Saturday, 4 August 2012

A year in Seattle, USA!!!

It was a year ago we were cramming our last things into bags and boxes, preparing for our big trans-Atlantic move!  Excitement, tears, hopes, dreams, fears...  It's good to see how we've weathered this monumental year, with all it's transitions.

We've settled into our cozy basement apartment for the time being, with our dining room set, wool rug and sentimental belongings from Athens.  Our kids love "helping" Grandpa and Grandma in the garden, and Erik can tell what a carrot plant looks like :-)  Erik has loved taking swimming lessons, and doing preschool and VBS at John Knox Presbyterian Church, only 10 minutes walking distance from our house.  Chloe is blossoming into a talkative little girl, who loves new shoes and singing.  We are trying to make room for baby brother in 2 months- at least they start out small! As a family, we love going to the pebbly local beach, which is only a few minutes drive, even though it's only warm enough to wade.  We also love introducing our friends to Greek food, and lingering over a tasty meal together.

Professionally, it's been a tough year for Ianni and for myself.  Establishing a new career is a challenge!  I've been working 3 days a week since October at DESC, on a mobile crisis team, responding with the police to mental health emergencies.  Unfortunately, it's been extremely slow with referrals, so it hasn't been the challenging, growthful work that I hoped for.  It has been a great place to get connected professionally and has allowed me time to set up my own mental health practice.  I find I miss feeling an expert in something, and my contact with trafficking victims.  I've started volunteering with Genesis Project, just a couple hours a month.  It helps! 

Ianni is making even bigger adjustments... has tried out some very random jobs, from janitorial work to home maintenance and installing Christmas lights.  He's interviewed for even more jobs, and we are hoping that a more stable and career job is around the corner.  He even "got" to experience the American health care system, when he fell off a roof at his job.  While he has lingering pain at times, we're so grateful that there was no permanent damage. 

Sometimes it seems like things should be easier after a year.  I would love to have a thriving private practice, and not work 2 jobs plus taking care of kids and home.  Ianni would love to have a career job in sales, where there are opportunities for growth.  We dream of owning our own home here, and I have always wanted to fix up an older house.  We hope for more of a vision for our life here together, ministry and purpose. 

But I'm striving to practice gratitude - for the support of my family, fresh peas and kale from the vegetable garden, the sunnier days, farmer's market, public libraries, new and rekindled friendships, feeling baby kick, companions for my kids ...  It leads to hope and trust for the future.   

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Thoughts on hospitality

I'm realizing lately what great lessons I learned from all the Greek food traditions.  Hours spent lingering over a meal, the rituals of the mezes (or appetizers with drinks), the family feasts with the Hatzigianni and Manousaridis clans.  I especially think of the Greek Evangelical pastor's wives, who were so proficient at hosting - such inspiring women!  They filled their table with creative and tasty foods, in an orderly and welcoming home, seemingly effortlessly.  Many times on visits to the US, friends would ask me about hobbies, and I would often say food! How we love the afterglow of a great meal, when a few guests linger, satiated and full of laughter.

It's been such a joy to invite friends to join us in a feast of food and company, sitting around the table to share stories, the pleasure of food and drink,  our little space.  I hesitated to invite friends over when we first arrived, since we live in a little basement apartment in my parent's home.  But in the end, this is becoming one of our favorite parts about life here.  The funny thing is that I think we host meals here more than in Athens.

I wonder why sharing meals isn't such a part of life here?  Maybe because we're so busy or don't enjoy cooking or too many Martha Stewart expectations?  I've heard from others that in the NW US it is particularly uncommon to invite people over for meals.  Or is it the stage of life with little kids who make messes all the time or won't eat wierd foods? 

It is such a joy to share the meals, and I hope that I can continue to grow and be inspired to cook so it can always be a consistent part of our lives.  I want my kids to know that food is pleasure too, and grow up accustomed to slow dinners full of conversation and company. 

How do you make hospitality part of your life?

Friday, 27 April 2012

I'm thrilled to be here in Seattle, enjoying a brilliant spring  with bright blooms and sun breaks between the clouds. Somehow the months with such little light make the brightness all the more intense, even compared to Athens.  And the spring reflects the growth in our lives here in Seattle.

