May 31, 2008

Health talk: Me, myself and the tummy

(Edited)

I know I said I wasn't going to talk about my digestion any more, but since other bloggers have given me information by telling their stories, I've decided to give an update.

It is clear that alcohol and coffee do not agree with my stomach. I can drink coffee if I make it weak. Alcohol I haven't tried since restricting my diet after my doctor's visit. That hurt the instant it hit my stomach and after debating with myself on my way to an anniversary party last night (a co-worker's turn), I decided flavor and buzz did not outweigh being pain-free, especially at a party. So I had non-alcoholic wine with my five-course meal, which included the most tender and tasty lamb I have ever eaten in my life. My stomach was on its very best behavior until I was served fruit. With cream. But even then it was just a little comment from the tummy. I did avoid the cake later, and watered down my cup of coffee. It's the first time I've eaten such rich food and not spent that evening or next morning reading in the bathroom. Obviously, alcohol really does irritate the gut.

This past week, I had several reminders of my own old observation that I had forgotten: That anything with "cream" in its name will upset my digestion: Ice cream, whipped cream, coffee cream, sour cream, cream cheese. I feel a bit stupid for forgetting, but now I've been reminded and know what to be careful with. I've already switched to popsicles if I want ice cream.

I'm still not regular, but now I have reason to believe it is hormone-related. Frequency does depend on my cycle. I have a new perimenopausal symptom, too: I get very cold inside the last week before a period. It's weird. It's regular room temperature, and still I want to turn on the heat and pile the blankets on the bed. (I did measure my temperature, and it is lower on days like that.) And with that, constipation. (At least I completed my stool samples and special diet for that before the party.)

That said, I picked up my blood test results yesterday. Although three values were marked with an asterix, showing they had moved just out of the normal range by a point or two, the nurse at the doctor's office said to me, "But the doctor signed this off without comment, so he must think you're OK." I think my doctor has the attitude that I'm not interesting unless something's clearly wrong. (That's not necessarily a bad thing.) But I am curious, so I'm spending the day hunting with Google for more information on what the various blood tests are. For the ones marked *, I hunt with the attitude, "What am I thinking that's making my body do this?"

Several times I've come across the claim that the body is essentially healthy and without a will of its own. That means that ill health is caused by a non-bodily influence. The most likely and common non-bodily influence are our own thoughts. We often expect disease. Now, I'm a whiz at not being paranoid about other people's germs. The fact is that if a co-worker with a cold stops five feet away from me for fear I'll catch the cold, I'll usually say, "Oh, you can get closer. You won't make me sick." I'll even hug them. I know I won't get sick because I know that my immune system works well, and that the only thing that can compromise a good immune system in a healthy person is stress. If I'm not stressed about something, I can withstand anything you might bring to work. The times I do get sick, nobody else around me is. But I have always been stressed out just before my throat started to hurt and my temperature went up.

I'm kind of halfway there with my belief that my body is essentially healthy, aren't I. I can wrap my brain around hand-born germs not being a problem, but I haven't made the connection to chronic conditions in my own system. I still have to work on that, and believe completely with my mind and heart that this healthiness applies to every cell and function in my body, no matter how long they've been operating less than well. Then my problems will all go away, and I will be regular and can eat anything. For someone who hasn't experienced that, it's a fantasy. And I think that's why it takes some work. Some inner convincing. It is so foreign to me.

I have to proselytize to myself.

PS: Yesterday I didn't post. Consider yesterday my February 29.

May 29, 2008

Failing the climate quiz

Yesterday, right after work, my division had a meeting about the climate. Some of the questions were about how we thought the climate changes would affect our work. I can't really see any direct influence on my work as a graphics designer. Indirectly, there are heaps.

The climate changes has made us aware of how humans influence even big systems like the global temperature. Now, I belong to the camp that doesn't believe that all the changes are solely due to people, but we do pollute. A lot. And I am happy that the climate is making people focus on pollution again.

We had a quiz and I did very badly. I guessed that emissions, electricity use, waste, etc. were far lower than they actually are. For example, did you know that it takes 75 kg of materials to make one cell phone? (I guessed 15 kg and thought that was a bit much.) And 1000 metric tons of water?

I wonder what it took to make my beloved Mac. I haven't thought about much more than that the machine is manufactured in Shanghai, China, which is pretty far away for a computer that is destined for Norway. It is made up of various metals and plastics and I have to dispose of it as "special waste" because there are batteries and heavy metals in it.

Ideally, I should be able to recycle my old computers. Ideally, everything I use should be at least 70 % recyclable. I think 70 % is a good number. I actually don't know. That was what I became aware of during the quiz: I really don't know how much waste any of us is responsible for.

Perhaps the fact that I have a simple lifestyle, own no car, walk to work, and tend to keep things until they wear out has made me unaware of the realities of the things that are in my life. I wonder what it would take to buy only local food, or only ecological or even non-polluting (that would be local + ecological)? I imagine that it would limit my choices. Norway has a limited agriculture and growth season though it's been a bit extended with hot-houses. But that last is probably not "green", either, since it requires heating and artificial watering. (Norway does get 90 % of its power from water, but that figure used to be 95 %; we have been increasing our use of fossil fuels for power.) In the old days, people canned and pickled and dried products to make them last through the winter. Nowadays, there is no winter in the stores. Summer products are available all year round, simply by putting them in refrigerated containers and flying them halfway around the globe from a country in the middle of summer to a country in the middle of winter.

I live in a country that depends on imports. The thing is, all of humanity has shipped things everywhere for centuries. The spice trade, the tea trade, even the slave trade all transported goods (and people) from one continent to another. The thing is, sailing ships don't give off the same emissions or use tons of fossil fuel like today's container ships do. I think that if we are going to cut emissions, we actually have to slow down. We have to go back to letting things take time: No overnight mail unless it's a body part for a waiting transplant patient. If we order books from overseas, there is no expedited shipping; your package goes "surface mail" (but there could be more downloadable PDFs, for example, to cut down on the shipping and even making of books). Foreign countries that grow delicious fruits and vegetables, may have to dry or can them for export, because they will no longer be flown.

But it would be just as hard to change Norwegian habits as it would be to stop China's new love affair with cars and western materialism. Had I been born in Norway, I would have been born in a poor country. Norwegians didn't start to gain any real personal wealth until the early 80's; the yuppie era was the first time Norwegians had money to spend frivolously (some too frivolously). The wealth has increased, and so has the spending - and the Norwegians love not being poor any more. But the fascination with materialism makes it hard to find inspiration to be "green". Norway builds like the US: Far outside the city center, in suburbs accessible only by car. The town I live in allows huge "big box" stores to build in places inaccessible by bus or foot, and no provisions made for public transportation to them. In fact, most of the shops have left downtown Bergen, turning Norway's second largest city into a "café town" because that's what you're likely to find. (This "policy" has annoyed me for years; did you know that downtown Bergen has no furniture stores except for the Salvation Army's shop Fretex and a couple of exclusive boutiques? A core population of 100,000 people have to leave town to buy a bed.) At least the Norwegian government recently put in a moratorium on building more shopping malls, which encourage car use.

