Monday, August 9, 2010

Patches of a Rough Childhood and Why I'm Living Like I'm Dying

Everyone had a “rough” childhood in one way or another. Maybe you’re family moved a lot. Maybe some tragedy struck. Maybe there wasn’t enough food on the table. Maybe there were bullies at school. Maybe you were the outcast/misfit at school. Maybe you had extreme anxiety around girls/boys. Maybe a lot of things.

I was out with some friends the other day. And we were discussing bills and adult responsibilities. One mentioned wishing they could go back to childhood. The concept terrified me. And at some point I said, “I’ll go back to my childhood when you drag my kicking screaming corpse there, because even if I were dead, I’d still put up a fight.”

Some of us had things rougher than others. Me? I will never claim that my problems were worse. But they weren’t pleasant either. I can check of a number of the aforementioned childhood downfalls in that previous paragraph. I was moved around, a lot, for very little reason, and was the family outcast. Whereas my mother never laid a finger on me, my days were not without verbal abuse and emotional neglect. Tragedy did strike and strike hard. My teen years were spent contributing to household and raising my brothers. And there was no appreciation for it.

My family would forget about me. Often!

And I don’t mean just those times when I got home from school, had to walk to the back of the fence, climb onto the cable box, launch myself over the fence, slide down the shed, climb on the porch swing, through the kitchen window, and over the sink. I mean they forgot about me! Outings, vacations, I can give several stories that support my claim.

When I was a teen, I was a very spiritual person. Loved church. Youth group, service, the brotherhood of it, singing in the choir. And then there was my first and last mission trip. I was 17. My church was going with habitat for humanity to Ohio to help flood victims. I spent a week out there. Painting, cleaning, building, mudding, putting up siding… A full tiring week three states away, and when I got back to the church, and watched everyone’s parents arrive one by one to pick up sons and daughters… My parents were nowhere to be found. I called them. No answer. Several hours passed, until I finally just went home with my pastor’s family.

But no big deal, maybe they just got the days, or times confused, right? Let’s look at another example. How about Mother’s day the same year. When my mother decided to pack a suitcase for each of my brothers and leave my father, and as I ran out to her in the driveway as she pulled away, she stopped only long enough to tell me that I should find somewhere to go too if I want.

Or the day I walked down the stairs to find a bunch of bags packed by the door because the family was going on a vacation, but forgot to tell me. Not that it would have mattered much. I had to work that weekend and often enough my paychecks were “borrowed” to help with the household groceries. I couldn’t skip or quit. (but having the house to myself this was my first unauthorized party and adventure with alcohol. I was fed up with being the good girl that always did as told and got stepped on for it.)

But if this isn’t good enough I will tell this one last story about baseball. I loved baseball. Was never allowed to play it, but loved it. Carlton Fisk was my God made flesh, catcher for the White Sox. I have the majority of his baseball cards. My cousin Adam helped me with that collection. My immediate family however was not as entertained by the sport. Until that was, the car accident.

On Christmas Eve of ’95 my parents were in a head on collision on the local freeway. (This story is well known by many of you, but if requested I will post the tale again.) One of the many results of this event was my having to give up my bedroom as it was healthier for my father’s recovery. Construction work was to be started on their would be bedroom. Despite the fact that my two little brother’s beds were capable of being converted into a bunk bed, they did not want the double-decker mode, and I found myself sleeping on the floor between two twin sized metal frames.

It didn’t take long before I had a nervous breakdown, and my grandfather came to rescue me, took legal guardianship, and put me back in the Crystal Lake school system. I knew the stay would be short. Six months at most. And though I have a lot to say for the experience that I’m sure I will get around to one of these posts, that’s not the point for now. I didn’t go much anywhere or do much anything while living with my grandparents. I was too content with the quiet. But there was ONE activity I was very amped for. For back at “home”, in my old room, only a couple of channels came in clearly on my tv. And in the summer, it was baseball, day and night on the WGN. My dad, was slowly brainwashed to like the sport, and my mother made a bargain. If he could get well enough to get around with a cane by the end of the summer, she would arrange a big outing to a Cubs game.

