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Thoughts on the Holocaust

Rohingya baby

Holocaust memorial day was yesterday. It is a day that most people don’t even know about. Holocaust day is nothing like Halloween or Valentine’s day where the stores display shelves upon shelves with paraphernalia, gifts and other stuff that bring us into a festive mode. Never have I seen a magazine full of ideas for how to celebrate Holocaust day. I have never been to a gift shop that has been full of decorations we can buy to make our house festive for Holocaust day. And we know why. One should not get festive when one remembers the brutal and horrendous murders of six million Jews. One gets in a sober mood by remembering the world’s worst genocide.

But I still wonder why the day is not a bigger deal. Why don’t we stop the world on January 27th? Why don’t we all take some time off and reflect? Why did it happen? Why didn’t anybody stop the massacres? Why weren’t there more people who spoke up and who overcame their fear? Why did so many innocent people have to die in the most gruesome way? How can we stop it from happening again? Is it happening?

Perhaps we don’t take the time to ponder these questions because we are afraid of the answers. Perhaps we are afraid to face ourselves an our own fears? Would we have defended the Jews? Would we have tried to save them? Would we have put our own lives, careers and reputation at risk to save the ones we knew were innocent? Or would we have just pretended we didn’t know what was going on?

I am aware that comparing anything that is happening today to what happened during the Holocaust is risky. And I don’t do it lightly. There has never been a genocide of the same magnitude as the Holocaust. Hopefully there will never again be. But we see similar attitudes and actions today. The attitude the Nazis had towards their own race, and towards the Jews we can see clearly in the attitude the Burma government and religious leaders have towards their own population, the Rohingya people. Some of the same things the Nazis said about the Jews, the Burma government and religious leaders say about the Rohingya. Like: They are a virus that we need to get rid of. Like: We need to either send them all out of our country, or we need to fence them all in. Like: We can withhold food and medicine from them for as long as we find it necessary.

Rohingya in camp

When trying to get the world to see that what is happening to the Rohingya right now is looking more and more like a genocide, the ears that are hearing appear deaf. When telling leaders and investors that the country they are doing business with, and the leaders they wine and dine are in fact responsible for the death of thousands, we only get a sad look and comments like: Yes, it is really bad. We hope that our investments and our engagement will bring about change in due time.

Yesterday, one of the 300 survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Roman Kent (85) had tears in his eyes when he recalled the horror he had survived. And his plea to the world, “Let us add one more command to the ten commandments: You shall not be a bystander.”

While feeling very reluctant to add or take away from Scripture, I still think that Mr. Kent’s point is worth considering. Are we bystanders to another genocide? Are we just observing when we should be acting?

Are we going to remember the death of thousands of innocent victims 70 years from now and ask ourselves: Why did the world let this happen? Or are we going to change history by starting to protest what is happening to the Rohingya?

 

How chipmunks taught me about justice

chipmunk 2I went to the IMAX theater with Kristin and we watched a movie about a chipmunk trying to survive in a world where most of the creatures were bigger and more dangerous. The chipmunk diligently collected acorns for the winter. He stored it in his little home and as the cold season approached his storage grew. He was confident that his hard work was going to pay off. He would be able to make it through winter with the acorns he had collected. Half way through the movie, an older chipmunk finds the storage of our chipmunk friend and steals almost all the acorns.

I felt so angry while watching this. What a mean, selfish, low-life, no integrity creature this old chipmunk was. The audacity. The complete lack of respect for other people’s property. The self-centeredness. I was cheering for the young chipmunk, and desperately hoped he would get his acorns back.

Then it dawned on me that I was getting upset about the unfairness of a chipmunk’s life. I realized I was angry on behalf of a small animal whose food was stolen. While it was indeed unfair and mean, I remembered that I had read in the news that very same day that 1% of the world’s population owns 48% of the world’s assets, and that of the remaining 52%, 46% was owned by 20% of the world’s population. If you don’t like math, just remember this: 80% of the people of the world have to share 5.5% of everything there is. This made me think that a few old chipmunks have stolen all the food from the ones who work so hard to make a living, and they are left with almost nothing. There is something really, really wrong with a world that allows a handful of people to enjoy 94.5% of everything that is, and then everybody else is left with just a few scraps. Selfish chipmunks is one thing. Selfish humans who take what they don’t need nor deserve and let children and their families starve is a whole other story.

