Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A new poem--Photo of you in a Manhattan café

This is a new poem that I wrote on the second anniversary of my brother's death. It is part of a new volume of poems that I am working on, in addition to my book about Tarrytown that I hope to be finished with this year. 

Photo of you in a Manhattan café  

And on this day, the second anniversary
Of your untimely death
A long-buried photo of you surfaced
Causing me to catch my breath

We had met for lunch in some downtown Manhattan café
That you frequented—eager to share with me your find
Proud that you were working there in that melee
Of New Yorkers milling about with their own kind

The contours of your face, your photogenic smile
Your youth that emanates from a decade ago
Your furtive smile, the one that could beguile
And persuade the most stubborn of us so

Your hidden secrets that remained unearthed
You did not give them willingly away
And those of us who tried to probe and came away
Unenlightened frustrated rather gone astray

If walls could talk, and photos likewise
Perhaps you would still walk upon this earth
And smile your stealthy smile for all to know
That happiness was yours, there was no dearth

copyright 2017 All rights reserved
Paula M. De Angelis 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

An icy river--Akerselva in winter

From last Sunday's walking tour along the beautiful Akerselva (Aker River)--some photos of the ice in the river, nearby where we live.......

Friday, February 17, 2017

Egeberglokka Parsellhage

Those of you who have followed this blog know that we became members of a nearby community garden (an allotment garden) in March of last year. The name of the garden is Egeberglokka Parsellhage and it has a website and a Facebook page. The website has recently been updated with new photos from garden members. The website has many lovely photos of this beautiful garden (some of mine are posted there as well: a butterfly and bee photo, pumpkins photo, hollyhocks photo, and a daisies photo).

Here is the website: https://www.egeberglokka.no/

And here is the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Egebergl%C3%B8kka-parsellhage-632798036735972/

I'm looking forward to a new gardening season--the days are getting longer and the sun is getting stronger (and warmer) for each day that passes........

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Remembering and becoming

When I started out in the work world over thirty-five years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet some very special people who became life-long friends. One of them was Edith, who was already in her mid-50s when I met her. She was the head secretary for the department I worked in at the Public Health Research Institute of the City of New York, and we became friends immediately. She was a friendly and outgoing woman who made everyone she met feel welcome and at home. I would say she was one of the most hospitable people I have ever known. She was a born and bred New Yorker who lived in Manhattan most of her life. She married and raised two children in a spacious apartment in the Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village, a large, post-World War II development of residential apartments on the east side of Manhattan. That apartment is where I visited her many times on my annual trips to New York, and it is where she suffered the stroke that eventually took her life at the age of 91. She had many opportunities to leave Manhattan, to move to the suburbs to be with her daughter and her daughter’s husband, but she chose not to. She remained independent until the day she died. I remember my last visit with her a few months before she passed away; she was waiting for me at the door of her apartment as I got off the elevator, and although she was very unsteady on her feet, she insisted on serving coffee and some pastries. And when I left her apartment a few hours later, she held onto my arm as we walked toward the door. Sometimes, before it got too difficult for her to walk, we would leave her apartment and walk to the nearby diner to have lunch--one of her favorite places because it made veggie burgers that were out of this world. And then we would walk slowly home again. It was always a bittersweet moment to say goodbye, much like when I said goodbye to my mother after one of my annual visits, not knowing if I would see them again, but hoping against hope that I would. Edith was a truly generous soul, who helped a lot of newcomers at work, who helped her children and grandchildren, and who took care of her husband who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s until she could no longer manage his care by herself. My memories of her are very pleasant; she and Virginia, another secretary at the institute and one of Edith’s close friends, both taught me how to make an apple-cranberry pie for the first Thanksgiving I ever prepared food for. It was the first such pie I had ever made; we made it at work during our lunch hour one dreary day in November, and I carried it home with me on the subway that evening. Unfortunately, I dropped the pie onto the subway platform and the glass pie plate shattered, and I ended up having to make the pie again when I got home. But at least I had learned how to do it. In return, I taught her how to use the newest word-processing program on her work computer. She was open to most new developments, was interested in the world around her, and very well-read. She loved to go to Shakespeare in the Park and to the opera and ballet. She and Virginia came to the church when I married for the first time (very young); when I later got divorced, she told me that it was no surprise to her, as she had not had a good feeling about my marriage from day one. She was honest that way, and it was good to hear it. If you asked for advice, you got it. I asked for advice when I needed it, because I knew it would be reasonable and smart.