Still, they say we can only start with our own habits. I will continue to ride the bus, and I will try to be more aware of where my produce comes from. I may end up giving up a lot of goodies, including fresh avocados and fresh dates. And my beloved ayurvedic teas... (Whaa!) But if such sacrifices mean avoiding six continuous months of rainy, cloudy weather every year, then I'm all for it. Because that's what our winters have turned into and that sort of weather brings even happy people down.

May 27, 2008

What do I desire?

"What do I desire?" was the prompt on the prompt generator - and a good prompt it is.

Last night's seminar has (happily) given me a lot of inspiration and - desire. Desire to look seriously at what I really want out of life and the faith that I can make my desires realities. But I have to first clarify what I want.

I have never been concrete. I have never had definite plans. That whole business of writing down where I want to be in one year, five years, ten years, has never appealed to me. (Still doesn't, to tell the truth.) But in the meantime, where I am right now could use some tweaking. Life is good, basically, and yet there are little things that mar the goodness: My stomach, the situation at work, an increase in tagging on walls in my immediate neighborhood, making the place look trashy.

These are things that can bring one down, if very slowly. I'd like to not be affected by some of the grumbling and stress I'm noticing at work. I'd like to not get upset about unwanted graffiti or a loud baseball game too close to the windows. I can't stop these things; I can only not let them be my reality.

So I'm having fun with making a vision board, and thinking about what I want, what I would feel if I got it, etc. Every day I need to focus on my desires. The "power" word that comes to mind when I think of that is: Joy. Pure joy.

May 26, 2008

Thinking big thoughts

Tonight I attended a course that uses this. It was advertised as teaching The Secret, and I had no clue what to expect since I hadn't even heard of the course instructor. However, the Norwegian woman who held the four-hour seminar was both lively and brilliant and real. I am very happy I went to that seminar.

I'm very happy the seminar even exists, and, really, it is because of the popularity of "The Secret". That book is currently Norway's No. 1 seller. It looks to me like Norway is finally going to wake up to a new way of seeing the world. Tonight's seminar was the first I've ever heard of that teaches the law of attraction. Finally, positive thinking and consciously choosing happier, more self-supporting thoughts and behaviors has reached this side of the Atlantic.

You have to understand: Norwegians have been mired in a very special attitude that one can find anywhere on the planet, but only in Scandinavia did it get written down and called a law. The Law of Jante (Jante is a fictional place) basically describes the worst of human pettiness, jealousy, envy, discrimination and resentment. Our instructor mentioned that because Norway collectively still expresses two bad "side-effects" of a culture steeped in Jante Law: 1) Norwegians don't know how to think/dream big, and 2) Norwegians don't know how to delight in each other's successes.

Norway has been steadily moving away from this disheartening and fear-based way of viewing the world in the years I've been living here, and so it is a huge deal and a sort of culmination that a small, blonde woman stands before an audience of Norwegians and has them all wanting all of their biggest dreams to come true - without any doubts!

It's wonderful!

And I, myself, have enjoyed getting a nice boost and a practical approach to using the Law of Attraction. I definitely need to learn to think big thoughts, myself.

PS: For mine norske lesere, vil jeg anbefale seminaret med Birgit Semundseth på det varmeste. Det var et godt og profft kurs, med en del overraskelser og mye latter, og verdt pengene.

May 25, 2008

At the fountain

Lured by a free outdoor concert I took a trip to town on a glorious Sunday afternoon. Me and my camera. Among the things I wanted a picture of was the sparrows' favorite drinking spot.

I had noticed them a couple of times before as I walked by on other occassions. They had found the perfect perch (though I think it's actually a carp - HA!) in one of the city's older fountains, featuring a crying boy, which is understandable as he is perpetually showered by four fish.

The sparrows were there again today, so I walked over and got my camera ready. The sparrows, of course, scattered. Darned skittish birds, they are. So I waited. And they didn't take long to come back, though a bit cautiously:

They didn't wait long to move around to the other side of the fountain:

And there they are, on this one particular fish in the fountain, drinking and bathing.

Other birds are not able to balance on the bronze fish's back and drink. They rely on puddles formed on the wall surrounding the fountain:

May 24, 2008

AFK

It's almost 8 pm. It is the first time today I sit down at the computer. And it felt good, in more ways than one.

I have been struggling with some achy hip joints, which - I discovered - have to do with too much sitting, especially on a bad chair. I now try to make a point of stretching my hamstrings a couple of times a day. That helps and this morning I woke up with no hip ache and no tummy ache. Lovely!

I actually eagerly got out of bed today. I don't know what I did right yesterday, but the satisfaction of having cleaned out both fridge and pantry and leaving a large pile of clean dishes may have something to with it. So this morning started with putting away dishes, breakfast and the newspaper. Since I was up and dressed by 9 am (on a Saturday I'm usually up and dressed by 11 am or 3 pm or whatever), I could open my door and get the newspaper in front of the delivery guy. It's not a 13-year-old boy. Hasn't been for years. But I really wasn't expecting a 40-ish guy with a waist-long pony-tail. As he came back down the stairs, he saw me and instantly said, "Hi!" I thanked him for the newspaper.

His "hi" cheered me up a bit, because I'd had a rather bizarre experience with the 20-something mail carrier on Wednesday. Since I saw her little red truck parked outside, I thought I'd say hi to her, having never talked to her before. So I went into the building as she was stuffing mail in our mail boxes. Since she had earphones on, I figured she was listening to something. So I didn't say anything, waiting for her to make it clear she wasn't immersed in her listening pleasure. She did no such thing, though. Instead, she kept glaring at me, looking more and more annoyed. Maybe I should have said something. What is the etiquette for interrupting someone who has something blaring in their ears? Heck, for that matter, what is the etiquette for when someone keeps standing around, looking at you, and you have something blaring in your ears? Isn't there some rule about lifting up an earphone to indicate you're prepared to listen to the human rather than the MP3-player? What are they teaching these young folks, nowadays?

But I digress. I did laundry this morning. Three loads emptied the laundry basket and I caught up on some TV-watching while I folded. Then it was time for a late lunch, which was a successful plate of pesto ravioli with black olives and microwaved zucchini. A bit more laundry folding and TV and then I decided that it was time to catch some sun. So I put on my bikini and iPod and parked myself out on the balcony. A cloud was moving in from the east and finally caught up to the sun. I gave up the tanning. But I kept my iPod plugged in because I was listening to the podcast of Oprah Winfrey's series with Eckhart Tolle. I haven't read his book, "A New Earth", but I don't need to. It's such familiar territory. What I do enjoy are the reminders about living in the now, and the questions from viewers. And it's just really nice stuff to spend a couple hours listening to. In fact, instead of being disappointed in not being able to get some sunlight on my body, I found myself on a roll and took Oprah and Eckhart into the guest room, which had once again become the repository of those items I can't be bothered putting away right away, and took care of piles of laundry there, too.

