Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Day !!!

'What I Want for You — and Every Child in America'
By President-elect Barack Obama

Dear Malia and Sasha,

I know that you've both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn't have let you have. But I also know that it hasn't always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn't make up for all the time we've been apart. I know how much I've missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey.

When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me-about how I'd make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn't seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential-schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college-even if their parents aren't rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.

I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you'll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer. And I want us to push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other. Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country-but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free-that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.

That was the lesson your grandmother tried to teach me when I was your age, reading me the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and telling me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something.

She helped me understand that America is great not because it is perfect but because it can always be made better-and that the unfinished work of perfecting our union falls to each of us. It's a charge we pass on to our children, coming closer with each new generation to what we know America should be.

I hope both of you will take up that work, righting the wrongs that you see and working to give others the chances you've had. Not just because you have an obligation to give something back to this country that has given our family so much-although you do have that obligation. But because you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

These are the things I want for you-to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That's why I've taken our family on this great adventure.

I am so proud of both of you. I love you more than you can ever know. And I am grateful every day for your patience, poise, grace, and humor as we prepare to start our new life together in the White House.

Love, Dad

Do a Happy Dance, a New Day has come!

The only good thing about the last 8 years is it got so bad, we were courageous enough to elect:Of Torture in America's Name.

Of 'Preemptive Strikes' in War that bring Terror and Destruction to the homelands of Children and Families far away.

Of Domestic Policies that lead to homelessness, sickness, and poverty in the USA.

Of International Policies that mean 1:16 African Women die in birth while we with hold family planning money to teach them about 'abstinence'.

Of the Denial of Global Climate Change.

Let it be the beginning of energy Independence for the USA- let there be windmills in Iowa, and solar panels on the roof tops of Florida, instead of drilling in the Arctic Wild Life Refuge.

Let Real Scientists return to the Federal Agencies and replace the political pawns and their pseudoscience and policies based on lies for the benefits of special interests.

Let it be the restoration of integrity and true pride in my country.

Let us work together to be a country that is actually a compassionate, smart leader that is worthy of world wide respect.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Dream....

Until 1965, black people in many parts of America could not use the same restroom, drink from the same water fountain, eat at the same restaurants, gather in the same public places, sit anywhere they like on public transportation, or attend the same schools as white people. It was just 1965, and black people could not get into colleges, get jobs in many organizations, or obtain home loans like white people did. This is the era my father graduated from college.

What would his life have been like if he was black? He was the son of a machinist and farmer who went to college on an aviation scholarship from Civil Air Patrol. If he was a young black boy would he have been able to fly a plane? And get college paid for because he could? Would he have gotten his first job building crafts for space exploration? What would my life be like if my father had not been college educated, and made enough money to send me to college?

At the same time my parents were meeting and soon marrying, my dads eyes were looking to the moon and dreaming of traveling there, and Martin Luther King was dreaming of a day of not having to drink from a seperate water fountain.

And the Day Would Come...
Guess where I am going?

When I was working as a midwife, we always did a 36 week home visit. I am 33 weeks, and my Swedish midwives came this weekend for a home visit. I 'll post about it later. Anyway, thanks to a really good deal on plane tickets, I will be doing another kind of 36 week home visit... I will be 34-36 weeks at the time, traveling with just Swedegirl, and going back home for two weeks.

OK, the video may be *a bit* more sentimental than I actually feel, *just a smidge* over the top! But I am pregnant and feeling the need to touch home base. To do some baby shopping with my mom, see my friends, not to mention float in my parent's hot tub in the sunshine. Connect to my 'motherland' before I set out to mother another. If you love me and live there, I am going to be in Florida Sunday Jan 25th- Monday Feb 9th and I want to have a play date!

Intellectually, I think it's little lame to go back again so soon, to have traveled around the world to where everything is new and different, to find now I just want the comforts of home. I think maybe I am not being very brave. But hey, breeding will do that to you. It's called nesting. I am pregnant and am driven to do what it takes to feel at home. To see my mom. To bring back 4 suitcases full of cheap American baby gear.

