Saturday, January 31, 2009

why yes, it is another interview...

lynne of wheatlands news, who i interviewed during the great interview meme, actually interviews people for a living, so i asked her to send me five questions. what can i say, i'm a girl who needs an assignment.  i've found this interview thing to be so much fun! it has provoked my thinking and helped me explain things even to myself while i was writing the answers. that's how a good interview should be.  so i give you lynne's questions and my answers:

lynne:  Your daughter Sabin has an unusual name. Where does it come from and how do you pronounce it?

me:  sabin is a twin, born 10 weeks early because i had the first case of listeriosis seen in denmark in 25 years. her twin sister, sophia, was stillborn. sabin, although only 1570 grams, was perfect and fine and healthy, but just very small. we felt she needed a very strong name after such a difficult beginning. so she was named after my paternal grandmother, whose maiden name was sabin. we decided it would work as a beautiful first name and would carry with it the weight of the strength of my amazing grandmother, who lived to be 96 years old and had ten children (not necessarily in that order) and was truly the matriarch of our family. although she didn't live to meet sabin, i know she'd have loved knowing her and would have loved that she had her name.

sabin's middle name is amalie, in case she grew up and didn't feel sabin suited her. amalie is a more common name in denmark. however, she strongly identifies with sabin and wouldn't dream of using something else. i call her all sorts of pet names and she often insists that her name is sabin and i should stop calling her pooka.

and it's pronounced "say-bin" with the stress on the first syllable and a soft i (not e-sound, but also not really a schwa (one of those upsidedown e's you might remember from linguistics and which i can't seem to make blogger produce)).

lynne: What do you feel about long, dark winter days?

the dark winters are something i struggle with living in denmark and something which makes the prospect of norway, which is even darker in the winter, a bit daunting. it might be ok if you had proper snow along with it, but instead, the winter is grey and dreary in addition to dark. it rains more often than it snows and there isn't much snow or even frost. most mornings when i run sabin to school, although it's still pretty dark out around 8 a.m., i don't have to scrape frost off the car.

i remember the first november i spent here, the sun never shined a single time. it rained an annoying cold drizzle the entire, grey, bleak month. that definitely gave me pause as to what i had gotten myself into.

where i grew up in south dakota, you had a proper cold, snowy winter and the winters were dark, but nothing like here. just as an example, chicago is more or less on the same latitude as rome and here in denmark we are more or less on the same latitude as the hudson bay. it's not as cold here due to the gulf stream and the fact of being surrounded by water (i guess that was what we called the lake effect in chicago), but the darkness is similar.

i think it's why the danes have this thing about "hygge," which is translated as "coziness," but which carries far more weight than that word carries in english, at least for me. inherent in it is a combatting of darkness with candlelight and red wine and good food and good design and laughter together with friends in your home. and that feeling wouldn't be the same without the darkness of the winter, so i've come to think that's something i can live with. i just have to be sure that when the sun shines i get out for a walk in it, regardless of how cold it is. we also try to go to the swimming pool on a weekly basis and there they have a "health cabin" with light and warmth treatment where you can spend 20 minutes or so and i've found that really helps.

lynne: What makes you feel most content?

as i'm waiting to start my new job (with the same company i worked for last year), i've actually been thinking a lot about this. because despite the doom and gloom of the newspapers and the television news going on and on about GEC, i actually feel quite content in my life at this moment. if i think about the reasons why, it has a lot to do with the fact of being in a home i love with people i love, surrounded by things i love, getting to do the things i love--cooking, sewing, painting, drawing--all domestic things.

despite spending a number of years chasing a career, i have to admit that many of my moments of contentment come from being in my home.  and the moments when i'm most often aware of feeling content are when i'm cooking with ingredients that inspire me or painting the walls a rich color that makes me feel good or sewing up a lap quilt or a pillow.

for me contentment also has to do with being able to spend a number of hours alone nearly every day. despite being seen as an outgoing person and largely being that, i have a great need for time alone to think. i love the quiet of the house around me or of listening to the same album or even the same song over and over. i love letting my thoughts wander as i sew seams. i crave the time to do that and feel most content when i have plenty of alone time.

i guess contentment comes as well from generally feeling that i'm where i should be at this stage in my life. although i didn't finish my Ph.D., because life took me in another direction, i don't regret it. in fact, i don't have a lot of regrets in general. all of the choices i've made and the experiences i've had have brought me to this place and this time where i feel satisfied. and it really does seem to be true that we have to go through bad experiences in order to be stronger and to appreciate the good ones.  i know that i am far more content now than i was at this time last year.

