24 March 2009

Counting down

I'm leaving the country very soon.  To go where, you ask?  Sweden! I shout.

I haven't written about this to date even though I've known about it since January 4th because I was having a hard time trying to figure out how to explain what I'm doing.  Without talking specifically about my job and where I'm going and why.

I'm not sure that I've figured that out; muddling through as usual.  

I have partly my job to thank for this; and partly the fact that I was an exchange student in high school.  Part of my work takes me to community groups to speak about our product.  My overall field could - -partially - - be explained by one word:  Marketing.

There is one large specific civic organization that I particularly enjoy speaking to, because it gives me a chance to mention my exchange year, and how much it changed my life.

Someone in the audience always, without fail, asks where I went, and if I can still speak the language.  I almost always smart off to them på Svenska as a response, after telling them it was Sweden.

Early in January, I spoke for this group.  About an hour after returning to my office, I got a telephone call from one of the members, asking if I wanted a spot on a team going to Sweden in April/May.  Ha, twist my arm, buddy.  Nooooo.  *eye roll*  

After jumping through a few hoops, and some crazy machinations, I got permission from my employer to do this, to be gone for about 5 weeks.  I still can't believe they said it was OK, that all the relevant details just kind of fell into place.  And there were a lot of them.  Insurance, for one.  My employer provides INCREDIBLE health insurance, but my leave of absence is 5 weeks long, most of it unpaid.  If they're not paying me, then I don't have the insurance benefits.  Hurdle #1.  Hurdle #2 was the whole money issue; unpaid for 5 weeks?  Eeek.  Got around both of those with some time, effort & planning.

Hurdle #3 was just work in general.  How to be gone for so long without causing harm to my employer?  I'm still not sure that's going to work perfectly, but s'OK.  The work will still be waiting when I return.

Times like this, I'm glad that I have OCD.  I make lists, obsessively.  The current to-do list tacked to a magnetic board in my office is 5 pages long.  Probably 2-1/2 pages of the list have a check mark, meaning they're done, next to each item.  Every time I think of something else that needs done, I write it down, no matter where I am or what I'm doing.  It gets added to the master list at the earliest opportunity.  Hopefully, nothing slips through the cracks that way.

So what the heck am I doing in Sweden for 5 weeks?  Um.  Lots?  How to explain without all the gory details?

The trip is a vocational exchange.  That means that I will visit businesses similar to the one that I work for here in the US.  We will visit schools, civic and community organizations, government offices, hospitals, almost any place of business or work that you can think of.  The idea is to see how someone in another country does your job, what challenges they face, how they work around it, what government regulations they have, how they solve problems.

There are many reasons that this is so exciting, but the primary one, for me, is this:

At 16, when I was an exchange student, I thought Sweden was perfect.  Their public schools are in fantastic shape.  Ditto their roads, their cradle-to-grave health care system, their government, their public transportation system, hell, their EVERYTHING.  From the perspective of an unemployed high school student, that is.

What I have come to realize with the passage of time is this; I was NOT a taxpayer, I was NOT a voter, I was NOT a gainfully employed member of society.  I didn't pay bills, or have any responsibilities, and I was 3,000 miles away from my very strict parents.  In my mid-30's, I recognize now that the strict rules of my parents' house did me more good than harm, but at 16, I wanted to be able to do whatever I pleased.  I was a grown-up, after all, of course.  (Somewhere in Florida my mother is rolling her eyes!! {Hi Mom!})

So it will be extraordinarily interesting to see things from an adult perspective, and to learn things that I didn't last time around.  How it all works, and does it all work, if you're out there trying to make a living?

I'm also going to get the chance to visit some Swedish traditional craftspeople, among them weavers of traditional patterns.  I'm so excited about that.  Has nothing to do with what I do for a living, but it is still something that fascinates me.

Finally, I hope to have a chance to see the family that I lived with as a teenager; I am still in close touch with them, and they know I'm coming.  Where I am spending the vocational exchange, though, is about 350 miles south of where I lived as an exchange student, so I won't just be able to pop in to see them whenever I have a minute.  The Swedish spoken in my destination spot is different from what I'm used to, as well; the best example I can come up with is that it would be like dropping an upper-crust Bostonian in the midst of Cajun country; yes, they're speaking the same language, but no, they don't understand one another so well.  My inner language geek is ecstatic, the opportunity to study the differences between regional dialects! The part of me that doesn't like being able to understand the answer when I ask where the bathroom is, on the other hand, abjectly terrified.

