Tuesday, January 31

Day 31: Increasing Daylight Hours

Yesterday one of the local newspapers devoted it’s theme of the day to focusing more on positive and uplifting news. Each article dedicated to this positive theme was marked by a large, sunny, yellow, smiley face so that the reader would be sure to take notice. One of the featured articles discussed the fact that in the month of January alone we acquired 106 more minutes of daylight. One hour and 46 minutes over 31 days. That is a gain of 3 minutes and 41 seconds per day. It doesn’t sound like much really but here we are at the end of January, I am looking out of my office window at 4:00pm and it is still light outside. At the beginning of the month it was pitch dark at this time, so that makes me pretty happy.
Before we know it, the daylight hours will have reversed themselves and it will be light out the majority of the time. By the end of February the sun will be setting around 5:40pm. But let me not get ahead of myself. The darker days of winter are wonderful for sleeping soundly through the night and well into the weekend mornings. There is something to be said too for suffering through the long, winter darkness. I truly feel that by the time summer is here, I have earned it.

Monday, January 30

Day 30: Happy Sounds

I stepped out of my office building into the sunny, cheerful sound of birds happily chirping. It was a mild 30 degrees Fahrenheit, though it felt a tad bit warmer with the heat of the sun beating down. Okay, maybe not beating down but it was definitely making its presence known. Our office building is situated at the top of a small, hillside park with a couple of steep paths that wind from the street where my office is down through the park to the street below. I made my way down the more meandering path which was more exposed to the sunshine. The birds were out in full force, singing merrily and I could not help but notice the sound of joyful happiness in their chatter. Maybe it was the sunshine that had me take notice of them or perhaps they were only out, like me, because of the sun’s presence. Either way, we were all getting our dose of vitamin D.

The sound of birds chirping is such a happy sound. It reminds me as well of the sound of children playing. The intermingling of children’s voices while playing with the occasional happy screech reminds me of the innocence and joy of being a child. I don’t think we have to be children to experience that feeling. We find reminders of this feeling in days such as today, like when I stepped out into the sound of the birds’ cheery songs.

On days like today I cannot stay put in the office without seeing the outside world. The sun becomes a magnetic force that cannot be avoided. I am compelled to go out and feel it shining on my face and breathe in some fresh, if not icy cold, air.

Sunday, January 29

Day 29: Walking and Sunshine

There isn’t much a good walk and some sunshine won’t cure. That and a bit of shopping. Today Carl and I set out early to walk into town and shop for some winter pants that we can use for multiple outdoor activities. It was an early weekend outing for us. We left Södermalm at 11:00am, following the sun down Hornsgatan (The street we live on) to Slussen (The lock that the boats use to go from the higher level of Lake Malaren to the lower level of the Baltic sea), and then across to Skeppsbron (A street whose name literally means ship bridge), through Kungsträdgården (The king’s garden), finally arriving at Stadium, the outdoor, sporting goods store.

I have shopped in Stockholm long enough to know that I should not go out looking for something specific with particularly high hopes of finding that exact thing. However, I was hopeful. The store pleasantly had fewer customers than I had expected would be out. Probably in part due to the lovely weather outside. We were in and out in around thirty minutes and both of us lucked out and found pants that fit. The price of Carl’s pants was better than mine but being a shorty living in the world of tall folk I was satisfied to have actually found some that were adequate.

After our shopping excursion we continued our walk to Kungsholmen, another of the islands that make up Stockholm’s archipelago. It is also the home of my office and we were heading there to pick up a lamp that I had ordered but was not able to get home during the week. On our way home I said that I would stop by the grocery store to pick up a few things while Carl would go on to the apartment and check to see if there was anything else we needed. Shortly after I started shopping he called to give me a few other items to pick up and mentioned finding footprints on the kitchen counter. The footprints were from our new roommate, Pina. (Kitty, you know better).

By the time we both arrived back to our apartment we had both shucked our grumpy moods and it was just 1:00pm. We still had the majority of the day left to laze around and get ready for the week. Yesterday we went out for a nice, long walk as well but minus the sunshine. A walk is lovely in itself and I love to take long walks regardless of the weather but walking plus sunshine is a magic combination. There is something about feeling the sun shining down on your face that just makes the corners of your mouth turn up.

Saturday, January 28

Day 28: Cat Naps

Naps are certainly not overrated. Most days I don't get the opportunity to take a nap while other days I don't feel that I need one. Today however, I felt the need for one and had the opportunity. It was a lovely day for a nap. The weather was a bit grey and I had been doing laundry and cleaning and sorting my inbox all morning. I decided to take a break and went down to the living room to play with my kitty. I had bought her a new toy on Thursday - a stick with an elastic string attached to one end and a fluffy, feather thing attached to the other end of the string. The new favorite I assure you. I can make her chase it or follow it with her eyes for hours. She is a very patient cat and will sit and watch it for an excruciatingly long time before actually attacking. She'd be a great outdoor killer if given the chance.

Anyway, I started out sitting on the couch. She was content to sit as well and just watch the fluffy, bird-thing hop and fly around. Eventually I decided to lie down. It wasn't long after that that I felt the overwhelming urge to "rest" my eyes, and arm. I rested the cat toy on the couch with the feather end hanging down onto the floor. I fell fast asleep. When I woke up briefly I peeked down onto the rug in front of the couch but she was not there. Sadly I went to lie back down and just happened to notice out of the corner of my eye that she was curled up in the opposite corner of the couch. We were both taking catnaps. Ah… there is nothing better than a lazy, catnap next to an expert.

Friday, January 27

Day 27: Fredagsmys

One thing that I love about the Swedes is that they devote every Friday to something called Fredagsmys, which literally means cozy Friday. It is the one night out of the week selected to light candles, watch a movie and eat something special, usually candy (godis in Swedish) or chips. But it can be anything that’s yummy and makes you feel warm and good inside. For me chocolate is always a good option. Sometimes we go to our favorite candy store called Caramella, where you take a bag and fill it up with your favorites from the bulk bins. Other times we might get something from one of the local bakeries. I went by three bakeries today after work in search of a specific pastry that we wanted and they were all completely sold out. So tonight it will be fresh shrimp from Smögen, which is a fishing town on the west coast of Sweden, to be eaten with fresh baked bread, butter, creme fraisch and lemon. I bought the shrimp at Hötorget, which is one of the wonderful indoor markets in Stockholm where you can buy all sorts of specialty items. Just going there is something of a Fredagsmys for me. I love to look at all of the artisan cheeses, dried fruits, chocolates, meats, breads and seafood. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. So now it is time….for Fredagsmys. Enjoy your own Friday and be cozy.

The video below is a commercial for a potato chip brand in Sweden but they are singing about Fredagsmys. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 26

Day 26: A Case for Grumpiness

I just want to start by saying that I did not wake up grumpy. Tired yes, but not grumpy. Grumpy started on my subway commute to work, after I had a nice morning workout at home and a quick cuddle with my kitty. Yes, it was after I walked through the softly, falling morning snow and made my way to the subway station.

