In the midst of my exams I have learned that I have to come to terms with not being able to do everything up to the standards that I would like.
Running a busy home with 3 children and the 4th “in the oven”, doing full masters studies, being a fiancé, friend and a family member, blogging, doing an online course in leadership etc. can be a handful.
Therefore, for the last 3 weeks I’ve had to prioritise. My main focus at the moment is on my exams.
Current status: one down, two to go.
Being pregnant also requires me to listen to my body when it demands rest as apparently I produce very important hormones for the baby when I sleep (the pregnancy did throw in a bit of a curveball when it came to plans this year).
Any spare time I spend with my awesome family and to let off steam I call friends and close relatives.
I’m used to pushing my limits but with all the talk about people, often young people, having breakdowns and burning out due to stress and pressure in society it has made me think. Made me realise that even though I am pushing myself and want success in life I might not achieve it at the speed I’ve been driving at.
Therefore, my blog has to take a little hit this week and next week. I’d rather write inspirational posts, interesting posts or informative posts when I’m inspired and energised myself. When I feel the urge to sit down and truly share something with my readers. I do not want to write just for the sake of it as I think it shines through when I don’t do it wholeheartedly and I don’t want to blog while battling a nagging feeling of guilt, knowing I could be spending the time revising for my exams.
My last exam is on Thursday a week from now. I expect to return after that with a head full of ideas and loads of material to write about.
There is a strength in prioritising and knowing ones own limitations.
Happy New Year! I am going to start this year with an overview of 2018, which was a year of big changes for me with new challenges.
Finished one school and started another
In February I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Media and Communications. It was a HUGE step for me as my path through the school system had been longwinded. At many points in my life I thought I might not get an education at all, that my ship had sailed, as I hadn’t had the opportunity to finish school at the same phase as many of my friends and peers.
I managed to prove myself wrong and finished my degree in 2 and a half years, as we did summer semesters as well, and I did it with a great mark as well!
On the night of my graduation I threw a big party where two of my best friends and one of my brothers were hosts and made sure to take the piss out of me and guaranteed a good time for all my guests. Another brother took photos at the party and played the guitar and even wrote a song to lyrics that my fiancé put together and they exclusively debuted it for us all. After the party I walked two houses down from the pub where it was held and slept, uninterrupted, in a hotel for the night (this was a big perk as my daughter was only about six months old and hardly ever slept throughout the night).
In September I started a new university in pursuit of a master’s degree. I am still studying at Leeds University Business School and hopefully will receive my degree in Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations by the end of this year.
My studies are challenging at times and I think the main reason for that is both that I am not studying in my native language and secondly because I do have to manage it around running a family of five. Now, for example, I am preparing for exams and it’s proven quite difficult to manage that around the holidays. A house full of flue, the fact my fiancé is now back at work and my au pair still being in Iceland after visiting her family over the holidays are all contributory factors. It’s impossible to sit down and listen to lectures or get sucked into a case study with an active 18-month-old demanding time and attention.
There can be never enough travelling!
I went to a global conference with a friend from school in March. The conference is called LEAP summit and is aimed at entrepreneurs and the leaders of tomorrow.
My previous university sent us an email where we were informed about it and told we could apply for free tickets. This I did. Unexpectedly I got a ticket! I couldn’t bear the thought of going alone so I contacted a girl from my university. She is one that is not only someone I believe will be one of “tomorrows leaders” but already has made an impact. She had served as the youngest member of parliament in Iceland until recently and has done amazing things in her work, especially for women and young people. When she appeared in interviews her appearance was always immaculate and polished.
She’s adventurous so she applied as well and got a ticket. It dawned on me, I was going somewhere without my spouse and children! As much as I love them, it was long needed!
We planned the trip, booked flights to Zagreb and found a place in the city centre to stay.
I loved Zagreb and really hope I can revisit one day as we only stayed for a long weekend. The conference itself was inspiring and very educational. I highly recommend it to anyone in the need of some inspiration, who wants to meet young vibrant people on their way up in life or/and want to learn a thing or two about life and some business skills from world-class speakers.
However, me and my travel buddy found ourselves a little too old for the raves they threw at evenings etc. so we ventured into the city. We ate AMAZING food at ridiculously good prices, got top-notch service everywhere we went. We chatted to locals at bars, some that seemed quite upscale and then some that made us feel like we might want to make sure we never lost sight of each other. No matter what the place looked like though, the people we met were all nice, polite and talkative. We walked around the city centre a little as well and peeked into a museum where we both almost pissed ourselves. It was called “Museum of Torture”. It was horrible but educational at the same time. We agreed that the human species can be monstrous and it is scary to know that people have gone to such lengths to think up ways to harm each other. It was very dark in there and had scary music playing in the background, so we rushed a little through it as we felt genuinely afraid in there.
The host of our flat was nice to the core. She messaged us before we arrived, showed us the flat, answered all of our questions and even sent us an email the day after with a list of restaurants we might be interested in. She was very helpful and friendly.
The biggest “travelling venture” would have to be the family’s big move to England. In June we relocated to Leeds so I could continue with my education. We love it here and as I have covered before I find the people here friendly and we all have a sense of community where we live. I meet the women from the neighbourhood for drinks or to let the kids play and my fiancé goes out with the blokes that live around here to watch football and have a pint of beer. While in Reykjavík I didn’t even know the people next door to me. I want to travel around Yorkshire more and hopefully the new year will bring us a bigger car so we can do so. At the moment we have a very small car and I would prefer everyone to be comfortable and be able to take our au pair on day trips with us as well. Therefore, we definitely need more than five seats. We had a great summer here and Icelanders even came over to try to catch some sun as there was a lack of it back home. Who would have thought it! People visiting England with the purpose of catching some rays!
People around me, mostly other international students, have complained about the weather this winter. I must say I have loved it! I am dependant on public transportation to and from school and I do not feel like I can complain! My vision of England was rain, rain and rain! So, the few days it has rained I have thought “There you go, that’s what I expected…” but it never lasts many days in a row. Maybe I am wrong and maybe its because I am from Iceland but I feel like this winter (so far) has been mild and quite gentle to the bus catching student that I am.
Since I moved here, I have travelled back to Iceland once. The whole family went over at the beginning of November, as it was my fathers 70th birthday and he decided to throw a big party. The kids were sent to relatives and friends and I, my fiancé and my father-in-law went to a huge birthday party. I did a little speech in honour of my dad and then we drank and danced the night away. I was very pleased with my trip over as we only stayed for three nights and my father-in- law had never been to Iceland but he still managed to see the northern lights. It took some battering on his bedroom door and yelling encouragement to get him out of bed. When he emerged, he was wearing his boxer shorts and a furry hat in the freezing cold. We stayed in one of the summer houses my dad rents out to tourists and managed to relax in the hot tub twice. The only downside to the trip was that it was very short and I couldn’t meet a lot of the people I would have liked to have seen.
Illnesses and injuries
Weird category but fresh in the mind at the moment, as me and my two girls saluted the new year with a very hostile flue! I call it “the English flue”, as I don’t get sick often but man, this one knocked me right off my feet! I was in bed (on the couch to be accurate) for almost two weeks! My youngest one got hit twice and had quite high fever. She seems to be making this a yearly thing as she had RS virus during New Years Eve last year! My oldest had to cancel a trip to her dad as she was too poorly to travel. I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for my fiancé as he waited us on hand and foot. He made sure we were comfortable and had everything we needed. At the same time, he made sure that anyone that was not ill, like my son, were also taken care of and had something to do and got to get out of the house.
I caught another foreign flue in the year of 2018, as my last one and a half day in Zagreb I wasn’t feeling right. Once I got home, I got even worse. That was “the Croatian flue”. Again, my fiancé was a star. I had such high temperature that he had to change the bed regularly so it wouldn’t start resembling a very unappetising, punctured waterbed! He brought me water and tablets to bed and tried feeding me but I do not believe I was very cooperative patient.
