Christmas in Norway circa 1850’s

Christmas in Norway in the 1850’s in some ways, in principle at least, isn’t that much different from how I think of Christmas today, in 2016.

Reading the memories from the attached document, at the end of this post, I see similarities. We still busy ourselves with preparations for the season in much the same way as my ancestors did. I stock the pantry for anticipated visitors. I bake holiday treats. I clean the house and decorate. I prepare the garden for winter. I put outdoor items into the shed and move things to under the protection of the eves.

I donate to the local homeless shelter and food bank. Though, I think if we had more face to face contact with those who have less, we would probably give more generously as I think my relatives did. To see the need in someone’s eyes is so much more moving then logging onto a charity website and clicking “donate”.

I think of my maternal family traditions which now must date back nearly 200 years and take pleasure in knowing that my great-grandmother passed on to her daughter traditions that continue to be passed on today.

Mom passing on the tradition to my daughters in 1994
Mom passing on the tradition to my daughters in 1994

My heart is softened to know that my daughters learned from my mother and me how to make the traditional Norwegian flatbread, lefsa.  We use the family recipe handed down by generations. BUT, with one significant change.  For, my paternal/father’s side passed down some interesting genetics.  I have had to modify the recipe, replacing wheat flour with gluten free flour.  Thankfully, gluten-free flour works wonderfully and the lefsa we make today is just as delicious as that from my childhood memories.

I would like to think that my ancestors live on in each of us.  I look into my youngest eyes, and though they are not of the dark deep blues of my grandmother, they are blue. My 3rd brother inherited the eyes of our grandmother.

I like that my family also does not have a feast on Christmas Eve. Fortunate for us, we don’t have many Norske miles to travel to church.  We can easily walk to Christmas Eve service. On Christmas Eve we keep things simple and have started some new traditions. After church, we head out to view holiday lights and decorations.  We return home and enjoy homemade sweet treats and a beverage. And, yes, on Christmas morning I toss some extra grain to our hens and a few more doggy biscuits to our sweet labrador retriever.

My oldest has introduced her husband to Lefsa and I know my youngest is a pro at making it too.

My youngest, home for the holidays a few years ago, making the lefsa.
My youngest, home for the holidays a few years ago, making the lefsa.

We think of the holiday starting with Christmas Eve and lasting through Epiphany.  I leave our decorations up as long as tolerable to brighten the dark days of winter. It’s sad that for so many, Christmas is now just a day.  We continue the celebrations with an annual New Years Eve gathering of friends. Bringing light into the darkness of winter.

Lastly, I do wish my grandmother had passed on her gift of descriptive storytelling. I will practice and with practice, just maybe I’ll get a bit better.

Attached is the copy of document recounting my grandmother’s memories of her mother’s stories about Christmas in Norway. May everyone be so blessed to have traditions to share.  What is your story?

Tollefson Christmas In Norway

Here is our family recipe: tollefson-lefsa-recipe

Stack of lefsa.
Stack of lefsa.

My year of iPhonography – 2016.

I was surprised to realize one doesn’t need to travel far to find objects or scenes of interest and intrigue. I picked 12 of my favorite images from 2016. Surprisingly, half of my favorites were taken within yards of my house, others from just a few miles away.

How did I pick these twelve shots? I quickly went through my images and labeled ones that were favorites. I then selected ones that created an emotion, feeling or memory for me.  Not just another record shot. I then sorted the 80+ images into sets: black and white, food, landscapes, macro’s, people, animals, insects, artistry shots and such. I then narrowed it down to one or two from each category.

I’m certainly learning what interests me and along the way I’m surprised that my passion in photography turned out to NOT be just macro’s of flowers. It will be interesting to see what 2017 brings as I acquired my new iPhone and DXO camera attachment towards the 2nd half of 2016. I’m just beginning to learn the new phone and camera features. I hope 2017 allows me the time to take more photos and to explore new ways to see life.

Make Believe Fireflies
Shot with DxO ONE
First Shot
Shot with DxO ONE Image provided to yosemite conservancy limited one time social media use. 9/19/2016 saved Large 820x1200
The Classic Shot
Shot with DxO ONE
Shot with DxO ONE
Fireside Light
Toy Life
Wings Of Glass
Moonlight On The Mountain
Moonlight On The Mountain
Shot with DxO ONE
Evening Layers
Shot with DxO ONE
Forbidden Offerings
One Last Look

On this day, November 8, 2016

September 2001

EDITED: November 22, 2016

Sadly, the election did not turn out as expected. The poles were wrong and we’re learning about the influence that social media may have played in affecting the outcome of this election.  I had hoped that 2016 would have been the year we saw a woman elected as President.  I still have faith that we will see a great woman leader in my lifetime.  The following is still my hope.

