goingroundandround

FILLING IN THE NEGATIVE SPACE WITH POSITIVELY EVERYTHING*

I was waiting for a friend of mine at the mall on Friday evening, sitting on a bench outside of the store we were going to the grand opening of. I had my phone out and was checking email or Facebook or something and I glanced up to see if I could see her coming yet. But coming toward me was Karin. My daughter. And I thought, "What is Karin doing here??" Only a split second later I realized it WASN'T her at all. It was a girl her age, dressed EXACTLY like Karin dresses, with the same shape face and the same hairdo (blond streaks up in a small bun). My double-take must have been quite amusing.

She was wearing a white shirt and wide black pants, a little short, above fat-heeled white sneakers with a camel-colored wool winter coat and a purse with a thick shiny black strap diagonally across her chest underneath the coat. I swear she was my daughter's twin. I didn't react fast enough to lift my phone up and take a photo and then it was too late; she was around the corner and gone. I texted Karin and told her I'd seen her doppelgänger and she immediately responded asking me if the girl had a nose piercing. "I wasn't that close to her!" I texted back. As if she would have known who it was if I'd noticed a piercing. Is my daughter's style a UNIFORM? Is it what all the cool twenty-somethings are wearing? haha! Maybe it was her evil twin.

Yesterday, Martin called me from the grocery store to ask me what else, besides artichokes, he needed in order to make artichokes for dinner. And how long should he cook them? I had a major flashback to the many, many phone calls I made to my own mother when I wasn't much older than he is, asking her the same kinds of questions. We didn't have Google then or smartphones, so calling my mom was always the best option: she always had the answers I needed and the time to give them to me, it seemed. She basically taught me to cook, by long-distance, since I was forever calling to ask her cooking questions. I gave Martin the answers and told him how to cook artichokes was in my cookbook that he has a copy of. He texted later to say they ended up not having them for dinner since they didn't think the artichokes looked that great.

Karin and I went to a pottery-painting class on Thursday last week that was organized by the AWC. I thought it sounded fun, even though I don't really need any more "things" ...I figured I could always give away whatever I ended up painting. Karin did a large deep-edged pasta bowl in blue blobs and speckled outside. I did a 3-tier candy/cookie holder in a rainbow of colors. It will be interesting to see how they actually turned out, since the colors darken so much after glazing.

Friday I took the day off, one of the compensation days for the hours I worked over Christmas break. The very first thing I did after I got up was to walk for 25 minutes...on my new treadmill! Anders had sent me an email at work the day before, with an ad for treadmills on sale at a store nearby and when I replied "YES PLEASE" he went and got one. They were a SUPER deal and the treadmill is wonderful: very comfortable and smooth to walk on. He set it up for me that evening, so I've been able to walk for 3 days straight and plan to continue at least 25 minutes every day that I can, either right after work, or right after I get up, on weekends.

I also found fabric to recover the dining room chairs with. I took one of the seats with me to the fabric store but there was nothing even remotely close to the pattern we currently have (thin stripes alternating in light and dark green and beige). But I found a gorgeous darker green upholstery fabric with a leaf pattern on it, and sent pictures for approval to Anders. He did, so I bought enough to cover all the chairs, plus 2 extra. Now we have to remove the staples from all the chairs, which is a major chore. Anders' dad staple-gunned the fabric to the chairs for us, and because the pattern was striped he was extra thorough to make sure that the stripes wouldn't move. There must be nearly a hundred staples in each of the chair seats, PLUS another 30 or so more holding a piece of "finishing" fabric over the bottom. Thankfully, Anders has a special staple remover for staple gun staples, but it's still a very manual job.

Anders and I are watching The Man in the High Castle (I am also, finally, watching The Crown) and are just in the beginning of season 3. I wasn't sure about it at first and honestly it took nearly the whole of the first season to really get engaged, but right at the end of season 1 the show went off the rails and now I'm obsessed. It raises all kinds of questions about hairy issues. And I am really waffling about what I think of one of the main characters who both needs to get what's coming to him and ALSO really needs to be redeemed. It's based on a book which I have never read, but might have to, now. Anyway, watching The Crown (while walking on the treadmill!) makes a nice change of pace from worrying about what would happen if fascism and Nazism won the day.

I initially watched the first episode of The Crown ages ago, and my reaction was "meh"...because I know the story. And I don't really care about the British royal family that much, but Karin wanted to watch it with me (she's since had her own "meh" moment), so I gave it another shot, and now I'm hooked, even though I still don't really care about the British royal family all that much. But I find myself Wikipedia-ing things constantly for BOTH these shows, so in addition to being interesting, I'm learning things I didn't know, and that's always a good thing, I suppose.