In October I got food poisoning and that was a horrible experience. The only thing I laugh about, now, not then, is the phone call we had with some medical staff here in the UK. My lovely and very worried fiancé called some emergency service due to my condition. After a little while the person on the phone demanded to talk to me rather than him. I answered what felt like 100 questions and was told that I would receive a phone call soon from another member of staff. About 15 minutes later the phone rang. My fiancé tried to take it upon him to talk to the health specialist but again they wanted to talk to me. I was asked a lot of the same questions as before. As the person on the phone went through the information, she had from the previous phone call, it dawned on me a lot of the answers the first person had taken down he had answered incorrectly, even though I had given him the correct answers. Anyway, close to the end of our conversation, which took about 10-15 minutes, I was asked whether I could talk!?! Very surprised I asked: “Excuse me?” the person said: “Are you capable of expressing yourself verbally?”. For a moment I thought about saying nothing….. I also thought about asking what it was exactly that I had been doing for the last 10 minutes. Even though I can be a little sarcastic I decided to be polite and just answered “Yes” while I shook my head and rolled my eyes towards my fiancé.
Apart from my youngest catching the occasional flue (which is normal while developing an immune system) the rest of the family has been healthy. However, my fiancé took a tumble down the stairs in our house, with our daughter in his arms! In some immaculate way he managed to save her from any harm. He on the other hand, had cuts on his arms and a grace on his shin. He also fractured some ribs and therefore had to stay home from work for a week.
My brother gets amused and annoyed when it comes to the UK and all the health and safety procedures. He lived in the UK for two years and just couldn’t wrap his head around how scrutinising the health and safety topic is in this country. When he visited in September, he made a lot of fun of all the health and safety courses my fiancé had to do due to his new job. Therefore, when I told him about my fiancés accident his only reply was: “WHAT!!! Has he not done a course in “how to fall down stairs safely”?”
All and all
When I look over the year 2018, I can truly say it was mostly good and I went through a lot of personal growth.
I have amazing net of people around me. We got great visitors over. Due to modern technology I have not been homesick yet as I can see my friends and family through a screen whenever I want. I have met great people through my new university and in my neighbourhood.
I have challenged myself personally and professionally.
I am in the process of learning that people visit me to see me, not to inspect my mess. I am also in the process of learning to let go and prioritise when it comes to school, home, family, friends etc. and am almost comfortable with placing the mess in our house at the bottom of the list at the moment so I can enjoy all the other things!
I learned I can write in English as I started this blog, where I surprised myself with two things, firstly, how well it’s going and secondly, how personal it became. It has a life of its own and that is quite therapeutic.
I learned that even though I cut out people that harm me and/or only bring negativity into my life I am not becoming the parent that rejected me.
Through #metoo I learned a lot of the behaviour I had received when I was younger was not okay and for the first time in my life, I am able to see how I was done wrong and why some of these incidents were wrong. For that I am grateful, as if it doesn’t have a name its hard to put a finger on it and work through it.
We said goodbye to my mother-in-law, who passed away, in a beautiful ceremony early this summer.
I am grateful for my loving and supportive family. I have the most amazing kids and my fiancé is one of a kind. I wish I could give him a portion of all the support and encouragement he oozes over me on daily basis.
We recently discovered that I am pregnant and for the ones wondering, I still am. We have another scan tomorrow and are being closely monitored due to my history.
I am grateful I have lived another year. I am grateful for the lessons I went through. I am grateful for the people that are on this journey with me.
Now I look forward to new lessons, a new year and new milestones! Hopefully 2019 will bring me a baby, a degree, joy, love and some travelling.
(I also desperately hope it brings me a job at the end of the summer).
This is the first time I sit down and don’t really know what to write about. Still I thought I should reflect a little between Christmas and New Year.
Before Christmas my stepdad, or “upbringing dad” as I call him, came for a visit. He used to be my mums husband and they had my 2 “little” brothers (now 21 and 23 years old) together. I call him upbringing dad as unfortunately I feel like the “step” prefix doesn’t sound right. Maybe it’s because of all the fairy-tales where stepparents have a negative role, but I also think it doesn’t do his role in my life justice as it’s not descriptive enough.
Don’t get me wrong, my real dad is a GREAT man! I just didn’t live with him and when me and my brother visited we got to do pretty much whatever we wanted to. We got more sweets than was good for us (and our mum who got us back hyper on sugar). We got to watch telly and play computer games into the early hours of the morning. We loved it! However, he didn’t do much “upbringing”, he didn’t have the discipline role. He rarely told us off. He wasn’t telling us how to do what and when etc. He did remarry and we really protested his new wives’ arrival in our lives as with her came structure and discipline. Which we learned to appreciate when we got older. Later in life he did become one of my best friends as I learned as I grew up that he is a great listener and a lot more of a philosopher than I think he even realises.
My upbringing dad got to do all the “fun” bits like following through with punishments, tell us off, make us do homework etc. As we weren’t too bad as kids, I believe he did also get to do fun (no quotation marks) things with us, normal every day things and holidays etc. Stepparents take a lot on! They take on someone else’s kid/s. They take part in all the cost, the good and the bad and love them like their own (a lot of the times). I believe people that take on the role of stepparents and do it well are one of the most selfless people you can find. The fact I had him and my stepmother in my life really enriched it. Through them I learned different things my real parents probably wouldn’t have focused on or had the skills to tackle and my real parents gave me things and knowledge my bonus parents didn’t think of or wasn’t a priority to them. I was a very rich girl! With these bonus parents came bonus families! I had four extended families! So many siblings, aunties, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers! Again, I was so rich with family! They all took us in, like we were one of them and we immersed ourselves in the families like we had always been there.
My upbringing dad was the one that got me back in touch with my brothers after I hadn’t been allowed to speak to them in 5 years. For that I will be forever grateful. He is my children’s grandfather and when people see him around them, they can tell for miles how much he loves them and they absolutely adore him. He introduced me to tuna salad on toast and deep-fried shrimps in sweet and sour sauce. He taught me to appreciate basketball and played it with us and watched it with us. I had never seen anyone scream at the telly before! He gave me cuddles and read bedtime stories for us. He told me every night that he loved me before I went to sleep. He is good at listening and he’ll never interrupt people while they are talking. He’s a very talented man, he’s a photographer, mainly takes photos of Icelandic nature. His website is elg.is. He just got his first book published this year. He has made the most wonderful winter wonderland which he built from scratch, it’s amazing! He adds to it every year and me and the kids really missed checking it out this December as it brings Christmas to us. If you are interested, you can see some of the progress and the “village” he’s built here. He’s hard working and honest. He’s caring and is there for the ones he loves. I don’t know how I would have done my equivalence to A-levels without him, as I did it in one year, single mum of two, a one year old and a three year old. My son was very often ill that year as we lived in a flat contaminated with mold. If he hadn’t been there, offering to step in so I could do my exams and show up to classes, I don’t know how I would have coped.
Having him over just before Christmas, taking him to our beautiful park, to a Christmas market and just spending time with him was wonderful and the selfish me would have loved to have him here a few days longer. Keep him here over Christmas.
The good thing was my brother came over to England on the plane he went back with. He’s been here over the holidays and that’s been brilliant! He lived with us before we moved over to the UK. My kids worship him and as they realised he was here the first thing they said was: “Can you move in with us again!?!”. I would have liked to show him around Leeds a bit more but the holiday gets in the way of being a tour-guiding-host. Instead I have been a meal-cooking-host and trying-to make-sure-my-kids-have-the-best-Christmas-so-far-mum.
My father-in-law has also been with us for the holidays, so we’ve had far from an empty house. It has been festive and joyful, even though, I’ll admit, I would have loved to be able to give the rest of my family a big hug.
We have eaten, napped, taken walks, watched movies and played board games with the kids and continued after the kids go to bed (They are still too young to play Cards Against Humanity).
I hope you have all had a great time and that the rest of the holidays will be even better!
Christmas is coming and my heart is mainly filled with joy. I have had my stepdad over for 6 days and as uni had broken up for Christmas when he arrived we strolled around town and did loads of “Christmassy” things. He left today and my baby brother (he’s not really a baby anymore as he’s 21) arrived and will be here over Christmas. My kids didn’t know he was coming and were overcome with joy when he greeted them by the school bus.
My father-in-law will spend Christmas with us as well. I have baked and got my hands on some Icelandic meat and drinks.
But then why am I stating that I feel powerless? Why such a dramatic title?
Well the thing is, it was my birthday on the 9th of December and we got a VERY big surprise! We discovered that we are expecting an addition to the family. Again, why is that not pure joy?
We are very early on, I believe I’m about 6 – 7 weeks in, but we will get that confirmed at the doctors on Christmas eve. The timing is perfect, as if our calculations are right, the baby should arrive just as I hand in my dissertation, I could then go straight on to maternity leave and once I finish that I could pursue a carrier related to my studies. Then that would be that, as we are not planning to add more people to this planet once we have this one.
