29 June 2009


I get a monthly e-mail from the wonderful folks over at NaBloPoMo, they of the National Blog Posting Month. The monthly e-mail is the announcement of the theme for the next month, and a how-to reminder for listing yourself on the Blogroll if you decide to participate.

I want to, nearly every month, but it is less attractive to me for having done it once already. It can be a grind. This month's theme is "routine" and yes, of course, every time I read their monthly e-mail I can think of many posts that would fit the theme. (Unwritten, in-my-head posts.) The problem with doing the project last time around was that I chose to do it in a November, a time of the year that is hectic for me. The upside is that it forces you to write EVERY DAY, or to make contingency plans to have stuff post automatically if you're going to be AFK for a few days. If you're having Blogger post them automatically, then you've put in the screen time ahead of time.

Summer can be a little less hectic in my world, but this year I think it is asking for trouble to play along, because teh workload? I haz it.

So I'll be mulling that over for a few days.

22 June 2009

Poor, poor baby. Let me organize a pity party for you.

A few years ago, anonymous sex-blogger Girl With A One Track Mind, Abby Lee, was outed by British newspaper The Sunday Times. Backlash from the blogosphere was swift, virulent, vicious, and according to a recent article in the same paper by the same writer, Anna Mikhailova, career ruining.

Mikhailova ruined Abby Lee's film career - she worked in production, not as an actress - and now has the utter brass cajones to whine about Abby's readers ruining her "reputation" and by virtue of that reputation-ruining, her career as a bottom-feeding journalist is just not thriving. Awww. Honey. I'm so sorry.

I have a vested interest in this not just for reasons of anonymity; I believe that Abby would not have been vilified for her sexual escapades had she been male, so there's the feminist angle as well as the fact that I myself write under a pseudonym. My reasons for doing that are my own. Abby's were as well.

When does "the public interest" or "the right to know" trump privacy? When there is something illegal going on, certainly. But if I'm writing about my own private Idaho over here, and you read it and like it, why does it matter if I'm the woman in the office next to you or if I live three time zones away?

Of course, the automatic comeback to my argument is that if I wanted to remain anonymous, I wouldn't be writing on teh interweb, I'd have a journal that I kept under lock and key. Guess what. I do. Writing is part of who I am, not just something I do for fun. Publishing my struggles with depression has been both about my own recovery and about the hope that someone, somewhere, reads what I've written and decides to seek help for their own issues. De-stigmatizing mental illness is a goal of my blog.

Writing here about politics, the abortion debate, my silly little inconsequential life, is something that I enjoy doing. I believe that I have the right to do that under a pen name. And so I do not feel sorry for Anna Mikhailova. The line for the pity party forms to the left, please. Right there, that sign that says "Exit"!!

17 June 2009

Green, Green, Green

No, I am not done writing about Sweden. Not by a long shot! I still want to write about The White Buses, being "on" the whole time I was there, some stories about stupid things I did (like...um...accidentally putting train tickets into a mail slot, thus losing them for all time) and some cultural observations. Today, though, I'm taking a short post to note a few random things.

When I left for Sweden on April 19, spring had hardly begun in Ohio. It was a chilly and overcast day, but not so cold that I actually needed my winter coat. DH and I left to head towards the airport long before I actually needed to be there, because there's a mall near that airport that we don't get to as often as we'd like. I had tossed the coat on the back seat of the car, and was on the fence about taking it with me. (I did, and I'm really glad I did, but that's an upcoming story.)

I got back to Ohio on May 22, and it was warm. Spring had come and was rapidly rushing headlong into summer. Within days of my return, I cranked the air conditioning in the house, turning the temperature to about 72 (22C), because it was 80+ (26C) and I hate the heat.

Driving along a busy road near my house yesterday, I noticed how absolutely green everything is. Trees that were winter-bare when I left are in full leaf. A small yellow rosebush by the side of the road, carefully tended, has beautiful full flowers.

I didn't get to plant much of a garden this year. I was in Sweden during planting season, and I planted nothing before I left because I knew, sure as the sun rises, that DH would not water a single thing, and it would have all been in vain. I had tomato plants last year, and cucumbers and lettuce and mint and basil and cilantro and flowers and all sorts of things. This year, I have lettuce, cucumbers, beets (an experiment) and my herbs, a few flowers, and nothing else. No tomatoes. I am sad about that.

