A Foreign Community, An Extended Family- A True Story

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Many years ago when I lived in Sweden, in my early 2o’s, I had my own apartment in a community made up of foreignors. The buildings were tall, brightly painted with huge numbers so addresses were easy to find. I was number 74 V.2. We were from everywhere. Brazil, Iran, Pakistan, Argentina, Russia, different countries from Africa, America, Poland, Chile, Peru, Iraq, India, and many more. Ironically, technically, I am Swedish. I do not have the stereotypical blonde hair and blue eyes like all my cousins, and I didn’t (still don’t) speak with the same Swedish accent, but I am a Swede. A Swede who seemed to fit better in this international neighbourhood.

Here, I remember especially the women. They’d smile at me and shout out a “hello” in their language as they beat their rugs outside, and I felt they instantly accepted me as one of their own. Sure I’ll pretend a second to be Bolivian! Hola! Okay that was the only one I knew at the time, to the others I just smiled back. These women cooked with open windows and the smell of their food made my mouth water. Where ever I went, there was a woman with children closeby. Be it her own, or her grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, children were everywhere. I was fascinated that all these people from around the world had found their way here.

Across the courtyard from me lived a close friend that I had met and gotten to know. Her family was Assyrian from Iran. I later learned to greet them with a word that sounded like it would be spelled “schlamalockhone”. Her parents didn’t speak much Swedish but it didn’t matter. They were so kind to me! Spending time in their home made me realise how my friends must have felt visiting my family. They only knew English and my family spoke Swedish at home! In time I learned the sounds of their language and when I heard others at bus stops or shops, I always knew if they were speaking their dialect of Assyrian or not and I would greet them with a friendly “schlamalockhone”.

My friend’s mother was such a busy body. From what I observed, she cooked a big pot of food each morning. I can still almost taste her meatballs with buttery rice on the side.Whoever came to the house could have some food and there was always plenty to eat. She then spent the rest of her day helping others. Every day! On days where she was home cleaning, she had the TV on a channel that played her home music. Have you heard of Arabic oldies? I loved it! I became infused by their culture. They easily made me feel like I had more than just friends as neighbours, they were my extended family.

One Christmas I was the only one in my family in Sweden. Christmas Eve was spent with my aunt and cousins and it was wonderful to learn more in depth the Swedish traditions. Christmas day was spent with my Assyrian family. We put on our best dress and went to… I think it was their grandparents home. See the importance of keeping a journal? Memory is so unreliable. So many people were there! And I had no idea what anyone was saying but it was great. More kindness was shown to me. The grandfather said these words, as my friend translated them for me: “Today we understand that you miss your family. Today we will adopt you as one of our own. Feel at home.” He then invited me to bless the big Christmas meal! I was honored! The food was out of this world delicious.

After the meal they all sat around the large living room and sang traditional songs, I had learned some of their dances and joined in on those. It was time for presents but there was so many people I only remember envelopes of money. I watched my friend and her sister open theirs, then I opened mine and we had all gotten the same amount. My heart swelled with gratitude that I was truly accepted that day and I did not feel alone or left out at all. God bless those people for opening their heart and home to me.

I’ll never forget the warm summer nights my friend and I would slowly walk around the footpath that outlined our entire community. We talked for hours. Everything from earth to heaven, our pasts and hopes for the future and probably literally EVERYTHING. Women do have a gift of talking. During our walk, we walked past a soccer field that was right in the middle of the neighbourhood. The older boys playing with the younger ones like little brothers and including them in their game. We walked past whole families who were also out walking, husband, wife and children enjoying the evening stroll. I watched them and thought, I want that one day too! Evening strolls with my family.

Family is always there when we need a friend. Or are friends there when we need family? Either way, this night she was. It was at about 2am, I woke up with an intense pain in my leg. It was a pain that had resulted in a knee injury 3 years before. I went into the kitchen and panicked when I realised I had no painkillers left. This pain would only get worse and it was unbearable. I called her. At 2am she actually answered her phone! She lived at the top of her apartment building and had to come all the way down to open the door for me. In her flat she offered me food and medicine and I simply stayed the night. She was so much more than a friend. She was like a sister. Always there and never upset with me.

