Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas 2015

The summer of 2015 was all about Norway.  Nick worked at the US Embassy in Oslo from May through August.  Nancy and her sister, Carol along with Carol’s granddaughters, Sarah 12, and Jessica 8 traveled to Norway to visit Nick and to reconnect with friends and family there.  Nick’s Oslo apartment above the Ambassador’s garage was home base for us.
Our second cousin Inger Berit Kjørrefjord Ramstad. and her family showed us a wonderful time both at their home in Oslo and at their vacation home in Fjällbacka, Sweden.  (Kjørrefjord was our grandfather’s family name before immigrating to the US.)


"cousins" Sarah, Jessica, Peter & Annetta
Carol, Nancy and the girls made a trip to Tromsø, where Nick, Nancy, Courtney and Morgan lived for two years from 84-86.  Our son Darcy was born there. The view from the hotel room is pictured on our Christmas card. We were lucky to get together with Nancy's friends. We have kept in touch over the years, but had not seen each other in 30 years! We were also invited to tour the house we had lived in. Memories of the time there and the beautiful daily views came back to Nancy.

Back in Oslo, we met with another second cousin, Christian Sømme and his family of four sons. (pictured on the card.) Nick and Nancy first met Christian in 1972 when we went to Norway on our honeymoon.   Christian was a young child then and doesn’t remember.  Three of Christian's sons have visited us in our home here in Virginia, and the fourth son plans to come here in June 2016.
All of our children are now adults and on their own. Courtney, and her husband Ben continue to live in Portland, Oregon where Courtney (37) is a freelance journalist and Ben is a data engineer. Morgan (34) lives across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington where he supports himself as a programmer. Darcy (31) is living in Cary, North Carolina and is a computer guy, too.  Austin (28) is living in Richmond, Virginia working as a courier. Chance (25) is also living in Richmond, about 3 blocks from Austin. He has been attending VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) and is working as a "fry chef" in a Richmond restaurant.

Nick is endeavoring to re-claim all of the boy's bedrooms by painting and laying hardwood flooring. Nancy continues to be active with La Leche League as a volunteer. She also continues helping new mothers as an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).

Nick and Nancy spent Thanksgiving with Nick's mother, who celebrated her 98th birthday this year. The only dependents in residence with us these days are our 16 ½ year old cat, Tigger and our 3 ½ year old dog, Buddy.
Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2016,
 Nick & Nancy Sherwood

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas 2001

The year my brother died, 2001, I remember going to my mother's apartment.  We had to go in two cars, the kids and Nick and me.

We stopped at the cemetery where Dale is buried.  It was a cold, sunny day.  As we stood, looking at his grave, a little flurry of snow fell on us.  It was the only snow that day.

Now my mom is buried near Dale.  I don't think I will visit them this year for Christmas.  and I am pretty sure it won't snow.  But I will think of them.  And miss them.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

I think I am married to Super Man!

In the lifetime of years that Nick and I have been married, I have not been the easiest person to live with.  I am demanding and I have been known to expect people to know what I want- through osmosis.

I am a talker- I love to talk.  I am also a complainer at times.  Or, should I say I like to express myself.  Thing is, once I talk something out, I feel better.  It's like I have to verbally digest an idea or a problem before I can totally "get it"

So, what does this have to do with Super Man?   Well, there have been plenty of times when I have been frustrated about not being able to do all of the things that *I* think need to be done.  Usually basic stuff- like running the vacuum cleaner  or cleaning the fridge.  But deep down I know that while these are things that bother me, I want Nick or someone else to notice and do what I think needs to be done.   For instance, I would get annoyed if the kitchen floor needs to be swept and nobody is even aware of how dirty the floor is.    I am starting to see (well right this minute anyway) that the condition of the kitchen floor is not all that important (did I really just write that?).  It is only important to me because I make it that way.

Actually, Nick knows the things that bug me and I think he tries to do thing that will make me happy.

I am mellowing with age.  Maybe having had a brain tumor and brain surgery has a little bit to do with it!

