Autumn is my favorite color

 

 

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Yellow umbrella in the forest

We have so much fun dressing up and taking pictures! In these pictures my daughter is wearing her great great grandmother’s jacket, a skirt I made out of African wax-cloth, a necklace I’ve made and a hat I’ve made from scratch.

To top it off, my daughter got to use my grandmother’s vintage umbrella in mint condition – I love the color on it! And we both love taking these pictures!

 

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I am two mothers

I am the mother who cuddles in the bed with her sweet little boy nestled in her and her husband’s arms, and everything will be okay, despite the boy needing constant attention all day.

Every day could be the last with this boy, because of a congenital issue, but the mother doesn’t think about that. She smiles with her soul when her boy smiles at her. She is filled with sunlight every day, in spite of living inside a damp, gray traumatic cloud, in spite of her aches and pains, because all those exist in a completely different realm than her and her boy. The two of them are beyond all earthly challenges – they know each other through and through, and they live. Everything is so easy, even when things are hard, because no matter what they always understand each other, and nobody can help not loving this sweet boy. And if they do, they do not exist to this mother. They are so small, beneath even noticing.

I am also the mother who lies next to a weeping child, a daughter who wants to wash away the brown color of her skin. Who wants blonde hair and to be like everyone else. I am the mother who constantly worries.

This mother can’t ever let up her grip on her anxieties. She no longer lives in the privileged world, where everyone treats her child like the norm. Where her boy is a part of something, despite his  (seen in the rearview mirror ) minor disabilities. Not only did he grow up and grow out of his disability – he now exists outside the mother’s influence, and is doing just fine. But this daughter – she reaches out her tentacles of anxiety and grabs a hold of the mother’s soul, and the mother knows that she would do anything for this girl.

She will do everything.

She will go out in the world and roar at anyone who tries to do any harm to this girl. The world has already harmed her – don’t they see that? Can’t they open their eyes, the same way the mother opened hers and see – see that daughters like these are treated differently. Not only by their mothers, because yes – this mother treats all her children differently. They all need her differently. But the daughter is constantly living in a completely different world from her friends, her teachers, her relatives – almost everyone she meets. Nobody sees that. Only the mother. And she wipes the tears, comforts the daughter, and inside her the rage is burning, the feeling of being helpless. The feeling of watching her child grow up without being able to make people see what they do to her with their innocent questions, and they’re not so innocent comments.

”Where are you from?”

”Why is your skin brown?”

”Is he your real brother?”

”Why did your parents give you up for adoption?”

”Brown is the color of poo”

The mother wants to go out into the world and cram the knowledge that she has learned into everyone’s mouths , esophagus’s and stomachs, until they gag and get filled with it and stop making her daughter feel like an Other.

And start letting her feel like she is a person. Just as everyone should be treated.

Sometimes this mother forgets that another mother also exists. Years have passed and the first mother, the one with the child who was an extension of herself, a wish too perfect to even contemplate wishing – that mother sometimes looks up.

Suddenly she is there in the room with the other mother, and the other mother remembers.

She remembers that she was once like that. She was once able to sleep at night. She had moments of happiness, of not constantly worrying. Of existing in the moment. She remembers having a small daughter, who smiled back at her so that her chubby beautiful cheeks pinched together, and those dark brown eyes looking at her like the mother was the center of the universe. The mother wanted to give this child everything that that other child got, but she couldn’t. She can’t. She can’t remake society, but she does her best to do her small part despite knowing it will never be enough. She roars, and she informs, and she points things out, and little by little, she tries to re-create the world for her child, and she does this knowing that no matter how much of a tiger mom she is – that will never be enough. There will always be people out there who hurt her child, unwittingly or with intent.

I am two mothers, and sometimes these two mothers meet. And the privileged mother knows how privileged she is, because no matter how much she would want things to be otherwise – that other mother needs to exist too. In this time and place, she needs  to exist, but in the future she builds for her children? She hopes against hope, that there will sometimes come a day when there will be no need any longer for tigers who roar.

