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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Work Duty

Tonight we fulfilled the second part of our marina member duties by going over and working in the boat yard.  It was a cool night which proved to be helpful because the work we had to do was real work.  Last year, when we arrived for our arbets plikt (work duty) evening, there was practically no work to be done.  We screwed down a couple of loose boards, swept the floor and made hot dogs and coffee.  This year was a totally different story.  One of our fears is that we won't be able to understand what job they are giving us so when the guy said he needed several people to help GRÄVA, I said to Doug, "Let's do that...it means dig and I know we know how do that!" Why in the world I know the word for dig, is a mystery to me.  It was a pretty tough job.  We had to dig a pretty good size ditch, then cover the bottom with sand. Doug is a great yard worker.  I'm not.  My upper body strength is staggeringly poor and after about 5 shovel fulls, I was beat.  My wrists, hands and back were aching!  I was so thankful for my day job!  But I hung in there and working together made it much easier.  After we finished the ditch, we moved on to moving big trash into a dumpster and picking up loose tree cuttings.  Icky, dirty work.  Finally, we topped off the evening by helping to move the trunk and branches of a huge birch tree that they felled right as we arrived.  That sucker was heavy and the branches seemed to go on endlessly. And no, they do not say Timber when a tree is coming down.
You can pay money to get out of doing the work but we kind of feel like this is one of the ways we can be a physical presence at the boat yard.  We don't know other people there very well and besides, if you pay money, the work doesn't get done and the boat yard looked 100% better when we left than when we arrived. Lots of people put loads and loads of time into the marina to keep it as nice as is it.  It's good for us to hang with the crowd once in awhile.  Swedes are great outdoor workers so everyone is good about doing their bit.  And it was only 2 hours. And we got hot dogs and cinnamon rolls when it ended.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Summer Lovin' or Lovin' Summer

We enjoyed a late August surge of summer last Saturday.  I'm not sure who enjoys getting out on the boat more: Us or Tanner.We had evening plans so decided to get out on the boat in the morning and enjoy the sunshine.  Many others had the same idea as the sea was filled with all manner of boats!  We decided to head out to our former retreat center in the archipelago.  Many fond memories of church life have been forged at this beautiful camp along the Baltic sea.  Unfortunately, due to financial realities the church had to sell the property last spring.  Being back up there on Saturday was bittersweet.  We are very sad that we can no longer enjoy this place as our retreat center.  But it provided a perfect place for a sweet summer picnic.  Tanner was in and out of the water and it looked so enticing that he finally convinced me to jump in and join him!  The chilly waters were good for my body and soul.  Summer is a time for swimming and this late August dip reminded me that perhaps all of the good things of summer are not over quite yet.
The ride back in was beautiful.  Gorgeous ships, the amazing Swedish archipelago, and the warm sunshine nurtured our souls and encouraged our spirits.  I'm not quite ready to say good-bye to summer, but rain, clouds, waning sunshine and dropping temperatures are daily reminders that it doesn't really matter what I'm ready for.  It's not that I don't love the autumn chill and the beautiful colors of fall...it's just that I'd like that season to hold off for just a couple more weeks or even a month!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Desert Beauty

I love Palm Springs.  Oh yeah, you already know that.  But I am rarely there in August so I was surprised by how much is in bloom at this time of year. One of my favorite plants was the Mexican Bird of Paradise.  The vibrant orange and red flowers that stand up tall from the bush is a sight to behold.  These photos do not do it justice.  I was really taken by it while in PS earlier this month.  I couldn't figure out why it was such a surprising and tantalizing sight...and then I realized that usually we are in PS in February and the Mexican Bird of Paradise is not in bloom and then it just looks like a green shrub.  What a treat to experience such unexpected beauty.

The desert is so amazing...a little water and it grows like mad.  Contrary to what people might imagine, the desert is not a dead landscape.  Beauty abounds in flowers, bushes and those towering palms.  Oh, did I mention how much I love Palm Springs?