I glanced outside of my kitchen window yesterday and was surprised to see the flowers I had started from seed have sprouted and are looking like they might turn into something other than tiny green shoots.

As I drove to work the other day, I thought about the folks who start work super-early, bakers and the like, and as we approach the summer solstice, the days are long and if you drive to work at 5:30 in the morning, your drive is much lighter than it was in April.

Summer is so short here. It disappears in the blink of an eye. While it lasts, I savor the green.

11 June 2009

New Friends and Old

I took nearly 500 pictures in five weeks in Sweden. Not quite 500, but awful close.

There was a team of Swedes here in Oh-hia-ia before my team went to Sweden, and we were fortunate enough to meet them before we left, and to see them several times while we were in Sweden. The Swedish team leader teased our team that we'd never be able to take as many pictures as they did. Five team members, five weeks, and they took a combined total of over 6,000 pictures. I did some quick math, and that adds up to somewhere between 35 and 40 pictures, per person, per day for the entire trip. That's some serious shutter-bugging.

For a basis of comparison, my 460 pictures works out to 13 pictures a day.

I don't know how many we as a whole team took - because my team hasn't compared notes yet - but one of our team members took all of maybe 5 pictures over 5 weeks, so there's no way we'd even come close to a combined total of 6000.

I don't consider myself a good photographer, and my digital camera is old. I have a really good 'real' film camera, but I didn't take it to Sweden because it is too heavy, too big, too much to carry around, and getting the pictures developed (it uses Kodak Advantix film, not just regular 35mm film) is bloody expensive. Even though I knew it would take better shots, I left it at home.

I was able to share my pictures online with the other team members as we travelled, updating nearly weekly with pictures I'd taken and using FTP to share them. There are several pictures I took that I love. But another team member has studied photography, and she brought a digital SLR camera. I've been nagging her to share her pictures, and she finally did get them shared with everyone yesterday.

As I looked through the pictures, there's a great one of my team leader with a Swedish friend of hers, someone she's known since 1987, and looking at it, I had an "awwww" moment. He's one of the new friends that I made and wish lived closer so I could see him often, although he's an old friend for my team leader.

Among the pictures I shared with my team were several of my Swedish Mama and Papa, people the team didn't get to meet. (That whole they-live-350-miles-away-from-Skåne thing was really a barrier!) I was bummed when I went to visit Mama & Papa that I didn't get to see any of my "old" Swedish friends; it was a holiday weekend when I was there, and almost everyone had skedaddled out of town for the holiday. My best Swedish friend: in Stockhom, roughly 90 miles away. My Swedish 'sisters': one went to Skåne when I went to Västmanland, the other was moving that weekend. Many of my host parents' friends from back then: retired, and either living somewhere else in Sweden, or snowbirds, and not 'home' in Sweden from various southern European places.

I didn't really have close friends in my class at school in Sweden, although I liked many of them. Since the inception of the EU, many of my former classmates now live and work in Germany, Austria, France, and England, so not much chance of seeing many of them. I ran around with mostly older kids, who had already graduated, and these days have families with young children. Perhaps it was silly, but I didn't want to intrude on what is a big family holiday and instead asked Mama to pass on my greetings to them. I also, selfishly, treasured being able to spend time with just Mama & Papa, something I've never been able to do before when I've been back in Sverige.

Some of this ties back into the hemlängtan I was talking about the other day. I've always said that visiting Sweden is more about the people than the place, even though I like the place a whole hellava lot. I miss both, but given the choice to go to Sweden, or to see the people, one or the other, I'd take the people over the place any day.

I hope that some of my new friends come to visit here in Ohio. I made the offer to everyone I met (well, everyone I met that I liked, of course!) The focus of both Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) and Group Study Exchange (GSE), is to further understanding, build networks, and to focus on how we're more alike than we are different. People who have been with either RYE or GSE learn new perspectives, and hopefully, work to make the world a more peaceful place. Yeah, yeah, lofty and naive ideals, I know. But I'm hopeful that that the new friends I made will remain part of my life. Even if all I can do for a while is look at the pictures.

10 June 2009

At the core - MY body, MY decision.

I have been saddened and sickened this week by the stories in the news about the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in Kansas City. Saddened that this man was murdered and sickened by his killer claiming the closure of Tiller's clinic is a victory for the anti-choice movement.

