30 November 2012

November move out check list

all the big things we had to take care of in november for the move:

1. found an apartment/house to rent near ann arbor. 15 minutes north actually, but affordable and the lady is perfectly fine with us packing, sorting, and moving things into and out of her garage.

2. acquired Xs long form birth certificate (this is now her 7th piece of documentation that she is alive). the birth certificate then needed to be sent to the finnish embassy in ottawa to be authenticated and legalized. a process that needed to occur before we enter finland. since canada didnt sign some treaty several decades ago, the process is a little more involved than what we have to do for our marriage certificate in the states.

3. i contacted some university of helsinki public health people for work. no jobs, but i got a helpful response and an offer to meet in person with someone when i arrive.

4. i found a helsinki apartment for us. i posted on a helsinki expat parents board on facebook and we ended up finding a furnished apartment in the neighborhood of viikki. the previous renters came for a post-doc in geology actually, so it was quite humorous. they are americans and are leaving us some fun toys and other apartment essentials so we will be mostly ready to go as soon as we arrive from the airport. the apartment owners also allowed our cat. so that was a major weight off our shoulders.

5. my u.s. airways flight back to michigan with X got changed. we were no longer going through DC for the layover (now through philly), which was a big bummer because we were going to use the long layover to see good friends ntina and ben. oh well. :(

6. we found subleters for our halifax apartment. they even wanted us to leave a few of our things behind. so that was helpful.

7. made preparations for nutmeg to come with us to finland. she needed a trip to the vet where she got microchiped and a rabies shot. we also got her vet records and a statement that she was in good health. daves sister also VERY kindly agreed to have nutmeg stay with her from the time dave drops her off (dec 8) until we leave with nutmeg from her house on dec 29. what a HUGE relief! i then made additional vet appointments in albany for nutmeg to get her pet export paperwork done (this requires two separate appointments and certifications).

8. took care of the car so dave would be safe roadtripping with it. it got an oil change and we were also told we needed the wheel barings replaced. fun times. had to make a separate appointment for that.

9. i had my last official day of work (nov 30), complete with cake and a lunch with my bosses. the cake was done near the admin office. it was weird saying goodbye to lots of faces i had never seen (since i worked mostly from home). but everyone was very nice.

10. dave had his goodbye work party too. dude scored 6 bottles of a new brunswick apple liquor he likes. his boss is a very generous, amiable guy. dave was very lucky.

** major moving realization: poor people cant move. this information was not new to me i suppose, but it really hit home. we are bleeding so much money in this move, its not even funny. we will be reimbursed for some of it, but some of it is just inevitable crap that you have to suck up and deal with. not just the stress and time and energy but a move requires MONEY and aid from willing people and the ability to know who to contact and how to get things taken care of. immigrants, refugees, and "regular" poor people must have it so much more unimaginably harder than we do during a move that i shudder even thinking about it.

12 November 2012

Forest vs the trees

big picture vs details. ideas vs action.

so, when dave got back from finland and we fell back in to our regular ways, i realized maybe the reason the solo week went so well was that i was totally in control of the schedule, the food, the pace, the choices given to X, etc. i think im a control freak. lol. i knew this before of course, but its been masked for quite a while because i have had no control over so many things for so long that i forgot the feeling. well, with the solo experience, i had something recent to compare and contrast. initially, our first day back together with dave was a little rough. it made me confused and wonder "what the hell? things were going so smoothly when i was alone but i enjoy having dave around much more. what can i learn from this? what can we change?". i kept trying to figure it out, and then i realized that it had to do with our roles of what we bring into our relationship and our family dynamic. this information wasnt new to me, more like a "duh" moment, but at least it gives me more context and understanding and ideas for how to make things run more smoothly in the future.

i think it comes down to, for me, big-picture vs detail people. im sure there are all kinds of blends when it comes to couplings, but dave and i are fairly strongly in one camp or the other, can you guess who is who? you can see it in our jobs: a phd typically has lofty questions that they want to answer and often their career direction and the kinds of problems they want to solve are formed and managed by themselves. there is no requirement for being organized however, just a burning desire to puzzle away at something, endlessly, until you look up one day and see the path that your work has taken you on behind you. at least i think thats how it works for those types. i cant say for sure because for me, with a masters degree, im often in the role of helping a phd-type accomplish answers to those lofty questions...you want to know if your summary measure for health inequalities produces useful and interesting results, give me the data and i will get on that! i break it down into action steps and attack each step and assess and tweak and troubleshoot. i love the details, but i freeze up at the idea of having to come up with the framework on my own. no thanks. this big picture v details example not only applies nicely to our jobs, but it also explains our roles in our relationship with each other and as parents.

