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Posts from the ‘Family’ Category

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.

Treating my soul like fabric with lycra

It is 10.40 pm and the house is quiet. Some days I cherish silence more than other days. Today is one of those days. You know the feeling of being on the go since 6 am, and this is the first time since you woke up that you sit down long enough to actually hear your thoughts? Today is one of those days.

Steve said today, on Skype, that I need to find time to nourish my soul. He is away, and we have not seen each other for a while. I shared the long list of things I had to do with him, and he said: “Find time for your soul or you will crack in half.” And I said that if I should find time for my soul too, then I would have to skip sleep, because there is no extra time in my day. None. And, I need my sleep.

Among many other things I did today, I went shopping for jeans with my NomNom (that is what I call my middle daughter). As she put the jeans in the bag, the sales lady said: “And remember to not use fabric softener with this one when you wash it.” I felt like crying. “Lady,” I thought, “do you understand anything about my life? Do you honestly think that I am going to sort my laundry and take out jeans that have lycra in them and wash them separately? I don’t even have time to wash my children’s socks. If the laundry get done, it is a good day. To think that I will have time to sort out the clothes that do better without fabric softeners is the most unrealistic thinking I have heard today.”

Suggesting that I find time in the day to nourish my soul felt a little like being told to find a way to wash some clothes without fabric softeners. I am not a super human.

But, as I am sitting here in my quiet house, I realize that my soul is not like jeans with lycra in them. My soul has other qualities. One of them is resilience.

There may not have been that 25 minute chunk of time to read something reflective, and spiritual today. There was no time to meditate on God’s word in a quiet place. But here is where I see that my soul got its vitamins and its strength today:

With my 11-year old daughter on my lap, getting hugged before the school bus came and took her away.

In the car laughing together with NomNom as she shared the most outrageous stories I have ever heard.

At a coffee shop, sipping fresh lattes and sharing a piece of carrot cake with my beautiful daughter.

On a bridge, laughing hysterically as we were trying to take a photo of ourselves.

Oddny and Naomi

Walking on the street, in a hurry, but still feeling the warm spring wind in our hair.

Driving, rushing at times, while watching the beauty of mountains and the ocean from the window.

Getting a warm welcome from the most loving dog God ever created.

Having a crockpot cook a delicious dinner while I was gone.

Sharing a meal with my kids who are pretty groovy after all, and my stepmom who is the coolest stepmom in the world.

Seeing that the dishes got done and I did not need to raise my voice.

A bottle of Australian Shiraz.

This and more have nurtured my soul today as I have been rushing about. In my head there is one compartment that focuses on the things I did not get done today. And another compartment that remembers all the beauty I experienced today. As I finish the day, I think that I want to dwell on the place that focuses on the beauty.

Getting spring into my heart

After three very busy and intense weeks in Burma and Thailand I am finally back, to my kitchen table and my piles of work. I am overwhelmed. I don’t have enough hours in my days. I have too many things to do on my list. The dishwasher broke. The dog has an ear infection. The girls are cleaning their rooms, which means they leave their crap in the stairway. There are too many emails to reply to. The bills have to be paid before the bank repossess my house. My feet are cold. I need slippers.

my view

It’s hard to be in a bad mood when this is your view.

But outside the sun shines, the snow is melting, it is light until 9 pm, at least. There is spring in the air. There is the hope of a better future.

I need to look outside every time desperation threatens to overtake me. Then I am reminded that in the big picture dirty dishes don’t count. Perhaps unpaid bills do, but they don’t need to control my mood.

 

boy by Steve

This is a boy we met in Mae La refugee camp. A refugee camp is a place of poverty and sorrow, but also of laughter, resilience, kindness, imagination, forgiveness, courage, generosity and love.

I am trying to get my thoughts organized and get my head around all the stories I encountered in Burma. It seems like it is a life time away. In the days and weeks to come, you will be hearing more from my trip. The good and the bad, the fun and the sad. Hope you will stick with me.

I need you.

