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zird is the word [userpic]
I'm reading a fantastic book. A book about books, what could be better? It's fascinating. It's technically about the worst library fire in American history, when the Los Angeles Public Library burned in April 1986, but it is also about the idea of libraries, the history of them, the purpose and updated use of them and how they've changed from a modern-day viewpoint, and the love of books in general.

The first chapter, which details the spread of the fire and what it consumed, and how much it destroyed actually almost brought me to tears. The thought of all those things gone. Gone forever. Not just books, but manuscripts, magazines, photographs, films, ephemera and so much more. All the library fires and book burnings that have taken place over the history of mankind, encapsulated in an inferno that is brought vividly to life in the pages of another book. When the author talked about the reactions of the librarians who were watching the fire from outside, I almost cried again. It says a lot about me, I think, and a lot about a lot of people, that such an event could be so devastating. In one chapter, the author decides to burn a book to get a feel for what actually happens when a book is set alight. She found the thought of it and the action of it indescribably difficult. She talked about how even throwing away a book was nearly impossible, just like the idea of throwing away a living plant. It resonated so much with me. I remember my visceral reaction the first time I found out about altered books...technically art, but O! the desecration. And I laughed to think of all the poinsettias I've hung onto for MONTHS after the holidays because I couldn't just throw them away. Now I rarely buy them, just so I won't have to be faced with discarding them just because the holiday they represent is over.

The author, Susan Orlean, described her own childhood visits to the library with her mother, and I was instantly transported to visits to our libraries (and there were many, since we moved so much). Coming home with a big pile of books was such a delight. Checking out favorites (D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths especially) over and over. The special crinkle of the mylar/plastic covers. The little pockets in the back with the crookedly stamped dates of check out and return. I don't remember any specific library building; I suspect they were the rather generic base libraries that were available to us military brats. I also remember very fondly a bookmobile that was dark and cozy and full of wonderful finds, but I cannot for the life of me remember WHERE we lived when it was a thing in my life.

I took the kids to the little library here in Flyinge when they were small, but not that was fine for the kids, but there was only one shelf of books in English and unfortunately, they were invariably the types of best sellers and classics that I had either already read or had no desire to read. I could order books from the library system, but it was often easier to just buy my own, since my tastes are pretty specific, and eclectic. It kind of makes me sad now to think that my children, despite being surrounded by books in our house and all the reading we did together, probably didn't have the kind of childhood library experience that I remember.

And in keeping with my frequent thoughts about dying, she makes reference to an expression from Senegal which is used to politely say that someone has died: "his or her library has burned." Yes! That is exactly what happens. Your whole life, and all you have writ upon it, your own hearth-fire, gone out, burnt up, disappeared.

This blog is an attempt to put the fire of my life in a place where it won't go up in smoke when I do. Having it printed into book form each year is another attempt. No one wants to disappear and even if my life is, ultimately, insignificant, it's still full of things that were important or funny or topical or interesting...hopefully, to someone. I worry not just about my own books but the books I own. I want someone to love them after I've gone. I suspect I can't trust my family...none of them read that much. But I hope that they will make their way into the homes of people who will also read and reread and treasure them.

I bought the book on Kindle, looking for something to fill the gap between the excellent book I finished last night (Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver) and the what I've heard is another excellent book that is for book group on December 6 (Educated by Tara Westover), thinking that because it was non-fiction, it might take me a little longer to read. I typically don't start the book group book until about a week and a half before our discussion; too far in advance and it won't be fresh in my mind to talk about.

I'm only 30% of the way through this book, but I can already tell that I'll devour it's that good, and that interesting. I'll have to fill the gap with more than one book at this rate. Good thing she's written more books for me to read!
mood: cheerful
music: Nespresso machine

zird is the word [userpic]
I think a lot about dying these days. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I'm over halfway to a hundred? Maybe because I wonder what my family would do without me? Maybe because I see signs of decay in so many places. It's in the news. It's in the illnesses and diseases and diagnoses that drop like bombs around you. It's a worm in the brain that whispers what if. What if?

What would I do if I lived forever anyway? Even if inevitable, it's a squirmy uncomfortable contemplation. All the accumulated flotsam of my life, both soothing and cluttering to have and to hold. Even with my fairly frequent purge rampages, this house, this life, is full of stuff to deal with later. Stuff everywhere! Long live stuff!

Reading: Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Watching: The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
Eating: Turkey and spinach sandwiches
Going: Open house last night at the Museum of Sketches in Lund with a bunch of fun colleagues and my husband
Planning: Friendsgiving dinner this coming weekend
Anticipating: being home for the holidays!
Working: almost two weeks of manageable workload; a much-needed breathing space
Family: Karin got her driver's license! We think we have figured out paying the rest of this year for Martin!