EVERYONE was going. My parents and brothers, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins (I have more than 20), My Grandparents. I was ready! My first EVER professional Baseball game! At Wrigley Field no less!!! Yup, everyone got a ticket. My mother arranged it all. Everyone…. Well… not everyone. Somehow or other, my mother had forgotten me. Again. How, with all of the cousins, and aunts, and uncles tickets she could say to me without laughing “Oh, I didn’t know you wanted to go…” I will never comprehend.

What I did with the Cubs hat that was brought back for me I can’t remember. I still to this day have never seen a professional baseball game, and probably never will. The thought fills me with disgust and anger, and to be honest, I haven’t even watched it on tv since. I’ll occasionally take a glance at a screen while at a bar or something, but I won’t really watch anymore.

So, when other’s chalk up my claims of mistreatment to hyperbole, I usually just smile, let them assume what they wish and move along. I know the truth, and I have a whole bag full of tales just like this one I can pull out at any time if I wish.

The things I’ve endured in my past have made me stronger and more capable as a person. And the concept that life is short well engrained. Time is fleeting and I’m tired of waiting around for others. My life has been growing rich in the past few years. Especially in this last year. And when contrasted against my childhood, it is night and day. I sat here this morning reflecting on all I’ve done this past year alone.

I went to an art museum for the first time. Saw my first live concert. Took my first trip out of the country, (alone!) to Norway. Saw Kevin Smith Live. I’ve seen live theatre, met new people, ridden roller coasters, and pet a zebra, and have ate ice cream for breakfast. I’ve done the things I always seemed to be waiting on others to join me for. And got tired of waiting. It’s been an eventful year. And it isn’t over yet. I have a lot of time to make up for, and a lot of stones left to turn.

No, there is no getting me back to my childhood. And I would NEVER want to. This is too good to be missed. This is so much better. I’m living never knowing what tomorrow is going to bring me. And living each day as if it could be my last.

I urge you all the same. Life is too short. It can change in the blink of an eye. One minute you are setting the table for Christmas Eve dinner, the next, you’re raising two little boys. Don’t wait on anyone. Take chances. Forget what others think of you. And if you see something that will make you happy do everything in your power to grab hold of it. And if it still falls out of reach, don’t waste time moping. Look for the next opportunity, never regret, and never give up.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Norway. Installment #5. The last one.

My last installment of Norway.

I don’t know how to write any more of this. There’s so much I know is still locked in my memories, but for the life of me, I don’t know where I can begin. I’m going to write this last installment before I loose my nerve. I don’t know why it feels difficult. Maybe because writing the last installment means I have to admit that it’s done. Maybe because I want to keep some of the memories just for me… Maybe because a lot of different reasons.

But I’m not going to be selfish or lazy. I’m going to put it to keyboard and share that last bit of reminiscing with you all.

So, where to start? Well, whenever someone asks me this question I ask them to list off the things needed to be accomplished. Whatever came to their mind first is a subconscious priority. So, I guess I’ll begin with the theater.

Josh took me to see Alice in Wonderland one night. I liked it. I know there are plenty of people out there that will gripe about remakes, or, they don’t like Tim Burton, or, Johnny Dep. And I have one thing to say to them. Then DON’T watch it! Keep the opinion to yourself and let others enjoy! You don’t like broccoli? Then don’t eat it! It isn’t necessary to spit in someone’s meal.

There was a riddle in the movie, I love. “How is a raven like a writing desk.” The popular answer is, Poe wrote on both. My answer is, both are believed capable of bearing another’s soul. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this riddle. But this isn’t a review of the movie, but the experience.

Going to see a movie in Oslo is very different. When you purchase tickets you do not just reserve a right to watch the movie. You reserve a specific seat. As if you are seeing live professional theatre, you are shown a screen on which the layout of the theatre is splayed, and you choose where you would like to sit. 3D movies do not cost extra, but the glasses do. If you already have a pair from a previous movie, you are welcome to use them. (promotes waste reduction.)