Proponents of the anti-choice movement have been very quick to distance themselves from Tiller's accused murderer, saying that he was not a volunteer, not a friend, not a supporter of Operation Rescue, one of the largest and most well-known anti-choice groups in America. In fact, OR's director, Tim Newman, has been quoted extensively in the press as saying, “This idiot did more to damage the pro-life movement than you can imagine” in addition to, “Good God, do not close this abortion clinic for this reason,” he said. “Every kook in the world will get some notion.” The nasty, cynical side of me wants to say that he's posturing for the media, but since I turn off the news whenever his name or face shows up, I don't honestly know.

Whenever September 11 rolls around, I declare a media blackout in my life, because I can't handle watching the towers fall again. This week, I've been turning off the news because me yelling at the TV or radio does nothing but raise my blood pressure, and won't change the way that these people think.

I find it very interesting that the name Operation Rescue is being wrangled over in court, and the two battling it out for the rights to the name? Are men. Of course. Fellas, when YOU can be raped and get pregnant from it, when YOU can be sexually assaulted by a family member and get pregnant from that, when YOU can actually get pregnant, I'll be much more willing to let you have a seat at the table. Until then, as far as I am concerned, it remains a woman's own personal decision, and not the hobby-horse of over-privileged men.

09 June 2009


Swedish -- of course -- for 'homesickness'

How is it possible to be homesick for someplace that isn't your home? I don't know. The way I feel about Sweden is NOT the same way that someone would feel about a favorite vacation spot...like on a bad day, you wish you were there instead of wherever "here" happens to be. No, this is more than that. Sweden isn't my home, and really, I can't honestly say it was my home when I was an exchange student, either. Home then, just as now....Ohio, USA.

I got an e-mail last weekend from a Swede, showing a picture of his new sailboat and his faithful canine companion, a pug, in a harbor near Jonstorp, Skåne. As the picture opened on my browser, it showed the harbor in the background first, and then the boat and puppy appeared. The first house that came clear, a yellow 2-story with what must be a stellar view of the water, hit me like a shot to the gut.

Swedish houses out in the country, summer cottages, usually, or old farmsteads, tend to be one of two colors, red or yellow. A very distinctive red, and a particular shade of yellow. When I was 17, someone in Sweden told me a story of why, exactly, those two shades of those two colors were used, but I don't remember the details. It probably had something to do with class status, once upon a time, nobility vs. non-nobility, but these days, even though Sweden still has both royalty and nobility, they're pretty egalitarian.

That yellow two-story house in the picture my friend sent to me says "SWEDEN!" at the top of its lungs. I can imagine how the place is furnished. Light blonde wood. White walls. Light-colored window coverings. No attached garage. Sparse furniture. The windows have latches that require downward pressure to close. The kitchen is large, but the appliances are small. Everything is orderly. Bookshelves line the walls in every available space, and the books are mingled with small curiosities from all over the world. There's an orange or blue Dala Häst on a shelf, along with a few small pieces of crystal from Orrefors. Every wall has artwork. Family pictures from the recent past are small. Pictures from the early days of photography, or paintings of ancestors are large. Light is abundant, each room has big windows. There is no air conditioning, because until the very recent past, it has not been necessary. (Sweden has felt the realities of global warming.) Rooms that have been redone (at least the bathroom, if not the entire house) have radiant heat in the floors, and you never place a foot on an ice cold floor on chilly mornings. Places near the water, be it the ocean or one of the many inland lakes, have a breeze that cools the house when the windows are open.

I suppose that it is only natural to be thinking a lot more about Sweden than usual, having only recently returned from there. In the normal course of life, I did/do think about Sweden nearly daily, so it isn't that this line of thought is unheard of. I often wish I lived there. I often wish I could spend more time there. I often wish that I could see my host family more frequently, and I don't care which side of the pond that happens. (I've been trying to convince them for years that we should meet up in Florida in the winter, with no success. Of course, they've been trying to get me to Croatia, where they have a second home, for nearly two decades, with no success there, either.)

I wish I could say that I remember what I felt like when I came home from Sweden in 1992, but I can't quantify that other than by saying I was miserable, and an incredible brat to everyone in my life, I do remember that. I had wanted to stay so badly, and Mama wanted me to stay too. She in fact encouraged me to stay after my visa expired, enraging my mother a little. Ooops. At 17, I didn't know how hurtful me saying I didn't want to come back to America was for her. That was never my intention. On the other hand, I know that I could have done much more to attempt to stay, including the very easy step of having a conversation with the immigration authorities, but I never did.

