Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 :: another year, another 365 project

taking a photo every day is just ingrained in me at this point, it's part of who i am. and i'm grateful i've continued to do it. looking back on this year, it felt darker and sadder than it appears in the photos. dad's death the previous november and the disappearance of my wonderful job after only one year were tough blows and it felt, for much of 2015, like i've been in mourning, and i suppose i have. top it off with the intense pain of a sudden back problem and subsequent surgery and it felt like the longest year of my life. but, my photos of the year, overall, are bright and cheerful. and that somehow makes it less heavy here at the end of the year. it's like the darkness is lifting. and that fills me with hope for sweet '16 - 2016.

january 2015
the year, as it always does in denmark, started with fireworks. and i can see that towards the end of the month we had actual snow! i didn't remember that. i was clearly in minifigure mode and they lend quite a lot of whimsy that i don't recall feeling at the time. but i must have been seeking it and taking comfort in it on some instinctive level.

february 2015
i found that royal typewriter on husband's favorite auction site and had to have it. we had one just like it growing up and it somehow, the clack of those green keys became connected to my dad in my head and i just needed it. as i recall, it went for a song, but i spent more than twice the price on the bridge getting there and back to pick it up. my old iMac gave up the ghost and i needed a new one. that was a definite bright spot, as there's nothing like a new apple product. other bright spots were time spent art journaling and in the company of cats.

march 2015
the light began to return in earnest. i went around with the sparkle unicorn fairy in my pocket, still obviously seeking some glimmer of magic. for my birthday, i got a chemex coffee maker and i'm convinced it makes the best, cleanest, smoothest coffee.

april 2015
april began with a trip to hamburg that got extended by a day and an unexpectedly lovely experience in a charming little hotel overlooking the otherwise seedy reeperbahn. we began working in the garden and we put the first of many coats of red paint on the kitchen floor. we had a batch of baby bunnies as well, because spring. a footbridge in sweden was named for my late father-in-law. that last photo? it's my precious frieda's pretty feet, perched on the edge of the sink, waiting for me to turn the water on for her. wow, i miss that.

may 2015
oh, the glorious color of green of a newly sprung beech forest. there's no better green. we hunted and found, at last, two pairs of the ferrell williams adidas - one for me and one for sabs. the first kittens were born and the glorious yellow rapeseed fields were in full bloom. an artist friend began to paint hens on our kitchen island because the red floor was finished at last. it was a rather glorious spring, i realize now, looking back on it. i was also super busy with my freelancing job, but oddly, that doesn't show at all in this mosaic. perhaps i was already distancing myself from the creeping feeling that lego had pockets of nastiness and i had managed to stumble into several of them.  i didn't realize it at the time. or perhaps i did and that's why i don't have any photos of the place.

june 2015
june was filled with kittens and lilacs and parties and visits and a couple of fun photoshoots. i seem to remember it as more rainy and dreary than it appears to have been. there was a danish election and the government changed from left to right (tho' the right is called left. don't ask.) and from slightly more forward-thinking to much, much more xenophobic and bigoted and even unfriendly to the environment. so disheartening.

july 2015
after our rather cold early summer, the strawberries finally appeared in july, a good couple of weeks later than usual. but on the bright side, they lasted longer. i made 20 liters of strawberry juice and filled the freezer with countless bags. we also ate strawberries and cream every night until we couldn't eat any more. i made strawberry ice cream and strawberry sorbet. and once the strawberries were done, the red currants began. our artist friend finished painting the kitchen island with whimsical chickens and a friendly fox. the first veggies appeared in the garden and the greenhouse.

august 2015
i was obviously a little obsessed with that little dinosaur in august. he was small and easy to keep in my pocket. the kittens were growing up and they went off to give an injection of new blood to a friend's barn. we made yet another shopping trek to hamburg (that was becoming a theme). sabin started at her efterskole (a kind of boarding school, emphasizing gymnastics).  it was a very good decision to send her there. she is thriving and growing so very much. oh, and there was that taco truck coming to town (well, to billund, which i will generously refer to as a town) - with real corn tortillas. heaven. a welcome visit from a fellow legographer rounded off a pretty good month. at the end of august, after coming in first runner-up for a new job in lego for the third time, i decided to look for jobs elsewhere, including copenhagen and on august 28, i applied for the job that i would get back in the shipping world.

