My family and I spent the first week of the new year in Athens. Being around ruins that still exist after thousands and thousands of years makes one feel not so old.
A few interesting things to know if you are planning on visiting Athens for the first time:
- In most places, you cannot flush your toilet paper. It must go in the trash can. (Tip, stay in a modern-ish hotel or wait to go to the bathroom at a huge, modern museum – like we did!)
- Almost every street is lined with orange trees! They are full of seeds, but you can still eat them. Free breakfast or juice!
- These people really like sesame seeds.
- Don’t bother rushing for your camera to get a photo of the small 11th century Byzantine church. There will be another one in two blocks…. and then another one after two more blocks… and so on.
- You can get a special Greek wine made from pine resin called Retsina. It’s allright.
- Stray cats EVERYWHERE! On the flip side… no rats!
Athens was a really nice city, super friendly people, good food and lots to see. I’d definitely recommend it as a fun city trip. Maybe not in the summer when it’s overcrowded, but the winter was perfect (though we happened to arrive on the one week of the year it was actually cold).
Yesterday was Lucia day here in Sweden, the holiday where we celebrate St. Lucia and the light in the darkness this time of year.
Two things fascinate me about this holiday:
1. The major fire hazard
2. How does the Lucia get all that wax out of her hair?
Well, the answer to number one is that there is always somebody nearby with a bucket of water (this was my job last year). And yesterday, I found out the answer to number two when I talked to the girl who was Lucia at a concert I went to. She kindly allowed me to take a picture of the wax in her hair (most of which had already fallen out), and I was able to touch some and found that in fact, it did crumble and come out right away. I always figured the Lucia went to the hairdresser to cut everything off on December 14, but I am glad to know now that the wax does come out.
Today is Swedish mother’s day and I got one present from my youngest son a day early when I picked him up yesterday afternoon.
Mamma, I got you a present.
(digs in pocket)
Here! It’s mascara! I found it just sitting on a wall by the street. It’s still got some in it! I thought you could use it to color in your eyebrows! You’d look cool with black eyebrows!
My son, who has his bedroom adjacent to the kitchen where the radio plays, stomped out of his room very confused this morning.
“What kind of song is this? Why do they keep singing ‘we’ve got to grow it on her brow?’ I don’t get it! Grow what?!”
“Um, the lyrics are actually ‘we’ve got a groovy kind of love’ but I think I like your version better.”
My kid does this once a month to his face and all he needs is an old Sharpie marker. I’m not paying for a special “freckle marker.” This is going too far.
For the person who has everything… Well, I bet they don’t have THIS!
I like to wear jewelry, but I also like to be practical. Fortunately, I found the perfect necklace!
In my old hometown newspaper from Texas, there is an article this week about a sophomore student in high school asking the School Board to remove the ban on boys wearing earrings in school.
I have tried to explain to my Swedish husband that when I went to school in Texas, you could not dye your hair, boys could not have hair past their shoulders, no facial hair and no earrings for boys. That was combined with the usual skirts past the fingertips for girls and no hats allowed for anyone.
Apparently the schools in the place I grew up finally took away the rule about long hair for boys (fairly recently). I know the earring and facial hair rule are still in effect, as well as the skirts and hats, and I’m not sure about hair dye but I think that is still banned as well.
When my husband went to high school here in Sweden, he went through purple hair, bright red hair and blue hair, among many other colors. He also had an earring. And no one cared. He was a smart and great student. No one in class was “distracted,” as some Texas schools like to say in these situations.
Imagine at your job if a man walked in with an earring (many men at your job probably already wear one or more), facial hair (shocking!) and purple hair. You might say, “Whoa Todd, cool hair!” and then do your job. I can’t imagine anyone saying, “There is just no way I can file insurance claims when I can’t take my eyes of Todd’s earring.” or “I would save this woman’s life, but I can’t perform surgery when the ambulance driver who brought this patient in has purple hair. It’s too distracting.”
My oldest son dyed his hair orange most of last year. All this week he has been wearing fake mustaches to school, nerd glasses and a hat that looks like Sonic the Hedgehog. Surprisingly, this does not affect his work or the work of his fellow students, some who have dyed hair, wear shorts or even a rabbit suit pullover (yes, I’ve seen this twice).
I live in the real world. I ride the subway. I’ve seen people dressed as zombies, people with face tattoos, people with piercings and chains. I don’t mind any of those people as long as they TAKE A SHOWER (and don’t eat my brains, of course).
My son had a good dentist appointment this week and the dentist gave him a new toothbrush when he left. He took it out of the wrapper and slowly ran his fingers up and down, over the top.
“This is so soft. It’s like when I touch your toothbrush. It’s soft under my fingers. My old toothbrush feels like straw.”
I realized I hadn’t replaced the kids’ toothbrushes in a while. I told my son that I didn’t know his toothbrush was so hard, and that he should remind me to replace it more often.