In the movie, the young, hard-working, honest and courageous chipmunk won. He got all his acorns back while the dishonest, selfish, coward of a chipmunk who stole what was not his was left in the cold and probably died during the winter. It is not looking like the world’s chipmunks will endure the same fate. At the rate it is going, according to Oxfam, they will keep gaining acorns, making the poor poorer and the rich richer. How I wish we would care more.

 

Feeling as insignificant as fly poop

business mtngI was sitting in a office belonging to the biggest corporation in Norway. In front of me, across a big table were two well-dressed men. Everything about them matched. Their shoes, their suits, the color of their shirts, the hairdos and even their fingernails were statements of perfection, class and power. Before entering the office I had walked through the corporation’s headquarter, and it appeared more like a small kingdom to me. Once inside its walls it seemed like you became a loyal, faithful and devoted citizen of the kingdom. All the people spoke highly of the company they served, and if what they said was true, it was a flawless company. The company’s only aim and mission was to make the world better, safer, happier and healthier. That they worked here was only because their life ambitions were the same as the company’s. They would die pursuing the dream of a perfect world. You do understand, don’t you, that the company was an oil company.

“So what do you want from us?” they asked. It seemed like the question was genuine. It had been easy to answer the question: What do you want? when I practiced it at home before the meeting. I wanted them to give us money. Money to help children. Money to build schools. Money to train medics and to help the sick. Money to develop new methods to improve food production. But sitting there, across the big table, in the glass office, with the expensive suits and the high tech reception that was 100% digitized, I suddenly felt so small and stupid. Why would they give us money? We were like a speck of fly excrement on the top of their polished shoes.

And when I asked, the answer was as expected: “We don’t give money to groups like yours. We do of course give money to charity, but then we give to the ones who really matter, like the UN for example.” They went on to tell me why they couldn’t give money to any of the Partners projects. They also said that just because they were interested in oil drilling in Burma they weren’t directly or indirectly responsible for human rights abuses. And hearing what they said, I didn’t disagree. Even idealistic aid workers like me see the need for businesses to develop in order for a country to prosper. I just wished they had chosen a different business than oil drilling, and a different area than the ocean outside Rakhine state where currently the worst kinds of human rights abuses are taking place.

The honest truth is that there are times when I wish that my job was selling a product that promised beauty, long life and prosperity. It is so hard always promoting life-saving products, such as food, to starving, poor and oppressed people. There are times when I wish I did work for one of those large charities, the ones who claim to only be spending 10% on admin, but who still manage to find money to pay for ads that cost thousands of dollars every month, who still have a list of employees that is longer than our list of donors, and the ones who end up getting the sponsorships from large corporations who feel that giving to the big charities is the safest thing.

girl in Mae Ra MuuBut then I think like this: I know that we are not insignificant. Not for the 911 kids that get a home to live in because of Partners. Not to the hundreds of people who received eye glasses and to the thousands who received medical care. Not to the 71 farmers who got training in agriculture and who learned how they can produce food for their families and communities. Not for the hungry Rohingya people who received 94.9 tons of rice. Not for the 10,000 Kachin who have access to community care. Not to the thousands who have received food and blankets. Not to the almost 100,000 children who are allowed to go to school. To them we are not small and insignificant. To them we are a life-source. To them our help makes the difference between life and death.

boy w hat for winter warmth

Some times I wish that the corporations, agencies and other groups that say No when we ask for support would be able to see the children’s smiles when they get their rations of food, their new shoes, the opportunity to go to school, or the news that they can still live with their parents instead of moving to a refugee camp to study. Some times I wish they had understood that for the price of one of their high-tech computer systems, we could develop land and grow food to feed hundreds of people, we could train community health workers and birth attendants. We could pay teachers and buy school books. I wish it was a little easier to make the world better for the people who need a better world. And, who knows, it may change soon. Next time I meet the men with the suits they may be asking me how they can help. Miracles do happen still.

 

 

How to think about nothing and doing intervals while learning time tables

My youngest daughter, Kristin, is, in her own words, a doer, not a sitter-stiller. This is, in her mind, why she is not very fond of reading books. She was asking me what the heck we did when we were small and done with school, homework and soccer practice. We didn’t have Internet, computers, cable TV and computer games, so what did we do? Just sit there? Thinking about what a cool world it would be if somebody would hurry up and invent the Internet?