However, I feel very stressed and helpless. My story of pregnancies is far from easy. I have had 10 (now 11) pregnancies but only have 3 children. When it comes to being pregnant I feel faulty and a bit broken.
11 Short stories
The first time I got pregnant I was young and reckless. When I was told I was pregnant I had this feeling of protection and motherly love come over me. I would get my ducks in a row and get my life straight as I needed to be responsible for my actions. Soon after I got the news I miscarried.
The second time around it was similar but a little bit more dramatic as I was sent with a plane to a hospital in a different part of Iceland to get to a fully equipped hospital.
The third time gave me my darling daughter who is now 10 years old. She threatened to come too early and I was made to stay in Reykjavík for 10 weeks as I lived very far away from a hospital. Eventually she arrived on time and even refused to come out once the time actually came and she had to be delivered by C-section.
The fourth time was a hidden miscarriage. My breasts and my womb grew even though the foetus I thought was growing inside of me had been deceased for 4 weeks. I discovered this when I went for my 12-week scan. For the first time I had to go through a scrape. While waiting for the surgery I had to stay in a maternity ward and listen to new born babies cry. I even heard parents in the next room to the waiting-room listen to the heartbeat of their unborn child. The heartbeat I never got to hear.
The fifth time my wonderful boy arrived. He is 8 years old now. When I went for a 10-week check-up the midwife couldn’t detect his heartbeat. I was mortified, please not again! Thankfully, he was just hiding a little and from then on made sure I knew he was there and still does! The birth took hours but with the help of an epidural I powered through. It was wonderful to get to experience both a C-section and a natural birth.
The sixth time was the cause of me and my current fiancé being a little too reckless. We were startled to begin with but within 24 hours that changed into excitement and we started planning everything accordingly. It’s funny how your mind works. But I miscarried. We decided it was a little too early and we wouldn’t go for another one for the time being.
Once we got to the seventh time a year had passed. Things had been really busy and I had messed up when it came to taking the pill. That resulted in a human being growing inside of me. Well, almost. We miscarried. My gynecologist was worried I had something called “molar pregnancy” which thankfully wasn’t the case. Nonetheless, I had to go through another scrape and in the process a medical mistake was made. The doctors accidentally made a hole into the side of my uterus. At this point I was very busy at university, so I kept my chin up and finished school.
At this time, we knew we wanted a baby so the eight time I got pregnant was more than welcome. We got a positive pregnancy test while we were visiting England. He had just proposed by the Thames with a phoney ring and a beautiful poem, which he wrote for me. Once we knew I was pregnant he was sure everyone would think that was the only reason he proposed. However, we didn’t care. We were happy and believed that this third time was a lucky charm. Soon we discovered we would have to wait a little longer for our happy ending as I miscarried yet again.
The ninth time we discovered as we came back from a holiday in Tenerife. I had my aunt Irma visiting (my periods) and everything seemed as it should (or not as we were trying) but “she left” very abruptly. I took a pregnancy test and BOOM I was pregnant once again! This time around the miscarriage was very dramatic as it took longer than the others, there was more bleeding and more pain. For a period of time the doctors thought I might have an ectopic pregnancy but told me it was hard to determine as apparently it is like looking for a black cat, on a black roof in the middle of the night.
Once we got to this point, we decided to get examined. See if we could in fact have babies. We had a blood test where our DNA was examined. Which for some reason, I found a little creepy. The test came out fine and we were told that I should come in for a more thorough check. They wanted to fill my uterus with salt water and see if it was intact after the scrapes and births etc. When it was getting close to my appointment, I got this strong feeling, I was sure I was pregnant again. I took a test and it was negative. The feeling was so strong I couldn’t push it away, so I booked an appointment with my GP and got a blood test done, which also came back negative. I had to face it, all these pregnancies and miscarriages had made me crazy, I wasn’t pregnant, it was just hope and my imagination. A few days later it was time for my salt-water-session and I just couldn’t push this feeling aside so armed with my stubbornness I went to the pharmacy and bought one more pregnancy test. This was the tenth time I got pregnant! A few months later I gave birth to my beautiful girl, who is now is one and a half years old and is as cheeky as they come! If it hadn’t been for me being so sure they might have washed her out!
Therefore, now that I am facing the eleventh time of being pregnant I am being very cautious. I want to dance and scream and wonder whether it’s a boy or a girl but I don’t let myself. It’s been too tough in the past, watching the dreams come tumbling down. This is why I feel powerless, there is nothing I can do but wait and hope.
One tough cookie
In the past my fiancé told me I was to tough for my own good. He was right but that’s how I have managed in the past. That’s how I have gotten to where I am. While we went through all these miscarriages together I didn’t let myself grieve as I felt like I HAD to function. I might not be able to keep a baby but at least I could do anything else. So, while we went through all that I only took 4 days off work all together, I still got killer grades at school and my kids had a mum that was always there for them. Until one day. One day I discovered my shoulders were tense, my fists were clenching, I was irritated and got angry easily. This wasn’t me at all and I didn’t like it. Therefore, I went and got therapy. Being me, it didn’t mean I stopped anything else, I just tailored the sessions around work, motherhood, school, being a friend, sister and fiancé. It did help and I let myself grieve.
Who to tell?
I have told friends and family as I do not believe in the whole “shut up for the first 12 weeks”. In the past having my friends and family engaged from the very beginning has given me shoulders to lean on and outstretched arms when needed. When things have gone according to plan however, I have had the pleasure of them knowing from the get-go and I simply can’t see anything negative in that either.
The only people I am not telling are my children as I don’t want to put them through the shock of potentially losing a sibling. When I was around 9 years old, my mum got pregnant and told me and my brother straight away. We were over the moon! We had been asking for a baby brother or sister for ages. She ended up miscarrying and it was so hard. It was hard to get to grips with the fact this baby we had seen in our future was no more, but it was even harder to see my mum suffer and not being able to do anything to make her feel better. Therefore, I know I don’t want my kids to have to face that.
A mum from a young age
Maybe I am greedy and should be thankful for what I have. I am! I am so grateful for my children! As unexpected as this pregnancy was it is still more than welcome and we had always planned to have one more.
The mum side of me is so imbedded in me. I started babysitting and looking after children and babies while I was still a child myself. I knew from a young age I wanted to be a mum one day. When I got to the age of 11 or 12 I realised some women couldn’t have children and got consumed with fear of that being my destiny. I was sure that just because I wanted babies as much as I did it would be typical that I wouldn’t be able to. Cynical from a young age!
When I was 13 and until I was 16 I took care of my baby brothers as my mum and stepdad worked a lot. When the time came that I was sent into foster care the fact I was taken away from them was what affected me the most. I had taken care of them for so long and suddenly, I couldn’t even speak to them on the phone.
When they came back into my life 5 years later, I had to get to know them again, which was strange for me as I was the one that use to know them better than anyone.
BUT, now it’s Christmas. One of these brothers is here! I have my awesome children and supportive fiancé. After a battle with a grumpy GP receptionists and other staff at the NHS I have a doctor’s appointment on Christmas eve. Therefore, I am going to TRY my very best not to stress, to take it day by day and hope for the best.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, I hope you have a good book to read, fun board games to play, great company to enjoy and delicious food to eat!
I am going to finish this post with a little poem I put together 2 years ago, in the memory of all those that never were:
My love of books started at a very young age. As much as I loved making up my own stories, I enjoyed reading books just as much.
With my vivid imagination it was easy to get lost in the world of books and I would read almost anything that I came across. Once I finished a book I desperately looked for the next one as I usually felt a bit empty and sad when a book ended. It felt like saying goodbye to close friends and a world that started off as a place of wonder but as I got deeper into it it felt familiar, almost like a home away from home. A place I could visit to escape from what was going on in my own life. I do believe books also gave me a lot of life and social skills as I learned so my much from reading and they also fed my love for words! I saw new words, phrases and elaborate ways to build up stories.
Even books I didn’t enjoy I would finish, always in the hope they would get better.
At the age of 10 – 11 years old I use to babysit during the summer break. When babies take naps in Iceland they tend to do it outside as we believe our fresh air does them good and as the country is quite safe, we can leave prams outside and just have a baby monitor, or even an open window to be able to detect when the baby stirs! Therefore, when the baby I was babysitting would take its nap I would leave it outside but sneak myself into the library. I would then find an interesting book to snuggle up with. I spent hours and hours in that library that summer and got through a mountain of books. While getting paid!
