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Let’s Talk Ta Ta’s

Breasts have been on my mind for as long as I can remember. When I was small, I wanted them. Then, when I got my first AAA training bras, I was a bit proud — and nervous. At 12 years old, when I was one of the only girls in my class with visible breasts, I was embarrassed. In high school, I was resigned, thinking they made me look boxy. Finally, in my 20’s I discovered the power of a properly fitting bra and began to make peace with these two floatation devices strapped to my chest.

You see, for years I thought I was a 36 C, because that was the size my mom was at the time (or so she thought) and I just let her buy me bras. As I got older, I stuck to the same size, regardless of weight fluctuations, thinking it was still right. Eventually, I grudgingly went up a cup size, but between the back aches and sometimes embarrassing bulges, I grew more and more resentful of my breasts.

After college, when I finally had a decent paying job, I discovered the glory that is the Nordstrom’s bra department. This place truly is a well endowed girls best friend. It turns out not only was my cup size wrong, my rib size was also wrong. One was too small, the other too big. Leaving the store after that first excursion, my head was held high and my back no longer ached. As the years passed, I became complacent, dependent upon my bra department of choice. Then, I got pregnant…and suddenly Nordstrom wasn’t the best choice.

With pregnancy comes a whole litany of physical complaints, but one that really cannot be emphasized enough is the soreness that accompanies the beginning stages of milk production. Breast tissue swells, becomes inflamed, and just in general becomes a big ol’ pain in the … Well, you get the picture. At the time I was pregnant with the little guys, my local Nordstrom didn’t have maternity or nursing bras (though they will adjust a traditional bra into a nursing bra for a reasonable fee). Thankfully, there was a specialty boutique near by that introduced me to the Anita brand of maternity and nursing bras. These are truly spectacular bras. I credit them with helping me avoid mastitis during the early days of nursing our little guy. Then, once specialty bras weren’t needed anymore, I was able to go back to my old standby. Or was I?

Well ladies and gentlemen, apparently moving countries may put a kink in your plans to frequent your usual haunts. When it comes to bras that is a particular problem. Thankfully, in England I eventually found a shop called Bravissimo that does a pretty good job. They didn’t sell maternity bras, but that was a non-issue at the time, so all in all, it was a win.

Now let’s fast forward many months to the time when I found myself living in Sweden, desperate for a new bra because my current ones were approaching the end of their life span. Apparently, along with being generally tall, blond, and gorgeous, Swedes must also have breasts that defy gravity because try as I might, every bra I found had the most ridiculously thin straps imaginable! One hour in one of these bras was too much for my poor back. The bras are such an issue that a physical therapist actually recommended that a particularly busty friend of mine wear two bras for support. Two bras?!? Talk about torture…

Fast forward a few more months and now I find myself knocked up, with a litany of complaints, one of which is very unhappy breasts. After many, many desperate internet searches, I found myself on a pregnancy forum that recommended Anita bras (no surprise there). After perusing the website, I found a link that helped me track down local suppliers and lo and behold, there was 1! Yes, that’s right, 1. Still, in a country the size of Sweden, in a city that isn’t even the largest city, that is pretty impressive.

That very night, I emailed the owner of the shop, asking if she carried the line (it’s always good to confirm) and asking if she could accommodate my size (one never knows). She responded the very next day, assuring me that my bra woes would shortly be coming to an end. She even emailed me to let me know she was sick one day and the shop would be closed, so that I wouldn’t make an unnecessary trip. Impressive. Very impressive.

Upon tracking down the shop, approximately two streets from a major shopping mall, in a building, up an elevator, and through a door, I immediately discovered that the owner (Lisa) was very serious about women’s support garments. Her tiny shop is packed chock full of bras, underpants, swimsuits…it’s impressive and a little overwhelming. Thankfully, Lisa herself is so knowledgable about her stock and women’s shapes in general that my visit was painless. She guessed my size after a quick perusal and was right on the mark. Her selection of Anita bras was extensive and thankfully, she carries many, many non maternity bras as well. This shop is now my go to place for bras. I even took extra business cards, which I’ve shamelessly passed out to friends, my brow girl, and even my midwife. Don’t worry, I did control myself the time I almost stopped a passing woman to ask if she had heard of the shop…tact doesn’t come naturally to me, but occasionally I find it.