So, here's what Nick is up to now that I am so impressed about.   Now that there are no kids living at home, Nick has been cleaning and re-doing the kids' bedrooms.  They were left a mess.  A real mess.  Spilled soda and melted candle wax in the carpet.  Holes in the walls.  Nick has been pulling up old carpet and laying down hardwood flooring.  He has been pulling wallpaper off and sanding, patching and painting the walls.  These are really hard jobs he is doing.  I couldn't do the work!

So, yes I am married to my very own Super Man!


I saw this online and I wanted to put it here:


Monday, December 7, 2015

Before my first cup of coffee!

This is me before my first cup of coffee!

It is crazy how much I think I look like my mother!  Not that she looked this spaced out, just the surprised look somehow looks familiar.  

 I was thinking I should take a "selfie" every day for a year.

This is me not so tired- plus I have had coffee and a shower!


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Twenty Five Years Ago

December 6, 1990 was a day that changed my life forever.   First off, I wasn't even sure I was going to survive that day, much less my unborn baby.  Lots of unexpected and unplanned medical stuff was going on.  My water broke 8 weeks before I was due and what resulted was an emergency situation.  And in the end, a very tired, sore mother and a very alive, small baby boy we named Chance.

He was perfect, just smaller than my other babies had been.   We were nowhere near home.  It was hard to say the least, an adventure to say it another way.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


We got a text on Thursday saying "I am sick I sent you an email", or something like that.  I responded by explaining that we were on out way home from Thanksgiving dinner with Grandma and wouldn't be home for a while.

When we got home, I read the email.  I am paraphrasing here, it said something to the order of "I am really sick, my head is killing me,my urine is dark orange, I am scared"   

Then we got scared.  We changed out of our nice Thanksgiving clothes into something more practical.   I packed up my laptop computer and my c-pap and a few changes of underwear.  I wanted to be prepared for anything.

Austin was really sick. We got him to the hospital Thursday and he was admitted.  Nick went back to Reston, two and a half hours away.  I stayed here.

I have been sleeping in a recliner near Austin's bed for the last three nights, and for at least one more. 

There have been tests and more tests.  Vials of blood have been drawn.   With Austin's yellow skin, we thought it was hepatitis.  The rash that came and went baffled everyone.  Blood work suggested CMV  cytomegalovirus, a virus  similar to mono.  This explains the jaundice:  Liver complications. CMV can cause abnormal functioning of your liver and an unexplained fever.

Apparently, mono, now called Epstein Barr I was sick with "mono" when I was 16, and I was really sick as a dog.  I was hospitalized for about a week.  So I can sympathize with Austin.

My son is an adult.  All four of my sons are adults.  But all of them have been remarkably healthy.   They don't know the lingo and how to navigate the medical system.   I have had (too much) experience, and try to ask the right questions and keep track of what is being done and said.

He will get better.  He will be alright.  But I am sure glad I was able to be here and mother my adult son when he needed it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Another tree picture

This is a view of the backyard red maple, take from inside.   I just love how the trees not only beautify the outdoors, but how they can bring the beauty inside, by viewing them through a window.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Just Trees

My mind is all over the place.  Tragic terrorism in Paris.  Shorter days everywhere in the Northern Hemispheres.  Money.  Bills.  Dental work.  And, what's for dinner.

And so, my answer to all of that is not an answer at all.   I am just going to post some pictures of trees.

In a recent blog post I shared some pictures of a very tall tree in our back yard that was going through it's autumn molt.  It is done now and here is the picture to show it.

Next I am going to share two trees that amaze and baffle me every year.  Both of these trees came from my in-law's yard as seedlings.  As far as I know, they came from the same tree.  One of them is in our front yard, the other in our back yard.   I cannot believe how differently colored their leaves are

This picture was taken November 3, 2015 in the front yard

This picture was taken November 18, 2015 in the back yard

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Did my get up and go just get up and leave?

Last week I was in Charleston, South Carolina with a group of 64 women, all about my age or older.  We were on the go almost constantly.  I was busy, energized and had no trouble falling asleep at night.  I met many of the women for the first time, but we all had La Leche League in common.

Now that I  am home,  I don't feel like doing much of anything.  Why is that?  Am I worn out by all the activity, or do I just feel that I am in a rut when I am home?