My love for books is just as strong today but I don’t allow myself the luxury of snuggling up with an interesting book that often anymore as life is busy and there are tons of schoolbooks waiting to be read. However, whenever I go on a holiday I have this ritual of browsing through bookstores in airports to find the perfect book/s (depending on how long the holiday is) to read while I’m away. I read on the plane, at a hotel and if I am in a sunny place I read it on the beach and by the pool.
Last time we went on a sunny holiday I accidentally took three books with me that turned out to provoke quite strong emotions, so I sat and cried, out loud, by the pool, a few times! One because it had really sad parts to it and the other two because they were just so beautiful. The fact that letters on paper can have that kind of an effect is, in my mind, magical.
I can be quite old fashioned and one of the ways it manifests itself is that I refuse to read books on screens. I simply like the touch and smell of books. I also don’t think it’s the same to sit or lie down with a screen in hand. It just doesn’t feel right to me, somehow.
One of the things I love about books is that they keep giving. I, for an example, enjoy going to markets and second-hand stores and dig up old diamonds, books I may never have heard of and may never have stumbled upon if it wasn’t for those platforms. I think it is such a great thing, someone read these books, finished with them and then passed them on, for a reasonable price as well! Not only that, I lend my books to my family and friends and they lend me books as well. My grandmother sometimes gives me the books she has finished reading, the last one she gave me was a book I gave her for Christmas last year! Therefore, I think it’s safe to say they definitely keep on giving and they never really go out of style. If I read an old book, I find it interesting to put myself in the shoes of people that lived in a time when I was a baby or even when I didn’t exist. To put myself in the shoes of different cultures and times. By that I am not only talking about the storyline itself but the author of the book, where he/she was coming from when writing the books that they wrote.
Today I am going to cover a book that I have lent to all my friends that like to read in English and have come to me for something light and fun to read.
The book is called “Getting rid of Matthew” and is written by Jane Fallon. I had never heard of Jane before but as I was going on a holiday in 2008, I stood in an English airport looking for the next companion and came across her book.
In short, and the way I explain the book to my friends, whilst I try not to spoil anything but provoke an interest, is that it is about a woman that has had an affair with an older, married man. After a few years of an affair he leaves his wife and moves in with her. At that point she realises she’s not that into him and suddenly the glow around their relationship disappears and he becomes human to her, he has annoying habits and gets on her nerves. She feels stuck as he’s just left his wife for her. For curiosity sakes she goes to see if she can catch a glimpse of his ex-wife and accidentally, due to a clumsy incident, befriends her in the process, under a fake name, of course! She also meets his handsome son who is around her age and things get even more complicated.
This book is such a feel-good book! I opened it in the airplane and ended up laughing out loud, which is an achievement as I hate flying and find it hard to get my mind off the fact that I’m stuck high up in air and anything could happen!
The characters are well built and easy to relate to and throughout the book they are true to themselves. They really came alive. I never got the feeling of: “He would never say that!” or “She would never do that”. I could picture the surroundings and it was easy to forget that I wasn’t watching a film. It was very funny and excruciating at times, where I really wanted to step in and tell the characters not to do this or that as what they were doing was like a car crash in slow motion. You could just feel things wouldn’t go well but there was nothing you could do about it. Having said that, Jane manages to make all the awkward incidences in the story hilarious, often in a sarcastic way, which I love!
Every time I have travelled since I have tried to find some of Jane’s books. So far, I have been able to locate 4 of them. I have not been able to get my hands on her books in Iceland, neither in English nor Icelandic. For my birthday, last weekend, my fiancé gave me the book she published this year called “Faking friends” and I can’t wait to snuggle up with it while stuffing my face with homemade Christmas cookies.
The funny thing about “Getting rid of Matthew” is that I told my ex-mother in law about it. I had just finished it and was raving about it to her. How humorous it was, how well built the storyline was etc. She seemed to misunderstand why I loved the book so much, as soon after she brought me 3 books on affairs! They were very dramatic and nothing like the book I had told her about, apart from the affair part.
If you need a book to make you feel good, take you away from day-to-day worries Jane’s books are guaranteed to do that!
As I finished this semester today, my plan is to get my home back into order, get caught up in Christmas, enjoy my family and read at least 3 books!
Since I have started my studies in the UK I have been meaning to follow English media. I am what one might call a media junky.
However, the main media I follow is Icelandic media and throughout the day. I read through the main media sites and then open other sites if they appear on any of my social media and I consider the articles or video clips interesting.
As I am studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations it is important for me to be on top of what is happening in the country I am studying in, the UK.
But the headlines and news from Iceland have just been so outrageous, sometimes funny, other times tragicomical and most of the time unbelievable.
Mayhem at the Mayors office
In Reykjavík there is an old barracks which was built in the second world war. The city of Reykjavík decided to take it under renovations and for that job the city had an estimated cost. The job is far from finished but the cost has already exceeded the budget by more than a whopping 1,5 million pounds.
Sure, it is costly to renovate an old building but now that the invoices from the project have been published in the media people are outraged. One of the things the public in Reykjavík is paying for are imported straws from Denmark! The price tag on these copyrighted Danish straws is 4800 pounds. My friend who is a lawyer says one can apparently not get a copyright on straws. Even more shocking is the fact that these straws do actually grow in Iceland and therefore there is no need to import them from another country.
Cost of building a bar in the barracks was 16100 pounds, included are none of the appliances needed for the bar like coffee machine, beer pumps etc.
Many of the invoices that have been published have raised more questions than they have answered.
For a number of days the Mayor of Iceland did not respond to medias’ inquiries about the matter. That is not a new story though as when a sewerage pumping station, which has the role of cleaning the sewerage before pumping it into the ocean broke down it was the same. The coast line in Reykjavík was contaminated with sewage for a few weeks and the Mayor avoided speaking to the media, which made people even angrier and come up with different hypothesis of why that was the case.
Conveniently a guy that has now left his position at the city of Reykjavík has claimed to be responsible for how badly the estimate exceeded the actual cost. Some people wonder what he got in return for that confession.
A bakery in the north of Iceland saw a window of opportunity in all this chaos as it has sold cakes called Bragginn (the barracks) for almost 50 years.
Due to all the media coverage on the barracks case the bakery made a special edition of the original barracks cake which has been sold in bulk, sales increased by more than 10-fold. The bakeries spokesperson even went to the town hall and handed a few cakes to the city council.
Minister of Justice that doesn’t trust the Justice System
The current Minister of Justice Sigríður Á Andersen has been fighting her own justice system. When she had to appoint new judges at one of the Icelandic courts she got a list from a committee that had evaluated the applicants for the positions. When it came to appointing judges for the roles she disregarded 4 applicants that had been evaluated as qualified for the positions. Instead, she hired her former co-workers. The Supreme Court has ruled on the matter and declared that the Minister of Justice had in fact broke laws when she did so. The government (and thereby the Icelandic public) had to pay the compensation that the qualified applicants got for being mistreated like that. She is still firm in her belief that her actions were not illegal nor unethical.
The same Minister knew about the declaration of rehabilitation of a sentenced child molester. The declaration was made by the father of the then sitting Prime Minister, now Minister of Finance and Economics. When this hit the papers in Iceland there were such powerful demonstrations the government had to step down and call for elections.
The Minister does not think there should be a law regarding a gender quota in each company as she thinks the government shouldn’t intervene in matters like that, it should be each companies own decision. This quota was legalised to try to close the gender gap when it comes to wages. One should not be surprised though as she claims there is not a measurable difference in wages between the genders, even though it has been proven.
When it was 100 years from Icelandic women getting the right to vote the parliament came together for a celebration meeting. The day is called the “Day of Women Rights”. In this meeting the parliament voted in favour of forming a fund to support gender equality. The Minister of Justice was the only one that voted against the proposal.
The current Minister of Finance and Economics and former Prime Minister (Bjarni Ben) has been involved in a lot of controversy. For some reason he is still going strong.
One of the first things that came to the publics attention was when the Ashley Madisson leak occurred. He was there under the name “IceHot1”. The description he posted there was the following:
„Its about being interested in a nice looking woman, wanting to have an intelligent and fun conversation and good…very good sex. Im not from the States but do travel quite often.“
He and his wife made a statement and said they had made the account together for curiosity sake.
