Sunday, July 29, 2007

***Sweden: July 11 ,2007***

On Wednesday Ken worked all day and Sarah and I spent the morning visiting my dear friend Anna. She had just had her second baby 6 days earlier! She lives in Hemse with her boyfriend Jörgen and her son Melvin, 2.5 years old.

So much fun to see her again! We have kept in contact pretty good, but it sure beats seeing her in person. Her dad and my mom was actually cousins, and she is actually named after my mom!

Anna and brand new baby Malva.

When we got back home we took a walk with aunt Gitte to pick some flowers. We walked over to Hembygdsgården (community center). There you can find a replica of a Viking age picture stone that was found locally.

Picture stone at community center, Ardre church in the background.

Gitte's cool mailbox

Aunt Gitte taking a break at the community center.

Me just enjoying the beautiful Swedish summer day!

Later in the evening Sarah and I went to Visby to spend the evening at my very good high school buddy Lotta's house. We were invited for a BBQ and had lots of fun time hanging out with her and her two daughters Philippa and Lilly. It is amazing how well the kids played together, considering they couldn't understand each others languages! I sure miss hanging out with Lotta...

Lotta in her kitchen in Visby

Philippa and Sarah enjoying some ice cream before they get back to playing

***Sweden: July 10 ,2007***

On Tuesday we took my mom (grandmother) Wivan for a tour of southern Gotland (also called Sudret). I mainly grew up in Hemse, the largest "city" on Sudret.

We drove around on all the small little roads crisscrossing this beautiful landscape. Often you pass over a "färist", a sort of iron grid on the road surface, there to prevent the sheep (lamb) to cross the road, but to make it easier for traffic to pass through without the need for gates. If you don't slow down your car you will be violently shaken! Lots of fun!

Our first stop was Holmhällar. This stretch of coast is one of my favourites. You can find all kinds of beaches here, from sand, stone and magnificent rauks. A rauk is a stone pillar made out of fossilized coral reef (lime stone). The ocean has eroded teh softer sand stone and what is left are these tall, often funny shaped stone monuments.

During the early days of World War II Gotland was an important post. Many bunkers were constructed along the coast, where the military would keep an eye out for the Nazis. My great grandfather was in charge of the 19 men that built the bunkers at Holmhällar. He and his wife (who was a cook and responsible for feeding them all) stayed here for an entire summer. My grandmother and two of her 8 siblings stayed there with them. The military had confiscated all trucks owned by the men, so they had to bike everywhere (the trucks were later returned to them after the war). Very cool to see these bunkers, knowing my great grandfather actually helped build them!

My grandmother shows us the area where some of the bunkers were.

Ken and Sarah checks out a bunker.


After Holmhällar we went out to Gotland's southern most part, Hoburgen. There are some really cool rauks there, one of which looks like an old man's face. We also had a very nice lunch at the Majstregården's restaurant.

After lunch we went to Bottarvegården, which is a museum farm very representative of how a south Gotland farm looked like during the 18th century.

Us at Bottarve

The main house at Bottarve

The barn with the famous "agtak" (saw grass roof).

Sarah was more interested in feeding the rabbits they had there!

***Sweden: July 9 ,2007***

On Monday we decided to check out Visby a little bit, starting off with a visit to Fornsalen (County Historical Museum). They have a very fascinating collection dating well back to the beginning of Gotland's first days as a populated island. It is amazing to think people have lived on this island close to 8,000 years. Gotland was a very important trade hub in the Baltic Sea since Viking age. Its history is very interesting indeed.

Gotland, initially an independent sovereign entity, fell under German rule in 1398, Danish rule in 1408, Swedish rule in 1645, Danish rule again in 1676, and ended up as part of Sweden in 1679, with a brief 23-day occupation by the Russians in 1808.

Interestingly, when Gotland fell under Swedish rule, it did so as the result of peace treaties, whereas other countries' means of obtaining it were generally not peaceful.

Many Swedes vacation on Gotland, it is often thought of as exotic since the nature and light here differ form that of the rest of Sweden.
The view over Visby toward the harbor.

Same as above.

Another angle.

Sarah getting in touch with her Swedish roots...

At Fornsalen.

One of many Viking age picture stones found on Gotland.