Now, enough prattling. It’s time to get to the good stuff. The bras I brought home from Lisa’s shop are amazing. I actually don’t even notice my chest for large parts of the day. What a revelation! So, if you are in Göteborg and in need of a proper bra (maternity or otherwise), please stop in to Chia-Agenteur at Östra Hamngatan 50A near Brunnsparken. Lisa has limited hours, so make sure to double check her website or Facebook page, but she will make exceptions if you contact her and will schedule private fittings outside of business hours.

 

Image from dailymail.co.uk

Image from dailymail.co.uk

Until next time…

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Parenting

New Term, New School

Pre-school has begun again for our little guy and I am so excited to share this new experience with you. As you know from my previous blog, we were excited to have the little man try out school in Sweden. While the teachers in our last school were AWESOME, we wanted to find a school closer to home and also one where the students were primarily Swedish. The logic behind this is that if we stay in Sweden long term, the short one will need to be fluent in Svenska. Thus began the search for a new school. I applied to many schools, a few local public schools, and several cooperatives. The one I was most excited about was a Montessori cooperative. Those of you familiar with the Montessori pedagogy know that the emphasis is on helping children to develop their life skills through self-guided play (massive simplification, I know). Needless to say, my fingers were crossed. A couple of months passed while we waited to be notified about school, but finally we found out there was availability in three of the schools we had contacted. Two we were very excited about and those two were narrowed to one after we considered ease of commute.

That is how just three weeks ago I found myself bringing the little man for his first day of Montessori pre-school in a primarily Svenska speaking school. It was such a good decision. Not only is this a Montessori pre-school, it also has a huge outdoor play area with a giant sand pit, vegetable and flower gardens, and even a little play house. Indoors, the children are separated by age into three distinct classrooms that only mingle when outdoors (a big plus for my little guy who doesn’t always enjoy the company of the littlest children). The teachers are lovely, and the students are most definitely the nicest group of kids I have come across.

Each week, the children will be going on a hike in the nearby woods with their teachers. They also take walks around the neighborhood, visit local museums and theaters, and eat some amazing, freshly prepared meals. Yesterday when I arrived they were eating apple sauce they made with apples foraged from a local yard (freely given by the homeowner) and today they had sandwiches made on freshly made bread rolls by the awesome cook who prepares tasty meals each day. My experience with the food at both the previous school and this current school is that the quality is so much higher than what I was accustomed to back home. As someone who has been sick and disinclined to make strongly flavorful foods for the past few months, it is wonderful to know that my child is eating things like freshly prepared salmon cakes and homemade stews during his school day.

This school is a cooperative in addition to being Montessori, which means that we as parents have a responsibility to assist with the smooth running of the school. There are cleaning duties, committee duties, and in general an expectation that we will be active in the goings on at the school. While this can be daunting for some, in a place like Sweden, where parental leave is generous, and people work to live rather than live to work, it is completely reasonable. It’s not all work though, in addition to those responsibilities come certain privileges. After picking up children from school, it’s not unheard of for parents to stick around and play on the playground out back with the children. I wouldn’t even have considered this at our previous school, as the playground was in the middle of an apartment complex and I felt it would be impolite to stick around. Since this playground belongs to the school, it makes perfect sense to let the children continue playing and to join in ourselves.

My biggest concern joining this school was that my limited Svenska would be problematic for the other parents. Thus far, my fears have proven completely unfounded. The parents are friendly and inclusive, some have even been helping me to add to my Svenska vocabulary bit by bit. One mom even made me a homemade natural deodorant that is much better than the store bought one I’ve been using. My other concern was that my son would have trouble adjusting to being the only English speaking child. That concern turned out to be entirely unfounded. The other children have completely accepted him and gone out of there way to include him in their play. Hopefully eventually he will even be able to understand what they are saying.

