November 13th, 2015

Mother guilt

When I’m lying in bed at night, trying to fall asleep, I have a few tricks to help me relax and get sleepy. Usually they involve word games of some sort, but sometimes I play with numbers and set myself some math problems. It was in this way that I discovered, some years ago, that there is the exact same age difference–to the day, with leap years accounted for–between Brynja and Yrsa as between Tage and Petra. This means, of course, that there is also the same difference between Tage and Brynja as there is between Petra and Yrsa. Kind of cool, I think.

Last night was another math problem night, but the results were less cool. I calculated how much time I’m away from home for my work. Most weeks I come down to Uppsala on Wednesday morning after the kids go to school and return home around 11:00 on Friday nights. That comes out to 62 hours per week that I’m not at home. Occasionally I’m away for longer stretches, but at other times I’m home for longer periods, so I think it mostly balances out. 62 hours is 37% of all the hours in a week, which really seems like a whole hell of a lot. I try to tell myself that it’s not much more time than I’d be away if I worked full-time closer to home, without the long commute, and I remind myself that I’m home with the kids to get them off to school three out of five days of the week. I further point out to myself that Olof works from home whenever I’m in Uppsala, so that our kids always, always have a parent available, even during those hours when they’re at school, and there are plenty of kids who don’t have that.

You know what, though? All those reminders don’t really help; they feel more like rationalizations than anything else. In my heart of hearts, I can’t help feeling that what I’m doing is not good for my family. What makes it worse, somehow, is that I really love my job. In the long, dark moments of the night I have sometimes wondered if I should quit, if it wouldn’t be better for everyone if I were home again, but it would absolutely do me in to give up my work. I’m not sure that I could physically make myself do it. So then, of course, I’m left with the realization that I’m putting my work and my personal satisfaction ahead of my family, something that I never thought I’d do.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the nature of mother guilt, all of this angst is coming from me, myself. My husband is entirely supportive, and when I’ve asked him from time to time if he thinks I should quit, he always reacts strongly against the idea. He sees the value to all of us in what I’m doing in ways that I’m not able to do. As for the kids, they’re fine. I’ve been doing this for so long now that it feels normal to them. I don’t doubt that they’d like it if I were home more, but they don’t seem to miss me unbearably or agonize over my absence when I’m away. I still have a hard time convincing myself, though–not in convincing myself to keep working; that’s a given–but in convincing myself that I’m not being outrageously selfish.

So yeah, that’s the kind of thing I think about when I can’t sleep.

Served up by Beverly at 08:08 am Comments Off

November 9th, 2015

Two peas

Almost three years ago Petra got her first pair of glasses. She’d been having fairly frequent headaches, which is what prompted the visit to the eye doctor, but she never was very consistent about wearing the glasses. The headaches went away and her eye checks at school were fine, so we all just more or less forgot about the glasses.

A couple of months ago, though, she started complaining about headaches again and her teacher mentioned that she’d been having a little trouble concentrating for long stretches on her school-work, so I took her in for another eye check. Her vision was actually better this time than it was when she was seven, but because of the headaches the optician recommended glasses anyway, at least for reading. So she chose some frames and we placed an order, and today I picked up her new specs.

I noticed when I took them out of the case that the new glasses were almost exactly the same as mine–the same brand and same style, only in black instead of blue. I hadn’t noticed that they were so similar when she chose them, probably because I was kind of in a hurry and just wanting her to pick some already. I did try a little to get her to choose a less expensive pair, but after trying on nearly every pair in the store she settled on the ones she just had to have and would not be dissuaded.

I have a little theory about this. People have always said that she looks very much like me, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the only ones that looked right to her on her face were the ones that she’s used to seeing on my face. See if you think I’m right:

New glasses

Served up by Beverly at 10:02 pm 1 Comment »

October 31st, 2015


Prompted by a thread on Reddit, Olof asked me a few minutes ago, “What’s the best thing you ever heard a kid say?”. Without a moment’s hesitation, I told him it was this. I’ve heard a lot of kids say a lot of great things, but nothing else will ever compare to this.