on the other hand, contentment is highly subjective and personal, isn't it? and who knows, i might wake up feeling far less content tomorrow because i also know that one of the things that makes me content is change and if things stay the same for too long, i get impatient and restless. i'm likely going to need to have some plane tickets pretty soon if i'm going to maintain this sense of contentment that i have at the moment.

lynne: How important is music in your life? What is your favourite type of music? I notice you write a lot about books your read and about your crafts but seldom mention music.

interesting you ask. music is very important and it's actually rare that i am without music. we have more iPods in this house than i care to admit and seven different speaker sets to plug them into so there can be music anywhere in the house(s). we have henry kloss radios in both of the bathrooms so we can listen to the radio while we're getting ready in the morning.

i've written a few of times about music, and pretty much all of the times i mentioned alanis morissette, who is one of my big favorites and the one i return to again and again to keep my equilibrium and sanity. but largely, i think i don't write about it much because it's something that's always there for me, like air, which i also don't write much about. :-) and i definitely don't have one of those widgets that triggers a playlist when you come to my blog--i have to admit that really bugs me when i come across those on blogs. i'm cool with people TALKING about their music, i just don't really want them to play it for me automatically, mostly because i have my own music playing. plus, i don't know where people are when they're reading my blog, perhaps they're somewhere where it would be really quite inconvenient to have regina spector blasting out of their computer speakers. because my list, if i had it, would have some regina on it.

my musical tastes run from what my sister calls vag rock (by which she means everyone from alanis, regina and sheryl crow to katy perry and lily allen) to chill and house, which i got into on a trip to turkey a few years ago to scissor sisters (might be vag rock too, now that i think about it) to jamiriquoi to nirvana to andrew lloyd weber's evita if i'm in the mood. i got totally into that, even before madonna played evita in the mid-90s and read every biography of eva peron that was published at the time. oh, and i love madonna and have since the beginning.

music was important in our household growing up. i had 9 years of piano lessons and almost as many of the flute. i continued playing the flute into college and although we don't have a piano these days, i do have my flute and should play it more often than i do. we sing a lot around here--with the music that's playing and especially in the car. and especially when my sister is here. sabin loves that.

the only thing i'm not a big fan of is most jazz, tho' some i do like. for me, there is a certain kind of jazz that just agitates me and makes me feel really restless and on edge. that's not what i want music to do for me--i generally use it to clear out emotions and find my balance again or to uplift my spirits and much jazz actually makes me feel the opposite of that.

but alanis, she's there for me every time.

lynne: What really makes you laugh?

husband. he's so funny and always says things that are so unexpected and hilarious. he can burst into a little song or make up a story and he makes me laugh every time. he's ironic and smart and just so funny. we laugh together every day and that's an essential component of my contentment as well.

jon stewart really makes me laugh too. intelligent, biting, satirical humor is the kind that's best for me. mr. bean-style humor doesn't really do it for me--that often just makes me cringe. but give me black adder any day. historically astute, bitingly accurate and just so funny, that's my kind of humor.

being with people i can laugh with, especially in a work setting, is really important to me. one of the things that made me realize i had to leave my job from hell was that i found that i wasn't laughing anymore. for me, laughter is a sign that things are good and if it's absent, i need to pay attention to that. and do something about it.

* * *
well, that was it, i think that was the last one. at least for now. thank you, lynne, for asking me these questions and thank you all for reading. now go, listen to some music you love, laugh and be content!

Friday, January 30, 2009

strings of memory unravelling inside of me

wow, how did it get to be friday already? this week has flown past. late last sunday night, i promised that before the week was out, i'd write about my favorite murakami, so i guess i'd better get to it.

drum roll, please...and my favorite murakami is......

hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world. or is it wind-up bird chronicle? or is it dance, dance, dance? i have a hard time with this question. for one, because of murakami's recurring themes--realities which bleed into one another, seedy hotels, wells, young disturbed girls in need of mental help--his books blur together for me a bit.

