Jun 11 2016


I can’t remember why I joined Twitter in the first place. Perhaps because of work. Or because of a friend suggesting it. But I can see on my profile that I joined in March of 2009. My first tweet was “Im not sure what Im doing” and my fourth tweet was “My goodness-I actually have people following what I have to say. How bored can you get??” (those first followers were my son, my husband, my cousin and two friends) I had already been on Facebook since 2007 and was very active there. I posted a lot and even still do. But I never just shared articles. When I shared something that I liked I always told why I was sharing it – what I thought about it. I also posted a lot of stuff about what I was doing or thinking or feeling. And I didn’t use those feeling icons to substitute for my own words. I wrote my own words. I liked talking – still do.  I guess I’m just a blabbermouth, with lots of opinions about things. But except for a very few people most of my contacts on Facebook were real people who I had actually known in Real Life. I rarely Friended people who I had never met or had only met once for a very short time. So this meant that most of the posting and sharing I did on Facebook went out to people who actually knew me in person.

Twitter was a whole different ball of wax.
First of all I had to confine myself to only 140 characters!! I like words. Words have meaning and nuance and syntax and even grammar. To say a whole idea in only 140 characters is very hard for me. As I said I’m a blabbermouth. So much nuance has to be removed in order to fit that parameter. I have spent my whole working life as a professional graphic designer – visuals not text. I have never considered myself an artist, a person who makes Art with a capital A – Art that is created to serve the artist’s own vision. I do commercial stuff. I like getting assignments. I like working within defined parameters. So I figured Twitter was just a matter of learning how to edit, to work to fit the parameter. Knowing how to and being able to edit is always a good thing.

Anyway, after 6 tweets in 2009 I didn’t do anything until about 4 years later when in 2013 I put up a new picture as my avatar. And then again nothing until March 2015 when I twittered this, “I’m following people’s tweets only due to my Outlander obsession.“.

Since then I’ve written 451 tweets, liked 1,217 tweets by others, I have 45 followers and I follow 136 mostly, total strangers. All because sometime in the late fall of 2014 I got introduced to Outlander, the Starz TV series and have been addicted ever since. I’ve read all the big, enormous books, most of the smaller novels and some of the bulges, as author Diana Gabaldon calls her handiwork. And I have of course watched the TV series’ first season episodes a zillion times and the second season episodes, so far shown, at least 3 or 4 times. I’ve probably watched most of any Outlander panel discussions and interviews with stars that I can find on the Internet. I joined the Facebook group called Outlander Sweden (since that is where I live) Both my husband and my 24 year old son think I’m a bit nuts (they thought that before but now they think they have evidence) And my former co-workers wouldn’t let me even mention the word Outlander at lunch breaks. I have one good friend here who I have caused to follow in my addiction. So yeah, I guess you could say I am a bit obsessed. You can read more about my obsession here. And here. And even here.

And now there’s Twitter
First, I have to get one thing straight – I don’t only post, read or share Outlander stuff on Twitter. I also post pictures from my summer house, I announce posts from this blog, sometimes a political opinion creeps into my posting, I also follow CNN, New Scientist and the New York Times among others. My Twitter posts also appear on my Facebook feed where my real-life pals like my posts or even respond. But yes, I admit it, most of what I do on Twitter has to do with Outlander. I’ve become a Fan! I’ve joined a Fandom! And its lots of fun. I read what Sam or Caitriona or Tobias or Graham or Ron or Diana or Maril or Terry or JON GARY or a bunch of others involved with the series have to say. In some ways I feel like I know them. But I never cross the line to think that they are my actual friends or I am their personal friend. What I am reading are the public personas of the private people that they really are. A tiny glimpse that they allow me to see. And I am grateful for that.

As a former Fashion Design student in my way-back-when life I like reading what the Outlander costume designer Terry Dresbach posts. She often starts really interesting discussions in 140 characters. Sometimes I have been able to partake in those discussions. Once, at 2am, lying in bed with my smart phone glued in front of my nose, desperately trying to keep up with a fascinating discussion, I rapidly typed out a comment to the conversation and suddenly Terry answered my question! I sat up in bed and yelled, “Oh My Gosh! She answered my question!” My husband, suddenly awakened, looked at me as if I was crazy and told me to please go to sleep. I have to admit, from that moment I felt like I was talking to someone I knew. It was really cool. I’ve followed and even participated in a number of other conversations started by Terry and always enjoyed them. The very fact that I can be sitting in my home, having discussions with people from all over the world at the same time is just amazing.