The Visby wall in the background. The hanseatic city of Visby is since 1995 on UNESCO's World Heritage Protection list. The Visby City Wall was built in two stages and was completed 1288. It is almost 3,500 km long.

***Sweden: July 8 ,2007***

OK, I am finally caught up with work, so I will start posting some pictures from our trip to Sweden. It will be chronologically, just a few pictures from a few of our outings.

Our first weekend on Gotland we stayed mostly around my aunt's house. They live in Ardre, close to Ljugarn on the east coast of the island. Her brother in law live at the family's farm, and they have all kinds of animals like horses, sheep, cows and rabbits. We enjoyed petting all of them!

Among the sheep (or lamb as they are called on Gotland). This was the day before they were being cut!

My aunt's brother in law's house, from the mid 18th century. Very well kept farm!

On the road leading into my aunt's house. We stayed in a guest cottage in the back. It was very relaxing, the horses were just outside our window!

A lamb carved with a motor saw by a friend of my aunt's family.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Yesterday I spent all day cleaning, and except for vacuuming and mopping the house looks great! I have so much work to do today, but it feels great working in a nice, clean house! Thank goodness they gave me some pain killers, my ribs were killing me after all that cleaning, so I really needed it last night.

I might finish up here in a few hours. Ken will be home around 2-4 PM and we are planning on having an early dinner at Outback. There is an Outback restaurant just around the corner, so it would be a quick outing. He has a lot of work to do as well, but he can work remotely from home this afternoon.

If I finish up in time I will clean the floors and then maybe just do some more research about the upcoming surgery (it has kind of taken over my mind, hard not to think about it!) or maybe just read.

I have about 20 Swedish pocket books ready and waiting from my Swedish trip. I also got a bunch of magazines to read. I really love the Swedish Populär Historia (Popular History), Bonniers Världens Historia (Bonnier's World History) and Illustrerad Vetenskap (Illustrated Science). One of my aunts subscribe to all, so I was able to convince her to donate some to me. They weighed a ton, but I really love reading them! I also got the latest issue of Vecko Revyn, which is a magazine kind of for 20 somethings, but it has morphed into a tabloid in my opinion. But kind of cool to see what they gossip about in Sweden...

So either way I am looking forward to a lazy evening of just hanging around the house and relax.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Surgery update

Turns out Dr M won't have an opening for me until spring, and there is no way I will wait that long. So I decided to go with Doctor Shore in St Petersburg instead. He is recommended by a couple of patients that had the surgery with him that I am having, and they loved him! It is closer to home as well. The facility is St Anthony's Hospital, a newly renovated hospital with a state of the art new colorectal surgery wing. I felt very much at ease talking to the coordinator, Fran. I have an appointment to see them on Tuesday at 2 PM. I asked when the surgery would be, and most likely in the middle of August! That is only like 3 weeks from now!

I have been reading up on the procedure and the long recovery. It is grueling and can be very tough, first you have to recover from major abdominal surgery, and then you will have a second surgery 12 weeks later where you basically have to learn how to poop again... They say it takes up to a year until everything is smoothed out, but you will of course never be normal again. Some adjust better than others. I think it will be important to watch what I eat so there won't be any blockages in the beginning. I met a great guy online who went through the same surgery, and he has posted some pictures for people to see. Very interesting, if you can handle it: J-pouch surgery pictures.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Quick note

I got a lot of work to do, so just a quick note here. I got the go ahead by my doctor to make an appointment with the colorectal surgeon in Tampa. It will be Dr M and I think he works out of Tampa General Hospital. This is a Level 1 Trauma Center, so they are top notch. It is also a teaching hospital affiliated with University of South Florida (my school), so that can be both good and bad.

I am waiting for Dr M's nurse to call me back to set up the initial appointment. After I see them I am sure I will get a better picture of what to expect. I am hoping to be able to do the surgery late August or early September. Since I have to do a second surgery 12 weeks later I want to make sure it all takes place before new years, since I already fulfilled my deductible for this year and therefore don't have to pay anything.

I am actually looking forward to the surgery, if anything just to spend a few weeks with my sister! As soon as I know when and where I will get her a plane ticket, looks like I can get one for 4,800 SEK through Kilroy Travels in Sweden, flying with SAS over Chicago. Why is it never so cheap when I fly (I know, I know, summer time is more expensive...)

