You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2009.

It doesn’t feel like Friday, since I had half of Wednesday and all of yesterday off.  And I have Saturday, Sunday and Monday off!  Darn near a vacation!

Thanksgiving was good.  Possible new tradition – sarong, fuzzy reindeer antlers and pink champagne?

Today is Sinkie Day – the day where everyone is supposed to eat their leftovers over the sink.  But I ate my Thanksgiving lamb over the pan last night – does that count?

It was 73 degrees today and I hiked for an hour and a half – nice.  LOVE my iPod!

Lumpdate:  Stll having a deep ached from time to time in my left breast.  I don’t understand it.

This is the first Thanksgiving I have spent alone in 29 years.

Thanksgiving when I was growing up was a quiet family affair.  Mother would cook a turkey, Daddy would make mashed potatoes, Mother would make gravy.  The vegetables were an afterthought.  Mother would make piecrusts and Daddy would make pies.  Sounds so equitable, doesn’t it?  We would have an early dinner, in our usual fashion, on our little low tables in  the living room.  Daddy would make a fire.  Football would be on the TV.  Every so often, one of our parents’ maiden lady friends would come over.  I don’t really recall it, but there are pictures as evidence, that one year E-Bro and I did some sort of little pageant for Doralyn and Damon.  Generally, it was just a cozy, loving relaxed time.  Very nice memories.  Warm and safe.

The first and, up until now, only Thanksgiving I ever spent alone was my first one away from home when I was 18.   Money was tight, so I decided to stay in Boston for the holiday.  I didn’t think it would be a big deal, as I had never found Thanksgiving to be a big deal.  As I wrote above, it was just a quiet holiday.  Because they closed the dorms, I was going to stay at my boyfriend’s apartment, even though he was going home to Pittsburgh. Well, we wound up breaking up shortly before Thanksgiving, but agreed that I could still stay in the apartment because he wouldn’t be there anyway.  I was really devastated by this break-up, even though we weren’t very serious, and so staying in his place was not a good idea.  I had bought myself some champagne and roses, woke up and watched the parades and drank champagne and cried.  A tradition was born.  (I also ate port wine cheese and crackers, but left that out of future reenactments of the tradition.)  I was miserable.  In the early afternoon, I pulled myself together and went to the movies to see My Brilliant Career.  It cheered me up a bit.  But then I went to Store 24 to buy myself a TV turkey dinner, and the East Indian man at the counter felt so sorry for me that he invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with him and his family.  That was the nail in my feeling-better coffin.  I went back to the apartment, cooked my TV dinner – this was back when they came in the little three-compartment metallic trays – cried my way through dinner and the obligatory Christmas TV shows and went to bed early.  I was awfully glad that day was over.

The next Thanksgiving, I went home with my friend Elsa and spent the holiday at her house in Billerica.  I don’t recall it very well, but I remember woods, and that it was nice to be with a family, even if it wasn’t my own.

After that, I was in Boulder.  My Dad started what became a wonderful tradition.  He would come out to see me, all by himself, for Thanksgiving.  E-Bro would typically go home to see my Mother, although she spent a few Thanksgivings happily alone.  Thanksgivings with my father added to our already-close relationship.  He would usually stay at the University Inn, since I never lived anywhere large enough to have company.  We talked about everything under the sun. 

The first year, I didn’t have a kitchen, so after struggling to locate an open restaurant, we found ourselves having Thanksgiving dinner in a basement Chinese restaurant on the Pearl Street Mall.

For our second Thanksgiving, I cooked my first turkey.  I was living in my cold little upstairs apartment with the red shag carpeting that climbed the walls and the turquoise-tiled bathroom with the claw foot tub.  And the mice and faulty gas heater.  We ate on the floor, using a trunk covered with a lace shawl as our dining table.  I must have called my Mother ten times for turkey cooking advice.  He was so proud to have been there for my first bird.  It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad.

