Norway first

I know, it’s the first week of July and I started a new theme, but I also just had a week-ish long trip to Norway that I’d like to write up. I’ll write about this month this weekend.

So, Norway! It’s a bit of a haul to get there, at least according to the flight plan that I ended up getting. About ten hours of flight time, with a couple of layovers, so another couple of all nighters to get there and back. But I happily had pretty good seats. The only leg that was a little awkward was the short hop from Copenhagen to Oslo where I was sitting next to a man with broad shoulders. I’m not exactly a shrinking violet myself, and often have trouble sitting next to people who also have shoulders… or hips… but he was very considerate and I think we collectively tried not to infringe on each other too much.

Once I bobble-headed my way to my hotel via a (very expensive) taxi, I dropped my things and headed to the Viking Ship Museum, following my usual routine of forcing myself to stay awake at my destination until a reasonable bedtime. And wouldn’t you know it that my “oh, that’s only like 4.5km from my hotel” turned into “oh dear, I may have bitten off more than I can chew…” as my body made me realize that, yes, I had just been sitting still for eight hours on a transAtlantic flight and been pressurized and why was I putting myself through this?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the warm, fresh air, finding the Royal farm on the outskirts of Oslo, and the adventure of following my map and making my way around an inlet of the Oslofjord to get to the museum. I made it to the museum with a whole 45 minutes before closing time! And it was entirely worth it.

Thank goodness that the Vikings buried these ships in such a way that they were preserved. They were awesome. It was really cool to see how big the ship was and some of the things that were buried with the people whose grave it was.

I was also hoping to get to the History Museum during this trip but alas my timing didn’t line up. I was there for a conference, after all, which also took place during working hours.

I stayed until the museum closed and stopped to have a waffle with jam at the little cafĂ© outside. Then I walked (slowly and painfully) back to my hotel area, after stopping at a roadside fruit stand and getting myself some nectarines and green apples for my room, for snacks. I needed to have dinner though, and the restaurant in my hotel was sadly a chicken and ribs place, so I popped into a tapas restaurant around the corner called Delicatessen for dinner. I had a lovely little dinner of green beans, grilled shrimp and bread with aioli. Then I slept for 12 hours…

The next morning, I had breakfast at the somewhat typical (in my small experience) and delicious Scandinavian breakfast buffet. Basically any kind of breakfast you could want, they offered. Delicious amazing oatmeal, eggs three different ways (scrambled, sunny side up or soft boiled), various breakfast meats, pancakes, cheeses, cold cuts, pickled herring (yum), fresh veggies, fruit, yogurt, granola, muesli, cereal, breads, juices, coffee, tea or hot chocolate… it was great. I found I was able to eat heartily and not be starving by the time lunch rolled around. And to even question if I needed lunch.

Since I had a little bit of time before the conference started, I headed to Vigeland Park to do some journaling and see the sculptures. It was a lovely place bustling with people strolling and touristing, and children having outdoor education classes (I think?) I sat on a bench in a shady spot and journaled for a bit and then had to move when I was very nearly the unfortunate receiving surface of some sparrow poo. There were a lot of sparrows taking little dust baths in the fine gravel of the pathway along the benches, and other birds flying around. What I roughly identified as a European robin species (?) landed in the garden next to my bench and seemed to put on some sort of display, ruffling up the feathers on its back, fanning its wings cup-like towards the ground on either side of its body, flaring its tail and opening its beak. I wasn’t sure if it was alright or suffering from the heat, but it eventually left, so I guess it didn’t get the response it wanted.

Oh yeah, and I think Oslo was experiencing a bit of a heat wave when I was there.

But back to the sculptures. So apparently, Oslo gave Gustav Vigeland this area so he could create his legacy there, so the park and everything in it as exactly as he wanted to present his work. It was lovely.

I didn’t get to see all 200 of the sculptures here, but I did get a sunburn, because me.

After this little adventure, I had to go to the opening of my conference! The conference was small but really great. I’m really glad that I was able to attend it.

I tried to pay attention to my surroundings to see more of Oslo while I was there working. I noticed a lot of Teslas driving around, but I also noticed the gas prices on my last day being about 16kr per litre, which is about $2.52 Canadian (which is much better than the 164kr I thought it was which is $26 per litre…)

I was there quite close to the summer solstice so I was experiencing some of southern Norway’s longest days. This was a shot of 11:09 pm on June 26th from my hotel window. Unfortunately, my hotel didn’t have air conditioning so I had to try to balance having my window open all night to get cooler air into my room with also needing my blackout curtains pulled, and that my room overlooked the street with the tram line. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last week.