How wonderful it will be for all our daughters to live in a nation where a woman CAN and WILL be POTUS.  Confirmed by a woman leader that will help tear down the inequalities and help heal this nation.

Wondering what it will be like for my future grandchildren to never know any difference between who can be a leader.


November 8th, 2016

Thankful for my therapy dog who faithfully stayed by my side while through out this election cycle.
Thankful for my dog who faithfully stayed by my side through out this election cycle.

Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote. The 19th amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote.

Will we get our lives back?  Will the anxiety go away? Will “America be great again”? Wait, we aren’t great?

This years election cycle has been really ugly. What it has done is make me even more conscientious of my voting rights and choices as a woman.  I have always read initiatives and propositions but this year I went through them at least three times and read for myself the actual text of the initiatives.  None of this reading the arguments for and against or allowing myself to be swayed by the media.  I decide for myself.  I reflected on my personnel values and ethics and thought hard about the choices I was making.

The final work of filling out my ballot spanned 7 days.  That gave me time to really mull things over.  I like to think things through without being pressured.

It was nice when the first door to door canvasser came by yesterday I could say, “I’ve already voted.”  Yep, the ballot is in the envelop, sealed and ready to be dropped of this morning downtown. Almost a week early.

I am worried though, will the elected candidate for president be able to unify this divided nation?  The ugliness and marginalizing of fellow humans has me really frightened.  I’m concerned that some American’s are living with so much fear of their fellow humans just because they practice a different religion, have a different sexual orientation or are the opposite sex, their skin is a different shade or they are poor, a refugee or from another country. I also want a leader that leads by example with a high standard of morals and compassion demonstrated by their personal life and behaviors. And for God’s sake can speak above a fourth grade level.

Well, the waiting is almost over. I pray that the people of this nation will accept the results of the election.  I fear that there may be violence and unrest after the election.

I know how much thought and education it took for me to make my informed decisions on the 17  state initiates this year on the California ballot. California has the longest ballot in the nation this year.  I’m worried that the average American (a “C” student) doesn’t have the education to comprehend what they are voting for or why. Many are just doing as they are told and voting on emotions based on false ideals. By visiting rural areas of states like Pennsylvania this fall and speaking with locals, I get their frustrations.  It was good to understand better where they are coming from.

Now, back to that 19th amendment thing.  My mom was born in June of 1919.  She told me stories that she obviously was told about how her mother (my grandmother) marched and fought for this right of women to vote.  I wonder if she shared these stories with my brothers.  She always took voting seriously and all women must take voting seriously.

The time is right for a woman, mother and grandmother to heal this nation. This nation is in need of some serious mothering.

Thankful for my therapy dog who faithfully stayed by my side while through out this election cycle.

Yosemite Conservancy features my photo, The Classic.

Honored to have one of my iPhonography/DxO images selected and featured by the Yosemite Conservancy.

Earning income and providing care is equally necessary and should be equally valued.

I believe in the goodness, kindness and general integrity of all people. But why has it come to the point where we don’t value or respect caregivers? Especially those in the professions that raise and educate our future generation. The very ones who will be responsible for our care and well being when we are old.

Often those who provide care are not paid a living wage, sometimes they are not paid at all, they receive no benefits and have no retirement coverage. Low pay, underpaid, under valued, over worked conditions are happening in all fields of business but especially with those who are our care providers.  And on top of that, our care givers are treated without respect. Who will raise our children and take care of our sick and elderly if we can not improve the circumstances of our care providers?

Recently, I spoke with a nurse who explained how she’d be responsible for 7 patients, 5 might be non-ambulatory and if one needed mobility assistance (say with getting to the bathroom) and could not be left unattended, what happens when one of the other 6 patients need mobility assistance at the same time? There was no “back up” support on staff.