So, this has been a productive weekend and I have a crazy week ahead of me. The first AWC meeting of 2020 is tomorrow, including our annual media sale, and the trunk of my car is filled with ELEVEN large bags of books. How I'm going to get them from the car to the hotel tomorrow, and then all the leftovers BACK to the car is currently exercising my brain as the hotel is on a main road and there is no good place to stop and pull up near the door. Tuesday, I have to drive BACK to Malmö after work to drop off the books at the school we donate our leftovers to. Wednesday I am trying a new choir, and Thursday is book group (plus picking up the pottery if I can't do it Tuesday). And work is insane, besides.

Wish me luck and I hope to see you on the other side of the week!

*from I Do, by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
key to lizardek

STATE OF THE LIZARDEK

Reading: Wilding—Returning Nature to Our Farm by Isabella Tree

Eating: honey-scented pork filet with garlic-roasted bacon

Singing: nothing yet! Starting a new choir hopefully next Wednesday!

Listening: my Spotify playlist, but I need some new music! Recommendations?

Editing: waiting on final feedback for the logo design for Emily

Drinking: really really cold ice water

Watching: The Man in the High Castle

Waiting for: my next Friday off

Looking at: Instagram

Enjoying: having a clean house

Feeling: like I need a kick in the butt

Finished: the Christmas stuff purge

Buying: new fabric for the dining room chairs, new shades for the floor lamps

Calling: my mom and Martin

Visiting: Anders' uncle Ingvar whom I haven't seen in ages

Wishing: we had had SOME snow this year...still not too late? Maybe?

Wondering: whether I want to push for being a Team Leader at work or not

Cleaning: out books for the media sale

Playing: Two Dots

Paying: for too many months of being a slug

Writing: this post
  • Current Music
    Hoobastank—More Beautiful
  • Tags
cleaning-sweep

OUT WITH THE OLD

One of the items on my long-term to-do list was "purge Xmas stuff". It's been on the list since the summer of 2018 but I couldn't do anything about it last year as we spent last Christmas in the US, so we didn't decorate or have a tree at home. But it was on my mind, as one in a long line of cleaning-out projects that I've been slowly working through.

I actually decorated a bit early this year, as we had our big Thanksgiving dinner at the last Saturday of November and I wanted the house festive for the party. So, all the house decorations were up before December had even started. We put our tree up in mid-December and while I was decorating it, I separated out all of the ornaments that belonged to Martin and Karin (not as easy as you might think). Both my mom and I have given each of the kids a tree ornament pretty much every year of their lives so they both have a about 40 to start their own decorations with. I mailed two boxes of ornaments to Martin and Karin took hers to decorate the little tree in her temporary apartment with.

While I was hanging ornaments on the tree, I also removed ones that, for one reason or another, I had never used, or decided now that I didn't love enough to keep. I gave the kids first dibs but the rest will be going to the Flyinge flea market in the summer. This weekend, I took down the decorations, packing up the tree ornaments and covering the dining room table with all the "house" decorations, and then I did the same thing: packing only the ones that I really love.

Of the six moving boxes of Christmas decorations and ornaments, I managed to empty one and a half completely, which I think is a good start. I plan to try and do the same thing every year...and also squash the impulse to buy new decorations since there is a part of me that is very drawn to glitter and shiny gold and red stuff. I even went through all the things that the kids had made when they were small, adding to their personal piles but keeping a few that made me smile the most.

It feels good to have the house back in order, cleaned and vacuumed. All the paintings are back on the walls and I can enjoy the return to normalcy that packing away Christmas brings. There are no public holidays in Sweden until Easter week, which means we don't have any days off until April 9 (Good Friday). That's 2.5 months of solid work weeks. Because I worked about 3 days worth total over the Christmas holidays, I'm thinking I'll take a couple of Fridays during the "ox weeks" as they're called to give myself some mental health days that I suspect will be much needed. Maybe one at the end of each month until April.

It's Sunday evening, a few hours still to go until bedtime. I've already eaten dinner, and watched some TV and finished one book and started another. It's pitch black outside, and it feels much later than it actually is. I am SO looking forward to more light; the weather has been dreary: rain every day for what seems ages, and the constant cloud cover doesn't help with the darkness. Good thing we still have the advent lights and stars up in the windows...they'll stay up until the end of January to combat the dark!
key to lizardek

CONVENIENCE, COLLECTION & CONNECTIVITY

Sometimes I look at my phone and just marvel about how much things have changed in such a short time. All because of the technology available in a tiny flat rectangle no bigger than a piece of knäckebröd. I know that people moan about how much smartphones have taken over our lives, but honestly, they provide so much convenience and knowledge at the drop of a hat, it's hard not to love them and be impressed.

