Saturday, April 27, 2013

Colorful Talents

Talent is a great word. I often think about talents; what I discover in friends and the talents I find in myself.
There are talents within us, planted there by a wise Heavenly Father--talents to develop, use for good, and enjoy. 

Often people look at someone who plays the piano beautifully or sings a flawless aria, that they are truly talented. They might be, then again, they may have developed that particular talent with years of practicing. Playing the piano requires hours of working the black and white keys - even if you were born with a musical talent. 

Some talents are inherited. On my father's side I have traced artistic folks all the way back to the 1600's. Fascinating knowledge that also gives me the feeling of belonging.

Sometimes when I am in a classroom and the teacher asks about talents, one that I have comes to mind. It's one that a person usually wouldn't name as a talent. I can see colors for what they are. I can tell which colors are behind a shade, if warm or cold colors are predominant and how the hue is built up. Of course, this comes from years of mixing colors and studying color analysis, but it's also an interest which helps me develop my perception of colors.

I admire people around me for their talents. I look up to those who spend their time wisely to make good use of their talents and share them with others. Many of the talents we have been given is exactly for that purpose--to bless others around us.

Talents can be physical, spiritual, mind-blogging, artistic . . . the list goes on and on. Even being able to cry can be seen as a talent.

Even Hector, the Wheaten terrier, is a talented puppy. He is patient and loving. He is forgiving and willing. 

The Munsell color wheel is a reminder to me of a talent that has made me happy all my life. I love to paint, and I love watching good painting. Art history is simply something that brings me a lot of joy.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Showering the Expectant Mother

Another baby shower last night at the Duck and Cherry.
Linnea is expecting her first child in about a month's time. She was happy and thrilled with the evening's event So, mission accomplished.

I breathed in the fresh, crisp spring air as I walked Hector, the Wheaten Terrier, this morning. There were birds singing all around. They are also preparing for the arrival of little ones. They are gathering twigs, leaves and more and building nests for the upcoming additions to their family.

One of the baby shower games we played yesterday was a questionnaire about Linnea and her protruding stomach's daily life nowadays. With multiple choice answers we guessed the status of her cravings, morning sickness, preparatory purchases, if it is harder to turn around in bed or tie her shoelaces, etc.

One question was: When does the baby move and kick the most?
a) the baby is an early riser
b) in the evening, doesn't want to go to bed
c) when mamma eats

There are many great ideas out there on how to plan a great baby shower. Here are some of the things I like to do:

Invite friends and close family of the expectant mother.
Have pretty invitations and a Facebook event, so that it's easy to keep track of attendees.
Decorate a beautiful table with pink/blue, teddy bears, colorful treats, and pretty napkins.
Start with a few games. In addition to the questionnaire I like games like these:

  • a memory tray with about 14 baby items (let the guests see all items, then cover them up and have the guests write down what they remember)
  • measure the mother's stomach (how large is she around her belly? Everyone cuts a piece of string, guessing the size)
  • baby items in socks (number 8 different socks and fill them with baby items, have the guests feel the socks and guess what's inside)
  • "Dirty diapers" (fill tiny baby diapers with a spoon of baby food, a piece of chocolate with nuts, peanut butter etc. After a few seconds in the microwave it looks like the diapers are used. Pass them around and have the guests smell and look at them to guess what is really there)
After games, Linnea opened presents. The string wrapped around the parcels were tied together and the ladies sitting in the circle in the room held this long band of string in their hands. At the end of the gift opening ceremony the person sitting where the end piece was, was predicted to have the next baby. Very unlikely last night, as one of the grandmother's ended up with the end piece of the string.

Singing nursery rhymes and children's songs is also fun a thing to do - and the, EAT. Let the guests pick and choose from a table laid with cakes, finger foods, vegetables, 7-layer dips, cookies . . . anything goes.

An evening like this is wonderful in producing gifts sorely needed by the expecting parents, who are usually young students and starting out in life. The guests are happy; some remembering what it was like to have little ones running around their skirts, others excited that one day they will be sitting there receiving presents for a child of their own. The efforts are well worth it, considering the joy of the expecting mother, basking in lots of sweet attention from everyone in the room.

