When studies hit home

I am afraid of flying… well I am VERY afraid of flying. I still travel but it’s a struggle. I do not fly within Iceland as I do not like to fly in small airplanes where you can feel every “bump”. I used to take anxiety pills before flying but nowadays I try to breath through the scare and do a bit of mediation. Which can be difficult if there is a lot of turbulence. Green meadows or the ocean might not be the places you want to picture yourself at as that’s precisely where you don’t want to end up in that particular moment!

When it comes to news about plane crashes and other flight related incidents, I try to avoid reading the news as it will only empower my fear. As someone said, ignorance is a bliss! Articles and studies on safety in air do not help me overcome my fear. People telling me statistics and information on safety while flying don’t help either, as if there is anyone who knows these things it’s the person that is afraid of flying, as that person has tried to know as much as possible to calm her fears.

I once had a rescue team member telling me that people at the back of a plane are most likely to survive a plane crash. From then on I always tried to get a seat at the back. Later on, I was told by a pilot that sitting at the back ensures that you will feel the most turbulence and in the case of a plane crash most people on the plane are almost certain to die. It made horrible sense. After that I have always asked to get a seat as far in front of the plane as possible as it’s the turbulence that stirs up my fears and panic.

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In the last week it has been hard to avoid news about plain crashes as Boeing’s 737 Max 8 crashed in Ethiopia. The second plane of that type to go down within 5 months of each other.

As I couldn’t avoid the headlines and the news I looked at the case with the eyes of a communication student and it was a big ,,aha” moment for me. I could connect so many theories and methods to the news. As horrible and sad as the news are, it is interesting to look at the case from that perspective.

First off, I started thinking about all the stakeholders involved, and oh my! There are so many! Boeing, airlines (that fly those planes and the ones that don’t), Boeings competitors, the families of the passengers, the UN (and other employers of passengers), regulators, the media, Boeing’s staff, airline’s staff, shareholders, the public, people that are afraid of flying and the list goes on.

When it comes to the stakeholders it was also interesting to see how their stakes changed with the blink of an eye. Just by voicing an opinion or by actions, players that might have been considered quite neutral became high power, high interest players.

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Boeing took it’s time when it came to action. However, certain airlines took the leap and decided to ground their 737 Max 8 planes while the accident was under investigation. By doing so other airlines were in a way pushed to respond in the same way. Other airlines didn’t react until their stocks started plummeting and then there were the ones that waited for regulators to step in and put bans/restrictions into action.

As we were taught about single and double-loop reputation-repairing activities at the beginning of the week as well I was all ears (as I am in communication classes, I just love them!). We were taught that the single-loop action entailed a short-term action where the immediate event is managed. In the single loop people are secured. The double-loop however is an action where a company changes it behaviour in order to avoid this type of a crisis in the future. To achieve that they find the root of the crisis and take proactive steps to make sure there isn’t more damage to reputation. We were taught that the best practice is to incorporate both single and double-loop reputation-repairing activities in a crisis.

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Watching Boeing gave me the feeling they wanted to skip the first step as they didn’t seem to see the importance of grounding their own planes while airlines took it upon themselves to do so. It was very interesting as I was learning this to be able to put it in perspective to a real-life crisis that was ongoing before and after this lecture.

Like it wasn’t enough to be able to relate the communication lectures to the Boeing crisis I could also do so in a Brand Management and Corporate Identity seminar. We were given random types of companies and told to come up with values for them. My group got allocated an “airline”. My first thought was safety.

Me and the professor debated for a little while whether that is something that was a given for an airline or not. I, being afraid of flying, told him it was incredibly important to me to know that was one of the values and that it would give me a larger sense of safety to fly with an airline that would emphasise on that as a value.

I would have loved to tackle a communication problem for Boeing, an airline or another stakeholder this week. I guess I did in my mind anyway.

It is a great feeling though when you can relate your studies to something that is going on out in the great big world (even though in this case, the event was very tragic). Boeing’s problems are just a fraction of where I, as a communication student can do so as I’ve seen through my studies and the media, communications are relevant in every aspect and I am yet to find a situation where it is not.

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Dissertation distress

I am at a point in my studies where I have to consider what my final dissertation should be about.

When I did my undergrads it was fairly simple. I had the motivation of wanting to see if all the voices around me were right. Are PR practitioners unethical? What kind of ethical framework do they work by etc. I have covered this topic before. I conducted this research by collecting secondary data and theory regarding ethics and ethics in PR. I also interviewed four PR practitioners in Iceland.

