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Monday, July 30, 2012

Finally...A Real Summer Day!

Chilly, cloudy, concrete gray days have dominated this summer.  It's tough when we have a non-summery summer as the winter comes with its short days no matter how much sunlight we've been granted during the longer days of the year!  The only bright spot has been that our boat has had some issues so we haven't been able to be out on it anyway. This morning we finally got an appointment from our mechanic to bring the boat in at 10.30 a.m.  We are lucky.  We can drive the boat across water to the place where our guys fix it.  The only bummer was that as we headed out, we could tell that this was going to be the best boating day of the season!  At least we enjoyed the ride over.  Then, our mechanic drove us back to our marina and took the boat back to his.  He said he could afford the time because it was a beautiful day and he didn't mind being on the water either!  The drive between marinas is only about 20 minutes.  So here we were, most beautiful day of summer 2012, sans boat.
Luckily, we had packed a picnic since we weren't sure that we'd have to leave the boat so we just changed directions and went for a picnic on Lidingö, the island where our marina is.   We drive by many lovely perches in our boat so we decided to find these big rocks that are a perfect place to hang out.  We successfully achieved our purpose and had a great day!  Tanner was thrilled to be off leash, snooping around the woods and swimming at will.  We also went into the water, which was refreshing, eventually, but man, the water is freezing cold this year.  Feels best when you get out!  But we managed to find comfortable spots on this big, beautiful rock facing the water and the sun.  Tanner is like his mama...he likes to lie on a towel in the sunshine!  We read, slept, relaxed, swam, played with the dog, and soaked in the real summer feeling of the day.  I even got sunburned!
Tonight I feel summer satisfied!  A wonderful day outside followed by a delicious dinner at home and a dose of the Olympic Games on TV. Tanner is utterly exhausted and has a sore leg.  We're all ready for a good night of sleep.  Hope more days like this are in the forecast.  It is so refreshing for me and I need to keep filling my tank with light and sunshine before it all goes away in the winter.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Blå Tåget: The Blue Train

This is easily the weirdest amusement park ride in the world!  For years, Doug and I stood outside of this ride, watching the little trains pop out from behind the wooden doors, small children screaming and looking terrified.  The outside of the ride is scary enough.  It's clear that the blue train is ride through terror!  Dinosaur type characters dot the outside of the ride.  The train is being swallowed by a devil type creature. But here's the kicker: The driver of the train is an anatomically correct female pre-historic creature.  Breasts and lower body detail firmly in place.  For the longest time we could not figure out why this ride was attractive for children.  It featured bizarre images and appeared to scare them to death!  
Our curiosity finally got the best of us and we bit the bullet and went on the ride.  We were supposed to be in the back of the car, but Judy and Olle jumped in ahead of us leaving me totally exposed in the front.
Back seat riders awaiting the thrills and chills!
I do not like scary things that jump out at me.  I decided it was a cultural experience that I could not live without.
 The ride begins with imagery that harkens church.  I know, right.  Weirder and weirder.  Stained glass windows and a creepy ghost-like priest against the backdrop of Frankenstein's head.  The ride took you through a series of things that go bump in the night jumping out at you and "scary" things intended to freak you out.  At one point something fell down on our faces.  Near the end, a door opened and a Quasimodo type character was sitting on a toilet, doing his business!  As I said, weirder and weirder.  Midway through the ride the train pops outside so the waiting public can see you!  Of course, I let out a huge scream just as we hit daylight!  
I really cannot figure out what this ride is all about.  I understand the spooky ride business but there were just way too many questionable images for my taste.  At any rate, now I can say I've been on the Blå Tåget at Gröna Lund.  I would not say it is a Stockholm highlight! I do think that it is a cultural experience you actually can live without!

Gröna Lund: A Chance to Be Kids

Just for fun, Thursday night, we decided to go to the amusement on the water here in Stockholm.   We went with our good buddies, Judy and Olle whose son Sean works there.  We had not been for years and we were reminded of its charm.  
Doug was so excited after we got our tickets!
It's old and small and very much in the spirit of an old fashioned amusement park.  They've added modern, crazy rides but overall, it remains a lovely little place in our town.
Throughout the summer, they host concerts.  Looks like a relative will be making an appearance later this summer!
We went on two roller coasters, one named Insane that flips you upside as it jerks around hairpin turns.  It was insane.  The other, Jetliner, is one the best classic roller coasters I've been on.  Big climb, huge drop, fast turns.  Very fun.  Additionally, we rode "Blå Tåget", The Blue Train.  That ride deserves a blog all to itself so click here for further info.  We rounded out the evening with a ride on The Swings...a great old ride that takes you up and out over the water and gives you gorgeous views of our beautiful city.  
The men tried their hand at the carnival games but neither one won a giant stuffed animal.  
It ended up being a beautiful evening. It was a perfect place to watch the beautiful late summer sky work its magic.  It was even warmish so we walked both ways and took in the beauty all along the way.  The half moon hanging over the city at 10.00 p.m. was breathtaking.  
It was a totally different evening for us and we really had fun.  I screamed like a kid on all the rides and have now not been able to speak for 2 days.  Still, it was very fun to join the younger set and enjoy a fun evening with our friends.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More Guns Not the Answer