generally, to my mind, big picture people are warm and comforting and creative. they provide a special nuance and atmosphere to life that i find very appealing. it often feels like once theyve made up their mind they can just will something to be so, like magic. left to their own devices, even those who are really bad at planning can often end up with what they wanted and are happy with the path that took them there. now this "magic" may indeed involve stress, and/or a form of planning that is unknown to me, but its a mystery to me all the same.

on the other hand, detail people, at least to me, seem colder. i guess this comes from dissecting every whimsical thing down to its working parts, asking all the questions, teasing out all the mysteries in the curiosities until the thing goes a little limp. but to me, that process is comforting. ive never felt that my asset was warmth, or fun, or energy. my assets lie in getting shit done, putting a plan into action, making a dream into a reality, taking the hand you are dealt and figuring out the best way to get through it. this is why its so easy for me to default to dolling out advice instead of just giving a hug and a "youre awesome, youll figure it out"...my default is to attack a problem with solutions. i think this drives dave insane sometimes. its quite hard, for anyone, to understand a "type" that is motivated and driven in a way that is so different from your "type".

i found from my week alone with X that we could fulfill the days duties with great precision and ease, but perhaps fewer laughs and less liveliness than usual. thats what dave provides, the light to my dark, the inspiration for my drive, flow when i am blocked, and warmth where i am cold. i am not a lemming but im also not creative, sometimes i need his vision to help me cut a path through the trees. im good at dodging obstacles and plotting a course, but without him i have a hard time deciding which forest to enter in the first place. this is why ive really never struggled with the idea of following him along his career. im a strong female, im not giving away my path in life in order to help support him. the path is ours, we move together as one, hopefully as a well oiled machine. he is the compass that points us in the right direction, and i am the engine that gets us to where we are going.

11 November 2012

Single white female

dave headed off to finland sunday afternoon until late on saturday. thus, a week of single parenting.

in essence, dave went off to begin the new phase of his career by attending a three day long meeting in finland. i stayed behind with X in order to hold down the fort. in the end, things went well for both of us.

this was only my second single parenting stint ever. the last time was when dave went, ironically, to sweden for a job interview when X was 7 months old. that didnt go horribly, but for some reason i kept expecting the days leading up to the solo week to be filled with dread or terror. not so. i had prepared as much as possible by making a meal plan, grocery shopped for all the non-perishables of that meal plan, and thought of activities to keep us entertained each day. i was also lucky enough to secure daycare for every morning of the week. having a few hours each day to myself to accomplish grown-up work was very helpful and refreshing.

as for how we filled our days, well, we just took it easy and i watched to see what she wanted to do. blissfully, she was super focused on reading, basically to the exclusion of other kinds of playing, so we read a lot of books and visited the library most afternoons. even when she played on her own it was to read books to herself or her animals, or to unload her bookshelf. i didnt have to get too creative.

there were two days when she took no nap, but it worked out. also, she had some pretty terrible night sleeps the first few days after dave left, waking up a bunch without knowing what was bothering her. that wasnt awesome, but again i managed, better than i would have if dave were home in fact. it was kinda weird actually. the only flare ups of my temper/patience with X occurred in relation to a new behavior she discovered...that of devilishly giggling while running around throwing things off of shelves, counters, dressers, and/or into dirty tub water. as these satanic occurrences usually do, i was thrown off guard and didnt know what the best course of action was, but by the time dave was to arrive home i had figured it out.

basically, the week passed relatively quickly, relatively easily. i kept waiting to feel overwhelmed or to be dying for dave to come back and relieve me, and that just never came. now, i was very glad to have him back, and i definitely do not want to be left alone for longer than a week, but im glad to know that even with no help, i can manage just fine, for a while, without dave.