A company called Valdís, which makes ice-creams used the opportunity and put an ice-cream on the market called “IceHot1”. It was made with white chocolate and chilli.
This is not the only leak that the Ministers name has come up in as he appeared in the Panama papers. He brushed that off like any other scandal that he has been involved in.
As mentioned before he had to step down and call for elections when his father was involved in clearing a child molesters name, as he knew about it but didn’t see it as something he had to share with anyone.
Leading up to the financial crisis he got involved in insider trading. He had information from a bank manager on where everything was heading and used the information and sold his shares. He sold them for 763.000 pounds. Around the same time his father and uncle sold their shares as well. Just before the last elections the media got information about these insider trading and stated covering the story. Quickly there was an injunction on them so it was prohibited to cover the story. After the election a higher court ruled that the injunction should be lifted, by that time he was back in power.
The International Monetary Fund has made serious comments on the Icelandic Financial Supervisory Authority. They have stressed their concerns as this is the body that should make decisions on things like whether the Minister should be prosecuted for his actions. The problem is that the committee is appointed by the Minister himself and the IMF concludes that therefore, it is not independent enough to make unbiased decisions.
He has claimed that people that say there isn’t an economic boom that benefits the majority are crazy and that people that are struggling are financially illiterate.
For some reason no matter whether his practices are illegal or unethical, nothing seems to stick which has caused him to be nick-named The Teflon-man.
Pub banter recorded
The most recent scandal appeared in the media less than two days ago. Six members of the Parliament from two different parties were recorded while drinking at a bar close to the Parliament, while they should be at work. The whole scandal has been given the name #klausturgate on social media, referring to the Watergate scandal.
The 6 MP’s were unaware that another guest at the bar was recording their conversation. The guest claims he couldn’t believe what he was hearing and concurred they were relevant to the public of Iceland. He recorded almost 4 hours of what the MP’s have disregarded as banter. He says the MP’s thought he was a foreign tourist.
They made homophobic jokes, made fun of a former MP and her disabilities, called women degrading names and talked about shady goings on when it comes to appointing ambassadors abroad.
Some of the remarks they made were for an example:
“Who’s that bi***? Fuck that bi***!” About another MP.
“She’s a cu** that cried her way into the parliament” About yet another MP.
Made the sound of a seal when talking about the former disabled MP.
“Now I am going to say something really dirty. She’s young but starting to age quickly. She’s a lot less hot than she was 4 years ago”. “From a distance she’s really hot but….” About the Mayor of Vestmannaeyjar.
“Welcome to politics!” Said by one of the MP’s to another whilst trying to persuade him to jump ship and join his party.
“You have this absolutely crazy cu** as a leader!”. “She’s fu***** crazy”. About another MP, in fact the leader of the party that two of the MP’s at the bar are members of.
“He got through it like butter on Friðrik’s Ómars condom”. Friðrik Ómar is a gay Icelandic musician.
One of the members has received awards from UN’s HeForShe while on the recording he shows a disrespectful attitude towards women.
Two of the MP’s are taking a temporary leave. Two have been fired by their party but they are still going to sit in the Parliament. To begin with they disregarded this as drinking banter and focused on the fact they were being recorded without permission and one of them even claimed they had probably been bugged by George Soros.
The pub where the conversation took place has posted a picture on social media with the caption: “ABSOLOUTLY CRAZY Christmas punch throughout December! CRAZY Christmas atmosphere and cosiness. Pop in at Klaustur, the worst kept secret in Reykjavík”
Another company has made wall stickers that say: “Welcome to politics!”
Yet another pub posted the following on their social media: “We are open today at 16:00 and close at 01:00. Enjoy having a good beer in a good and calm atmosphere. Talking behind peoples back and wiring equipment’s are completely forbidden at Ölstofan!!!”
People are voicing their discontent
Due to all this turbulence and unbelievable news lately, I just haven’t been able to take my eyes of Icelandic media. I will keep a close eye on it for a while longer as a demonstration has been planned and will take place tomorrow on Iceland’s 100 year birthday of Sovereignty. Has the public had enough? Will Icelanders see the 3rd parliamentary elections in as many years?
With all the talk about influencers in the form of bloggers, famous people, Snapchatters, Instagrammers etc. it seems like the first influencers that we come across in our lives are left out. The word influencer doesn’t seem to be related to those people anymore as even though they had a big impact on our lives, they did it here, in the real world, not on screen.
But who are these people I am talking about? Well they are parents, siblings, other family members and friends along the way. However, the group I want to focus on today are one of the first ones we come across and sometimes make more of an impact on us than we realise.
Recognising the part they played
In the last few years I have been trying to follow my own rule of complimenting people when it is due and thanking people for helping me at different stages in life.
We all know how nice it is to be recognised for the things we do and complimented on a job well done. I am really bad at taking compliments and usually try to put my self down a little when that happens. I am working on it though and now try to smile and say: “Thank you”. The hardest thing is to not follow it up with something like “I do not do enough of it though…” or “If it wasn’t for (insert any excuse appropriated) I couldn’t have done it…” and so forth.
The last year or so I have contacted people from the past and thanked them.
For an example I called or messages some of the people that played a role in my case when I was in foster care. People that were working for social services or came across my case in any other way. I wanted them to know I had turned out just fine and that I consider that their role was a big part of that. I imagine when you do a job like that you must sometimes doubt yourself, it must wear you out at times and a lot of the times people forget to let you know what an impact you had.
When I started doing that it actually gave me a lot of satisfaction. The phone calls and messages I received filled my heart with love and care. They told me how well I had done, then and now.
I have also spoken to or emailed people I have listened to at conferences and thanked them if they moved me. I have also told people I work for or with if I believe they are doing a good job.
In Iceland children tend to start going to kindergarten at quite an early age and that’s the place we first encounter teachers and then they lead us all through adolescence. Once we are 16 years old we then either go and work or continue studying and if so, they mentor us for a few more years.
Most of us can probably relate with the stereotypes, as I believe stereotypes are founded on reality, then they are exaggerated, or the reality can change. By stereotypes I mean like the teacher that was way to smart to teach what he was trying to explain, the teacher that had been teaching for way to long and just wanted to get through the day, the teacher that was so warm that you felt like you had your grandparent there, the teacher that was overenthusiastic, the strict one you didn’t dare to provoke or the teacher that was trying so hard but just somehow couldn’t reach his audience.
But then there are the really special ones, the once that touch us or our lives in a way I think they sometimes don’t realise.
I am going to cover the ones that I came across and the reasons they touched me.
Passion for creativity
When I was in 2nd – 4th grade I had a teacher who was also an actress. She was in an amateur theatre group in our town and really wanted to get us hooked.
She was loud, she was strict in a sense that even though we were having fun we were not to take advantage of it, she was creative and passionate.
She managed to convince the headteacher to let her put acting into the syllabus. There were 5 classes in my year and my class was the only one that got these lessons. For two hours every Friday we would be on stage practicing pieces either she or we choose, we would get to put on a show for our parents once each semester. She would have us practice talking loud enough and help us find the courage to do so in front of each other. She taught us how to stand and carry ourselves on stage and at the end of the lesson she would have us all lie down and meditate. We found that part funny and awkward at first but grew to like it.
She was successful and many of us carried the dream of becoming actresses and actors. I was one of them. I got so smitten that I formed my own theatre group. It was called “Pots and Pranksters”. I wasn’t allowed to invite friends in to play very often and when I could I could only invite one or two friends at a time. But I didn’t let that stop me. In the Icelandic weather we practiced outside, in my garden. In order to have enough people in my group I made an advertisement and hung up in my school. The kids that asked to join mainly consisted of me and my brothers’ friends. As I was a bit of a control freak I “of course” wrote the plays, directed them and casted myself in the biggest parts. Next to our house was a day-care centre for children and young people with disabilities. One of my grandmothers worked there and as the leader of “Pots and Pranksters” I marched in there and asked if we could set up a show for the kids once a week, on Fridays. That was approved and this group operated for quite some while.
I had the dream of becoming an actress until I was about 20, by then I hadn’t been on stage for 4 years and convinced myself I was to old for it. However, I still carry the dream of entering an amateur group at some stage after university.
This teacher also read for us. She didn’t read what would have been considered children books. She read thick and old books, often folklore. I loved that! With my passion for words and stories that was something right down my alley!
I believe she was one of the first people in my life that encouraged me to be creative and helped me connect with that side of me. Without her I am not sure who I would be today as the traditional education in the other classes in my year wouldn’t have focused so much on letting our artistic side develop.