I told her I was hardly never bored. I read a lot of books, I bragged. That was my favorite thing to do. We also played board games. Then we would listen to the radio. Some nights there were music programs and I would sit close to the radio and keep my tape recorder on. When my favorite songs played, I would hit Record.

We talked some about that. She cannot relate to recording cassette tapes. “You guys didn’t have Spotify?”

Sitting still in not Kristin's thing

Sitting still in not Kristin’s thing

But then we moved on the her difficulty with reading books. “I just need to be doing stuff instead,” she said. And I have seen that. She is the kind of person who has to do push ups between her math and her science homework, and who needs to go outside and kick the ball before starting to prepare for a test. I told her that it is also a discipline, the same way as she disciplines herself to run intervals. You have to train your brain to concentrate, I said. It seldom comes naturally. Especially nowadays when we are always moving from one story to another on the internet, and rarely able to focus for many minutes at the time. We need to train our concentration muscle the way we train our biceps.

She told me about how they at track & field practices they sometimes do this. “Our coach tells us that we are not allowed to think about anything,” she smiled. “But that is impossible.” So we spent some time talking about what it means to try to think about nothing, and how we can do it. At first we can try to do it for a few seconds. Then a little longer. Soon we will be masters at thinking about nothing.

Of course, thinking about nothing is not thinking about nothing. It is letting go of all the noise that is in our heads and around us all the time. It is quieting our hearts and minds so that we can hear and see what really matters. This is where I believe we find God. This is where I believe he will speak to us.

Here helps to empty one's head.

Here helps to empty one’s head.

Tonight I am not thinking about nothing. I am thinking about a million things. Just while writing this, I have been skipping back and forth from my email to the news, to another like on Facebook and then trying to tidy up the kitchen. In my head are the names of people I need to talk to, email, call, meet. There are issues that are difficult to deal with, and there are lots of deadlines approaching. There isn’t really a quiet place anywhere in my crowded head. But I know I need to move away some clutter and find place for some quiet. If not, I will end up like all the athletes who over-train, thinking that the more hours of exercise they can force their body to endure, the better they will become. And then they end up with permanent injuries.

 

The true meaning of Christmas: To shop, eat and get drunk (?)

I spent some time yesterday thinking back on the best memories I have from different Christmases.

One memory is from a hospital in northern Thailand where I had given birth to a baby the day before Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve there was a knock on the door and then my good friend entered dressed in a Santa hat, and with a full dinner in her basket. She brought lamb chops, potatoes and all kinds of condiments. For a few hours she had left husband and children alone just so she could spend some time with our little family, and to bring some Christmas cheer. With my gut torn up by a C-section, boobs that were about to explode and a body that felt like it was leaking both here and there, her dinner and the love warmed me more than an electric blanket.

Sure a good thing that somebody came to cheer us up!

Sure a good thing that somebody came to cheer us up!

I remember my husband and my first Christmas together. We were so poor we could only afford to spend ten simple dollars on each other. I bought him a pair of fleece socks and he bought me markers. Strangely enough, I remember these gifts better than i remember gifts we have given each other in later years, when we have been able to afford more expensive stuff. Perhaps because not as much thought has been behind those gifts.

What parent doesn’t remember his or her child’s homemade gifts, and not to mention, the look of expectancy in their faces while we unwrap the pieces of art: A jewelry box decorated with more glue than beads, a knitted pot holder with holes and uneven stitches, a handmade card complete with enough spelling errors to give teachers a breakdown. I value these gifts, with all their imperfections, more than the most expensive diamond (which is an impossible comparison since diamonds have no value whatsoever for me. But I hope you understand the analogy).

I will never forget Christmases spent with refugees and poor people in Burma. If you ever want to understand the essence of Christmas I recommend sitting with these people under the starry sky while they sing Christmas carols while thanking God that he came and became a baby. Suddenly all stress and worry is forgotten, and only the most important remains: Faith, hope and fellowship with one another. During these times I have felt neither race, class or generation gaps. I have not felt that my makeup wasn’t on right, or that I underdressed for the occasion. Like magic we have melted together like one big pot of Beef Stroganoff, each one of us with our own infirmities.

Christmas a different way

Christmas a different way

These people are able to do something we are not so good at. They have chosen to prioritize the real values, the ones that will last. I am not talking about the added flab around our waist due to too many Christmas calories, but I am talking about the strength one receives from fellowship and care for one another.