september 2015
the visit from xxsjc prompted me to think i needed some vintage lego fabuland characters, so i went to ebay and found some. they are fun to photograph. the new minifig series came out and i bought a whole box. that was very popular when we went to our yearly family crayfish party in sweden. a neighbor called and said she had a whole bucket of extra porcinis she'd picked that afternoon. i oven-dried them to flavor winter's sauces. the plum tomatoes were going gangbusters in our greenhouse and i oven-dried a bunch of those well. most of my time was spent at our new library, painting a mural in the children's section and making coffee for everyone. i also painted a table for the teen/tween section with that magical annie sloan chalk paint. i definitely want to work with that again. a couple of job interviews and, one month after i applied, i landed that job in shipping.

october 2015
the magical amanitas came out, telling us it was really autumn. we celebrated my new job contract with champagne. and after being pulled back and forth through the ringer with lego and their horrendously slow and unprofessional hr practices, it was so nice to encounter a professional organization that could get the job done. our new library/"culture house" opened with a big party. more than 500 people came. i had arranged a quilt and handiwork exhibition as part of it and talked to so many wonderful people with wonderful stories that evening. my new job, even before i started, sent me and husband and sabin on a minicruise to oslo to "experience the product." it was pretty great! charlie had four kittens! her cutest batch yet. i started my new job, but only ten days in, i was knocked flat by a disc prolapse and experienced some of the worst pain of my life.

november 2015
most of my november was spent lying in bed (at least i had kittens). i couldn't stand upright for more than 5 minutes and walking, even just out to the kitchen to make a cup of a tea was a pretty overwhelming challenge. i spent a couple of hours in an mri machine and countless more consulting doctors and physical therapists. after getting somewhat the right cocktail of pain meds, i went back to my new job (which was thankfully very understanding) for as many hours as i could take. i even slipped up to the kusama exhibition at louisiana one evening, when i was in need of soul-soothing after an awful bullying letter that came out of the blue. some good friends came to my house and cooking a thanksgiving feast. i unexpectedly lost my precious frieda.

december 2015
december brought a new camera - a fuji x-t1 mirrorless camera. it's for work, but i took a load of pictures around home to get acquainted with it. i miss the multiple focus points of my beloved D300, but overall, it's a good one. i had back surgery december 4 and spent ten days recovering. i did go back to work and it went well, but it required a lot of energy. i even flew to amsterdam and back and sailed from there to newcastle and back and did pretty well. the worst i ended up with was a christmas cold. the kittens all found new homes and things have gone back to normal around here on the cat front, aside from the gaping hole left by frieda's absense. there's one ginger ninja sleeping at my feet as i write this and charlie, our little white mama kitty is resting at my side in relief that her mothering duties are over for now.

another year winding down. and while it felt like it was mostly lows, looking back through these photos, i can see that it wasn't. the tide of sorrow has turned, i'm quite literally on the mend (both my back and my wounded-by-lego sense of self) and looking forward to what 2016 has to offer.

how will you ring in the new year? with friends? with a party? with champagne? oysters? in a crowd? with fireworks? or just relaxed around the table with candlelight, cocktails, some good food and friends? we're definitely choosing that last option.

Monday, December 28, 2015

a list about right now...

~ a holiday cold - coughing, sore throat, mild fever, general aching. not really what i needed. husband has it too, but refuses to admit it, even tho' he slept in a heavy sweatshirt last night to try to sweat it off.
~ homemade ramen, featuring a rich broth made with the carcass from the christmas turkey and leftover pork roast has healing powers.
~ what if, of the 800+ photos i took last week, only a handful are usable? is that a good ratio? is it normal?
~ sunshine. a welcome sight after many, many days of rain.
~ cats are the greatest comfort.
~ i still miss frieda and her pretty profile a great deal.

~ watching making a murderer on netflix. it's like serial in television form and covers the two cases of steven avery, a trailer-dwelling, possibly inbred man in wisconsin who is rotting away in prison (for the second time) for a crime he very likely didn't commit. and the police/courts in wisconsin are shockingly corrupt and biased against the less fortunate.

~ this was fun! my nephew got the 2016 guinness book of world records and he found my name there for last year's lego minecraft diorama in london!
~ i've spent far too much time lying in bed for the past two months. but at least it's a very pleasant room - candles, books, warm (if unusual) colors (it was sabin's room before and she chose lilac and aqua 5 years ago), quilts, cats, plenty of devices for podcasts and streaming and general internetting.
~ enjoyed last week's trip with sabin very much. she totally knows how to airport. it makes me proud and it also made me realize that i'd gotten a bit rusty at it.
~ rough seas on the outbound trip however, were less enjoyable. 