Finding her feet in the world of teaching
As a teenager I was in a class with very colourful people. Like most other teenagers we were all trying to discover ourselves and striving to stand out in our own way. Some of us, however, tried our best to blend in, in order to be left alone and not become the target of ridicule.
When I was in the 9th grade we got a new teacher. The teacher that had led the class for quite a few years was now letting go and we got a new vibrant teacher that had just graduated.
She used unorthodox approaches in her teaching. When teaching us history and geography she would bring things to class to make the subjects come alive. Food from the countries we covered and objects related to them. She also invited the whole class to her house one night, for a cosy-out-of-class experience. That was so nice and made me feel like she wanted to know more than just whether we could detect where “the X” (algebra pun) had gone!
In English classes she brought lyrics with blanks in. She would have us listen to songs that had emotional lyrics or songs that were popular at the time and fill in the words. For the poet and story writing me that was a favourite! I was always excited about which song she would bring next.
With everything she did and all the effort she put into it I always felt like the class didn’t appreciate her. I felt like she was bullied by the class and had to deal with a lot of attitude. On behalf of my class I have carried guilt due to that. Recently I contacted her. I wanted her to know what an impact she had left and that I was grateful for what she did and how she did it as a teacher. She was thankful for the message and to my relief told me she actually enjoyed teaching the class and loved all the different characters in it. This shows how different perception can be. She was probably prepared for what she was getting into, knew she was teaching a class with teenagers and that they would test the boundaries.
Yep! That’s what I will call him! As I have found one really has to have skills to teach maths. You can be really good at maths but crap at explaining it. Many of the math teachers were so clever there was no way they could put themselves in the shoes of people that simply didn’t get it and therefore couldn’t “dumb it down” for them. Then there are teachers that talk to people that have a hard time with maths and speak to their students like they have learning disabilities and are 5 years old on top of that. Degrading.
When I became a teenager, maths started becoming my Achille’s heel. I developed a very negative relationship towards the subject and in fact, anything that had to do with numbers. Throughout the years this relationship got worse. Then all of a sudden when I was 19 I had a teacher that got to me! I am not really sure how or why, but he did. The fact I had decided that semester that I would do my homework EVERY day in maths probably helped. I put all other subjects on ice, as they came easy for me, and mainly focused on maths when I did my homework. It also helped that the teacher put me next to a guy that NEVER did his homework. Me and that guy got on well and the teacher encouraged me to help him a little “as he himself was so busy with all the other students”. I think that was his main trick! Having to verbalise everything I had done at home to someone else made my understanding of the subject a lot deeper.
After quitting this course 5 times in different schools I finally sat through it and didn’t have this constant inner conversation of “You just can’t learn maths”. I learned that I indeed could and I was quite good at it. I passed with the highest grade given in the class!
The one that knew me better than I did
This teacher touched my life in many ways. When I was a teenager, she didn’t teach me but she worked for social services and worked on my case. She also taught in the school I attended. Therefore, when I returned to school at the age of 25, she remembered me.
From the age of 25 to 27 I did a few courses at my old school, as many as I could, being a mum of a young daughter, then pregnant and finally, mum of two young children.
Her office became my haven. When I went through the split ups with the fathers of my children I sat in her office and cried. The first place I could think of when the father of one of my kids sued me for custody was her office, where I sat and cried and gathered my thoughts and strength. She had a way of letting me vent out and then look at me kindly and give me some advice or encouraging words. She knew who I was and what I was about. As she had been involved in my case when I was a teenager she knew better than most what I had been through. She even told me it was a shame the school system didn’t value life experience at all, that one could not get any credits for that, as she said she knew I had a lot of that. She empowered me.
I will never forget when I came into her office and asked her: “Is it true that you conduct ADHD tests on people?”
I hardly finished the sentence when she excitedly said: “YES!”
And I said: “Well, I was wondering…”
Again, she answered with excitement: “YES!”
By that point I got a little awkward and thought I was missing something: “….well…you know… whether maybe I….If I should perhaps take a test like that?”
Like she had been waiting for this lightbulb to come on for a long time she said: “YES!”
I did the test and found out I do not have ADHD. She told me, however, that I’m dancing on the line. She said some factors are very high, while others are within the scope of where they should be. She told me in many ways it was harder to be in my position. If one is “normal” then that is that. If one has ADHD it can be worked with and handled accordingly. However, she told me to use it to my advantages. She also told me I just had to be aware of it and use cognitive therapy when I felt like I needed to.
She taught me 2 or 3 classes. She taught upbringing. I loved the subject as I had worked in 3 kindergartens and was a mum of one and soon to be two. I went over the top in all the assignments she gave us, I always did a little extra. Or a lot..
It was in her class I also found my voice. My voice in school. When I was a teenager it was considered uncool and nerdy to participate in classes. To engage with the teacher. When I sat in her class, as a mature student, surrounded by 16 – 18 year olds I discovered I wasn’t expressing myself out of fear of judgement. It was in one of her classes that I decided I was studying for me, that I wanted to get the most out of it and that I didn’t care what other students thought. I enjoyed classes so much more! I asked questions and I engaged with her in conversation about the subject.
Since then I have been quite vocal in classes. Nowadays I am not afraid to take up space in classes.
The motivational duo
When I finally went to do my equivalence of A-levels full time, as a single mum of two, I came across many great teachers. However, in that school there was a married couple. She taught Danish and he was a school counsellor. They were amazing!
She was cheerful and positive and managed to make Danish fun by showing us funny music videos and sketches. She was so full of spirit in classes that it transmitted over to the whole class.
He became my guidance when everything became too much. I would talk to him about this and that. Sometimes I would pop into his office just to talk to someone older than the age of 3. I would also go in there and cry my eyes out if needed and understanding and kindly he would listen and let me get it all out. When I was making life hard on myself by over analysing things or by taking so many notes while listening to lectures that one could have published a new textbook, he would make fun of me and then guide me in the right direction. When I didn’t believe in myself, he would help me focus and point out what I had actually achieved and told me I could do anything.
I try to see them when I drive through the area of the school as I highly appreciate them and how much they give of themselves when interacting with other people.
The supportive philosopher
When I did my bachelors I had to do a course in political philosophy. I had dreaded it throughout my studies as neither politics nor philosophy were my favourite subjects and there I had a course that combined both!
After having one philosophy teacher before him that opened my mind a little and helped me connect the theory to real life and showed me how relevant all these old books and ideology actually was, I was a little more open to his course. Still, it was this mixture of philosophy and politics.
Once I started his course I quickly detected how enthusiastic he was about the subject. As I was a distance student I went to classes once or twice each semester and then listened to lectures online. When I went to his lecture I was the only student that showed up. Lucky me! I got a private lesson and it really helped me to understand the subject and I discovered it was very enjoyable and one could debate it back and forth for ever.
To make a long story short this was one of my top subjects. I was highest in the class when we finished and I went on to doing a big group research assignment and it involved both politics and philosophy. He was our tutor in it and gave really informative guidance. While working on that project I was about to have my youngest child. At the end of it we turned in a big dissertation and then had to present it and defend it for a panel. I had my daughter 12 days later!
Once my daughter was 6 weeks old I had to start working on my final dissertation. At the university I graduated from one can request a tutor. I knew I wanted him. Because of that and my brothers reactions when I told him I was going to study PR I chose to write about PR and ethics. I could not have had a better tutor. When I was at a breaking point and thought I had misunderstood everything I was doing and that I would probably have to postpone my graduation I sent him a message. He told me to call. We had a 45 minute long conversation where we talked about the assignment and he pointed out he wouldn’t be as much involved if he didn’t believe in me and what I was doing. He helped me straighten my back, brush the dust off and sit back down and put in these final words needed.
When I applied for the University of Leeds he was one of the people that wrote me a recommendation letter and the letter he wrote means the world to me. What he wrote empowered me and made me think there may be a little more worth in me than I sometimes see.
All these people touched me one way or another. They helped me to get to where I am today. Some of them I have thanked and told about my thoughts, others are still on my list.
There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child, there is so much truth in that. However, I want to extend that as we need “the village” all our lives as our learning, no matter whether it is in school or not, requires this village. The people that laugh with us, pick us up when we are down, encourage us, point out things that we don’t recognise within ourselves etc.
I encourage everyone to reach out and let the people that have influenced them know they did so and tell them how. It will hopefully give them something back for what they gave and the odd thing is it gives you so much as well!