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Now I have to decide what to write about as my final dissertation in my masters.

As I mentioned in my last blog I have just started the communication part of my studies. I find it very interesting but I feel like I need more before I make up my mind on a specific topic for the dissertation.

I sat a class in Corporate Communications and Reputation Management last week where the topic was Performance, Behaviour and Reputation. It advocated the employees being brand ambassadors and touched on how to encourage them to support and strengthen the corporate reputation.

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This caught my attention. Having been someone at the bottom of the pyramid for years, being uneducated, on minimum wages, I have often wondered why the people higher up the ladder don’t value and see the potentials and wealth in their employees on the floor.

Unfortunately, the mentality in many companies back home is “if you don’t like it, find something else to do”. Everyone at the bottom is replaceable, which to me seems short-sighted and counterproductive in a company that is trying to create revenue and a good reputation. People talk and people talk about how it is to work in certain places. In a country like Iceland word travels even faster than elsewhere.

I did a course in HR in my undergrad and in that course we were told about the worth of employees and how much training can cost, the process of hiring new people etc. We were also told about the assets each employer brings with time spent within the company. The insight people gain etc.

This is something I think managers at different levels sometimes fail to see. They fail to value the knowledge the people on the floor bring by working with customers, using all the processes put in place etc. When someone works with customers all day that person gets to hear what they want, what information they need, what they are satisfied with and what they are unhappy about.

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So, in this class last week we were told about how to encourage employers to express themselves and how communications should flow both up and down. People should feel comfortable about expressing themselves, feel valued and listened to.

I am a fairly straight forward person and I use to do that. I used to express ideas, I used to talk about how processes might be made more efficient and what could be done better for employees, also with regards to customers. I would also talk about what was positive and try to make people smile and feel embraced at work. As a person on the floor I soon discovered this was not well received. I got the feeling the people higher up than me were thinking: “What the hell does she know?” or even “How dare she say that/suggest that?”. It drained all ambitions out of me and in the end, at these different places I worked at I just did my job. Nothing less, nothing more. I saw this happening to so many talented people that I came across while working in these jobs.

Sadly, if ideas from myself or other people on the floor were actually listened to, they would result in someone at managerial level getting all the praise, without us even getting a pat on the back let alone something more.

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The weird thing about all this is that it was not like there weren’t any communication processes in place. There were almost always thick HR booklets on how to do this and that and they would cover how happy one should be at work, how communications within the company should be and that people were encouraged to express themselves. All well and good. On paper.

However, in practice it didn’t seem to work. Out of all the places I have worked at I believe employees opinions and voices were truly valued at two places.

Due to all this it came to my mind whether that could be something to cover in my dissertation. As I said there are processes in place but for some reason they seem to just be there, not actually practiced. Therefore, I thought it might be interesting to talk to someone at a managerial level and quiz them about the communication processes within the company, ask about satisfaction with the processes etc. and then get to talk to other employees at different levels and get their opinion and understanding of the same. Once that would be done I would see if there is a gap in the communication plan/process etc.

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However, as one of my professors pointed out, it might be difficult to get managers to agree on me conducting such a research within their company, unless, maybe, I would do a project rather than a dissertation. Still it would be very sensitive information.

So, I guess I am back at the drawing board. Giving that I am only into my fourth week of this semester and the fact I have already come across one thing that triggered interest gives me hope there will be more.

All I know is I want to do interviews rather than big questionnaires and it HAS TO BE interesting as then the writing will come easy, as it is fun, something I will enjoy writing about.

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Studying PR abroad

The reason I am doing my masters in the UK is that there is a total lack of masters studies in Iceland when it comes to Public Relations. As a matter of fact, I was in the first group that graduated in the field at a bachelor level.

When looking into people working in communications in Iceland what you notice is that the practitioners either got their education from abroad, or which is very often the case; used to work in media.

My undergraduate degree consisted of a lot of politics and philosophy. We also did some creative writing, some media courses and ethics and laws regarding that field.

