Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Don't mess up our Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.
I won't stuff the turkey, but I will certainly stuff myself, and all the thirty-some guests.

But first of all, there's the pre-Thanksgiving stage, which starts weeks before the holiday.

Planning -
Even though I print out my own Thanksgiving-lists of everythings from chores to shopping, it takes time.
I sit and stare at my lists -
That takes time.

I think what I find most time-consuming every year is pie-baking. I love pies, but I also love to bake them. To me it's all in a flaky, yummy crust and a luscious filling. Every year I want to try a new recipy. Some linger on for several years, others are a one-time appearance.  
We usually have:

Banana Cream Pie
Chocolate or Chocolate Fudge Pie
Coconut Cream Pie
Raisin Pie
Berry Pie
Pecan Pie

Some years we have:
Apple Pie
Orange Creamsicle Cheesecake

This year I would like to try:
Mississippi Mud Pie
Pumpin-Chocolate Swirl Pie
Peach Chiffon Pie

Oh, my, the choices.

We'll see. Since we live in Norway - and Thanksgiving is a distant American holiday - there is no day off tomorrow. We will invite our family over on Sunday instead. I still have a few more days to choose which pies to bake.
I try to explain to my Norwegian friends, that Thanksgiving dinner is more work than the Norwegian Christmas feast. I guess it all depends where in Norway you come from. There are several variation from lutefisk, ribbe, ham roast, sausages and pinnekjøtt. What makes it less work? You guessed it, they don't serve pie.

Is tradition important? At the Duck and Cherry it is. My children expect nothing less than a Thanksgiving celebration  with "every procedure the same as the year before". There's no room for a sudden change of the traditional recipes - like putting jalapenos in the mashed potaoes or mushrooms in the turkey gravy.

And when evening comes and the guests have returned to their respective homes, I will be so tired that if a mere butterfly landed on my shoulder, it would tip me off balance and I would topple over. Happy, full, and oh, so tired.
A good kind of tired.
Maybe this year I won't even get up if that happens, but just lie there on the floor, and dream of chocolate-pumpkin swirl pie and traditional mashed potatoes with creamy turkey gravy.

"Happy Thanksgiving" from over the river and through the woods.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Magic of Aunts

In the beloved musical "The Wizard of Oz", the main character Dorothy, lives with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Why? I have no idea, but the Oz books indicate that this was a good home for Dorothy.
When the young girl first comes to live with her aunt and uncle, Aunt Em screams and presses her hand upon her heart. But Dorothy is wildly and ferociously taken away from the Kansas farm as she is swept up in a large tornado bringing her to the fairytale land of Oz.
All the time in Oz, Dorothy's biggest wish is to go home - home to her aunt and uncle in Kansas. When she finally clicks the heels of her ruby slippers towards the end of the story, she is magically brought home by the words, "There's no place like home!"
As Dorothy returns, aunt Em cries out, "My darling child!" and covers her with kisses.

In Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice. there are two aunts who stand out. Elizabeth's aunt Gardiner is sensible and understanding. On the other hand, Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is  almost feudal, representing an old aristocracy where pride and traditional values are more important than people. Darcy needs to go out on his own, and change the old ways of the family to win Elizabeth's heart.

Charlotte Brontë give aunts a bad reputation in Jane Eyre. Jane's aunt Mrs. Reed favors her own children and treats Jane terribly.

Charles Dicken's aunts and uncles are colorful examples of both good and bad in Victorian England.

In David Copperfield, Betsey Trotwood (his great-aunt) is not happy that David's mother has a son. Because of abuse and abandonement in her life, she does not favor men and boys. She storms out of the house when she hears about the birth. When young Davis, then motherless and alone, appears at her doorstep, she carries a knife and yells, "Go along! No boys here!" David is ragged, starving and exhausted. "If you please, aunt, I am your nephew."
Betsey is a complex charactoer. Her heart is soft, although years of bad experiences and trials have built a tough wall around her. She takes care of the boy
and eventually helps him with both education and employment.
"Never," said my aunt, "be mean in anything; never be false; never be cruel. Avoid those three vices, Trot, and I can always be hopeful of you." (David Copperfield)

Dicken's Oliver Twist has a different kind of aunt. His maternal aunt, Rose, is portrayed as pure, innocent and beautiful. She helps rescue the young boy.

