Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Garden of Eden

Musical Genius

In no way should the following videos be considered as official audition submissions to Juilliard or any other music conservatory, which are forthcoming as per editing of the optional Viking interpretive folk dance montage. Thank you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sometimes the Truth Hurts

And sometimes it's just super funny:

(Thanks, Krista Jean!)

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Very Bad Man

I've been reading the scores of online reports about what's going on in Washington D.C. right now, and even all the way over here in my little Danish fishing town, the excitement is inescapable. It's bubbling under my skin. Wow, what an era! I'm still choked up by the fact that Obama gave a speech yesterday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, with the steady stone eyes of Honest Abe himself staring down on the 44th president. Obama will move into the White House shortly with his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters. Michelle's great-great grandfather was a slave in South Carolina, and the White House and the Capitol Building were built in part by slaves. Anyone who is even a little bit knowledgeable of the United States' dreadful slavery story has got to feel the enormity of these circumstances. But it's not all about the slavery connection -- Obama is simply the best person for the job right now. The coming year or so will certainly suck, likely getting worse before it gets better, but I believe he can do it, and he will do it. He's not a magician, but the optimism and hope that Americans feel right now is infectious, unusual and real.

Not everyone seems to feel this way. I know someone, someone I like very much, who told her young children that Obama is "a very bad man." She supported McCain and especially wanted to see a woman (Palin) in the White House, and so maybe she muttered this as sour grapes right after the election. I've been thinking about this story frequently over the past several weeks. I'm trying to understand what it is about Obama that could make someone feel that he's a bad man. He's got it all going on -- unbeatably smart, witty, relaxed, real, compassionate, empathetic, committed, direct, extremely ethical, and he always speaks in complete sentences. I understand that to some people the fact that he's not white is deeply unsettling, but I don't think that's the case about this person who told her children that he's a very bad man. Is it because he's going to ask the wealthy to share their wealth a little bit more? I'm extremely embarrassed by the greed that's growing and getting fatter on all levels of American society these days, but I don't think this is what it's about either.

The fact, not just my opinion, is that Obama is a very GOOD man. He has sought and is now taking this job -- and what a horrible job it's got to be -- for the right reasons, and it breaks my heart to think of kids seeing him and feeling fear. I hope that by the time they're in school and learning for themselves, they'll see the bigger picture of what he's signed on to do, and the very good results from his labors.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Could Nibble These Toes All Day Long

William is now eight months old. EIGHT MONTHS. He's practically ancient. Then why is it that sometimes I'll look down at his crusty little pureed pear-laden cheeks and think, "Oh my god. I have a BABY!!! When did THIS happen?? And HOW??" And when will that feeling end? By the time he's twelve? Twenty-three? Never? He's just so wonderful, even when he spits nasty strawberry-flavored amoxycillin back at me. (I wouldn't want to touch that stuff either, kid.) His last weigh-in was two days ago, and he's 11 kilos (24.25 lbs) and 77 centimeters (30.3 inches) long. Big boy indeed. Sometimes he feels like a heavy, noisy purse. But much sweeter.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What a Day...

Oh, hello!

Yes, I'm still here. We're all doing very fine, just a little busy is all. Soooo... Yeah! I'm still blogging, although primarily in my head these days. I mental-blog about all kinds of things -- well worth the price of a subscription -- and I take the most fantastic mental-pictures you've ever seen. But, today something happened that I simply must share, and the story ends with a wonderful moral.

Here in Denmark, there is something called hygge. Hygge does not have a direct translation, but the closest to it is "cozyness." Kind of. Anyhow, it is the OFFICIAL passion, mindset and mode of all Danes. It is because of hygge that we have lit candles in banks, shops, bus stations and even schools during the dark months, to bring that certain happy cozyness to our Danish lives. And at Christmas, there is an even more intense level of hygge, and it is called julehygge. This means "Christmas cozyness," and today we were invited to our friend Rikke's parents' house for some scrumptious julehygge -- specifically æbleskiver (homemade fried dough balls with jam and powdered sugar) and gløg (mulled wine with almonds and raisins). Also, Rikke's dad has grown a nice little patch of Christmas trees to which we could help ourselves to the best darn tree our grabby little hands could saw down. As this is William's first Christmas, the yuletide thrill has been ratcheted up a bit, so today was to be very exciting.