actually in some respects, i felt more content and calm than i had in previous weeks. i thought about why that might be. i realized i have been too bored and perhaps idle lately, just waiting for the move to come. i think the anxious waiting is what was previously killing my afternoons with X. i was antsy and indecisive and so ready for dave to come home each night. but with dave gone we pleasantly passed our time doing nothing much at all. the difference was that i always had to solve the puzzle of how to take care of everything our day required without any outside help. i had to keep up on X, the house, cat, car, food supply, dinner prep, cleaning, work, and myself. it meant consciously running through a check list multiple times a day to fit all the pieces into the puzzle before time ran out. ive always loved the challenge of organizational time management (yes, im a freak) and i think thats what did it for me. it certainly cured the boredom, and i think thats what made me more calm and content during the week. as usual, i think X was then able to absorb the more chill vibes i was putting out.

so, what was dave up to while we were in halifax?...

-getting there flights (halifax-boston-london-helsinki): his check-in in halifax wasnt too smooth because they couldnt book his luggage all the way through to helsinki (they could only book it to london). his flight to boston was a bit delayed. then, in boston, his flight was an hour delayed. this was going to cut in to his time for re-checking his bags in london. but, when he finally landed in london, it was discovered that his bags were in fact still in boston but they couldnt do anything about it until he landed in helsinki to file a claim. in london (where he waited out another small delay), he also got an email that his hotel couldnt process his credit card. so now he was without bags and possibly without a hotel when he landed.

not to worry though, the heros in this story are from finland. when he landed in helsinki, the customs people said that they saw his residence permit card had been approved (that was FAST! its been like 2 weeks) and when he exited the terminal, he found his colleague, pekka, was unexpectedly there to pick him up. then he had another surprise, pekka had booked dave in to a room in töölö towers (where we are going to stay in january). this was an excellent thing because the hotel dave had booked himself still couldnt process his credit card. so, it all, kinda, worked out well in the end. i mean, dave had to buy a toothbrush and toothpaste and his luggage arrival day was unknown, but at least he was safe and taken care of on the finland end. now he just had to prepare for his talk the next day.

-work. poor guy couldnt sleep the first night he was there, before his big talk (he arrived on monday afternoon and was to give a before-lunch talk on tuesday). by my estimates he may have peetered off to sleep around 3a (local time) after traveling the whole day before! then, his alarm didnt go off and he woke up 25 minutes before he had to get on a bus (needing to eat and shower, with no time for practicing his talk some more). he ended up saying his talk felt too full and rushed, but im sure it was fine because he's always overly critical of himself.

after his talk was out of the way, he got to meet some new colleagues who will be starting with him in january. they are actually people who would be natural collaborators for him so its awesome that they will all be starting together and can hopefully support and motivate each other during times of stress. he may even have secured himself some early 2013 travel to sweden and norway to gives some talks and make further connections...kind of a "hello, nice to meet you, i just arrived in your neck of the woods and this is what i do. wanna team up?" tour. to me, this is so cool. hearing these tidbits from dave (well, more like pulling them from him), i felt like an academia groupie. i just find it so fascinating and alluring, clearly.

-finland impressions. he said the daylight hours and the weather reminded him of the blah halifax weather days of november-may. the neighborhood around töölö towers was very pleasant and easily accessible to other parts of the city, there was a nearby grocery store and the accomodations were spartan but quite adequate. he said it reminded him of the place we stayed at when we first arrived in rennes.

-welcome back. dave got home from his helsinki-NYC-toronto-halifax travel day at 1a sunday morning. X stirred when he got home and whined until i told him he should just go in and say hi. she sat up, stretched her arms wide, said hi and hugged him. she said a few excited things and then settled back down and went back to sleep. too funny. she was also very sweet to him during pancake time the next morning.

06 November 2012

Re:election day

same president, different country experiencing it.

so, this year, as last presidential election, we voted absentee. it was a bit of a hassle but certainly worth it. leading up to it we watched oodles of jon stewart on the daily show and checked in with friends back home about how the race was really feeling within the country. it just feels so weird to be outside the u.s. around election time.

as usual, election day was filled with anxiety, everyone is always at a fever pitch. and this time i was alone (dave was in finland). that night, at first, i just dinked around after X went to bed and took care of necessary things...but then i found myself on cnn and slate watching the election. by this point in the night people on both sides are typically glued to news outlets for the same purpose, and in a way, it really is a time where i feel like all of america is joined together, collectively holding our breaths, watching the results come in, trying to stay up all night...prolonging the twisted pajama party.

