Dec 31, 2010

The next half

New Year's Eve.

The day when people are either scrambling to get food and champagne for the evening's festivities or are contemplating what resolutions to make for the coming year - or both.

For me, 2011 is the start of the next half century of my life. I was 50 in December. It was actually a wonderful way to end the year.

2010 was turbulent at work and in my stomach. At work, the knowledge that our department and in-house printing was going to cease to exist by summer was something we all had in the back of our minds. We were, however, all so old (I was the youngest at 49) to get worked up about it. Instead, the strategy was to do our jobs and behave in such a way as to make management realize they had some great people working for them; we did not complain and we did not sic our union on anybody (though they were apprised of the situation). Our representative from HR was impressed by our good cheer. She said it motivated HR to do everything in their power to help us stay with the company.

Our beloved boss retired by August. My co-graphics designer and I were transferred to another department. Our former printers had already been learning to man the photocopiers and combine work in our new printshop with other duties. We are all under new management, we all still stay in touch, and maintain the friendships we formed after so many years together. These people were also the "committee" that organized a wonderful birthday celebration for me.

My IBS was worsening, to the point that I thought I'd finally have to be checked out in a hospital. One more search on Google was enlightening, however, and I cut out grains and my fiber supplement, and immediately got relief. I now know to avoid grains if I want to avoid a flare-up of IBS. My dawning metabolic syndrome was due to grains, not sugar. I got my body (and waistline) back this fall with that change of diet.

New situations with new people require an open mind, positive attitude and patience. I used affirmations to get myself successfully settled into my new department. I see that 2011 will present challenges I haven't had to deal with before, since the structure, work and challenges of the division where I now work is so different from what I'm used to. I have come to realize that my last boss (and department) simply spoiled us co-workers.

I had my 50th birthday waiting for me at the end of the year. I kept trying to figure out what to do with it. In Norway, they make a big deal about such anniversaries. Our newspapers carry lists of everyone who has a "round" birthday from 50 on up. So, my name got in the paper, too. The annual company Christmas ball was originally scheduled for December 10. The gang from work (old department) meets annually for Christmas dinner on the Thursday closest to the start of December; this year that was December 2. My plan was to just not go home early and hopefully have company at midnight to mark my birthday. Then the Christmas ball got moved to December 3. I realized that I could have one humdinger of a party on my birthday. :-) And that's when my co-workers got to work and organized special seating at the ball (not allowed, really) so our table was only us co-workers, they treated me to a room at the hotel holding the ball, and they hung up posters and balloons. And someone notified the toast master so almost 400 people sang the Norwegian birthday song to me.

Wow! No, I mean, WOW!!!

This morning I finished reading Joseph Murphy's "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind"*. His last chapter is on aging. He was basically saying that you only age if you buy into the idea that you must age.

People have been asking me how I manage to look so young. Most don't believe I'm 50. Hardly any wrinkles, hair still its original dark brown, and even the middle-aged spread I've had in my 40's is gone. I notice the changes of age, of course; my face shows time has passed in its way. If I start to miss the firmer jawline of youth, I remind myself to enjoy every age, no matter what. And I usually do. I always have. I have never lied about my age, and I have never been upset at getting older. I have enjoyed all my birthdays. I have enjoyed being in my 20's, my 30's, my 40's. I wasn't the sort of kid who didn't want to grow up, nor did I want to be older than I was when I was a kid. I loved 8, I loved 10, I loved 12, I loved 18. 16 was boring, oddly enough, but turning 16 was memorable: My mother took me to a French restaurant, and I had escargot for the first time.

I was raised by old folks - my grandparents. Old in age and looks, but not in mind. They delighted in taking new trips, reading new books, meeting new people. When they no longer had access to that, they got old. They passed 90 before it happened, though. I had a friend whose philosophy was to travel to faraway places while she was young, because she figured age would keep her from taking long trips. She figured right; as she got older, she traveled closer to home in an ever dwindling radius, until her only trips were the bus into town. Eventually, even those ended. Her dwindling radius of travel was due to her developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

I have always believed that her belief that old age would limit her played a part.

