Monday, December 31, 2018

The Year is over - Happy New Year 2019!

Some photos that summarize my year - a few of the moments I cherish in my memories.

I'll write more in the beginning of the new year! See you on the other side :)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

A silver lining

It's holiday time and it's not the easiest season for some of us. There's a lot of feeling in the air of "finishing up the year" and "how behind am I and I'm supposed to take off in the middle of it?". It's been too many long days and working late, and then the early morning wake up calls on wondering just a little on "why am I doing this?".

Well, every so often there comes that one moment when I realize why I do what I do. And why I feel that I try to make a difference. And that it is worth it. This week had one of those moments.

Part of my job is to handle a program where we share information and biological samples with academic researchers. If anyone wants something, they send me an email. This email address is spread around through PR campaigns and through websites. It also helps that my place of work is not unknown. One morning I saw an email from a parent, who has a child with a very rare serious disease. They were asking for help and wanted to get information on how to best treat their child. It's not the norm that non-researchers use the email. It's not for the public. However, it doesn't mean it's not answered. I reached out to the MDs and asked if they had any suggestions. Their response "we will take it from here, thank you!".

It may sound small. It may even sound like it didn't have much to do with me and my actions. But knowing that I was part of building this program, and running it everyday, being able to give a helping hand, to give some hope and connect people - that's a huge part of why I do what I do. Those moments, while they seem small, are what makes it worth it. Because while they might seem small, they are by no means insignificant. Rare diseases, and especially in children, are exactly that - rare. And if ever there was a time the saying "it takes a village" is appropriate - to me it is that time.

Being able to share information, treatments and unpublished results to help better and to make more understanding - that's something that is near and dear to my heart.

It was exactly the reminder that I needed at this time. When the world is going nuts with commercial shopping and unnecessary plastic gifts, the reality of what really matters is good to realize. That small moments of hope and action can make a huge difference in the course of a life.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

marathon training, self esteem and confidence

Back in May I decided that this year was the time when I was going to run my first marathon. I grew up in a family where both my parents were runners. My mom sometimes used the way to/from work to jog her long runs. My dad ran marathons, the first when I was around 6 years old. My brother has run one as well. As we are a fairly competitive bunch, I started really feeling that I should do that when my brother ran his.

That said, I've never been the runner of the family. But I have been jogging since I was at university. I've been the slowest one in my family pretty much all the time. And I've been the chunkiest one. And I've been aware of this all the time but still kept going with a thought "at least I'm still doing it".

Move on to a few years back when I decided to challenge myself and the perception that maybe, if I was a slow jogger, I would gain some traction if I extended my distances? What I lack in speed, I make up in consistency and perseverance? So I signed up for my first half-marathon. It seemed like a good enough distance to be far enough that you have to train for it, and short enough it doesn't break the bank on completely committed and crazy.

My first half-marathon solidified my feeling that while I'm not in the group of "fast runners", I'm not last. None of this should matter of course. But this is part of the story of why I am and have had some issues with running groups and "sharing" with people.

You see, one of the biggest thing with runners is chasing time. You want to do a PR. You should want to be faster and beat this and that. And as a competitive person, I sure did that a lot when I started. I trained to be faster. I wanted to improve my PR. Every time out was an opportunity to go for max and it felt good to be exhausted in the end.

Then came an injury. I ignored it pretty well, and managed to run a half setting a PR while doing it. And then was 6 months of having pain, issues to walk and sit. And for sure not running or working out. After that I decided to take a little bit of a check on myself. Realizing that I'm older and maybe not in such a good shape that I should go for gold every single time but think about "how should I work out so I can keep doing this the rest of my life". Learning to listen to my body a little more. And trying to incorporate a little bit of calm into my workout routine.

So I started running without music. To force myself to be out in nature, running and being aware of my head, my breathing and taking a break from the rush rush, and finding a different feeling of running. I listen to pod casts at many of my longer runs nowadays. Like a companion but still able to choose when a few miles are just you and your thoughts. A few weeks ago I started running with a metronome to keep focusing on my cadence. That brought me back to my old times as a swimmer. Counting strokes, focusing on form, doing lap after lap. It's similar to the boxing bag and repeating punching series. And of course, the most obvious, playing scales with the flute. All of these repetitive things that makes me relaxed, yet focused and able to really tap into that strength and clear my mind and body.

