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I feel like it was just Christmas, I blinked and now it’s March!

Time really does fly… In five years, I will have lived half my life in Norway!

While Norway is my home now and I have no regrets, New Jersey is where I come from and where my loyalties will always reside.

I follow a blog called, It’s All About Purple. It’s written by Debbie, in New Jersey (we went to school together). I’m especially fond of this blog because it always makes me feel at “home” and  somehow -a little closer to New Jersey.

Yesterday’s post especially pulled on my heartstrings.

In late September 2012 Super-Storm Sandy made landfall near Atlantic City NJ, which was already mostly underwater due to a full moon and high tides. The storm slammed the New Jersey coastline with 90 mph winds. Registered only as a category 1 on a scale of five, it packed astoundingly low barometric pressure, which gave it tremendous energy to push water inland. The storm caused massive power outages, that went on for weeks. People were left stranded and some dead. It destroyed tens of thousands of businesses and homes. It ripped away parts of our famous boardwalks and blew the sand from our beaches. It was the nightmare you never think will really happen.

All over the world devastating disasters such as this strike and we feel tremendous sorrow. Unfortunately, as the media buzz around them dies so does our interest. That’s why with summer on the way, I just want to shout out, “I haven’t forgotten about you New Jersey and I’m rooting for you to come back, bigger and better than ever!”

Read Debbie’s post and see pictures (not of devastation, only the beauty) of our Jersey Shore, here.

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Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree…

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“Christmas in Egersund”

I put up my Christmas tree last night -thats right, I broke tradition and put it up early this year. Lets just say I needed some early Christmas cheer. My mother puts her’s up the day after Thanksgiving and it stands there until after New Year. I love Christmas, but thats just a little too much Holiday cheer for me. I guarantee we’re the first house in Egersund Norway to have our Juletre (xmas tree) up -oh they’ll decorate, but the tree won’t go up before the 23rd. I’m quite the American-rebel this year.

I know its a bit morbid, but every time I pack away the ornaments I wonder if I’ll be here the following year to unpack them again… A lot can happen between one christmas and the next, right? Go away bad thoughts, it’s Christmas!

For the sake of my marriage, my husband and I bought a pre-lit (lights permanently on) artificial tree, in America and brought it with us home to Norway. It would take all day in the freezing cold for me to find a tree that was good enough and I hated all the needles dropping on my floor. My husband and I had some of our worst fights over stringing lights -hence the pre-lit, fake tree.

One summer while visiting my family in New Jersey we went to a pool store in search of diving masks for my sons and found a Christmas tree clearance sale. Turns out, during the winter the Pool Supply Store, becomes a Winter Holiday Supply Store and all left over trees are sold half price the following summer. Its been ten years since we hauled that tree home and it still smells like chlorine. Ho… Ho… Ho…

Norwegians are very patriotic and love their flag. They fly it for all occasions, but never after dark. If it’s even near dark and we haven’t taken it down, neighbors will start calling to remind us. They even hang paper flags on their Christmas tree’s and that’s one tradition I like to keep. Along side the flags of my adopted country hang all the ornaments of my past. A collection of sentimental reminders. Some from my children, some from places we visited and places we’ve lived.

Have a peek…

In honor of our two years in Houston

In honor of our two years in Houston “Deck them halls Y’all!

In honor of three years in the Netherlands

In honor of three years living in the Netherlands

I may live in Norway but I'm still a Jersey Girl at heart

I may live in Norway but I’m still a Jersey Girl at heart

And just to even out all those Norwegian flags on the tree, an American angel

And just to even out all those Norwegian flags on the tree, an American angel on top

Could this be a sign?

To say that I’ve been preoccupied with everything going on in America lately is an understatement. With a six hour time difference between here and there I’ve been spending most of my nights on the sofa watching CNN, and following my friends (from over there) on Facebook. I watched as Sandy struck my home-state of New Jersey and then walloped the area in which I come from. Due to power outages and poor cell service, I’ve had very little contact with my family this week. The news reports and pictures I’ve seen are heartbreaking.

And then I found a piece of burned up paper on my doormat this morning.

I picked it up, turned it over and saw a picture of a globe. The paper was burned all around the edges, almost in a perfect circle like the globe. As I stood there looking at this picture that had somehow blown to my doorstep in the night, I just knew, America will be alright.

My mother called a few hours later, they finally got their electricity back!

Here’s a picture of a giant oak that blew down and is now hanging over my parents swimming pool

And here’s a picture taken in my brother’s kitchen

But everyone’s fine and that’s all that matters.

It’s no trick, there’s no treat

When I moved to Norway with my three young children back in 1989 our lives took a drastic turn.