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We did one course in public relations which was taught by a guy that has been working in the field for many years. We had the options of doing some economics and marketing as well and I did a little bit of both. Therefore, even though I scored a very high average for my bachelors I didn’t feel like I knew enough about public relations and communications. The students I studied with talked to the dean in our university about these concerns and he said we were still equipped with so much knowledge about other things that it would amount to a good PR practitioner as one would have to have a diverse knowledge about society (the politics courses) and be able to build up a good argument (I guess the philosophy came in strong here). He made a decent argument himself, but I was sure I could get a deeper understanding and be able to learn more about the tools PR practitioners use. I was sure I should be able to gather enough knowledge in the field to feel comfortable about diving into the profession of communication. At that point I must admit I did not feel like that. I spoke to the tutor that advised me on my dissertation and told him how I felt. I told him that early on in my studies I honesty felt like I was about to conquer the world, but as I was getting close to the end I felt like I knew so little. There was so much more out there. He smiled and told me not to worry. He said that was a confirmation off how much I had actually learned. The way I understood him it meant I had learned to be humble and realised there is always more one can learn.

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Last semester at Leeds University we have mostly been focusing on marketing courses as my degree is a masters in “Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations”. As the communications and public relations part of it was the biggest attraction for me, I must admit I am really looking forward to this semester.

The future

In Iceland we do not tend to have internships or graduate jobs. It’s each to their own and sometimes who you know seems to help. I do not know people that could pull me into a nice, convenient job so I know I’ll have to make it on my own and believe that my character and knowledge will get me to where I need to/want to be.

Many of my course mates at school are talking about graduate jobs. I do not see that as an option for me. I have obviously worked for many years. I started working at the age of 16 (part time at that age) and have worked since then (apart from the few years I took off when I had my 2 older kids). Most often I did two jobs as one simply wouldn’t cover the bills. Most of these jobs were service jobs and jobs at kindergartens. I believe that experience should help me when in comes to my future career as once you have worked in service you have dealt with people from all classes and with all sorts of needs and preferences. Even the kindergarten job and being a mum must have prepared me as it involves a LOT of communication and at times clever negotiations. One has to be resourceful and tailor messages according to the audience!

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The other and maybe more obvious reason why I cannot really picture myself doing a graduate job is the fact I simply can’t afford it! I have a family of five, soon to be six, and the main reason I went through university at this (st)age in my life was to be able to leave the struggle behind, along with having to do two jobs and being treated like a doormat, as I wasn’t high enough in the chain.

We are hoping to stay in Leeds as we like it here and we can have a better standard of living here than in Iceland. According to my teacher in Iceland practitioners in Public Relations get a very decent pay, however, my fiancée will always be “a foreigner” in Iceland. He is from the UK and he does not have an education. However, he has years of experience which doesn’t seem to get him anywhere back home. While we lived in Iceland, he did long night shifts in service jobs where the pay far from covered the bills, it took student loans and me doing two part time jobs to be able to get by. On top of that we had to share housing with other people as rent is really expensive in Iceland. You do what you need to do but we both agree that giving our age and family size we like it things as they are now, just us, living together as a family. Over here he has a good job he likes and that actually pays the bills.

So, what initially was a temporary move to a foreign country to study something I couldn’t master back home might become a more permanent arrangement.

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Desk doctors

Communication is always important and has a big impact on how we view a company, whether it is through their promotion or direct communication with someone from the company/organisation. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems like training in communications seems to be lacking. Companies sometimes seem to forget that people on the phone or at a desk are often the first impressions one gets of a company.

This is a topic that could be discussed back and forth and different examples could be given. However, to explain what I mean I am going to focus on communication in the health care system, as I feel like that is a place where people should, more than anywhere, be trained in basic human communication. They should be trained to treat everyone equal and show sympathy when needed.

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When it comes to doctors I have discovered they vary when it comes to the communication part. Understandably, as they are human just like you and me. However, they often have to tackle difficult problems and meet people at stages in their lives that they probably wished they never had to come across.

I have had some great doctors that really went beyond what is expected of them. Two of which gave me their private numbers as I lived in small villages where one should only need the help of doctors between 8 and 4. As they knew I had things going on that might bother me outside of office hours they actually offered me their mobile numbers and told me to contact them directly if that was the case.

When I had just become a single mum of my two older kids I also experienced the most amazing good deed. I don’t think it was because he is a doctor, I think it is just because he is a nice person that cares for others. I had just gotten settled in mine and the kids first flat as a family of three. I didn’t have a job as I was still on a very low budget maternity leave (at this point my daughter was 3 years old and my son was only 7 months) and I was quite lost in life. I had seen my doctor to talk, to get an outlet for my emotions and feelings. He listened and was trying to figure out ways with me to get me back to school so I could make a decent life for myself and the kids. One night I was in my cosy little flat and my kids were asleep and the phone rang. This wasn’t unusual as most of my social interactions were  by phone as one can get quite isolated when they are parents of young kids and lack the net of people around them to babysit every once in a while, etc. What was unusual, however, was that I didn’t recognise the number. I answered the phone and on the other end a voice said:

“Heiða?”

