Category Archives: Family stuff

Summer 2014

The American flag flying in Norway on the 4th of July. Pups in the yard. Grandkids on the trampoline.

Here’s to the summer of twenty-fourteen!

Kråkefjellet

Kråkefjellet

Music to my father’s ears

When I was young my father desperately wanted me to learn how to play the piano. I gave it a try but it just wasn’t my thing…

Flash forward and none of my four, plus one (stepson) seemed any more interested in playing an instrument than I did.

Then our sixth (and last!) child came along. This one was different or should I say Unique, he’s quiet and always keeps to himself. At three-years-old he was diagnosed with autism. Unable to participate in team activities, he started piano lessons. He unenthusiastically played for about three years before moving on to the guitar. A few years went by and he lost interest in that as well.

Sorry Dad, it doesn’t look like the grandkids will be playing for you either.

You can only imagine my surprise when last summer this son, now eighteen came to me and asked if he could start playing bagpipes!

Bagpipes in Norway? Who would teach him? Where would we buy them? And how much do they cost?

I calmed down when he told me he could take lessons online and we didn’t need to buy bagpipes (yet). The first step in learning to play the bagpipes is on a chanter. A chanter by itself doesn’t cost much.

He stuck with it for a whole year, didn’t lose interest and was really starting to sound good. Now convinced that he was serious, off to Scotland we went. We bought bagpipes, ordered a kilt and he attended an intensive bagpiping course in Glasgow.

That was two months ago. He practices everyday and I think he sounds great… Have a listen for yourself.

The first song is Corkhill, the second is Itchy Fingers and the third is Amazing Grace.

This is for you, Dad…

Saying Good-bye

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My heart broke today…

Twenty-five years ago I made the monumental decision to take my children, leave America and live the rest of my life as an expatriate, in Norway.

When my children were small I had to send them back to the US every summer to visit their father. Putting three young children on an Airplane heading for the other side of the Atlantic was never easy for neither him, nor me. Those children are now grown with children of their own, our grandchildren. As fate would have it, three of them live in Norway and two in the US.

Three weeks ago their grandfather put the oldest one, Maren (eight years-old) on an airplane, to visit me here in Norway. Today, I sent her back to him.

While waiting at the gate this morning Maren fell asleep and before I knew it, someone from the airline had come to collect her for boarding. I woke her, took her in my arms and started to cry. I could see a line of people waiting for her to go, so they too could board (unaccompanied minors are always boarded first). I had no choice but to let her go…

I watched the beast intensely through a nearby window until every piece of luggage and passenger was onboard. Then lost sight as it was taxied away. But in my heart I could hear its mighty roar, as it whisked down the runway carrying my grandchild farther and farther away from me.

I stood there a while groping with my emotions before leaving.

Such is the life of an expat.

A little visitor

Maren

Maren

I’m taking a summer, blogging break.

My eight-year-old granddaughter, Maren is flying, by herself (with assistance) from America to Norway. I was eleven the first time I flew to Norway without my parents, and her mother was twelve the first time she did it. That makes Maren the third generation of adventurous little girls. She is staying for three weeks and I can’t wait!

Pop Pop Harry and I are taking her on a trip to Hamarøy, which is an island up in the north of Norway. Friends of ours own land there and we will be staying with them, in a two hundred-year-old farm house. They have a daughter the same age as Maren, so it should be fun… the only problem is Maren doesn’t speak Norwegian and my friend’s daughter, Hannah doesn’t speak English! I guess I’ll be doing a lot of translating :)

Hamarøy is a place where where the sun shines twenty-four hours a day in the summer. Maren can play all night and sleep during the day, because it really doesn’t matter. She can go fishing, crabbing and has a good chance at spotting a whale. She’ll climb mountains, run through fields, pick berries and wild flowers. She’ll sleep in a lavvu, eat dinner in a lighthouse and cook hotdogs on the end of a stick, over an open campfire. She will also be able to explore the ocean floor when the tide goes out. It doesn’t matter how wet or dirty she gets, for this week, she will be one with Norwegian nature.

I hope you’re enjoying your summer too!

Bonnie Scotland…

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Our trip to Scotland wasn’t exactly what I’d call a vacation, but it was however, a very interesting trip…

As our plane reached cruising altitude and the captain was about to give his customary announcement on weather conditions and flight time, I heard something odd. He started the announcement saying, Your Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen.

Hmmm… Could I have heard wrong? No one else seemed to notice, not even my husband or son. I took a quick look around and saw the whole first row was empty except for one man, sitting next to the window, on the other side of the plane. Behind him, in the second row there were just two men sitting in the isle seats. By now my mind was racing (out loud) and my husband had to tell me to calm down, but I couldn’t. I finally asked the flight attendant, right out… Is there a royal onboard this plane?

Sure enough, Kong Harold, the King of Norway was sitting fifteen seats in front of me and it turns out he always flies commercial.