I'm excited about a professional beginning - I just signed the lease to an office to begin my own counseling practice.  God has really opened the doors to connecting with several Christian therapists in the area, who have been so full of helpful advice and connections.   Please take a look at my new website for more information.  And please keep me in mind if you know of anyone in the Seattle area who is looking for a counselor. 

And in family news... we are looking forward to a new addition to our family.  We are expecting a baby boy the first week of October.  An American baby!!!  So far I've been feeling pretty good, but am thankful that my job hasn't been super busy yet. 

More similar to the dark rain clouds that are interspersed in with the spring sunshine, Iannis is still working at Jiffy Lube, and looking for a job more connected with his previous sales experience.  It is hard to keep hoping that something better is around the corner, that will allow him to support our family better.  We are thankful for my part time work as a crisis counselor, that allows me to be at home some of the week, and bring in a steady income too. 

Erik and Chloe are growing like the weeds.  They are loving being able to dig  in the dirt outside, blow dandelions, climb the treehouse, and chase the dog.  My mom watches them when Ianni and I are at work. 

We are grateful for deeper connections with new friends at the church, renewed friendships with long time friends, and the huge support of family. Curious to see how these new sprouts will grow. 
spring .jpgLoving the tulips in Mt. Vernon
easter.jpgWe joined the St. Demetrios Orthodox church for the Good Friday service.  What an experience... not like Greece.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

13 years ago

It was St. Patrick's Day 13 years ago, in 1999, that I first set foot in Athens, Greece.  I remember vividly careening through the crazy traffic, noticing the orange trees squished on the sidewalks under the look-alike concrete apartment buildings with street-level shops.  I remember meeting my new colleagues, people who would become so significant to me, the bewildering swirl of modern Greek.  My first Greek Sunday dinner, with piles of little fish with their heads, an astounding amount of food.  I also remember the isolation, and the feeling that everyone besides me had somewhere to go and people to meet.  Long afternoons were spent writing postcards to far away friends in Seattle and elsewhere...

Many of the past St. Patrick's Days have been a party to commemorate being American and my anniversary of arrival in Athens.  It was fun to introduce non-American friends and family to all green food and the idea of St. Patrick's day.  And a wonderful day to stop and pause in gratitude to God sustaining my life in a foreign land.

This St. Patrick's Day, I made my way to our new office along with diehard runners, braving the slushy weather to do the Seattle St. Patrick's Day Dash.   I'm trying to cook corned beef in the slow cooker (with some help from my mom). Erik came home from preschool to tell me all about leprechauns and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and I had to find a way to make green punch for his class party.

It is a good day to stop and remember that God sustains our new life here, and with time we'll find our way into a new balance.   And maybe it's time to introduce my American friends to the traditions of Greek life, like fried salt cod fritters for Greek Independence Day or flying kites on Clean Monday.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Seven months in Seattle

Seven months ago, we traded the chaos of a disintegrating society in Athens for my beloved Seattle.  It's been such a big adjustment, there hasn't been much time for words.  Living back at home with my quiet parents instead of next door to my very Greek in-laws.  A basement suite with a big back garden for a 3rd floor urban apartment.  A job that was more a calling and a passion for my first job as a mental health professional, working 3 days a week for DESC.  A vocation where the job never ended to one where I'm sitting with nothing to do for hours at a time.  Leaving International Teams and the connections with so many conference friends and mentors to create a brand new network around the profession of counseling and my new life as a suburban mom in Normandy Park.  Watching Iannis struggle through the indignities of a minimum wage job, with a work schedule that makes a social life nearly impossible.  Leaving Ianni's lifelong friends and connections to reconnect with family and friends or make new ones here. Watching Erik forget (?) Greek and Chloe absorb language so fast... 

I think all of these transitions are so character building but...  tough! How can we discern where God is leading us through the middle of it? 

The beautiful thing is watching the growing connections, the new directions that are glimmering through the fog of transition.  We love being part of John Knox Presbyterian Church.  We are finding our way as a family to new friends and playdates. 

I'm feeling connected again to my passion to see people find restoration and healing.  Providentially, my mind-blowingly boring job  has allowed me to really explore my calling, and make new connections professionally.  How does that work that I did with trafficking victims and refugees connect with the needs that exist in the Seattle area?  What did I learn about working with people in such difficult circumstances that can be utilized to bring healing to others?

 I'm working on starting a private practice as a counselor this spring.  It's a giant step, and one that takes risk and trust, just like getting to Athens did.  I'd love to hear your feedback!