 

 

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A full life

Less than two weeks ago, my grandmother died, and now her apartment is emptied, her few belongings placed wherever they are needed and the funeral services have been held.

It was one of the most beautiful funerals I’ve ever been to.

It is awful beyond words to be at a funeral of a child, or of anyone who have left us long before their time. But when the person you grieve is someone who has led a long life, and a happy one at that – there is not much to be sad about, other than that you don’t get to spend any more time with that person. As the pastor said – they are at peace now, it is us that are left behind that are sad.

Anyone would be fortunate to leave the earth this way – surrounded by children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren, all who will miss her, but who are also happy for all the wonderful memories that they made together during those many years.

Thank you for all the pancakes and songs and bedtime stories, grandmother Eva!

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Writing the Other

I’ve been blogging almost constantly for many years now, and what happens when I do a writer’s course? I stop writing. Or not really, I’ve only stopped writing the blog – I’ve been reading and writing more than almost ever before, and these past six weeks doing the course Writing the Other with Nisi Shawl and K Tempest Bradford.

I met Tempest on the Writing Excuses Cruise, and we spent a day at the museums in Copenhagen. She was so supportive of my writing and answered all my uninformed questions, and also told us on the cruise about this course that I then signed up for. I am so glad I did! It’s been so enlightening, and just as Tempest wrote in the last e-mail of the course – it is a safe space where you can confront your prejudices and learn things you didn’t already know about whoever is the Other for you.

The best thing about this course was getting to work on your work in progress while thinking about these things. I had already planned a lot about my world and done a lot of worldbuilding, but this really took it to the next level.

Some of the exercises reminded me of things I learned while studying psychology and philosophy. We had many courses where we analyzed movies or texts, and in philosophy class we debated and learned to really look at an argument – what is said, what is left unsaid. The same thing goes for being a psychologist: your job is often to analyze the person in front of you. Which words are being used, what do they tell you about the person. What emotions do they elicit in you, and are those emotions yours, or are they just a reaction to the emotions that the person in front of you are feeling?

Being a psychologists, being a debater – both are skills that overlap being a writer. The funny thing is, while I studied so many people at parties and acquaintances thought psychologists went around analyzing everyone all the time, and that they sometimes manipulated people because of their superior knowledge about the human nature (wrong on so many levels). But the thing is – the people who really do this, analyze other people and try to manipulate the emotions – those people are called writers!

Writing is art and entertainment, and the point of both is to evoke emotions. And to do that you need to understand human nature. To do that well you need to write convincing humans of all kinds.

To write inclusively, you need to really look at your prejudices. To know where you come from, and to realize your blind spots and to do something about it. That is what this course was so great for. I really got to read and write and think about these things intensely for a few weeks, and it shows in my writing and in my thinking.

In an ideal world every writer would do  this course! Or rather, every human being, because we all need to confront our prejudices, and learn about people who are Other than ourselves, and learn how to treat them with respect.

 

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Autumn glory

Sometimes I need to relax by taking pictures. And my daughter is my willing accomplice.

Autumn colors, a thrift shop-dress, a cape that I sewed from some old sheet I found at a flea market – plus half an hour of posing and taking pictures. We don’t spend too much time on the photo shoots, they’re supposed to be fun and not stressful. I find a nice spot, place my daughter and click away on the camera.

This is what I think of as her Ozma-look. We love the Oz-books by L. Frank Baum, and we always pretend that Ozma looks just like this. And I am always Billina!

I had planned on wearing the cape myself for a different project, but it was perfect for this photo shoot. So easy to make as well – I cut  circles at the top and bottom, and made a hem plus a lining.

The necklace is one I made out of old jewelry and beads.

I made the flower crown out of different fabrics – a kitchen towel, a striped sheet (thrift shop find) and some schweschwe fabric that I had at home.

We have so much fun together!

 

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Sweet little pumpkin

Last year I got to do a lovely photoshoot with two parents-to-be and some pumpkins – more pictures here.

