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Posts from the ‘Family’ Category

Without a challenge life sucks

If your life seems like there are no challenges in it, then move. By that I mean, find something that challenges you, like a new mountain peak. (Steve with a bunch of crazy people who climbed for Burma last summer. It was a blast. And a challenge!)

If your life seems like there are no challenges in it, then move. By that I mean, find something that challenges you, like a new mountain peak. (Steve with a bunch of crazy people who climbed for Burma last summer. It was a blast. And a challenge!)

I read this awesome quote yesterday. I have been thinking of it ever since.

It was written by Richard Kool, an ethnographer. He was describing some Indian tribes of British Colombia, Canada.

“The Shushwap region was and is considered by the Indian people to be a rich place: rich in salmon and game, rich in below-ground food resources such as tubers and roots—a plentiful land. In this region, the people would live in permanent village sites and exploit the environs for needed resources. They had elaborate technologies for very effectively using the resources of the environment, and perceived their lives as being good and rich. Yet, the elders said, at times the world becomes too predictable and the challenge began to go out of life. Without challenge, life had no meaning.

So the elders, in their wisdom, would decide that the entire village should move, those moves occurring every 25 to 30 years. The entire population would move to a different part of the Shushwap land and there, they found challenge. There were new streams to figure out, new game trails to learn, new areas where the balsamroot would be plentiful. Now life would regain its meaning and be worth living. Everyone would feel rejuvenated and healthy.”

Sometimes we make the mistake of calling past and current tribes primitive. They may be primitive because they don’t know how to operate a smart phone. But in reading this account of the people in Shushwap I thought that we are the primitive ones.

Maybe it is time that we pack up and move to a new location. I don’t mean geographically necessarily. I think I mean to move out of the Hobbit hole that many of us like to be in. Or the comfort zone which we call it nowadays.

“At times the world becomes too predictable and the challenge began to go out of life. Without challenge, life had no meaning.”

Life without a challenge has no meaning. It's like waiting for an airplane that is late.

Life without a challenge has no meaning. It’s like waiting for an airplane that is late.

The tragedy of the the gold iPhone 5

Elise doesn't like what history reveals about humans.

Elise doesn’t like what history reveals about humans.

Three things happened yesterday.

My oldest daughter, Elise, told me about her upcoming trip to Berlin with her class. In preparation for the trip they are studying the Holocaust.

“I really don’t like to read about it, watch the movies they make us watch, and I am dreading going to the concentration camps and museums,” she said. The reason was clear: “I can’t get over the images, and the knowledge that this did in fact happen. People did this to real people. The faces of the victims haunt me. When we go to the concentration camp I am dreading being in a place where such gruesome actions happened.” She continued: “I also can’t stop thinking about the fact that these kinds of tragedies are happening today, in our world. And that makes it even worse. I just don’t want to think about it.”

Later, my youngest daughter, Kristin, came home from school. “We are learning about the slave trade at school,” she informed us. “You know, those people were treated terribly. Did you know how they were treated on the ships that took them from Africa?” She was obviously shocked at the state of mankind. She had not realized they could be that bad. The slave trade was a tragedy we still have not recovered from.

Then I saw this article: Gold iPhone Tragedy. This poor man had to wait in line for two (I repeat TWO) weeks to get a gold iPhone 5S. And the tragedy: He did not get one! He did not get his freaking gold iPhone! If that is not a tragedy, then what is! Luckily, the unlucky man got two other phones, just not the one he really wanted.

A tragedy? I looked up the meaning:

tragedy |ˈtrajidē|noun ( pl. tragedies )

an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.

The slave trade was, and still is, a tragedy. The Holocaust was a tragedy. The war in Syria is a tragedy. The ongoing abuse of civilians in Burma is a tragedy. There are plenty of tragedies in the world.

That people don’t care about these tragedies, but that they have the audacity to call not getting a gold-colored phone a tragedy, is truly a tragedy.

How have we gotten here? How are we able to take these things seriously? People waiting in lines for two weeks to get a phone they don’t even need? Teens spending more time on getting their makeup on than they spend on homework. Mothers wanting their children to looks like fashion models. Fathers dreaming of faster cars and bigger biceps. All of us focusing all our energies on stuff that don’t really matter, and not on the stuff that really matters.

I am tempted to call it a tragedy.


Hero, who are you?