And lest us not forget the ju ju. As Liz writes about over on 'A Natural Nester', I come from a very well developed mothering and homebirth community. We usually do sacred blessing ceremonies for expectant moms, for new babies, and reading her post "A Little bit of JuJu" just made me cry. Then the same day I saw a picture of someone with henna on her pregnant belly, and it just made me ache thinking about all the love I was going to miss out on by not being home. I worked for years as a midwife trying to cultivate this home birth community, and here I am on the otherside of the world, too far to participate in it. The thought of a 'web cam' blessing my husband would likely arrange is so sad- it would only make me feel how very far away I was. So I think I am going home- for the ju ju.

Sweden is great, but there's no place like home.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What have I been up to?

I am pregnant. I am tired. My schedule is something like this: gestate, gestate, nap, nap, nap.

I may look like I am doing nothing, but really I am making a person from my own cellular matter.

So actually, I am pretty busy.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More Snowy Fun

SwedeGirl was still home from school at the end of the week, and I am glad, because we got two days to play together in the snow. There was a sled-able thin layer Wednesday, expected to melt by Thursday. Thankfully, we woke to more snow Thursday, and a steady stream of snow flakes fell as we played outside.

We've learned snow is very fleeting in these parts, so even though I was still feeling a bit sick this week, we made sure we got out in the day light for some sledding. Sadly, there was just a trace of ice when we woke Friday. The winter is so pretty and so much more novel with snow. And I am sure we are loving the snow partly because it is here so briefly.

The House in the snow

Our Street in the Snow

Sledding in the nearby Woods

I think it just looks more dreary out with out all the white sparkle and reflective light of snow. Snow is truly mother natures glitter. But of course, I just make snow balls and snow cones, and rarely have to drive in it, so I have a slanted, rosy view of the stuff. Especially being a Floridian.
The local stream, still flowing but icy
And for our uncrafy craft? Of course we just copied Mother Nature and made snow flakes, too.

Monday, January 5, 2009

with Mums In Sweden

A great source of information for me when planning our move (and since arriving) has been message boards. The most useful has been 'Mums in Sweden', a mothering and family oriented board. When considering our move, it was great to see there was an active group of English speaking families in the area we planned to move to. It was reassuring to know there would be fellow English speakers to reach out to if I started feeling isolated. The group is international- there are some Americans, but it seems there are more folks from UK, Ireland, and Aussies and a few Canadians, and then some Swedes married to English speakers of various nationalities. I have had a few 'meet ups' with various members of the group, and we were excited to combine an Mums in Sweden outing with a trip to Skånes Djurpark in Höör. (Djur means animal for any non-swedes reading this).

It is akin to a place I knew well in Florida called 'Jungle Gardens' that was a similar mix of animals, outdoor space, playgrounds, and a little cafe, though there we fed flamingos and turtles, while at Skåne Djurpark we watched boar and moose. Like our old familiar stomping rounds, Jungle Gardens, Djurpark park offers a very reasonably priced annual ticket- for just 160kr adults have admittance for the whole year, and kids under 16 are free. Quite the deal. When we were in Florida, Jungle Gardens was the place you took your toddler to let him roam and give you a little break. The local mom that organized this outing says this exactly how they use the park- they are just ten minutes away and she said she spent at least one day a week there when she was pregnant with her second. Sadly, the park was quite drive for us and will not make it on the roster of easy to get to regular destinations. Though even with gas at European prices, it still may work out to cost less than other attraction like outings like playhouses. We will have to do the math. If you live near Höör, though, this would be a perfect regular stop over.

It was the coldest day yet this winter (about -12 C'), but very nice with sunny blue skies, and a blanket of white snow and ice on the ground. The ice made the paved path a bit treacherous, but we all managed just fine.

