Another battle

Obviously, something deep in my subconscious wants to imitate Nedry’s lock screen in “Jurassic Park”, doing his finger-wagging “Ah-ah-ah”.

I had bronchitis in February. Was out sick for two weeks.

Bronchitis was something I had a lot as a kid. Usually when the bullying over time finally got to me, my body would react with bronchitis. When I finally recovered, I blogged, intending to keep blogging. But I lost my routines, my momentum while sick and it took me until the end of March to get it back.

That’s when I hurt a knee, just standing with a very straight leg on my living room floor. Sheesh.

Got my PC from work delivered home because brain works, but dang, if this knee stuff isn’t darned distracting!

After a week at home, a friend shopped for me and showed me a good exercise for knees. Can’t overdo it, though. Can’t do the steepest hill between my place and the office so have been taking the bus to work.

It’s like everything just says “Ah-ah-ah” and I realize there’s something deep inside me I’m not addressing or even aware of. Time to go in deep and see if I can find it. And heal it.

I have always had a copy of Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life” and all the affirmations for all the ills. Bronchitis: The family is fighting. Knees: Stubborn ego and pride. So peace and harmony and forgiveness.

I think the bronchitis is a matter of feeling safe with the ones around me. Weirdly, I had it last year, too, at about the same time. I sure hope it’s not going to become a tradition!

But the knees… They’re about fear and the solution is forgiveness and compassion.

In a discussion with friends, we were talking about how forgiveness is the one thing that heals everything. I said something about being done forgiving others; now it was about forgiving myself.

But I wonder…

I may have peeled so many layers off the onion that is all me and my experiences that I’ve found fresh stuff to forgive, and it may involve others, after all. Some little remnant is left, like not quite emptying the existing bottle of shampoo or sauce before opening a new one.

Time to stop this battle and dig into healing.

Apple blossom

Apple blossom

Moon landing

HalfMoon.jpg

I cannot remember when men first landed on the moon, in 1969. I was alive and old enough to remember something like that. We had a TV. That is to say, my granduncle had a TV—up on the old farm, in a little valley above a fjord. There was nothing on it until 6 pm, when a children’s program would come on, then the news. All in glorious black and white. Everything was in black and white until 1974 when Norway decided to allow the broadcasting of color TV even though protesters thought it would be bad for people.

People have the weirdest reasons for not wanting change.

My folks kept their black and white TV for quite a while. It wasn’t broken and we were used to it. The first thing I saw in color was at a friend’s house, a scene from a British series, “Black Beauty” (yes, the one about the horse). The only thing strikingly different from seeing the same show in B&W was the grass. Incredibly green in color. Black Beauty was still black.

But why can’t I remember the moon landing?

Because I was asleep. It was night time in Norway. I was 8 years old. I couldn’t stay awake even if I wanted to. But I remember my grandma telling me they stayed up to watch it. My grandparents saw astronauts in real time step onto another world. On a TV on the old farm Grandpa was born on in 1901.

Today’s prompt: stripes, lemonade, astronaut



Help

The spring of 1969, I traveled across country with my grandma and grandpa. Just before leaving California, I had heard The Beatles song "Help!". The movie had been showing on TV one evening at my mother's. I liked the song and I remember singing it in Maine, where we'd stopped off at Grandma's son's place and I got to meet my cousins. Only days after that visit, we were on our way to Norway.

In trying to understand where my anxiety comes from, I've tried a number of different meditations (I've shopped here a lot lately). In the latest one that I tried, I was to name my anxieties. I had only one: Helplessness.

Moments from my childhood made me feel helpless. I fended for myself on Saturday mornings when my parents slept in. I didn't actually like that. (To this day, waking up to the sounds of voices or activity in the kitchen is hugely pleasing to me.) I would rather a grown-up helped me because I was a clumsy child.

Moments from an imagined old age make me worry about being helpless. Gave one knee a slight twist a good week ago and found myself unable to walk down hill. Well, I'm surrounded by hills! So now what??? And what about 20 years from now? Oh, no!