Several times during one’s life, one has to write an essay about one’s heroes. I have had strong influence on the heroes my children have chosen to write about. I have not exactly bribed them, but I have made it clear that my pride in them will be so much more if they chose to write about Gandhi rather than about Justin Bieber, or about Mother Teresa rather than Miley Cyrus. I like to believe my girls have decided on their own that some of the greatest heroes in history are not the ones who have made a name for themselves because they look or sing good.


But yesterday my youngest, Kristin, caught me by surprise. Her essay about Cristiano Ronaldo, also known as CR7, was half-way done by the time I saw it. She was not going to change hero. She had no desire whatsoever to write about Martin Luther King jr. or about Gladys Aylward. She wants to spend her life playing soccer, so who is better to look up to than CR7. He is the best. He is cute. He is rich. He has it made.

I told Kristin to try to think of somethings about CR7’s character that made her admire him other than his soccer skills and cute face. And she found plenty. He gives lots of money to the poor. He went to Banda Ache to help after the tsunami in 2004. I felt like there was hope. She had chosen a hero who not only plays soccer well, but who cares about others. At least a little, it appears.

Her essay/powerpoint turned out well. She was proud and I was too.

But today I have thought, again, about the heroes our society promote. No wonder our kids chose the rich and the famous when we, the adults, make it look like they are the ones to admire.

Naomi, daughter #2 overheard a mom the other day forbid her daughter to walk into a store selling cheap clothes. “We don’t want to be seen in there,” she snared.  Another mother admonished her toddler when the toddler wanted a pair of brightly colored pants: “Honey, this is not the color that is in-style this season.”

It surprises me that these kind of people, saying these kinds of things actually exist in real life. And it blesses me that I at least have raised my kids to recognize those kinds of values for the total bullshit it actually is. It gives me hope for my kids. It also gives me hope for mankind.

I want to believe that deep down inside most of us know that the real heroes of our world are the ones who spend time with refugees, who help the poor, who care for orphans, who spend time with the unlovelies, who live simply, who share what they have, who are not afraid to be seen with the “wrong” people, who sees each person as valuable in the sight of God, who recognizes that each person is created in the image of God and has the same value as I do.

I have this much hope in our race. I hope you do too.

This woman is Rohingya. She saw her son killed, her daughter in law die, her grandson die, her village ruined. She is unwanted in her country. But she is not unwanted. She has great value. She is worth as much I am, as all of us are. She is unique.

This woman is Rohingya. She saw her son killed, her daughter in law die, her grandson die, her village ruined. She is unwanted in her country. But she is not unwanted. She has great value. She is worth as much I am, as all of us are. She is unique. (Photo by Kim Sorensen)

The happiness report

What is happiness for you? This photo was taken by Steve in Kachin state. It is one of our favorite photos.

What is happiness for you? This photo was taken by Steve in Kachin state. It is one of our favorite photos.

Today I was skimming through the happiness report, a report done by the UN. Read the report here. I fully plan to read the whole document when I get the time. I think it is interesting to read about where people are the happiest, and why. I have to ask myself if I am happy from time to time too.

And, many of you know, I have written about happiness on the blog many times before.

Last week I wrote about the Kachin in hiding who told us that they have everything they need. It was shocking to hear that. Especially when I looked around at where they were living. Bullets holes decorated the walls. The toilets reeked. The food left much to be desired.

I met a man and a woman. They travelled for hours to meet us. At first they were shy to talk, but little by little they started sharing. They told us about their brother in law who had been brutally killed by the Burma Army just a few months ago. He had waited for church to start and went to tend his fields in the meantime. That was the last time they saw him alive. Days later they found his tortured and destroyed body hidden in a sugarcane field. A bullet hole went through his chest. He was dressed in a uniform that did not belong to him.

It was hard for them to recall the loss of a relative, a neighbor and a good friend. They knew that it could just as easily have been one of them who was caught that day.

“The Burma Army comes to our village a lot,” they told us. “When they do, we need to pick up whatever we have and run to our hide site. Sometimes we are able to bring blankets. Other times we don’t have time to bring anything.” They told us that they cannot even count how many times they have had to run. Perhaps 20 times in a year. Each time they stay in their hide site from one to three, four days. Depending on the fighting.

“It is hard to run and hide so often,” they said. “We need to put up new shelters every time. It is often cold and rainy. The mosquitos and other bugs are terrible.” They also said that it was impossible for the children to go to school now because their daily routines kept getting interrupted. “We are also not able to produce enough food,” they said. “Since we are always busy running from soldiers, we cannot work our land properly, and this makes it so we cannot get enough harvest.”

