Saturday, September 24, 2016

A system for idiots

When living abroad, it's impossible not to compare the new place with your experiences from the past. During the past eight years I've found many things I like about the USA, and many I just can't stand.

I love flavored coffee and flavored mashed potatoes. I love that gas is cheap.

I am disgusted by the healthcare system, weak animal rights laws, and people's unwillingness to care for the less fortunate. To me, it is self evident that the stronger must care for the weaker. Here, many people have an attitude of, "I don't care - I'm keeping my money." Or, "All the homeless people are just lazy. People on unemployment are lazy and watch TV. Immigrants just come here to get welfare."

I've even encountered people who have asked how I can be good at math when I'm a woman. Because, you know, the female brain would logically be smaller than the male, so women must be dumber.

On the other side of the coin, there are many fantastic, wonderful, dedicated people. So many people do so much good to outweigh the bad, out of no other reasons than wanting to help, that it can restore a person's faith in humanity. People work selflessly around the clock to feed the hungry, build houses for the homeless, and care for those in need.

You don't see that in Sweden, at least not to the same extent, because our society is so different.

One thing I don't like here, and I think it's the root to many problems, is that it's becoming a society built for idiots. I'm not saying the American people are idiots, at least not yet, but so much has been geared towards selling things through relieving people from the need to think.

Religion is an example. In the USA, I have met some truly devoted people who live like they learn and do incredible amounts of good.

There are also huge churches with extremely rich pastors - funded by the congregations - that have nothing to do with faith. Sure, the congregations slap stickers on their cars about, "Keep Christ in Christmas," or "What Would Jesus Do," but what really happened is that they've been spoon-fed tiny pieces of a book. Only pieces that fits their pastor and his or her agenda. They've turned off their brains and have no interest in thinking or learning. Actually, many have told me that learning is detrimental, because knowing things would cause them not to act on faith.

I have met many people who don't have an opinion of their own on anything - they have to ask their pastor what to think.

"What do you think about the price of gas?"
"I don't know. I have to ask my pastor." "

What do you think about the war in [wherever, there's always a war]"
"I don't know. I have to ask my pastor."

I even met one young woman who was falling for a young man in her bible class, but she wanted to ask her pastor if it would be okay for her to date him.

I guess if this makes them happy that's fine, but it is counterproductive for growth. If you have a society with a dictator, it's convenient to have a population who will obey without question. A democracy requires people to think and make independent decisions.

Up until now I still haven't cared all that much about the "system for idiots" because besides being annoying it hasn't affected me personally.

Now, I have to stage my house.

The goal is to get as much money as possible for my home. I get that, and I need money. Since the house is located in the USA, I have to adapt to the real estate market here. I get that too.

It's still stupid.

As a Swede, I consider a real estate transaction an affair that involves real estate. I sell or buy a piece of land that may have a building.  If there is a building, I'm interested in the shape.

In the USA, you sell or buy a dream.

Turn on any home improvement channel and you'll see what I mean. People are herded from house to house, looking at furniture that has been rented for the sake of home staging, saying, "Oh look, I could sit here and read when I come home from work. And look at that table, what a perfect spot for morning coffee."

This is my favorite: someone stares at an antique urn or an expensive sculpture and says, "Look at the decor. This place is beautiful."

You could just as well lead them through a furniture store. I always wonder if they're surprised when they arrive to move in and the house is empty. Because, that's what they bought: a house.

If the house isn't fully staged, because an actual human still lives in it, the comments become even dumber. They look into a closet the size of my bedroom and say, "It looks a little cramped" - because the person living there has more clothes than an H&M store. The point when looking at a closet is, will your clothes fit there?

I suspect these comments and reactions are staged too, because it pre-programs people on what to see when buying, so they will spend more money without thinking about it.

As a Swede, my first instinct when wanting to sell my house is to fix things on it - not rearrange the furniture, rent new furniture, or hang a lamp. When my agent realized I really don't understand, he gave me a list of things to do. Today, I'm taking all my books to storage, and I'm building a fake bed out of air mattresses, so people will want to curl up and fall asleep in the back bedroom.

The inner viking says I shouldn't comply, because doing so is detrimental to the common good, but this time she'll have to sit down and be quiet, because I really need to sell my house. I'm broke, lol.

Consider this: if you never have to think, if you're constantly encouraged not to think and you have everything spoon-fed to you, will you know how to think when you need to? 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Halloween is the time...

I normally try to avoid discussing religion, because it's such a loaded subject. And, in my country it's considered polite to have a "live and let live" approach - you can believe whatever you want as long as you don't involve other people.

That being said, I consider myself Wiccan. I feel that the Scandinavian flavor of Wicca differs from the American, but that's not the point. I identify with many elements of Wicca, such as a reverence for nature and respect for other people. The Wiccan rede is basically, do what's right for you, but don't harm anyone.

The law of threes is also a big thing: whatever you send out to the world will come back to you threefold. Send out love and you shall receive love. Send out malice, and you will receive malice. Send out kindness and joy, you get the idea.