Then it was time to make dinner. Since I'm on a restricted diet for the time being, I had bought some vegetables for baking. Tasty!

As I sit here, trying to sum up my day, I can feel some worries letting go. I can feel that my day's activities - both purposeful and gentle and self-nurturing - have calmed me and inspired me. I was in a zone. I was so tempted to write here, "Today I did nothing", but I did a lot. I did myself good. Even writing this blogpost feels good.

AFK = Away From Keyboard.

May 23, 2008

The hardest decision

I had another nice walk to the police station this morning. I learned that if I were a European citizen the stamp in my passport would be valid for 25 years. I am, however, not a European citizen.

As I left the police and walked to work, I thought about changing my citizenship. Giving up my US one and becoming Norwegian. With a Norwegian passport I could visit Cuba, for example. I could also live and work anywhere in the EU. That could help my latent dream of living in England come true. And I could have a say in who actually runs this country.

But…

I checked this question before so I know that the US has rather strict rules about giving up one's citizenship, along the lines of "If you leave, don't bother coming back". And, am I really expecting never to go back to the US? There's something about waving the dark blue passport as I land in on US soil that makes me feel I belong, that I'm somehow home. But the US isn't "home", really. Not any more. It's just another country, with good and bad points, and - I must admit - the longer I stay in Norway, the less attractive the US seems.

As I considered giving up my birthright, I could feel a fear grip me, about the finality of giving of my US citizenship. I walked by the dumbest sidewalk set-up ever: It ends on one side of the street as the road bends, and there is no crosswalk nearby to take you to the opposite side where there's a sidewalk. Do I really want to be a citizen of a country that does something that thoughtless? Well, right now, with Dubya Bush in charge, the alternative is pretty dumb, too.

I told myself that I didn't have to make a decision right then and there. I could wait and see who gets elected president this fall and see what that person does the next four years. I can wait and see if I'm still annoyed at the system in two years' time when I go back to renew my stamp. I can wait and see if the rules in Norway or the EU change.

A co-worker told me today of a cousin of hers who has dual citizenship. The cousin's experience is that Norwegians are more welcome around the world than are Americans. You can go more places with a Norwegian passport.

Dear reader: If you are someone who gave up your citizenship in one nation for another (especially if you gave up a US citizenship), I'd love to hear from you, either in the comments or via e-mail.

PS: The Norwegian DMV works fast! My new driver's license arrived in the mail today. It somehow makes me feel very Norwegian.

May 22, 2008

Fitting in - more or less

I wrote earlier about a frustration I have being foreign, which involves getting a new visa in my passport. I have permanent residency, so it's just a matter of constantly renewing the official stamp in my passport that says so. And it was indeed a breeze to use the local police station. (The queue ticket amused me.)

After a pleasant walk from home (with camera in tow), I made it to the office building with the sign that said "Police, 2nd floor". Of course, in their usual helpful way, the Norwegian woman behind the counter confirmed that the foreigners go to the other end, but said nothing about the anonymous-looking queue ticket machine. That's when I understood why the Russian woman in line had grunted in the direction of the machine when I first asked her if she was in line. She didn't smile no matter what language I tried, but talked up a storm with the woman waiting on her, who spoke fluent Russian. I figured it was going to be a while to wait, because whatever the Russian woman needed to take care of was taking a while, but at least I was ahead of the Asian couple. Then another woman opened up the second window, and very pleasantly took my passport and photo. And not only that, I get to pick up my passport tomorrow already!

After the police, I took advantage of being in the neighborhood anyway, and walked over to the department of motor vehicles (the long, red building pictured above). I hadn't been there since I got my Norwegian driver's license, over 20 years ago. All it took was handing over my California license and taking a winter driving course since I was from someplace sunny (the course was fun, but I still don't want to drive in winter). Then I got my license, with a photo that had me looking like Patty Hearst, valid through my 100th birthday. No, you read that right. Norwegian drivers licenses are for life, but after you turn 70 you have to have annual doctor's check-ups to keep driving. Thing is, the old style (see the large pink ones here) is no longer valid as ID because it was too easy to forge. And the ID I got through the post office to compensate expired this month. I'm one of the few people whose bank debit card does not show my picture because that would require physically showing up at the bank to verify my identity - and I use an internet bank. Since I need ID and the automobile club complains when I ask for an international driver's license with my old pink one, it was time to get the new credit card-sized one.

I didn't realize I had to take a photo there, in their booth, so when my number came up, the lady at the counter told me I had to do that first, making me realize my last 10 minutes were not well spent. I asked her about my place in line, and she said to just come back to her station. So I went to the little booth, all touch-screen driven with a choice of several languages (but nothing for the hearing-impaired), and entered my "person number" (same system as in Sweden), and got two equally bad Patty Hearst pictures of myself. Again. But the first time I did that was more interesting because the photographer then was a hunchbacked man.

Anyway, back to the counter. Empty. An older man sitting near it said he thought the woman had gone to lunch. I glanced at the clock. 11:35 am. Yep, that's the start of a lunch (half)hour. I waited a bit, more hopeful than I knew I should be because lunch breaks are holy. The old man said I should try another counter because he didn't think the woman was coming back. So I "snuck in line" at another counter, and the lady there decided I'd asked nicely enough for help and took care of me. I paid for the pictures (which she found in the computer using my person number, naturally) and new license (NOK 262) and got a temporary license, valid for a month and only with some other picture ID. Wait. Isn't that a catch-22? Good thing I get my passport back tomorrow.

May 20, 2008

The high school guidance counselor

Paula kvetches about her daughter's high school guidance counselor in this post. I put in my 2 cents in the comments, but I thought my own readers deserved to hear my own kvetching.

I actually liked high school, though I didn't like homework (but always did it, because I am unable to cram) and by the end of my junior year was terribly tired of the whole thing. (One of my reasons for moving back to California when I did was to get away with only two more years of school rather than three, which was what I was facing in Norway.) But in general, I liked high school. I liked my friends, I liked most of the teachers, I liked the school itself and its school colors (red and black) and our somewhat dorky name for our football team, the Dynamiters (guess what our mascot looked like). I never got the hang of American football. I went to one game, cheered for the wrong team, and decided that my talents lay elsewhere. One of my electives in my senior year had to do with office work, and I totally enjoyed that. That's my talent. Office work. And office work well done.

