December 3rd – the serve again meal

Mrs. Claus is getting wiser.

Mrs. Claus is getting wiser.

One of the first Christmas pictures I remember was taken when my father was still a student. We lived in a tiny student housing and money was scarce. What did they do for Christmas? The picture shows my mother with a pig’s head and a toothbrush, cleaning it to make the traditional pressed meat. That was just the start, as we moved to bigger houses more and more of the traditional fare was prepared and consumed around Christmas. My parents made it all themselves, hams and cold cuts, chutney and cheeses, sausages and pates.

The first Christmas my husband and me were to celebrate in our own home, I bought half a lamb and a pig and was ready to start. I just checked with him to ask if there was something special he wanted. Nothing, he did not want anything. Not to be kind, he just was not used to that way of celebrating. Deeply troubling to a traditionalist like me. This had to be done, and it looked like I was the one that had to do it. For some years I forced ahead. Never on the same scale as my parents, but always making lots of strange stuff we were not able to finish.I even made fun of everyone who tried to behave and prepare like they lived on a big farm with lots of people when most actually lived in small apartments.

Accordingly I made smaller and smaller portions, until I almost stopped. Then I saw the movie by Astrid Lindgren, about Emil who carried all the Christmas food out of the pantry to serve the poor, and I remembered why we always prepared lots of food for Christmas. It was to always be prepared for any guest, and to have something to share.
The traditional foodstuff can be carried in and out of the pantry, it can be served again and again. It is prepared for a time before refrigerators and does not turn bad for days.

Come in from the cold!

Come in from the cold!

The tradition was to serve this food for almost every meal, and to everyone through Christmas, how neat is that! Never to think about what to serve or to plan for different meals!
At Christmas it is only the time of day that decides what kind of meal it is. Christmas breakfast, Christmas lunch and Christmas supper is all the same, different variations of what is in the pantry. Everyone expects that and knows what they will get. Easy.
Another bonus, never any leftovers that should be concealed as something else, just plain good food until the ham is eaten. Great. To make small portions just to have a taste of Christmas was actually quite stupid.

I had to look for the essence of that idea. What kind of food did we like, could we afford, could we prepare or buy in advance in big quantities, store and be ready to serve at any time for a couple of weeks?

Chairs and tables are not enough

Chairs and tables are not enough

How could we welcome anyone without planning, without fretting and without hassle, at any time, no matter what other activities we were doing?

We are still working on that, in the reverse way. I do not make everything, I buy most, always with the criteria above in my mind. My new motto became: to be prepared for anything while playing along  as we go. Then I do not make or buy anything that does not fit that plan. Of course the freezer makes it possible to cheat, and I do. I do not even wait till Christmas, I do it now. Fill my freezer with hams and cuts, smoked salmon and cured meats, everyone are welcome, anytime, I will soon be ready!

If not, we could always do take-away, but that is tomorrow’s story.

Believe me, I know better than most how frantic and exhausting it is possible to make the season of peace and goodwill. The main story on Indexyourlife in December will be my way to a Christmas free of tangles.

In December my brother and I write an advent calendar blog together in norwegian.You may visit at  JULEFRYD or Christmas Joy. This year we will be writing or sharing thoughts and joys of gifts, giving and sharing. We will post there every day, and I will share some of that blog here on indexyourlife too.

All pictures at Indexyourlife are mine, if not otherwise stated.

Advertisements

December 2nd – the merry newspaperboy

IMG_1714 peisgirlanderIt was still dark outside as I opened the door to hang out the Christmas wreath on our front door. The day before there was no Christmas anywhere in our house. Now the tree was glittering, every surface was decorated, the stockings were full, the windows had Christmas curtains. The tables had Christmas tablecloths, and yes, the teddy bears and dolls had Christmas ribbons on.

I put the wreath in place and stepped back to admire my work. Then a happy voice called out: ” Merry Christmas!” it was the newspaperboy trudging through the snow at six o’clock in the morning. Then he added: “Why are you up so early? Isn’t it a holiday?” I am sure I smiled, I am sure I said the right thing, I did not tell him the truth though. I had not been in bed at all. When the kids finally where in bed the night before I had started a whirlwind of activity that had taken me through the whole night.

Now I was ready to stagger with bloodshot eyes into Christmas, ready to fight to keep my eyes open, longing to be in bed, while everybody else was getting ready. Later that day we sat next to my good friend and her family at Christmas Eve service. We both fell asleep. I did not keep my secret from her, “when did you go to bed?”I said. It was when she answered “not yet” we both knew that we had to keep this secret, as no-one would agree that any Christmas decorations was worth it.

I think that was the start of our decline. From the mountain of self-declared queens of Christmas  into the calm vallies and peaceful meadows of being Christmas friends.