I was delighted by their downtown corvids. I kept an ear out for the rough calls of ravens, and I was not disappointed. I found one hanging around a little strip of park that was on my way to the metro every day, and one day, a raven was also taking a bath at a little sidewalk fountain. They were lovely. This one was calling from the tram lines, just before the park.

I was also there for Oslo Pride week, so on our conference dinner evening, which took place down at the Oslo Opera House, I walked past the big street party that was going on in the downtown core near one of the universities. It sounded pretty fun.

I did walk up the opera house, twice, that evening. The first time on my own when I arrived down there, just because one of the conference organizers suggested it as a fun thing to do (it was). Although there is a ton of construction going on down by the water so the skyline is kind of interrupted by cranes.

The clearest shot I could make, but very interesting building designs going up.

And the second time was after dinner with a few people I had sat with at dinner. It was much cooler the second time since the sun was going down.

There are even cranes in that one!

The rest of the conference went by quickly and then it was time to return home. I set my alarm for 3am on Friday (which was 9pm the day before back home) and took another (more expensive because it was “overnight”) taxi to the airport (complete with detour around the closed offramp for the airport). Luckily the fare for the taxis is agreed upon before your trip starts so that sort of thing doesn’t hugely increase your costs.

3:05am, June 29, Oslo.

The trip home was a bit long – 22 hours or so in transit. But the flights were again fairly smooth and easy. And I came back to Canada and another heat wave. Hello summer!

I definitely want to go back and do a tourist thing. Maybe head up along the coast, and get as far as Lofoten. My friend highly recommended it. Heck, maybe I could even get up to Tromsø. :)

Farewell, Norway! Until next time!

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Back

I did my gradual return to work over a month and a half and now am back full time.

And today I am at home, sick with a virus that someone brought into the office. *sigh* I don’t even know if I have the sick time to cover this, but I can’t spread this further.

I’m still experiencing the prickling but my desk is being set up ergonomically, so hopefully that helps. I’m trying to follow the recommendations of all my health care providers and move, refocus my eyes somewhere more distant than my screen, set healthy boundaries (for myself and others), walk away from my desk every noon hour.

But I always have that internal critic, sniping at me and making me feel like I have to justify myself, and that drawing boundaries is “letting myself off easy”. But I can physically feel that the boundaries are necessary. When I turn off my computer at night to go home, it’s because I have to. I need to do something other than my work. Sometimes I barely have the energy to make a decision about what that will be before my alarm goes off, signaling the beginning of my medicated time, and the rapid approach of the end of my day.

I don’t know where I picked up this sickness – perhaps I could blame society or some aspect of a work culture. But it is a sickness. I remember feeling so righteous in my overtime. Moments that disappeared into the void of a “good job” given with a quarter of that person’s attention, because they were so busy being busy. Or perhaps not even a thank you. Which led me to believe that this was what was expected of me in that job. Sacrificing moments of my life to ensure that something was flawless.

But nothing is flawless. And to chase down every obscure flaw provides diminishing returns. At some point, you’re just driving yourself into the brick wall for your own ego’s sake. A man on a flying horse isn’t going to notice, as my grandmother said. Good enough.

I have a couple of personal projects that I want to do. They are at the top of my “things to do when not at work” list, but they take effort. And effort is something I haven’t felt like I have a whole store of. I was hoping the medical leave would have helped to refill that, but maybe I’ve been running on fumes for so long, I didn’t realize that my tank was that empty.

So right now I’m working on a work project that I was asked to do just before I had to take my medical leave. And I’m trying to keep track of my symptoms daily to try to describe the patterns.

And I’m trying to live healthily. I’m incorporating more exercise, and I’m eating well, I think. I’m enjoying some deep breathing exercises and keeping my mind mostly clear. I’m playing piano and playing some video games and reading. I am watching shows and movies with my husband. I occasionally even socialize.

Some days I’m okay. Some days I feel like a shadow of who I was. I don’t know if people notice. I don’t like the side effects of the medications that are supposed to be helping me. I’ve been on most of them for over a year now and I’m still experiencing the same symptoms. 

But the world shows its beauty and I am grateful to witness it. I try to keep my head up and ears open. Slowly, I am determined that I will be back.

Pre-holiday madness

I believe Radiohead said it most succinctly, “You do it to yourself, you do, and that’s what really hurts. You do it to yourself, just you, you and no one else.”

