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I still haven’t shared THE story with you guys. First of all let me just say that I literally CANNOT be more excited to marry Kiel. Three weeks away from him and a lot of self-confidence gained on my trip and I still feel like he’s the most supportive and (I’m looking for this word that means that he pushes me to do my best but I can’t find it) person I could possibly ever find. That said, he kind of asked me to marry him the way you ask someone to pass the butter at the breakfast table. In fact, I didn’t even know he asked me to marry him for oh, maybe 30 minutes? We’ve talked a lot about getting married and, in those discussions, we agreed that neither one of us thought that an engagement ring was something we wanted. I also didn’t want him to get on one knee — I’ve just seen too many seasons of “The Bachelor” and I’m just kind of over the one knee thang. Do you know what rings and getting down on one knee are good for in a proposal? Letting you know that you are in fact being asked to marry someone.
The story of our engagement is so positively us that I just can’t help but love it so much. We had spent our last day in Stockholm doing a bunch of my favorite things mixed with some new things that I hadn’t done yet. We took a long walk around my favorite lake, we rode bikes along the waterfront and looked at all the boats, I drank 20 cappuccinos, Kiel at 25 pastries, and we went to Skansen — a very bizarre but fun outdoor museum where people walk around dressed up like it’s the 1700s and talk to you about their apothecary and shit like that. I felt completely at peace with the experience that I had had over the past month. I was so happy to share it all with Kiel and so thrilled to have had the time to do all that I did. I was just so dang happy. As the day began to wind down we went back to the water and sat to watch what was the most magnificent sunset. The sky was on fire. As we were sitting on the dock Kiel had his arms around me and said (in so many words) “I’d like to have a wedding with you, Kate.” Not in a serious tone — just like a “ya that would be cool” tone. Now, this was not the first time this sort of thing had been said and, given the tone, I thought we were just having another conversation about how we will get married … ONE DAY. So I said, “mhmm. Me too!”. And then, in this exact tone, Kiel asked “WOULD you marry me?” Not “would you marry me?” Do you see the difference? One is a confident statement and the other is a question like “do you think you’d marry me one day if I asked you?” So I said “ya, I’d marry you.” And then we made out or something — the details are foggy.
Two seconds later I was pointing as some dumb building or something and talking about very arbitrary things. All the while Kiel appeared to be nervously clearing his throat, but, you know, he does that. We left the dock and started walking toward food when Kiel stopped me on a beautiful bridge and said “KATE, I asked you to marry you back there — do you know that?!” and, having no idea that he was actually asking me to marry him earlier, I said “WELL, OF COURSE I’LL MARRY YOU!” — and then we went out for big plates of Swedish meatballs and champagne in celebration! Kiel wanted to get a bottle of champagne but I had to remind him that, in Sweden, when one goes to purchase a bottle of champagne at a restaurant, one must first fill out a loan application with the bank, wait to be approved, and then spend the next 30 years paying back the loan with 12% interest. He wisely chose the glass. The first people we told were the folks that sat next to us on our flight the next morning. It was really kind of fun to go a few days without telling anyone else. By day three Kiel woke me up at 3:00am — jet lag is a bitch — to tell me the entire plan for our wedding day that he had been plotting while staring at the ceiling all night. It’s gonna be a hoot and it’s going to be next summer! The invitation shall read “BYOB” as in “bring your own bike”. If you’re from out of town we will find you a bike though! I know a guy.
We planned to tell most of our friends on my birthday the following Sunday. We were waiting for the perfect moment when Kiel’s dad, Verne — who was also celebrating his birthday and had enjoyed somewhere around 80 ounces of free Rogue birthday beer alongside me — accidentally let the cat out of the bag while we were all ordering at our third brewery stop. The waitress asked if Verne and I were related — she was fascinated that we had the same birthday — and Verne chimed in with “Nope! But we will be soon!” followed by “Kiel, remind me later I got a few for the guest list.” This all shouted down an picnic table of about 20 people. At that point our friends went from confused to very excited and surprised. It was kind of perfect. Those Johnson men know how to do surprises, man.