I am amazed at the number of people who are saying that the only way to combat gun violence in the US is to arm every citizen to the teeth so that we can protect ourselves. Numerous voices have spoken out for a greater gun presence in our society not a reduced one. They argue that a reduced gun presence only protects those wishing to do harm not the innocents who get hurt in these shooting sprees as we saw in Aurora. Many have stated that if more people had been armed in the theater, then the shooter would not have been able to harm as many people as he did. I am stunned at this logic. Has anyone considered what it would be like to live in a society where the presence of weapons is everywhere and where armed citizens are taking issues into their hands? I will never understand why anyone thinks that a shooting spree could be avoided by another shooter. Violence begets violence and we will never find our way to a truly free and peaceful society if we perpetuate this mentality.
I personally do want to live in a country where everyone I encounter is armed. I lived in a violent, heavily armed city for two years of my life: Medellin, Colombia. I was there from 1986-1988 and in 1987 Time Magazine ran a cover story entitled 'Medellin, Colombia: The Most Dangerous City in the World.' The presence of armed guards was palpable throughout the city. Machine gun armed guards stood outside of my apartment building and other public areas. And guess what? Medellin was not a safe place to live. Bombings, kidnappings, and shootings were all part of my life while I lived there. Two men were gunned down on a motorcycle on the next street over from where I lived. I stumbled on the scene one morning while out walking. One afternoon my entire apartment building was shaken to its foundation because a bomb had gone off in my backyard. After two years of living in such a violent country, I began to have nightmares. Violent nightmares with people getting killed and lives being threatened. The presence of bloody, violent scenes being played out in my dream life night after night led to quite an anxious way of life. The toll of being surrounded by a violent presence was overwhelming at points. The presence of rifles and guns in my every day life did not make me feel safer.  The violence presence of weapons that surrounded me eventually manifested itself in ugly, disturbing ways in my psyche. And never once did I think that the solution to all this was to go get a gun.
So if we are going to promote the ideology that further arming the American public is the way to stop the crazies from shooting innocent people we have to understand what the fall out from this will be. Are you prepared to ask yourself, “Do I have my keys, lipstick and revolver” as you get ready for a night on the town? Are you really prepared to be the one who steps in and stops the violence that may unfold before your very eyes, knowing that you have killed another human being, no matter the circumstance? People very non-nonchalantly make the comment that if one other person in that theater had had a gun, the guy would not have been able to gun down the others in the theater. OK, maybe true, but what about that guy who steps up to gun down the shooter? You think he sleeps well after that? And the odds that innocent people get hurt in a shoot out are pretty high.  Most gun owners do have highly specialized training in killing another being or being able to perform well under great stress.  That is why this line of thinking will lead us to being a more nervous, traumatized, unable to sleep well at night culture. Promoting violent responses to violence will not lead to a more peaceful and free society. In fact, it enslaves us to fear and wondering. It creates a climate where people feel on edge and inevitably, accidents will happen. It foments an attitude that shooting another human being is OK if you feel your rights are being infringed upon or you fear that the other party will hurt you first. I cannot see myself enjoying living in a place where I have to wonder about the presence of a gun in every pocket. Yes, it is a great tragedy that people who are evil, mentally unstable, or simply enjoy inflicting harm on others have guns and will use them in in appropriate ways to hurt innocent people. But I will never believe that further arming the American public is the solution to the gun violence in America. Tighter regulation of who can obtain a firearm, where it can stored, how it can be used, and the type of guns made available are steps in the right direction. How we deal with the flood of weapons that are already out there on the street is a mystery that I have no answer to. But I know getting more weapons out there will not help us to create a more peaceful and free society. It undermines our freedom to think that the more heavily armed we all are, the better off we'll all be. In the end it all points us back to our culture and the type of environment we want to create for our citizens. The right to bear arms in our nation has become a ticket to do harm for many and it's time we changed that mentality. It's not just limiting access to guns that will do this. We need a total change of heart. A fresh look at the type of world we want to live in. A clearer understanding of the intention of the law makers when they wrote the 2nd amendment.  I do not understand why the church is not speaking out more clearly on the issue of gun violence and how the presence of guns in our society has created a culture of violence that is ruining any semblance to being one nation under God. How does the perpetration of violence through a mentality of increased weapon presence support our ability to be a loving and gracious presence in our society? I'm just not understanding why Christians aren't on the front lines seeking to clarify how we can maintain our 2nd amendment rights but protect the rights of those who wish to live in a more free and peaceful society. There must be a middle ground here somewhere. Perhaps the Christian community can find it and forge the way ahead.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Bed We've Made With Violence and Guns