i do think wind-up bird is the best and i certainly learned the most from it, including some things i didn't really want to know, like the art of skinning someone alive with a very sharp knife. but my sister has that book right now (she was a little miffed i hadn't warned her about the skinning), so i can't really refer to it in writing this, so i think i'll go with hard-boiled wonderland. you see, i need to refer to the actual book in order to write this, because what i love most about murakami is his language (tho' i realize there is a level of absurdity in that statement since i'm not reading it in the original japanese, therefore it's actually his translator's language). my extensively underlined, scrawled-in copy of hard-boiled wonderland is translated by alfred birnbaum and i actually find his translations less smooth than those of jay rubin, but not knowing japanese, i don't really know who is capturing the style and language of murakami's original better. but, as usual, i digress.

often the turns of phrase i love most are just that, turns of phrase, fragments, not even whole sentences. things like:
  • invisible airborne sediments of time
  • tapping into something beyond memory
  • time folded back on itself
  • a remnant torn from a bolt of the sky
  • a distinct plum pit of chaos at the center
  • the cut ends of my memory
  • awareness spliced together
  • the smell of memory, real memory
  • the screen of consciousness
it's clear, looking over this list that i'm drawn to issues of time and memory. i knew that about me already. if i'd written that dissertation, i'd have written on conceptions of time and memory in eastern european postmodern fiction. i think one of the things i love about murakami is he transports me almost instantly to the higher level of thinking about these issues that i had achieved when i was in graduate school. it makes me feel good to know it can be instantly turned on again and that i haven't lost it completely.

i've always been interested in the intersection of memory and fiction, because isn't a memory already a fiction in a way, since it can never truly capture the reality of a moment as it was? does your memory of a real event actually change the event? or even construct it? i love that murakami explores these questions and that his gift is being able to express them so well. i often feel he has tapped directly into a thought i've had but had been unable to articulate.

in graduate school and for years in my journals i have written from a quote, just to see where it takes me. i'm often surprised where i end up. it's always interesting to see what comes out my fingers onto the page. all of my copies of murakami are full of underlinings and scrawlings and scribblings in the margins that will provide me fodder for this way of thinking through writing for years to come. here are just a few:
  • "memories feign through scarcely perceived doors of my being."
  • "i began to feel a string of memory slowly unravelling inside of me."
  • "without memory to measure things against, how could i ever know?"
  • "even without you knowing, you function as yourself."
  • "as you create memories, you're creatin' a parallel world."
what would it mean for a string of memory to slowly unravel inside of me? would it be the dissolution of a relationship? or would it be an unfolding of a long forgotten memory (a paradox in itself), a resurfacing of a moment of perfect clarity, brought on by a scent or a certain cast of light? what would the unravelling feel like? would it make me feel free? or sorrowful? or joyful? lighter? heavier? reading such a sentence makes me want to be more conscious and on the lookout for such moments. perhaps strings of memory unravel inside of me all the time and i'm just not conscious of it. perhaps i can tune in and become more conscious of such moments, just by reading such a poetic sentence.

for me, this is why reading enriches my life--especially my inner life, but also my external life. reading murakami has sparked many an evening philosophical conversation with husband. he hasn't read any of it, but it's enough that i have. then i throw out some of these thoughts and we have endless hours of conversation.

i think murakami somehow confirms the vague feeling that i have that we are living simultaneously in multiple realities and that if we could just tune in a bit better, we could become aware of them and use them together in a more harmonious way. there must be moments of overlap. i feel quite certain that i'm living at least one parallel life in my dreams and i have flashes of this parallel existence in my waking hours, which no doubt help me cope with the reality at hand. i already think that creativity can flow between these realities that lie within us, and that talking about inspiration and having a muse is another way of trying to capture this. murakami just expresses it all in a way that speaks to me and makes me feel it might be possible to tune in and live more fully in all of my realities. which is why i'm also a bit apprehensive for the day when i've read all of his books and don't have any left. what if i'm not there yet when i've read everything he has to offer?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

i don't look like who i am

i feel sometimes like i'm not selective enough. not critical enough. don't think things through enough. yes, me, who can come off snobbish, cutting and over analyzed...the problem is that i don't necessarily look like who i am.  i mean, seriously, who has freckles only on one side of their face?

just as an example--i fall too easily into those invites for my photos to be part of groups of flickr--i'm so flattered that someone wants me to be part of the group that i don't even look at the other photos in the group before i submit it, just immediately click submit. i should be more choosy than that.

part of it is flattery. i'm a sucker for it. i'm easy. i remember once we were in prague and i had let husband answer the inevitable "where are you from?" question from some vendor at a glass stand. of course husband answered "denmark." then, a few minutes later, the guy trying to sell us some whimsical martini glasses complimented my english. for a second, i blinked like a purring cat and felt flattered, then i remembered that of course my english was good, i was a friggin' native speaker. and then we bought six martini glasses. they were, after all, very whimsical.

it's no doubt a product of growing up in a small town. in a small town, what people think of you matters. you're at the mercy of public opinion for your standing and position. belonging is everything. of course, now i've lived more of my life outside that small town than in it, but somehow, that need to belong never wears off.

anybody got some advice for removing freckles?

the spirit is willing, but the flesh...