Carl says I should just walk to work and avoid the things that make me grumpy. And I am contemplating it even though the weather is starting to get much colder. The stark, cold air does start to feel good when you are laden with so many layers: undershirt, wool sweater, hat, gloves, scarf, coat and boots. What caused me to get grumpy isn’t even worth mentioning, and I have managed to put it past me [for] now. Maybe it was getting to see my sweet, little kitty that was lovingly waiting to greet me when I came home from work that made it go away, or it could have been the warm hug from my husband, which always has a way of dissolving grumpiness.

Whatever it was has left the building and there is a nice bar of chocolate with sea salt waiting for me. Chocolate always helps, and with almost anything. I just want to say that it is okay to be grumpy. It doesn’t have to take over the day. It can be a traveling companion that you stuff into your shoulder back to keep from spitting on the people around you. Mine certainly kept me on my toes. All day long he kept prodding me to think about what I would write today. What would I find positive about the day? There wasn’t any specific thing or thought that stood out (chocolate). Of course it is easy to say that I am thankful for my health and all of the blessings in my life. And I don’t want to present myself like I take those things for granted because I truly feel thankful and blessed for my health and my life every, single day. It also wasn’t that I was thinking negative thoughts. It was more like I was staring at a blank slate. And my blank slate had a small disclosure at the bottom, which read, “I permit you to feel grumpy today.” Thank you. I’m going to eat my chocolate now.

Wednesday, January 25

Day 25: Remembering the Rapture

Laughing attacks sometimes cause me to double over in pain, my stomach in knots and tears streaming down my face. I just cannot stop laughing so I have to “suffer” through it. I often feel better after a good gut-wrenching laugh and it wasn’t too long ago that I had one of these moments. I am sure you remember the Rapture prediction that was made for May 21, 2011. The world was going to end and God was going to take those who were worthy to heaven in a flash. You would just disappear. If you were left behind you were considered a sinner and unworthy of a place inside the pearly gates.

Carl and I were at home on this particular Saturday in May last year. He was downstairs sitting on the couch reading his laptop computer and I was upstairs piddling around. We had been discussing a bike ride and were in the process of deciding where we would go. It was a gorgeous, sun-shiny day. Spring had come early and the blue sky and frisk air outside were inviting us out to play. Carl asked me to come downstairs for a minute. I was in the middle of moving wet laundry into the dryer and said I’d be right there. I walked downstairs, chatting with him as I went. I don’t remember exactly what I was saying and I probably forgot then as well but as soon as I came to the bottom of the stairs I saw this:

I immediately fell to the floor. I was laughing so hard I think I pee’d my pants. Tears were gushing out of my eyes and my stomach was burning. I was speechless. A few minutes later, here he comes. He’d been hiding in the bathroom in his underwear. Apparently God allows you to go to heaven with underpants on.

Tuesday, January 24

Day 24: Riding my Bike

It is not a difficult task to find something positive about today but I’d like to focus specifically on my morning. First of all, I’d like to point out that I slept solidly through the entire night for the first time in a while. I usually wake up at least once and because I need to go to the bathroom, I’m forced to get up and go, which further wakes me up and disrupts my sleep. But last night it was like I slept on clouds. I woke up feeling fresh and awake and not like a piece of lead. I usually lie there until the last possible minute, however this morning I got out of bed right away. I went down stairs to make coffee and breakfast for my husband and then played with my kitty, Pina, for a bit before pulling on my bike shorts, tennis shoes and a t-shirt to ride my bike. If you are wondering, no I did not go for a ride outside in the snow. We have a trainer set up in our guest bedroom and today was the first time since I had asked Carl bring it up from the basement that I actually rode it. That was three weeks ago thereabouts.

So I get my set-up ready. I have my iPhone, my iPad, a bottle of water and a book. Little did I know entertainment was not something I needed to bother myself with. Pina decided to join me for my morning exercise. I had a feeling that the noise from the back wheel spinning around would frighten her and it did a little but she was a trooper and stood her ground. She sat at the doorway the entire time I road and it was quite entertaining. She is a very curious kitty. I think I have mentioned that before but it is worth mentioning again. She alternated between sitting and staring and inching her way little by little into the room.

About five minutes after I started pedaling my nose started getting runny and I didn’t have any tissues so I sniffed. It wasn’t very loud but coupled with her fascination and trepidation it had a startling effect. I did it right when she had started to slink a few steps into the room. She jumped straight up in the air, all four feet at the same level. It was like she was standing about 5 inches in the air and was one of the funniest things I’ve seen a cat do. It’s too bad that I wasn’t able to video this because I am sure it would get a million hits on YouTube. I continued my ride for twenty minutes and she stayed there keeping me company the entire time. I don’t think I need to say that this put a smile on my face for the whole day.

Monday, January 23

Day 23: Grumpy

I woke up this morning with a headache, a very, sore shoulder and my eye twitch back in full force. Not a good way to start my Monday. Sometimes when I wake up with a headache I try to wait it out to see if it will go away on its own. I did a bit of stretching, drank a little coffee and took a hot shower with mint-scented shampoo. Unfortunately it did not help so much. In any case I left for work armed with Tylenol and a coca cola. My commute included fighting my way through the smells of “freshly cologned” morning commuters and withstanding the pushing and shoving of those who were obviously in more of a hurry than anyone else. A bad mood and a worse headache took over rather quickly. Then I thought about my positivity project. Here I was, headachy, grumpy, eye is twitching like mad and my neck and shoulder killing me and I am supposed to find something positive about the day.

Tylenol and a coca cola are on my mind. Is that a positive thought? I decided just outside of the subway exit, as I am climbing the steep, murderous hill (or mördarbacke as the Swedes call it) to get to my office, that I am going to allow myself to be in a bad mood today. Being grumpy does not have to be a negative thing, right? Yeah, well. I succumbed to taking the Tylenol with some coca cola shortly after my arrival to the office and a couple of hours later I admit that I started feeling much better. Without the headache, my sore shoulder and eye twitch were more bearable and I didn’t feel so grumpy anymore. So I would like to thank the makers of Tylenol for helping me continue with my positivity project. Without them today would have been a wash.

On a serious note however, I have managed to shake the bad mood and am choosing to feel positive instead. It’s snowing outside and it is a nice, quiet day at the office. I have a very sweet, loving kitty waiting for me at home and it is already 4:00 p.m. I also must mention that I won another game of Filipin on Friday. Just the thought of that puts a smile on my face. If you have not been following along since the beginning, see posts from Day 1 and Day 12.

Sunday, January 22

Day 22: Snow Day

Sometimes I think days of doing mostly nothing are the best days of all. Of course there were the odd weekend chores which needed to be taken care of but just hanging out at the apartment with my husband and kitty cat, Pina, made up most of today. It seemed that we all needed to recharge from the stress of the past two weeks, with all of the visits back and forth to Katthemmet each night after work, going on two all day excursions last weekend to purchase all of the necessities for our new family member and then the lack of restful sleep the first couple of nights that our kitty was here.

Pina has been with us since last Tuesday evening and she has settled in remarkably well for such a short period of time and she seems to be truly comfortable in her new home. She makes her way around the apartment like she’s been here much longer than six days. She is very curious and wants to inspect everything. Yesterday she discovered the washing machine. She sat in front of it nearly ten minutes just watching the clothing going around and around. She was also very intrigued with where the water went when it drained from the washing machine and she searched the bathroom until she found the tube and watched it curiously as it made loud, gurgling noises.

