Thursday, January 9, 2014

An Italian homecoming

Well, we made it home. Nearly twelve hours of buses, trains and planes, but we made it without missing a connection. It was quite a relief to open the door to our apartment and relax. We wandered around turning on the heat (we turn it off when we leave for extended periods) and the hot water heater (ditto for this) and generally looking around to see how things looked. Turned on the water taps to make sure they worked and looked under the sinks to be sure they weren't leaking.

You might think this sounds a little much can happen in an apartment that isn't used for 3 1/2 weeks? Well, a lot it seems, when the apartment is in Italy (ie, where things are never really as they seem).

First Leif came in from the bedroom and said that the radiator in there must have leaked when we turned off the heat. I asked if he was wet. He said not too much. The problem seems to have corrected itself as soon as the metal heated up. I'm hoping that it wasn't so much water that it migrated downstairs. I didn't actually go and look. I figured if he wasn't too worried then there was no reason for me to get all excited about it.

As I was making some food before our trip to the grocery store (we don't shop hungry, even when we're too exhausted to crave anything) I noticed a big rust stain on the floor next to the chimney for our downstairs neighbors wood heater (yes, it runs inside our kitchen) and a much bigger area on the ceiling where plaster is loose. I pointed it out to Leif, who said that we would wait till someone lower complained since they have pooh-poohed out concerns in the past. Eventually all that rust will end up on their ceiling and they'll ask us what's up.

After Leif took a shower he said (at this point a little confused and tiredly) that the shower hose doesn't seem to get the water all the way to the shower head.(we have a hand-held shower) and I'm sure the look I gave him was also a little confused as I had used it earlier and noticed nothing wrong. Apparently the sudden demands we made on it after weeks of disuse caused the connection at the shower head to break inside. It looks perfect from the outside. It's only a couple of years old as it's the first (if I'm remembering correctly) thing we replaced in the first week of moving here.

There was some difficulty getting the stove to light. I randomly wiggled the tops of the burners (yes, we turn the gas off when we leave, some people here do it after every use) and viola! it worked. I have no idea why.

It's the next day and so far nothing else has broken. On the other hand our doorbell, which stopped working before we left, now works. This is part of the allure that Italy has for us. You just never really know what's going to happen, or not happen, next. We live in a constant state of anticipation.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hello!!!!! Hej!!! Ciao!!!

I've been gone for awhile. Not just physically from this blog, but pretty much in every way possible in my whole life. Just one decision made in September threw my life completely out of balance, and I have only myself to blame.

I have always been something of a workaholic, and while working half-time for less than minimum wage might not seem to be workaholic material the effect on my life, on our lives, was devastating. I bought into the idea that a steady job (ie. A steady income) was worth sacrificing my freedom.

I allowed another person to place a value on my time. Then, for that amount of money I gave her access to all my hours with as little notice as she cared to give. This affected my friendships, my eating habits and my riding habits. My home life revolved around someone else's needs. I didn't really recognize what was happening until I noticed that all these things were starting to affect me physically as well.

That's when I put a stop to everything. It helped that we had a trip to Sweden planned, which allowed me to walk away completely without second guessing myself. I consider it my Christmas present to myself.

Getting the balance back will probably be a journey much longer than the one that brought me to the point of physical collapse but it will be a pleasurable journey. After fourteen days here in Sweden I'm finally feeling healthy again. Nothing hurts and the “cold of the century” has been downgraded to the sniffles. I no longer spend every waking moment feeling anxious and unsure about where I should be and what I should be doing. With this post I'm reclaiming my creative life. I'm excited to start riding again when we get home.

I have so much to look forward to in the coming year, which I promise to share as things fall into place. There are a couple of things you can count on:

I will be in Italy.
There will be wine and amazing food.
Riding isn't something I'm trying out anymore. It's something I do. Expect to hear about it.
I will feed the creative side of my soul regularly.
I will be with Leif, whose smile still gives me butterflies and makes my heart beat faster.
I will write about all these things and more.

And because this post is so very serious you might think I've become a terrible bore, I will take this moment to summarize my time in Sweden up to this point.

People are starting to recognize me on the street. Well, not that they know who I am, but they know they've seen me quite often lately walking around their little town. They hesitate slightly before sending out a tentative “Hej”, probably hoping I won't answer. Or mug them. Then again, hesitating before speaking is common among friends here so maybe I'm reading more into this than I should?

I've had enough Swedish coffee to float a decently sized sailboat. I've had maybe two cups of really good coffee. You'd think in a country where the average person drinks 10 kilos of coffee a year and they spend 60 hours a year on coffee breaks (Östgöta Correspondent, 28 December 2013, pg A4) that the standards would be a little, um, different. On the other hand, their sweets are outstanding so maybe this is their way of finding balance. Great sweets, ho-hum coffee.

I've eaten more meat during our visit than during the last six months in Italy. I think I've eaten the equivalent of a small elephant or at least a full grown Clydesdale.  Ditto for potatoes. Now of course I'm picturing a Clydesdale made out of mashed potatoes with lingon berries for eyes. The mystery to me is how I can eat all this food and still be hungry for every meal.

The only snow I've seen is when watching skiing on TV. I've seen a lot of snow. (reminder: we've been battling colds and don't get out as much as we'd like.) I still wake up every morning and look out the window with hope. I've got seven more could happen.

Happy 2014 people. Let's make it a great one.

You guessed it, at a coffee shop.