Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 was an eventful year

january 2014
i started a new knitting project (a blanket for my mom and no, it's not finished. i got knitting-induced carpal tunnel and stopped working on it.). my 6-month wait for the job at LEGO was finally over. i learned to crochet at a blissful beachside drink & draw. sabin turned 13. and i spent a lot of time with cats.

february 2014
february brought the actual start of my new job and whole lot more LEGO into our lives, but there was still time in the kitchen and for daily meditative photos. the crocheting continued, as that was less demanding on my wrists. the first of spring's stedbiderrogn (a fish roe that's a sure sign of spring in these parts) showed up at the fish guy towards the end of the month. we saw The LEGO Movie and built some of the sets from it.

march 2014
march brought with it the returning light and snowdrops in the garden. and with sabin's little p&s nikon, a first proper shot of the moon. it also meant a work trip to london. my first work-related trip in a number of years and that was most welcome. it's also when i met the amazing group of people surrounding the LEGO Space book. what a lot of creativity and good times began there in london!

april 2014
april was baby animal time around here - we got bacon & bacon, our first pigs and fell a little bit in love with them. there were baby bunnies and a gorgeous moon. sabin chose to be confirmed (after a little private baptism ceremony, since she hadn't been baptized as a baby).

may 2014
may always brings the fields of rapeseed flowers. they just so signal the beginning of danish summer to me. our strawberries were in bloom and we picked violets to make cordial. the pigs grew quickly and were ever-so-charming. at work, i got to assist behind the scenes at a video shoot!

june 2014
june brought mom to denmark to attend sabin's confirmation party. the weather was perfect and glorious and a truly wonderful day was had by all. the strawberries were in full swing and we lived an outdoor life in the glorious weather.

july 2014
july was the month of kittens! there was also a fun visit from cousin emily and we hated to see her go. and at the end of the month, the culmination of the project started in march - with the release of the LEGO Ideas Exo Suit in london. after the work, there was a little time for play in london as well.

august 2014
in august, bacon & bacon were growing and had reached their slaughter weight (and then some), so we reluctantly had them made into actual bacon. it was a bittersweet moment, but the one we had been working towards since we moved to the countryside. and once we tasted the bacon, we couldn't be sad anymore. we will definitely be getting pigs again come spring! the kittens were at their cutest and so we had a lot of kitten photoshoots! there was a trip (or two) to the west coast - for the tall ships regatta in esbjerg and to an art museum with friends (and their dog). there was a big sale of all of the things from the local kulturhus and we got lots of amazing stuff for a song!

september 2014
in september, things settled down in the golden light and the days were filled with raspberries and museum visits and games and yes, more kitten time. the iPhone 6 came out and mine arrived as one of the first! years of loyalty will do that for you.

october 2014
on october first, i headed off for a wonderful work trip to seattle. after seeing old friends and making loads of new ones, i continued to new york city! my first time! there i also saw many old friends and new and had an amazing time working with fans at new york comic con. i was exposed to the pleasures of upmarket perfumes, walked the the entire length of the highline and spent a blissful afternoon in brooklyn. when i got home, we outfitted a new dining room and at long last, hung a lot of pictures that hadn't been up since we were in the old house. in all, a very good month.

november 2014

november started well, with an amazing salon evening at the local library and another visit from emily. but then an emergency trip to say goodbye to my dad came into the picture. it was bittersweet, for sure, but we also laughed so much at the many stories of his wonderful, long life that was so well-lived. i rounded out the month with a world record for largest video game diorama (17.1m2) at brick2014 in london.

december 2014

and december was spent sending out surprise packages of LEGO goodness to the volunteers from the event in london. a task which truly and thoroughly brought me joy. to package up a box full of things that you know that someone will love as a gesture of gratitude must be one of the most satisfying things a person can do. there was also a lot of Bionicle fun, with the winding down of the battle for the gold mask and choosing the winners from over 1800 entries worldwide. and after that, christmas with family with all that entails - games, laughter, presents and way too much food! what a way to end the year. you've been a good one, 2014, but i can't wait to see what 2015 brings.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

mythical sightings in the garden

it had been far too long since i had a proper leisurely wander in the garden with my real camera in hand. far too many shots of late have been snapped with my iPhone. but on this lazy leisurely sunday, where i've declared that i shall not leave my pajamas (you can put a coat over them and tuck them into your boots for a garden wander), i spent a good hour out in the cold, fresh, still, frosty world. my trusty photographic assistant molly the cat was there (turns out she's not that much help).

i managed to catch glimpses of a few mythical characters out there...a unicorn, a wizard and a popsicle-toting yeti. you never know what you'll see when you go out into nature and have a look.

i forgot how good such activities are for my soul. and speaking of things that are good for the soul, i'm going to be taking an online course - who am i now? with the wonderful kylie bellard during the first two weeks of january. if you'd like to join me, that would be awesome.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

not a creature was stirring...