Think of how much paper we save the environment because we no longer need paper maps or boarding passes or newspapers or calendars or notepads or stationary or photo albums or movie tickets or decks of cards or cash or address books or encyclopedias (or any other books, except that I still love actual physical books) or receipts, or even, in some cases, menus.

Think of how fast we can find out what song is playing or how much 378 x 81,256 is (30,714,768) or what show is playing at the movie theater or whether it's supposed to rain tomorrow in Portland, Oregon (yes, but only scattered showers) or who the King of England was in 1244 (Henry III) or everything you could possibly want to know ABOUT Henry III. Or when the first iPhone was released (January 9, 2007).

You can find out which constellation you're looking at in the night sky. You can find out what kind of tree it is that you just took a picture of.

Think of how many devices they've replaced: watches, alarm clocks, stopwatches, cameras, timers, GPS, radios, record players, ATMs, calculators, rulers, tape measures, flashlights, blood pressure monitors, pulse trackers, step counters, CDs, DVDs, video recorders, tape machines, ticketing machines, parking meters, ...and that's just the SHORT list.

I can see almost instantly where my kids are (or at least where their phones are, haha!). Karin's in Schladming, Styria, Austria. It looks like Martin, who is in Detroit, is at work. :) This comes in extremely handy if their phone is lost or stolen, as Karin can attest to. We can see where we're going and how to get there, and how long it will take us depending on our mode of transportation and whether there is construction in the way that requires an alternate route. We can see exactly where WE are in the whole entire world. We can access street views of almost anywhere, and they're constantly being updated.

Our phones are not just a way for us to talk with those far away from us. We can text them, Facetime them, video chat with them. We can share and update our experiences and happenings and feelings and daily life on social media so that our friends and family know what's going on with us.

We can store so much info that it boggles the mind: photos, contacts, passwords, favorites, web pages, prescriptions, medical information, videos, documents, coupons, music and more.

We can access our banks, our medical history, our playlists, our email, our boarding passes. We can track packages and pay bills and call an Uber. It's really amazing and slightly mindboggling if you think about it.

People say it's frightening how dependent we've become on our phones, but it's not that different from before. We were still dependent on all that stuff; it's just because everything is gathered in ONE device for us now. It's just more convenient! It's all right THERE. We don't have to wait to look something up when we get home or call mom long-distance for a recipe (though I recommend doing that anyway because duh, CALL YOUR MOM) or use a lifeline because you can't remember who played that guy in that show you used to watch. The part that is frightening is the thought of what you would do if something happened to your phone.

For many of us, we no longer have cameras or landlines or calendars or calculators or even watches, except for the ones on our phones. The part that isn't frightening, exactly, but sobering, is how much we let these little devices fill up our time. How many minutes of every day we waste/spend looking at them, getting affirmations from them, playing games on them, using them in myriad ways that have nothing to do with telephony. They're handy little devils, but they sure are addictive. (did you know that they're actually referred to as "handys" in Germany?)

That time we used to spend staring out a bus window or flipping through outdated magazines in a waiting room can now be spent reading a book or watching a show or connecting with a friend. Granted, sometimes downtime and boredom is a GOOD thing. It helps us process and recharge and reset. But for those who loathe wasting time and those who want to utilize every moment to its fullest, smartphones are a godsend. Not that everyone who uses smartphones doesn't waste time...on the contrary. They waste it all over the place. That's what games and social media are for, essentially. But the option...the potential at least, for utilizing your time to the fullest, is there.

I can't imagine life without them, though, and I'm not sure I want to. I don't think I'd want to go back to the way things were before in the sense of convenience, collection and connectivity. I like having a pocket-sized one-stop shop.