The park has a paved 3 km walking path through forest, where over 75 species of Nordic animals are kept. A few highlights were the wild boar, moose, wolves, deer, sheep, bison, and the ancient ox like Swedish cattle.


Wild Boar like this live in the forest near me and it was interesting to see them up close, I saw one cross the road in front of me in the dark a few weeks ago, and they pretty massive- NOT something you'd want to crash into!

SheepThe Native DeerNot sure what they were doing there, but there were Bison! And of course, Moose

A few shots of the kids at play, and the Mums in Sweden crew. Six families came, which was a good showing considering we were all a bit wary of the cold! The playground areas are really nice and forested. The obstacle course in the forest was a great area!

There was also a great little play area next to a fully enclosed heated eating area with toilets. It has a microwave and tables, and is a great stop off for a picnic in winter when the cafe is closed.

There was also this old style forest lean to, like Swede Daddy's mother used to make on her forest adventures in her youth. The 'MIS' kids had fun playing in there amongst the evergreen branches.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

More New Years' Count Downs!
The Music We Loved in 2008.

I am no media maven, no pirate busy downloading music all night, and our budget for such things is slim. We are like many folks who have kids, who find their CD collection kind of freezes in time. For us it froze even a bit before kids, due to crazy busy work lives. There were a few musicians I always, always got the new album for no matter what, but I am even behind on those. Still, I love music and good creative work that makes the world a more fun place to be, so in the spirit of 'end of year lists' I thought I would compile my own 'Best of 2008', or our family's greatest hits this year. It will be as lame as we actually are, but well, that's the fun of it. If you want cool lists of hip new artists, go somewhere more Indie on the web!

My categories will be:
1) Best Live Show for Grown Ups
2) Best Live show for the Family
3) Best album to Play when the SwedeGirl isn't in the Car
4)Best Album to Play when the SwedeGirl is in the Car
5) Best Swedish Musician
6) Best Non-Swede on Swede Radio

I am an American in Sweden, and last year I was an American in America, mostly. So this post reflects that....it also reflects that I finally figured how to embed YouTube videos, so ugh, I went a bit crazy here sharing the love. Hopefully it does not making loading the page really slow or something.

(Meanwhile, just thinking of all this reminds me of the one resolution (or dream) I have for 2009- which is to get networked enough, have memory enough, and some system so we can easily have music on the computer, and a decent system to play it down stairs. The fact that I am writing here about how CDs, and not Mp3 players or itunes, are still our primary source of music is starting making me feel like I use 8-tracks or something.)

With out further delay!!!

1) Best Live Show I got to go to with Grown Ups: Ani diFranco March 2008 Tampa Theater
First, I gladly got at least one night out with no kids in before I ended up pregnant this June. The friend I went with is one who I got to know because I helped her have her two babies, I was her midwife. In gratitude she has made it her personal mission to give back to me the gifts she found as she descended on the underworld journey of labor to meet the souls of her kids. This makes for a very deep, and fun, friend to have. We are both longtime Ani fans, and were excited to make it out together for Ani's first stop off in town since she gave birth at home to her daughter. So we got to hear her musician turned mother songs, which seemed appropriate for two mom friends, bonded over births.

(Plus at the show, I saw several old clients, and was in the beer line next to one for a long time. She and her husband clearly were having that type of experience you have when you are 7 years old, and you see your first grade teacher at the store- like Whoa- Ms. H, whatcha doin' here!? Like when you are a kid and you think your teacher inhabits another world, these clients were thinking it was super weird to be at a show buying beer with the midwife that helped them birth their baby. )

Here is "Landing Gear" recorded from that show, which is about the (home) birth of her daughter. A someone currently gestating, I have a hard time not getting weepy at the line "for someone who ain't even here yet, look how much the world loves you....."

I love it when musicians grow with me. Ani was there to sing '32 flavors' and 'Joyful Girl' in my teens and 20's, "Dilate' when I was in midwife school, and now 'Red Letter Year' plays in my car when my daughter allows it...