When I think back on all our Christmases, I don’t remember the times when we had the most amount of money and bought expensive gifts for each other. I don’t remember the times when I had been able to clean the whole house for the holidays. Our decorations have never followed a particular color scheme, and we will never be considered experts on Christmas interior. But that doesn’t matter. What is left as the good memories are the people and the community, the feeling of belonging and being loved. I think that is what all of us actually want for Christmas. We want it so much more than the new iPhone.

Last year we invited some refugees from Burma over to make cookies with us. I will never forget one of the things they said:

“Here in this country people are not as concerned with fellowship with one another. But they are very interested in buying stuff for Christmas. In our village everybody would gather and celebrate Christmas together. We sang carols and made good food. We miss our own village during Christmas time. We are often so lonely here during this time.”

The true meaning of Christmas? I think it is what we all want. Togetherness in a place where we are allowed to be imperfect and true. The feeling of acceptance, even in our failures. Love that says: I know you don’t have it all together, but that is OK. I am in the same boat. If only one add some marzipan and chocolate to this mixture, one has the recipe for a good Christmas.

I am going to sit down with a cup of coffee now. With my coffee I will have a cookie my daughter made yesterday. It is not a piece of art, but it was made with a lot of love. I can taste it.

This is why I believe Giving Tuesday could create peace on earth

giving tuesday

It happens every year. I suddenly realize it is soon Christmas and I haven’t done what I intended to do a year ago: Buy all the Christmas presents and have it ready before December 1 so I can enjoy the season. Today, my mission was twofold. I was going to stores to see if some of them would want to buy some bracelets refugee women and other poor women had made. I have designed cards to go along with them that explains that by buying a bracelet, you help a child go to school for a year. In my mind it is the perfect gift for the person who has everything. In my naiveté I thought store owners would love the idea and gladly sell them for no profit other than a much better conscience for selling all the other stuff. My second mission was to see if some potential gifts popped off the shelf and called my name, or the name of some of my relatives who expect a present from me.

I didn't think they looked THAT ugly. Do you?

I didn’t think they looked THAT ugly. Do you?

At the first store I went to I met a lady whom I referred to as the bi_ch for the rest of the day.With utter contempt she stared me down and sighed a sigh that said it all: “Are you freakin’ kidding with me, lady? Do you really think I will sell these hideous bracelets in my store?” She rolled her eyes while she looked at me, and said loud: “Where would I put these, they don’t fit anywhere.” I felt my voice disappear into my stomach and said, like I had thought when I entered, that she could just put them on the counter next to the cash register. I didn’t really see that it would cause a huge problem. “Honestly,” she said, “no, thanks.” Then she turned on the stiletto heals and stamped out of the room, leaving me alone, feeling like a little school girl who had been caught cheating on a test.

The second store was a little better, although the lady behind the counter said: “Do you mean I should sell these and make nothing myself?” I said that, well, yes, that had been my original thought, but if it was hard for her to imagine doing that, we could give her a percentage of the sale. Better that than not selling anything at all.

After this I had the taste of rejection way up my throat. It is my least favorite feeling in the world. It makes me want to lay down on my bed and cover myself with a blanket. It also makes me want to drink alcohol for lunch.

I thought that to shake the feeling off I could act like a normal shopper. So I walked aimlessly around in some stores, trying to find stuff that people might want. It made me dizzy. I felt like my head started spinning. I felt like I was getting sick. Because all I saw was stuff that I didn’t need, and I couldn’t really find much that my friends or family actually needed either. And then I saw all these over-eager sales people being way too nice because they wanted me to buy their stuff. And all I could think of was what would they say if I pulled out my bracelets and asked if they would sell them for no profit. They would not be as enthusiastic, I am sure of it.

Opening my email today the inbox was cluttered with all kinds of sales and special deals. There is no end to it. On top of all this, I kept getting calls from telemarketers who insisted on giving me good deals on this and that. I didn’t want any of it, and I didn’t even want to talk to people whose voices sounded like soft butter. Then I went to get the mail, and what had filled up my mailbox? You got it, pages upon pages of ideas for how to spend my money on more stuff.

Today is a day that I like so much better. We call it Giving Tuesday. They goal of the day is to create a opposite movement. We are tired of the madness and the materialism. We are tired of mailboxes full of advertisements for things we don’t want.  We are tired of stressed out women rolling their eyes at us because they realize they won’t be making any money from us. We are tired of long lines to the malls, full parking lots, crowded stores with people pushing to get their ways, heavy bags that give us back pains, and mile-long lines to pay at the cash register.