Monday, April 22, 2013


A friend of mine told me yesterday that even though he pays his wife compliments every day, she is like a dry sponge. She absorbs the sweet words and takes them to heart. Every time. It's never one time too many. He's good at that. And she needs to hear it.

We all need to hear good words now and then. Some of us require it--need it--long for it--often. Others are alright with the occasional compliment. They still function.
I love compliments. I admit it. It makes me feel good and boosts my self-esteem. It makes me want to perform even better. It helps me reach heights and grab opportunities.

Women are especially sensitive to this. We often tell ourselves we lack ability and are not up to par with what everyday life requires.
Where were we in line when self-confidence was handed out? I believe men were further up front. They don't seem to worry as much as women do.

So here is when a compliment or five come in handy. It's amazing what that will do to someone who needs to hear that they are OK. Telling yourself you are wonderful can work, too, but to hear someone else say in all honesty that you are special is uplifting and builds both self-esteem and a positive attitude.

Can we be a people who aim to buoy up those around us by finding positive things to tell them? Can we find good traits in every person instead of searching out faults and negative issues? It's possible to train ourselves to speak well of others.

What will come of it? Let me put it this way: "Happiness is like jam. You cannot spread it without spilling some on yourself." In other words, making someone happy will eventually be to your own benefit. An investment which will make you feel good.

Today's water color is called "The old and new teddy bear".

Monday, April 15, 2013

Migrating Winged Ones

In the musical "Mary Poppins" the Bird Woman is an elderly woman who sits on the steps outside St.Paul's cathedral in London. She asks by passers to buy a bag of seeds for a tuppence. She is earning a living, but seems to care for the birds and wants to help them be fed, too.

I have always loved birds. They are beautiful, easy-going, and they can fly. I like flying creatures; fairies, birds, witches. Even the occasional bumble bee catches my attention. They are fun busy bodies who can never sneak up on anyone, as they are noisy when they fly. They love my herbal garden and give the patch a vintage, nostalgic feel.

It's the time of year in Norway when birds return. Migrating birds appear in the sky, forming formations and finding new homes, starting families, and spending the summer in a land with less disease and fewer predators. It's amazing how they fly in formation. Even fighter pilots who train formations for a living are in awe over how migrating geese seem to fly in a perfect V with ease. And how can birds fly from this northern country all the way to the tropics? Amazing, isn't it?

The main reasons for migrating are food and breeding. And this is not a phenomenon in the last days caused by a changing climate. Migrating birds have been recorded for 3000 years. Homer and Aristotle wrote about it, even the prophet Job in the Old Testament.

When my children were little I used to sing them to sleep. Feed the Birds featuring Julie Andrews works beautifully as a goodnight song to calm little ones down. It is about the Bird Woman's love for the winged ones.

I am grateful I don't have to fly miles and miles twice a year. It suits me better to have a home right here at the Duck and Cherry.

Today's water color is called "Coming Home".

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Computer Relationship

Friction, frustrated gesticulations, and talking-to-myself-issues happen when my computer is disobedient and refuses to listen to me.
It happens too often. My computer seems to take the day off from time to time. I can understand it--somewhat. It does work overtime. I wait and wait until it decides to switch pages. It sometimes turns itself completely off when I get too antsy.

One day I sat and cried tears over my computer. I felt it was unreasonable and non-cooperative.
I want to work with a friendly computer, one that works with me, not against me.

So, words came to me. A conversation. I wrote it down and it ended up in the hands of judges at a flash fiction competition in the UK. They long-listed it.
At least something good came out of my conversations with my computer.

Here is the story.
Have you had days like this? Or do you even have conversations with your computer?