I hate to say this, because it feels fiercely disloyal to the region where I lived as an exchange student, but I thought that Skåne was incredibly beautiful, even prettier in parts than Västmanland is. They're radically different, and so I treasure them each in their own way, but were someone to offer me a choice of job & apartment in Stockholm or Malmö, I'd have a hell of a time picking one over the other. (n.b., we ain't talking about reality here, folks.)

Hemlängtan means literally 'to long for home'. An accurate descriptor of how I feel about Sweden. It is with wistful longing that I look to the north and east, wondering when I will get to go back.

05 June 2009

Just when you think it can't get any sillier

I mentioned the Eurovision Song Contest briefly in a recent post. I realized when I wrote it that if you've never heard of Eurovision, you'd be baffled by my passing reference to it.

There is an exhaustive Wikipedia entry about it here, but in its simplest terms, think American Idol meets the Grammy Awards. European countries that are members one of the Europe-wide broadcast networks send entrants to compete at a contest, which is broadcast live throughout Europe over 3 nights. Most countries hold a contest to determine who will represent them, and have very specific rules about who can and can't enter.

In Sweden, they hold a contest called Melodifestivalen, quite literally, the Melody Festival. I remember almost nothing about Melodifestival, so I looked it up, on the ever-reliable Wiki. Turns out it wouldn't matter if I remembered how it worked, since they changed it in 2002. I have no recollection of who won while I lived there in 1992, but it appears that the final of the whole Eurovision was in Sweden that year, as 1991's winner was Swedish pop artist Carola. Hmm. No memory of that, either. Clearly, this made a big impression on me.

Or - y'know - not.

Melodifestival is a big damn deal in Sweden, as is Eurovision.  I'm not sure why, although perhaps the facts that the contest begins in Sweden in February, when sun is in short supply, the nights are long, and the weather is crappy probably have a whole lot to do with it.

This year's contest for all of Europe was held while I was visiting Sweden. I watched the first of two semi-finals live with my Familjen Svensson, and the second I ignored. The final was on a Saturday night. Mr. & Mrs. Svensson took me with them to a stand-up comedy show that night, and so we only saw the end of it.

Watching the first semi-final had me in hysterics. Poor Daughter Svensson. She's 15, and this all matters a great deal to her. Her mother and I laughed our way through it, especially after the first act, Gipsy.cz.

If I'm supposed to take that seriously, sorry. Not so much. The superman costume was just too much. Once back home, though, I've been reading about the artists involved in Eurovision, and it turns out the Gipsy.cz has been influential in opening a dialog with the Romany people in the Czech Republic, and are highly respected there. Huh. In'trusting.

Although much of this contest is sung in English, the songwriters are mostly not native English speakers.  So there are hilarious song lyrics that rhyme or work into the rhythm of the song, but make absolutely no sense.  Or, even better, there is a blend of English and whatever the native language happens to be, just like "Aven Romale" above.

This year's winner, Alexander Rybak of Norway, is absolutely adorable, although it wasn't my favorite song of the contest by a long shot.  The opening riff on the violin is unmistakable, though, and very catchy.

I liked several others much better, among them Turkey with the very silly Dum Tek TekPortugal's Todas As Ruas Do Amor, Iceland's Is It True?, Romania's The Balkan Girls, which was just as silly as Turkey's entry, and my favorite, Armenia's Nor Par (Jan-Jan), sung brilliantly by sister act Inga & Anush.  I like listening to them sing, and shocker, they are actually classically trained musicians.  Plus, check out the costumes.

Jan-Jan doesn't have any more intelligent lyrics than the rest of the bunch, but even better, it has a dance.   I wish I had instructions in English, but there's only Armenian.

How can you not like a song that has its own dance?  Nor Par (Jan-Jan), by the way, translates to New Dance (My Dear).

As if that wasn't bad enough, hustling through the Copenhagen airport to catch my flight home, I stopped in an electronics store and bought the Eurovision CD, with every song in the contest on 2 discs.  To the tune of 221:-SEK, or roughly $30.  Who was I saying was silly?  The Europeans for getting all wound up in the contest, or me, for spending $30 on a CD full of trashy pop with no real redeeming qualities.  Tough call, that. 