Why do aunts have a more significant role in novels from the 1800s? Where are the mothers? One answer somes from:

Ruth Perry's book The Transformation of Kinship in English Literature 1748-1818
...mothers in novels of the period are notoriously absent – dead or otherwise missing. Just when motherhood was becoming central to the definition of femininity, when the modern conception of the all-nurturing, tender, soothing, ministering mother was being consolidated in English culture, she was being represented in fiction as a memory rather than as an active present reality.

Irish Novelist Colm Tóibín explains the important of aunts:
The novel in English during the 19th century is full of parents whose influence must be evaded or erased, to be replaced by figures who operate either literally or figuratively as aunts, both kind and mean, both well-intentioned and duplicitous, both rescuing and destroying.
But 19th century aunts may not be so different from today's aunts. The aunts of  2016 also come wearing different hats. Some aunts have great influence on their nieces and nephews, love them as if they were their own children and rejoice when they succeed. But there are also those who are too busy, not interested, or not present.

One of the things that make my heart smile, is when I see my children carrying each others children. They truly love their little nieces and nephews. They want them to be safe and happy.
In my book, that is love. That is family.

Photo: My daughter with her nephew and daughter.

Sources. wikipedia, Literary aunts by Charlotte Higgins

Monday, May 23, 2016

"And this too shall pass."

Like many others, I thought the saying "And this too shall pass" to be a Biblical quote. However, it is not found there. It is believed to have come from a fable written by Persian Sulfi poets of the 12th century. 
Jewish folklore credit it as a saying by King Solomon of the Old Testament, but there is no reference to it in the Bible.
On September 30, 1859, Abraham Lincoln included a similar story in an address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee:
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction![
Bottom line is ,all conditions - positive or negative - are temporary.

For some reason, this saying pops up in my head time and again, when I feel life drizzles a little too much venom into my everyday life. When challenges become unbearable and I feel discouraged and hedged up, I try to remember the great promises of better days and tell myself, "And this too shall pass!" 
Does it help? Am I comforted by these five words?
Yes. And hope is a great part of it. I have to have hope to believe in relief from frustrating, difficult and unbearable challenges.

I recently visited frendly and wonderful Texas. I brought home in my suitcase a sign that said. 
"Today is the perfect day for a perfect day!" It will go up on my wall as a reminder of hope and having a positive attitude, and attitude that has to do with me choosing the right.

Today's art is an oil on canvas.

Source: wikipedia

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Fishermen's Widow

 The story of my great-grandmother, Hansine Marie Hermansen (1859-1942). This story was long-listed in the British Writing Competition Multi-Story, Flash Fiction in 2012.

Life of the Fishermen’s Widow          

            There are no ships in sight as I stand on the stony beach looking out at the living water. Not like my family, all gone a long time ago now. The wind teases my grey hair, what is left of it anyway. It used to be thick and wavy. Now I pull it back in a small bun and when strands of hair come undone and play with the wind, I don’t mind.
            Hats were never for me, I would rather wear a kerchief. My neighbor, Milly jokes about that. “I would like to see the person who can put a hat on Hansine,” she says. She’s a good neighbor, Milly. When the winter nights here in the north are dark and gloomy, she lets me come and stay with her. I hear people say I am afraid of the dark, but being worried and being afraid is not necessarily the same thing.
            “How do you manage?” Milly asks. “You have lost both your husbands and all three of your sons at sea.”
            They wonder why I always come down here to the beach on tempestuous days. I stand as close as I can without getting wet. The blustery weather is cold enough. Here I can be alone with my thoughts. Only the ocean moves towards the shore and the occasional seagull looks for fish in the waves. There’s never anyone here to respond to my voice, only new thoughts entering my wits, wondering and grinding.
            Questions about my family often emerge when Milly is around. “It will help talking about it,” she says and puts the kettle on. But I don’t speak about my children. They were given me, they were taken away. Words won’t change that.
            Sometimes I will mention funny things Berner said. He was the love of my youth, the one who chose me for life. Two and a half years was the time we were allotted. Enough time to learn to love, but not enough to be satisfied. I gave birth to our second child a few weeks after the sea claimed him.
            Then there was Karolius, who also chose me, a widow with two small children. I learned to love again, to live again.
            “Tell me about your grandchildren,” Milly continues. She has not given up on me. My thoughts go to my daughter, who married and settled in a town north of here. Photographers enjoyed capturing her beauty, but the Spanish flu grasped her life, along with her husband’s, leaving six children nine years and under. My grandbabies were divided among families far away from me. There’s not much I can tell Milly about them.
            What I would give to be able to do it over again, this life. I have spent enough time pondering on the outcome of the years past. When I was in the middle of things I did the best I could. Why is it that I think it would be different if I had a new chance at life? Both my husbands would still be fishermen, all my sons would follow in their fathers’ footsteps.
            I believe that when my turn on earth is over, I will look back thinking I spent too much time worrying. Though I can state this as a fact, my whole being is permeated with anxiety and concern.

