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Mourning Mia

Mia 11/26/04 - 08/28/15

Mia 11/26/04 – 08/28/15

I know for some people it’s hard to understand the pain in losing a dog, but I can tell you from experience it is devastating. A few days ago I lost my dog, Mia. She was more than just a family pet. She was the heart of our family. She will be sorely missed by everyone, especially me.

Mia was a King Charles Cavalier who came to live with us in the beginning of January 2005, she was six-weeks-old. She was a tiny ball of chestnut brown and pearly white fur, with a flat nose and big brown eyes. She loved to cuddle and followed me everywhere. Me and my shadow.

It was a difficult time in my life. My son had been diagnosed with autism, my first grandchild was born in West Virginia and I was living in Norway.

Shortly after we got Mia my husband’s job took us to Houston for two years and then three years in the Netherlands. That’s how Mia became an expat and we never regretted taking her with us. She was a comfort out there in the big world. I’ve lost count of how many international flights she spent in a small bag, under the seat in front of me without so much as a whimper. One thing about Mia, she never complained. She was the most patient being I’ve ever met. She was always calm, cool and collected. Totally the opposite of me!

In 2010 Mia was diagnosed with a serious heart problem and the thought of losing her one day was unbearable. That’s when I decided we needed a new puppy. I knew another dog would never replace her, but I hoped when the time came it would help ease the pain. And I think it has.

Khloe, also a King Charles Cavalier came to live with us in July 2011.

Regardless of their different personalities, Mia tranquil and Khloe rambunctious they became good friends. Sisters who played, ate and slept side by side for four years. Since Mia’s passing Khloe has changed, she’s quieter, calmer, completely serene. It’s like she has taken over Mia’s role, I wonder if it will last…

losing Mia has been HARD. I feel SAD. EMPTY. I ache to give her just one more hug.

I have received many comforting messages from friends, neighbors and family around the world, remembering Mia with great fondness and expressing their sorrow. I have also received well wishes from people who never met her, but know or can imagine the pain in losing a beloved pet. For this I am so thankful.

Here are a few pictures from a family album:

Mia as a puppy

Mia as a puppy

When in Houston take your dog to sit on Santa's lap

When in Houston, take your dog to sit on Santa’s lap

Khloe & Mia

Khloe & Mia

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.

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.

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

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.

On a break and watching the world go by

Technically I’m on a break this week (and next) to spend some much deserved time with my family, but then this happened. And it was just too amazing not to share…

 

Goodbye summer

 

Goodbye summer 2012

I’m always happiest in the summer. I want to say its because of the nice weather, but we don’t always get the nicest weather here in Norway. Warm sunny days pop up randomly but can never be counted on. What we do get, is plenty of daylight. While the north of Norway basks in twenty-four-hours of it, we here in the South get about four hours of dusk, to which we call night. I get super charged by the light and run around like the Duracell Bunny all summer long.

It took all summer but Adam’s (grandson) sunflower finally bloomed.

As you may have guessed, by the end of summer I’m more than ready to go into winter hibernation. Especially since our long days of daylight turn into long days of darkness. I get through these months mostly in pajama pants, with plenty of books and lots of vitamin D. (Exercise and eating healthy also helps).

As the days steadily get shorter and the kids head back to school, I can feel my energy already starting to deplete. I’ve been sending children to school without a break since 1982, and with only twenty months to go, I’m eager to put that part of life behind me!

These two (Khloe & Mia) will really miss summer

My book came out in April and its been nonstop since then with blogging, promoting and travel. I’m happy to report an excerpt from the book was recently highlighted in the Foreign Exchange Newsletter and put up on their Expat Exchange web sight. Feel free to go in and push the fb like button or tweet it. Thank you!

Which brings me to the next order of business, I promised a book giveaway. The lovely Emily (granddaughter) took time away from her painting to pull a name for me…

Emily picks the winner

And the winner is Crazytraintotinkytown which is a great blog, that comes to us all the way from Turkey… Yay!