They told us their story as if it was a normal story to tell. For their people the story is nothing out of the ordinary. They have all experienced similar fates.

But for me it mattered a lot. It confirmed that I was in the right place. It confirmed that I needed to keep sharing the stories of the people in Burma, be it the Kachin, the Rohingya or any of the other ethnic groups who are currently suffering under a regime who says they have changed, but who actually have not.

What is happiness? For the man and the woman I talked to happiness would be to be allowed to live in peace in their village. It would be to grow their own food, and to keep their animals. It would be to see their children go to school. It would be to have medicine when they or anybody in their family got sick. It would be to live with the absence of fear.

They never mentioned the need for a new purse, for Botox to cover up their wrinkles, or for a car that would run a little faster. They never mentioned remodeling their homes, nor a new diet they were on. They just said they want to live in peace. For them that would be happiness.

To become, not to be

We were born to always move towards something. We are becoming something.

We were born to always move towards something. We are becoming something.

I have gotten myself elected into the PTA. Not that there is a rush of people who want the honor. Still, as I sat at our first meeting last night I had the time to reflect on why I wanted to be there. What do I want to contribute to the children and adults at my daughter’s school? We talked about quality of learning. We talked about vision. We talked about health and fitness. We talked about safety. All of those things are valuable, and I could, with a clear conscious and willing spirit give of myself for any of those causes.

When I thought of all the things, and what really matters to me, I decided that what really matters to me, more than anything, is that I want the kids at our school, and their parents and teachers to start living for what really matters.

It is important for me that children and adults can choose what they think is right, not just what society tells them is right. It is important that we are part of forming a generation that not only concerns itself with its own success, to such a degree that they forget the others, in their own community and in the rest of the world.

I found it hard to express my thoughts, but tried to and sent it to the PTA leader. When he replied I was so encouraged, because he had written what I thought in a much better way than I myself could have. This is what he said:

“Focusing on our façade, material possessions, and living up to others expectations destroy all of us on the inside. We are living an I-life and a me-life.

How can we protect a robust self-image and at the same time the desire to challenge ourselves? I think we as adults need to be brave and speak up, stand firm, create a new culture with different, simple, down-to-earth, non-material values so that teachers, the school, and our politicians dare to make other choices in their lives, and dare to support choices that are not so popular.

I like a concept that I have called iBecome. I become. Every minute, every second, every thought, every choice, every look, and every movement I make become who I am. I have a motto that I like: “It is better to become better than to be better.” Our mindset needs to change—in our thoughts.

We have the possibility to shift our focus and think that we are always on the way to somewhere. We are not defined by being dumb, clever, good, best, beautiful, sexy etc. Instead we are always moving towards becoming who we are. If you see the world in that way you are continuously making room to make new choices and less of a need to defend one’s self, one’s façade and accomplishments. Instead one can focus on getting better, everybody from one’s own level—all from one’s own situation. That is the kind of “better” we need to strive for.”

This is what I want to strive for. How about you?

These are a few of my favorite things

This has got to be one of my favorite ways to spend time.

This has got to be one of my favorite ways to spend time, on my bicycle with my family.

Here is another reblog from me. I wrote it in 2011, during the cold of winter.

These are my favoritest times (Yes, I know Favoritest is not actually a word).

Disclaimer: Obviously, like any mother and wife, my favorite thing is when my kids say they love me and Steve kisses me, but these are my favoritest things beside the obvious ones:

 -When I have  a whole playlist of new music when I go for my run.

-When I go cross country skiing and don’t meet a single person.

-When there is lasagna leftovers.

-When the whole house was just cleaned (usually on Saturday afternoons).

-When I have a pretty new and really cool outfit to wear that makes me look like I know my style.

-When somebody does the dishes without me asking (read: Nagging).

-When I smell spring (which usually is the smell of mud and melting snow, mixed with rotten leaves from last year).

-When I am reading a really good book and have the time to sit and read it while drinking coffee and eating chocolate.

-When I noticed that my tricepts and bicepts have gotten a tiny bit bigger.

-When it is crisp, but warm (Norway warm, like 4 degrees or more) outside, the sun is shining and I have the time to be outside.

-When my dog obeys me. (I should not even have to write this, but it is a rare occurrence)

-When I finally did get around to changing the sheets, and they are clean and fresh and smell nice.

