Monday, May 6, 2013

North of the Sun

You might have been wondering where I disappeared to.  As it turns out, my time has simply been eaten away by new and wonderful things.  I landed a great job, one which uses my medical background and which is challenging me with learning an encyclopedia of new skill sets. 

I have also been working on a series of projects, one of which is coming to fruition very soon: 

I am a writer with the Oslo International Writers' Group (OIWG) and this month we are launching our anthology, North of the Sun, South of the Moon: New Voices from Norway.  Over the past year, I have been working on a heartfelt non-fiction piece and a poignant poem, both of which will be published in the book. 

The anthology itself is divided into two themes: Adaptation and North, and includes a variety of styles from each of our writers, from fiction to non-fiction, short stories, and poetry.  Our group is comprised of a wonderful, charming, and utterly talented group of writers, one I am proud to be published with.

This week, I have begun working with our group's leader, editor, and proofreader, Zoe Harris, to plan our launch party for the release of the book. Zoe is a talented and published author of both short stories and novels. I urge you to take a look at her blog and introduce yourself to the lovely Australian who is coloring the world with her words.

Our anthology e-book will be available on May 17th, Norway's Constitution Day and biggest nationwide celebration.  The paperback will be launched on June 7th at my beloved American cafe in Oslo, Cafe Fedora.  Owners Anthony and Nicole Juvera have been generous enough to assist us with the launch and have honored us by offering their select dinner and drink service at a heavily discounted price.

All the profits from our book sales will go towards the Norwegian charity, Utdanningsjhelpen.  With Cafe Fedora's help, all tickets sold for the launch event will support the charity, as well.  Utdanningshjelpen is a wonderful organization that offers educational support in the form of scholarships to children of developing countries around the world.  We will be doing additional events in the near future with Utdanningshjelpen, and I will provide those updates as I have them.

The beautiful image above, titled The Wanderer, was painted by Brian Talgo, a charming and talented member of OIWG.  This artwork will be the cover of the anthology, one of his many invaluable contributions to the book.  The book will be published by Holland House.

Meet our talented writers:

Zoe Harris
Audrey Camp
Brian Talgo
Mauricio Ruiz
Evelinn Enoksen
Bree Switzer
Anna Maria Moore
(And for the big reveal of my name, which I have hidden all these years:)
Chelsea Ranger

I will post updates as information becomes available of our e-book launch and paperback launch.  In the meantime, I hope you will help us to celebrate our words, join us at one of our events, purchase the book, and help us to raise money for a charity that gives the strength of words to children around the world.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Two Roads Diverged