..oh, the flesh. it's weak. and soooo delicious.

last night's dinner:
burger with bacon, avocado, pesto gouda and a drizzle of miso-sesame dressing

every sunday evening, i resolve that THIS week will be the week we eat less meat. we don't want to become full-blown vegetarians and definitely not vegan, but we would like to eat meals without meat several times a week--to be both healthier and more economical. and yet, we never really get around to doing it.

maybe being raised in the midwest in the heart of beef and pork country is part of it. you grow up feeling that a meal isn't a meal, especially at dinner (which we call supper where i grew up), without meat. and because you know someone who is butchering a cow or a hog or even hunting deer, there's always meat around. of course, i no longer know anyone with cows or pigs, so i get the meat in the grocery store these days (tho' someone did recently give me some some deer meat), so i don't really have that excuse anymore. but the notion is just so engrained.

this week, i felt more resolved than usual, but then the reality of the big-ass packages of leftover hamburger from the birthday party intervened. we had two unopened packages left. one went into a huge pot of bolognese sauce for spaghetti, which we ate on monday (and which i've had for lunch the past two days) and which i froze two dinner-sized portions of so we'd have a quick dinner another day. then, last evening, we had to use up the other package before its expiration date, so we made burgers. if you're going to eat a burger, it might as well be a good one. a bit posh even, so a bit of bacon, avocado and miso-sesame dressing did the trick. and piling on salad makes it seem healthier, right?

so, here we are, it's thursday and we haven't eaten a vegetarian meal all week. i have one of those big ugly knobs of celery root that came in our organic veggie box last friday just languishing in the drawer. and yesterday, i bought some portobellos as we stood in the grocery store and i had a fit of resistance to the hamburger that was home in the fridge. but then, back home, as i stood there before the burgers, my resolve faded and i didn't do the portobellos. so, perhaps today, we'll have a vegetarian dinner. if not, there's always tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

it was a dark and stormy night...

...i know, i know, that's supposed to be the worst, most trite sentence ever written, right? but i wanted to get your attention.

last week, as you know, my sister and her boyfriend were visiting and we made a little journey over to the west coast of denmark since they had a hankering to taste the north sea. i rented a little holiday apartment with a thatched roof in blåvand, which is just a stone's throw from blåvandshuk, the westernmost point of denmark.

it was after dark when we arrived and raining, windy and cold. our intrepid tourists were jetlagging and tired from the long drive and looking at large rune-covered rocks along the way:

the jellingesten - denmark's "birth certificate"

husband and i wanted to shake off the long drive and get some fresh air. outside, it was the kind of wind that drives the cold needles of rain straight into your face and leaves you frozen to the bone. but, being half danish (the other half is swedish, i'm still trying after ten years to determine which half is which), husband declared that there was no bad weather, only bad clothing for the weather, so we put on our wellingtons, coats, hats and gloves and headed out. monica, jason and sabin stayed behind in the warmth of the cozy little apartment. 

we jumped in the car and followed the signs for the beach. it was so dark, you couldn't see much else.

before long, the light from the lighthouse came into view, but otherwise, the night was pitch black, except for the reflection of the flash on a reflective sign. what was coming down was something near icy mixture of rain and snow.

we got out of the car and gave our eyes a chance to adjust to the darkness, then we headed down the path towards the wild sound of the north sea pounding on the shore. just as my eyes were more or less adjusted and i could make out the path, a specter arose on the right, blocking out the rhythmic and comforting pass of the light from the lighthouse.

i grabbed husband's hand and felt my heart race. it was an enormous, black shape with all sorts of strange spiny projectiles sticking out of it.

i blinked and blinked again, wiping the driving sleet from my eyes, trying to make it out. what was this strange and spooky structure?

all of a sudden, i didn't want to go all the way down to the beach anymore, the sound of the waves was eerily menacing as i stood there in that bizarre shadow which blocked the cheerful, life-giving light of the lighthouse. so, hand-in-hand, husband and i ran back towards the car. i felt the creepy, slow-motion horror movie panic of someone or something in pursuit of us. but there wasn't anything there. just the shadows, the storm and our own wild imaginations.

