Feb 23, 2011

"Peace on Earth"
(and even more "Angels Among Us")

Our Christmas season settled in with a great measure of peace this year.
We had Maxie and Kiki, and we all had colds so it was a quieter than usual time. 

We had intended to go to the Christmas concert at the Swedish Church in Junsele which promised to be wonderful with a children's choir presenting  traditional Swedish Christmas music.
 But we all found ourselves more ready for a peaceful evening at home that night, enjoying the warmth of the adventstalkar (7-candle Christmas lights) in every window and the fire in the woodstove.

We discovered the previous Sunday at our own little branch of the Church in Övik (short for Örnsköldsvik) that two of our dear members would be spending Christmas without their families this year.

 So we prevailed on Wek, on the left, who comes from the Sudan, and Darlington on the right (loading up the woodbox for the woodstove) to come to the farm and spend the holidays with us.
Two MORE angels! 
It was so wonderful to have them.

Pappa carved the Julskinka (Christmas ham) which was the best ever this year since we discovered a new and better recipe for the mustard glaze and crispy Storbröd (breadcrumb) coating,

and each and every one of us dug in to the Ris a lá Malta  (rice pudding with small chunks of sweet, fresh orange and mountains of whipped cream folded in - it can only be dee--licious!) until we were full to the brim.
Swedish comfort food at it's best.

And of course, it could NEVER be a real Christmas without the missionaries. This year it was Elder Grindstaff and Elder Grigg.

 They arrived, and that very evening Elder Grindstaff accompanied a greatly-cheered-up Pappa on a jaunt to Eden and Junsele where they delivered a Christmas Church video and a beautiful piece of farm cheese from our dairy to merchants and friends.

With their good humor and willingness to help they certainly more than earned their dinner, and their angelic presence made it even more festive.

Here were some of the family just after we started the first courses from the Julbord (Christmas buffet table).  The rest were still filling their plates in the kitchen. 
Maxie had combed his hair like a true gentleman for the occasion (Pappa was so pleased), and Kiki was enjoying yet another hilarious moment of Gustav's quick wittedness and straight-faced jokes.
It was a great spirit of fun and togetherness.

We had wondered and wondered what we could get Maxie for Christmas that he would really love.
It was Gustav who came up with the brilliant idea...
Maxie had told us that he loved to ski, but when we asked him if he went very often when he was home he said he didn't, even though there is a ski hill very close to where he lives. 
Ski equipment is expensive to rent and even more expensive to own and when children are growing so quickly it is a large and sometimes daunting investment for many families.
Gustav remembered that he had a pair of skis that he had outgrown, complete with the ski boots to match.  When he went to find them in an outbuilding on the farm where they had been stored for several years,
they were like BRAND NEW!
He brought them in and dusted them off and even found a helmet to go with the whole outfit.
On Christmas Eve, when it came Maxie's turn to open his presents, Gustav presented him with the entire kit.
Maxie was beside himself with joy and every piece fit perfectly!
As soon as the ski hill was open, Maxie was up and ready to roll.

Kiki helped him get his boots on but he could do the rest himself.

While Gustav was gone to the southern part of Sweden for several days after Christmas for an All-Church youth activity,
Maxie was "sloping it up" at every opportunity, practicing his downhill skills so as to impress Gustav when he came home.
And he did great.....

.....most of the time.
When Gustav got home they went every day and had  fabulous fun together.

They say that
 "All good things must come to an end"
and sadly, it is true.

Wek, Darlington and the missionaries had all been staying over in the "Men's Dormitory" in the upstairs loft of the Vävstuga (weaving house).
They tidied up their beds, packed their gear and left for home in Örnsköldsvik.

Kiki, who had promised to stay until Grandpa Hans' cast came off, did just that, then left for home the same week.  

