February 8th, 2015
Last week was my first official week of work, though I was in the office only one day. I’m very fortunate that my position allows me to work from home a good deal of the time, and I’m required to be in Uppsala only for seminars, meetings, and classes. This means that some weeks I won’t be away from home at all, while some weeks I’ll be gone as many as three or four days (this seems like a good time to say, yet again, that my husband is an absolute superstar, not only tolerating, but encouraging outright this endeavor of mine).
For the two years of my master’s program, my schedule was much the same and when I stayed over in Uppsala, I took up a couple of my professors–a “couple” as in two, and also a “couple” as in they’re married to one another–on their very generous offer of an overnight room in the cellar of their apartment building. For a symbolic fee, I spent dozens of nights, at least, in that room and, while it was perfectly serviceable, with a separate entrance, a private shower in the room, and a bathroom down the hall, it wasn’t exactly homey. Because I wasn’t the only person who used the room, every time I stayed over I had to bring along bedding, towels, and all of my toiletries, as well as whatever clothing I was going to need.
At the time, it was a godsend for me, saving me literally thousands of dollars over the course of my program and giving me a little something of a home-base when I was in town. Now, however, I’ve got a real job and a real salary and I feel that not only have I imposed enough on my professors’ kindness, but I’ve also outgrown the kind of vagabond life I was leading before, so in December I started looking for an apartment. It can be notoriously difficult to find rental housing in Uppsala (really, in Sweden as a whole, particularly in university towns), and I didn’t have high hopes that I would find anything very quickly. Luck was very much on my side, though, and just a couple of weeks into my search I found the absolutely perfect place. Honestly, I can’t think of any way that it could be better. It’s a small furnished studio, with a separate entrance and its own bathroom, shower, and kitchenette, just five minutes’ walk from my office. The landlord is a professor at the university (though he’s not somebody I knew before I answered the apartment ad; coincidentally, however, I had just started reading a book he wrote), and he’s extremely nice and friendly. I signed a contract the week before last, and I get the keys on Wednesday, the next time I’m in Uppsala.
I’m so excited I can hardly stand it by the prospect of being able to settle in to my own little place when I’m away from home, and I’m practically giddy at the thought of being able to buy full-size bottles of conditioner and lotion and whatnot and just to leave them there when I come home, instead of checking a suitcase on the flight home because my beauty products don’t meet security specifications. When I feel like changing my bedding, I’ll be able just to wash it in the apartment building’s laundry room, rather than lugging it all home and back again. And if all that weren’t enough, I can brew up a pot of coffee whenever I feel like it instead of relying on convenience stores and cafés to fill my caffeine needs. That alone should save me nearly enough to pay my rent.
January 27th, 2015
No, not that kind … seriously, you guys, I am so done having babies. Or rather, the only baby on my horizon is my dissertation, which will surely keep me busy enough without another kid in the mix.
What we do have, however, is a new kitten. Last week I started playing with the idea of getting a cat for Tage, who’s been feeling sort of down lately. When I mentioned it to him, he was all for the idea, so I started scouring the classifieds for a suitable kitty. On Thursday, I wrote to a woman from the local animal rescue and she wrote back almost immediately that they had a 5½-month old black female kitten who was ready to move into a new home. After a couple of back-and-forth messages, the two of us talked on the phone and made arrangements to meet in the parking lot of a supermarket in town the following day for the hand-off.
Friday afternoon the four younger kids and I headed to Skellefteå in the bitter cold and after a quick meeting with the rescue lady, as well as a quick and hectic run through the grocery store, we returned home one cat richer.
Tage was charmed from the start, and the rest of us weren’t far behind. After trying out a couple of different names, he decided that she should be called Audrey, which I agree is a fantastic choice. So far she’s been sleeping in his room and keeping him company, but the last couple of days she’s started venturing out into the rest of the house. The other cats aren’t as thrilled as we humans are, with Gwen displaying a marked skepticism and Prins Bertil exhibiting signs of outright terror. The dogs don’t really much care one way or the other about her, but they are profoundly interested in her food, which I suppose counts for something.
January 21st, 2015
I had my yearly MRI in early December, but in all the hubbub surrounding the holidays and the excitement over my Ph.D. position, I’d all but forgotten about it until I got a letter a couple of weeks ago calling me to an appointment with the neurologist on January 19. I went down to Umeå on that date, this past Monday, and had a little check-up and got the MRI results. As usual, I was a little apprehensive beforehand but, once again, all was well.
