Monday, December 31, 2018

This is (probably) my last story for 2018.
In 1984 we moved to Tromso, Norway, which is about 220 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Being that far north means 24 hours of sunlight- the Midnight Sun- and 24 hours of dark in the winter Morke Tid- "Dark Time" It's is difficult for the newcomer to adjust to the short days of winter. The days get shorter and shorter until the sun sets and is below the horizon for two full months. At the end of my writing I will share a few pictures.
In the dark time, there is usually snow and that really brightens everything up. The lights in the houses make a cozy glow against the snow.
The winter of 1984 was an exception. There had been snow of course, starting in late September. But it would melt away and more would fall. In 1984 there was so little snow on the ground it was referred to as a "black Christmas". The New Year's Eve tradition in Tromso is to light big oil barrels "spelling" out the new year date, and people shoot fireworks from their homes. The oil barrels were to spell "1985". With the lack of snow it was considered too dangerous to light the barrels due to a risk of causing a big forest fire.
Everyone was disappointed at the possibility of not having a traditional New Years celebration.
Then, on the afternoon of December 31, 1984, it started to snow. The barrels were lit and 1985 was ushered in with cheers and fireworks!
the pictures are, the sun setting at 2:00 in the afternoon, in November. A summer picture of the mountain where the oil barrels are lit up, the oil barrels spelling out "1985" and the sunrise in January 1985. The sun was only over the horizon for less than 5 minutes that day. If you click the fireworks picture and make it bigger you should be able to make out the numbers

The sun setting at 2 in the afternoon, November in Tromso

View of the mountain where the fire was set bringing in the New Year

Oil barrels on the mountain, Tromso New Year 1985

Sunrise for a few minutes.  January 1985, Tromso

Friday, December 28, 2018

So far so good!

I usually get melancholy and depressed at this time of the year.  Especially in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas.  This year was different.  Yes, I did get a little bit blue just before Christmas.    Then I thought about it.  Most of my adult married life I have had a really hard time with the season.   I was happy and looked forward to the kids' excitement over Santa, and later just the fun of being together in the same place at the same time.  But there was that little piece of dread that would seep in.

This year, after pouting a bit about not having all of the kids home, I thought about it some more.  They are all adults.  They all have their own lives, homes, friends and stuff that I am not a part of and don't know anything about.

I have had many dreams and aspirations in my life.  But the biggest, most meaningful aspiration was to be a mother.  Before becoming committed to  the idea of being a full time mom, I thought I could finish school.  Have a career (preferably medicine), have kids and basically have it all.

After having trouble conceiving, I realized that being a mother would be enough for me, if only it would happen and I wouldn't be childless.  The thought of not having children and not being able to conceive was painfully scary.

By the time we were really on the road to being parents, Nick had a good job and a decent income.  We both agreed that it would be a good thing for me to be a full time, stay at home mom.

Before I had Courtney I read La Leche League books and learned the concept of attachment parenting.  I didn't know the term at the time, but the concept became a big part of our parenting.

Of course it's hard.  When there's a house full of wild children, sometimes you think you are going to lose your mind.  You fantasize about running away and being free of responsibilities.   Then you put a load of diapers in the washer and go on to the next task.    One of the best parts of mothering when they were small, for me, was being able to sit and nurse and relax and watch my little one melt into a sweet ball of sleep.

"We give them roots we give them wings".  I don't know where that comes from.  I like the concept although it's really not all that smooth to transition from attachment to independence.

I wonder if that's the trap mothers set for themselves and their children.  We feel like we own them.  We made them and fed them and loved them. We wanted to be left alone sometimes and we were touched out at times.   And then, just as they kids assert their independence, it is hard to let go.  Hard not to offer "advice", which is nagging to their ears.

To all five of my children;  I wanted to be your mother.  I am your mother.  I will love you forever.  No strings attached.  I know that you all love me and I know that it is a difficult and strange thing to be a "child" and yet be an adult.

When each of you were born, I marveled at you.  You stared into my eyes as if you were asking me where I had been all your life.   I melted into love.  Every time.  You are all different and always were.  Your births were all different.  But I am so lucky that I got to know you right from the start.   The first flutter in my belly excited me each time as I wondered who you would be.

Merry Christmas  Happy New Year.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve 2018

After ordering more than one set of Christmas cards, I finally got some that are usable.  The issues were cutting off one of the kids in a family photo.  A cropped version of said photo that looked too weird.  And another with one member of the family's name forgotten.

Yesterday, Nick and I finally got the cards ready and in envelopes and addressed.  Nick worked for a long time getting the letter lined up on the festive paper so that all of the information was legible. 

Nick had some paperwork dealing with his mom's estate.  He worked on that too.  So today we went to the post office and mailed everything.  I still have a few cards for sending overseas. Those will have to wait.

Nick and I are on our own this evening- Christmas Eve.  It's fine.  It's like most of our quiet evenings.

Tomorrow is Christmas.  I am not sure which of the two sons who live in Virginia will come and when.

For so much of my adult life Christmas has been a very difficult .  So much conflict dealing with my divorced parents.  And all the obligations.  Visit this one, visit that one, visit siblings, visit in laws.     Exhausting.   Depressing.   Hard.

Once we had Courtney, first baby, some of that eased up.  Family wanted to come to us.   Although I do remember going to my inlaws for Courtney's first Christmas, which means we probably went to my mom's too. 

At my in laws house there was no pressure or stress.  Nothing to prove.  No judgement .   I wasn't too fat or too thin.  My hair was fine.  My mother in law never said to me "what the hell did you do to your hair?'  My mother did.say mean, judgemental things to me and pretty much everyone.

