koullis’ oasis of calmness, words of wisdom, unparalleled wit and cheeky smile sealed my commitment to this race and accompanied me throughout my training.

Koullis Pontikis

But, more about this thrilling experience in my letter to Koullis…

My dearest Friend,

My decision to race was coupled with three vows:

  1. Don’t be intimidated by faster cyclists
  2. Don’t fall
  3. Enjoy the journey, and smile along!

But, I was extremely nervous yesterday. Not only would I be racing on a bike for the first time, I would also be ‘competing’ against robust triathletes, including a handful of Russian Olympians (!) or so, I was informed. 

Have I mentioned that I would be racing on a mountain bike (aka ‘fat tires’), while everyone else would be on a road bike with much higher gearing? More like a Fiat against 99 Ferrari’s.

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 ‘Just make sure you stay on the very edge of the street’ my 10-year old buddy, Nicolas advised me before the race. 

We ran the first 5k in glorious weather amidst stunning valleys of wild flowers. Koulli, I have told you before that the runners’ spirit is absolutely reviving and addictive. I just couldn’t stop smiling.

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Vow 3, check!

 As I entered the transition area to mount my bike for the 20k leg, I realized that most of the bikes were gone. I struggled on the first loop, cycling against the wind. I soon caught a glimpse of cyclists riding with such speed and natural elegance that I began to wonder what I was doing there. 

But that thought vanished as I recalled Vow 1!

As the first cyclists started to head south to complete their first loop, the words ‘Bravo Mahi’ echoed in my ears. The Nireas team knew that this was a serious leap out of my comfort zone, and they cheered me on, along with dear friends who pampered me with love and hoorays. Vow 3, check again, along with Vow 2! I was on top of the world.

The last leg of the race was a 2.5k run, and I must admit that my legs couldn’t move. But just when I was ready to start walking, a white butterfly fluttered around me. I smiled as a tear slid down my cheek. And I ran that last kilometer with an undeviating smile as I pictured Louis doing the hand jive and getting jiggy with Greased Lightning.

The Russian Olympian finished first at 54min 50sec while the race came to an official close about an hour later. More specifically, at 1H 48min 16 sec. And that exactly was my finish time as it was attained on two legs and two fat tires!

A magnificent journey, dedicated to you… Your LEGACY will forever last in my memory…

PS: I thank Laura Koumas-Lioliou for capturing the very essence of the event through these photos. Laura, I repeat: It’s not just about the race but the wonderful people along your journey!

With training buddy, Elias Liolios

With training buddy, Elias Liolios

I fell in love with your vibe, Yoga Rocks!

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The time had come for my long-awaited yoga trip to Crete. It was time to exhale, following a year of challenges, change, new beginnings, bewilderment, turmoil and occasional numbness. As we drove from Heraklion to Triopetra, I was immersed in my thoughts, yearning for peace of mind and a relentless need to reconnect with myself again.

“In Crete, when we have a small problem, we drink one raki… For big problems, we have two rakis,” the jovial taxi driver interrupted my thoughts. I chuckled, as I recalled how this apéritif makes life merrier!

… And then… I fell in love… with the vibe of Yoga Rocks.

http://www.fittoinspire.com/what-my-seven-day-yoga-retreat-in-greece-taught-me

Let Momentum Continue!

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Awesome TEDxNicosiaWomen Team,

TEDxNicosiaWomen Team by AJ Photo Art

TEDxNicosiaWomen Team by AJ Photo Art

On May 29, we listened to bold ideas that create Momentum through a fascinating platform of remarkable women living on the island, coupled with a broadcast of equally inspiring speakers from TEDWomen in California.

Let us rewind and reflect on Momentum.

LOCAL SPEAKERS

Sophia Papastavrou took us on a journey upon her quest for identity, which has evolved through countless travels and years of living abroad.  An ambiguous term, Sophia described identity as ‘an ongoing process, evolving, elusive, fluid, contradictory and slippery,’ explaining that she wishes for her unborn daughter to be able to recognize diverse cultural representations at an early age.