Our Marrakesh trip got abruptly canceled...the travel agency we booked with went bankrupt and sent us an email to say so sorry but your trip is off and here's the name of the insurance company handling your claims, but don't bother trying to contact them (I did) because they are not answering individual's inquiries and more info will be forthcoming at some unspecified time. I called the hotel in Marrakesh and the man I spoke with informed me that the bookings had all been canceled and the travel agency hadn't paid their bills for 5 months. I contacted the airline and our bookings were nowhere to be found, despite the fact that we paid for everything and received all the booking information. So sad, too bad, maybe we'll get our money back, after the banks and the vendors and the creditors, maybe not. My friend offered to rebook the trip with a different agency but I can't afford to spend the same amount (or more) again since even if it was a great deal, it was still a lot of money, so have to wait until/if we get the money back. UGH.

Martin finished a metal box for his 3D design class that has a hinged, sectioned lid that makes this great creaking sound as it drops into place. His teacher liked it so much he gave him top marks even though apparently it didn't actually fulfill the assignment requirements. Last night, or rather, early this morning, I had a nightmare that Martin and I got into a huge fight because he had taken up smoking and I was so horrified. I yelled at him and cried and lamented what a sweet child he had been. None of it worked, and then I woke up. I'm glad he's doing well in school and that he's thriving there and all, but I miss him. Even though there are things, of course, that I don't miss, I miss HIM. Because we are going to the US for Christmas, he won't be home until next summer, if then, at the earliest. And even though I get to see him now for the holidays, I won't see him HERE for a very long time. Of course, when he gets here and realizes his sister stole his bed and switched it for hers (which was ours), he'll probably turn around and head back.

My to-do list is growing by leaps and bounds. I need to go grocery shopping and get the turkeys. I need to clean the house. I need to set up the bills for payment. I need to call my mom. I need to get out from under piles of laundry (in the works). I need to get Martin's prints framed. I need to purge some more stuff. Stuff, I'm coming for you!
mood: busy
music: none just me and my busy brain

zird is the word [userpic]
I find it so inutterably hard to read the news these days. It feels overwhelming and awful and as if we are just buried in an unending heap of horrible that goes on and on. I know that it's NOT all bad news, but the scary stuff so often outweighs the positive that I really struggle sometimes to find the good things. I read Hans Rosling's book Factfulness a month or so ago and he talked quite a lot about how the human brain is wired to respond to bad news and drama and that we, as humans, tend to focus on those things naturally. Hard to fight a biological impulse, but I still keep reading and watching and looking for the light, even on the days when I just want to throw my hands up and bury my head in the covers of my bed.

I find myself skimming headlines and not reading further because I get so furious and so frustrated and so sad. Why WHY would the Chinese government legalize the use of tiger and rhino parts for medicinal use? DO THEY NOT UNDERSTAND THERE AREN'T MANY OF THEM LEFT? Why WHY would anyone go into a place of worship and shoot people? Or a school, or a shopping center or a concert hall or ...or... or WHY? Why WHY would Trump...never mind. There's simply no useful or believable or reasonable answer to any of the endings of that question. I WAS happy to read about this, though I wonder what the heck they're going to DO with it all, if it works.

Maybe that's why I gravitate so much to Instagram these days. It's SOOTHING. My Instagram feed is mostly full of artists: gorgeous photos, paintings, drawings, illustrations, ceramics, embroidery, sculptures, mixed media, metal, wood, textiles. Scrolling through a feed of beautiful images helps to take the edge off all the things that make me feel enraged and helpless. Playing my Spotify list does the same thing. Reading helps too, but not in the same way.

Right now, blogging, writing, posting seems to be the last thing I think about. I LIKE writing, but I feel I'm writing in a bit of a vacuum so often. And I know that a) so what, who cares, write anyway and b) there are PEOPLE in this vacuum with me, reading. Caring. Maybe commenting. Maybe just nodding and clicking "like". That's not why I should be writing. I should be writing to clear out the things in my head that shouldn't stay in there swirling around, making me crazy. I should be writing because it's a powerful way to share the things that I think are important, or funny, or true. It's a way to REMEMBER. Because good grief, there's too much going on in my life, in the lives of the people I care about, in the world, for me to remember every detail. Posterity doesn't just happen all by itself, you know. It needs your help! You have to WRITE IT DOWN. Otherwise posterity just shuffles off into the past and disappears in a puff of memory.

