Monday, 31 March 2014

The "Just Adopt" comment (Part 1)

It is common, I am told, while going through infertility to be told to "just adopt". It is a suggestion that is often banded around, as if referring to going down the supermarket and buying some milk. It sounds like the simplest thing: "Why don't you just adopt?" It makes it sound simple, and easy and devoid of complications. It makes it sound great, almost like an impulse buy. ("We just decided to adopt a few weeks ago. Isn't she great?")

The reality, of course, is much, much different. Paper-chase and home-study aside (they deserve their very own post) the process is most often much longer than a pregnancy, full of decisions that few bio parents need to make. When entering the adoption process my husband and I had to fill in a form that outlined the sort of disabilities we could cope with in our children. The list went from the relatively simple, such as a hearing difficulty or partial eyesight, to the downright complicated like cystic fibrosis and celebral palsy. For two people who had not parented before, the academic choice was astounding, crippling and anything but simple. 

And then it's the time. It's not that it takes long: most people who go into adoption are aware of the longer time frames. It is the uncertainty of it all: it could take a year, or it could take four. Not to mention that in most cases you don't even know the sex or age of the child you will parent. This can, of course, be a delightful surprise when the time comes, but it does make preparing for the little one (or little ones) a little harder. 

Speaking of preparations: we have started none! We still don't know when (or some days "if") the little ones will make it into our house (because they have certainly made it into our lives already!) and so we have decided to not prepare a room just yet. Some friends who are in the same process found out last Friday that they have a court date next Monday and now have one week to get a room ready, buy bottles and clothes, dummies and toys. Not to mention plan a trip, book hotels and find a cat-sitter. 

I realise full well that pregnancy is not a walk in the park. In fact, I have been there, albeit not at the end of it all. I understand that child birth is no field day either, for most people. Yet, there is a certain predictability in it all that I am deeply envious of. 

As we wait to "just adopt" these thoughts are with me. And with my friends who are awaiting to become parents, both pregnant and paper-pregnant. Good things come to those who wait. 


Saturday, 29 March 2014

Life is Long. Life is Short.

D and I have been together seven years. There are days when it feels like yesterday that we met. Then there are days when it feels like we have always known each other.

I have spoken about him a lot before, but this long journey, our adoption journey has made me appreciate him more than ever. For his willingness to embark on it. For his "can do" attitude towards the paperwork. For the way he embraced the process. For the way he embraced the children. For the way he supports me every single day through it. 

I have spoken about the wait. It is torturous. And I know people compare it to a pregnancy, but I cannot, because the similarities are fewer than the stark differences. We have been waiting over six months since our match. (The time before is meaningless to me.) Every day is long. Every day is a day that they spend without a family. A day that we spend without them. A day older. But at least I am with D. And he still makes me smile. 

*Update: There is some movement. There seems to always be some movement, just not of the right sort. Their papers are hopefully no longer stuck. As most of our peers, the people we started with together on this adoption journey, are flying out for their last court date, we continue to live in hope.  

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Weight of the Wait

Days pass. The kids are growing up. Away from us. Growing older, but without getting what children need: love, warmth, attention, stimulation.

We talk quite a bit about the orpahange where they are, because it is a place of contradictions. For our western eyes it looks incredibly poor. I was shocked to see they only had one toilet, for about 30 children and 12 staff. I also noticed that there was only one tap in the whole orphanage, connected to one of those plastic water drums on the roof. It was outside and it was used for everything: from washing babies and making formula, to cleaning your feet and face after you come back from school every day. The water from the tank is used for drinking, personal hygiene, as well as handwashing clothes and plates. Rows and rows of freshly washed clothes line the small yard. 

There is no kitchen as such, but a little portable barbecue-like contraption that gets lit twice a day and where the food is cooked. We watched the ladies cook one day and it was fantastic, yet so different from what one imagines you would need in order to cater for 30 (I guess a lot of the babies only eat formula, but still...)

This poverty of the surroundings starkly contrasted with the emotional wealth of the ladies there. These women, 12 altogether, though in shifts, seemed to genuinely care for the little ones. However, and this is what I try to explain to my friends and relatives who do not get institutionalisation: this is not what kids need! It is simply not enough. One carer for six babies below five months is not enough. The children learn day by day that their cares will not be met, that no matter how much they cry no one will come for them, comfort them, pick them up, change their nappy, feed them. The silence of the baby room is deafening!

