Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Boundaries - Real or Imagined - Don't cross the dotted line.

I have spent the past eleven days with my older grandsons; Ethan is almost 14 and Nathan is 10.  Most days we have Madi with us and on those days I am "mom" first but on the days when she is otherwise entertained, I am all "Mimi".  I have found the boundaries change when the parental role is removed and it has also been noticed by my grandsons.  Not that I will win any awards for the most conventional parenting, I always try to introduce education and fun in our outings.

In my younger parenting days, I used my children as the outlet for my attempts at humor - nothing mean-spirited, but in the genre of "honey, put on this hat and go stand by ???? so I can take your picture"  Basically fill in the blank depending on the nature of our outings.  Now I find (much to their amusement, amazement, and at times, even chagrin, I prefer to be the one in the photo.  Over the past few years, Madi has gotten used to it, to the point where she might even say, "Look Mom, photo opportunity ahead".  We both know who and what she is talking about.  Unfortunately for the boys, they are still a little green at this adventure and are adjusting as best they can.

Behind every woman 
Introduce into evidence, Photo #1.  We are heading into the Oasis and the hostess greets us.  "How many for dinner"?  Even as I am answering, out of my excellent peripheral vision, I spot HIM!  It's as if I have been waiting to meet him my entire life.  His arms are held out for me and as I wave off the hostess, I am shouting instructions to Madi - "Quick, over here".  Now, I only have to let Terry know.

Next event was two days later at the State Capital.  After presiding over a very important Senate Committee meeting (well, we were in the room), I saw the Statue of Liberty.  Unfortunately for Ethan, Madi was not with us.  In all fairness, I asked the boys if they wanted a picture first.  After declining (WTF), I shared the news that I would need one.

And justice for All!

 Ethan suggested perhaps we could do that on our way out.  Seeing through his attempts to divert me and seek alternative exits, I insisted that now was the time.  Notice in the picture that the Statue of Liberty (all the way in from NEW YORK CITY) offered me the opportunity to hold the Freedom Torch.  It was quite a day....but not over yet.

It could have read Black and Blue!
Soon I would learn that Ethan had boundaries of his own.  As we were leaving, I saw the Women In Black staging a protest in front of the capital.  I believe we all know where this is leading.  I WANTED IN THAT PICTURE.  It would be beneath my dignity to say I did anything more than ask my grandson if he would consider taking my picture with those ladies.  So that is all I will say I did.  However, he drew the line. Mentioned something about them not being statues or other objects and besides I didn't have on black.

But at the end of the day, I think I had competition for the real or imagined world we were all creating and living in.  I WIN!!!!!!

Until next time,

your pal,
Austin is the City of Music

Real or Fiction?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Finding what was missing - when it was there all along,

Where my dad grew up
Sister Kristin lives here now!
Have you ever worked for a long while on a jigsaw puzzle and when you were almost done you realized you were missing several pieces?  At one point, the puzzle had all its pieces.  It started out in a sealed box, ready to be opened by its first user and the possibilities were endless.  Jigsaw puzzles remind me of life.  They never tell the entire story once pieces go missing.  And pieces for all of us go missing sooner or later, and this changes the landscape of our life.

My sister Katy and I (plus spouses and Madi) just returned from visiting Norway - the country where our dad (Odd Eugen) grew up.  While both his parents were Norwegian, it was not their intent to raise him in Oslo.  They both immigrated to New York when they were in their 20's; newly married and starting a new life in a new country.  His father's brother, also newly married, came with them, leaving their homeland, their widowed mother and two sisters behind in Norway.  I have no idea what happened to Kristen (the brother) nor do any of the family members...that puzzle piece went missing back in the 1960's.  I do know what happened to my dad and his family.  His puzzle came apart early,
which changed the course of his life and all future generations.
Pictures of my dad...AND US!!!!
We were already here :)

My grandfather and grandmother (Odd and Esther) lived happily in Brooklyn until my dad was almost three years old.  In early 1927, Esther gave birth to a second son, Carl and eight days later she died of complications of childbirth.  Not rare in those days but the first major puzzle piece loss for my dad.  His father struggled on, working at the bank and now raising two young sons until late in 1928 when young Carl died in a measles epidemic.  By this time, my dad was around five years old.  He was put on a ship alone and sent to Norway to be raised by his grandmother and aunt.  You could say he was an orphan for all practical purposes.  While his dad visited him from time to time, they did not live together again until my dad was 15-16, when his father moved back to Norway (coinciding with World War II and Norway's involvement).