During the time that I am away, I sincerely doubt that I will have any time at all to update Well Behaved.  Posts usually take me about an hour to write, and I am given to understand that almost every moment of every day is taken up with something.  We've been told to expect 16-18 hour days, and to sleep whenever and wherever we can, because it will be a mighty precious commodity!  I am not taking my laptop, and therefore internet access will probably be restricted to checking e-mail on my Blackberry.  Mobile blogging is a PITA, so I doubt I'll be doing any of that.

Departure is on April 19th.  Between now and then, I have two major events to cover at work, and countless details to take care of for the trip.  I've already decided what to pack (ha, OCD @ work again, I have a list!) but there are all kinds of things I need to actually gather together and put in suitcases.  I may not be able to write much between now and then.  We come back on May 22, when I'm sure I'll have so many stories to tell that I think it is safe to assume that regular posting will resume then.

In the meantime, Söt om dej, och vi sees/hörs snart!

Take care of yourself, and we'll meet again soon.


10 March 2009

Pet the yarn

Although I'm not done (by a long shot) with the shawl/stole I'm knitting for myself, I've already got the next project planned.

Actually, truth be told, I've got the next twelve or sixteen projects planned, but for the sake of my sanity, I'm attempting to do ONE AT A TIME.  It is a little hard for me, but I desperately need the lesson in patience anyway.

The next in line is called April Showers scarf, and it is a knitted lace pattern that looks well within the scope of my ability.  I found the silk yarn the pattern calls for on Ravelry, from someone who was willing to let it go for $8, rather than the $26 price tag at Purl Soho.  Sweet!!!  The lace weight yarn the pattern calls for is likewise a ridiculous price, and so instead I bought a lovely lace weight from Knit Picks, a very reasonably priced online yarn store.

I got it yesterday, and it is as soft as a baby's skin.  Feels like what I imagine touching a cloud would feel like, if we could indeed do that.

Everyone I've run into since the moment I got it into my hands has been asked to "pet the yarn.  C'mon.  You know you want to!"

It was only after I said that a few times did I realize it sounds vaguely obscene. 

09 March 2009

Down and out-ish

Facebook status today:

Lucy looked in the mirror this morning and saw a woman who looked like she'd been sick for a week.  Wonder why.

That would be - er - because I was sick for a week.  Ugh.  No one I know likes being sick, so I'm not going to state the obvious, that I hate being sick.  Of course I do; so does everyone else.  I don't often catch whatever bug is running about; chalk that up to my innate health, or the fact that I eat right and take decent care of myself, or the fact that I take a daily dose of Oregano Oil (sold under the brand name Oreganol).  It doesn't really matter why I don't often catch cold (although I do wish I could figure out exactly what the direct cause is!).  What matters is that I don't often get sick, and I often feel inordinately smug about my ability to resist the bug du jour.

So then it is a karmatic crunch when I do get sick; as if Mother Nature wants to remind me that I ought not be so smug and smarmy.

DH came down with something a few Saturdays ago, after a tame night out with a few of my friends.  He spent a weekend in bed, sleeping, awake for a grand total of about 6 hours out of 48.  I'm not good with the sympathy when someone else is sick; not that I lack empathy, but I lack the ability to DO anything about you being sick, so please don't whine incessantly to me about how miserable you feel, especially after turning down my offers of a blanket, water, chicken soup, analgesics, cold medicine, tissues, or any of the other things that I CAN do to help you.

Mostly, then, I let him sleep, although doing my utmost to be sympathetic and supportive whilst he was awake.  (Add that, please, to the list of reasons that motherhood is NOT for me.)

Monday morning, he and I both went off to work, did what we needed to do, met up at home, and went to bed at a reasonable hour, all per usual.

Tuesday morning, I woke with sinus pressure under my right eye, and a worldview made grumpier by the fact that I felt like someone had run me over with a Mac truck.  I went to work, did my best to keep to myself and stay productive.  I made it through about half a day, and went home ostensibly to sleep, although I ended up watching WALL-E on my computer in bed instead.  Wednesday, I worked a full day, but felt even crappier; everyone at work was irritated with me for coming in at all, as they didn't want me to share my germs.  All-righty then; Thursday and Friday I stayed home.

Late Thursday night, I woke with blurred and shaky vision, which scared the bejeebus out of me; it looked as if everything was both wobbly and out of focus, and mattered not if I had glasses on or didn't.  Friday, then, blurred vision abated for the moment, I took myself off to the doctor's, and armed myself with an antibiotic prescription.

It wasn't until late Sunday that I felt like myself again; I knew I was finally going to kick the cold when I woke up around 10.30 PM hungry.  I wasn't hungry at all while sick, in fact, in addition to the pain of the sinus pressure, achy joints, and general miserable-ness, I was nauseous for most of the time I was ill, and food?  Ugh, thanks, but no.  But as a thunderstorm raged outside, I ate two bowls of an organic granola cereal I had purchased (with two coupons, thankyouverymuch)  and all but licked the bowl clean.  It was goooood.  (I could go for more right now, in fact.)