Ugh. So in an attempt to get my lead author responsibilities out of the way before I leave on my two week vacation (more on that later), I’ve been pushing myself, working overtime, as well as trying to accomplish all the outside-of-work things. Like baking for holiday celebrations at work, or going to the gym, or socializing. All of which I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “You can totally handle this. There are more than enough hours in a day. Ha ha ha! I dare say, it will be child’s play. Perhaps you should consider adding even more things!” (Imagine that transitioning into a British accent halfway through, because I sure am).

Unfortunately, it seems that the lead author responsibilities may not get fully resolved because of more than just not having two full work days to round out this week. I’m also waiting on the organizers to inform me of a few things and they are likely just as frazzled as I am. So I am doing my part and then, that’s all I can do.

I just did a bit of self-care and declined my husband and our friend’s invitation to join them in a post-game pint. Sitting, wrapped in my favourite fuzzy blanket, on the couch is pretty much what I want to do right now. Not that socializing with them would be taxing at all. But my body is crying out for me to just take this moment to relax and stop. So I’m multitasking by blogging while I sit. Because I’m apparently terrible at relaxing.

Two more days… Two not-entirely-full-because-of-meetings work days to finish everything and then we are on our way. Then two more family Christmas dinners, a friends brunch, hopefully a big movie… Some last minute laundry, cleaning and packing… And we’re on our honeymoon!

We didn’t take a honeymoon after the non-wedding in April, and we wanted Christmas Day to be for us this year, so what could be better than to plan a getaway that was for us over Christmas?

So we’ll spend Christmas in Paris, and then fly back through Iceland to ring in the New Year with almost 24 hour darkness and a trip to the Blue Lagoon spa, hopefully under starlit daytime skies. I’m beginning to get excited about it. :)

I may have time to share our experiences, but I won’t promise because it is supposed to be Us time. :) But I’ll post photos etc when I can.

And just because I started with it, here you go.

Back to the grind

I’m on my second week back at work, and I’m feeling much better today than I was all last week. For some reason, I was very sensitive, overwhelmed, anxious and emotional all last week. I theorized that I wasn’t used to being surrounded by so many people and so much noise, or something – a bit of habitual agoraphobia? It was really uncomfortable, and led to some bad days and bad evenings. I ate about 1000 calories in emotional eating at work during the first four days of being back. My poor husband ended up bearing a lot of the brunt of it, and he was having a terrible week too.

So basically, we both had terrible, no good, very bad weeks, and now we’re trying to have better ones.

I didn’t look at my writing at all this past week or even weekend, and I didn’t touch a bit of paint. I read a book, I played a video game, and I talked a lot to my husband about how I was feeling. I cried. I knitted a bit.

So tonight, I opened my story and I looked at where I’d left it. And then a question my husband asked me last week occurred to me, and because I couldn’t figure out how to make my word processor tell me a specific thing, I highlighted everything I had written since the beginning of my time off and I copy/pasted it into a new document. And I looked at the properties.

My word count for my time off was 31 374 words. My current word count in my entire novel is 131 585 words. That is Not Too Shabby. I’ll take it.

I also came in to the office/studio and looked at my canvases, and I definitely need to do another layer. But I’m just too tired tonight. I’m actually thinking that after I finish this blog post, I’ll probably go rest on the couch and knit or read again.

I’ll probably spend some time tomorrow night painting those canvases. I need to make the base colours more opaque and less streaky. The painting can be streaky, because it’s supposed to match another painting with high cirrus clouds in it. The streaks will help with that. But the doodle canvases I need to be flat.

Then we’ll work on getting my characters into Act 5, the exciting conclusion of this years-long journey!

Here’s what I’m listening to tonight while on the computer. Satie’s Gymnopedies and other songs.

Writing al fresco

  
Too many Things I Should Not Have To Deal With are popping up inside, so I decided to grab my stuff and a comfy blanket, and write out in the fresh air for a bit. Complete with a new jasmine white tea that I picked up this morning.

I’ve been feeling very pressured, stressed and frustrated for the past two days, and part of it is linked to work intruding into this time off. I am disappointed in this because I have taken a large pay cut, including other benefits, in order to have this time. I am not being paid right now. That is how I’ve “paid” for this time. I know it’s due to timing (particularly: bad) that this is coming up. And I know it’s out of respect that the work is even mentioned. But it’s an emotional response to it right now on my part.