The first step was leaving the tradition of magical transformation behind. From then on I allowed Christmas to tiptoe silently and graciously into my home from the first of December. Every day I do one thing that could evolve into the Christmas I want. Make a wreath, buy some gifts, prepare some food. Then, at the 24th of December, Christmas is here and I embrace it as it is. Now a days I might even be enjoy greeting the newspaperboy, as it will never be at the ending of the night, but at the crisp, magical beginning of Christmas, with me, rested and happy in the middle of it all.

Just now though, I will light the fire, curl up on the couch and listen to Christmas music. In my heart there will be Christmas already!

Believe me, I know better than most how frantic and exhausting it is possible to make the season of peace and goodwill. The main story on Indexyourlife in December will be my way to a Christmas free of tangles.

In December my brother and I write an advent calendar blog together in norwegian.You may visit at  JULEFRYD or Christmas Joy. This year we will be writing or sharing thoughts and joys of gifts, giving and sharing. We will post there every day, and I will share some of that blog here on indexyourlife too.

All pictures at Indexyourlife are mine, if not otherwise stated.

To start, start

IMG_4056 sleep

I said: “do nothing”, I did not say “do not ever do anything”. In a real crisis, we need to consider, to stop and think, before we do anything, as the next step is crucial.

On the other hand, to keep doing nothing, will not only keep you in the middle of the mess, it will also make you a victim, not a responsible adult.

To keep doing nothing will also make most people depressed and tired. Even to keep mulling over your situation, to keep organizing and sorting, to keep asking and praying, to keep walking and talking it over, will not take you anywhere. It will point you in a direction, but to go there, you have to start going. One day we have to stop practicing for life, to rest to be able to handle life, to discuss how it all could be, and just start living.

Even if it means backtracking a couple of steps. Even if it means admitting we were wrong. Even if it means starting afresh. If you just realized you were going in the wrong direction, you will actually get closer to where you want to be if you turn around and go back.

And by all means, remember to sleep, but start going.

In November I take part in the NaBloPoMo,  in the BlogHer network. I post every day on “The Untangling Tens” what women do when life gets tangled. These are the ten tools that worked for those I have asked, what are yours?

All pictures in this blog are taken by me, Solveig Mjolsnes. This cute sleeping koala lives in the San Fransisco Zoo.

Well started is not finished

IMG_3124 start“If you begin well, you  are halfway there”

This old norwegian saying may be true, but half way is not there. And where is there exactly? Even if we have very set goals and achieve them by jumping from stone to stone and organizing our time, ourselves and our values, do we really want to have arrived? Before dying that is?

At the end of the nineteenth century Otto von Bismarck introduced a set retirement age and pension in Germany. If you worked until 70, the state would take care of you. With a life expectancy at 40 years, that was hardly too generous. As we know, it is different now. We tend to discuss that as an economic challenge. The cost is not in money though. What does it do to a society that expects it inhabitants to contribute only a third of their life? Where did the idea come from that if you are not a salary worker anymore your life is yours to waste?

In November I take part in the NaBloPoMo,  in the BlogHer network. I post every day on “The Untangling Tens” what women do when life gets tangled. These are the ten tools that worked for those I have asked, what are yours?

 All pictures in this blog are taken by me, Solveig Mjolsnes. This is a stone stair made by three norwegian brothers 70 years ago to make it easier to take their cattle up to their mountain farm.

Thank you friday


258

I was to go back to Norway for a meeting and was ordering tickets. Oh now, I will miss thanksgiving! I tried, but as there were no flights out of San Fransisco, I arrived there midday yesterday and spent five hours at the airport. Since we lived in Indiana I have loved thanksgiving, and we celebrate it every year. The first year with a box full of goodies sent to us in Norway from Steve and Susan!

Think of that, a holiday for giving thanks! As I do not have all the emotional strings attached to how and when and who, I also love the home cooked traditional fare. If you do not care which sides and pies you cook, cooking a turkey is a lot easier than say a barbecue. In short, I did not want to miss thanksgiving, even if it seemed I had too.

Did I miss thanksgiving? Not at all. What I did was being allowed to experience even more of the things I am thankful for and love about America.

It started in Oslo. While passing through our headquarters on my way to the meeting I saw four dressed up people eagerly waiting for to be picked up. Why? They were invited to the American Embassy for a big thanksgiving dinner. Not a publicity stunt, but as a true thank you for the way this non-profit contributes to the Norwegian and the world community.

Thank you, America, for the times you show us how to appreciate charity and volunteers!

Then I landed in San Fransisco. Everyone greeted me, and I them, with happy holidays. And of course I thanked them for their service. That is another thing I appreciate here. I see people thank any teacher they meet for their service. I see people bake cookies for the fire brigade and hand out gifts for their mailman. Just to say thank you, we know we need each other.

