Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z ~ Zamboni

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

For this last post, I thought I'd fast forward to high school. I left myself (and a few of you dear readers) rather depressed yesterday. While it is true that life changes and surprises come, I truly believe that God orders our lives for our best, no matter what happens, good or bad.

I got some really good stuff in high school. My best friend Smooshie and I were rabid hockey fans. Her dad bought her season tickets to the Washington Capitals, and we went to a LOT of the games together. I'll be forever grateful to him for giving me his ticket so many times.

I've loved hockey since I was a kid and had been to many Capitals games as one of the Volvo perks we enjoyed. Going ALONE, with your best friend, was much more liberating, though. (Sorry Dad – loved, and still do – going to hockey with you, but with Smooshie, we got to meet the players.)

One of the privileges season ticket holders can enjoy is after-game skating parties. They let us out onto the ice, right after the game, and we could skate in that giant arena, pretend we were famous figure skaters while we waited for the players to finish their locker room stuff and come out the door which we would start stalking after just a few laps.

We each had our favorite players. Smooshie loved Mike Gartner, #11. Here she is with her hero:

Here I am with one of my favorites, #27 Paul Mulvey.

My actual hero was a Swedish player, Rolf Edberg. 

I did get to meet my hero several times, though not at one of the skating parties. We were doing our “laps” during intermission – we'd walk all the way around the arena, people watching, looking for friends while the Zamboni re-finished the ice– and I passed him (he was injured and not playing) and said hello to him in Swedish. He stopped in his tracks and HAD A CONVERSATION WITH ME. Can you imagine the complete and total awe a 16 year old would experience? Yeah, it was cool.

He apparently remembered me after that, which of course thrilled me. A couple of games later, still injured, he was sitting in the press section, and I'd of course gone looking for him. I was sorta shy (yes, hard to imagine isn't it...) and was standing a couple of rows back, working up the courage to go into his row. He turned around. “Du är den Svenska tjejen?” (You're that Swedish chick?) We had another conversation. He wasn't a popular enough player in general that they sold his jersey with his name, but Smooshie had a shirt made for me instead. I still have it, in a box. Somewhere.

Good times. I had lots more finishing growing up in America. I fit in as well as a math, word, and band nerd could. After all, I was an American now.  


Thanks for joining me on this adventure!  I appreciate each and every comment, and now that we're done, I'll be able to come visit you.  Also, don't forget the Reflections Posts.  The list, available at the A-Z Blog, and in my tabs above starting May 3, is to be used AFTER you've already posted your piece.  Go here for a complete explanation.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y ~ You Can't Go Home Again

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

One thing that kept me going through all the stupid kickball rules I didn't understand, the body cast that itched and stank, the culture that didn't quite make sense, the friends I dearly missed, was knowing that summer of 1975 we were going home for a visit. Yes, a visit. Not home to stay.

The Swede had (and isn't it appropriate?) gotten a really good chance with Volvo and we (as in he and The Nutritionist discussing it and me eavesdropping) had decided that he shouldn't take the job if it was only going to be for 6 months. He would commit to several years (I remember it as 5, The Swede says it was unspecified, you choose sides) and we would stay in America longer. Hence the visit.

It was wonderful to be welcomed with open arms and free-flowing tears at the airport by Farmor and Farfar, and the Swedish tradition of flowers, most of the time hand-picked either from gardens or the side of the road. 

There are gorgeous wildflowers all over Sweden. Farfar liked to point them out to me and have me memorize them. I wasn't very good at it. Which bothered me, of course, because I like to be good at everything.

Oh the comfort of Farmor and Farfar's house, with its familiar smells, ticking grandfather clocks, gorgeous antiques, and beautiful garden. Farfar was a master at roses and on your birthday would pick you his very best rose to go on your birthday tray. There was a trellis which provided shade, and it was covered in viney-like climbing red roses.

