Tuesday, June 30, 2009

12 hours away

Alright, so in about 12 hours from now, we'll be leaving for the hospital. Albie's mom, Sue, is insisting on comming as well, which will probably be a good thing for Albie. I don't know how he would handle sitting in a waiting room by himself for several hours (although he did mention taking a nap).

I am thinking about tomorrow afternoon when I will - hopefully - be awake again and everything will be behind me. Today, I'm just trying to stay busy for the last few hours here - watching moves, cleaning the bathroom, organizing the utensil drawer, making smoothies... I even made myself a sandwich for the day I get home, should I feel like eating something (I can't really count on Albie's culinary skills, but they may improve over the next month!).

Wish me luck! The next time you hear from me, this will all be over. The optimism will be gone and I will be blogging about pain and suffering instead.

Monday, June 29, 2009

You can't see me

Biting daddy's pants

In a few days

In just a few days, the surgery will be behind me and I will be back at home. I am trying to stay positive, and I'm trying to think ahead to avoid thinking about the actual surgery.

I really don't want to think about them inserting a cathether or pushing hard on my belly to find out exactly where to make the incision. I also don't want to think about the hours where I'll be waking up - freaking out, no doubt - in a hospital bed feeling nauseated and crappy.

So I think past that - to the days of joy when I get to go home, trying to make it up the dozens of stairs to my bedroom, and then relaxing in front of some CSI. And I'm gonna eat whatever crap I can that will make me feel better - chips, ice cream, cookies... you name it!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Second lily pops out

Someone asked what kind of lilies they are - they were called "Asian lilies," a mix of colors.

Curtains finally up

So, remember that I tried to help a co-worker and her daugthers out with curtains? Well, two rooms are finally done (please excuse the quality of the photos as they are from my cell phone).

These blue ones I got up on the IKEA rods last week (I made these).

And here's the lucky girl and her mom.

These I didn't make, but I put up the curtain rods last night so they second girl could finally hang her curtains - my last helpful act before I get confined to my house for a month.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

When rumors spread

Three people came up to me yesterday at work, saying "why are you here? Aren't you supposed to be in Sweden?"

"Huh?" I said to the first one, and just shook it off.
"Where did you hear that?" I asked the second one without a good response.
"What the heck is going on?" I said after the third person's comments.

Apparently, my boss has told people I will be away for a "vacation." He didn't feel it appropriate, he said, to inform them about my medical issues. Which would be all nice and well, if it wasn't for the fact that I have told half the newsroom, and I'm even tweeting, Facebooking and blogging about it. It's not a secret.

"Did you tell them I'm going to Sweden?" I asked.
"Of course not. They probably just assume. You being Swedish an all."

I tried to correct a few of them. "It's not until next week," I'd say. I even told some people it won't be a vacation at all, because I'm having surgery. But it was tiring. There were so many of them that were misinformed.

Later in the day, I just ran away from comments such as "hope you have a nice trip" and "make sure Jordan (the boss) doesn't put you on the wrong flight and send you somewhere you won't want to go."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Almost there

I'm looking out the window several times a day now to see when my lilies will burst open. Oh, and all the mud over to the right apppeared out of nowhere the other day after - we think - the condo people came and ripped up all the bushes that separated our yard from our neighbor's. Apparently she is planning to plant something else there, but for now we have a mud pile.

Tweeting about surgery

I realize that I may be too out of it to actually blog about the surgery and the recovery. Insted, if you are interested, you can follow brief updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/vsundqvist (sign up to follow me).

I am allowed a cell phone and an iPod in the hospital, so I will try to tweet whenever I feel up to it. I will also keep my phone next to the bed at home, so I can tweet about how I'm doing for those who are interested.

The surgery is scheduled for July 1, next Wednesday.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Funny names

For the past month or so, I've been working on our annual 40-page graduation tab. It features pictures and names of all graduates in Litchfield County.

It's tedious work, placing photo after photo after photo - all of the same size, lined up in a row. But it can be fun, too, because some people have odd names. I found myself reflecting over a lot of strange things, such as names that can be both first and last names in the U.S., or names that can be both for boys and girls. See my lists below.