Today she discovered the snow. Since she was born in July 2010 I have to assume that she saw all of the snow we had last year but to see her watch it now you would think not. It was snowing when we woke up this morning, big, fat flakes that looked like large pieces of stuffing coming out of a pillow. They swirled in the air enticing poor Pina as she sat in our bedroom window watching them. It was very cute to see. So cute that I think my heart melts a little bit every time I see her discovering something new.

Everyday she finds something new to draw her fascination and curiosity however I think her favorite discovery has definitely been our stairs. She runs up and down them at the speed of light and you hear the soft, thundering of her paws and the scratching of her claws as she tried to gain friction. She seems to especially do this after she has visited her kitty toilet. It’s quite funny.

Later in the day Carl and I stepped out to run a couple of errands and we had a nice long walk in the process. It was still snowing, blanketing the ground with a cheery brightness. There is something magical both about a lazy, snow day when I am off of work and watching my kitty in her daily routine. Having a kitty is like having snow day every day. Just knowing it is snowing outside brightens the day in the same way that my kitty brightens my day.

Saturday, January 21

Day 21: Sales & Chinese New Year

One of my friends and her husband recently moved to the suburbs of Stockholm. She is originally from China and her husband is one of those rare, native Stockholmers. A couple of weeks ago she called to invite us to a party at their new home. It would be a combination housewarming and Chinese New Year celebration. By chance I have another friend with Chinese roots so I asked her for advice for a good Chinese New Year gift, as well as information about Chinese New Year traditions. She gave lots of good advice for traditional gift ideas and she mentioned that wearing something red, specifically something new, is also very traditional.

Just a couple of days ago I picked up salads for dinner at For Friends cafe, one of our local neighborhood haunts. On the way there I passed by a store called Edursdotter. They sell these beautiful, handmade, wool jackets, as well as hats and other accesseries, that are what I like to call "functional art." There was a gorgeous red, wool, sweater jacket hanging in the window for half off of the regular price. I filed it away in my brain, not knowing yet about the "wear something red and new" thing. When I found out however, I immediately thought of the cute, red jacket at Edursdotter. Today when I was out getting a Chinese New Year's and housewarming gift I dropped by and tried it on. It was my lucky day. They had my size and it fit beautifully. Needless-to-say, I left the store with my new jacket and as far as the party and Chinese New Year’s celebration goes, I can happily say that I heeded tradition. I hope the dragon was paying attention.

Friday, January 20

Day 20: Barbequed Potato Chips

When I find myself missing something from the US it usually has to do with food. Most of the time it’s something Mexican food related, like salsa, tortillas or enchilada sauce. And don’t get me wrong, salsa (a.k.a. tomato sauce with green bits and pieces in it) and tortillas (corn tortillas that are actually made with half wheat flour) are readily available, but enchilada sauce is a bit scarce. Then there are the things that I became accustomed to eating in the US that are just not available here. Butternut squash ravioli, fake Buffalo wings, frozen waffles for the quick, on-the-go breakfast, and salad bars are among those things.

The Swedish idea of a salad bar is just not quite the same. Most times the salad bar is a build-your-own but not make-your-own. Someone stands behind the counter and builds it for you. The base salad that you get consists of iceberg lettuce, a couple of small pieces of tomato and cucumber and your choice of bulgur or pasta, then a choice of five additional toppings. It isn’t horrible but it is just not the same. I found one place that actually has a mixed greens base but then there are no normal toppings available. The choices there include roasted veggies, bean salad, carrot salad, fennel salad, barley salad, and then grilled chicken, Swedish shrimp, Swedish crawfish or meatballs. I think you get the idea. We make salads often at home but the lettuce available in the grocery store comes alive, planted in a tiny, plastic pot, like an herb, and is enough for maybe two medium sized salads.

All of that aside, I have pretty much found substitutes for everything that I love and miss from the US. In a rare instance I have found the item itself. Imagine my pleasant (read: jumping up and down and doing a happy dance in the store) surprise to find Kettle barbequed potato chips on the shelf. In the orange bag and everything. I sent a message to Carl from work this afternoon telling him that I sure would like some bbq chips for my Fredagsmys tonight. (Fredagsmys will be explained later) and he told me to get them. I replied that there were no stores that carried them except ICA Maxi and I was not up for dragging myself there, since it was out of the way and not super easy to get to. He replied, “Don’t they have them at Daglivs?” Daglivs is one of the grocery stores on my way home from work. I did not remember them having bbq chips but if Carl had seen them there I figured I could go by to check. I walked to the chips section, in half-hearted expectation, thinking that I would have to settle for dill or black pepper and sour cream chips, and voila! There they were, on the shelf, like a beacon calling to me. I grabbed two bags and ran to the check out.

Thursday, January 19

Day 19: Morning Walk

This morning I walked out of my apartment and the sky was a deep, cobalt blue, slowly becoming lighter as the sun crept up. I began making my way to the subway for my morning commute and when I reached the corner where I normally would turn to go to the subway station, I decided on a whim to walk to work. My boss has been walking to work the past week or so and he lives further away than I do so I thought, “Why not?” It was a really gorgeous start to the day and I figured it would be good to be above ground instead of taking the underground route. Then I looked at my watch. I was not sure how long it would take but I figured at least forty-five minutes and I didn’t really have the luxury of taking a forty-five minute commute. There was a bus stop ahead and just my luck, a bus was about to turn onto the street where I was walking. I decided to take the bus down to Långholmsgatan, just before the bridge to Kungsholmen and I would walk from there.

I am always amazed at how many people are out walking or riding their bikes here, even in the winter. I looked around me as I approached the bridge. Many people were walking to work. There was hardly any wind blowing, which is excellent for crossing this particular bridge. I began my climb. The bridge crosses the island of Långholmen before it stretches over Lake Malaren. Långholmen is the home of an old prison that closed down in 1975 and has since been converted into a hotel. Guests sleep in old prison cells complete with bunk beds. They’ve decorated it to resemble a prison and it is actually quite fun to stay there. Carl’s sisters have both visited us in Stockholm and were “imprisoned” there during their stay.

I looked down as I passed over the island and saw many people milling about below in the park. Some were walking dogs and others were jogging or hiking. All of the trees were bare and I could see Stockholm’s City Hall across the water through the trees. I just love the simple, harsh beauty of winter. As I reached the top of the bridge I noticed several people were taking photos of the area behind me. I turned to look and saw the most beautiful sunrise coming up over Södermalm. The double steeples of Högdalid Church were in silhouette and the sun was just beginning to crest. The horizon glowed a rich orange that faded skyward and turned into the deep, cobalt blue I had seen when I left my apartment this morning.

I don’t know how often I will walk to work but I have to admit it was a wonderful start to the day. My mind was clear and my soul was heavy with images of the beautiful city in which I live. Maybe one morning I will leave with enough time to walk the entire distance.

Wednesday, January 18

Day 18: Katthemmet

On Monday of last week we went to a place called Katthemmet. It is a shelter for homeless kitty cats that can be adopted. We've been contemplating a new kitty since we moved to Sweden but with the tragic death of our last kitty and our move to Sweden, We just were not ready yet. We are now!