I was anxious to play with my friends again. After all, we used to just go knock on a door and soon there would be a group and we would, “Hey Ferb, I know what where going to  do today.” (Pop culture reference: Phineas and Ferb, fabulous cartoon that we watch in 2013 as a family). After two days of coffee parties and visiting relatives, I was ready for FRIENDS.

One morning I was out in the front yard and heard kids' voices. My friends! This is going to be a great day! I followed the voices. Farmor and Farfar's house was on a u-shaped street with a green space in the middle, and a short hill led to a street which led to a path through the woods which led to our old house. I forgot about telling anyone where I was going and followed the voices. I didn't recognize any of them, but I attributed that to speaking English for a year.

I made it to the top of the hill and almost to the forest path when I caught up with them! “Hejsan! Vill ni leka med mig idag?” (Hi, do you want to play today?) They turned around. All the faces were strangers. I felt my stomach drop. “Vi känner inte dig! (We don't know you!) “Förlåt, jag trodde ni var andra kompisar.” (Sorry, I thought you were another group of friends.)

Turning around and walking down the hill I cried uncontrollably. Our year away was almost like time-travel. Things had changed so much. I had no idea where my group of friends were. I didn't have anyone to play with. Nothing in my life would ever be the same.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X ~ X Marks it WRONG

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

It's time to talk spelling. My first year, which was as a third grader, much to my relief, I was a terrible speller. TERRIBLE. Swedish is almost 100% phonically spelled (and I do find it ironic that not even the word phonic is spelled phonically...but then again, you know I'm a word nerd...)

In Sweden, kindergarten is optional, but I of course went. I couldn't wait to start school. Here I am practicing hand-writing.

First grade is age 7, not 6 as in the US. However, I couldn't just automagically go from 2nd grade in Sweden to 3rd grade in America, I had to take HOURS of placement tests, which no one had warned me about, and frightened me to death. But I was deemed worthy of 3rd grade. Consequently, I was always a year older than my peers and spent my life explaining about how they start school later in Sweden, which, by the way, I highly applaud.

Back to spelling. I knew how to SPEAK English. I didn't know very well how to read and write it. Can you imagine how confusing silent e's and gh being silent in “through” but “f” in enough? That's the tip of the ice-berg. Nonetheless, this perfectionist over-achiever realized she could spell words she'd SEEN before, so I started to read like a maniac. I of course knew nothing about learning styles or that I'm about 99% a visual learner, but at least I had a plan of action finally.

I remember one incident that was a big factor in me realizing I had to do something different than just try to learn how to memorize my 20 spelling words for the week. I was in Mr. Bones class and he was checking my work. I had written the word “just” like this:


He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “WHY did you put a D in front of that word?"

I looked at him like HE was crazy and said, “Because there's a d in the sound of djust!” He had NO idea what I was talking about and put a big, red, X next to the word and told me not to be adding extra letters to words. I sat there a while realizing that it would be futile to recite all the English words I'd already learned to spell that had extra letters in them...


My reading plan worked. I quickly became an excellent speller. One of my teachers once asked me,”Why can you spell all these other words but yet you got ______________wrong?”

I guess it hasn't been in any of the books I've read yet.”
She didn't get it.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W ~ Windham

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

In Sweden we attended what was called a missionary church. It was evangelical, and far removed from the Lutheran (mostly dead) state churches. When we moved to Silver Spring, we had many denominations to choose from. The Nutritionist had grown up in a Presbyterian church, The Swede obviously in the missionary church, so what is a blended (in so many ways) family to do?

We picked the church closest to us. We chose First Baptist Church because we could walk there. It was about 4 blocks away, and on the street (big thoroughfare) that our house sat on the corner of. It was a VERY Baptist Church. The pastor was named Mr. Windham. The Swede was not fond of him or his preaching style, and many times would just leave when it came time for the sermon.