“That’s it. I’ve had it with you.”
“What? When did this happen? What are you saying?”
“I have tried and tried.”
“Obviously not hard enough. You can’t just come and spring this on me. Not now.”
“Why not now? I’m frustrated.”
“What have I done wrong?”
“You’re so unpredictable. You’re like a yo-yo.”
“That’s it? You would die from boredom if I didn’t add excitement in your life.”
“I wouldn’t call it excitement. I really need someone I can depend on.”
“I’m dependable.”
“You are not. Admit it.”
“When was I not dependable?”
“Last week you just fell asleep in the middle of . . . you know.”
“Oh, that. But that couldn’t be helped. Come on, you need to come up with something more than that.”
“How about the way you don’t answer? That happens often.”
“Yeah, you get that wild look in your eyes and nag and nag.”
“It’s not funny. Why don’t you answer me?”
“It’s not that simple. I’m different from you.” 
“Different? How is that?”
“You’re a woman. Sometimes you ask me five questions. I need time to think about those answers. I get confused when you hand me a zillion problems at a time.”
“But don’t you see how frustrating it is to me. You’ve even made me cry when you don’t answer.”
“I didn’t mean to. It just became overwhelming at times.”
“Besides, you’re slow.”
“Slow? Well that comes with age, don’t you think.”
“You’re not that old.”
“Maybe not, but I’m certainly not ignorant.”
“No, that’s true. But a relationship is more than facts and knowledge. It has to work.”
“I’ve done my best.”
“Maybe, but then again maybe you could’ve done more.”
“Me? Have you thought that maybe you could have done more? Maybe asked the right questions?”
“Perhaps. Anyway, I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.”
“I can be trusted.”
“You? Ha! Don’t make me laugh. Anyone can just get information from you if they want to.”
“Not really.”
“Oh, yeah? It’s not that hard.”
“Any pretty girl who knows how to push the right button can get you to talk.”
“We all have our weaknesses.”
“I know, but some more than others.”
“So what do you want from me?
I don’t know. I just feel like I’ve had enough.”
“What’s the real problem then?”
“You don’t seem to satisfy my needs.”
“I thought I was. I really tried. Please don’t say it’s over.”
“I’m afraid so. Honestly, you are replaceable, you know.”
“Haven’t we had a wonderful life together? Surely, you haven’t forgotten all the good times?”
“No, you were exciting once. Especially in the beginning.”
“And we grew close. We spent hours together every day.”
“I know. I admit I learned a lot from you.”
“There you go. You can’t just throw that away.”
“But, you’re such a hand-me-down.”
“Excuse me, isn’t that a little harsh? You weren’t that young when we met either.”
“Yes, but you must admit, you were not exactly untouched.”
“That’s hitting below . . .”
“Below what? What do you know about relationships? I mean, really?”
“Not much.”
“There you go. You admit it.”
“I’m sorry. I’m only a computer.”
“I know. I’m just tired. I’ll turn you off now and restart you in the morning, OK?”
“OK, good night.”

Today's water color: chicken realtionships.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Maintaining Me

My husband is very good with maintenance.
He is serious about the continual upkeep and care taking of the car, the house, bicycles, etc.
He grew up in a home where hard work and zealous everyday chores were what life was made of.
I am proud of him for his diligence and perseverance. I am happy that he is patient with me.

There are days when I would rather put all the chores in a box and send them off to Timbuktu. I like to choose the happy part. If I have an article or chapter of a novel to write, a painting to paint for an exhibition or an order, it will take precedence over scrubbing floors or mending clothes every time. Every time.

There are things in life that thrill me in a way I cannot explain. E.g. studying a beautiful piece of art, reading a well written paragraph, having a historical novel bring me back in time, or finding ancestors in my genealogical work to complete families and help bind them together. Most of all, the joy I feel just being with my family is the greatest happiness of all.

When I feel his maintenance is taking over our lives I smile at my husband and say joyfully, "If you can take care of me the way you do your things, I will last for all eternity."
Come to think of it, he's pretty good about that, too.

Photo: Arnfinn and Hector, the Wheaten terrier, this weekend, getting our bikes ready for summer.
Today's water color: A Mother's Love

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring Ahead

Ah, spring has sprung. Hector, the Wheaten Terrier, just came back in the house after playing outside, his wheat-colored fur coat full of seeds. Funny boy. He loves digging his nose in the dirt and sniffing out mice and other critters. He searches for exciting scents now that the snow is melting away.

I am ready. Ready for spring. But the dreaded garden work is ahead of me. I ask myself why I call it "dreaded". It's wonderful outside; watching seedling grow into plants, berries, and colorful flowers.
I have come to the conclusion it has two reasons. One - I tell myself I am not very good at it. Two - I get frustrated with time consuming projects that take me away from writing and painting. Not all. There's a time for everything. But my garden is not always my priority.