I try not to have such beliefs. I don't even have the belief that I must go gray. Gray hairs have appeared on my head, but they are so few and so spread out that the rest of the brown pretty much hides them. (I do have friends who want to know if I have a portrait hidden somewhere. ;-) )

Aging is part genetic, part lifestyle (I don't smoke, for example), part cultural. The current debate in Europe (and in the US) is the need to raise the retirement age, after decades of lowering it. When I participate in the discussion, it is to say that the ideal shouldn't be to get off work early (as it were), but to so enjoy your work that you are happy to stay on the job until your late 60's or even 70. Humans thrive when they know they can contribute, when they have a reason for getting up in the morning. For some, work can be that blessing; others have hobbies they'd rather spend all day on. Not everyone is happy with their employment circumstances. Some people are physically worn out, while others just don't like the "slavery". I have no idea where I'm headed, employment-wise, so my affirmations for work are in part to make sure I don't end up feeling enslaved. A job is a blessing. A job with wonderful co-workers is a huge blessing. I have never appreciated them more than I do now (that is the best gift I got for my birthday).

As I look back on 2010, I am a bit surprised at my calm in the face of the departmental upset, but I have seniority now, so I'm finally immune to the reorganizational madness that can strike any company. No matter what, they have to keep me. I am trying to figure out how to make myself more useful, just in case. It gives more options, at the next crossroad. What's more surprising, is my calm in the face of the future ahead. I think it's because I feel like options are opening up, rather than disappearing. Actually, I feel like I have the option to have options.

As I look at 2011 - the start of the next half century of my life - I see that some of the things I want is to keep on building on the happiness I now feel - and the peace of mind. Some discoveries have been made that give me a concrete definition of what to work on in the year ahead: Forgiveness (finally letting go) and a likely case of ADHD; self-nurturing is the umbrella term. Making sure I live my life and organize my days and monitor my habitual thoughts so that I don't bug myself. One of my new habits in 2011 will be to always get washed and dressed, first thing in the morning. Lounging around in pajamas leaves me inflexible in responding to my own impulsiveness (ADHD means doing things when the feeling moves you). If I first have to stop to get myself ready, I'm already sabotaged. By the time I'm washed and dressed, I may have lost my inspiration.

One of the reasons for just lounging in pajamas, is the computer addiction. There is a worn path from my bed to the computer desk. I may have to set a timer for myself in 2011, to get myself away from the drug known as the internet. Or rather: If I am at the computer, to be a more active participant. Rather than only reading, I want there to be more writing. That is a subtle change I've felt as I've turned 50: I am now entering the age where it is my turn to teach and to share. I am now the older person, I am the one with the experience. I am the one who can advise and guide and give back all that was given to me as I grew up. That too is a new habit I have to learn in the coming year.

Thanks for being with me in 2010! I hope to see you in 2011.

I wish you a joyful and peaceful new year.

*) From which I got the Great Affirmation you can see in the sidebar.

Nov 7, 2010

Actually, I'm having fun

Ah, yes, once again a long hiatus. I still owe you guys my Normandie adventure, and I haven't forgotten. The nice thing about the war is that writing about it has no time limit. (Is my excuse. :-) )

Thing is, I'm having a collision of Fun Things to Do. I want to focus more on my blog, no, my astrology, no, my yoga, no, my decluttering (which has been neglected and therefore resurfaced), no, my venture into low-carbing, no, Joomla, because what that web guy is doing looks like so much fun, and why are there so many good web sites to browse, and a re-run of a surprisingly well-written and well-done Norwegian sci-fi TV mini-series to watch, oh, yeah, and "The Event" is showing now, and that pile of interesting books to read, and all those podcasts to listen to, and meditation. I want to get back into meditation. And in between, my bi-weekly subscription to our local symphony orchestra's concerts.

Whew. It's pure abundance.

