June 4th, 2014
For many years now, my mom has come to Sweden for a month every summer. She always schedules her trip to arrive a day or two before Petra’s birthday on July 19 and to leave a few days after Tage’s on August 12, and we have a yearly family birthday party for all the kids on the first Sunday in August. So, in addition to the fun of having her visit for a long time, we have plenty of celebration going on. We also make time for a few days away at one or another semi-close camping area — our current favorite is Byske — where we rent a cabin and have a little mini-vacation away from home. So, there’s always plenty going on while she’s here, and as one would expect, much of it is centered on the kids.
Last summer we started talking about doing something a little bit different, both for a bit of grown-up “mommy and me” time, and also to give my mom a chance to see a bit more of this great country that has become something of a second home for her. I’ve been especially eager to give her a glimpse of my own second home, Uppsala, and we started tossing around ideas about how to make that happen. We decided, even before she went home to Texas last August, that this year I would fly down to the Stockholm airport and meet her when she comes to Sweden, then we’d rent a car and take a leisurely road trip up here to Bureå.
The trip is only eight or ten hours if you drive straight through, but we decided to give ourselves plenty of time to explore some of the byways, as well as the ubiquitous flea markets, so we’ve booked hotel rooms for four nights and won’t have to drive more than two or three hours each day. We’ll spend the first two nights in Uppsala, so we’ll have a full day there to see the sights, and from there we’ll make our way north, at an eminently reasonable pace. The kids all want to come along, of course, but for once we’ve resisted their pleas.
I’ve been so excited about this trip for months, and now that it’s so close I can hardly contain myself. I bought my own airline ticket last night, and I’ve started counting down the days (39, at this writing). There’s just nothing like Sweden in the summer, and I’m so looking forward to a road trip through Norrland in the prettiest part of the year, with an easy and agreeable travel companion. I just hope the rental car will have enough storage space to contain all the flea-market treasures we’re likely to find.
May 31st, 2014
I never get tired of taking pictures of this church.
May 30th, 2014
So, I defended my thesis on Tuesday, and it was completely, totally, beyond-my-wildest-dreams amazing. I presented before an audience of eighteen, including six Ph.D.s (not counting the examiner and my supervisor), three doctoral students, and seven other master students, and everybody was very positive about my work. The seminar went on for two hours, and once it got started I wasn’t nervous at all. I was asked some pretty complicated questions, but I answered everything well and felt like an absolute rock star when it was over.
I had a meeting with the examiner about an hour later to discuss my grade, and she was so positive that I was almost embarrassed. First off, she told me how good my paper was and that it was a “self-evident pass with honors”. She said that the questions I had been asked were at such a high level because there was nothing in the technical details that needed to be discussed — all of my theory, method, etc., was strongly presented and needed no clarification. Further, she said that I showed a strong ability to make subtle connections that not everybody would see and that I had written an elegant and nuanced paper bringing together three fields of history (consumption, religion, and professionalization) in a way that was highly relevant and interesting.
She told me that she hoped that I would apply for a Ph.D. spot at the university in the fall and that she also hoped that I’d get one. She assured me that because my thesis was so strong, my application would be very competitive, and that my merely average grades in the courses mattered very little. She literally did not have one negative thing to say in the entire meeting and I was absolutely on cloud nine when I left her office. She’s a well-respected historian within both the department and academic circles in general, so her high opinion is HUGE.
Now that that’s done, I’m kind of in limbo until September, when the openings for Ph.D. spots are announced. Applications are due October 15, with admission announcements in December. That feels like an awfully long time to wait, but it is what it is. At least I can finally read some fiction without feeling guilty.
Here’s a picture of me at my defense, followed by the official workshop photo. I’m already a bit nostalgic looking at them — I can’t believe how these two years flew by.
May 24th, 2014
Tomorrow morning I head down to Uppsala for my last visit there as a master student. It’s bittersweet, to be sure. I’m excited for my thesis defense on Tuesday, and I’m happy to have completed the program in a way that I’m proud of, but I’ll miss my life down there, and I’ll especially miss all of my classmates. After having spent two years back in the saddle, doing what I love and always meant to do, it’s hard to imagine not doing it anymore, even for a period of months (please, let that be all it is).
I really should be packing my suitcase instead of sitting in front of the computer, but my fingernail polish isn’t quite dry and I’ve already messed it up and redone it once, so packing will have to wait until later. Also, I’m not entirely sure what clothes I’m taking with me, as I’ll be gone for three days and the weather’s supposed to be pretty variable. I know what I’m wearing to my defense, but otherwise it’s up in the air. I don’t want to be stuck freezing in too-light clothing, and I really, really — in this land that mostly eschews air conditioning — do not want to be roasting and sweating in too-warm clothes. Probably what I’ll do is overpack, then curse myself the entire time for taking so much with me. Rather that, I guess, than not having any options in the even of a heat wave.
Speaking of such things, yesterday I bought my first pair of nylons in years and years. In fact, it may even have been the first pair I’ve bought in Sweden. I really like the outfit I plan to wear on Tuesday, but I’m not especially looking forward to wearing nylons all day. At least I managed to find a pair of comfortable shoes. We do a surprising amount of walking at these academic workshops, and I learned my lesson last year with shoes that were super-cute but not meant for all-day wearing.
May 23rd, 2014
I know I’ve written about my housekeeping woes here on more than one occasion, but this past several months — with Olof working full-time and me all but consumed by my thesis — the situation has reached near-disastrous proportions. Even at our very best, the house is never what one could call spic-and-span, but now the mess is at a whole new level. After my studies are wrapped up next week, I’ve vowed to devote myself to an intense and thorough regimen of housecleaning. Getting the others who live here on board will, of course, be the greatest part of the challenge. I’m feeling uncommonly determined, however, so they’d better watch out.