Subsequent Thanksgivings were with Pat, but my Dad still came out.  We ate at the Red Lion the first year, and cooked in our triplex for the next two years, usually having CJ and Debbie for company.  As neurotic as Debbie was, my Dad was quite fond of her.  I believe Pat and I went back to North Carolina for one Thanksgiving, just after we got engaged. 

After that, almost everything Thanksgiving was spent at my brother-in-law/sister-in-law’s house, with their girls and friends.  It was always very nice, even though it was a larger crowd than I was generally comfortable with.  My Mother came with my Dad for a couple of Thanksgivings, and  Once my parents reached a certain age, though, they both stayed in Durham for Thanksgiving.  That’s when the champagne-parade-tears tradition started.  And so it continues.

Last year, I had just moved into the cottage.  I had company, a leg of lamb, my tearful tradition, and a nice day.  This year, it is just me.  Pat’s family has invited me to share their Thanksgiving, saying it’s not the same without me.  Of course it’s not – and that’s the whole point.  If I wanted it to be the same, I’d have stayed married.  I need to separate myself from that level of family, though certainly not from Kelsea.  I need to find my own family, whether that’s in my relationship with a lover, myself , or perhaps both.

It is time to find a new tradition.

Today’s guest poet  —  Rumi.

The World is no Match for your Love

This world is no match for your Love.
Being away from you
is death aiming to take my soul away.
My heart, so precious,
I won’t trade for a hundred thousand souls.
Your one smile takes it for free.

Lumpdate: I am starting to feel some pain in my breast – not where the lumps are, just a deep ache sometimes.  Hallucinations, hysterics, psychosomatic, nothing, who knows?

Holidays after a divorce are sad.  I had a family, but I am not part of it anymore.  Not really.  I haven’t spent a Thanksgiving by myself since I was 18.  Ah, well.

There are flowers, and Kelsea, and the promise of spring someday to be thankful for.  Where’s the strength I need now?

 

I don’t like to whine.  Truly I don’t.  It gets you nowhere and actually makes you feel worse.  I hope it seems more like I’ve been documenting my feelings around the divorce rather than whining about it.  So my writings about my feelings about the lump are to be of a similar tone.  As I say, I hope it doesn’t come across as whining.  Let’s call it emotional journalism, shall we?

I gathered my cojones and called the surgeon yesterday.  Of course, I got his appointment desk recording, and they said to allow them 24 hours to call back if I was requesting an appointment.  We’re at 24 hours now and not a peep.  Is it the approaching holiday that accounts for the delay?  Or do they just not want me?  Am I being rejected by the medical community?  I understand that offices can be closed.  But do THEY understand what it takes to reach out to a surgeon?  I somehow don’t think they do.

It seems with medical “stuff”, you have to make your own arrangements for everything.  Call for a mammogram  So if I have a mammogram, when do I hear something?  And from who?  Does that mean I have to schedule something else with the mammogram people?  Something else I have to wait for? Didn’t the doctor mention an ultrasound as she was leaving?  Call the doctor to confirm.  Call for an ultrasound appointment.  What were those surgeons names she blithely mentioned as she walked out the door?  Call to get the surgeons’ names.  Call for a surgical consult – or something – wait, what am I asking the surgeon for?  Here’s the name of an oncologist, just in case.  When do I call them?  And what for?  And the name of a breast reconstruction surgeon.   Huh?  The other surgeon doesn’ t do that? When am I supposed to think about THAT?  

And you know what?  I’m doing all this and I’m scared.  And there’s nothing anyone can do about that.  This sort of thing just lingers in your mind.  It’s hard to keep from feeling for the lump.  Is it bigger?  Is it gone? 

I am chewing my fingers out of stress, so Denise just gave me a squeezy stress hot dog.  That helps.  Am I overreacting?  I am tired, headachey, exhausted — is it stress?  Or am I “sick”?

Pat has taken Kelsea for lunch at the hospital cafeteria – strange, I know, but it’s good, inexpensive vegetarian food.  Is it a portent of things to come?

I’m so tired of thinking about this.  Where’s the mind eraser when you need it?