 

 

Refreshin’ in London

coffeecupAn empty coffee cup in a full coffee shop. Sunday morning in London, and Steve and I are trying to live the urban life. We have squeezed into the coffee shop where all the Londoners are having their breakfast, sheltered from the cold and humid day outside. I find it fascinating that we can all be sitting here, almost shoulder to shoulder, in a small room, drinking our coffee and minding our own business while we know nothing about each other. What would happen if we got locked in here for a few days and we had to start talking to each other? What would we find out about one another?

The barista has already gotten Steve’s attention. He is enthusiastic about his task, and makes his coffee with the same vigor the matador uses to manipulate the bull in the bullfight. Elegantly and with a hint of masculine power he knocks the coffee filter on to a steel bowl, making a noise that penetrates the constant buzz of conversation in the room—boom, boom, boom, boom.  The long table in the middle reminds me of Medieval times—a long table filled with people talking and laughing. Only difference is that the beer has been exchanged with cappuccinos and lattes. The attires worn are following the 21st century trends, not the 12th.

It is easy to block the real world out of my life, and only focus on small issues that my head is capable of, like: Should I get another cup of coffee.

Steve & Odd

Here we are trying to be urban in the cold London winter.

Soon I will be back in my home, with my kids, my dog, the dust bunnies in the corners, the empty pantry and the missing school books. Soon I will be back to my inbox, my unfinished work and a messy desk. I am looking forward to it. Going back to what the people I know and who know me, going back to a place that is safe, although it is messy. Going back to a job that gives purpose and meaning.

They sure have many good beer in London. I did not need any Fish & Chips.

They sure have many good beers in London. I did not need any Fish & Chips.

A weekend away is a fun distraction. We watched a great show, and enjoyed several of the local pubs. We got to ride on the London buses, and had great talks with our good friends and soon-to-be colleagues, Matt and Amy Smith.

Many hours of talks about how to change the world through relief, development and advocacy. What else would the world need?

Many hours of talks about how to change the world through relief, development and advocacy. What else would the world need?

We got to admire Matt's new iPhone, a true wonder.

We got to admire Matt’s new iPhone, a true wonder.

I am going back to my home in the country, without the once-every-90-seconds public transport, without the coffee shops on every corner, or the sidewalks with people, used gum, pigeon poop and cigarette butts. It will be a little sad, but mostly good.

Be nice or you will get a big nose

Among many other things the past week, we have enjoyed watching a theater Naomi, our middle daughter, has been a part of. It is a very local, very young and very enthusiastic group of actors and directors.

Naomi has the role as Limping Lina, and she is angry, bitter and mean. Mostly because people are always making fun of her and teasing her. She is actually a witch. But even mean witches had feelings at one time, and even witches can be made nice with love.

Naomi, the mean and bitter Limping Lina.

Naomi, the mean and bitter Limping Lina.

The one child who teases Limping Lina the most, her tormentor above other tormentors, is a girl named Lissa. Because she is so mean, her nose grows unimaginable large.

I liked watching the theatre. Mostly because Naomi did such a great job, and also because I knew a lot of the other kids. But I also liked the story. It had a good moral:

If you are mean to people you will get a nose that looks like a trunk.

Be nice or you will get a very long nose

Be nice or you will get a very long nose

Many people become unlikeable because people have been mean to them first. If you just show them some love, they will most likely become nice people.

People are followers. They will follow people who tell them to do mean stuff and they will follow people who tell them to be nice. It is a lot better to lead the world into doing good than to lead the into being bad.

People are followers

People are followers

As I think about the situation I have encountered in Burma (as well as the injustices I hear about from around the world), I have thought that a good solution would have been to let the tormentors get big noses. There ought to be some kind of natural law that automatically makes noses grow huge when you break the law of human dignity and treat people meanly. I would even vote for letting the noses have worts if they do such horrible things to innocent civilians as they for example do to the Rohingya, as well as to many other ethnic groups in Burma. Then they would walk around at the markets, to their gala dinners and to their political meetings, and all people would look at them knowingly: “Aha, there goes a human rights violator, a person who is mean and dishonest, who will take advantage of others in order to get what he or she wants. That nose serves him or her well!”

It is unlikely that it will happen, but it is an interesting thought.

 

 

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