I thought about Edith recently because I realized in one of those moments when certain insights make themselves known, that I have overtaken her role for some of the younger people I know, some of whom are at least twenty-five years younger than I am. The age difference between me and Edith was much larger, over thirty-five years, but it never bothered me. I hardly thought about it. That was the way I was raised. I had older parents and my relationship with the both of them was very good. They were my parents first, and then my friends. I assume that the younger people I know feel the same about me as I did about Edith; the age difference does not matter. Why should it? We are able to discuss books, music, movies and so many other things that interest us. I like a lot of the current music and literature; they like a lot of the music I grew up with, as well they should since it is really amazing music and an amazing era in which to grow up. We need role models to show us how to grow older. I had them, and I hope that I can be one for the younger people with whom I have become friends.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A New Yorker in Oslo was quoted on a Tarrytown NY website

So happy to see that something I wrote about the Tarrytown Lakes on A New Yorker in Oslo was actually used on the My Tarrytown Bike It! website, which by the way is a very interesting website. You can bet that I want to do some of the bike trips listed here! Check it out......


Monday, February 6, 2017

Cookie man

I made hermit cookies last night (raisin spice cookies) and discovered one cookie on the cooling rack that definitely didn't look like the rest of them! Definitely not planned......but cute.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A favorite photo of my brother

Today is the second anniversary of my brother Ray's death. I was looking through old photos during this past weekend and came across a few of him from November 2005 (he had just turned 45 in August of that year). I had met Ray for lunch in Manhattan; that was something we often did when I came to NY to visit. I would meet him for lunch for a couple of hours as his 'business client', and then we would join the whole family in the evening of the same day or on a separate day. It was always nice to have some alone time with him; we always had some interesting conversations about how he enjoyed being a father to two children, our family, the work world, politics and history. He was an avid history buff and a real font of knowledge when it came to American history. He would have made a good history teacher. This photo is one of my favorites; he was happy and smiling (my mother would have said--look at his dimples) and relaxed. It wasn't often that he had the chance to relax.

On Monday of this week, a woman from our old neighborhood in Tarrytown (Tappan Landing Road), Bridget, passed away from cancer. She was the sweet daughter of the older woman, Philomena, who used to care for my mother in her later years. Just like my brother, Bridget was 54 when she passed away. They died two days and two years apart, but at the same age. I'd like to think that they're both in heaven now, happy and at peace.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What May Sarton said

So many of her reflections resonate with me..............

“Without darkness, nothing comes to birth, As without light, nothing flowers.”

"Whatever peace I know rests in the natural world, in feeling myself a part of it, even in a small way.....To go with, not against the elements, an inexhaustible vitality summoned back each day to do the same tasks, to feed the animals, clean out barns and pens, keep that complex world alive."

“The more articulate one is, the more dangerous words become.”

“I can tell you that solitude
Is not all exaltation, inner space
Where the soul breathes and work can be done.
Solitude exposes the nerve,
Raises up ghosts.
The past, never at rest, flows through it.”

“There is no doubt that solitude is a challenge and to maintain balance within it a precarious business. But I must not forget that, for me, being with people or even with one beloved person for any length of time without solitude is even worse. I lose my center. I feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces. I must have time alone in which to mull over my encounter, and to extract its juice, its essence, to understand what has really happened to me as a consequence of it.”

“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.”

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”

“A house that does not have one worn, comfy chair in it is soulless.”

“The moral dilemma is to make peace with the unacceptable.”