The Changing Landscape of My Life

The view from the plane as we soared over Utah.
I've been back in Sweden a week and a day.  The transition always contains challenges. Even flying business class both directions couldn't stave off the usual difficult transition between my "worlds."  While I feel that Sweden is "my home", I also feel that I am leaving "my home" every time I depart from the U.S. 
This is one of my favorite landscapes.
But so is this.
My heart is filled with part joy in living in Sweden and Europe, part fatigue from living in a foreign environment, part longing to be back in the familiar landscape of America and part horror at how weird the U.S. feels to me at times. Inevitably, within 48 hours of being back, I feel frustrated with Sweden and want to move, anywhere, tomorrow. (Usually by the next tomorrow I love my life here again. Learning that these feelings are an inevitable part of returning to Sweden after being gone has helped minimize the drama I can bring to our family around this issue.)  Add a little jet lag and disrupted sleep patterns and you can understand why I always feel a little crazy when making this transition.
The inevitable onslaught of the autumn ministry season is in full tilt, made a bit more intense by the fact that our summer looked so differently than we had expected, but alas, life moves on and we are trying to catch the train that just keeps on rolling by.
One thing that I have never adjusted to in the 13 years that we've been here is that autumn really does start in August here.  And I'm not just talking about the start of school...I'm talking about the weather.  I left a roasting 105F (41C) and returned to coolish 60'sF (15C), often low 60's.  sigh.  I'm not ready for it to be autumn yet...to be done swimming in the Baltic and riding on the boat and walking  Tanner in shorts and a t-shirt.  Now I know that those of you in the US and other parts of the world who are suffering through the "dog days of summer" are thinking I'm crazy for wanting the heat to linger, but keep in mind that a roasting hot day up here is like 80F (26C) and we get like, one a year!  Also, we have the perfect hot days here...low humidity, no bugs, light all night.  We just don't get enough of it.  On my last day in Palm Springs I lounged in the pool, face to the sun, trying to soak in all the vitamin D that I could, seeking an uncomfortable heat that might sustain me as I jettisoned back to this cooler place.  I loved every minute of it.
And yet, even Stockholm has served up a few nice days in the midst of the autumn tease.  Sunday we got out on the boat, in shorts and t-shirts and didn't even need a jacket.  Tanner was the only one who swam, but at least we were out in the archipelago, enjoying a warm sun.  And today, I walked Tanner...in shorts and a t-shirt.  Sure, there were already leaves on the ground, but it was still pretty green and the water was blue and beckoning.  Tanner swam.  I did not.  But I am kind of determined to get in the water one more time before it freezes over and we're able to walk on it.
Sometimes I wonder how a girl from Southern California who actually revels in 100 plus degree dry, roasting heat ended up so far north.  When I married Doug I almost made him put in our wedding vows, "And I promise to not move you any further north." I was thinking Duluth at that point but I clearly underestimated how far north God would take us.
I keep telling myself that I am really not that shallow, that climate should not have such a significant role in determining my life outlook...Oh, and did I mention that I keep telling myself that?
In between wanting to move and being overwhelmed by Americanisms that I don't understand, I suppose it's safe to admit that I love my life.  I just don't care much for the transitions.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beautiful Big Bear

My parents have some very dear friends who have a home in Palm Springs but they head for the cooler climate of the surrounding mountains during the hot summer months that the desert definitely serves up. 
Bert and Jim's lovely mountain home
Big Bear Lake is a near ideal place to spend the summer.  Towering pines, a gorgeous lake, blue skies forever, no humidity: hmmm, sounds a bit like Sweden! The cabins are not red however! The days are shorter and the temperatures higher but I could definitely see myself spending summers in Big Bear! In this house! Seeing the ski slopes descending along the mountainside was a cool sight in the middle of the summer. I loved being out on the lake, taking in the beautiful properties that line the shores.  In the evening the temperature dropped and the cool air provided a wonderful environment in which to rest.  Blue skies, green pine, beautiful Blue Jays...what a wonderfully artistic color palette God decided to use in this area.We had a great time together.  We ate our meals outside, played a lot of cards, poked fun at politics (both sides took a beating!) and made each other laugh a lot.  We ended our time together with breakfast at the Grizzly Cafe, a classic American style breakfast joint.  No frills, just great food.  I ordered the biggest pancake I've ever seen! It tasted great but I could not finish it!
I am very thankful that my parents have such dear, wonderful friends.  Thanks Jim and Bert for a great mountain getaway!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Fondell Family Farm

