2011 passport

No security

It's times like these I hate being a freelancer. When I realize that I have to chase money about 10 bucks at a time, not only in my private practice, but for Életkör as well, the space I run and operate out of. It's just plain exhausting, and I hate not knowing where the next bit of money is going to come from, hate not knowing whether I can pay my bills. It's times like these that I realize I really just want a JOB with benefits and paid sick days, and a regular salary. And it's also times like these I realize such things cannot be had in Hungary, at least not the kind that I could actually live on, because I still make more money this way than if I were to go work in a hospital or a school. And I mean, I make 2-3-4-5 times more. It's just the uncertainty is killing me, and when the uncertainty comes from every single corner of my existence, it wears me down.

So these are the times I start thinking about moving to the States, start looking at jobs and perhaps even apply for a few. My problem, of course, is that moving to the States with two small children would be insane unless I had a job with benefits lined up. And here I run into yet another problem. I have a Masters in Psychology (and a certificate from a Hungarian university in psychotherapy) - that is not enough for private practice, nor even enough for most counseling positions that I can see... So what else can I do? I'm an IBCLC, so technically I could get a job at hospitals doing lactation consulting. Except I'm not a registered nurse, and even educator jobs in hospitals seem to be contingent on being a registered nurse. I could be a doula, but that's not a job, that's a private practice, no job security, no benefits, no health insurance.

So here I am with nearly 20 years of education under my belt, years of experience counseling, working with pregnant women and small babies, and I'm having trouble finding a salaried position in the US? Argh.

I could close Életkör, and use all the extra time that frees up to do nothing but job hunting in the US, so that I could get a job lined up and move there, preferable to Southern California where I have family. But then I run into the whole mess of issues surrounding going to the States... like taking my kids to a totally new environment, taking them far away from everything and everyone they know. And being a single mom there.

And ideas or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
2011 passport

School choosing agony

Zsuzsi is going to school this September. Choosing a school for her has been more fraught with indecision than I'd care to admit. And after all that agonizing, she's just going to be attending her district school.

This is the school that is obligated to accept her because of her address. It is a 5 minute walk from our house, though it is necessary to cross a very busy street on the way there. It's small; they will start only two classes of first graders next year. It is rather unassuming and tends a little to the shabby and run-down. Their values are old-school, middle class; hard work, no frills. Their main strength is music education; children have music classes 3 times a week, dance once a week. Kids who are interested can pick up an instrument (the fife?) in the first year, then can "graduate" to other instruments later.

Although we do not have a tradition of musicality in the family, much less any talent for it, I do think music education can only benefit Zsuzsi.

However, I have to say the decisive factor was the fact that Zsuzsi decided very early on that this is where she wanted to go, and because I realistically cannot take her to a school that is farther away, when her sister will be staying at kindergarten for one more year. In other words, I cannot take the two girls to two separate places each morning, especially if one of those places is more than 5 minutes away.

The one serious runner-up to our district school was one that is a 5 minute car drive away (but I don't have a car right now, and there is no convenient public transportation there), operates on Montessori methods, and is bilingual English-Hungarian with native English speakers. And they emphasize visual arts. If any of you have seen the artwork of Zsuzsi's I've been posting on Facebook, you know why it breaks my heart not to be able to send her to a school that could nurture that talent of hers.

But it would take at least an extra hour of commuting each morning to get her there by public transportation (30 minutes there, 30 minutes back), and then an extra hour in the afternoon to collect her. And that's just one kid, when I have two of them, and I have no help carting them to and fro school, except the babysitter on occasion. Under my current financial circumstances, paying the babysitter to do this 5 days a week is out of the question.

Not to mention that I'd have to work extra hard to convince Zsuzsi that she wants to go to a different school than the one where most of her friends from kindergarten will be going. So, it would take coercion to get her to go there, and getting her there and back each day would be a struggle. And I've decided that it just wasn't worth it.

So she'll be attending her district school for the next 4 years, which is when the first natural break comes in the Hungarian system. And she can then transfer to a different school, quite possibly the artsy, bilingual Montessori one. By the time she goes to 5th grade, she can take public transportation by herself.

Today, her (future) school organized a program for the incoming first graders. They had a short recital by some of the current students, demonstrating their skills on various instruments. Then the incoming first graders (read: little kindergartners and even littler younger siblings) could go and make their own instruments out of dried bamboo sticks and used plastic containers and rubber bands and plastic bottle caps. They also let the little ones touch and try out the piano, the violin, the fife and the flute. Afterwards, they had the kids use their hand-made instruments to make some music together.

So I think this will be a good school for Zsuzsi.