Speaking of needing help on hills: Cobblestones set at an angle helped horses towing wagons get a foothold up and down steep streets. From Sydneskleiven, Bergen, Norway

Speaking of needing help on hills: Cobblestones set at an angle helped horses towing wagons get a foothold up and down steep streets.
From Sydneskleiven, Bergen, Norway

In the meditation I was guided to see my anxieties differently. First of all, they aren't linked to the here and now. My knee is fine again. And I most definitely am not helpless!

Quite the contrary: Over the years, many good people have stepped up to help me—a random positive comment here, a full package of therapy there and everything in between. And the timing is impeccable. Just as I wonder where to go next, an article shows up in my newsfeed, or a friend calls, or my doctor makes a brilliant suggestion. 

I may have problems, but I have even more blessings. And most importantly: I am able to admit I need help and to ask for it. Just like in "Help!"

A tale about teeth

Norway has been good to me, dentally. My grandpa was also good to me. Orthodontics are subsidized but still cost out of pocket. So the year I had no cavities I started wearing a retainer.

One thing Norwegian children have been through together, is the school dentist. In my part of Norway, the school dentist got the nickname "pinaren", which translates to "the tormenter". An awful lot of kids ended up afraid of the dentist.

Somehow or other, I didn't. I got my first filling at age 8 while I was still living in California. They filled my mouth with all kinds of weird things there; I remember a ring-like device jammed in to keep my mouth open and some sort of small rubber sheet jammed in there, too, in addition to the usual suction device and tampon. In Norway, it's just suction and a tampon.

When I was 12, the school dentist looked me over, then called my grandpa in. Grandpa had been waiting in the hall. Seriously, the dentist told me grandma that I had no cavities. I teared up in joy and relief and knowing I had no cavities but why the serious tone? That's when the dentist suggested is was time to take care of my serious overbite and crooked front teeth. So Grandpa ended up taking me to the orthodontist's.

Back then, there was one place in town and one orthodontist "all" the kids went to. A friendly bearded, guy who made me a retainer, a big pink thing molded on both my lower and upper teeth. I was clueless so I wore it during the day. Didn't realize it was to be worn at night until some graceless adult said it was nice something shut me up. (That's when I realized it was to be worn at night, duh. And that some grown-ups aren't really grown up.) I had nevertheless managed to wear it enough to make a difference. After two years of that, a weak, my receding chin was strong and properly positioned. I got another small, light retainer to wear to straighten out my upper front teeth and close the gap between them.

Kind of weird to think back and realize my look since age 15 wasn't the one nature gave me. But yeah, sometimes when I look in the mirror, I send Grandpa (and the school dentist) a bit of thanks.

Orthodontics for children is subsidized and so is mandatory oral surgery. The one wisdom tooth that had to be removed with a scalpel I ended up paying only half price for; the social security office refunded me the rest.

Today I got my teeth X-rayed, checked and cleaned. In Norway, the dentist does all that. Not like the US, where a dental hygienist does all the advising and cleaning and flossing, and then you see the actual dentist for 5 minutes in case of cavities.

The art in my dentist's waiting room: Monkey? Child? Clown? At least it's not scary

The art in my dentist's waiting room: Monkey? Child? Clown? At least it's not scary

My current dentist has a surprisingly light touch. He pokes and prods and scrapes and I hardly feel it. This time around, he seemed to be even gentler than ever. I wonder if it's because I was saying to myself "Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om" (I'm trying out some things). At any rate, the annual check revealed no issues, no cracks or holes in either teeth or aging fillings, and a price hike from last year.

Dentists in Norway are not subsidized like doctors. My GP works for the city and is part of the universal health care system. I saw him today, too, and paid NOK 155. My dentist, who runs a private practice, as most do, charged me NOK 1150 (includes the pretty pictures of my teeth). It's cheap insurance, really, to keep my choppers chomping (why aren't they called "chompers"?).

I don't remember the clown painting from last year. I also don't remember the drawing of a sleeping cat on the wall opposite the dentist chair, a perfectly round circle with triangular ears poking out of it. The cat, not the chair. But I like that there's a picture of a cat on the wall. I like cats. And sleeping cats have always meant that all is right with the world. Today, at the dentist's, it did feel that way.