And it was! Rikke and her husband Gert, Jorunn and Jeppe, and Bo and Randi and all of our assorted tykes piled into our cars and caravanned to Rikke's folks' place. It looked like a snow sky (but without the snow) and we sang Christmas songs as we talked about where to put the tree in our new apartment. 'Twas cozyness defined. We even threw Bella in the back of our car so she could taste a bit of the excitement.

Our motorcade arrived in the late afternoon, and we all popped out into the crisp air. Christmas! Yay! Good cheer! Love! Cinnamon! Pine needles! Yippee! As we congregated in the driveway, Don whispered to me, "Don't look over there. Just don't."

"Why not?"

"Just. Just don't. Okay?"


There was something under a big black garbage bag on the ground. I saw a hoof sticking out of one end, and when I got closed, I saw Bambi's nose. Aw. Rikke's dad must not be a fan of deer hopping around happily in fields. :( Oh well. Let's get a good tree!!!

Rikke, a huge dog lover, told Don it was okay to let Bella out of the back of the car.

"It's okay, Don -- she can't do anything. And she can't run away. It's all fenced in."

"Uh. Naw, it's okay. She likes sitting in the back of the car."

"Come on, let her out. It's okay!"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes! There's no problem! You can't let her stay back there!" Rikke was right -- Bella would be very uncozy all by herself.

While Don was having this conversation, William and I were over admiring the chickens in a nice big pen that Rikke's dad had made. Our tree party was making its way over to the thicket of hardy pines beyond the chickens, and Don came down the path with Bella.

The chickens started to FREAK OUT.

"Rikke, don't you think the birds will, uh, be uncomfortable with Bella around?"

Bella's jaws were a saliva waterfall as she squealed through the chicken wire.

"No, no -- they're fine! Bella's fine! Don't worry, Erin! You're too worried!"

Don, my sweet darling pot-stirrer, agreed.

"Yeah, she's fine!" Don was giggling. A bad sign.

"Don't let her spook them, Don. I'm serious. Look at her. She's going to put her paw through that wire..."

"Come on! Relax, Erin! Let's go get a tree!" Rikke called. "There's no problem!"

Bella was up on her hind legs,  front paws rattling the chicken coop. The birds were twittering and clucking frantically. Why was her leash off?


A blur of orange fur and feathers was all I saw. How that dog moved that fast I cannot figure out but she managed to corner about three chickens and a pheasant (yes, he kept pheasants in there, too) and with me screeching "DONDONDONDONDONDONDONDONDONDON!!!!!" and trying to get the stupid gate shut (how Don and I wound up in the pen I don't recall) so all of the chickens and pheasants wouldn't run out into the Christmas trees... It was terrible. And at the end of those two seconds, Mrs. Pheasant's neck wound up snapped in the jaws of the horrible wolf-monster from America.

And so Mrs. Pheasant died.

Ugh. Oh my god. Um...

I turned around to see Bo and Jeppe laughing, Rikke telling me it was okay (her dog did the same thing not too long ago), Don trying to shake a dead pheasant from Bella's smiling locked jaws while trying not to laugh too hard, and Jorunn, completely horrified, who was holding a sobbing William (probably from me completely freaking out and shouting at Don).

Mortification was I.

You have to understand that, except for bacon, I've spent many adult years not eating meat all that often, if at all. (Bacon is not murder. Bacon is heaven.) I just can't stand thinking about killing animals. Sadly, I am that much of a softy. I couldn't even make it across a parking lot of a slaughterhouse. So to see my little doggie cracking the neck of this beautiful bird in one sweeping lunge... Blech. Not good.

And what to say to Rikke's dad? I mean, was this a prize-winning bird? Was this his pet? And what of Mr. Pheasant? Such a lonely Christmas for him! I was so rattled by it all that I just kept apologizing to him over and over in Danish and English. Rikke's brother-in-law laughed and said, "ah, well, yes, but sheet heppens." Rikke's dad just laughed and shrugged his shoulders. Another day, another dead bird. Saved him rounding her up himself.

