Norway…

Norway is beautiful. It is probably the most stunning country I have ever seen, the fjords are so strikingly awesome, especially in the spring.  The drop of sheer rock creates waterfalls in the snow melt that cascade down with such grace and beauty that it really shows you how insignificant you can be compared to the natural beauty of mother nature.  We lived in Stavanger, which hosted a large military base of Air Force and Nato personnel.  It was a great to be in a military-heavy place, it felt like home to me.  I made several friends there, and even got to DJ some great parties on base for some ex-fighter pilots-their music choices fit mine perfectly!  We got to have American Thanksgivings, Christmases, 4th of July Celebrations…it was awesome.

My back however, was a different story.  I was suffering a lot off and on, the pain in my lower back was manageable…but that soon turned not so.  I found a doctor in Michigan that would perform a total disc replacement.  Since I never had any operations or C-Sections I was a good candidate for this newer procedure.  He cut my stomach, about 8″ cut about 2″ below my bellybutton, and moved all my “insides” to the side.  He then cut my damaged area out and replaced it with a new one.  The healing process was better not to cut my back, by using the “less-muscled area” to cut into made the muscles in my back stay strong so the new disc would have support.  I stayed in Michigan with our lovely nanny that came from Singapore with us…funny how life finds a way.

Within a month I was doing much better, and made the flight back over to Norway to rejoin my family.  Once I did the travel, I figured I was all better, and weened myself off all the medications I had been given, well…I say “weened“, but I really “dropped” all of it, at the same time.  Let me tell you something:  Withdrawal is no Joke!  I can’t remember all I was on, but I didn’t sleep for a week.  My brain was SCREAMING AT ME to take something, but I stayed strong.  I had such a mental week that I couldn’t focus on anything other than my brain telling me I needed to alter my state of being…I was tired, shakey, irritable, sick, grumpy; you name it-every emotion I could have-couldn’t stop the SCREAMING.  My brain finally realized it wasn’t going to win, and the screaming turned to chatter, turned to words, turned to quiet, I had won, again.

When I returned to Michigan for my three month check the doc was shocked that I was off everything-he asked me how long I took to ween off the medications, and when I told him how I did it he was floored.  He scared me a bit with what “could’ve happened” to me by dropping it all, but he was also proud of the fact I was able to do it without medical help, so I promised him if I was ever in a situation like that again, I would do it the right way, and a few years later, I did. (but that is another story…)

Norway was coming to a close, and Rick was excited about a new opportunity with a new company headquartered in Derbyshire, England, so we went to check it out.  What that meant to us, was for me to take the four kids on an 18-hour ferry across the North Sea, in March.  Now, I don’t know where you all are in this wonderful world we live in, but let me tell you, it was probably not the smartest decision I have ever made.  It was rough, and I mean ROUGH!  The boat rocked so hard that we didn’t dare walk without holding the rail, the swimming pool was off limits as the waves in that little pool were splashing so high against the walls that one side of the pool would empty-and I am not kidding!  We were all seasick; and no amount of that 18-hour trip was enjoyable, but we landed safely (albeit green) in northern England; in a minivan that had the wrong-side steering wheel, with only Norwegian Kroner, (only GBP or Euro monies for the toll bridge)  and Mapquest directions. (Thank You Simon)

England was beautiful, and we made our way down to Derby after a 6-hour drive.  We met up with our (Scottish) Education expert, and our house hunting guru, who showed us the new “sights and sounds” of what we would soon be calling “home”.  The funniest thing about this trip had to be the Education Expert and how he talked.  See, we were not used to hearing the word “wee” in any other way but for “pee”, and everything in England is a “short” or “little” or “right down the road” from everything we needed.  So, when we were with the expert, he used the word “Wee” for all of it!  The kids were from 6th grade down to Kindergarten and they broke out in laughter every time he used “Wee” to describe anything!  Maybe you had to be there, but that laughter made the trip so much more enjoyable; especially since we had to look forward to yet ANOTHER crossing of the treacherous North Sea!  Not to mention all the kids didn’t touch their candy from the Easter Bunny…somehow he made it out in the middle of the cold, angry waters to surprise them on the ferry.

