Finally it's Melodifestivalen time! On Saturday night we ensconced ourselves on the sofa with a bunch of junk food and our phones ready to chat with our schlager-loving loved ones in London and Söderköping and across town. Jamie lasted about two songs before he turned on cartoons on the iPad, but The Swede and I endured songs that ranged from mediocre to downright terrible, per tradition, for the better part of the evening. We'll be loving them all by March, but for now the best part is the chips, the chatting, and the good company on the couch.
It occurs to me that I talk a lot about the fishing, but rarely, if ever, mention that my husband is the boss of the dang ice. Let me just tell you something about The Swede, something that I've recognized since the very beginning, and something that I respect, admire, and envy:
My husband is a person who can do anything. Over the course of our almost ten years together, I've seen it enough to know that it's a fact. He sees something he wants to do, he analyzes the heck out of it, he practices, commits time and energy, thought and research, and then he kicks the butt of that thing. In just a few years, he's gone from hating every second of ice fishing to loving everything about it, learning everything about it, and getting amazing results. Yesterday he placed fourth in his class in a major competition, a huge accomplishment in its own right, but especially impressive considering the skill and experience of his competitors and the fact that he's been in the game for less than five years.
I couldn't be prouder. And while I'm impressed by the result, I'm in awe of the process. And I'm so, so grateful that our son gets to see all of it. That is, how to become a person who can do anything.
1. I got my first tattoo on my sixteenth birthday after at least a year of wishing and planning. My second came when I was twenty-three following a couple years of consideration. I promised to get my third with Erin a few years ago, but ultimately backed out because I wasn't absolutely positive. My track record of lengthy contemplation has led to my never for a minute having regretted either of my previous tattoos, despite their not being particularly cool anymore (if they ever were). But this year, after months and months of total certainty, an intense search for a skilled artist, and a lot of saving, I invested in a big ol' tat right there in your face. This lilac is a piece of artwork I'll get to have with me for the rest of my life, reminding me of my mom, every place I've ever lived, and that I'm kind of a badass. It thrills me every time I see it, which is obviously a lot.
2. Once upon a time I tried on a pair of Tom Ford Snowdons at an airport duty free shop and fell in love. They were a totally unjustifiable expense, so I'd resigned myself to never having them. Years later, I found that I needed glasses to drive and prescription sunglasses became, if not an absolute necessity, at least a very practical want. On a whim, I checked SmartBuyGlasses.com and found that prescription Snowdons somehow cost much less than the non-prescription ones I'd found at the airport all those years ago. I can easily say that this classic pair of prescription sunglasses that makes me feel like a boss is one of the best purchases of my life.
3. This is silly, but this set of sheets just really makes me happy. Every day, without fail.
4. Podcasts, you guys. I am learning so much. I eased into them over the years, but now I don't get into my car without listening to one. I can become a little stressed when I think about how much great content there is out there, so I'm going to try not to overwhelm you with the dozen or so podcasts I listen to regularly. The best, and the ones I'll recommend here, are the ones that have made me think about things differently: Rough Translation is about how other places and cultures are handling the same kinds of issues Americans are talking about, Heavyweight is a laugh-out-loud show about real people confronting someone about a moment from their past that they can't shake, Invisibilia is about the invisible forces that shape our lives like ideas and beliefs, and Uncivil is teaching me untold stories and busting myths about the American Civil War. Uncivil ought to be compulsory for Americans. But the very best podcast I've listened to - ever - and, in fact, the best bit of entertainment I've experienced in a long time is S-Town. It is a complex work of art and no description I could write here would do it justice and NPR's own doesn't come close either: John despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life. S-Townis about seven hours long, and I've listened to it nine times since April. I cannot recommend it enough.
6. I also managed to see a lot of good TV last year. Freaks and Geeks, which I've started a few times, hooked me in November and I finally stuck with to the untimely, yet joyful end. Transparent is such a quick watch, I was able to re-watch the first three seasons as a refresher in anticipation of the fourth. I've literally had to pause it at certain moments during season two and three specifically to wonder out loud what in the world kind of brilliance I was looking at. I saw the complete Mad Men series for the third time in 2017 and am tempted to start again, it's that good (in case there's anyone reading this that doesn't already know that). And finally, Dear White People (the series - I haven't seen the movie), which should also be compulsory for Americans, was so much fun to watch, but, more importantly, woke me up and made me wish I'd seen it a decade ago. White people: do yourself a favor, spare yourself any further humiliation, and spend five very entertaining hours on Netflix getting woke.
7. I grew up in Montana. I spent years in Cleveland. I've survived eight winters in Sweden. And almost every single day of every single winter since I've been tall enough to reach a windshield, I've scraped ice and brushed snow off a car. Not this winter, though. I now have a car with a pre-heater that I can start from an app on my phone. The car is warm on the inside and clear of snow and ice on the outside when I get into it in the morning and after work, you guys. It is the bougiest thing I can think of (this from the lady with the designer sunglasses) and I'm almost embarrassed to mention it, but in a way I kinda feel like I earned it. Any anyway…
8. … I stopped getting my hair colored professionally. The salon raised their prices, so I bought a box of L'Oreal, saved myself a couple hundred bucks a year, and I CANNOT TELL THE DIFFERENCE.
