Watching a storm brew from my balcony…my house was hit by lightning 30 min later!
Greek summer has always been a challenge for me, even though most of my friends and relatives think I’m insane. People from all over the world spend small fortunes on heading to the land which created the first Olympic Games and has countless beaches, monuments and fascinating historical sites to visit. So when I confess that Greek summer is usually a nightmare for me they are shocked.
My main issue is the overwhelming heat. The temperature is usually between 35°C and 42°C (around 95 and 108°F). That’s just too much for me to handle during the day and it means that at night the house is uncomfortably hot. It’s so difficult to sleep and at least one of us can usually be found prowling around in the early hours of the morning trying to find a cool spot. Unfortunately, the best of these spots is directly in front of the fridge…that means that my family nearly always gains weight during the summer period! September always heralds the arrival of requests for gym membership and low fat meals.
Another issue that most parents have in Greece is the incredibly long school break. High school finishes the regular curriculum in the middle of May and resumes again around the 10th of September. When the teaching programme finishes in May the students go to school for a couple of hours in the morning several days a week to do their end of year exams. The exam period lasts five weeks. That means that parents of children in Greece have the pleasure of seeing their offspring for four whole months. There are no regular lessons, unless the parents can afford to send their child to summer school or pay for private tuition. My children went to a private school this year so I thank the Lord that they were busy until the middle of July! Having time to drink a leisurely coffee in the morning and catch up on e-mails without being hounded by your permanently hungry teen, should NEVER be taken for granted!
Private schools and tuition brings me on to my next summer difficulty: being able to save enough money during the eight months I work a year to cover the extra expenses we have during the long vacation. My teens have virtually all day free apart from a couple of hours they spend studying, revising and training for judo. Not a day passes without them asking, pleading or sometimes blackmailing me to give them money to go to the town and meet their friends! That means that I rarely go out, as I simply can’t afford it.
Most of my summer is spent at home trying to escape the gruelling temperatures. Thank heavens I have many online friends to ‘hang out’ with, otherwise the four months would never end! My teens also want to go to summer camp with their friends, so that’s another expense which makes it difficult to make ends meet. I really celebrate when September arrives and my kids only have time to go out on Saturdays! I also start working again at this time of year so things tend to get better in the fall.
So that’s the heat, the long school break, and the expense of a summer in Greece covered, but then there is also the weather…
Summer storms in the mainland area of Greece where I live are frequent and unpredictable. Last summer as I was gathering clothes from the washing line, a sheep was struck dead by lightening very close to where I was standing! It was a terrifying experience, for us both I imagine, and as a result I am very stressed this year every time I hear a thunderclap.
Our house was hit AGAIN this year and on another occasion shortly after that the electricity column next to my house was also ‘attacked’ during one of our frequent summer storms. The whole area was left without power for several days which meant cooking and cooling systems had to be abandoned. I gave away a lot of frozen food to friends in the town as the lack of fridge/freezer was the biggest nightmare. No cool spot at all during the blackout! My modem was also blown to smithereens and I don’t even want to recall the pain of being offline for several days!
Ok, so now that I told you how I really feel about summer in Greece, I will end it on some positives. Here’s goes…I can say that I enjoy having lots of time to catch up with my online friends and reading as many books as I like. This year I have also spent real quality time with my two sons who actually want to hang out with me. My 15-year old decided to stay at home while his brother went camping with friends. This was a total surprise as he just wanted to spend time reading books and chilling out with me. He hasn’t wanted to do that for several years! My 16 year old formally invited me to watch judo during the Olympic Games and actually insisted on me being with him so that we could bet on who we thought would win each match…I’m not sure whether I should be flattered by the invitation or worried that I have produced a gambler!
At least this year my two teens think I’m cool enough to hang out with in public (on the front balcony) and to participate in underage gambling (watching judo) in the privacy of our home….
How do you deal with a long summer vacation? What activities are your children involved in?
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Ann Maria in Greece.
A truly marvelous thing happened to me this month. Or perhaps more accurately, it was a series of interconnected events. Thanks to social media, I have reconnected with some of my closest friends from the past after a gap of about three decades. This has been a real roller coaster ride of fluctuating emotions. Rediscovering these special people from my childhood has triggered highs of emotions that I don’t remember experiencing since giving birth to my children.
Comparing our stories and memories of shared events has caused me to experience a real epiphany: people don’t always see us in the same way we see ourselves. For me this has caused real joy…and relief!
Since leaving England to live in southern Europe I have tried my best to reinvent myself. I wanted to leave behind the troubled child and young woman who never felt comfortable in her own skin, who was complex to an extreme degree because she was motherless from six years old and fatherless from 15. The memories of holiday gatherings and celebrations where I felt awkward and depressed were pretty difficult to shake off. The flighty attention seeking behaviour I used to exhibit as a teen has terrorised me over the years during many a losing battle with insomnia. It is true to say that I’m fairly embarrassed about the teenage girl I once was.