The tragedy in Colorado has got everyone firing from their hips again with varying opinions regarding gun use and availability in the USA. Don't get me wrong here. I think what happened in Aurora is tragic beyond measure, but I can't help but wonder why the American people are surprised when things like this happen. Of all the sad things that I've noted about my home country while living abroad this is by far the most troubling for me: America loves violence. We can easily be defined as a country that has a bizarre fascination and enjoyment of violent activity. Our movies indicate this when season after season films with epic violence take in huge box offices. Our sports indicate this: Our professional hockey league is the only professional hockey league in the world that allows, dare I say even condones and encourages, fighting. American football is one of the most violent sports played in this day and age. Winning isn't even enough for that sport. Clear goals of causing injury have been cited in recent history. Last spring, one team was found offering cash awards paid out to those who inflicted the most egregious injuries. Our culture promotes and loves violent video games. And of course, we have the most unregulated hand gun laws of any developed nation in the world. And consequently, the number of death by guns in a non-war situation are exponentially higher than any other country in the world. But there are many countries in the world who allow handguns and hunting guns but they do not have the street violence problem that the US does. Why is this? I have to say, I think it is because embedded in our mentality is a deep-seated insatiable love affair with violence. And this love affair with violence leads some to act that out on the real life stage. Couple this with loose gun laws where background checks and mental stability are not requirements for acquiring an assault rifle and why would any other outcome be expected? We have made a bed of guns and violence and we are forced to lie in it when situations like Aurora come to light.
To me, we need more conversation around the fact that assault rifles and other guns designed for the express purpose of killing others are available to the American public because the National Rifle Association has lobbied for such. In fact, I think it is largely plausible to trace most of the issues that America has with gun availability and misuse to the NRA. So my question then becomes, at what point do we hold the NRA liable, in the same way that we held McDonald's liable for serving coffee that was too hot, for the times when a firearm lands in the hands of someone who intends harm? Clearly, the results of their lobbying for looser gun laws and greater gun availability has resulted in danger to the public. Why can they not be held responsible? Why in all of the crying and grieving about these terrible events is the NRA not truly taken to task? Could it be because in our heart of hearts, as a nation, we like the presence of guns in our society? Why else then? I'm open to ideas.
Finally, why are we as a nation so impotent against the NRA? Where is our energy for taking real strides towards creating a safer public for all involved? Why is the Christian community not outraged about these shootings and therefore throwing energy towards getting more guns off the streets? That will be the topic of my next blog. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Picnic in the Park...or Not

The better part of today was a beautiful, sunny, dare I say warm day!  I worked in the morning while admiring the sunshine.  I had a fun lunch outside, in the sunshine, whilst working on Wacky Wednesday games with a friend from church.  I walked home in the sunshine and spent a couple of hours reading outside in the sunshine.  Hence, the thought that we should go on a picnic tonight and enjoy the sunshine was not really such a stretch.  (The Finnmaster is sick right now.  boo.  Motor trouble.  boo.  Can't get a hold of the service providers because hardly anyone works in July in Sweden.  boo.  But I digress. boo.)  So, we walked to the store, bought yummy picnic supplies, loaded up the dog and the car and drove out to Djurgården.  We arrived at Rosendal's Trädgården in time to find a table under a large umbrella which was timely since it started to pour minutes after our arrival.  
We thought it would pass.  So we ate our nice picnic supper surrounded by raindrops.  Tanner wasn't so happy.  He really hates the rain.  But we really, really, really thought it was just a passing shower and so held out for sunnier skies.  Alas, after a short abatement, the skies re-opened and it poured and poured.  We realized that even if it did clear soon, everything was soaking wet and thus we piled back into the car and came home.  Now I'm sipping Caribou decaf that I have stashed in my cupboard and watching the day's action from the British Open.  Not a bad way to spend Friday night.  At least we're warm and dry.  And Tanner is happy. (:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Marina Night Watch 2012