I am in awe of where the journey takes us, and even more so of how little we can prepare ourselves for the possible outcomes in each choice we make.  I don't regret my choices.  I fell in love with a Norwegian.  I boldly chose to cast my world to the side in order to join his, to embrace his as mine.  I have lived in Norway for over three years and can say without hesitation that living here, hardships included, has been one of the most rewarding paths I could have chosen.  Funny analogy given my current state, but acclimating to Norway reminds me of marriage.  It requires love and admiration, patience and respect, listening carefully, the cultivation of both what you are willing to give to it and what you need to do for yourself to be your best within it.  It requires the choice to love it, all of it, even on the days when you aren't sure you can endure it.  And when you think you have seen or learned all there is to know, it will surprise you with something new and beautiful, and you will fall in love with it all over again.
Norway is a beautiful country.  It is a small country full of beautiful, interesting, and dynamic people who, at times, are difficult to get to know and, from experience, entirely worth the effort.  Its culture is an ancient one, with a long and arduous history that peeks through the seams of society, a society rich in strength, patience, resilience, practicality, endurance, wisdom, experience, and a youthful sense of exploration.  It is a country of trials, at least for someone coming from the land of the many conveniences I was blessed to experience.  The weather can tug at your very being, from a darkness you can lose yourself within, a cold that can seep into your veins and seize your core, a steady rain that can, after days upon end, swallow you whole, and an awakening, a rebirth that can captivate your every sense and make you feel as if you just stepped through the gates of Heaven.  It is a country of landscapes that take you high above the ground floor, both in actuality and in spirit.  Norway is westernized, yet entirely different from the United States, full of nuances and subtleties that tell the true story of what its society, homes, families, attitudes, and beliefs are built upon.  To me, it is nothing other than a love story.
I am a patriotic person and will always carry America with me, both in my passport and stamped on my heart, but I am also now tied to this beautiful, trying, and sometimes frustrating existence. Only I am tied to this existence with a key piece of my plan missing.  Instead of a husband and a son and a large, closely-tied family, I am beginning a new journey with a beautiful son, a friend, and an extended closeness to a family I both love and feel I have barely gotten to know.  It comes without explanation that I am sad.  My heart hurts for those losses, for the changes I didn't prepare myself to endure.
I can't say that I transitioned well in moving here.  All of us expats do it differently.  I have friends whose waters barely rippled when they dove headfirst.  I have others whose waves are greater than mine.  My journey is my own and it is something I have to own, to take responsibility and accountability for, regardless of the advice I am given.  And I am given quite a lot of advice.  My family, friends, my ex, and his family all are wonderful and supportive people and, while I often feel lonely in the steps, I know I am not completely alone in those I choose to take.  Their support, their advice, is always there for the taking.  The decisions I make are not entirely mine either, as my friendship with my ex allows us the benefit of sound-boarding with one another, which we must do regularly and openly.
However, I am, due to various circumstances, under somewhat of a deadline to make a choice.  It is not a lesser of two evils, but a decision between two great loves.  I loved my career, independence, security, comfort and conveniences, support network, and the financial stability in my former life.  I assumed those things would be founded just as easily in this new world and, as stated, didn't prepare myself for the alternatives.  I didn't prepare myself for a 14-month long process of obtaining a residency permit.  I didn't prepare myself for the immediate and ever-deepening financial strain that we would incur.  I couldn't have known that my education and former career would offer me so little in terms of opportunity here.  I didn't foresee over two years of being at home with my son, although I dearly cherish that I was given it.  And I could not have predicted that a marriage I did not question would come to an end.  As those things have all taken place, I am now alone, yet without a full sense of independence.  I have acquired the language skills necessary to give me a place in society, but my comfort is far from fully-formed.  I don't have financial stability or the conveniences that come with a career.  I do, however, have a network of friends and family that make my existence here not only possible, but pleasurable.  And I have a beautiful son whose laughter and joy gives my life a daily purpose and direction. 
I don't want to be indecisive.  I recognize that the choices I must make, namely whether to stay or go, must be mine to own.  I do not want to be forced in one direction or the other, whether by circumstance or red tape or anything else standing in my way telling me that I can't or must.  And when I take the time to review the options, the pros and cons, I find myself returning to the same questionable beginning and indecisive end.  My son has only known life here.  His father, my dear friend, is here.  Their family, who are still a part of my heart and family, are here.  The friendships I have built in the past three years are as rewarding and well-founded as any I could have imagined.  I have very little other than that to secure a spot for me in the landscape.  For me, given the option of returning to my family, long-time friends, stable career, mother-tongue, and vast modern conveniences, living here is choosing the path of more resistance.  Yet I feel I have unfinished business.  However mixed and muddled between love and pride, I cannot imagine my life with weakened and forever-distanced ties to this place.  I haven't succeeded here by many definitions and sometimes I wonder if all the trials, both older and more recent, are signs telling me to return to my old life.  My heart is not so sure that is true, in part because when I left the United States, I did so wholeheartedly, without question, and with a complete disregard for the possible worst-case scenarios.  But I did it...and I faced some of those scenarios...and I am still here, still standing, still refusing to cave simply because I wasn't dealt an easy hand.  Were I to leave Norway, it would be in no way wholeheartedly...not yet.
There is a reason Norway is considered, year after year, to be one of the happiest countries on Earth.  I can't yet give you a list of all the reasons as to why that is, mainly because I have not yet been able to explore each and every benefit this country has to offer.  What I can tell you is that living here enters your heart, it becomes a part of you.  This country takes you away from many of the things you once thought you couldn't live without and it shows you what it means to live a pure, a rich, a less-complicated and simultaneously more-complicated life.  It comes with faults and hardships and idiosyncrasies that, at times, are confusing and maddening.  It pushes you, challenges you, both in its subtle and blatant variations, and when you conquer them, overcome, survive them, you wear a badge of pride.  All of it, the good and the bad, comes with a charm that I find wholesome and enchanting.

Given all these wonderful things about Norway, I do miss home.  I traveled with Baby C to spend 3 weeks at home over the holidays and was so happy, so at ease, so comfortable that I was actually frightened at how simple it would be to emotionally transition back into life there.  Every comfort was at my fingertips, so much so that it was painstaking to board the plane and return to sadness, loneliness, and strain.  My family, my friends, my career...are all just a choice away.  Oh!, how I wish I weren't choosing something away in whichever path I take.  How I wish "home" were an easier definition.
I am asking for guidance, not from you per say, but from the universe.  Writing to you, telling you about this plane of indecision, is my way of sending a little energy into the world and asking for guidance.  In the meantime, I could use a little silent support as we move forward with choosing a future that will affect so many people, all of whom I love and cherish deeply.  An old favorite came to me tonight...a poem I spent many years living by...and it seemed to fit.