Anyway, this was supposed to be about the marathon and what the training experience has given me so far.

It was a challenge at work to sign up, the company wanted to see x number of employees run the full marathon. And I thought, if not this year, when? and signed up. We got a little ribbon to put on our work badge, "to recognize each other and for others to see us".  I didn't want to put on my ribbon, I'm not much for telling people private things and this marathon was a private thing. Sometime later in the summer one of the reps ran into me on campus and asked "why aren't you wearing the ribbon?". I mentioned that I wasn't comfortable with it, at this point I hadn't told anyone I was training for a marathon, it was my goal, my idea and my time.

The rep started to tell me "it's an accountability thing, if you tell people you will not back out but you will run". I explained, as nicely as I could, that I don't function that way since so far if I sign up for something and say I will do it, I will. It's not about outside pressure to do it (sometimes it's actually just the opposite). Anyway, the rep continued to say "it's a leadership quality, to show that you are willing to do something that you have never done before (run a marathon/and in my case put on a badge and 'brag' at work)". I told them I would think about it, and waited for the feeling that it would be ok to have he ribbon on, to be "visible" and to "brag" about something.

You see, there's a lot of self esteem things riding on this "being a runner". And then there is a lot of questions about time. "how fast are you aiming to run the marathon?" (answer: First one I'm aiming to finish, no time thought).

The one thing I can say after doing this training for 5 months, it takes time. And a lot of people are focused on time, as in speed. I'm trying to plod along. Trying to feel good about the fact that I'm logging miles, regardless of the speed. I started training in the summer. That means a lot of runs in 90F/34C weather. I've grown to be quite ok with going out and doing it in those conditions. Am I fast? Nope. Do I like running in heat? Not really but I've grown to appreciate it more and more. Do I do it and feel better afterwards? Yes.

And this brings us to the reason that I'm ranting away on this post right now. I mentioned earlier that I have run half-marathons before. The longest I have run before starting this training for the marathon has been 13.34 miles (last half-marathon race). I was a little bit nervous, yet excited, to run further. My first longer run than that happened to be in the afternoon a sunny hot day and I was scheduled to do 15.5miles. It was not a great choice, it was really sunny and hot. I didn't feel great about it, but I did it and then came a lot of doubt. "Can I really do a full, those 15 miles were abysmal".

Well, next weekend rolled around and according to my schedule it was time for a 16 mile run. I woke up earlier in the morning and went out and did the training. It was a cool, crisp morning with clouds and no shining sun. And when I finished I felt spectacular. Not just my body (legs were tired obviously) but the feeling in my mind and the self esteem was back. "well, perhaps I can do this!"

So, I kept plodding away with my schedule. And soon came the longest distance I should run before the race; 19 miles. (Side note, I need to point out that a lot of people who train for marathons don't run the full course before the actual race. This is especially true if you are slower since after a certain number of hours, your body doesn't build up but rather breaks down. And also, the experienced people keep saying that if you can do 19-22miles/30-36km, you can do 26 miles/42km since the last part is perseverance, mental and correct hydration/energy planning.) To say I was nervous would be true. I was a little scared that I would hurt myself (5 months of training down the drain) and curious on how I would feel coming into those 17, 18 miles.... Needless to say it wasn't as bad as I dreaded it, but wasn't flawless. But the real joy came afterwards when I updated my friends on the progress and none of them asked for my time but focused on "how did it feel".

It's probably fairly obvious that while I'm saying that "everyone else" is focused on time, the one who focuses the most on it is me. Well, I'm a work in progress and not really over the fixation yet. For now though, I'll take the happy feeling that I am 3/4 on the way to my race distance wise. And that after this weekend coming up I am in tapering mode and will not have to do over 10 miles. I will need to keep the focus and keep training and really starting the thing I deep down dread the most; early morning runs in the dark. Why? Because the race is in the morning and my body is not a great morning body.

To sum this post up; I am happy to have found that the marathon training have helped me deal with my self esteem issues and move forward, maybe not in the way that I thought it would when I started - that's an added bonus. And that nothing matters as much as "routine" since "doing something" is better than "doing nothing". Fingers crossed for me keeping the mental happiness through the big race!