And at work, new department, younger people, fun people, people with a completely different background than mine. More meetings, more e-mails (thank goodness for GTD and "inbox to zero"). And more women around me so I renewed my wardrobe. No, I'm not going to compete with the 30-somethings. I'll tell you something, I have never felt threatened by other women. I may have sometimes felt inadequate next to the fashionable and polished because I, well, am not polished, but those moments are rare, because I generally am polished enough. But these days, with a flatter stomach and lots of great sweaters and purples in fashion, "unpolished" is working better. So I simply find it all inspiring. In general, I feel appreciated and I'm focusing hard on reciprocating. So for three months things have been busy, busy, busy, so time has broken the sound barrier and I can't believe this year is almost over, and I am actually pumped about 2011.

I've always been a fan of the natural high and I've been on one since the start of August. I keep waiting for it to end, then I tell myself not to invite trouble, and I keep doing my new affirmation: "It is my good pleasure and my good to meet and treat everyone with friendliness." which keeps me on track, on this natural high.

Maybe the food has something to do with it. Some students said on a radio program here recently that they tried low-carbing and said it was like an energy boost. Certainly I don't feel as lethargic, my digestion is far better (and I can no longer support the vegetarian agenda, which is a wee grieving process for me in the middle of all this "high" because it means letting go of a beloved paradigm), and my mood is more stable.

I think it's a combination. Nothing like being thrown into something new to make yourself feel alive, and the affirmations and food sustain it.

So, busy, yes. Having fun, YES!

Oct 6, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - In case of fire

Wordless Wednesday

Emergency numbers in Norway are 110 for fire, 112 for police and 113 for ambulance.

Sep 26, 2010

I want you to know them

It is perfect weather out today. After two days of a hard north wind, the air is calm, but the sky is still clear, and the sun still warms. It is the perfect walking weather. And because it is 2010, I walked to my grandparents' grave.

The Norwegian custom is to bury the dead, primarily, though cremation is more common in crowded cities (and their equally crowded churchyards). Norwegians usually tend the graves themselves, with one of the more beautiful customs being a lit candle on the grave on Christmas Eve. I have never done any of this, but part of the funeral costs included gardening services from the city so the grave is always tended. The dead here are not embalmed, so their bodies do return to dust, as the Bible says. The usual is to reuse a grave after 20 years, when there is nothing left of the previous "resident". Exceptions are made for historical graves and family plots.

I don't care either way. I am ambivalent about visiting graves. Mostly they remind me of new memories that won't be shared, and of new acquaintances not made. I always bring a hanky. I know I will cry.

Because it would have been Grandma's centennial this year, my Sunday walk took me to the churchyard. I entered it from the top of slope it occupies and walked slowly down, noting how the churchyard was filling up, going up the slope.

I walked down the path closest to the road and sought out the characteristic triangular headstone of a dear friend of mine. My best friend at the time. Dead of a heart attack at age 45, in 2000. I stared at the flowers on her grave, and a little "nisse" (Norwegian leprechaun) figurine someone had left. It looked like it might belong to a child. I thought of her granddaughter, a girl who would never know her grandmother, and the thought made me sad, because her grandmother was such a wonderful person. Warm, friendly, caring and cheerful - but with dark sense of humor I enjoyed. And best of all: She accepted me as I was.

A little farther on, I past a grave marked with a wooden cross, used until the ground settled and could hold a headstone. The name surprised me: It was that of a young man who'd been stabbed to death this summer, creating a lot of headlines in our local paper. I felt so bad for his mother, having to bury her son before his time. In a churchyard, there are many who didn't make it to old age, but rarely do strangers know why.

My grandparents' grave was at the bottom of the slope. The grass there smelled incredibly sweet in the sunshine. I squatted down, straddling the two graves, knowing the empty space to the left of the headstone was Grandma's, while Grandpa was directly beneath the stone. I heard Grandma's voice ask me to take my sunglasses off so she could see my beautiful eyes, and with a smile, I complied. It was such a familiar request.

