Archive for November, 2007

Confessions of a biker babe

Okay, not that kind of biker babe. Although I do confess to a chaste longing to ride a Harley and to wear leather pants. And I’m not really a babe either. I mean, when you pass me all you see is a bundle of black coat, hat and gloves going by. It’s freezing in Sweden.

I spend an average of an hour per day on my bike.

I feel pious when I ride my bike–not because I’m taking care of the environment, or improving my health but because I feel like I’m really struggling to endure as I push my way, pulling 80 + pounds plus of children, bike stroller, diaper bag, school things and piano lesson books. I have preached to  myself some brilliant sermons about adversity and likened my struggles of going up the hill to the worldly struggle of making it through life. (Easy to go down, hard to make it back up.)  

I love riding on cobblestoned streets in the dusk when I am going down the slope.

I hate riding on cobblestoned streets when it is dark and I am going back up the slope.

I could make my four-year old bike with me, but I hate walking up the hill beside him, pushing him all the while pushing my own heavy load, even more than just biking him in the trailer.

I think my bike is the coolest one in town.

I am the slowest biker in town–way behind the old people on trikes and the little peppy kids biking to gym.

I have a generator light on my bike and I am so pathetically slow and weak that the light generated by my puny attempts at pedalling is very dim.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to take my kids with me, because I probably could bike a lot faster. But then the baby squeals with delight when we go down hills, so that kind of makes up for the weight she adds to my load.


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Packing and cleaning

So today DH and spent the morning working intensively on our packing. We are making good progress. Most of what we are doing now is going through all our stuff, sorting it and then making the final decision about what goes.

Don’t you think that would make a good reality show? What stuff makes the final cut? I think it would be different for every person. My must keep items are Swedish books, some scrapbook stuff, and cookbooks.

Anyhow, today we threw out 5 large Ikea bags of stuff (sorry about contributing to the ever increasing landfill problem), pared down our clothes pile and filled up 2 Ikea bags with clothes to donate to charity. We’ve decided on what clothes we need out for the next two and half weeks. We’ve also taken down the pictures from the walls and now the apartment feels so bare, despite all the furniture still here.

The packing feels much better than the last time I did some major packing. I thought you might enjoy that entry: https://tiffanyswedemomisraeltrip.wordpress.com/2007/01/15/my-idea-of-hell/

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One day at a time

Recently I have watched the struggles of a friend dealing with an undiagnosed illness. She takes one day at a time, hoping for a good day and wonders about her future. Her struggles are achingly familar to me and I want to wrap her in hugs and words of comfort.

Four years ago, I became very ill. I dreaded looking in the mirror where I would see my hollow cheeks, rapidly thinning hair, and shrinking body. I struggled with the simple task of lifting my baby out of his crib. Ever present in my mind, in the haze of pain and fatigue, was the thought “what is going on with my body and will I ever recover?”

A few months later, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) commonly known as lupus. My reactions when I was told about my diagnosis were mixed. Part of me felt relief at having a name for what was happening to me and with that name, a possibility for treatment and a future. The other part of me was really sad. I wondered if I would be alive to see my grandchildren, if I could have more children, if I would ever see Greece or acheive my life-long dreams. Education about SLE helped me a lot, but still the future is very uncertain.

SLE is a chronic, auto-immune disorder, where the immune system attacks healthy systems. Research still has not uncovered the cause of the disease, but genetics plays a role. There is no known cure. The severity of the disease ranges from patient to patient. In my case, the disease has been relatively mild, mainly arthritis in my joints, chronic anemia, fatigue, and severely dry skin.

Truthfully, it is impossible to talk about my disease without talking about the miracles that I experience often. I was diagnosed and treated in Sweden so there were no issues or problems with insurance companies. My husband’s job (as a phD student) was very flexible so he has been able to help me immensely. The support, love, and help I received from my friends (who literally took the place of my extended family that lives thousands of miles away from me) has been tremendous.  And finally, the greatest blessing I have received has been that of health. I have been blessed to have regain much of my health. I continue to be monitored by a doctor and have frequent blood tests. But my medication works beautifully.