Soon thereafter, I saw the old gal hanging from a hook in the carport, next to the gutted deer and another bird of some sort. I tried to not be bothered by it all, but it felt a little odd being invited to this nice cozy house by these incredibly warm and kind people to come take one of their trees and eat yummy snacks with them around their table while my monster dog attacked their livestock. As I sat at the table, Don looked at me and laughed a few times. I felt terrible, like I had BIRD MURDERER scrawled across my forehead in pheasant blood.

But, we got an awesome tree. As I'm typing this right now, Bella is asleep at the foot of it, spread over her giant dog bed, dreaming of catching more skittery clucky things as she dozes.

And the moral of the story is a dead bird in the carport is worth a gorgeous Christmas tree in the living room. Sad, but true.

(With regrets to Mrs. Pheasant, wherever you are, for stealing your hygge...)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Paradise Found

I was born and raised on a little dot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Oahu, one of the Hawaiian Islands. You can be sure that Honolulu, Hawaii is about as different from ol' Sønderborg, Denmark in most every possible way, so imagine my delight when I found this beauty for sale in the grocery store for 6 bucks last week...

The hibiscus is the state flower of Hawaii, and bushes of them ringed my elementary school when I was a kid. Us gals -- keiki wahine -- tucked the blossoms behind our ears and threw the yucky dead flower buds at cute boys whom we hoped to marry someday. So how could I resist buying it? It transports me just about every time its catches my eye, perched on a window sill overlooking the Danish sea.

"Atticus says it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

I'm proud to announce that any of you Danish residents out there can now legally name your child (or yourself, for that matter) the fine name of Atticus. As of last week, we've made a little Danish history by getting that name on the books of the ol' Ministry of Names for Sir You Know Who, who has now officially added that to his collection of wonderful middle names. Yippee!!!

And as it's been embarrassingly long, here's the latest on the tyke: TWO teeth, bottom middle. (I am THRILLED that breast-feeding is a thing of the past.) They are SHARP, and dude has STRONG jaws. Put your finger in his mouth at your own risk. He's probably a few weeks away from crawling (yikes), and he spends quite a bit of time these days turning himself in circles on the ground. Sleep is still something of a far-away fantasy as he strongly requests bottles at around 2am, or 3am. Or 4am or later. Or sometimes all of the above. Also, he has very recently discovered the joys of random spine-jangling screaming. It's quite a treat. Still, he's quite a guy, so jolly and happy, and he's got the most expressive eyebrows ever.

Pureed peas? Yeah, um, not so much, Mommy.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

And They're Off...

I know this is all over the ol' interwebs, but I feel downright compelled to fry up my own tasty little slice of it here on Ye Olde Blog:

It's plain marvelous.

My Merry Mozartian Music Maker

This is Sunday morning at our house, when Daddy and Doggie are still asleep...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

How does he make it look so easy?

Because... Well... It is.

Brilliant, no matter what your political leaning is.

(I ♥ Jon Stewart!!! Glib smirks and all!!!!)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Vi Lær Dansk!

Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, Don and I dutifully pack ourselves off to Danish class. Largely sponsored by the Danish government, these courses are available to every new immigrant to the promised land (for a small fee). You have three years to take advantage of the language classes, and after that, you're on your own. I don't know why I'm always surprised by how many newcomers actually make the conscious decision to not learn Danish, but instead choose to just hobble along with English or German (something that isn't totally far-fetched, but still).

I used to loathe these classes, and Don would have to bribe me with chocolate or beer or the promise to fold an entire mountain of clean laundry. Now, I look forward to them, mainly because I've grown fascinated with the lives of my classmates. Living in a land where you don't understand anything on TV (except for the fifty-billionth episode of "Friends") makes you look elsewhere for dramatic characters.

Simply put, our class is fabulous. These people are so interesting, and their backgrounds and personalities blow Ross, Rachel and Chandler out of the water. Two weeks ago, I scanned the class and wrote down who was in attendance that night:

2 Mexican software engineers
1 Chinese engineer
3 Brazilian engineers
1 German technical designer
1 Afghan secretary
2 Polish machinists
1 American trombone player
1 American teacher
1 Chinese student/hotel housekeeper
1 Filipina au pair
2 Ukrainian engineers
1 New Zealander university lecturer
1 German slaughterhouse inspector
1 Lithuanian student