We are tired of getting encouraged to buy more and more stuff when none of us really need it. We don’t want to buy all their things that are using up the world’s resources, killing monkeys and other species,  and forcing men, women and children work for peanuts (not literally). We want to change the meaning of Christmas from shopping, spending and stressing to giving, caring and loving.

I would encourage you to read up on this great idea. You can find lots of info on it HERE, and also HERE. Have you ever taken an UNselfie? Well, you should try. Here are some great examples. If all of us started giving selflessly on #givingtuesday, I am pretty sure the world would start looking very different. Some stores may go out of business, but the employees could do other things, like promote #givingtuesday. Or if they absolutely want to sell stuff, sell fair-trade stuff. Or Partners Bracelets. It is a lot better than selling new iPhones.

This is my unselfie from last year. I stuck to my commitment and gave money to Partners instead. I will this year too. So much less stressful. And so much more for your money!

This is my unselfie from last year. I stuck to my commitment and gave money to Partners instead. I will this year too. So much less stressful. And so much more for your money!

The benefits of losing everything you wrote in one day

Write+exam+study+xxx

The trick is to fit thousands of words and hundreds of pages worth of knowledge into one small essay.

I am terribly late. In just 18 days (or it may be less by now. I just don’t want to think about it) I need to submit the biggest paper of the semester for my class. As always I have put off starting way too long, and now I am regretting it. Like a cartoon dog with ADHD I am throwing papers around, trying to find the perfect quote that can confirm that my thoughts are correct, if not genius.

Today was the day I was going to get a good solid introduction and some of the content down. For six whole hours I sat in front of the computer and resisted (sometimes) the urge to check Facebook instead of writing my thesis. Satisfied that I had 1/5 of my paper down at the end of the day, I decided to close the program. Bewildered as I tend to be at times, I told the program not to save my whole day’s work and in one nano-second it was all gone. I said some words that are better not repeated. I had to walk around the office for a while. I needed to take many deep breaths. I had to share my misfortune with some people who would tell me how sorry they were. Then I started all over and tried to re-write what I had written once already. The second draft wasn’t half as good, but I just don’t remember what it was that made the first draft so much better.

My one consolation in my deep despair is that having to start over again, I will know the material so much better. Boy, do I know about Psalm 103:6. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

Having to rewrite so many Bible verses has given me more time to reflect on them, and to let God speak to my heart. At the end of the day I am more convinced than ever that God’s heart is justice. That he wants his people to care for the poor, the oppressed, the vulnerable, the downtrodden. We are to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to care for the sick, to invite strangers into our homes (not weird men on the street, but immigrants, refugees, homeless, lonely and perhaps sad people), to visit prisoners. As I remember from my first draft,  a Bible verse that told us to spend more money on stuff for Christmas or to get some more imported steaks at an exclusive restaurant was never mentioned. No, I am pretty sure there are no verses with that being the admonition.

I have a book next to me as I am doing research on human rights, advocacy and Christian faith. The book is called Generous Justice and is written by Timothy Keller. I would recommend it if you are serious about following God. And even if you are not, you may benefit from reading it. In it he says, for example:

 

Caring for these...

Caring for these…

If God’s character includes a zeal for justice that leads him to have the tenderest love and closest involvement with the socially weak, then what should God’s people be like? They must be people who are likewise passionately concerned for the weak and vulnerable. He continues by saying: If believers in God don’t honor the cries and claims of the poor, we don’t honor him, whatever we profess, because we hide his beauty from the eyes of the world.

Do I hear a WOW?

 

 

 

Helping others to help myself. Self care

The Good Samaritan. Did he have pure motives? Beautiful painting by van Gogh.

The Good Samaritan. Did he have pure motives? Beautiful painting by van Gogh.

Once, some years ago, my daughter, Elise, who has always been wise beyond her years, asked this: I have some money I would like to give the refugees, but the reason I want to give it is so that people will think highly of me. If that is my motive, should I or should I not give the money? Did I mention she was 11 when she asked this?

I told her she should give the money, because the money has the same value whether it is given by a selfish bastard, or by a selfless nun. But that her goal should be to work on her heart so that eventually she would start giving simply because it was the right thing to do. Not because of the praise, or other benefits, she will receive. Eventually, I said, the joy of giving will be a reward of itself. If people know that you gave or not will be of less importance.

