My daughter created a new website for me. Something that I can use to incorporate my life’s work, she says. Really. An unfinished photo album and a unalphabatized collection of exercise music ought to draw the numbers.

I originally spelled “ought,” “aught.” I am losing my English, which means that not only do I lack the native tongue here, but I am also losing my native tongue, too. Soon I will only be able to communicate with Simbots.

Speaking of which, Karin and Edit created one of me. Karin asked me a list of personality profile questions, like, “Are you organized?” “Yes,” I said, stuffing the coffee stained toaster into the cupboard, on its side.

Why does every coffee maker double as a dribble glass?

A lot of this year’s style is noise. Not good. It is a sign of discord. Hard to explain, but if you took yesterdecade’s tie dye and covered it with the silk screening of fifteen haunted mansion sized cobwebs, or computerized Jackson Pollock, you might get a sense of the look.

The dog’s front ankles are broken. Wasn’t the damn ticks after all. It was all my running her. And the rocky terrain. And her kindly nature. “I can tell from her muscle atrophy that she would have run with you no matter how much pain she was in. Horses are like that,” the vet said. Or something like that. She was learning to run in weird ways. It wasn’t until she came out of the water soaked last week that I noticed that it looked like she was wearing baseball bat weights just above her high heel shoes. I fed her Canadian codeine for four days and took her to the vet this morning. The doggy ER didn’t have room for her last week. No orifice bleeding, I guess. “Do you have insurance?” they asked when I first checked in. I turned my head to the side, like a confused terrier. Insurance for dogs? Isn’t that what their big brown eyes are for?

No running. No stairs. No playing. No extra food. No getting in and out of cars. No extra food. It is a jail sentence. She will need a lot of codeine.


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London the Guinea Pig

The sink broke. I fixed it.

The dog broke. I think I fixed her.

See, I like prescription medicine. I think it helps when people and animals are sick. I am especially fond of antibiotics because one just never knows when one might run into something icky, and what I have learned over the years is that icky things do not heal well on their own, if at all. Trouble is, getting them requires a prescription, which is not a bad thing, per se. Probably a good thing, in fact. But here in the land of “Take a Number” I didn’t want to wait a week or two to see what disease my dog got this time.

‘Your dog London sure gets sick a lot,” my Swedish niece said to me the other day.

“Well, your Uncle used to get sick a lot when he came to the States. Immunity is site specific I am beginning to believe,” I explained.

Knowing that life can be a hassle, no matter where one lives, I have acquired the habit of never finishing a course of antibiotics. I keep two or four for back up. I know, I know. Anyway, so, when the cure for what I think the dog has read “doxycycline,” I thought, “I have some!” and into the Swedish meatballs they went. I am not completely irresponsible. I had called her vet first. On vacation until August 2. All of Sweden’s service industry, including sink fixers, go on vacation in July. I called another vet. No openings for a week. I went to the Apotek pharmacy, where owners get all dog medicines, along with their own. “Can I get doxycycline without a prescription.” No, the kind woman said, showing me a tube of Sweden’s equivalent of Neosporin. “Even if it is for a pet?” I continued, understanding I was making no sense. I thought of going to the Doggy Emergency Room, but was I to really spend $500 at least on blood work and x-rays and vet time when for the worst thing she could have, I already had the medicine for, maybe?

I am sure I will be calling the vet August 2 and spending $1000 just for the complications of being cheap and waiting, just as sure as the sink will blast apart again the day after.

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Back Online

New house. New window to look out of. Old time schedule. New attitude. For the moment.

The alarm went off at 5:00, and by 5:30 I had story lines on three events that had happened in the past 36 hours. It’s my internal clockworks and I’m sticking with it.

A tick is a sick euphemism for deadly spider in a baby lima bean overcoat. To make up for the fact that house and garden spiders are rarely bigger than a öre, Sweden is full of disease laden ixodes ricinus, that hang out on the top of grasses and pounce on anything that walks by. Quib.

When an electrical outlet fries out, it sounds just like a light bulb bursting, with the added sound of a mosquito on steroids. If the washing machine keeps trying to run, you will hear this two part harmony more than once. If you go to the fuse box and wonder why nothing has tripped, stop wondering and trip the room fuses yourself. If they are unmarked, look for the number pattern at the bottom of the room description page. It will feel like doing the morning crossword puzzle while you are trying not to pee your pants. Balance the cost of replacing all the food in your refrigerator and freezer against the cost of your fire insurance deductible, and then still decide, because you are cheap, to not turn off the master switch. Call your husband instead, and everyone else you know, only to learn that July is called “Contractors Holiday” for a reason. Go to the package you received from a homeowners association and call the number on the handyman flier, and be prepared to hear, “Left unattended, these things burn houses to the ground,” and “I have never seen anything like this. It could not have been done by a professional.” Then stop paying attention to his advice, and instead start wondering if the field of building construction is a lot like high school body typing. Are all the plumbers and mason layers the jocks, while the electricians more like the members of the audio visual club? After he has rewired your utility room, pay him whatever he asks. Anything has to be better than coming home to a pile of ashes.