And so our baby too is growing bigger and older. He is learning to smile and sit up. He is still sucking his thumb. He is learning, every day, that no one comes when you cry. He is learning that he is alone in the world and that the world is fundamentally an unsafe place. And if you think I am exaggerating, read this study on the neurodevelopmental effects of institutionalisation in infants and this on some of  the emotional effects (also this if you want to read more). And all of the above compounded by the trauma of losing your first family...

So when I whine about the wait, when I moan about the numerous delays, about the paperchase, about the endless "next weeks" (because right now it does feel endless) it is not because I want to be a mum tomorrow (though that would be nice). It is because I know that with everyday that passes changes occur, that will be hard to fix...

And I fully realise that the additional wait is there because there are new proceducers, procedures which are meant to safeguard children and I applaud that with all my heart. On the other hand, a big part of me mourns for the little baby who will spend one more day in the silent baby room. The wait for the weight is knowing that these kids are leaving a precious part of their childhood in the soiled sheets of an orphanage. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Slow Sundays

We normally spend Sundays doing what needs to be done - clean the house, cook for the week, plan for school. 

We reached this Sunday tired! It had been a long week, we had worked too many hours, listened to too many kids, met with too many parents (parents evening was this week), marked too many assignments, disciplined too many unruly children. We needed to switch off and rest.

For some people socialising is an integral part of resting and recharging. Not so for me! I needed to be alone, to read and clean and sip my tea. To go for a long walk on the mountain, alone but for my canine company. I needed to curl up with D and a good film. I needed to sleep! I had a blissful slow Sunday! 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

10 things I love about Spring

It's here! It is so definitely here, I can feel it on my slightly sunburnt face!

I simply love spring in Greece. It is real, and sustainable and melts into wonderful (yet hot) summer. So here are the 10 things that I adore about spring time. 

1. The longer days
I love waking up and it being light. I love the longer evenings too, even if at the moment I don't have the time to enjoy long walks with the dogs as the sun goes down. We did today... and it was lovely!
2. The light
Summer light can be harsh - it can bleach stones and blind you. Spring light is bright, but soft. It has this clarity to it, none of the haze of summer, or the weakness of winter. I love it at all times of day, but mostly at dawn and dusk. 

3. The new smells
Everywhere you go at the moment, there is a smell in the air, the smell of spring. The grass smells, the flowers smell, the orange trees are budding, the wisteria is spreading its aroma everywhere. Not to mention the thyme and oregano that fills the air on our mountain runs. 

4. More time to walk the dogs
Related to the above, but I love not having to "squeeze" a walk in, but instead have some time to really savour it. The dogs do too!

5. These flowers...
Something magical happens around late February here. The usually hard and stony ground becomes a carpet of green and small, beautiful flowers fill it. Each week, it seems, a different type is in bloom...

6. ...and these...

7... and these ones too...

8. Eating outside
We are incredibly lucky that we have the outside space to eat all our meals outside, if we so wish, and able to have breakfast, lunch and dinner at a different outside location around our garden. As the weather warms up we start enjoying our meals al fresco - it feels like such a treat!

9. Easter
Easter is coming up. It's a big deal here in Greece, but it is also a chance to spend some downtime, see family and reflect on the rebirth of nature around us. 

10. And finally... Summer is almost here...

There is palpable optimism in the air. Greek summers are slow, hot (sometimes too hot) and full of long evenings eating out, beautiful beaches, cool mountain walks and gorgeous fresh food... Cannot wait!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Why I don't feel bad for going to bed at 10

(or sometimes before...)

I listen to a lot of podcasts, usually when walking in town or on public transport, and one of them caught my attention this week. It was on the Harvard Business Review podcast and it really resonated with me. Here is a blogpost on the HBR that is related, but as I am not sure how to link to a podcast on itunes (anyone?) you can search for it, if you want to hear it, it is episode 359: Attacking the Sleep Conspiracy of the HBR IdeaCast.

It resonated for several reasons, but one of them is very simple: it gave me a reason to continue to go to bed at 10! I have many friends and acquaintanced who find my bedtime hours weird, and it is often a topic of discussion, especially here in Greece. 