I mean, you can't make this up, right? Our class seems to be mutating, and last night we had even more people than before. Break time is the most fascinating time to me. Some folks dash outside to suck down cigarettes (including our teacher), but those who stay in the classroom tend to be chatterboxes who love to ask about each other's deals (like me). One night I egged on the two guys from Mexico to tell us what kind of Mexican food they cooked here, and they described it in mouth-watering, almost cruel detail. (Have I mentioned before 1. how much I miss Mexican food and 2. how bland and unremarkable Danish food is?) I was practically writhing in my seat when they told about making molé from scratch with chiles and chocolate carried over here from Mexico by one of their mothers. Aye yay yay caramba. The Lithuanian student was transfixed; I'm pretty sure she'd never heard about food like this before. The Afghan secretary (who works in Germany nearby) has a terrible gorgeous shoe addiction, and the Filipina nanny thinks the Chinese engineer should marry her Danish boyfriend right away and have children and WHAT is taking them so long? Last night a newcomer, a muscled Israeli dude with a shaved head, was flirting so amorously with the shy Brazilian engineer that her cheeks were like embers. (She did not seem one bit displeased.)

What's amazing to me is that ALL of these people speak pretty dingdang perfect English. When a Danish word comes up that we can't figure out, it's always defined in English; any explanatory discussion happens in English. Just about all of them pack Danish-English dictionaries, which I suppose makes sense as I have yet to see a Danish-Tagalog version for sale. Right now, we're in module #2 of a six-module program, and an exam will greet us sometime soon, (hopefully) promoting us to module #3. I'll keep you posted on how things go...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Who's a Sassy Jumper???

Yesterday evening...

And twenty minutes later...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In the Navy

So, this afternoon, I washed about 98,429,713 bottles. By hand. On completion of the rather gargantuan task, I stepped back, looked at my work, and said, "Well, all right!"

And then, at that moment, a marching band started playing outside of my window.

But it wasn't for me.

Looks like the Danish navy has pulled in for a little Tuesday whoop-de-woo! Welcome to town, fellas! They're playing "Rock Around the Clock" as I type this.

(Nice August afternoon we're having, huh?)

Hello! My Name Is [UNAPPROVED]!

On my to-do list for today is, "Find form to change William's name." Yes, we have to legally get his name changed, because round about four months ago when I attempted to register him at our town hall, I was told no, sorry, you cannot name him those names which you and your husband have lovingly and effortfully searched the corners of your minds and memories for because, you see, one of them -- Atticus -- simply does not exist on the approved list of Danish names as per the Order of the Ministry of Names.

Ummmm... I see. What?

(And of course I immediately flashed back to Monty Python's Ministry of Funny Walks, not too far a leap.)

After doing the "ha, ha, you're joking...right?" laugh, I actually whipped out this line: "But, but -- I'm an American citizen! He's an American citizen! How... But...? It's a... But... from a very famous book! A classic! The character is... This can't... Uh?"

'Tis true. Here in the Land of Many Orderly Rules, you cannot name your kid whatever you want; it actually must be on the approved list of names. (I'm not joking, once again.) This is to prevent Danish residents from naming their child Badonkdonk or Frying Pan or Zqxrefff8dskil. (Because that would be disorderly.) I recall staring into the clerk's face very intently, waiting for her to tell me she was kidding, or at least to give me some advice or comprehension or even a tiny spoonful of solace. I must have made her the slightest bit uncomfortable as she hesitantly told me that I could, if I really wanted to, appeal my case to the Ministry of Names, explaining why we'd chosen this name and why it's actually not in the least bit ridiculous or offensive and perhaps William's wonderful middle name would be approved. In three to four months. Maybe. Good day.

This is an excerpt from an excellent article in the International Herald Tribune (http://www.iht.com/articles/2004/10/08/news/danes.php):

In Denmark, a country that embraces rules with the same gusto that Italy defies them, choosing a first and last name for a child is a serious, multitiered affair, governed by law and subject to the approval of the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and the Ministry of Family and Consumer Affairs.

At its heart, the Law on Personal Names is designed to protect Denmark's innocents - the children who are undeservedly, some would say cruelly, burdened by preposterous or silly names. It is the state's view that children should not suffer ridicule and abuse because of their parents' lapses in judgment or their misguided attempts to be hip. Denmark, like much of Scandinavia, prizes sameness, not uniqueness, just as it values usefulness, not frivolousness.