We have, once again, fulfilled our civic duty to our boat club by spending the night in the marina as night watchmen.  It is easy duty.  Show up at 23.45.  
Walk around the marina a few times to make sure there is no suspicious activity.  Vacuum and mop.  Leave at 6.00 a.m.  The night goes quickly and thus far, without incident for us.
Tanner loves it.  It is quite possibly his favorite night of the year.  He runs free throughout the marina, hops in and out of the water, scares the ducks and indulges in other kinds of dog revelry.  I nap, read, surf the net and take pictures.  I still love to watch the progression of the sky during the high days of summer here in Stockholm.  
2.00 a.m.

We've had a wet and cloudy summer thus far although I was surprised yesterday when we ran into some tourists from England and they were remarking how happy they were to be in Stockholm where it is so much better weather than England.  Yikes. At about 21.00 a huge storm blew in and poured rain.  We were happy that by 23.45 the rain had ceased and while huge clouds lurked in the sky, the trend seemed to be in a clearing direction.  
It was chilly but dry throughout the night.
3.30 a.m.
Morning broke beautifully and by 3.30 a.m. the sun was shining brightly on the boats and the water.
4.06 a.m.
When we drove away at 6.00 a.m. the promise of a beautiful day was unfolding before our eyes.
5.15 a.m.
5.15 a.m.
Tanner sitting on the dock in the early morning sunlight.
It's still chilly but at least it is not wet.
6.00 a.m.  On our way home to sleep a little!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Swedish Summer

Weather is talked about a lot here in this far north land where extremes are the norm.  All winter we wallow in darkness, holding out hope that the earth is indeed spinning on its axis so that one day the sun will reappear in all of its bold beauty and bring warmth and light to our land.  Well, at least it brings light.  But it is not always the case that it will bring warmth and this is one of those years when we are having a bad summer.
It was really quite strange or me to spend almost a month in my earthly paradise: Palm Springs, CA.  It was really something to wake up every day and see sunshine and feel heat.  I realized that over the past 14 years I have become rather neurotic about weather.  I find that on sunny, warm days in Stockholm, I almost get panicky, making sure I am spending enough time in the sunshine.  Maybe a lack of vitamin D makes you nutty in the head. After not thinking about whether or not the weather was going be good in CA, I realized that I spend a lot of energy thinking about weather, talking about weather, being frustrated or overjoyed by weather.  And I have absolutely zero influence over whether or not the weather is going to be good.  And truth be told, I would guess a full 60% of the time, the weather is lousy here.  So I have tried to turn over a new leaf and simply realize that whatever the day brings is what each day brings and if I have time to enjoy the sunshine, I will, but if I have to work on a sunny day, that does not mean I am doomed.  It has helped me feel a bit more sane even though we are having a terrible summer.
Case in point, 30 minutes ago a huge lightening, thunder and hail storm blew through town.  Scared the daylights out of me and Tanner.  Now it has passed.  But it was really coming down hard and the thunder claps were huge.
There seems to be a brightness in the sky that might lead to a beautiful evening.  If so, I will take a walk and enjoy it.  If not, I will stay in and enjoy that too.  I really am trying to not live by the weather.  But I suppose if I am honest, I will still utter a Teyve-like prayer but instead of saying "Lord, would it ruin some grand eternal plan if I were a wealthy man", mine would sound more like this: "Lord, would it ruin some grand eternal plan if I could have a healthy tan?"  At least it's light outside for most hours of the day right now.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wacky Wednesdays Revisited