I did not get any candy or soda, but they did give out these little samples of salt candy as we took our seats. Josh popped one in his mouth, made a strange face, and urged me to try it. I could tell by looking at it that I didn’t want to. “You have to, if just for the experience of it.” I winced, tried, and it was…. Not good. I could barely lick the damn thing let alone think myself capable of swallowing it. It was really just plain unpleasant. Let me illustrate. Take a bit of black licorice. Pound it into a flat disk like a bottlecap. Now smash it into salt. But Josh was right. I’m glad I at least tried. I’m here for the adventure after all. No matter how small or large that be. Eat me, drink me; Alice in Wonderland was a very fitting movie to choose to see while there.

And as much as I loved the movie, I must say I also loved the previews. One in particular which I promised in the last installment that I would elaborate.

What is this commercial for? (and can I just say that I’m amazed at myself for finding this clip?) This is an ad for OSLO CITY, a very nice mall right near central station. Thus the now nickname, the Emo Mall. :D …seriously, you should check out some of the other ads for this place. And yes, this is the one with the pay toilet.

I did get something from this mall. My first day in the city. I needed a sketchbook, so we went here to procure such an item. …Now I know that I have plenty of sketchpads at home, but they are full of not-so-good doodles. I wanted fresh paper. Why? Because I wanted to take more than pictures there. I wanted something more intimate than digital copies. Especially for when I visited here.

This is a near ancient cemetery. Beautiful. Somehow majestic, and with a sense of honor and tradition. Cemeteries do indeed have a very different feel out there. This particular one is built into the hillside. And as I sat there, as the sun went down, and the flickering lights of the city beneath us lit, everything seemed to come to life. (but not in the, help it’s a zombie, kind of way.) I sat on a bench and drew the ancient church that sat on the grounds while Josh made his own doodle’s and notes in his journal.

Why is it that in America you seem to get a little cookie cutter style plot. A rectangle of pristinely trimmed, flattened expanse, in which little markers neatly tag the concrete pits below? Everyone dying to be buried how they lived. A suburb for your corpse. …Note to all. Please, don’t do this to whatever is left of a body I might leave behind? (Idealistically, I won’t leave one behind at all as I will die flying some form of doomsday device into the sun for safe disposal saving all of humanity.) But seriously. I don’t care what you do with the body. Stick it in a gorram Hefty bag for all I care. As long as you don’t bury it in one of these tasteless grids of bland rectangles. …blowing it up with dynamite might be cool. And I’m sure that money from tickets sold/video sales will help cover any expenses left behind. :)

On to lesser morbid things.

But this is just one of the adventures. The second full day I was in Oslo, was a day full of exploring ancient ruins, and ferry rides.

I got to see the ocean, and climb a tower.

I also incidentally slipped while atop it and in my attempt to catch myself, nearly pushed Josh down the spiral stone stairs. ….Something I STILL feel REALLY bad about. I’m extremely accident prone, but rarely has that ever endangered another besides myself before.

But the day ended nicely enough. We walked to the other side of the island to a little beach that seemed to be made of these little seashells. And I really mean that. I’m sure there was sand under them… somewhere… a couple feet down maybe??? Okay. Maybe that’s a touch of hyperbole. But there were a lot of them. And I couldn’t help but envision what a creature with such a massive appetite to suck that many little lives from their shells would look like. I was certain it was somewhere within those murky brown waters, watching, and waiting for one of us to slip in (and given my aforementioned accident prone nature) this probably wasn’t the smartest picture to pose for.

We took the ferry back. Each of us relaxing with our respective journals, doodling, scribbling, and passing the time in a comfortable silence. Boats always make me sleepy, and I’m pretty sure we must have passed through some kind of temporal wormhole, because we had arrived back to the dock before I knew it.

Well. That’s it.

I’ve run out of things to say about Norway. Not memories mind you. But anything more is for me and me alone. There are some things I prefer to keep locked in my head and just for myself.

But I’m surprisingly happy to have made this my first trip out of the country, and to know that it will most definitely not be my last. …It’s strange to think about it. I had always thought my first non-American adventure would be either Japan, Sicily, or Australia. Not Norway, and not at the edges of winter. There wasn’t a moment of the journey that wasn’t worthwhile, and not a second I can regret.

I took this last picture, as one of the first photos snapped there. It was just walking up the street near the apartment, and the lighting was just right. It's strange when I look at it now. Because when I look at it... I no longer feel like I'm walking up the street. I feel like it was taken while walking away. And leaving behind something special.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Norway. Installment #4

A day of solo wandering.