But it seems like there is trouble in paradise.
It seems like there are twitterers out there who feel like they have the right to say whatever they want or feel to the people they follow; who feel like they have the right to be mean, to chastise, to demand attention, to spread rumors without any regard to how their 140 characters can hurt the people they are aimed at. And in addition there are others who feel they themselves have been terribly hurt and thus have the right to hurl hurt back at anyone they can. The Internet can be a fantastic place but its defining anonymity can also cause it to be a very terrible place. So all I seem to be reading from my favorite Twittering people is how twitterers are throwing mud at each other, blaming others for feeling hurt and abused.

As a kid growing up I remember being called a lot of unpleasant names. Tall, skinny, freckled and with out of control curly dark auburn hair; beanpole, stringbean, jolly green giant were just some of the things I got to hear thrown at me. My mother telling me that “Sticks and stones can break your bones but names will never hurt you” didn’t really make me feel better. I knew that names definitely could hurt me. I had to learn very early that the names people threw at me didn’t define what I thought of myself. Perhaps I just learned to grow a thick skin. And I learned to develop a very fine-tuned sense of humor about things. Maybe the younger generation, a product of helicopter parents have never learned the lessons that I did, never learned how to grow a thick skin.

As I said earlier 140 characters are not really enough to convey nuance. In response to all this recent discussion of misery and unhappiness on all sides, I posted a tweet that was trying to remind people that 140 characters do not always offer enough nuance to accurately be able to distinguish between humor, irony and satire and what might be meant as a joke could sound like an attack. It can be very easy to misinterpret what is actually being said and a bit of a sense of humor was necessary when responding to those few characters. I suggested that people should lighten up. I was accused of possibly sounding dismissive and unfairly minimizing other people’s feelings – two things I was most definitely not doing. My #lightenup was being offered as a bit of humor but that obviously wasn’t coming through and it was judged to be judgmental instead and assumed to be hurtful.

There are plenty of other things out there to feel hurt and sad and just plain awful about: child slavery, climate change, decimation of animal species, ocean acidification and the bleaching of coral reefs, poverty, hunger, lack of clean drinking water, small children picking up a gun and killing their parents. Go ahead, pick one to feel bad about. But don’t let 140 characters, without any nuance, do that to you. Its really not worth it.

My mother also used to say, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again”. She didn’t make that up either – she got it from the song but there she was actually right. So I am going to paraphrase what Terry said (if she allows me to) “Hopefully we are all done now.” And even if she feels that she and Ron will never get closure, she still felt ready to say, “I am moving on.”

And on one final note, as a fan, I am remembering our own favorite Jamie Fraser, telling his daughter how he was able to forgive and move beyond the terrible things that Jack Randall had done to him. (If this is a spoiler for non-book readers, then I am sorry) Can we in the fandom be any less than our favorite hero? Can we forgive? Can we move on? Can we take what is written in 140 characters not so to heart but with a bit of humor and try to expect the best of people rather than the worst so that I can wholeheartedly enjoy following my obsession once again? Life is much nicer that way too. IMHO.

Mar 5 2016


Its been over two months now since I last went to work at my job as graphic designer at IGBP. In December, I had a great time during my week in San Francisco with my now former co-workers. In January I met up with a few of them again when I went to my former work place to hand in my elevator key and assorted final documents. We sat around and had fika together. We talked about getting together again later in the month – maybe for drinks or even dinner.

At every workplace, there are always going to be people who find new jobs or whatever and leave. And that is normal. Sometimes one stays in touch, sometimes they are never to be seen again except maybe unexpectedly on a street corner. Many of my oldest and closest friends are people I’ve taken with me on my life journey from a place of work. And the thing is, you never know in advance who, from the job, that will be. Some workmates fade away and some stick around.  But the closing of IGBP was a bit different. Yes, a few souls saw the writing on the wall and left before we closed but it didn’t feel like they really left. They still felt like part of us anyway. But when a place closes down, scattering everyone, all at the same time, that feels different. Its almost too abrupt to really take in. So I sit here wondering what happened to my life. Because the place one works is a very large part of one’s life.