2)Best Live show for the Family: Waterloo (ABBA the Show) June 2008 at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, Florida

In tribute to the SwedeDaddy's cultural heritage, he often played ABBA in the car while driving with our daughter in Florida. He never made pickled fish, or lussekatt buns, or papparkakor, or read Astrid Lindgren stories to her to uphold his cultural traditions- but he did play ABBA. Our girl knows all the words to the songs on "ABBA" gold,and it KILLS me when she starts the song "Thank you for the Music" by singing along in her little voice "I'm nothing special....In fact, I am bit of a bore....."

So for father's day last year, I surprised them both with tickets to see the ABBA cover band "Waterloo" (touring as ABBA: THE SHOW) billed as the "absolutely best ABBA since ABBA!" They do tour with the original band member Benny, at least. Oh.Mi.Gosh. did Swedegirl ever love it. She wanted to stay after the show to meet the "Abba Lady" and we actually did hang out, letting my three year old be an ABBA (cover band) groupie, and she met the original band member and the beautiful blonde singer with her baby at an after party! For weeks, my daughter would set up pretending by saying "you be The-ABBA-Lady and....."

3)Best Album to Play when SwedeGirl is Not in the Car: Ani DiFranco's Red Letter Year. I made the live show, the album had just come out when I moved to Sweden, and it saved me. A favorite, and opens with a great New Years Song, the title track. And "Present/ Infant" is also an amazing song, if you want a new mantra take a tip from her and use "don't forget to have a good time..."

4) Best Albums to Play when SwedeGirl is in the Car: Our Most Played Kids Albums of 2008. So try not to notice how lame I am that I have whole list of the most played kids music of this year, and just a few albums of my own. But, one reason for this is the public libraries in Florida. They have a pretty great selection of kids music, which we borrowed and burned before we left so we would have English language entertainment abroad. Don't worry, I copied them but paid for them several times over in late fees, which is just me doing my part to make sure the library collection keeps growing! Right?

1) Faerie Elaine - Faeries, Dreams, and Other Friends

I still can not believe "Faerie" Elaine Silver has not made it bigger on the kids scene. She is the undiscovered treasure of the Waldorf crowds. She is a time transplanted traveling ministerial from long ago. She makes goddess-y music, with great new thought positive messages, and the sweetest faerie sings ever. This CD is always my daughters very favorite and first choice. The song "A House Full of Faeries" is darling- she tells about going around her house and finding little faeries like "Emily, the keeper of the tinctures and teas" and opening up the freezer to find "Jeremy of the Deep, Deep Freeze". Gentle, magic, and sweet. If you are reading this from Florida, she lives in Arlington Park neighborhood and you can find out where she is playing by looking at her website http://www.elainesilver.com/. She needs to be having regular concerts at the Children's Garden there!!!

2) Elizabeth Mitchell- You are my Little Bird Again, I love it when musicians grow with you. I last heard from Elizabeth Mitchell she was making music with her band 'Ida'. Now, she is making beautiful kids music. This is a sweet little CD wegot as a going away present. We love "Liza Jane" as a way to remember far away friends, and the Bob Marley cover of "Three Little Birds" will convince you every little thing really actually will be alright. I love the gentle mother's prodding of the baby (or mother?) to "lady be good, do what you should, and you know it will be alright" when she covers Velvet Underground's "What Goes on in Your Mind", a question every parent has asked! She reframes this classic in a new way, through the eyes of a parent soothing a baby- "I think I am upside down......"