The gardener I have had on my wish list for umpteen years has still not arrived. I wish I could have back the papasan I had in Okinawa, Japan. He came on Saturdays on his bicycle, wearing a large oriental straw hat, and demanded American sandwiches for lunch break. I miss him.

I have a garden journal. That way I can write about my garden adventures. It serves as a reminder of what I have done, when and how. It gives me the opportunity to write and do gardening at the same time.

Spring ahead - fall behind. That's how I remember which way to turn the clocks come daylight saving time. Spring ahead is positiv and optimistic. It's full of joyful anticipation. A beautiful summer garden is hopefully ahead of me, but today I write.

Today's water color is a spring fairy.
The photo was taken this Easter showing Hector, the Wheaten Terrier, keeping watch from his look-out point in the snow.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mealtime Without Many Restrictions

Sienna 1 1/2 years old is talking up a storm already.
On the kitchen counter at the cabin during Easter she exclaimed, "I'm cooking." ("jeg koker")
And she was. Her little hand vigorously swirled the spoon around  in the large red bowl. She took the job very seriously, sitting there in her sleep wear and with more energy than what I find necessary in the early morning hours.

Linnea with her confusion of being trilingual told me when she was little, "Mamma, you are the best "kokerin" in the world. You can "kokke" so well. Koke is the Norwegian "to cook, boil", the "in" at the end was added as we lived in Austria at the time - and words ending with "in" indicates female. Hard to explain. But if you are trilingual, too (English/Norwegian/German), you may understand how funny it sounded.

I'm not at all the best "cooker" in the world, but bless her heart for thinking it was true. And it's probably true in many families: Mother's cooking is wonderful.

I loved my mother's food. When I was away at college and returned home for holidays, I asked my mother to cook three certain dinners for me. And she did. Just like I try to accommodate wishes for my own children when they come home for visits. Now I enjoy having my kids cook for me when I visit. They experiment with fun recipes and serve new meals and new tastes. And they inspire me. They plan their weekly menus and are thrifty and clever with their meal planning.

In my book mealtime is not a hysterical regime. We are grateful to eat every day. The meals are mostly healthy, but allowance for strangeness is alright--and necessary.

So, here are a few pointers--tried and survived:

  • Have a picnic on the floor in the living room on rainy or cold days. Sit on a quilt and have colorful plates and yummy treats.
  • Ride your bicycle to a beautiful place and bring dinner in a backpack.
  • Give everyone trays with their meal to put on their laps.
  • Have your meal in a roundabout (when the police comes, invite them to share the meal with you. It might not turn out that well, but it has been tried).
  • Sit under a canopy outside in the rain.
  • Bring hot dogs on a thermos and hike somewhere.
  • Serve dessert before dinner

This Easter Arnfinn and I went cross-country skiing in the mountains with Hector, the Wheaten Terrier, and found a wonderful place in the sun where we sat for a couple of hours enjoying our hot chocolate, sandwiches and orange.

Then again, in the future I would like to try having a meal in a tree and also lying out in the snow with plenty of blankets and sleeping bags and eat our meal while we discuss the constellations.

Restrictions: breakfast in bed is wonderful--but crumbs on the sheets are off limits.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mice in the Walls?

It's night time. Probably winter, as it is still dark outside and the birds are quiet. I wake up from a vivid dream and know that I have to write my thoughts down. If I wait until morning breaks my memory has slipped and I don't remember the clever details from a dream which has a great story line or an idea or two for my writing.

So I fumble in the dark to find the paper and pen always ready on the night stand. Quietly, I don't want to wake up Arnfinn. He sleeps poorly and needs whatever sleep he can get. I don't want to disturb his much needed rest.

I write in the dark. Scribble funny letters on a paper I cannot see. My memory is still cooperating and the dream is preserved--though poorly written--on a piece of paper on the sheet under my duvet cover.

Then Arnfinn moves. Ah, he speaks. Did I wake him up?
"What is that?" he says. "What is that scratching sound? Do we have mice in the walls?"

There you have it. A man who is very happy that there were no mice, but instead a wife, even stranger than before, one who writes in bed in the dark.

Today's water color is of Lindesnes Lighthouse in southern Norway.