Names for boys and girls:
Leigh (Lee)

First names that can be last names:
Dillon (Dylan)
Kelley (Kelly)

Fun names that have a meaning:
Archer ("I use my bow and arrows every day")
Ashburn (ha, and this one is a reverend!)
Beavers ("are we building a dam?")
Best ("I'm the best!")
Bridges ("I cross the waters frequently")
Cash ("I don't carry any on me, sorry")
Couch ("No, I'm not a couch potato")
Cry ("I always cry")
Diamond ("A girl's best friend")
Gasser (can you even imagine?)
Godburn (are we burning God now?)
Grey ("gosh, I feel blah")
Farmer ("Yes, I live on a farm")
Flowers ("gee, it sucks to be a guy")
King ("I'm the king of the world!")
Mica (the mineral?)
Minor ("No, it's actually my major")
Parent ("I'm too young to have kids")
Pope ("No, I'm not THE pope")
Saltman ("I could use some licorice!")
Seaman (pronounced "semen," need I say more?)
Smart ("Of course I am!")
St. Sauveur (pronounced "saint savior" - the almighty)
Weeks ("I've been trying to graduate for weeks!")
White (that can be tough)
Woods ("I'm an outdoor kind of guy")
Yard ("I like being outside")

Names that mean stuff in other languages:
Finkelstein ("finch" and "rock" in German)
Himmel ("Sky" in Swedish)
Knaublauch ("Garlic" in German)
Nygren ("New branch" in Swedish)
Summa ("sum" in Swedish)

I actually came across one guy named the same thing for first and last name, but now I cannot remember what it was.

I know we have some weird names in Sweden, like the ones that mean "bear" (Björn) or "path" (Stig) or "stone" (Sten), but I cannot imagine anyone being called Anderson Anderson or Johnson Johnson (I have, however, met someone whose father's name was Mårten Mårtenson).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Time to tell

I've told my family, my closest friends and my co-workers. I guess now it's time to tell the rest of the world.

I am scheduled to have surgery on July 1.

I've written before about my fibroid. While I am still employed and have health insurance, and before this thing grows any bigger, it is time to get it taken care of.

It's going to be at a hospital in New Haven, and my regular OB/GYN is going to do the actual cutting and sewing back together. I will most likely be there until July 3 - coming home just in time for the July 4 weekend.

I've taken off from work for at least four weeks to recover, but the doctor told me today he won't let me go back until he gives the "A-OK." No driving for 10 days after surgery. Lots of "CSI" and "Friends" are in store.

Oh, and Albie bought us a Wii, so I might be playing a lot of that as soon as I feel better!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Help us reach 1 million

Hi all blog readers,

Please help us reach 1 million hits for June at www.registercitizen.com. Click away every day!



Saturday, June 13, 2009

Visit from puppies

A co-worker brought in these two teacup chihuahuas to the office last weekend (you can see the butt of the second one in the background). I've never really been a fan of small dogs, but they were the absolute cutest things I've seen in a long time. Smaller than my kittens, when I first got them. We are hoping for another visit again soon so auntie Vik can play!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I am going to get fingerprinted later today for my greencard application. Wish me luck!

P.S. This is my 400th post!

Monday, June 8, 2009

I want blue curtains, mommy!

Feeling like a failure

Last week, I was trying to help a co-worker, a single mom with three children, after she just moved into a new house. It was the cutest little thing, and each child would get to have his or her own room.

First, I spent a day sewing curtains from fabric I had at home. I went to Walmart to see if I could find some fabric on sale, bought one item, but realized most of the curtain rods I liked were out of my price range. I was most excited, however, over some lace fabric I found for very little money.

When I got home, I had the idea of combining the lace fabric with some sheer blue fabric that was in my closet. The effect was great – just perfect for the mother’s room since it faces the street. It would block out curious eyes but still let in some light.

Since I didn’t have any measurements, I just guestimated the size of the bedroom windows. Cute little houses have tiny little windows, right? Wrong.