This morning a former co-worker called me. She reminded me that I had never answered her email from more than a month ago. How was I, she wanted to know. Yes, how am I, in my current stage of unemployment? I don’t really know.

I do the things I have to do. I dealt with försäkringskassan regarding my sprained ankle and cracked elbow when I first got home from California. I signed up with Arbetsförmedlingen so they would know I was unemployed and with my A-kassan so that I would get unemployment benefits while looking for a new job. I had a meeting with my adviser from Trygghetsrådet to once more discuss my updating of my CV. I worked to finish my updated Graphic portfolio and put it up online. And I made appointments with my physical therapist to get my injured limbs back in working order. All of this took time and lots of paperwork, phone calls and the odd meeting now and again. Getting myself to do it was like pulling teeth but since I had to do it, I did it. And in between doing them I did very little else.

I slept a lot, often not rising till noon. I stared at the face of my smart phone, obsessively looking at Facebook and Twitter. I re-read Outlander novels while lying on my bed and played the various episodes on the TV while I made dinner in the evening. I didn’t need to look at the TV – I knew each episode by heart so listening was good enough. I went to the grocery store to buy food. Occaisionally I would actually go out and meet some friend but mainly I stayed home. Hiding in my cave. Like the good crabby Cancerian that I was. Life had just gotten too big for me. Too overwhelming. Too confusing. So I am just hunkering down and working on ignoring it as much as possible. Until it figures itself out.

Feb 9 2016

Still Obsessed

I just started my second reading of An Echo in the Bone, Diana Gabaldon’s seventh novel in her Outlander series. I’ve gotten as far as the Prologue.

The body is amazingly plastic. The spirit, even more so. But there are some things you don’t come back from. Say ye so, a nighean? True, the body’s easily maimed, and the spirit can be crippled – yet there’s that in a man that is never destroyed.

And barely as the last word was read, my eyes started to fill with tears and I realized I was crying.

How? Why? Am I that much of a sentimental sap? I never thought so before. I have been reading and re-reading these books (and watching the TV series by Starz) since discovering first the show and then the books in the beginning of 2015, after my friend told me about them a few months earlier. And I can’t seem to stop. I can’t seem to be able to leave the world that Gabaldon has built and come back fully to my own. What is it about Jamie and Claire’s love affair and adventures and marriage and life that makes me want to be there with them instead of in my own life?

Granted, the last 4 years have been difficult ones, filled with sorrow, disappointments, illness and changes.

In 2011 my mother got sick and at the very end of that year I spent the last month of her life by her bedside in New Jersey watching as she slowly passed away. You can read about that month I spent with her under Saying Goodbye to Mom. On a cold January day my family and I said our final goodbyes at a wonderful funeral (if one can call a funeral wonderful) and a joy-filled Chinese lunch (her favorite sort of food) with friends and family. And then I returned to my home and my life in Stockholm. Once back here I managed with great help from her Finance Guy, Dave, to settle all her bills, tie-up loose ends, and pull together what needed to be done to file her estate income tax forms. Done! Chapter settled and closed! Or so I thought.

Then 2 years later, I received a letter saying I was being sued for unpaid property taxes! It seemed that the person who had been renting the property that I had inherited from my mom had not been paying said taxes as he should have been and now I was required to pay a huge sum of money in back taxes and interest. I almost had a heart attack. As luck would have it, I actually had a lawyer who could help me and even just enough money to save my property. The stress from dealing with all that finally ended up causing me to decide to start taking anti-anxiety meds. It has taken the last 2 years to finally work out the situation. I don’t believe in writing gratitude lists but I am very grateful for my lawyer Gary. He saved my sanity. What I have left of it at least.

Then just after finding out I was being sued, I heard that my job as a graphic designer, that I enjoyed and liked working at was soon going to end. IGBP was going to be closing down at the end of December 2015 and as I write this I am now officially out of a job. And looking for a new one. I think…..