the tree is up. there's not snow and it's unseasonably warm, but we're ready for christmas. i only did one last minute panic online buy, which is pretty good for me. and then i also texted the child and told her to buy those adidas she wanted in berlin as one of her presents, because there's always something at the last minute. and then we were sure they'd fit. but other than that, i'm good with how it looks under the tree. not too excessive, but also pretty good.

i've been making opera fudge ala martha stewart, my beloved russian teacakes and looking up whiskey cocktails. tomorrow, we head for husband's sister's house, with a giant pork roast in hand. it's one of the last few precious ones from bacon & bacon. alas, even after 16 years, they still think christmas is on christmas eve in denmark (it's not), but i've learned to lived without oyster stew and deal with the pork- and duck-intensive christmas meal. i've got a turkey brining for when we come home on the 25th (also known as actual christmas).

here's wishing you all a very merry christmas. catch you here for a year-end review soon...

Friday, December 19, 2014

remembering dad: in my sister's words

i wanted to share some words of gratitude and a bit of remembrance that my sister wrote to the people of our little hometown for their kindness after dad died (complete with capital letters and everything):

Each year, a small bank in Eastern Iowa runs a holiday spending campaign around which they’ve developed a nice logo. It’s called the “Shop Local” campaign and that is a theme I’ve heard from my father for my whole life. I see that logo and while the concept warms my heart, but I can’t help but feel annoyed by Hills Bank for the grammar error. “Shop” is a verb and it needs an adverb descriptor. You know your adverbs often end in “ly” because you watched those Saturday morning Schoolhouse Rock videos. It should be the “Shop Locally” campaign, but I digress.

Hills Bank points out that each dollar spent in your hometown stays in your hometown a few more times before leaving. But each dollar spent elsewhere is gone forever. It’s easy for me to overlook the significance of this while living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, we’re near the intersection of  two Interstates and money probably moves around pretty easily. But when you imagine the consequences of those dollars leaving Platte forever, you can’t deny the significance of that for your local business owners, your friends and neighbors.

I might have chosen a more glamorous way for him to go. But Dad perceived himself as healthy and able to the very end. And while shocking for us, it’s good for him. No lingering or withering away. He had a life well-lived and it’s surely best that he never had to deal with the word “leukemia.”

My heart is full of love and gratitude for you fine people of Platte. When we phoned from McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls to say that it was time to say “goodbye” to Ralph, you walked into his room two and a half hours later. When we threw a party to tell stories about Ralph, you filled that clubhouse with laughter and gave generously to the donation jar.

Dad’s service featured flowers with garden vegetables and a brilliant hand of poker cards. A wonderful young trumpet player gave us his remarkable rendering of Taps. The Presbyterian ladies brought Dad’s favorite pecan pie and folks lingered afterward and then they went on with the business of the day. I think Dad might have approved of the whole thing, and trust me, gaining his approval was no easy task.

Mom has extraordinary friends looking out for her. Cards and long letters have come in from far and wide because my father seemed to make a lasting impression on the people he encountered.

I’ve always been proud of the clean streets, storefronts and yards and back yards in Platte. There are young entrepreneurs in Platte and folks who know how to get things done. And you’re raising money to build new community attractions. This is not a community in decline, it’s a thriving and vibrant place.

The Platte Avera Health Center was near and dear to my father’s heart. Please remember to donate to the hospital in his name. Maintaining that hospital is good for your family and generations to come.
When you’re finishing up your Christmas shopping this year and next, cancel that trip to Mitchell or Sioux Falls and look for the things you need in Platte. Do this and think of the dollars that stay at home and benefit your friends and neighbors. Do this and think of my dad. He’s somewhere smiling on you.

And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your love and support.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

a submariner's personality

an old friend of dad's wrote a wonderful column about him and i had to share it. there were a couple of stories in here that i'd never heard before. they really made me laugh. it's so interesting to see my dad through the eyes of others. i think it's very hard for us to do that as children, we have one perspective on our parents and while it can be complex and multi-faceted, it's completely unlike the perspectives of friends and others in the community. it's sad that it took his death for me to get this new perspective, but i'm also grateful to have it. good that so many of dad's friends were awesome writers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

how do you resist the borg?

every year, i bristle at the tyranny of the gift list in denmark and every year, i swallow and succumb to it. they're like the borg*. and i've even become so assimilated that i passed along my child's gift list, including a bunch of links, to my sister in the states. much to her quite understandable dismay. the child, now a teenager, is hard to buy for and only likes very specific things. so that's why i passed along the list this year. but i'll admit that i hate it. with a passion. and i feel i should be raising her better than that. and i'm disappointed in myself for sending the list. i think i'm pretty much completely failing as a parent because of this.

i hate as well that i've been given a gift list for our nephews (not my sister's children) and i've gone out dutifully, if grudgingly, and purchased the desired items. and i didn't enjoy it. and i won't enjoy giving those gifts. because it's just a sterile transaction, it didn't require any thought on my part and it didn't require that i knew anything about them, nor will it evoke any delight in me to watch them open the item from their list. there's no surprise or moment of excitement on either side of the transaction. it's just that, a transaction. and i have to say that i think it really sucks. it's hollow and consumerist and well, lame. and every year i vow i won't do it.  and yet here i am once again, going through the expected motions. cultural norms are hard to resist. and i am apparently far too weak in the face of them.