“Yes?” I replied.

“Hi, this is your doctor X (I am not going to put his name in here, to respect his privacy).”

“Oh? Hi!”

“This phone call is a little unusual and you are probably wondering why I am calling…”

“Yeah…” I answered quite confused.

“Well the thing is me and my wife bought a lot of meat to process straight from the farm. We have been spending this afternoon cutting it down and packaging it. Some for us and some for our kids.”

“Okay?”

“Well there’s way too much! My wife suggested that it would be nice if we knew anyone in need that some of this would be helpful to, I instantly thought of you. Don’t worry though!! I didn’t disclose your name.”

“Oh, wow!”

“Yes, so I was wondering if you might want some minced beef an if so, how you’d like the proportions to be?”

When you are a single mum with no extra cash to spend you can not afford to say no to such a nice gesture so I ran and had a look in my freezer to look at the proportions sizes I got at the supermarket and said to him: “I would love that, thank you so much! Maybe around 500 gr. in a bag?”

“It might be 400-500 gr. I hope that’s okay?”

I couldn’t help but laughing and told him I could live with that.

Later that night he showed up wit 5 kilos of minced beef! I took it from his hands with a lump in my throat! He sorted out 10 evening dinners for me and my children and probably a little more as we would make loads out of the 500 gr. proportions and then be able to have left overs the night after. I thought it was so amazing that someone had had me in mind like that and whenever I have been in the position to help others I have tried to do so as I know how much it can mean for the person on the receiving side of it, even though it may seem small to me. Pay it forward kind of a thing.

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I’ve also had really funny encounters with doctors. One has to understand that Iceland is a VERY small country with the population of around 350000 and the chances of a person you meet in the street knowing someone you know are huge!

Once I had to go for a check-up at the gynaecologist. He turned out to be the doctor that delivered me when my mum gave birth to me. While he had his head between my legs taking a swab he said, just like it was the most normal thing in this position: “You look just like your mum!” I wasn’t sure what exactly he was talking about!

Another time I went to another gynaecologist. I was prepared to have a swab taken. Stretched out on the bench, legs in the appropriate handles and all. He then opens a cupboard above his head. He closes it again and opens the one next to it. The same happens and he went through a few cupboards and as he opened more of them I noticed he was getting a bit stressed. He then smiled awkwardly and said: “I am SO, SO sorry! This has NEVER happened before but I seem to have run out of the sticks I use to take the swabs with… BUT I do have a box of them in my car. If you would only be so kind to wait, I’ll just run out and get them!”

“Right…okay..” It wasn’t like I was going to leave with out having what I came for. However, we were on the 5th floor and this would take him a little while. Being in Iceland, in a rush he put a scarf and coat on and popped out the door, 2 seconds later his head popped back in and he said with an awkward smile: “You just try to be comfortable while I run out!” Any woman that has lied on one of these benches knows there is nothing comfortable about them!    

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Unfortunately, I have also had some bad experience with doctors. When I miscarried for the first time I was 22 years old. I was at home and all of a sudden I started bleeding. I got really worried and didn’t know what to do, still I hoped maybe it wasn’t all that bad and I was reading to much into it. I called the doctor on call in my village and grumpily he said: “It’s simple! You’re are miscarrying, it’s gone, all done! There is nothing we can do!”

With that he hung up. I felt horrible. These news were devastating and I felt so disregarded as I would have thought he wanted to see me and check up on me. It was dinner time and I got the feeling I interrupted him while having his evening meal. Half an hour later he called back and was a little more sympathetic and actually asked me questions and explained the procedures if this was the case. Once I got over the biggest shock, I imagined his wife had heard him and told him off for talking to a woman in this position the way he did. That probably wasn’t the case though, he must have realised afterwards that he’d been a bit hasty. And I do take my hat off to him for actually calling back and kind of making amends.

Another time I miscarried and was sent with an airplane to a hospital to be monitored. The morning after a gynaecologist examined me. He brought a student with him and didn’t ask if it was okay with me that he was present and I didn’t say anything, I probably would have said yes, but one should ask. He then examined me and spoke “doctor” to his student, pointed at the screen and never said a word to me. The two of them then disappeared behind a curtain where they had a computer and they kept “talking doctor”. After a few minutes I had worked up the courage to ask: “Can I put my clothes back on?” The answer was a short, annoyed yes and then they kept talking amongst themselves. For a while I stood there like I didn’t belong and felt like I shouldn’t be there. However, I ended up asking “I am sorry… Is it gone? Have I miscarried?” This specialist sneered back: “Yes! That is if you were ever pregnant!”. With that I left.