My friend Chuck wrote a post today about being the archivist for his family and talked about how satisfying it is to be the memory-keeper. I fulfill that function in some ways for my family, too. I write this blog, which misses a lot, but catches at least SOME of it. I print it into books every year so that my kids (and their kids?) will have a record, so something will be PRESERVED. So posterity won't just pass me by, whistling. And one line he wrote really struck a chord: "I started a project that I’ve always been pretty sure would have to be started after I died, when I had more time."

I have some of those projects. I bet you do, too. Even just writing a post, some days, is a project.

But, you know what? I don't have more time. Neither do you. None of us do. We only have the time we have. Don't let the bad news of the day suck you into hopelessness. Those projects won't wait forever. And neither will posterity. Someday, Trump will be history, and someday the tigers will too, sad as that may be. Someday, we'll all be history but maybe there will still be someone around to read what we thought about it while we were making it.

Good things about this week so far: Lots of compliments about Karin at work; getting some scholarship applications submitted for Martin; the vegetarian lasagna that Anders made for dinner last night, served with delicious artichokes; the variety of birds at the feeders this morning: a bouquet of pheasants, a pair of jaunty magpies, a shy blackbird, several obstreperous sparrows and finches quarreling over space on the suet ball holder; the digital communications team's Halloween group costume as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (and the magic mirror and the huntsman and the witch with the apple and the evil queen!); cracking my boss up with a hilarious suggestion for rewriting a sentence about being a brand ambassador to make it more exciting (you had to be there).
mood: moody
music: Robert Wells—Wells' Rag

zird is the word [userpic]
The fall frenzy has started...each week has more things scheduled than the one before and I'm not even in choir this year.

On Friday I went with two colleagues and another friend to the sing-along showing of Hair at Spegeln in downtown Malmö. It's the second sing-along I've been to there, and it was just as fun, though a different feeling since it is such a different movie. I love's one of my all-time favorite musicals. I grew up listening to the soundtrack from the play because my dad loved musicals, too. I knew every word to every song before I was in high school. I remember looking up all the "naughty" words from one of the songs with one of my friends when I was 16 or so. Unfortunately, my two favorite songs from the play are not in the film version, but while watching, I kept hoping I was mis-remembering and that they'd soon show up so I could sing them, too. Alas, no. One of the colleagues that went with us is a Swedish woman who said she ALSO grew up listening to the soundtrack and she also knew all the songs by heart. So peculiar! I didn't realize it was such a globally well-known musical, but apparently I was wrong. She's younger than me by quite a lot, and she was much more familiar with the film music, but she ALSO knew my missing favorites by heart :)

There's a weird dichotomy watching Hair. The feeling of the film and the music is so joyful and yet the film ends on such an awful, shocking, tragic note. You don't exactly come out of it bouncing, if you know what I mean. I'm going again, this time to see Grease, this coming Friday, with Karin and my two best friends. Should be even MORE fun!

This week is almost full of stuff: WW on Monday, AWC meeting on Tuesday, Book group on Thursday (I'm almost finished, re-reading A Prayer for Owen Meany, which I read long enough ago to have forgotten most of), and the sing-along on Friday. Plus we have dinner at my sister-in-law's on Saturday. Full week, indeed!

Karin left for Stockholm this morning...she's going up to work at a security tradeshow that starts tomorrow. She's helping the events team with the booth building and demo setup and comes home sometime on Tuesday. It's her first tradeshow. I told her to take comfortable shoes! But she said they have to wear steel-toe boots during the build; hers were ordered through work a few weeks ago.

I have spent part of this weekend relaxing; have had some weird problem with my right hip the past two weeks...really hurting and no discernable reason why. It's been much better the past two days, so I'm not sure whether to call for an appointment with the naprapat or not. Will see how the next couple of days go. It hurts still, to sleep on my side...have been wondering if our mattress is too soft. I haven't done anything strenuous that would have pulled a muscle, so it's weird. It doesn't feel like nerve pain; it's more in the muscle and possible the joint. UGH. Aging sucks.