I didn't like my high school guidance counselor, though. There was very little guidance. I have never been able to tolerate people who do not do their jobs well (and conversely, I delight in watching people do excellent work), so I quickly gained zero respect for my counselor. I really can't stand it when the person who is supposed to give you advice, knows no more than the person seeking the advice (which bugged several of Paula's commenters, too). All of my decisions about where to next were made by conferring with everyone else but my counselor.

I met with my guidance counselor four times during the two years I attended Glendale High School. The first time was when we were trying to fit me and my foreign background into American curriculum. It was assumed that with my European education I was automatically smarter than American kids. Yeah, right. Because I was American, I was smarter than a lot of the kids in Norwegian school. Exposure to more than one way of thinking/one kind of culture will do that, but that doesn't mean one has the right academic background for an American trigonometry class. This led to my second meeting with my guidance counselor.

One day, after 6 weeks in my trig class, I suddenly realized that I understood not a single thing on the chalkboard and that was when I asked my counselor to transfer me to plain ol' algebra. There I got one of the best teachers ever, Mr. Morrison. Young but brilliant. I got A's in his classes. Some of my best memories from high school are actually from Mr. Morrison's summer class in geometry.

For a while, I had a friend who was seriously bored with high school. Cathy didn't even bother to get good grades though she was smarter than me. She was talking about taking the California High School Proficiency Examination. Now, I'm a test junkie. I even took the Scientologists's free test complete with free evaluation. (They're full of shit, no matter what they tell you. Trust me on this.) So, I took the CHSPE. And managed to make both my mother and my guidance counselor panic. I didn't like upsetting my mother and she finally got that I was just curious, but I must admit that I got evil delight out of watching my guidance counselor squirm. Especially since I knew I wasn't going to quit high school. But taking the test was interesting - and had me questioning the competency of the state board of education. At no time does a high school teach you how to balance a check book, but that was on the test! A test like that should be mandatory. Lots of good questions about practical, real-life stuff, totally unrelated to the academic get-a-good-SAT-score-or-die focus of school. Anyway, I passed the proficiency exam (I wouldn't pass today's version, I'm sure), and went to summer school. You know, geometry with Mr. Morrison.

Finally, graduation day itself. Even back in 1978 there was a consensus that teenagers are thieving little brats you can't trust farther than a flea farts so we were told we'd receive an empty leather cover during the graduation ceremony; the diploma itself would be handed out upon returning our caps and gowns to our - guidance counselor. I was thrilled to graduate. I was in line with some good friends. We were all going to grad nite at Disneyland. And the person I least respected during my two years at high school was handing me the most important document in my life up to that point (besides my birth certificate) and I had to shake his hand. And he insisted on saying a few words. Puhleeze! But all was forgotten the moment we got on the bus for Anaheim.

I was skeptical of the counselors offered at my junior college but the one I got was wonderful! Kept me sane, he did.

May 19, 2008

Current state not necessarily future state

Talking about digestion is something old people do. So let me talk about my digestion now and get it over and done with because I really don't want to be having this conversation when I'm old.

I am currently reading a book, "Hidden power for human problems" by Frederick Bailes. I hadn't heard of Bailes until quite recently, when I was reading about Thomas Troward. (I wander with Google like other people backpack foreign countries.) So I ordered a book, and am enjoying it.

Bailes claims that there are some basic attitudes that give us trouble, that trip us up. He also claims that it doesn't take 50 years to undo a 50-year-old habit. One of his examples involves a man with an ulcer.

I have been to the doctor's today. I described my grab-bag of symptoms, stating that I've always had sluggish digestion, ever since childhood. The doctor told me to avoid milk products, gluten, potatoes and coffee, and prescribed ranitidine. I got tired of constantly being aware of my insides because something was always aching, twinging or even having sharp pains. I said to my doctor, "I've had bad digestion for 40 years. Ya think I can avoid having it for another 40?" He smiled like Mona Lisa (he always smiles like that) and non-committedly said anything was possible.

Well, anything is. An ulcer is possible. A change of mind - quite literally - and a willingness to stop identifying with a 40-year-old habit is possible. That last is also a far more desirable path.

Bailes has a whole chapter on the man with an ulcer. I will go back and re-read. It is hard to convince oneself that at the core of everything is perfection. I read somewhere that disease is something that layers itself on top of health. So, all you have to do is peel away the disease. I find that thought rather cheering.

Just to be sure, the doctor had me take a blood test, and will check my thyroid values, and he also wants some stool tests. The nurse handed me the test kit. "You take one test per day." I asked her how I was going to do one per day, if I didn't go more than once per week. Not a problem; the tests are sealed in such a way that they'll keep, she explained. (They think of everything.) I then complained about the poster on the wall. That it would be nice with a sleeker man to be distracted by than the pot-bellied one encouraging patients to lose weight. Especially since the blood test kind of hurt.

So what's next is to follow doctor's orders, and keep reading Bailes. Somewhere inside me there is a belief that is ruining my enjoyment of food. I'm not having that. I'm not going to spend the next 40 years like the last. Everything I read says that the natural state of a body, regardless of age, is health, and that attitude has a lot to say about how well one stays in this natural state. So many beliefs, including the ones of an entire society (consider the discussion about health care and how most folks feel it is necessary), influence what one expects out of health and aging and life in general. I do not want to become medicalized. I'd rather come to an understanding of this wonderful physical perfection that is my birthright and let it express itself fully.

This or something better is now manifesting in my life for me.

(Also posted in my other blog.)

Current state not necessarily future state

Talking about digestion is something old people do. So let me talk about my digestion now and get it over and done with because I really don't want to be having this conversation when I'm old.

I am currently reading a book, "Hidden power for human problems" by Frederick Bailes. I hadn't heard of Bailes until quite recently, when I was reading about Thomas Troward. (I wander with Google like other people backpack foreign countries.) So I ordered a book, and am enjoying it.

Bailes claims that there are some basic attitudes that give us trouble, that trip us up. He also claims that it doesn't take 50 years to undo a 50-year-old habit. One of his examples involves a man with an ulcer.

I have been to the doctor's today. I described my grab-bag of symptoms, stating that I've always had sluggish digestion, ever since childhood. The doctor told me to avoid milk products, gluten, potatoes and coffee, and prescribed ranitidine. I got tired of constantly being aware of my insides because something was always aching, twinging or even having sharp pains. I said to my doctor, "I've had bad digestion for 40 years. Ya think I can avoid having it for another 40?" He smiled like Mona Lisa (he always smiles like that) and non-committedly said anything was possible.

Well, anything is. An ulcer is possible. A change of mind - quite literally - and a willingness to stop identifying with a 40-year-old habit is possible. That last is also a far more desirable path.

