My Friday Book: “Just One Damned Thing After Another”

imageAccording to Jodi Taylor who obviously is not a historian, this quote is supposed to come from economic historian Arnold Toynbee and is supposed to be “History is Just One Damned Thing After Another”. If you google the quote, you instead get “Life is One Damn Thing after Another” and was said by  Elbert Hubbard, while H.A.L. Fischer traded Life for History. In other words, this was not a very original thing to say nor a very original title for a book! But maybe I am somewhat biased, since I was not too happy about ordering a book with such a name. Unfortunately I had to order it, since I by mistake bought number four in the series, as a Christmas present for my husband, Amazon being very blurry about which book was which in the series. And these books have to be read in order, trust me.

While my husband started on other Christmas books, I ordered this one, and when it arrived, decided to read it myself first, since time travel has fascinated me since childhood. As a child I dreamed of jumping back to a time which seemed much nicer than the one I was born in to myself, which I found incredibly boring. And as a HISTORIAN, I would love to jump back in time, to see things with my own eyes and not just rely on sometimes unreliable accounts. But as a HISTORIAN, I also realize, that we can never ever allow ourselves to do such a thing, even if it ever becomes possible, because to jump back in time, will undoubtedly mean altering history. And one might assume, not for the better!

How would I classify this book? On Amazon they rave on this book series, saying that it contains so much that you can not classify it, but of course it is Science Fiction. It can never be anything but. And I am not an avid sci-fi reader. Sure, I have watched Star Trek, parts of the Star Wars films, Stargate Atlantis etc. But to read it, has not been my thing and I doubt it ever will, since I am one of those people who make pictures in my head of everything I read, and I can’t create all the technical things described in this book, in to my head, as pictures. I can not “see” what Taylor sees in front of her, as far as the Pods the people time-travel in and the equipment they use.

As I started to read the book, I did not realize how technical it would get. Nor did I expect all the foul language used by the people in the book, of course determined by the author. I absolutely did not expect the graphic descriptions of the sex Max and Chief Farrell have. And the further I got in to the book or the closer to the end I got, my rating of  the book went down. Partly because of the above, but also because things became too unbelievable. And then I am not talking about the time-travel.

My biggest problem with the book is with the heroine Madeleine Maxwell, never called anything but Max. Max is not someone I would have liked to meet. People might think that she is exciting and someone they want to meet, in book after book, but I started to resent her so much in the book, that I am sorry to say, that I will not give part two a chance. Max is NOT believable, because she is portrayed as a superwoman. And the sort of superwoman that she is, does not exist. No matter how you stretch your mind and no matter how much of a feminist you are. Women can, yes, but they can’t go beyond the biology of the body. If you are so pissed that you do not hear people, can’t see straight nor stand on your feet, you can’t sober up in a second and think out an elaborate plan for a dangerous mission! Taylor will not let nature take its course, and then it becomes too much of fantasy for me! Perhaps time for you to make your mind up, whether you agree or not?

Storyline:

Max, is a woman who, by the clues given, has grown up in an abusive family, but without the social services intervening. Teachers knowing fully well what she was growing up with. Not believable! Failing school, she is given one last chance, by a Mrs. De Winter. She not only grabs it but goes on to graduate with a Ph. D. from the University of Thirsk. Upon graduation, the same Mrs. De Winter suggests that she applies to St. Mary’s for a job, and escorts her there herself. Max is introduced to everyone, on a walk about the premises, with “she has not had the interview yet” and feels that there is more to the place, than what she is shown. While being interviewed by the boss, Dr. Edward Bairstow, she finally asks why she was introduced in that manner, whereupon tons of papers are pulled out for her to sign and she gets to go on a second walk about, where everything is revealed. Clients hire St. Mary’s to go back in history to observe and document things. Unfortunately, things are not entirely safe, since a LOT of the historians die in the process. Two time-traveling pods have disappeared, without a trace, being searched for by the others, but neither historians, dead or alive, or pods have been found.

Max is all excited about joining the group. And starts her training at once, with her fellow trainees. This being a problem of course, since they travel in teams, two by two, man and woman. Why is that a problem? Too many people! Taylor has to have trainees fail and die in rapid succession. In Max, you have the typical abused person who trusts noone, a loner who likes to do things her way, who talks to noone, becomes friends with noone. But she is finally forced to work with a partner named Sussman. A man full of himself, knowing exactly how smart he is. A man as intolerable as she is.

Max is a combination of Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Greengables as a child, and all other smart anarchist girls you can think of. She will cheat when she can. She can do anything. And of course is the smartest of the lot. And this had me tired of her, half way through the book. Like when they are to do their solo jump and all the other trainees emergency extract themselves from where they have jumped to, when they realize that they have not entered the time period they were supposed to go to. And she just stays in her pod for weeks, eating of the rations, sunning herself and just waiting for the date she is supposed to go back. This woman is ice-cold and has no fear. Supposedly a result from her family life.

When the final test arrives, she decides to cheat and not go on the survival trip they are supposed to go on. She is too lazy and does not like to be uncomfortable going without shower, food and getting rained on etc. So she works out a plan for hiding in the paint store. There she will sit and review everything for their written exam. Only, they have decided to do inventory the day the trainees leave for their survival test and she is almost caught. Almost. Because she finds a cloaked pod in there and Chief Farrell, chief of the technical officers. He lets her hide in his pod, since he has more than a soft spot for her.

She qualifies for historian, as does Sussman. And historians continue to die, from accidents during time travel. Like one of them helping a mother and her two children during a riot, getting his head slashed in the process. And this is when the book does not make any sense anymore. They are not supposed to interact with history, they are only supposed to observe quickly and get out off there. But they do not. When the publishers describe the people on the cover as disaster-magnets, they make the people sound funny, like it is them being clumsy or something. But the accidents which happen, are because they interact and because they are not the only ones travelling in time, the others being on the scale of Voldemort!

Max first real mission, is one which should not have taken place at all according to the statements at the start of the book. “Not to intervene”. Because they sit there and plan to intervene. A WWI anniversary is coming up and people are questioning a fire, which took place in a casualty clearing centre, in an old manor house, close to the Somme. Sussman, Max and experienced Kalinda Black, are going back to stay for a week, investigating what happened and when. Good enough. But they are not to observe only. Kal and Max will be working as nurses and Sussman as an ambulance driver.

You might think at this point, “how fun!”. I did not. There is no way a 21st century person can don a nurse’s uniform or an ambulance driver’s and not stick out. People around you will notice that you use words not used at the time, you will have mannerisms they do not. In WWI they will most likely shoot you as a spy! There is no way to melt in and less so the longer you stay. And a pod that looks like a small hut standing in the middle of things? But Taylor makes it work even though there is a fat chance of it working in reality. Kal and Max gets a crash course in medicine and work as nurses day after day, meeting up with Sussman every day, just to make sure they are all alive. All the historical “events” they go to, are described quickly, just to make us believe this is an exciting novel about history time-travel, but not enough is described to make me A HISTORIAN impressed. It is more about relationships and a growing darkness.

Upon meeting Sussman one day, Max volunteers to do one of his chores, getting blankets from the linen storage and when she opens the door, she is hit by a ball of fire. She gets out, even though she got a door slammed on her head, because SHE is a superwoman and outside she and Kal help as many soldiers and patients to safety as they can. Once again interfering with history, perhaps saving people who should have died and not having offspring. And confusing officers, who wants to take THEM to safety, reporting THEM, as missing and dead. As they get back to the pod, burned, Sussman sits in the pod, all safe and has not helped a single person to safety, but himself. He is surprised to see Max alive and Kal tells Max, to never ever trust Sussman, that their lives always are dependent on their partners and that Sussman is not a partner to rely on.

Getting back, it is time for Sussman and Max to start preparing for their next mission, which is going back to the dinosaurs. Months of preparing. Here I get angry, because Taylor, Historians are Historians! We do not study stars, nor do we study flora, fauna and the behaviour of dinosaurs. But she is so desperate to send them there, for her story, that superwoman Max can do this as well, even though it has nothing to do with history. At the same time, Chief Farrell is trying to speak to Max, who is always off in her own world or drunk, according to him. When he does not get the opportunity to speak to her in the garden one day, he decides to talk to her, when she, Kal and Helen the doctor, has gone off to a hotel for a spa weekend. Why he has to talk to her is beyond me. Why her of all people? Because otherwise the storyline will not hold up!

This is when the story has had it for me. Suddenly the author says that Max has been to St. Mary’s for five years. How is that possible when the training only takes a couple of months and she has just qualified? And she puts on a gold dress and goes to this hotel, letting us the readers know and understand that usually people at St. Mary’s never set their feet outside their place of work. That is not normal nor believable. It is not normal to not know who the prime minister is in your country, whether you are a historian or not. On the contrary we are very well aware that while we are studying the past, today will also be the past one day, so we pay extra attention to current events.

