It's been so long since I've done this that I hardly know where to start. As seems always to be the case, both quite a lot and nothing much has happened since I last posted. I'm getting ready to head down to Uppsala this afternoon for what will be my last trip before the long summer at home. I'll be away for a week, not returning until next Monday, and though I don't really like to be away for so long at a stretch, I can't say I'm sorry to be escaping this menace of a puppy for several days. I realize that I haven't properly introduced him here yet, but with the server issues we had I can't post my pictures here at the moment (I know I could use Flickr or some such, but honestly, I can't be bothered). I also don't mind missing out on a few days of getting the kids off to school, as it's getting more and more difficult as summer break approaches. Once I'm back, I'll have only four more mornings of that particular hell to get through.
I've got plenty on my plate to deal with in Uppsala as well, including packing up my office for an impending move down the hall, cleaning and organizing my apartment in preparation for a friend's stay there over the summer, and spending as many hours as I can manage in the archives. I won't have time to do much actual research, but will instead be focusing on photographing as many documents as I'm able so that I can work through them over the summer. Technically speaking, I have seven weeks of vacation, but I don't imagine I'll be truly free for anything approaching that. Lucky for me, though, research is the part of my work that I like best, so it doesn't feel like I'll be missing out too much.
It's always a little stressful trying to make sure I've got everything sorted in Uppsala when I'm going to be away for a long time, and I always manage to leave behind at least one thing that I simply cannot do without, no matter how many times I check and check again. At least this year someone on-site will have my apartment key so I can arrange for whatever it is that I inevitably forget to be sent up to me.
I am having a hard time right now not feeling like an utter failure at my life. Without going into details that aren't really mine to share, I will say that one of our kids is struggling rather a lot with a variety of things, and the situation is taking a toll on the entire family. Despite what feels like heroic effort on Olof's and my part (as well as on the part of an ever-growing cadre of various professionals), nothing seems to be making a difference. Making matters even more challenging, I have been in an intense period at work these past couple of months and have spent far too much time away from home. Olof does a more than admirable job of holding the fort while I'm away, but I know it's been a rough stretch for him. As if he needed more on his plate-remember, he's working full-time as well--he's been battling a lingering cold/cough for weeks now and it's well past time for that to go away. And I started getting the same cold/cough yesterday and am not feeling my best self today.
And my dog died. (I know, it was a while ago, and I'm dealing surprisingly well with it, but still ... my dog died.) And my other dog is elderly (13½), and she's showing her age more every day.
And I had the brilliant idea to get another dog about a month ago. And while he's charming and delightful and I don't regret bringing him into our lives, he's also an eight-month-old hound pup, and he's a gigantic pain in the ass more often than not. And the old dog hates him, and the cats hate him, and at least two of the kids vacillate between tolerating him and hating him.
And I have to go to Uppsala tomorrow morning for a brief 24-hour trip, only to go back on Sunday evening for the entire work week.
And I have every confidence that it will all get better and before too long things will feel okay again, but right now it's really, really hard.
Today is a day I've been dreading for a while now, the day that I'll say my final farewell to Asbjørn. He's two weeks shy of his fourteenth birthday, he's got what are almost assuredly cancerous tumors in his mouth, and he's just tired. He's ready, and I'm as ready as I'll ever be (which is to say "not ready at all"). The vet will come out to our house later today to send him on his way peacefully, and I'm so thankful that's an option. Going to the vet's office stresses him out so much, and I'm relieved to be able to spare him that now at the end. I'm feeling okay at the moment, after having spent a good portion of yesterday crying and grieving. I know there are more tears to come--that's the way with mourning--but the blow is, and will be, softened by the abundance of memories I have of the wonderful years I have been blessed to spend with this wonderful dog.
It happens very rarely that I'm in Uppsala over a weekend, but I had a full week last week as well as meetings on Monday and Tuesday, so I'm in the middle of a longer trip. I came down last Tuesday morning, and I won't go home until this coming Tuesday evening. Though I do enjoy the time I spend here, this is just a bit too long (especially considering that I'll be home for less than a week before coming back down for five days). When I write that out, I realize that it sounds like I'm away more than I'm home, but that's really not the case. I was in Uppsala for only one week in November, and I'll be home for a month or so from mid-December. And now it sounds like I'm on the defensive ... gah.
Anyway, it's been a pretty good weekend, even if I would rather have been at home with the husband and the kids and the dogs. Yesterday morning I met up with a couple of friends from work, and we took the train to the gigantic Mall of Scandinavia in Solna. None of us bought very much, but we had a nice time browsing around and did come away with a few things. After we got back to Uppsala I went to the grocery store and stocked up some before spending the rest of the evening lounging around and watching bad TV.
Today I got up late then made a quick trip downtown for a bit more shopping before I went to the office to catch up on some work. I spent several hours there and got quite a bit done. I got back to my apartment around 7:30 and have done a whole lot of nothing in the hours since. I really ought to get some cleaning done, both because a friend-of-a-friend will be staying here next week and because it really just needs to be done, but I always find it something of a losing proposition because there's simply not enough space here to put everything. I've taken advantage of every possible nook and cranny, but there are still piles of clothes and whatnot everywhere I turn. I was thinking just this moment that I might be able to fit a little chest of drawers under the table. Hmm, I'll have to get out my measuring tape and give that some consideration.
