Monthly Archives: May 2012
My son Alexander was born in Stavanger, Norway in 1993. He was immediately issued a Norwegian birth certificate (his Dad is Norwegian) and after reporting his birth to the American Embassy in Oslo (I’m American) he was issued an American one as well. With two passports tucked in his diaper bag he started flying before he could walk, as we spent Winters in Norway and summers in New Jersey.
He grew up in a home that talked English, went to Norwegian school, had Norwegian playmates in the winter and American ones in the summer. Whenever I put him to bed we’d read Green Eggs and Ham and when my husband put him to bed they’d read Mine Fineste Eventyr, av Grimm.
Alexander’s grandparents lived just up the hill from our house and everyday on his way home from school he’d stop by to say hello and have a snack. He joined the scouts and loved learning about Norwegian nature. He played soccer (fotball, as its called here) would disappear on his bike and learned how to drive a boat, before he was ten. Every year on Norway’s Independence Day, he’d march through the streets waving a flag and singing for Norway. He was happy, growing up in a safe wholesome environment and as his mother, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
When Alexander was twelve my husband’s job took us to Houston for two years and after that to The Netherlands for three years. We left Norway with a boy and came back with a young man. While we were gone, we traveled through America and all over Europe. Alexander has also been lucky enough to travel to Russia, Africa, Jordan and Israel on school trips. He has attended the finest private schools and has made a variety of friends from all different cultures. These experiences have given him an unfaltering understanding and interest in people of all races.
Alexander had one year left of high school when we returned to Norway, it was therefore impossible to send him back to Norwegian school. Instead he attended an International School in Stavanger and had to travel three-hours-round trip, back and forth everyday. It was hard to make friends and impossible to join any sports or activities when living so far from the school.
After graduating he informed my husband and I that he no longer felt Norwegian. He struggled to read and write, and didn’t feel comfortable talking the language, he preferred English. He wanted to move back to Netherlands, back to The Hague where his friends were and what he felt was home!
The realization that our son now considered Norway a foreign land, where he felt bored and uninterested was heartbreaking.
In order for Alexander to receive support from Norway in funding further education, there are certain requirements. One of those requirements is a certificate in Norwegian, to which he did not have. This inconvenience ended up buying us some time, as he could not apply to schools outside the country without it. He would instead be spending another year in Norway, against his will.
We ended up sending him to a boarding school outside Lillehammer, where he not only attend classes in Norwegian and studied international relations (something he loves) but also lived full time with other Norwegian students.
Thankfully, he seems to be regaining his roots, although he still jumps on a plane to Amsterdam every chance he gets and considers himself a citizen without borders.
How did it go when you brought your world travelers home?
We have had the most beautiful weather in Norway, eleven days of warmth. Thats big here and this Jersey girl has appreciated every moment of it. To be able to wander in and out without a jacket, shake the mothballs off my summer clothes and drive with the window down for eleven days may seem like nothing, but believe me its something.
Don’t get me wrong, Norway can have beautiful weather, but seldom is it this nice and for so long. I think what I enjoyed most was watering my plants everyday, that’s something the rain usually takes care of. I can’t remember the last time I spent this much time in my garden and my husband managed to paint the whole house!
Its amazing how good the sun makes me feel. In the winter when its dark I can’t wait to go to bed at night and now in the bright evenings, its the furthest thing from my mind. At this time of the year we always wake up and usually go to bed with the sun still shining. For me this makes the short, dark days of winter, well worth it.
I don’t know how many days are left before the bad weather returns because I learned years ago not to check weather reports, but I do hear people talking… The temperature has already gone down a bit and there are a few clouds today, but I refuse to think about it and have decided to live in the moment.
I’ve posted pictures taken from my garden and from a window in my house, so you too can enjoy the beautiful weather in Norway…
The phone call came at three o’clock this morning… It was time. I rushed up the road in my pajamas and watched as my daughter and son-in-law drove off to the hospital in Stavanger, to bring their third child into the world.
The other two children were still fast a sleep, so I crept into the spare room and tried to go back to sleep too. I tossed and turned with worry (that’s something I can’t control) and at the same time, was positively giddy with joy. Excitement got the best of me and since it was too early to start calling people in Norway, I started texting people in America. There’s always someone to talk too in another time zone…
I think I may have dozed off a little before six and then heard my granddaughter getting up. After explaining where her mom and dad were she climbed into bed with me, but she’s apparently inherited my stress gene and couldn’t stop talking. By six thirty we were downstairs making tea. Her brother got up around seven thirty and took the news in more quiet, typical male fashion.