And as a last straw, in October of 2014, my husband got sick. He developed an aneurysm that started to bleed right at the top of his spinal cord where all those little nerves are gathered. He spent 2 months in hospital, needed brain surgery and almost died. He is home now and still himself but the bleeding affected certain nerves leaving him dealing, for the past year and a half, with a number of physical disabilities and has  affected the way we see and live our life together – how we go forward. Oh, and did I mention those added anxiety and stress levels???

Sooo, as I said above, the past 4 years have been pretty crappy and I find myself often not really wanting to crawl out of bed.

But when I do, I find myself still standing and even still able to make a joke. But I am almost afraid to open my email – who knows what disaster awaits me there. I don’t feel very much like socializing since I am boring even myself with my negativity about life and my lack of enthusiasm. I don’t want to keep spreading it around my friends or I won’t have any left, friends that is. Facebook and Twitter are my main social outlets – I don’t have to get dressed or put on my face for that! Or even leave my bed!

I need to concentrate on finding a new job but I don’t seem to be able to muster much enthusiasm for that task either. Being a graphic designer is how I have earned my living most of my life and actually is the only work skill I really have. But, I don’t know – images are just all starting to look very grey. Words are what fill my head now. But getting the energy to sit myself down at the computer to write – that is so hard too. Its as though my computer has become my enemy and I can’t dare to face it. All my shoulda, woulda, couldas get saved to the very last minute before I can bring myself to attend to them. And I find myself getting very sloppy by the time I actually get to them. And its the sloppiness that bothers me. The not caring. The lack of … whatever it is I am lacking. Perhaps its just the will-to-do that’s missing.

So I lose myself in Diana’s world. Its not the same as when I read over and over again Peter and Wendy (the original book about Peter Pan) as a child or lost myself in The Lord of the Rings as a teenager. Its not just escapism.

Its like that prologue I quoted at the top of the page, that started me crying: I think I reacted to it because I too am looking for that part of me that is still not destroyed. The me that is still left. Her words are filled with that sort of thing that seems to be speaking to me directly.

Her story of Jamie and Claire’s life, of how they are as a married pair – I wish I had that as an idea of a life together. I almost wish I had read her books when I was young, in my 20s. My parent’s married life, the only example I had, was not really happy and I admit to avoiding pairing up for a very long time because of their example. In reading how Jamie and Claire are with each other, it gives me a different model to follow in my own marriage. I almost wish I had learned those things 30 years ago.

So I continue my Outlander obsession. Reading and rereading over and over again. Each time finding small bits and pieces that leave me weeping, with sadness or joy but still engulfed in tears, sharing their lives. Waiting for mine to recover and figure out what my next stage will contain. I sometimes wish I had Jamie’s resilience to disaster and hardship but maybe I have more than I think I have. I’m just waiting for it to bounce back so I can discover who I am again.

Aug 17 2015

Obsession (part 1)

Obsession /əbˈsɛʃən/
According to Webster’s dictionary, obsession is a state in which someone thinks about someone or something constantly or frequently especially in a way that is not normal.

As anyone who has had contact with me the last 8 or 9 months can tell you, I have become a person with a bit of a one-track mind. I have become obsessed. I cannot have any sort of conversation with anyone without referring, at least once, to the object of my obsession. I usually consider myself a person with a relatively wide range of interests and not having a particularly addictive personality but there you have it – I am obsessed, addicted really. I actually haven’t felt this way since way back in the late 90s when I would spend hours late at night reading all the web forums about Peter Jackson’s production of The Lord of the Rings.

I blame my friend Roz – its all her fault.
Sometime last year, 2014, she tells me during one of our many SKYPE conversations that she had discovered a really good TV series and if I got the chance I should watch it. She kept talking about it every time we talked so finally just to get her off my case, I asked my son to find it for me. Finally one evening I sat down on the sofa and watched the first episode. As soon as it ended, I immediately watched the second episode and the third. I would have also watched the fourth but it was getting very late and I had to get up the next day to go to work. But by then, I was hooked.

Claire and Jamie

It’s all about how he looks at her.