Served up by Beverly at 06:00 pm 4 Comments »

October 27th, 2015


The kids have fall break and are off school this whole week, which makes my trip to Uppsala tomorrow a little weird and complicated. Rather than put the girls in childcare–which seems somehow wrong when they’re supposed to be free–Olof took three days of vacation and then will work from home on Friday. One of those vacation days was today, when all of us were home, so we took the opportunity to load everybody up in the car and take them to the indoor playground in town. Even Lydia joined us, and we spent nearly the entire day there, not coming home until three in the afternoon. I can’t think of the last time that all seven of us went somewhere together.

As I said, I’m off again tomorrow for parts south. Last week I came home on Saturday evening instead of my usual Friday because I had the final exam for my Latin course on Saturday morning. Losing just that one day has made my time at home feel like a whirlwind and I’ve felt a little off-kilter for the past few days. Going back to winter time over the weekend surely didn’t help matters; my rhythms are completely off. Maybe being back on my usual schedule in Uppsala the last half of this week will help me re-set.

Served up by Beverly at 11:47 pm Comments Off

October 19th, 2015


I’ve had a lot going on this past week or so, and I’ve had no choice but to give myself a little down-time here and there with a crochet hook and a ball of yarn. These two hats are my latest creations, done as part of a crochet-along on Ravelry. The top picture is the one I made first, and I really love the color, but I think the second one is more me.

Ashley beanie

Ashley beanie

Petra is quite taken with both of them, but I’m pretty sure they’re mine, all mine.

Served up by Beverly at 10:16 pm 4 Comments »

October 11th, 2015

I got better*

*Best said in a John Cleese voice

So yeah, it’s been a while. What with one thing and another, I just haven’t got around to posting in far too long.

Anyway, I recovered nicely from my bronchitis, and made it to Tallinn last week for the conference with no ill effects. Most of my time there was spent working so I didn’t take many pictures, but here are a few I did get:

This is the Tallin Town Hall, completed in 1404. It’s the oldest surviving town hall in all of the Baltics and Scandinavia, and it’s spectacular.

Tallinn Town Hall

Here’s me preparing to present my dissertation work at the conference.


These are the seats at the Tallinn airport, which I absolutely fell in love with. Following is the inside of one of the bathroom doors at the same airport. I was less in love with the original artwork, but I did approve of the add-on.



Served up by Beverly at 10:26 pm 1 Comment »

September 28th, 2015


Last Wednesday morning I went to Uppsala, thinking it would be just another routine trip but, oh, how wrong I was. I’d been battling a slight cold for a couple of days and even considered briefly just staying home and calling in sick to work, but since I’m very seldom bested by a cold, I soldiered on. I felt worse as the day progressed, but still figured it wasn’t much of anything and after lying down for an hour or so after work, I walked down to the grocery store for some provisions.

I should have figured I was sicker than I thought when I had to stop twice to rest on the way back to my apartment, but my place is at the top of a long, steep hill and I was loaded down with grocery bags, so I guess I thought I was just tired. When I got home, I watched a little TV and ate a bit, then went to bed around ten-thirty. And that’s when things got fun.

I spent the whole long night tossing and turning and sweating like crazy, and before too long I was having a hard time catching my breath, even just coming back to bed from using the bathroom. I was full on wheezing on both the inhale and exhale, and just sitting up to take a drink of water was exhausting. I realized some time in the morning that I wasn’t going to make it to work, so I texted Astrid, my office-mate, and then collapsed back into bed, arising for real only around three o’clock in the afternoon. I thought I still might make it out to an after-work with some other Ph.D. students, but when I discovered that I hadn’t the energy even to fully rinse my hair in the shower, I was quickly dispelled of that notion.