Good evening from Chicken Pox City, Sweden! Jamie picked up the virus at school before Christmas and has been covered in pox for the past few days, so needless to say we are not going out tonight, which is pretty much the way I'd want it anyway. Minus the itching.
Since I've been so bad at blogging this year, I sourced most of the following pictures from my phone instead of the blog. Scrolling through all of them was a good reminder of a lot of lovely things that happened in 2017. But this will always be the year that we lost my stepdad Ray. We started the year knowing it would probably be his last, and so I was able to say everything I wanted to say to him, and to my mom about him, before he passed away in October. But I don't know what to say here, and I guess that's okay, but I can't write about this year without mentioning the most significant thing that happened, even if it was also the worst.
Grandpa Ray and Jamie, September 2011
Now that we're a few years into The Swede's passion for ice fishing, we've gotten into a routine during the winter months. In January, we took advantage of one competition-free day by checking out the Natural History Museum. Another weekend, Jamie and I went to cheer The Swede on when one of his competitions was close-by and ended up having a blast pretending to chase dinosaurs in the tall grass along the shore.
In February, I was the only one who didn't do any fishing.
In March, Annemor, Matt and Jody came from London for the Melodifestivalen final...
...and our family looked into new hobbies as the ice melted.
Also, ALICE!!! In March, Selah gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who is already one of my all-time favorite ladies and I haven't even met her in person yet. Her smile brightens my day every time I get to see a picture or Skype with them, and it's been so cool to see Selah and Andy as parents.
In April, Jamie, Mama Swede, and I flew to London to spend Easter weekend with Annemor and Matt...
... and got back in time for an Easter Sunday pancake brunch with the Johanssons.
Also, The Swede had a significant birthday which we celebrated with a spontaneous ski trip...
...and a cruise to Helsinki!
May started off right with a trip to our favorite zoo.
The weather was warm enough to take out Papa Swede's boat on the Mälaren...
...and our boy graduated from preschool!
In June, we got to test out some instruments at the local culture school...
...went back to the zoo a couple more times...
...and enjoyed the warm weather and long evenings with an al fresco McDonald's dinner.
For our summer break in July, we headed up north to a cabin in Sälen.
It was cold and rainy and we had to buy jackets when we got there. I will say, though, that drinking coffee outside while painting dalahästar with my kid, even in the pouring rain, was one of the high points of my life.
And hike up to this incredible waterfall wasn't bad either.
Plus, I'm married to this guy, which you might say is THE high point of my life.
Later in July, we met up with Erin, Svante, and their boys at Skara Sommarland for a day of chaos fun.
And this guy turned SIX YEARS OLD!
Did I mention The Swede likes fishing? In August, he shared the joy with Jamie, Ossian, and Rio and managed to make sure that every one of them caught a fish in the lake by our house.
Sarianne, Julia, Jamie, and I rented a cabin on Öland and The Swede surprised us by coming down to join us when we thought he had to be at work.
At the end of August, Jambo started kindergarten. It was a big transition and he was a champ.
Oh! And another future best girlfriend arrived! Erin and Svante had Eija, a teeny little angel who we're all pretty obsessed with.
In September, I had a conference in Cleveland, so I flew in a few days early to spend time with Mom, Ray, and the grandparents. Mom and I went to try on wedding dresses for the fun of it, since we never got to before I got married. We had so much fun, I would do it every single day if I could.
I was lucky enough that my best girls came from all over Ohio to have breakfast together and, as always, it was like we hadn't missed a day.
A few days after I arrived home from the States, I hopped back on a plane to Belgrade with my choir.
It was like nowhere I've ever been before and I feel very grateful that I got to experience a bit of Serbia...
...get to know the members of my choir better...
...and sing in one of the most incredible churches I've ever been in.
In October, I volunteered to tag along with Jamie's class on a field trip to Skansen.
One beautiful October day, we drove out to the country and found a church with huge piles of buckeyes that made us happier than they probably should have.
Jamie also attended a Halloween party at school with a bunch of his buddies.
In November, I turned 35 and, together with my colleague who turned 30 the day before me, threw an 80's-themed party. Some of my guests went all-in and I couldn't have been prouder.
Later in November, we went to the baptism of one of The Swede's childhood friend's baby.
We also had a work trip to Åland, an island halfway between Sweden and Finland, to collaborate with our colleagues in Helsinki. "Work trip" = beer tasting.
And, per tradition, we hosted the Johanssons for Thanksgiving.
December was packed with cozy events like a mini-Christmas Eve with Annemore and Matt a few weeks before the real deal...
...the sixth annual Christmas craft day with Linda and her girls...
...and a visit to the aquarium and butterfly house with the Johanssons.
And, of course, there was the main event!
Jamie said it was his best Christmas ever, which is about all you could ask for.
And now, I wish you all a very happy new year, full of love and hope.