I know a teacher that has Special Needs children who don’t even belong in their Special Education classroom. These children’s developmental needs are so low on the scale they belong in county programs or in day care until they are ready for a classroom setting. This teacher isn’t even credentialed or licensed to provide the services they are being asked to provide. And, on top of that, they are asked to take on more children then is recommended by the state with no support staff, with children that they are not licensed to provide bathroom care or seizure care for. I feel for these children, their parents and the teacher.

Teachers and nurses should NOT be in tears every day at the end of their shift. Nurses and teachers are so exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally that they not only put their own lives at risk but that of those they care for.

Why do we hear that there is a huge nursing and teaching shortage? I see literally thousands of postings for qualified teachers, para-educators and nurses, nursing aide’s etc. in the Bay Area.

Yet I know many, many teachers and nurses and experienced middle aged women who chose parenting over careers who wish to reenter the work force, not being able to get these jobs. The school districts and health profession make the qualifications ridiculous for applicants. If they do get hired they are asked the impossible, not given the tools and staff support they need to perform their job and at the slightest slip up are let go. I recall that 30 years ago (before I myself chose to have children) companies provided training to new employees.

Today’s situation is only hurting the children and the patients. The longer these positions go unfilled, then what is happening with those wages that should be going to employees? By not hiring enough staff, by not hiring aid’s for enough hours such that benefits must be paid are these business’s just making their bottom line look good?

We are led to believe that if we are admitted as a patient to a hospital that it is fully staffed. It is not!

We are led to believe that our children’s educators have the support and resources they need for our children. They do not!

I know that many teachers are trained well, mean well, and have the knowledge to ask for what’s best for our children. Because of the bureaucracy of the corporate entity that runs our schools, the work a teacher wants to accomplished is sometimes brought to a complete halt.

Why is it that school kitchen staff and janitorial staff (who get benefits) are paid more then a para-educator who these days barely makes minimum wage, is not allowed to work more then 25-29 hours so that a districts doesn’t have to pay benefits but at times maybe left responsible for a full class of children? This leaves teachers without assistance for hours each day. Children that should be in Special Education classes are mainstreamed. Disrupting those classes and put into a situation where the teacher is not qualified to meet that child’s needs. Mild to moderate Special Education children are not getting the services they need. Moderate to severe learning disability children are put into classroom setting where there are too many children to have their needs met. The diagnosis are removed from the reports or hidden from the very teachers who are to be teaching them. And children that belong in county programs are put into classrooms where they are lost and confused. Again making it nearly impossible, if not completely impossible, for the teacher to teach those they are trained to teach.

I am deeply saddened for these children and their families. Only those that are financially well off can afford to hire private tutoring, therapy and interventions to help their children reach their full potential.

It is a wonder that children learn anything in schools these days because teachers are so overwhelmed dealing with emotionally disturbed (ED), ADHD and behavior/learning disability children that distract the classroom so much that there is little ability for the teacher to actually teach.

I wonder if the “no child left behind” is actually LEAVING ALL CHILDREN BEHIND.

Why have we forsaken our caregivers?

What are some of the solutions?

Stop paying ridiculous salaries to those who add no value. (The top management) Hire more support where it is needed. Let teachers and nurses do their jobs and hire enough staff for the student and patient needs.

Put trust and respect back where it belongs, with those who serve. Make teaching, nursing and care taking respected careers. Begin by paying an equitable salary based on the amount of education required for the job.

Start supporting families again and get back to the 8 hour work day. I recently read a study that an office worker becomes ineffective after about 6 hours of work and all other workers performance declines after 8 hours.

Why are we still one of only two countries that doesn’t have paid maternity leave? How can hourly workers afford to take time off for a sick child or family member if they have no paid leave time?

The following thoughts are either inspired by, a direct quote or rewording of text from the inspiring and well written book Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter. I think you will get the idea of where I’m headed with these thoughts and why I’m perplexed and/or frustrated by the state of care in this nation. As this book also points out, feminism has done much to advance our awareness of the need for equality but now the issue of care is as much a men’s issue as a women’s issue and as much of an issue for our nation as a whole. I hope this blog post has got you questioning they way things are in a different light then you may have previously thought of these issues.

*The problem of care, or more precisely, of not valuing care is what’s at issue here. We need teachers, child care providers, elder care providers and people who will raise our children of the future

*Is it no more justifiable to value the production of income over the provision of care?

*Care produces people.

*Countless women have described the ways they become invisible the minute they left paid work to take care of their children or other family members.

