Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Walking on Smooth Stones

"Heidi must have run away again. Her shoes are right there."
This was not an uncommon statement in our neighborhood when I was a little girl. The neighbors would warn my mother that I had gone walkabout. Again. My little shoes were kicked off by the driveway. I was nowhere to be seen.

I can remember wandering through the streets, looking at the housing areas, wondering who lived there. Always barefooted. Happy, carefree. My angelic mother never scolded me. I was not afraid.

My oldest daughter took off her shoes at church all the time. I would either find the shoes or her. They were not always together. One Sunday a woman looked at me and said, "I don't see how you can stand it."
I opened my eyes in surprise. How could she say something like that? Without thinking, the words came out of my mouth, "That's why you didn't get Tiffany."

I could understand my child. I did not mind that her shoes were not always on her little feet. She loved running barefooted. Just like me.

There's something magical and sweet about the little round feet of a 2 year old. It makes me happy just looking at them.

On a trip to Rhodes, Greece I enjoyed walking barefooted on the pebbly beaches. The stones were round and smooth, weathered by waves constantly washing over. Over time they had rubbed against each other to smooth away the rough edges.

Relationships can be like that. Standing close, shoulder to shoulder with people who have sharp edges, who are pointy to come up against, can be uncomfortable, even hurt. We need to have rounded edges and embrace each other more. It's alright to make life better for those around us. Life's experiences can make us smoother. Even though it can be tough at times, it's often necessary. These rocks did not start out round.

Photos today are of our munchkin, Sienna's little round feet and rocks on the beach of Rhodes.

Monday, June 24, 2013


A great prophet said, "Obedience is essential to our salvation."

The great test of this life is obedience. Does the word give you thoughts of progress and success or does it make you feel tied down?

Personally, I believe obedience is a virtue worth striving for and worth cherishing. I have seen people achieve wonderful things in life because of obedience. I have seen them be happier because they made good choices and listened to wise advice.

I practice obedience with Hector, the Wheaten terrier, every day. He is clever and enjoys the exercises, especially when he is rewarded with little dry dog biscuits. But that's alright, isn't it? Rewards are a good thing. A pat on the back, a nice, uplifting word, a note, a smile, a hug--in my book they are welcoming gestures.

Being obedient can feel safe, it can shelter
you from problems, protect you. The fourth commandment, which admonishes us to honor our father and mother promises good things to those who adhere to the solemn words presented by a God who cares for his people. Wisdom comes with age and experience. Parents have lived longer, understand consequences better, love us to pieces.

I have cheered when my children have made good choices, been happy when they were obedient, loved them when they understood important matters, rejoiced when they progressed in wisdom and knowledge.
Life is long day in school. Sunshine and rain walk hand in hand.

I am basically obedient. Basically. There are probably days when I want to stick my tongue out and turn to run the other way. But I know that being obedient has protected me many times in my life.

Today's water colors are three lighthouses--also a protection;
1) fantasy 2) Landegode, Norway 3) Split Rock, Minnesota, USA.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Midsummer Thoughts


The word brings on good feelings to someone who loves the light Scandinavian summer evenings.

The 23rd of June is the longest day of the year. Arnfinn pesters me every year about this. He knows I don't like to hear that the "sun turns", that the summer solstice is actually here.

My mind wanders to childhood memories. I love the light and savor the nature, the scents and sounds of the northern summer.
A perfect time to just feel alive.

My Swedish friend, Karin, is a wonderful photographer and a sensitive philosopher. She wrote the following yesterday:

It is so still. Just a breeze to make the birches rustle. But it's not quiet. The lark is crazy, as usual, the white wagtail, the willow warbler, and the blackbird forage food for their young ones. The snake buzzard looks over the field. The cat has been chased up to the top of the birch.
I am doing nothing. Just am.
Happy Midsummer to all.