 

Ah, yes.  The icing on the cake – or perhaps it is better characterized as between the layers? 

What better device to take my mind off the reality of my divorce and my impending unemployment than a lump in my breast?  No, wait – I’ve got it — two lumps in my breast!  One found by me, the other found by my doctor.

Let me preface the remainder of this post by saying it may be TMI for some, but perhaps it can be an educational experience for others.  For me, it’s a journal.

Every breast is different, just as every woman is different.  Now, I haven’t felt a lot of breasts in my time (with the exception of that group grope in the catering kitchen of Lionsgate after Mary got hers done).  It’s not something we women really discuss.  Men have, of course, felt more than I have, assuming they are lucky men, but they are not going around feeling breasts with the same focus as women such as myself.

I’ve got nice breasts, even now.  Back in my teens and twenties, they were small and practical.  Now they’re not small anymore – I would best describe them as “lush”.  I’m really quite fond of them.  From a breast tissue standpoint, they’ve always been lumpy, to use the technical term.  I’ve never felt comfortable doing breast self-exams because of their lumpiness.  I was never sure what I was feeling, and I was always a little queasy doing self-exams, probably because I was uncertain and afraid I would find something, because of my Mother.  And so I, like millions of other women, just wouldn’t do self-exams, unless it happened to cross my mind when I was in just the right headspace.  On the positive side, I have been religiously good about getting mammograms since my very early thirties, also because of my Mother.

So two months ago, when I was in the right headspace, I noticed a sort of thickening in my left breast.  Since I’m naturally lumpy (that really doesn’t sound attractive, does it?) and it was just after my period, I didn’t think much about it.  But three weeks ago, it came to my attention again, and it felt like there might be something unusual there.  Then I promptly forgot about it.  Until about ten days ago.  And I really felt it.  That was a Friday.  I called my doctor on Monday.  She saw me on Tuesday, and confirmed that not only did I have the lump I’d been feeling, but I had another one as well. 

When she confirmed my suspicions, she told me we needed to schedule a mammogram and an ultrasound, and a biopsy.  Biopsy?  That’s the word that makes your hands tingle and your head suddenly feel all light and spinny.  That’s the word that suggests that the dark things that have lived in the corners of my mind for years may be creeping out into the center of the room.  Doctors seem to toss the word out there so casually – do they know how it makes their patient (oops, almost said victim) feel?

The CNP proceeded to ask me more about my Mother’s medical history with her countless cancers, and asked if I had considered genetic testing.  My response was essentially, “Duh..uh..uh..i dunno?”  She said she knew how I felt and that her own mother had died of breast cancer when she (the CNP, not her mother) was eight years old, and she didn’t want the testing and they hadn’t told her that her mother died of cancer until she was “in the ground.”  You know, somehow, this story wasn’t making me feel any better.

On her way out the door, she tossed out the statement that I should talk to a surgeon (which generated a new round of feeling like a dog left on the side of a highway) and gave me a few names.  My parting words to her were, “I think you may have to write those down for me later.”  She laughed. 

How surreal the whole thing was.  Is.

That was Tuesday.  I called for my mammogram and they can’t see me until December 1.  Kelsea’s birthday.  How special.  I remember my Mother telling me on my 18th birthday, when she came in to kiss me goodnight, that she had cancer and was going in for surgery the next day.  She kept waiting to find the right time to tell me, and it somehow never came.  I remember lying in my bed that night, silently crying, tears flowing into my ears, thinking that THIS is what it’s like to be a grown-up.  Great.  I don’t want to tell Kelsea on her 13th birthday if my results are less than positive. 

I told Kathy and Denise, told Pat, told Mr. GF, told Issy, told E-Bro, told my boss Ivan.  That sounds like a lot of people to tell, now that I think about it.  I told people to feel less alone, but it didn’t seem to really help.  All last week, when I went to bed at night, I felt alone.  Very alone.  The hamsters that appear in the wee small hours have added a new team member – Cancer.  A little fuzzy hamster in a black cloak with a scythe.