I'd been looking at Katthemmet's website to see the kitties they had available for adoption. There were only a few kittens and the rest were between 1 year and 9 years old. We decided to go visit, thinking that we might consider an older kitty that wouldn't be adopted so quickly. The first room we went into, the blue room, was comprised mainly of kitties who had already been booked. This means that the kitty has been selected for adoption but hasn't gone to its new home yet. The first step in Katthemmet's adoption process is to book a kitty. Then you must visit the kitty a minimum of two additional times within the next week before the kitty can come to your home. On your second visit they encourage you to bring something from your home that smells like you so the kitty can begin to get used to the scents in your house. You also get the option of visiting every day if you want. They then deliver the kitty to your home on a decided date and time so that they can see where the kitty will be living.

We met many nice kitties that day. Two particularly drew our interest. A five-year old tomcat named Samoa and a year old girl cat named Puma. I really liked Puma. She was a svelte, black kitty with yellow eyes. She was a bit on the shy side but I loved her right away. Carl connected more with Samoa. I liked him too and we went home thinking about the two of them.

Visiting days were Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings. We decided to go back on Wednesday to see how the chemistry was with Samoa & Puma. We went to see Puma first. She was still a bit shy but seemed to recognize us and meowed hello. We then went to see Samoa again and unfortunately he was on the grumpy side and he tried to bite Carl. We decided to book Puma and after our visit we headed home thinking of new names for her.

Barring any changes, Ronja/Lilla My/Tove/Pina Bausch would be coming to live with us in the next week. It wasn't long before a name was decided. At least 98% decided anyway. Pina Bausch was Carl's favorite. We'd call her Pina for short. It was also a close likeness to her current name, Puma. I really liked the idea but was not completely convinced that Pina was her name. However when we visited her this past Monday she was sitting across the room from me & I said, "Pina," and she jumped up and ran to me. Carl said, "I guess that decided it". So Pina is her name.

Tuesday, January 17

Day 17: Clementines

When I lived in the US I was spoiled but did not truly know the extent of my spoiling. I could buy almost any fresh fruits or vegetables year round. Regardless of being in season, fruits and vegetables were grown and shipped from all over to my local grocery store. Part of the reason fruits and veggies are so readily available is due to the mild climate of places like Florida and California. Mild climate is one thing lacking in Sweden.

I am exaggerating slightly but it seems that the only fresh fruits and veggies available during the winter in Sweden are apples, bananas, broccoli, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and onions. Of course there are a few other options but it is rather limited compared to the summer. Except for clementines! They are the winter jewel and definitely something I look forward to every year around mid November. These bright, happy, orange balls are like a tiny burst of sunshine illuminating the dim, winter days. Not to mention that they are the perfect snack.

We have a weekly fruit basket delivered each week to my office at work. It usually includes (green) bananas, apples, occasionally pears and in the winter, clementines. I am not the only one addicted to them unfortunately, and there is always an unspoken battle for them between my colleague Magdalena and me. Come Monday mornings, upon the fruit baskets arrival, we walk-race downstairs to snag a couple to keep hostage on our desks. Neither of us says a word but it really is a competition to see who gets the most.

Clementines are among the few things I love about winter in Sweden. Nearly every one I eat is perfectly ripe and delicious. I could probably eat my weight in them, given the freedom to do so, and they could very well be one of the reasons I keep my sanity in the months I must endure before the cherry blossoms come out. There is one sitting on my desk calling to me now...

Monday, January 16

Day 16: The Internet

Ten years ago, having Internet meant being able to send emails to my friends and family who lived anywhere in the world. It meant being able to look up movie theaters and times, to access my University website, their online library and art history search engines, and occasionally looking up some random information. Today The Internet means life. It is like a huge umbilical cord that connects us to everything and I cannot imagine living without it. I use The Internet everyday, throughout the day. The Internet truly is a magnificent creation.

I had an “argument” with Carl recently regarding the question of what we each felt was the most significant invention of the last 100 years. He said The Internet, hands down. I tried my best to sway him. I suggested travel by airplane. Nope. I threw out automobiles. Not a chance. I mentioned the tampon, obviously not applicable for a man, but as a woman I feel that it has been a remarkable invention, worth mentioning. For him The Internet is the most significant invention of the last 100 years. I can’t blame him for feeling that way. It is fantastic! I mean, I can be anywhere in the city and pull out my mobile telephone, which is connected to The Internet, and look up directions and a map to where I am going, make a restaurant reservation, find a store, and if the broadband is strong enough I can use The Internet to Skype or make a phone call to the US from Stockholm. And I can check Facebook, my bank account balance, look up a Swedish word that I don’t know and check the weather, all within a few minutes. These are just a handful of things one can do with The Internet. It's bounds are nearly endless.

Am I brainwashed?! Perhaps it is because I am married to a man who lives and breathes for The Internet but I really believe that having this tool makes life happier, and definitely simpler. I too love The Internet and if I’m being completely honest, I might admit that it is the most significant invention of the last 100 years. Just maybe.

Sunday, January 15

Day 15: Small Things

As I was eating my breakfast this morning I noticed some of the objects sitting on the table around me. Lining our wicker, breadbasket is a cute, little, square textile of black sheep hand painted onto natural linen fabric. I found this treasure at Svensk Hemslöjd, one of my favorite local stores here in Stockholm that sell handcrafts and art, and I just couldn’t bear to leave, or live, without it. It fits perfectly in the bottom of the basket and it magically makes bread taste better. I’m not even kidding! Sitting in the middle of our dining table are two, small, ceramic bowls, one is black with white hatch marks and the other one is a mirror image only with the opposite color scheme. They were hand made by a Swedish artist as well and were a birthday gift to Carl from his sisters. I’ve filled them both with cardamom seedpods and placed tea light candles in the centers. They are a beautiful accent to the black stone center of our dining table and there is nothing cozier than the warm glow of candlelight during the Swedish winters. Both the breadbasket liner and the candle bowls are small touches that put a smile on my face when I see them. I love details such as these. I feel that they really add to the joy and pleasure of daily living.

Now as I sit here at my desk I notice other objects that keep me company. A heart-shaped, pale-blue, glass paperweight sits at the base of my computer monitor while an abstract wooden bird with little wire legs is perched on the base of my desk lamp, along with one of the angels from yesterday and another carved wooden bird. Three, small, black, photo frames, with photos of my parents when they were young, also watch me as I work. Seeing these little items makes me smile all over.

I could write about numerous objects such as these that I have collected through the years. Many I still have and some have gone on to other homes to spread happiness and love. They each bear a special story or memory of when they were acquired. Some I have had for many years, even from when I was a child and others are newly acquired or were received as gifts - just simple, small things that make life richer and sunnier and each one is like a warm, friendly hug.

Saturday, January 14

Day 14: Angels

My mother used to avidly collect angels. Angels that were handmade with fabric and lace, old fence posts, small bits and pieces of wood and metal formed together to create grace and beauty, and many made of glass or ceramic. She just loved them. She still loves them and still has many in her collection but at some point she decided to stop "collecting" them, as the house was becoming overtaken with angels. Not a terrible thing but I can understand not wanting a complete home invasion.

This passion for angels has been passed on to me. I have angels here and there, scattered throughout the apartment. I just noticed that I seem to have suddenly accumulated three new ones in the last six months (don't tell Carl!). But really, there is nothing more positive or happy than a little angel. Just look at these little lovelies:

This first one is my favorite. She is very tiny, probably no more than two inches tall. I love her curly, matted, blond hair, her cherry tomato cheeks, her joyful, singing mouth, her striped gown and even her clunky, somewhat clumsy wings. I smile each time I look at her.