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Election day in Sweden

Today is election day in Sweden. It will be very interesting to see the results in the end, especially on a local level since that use to be where the "upsets" are happening. However, some would argue that the upset is that the Swedish Democrat* Party is looking to become the second largest party in the country. When asked what they are I tend to wiggle between "neo-nazi light" and "more organized Trumpsters" and have their party equivalents in Lega Nord, UKIP, Front National (if you are familiar with European parties) or simply the "we aren't happy as it is now and this is protest voting".
These parties are not from Left to Right - very confusing! Line at 4% is threshold to get into Parliament.Light red=Social Democrats, Dark red=Left Party,  Dark Blue='Moderates' (Traditional right wing), Yellow=Swedish Democrats

Sometimes the best way to sort out your thoughts is to discuss with someone else and then get help when you have locked yourself into a fallacy of reasoning. It's also a huge deal in what I do everyday, to "see people" and "let them feel seen and heard". Regardless of what you might believe, I would state that I meet a lot of people who feel like people are making decisions over their head, they don't feel heard and they don't feel recognized. I guess these parties (the right wing ones I mentioned) all have that in common. They also have in common that they are predominantly male, both in leadership and in followers.

Anyway, trying to keep focus here.

My main point of this blog post was to express why I feel that the political discussion would benefit to going back to basic. At lot today is spent on calling out lies, getting caught in specific details yet failing to communicate the bigger picture and how much easier it would be if teasing out these bigger picture (vision or ideologies) that lie behind these specific questions that tend to create clic bait and shouting matches.

For example; "Every person has the same human rights", regardless of birth country of origin, race, economic background, education and religion. Most people say that they agree on the statement, and then come the exclusions. Some people don't agree even from the start since they believe some of these more fundamental than the others (usually based on race or religion, but sometimes nationality as well).

There's also the concept of "human rights" indicating being worth and valued, and include "obligations". And that's when moving into the territory of "who do I feel should be part of my society" and "what is the obligation of each person to be part of the society".

For me as a person who grew up in a political family, where ideologies and philosophy were discussed at the dinner table, these things make it easier for me to tease out where my issues lie and how I view the world (and how I would structure my utopia). I completely understand that this is a privileged point of view, and that for most part this is way too slow to communicate politics unless discussing with others who share the background. However, I think this is the only way forward - to communicate and lead with a vision of how society would look if these people win.

Maybe I've become more sensitive to this living as an immigrant in the USA in this current climate? Maybe I've been told too many times that "you're not a real immigrant, you speak English" to not  question "who's a real immigrant"?
Maybe I've been met with complete lack of understanding when answering "no, I'm not a US citizen", because why wouldn't I be one since this is the greatest country on earth?
Maybe I've encountered the facts of moving across the world and knowing that there is a possibility that my Swedish citizenship would be taken away if the political majority in my birth country shifts too much towards the right?
Maybe, just maybe, is it that I would love to start with sorting out what we have in common and move from there rather than starting with the exclusion points?

And the final thought, that I will need to think more about - the biggest challenge today is what we who like democracy, like the idea that everyone should be allowed to think for themselves and have their own opinion - how can we guard the fundamental right to be free while a growing portion of people want nothing less than to take that away since it doesn't fit with their ultimate view of a perfect society?

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." as written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall in a biography of Voltaire. But when the person whom you would die for want nothing else but to remove that right for you, how do we safe guard our society to keep that from happening?

*sometimes it's good to point out that both North Korea and China to name a few use "Democratic" in their official name - using the word doesn't mean "democracy=everyone has equal right".

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

being a good citizen and belonging

There's a discussion underway in Sweden that has some similarities in the USA. It's that one about "who is a true citizen" or "who is a real Swede". You see, there will be governmental voting times in Sweden in September so the election speak is ramping up. Like a few other times the debate has been relit in terms of "distinguishing who is really a Swede". If you aren't familiar with the arguments and the issues, a lot of the arguments stem from a wish to distinguish between "Swedish citizens" and "real Swedes" (that would be the ethnicity and sometimes linked to cultural nation).