The longer I’ve been home the more I realize that my trip was actually quite a bit more revolutionary than I originally gave it credit for. I’ve always been a really capable person — at least I think. But, the trip gave me so much more confidence and showed me that I am the independent and capable DIVA that I knew I could be. I really reflected heavily on the things that make me feel happy while I was by myself and, upon my return, I’ve tried to do those things that make me happiest more and more. I’ve noticed that I am more calm and at peace with my life and it’s a really good feeling. Being by myself for a while helped to show me that, at the end of the day, the opinion that matters the most is the opinion I have of myself. I’ve also been doing MUCH better with the grey areas of life since my return. I am forcing myself to see beyond the black and white and gain a bit more moderation in my life. Excuse me as I step away and nail one of those prints that says “dance like nobody’s watching” or some shit like that on my wall. Got a little deep there….
Peace, love, and patchouli –
Guys. I kinda can’t believe it. I’ve been in Sweden for A WEEK! I have been without a single familiar face for A WEEK! I haven’t had sushi go-round from down the street from my apartment for A WEEK! And you know what? I’m doin pretty damn good! Frankly, I’m surprising the hell out of myself.
Here are some things I’ve observed in the past week:
- Things are on point in Sweden. People are on time to the second and the public transportation never fails.
- Folks are law abiding. You can be standing at a crosswalk with no signs of cars for miles and people will stand as still as statues until that walk sign turns green. The first time I observed this I was in awe.
- There are a lot of blonde people. More than you can even imagine. It took me a few days to actually notice, but once I did I was, again, in awe.
- The food is…. well, maybe it’s too soon to tell, but, aside from the delicious pastries and baked goods, I haven’t tasted a single thing that made me pause and say “mmmm!” I really hope I’m wrong about this one…
- There are parks EVERYWHERE! This is great as parks are my favorite!
- Swedish people seem to be out to convince me that they are all cold and unfriendly, but I am yet to meet a single person that fits this description.
- There is an H&M on every corner and the folks working there all wear white gloves and it’s really strange.
- Things are pretty quiet. The subway is one tenth the volume of the typical MAX train.
A few highlights from the past few days include taking a three hour walk in beautiful Djurgården Park with a new Swedish friend I was introduced to that so happens to be an encyclopedia for Scandinavian knowledge, exploring a new city, and experiencing a high speed train.
Here are some picture highlights!
Impromptu parade of sorts.
My trip to IKEA was a success. The potatoes are whole instead of mashed and the hot dogs are way skinnier. The free bus was amazing. I teared up while looking at couches because I saw our couch and missed Kiel and Bella.
Views from a ride “home”.
Got warm enough to take ma pants off.
Cruising around Uppsala.
Swedish uniformity comes in handy in flash mob situations.
My airbnb hosts win awards for their home brew!
“More falafel less racism”
Very old library.
Unreal danish filled with vanilla custard and blueberries.
I’m currently waiting on Hannah, who will be here in the next two hours! It has been very important for me to spend some time solo, but I’m really looking forward to exploring some more with a best bud by my side!
Peace, love, and patchouli –
I am writing from the living room of my second airbnb. From the couch eight floors up I can see all of Stockholm. The photos you will see were all taken yesterday (Sept 8). I managed to accidentally sneak on a boat trip through the archipelago and to the royal castle– another royal castle different from the other one. The royals actually live at this one. It’s confusing. Yesterday I rode a bike my host lent me all day. It is a really great way to see the city– you miss too much when you’re underground in the subway! I am not meant to go long without riding a bike. While it doesn’t quite compare to the Netherlands and certainly not to Copenhagen, Stockholm has amazing bike infrastructure! Lots and lots of buffered bike lanes and lots ans lots of completely separated bike lanes.
I met two women on the boat. They were about my age and were from Utah and Seattle. They have been traveling like crazy and told me that they average 12 miles a day walking! It was nice to see someone from the Pacific Northwest. We both agreed that Swedes talk about the weather even more than pacific northwesterners– and that’s saying a lot. Speaking of weather, it’s cold! Coming from 95 degrees to 65 degrees has been a bit of a shock. It feels like very crisp fall weather though, and I love fall!
My host calls me “the archeologist” because I’m so interested in humans and the way they live. I’m pretty sure that’s not the completely correct term for what I am, but I dig it. I saw an American movie last night just to observe the differences in American versus Swedish humor. While I don’t have enough data to be conclusive, I observed that Swedes laugh pretty hard at humor dealing with sex and at mild slap stick humor. The pop culture references in this movie — there were many — were completely lost. Crickets. Very interesting. I now also know a number of Swedish cuss words from watching the subtitles.