The King was the first one off the plane where a car was waiting for him. I took this picture from inside the plane, it's the closest I've ever been to a king!

The King was the first one off the plane where a car was waiting for him. I took this picture from inside the plane, that’s him getting into the car. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to a king!

When my son came to me last summer and said he wanted to learn how to play the bagpipes, I thought it was a joke. Turns out he was serious and has worked diligently this past year learning to play the chanter, which is the part of the pipe with the finger holes. The next step is getting the actual bagpipes, which is what brought us to Scotland. We spent five (cool and drizzly) days in Glasgow, where we stayed and my son attended a piping course at the National Piping Centre. He got his pipes and his kilt should arrive in about six weeks (it had to be custom ordered).

This is the tartan my son chose for his kilt

This is the tartan my son chose for his kilt

Because he had four classes a day with a lunch break of two hours in the middle of them, it was impossible for us to get out and do very much. All the sightseeing points of interest closed at five, which is when his last class ended. I did however, manage to get in a wee bit of shopping on Buchanan Street. We took evening strolls in Kelvingrove Park and the Necropolis Cemetery next to the Glasgow Cathedral. I know it sounds weird to stroll around a cemetery but the gothic-style mausoleums and giant headstones are quite a sight.

The headstones almost look like giant chess pieces.

The headstones almost look like giant chess pieces.

The other thing I did, was drink tea. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the UK. I’m always in search of a tea shop and I found some nice ones in Glasgow. Among them, Bradford’s, The Willow Tea Rooms, which were designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1903, and my favorite, Cup Tea Lounge. Where I had the most amazing cup of White Jasmine Tea imaginable! And the cupcakes weren’t bad either :)

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I’ll leave you with this:

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Words to live by…

Come fly with me

Chapter 22, I had some unforgettable and quite scary experiences in Dubai.

Chapter 22, I had some unforgettable and quite scary experiences in Dubai.

It’s Thursday and that means tomorrow is the last day to get your FREE Kindle version of Fly Away Home  (Just by clicking on this link)

For those of you who have already read, or are planning to read… Here are pictures from some of the different places I write about in the book.

Chapter 2, Jersey Girl

The Jersey Shore

The Jersey Shore

The Jersey Shore is the 130 miles of New Jersey coastline, where summertime tourists come to enjoy the white sandy beaches and boardwalks. By day they pack the beaches, soaking up the sun and cooling off in the rigorous Atlantic surf. By night they flock the boardwalks, emptying their pockets at the arcade, riding the roller coasters, enjoying things like snow cones and cotton candy. In winter the action slows and the locals can stroll along the boards, breathing the salt air and enjoying the peace.

Chapter 3, My Maiden Voyage

Egersund, Norway

Egersund, Norway

In New Jersey everything was spread out and people would drive here and there, for this and that. There was a constant blur of activity everywhere. Norway was the complete opposite, I never saw any traffic or crowds, just small towns with quaint little shops located in quite, pedestrian only areas. Egersund reminded me of a miniature town I’d once seen on a train board.

Chapter 17, Mixed Blessings

Our house in Norway

Our house in Norway, the same house that’s on the cover of the book

We could hardly believe our luck. We built the house of our dreams on one of the most idyllic spots on the island. I now had my own little place in the world and over the next few years, life couldn’t have been any better…

Chapter 19, Life Goes On

Alexander and I in Hawaii

Alexander and I in Hawaii

All I wanted to do is run away as far as I possibly could. In hope of breaking the circle of grief, Harry, Alexander and I took a trip to Hawaii. It was not a vacation, more of a distraction.

Chapter 20, A Window Opens

Harry and I in front of the house in Houston

Harry and I in front of the house in Houston

The house the company rented for us was on a shady cul-de-sac in a quite neighborhood. It had a built in swimming pool in the back yard and palm trees in the front. The house looked like a mini mansion with 4000 square feet of pure grandeur, which included Swarovski chandeliers hanging in both the marble foyer and formal dining room. A spacious living room with a fireplace, a game room, modern kitchen with breakfast nook, three bedrooms, plus a master suite and five bathrooms all for us!  The house was light, airy and adorned in crown molding, it was, in a word, elegant.

Chapter 22, Going Dutch

Brian and I in the Netherlands

Brian and I in the Netherlands

They say God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland. The Netherlands is an architectural masterpiece. It’s designed down to the last detail and only a minute portion of the country has been left in its natural state. Because of their struggle against water more than a quarter of its surface is below sea level. The Dutch leave nothing to chance, instead they create their own nature and this makes the Netherlands a beautiful and fascinating place.