We've been working with Martin to get his financial situation straightened out and a handle on exactly what his budget, expenses and income are. We've gotten everything figured out to make sure he can pay off this current term but are still concerned about how he will manage to pay for next term. It would be great if he can at least finish out the year. We are helping him with scholarship searches to find suitable scholarships to apply for, and he has some possibility for more student loans through the US government, but I hate for him to take more loans out there, when he already will owe a great deal of money to the Swedish government. He loves the school and really wants to stay if it's at all possible, but we knew it was going to be difficult to do all 4 years there. Maybe he'll have to go down to part-time, or finish his liberal arts classes at a community college or come back to Sweden and finish school here, somewhere. It's a lot depending on what scholarships he can get...and he has to do the work to apply for them, too. It's a shame that all this financial stress gets added on top of regular school stress. :(

My best friends and I were discussing a few weeks ago the possibility of taking a short trip somewhere together, for fun, next year, during the February school break. We've been sending text messages to each other all week with suggestions for places: Amsterdam, Budapest, Bucharest, etc. Then Debbie said, hey! What about Marrakesh? And sent the info for a non-expensive charter trip that she found online. Well, okay, why not Marrakesh? It's not too hot in February, and it was definitely affordable, so we booked it yesterday. Under 4000 kronor each for Sunday through Thursday, including flight, hotel, breakfast, luggage and a camel ride! Karin, of course, is wildly envious and has now extracted a promise from me to go somewhere "cool" with her next. :D

I've been to Morocco before, actually, back when I was 15 or so. My family was in southern Spain for a long vacation when we lived in Europe and we spent one day in Tangier. We did ride a camel, and donkeys, and went to the bazaar. I remember we had to get cholera shots before we went and they were really painful. It was the first time I'd had a shot with a gun, instead of a needle. I'm sure it will be much different going there now, as an adult. I've already been reading up on website with info on things to know before traveling to Marrakesh. I'm not looking forward to some things already (haggling, tea, crowds) but I'm sure we'll have a fun time, no matter what, and it definitely gives me a much-needed thing to look forward to in February!

We turned our giant sunflower that bloomed in the front garden into roasted sunflower seeds today. Side note: did you know what sunflower seeds are actually fruit, not seeds? We had cut off the sunflower head several weeks ago and it's been drying in the laundry room ever since. Yesterday, Anders and I pulled all the seeds out of the flower head (at least 1000 of them!) and then soaked them in salted water for 8 hours. This morning he roasted them in the oven and they came out great! I'll be having them in salads and he and Karin will snack until they're gone...assuming there are any left when she gets home from Stockholm!
mood: cheerful
music: Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat—Lucky

zird is the word [userpic]
Get a good night's sleep.

Sleep in a little bit, but not too much.

Move your bowels.*

Take a hot shower, then add a blast of cold water. Get as clean as you can. Brush your teeth. Clip your nails.

Eat a nourishing breakfast that includes avocado, egg and fruit. Plus V8 if you can get it.

Send your best friends a message thanking them for a lovely evening the night before.

Start a new book (or continue a good one. Or finish one that makes you regret it's over).

Get some things done. Cross things off your to-do list. Or make a to-do list if you don't have one. Crossing things off them is SO satisfying.

Check the tomato plants and bring in the ripe ones.

Get the laundry done, since it can't be avoided forever.

Lure the cat next door over with kissing noises for pets and cuddles.

Go to the grocery store; make your daughter drive. Buy food you like, things you need, and something good for dinner. Artichokes! Chicken! Find a sale on toothbrushes and buy 10 of them for the charity event your club is organizing for Christmas. Swing by Skarhult castle and buy fresh farm eggs and potatoes.

Unload groceries and put them away. Get some more things done.

Take your daughter for a walk in the sunshine. It's over 23C out today! Enjoy the fall leaves and autumn colors, the warm air, the horses in the fields, the cattails in the rushes, the goats in the pen by the last house on the street. Take some pictures for Instagram #goatsofinstagram, of course. Make goat noises; they're unfailingly funny.

Call your mom and talk for an hour, just to catch up on stuff.

Start dinner but hand it over happily when your husband says, "Want me to do it?" Never say no to that question! Fresh artichokes, fresh chicken thigh filets marinated in Turkish yogurt and grilled, roasted potatoes with garlic, sauce made from the yogurt, sweet Thai chili sauce and mushrooms. Eat happily, burp loudly.

Call your son and talk for awhile, just to catch up on stuff and deal with financial issues. Make plans for another call tomorrow since there's more to talk about. Drive your daughter to the next village over for a party/sleepover. Give her a kiss goodnight. Listen to your excellent Spotify playlist all the way home.

Enjoy myskväll with some snacks and a Pepsi Max. Your husband is watching hockey on TV...maybe you can persuade him to watch a movie instead. Or maybe you can get some more stuff done! Or you can read; that good book is waiting!

Write a post.

Don't stay up too late. Give your husband a kiss goodnight. Get a good night's sleep.