Bailes has a whole chapter on the man with an ulcer. I will go back and re-read. It is hard to convince oneself that at the core of everything is perfection. I read somewhere that disease is something that layers itself on top of health. So, all you have to do is peel away the disease. I find that thought rather cheering.

Just to be sure, the doctor had me take a blood test, and will check my thyroid values, and he also wants some stool tests. The nurse handed me the test kit. "You take one test per day." I asked her how I was going to do one per day, if I didn't go more than once per week. Not a problem; the tests are sealed in such a way that they'll keep, she explained. (They think of everything.) I then complained about the poster on the wall. That it would be nice with a sleeker man to be distracted by than the pot-bellied one encouraging patients to lose weight. Especially since the blood test kind of hurt.

So what's next is to follow doctor's orders, and keep reading Bailes. Somewhere inside me there is a belief that is ruining my enjoyment of food. I'm not having that. I'm not going to spend the next 40 years like the last. Everything I read says that the natural state of a body, regardless of age, is health, and that attitude has a lot to say about how well one stays in this natural state. So many beliefs, including the ones of an entire society (consider the discussion about health care and how most folks feel it is necessary), influence what one expects out of health and aging and life in general. I do not want to become medicalized. I'd rather come to an understanding of this wonderful physical perfection that is my birthright and let it express itself fully.

This or something better is now manifesting in my life for me.

(Also posted in my spiritual blog.)

May 18, 2008

A bit of refurbishing

Yesterday, my blog looked like this:

I moved my blog to Blogspot because I wanted a couple of things posting with FTP to my homepage site couldn't give me (simply): A collapsable archive list and a label list. Mainly I do this for me (as the commercial goes). To me, a long list is just visual clutter, and I can never remember my own labels or what I wrote when, so… Now to scurry over to the old address and redirect folks. Done. (Looks like you may have to update any RSS-feeds you have. I did. :-)

One nice thing about moving back to Blogspot is that publishing is blazingly fast.

What's left is figuring out how to add external widgets and badges with this new template. Yes, I want my stinkin' badges. I'll figure it out. For now, at least one can go here (the other one's complaining about an open tag):

Blog Directory - Blogged

Here was to be a Blog365 widget. View my page on Blog 365

May 17, 2008

Constitution Day and oystercatchers

I went digging through the archives and apparently, I'm more fascinated with oystercatchers having sex sitting on eggs than I am Norway's Constitution Day. It's a day of sack races, balloons, ice cream, hot dogs, throwing up in the bushes only to go right back for another ice cream, and forced to do all that in the Nice Clothes. No matter the weather.

The local elementary school has a 17th of May parade, with an appreciably shrunk school band this year from earlier years. I think that may explain why there was no flea market for the school band last fall: Not enough people. A parade just isn't the same without a band, so I hope they keep theirs. It's nice that Lyshovden skole still marches around our neighborhood, though no one here attends the school any more (rearranged school districts). It certainly is a pretty parade, with everyone all dressed up for the day, including the kids.

Earlier this afternoon, one group had a dry run (I guess), giving me a better view of some the Norwegian national costumes (bunad). You can see a blond woman in a gorgeous Hardanger bunad in the middle of the photo, and to her right, a woman (partially hidden) in a dark blue Bergen costume, which is a new invention. Behind them is a woman in what I'm guessing is a vestlandsdrakt, a modern-day generic West Norway costume first introduced during the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic games.

Now I'll go warm up some rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge), which is traditional fare for a day like this. You can go watch the birdies. Get the live stream; it's very relaxing to watch the bird just breathing while it sits on the eggs.

May 16, 2008

Priorities

Norway's largest labor organization, LO, has many member unions. Some of them organize airport employees. And some of those employees went on strike today at 8:00 am, closing five airports including ours in Bergen (BGO).

It's rather interesting to hear what sort of emergency solutions people and airlines come up with. The airlines did not want to land at BGO because that would strand the machines there. So they diverted traffic - and passengers - to the airports in Haugesund and Stavanger, two cities south of Bergen that can be accessed by car, bus or ferry. The train between Bergen and Oslo is now sold out and some people are renting cars. The thing is, this is a major traveling day because a lot of people want to spend Constitution Day with family.

The morning news was full of reports on how airlines and passengers were handling the upset of closed airports. But our local radio station started getting several calls about something else that was of even greater importance to the locals: Did the Oslo team that is playing our local team, Brann, tonight make it to Bergen? The answer, to the relief of many soccer fans, is yes.

The May 16 match is always a home match and a big spectacle and kicks off many all-night parties (and a few fights) what with the following day being a holiday. Who cares about grounded planes? It would be a bigger disaster if Brann couldn't play tonight!

PS: Since our opponent is one of the heavy-weights in the Norwegian premier soccer league, I'll be watching the game on TV tonight. If I were betting, I'd bet a final score of 0–0.

UPDATE: Good thing I didn't bet. We won! 1–0! (Took 'em almost the whole match and the other team losing one man, though.) Anyway: Heia Brann!

May 15, 2008

I am safe as long as…

I have a good friend, Ken, who has often functioned as my personal guru. He has a simple but effective suggestion for when life seems to get difficult or worrisome: Go find the party. Or, if that's a little out of reach, affirm to yourself, "I am safe as long as I'm breathing, no matter how it feels. Life supports me."

I really need to say that to myself right now. Granted, my stomach's been doing some weird things lately (will see doctor Monday), but there's another feeling in it right now that I know has nothing to do with digestion. I recognize it. It's been some 20 years since I last felt it, but I recognize it: It's the fear of losing one's job. It's the fear of having the rug pulled out from under one's feet and having no (good) options.

It isn't just me. The whole department - actually, the whole section - is feeling bummed out by a situation that shouldn't be happening: Dedicated, hard-working employees providing services all the other employees greatly appreciate should not be treated as a liability for the company. Instead of feeling appreciated by the upper management, we are feeling invisible and disrespected. We know it's not personal, but in one way, that just makes it worse.

I find myself wondering where to next if my current department goes belly up.

And that takes me back to late 1987, to the last time my employer decided a department was unnecessary and removed us with the stroke of a pen. Rules being what they are in Norway, my employer couldn't fire us, but instead tried to help us find new jobs elsewhere in the company. If they couldn't, or we didn't want the job offered, then we had to quit. I had bought my own apartment in 1986, and with a new mortgage was not prepared for unemployment. I was offered a new job in January of 1988, and I took it, though I later realized that I would have been happier not being "placed" but applying and getting a job the regular way. Still, it all worked out well, because that job was what led me down the path that gave me work I still love to do: Graphics design.

I'm not really that qualified for other jobs, since the rest of the company doesn't need a graphics designer. But I know that entertaining fearful thoughts is not going to do me or my stomach any good. I need to keep the faith, to focus on staying calm, remembering that I've always landed on my feet, and that this may even be a door opening onto something new and more wonderful.