the next day, we returned in the light of day and learned the strange structure wasn't a specter at all, but just an ugly old grey tower from an old german radar installation:

so different in the light of day. it was also surprising to see that the road down to the lighthouse, which had seemed dark and deserted was dotted with picturesque thatch-roof cottages and while a bit grey and wintery, didn't seem the least bit spooky or desolate.

i definitely learned why hollywood and novelists have used a spooky lighthouse out on a point to create suspense and heighten the spookiness of a dark and stormy night.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

just say no...

if there's one thing you can say about danes, it's that they have a great sense of humor. i just saw evidence of this on the TV2 evening news, where they reported a story of the director of a factory in jutland (the bit of denmark that's attached to germany) who has banned all of the bad news regarding the global economic crisis (hereafter GEC) in the workplace.

he and his assistant spend the first hour of every workday cutting all articles which reference the GEC from all of the newspapers in the building. they then distribute the severely shredded newspapers in the canteen and breakrooms. his idea is that all of this negative talk isn't helping. and perhaps he's right.

he's serious about it at the same time as he realizes the absurdity. the workers took it very well, laughing and not feeling it as censorship in their workplace. if people make reference to the GEC, they owe 5 kroner to a kitty. i didn't catch what they were going to do with the money, nor did i catch the name of the company and it doesn't seem to be up on the TV2 website as of yet. when it appears, i'll update this post.

in the meantime, i think i'll go cut all of the articles which reference the crisis out of the two newspapers we get on a daily basis, just to see what's left. who knows, maybe it will help.

it's a funny language

having english-speaking visitors reminded me of all of those words in danish that appear quite hilarious to the native english speaker, but which have ceased to seem funny to me after ten years because i know what they mean in danish.  things like:

slutspurt - used in regard to sales in shops--it's like the final days of the sale--the final "spurt" of the sale, if you will. no sluts are actually involved (i don't think that kind of thing goes on sale).

fart plan - this is seen on ferries and at bus/train stations--it's the schedule. when i got here, i thought, whoa, the danes are even more organized than the germans!

fart kontrol - warning that there is a speed trap ahead (they're kind enough to let you know here). when i first got here, i thought it was pretty incredible that they thought they could control such things.

i fart - this just means "in motion" and can be seen in elevators. probably tho', what you think it means could happen in an elevator as well.

fagfolk - this isn't a derogatory term for homosexuals written on the side of a truck, but another way of saying professional.  a fag is a profession and it's pronounced "fay."

during my sister's recent visit, we quite literally had hours of fun laughing over these.

then, this morning, i came across this in the NYTimes and realized it could be worse, the words could actually BE in english already and you could live in places with names like crotch creek and the like. read it if you'd like a laugh.

Monday, January 26, 2009

oops, one more interview!

after a whirlwind week of playing tour guide in denmark (which i'm rubbish at, because i give vague background on all of the sights and sometimes just make stuff up), i'm catching up and i realized that the lovely relyn has posted her interview with me (a few days ago, yikes!!)!  please go and read it while i catch up on the rest of what you all have been doing! :-)

wherein she goes on and on about cape town

it's the interview meme that keeps on giving! i asked molly from ohfortheloveofblog to interview me after i interviewed her last week and here are her questions for me. i totally loved the mix of serious and frivolous. :-)

molly:  I’m dying to know about your trip to Cape Town in, was it 2007? What did you do? Where did you go? What was the best and the least pleasant thing about your stay?

i was last in cape town in november of 2007. i had visited once before, in july of 2006. both trips were related to my job, so on both trips i got to hang out with sailors. i think there are many reasons that i fell in love with cape town that first time...partly, since it was july, i was in a summer holiday mood, so although it was work, it felt a bit like a holiday. i was lucky with the weather as well, despite it being winter in that part of the world. i was attending an officer's seminar and got to meet a load of great guys from the fleet down there, plus, i stayed in a funky protea hotel (victoria junction) . i think when your hotel is different from the usual anonymous business hotel, it puts you in a better frame of mind. the protea hotels are hip, funky places with fun decor and playful meeting notebooks with jokes and time-killers in the watermarks. you can't help but feel in a good mood when you stay in one. (and yes, protea people, if you stumble across this, you are welcome to quote me on this.)