There is a certain "glamour" attached to staying up late, burning the midnight oil and being so busy that you have no time to sleep. I have chosen to reject it in my life, as for me the benefits of 8 hours of good quaality sleep are obvious, but now I have science to back me up. 

Russell Sanna, who is the executive director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School talks about a culture-shift in sleeping behaviours, similar to the shift that happened in cigarette smoking and healthy eating. I have often thought of that - yet it was just wonderful to hear it from someone, well, ahem, qualified. 

So tonight I have all the more reason to go to bed early, turn the light off before ten and feel good about getting my full eight hours of sleep, knowing that I am doing something good for my health!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Pretty little girls

This article  has really got me thinking. Has really got me evaluating my responses, looking at my values once more and thinking more about the sort of world I would like my daughter to grow up in. Rebecca Adlington, the most successful British swimmer at the moment, has been hounded for her appearance: for her strong body and for her big nose. She does not conform to the "ideal" and that is worthy of all sorts of criticism, it seems.

It is becoming more and more obvious to me that you are not successful as a woman, in the eyes of the media at least, unless you are pretty. Or rather, you can be successful, like Rebecca Adlington is, no doubt, only for people to talk about how you are not pretty, like all other successful women should be. 

It makes me so angry! It makes me angry that in 2014 we still judge women not only by their achievements, but by the way they look. And it makes me angry that as a society we still value pretty women above sporty women, above clever women, above talented women. 

As a teacher, I find myself falling into this trap occasionally, so deeply ingrained it is. I spoke about it on my post The World of Little Girls and I do find myself complementing girls on their shoes, or their hair, although I often catch myself and make a point of giving "equal" comments to all. 

How do we show our girls that being pretty is not the be-all and end-all of life? How do we show them that we value them as athletes, as musicians, as writers, as lawyers, regardless of how they look? How do we bolster their self esteem so they know that whatever their age, whatever their skin colour, whether their hair is straight or curly or kinky-to-the-point-of-being-unruly, that's ok, they can be smart and polite, they can be talented and the world won't care?

I am not sure - I am yet to find out. Suggestions always welcome! But I dream of a world where successful women do not get taunted about their looks, but are celebrated and respected the way they should be. 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Road to Simplicity - losing the books?

When we moved to Greece almost six years ago we came with 26 boxes. 26 small boxes, altogether about a 1.5 cubic metres. Oh, and 5 of those boxes were bicycles.

We had very little, as we gave a lot of stuff away, sold some more stuff and donated to charity. We felt light and moveable. It felt liberating not to be weighed down by stuff. It hadn't been a long process either - it came quite naturally to both of us and felt a little like a game: how small could we get our baggage into our new life to be?

I even overcame my aversion to giving away books and donated several boxes full to our local charity shop*. It felt good. I have hardly ever missed one of those books. 

In this moment in our life, during the wait, we have made the decision to re-simplify. To declutter once more. Greece has marked a change in us, we consume a lot less than we ever did in London. That's partly attributed to "having gone off grid a little" and I did notice last time I was in the UK how everyone around me seemed to be wearing new clothes - my clothes looked tatty and old (and they are only 4 or 5 years old). 

My intentions to simplify were bolstered by this post and this blog. It all made sense. It was just what we needed and as our life is about to get more complicated in other ways, well, it made quite a bit of sense to simplify in others. 

I looked at the books, currently proud residents of what will hopefully become the "kids'" bedroom. 
These are my books: the books I have collected over several years of reading, studying, university. The books that people have given me as presents, I have bought for myself, I have looked for in second-hand bookshops. I have cracked their spines and read them - I have enjoyed their company.
These are our books too - the ones we bought together as a couple, the ones we have read and discussed. How could I get rid of them?

I am still not sure what to do. The reality of the matter is I very rarely re-read a book. I love reading them the first time round, relish their company, dive into the content. Yet I don't like to go back - unless looking for a reference and rarely re-read a whole book. 

And then of course there is my Kindle. And that too is full of books, electronic ones. And part of the reason I bought it is because it is much easier to buy English books in Greece in electronic form, but the other reason is that I was slowly becoming aware of the book-crisis in our house... We were running our of space!