I just finished reading Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking (see my Reading page) and in it she talks about the inner Fraud Police. These are the voices who taunt and torment you from your own mind, saying that what you’re doing isn’t worthy of respect and recognition, that you’re a fraud and shouldn’t expect to be able to do this creative work. That creative work is playtime and you should be Working A Job Like A Grown-Up.

Having work intrude on my creative time… Hell, having a lot of things intrude on my creative, unpaid sacrifice time, feels like the Fraud Police have become real. That the voices exist and are supported by those people who are causing the intrusions. And it makes me want to cry. I cried last night from the feelings, although I wanted to growl at them and drink whisky and tell them to fuck off. A part of it is that I have expectations of myself for these weeks and I feel like little things like errands are frittering away my time, like I’m not taking this seriously either.

Yesterday afternoon, I was slammed back into my stressed-from-work emotional eating, and I was shocked. I still have time and I’m already feeling the high blood pressure, tight chest, emotional eating stress of work that has caused me to pack on 40 lbs in the last few years.

I want to cry now as I sit in the park near my house trying to escape.

I’ll try to use the emotions to flesh out the turmoil my characters should be feeling. I don’t like crying in public.

Going north, again

In a little less than two days, I will be heading north again. Again for work. This time, to Alaska. And I am planning on bringing my “big camera” despite the fact that in reviewing some of my Iceland photos, I realize with some disappointment that there is a huge dust/fluff mark in the top left hand corner of any “blue sky” shots (basically any shot where that area is light). *SIGH* I need my camera cleaned and fixed up. Or a new camera. One or the other.

I haven’t travelled a whole lot as a person. I mean, there were lots of road trips when I was little, but this year (starting with Ireland last year) seems like it has been jam-packed with travelling – Ireland and London/Stonehenge/Bath/Windsor Castle, Halifax, Quebec City, Iceland 1 (Reykjavik and Hvalfjordur) and then most recently Iceland 2 (Reykjavik and Akureyri). And now Alaska. I’m feeling a little bit travelled out and tired, I have to admit. Now I understand what my boss was saying when he claimed to be “done with travel”.

It’s as my friend R says, before you set out, you look at your comfy pajamas and your butt-groove on the couch and you think “Aww, this is going to upend my whole daily groove.” But once you set out on the road, watching the people around you, smelling and tasting a different environment, you realize that you’re learning, experiencing, exploring.

So that’s why I’m taking my big camera, because I will have a day during which I can explore, mainly because the flight right after our meeting was sold out so I have to fly out a day later than I intended. And I’ll stay away from bears. Hopefully I’ll have time to blog while I’m there, after my meetings.

Changes

I’ve promised a longer post for a bit so here it is.

Change is often difficult, but a passing philosophical glance of your life will tell you that change is the only constant within it. My boyfriend reminds me that change doesn’t happen until the discomfort of staying the same exceeds the pain of change. I think that not all change has to be painful, but often, because we crave security and assurance, it feels that way.

I ‘started’ a new job yesterday. In a painless way. I agreed to take the position last week, when I signed a paper. It means that I’ve joined the group I was temporarily working with, but for good. So not a whole lot of change there except I’m not going back to my same old position in two months’ time.

I feel excited about the new skills I’ll develop, new colleagues I’ll meet and work with, new projects I’ll get to work on. But I am sad that I won’t be seeing my other friends and colleagues very much.

Other changes that have happened. This one I’ve been reticent to say much out loud, possibly I’m still judging myself a bit. After the eating fish incident in Ireland, I came home and resumed my vegetarian lifestyle. But my body started craving fish. So I continued for months, pondering and thinking and trying to inject more plant protein into my diet. But, in the end, I have incorporated fish back into my diet. Because I promised myself I would listen to my body on this.

I still cook vegetarian most every night, but I have cans of tuna in the cupboard and uncooked shrimp and scallops in my freezer. The cravings continue, but now I am allowing myself to have a tuna sandwich instead of staunching it with whatever chickpeas I can find. I still call myself vegetarian, though that makes me “one of those vegetarians that lie”. In actuality, the technical term is pescitarian. Which I would have thought was spelled piscitarian because of piscivore. Anyways… If I was going to harken back to a post I made a while ago about labels, I would reject it and just say that I eat mostly vegetarian food but sometimes eat seafood. Delicious, delicious seafood.

This blog is almost complete. I’m coming up on my anniversary for starting my 2013 adventures. I’m still deciding what I’m going to do with it, as I have a couple of other projects that I’ve been thinking of starting. But I know there are more adventures happening soon so I might extend it’s life until the summer…