I see that I'd better get something posted today if I don't want the entire month of November to be blank. I suppose I should address the subject of my last post, from mid-October and say that Asbjørn is doing great some six weeks after his most recent mouth surgery. He ended up having to be anesthetized so that the vet could pull a tooth, and that made it possible for her to cut away the entirety of the mystery growth. At least, I assume it was the entirety, as there's no sign of it now, even six weeks on. I do notice that he seems to be a little allergic to something, as he's been snuffling and sneezing and has mildly runny eyes, but he doesn't really seem to be bothered by it.
I feel like I should have more to say, given how infrequently I've been posting this past year or so, but nothing is coming to me. I'd post a picture, but I'm not taking many of those lately, either. I think I've been promising my mom snow pictures for weeks now, and though I did take some (back when we still had snow), I never got around to putting them on our server, so showing them here is right out.
I think what I probably need to do is set up some sort of journal-prompt system and just force myself to write. Maybe I'll make that my December project, and try to get something written every day. Getting back in the habit of writing here might, I hope, give me a kick-start about writing in general. I sorely need that, given that I'm nearly to the halfway point in my Ph.D. program, and that book ain't gonna write itself.
I find myself annoyed by almost everything in my life at the moment which, I'm aware, is not necessarily the ideal condition in which to post a long overdue update, but it is what it is. Most of what's annoying me I won't detail here, so as to protect the not-so-innocent, but I will say that, like probably every other American, I am so ready for this election to be over. I am also ready for the time-suck course that I'm currently taking to be over, and I am definitely ready for certain phases in my kids' development to be over. Most of all, however, I am ready for this day to be over.
Until I started living in Uppsala part-time a year-and-a-half ago, I had never lived by myself. I got married right out of high school, and when that relationship ended I first moved home to my mom's, then I had roommates for a couple of months before moving in with my next boyfriend. By the time that went south, I had Lydia, so even though I was single for a couple of years, I always had her with me. Over the years I have idly wondered from time to time what it would be like to live completely on my own, but it was never an idea that held much appeal for me. As long as I can remember, I have never liked to be alone. I don't necessarily want to engage with people all the time, but I like for them to be around. That said, I've never been especially social and for most of my life I've felt tremendously awkward in social situations. As a younger person, I never made friends easily and it generally took me a long time to get close to new people in my life.
It's been a complete surprise to me, then, to find myself having turned into a veritable social butterfly over the past few years. People who don't know me outside my Uppsala context usually don't believe me if I mention that I've really never been a "people person" and that it's been my habit to actively resist being at the center of any sort of social activity. Down here, I've been known to practically strong-arm people into friendship with me, and I can always be counted on for drinks after work or impromptu get-togethers. I'm frequently the driving force behind these kinds of activities and I'm often the life of the party, if I do say so myself. I'm pretty good at small talk these days, and, whether or not I'm seeking them, I seem to make new connections wherever I go. It's weird.
Many times I've attributed this new gregariousness to age and experience. I've (mostly) stopped caring what other people think about me, and I don't much worry about making a fool of myself. While I do think there's truth to that, I think the more significant factor, by quite a large margin, is my reluctance to be alone. It's not that I don't enjoy my own company, because I often do, but I enjoy it more when "alone time" is something I've chosen (preferably in my own kitchen, while others in my family are occupied elsewhere in the house), than when it's imposed upon me. There are plenty of times when there's nothing going on in Uppsala and I'm left to my own devices when I'm not working. I don't have trouble finding things to occupy me--I can, and do, read, shop, crochet, watch TV, etc.--but I would so much rather do those things with other people (or dogs, at the very least!) around me if I should feel the need for a bit of interaction.
Either which way, my life in Uppsala is much different from any other life I've lived. Or maybe it's not, really ... maybe it's more that away from my large family in the haven of my own home, I've learned to employ other sorts of strategies to re-create the near-constant companionship and activity that I feel most comfortable with. Whatever the reasons, I find that sometimes I don't recognize my self at all while simultaneously recognizing myself as much as I ever have. Could this be personal growth? ;)
It's been kind of a rough week for the Tjerngrens, with every single one of us felled by miserable cold. All four of the kids at home missed school the first four days of the week, and even Lydia was home feeling poorly for a couple of days. I went down to Uppsala on Monday morning and figured that I'd miss out on the fun, both because I rarely get sick and I was not in proximity of the germs. I wasn't so lucky this time, however, and during my few hours of restless sleep on Wednesday I started to see the writing on the wall. I felt like hell on Thursday, but after resting up and drinking copious amounts of tea with honey that evening, I felt some better on Friday. Even so, the pressure in my head made my flight home that evening less than ideal. When I met up with Olof at the airport, I could see that he was starting to feel the effects himself, and the two of us have spent the entire weekend feeling sorry for ourselves and doing our best to foist parenting duties off on the other one.
I think (hope) the kids will go to school again tomorrow. They did all go on Friday, but Petra, especially, was still looking pretty peaky. Tage, too, seems like he might need a bit more rest. The little girls are coughing like crazy, but I think they're pretty much okay. At this point Olof is probably feeling the worst among us. He has to go to work tomorrow for a couple of meetings, but he says he might come home at lunchtime if he's not feeling a lot better. As for me, I've got quite a bit of work to do this week, but at least most of it is reading, so I can get it done while curled up on the couch with a hot beverage. I've had worse jobs.