I know that my mother loved me.  She really did.  But she was so hurt and damaged and angry about her own life that she didn't have the ability, strength of skills to show compassion.   She was very judgemental.  I remember as a kid, my mom complained that my dad left whiskers in the bathroom sink when he shaved.  I'm sure they never talked about it.  She felt disrespected and got angry.

I carried a lot of those expectations and anger into marriage, and unfortunately, into mothering.

Only through the exposure to mothers at La Leche League and their gentle approach to parenting I cannot imagine the wrath my children would have faced on a daily basis.

I know that I was hard on the kids and occasionally hurt their feelings.  I hope I didn't do too much damage.     I love my children so much it hurts.

The overseas holidays were always the best ones.were when we were overseas.   We could be wistfully homesick, but we had out own family, our kids, which was our home.   We even spent Christmas in a hotel the year Chance was born.   But, it was a good holiday.

If any of my kids have conflict between them, it makes me sad.  For them to judge each other negatively, hurts me.  I won't tell them not to talk to me about what is bothering them.  I am happy that the kids can share.  I just hurt because I cannot take sides.  I love them all.

One day I'll be dead.  Not for a long time I hope.  But I hope that my children can be civil.

It's Christmas Eve.    Joy to the world!     

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

And, it's still December!

One week after our Christmas party, I decided to have a short notice coffee for my women friends.  Since it was short notice, and this is a busy time of year, there were a few who couldn't make it.  Even so there were about 10 or so friends here. It was nice to have friends over and show them our new house.  We've been in this house for five months or so and we have not really had anyone over to see it (with the exception of my friend Lea).

The house is in pretty good shape.  It helps to have a husband like Nick who does so much.  Honestly,I wish I could do more, but I am not able to do the physical stuff right now.  One of these days I will.

I overheard one of my friends talking about her husband and what a great person he is.  She said she knew he was a good and wonderful man because he is the only person who ever made her feel that he loves her as much as her parents do.   She said it like it is just a natural thing- knowing that you are loved completely.    It made me think of a friend in high school who said something similar.  She said that her mother always to her that she was beautiful, but, she said, that's what mothers do.  Wow.  Those are two strange and unfamiliar concepts to me.  I'm sure I always knew that my mother loved me.  But, at least in my earlier life, it wasn't talked about.  We were not a very demonstrative (in a positive way) family.  I has friends who hugged their parents- right in front of the world.  Never happened in my childhood. 

I never really thought about whether or not my dad loved me.  He was just a big scary man.  I was comfortable sitting in his lap and looking through magazines with him.  He would let me comb his hair and we would polish his shoes together.  But he never said he loved me.

Looking back, the things my dad did and said were really his way of expressing his love.  He was always worried about my long pony tail when I was little.  He thought I might get it stuck in the chains on the swings, or in the heavy glass door on the front of our apartment building.  I just thought he was annoying.  I think he was really concerned about me getting hurt.  He's the one who took me to get my eyes examined when he saw me squinting.   We did have our disagreements though .

I have been getting physical therapy for a couple of months now.   It helps a lot.  I have a much greater range of motion in my knees.   But the pain is still there.  Some days are better than others.  Some days I cannot walk without my cane.  The last few days I have done pretty well without the cane.  Aside from the fast that I walk rather like a penguin!

Nick had some extra Christmas lights, so he "threw them"(his words) oj the tree by our house.  I think it is very pretty!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

We had a Christmas party

Today is Tuesday.  On Sunday we had our annual Christmas party.  There were a total of 16 people, counting Nick and myself.   

I was really pleased with how it went!  Nick did so much work decorating everything.  He even put strands of colored lights out by the street so nobody would park in the ditch (culvert) in front of the house.  f I hadn't been so distracted, and if it hadn't been so cold, I would have taken a picture of the outdoor lights.

The turkey came out beautiful as did the decorations.

Sunday, December 2, 2018


Thinking about Christmas and who we will see and who we won't see.  I am hoping that we will have Austin and Chance here for Christmas.  I think that older three Sherwood offspring have their own, west coast plans.

We have a tree up with lights.  We haven't managed to dig deep enough into the pile of boxes in the garage to reach the Christmas decorations and ornaments.

So much stuff!   We have way too much.  We've known it for a long time, but now that Nick's parents are gone, we have even more stuff.

Oh well, I like most of the stuff.  Things that have little or no meaning to the kids.  Nick's grandmother's desk, and his great grandfather's rocking chair.    Pictures, both paintings and photographs.   

We talk about one day going through everything and making a list of what is what and why we have it.  I guess we will need to throw things out too.  But not today.  Not even this year- what's left of it.

We are hosting our dinner group Christmas party in one week.  That's what it seems to take for us (mostly Nick) to get the energy to start putting things away.  We have hosted the party for at least 10 years, maybe more.

Last year I had brain surgery so did not host the party.  We were included in the festivities though.  I got a phone call from the party and they all spoke to me on a speaker phone to wish me well!

This week my knees are not being cooperative.  I am having to use my cane even in the house.  I suppose the weather has something to do with it.  At least I can blame the weather! 

I have lost 20 lb with Weight Watchers and hope to lose a lot more.  Then I know my knees will feel better, and I can plan to have my knee surgery.

I ordered our Christmas cards with pictures of all five kids, and a picture of them all together in the center.  I may have cut Austin's face out of the middle picture.  Oops!  He says he's okay with it.

Here's a picture of our tree so far- before decorations.