-When I have slippers to wear.

-When I have a real nice cold beer waiting for me in the fridge and potato chips (just a very small bag, ten chips.)

-When I have crossed out all the things on my to do list (yes, I do write things like: Get dressed and put food in the fridge on my list. Is that so bad? I also write things like: Find 84000 dollars for starving kids. Have not crossed that off yet.)

-When George Clooney comes over for dinner. (Ha, I got you there. I just wrote this to see if you were still awake. George Clooney rarely comes over. In fact, he never does.)

So these are my favorite times today. Tomorrow they may be different. I should add too that I like it when I have tissue paper in my pocket to wipe my nose when I go skiing or running.

What are your favorite times?

I am what I choose

Here is another reblog from me. I wrote this one in 2011.

Our lives are a string of decisions.

Our lives are a string of decisions.

I have said this before, but since it is so true, I will repeat it: The freedom of choice is often a burden. Because when we get to choose, we also run the risk of choosing wrong. And since we have made the choice, then the responsibility of the outcome is ours too. I like it when things go wrong and I can blame others. Don’t you? It’s easy to blame others, my husband, my kids, my country, my neighbors, my dog…

Today I feel like I have been reminded of this from a lot of angels. First I had my quiet time and the book I am reading talked about our desires. It said that if we get rid of all the fluff, then our desires and God’s are the same. Because it is God who has put the desires in our hearts to begin with. Yeah, I know this one is hard to swallow, but just think about it for a moment. And remember, you must get rid of the fluff. The lady in the book also talked about making choices and that nobody ever does anything one has not chosen to do. She said that sometimes the choice may be between the lesser of two evils. And that it is true even in a situation where there appears to be no choice. That is hard to accept. Like, it’s my own fault that I get fat when I drink too much beer? Or more seriously: Maybe I am lonely because of my own choices, or broke, or whatever.

So, in a way, I can say that I am what I have chosen to become. My life is a string of decisions.

Then my friend, Ingun, called to check on me (which she does from time to time because she is such a good person) and we talked about the future. And we both agreed that there are times when it would be easier to be told what to do than to actually be given the freedom to choose. (We of course probably didn’t really mean that, we just said it. Because if our freedom to choose was taken away, we would hate life. It would be like being forced to peel potatoes outside with only cold water and it was rainy and windy and cold like it is now.)

A little later I got an email from another good friend, Lynn, who said this: Someone asked me about the wrong decisions I had made in life and I answered that because I truly like who I am and where I am in life, can there really be wrong decisions as life is what shapes us to be the people we are. Without all the choices I made…..right or wrong….I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am

I thought: How true that is, and how freeing. If we truly seek to do right, follow our hearts and try to do unto others what we would want them to do to us, then, really, it is hard to go totally wrong. And even if we do go totally wrong and end up flat on our noses with scratches here and there, that is OK too. Because, like Lynn said, that is what is going to turn us into the people we are meant to be.

I made some right choices today. I chose to let the house stay a little messy and spent time with the girls instead. I chose to go for a run although it was dark and cold. I chose to chat with Elise instead of thinking of a budget (Wow, hard choice!). I also chose to eat a cinnamon roll tonight when I really should have eaten an apple. Now I am choosing to end this long blog entry.

When losing is good

My daughter Kristin’s voice was thick and full of tears and snot. She called me all the way from Sweden where she is playing a week-long soccer tournament with teams from all over Scandinavia.

“We lost,” was all she could say before the tears took over again, and she was not able to control her voice. They lost 2-1, so it was not terribly humiliating. It was a respectable loss. But for Kristin it was a catastrophe. Because this is the first loss this season. Her team has been unbeatable this year, and when they win, they do not win with just a couple of points. They win with such a huge margin that the opposing team leave the field wondering if they ever again should play a soccer game.

Kristin plays to win, which is good. But when she loses she needs to learn that there is something to learn from a loss.

Kristin plays to win, which is good. But when she loses she needs to learn that there is something to learn from a loss.

But today it was Kristin’s team’s turn to lose. “They were good,” Kristin said about the team. “But the hard thing was that we lost because the referee seemed to favor the other team.” The coach later told me that the referee did in fact take sides during the game, which made the loss even harder to deal with.

I wasn’t there for the game, so I cannot say if the referee was fair or not. All I could tell Kristin was that she must use the loss today for all it is worth and come back stronger for the game tomorrow. She sighed deeply and said she was going to try. Tomorrow Steve and I will be there watching as well, and you can bet that we won’t put up with any nonsense from any referee.