It was such a huge honor, and so much fun! I can’t believe it’s been a year already.

 

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Autumn princess

Sometimes we play dress up, my daughter and I.

Most of the time we only fantasize about dressing up – she is the princess of Pargasia, our fictional country, and I am the King (who is female). When she was little, she was usually Darth Vader and I was Gandalf, but we’ve moved on from that. Sometimes we dress as Pokemon, sometimes just as plain ourselves, and every night I pretend that my youngest son’s Pink Panther, called Pinkis, is talking. Pinkis asks the kids about their days and tells jokes and tell tales about my childhood – not all of them true!

We love dressing up. We love trying on new characters. We love pretending we have superpowers. And sometimes those stories end up in a picture.

 

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Our dream bathroom

I can’t believe we’ve only had our lovely bathroom for a year!

A year ago this room was finally finished, and we’ve spent so many relaxing hours in it since.

When standing in my workspace, you have no idea what the bathroom behind that pink door will be like!

The pink door is an old shop door from 1896 that we brought with us from Copenhagen. I love that we still have something from our old apartment here. 

It sort of gives us a sense of being on vacation when we soak in the tub, with the candles glowing and soft music in the background. Like being in a place far away from everyday life.

This is definitely my dream bathroom. I wouldn’t change a single thing, and I love that it’s a DIY-project! (and thank you Dad, once more for making the mosaic floor tiles for me!)

 

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The fruits of my labor

”So what you really love is watching things grow?” My therapist used a dry, rational tone, not minding that I was weeping, dry-heaving and sweating all over my body.

”Yes” I said, and then I realized I meant it. Yes – I love watching things grow. I love tending them. I love the process, seeing things become something out of nothing. Something out of pain or suffering even. That gives me purpose. That gives me a reason to be.

I love gardening because of this.

I love having kids because of this.

I love having pets, and not just any pets – pets that need a loving home, that need the love and patience that we can give them.

And I love finally getting to see the fruits of my labor.

Like this little bunny here – he was so afraid and traumatized when we got him this summer, but now he is the happiest bunny in the world!

”Your daughter has so much emotional intelligence.”

”He is such a special teenager.”

”Nobody is more helpful than he is.”

This is why I became a parent. The foundation was given to me by a loving family who let me be myself and let me grow up seeing all the ways a single person can make a difference. How one person can become a positive influence on the world simply by becoming one who enjoys the whole process of watching things grow, even if it entails having seeds that don’t germinate metaphorically or concretely, rabbits and hamsters that die, children that throw tantrums and say they hate you, even hit you and threaten to kill you.

One day it was my turn to be the next generation, the supposed adult.

I read so many books when we had our first child, and among them  ”7 habits of highly successful families” by Stephen R. Covey. Although I didn’t agree with everything the author said, one thing stuck in my mind – successful families are those that have a long-term goal in mind. The author had somehow managed to formulate something that had been on my mind since I was little – that we need to look to the future as well as to the present when our kids are small in order to get where we want to be.

I had a long talk with Niklas and we formulated our goals for our family, and despite them not being realized every step of the way, they have been there in the back of our minds all the time as a beacon. And now it feels as if we already have almost reached our destination.

Suddenly we have kids who enjoy playing outside. Who enjoy board games. Who can solve problems by talking. Who can stand being bullied in school, but still don’t let that define themselves as persons.  Who dares be different and be themselves.

We can almost see the adult versions of them already. They’re not perfect – but neither of us are perfect, and that is how things should be. But all the hard work that especially I have put in seems to actually pay out dividends.

So is it worth it, to have sleep disorders, all kinds of stress-related symptoms and not have any money saved up for my retirement or even a tiny career to talk about? Is it worth all the agony, all the endless days where the only thing I could even think about was to remember to breathe?

Absolutely.

Because I love watching things grow, and I can finally see the fruits of my labor. And sometimes the harder you have had to work for something – the more precious it seems.

 

 

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