04 June 2009

get, acquire, take, recieve

All translations for the Swedish verb "att få". As in to receive a present, be gifted with something, or in the context of illness, to catch something.

I was having a conversation with one of my hosts in Sweden about Sweden and Swedish. (wow, that sounds a weeee confusing. Are ya with me?) We'll call him Per. It was all I could do not to roll around laughing on the floor at this comment of his:

I think you like Sweden.

Hmmm, I wonder what made him think so! The rest of the conversation was also amusing, but more for semantics of grammar than 'funny'. I have to take it in Swedish, then in English for it to make sense.

Per: Du få flytta hit. (You should move here)

Lucy, (through giggles): Gärna! Det finns några problemar med det; jag har ingen jobb, kan inte lasa eller skriva så bra på Svenska.... Willingly! There's only a few problems with that; I don't have a job here, I can't read or write so well in Swedish....

Per: Nejmen entligen. Du skulle trivs har, och vi behover ju folk som ville vara har, och ville jobba. (No, really. You'd do well here, and we need people who want to be here, and want to work.)

Translation is NOT an exact science, and translating directly to English from Swedish can result in errors like this:

"Since five years, I have been working for ABB,"

instead of

"For the last five years, I've worked for ABB."

Yes, I really read that in a Swedish person's English translation of their own bio. Urgh. Doesn't anyone proofread ANYTHING, anywhere in the world? Good to know that the crappy grammar of the common era isn't limited to English. /rant.

So what he said, du få flytta hit, can be translated a few ways.

There, it means 'should', but that's not what he said. By saying it that way, his intention is that Sweden should make it easy for me to move there, that someone should take care of all the logistics and paperwork for me, and hand me a residence permit. The mythical "they" should just handle it.

That'd be nice.

Perhaps the correct comeback would have been "and when do I start working for you?"!

02 June 2009

The "Yes, I do TOO speak your language" game.

Oooooh, one of my favorite games to play.

For a reason that is unknown to me, many Swedes that I met in Skåne simply didn't believe that I speak Swedish until they actually heard me talk.  I don't know if there's been a rash of Yankees there that couldn't or wouldn't learn the language, or if they've been told so by their educational system.  We filled out a massive amount of paperwork prior to leaving.  In the space provided for "languages other than English spoken" I wrote Svenska.  I wrote several e-mails in Swedish to various people who contacted me before we got there.  Even after all of that, if I had a dollar for every time I heard the following sentence, I could retire.

Men Gud, du pratar otroligt bra Svenska. 

But, God, you speak unbelievably good Swedish.

I heard it so often that I got tired of hearing it, and had to contain my urge to roll my eyes.  I wanted to say, 'yeah, srsly, it wasn't that hard' or blow them off somehow, but that would be both obnoxiously rude and incorrect.  Learning Swedish WAS hard, took me a long time, and has been a struggle to maintain.  But I got tired of being complimented for something that comes kind of naturally to me, like being complimented on riding a bike well.  It just got ridiculous.  I realize that this is petty and a very inconsiderate attitude.....and that doesn't change it a bit.

Because I got fairly tired of explaining how and why and when I learned Swedish, and how I've managed to keep it up over the past 17 years, sometimes I just didn't bother to inform someone new that I did, in fact, understand everything they were saying.  

We visited a very special secondary school, a high school that is a boarding school for students who want to major in agricultural studies in college.  We were given a warm welcome by the school director, and then spent time with the two sub-school directors, one who dealt with animal husbandry and the other who handled the crops.  The school is huge.  As we were touring campus, we were ferried around by 4 horse-drawn carriages, each driven by a student.  Each time we stopped, two additional students would hop off the carriages, and keep the horses still while we were shown around.  

The two students riding along with me had no idea I spoke Swedish.  I have a hearing problem, and mostly I wasn't listening to their conversation because it was windy and I couldn't hear them.  However, when I heard the words, "han är snygg" (he's cute) I listened a little harder. 

Turns out they were talking about one of my colleagues, another Yankee team member.  

It is possible that we are the only Americans some of these people will ever meet, and I hate for them to have the impression that we're all rude, obnoxious, loud boors.  (See my previous post for further info regarding my opinions on that.)  But I also enjoy tweaking the occasional nose!

As I looked around, a question occured to me.  I saw a parking lot, a small one, and I wondered if students were allowed to have cars at school once they had their drivers' license.  So I asked.  In Swedish.