another reason it was so great was that i got to hang out with one of my favorite people. i stayed over the weekend and she took me to the winelands. here we are, trying out the wares at delheim (i highly recommend the chardonnay sur lie if you can get your hands on some):

and how can you not completely fall madly in love with a place that looks like this, even in the winter? or where your friend has a friend who works here and you can visit the factory and walk away with rather a lot of beautiful purses for yourself and your friends and family (zebra shopper on the right is MY actual bag).

because it was work, i visited a training centre, the idyllically-placed SAMTRA in simonstown. the managing director was so kind that after he took me on a tour of the simulator and the facilities, he drove me down to cape point, since i hadn't been there before:

after which we had the most fantastic seafood lunch overlooking the sea and even caught a glimpse of some whales languishing off the shore. then, a little walk on boulder beach to meet some of these guys:

on my second visit, i had a number of meetings and once again had the chance to visit SAMTRA and i stayed in the fab fire & ice protea hotel with its shark cage elevators and the dramatic high-backed chairs in the dining room. i think it was over a lovely dinner conversation with the MD of SAMTRA and his wonderful down-to-earth wife on that trip that i first admitted out loud how tired and burned out i was by the prospect of starting all over again with a new boss. it was such a relief to discuss it with such kind people.

so, for me, cape town and the people i know there, make it a place where i feel comfortable and relaxed and where i feel i have time to think and clear my head. i'm not sure how it happened, but it seemed to be a magical combination of great people with whom i felt totally at ease, a gorgeous setting and quite possibly the general vibe that i felt in the air when i was there. perhaps the fact that i was literally far from my everyday reality at work gave me the space i needed literally and metaphorically and psychically for that matter, to think and see my situation for what it was.

one of the places where the chill-out, relaxing vibe is spot-on is at spiers' moyo. i actually visited there both times i went, but on the second trip, i think that lying there, giggling with my good friend and her daughter while sipping a crisp chardonnay was what did the trick for me and helped me on the road to my decision to leave the job that was so bad for me, even tho' it meant i no longer had a ready excuse to visit cape town anymore.

but, seriously, how can you not think clearly in a place like this:

where a perfectly lovely woman comes by and paints your face like this:

and you can lean back and chat with your husband back in the northern hemisphere like this:

it has actually occurred to me that the pattern she painted on my face did something to clear my ability to think and see things more clearly, directing and unblocking the flow of my thoughts. do you believe such things can be so?

i honestly can't think of a single unpleasant thing about either of my stays, but will admit that i was in an ideal situation. i was picked up at the airport by our company driver and he took me everywhere i wanted to go when i wasn't with colleagues and business associates. this may have left me rather protected from some of the realities that are no doubt there. for example, we merely drove past shanty towns and although i talked to the driver about them, i didn't really experience them or the people who live there.

i was told some stories of a spate of incidents where some people were causing serious accidents by throwing large rocks down onto cars on the freeway below from an overpass, but again, didn't face this reality. i didn't have time on either visit to go to robbin island (or rather, i probably would have had time, but chose the winelands instead, which shows you my priorities), and i am sure that would have been a sobering experience.

there are many reasons to return--for example, i didn't get to climb table mountain. not to mention that now i've met some really cool people here in the blogosphere that i would love to meet in person (see SA blog link list in sidebar). i would love to go with my family. i might even like to try a bit of camping. and although i don't really have a burning desire to check the big five off my list, it would be fun to see some of those beautiful animals, especially if sabin was along, because she would find it amazing. so basically, i keep an eye out for opportunities for us job-wise in that part of the world and feel that someday, the right thing will come along. and in the meantime, it's definitely on the family holiday destination list.

molly:  Absolutely no hint of judgement in this next question, I’m genuinely just curious: do you think about, and if yes, how do you offset / rationalise / ignore the size of your carbon footprint from all the flying you do? (Or, if they’re work-related flights do you notch up the environmental debt to your employers as I would.)

i will admit to a shocking lack of thinking about such things until rather recently. back in 2007, when i traveled more than 150 days, i didn't think about it at all. all i thought about was how ridiculous it was to try to get from singapore to constanta, romania in two days (no direct route and involving not one but TWO horrible london airports) and how much i hated those business class seats on BA where you are FACING your seat mate and if you have a seat mate (read: random stranger) that doesn't want to put the little wall up, you're a bit stuck. in other words, i was pretty shallow. or maybe i was just really, really busy and had no time to think.

