I grew up on saunas, you see. Pa and I had one in our first home even, but, unfortunately, there isn't room for one in our current home.
And while I didn't grow up with one in my childhood home either, our Saturday nights would find us making the 12 1/2 mile drive from Laurium to Houghton for our weekly scrub and steam at my grandparents.
I love the sauna. The steam, the cool-down breaks, sauna skin.
Growing up in the land of saunas, I grew up savvy in the art of the steam bath. I've partaken in competitions to see who can take the most steam, been guilty of blowing on my competitors shoulder in an effort to get a lead, run from the sauna to the big lake over and over, and have even been known to dive straight from the sauna to the snowbank.
There's nothing quite like the sauna, and I miss it.
In Finland, my sauna education was furthered. I was fortunate to be able to experience the savu sauna and the use of silver birch to beat and stimulate the skin. Both of these were appreciated and memorable parts of my year abroad.
There were a few times when I broke sauna protocol in Finland, for - as you'll read if you follow the link above, there are very distinct sauna rules that we Americanized Finns aren't always aware of, or willing to follow because of different thought patterns and upbringings.
One such rebelling came when I'd take the kids to the swimming hall. Swimming halls are quite popular in Finland and we found ourselves at one or another every couple of weeks. For those that don't know or remember, I was a nanny for three children when I was there. Two boys - from one family, and a girl from another. Now - the rules when it came to the swimming hall were that it was mandatory to take a sauna before going into the pool, and it was also a rule that these saunas had to be taken in the nude.
But I was caring for two boys and a girl from different families and they were quite silly about their differences at that time.
So I used my Americanism to my advantage and we all went in dressed and tried to hide behind the older heavier set crowd. When called on it, I'd just pretend that I didn't know a lick of Finn and turn innocently to the kids for interpretation. It worked, but I did get some scowls for breaking the rules. I was okay with that.
Another awkward time came during the holidays. In both the homes I lived in, the sauna was the main source of bathing. Even if I chose not to sauna, I still had to go in in order to shower, for neither homes had another shower. Taking sauna several times a week was completely normal. Alone.
But, and I was warned, during the Christmas season - I believe it was Christmas Eve - it is custom for everyone to sauna together. While I sauna together with my own family, my friends, my mother - the thought of sauna-ing with my host family was a little over the line for me, and I turned down that invitation. And I offended. It is what it is. While I'm a full-blooded Finn, I am the more prissy American version. I'm okay with that. But to them, at that time, I was part of the family having already lived there for six months, so they didn't understand my hesitation.
While sauna-ing with mixed company was over the line for me - I didn't, and don't, have a problem with a bunch of women in the sauna. To me, that's perfectly normal.
It was during my last month in Finland that found me in the sauna with my host mother, a friend of hers and the little boys that I cared for.
To this day, I'm not sure what caused it as I was no rookie to sauna by this time, but I passed out. Hit the floor right on the spot but quickly came to. Seija was concerned about me, but after insisting I was okay - let me continue with my steaming.
And I hit the floor again.
Did I mention that the families I worked for were doctors?
The second time I hit the floor - Seija no longer believed me that I was okay and called for her husband - the doctor. It was a bit humbling, but necessary I suppose - although he never did find anything wrong with me.
In our next house, we'll definitely have a sauna. I enjoy sauna company, enjoy a good steam after a long day, appreciate it on these cold must shovel afternoons and during the damp rainy season.
And I'm pretty competitive when it comes to steam. It's a healthy competition.
Sick: Day 14
All the males are under the weather - fevers, aches, sore throats, runny noses