After I get home next Wednesday evening, the kids will still have two weeks left of school before their summer break, so I’ll have a number of days to get things organized without a bunch of mess-makers underfoot. Even as I type this, I know that I won’t get nearly so much done as I’d like, but at this stage, just about anything has got to be an improvement. If there’s one thing I sorely regret about the way I’ve raised my kids, it’s that I haven’t been more insistent on them cleaning up after themselves. It’s just so much easier, sometimes, to do things myself, but I know that in the long run I haven’t done any of us any favors by letting them off the hook so much.
May 17th, 2014
Thought I might as well post a link to my thesis, should any of you find yourself with time on your hands and a yen to learn about what 18th-century Swedish clergyman chose to spend their money on. Happy reading!
May 15th, 2014
On my thesis, that is. Despite appearances to the contrary, I’m still committed to writing in my blog. Maybe now that that 77½-page monster is done and dusted I’ll be more inclined to put a few words here now and then. I still have to defend the thesis on the 27th, but after that my program is over. I’d be a liar if I said that I wasn’t more than a little sad about the whole thing ending. With any luck, I’ll be admitted into a Ph.D. program, but the application process doesn’t start until the fall, so I’ll have a few months of free time, regardless. Ideally, I want to continue in Uppsala, but there’s no sense putting the cart before the horse in talking about that, as I don’t technically even have a master’s degree yet.
On all other fronts, life is well. It’s heading, ever so slowly, into summer here, so I’m pretty happy about that. I never would have dreamed ten years ago–or five years, even–but I’ve come to love the round-the-clock daylight, and this period of anticipation, when it’s just getting dusk for a couple of hours, is positively delicious. The only thing I hate about it now is how quickly it all goes away.
May 13th, 2014
I posted this on Facebook earlier, so some of you may have seen it before, but it’s too good not to record here as well.
The other evening, around 8 o’clock, I was out on the front porch with Yrsa. This time of year, it’s full-on daylight at that time. She noticed the moon on one side of the sky and the sun on the other. She pointed first to the moon and said, “It’s night there,” then to the sun, continuing, “and it’s morning there.”
Then, pointing again, she said “Night … and morning,” and gesturing with both hands above her head to encompass it all, she marveled, “and it’s exactly the same.”
Oh, child of the Far North.
May 4th, 2014
When we got our new little cat, Gwen, late last summer, we were determined to keep her indoors. Of the four cats we’ve lost since moving into this house, three of them were hit by cars, and those are nervous-making odds, to say the least. We’ve had one indoor cat for ten years, and it’s so nice not to have to worry about all the dangers that lurk out-of-doors. Of course, it bears mentioning that the primary reason he is an indoor cat is that he’s pathologically afraid of the outside world. He’s also the weirdest cat, bar none, that I’ve ever met and as such, he is seized once or twice a year by a bizarre compulsion to dash outside, and then all hell breaks loose. Once out, he realizes immediately, Oh, no! I’m outside!, and is consumed with regret. Instead of turning right back around and coming in the house, however, he panics and hides under the porch or in the ditch next to our house and mewls pitifully for as long as it takes us to catch him. That’s right, we have to physically capture him, rather than just to open the door and invite him inside. It’s a giant pain in the ass.
We had hoped that Gwen would learn from his example and be content to stay indoors, but weren’t so lucky. Almost since she came home with us, she has been positively desperate to get out. We tried letting her out on the balcony as a sort of middle ground, but she figured out early on that she could jump from the railing to the roof, and that’s not a good thing. Otherwise, we have managed, somehow, to keep her in, but it was obvious that she was unhappy about it, and even though I wanted to keep her safe, I was thinking a lot about her quality of life. If she was so clearly miserable, it was hard to feel like I was doing her any favors by keeping her in. So, last week when it was nice and sunny, I pushed down my misgivings and let her out. And you know what? It wasn’t all she thought it would be.
She does still express a mild interest in going out, but when we let her out she mostly hangs around on or under the porch for an hour or so before dashing back inside at the first opportunity. I had thought that she’d be much more adventurous and I was certain she’d be a hunter, but so far she doesn’t seem too keen. I suppose it’s possible that she’ll venture out more when she gets more comfortable, but I’d be perfectly happy if she’d continue to be content just nipping out for a bit of fresh air now and then.
April 26th, 2014
I hardly ever get sick (thanks, over-active immune system!), and even when I do, it’s generally mild. The whole family will be laid up with a cold, and I might have just a slight tickle in my throat for an afternoon or so. Usually.
Not so, this time. Olof has had a killer cold for more than a week, and it’s finally caught up with me. I should have known it was bad news when he missed an entire week of work, spending long hours in bed instead of in front of the computer. He’s not usually one to call in sick, and he ordinarily never naps, so it was obviously a doozy. And now it’s my turn.
I started feeling bad on Thursday, and even though Olof warned me about what was coming, I waved him off. When I didn’t feel better yesterday, I started to see the writing on the wall, and today I’m still not better. If anything, I’m worse. Ugh. It really is just a cold, but it’s a rough one. Apart from the garden-variety symptoms, I’m light-headed and exhausted and feverish, and my brain is just not working like it should.
I really don’t have time for this, with my thesis in its final stages, and it’s driving me crazy not to be getting any work done, but I just cannot focus. I’m so close to being finished and I’m itching just to get the rest written, but the thoughts aren’t coming. Luckily, I’m not in a huge rush, and I do have a few days to spare, but it’s still annoying. I’ve been trying to just power through it, but so far I haven’t been successful. I suppose I’ll give myself one more sick day tomorrow, but after that I really need to get back to it. Now, though, I think I need to get back to my bed.