To keep that positive focus I need to remind myself that I am safe as long as I'm breathing. No matter how it feels.

May 13, 2008

Cool idea with no verbs

From Neatorama's own post about a story without verbs, inspiration. Otherwise, none at all. Too short a night, too long a day, too empty a mind, too empty a blog post. But, no! 365 days of posts! Yes!

May 12, 2008

Deacceleration

This being a three-day weekend in Norway since it's Whitsund, I decided that I should do something different, so I went looking for a day trip. I found one that would take me by boat to the barony in Rosendal. It said trips daily Monday through Friday and I wondered if that included this Monday, which is a public holiday. Well, their website sold me a ticket for today, so I showed up at the pier and waited for the boat.

And waited.

And discovered some other people waiting.

We were about ten people who had all managed to buy tickets for a trip today, only to discover that the boat had no intention of sailing this particular Monday. The largest group were a bunch of Icelanders, some who lived in Bergen, and they decided to drive to Rosendal. I ended up talking to a couple from Singapore and we agreed to go to the tourist information office and see if they could help us.

The service at the tourist information office was impressive. Not only did they refund our tickets (NOK 660 each), but they gave us free Bergen Cards (a value of NOK 190) which gave us a discount for another boat trip. So I asked if I could join the pair and they happily said yes. I ended up spending all day with Patrick and May. I'll bet if that other boat had sailed, I wouldn't have had so much fun.

We sailed north from town into the Osterfjord, not far from where I lived as a child. We had perfect weather, and both May and Patrick loved getting a good look at a Norwegian fjord with rising and steep mountains. Singapore is flat and built up. They were curious about things Norwegian and happy to tell me about things Singaporean. May was also quick to find plenty of blankets so we could sit on deck and brave the north wind a bit.

That boat trip took four hours so when we got back to town, we were hungry. I took May and Patrick to Bryggestuen and they were absolutely delighted with the Bergen fish soup, which is a specialty of the restaurant. I had the special of the day, trout with cucumber salad followed by cheesecake.

Afterwards, we all wanted a cup of coffee but we also wanted Norwegian waffles. Turns out that the Norwegian waffle is becoming an endangered species. Nobody makes them any more. They used to be a staple of any coffee shop but no more. The thing about Norwegian waffles is that they are floppy. They are served hot or cold, with jam or that funny brown cheese Norwegians like, and they are soft. And tasty. But not to be found. We gave up and went in search of coffee.

So I took May and Patrick to Det lille kaffekompaniet, a tiny coffee bar in what looks like an alley right above the funicular's lower station. It's not an alley; it's an original cobblestoned street crowded by old, charming wooden houses. We sat out on some steps with our coffees and teas and chatted. We'd been talking all day, actually, about everything under the sun, and some interesting concepts that our respective countries and cultures brought up. May and Patrick had the impression that Norway was very laid back. They were looking at some Norwegians just enjoying a beer in the sunshine. Asians don't know how to slow down and just enjoy the moment, May told me. "They don't know how to deaccelerate."

As we sat in this quiet and quaint side street, holding onto steaming cups, delighting in a calm and pleasant late afternoon, I said to May, "We're really deaccelerating now." And we were.

May 11, 2008

Home-made card

I can't remember when I last made a home-made Mother's Day card, if ever. Mother's Day is the second Sunday in May in the US, so I made this card at home, 21st century style (Photoshop. layers, effects, more than one photo), showing Grandma and me, and sent it to my mother:

May 10, 2008

Flag use, here and there

After our 6K walk, the girls and I talked over pizza. One said that a friend of hers, who now lives in Florida, was shocked at American nationalism, with all its flag-waving. So I tried to set her straight. I told her that it took a lot more to make me start thinking of out-of-control nationalists than the use of the stars-and-stripes.

Americans use their flag and its pattern of stars and stripes for everything. Sometimes tastelessly so. I'm not charmed by seeing the star-spangled banner as a pair of Speedos. But that does show that the threshold for displaying the flag or its pattern is relatively low in the US - relative to Norway.

Norway displays the flag only on flag days - or birthdays. You can always tell when one of my neighbors has a birthday because a flag will be displayed on their balcony. I have, however, never seen garments that look like the Norwegian flag. The other time I see the Norwegian flag in use, is at Christmas; the Norwegians make garlands out of little paper flags and decorate their tree with that. It's a habit that got its significance after five years of German occupation - and the ban on displaying the Norwegian flag or colors - came to an end. (Liberation or VE Day is on May 8 in Norway, and it's a flag day; I took a picture.)

With the exception of soccer fans abroad, who paint their faces and bodies like the flag, I don't see the Norwegians displaying the flag or its colors outside of the above-mentioned traditional uses. Norwegians do not dress up in the red-white-and-blue for their National Day (May 17), but prefer the traditional striped ribbon pinned to a lapel. Most flag poles fly a banner with the blue-and-white stripe on red based on the flag on non-flag days, and that's it. Some Norwegians have even protested the new license plates which display an icon of the Norwegian flag, requesting plates without the icon.

Americans, on the other hand, make garments and hats and shoes and furniture and what-have-you based on white stars on a dark blue base and red and white stripes, and will often wear those colors on the US's Independence Day on July 4 (I know I did). And any other occassion where one wants to display pride in flag and country. And Americans do display, even on license plates, or permanently waving from their home, or as refrigerator magnets. This is why I don't worry about the level of patriotism in an American sporting the stars-and-stripes.

The most noticeable difference for me is illustrated by two anniversaries: The US's bicentennial celebration in 1976, and Norway's centennial in 2005. Throughout 1976, US stores displayed historical or patriotic or just lots of red-white-and-blue in their windows. Regular stores in Norway didn't do anything like that in 2005.

May 9, 2008

My favorite art exhibit

An annual rite for me is to go to the tourist information office and pick up the season's new guide to Bergen. It's just as useful to us locals as it is to the tourists. The tourist information office used to be on Bryggen, the old wharf, a logical place but the office itself was dominated by a very large, old-fashioned counter and not much room beyond it. If there were more than five people in there, browsing pamphlets, exchanging money or signing up for "Norway in a nutshell", you'd instantly feel that you were inside said nutshell.

So they moved. They took over the main floor of the building that had once been the Bergen Stock Exchange. I was so happy that's where they moved because that office contains one of my strongest childhood memories.

I didn't know it was the Bergen Stock Exchange when I was a kid. When I first came to Norway, the building belonged to a bank, Bergen Privatbank. My maternal grandparents, whom I was living with, opened an account there. We lived almost an hour's drive outside the city (very windy roads), so any trip to town meant som planning in advance and making sure necessities were taken care of, including taking out (or depositing) money. I was never bored waiting for my folks to finish their banking. I was a bit intimidated by the cathedral-like interior of the bank, but the interior had something that held my fascination every visit - and still does: Huge frescoes on three walls (the fourth being windows).