I honestly don’t remember what she ended up doing.

I have thought about this though, because living in a rich nation where people have everything they need at all times, where people seldom have to fight really hard to get food on the table and warm socks to wear in the winter, I am often faced with people who want to help for the wrong reasons. They want to help because they want to feel good. They want to help because they want to be challenged. They want to help because they want to have worth, and what better way to increase your worth than to be seen helping starving children?

That kind of attitude sickens me. I heard once: The poor don’t need your charity. They need justice. And justice, what is that? Sometimes I think justice would be to place all of us in a slum where cockroaches abide close to our sleeping mat, where food is luxury and medicines only for the rich and privileged. Justice would be to allow the poor to storm our houses, our shopping malls and our cruise ships.

It is a good thing for you, and me, that I am not the judge of the world.

Is it right to do the right things for the wrong reasons? Is it OK to fly to Africa (or to Asia, or anywhere else for that matter) and spend some days giving of our abundance, get some photos taken and then go home and feel better about our lifestyles in the small part of the world that spends most of the world’s resources? A lot of people are doing just that nowadays. Travel agencies advertise for vacations with a meaning. People say they are tired of just vacationing on the beach. Now they want to go to an orphanage too.

To be totally frank, I don’t know. Part of me says: No way! No to charity tourism. No to turning poor people’s dwellings into zoos so that some rich people can have a good experience and feel like they did a good deed, and then go back home and continue their extravagant lifestyles.

We have all met them, the nerd outreach teams.

We have all met them, the nerd outreach teams.

 

But then there is a part of me who thinks that it can be good to take the rich to experience the lives of the poor too. The experience may change them. The afternoon they spend with orphans blowing bubbles and throwing balloons in the air may actually make them realize that these are kids just like our own kids. They just don’t have the opportunities our own kids have. Would they have come to that conclusion if they had stayed on the beach? Or in their own living room watching the news? Most likely not.

In my country there is a group of people who wants to send immigrants and refugees out of the country faster than I can say Asshole. They want to give less money in foreign aid than we currently do because in their mind the people who are poor are largely responsible for their own problems. They also want to prohibit begging since beggars mostly are criminals or plain lazy. It often occurs to me that their inhumane attitude must come from the fact that not one of them have had dinner with a refugee, they have never wiped the nose of an orphan, and they have never sat down to share a cup of tea with a beggar. They have never actually spent any time with the people whom they reject. It is likely their attitudes will never change, unless they become friends with one of the people they despise.

Our goal must be to work for a just world. Our goal must be that the goods will be distributed in such a way that we all can have full stomachs when we go to bed, be warm enough, feel safe, get medicine when we are sick, study, work and dare to dream about the future. The best thing would be if we all willingly gave up some of what we think of as ours to give to them, and then the problem was solved. We all know it is not that easy.

Then there are the times when the chemistry is just right.

Then there are the times when the chemistry is just right. Here is my good friend, Haavard with new friends on the border of Burma.

So, the answer to the question I asked myself is that, yes, sometimes one has to do the right thing for the wrong reason. Eventually that may turn into doing the right thing for the right reason.

It reminds me of when I emptied my closet and gave the clothes to refugees. I wanted to help, that is true. But I also wanted an excuse to buy new clothes. The refugees who were blessed with my old clothes were happy. They needed clothes. And I, I confirmed the theory some people have about humans being corrupt, selfish and even dishonest.

 

 

 

 

How an expensive power bill can make you thankful for healthy legs

Originally posted on Oddny's Blog:

There is a photo that has been haunting me all day.

Another haunting thing is the huge power bill we got yesterday.

This has been the most expensive power-month in the history of Norway. It has never been more expensive—ever, ever. The reason: It has been very, very cold, and the power companies accidentally sold a lot of electricity to Germany and other countries last summer. Now there is not enough for us. They claim they forgot that we would have a winter. The consequence for me: We got the most expensive power bill in the history of Gumaers. 939 USD to be exact. 5500 NKr to be exact. And that was with no heaters on at night and hardly none during the day. Must be the showers every other day. (Is this too much personal information? Sorry. I shower after every workout, just to get that straight. Some times…

View original 261 more words

The search for significance. Looking all the wrong places.