I gave him a hug and told him he could go on ahead of me to see if his neighborhood friend was home. As I watched him run down the sidewalk, I thought about how happy I was that he didn’t have to suffer through all the problems I had at his age with my teeth. What a healthy kid. He eats well, exercises and….
Wait a minute.
“Why are you touching my toothbrush?!”
When I fell off my moped this weekend and ripped up my jeans, both of my sons said, “Well, now you’ll be in fashion.”
I saw this ad today on our neighborhood sale group for someone selling jeans. It translates to “Jeans with tears, completely NEW”
I guess you would have to emphasize that they are new, because you just never know with that fashion.
Now I’m thinking I can sell my ripped jeans on the neighborhood sale group too! My ad will read, “Jeans with tears, completely AUTHENTIC”
I haven’t been writing much lately as I don’t have time between having accidents, putting on bandages and bleeding everywhere. Also, wearing a bandage on your face really brings your self-confidence down. Speaking of that, why did all my appointments and meetings have to be scheduled last week when I was forced to wear a bandage on my chin in front of people? You know everyone probably thought I was covering up a zit instead of the half-dollar sized bleeding scab. Swedish culture dictates that it’s not polite to ask why someone’s face is all messed up. That’s why I prefer other immigrants like me, who flat out say, “Whoa! What’d you do to your face?!” Let’s just get it out there.
After going through a set of bandages and almost an entire box of Band-Aids for my chin and hands, I was finally presentable enough to take them off by Friday, a week after flying off my bike like a moron by hitting a curb full speed at the wrong angle.
So what did I do to celebrate? I took out the moped Saturday and ran it into a curb at the wrong angle, falling down and ripping up my knee, as well as my new jeans. Plus my whole right leg is covered in bruises. My husband was sent back to the store once again to purchase more large bandages that I will run out of soon because somehow my knee is still bleeding 2 days later.
I’ve learned two things over the past 2 weeks:
- “Flesh”-colored bandages on your face make you look like a serial killer.
- I should not be allowed to ride things with two wheels.
I’m leaving the house in a few minutes and walking to the subway, where I will trade in disgusting sores and bruises for contagious colds and flus. Instead of financing the bandage industry, I’ll be moving on to tissues.
Today I learned that you can’t jump a curb full speed with your bicycle if you’re a 42-year old with bad coordination and a history of extreme clumsiness.
In my head, I thought, if you just believe in yourself, you can do anything you put your mind to.
So now I have a busted up chin in a huge, hideous bandage and a mild concussion. But on the bright side, you really get to know your neighbors when you smash your face on a sidewalk. They were all helpful, and I like to think I added to their day by giving them a good story for work. “So this moron tries to jump the curb and goes flying ….”
I’ll wrap this up by reminding everyone that no matter what those inspirational books say, believing in yourself is not enough. Wear crash pads everywhere.
This is what happens when you need to shop for lipstick and leave your kids alone for 5 minutes.
At a flea market in Lisbon last weekend. If only it could have fit in my suitcase.
On our upcoming trip to Portugal, our hotel shows photos of peacocks that roam the walls and streets of the area. This was charming and exotic when we booked, but lately, I’ve been reminded of the sound a peacock makes. This may not be the relaxing trip we were hoping for.
I did one of those Face Swap photos on the phone the other day with my 9-yr old son. They always leave the faces looking quite distorted, so my son said,
“Mamma, no offense, but I don’t want your face.”
I laughed and said that was just fine, but then he continued:
“So now I don’t need to cut it off and wear it over my own face.”
(As usual, it’s amazing how statements like these tend to give you an area all to yourself on the subway.)
It’s Halloween time again. I found these great costumes from the 70s for our kids to wear. Apparently, they are refusing on the grounds of:
- “We have no idea who Mr. Kotter or Donnie & Marie are.”
- Those are the saddest, lamest costumes ever.
For the second time in a month, I’ve gotten a nasty eye infection. Yes, yes I know it’s my makeup and it’s all been thrown out now to make way for new, fresh, not-digsuting-bacteria-contaminated makeup.
The eye infection causes my eyes to swell up, turn red and develop hideous bags that go into my cheeks. I’ve taken to wearing one of those Venetian masks to the dinner table so that everyone can eat.
On Monday, we had some repair people coming to the house. I didn’t want to scare them and they had their own keys, so I took to the forest to pick blueberries for four hours.
It occured to me that I would have to go deep into the forest so as not to frighten joggers and small children. I already had a vision of someone coming up to me, tapping me on the shoulder and then running away in horror as I turned my freakish head and hissed.
We live in Scandinavia where there are numerous tales of gnomes and trolls living in the forest. I’m starting to realize where some of these tales may have originated.
My eyes are healing now and I feel confident enough to head out into society where I can buy some fresh makeup. I was a bit afraid they wouldn’t sell it to me during the height of my infection and ask me to leave the store by the back door. In which case, I would have turned them into billy goats or demanded they answer a riddle before I left.