We live in a small village where news travels fast.
Like everyone else, Jörgen the manager, Tomas the butcher, and Karin the cashier at the ICA grocery store had heard about the granddaughter of the Karlsson's that had come to help when Hans broke his leg.  She was a great favorite with all of them while she was here and when she went to say good-bye, they echoed the sentiments of one of the locals who had said,
 "Att flickan är så vacker inuti som hon är utanför."
(That girl is as beautiful inside as she is outside.)
We agreed.

And Maxie?  Well.....
After days of whooping it up on the ski hills of Junsele,
he and Gustav arrived home one night with less than happy news:

after a particularly daring run he had taken a fall,
and his right arm was bruised, sore and swollen.
He did the only sensible thing...he headed for the kitchen sofa.

When the swelling had subsided, we took him to the Sollefteå Sjukhus (Sollefteå Hospital) where we were greeted with a fond "Hello Karlsson's" since we had been there seemingly not so long before with Pappa and his leg.... They checked him in, examined the arm, X-rayed it, and pronounced it fractured.

Broken Bones 'R Us!
It wasn't a bad break so the cast would only have to stay on for three weeks.
Maxie said it was "worth it" for all the fun and besides, it was his right arm and he is left-handed so "it wouldn't be so bad".
(No shortage of optimism here).

This post would not be complete without one of the most tender-hearted moments of the entire Christmas experience for us.
In our home and around the farm there are always small chores to be done.  Often these come at seemingly "inconvenient" times for the kids and often there is more than one chore that must be done concurrently.
In order to make it fair I always say, 
"I'm thinking of a number between one and ten"
and whoever guesses closest gets to choose which chore he or she would like.  The loser gets the left overs.
For some reason that none of us can ever figure out,
Gustav loses and loses and loses and loses.
It doesn't seem to matter what his guessing strategy is
 or how fast he shouts out his number, he is seldom, if ever, the winner.
When Kiki went home she left a pair of earphones
and said if one of the boys wanted them they could have them.  
I am a 'Techno-Peasant', as our daughter says.
I had no idea of whether the earphones in question would even be desirable.
So as I started up the stairs to where the boys were playing their game one afternoon I began to say,
"Listen guys....Kiki left these earphones and said that if anyone wanted them..."  
I didn't get any farther than that before they both shouted, 
"I want them!"
And that meant picking a number between one and ten.

I saw the look on Gustav's face instantly.  So I got an idea and I said, 
"For just this time we will do 'best two out of three',"
thinking maybe in some way that would give Gustav a better chance.
Maxie guessed first and guessed right on the very number - Four.
Then Gustav guessed with Maxie next and yes...Maxie won again. 
I felt so badly for Gustav. 
And then a terrific thing happened.  

Without a moment's hesitation, and with complete love and sincerity in his boy-voice Maxie said,
"I give the earphones to Gustav!"
We were so touched.

"They wear so many faces, show up in the strangest places,
To grace us with their mercy, in our time of need".
                                                                                    Alabama: "Angels Among Us"

This Christmas season on the farm, we indeed had

Peace on earth,

and even more than that, with all the 'angels among us',
we had an abundance of

Good will Towards Men!

Feb 22, 2011

"Angels Among Us"

A newly-arrived Kiki sleeping off the jet lag on the kitchen sofa
During the time period covered in the last post, we didn't know how prophetic the "angels" part was going to be!
Our granddaughter Kierra (Kiki) was in school in Provo, Utah when she heard the news about Hans breaking his leg the day before.
This child is crazy about her grandfather and he is crazy about her.
It was three weeks before the end of the term and she still had all her exams to write. 
Declaring to her mother and father on the phone,
 "They need help!",
she went to each of her professors and explained the situation. 
 Every one of them understood, admired and agreed to work with her so she could pass.. 
(good to have earned great grades with the end of the semester coming up...),
and within one day she had cleared out her apartment,
stored her belongings in the garage of a friend,
asked her boss at the new job she was to start if he would hold it for her,
driven home to Logan two hours north,
booked her ticket, 
 and was ready to leave from the Salt Lake City airport the next morning,
 for Sweden.
We picked her up twenty four hours later at the airport in Umeå,
three hours from the farm.