My measuring cup is English on one side, and metric on the other. One cup is close to 250 mml, which is where the markings stop. My recipe called for 5 dls of one type of flour, that means 5 deciliters, which means 500 mmls, or in the bad cooks neighborhood, about 2 cups. But when the focaccio recipe called for 6 dls of something else, I started to see algebraic equations, like 1/16 over 3x. Then it all collapsed. Like the washing machine, I kept trying to reboot, suddenly thinking that 5 deciliters was 10 cups, and 6 dls an incomprehensible sum. Realizing that by doubling a recipe I had used up an entire package of flour, I thought the best way to double check my math was to pull the empty flour bag out of the garbage and see if it said 10 dls. There in the bottom corner of the bag I saw only “1 Kg”


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New Tools

Something is wrong when all I really want is a rototiller. I see them when I close my eyes.

When the circus comes to town...

I walked through a paint store on Sunday. Edit said that she wanted her walls to be in two shades, orange and pink. Last week it was green and blue. The week before, red and blue, “But then it will seem too American,” she said.

“Orange and pink are a tough match, honey,” I explained. “It will give you a headache. It will completely annoy me. I could work with orange and yellow, or …”
“I don’t want yellow. You said I could choose.”
“Yes, I did.” And she has had very little choice in much these days.

So I recalculated. Pink is just a concept, a jumping off point. There are a hundred pinks, and just as many forms of orange, so I found a color site to work with, Colour Lovers and spent four hours working up a color spread for Edit’s review, containing all the colors she has selected so far, trying to find a way to work something close to pink in with citrus yellow, lime green, turquoise, and orange. It should have been easier. I know in my California days I had clothes with orange and pink in them. But a dress is not a room. Walls are big and where they connect, it can be intense. So I worked and I came up with a color scheme, colors shown at their most intense, but would work together tinted as light as she wanted, and created the reddest almost-pink I could, thinking that she might like it enough to go with just it, only lighter. I printed it up and was all ready to go the house and tape it up to the wall.

“We should buy samples and paint combos on the wall, so she can see what we are talking about, how some things work, and others do not,” my husband said. “The painters come tomorrow.” “This was not how I had planned my day. I did the prep work on the computer.”

So there we were in a paint store, picking out 6 half pints of paint, too loudly discussing which samples to choose. I picked up six cheap brushes. He put them back and got one expensive one. He dropped me off at the new house, with the paint and the brush, and one screwdriver. I washed the wall and began making big squares of different color combinations, including a last minute throw in of a baby girl pink. I had no idea how to open the windows in room, and the sun was beating through the glass. I finished painting at five o’clock, two minutes before my husband returned with our daughter. She ran up the stairs to her room, walked in and looked at the colors for about fifteen seconds.

“Orange and yellow, just like I had said,” then ran out of the room.


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New House, One More Final Under My Belt, Hate on for Doctors

I had a scratched cornea the first time I went to the hospital in Sweden. “Grow up and deal,” the doctors told me. I didn’t really expect more. I was just a visitor.

The next time (and still just a visitor here), I was in the process of miscarrying. “Go home and let it happen,” I was told.
“Is there something more that should be done?” I asked.
“No. Women have been doing this for tens of thousands of years,” the doctor told me.

Not this woman, I thought, this time expecting a little more. So I went home and had the worst night of my life. A week later and back in the States unable to climb a flight of stairs without exhaustion, my own doctor threw me in the hospital, surprised I had any blood left in me. “You body didn’t get it all out, so it kept on trying,” he said, kindly.

“I’m not much of a cleaner.”

Today was supposed to be different. I just wanted a dermatologist to remove tiny bump of sebum that I kept irritating by mistake, which in turn kept swelling up and bothering me. No big deal. I get one about every seven years, like husbands. Anyway, I went to a private doctor and had my SEB card in hand. “Please take this away,” I asked.

“It is so small. There is really nothing wrong. Perhaps we should leave it alone.”