Those who wander

"Not all those who wander are lost." —J.R.R. Tolkien

Let me just say—as someone who loved to get lost in an encyclopedic dictionary when she was a kid, wandering from definition to definition like exploring room after room in a pre-computer adventure game—that this is one of my favorite quotes.

And that love of following a path to discover more, especially in words, made me love html and hyperlinks. That's what the internet is: A huge encyclopedia with cross-references all over and "see …" everywhere. The encyclopedic dictionary I lost myself in also included a list of the meanings of names, a thesaurus, famous quotes, as well as French, German and Spanish dictionaries. It was published by Reader's Digest, and it is one thing I sometimes wish I'd taken with me when Grandma died.

But then I remember I have the internet. So off I go, wondering if "vague" has anything to do with the vagus nerve, and it does. The Latin root of both words means to wander, and that is also clear in the word "vagabond", a word borrowed from the French in both Norwegian and English that means a transient person, a traveler, a wanderer.

That reminds me: I know nothing about the vagus nerve. (Search, click a link, jump to a definition…) Ah, it is called the roaming or wandering nerve because it meanders around as it travels through the neck, chest and abdomen supplying organs and structures on its way. Basically your good ol' local bus.

I'll have to look up the meaning of "bus" one of these days.

 

The Daily Prompt: Vague

Water and habits

As a native Californian, I still feel a bit of worry when I let the water run, like I see so many Norwegians do. It's standard: They let it run to get it nice and cold. They well afford to: The one place that never seems to run out of fresh water is Norway. The never-ending supply of that most vital of fluids can lead to some bad habits and disappointments. Norwegians are always faced with culture shock when they leave their country, because the moment you set foot in Denmark, you get recycled water. Norwegians always complain about how tap water tastes elsewhere. They also complain about being told not to waste the water, especially when they want to shower every day just like they do at home.

Norwegians are encouraged to take shorter showers at home, but this has nothing to do with water and everything to do with the price of electricity—used to heat up the water.

During lunch at my first job in California, the discussion turned to personal hygiene. The showers-every-day woman chewed out the showers-every-two-days woman. As the discussion went on, it became clear that showering every two days was the norm around the table. I still have that habit.

Californians don't shower as much as Norwegians (or that one co-worker) do because we, a) have dry heat so we don't sweat much, and b) are always told to save water. Since I don't have a job that makes me sweat and I don't live in a hot climate, there's no reason to shower more often.

Also as a Californian, I have so wished that the record-breaking rains Bergen, Norway, had last year could have been sent to my home state. It has felt almost unfair that there is so much water falling from the sky in a place that doesn't need it, while completely bypassing a place that desperately does.

I'll keep my California habits. They serve me well the moment I go traveling. I will drink recycled tap water in Germany and I will limit my showering in Spain. After all, it is Norway's fresh and clean wetness that is the exception.

Water and bones

As healthy and as long-lived as Norwegians are, they are plagued by one baffling disease: Osteoporosis. As a woman who has lived here for part of her childhood and all of her adulthood, this is something to be concerned about. Is it genetic? Is it dietary? We may have the answer, finally. Good dietary habits when I was a child in Norway included a tablespoon of cod liver oil. As a child, I actually liked the stuff. Didn't like fish, but I didn't mind that spoonful of omega 3's and vitamin D, intended to compensate for the lack of sunshine. (The rule is to take cod liver oil or "tran" in all months with an R in it. There is also the rule not to fish in months without an R in it, so those two rules dovetail nicely.) As an adult I can't stand straight "tran" any more and get my fish oil in capsule form.

In the years since, Norwegian researchers trying to understand the national epidemic of broken hips have proposed many theories: Sedentary lifestyle, not enough milk or calcium in the diet, not enough fish in the diet, not enough sunshine. However, in comparison to countries with a similar population or lifestyle, none of those theories held water.

Water itself may be the reason.

Most fresh water comes from underground, moving in aquifers that give off minerals to the water. All over the world, humans dig wells to get to this water source. But in Norway, our main source of drinking water is surface water. We get it from lakes and reservoirs replenished by rainfall. And that water has hardly any minerals in it since it doesn't pass through rock.

85 % of Norway's drinking water comes from surface water. And the current best theory about why our rate of osteoporosis is so high is the lack of mineral content in our water, especially the lack of magnesium.

