Give up the Holidays Fraught with Tension

Are you dreading the thanksgiving dinner with all the family dynamics?

Why?

It’s just food and family. There’s nothing more wonderful.

If there’s too much tension going on, dial it back. Dial back your expectations of the meal, dial back everyone’s contributions.

Are you prone to the “if i don’t have this side-dish, it’s not Thanksgiving” syndrome? Remember that you can make side dishes another day. You can visit other families another weekend. Don’t consign thanksgiving/Thanksgiving to a single date. Eat and be happy with the people you love. And if you can’t be there, set up the camera and skype. Let your families be together, wherever they are!

Tip: consider making Thanksgiving a celebration for which you are grateful. Beautiful table settings, family recipes, family time — these are not things we have too much of in our lives. So instead of thinking about the possible horrors, move into pollyanna mode (anyone remember who she was?) and start being grateful. Have a blessed day, my friends! (and here’s a NY Times article about what you can learn from Turkey Day at home.)

Old Friends, Old Habits and Old Customs

Since last Monday, I have been mostly in Kristinehamn, Sweden, which lies at the northern end of the Vänern Lake. Kristinehamn was originally one of the most important iron towns in the world, because it was from this harbor that so much of this high-quality Swedish iron was sent out into the world. Oddly, this sleepy little town controlled the price of iron for over 400 years. Here’s my friend Lorraine and me as we sit in front of the Picasso sculpture which he drafted and someone else erected so that K-hamn could say it was famous for having a Picasso sculpture!

fifiandpicasso

It has held a large part of my heart for the 40 years since I arrived here as an exchange student. I discovered a lot in this town about who I was, how I communicated and how I made friends and family. The year has stood me in good stead my entire life.

Mostly this week I visited my dear friend Lorraine and her partner Kjell. Their two boys (young men, I should say: Niklas is 25 and Åke is 22) came to visit at the end of the week. Although we actually had to drive to Oslo on Wednesday to fetch Åke and all his stuff. He’s moving from Oslo to Stockholm. Sunday Lorraine and Kjell drove to Stockholm to dump him and his stuff at his new home. We’re all waiting on tenterhooks to see if his new job as a hotel bellhop materializes! Hold your thumbs, as they say here.

sunnystugaOn Tuesday, we drove out and took a fika (a little picnic with coffee/tea/sandwiches and sweet bread. um yum) to their little cabin. We sat right on that porch. Kjell and Lorraine are great at taking their fika along wherever they go. Sweden is filled w/ lakes. Here’s Kjell sitting by one.fikakjellBut it’s not all picnics. Sometimes they go out and pick mushrooms so visitors from far away can have mushroom soup when they get there. Here are the 4 kilo (8.8#) chanterelles they picked for soup and freezer.kantarellaThis means it’s the end of summer. The picture below: Lorraine, Ann, Bean Soup and Pancakes means it’s Thursday in Sweden!pankakatorsdagAnd that’s plenty of picnics for one post! Pretty fun over here!

Here’s One Swedish Family

This crowd looked a little different when we all met 40 years ago. Two of them I hadn’t seen for almost 20 years. Almost impossible to think that time flies by so quickly.

familjenNilsson

I managed or will manage quiet time with everyone but my youngest sister Ulrika… we’ll have to figure that out. This is everyone (Cecelia, Louise, Per, Ulrika, Margita) outside the church. Did I ‘fess up it was built in 1748 and that only one wall was from the 1200s?

Last night I visited the church for a vespers service. Maria Ottensten, the priest at Barbro’s mass, was preaching. It was interesting to listen to a sermon (how does she keep them so short?) and to watch the rhythm of things as they unfolded. It was a lovely service in the same beautiful church that Mamma was buried from.

Then today I took a long train ride through the countryside to get to my friend lorraine’s. It’s a wonderful trip along rivers and bonds and lakes. The woods are gorgeous and so are the swedish summer houses that the train rumbles by. Pretty wonderful!