The 16 episode show is called Outlander and is produced by an American TV channel called STARZ. It’s producer/showrunner is Ron D. Moore, the man responsible for the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, a science fiction TV series that I had seen and really liked. Outlander is based on a book of the same name by Diana Gabaldon which was written in 1991 and has since been followed by 7 more books. Gabaldon is now in the process of writing the ninth book in the series. A second TV season is already in production, based on the second book in the series.

By now, I have watched each of the 16 episodes at least 3 or more times. I’ve just finished reading the 8th book and am in the process of re-reading Dragonfly in Amber, the second book, in preparation for the upcoming second season. I even watch all the interviews with cast and crew that I can find on Youtube. I read all the twitter posts relating to the TV show. I’m even a member of the Outlander-Sweden Facebook group. I know, weird right?

Quick Synopsis
The story begins in the mid 1940s just after the end of the Second World War. 27-year old Claire Randall has been a combat army nurse during the war and is now reunited with her husband Frank as they travel to Inverness in the Scottish Highlands for a second honeymoon. She goes up to a hill with a circle of standing stones, puts her hands on the tall center stone and the next thing she knows, she is waking up in the mid 1740s – 1743 to be exact. OK, there you go – there’s the Sci-fi/fantasy angle coming into play. But after that first bit of time traveling, that’s pretty much it. After wandering around, dazed and confused, Claire is soon rescued or taken prisoner (depending on how you look at it) by members of the Mackenzie clan and taken to their main fortress, Castle Leoch. The rest of the story tells of how she tries to get back to her own time and how she slowly falls in love with the other main character, Jamie Fraser, a tall, articulate highlander wearing a kilt.

First off, the TV production is incredibly well made with very high production standards. Amazing sets. As a former Fashion Design student at Pratt Institute, one of the biggest pet peeves I have when watching historical dramas is that the clothing is so wrong – The big skirts don’t have any petticoats, there are no corsets in corset style dresses, the clothes all look brand new, there is too much “modern” design in it, etc etc. No problem in Outlander. The clothes the actors wear – from the main leads to even the smallest extras – all looked lived in. They have weight and bulk to them, substance. The shirts the men wear look like they have been worn for weeks and weeks and have been slept in too. You can almost smell them just by looking at them! Much of the show is filmed on location in Scotland and the scenery is beautiful and real. No CGI needed here! Real castles, real mountains, real shacks. People get dirty, for real! OK, sooo? There are other TV series that have good production values, maybe not many but they exist.

Secondly, they didn’t reinvent the story to fit conventional TV plots. They dared to film where Gabaldon takes her characters, even to the darkest corners. Though the scripts and the action change a bit from their source material, the dialog is taken almost directly from Gabaldon’s book. And while I don’t feel she always writes the best descriptive passages, she writes great dialog! Especially between her two main characters, Claire Randell and Jamie Fraser. Her characters feel real with intense inner lives not just superficial reactions. They are alive!

Then, thirdly, there’s the actors. No big famous names here, bringing all their previous personas with them.  The two main leads, Claire and Jamie are played by two relatively unknown actors, both in their mid-30s. Caitriona Balfe from Ireland plays Claire and Scottish Sam Heughan plays Jamie.  They inhabit their characters. They bring Gabaldon’s written characters off the page and give them body and form. Beautifully.

But why am I so hooked?
My reading choices almost always consist of hard science fiction, or sometimes fantasy, which this really isn’t. I don’t read romance novels and in all honesty, I probably would never have picked up these books if it hadn’t been for the TV series. And the Outlander series of books seems like the classic historical romance type of novel. A type of book which, excluding Jane Austen novels, I stopped reading when I was about 16 or so. Some of my favorite movies have been Wuthering Heights (only the original film version), Gone with the Wind and Dr. Zivago but I didn’t make it a habit to read the book versions. Gone with the Wind with its Civil War background follows the journey of Scarlett O’Hara as she matures from a spoiled 16-year old to a mature woman who finally realizes who she has loved all along. The Russian Revolution plays out as Zivago, forced by war out of his ordinary life, finds and ultimately suffers the loss of the great love of his life, Lara, but leaves behind The Lara Poems that immortalizes their love. While Wuthering Heights only has the wild Yorkshire moors as its background it also is about a great love that haunts Heathcliff for 40 years until he dies and can be reunited with his beloved Cathy. What Outlander has in common with those three movies is that it is a great love story that takes place over time and space against a large historical background with much longing and suffering. So it fits right in there with my favorite canon. But why have I been watching it over and over again and even reading and loving the books? For it to be having such a powerful effect on me it must be working on many different levels.