The Stock Exchange, built in 1862, wanted to have an interior that reflected its business and Bergen's. So there was a competition for the best interior design, and the artist Axel Revold won the commission. He covered the walls with scaffolding and drove the town crazy with curiosity for the two years it took him to finish his work. He refused to let anyone see works-in-progress. But in 1923 he was done and his huge, blocky depictions of all things mercantile were revealed to the public - and the public loved it.

There is a progression in along the walls, starting with the east wall (on your left if you come up the stairs to what was the original main entrance) which shows the fishing industry of Northern Norway, the process of fishing and curing the fish and shipping it to Bergen. The next wall (west) shows the brisk business the fishermen did with the port of Bergen, which was truly international, and sold the fish on to the continent. The fishermen took spices and flour and cloth home. After a while the trade entered the industrial era, and the merchants discovered new markets and new products (as shown by the last painting in the series which shows Africans). The general theme is that the abundance - of both things to trade and people to trade with - never ends, and it is quite a positive theme. Revold's style honors the working man, who is featured in all the paintings.

I opened my first savings account in Norway (well, ever) in this bank. For my tenth (or maybe it was my ninth) birthday, my paternal grandparents back in the States gave me a check for five dollars, and I remember the exchange rate, because I got an even NOK 35 to deposit. I also remember having to stand on tip-toe to hand over my check to the teller over the massive oak counter, after crossing the equally massive marble floor. When you're a kid a space like that seems to stretch into infinity. While I was waiting for my folks to finish their business, I spent a lot of time craning my neck to study the ceiling, too. I appreciate the art in this room more and more. I love the colors in the frescoes and on the columns. The little figures on the ceiling, busy with their crafts and activities, have more meaning now that I'm more familiar with the old days and Bergen history.

Today, the tourist information office still has a long counter and thanks to a forest of brochure stands and displays, you can still get that nutshell feeling. Funny thing, though, when you need to push through the crowd: Everybody understands "pardon me" no matter what language you say it in.

May 8, 2008

I'm rated Great!

I got a pleasant surprise in my e-mail Tuesday. In fact, it was so pleasant, I actually teared up from joy:

Our editors recently reviewed your blog and have given it an 8.1 score out of (10) in the Education category of Blogged.com.
This is quite an achievement!

http://www.blogged.com/directory/education

We evaluated your blog based on the following criteria: Frequency of Updates, Relevance of Content, Site Design, and Writing Style.
After carefully reviewing each of these criteria, your site was given its 8.1 score.

The description at Bogged's website through me a bit, and wasn't entirely accurate ("A spiritual journey through life with an interesting Norwegian woman named Keera Ann Fox."), but after thinking about it, I'm cool with being labeled Norwegian (not to mention "interesting"). Regular readers know better. :-)

So check out the new badges! A little badge in the sidebar, and a nice big juicy one with my overall score is right here (and link to relevent page at Blogged):

A Roll in the Universe at Blogged

And whoever brought me to Blogged.com's attention: Thank you! A special "thank you" to Paula because being a part of Blog365 (see sidebar) is part of it, I'm sure, and she's the one who got me to join.

To everyone: Thanks for reading my blog!

May 6, 2008

6K of fun

Well, I don't know if it will be 6K of fun, but how can it not be? Especially since we have the loveliest day for it, and the walk itself is along one of Bergen's prettiest foot paths (Fjellveien) with a spectacular view of the city below.

We have a pure Norwegian summer day today, with 18 glorious degrees Celsius in the shade. There's a woman in a tank-top, pushing a lawnmower for the first cut of the season. Some kids have already pitched a tent (I used to do that, too, as a kid; sort of like having a tree house at ground level). Most kids are in shorts. I have the balcony door open and the temperature feels wonderful.

I am in the process of getting ready for a 6 km walk [PDF] this evening together with some girls at work. If we were English-speaking, I'd dub us the "Basement Beauties", but since we speak Norwegian, we are dubbed "Underetasjens Underverker". Close enough. Anyway, the walk is an annual event, and I'd actually like to meet Grete Waitz. I think she's the coolest Norwegian ever, partly because she never let her fame change who she is, and partly because she cares to share her own joy of running with others. This annual women's walk/run is on her initiation. The last time I attended (my first), was maybe 8 or so years ago. I have attended since, but that's partly because I haven't really paid attention. Anyway, this year, the division head is treating us gals to the run (sign-up fee and the food/drink) so it really is a free-for-all!

When we are done with our 6K walk we will head down to the city center for pizza and beer. Mmmm!

UPDATE: Waitz was there, on crutches, sporting a wig, because she's been (successfully) battling cancer. She's written a new book and any profits from both the walk and the sale of her book today will be donated to cancer research. I think. We were sitting way up on a steep grassy hill and couldn't hear a thing. Or see her very well. I used my zoom to get a shot; she's the one in the blue jacket. Yes, I got one of those green T-shirts. Turns out pistachio is a good color on me.

I expect to be home late. Don't wait up. I'm home and I'm happy.

May 5, 2008

Maybe it's not me

It's not nice when you deliberately delay going to bed on a Sunday because you're trying to hold off Monday because you just. Don't. Want. To. Go. To. Work.

I rarely feel this way, but I've been feeling this way more lately.

For some reason, I was thinking about this this afternoon as I chatted with a co-worker. Something about annual reviews (which are mutual between worker and boss) and our boss telling us to pretend it's business as usual.

You see, upper management has been staring at the bottom line and blinded by a desire that every year end with more profits than the year before, have pulled up a ghost from the past to haunt and taunt us with: Outsourcing. This they do even though managers in the US have already discovered that outsourcing doesn't work and certainly doesn't save money, and are now "insourcing".

We've been "investigated" since November. My boss has been running around, trying to fix a price to absolutely everything my department does. And attending a lot of meetings. Totally not his idea. It's direct orders from people who wear suits. They like things people who wear suits can grasp. Ideally, it's all in an Excel worksheet complete with graphs. My boss doesn't know how to use Excel, so he's really struggling to put our numbers into a spreadsheet format, as well as put a pricetag on fuzzy things like service, loyalty and creativity. We're a blue-color department that has nothing to do with the core, white-collar business - except to provide it with all the printing and copying it needs, from brochures to business cards to training manuals. And the occasional invitations to anniversaries.

He's been doing a good job of it. He's had practice. We've had this threat before.

But this time… this time is the longest we've had to go without knowing what or when, and with "new" management we don't feel too sure of. We were promised we'd be told in March, then April, then May. Now we'll be told if we keep our jobs or not in June. Or not.