these days, i think about it because i'm still working in oslo and that involves a commute by air. i have wondered how much longer that will be defensible on my part (and my employer's, for that matter). the airlines (especially the ones i fly most often--SAS and KLM) have made it easy to pay a few euros extra (i think it's 8) to offset the CO2 and i choose that option, passing along the cost to the company, after all, they are asking me to do the traveling. however, i'm also usually traveling in a fare class where i feel that i'm paying enough for the ticket that it's defensible. as i see it, the super cheap, discount-rate tickets probably aren't covering a lot of ability on the airline's part to do anything extra for the environment (not that i don't go for those when there are five of us flying somewhere), like upgrading to newer, more fuel efficient planes.

frankly, i think that the global economic crisis will make companies think harder about how much they require their employees to travel. they'll use the technologies that are available (not that i think that face-to-face meetings aren't necessary some of the time, they are) to hold virtual meetings. people won't be placed in the ridiculous situation i was placed in of giving a 30-minute presentation in singapore on a monday and the same presentation in constanta, romania on the wednesday of the same week, then being expected to be in newcastle for an opening of a new office on that friday. and i wasn't even top management. i think that level of madness will come to a well-deserved end. as will last-minute trips halfway across the world. on more than one occasion i was asked late on a friday afternoon to be in singapore on the following monday. however, that hasn't been the case for the past year, my current employer is MUCH better at planning than the old one was.

molly: How many pairs of shoes do you own? How about some pics of your favourites?

i'm a little fearful to actually go and count, tho' it's not as bad as it once was. i have probably 4 pairs of heels that i wear for work with suits. 4 pairs of havianas that are my summer wear and which i wear around the house when it's not too cold (i actually have them on now because we really warmed up the house with the fireplace today). i have two pairs of furry boots--one red, and new purple ones that i just bought (on sale, of course), plus a pair of tommy hilfiger wintery boots that can get muddy (the furry ones really shouldn't) and a couple different pairs of wellingtons for those many rainy days in denmark (different styles for different moods). i've got nike running shoes (the iPod ones, despite the fact that i don't really run except when chased--but as we know, i love gadgets) and nike tennis shoes for casual wear. two pairs of K swiss to wear with jeans. a couple of pairs of flats (i'm a sucker for camper shoes). one pair of crocs. two pairs of el naturalistas, which are my latest everyday shoes. i've got a couple of pairs of sparkly shoes for with fancy dresses, but i don't use them that often, so they're at the back of the closet. i've got riding boots, which i haven't used in far too long. but, as requested, here are a few of my faves:

jessica simpson stilettos
(i know, i lose a few IQ points every time i wear them, but they're beautiful)
the beloved SA havianas (i will cry when these wear out)
please ignore the pedicure, but do note my one and only tattoo:

my summer flats from last summer:
my first pair of purple el naturalistas:
and the newer pair of red ones that i wear nearly every day these days
(and since it was taken with my iPhone, perhaps a small lesson in why people shouldn't use mobile phones while driving):
and last, but not least, my new purple furry bumper boots:
molly:  I’m sure there’s a part of you that thinks about moving back to the States now that it’s a Whole New World over there. If your husband’s work would allow it (‘cos I believe that’s the main reason you’re all in Denmark?), would you consider it? Are you considering it?

actually, we're not considering it at all. the economy over there is still in the toilet, despite the new president (granted, he's had less than a week). and, despite my occasional frustrations with the danes, our life is here. originally, i came here because my husband was an officer in the danish army and i was but a drifting graduate student. also, when we got together, his girls from his previous marriage were small. too small to be put on a plane to the US to visit us. but now, ten+ years have gone by and our life is here. our house, our friends, sabin's school, her friends--not that i wouldn't take an expatriation in a heartbeat. i just wouldn't imagine it being to the US.

during the bush years, it was out of the question. i skulked through passport control, head hanging low and while i no longer feel i have to do that, i think the US would drive me crazy. the bush legacy is is at least partly an enhancement of the lack of common sense and trusting in employees that was always there. i see it when i encounter those lovely people from "homeland security." they have no visible ability to think for themselves, no sense of humor and frankly, many of them don't even have all their own teeth. it would drive me crazy now after being gone for so long.

i don't like how i feel when i'm in the US. i'm more stressed and i feel it changes me into a more hurried, rushed person who could go postal (as we say in the US) at any moment. i'm more aggressive--verbalizing threats against other drivers and the like. i'm a kinder, gentler person here in DK (tho' i realize i might not always seem that way on this blog). in short, i like me better here.