I also carry a pentacle as a necklace. I've carried it for at least fifteen years and I suspect it has become such an integral part of who I am that people don't notice it.

Anyway, today at work I sat in the break room, having lunch in peace and quiet. We were talking about black cats and one of our volunteers said, "Halloween is the time when them witches and covens sacrifice black cats, and there are cat parts everywhere."

That is not a thing a Wiccan would do. Animals are our friends and will be protected. Many wiccans are vegetarians. Remember the law of threes; if you are cruel, cruelty will come back to you threefold.

I guess some satanistic cult might do a thing like that, but not "them witches and covens." And I still have a hard time imagining cat parts everywhere.

"I'm sorry, what?"

He sounded patient. "Where I used to live, them witches and covens sacrifice cats, so no one adopts out cats in the month of October."

I thought, "Do you really not see the huge star hanging from my neck?" but decided to keep a calm and neutral approach.  I said, "That doesn't sound right."

"It's true. I wouldn't believe it either if I hadn't seen it."

I hurried to gobble down the rest of my food and fled back to my desk.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Challenge for the Giving Challenge

In my corner of Florida, there's something called The Giving Challenge where organizations raise money during an intense 24-hour period. This is Cat Depot's biggest fundraiser of the year, and the money helps us help thousands of cats every year.

So far so good.

My problem: everyone at Cat Depot has an assignment: to ask people we know to help. I am awful at this. I hate asking people I know for money, so this will probably be my one big attempt. :-)

What's cool about it is that donors new to the Giving Challenge will have their contributions matched 2:1. That means, if you give the kitties $25, they will get $75. If you participated last year your contribution will still be doubled, so $25 will become $50.

If you participate because I ask so nicely, I'd love for you to do it in memory of Mike. He would have liked that, and it would mean a lot to me. Cat Depot has been my "safe place" during everything that has happened this last year. It is an organization filled with truly dedicated people, creating miracles for cats. If you're in the area, come in and ask for a tour. The building is like a Tardis: definitely bigger on the inside.

The Giving Challenge is active September 20-21. It is possible to pledge now and get a reminder when the time comes.

Thank you!


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Friday, September 9, 2016

Moment of self-insight, lol

I like to think I have a pretty good view of who I am, and of how I will react in certain situations. Today I had a rare moment of self-insight, showing I might not be the great heroic figure my imagination paints out.

Let's back up to the beginning: my daytime job has cats. It's awesome - they're everywhere. 

Cats are agile, many are very curious, and some are extremely energetic. No matter how safe an environment you try to create, some will find a way to get themselves into trouble. We even had one who tried to open doors through balancing on the door handles. Today, fate combined an adventure-cat with a place she shouldn't be and a moment when no one was watching. 

Result: cat stuck in a high place unable to get down.

My roommate's first instinct when we heard was to save the cat. He went to get a ladder.

My first instinct was to grab the camera. I had it in my hand before he'd even taken two steps away from the chair.

I like to think I would have helped the cat. Truth is, it would probably have been after snapping photos, and while grumbling about how scary it is to climb ladders - my balance is pitiful. Odds are I would have fallen with the cat. Or, she would have tired of waiting for me to find the ladder, attempted to jump down, and broken something.

Good thing my roommate was there.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Please vote for Covert Identity!

I got an e-mail from Ind'Tale Magazine today, saying my cover for Covert Identity has been chosen for a contest. Please vote! :-)

The cover is made by Taria Reed, and the book published with Desert Breeze Publishing.

To vote, follow this link: http://indtale.com/polls/creme-de-la-cover-contest

And, you're looking for this:

Sunday, July 31, 2016

What to do now?

After everything that happened, it's too soon to make any major life decisions. But, I must admit I've been longing to go home for quite some time. I miss my country. Florida is hot, muggy, and crowded. Sometimes I think there are more cars in this city than in all of Sweden.

I do like Cat Depot. I like the people at Cat Depot - I have some really great friends there - and naturally the cats at Cat Depot. What else... I like that gas is cheap, and I really like Hazelnut coffee. Gas in Sweden has always been expensive, and unless it made a leap across the ocean in the last couple of years, we do not have hazelnut coffee.

Not sure those things are enough to keep me in a foreign country.

One of my friends asked what exactly I miss. I think she expected me to answer my family or my friends. Of course I miss my mom and my friends. I have some fantastic friends in Sweden.

But, thanks to modern technology, it's possible to keep in touch even with an ocean in between. If and when I move back there, I will miss the friends I had here, and hopefully keep in touch with them too.

I want Swedish culture. I miss the things everyone do around the holidays - our holidays. I miss the taste of Swedish food. I miss vacations and paid holidays. And, I miss the Swedish spirit. It's difficult to explain, but it's the difference between staying to the side in an aisle in the grocery store, making sure you're not in other peoples' way, or running others down with your cart just because you can.

On the other hand, Sweden is cold, dark, and snowy. Sometimes an entire summer rains away. If I move back, I will lose a lot of my English, which will make being a writer more difficult.