And so I sit and contemplate and wonder if any of the advice in that article is useful to me. I make bargains (if I simplify our kitchen, then surely I can keep the books). I think of ways to get rid of them, but to also keep them (we have a big storage spot in our attic). I think how, one day, our kids might weant to read this book - in a way it is a legacy to all we have ever read, to all we have thought important. 

I have not made a decision about the books yet. I keep them there, look at them, consider carefully what their future holds. And to date, I have not thrown a single one away!

*The decision is all the more complicate because there are no charity shops to donate these books and so I would have to throw them away. And there is a big part of me that feels that books should never ever be thrown away! Hmmm... I think we are doomed to live in a library! 

Thursday, 13 March 2014


(or why life is not always black or white)

I am not a physicist, but I love science. There is much comfort in the certainty, the replicability of it all. There is a semblance of knowledge, an inkling of control, that very much appeals to my inner control-freak. 

I was listening to a podcast the other day, that discussed wave-particle duality and it really resonated with me. 

We are brought up to believe in dualities, in false dichotomies: it is either A or B. Children are taught to think that way, because, in reality, at a younger age that's all our brains might be able to understand. 

I find myself doing that a lot when teaching: at that age (7-9) the moral code has to be dual for most children, it is difficult to explain to children than life can be... well... different shades of grey. In the same way, we want to believe that things are either A, or B and it is difficult for us, conceptually, I guess to see that the same thing could simultaneously be both A and B (and C and D and many things beside).

Yet some of us never grow out of this dual nature of life. We judge people absolutely: he is either good or bad. It is either black or white. We make these judhements daily (OK, I make such judgements daily) and it is difficult when we are confronted with evidence to the contrary. 

A lof of what I have been thinking, a lot of my ramblings, are linked to adoption, actually. And how some people want to see it as simply good, or simply bad. Experience keeps teaching me more and more that life is way more complicated than that and the simple pigeon holes we make for big ideas (adoption included, but also democracy, the free market, globalisation etc) are only there to fulfil our wish for duality. 

Life seems to be a lot more complicated than that... 

(Sorry for the philosophical post. It's been brewing awhile. Also, if you are a physicist and can explain this wave-particle duality to me in more depth, I'd love to hear from you!)

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Into the Woods

Adoption can be dark. We often forget the "before" and concentrate on the "after". But adoption is just as much about the "before" as it is about what follows. It is about the how and why our children get to us, as much as what happens when they are here. In fact, the one affects the other so much, that they cannot help but be interconnected. 

We owe it to our future kids to be committed, we owe it to them to have done our homework. To be ready to fight for them, to be ready to parent in ways that we might not have considered before. 

International adoption is even harder, in many ways. It is frought with dangers, corruption, difficulties. We need to go into it with our eyes wide-open. I feel we have and we continue on our journey, in the woods, firmly on the lookout. 

International adoption is an imperfect solution, in an imperfect world. We know this, we don't pretend that being adopted by us is the best thing that could have happened to anyone... Not because we are bad people, but because, first families come first. Extended families come second. A home in their country of origin comes next. International adoption is the imperfect solution, in the imperfect world where none of the above solutions are possible. 

Adoption is a leap of faith. Parenthood is a leap of faith. An irreversible change of fortune, for better or worse. I easily get scared, worry about what it will be like. In the books I've read, in the blogs I've followed, there are examples of less-than-happy ever afters, just as much as there are success stories. Nobody knows how it will go. We only know that we are committed. For better, or worse...


As we had a week off last week, it was our plan to start re-organising our home for the arrival of the little ones. 

A bit of background. We were matched back in late September. We visited them in late October. He was 4 months, she was around 3 years old. We fell in love. 

Local offices closed, preventing new referrals from moving onto court dates. Then local offices opened. Then MOWA (the Minsitry of Women's Affairs) changed several bits of the process of adoption, making the process less prone to corruption. Great! Also longer. Not so great. 

We have been waiting for a court date. Others who got referrals around the same time had their court dates last week. Turns out there's a discrepancy between what MOWA wanted on one of the papers and what the local authorities wrote. More waiting. And more uncertainty. 

We are tired. We are worried about both of them. Yes, we know that adoption is never predictable, but the last five months of not knowing what to expect have been tough. I am not sure what I should be doing, and what I shouldn't. 