i always say that i have a mid-atlantic feeling--adrift somewhere in the middle of the atlantic, not belonging on either side. i no longer feel fully like an american nor do i feel like a dane (tho' i fear i act like one more often than i'd like to admit). and both are surely by choice. you don't get over eight years of distancing yourself from bush in less than a week of the new president (as much hope as he gives me). i guess i'm quite content to continue voting and holding an american passport and living here, observing it all from afar. i can't actually imagine a situation in which that will change.

molly: What plans, if any, for your etsy shop?

good question. i created it last summer sometime, but have never listed a single item. i have some kind of huge block/fear about it. i think the block has to do with the creative block in general that i had after leaving my stressful job. perhaps now that i feel that clearing out, i will take the plunge and list something. i'm just not sure what. probably my pillow creations come to mind as the first thing i'd be willing to list. or perhaps some gocco cards. or my little fimo clay robots or maybe some of the 25 pairs of earrings that i've made. or maybe even some photos printed up nicely...(perhaps what's stopping me is the array of choice).

but i can always find a zillion excuses. like that i don't have a zipper foot for my old sewing machine, so i couldn't make pillows with a zipper so you could easily wash them. so i'd need a new sewing machine before i could list anything. or that i don't really know how to bend those little wires with the earrings, so they don't look entirely professional.  these are the stories that i tell myself in my head, but i know they're just excuses. hmm...i don't really have any excuse about the gocco cards, so perhaps that's where i should start.

i think if i'm honest, i'm also a little bit afraid of making what's fun and light-hearted into work and drudgery and something that i have to do. today, i can stay up late sewing or painting if the spirit moves me. if i were selling things and people actually ordered them, then i would HAVE to do it. there would be constant pressure to come up with something new or to keep doing something that i'd become tired of.

so, frankly, i don't really know what i will do with it. i probably should just give it a whirl. what am i gonna remember?

molly: Bonus frivolous question (‘cos there was nothing frivolous about Question 3...) -  which is, so far, your favourite Murakami novel and why?

i love this question, but will answer it in another posting because i think we've all had enough for now (and it's now nearly 2 a.m. as i write this). i realized this evening, after my sister left and i had time to sit down that i've really missed this whole blog thing. i'll be by this week to read what all of you have had to say while i've been running around. and i will tell you which is my favorite murakami sometime this week. thank you molly, for getting me back on the blog bandwagon again.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

happy birthday, sabin!

our pooka is 8 today!  in putting together this post, i realized what a lot she did over the past year, especially for one who was only seven years old. and now she's eight! it sounds trite to say that i can hardly believe it, but i can hardly believe it. i am more amazed at her every day. just as an example, last evening, she played a card game in the whist family (davoserjas in danish) with five adults and she won. fair and square and by playing smart. she's just so cool.

sabin's year in review:

she climbed down to møn's klint (and back up), twice.
february 2008
and january 2009
she made a snowman at easter:
she went to barcelona together with her parents and big sisters:
she endulged her entrepreneurial spirit and made a little stand to sell her parents handmade rubber stamp erasers, tomatoes and muffins:
she explored nature:
she went to munich and got to meet some of the mad cousins:
she ate meatballs in ikea (several times):
she spent time in an idyllic place with a good friend:
she took a mini-cruise to oslo:
she relaxed in the gold lounge before flying all by herself to chicago.
she also joined SAS's frequent flyer program on that trip (because they finally opened it up to kids):
she did jump shots with her cousins at navy pier in chicago:
she ate strange things that turned her tongue black:
and drove halfway across the midwest (and back) with her cousins and aunt monica:
she swung at countless pitches thrown by grandpa:
got extraordinarily dirty on the 4th of july at a fishing derby:
attended a huge family reunion:
swam in the missouri river:
went to the omaha zoo with her grandparents & cousins:
REALLY learned to swim at swimming lessons in iowa:
logged far too many hours playing mario on the DS:
got her first mac:
helped with the building project (at least the lunch part):
hostessed an extremely successful halloween party:
made all kinds of creative projects:
ate sushi every chance she got:
lit sparklers in the house:
leaped off a WWII german bunker:

left 3 candles burning on her birthday cake
but had a great birthday party with her class:
and opened presents at the breakfast table this morning:
i'm really looking forward to seeing what her eighth year holds!