Everyone has been a great comfort – Denise and Issy have offered to take me to the mammo appointment, Ivan provided me with some referrals for a good surgeon and oncologist (that one set me spinning again).  E-Bro and Bubba Sue are as supportive as they can be and make me feel loved.  Mr. GF offered the security of his arms and dedication regardless of how many breasts I have.

I told Kelsea yesterday.  I am not good at hiding things from her – she knew something was up.  It was hard – not as hard as telling her about the divorce, but hard.  We both shed a few tears and spent the rest of the day snuggling and laughing.  She is certain everything will be all right.  She offered to sleep with me, to keep me company.  It was enough just having her in her own room down the hall.

80% of breast lumps turn out to be non-cancerous.  There are many reasons that they appear, and they can disappear with no treatment at all.  But when you find a lump, cancer is the first thing that comes to mind.  If you watched your Mother die of cancer less than three years ago, after she’d lost one breast to it, and had a lumpectomy years before that, cancer is at the forefront of your thoughts.  Perhaps it’s alarmist, but it simply can’t be helped.  I have to ask myself, “Am I the 1 in 8 who will get breast cancer?”  I am one of ten women in my department at work.   Is it going to be one of us?  Is it going to be me? 

Is it already me?

Oatmeal – the caped crusader in the battle against cholesterol.  But why does it have to be so glutinous?

I had yesterday off and treated it like an actual vacation day – didn’t get out of bed until around 9:30, cleaned the house (a little), did some thrift store shopping, saw Kelsea for a few minutes, watched Bones, played computer games.  I did try to take a walk, but it was remarkably muddy.  A pretty good day.

At the thrift store yesterday, I spent $3 on a sweet little dressing gown from the ’60s.  When I got home and put it on, I felt something in the pocket.  It was a neatly folded, unused tissue.  My Mother had one or two neatly folded unused tissues in the pocket of every coat, sweater or pants that she wore.  It seems to be a universal little old lady trait.  Thanks to the little old lady who used to own the dressing gown for the sweet memory of my sweet Mother.

I used to get my Christmas shopping done months in advance.  I would pride myself on it.  (Although E-Bro will vouch for the fact that, no matter how early I finished the shopping, I was almost always late on the shipping.)  My, how times change.  I have a few things stashed away, but am only just now getting down to business.

I wonder where the factory that makes plastic pink flamingoes is located?  Sounds like a job for Google…I seem to recall that they were stopping production, but I still see the darling little buggers for sale.  Either they caved to the uproar of protest from the masses or some other company has taken up the slack.

It occurs to me that randomness posts might tell you more about me than I would imagine, as they share the minutiae of an occasional day – sort of like Tweeting for the whole day in one place.

Speaking of which, I can’t get into the whole Twitter thing.  I really don’t need to know what someone is thinking, doing, eating or smelling at every moment of the day.  I mean, who has the time??

It is a lovely quiet sunset over the mountains tonight.

Today’s guest poet – Author Unknown

What Cancer Cannot Do

Cancer is so limited…..
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the Spirit.

Eldorado

I’ve watched Kelsea’s education with an interested, inquisitive and critical eye for almost ten years now.  It continues to be a journey, one that has brought up many memories of my own education.  As  a parent, you find yourself having to help with homework, and trying to remember things that you learned 35 years ago, and have now forgotten.  Thank the Gods for Google – it’s a great mind-refresher.

The questions that Kelsea keeps justifiably raising are, “Why do I need to learn this?  When am I ever going to use this?”  Well, I provide the standard maternal responses – “We all have to pay our dues.” “You never know what you’re going to wind up doing with your life.”  But inside, I’m saying, “She’s right!  When is she EVER going to have to know about Elodea leaves and what happens to their cells when you put them in salt water??  And when is she ever going to have to use negative numbers?  This person wants to be a paramedic.  She wants to work in a bookstore in Hay-on-Wye in Wales.”