Should I start getting their room ready? Should I be buying things, borrowing from friends (who keep offering)? How much of my reluctance to prepare is simply my own fear, the deep part of my brain that remains superstitious, that keeps connecting unconnected events and reads causality in random happenings? 

We did nothing. The room that will become their bedroom is still our office. A million books still occupy it. (It really does feel like a million books...) I keep asking myself daily whether we should be moving them, whether I should get the cot from this friend, whether I should start child-proofing the house. 

Yet I don't. We wait...

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Joy of Slowing Down

I guess it is a lifestyle quite specific to teachers, the two-speed life, where for six weeks you live in a flurry of activity, working crazy hours and forgetting what your house and spouse look like, followed by the lull, a week or two of holidays, where you change down several gears, relax and recharge ready for the next six week cycle. 

It is a unique lifestyle and it leads to quite Jekyl-and-Hyde-esque behaviours. I find myself changing, the minute the holiday starts. I turn from a result-driven person (type A), to a more process driven alternative (mellow). 

We have just had one of these mellow weeks and I am coming to Sunday, looking ahead towards a full week with fear. I so love my life when it is simple, slow and we are given the time to enjoy it. Time to smell the flowers. Walk the dogs. Cook something that takes longer than 20 minutes to prepare. 

I know we, as teachers, are privileged to have this opportunity. But I do feel like term-time is not your normal kind of 9 to 5 job. I have spoken to many people  who have come into teaching from other professions and they too recognise that teaching gives them a new-kind of tired. That includes my husband, who used to regularly work 12 hour days in a demanding banking job in the City of London and who now teaches for 8-9 hours every day and is more tired than he could ever imagine. In the same way that parenting is a new-kind of tired, I guess. 

Let's see: children are involved in both of these... high energy individuals demanding your attention every minute of the day... Only in one of the two cases, your day is only 9 hours long - then you go home and unwind (do chores, mark homework, plan assignments and update the class website). 

I have loved the extra time, the luxury of long walks with the dogs, the chance to go for a coffee with a friend. I even liked the fact that I didn't have to get up before six in order to spend quality time with my husband, or have some time to write. 

Oh the luxury of time, how I will miss you!

10 things I love about teaching

I have now been a teacher for ten years. I never intended it to be my long-term career, I always thought it would be something I'd do for a while and then move on. That's partly because I knew that at some point, teaching tires you out. (There are notable exceptions to this, some of whom I have witnessed with my very own eyes - those people are simply born to be teachers!) I have seen it many times: the teacher that has gone past his/her sell-by-date. Weary and armed with little patience, they go through the motions, really wishing there were anywhere but in front of 20+ energetic 8 year olds. 

But I still do it and I still love it. Yes, I would love a change, relish it even, but when it comes to it, in the morning, when I stand in front of my class and start the day, I'm still happy to be there!

So here are the ten things I love about being a teacher:

1. No day is ever the same
One day you are on a trip to the zoo, the next you are eating pizza and teaching fractions. The day after that you might be dressed as a pirate, the next day you have Sports Day and you are in your tracksuit. No day is the same, yet there is a comforting routine to it too. 

2. The smiles
No matter how grumpy or tired you feel, no matter what has happened to you in the morning on the way to work, or last night, there are always smiles there to welcome you. And when you are looking at several smiley faces, you cannot help but smile back!

3. Making a difference
Ok, so I am not finding the cure of cancer, or saving lives in a hospital, but I know now, after ten years of teaching, that what I do does make a small difference to people's lives. I know that I have turned around children, who never liked school, into keen pupils, I know that because I have mums who tell me still, that I was the one to make their child like school. That's a difference I'm happy to make. 

4. The energy
This one really is a double edge sword. Sometimes I love it, it picks me up and carries me through the day. Sometimes I want to close my eyes and hide under my desk. Teaching is not a job that you can do if you are feeling under the weather. You cannot simply sit at your desk and type away, make a few phonecalls and then close your eyes and feel sorry for yourself. But more often than not, the children's energy will pick you up and carry you through (until you get home and collapse...)

5. Looking at things from a whole new perspective
It can be so refreshing to look at things for the first time. Children do that every day, usually with few biases and no preconceptions. If you let yourself, as a teacher, you too can experience the newness and wonder of the world. It is mesmerising!