I am getting so routine about hospitals stays so I am just cruising along. Even K (... OK, it is so easy to find out what our real names are anyway, so KEN) is not particularly stressed about this entire thing either. In a way I think he is just happy there might finally be some relief on the horizon for me here soon. Better get back to work now!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Things happen quickly when they happen!

I met with my gastroenterologist today. For some reason I KNEW what he was going to say. I just knew it. And of course... I am having the surgery. The BIG one. We are going to straighten out all the details, but since it is decided I just want it over as quick as possible.

It was first talk about me having it done in Pittsburgh, PA, but I asked him to find out if there is a good colorectal surgent a little bit closer to where we live. After all, we don't have any family around here to help us out. I will be out of commission for probably a month or so...

I got a tip from two people who went through the same surgery to see a Dr W at the Cleveland Clinic in Fort Lauderdale. A bit far but doable. I called my doctor, and his nurse told me he had found a great doctor in Tampa, which would be ideal.

I asked my sister to come and stay with us to help out after surgery, she has a pretty flexible work schedule, and I very much prefer to have someone I trust and love to care for me than some hired hand... We will pay for her ticket and she will stay for about 4 weeks. That will be an invaluable help for us!

So I am going to see if I can't have the surgery in September. The first surgery is the most difficult one, and I will have a temporary ileostomy (external waste bag) for 12 weeks. Then the internally constructed pouch should be healed and the external one will be surgically removed and I should be able to go to the bathroom as normal.

I am nervous about having this pretty complicated surgery done, but on the other side I have suffered for over 20 years and is excited about the possibility of some normal life. Even if it can take up to a year until everything is working as it should.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Doctor's appointment

I was very relieved to hear that I could do the Remicade treatment. Apparently they think the bug I have is viral, and then I should be OK. Bacterial infections tend to get really nasty if active during a Remicade treatment, since the medicine suppresses the immune system and the little boogers get free roaming space.

Turns out my rib pain is pleurisy. Not what I was hoping to hear, it is such a painful condition. I have had it several times before and the pain is equal to having broken ribs, not fun at all! It is basically an inflammation of the lining around the lungs, and the treatment is steroids, which I am already on. Dr K gave me some Vicodin so I can get some sleep tonight, this condition is especially tough when you have to apply pressure to the rib cage, such as when you sleep or just sit in a chair. Luckily most is in the front this time around, I have had it all around before, and I was pretty much sitting in the ER begging them to put me out of my misery...

Getting back into work with a big bang today, had to turn down a bunch of projects since I can only do so many. Summer usually is a busy time for me, a lot of it probably due to a lot of Swedish translators being on vacation most of the summer...

Tomorrow I am seeing my gastroenterologist to see what he is going to do with the steroids and other treatment options. I still have one more Remicade infusion (in 8 weeks) before we are deciding if it works or not. I really don't have much hope in that direction. My mind is already starting to prepare my self mentally for the possibility of having to remove my entire colon and rectum. If I only knew if the surgery would actually work beforehand, but there is no way to do that of course. And the recovery is usually a full year... Not exactly great...

Check out my t-shirt (and my very tired "I traveled for 34 hours" face)! I look like the Michelin man in the face due to all the steroids!

Home Sweet Home

That was a very long trip home! 34 hours door to door! It didn't make it better that both K (stomach bug) and I (sore throat, fever and severe rib pain) were sick. I would say our daughter handled it best!

We had no jet lag whatsoever after we arrived in Sweden, and no jet lag it seems now when we are home. Sure I am a bit tired, but no problem falling asleep or getting up at the new times. I think a little has to do with I immediately adapt to the new time zone and follow that time's day/night cycle.

I had been worried S would have a hard time, especially after reading about Jacal's kids' jet lag problems, but no, no problems at all!

S went to school this morning, very happy to do so. If she feels tired she can always nap during nap time there. I have to get a Remicade infusion today, but I am not sure if they will let me, since you are not supposed to have one if you have any active infections. Either way I want to go, since I get to talk to my rheumatologist beforehand, and my ribs are killing me. It is just regular joint pain, but it is a real difficult pain to handle when it is in the rib cage, since you are constantly moving the sore area when you breath. We will see if he can do anything about it.

When it comes to our trip to Sweden I haven't had much desire to blog when on vacation, not that my dear husband would let me get access to the laptop that much, he worked quite a lot over there. I did take a lot of pictures, so I think I will add some of those in chronological order and write about some of the stuff we did.