Apps I think everyone should have: Weather, Maps, Calculator, Translator, Converters(for money and everything else), Wikipedia, IMDb, Instagram, Goodreads, Spotify, YouTube, Find My iPhone (or equivalent), Wallet (or equivalent), Mitt Apotek (or equivalent)

Some favorite apps that I use all the time
  • Shazam - find out what song is playing instantly (and add it to your playlist)
  • CostSplit - figure out how much everyone owes each other when you're out or on a trip with multiple people
  • Parkster - pay for the actual time you spend parking, not just a guess at how long you'll be (Sweden-only)
  • Swish - instant money transfer; who needs cash?! (Sweden-only)
  • JustWatch - find out which streaming services that series or film you want to watch is on
  • Night Sky - point your device at the sky and see what's up there, no matter the weather
What favorite useful apps have you found?
  • Current Music
    Anya Marina—Body Knows Best
  • Tags
multitasking

A DECADE OF MANAGEABLE GOALS

I don't really do New Year's resolutions as such, but every year when I write my Retrospective post, I write down what I think are manageable goals for the following year. I think exercise and healthier eating are on them every year, and I feel like I'm sort of just kidding myself with how seriously I tend to take that one, which is probably the most important one that's always on my list. My weight has at least been hovering around the same place for nearly the whole last year and since I am still under the weight I was at my heaviest by a decent amount and have managed to keep myself diabetes-free for 3 years I'll take it as, if not a win, a Pyrrhic victory of sorts, anyway.

That's not to say there isn't vast room for improvement in that area. There is. It's on my mind all the time, actually. I am rather better about eating healthier most of the time, but have been much worse about exercise since I had my gall bladder out, for a couple of reasons that I'm not going to go into now. But I am trying to find ways to get better about both all the time. They are both such a struggle though, and they consume far too much of my mental guilt space.

I finished my blog book for 2019 today and sent it to print. Only 6 days into the new year! I have the formatting down to a science and am the speediest cutter-and-paster on the planet. One of my (oft-repeated) goals for 2019 was to be more regular about posting here and I finally managed to do it. My 2018 blog book was only 114 pages, and 2017's was only longer by a couple more. But for 2019, it is 156 pages; a substantial jump (despite the fact that I had only 1 post in November).

I thought I'd look back and see what my track record has been for my manageable goals. I've been writing retrospective posts at the end of every year since 2007. My first list of manageable goals, which was for 2008, was
  • Start art again!
  • Travel to Prague
  • Lose another 25 pounds
I only managed to fulfill one of those completely but it wasn't until many, many years later in 2015 that it actually happened (visiting Prague). The other two have proven elusive.

These have been my goals every year since and my success rate, minus the ones that repeat every year about walking more, losing weight, eating healthier, etc.:
  • FOR 2009
    • Get the family to the States
      Nope
    • Renovate the kid's department
      It's been done 3x since this item first appeared!
    • Try to work Squam Art Workshops into the business trip to Boston
      Finally managed it in 2011

  • FOR 2010
    • Get the family to the States for summer vacation
      YES
    • Keep the better balance found between work, family & activities
      Ummm, I'll give this a maybe

  • FOR 2011
    • Trip to Germany in late summer
      Nope, went to Iceland in the summer instead, but we did go down to Germany for a weekend at the beginning of December for my nephew's Christening
    • Garden renovation
      Several times since this item first appeared!

  • FOR 2012
    • Midsummer with my entire first family in northern Germany!
      YES!
    • Possible family vacation to Greece
      Nope, sadly never happened
    • Thorough clutter cleaning in the whole house
      Ongoing since this item first appeared

  • FOR 2013
    • Possible family houseboat vacation in England
      Yes! Longboats for a week!
    • Getting a new bed and a new washing machine
      No on the bed, yes on the washing machine

  • FOR 2014
    • Continue the no-soda plan until end of June reevaluation time
      Yep, did it for a whole year
    • Get through the project list
      I assume so, haha
    • BIG Birthday Trip to SOMEPLACE in August
      Yes! We spent a fantastic week in Toronto!

  • FOR 2015
    • Trip to somewhere WARM for Karin
      Yes! Croatia for a week!
    • Fireplace and great room renovation
      Nope. Neither one has happened

  • FOR 2016
    • Trip to the US for the big celebration year
      Yes!
    • Get Martin into driving school so he can get his license
      Sadly, nope, he still hasn't progressed on this one
    • Kitchen renovation or fireplace addition
      Nope. Neither one has happened
    • Start singing and crafting again
      Singing: yes, crafting: no

  • FOR 2017
    • Encourage Martin in job hunting and college applications
      Yes! Both worked!
    • Get both kids into driving school
      Nope
    • Find and buy a new bed
      Yep! Finally!
    • Be more regular about posting here!
      Nope, in fact, worse than before

  • FOR 2018
    • Get Karin into driving school and push her about getting her driver's license!
      Yes to both! She got it!
    • Replace the sofabed/couch in the playroom
      Nope, not yet...
    • Do some major decluttering
      Ongoing...
    • Christmas in the US
      Yes!
    • Get Martin's Klimt project prints framed
      Nope, not yet...
    • Be more regular about posting here!
      Haha! NOPE, even worse than 2017!