He used to joke that he was a blås-skinka, which is Swedish for blow-ham. Windham. Get it? He really did blow...not a good preacher, and the only thing that kept me awake is that Swissie and I started a church tradition of giving each other hand massages to stay awake. We got really good at it. If we got too fidgety, we had to stop. If we sat still long enough, The Nutritionist might give us a Tums. It's pretty pathetic when Tums are a treat, but we're talking Nutritionist and they didn't have sugar-free mints yet...as far as I recall.

The church wasn't all bad. We got very involved. I “sang” in the choir. I can't carry a tune if you strap it to my back. Every Wednesday they served dinner for a ridiculously low price, and that was after choir practice, so it was perfect. As a mom, wow, I would have been all over that. I used to not enjoy it so much though because a boy who had a crush on me would always sit with us and I just wanted to get away from him.

How did he get away with that? Well, they really did a good job streamlining this whole process. Butcher paper on the tables. As people arrived, they'd write their names on the paper reserving their seats. We would reserve our seats before choir practice which gave him plenty of time to find us and write HIS name down by ours. I tried not having to sit next to him, after all, there were five of us and surely someone else could be the victim. However, The Nutritionist was into manners and made me sit by him.

Of course, long after he was done with me, I got a crush on him...sigh. Timing.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V ~ Variety

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on the Adventures in America!

Variety is the spice of life they say, and I wholeheartedly agree. However, the variety of ethnic and cultural differences I observed my first year as an American was quite the change for me.  My school had African-American kids, Asian kids, Hispanic kids, handicapped kids in wheel chairs, kids with behavioral and or mental disorders, speech impediments, anger issues, and some spoke NO English at all.

They joke that all Swedes are blond haired and blue eyed, but there's a reason for the joke. Most are, or at least were in 1974. Now Sweden is more of a melting pot, with lots of immigration, and adoption. 

I remember though when a friend of The Nutritionist  from nursing school was going to visit. Mom took me aside to say, “She has different color of skin. It's black, not white like ours. But she's just a normal person like us, with a different color on her skin.” Made perfect sense to me.

However, when I got to America, not everyone had that opinion. I heard plenty about how certain people with certain physical features were to be avoided because they all behaved in a certain way. That seemed very wrong to me. How could a different color of skin cause a behavior change? Different eye colors didn't make us act differently, so why would skin?

My elementary school was what I now, as a teacher, know to be a magnet school for ESL (English as a Second Language) students. I, the Swedish chick, who spoke English, was put in with two tables of kids from at least four different cultures, and it wasn't long before Mrs. Lonigan (not her name) moved me to a regular desk. “You'll be just fine.” I was.

However, to this day, as an adult, though I can better understand why some stereotypes of race/culture/origin exist, as a child, it made no sense, and I didn't understand why the other kids' parents hadn't explained about how the outside of a person doesn't change the inside.

(free multicultural images from google)

I think this is something some adults need to learn, too...each person is an individual and should be treated as such. We walk around in these “costumes” we've been given, but who we are is NOT the costume, it's the soul/spirit/heart WEARING the costume who is the real person.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U ~ Understanding the Big Picture

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

At some point, I began to realize I was no longer a Swedish girl.  I was a half-Swedish, half-American girl, living in America, and though Farmor & Farfar had done their best to make sure that SHOULD we return, we'd fit right in, I was more an American than a Swede. 

One of their major gifts to both of us girls was that we went to confirmation camp, the ceremony, and the wondrous party at their house after-wards with all the expensive gifts. Think Bat Mitzah. I've been a Christian since age 9, but in Sweden, tradition strongly "dictates" that all kids be exposed to the gospel at age 14 and be "confirmed". 

I also began to understand that though The Swede probably could have gotten transferred to Volvo in Sweden, being as how he was Swedish and all, he didn't really want to.  He'd been fascinated with this country for a long time, he was here.  He liked it here  We were settled.  We were staying.

This realization didn't happen all at once, it was such a gradual process, comparable to the proverbial frog being boiled: put him in a pot with cold water, turn on the heat.  He won't notice as the water slowly heats up until he's in big trouble.  