*How come when a women is doing paid work she is called a “working mother” but a father is never called a “working father”?

* Regarding when a woman becomes the lead parent: “it’s like all of sudden we don’t exist when we leave paid work to become care givers. Now we are “Nobody”. In other words, if all you do is care for other people, an activity just as if not more essential to the survival of the human race as earning an income, you lose your very identity as a person of value.”

*There is a devaluing of and discrimination against caregivers.

*“if a woman takes time out completely, her time spent caregiving is a black mark on her resume going forward, a hole that she will try to cover over or explain away when and if she tries to reenter the job market.”  And I’ve noted that volunteer work to fill those gaps is just about as disrespected and devalued as caregiving.

*Motherhood penalty – have a baby and a woman loses just about any chance of promotion, decreased long term financial stability and will be much worse off when she is elderly then a man. The amount a man will earn greater then a woman will earn over a life time just based on wage inequality is staggering and those greater earnings will earn greater wealth overtime then a woman’s.

* The nation and business’s are losing out on a vast amount of talent.

Also from the book:  caregivers are “the custodians of human capital.  In a richer and more sensitive rhetoric, they are the nurturers of humanity itself.”

I’ll be posting again soon.

Took a break from posting. Will be pack shortly. Lots going on in the world, just trying to figure an appropriate way to write helpful or entertaining content not just negative banter. Meaningful reflective writing is sometimes hard.

Just be mindful!

Tragic events fill the headlines. That’s not new news!

I retire in the evening to bed, only to make the mistake of looking at my news feed to learn of yet another attack, this time in Nice, France. I awake to my news feed analyzing the latest shooting, explosion or tragedy.

Gone are the days when news traveled slowly. Decades ago, often, something happening on the other side of the world never made it to our newspaper or radio. If it did, it most likely wasn’t accompanied by photos or graphic video complete with audio or articles followed with a vitriol of hateful and hurtful commentators that only fuel the divide.

What’s worse is that breaking, tragic headline news will be replaced with another breaking, tragic headline, often in less then 24 hours. The prior tragic event will drift away from the headline. Will anything have been learned? Will anything ever change?

Technology has made the news that is newsworthy hard to distinguish from all the background stories. I want to keep informed and to be educated on current local, national and global events and research outcomes. But, I haven’t figured out how to sort through all the information that this vast news highway is constantly streaming onto my screen.

I need my screen. My screen has become my phone, my camera, my bank, my electronic mail, my calendar, my alarm clock, my entertainment and my modern day rolodex. At least it fits my concept of minimalism.

Back to the news: so much hate, so much miss understanding, so much lack of empathy and lack of compassion passes before my eyes. How can I make sense of it all?

Can we just stop and look deep into the eyes of the one we fear or hate or judge? Hold their gaze. Look at each other. What do you think you’ll see?

In most instances you will see another human being. Someone who is loved and is important to others. Someone who is trying to get by in life: to have the minimum of shelter, food, clothing and maybe a bit more. Occasionally you will unfortunately see fear, anguish and imbalance.  This is when we must show our most vulnerable side, continue to look into that individuals eyes with the greatest amount of compassion you can find. Look back with empathy. Offer to just listen. Sometimes this maybe all that we can offer. It’s hard to do. It’s a lot easier to just avoid or pretend they don’t exist or maybe worse, tell them how wrong or messed up they must be.

Many of the individuals who have committed many of these acts of violence, I believe, most likely have a mental imbalance. They have a fear or hatred that has festered and grown out of a lack of education and understanding. Often it seems we learn that most of these acts are acts by individuals acting alone. The blame maybe put on a particular group or a particular group may take credit for the act.

As FDR said the “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”

We can’t give up on fighting for everyones rights. Collectively I pray that our individual voices will be the change. I maybe only one voice. I will do what I can. I continue to write to my elected officials on issues that resonate with me.

I continue to seek renewal through nature so that I can provide what little support I can to those whose lives maybe in need of compassion when our paths cross.

I would rather have written today about providing water for bee’s or another poor food labeling job on a product not disclosing hidden gluten. But, I had to free these thoughts, so I can continue to move forward and be a small part of the change, the amount of change that one, just one person can be.

As the generations before us have said, history repeats itself. When will we learn from the past? Haven’t we seen this all before?

Thank God My Toilet Bowl Cleaner is GLUTEN FREE!