  • FOR 2019
    • Replace the sofabed/couch in the playroom
      Yes! Replaced with Anders' mom's couch & chair
    • Do some major decluttering
      YES! Still ongoing, though...
    • Get Martin's Klimt project prints framed
      Yes! Finally!
    • Be more regular about posting here!
      Yes! Did much better this time!
I know this is of little interest to anyone but myself, but I find it kind of motivating and a good way to encourage some of the "bigger" things that I want to accomplish during the year, without managing to scare myself off with the term "resolution". And I also think it's just fine to put something on the list again for the next year if I didn't manage to make it happen during the year that passed.

Now to get serious again about those elusive weight loss, exercise and eating healthier goals!
christmas-tinseltangle

TWELFTH NIGHT

I could have sworn that I already wrote a post in 2020 and here it is the 5th of January and apparently I only wrote it in my head. That happens a lot. Whole conversations take place in my head. Whole posts written and discarded into the spaces between the folds of my brain. If all that is still in there, on top of the actual conversations and writing that I've done, imagine how crowded a place my brain must be!

The sun is peeping out, though there is a lot of cloud cover higher up. It peeped a few times yesterday, too, inbetween spitting rain and hail. It's quite cold, only 3.3C at the moment. It's lighting up the birches that stick up behind our neighbor's garage and casting shadows. I should try and go for a walk while it's out, instead of sitting here writing things with my brain and my fingers.

Today is Sunday, the day I water plants, and not the day before a work week since tomorrow is a holiday: Trettondedag jul. Today is also a holiday here, because Swedes always celebrate the Eves of holy days, but since it's a weekend that doesn't matter so much. But this particular eve is Twelfth Night.

Trettondedag jul is not a holiday that means all that much here either unless you are religious, in which case it's Epiphany, which is a Christian feast day celebrating the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus. That's literally what "epiphany" means: manifestation or appearance. It's the night that the Magi reached the manger and found the baby in it and gave him all those gifts. It's twelve days after Christmas, and imagine if the Christ child had received the following instead of gold, frankincense and myrrh:

twelve drummers drumming
eleven pipers piping
ten lords a leaping
nine ladies dancing
eight maids a milking
seven swans a swimming
six geese a laying
five gold rings
four calling birds
three French hens
two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree (x all the repetitions for each verse, bringing it to a total of 364 items)

That would have been a very crowded stable, indeed! There is actually a website that has been calculating the cost of the carol's gifts every year since 1986, a total of 36 years: pncchristmaspriceindex.com/. In 2019, the entire shebang would have cost you $38,993.59 and it's pretty much only gone up every year. Check out the details on the website, it's hilarious, and entertainingly informative.

But that's just pocket money compared to the cost of the gifts the Magi brought. According to one study, over 300 kings came bearing gifts for Jesus with a calculated wealth of over $4 million by today’s standards. So, he wasn't a poor child by any means. Interesting to read about, for sure.

Anyway, for those of us in Sweden it all boils down to a 3-day weekend the week after the long Christmas and New Year holidays. The holidays in Sweden tend to bunch up around the end of the year and in the late spring. I could wish they were spread out a little better, but I wasn't in charge of deciding which religious holidays would still be a day off work 2020 years later.

Karin is in Austria, on a ski trip, though she wasn't able to ski until just now because her bag never left Copenhagen yesterday, and didn't arrive to her hotel until after lunchtime today, but she's now on the slopes, happy as a clam. We are going to visit Anders' mom this afternoon and tonight we'll call Martin to catch up. If it was up to me I'd be putting Christmas away this weekend, since a 3-day weekend seems to be perfectly made for that task, but here in Sweden it's traditional to wait until January 13 (St. Knut's Day), so I get one more week of enjoying the Christmas decorations and watching the tree slowly droop.
  • Current Music
    Stevie Wonder—I Wish
  • Tags
happyfindus

RETROSPECTIVE

A new decade commences! Tomorrow is the last day of 2019 and then we are heading into science-fiction year numbering. 2020 sounds so very futuristic! This past year wasn't exactly as calm as I anticipated but we've made it through, anyway. Here's to the Twenties: may they be progressive, innovative, nurturing, and full of good things, including (from my heart to God's ear) a new President.