To bolster her visual arts education, she'll continue to go to the Saturday art classes we started attending a while ago. And David and I will have to pick up her English education, so I'm looking into home schooling supplies from the States. She has such an interest in books and workbooks and worksheets, she does these all by herself and with real joy, so I just want to take advantage of that and use it to make sure her English stays strong (and improves).
2011 passport

Closing doors

I've spent a lot of time thinking over the years about why I have such trouble closing doors. By this I mean that I have trouble letting go of options, terminating possibilities. I want to hang on to them all. This means that I frequently fall into the trap of splitting my attention too many different ways, and then nothing receives adequate attention.

This ties in with another M.O. of mine, which is rotating. I go through periods of focusing on a particular thing (or person), then I drop it, move onto something else, and eventually I rotate back. This is one of the reason I like working on websites - they do not require sustained effort, and will still be there when I cycle back to them months down the line.

Relationships, unfortunately, do not weather this so well.

So I've known that I work like this for quite a while. Question is, what can I do about it? How can I get myself to bury some options, take one path at a fork in the road instead of trying to straddle?
2011 passport

Apparently, this is how my mind works...

So I've had Katy Perry's Firework stuck in my head ever since I listened to it for 2 hours straight while we were doing the Raffle for Bogi. So I went to look at it on youtube, cos you know it was shot in Budapest. And then I notice the two cute gay boys kissing in the video, so I go on for a search for further cute gay boys kissing on the interwebz. And this is how I find vintage porn from 1933, that's not gay, but does apparently feature the first on-screen orgasm.

Umm, this is NOT what I was supposed to be doing this morning...
2011 passport


So I'm in the hospital with pneumonia. The fun started about a week and a half ago when I developed a fever. No, actually it began a week or two before then, when I caught Vivi's cough, which she's had for several months, actually, but she never progressed to anything more serious.

But I did. I started running fevers of 102-103 which didn't go away in 3-4 days, which was the limit of my tolerance. I then called my GP, but it turned out she was at some sort of conference, away. By then, I knew I needed a chest X-ray, so I just called a doctor friend and she offered to let me come in on her watch, and she'd get it done for me (yes, that's how things work in Hungary - it's free, but you have to know someone).

So they found a humongo spot of infection, 14x7 cm, and she sent me home with some antibiotics. The hardest part was knowing I couldn't just go home and lie down and recover because I had deadlines I had to meet. Argh. So I tried to do the bare minimum of moving around, and sat most of the time at my computer to do my translating, but it was still too much. My fever came back and I knew I had to go to a specialist. So I called another doctor friend, one who is (or was) a pulmonologist, and she got me into this hospital, which is an institution that specializes in lung issues. On the floor below me are the contagious TB cases, whoohoo!

So they did another X-ray, they say my spot is even bigger than it was on the first X-ray, they took blood from my ear (!!!) and did an EKG. Well, my heart is good at least.

And they put me in a room with 5 old ladies, one of whom I seriously think is dying. Of emphysema. The old ladies are hilarious for the most part, they are SO MEAN to each other, esp behind each other's back. One in particular likes to discuss the details of her bowel movements, and when she's gone, the others bitch that they really don't like listening to her stories about her shit (literally). But when she comes back, they shut up and keep on listening to her stories about her shit. And I have to hide under my covers to keep from laughing at them.

In general, I'm pretty okay with being in the hospital. They offered to let me go home on the contingency that I keep strict bedrest. I knew if I went home, there was no way I could do strict bedrest, plus at this point, I was more comfortable having a few more tests done just to make sure it really *was* "just" pneumonia. I have several relatives who died of various lung problems, including cancer, so that unhappy thought crossed my mind, too. Fortunately, they haven't seemed to find anything indicative of anything other than a nasty case of pneumonia.

One thing that I find annoying (though I was prepared for it, knowing how the Hungarian health care system works) is that you get next to no information about your condition. Seriously, they bring your meds in these cute little boxes, labeled morning and evening, but the nurse actually looked at me funny when I asked her to tell me their names - and I wrote them down. Apparently, no one else is interested in knowing what they are taking. I'd also like to see the results of my lab tests. This morning, they took some more blood, I know what my values were on Friday, so I'd like to compare.

I just want to be kept informed...

At any rate, they started me on a new antibiotic, which made me really nauseous when I took it, and later in the day, I broke out in hives, literally from one minute to the next. I went and I showed them, and they gave me some antihistamine, which must be the good shit because the hives were gone in 5 minutes after I took it.

So I'm taking this as an opportunity to figure out what exactly I can drop from my life, and what I want to focus on because I think this is a clear indication that I have been working way too fucking much. Seven days a week, sometimes in the evenings as well. It's making me sick.