I figured the best thing for us to do while waiting was to keep busy. We visited a friend for morning tea, went food shopping, then shoe shopping (not for me… for them). The good news actually came while we were in the shoe store (good things always happen in shoe stores). The tiny package in which we’ve all been waiting for had finally arrived. At eleven o’clock in the morning on a beautiful May day in Norway, a healthy baby girl weighing in at 3800 grams, was born.
Visiting hours weren’t before five, so we went home, jumped on the trampoline, searched for bugs, played with the dogs and went crabbing. They unanimously voted on pancakes for dinner and then afterwards, it was our turn to make the one hour drive to the hospital in Stavanger.
My baby looked wonderful basking in her new mommy glow and her baby, although tiny and helpless was able to instantly claim a giant place in my heart. I lifted and drew her close, smelling her new scent and feeling her soft skin against my cheek I whispered a promise to her ear, “You don’t know this yet, but you and I are going to be great friends.”
By an Anonymous 2nd grade teacher.
I've been teaching now for about fifteen years. I have two kids myself, but the best birth story I know is the one I saw in my own second grade classroom a few years back.
When I was a kid, I loved show-and-tell. So I always have a few sessions with my students. It helps them get over shyness and usually, show-and-tell is pretty tame.
Norway is a beautiful country, especially when its warm and the sun shines. Unfortunately, thats not too often. I live on the Southwest coast where we mostly get rain, wind and arthritis. The locals here will always joke around and say, “Last year we had summer on a Wednesday,” or “We can’t complain, last year we had two whole weeks of summer.” Everyone laughs, because what else can they do?
I come from New Jersey and am therefore well equipped to handle cold winters, a rainy spring, even a crisp fall, but summer is supposed to be warm. I remember swimming everyday, chasing the ice cream man and begging my mother to turn the air conditioner on. The one thing I could always count on was a hot summer on the Jersey Shore.
Life has now carried me to another place, where I never watch weather reports and try hard to except what I can’t change. In reward, Mother Nature will send me a beautiful day every now and then, and from the top of my wind blown hair to the bottom of my cold little toes, I appreciate it!
I’m afraid this is the week everyone will be talking about next year… “In 2012 we had summer for a full week in May.” The weather is magnificent! The sky is a solid blue and because its Norway (land of the midnight sun) daylight comes early and goes on until late in the evening.
I love working outside in the garden, but not when the weather is bad. I guess you could call me a fair weather gardener. I called a girlfriend up yesterday and asked if she would like to go with me to the Garden Center to buy summer flowers for my pots. She has the most beautiful garden and is dedicated enough to run out at two in the morning to wash the salt off her plants after a storm. She claims to have a green heart but not much of a green thumb, which isn’t true, for she has both.
We had a great time wandering about, oohing and aahing, and picking out flowers. Delirious from the unfamiliar heat, I went a little overboard and ended up buying NOK 2,300 (Norwegian Kroner) worth of flowers (you’ll have to do the math or take my word, it was a lot)! My friend also convinced me into buying two bags of cow manure to blend with the four bags of potting soil I bought.
We loaded up the car, soil and manure in the trunk, flowers packed on the back seat and floor, I put the key in, turned the ignition and… Nothing! The car was dead?! My husband was out of town, my friends husband was out sailing and it seemed everyone was out enjoying the nice weather because I couldn’t get a hold of anybody.
First we asked if anyone at the Garden Center could give us a jump, but no one had cables. We then headed to the fast food restaurant next door, where we found four young, leather clad motorcyclists sitting outside eating and asked for help (actually my friend did, she’s braver than me). They were quick to come to the rescue (of us two cougars) and tried push starting the car. It didn’t work.
Now my car was half way down the road, the power windows of course wouldn’t go down, it was hot as blazes, my flowers were wilting and I had a trunk full of manure. We walked back to the restaurant, ordered two soda’s, called a tow truck and waited.
While waiting my friend looked at me as serious as can be and said, “This is all my fault.”
“What, how can this be your fault?” I asked
“All bad things happen in three… Yesterday I ran over the hose while cutting the grass and ruined the lawnmower, last night my dildo broke and today your car died.”
I laughed so hard, I think soda ran out my nose.
Some of you may remember from my last post that my daughter is expecting her third child. What you didn’t know is, she’s expecting this week! Her official due date is Saturday (26/05). The hospital is a good hour drive from where we live and since I’ll be watching her other two children, I have to be ready on a moments notice. There is of course always the possibility she’ll go over her due date, but she says, “NO!” She feels fat, fed up and wants the baby out.
Most women feel this way towards the end of their pregnancies, some even from day one. I suppose its natures way of getting us prepared for the task at hand… Birth. Lets face it, if we were perfectly content being pregnant, how would we ever be able to face labor?