The green one is somewhat abstract but lovely no less. Her simple form emits peace and calm. I bought her in Gothenburg at a quaint, little shop that features various local artists' works. (I bought one for my mom too, I couldn't resist!)

This painted, blue angel, with her fancy, green-striped socks, was a wedding gift from Carl's parents. Both of his sisters also received one as a wedding gift, though they were married many years earlier. The artist who painted this angel was no longer working but his parents found her and asked if she would do this commission, explaining what it was for. She floats on the wall above our bed.

My lovely fruit bearing, angel of health was a gift from my dear friend, Jeanine. She was sent to me after I had a miscarriage during the first few months after we moved to Sweden. She has been a blessing and she watches over me in my sleep. (I had to include a photo of the cool, ceramic lady that stands next to her. She isn’t an angel exactly but she is the guardian of my wedding rings when I sleep. She was a gift from my dear friend, Kasey. I was so worried that she might break during the move to Sweden that I packed her in double, bubble-wrap and stuffed her into a box of sweaters to make sure she would arrive safely).

I received this chubby, love angel as a gift from my mother-in-law, who knows of my fondness for angels. A bonus, as she also carries a huge, red heart (another thing I accidentally collect, though I am limited by my husband, who I have to say, gave me one of my most favorite hearts just months after we began dating).

This one isn't so obvious but it is a collage with St. Christopher, the patron saint of travel. We bought this wall hanging in the hill country on our mini honeymoon to The Inn Above Onion Creek, near Austin, Texas.

Here is one of our favorite little angels, who went to kitty heaven just before Clove and I moved in with Carl.

Clove became an angel too, just a couple of years later, right before our move to Sweden. Kitties are the best angels, I think.

Angels come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes we recognize them right away and sometimes they pass us by and we fail to see them. They watch over us and protect us and they make me smile from the inside out. If you do not yet have an angel I highly recommend getting one. Keep your eyes open as you travel through life. You might find one right in front of you without even realizing it!

Friday, January 13

Day 13: “Impoliteness is the Mildew of Mankind” – Jasper Fforde

The above quote is taken from a book I am reading called Shades of Grey (author above). However, other than this tiny excerpt, my post has nothing to do with the book. Say the quote out loud. It has a nice ring to it, I think. Impoliteness and mildew are things that I really dislike. One time I lost two pairs of perfectly good (platform) shoes to mildew. I had moved from Los Angeles, California, by way of Sedona, Arizona, to Houston, Texas. The shoes, a black suede pair and a beige suede pair, were sitting in the bottom of my closet wrapped in a plastic bag to keep them “safe” from dust etc. One day I pulled the beige ones out to wear and they were completely molded. They weren’t wet or even slightly damp before I wrapped and put them away. In fact, they had been living in the desert for several years previously and were anything but damp and yet there it was, the mildew that ate my shoes. The black pair were also ruined. I had to throw them out. Such a sad day.

So back to my quote, I was on my way home from work today and I was just about to pass one of the shops on my street as an older couple was leaving it. The woman looked at me as I was approaching and then stepped directly in front of me and stood there. I know I am younger and I have quick reflexes to dodge a person but come on, you don’t have to look directly at me, make eye contact even, and then step right in front of me. I had to come to a stop or I would have run right into her. There was no one walking behind me but it was obviously impossible for her to wait two seconds to allow me to pass before stepping out and completely blocking the sidewalk. This kind of thing makes me crazy. But is it really impoliteness? Inconsiderate, yes. Obliviousness, yes. I don't know for sure but I do know that being impolite takes as much energy as being polite but the benefits of being polite greatly outweigh the benefits of being impolite. When someone is impolite, or rude, it has a way of continuing with the person who was on the receiving end, like a negative pay-it-forward. It is in this manner that impoliteness is like the "Mildew of Mankind." Slowly it eats away at things until they are ruined.

After my encounter I shook it off and kept going, though it was tempting to allow it to affect my evening. No reason to let the mildew ruin another pair of good shoes!

Thursday, January 12

Day 12: Filipin 2

Yesterday we were on our way to Katthemmet (The kitty shelter) to visit kitty cats again. We had met two kitties on Monday that we liked and wanted to have a second visit to see how the chemistry would be this time around. Katthemmet is on the red line of the Subway going toward Fruängen (which unrelatedly means “the wife field,” strange I know). You exit at a stop called Telefon Plan and it’s just a short walk from there. So we were walking from the subway station to Katthemmet and Carl said, “It’s going to snow tomorrow.” I said that I doubted it and he asked if I wanted to make a bet. He said that if he won he wanted to win all of our future Filipin games (someone obviously doesn’t remember the dates or times). I told him no. I don’t usually bet unless I know I will win and I wasn’t sure. I thought it would mostly rain but that it might be cold enough later in the day to snow and I didn’t want to risk it. I’m competitive. We went on our way.

This morning was rushed. We both felt like lead when the alarm went off but shortly afterward Carl managed to spring out of bed & jump in the shower. He forgot he had an early meeting and was running late so he was gone before I was really awake and out of bed. When I finally did get up I noticed that it was raining outside. Hmmmm. No snow. I sent him a text message and asked, “Is it snowing?” I’m a punk, I know. He wrote back, “The day isn’t over yet.” Well, it didn’t seem like snow weather but I was safe anyway since I didn’t take the bet.

Later in the day, after raining slow and steady all day, I looked out the window around 2:00pm and low and behold, it was snowing. However, it wasn’t just snowing, it was snowing sideways. I am not kidding! I sent him a message that it was snowing. He wrote back, “I win all Filipins.” He’s dreaming. I didn’t bet. He called me a sore loser. I called him a slow walker. He called me a Boogie (Wo)man.

Wednesday, January 11

Day 11: Boogie Man

Well, today was the first day in a while that I caught myself thinking a negative thought. I was actually caught off guard by it, since I’ve been on my positivity kick the past couple of weeks, but I knew it couldn’t last forever. The evil, gray mass came into my mind so quickly that I almost felt a whiplash. It crept up on me during my morning commute on the subway like the Boogie Man. I was reading the Metro newspaper and as I browsed through an article the negative thought jumped right into my mind, without an invitation. “How rude,” I thought. I was taught by my parents that it is rude to interrupt people when they are speaking. Negative thoughts interrupting positive thoughts are sort of the same thing. I chuckled and thought to myself, “You are going to have to try harder than that if you want to get me off my game.” Take that Boogie Man. I’m not scared of you.

Tuesday, January 10

Day 10: Full Speed Ahead, or Get Out of the Way!

I'm on my way to work this morning. Just moving along with the sea of people in the subway station, transferring from one train line to another, when I am suddenly slowed down by a fellow traveler moving slower than the flow of traffic. My first thought is " you're walking too slow - move out of my way!" As I move around the woman and continue on my marathon race to get to the office I recognize a correlation between commuting to work and moving forward in life. The difference being that when we encounter that person in life, “walking slow in front of us,” instead of walking around them and speeding back up, we slow down and let them keep us from moving ahead. Why is that?