Some of this stems from one of the now largest parties in the politics, the Swedish Democrats (let's all remember what Hitler's party was called, and what the full name of China is, before you think that the democrat in the name means anything), that have written a few notes about "being Swedish" in their party program. Not only do they distinguish between "real Swedes" and "Swedish citizens", they also introduce the idea that you can be born Swedish and then move away (assimilate to another culture) or express views that aren't correct for Swedes and therefore lose your right to being Swedish.

Why I'm bringing this up here? Not only because I am at risk of falling in this "third category" (after all, I've lived away from Sweden for over a decade), but also because this discussion about citizen, citizenship and "being a true member of the nation" has been present in my life here in the USA for a while.

I do feel like people who have never moved across borders, by free will or due to coercion, don't really understand the restrictions and privilege that exist on citizenship and residency. You see, I know a lot of people who would be quite alright with not becoming a citizen yet staying in a country and integrate and be a productive member of society. However, a lot of rights in a country comes from being a citizen. Not to mention that if you have children, there is a clear advantage of being of same citizenship (especially now when people are placing even more value on the citizenship status). I know that in the USA you swear allegiance to the flag. That's not the case in Sweden. To be quite frank, that is one of the issues in Sweden - very complicated to sort out "what defines us as Swedes" and one of the reasons I think the discussion there is even more into the aryan/blond&blue eye territory...

Anyhow, not to make this a very long rant leading nowhere. My main issues with this "defining who is a real citizen" goes to that the only binary choice here is "are you a citizen or not". Once you start with the "you should have a mom and dad born there and there" or "you are only real if you can trace three generations of the citizens", or "you can't be a member of a Native Indian tribe/Sami nation and be a true American/Swede" it's very obvious that you will end up in the gray zone. When is enough enough? When are you not fitting into the narrative? And who gets to decide that? And what rights fall within the protection of being a true citizen?

All of this was of course much easier when there was an all powerful King or Emperor (or Dictator) ruling the nation. One word of decision, no gray zone since He decided it all. And your rights weren't really that many. Not even your life to be honest. Not many protections in place.

The problem now? That we have decided we like democracy and have moved towards "everyone has equal value and a few base rights called Human Rights" so this view isn't really as comfortable.

However, as many women I've met through the years who were active in the women's movement are quick to repeat, none of these steps forward have been free. And none of these steps forward will stay there unless we are willing to still defend them. We can't step back and say "look, we decided that everyone has human rights, regardless of citizenship so can we leave that now and keep moving forward". I would love to that we could do that, imagine how much we could accomplish. Alas, that is not where we are. We need to keep reminding everyone that "just being human" means that everyone has "human rights". There is no distinction between human 1 and human 2, based on citizenship or religion or political views, not when it comes to these rights.

Especially in the light of a language that is increasingly talking about "being taken over","attacked" and "infested" it's crucial to remember to speak up that Human Rights are not negotiable. Not even for people who have despicable views or threaten us. Why? Mainly because you never know when you will be "on the other side" and then not have any rights. Safeguarding the nation, one human rights at a time. Considering that, the discussion about "being a true good citizen" becomes something much more somber and threatening to all of us.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

"it only takes a minute" - does it really?

I hear it quite often, "it only takes a minute, just write them an email". But does it really?

In my job a lot of my time is spent with emails; reading them and writing them. I keep my inbox as a "task list" and mark the emails in a few different categories to keep track of what I need to do, follow up on and so on. In short, I read a lot of emails every day. I also write a lot of emails every day.

Here's the rub. I read a lot of emails that leaves me with "what does the person want [from me]?". When you get one of those emails it goes one of two ways; you read it and then go - I don't know what they mean, and reply back "I'm not sure what you mean, please elaborate", or you just leave it there and think "I'll read it again later and maybe it makes sense". The latter usually means that the email goes to die in the inbox until the person who wrote it follows up, or if that doesn't happen, it will get deleted and never seen again.

Brevity will always (with a few exceptions) be preferred. And then indicates "choosing your words and way of writing carefully". It's hard to do in a short time frame. You get better with practice. And practice takes time.

Before starting this job I was trained in writing proper letters, with salutations and paragraphs and proper endings. I have written memorandums for government and universities, for foreign communications and domestic law disputes. It's been an evolution in how I write emails, and to whom and why. I personally like to have a salutation in the beginning of an email, it probably dates me and it indicates that I view emails as "a letter rather than a text". This is not to say I don't write certain emails as texts
[empty row]
"sounds good."
[end email])

My default setting when writing an email though is
[start email]
"Dear Dr X," or "Hello Anna," or in certain cases when I am ambivalent on which level I should place myself "Hello, "
[keep going in the email].