Our academic system – the whole “no child left behind” and C-SAP testing – may (and I say MAY) support children who are at a disadvantage in one way or another, but for the majority of children, it doesn’t seem to teach them anything useful, anything that will actually help them develop their identity and the skills they will need for whatever profession they choose, unless that profession is academics.  A friend told me that all of the things they are teaching her really boil down to teaching her different ways to think.  I support THAT, if that is so.

But even if that is indeed the case, why is it not possible to make the entire academic experience more engaging?  It feels as if we are training our children that they must get up at a certain time and go do something that bores them until they are “freed”.  Sounds like a lot of our jobs, doesn’t it?  Are we just conditioning them into the same monotonous, choice-free way of life that the majority of us now experience?  Why is it not possible to foster a culture of free-thinking entrepreneurs among our youth?

I understand and appreciate that there are academic standards that need to be met — that all students need to be measured by some bar that indicates their level of competency.  What I don’ t understand is why it has to be so dry.  There are teachers out there who have very creative and engaging ways of educating, but who are stifled by the regimentation of the system.  Typically, those teachers are beloved and remembered by students, not because their classes were slack, but because their classes were inspiring and fun, and subsequently, their subject matter is remembered.  But these are the same teachers who are challenged and reprimanded by principals and school boards (and by parents who fear non-conformity.)

When children are in the lower grades, creativity and fun are emphasized in the learning process.  Make the child love school.  Why do we abandon that at the higher grade levels, when children are once again changing, and need to be helped to love school again?  Kelsea used to cry when she was unable to go to school because she was sick.  Now, it’s like pulling teeth to get her enthused – and she’s smart, social and has good grades.  Imagine if she were none of those things.  The challenge for both her and us would be magnified to the nth degree.  (To her credit, when Pat and I both wanted her to take a mental health day not so long ago, she employed her own ethics and decided it wasn’t the right thing for her to do – even though she had begged us to not make her go to school on previous days.  I was proud of her.)

Yes, it might take a little more work to come up with interactive and interesting ways of getting core information across.  But wouldn’t it be more interesting, rewarding and challenging for the teachers and the students?

While I have been evolving this opinion over a number of years now, what really heightened my awareness was my introduction to the grammar texts of Karen Elizabeth Gordon:  The Deluxe Transitive Vampire and The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed.  Both books teach all the core concepts of grammar and punctuation, as well as some valuable nuances, using examples that are entertaining and memorable.    Since the English language can be a toy, of course it’s easier to make English textbooks fun than to make an Algebra textbook fun, but by gum, I’m certain it can be done, and there are no doubt geeks or academics who would be more than willing to take on the challenge.

And about school start times….physiologically, kids in the teen years don’t have their melatonin levels raise until late in the evening.  They’re not ready to go to bed early and they’re not ready to get up early.  Everyone’s lives would be more pleasant and productive if school didn’t start until 9:30 or 10:00, and get out at 4:00 or 5:00.  What’s the rationale?  An 8:40 start time does not allow parents to get to work at 8:00, and a 3:30 release time does not allow them to work until 5:00.  (Not that I am in agreement with an 8:00 to 5:00 workday either.)

Who among us adults, even now in our 40’s, does not have those dreams of going to a class and realizing you’ve missed the entire semester and are now here for the final?   Or of not being able to find the classroom for the entire year?  Why do we still have nightmares about school when we are well-established professionals?  I think it speaks to the angst and trauma that the current academic system instills in us on a level of which we are unaware — unaware because we are following a formula that is incompatible with our core.

Make classes have a more global focus.  Make them more interactive.  Make them fun.  Make school a comfortable and welcoming place to go.  Respect our children’s native intelligence.  And our children will learn and be hungry to learn more.  It’s that simple.  Then perhaps our children will not be subject to our nightmares later on.

education1

When someone says “Sweden”, what do you think of first?  Blondes?  Moose?  Blonde mooses (meese)?  The Swedish Chef from the old Muppet Show?  Meatballs?  Well, there’s a lot more to Sweden than what you would expect.  I’ve not been there yet, but I’ve been doing a bit of investigating, and want to share some little known facts with you that prove without a doubt that Sweden surpasses all stereotypes and has some surprises to offer.