Both girls blushed a lovely rosy red, having been caught like a kid with their hands in the cookie jar.  They answered, in the negative.  They are not allowed to have cars at school, even after they get the license.  But most students wait to get the license until after graduation anyway, because getting a license in Sweden is difficult, expensive, and time-consuming.  (That's a story for another time.)  They're far away from Mom's (or Dad's) car, and don't have the time.

After they answered my question, they started whispering to one another.  The wind had died down a little and I could hear them if I strained.  The conversation they had after they found out I speak Swedish....well, let's just say it makes me laugh thinking about it.

"Ooh, that's embarrassing," said the blonde one.

"I feel a little dumb," said the brunette.  "Did she tell you she spoke Swedish before we got in the carriage?"

"No," said the blonde.  "I wouldn't have talked about that cute guy if she had, or maybe I would have asked if he has a girlfriend.  Is she Swedish, or is she one of them?"

"I don't know," the brunette said, looking at me out of the corner of her eye.  "She doesn't sound American.  Do you want to ask?"

"Absolutely not!" The blonde replied.  "We already look like idiots, let's keep quiet."

I didn't interrupt them, but I was having a hard time contining my giggles, and reining in the few motherly urges I have.  No, he does not have a girlfriend, but he's also much too old for you, young lady!!

I've pulled that trick, explaining only after the fact that I speak Swedish (and even once or twice English) to someone, and it never gets old.  Never, never, never.

An ugly - and sadly familiar - demon rears its head

I've had trouble sleeping for years.  Long years, as in perhaps more than ten.

I hate to say it thusly, but 'tis true; this started happening when DH and I had been dating for a while.  A year.  Maybe slightly more or less.  Was he the source of stress?  What-ever!  No, of course not.  

The problem started with me falling asleep at his house, waking up, and driving home around 1:30 or 2:00 AM.  Then I'd have problems falling back asleep.  Then I'd get up the next day and start all over again.

This went on for years, quite literally, until we got married.  Once we lived in the same space, I didn't have to wake up and drive anywhere in the middle of the night, but my body couldn't get used to that.  Additionally, our first apartment was above ground, and my bedroom at my parent's house was in the cellar.  The dark, cool, silent cellar.  Every single outside noise woke me; cars, wind, the birds, rain, the early morning light....

After we'd been married for a year or so, the stress level at Ye Olde Evile Bank ratcheted up by 1000%, and I had trouble sleeping because of the worries and woes of work.  Fights, ahem, "discussions" were had about DH's alarm at that time, too; he sets it for almost 2 hours before he gets up.  Oh, yes, he plans to be out of bed at 4 AM and off to work, but that seldom if ever happens, and his alarm wakes me during those last few precious hours of sleep.  He, however, falls back asleep, and then leaps out of bed at 6:30, rushes around frantically, and makes it to work at 7.  Not that the alarm thing still irritates me all these years later.  Nope.  Not at all.  Have I mentioned that he sleeps like the dead?  I'm more jealous of that than annoyed over the alarm thing, honestly.  Wish I could too.

It was then that I started investigating alternatives to OTC sleeping pills, which I leaned on back then when I'd slept badly for a few nights in a row.  I've listed so many times the things I've tried for sleep:  melatonin.  Lavender.  Chamomile.  Valerian Root.  None of it worked well.

I changed jobs, and then we moved out of that horrible apartment.  The stress at the new job was different, and at first I thrived on it.  But later, around the end of 2005, it got so much worse.  The death of my old non-profit job was a slow and painful thing, like watching someone die of cancer that wastes away a vibrant person and leaves a nearly skeletal shell.  

By that time, I'd tried both Lunesta and Ambien, and discovered the wonders of prescription sleep aids.  Ambien has always been my favorite.  It is like turning off a light; BAM, you're out, blissful unawareness for at least a few hours.

As the deterioration of my beloved non-profit escalated, and I got progressively more depressed, sleep was such a wonderful refuge.  When I could sleep, that is.  Mostly, I got an hour or two, and then I'd be awake worrying about things outside of my control.

A quick aside here; the meds seem to help with the worrying.  I worry less about a lot of things, and I know that's the medication, not me mellowing with age.

When I was unemployed, when my world finally imploded, I slept a little better because I could sleep whenever I wanted.  I'd sleep until 10 or 11 AM, and then I'd go work out, come home, spend some time surfing the J-man forums, look half-heartedly for work, made dinner for DH, and wait for him to go to sleep so I could go back to the forums.