Over the years, I have learned a lot about myself.  I took a Myers/ Briggs class once and I learned that, while I am a very strong extrovert, I have five children, all of whom are to some extent, introverts.  As is my husband.  Learning that was revealing to me because I learned that everyone has their own comfort level and their own "normal".  I learned that being introverted by nature does not mean you are depressed.  It does not mean you are shy and you just need to come out of your shell, or grow out of it.

I also learned what I probably instinctively knew;  I get energized by being around people.  I love talking and sharing my stories and laughing with friends both old and new.

I have also learned (most of the time anyway, I hope) that I don't always have to talk.  To share.  Not to compare my experience with another person's experience.  I try not to sound like I am trying to "one up" the other person.

I have learned more about empathy.  I think I have always had empathy.  But I have not always allowed myself to slow down enough to hear the other person and what they have to say.   Some years ago a friend pointed out to me that I tend to interrupt and talk over people.  I really try to hold myself back now.  Except, of course, I do talk over my husband- he sometimes just takes too long (in my opinion) to get a thought out.   He is patient with me (most of the time).

Right now I am experiencing what we in LLL often refer to as "post parting depression".   The feelings of sadness when you go home after an energizing event.  Returning to "normal" after being so energized and charged up by being with energetic, like minded people.

I guess my get up and go didn't go anywhere.  It's just resting for now. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My cousin Pat (Patricia)

As a kid, I always knew Pat as "Patsy".  She was one of my Uncle Ralph's three daughters.  I am sorry to say I am not even sure if she was the eldest or the second eldest daughter.

The five Thompsen/ Thompson brothers had, all together. 14 children.  There were 14 of us cousins until the death of my brother, Dale Alan Thompsen, in 2001.  Then there were 13.

Now, Patsy has died and there are 12 of us.   We are all getting to be the oldest generation but for two aunts (who married two Thompsen brothers).

Here is a picture of most of the Thompsen cousins, minus Dale and our cousin Molli Thompsen Gibbs-Harris, who lives in New Zealand and was not able to make it to the reunion.

The picture was taken in August 2006 in McMinneville, Oregon.

Pat is in a white shirt with the sun shining down on her.   Another link to our childhood and family is lost.

L-to R Front row Susan, John, Holly, Elden, second row, Jim, Nancy, Pat, back row, Elinor, Cassie, Carol, Colleen and Carl

Monday, November 9, 2015

Home again? Not yet

I have spent a wonderful 5 days with women in the La Leche League Alumni, in Charleston , South Carolina.

I have been a member of the alumni association for quite a while now, but have never been on one of their trips before.  I can honestly say that it has been worth it.  I am re-charged and re-energized. I met many women I had not met before.  Resumed old friendships.  Shared stories about our children and our lives.  Ate great food and saw this city.

There is so much more I could say, but I am tired,  I was scheduled to fly home this evening, but my flight was cancelled due to bad weather.  I am spending the night at a hotel near the airport and am booked on a morning flight that should have me home by noon.

This is a group of members of the email list we have shared for almost 20 years.  We call ourselves "Power Surge", PS for short.  We have shared many confidences and feel like we are sisters.  I am glad that some of us were able to get together this week!

This is most of the Alumni Group that was together.  Picture taken at Fort Sumter

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Autumn Leaves

 I have been taking pictures of the same tree behind our house several days apart. 

The changes in the color are subtle, but noticeable.   

The leaves turn a lighter color and thin out 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

My heart sings when my children are happy

I don't have any great philosophical thoughts to write about.  I just have this wonderful picture of Austin.  His smile could light up a room!

He is amazing; smart, resourceful, generous, caring, and happy!  If anyone deserves to be happy, it is Austin.

Friday, October 16, 2015


I look at the pictures I posted of my kids.  They are all adults and are amazing people.  I have known them intimately since before they were born.  I felt them flutter and roll and kick.  I nursed them and diapered and bathed them all.  Potty trained them.

Those things all sound like chores, like "jobs", maintenance, being a caretaker.   Yes, I was their primary caretaker, but our relationships were so much more.  We shared cuddles and I kissed skinned knees.  Nick and I went to, how many parent teacher conferences and back to school nights.