Maybe I should deliver the book to Turkey myself

Later this week my daughter and grandson are coming from America for a visit. Its not often I get both of my daughters in the same country. I’ve therefore decided to take a short break from blogging and enjoy every minute I can with them. I hope you all enjoy your week as much as I know I’ll enjoy mine. -Maggie

Thats Amore


I’ve been nominated for One Lovely Blog Award by my new friend on the crazytraintotinkytown. A great blog about starting a new life in Turkey. So whether you’re in need of some summer sun, or not, check it out!

I also received a Sunshine Award from Kate, the famous creator of Spineless Wonders over at beforiforget Always entertaining!

Finally, a Beautiful Blogger Award from fellow Jersey girl Laura Stanfill she reads and knits, but mostly writes, and she’s good!

I want to do something a little different and I hope no one calls the blog police…

I want to dedicate these awards to my husband, who’s been such a great sport. First losing me to ‘the book’ and now, ‘the blog’. He has also – recently – been scarred for life and I feel partly responsible  Something big part 1.

In his honor, I’d like to tell seven things about him:

1.  He was born in Norway and although he’s only lived a total of three years in America, he talks like a Yankee (I wonder why).

2. Have you heard the saying, “When the cats away, the mice will play?” My husband says, “You know what happens when the cat’s gone.”

3. Have you heard the saying, “I’ve been running around like a chicken with its head cut off?” My husband says, “I’ve been running around like a de headed chicken.” (he has a little trouble with sayings)

4. He never says, “I can’t.” Only “I can try.”

5. He never asks what I’m mad about… He just brings home flowers and waits for it to pass.

6. He snores when he drinks (I had to tell something bad).

7. He rocks my world!

Monday, we (just him and I) are leaving on a much deserved trip to Cinque Terra, Italy. You’ll hear all about it, when I get back…

Ever since the book launch in April, life has been crazy. There are simply not enough hours in the day for book promoting, plus we have a big family. He works a million hours a week and travels, I blog (I’m sure that needs no explaining). I lost my grandmother, we got a new grand-baby and lets not forget the photo shoot of the house… Exhale, Mag!

I’ve already warned him, “I will not be pretty, on this vacation!” I am not packing makeup, I’m wearing my hair in a ponytail everyday and I will be drinking Italian wine at every meal.

We are not bringing laptops, iPads or iPhones (well maybe a phone for emergency) and I’ve already made a list of all the things I want to talk to him about, while I have his undivided attention (he’s going to love that, not)

Ciao!

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!

 

Happy Birthday Khloe

Today is our puppy Khloe’s first birthday. Khloe, who joined our family last summer is a King Charles Spaniel (sometimes called a Cavalier). She is all brown except for a thin stripe of white on top of her head, on her chest and the tip of her pawns. Khloe is a happy, true fast, energetic girl.

We have another Cavalier named Mia, who came to us in 2005. She’s the perfect combination of chestnut brown and pearly white fur. Mia is a global nomad, who’s lived with us in Norway, Texas and the Netherlands. She even has her own passport. Mia is sweet and gentle.

Mia welcomed the new puppy into our home with open paws and never showed any signs of seniority. When Khloe wants to play, Mia simply hides under the table. When we go for a walk, Khloe leads and Mia follows. When Khloe finishes her treats (she eats fast) Mia will share what’s left of hers. Mia even gave up her bed when Khloe insisted on taking it over. Don’t feel too bad for Mia, because she got upgraded into my bed.

Two years ago Mia was diagnosed with MVD and Syringomyelia, we were hit hard by this devastating news. Unable to imagine our home without Mia and knowing how hard it will be to replace her, we decided to get another dog right away. Hence, Khloe.

We brought home a silky little puppy, who loves to cuddle and play. She follows me around the house all day long and whenever I sit, she hops right in my lap. As I’m writing this post I’ve had to stop twice to let her out, and then in again. She has brought me her toy to throw three times and I caught her chewing a pencil that dropped from my desk. All the while Mia’s been snoring on the sofa.

The question I’ve asked myself everyday since we brought Khloe home is; Will I ever love her as much as I do my old friend Mia? The answer is; Yes, I will…

Its amazing how attached we can get to a pet (or two). I happily  obligingly vacuum up dog hair EVERY day…

Happy Birthday Khloe!                              Khloe & Mia