With the start of the New Year we all come up with resolutions for bettering ourselves and/or moving ahead in our lives. How many of us have a “slow walker” in our life that keeps us from moving ahead? I'd venture to say that we all know someone fitting this description. This person probably doesn’t mean to hold us back from our goals or dreams, just like we do not mean to allow them to slow us down, like the slow walker in front of me, slowing down my commute to work. It just happens. Well, it’s time to move full speed ahead. Don’t let the “slow walkers” hinder your commute in life. Tell them to get out of the way so you can get by and get on with your life.

We've got places to be.

Monday, January 9

Day 9: Positive Things

My positive-things-about-today list:

Slept like a log through the night
Woke up in a good mood AND without a headache
Had a delicious almond butter and honey sandwich for breakfast
Got to sit down on the subway (as opposed to standing crammed against fellow passengers like sardines)
It snowed!
Ate leftover, homemade pizza for lunch
Read a funny joke
Went to visit kitties at Katthemmet

Enjoying all of these occurrences today I nearly forgot that it was Monday. I am finding that when I select the positive, fun, happy things to remember and think about through the day, I can more easily forget the negative, grumpy things. Makes sense. Who wants to spoil happy thoughts with negative ones? Not me.

I really needed this past three-day weekend. Carl and I did lots of fun, relaxing things: we visited the Modern Museum and saw an amazing exhibit called Turner, Monet & Twombly, dined at our favorite hole-in-the-wall taco place, saw an inspirational, dance, film documentary at the Dance Museum, took several long, relaxing promenades, saw a not-so-fantastic dance performance (but it was still fun to go to the dance theater), made homemade pizza, watched a couple of excellent films (Contagion & The Help) and cleaned house. Okay, the last item was maybe not so fun but the effects after are deeply relaxing and highly enjoyable. All in all come Sunday night I was not whining about the weekend being over and the pending work week beginning. I call that a win-win.

Sunday, January 8

Day 8: Battles lost and battles won

Three years ago today a dear friend of mine lost her battle with breast cancer. It began with a lump that she found that, after removal and chemotherapy, metastasized over time into a relentless brain tumor. She was 41 years old, newly married and one of the happiest souls that I have had the pleasure of knowing. In the midst of her fight her husband was offered a job outside of Texas and they up and moved to Seattle. She was now away from her support network of friends and family, her job as an elementary school teacher, and the home that she had worked so hard to buy on her own. Prior to moving she had been having horrible headaches and problems with one of her legs and feet. The doctors in Texas thought she was having symptoms of sciatica. However, upon settling down in Seattle she followed up with a doctor there who ordered an MRI. The Seattle doctor found the brain tumor. My friend was devastated. I was devastated. Everyone she knew was devastated. I had learned from speaking to a doctor that I worked with that this was the beginning of the end for her. He said that if it was a new type of cancer she could possibly beat it but that if it was metastatic disease it would most likely move rapidly. It did. Within 6 months she was wheelchair bound and beginning to lose her sight. Less than a year later she went to heaven. She fought a hard battle but unfortunately lost.

Looking back at her battle with one of the most horrific diseases we as humans face today, I can honestly say that I was terrified for her. I always thought she was so courageous, going through such a trying and difficult illness and she was still able to smile and make jokes. She responded once that she didn’t have a choice but I beg to differ. She did have a choice in how she reacted to this awful battle. She could have given up and allowed it to take over right away, without a fight, but she didn’t. She fought tooth and nail. My doctor friend said with metastatic cancer the prognosis is often very short, six good months. My friend lived a year and a half after the doctors discovered that she had a brain tumor. She had a strong will to survive and she tried her very best to beat it.

Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair. We have no way of knowing how long we have on this earth. Some people are lucky and live long into a ripe old age while others are taken away quickly. I read in the news last week that a newborn baby died a few days after birth from E coli. This baby never got to feel the sunshine on its face, or see a butterfly, or a beautiful rainbow after a thunderstorm. Every day that we get to experience the miracle of life is a battle won. Be thankful that you have won the battle today and do something outrageous!

Kelly, I light a candle for you and your family today. Thank you for your friendship and courage and for showing me how to really fight and win a battle.

Saturday, January 7

Day 7: Life is a Gift

Here we are, one week into the New Year, one week into my blog project and I am already starting to wonder how this is going to go over the course of the next year. I committed to write something positive every day for 365 days (only 348 left!). I was excited and fired up at the thought of jump-starting my own positivity. However, it is a pretty daunting task, if you look down the long road to next Christmas. How will I do it? Just a couple of days ago I started thinking ahead about subjects and stories of what I will write in the coming days. In a way that defeats my purpose, which originally was the find something positive every day, and especially on days when I may not feel positive. This is not to say that I am not allowing myself to have a bad day or be in a bad mood on occasion, but in the darker moments I hope to look for that glimmer of light, or sunshine. It is always there, waiting to be found.

One way to stay committed and focused on the positive is to be thankful everyday for the many blessings that I have in my life. So many people struggle in their lives with challenges of varying degrees whether it be illness, lack of a job or in many cases worse. I have a pretty cushy life when I think about it in those terms. I have a great apartment, I am getting to experience living in another country and learning a new language, I have a job in another country, I am healthy, I never have to do without material comforts and I have a wonderful husband to share my life with. Realistically we are not owed anything in life. Life is a gift to us, with all of its experiences, ups, downs, joys and sorrows. I saw the movie The Milagro Beanfield War last night and in one scene this elderly man, actually the oldest man in the village, wakes up one morning thanking God for letting him live another day. He knew the true meaning of life, that life is a gift and we shouldn’t take even one day for granted.

Friday, January 6

Day 6: Missing the Sun

On the shortest day of the year the sun comes up at 8:53am and goes down at 3:41pm. That is approximately 6 hours of sunlight, if the sun is even out. Some days it is dark and overcast all [6 hours of the] day. When I first moved here I would snicker at the locals who I would see standing on the street corners, or pretty much anywhere outside, with eyes closed and faces lifted toward the sun. They just stood there basking in the light of the sun. How silly. I even wondered why all of the Swedish families vacationed in the summer time to the south of Europe, where temperatures are in the upper 20’s, lower 30’s Celsius (80’s or 90’s Fahrenheit). Why would they leave Stockholm when it is the most beautiful time of the year here? Summer in Stockholm is glorious. Temperatures hover around 20-25 C (70’s Fahrenheit), the sun shines and you can go for a swim within walking distance nearly anywhere in the city.

I’ll tell you why. Now that I have lived here for two years I can tell you exactly why. The answer is simple, round, golden & warm: the sun. And it is not just the fact that it is so dark and cold all winter but even in the summer here, which is fairly short and sweet, it is not really, really warm (read: baking hot). I remember when we lived in Dallas, Texas and Carl’s sister and her daughter came to visit us in June one summer. It was really hot already, hitting triple Fahrenheit digits. And in that uncompromising summer weather in Texas they withstood the heat like true Texans. I could barely tolerate it and they would just say, “It’s hot, but it’s really nice”. Hot CAN be really nice. I now know this.