actual meaningful gift which i made for my dad last year for christmas.
i imagine mom is snuggled up under it right now and that makes me happy.
but i realize that this gift thing isn't about me. it's about the receiver. but i have to wonder if they really appreciate just automatically getting the things they asked for. where is the delight? the surprise? the joy? i suspect it's absent on their side as well. case in point? i made the blanket above for my dad for christmas last year and he loved it. and it was not something he asked for. but it was perfect for him and it was handmade, so score all around.

but back to the tyranny of the danish gift that christmas doesn't really mean what it once meant, but is just a consumerist holiday and we are living in a society that equates needs and wants and just buys whatever we think we need when we need it, rather than waiting to receive things as gifts, do we really need this gift charade?

i've said previously that i'd much rather stumble across something in the course of the year and give it to the person in question, out of the blue. but do i act on that? no, i haven't. but maybe i should start. maybe 2015 will be when i start.

*star trek: the next generation reference. get it or get over it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

condolences...or lack thereof

why do we have such a hard time talking about death? why all the euphemisms? passed away. passed on. why is it so hard to say someone has died? is it because it seems so harsh. so final. so cruel somehow. it seems that people just don't know what to say about it, so they try to package it inside more delicate words, like it will make it better that you don't have a father anymore. but it doesn't. and while you dread the next condolences, you also feel it acutely when they're not there from people who probably should say something to you, if only as a formality because it's the first time they've seen you since it happened. and then it's kind of worse if they go on and on about two recent funerals they attended, without even acknowledging that you've had one yourself. one to which you flew across an ocean to another country. that's just weird. and it hurts more than you would think. you're even a little surprised yourself how callous and hurtful it seemed, even tho' you realize it probably wasn't meant that way.

but then there are those who have precisely the right words for you. warm words about how happy they were to have had the chance to meet him and how much they enjoyed that. and others who just hug you and ask the right questions. and that makes it ok. or as ok as it can be.

but you do wonder if it will ever really be ok.

and you also wonder why a picture of a church seemed right with this post when you're not even remotely religious. but church buildings provide the frame for the ceremonies of life...baptisms, weddings and funerals. and maybe there is something to that.

Friday, December 12, 2014

cross-processed dreams of summer

i got a bunch of films developed when i was in new york. i had waited way too long. but somehow in these dark, dreary, pre-solstice days, where we are awaiting a storm, it seems good to look back on these bright, cross-processed memories of summers past. and dream of summers to come.

hmm, i do wonder where that pentax camera is...

* * *

and speaking of weather. 
and winter.
there is this marvelous piece.
i'm so glad there are still people and places like this in the world.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

he was really something

i'm afraid i have to go on a bit more about my dad. it's just how it is right now.
this week there was a very well-written piece about my dad in the mitchell daily republic.
alas, after a few days where it was open, they've put the bulk of it behind the firewall,
but here's a capture of it:

he was really something. they don't really make them like that anymore.

Monday, December 08, 2014

sorrow hangs in the air

faded colors.
a bit tired.
once festive.
leaky roof.
past its prime.

laughter fills the air.
good fun among friends.
everyone knows everyone.
everyone knows me.
tho' i don't necessarily remember them.
such are the ways of the small town.

sorrow in the air.
or maybe it's just hanging over me.
perhaps these are the right surroundings.

a bit nostalgic.
with a bit of color left.
and light pouring in.
and a few stains on the ceiling.
but still there.
despite it all.

still finding a way.
to laugh.
to remember forgotten lines.
to stumble through.
and keep smiling.

even as sorrow hangs in the air.
ruffling the fringe of the crepe paper.
carried by light.
floating in the breeze.
hanging there.
for tears to come.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

mortality bites

20 years ago, drinking tea on a russian train.

today should have been dad's 81st birthday. i think some part of me still can't believe he's gone. i thought several times, i have to call and wish him happy birthday. i mentally calculated the time and then i realized he wouldn't be there on the other end. it's so strange that he's gone. he's just been there for 47 years. and although i was rubbish at calling or emailing often enough, i just knew he was there if i needed to ask him something or tell him a story. it's still so strange that he's not there anymore. i wonder if i'll ever get used to it?

i almost made a german chocolate cake (his favorite) in his honor today, but in the end, i didn't, because it feels too raw and i think it would have hurt more than it helped. and on this rainy, dreary, dark grey day, i didn't need more darkness. so i'm trying to think of the good times, like here, drinking tea on the train from moscow to kazan when dad came to visit me in russia in 1994. that was an awesome trip. we laughed and had adventures and tho' there was bickering at the end of the day because everyone's feet were tired from traipsing all over moscow, it was really pretty much only awesome. i'm glad to have the comfort of that and many other memories.

but i miss you today, dad. happy should-have-been birthday.