So, let’s get started.

Sweden is one of several areas above the Arctic Circle that is known as “the Land of the Midnight Sun,” a place where the lines between day and night become blurred.   For one or two months at the height of summer, the sun never sets; night is just a dimmer day, which can make hiking a wonderful experience, since you never have to worry about darkness falling.  You can even play midnight golf.  On the down side, however, having constant daylight can cause something called hypomania, which is characterized by a high level of creative and productive energy, a flood of ideas, euphoria, irritability, and elevated moods, but fortunately without the psychotic symptoms.  And as you might expect, in the winter, you get a corresponding period of darkness.  That’s the one that would do me in.

midnight_sun

The Swedes have the longest life expectancy of all Europeans, with an average death age of 80 ½ years.  I can’t seem to find out why, though.  Perhaps it’s the fish. 

swedish fish

I can’t imagine that the population’s cardiovascular health is spectacular because Sweden has the highest number of McDonald’s per capita in Europe. 

mcnavigator2

All of the Tsars of Russia were of Swedish Viking descent until the last one, the unfortunate Nicholas II.

CzarNicholasII

Stockholm, the capital city, was home to the first jumbo-jetliner-turned-youth-hostel.  What a marvelous idea for reusing decommissioned airplanes!  It looked clean and inexpensive, and even retained its oxygen masks, but unfortunately only lasted about a year.  It’s currently up for sale if there are any takers out there.

jumbo-jet-hostel-takes-off

The Stockholm Archipelago is one of the finest (though I would imagine chilliest) sailing spots in the world.  With over 24,000 islands, and only 1,000 of them being inhabited, in a 100km span, it would be easy to find privacy for years on end.

stockholm archipelago

Expanding on the watery theme, Sweden has its own version of the Loch Ness Monster.  Lake Storsjon reportedly is home to a huge sea serpent, appropriately nicknamed “Storsie”  that has been sighted hundreds of times since 1635.   

Storsjon

Now instead of water, let’s talk about ice.  There’s certainly no ice shortage in Sweden.  In fact, one of the things on my “Yet to be done” Life List is to stay in an ice hotel, and the most famous of the ice hotels is rebuilt annually in the area of Jukkasjarvi, near the Torne River.  This distinctive lodging has beds made from snow and ice, covered with reindeer skins and thermal sleeping bags, and an Ice Bar that serves beverages (vodka being a favorite) in glasses made of ice.  (They offer a souvenir glass made of ice to each guest, but I can’t imagine how challenging it would be to get it home.)

ice hotel bar

icehotel-main

This will be the 20th year that artists from all over the world have participated in its construction from 1000 to 2000 tons of ice.  Obviously, it melts every year, which must be mixed blessing.  I’m sure the architects, builders and proprietors are sad to see a work of art flow back into the river every year, but at the same time, there must be a sense of relief and accomplishment, a soulular connection with nature and the river, and excitement at being able to rebuild a more splendid place the next year, after a good summer off.

There are other truly unique places to visit that are off the beaten path in Sweden.  Ladonia is an excellent example.  An independent state in the Kullaberg Nature Preserve, Ladonia is a triangular-sized plot of land of about 1km, and is ruled by a queen and numerous ministers, including the Minister of Things Under Rocks, the Minister of Animals Especially Cows, the Minister of Harley Davidson Motorcycles and the Minister of Headphones and Bad Jokes.  Ladonia is a micronation, with all of its 14,000 inhabitants being nomadic and taxes being paid by donating creativity.  The structures that make up Ladonia are amazing.

ladonia-3

The Car Cemetery lies in a forest about 2km north in the city of Ryd.  Years ago, people started taking their cars to an old gentleman who liked repairing them for little or no money.  Well, he eventually found his way to a nursing home, but there were hundreds of cars around his property in the forest, covered with moss in the summer.  In exchange for leaving the cars in their final resting place, as they very much reflect the heritage of the country, all signs directing people to the Car Cemetery have been taken down, so one must inquire of locals for directions.

carcemetery_terje_enge

But rest assured, if it takes you a while to find it, they have exceptionally clean toilets in the middle of the woods in Sweden.