So, these days I try to find my own version of sunshine in the dark, cold, depressing winter of Sweden. Some days it is difficult. I work during the day and it is dark when I go into work and dark when I leave work. On days when the sun comes out I try to go for a walk during lunch but there are days when the sun remains hidden by the clouds and rain. Many people recommend candlelight and that can definitely be nice & cozy but sometimes it is just not enough. I've developed a borderline unhealthy relationship with watching movies and getting lost in back to back episodes of TV series. I try to get out and take long walks on the weekends, discover and try out new recipes, and I occasionally take a hot bath with some wonderfully, sensuous, lemon bath oil, which can be very helpful. I miss the sun but most of all I miss the heat. I am sure one or two days of over 100 Fahrenheit would cure that desire but right now, I could use a day of hot, sweat-inducing sunshine.

Speaking of sunshine, it is a glorious day outside today and I am luckily not working, due to the holiday. The Epiphany, or Trettondagen, which literal translates to the 13th day (after Christmas) is celebrated & observed Sweden. The sun is shining in a clear, blue sky and even though it is -4 Celsius (approx. 25 F) we are heading out for a nice long walk (Minus the sleep bag!)!

Thursday, January 5

Day 5: Where's the Snow?

This is my third winter in Sweden. The previous two winters I thought I would freeze to death. My first experience with minus degree Fahrenheit temperatures taught me that cold in Texas is not really cold. It is more like chilly. Cold is -15 C (5 F). COLD is -20 C (-4 F!!!). And let me tell you, THAT IS COLD. There is no kidding about that.

Before we moved to Sweden I was determined to purchase my survival gear in the U.S. to save money, since everything is much more expensive in Sweden. Top on my list was a warm winter coat. I found two down coats that I liked at Eddie Bauer. One was called the Arctic Duffle, which was basically a calf-length, sleeping bag with arms and a hood, and the other one was red, hit about mid-thigh and was much cuter. It had a hood with a fur rim and was belted to make you look feminine-like, instead of Michelin man-like. So which one did I buy? Of course, I went for the Michelin man look. I mean, I did not want to be cold. Who cares if no one can tell that I am a girl, or if I look ridiculous next to all of the Swedish women dressed in their cute skinny jeans and snow boots with hip-length, ski styled jackets and NO winter hats or hoods on their heads? I was warm and that is what mattered. My own husband even made fun of me, asking, “Are you going to put your sleeping bag on before we leave?”

So, one day it was really cold. It was probably -20 C (-4 F). Carl (my husband) and I decided that we would not be beaten by the cold, winter day. We headed out for a nice, brisk walk. I had on a long-sleeved, wool undershirt, a wool sweater, wool knee socks, jeans, knee-high boots, wool gloves and scarf, a wool snow hat AND my sleeping bag, hood and all. I wouldn’t say I was exactly warm but I was not miserably cold. I was not going to let a mere -20 C temperature stop me. Carl on the other hand was willing to let the cold stop him. He looked at me and said, “I will never laugh at you and your sleeping bag again” and we headed back home to warm up with some hot chocolate.

They say it is now winter. It is the 5th of January and temperatures have stayed above freezing with only an occasional dip into the cold abyss. It has snowed a couple of times but the temperatures have not been cold enough to maintain it. I walk around most days with no snow hat or gloves and we’ve even been out on our bikes a few times, which would have been unthinkable last year at this time, at least for me. Maybe colder temperatures are on the way but this current state of winter makes me feel strong and powerful. Like I have conquered the Swedish cold! And best of all, the sleeping bag is currently retired.

So where’s the snow? Bring it on Jack Frost! I am ready!

Wednesday, January 4

Day 4: The Art of Eating

To truly experience food one must experience it with all of the senses. I sit at the table with my eyes closed, inhaled slowly. The aromas completely envelop me. Such a heavenly smell heavy with the scent of cilantro, onion, chili peppers, tomatoes and corn. I take my first spoonful. The soup is so simple and yet all of the rich and full flavors make it complex. I feel myself transported to another place where the sun hangs heavy and hot in the afternoon sky and folk sit outside with cowboy hats low over their eyes. Locals shop at the farmer’s market nearby, which is filled with an abundance of colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables. The vivid red, green and golden-hued vegetables are so real in my imagined cowboy town that I feel I can reach out and touch them. However, my tastebuds force me to return to my tortilla soup with its rich, warm tomato goodness. Diced avocado on top with crushed tortilla chips and fresh pico de gallo, made with tomatoes, jalapenos, red onion, lime, cilantro and a hint of salt, accent my bowl. I take a sip of my margarita to wash it down. Sheer perfection.

What is it about food that makes me so happy? For me, it is important that the foods I eat look beautiful and be well made. It doesn’t matter if it is breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert or just a snack, I just love when a dish has a variety of balancing colors and flavors, it is made with quality ingredients and most important of all, imparts amazing flavor. It doesn't have to be fancy. It can be as simple as sliced apple with almond butter and a drizzle of honey. To eat and experience food is an art. A regular day can be transformed into a great day simply from eating a really delicious meal. Several weeks ago I found a new lunch café near my job. It was one of those funky clothing and knick-knack shops with a café inside it. The atmosphere was what drew me with its hip antiques, quirky furniture and trendy style. I ordered a falafel sandwich that came with a side salad. When the plate came out I was pleasantly surprised. The plate was not only beautiful to look at but it smelled delicious as well. The sandwich was cut diagonally and the two pieces were placed in an artistic pile with the salad to the side. The side salad consisted of arugula tossed with lettuce, pomegranate seeds, tomato wedges and roasted pumpkin seeds. (Seriously?) All of the flavors were fresh and delicious. That little café made my day! I walked back to the office in a great mood. The art here wasn't just that the café had really great food. It was obvious that the chef really took his, or her, time to make the dishes tasty AND beautiful. I’ve been back to this café since then and it was a successful second visit as well.

A few years ago I saw a great movie about food called Julie and Julia, which was about a woman named Julie who loved to cook. She made a decision to make every recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook during the course of a year. At the same time she wrote a blog about her experiences. The movie compared the two women and their relationship to food. They both loved to cook but it was also important to them how the dishes appeared and how it felt to enjoy the food with family and friends. Cooking and eating was not just an everyday occurrence for them. It was also an art.

I love to cook myself. When I lived in California one of my friends used to call me precisely when I had begun to cook. He had excellent timing, one might say. He would ask me what I was cooking and I would describe the dish to him. One day I was making an omelet with arugula and parmesan cheese, with a side of whole-grain, sunflower seed bread toasted and topped with real butter. He laughed and said that I was the only person he knew who had such a relationship with food. He thought it was strange that I described my cooking in such a flowery way but I think he actually liked to hear those descriptions. When one thinks about food in another respect other than just to “eat to live”, one begins to see how important every aspect and detail of food can be to living fully. It was a long time ago since I have spoken to this friend but I would like to think that I had a positive affect on him and his eating habits.

For some people, “eat to live” is their philosophy when it comes to food. They don’t care so much about how the food looks or even if it tastes especially good. But other people, like me, live by the philosophy that one must “live to eat”. I have a huge passion for cooking and eating and I feel that I express myself through food. I believe that there is an art to eating and experiencing food with all of the senses. One must observe the colors, the aromas, the flavors and the textures of food. Everything must be balanced. It is then that food becomes a real masterpiece. Cheers!