Where am I? Besides in a bad frame of mind. It didn’t bother me for six months and now it does and so please take it away because I asked nicely and I can pay.

Do some push ups instead.

I didn’t study hard enough for the last course. I missed too many classes and got too interrupted, so I blew the prepositions portion of the test. I knew I would. I told the teacher I would be better next time. Dumma me.

Closed on the new house 1st of June. We go over every night to stand in the middle of it all and smile. We won’t move in until the painters have finished. The dog runs about the place, looking like she is smiling too. It is odd when dogs look like they are smiling. She found a left over ball in one of the closets and it probably felt like Christmas to her. Edit found a left behind epileptic syringe. “PUT THAT DOWN,” I said.

Already it feels like a home.


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Prognostication i Svenska

During speaking exercises yesterday, we classmates had to ask each other questions. I got hit with, “What do you think you will be doing in 10 years.”

Jag ska vara död eller frånskild. (I will be dead or divorced.)

The youngsters in class were shocked at my attityd, but I explained that as we have been reading only Henning Mankell, my vocabulary is limited to sad lots and murder. Besides, my response was based on statistics. I was more disturbed that I didn’t know whether using “vara” was correct, along with anything else in that sentence. So much to learn, arrghh.

Our class is becoming like family, and the teacher said yesterday that she will continue teaching us into her normal vacation time this early summer, into the next level in the fall (which she doesn’t usually teach), and even if there are fewer than the class size minimum. I think we are the Folkuniversitetets equivalent of a special ed class. As we left school yesterday, we all began expressing how alone and isolated we each feel during the time we are not there. Walking alongside my two big, tall, testoneroney, macho-guy schoolmates who had so totally chimed in, I felt a little less crazy.

The clouds are dark and the wind has picked up. The seagulls are all now inland. It will soon rain. I was going to find a court somewhere and shoot hoops, but it feels like Mankell weather instead.


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It was 91 degrees and fry an egg on the sidewalk sunny in NYC yesterday. Really, my skin has been so lasered over the years, that people who say, “Let’s go sit in the park,” or “Let’s go to the beach” must forget that I have the skin of a premature infant. Or one in utero, for that matter. That’s how it felt yesterday, anyway. Ow. Ow, ow, ow, ow. I found a spot in the partial shade in Bryant Park and watched all the still Spring pale Caucasians turn pink in the time it took them to eat their respective veggie wraps and sip on iced coffees from Pret A Manger

The City was gearing up for the Sex and … sequel. I am just not that into it, what with all the clothes, group communication, bony knees, and perfect addresses, somehow folded into looping man-desperation. One step forward, two steps back, perhaps. And color. I mean, the best outfit I saw in NYC this trip was an amazingly rich looking, handsomely cut black suit that told all within eyeshot that the 50 or 60-something woman wearing it was so in charge. I see a suit like that once every fifteen years, a suit that steals my breath and demands a curtsey. Then there were all the hot graphites stealing hearts at All Saints in Soho. That is what NYC is about, but I know the SATC wardrobers will make the place look like LA.

Not there is anything wrong with that. Sort of.

I’m not a SATC kind of girl anyway, as much as I try. I bought this All Saints Idun trench dress just so I could have something sophisticated and hot for my anniversary.

Perfect for my Barbie

I came home with the wrong size. Real Carries and Samanthas never do that.


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Laughter is the Best Excercise

Twice on this trip to NYC, my daughters have made me laugh to the point where I thought I would have an asthma attack, and of course once in the airport and once in a restaurant, so it was completely inappropriate. The airport was about Photobooth ridicularity. Just when you think you can’t look any older and worn out, some twenty something from Apple hell on the hipster west coast devises the worst mirror ever. The restaurant was over one daughter styling her hair – at the table – to look like Jersey Shore’s Snooki, only blond. When I tried to say her name, it sounded Swedish – Snuuuuuki – and they reacted so to it, I thought I had said a bad word that can only be found in the Urban Dictionary. Yes, of course, you had to be there, but today all the muscles that surround my ribcage and spine ache. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. It has been years.

I don’t want to leave them.

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Toast Notes

In school this morning I gave a presentation about my homeland. I stood before my classmates, and said:
Jag kommer från USA. Det är ett stort land, med många olika manniskör…
I drew a huge map and gave in Swedish what I thought was an exhaustive overview of America’s geography and regionalism, with information like
“Cowboys bor här”
“Alla folk som bor sud om här tycker att Kanada är vår 51st stat.”
Ingen man tycker att Mexiko är an stat.”
Skandinavisker bor här, var det är kallt.
And at the end of the presentation which, even in the remotest philosophical sense, begged no questions, hands went up.
Can you talk like someone from Alabama.
Why has it taken you so long to get universal health care.
So forgive me if I toast as if an author reading from a new book. If I stay on script, perhaps I can limit questions.