Today I am taking a free bus to IKEA to see what a Swedish Ikea is like. This may sound really lame to most of you, but you just don’t understand my love for IKEA. I hope they still have ice cream. I will really miss my IKEA partner, Kiel. This bus takes people to and from one of the two IKEAs every hour on the hour from the city center from 10am to 7pm. Pretty serious stuff!
Tomorrow I’m going to the town of Uppsala to visit the country’s oldest university — Uppsala University. I’ll be there until Satuday morning. Maybe I’ll find some college kids and pretend I’m not almost 30!
My new American friends took a picture of me in front of the castle!
This is inappropriate.
You go girl!
These geese are not Canadian.
This sign is for real. What do you think is going on behind that door?!
Peace, love, and patchouli
So it’s been four days since I arrived in Stockholm. This is the first day that I have not been running around like a wild woman trying to squeeze every dime out of my Stockholm card. I’ve gone to more museums than I have in perhaps my entire life. Who knew I was so cultured?
I successfully followed the travel advice of the king of travel himself– Rick Steves. I successfully knocked myself out on the plane with some cold hard ZQuil. By knocked myself out I mean I slept for 4 hours. Then I woke up and watched “Wild” and shared some wine with my seat mate. When I got to Stockholm. I refused to let myself sleep until a reasonable hour. Then, after 12 solid hours of sleep, I think I totally whipped jet lag. Thank god– my jet lag was so bad when I traveled to the Netherlands that I honestly don’t even remember the first two days of that trip. I do remember Kiel and I staring at the ceiling all night long. I also remember how wrecked I was when I realized Netflix, my insomnia medicine, didn’t work in other countries.
Day 1: I look very Swedish
“You looked so Swedish! That’s why I speak Swedish to you!” I heard this roughly four times just on my first day here. When I walk up to a counter somewhere I’m instantly smacked with super fast and overwhelmingly complicated Swedish. I usually stare for a moment in awe before declaring myself as a dumbfounded English speaker. Then, the individual continues the conversation in the most beautiful and impeccable English possible. What that feels like I may never know.
The first place I ventured to was Gamla Stan also known as old town. This was the moment I realized where I was. It was an emotional moment. I am an emotional being. It looked exactly like all of the photos from every travel book and site I have seen. Cobblestone streets, very few cars, and very very old.
Next I went to the royal palace to purchase my Stockholm card — a card that entitled me to admission to many museums and all transportation for three days. On my ways spotted my first condiment udder pictured above. I haven’t seen one in action yet. I am very intrigued. The royal palace was my first museum stop. Royalty is so strange. Do you see that chic purse that Swedish Princess Lillian made herself? I’m currently looking into ordering a Kate/Bella bag. I took a picture of that bishop suit because I felt like it looked like a wiener wearing a bishop suit and that thought made me laugh out loud. By myself. In a royal palace.
I went to another museum attached to the palace. I won’t even name it. It was really boring. I took this picture of a pile of wood. It was a dark and scary museum.
This crazy airbag helmet is everywhere here.
Views while walking along the water in Södermalm. Södermalm is a lot like Portland. I’m currently sitting in a cafe that might as well be Stumptown — complete with waxed mustaches.
Kiel, who comments on my toilet paper usage on the daily, will be pleased to find that most Swedish bathrooms only give you two squares at a time. Sweden’s got your back, KJ.
I took this photo after falling asleep sitting up during a video installation at Fotografiska — a really fantastic photography museum. I call this photo “Jetlagged tourist trying to take selfie while being stared at by disapproving Swede.”
Day 2: A sinking boat, craft beer, and Swedish people invite me to a picnic
The Vasa Museum is pretty impressive. They built an entire museum AROUND a ship that sunk within 20 minutes of sailing to battle. WAMP waaaaaamp! Big fail. Lots of people died of disease in the building of the ship and more people died when it sank. But seriously, look at it! It was a really nice try.
Some jelly fish and views from a very beautiful beer garden. This was the hoppiest beer I could find. It wasn’t Portland beer, but nothing ever is… The Swedes pronounce IPA “eepa”.