“It is harder for women, perhaps to be 'one-pointed,' much harder for them to clear space around whatever it is they want to do beyond household chores and family life. Their lives are fragmented... the cry not so much for a 'a room of one's own' as time of one's own. Conflict become acute, whatever it may be about, when there is no margin left on any day in which to try at least to resolve it.”

“I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. A day when one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged, damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room.”

“Most people have to talk so they won't hear.”

Monday, January 30, 2017

Remembering our cat Tiger

I was looking through old photos the other day, and came across these of our cat Tiger, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 15 after a long struggle with breast cancer. She was a very unusual cat, fairly asocial except when it came to me and my husband and a few other people. You had to get to know her on her terms, which meant learning to deal with her moods. Sometimes she would let you pet her; other times you just knew that you had to keep your distance. Figuring her out was part of her charm and I think she knew that. When she was affectionate, it made up for all the times she wasn't. She loved to play--ice hockey with her catnip drops or with paper balls--and to hunt. I've never seen a cat so good at catching (and eating) insects. She also liked to chase my husband around our apartment, and he would run after her as well--that was their game together. Her tail would get big and puffed-up whenever she wanted him to chase her, and it was usually her that instigated the play-hunt. During the winter, you could find her atop one of the several radiators in our apartment, sprawled across it, soaking up the heat. I have taken videos of her rolling around the kitchen floor with an olive--something she loved to do--we could never really understand why. Did she like the smell or texture of the olive? She would also watch the birds outside our window from her perch on the inner sill. These two photos were good shots of her sitting by the side of a portable radio, in one of her affectionate moods (meaning that she allowed me to take some photos of her). Looking at these photos makes me miss her.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Summer raindrops and winter frost

Both of these photos are 'water' photos--but in two different seasons. I happened to be in my garden during a thunderstorm this past summer, and after the storm, the plants still had drops of rain on them that I was able to photograph before they evaporated. The winter photo is of a plant whose name I don't know, but that was covered in frost one day last week. Frost is defined by the online Merriam-Webster dictionary as 'a covering of tiny ice crystals on a cold surface formed from the water vapor in the air'. You can see the ice crystal patterns--beautiful. Again, I was lucky to take the photo when I did, because the sun came out and the frost disappeared.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Second anniversary

The second anniversary of my brother’s death is approaching, and I have been aware of its approach for well over a month now. My anxiety levels are heightened; the memory of that day at work when I received the news that he had passed away will live forever in my mind and heart. I have no idea how parents who lose their children feel, just that I know it is probably an indescribable feeling, one that stays with you for the rest of your life. It does not feel right or normal (in the natural way of things) to lose your sibling at the age of fifty-four. Nevertheless, when I look around me and talk to others, I see that it is far more frequent than one would like to admit. I have friends who have lost their siblings to cancer and to other illnesses.

But the anxiety is also connected to my own heightened awareness of time passing. There is no question in my mind now that I will spend the rest of my life writing. Each day, each week, each month is the continual quest to find time, more time, and even more time—to write. And the more I want the time and the more I want to write, the less time is given me. Work duties pile up, there are suddenly more students to guide, a new technician to plan work together with, and a new article to write about a very interesting topic—DNA repair in inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer. Do I mind? No. But the little voice inside of me is always talking to me, telling me to write and to find the time to write. It doesn’t help that getting older involves getting tired much earlier in the evening than before. I used to guard the three or four hours after dinner and before I went to bed very carefully; I was selfish with my time. Now those hours have been reduced to maybe two good writing hours, because I am more tired. And so it goes.