Tuesday, January 3

Day 3: Sit for 15 Minutes

This morning I woke up feeling like a zombie. I stayed up until nearly midnight last night to watch the end of a movie, Love Actually (which I have already seen). It is a great, feel-good movie about love, actually. I know that was cheesy but I couldn't resist. My eye twitch is back and I woke up with a headache but I still think it was worth it. You can’t always go to bed at 10:00 because you should. Sometimes you just have to bend the rules. (Right. I will probably have to go to bed at 9:00 tonight to make up for it :-p).

I had asked Carl to help me remember that I needed to get up a little earlier this morning so I could go by the doctor’s office to leave a blood test on my way to work. The doctor’s office opened at 8:00am and I figured I could get there right when they opened and still get to work by 8:30ish. He forgot to remind me but luckily I remembered and I was in the shower by 7:00 and we were out the door at the same time by 7:45. We even had time to sit at our new dining table and have some coffee and a pop tart. It was an added treat to walk with him to the train station on my way to the doctor, as we usually leave at different times. The street we walked down is a beautiful little quaint street, Swedenborgsgatan, tucked into a hidden pocket of Södermalm, the island in the Stockholm archipelago where we live. It is somewhat narrow and lined with trees and the old-fashioned, brick buildings, with their early 20th century architecture and wrought-iron street lamps, really add to its charm.

When we got to the train station, I kissed him goodbye and turned left to head toward Medborgplatsen. I arrived at the doctor’s office just 5 minutes after 8:00 and quickly handed the receptionist my paperwork. She smiled and said, just walk down to the end of the hall and sit for 15 minutes. Someone will come take your blood test then.

Sit for 15 minutes.

This threw a wrench in my plan to get to work before my boss arrived. Okay. I walked down the hall and sat. I looked at my watch. It would be 8:25 before I would get out of there and that would put me at work hopefully just before 9:00. I bit the bullet and sent a text message to my boss explaining the situation. I told him that I originally thought it would only take a few minutes but just discovered that I had to sit for 15 minutes before they could take the blood test. He wrote back: Ok ☺. I hadn't thought he’d be upset or angry but I just didn’t want to have to say anything about it. I wanted to get it done and get to work before he had to know any different.

So now I am sitting for 15 minutes. I am sure there is a good reason for this but I have no idea what it is. Since there is nothing I can do about it I decide to check my emails and Facebook and relax a bit. I get to work before 9:00 and still arrive before my boss so I decide to look up the “sit for 15 minutes before your blood test” thing really quick. Apparently sitting for 15 minutes before you have blood drawn assists in the “equilibration of the concentrations of blood components”. My eye twitches. I think about how sitting for 15 minutes probably assists in the equilibration of ones thoughts as well. 15 minutes may not seem like a long time when you compare it to the whole day but if you add up 15 minutes a day for 365 days it comes to 91.25 hours, or almost 4 days. I don’t think I could sit for 4 days straight and just be with my thoughts but 15 minutes a day seems reasonable. I decide in that moment that I will attempt to sit for 15 minutes each day to think intentionally and have a purpose, or just be with my thoughts, pray or meditate. It doesn’t really matter. The purpose is in the intention behind taking 15 minutes out of a 24-hour day to spend some time with just me and my lonesome.

Monday, January 2

Day 2: Negativity is contagious. Smile and run from it.

The title above is a quote I borrowed (with permission) from my friend Susan’s Facebook post. I thought it summed up my mission rather well. Negativity IS contagious. I think back to all of the times that I have had a negative attitude and I wonder if anyone "caught" it from me. I would like to hope not but it is more than possible that someone at some point has been affected by my negativity, or more simply state, my bad mood. We have all been affected by negativity. Remember that time you were out shopping and the sales clerk was rude or curt with you and you left annoyed and in a bad mood? Much of the time we don't even stop to think how we react. We merely leave and head to our next destination, with our bad mood in tow, and affect the next person in our path. Perhaps we are less patient than we would normally be and we honk at the person ahead of us who is driving slower than we would like, or we are rude to the next person we encounter, or maybe we act badly toward a loved one, and thus, the cycle continues.


How many times have we all heard that advice? Sometimes I get so tired of having to be the bigger person. Why can't THEY be the bigger person? But imagine for a moment how all of our lives would be transformed if we actually became the bigger person and stayed the bigger person. Sometimes we are caught off guard and we react to a person's negativity before we even have a second to stop and consider how we should react. I challenge all of you to be the bigger person and next time someone acts negatively toward you merely smile and run! I don't mean literally run, of course, but take the opportunity to consider that the rude, negative person in front of you is having a terrible day, or just received awful news, and treat them with kindness instead of reacting to their negativity. I'd be willing to bet that it stops the cycle. Quite possibly the next person they encounter will benefit from the results of you being the bigger person.

Cycle broken. Everybody happy.

My mom used to say that when our friends act their worst is when they need us the most. I really believe this is true and it can be extended to people in general. If we all start taking the time to care a little more about our neighbor, the world will become a happier more positive place.

Sunday, January 1

Day 1: Filipin

About two weeks ago my husband and I were sitting on our couch watching TV eating hazelnuts. We have a lovely, old wooden bowl that belonged to one of his parents families and every Christmas we fill it with unshelled nuts to eat and enjoy while we are watching TV, or visiting with friends. My husband has a cool, red, wooden nutcracker that he has had since he was a child. It is a wooden cup with a fat wooden screw that comes into one side of it. You put a nut in the wooden cup and then screw the screw in until it pushes against and breaks the shell. It is great fun! Nearly everyone visitor we have had has enjoyed a nut or two from that bowl.
We sat there on the couch, him shelling the nuts and me eating every other one, more or less. It was a good deal for me! We sat there mindlessly eating them until suddenly he said excitedly, "Filipin"! He had discovered two nuts in one shell! Tvillingnötter, or "twin nuts," they are called in Sweden and Filipin, he explained, is a game played at Christmas time here. If a person cracking open nuts finds twin nuts they get to share the "twin" with a friend who is willing to play the game. They decide at that time to choose a date and time in the future when they will meet again and the first person to say "Filipin" after this date and time wins.
We have been eating a lot of hazelnuts this holiday season and we've happened to find tvillingnötter on four different occasions! So we have four games going with four different dates and times. We agreed that we would not create reminders in our iPhones or calendars to help us remember. We would have to remember the old-fashioned way, on our own!
Last night was New Year's Eve. We had a lovely, home-cooked, five course dinner at home and then watched a movie to try our best to stay awake for midnight. We managed to stay up and decided take our champagne glasses and walk up to the Monteliusvägen Path, located on the cliff up the hill behind our apartment. It is a path that has a beautiful view of much of the city of Stockholm and has been written about as one of the best places to view fireworks in the city. I think everyone must have read the reviews because it was completely packed with people, young and old, and I have to agree, it was probably the best place in Stockholm to view fireworks. We could see fireworks happening all over the city in a panorama view! There were also many people sending off Japanese, rice paper lanterns, like mini hot-air balloons, and they could be seen as far as the eye could see. It was really breathtaking.
Needless-to-say, we were awake well past midnight and therefore slept in rather late today. Around 11:00am this morning I was sitting here at the computer creating my blog and it dawned on me that 9:00am on January 1st was one of our decided dates and times to play Filipin. I quickly walked into our bedroom where my husband was lying in bed reading his iPad and said excitedly, "Filipin"!
I won round one.