Although a good student and very quiet during lessons, the breaks/recess were a completely different story. I remember being loud and pretty flirtatious…yes, that makes me really blush now! It was my way of trying to get some of the attention I was desperately lacking at home. Quite simply, I don’t feel proud of the teenager I was. The memory I have imprinted of that time was OTT or Over The Top.
The staggering thing for me this month has been to learn that after three decades of avoiding trips down memory lane, those closest to me didn’t see things in the same way. One of my friends described me as being “witty, smart and knowing how things worked.” Another ‘bestie’ told me she found me funny, fun to be with and pretty mysterious as I didn’t like to talk about my family life.
Really? That’s how they saw me? Playful and teasing but NOT anywhere near as bad as I thought?
I have avoided going to reunions for all these decades because I was embarrassed to ‘inflict’ myself on my old schoolmates?
Wow! If only I had known all this earlier! I’m sure I would have been a much more confident young woman with a much brighter self image!
One of these old friends stayed up until the wee hours of the morning last night to scan and send me photos of our school exchange trip to Berlin, Germany, in the late 80’s. I realised that even after all these years good, decent kids usually remain good, decent adults and GREAT friends, too!
My message to you is keep tight hold of your childhood buddies and those closest to you. At some point down the road when you look back on your life, it is those people who will reaffirm the good in you and show you how others see us. These ‘treasures’ are priceless especially to those with low self-esteem.
Encourage your kids to keep up the ties they are forming now, and GO TO SCHOOL REUNIONS!
How many of you still keep contact with best friends from childhood? Do you think that you see yourself the same way as those closest to you, or do you tend to be more self-critical?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ann Marie Wraight of Greece. Photo credit to the author.
The last photo of the author and her brother with their mom.
There once was a little girl who lost her mother. She was too young to fully understand the concept of never. She had a secret belief that people were making a silly mistake when they gently explained that her mommy would never be coming home again.
The little girl secretly believed her mommy had just taken a long vacation. Her Daddy told her that Mommy was in a special type of hospital for people who were sick and needed to rest.
Since the little girl was smart and precocious, she imagined her mother had taken a much needed rest and gone on holiday with the traveling circus, which recently had been in town. Hadn’t Mommy admired the clowns and acrobats SO much? Wouldn’t this be a great way to get better after all the medicine the little girl had secretly seen her mommy take when she thought nobody was watching…
As the months and then years dragged on and Mommy didn’t come back, the girl started to realise that the traveling circus probably wasn’t the reason her mother had left.
Instead, she started to suspect that her parents had gotten a divorce and her father had custody of the 2 children since his wife was sick. This had happened to a boy in the little girl’s class at school.
She still couldn’t accept the fact her mother was gone for good.
Things began to get difficult at home and at school too. At first the other children were sympathetic because their teacher had told them that the little girl was going through difficult times at home and needed help and understanding from her classmates.
Eventually though, when the girl started coming to school with untidy hair and wearing grubby, mismatched socks, most of the kids started calling her names and telling her she was a freak.
She DID look and act weird, she knew. The sad truth was that she FELT like a freak, and that was even worse.
When other girls went on sleepovers and to birthday parties, on shopping trips and visits to the local swimming pool with their moms, the little girl wasn’t invited. The mothers felt awkward and embarrassed trying to organise these things with the girl’s father. The father said he needed his daughter to stay home and look after her little brother and he couldn’t spare her as he had to work. After a few kind attempts, the invitations dried up.
Although help was offered to the father at first, his depressed and confused mental health gradually repelled those who were trying to help him support his 2 young children. After losing all of his teeth and most of his hair due to extreme stress, he realised he couldn’t cope alone anymore. He suffered a nervous breakdown and was forced to go back to his country of origin to seek help from estranged relatives.
This is the traumatic beginning of my early life and the reason I lived in a fantasy world following the death of my mother, when I was just six years old.
My family had left England a few years earlier and gone to live in Australia for a better life. We really did have a perfect lifestyle for a couple of years until my beloved mother became sick and died of cancer before the age of 30.
I remember with utmost shock how I refused to believe my mother was actually dead. I’m staggered now at how I stubbornly clung to elaborate fantasies about her REAL whereabouts and my utter refusal to grasp reality.
The other thing I remember with clarity is the nastiness of some and the true kindness of others.
Although virtually everyone was supportive and helpful at first, this really didn’t last long. After a relatively short period of time, I became an object of ridicule and target for bullies. My father was going through his own catastrophic demise and I basically had to fend for myself as well as bring up my younger brother.
It’s not easy for a 6-and-a-half-year-old to cook, clean and look after herself and her 4-year-old brother as well.
I went to school looking unkempt and bedraggled most of the time and the fantasies I told about my mother must have scared my schoolmates, who knew she had passed on. I was called names and kids threw stones at me because I was so different from them. In my class I was the only one from a single-parent home at that time.
Nowadays, of course, single-parent families are commonplace. Back then it wasn’t the norm and other kids made me feel that somehow it was my fault; I was stigmatized.
Coming from another country and speaking with a different accent didn’t help either. I was unacceptably different on so many levels.