Can you say "family resemblance"?
Because my dad had dual citizenship, he participated in the Norwegian resistance and then joined the US Army for the last 18 months of the war.  That is how he returned to the United States.  His father remarried and had two daughters.  All these years, while my dad had been back several times, we had never met any of his family with the exception of Aunt Sigrid who raised him.  She visited the U.S. twice prior to her death in 1975.  My dad died in 1985 and we had his ashes sent to Norway to be buried with  his father, grandmother and aunt.  Things finally changed when we arrived in early July.

I renewed my passport in 2011 for the trip that summer but then I was transferred to Texas so we put the trip on hold.  Our next attempt was scheduled for Summer 2013 but things were too hectic.  Following the loss of my brother (a big puzzle piece for us), it was decided we would wait no longer since life certainly wasn't waiting for us.

Katy and I spent the better part of a year planning this trip.  We talked weekly, sometimes daily, (most times daily) confirming the dates, looking at flights, scheduling outings.  I have been writing Dad's sister, Mette, since I was in my 20's and in recent years we graduated to email.  Our relationship has evolved with technology despite the fact that we have never met.  We have celebrated confirmations, graduations, weddings, the birth of children and grandchildren, and all their successes.We have mourned with each other when my dad (her brother) died, when I lost my son, when her husband died, when Erik died and then her mother.  We have shared life together without ever meeting face to face....until this summer.

And the pieces came together....where they have been all along.  It was not awkward or weird or any of those things.  These people were not strangers,  They are my family.  And after waiting 57 years, we have finally had the pleasure of seeing each other - face to face, and smiled and hugged and laughed and talked and hugged again.  The pieces are as they should be and many more than we knew were missing....were there.   When it was time to go, now I felt I was leaving behind some puzzle pieces, but this time...I knew who and where they were.

When we first arrived, my Mom said "Norway will never be the same"
I replied, "I will never be the same".

Me and cousin Monica
Aunts, Nieces and Cousins
Trina with little Phillip and sister

Until next time,


Kari (Norwegian for Kari)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I didn't fall from Grace...I never had any!

I remember the first time I was called Gracie.  As part of the union negotiations team, we had been back and forth meeting with the union that day.  At times the meetings had become heated and after one particular tense meeting, we had "taken five".  We were getting ready to go back in and I was leading the group.  In my haste to get to the negotiations table, I walked right out of my shoes and almost fell on my face.  I would like to say it happened when I first got up, or I tripped over something, but that wouldn't be true.  I was halfway across the room, this was in mid-stride and there was no reason for this to happen.  And I heard "Way to go, Gracie".

Maybe this is why I don't enjoy the ballet.  The dancers are all so graceful and poised.  My husband planned a surprise anniversary evening several years back which included drinks, dinner, the Nutcracker ballet and an overnight stay in Kansas City.  That ballet lasted forever.  Perhaps I was secretly jealous of their God-given talents to glide across the stage.  (I wasn't so secretive about my boredom).    Lord knows I have no grace to speak of.  Looking back it became evident early on that I would not "glide" through any room.

I will admit to what I call my "annual" fall.  I mistakenly thought this was weather related but I have no excuse in Texas.  In Kansas and Missouri I would generally find the last piece of ice that had not melted for the season to use as my launch.  One time I was getting out of the car in what appeared to be a dry parking lot.  My foot hit the only remaining piece of ice in the State of Kansas and not only did I slip and fall, I slid under the car.  I quickly pulled myself out and looked around.  After I determined that the coast was clear, I then checked myself for injuries.  ALL GOOD.  I went into the Hallmark store to buy "get well" cards (no irony there) and was at the check out counter when the lady said "did you fall out in the parking lot"?  NUTS.  I said, "yes, did you see me"?  She replied, "no, you have dirt and ice all over your back".  So humiliating.

How can I not see this?
To this day I cannot walk through the same door twice without clipping the frame with my shoulder, elbow, heel bone or some other body part.  That I make it through once I consider lucky.  Who remembers the auction items we have acquired?  Let me introduce you to the Virgin Mary who I clipped with my hip just the other day.  I went flying but she sustained no injuries.

I am not some hulking presence that just can't seem to navigate the waters calmly.  I have been described as petite, small, even tiny.  Yet I am larger than life in some situations.

When I was fifteen I was being chased around the pool, (one of those kidney shaped affairs) by a very attractive 18 year old boy.  In my haste to get away, I made a flying leap into the pool AND MISSED THE WATER.  I went from one side of the pool to land on concrete on the other.  Who does that?  I was mortified!

When it was time to start dating, I couldn't be counted on  to casually sip  my drink through a straw and make, when I tried to transition between conversation and drink -my straw went up my nose.

As an adult, I have walked into the men's restroom thinking they were the stairway doors and into closets thinking they were exits...always with an audience.

Most recently, I impaled myself (well, no broken skin but you get the gist) on a grand piano.  I can't even explain properly how this happened but trust me-all I was doing was looking out a window while walking.