We raised these people.  These adults.  Our children.

The relationship is complex.  At first it is mostly primal.   Survival mode.  Nurse the baby to feed it.  Nurse the baby so mom gets relief and a hormonal rush of mothering hormones.  The baby needs to be cared for it is totally dependent.   I thrived on that.  Being the source of all that is good.  That period is brief though intense.

Those "firsts", smiles, steps, ability to read.  No less amazing and magical with the fifth than with the first.  If anything, I think my amazement grew.

And now, they are grown.  Independent.  And I sit here and reflect.  And wish I had been more patient.  Kinder.  Just all around better.  I am not looking for praise.  I am acknowledging life and it's frailty.

Placing that new life into your arms is so simple, yet enormous at the same time.  I thought I was shaping these new lives, each one.  And I know that Nick and I did a lot of shaping.  But I know that we also stood back and tried to let go, a little bit at a time.  To be here when we were needed and stand ready when we were not.

And now.  I don't know.  The love is there.  The intensity is there.  The fear and angst of anything ever hurting your child is there for the rest of a parent's life.   How do you do this parenting thing with adult children?   How do you accept their choices and their pain without interfering?   How do you, every now and then, swallow the hurt feelings when you are told to step back.  I don't know, but you do.   I guess in a way, the fact that I can feel hurt sometimes shows me a couple of things.  One thing it shows me is how tender my feelings are.  But it also, I hope, shows me that the relationship keeps growing.  That my adults (adult children) need to push me away sometimes to be independent and find their own way.

I wonder how many times I must have hurt my mother.  How many times I pushed and resented her.  She meddled and pushed back though.  The way she pushed me is not something my adults would put up with.  I have one child who says, sternly with hand held out "MOM".  That's all it takes to remind me to step back.    One time I wrote a letter to my father that told him just what I thought.  I was an adult, mother of five already when I wrote it.   He asked me "when do children stop blaming their parents?".    My stepmother was there.  She answered the question.  She said "never".

My own father must have been very hurt as a child.  He and his brothers all loved and cared for their mother.  But none of them ever spoke about their father.  He left the family in 1939, returning to his home, Norway.  They never saw him again.  I am so sorry my father lived with such pain.

And so the mysteries of life go on.  Who knows what happens next?   Not me.

I never thought it all through when I was young.  I wanted to be a mother.  Now I am.  I help new mothers figure out what their path is.  I hope.  I give them some direction and leave them to go on their way.  And one day they too will be wondering where the time went.  And who are these amazing people!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My Five Amazing Adult Kids

Courtney born in 1978

Morgan born in 1981
Darcy born in 1984
Austin born in 1987
Chance born in 1990

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.

I know that it is in the "normal" state of life that parents die before their children.  Of course, children often do die before their parents.  My brother died before either of my parents.

Growing up, we had a lot of turmoil in our home.  That is not what I am here to write about though.  One of the good things we grew up with was family.  We had lots of cousins on both our mother's and our father's side, each of my parents coming from families with five children.

We knew and know all of our cousins.   They are all still alive and with us.  My brother is the only one from our generation, on either side, who is dead.

Our parents were the glue, I guess, that held the extended families together.  As long as our parents were alive, we belonged with the cousins.

We have the two sets of cousins, as I see it.  The ones on the west coast and the ones in Michigan.

Being geographically closer to each other has  meant that they all knew each other and saw each other more that we did.  We live(d) in Maryland and Virginia.

Time passes, we change.  Our parents die.  Significant birthdays and anniversaries come and go.  We hear about them after the fact, unless we happen to be visiting at the time.

We belong in many places.  With our friends.  With our children.  More so if they live near.  But we feel like our family of origin, our extended family of origin at least, is slipping away.

By we, I mean my sister and I.  We are closer than ever.  We make our way into the lives of family members.  Most recently we traveled to Norway where we had wonderful visits with family.  Second cousins.  We share an ancestry with them and we love them.  But they didn't grow up knowing our parents, nor did we know theirs.  Not in the same way as our own aunts and uncles. (And also recently we went to the funeral of a child of a cousin)

So, what is the answer?  I don't know.   I really feel that out of sight out of mind thing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Feeling Better than I have been

I have been sick.  A bad cold or upper respiratory infection.  Maybe a touch of pneumonia.  I don't know what all.  I was just feeling really low on energy and depressed.   It stinks to have no energy and to ache all over!