And this pre-Christian celebration is culture and tradition. It centers around the astronomical summer solstice, and although it originally started as a pagan holiday, Christians associate the day with the nativity of John the Baptist.
In Sweden midsummer festivities will include pretty girls with flower wreaths in their hair and people dancing and singing around a Maypole.

In Norway the day is called St. Hans. Bonfires are lit along coastal areas. Families come out, play games, and grill hot dogs on sticks over the rustling flames. Words from an old folk tune remind us that we should not sleep away the summer night.

Lovely to stay up all night enjoying the light and warm summer. Not so nice the next day.

Photos from Swedish midsummer. A beautiful forest hibiscus, Karin's birch trees, and Arnfinn trying his luck at archery at midsummer medieval festival at Läckö, Sweden.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Relaxation Anxiety

Pioneer testing for a project can be both happy and frustrating. I dutifully tried out one of my assignments which was to meditate and relax on the couch for ten minutes. What a failure I was at that. I told myself, "Let's get this over with." I checked the clock on the wall. Ten minutes. Not impossible.

I got cold. Had to cover myself with a blanket. Hector, the Wheaten Terrier, ran into the living room and started licking my ear. 
I kept looking at the wall clock, my mind racing with ideas for blogs and writing projects, my body not cooperating any more than my brain on this assignment. Creativity did not take the time off. I was supposed to listen to myself breathing and cut everything else out. Easier said than done.

I believe in the assignment. It's probably a great idea to recharge body and mind. Just another time. Another day. Maybe a day with less worries. But then again, maybe the time we really need a time-out is on difficult days. I really need to reprogram myself to not feel guilty for relaxing and recharging. I would probably cope better if I did.

Today's water color fairy has no problem sleeping, even though she has stolen someone's bed.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Optimism Rules

When my girls were little I would ask them, "Would you like to wear the pink or the blue dress today?" Meaning, whichever they chose they would be wearing a dress but still have the feeling of choice.

Today I ask myself, "Heidi, do you want to do that chore, or that one, or maybe that one first?"
I thought I just heard myself answer, "I think I'll just write my blog first, thank you."

As a person who has to have fun things on the to-do list, chocolate bribes and prizes on the counter, and a pat-myself-on-the-back attitude, normal days become my favorite days. Are you someone who needs to add fun things between the daily chores or can you go, go, go without encouragement. I even went as far as to send myself an e-mail one day, telling myself I was doing great. Made me happy to receive it and read it - and believe in it. And I have written a list of complements the love of my life has given me that I can take out on rainy days and be encouraged. Anything to keep moving forward, all good and uplifting tricks allowed.

My mother grew up without complements, nevertheless managed to become the most loving and optimistic person I have ever known. She saw the good part in people and was always there to encourage and buoy us up. She would say, "You catch more flies with sugar that you do with vinegar." Another expression was I think it's getting brighter, looking out the window at rainy clouds and a grey atmosphere. She always thought she could see an improvement out there and that the sun was just around the corner.

Today my children will say, "I think it's getting brighter." They smile and remember a grandmother who loved them . . . just loved them.

Today's water color is a summer fairy called Othilie.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Complaint Department 300 Miles That Way

Complaints. Are they uplifting or degrading? Do you brush them off your shoulder and go on as if nothing has happened?
In legal terminology a complaint is a formal legal document, but it has happened once or twice that complaints come forth at the Duck and Cherry without having a trace of legality or even being sound enough to be documented.

My father would never let us complain about the food. He said we should be grateful for the food we had every day. And right he was. But there are a few other things family members could complain about, no doubt.

I believe that a positive attitude will swipe away some complaints. Not all are necessary and important enough to be aired out in the open, causing conflict or hard feelings. After all, complaining is simply expressing dissatisfaction and annoyance - grief, pain, or discontent are other words that come to mind.

Complaining about the weather, for instance. Is that necessary? Can we really do anything about it?
Complaining about what's for dinner? Mom's in charge. She decides.
Complaining about doing the dishes? Now that one is a current happening at the Duck and Cherry. Our dishwasher has been broken for several weeks and I do the dishes by hand. I really don't mind too much, but I am looking forward to a new machine.