Until next time…

Prastkagen

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Parenting

Just One Task

Now that I’m officially slightly on the mend, I’ve decided to pick up some bits and pieces of my prior life (we will call that “before pukefest 2016” or “BP2016” for short). Unfortunately, as I learned while my mom was in town visiting, taking on too many tasks or too big of a task in one sitting is a poor choice and returns me to the time of pukefest 2016. A good example of this is that if you have been in a semi bedrest situation for months on end, it’s probably not a good idea to go to Ikea for an outing… Ikea = just too darn big! Or, if you do go to Ikea, do not then trek to the neighboring strip mall to check out the home improvement store to check out cleaning supplies. This level of activity will no doubt have repercussions. On the bright side, following this poor, poor choice, my toilet is once again sparkling clean. It’s best to only experience a pukefest in a sparkling clean toilet. I strongly advise avoiding friends’ toilets. You never know what you will find…

Following the Ikea incident, my new and awesome midwife advised me to rest as much as possible. Hmm… while I am a fan of this rest thing, it doesn’t jive so well with having a son who is on school break and a husband who just returned to work (following an amazing 3 week paid vacation—thank you Sweden!!).
School starts again next week, so this week I’ve vowed that we will do one task each day (preferably out of the house). That way he doesn’t go completely stir crazy, and I don’t feel like a blob that just sits around and allows her child to watch way too many episodes of Mighty Machines (greatest Canadian show ever folks) and Axel and Daddy Show. Thank you YouTube…

Our task this Thursday was to replace the front tire on the jogging stroller we’ve been hauling around since we were in the United States. In England this wasn’t a big deal, as there was a cycle shop right up the street that carried the right size tires and took care of everything for me whenever we got a flat. Love the performance of air-filled tires, hate the maintenance… In Sweden, we don’t have a cycle shop up the block and I don’t yet know enough svenska to be confident calling around town looking for a shop. That said, my husband reminded me that we passed a shop one day on our way to lunch, so the short one and I set out on Thursday to track it down. As we sat on the tram, I realized we would be in the neighborhood of a friend who had contacted the hubs for some computer help. Now, I’m not the most savvy computer person, but I have broken a few in my day, which makes me uniquely qualified for a novice. I contacted my friend and within minutes we had a deal. I would look at her computer and she would call around town double checking all the cycle shops for me. Win-win situation!

Two and a half hours after we left our house, and one trouble shooting season later, the boy and I were headed out again. We caught a tram and headed for the cycle shop…then promptly got off two stops later when I realized the tram we caught would not go to the area we needed. Finally, three hours and four minutes after we left the house, we found the cycle shop. Unfortunately, they had just closed for lunch four minutes prior… After several days with little sun, the short one made an executive decision that I would find us a place to hang out in the sun where we could absorb some vitamin D (yes, he really does say things like that). Four hours after we left the house and many games of super hero with me sitting on a bench and him running in circles later, we entered the cycle shop and thankfully were able to have a new tire and inner tube installed. Quite reasonably as well! Four hours and twenty minutes later, I realized we were once again on the wrong tram 😔 Five hours later, we arrived back at our apartment, having completed our one task for the day.

One task truly was all I could handle for one day. Funnily enough, in the U.S. this wouldn’t have been an issue. I would have called around or checked the internet, hopped in my car, driven to the shop, and finished everything within an hour. In England, I would have taken a leisurely stroll and 15 minutes later been finished with my errand. When you move to a foreign country where the language is unfamiliar, everything changes. Some things are amazing and some things are so, so hard. What I am learning as I go through this transition while also attempting to grow a living being in my belly is that I have to be nicer to myself. Instead of beating myself up for the time he spends watching shows, I remind myself of the fact that we kept tv from him for two full years and that the shows he does watch are good ones that aren’t damaging his brain synapses. Also, anyone who has watched the shows I mentioned above will likely agree that they can be pretty interesting, even for an adult. I caught my mom staring raptly at the screen during an episode of Mighty Machines the other day. It was awesome.

So, how have I done this week with my one task goal? Well, it didn’t actually start until Thursday, so, not too bad. The five hour cycle shop adventure kept my kid happy and wasn’t too exhausting (though I may have fallen asleep on the tram for just a moment and needed a nap as soon as we got home…). Friday was laundry day and that wasn’t too bad either. The short one even kept me company going back and forth to the laundry room. I did cheat a bit and take him into town to meet the hubs at his work, which is technically a second task, but both the child and I were feeling a bit cooped up, so it was good to go out. The nausea started to return as I headed home, but thankfully I was prepared with good ol’ white bread as soon as I got home. Yeah, yeah, I know I should be eating better. You try puking up every vegetable and fruit you eat for 4 months and then lecture me 😉 The midwife says survival is more important at this stage, so that’s my goal.