Of course, staying in America wasn't big trouble - what I'm trying to say is that becoming American was such a gradual process I didn't notice it.  I mean, there I was 14, at confirmation camp, thinking, "Oh good, when we move back to Sweden, I won't have to explain why I'm not confirmed." It was that big a deal. When I found myself back there two years later when Swissie was confirmed and one of the girls, Ann (her real name, for once), whom I'd met when I was a "confirmand" and I were the free-time leaders, I still had that thought in my head, especially as I began to meet some boys. 

Now that was a fun job.  We organized whole group activities, like capture the flag and red rover which I taught them.  We played dodgeball, which they knew about. We did NOT play kickball.  We took them on canoe trips.  We got our canoe tipped...we were popular.  Just a bit older, but off-limits from the campers.  Though not off limits from the groundskeeper, Daniel, who had a best friend who hung out with him a LOT, also named Daniel.  I'm not kidding, it's a popular name.

Ann and I and The Daniels would stay up late and sneak around the property.  The problem was, she and I conveniently each liked a different Daniel.  Inconveniently, that was the opposite of who The Daniels liked.  Sigh.

Nothing came of that summer attempt at romance except one stolen kiss from the wrong Daniel, who really didn't take the news that I liked the OTHER Daniel very well.  He stormed off and I didn't see him for two days.

Coming "home", I celebrated my 16th birthday.  We'd been here 7 years.  I was in high school.  It was then that it really sank in.  How in the world would I transfer to a Swedish high school?  No problem, it never came up.

What did you enjoy about the Challenge? It's Reflections Post time again.
  • What could we do better next year?
  • What issues did you encounter? (Word verification, unable to comment, long posts, etc.)
  • Did you encounter many non-participants? (With help from our minions, we tried really hard to clean the list this year.)
  • Theme or no theme – what seemed to work better? Did you find any great themes?
  • Did you have fun and will you participate again next year?

Your Reflections can be posted anytime from May 3 through May 10. The Linky List (which will be at the A-Z Blog) will go live May 3 and we ask you to add the link to your post, not your website, once you have posted. The Challenge hosts read every one so we know where to improve for next year.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T ~ To Take Down or To Move, That is the Big Decision

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

When we still lived in Sweden, we were really blessed to have a huge section of woods right at the end of our little three-house street. There was the big street, which had the name, Stråkvägen, then there were about 16 of these off-shoot streets which had the numbers. We were 8A. The C houses bordered the woods. The kids in the neighborhood played in the woods all the time.

One of our favorite activities was building forts. We did it right, and the contestants on Survivor could have taken shelter building lessons from us, let me tell you.

We built this really awesome hide-out one time, with the help of some older kids, who actually let us help build AND hang out. We ran into a big problem though. The older kids told us rumors about a rival group of older kids who wanted to find our special place and destroy it. We younger kids were all very scared of this happening.  Playing with the older kids (almost high school, as I remember) was a big boon.  Well, we did have to bring snacks...

Let me tell you, this place was the real deal. As I recall (and we've discussed my recall enough) about 8 or 9 of us fit in there all at one time, and it was nicely camouflaged from the outside. Long afternoons were spent debating whether to just tear it down ourselves before “the others” did it, or  to take it apart carefully and move it to a more secure location.

I sure wish I remembered what we decided, but regardless of what it was, we never had that special place again. In retrospect, I think the older kids just tore it down, built another one (easy for them) somewhere else so that they didn't have to put up with us pesky younger ones anymore.

It did spark some creativity in the younger set. Here are some of our attempts...

(This is me, Swissie, and  my best friend Ann-Charlotte, who was a magical two years older and taught me so much, including how to read (not exaggerating).  She lived in 6A, as in behind our backyard)

(This is her younger brother, Joakim, who was in my class throughout school, well the three years I spent there, and we were very good friends, too.)

If you haven't noticed by now, the woods, the multitude of kids, and the special friends were what I missed the most about moving.  I got used to the culture, but I only saw Ann-Charlotte one more time, when I was much, much older.