Family & Personal Highlights of 2019
  • New Year's with our friends Kathey & Russell and my mom in Michigan
  • Keeping myself diabetes-free
  • Trip to Lisbon with Debbie
  • Karin's 2-month trip to Costa Rica and S. America
  • Martin's 5-week visit home in the spring
  • Trip to Stockholm to spend midsommar with Russell, Geir & Ann Sofie
  • Adobe Conference in Seattle, with added bonus of seeing my mom, Becky and my friend Chuck and his wife Julie Kae
  • Martin celebrating his 1-year anniversary with Malachi
  • Martin finding an apartment in downtown Detroit
  • A week in the Netherlands with my brother and his family
  • Karin starting her college career with a course in Malmö
  • Joining a choir again
  • Bedroom and bedroom closet renovation
  • Martin getting a job!
I only read 79 books this year, the lowest amount since I started keeping track on Goodreads back in 2011 (might have been lower some years before that but I'd have to go count and I can't be orked). It certainly makes me call into question the time I spend playing stupid games on the iPad.

Best Books of 2019 (in no particular order and not including re-reads)
  • Nothing to See Here by Kevin Watson
  • The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
  • The Expanse by James S.A. Corey
  • America For Beginners by Leah Franqui
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
  • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood
  • Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler
  • The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen
  • The Overstory by Richard Powers
  • Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
  • The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden
Once again, I spent far more time on Instagram this year, enjoying beautiful art from all different kinds of artists, than I did finding new music on Spotify. I love my Spotify playlist and listen to it every day but this year was definitely not devoted to finding new music.

Best New Artists of 2019
  • Ava Max
  • MUNA
  • Joe & The Anchor
  • Rachel Platten
  • All Angels
This is the second year I kept tracks of what movies I saw, using the Letterboxed app. I watched 48 films and the ones that stuck with me were: Avengers: End Game, Rocketman, Can You Ever Forgive Me, Klaus, Passengers, Yesterday, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

The TV shows I've watched and enjoyed this year were: Game of Thrones, The Handmaid's Tale, His Dark Materials, Queer Eye, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Outlander, Dips, Watership Down, Call the Midwife, Russian Doll, Fleabag, Vår Tid Är Nu, Little Women, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Love Death & Robots.

Some manageable goals for 2020
  • Eat better (and less) and get a new treadmill
  • Recover dining room chairs
  • Put the iPad down, pick more books up
  • Vacation in the US
I have lots of room for improvement in the coming year...personal, healthwise, home improvements, and working on learning to be a couple again with Anders in our empty nest, as Karin is planning to start university in Växjo in the fall. Tomorrow is New Year's Eve, and then it's back to work, real life and a new decade. Happy New Year!
wheredidthisdaygo?

INBETWEEN DAYS

I'm officially bored. I finished watching both the British mini-series of Little Women and the last episode of season 1 of His Dark Materials, and I worked for about an hour altogether and read my book and played iPad games, and then Karin and Anders and I wasted 2 hours and 8 minutes of our lives watching the 2019 version of Aladdin. Why does that movie have such a good score on imdb? It's TERRIBLE. Apart from a halfway-decent Will Smith, giving his genie his very best shot, the rest of it was leaden and boring. And I don't think it's because we know the story...I just watched 3 hours of a Little Women mini-series, for crying out loud. We ended up watching the entire thing, as if we couldn't look away; as if it might get better if we were just patient.

Don't get me wrong; bored is good. I needed some downtime to be bored. And I know that my idea of bored is still full of things like laundry and meals and various other activities or chores. I think mostly I need to get out of the house more. Karin went with me to the AWC glögg fest yesterday evening, which was nice but wasn't particularly exciting. I brought mini Caprese canapés and Dessert Goop (melted white chocolate mixed with crème fraiche and topped with raspberries), all of which got eaten. None of the people there were very close friends, though it was nice to see some of them and catch up, and there were several small-ish children raising hell the entire time, which was tiresome but manageable since they weren't mine.

The three of us are going shopping tomorrow, as there are gift cards to be exchanged for things, and I suspect that will be a full day of consumerism in the midst of the mellandagsrea madness (days-between-sales which are so-called because they happen during the week between Christmas and New Year's here in Sweden). And I am hoping to exchange the necklace chain that Anders gave me for a longer one.