The other day, (here at home) I was regaling some friends at my usual Karaoke hangout with a story. Something a little “odd” happened to me a little over a week ago when going out for a girl's night, and by the end of the story one of the girls gathered ‘round added that something similar happened to her once. But her story ended with a bunch of guys beating up another guy. I’m not going to go into detail, this is supposed to be about Norway, and I promise I’m getting there. I replied to the end of her story, “Yeah, I don’t need a bunch of guys.” A friend of mine laughed, and I looked at him very curiously. “What’s that about?” I asked. He shook his head, “No, I just agree. I know you are TOTALLY capable of handling your own shit.”

This has been happening often. The other night I was informed by a coworker whom is former Air Force that he was under the impression that I was also former military. When I asked why, his conclusion was that I seem very “proper,” “confident,” “educated,” and “assertive.”

That same night, when I told another friend that I want to move away and start over soon.Possibly Seattle. She gave me a hug, told me that she has every confidence that I will do well in that endeavor, and that she doesn’t feel that way about many females she knows. She would worry about others being unprotected etc. but me, I can take care of myself.


I’m starting to wonder if there’s such a thing as TOO confident? And looking back at my last full day in Oslo, only makes me all the more curious. I do some reckless things sometimes. Really reckless. My head KNOWS it. And yet, I don’t feel any fear. Maybe I have a broken adrenal gland? Physical fear I can sense. The anxiety of riding a rollercoaster and the heart arresting plunge. But I warn you before reading any further that you may feel a need to lecture me by the end of the blog. Please don’t. I know not everything I do is what some would refer to as “smart”, but I can’t help this adventurous/risk taking side. It’s just part of being me.

So. I’m in Norway, realizing time is quickly running out. I had preferred to venture about with company when possible while there. Sightseeing is always better in good company, and I had been a bit nervous about going off on my own. Not because of an element of danger. I just didn’t want to risk not being able to find the apartment again. That, and even if I did, I didn’t think I would be able to get back in without Josh. I have no key, no cell phone, and I don’t know about you, but my Norwegian is a bit rusty. So, I came up with a plan. And if you’ve read any of the previous installments on my experiences you know that all roads in Oslo lead to Central Station.

I asked Josh what time he would be on his way home from work and arranged to just meet him at Central Station at that time since he passes through there anyway. With that settled, the next morning I slept in an hour or two, packed a bag, and set forth. I had six and a half hours of walking around ahead of me.

But where to walk to…. Um…. Where am I??? I have this little slip of paper that says I can ride busses and trams but… ah, shit. I have no idea where anything is in relation to where I’m standing. So, in true typical Aimee fashion, I just pick a random direction and start walking. I find a McD’s on the way, grab a cheeseburger cause it’s fast and familiar, and keep on walking….And walking…. And. I’m about 2 miles out of town and find myself on a strange stretch of freeway before I decide… this probably isn’t the direction for me. I may want to choose another route before I hit Sweden. There nothing much to see on this road but an Enormous cemetery.

Interesting point to be made however, is European cemeteries have a FAR different feel than what we observe in America. They are worth exploring if you get the chance. But I will get more into that on my next, and very final installment of my experiences, along with the ferry ride to the ancient ruins, and trip to the movies.

Moving on… I’m walking this stretch of lonely road and decide before I abandon the city limits altogether I may want to consider the train stop coming up. (I had been following tracks) So, I board the train and take it back to the city. (Thank GOD for my magic little slip of paper)

Once to Central Station I spent a bit of time looking over some maps. I couldn’t understand much of them, but Josh had armed me with some of his travel booklets, and I finally deciphered how to get to the district that housed the Palace.

This is National Theatre.

There are statues at every turn it seems. I broke out my camera tripod and tried setting the timer. If I look annoyed, it's because this is the 5th attempt at getting the damn thing to work.

Proof that not ALL statues in Oslo are naked ;)

It is a GORGEOUS area. The architecture is to DIE for. I would have LOVED to brought my grampa there. His mason’s mind would have been in overload. I know I was thinking of him. (He built half of Crystal Lake) I walked around, me and my bus pass, winter coat, ninja turtle hat, and camera. Strolling about admiring when… It starts to rain. I should have included an umbrella in that list of take-alongs.