How about you out there? Are you being too hard on yourself? Setting unrealistic expectations? Why not set a one task goal? If you complete it, congratulate yourself. If you still have energy, aim for a second. Let’s all learn to work to live rather than living to work. My mom put it best. She said that during her visit she finally had time to think. That her life is so busy and chaotic that she never really has time to just be one with her thoughts and sort things out. That’s a great description of my life before leaving the US. Busy does not equate to productive and productive does not necessarily equate to happy or content. To all of you out there, I hope you are happy and content. If you aren’t, I hope today you take a moment to yourself to find a quiet place and just be.

front-tire

Image from www.lucieslist.com

 

 

 

 
 

 
 

Until next time…

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Parenting, Travel Adventures

Glorious Summer Break

The Hubby here, and I want to share my reflection of my first 3 week Swedish Summer Break.

When I started working in Sweden 6 months ago, I was warned by my new coworkers about the ritual that the whole country seems to enjoy: taking 3-4 weeks during Summer out of work.
As July approaches, the build up of excitement shows. Some might argue, around here, Summer break is a bigger deal than Christmas break.

All schools are closed.  All daycares are seemingly closed. Most people (except those in retail) take July off from work and flee the city.  Everyone working in Sweden is entitled to 25 days of paid vacation per year (that is 5 work weeks), so I can see why they make the most of it.  As a cherry on top, in Sweden, if you take vacation days, as part of collective bargaining, you might actually get paid a bit more than your regular salary.  They really want you to take those vacation days.

Taking long vacations from work is not something that we, as Americans, consider commonplace. So for this Summer break, I set two personal goals for myself: disconnect from work and bond with my son.

The first goal turned out to be surprisingly easy. I mean, it does make things a bit easier when most of the people in your office are also on vacation. Synchronised vacation has both pros and cons, but as far as helping me reach my personal goal: it’s a plus. I didn’t feel the urge to compulsively check my email on my phone like I always do when I was on vacation back in the States.

As for the other goal…

My relationship with my son has always been pretty good. But I always knew that I am no substitute for mommy – and there are areas where our son would not budge. Getting him to bed is one. He would get royally pissed off if mom is not in the room when he wakes up in the middle of the night, for instance. “I want mommy!” was a common plea.

One day I asked him:

“Do you love me?”
“Yes. But just a little bit”
“How about mommy?”
“A lot”

I don’t blame him. I was like that when I was his age, always looking for my mom. Not very many people know this, but one of the main reasons we left the States is because I worked too much – to the point of not spending enough time to bond with our newborn. Things were much better in England, but I feel that I hit a stride after moving to Gothenburg.
I’ve always been envious of all the dads out there on Facebook who manage to take a toddler for few nights on their own while the moms are having weekend trips. This was not my reality.

This summer, here are some of the awesome things the boy and I did together:

– Took a bus to Borås Zoo and Science Centre. The boy got some more dinosaur names to augment his dictionary, such as Apatosaurus
– Caught, hatched, and evolved lots and lots of Pokémon
– Slowly catching up with Pokémon Season One on YouTube (2 episodes per day only, I still remember the seizure concerns back in the days)
– Invented and acted out various made up Pokémon roles.
“Today I am Doggy, a high level Pokemon!” he yelled. “Hit Evolve button, Dad!” “How do you spell Evolve?” “E-V-O-L-V-E” I hit an imaginary button. Random dramatic noises. “I am Ultra! I have my Stomp and Stinky Balls! (don’t ask)”
– Recycled lots and lots of cans and bottles to save up for his coveted toy
– Using Pokémon Go evolution to teach him why saving up his hard earned money for a higher level, I mean, more expensive toy is better
– Took a speed boat to the Archipelago around Goteborg. “How fast?” “SO FAST!”
– Had him nap on me while we were on ferries and trams
– Saw him do his first forward roll, and the nine hundred rolls afterward (his patented Flip Fall, where he would pretend to fall then forward flip)
– Rode the back of a Triceratops
– Told him stories on trams. So many made up stories, involving our imaginary friends The Kraken, The Monster with One Thousand Eyes, Grabby the Toy Grabber, Terry the Pterodactyl, and hundreds more.
– Visited Copenhagen, took a nice tour boat ride on the canals
– Heard him say “Okay, here’s the game plan..”

