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.

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Image from www.lucieslist.com

 

 

 

 
 

 
 

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

Sex — Not just for making babies…

Growing up, I remember sex being a very embarrassing word. Until my early 20’s, it was a word I rarely used aloud. As I aged, it became a lot easier, but since it only referred to gender or intimate relations, there was no need to use it much. My experience isn’t unusual for someone in the US; a country where sex education is in many places now focused on abstinence only. Our puritanical roots show through in times like this.

Swedes view sex, the word anyway, much differently than we Americans. Imagine my surprise when I bought my son a counting book and read:

– Et
– Tvwo
– Trea
– Fyra
– Fem
– Sex…

Huh?!?  Sex??  In a children’s book???  That’s right.  Sex in Sweden is a word children use every day.  Sex in Sweden means “six”.  Strange, eh?  I think I’ve mentioned before in this blog that Swedes use English in ways that Americans would never consider. 

Okay then, no reason to be embarrassed when my toddler is shouting out his numbers on the tram. After all, sex is a perfectly innocent word in Sweden. Or is it?

In researching this further, I found out this isn’t the whole story. Sex doesn’t only mean six in Svenska. It also means sex, as in copulation. What?!? Are you surprised right now? Perhaps I shouldn’t have been, but I was dumbfounded.

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Swedes definitely prove that they weren’t colonized by a religious group 😉

Just in case you want to practice your Svenska, I will close all the numbers from one to ten:

– Ett
– Två (Sounds like tvwoo)
– Tre (sounds like tree-uh)
– Fyra
– Fem
– Sex
– Sju (pronounced like a guttural who —quwhoo—kind of)
– Åtta (like Oatuh)
– Nio
– Tio

I found this site online where you can read the names and play the sound 😃

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

Spring has Sprung!  Or has it?

This blog was supposed to be full of beautiful pictures of spring in Göteborg and it is, but some of those pictures may surprise you. Spring in Sweden isn’t quite what everyone is expecting.

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Spring has always been my favorite season.  I love the rejuvenation that takes place after a winter of dormancy.  As a Pacific Northwest native and a recent resident of the United Kingdom, rain does not bother me (most of the time).  Watching great beads of water drip off leaves and knowing they are nourishing the earth and cleaning the air always makes me feel optimism for the future.  Moving to Sweden, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.  I was told that Göteborg was “quite raw” and to be prepared for a lot of rain.  Thus far, the city has not lived up to this reputation.  Instead, Spring has been filled with crisp and cold morning air, followed up by warm afternoons (as high as 55 degrees!).  Sometimes I even go out in long sleeved t-shirts, though the brisk wind often discourages that idea.  Above me, the sky has primarily been a gorgeous blue, with puffy white clouds.  This is not to say it doesn’t rain, it just seems to come and go in the night.  As I thought about it the other day, it reminded me of my time at Gonzaga.  Spokane in the spring is beautiful as is Göteborg.

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How about the scenery? That too is spectacular (aside from the slightly larger number of individuals enjoying bouts of public intoxication…). In the past two weeks, the ground has gone from barren to being littered with tulips and daffodils of all colors. They are everywhere! Even the cherry trees are blooming. As you might imagine, this warming trend had me planning to store away all of the winter clothes and begin the spring cleaning. Just as I started to mentally prepare, the hubs warned me to expect snow this weekend. Huh?? Snow? Why on earth would there be snow in spring? This isn’t Colorado! No, it’s Sweden. 😛

Surprisingly, today the weather forecast proved itself accurate.  Small balls of hail started mid afternoon while we were out, then quickly gave way to brilliant blue skies.  We were lured into complacency!  Around 5pm, we decided it was time to grab some groceries.  As we reached the store, the hail began.  By the time we left, there was a full blown hail storm outside! Great droves of hail pummeled us all the way home.  Shortly after closing the door, it was gone.  Poof… no more hail.

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This spring weather may not be for everyone, but for a person who hates sweating, I much prefer it to the 70 + degree weather back home in the Seattle area. Global warming is not my friend.

If you are moving to Göteborg, or planning to visit in the spring, make sure to pack for all possibilities.  Personally, I will be keeping out the winter gear for at least a little longer.

Until next time…

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Swedish Ingenuity

Marriage is a Gift

This week I had a happy revelation when trying to translate a document we received in the mail.  One line said “Gift” and next to that was my name.  At first I thought, “Did the hubs order me a present?”  Nah.  He didn’t.  This was a credit document of some type.  That realization led me to my Google Translate app.  In the app you can take a picture of the document and it will translate quite a bit of it.  The word that popped up over “gift” was “married”.  Aha!  So, the Swedes think of marriage as a gift.  What a lovely sentiment…or so I thought.

By happy coincidence, that same night we were discussing family relations in my Svenska class. I asked the instructor if the word “gift” really did stand for marriage. She got a funny look on her face and quickly began sketching on the board. First, a heart. That was a good sign, and confirmed my earlier translation. Then…a bottle with a skull and crossbones on it. Poison!! Huh?? That’s right folks, the word for marriage is also the word for poison. Check out this screenshot from the official Google Translate website:

Gift Swedish Translation

I think I mentioned once before that I suspect Sweden purposely uses English words in unorthodox ways. Maybe I’m wrong, but now I know to be careful when speaking about gifts, as my sentence last night indicated I was getting some poison and not that I was married. Oh well…

Until next time…

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It’s not all rosy…

I suspect sometimes this blog comes off as a bright and cheery optimists view of all things Sweden. While I am thrilled with many facets of our move, there are also stark realities that I find irritating, sad, and just plain frustrating. One of those realities has reared up and smacked me on the head not once, but twice in the past two months. Here it is, for your reading pleasure.