I sat staring at the names: Johan Arnt and Marion Naomi. Grandpa didn't like his middle name Arnt, but I'm not sure why. However, I did once come across some unsavory Norwegian Nazi by that name. Maybe that's why. Johan changed to John when he made an American of himself. I thought about his parents' grave. I remembered that his mother and father died within a year of each other, during World War II. Grandpa would not have been able to go home to attend a funeral or visit with family. The Norwegian Merchant Marine defied the orders of the Quisling government and refused to go to any German allied port during the war. Knowing he had had a good childhood, with loving parents and eight siblings he was also very close to, this must have been hard for him. He was always respectful of others and well-liked (even abused animals trusted him), and the love he grew up with got passed on to people not even of his blood: His step-daughter and her daughter: My mother and me.

The young American widow he married was Christened Marion Naomi, and she wasn't wild about her middle name, either, although I always thought it was beautiful. In spite of a family situation dominated by a mother who was unable to show love for her female children, my grandma turned into a loving woman who genuinely liked all sorts of people. Grandma made friends very easily, and she always asked for their names (she told me this was deliberate, after meeting someone who told her the worst about a concentration camp was being reduced to a nameless thing, a number). I remember one friend she made during her last months at the nursing home because that woman cried and cried at the funeral and I could see she really was sorry Grandma was no more. Grandma became a mother to me when I was 7, and instead of enjoying retirement, raised yet another daughter and that in a foreign country. I had a good childhood with my grandparents, and Grandma was, amazingly for her generation, very open with me about all sorts of things, including sex. I miss our conversations. I told her everything, and I do mean everything. :-)

I sat at their grave, missing our conversations, musing on this being the year Grandma would have been 100, trying to remember what she and I did on Grandpa's 100th birthday. On their headstone, only their years of birth and death are listed. I knew it was a deliberate choice, but I got to thinking about the absence of the actual dates. So here are their birth dates: Hers is September 22 1910 and his is October 7 1901.

The sentiment on their stone - "Takk for alt" ("thanks for everything") - may be a cliché in today's Norway, but those three words are the best way to sum up the significance of what they did for each other and for my mother and me.

I just wanted you to get to know them a bit better.

Sep 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Autumn pansy

Wordless Wednesday

This would have been my grandma's 100th birthday. She loved pansies.

Sep 20, 2010

Digestion: Discovery and dilemma

I have been reading a lot lately. My latest read is a book by a Swedish doctor, Annika Dahlqvist, who was reported for malpractice a couple of years for advising diabetics to eat a low carbohydrate, high fat diet. She was found innocent of the charges as her advice was supported by studies.

Lately, this nearly-vegetarian has given up her decades-long breakfast choice of rice milk and rolled four-grain mix and replaced it with boiled eggs and bacon. Butter is back in my cupboard. Meat and fish are finding their way into my home (if not in great amounts). Fruit is abandoned completely while nuts and vegetables are still favored. My beloved pasta is ignored, and I no longer eat bread or even oatmeal.

This is the first time in years, lots of years, that I am not gassy and getting stomach pains on a daily basis.

The discussion about whether or not you'll lose weight aside, the scary thing about reading up on diets, is discovering all the disinformation that's been fed us since at least the 1970's. Before insulin was discovered, diabetics were advised to eat a low-carb, high fat (LCHF) diet; this took care of the diabetes. Today's diabetics are encouraged to eat the same high-carb diet as the rest of us, with the assumption that insulin will take care of the blood sugar. Diabetics on the old-fashioned diet avoid the side effects diabetics on a regular diet develop. I've already learned that fructose is not good for you while cholesterol was never bad for you. But the biggest eye-opener for me was discovering that I have been given the wrong advice all these years about how to handle my digestion.

I have always had sluggish digestion. But honestly, I didn't get IBS - where my constipation ceased to be only that and switched to more frequent bloating, pain, gas and even diarrhea - until I started eating more fiber to "cure" my constipation. (Sorry about TMI.) Now I'm reading that fiber damages the gut and converts to sugar! Fiber's behavior in the gut is to annoy it, not help it; fiber tears up the lining, which forms mucous to protect itself, and the mucous makes things slide along easier. But if what you want is lubrication, the non-harming alternative is animal fats.