*More conducive to a good day than you'd imagine! :D
mood: satisfied
music: Birdy—Skinny Love

zird is the word [userpic]
So much of everything lately makes me roll my eyes or grit my teeth. I seem to be seething, constantly. Like so many others, I am horrified and frightened and angry as all hell by the news, by the news, by the unending, ungodly, unbelievable news, that you keep thinking can't get worse, but then it DOES, but I feel mute. As if what I say doesn't matter because it doesn't change anything, even when I know that's not true. There are so many things stuffing up my brain that nothing can get out, despite all the pushing.

I don't feel like I know the right things to say: to my daughter who's struggling with the reality of a long-distance relationship. To my son, who's probably not going to be able to finish out this year of college since the money is running out. To my sister, who I don't talk to enough and don't know what to say to, when I do. And in the midst of all the anxiety and pressure and stress, there are good things. Of course there are good things.

Two weekends ago, Anders and Karin and I left late Saturday afternoon, after Karin got off work at the cafe and drove 3 hours north to Kalmar. Kalmar is a city on the east coast of Sweden, with a bridge that leads from it to the island of Öland. We've been to Öland, and in fact, we've been to Kalmar but it was years ago, when Martin was a baby, and we were just passing through. This time, our purpose was to see the da Vinci exhibit at Kalmar Castle before it closed.

Karin, who is really good at this sort of thing, found and booked an AirBnB for us, and it turned out to be a delightful, cosy and spotlessly clean tiny apartment that looked like something out of a magazine, right near the main walking street and downtown area. We got there around dinner time, unloaded and then set off to find a place to eat dinner. We ended up at an Asian buffet place which was nothing to write home about, but did the job, then went back to the apartment and watched "Svenska Nyheter" until we were too tired to stay up any later.

On Sunday, we had a fantastic breakfast at a downtown hotel, and then headed to the castle. It was a perfectly gorgeous, mild autumn day. The trees are turning and people were out walking their dogs. We walked along the edge of the Baltic Sea and over to the castle entrance. Kalmar Castle is lovely and in a great shape, with large halls perfect for an exhibition with lots of large items. The da Vinci exhibition was all about the artist's inventions, and there were tons of them. Lots of prototypes to walk around, touch and read about, huge posters of his drawings and notes, and several really well-done, interesting films and then, of course, the rest of the castle, with all its history. We really enjoyed it.

Afterwards, we went back into the center of town and had lunch at Pinchos (tapas with a circus theme, haha!) and then we drove home again. A perfect little weekend outing. It was much better than this past weekend, when I was down with a bad cold, and then cracked the back of my back molar off. AUGH.

Today, however, I was at the dentist, and they fixed it in half an hour. And I managed to get through the whole thing without gagging once. Yay, me!

I'm trying to keep my mind on positive things: what I'm looking forward to in the near future includes dinner with my best friends this upcoming weekend, going to two different musical sing-a-longs in the next couple of weeks, and figuring out how to be positive for the other people in my life who need it as much as I do.

If you have positive things going on, please share! It helps to hear about good things, no matter how small or trivial they may seem.

Other good things: Karin registered to vote today. My brother has a job again. The weather has turned warm enough that my tomatoes might finish ripening. There are more green peppers coming, too. And both my rosebushes are blooming again.
mood: contemplative
music: TV in the other room

zird is the word [userpic]
I used to live a lot more of my life online, in the blog world mostly, than I do now. Not surprising, since so very many people have stopped blogging for one reason or another. I find that weeks fly by and I don't even think about it once, and when I do check my list of people to read I find it takes just a few minutes to scan through the time that has passed...maybe someone has posted something that takes longer than a minute to read, but it's rare. And getting rarer, sadly.*

It's not exactly that I'm not ONLINE anymore, because I'm online all the time. At least it feels that way. I spend plenty of time answering emails, and texts and messages and scrolling through Instagram (which definitely takes longer than just a few minutes). I stop by Facebook, though I don't post there all that much either. I read the news...or at least skim the headlines, since actually reading the news often makes me so sad and upset and aggravated that it's more an exercise in despair and restraint than is healthy.

I watch shows online, and movies...flipping around between Netflix and AppleTV and HBO Nordic and SVTPlay and SF Anytime, and YouTube...but it's not actually the bulk of my time. My online time seems to be mostly frittering. It's the Twitter syndrome of small soundbites instead of substantial content. It leaves me feeling sort of flat. It doesn't fill me up.