For those of you I haven’t met, CB
I am also a lawyer, an editor, and a columnist.

So for me, for many of us here, words are everything. Our craftsmen’s tools, and our trusted companions, and on our best days, a way to get a client out of trouble.

I depend upon words, a lot, actually, to stay out of trouble. So I am lost here. For example, two weeks ago I went to the Rosengård vårdcentrallen instead of the one in my neighborhood. I didn’t know the words, so my ear juxtaposed Granens vårdcentralen into Rosengården and I went with it. I mean, why not?

Rosengården is such a pretty name.

Last Sunday I went to Jagersro racetrack to photograph a horse show. The place seemed deserted and I had no idea where to go, so I maneuvered my way in a restricted area, loaded with cameras and high fencing. The language barrier filters over signs that say Det är förbudet . I walked through the owners’ stables, saying “Hej hej” to all the expensive mastadons, hoping to somehow convince the oversized ponies that I belonged there, until a leathery horsewoman eyeballed me as if I were an exasperating six year old, and led me out of the secure area by my ear.

If I am to stay out of prison, jag must lära mig ett nytt språk.

Men att lära mig Svenska är mycket svårt.

Jag vet inte varför. Perhaps it is because I am something less than young? Perhpas my brain has become full
(I mean “full” not “drunk”) full is one of my favorite swedish word, so like Mandarin, one little word if misused can be such a problem
Or desicated. Ut torkad.
But it doesnt matter. I must learn, so every day a pack my Barbie and me lunchbox and go to the Folkuniversitetet and hope I remember where they put my room.

Men, det är inte bara att komma ihåg. Uttalet är också ett problem. Jag är rädd för att min man ska köpa ett hus vid en sjö (can you say that word for me?) lake. Han hade nog riktigt roligt när han hittade ett telefonnummer med fem (and this word?) sjuor …. till mig. Och min lärare kritiserade mig för uttalet “I morse” som om jag var född i Skåne.
Hur ska man säger “I morse,” frågade jag.
I Stockholm, säger vi “I moyshe.”
“I moyshe?” frågade jag. “Är det Yiddish?”
“Nej, det är inte Yiddish.”
Plötsligt tillbacka i rättsalen, fortsätter jag, ”Hur ska man säger “I morse” i Götebory?
”I Göteborg…i Göterborg,” tänkte hon. ”__ Det kvittar”
Jag lärde mig ett nytt ord den där dagen ”lokalpatriot”

Thank you for Strax. I am completely certain that it was fabulous. The funniest Strax ever, and I am hopping that by the next Karnival, I will so totally get it.

Because on the issue of words and communication, humor is another barrier. Funny often depends on growing up eating the same breakfast food, watching the same media icons. Take Donald Duck, for example. In America, Donald is mere periphery. Of the early Disney entourage, Mickey is the big man on campus, with Donald at best his foil. Here, Donald is, well, Christmas. I walked out of the a vintage comic book store in Old Town in Stockholm once, wondering, why does Donald have that kind of pull here. “The color of his clothes match the Swedish flag,” my co-writer offered. “No. That’s not funny. Try again,” I said. “Because he is a sailor and wears no pants,” he slung back at me. Bingo. We had it, a line that makes me chortle, giggle, or smile every time I hear it, but does it work over here? I don’t know and I’m not asking my teacher. She is already mad at me for causing a ruckus in class over the course material’s simplification of the distinction between tycker and tror. She got so frustrated, she looked at me and said, “Du, du advokat.”

I was thrilled. flattered.

No, no matter hurdles, it is important to learn another language for many reasons, including for business. I am never going to get that second meeting if the CEO ask me “Prata Svenska?” and the best I can do is show what Rosetta Stone and I have been able to accomplish to date: “Fiskar simmar” or the infinately more complicated, “Bussen svänger höger.”

Men jag kan kanske de viktigaste orden. Jag kan “tack för mat och vin”
”Fantastisk show”
“Det är vackert här” och
”trevligt att träffas”, och jag tror att jag talar på allas vägnar när jag säger dem orden. Och nu ett ord till. Skål.


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In New York City with a Hate On for Ironman 2

Ironman had at least the suggestion of a soul. Not even the Wrestler himself or Johannson’s stunt double could save Ironman 2.


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