The meat comes after the salutation (or not). And most times I would like to ask people "what's your purpose of writing the email"? It sounds simple, however when you unfold the idea it can turn quite tricky. Especially (?) in the times when constructing proper sentences and choosing correct words seem to more and more difficult. And this is not even getting into the "quick reply to show that you are on top of your emails" (please consider "what's the purpose of the email" when doing that as well. Quick response isn't always the best response).

If it is writing to someone you don't know, or who might not know exactly who you are but know either your organisation or your lab group, please start with a one lines introducing yourself in context to why you write to them. It shouldn't be too cumbersome or complicated "I work with Dr XX at Institute for awesomeness. I'm writing to you to ask for reagents described in you fab paper in journal of Fantasticness. We have worked on P for quite some time...."

A lot of people don't want to sound too demanding when asking for things, they start adding a couple of disclaimers in their emails. After a few of those, you're confused and it's hard to sort out what it is exactly that the person wants. In these cases I emphasize "be direct and clear without being rude". This is where finesse comes in. You have to know how to use please and thank you, and how to make at least one point about why the intended respondent is important/good/needed/positive word.

Also, adding some sort of time line when asking for something makes the email more likely to be responded to. A lot of things today fall in two categories, right now or later (never). It's the signs of us being so stressed and focused on the chores for today, also called being in a reactive mode. The chance of someone responding to your email, albeit later, increases a lot if you have a time limit in there. Why? Because if there isn't one and someone reads your email after a week, they might decided that "this was too long ago anyway so I am just going to ignore it".

Lastly, review the length of the email. For a lot of people email is not the best way to elaborate and make wordy tropes. If you end up with a long email (say six paragraphs and more than a page long) I would suggest you set up a meeting, type of the idea into bullet points, and then summarize in a memo that can be reviewed. If you have a four paragraph email, let's hope you made each paragraph 2-3 sentences.And whenever you have several things you want to address in one email.... either divvy them up between paragraphs or between emails if possible (too many things in one can lead to confusion), and consider making a bullet point/numbered list. When used properly, bullet points/numbers are efficient to make the text clearer and at the same time keeping short yet feeling spacious.

There are a lot of other things to consider when writing the perfect email, my main idea with this post was to point out that even a short "easy" email might take some time to craft. And that it is always a good idea to reread the email before sending it and ask yourself "is it clear, concise and easy to read?". If not, tweak and repeat.
TLDR: Many emails I read are too long and not precise enough. The chance of your email being received well and answered increases if it is short, precise and polite. This usually takes more than a minute. It will be worth the time to craft a good email.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Being offered a 6-figure job

There are times when I marvel at the situation and think, even in the moment, this is going to be an awesome story to tell later! Then there are times when I was too gob smacked to consider anything but to process what was currently happening at that specific moment.

I went looking in my blog to find a story that relates to the one I'm about to tell. Alas, I've forgotten when I wrote it down and didn't find it. If I do, I'll add the link. Anyway, there was a story back in the day when I was fairly new to Southern city. I was going home in the late evening on a Friday and pulled into a gas station in the not-best-part-of-town. Beggars can’t be chosers and when you need gas, it’s late and you live in a place not close to a gas station open at night, you end up in the one that you drive by on the way home. Anyhow, that story ended with me being offered a job as a stripper since I was so exotic looking (yes, I’m very white and I’m not from around here). Statements like "you would make so much more than working as in the hospital" and "you can start tonight!". The follow up that I mentioned to someone who stated I should be offended by the job offer (from the potential colleague stripper) was that I was sort of flattered. Back home, I would not fit the standards of strippers. They have more fit looking bodies. And at the time I had lost a couple of pounds and gotten some muscles so I took it as positive, sort of.