Going through Mike's things and fixing up the house will take time. Listing it for sale will also take time. After that, I guess we'll see what happens. Going home and moving my pets home would require a fair amount of money. I am concerned that once I get there I won't like it at all and want to go back here - that could happen.

Decisions, decisions...

 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I'm a widow

When I was a little girl, I imagined a widow as a very old person with wrinkly face, body bent by time, and arthritic hands. In my mind, widows always wore layers of black, and clutched their black veils.

I never imagined it to be me.

A couple of days ago, it happened anyway.

Five-year-old me would have found 44 quite old, but still not old enough to fit her stereotype. 44-year-old me feels I'm decades too young for this. Relationships start and end, it happens all the time, but usually not like this.

Predictably, my feelings are a roller-coaster. Mike spent the last couple of months in the hospital, at hospice, and in a nursing home, and that makes it easier. I was already getting used to him not being here. I still expect him to show up at any moment, or send a text.

Whenever something share-worthy happens, my first instinct is still to snap a photo and send it to him. It will take a long time before that passes.

There is grief of course, and relief. No one should have to suffer pain like he did. He was sick for years, in pain for years.

From time to time I'm angry with him, for many different reasons, and that makes me feel guilty - you're not really supposed to be angry with people who are dead. I'm guessing all this is normal.

I'm spending the week hiding at Cat Depot. It's my favorite hiding spot, filled with friendly cats and people who act normal. I wasn't going to, but when people started texting me about getting Mike's things mere hours after he passed, I decided going to work was the perfect excuse not to have to deal with anyone.

Some people have shown up with lists of items they feel entitled to, because at some point in time Mike mentioned they could have this or that. Of course I'll share memories of him and stuff doesn't mean all that much to me, but maybe give me a couple of days to re-find my footing?

Also, I'm not sure I'm willing to give away the few things he had that are worth actual money when he left me with tens of thousands of dollars in bills. Saying how this expensive item has a great sentimental value to you doesn't give you any points when I'm selling everything I have - items I've had for decades and brought to America from Sweden - to try to catch up.

Oops, guess anger showed its ugly face again.

Mike's family have arranged a get together for Friday. After that, I intend to cuddle my pets. After that, not sure.

I guess I can do whatever I want - it will take some time getting used to that too.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Sorcerer - it's here!

My new book is here! Yippee! I'm very excited about this one.  The Sorcerer is available as e-book now, and should be out as paperback in a few days. 


Blurb:



When Anne accepts a job in a German boarding school for gifted children, her main concern is surviving without California’s sunshine and beaches. She doesn’t anticipate anything more dangerous than getting lost in an unfamiliar place. Nowhere does her work description mention three men betting on who will get her into bed first, or being rescued by the reclusive math teacher David Lindeman, a man her new friends claim is evil incarnate.

The old castle houses many secrets, and as days go by Anne finds it increasingly difficult to separate reality and superstition. She becomes a reluctant participant in an ancient battle between good and evil, and to survive, she must channel a power from deep within herself she could never have imagined. Who can she trust in a world where myths become real and nothing is what it seems?

Excerpt: 


"Go back that way. The third door to the left leads to an old staircase. Be careful, the wood is old. It will take you to a back room in the archive. I'm sure you can find your way from there."
It wasn't the way she came in, but that didn't matter. 
She caught a glimpse of the other man's face over David's shoulder. He stared at her in a strange way, like a famished person who sees food for the first time in days.
"Thank you, Professor. I wish there were a GPS version of you. You're the only one around here who gives directions that make sense."
"Yes, I'm quite wonderful. Now go."
She took a couple of steps, but paused and glanced back. David held his position between her and the other man, and she could swear she saw glowing red eyes behind him.
"Maybe you should come with me?"
"Just go."
He hadn't raised his voice, but he didn't need to. She heard the urgency anyway and hurried along the corridor as fast as she could without running. 
Behind her, she heard David's voice. "No. She is not for you."
The reply sounded more like an animal than a person, and she broke out in a full run.
First door, second door, third door...
The wood was crooked and swollen, and for a panicked moment she didn't think the gateway to safety would open.
David's voice reached her from a distance. "...and I said, 'No.'"
Sounded like a battle of wills. Hopefully, the creepier guy wouldn't win.
She gave one final hard tug and the door squeaked open. When she pulled it shut behind her she thought she heard someone shout.
Just the old hinges and your imagination.
One part of her claimed she should go back and see if David was alright.
A bigger part said she should listen to him and get a move on. If she could open the door, others could too. Other... things.
She stood in a small space barely lit by a dusty bulb. A narrow wooden staircase led upwards, into darkness. 
He wasn't kidding. This thing is ancient.
She scaled it one step at a time like a little girl, testing her weight on each step before relying on it. A couple squeaked too much or felt like they would give way, and she took a large step over them.
The spiders in the corners appeared the size of kittens.
Nothing approached from behind, but she kept glancing back, hearing imaginary footsteps.
It took a long time to get to the archive and from there to the ground floor.

Click here to see the book on Amazon.