It is the one thing that makes sense to me. I have already discovered that magnesium helps my digestion and bowel motility. Now I'm going to double my intake in hopes of compensating for decades of drinking fresh, clear and cold water straight from my tap.

 

(Re current best theory: PDF article in Norwegian with introductory paragraph in English.)

 

Oaths and passports

I have been to the US embassy in Norway only twice. The first time was when I was 13, and had to say an oath in front of some embassy officer in order to get my passport renewed, seeing as how I was living in a foreign country. I remember my first passport, probably lost in a move, and I assume I'll remember my last, currently on its way to the Department of State in Washington, D.C.

My first experience at a US embassy was why I was expecting an office and a massive desk and flags all over when I went in for my renunciation appointment. Instead, I got a typical waiting room, and numbered windows, and some magazines to read while waiting. Basically travel magazines about the US in Norwegian.

I remember getting my first passport. Or parts of getting it. Sometimes, being a child is a lot like being a dog: The grown-ups stuff you in a car (or plane or bus or whatever), maybe first it involves dressing differently than usual, then you go somewhere else, and you don't know why but you go along because you're loyal and you love these humans. And then you find yourself having your picture taken—8 years old, long blonde hair held back with a headband, showing off your widow's peak, your eyes looking slightly off camera and a wee smirk on your face because you're clueless and they just told you not to smile—and then you get a passport and that almost-smirking black-and-white photo with the stupid headband follows you for the next 5 years, making you pray and hope that the next photo will look better.

I sure as hell didn't wear a headband the second time!

I also messed up the oath. I'm not clear on why we went to the embassy, Grandma, Grandpa and I, but we did. (Just doing that dog thing again.) While there, we had to swear allegiance to the US again. I guess it was something like this:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.[2]

I don't remember the military part. I do remember tripping over some unfamiliar words, the officer looking a bit concerned, and Grandma quickly saying I meant to be an American citizen even if I didn't understand all the words, I nodded agreement, and so I got my passport renewed.

You should see me now, Grandma!

I swore a different oath on December 3 2017, during the ceremony for new Norwegian citizens. It wasn't terribly formal, though most dressed up. I could invite two people and did, but they couldn't sit with me during the program. There were songs, speeches, restless children running around, and then they called us all up in a group (last names starting with A through M), and then called out each person and gave us a handshake and a book. It was not an obligatory ceremony, just a nice little gesture to us newbies. They served coffee and cake afterwards.

The oath ("troskapsløftet") I read out loud that day reads:

Som norsk statsborger lover jeg troskap til mitt land Norge og det norske samfunnet og jeg støtter demokratiet og menneskerettighetene og vil respektere landets lover.

Yes, that's one sentence. My translation:

"As a Norwegian citizen I swear allegiance to my country Norway and  Norwegian society and I support democracy and human rights and will respect the country's laws."

I take this latest oath seriously.

I also hope that the US and Norway never stop being allies.

Stop and smell the roses

Of all the life advice I've ever been given or heard, the only one I've ever faithfully followed is the admonishment to stop and smell the roses. I did that last when I was visiting the museum garden at the university of Bergen earlier this month, even thinking to myself, "Roses. Stop and smell."

When I was a very little girl and still living in Los Angeles, my maternal grandparents had a rose garden at their house in San Pedro. Dark earth covered a triangle bed bordered by fence, garage wall and garden pathway. Several large rose bushes with different colors and levels of scent filled the space.

I loved my grandparents' rose garden. Many years later I saw that it had been replaced by swingsets and seesaws; the owners had children. I remember feeling sad that the children would not get to enjoy the beautiful sight and scent of roses. The parents were perhaps afraid the children would hurt themselves on the thorns. I thought that that would be an excellent thing to learn for children; I can't remember being stuck by thorns, so I must have learned early.

I also learned to look before I sniff since I once surprised a spider in the middle of a large blossom.

The genes for scent seem to be linked both to color and to thorns, so the darker and thornier the rose, the more fragrance. And so dark red roses are a favorite of mine, for olfactory reasons, not romantic ones.

Here's an ASCII rose for you: --,--'--@

The Daily Prompt: Fragrance