In 2007, my Auntie H got really sick, and I was on night duty at the hospice.  That further messed up my internal clock.  After she passed away, I started working that horrible sales job, and we all know what a really shitty year June of 2007 through June of 2008 was for me.  The winter of 2008 was easily the hardest of my life, bar none, and I relied on Ambien for getting more than 2 hours of sleep.

My work now is different again from anything else I've previously done, and I love it.  Wholeheartedly, but my entire life is not wrapped up in it, as it was at the old non-profit.  This job is super-stressful in short bursts, and in between, is not so horrible for stress.  But years of bad sleep habits are hard to break.

Spending more than a month in Europe isn't helpful either.  That 6 hour time difference...hooo boy, does it mess with MY head.  I dunno if it bothers everyone else the same way, but I've been home for more than a week now, and at 3 PM in Ohio, its 9 PM in Sweden, and I think it is bedtime.  I didn't get to bed in Sweden even one night of the entire trip before 10 PM, but I'd be ready to end the day before that most of the time.  So at dinner-time here, I'm dragging.  But at midnight, its time to get up!  

I slept better there than I do at home.  I'm unsure of exactly why, but there are a few solid reasons.  One, I had the window open in my room, wherever I was staying, almost every night.  Cool nights and cool rooms make for wonderful sleep conditions.  Two, we had 16-18 hour 'work' days.  You slept when and where you could, and I'd sleep pretty solidly 5 hours at a time.  Home, its rare I get more than 3 hours at a time.  Three, the stress I was under in Sweden is a vastly different thing that here in the states.  What I did there was often emotionally exhausting, and I think I'll write about that more soon.  But you were essentially "on," being cheerful and friendly and agreeable whenever you were awake.  That does take its toll on you, but it isn't the same as worrying about work.

I'm tired.  So, so tired.  But not sleepy.  After midnight, with a spring thunderstorm raging outside, and I'm chillin'.  Relaxed, in my jammies, at home.  I am not, however, asleep.  As the Brits say:  BUGGER!

01 June 2009

The reputation proceeds us.

A glimpse into my traveling journal.

Copenhagen International Airport.  22 May.  Waiting for the international flight from Denmark to Atlanta to board.  Homeward bound.

The stereotype of "the Ugly American" is alive and well, for good reason.  I'd like to think that I'm not one of those people, but I probably am from time to time, just like the rest of the population.  

The United States has a restriction on carrying liquids on to a flight, no more than 3 ounce bottles, and only what can fit into a quart size zipper bag.  Fine.  I abide by the rules, even though they're a) stupid and b) don't do anything to keep us safe on flights.  C4, the world's most explosive device, can look like a solid bar of grey soap, but you can bring solid soap on board no problem.  You can't clear security at any airport with a big bottle of water.  But you can buy a bottle after you clear security, or fill your own bottle from a tap or water fountain, noooo problem.  You can also buy larger sized bottles of shampoo or hand lotion or liquid soap or soda or whatever at the shops inside the airport after clearing security. Yep, this makes excellent sense.  Why the rest of the world jumped on board this boat of insanity, I have no idea.  But they did.  Even flying within Europe, you can't take more than the prescribed amount of liquids for a flight within the US.  Gah.

I drink a whole lot of water.  Lots.  Every day.  I like water.  I'd rather have water than almost anything else (except coffee) most of the time.  Airplane rides always make me parched.  Instead of buying a bottle of water in those BPA-plastic-fossil-fuel wasting containers, I have a Nalgene that I fill up, usually from a water fountain.  

Copenhagen airport has you pass through security, and then a second checkpoint at the gate, where only ticketed passengers for that particular flight can sit in a waiting area.  Once you're there, you're there.  No running elsewhere to buy a book.  Fortunately, there was a restroom at the gate, although it was sans water fountain.  So I went to stand in line for the bathroom, knowing that tap water would be available.  Not my preference (especially from a bathroom sink, although public restrooms in Scandinavia in general are really clean) but not going to kill me, either.  

Of course, there was a long queue for the ladies room.

There was a group of Red Hat Ladies traveling home to Pittsburgh.  There was a group of college kids from some school in (I think) Idaho.  They were all Chatty Cathys.  One of the Red Hat Ladies decided that since there was no queue for the men's room, she was going to use it.  She told the rest of the people on line so, loudly.  