My feeling is just that it was such a relief to see everyone and know everything is still there. Just being able to hug people and sit down and have conversations, to take in the beautiful landscapes, to walk barefoot on the grass, smell the wild flowers growing on the un-mowed road sides of Gotland. To pick flowers and wild strawberries wherever I wished. To eat a Top Hat ice cream and read Vecko Revyn. The list goes on.

The combination of Gotland and Stockholm was great, even though I think K greatly prefers city life of that in close proximity to livestock... Those flies in the country side of Gotland drove him nuts! (We stayed in Ardre, just outside Ljugarn on the east coast of Gotland).

S got 2.5 weeks without TV, but with lots of outdoor play, animals and just being a kid. It really amazed us how she and her Swedish relatives her age got along without any problems, even though they don't speak each others languages. No problems there at all!

I also managed to get all the Swedish goodies I bought through customs without them seizing any of it, and I have a huge number of Swedish pocket books as well as several new additions to my cook book collection. I felt like a tourist on Västerlångatan and Drottninggatan buying all kinds of Swedish souvenirs. A Swedish viking to hold your tooth picks, anyone?

More to come soon...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I Stockholm

Sitter just nu på hotellrummet i Stockholm. Har lite svårt att se tangentbordet eftersom jag har ett litet migränanfall (utan huvudont, bara synstörningar), så om det blir lite fel så får ni ursäkta....

Vi blev uppringda när vi var på Gotland av Hotell Tegnerlunden, de hade överbokat och undrade om vi hade nått emot att flyttas till 4-stjärniga Rica Hotell Kungsgatan vid Hötorget i stället. Inga problem! Finare hotell närmare Gamla Stan... Jag var lite orolig att de skulle placera oss i ett av sina budgetrum utan fönster,men vi blev glatt överraskade med en minisvit, frukt, choklad & vattenkorg, kuponger för gratis drinkar i baren... Wow! Det hade vi inte väntat oss alls, kul!

Igår blev vi hämtade vid förjan i Nynäshamn av min kusin M som bor i Årsta och hennes pojkvän. Vi kollade in deras myiga lägenhet och sedan käkade vi lunch uppe i Kaknästornet. Har aldrig varit där. så det var kul. Efteråt lev vi omkringkörda i stan så att K kunde få en uppfattning. Han verkar verkligen vara förtjust i Stockholm, det är nog mer hans grej än Gotland...

Sedan blev vi avsläpta på hotellet och vilade lite innan vi mötte upp med M och P igen vid Åhlens City. Vi promenerade genom Gamla Stan och slutligen åt vi en god middag på Söder. Vi var alla trötta efter maten, och jag litade inte riktigt på min mage, så vi tog en taxi tillbaka till hotellet.

Idag vaknade K och kände sig usel. Jag och S hade magsjuka och mådde dåligt som bara den förra helgen, så nu verkar det vara hans tur. Som tur har han inte spytt ännu, stackarn. Hoppas att det blir bättre tills imorgon då vi har en lååång resa hem till Florida, med 9 timmar layover i Philadelphia...

K och S gick tillbaka till hotellet efter att varit med mig och köpt ett svenskt tangentbord och ett USB-minne (USB stickorna verkar vara billigare i Sverige, konstigt!). Jag fortsatte själv med att shoppa runt lite på Drottningsgatan. Lite H&M måste man ju hinna med!

Just nu sitter jag här med en sovande man bredvid mig och väntar på att min migränattack ska gå över. Vi hade tänkt ta bussen ut till Djurgården och besäka Junibacken och Wasa-museet, men det är inget jag vill göra på egen hand så... Funderar på vad jag och S ska hitta på idag. Suck ja. Men härligt är det att vara i vackra Stockholm...

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Har inte haft tid att uppdatera något, men det är ju bara bra!
Flygresan var mycket dryg men gick helt utan problem alls. Har farit runt och träffat släktingar och sett Gotland, och idag ska vi hem till min mormor som fyller 76. Smörgåstårta blir det, mums!

Mina tankar om att vara tillbaka på Gotland efter hela 9 år är tredelade. Först känns det precis som vanligt, som om man knappt varit iväg alls. Sedan känns det spännande och väldigt exotiskt. Det sista känslan är tyvärr väldigt vemodig eftersom jag känner att jag inte riktigt hör hit längre. Jag är bara en besökare. Jag fick nästan lite panikångest när jag insåg det!