Chief Farrel gets to talk to Max finally, in her room, when she is drunk as usual and thinking that they are going to have sex. He tells her that he is from the future and so is Dr. Bairstow. But Bairstow came back in time before him, to found St. Mary’s and has aged of course. Chief was married and had two sons and a mother in the future, but his wife abandoned him and an influenza killing everyone under the age of 20 and above 50, or was it 60, killed his sons and mother on the same day. He started drinking but was saved by starting to work at St. Mary’s. But that St. Mary’s is a totally different institution, going back in time for profit instead of knowledge. Voldemort or Clive Ronan, from that time, has stolen two pods and killed historians from Max’s time. That is why the Chief has come back, to try to prevent the future from becoming the way it has. Weird.

Sussman and Max jump back to the Cretaceous period and suddenly 74 days have passed there, without a word about those days. They only have about two weeks left of their mission and is going to go exploring the North Valley, which they have avoided up to then. This is when she is woken up by Sussman standing naked above her with an enormous erection and eyes intent on rape. Superwoman to the action. She disables him and gets him out of their living pod, putting a voice lock on it. And she decides to keep everything businesslike from then on. What was it before? Walking off towards the valley, she gets struck by something from behind and tumbles down a hill, getting trapped under a tree trunk. She hears raptors and stay as quiet as she can, till she knows the danger is over. Upon getting back to where she fell, she finds Sussman’s foot and shoe and lots of blood. He is gone. Dinosaur snack. But does she go back to her own time? No, she coldly finishes the mission.

When she gets back, she gets to see how Sussman filmed the attempted rape. And when she is alone, Chief shows her that it was Sussman who hit her on the back, so that she fell. And after she fell, lots of people arrived on-screen, arguing with Sussman. Arguing and then killing him. Basically. Sussman had for some reason been paid to kill Max and take her back to St. Mary’s, in order to put a stop to their non-profit missions. But he had tried to rape her and hurt her instead, since he had hated her from day one, being jealous of her being a superwoman. The person mortally wounding Sussman, in the Cretaceous period, was Clive Ronan, from the future. And Max starts suspecting that Sussman was on his pay roll already during the WWI mission, when Sussman sent her to the linen storage. He was after all surprised to see her alive.

But Ronan is the real villain and he makes no sense. According to Chief, Bairstow, Ronan and this woman Annie, were a dream team in the future. Till Annie went back to James VI  and Annie was tortured because people suspected her of witchcraft. When Bairstow and Ronan arrived to save her, it was evident she was ill with something and while Bairstow wanted to treat her in the pod, Ronan pushed him out of the pod, shot him and abandoned him in the time of James VI. A search time went back for him, even though Ronan had said he was dead. Annie on the other side, was growing worse in sick bay and Ronan was getting in trouble for breaching protocol, so he took the very ill Annie, to escape in a pod. In the shooting which ensued, she was killed and he set out on a career of crime and murder. Now this storyline brought nothing to the book. It does not make any sense. Nor was it needed. It just makes it in to a bad sci-fi soap opera. Because from then on the book goes down hill, Ronan appearing everywhere to hurt and get revenge.

And not just that. The department puts together a spectacular hologram show for the University of Thirsk, who paid for the dinosaur expedition. The show is a success and it seems like St. Mary’s now will survive even though it has had a difficult time to make ends meet. It was fun to read what was shown in the “film” but when Max and Chief is on their way home in Bairstow’s Bentley, they crash. And here the book reaches a real low. On the main road, they have what I would call crude sex on the bonnet of the car. No other cars passing by? Is this typical British behaviour or a wishful dream of Taylor’s? And Max has no problems with Chief calling her Lucy, at the heat of the moment? Honestly! But Taylor’s sexual fantasies do not end here I’m afraid and maybe that is why this book series have become such a hit? I guess a lot of dirty minded women out there enjoy the thought of being 35 and having a silent, handsome, muscular man of 40, having sex with them six times in a couple of hours. On the bonnet of a car, against a pod wall, against a tree, in the shower…. Taylor obviously have not realized that this is physically impossible for anyone but a teenage boy. A man in his 40s does not have that stamina or physical apparatus unless he has swallowed an entire bottle of Viagra. And I am sorry, it just makes the book in to trash and made me end up giving it two stars on goodreads. There is too much crap in this book to give it more! To use the author’s vocabulary. No, she would have said worse things actually!!!!

Back from their sexual frenzy in a prehistorical setting Chief usually goes to, to be alone, they fall in to a party where the different departments fight over which is most important. After a brawl with the rest of them, Max tells Dieter, Chief’s colleague, that he can come with her back to the Cretaceous, to gather some last … what? Why go back? Because otherwise the book would be finished here! So they go back and they find a circus in the North Valley. Captured dinosaurs with targets painted on them, tourists to shoot them, the missing pods plus a strange big pod, pop music blaring out of speakers. They get back to tell the rest of the staff and now a big plan is concocted where basically everyone at St. Mary’s will be involved. They have to get Ronan scared.  They will go with all available pods, turn off the electricity and storm the camp or circus site. But things go wrong since when they cut off the power, all the dinosaurs get out of their cages.

The mission goes pear-shaped and another enemy of Max’s, sees her chance to get rid of Max. Isabella Barclay of the IT department, claims that the four people who should have come back with her, in her pod: Chief, Guthrie, Markham and historian Peterson, are dead. She refuses to send a rescue team and she takes over St. Mary’s, since Bairstow is on sick leave, having got hurt on the mission. Max is thrown out of St. Mary’s without pay, without references, with basically only the clothes she is wearing at the moment. She walks to the nearest town, where she just stays for four months, not working, not eating, living in a flat full of mold. She miscarries a baby she did not know she was expecting and lives with a chest infection. This is when Mrs. De Winter finds her, feeds her and together with Bairstow, they steal Chief Farrell’s cloaked pod. Superwoman Max who has anemia from the miscarriage, is undernourished and with a chest infection, goes back to the Cretaceous period and rescues the four stranded men. She saves their lives, by letting a T-Rex chase her all over a forest. Taylor, one word of advise. When a person has anemia they can not run. I have it myself and can not even walk up the stairs in my own house. I have also gone through three miscarriages and you are not up to any running what so ever for at least eight weeks. But Max can do everything. Anemia, blood loss and chest infection, at the same time and being malnourished, she can plan missions, run like the wind and you name it. This is not nice to read! It just makes you gag!

But it gets worse. They get back to St. Mary’s and take charge of the place again, humiliating Barclay and sending her packing. Max is told to not drink, that she needs weeks of rest and convalescence to recover from all the above ailments. Yet, the same night, she drinks herself into a stupor with Peterson, both intending to quit the place, after Chief has called her a slut for obviously having got pregnant with someone else, but him. Her having refused to tell him about the miscarriage and everything else she has been through and him getting it all wrong through the grape-vine. I know, do not blame me. Author!

In Max’s drunken state and being at death’s door, with all the physical illnesses added, she suddenly is superwoman again. She is sober in seconds and works out a plan how they can save St. Mary’s. In the morning she presents it and I do not see how what she plans on doing, is so much better than what Ronan is doing. They are going to rescue items that were destroyed in the past. Like the library in Alexandria. Suddenly she is not ill at all and the doctors who prescribed bedrest seem to have amnesia, because they plan for the mission, alongside her. And off they go to a burning library. They save as many scrolls as they can and take them to some caves where they will put them in urns, which an archeological team from the University of Thirsk will find, in the future, having been tipped off by St. Mary’s as to where to go searching. Only Ronan arrives with his gangsters and a shoot out takes place where valuable people get killed. Suddenly they are all gun slingers. But I guess Historians can do anything and everything. Where have I gone wrong?

Ronan steals the specially designed pod that Chief had designed and built for the mission, and it is the pod that they saw in the Cretaceous time. The one that got destroyed there. The book ends with Bairstow having paid Shakespeare to write a final play and having buried it so they could find it, at St. Mary’s, in their own time. How exactly is this different from what Ronan is doing? History travel to make a profit. I would say that it is Max that creates the horrible future Chief wants to prevent at St. Mary’s, with her plans to go back and save things from destruction. Altering history. And for Bairstow and Chief to not to see this?

I will not read any more books in this series since I hate series. And I hate how Taylor repeats “Historians are like this” over and over and over in the book. Making us sound like we are another species entirely from the rest of humanity! It makes me as upset as when Isobel (in Alexander McCall Smith’s Sunday Philosophy Club) in book after book drags up the fact that Jamie is so much younger than her and so beautiful and why is he content with her. You just get sick and tired of hearing things over and over again. Move on for heaven’s sake. I also hated the sex scenes described and Max’s Superwoman powers, which no human possesses. What could have been an interesting trail through time, the historians meeting interesting people, having perhaps a difficult time to get home, getting too much involved in history, would have been interesting. But not the direction that this book ended up taking!

