I love summer, its my favorite time of the year. There are no guarantees the weather will be nice in Norway, but thats why we have airplanes to carry us off in search of the sun. When my children were little we always went to my parents house in New Jersey. There the weather was always warm and the kids enjoyed the swimming pool in my parents yard, while their mother enjoyed the air conditioned shopping malls (just kidding…).
Now the children are grown and my husband and I like to travel around and see new places. This years vacation spot is, Cinque Terra. Whats interesting, is how I found this location… I casually stumbled across the picture above on Naomi Baltuck’s blog, Writing Between the Lines and immediately commented, Where is this place? Three days later our trip was booked! I’m sure once you read about “the five lands” on the Italian Riviera, you’ll be dying to go too…
Blogging has been quite rewarding lately, not only did I find this year’s vacation spot, but I’ve also had three blog awards bestowed on me. First was the Versatile Blogger Award which I received from Beth’s blog, it’s a whole new world. Beth is one of those people who feels like a good friend, even though we’ve never met. The second is a Liebster Award from Robin Coyle her blog is, The writing Life of Robin. Robin has a great style and her blog is overflowing with writing tips. Since I already have a Versatile Blogger and a Liebster Award, I’m going to jump right over to the third one which is the Sunshine Award. I was nominated for this one by Paula’s blog, stuff I tell my sister. Paula is also a delightful person and her blog is a warm and cozy place to visit. Check them out, you won’t regret it!
The Sunshine Award guidelines are:
- Link the award to the person who gave it to you.
- Answer the questions that come with it.
- Pass it along to other bloggers and let them know they have received it.
Here are the blogs I nominate, (I tried to see who already had the award, but that was a lot of work and then I got my lists confused, so I’m just randomly throwing some names out there. If you already have it, then I’m sorry. If you don’t have it and your name is not on the list, just take it, I’ll never tell…)
2. Expat Alien
4. Expat Lingo
- Favorite color- When the sky is solid blue, thats my favorite color.
- Favorite animal- Thats a toss up between Mia and Khloe…
- Favorite number- That has to be six, because I have six kids.
- Favorite non-alcoholic drink- Easy! Tea (warm or cold).
- Facebook or Twitter- Definitely Facebook (thats where all my real friends are)
- My passion- Everyone will expect me to say writing, but its scrapbooking.
- Giving or receiving- I love to buy gifts but when people ask me what I want, I always answer, “I don’t know.”
- Favorite pattern- Hmm… Burberry plaid.
- Favorite day of the week- Without a doubt Friday night, I love having the weekend in front of me.
- Favorite flower- After living in Holland for three years, I have to say tulips.
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…
This is a picture of my house in the distance, its the same house that appears on the cover of my book. The house was built in 1993 and is one of kind. It was conceived deep in the depths of my imagination and then designed and built by my husband. Six children have at one time or another called it home and as for my husband and I, its our nirvana.
My relationship with the house and with Norway are a significant part of my story. Thats why my biggest wish is that Fly Away Home will someday be translated to Norwegian. I have sent it out to Gyldendal, a publishing house here in Norway but have not heard back yet…
I also sent a mail to Hjemmet, a weekly Norwegian woman’s magazine, which can easily be compared with Good Housekeeping in the UK, and America. I told them about the book, sent a few snapshots of the house and asked if they’d be interested in doing a photo-spread in exchange for a little book publicity. Anything the house may lack in design is more than made up for in location, but still I didn’t expect much.
I was in the middle of lunch with a mouth full of food when the call came, Hjemmet was interested and before hanging up, a date was set for the photo-shoot! First I danced around the living room, called my husband, my friends, my family and then danced around a little more. It wasn’t before later that night, while lying in bed waiting for sleep to come and rescue me from myself, that I realized what I’d done…
I invited an entire country into my home!
Yes, I wrote a book and told all my secrets, but this is different. This is where I hide when life is unkind, where I drop my armor and where I go to restore myself. Feeling it was too late to back out, I forged on and soon hit another mountain of worries. The house needed to be painted, the deck stained and the yard landscaped to perfection. It was at this time we were blessed with the most beautiful weather and therefore needed to get busy right away, one never knows when the weather will change in Norway.
I worked on the yard while my husband and son painted. After four solid days of painting (yes, I made him take off from work) and working on the last bits of trim, my husband took a bad fall when the ladder slid out from under him. I was inside preparing dinner, the grandchildren were visiting and the dogs were running wild, when I heard my son yell… “Help, Pop fell!”