On Monday the entire family drove out to Dawson, Minnesota, a small farming community west of Minneapolis.  There is something very soothing about driving across rural America.   
I love seeing the big farms, the tall corn, the open landscape. Some of the my photographs are hazy because the steam from the humidity was affecting my camera.  It was a hot and humid Minnesota summer day.
Dawson is where the Swedish immigrants from Doug's family set up a family farm in the late 1800's and where Doug's grandfather farmed the land and where Doug's father was raised.  It is also where Debbie was born and desired to be buried.  The burial itself was a moving occasion, attended mainly by family.  It was noted that Debbie is the 5th generation of Fondell's buried in the cemetery.  No one from the 4th generation is buried there yet but Doug's parents do plan to have their grave sites there as well. 
The gravestones of Doug's father's parents
I've never seen a graveyard where one family has such a prominent presence.  It was actually very special and quite moving.  The first graves were engraved with Swedish, reminding us of our immigrant history. 
You can hardly see it but it does say Född and Död: Born and Died
The verse on this grave was written in Swedish: "I know that my Savior lives"
The corner stone from the original church is also written in Swedish: Missionskyrkan...which is the same kind of church that Doug and I now serve in Stockholm.  The circle of life seemed quite prominent in this small town Minnesota cemetery.  I was happy to listen to Doug reminisce about his childhood, speaking of the fun they had on the farm when they went to visit Grandma and Grandpa.  One of his cousins still lives in the homestead so it was great fun to be there after the service to take in a bit of Doug's childhood.  It reminded me a lot of the small town my mom grew up and the house brought back a lot of memories of the childhood home my mom grew up in, where my grandmother lived well into her 80's.  Our nephew delighted in driving the tractor lawn mower. I had to laugh when I saw the chickens running around the front yard of the Pastor's house.  Our life in Stockholm is just a bit different from this rural farm town!
Dawson, Minnesota is definitely a place of prominence for the Fondells.  To see the generations of people who have lived and died there, to visit the home of Doug's grandparents, to interact with the family and hear stories of their life there was a special part of the experience for me.  Debbie wanted to be buried in the place where she was born, near her ancestors.  It all seems uniquely appropriate for a history teacher.
Our immigrant history came back into full focus once again and left me with warm feelings about our own return to Sweden in this generation.  I may have to read William Moberg's Emmigrants once again.  His story is our story in so many ways.  It was a day filled with the sorrow of burying a sister, the joy of embracing a family, remembering a special past and the awesomeness of seeing how generations of folks have touched that land.

A Lovely Break on the Mississippi River

The Sunday after the funeral we were all pretty exhausted.  The weather was hot and humid and we needed a day of rest.  One of Beth's friends lives on the Mississippi River and owns a pontoon boat.  She graciously invited us out to have lunch and take a cruise.  It was a welcome respite.  She served up freshly picked corn on the cob (a great American summer treat that I miss terribly in Sweden), delicious grilled burgers and brats.  We sat on her deck and enjoyed the delicious meal.  Then we headed for the pontoon and the refreshment that being out on the river would bring.  A cool breeze enveloped us as we cruised the river, looking at the beautiful homes that lined the shore and waiting for our chance to jump into the water!  The conversation was easy, some slept, others just took it all in. All of us needed our souls to be tended to a bit and Erin did a great job providing for our every need.  Several of us took the chance to take a quick swim and our nephew reveled in the joy of being pulled on a tube.  Soon it was time to dock the boat and head home.  Exhaustion was setting in and we were all looking forward to a good night's sleep.
What a special day of refreshment and renewal in the midst of our grief.  Thank you Erin for loving and surrounding us with your grace in every way imaginable.  It was a special day that we all treasured.