Summer

I feel that finally, I bonded with my son. Like really bonded. He’s actually looking for me, and letting Wifey focus on being healthy for <Number Two>.
I feel confident now laying down with him for naps and at night. Instead of yelling for mommy, he actually gives me a grin when he wakes up.

I am very much looking forward to another awesome Summer Break next year, where we will get to do a lot more of these awesome things together.

And so, the time for the Litmus test..
“Do you love me?”
He nodded.
“A lot?”
“Yes!”

 

 

“But I love mommy more, though”

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

Think Twice, Speak Once

Have you ever had one of those moments when you really, really want to say something to someone, but can’t because you are either stunned at their audacity or just too tired/sick/miserable to deal with them? I had one of those today.

While riding on an S-train in Copenhagen, Denmark (brilliant trains, large cars) with my toddler son, husband, and mother in a wheelchair, I was soundly told off. We ended up in the bicycle car to ensure space for the wheel chair. Unfortunately, the empty seats were at the opposite end of the car from the spot with space for the wheelchair. While my husband stayed next to mom and the chair, my toddler and I ended up a bit further down. Soon, a couple with bikes and a preteen child boarded. There were quite a few empty seats and bicycle slots on our end, so I didn’t think anything of it—until they made sure it was all I would think of for the rest of the day.

Those of you who read my last post know that I am suffering through a rough pregnancy. Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, I am finally able to get out and about again, hence the travel. That said, it’s not always fun. Today I was nauseous and bloated and sweating profusely. It was rough. Then, that delightful family boarded and the oh so helpful Danish woman felt the need to tell my nauseous self that my son and I were not welcome in that car because we didn’t have a bike (though she made this assumption based on the fact that I was speaking English with my son). Being pregnant and tired, I decided to just acquiesce because I didn’t feel like fighting. Being sick and miserable, I decided to be a bit passive aggressive. Instead of arguing with her, I hollered across the car to my husband “Hey, is it possible to push down that seat next to mom’s wheelchair? Apparently this car is only for people with bicycles.” That’s right. Hollered. The woman looked visibly embarrassed when she realized we were with a person in a wheelchair — as she should. Unfortunately for her, she did not look embarrassed for my ill self. After we were settled into a new seat with my son on my lap (no extra seats on this end) and he was giving me pretend presents, I asked him (loudly) whether he had any presents for the baby in mamas belly. At this point the woman’s face was no longer visible; she was hiding behind a partition. I could still see her husband’s face and when he heard the words “baby in mama’s belly” and realized his wife forced a pregnant woman with a toddler and a wheelchair bound passenger out of her seat, he cringed. Deservedly.

Is there a moral to this story or did I just need to vent? Probably the right answer is a little of both. Try your best to not make assumptions about people. As a family member of someone in a wheelchair, I had every right to sit in that seat. As a pregnant woman with a toddler, there was no reason for me to be told to move while on a moving tram. This family assumed I was using designated space without a right and that I was fully able-bodied. It’s an assumption many people make. My disabled grandmother always reminded me that not all disabilities are visible and we shouldn’t make judgements about peoples’ health. Her disability was hidden on her ankle, under a pair of pants. She was tall and strong, but walking more than 50 meters was excruciatingly painful. One would never know it by just looking.

If you ever find yourself tempted to correct a stranger in public, please keep in mind that it is impossible to know every circumstance taking place in the lives of others. Even if that person you see or talk to appears physically well, you just can’t know. Save yourself and the other person potential embarrassment and discomfort and think twice before speaking up.

Lastly, only jerks make people with children move seats when there are plenty of seats available. Don’t be a jerk.

Copenhagen Bike Train

Until next time…

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Parenting

The Toilet Diaries

Hello again my friends! It’s been much too long since I’ve placed my fingers on the keyboard to communicate with you all. Those of you who contacted me to check on my absence—THANK YOU!! Knowing you enjoy reading about our adventures and that my words add to your day gives me such a feeling of accomplishment that I can’t even describe it. So, what has kept me away? It’s a bit of an unpleasant story, but I’m cautiously optimistic for the coming days.