Det mest underbara är dock att få supa in den underbara naturen och krama om alla som jag saknat så. Det var en rusch igår att sitta hemma och grilla hos min mycket goda vän L. Vi har båda barn och har gått framåt i livet, men det var precis lika kul som förut! Kram L!

Vi har turen att bo ute hos min ena moster I Ardre nära Ljugarn. Vi bor omringade av djur och natur.

Min amerikanske man blir titt som tätt tillfrågad vad han tycker om Sverige, men hittills har han nog ingen större uppfattning. Han får nog komma hem och smälta allt först. Han har jobbat mycket sedan han kom hit, vilket är oerhört irriterande, men hellre att han är här och jobbar än i Florida...
Mer sedan!

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Tomorrow we are leaving for Sweden. Am I excited? You bet, if I could only muster the energy for it! I am completely exhausted, as is my poor husband!

The biggest issue has been our daughter's passport. On Monday I was told by the passport people that yes, her passport would be in my hands on Tuesday. Today it is Thursday; we have no passport!

I have been in contact with Swedish authorities. I have been in contact with American authorities. At least the Swedish people seem to know what they are talking about.

After many, many, many, MANY phones calls I finally got a solution to this very urgent dilemma! S will travel to Sweden using her Swedish passport. Her US passport is going to be sent to my husband's firm, and his employee will send it to us ASAP when she receives it! They would not send the passport to me directly in Sweden, but they agreed to send it to an alternative person here in the US. And hopefully the passport will be ready very soon (they indicated maybe tomorrow), so we should have it in good time before returning to the US of A. What a hassle!

As if that wasn't enough; on Tuesday it started to become clear the husband had a work crisis on his hands. He recently implemented a new server, but in order for him to go to Sweden he has to be able to access his work computer remotely via his laptop in Sweden. It work just fine until they upgraded the security system! All of a sudden he couldn't get into the server!

Without this access he cannot process payroll remotely for his clients, and they will most likely not stay his clients if their employees don't get their paychecks...

So the entire Tuesday was spent with a computer guy from one of his clients' companies which fix computers. He could not fix this problem... The 4th of July was a Holiday, it being Independence Day, so K could do nothing more than freak out and stress. If this problem wouldn't be resolved by today, Thursday he would not be able to go with me and S to Sweden.

I cannot stress how important it is for me to have him come with us. Not only as a "pack mule" on the flight, but to show him where I am from. He has never been to Sweden, ever! And we have been together 10 years... So, very important!

Finally Thursday came, and the owner of the computer company came out himself. He knew what was at stake, and he didn't disappoint! In less than an hour all was well! I told him I love hime, poor thing ;-)!

So after a CRAZY day I am now trying to check off in my mind all the things that should be packed, and relax for a bit until tomorrow...

We are leaving to drop off the dogs at the kennel at 7 AM, our flight from Tampa leaves at 12:15 PM, so with the drive of an hour and the security and check in, we will most likely leave from here at 8 AM.

I rather be early and have a few minutes to kill than stress. All I would do is sit at home and wait until it was time to leave anyway ;-)!

"See" you in Sweden!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Almost time!

Wow, time goes by fast! Only a few days until we leave for Sweden on Friday! I have been so busy I haven't had a chance to blog.

It looks like S's passport situation will have a positive outcome. I spoke to the State Department again today, and it looks like her passport is going to be overnighted TODAY! If we haven't receive dit by 5:30 PM tomorrow we should call back to get the tracking number, so it is definitly on its way! YES! One less thing to stress about...

This weekend S and I did some shopping and lunched, then we went to see the new Disney movie Ratatouille. Very well made movie, recommended for all ages! You forget it is "just" an animation at times, all the details are so crisp, down to the little mottled skin on the rats' noses...

Yesterday we attended S's friend Z's birthday party, which took place at a pottery place. Lots of fun!

Today I am trying to get things done, but not much luck yet. S it at my friend L's house, so now would be a golden opportunity to clean up all the toys that are ALL over the house. If I try to do that when S is home she gets very upset and is suddenly in need of all of them...

I am pretty much over the worst of the sinus infection and the strep throat, just a persistent, irritating cough left...