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thank You, My Dear Readers

This past month, Expats Blog hosted an international contest to decide their picks for the gold, silver, and bronze recipients of the award for Top Blog of 2012.  Each country was honored with its own winners, all chosen based upon the quality of their content and the reviews left by readers.  Over the past few weeks, I have reached out to friends and readers, asking for feedback on my contest page.  Each review below means more to me than I can express.  I have removed all names so that the messages can speak for themselves, but I am aware of who (most of) you are and I thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful words.  Thanks to you, I have been given the Gold Award as Expats Blog's Top Blog in Norway.  So much love and appreciation to each...
  • I adore and admire C's ability to pour such a pure form of emotion and self realization into words. Admittedly this is my first time reading, and, I have to say this is truly an inspirational piece of work. I especially enjoyed the 100 things I want to have, own, see, become, and realize in my lifetime. She says/realizes so many things that I've never known how or had the courage to say. Very inspirational!
  • Your comments are refreshingly insightful and thought provoking! Reading your posts are akin to a chat with a good friend.
  • Loooove this blog.. It is so addictive, so good. It HAS to win!!
  • C's sage words never fail to make me pause, smile or reflect, whatever she is in the mood for that day. While so many blogs and writers get stuck in the rut of what is comfortable or safe, C manages to live outside her comfort zone, whether that be in a whole new country and new language, which inspire so many of her stories, or just in new experiences. While she doesn't shun the comfort of the familiar, she encourages us to find the familiar in new places, new ways and new adventures. Despite being utterly different people, she speaks to me, and my challenges. ...and yes, now I want to move to a beautiful, northern, snow laden country, but upstate New York will have to suffice. Thank you for considering her work among the best. I know I already do.
  • Humaine and direct. Both rare. 
  • Being an avid consumer of internet reading material both for work and pleasure, I am a highly accomplished skimmer. I can glean hundreds of pages a day for those little tidbits I seek. C's blog is one of the rare pages that makes you want to SLOW DOWN and take a little time with it. A 20 year expat in Norway, I have learned plenty about this country from reading C's words. She has a voice and perspective that are worth hearing. And worthy of your award.
  • Excellent. Best word I can use.
  • great one!
  • C is an amazing writer with so much wisdom to share and I am persistently inspired by her positive energy and her honesty. Her love for life and for Baby C never fails to brighten my day.
  • WONDERFUL! I am very proud of C. It is incredible how she can translate into words her experiences. Her blog is a joy to read. Love it!!!
  • In an ever more cynical world where dreams have become rare and ideals rarer, one can luckily find both in plentiful supply at C's well-written and thoughtful blog. Being an expat can be a trying and lonely ordeal. Sharing ones experiences can go a long way to lightening that heavy load. Well done, C!
  • C writes with passion. She has the ability and talent to shape words into tangible expressions that can inspire. Love to read her stories. This blog is wonderful.
  • Fantastic!!
  • C inspires me to celebrate and ponder this human journey at this point in time. Her openness and honesty is such a breath of fresh air for the soul. Her written descriptions and expressions are so vivid; I can quickly become absorbed in whatever journey she is exploring. Thank you, C, your courage through out your journeys is so inspiring!
  • I admire C's courage and openness in sharing her life's experiences and perspectives in this blog. An inspiration to all of us to keep moving forward and maintain a positive attitude regardless of the challenges life puts on our paths. A winner blog in my eyes!
  • C has a beautiful soul which she shares with us while giving deep insights that resonate with all who live the expatriate experience.
  • C is such an amazing writer with the ability to restore faith in the minds of those who rarely believe in anything but themselves. GREAT BLOG!!
  • I thoroughly enjoyed C's latest blog 'A Proverb to live by'. It is refreshing to hear someone articulate what we all have believed at some point.
  • C is a wonderful writer. She can organize words in a magic mode. I really like it. Thank you and hope to read more from your world.
  • I am very proud of C, of her fearlessness, of her insight, and of her honesty. Each time I read her next blog, I learn something new about her, her surroundings and even about myself. She challenges me to think outside the box. She is an inspired writer with a gift and an amazing capacity for love.
  • C has a way of describing her world that makes one want to shake their fist in the air and laugh at the same time. Her words capture your heart immediately and it's easy to remain transfixed long after the PC has been put away. Her experiences in Oslo are transcendent to anyone who has lived abroad but even if you haven't, it's a terrific way to absorb Scandinavia !
  • I've been following this blog for about two years now. C writes with an honesty that you don't see in many blogs. She tells the truth, reveals herself, and is inspiring.
  • C writes from her heart. Honesty, love, humor, insight, wisdom and entertainment - just a few of the feelings I get from reading her blog. I always know there will be a nugget for me in there. I look forward to reading her blog.
  • You are an amazing writer/blogger. I really enjoy reading your page girl so keep up the great work!!! 
  • I love to read C's writing and hear her perspective. She's unique, and has a way with words. I am inspired by her posts. I hope she wins!
  • I love this blog. The variety, the wisdom, the wonderful style of writing, the pictures, and the love for this strange and difficult, yet wonderful, city we live in. I look forward to every new "chapter". Thank you, C!
  • C has a natural talent as a writer that draws you in no matter what type of reader you are or interests you have!
  • Wonderful blog to read.
  • I love it since the first sight!
  • C does a fabulous job of describing a world that I've not yet had a chance to experience. Oslo seems almost magical through her eyes. She makes my heart smile!
  • I believe C has an old soul. A beautiful, charismatic, charming and adventurous old soul. I love her willingness to put her most inner thoughts and dreams out there for the hopeful to see. Her blog is eloquent, funny, heart-filled and I love it!!!
  • Wonderful.. Just WONDERFUL!
  • Always thought provoking and emotionally mature. Reading this blog has brought much joy and challenged me to be a better person.
  • What can I say, C has such a wonderful way with words. She is a natural storyteller.
  • This site deserves to win! its an inspiration to me