These past months, I’ve spent lying in bed or sitting in bed or hugging my toilet. My hair has fallen out in large amounts—thankfully no bald spots! I’ve learned how to go to the ER in Sweden (a post for another day). And, frighteningly enough, the medication I was given for some of these issues resulted in uncontrolled facial spasms. Oh the indignity! Thankfully, I made it through (so far).

So, what is wrong with me? Am I dying??? No, I’m not dying. Am I terribly ill? Many would say I’m not even sick. No, I’m not sick.

I’m pregnant (Yippee!) Yes…it was planned 😛 Yes…I knew this could happen—again.

As with my last pregnancy, I suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). According to this website only 1% of pregnant women suffer from this condition. That contrasts with the 70%-80% of women who experience some form of pregnancy related nausea (let’s not kid ourselves and call it morning sickness). While HG is partially caused by rising human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels during pregnancy, in some women HG causes hyperthyroidism. That can in turn increase the nausea. I’m one of those people. It’s not severe enough to require thyroid medication, but it does require lots of blood tests. I feel like a pin cushion! So far, I’ve been lucky and only lost a little over 6kg (13lbs) and I wasn’t skinny to start off. I spoke with someone online this past week who lost over 20kg (upwards of 44lbs)!! Can you imagine that misery? I can’t, and I’ve been miserable these past many weeks.

Thankfully, after trying several medications, the latest one at least allows me to eat white bread a few times a day, so that is good. Even better, an amazing friend helped me find a sympathetic midwife who I will begin seeing later this week. Knowing someone out there with medical expertise is watching out for you gives me so much relief. Once again, I have no words. Finally, and most importantly, despite my own misery, this baby seems to be quite healthy. If it is anything like the experience with my son, probably baby and mom will come out of this with no long term physical damage.

Experiencing something like this during pregnancy can be very isolating and upsetting. During a time when emotions are running high, being cooped up at home or alternately, having to venture into the world knowing you will be sick in public does not a happy woman make. A friend was kind enough to send me a link to HelpHer.Org and I discovered a wealth of useful information as well as forums where other women experiencing the same symptoms are available for advice and support. If you know anyone who is experiencing severe pregnancy nausea, please share the HelpHer site with her. There is nothing more demoralizing than being reassured that it is completely normal to be sick when you are pregnant. At a certain point it isn’t normal and it helps to have that acknowledged.

Thanks for hanging through a very serious blog. If even one reader finds it helpful, I will know it was worth sharing.

Toilet Baby Announcement

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

The Human Family

Many ideas for blogs have been swimming in my head this past week, but none resonated enough for me to put fingers to keyboard. This morning that changed. In an effort to be more productive, I set off to the grocery store at 8am—thinking this would put me ahead for the day and I would be home with plenty of time to get my laundry switched over. Those of you who read this blog know the importance of laundry day. The weather was glorious — cool and damp following an overnight rain. Approaching the store, I finished up a Voxer message to a friend back home. I had no expectation of human companionship and was focused entirely on getting in and out of the store with no extra purchases (I tend to dawdle).

My plan changed almost immediately. After I grabbed the first item on my list (a carton of rice milk) from a shelf near the entry, a woman flagged me down from the bread aisle for assistance. Some of you may find this odd, but as a former courtesy clerk (aka: grocery bagger), it happens to me quite frequently. I just have one of those faces. As I approached, I explained “Jag pratar engelska. Jag pratar inte svenska.” In my broken svenska, that means, “I speak english, I do not speak svenska.” FYI, Google Translate tells me I should have said “Jag talar engelska , jag talar inte svenska”.  Despite this warning and her inability to speak English, she was not deterred. Using hand gestures, rudimentary svenska, and Google, I was able to piece together the fact that she needed to know the price of the bread she was holding. Thankfully, the tag had just been shoved off to the side a bit. I suspect she also forgot her reading glasses…

Next, she explained to me (once again, in our cobbled together communication) that she needed to know if the bread was halal. I’m not overly familiar with halal guidelines and just in case it involved more than pork, I double checked the internet. A quick review left me equally confused. After using my translation app to explain to her that there were no pork byproducts in the bread and also no halal labeling, I explained it was probably “bra” or good. She placed the bread in her basket and we both started to go our separate ways. Or so I thought…