Losing is so hard. It’s hard to lose a soccer game. But it is also hard to lose an argument. Who of us want to lose? Not me.

And just as losing is so difficult, winning is so nice. It feels so good to be a winner! To be right, to be the fastest, to be the smartest, to be the prettiest.

But it is during losses we learn. It is during those times we grow, get stronger and smarter. It is in losing we can take a look at ourselves and understand how we can do better.

One has to try to lose in order to fully appreciate winning.

One has to try to lose in order to fully appreciate winning.

My little niece said something that sounded so childish at the time. We were watching my oldest daughter run a race, and she was not having one of her best days. As I sighed anxiously, my niece who is almost seven, said: “But who wants to win all the time? That is boring. One has to try to lose to, and one has to try to be in the middle. Then you can understand how all that feels too. And then you can decide to win after that.” I thought that was wise. Unless we sometimes lose, we will never know what it feels like.

Or like the proverb from Iceland says: It is only by losing one understand the value of winning.



The things I dream about

Today I have dreamt about taking some time off and enjoying a real vacation. I would like no emails, no meetings, no deadlines, and no dishes for about three weeks. I would like to read my book without getting interrupted. I would like to go for runs, hikes, and bike rides as often as I want to with no worries of time limits. I would like to do my writing in a setting that gets my creative juices flowing. I would like to go to sleep when I feel like it, and to get up when I feel like it. Today vacation is my dream.

My idea of a vacation

My idea of a vacation

Other days my dreams are about my children succeeding, about my book becoming a best-seller, and about being able to speak to all kinds of people all over the world about things that I think matter, and that I think should matter to them too.

Or perhaps this is

Or perhaps this is my dream

Some of my dreams are about having more money. Others are about owning a second car. I have dreams of running a marathon and finishing a PhD.

We all have dreams. Don’t tell me you don’t have any, because I won’t believe you. When we stop dreaming we have lost something very essential in our lives.

Our talented people at Partners have made a great little video about the dreams of children who are refugees from Burma. To watch it made me happy and sad at the same time. Happy because the children have not stopped dreaming. Sad because for so many of them their dreams will not become reality. You can watch it here

Screenshot vimeo

I want to invite you to watch the video and ask yourself what your dreams are, big and small. Let me know what they are. I would love to hear about them.

When do I hear my neighbor sing?

Book Cover sizedI have been working on translating my book, Picking Flowers on Dusty Roads, into Norwegian. It is a long, and boring task.

Since I am in the mood of the book, I have decided to share a few paragraphs here. Perhaps you will like it and want to get the whole book. Nothing would please me more!

mother and children

“It’s no secret that we in the West are masters at spending our lives running for the wrong reasons. We’ve entangled ourselves in a net of expectations and commitments that’t harder for us to get out of than it is for a fly to get out of the spider’s web. We all know that we need to stop before the spider eats us alive—sucking all the juices out of us until we’re dead.”

“I was sitting in a Karen village watching life unfold. I was an outsider and was able to observe without really taking part. The challenges of survival were more complex and involved than I probably understood. Only a few kilometers away the Burma Army loomed, carrying with them the threat of death. Minutes earlier I had talked to a villager who had shared the burden of not having enough to eat and not knowing if they’d survive the year with so little rice. The children were poorly dressed, and many had runny noses and coughs. And yet I saw joy and heard laughter. I felt a sense of peace that maybe was divine.

I always heard singing and it came from everywhere. Not exactly Elf-like, but honest and unpretentious songs that I imagined were about love and bravery. Men who were working the fields or walking through the jungle, women who were doing the laundry by the river, or carrying their babies up the hills, and children who were just running about, being kids, sang. I have never heard as much singing as I have in the presence of the Karen. I wondered, When did I last hear my neighbor sing, or my colleagues as they came to work on Monday morning? We have a reason to belt it out. We live in a free country, we have pantries full of food, microwaves, and walk-in closets, but the song coming from us often lack tunes.

On this evening I heard the singing coming from simple huts on the hills while I stood outside watching the myriads of stars dancing on the dark sky. There were no other sounds than the sounds of the jungle and the little piggy-snores coming from three piglets that were huddling together in a ditch in front of one of the houses.”

If you want to read more, you will have to get the book. You can do that here. If you rather buy it on Amazon, it is available there as well. Here is the link.


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