3) The Sippy Cups: Electric Storyland

First off, the album title reminds me of a Butthole Surfers Album called 'Electric Larryland'. This is not quite the Butthole Surfers, but it is as close to Emo for kids as it gets. The album is a funky rock-n-roll change of pace, with totally benign, creative, wacky kids lyrics. There is a fun song that starts with a call from 'Superguy', who smells like patchouli and can balance chakras with a single words (you guessed it, OM), who implores young ones to use their super powers by calling on them to 'USE YOUR WORDS'!!! I personally love the melodic 'Magic Toast' that sounds a bit like Syd Barret, with the line "you are so right mother, this toast has really given me a lift.... you are so right mother, this toast is such a special gift!". The SwedeGirl likes to request the 'Snail Song' off this album, which she refers to as "the rock out song" cause it has a really great guitar break. And like the Elizabeth Mitchell album, this one also has a cover of a Velvet Underground song, but this time it is "Rock-N-Roll". Sippy Cups bring new meaning to the line "when Janie was just about 8 years old there was nothing going on at all" till she turned on the radio station and her life was changed by rock-n -roll. And it was alright. ALRIGHT.

4)Barney Saltzberg: Crazy Hair Day Barney Saltzberg was first known to me as the author of children's books, but this album is a gem. It has him telling the story of Crazy Hair Day, which my daughter just loves. It helped me realize the power of stories for kids to relate to others experiences' of strong emotions- in the case of Crazy Hair Day- of extreme embarrassment followed by a sense of inclusion. The songs I love most on this are "Be with Me" and "Home" which are gentle reminders to parents that there is no where on earth your children want to be, and noone on eart they would rather be with than you. It's a good simple heart felt reminder to be present, couched in some great songs that capture the spirit of childhood. The sock song is quite alot of fun, too. Again, this is one of the most requested albums by the Swedegirl.

5)Raffi: Let's Play

There are so many really cool new kids musicians, that I was not going to include Raffi in this list because he is such the old standby in children's music. I used to play 'Baby Beluga' to the kids I babysat for when I was 13. But this one album is just so great, and shows what a positive force in the world Raffi is- he's a gentle, pro-child voice of peace, that it had to be mentioned. Songs on this album are particularly environmentally oriented. "Raining like Magic'" has beautiful imagery, and thanks to "Jane, Jane" my three year old knows about the work of Jane Goodall with the chimpanzees. When searching for images to include in the blog, I found a beautiful manifesto for Childhood Raffi authored, that can be viewed on YouTube, read by him with Nelson Mandela and Jane Goodall. I'm just saying, Raffi is good guy, and this album is far from the banal children's music you may expect from such a standby old favorite in children's music.

5)Best Swedish Musican (that I've found!): Hello, SafeRide Annika Norlin's band Hello, Saferide is my new favorite. This is in english, but her solo work is in Swedish. It's almost enough to make me want to learn swedish sooner than later. This artist gives me great hope, because when I first arrived in Sweden, every song on the radio sounded like euro pop, or 'The Cure' circa 1980 something. But alas, the swedish modernity in design and the hipness seen in other areas of swedish life does in fact carry over into music. The current release is "More Modern Short Stories" is full of honest lyrical songs. She reminds me of Ani Difranco, who obviously, I love. And of Dar Williams.

This single 'Anna' absolutely stopped me the first time I heard it. As a midwife, I know about all the grief and longing that goes with the loss of a child- be it in abortion, miscarriage, mid pregnancy loss, term loss, or even in just choosing to be childless, or deciding to not have one more.... and always 'wondering what if?'. This song captures the longing (the heartbreak?) I see when I take a health history and bump into that loss....it might have been 'Anna.'

In line with her other lyrics that capture deep experiences in women's lives, the song "X, Telling Me about the Loss of Something Dear, at Age 16" details a girl's rather mechanical loss of virginity, and her sense of loss, if more a hope or expectation than of her girlhood....She does what she thinks she ought to, then goes back to work at the mall and sells someone some red shoes. Red shoes....like Christina Pinkola Estes, like Dorothy, like something scarlet....

I am excited Hello, SafeRide is touring Sweden, and will make to my town before I go into labor. One more show before I am back in New BabyLand.