I loved being pregnant. From the early inner secret to the growing anticipation of birth, I basked in contentment. Never feeling lonely and always reminded by the stirring within that I carried the future. A women’s belly swollen in its final stage of pregnancy gives an aura of magic, for soon there will be a newborn baby in her arms. With my maternal torch passed on to my daughters I have surprisingly found that a grandmother’s love in every way rivals mothers’.
Whenever my granddaughter from America comes to visit we read Charlotte’s Web, which is one of my favorites. She’ll climb on to my lap, rest her head against my chest and I’ll hold the book so we both can see – her the pictures me the words. I read aloud and with the top of her head right under my nose, the sweet smell of her hair reminds me of her mother, all nestled in my lap reading Charlotte’s Web a long time ago.
Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch. -E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web
My daughter (the one in the pig tails) recently posted this picture on facebook, it was taken on Mother’s Day 1981. When I first saw it I smiled, seeing myself again at twenty-three-years old, adorned with three beautiful children brought back happy memories. I had just given birth to my third child and that baby lying on my lap is now waiting to give birth to her third child. Where do the years go?
My heart swells with pride remembering my children at this tender age and now knowing the wonderful people they have grown up to be. I also see a slender arm and a smooth face, but there is unfortunately a flip side to this picture…
Behind the Farrah Fawcett hairdo is a girl, trapped in a controlling and unhealthy marriage. Weighed down in responsibility and much to embarrassed to let anyone know. If you’re wondering how bad it was, I’ll tell you…
Throughout the pregnancy I begged my doctor to sterilize me after the birth. At first he wouldn’t even listen, but after pleading at every visit and discussing all other options, my hopeless tears got the best of him. He performed the surgery immediately after the birth and I was left barren at twenty-three. A desperate act, of a very desperate girl. Now take another look at the picture…
You never know what secrets are hiding behind a smile in a picture. Since my story has been published I’ve surprisingly received numerous messages from different women, some I know, others I don’t admitting abuse.
Six years after this picture was taken my life took a hard turn and I was thrown out into another direction. I was later able to have the surgery reversed, and was blessed with two more children.
I was fortunate enough to get a do over, not everyone’s that lucky.
On May 17, 1814, Norway became a free and independent nation and all over Norway it is still celebrated. Norwegians are very patriotic and believe it is a day for the children, as they are the future of the country. People of all ages line the streets of the small towns, dressed in traditional Norwegian costumes called bunad, or wearing red, white and blue ribbons, the colors of their flag, pinned to their best clothes. They watch as the school children march through the streets waving small flags, singing the national anthem ‘Ja vi elsker dette landet’, ‘Yes we love this country’. Marching bands follow close behind as people shout “hurra for Norge” afterwards there is ice cream and soda for all.
In honor of May seventeenth or ‘syttende mai’ as the Norwegians call it, I’m going to tell a story my grandmother, Gerd told me. She was a twenty-eight-year old widow with three young children and a small farm to run.
May 16, 1947
This story took place sixty-five years ago today, on the very island in Norway where I live now…
With her children in school, Gerd stood outside in the unexpected and much appreciated sunshine hanging clothes. Embraced by a warm and caressing breeze she tried in vain not to be fooled by this simple pleasure. She knew only too well that at any moment the cold, northern wind could come charging back. Glancing out past the fields, which seemed greener that day, she noticed a small boat coming in the fjord with a flock of seagulls in stubborn pursuit. Her eyes followed the boat as it chugged through the still water creating a rising swell, which lost all strength as it descended towards the shore. She lost sight of the boat as it passed Kråkefjellet, ‘Crow’s Mountain’.
Hearing the familiar sound of the Tjeld, Pied Oystercatchers, and the Vipe, Northern Lapwings, announcing their return, confirmed that spring had arrived. The Tjeld were large black and white birds with red bills and matching long red legs, with their distinctive looks and harsh cries there was no mistaking them. The Vipe were also black and white but could not be confused with the Tjeld, as the lapping sound from its wings and the shrill of its call make it unique.
Perhaps it was the warm May sun or maybe the anticipation of the day to come, whatever it was Gerd felt happy. It was not often she could enjoy a carefree day with her children. Basking in the sunshine, lost in her thoughts, she was startled when one of her son’s classmates suddenly appeared.
Out of breath from running, he said the teacher wanted her to come quickly, then turned and started running back towards the school. With a frightening feeling deep in her gut, she followed after the boy, all the way to the tiny one room schoolhouse near the beach. There she found her son lying on the ground, his nose bleeding and his eye swollen. The teacher, a tall, stern, no nonsense man, explained how he had lined the class up outside so they could practice for the coming day. They had been singing and waving their flags as they marched around the school yard when her son, jokingly lifted his flag and yelled, “Heil Hitler.” Hearing this the angry teacher hit him and knocked him to the ground.