 

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My Friday Book: “Salt to the Sea”

Although I would have named the book “What to do when you have watched ‘Titanic’ one time too many”! I was not one of those people sitting wiping my tears in 1998, when I saw Leonardo di Caprio freeze to death and Kate Winslet throw a priceless gem overboard, before joining all the dead on the Titanic, in the spirit world. It was a terrible Hollywood tra-la-la film and when someone on goodreads said “please make this in to a movie” (about this book) I shuddered at the thought. Not another horrible Titanic film!!!

Sure, all women wanted to look like the pretty Winslet girl and drooled over di Caprio, but my US penfriend and I both agreed at the time, that the filmmakers would have made history more justice, by telling one of all the sad stories that ACTUALLY happened on the Titanic. They were surely sad enough, every person’s story, its own tragedy. And once again, I ask what was wrong with true life? Why did Ruta Sepetys think that the real tragedies of Wilhelm Gustloff, were not tragic enough for a book? A ship with 10 573 passengers and 9000 of them drowning and yet, there were not stories worth writing a book about? I refuse to accept that.

So what was the point with this book? Call me paranoid, but it felt like the author is trying to do propaganda for the migrants leaving Syria and many other muslim countries right now, for a better life in the western world. A world they do not REALLY want to belong to. I can not be the only one who makes this observation. Because the way  this book is built up, is so bad, that there can’t be any other point with it.

I gave it three stars on goodreads but I will go back and change that to two stars, because it does not deserve three stars when I  had to start it over three times. When opening the book you are faced with JOANA, as the first chapter, and after ten pages, you have realized that the entire book is going to be written in this horrid way of person 1 telling her observations for two pages, person two for two pages, person three for two pages, person four, the same thing. Over and over and over again for 378 pages and it is not a style I like, nor anyone else I have taken a poll on. It makes for a very choppy story and I quit reading the book, two times. Every time I have re-started it, I have had to go to page one, because nothing stuck in one’s head, to move on from. In other words, either you read this book from start to finish, or you do not read it at all, because you will forget essentials, them not being interesting enough to store in your memory bank.

The story focuses on four youths, in their upper teens, early twenties. deliberately done of course, so she could squeeze in a very unbelievable love story. You have to have a Kate Winslet and Leonardo of course. Or? This book’s love story is ridiculous and an insult of  my intelligence! You do not start a romance when you are sentenced to rape and death! You run and you run fast, to safety or just away from the claws of your enemy. Basic needs have to be satisfied till you can look outside yourself.

We have Joana, the nurse, in her early twenties, who wants to care for everyone out of guilt. A girl, Florian, can not resist even though she is covered with mud and dirt. Because contrary to all other dirty people, she somehow is pretty. Joana, is travelling in front of the Russian Army, trying to avoid rape and being sent to the Gulags. She stems from Lithuania and has no problem travelling to Germany major, as a Volksdeutsch, planning on meeting her German mother there.

Florian, is the 18-19 year-old, who cares about nothing but his mission, which is to take a stolen Russian art object, to Kiel, where he will go search for his evacuated sister. He has looked after all the art objects stolen by the Germans, in Königsberg, East Prussia, together with a Dr. Lange and when he one day realized that Dr. Lange was just using him, for his own purposes, he stole the most prized object of all, an amber statue from the famous Russian Amber room. Hitler’s most favourite object, which was going to be the crown of his art museum in Linz. Revenge is sweet they say.

Emilia is the 15-year-old Pole, who should have been dead by all accounts, Hitler not caring too much about the Polish people. What Ruta forgets when she makes this little heroine in to a blonde, blue-eyed Pole, is that Hitler did not have any problems with Aryan looking Poles. They were taken to Germany and Aryanized, especially when they were children like Emilia. Why Emilia is fleeing all by herself is the question never answered. She knows Hitler doesn’t want her and her family is dead, so… But she is there only to make the story interesting. Which is too blatant!

Finally, we have the disgusting Alfred. Alfred is a looser, who has avoided all sorts of Nazism participation, out of fear. His mother has protected him against all evil, but in the last days of Hitler, not even he could avoid being recruited and this to the Navy.  But he is not against Nazism. No, quite the contrary. Mein Kampf is his bible and he believes every word of what Hitler says in there. Including that Alfred is a superior human being, of the master race. Hitler Jugend just did not understand that, nor his beloved Hannelore or his commanding officers.

While Joana, travels the road with blind Ingrid, the giant Eva, who only cares about her mother’s silver in the cart they pull with them, the shoe poet Heinz, a shoe maker, and little six-year-old Klaus, whose grandmother froze to death on the road, Florian and Emilia, take their time joining the group. And Alfred’s story, takes place in the harbour of Gotenhafen.

Alfred’s story, is the most pathetic one, and a drole part to read, every time it is HIS chapter. He writes these pretend letters to his Hannelore, where he makes himself out to be the most important man in the Navy. Being brave and doing a tremendously important service to the Fatherland. While in truth he is avoiding all sorts of physical labour, hiding, eavesdropping, and being a peeping Tom. Everyone who meets him, realize that he is some sort of psychopath, a looser and are disgusted by him. But Florian finds good use for him late in the story, when he speaks to his ego. What is it, that makes him so disgusting? Well, these pretend letters speak of a disturbed young man, spying on his neighbours and being despised by Hannelore and her family. So much so, that he turned her father in. And he is the sort of idiot, that did not realize that Hannelore would be arrested for being Jewish, just like her father. In the final Alfred chapter, one realizes the full scope of what he has done. He claims to love Hannelore but sent her to her death, because he wanted to punish her father for looking down on him, Alfred, a member of the master race!

Wilhem Gustloff, built in 1937 as a luxury vacation ship

Wilhem Gustloff, built in 1936-1937, as a luxury vacation ship. Get your facts straight Ruta! The ship was launched  5 May, not on the 30 January, like you said, to make it coincide with Hitler’s rise to power. Sorry one can’t falsify history to make a good story!

While Alfred and his fellow sailors prepare for a gigantic surge of refugees, wounded from the Russian front and a couple of hundred German equivalents of the British “WRENS”, the group of five walk the long road to the harbour. And Florian, is trying to get to the same point, with a gigantic shrapnel wound and fever. In a cave, he finds Emilia getting raped by a Russian soldier, and finishes that man off. From then on, he can not shake Emilia off. She becomes like a loyal dog, never leaving his side. They run in to the refugee group but Florian wants to be on his own, since he carries the stolen object and false papers, saying that he is a very important courier for Koch, the master thief, and one of the leaders of the Nazis.

After Joana, has taken out the shrapnel, he and Emilia tries to go off on their own, only to run in to the group again, and from then on, Florian stays with the group. Emilia has by then killed a German soldier by mistake and it has been discovered that she is eight months pregnant. Joana, the constantly caring person, does what she can for Emilia, realizing that she is Polish and in great danger. She steals documents off a dead Lithuanian woman, for Emilia, but the latter has to promise to keep her mouth shut. When they arrive by a great frozen lake, they lose their first traveller. Ingrid the blind girl, volunteers to walk first, to make sure the ice is safe and while the Russians are strafing the refugees, Ingrid goes through the ice. Joana tries to save her, but is pulled back by Florian, who by now is in love with this beautiful girl. Ridiculous! How pathetic can it get?

When they have crossed the ice, they need to cross water or walk a long distance around it. Florian, with his special courier papers, is entitled to be rowed across the water and takes with him the entire group while the horse and cart is sent around with a peasant family. Arriving at Gotenhafen, Eva refuses to give up her belongings and decide to wait for the cart. So she leaves the group, but the others try to stay together in a cinema. Florian, staying by himself in the projector room, finding time to flirt with Joana. Joana, quickly is allowed special treatment since she is a nurse. She will be helping the doctors on Wilhelm Gustloff. Alfred is recruited by Florian to help everyone. He gets Florian and Emilia on board as Joana’s patients, thinking he will get a medal by helping Koch’s agent Florian. Even Klaus and Heinz manage to get a place on the ship, thanks to the policy of children having precedence over adults.

On board the ship, Emilia quickly gives birth to a daughter, which she refuses to care for. While she has pretended that the father was the son in a farm family she was staying with, named Peter, the truth is that the family chosen by her dad, to go stay with for safety, was not all together nice. The mother of Peter, hated Emilia. Peter tried to be doubly nice to her because of his mother’s treatment, but he did not return the love, that Emilia had for him. And when the Russians arrived on the farm and wanted to have sex with Peter’s sister, the mother lied and said that she was ill, but that they could have Emilia, who was hiding in the forest. So, she got raped by all the soldiers and wanted nothing of the baby. Here comes the next pathetic scene, when Joana tells Florian that he must make Emilia take the baby. So this young man grabs the baby, kisses it, says how cute she is, looking just like Emilia and then suddenly Emilia loves the baby! Honestly!