When I first met my Greek husband decades later, one of his relatives praised him for being such a good Christian, offering to marry not only a foreigner but an orphan too!!!
It seems that in many cultures the child is responsible and pays for the parents “crimes.”
I remember a limited amount of kindness during my formative years and so try my best to instill a sense of compassion and respect for ALL living things in my children. I tell them that it really doesn’t matter how many possessions a person has that gives them value but how they treat others that counts. The way they interact with others is the true measure of their worth.
As a result of my childhood, I know that the kindness and compassion we show to a person can shape their whole future, for better or worse.
If we could all impart this wisdom in our children, wouldn’t the world be such a better place?
Have you had any childhood traumas that have made you passionate about something in adulthood? How do you encourage your kids to show kindness to others?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our contributor in Greece and mum to two, Ann Marie Wright.
The image used in this post is attributed to the author.
Lately, my life seems to be a blustery gale of unexpected mishaps and then, just when the sun dares to peek through the clouds, an unseasonal hailstorm unleashes its wrath to put me back in my place.
I mean this both metaphorically and literally.
The weather has been unusually freaky in my part of Greece with storms that would put parts of Asia to shame. We’ve had our house, outdoor furniture and internet connection damaged as well as being scared out of our wits due to a few close calls with Mother Nature. A neighbour’s sheep was struck dead by lightning – yes, DEAD – about 10 metres from where I was standing!!!
What was I doing hanging out in the middle of a thunderstorm with a sheep? I’d rushed outside to gather clothes off the washing line before they were blown all the way to India or someplace where such meteorological phenomenon are more common. The only positive result from this close encounter is that all my body hair has a rather lovely demi-wave and swishes beautifully when caught in a breeze. Must be a result from the static electricity when the lightning struck so close. It’s a shame the poor sheep wasn’t so lucky.
Apart from trying to dodge lightning strikes and hurricane winds, health problems and work-related issues have also plagued my family for a while. Thank goodness the health issues aren’t life threatening, but they are constant and irritating. No sooner does one of my family get over one thing, than another member gets something completely different. A few days ago I finally recovered from a particularly vicious case of gastroenteritis. On the same day my sons got sick with flu…! Hubby is now complaining of stomach cramps. HELP.
We only have one bathroom and it’s seen rather a lot of action recently!
Most adults go through such phases in life and especially moms with kids, of course.
Mothers are used to all the childhood maladies that life tends to throw at us.
If you’re lucky, you may have a partner who can help take care of your sick offspring while you try to nap or catch up on all the backlog of chores threatening to overwhelm. However, at least one of you, if not both, will have to go to work to earn extra money for the medical bills and medication as such situations put a strain on the family income. So, traditionally, it’s mom who stays home and tries to cope with the patients hoping that she doesn’t get ill herself.
I’m lucky that my mother-in-law lives so close as there have been times when the four of us have been really ill, and we needed a care taker to make us a hot drink and bring us medicine. I don’t know how people living in isolated areas cope. What about families who live far away from friends and loved ones? Perhaps they have just moved and haven’t had time to build up a support network. What happens when most or all of their family have been struck with some nasty little bug or mischievous virus?
These questions have been troubling me a great deal lately.
These insecurities are worming themselves into my psyche and sqeezing out every bit of creativity and imagination. I’m not the positive person I used to be, but feel I’m moving sluggishly in a black cloud.
So many predominantly negative things have been thrust randomly in my life recently that I’m starting to wonder if someone has put a curse or the ‘evil eye’ on me.
Greeks, of course, take such things pretty seriously, and many people wear jewellery in the form of a blue eye around their wrist or neck. This is supposed to help protect from negative vibes and illness.
Next time I’m shopping I’ll have to remember to buy a few dozen.
On the work front, I have been almost stressed to death with the uncertainty of our family income. Most Greeks are in the same boat though, and especially civil servants who don’t know if they will receive a pay cheque next month or not due to the country’s recent financial crisis. Several of our friends have either left Greece or are planning to abandon ship in the near future.
We are giving our two teenage sons the tools and skills to be able to study and work abroad if they choose, as life and survival in the country of their birth is so precarious.
The only way that I can deal with this stormy ride and find some moments of peace is to spend time in my OWN SPECIAL PLACE.
I have my ‘private’ sofa and TV/radio which is connected to the kitchen. It’s very cosy and convenient as I can keep an eye on the oven and read, sew or watch TV at the same time. The other three members of my family have their own larger living room and hardly ever sit in mine. I rarely go out socially because of my family obligations, so it’s the place I can be to chill out and unload. It’s my personal little area to try to make sense of the messy time we’re going through. I can ramble and ponder at my leisure. Should we try to sit out the storm and remain in Greece? Start somewhere else without a social network or support group? Dig up the roots we have taken a couple of decades to grow?
It’s no wonder we’re constantly ill-ish.
And it’s no wonder that the Gods have echoed the political/social climate and tossed cataclysmic rocks at us.
What are your stresses/worries at the present time? Do you have a special place you like to be to try to chill out and work things out?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ann Marie Wraight of Greece. Photo credit to the author.