Just when I was about to get goal oriented again, she grasped my sleeve and directed me to the dairy aisle. This too has happened to me before. I just go with it. She explained that she needed lactose free milk (laktosfri in svenska). Isn’t it amazing how much you can understand without speaking the same language? A few more words were exchanged, she expressed her thanks, and we parted. Little did she know, I too am thankful. Living in a foreign country can feel very isolating. The language barrier causes confusion and slows down relationships that might otherwise rapidly flourish. Having an early morning conversation of sorts with a friendly woman helped me feel more a part of the community. It reminded me that no matter how small the contribution, I could improve a stranger’s day. I recently explained to my son that strangers are just people we haven’t met yet and that most of them are good people. Today reaffirmed my commitment to that statement. This woman and I may never talk again. We speak different languages, have different religious beliefs, and have no way of purposely reconnecting. Nonetheless, she’s no longer a stranger. She’s now a reminder to me of the fact that we are all connected and in some ways, all family who need to look out for each other.

If you ever feel alone, isolated, or unable to connect, remember this story. Language and beliefs do not have to be a barrier.  Even strangers often care enough to help if we just give them a chance.

Until next time…

Image from diabeticlivingonline.com

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Travel Adventures

Signs of Spring

Just days after our cold spell, Göteborg decided to get warm again — 26 degrees Celsius in our house to be exact! If you, like me, need to look up the conversion for that, it is roughly 78 degrees Fahrenheit! Yikes! I am a heat wimp, so needless to say, I contacted our landlord right away. He is so awesome that within 2 days there was an air conditioner set up in our living room (which I am enjoying right this minute). Spring and sun mean flowers in Göteborg. This past week, at the request of a subscriber, I’ve been snapping as many photos of the beautiful blooms as I can to share with you.

Being a compact city, I wasn’t expecting the sheer amount of greenery that is prevalent in this city. Each neighborhood has flower displays and trees in bloom. The amusement park, Liseberg, has an amazing array as well (there will be a big post on Liseberg coming!). Daffodils and tulips are the most common, but pansies are occasionally represented. I’ve seen pansies as big as my palm!

Many are common, but some are exotic to my uneducated eyes. Here is one that my friend Travis over at GardenSphere, in Tacoma, WA tells me is a Crown Fritillaria. As an aside, he says they smell like marijuana ;). So that’s what I was smelling…

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An interesting tidbit I picked up at my son’s school this week is that they teach the children (his school, I don’t know about others), that it is best to let the flowers stay in the ground so they can continue to grow and live. This doesn’t mean they don’t sell cut flowers, they sell many, but it does mean the children do think twice before plucking blooms from the neighbors flower beds 😉

I will leave you with these pictures of the flowers around town and hope you enjoy your week!

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Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

May Day

Growing up, I did not pay attention to the meaning of May Day. Mainly, it was just my Grandma’s birthday. I knew flowers were involved and had heard about a May Pole (whatever that is…). Sadly, this trend continued my entire life. Part of this ignorance is my own fault and part is due to the fact that it never really interfered with my life. I’m sure there were events and parades and what have you, but I was completely oblivious to them.

This past weekend, May Day smacked me in the face.  After a long walk through Slottskogan in new shoes (a blog for another day), my feet ached.  I was desperate to hop on a tram, get home, and change shoes.  Altogether, I expected a walk of about one kilometer.  As we passed tram stop after tram stop that were closed to traffic, I realized  that wasn’t one bit realistic.  After about two kilometers, just ahead, we heard drumming.  Loud drumming!  Then shouts and chanting.  Finally, at Järntorget, we saw a huge crowd gathered.  Signs were waving about as drummers beat on drums and people shouted through a megaphone.  Oh no!  Was this another closed stop?  Thankfully, no.  It was open, but only one half was functioning.  As we passed through, I saw the signs and realized this was a May Day demonstration.  Suddenly, I found myself very curious about this day and the fervor of the people gathered.

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Thanks to the power of the internet, I now know at least a little more.  I found this site very useful.  Reading it reminded me of the information I learned in my AP Civics class about the abominable working conditions in the 19th century and also reminded me of the struggles our forefathers and mothers suffered to unionize.  I’ve always worked within the confines of a labor union.  I won’t say there aren’t arguments against them, but I truly believe that without them, we would rapidly degenerate into a society that once again treats people as disposable goods. Checks and balances are needed to ensure employers do not ignore the need for at least some balance in workers’ lives.  As the linked article states, “Workers had seen first-hand that Capitalism benefited only their bosses, trading workers’ lives for profit.”