Christina Smith spoke about ‘The Challenge of a Woman’ in a male dominated work environment- the police force. Following years of arrogant and condescending remarks by various colleagues and associates, Christina strived to make herself recognized for her contribution and not for who she was- a tall, powerful, confident woman. Christina encouraged the audience to face up to life’s challenges and everything which doesn’t quite feel right.

Alexia Paraskeva was a living testament that TED is not just about ideas, but entertainment. She captured the audience through two acting performances and a reading of Kavafy’s ‘Ithaca’ creating an avalanche of emotions from laughing and smiling to tears and reflection.

Dr. Yasmin Ohlsson posed the question whether we are gaining or losing Momentum about our health. A family doctor with a specialist interest in Preventive and Lifestyle Medicine, in due course, Yasmin trained as a coach in an effort to better comprehend how to challenge and change human behavior, ultimately helping her clients to make meaningful lifestyle choices.

Patricia Martin, a lawyer from the US, spoke about her mission, which brought her to Cyprus. Patricia chose Cyprus, which she describes as an abused woman, to launch ‘One Woman at a Time’ (OWAAT), a community court collaboration aimed at educating abused women of their basic rights to prevent violence against them as well as empower them. Her 7-month endeavors on the island brought a glimpse of hope as the first self-help abuse case reached court.

Four speakers, two acting performances, one reading and a TEDWomen broadcast connecting Nicosia, Cyprus, through a global conversation with 240 TEDxWomen events in 68 countries. All of this put together, created Momentum in the way we think, live and work.

But, that’s not the entire picture!

Momentum began months ago, at that very moment, when TEDWomen announced this year’s theme. We identified our speakers, heard their story, and helped them transport that one idea, which creates Momentum, Live on the TEDxNicosiaWomen stage.

We also identified our team, which worked tirelessly and passionately to organize and present an event which  intrigued, energized and inspired with ‘ideas worth spreading.’

That Spark, which got things moving, created a Magical Domino Effect filled with passion, enthusiasm and motivation to make TEDxNicosiaWomen become reality.

Awesome TEDxers, each of the above key ingredients, refer to ALL of you- the wonderful organizing team and volunteers! The extraordinary power of X, which has brought us all together deserves a heartfelt applause and a humble Thank You! Thank you for believing in us!

X

Letter to Dad: It’s not just about the race

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Daddy mou,
 
Although I always say that marathon training is not just about the race, today I seemed to fret about everything at the Aphrodite Half Marathon.
 
Well, it was only four days ago that I found out that all the pain I had during my last long runs was due to a dislocated hip… So, I kept worrying that it would go out of place again.
 
As I waited at the start line, feeling the sun on my bare shoulders, I worried that my running top felt a size too big. I worried that I didn’t train hard enough and that my stop watch kept acting out.
 
“Do you think that Pheidippides had a Garmin?” a dear friend alerted me, instantly bringing me to my senses. And that’s when I realized that what I was really missing was you (and your smiling face) assuring me that I would be just fine.
 
Seconds before the starter pistol went off, we heard a lightning strike, followed by rain and then hail. “So-long to our winter sun bliss,” I thought as we began to run.
 
Battered by a hail storm? On the island of sun? Seriously? Well… it surely battered all my worries away.
 
Daddy, the hail went on for the first five kilometers. And, it hurt!
 
But then, the most magical rainbow painted the grey sky. Soon after, it felt as if we were waking up to a different season and for the next 16 kms, sparkling sun rays were the only reflection on the Paphos sea.
 
Daddy, I will not dare talk about my disappointment with my finish time.  Only because this race was in the true running spirit and choosing to relive wonderful, timeless, inspirational moments of our run together a year ago.
 