I ran out, saw him lying in a pool of paint and blood, noticed the boards on the deck below him had actually broke on impact, ran back in and called 911 (its 113 here). I may have jumped the gun a little on that, it turned out he didn’t need an ambulance but I did have to drive him to the hospital, where he got ten stitches in his forehead. He also had sore knees (from crashing through the deck) cuts and bruises, but worst of all was what happened while we were gone.
A brand new bucket of white paint made the fall with him and splattered everywhere. While my son tried to clean it up the dogs and the grandkids managed to march through it and then ran through the house. Thats right, all my floors were now full of white painted paw prints!
To be continued…
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?
The two women you see in the picture above, are me and my oldest friend Annie. We met on our way to kindergarden when we were just five years old and here we are almost fifty years later, (I said almost) and still friends. Whats most surprising about the longevity of our friendship is the miles between us. Annie lives in America and me here in Norway. When I left America over twenty years ago, there was no facebook, twitter or even e-mail! Telephone calls were outrageously expensive and who had time to write letters?
The one condition I gave my husband when we decided to settle down and make Norway our permanent home, was one trip to America each year! Every summer we’d pack up the kiddies and head stateside. We’d stay with my parents and I’d hang out with my three childhood BFF’s Annie, Donna and Ellen. All three of them flew to the Netherlands for my book launch, and Annie flew back to Norway with me afterwards. The picture was taken from my terrace while she was here.
Before leaving to go back home Annie informed me that mine was the second signed memoir she owned. The first was My Life, Bill Clinton’s 2004 autobiography, which sold more than 2,250,000 copies. It’s believed that Clinton was paid 15 million dollars and the book has over one thousand pages! He has also stated that he wrote his whole first draft by hand, filling twenty-two thick notebooks.
The time came for my friend to leave and as I watched her make her way through airport security, I began to miss her already. Why is it always harder to watch people go than to leave yourself?
With an ocean again separating us, it was business as usual on facebook, and on the other side of the world there are now two memoirs standing next to each other on a bookshelf. One written by a former president and the other by an American expatriate.
Here’s hoping some of the luck rubs off.
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!
Its already 1:30 in the afternoon and I’m sitting here at my Mac, trying to write my tenth blog entry. Both the dryer and dishwasher are finished and now annoyingly peeping away. The dogs are lying by the door, still waiting for their morning walk. I haven’t taken anything out for dinner, my grandchildren are coming by later and I promised to make brownies. Oh yeah, and I’ve had five cups of tea, and I’m still in my pajamas!
I’ve always been a control freak and the thing I controlled most was my house. A place for everything and everything in its place. That was my motto. Well, things have changed.
I am now trying to write a blog, which I’m finding to be a very new and exciting challenge. I’ve made oh so many mistakes, which I will not point out in hopes that you haven’t noticed. Along with this, I’m constantly on the look out for something to tweet and have become hooked on Pinterest (its like shopping without spending any money). I dedicate hours to all my friends on Facebook and I’m trying to find people to review my book. Hint, hint…
The best and most surprising part of my new adventure is the ‘other’ blogs I’ve discovered. You see, not only am I a first time blogger, its also the first time I’ve read any blogs. In the past few months I’ve literally combed through hundreds of blogs before clicking the follow button on sixteen of them. I’d love to follow more, but as you can see I’m pressed for time.
Instead of giving out the names of these blogs, I thought I would tell a little about them and hopefully you’ll understand why they have come to mean so much to me. Maybe you’ll even recognize yours:
- A father telling his childhood stories to his children, and we’re lucky enough to listen.
- A sweet twenty-something working through depression and trying to change her life around.
- A fellow tea lover who’s gearing herself up to chase a dream.
- A poet sharing her sadness, yet finding the good in everything.
- A blogger on the threshold of forty and coming to terms with personal purposes.
- A former expat wife sharing her expat/repat experiences.
- An old classmate of mine sharing beautiful pictures and craft ideas.
- A fashion savvy Norwegian living in London.
- A feisty woman blogging about life, love and the occasional shitty day.
- A life from a writers point of view.
- A grown up TCK (third culture kid).
- An expat writer who also happens to be a white muslim living in a post 9/11 world.
- A multitasking Californian who’s into everything.
- A blog about living overseas, away from families and beyond comfort zones.
- A young American married to a Norwegian and starting a new life in Norway.
- The adventures of an American family living in Norway.
I love true stories about real people. Thats why I now rush to my Mac every morning eager to check my inbox. If anyone’s curious to find the name of one of these blogs, just ask…