~ enjoying reading all of the year-end wrap-ups around the interwebs. 2015 was kind of a crazy year, what with the madness of the republicans who want to be president, terrorist acts in the west, xenophobes running denmark, star wars (which i have yet to see) and obama really finding his groove (it was about time). 
~ i feel the bitterness i felt about a certain plastic brick and all their incompetent and possibly evil middle management put me through beginning to loosen. and that's a relief.
~ looking forward to sweet '16 (that's 2016) in a few days. i think it's going to be a great year.

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i have some theories about this myself.
and oh, the tales i could tell.

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the anxiety soothing store designs of right now.
embodied by amazon's first real store.

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hey fellow moms, it's good for our daughters when we work!
so relax and enjoy your job!
harvard says it's ok.

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this is a harrowing tale of a journalist who tried to understand ISIS brides.

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the host of podcast note to self is incredibly annoying,
with her oddly narcissistic yet insecure way of presenting herself,
but she does cover some very interesting topics.

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another round with heben & tracy.
being smart and funny, interviewing interesting people while drinking.
what more can you ask?
but don't take my word for it, the guardian even thinks so.
and if that's not enough podcasts for you, here are some more of the best of 2015.
i know i can never get enough.

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abby bischoff photographs south dakota's abandoned places.
you know i love me a little ruin porn.

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good to think about as we embark on a new year.

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it's gotten so much easier to be an entrepreneur.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

the yearly christmas tree hunt

most years when we do this, it's raining. it was muddy, but dry this year.

sabin, in despair over the trees we liked.
she was hoping she was adopted.

husband, pointing out where he could cut this one so that it was the optimal height.

husband's requirement for the tree was that it was a "brave choice."
this would have been pretty brave.
and rather alternative.

see, you want brave? 

this one was my first choice.
i liked the light green ombre effect.
sabin said it was so 2013.

this was the one the girls picked.
it probably would have been the best choice.
however, husband did not deem it a "brave" choice.

sabin tries to interfere at the last moment.

alas, to no avail. we got the tree with the weirdly bare branches.
sabin said it was the tree equivalent of one of those hairless cats.

this wasn't our tree (ours was already netted when we returned),
but i think this may be my favorite photo of 2015.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

more mundane musings on pain

I would like to be able to say that i've developed a sophisticated and erudite philosophy of pain over the course of recent weeks, but i fear that the deepest thought i have about it is that it sucks. i do, however, have a new appreciation for how involved our backs are in virtually everything we do. tying our shoes, putting on socks, bending down to fill the cat food, coughing, sneezing, turning over, walking, sitting, standing, just riding in a car, let alone driving it. the back is playing a constant and key role in ways you do not realize until it cannot fulfill that role without hurting like hell. but i am on the mend now - the nerve pain is gone, the surgery pain is fading fast and i'm going back to work this week - at least part-time.

....insert three days here....

it's now several days later...i wrote the paragraph above on sunday and then never got a chance to sit down again and finish. i've been at work three days now and it's been great. i actually forgot all about my pain meds yesterday until late afternoon, so the healing is headed in the right direction. i may have overdone it a bit and i've been low on energy today, but i'm starting to sleep through the nights without waking around 3 when my pain meds wear off. and all of that is great progress.

all this play-by-play of my health, i know it's boring, but since this blog is also where i store my memory, it's more for my own sake than for all of you (sorry about that). this has been one long haul, even tho' it's only been about 6 weeks or so since it began. from what i hear from many people who have had back troubles (and there are surprisingly many), i'm lucky to have gotten it taken care of so quickly. for some reason, they often make people wait months and months in dire pain, thinking it will get better on its own. i don't know why, but they didn't think that with my pain. thank odin for that.

and i do promise to get back to writing about more fun things in the near future...like a little trip i'll be taking to amsterdam on monday. which is really a minicruise to newcastle and back to amsterdam. i'm even taking my trusty camera teenager assistant to carry all of my equipment. it's good to be feeling semi-human and functional again. 

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i have an overwhelming desire to visit chernobyl. none of the other intensely polluted destinations in andrew blackwell's visit sunny chernobyl have the same affect on me.

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the fascinating story of how one hundred years of solitude came to be published.

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speaking of beautiful literature, 
here is a collection of beautiful quotes.
buzzfeed rocks lists.

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vintage images of the soviet space dogs.
i'm loving atlas obscura.