Do I regret choosing a research career over a literary one? It may seem that way to you, my readers, at times. But no, I don’t. I’ve realized that my creative energy went into something really amazing—the opportunity to hypothesize and to test my hypotheses, and some few times the results led to some really good publications, articles that I’m proud of. Research science in its purest form is a truly creative endeavor. So I am glad that I was able to engage in this type of work activity for so long. But that hasn’t stopped me from wanting to write and from actually writing--poetry, short stories, novels and other types of literature. I’ve been writing since I was fourteen years old. But it is poetry that is closest to my heart, closest to describing the person I really am. I have published four volumes of poetry, and am currently working on a fifth, which will be a volume of poems having to do with death, mortality, and grief. It derives its inspiration from my brother’s death, and some of the poems are about him and about coming to terms with the loss of a man I truly loved, despite what life threw at us over the years. His life was far from easy; I know that now. He shared very little of what really transpired in his life during the last five years of his life. I don’t know why, and that reality will haunt me forever. I think he wanted me to read between the lines, and I just wasn’t on that page together with him. So his death has taught me to be more silent, to listen more, and to try to understand the road that each individual person I know is on. Each person’s journey toward the end of life is a different one, even though we all end at the same place. 

I've also had the unique pleasure of discovering a new young writer, the daughter of a friend here in Norway. My friend had told her daughter that I write poetry and that I have published some books. Her daughter, who is nineteen years old, has just written her first book about her teenage struggle with anorexia, and wondered if I would like to read it and comment on it. I have read it, and it is an impressive first book. While the topic will not appeal to all readers, I can truthfully say that she has written a gripping and realistic book about an illness that is nearly impossible to cure, and has done so using notes and journals that she has kept since she was fifteen. When I talk to her, I remember my own teenage years, some of the influences that started me writing, and the need to write. Unless you have experienced that need, you will not understand it. It is a psychological need that spills over into the physical realm; the need to write is something that rides you, doesn’t leave you alone, causes anxiety, spurs you on, needles you, taunts you when you are lazy, and criticizes you when you let yourself be distracted. It keeps you on target, keeps you focused on the goal. If you don’t pay attention to it, it will lead to sleepless nights, distracted unfocused days, irritability, depression and anxiety. My friend’s daughter understands this already at nineteen years of age. So that is why I cannot say that my current anxiety is coupled only to the second anniversary of my brother’s death. It is coupled to the need to write and to the barriers that stand in the way of doing so. Because my brother’s death, like the need to write, are reminders that time is passing, that life is short, and that time is not be wasted. Time is a gift that is given to us, and we have to use it wisely.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The real deplorables

Someone I know on Facebook recently posted that she, as one of the ‘deplorables’, was glad that Trump was now President. As she stated it, she and her husband were dancing around the house with joy that Hillary Clinton had lost the election. The current fascination with the word deplorable is Hillary Clinton’s doing, when she referred to Trump’s followers as a ‘basket of deplorables’, and in so doing, managed to insult a fairly large group of people, apparently. But it seems to me that the wrong people are characterizing themselves as the deplorables. When I read about them online, this term seems to cover those in dire economic straits—the economically dispossessed in society—those who have lost their jobs, their homes, their medical coverage and so on. In 2017, this boils down to poverty; the deplorables then are the new poor. Politicians should not be poking fun at them, but rather trying to help their situation. If this is one of the reasons Trump won and Hillary lost, then so be it. She should have been smarter than to lay the ‘blame’ for their dire straits on people who are struggling and looking for any break they can find. But it’s not just about finances, because if it was, that would make her a non-empathetic elitist. She and her husband are very rich, as is Donald Trump, so none of them can really understand the plight of the deplorables, if by that word you mean those who are struggling financially. But here’s the rub; this acquaintance and her husband own their own home (and always have for as long as I’ve known them). I don’t want to judge them, but from what I can surmise, they don’t lack for money. She has never had to work full-time from what I can gather. They travel a fair amount within the USA, and eat out quite a bit from what I gather from her posts on Facebook. It takes money to do all these things. So why is she referring to her and her husband as deplorables? Isn’t this rather elitist in and of itself? They are not poor and in dire straits, not by any stretch of the imagination. Why would you label yourself as poor when you are not?