Monday, April 22, 2013

S ~ So Are You a Swede or an American?

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

Side Note: The answer to my R post's anachronism question is that those pictures aren't from 1974! (Um, the year I've been writing about.) I'm not in a body cast, DataBoy is at least 4 or 5...Yes, they were bad pictures with shadows from my horrid photography skills and have extra pictures in the shot because they're from a Creative Memories album, but that wasn't what I was looking for. Now back to S.

So what citizenship do you have? Are you Swedish or American? When do you have to decide by? Um, I don't actually know. I'm a Swede because I was born there, and I'm an American because my parents registered me as “birth of American citizen abroad.” When it was time for my social security card, I got one no problem. I've always marked “US Citizen” on forms and no one has stopped me. I have a US passport.

What I do think is the truth (heard it rumored as kind-hearted people have asked me these questions and then TOLD me the answer) is that I have dual citizenship as far as Sweden is concerned, but that once I got my American passport, I officially chose America, who no longer recognizes the Swedish part of me. Makes the Swedes sound open-minded and accommodating, doesn't it?  (The Swede confirmed this info as accurate as far as he knew.)

I could of course find out the correct answer by consulting an immigration lawyer, but it doesn't matter that much to me.  I feel like I'm an American with a rich, Swedish heritage.  When I visit there, people look surprised to hear Swedish come out of my mouth.  I guess I dress like an American.  

One particular incident cracked me up because I was asking for directions (for the 4th on the same trip, with 6 month old Tranporter on my way to my cousin's house in a town about two hours away) and the guy said, "Where are you from???"  I guess someone so hopelessly lost and who didn't know ANY of the landmarks or roads or ramps or frontage roads he was referring to must be some alien.  And I was.

My last trip to Sweden was that one in 1997.  The Transporter got to meet Farmor.  She died before I knew I was pregnant with OYT.  Though Farmor and Farfar are both gone, the legacy they left me with carries on.  I teach my boys our Swedish heritage, and we celebrate holidays two ways.  I think they're proud to be part Swedish.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R ~ Retardant, as in Flame and Pajamas

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

I think it's entirely appropriate that I'm IN pajamas, at 5:48 am (on a SATURDAY...sheesh) as I write this. Another one of THOSE days yesterday, only it included 4 hours of daycare for SMK (see nicknames above) so that she could take her oldest to his new school. I'm so proud of him – he got a soccer scholarship! Anyway, I'm talking about pajamas here, so ahem, back to that.

In Sweden, everything is natural. Natural colored wood for furniture and floors, natural fabrics, as in 100% cotton pajamas, along with clothes also in natural fabrics. None of this “this item is not intended for sleepwear” crap you see on baby and toddler clothes today. That's because pj's have to be FLAME RETARDANT. I discovered this little lovely addition to clothes when we moved here.

For a gift, I got what I thought was THE most wonderful pajamas ever. A gown, with matching robe.

Not so fast. If I tried to run my fingers over the beautiful LOOKING fabric, little pieces of my imperfect skin snagged. It felt kinda like finger nails on a chalkboard or touching unwashed potatoes (big shudder) to touch those pj's. I was immediately in mourning.

Farmor and Farfar gave us pj's that year, too. Nothing fancy, just good ole' cotton. 

(I haven't put mine on yet, but they look just like Swissie's)

Heaven. I wore Grandma Vivians pajamas when I spent the night at her house, which was a Friday ritual that Swissie and I alternated enjoying. (DataBoy was 2, as I keep saying, so he got his turns later. And ended up Grandma's favorite...but that's another story.) I wore real pajamas the rest of the time.

When it came time to dress my little boys for bed, I tried to be a good mom and keep them safe from fire, but once they outgrew footie pj's, it was back to cotton. They survived. They'd kill me if I told you what they sleep in now, so I'll just leave it here. I only have to buy pj's for me and the engineer.