We have embarked upon our summer wackiness once again.  Here at Immanuel International, we do a five week Vacation Bible School (VBS) type program, once a week for five weeks instead of one week, every day.  It works great for us and we have incorporated an adult bible study/discussion time and our teen program into one great night for all ages, five Wednesdays of the season.
Oh, our summer program is small in numbers and is nothing like the churches in the US who boast 200-300 kids in a week's time, but our little format works great for us and gives people who are in Stockholm a gathering point during the summer weeks when many people leave town for 4-6 weeks at a time.
Truth be told, VBS has always been one of my favorite things in the whole world.  When I was a kid, I would attend as many as my mom would drive me to!  And as an adult, I was always up for volunteering in one capacity or another.  Over time, I learned that my personality is well-suited to being involved in the ham-it-up skits as well as being as action packed song leader!  Who doesn't love doing motions along with singing a catchy tune?  My inhibitions somehow get set aside when faced with the task of getting kids to laugh and sing about Jesus.  
Turns out my husband, Doug, likes it just as much as I do so when we started doing VBS together, we found that his ability to write incredibly creative and funny skits combined well with my willingness to do just about anything to make kids laugh!  We've been doing VBS together for 18 years and the joy-filled memories of all those summers just make me smile.  We hope along the way kids learned something about the love of Jesus and gained a favorable picture of how much fun our journey with Jesus and life at church really should be.  The church needs more joy and laughter. We hope to be contributing to that in some small way.
This year we are characters at SonRise National Park.  Doug is the ranger, Rocky.  I'm one of the wilderness challenge participants, Kitty Can-Do, an expert in EVERYTHING who needs to learn that life is not always about being number 1 but rather, more importantly, how we reflect God's character.  The funny thing is that if you've been around us for any number of the years we've been doing this, you'll see that our characters and the plots are basically the same year after year!  Doug is the wise leader, I'm the silly off-track one who miraculously learns how to follow Jesus every year.  Through a series of crazy antics we always seem to figure out a way to make everything turn out well in the end!  I'm really not sure who enjoys this more...the kids, the adults, or us!  And speaking of kids, these little guys were simply adorable.  They were moving the to music by the end of the evening!
So if you happen to be in Stockholm anytime between now and August 8, pop on in to Immanuel Church, Wednesday nights at 18.00.  You'll laugh, you'll learn, you'll love.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Swimming in the Swedish Summer

July 7.  The absolute latest it's been in a summer for me to go swimming for the first time.  June was the coldest month on record for Sweden.  It rained and rained and rained.  I thank God I was in California for most of it!  Consequently, Stockholm looks like a jungle.  Super overgrown and even the water is full of moss and plants that I've never seen before!  None the less, when the temperatures finally rose to a suitable place where we could say, "It's hot today," we put on our swimsuits and took off for everyone's favorite swimming hole, Brunnsviken.  It's about a 25 minute walk from our house and once there, you escape to beautiful surroundings and a lovely spot on the water.  Tanner is always first to go in, showing zero hesitation no matter the weather.  Admittedly, the first dip into the cooling water always take one's breath away, just a little, but once in, it is completely refreshing.   The water is usually very clean and yesterday was no exception except for the incredible amount of moss and algae growing up from the bottom of the sea.  We played "chase the stick" with Tanner and then Charlie, a sweet 2 year old retriever appeared and the two of them had a very good time.  Watch the video to see the boys playing and to hear me speak some very bad Swedish!  
As we were walking home, I was thinking about what a treasure it is to live in a city where you can swim in really clean water just about anytime you want to.  Too bad said city isn't really all that warm most of the time!  But it's early July and I'm hopeful that the next 6-7 weeks will yield many days when we can wander down the street for a nice refreshing afternoon in the water.

What to Do With the Blog?

Hi hope I haven't lost my readership entirely.  I have not put up a blog since May 29.  I think that is the longest I've ever gone without posting something.  I'm struggling a bit with where to head with my writing.  I am giving serious thought to splitting up Across the Pond into two parts.  Keep Across the Pond as my travel, Stockholm, fun stuff in life blog and begin a new one that addresses the political, spiritual and serious life issues that I am also longing to get more involved with.  I'd like any feedback on this idea that readers have.  Would it increase my readership and more importantly, would it generate more comment?  I am interested in dialogue around political and spiritual issues but not quite sure how to generate that.  And I still want to write about life abroad, our travels, etc.  So, I'm pondering the following:
1.  If I have the drive and commitment to get serious about writing and
2.  If anyone would read both blogs!
So if you are a regular reader of Across the Pond, what do you think?
Also, I'm looking for a new blog name for the serious one.  Any suggestions are welcome.  If you've read this for any time, you should have figured out by now that I am an evangelical even though that term raises the hair on the backs of many people's necks and is so deeply tied to the right wing in the US that it doesn't really fit me since I am also a fairly liberal democrat.  I've thought about The Christian Democrats: Not Just A Political Party in Europe but it's kind of long and most Americans probably don't really have an understanding of political parties in Europe so the irony gets lost on them!  So I'd love for you to weigh in and let me know what your thoughts are.
And I'm hoping with this post to kick-start my creative writing juices once again.  Hope you're having a good summer (in spite of the extreme weather) or winter (if you are reading from Down Under!).