I drove the family home Tuesday evening so I could see my work – they are without a car since theirs broke a couple of weeks ago. I brought two café rods that would go inside the window frame for the sheers in the master bedroom (aka the dining room). I rushed inside and held up the curtains – they were several inches too short in width. Together with the middle child, a daughter, I ran upstairs to see if the curtains would fit in her room since she had smaller windows. Again, I struck out. Of course, one of them would have fit in the smallest window, but the curtain rod was too big for that one.

On Wednesday, I was determined to do some good to help this family out. I picked up an IKEA Allen wrench from my toolbox to take with me to work so I could at least help one of the daughters put together her bed. She had been sleeping on the floor for several days. Then I said to myself, I better bring the whole toolbox, just in case.

I stopped by Home Depot to look at curtain rods since I had some money left on a gift card, but I struck out on that as well. Turns out, they had no rods that looked decent for less than $17 – and that’s for just one rod, one window. Unbelievable (of course, here we go again with the “window treatments.”) I gave up and walked out.

When I took my evening break (which rarely happens), I announced to the mother that I was going to her house to help the girls with the bed. “Great!” she said. A few minutes later, I was standing with both girls in front of the bedroom door – it was locked. Nobody knew where the keys were.

An hour later – after taking off the door handle and putting back on – we found the keys and got into the room. While the girls got the bed pieces together, I went to my toolbox to grab the Allen wrench – it wasn’t there.

Somehow, debating over the tool or the whole toolbox, I must have left it out. It was still at home. Another failed day.

On Thursday, I brought TWO wrenches, and the bed was finally put together that night. And on Friday, I got to take the oldest daughter to her middle school prom. So I guess the week picked up after all. But they still don’t have any curtains that fit.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

To tweet or not to tweet

A fellow Quinnipiac University alumnus recently blogged about Twitter, and how easy and convenient this social networking site is. "It has really changed my life," he wrote.

Fine, I said to myself. I've never understood what this is, so let's try it.

Friends have described it to me as "Facebook status updates on steroids" or "people constantly writing updates and nothing else." (for those of you not familiar with Facebook, a status update is where people can write, as often as they wish to in any given day, what they are doing. The site gives you "Viktoria is..." and you fill in the blank. It can be anything from "am sick of work" to "is petting a kittycat.")

So I signed up. I logged in. I found out that some of my friends were already on it. Then I wrote my first phrase - "is now on Twitter" - and I waited. What's next? Apparently, nothing.

After a while I realized that since I had no "followers" - people who read my site - I was writing for nobody. And the people I was "following" hadn't written anything in days.

When posting desperate message on Facebook about how I hate Twitter and how pointless it is, I got all sorts of advice. One friend wrote "you have to join a group, like writers, and then they can help you out with advice." Another friend at work said "You have to follow some celebrities you like - the actual celebrities on there - that's the only fun about Twitter. They actually write what they are doing and you get to read it."

I had no interest in following celebrities. I couldn't even think of anyone I wanted to search for. Finally, one name came to mind: Bryan Adams. He was there - I found him. Today, I added Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes and Cesar Millan - the Dog Whisperer.

Twitter policy seems to dedicate that if someone signs up to follow you, you should sign up to follow them, but I have no idea why anyone would want to read about my day with the cats. Oh, and you are also limited to a certain number of characters.

I guess that's about it. Well, I'm giving it a week. If I'm still not into it - yeah, I was already sick of it after a day - then I'll just shut it off and never look at it again. For now, you can find me here (although I've protected my updates so you have to ask permission first to become a "follower.")

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The changing newspaper industry

They are shutting down our pressroom. While the change won’t directly affect me and my closest co-workers, it is moment for all of us to reflect on what is happening in the newspaper industry.

Our 8,500-daily-circulation product is only one of many that we pump out in the Torrington factory. We did a big re-design in November to make our product bigger, better and with more local content. This, of course, means more work on the editors’ part.

Then we took over the Thomaston Express, a weekly newspaper previously run by our sister publication in Bristol. We also have the Foothills Trader – three different zones – and Good News About Torrington, a weekly newspaper that goes out to every home in Torrington for free.