i remember growing up, election night always meant the tv was on and my dad was in the family room, talking to the tv (really this was most nights). for him it was as exciting as the superbowl. but what i dont remember is politics being something we were "taught". in my memory, my parents never directly told us who they voted for, or what we should care about, or otherwise shaped our political opinions. if you had made me label my parents, i would have been inclined to say democrat was a fair assessment but they hadnt labeled themselves as such in front of us. and i really appreciate that, now. of course our environment probably wasnt neutral, but there wasnt a parental pull that was meant to steer us before we could do it ourselves. but i remember being excited to register to vote when i turned 18. i remember my dad driving all the way to UM for my first election so he could drive me back home to vote in my precinct. it was a special day.

that being said, it was interesting to see how invested in our politics and election and obama the french had been 4 years ago and it was just as interesting this time around to see how invested in our election and obama the canadians are. as i understand it, once they are "of age", all canadian citizens are eligible voters (there is none of this voter registration crap like in the u.s.), yet they are fairly apathetic (maybe 60% voter turnouts) when it comes to their own country. but somehow, they seem to care a lot about our election outcome. experiencing two presidential elections abroad now, its been powerful to feel how much the world cares (a shit ton) about our leader. they (the world outside the u.s.) are affected by our choice of leader almost as much as we are, but we are the few privileged enough to VOTE for that person. i dont think i was as shocked by the french caring about obama because they are so openly liberal, but canada seems as divided down the middle as we are, and they dont even care as much about their own goings on, but they CARE about our outcome. i think for me, this is where the pride of being an american comes in to play the most. whether we are getting shit right or not, we still have the world looking to us, what we do matters, and having a say and having an insight into the riddle that is america and its history is an invaluable gift that i feel most strongly around election time (as much as i hate the negative energy around the whole event). i see that america is worth fighting for and worth supporting. i just hope that obama will continue chipping away at his duty to serve the people, all the people, in a way that is respectful and beneficial for all.

01 November 2012


halloween this year wasnt a bust, it just felt a bit...empty.

we had tried and failed to have a local kid costume party. a bad cold/flu was sweeping through town and kids and parents were either sick or recovering and we werent going to be able to have more than 2-3 families here (as opposed to 6-10 families). so, the costume party fell through. and then there was the knowledge that halloween doesnt really occur in finland. :( oh, i guess its starting to catch on, but if its not already an engrained part of childhood then it probably will never elicit the traditions and energy that halloween in the u.s. did for me. i guess thats fine for X since halloween candy is rampant with milk and soy, so its not like she could ever fully enjoy the sugar shakes.

anyway, we did do a few fun things. the morning of the canceled halloween party dave made spooky ghost pancakes. and on devils night i made a dessert of dirt-n-worms (X-friendly of course). it worked out reasonably well. she gobbled it up. then we carved pumpkins. this year, as last year, she wanted nothing to do with reaching inside and scooping the guts out. lol.

(tired after pumpkin carving; daycare halloween)

and then halloween night...hurricane sandy arrived that day so we had alternate driving rain and sprinkles as we hit our one block of houses. after that we were wet and Xs bag was full. she was nervous going from house to house at first, but by the third house she was happy to say "trick or treat!" loudly. some people talked to her and she was happy to respond. it was really cute. she went as pippi longstocking. it worked out pretty well. the freckles were adorable.  back at home, i gave her some candy we had in the house just for her: a gummy worm, a square of chocolate, and several minutes with a stick of rock candy.

(serious pippi; sweet pippi; serious about sweets pippi)

October move out check list

things we did in october as part of our "move out" check list:

1. got nutmeg her expensive ass surgery. she is totally devoid of anal glands now (no complications thankfully). youre welcome animal. we are also working on a temporary home for her in michigan, with plans to come back for her and bring her to live with us in finland. i guess we cannot rid ourselves of that beast.

2. had two goodbye dinners with daves colleagues and friends isabelle and djordje (one dinner at their place and one at ours)

3. dave sold his bike to a vintage cycles enthusiast...that made him happy

4. i updated Xs canadian passport so that we have an official document with photo ID of her that is actually current (her previous canadian passport had her picture as a 2 month old, her u.s. passport still has her picture as a 3 month old).

5. did our finnish residence card paperwork at the embassy in ottawa