I look at my life now and am so amazed at the things I have been able to continue to do. I have a full, busy life. And sometimes it is a bit too hectic, but I’ll take hectic any day over being confined to my bed more than one day.

Even though I have been pretty healthy for the past couple of years, I still have not forgotten what I felt during those hard times. And I’m grateful, that for today, I can enjoy having a body that doesn’t hurt too much.

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The Golden Compass

A few weeks ago, I received forwards from two well-meaning family members about the movie, Golden Compass, and its content. I responded with my own opinion about the books, which I have read.

I just read a very thoughtful post by Brandon Sanderson, an LDS writer of Fantasy fiction, dealing with the Golden Compass controversy. I thought it was so well done, that I am going to post a link to it.  He certainly made his point far better than I could, so I will let you read it.


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A letter to a stranger

To a stranger that will probably never read this letter,

Today, as you took less than a minute to lend a hand as I struggled to push my bicycle and bike trailer with two small children in it up the hill, your spontaneous act of kindness lifted my spirits.

You see, my day had been long and exhausting. I had awoken at 6 a.m., fed and dressed my four children, sent two children to school and then biked the other two to a dental appointment. Then I biked all the way across town to leave my son at preschool.

I rushed to my doctor’s appointment and had to face the challenge of a lot of blood tests. The nurse had a difficult time with the needle and the whole affair left me feeling drained as she kept poking me.

I spent the day biking around, taking care of my children and attending to my obligations. By the time you helped me, I was very exhausted, feeling at the very end of my ability to physically complete the obligations I had left.

Your kindness lifted me and lightened my burden. Thank you for the time you spent caring for another person. I wish I could repay you, but I can’t since I don’t know you. But I’ll always remember you.

Thank you.

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Each year in Sweden, in the freezing darkness of December, small children and their parents get up extra early on December 13th to celebrate Lucia. This old custom is a beautiful one. It hearkens back to the days of saints and legends of a beautiful young girl, carrying food to persecuted Christians in the catacombs. Lucia would carry her food on a tray and wear a wreath of candles on her head to light the way.

In the dark and dismal days of winter, the Swedes took this beautiful story and made it their own. Lucia Dagen became the day to celebrate light in dark times. Of course, it has deep religious meaning, but since most Swedes are not religious, they have conveniently forgotten those parts and still enjoy the tradition of the celebration.

Girls and boys line up, wearing simple white dresses. The lead girl, “Lucia”, wears a red sash about her waist and a wreath of candles in her hair (electric!) The other girls follow, each holding a single candle in their hands. Then the boys follow wearing star printed “dunce” hats and star wands. The procession sings Christmas songs and a song about Lucia.

It is such a sweet tradition and one which all children seem to enjoy. Of course, most churches host Lucia concerts. We usually savor “lussekatter”, saffron buns shaped into an “s” and then dotted with raisins, after the songs have been sung.

This is my favorite Swedish holiday. I love the meaning of it. I love seeing the children dressed up and singing. I love lussekatter. But I have the worst luck with the darn performances. We have yet to attend a Lucia celebration where my children willingly participated.

Here are a few of my bad experiences! One year, ds #2, was slated to sing with his group. We bicycle to school and he refused to bike. I begged, pleaded, bribed and finally threatened him to get to his school. When we arrived, we were late and he stood in line with his bright reflective snowsuit and helmet on. Oh yes, the pictures were lovely. . .

Last year, I was determined that we would have a memorable Lucia that was scrapbook worthy. I bought the dresses and dunce caps for the boys. So what happens? DS #2 refuses to participate. He won’t even let me get a picture. I end up with pictures of him sitting hunched on the floor. But my hopes were still high with the thoughts of DS #1’s celebration. His performance was scheduled in the evening. We planned everything only to arrive late and in the wrong location. His disappointed sobs as he realized he missed it, were heartbreaking. It was awful.

So this year, I’m going to bag my expectations and just do the best we can. But we will be early for the evening performance. I’m just glad we get one more try!

Oh, and Lucia is definitely something I’m going to export to the U.S. I make fantastic lussekatter and can’t wait to share them. . .

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I love my bicycle

And you would too, if you had it.



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