I remember at my first job, in addition to the state labor laws that ensured 8 hours off between shifts and minors leaving work by 10pm, the Union bylaws ensured medical and dental insurance and protections for employees against unfair termination. The same was true in my former career, though because it was a federal position, the rules were even more strict.

Enough about me though, according to the article, the first May Day was celebrated on May 1, 1886 when more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs.  Did you read that correctly?  That’s right, just 120 years ago in the United States, May Day came into being.  This is our legacy. The United States declared independence on July 4, 1776.  There are houses in Sweden older than our country.  Yet somehow, even though we were a young country, we banded together to do something great.  Despite that, during my formative years, it really didn’t have much of an impact.  I found this article by Paul Hogarth, that supports my own recollection and helped me to accept that I wasn’t imagining it.  Mr. Hogarth explains:

“In 1894, after the Pullman Strike (which also happened in Chicago), President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day — the first Monday in September — a national holiday. Labor Day was chosen to intentionally co-opt May Day, because they feared commemorating the Haymarket Riot would build support for communism and other radical causes. In 1958 during the McCarthy Era, President Dwight Eisenhower took it even further by signing a law making May 1st Loyalty Day. And in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan enacted May 1st as “Law Day.””

Things may be different in the States than they were when I left just over two years ago.  I read today that there were riots and violence in many places on May Day, so it is being recognized to some extent.  However, that type of behavior is unacceptable to me.  Growing up, it would have made me scared of the day and discouraged me from participating.  The demonstration here in Göteborg that I witnessed was completely peaceful.  Children and adults of all ages, able bodied and disabled, all participated.  They had no reason to fear their fellow demonstrators.  

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It’s true, as a Socialist country, Swedish citizens feel strongly about equality and fairness for workers. They also wholeheartedly recognize this important day. Yes, the celebrations which preceded the modern day May Day did involve May Poles and flower garlands, but the spirit of that first workers’ rights demonstration is so much more impactful for modern citizens than a Pagan holiday (no offense friendly Pagan and Wiccan readers, I still love you).

Not all battles require a military and not all wars occur in distant lands.

Despite my sore and blistered feet that were too swollen to squeeze into my usual shoes the next day, I’m very thankful for that demonstration. It reminded me of the good that came from my country and the importance of never forgetting the lives sacrificed to ensure my freedom. Not all battles require a military and not all wars occur in distant lands. It is the responsibility of the people to ensure equitable treatment. Hopefully this blog will travel to some other soul who really didn’t understand the importance of May 1st. If that person takes the time to read the links and then looks deeper, that’s even better.

Thank you for reading. Don’t forget, fair treatment of workers is not just a Socialist concept. It’s a basic human right.

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Until next time…

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Swedish Ingenuity

Chalmers Cortègen – a fun and goofy tradition

Nerdy Hubs here filling in for Quirky on this post…

Last Saturday I took our son to a Gothenburg tradition – Chalmers Cortègen.  What is it?  According to this, it’s a parade by the students of Chalmers Tekniska Högskola (Chalmers University of Technology) around the campus block, on Walpurgis Night (or Valborg in Svenska, on April 30).

Many people attended the event – according to the website, about 250,000!

The nature of the parade is satirical, full of puns, and very goofy.

Starting time was 18.15 (6:15pm for those who don’t use military time), but they were running a little behind.  When the light rain started, things seemed grim, but finally, at 18.40 (6:40pm), the show started.

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There were marching bands…

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Decorated trucks with lots of puns and social commentary..

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Yep, that is the VW dieselgate.  Cheeky boogers 😉

Star Wars stuff —  Star Wars is huge here in Sweden.

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As my son called it, Millenium Falcon car

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When the Empire goes for cost-saving, AT-AT design needs to adapt

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Tons of political commentary. Including American politics.

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A velociraptor pulling a carriage

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Deserving special recognition were the makeshift vehicles.  Seriously, they stick engines in all kinds of random stuff. The end result is awesomeness!

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Overall, we had tons of fun, and look forward to making this a yearly tradition for our family.  If you have the opportunity to attend, it’s totally worth braving the weather and crowds to see just how creative people can get.

Until next time…

 

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