We're tired of this. And since I have a tendency to pick up on other people's feelings (I've discovered), I can't help but wonder if my uncharacteristic lack of desire to go to work is rooted in how my co-workers feel about our current situation. We have a bit of gallows humor about it and our boss keeps trying to remind us of more likely and desirable outcomes, but it's the fact that we're even having to think about it that bugs us. We do darned good work. The company outsourced the cleaning crew after the last round of "what does it cost not to focus on our core business" and is regretting that bitterly, so we are annoyed that we have to constantly do this. It's one thing to ask for a price comparison, so-called bench-marking. That we're okay with. It's something else to be compared with the possibility of being gotten rid of.

I personally do not expect to be badly affected. Been there, done that, and computer-savvy enough to work somewhere else in the organization. My co-workers are not so "well-qualified", and some have had worse experiences than me: They were actually laid off, and unemployed for many months. It's not a pleasant ghost at all.

I am tempted to ask my co-workers point blank if all the joy of Mondays has gone out of them. It's rather hard to tell. We spent so much time laughing together today.

So maybe it is just me.

Or maybe we all really, really need the laughs.

May 4, 2008

Fruit is overrated

Yes, dear reader, I am one of those people who doesn't go nuts over fruit. Unless it's dried. I like the dried version and it likes me.

What had me thinking this? Well, I had parked a blog idea, swiped from Paula, and thought I'd offer it up this Sunday. But I was bamboozled by the first question: "What do you like about fruit?" The options given are:

  • There's so many different kinds to try
  • It's better for you than eating candy
  • It's a quick snack that you can grab
  • The sweetness
  • The intense flavors
  • That the taste changes as it gets riper

I kept looking for a none-of-the-above but couldn't find any. What would be the closest reason for me to eat fresh fruit? It's juicy. On very hot days there is nothing better than a couple of perfectly ripe nectarines or a deep red slice of watermelon. Stuck in a hotel conference room all day, fresh fruit makes a lovely break from the stronger stuff like coffee, or the pure sugar kicks like Danish, but not always. I don't always want fruit. I am not drawn to it.

One thing I never liked as a kid was fresh fruit in my lunch box. An apple could sit there till it wrinkled, only to get thrown away. It will sit there for that long because I'll be waiting for the impulse to suddenly want a bite of fruit, but that impulse doesn't come. I'm still that way, which is why I buy dried fruit. (Speaking of dried: I just tried dried wild apricots for the first time, wild ones being a bit tangier than the cultivated ones. They are delicious!) In my body, fresh fruit does not remove hunger pangs, fresh fruit does not fill me up, fresh fruit does not tide me over till meal times, and fresh fruit does not regulate my digestion (quite the contrary).

And that is why I say fruit is overrated. I am a bit annoyed at well-meaning Norwegian politicians who want to give every child in school fresh fruit every day, and that means an apple, pear or banana for each kid each day. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who a) has no liking for fresh fruit and b) has no stomach for it. I'd like to see the kids be given more of a choice, but sometimes I get the impression that the people who need educating are the adults. The adults suddenly get a bee in their bonnet (in this case, the "5 servings a day" campaign to promote more fruits and vegetables in the diet), and then end up going for some one-size-fits-all solution. In other words, you'd better like apples and bananas.

I liked vegetables when I was a kid. Not all of them, but most, and especially raw. We'd dig for wild turnips ("nepe") and eat them right then and there, find a good potato forgotten in the field after harvest and just wipe it off and eat it, but we'd also steal apples and go blueberry picking when they were in season. Fruit is a once-in-a-while food for me. I'd sooner gnaw on a carrot than an apple. But I like those fruits that get used like vegetables: Black olives, tomatoes, bell peppers, avocados.

There is one fruit I will eat fresh, though, and which has managed to be a nice substitute for chocolate when I have a craving for something sweet: Dates. Too bad they're out of season now. At least I have the wild apricots.

May 3, 2008

Thinning the trees

Some folks with chainsaws have been hard at work today, thinning the woods on the little hill behind my building.

Really thinning them.

It remains to be seen if what is left will fill in so much as the leaves come in that I won't notice the missing trees. I rather like the illusion of woods rather than buildings.

PS: I thought about going for heaps of Google hits by calling this post "Going naked in my backyard", but decided to alliterate instead. I still may get some hits.

May 2, 2008

Explosions and minerals and irony

I went to work today, yesterday being a national holiday in Norway, and the day before being a sick day. So since I last walked to work, the world has exploded into green. It is amazing how green the lawns are, a sharp green, an Irish green. The trees are dabbling in various shades of delicate, still, while the bushes are mimicking the grass. The wait for green is over; the landscape is filling in with green and the branches of the trees are becoming hidden. I'm a bit sorry the wait is over. Now we enter the most beautiful time of year in Norway, and I know it will pass too quickly. Still, it's a relief to finally have temperatures that allow me to forget I've left my bedroom window open all day.

On my way home today, the theme was not green, but skin color. Last summer on the cruise ship, I was introduced to mineral powder foundation/bronzer for the first time and it was wonderful! I keep getting compliments for my skin whenever I use that stuff. But it's one of those luxury items you find only in luxury situations, like cruise ships or up-scale salons. Until now. Several mainstream make-up companies are now offering mineral make-up at affordable prices in regular stores, and one of the better ones is a available at a local department store. So I bought IsaDora's foundation mineral powder and rouge mineral powder and the accompanying brushes and a lipstick (can't-be-bothered-to-dig-up-name) for the heck of it because I saw my favorite color.

And tried it all out the minute I got home. Naturally.

The mineral stuff is great! Far, far better than liquid foundation or regular powder. I may have missed a tad on the shade for my face (maybe I really am a Medium Beige and not a Light Rose), but it works well enough with my still winter-pale skin. The rouge, Summer Berries, is a perfect shade for me. The lipstick was the exact same shade as all my other favorites, which should be good news, but my lips are shrinking (stoopid aging). And darkish rose lipstick on shrinking lips just doesn't bring the lips out. It instead points out that my mouth is too small for my (still) large eyes. So, I'm going back to the store and this time I'll get a light pink lipstick. That'll be a change!

And finally - because it's too good not to share - this wonderful definition of irony, courtesy today's news: Norway, which is an oil producing and exporting nation and always earns money hand over fist when the price of a barrel goes up, cannot afford to repave almost 3000 km of roads because asphalt is a petroleum product, which, because of the current high price of oil, is too expensive for those in charge of road maintenance to buy.

Told you it was a good one.

May 1, 2008

Macaroni and no cheese

I found some genuine, bright orange and sharp cheddar in my local grocery store. I was looking forward to having some really tasty mac-and-cheese.

Instead, I made a discovery. One does not melt the cheddar in the microwave. It doesn't melt; it goes crispy and that doesn't melt, either.

Now I feel like Scarlett O'Hara: Tomorrow is another day. And I have more macaroni and more cheese left.