Tons of articles about this series have already been written and what many of them say is that this is a show about a strong female lead and told from her point of view. That it is Claire’s story. The female gaze they are calling it. That it is also a story of a marriage. That it has lots of great sex. And lots of violent and horrible scenes. That it is unafraid. That the sex and violence is not gratuitous. It has been described as “as good as, if not better” than Game of Thrones.

As I said, from the first episode, I was hooked. Resourceful, self-confident ex-army nurse Claire Randell was thrown into 1743 Scotland and forced to figure out how to survive there: a place with different customs, different language, different food, housing, weather. Just plain different. And I could relate. I found myself in a similar situation 34 years ago. I got there by airplane not a standing stone but Stockholm Sweden was a whole lot different from the New York City I was coming from. It had a different language, a different culture, a different way of doing things and a tall handsome man to take care of me when I didn’t know how to get somewhere or understand something. The first apartment I lived in didn’t even have hot running water in it. How’s that for different? I watched Claire in that first episode and I saw myself.  I loved the fact that, like me with Swedish, she couldn’t understand what the Scots were saying when speaking Gaelic. Been there.  I had to keep watching to see how she managed.

And she managed. She wouldn’t let anyone intimidate her. She stated her mind, gave as good as she got, fought back and wouldn’t give up. I liked that about her. She was a new addition to my panoply of strong female characters that I had gathered over the years; Jane Fonda in Barbarella, Diana Riggs’ Emma Peel in the Avengers, Ripley from Alien, Sarah Connor from Terminator, Starbuck from the re-imaged Battlestar Galactica – just to name a few. And now Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser. She was someone who I was willing to follow along in her story. So on to the next episode. And the next. And each time over again.

But its not just Claire that catches my interest. There’s James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser too. And without him, Claire is only half herself. Yes, he is very attractive, that Jamie. Sam Heughan is perfect in the role. In no other photos pre-Outlander is he as fantastic as he is as Jamie Fraser. Because quite simply its not just about what he looks like. There are a lot of good looking guys out there in TV land. Its more about how he looks at you – in this case at Claire. But as I already said I relate to Claire so I can pretend he is looking at me too. He sees her. He listens and hears her. From the very first moment they meet, he recognizes her, in some mysterious way. I have my theories about that but I’ll write about that later.

Many of the reviews and fan posts say that this is a story about Claire. But I disagree. It isn’t about Claire. Claire is the one who tells the story (most of the time) but the story is about Jamie. From the time we meet her until the latest book, Claire is pretty much who she is to start with. She learns more, she becomes a doctor, she ages but she is still herself. From the moment we first meet her she knows what she is meant to do with her life and the 2 men who both love her, recognize and respect that about her. The real story is how, Jamie, this young man without responsibilities that she meets in an alien place grows and matures to become the man he was destined to be – a true leader of men. The kind of man that is able and willing to take responsibility for the people within his sphere of influence. A type of man we see very little of these days. Which makes him all the more unique and admirable and exciting to watch. OK, and he is also nice to look at.

I have always liked stories that take place over a long period of time, watching how things or people change. Most novels or movies or stories are just a short cutout piece of a longer tale. Cinderella ends with “and they lived happily ever after”. But what kind of life does she really have with her prince? We never get to find out. Gone with the Wind ends with Scarlett promising herself that she will get Rhett back but that’s where it ends and we don’t get to see if she does. But Gabaldon doesn’t want to just give us a short piece out of the lives of Jamie and Claire: They meet, fall in love, he rescues her, she rescues him, they go to France, they come back to Scotland, they experience a terrible war and then they are forced to part probably forever. Sad ending but great love story. In the normal case of such stories we would never know what else happens. But Gabaldon is still writing the story. As of book 8 they are in their 50s or 60s, still in love, still having adventures, still together. I can’t wait till book 9 comes out in a few years. In the meantime I have season 1 to watch over and over again. And season 2 to look forward to.