Monday, 31 August 2009

Tjejmilen -from zero to ten in six months!

Six months ago I couldn't run a kilometer, three months ago I struggled to run five, yesterday I ran 10.
Words hardly describe the exhilaration I felt as I ran that last kilometer, knowing I could do it, seeing my kids standing on the sidelines waving and cheering and crossing the finishing line with 25 000 other women. It was one of my really proud moments in life. I ran 10 kilometers!

Goals are important to me, and I need to feel the pressure to keep my motivation up so when my friend Rebecca challenged us back in March or April I was fast to take up the challenge - the 5km Vår Ruset in May. While I really enjoyed it I found it a struggle, I wasn't used to running the full 5km so I found it hard going.

Even before the run we started talking about Midnattsloppet and Tjejmilen and I signed up for both - I needed something that would force me to keep running over the summer and something that would force me to go further. It worked. I spent many a morning running along the waterfront when we were at the cottage in Canada.

I was really looking forward to Midnattsloppet, although I was nervous about it too. A couple of days beforehand I found out my friend was not running and I would be going in alone at night, running and coming home alone. The idea of having no friends to run with, no-one to cheer me along and no-one to meet up with afterwards took all the fun out of it and I decided that afternoon not to run. As hard as the decision was the deflation was relieved by the sound of pitter, patter on the windowsill that night. Running in the rain and in the dark would have taken any remaining joy out of it.

The time finally came around for Tjejmilen, a 10km women's run around the beautiful Djurgården. I was looking forward to it and even if I wasn't as fit as I was a couple of weeks ago I knew I could do it.

What started off as a cold, overcast and windy day turned into a beautiful afternoon with the sun shining and a perfect 16 C. Five of us met up a couple of hours beforehand and all travelled to Gärdet to where the run would start.We hung out together, did our warm-up together and then all ran our own race, or walked as was the case for Anastasia (and Molly) who was suffering from slipped disks. The nice thing about this run is that you could do it with a stroller or walking poles which opened up the even to thousands of women.Not everybody loves to be in a crowd. You spend a fair amount of time zig-zagging your way through if you are not in the right category and there is always a chance you will trip over someone else's feet. You might even get stressed running with so many people around you. But I love it. I find it so interesting. Not only did I have beautiful scenery to look out but watching all those around me kept me so distracted I hardly noticed the kilometers passing by. The sport drink and energy tablets helped along the way too, as did my music, the bands, the DJ's, the cheer squad and all the people who turned up to cheer us along! It really makes the event a whole lot of fun!

I'm the slow coach in our team, but only by about 10 minutes so I'm ok with that. Even Anastasia was faster than me and she was walking with her daughter! But these girls really inspire me to run and to keep running, even when I don't feel like it. And nothing gives me a better workout nor makes me feel really good like a run does. Just writing about this is enough to make me want to put my running shoes on, even if my legs are a little tired today.

So what's next? Lidingöloppet for women (10km) perhaps? Or Hässelbyloppet maybe? Now that I have started I don't want to stop, I just need to keep finding the carrots that will be my incentive. I like being fit, being able to run for a bus and not thinking anything of it, being able to run about in the park with my kids without heaving. I love the feeling of saying "I did it", especially to the man that scoffed when I bought running shoes a year ago. I love the feeling of a good workout, I want to be a good role model for my kids and I don't want to go back to where I was just six months ago.

Meeting the challenge is exhilarating!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Getting unpacked and sorted out

We've spent days unpacking (7 suitcases x23kg plus hand luggage!!) and finding room for everything, sorting through things, weeding out anything that is too small or no longer used/needed). It is still not all done but after a major overhaul in the kids' room today we are getting there.

It is always nice to come home, living in someone else's place and out of suitcases for over 6 weeks takes its toll and we've done it twice in the last 12 months - that's 3 months of the year away from home!!

Our saving grace when we go to Canada is the cottage, it is our refuge, our home away from home where we can really unpack, relax and be ourselves.
Walking back into our apartment brings a very unique feeling and I feel it upon each return, with some variation. It is hard to put words to it but the place always feels so crisp and neat and depending on where we have been it often feels very, very small. Sometimes I walk into a room and get a shock at how small it is, sometimes the whole place shocks me for how small it is - especially when we have been in Australia where we have so, so much space at my mum's place.

But even if it feels small it feels undeniably ours and I like it - at least until we have unpacked all the suitcases and then it is just crazy and it drives me crazy having all the stuff everywhere!! And as I said, it takes days to get it sorted out..... On the upside it forces us to go through everything every six months or so - every thing in here has to have a good reason for staying!

I'm tired of living in a small apartment, 73 square metres is not a lot of space when you have two kids - even if the original owners did have three and lived here for 50 some years.... That's Stockholm living for you - our friends and peers at home would hardly believe their eyes!
But we have to be patient and hang in there a little longer. Our time will come, I know it will. And there are lots of good things about living in a small space - epecially when you are a hoarder by nature - it has been a good, long lesson for me. This small space has a positive impact on the kids too, in lots of ways - Makaila has made it quite clear that she wouldn't want her own room - even if she could (we'll see how long that lasts).