It's a small wonder I have never broken any bones..other than my toes.  And that happened AGAIN here recently when I was walking barefoot in the house, took two steps wrong and.....
Hence the nickname Gracie.

Thank you, Glenda, for teaching me the three points of contact on the stairs.  I have only fell down them three times since the Texas move ( more winters) and it has been my hands that have eventually saved me!

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pardon my French...but why?

I am still on this language thing.  But from a different angle now.  The other day I was at the pool with Lisa and the boys and I was listening to a group of three mothers visit.  It wasn't like I was eavesdropping.  I was sitting on the other side of the pool and their language was more colorful than some of the art I have seen recently.  And so expressive!  Kids were all over the place and after a few minutes I realized more than a few belonged to these women.  There went my idea of asking them to watch their language since there were kids around.

I am wondering how we have gotten so free with the foul language.  And why is it always blamed on the French and the sailors?  You know what I am talking about.  "Pardon my French" and "She swears like a sailor" are common sayings but where do they come from.  The "French" I heard at the pool sounded like raw English to me.  And none of them were in uniform.

Naturally, I had to google these stereotypes to determine the "why" and apparently it's not just sailors who swear but troopers and truckers also.  However, sailors-in-port came to be known for swearing and spending (wine, women, song) as ways to compensate for long hours and days or monotonous time aboard ship.  I am going to have to speak to my son about this one.

As far as "Pardon my French" there was chatter about the enmity between the English and the French and since Pardon is already a French word and everything that was bad must be get the drift, but some people believe the expression may have come from 1950s intellectuals who were well-versed in French at the time. In the fifties, cursing was considered to be a major taboo, so the speaker would actually curse in French to be more polite. In these instances, "Pardon my French" would refer to actual French.

What the French!!!
One Christmas, I gave a self-inking stamp to some lucky staff and family members (who could be trusted to use same appropriately).  It was, and still is, a coveted gift item.  Of course, I have one myself. 

During a recent visit to KC, Terry and one of the boys were having a conversation and 4 year old grandson Colten (who was actually 3 at the time) was playing in the room.  At some point, Mr. French was voicing displeasure (in his defense, he was speaking low), however he did say "What the F was he thinking"?  And I do mean the letter F only.   I quickly looked up and so did Colten.  Of course he did.  He can pick up the sound of a dog whistle, a whisper, the crinkly noise of a candy wrapper however, does not hear his name called (repeatedly) when he is right in front of you.    I said "did Papa say a bad word?"  He looked at me with disdain and said "noooo, he said the letter of my last name."  What the French!

Oh, if it was always that easy!  One time when Madi was little, a bee got in the car and as I was desperately trying to get it out, she shouted "get the little bastard".  I said, "Madi, that's a bad word" to which she responded "Oh, I didn't know".  Unfortunately, that was not the last time we heard that response (her father has quite the mouth).  The time her Barbies fell off the coffee table doesn't bear repeating!

Any new words from Dawson since the pool visit, Lisa?  Oh...I didn't know.

Until next time,
Can also stand for
Why the Face?
Your Pal,

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Feeling Content in the Moment....Within the Content of My Life

New love content!
 So many words in the English language look exactly the same.  It is all dependent on how they are used in a sentence (and pronunciation can vary) as to what their particular meaning is.  I have been reflecting on the word content.  Now, do I mean content as a noun - the sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered or learned?  Or perhaps content, which can be an adjective, verb or noun, depending on how it is used, but the meaning is the same:  satisfied or showing satisfaction with things as they are.

I have been reflecting on this word because it has occurred to me that I don't think it is any small coincidence that these two words are spelled the same.  Can we really be content (satisfied) without having the content of our life in a certain order?  Isn't what we have perceived, discovered or learned at any point in time the driver for our emotional well being?  Or at least a strong contributor?

memory made sweet content!
And certainly not the sum total of everything we have perceived, discovered or learned....but in those moments in time when we feel content, the content leading up to that moment is all good.   Our feelings of contentment can also be memories that we are so grateful for even based on the content of changed circumstances in our life today. 
Life can change quickly, and sometimes we lose the contentment we were feeling as the content of our life shifts.  But not the sum of the whole.....just for the time it takes for us to rebound.  And I am not going to whitewash that time.  It can be long and painful.
Nothing like grandbaby content!

But then you get news of a new granddaughter on the way.  And spend time with parents, siblings, kids and grandkids you already have.  And the content starts to change.  It fills up with different things and you feel so grateful....and could it be, content!

I love words (the OCD in me). 

I will be learning some Norwegian words soon!

Until next time,
tilfreds (content in NORWEGIAN)

your pal,
Soon to be discovered!

It's never too late to do the "right" thing

Even this is my opinion! What is "the right thing"?  Many times over the years, I have heard people say "I want to do the...