6) Best Non- Swedish Song on Swedish Radio: Noah and The Whale "5 Years Time"

I have to include this link for the 'Fun, Fun, Fun' song, as the SwedeGirl calls it, because it holds the special place of being the first song we really liked when we got here that we had never heard before. The group is British, Noah and the Whale. They sound a bit like Lambchop at times, and Belle and Sebastian at others. This song captures the love, love , love I have for all the years spent with old friends, who now, in five years time or ten, are just friends on Facebook. So, in five years time, where will we be? I don't know, but it's been fun fun fun.....

And this is just gratuitous YouTube play, as I remember there is more to the world than kids music. This is music about childhood with lots of images that could have come from a dream about my family photo album. It's the "La la la song" by The Bird and The Bee. So I put it here. Cause it is cool. If I had an editor, they would have stopped me.

I promise to stop now.

Ten Reasons why I am glad I will be in Sweden and not in the USA in 2009

I have really enjoyed the last week with my husband home on paid vacation leave from his job at a major international corporation based in Sweden. He does not go back to work until next Wednesday the 6th.

This has me feeling grateful for our new life Sweden, so I wanted to write up a little list of why we are glad we are here for this New Year. So here is a count down, late- night-show style, from 10 on down ...

"The Top Ten Reasons We are Glad to Be in Sweden in 2009."

10) You can drink the water. We had stinky chlorinated water in Florida and had to spend money to keep drinking water on hand. It is wonderful thing to turn on the tap and have fresh clean water.

9) We have 25 hours of preschool a week at the school of our choice for our three year old daughter, for just a tiny amount of money that equals what the government sends us monthly for raising her, and less than what I would spend on two partial days of care per week in the USA. The care is good too, it's no plastic toy hell with screaming kids that smells like unchanged diapers, like some American day cares. It is a Waldorf school, the teacher ratio is 1 teacher to 4 kids, and they serve meals and snacks with only organic food.

Access to daycare means there are fewer insane, stressed parents here- it is good to be able to get out with out your child a bit. There are things grown ups need to do with out kids. Childcare is a luxury many can not afford in the US. In my town, before I left there were several stories about single mothers working at low paying jobs who got in trouble for leaving their small children at home unsupervised. Well, when its work to eat, and show up at work or lose the job, and the job pays less than childcare costs, its no wonder these things happen not too infrequently. So sad, how little children and families are valued in the USA.

8) There is a stay at home dad culture. I was recently at a mall with a fellow American, and we were admiring the dad that wheeled his stroller up to a table and took a seat, at 1pm on a Wednesday. He started fussing with baby food for his infant, and soon he was joined by a male friend. The guy friend greeted him and scooped up the baby and started flying him around, making airplane noises, and generally loving up the baby in a very connected, male way. My thought was, wow, that guy friend of his actually knows how to BE WITH A BABY, probably because he spent time caring for his own at some point as well. Where else can you see two dudes in a shopping mall mid-workday hanging out and ogling the baby? Gotta love Sweden.

This really is a reflection not only of sane work practices, a culture that values children and family, but also gender equity. In Sweden there is a sense of gender equity needing to be extended both ways- that women should be included in the public sphere, and men included in the domestic sphere. This country has the largest percentage of women in government, and from what I can tell, also has the largest percentage of men in cafes with babies in strollers.

7) Kids ride their bikes to school, and all around the neighborhood. Kids are safe in Sweden. There is very little crime here, and very little concern over children's freedom to be out in the world alone. In my Florida hometown in the last two years, there were two child murders of children under 10, and a stay at home mom that was dragged from her home while her two toddlers napped, and was raped and murdered. There were no children on the streets in my Florida hometown. Since children can not ride bikes to school, the drop off lines for cars taking children to school can be an hour long, as the road infrastructure as not built to support one car per child each morning.

