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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
Imagine my surprise when on a dreary day in March 2005, my Norwegian husband came home from work and made this announcement:
“There was a meeting at work today, and I was asked to work in Houston for the next two years!”
After living fifteen years in Norway, this Jersey girl was finally going home. Well, not exactly…
In a blur of packing and unpacking we made our way to the lone-star state, where we lived for the next two years in an elegant home on a quite cul-de-sac.
It was at my sons bus stop where I met the other ladies of the cul-de-sac. Congregating at eight o’clock in the morning, dressed in work-out-attire, clutching mugs of steaming hot coffee and squeezing any scrap of fresh gossip they could from one another. (Note to self…bring a cup of tea to the bus stop with me tomorrow) I felt exactly as if were on Wisteria Lane.
I showed up, introduced myself and we quickly fell into a one sided question and answer session. They already knew we were from Norway because they knew someone, who knew someone, who knew our landlord. Long after the bus had driven off with our children one of them remarked on how good I spoke English, for being Norwegian. I set the record straight, letting them know I came from New Jersey! Which in turn opened a conversation on how I met my husband and ended up living in Norway.
Long story short, I don’t think any of them made it to yoga that morning and by the time I finished telling my story one of them said, “I think I smell a book.”
Well, she must have had a very good nose because here I am seven years later, on my way to The Hague, for my book launch on Friday!