I suppose, that if I want to make a satisfying meal of the content I consume online, then I have to help contribute to the feast. Being online is like a potluck, in that sense. If everyone brings finger food and appetizers, you get full, maybe, but you're sort of left feeling as if you didn't really get a good meal out of it. There's no UMAMI about people online anymore. And there's no real sense of closure either. People have just sort of faded away. It's a bummer that you don't get to hear about the latest chapters of lives that you were once rather immersed in, to one degree or another, and for good or, sometimes, ill. There's no happy ending. Or sad ending, or ANY ending, really. You know they're out there, somewhere, but you no longer know what they are doing, or feeling, or thinking, or laughing about.

Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe we were TOO invested in other people's lives, and neglecting our own. But it doesn't feel like that. It feels more like a sort of accidental abandonment by friends, of friends. It's not that I don't care enough to write as much as I used to, certainly.

Blah blah blah.


When you sit down to write something, it helps to have something in mind to write about. I haven't felt like that in a long time. That I've had anything particular to write about. But it's not like the things that I have written about before were anything earth-shattering. I just did it. I just wrote about them. What I was doing, or feeling, or thinking, or laughing about. It makes me feel good to write something, anyway. It makes me feel better when, at the end of the year, I have a record of my life and thoughts that I can print for posterity (or for my kids, whichever comes first). It probably doesn't help that so much of my brain space these days is eaten up with the crazy at work. Still, there are plenty of other things to write about, and think about, and laugh about. Right?

Today was a particularly crazy, stressful day at work, with several meetings, too much to do (as usual) and trying to get plane tickets booked for a trip to Italy for work next week with my boss. I was very pleased that she asked me to accompany her. It's to hold a branding training for the S. Europe regional marketing staff. I have been to the Axis office in Milan once before, years ago, but they have since expanded and moved, so it will all be new to me. And it's the first work trip I've had in ages...years, actually, so that's nice, too.

The massage appointment I also had scheduled today was canceled last minute due to illness, which I was particularly bummed about, since it's been 3 weeks and I was desperately in need of one to help stave off shoulder issues...but then Karin agreed to give me a half-hour this evening (for pay, but still) and she ALSO cooked dinner from scratch, unasked. It was delicious: red pesto pasta with zucchini and smoked salmon. You should be envious. And the tomatoes in the garden are STILL ripening. I brought in another handful tonight. It's been about a handful a day since late July. Yum yum. AND we're going to try to dry the giant sunflower serendipitously sprouted in the front yard over the summer. It's HUGE—seriously. The size of a very fat dinner plate. The head has bowed and the petals are starting to fall. As soon as it starts to turn yellow/brown, we'll chop it off and bring it in to dry (assuming the birds don't beat us to it). I expect there are close to a thousands sunflower seeds in that thing.

What else haven't I written about? Karin's struggles with the driving test. Karin's job at my company getting extended. Martin's year and then some at college. What we're doing for Christmas. Anders' kayak (it's finished! It's beautiful! It floats!). So many things that get missed when I don't sit down and just write. Just do it.

mood: recumbent
music: Maia Sharp—A Home

zird is the word [userpic]
It's that time of year again, when we vote on books for the AWC book group after sending in our nominations. There are around 15 or so regulars and when each of them sends 3-5 book recommendations, it makes for quite a long list. We had 35 to choose from this year and the 9 winners were announced today. We actually have one book left from last year's list, that we will be discussing next week and I just realized I'd better get going on it. I often wait until quite close to the book discussion date because if I read the book too far in advance, I can't remember the details! :D

Our book group organizer pointed out that it was a very close race this year; only two books were chosen by an overwhelming majority. The rest of the winners received a few votes each and our list is compiled of the books that each received four or more votes. We seem to be in the mood for a good story this year; only two non-fiction titles made the list, which is a bit of a change from the last couple of years. We also seem to want to read about women! In past years we've often had a person who could 'feel our pulse', and nominated several of the titles that were eventually chosen. This year, however, each book in the 'final nine' was nominated by a different person. That somehow feels very democratic!

I'm okay with the list even though only three of the books I voted for and only ONE of the books I nominated made the list because there is only one book on it that I've already read. I re-recommended a book this year that I nominated last year, which didn't make the cut either time, so I'll just have to read it on my own time.

Here is the list, in case you're interested or looking for something to read!