So, what can I do? I have a business that is just starting, and it is doing comparatively well, but it's taking an insane amount of energy to run. And I don't have a salary, I don't have sick leave, I don't have a pension. So when I fell ill, there was literally nobody who could have substituted for me. That sucks.

I have a week here, about, to think long and hard about where I want to focus my energies because I, too, feel that my attention is being splintered too many ways.
2011 passport


At the risk of coming off as an arrogant asshole, I have to say I HATE working with stupid people.

In general, I think I have a pretty high tolerance for people who are either less informed or less smart than I am. But this one guy in particular is getting my goat.

I'm volunteering my services to help the cause of Dr. Ágnes Geréb, who is synonymous with the home birth movement in Hungary, and who was jailed recently. Her "team" as far as I can tell is hopeless. I sent them an email saying I'd be happy to help with the international effort in any way I can (since it appeared for a while the only reporting in English that was happening was from me...) So they put me in touch with this guy who is supposedly coordinating the international effort on her behalf, and on behalf of the home birth movement in Hungary. Apparently the "international effort" consists of a single petition that this guy has been working on for 3 weeks. I wrote the cover letter, the petition itself, and some background articles, I gathered the names and the addresses of the people we should send it to. I don't know what he's been doing, mostly just acting confused about technical details. He doesn't know how to edit an excel file sent as an email attachment. He doesn't know how to sort alphabetically. He doesn't know (or can't figure out) that if we send out individualized letters (Dear XYZ) then we can't just mass cc everyone the same letter.

As I found out, he also doesn't know anything about the background of the home birth movement in Hungary or anywhere else in the world, nor does he care to know. He doesn't speak Hungarian, so he can't really keep up with the news in this language. He's got tunnel vision on getting Dr. Geréb out of jail (important, I grant you), but doesn't care one whit about the rest of the work that needs to be done, such as getting Hungarian authorities to finally come up with the legal framework to regulate home birth, which is legal in Hungary, except they jail the midwives who assist with it... wtf.

So anyway, what *I* am trying to do is get international exposure for this story, AND get the Hungarian authorities to come up with good regulations. This guy is working on this ONE petition. Granted, it's to some big names in the field, but it's ONE petition, which the judge and the ministers it's being sent to may or may not decide to even read. Fifteen different projects could have been pulled off in this time by someone a bit more agile than this guy. He is slow, he talks a lot but says little, he is a technological luddite (to be kind about it)... in short, he is AN IDIOT.

WHY oh WHY is he apparently in charge of the international effort? *rhetorical question*

And no, I'm not taking it sitting down, I'm working around him. I just had to vent. I HATE working with stupid people.
2011 passport

Zsuzsi at 5

Zsuzsi just turned 5 in September. She is a bright, pretty, good-natured, artistic, and beautiful little girl. I could probably go on. Sometimes I marvel at how *good* she is; she's helpful, she's generous, she's creative, she's polite, she's loving, she's tidy... where on earth did she get all that from? :D Her one "flaw" is that she tends to whine, but even that is corrigible most of the time, and she corrects her intonation if I remind her that she is whining. She is kind to her little sister, if bossy at times, and in all fairness, Vivi knows which buttons to push to get Zsuzsi to lose her temper.

She is in the "intermediate" group at her kindergarten. In Hungary, kindergarten runs from age 3 to 7, and in most places, the kids are segregated by age. In our kindergarten, they mix 3-7-year-olds in the same group, which I actually very much prefer. I think it helps younger children because there are always older children to emulate, and it helps older children because it teaches them to be mindful of younger children. It is much harder on the staff because they have to come up with age-appropriate activities for everyone in the group, but for the kids, it's a clear win-win scenario.

So Zsuzsi was 3 years old when she joined kindergarten two years ago, and apparently, she was then in the "mini" age group, and last year she was "small." So this year, she is "intermediate" and next year she'll be "big." Big kids get special pre-school preparation and other privileges. David was horrified when he learned Zsuzsi would be 7 before she starts elementary school, and there was some wavering on both my and her kindergarten teachers' part about whether or not to start her early - at age 6. But Hungarian elementary school is so strict, so demanding, so military-style, that I really think it is better that she starts later.

No doubt I am greatly influenced by reading some homeschooling blogs, and I know that stuffing kids full of information too early is not necessary. Zsuzsi is incredibly inquisitive; she is teaching herself to write in a bizarre, reverse kind of way. She is not interested in reading at all, but she wants to write. So she asks us to write things for her, and she copies them.