As if that wasn’t enough, we added on The Granby News, a weekly newspaper covering an town near Bradley Airport – nowhere near any of our other coverage areas. Oh, and I can’t forget about Litchfield County Mom, our 40-page quarterly publication that is going glossy for its second issue in June.

Not only do these publications require daily, weekly or monthly content for the print issues such as stories, photos and calendar items – they all need to be paginated and they all have web sites that need to be updated on a regular basis.

And let’s not forget about the special sections. At the middle of June, we have the Grad Tab, a yearbook-format product of about 40 pages that prints every photo of every high school student who is graduating in our coverage area. Then we have Reader’s Choice, which lists the winners in our annual contest to see who is best at what they do.

But apparently this isn't enough to keep our pressroom going. Since the other newspaper was sold and left us for a cheaper printing firm, our products are moving elsewhere to save the company $375,000.

On any given day, we have two or more products to work on. Our staff consists of five editors, five reporters, and two photographers. That’s for all publications (although editorial is not in charge of content for the Foothills Trader). With each person getting 2 days off per week, that doesn’t leave many people on for each day. That means the main product, that little thing we call The Register Citizen, gets about 5 hours of attention from the editors, at best.

And the reporters? They spend about 6 hours a day working on daily stories, 2-3 hours working on Litchfield County Mom stories, a few hours on Granby/Thomaston/Good News/Arts section stuff, an hour with office meetings, phone calls, clearing out e-mails, and then another hour trying to convince The Boss that they didn’t work any overtime.

And people wonder why there are mistakes. When we get complaints about the proofreaders not doing their jobs, or the editors not knowing anything about grammar, all I want to say is “what proofreader? That job was eliminated ten years ago.” And fixing grammar and spelling mistakes? There are days we don’t even have time to read the stories we put in the paper. That’s pretty bad. Considering that’s what we were hired to do.

With the pressroom gone in a couple of months, we won’t even have the chance to check what we do. Pages will be sent to a location 60 miles away, and nobody will be any wiser.

Is this what the newspaper industry has come down to?

I’d like to think that there are still newspapers out there with writers who actually get to cover their beats, editors who actually have the time to read and edit stories, and managers who have the time to step in and help out with the main product instead of being tied up with making crossword puzzles, blogging about child safety or designing house ads because other departments were just too busy.

I guess we all just need to be happy right now that we have jobs. Pretty soon they'll be shutting down the editorial departments as well. Who needs reporters and editors, anyway? We can just run material submitted from the public and let them do their own editing online.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The HIV test

As part of the physical exam for my greencard application, I had to have my blood drawn to check for HIV (among other diseases).

I’ve haven’t had my blood drawn for as long as I can remember, and I don’t like needles. But what I was most scared about was the result. There’s no reason to be worried, I told myself. I don’t have HIV. But the little voice inside my head saying “but what if?” still overpowered my calm and reasonable mind.

I am no stranger to the deadly disease. I know how to protect myself – I know how it is transmitted, and more importantly, I know how it is NOT transmitted (hugs, touches, kissing, drinking from the same glass, etc.)

We’re in the 21st century, but so many people (in developed countries!) still believe you can get sick by just being near an HIV positive person.

A brother of one of my friends, Walter Heidkampf, who has lived with HIV for more than 20 years, was recently denied access to a self development class in Sweden because of the virus. Proof of a negative HIV result is required to register for the class.

When Walter tried to explain to the course organizers that he was not contagious and should be allowed to participate in the meetings and group sessions, they responded by saying “Sometimes we do emotional exercises that could result in a nosebleed or cuts and bruises.”

For Walter, who was already struggling with feelings of rejection and suicidal thoughts, the decision was lethal to his self esteem.

But he didn’t give up. He filed a complaint with the discrimination ombudsman in Sweden, who helped Walter sue the course organizers. Experts testified that the risk of transmitting HIV through a nosebleed is minimal, should a nosebleed even occur.

Walter won his case; the decision says he was discriminated against. The course he was seeking to take was created around people with struggles in life, but it denied some of those people the right to participate.