The extra touch of spice, daddy mou, were the friends who ran ‘next’ to me. They cheered me on, gave me low-five’s during the race and a hug at the finish line. I felt so much love in the air and in every footstep…
 
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‘Procopis is smiling,’ so many people said…. Priceless…

So, here’s a vow for 2015, and you are my witness: After 16 half marathons, I am now ready for my first full marathon… The Athens classic route? Or, New York? I need your help on this one!

Love you so much…

Mahi

So, what’s your perspective?

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October has certainly been a month of ‘Perspectives.’ At least for me.
 
Following a most rewarding, two-week educational trip to the US, where I attended a program ‘Standing with Civil Society’ I am back, recharged, with different #Perspectives. We had citizen diplomacy meetings, examining the role of civic participation in an effort to improve government responsiveness. This led to the ultimate realization that we as citizens are the true ambassadors of change in this world. But, above all, the most gratifying part was interacting with people from 29 countries and observing their #Perspective.
 
An opportunity to Re-Think my Perspective and mission in life: that, in life there is indeed a circle of acts of kindness and acts of cruelty. And what we give, tends to come back to us, along with the wheel of change.
 
Coming home, I started work on TEDxNicosia 2014, along with my fellow TEDxers, who all share a common drive to make a REAL impact in the community we live in. I’ve said this before but I need to say it again! Every single TEDxNicosia team member will tell you that this is their way of giving back to the community. Quite simply, it is their humble contribution to society.
 
This year, TEDxNicosia challenges its audience to explore different Perspectives: of people who have always seen things differently, people who change gears and expand their perspective, or, people who simply follow that little voice inside of them. 
 
 ‘So, what’s your Perspective?’  I asked the TEDxNicosia team.

First, I touched base with Marina Theodotou, Founder of TEDxNicosia. When Marina  relocated to NYC, she asked us to ‘step up’ and take over. This was her message, from the Big Apple to the Little Island:

‘A small shift in our own perspective can translate into a giant change in the world. So, think about your perspective…Look north, south, west, east, decide what changes YOU want to make, and go ahead and make them.’

And, then followed a stream of inspiration from the rest of the TEDxNicosia organizing team:

‘By accepting the existence of points of views, we widen our horizons, we understand the importance of individual differences and maintain an open mind to the multidimensional aspects surrounding us. It’s all about perspectives.’ –Paul Koronis, Curator/ Organizer

‘In every story, challenge, idea or solution, there is a hidden angle that appears more unique, innovative and more inspiring. Pay close attention to the details and you will find it.’ – Loris Stavrinides, Organizer/ Creative Director

‘Rain. You love it. It brings you euphoria. But not when you are driving, or when you are heartbroken, or when you had plans outdoors, or when you have to walk, or when you are on vacation. But you love rain. Rain will always be rain. How you feel about it, truly depends on the angle you look at it. Life, is all about those angles.’ –Maria Stylianou, Production Manager
 ‘Sometimes, you have to tread back to your past to gain a perspective of the present.’ 
-Andri Josef, Photographer
 
‘Not all is black and white – or right or wrong- and as long as you have a solid argument to support your point of view, a perspective is to be respected. There are as many realities and perspectives in this world, as the number of people living in it…’ –Stephania Constantinou, Translations & Logistics
 
 ‘People can approach the same topic, object, idea from a different angle. Just think about that!’ –Charis Michael, Sponsors & Logistics Coordinator
 
‘Perspectives is how we, individually, perceive what’s around us. It’s what we make of the world around us. It’s those people who have learned to hear the voice inside them by challenging all of their preconceived ideas and assumptions. It’s the people that break rules and are crazy enough to go into this world and create. It’s what Steve Jobs said, “the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels”. This year’s theme is devoted to the people that make innovation happen, those who have put all of their preconceived ideas and assumptions in a blender and poured it out in a marvelous form. 
Christina Neophytidou, Ticketing & Auditorium Management
 