I'm not opposed to using a men's restroom (or a handicapped stall) when there is no line for those facilities and there is a line for the ladies'.  I am opposed to you declaring it for all and sundry, at the top of your lungs.  Say it with me:  TAAACKY!

Directly in front of me in line was one of the college students, and she was full of complaints.  The food on her European trip hadn't been to her liking.  It was colder in Denmark than wherever she had been last.  It was raining.  Europe is full of pay toilets, which had both surprised and annoyed her through her travels.  She was thrilled that the airport restroom didn't require a payment.  Her group had been in Europe to study European religion, both before and after the Protestant Reformation.  She hadn't been impressed with Europe's cathedrals, or the various local guides they'd had in said cathedrals.  (I should note here that she had been in Europe for all of two weeks.  Um?  Not enough time.  And she wasn't impressed with Notre Dame or the cathedral in Vienna?  WTF?)  She told me all of this with no prompting and no questions from me, other than a raised eyebrow and occasional "mmm-hmm".

She also was very annoyed that the airline required everyone to be at the gate an hour before departure.  That was the biggest complaint; sitting still in one place for an hour.  They're not even boarding, ffs, why do we need to be here?  Whine, whine, whine.  I can't keep my mouth shut (who knew!) and I felt the need to explain to her that we need to be there before the plane takes off because 200 people are going to board, and that takes time - you ain't the only person on the flight, sister - and if you get there and board the plane at the scheduled departure time, along with 200 of your closest friends, the flight?  Will be late.  Ohhh.

The line moves forward, slowly, even with everyone using either restroom.  College Girl goes into the men's.  When she comes out, the water in the sink was still running.  I glanced at it as I walked by, and thought that it was an automatic tap, one of the ones with a heat sensor or motion detector.  So I didn't turn it off, because I thought it would turn itself off.  When I came out of the stall, though, it was still running.  Grrrr.  Waste of water, environmentally irresponsible, rude....pick any one of those, and you have enough to really irritate me.

When I returned to my team in the waiting room, College Girl was a few seats away, and I heard her telling her friends (again, loudly) that she never turns off the taps in public restrooms because she's just washed her hands and the sinks in public restrooms are sooooo dirty, you know?  Someone else will turn it off.  Whatever.  And like, I don't want, like, to get germs on my clean hands and stuff.  

Much eye-rolling from me ensues.  She wasn't paying attention to me, and I didn't want to get into an argument, so that's a good thing that she wasn't watching.  Her thoughtlessness and very self-centered outlook were annoying.  It also embarrasses me when people that I share citizenship with act like that: loud, full of complaints, bratty, self-centered, and a closed mind.  Yeah, things are different in Europe.  It isn't America.  The Europeans operate a little differently than the Yanks.  That does not mean that you should be passing judgement on the way of life in another country.  And things like that are the reason that Americans have such a bad international reputation.  

I do realize that some of my irritation was misplaced.  A convenient target and outlet for other feelings I can't do much about.  When I'm leaving Sweden (OK, technically Denmark this time, but just across the bridge from Malmö, Sweden) I'm always tired, a little bummed because I never know when I am coming back to Scandinavia, and dreading the trans-Atlantic trek home, as it is long, boring, and usually crowded.

Thankfully, College Girl and her compatriots were way in the back of the plane, and I didn't have to listen to their inane chatter over a 9 hour flight.  The Red Hat Ladies sat by us, though, and man!  As we were boarding, they were rude and impatient with everyone in front of them in line stowing their luggage in the overhead compartments.  Simmer down, sweetie, it takes all of 30 seconds to shove a carry-on up there, and no one is taking "your" space for their bag.  I promise.

Hm.  I think it is time for me to either get some sleep, or lock myself in a room alone away from other people for a while.

here endeth the entry.  A note after getting home, though:

The college kids all applauded and cheered when we got on the ground in Atlanta and the pilot or the lead flight attendant said "Welcome to the United States" which I thought, again, unnecessary, tacky, & loud.  But I realize my interpretation of that behavior -- which is that they were cheering because Europe was just so different than home, so awful -- is unreasonable.  They were just glad to be home.  

As am I (mostly) to be perfectly frank.  I just wish I was able to visit Sweden more often, preferably on an annual basis.  For more than the two weeks of vaca I'm allotted.  That'd be nice.