Key: blue=recommended/voted for by me. green=voted for by me. yellow=already read. The ones with a star in front won.
  1. * All the Single Ladies - Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
  2. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  3. * Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton
  4. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
  5. The Book of Joy by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama
  6. The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood
  7. Carried Away - A personal selection of stories by Alice Munro
  8. Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
  9. * Educated by Tara Westover
  10. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  11. The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll
  12. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
  13. * The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil
  14. Good Me Bad Me: A Novel by Ali Land
  15. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  16. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  17. * The Home for Unwanted Girls: The Heart-Wrenching Story of a Mother-Daughter Bond That Could Not Be Broken by Joanna Goodman
  18. Hotel Sacher: A Novel by Rodica Doehnert
  19. The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us by Diane Ackerman
  20. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
  21. * Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  22. Little Nothing by Marisa Silver
  23. Making Friends with Death by Laura Pritchett
  24. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
  25. * The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Ziynab Joukhadar
  26. Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
  27. Nothing Holds Back the Night by Delphine de Vigan
  28. The Outsider, by Stephen King
  29. * The Power by Naomi Alderman
  30. * A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  31. Runaway Amish Girl: The Great Escape by Emma Gingerich
  32. Sapiens, A Brief History of Human kind by Yuval Noah Harari
  33. The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch
  34. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  35. What Unites Us by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner
Lots of good reading ahead! Now I just have to finish indulging myself with a childhood favorite (Heidi) and get going on the book for next week so I can talk intelligently about it when we meet!
mood: pleased
music: The Cars—Magic

zird is the word [userpic]
Tonight, Karin drove to the bus stop in Gårdstånga, and I was glad I was just along for the ride, because it meant that I could concentrate on staring at the GIGANTIC FIERY RED sun that was just about to descend below the horizon. We could only see the top of it above the trees, but it was seriously HUGE. Then as I turned the car around, after we switched places, we saw two hot-air balloons out over Odarslöv and one of them was as big as the sun. Weird what atmospherics can do.

She had a nice week in Greece, except for the part where she and her friend had their stuff stolen off the beach. They had stopped on the way back to their apartment for an evening swim, and while they were in the water, about 2 meters away from their bags, Karin noticed a man sneaking away from their stuff. She raced as fast as she could out of the water, but couldn't catch up to him, and they discovered both their bags were missing: phones, wallets, jewelry, keys, ...augh!

They went to the police immediately who, apparently tired of rich tourist kids, were complete jerks and extremely rude to them. GAH. Anyway, after filling out the report, and back on their way home (with no money and an 8-kilometer walk ahead of them), Karin remembered that she had "Find my iPhone" on, and was able to log in to it from someone else's phone (apparently, there were several other kids with them, that they had met earlier). One of the guys went hunting for the location pinpointed on the app, and after she called it repeatedly so he could hear it ringing, they found their bags, abandoned in a yard, wrapped in a towel. They got their iphones, wallets (sans cash, but with cards/IDs), and keys back. But her jewelry, including 4 gold rings, her gold Casio watch and her Apple Airpod earphones were gone.

One of the rings was mine and one was an heirloom from my grandfather that my mom gave her last summer, so a lot of sentimental value. :( Thankfully, we had the receipt for the earphones and she had photos as proof of ownership of the rings and watch so will hopefully get reimbursement from our insurance agency for the stolen items. I managed to bite my tongue and not ask her what she was thinking, leaving her valuables on the beach with no one to guard them, but gah. Anyway, she's definitely learned THAT lesson. And her father and I were very glad that no one was hurt and they were able to recover so much!

After a week of rain and chilly temps, it seems to have evened out again and we've had really nice weather, not too cold, and no wind, and beautiful evenings. There's been a lot going the past 5 days I've had an evening work event, a birthday dinner with the Wonders, a crayfish party, a movie night with Karin and a hair appointment. Whew!

Martin has started school again and sent me photos of the dorm room he is sharing with his 3 best friends at CCS, but I have yet to talk to him to find out how it's going. I'm sure he's full up already, considering he has TWO jobs to handle, on top of classes starting. One is a 5-hour per week school photographer job and the other is a 15-hour position working at the center where they rent out cameras and equipment to the students. They are only allowed to work 20 hours during school terms, so he's at the limit and actually just had to turn down another position that was offered to him in the photography lab the week before school started! Now if he can just parlay that kind of stuff into enough money to stay in school next term, we'll be getting somewhere! :D

We have AWC board elections coming up at the end of this month, and yes, I'm staying on as the membership officer again. We already have a full roster, which I think is the earliest we've ever had the board nominations filled in the 20 years the club has existed. And it's a GOOD one again this year, so I'm quite pleased.