Well, that was many years ago and then last year happened. In Las Vegas. At a casino during a large conference. And yes, there was a few incidents but nothing tops what happened that one night. Private industry party in a penthouse on the Strip. I’m being the plus one, so I’m smiling and being generally polite and attentive. Playing my part, while having very much fun. I find it quite easy to have fun at a free party, with live music, drinks and a view of The Strip in the evening when on vacation. Who wouldn't?! Instead of schmoozing with the important conference people, even a plus one woman needs a break at times, I started chatting with some of the other women present. Granted, I knew before chatting with them that they were working the party and not being the main guests.

Bingo. Did I ever use the phrase correctly. After a little "wow this is a fun party" chatter, I hear them tell me that I would easily get a 6-figure job, like they have. At this time, I will admit, I did a double take since not only was I at least 10 years older*, neither a size 0-4 with 34Cish which they all seemed to be. Yes, exactly. Stereotypical me. Bingo. Working the party. Anyway, trying to save face and not look shocked I laughed and went down a route I've used before; “I’m not exactly a thin model like you are. And I’m old. But it's nice of you to say.” To which they answered sounding very sincere “Honey, Vegas loves every type of woman. You’d easily get that money. And more.

Cue smiles and going for more drinks - I really didn't want to get into exchanging information to apply or so. Exit party with a smile, such a crazy evening. I’m still processing when we end up in a hotel bar for some chatting and a night cap. Being the polite woman I am, I'll fix some drinks for the others. Walking up to the bartender I decide to go to the bar between two women, who are both engaged in talking to a man each. I think it’s perfect to slide in between them since they are not only women, but not there together and I can order the drinks for the guys at the table. Said and done. All of as sudden one of the women says something snarky and shoves an elbow in my side. I'm about to turn around to ask if I did something to offend her when the other woman leans towards me and says “Honey, don’t take it personally, she is negotiating price for the night and doesn’t want you to compete”.

Huh? What now? This again? Do I look like a lady of the night? My dress isn't short by modern day standards and you can see way less than half of top of my boobs, which makes me one of the most covered women at the casino. I am wearing a pair of 3 inch heels, but really that's it. At this point I’ve decided to just roll with the punches so I smile at both of them and say loudly while pointing at the table where the people I’m picking up drinks for are sitting. "That’s my man over there, and his friends. No worries, I have no interest in anyone else". I grab the drinks and walk back. About halfway to the table it occurs to me that they most likely think I’m like them anyway and I have already secured my "man for the night". Oh well, what's a girl to do?

The morale of the story? 

At the evening in question I took it in stride and thought that it was sort of flattering that these women who were very beautiful thought that I would be able to hack it. (Hello comparative body thoughts and other weird things, there is something odd to feel confirmed that you are considered attractive enough. Oh world.) The next day though, and evening when I did a retake of what had happened I got a little less optimistic. Why? Well, to be honest - a lot of the couples I saw in Las Vegas (at the casinos) were lopsided so to speak. It wasn't obvious that a couple were together, they differed not only in age or shape, but also in style. Sure, it can be that people are more open about everything and it is vacation time but I would venture a guess and say that there are probably more "companions" available for a good time in Vegas than elsewhere.

Also, the thing that I normally don't think about as much living in the South - where it isn't unusual that men pick up the check for dinner  - I don't think I saw any woman paying for her drinks or food. Always men picking up the tab and waving the credit card. Sure, this could be a coincidence. Or it could be that the man usually pays during vacation? Or any number of other things, like I'm being way too sensitive about the splitting check/paying rounds. And there was a pretty big entertainment fight that had people fly in from all over the continent that might have skewed the set, but still - left a little strange aftertaste. (I know, I think too much).

Lucky for me, I'm almost certain I get to make another observation later this year going there to increase my n or 1 to an n of 2. How's that for science backed conclusions...

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

"I've been to the Mountaintop" - remembering MLK

I first read "I've been to the Mountaintop" I was at university reading famous speeches from around the world. I remember reading it, picking it apart and seeing the tropes and when listening to it hearing where the words were enunciated and clear. It was a good speech, an emotional speech I thought. It must have been something listening to that at the time. It has a lot of references to what had happened during the close years, and a lot of references to the Bible.