6. The chance to see (and help) other succeed
If you are doing it well (which I would like to think I manage, at least half the time) you will be setting your children up for small successes every day. There is no satisfaction bigger than seeing children set goals and achieve them and you being part of the process. 

7. The cards and letters
As a teacher you do tend to have a bit of rock-star status. I get cards and letters daily, from children telling me just how much the enjoy having me as their teacher. I bet you there is no other job where you hear praise every working day!! 

8. The Holidays
Who am I kidding - I love working, but I also really really love decompressing after a long, hard term. 

9. The staffroom
I am lucky that I work in a school where the staffroom is the sanctuary, where teachers go for tea and biscuits and a shoulder to cry on, or a good chinwag. It doesn't happen often (maybe for 10 minutes each day) but it is like therapy!

10. The silliness
In what other job to people get to dress up and be silly. Maybe if you're a clown, but I love the fact that my job gives me a chance to sometime be plain old silly! I might wear a wig and moustache (those eyebrows are all mine) or don a PowerRanger suit for a play. If it's silly, bring it on! 

Friday, 7 March 2014

Thorny Issues

I was delighted to get my first comment today! Unfortunately, I felt I had to delete it, as it was a virulent attack, which included several ill-wishes towards me and my family. 

It did, however, give me a chance to talk about the thorny issue in adoption, and especially international adoption: that of corruption. 

It is an issue that occupied mine and my husband's minds as we considered adoption from Ethiopia. We put a lot of research into ethical adoption and we read, listened to and researched corruption and ethics in Ethiopia. 

One of the steps that we took included going through a not-for-profit organisation, like International Social Services (whose job is to safeguard the rights of children worldwide). As to the amount of money our adoption cost us I would like to mention that it was nowhere near rge number that the comment suggested. 

Here are a few of the resources we looked at while preparing to make a decision regarding adoption:

The Creating a Family podcast makes an interesting point, in that the fact that there is corruption does not mean that there might not also be need for orphans to find homes. The solution is not banning international adoption altogether, but finding ways to safeguard families, find and uproot corruption and commit to ethical practice. She mentions, though please don't take my word for it and listen to the podcast yourself, that often after international adoption shuts down, children still flood the orphanages (she talks of Guatemala, if I remember correctly, where corruption was very wide-spread) yet there is poor care and no hope of in-country adoption. 

The thorny issue is this: corruption in international adoption exists. It is our responsibilty to make sure, to investigate, to the best of our ability, our agency, our adoption provider, the orphanages, their social workers, the stories of our children.

I have not written about it because I genuinely feel that there are people way more qualified who can say it better than I ever could. But I wanted to say that we have been aware of it, acutely so, during our decision and during our adoption. 

On Silver Linings

We have had unusually cloudy weather for the last couple of weeks. Spring does bring its showers, but this year the clouds that have come have really been so impressive to behold. This, coupled with my fourth anniversary of my dad's death and the difficulties in our adoption process has really got me thinking about clouds and their silver linings. 

I am slowly realising that the often-used saying about every cloud having a silver lining, is in fact true. And it seems to me that often, the darker the clour the more shiny its lining too. Here are the "darkest clouds" of my last few years and their silver linings...

1. My dad's illness
Cancer is ugly. It can suck the life out of a person, it can reduce their physical body to something still alive, but fundamentally dead. That happened to my dad and in a way, looking for a silver lining here is not easy. It did, however, show me that the spirit is much more resilient than the body. My dad remained strong and full of life, in spirit, until the end. 
My dad's illness also brought us to Greece. Although that journey seemed (and was) hard at the time, here we are now. And being in Greece has facilitated, through its own difficulties, some of our biggest successes. 

2. My dad's death
My dad's death taught me to value life. Here's one of my posts about it, on my old blog, the day after my dad died. Life goes on. Life is short. Life should be full of the things that matter. Those lessons were my silver lining. 

3. My miscarriages
At the time they felt like the biggest, greyest cloud. It felt like we would never resurface. And yet we did, and now we are waiting to be parents for the first time, through adoption. Adoption is not the only silver lining for us. Those losses have made me hugely more empathic. They have made me think about the magnitude of the losses my future children will have felt by the time they come to us. I am a different person for having lost and gone on. For having learnt to adjust the sails. 