Around 21:15 a loud bang is heard and panic ensues. 10 500 people try to get up to the top for the 12 life boats available. And now

Supposed site where Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed by the Russians.

Supposed site where Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed by the Russians.

we are on Titanic. Ruta is describing the film perfectly. Joana is put in a boat, Klaus is handed to her and Emilia refuses to give her baby to the sailor in charge but wants Florian to carry the baby down in to the boat. And off they go. Florian, Joana, Klaus and baby Halinka, while Emilia gets in to a lifeboat on her own, with Alfred and while Heinz drowns. In the boat, we find out how Alfred sent Hannelore to her death and when he realizes that Emilia is Polish, another enemy of the Fatherland, he tries to kill her, but falls in to the water himself and drowns. Deep sigh! And Emilia of course freezes to death since how else could Florian and Joana live happily ever after? With their kids? No, Emilia sits there and meets her mother and little brother who died at birth, but also her own daughter Halinka, who is well and dandy with Joana. In other words, not believable at all, even though I am a firm believer in that dead relatives who meant something to you, often come and fetch you at the death moment. But Halinka was not dead!

Torpedoes were marked "For the Motherland", "For the Soviet People" and "For Leningrad". The 4th one got stuck and was labelled "For Stalin". I found that apropo!

Torpedoes were marked “For the Motherland”, “For the Soviet People” and “For Leningrad”. The 4th one got stuck and was labelled “For Stalin”. I found that apropo!

Then you get forced twenty years ahead, when Florian gets a letter from a Danish woman. She has read that Halinka, is not allowed to compete in the Olympics, because she has no nationality, being born on a ship in the Baltic Sea. The article also described her parents Florian and Joana, her brother Klaus and a child born by the parents, in the US. From that letter one learns that Emilia floated ashore on Bornholm, a Danish island outside Sweden, with Florian’s rucksack containing the treasure, and Florian has instructed the lady, to bury the rucksack.

I would classify the book as chic lit, something for the teenage girl to drool over, since they are the only once believing in love at first sight, no matter the circumstances and the dirt. To me, an adult, it was a ridiculous and predictable book and so boring, that I had to force myself to finish it. But upon finishing it, I did google Wilhelm Gustloff and read some of the REAL survivor stories and just like with survivors of the Holocaust, there is a feeling that one only survives if it is meant to be. If one’s ticket has not been punched. Some may call it luck or chance, but I do not believe in chance anymore. The ones who survived did so for a purpose, because they were not finished with their mission on Earth.

It is also amazing how this tragedy, is one which is not taught in schools or at University. That it has just become a small side comment. Titanic was nothing to the numbers mentioned in the notes at the back of the book. Wilhelm Gustloff lost 9 000, General von Steuben 4 000, Goya 6 500 and two ships carrying Jews from concentration camps, 7 000. Why has this not been taught or spoken of? Well, Titanic was the first, so that will always be something else. Never had a ship so big, sailed off, and never before had so many travelled before, in the same vessel, and without sufficient life boats. And of course, in the case of Titanic, it was likeable people. Rich people, famous people, but the majority, poor people, emigrating to a better life in America, having used all their life savings, for the ticket.

Wilhelm Gustloff sank with a cargo of Germans. They were the enemy. It was soldiers, rich Prussian Junkers, Nazi officers and their families and most and foremost, Volksdeutsche, who had been equally happy about Hitler’s ascent to power. The picture one gets from google, is that it was a ship full of the master race which sunk, and that can be the explanation for the silence. It was just one more step towards victory, one more step to try to get Hitler to give up and surrender unconditionally. And as we know, it did not effect him one bit. He sat safely in his bunker for three more months, before he gave up.

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Back to the Grind…

And to the worries. Honestly, where did Christmas vacation disappear to? It came and disappeared in no time. And if I must sum it up in one word, it would have to be SLEEPING.

During 2016, I went to a funny lecture at the local book shop. It was to promote a book, written by a journalist, about the need for loving ourselves. She was full of humour and gave a great lecture on how most of us are too hard on ourselves. In the middle of it all, people started to ask questions about her and the book. Till this female priest, in the audience, raised her hand and said “So, one more thing WE HAVE TO DO. Pardon me, but I already feel overwhelmed!”. Secretly I agreed. Learning to love oneself and be less hard on oneself, feels like just another chore, even if it would be beneficial for everything else in one’s life.

imageIn December, I joined many others in the #LIGHTtheWORLD challenge. It was also a very good thought, just like the book written by the lady mentioned above, and a thing beneficial to both yourself and others. BUT it also added on to all my other December stress and instead of enjoying December and a two and a half week vacation, towards the end of the month and the beginning of this one, I felt overwhelmed in the end and as the vacation started, I collapsed. I can’t describe it in any better way. Sure, I had to continue to do things, in order for Christmas to come around to our house, BUT the rest of the time I slept, slept and slept. None of my great plans for the holiday came about, since I was just too tired to do anything.

And to my horror, I then discovered that “Boo” started school, a day ahead of all his siblings. So, back to normal, a day too early, when my mind and body was not ready for it. I did not sleep the night between Sunday and Monday, thanks to my itching skin. According to the doctor, not caused at all by my hypothyroid, but by stress. Nonsense of course, since I itch all year round, whether I am on holiday or running like a hamster in a wheel. “Gubby” did not want to stay in bed alone nor go up to his brother’s bed, till I got back from the morning run, so he had to come with to drop off “Boo” at school. I think all other parents had a tough time getting out of bed, as well, because we arrived and there was noone to be seen, except a couple of children, inside the windows of the after-school-care (or ought I say, before-school-care). We stood there in the cold and waited and waited. No cars arriving or anything. After ten minutes I lost patience and started to look in through the windows of the headmaster’s office. Had I misunderstood the starting date? It got an effect and “Boo’s” assistant came to the door, got dressed and came out, so they could walk down to the assembly point, for the buses.

Today, all the others also had to get up in the dark and head out in to a frozen landscape. I did not feel rested this morning either. I finished a book last night which was very disturbing in its nature, so I had a tough time falling asleep. And I woke up feeling upset. For one and a half year, I have felt that “Gubby” is in a good spot. At a good school. They have listened to habilitation’s advice on how to educate my little autistic boy, how to deal with his peculiarities, his language problems, his social problems etc. He has had a headmaster who has taken his handicap seriously and who has given him what he needs for the most part. Two assistants sharing the job of helping “Gubby”, while also wearing two other hats, that of music teacher and after-school-care-personnel. There has been a special ed teacher, who has worked with “Gubby” for years, already at the pre-school in OUR village and who has instructed both assistants and teachers on how to handle “Gubby’s” weaknesses.

In November, it was announced that the special ed teacher had been offered a better job elsewhere and she would quit after the autumn term at the school. The after-school-care teacher, who has been “Gubby’s” assistant during the lunch recesses and on Fridays, was also to quit, since he was tired of having a long distance relationship with his girlfriend, who lives in Stockholm. So this man who has come to understand “Gubby” and who felt it a privilege to be with him, has moved north. And right before school was out in December, all parents received a letter from the school’s board, that the headmaster is quitting for a job at a bigger school. A great shock. “Gubby” loves his little dog, Chili, a little female Jack Russell, who comes with him to work every day. For a year and a half, “Gubby” has walked  in to the headmaster’s office, to say hello to Chili, and this school year, the headmaster has understood how much the dog means to “Gubby”, so he has let the latter go with him and Chili for their walks! We can’t have a dog because of my allergies, so this has been so perfect.

This morning, I just felt so sad and so worried all of a sudden. How do I know that the next headmaster will respect what has been done to help “Gubby” up till now? She/He might just say “Forget it, I am not going to spend any extra money on this child. He can go to another school instead, which has more funding.” And who is going to inform her/him of all of “Gubby’s” problems or weaknesses? Who is going to explain that he needs this and that? It feels like I have to start all over again from scratch. Asking habilitation in, to inform all over, what it means to have an autistic child at the school and in the classroom. And not just to a new headmaster but also to the new special ed teacher, who will not arrive until February. He is supposed to guide the others and how can he do that, when he does not have a single clue as to what “Gubby” needs to prosper or flourish. And what about Fridays and recesses? WHO is going to look after my little boy then? Assistants are so important because they are the ones the child turns to first and foremost. They are the stability to these children. And now one is gone and they still do not have a solution after having had months to think already. The Music teacher has volunteered to take over the second assistant’s day and the recesses, but she still knew nothing on the 21st December. I really do not like this! Are things going to go from good to bad at that school now? And what is going to happen to my little angel boy?