I'm still working on getting regular, but I will do it without fiber. I like going without the, er, sound effects.

My new problem is finding eggs from chickens on the natural omnivore diet chickens are supposed to eat (like worms and stuff): All chickens - also the organic, free-range ones - seem to be fed corn and other vegetarian food because it makes the yolk more yellow. However, it means that the useful and desired omega-3 fatty acid gets reduced.

And I'd like cheese and meat from grass-fed cows, organic or not, simply because that gives more nutrition a human body can make use of.

It's a new dilemma, not only switching from vegetarianism, but also realizing that not even organic foods are the best choice if the animals are not fed their natural diet, only an organic one. I will supplement with cod liver oil.

Sep 2, 2010

A weed is a flower

…that happens to be in the wrong place.

Yesterday's photo is a close-up of the sunflower that has surprised me. I started this summer with pansies in all my flower boxes, but they quickly died. One did manage to sow a seed, though, so I have a pansy plant in one flower box. Weeds took over the other flower box. I decided to leave them as an experiment and to see what they would turn out to be. Most I recognized as local flora, but one was a bit odder. It turned out to be the sunflower.

The other weeds do seem to be the flowering kind. And since they are welcome where they are, they are no longer technically weeds.

PS: I can't remember where I first heard the definition of a weed introducing this post. The closest I can get to an original is by E.J. Salisbury, found at this delightful page of weed quotes.)

Aug 31, 2010

A brief list of happy

  • Came in from the rain and met a co-worker who needed an umbrella for an errand outside. So he got to borrow mine. Nice to be able to help!
  • Got on full elevator. Full because our building superintendents had a cart for moving small furniture in it. No place to stand around it was left, but there was a place to sit - on it. So there I sat, joking with the supers, and offering a seat next to me to people wanting on on the other floors.
  • Umbrella was set to dry by borrower. Nice to roll up a dry umbrella.
  • Laughed myself silly during lunch. Even managed to be one of the ones saying something funny, making the others laugh, too.
  • Made a joke with the new boss, without thinking. Discovered that that went over well. Making the joke, I mean.
  • Cracked myself up writing this blogpost, remembering everything.

Jul 24, 2010

Bonjour

I don't advertise vacation time anywhere online because I'm told that if I do that, I may as well leave the key to my place under my mat. But it sure is nice to just disappear and come back and discover I've been missed. Very nice, and I love the two of you who have said so. :-D

I have had such an heady adventure. I have been an American in France, which went amazingly well. The French are very nice, even when you don't know the lingo. Menus have translations and a phrase book and a lot of bonjours and mercis go a long way. The heady part isn't the joy in discovering I could order food without trouble, but the visits to World War II museums, the walk on Juno Beach, the view over Omaha Beach and the tears I shed walking among the crosses in the American cemetery.

It's going to take me a bit to digest all that. It'll be easier sharing photos from Bremen…

…And a drive through Paris. We had a brief stop at the Trocadéro, and my photos of the Eiffel tower are annoying, because they do not convey how f***ing huge that tower is. It is simply massive-looking and the only thing you are able to see at first. It is very close, too, immediately below the Trocadéro, but when the camera lens captures it, the structure just shrinks off into the distance. It ends up not being much bigger than all the tiny versions of it hanging from the hawkers' belts and spread on their blankets.

In Bayeux we saw the famous Bayeux tapestry, which I have no photos of, since that was strictly forbidden. But I was very happy to see it and will return to it and other places on this blog.

But this is going to take a while for me to put into words:

Actually, I hope the feeling of overwhelm at the insanity and sacrifice and daring and 65 years of peace and prosperity never leaves me.

Jul 7, 2010

Jul 3, 2010

Added some links

So, if you scroll down a bit, there's a list of stuff I read. I have a lot of this on RSS-feeds but decided to share here.

Under the category "READ" are blogs and sites that are mostly for reading but may contain photos. Here be some good writing by friends - not necessarily opinions or language you'd agree with, but good writing - a couple of health blogs, a blog for web designers and design junkies, and the official Getting Things Done blog.

