Two grocery stores in Kalamata, Greece reminded me that I am human

Me, Mystras, Greece
Me Today. Mystras, Greece

Let’s be clear. I am awkward, semi-confident, overly analytical, underachieving, and overly tired. At home and abroad, I will not be able to offer you a proud parenting moment or a fancy yoga pose — (of course I would do Upward Facing Dog. It sounds cool and a bit self-involved). In real life my only yoga move is me shimmying into my yoga pants. Well, not really yoga pants. More travel pants by a well known and popular yoga pant maker. I own two pair of LuluLemon pants. One is black and the other is grey. They are three years old (at least), are my go-to travel pant, and I have been wearing the grey ones for the past three days. (I wore the black ones for five last week). As I type, I can see that the right thigh section of my grey pant leg is stained with something. I think it is lotion from this morning.

Why I mention yoga, and the lack thereof, is that I would like to offer me. And in the spirit of my current travel, I can say that my life is not a Greek tragedy or drama. I am not a victim. My life does not suck. Mostly,  I am human. I have good days and I have bad moments. I am flawed. I am not glamorous. Right now I have a terrible case of allergic dermatitis. It started on my ankles and moved up my calves. The itching is driving me insane and is intent on ruining our trip. Consequently, I am existing in a slight haze due to a steady stream of little pink Benadryl tablets and cortisone cream. Earlier Eli was annoyed with me. I have no idea why. His response,

“Mom, do your ankles itch?”
“I wasn’t thinking about them until you asked. You asked to bug me, didn’t you?”
He smirks, “Yep.”

Dave and I, Mystras, Greece
Dave and I, Mystras, Greece

As far as me the human goes, I am not a size zero. I do not have big or even, even-sized boobs. I do not wake before the boys for say spinning class or a twelve mile run. I have wrinkles, bags under my eyes and a gap in my teeth.

As far as world-travel goes, I am horrible with new languages. For instance, the French often look completely glazed over (and dumbfounded) when I try to speak their language, always refusing to answer me, despite the fact that I studied French for several years. Then those same awesome French people look around, wait, and act like,

“Were you talking to me?”
If I am lucky they speak to me in English.

Carrefour, Kalamata, Greece
Carrefour, Kalamata, Greece

I also get scared when I travel. This time my fear crept in at the Greek grocery stores. Oddly, the Santorini tourist grocery stores were fine. It’s the everyday-Greek grocery. They are completely freaking me out. Each time I walk into a Greek Carrefour grocery store, for instance, I panic. I am not kidding. As I walk through the minimally filled produce section of seemingly rationed out orange, bananas, and bags off white rice tied with red ribbons, I feel like I have stepped back into my elementary school lessons about the Soviet Union. In the back of my head I hear Sting singing, “Believe me when I say to you, I hope the Russians love their children too…” The Berlin wall still stands, and food is not the snack-y, interesting wonderment of say the Chocodile or Gummy Smurf candy of today. Instead, all items at the Greek Carrefour are bleak, plainly labeled and utilitarian. Aisles upon aisles are covered in the same brands. We actually saw an entire aisle filled simply with canned milk. There is canned milk in all sizes for kids, babies and adults. Tonight, Dave and the boys wanted to stop at the Carrefour for the one treat they knew was there – this kind of caramel custard that we always buy in Europe. We stopped, parked the car and my heart began to pound. Dave was halfway into the store when I realized Kyle was still in the car. I looked at Dave and urged,

“Please wait. I need you to wait.”

He waited. Kyle protested and took extra long tying his shoes. I could hear Dave’s foot tap along with my racing heart.

Eventually, Kyle got whatever he needed out of the trunk. I grabbed the last vestige of the life I knew out of my pocket (three gummy bears). I plopped them into my mouth and chomped them right up. Ceremoniously I put the gummy bear wrapper into the trashcan outside. I looked at the door and we walked in.

Carrefour, Kalamata, Greece
Carrefour, Kalamata, Greece

As Dave and the boys gleefully examined the grocery store, my throat tightened, my vision narrowed, and I felt the cans of uniformly canned grocery store product closing in on me. I couldn’t shake it.

The same thing happened yesterday at the Carrefour down the way. Ask Dave. In fact we chose this Carrefour because Dave thought it might be “less Soviet.” As we stood in the even larger Carrefour yesterday, Dave cheerfully tried to engage me.

“Look Beth, The mayonnaise is by Heinz and the ketchup is by Hellmann’s. It’s a parallel universe. I have to take a picture.”

He did and promptly posted it to Facebook.
All I could say was, “Dude, hurry.”