This morning he was happy to go back to school. We packed his bag and he got all the needed clothes on. Finally! He has enjoyed being home of course, but he likes the usual routine of the days. Getting up, getting dressed, having porridge for breakfast and a mug of milk. Driving off to school and spending half the day there, me arriving at 12:25 to bring him home… He ran in to school even though the ground was slippery with ice and he was telling everyone “Hello, I have missed you!”. But I heard noone answering the poor soul back, until this young woman working for before/after-school-care got a hug from him and I heard her saying that she had missed HIM. He then went to hug a man, also working for that part of the school system. (To be honest, they are there all day, helping out in the classrooms as personal assistants or just to be extra help. Two of them are the school’s gym teachers and most of them are in charge of recess safety.)  “Gubby” looked troubled and sad by now and said “I don’t think people like me!” Both Thomas and I said “Yes they do! Why do you think they do not like you?”. “Because they do not talk to me. I tell them I have missed them and they have not missed me.”. I really did not want to leave at this point. Thomas tried to explain that everyone had just arrived and perhaps some did not hear “Gubby” or they felt a little bit overwhelmed at being back after the holidays… We tried to reassure “Gubby” that they all like him and after giving him several hugs and kissing his soft, newly cut hair, I had to leave, in order for “Boo” to not miss the bus from his school. But I felt worried.

Getting to “Boo’s” school, I also felt concerned, since his headmaster also has turned in his notice. It happened after his wife was fired for verbally abusing the handicapped children in her class, for threatening the parents of those children and reporting them unduly to the social services. No new headmaster has been found though until now, six months later and the new one will not show up for another month. But what will things be like for “Boo”? His headmaster also understood the problems, in a way, more serious problems than “Gubby’s”. And they had an assistant picked for him months before he actually arrived at the school and a plan. I am REALLY worried since at our last meeting, “Boo’s” teacher just looked at me and said “I don’t know if we can offer ‘Boo’ what he needs.” The special ed teacher did not want to paint an equally dark picture, but the picture is dark alright with my son in all likelihood failing class three, thanks to his resistance to learning things by practice. That Catholic school he went to for three years, really screwed him up. They destroyed all his self-confidence and they let him fail at everything, only to watch him getting bullied for his failures and his handicaps. I hate that school and wish someone had the courage to report them and get the school permanently closed for all future! But the schools have found a powerful weapon. If you report an independent school in Sweden, they report the parents to social services! So, I have not been able to report them for destroying my children’s lives. Other schools have had to pick up the pieces and unfortunately “Boo” is so afraid of failure, that he will not exert himself. He stops when the going gets tough, so he does not get anywhere while the others learn more and more. He is in third grade and thanks to dyslexia, he still can not read and he can not do math above ten… The others can sew and crochet but he has fine motor problems, so he is completely excluded in that area. There are just so many things he can not do and still the law says he must go to school. And now there will be a new headmaster. who knows nothing about him and who might say “We can’t afford to keep such a student!”.

So this term has started stressfully, due to factors outside my control. And yes, I know, we should not worry about things which are out of our control, but just accept them. But theses factors will effect my children and they might not effect them in a good way at all. I might be in for another year of sheer hell! Deep breaths! Count to ten! Sleep has become my usual method to deal with stress, it seems. At the same time, I go to bed and just lay there, thinking, thinking, THINKING!

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What sort of world are we living in?: #LIGHTtheWORLD

6 December 2016:

Share your favourite scripture place on social media, is the challenge of today. Now, I do not really have ONE favourite scripture place, like my daughter has. She phoned from Cardiff and read it up from memory.  No, I have too many, to mention here. But, something interesting happened to me, the other day. And I really don’t know how it all started. I was sitting on my iPad as usual and I can not even remember how or what I was actually searching for, but suddenly I was on a site called israelblessing.com. Curious to what it was all about, I started looking at all the pretty things they are selling.

Last week, I went to the doctor and found out that I basically can forget about loosing weight, ever. She is not going to send me to an endocrinologist, since she blames ALL my hypothyroid symptoms on stress, age, genes and anemia. And without Liothyronine, I can not get rid of the symptoms, that is just the way it is. When I told her that I have never had to take off my engagement ring and wedding ring, during all my eight pregnancies, with the accompanying weight gain, but that I have not been able to wear either for the past five years, she just told me: “SO why don’t you just have them stretched?”.

Right, the jewelers told me that you can only stretch a plain ring. Anything else will be VERY costly. They have to take out the diamond on the engagement ring, fill in with extra gold and dip it in white gold, before putting the diamond back in. Forget about doing anything to the wedding band. It is out of the question all together. I can never wear my wedding ring again, nor my engagement ring. In one way, I do not care. Why wear such rings in the first place? Telling the world that one is OWNED by someone? When I could not wear my rings anymore, my husband happily took off his wedding ring and does not wear it anymore. So obviously it was a burden to him, to wear it. Or he is trying to send me a secret message?

Which ever, I sat and looked at the israel blessing site and found these beautiful wedding bands, called comfort bands, since they have welded two rings together. The outer one, has a Hebrew writing on it, and I do not know why, but I just love it! No, I am not Jewish nor do I speak that sacred language, but the Lord was and did! So to me, it is very, very special and I would love to have a ring like it. image

Not only is the ring beautiful with its simplicity and writing, the prospective buyer, gets to choose what they want written on it, and I read through the list and knew exactly what I would love on mine, if I ever got one:

image

“The Lord bless you and keep you” from Numbers 6:24. A very short and unassuming little verse/saying, but I reacted to it at once and thought it was very beautiful, the nicest of the lot actually, suggested on the site. What a nice thing to say to someone, on a ring. And it made me think of a film I love. “Fiddler on the Roof”.

For those of you who have not seen it, you must. The songs are wonderful. The storyline is beautiful. Tevje, whom the story is really about, starts the film by saying, that what has kept the Jewish people together, is tradition. None of them know why they do things the way they do, but it gives them stability in life and it makes them survive in an all too unsure world. Throughout the film though, poor Tevje has to question his traditions. His oldest daughter refuses to marry the man her parents and the matchmaker have chosen for her. A thing unheard of! She has fallen in love with her old playmate, the village tailor. And Tevje has to trick his wife, to be able to make his daughter happy. Then his second daughter, falls in love with one of the new communists. A man who speaks of education, of throwing traditions out of the window, and who ends up being deported to Siberia by the Tsar.  Tevje, has to accept that his daughter will leave home, without being married, going to the man SHE loves, in Siberia, a cold place where Jews do not usually go. Tevje feels that he has stretched as far as he can. Now he can not accept more new things. But then his beloved third daughter, the one who has spent all her years with her nose in books, wants to marry a Christian peasant. Tevje, is devastated. But he does not have any choices anymore. All the Jews are driven out of the little village of Anatevka, where they have lived for hundreds of years. Their neighbours have started a pogrom, on the Tsar’s orders, and they are no longer welcome.

At the end of the film, when they all leave with the few belongings they can take with them on hand carts and hay carriages, the village fiddler stands by the side, waiting to see if he is welcome to come with. Because he symbolizes tradition. Tevje motions for him to come with, even though, his entire world has been thrown upside down. I do not know why I get so emotional when watching the film or hearing the music, which of course brings pictures from the film to my mind. But it does. Because life did not turn out at all like Tevje expected it to become. And how often does it? How often, today, are we not forced to question our traditions and our way of living?

At particularly two places in the film, I cry. At the wedding scene, between the oldest daughter and her poor tailor, which starts out very touching and ends with the Christians riding in, destroying both the wedding party and the few wedding gifts. But also, during the Sabbath scene, when Tevje has come home, with lots of thoughts in his head, asking his wife is she loves him. (And she answers that he must be having indigestion and should lie down.) They start the Sabbath singing a Sabbath blessing over their five daughters and it is such a beautiful blessing. I know that the REAL prayer said, uses other words and names etc. But all Jewish prayers are very beautiful, and so is this pretend prayer:

“May the Lord protect and defend you,image

May He always shield you from shame,

May you come to be in Yisroel a shining name.

May you be like Ruth and like Esther.

May you be deserving of praise.

strengthen them, Oh Lord, and keep them from the strangers’ ways.

May God bless you and grant you long lives.

May the Lord fulfill our Sabbath prayer for you.

May God make you mothers and wives.

May He send you husbands who will care for you.

May the Lord protect and defend you.

May the Lord preserve you from pain.

Favour them, oh Lord, with happiness and peace.

Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen.”

For some reason that ring above, with the scripture place from Numbers, reminds me of the film and that very tender scene, when the parents lovingly pray for their daughters, hoping all the best for them. Is there anything more dear, than wishing a loved one to be kept safe by God and blessed by him? So this, is one of my newest favourite scripture places!