Sometimes I turn to complaining if I want sympathy. Maybe it's a girl thing. It just happens.

So, a few weeks ago on our trip to Amish country I picked up the sign Complaint Department 300 miles. It is now hung above the kitchen door showing the direction and distance anyone will have to walk in order to place a complaint. Arnfinn suggested that I can change the direction after a while.

Another sign I have hanging from a beam in the kitchen is the witch sign warning Danger Ahead. I am not really sure which danger I am talking about, but I like it anyway.

If there had not been a witch accompanying the warning it would not have hung in my kitchen.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Curtain Blabberings

In the early 1980's I was fascinated by Dorothy's Ruffled Curtains and Laura Ashley's flowery English country curtains. I bought material and sewed our curtains myself and planned colors and styles in our many homes here and there around the world.
My mother sewed curtains professionally and I always admired her neatness and accurate finishing touches. I am happy to have curtains in our dining room, lovingly crafted by her talented hands years ago.

Today some of our rooms have no curtains. I love having the light stream in our windows, see the rays of sun dance on the furniture and especially be able to look out at the view surrounding the Duck and Cherry. The woods behind the house remind me of Robin Hood's forest of Nottingham. The squirrels leaping from tree to tree would be hard to see if I had curtains covering the view. The breeze making the greenery sway from side to side, the colors of the sun setting, birds walking on the porch; I don't want to block these things out. Nature is lovely.

Curtain habits vary from country to country. I noticed in the US that neighbor's had their curtains closed during the day to keep the sun from fading their furniture and carpets. They also wanted privacy at night.
Norway is quite different that way. People seldom draw their curtains. They keep them open, even in the evenings when the lights are on and you can check out what they are watching on TV or which book they are reading. This is especially neat in December when you can see the lighted Christmas trees adorning every living room.

I had a totally different experience when we lived in Austria and Switzerland. There most every house and apartment has "Rolladen", roller blinds, on the outside of the house. These keep both mice and men out and makes you feel safe and secure in your own fortress. It also makes the room dark for those dependent on that for their needed sleep. The feeling of WWII and German air raids prevented by turned off street lights and window blinds on every home came to mind. If I looked out of my home in Austria in the evening it was just like that. No street lights, no lights at all as everyone had their roller blinds shut closed. I could only see my neighbors' houses if lightening struck and lit up the area.

In Switzerland some had wooden window shutters. We had that on our home in Okinawa, Japan, too, and a good thing that was. When typhoons came and whirled across the island, we were safe behind the shutters, candlelight aglow to make up for the loss of electricity during the storm.

I still enjoy curtains, but also Venetian blinds. On some windows that's all I need.

What about you? Do you like heavy historical brocade curtains, light fluttery sheers, or happy calico patterns with ruffles?

Photo of Hector, the Wheaten Terrier, waking up from a nap behind the dining room curtains.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ants and Japanese Motorways

Do you pronounce the words aunt and ant the same? 
I became an aunt by the age of 8. I love my nieces and nephews to the moon and back. One of them calls me "Maur Heidi", which is the Norwegian word for ant. Guess, you need to be bilingual to see how funny that is.
Ants have also been part of my life for better and for worse. I enjoy watching how industrious they are, running back and forth, carrying little twigs that are much bigger than themselves. They prepare. They get ready for colder, harsher days.

Problem is, I have had ants crawl on me, run up and down my legs, and even bite me. How rude is that?
The biggest problem now is this: The Duck and Cherry's neighboring property has two large ant hills right on the border. The ants have made roads and trails up and down our driveway, by the front porch, and in my herbal patch. I look at them - hundreds of ants in a row, marching aimfully, not even stopping for breath - and they remind me of Japanese motorways. I would know, I lived there for three years. The roads there are crowded even in the middle of the night. 