Carrefour, Kalamata, Greece
Carrefour, Kalamata, Greece

Today I was prepared. I would ignore my freaky anxiety-based-grocery-store claustrophobia. Nope. As soon as I stepped in, it grabbed me from behind. It was a crazy drink the boys wanted.

Carrefour, Kalamata, Greece
Carrefour, Kalamata, Greece

“Dad, Dad. It’s called Gr8 Cola. We have to get it!”

I wanted to forget the Gr8 Cola. I wanted to run. All I could see where the green cans of cola next to the Gr8 Cola. While I was transfixed on the regular cola in the plain green cans, Dave happily responded,

“Of course! You always have to try the crazy interesting drinks!”
Instead of encouraging the adventure (like I always do — I actually love foreign grocery stores), I followed with,
“Can’t you hurry? Seriously. Hurry.”

Dave (figuratively) swatted me away. Then I was like,

“dude, remember my anxiety is crazy today.”

He gave me a hug right there in the desolate grocery store as I tried to catch my breath. Seconds later Eli was all,

“Dad, it’s chocolate milk in a can. Please. Kyle is getting a can of regular milk. Can I get Chocolate milk in a can?”

I wish it were the fact that my son wanted canned chocolate milk that made me do it. It wasn’t. It was my strange fear that made me say what I said next:

“Eli, you don’t need that.”

And it was then when I realized I was acting a little crazy. I took another swig of air, backpedaled, swallowed hard, and encouraged him to get that “awesome can of chocolate milk.”

Carrefour, Kalamata, Greece
Carrefour, Kalamata, Greece

He did. We paid for our food and we all made it out alive.

Ok. I told you that story because that is what happened. Of course, I wish I could be different. I wish all my travel stories were filled with inspirational tales about my compassionate spouse, my responsible children, myself and our perfect family. Alas, we are not a veneer. We are human! I am not perfect. Dave is not perfect. My children are not perfect. I suffer from random, unexpected bouts of anxiety (like, ahem, the Carrefour experience). Jet lag is something I will never concur or understand. I am always afraid to fly. Ask Dave and the kids. Their hands are bruised from me squeezing them. Every single time we travel, I freak out about something. I have nightmares about losing the boys in a crowded city. I always think we are going to lose our passports. Sure, I have reason. We do lose (leave) things. Today, the nice guy at the little restaurant high up in the mountains ran out to give us Dave’s credit card (not the first time this has happened, by the way). The kid’s favorite (not really) is when we were flying to Italy last year. Over the airplane loudspeaker the flight attendant announced,

“has anyone lost a woman’s size medium greenish-brown colored coat?”

The announcement was immediately interrupted by the collective eye rolls and followed with their in unison, firm, whisper-yells,

“um, Mom. That’s your coat. Who else has a greenish-brown size medium jacket? [insert smug shoulder shrug here] come on, greenish-brown?”

They were correct. I left my (greenish-brown) jacket at the gate. And yes, Dave and I are in some sort of weird competition to see who can lose the most outerwear on vacation. I think Dave is winning. Further, when it comes to my travel expertise, I must tell you that yes, Dave and I fight (a lot) when we travel. I make hotel reservations for the wrong day (which I just did and it cannot be fixed). We point fingers. We misunderstand. We think we are compromising when we aren’t. We miss flights. But most of all, we actually LOVE to travel and LOVE traveling as a family. It’s not super dramatic. It is life. We are not victims and no one is out to make our life suck. Stuff just happens. Grocery stores just freak some people out.
We are thrifty, frugal, shop at grocery stores on the road (most I enjoy), and travel the most affordable way possible. Basically, what I am trying to say is that if a crazy person such as myself can travel all the time, so can you. Or better, if a crazy person like me can follow her dreams (in spite of weird grocery store anxiety and such), so can you.

Dave and I, Mystras, Greece
Dave and I, Mystras, Greece

Ultimately, my point is this (and maybe this should have been at the beginning where a thesis goes): I think a lot about the world and the images that are put out there. I know I often feel like I cannot compete. I am not fit enough. I do not fit in enough. I am awkward. I nervous cry, or better, I announce that I am going to cry and then I don’t. I am so not cool. I am not a Foodie. I am “real” [wink wink] allergic to wheat and I love food. I am a lot A.D.D. and am interested in everything (of course). Basically, I do not fit into a box. Consequently, I wonder if there is a way to fight the cleverly crafted, magazine-styled, Facebook-induced, craft-blog enabled veneer? Is there a way to follow your dreams, feel worthwhile and still be you? I think so. How I am trying to make it so is by presenting myself as I am. If I am lucky, maybe someone else out there can see that real humans follow their dreams too.

— Because dudes, there is enough to go around — always!



  • We drove over the mountains to Mystras, Greece. We highly, highly recommend visiting.