I remember talking to her a lot about how much I missed home- Ohio. And it was a hard time for me. But looking back I realise more and more that those years in Sweden had become some of my biggest blessings in life. I cannot thank God enough for the experiences I had, for the life long friendships that were built, for the lessons I would not have otherwise learned. Yes, sometimes trials are blessings in disguise.

And I thank God for my extended family around the world.

xx

(photo credit)

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“You heading home?”

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Many years ago while living in London, I sat on the bus after work on my way back to the HOUSE I rented on King George Avenue. For a long time I was so sensitive to the word homeΒ  that I made sure I always referred to my dwelling as “the house” and not home. On that bus, lost in thought I must have had a dazed look on my face as another passenger had said to me, “You heading home?”

I couldn’t help my answer, “I’m far from home.”

This fellow passenger seemed to understand my reply (we both had non-british accents) with a nod of his head. Instead of prying for details, he let the conversation go with, “One of the last stops eh?”

I smiled and nodded as I returned to my thoughts: when will I really get to go back HOME.

I thought about this very short conversation with a stranger as I now sit on the couch with my two sons and I am back in Ohio.

In my younger childhood years I recall a popular teeshirt that had the saying “Home is Where the Heart is.”

If home is where my heart is, then my heart is in pieces.

A piece in Sweden. Another piece in England. And a big piece never left Ohio.

Or am I thinking all wrong? Home is not a location, its my heart. And my heart belongs to my family. No matter where in this world we live, home is always there. And here.

For someone who moves a lot I suppose I have to think like that.

Today’s positive thought:Β It’s good to be HOME.

xx

(photo credit)

Horndon on the Hill

“Let’s get lost today,” a husband said to his wife. They had only been married a few months and he knew how much she loved going for drives. The winding roads, charming houses and green everywhere felt enchanting. Rolling hills with sheep grazing stood by. Fields of farmlands gave beautiful colour and texture to the country. Having lived mostly in the city, the couple thoroughly enjoyed their countryside drive. After listening to the same CD twice, they reckoned their taste for adventure and new scenery had been satisfied and felt ready to go home.

However, on the way home there was an exit that read “Horndon on the Hill” next to a long narrow road that led up a hill. The wife could see a small neighbourhood. Intrigued, she persuaded her husband to get off the exit and maybe they’d find a nice pub for dinner before going home. He agreed, drove up the hill and together they looked for a pub. They passed some terrace houses and a small high street before seeing detached houses, a school and a library. The high street was so small perhaps they drove too fast and didn’t see it. The road dead-ended quite abruptly and they turned around, drove much slower and kept a look-out for somewhere to eat. There was a florist shop, a post office, a chemist, a kiosk, a take-away, a small grocer, a bakery and the pub. The wife noticed a mother with her child staring at her. The husband noticed two men who had been talking, stopped and began to stare at him. Uncomfortably, they continued to drive around the neighbourhood. Many of the the houses were lovely with gardens well tended to.

The husband grew increasingly annoyed with all the dead end streets. He turned around to find the exit. They both changed their minds about eating at a strange pub and decided they would rather go somewhere closer to home. Somehow getting lost no longer seemed as fun. The husband turned the car around towards the exit, but they found themselves on the high street again. An older woman in a flat above the kiosk watered her flowers and shook her head as she watched them drive by for the third time. The wife grew impatient. It was clearly a small town, how could they not find the road that led back to the highway? The sun was beginning to set, yet children were still out with friends. Groups of people gathered to socialise, which would have been nice if the couple didn’t feel like they were the topic of conversation. Finally the husband parked the car at the pub, they would eat and ask for directions. They sat a table near a window, placed their order, but found their conversation dry. An elderly couple watched them, and the wife stared back. The elderly woman held her husbands hand. Their faces were solemn, but not unpleasant. They nodded to the wife, as if to confirm something. Gathering whatever courage she had, the wife walked over to the table and asked, “How do we find the road that leads to the highway?” The elderly woman raised a tender eyebrow and replied, “You don’t. None of us ever found it.”

My Break from Being a MOM

My Husband and I have on occasion battled who has the harder role in the home. To work, or to take care of the kid. This dear husband of mine surprised me one morning with a plane ticket to Sweden (yay for Ryanair!) so that I could have a well needed break and he would know for himself what I do 24/7. Over the weekend I was gone 3 days. Yesterday, he publicly made it known that I win πŸ™‚

 

This is ELENA

 

In Sweden I had a great time! My dear cousin Elena has the best family and I love spending time with them in their home.