Shocked by the scene, Gerd cried out, “He’s only a boy and obviously has no real understanding of the war, or its devastation.”
Knowing this was no excuse, as it had only been a few years since the war ended, and seeing the sullen look in the teacher’s eyes, she understood there would be no making amends.
“Take him home and I don’t want to see him back here again for the rest of this school year!” The teacher ordered through clenched teeth.
The happiness Gerd felt earlier that day was now gone, gobbled up by life.
Disturbed by this story, knowing as a mother how she must have felt, I wanted to comfort her, but didn’t know how. Sensing despair in my silence, it was she who offered me comfort instead.
“Oh Maggie, don’t worry. It was a long time ago and things were much different back then,” she said.
my husband and I threw a dinner party for ten. Four times a year we get together with his old fotball (soccer) buddies and their wives for an evening of good food, fine wine and lots of reminiscing. I’m not kidding either, these guys can remember exactly who scored what goal at which game, way back in the 1970’s and 80’s!
Last night it was our turn to host. We got up early, I headed straight for the kitchen and my husband out for a bike ride, (he’s training for a race). For me a dinner party starts weeks before, as I pour over recipes and table setting ideas. Choose which wine to serve, order flowers, iron table clothes, clean the house and decide what to wear.
I always try to choose a meal I can make in advance, this way I avoid the stress of cooking while guests are already sitting in my living room. I found a recipe for Prince William’s favorite Cottage Pie in the wedding issue of People Magazine last year and figured if it was good enough for William, it would be good enough for us. Just to be sure, I gave it a trial run (very tasty). For color, I’d make a big salad with every different veggie I could find (I hate boring salads). For desert, I decided to make an apple & blueberry custard pie and serve it warm with vanilla ice cream.
I doubled all the recipes and stood cooking, chopping and baking from morning until late afternoon. Cleaned up the kitchen, set the table and got myself ready. The whole time in good company, as Mia and Khloe (my furry companions) sat by my side – waiting for something to drop. Meanwhile my husband finally got home from his ride and was quickly punished for being gone all day – with a list of things to do before our guests arrived.
One hour until count down we locked the dogs in our bedroom, so I could run the vacuum one last time. Heaven forbid someone find a dog hair, at a dinner party. Mia and Khloe are not used to being locked away, and took this very personally. They cried, barked and scratched to get out. I gave them treats, talked to them and even yelled at them to stop, which is something I never do. As my guests were coming in I could still hear them, I had to think quick or they would ruin everything!
Then I remembered… Whenever I don’t feel good and need quiet time, I’ll pop a Jane Austin film in the DVD player and lie on the sofa all day. The dogs seem to understand this and will always lie quietly next to me. I made a quick dash to the bedroom, chose Pride and Prejudice (its a long one) put it on and hoped for the best.
Sure enough, Jane Austin to the rescue! I’m pretty certain she could tame the wild beast in anyone, Khloe and Mia were as good as gold. The food was delicious, we talked about goals, injuries and penalty kicks, everyone had a great time and in reward for being good, the girls were later allowed to join the party.
That is after their film was finished, of course.
The two women you see in the picture above, are me and my oldest friend Annie. We met on our way to kindergarden when we were just five years old and here we are almost fifty years later, (I said almost) and still friends. Whats most surprising about the longevity of our friendship is the miles between us. Annie lives in America and me here in Norway. When I left America over twenty years ago, there was no facebook, twitter or even e-mail! Telephone calls were outrageously expensive and who had time to write letters?
The one condition I gave my husband when we decided to settle down and make Norway our permanent home, was one trip to America each year! Every summer we’d pack up the kiddies and head stateside. We’d stay with my parents and I’d hang out with my three childhood BFF’s Annie, Donna and Ellen. All three of them flew to the Netherlands for my book launch, and Annie flew back to Norway with me afterwards. The picture was taken from my terrace while she was here.
Before leaving to go back home Annie informed me that mine was the second signed memoir she owned. The first was My Life, Bill Clinton’s 2004 autobiography, which sold more than 2,250,000 copies. It’s believed that Clinton was paid 15 million dollars and the book has over one thousand pages! He has also stated that he wrote his whole first draft by hand, filling twenty-two thick notebooks.
The time came for my friend to leave and as I watched her make her way through airport security, I began to miss her already. Why is it always harder to watch people go than to leave yourself?
With an ocean again separating us, it was business as usual on facebook, and on the other side of the world there are now two memoirs standing next to each other on a bookshelf. One written by a former president and the other by an American expatriate.
Here’s hoping some of the luck rubs off.