Fast forward a decade or so. Me walking through the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis TN, the city I then had moved to, and getting to listen to the speech at the old Lorraine Motel. The museum is inside of the old Lorraine Motel, you get to see the two adjacent rooms where MLK stayed, and you see the wreath outside on the balcony. And wow, the difference in me when I now heard the words, rather than "just reading them back in my safe country". I can't explain it. I will say though, if you ever go to Memphis TN - You have to go to the National Civil Rights Museum! Schedule a day, even if you walk through the museum faster than 3 hours (average) you will most likely need another few hours to decompress, talk and try and grasp the things you've seen, heard and experienced.

The museum walks you through history of the United States, which is the history of Slaves and displacements of so many people. The checkered stories of the South in the USA in particular, the rest of the USA in context, and the world in general.

It's not an easy museum to go through. It takes time. It makes me feel uneasy. It brings up emotions I wasn't really sure of where they came from. Listening to my mother and father talking about their experiences with the 1960ies in Sweden when a lot of this went on in the USA. Talking to, and answering questions from my younger relatives and children of friends, trying to explain how the South could be so different, yet not so different from the North. How different I want it to be now. How some things have changed, and yet some has not.

Reading the eye witness accounts from the 1960ies and the Freedom Marches. Seeing Ross Barnett, then Governor of Mississippi on National TV proudly explaining "no school in Mississippi will be intergrated on my watch". And when James Meredith went of Ole Miss in 1962, after the Fifth Circuit Court had ruled he was to be admitted, there was two body guards with him his entire time at university and a riot broke out the first day - people died and the National Guard was there.

Watching Ernst Withers' collection of photographs on Beale Street with my visitors to my home when we walk downtown is another way of trying to understand, to grasp how and what happened in Memphis - and other places - in the 1960ies, 70ies and how it influences everything around us now today.

"Those who do not remember their history are destined to repeat it"

Listening to Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" is never easy to me nowadays but it shouldn't be. It should make us all work hard to never forget and never repeat those horrible times. (It's about lynchings. Something much more common even in the 1900 century than I thoughts.)

I'll round this off by quoting the man who died today 50 years ago. The man who spent numerous days in jail writing letters and supporting people all over to march for human rights, and who inspired thousands then and still does. The man for whom church bells will ring at 6pm tonight in Memphis, 39 times will the bells toll. One for each year of his life that was cut too short by someone gunning him down at the Lorraine Motel.

Martin Luther King, Jr died today in 1960 only 39 years old. And we should all wow to ourselves never to give up the fight for equal rights for all human beings.

"That's the question before you tonight. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?" The question is not, "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?" The question is, "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?" That's the question.

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you."
[from "To the Mountaintop", the last speech by Martin Luther King, Jr April 3rd 1960]

National Civil Rights Museum (from another march)

Thursday, March 08, 2018

International Women's Day

So, another year and another International Women's Day. It's not surprising to me anymore when I encounter my coworkers who have no idea what this day is. (It never happened in Sweden, everyone knew about it.) However, there is a feeling in some of my female coworkers and friends this year that I am excited about. It's a feeling that maybe, maybe 2018 will be the year when some more ceilings get shattered, when some more borders will be broken and the goalposts be moved into another area.

It's partly based on the fact that the new generation, the ones who are about to graduate high school are giving people a "the emperor has no clothes on him" moment every so often. They don't understand why there would be a difference between people. Sure, they have grown up with old Disney and lots of hyper sexualized pictures and comics - but they have also grown up in a world where someone can have one mom, or two moms, or two dads or even living with your single dad... not to forget Mulan, Frozen and last year Wonder Woman. If you haven't seen the New Wonder Woman movie - I implore you, go see it. I wasn't interested and such didn't watch it in the movies. I did see it on a plane during a holiday though. And I ended up watching it twice. The battle scene. And the boat scene. And the training with amazons scenes. And ... well, a lot of scenes actually.

And I cried. I know it might sound silly but there is something that moves inside you fundamentally when watching a movie and realizing that it connects to you, and that you don't have to look at the one or two women roles and listen to them talk about their boy friends. Or for that matter, not even have a woman in the movie and you accept it and feel like the main male character. That you watch a movie about a woman who just does what needs to be done, and doesn't care about what "she's supposed to do".