Monday, December 07, 2015

happy would-have-been birthday, dad

thinking of my dad today. he would have been 82. just a little over a year since he died and he is still so very sorely missed. there's still so much i'd like to be able to ask him about the way the world works (and doesn't).


enjoying the companionship of kittens, even if they spend most of their time swinging from the curtains and not cuddling with me.

it looks like the surgery was a success - the nerve pain is gone, the numbness in my left knee is fading fast and there's no pain in my left leg anymore, aside from a few twinges today which i interpret as a sign of healing. the only place that hurts right now is the site of my actual incision and it confines me more to my bed than i would like. i've been dutifully doing my assigned exercises and going for short walks. it was actually sunny today and it's a balmy 9°C/50°F out there.

i went out and soaked up some vitamin D and captured my long, tall winter shadow, before going back in and resting. standing is ok and lying down is ok, but sitting up is a challenge. as i type this, i'm more of less 3/4 of the way prone, since it's very hard to find a comfortable way to sit with my incision. but it's already itching, so i know that it's healing and it's only a matter of time.

someone is still trying to teach me that lesson in patience and maybe i'm finally getting it.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

swept away by the winds of gorm

there's a storm raging outside. they've named it gorm. anytime there's the slightest chance of drama, they name the storm. and these winds definitely sound like they're hurricane force. i'm trying not to have my inner view seem as stormy, but it's hard. the week brought that nasty email and i'll admit i let it suck a whole lot of my precious energy away. then, on friday, my beloved frieda cat was coughing and so i took her to the vet to see what was wrong. it was much more serious than we thought - she had torn her diaphragm and the rest of her organs were pressing in on her lungs and restricting her breathing. to fix it would have required a complicated surgery where she had to be on a respirator. and it just seemed like too much - a cat on a respirator? and what would her quality of life be? so, with great sorrow, i chose to have her put to sleep. bitter tears were shed. she was a special one - molly's baby and my favorite (despite all of those kittens) - i miss her sorely.

friday morning found me at the back specialist, meeting with the surgeon and the anesthesiologist in preparation for my upcoming back surgery. when i left, i didn't know yet when it would be, but i woke up to a letter on saturday morning with a time next friday. a bright spot in the darkness of losing frieda. this continuing nerve pain has worn me thin and i find it harder to cope. so much energy goes to the pain, it's difficult to have any left for everything else.  and it hasn't helped that i had to stop with the high grade ibuprofen in preparation for the surgery. the oxycodone i was given to replace it makes me feel strange and doesn't take the pain to the same degree. ibuprofen is definitely the best pain reliever for me.

i've been trying to just ignore the pain and go about my life as if i were a normal person - walking around, going to dinner and a movie with my family, but admit it's not really working. we went to see spectre on friday evening and i had to fidget through the whole movie to try to find a comfortable way to sit that gave me relief from the pain. usually, sitting isn't the problem, standing is, especially standing still - as the pain is mostly in my left leg, thanks to the nerves that are affected. but friday evening, probably due to the change in meds, sitting comfortably was a problem. i even wondered if i should have gone to the movies at all. but luckily, no one was sitting beside me (on the one side) or in front of me, so i did get through it in the end. i think husband was a little annoyed by all my fidgeting, but he also knew i couldn't help it.

i will go back to work this week, taking it easy like last week. it was great to be there and i can't wait to be back to normal so that i can be fully present. there are so many fun tasks to do and great people to work with. with the sound of that wind out there, i think i could fly there right now if i put on a billowy coat.

there were other bright spots in the weekend - a beautiful thanksgiving feast prepared for us, here at our house, by good friends, who knew i wasn't up to standing in the kitchen for hours, but that i missed thanksgiving very much. it was beautiful food and great company and a silky pumpkin pie and precisely what i needed. we had originally planned it for actual thanksgiving, but work schedules got in the way (those silly danes have embraced black friday, but alas, not yet thanksgiving) and we had to move it to saturday. that worked out just fine. what's important isn't the day of the week, it's the company and the food and the candles and the wine and the laughter. and those go a long way towards soothing the wounds of the nasty email and the loss of my precious frieda.