I had just started a new medication around the time I got sick.  I am guessing that my illness was not caused by the medication, but it is possible that I felt worse from the new meds.   I was not sleeping much at night, and was feeling very much "done" dealing with anything.  I stopped the medication (under doctor's guidance).  I am doing better.  And, we have come up with a plan to help me get to sleep.

Whenever Nick reads to me, it puts me to sleep.  On our cross country trip three years ago we did this.  Nick read me "The Shipping News".    Right now he's reading a book on Australia written by Bryce Harper. It's a good book.  Some pretty funny bits and a lot of narrative and observation  about the place and the people.

We actually stared "reading" on our honeymoon.  We would sit on park benches while Nick read to me.  We got some strange stares, but that's okay.  I may have done some of the out-loud reading, but Nick is the better public reader.   I think he enjoys it.  I know that I do.


After being absent from church for a very long time, we went back for the in-gathering a few weeks ago.   That is the service that starts the church year.  People bring water from places they have visited over the summer.  I had a bottle of water from Icelandic Airlines, which I thought represented our travels.

The following week I had a seminar to attend, so didn't make it to church that week.

We went again again two weeks later for my friend Sue's memorial service.  I was already sick, so we didn't stay long.

This past weekend I had thought we would go to church on Sunday.  But, as we looked at each other in our pajamas, we both sort of said "meh".   And we stayed home.

I have been thinking about church.  I was very active in the church for a couple of years.  Especially when the kids were involved.   Mostly when Nick was overseas.    I reached out to the church when I had broken my ankle, and when I had brain surgery.    I love that it is there.

But, I wonder, what's it really all about.  I know we learn a lesson and either gain knowledge about tings, or acquire an wish to know and understand more.   But, for myself at least, don't I already know what I believe in?  Don't I know right from wrong?   On some level, when I am in church, I feel like we are a group of observers in the audience and the show is what's going on up front.  The minsters are the entertainment. 

Then after the sermon is done, we mingle with the people we have been sitting with, and we drink coffee and we talk about the sermon.   And a part of me really wants to go.  And another part wants to stay home.

I think (I know) that Nick only goes because I go.  He wouldn't even think about going to church I am sure.  So, when we do go to church, I know that Nick is only doing it for me.  That makes me feel guilty and like I have to look out for him.  I know I don't, but I feel that way.


Monday, September 28, 2015

a small light

Watching a show on TV tonight there was a small scene, less than a minute, that moved me to tears.  Not sure I can explain it so it makes sense.  A woman who has just learned she is pregnant, hours before, looks out into the night time an says, "a small light" and places her hands over her belly.   That feeling of disbelief and wonder and joy and fear.  The knowledge that you are carrying something precious and wanted and loved.

When I was pregnant, each time, I was so happy.  My babies were so wanted and loved even before I knew that they going to become viable little people.  They were my dream of love and attachment.

I lost two pregnancies.   One, the first, fairly far along.  It was surreal in a way.  Walking around empty after feeling so full of joy and promise.  Life went on as usual.  As it always does.  Then little things would trigger the feelings.  Buying baby clothes for a friend's baby who was due when your baby would have been born.  Seeing someone you had not seen in months and they smile and say "oh, you must have had the baby, what did you have?".     And you worry about making them feel bad for asking, and feeling awkward. And you smile and say, "no, I lost the baby". and walk away.

The second loss, my sixth pregnancy was much earlier.  Nobody knew except Nick and I.  It was so sudden, and over and done.  Another wanted baby lost.  It was sad, but not as real to me as the first.

All five of my children were wanted.  Planned , but not exactly scheduled if that makes sense.  Each time I was pregnant I was so grateful that I had the choice and that this was a wanted  pregnancy, anticipated with joy.  Well, most of the time.  When you are chasing toddlers with a huge belly it can make you pause and ask yourself "what have I gotten myself into".  But, still, all five of my children were so very much wanted.  That first kick is something that is never forgotten.  The flutters...