I've shifted a little last year. I conscientiously decided to not watch TVseries that "investigates the crime of a dead girl" or similar. I've been a huge thriller watcher and avid reader of "all the books" but have slowly but surely moved away from these "generic crime books/TV series". Why? Because I think, the same way as I think watching my Facebook feed everyday, connects with my brain and gives me micronegative feelings that aren't helpful for me. I've tried to find uplifting and motivational movies and TVSeries. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to "self help books" but rather stuff that have either strong female leads, or altered realities where things are slightly different than our present day. I read books by women, about women and with women in them that have overcome obstacles and even those who haven't. Just to feel a little more like "this is it".

I digress, as usual.

My hope for 2018 is similar as every year, and I feel that there might be an opportunity here to actually continue to make change, to move towards a more equal society where women aren't generalized into a stereotype automatically (whore/madonna, mother/barren, girl/crone)...

How I intend to do this? Network, be supportive and give money to the right places that can help. I've expanded my network at work and in my field, where we are a few women in similar ages/peers who give each other support and strategy ideas on how to overcome obstacles and to place ourselves in various positions to move ahead. I'm a mentor, both formally and informally, to a couple of younger women who pick my brain about things every so often. I also connect them with others so they can expand their network. And I give money to political campaigns and Choice organizations, mostly locally here where I live. Side bar; If you live in the USA, now's the time to start looking for all those political races for the midterm election coming up. Take a look at your local elections and the issues the candidates are running on and look how you can contribute. If not with money, maybe with time and energy to the various causes.

And finally, last but not least, something that is near and dear to my heart: Doctors Without Borders and Kiva. Two organizations that change the world and try so hard to make it a better place for children, women and men all over the earth. Kiva will match your contributions to women if you make them today March 8th!

You can find practical tips and links to my old posts here

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Vacation is good for you (until you come back...)

I had quite the start of the new year. A couple of day, well to be honest weeks, of vacations and trips. I didn't realise that some stuff has been draining me. It took going to the Hockey Town of the World to realize that I really needed to get away and sleep. Oh and how I slept. Glorious 10 hours of sleep a night. At least for a few days when the vacation started. Like I said, it took me awhile to realize what my brain has been telling me for a little bit.

Also, I can totally recommend going to Toronto in February. You get blues skies, sun and then a little bit later snow and ice. Perfect for long walks, both in the PATH and outside, and relaxing in coffee shops and microbreweries.

Not to mention, going to Hockey Hall of Fame and Air Canada Center for some games with the lovely Maple Leafs.

If only one didn't get so behind on work while being away.... it's crunch time for some dead lines. I'm dreaming away and sharing some photos. Until next time! (Got some thoughts on mentoring and networking for starters.)

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Sister of night

There's something special about travelling at night. I've had this feeling many times, yet every time I encounter it I feel a slight jolt of surprise. It's a little bit like coming home. A feeling of familiar. A feeling of safe. A feeling of nothing in the world can rattle me, since it's all hidden in the dark. All the faults are dimmed, all the sharp noises are just a little more thudding. And there is some much opportunity.

I'm not a morning person. At the same time, I'm probably the most a morning person now than I have ever been in my life. I have even gotten to like the idea of morning exercise. So odd.

Still though, nothing beats the quiet of night. The darkness of night. The stillness. It's like the world is taking a deep breath and everything is just there, waiting, not stressed and letting me breathe out and take in the stars and the sky, let all the thoughts wonder freely and have no constraints.

I remember being in my dorm room when I was a first year university student, laying on the floor having a clear view of the sky through the window, in an all dark room with some of my favorite music on the stereo filling my ears. Complete calm, and just the awesomeness of being.

And the same feeling, sitting outside in my garden (what everyone else apparently calls 'backyard' here in the South) in the dark night, staring into the sky and enjoying the night and my thoughts.

This is similar being on a train, in a plane or - my absolute favorite - driving a car on a deserted dark road on a summer night with the windows down and the music flowing while the car speeds through the night. The wind running through my hair, the adventures opening up.

Or, as today, staring out through the window of the plane, seeing all the flickering lights far down on the ground while the Super moon is glowing on the horizon and shining the light. The notion that for a few hours I can't be reached, I can't be asked to do things, I don't have to feel the musts. All I have to be is "to be". I can be alone with my thoughts and relax.

Time to get on with it and enjoy the flight. Dream away.

(and yes, if you have read this before(one of you maybe?)  - there has been a post or two about my love for the night and the happy times I feel. Here is that post, a 12 days of Christmas.)