We were so thrilled to see her!

Once she was rested up that night she was awake bright and early the next morning and out to the barn with us at 5:00 A.M.

We had been trying to get all the cows sheared, but the clipper wouldn't work properly and despite our best efforts we could not figure out why...
SHE fixed it and started right in!

When the shearing  meant being plastered with cow-hair shavings from top to bottom, she fashioned this lovely black-plastic-bag cover-up with Grandpa Hans'  designer approval!
That's him, the strong-willed Swede who insisted on doing the dishes with his broken leg supported on a chair.

   She wowed us with her pizza dough tossing skills,  and then baked up the beauties.   Look at the time on the kitchen clock.. it was coming up for nine at night after a long day, and she was still at it.
Washing the cheeses, (the job everyone hates), meant long hours in the dairy,  but she did it with good humor and excellence.

We had thought that we would not be able to celebrate American Thanksgiving this year as we usually do because we were so pressed with Pappa out of commission,

 but with Kiki to help we had the golden herbed turkey (she made it),
 we had the stuffing (she made it),  we had the sesame rolls from the woodstove (we made them together),

we even had the pumpkin pie (once again a team effort).
With her loving ways and her kind help she was a life saver.

She was the first to come,
but our cup of gratitude was about to run over... 

To our great surprise, and Pappa's total joy, we got a call from Maxie's family saying he had lobbied long and hard and they had agreed that he could come to the farm for the entire Christmas season.
He was barely in the door before the Edin's jacket, the boots, the hat and gloves were on and he was off to get the inside Christmas tree in the tractor with Gustav!
(well, at least he thought he was....)

In fact he was in for the traditional "Swedish Snow Smother" executed in three chilly steps:
1.  Fling subject down into the snow. 
2.  Give him a chance for one second to breathe and try to get up.
(the "give him a chance" part is optional) 

 3.  Cover his head with snow just after he hurriedly gets his hands over his face.
(Maxie was lightening fast and had his hands over quick as a flash).
Fool that I was, I ran out onto the porch thinking Maxie needed to be saved from this particular winter tradition,
but he LOVED it!

A few hours later he and Gustav were back with the tree, setting it up in the salen (dining room) while Kiki checked to be sure it was in the holder straight.

Kiki and Maxie made Gustav's fabulous birthday cake and Pappa watched from the sofa with his poor, sore leg, while the birthday boy blew out the candles and we all sang "Ja, må han leva" the Swedish birthday song.

 Next, they constructed a gingerbread barn, gluing the pieces in place with the help of a blow dryer. This was a project requiring intense concentration.

The completed masterpiece was proudly displayed on the Christmas table.

  Maxie helped in the house, Maxie helped in the barn,

and when some of the light strings on the beautiful Advent tree in the yard kept going off,
he worked tirelessly out in the freezing with Gustav until they all worked again.

Alabama, the country rock group, sings the words from which we drew the title of this post:

"I believe there are angels among us,
Sent down to us from somewhere up above.
The come to you and me in our darkest hours,
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give,
To guide us with the light of love."

The two angels pictured below,
 warming their frosty feet on the woodstove,
 came from places that are oceans apart,
and they came at a time when they were greatly needed to brighten our lives.
Their example was one of sacrifice and service,
and they brought with them
the unmistakable...

Light of Love!

Feb 19, 2011

"The Slaughterhouse 5"
(Minus 1 - Plus 2 - Plus Many More!)

November brought the Canada geese to our fields.
We thought we would have some time to enjoy them and watch for the familiar V-formations heralded by their sounds in the sky.

        We were so wrong.