I meant to have finished the post here, but the story about the above ring and its Hebrew writing, does not end here. Saturday, after we had been to the Autism Christmas party, I  stood and looked at some cheap silver rings, in a jewelry shop window. These being the only kind of rings I can afford, to replace my wedding ring and engagement one.  It does feel very naked without a ring, when I have worn rings on that finger since I was 12.

Walking out to the car, we started talking about jewelry, my husband, my son “Kitty” and I. My husband stating that he will not buy jewelry for anyone, since everyone has different tastes and my son asking  his father what sort of jewelry, he likes. My husband’s answer “I would have liked that ring your mother showed me with Hebrew writing on it. But I do not want to be beaten to death!”. I asked him, what one earth he meant and his answer is very sad, very tragic and I’m afraid very true: “The Muslims would kill me. They are all over downtown Helsingborg and there is no way to avoid them. They would kill me for wearing a ring like that. You ask the Jews how safe they feel in Sweden!” That is how far it has gone though, in this country. You can’t display anything Hebrew or anything associated with Jewishness. The hatred among the Muslims have joined the Swedish anti-Semitism, and is allowed to roam free in my country. And it makes me SO mad! If a Jew want to wear a Chai sign around his neck or a star of David or if I, a Christian would like to wear a ring with a Hebrew text on it, we should be allowed to do so, without having to fear for our lives! Is this really the kind of society Swedes or anyone wants to live in? Where you are not allowed to wear what you want, nor believe in what you want to believe in?

 

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Swedish dish on a budget: #LIGHTtheWORLD

7 December 2016:

As a mother of seven, I have many times wondered how we would make it from one pay check to another. Sometimes, the bills are just overwhelming, aren’t they. It seems, they especially are so, towards the end of the year, when you need and want the money for funnier things, like making Christmas special. And also, in January, when all money have been spent, on Christmas itself, New Year’s and Twelfth Night.

This year, it is especially tough for us, since we have one son on a mission for our church. We know, how poorly he eats, how little money he has every month, compared to his rich American companions. He was not able to get a job in Sweden, before his mission, except doing the Basic Training for the Army. But that money only covered his packing list for the mission and all doctor’s and dentist’s appointments and examinations, he had to have before applying. He lives on very little, and we wanted to make Christmas special for him, so both my daughter and I, have tried to go the extra mile, when it came to sending him some treasured things.

We also have a used car, we had to buy on credit, in August last year, after I crashed our Toyota bus in Germany. That car has turned out to be worse than a money pit. If that is possible? On top of that, we had to have our ventilation checked and contrary to other companies, they wanted immediate payment. The gall! After they wrecked our furnace! So we now have the bill for that repair, to pay as well.

I have no idea, what our Christmas will be like. To be honest, I feel all depressed about the money situation, we are in. Fortunately, I have basically bought all Christmas presents for the children, my husband and my mother. BUT they might not be as grand as some elements of the family, were expecting. And I am worried sick about five of the items, which are still in transit from China, even though they were supposed to have arrived already. The companies refuse to pay back the money, so I can not go and buy something else, locally. That is eBay for you!

In the midst of this, the mormon.org calendar says that “Jesus fed the hungry and so can you”. So how can I feed the hungry? Today, I have decided to share an inexpensive recipe. On the one hand, it is not cheap, since it requires that you turn on the oven which is as expensive as keeping it on for an entire hour. But say that you have no problem with turning on an oven and dealing with that cost, then the following dinner, is usually within reach for most people. Super nutritious? Perhaps not, but not bad either.

SWEDISH OVEN PANCAKE (serves 4 people)

Turn the oven to 225 degrees Celsius/437 Fahrenheit 

and grease a deep oven cooking sheet with margarine, so the pancake will not stick (if in doubt, see picture below).

Mix

3 eggs

8 dl milk/4 cups

4 dl flour/2 cups

1/2 teaspoon salt

and pour the mixture in to the deep pan and cook for 3o minutes or until golden brown. The batter is supposed to have become firm as well.

To this recipe, you can add 300 grams of bacon or pork pieces. Many people put the pieces in to the batter and cook it all together. But my sister and I hated this when it was done in school, nor could my family afford the extra meat, so I did not grow up with it done. Also, when you have autistic sons like I do, it is never a good idea, to mix in things, in to a dish! What we do, when we feel “rich”, is fry up bacon and put them on a plate, where people can grab a couple of pieces, to eat with the pancake. It really does taste good together, BUT becomes a little bit too rich for me.

Usually, you just eat lingonberry or strawberry jam with it. Enjoy! It is something my family really likes!

 

What it looks like when ready.

What it looks like when ready.

Side view and serving suggestion.

Side view and serving suggestion.

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To worship God is not easy when you have autism: #LIGHTtheWORLD

4 December 2016:

To be honest, I did not feel like going to Church that day. Which was one of the things suggested, in the light of the world calendar, on mormon.org. I woke up with a splitting head ache, and I had fallen asleep, the night before, trying to prepare a lesson, full of gospel principles, but without a red thread through it. I do like it better when there is a red thread through lessons, so the children get the idea, why we are talking about this or that, a particular Sunday. Having slept instead of preparing, meant getting up earlier and sitting preparing a lesson under time pressure. Not good at all. The ideal thing is, to prepare days ahead. Those were the days when I could do that!

One thing, which had me feeling down in the dumps, was the fact that I never know if I will have any students anymore. Since my 12-year-olds disappeared out of my class, mid-year, things have not been the same and I am having a tough time feeling motivated. How can one be? The one boy, who comes most regularly, lays down over two chairs and sleeps during my lessons. Or he crawls around under the table. Another boy, who has been diagnosed with autism, hardly ever comes and when he does, he sits and plays games on his mobile phone. And the girl, belonging to my class, has autism and ADHD, does not want to be in church at all, is forced in to my classroom by her parents and I see her about once every three months.

Will we ever know everything there is to know about autism?

Will we ever know everything there is to know about autism?

You could say, that I would be the perfect teacher for these children, since I have four sons with autism and one of them having ADHD. But not so! First of all, they are all on different levels of understanding and secondly they have all been taught different amounts of religion, or not at all. I am not educated to teach and have no idea how to teach children with such varied background knowledge. Nor do I really know how to adapt lesson after lesson of abstract things, so that it can be understood by children who can’t understand abstract things! I am definitely not qualified for the calling I have in church. But I try to do my best, even though it is disheartening to often only have one child in the classroom , who is not one bit interested, and having spent hours preparing for the lesson.

The thing is also, that one always knows one’s own children best. I know my own children’s autism and how to deal with it, while I do not know how to deal with these other children’s autism and attention problems. I do not know how to make things more interesting and what I can say to them and not. Just because they have the same diagnosis doesn’t mean they are all the same!

We have decided to take our boys to church no matter what, even when we are in doubt. Habilitation even scolded me a little, when I told them that perhaps it would be best if one of us stayed home every week, with them. They do not understand what is being taught. They have a difficult time with associating with the other children and the grown ups. Not everyone being sympathetic and understanding! They have their meltdowns, which is very embarrassing for me, since it feels like a personal failure, the above mentioned adults judging. Lessons and how these and music (songs) are taught, are not conducive to the way autistic people learn things. Most of the time, it feels like a waste going, since it is not meaningful for my boys. But, habilitation told me:

1. “It is important that it becomes a habit for them. They know that on Sundays, you go to church and that is just how it is. Because that is what you parents do.”

2. “If they have to sit and play games on a mobile phone, during the sacrament meeting, so be it. One must always understand that autistic people always do as well as they can. If they have to play on a mobile phone, to be able to sit still and not get upset, then that is how it is going to have to be. It is noone else’s business.”

So, we have a rule. No mobile phones, before sacrament is taken, nor during the passing of the sacrament. When that has been passed, I try to make them sit and colour, but usually they do not have the patience for it anymore. Especially since “Kitty” refuses to do that, and brings his mobile out. Then the other two, do not want to do anything different.

But what about this Sunday? I had the autistic boy only, in my class. That was it! He sat and watched something on a small reading tablet and what was I supposed to do? He really does not want to come to class and he comes so rarely, that I have to create a positive environment. He did colour one Christmas picture, while I tried to teach him some things, but when class was over, I doubt he had picked up any knowledge at all. Don’t know if he heard a thing I said, really. And then his cousin came and told him, it was time to leave, so they took off and I walked in to Primary, only to find out that there were no children. There stood one counselor, all prepared to teach a lesson she had prepared to teach. There stood one song leader, prepared to teach Christmas songs and her mother had come in to play the piano. And there sat “Boo’s” teacher, but no “”Boo”.

We have been speaking about reverence for an entire month, but I doubt one single child has REALLY understood what it means. Sure, they understand that reverence means sitting still. Which is something the older group has a tough time with. But what they do not understand is, that reverence also means to LISTEN. To listen to what a teacher is saying, because the teacher has spent a lot of time, preparing for what she is going to say. And what she is saying, all pertains to God, so it is important and the reason why we go to church.