The word deplorable is not a noun, but rather an adjective. It is used to describe lamentable or wretched living conditions, or contemptible behavior. I believe we should return to the use of the word as an adjective or adverb. Drop the noun, and simply refer to people in dire straits as the new poor. That opens up for any number of people in all walks of life who may have lost everything and who are barely hanging on. I know people who struggle now in 2017—to make ends meet, to pay for health insurance, to pay rent, or to try and get a mortgage. I remember what it was like to struggle, to be overwhelmed by credit card debt, to face mounting costs with not a snowball’s chance in hell of tackling them. I had no safety net, no parents who could step in and help me pay off my bills. I remember it all, and remember too growing up in a family with a father whose health was poor and whose employment chances diminished with each heart attack he had. He eventually retired early on disability, but throughout my growing-up years I remember the struggle. We were far from rich. When my father died, my mother lived on his meager pension and tried to get some part-time work at the local library. She ended up volunteering there and loved it, but she really should have been hired by them part-time. But the library too was on a budget and could not afford to hire her. And so it goes. Life doesn’t always work out well for everyone; not everyone makes a good salary and not everyone can own their own home or condo or co-op. Not everyone can afford to send their children to private schools and universities, or travel to exotic places on vacation each year. 

I grew up in the middle class, and the middle class is non-existent at present. Thankfully, I no longer struggle financially as I did when I was younger. But I have never forgotten what it was like to not have much money, and am very careful with money as an adult. Things could change tomorrow, and if you've read my posts on this blog about modern workplaces, you know that I do not trust ANY workplace to treat its employees well. Not a one. They can and will get rid of you tomorrow if they need to, and won't care at all about how you'll manage without a job. You're on your own in this life and your loyalty should be saved for family and friends, not a workplace. But I would never at present label myself as a deplorable for political purposes. Why can't you just say that you're a Trump supporter? If you are not currently struggling financially, I would be very careful about labeling yourself as a deplorable. You are likely to be perceived as a non-empathetic elitist jerk.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Getting older

When you’re young, you never really consider what it will be like to get old. What I mean by that is that the idea of getting older is a purely theoretical one when you are twenty or thirty years old. You know that one day you will be old, but it seems far off and not much to get bothered about. And then one day, you are older, or at least at the age at which point you’ve lived more than half your life. You are no longer a middle-aged person. People start to view you differently, and you view yourself differently. You become more serious about the things that matter; after all, there is no time to waste on foolish things. At the same time, you learn to laugh at yourself more; after all, you’ve earned that right. You know who you are and you like yourself. You may not be as pretty, or thin, or fashionable as you once were when you were young, but you no longer care. Or you do care, but not in the same way. A good day is one when you’ve had a good night’s sleep, wake up without a lot of small aches and pains, look reasonably presentable for work purposes, and get yourself through the day without being unnecessarily bitchy or frustrated. But society won’t let you grow old gracefully. It insists on putting in its two cents on how you should look and behave. And believe me, it’s not easy facing certain people in society and telling them to mind their own business; that you want to grow old gracefully without a lot of plastic surgery, Botox and fillers. Or that you are not interested in pumping yourself full of hormones to become youthful again. I spend a fair amount of my weekdays with younger people, and I can tell you that I do not envy them their youth. I would not want to return to my thirties and to the uncertainty of those years. You’re still finding your way, building a career, clearing the jungle and carving out your niche. It’s fun but at the same time, it’s deadly serious and a lot of hard work, overtime and weekend work. And if you’re looking for a partner to share life with, it is hard work to find the one that ‘fits’ you. And so it goes. Maybe you find the right person, and then you might want to start a family, with all the work that entails. No, I don’t want to go back or to be young again. I’ve earned my stripes and I want to be able to leave the work world and to leave my projects and tasks over to those who come after me—the younger workers. One day they will be old and will face the same thing. More power to them until that day comes.