Changing the subject; I went to Sue's memorial service yesterday afternoon.  Sue had many friends and touched more lives than anyone will ever know.

The ministers talked about life and loss, and Sue.  Sue's sister spoke of growing up as Sue's sister.  Sibling memories are almost sacred.   The loss of a sibling creates a beak in your heart that never leaves.

Sue's son in law, Sean, read a poem that Sue's grandmother had written.

I knew Sue from our weekly women's group.  We have been meeting forever, it seems.   There are only 5 of us left.  Only 4 full time, as one has moved to assisted living.  We went to the front of the church and each spoke.  Except me.   I think I am the most talkative of the group, but I have laryngitis. So I didn't say anything.  We all loved and love Sue so much.  And she is gone.

After the women's group, other friends spoke.  There were people who knew her for over 40 years.  There were reminiscences of the church luaus and how Sue led the hula dancing.  Imagine that!  Several people spoke of the many, many volley ball games that Sue played in, even well into pregnancy when her center of gravity had shifted.

I thought of Sue's excitement bird watching, when we were Ocean City together [our women's group of 6 at that time.]  Sue would call out "a loon, did you see it?"!

In preparation for Sue's service, I have been pouring through Mary Oliver poems and Annie Dillard quotes.  I wanted to find something poetic and fitting to read.  And I didn't read anything at all.

That's alright too.

And now I get ready to go to bed and dream.  I used to say, when I was little, "now I lay me down to sleep".   The innocence lost is so precious to have had for however briefly.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

I Learned a new Word Today


(n.) a homesickness for a home to which
you cannot return, a home which maybe
never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the
grief for the lost places of your past


 Is that what I have been feeling most of my life?   As a little girl, returning to the US from Afghanistan, I talked about the place and none of the other children, in the early 1960s, believed that there was even a place with that name, much less that I had lived there.  All of my drawings had huge mountains in them.  The mountains I saw every day.   

I have lived in many places that I called home.  When I wake up, sometimes I wonder which place I am waking up in.  A dream of myself in these different places, me at different ages;  little and wanting my mother.  A mother myself and nursing a baby, which baby?  It depends, where are we? Where are the babies now.  All grown and gone.  Was all of that, that I lived real?   Amazing!

All of the transitions in life.  Are they each a home.  For a while you are a baby.  For a while a little kid.  A teen.  A wife, mother, mother, mother.  Then an aging wife with an aging husband.

Nothing new really.  We all go through it.  That's the ride and we all have a ticket.

My friend, Sue's memorial service is tomorrow.  Of course I will be there.  I was planning to speak, but have no voice- laryngitis.  So I will listen.  And no doubt cry.

I've been sick for almost a week with some sort of sore throat, wheezing, coughing thing.  Shortness of breath took me to the doctor yesterday where we discovered that  my oxygen levels were too low and I had some cloudiness in the lower lobe of my right lung.  Not quite pneumonia.  But a worry.

The two previous nights I had been afraid to go to sleep because I felt that I was going to stop breathing in my sleep.    I often say I am not afraid of death.  Well, maybe I am.  Or maybe I just feel like I am because I am not done yet.  I feel like I am still finding my way.

So who is "done".  Nobody I suppose.   Although, there comes a point when you really know it is coming.  Well, maybe.  Maybe for some people.  My mother knew she was dying.  She was sad when she asked me "am I going to die?", and I said "yes".   We both cried.  She said it wasn't fair.  I agreed.   But, when it happened, it was sad and sweet and lovely and unbelievable.  She said her goodbyes.   She whispered to her sister "I'm going to miss you".  She asked my sister "will you miss me?"

To quote ts elliot:

 “We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

Is that hiraeth, or is it the opposite?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Too much to do in one lifetime

This is what we could see from our hotel room in Tromso, Norway.

                    Tromsø was so beautiful.  I could have stayed there for a month or more and not feel ready to leave.

                          There are so many places I have been and lived and visited.  I want to go back to them all. 

            I think that  they are not all still even there.  The apartment we lived in when we lived in Bangkok is gone.
               The saying  is "you can never go home".  
 That is so true.   But you can go visit!