4. D's unemployment
One of the obstacles we had to face after moving to Greece, back in 2008 and in the midst of the crisis, was that D was not able to find a job. He had been a banker for 12 years and the crisis, coupled with a lack of Greek and a lack of connections, meant that he could not find a job. He kept looking, with undiminished energy, but I could see, in the way he was, in his demeanour and enthusiasm (or lack thereof) that each month of unemployment was taking something away from him. 
I guess unemployment can be partucularly difficult for men, especially if they have been working ever since their late teens and D was no exception. The cloud was large and unmoving, lingering over our lives and casting its shadow on many areas. 
The silver lining: D decided to follow his dreams and change careers. He took a year our where he retrained as a teacher, and in 2011 he started teaching at an international school in Athens. Again,  adjusting the sails was needed, but fortune favours the brave... and it worked out in the end. 

5. The difficulties in the adoption process
Anyone who has adopted, or has even considered adoption is aware of the difficulties of the process. They know about the endless paper-chase, the doctors and social workers, the lawyers and other professionals that are involved in creating a family through adoption. They know of the painful wait before the match, and what feels like the even more painful wait after the match too. They can imagine the difficulties when laws and regulations change, when unexpected obstacles appear in your way. 
But here's something I am convinced of, which I also heard on a podcast I was listening to the other day from Creating a Family (an amazing resource, if you are considering adoption). 
They mentioned, on the podcast, that people who have experienced infertility or other dfficulties in creating their family (and I guess adoption fits in well here), those people who have had to really struggle to become parents, tend to have a more positive experience when they do eventually become parents. I call it Conscious Parenthood and I hope to write about it soon. 

I look forward to this silver lining!

Finally... here is what I have learnt about clouds and silver linings:

It takes time for silver linings to appear. They are there, no doubt about it, but while you are under that dark cloud, everything looks unbearably grey - you cannot see the silver lining, sometimes because you simply cannot look up to find it, and sometimes because the darkness is overbearing. But the silver lining comes... eventually... even if it takes four years and a lot of tears. 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Four Years

Today, 6th March, marks four years without my dad. 

I still miss him, though life has taken over to a large extent. I think of him every day, and the memories only get sweeter and sweeter. 

I definitely was a daddy's girl...

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

On Becoming a Mum

I wrote a post a a couple of weeks ago about the 10 things I like about not having kids (yet) and it has  been on my mind a lot lately. It was the idea of having kids, coupled with the idea of becoming a mum that a friend of mine were discussing. 

She is 7 and a bit months pregnant and she was talking about how being a mother already has changed her life. The decisions she makes, her habits, the way she looks at her future. I can completely understand that. It did, however, bring this question to the forefront of my mind: When does a woman become a mother?

For some it's easy - I'm sure there are women out there who are certain they became mothers the minute their children were placed in their arms. I am referring to bio mums here, of course, the ones who gave birth to their babies. Some will claim they felt like mother the minute they saw the two blue lines on thep pregnancy test. Others will say when they first saw their baby in an ultrasound, or heard his heartbeat. 

In adoption, still, things are even more complicated. Is it when you accept a match? Is it when the court pronounces you a parent? Is it when you meet your child for the first time, when you feed her, hold her, change her nappies? Or does this kind of motherhood need more time to grow? 

I don't know the answer - in fact I have a sneaky feeling there is no one answer, no definitive right or wrong. I am sure that there will be people out there who will never consider me a "proper" mum because I did not give birth to my kids. I guess that is their right. On the other hand I have carried children, albeit not to term. Does that make me a mum to them? Was their a switch flicked when I saw my baby in the ultrasound, when I heard her heartbeat? 

I am becoming more and more of the opinion that motherhood is more like a seed, rather than like a switch. It is a seed that is planted when you begin to think about motherhood, biological or adoptive. It sprouts when you fall pregnant, or when you file your paperwork. Development might stop, but the seed is there, waiting to grow, when watered properly again. 

The seedling grows when you see your baby, it starts getting leaves when you hold it, the roots get bigger and stronger each time you hold him when he cries, each time she looks into your eyes. 