Swedish outhouse

And very cool phone boxes – but you probably won’t find one in the woods.

swedish phone booth

Or here, for that matter – if this place exists.

According to the Swedish Travel Board, directions to Chako Paul City have lately been much sought after by Chinese businessmen visiting Sweden.  Reportedly founded in 1820 by a wealthy man-hating widow, Chako Paul City houses 25,000 sex-crazed lesbians.  The city is guarded by a pair of blonde amazons, and women are only let out of the city to have brief liaisons with men (which makes no sense if they are lesbians.)  Most of the women in town are employed in the foresting industry, and sport wide belts of woodworking tools.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the town is a myth.  But the search for it has helped boost tourism in northern Sweden.

sweden-map-chako-paul-lesbian-city-is-fake

Regardless of your reasons for visiting Sweden, here are a few customs that you should be careful to follow:

–           Always, always, always be on time.

–          It’s the custom to take off your shoes when entering a Swedish home, so be conscious of the condition of your socks.

–          Do not put your coat on before you step outside the doorway of a Swedish home, as it is seen as rude and an indication that you are anxious to leave early.

And make sure you are aware of a few unusual laws:

–          Prostitution is legal, but it is illegal to use the services of a prostitute.

–          You can own your own land, but only to a depth of a half of a meter.

–          You may not repaint your house without the government’s permission.

–          If you release pigs into a jointly-owned beechnut forest, and you have exceeded your quota of allowed pigs, you will have to pay each other owner a fine for each excess pig and fix any damage that the excess pigs caused.

On another lawless note, a Christmas tradition is the victim of violent crime nearly every year.  Every year since 1966, a huge straw goat (Gavleblocken) has been built at Christmas in city of Gävle.  And almost every year, vandals have destroyed the goat – the poor thing has been burned (numerous times), run over by a motorized vehicle, and thrown in the river.  Starting in 1988, gamblers were able to place bets on the fate of the goat with English bookies.   The goat is guarded by police, volunteers, fences, webcams, and the Goat Committee that has been appointed to look after it.  The only year of its history in which nothing happened to the poor goat was 1994.  Its reprieve was only because, in this year, the goat followed the Swedish national hockey team to Italy for the World Ice Hockey Championships.  (I would have dearly loved to see the goat on the move.)  The goat’s most unusual demise occurred in 2005, when he was fired by a gingerbread man shooting a flaming arrow, and burned by vandals dressed as Santa.  Can’t wait to see what happens this year! 

straw_goat_big

The Swedes seem to have a bit of a thing for large replicas of farm animals.  The world’s largest wooden horse, or Dalahast, painted bright red, is to be found in the Swedish city of Avesta.

dalahast

Well, because I love them and because I can’t let all of the Swedish stereotypes go unaddressed, I have saved the best for last – the Swedish moose.

There are over 200,000 moose in Sweden.  Moose signs are common on the roads, and you must watch out for moose particularly on the smaller, less-travelled roads, around 11:00 pm.

Moose-Sign-sweden-553113_75_66

The safest way to observe moose is a on a visit to….the MOOSE GARDEN!  The Moose Garden in Orrivken, is home to Elvira, Blenda, Bettan, Nordis, Helge and Beppe, and the owners hand-produce eco-friendly paper from moose poop. 

beppe

 You can pay a virtual visit to the Moose Garden via the “Moose Cam” (here), which is, according to the Moose Garden website, “a web cam in which you can take a look on our beatyful mooses.”  After all, hade första hornet ifjol och var då en 6-taggare, vad månde bliva?? (which I pulled from the Moose Garden site and makes absolutely no sense when translated into English.)

mooselick

So, ha en lycklig kvall – which means “have a happy evening”.

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