There were few expats and no international school in our area. If we ever expected to fit in, we had no choice but to learn a new language. There were no more Sunday dinners at grandma’s house, because she now lived thousands of miles away. We soon found ourselves saying goodbye to things we never imagined living without..

There would be no more picnics or fireworks on the Forth of July. No more Valentine’s Day-mailbox in the children’s classroom. No wearing green on St. Patricks Day and no turkey on Thanksgiving. Of course I could always make a turkey dinner on the last Thursday of November but with the kids in school, my husband at work and no parade on TV, it wasn’t the same.

There were no more presents on Christmas Day, because the packages were all given out and opened on Christmas Eve. No more Easter Bunny. It was now the Easter Chicken leaving Easter candy for the children in large paper-mache eggs, and then everyone goes skiing for the day. Mother’s Day was now in March and Father’s day in November.

My children took it all in stride, until they found out there was NO Halloween!

“Fear not,” I explained. “Instead of Halloween there is a tradition here called Lossi. On December 12th all the children dress in costume, go door to door singing Christmas songs and receive treats from their neighbors.”

By the time December 12th rolled around it was dark and freezing in Norway. This meant covering up their costumes with layers of sweaters and jackets, and carrying flashlights. I can still remember my kids that first Lossi, all excited and carrying plastic pumpkins they’d brought over from America to collect their loot in. They didn’t even let their disappointment show when they came home to find their pumpkins stuffed with nothing but tangerines.

That was over twenty years ago. There’s still no Halloween in our town, but they have started to sell real pumpkins and more people are giving out candy instead of tangerines for Lossi now. I guess thats progress.

Halloween is unfortunately not the only thing approaching my home-state of New Jersey this year. Prayers go out to all my friends and family as they brace themselves for the wrath of Hurricane Sandy.

The other side of the water

The Atlantic Ocean was a big part of my life while growing up. You see, my dad was a commercial fisherman who fished off the  coast of New Jersey. My brothers still do.

I can remember driving down to the inlet in the back seat of my parents old Buick to survey the ocean. My dad could tell just by looking whether or not he and his crew should go out. When they did go, weather permitting, they could be gone for many days.

You would think with my dad out to sea we would get a break, but no. Then it was my mother’s turn to drive down and observe the sea. We’d pull up in the car, she’d quietly look out over the ocean and say, “I better get home and start peeling potatoes, because he’s coming home.”

And she was usually right.

I live on the other side of the water now and through my window, beyond the sound there is an opening. On one side of the opening is the Norwegian coastline, on the other an island. And through that opening is the North Sea. I’ve seen this view thousands of times and yet it always looks different…

Don’t be fooled by the beauty, it’s usually quite cold and windy out there.

Going Home

 

I know my last post was about life getting back to ‘normal’ after a long and exciting summer, but summer’s not quite over yet. I still have two trips to take…

First, I’m going on a mystery trip to Scotland. The reason I call it a mystery trip, is because I’m going to meet a group of writers, I don’t really know. We will be discussing a joint venture, I know nothing about. I’m not even quite sure why I’m going, all I know is something in Scotland is beckoning. More to come on that…

I am also going on a trip to Dublin, with my husband, four of his old football (soccer) buddies and their wives. This trip is strictly for pleasure. More to come on this trip too…

What I can tell you about now, is my trip ‘home’ to New Jersey. I still call Jersey home because it’s where I come from, it’s where my family lives and where all my childhood friends are. No matter how long I’m gone it always feels familiar and I still sound like I belong there. Now you’re probably thinking… What?

I’m talking, or should I say, ‘tawking’ about my language and Jersey attitude. Living in a foreign country, talking ‘their’ language, with an accent and not having a clue how to joke around, mostly leaves me feeling like an outsider. Not the case in Jersey…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few more reasons I like visiting Jersey in the summer are, warm weather, something you canNOT count on in Norway. Shopping, there is 0% tax on clothes in NJ and 22% on clothes in Norway. I could sit here all day telling you reasons I love the Garden State, but guess what?

Norway is my home now, it’s where my father, husband and two of my sons were born. I have three children and three grandchildren living there (two of my children and two grandchildren live in the US). I have friends that feel like family and my two pets, Khloe and Mia are there. The house my husband built and the home we built together are there. I feel safe in Norway and have soon lived there half of my life (six more years). I guess I have two homes…

What do you think, is home where you come from, or where you’ve gone?

 

Summer so far…

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Have you ever had trouble making up your mind? It looks like this flower did. I took this picture in my garden.

Do you ever feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? Well, this guy does. I took this picture in Monterosso Italy.

Have you ever had a submarine sandwich? Jersey Mike’s are the best! I took this picture in Brick, New Jersey.

Is there anything better than a cup of tea with an old friend? This is my friend Annie, we met in kindergarden. This picture was taken on her front porch in Jersey.