In all the criminal cases I mentioned in Florida, the perpetrator had a history of mental illness, addiction, and of recent suspect behavior. In Sweden, there is health care care for people who have problems. The man who abducted the stay at home mom had a head injury as a child his family could not afford to treat, and had never gotten any services, even though everyone who knew him knew he was "off". One of the men who kidnapped, assaulted and killed a ten year old was addicted to cocaine and depressed, but again, no services. Who pays when we do not take care of the people in our society? Ask the moms who have to wait in line an hour each day to drop off their kid at school in the USA, who have obese kids that never get to go outside, and they probably do not know the answer.

6) Work/Life balance is valued. 5 weeks paid vacation leave is the norm in Sweden for all jobs, in addition to the national holidays. Sane work hours make for sane workers. Overworked people are not more productive. My husband has six weeks vacation, since he has a cushier white collar job. This is in contrast to the 10 days off he had annually in the USA at a similar job. And if he was sick, it counted against his time off. We usually juggled these days to get a short break around Christmas, then were left with a long weekend or two. We did not get to visit Sweden much, as three days is not much time to travel! Though I did once actually visit Sweden over a five day break, when I was at my first job. That was that was all I could get- I spent two days traveling and three days in daze meeting his family. Here in Sweden, we can live away from my family, but perhaps go spend a month with them on our time off. And since we do not have to pay for childcare and health care, we might even be able to have enough money to pay for some plane tickets!

5) Separation of church and state is for real here. I do not care what people believe in their personal religions, but I think we can all look to Iran and say it's not a good idea when a government imposes it's religion on it's people. From this standpoint, I can not even begin to understand the 'Sarah Palin' phenomenon, of Christians who hoped to see the American government become more christian. Swedes are for human rights, and respect individuals to determine what is best for them. The government helps makes sure everyone has access to good education, health care, and needed services in jobs, language, and housing so people can freely do in their lives what they see fit. They are not there to make moral judgments, but to create a system that allows individuals to flourish by having their basic needs met.

There was recently a debate on Swedish radio here about a lesbian couple who had artificial insemination for one partner to become pregnant, and then they discovered she was infertile. The debate was that the law was written so only one partner can undergo fertility treatment in the national medical system. Their situation brought to light the need for both partners to have access to insemination services. Can you even imagine the US having this discussion?? National health care covering fertility treatments, for lesbians, and no one even trying to get moralistic about it?!! In Sweden, that is their business, not the government's.

4) Sweden is a good global citizen. Sweden makes peace, not war. Unlike the US, which destroyed the Iraqi health care system first with sanctions that caused hundreds of deaths in innocent children who had no access to needed medicines under the sanctions. Then we destroyed the whole infrastructure of the country- healthcare, transportation, power, and communications in a war to go after fictional weapons of mass destruction. We left a whole country feeling too unsafe to leave the house. By contrast, the think tank 'The Centre for Global Development' in Washington DC just named Swedish foreign aid the best in the world. "The Swedish foreign aid programme is the best in the world in terms of quantity, weighted for country size, as well as its quality,” said the report, and "in assessing Sweden’s ranking in the category of Security, CGD praised Sweden’s contributions to international peacekeeping missions" according to this article in the Swedish paper The Local. Sweden helps its people at home, and extends an actually useful helping hand to other countries as well.

3) The Swedish Economy is more stable than the US economy. I just moved fro man area where we luckily got rid of two houses that had declined 50% in value since they were appraised in 2005. In my hometown the foreclosures epidemic is plaguing neighborhoods, families are suffering from job loss, and there is little relief to be had. The whole system, even the little back up available in terms of medicaid for health care or other assistance, is going broke. The Swedes went through a market crisis in 1991 and 1992, and bailed out banks and had a swift recovery. In September, as the US market collapsed, there was talk about how the US should emulate Sweden, who managed a successful bailout and recovery in the 90's , and about looking to Japan for what not to do -who had a bail out that was too little too late that they have never recovered from. The Swedish bail out plan of the 90's included several key points the Oct US bail out sadly did not include, like safe guards to make sure citizens did not get stuck with the bill in the end. The Swedes did not participate in the Euro currency, but maintained control over their own currency. They are poised to have shorter recession with less negative societal impact than almost anywhere else in the world. The Swedes learned a thing or two from their crisis, and while everyone in the world is hurt by the collapse of the credit market, Sweden is braced and more stable than many places.