 

 

Felicia, Gabbe, me, Emily and Elisabeth

 

We went shopping, talked, out to eat, shopping again, talked some more, and had a fun photo shoot with the most beautiful scenery and perfect fall weather.

It was the best holiday! I love you Elena! And I love you Shaun for making it happen xx

First Family Holiday in Cornwall

First Husband. First Baby. First Son.

First Family Photo. First Family Holiday.

(Is it just me or is the word “first” starting to sound weird?)

Our First Family Holiday, Ethan’s First Visit to the Beach.

And Ethan’s First Swim in a Pool

Highlights of the Trip:

1. Watching Ethan walk in the Sand with a big Smile on his face

2. Eating a Strawberry and Lemon Cornish ice cream cone

3. Chasing Ocean Waves with Ethan

4. Sharing Lovely Dinners with the Brooks Family

5. A 1-1 battle of Phase Ten with the Hubby and guess who won? πŸ˜‰

xx

 

Daydreamer

As the washing machine makes its rounds, I sit on the couch watching my one year old watch the washing machine with fascination. The sound of the crashing wet clothes hitting against the sides, knocking the dirt out of them. After a second or two, my thoughts wander.

Years ago I sat on a huge flat gray rock just off a hidden path. I had the ocean in front of me. Trees shaded me. The sound of the crashing waves had me in a trance. If I could have stayed in that same place forever, I would have. It was in a small fishing village on a Greek island. I remember my friend and I ate fresh strawberries on the side of the road. We had lunch in a cave furnished with leather couches. A doilie shop had lizards racing up the wall. The word “yassou” quickly became a part of my daily vocabulary. We watched two heavy greek women with aprons walking alongside each other like they had never separated. My friend nodded her head at them and said, “That could be us.”

The washing machine on its final series of spins jerks me out of my daydream. Ethan lost interest and is now pulling the DVDs off the shelf again. The words echo in my head, “that could be us.” Could’ve. But isn’t.

Dear Greece, I miss you. Next time I come, I promise to bring my family so they can fall in love with you too. x

Experiencing the World

In my younger years, it seemed most of my friends were married, had been married or were getting married. I didn’t have a man to fill my days with excitement and love so I decided to travel. This beautiful fountain lies in the heart of Barcelona, Spain.

While living in Sweden, me and an American family drove down to Copenhagen. I remember visiting lots of museums, learning about Vikings and eating delicious bread. And yes, there were bikes EVERYWHERE!

Ah, Chinatown in Toronto. My favorite place to shop! I’ve been there twice πŸ™‚

This is the CN Tower in Toronto. We had a beautiful view overlooking the city and beyond. The best part was the FOOD!!! The best best best best best best meal I have ever eaten in my whole life. If were a rich girl, I’d eat there all the time.

One summer a girlfriend and I went to Greece, a little place called Corfu. I will never forget the delicious giros and sirloin steak so good I still crave it. The people that live there are the nicest ever. During one afternoon we bought some strawberries and sat by the road enjoying the quiet beautiful scenery. The old man and his wife who lived in the house nearby brought out chairs! Yassou!

This is the Duomo in Milan. I saw it in the moonlight and it took my breath away. Italy was just beautiful everywhere. Even the night sky seemed different! I sat outside of the main train station, a place that reminded me of big open palaces, on a bench just admiring the scene. I was in Italy! And I must say, they have the best ham ever.

After I turned in my dissertation for my BA, I packed my bags and headed straight to Turkey! The water stole my heart here. I stood thigh deep in the water and saw the bottom perfect. All the rocks and plants and fish. Nevermind that I’m short, the water was crystal clear! And I’m a sucker for palm trees. I heart Turkey.

Living in Sweden, of course I have been to Stockholm many times, and at one point lived there for a few months. If I were to be honest, it was in Stockholm, in a little restaurant known only to the locals, I ate the best meatballs! Discovering delicious food is the highlight of any trip.

And this is the city I live in, kind of. The train takes me there in a quick 20 minutes. London, the place to shop, look glamourous,Β  and ride on the underground. It’s been exciting.

I’m grateful for the opportunities I have had to see some of the world and appreciate the beauty each has to offer. I hope to continue to travel with my family one day. But for now, I must tend to the crying baby….