So why do people make stupid comments—about your getting older, about the fact that you no longer look the same or act the same as you did when you were younger? That you look 'different' than you used to look (translated--older, more tired, etc.)? When those comments are made to me, my answer is--of course I do, I'm older. I'm no longer thirty years old. Getting older is not a choice. It is not something anyone can do anything about. Why should people feel guilty about getting older? Why do they need to be reminded about it constantly? It is no one’s ‘fault’ that people get old. It’s just life. But society won’t leave older people alone. And many older people feel as though they have to act ‘younger’. I am not one of them. I am honest about feeling tired, about not having the energy I once had, about wanting a more peaceful life, about wanting to retire, about not wanting to be ‘on’ all the time. I don’t want to work full-time until I die. That’s my choice and that’s my right. And if you don’t like me for it, that’s fine—leave me alone. Find someone else to reproach. And if you want to harass me for getting older, again, leave me alone. I don’t want you in my life. As far as work goes, I want the younger people to take over my job eventually. I have no reason to cling desperately to it; it does not define me—it is not my identity. I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do work-wise and I’ve done plenty. I’ve done enough to last two lifetimes. I want to use my time doing other things—volunteer work, library work, working at an animal shelter or working at a garden center—who knows what time will bring? Whatever it brings, I’ll tackle it. Just leave me alone and let me grow old gracefully. I have some good role models—older folks who have aged gracefully--and they do not (and did not) apologize for being old or for getting older. And I have never made them feel as though they had to, never. I’m proud of myself for that when I see the stupidity around me, and grateful for the wonderful relationships I’ve had with the older people in my life. They shared their wisdom and showed me the importance of empathy. It’s them I miss (those who have passed on), not youth, and not the stupidity of youth and of a society that worships youth. My mother used to say, once you got old, you became invisible. She was never invisible to me, and older people in general are not invisible to me. Again I say, if you have a problem with getting older and need to harass older people to deal with your own insecurity and fear of death, you can disappear from my life. I don't need you in it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

No guarantees

This past Monday afternoon at work I decided to go to the main cafeteria to buy a coffee and something sweet to pick me up. As I was waiting on line to pay, I noticed the woman in front of me, struggling to find her wallet in her knapsack so that she could pay. She was a bit agitated and was talking to the cashier in English. She found her money and walked away with her food, but I noticed that she was talking to herself in a perturbed manner as she walked away. I paid for my coffee and dessert and walked toward the exit door. I saw this woman and she caught my eye as I passed her. She was still ranting a bit about the price of the meal she had just paid for (probably not so strange since the cafeteria prices are rather high). I commented briefly about the high prices and was preparing to walk on when she commented that I spoke English and wondered where I came from. I told her that I was American and she said she was as well. She told me that she was traveling around Norway and that her mother had Norwegian ancestry. She also mentioned that she had now made it to Oslo and figured that hospital cafeterias might have some cheaper meals (wrong as it turns out). But then she asked me a question—how easy would it be to make an appointment to talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist. I told her that the lines were long in the public healthcare system to talk to a professional but that she might try private healthcare organizations (similar to American HMOs). She explained that she had left the USA because Trump had been elected, and that she was extremely upset about that, and also that her mother was sick and that she just couldn’t cope with it all. She didn’t seem to want to go home. I took a long look at her—she must have been around fifty years old, in good shape, athletic—and I wondered then what the world was coming to. She seemed so lost and I felt so sorry for her. This was the first person I met who had left the States because of Trump, and he hasn’t even taken office yet. I gave her some information that I thought might help, and she thanked me profusely. I felt almost guilty for doing so little, really.

But then I thought about my own reaction to Trump’s being elected president; I was depressed for nearly a month afterward. I am no longer depressed, but I am wary and anxious about him and about the state of the world. I normally don’t react viscerally to an election, but I did to this one. I don’t like Trump or what he stands for. I think my country has lost its way and is moving in a dangerous direction. I love my country and I don’t want to see it or its people suffer. I simply don’t know what to do about it except to remain aware and informed. But I find it appalling that we cannot trust the media to deliver truth, and if we cannot trust the media, then we are on the road to perdition. I see no reason for optimism at present, but I will try to be optimistic, if only for the sake of the many young people I know and care about who want to inherit a world within which they can live and plan their futures. We owe it to them to give them a future. But there are no guarantees. Our grandparents and parents lived through World Wars I and II; they wanted futures too, but got war instead. They saw their lives turned upside-down and futures smashed. They experienced separation from loved ones, from spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, children, parents—family in general and friends. Many soldiers made the supreme sacrifice—their lives--at very young ages. Maybe some of them didn’t really know what they were fighting for. Perhaps most of them were just plain afraid, like most of us would be. No one wants war. But sometimes the wrong people get into power and lead us astray. There are no guarantees in life, and that is what causes anxiety and depression. I have renewed respect for the men and women who lived through and survived two world wars and returned home to try to rebuild their lives, in addition to those who gave their lives for causes they might not have understood. It could not have been easy for the survivors, and I do know that many of them suffered from post-traumatic stress and other psychological afflictions. Many in my grandparents’ and parents’ generations wanted futures too, and many of those futures were taken from them by death or put on hold indefinitely. It is food for thought at this point in time. There is no guarantee that we are not on the road to perdition, however it is defined or whatever shape it takes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Link to a beautiful short story--Road of Souls--by PJ Curtis