Today I lost it. The world is for sure joining its forces against me. I was denied the grant to help fund my new book. And get this, this happened a day after I got a crappy grade on my exam in human rights and advocacy. As if this is not enough to ruin my day I can add a list of strikes against me:

A good friend nominated me for a women’s prize, but my name must have gotten lost in the pile of other names because I never even made the list of the people the committee recommended. (Or perhaps the nominating committee just held their stomachs, pointed to my name and laughed through the whole meeting).

I called, emailed, texted and wrote to a dozen people about Partners, and they never even bothered replying to me.

I wrote articles that I personally thought were masterpieces and got polite replies back from a long list of magazines and newspapers saying that they are sorry they cannot publish my piece this time, but good luck to you.

My blog is not gaining any followers.

My Instagram pictures have fewer likes than my children’s.

My husband got a better grade on his exam than I did, and that despite the fact that his writing is crap, and he spent two hours on it.

The new government in our country sucks so bad I am starting to feel like hiding the fact that I am Norwegian. I feel that even this could be a reason for me to fail in life.

And now the sheets I hang out to dry got rained on.

My daughter gave me a makeover some days ago. It was fun and it made me feel beautiful. But, strangely, it didn't make me more popular. It also didn't turn me into a better person. But, did you know how to put on bronzer?

My daughter gave me a makeover some days ago. It was fun and it made me feel beautiful. But, strangely, it didn’t make me more popular. It also didn’t turn me into a better person. But, did you know how to put on bronzer?

All around me I see people who succeed at everything they do. In fact, some of them have succeeded even before they start. Pieces are published in magazines, newspapers and online that get shared and commented on, and I read it and think that my stuff is so much better. Books get published and become bestsellers, and I think: Who likes this stuff? People wake up pretty. Others seem to have all the time in the world to go for runs, hikes, bike rides and exotic trips with their backpacks and tent. Me, I am feeling lucky the days I have time to take the dog for a walk for 30 minutes.

Everybody else seems to have the coolest friends and they are always getting together in the evenings wearing their nice clothes and perfectly manicured nails and drink wine from pretty glasses while they laugh at each other’s jokes and encourage each other. Me, I am often so tired that I spend the evenings at home, watching TV and eating potato chips.

Okey, we may not hang with the people with the crystal glasses. And quite frankly, when I think about it, I would rather hang out with the ones who will sit by the fire with me, drinking wine from paper cups.

Okey, we may not hang with the people with the crystal glasses. And quite frankly, when I think about it, I would rather hang out with the ones who will sit by the fire with me, drinking wine from paper cups.

The list could go on, but I feel that if I keep writing, I will put myself into depression and all the dishes piled up on my kitchen counter may never get done.

As I looked at the denial letter I got in the mail today, I honestly thought: Of course they would not grant me the money I applied for. What do they care? Plus, when will I get it? I am not very good at writing, or much else for that matter.

But then, after a while wallowing in self-pity I asked myself a question that needs to be asked. Who are you trying to impress?

I have been trying to teach my children this their whole life, but it seems I need to learn it myself to: What you do and what people think about you don’t determine your worth. It simply can’t. So often I set my own value based on my successes and failures. Obviously that means that some days I am super valuable, and other days I am completely worthless. The last week I haven’t been worth much more than the broken trashcan I use for composting.

We could say I have been feeling the way I look here.

We could say I have been feeling the way I look here.

What I have told others, and believe is true for them, is that their true worth is who they are when they take away all the exterior stuff. Our true value is not how we look, how much money we make, how many articles we get published, how many prizes we receive, or how many friends we have. Our true value is in the core of who we are.

Once Steve asked me, and I have been pondering this: “What would your worth be if you were paralyzed from the neck down, lost your hearing and your vision? Would that change my value as a human being?” If the answer is yes, then we do live in a world that places people’s value on their ability to perform, as well as on their performance. And to be totally honest, that is kind of the world we do live in.

But is it right? Of course not. A person has his or her value because of the fact that he or she is a human being, created in the image of God. Nothing can take that truth away. If I can just start believing that, and act as if it is true, then a denial letter or a bad grade won’t throw me into the sump of self-pity and depressive thoughts. It will just be a bump in the road, on the road called life.

So, here I am, on a rainy day, determined to keep striving to get better, and to aim for excellence. But at the same time as I am doing this, I will also keep reminding myself that the outcomes don’t determine my value. My value has already been set and it won’t change. In the words of Winston Churchill: Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.

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