Every Swede I’ve talked to has declared their people unfriendly. That being said, five natives invited me to join them at their cheese and shnaps filled picnic! Of course they each took turns remarking on how incredibly un-Swedish this was. I don’t think the folks here give themselves enough credit. They are welcoming when they put their mind to it. We can all consider ourselves closed off sometimes. It’s not too common in the U.S. to invite some rando to picnic with you. Unless you’re Kiel– he’s the friendliest person I’ve ever known and would invite a cold-blooded murderer to lunch with us any time.
These lovely folks stuffed me to the gills with wine, cheese, bread, and meat. We later traveled to a bar together where I had my first experience with Stockholm bouncers. As it turns out, these bouncers can tell you to scram with or without reason. Wrong shoes? SCRAM! Sloppy shirt? SCRAM! Might have had an alcoholic drink in the past 24 hours? LATER! We didn’t get into the bar because one of the men’s eyes looked too sleepy. Dang.
Above you can see pictures from my walk that led me to my Swedish friends as well as my first crawfish experience. Not sold on it. I had heard that folks I’m Sweden like to jump in the water at random. I now have proof.
Day 3: It’s cold and raining and I have a pity party for myself.
Nobody said traveling by myself would be easy. It’s not. You have a lot of time to think and you kind of get sick of yourself. Today I spoke to the Red Cross guy on the street for 30 minutes to escape my own boringness. Yesterday I felt like I did when I was 7 and my mom sent me to camp. I wrote her a letter s day begging her to come pick me up immediately. She got the letters the day she actually had to come get me anyway. Bummer.
It pissed rain and everything closes early on Sunday. So I went back to my airbnb and had myself a good old fashioned pity party. When I woke up this morning I realized that this is in fact the point of me going at this alone. I need to learn to not freak out so much. If you relax, take a deep breath, and vow to change your ‘tude, you will survive! I have five more days until my friend Hannah arrives. Until then I bet I will visit the pity palace a few more times. But I will live. This I know.
This post has gotten ridiculously long. Thanks for sticking with me! If there are grammatical errors they will remain. I am off to travel to my next airbnb! It’s very close to a very nice part of the city and I’m excited to get there!
Peace, love, and patchouli –
This morning I spent 35 minutes trying to remember how to log on to WordPress to write on my blog. As it turns out, I have four Gmail accounts — and had forgotten how to log onto three of them. This, my friends, is the story of my life — and likely many of yours. Kiel repeatedly tells me to find a system for keeping my usernames and passwords but where’s the fun in that? That 35 minutes was probably the hardest my brain has worked in months. You’re welcome, brain.
As the above anecedote implies, it’s been quite some time since I utilized this space to fill you in on the epic drama/comedy that is my life. So much has happened since 2012 — each event more riveting and unique than the last. My hair grew about six inches, I got new glasses like three times, and I’ve continued my efforts to convince the general public that hummus is indeed rotten chickpea flavored sand putty. I’m sorry to have deprived you all for so long. But, fear not, friends, I am back and finally have something worth writing about: I’ve lost my mind, quit my job, and am venturing off to Scandinavia to find myself. Aren’t you glad you’ve tuned back in?!
OH! And I got a dog! Her name is Bella and if you follow me on social media you are likely SO over her.
Let’s break this update into three parts, shall we?
How I Lost my Mind
In special education there’s a little thing called burn-out. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? When I started my career as a special educator seven years ago, I thought I was SO above burn-out. When I got to Portland and started my job in a self-contained classroom for students with severe emotional and behavioral needs I thought “yep, I’m going to work here in this classroom until the day I retire. No biggie.” I was pretty clueless. That job was and probably/hopefully always will be THE hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m sort of thinking that childbirth might be harder — but then again, maybe not. I’ll report back if and when appropriate.
Since I respect each and every little soul that I taught in the last five years, I will keep all details of my day to day classroom life to myself. What I will say is that, for the past year, it has taken everything in me just to get out of bed and into that classroom to do my job. Everything just felt so hard. My students’ needs seemed larger than life. I felt inadequate to say the least. It was a real struggle. By the holiday break I was dealing with some pretty major depression and anxiety — so I decided to take a vacation to Mexico.