I tried to take photos of the ant-motorway to show on my blog, but the image did not give the same effect as seeing them real time.
Then in the back of my mind, in a place where hidden thoughts tend to be mischievous and disobedient, an idea crept forward. What if I place crumbs of sweet bread from the ant hills up towards the neighbor's house? After all, those are her ant hills and on her property. I just wish her ants would stay with her and not aim to visit me.

OK, I hear you. Communication is way better. Some people are just a little scary to communicate with.

What if I try telepathy? What about trying to speak with the ants? Maybe I should invite them to form groups or arranging their own ant farms, even performing circuses? 

I have read that ants are social insects. That's nice. 

Then again, maybe I should just make a trip to the store and buy remedies against ant invasion. What do you think?

Photo of spring in the garden of the Duck and Cherry.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Duck and Cherry Inn

When I was little, my father packed my mother and me into the car and drove all over Scandinavia during the light summer days. The beautiful Norwegian nature, the smell of summer blossoms, the sun that never set, fishing in the steaming northern fjords, the cool streams of water and lakes in the mountains are collected memories that still fill my senses and make me wish I could relive those days with my parents.

My father took time; time to stop the car to throw skipping stones in a clear, still lake, time to pet goats, and time to stop for sour cream porridge or meat cakes at small cafés.
Norway  had narrow, windy roads (to some extent it is still like that in many places) and always a little red house by the roadside. I counted VW bugs to pass the time.
One of my greatest fears was that he would stop to spend the night at a house with a sign that read: Room for rent! For some reason, I believed a place like that triggered murders and mysterious, scary happenings. After teasing me about it, we always ended up at a proper motel or cottage for the night, and I was grateful and satisfied.

Now when I travel with the love of my life, I enjoy Bed & Breakfasts. I find them cozy and quaint. I like talking with the owners and eating their home cooked meals. I like the small town feel and often nostalgic old-fashioned decor. For instance, if you're in a place like Stratford-Upon-Avon, the home of the distinguished author William Shakespeare, wouldn't you agree that a Bed & Breakfast sounds more intriguing than a modern hotel?

Recently, Arnfinn has started calling our home the Duck and Cherry Inn. He must have noticed all the guests and family members who spend the night here and eat with us. He loves it. "Sure, there's room," he'll say. "That's nice. Let them come."
I love him for it. What is life if not to spend time with loved ones and good friends? If there's not enough dinner to go around, there's always bread and food storage items to supplement. No need to starve or be turned away.

Today's photos are of my parents. The little girl with ice cream is moi.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Circles and Dust Bunnies

When my children were little I felt like we ran around the house in circles all day long. They threw things around, I picked them up. They threw more things, I picked up . . .

Obviously, life goes around in circles.
So it is with cleaning the house. Take the dishes for instance. How long after you do the dishes does someone pile more dirty dishes in the sink?
Which brings me to dust bunnies. Are they considered pets? If you see one, do you let it go? Does it softly glide across the floor, gathering volume like a snowball rolling down the hill? Or are you really strict, ordering it out of you life and home forever?
If you find one under the couch, behind a book, to the right of a pencil chewed up by the dog, then by all means don't feed it. Bunnies multiply rapidly. You don't want them taking over your house.

Hector, the Wheaten Terrier, has communicated with me for almost three years now. I feed him. He has grown a lot. I let him run around the house unlike the dust bunnies that I gather up and let outside.
In many instances I can tell what he says. Like this morning, when he howled to let me know he would like another doggie treat.

Hector, "howling sound"
Me, "I hear you. We can have one more treat each. That's all. You get a doggie biscuit, I get  piece of dark chocolate."

He was very satisfied with that decision and has now put his head down behind my chair for a morning nap. And I thought I was clever keeping my chocolate away from my writing space so that I have to walk a little ways to fetch each piece, until someone told me, "You ought to put your chocolate upstairs, so that you have exercise up and down the stairs every time you want a piece.

I'll have to think about that one.

Today's water color are two children's pictures.