She is a wonderful multi-media artist. Every day, she creates some new piece of art. She draws entire picture books and tells us stories about them. She involves photocopies, paint, crayons, tape, cutouts, drawings, letters, leaves and flowers she collects, in her artwork. It is truly impressive. She seems endlessly creative, and endlessly engaged in creating something new.

She is also meticulously conscientious. They tell her to bring in apple graters at kindergarten, and she is distressed if we can't comply. Recently, she started Bible study, which is a free half-hour activity at her kindergarten, held by someone from the local protestant church. I wanted her to go because I felt it was important for her to spend some time hearing about morality and right and wrong, as opposed to the heavily consumerism-laden messages of other kids' activities. Well, the teacher in the class gave each child a folder with a picture of Adam and Eve and all the animals, and gave them, for all intents and purposes, their first homework assignment, which was to color the drawing. Zsuzsi was so proud of her folder! She rushed home, and immediately set to coloring in the picture. And then Vivi came and scribbled on it. :( Zsuzsi was absolutely distraught! I've never seen her so panicked in her life. (We got her another copy from a friend in her group, but it cause some very tense moments at home, let me tell you...) At any rate, I don't think doing schoolwork will be an issue for her, she loves doing these assignments and she is conscientious to a fault about getting things done.

She also helps me around the house. I can actually at this point involve her in tidying up her room, then give her a vacuum cleaner and then a mop, and she will even direct Vivi (whose attention span and enthusiasm for these kinds of things is MUCH shorter) in getting it clean. Amazing. Don't know where she gets that from.

I am happy to report that she now sleeps through the night. ;) She actually started sometime around 3.5 years old, and now she sleeps like a log. She is beginning to dramatically resist afternoon naps, though. By dramatically, I mean she wails like a banshee that she doesn't want to sleep, then she clonks out for more than an hour and can barely be woken.

She is always making people presents. She wraps up her artwork and draws cards day after day. Giving presents is her main means of expressing love. The worst punishment she can think of when she is mad at someone that she won't make them presents anymore! I smile at it now, but I do wonder whether this focus on gift-giving and receiving will remain with her when she is older.

I recently got her her very own library card. The library is right on our block, I can't believe I hadn't taken them there before. Zsuzsi was ALL OVER the idea of bringing books home, and she got herself a really awesome one about animals. I've been reading it to her at bedtime, and there is a quiz at the end, and she actually retained most of the information! Which was totally shocking to me because I think the book is a bit over her head, it's about how many cm long a lizard is, and how many tons a whale weighs, that sort of thing.

She is also doing better on the food front, though she is still a bit picky. However, she is old enough now, and conscientious enough to care when I tell her something is a healthy food and something is not. She has an amazing sweet tooth, but when I tell her an apple is healthy and a gummy bear is not, this actually carries weight with her to the point where she'll choose the apple over the gummy bear (or at least BEFORE the gummy bear...)

I've been putting dairy back into her diet on the theory that she needs to build up a tolerance to it, because her tolerance actually decreased while she was on a strict elimination diet. So for 8 months now, I've been allowing her to have increasing quantities of dairy. At first, I just started using milk again in things I baked. Then I started giving them milky snacks like sweet rice cooked in milk (tejberizs) and grits cooked in milk and strawberry milkshakes. I always boiled the milk first, and I usually cut it half and half with water. Then during the summer she actually got to eat ice cream, REAL ice cream! Only one scoop at a time, but she was so excited! And since we had no incidents with this, I recently let her try fruit yogurt. I was a bit worried because I had a hunch that she was more sensitive to fatty dairy than to skim dairy, plus I'm not sure whether the milk in yogurt is boiled first or not, but she did well with full-fat (organic) yogurt. I don't know if the organic part had anything to do with it, but I guess it's better for her anyway. So now she's had about an ounce of yogurt almost every day for the past 5 days, and still no ill effects! Yay! She may finally be outgrowing her dairy allergy!

And now I better go and pick her up at kindergarten.
2011 passport

state of things

Things are pretty good right now. Recovering from insane work overload the past 4 or so months. This was my first full weekend spent at home with my family. Otherwise, I've been working 7 days a week since June. INsane. Anyway. Yesterday we cleaned the house (yes, I did... I found that dance music helps). And I cooked chicken soup for Vivi's snotty nose, but she didn't eat any. :( Today we baked apple pie, using the apples Zsuzsi picked with her kindergarten group. Now David is watching football and the girls are taking a bath, and things are pretty homey.

I spent two days last week staying home and reading and napping. You know I'm overloaded when I don't even want to turn on my laptop.