Thank you, America, for the times you show us that making a society takes everybody!

Then, as I was sitting on the not too comfy chairs, so tired I hardly could keep my head up, I was awakened by a familiar, enticing smell and tingling laughter. Two airport workers were going down the corridors, each carrying a roasted turkey, and surrounded by lots of others, carrying drinks and sides. As they passed me, I heard a woman say to a young hispanic boy. “Now you won’t be that sorry that you miss thanksgiving with your family!” They were so close that  I could hear his answer. “You at the airport is the only family I’ve got.”

Thank you, America, for the times you take care of the fatherless and those in need!

Then, as I was sitting there, my husband and daughter were having a really special thanksgiving party with our new-found friends in Santa Barbara. Included in the family circle, enjoying themselves immensely, and sent home with left overs for me to have when I come home.

Thank you, Dale and Steve, for showing us America at the best. The country that reaches out, includes, and creates a new community. We are grateful.

In November I take part in the NaBloPoMo,  in the BlogHer network. I post every day on “The Untangling Tens” what women do when life gets tangled. These are the ten tools that worked for those I have asked, what are yours?

All pictures in this blog are taken by me, Solveig Mjolsnes. This is a house of an old farm in Norway. A story which will be told later!

Call your mother

IMG_0687

Our third child was seriously ill, and I were in the hospital with him. My husband was at home with the two others, and were supposed to do his dissertation the same week. Then my mother-in-law called. How is everything? She asked, expecting the usual stories of the funny things the children did and said. My husband told her, how everything was, really. I am coming, she said. And she did. Shooed him off to the office and took care of everything else than his PhD work.
The thing was we had not thought of asking her, because she never had done something like that before. I think that even those of us who try to be adults as soon as possible, should realize that it is not defeat to tell somebody how it really is. Most of all it is not defeat to admit to our parents that this situation needs more adults than we are. Some parents will come to the rescue.

Then again, some will not.

When our life is in tangles this is also often a part of the package. The wounds and disappointments,or for some the direct cruelty that would make it out of the question to ask for help from a parent. Still we all need to deal with that. If calling a parent is not a tool, then it could very well be part of the tangle. Then that has to be dealt with, perhaps with professional help.

The result could be to engage or create groups of adults that support each other. Not necessarily as friends, but as the ” mother” who comes to the rescue, or the father who supports.

Even if, as me, you do not have a mother anymore, I call my mother often. Not for real of course, but as a way of keeping in touch with the legacy she left. Sometimes it takes forgiving on my part, she was human after all, sometimes it opens up for new ways of seeing things. It always gives me the peace to keep looking for another way, to keep looking for the “logical” solution, as she often said.

The rocker in the corner? That is my great grandfathers, the best place to connect, to rethink and to realize that if they could so can I.

In November I take part in the NaBloPoMo,  in the BlogHer network. I post every day on “The Untangling Tens” what women do when life gets tangled. These are the ten tools that worked for those I have asked, what are yours?

All pictures in this blog are taken by me, Solveig Mjolsnes.

Call a friend

IMG_1681We are still figuring out what untangling tools we think help us best when life is tangled. Even if I list the ten best steps, I do not think they have to be steps on the same ladder. At times, life looks different after a night’s sleep. Then sleep wa the tool you needed. There even are times when everything turns out for the best if we just are able to wait a little bit and not making the mess worse by pulling all the strings we see. Then nothing was the tool you needed.

Even if there was a ten step plan I do not think it would be the same for everyone. I do think most of us should have “call a friend” on our list, I also think we could evaluate when we do that. I respect my close friends too much to use them as scetching boards. I respect my own experience and the responsibility I have over my own life too much to not use it. Even so , calling a friend is not so much about solutions as it is about confirming the “we and us”. Most of us have friends that look at us as humans, while we ourselves tend to think we should be superhumans. Isn’t that often the case when life gets too much? We just are dissapointed in our selves for not being able to handle it all? For not having foresight to understand what would happen, for not being able to keep everybody happy? A friend will tell me both that I am OK and that I should put my act together as I have handled worse before. Most of all a friend stays with you, no matter what.

Alas, friends like that are hard to come by. To find a kindred spirit is a gift that we do not receive in every setting we are in.
That is the time for writing your best friend a letter, and then read it. You will be surprised how wise you are! Then it could be the time for writing a blog. Actually being your own best friend is not a second best, it is the only way of knowing how to be a friend to others.

In November I take part in the NaBloPoMo,  in the BlogHer network. I post every day on “The Untangling Tens” what women do when life gets tangled. These are the ten tools that worked for those I have asked, what are yours?

All pictures in this blog are taken by me, Solveig Mjolsnes. This one has is taken at my dear friend Britt Arnhilds house, I”ll tell the story later! Have a look at her blog!