Having doctors that talk to people in situations like this, communicating like that is horrible. Afterwards I felt like I didn’t only have to deal with the shock and sorrow of miscarrying but also this treatment. To be treated like a second-class citizen.

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In England I have come across what I would class as very unprofessional behaviour. Not from the doctors themselves but the first person one has to go through before getting to the doctor. The receptionists. Desk doctors as I have started referring to them as.

In December, when I discovered I was pregnant I looked on NHS’s website to see what the procedures are here, as I have never been pregnant in the UK before. It said if you have discovered you are pregnant you should contact your local clinic and get an appointment with a midwife or a GP. Which I decided to do, especially with my history, I knew I wanted it on record in case of worst-case scenario. Therefore, I called my local clinic and asked for an appointment. They have appointment slots every day which they only fill in on that day. So, you are supposed to call in the morning and get allocated an appointment later that same morning. I told the lady on the phone I needed one of these walk-in appointments (this is something they have just started and came instead of the walk-in hours, to avoid people coming in and having to wait for hours). She told me they didn’t have walk-ins. I tried to explain I needed one of these same-day appointments and she told me they only had appointments next week. After going back and forth explaining to her what I was talking about she said: “Oh you are talking about (insert the official name of the appointments)”. I told her that was correct. She then asked me what the problem was, which I am not used to as in Iceland it’s the doctors business not a receptionists. I told her I had just discovered that I was pregnant and as the NHS website stated I wanted to see a GP. She told me that had nothing to do with the GP and that I needed to see a midwife but only if I was around 10 weeks pregnant. I then explained to her that first off I wasn’t sure how far on I was and then I told her I had had 7 miscarriages and needed the support and assurance of a doctor. “I don’t know what  he’s supposed to do for you! But I’ll book you in any way!”. I felt like she had been rude and couldn’t believe her last snappy answer as I had just shared with her my history and explained that I was very nervous. There was no sympathy, just cynical remarks.

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I told the doctor about the answers and comments I had received. She apologised and couldn’t believed how I had been spoken to. She said the reasons for my visit were none of the receptions business and if I wanted to see a doctor, I should get to see a doctor no matter what it was for. She then told me she would send a request for me to see a gynaecologist at the hospital so I could be monitored. I should also book an appointment at the reception for a meeting with my community midwife. When I got to the reception the “lovely” receptionist from the phone was there. I told her I needed to book an appointment with a midwife. Very loudly (so loudly that everyone in the waiting room knew exactly why I was there) she asked me how far along I was. I told her I wasn’t sure but was about to see a specialist to get that clarified as I didn’t know. Loudly, again, she said: “You don’t know!?!” I felt really embarrassed and like I had failed in filling out my sexual encounter diary to make sure to have exact dates and records. Again, I told her I was sorry but I didn’t. She told me the only appointment she had was at the beginning of February and I accepted that. Again, she stressed that the midwifes REALLY wanted to be sure of how far along women were when they saw them. I just looked at her awkwardly and said: “Well, I don’t know.” She booked the appointment and murmured: “Well you should be around the correct time by then anyway…” I wondered how on earth she knew more than me!

After this I waited for a letter which would tell me when I was to come into the hospital to see a gynaecologist. A week later my letter arrived but my appointment wasn’t till January so I called the hospital. When I got through to a receptionist, they told me I was just seeing a midwife for a normal check-up. I explained that wasn’t correct. That I was going to see a community midwife but needed to see a specialist at the hospital due to my history. She didn’t budge. After a while she transferred the phone to another person and I got the same thing. I ended up crying out of frustration and simply told her I was scared and I felt like no one was listening. Finally, I got transferred to a receptionist at the pre-natal care. This person had been filled in on why I was calling and once she got on the phone she asked what she could do for me. I started crying loudly and told her all I needed was to see a specialist and that was what I believed my doctor had requested but for some reason I was being told I would only get to see a midwife and that wouldn’t happen until January. As I was very emotional (and a “little”) dramatic by this point I told her I was doubting it all though and I felt like I didn’t understand anything and maybe it was because I was nothing more than a foreigner. She calmed me down and had me breathing in and out before assisting me.

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She booked me in, told me I’d see a midwife who probably would have a specialist do a scan on me the same day.