There wasn’t much money – Swedish courts rarely award a big sum – but the case was the first of its kind and will hopefully set a precedent that will help many HIV positives be a part of society.

And my test? Well it was negative. But waiting for 48 hours made me think of Walter and everything he’s been through. You can’t help but admire a man who is living ten years beyond what the doctors told him he would when he first tested positive for the virus that is slowly killing him. And he expects to live for another 20 years still – teaching people about HIV, how to prevent it, and how to fight for your rights.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Remembering Ground Zero

Albie and I watched a documentary the other day on the History channel called "Inside 9/11." It took us through the events of that horrible day, and I remembered in detail as I heard about the first plane crash on the radio just as I was about to get out of my car at a Quinnipiac University parking lot.

At first, they didn't know what was going on. As I got to my classroom, a few people were already watching CNN. Our journalism teacher said, "let's just watch this today. We'll discuss the coverage later." Then, as a few more people shuffled into the room, we saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Then we all watched the towers crumble to the ground.

Perhaps it hit me extra hard because I had been inside Tower 1 less than two weeks before the attack. I had lived less than 30 minutes away. I knew people who worked in the city. I later found out that my host father's friend, Dave Campbell, died there (see another post about him here.)

Then I found out that a friend from my previous school, Westchester Community College, was missing. He had recently taken a job as a firefighter in New York City, near the World Trade Center, and hadn't been seen since the attacks. He eventually showed up at the college - frazzled, distraught and with a new respect for life.

I felt an immediate need to go down there. As soon as I had a day off, I hopped on a train. This is what I wrote a few days later and had published in the student newspaper, the Quinnipiac Chronicle (and also on Swedish travel site Jorden Runt):


One month ago the trip down to the city would have been regular, and the goal would have been to see the "Top of the World." A few days ago, the trip was filled with rubble, dust, and security guards, and the destination was called Ground Zero.

Already at Grand Central changes had been made. The voice over the speaker did not only encourage passengers to make sure they didn't leave any belongings on the train, but this time also added that any luggage left unattended would be subject to search by police.

The previous day, a firefighter friend had described the smell at Ground Zero as "a mix of smoke and corpses." It did smell worse than in the dirtiest subway station, but it had something else to it as well. Maybe it was the dust that made the whole southern part of Broadway smell burnt, or maybe it was the white smoke still lingering around the top of a white tower south of Wall Street.

People everywhere covered their mouths with cloth or facemasks, especially closer to Wall Street, where a cloud of dust and ashes was still flying around in the air.

Houses as far as seven or eight blocks away from Liberty Plaza and the World Trade Center were still covered in a thick layer of ashes. Cars were abandoned on the streets, shop windows were smashed and stores had shut down. Some restaurant employees were desperately waving signs around showing that in spite of everything, in spite of the street outside being closed off to the public, they were still open.

Every side street to the west of Broadway was guarded heavily by military and police. Signs were posted asking people not to take photos, and guards personally threatened to take away cameras when people from the crowd still took pictures, saying it was an order from the President.

Battery Park had been turned into a military camp. Tourists who would normally have stopped at the bull on Broadway to take photos now stopped and asked to be photographed together with the uniformed soldiers guarding the entrance to the park.

Outside the "100% ID-check zone," workers were flushing every street with water or washing windows and buildings. Everywhere signs of missing people were placed. Flowers, letters and poems had been delivered to the local fire station, Engine 7, where firefighters are still waiting for a sign of their missing friends.

Turning around corner after corner, block after block, there is one sight after another: a totally burned out building turned black by smoke, a pile of rubble, building cranes lifting pieces away from the mess, and from the south, finally, the one arch-like piece of a wall still standing. With the sun slowly rising from behind the wall, it appears as a lit up shadow.

There are no more words to describe what was left at Ground Zero. The meaning of the images came slowly at first, and then it was clear: Everything shown on TV was true. It really did happen.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Curtain call

This is what "my" room looks like when I get creative - I am currently in the process of making curtains for my friend at work who just moved into a four-bedroom home. Five-six rooms need curtains, two windows in each room. She declared herself "deficient in the curtain department," so Idecided to take over.