This was the first year that we were not all together for Christmas, since Martin is in Detroit. I've talked to him quite a lot both before the holiday and during it, but it's not the same. I suppose this is just the first of many holidays that we won't all be together. Karin was in and out all this past week, spending time here for actual holiday events and then disappearing for days. She's been here all day today though, being a slug on the couch, eating leftovers and watching terrible movies with us and now hockey with her father. If Martin were here, maybe we'd be playing a board game. Martin had the week off, and saw some of our cousins (with my mom) on Christmas Eve and then went to my mom's for Christmas Day (with my grandmother as well). He's heading back downtown today as he has to work tomorrow. I wish he was here, but I'm so glad that he has a job at last that I am also glad that he isn't.

Everyone had a good Christmas here and we all were very happy with the gifts we received, many of which were high on the wish lists. I'm always glad when I feel I've done a good job picking out presents, though of course wish lists make a big difference. I gave Anders a giant, heavy box of dirt...a mushroom farm! It's already prepared with mushroom spores or whatever it's called and we should see fresh mushrooms in only a few weeks! Karin got a new ski suit and boots and Martin got a new iPhone...making me the one with the oldest model again. :D

Another reason it would be nice to have Martin home: help eating leftovers. Our refrigerator is simply packed with food since we hosted dinner both on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. A full Swedish julbord the first evening and a traditional turkey dinner the following. We've all been diligently doing our duty, and we managed to empty several Tupperware containers today but I will probably put stuff into the freezer tomorrow, as we're all a little tired of the same things every day. We only eat turkey twice a year but since we still had turkey leftovers in the freezer right before Christmas, it feels like we've been eating it for ages. Though I could happily eat the green bean casserole for longer. Yum yum! Maybe tomorrow we'll have sushi at the mall just for a change of pace.

Monday is also a holiday and then we are spending New Year's eve with our friends Mats & Annelott. This is the first year that "real" firecrackers are no longer allowed in Sweden, and it's a real bummer. Part of the fun and excitement of New Year's eve is going outside at midnight to watch the fireworks shows that take place all over Europe. Now you can't shoot anything that explodes with a bang. You can only use sparklers and those "cakes" that sit on the ground and shoot sparkles up about 3 feet. It's actually apparently still legal to BUY fireworks, but it's illegal now to shoot them off, unless you have taken a training course with the county (which costs a lot, I suspect). I guess the townships will still have firework shows but all the spontaneous magic in the sky over every village and home will be missing. Usually this time of year, we've already been hearing the bangs of firecrackers sporadicly every evening but I haven't heard a one. And no signs or commercials advertising them either. The reason given on the police website for the law was to minimize the amount of accidents, especially since minors are so often involved, though I've heard a lot of people claiming it was because dogs are scared of them. This will be the quietest New Year's in over 23 years. I have a 3-pack of Thai lanterns, but that's the extent of our "fireworks".

I don't know how I feel about the fact that it is almost 2020. It sounds like a year out of a science-fiction novel. It feels like we should have made more progress than we have, though the progress we have made is amazing. It's been such a hard year to handle in so many ways, with the news every day numbing us...I am dreading the whole run-up to the US elections, as I suspect it is only going to get worse before it gets better and with no guarantees of actually getting better either. We do the best we can, I guess, and make the choices that help us move forward in the world. I am glad the light will start returning, at least. That will help on an emotional and mental level, for sure.
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EK FAMILY CHRISTMAS LETTER 2019

We spent last Christmas in Michigan with Liz’s mom and Martin and our good friends Kathey and Russell joined us there for New Year’s so we had a very happy start to the year! We were back in Sweden by January 4 and back to work nearly straightaway, leaving Martin behind to continue his second year at CCS.

At the end of January, Anders went skiing in Czech Republic with friends on their annual ski trip. He had several work trips early in the year as well, all to Italy. Karin continued working at Axis with Liz as her contract was extended, and then again, all the way through the summer. Work seems to never slow down much and it was crazy for months, especially at the beginning of the year. At the end of February, Liz went to Lisbon with one of her best friends, for a week. It was supposed to be 2 best friends, but one had to cancel at the last minute due to illness. Lisbon was lovely and very hilly and another country to add to Liz’s long list of places she’s been.

In March, Karin left for a 3-month trip to South America, with 4 friends. Their itinerary included a month in Costa Rica, starting with a 2-week surf & Spanish course, and then moving through Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. They had a trip Instagram set up so family and friends at home could follow along and see what they were up to. Two months later, she abruptly showed up at home, having accompanied one of her very homesick friends back to Sweden, after deciding she was ready to go home, anyway!