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I Am But a Small Voice

Tonight I am alone, one of the rare nights I find myself in the silence of an empty house.  There is no baby to chase after my attention, no dog to be walked, no guest at my door.  Tonight is just me.  I don’t seek these moments often.  I work hard to be strong, stay positive, keep steady, keep moving.  If I sit too long, I begin to feel sad.  Like an injured athlete, I am “walking it off.”  I know that grief is a process.  I know that transitioning through its five stages can resemble a vortex, with each emotion starting, stopping, and circling one another over indeterminate lengths of time.   I have drunk and vomited denial and bargaining.  I have jockeyed anger.  I have engulfed depression.  I believe I have stroked acceptance.  Sadness isn’t a stage.  Sadness isn’t something you overcome.  It holds your hand as you walk it off, even if you walk 500 miles.

My mind is predictable when my world is not.  I require a lot of processing in insurmountable change.  These past few weeks, months, have been no different.   As processing goes, mine begins with a single word.  I am not sure how this word appears in my mind, only that it is driven by something internal and that it sticks to me, hovering above my everyday experiences until the processing is complete.  My companion, my word, shapes my thoughts into sentences, constructing a story that, once recognizable, will require immediate verbal vomiting onto paper (or PC).  When I spot a word hovering, I often simultaneously recognize change within or around me.   I am unable to determine whether change brings forth the word or if the word signifies a change materializing.  Chicken or egg…  The more chaos in the change, the more words will appear.  These words devour my thoughts, isolate my communicative brain from its written ability, and freeze me in contemplation.  Turmoil renders me verbally useless until my subconscious has walked it off. 

I have spent the past months on one particular piece of writing.  I am passionate about it and, as such, have devoted large amounts of thought and energy into how it will transform and be received in the end.  When I began the project, my mind was a clean slate, fresh and energized, ready for research and thought transformation.  I was at a personal best, happy and renewed.   The project has grown bigger than I could have anticipated and the excitement of reaching a goal I’ve long hoped for drives me to my writing almost daily.  However, recently, my mind’s clean slate has been scribbled on, quite carelessly mind you, with a substantial amount of…words.   A series of recent experiences has left me hovering in unproductive verbiage.  My recent days have been spent staring ahead, words racing, rarely forming any respectable sentences.  My hovering words, my inability to produce efficiently, are symptoms of turmoil within and around me.

Three weeks ago, I was attacked.  It was late in the evening and I was at the city center, on my way to catch a night bus home.  Because the area was well-lit and well-populated, I did not feel unsafe walking alone.  I was aware of my surroundings and yet, was caught off-guard when a strange man appeared beside me and seized my face between his hands.  He stared into my eyes, clutching my face and drawing it towards his.  He thrust his tongue into my mouth.  I heaved my weight against him, giving just enough distance for my escape.  Into a sea of drunken strangers I dove.  I crouched among them at the bus stop, hiding. Within minutes, he appeared next to me, irritated.  The hairs on my neck rose, my muscles tightened, my breathing became a pant.  My body suspended in adrenaline.  Seconds later, the bus arrived and throngs of people thrust forward, elbowing and stuffing into the centimeters of open space.  I rushed to meet them, but was caught in his grip.  He attempted to drag me behind the bus stop.  I fought, he released, and I dove between the bus’s securing doors.  He squeezed behind me, the weight of the doors pressing his full body against my back.  I felt his hands on my hips, his head leaning towards my neck, his breath in my ear.  Tunneling my way towards the rear of the bus, I slowly crawled out of his reach.  Staring at me, realizing he could no longer target me, he stepped off the bus at its next stop.  As I watched him walk away, I released the grip on my keys, the largest of which I’d held between my curled index and middle finger, protruding it forwards like the spear I feared I would need.
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