~Tina, who is SO sorry I haven't been visiting these last two days, but I WILL catch up. Promise.

P.S 5 extra entries in the drawing (for a $25 IKEA gift card) for the first person to notice and comment on the anachronisms in these photos...

P.P.S  One of my minions, AJ, wrote an amazingly intricate pick-your-own-plot post for P.  You gotta check it out!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q ~ Quality Teachers

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

Note: this is not the post I was going to write, but I had quite the day yesterday. I've been undergoing a battery of tests at a specialty hospital for my asthma, and yesterday The Swede drove me to those procedures. We had an accident on the way – no big deal, rear-ended in rush hour traffic, no need to get anyone involved, but hey, it was an accident. Then I had two nasty procedures which you can look up on wiki if you'd like...a “tailored barium swallow” and a “bronchial provocation test”. Well, they sure succeeded in provoking my bronchials. I spent most of the rest of the day in bed. No energy to write.

What I came up with instead as I lay awake contemplating today's appointment (the fun never ends) was that I'd just make a list. Yes, these are their real names, and I'm using them because maybe they google themselves to see if anyone remembers them. I do. You shaped my life, some of it in hard lessons, some of it with love and great teaching, but regardless, you made me who I am today. Thanks.

3rd Ms. Cummings and Mr. Barnett (team teachers)

4th Mrs. Lougee (ESL teacher, yeah, not a good fit for me...)

5th and 6th Mrs. McGinn, Ms. Varoff (who married and became Mrs. Wheeler) Mrs. McCoy and Senior Ley. Open classroom.
All the rage in the 70's.

7th Mrs. Brody, algebra. Finally someone who could challenge my math skills. No more sitting in the back of the room with busy work while the rest of the class learned something I already knew how to do. Not bragging, God just gave me a good math brain. That's what my degree is in.

8th and 9th Mr. Schultz and Mr. Calvert.  GT program, we had them for social studies and science, respectively.

10th Mr. Yehle, band director. First band director who was a clarinet player like me. I loved band. And all the band nerds!

11th Ms. Marylee Ruddle. I hated her at the time because she didn't give A's so she ruined my GPA, but she made me a writer. Thank you, Ms. Ruddle, for that and the love or art and poetry I now have. You were the best of them all in the end.

12th Mr. Neerhof, Bible teacher. Influenced my faith tremendously, and helped officiate in our wedding.

I hope you have an accident free, breathe easy day. Back tomorrow with a story.


P.S One of my minions, AJ, wrote an amazingly intricate pick-your-own-plot post for P.  You gotta check it out!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P ~ Paper, Pencils, and Pens, Oh My!

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

Hi, my name is Tina and I'm an addict. I'm addicted to school supplies: pencils, markers, pens, colored pencils, markers of different widths and tips and textures and erase-ability and special effects, different textures of paper, how a pen feels in my hand, what the combination of pen and textured paper produces, experimenting with various combinations...oh sorry. Got distracted.

In Sweden, the school supplies (verb) all the school supplies (noun). (Sounds logical to me when I read that...) However, a brand new world would open to me when Grandma Vivian took me for my first school supply shopping trip.

I didn't know what a school supply list was, but she knew everything and took me to the local drugstore to the back-to-school display. I was awestruck. The variety! The colors! The choices! Oh my...

We were there much longer than Grandma Vivian wanted to be, but when we walked out, I was the proud owner of my own 3-ring binder, loose leaf paper, bound notebooks, composition books, ball-point pens, something called a #2 pencils (why didn't we use #1 if it was better?), COLORED pencils, MAGIC markers, and my very own water color set. No more sharing with my messy desk partner! I was in heaven.

Subsequent years, The Nutritionist, whose name could easily be The Saver, would make us produce what was left over from the previous year and ONLY let us buy what was missing. I vowed that if I had children, they'd get fresh supplies every year.

I stuck to that, too. The boys loved it. With Walmart's prices, I always picked up a few items for myself...just a few...It wasn't THAT expensive, and there's nothing better than facing a brand new year with shiny new stuff.