2) We have health care coverage and so does everyone else. We just need to call the clinic with our person number, and we can get what ever care we need. My husband worked for a company that had a group policy in the USA, so we had coverage. It cost us more than we pay in taxes here, though, and our swedish taxes also go for other useful things, like free college for everyone. Not to mention that in the US there were limits on coverage, so even if you are insured, if you get cancer or your medical tragedy gets to expensive you may reach 'the ceiling' or life time limits of your coverage. So even if you are insured, if there is a catastrophe, there is no guarantee you will not be stuck with huge bills.
Until May of last year, when we got group coverage through my husbands work, I could not get maternity insurance since I have had a c-section. If we were self employed as we were then and having this baby, there would be no way I could buy a plan to cover me and the baby. Insurers can pick and choose who they cover, and since c-sections put you at risk for future problems, insurance companies will not cover women who have ever had c-sections unless they are forced to by law as they are in group plans. This would mean we would pay thousands of dollars out of our pocket if everything went well for birth, but could easily owe $30,000 if I had no have c-section and had a baby with any special care needs.

I saw this many times in my midwife practice- women who had c-section before who were hoping and praying they would not need one again, since they were still paying off the $20, 000 bill from the last one. No wonder #1 cause of bankruptcy in the US is medical bills. Think you are not paying for someone else's health care? You are right, you are paying for other people's disaster care that comes from lack of health care.

1) I am having a baby. This number 1 reason we are glad we are here all the way, and can easily explain the other million reasons I am glad I am here. In Sweden 2.8 babies per thousand die in the first year of life, in USA it is 6.4 per thousand, and for non-white people in the county I lived in in Florida it was 14. The USA ranks 48th the world in infant mortality, which is an indicator of overall societal well being. Here is a May 2008 article about the USA having the second worst infant death rate in the developed world. The only way your baby is less safe than in the US, is if you are in Lativia. In my town, the hospital had a 39% c-section rate, the local Swedish hospital has a 14% rate and they are working to lower it as they see that as too high. In the US, I was bullied for no medical reason into a c-section, here I have no worries that will happen. When our baby is born we will be given appropriate medical care, have plenty of time off to adjust to life as a family of four, and we will have childcare for our older one so I am not burdened by taking care of two kids with no break. My husband will get two weeks off after the birth, and will have 9 months paternity leave if he wishes. We will get a monthly check from the government to cover basic costs. There is a place in the village called 'open forskola' or open preschool where I can go any day of the week to meet other parents at home with small children.

I am grateful for our life here, and hope that things can improve in my homeland as well. Bill Maher's take on this is worth considering....

Saturday, January 3, 2009


You may find yourself in another part of the world...
with a beautiful house,
and a beautiful life,
and you may ask yourself,
Well, how DID I get here?

2008 was the year we got a teenage babysitter for Saturday nights. This may have just changed everything. It meant this was the year we finally had a second to actually have a grown up conversation over dinner, and remember, "Hey, it's already 2008!!! Isn't this the year we said we would try to move to Sweden?"

And from that one fateful date in early February, we entered a whirlwind that had us visiting in April and arriving in Sweden for good in July. With a new little soul growing within, who managed to sneak in along the way.....

What really just happened????

Enjoyed Circuses we got tickets to as Christmas gifts February:
Mega Beach Party Double Birthday Blow out March:
Strawberries in Florida
The Swedish Forest enticed us with the Green Dream
The Best of Florida
The Rest of the Best of Florida. Bye Friends! July:
Arriving to Jewel Red Currants in our Yard
Gotland: Medieval Town, here we are!
This must be Sweden!!!September:
Root Vegetables, or The Green Dream Lives
Finally, a couch
Snow Berries, and soon snow...
The Month of the Apron
Happy 2009