I definitely have a seedling in me. It is slowly growing, even without the kids being here. It's asking for more water and sun and I'm mot sure I can let it... because I am still not sure that all will go well with our adoption. 

We wait...

Monday, 3 March 2014

The 10 things I've done (or do) that make me happier

I have been reading a lot on the science behind happiness and well-being, as part of a project I am preparing. It has always fascinated me and I love seeing the evidence behind the hypothesis. When one reads such research, it is often difficult not to look at one's life a bit closer, make comparisons and even, if one can, make changes. 

I have compiled here, my personal list of things that I have done, or do on a daily basis that make me happier. I would like to revisit these in later posts, to look at each one in more depth, look ay research and find out the mechanisms, perhaps, in which these habits/actions add to our life-satisfaction. 

1. I got my dogs
Dogs are an infinite source of happiness in our household. Yes, they are also a source of stress, but the joy far outweighs the stress. I never thought we would have ended up with four, but life happened and here they are:

I love how they love me and I love how I love them. They are loyal and devoted, they are fluffy and cuddly. A lot of friends and acquaintances ask me how I can cope with the hair (I don't care, we just have to hoover more often), the expense (do people ask this question about kids too?), the walking (we walk them when we go running, almost daily) and many other such things. For us the dogs are part of the family. And at the end of the day, I would not change them for the world! 

2. I spend time outside
Linked to the above in some ways, at least, this is one habit of happy people that makes sense. Spending time outside, especially in nature, is known to make us feel better, calmer, happier. More on the research in a next post. Here is last evening's walk (despite my stinking cold):

And the sky as the sun went down...

Which links to...

3. I live on a mountain
After having lived here, on the mountain, for the last four years, I don't think I could live somewhere urban again. I love waking up to the sun rising over the sea and, just as much, watching the moon rise out of it in the evening. 

I love the view from my bathroom, 

and the view from my bed. 

Yes, the nearest shop might be five kilometres away, and the nearest metro stop 7, but I would not change this for the world! 

4. My short commute
It's not me who says it, it's science. People with shorter commutes tend to be happier. It takes us about 10 minutes and one traffic light to get to work in the morning - can't beat it! Plus, my drive to work is through vineyards and olive groves. 

Yes, occasionally we get delayed by sheep blocking the road. Better than a traffic jam! 

5. I got rid of my TV
I wish it were that D and I were so intellectual and cool that one day we decided we no longer needed out TV. I fear it was not exactly so. Instead what happened was that Greek TV went from analogue to digital. That would have required us to either get a sort of digi-box, or purchase a new TV. It seemed to us that it was not worth the fuss... so we stayed without a TV for a while. Almost two years later it transpires that it was the best decision we ever made! Less TV means more time for reading, talking, cooking and many other things. We still have our TV set, and we do watch the occasional DVD or series. But we watch less than an hour each day, often a lot less and that's the way we like it!
Linked to that is...

6. I'm on a news fast
I grappled a lot with this one. It kind of jars with my image of myself as a responsible citizen. But without a TV I have a lot less access to the news, especially the kind of news that used to make me anxious and sometimes scared to sleep in my bed at night. Some might argue that not knowing about the dangers out there does not mean they do not exist, but I truly believe I am a lot happier and much calmer without TV news. I still look at selected internet sites two or three times a week for a news roundup. And I still live in a world where, if something big happens, I will somehow find out! More on that later, for sure!

7. I wake up early
Yes, all about that extra hour again. I will not go on about it. If you want to read about me raving about it click here and here .

8. I became a teacher
I love children. I love being with them, chatting to them, I love seeing them find out, grow up, ask questions. I have loved being a teacher ever since I started, 10 years ago. There are things about the profession I do not like, but the children are not one of them! Teaching gives me a sense of purpose, meaning and inspires my sense of wonder. What more can one ask from a job?

9. I keep a gratitude journal
I started that in October last year. I use a simple app on my phone, which keeps all my moments of gratitude in a gratitude journal. I find at least one good thing to say about each day. I feel it has made me appreciate life more. Studies confirm that... More on that later.

10. I got married
Ok, so I don't actually mean that the wedding part of it has added to my happiness (although we had two of them, and they were both just great)!

But having a life partner, one like D, is probably my single most profound source of happiness. I thank my lucky stars regularly (see above). 


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