Category Archives: all things American
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.
This weekend my daughter kissed her two young children goodbye, left her home in West Virginia and traveled to Chicago to run in a marathon.
She’s been getting up at five o’clock in the morning to run, get the children off to school and then go to work all day, for months. Her dedication does not surprise me, she’s always been dedicated to life, and everything it has to offer.
Evaluate your goals to gain,
assign a value to your pain,
give it all, leave no remains.
Nothing tried, nothing gained.
Negatives should all be told,
bogus plans cannot be sold,
make new plans, learn from the old.
VICTORY rewards the bold.
Seek out those who are end-users,
avoid the shouters and abusers,
resisting change is for losers.
Set the stage become a mover.
Champions are made not born,
express your values, shine the worn,
glue together what is torn,
Achieve your goals, be reborn.
-Michael Charles Messineo
Its fun meeting new people while traveling and hearing their stories. Everyone likes to tell where they come from and are usually excited about where they’re going. All around the world people are flying in and out of airports, crossing the globe and trading places.
I was recently on a flight from Norway to Amsterdam and sat next to a young woman from Geneva. After hearing I was American, she told me told me an incredible story about her first and only trip to the US. She was on her way back from a wedding in Canada and decided to take a twenty-four hour stop over in New York.
She checked out of her midtown hotel early the next morning and set out to explore the Big Apple. She planned on heading down to Battery Park, to see the Statue of Liberty and The World Trade Center first. But due to a mix up, she got on the wrong bus and found herself heading uptown instead. After taking a stroll through Central Park and checking out Time Square, she began making her way back towards downtown Manhattan.
She was suddenly stopped by roadblocks, turmoil and sirens screaming throughout the city. It was September 11, 2001 and she soon found herself stranded in a chaotic city, with no money and no where to stay. She turned to the Swiss Embassy for help and it was five days before she was able to finally leave New York. Sigh.
A few days later, I met a Scottish woman on my flight from Glasgow back to Amsterdam. We got talking and after telling her I live in Norway, she told me she had once rode her bike to Norway.
“From Glasgow?!” I asked.
No – she was an art student living in Denmark at the time. Her and her Danish boyfriend took a ferry to Sweden and then cycled all the way to Oslo. She felt so empowered by the trip that upon her return, she packed her bags, left her boyfriend and moved back to Glasgow to become a rich and famous artist. Ten years down the road and she’s still single and struggling. Her Danish boyfriend however, is married, has two children, lives in a beautiful house and owns a very lucrative art gallery. After telling me her story, she shook her head and said, “You know what the worst of it is Maggie? I felt so guilty after leaving him, that I paid half his bloody rent for a whole year.” Ouch.
Afterwards, while franticly flipping through the pages of my passport, an officer at the passport control counter in Amsterdam asks, “Why are you going to Norway?”
“Because I live there,” I answer.
He then asks if I have a Resident Card, I tell him no. I only have a stamp in my passport, which he points out has expired. (Oops) With a crowed of inpatient travelers grumbling behind me, he calls for another officer to come and take me away!
I’m taken to the Immigration Office, asked to have a seat, and then bombarded with questions… How long have you been living in Norway? Why do you live there? Why have you not renewed your Norwegian Resident Permit? I see you also have an outdated, Dutch Resident Permit in your passport, why? Do you have a Norwegian personal number (Social Security number)? I answer the questions, give him my personal number and he calls the Norwegian Immigration Office, in Oslo.
By now I’m wishing I’d simply told them I was going to Norway on vacation. I was also wondering if he had the power to ship me back to New Jersey. Then as if nothing happened, the officer hangs up the phone and says, “Okay, you’re free to go, have a nice trip.” Phew.
Is it like this when you travel?
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?
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!
Somebody called the blog police on me…
It wasn’t for dedicating my awards to my husband in my last post, but for having to many ‘o’s’ in lose, and not enough ‘r’s’ in scarred!
My only excuse is exhaustion. I get tired from the juggling act I always seem to have going on inside my head. Everything from, “What should I make for dinner?” to “Which book should I take with me on vacation?” Questions pop into my head faster than I can find solutions for them. I don’t need to tell you how busy I am, because we’re all busy.
The other thing that clutters my mind is always having to do things in two languages. I jump from English to Norwegian, several hundred times a day. Growing up I always thought it was funny how my grandmother would mix Norwegian in with her English. After learning Norwegian myself, I noticed she did the same when talking Norwegian.