Is there anything more precious than a baby? I would have to say, no. I took this picture of my granddaughter last week in Norway.

Have you ever seen pink and purple water? It always amazes me. I took this picture a few weeks ago from my kitchen window in Norway.

How about orange water? This picture was taken at midnight. Don’t you just love Norwegian sunsets!

 

Book Giveaway

A quiet summer at home, well that was the intention…

The only plans my husband and I had this summer were to paint the house and work in the garden. After finishing up a lot earlier than expected and in desperate need of sun, we decided to spend a week in Italy.

Some friends have talked us into taking a long-weekend in Dublin, at the end of August. I’ve been invited to join a group of women-writers, meeting in Scotland the weekend before that, and now a trip to America has unexpectedly dropped into our lives.

My husband was asked by his company to give up a week of his vacation and go to Houston on business. Of course he agreed to do it, as long as they were willing to buy a ticket for me too. I then decided to trade in my ticket to Houston for a ticket to New Jersey, which is where I come from.

Tomorrow morning I’m heading home to the Garden State, for a whole week with family and friends. (Plus shopping, no tax on clothes in NJ). When I get back, my new baby granddaughter will be coming to stay with me, while my daughter and her family go to Lego Land in Denmark. There’s nothing like cuddling with a new born.

There is also an Austen in August reading challenge over at Roof Beam Reader. If you’re a Jane Austen fan (like me) check it out! I will also be participating in a book giveaway there…

Leave me a comment if you’re interested in winning a free copy of my book, Fly Away Home. At the end of August, I’ll pull one name out of a hat, contact the winner, and send the book anywhere in the world.

Sense and Sensibility is my favorite Jane Austen novel however, I’ve decided to read Persuasion, because Anne Elliot is my favorite Austen heroine. I’m also very fond of Elizabeth Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice. Which one will you read?

I’ll be gone for the next two weeks, but am leaving you with these awesome pictures, people have posted on Facebook. I hope you’re all having a great summer…

A lawnmower, a dildo and a dead car battery

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.

Thank you Family, Friends and Class of ’76

 

 

Who doesn’t remember Oprah’s famous statement, “Everyone has a story.”

It was about that time I discovered the world of scrapbooking and thought I could tell my story through pictures. I desperately cut and pasted album after album in hope of clarifying to future generations how we became a ‘modern family’. A family of wholes, halves and steps. A family with more than one country and a family they could be proud of.

A few years later I was lucky enough to attend a Write Your Life Stories workshop in the Hague. I never did and still don’t consider myself a writer, just a person with a story. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to do it (perhaps a midlife crises of sorts) but I soon found myself day after day, year after year, writing. Pouring my heart out, one chapter at a time.

Long story short, that endeavor became a real book. A book for both my family and the world, and I’m not sure which is scarier. Writing a memoir is tricky, because no two people remember events exactly alike. There is also the honesty issue, which can be quite hurtful to both yourself and those you hold near and dear. I live in a small town now and whenever I’m out roaming about I can’t help but wonder who’s looking at me, and if they know my secrets. Its almost as if I’m naked for anyone to look at.

For me the biggest surprise has been peoples reaction. People I thought were close, have been distant and people who were distant, have now become close.

My family has been very supportive, although not all of them have read the book (yet), including a few of my own children. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s hard. I was most on edge about my parents reaction and greatly relieved when they simply said, “That’s life”. I then began wonder how I would feel if my children were to critique my parenting, in a book! All I can say is bravo, Mom and Dad.

My closest friends, most of who appear in the book have also been encouraging and flew (along with my mother and sister) all the way to the Netherlands for my book launch. I have a great group of dear friends in both America and Norway.

I graduated from Brick Township High School in 1976. While most of my classmates were playing sports, joining clubs and going to parties, I gave all my free time to a boy. He turned out to be the wrong boy of course, and my high school years were waisted. I didn’t go to college either, instead I changed diapers and made bottles (all by choice). Twelve years after graduating high school, I took my children and moved to Norway. Besides a small circle of close friends in New Jersey, I’ve had no contact with any of my high school peers.

Marking the thirty-fifth anniversary of our graduation, a reunion was planned and a ‘Brick ‘76’ facebook page was started. I began checking in everyday to see what people were writing and what they were up to. Never truly feeling a part of this group, it took awhile before I got up the nerve to hit like or leave a comment here and there. I was unable to make it to America for the reunion, which I deeply regretted.

Some people disappeared again after the reunion, while others stayed behind and kept up on facebook. When news broke that my book was being published, I was surprised to find so many of my old classmates standing on the sidelines, cheering for me.

After thirty-five years I finally scored and the support of my classmates has been one of the best parts! Go Dragons!

Thanks everybody!

 

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