As it is getting close to the Christmas holiday and my family and I are starting all the preparations, I decided to tell you a thing or two about Icelandic traditions. As this blog is, amongst other things, a platform for me to play and practice with different media I now present you with my very first Vlog. Below the video there is a little more information and some pictures on some of the topics I have covered.
I hope you enjoy!
I think we better cover the 13 naughty brothers straight away! So here is a link to a very informative site about the Yule Lads and their mum Grýla, their dad Leppalúði and the Christmas Cat.
As I mentioned in the video there is a big concert industry linked to Christmas. If musicians do not have their own Christmas concerts they are very likely to appear at other musicians’ concerts.
As far as it goes for Italian songs that have been changed into Icelandic Christmas songs here is an example of an original Italian song (not a Christmas song) and then the Icelandic version.
The Icelandic version:
There are other things that I could have covered and I could have gone into more depth BUT, as far as an introduction I think this is a good starting point. Next year I might go into more detail.
I will not wish you a merry Christmas YET as I plan to post a few more blogs here before the holidays. I will do that in between turning in final assignments and preparing for Christmas by making ice cream, writing Christmas cards, buying presents, decorating, baking cookies, getting Icelandic visitors over and enjoying the days leading up to it with my family.
What happens when the general public gets fed up and thinks enough is enough?
A lot of people never thought Trump would be elected and many people also thought Brexit would never go through. But it shows you should never say never. People were fed up with the situation and wanted a change. That’s what they got. Without really knowing what sort of change they were voting for.
Today I am mainly going to talk about examples from Iceland where the general public had enough and how it presented itself.
By the end of September 2008 I was in a hospital in the east of Iceland. I had just had my first child. My beautiful baby girl. She refused to come out naturally and therefore I was wheeled into an operation room and she was delivered by C-section. After the operation I had to recover so I stayed in the hospital for a week. Maybe it is just me but after having my first child all I talked about was how well she took the breasts, how many nappies we changed, how well she slept and whether she was getting air out by burping. I completely forgot there was a world out there. After 6 days in the hospital I realised this and decided I needed to ask people what was going on with them as well. I didn’t have a TV in my room. You also have to understand that this was before the times of smart phones and people constantly being connected to the internet. That very same day my auntie called me and I blathered out this and that about my daughter, then I remembered my newfound realisation and therefore asked: “How about you guys, how are thing with you?”
She angrily replied: “US!!? HOW are things with US??”
Very confused about how I managed to insult her I carefully replied with: “….yes…”
Again, very angry she replied: “EVERYTHING is falling apart! We have NO idea what is going on! ALL WE KNOW is that we are FUXXED like EVERYONE else!!”
After very cautiously asking her what she meant by that I got a little bit of the background to her reaction. Something had happened to the banks. I still didn’t understand what exactly had happened and asked my fiancé at the time to get us some newspapers. I could see in the papers all the main banks had gone bust. I still didn’t know what it meant but by reading the papers I understood it was not good.
Once I got home from the hospital, I turned the TV on and watched the news, the situation didn’t look good. Following the news was a comedy show. This was a weekly show that always made fun of the current affairs and what had been going on in Icelandic society since the last show. At this point Russia had offered Icelanders aid in the form of financial support. All the comedy sketches were tailored around that. In the show they pretended we had taken the support and Iceland had changed into an old time Soviet country. People were poor, they were begging and had food stamps. People were wearing worn out clothes and women had shawls on their shoulders and cloths on their heads.
Still not hormonally tuned I didn’t see it as a joke. I sat on my couch and cried, I hugged my baby girl and feared the situation I had borne her into.
Protesting the Icelandic way
The financial crisis in 2008 hit Iceland very hard.
Icelanders weren’t happy. The government said too many people had bought flat screen TV’s without having the money. The people were blamed. Banks had behaved really irresponsibly but the general public had to pay. England invoked the Anti-Terrorism Act against Iceland due to Icesave and Icelanders were gobsmacked. A group called InDefence was formed and it fought against Icelanders having to pay for Icesave and tried to fight the image of Icelanders being terrorists. Pictures like this were posted on social media:
Life quickly became harder and Icelanders were struggling. People were losing their jobs, homes and possessions.
It’s the only time I’ve been sincerely grateful for owning nothing and being relatively poor. There was nothing they could take from me.
The society was boiling and ended up erupting like a volcano. Protests and demonstrations were planned. People flocked down to the city centre to protest the government. They felt like the government wasn’t taking responsibility or looking after the people of the country. The protests involved planned public speaking in front of the parliament and peaceful gatherings. Famous writers, journalists, business people and activists would lend their voice and join forces.
Thousands of people showed up every week and took part in what was called “The Pots and Pans Revolution”. It may seem harmless and quite comical, but it worked. People showed up with signs and whatever they could make noises with, they hit pots and pans with ladles and honked horns. Just whatever they could do to make noise and make it visible they were unhappy with status quo. It ended up escalating into a bit of a riot in January 2009, where windows of the parliament were broken, eggs were thrown, and 20 people were arrested. By April 2009 Icelanders got to vote a new government and the sitting right-wing had to resign and a left-wing government had a big job ahead of them as they needed to do a lot of cleaning up.
Since then Icelanders have protested like that twice. First in 2016 when the panama papers were revealed, and the sitting prime minister was a big name in them. People called for elections, which they got and then again 2017 when the general public discovered that people in high places and linked to the governing party in the parliament had vindicated child molesters. They had declared these molesters were now all better and vouched for them behaving well and therefore they got a clean slate and a clear criminal record and could go about their lives as normal. This made people angry and they protested.
Influencing with fear
In both 2016 and 2017 the right-wing parties got to power again after being overthrown with protests. People were speechless. There was so much anger and turbulence but still the right-wing parties were going strong. (The Panama PM did not get voted back in and left politics for a while).
What had happened? Was it a loud minority or was there something wrong with the system?
I believe what happened was similar to what happened when both Trump got into power and Brexit became a reality.
When I did a philosophy course while doing my bachelors we had to look into power, power struggle and fear. I did a group assignment where we watched and analysed an hour-long interview with Teresa May and read loads of articles, just before the elections in 2016. We also had a look at how Corbyn conducted himself but not in as great depths as May was the focus of our assignment. While watching the interview and looking at the articles it dawned on us, she didn’t talk much about what she wanted to do to better the lives of UK citizens, she didn’t go into depths of her policies. She used scare tactics and fear. She focused on the fact the UK would sink without her as a leader, that she was the one that knew what to do when it came to Brexit and that other parties were not to be trusted.
The same happened in Iceland in the elections in 2016 and 2017. New parties emerged and smaller parties were gaining support. The big right-wing parties have a lot of capital and therefore started a campaign where they focused on trashing the smaller parties, there were adverts on YouTube and other social media which dragged up negative stories about the other parties and played on fear. In interviews they kept telling people the other parties didn’t have the experience they had and that Iceland would go bust again without their leadership.
And the scariest thing about these fear tactics is that they work!
Hopefully however, the results in all these cases will wake people up and make them realise they need to vote! They also need to see beyond the crap, which can be harder, but being informed and not just believing the one whom is the loudest can make a huge difference.
The Best Party
I am going to end this post on an example, also from Iceland, which I find humorous and shows what happens when people get fed up but have better choices than Trump to show their discontent.
The year was 2010 and it was time for City Council Elections. Promises had been made for years and were never kept. People were getting tired and felt like no matter who they voted for they would always get the same kind of government.
A new party emerged. It called itself “The Best Party”. The leader, comedian Jón Gnarr, said he had always wanted power and money. He also said he had always wanted to be in a position to be able to help his friends out. He said he had nicked a lot of the material on his manifesto from other parties like helping old people, women and the Less Fortunate but he also said he didn’t mean any of it and it was just a cover up. He hoped people wouldn’t take any of it too literally.
So, there was a party that promised all sorts but did it as a joke and was always upfront about the fact they didn’t mean to live up to any of their promises. The party also promised to be different from other parties as it would be openly corrupt.
Here are some of the promises on their manifesto:
To improve the quality of life of the Less Fortunate: We want the best of everything for this bunch and therefore offer free access to buses and swimming pools, so you can travel around Reykjavik and be clean even if you’re poor or there’s something wrong with you.
Stop corruption: We promise to stop corruption. We’ll accomplish this by participating in it openly.