I went in search of “Boo”, because I felt disappointed on behalf of all the grown ups who had done their best to prepare things for the children. He did not want to come in to the room, especially since there were no other children there. I got upset and told him that K. had spent as much time as I had, to prepare a lesson. Him having seen me struggle that morning. And I told him how upset she must feel, for wasting all that time, when she could have done something more fun. She might have wanted to watch a film instead or sitting colouring in a colouring book for grown ups. But she had to prepare a lesson. For HIM! I know, not nice putting a guilt trip on him, but he was taken there, not to sit and play games on his reading tablet, out in the hallway, but to learn something. At least it is my hope, that the children will pick something up. So I begged him to come in, so that the grown ups would get something to do. And he finally gave in.

It was too complicated a lesson for him, about how all the prophets of old, foretold the birth of the Messiah. Since he is dyslexic and can not read properly yet, we grown ups had to read the scripture places instead. And then he, who does not like to sing on command, had to sit and sing the Christmas song, we are practising on. But of course, the rest of us sang to our hearts’ content, so he did not have to feel alone. And the young song leader, has done beautiful illustrations of the words, so that it is perfect for him. Which I had to point out to him, when he said he did not know, what the text was for the song. When he did finally look up from his tablet, he did see that the pictures actually did help him!

Whoever thought that going to church is a relaxing thing, was entirely wrong. Not when you are the mother of autistic children. The easiest thing would be to stay home, which the other parents do! But I hate to give up, I hate to give in. I can’t let my Heavenly Father down, who expects me to be there. And I really do want my children to learn, that the Sabbath day is the official day when we honour our God. When we do things differently, than the rest of the week.

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An Autistic Christmas Party: #LIGHTtheWORLD

3 December 2016:

I am somewhat behind in my blogging about the advent calendar, but that does not mean I have stopped trying to do something good every day. The 3rd December was supposed to be dedicated to the blind, or to help people see something. One of the more difficult suggestions were to take a course in how the deal with a certain disability. Courses usually run over more than one day and they are not offered on Saturdays. But it gave me the idea, that I would do something for my boys, which I absolutely did not want to do.

I do not like parties. You have to dress up and I do not mind dressing up in itself, but so much is associated with dressing up. People take an extra look at you and tell you how you have gained weight, how you look pregnant (because you have a C-section belly you can’t get rid of) and how you have aged. How fun is it to hear these things? I mean, why does one say these things to a person? Does it make one feel good? Does one really think it makes the other person feel good? Then you have to go on socializing with these people, who have just insulted you. You have to put on a smile and pretend that you are having a grand old time. And if you have your autistic sons with you, there is no way you will have fun, because you are on call the entire time. You have to make sure there are no nuclear melt downs. You have to make sure there are no misunderstandings. You have to explain your sons behaviour to everyone. And you have to explain to THEM what is going on and what is expected of THEM.

But on this day, there was a different sort of party to go to. One for autistic people and their families, organized by the Asperger & Autism association. A Christmas party especially catered to autism peculiarities . We decided to sign up for it, even though it was a one hour drive from us, down in Malmö. And I had to struggle with myself. Because I am a shy person and scared of meeting new people. But, this was not for me, but for my boys, so we all dressed up for a Christmas party.

My husband had let “Boo” know the plan in advance, which is not always a good thing. Sometimes, he will build up pictures of what it will be like and when they do not match reality, he will explode. He had told everyone at school where he was going and the excitement was truly there. Me trying to soften the blow a little, trying to tell him that I had no idea what it would be like or if it would be fun. I discussed it with my husband, since I was not entirely convinced that such a party was a good thing to go to. A bunch of people who can not stand to be touched, who can not read each other’s facial expressions nor body language, especially since they do not really use any themselves! But, since “Boo” was all up for it, I could not be the party pooper and back out last minute.

image“Gubby” told me at once, in the morning, that if he was going to a Christmas party, he wanted to go as a reindeer. I know! For Lucia, 13th December, in this country, their will be Lucia processions in schools and at work places, not to mention public places. What is becoming strange in Sweden, is the fact that the shops no longer want to cater to the tradition. Some people are trying to do away with the Lucia processions of course. Saying that they are not politically correct. Some kids dressing up as ginger bread men, are considered racist, because gingerbread is brown. And of course, Lucia is not a Muslim but a Saint from Sicilia, who had her eyes stabbed out because she was a Christian. Which ever, I have tried to find an outfit for my one son who is tall and needs size 146 cl and an outfit for my younger son, also very tall, needing 134/140 cl. But the clothing shops do not carry anything above 128 cl, so this means that there is supposed to be no Lucia processions, including boys at least, beyond pre-school. I feel offended by it, since I almost have only boys left at home, willing to do a Lucia procession, here for us! What are they supposed to wear then? The ony thing I could find for them, was reindeer outfits at HM. How crazy is that? The schools would never allow it. Reindeers are not included in the traditional Lucia procession, but that is what we will have here at home, I’m afraid, because I can’t make my boys put on Lucia dresses!!!

When “Boo” heard what “Gubby” was going to wear, he wanted to wear his, so at noon, we headed out of the house, with two excited reindeers, and one 12-year-old, who had chosen a T-shirt with pizza slices and hamburgers all over it. No Christmas theme there! Before we could head for the party, which started at 14:00, we had to go to two places. One was the artist shop in Lund, to buy me more repositionable spray glue, for the template I am using to make bricks on my dollhouse. This is getting expensive! One can has already been used up, when the instructions said that one would only need at the most, two layers sprayed on, and then one was set. I have had to re-spray the template after each use! My plans were to go to the party and then finish the second side of the house, that evening, continuing with the final third side on Monday, 5th December. So I was not happy when I found out that the shop had sold out on the glue and would not get more in for at least another week, the supplier not having sent more in the previous shipment. But the man was kind enough to find me a shop in Malmö, which still had some.

When I got out to the car, there had been a fight out there. “Boo” never being able to wait, without teasing someone. So he was screaming loudly in his deep voice (typical autism thing) and I felt very upset because how fun is it to go to a Christmas party when everyone is in a bad mood? Next stop was the paint shop, to get more varnish. It took about one minute, before “Boo” entered the shop, angry. He had had a disagreement with his father at the chemist, next door, so now he walked around like a thunder-cloud in the paint shop instead. I found out at the chemist, that “Kitty” had not been taking part of his medicine for 5 DAYS! “Kitty” takes Strattera, a non-stimulant ADHD medicine, for that part of his disability. But he ALWAYS does the mistake of telling his father, who also has ADHD, that he is out of part of his medicine cocktail. One person with ADHD telling another person with ADHD that an important medicine is out, is NOT a good idea. Because my husband has a memory like a sieve. He remembers nothing! So for 5 days he was told the medicine was out and for 5 days he did not buy any. Not until I said that we would go to the chemist Saturday and buy it, after hearing it was out Friday evening, did we go there. And when I stood there in front of the apothecary and found out the truth, I almost blew my top. I had to scold my son and tell him that what he has done is very dangerous. And the lady helped me, explaining to him, that his body is used to a certain dosage and you can’t just change that dosage like that. He could have a heart attack for heaven’s sake! (He has to take two different dosages Strattera since they do not make the correct dosage pill for him, and he takes another kind of medicine for his aggression.)

Onwards we went towards Malmö and there was terrible fighting in the back between “Boo” and “Kitty”, as usual, and poor “Gubby” sitting in the middle of it all, looking sad, and my husband stooping down to the two fighters level. I really, did not feel happy at all and would gladly have skipped the party, but to disappoint the boys in that manner, no way! We got to the artist shop in Malmö and I ran in to buy the glue, so they would not have a chance to start a fourth fight. Finally, we were on our way to the party and we found the building without too much trouble. It was more difficult to find a parking place and while we searched, I started to get worried, because I saw all these men walking in to the building, dressed in fancy bow ties and smoking. Let’s say with two reindeers, we were seriously under-dressed.

After my husband had done a parallel parking for ten minutes, we walked in to the building and were greeted by a bow-tied dressed man and a woman in an Odd Molly look-a-like cardigan and trousers. We said “Autism Christmas Party?”. The woman smiled and the man took a step back. “Are we under-dressed?” was my next question and she smiled again and told us that no, we were not, that there was a choir practising on the second floor. She directed us to a big room on the ground floor and looking in there, I felt my agora phobia coming on. Hardly anyone was there yet and there were several tables set up, but with plenty of space between them. In the middle of the floor stood a lonely little Christmas tree and behind it was a stage with a piano. People were pretty quiet and sat eating and talking by the tables, but no music was being played. I had to take a deep breath and think “I can do this! For the boys!”.

