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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Just Over A Month

We're into March. February came and went and we've been in the United States for over a month now. Time is weird for me as we don't have a super structured existence right now. It's a blessing and a challenge. There is tons to do regarding the house and the amount of paper work I've been dealing with in getting utilities, house, insurance, car, etc. all set up is a bit daunting. But we're making progress on every front and soon I suppose one way or another, we will feel in our souls that this is where we live now. We miss our friends a lot and wonder how and when we will begin to create abiding friendships in this area.

In so many ways it still feels like vacation. The luxury and gift of having sabbatical time contributes to that as we aren't caught up in the rat race of new jobs and all that goes along with that. But one also wonders about one's worth and relevance when there's no job to complete, no congregation to lead. We're both seeing the value in taking a break from ministry but we do miss leading a group of God's people in a shared direction that yielded good outcomes and growth for most involved. It's quite strange to think that a community that we were a part of for almost 17 years is now outside of the reach of our influence and participation. We think of those dear people daily. Sundays remain a challenging day at times filled with a deep longing to worship with Immanuel International.

But we are loving living in the California desert, especially Tanner who loves to lounge in the sunshine even more than I do!He is so cute!

Often, while out driving around, Doug has announced that he loves it here as we ponder the vast and beautiful landscape that surrounds us. The mountains got a lot of snow this week, even in lower elevations, and the scene is just breath-taking in every direction. The beauty and the warmth of our new geographical position is a big encouragement in our transition.
And creating a home for ourselves has been a wonderful journey in spite of certain headaches!

So, that said, here are some impressions from my first month back across the pond.

1. I love the plethora of goods on offer at the grocery store and the produce of California is a marvel to take in. I have been feeding my inner carnivore when beautiful rib eye steaks go on sale. But I miss walking to the neighborhood store near our apartment in Stockholm.

2. I miss some of the uniquely Swedish foods that we really enjoyed like the cheeses and flatbreads but I eat Pepper Jack cheese every day and have discovered many yummy cracker like snacks that satisfy. Markets like Trader Joe's give me enough European flair to sate and I am enjoying being able to grill our meat every single day on a gas barbecue that is easy peasy to use. No more hauling the grill out of the basement, firing up the charcoal, and only being able to do this outside for a few months each year.

3. America has great snacks and fast food is readily available in every imaginable food group. Great for ease when you have no kitchen. Bad for the waistline. In general, Californians don't seem to have the weight problem that plagues other cities in the US. Perhaps it's because it's more of an outdoor culture. I do really miss the steps I would take just in the course of doing life each day in Stockholm. I have to be more conscious about exercise which goes up and down. I do love my water aerobics class three times a week.

4. The most shallow of all things I am enjoying is TV. I like having a zillion channels to choose from. Granted, there is often not much on but there's always HGTV and the Game Show channel! And March Madness, the college basketball tournament that we love, is on soon and that will be a blast to watch in the right time zone.

5. But I hate the TV advertisements, especially the prescription drug ads, so we hate watching any shows live.

6. I have written the date with the day first a few times and still have to think about it every time I sign something. I'm readjusting to temperatures being stated in Fahrenheit but still make a mental note that 30° is freezing cold not roasting hot!

7. While Doug and Tanner have both crashed into the sliding glass doors, I have only ALMOST done the same.

8. I miss the ease with which we pursued medical care in Stockholm. We had great doctors and medical care in Sweden and it was not costly at all. I feel nervous about getting sick as I have no idea how to begin to navigate the new system and am wary about how much it will cost.

9. People who hate President Obama and illegal immigrants, feel free to speak their derogatory thoughts, somehow assuming that all share their point of view. At the church we attended last Sunday, the pastor, from the pulpit, made a subtle dig at President Obama. It was real turn-off for us.

10. The gun culture in the US is CRAZY. Security signs abound in our neighborhood that an armed response will respond to any break-in. Most days the news is filled with some kind of shooting. I find myself consciously aware of the presence of guns and it is not a good feeling. I feel like one inadvertent action could result in my being shot at. Clearly, this is a big adjustment.

We are still trying to figure out the cost of living. Is this a good deal or not? How does this compare to the prices in Stockholm? I did like that tax was included in the shelf price in Stockholm. Sales tax is 9% here so I'd rather just have it embedded than added on at the end! Granted, 9% is much different from 25% but still, I'd rather the shelf price reflect that. Of course, fuel prices are silly cheap but we are driving 100% more than we did in Sweden. I do miss a good public transportation option.

Generally, the sense of reverse culture shock has not been too profound. Finding a church, being in the car all the time, and the culture of violence are clearly the big challenges. But as mentioned, we still feel like we're on a long holiday. I wonder when it will sink in that this is our only home and we are now living here. I suppose like all things, I'm thankful for many things and long for other things. I guess that was the same when we lived across the pond. And while I miss the water that surrounds Stockholm, admittedly, I do love this view.
The view from our front yard