            I wipe my hand across my wet cheeks, thinking it’s time to go back. The wind has picked up, a storm is approaching. As always, I will stay out of the lamp light when I return. On a night like this, I won’t engage in conversation.

Foto: Hansine Marie Hermansen

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

I have a fascination for the women who fought in various resistance groups during WWII. Fascination in the way that I admire them for their fearless courage, commitment to a cause they believed in, and total dedication in the struggle and fight for freedom.
I feel grateful for them, grateful to think that they risked having to leave their home and family, they risked their own life. They gave up jobs and personal safety. They lived a life in danger, always having to look over their shoulder, always being careful in everything they did.

As their husbands, sons and fathers were away at war, many women took on jobs they normally would not have had. They kept the work places going. They fed their families. Previous forbidden job opportunities opened up for women.

Some were drafted to non-combat jobs in the military. But there were many who worked underground. Some were spies, others worked with cryptography. But most often women helped house refugees and other members of the resistance groups and helped make and distribute illegal newpapers.

One of the most dangerous tasks women had during the war, was that of a courier. Even though the Germans did not suspect a woman as much as they would a man in this role, it was the most hazardous job to have. If they were caught, they had the sensitive material with them. There was no excuse, nor any way out.

Some were caught and sent to prison, experiencing torture and horrible treatment. Many ended up in concentration camps.

As a freelance magazine journalist, I recently finished an article about a Norwegian resistance woman, Henriette Bie Lorentzen. As I learned about her life and her bravery, I was filled with admiration and gratefulness. I spoke with her son and daughter, the latter who was actually born while Henriette was imprisoned.

I salute these women and thank them. Even if they survived the war, many
would have problems for the rest of their lives, both psychological with post-traumatic stress-syndrom and trying to forget with alchohol and pills.

Today, I read a meme that said, "What would you do it you weren't afraid?". It was from the Togethernessproject, a group that invites women to stand together, and be brave together.

It got me thinking. What would I do with my life if I had no fear of men, no fear of what others might say or think? What could I accomplish in my life if I did not worry, if I wasn't sceptical and filled with a lack of self-confidence. Would my life be different? Would I do things differently?

It's a thought I will pursue and ponder. Maybe I will be able to see that I can do more than I think now.

Today's water color is "Late Spring". Choose the darkness of the clouds or the light piercing through.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I apologize for wearing my PJs in public

So sorry.
Excuse me.

But hey, what should I apologize for?
Staying busy? Doing good things? Being creative?

But in my pyjamas?

There are days when the creative flows are like a spring flood. Like melting snow from the mountains that trickles downhill, adding more and more to it's stream, eventually turning into a billowy, raging force.

And excuse me, on these days I may forget to brush my hair and change out of my PJs.

The problem is when I forget to change my apparel before leaving the house.
One morning I drove the love of my life to the train station - in my PJs.
At the station I noticed I had a flat tire. I slowly eased the car to a nearby garage.

What to do? The garage had not opened yet. It was cold. I stood there wondering whether to walk home in my PJs or call a friend. Asking for help is not my strong suit. I do not excel at being on the receiving end.

I finally gave in and called Åse. She is wonderful and came to my rescue - with a smile.

Is there a moral to this story? Do we need one?
At least, for good advice, being an advocate for "being prepared", I would  suggest to myself to get dressed before driving off somewhere. At least, put on a coat over the PJs if it's chilly outside.

The wonderful actor, Sean Connery, once said that women who go shopping with curlers in their hair, should be arrested.
I would not go that far. He might think the same of me, had he seen me out and about in my pyjamas and unruly hair.

One of my favorite Shakespeare quotes is this.
"Being prepared for everything, is everything."
I like that, but still strive to get better at it.

Today's water color is "Before I go to sleep" - this fairy is out flying before bedtime, in her nightgown. Could have been me!