Effective democracy: Democracy is pretty good, but an effective democracy is best. That’s why we want it
Free bus rides for students and disabled people: We can offer more free things than any other party because we aren’t going to follow through with it. We could say whatever we want. For example, free flights for women or free cars for people who live in rural areas. It’s all the same.
Free dental services for children and handicapped people: This is something that is lacking, and we definitely want to take part in promising it.
Free access to swimming pools for everyone and free towels: This is something that everyone should fall for, and it’s the election promise we’re most proud of.
Take those responsible for the economic collapse to court: Felt we had to include this.
Listen more to women and old people: This bunch gets listened to far too little. It’s as if everyone thinks they are just complaining or something. We’re going to change that.
They made fun of all the promises and phrases other parties used like “sustainability” and “transparency”, which were hugely popular at the time.
This is Tina Turners’ “Simply the best” which they made their own lyrics to, it has English subtitles, but I have also translated it and you can see it below:
They won the elections and the party governed Reykjavík for 4 years. The Mayor, Jón Gnarr, was open about the fact he didn’t know what he was doing and when he was interviewed, he always had someone close by to call if he got questions he couldn’t answer, and he wasn’t shy about it.
I lived in Reykjavík at the time and it was colourful, Jón supported human rights and was vocal about that. He dressed up every year for Reykjavík pride and took part in the parade.
If you are interested in knowing more about Jón Gnarr, here is a documentary about him:
When Icelanders voted for a new President in 2016 there was pressure on Jón Gnarr to run but he decided against it.
All of this shows that one does not have to use fear, even though it is a powerful tool. One can use creativity to provoke the status quo. When I go out to the world and hopefully start working in Public Relations I hope I can do just that, be creative, think outside the box and have some fun while I am at it!
Why am I blogging? Why do I take the time and sit down each week and share the things I write on this platform?
Well, I am studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations and one of my teachers posted a thing on Facebook about a blog competition for PR students in the UK. I looked at this post and thought to myself “That might be fun!”. As I talked about last week I have always enjoyed writing, however, as I have also talked about before I am the queen of self-doubt and therefore I started telling myself I would probably not have enough to talk about and that little old me had no business entering a COMPETITION, let alone one where I had to write in English! Therefore, I put it aside but kept wondering.
A few weeks later I asked my teacher to send me the details about the competition again, so I could have a better look at it. Somewhere I had read that having a blog as a future PR practitioner would be like being a designer and having a folder with his/her work in it, it could be my portfolio. That sounded less scary, I wasn’t doing it to win but to practice and make a portfolio (one that became a lot more personal than I realised it would be when I started).
When I looked at the details about the competition, I saw a post from Orlagh, who won last year. She described how she did it and it was quite inspiring. I decided to enter. Just for myself of course. No one would notice. I would practice. I could always delete it all later anyway. If, to my surprise, it would be any good at the end I would have a decent portfolio.
The search for content
My biggest worry was concerning the content. I was sure I would run out of things to write about. To my surprise things kept coming to me, sometimes while having a conversation with people, sometimes while sitting on the bus in peace and quiet, often when my head hit the pillow at night and even sometimes while cooking for my family. Each time an idea popped up I pulled out my phone and made notes, a few sentences or words I could revisit when the time came to sit down again and write a new post. I keep adding to the notes, but only once have I had to look to them for material.
Most of the time something is pending and takes over and rather than looking at my notes. I think about it for a while, I let it brew. When I did group assignments while doing my bachelors I often worked with a friend I got to know at the university. The two of us would then add people to our team as needed for each assignment. After meeting up with a group I would go silent for a little while, for a few days I wouldn’t say much to the group. When other group members would ask my friend what was going on with me and whether we shouldn’t start putting thing on paper he would always tell them to stay calm and not to misjudge my brewing time. He knew how I worked. I would then have articulated my thoughts and would sit down and write like the wind (if the wind could write that is!).
My first blog post for the competition was about myself. I was so new at this that I wasn’t even sure how to use the PRstudent hashtag to make sure the post would find its way into the competition. Therefore, I emailed the editor at PR Place and told him I had entered. He had seen my blog before he saw my email and encouraged me to keep going.
Since then I have blogged about myself and things I believe can either come in handy for other people, help, or inspire them. I have also written about PR. My blog took on a life of its own. All of a sudden, I was sharing a lot more about myself than I had planned to but the thing is, when I entered, I decided to be authentic and true to myself as if I would try to be someone else it would come across fake and at some point I would be bound to contradict “my-alter-web-ego”.
How it spreads
Once I started posting I had to post it on Twitter, a media I am not used to using, but as soon as I did that I was sharing it with anyone following the PRstudent hashtag.
Then I thought to myself, if this is my “portfolio” I should probably share it on LinkedIn. So I did.
I haven’t shared it on Facebook yet. There are two main reasons for that. One, I am curious to see how big of a crowd I can reach without it being my friends and family. Two, I like being “unknown”, to simply be me and not someone I feel like I should be as we all have certain roles when it comes to the people around us.
With these few actions I have had more reactions to my blog than I would have imagined. For an established blogger my numbers are far from impressive but for someone that started with no one knowing who I was and thinking I would be talking to myself I am quite impressed with myself!
Ok, these numbers are not huge, I know! But they are all I need, for now anyway. I am being noticed and people from countries all over the world are stumbling onto my blog. I know the PRstudent hashtag has a lot to do with that. That is great! It is a great way to get known and to build a network.
Since I started blogging, I have been approached by Richard Bailey, the editor of PR Place, who asked me to come to Leeds Beckett University and speak to his PR students. Once I got there he asked me about personal branding and blogging in general. It was so much fun! And I learned so much by doing this. Can you imagine, I didn’t even realise until put on the spot in front of these students that that was exactly what I am doing?! As I am a fairly quick thinker, I could still inform them about me and my personal branding!
I emailed the girl that did the talk I blogged about earlier. I told her that she had inspired me to write and therefore I wanted to let her know there was a blog out there partly about her. I also admitted to having stolen a picture on the internet to link to the post and that I hoped that was alright. She emailed me back. She liked my post and said, she in return thought I was inspiring and that my story needed to be heard and asked if she could share my post on her media. I was overwhelmed. She’s a big influencer. I knew as soon as she had shared it as the number of visitors on my blog spiked, and I had not just released a new post.
I have followers on Twitter I didn’t have before I started blogging (I now feel a bit of pressure to become more active on Twitter) and I have professionals looking at my LinkedIn profile.
All of this amazes and brings me joy.
What about the ROI?
Richard Bailey challenged the PRstudents in the competition to look at data and told us to connect with our inner geek (my inner geek loves words but makes little sense with numbers).
I still took his advice and looked at the analytics on my Twitter account:
Pretty impressive right? As I was almost none-existent on Twitter before the competition it is probably not a surprise, but it still looks good!
But having said that I have to admit I had to google the term ROI while I worked on this challenge. If there is anyone out there as ignorant as me it means: “Return On Investment” and Wikipedia explains it as following: “it is a ratio between the net profit and cost of investment resulting from an investment of some resources. A high ROI means the investment’s gains favourably to its cost”. So, if I understand it correctly it basically boils down to whether what you are doing is actually worth it. Regardless of data and numbers my personal answer is YES!
The reason is simple and came to me while having a conversation with a fellow student at Leeds University. She told me she didn’t understand how I had time to do it all. Study, run a family, host visitors regularly from Iceland AND blog. I hadn’t really given it a thought but as I spoke to her, I realised how much it gives me back. I told her it was not about BEING ABLE to manage, it HELPED me manage. With all the things I have to do and think about each day, these 2 – 3 hours I take every week to sit down, alone, maybe a glass of rosé by my side and a few candles are my meditation. They bring me back to myself in all the clutter I manage every day, week and month of the year. I enjoy writing. It is my me-time. I have always meant to write more but never given myself the time to do it, always used the excuse “I will do it when things calm down”.
When you lead a busy life, when things are hectic there is never more of a need than to sit down and meditate. I am a very impatient person, so the typical way of meditating doesn’t really agree with me as I start wondering how far into my 10 minutes of breathing in and out I am, but this I CAN do. This is how I bring myself together and channel myself. Being a part of the PRstudent competition gives me the framework and discipline to actually do that, follow through and take the time to sit down.
So, all in all, my numbers are up, I am being noticed, I am making a network but last and not least I am getting rewarded by the satisfaction of doing something I enjoy and helps me focus.