Martin came home mid-May to spend a month and a half in Sweden, and relax a bit after the stress of university projects and finals. It was really nice to have the whole family together again, for a little while! Liz was finally able to talk her manager into allowing her to attend a big Adobe conference in the US, and in June, she headed to Seattle for a week. Happily, her mom was able to join her, and her best oldest friend Becky drove up from Oregon to spend a couple of days. And she even got to see a good blog friend who lives in the area! Even though Liz was busy at the conference during the days, they had a great time in the evenings, and Liz and her mom were able to sightsee a bit the day before the conference opened.

As soon as she was back from the US, it was Stockholm next, with Anders and Martin in tow, to see their friend Russell racing, and spend midsummer with mutual friends. Martin returned to Detroit at the end of June to start a 3-week work program at his school and figure out his living arrangements for afterward as he has decided to take a break from college. At the end of August, he and his boyfriend Malachi found an apartment in downtown Detroit and moved in with several other roommates. And after several nail-biting months, he landed a job at a sushi restaurant within walking distance: perfect! :D

This year, Karin turned 20, and Martin turned 22. It’s hard to believe they are so grown-up and starting out on their own adult lives. We went down to the Netherlands for a lovely week in mid-August, with Karin along, to meet up with Liz’s brother John and family. which was super fun. Karin started working part-time at Meijeriet, a concert & event venue in Lund, while continuing a few hours a week at Axis. She is currently in the middle of a project management course at Malmö University, and is planning to start a 3-year marketing communications program at Linné University in Växjö, next fall. She is back to playing soccer in Lund, and climbs several days a week at the Climbing center in Malmö.

Liz is still on the board of the AWC, and joined a choir in the fall, but is hoping to find another one that is a better fit, next year. Anders has continued to kayak when time and weather allow and goes mountain biking with friends in the area during the spring and summer months. This year, Martin will be in the States for Christmas, with Liz’s mom, if his work schedule allows, and the rest of us will be here in Sweden...the first time we’ve been apart for the holidays! :( We hope that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season no matter where you are or who you’re with!

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VACATION, SCHMACATION

It's been a week of vacation and I'm slowly getting used to not working, though I'm still checking emails and our ticket system because holy crap we have a lot of work right now, and I feel guilty for being a slug at home while my teammates are buried. :( It's no fun being off when you fee like you're leaving your team in the lurch. I actually went in to the office today for about half an hour because my boss organized a short julfika this afternoon. I brought cranberry-pistachio bark with me which was much appreciated. And I took my laptop home because doing a little work during the holidays is how I plan to make things easier for myself when I get back in January AND one way to give a little holiday cheer to my colleagues, hopefully.

Did you ever play elf? My sister and I used to do it once in awhile. It wasn't a Christmas thing and to be honest, I don't remember where we got the idea exactly...probably from Highlights Magazine...we'd sneak downstairs after my parents had gone to bed and clean up things. I suspect we didn't really do that much to make a difference and I don't really remember my parents' reaction, but it was fun to sneak quietly and do good and think we were being helpful elves.

Even though I've had the week off, I've had things to do. I've nearly finished my shopping...I have 2 things to get tomorrow and I need to just count stocking stuffers one more time. Everything that had to be ordered for shipping abroad or mailed has been. Yesterday and today, Karin came home and we've baked cookies. Not just the cranberry-pistachio bark...we made kolasnittar, chocolate chip cookies, iced sugar cookies and peppermint cookies, too. And Anders just made butterscotch candies to take to work tomorrow.

I've wrapped presents and cleaned house and run errands, and I've binge-watched a couple of shows: all of His Dark Materials that was out (1 more episode on Monday) and both seasons of Fleabag, which was EXCELLENT. And we discovered yesterday that Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is already out, so we started that last night. I can't remember the last time I watched that much TV! Then I have to decide if I want to watch The Expanse. The books were great, but the first one veered heavily into horror and reading it was probably as much as I can handle...not sure I want to see some of it live on screen.

Tomorrow I'm getting the last two things on my list and then meeting Debbie & Camilla, with Karin, for dinner. Karin and I might go see the new Star Wars movie on Saturday (she's already seen it; she went to the premiere) though she wants Anders and I to come over to the apartment for dinner and see her little tree. And Sunday I have another massage and design meeting with Emily. She's gotten the latest round of design suggestions for her logo, and we're down to three options. Two of them I am really happy with and the third is a variation, so whichever she ends up picking will be fine with me.

And then it's pretty much Christmas! It's hard to fathom that it's actually the end of 2019. A new decade awaits. How weird.