‘It’s a way to see life, details, and the big picture in so many different ways. It’s an encouraging vision of all aspects of life…’ –Evanthia Koronis, Sponsors & Logistics Coordinator
 
‘Perspectives – be it in the form of art; famous paintings which different minds interpret in different ways. Be it in an argument or a controversial statement and the various perspectives it can possess, it is definitely a broad and interesting theme which is bound to fascinate.’ –Stephanie Stefanou, Logistics
 
‘You have a choice in how you choose to view a situation in life- each choice we make helps to define us and shape our value system. Observing other peoples perspectives can help move you out of your comfort zone, educate you, inspire you and alert you to a different way of thinking. It can free you!’ –Thalia Iacovou, Volunteer Coordinator
 
‘The same event or situation can be seen through many difference lenses and thus, be filtered in many different ways- this is what perspectives is all about.’
Anna Koukkides-Procopiou, Volunteer Coordinator

 

 

 

 

A butterfly and guardian angels

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“What do you miss most about your dad?” my yoga therapist, Anastasia, asked me a few weeks after my father passed away.
Without much thought, I replied: “I lost my biggest fan…”
 
Minutes later, I sobbed endlessly in my car and I realized, that up until that day, I hadn’t allowed myself the time to grieve properly.
 
“You have more fans than you know..” Anastasia’s words echoed in my head. She was right. Only, no one matched daddy…
 
Dad was my first phone call every single morning. He wanted a full report every time I was training for a half marathon: my nutrition plan, how early I went to my morning runs and how many kms I ran. He even shared his forecasts for my finish time and was my support team in so many races. He cheered for me at the finish line in Prague, after he proudly told the Czech PM that I was amongst the Cyprus delegation. He held my hand at my last ½ marathon in Paphos, when I was about to faint, and helped me cross the finish line with a smile. Dad had a distinctive way of simplifying complex situations and the charisma to help us live life with a touch of spice.
 
During dad’s six-month ordeal, I came to the realization that life has all kinds of tastes: sweet, salty, delicious, sour, nourishing and toxic. When the taste gets sour, we must remember to sprinkle life with an extra dose of love, have faith, stay positive and stay close to friends of heart and family.
 
It was time to start living again as life ought to be lived. Smile at his wonderful memories, let his legacy live on, re-live his myriad cheer leading moments, and open my eyes wide open- to remind myself that there is still beauty around me. And love.
Once I removed that protective shield, love and light started to pour in. And, I allowed it to stay with me.
 
But…it still took an effort to smile…
 
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It was during this challenging time that I randomly found myself in the United States (a place I call my ‘Wonderland’ with lifelong memories which hold a very special place in my heart). A two-week program on civil society, together with representatives from 30 countries was my gift from a guardian angel in disguise.
 
Despite the intensive program and long hours, I had to make time to see my friends of heart- friends who reside deep into my soul. Friends, who had stood by me through my dad’s ordeal from afar. So much love and care from my ‘Americanakia’… 12 guardian angels whom I was blessed to reunite with.
 
 
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While chillaxing at the hotel terrace one day, a butterfly fluttered over my head and landed on my shoulder, where it stayed endlessly as in a state of daze. For the first time in three months, my heart smiled.. I felt that it was my dad sprinkling a touch of magic back into my life, telling me that I look prettier when I smile.
 
From that moment, my dad’s smiling face was all I saw. That enchanting butterfly brought with it a reunion with an old friend, whom I hadn’t seen in almost two decades. A friend, who had also lost a parent and could feel my pain… A friend who managed to make me see daddy’s passing with a different perspective… “He’s still here,” he told me with a smile. “He’s part of you.”
 
It is true what they say that ‘people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.’ Whichever the case, I am incredibly grateful to have had such exceptional friends around me at such a defining stage of my life- a time when I consciously decided to leap out of my cocoon and, quite simply, start living again. I feel honored…and blessed..