Bicycling through Provence

Bicycling through Provence

We cycled through the most magnificent vineyards where clusters of dark purple grapes hung irresistibly from the vines. We rode through fruit orchards and dried up sunflower fields. We pedaled down tight little streets lined with crooked stucco houses painted in pale colors, with shutters hanging on every window. We stopped along the way to eat cheese on long loaves of French bread and drink wine among the olive trees. We spent our nights tucked away in tiny old provincial towns oozing with charm. After making our way down to the Mediterranean we headed up through the Alpilles Mountains of Provence and back to Avignon. The jagged rock formations protruding upward through the oak and pine forests created panoramic views at every twist and turn of the road. We were escorted everyday through Van Gogh country by a warm September sun, and the experience was unforgettable.

It really does take a village

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As some of you may know my youngest son is autistic. He was only three-years-old when diagnosed and I can still remember the day as if it were yesterday. I felt as if I were thrown from a ship in the middle of an ocean. I was shocked and terrified, but most of all I was sad. That was fifteen years ago and my son is now eighteen.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ it was also the title of a book written by Hilary Rodham Clinton. Well, it definitely took a village to raise my son and not just one… but three!

When he was ten we moved from Norway to Houston and lived there for two years. From Houston we moved to the Netherlands, where we lived for three years before returning home to Norway. Over the last fifteen years teachers, assistants, caseworkers, specialists, neighbors, friends and  family in three different countries have helped and taught both me and my son. It hasn’t been easy and I’m tremendously thankful to each and every one of these people!

If you look Autism up in the dictionary it says… A mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. 

This is not incorrect, but it is a very general definition because autistics are not all alike. For example, my son can communicate in two languages, Norwegian and English. He’s never met a video game he couldn’t beat and he’s learning to play the Bagpipes online! Yes, my son is autistic, but he’s also unique and I wouldn’t change one thing about him, even if I could.

Friendship

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English tea and Norwegian chocolate, nothing goes better

It’s funny how people float in and out of our lives and while some stick others don’t.

After leaving America and moving to a small town in Norway twenty-four years ago, I met a family from England. I couldn’t speak Norwegian and there weren’t many expats or foreigners living in this area at the time. I felt lost, misplaced and longed for my family and friends back home. I was offered a job at a local school and that’s where I met this family. I’m not sure how I would have gotten through those first couple of years in Norway without them. Connected by the English language (their’s proper, mine not) we bonded and became fast friends and then suddenly they were gone.

I was heartbroken and didn’t know how I’d manage without them…

We kept in touch with an occasional phone call, Christmas cards and a handful of visits over the last twenty-four years. Our daughters have also challenged the years and miles, by remaining close. This past weekend, me, my daughter and granddaughter journeyed from Norway to England to visit them. It’s been at least ten years since we’ve seen each other last, but it felt as if we’d never been separated at all. We caught up on the present, reminisced over the past and made a promise to visit again soon.

As our granddaughters met and played for the very first time, I couldn’t help but marvel over the power of friendship.

A third generation of friendship

A third generation of friendship

Mia & Khloe

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I’d like to introduce you to my girls, Mia and Khloe, otherwise known as Trouble and Double Trouble. Only Kidding – well, maybe not. I do after all walk them almost everyday, pick up their you-know-what and clean their feet, so they don’t track dirt all over my house. This list could go on and on…

Khloe and Mia

Khloe and Mia

What do I get in return from these two silky, little King Charles Spaniels – love. Endless and unconditional love. Whether I’m gone for ten days, or just ten minutes, they’re always at the door with wagging tails to greet me. They never leave my side and comfort me when I’m down. Keep me company when I’m alone and make me laugh when I’m sad. I guess I need them as much as they need me.

Khloe makes me laugh every time she sits

Khloe makes me laugh every time she sits

Mia thinks she's a cat when trying to sit on the back the chair

Mia thinks she’s a cat when trying to sit on the back the chair

Khloe collects bird feathers when we go for a walk

Khloe collects bird feathers when we go for a walk

Mia loves to lay in the sun

Mia loves to lie in the sun

The grandchildren love them too…

DSC04060DSC03183But most of all they love each other…

Sometimes you can't see where one starts and the other one ends

Sometimes it’s hard to see where one starts and the other one ends

Sunday dinner, Norwegian style

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If you are a vegetarian who doesn’t eat fish, you may not want to read this post.

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Last week the weather was cold but beautiful, with clear skies and plenty of sunshine. The weekend arrived and we were hit with another snow storm, but we didn’t let this interfere with our dinner plans.

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Yesterday we took the boat out, set some nets and then returned this morning to collect our catch. There were fifteen Cod fish in the net. My father calls Cod, Norwegian turkey.

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I don’t like seeing them jump around, gulping air. So when my husband wasn’t looking, I quickly threw the smallest ones back into the sea.

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In less than two hours the fish were filleted and ready to cook. When fish is fresh, it curls and splits as it fries on the pan. It smells like the ocean and tastes like a dream.

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Later, when my son asked how many fish we caught, I heard my husband answer “I could have sworn there were fifteen but I filleted only ten, I guess the other five jumped ship…”

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