"You shouldn't stand out from anyone else here; you shouldn't think you are better than anyone else," said Lan Tan, a 27-year-old Danish woman of Singaporean and Malaysian descent who is trying to win approval for her daughter's name, Frida Mei Tan-Farndsen. "It's very Scandinavian."

Greg Nagan, 39, and Trine Kammer, 32, thought it would be cute to name their new daughter Molli Malou. To their surprise, Malou was not a problem, but Molli with an i, which they had thought sounded Danish, had to be reviewed by the government.

The church told Kammer she needed to state in a letter the reason for choosing Molli. She did so, and said she told the clerk, "Here's your stupid letter: The reason for naming her Molli is because we like it."

"Isn't this silly?" Kammer said. "We love to make everything a rule here. They love to bureaucratize."

I guess this is a great example of taking intrinsic freedoms for granted. I grew up in a pretty free (sometimes too free) country, and now I live somewhere where I can't even call my child what I feel is best without running it past some harrumphy old Ministry. On the other hand, I also live in a country where virtually no one can own or carry a gun; I really like that. Give and take, I suppose. And so I'm off to our kommune (town hall) for a form to submit to get his name changed, a new birth certificate, and then we'll apply to have his passport amended. All for a hefty fee, of course.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Back to Work

This past week, I started my new job as a part-time teacher at the school where I subbed last year. It's a very small private school where all classes are taught in English. It shouldn't be such a big deal, but 1) I have a four-month-old baby whom I have to say goodbye to most mornings of the week, and 2) I haven't had a job in TWO WHOLE YEARS, something that hasn't been the case since I was 14. Oh, if I had a buck for everytime I fantasized about not having a job over the years... Frankly, it kinda sucked. I never had the "yay! it's FRIIIIIDAAAAAY!!!!" feeling, because everyday was a Friday, every morning was Sunday morning. Nebulous. Structure is a mighty good thing to have in your life, and I've sure missed it these past two years.

But now, it's back, in force. Not only do I have to organize my own structure, but I also must push and pull 20 middle-schoolers along with me for eight hours each week, in and around the magical kingdoms of English and History. Curiously, not many 13-year-olds are naturally and intrinsically overjoyed to do so, but I'm up for the challenge. I kicked off my classes by creating a charter of sorts, asking the kids to ponder for a few minutes what traits make for an effective teacher, and what makes for an effective student. Kind of big ideas for the pre-teen set, I know, but I wanted to see where it would go. The youngest kid in the class is 8, and the oldest is 14. (Yep, it's a multi-age, multi-level classroom. You can see how my mind boggles, right?)

They took the task quite seriously. After mulling over and jotting down what they thought were the most important attributes in teachers and students in order to make for a really great classroom, this is what they came up with (click on the photo to see a larger version):

How relieved am I to have just barely made that age cut-off. WHEW!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Catching All Y'all Up

We've been on the road for most of the past two months -- Seattle, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tucson, Portland -- and that's meant TEN flights for us and young William. I've been asked so many times, "How did he do flying?" which is usually accompanied by a somewhat nervous facial expression. Simply put, he did beautifully, far better than we'd expected. Part of the great thing about flying SAS is that when you tell them you're flying with a baby, they seat you in the bulkhead, and then two smiling flight attendants bring out a little baby bed that screws right into the wall in front of you. Voila -- fresh crib linens are whisked into place, baby toys and spare diapers are lovingly placed into your hands as your infant is fawned over by the flight crew. Pretty dang nice. And not having to hold a baby in your arms for nine hours is also a major treat. Flying to Seattle was a dream (he slept the entire trip), although our seat-mates flying back to Copenhagen were a rather jangled pair of parents and their even more jangled 9-month-old who shrieked the loudest, most eardrum-bleedingest shrieks from out of nowhere the entire journey (when not tumbling right out of the bed itself). This occurred about every 30-60 minutes, and poor little William did NOT care for it one bit, opting to demonstrate his displeasure by crying. And for any of you who have had the rare misfortune of seeing him cry, well, you know that that's some mighty sad business all right. It was definitely not the funnest time of our lives, but so it went. For nine hours...

It was such a fabulous summer all around, and now it's time to get serious and all worky again... BAH HUMBUG!