I read a beautiful short story last night by the Irish writer and broadcaster PJ Curtis, called Road of Souls. It was printed in the latest book I'm reading, entitled Burning the Midnight Oil: Illuminating Words for the Long Night's Journey Into Day by Phil Cousineau (https://www.amazon.com/Burning-Midnight-Oil-Illuminating-Journey/dp/1936740737). In this book, the short story is entitled The Last Prince of Thomond (not Road of Souls); it was apparently first printed in a book entitled The Music of Ghosts. I went online to try to find the short story printed for itself alone so I could share it with  you here, and found it at the Clare County Library in Ireland. Unfortunately I cannot print the entire story here because it would be copyright infringement. But I can include a link to the webpage with the story on the Clare County Library website:


Monday, January 9, 2017

Gamle Aker church on a winter's night

I was out walking last evening--a clear night, not bitter cold, and came upon Gamle Aker church which was beautifully lit up. A beacon in the darkness, and there's a lot of darkness now in Oslo. I am looking forward to longer days very soon; 3:15 pm is too early in the day for it to be pitch dark. Gamle Aker church is a very old church, thought to have been built between 1130 and 1160 AD. It's not hard to imagine that perhaps many spirits walk the cemetery grounds and the church, given that the church is so old and that its walls and cemetery grounds hold many stories, some known and some of which will remain untold. You can read more about the church here:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Aker_Church

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Women, men, careers and choices

I wonder about the consequences of certain behaviors—what they lead to and how they change people. I was talking to a good friend yesterday about careers and career progression, and we were exchanging war stories from our respective workplaces. It struck me that she is experiencing now some of what I experienced about ten years ago. In my case, those experiences led to a significant change in how I viewed workplace leadership, careers in general, my career, and career progression. I have come full circle when it comes to careers; I started my work life with real gusto. I wanted a career and went after it. That’s no different than what many younger women experience these days, just that at the time I did it (the late 1970s/early 1980s), it was still considered a ‘big thing’ to want a long-term career if you were a woman. I remember Ms. magazine and how it promoted women’s value in the workplace and the importance of a career in women’s lives. Feminism promoted the idea of women having a choice; they could choose the home or the workplace, or both. The latter proved to be quite difficult when I was young, because it wasn’t easy to give your all to the workplace and then at home with a family and children. Most of the women I knew at that time (in the USA) solved that dilemma in different ways; some were wealthy enough to hire nannies to care for their children, while others placed them in private daycare. Others worked part-time and gave up the idea of having a full-time career. They had a job that helped pay the bills but which gave them the opportunity to be with their children more. All of them acknowledged that it was not possible to be a full-time employee and a full-time mother, and whether they felt guilt about that was not the issue. They acknowledged that something had to give, and sometimes it was their taking care of their own children that was sacrificed for their career. I don’t know how most of them feel about that decision at this point in their lives (most are in their early 60s). The few women I know who have truly reached the top were and still are dynamos whose children respect them for the fact that they broke through the barriers that had hindered women. But again, those women had full-time help in the form of nannies or parents who were available to help them raise their children.