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Summer in Sweden

If I had a dollar for every time a Swede said that Sweden is beautiful in the summer I would be a rich woman. But it is true enough, it is a fantastic place to be on a summer's day.

We got an SMS at about 9.45 this morning - meet us at the beach - so we jumped out of bed and on to our bikes and headed to the water.

The Beach - Swedish style. Trees and grass all the way down (except for the odd sandy section) to the fresh water - I like it! Today was our first real hang-out-at-the-beach-for-hours day this summer and the kids, although still very tired from their jet-lag, loved it.

The boys (the big ones) hung out in the shade and talked. The girls and the kids swam and lapped up the sun. I don't feel like it is summer unless I get to swim and today I got my chance.
The littlest of the girls just hung between naps with whoever would hold her and was very content doing so.
Then we rode home again - we rode a total of 17.77km - that is 11 miles for the Canadians!! Not bad for a six year old.
It was all made possible by our latest contraption - a tow-bar which hooks our bikes together, lifts her front wheel and locks in her steering. It took us hours to put the thing on yesterday (literally) so we were thrilled to get out and use it today. She loved being big enough to ride with us, to be able to keep up with us and yet rest and enjoy the ride when she needed to. It is fun to see what a buzz she gets from being so independent (yet not) - no more sitting on the back for her and we can go for real bike rides with her in tow!! Yippee!!

Let's hope summer hangs around for another few weeks yet.

Our brush with H1N1

wow.... it has been a while, almost two whole months since I last blogged and even then there wasn't a whole lot of activity from me.

May and June were busy with relocation work and getting live, June also saw a number of loose ends being tied up with odd clients and classes, packing, and preparing our home to be enjoyed by others over the summer.

Then came our departure week and a close call with the infamous H1N1. Days before we were due to head to Canada we had a friend and her daughter come and stay only to leave the next day, be admitted to hospital, and then be diagnosed with H1N1. The day the results came through will be remembered as one of the most stressful in my entire life (mmmm.... now what does that say about my life?). I spent the day on the phone to the local doctor, the children's hospital, the infectious diseases institute etc etc etc.

In cases like this it is always interesting to see how others react. My friends who survived the Tsunami blew it off, hugged us and said have a great holiday - let us know if we can do anything - they said. Then there are those who really panic.

The doctors finally decided to test Kieran as being under 5 he is high risk and we decided that all four of us would take Tamiflu as a preventative measure. None of us had any symptoms so we were given the all-clear to fly to Canada and told that unless we developed symptoms we were free to move around as normal. You have to love the doctor's attitude at Karolinska hospital who noted that we were at least flying to a country where the flu was running rampant!!

None of that really lightened our load and we spent the next few days on edge. My mother-in-law, a sufferer of a lung disease was understandably, less than thrilled considering she is also in the high risk category. Nothing like getting a holiday off to a good start.

Finally Kieran's results came back as negative and we got word that considering we still didn't have any symptoms we could safely assume that none of us had caught it. That's not something I treat lightly considering our children spent hours together playing in a closed environment.

Had we not been flying I would only have had to worry about our health, especially that of my son who as a four year old is supposedly more at risk. And considering he had recently had strep throat followed by a vaccination his immune system would not have been at its best.

Flying from one country to another adds a whole new dimension to things. What are the repercussions if we say "to hell with it" and go? What happens if we have to cancel our flight? Who would pick up my mum and her partner 5 days later if we didn't make our flight, or couldn't get another? What if we go, symptom free and then get sick? What then if our insurance didn't cover us? Canada is one hell of a country to be in if you don't have travel insurance. But again our Tsunami friends reassured us that it would all be sorted out if needed. Experience is a wonderful thing.

In the end I decided to be upfront about coming in contact with H1N1, make the phone calls and get the run around. I spoke to all the doctors and I put Kieran through the horrid testing - a very, very, very long thing stuck up into his sinus passages, in the car park behind the clinic because they would not have us in the clinic, by a doctor in a suit that resemble Darth Vader's only it was clear. The poor kid was traumatized for days, Makaila too, who ended up hiding behind the loading bay so she didn't have to watch. But it did give us peace of mind, for what it was worth. We were given the go-ahead, told we could move about freely and a few days later found out we could put it all behind us. I just hope Kieran doesn't hold it against me the rest of his life......

People are saying all sorts of things about this pandemic and you hear words like hysteria, over-stated, under-stated, weaker strains, mutation, vaccination and concern for the coming winter being thrown about the place. The thoughts and theories, speculations and assumptions about H1N1 are plentiful.

But out of all this there is one thing that has really struck me, and that is how vulnerable the flight staff are as they move hundreds and hundreds of people around the globe every day.

A young boy was feverish and threw up in the seat behind us on our way to Canada. He and his brother were flying from Cambodia to see his grandparents in Toronto. The staff helped him as best they could. Then the man in front of us on our way back to Stockholm had a fever and felt like he was going to vomit. The staff took his temperature and helped him as best they could.

I can't help but think of our friend who works as a steward, and goes home after each stint to his wife, his four year old and his one-month-old baby. Our brush with H1N1 pales in comparison......