Most of my life I have worked and worked diligently. I began babysitting for neighbors in very short stints from elementary school (I can’t help it, I’m responsible). In high school, as soon as I was able, I began working at a grocery store, while also going to school and participating in community service. The same held true for college, though the jobs changed. After college, I immediately began temp jobs while attending interviews for permanent employment. Thankfully, one month after graduation, I began work with the Federal Government. While my job wasn’t always a cheerful one, it was meaningful. The relationships I built during those years keep me going even today. Leaving my career was something I embraced on principle, but mentally and emotionally it was HARD.

As a zealous advocate for improving credit, prior to becoming a stay at home mom, I did extensive research about credit and how it would be affected by this choice. Thankfully, I discovered that US laws had been changed to be more accommodating to stay at home spouses. In fact, at the time of my research, I read that the working spouse’s credit could be used by the stay at home spouse when applying for cars, credit cards, etc… Thank goodness! Knowing that my decision wouldn’t put me at a financial disadvantage (credit wise anyway) made me feel a lot better.

Fast forward 3 years. We’ve moved countries twice and I’ve continued to stay with our son. Childcare was exorbitant in England, and my past experience with the government made me more suited to working in London with a long commute than it did in our town in Surrey. My husband initially set up our utilities and such when I was busy with our son; which did cause me problems when I would call them to try to make changes, but I didn’t worry too much about it (perhaps I should have…).

Strike 1

Now let’s move to present day. This move, the only utility we need is internet; everything else is provided. The wonderful management in the apartment building we are currently at helped me contact the internet company and set everything up. Then, there was a hiccup. They sent not one, but two routers! Oh man… What to do? Well, the office called them for me and found out that they would not talk to me about this issue. Apparently they would only speak to my husband. Since I do not have a job, they only had his name on the account and wanted to speak to him directly. It took two months to get this resolved because while I have more free time to contact them, that’s not a choice. Apparently being married doesn’t equate to the right to request a label to return a router.

Strike 2

The second happened just recently. Upon receipt of our personal numbers, the hubs and I were super excited to establish a proper bank account. Our awesome relocation expert took us to the bank and got everything rolling. The banker then explained that we were eligible for credit cards. Wait, did I say “we”? That’s not what she said. She said my husband was eligible. We explained that we both need cards and she asked him if he was okay with me having a card. She looked perturbed. Not just the usual stoic Swede—perturbed. He was stunned. I was peeved (don’t worry, I held it in). After he explained that yes, of course he wanted that, she finally took action to submit the request. All night I alternated between angry and sad. Angry that the work I do is considered so unappreciated and sad that society sees my contribution as so insignificant.

Strike 3

That leads me to the latest incident. After two months of using top up codes from the local convenience stores to access cell phone service, I decided to commit to a monthly phone plan. I enlisted a Swedish friend who helped me pick a good provider and then called them to discuss. The young man helping me was wonderful. Unfortunately, and much to his embarrassment, my lack of a job makes me ineligible to establish my own cell service. Even though my husband and I have a joint bank account, I am still unable to establish my own service. Hubby can grant me access to a phone on his plan, but I will not have the ability to contact the company on my own. Once again, despite having more availability to arrange things, I will be prevented from taking action.

Many of you may not be able to relate to this story, but those of you who left employment for one reason or another will likely understand. Once upon a time, I based most of my self worth on my job performance. It took a long time for me to move past that and to see other ways in which I contribute to society. I’m still figuring out ways to do that and get paid. I feel that these roadblocks don’t fit with this society entrenched in the idea of equality and the inherent value of each and every person. It makes sense to me that a bank or any corporation would be leery of giving a credit card or monthly service to someone without access to money. It does not make sense to me that someone with access to funds and who is married to the person earning the funds is not eligible to open accounts as a primary (even with a co-signer) or make calls to handle things with customer service.

It is likely that a situation like mine was previously unheard of in Sweden. The benefits provided to working Swedes who have children ensure they can stay home at least a year to care for them while still receiving a paycheck. As a result, most Swedes would never come across this situation. Since we had our child in another country and I was not working here prior to his birth, I am not eligible for those benefits and I agree with that. I just wish there was a system in place whereby I could still build credit even without a job. If anyone out there knows if there is, let me know 😃

Not out of the game yet

My husband always tells me I’m a natural born tester. If something can go wrong with any program or product, it will become a problem for me. I guess this is just one of those situations. Hopefully as Sweden evolves to handle the influx of immigrants that recently arrived, solutions will be found. If not, I will have to accelerate those Svenska lessons to help find gainful employment, because having no credit on a long term basis is just not something my mama would accept 😉

Don’t worry Sweden, I still love you, now I just understand you a bit better. To all of you out there in the same boat, hang in there. This too shall pass.

Until next time…

 

Image from gobankingrates.com

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