Oh my gosh, I am so relieved to know that my TOILET BOWL CLEANER is GLUTEN FREE.  I plan on drinking my toilet water! NOT!

So, let me get this right, my bacon and ice cream, because they are meat and dairy products, DON’T have to be labeled if they are processed on equipment or in a facility with wheat, or contain added gluten according to the FDA. But my toilet cleaner is labeled?  


Guess what? Processed, even just sliced and packaged products of meats and ice cream are known to contain enough gluten to make me sick.

I’ve been having vague tummy issues so I’ve been trying to narrow it down to what I’ve eaten lately.  In doing so, I emailed Trader Joe’s the following:

How can I verify if products are produced in a gluten free facility? Are your Uncured Bacon Ends & Pieces and French Vanilla Ice Cream Gluten Free?  They are on not on your Gluten Free Online pdf list.  I am Celiac and am trying to figure out what I am reacting to.

Trader Joes Reply: Thank you for contacting us with your product inquiries.  In response, both of the products referenced do not contain any gluten ingredients, however, they have not been tested for possible cross contamination.  Therefore, we do not make a “gluten free” claim for these products.

They didn’t answer the first part of my question:  Are they produced in a gluten free facility?

Duh, I can read the ingredients label and know that gluten wasn’t added but I’m asking about cross contamination.

Trader Joe’s used to be one of my favorite stores.  But over the last couple of years I find I am buying fewer and fewer of their products for this very reason.

Back to making more homemade ice cream, homemade granola, my own baked goods and buying real food that I can identify the species: a banana, an egg, a zucchini etc.  I’m realizing that meat “if packaged” may not be safe.  I can usually get a straight answer from the butcher at the local market.  Did you know that a packaged  “fresh” turkey or packaged bacon can contain gluten?  And as mentioned, legally  ice cream doesn’t need to be labeled.  Dairy and meat are exempt from the FDA lbelling law of the top 8 allergens.


Minimalist, minimize, simplify, declutter – Help someone in need.

Ok, so if you’re been reading my blog ( you know I’ve been on this decluttering obsession for nearly 4 1/2 years now.  I don’t do things fast. I like to think things through and mull them over for awhile.  And, I certainly don’t like throwing things out or putting them into the landfill.  I will hold onto things until I find someone who will buy the item or who can use it or if the item can be recycled, reused or repurposed, then I see that it is taken to the appropriate place.

Yes, sometimes, I hold onto things for an absurd amount of time. Take the large grocery sized bag of feminine hygiene products that I had set aside about four years ago. (Thank you Costco size packages) My daughters have long since moved out and I don’t have a need for these products anymore. Feminine hygiene products aren’t cheap. I wanted to donate them to a shelter but hadn’t until last week. I finally researched where I could take these items. I discovered a homeless shelter that I had not know about that isn’t too far away that had these items on their wish list. I’m sure they will be greatly appreciated. In the past I had taken things to another shelter several communities away but I don’t often go that way. This place is much closer.

Well, this got me thinking. There are other items that the homeless need.

I’ve been on this home “inventory project” for a few weeks now, since I read Joshua Becker’s book The More Of Less. My home inventory app makes it very obvious when we have multiples of the same thing. I discovered that even though I had donated some old car camping sleeping bags a few years ago, we still had held onto two bags. We also have a collection of various backpacking and camping tents. We don’t need all of these bags, tents or sleeping pads.

Ah ha! Light-bulb moment! I now know where I could take these items and they can be used rather then stored in my garage.

My life will become simpler and my/our “stuff” that has cluttered up closets, drawers and garage will be of use to someone truly in need. It doesn’t do anyone any good to hold onto this stuff.

We are getting much better at the rule we now try to follow, for each new item in, one item must go out. If we replace something or update with a newer product, send the older item on its way.

I’ve lived in this home for 30 plus years and we have saved things for “just in case!”.  Well, that “just in case” rarely ever happens and if it did, chances are we forgot we had saved the item let alone have any chance in finding it when we needed it. Its better to recycle, reuse or donate items ASAP.

Thank you for reading and here’s hoping you’ll look at the “stuff” you have and realize how freeing it will be to pass the items on, give them a 2nd life or help someone in need.

Shelter Donated Items:

sleeping bags


sleeping pads

LED camp lantern

Day packs – REI hiking day packs

camp sleep pillows



hygiene products