In other news, there are more tomatoes ripening on the vine and I picked four orange peppers this week. Yum yum! My salads this past month have been divine.
mood: calm
music: Swedish election debates on TV

zird is the word [userpic]
Karin is leaving in the morning (really more like the middle of the night, since her flight from Copenhagen leaves at 6 a.m.) for Greece on a last-minute cheap ticket deal with a couple of friends. They are going to Kos, which I know nothing about, but the name was vaguely familiar, a brain-remnant left over from years of Humanities and Art History classes, one presumes.

She came home after work to finish packing and requested "a nice dinner" so I had the inspiration to drive to Eslöv to an excellent butcher that we patronize on occasion and buy something for Anders to grill. The butcher is a little storefront in the back end of a rather sketchy industrial area but it is very well-trafficked. There were a dozen cars out front and several people waiting in line. In addition to many choices of cuts of meat, they also have a small selection of excellent cheeses, lots of homemade sauce choices, farm-fresh eggs and several shelves of spendy imported items like balsamic vinegar and fancy crackers. I bought 3 pork chops which they put into a bag of "sweet & smoky" marinade for me, a little container of "the best" Bearnaise sauce and a bag of excellent fresh-baked croissants. I wasn't going to the grocery store, and we didn't have potatoes at home, so I reasoned we could either have the croissants as dinner rolls or we could always make some rice or pasta.

Then I remembered that Skarhult castle is on the way home and they have a little old brick building on the side of the road where they sell their own eggs, potatoes, tomatoes and wheat flour. It's all on the honor system; you can leave cash in a box or pay with Swish on your phone app (which is what I did since I never have cash on me anymore), and quite cheap. I bought a 2 kilo bag of absolutely delicious potatoes for only 30 SEK ($3.28). These are the same potatoes that Anders bought back in May; which we ended up planting the last few that hadn't gotten cooked as seed potatoes...we harvested them only a few weeks ago and they were SCRUMPTIOUS.

Mostly, I'm a big fan of one-stop-shopping at our local grocery store, which has an excellent deli counter for meat and cheese and a fairly impressive produce section, but it was fun to get "the best" and put together a delicious dinner, which granted, someone else cooked for us. Thanks, honey!

Sweden is rapidly approaching Election Day, which comes here, as in the US, every four years. However, here there are 9 major parties to choose between (plus lots of little ones that don't actually have enough votes to warrant seats in Parliament), which makes things both confusing and difficult, especially since they tend to group together in various alliances to form governments, since none of them are really big enough to have a true majority. This will be the second national election that I'm eligible to vote in, and I'm much more invested now in actively figuring out who really deserves my vote. The thing is, almost all the parties here are so far to the left of what we consider "left" in the States, that it's rather comical. Martin tried to get all of us to take the "Election compass" quiz on the major news sites which helps you figure out what parties your ideals are most aligned with, in terms of the most debated issues of the day. He and Karin and I all basically got the same spread, with our top three percentages going to the Left Party, Green Party and the currently in-power Swedish Social Democrats, though not necessarily in the same order.

That last is NOT to be confused with the deliberately similarly-named Sweden Democrats who have, the past several years, vastly increased their base in politics, popular opinion and government seats. The Sverigedemokraterna are a right-wing white nationalist group with true neo-Nazi roots who have tried to clean up their act, and cover their tracks, in order to gather voters, succeeding quite handily, sadly. Their main platform of success is on rousing people to vote against immigration, refugees, women's rights and political "correctness" just like all the other populist parties across the world, including the one in power at home.

It's been the main topic of conversation during lunch hour, with many of my colleagues there, and friends outside of work as well, unsure of who they will vote for. There is no real "front-runner" and no real charismatic party leaders and a lot of dissatisfaction both with the party in power and things in general, despite the fact that Sweden is doing many, many things well.

Karin, rather surprisingly, is extremely well-versed in the political scene and has very decided opinions about the issues and the parties. She's been very vocal about what she thinks, and decries the fact that so many of the young people she knows are voting for the populist party out of what she (and I) considers to be sheer willful ignorance.

Even though it is already possible to cast your vote in the pre-voting process, I think I'll wait until the actual election day and walk over with my husband to the kids' former elementary school, a couple of blocks away, in the center of our little village and cast my vote in the school library, with a piece of paper marked with my choice, the old-fashioned way. I just hope I can figure out who I'm going to actually vote for before I get there. It's not so easy as it is in the US where these days it feels like there are really only two choices: good and evil. Ha! If only the choices were as simple as potatoes: starchy or waxy, or as they're known in Swedish: mjölig eller fast. It depends on whether you're mashing or not, but for the most part, I choose firm and solid over mushy any time!
mood: hopeful
music: Earth, Wind & Fire—Got to Get You Into My Life

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I can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.

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