I froze for a bit but enjoyed all the same. Looking, snapping photos, and finally took shelter under a gazebo. My heavy DOWN winter coat was saturated. The long sleeves of my shirt were soaked with thirty three degree rain. I needed to get warm.

So I found a mall across the street from National Theatre. Bookstores are always a favorite respite, and I had some last minute gifts to pick up besides. And I found some REALLY cool stuffs in there! The first and last mall that seemed reasonably priced that I encountered there. I found a handful of bday presents that I snagged up, and found a nice warm corner of the coffee house style food court to rest in while I begged my jacket and sleeves to dry.

When it was time to move on, I was very resolved in attempting to find the palace. It was the whole reason I came to this district after all. So. I packed up, put my still wet coat back on. And I sallied forth. I let instinct guide me again, and somehow found myself on the palace grounds.HAZAAH!!!!

It’s exquisite. The jewel of the ornate masterpiece surrounding it. You feel very welcomed and free to roam about the grounds and can walk right up to the back door of the building. The statues and ornaments are grand, and the guards at every post seem to be understanding and with a sense of honor in their full dress uniforms.

These are a couple of the statues and what I would think to be what the horse drawn carriages used to drive down. Thats what my imagination was seeing anyway.

We are arrogant pricks.

When you walk through this beautiful area, you are reminded of something out of a fairytale. It’s a trip to a distant time and way of life. Proper, polite, cultured… Yet when you get to the front of the building and gaze across the street, you start to hear phantom heavy breathing like your listening to a pervert through a drive through speaker. Foreboding music starts to fill your brain’s empty spaces. And you expect someone to put you in a choke hold demanding the Deathstar plans you had the audacity to intercept.

THIS is the US embassy.

In the heart of all that is beautiful we dropped a big black geometric shape, on a street corner with no plant life or warmth. Against wishes. Now these pictures were taken from a bus I was on as we cruised past. I was going to take a pic from the street, but whereas the palace guard made you feel welcomed but watched. The American guards just made you feel you were about to get tased. Maybe I feel an occasional tick of fear after all.

I moved on.

I found my way back to Central Station and very much wished to make a trip in daylight to Naked People Park.

So, I looked over the tram lines, boarded one, and got…… Horribly lost. Very very very lost.

I ended up in a rather rough looking neighborhood, with vacant lots, and graffiti laden walls. But try try again. I got off the tram. Yes, alone, in this abstract area. The people seemed very nice actually. :)

Eventually I did figure out the right bus to take, and found my way.

By time I was finished with my last visit to the park, my feet were soaked and numb, and I was shivering with cold. I threw a few coins into an accordion players hat, unable to imagine anyone being able to withstand being out in this weather night and day without other option. She seemed grateful and gave me a smile and nod that warmed me some as she picked up the tempo.

I had very little time left to kill, before meeting back up with Josh, but slay it I must. So I headed back to the station, thinking I could browse the couple of shops within. That’s when I found I was a very short distance from it all along. Ooops. I had simply gone in the wrong direction on the right line the first time. Looks like I have more than a “little” time to kill.

Hey! The EMO mall!!! (You’ll understand more of this in the next blog too.)

I walked a couple blocks down to this very vertical mall hoping to slay some of the remaining minutes. That’s when it hit me. That insuppressible human urge. And following the little hieroglyphs that are familiar enough to indicate “bathroom” (I don’t read Norwegian remember) I walked past what I had assumed was a customer service, or information counter to the lavatory door. …It was not a service counter. It was the desk for what the Norwegian signs likely said “pay toilet.” I got a few dirty looks as if I were trying to steal something, and blushingly just walked away when I figured it out. I did not have the coin to use it. I gave it all to the accordion player.

So, I gave up on the window shopping, walked back to the station where I was more familiar, and waited in the entry for the next 20 minutes or so; watching the rain drizzle outside, cold, tired, and contemplative on all the adventures of the week. I wanted a hot cup of chocolate, and good rest before my flight. I got both. :)