I could understand the mistake while talking a foreign language, but how could she mix up her own native words? Over the years she sent many letters, in Christmas and Birthday cards all written in her blended jargon. Trying to figure out what the Norwegian words in the English sentences meant, was sometimes like putting a puzzle together.
It is now me who is in constant search of a word, and use my Norwegian to English dictionary just as often as my English to Norwegian one. I wonder if this is because like my grandmother, I was over thirty before learning my new language. My children never seem to have any trouble hopping from one language to the other. I however, am like my grandmother, always mixing language soup and not taking the time to read through my posts better, before hitting publish…
This picture was taken in 1963, the woman in the picture is my grandmother, Gerd. She was living in America at the time, but at home in Norway for a visit. I’m not sure what she was up to with clothes slung all over the open car, suitcases in the trunk and a bucket? Whatever it was, I can see she was certainly dressed for the occasion.
Life didn’t start easy for Gerd, she lost her father when she was quite young. She was married at nineteen, had three children and lost one to pneumonia. At twenty-five, her husband died and three weeks later she gave birth to her fourth child (who she would later loose in a boating accident). She was also left with a small-run-down farm to manage (which I can now see from my kitchen window).
Five years later, in 1949, she gave the locals something to really talk about when the widow up and married a man eleven years her junior. They sold the farm in 1955, packed up the children and moved to America. They stayed for thirteen years before moving back to Norway, but Gerd had a restless soul and lived the rest of her life with a foot in each country. Bouncing between her devotion to Norway and her love affair with America, she never could decide where she was happiest.
At ninety-two, Gerd passed away yesterday. She died quietly in her sleep, of old age.
Not many people are lucky enough to have their grandmother for over fifty years, like I was, but that doesn’t make it any easier to let her go. I have plenty of memories, like when I was little and we would visit her on a Sunday afternoon. She would always spread a blanket on the floor and there my sister and I would sit eating ice cream, looking through photo albums of people in Norway, we didn’t know. When I was eleven and visited her in Norway, I remember asking if she could make me a tuna salad sandwich for lunch one day. After she explained and I saw that Norwegian tuna was pink, I was a bit skeptical but it turned out to be the best I ever tasted. She later confessed that when she couldn’t find canned tuna in Norway, she used salmon instead.
With her in America and me now in Norway, I’d ring her every other week and she’d always answer the phone saying, “Is it really you Margaret?” and then when it was time to hang up she’d say, “I’m so happy you called, its always nice to talk to you Margaret.” She was sharp and clear to the very end. I’ll miss those calls.
The one thing I’m most grateful for is that she was able to hold my book in her hands and see her picture inside it. She couldn’t read it, but she lived it and now she will live on forever…
I’m here today, sipping a glass of sweet iced tea and ready to give my definition of a real honest to goodness Jersey girl. I’d also like to pay tribute to all those girls like myself, who’s path led them elsewhere. (You know who you are)
Any girl born in the state of New Jersey can call herself a Jersey girl and I won’t argue with that. However, in my opinion a true Jersey girl is born and raised in the salty air of the Jersey Shore. She grows up with tan lines on her shoulders and sand between her toes.
Contrary to the girls we see on reality television series such as Jersey Shore, Jersey Housewives and Jerseylicious, we don’t all have big hair, smoky eyes and are dripping in costume jewelry. I’ve caught a few episodes from these programs and must admit, I laughed in spite of myself. What we do have in common with these ‘other Jersey girls’ (besides loving the mall) is attitude. We can be loud and opinionated, we say whats on our mind and yet we’re friendly and fiercely loyal.
Although I left Jersey years ago for greener pastures, I’ve never lost my Jersey-ness and carry my Jersey girl title like a badge of honor. I try to get back as often as I can and no matter how long I’m gone, I feel as though I still belong.
Sitting here now, thousands of miles from the Garden State, what comes to my mind is family and friends. A #2 with extra vinegar from Jersey Mike’s Subs. Giant tomatoes, fresh off the vine and still warm in the summer sun. Crisp white corn on the cob dripping in melted butter. A frosty Pina Colada topped with Dark Jamacian Rum at Martell’s Tiki Bar and of course, our hometown hero Bruce…
Sha la la la la la la la, Sha la la la la la la la, Sha la la la la la la la, Sha la la la la la.