We sat down at the table closest to the door and the boys asked if they could go and get “”food”. Beforehand T. had asked me what Christmas “fika” meant. “Fika” in Swedish is a word which can mean a snack but it can also mean coffee and cake. “Fika” is when you take a break and sit down to eat, drink and chat. So, I suspected that it might not be food we were going to get treated to, but perhaps ginger snaps and fluid OR  Lucia buns and fluid. Never in my wildest imagination did I expect this!

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A feast of SUGAR! A dream for the children, who had asked so much about the party on the road, and me not being able to answer any of the questions. Autistic children need preparation and they want answers to their questions. Well, they were thrilled and I think that so were all the other children there. And in retrospect, the organizer did the right thing. Autistic children are finicky eaters.They do not like smeary things or mixed up things. Here everything was in their own boxes, dry and separate. Nothing to be upset about and put up in nice rows! Perfect!

“Kitty”loaded a plate full of candy and so did “Boo”, when he saw what his older brother did. I went up to the table with “Gubby” who does things a little bit different from his brothers. He only took a couple of candies, a Lucia bun with saffron and some of the cookies. It was too difficult for him to balance the thin paper plate, so I carried it for him and then I asked him what colour of “saft” he wanted. You can’t assume, always have to ask so that you do not take the wrong kind. He will not explode like his brothers, but will just look unhappy, if it was not the right thing. Going up to the table, in order to get the saft, for myself and “Gubby” (latter-day saints not drinking coffee of course), another mother stood up there with her son of about 20. I took the clear cups meant for “saft” and poured up the yellow “saft” both “Gubby” and I wanted. The other mother had poured her son’s “”saft” in a coffee mug though and when he saw what I was doing, he said “You were supposed to put it in a mug like that, which one can see through!”. His mother apologized to him and I knew how she felt! We all go through this! I realized what a relief it was to be at a party like this, because ALL of us go through the same things with our children and the children all act the same way! No judging here, only understanding!

Of course, I would have grabbed the mug quicker than quick and poured the “”saft” in the right mug, before melt down occured but the mother tackled her son in another way and asked if he would be alright with having the “saft” in the mug she had poured it in. He decided that he would be alright. And she helped him to their table. I looked around the tables and realized that by every table sat true heroes. These parents give so much to their children. You have to have the biggest patience and so much extra love, for these children. I wanted to have said how much I loved these parents at that moment, because noone else but our group know how much it takes from us parents, to have children with autism.

My children sat spread out at our table, so they would not bump each other. Saw it at other tables as well. And then it was soon time to go up and dance around the Christmas tree. This is something I never take part in. Have not done it since I was a child. Or should I say, that is when I started refusing? But I walked up to take photos. That only became a blur anyway. “Kitty” refused to go up because he did not want to dance with strangers nor hold a stranger’s hand. He was happy with his candy. But T. went up with “Boo” and “Gubby”. Everyone held hands, except “Gubby”, who refused to hold the hand of a man beside him on his right. He tucked his hand under his arm and they left him be. SO a hole in the circle, but there was noone forcing anyone at this party nor any judging. What a relief. Suddenly “Boo” came storming towards me, angrily, because his dad had bumped him. That is also very autistic. Assuming that people hurt you on purpose when they might just have bumped you by accident and not taking touch very well, having overly sensitive sense sensors. I had to calm him down and then lead him back to the dance, taking “Gubby’s” hand so that we could have a full circle, with “Boo” being better about taking people’s hands.

After the dancing, we sat down for more eating, and then it was musical chairs. “Kitty” once again refused to take part and played on his mobile phone instead. (He does not have one really, just his dad’s old one, which is only good for playing games on. He can’t make phone calls or surf the net or anything.) No, he told me “I get so angry when I lose, so I do not want to play!” Like one of the organizers said to me, “Very mature of him, to know and to take a conscious decision to not do something, which will cause a melt down”. “Gubby” did not understand at all how it was played in the beginning, but soon got the hang of it. Usually this becomes a loud and very competitive game with screaming and so on, but not here. The parents were polite and left the chairs to children, when they got unlucky. And some children had no language. But all were in to it, in their own ways. And there was no arguing or fighting when people lost. Noone who tried to sit on the same chair, since autistic children do not want to touch strangers! Unless their names are “Gubby”. He usually is very huggy and can share affection with strangers. In the end, there were two people left, a girl and our “Boo”. All parents laughed. We had to. The girl walked around that one lonely chair, slowly, slowly, while the music played. While “Boo” ran round the chair like a ferret. He overtook her several times, every circle, and it looked so funny. Finally the music stopped and he was just in front of the chair, so he sat down and won. He is used to loosing things, since he has motor problems and is clumpsy, so he really became like a sunbeam when he won a special chocolate bar. The girl got one too, in order to not be unfair.

There was more dancing around the tree, but my boys wanted to dance on stage instead. Or dance? “Boo” with his gross motor problems, did his own free dance or surrealistic version of a dance. And “Gubby” was happily doing his own little usual flax! Smiling like a Chinaman and swinging his head like Stevie Wonder. He was a happy boy! And then Mrs. Claus came to hand out candy bags to all children. “”Kitty”” came up for that. Most people started to leave after this, but “Gubby” and “Kitty” went to the handicap toilet, because both needed to poop. I had to go there, because “Kitty” does not really want to help his brother, since he finds it too gross, and then “Gubby” cries. “Kitty” had a melt down in there, because I was too slow. Without a wet wipe, it is difficult to get “Gubby” clean and I had forgot the wet wipes at home! And if I do not get him clean, he will pull down his trousers anywhere and tell people that he needs worm medicine, because it itches. In the middle of this chaos, someone is knocking on the door. Finally, I got “Gubby” clean, and told him that he must get dressed outside the door, since someone needed the toilet desperately. And I ordered “KItty” to go to the men’s room instead. Outside stood a father with his 20 something daughter and needed to get in. I apologized and explained that I had forgot wet wipes. Poor “Gubby” had to stand in the cold foyer, getting dressed. He always strips off his clothes, you see, in order to go to the toilet. Don’t know why he must take off everything, but he always does.

When we finally got back in to the hall again, they were starting to put things away. I got to talk to the woman in charge and thank her for letting us come. It sounded like they have only been doing it for three years now. Because they saw a need. But they never know how much food to buy and how many people will come. Last year, they had been on the first floor, in a smaller room and 35 people had showed up, without having signed up. There was not enough food, nor enough room. Some people had had to sit on the stone stairs leading up to the first floor and her own sons, had freaked out, because people were just sitting too close. This year, 30 people who had signed up, did not show up, so they had way too much food. Right then, “Kitty” screamed out, because they were throwing away the tin foil boxes with cheese doodles and crisps. They asked him if he wanted them, so he said that yes, he wanted the box with cheese doodles and “Boo” piped up and said he would like the box with the spicy crisps. Everyone got busy finding lids for the boxes and the woman laughed at my happy boys. Little “Gubby” was just happy and needed nothing more. He would never say anything like his brothers had just done. We had put his leftovers in a mug and he was happy and content with that.

When we had said goodbye to everyone, we did not know where “Boo” had disappeared to. Then I saw him over by a man, by the stage. He was sitting alone at a table and we called for “Boo” to come. He came up happily to us and said “He is my friend and guess what, he has the same thing I have! He also becomes ‘Bomb’ when he gets angry”. (Bomb, from the Angry Birds film.) “Boo” is amazing because he just starts talking to anyone and says whatever. He walked up to say goodbye to the girl, as well, whom he had competed against. I do not think that it really dawned on the boys, that all the other children, teenagers and young adults, were also having autism. They just knew that this was a good party they had been to. One that took their view of things and catered to their “problems”. I am glad that we chose to go to this party and not the one in church, which would have been loud, noisy and would have had my boys in tears and hysterics!

When we were out of Malmö, we decided to stop by at a shop still open, which according to Facebook have cheap colouring books for adults and there I finally was able to buy a much wanted advent candle stick, which is sold out every year when I go shopping

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for it. When it is dark, the lights form a heart! This year, it was also sold out, but I was allowed to buy the exhibition copy! So I was a happy camper. And to celebrate a pretty good family outing, we finished at the golden arches. I know, after all that garbage food, we headed for more. But the boys became so happy and we did not have to cook when we got home, too late for having the energy to do so. Instead I could start varnishing the second side of my dollhouse!

 

Good that one can hide ugly parts under soot!

Good that one can hide ugly parts under soot!

Ready for varnish, me using anything I can get hold of, to protect areas that should NOT be varnished yet! (Halloween napkins preventing varnish to get in to the attic rooms.)

Ready for varnish, me using anything I can get hold of, to protect areas that should NOT be varnished yet! (Halloween napkins preventing varnish to get in to the attic rooms.)

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