Sometimes now I look at the younger women I know, who have so many more choices than we ever did, and I don’t see their lives as easier than ours. I rather see them as much more difficult. Even here in Norway, where equality between the sexes has come a long way, there is still grumbling and dissatisfaction with the way things have worked out for women. Why? Men are expected to do more at home and to contribute equally to childcare and housework. But most of the polls show that women are still doing most of the housework and taking care of many aspects of childcare that men don’t seem to or want to manage. I have no firm opinion about it; I am merely an observer and a listener. I know many younger women who live alone and have no desire to have children, while others have married later and had children later in order to give themselves the opportunity to build a career. What I hear from many younger women who work full-time is that they miss not being with their children when they are working; they wish they could spend more time with them. Their consciences bother them a lot. I think it’s an instinct in women to want to be with their children; perhaps an instinct that men have as well. When children arrive, life takes on a different character. The future of their children becomes important, more important than their own lives. That’s the way of nature, a way of ensuring the survival of future generations. There is not enough time in life to do everything wholeheartedly. We cannot have it all—the perfect job, the perfect home life, the perfect social life. None of them exist. Guilt simply makes life more stressful. I am not saying we can eradicate guilt; I don’t believe we can nor should we. But there is a happy medium. There is a way of living life that does not require a person (woman or man) to sacrifice her or his all on the altar of the workplace, only to go home completely sapped for energy and willingness to take part in family life. I think it is wrong of workplaces to expect that, and yet, that is the definition of the modern workplace—more efficient, more productive, always can be better, always can top last month’s or last year’s sales—in other words, never good enough. Striving for more—more power, more prestige, and more money--continually. That is the nature of the workplace and perhaps the nature of human beings. But it does not lead to happiness, real happiness. It does not lead to any sort of internal peace, it ignores the needs of the soul and the heart. Because in the midst of the striving, the questions come. What am I doing this for? Why am I doing this? What’s the goal? Why am I sacrificing my family life for a job that will spit me out when the time comes to cut budgets and personnel? Why do we willingly sign our lives over to a corporation that cares nothing about us in the long run? Why do we do it? We have to start asking the tough questions. If we do, there is hope for change.

My career is nearing its natural end. I never had my own children, but I think if I had had them, I would have wanted to spend time with them. I say that however from the perspective of now. I really don’t know what it would have been like to have tried to balance children and a career. Of course I would have had help from my husband, but still, I think it would have been stressful. He and I have careers that are not 9 to 5, and they still demand a level of engagement that we cannot give them anymore. I want much more free time to pursue my hobbies and other activities. I don’t regret my choice of career or the financial and intellectual independence it gave me, but I can see why women and men choose not to pursue a career. It comes down to listening to yourself, to your heart and soul. If you know you don’t want to devote your life to a career and that you would rather stay at home with your children or work part-time in order to spend more time with them, then that should be a choice that society respects and rewards both women and men for. Such a choice is no longer ridiculed, but it remains difficult for many couples to make it work. Social trends and our culture have created the need for materialistic lifestyles that require that couples work full-time in order to make them possible. Something has to give. Some couples are choosing simpler lives—making do with less, moving from cities, working for smaller companies, starting their own companies, working for companies that allow them to work at home—all those things. I hope that society moves in that direction—toward smaller rather than larger, and toward less materialistic rather than more. I hope too that the right to personal choice, to following one’s heart, and to wanting peace of soul count for more in the years to come.   

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Bird feeders and squirrels

My friend Jean has told me about the squirrels who manage to raid the bird feeder each winter, no matter how difficult it becomes for them to reach it. They really do think the bird feeder exists for them. So when I saw this photo and caption, I just had to share it.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lights in the darkness--Christmas in Oslo

Wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a God Jul! And Happy Hanukkah too, since it is being celebrated around the same time as Christmas this year. Enjoy these photos of lights in the darkness. It is very dark at this time of year in Oslo right up until the winter solstice. The days have been gray and foggy, and there has not been much snow (which helps to provide whiteness and light), so the sun and all the Christmas lighting are welcome sights for the heart and soul.