Under the category "VIEW" are blogs and sites that mostly for looking at or watching. In the first four are three friends of mine who photograph, and do so very well. Don't miss! The Periodic Table of Videos and Sixty Symbols offer videos that explain chemistry and physics, respectively. I would have aced my high school chemistry class and maybe gone into physics if I'd had these videos! Ugly Overload and Walk the Wilderness are about critters: One has the intent of finding things humans deem unappealing, the other explores wildlife reserves in India.

Finally: "LAUGH". That header could have read LOL, but I decided to be nice to the "so, this is an internet?" crowd. Yes, we still have some of those. (Welcome!) Comics I Don't Understand is for people who don't understand the comics. I first had it categorized under "Read" because the point are the comments, but since the comments often are funnier than the comics, it's in this category. Cute Overload could be under "View" but the intent is humor so here it is. The next two are witty commentaries on life, aided by unfortunate traffic signs and lots and lots of cats and misspelled English. And then there's the actual joke telling.

Yeah, I can't always get through all this stuff in one sitting, either, but if you have a rainy day or a weekend, here's your reading list!

Jun 19, 2010

Years

Probably a mistake to try to blog while tipsy, but I just got home (the photo was taken at 2:44 am!) from celebrating a co-worker's 25th anniversary at work. I had my own 2 years ago.

I had hoped that my co-worker's anniversary party was as wonderful as mine, and since we all hung out until nearly 2 am (when the bar closed), it must have been. She certainly was happy, and that's the main thing.

It's weird to watch the years suddenly go by. The inevitable happens. The impossible date arrives and, although expected, still catches you off-guard.

At the party, I was talking to a recent hire, a man about my age who started in our company about 18 months ago, and I felt a bit strange being one of the old-timers. I don't feel old. I don't feel like 27+ years have passed. Certainly, they don't weigh on me. It's bizarre, really, to think that at this point, I have fewer years left to retirement than the years I have worked. I have no idea how or when that happened. Who swapped the young woman I still feel like for the middle-aged woman I actually am?

I'll bet my co-worker is thinking the same thing. I'll bet she's trying to work out the weird convolutions of time, wondering how something so linear could be so unpredictable, as she basks in the love and appreciation that her co-workers dished out.

I'll give Time that: It does give some kick-ass memories.

Jun 11, 2010

Busybusybusyhappyhappybusybusy

Not posting on Facebook, not posting on Twitter, not posting here (more than usual), not answering comments or e-mail (sorry). And why not? Because life got busy and fun and busy and I find that if I am to get things done, I can't spend the same amount of time I usually do at the computer (i.e. surfing the internet) or in front of the TV. I can't get away from the computer entirely; it is vital to several of my projects, including learning Wordpress (in hopes of redoing my new website and maybe move this blog there, eventually) and finishing my weather forecast for summer, while starting on fall's.

I made the mistake of getting hooked on "Hotel Babylon", a British series about the staff of a five-star hotel and basically a well-done sort of prime-time soap with some interesting characters. They air it four nights a week here in Norway, which means watching almost every day to keep up. I found I can't do that. I can't dedicate that sort of time to a series. Weekly stuff is enough. Daily is out.

I've been amazingly busy at work, too, with a rebranding project (that's what it is called when you change logos and letterheads and stuff). It has been fun, because I get to be creative and solve problems, and even speak English (because the Finns don't speak any flavor of Scandinavian). But after pushing my brain all day, I come home some days no longer able to think another thought, so not much of my mentally challenging projects get done. (And in that, the joy of actually being able to keep up; I thank Getting Things Done for that, for the simple idea of "inbox to zero".) Today was not such an intensely demanding day, and therefore I blog.

And in the ongoing saga about work, a resolution: I keep my job - literally. I just change departments. Some time this month we two graphics designers will be joining the Corporate Branding (fancy, ain't it) department, and we already know just about everyone, having worked with them on several occasions. So where to next employment-wise is no longer a worry.

All in all, this spring has been good. Nothing like feeling productive, useful, creative - and safe. Wonderful!