it was good to pause and be thankful for the time i did have with frieda and being happy that i told her every single day that i loved her. good to be consciously grateful for how understanding my new job is about my back problem - they even put a couch in our nearest meeting room so that i could lie down when i need to and have ordered me a special office chair that's good for my back. good to take a moment to be grateful for husband and the days he's taken off to drive me to the doctor and for all of the cups of tea he's brought to me when i've been miserable and in pain and no fun to be around. and thankful for what a cool young woman sabin is turning into. and thankful for friends willing to prepare my favorite feast. in that light, that nasty email seems unimportant and just gets swept away by the winds of the storm named gorm.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

museums :: the new selfie central

the wonderful louisiana museum of modern art is open 'til 10 p.m. on week nights. so, after work today, i decided to pop up there and see the kusama exhibition that's on at the moment. polka dot explosion and precisely what i needed after starting my day with a rather nasty email from that infamous deficit person i've mentioned before (more fodder for that novel that i need to get to writing). kusama and a solitary, but not lonely, dinner at the museum was precisely what i needed to shake it off.

in the kusama exhibition, there are several places where there are mirrors and which invite one to partake in today's selfie culture.

ok, it was kind of a lot of places. lots of mirrors and many, many polka dots. kusama is an amazing woman. i sat for a long time and watched a film with her. she's got quite the ego, actually, but i suppose at this point in her life, she's earned it. and she does, after all, live in an insane asylum and has for many years, of her own choice. you may think it's all just polka dots, but it's much more than that...a kind of search for but obliteration of the self in endless repetition. much deeper than it may appear on the surface. and she has enviably lived her art as a way of life.

and it got me thinking about these endless selfies we take these days. are we also searching for who we are? or are we obliterating ourselves in the repetition?

and what does it mean that we see our own reflection (quite literally) in the art we obsessively photograph as we go around the museum - like me in this rothko?

or the ghost of me against william burroughs in this mappelthorpe? maybe it doesn't mean anything other than that i really should put away my phone and just be there with the art. but those polka dots do make an excellent screen background on my phone(s).

Monday, November 23, 2015

melting away

we had our first snow sunday morning. our part of the country didn't get that much, but it came down quite heavily for an hour or so on sunday morning. in other parts of the country (e.g. copenhagen), there was much more! so much that trains were delayed by hours and the police advised no travel. my car, parked over there at a friend's place, had 40cm of snow on it and the branches of the trees above were completely bowing down over it, heavy with snow.

we're going over there this afternoon. husband will have to shovel it out for me so i can go to work tomorrow. because i'm actually going to go back to work! my back isn't better, but it's better enough (or my meds are good enough), that i can go in for a few hours a day. and as long as i take the elevator instead of the stairs and don't stand too much, it should be ok.  some part of me just wants to ignore the pain and act like it's not there and just get on with my life. i'm going to try to indulge that part over the next few days.

friday, i'll meet with the surgeon and learn more about the surgery that it looks like is on the horizon. i hope it's on the immediate horizon, as i really want this over with, but we have the appointment first and then it's scheduled. i wouldn't wish back pain like this on my worst enemy (actually, maybe i would, when i think about it). it just never ends. i had a few moments of feeling normal in recent days - i went to a café with a friend on friday and to an evening gathering with friends on saturday (luckily, there was an easy chair i could sit in for most of the evening). yesterday, i mostly laid in bed and read to gather strength.

i'll admit to moments of despair, where i have feared that this pain will never go away. and some part of me still feels that way. i can't stand or walk for too long before the pain becomes too much in my left leg. thanks to the nerves that are affected, the pain isn't actually in my back, it's mostly in my left thigh and knee. if i stand still for too long, it feels like someone has lit a sparkler inside my left knee. it goes away nearly immediately if i sit down or lie down. the surgery will take away the prolapse that's touching that nerve and it's my fervent hope that after that, the pain will just melt away. sort of like how the sun comes out and melts the snow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

wandering in oslo

when we went last month, i hadn't been in oslo in 5 years and it seemed to be much cooler and more happening than i remembered. a lot had changed, a lot had been built (some of it by apparently blind architects, as it's a real mish-mash (more about that in another post)), a lot was under renovation. it seems that norway, with its gazillion dollar sovereign oil fund, didn't suffer from the same economic crisis as the rest of the world. oslo is a pretty and very walkable little city. they had this art thing going on along aker brygge and i took a few shots of some of the thoughts. i'm not sure what i make of them, but i kind of like that they also ended up as selfies. i was happy to be wearing my new felt hat. we need to wear hats more often, don't you think? what do you make of these quotes?

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i need me a bibliotherapist.

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wacky theories about the pyramids are nothing new.

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the danish brand of socialism is actually pretty good.