So, after leaving Norway we went on a family excursion across the country from Michigan to Florida, and then from Florida to the Grand Canyon, where we met up with my father and my buddy Sean.  We then traveled up to Colorado via Four Corners and landed at the Royal Gorge, where my sisters and their families met us for a few days together.  It was such a fantastic trip, until we blew up in Iowa after a major flood came through and finally made it back to Michigan.  That trip is still talked about as a family favorite, as we have seen so many other exotic places, the kids saw the US the same way.  I think it’s important to explore your backyard, and we did that in every other country we lived in, so we needed to explore our own.

Our family always grows closer with every move, but this time was even more so.  The two younger ones went to a lovely, small, Christian school that was associated with the church my hubby was attending before the kids and I moved over.  The two older boys tested into a “fantastic” grammar school in the area that was only for boys, and my boys hated it.  Besides the fact that they were demanded to wear ties and blazers to school, they were also discriminated against.  My oldest boy got told off by pulling his little brother out of the way of the wave of boys headed to the lunch room, and when he spoke (in American English) the teacher’s demeanor changed quickly and he said “Bloody American will learn some manners at this school!”  When I picked up the boys that day (school busses aren’t really a “thing”) my eldest was very upset.  We always try to respect the cultures that we are in, but this was bigger than “culture” to us.  It happened again a week later when the same teacher pulled my son out of the lunch line and told him to go to the end of the line.  When my son asked what he had done the teacher replied “I told you, you would learn some manners at this school!”  We tried to talk to his head of class about the comment, and he said he would “get it sorted” and we would not have to deal with that going forward…well…he didn’t, and it happened again, to me.

While I was waiting in the parking lot, a kid drove through the crowd of moms and students quite fast in a BMW, and one teacher told him to slow down.  Then he made a comment like “these kids in these posh cars, in my day I had a bike!”  I commented back with “I was thinking the same thing, I still don’t own a BMW!”  Once he heard my accent, his demeanor quickly changed and he turned away in a scuff, and I was left with the feeling of “what did I say?”  My son piped up with “That is the teacher I told you about!”  Now, please understand that I don’t “look” for opposition, but this was clearly a case of it as he was friendly while I was interacting with my body language with him-it was only when I opened my mouth that it quickly changed.  I couldn’t leave it like that, so I did some research with friends whom I met in Norway, they were English.  He advised me of how to handle this “English Style”, and so I did.  I called a meeting with the Headmaster.  I explained to him my disappointment of his staff, and how they were allowed to treat foreigners, and how much damage those words “Bloody American” can do to both  my son and his establishment.  I was heading for the BBC, Ofsted, Derbyshire County Counsel, not to mention my hubby worked at Rolls Royce and that school was FULL of kids from there.  After a very difficult (for them) meeting, I gave them time to sort themselves out, or I would file a formal complaint.  Turns out that the teachers both got fired, and the Headmaster that I spoke to had just been appointed, so he inherited a “Good ol’ Boys” network of teachers that needed to be culled.  He turned it around, so I just moved the boys to the local public schools and life got much better.  There was only one other American in the public school of 1500, but LCS was a great asset to our family.  I didn’t like getting called into the Headmaster’s office when my kids had issues, but I highly rate the education and respect that the school demanded-especially after enduring the education system I recently pulled my last two out of.

 

You never know what life has coming for you, and how strong you are to endure the challenges that come with it.  I know what I will put up with, and I know what I won’t. My challenge is doing things the way that “culture” gets things done.  If I would’ve gone screaming and shouting through the halls of the grammar school, I would damage the “American reputation” and not accomplish what I needed to.

It is very hard to learn how to influence people, but over the years I have had to, just to have a place to sleep at night.    It doesn’t mean that the fire in my belly has gone out, it just means that I am learning how to adjust the flame…

 

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