The next day brought a little skiff of snow that had all but melted by the time we were coming in with the tractor in the afternoon. 
And the next day brought a snowstorm that went on until everything was covered.
 Hans was up to his ears in paperwork so we thought we had better call the missionaries and have them come to work with Gustav on bringing in the Advent tree right away.
 Elder Grindstaff from Texas was fearless!
He scouted out the perfect tree,

  Gustav sawed it down, and they hauled it home.
Soon it was into the hole and straightened up,
 and they headed to the barn to help with the milking, (that's Elder Rice from Salt Lake City putting the milkers on Bobo, one of our cows).  And to round out the afternoon, both of the Elders worked with Gustav  in the front field covering the logs from the threshing barn that had been taken down two months before.         
                 (With a shaggy sentinel to keep them company.)
Quite a day of service. 
We were so appreciative of their kind help.
Having the tree cut and up early was such a good feeling.  Hans was looking forward to having the lights on in good time this year so it would be all ready for the first night of Advent.
It was the last big item on our list before we were into
the slaughter.

But the snow and ice that had come so quickly was about to bring us something we hadn't counted on....
 That very evening, while coming out of the bus depot in Junsele with his arms full of packages,
Hans slipped on the black ice and his leg went sideways and under the car.
The break was extensive to say the least.
As soon as we could get the swelling down we took him to the hospital in Sollefteå, about an hour away, where they did the surgery, put on the cast,
and gave him the crutches....
for the next eight weeks.

 He was brave, he was trying to be optimistic, he was worried and he was
 in  a lot of pain.
It was such a blow.

Now we were faced with a multitude of problems.
The slaughter was scheduled and the butchers were arriving early the next morning.  The plan was that the five of us would handle it...
Hans, me, Gustav and the two butchers.
But now we were minus ONE...Hans.
 And the ONE we were minus was a very important ONE.
Gustav and I felt that we could handle the actual butchering part that takes place after the meat has been hung for several days,
but the slaughter was a different story. 
It takes TWO to bring the animals in and I simply do not have enough physical strength. 
We wondered how the missionaries might feel about being a part of the slaughter?
It is definitely not for the faint of heart, and seldom for a "city slicker" who has grown up on packaged meat from the glitzy supermarket around the corner.

We were so wrong!

They said YES!!
Grindstaff---stage left!
These young men--plus TWO-- were  real troopers.  They never flinched once.
The entire process went off without a hitch and miraculously all was accomplished in record time and the meat was hooked and hung like it is every year,

waiting for the butchers to return for the cutting and packaging.

 And return they did!
Anders and Patrick.

   They could not be any better than they are.  Both work full time jobs and moonlight at butchering in the evenings.  They know their craft, they work smoothly and quickly, they are good-natured, they are clean, they are a "Piece of Heaven" to deal with. They cut, I labeled and Gustav and I packaged and sealed.

To everyone's amazement we completed the task in about 2/3 the normal time.  We had had to speak to Hans very sternly when he insisted that he could help.  It would have been too dangerous with the break and the surgery so new.  But we missed him terribly and felt so sympathetic for the suffering he was going through.

 We began the process of filling the freezers...a little at a time so that the freezing takes place thoroughly before the next layer is added.

It was the last step in our preparations for the winter of 2010/2011.

This was a singular experience for all of us.
It seemed impossible that such a thing could be accomplished. 

When our son, Manny, left for his mission last March we wondered how in the world we would ever manage on the farm without him.  It took some real faith on our part to face the prospect of having our fourth team member absent for two full years.
But we have seen miracle after miracle in the time that he has been gone and we know it is because we are being blessed for his righteous service as a missionary.
Every time we have needed help, help has arrived. 
Often it is in ways that we could not foresee. 
Always it is heartwarming and reassuring to all of us.

In  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
we have a wonderful book of scripture entitled the Doctrine and Covenants.
From it we read this promise:

"I will be on your right and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."
                                                                                                      Doctrine and Covenants 84:88

We have felt the "many more" mentioned in the title of this post a hundred times as we have been "born up" by angels both seen and unseen.
Having done our best during a difficult time  for us:

This promise has come true!