I know. You're thinking about all those supplies that could have been re-used. Yes, there are a lot of them. But hey! The year and a half I homeschooled we didn't have to buy ANYTHING! However, I probably could still outfit an entire pre-school. The left-overs are actually pretty organized in our 13 year-old's desk. If you're low on something, come on over. I have 15 glue-sticks (yes, I just counted).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O ~ Oh The Relief!

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

Last hip story, I promise. It's just that I'm writing about one year in my life, and a 1/3 of it was in that darn cast...but I feel like I can't leave you with me still immobilized. Closure and all that stuff.

I can't remember the exact date they cut me out of my prison, but it was in March. Silly me had expected instant relief and instant return to normality. Not so fast. What I saw when they removed the cast shocked me. My legs were covered in what looked like wax. Dead skin. It would take a LOT of scrubbing to get it off.

The other big surprise was that the knee which hadn't bent in four months, didn't really want to bend without severe pain. I had to be really careful and move it slowly, and just a little more each day. But oh the joy and relief of being able to take a bath! (Even if there was a layer of dead skin floating on top of the water when I was done...sorry, reality...) I could also scratch anything I needed to. Oh the contraptions Aunt Risky tried to make me to get inside the cast to scratch...partially successful, but you know how ALMOST getting to scratch an itch is almost worse than not getting to scratch it at all.

So to wrap this up: I spent 6 weeks on crutches, then a month feeling great and walking around, and RUNNING, and life felt normal.

Then the pins came out. 8 weeks of crutches. It was the most uncomfortable time. I felt so fragile – like if I moved wrong I was going to break it all over again. Then I was free. Big scar. Lots of life to contemplate, but the big ordeal was OVER.

I went on to become a gymnast, a long distance runner, a mountain biker, I climbed a 14er (for you non-Colorado folks, that's a mountain over 14,o00 feet. It's a status symbol to summit one. Kinda a rite of passage to be a “real” Coloradan). I RECOVERED.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N ~ Not Paying For a Creeper

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

I told you that I think my claustrophobia started with being tied down and in traction (check out H and I). I think my current complete and total disrespect, hatred, malice, nightmares, and frustration with medical insurance companies started with this incident.

Yesterday I told you about the mechanics creeper that I tooled around on.  Here's the picture again:

(that black pad was where my head went, and I used my cast-only-to-above-the-knee leg to push myself around the house, though here I'm lying completely off of it so Farfar and I can do the puzzle)

This idea was really genius on The Swede's part. Mechanics lie on a wheeled short-bed contraption to roll themselves in and out from under the cars while they're working. A determined girl (like...ahem...say me...) could wheel herself about the house if she had one. So he bought me one.

I don't remember if I overheard this conversation between The Swede and the insurance company, or if it was between my parents, with The Swede recounting the story, but it went something like this.

Sir, we don't pay for special pajamas for kids in casts. You have to buy those yourself.”

Sir, I'm not talking about pajamas. I'm talking about (insert my description from above).”

But it says here on your itemized list “creeper”. Isn't that some sort of pajamas?”

Well sir, for babies, I guess they might call their pajamas creepers, but my daughter is 9 and is in a body cast. There are no pajamas she can wear. This is a device she uses to move herself around the house.”

I wish I knew if they paid for it or not, but I can't remember. If it was my insurance company today, they'd call it “durable, medical equipment” and make ME pay for it. Believe me, I know.

P.S Have you met Gary? Gary Pennick of the blog Klahanie? He's our anti-challenge spokesman, and has done amazing promotion for us WITHOUT being a participant. He's actually blogging the alphabet backwards. He's just that way – unique, super punny, has the sharpest wit I've met in a long time, and well, I just adore him. So please, go pay him a visit and tell him Tina sent you.