After my rather inefficient hair-wash, I staggered back to the couch, took five or ten minutes to catch my breath, and made a desperate call to Olof. I was so sick and tired and on the verge of panic that as soon as I heard his voice I started crying and pleading with him to come down to Uppsala and get me. That was the height of impracticality, of course, but he did the next best thing and placed a call to the medical advice line, where he was told to have me call the local number in Uppsala. I did as I was told, and upon hearing my voice and my ragged efforts to breathe, the nurse made me an appointment with the urgent-care clinic.

So, to make a long story a tiny bit shorter, I took a cab down to the clinic, where the doctor ordered two breathing treatments and a round of quick-acting cortisone. The verdict, after a blood test, was bacterial bronchitis, so I was sent home with antibiotics, more cortisone, and a pack of asthma inhalers. I had a much better night that night and even managed to drag myself to work the next day (though mostly because the thought of spending another miserable day on my own in the apartment was just to much to bear). I got through Friday thanks mostly to the sympathy and attentiveness of Astrid, who even made a special trip to the pharmacy before coming to the office to bring me some cough drops. Later that evening I came back home, feeling so sick and worn-out that I didn’t even bother to tidy up my apartment or pack more than my purse and my medicine.

After a couple of days I’m feeling quite a lot better, if not quite back to 100%. This is pretty bad timing, as I’m back to Uppsala tomorrow, then on to Tallinn, Estonia on Thursday for a conference. There were a couple of days there when I thought I might have to give all that a miss, but I think I’ll manage it after all. I’ve been really looking forward to this trip, so I’m really counting on my immune system to do me a solid and keep me on the path to wellness. And if not, well, there’s always drugs …

Served up by Beverly at 10:30 pm 1 Comment »

September 15th, 2015

Picking and choosing

I feel like it’s going to take me a little while to get back into the swing of managing my two separate lives. I am highly disorganized at the moment and can hardly keep track of whether I’m coming or going these days. The bad thing with the kind of commute I do is that I’m always living in a kind of flux state, never feeling completely settled in wherever I am. Oh, I do well enough with the emotional part, but the practicalities are another matter. It seems that I’ve always left this book, or that pair of shoes, or whatever it is I need, at the other place.

I’m currently in the midst of packing to go down to Uppsala in the morning, and am giving myself no little anxiety about which books to take with me. I’ve got plenty of shelf space in my new office, but books are heavy and my luggage allowance is not, so I’ve got to be discriminating. At the rate I’m going, my Ph.D. program is going to be finished by the time I’ve managed to get all my books down there, and I’ll have to rent a truck to bring them all back home.

Served up by Beverly at 08:53 pm Comments Off

September 5th, 2015

New digs!

When we started the Ph.D. program last spring, all of the first-years, according to department custom, shared an office, charmingly referred to as “the incubator.” It’s a fine enough space and it easily accommodated the three of us, but we always felt somewhat outside the action, not least because the room is outside the corridor where the “real” staff have their offices. Also isolating was the fact that, due to the key-card security system, we always had to keep our door closed, so we were very set apart from the comings and goings around the department.

We had expected to move to our permanent offices in January or February, when the new crop of Ph.D. students will start, but due to some space opening up ahead of time, we were able to move out of the incubator last week. Johan, our third office mate, had already set up shop in his new office, and when we got the green light on Thursday afternoon, Astrid and I wasted no time getting ourselves installed in our new room. There are still some things to be done, but I think it looks pretty good for the work of just an hour or two.

new office

Served up by Beverly at 09:14 pm Comments Off

September 3rd, 2015

I’m back!

Some of my readers may have noticed that for the past week or two this page was unavailable. It was something to do with the domain renewal and transfer of renewal rights/responsibilities, techy-techy-blah-blah-blah. In any case, I am back in business again, and this shouldn’t happen again for at least a year. Stay tuned for further updates of the real-life variety …

(Also, it bears pointing out that Astrid is the best, most awesome office mate ever. She makes coming to work a pleasure every day that I’m here.)

Served up by Beverly at 11:55 am 4 Comments »