Once we arrived, I spoke to yet another receptionist. She told me to pee in a cup. I told her I believed I wasn’t supposed to as I might be going for a scan as I wasn’t sure about my dates and I knew a scan so early on require a full bladder. She hissed at me and told me I wasn’t booked in for a scan and therefore there wouldn’t be any scan that day and I should basically do as I was told. Quickly I sensed the fact she was not going to budge so, upset, I took the glass and went to the bathroom. When I returned my fiancée told me he had tried to talk to her but there was no way to get her to listen. For the first time in my life my blood pressure was measured quite high and I know it was only due to upset. Once I finally saw the midwife I felt better. She was caring and understanding. She understood my worries and as the specialist she normally would have me see was gone for the day, she wanted to book me in with him later but offered to have another doctor have a quick look then and there just to set my mind at ease.

This doctor was very cold. To begin with he saw the bubble the fetus should be in but couldn’t detect a fetus. The midwife held my hand and comforted me as tears ran down my face in silence. She asked him to do a more thoroughly examination. I had to remove my clothes and he did. He could detect a fetus this time but couldn’t confirm there was a heartbeat and told me that his file would therefore say there was a fetus but that there was uncertainty about vital signs. More tears ran down my face and he left. I apologised to the midwife for the crying and she asked me please not to apologise. Told me communications weren’t his strongest point which was why she was there, to translate his words into human interactions. Both she and my fiancée said they believed they saw a flickering and we would know for sure in a few days.

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As my readers know when I went back there was a heartbeat and we are now in our 10th week.

After this I have been treated very well but I am sure that there are notes on their system about communications with me. It has been frustrating and hard to deal with health care employees that treat you like any other number. That even make you feel like you are wasting their time. I know we all have bad days, but if you cannot mask them and your job is to deal with real people with real emotions maybe you should be doing something else.

These receptionists were my first impressions of the English health care system when it comes to pregnancy and I must admit I wasn’t impressed. I might have listened and not pushed for what I needed. If I would have I would have missed the amazing service I have had after getting passed these gatekeepers. I would have had weeks of wondering whether everything was going okay or not and I would still be waiting for the confirmation on it.

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Having to face the fact I can’t keep all the balls in the air at the same time

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.

2018 is gone but not forgotten

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).

útskrift
A proud graduate

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.

leeds uni my
My lovely school in Leeds

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.

kirkja zagreb
A typical tourist picture from Zagreb. I didn’t want to bore you with all the food pictures I took!

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!

sun in leeds
Catching some of the sun this summer!

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.

pottur
The lovely hot tub, just before we went in with a glass of white in hand

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.

flue

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”?”

health and safety
Might be an idea to put one of these warning signs at the top of our stairs to prevent falling

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.

metooprimary

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).

Again, a VERY happy new year to you all!

photo of fireworks
Photo by Anna-Louise on Pexels.com

Food coma

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.

stjúpmamma
Stepparents as often seen in fairy-tales

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.

Sweet-Sour-Shrimp-Stir-Fry-Photo-680x1000

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.

Mother and two children cooking and preparing a meal in the kitchen together.

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!

holidays

Feeling Powerless

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?

test

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.

cat

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.

a_shoulder_to_cry_on_by_escaport

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:

I mourn you,

the one that never was

I lost you

even though I never had you

I got attached to you

for a little while

I knew of you

for a few blinks of an eye.

You were more than welcome

You were a wish that came true

Oh, you!

My dear baby that never was.

Love for Books

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!

bokasafn

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.

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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.

gettingridofmatthew

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.

fakingfriends

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!

booksandcookie

Iceland what is going on? Is it time for another demonstration?

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.

420 milljón króna braggi Nauthólsvegur 100

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.

Strá
A pictures of the straws in question

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.

Bragginn Bistro nauthólsvík bar
A picture of the bar

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.

Braggakaka
The original cake

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.

braggi með stráum
The new and improved cake, surrounded by straws

borgarráðsbraggi
The city council with their cakes

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.

"So what makes you think you're the right person for this post?"  "Well, I'm highly motivated, outgoing and independently minded.  Isn't that right, Dad?"

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 Teflon-Man

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.“

icehot1

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.

icehot1ís
The IceHot1 ice-cream

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.

Freyja

“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.

Friðrik
The musician made fun of remarks on social media

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”

klaustur
The pubs post on social media

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!!!”  

_lstofan
Ölstofan’s post on social media

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?

voting-pic