It doesn't help matters much that I chose a poor time to be off sick; things are too busy at work for me to be away, and I'm leaving the country soon for an extended period of time (umm...I haven't told you about that yet, interweb, sorry) so I have lots to do, little time to do it in, and don't have my usual energy to get it done.  

I need both a nap, and a clone.  Anyone want to get to work on that for me?

02 March 2009

By another name

Fair warning: this post is a massive amount of me geeking out over Lord of the Rings.  If you've never read the books or seen the movies, move along.  You'll be bored to tears by the end of the second sentence.

Lord of the Rings was on TNT over the weekend.  Not the extended versions, which any real geek knows are the TRUE versions...but at least they played the entire trilogy.

I've read all three books more than once, and seen each of the movies many times.  I have both the theatrical versions and the extended collector's edition box set DVDs.  I can do lines from almost everything Tolkien ever wrote, starting with The Hobbit.  So I'm a fan.  You could say.

When I saw the first movie, "The Fellowship of the Ring," I was heartbrokenly disappointed that director Peter Jackson left out Tom Bombadil and Galadriel's gifts.  The extended version corrects the omission of the gifts, but not the Old Master.  Isn't it sad that I'm able to pick apart such detail?

As usual, I digress.

Something new sticks out to me each time I watch the movies or read the books.  This time around, what I noticed was the many names for the character Gandalf.

  • Olórin
  • Mithrandir
  • Grey Pilgrim.
  • Gandalf Greyham
  • Greycloak
  • Gandalf the Grey
  • Gandalf the White 
  • The White Rider 
  • Stormcrow 
  • Incánus 
  • Tharkûn 
  • Greybeard 
  • Lathspell
(List partially acquired with the assistance of Wikipedia)

Although Gandalf is hardly unique among the Tolkien characters; Aragorn and Frodo also have multiple names.

What this made me think of was completely off-topic from the movies and the books; sure, there are multiple names for the characters, but we too, ordinary people, also have multiple names, related to the roles we play in various people's lives.  Nicknames a-plenty have we all, from grade school and college, from adventures and day-to-day life.

I'm not going to list the myriad nicknames I've acquired over the years.  (Sorry.)  Some of them I treasure, and more than a few I despise.

When I was growing up, my friends and family called me a shortened version of my legal name. I used to introduce myself to people by saying, "My name is X, but my friends call me Y."  Implying, of course, that even those whom I'd only recently met were friends.

Around about 16, I decided that the short version of the name reflected a child, a kid with bad teeth and messy hair, not the sophisticate I imagined myself to be, and I started insisting that everyone call me by my legal full name (i.e. the name on my birth certificate).

It took a few years, but eventually, even childhood friends had mostly adapted to it.  I hated when I ran into cousins or other extended kin who would still call me the nickname; I bitched about it, and frequently got angry at those who refused to conform to calling me the "right" name.

I remember complaining about a particular cousin to my dad; with 19 first cousins, there were still a few holdouts well into my 20s who I had (I felt) to correct at every opportunity for using the wrong name.  My father told me that a time would come when I wouldn't care which name people used for me, that there would be a point in the future where I would shrug and go along with whatever, it would just not be as important to me as it had been.   

That day hasn't come yet.  I don't know that it ever will; I still really hate being called my childhood nickname.  These days, though, I don't get angry about it.  I just say something polite along the lines of oh, you know, my real name is _____, and I prefer that now.  I don't get into arguments anymore over it.  (I will still kvetch privately, long and loud, about it though.)

I wrote a week or so ago about old school-mates "finding" me on Facebook; most of these are people who I have not seen since 1991-ish.  That is, of coure, pre-name-change days.  Many of these people I'm happy to reconnect with, it is nice to know where they are, what they're doing, but there are a handful that I'd rather they'd left well enough alone.  Playing the "what-have-you-done-since-I-saw-you-last" game is only fun once or twice.

There was a cop movie in the early 90s that starred Michael J. Fox, about a child actor who wants to be taken seriously, who wants grown up roles, called The Hard Way.  I remember a portion of it where he's complaining about not being offered the 'important' roles, where he throws a temper tantrum to his manager/assistant/publicist saying, "I'm the only one who wants me to grow up!"  And that's how I feel about people calling me The Nickname.  That they're not taking me seriously, that they still view me as that wallflower with the secondhand clothes and poor social skills.  At the same time, though, I recognize how immature and ridiculous it makes me seem to insist on being called my real name.  It is a no-win proposition.

(Watch at about 5-15 seconds into the trailer to see just what I mean.)