Though the doctor told me that he “didn’t completely trust” the reading he had, as it was done by a regular radiology doctor and not an MS expert, he did report that there appeared to be no new MS activity. That makes two years with no progression, and only one new lesion and another that had increased slightly in size in the past five-and-a-half years. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.
He did say that he’s going to have an MS doctor read the results, just to be sure, but I really don’t expect there to be anything (or if there is, for it not to be much). I know that he’d like me to be on medication, but he knows equally well that I’m not interested at the moment, so we avoided much discussion about that. The whole appointment took less than twenty minutes, which made the two-hours-each-way bus ride feel a bit excessive, but I can hardly complain about not needing to take up more of the doctor’s time.
January 17th, 2015
This last week was a busy one. Monday I took Tage back to orchestra practice after a month’s break, then Tuesday I was in Uppsala all day. Wednesday was Yrsa’s fourth birthday, as well as Olof’s and my twelfth wedding anniversary, and Thursday I was one of the helper parents at Petra’s soccer practice. Yesterday, finally, was pretty low-key with nothing particular on the schedule, and I passed much of the day binge-watching The Affair.
I hadn’t heard of the show until it won the Golden Globe for best drama last week. It’s really good, but in a deeply unsettling way. Yesterday I was feeling strange and uneasy around Olof, almost secretive and guilty, and it wasn’t until late in the evening that I realized that it was this damned show that had burrowed into my psyche. Once I made that connection and reminded myself, Hey, it’s not MY marriage that’s fucked up, everything was fine. But wow, that’s some pretty powerful and insidious stuff. I’m three episodes away from the end, and I can’t finish soon enough, if only to get it out of my head space.
January 11th, 2015
I should have better things to write about, you’d think, but I’m really at a loss. However, I do have a delightful video of our cat, Prins Bertil, helping himself to a drink that he believed was unattended:
January 4th, 2015
This is from a conversation between Petra and Tage that I overheard probably nearly a year ago now, but I thought of it for some reason this afternoon, and it still makes me laugh.
Like most kids–or most people, even–my kids can sometimes be insufferably superior about their language skills in relations to others’. Their English classes at school are a constant source of hilarity and/or frustration for them, and in this particular conversation they were commiserating about many of their classmates’ inability to properly pronounce “th”, a sound that doesn’t exist in Swedish. For some reason, the failure to master the word “three” was of especial concern to them just then, and they complained about it being pronounced either “free” or “tree”.
“I’ll count to free,” Tage said. “Expensive, cheap, free!”
Not to be outdone, Petra countered with, “I’ll count to tree! Seed, sapling, tree!”
As a foreigner who herself has trouble nailing down more than a couple unfamiliar sounds, I had to interject and explain that they weren’t really being very nice, but in my head I was laughing appreciatively at their cleverness.
January 1st, 2015
December 31st, 2014
Nothing much is happening here this New Year’s Eve. The biggest excitement was probably that Olof and I both took pictures of our cat, Gwen, snoozing in a box (the top one is mine).
December 23rd, 2014
Last week, before we finally started getting some snow, I took this picture of a flock of birds on the tree behind our garage. Appearances to the contrary, this is a color photograph, not black-and-white. That should tell you something about how grey the days can be up here.
December 20th, 2014
I suppose this post is overdue, as I know there are people still waiting to hear. The notification of selections for Ph.D. positions in Uppsala and Stockholm were made on Wednesday, and I did, in fact, get a position at “my” university, Uppsala University. I’ll be working on the country house project, examining economic and cultural conditions of the clergy in relation to country estates on Sweden in the early modern period. The other position in Uppsala went to my school bestie, Astrid, and the fact that we’ll be working together for at least another four years is the icing on the cake. The whole thing is really a dream come true for me, and I can’t quite believe yet that it’s real. I have my first meeting with my supervisors on January 13, and I’m sure it will start feeling more real then.
I know it’s a little gauche to toot my own horn like I’m about to, but I suppose my own blog is a reasonably appropriate place to do it. Not only did I place highest among the applicants for the position I was offered (a group that, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll acknowledge included only three other applicants), I also placed second in a pool of 45 applicants for the non-project positions in Uppsala and Stockholm. That fact still blows my mind, particularly when I recall how uncertain I felt about my abilities in the first year of my master’s program. It took me a long time to stop feeling like I was swimming ridiculously out of my depth and, to tell the truth, I still don’t think I’ve got over that feeling entirely.