Monday, April 15, 2013

M ~ Many Adjustments

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

Tired of hip stories yet? If you're just arriving, maybe reading H~Hit by a Car and I ~ I Can't BELIEVE I Broke My Hip might help. I left you with me about to leave the hospital.

Accommodating someone who can't bend takes some ingenuity. If I was going to be a part of family meals, a bed needed to be placed in the dining room.

It's hard to eat lying down, but I could only “stand-up” for a little while because it hurt SO much, made me dizzy, and also a bit scared, but I was required a minute or two of vertical time each day. Yes, it reminds me of modern mommying and “tummy time”.

(left to right: Farmor holding Databoy, Farfar, Grandma Vivian, me, that would the body-cast clad girl, Aunt Risky, Swissie, The Swede)

Eating lying down was no fun, but there are some fun things you can do lying down:

doing puzzles with Farfar, using my usual mode of transport, a mechanics creeper, to hold the puzzle not me

goofing around with your sister 

continuing your musical education, though blowing enough air without sitting up is not as easy as you'd think (says the now asthma girl...) 

but sometimes, it was just plain homework...

One of the best was experiences of my four months of cast living was getting to go to The Ice Capades! I was in the handicap section, but they let one parent (taking turns) sit with me, and I could see everything. We were treated like royalty at the event.

I grew up skating on ponds all over our neighborhood, and watching The Swede play hockey at his best friend's house where they'd actually made a make-shift arena and had goals and went hard-core. I was glued. (This is foreshadowing – don't want you to miss it).  Watching the skaters awoke a lot of "I guess I can't do that anymore" in me.

Another favorite memory of cast confinement was taking Farmor and Farfar to the airport after their long visit. Of course this was a sad time, and I couldn't stop crying, but my Dad invented this really distracting game where I held on to the curved end of an umbrella and he RAN down the (mostly deserted international concourse) and would fish-tail me. So I'm lying on that creeper thing I told you about, and moving at light speed all over this stone-covered-in-veneer floor. It was like flying!  Apparently tiring for the puller, all the adults (except Farmor, who couldn't stop crying) took turns pulling me.

I counted the days in my cast. I lived one day at a time. My favorite part of each day was when my big, strong Daddy would pick me up and carry me to my bed, whispering love in my ear, and hugging me tight.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L ~ Love Me Some Wall-to-Wall Carpet

These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.

In Sweden, hardwood floors are common, as are area rugs. I don't think they had wall-to-wall carpet in Sweden in 1974. They may today, but my guess is that IF they do, it's not a widespread way of decorating.

I remember my Farmor and Farfar taking great pride in their rugs, and I recall the ritual of taking them out to be shaken, then beating them with the rug beater, which is rather like a tennis racket, though no strings, just that size and with some cross-bars, all made of wood. Maybe they're made of rubber or nylon or something else today, but remember, we're in MY 9 year-old mind this month...So shake, beat, hang. Bring in before dusk.

When we moved to the Cedar Street house in America, I discovered that there was NO WOOD anywhere, carpet everywhere, and linoleum in the bathrooms. (New vocabulary word for me, I suspect.) I loved it.

I have this vague recollection that when we live in Sweden, at the end of the day of playing outside, usually barefoot, The Nutritionist made us wash our feet before we were “allowed” to move about the cabin freely. There were no such worries with wall-to-wall carpet. I remember looking at my feet as I came inside, and thinking, “I just need to walk around a lot and go up and down the stairs several times, and my feet will be clean!”

It worked. I'm not kidding. If you have seriously dirty I-played-outside-all-day feet, just about 15 minutes of being inside would make my feet pass the still required inspection. I NO LONGER HAD TO WASH MY FEET AT THE END OF THE DAY. I don't know why this was a big deal to me, because I'm a fairly hygienic person and have been since childhood. Maybe it was the “cheating” aspect of it. Or maybe it was that no matter where I stepped, nothing stuck to my feet. Like it does in my grown up house with hardwood floors, area rugs, and a “sweeper” who says, “Sure Mom, in a minute!” and then forgets...