At any rate, I have decided that I'm going to go on a hermit holiday, down to my mother's vacation home at Lake Balaton, for week. I've actually been planning this for more than a month, and I can hardly wait. And I will turn off the phone and not look at email, but I will spend my time finally working on my poor neglected websites and other web-based projects.

I'm really looking forward to having more time to work on my budapest-doula.com site, which is still languishing with only a couple of pages of content... and my budapest-moms.com site which needs some design tweaks... and I need to migrate tejmentes.blogspot.com to its own domain name and to my webhost. Would you believe tejmentes is my most lucrative blog? (It's a blog about dairy allergies in Hungarian.) I've now made all of EUR 45 with google ads on various sites. I think I need to work on that whole "make money on the internet" concept.

And I need to migrate David's ballineurope.com to my webhost as well, and redesign the site so it loads faster, is more SEO friendly and has better ad placements. David's site gets like 60 000 visitors a month. We surely could do better with that if we could just get it to monetize better.

So that is what I *fantasize* about, can you believe it? That I have free time to work on these sites... and I was going to publish the first few months of this blog in ebook format... and I need to finish my work at Childbirth International so I can have a piece of paper that says I'm a childbirth educator. And I applied for a position at Science and Sensibility blog, which is actually a paid position. Being paid would be nice.
2011 passport


Umm. Hi.

I don't even know where I left off when I last wrote an update.

I spent the first half of this year working on my research proposal to apply to the Gender Studies department of the Central European University. I had hoped to be accepted to do a research project about birth in Hungary, and do my PhD. I was not accepted.

My plan B was to start my own space and rev up my private practice. It's a good thing I had a plan B I was excited about, because I was really bummed about my rejection.

So since June, I've been working on my own space, which those of you who follow me on Facebook may be aware of. Coincidentally, the space I used to rent for holding my childbirth classes and do my therapy folded just about at the same time I decided I needed to make this move. This meant I was able to bring most of their "tenants", their domain name (and readership) and their name with me when I went. This is how it happens that my new space is also called Életkör (rough translation: Life Circle), just like the old space was. From a marketing perspective, it made sense to keep the name and especially the domain name and mailing list, even though everything else, including the actual location, and management, had changed. The built-in audience and existing brand name made it worth keeping.

My scheme was to recruit a few more people like me who would be willing to pitch in to make rent, and allow them to further sublet the space for events THEY organize. This seems to be working pretty well. Most of us are making money. Not all of us though, which means I may be losing some of my "tenants."

All summer, I spent revamping the website, recruiting event holders, and organizing stuff in general, I had literally no time for my own money-making endeavors, like holding childbirth classes. So I made very little money during the summer months, and we *really* felt it at home, since David also switched jobs at the same time. But I had given myself 3 months to put money and energy into the new business before I started seeing results. I knew September would be our first "real" month, since in Hungary, all life seems to stop over the summer months.

And it's true, in September, we had a full schedule, tons of events organized, with most event holders making a profit. We also had a whole bunch of cancellations, but in general, I am pleased with the way this month has turned out. I'm looking forward to even better months to come. My goal is to make the space pay for itself, provide me with a location to hold MY classes, and have it run on autopilot for everybody else, so I can then devote my time to tinkering with my websites.

This summer I also spent a lot of time building sites, including the one for Életkör, and a new one I've been talking about ForEver, the Budapest Moms website. You can see the work in progress here: www.budapest-moms.com. It's still a far cry from the all-inclusive community portal I have in mind, but it's a start.

So I guess I'm really launching TWO businesses: Életkör and Budapest Moms at the same time. I'm basing both on the previous 3 years I've spent building up a network with Hungarian birth-y folks, and English-speaking moms.

At any rate, I'm really into building websites, and my dream would be to have the time to create websites that actually make money. It's a whole another art form, this internet affiliate marketing thing.

Umm, I'll keep you posted, but right now, I have to go kick Vivi's butt because she's whinging in the kitchen instead of brushing her teeth like I told her to...
2011 passport


David's been saying forever that I have a time management problem. I always get angry when he says this because I think I manage my time beautifully; I just attempt to take on waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much. And I'm really frustrated that no one is blown away by HOW MUCH I get done. (Except for one of my doula clients; she said that she had a dream that I was on speed and she had an "a-ha!" moment of "so that's how she gets all those things done!" That was hugely gratifying but I wish it came from my husband or my family. Alas.) So now I'm beginning to realize that no one is handing out gold medals for me breaking my back trying to do a superhuman amount of stuff. In fact, they tend to get annoyed when I miss family events because of it.

So with that intro, here's all the stuff I've been up to recently:Collapse )