I missed one student contact day during that week in February. What I returned to was a slight display of overreaction and judgement. It was made clear that a select few did not feel that I was deserving of a vacation. This was, as they say, the straw that broke the camels back. After spring break I gave my resignation and finished up the year. I’m thankful for the staff that got me through the last months and understood what I was going through. I couldn’t have done it without them.
I have so many fond memories from my five years of teaching since moving to Portland. I learned a lot about human beings and their needs. I think that I am a more understanding and compassionate person because of my experiences in that classroom.
I quit my job… and I don’t have another one
So, I quit my job and almost immediately everyone started asking me the same exact question “what are you looking to do next? ” It’s kind of like how when people get married they start asking when you’re going to start trying to have a baby somewhere between the cocktail hour and the cake cutting. RELAX, PEOPLE!
It’s like this: I spent the last year basically in agony. I need to c-h-i-l-l OUT. What will I do next? Heck, I don’t know… join the circus? I’m totally kidding — the circus scares the tar out of me. What I do know is that I need to take some time to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I don’t know if I’ll ever teach again. It would take three thousand more posts for me to articulate how I feel about our current educational system here in the US of A. I’ll spare you.
When all else fails, go to Sweden
When you’ve quit your job and have no idea when you’ll get your next pay check I believe one should venture to one of the most expensive countries in the world. When I quit my job in March I was surprised by how many people told me that I needed to go travel. Truth be told, I have always been the type of person to poo poo that sort of thing. But, as I sat in a cafe with my friend Mo listening to her tell me about her big Asian adventure after she quit her teaching career, I could remember zoning out a bit and imagining myself getting lost in a foreign land. That night I booked a plane ticket to Sweden. Thanks, Mo!
I am traveling to Stockholm, Gotland, Uppsala, Copenhagen, and Helsinki throughout the month of September. Out of that month I will be completeley alone for ten days. This whole alone thing is a really important piece. You see, I’m not very good at being alone. I avoid it at all costs. I thought to myself “what kind of almost thirty year old can’t be alone for longer than one day without crying?” I’m choosing to be alone to show myself that I am a self-sufficient w-o-m-a-n. I don’t need nobody to read a stinkin’ map for me! I don’t need nobody to see me crying in an alleyway because I really don’t know how to read stinkin’ maps! Quoting my favorite saying from my earliest years “I get”.
The journey begins…
So here I am, one week from my arrival in Stockholm. Are you ready to follow alongside me as I struggle to read an pronounce words like “sockergris”? “Sockergris” literally translates to “suger pig” which is exactly what the locals will call me. I will likely eat a lot of meatballs and spend a lot of time going in the opposite direction I intented to because I always forget to flip my phone around when using Google Maps. Either way it’s going to be a hoot and a half and I want to document it!
Peace, love, and patchouli
There are lots of people out there that keep track of their lives on a blog because it holds them accountable for the promises they make in the public eye. Wanna eat better? Start a food blog where you incessantly track your every boring bite! Wanna lose a few? Start a fitness blog… because everyone wants to know exactly how far you ran and how many calories your Garmin told you that you burned! I wrote my last blog post thinking that if I told everyone that I was going to sent a bunch of mail out in the month of November it would surely happen. I’ve gotten as far as purchasing really weird stationary to send out and placing my last four stamps on four random envelopes. That’s it, folks. I CANNOT and WILL NOT be held accountable, as I really don’t care either way. I’m here to say that there will be no more promises on this here blog. I suck at sending mail. It’s my thing. If I should get around to sending out any one of those four stamped envelopes, there’s a good chance it will arrive in your mailbox with nothing in it. Seriously. I tried. My apologies to anyone who waited with bated breath for the arrival of my promised mail. You can go back inside now. It must have been cold out on the porch all this time.
Now that we have that cleared up, let’s talk about life since we last met. We had an election. How bout that!? I sat in the same seat for six straight hours at the Bagdad Theater watching white haired men touch magic computer screens and shuffle numbers until my eyes crossed. A few beers and roughly 503 cajun tater tots later and we had ourselves the same president as before!
I gave thanks for the past four days. This thanks giving came in the form of not leaving the house for three days, completing three puzzles in my abundant free time, watching “Lord of the Rings” in my pajamas, eating around the clock, playing pinball, brewing beer, and eating some more. Kiel and I spent our weekend on Vashon Island with his parents. Being trapped on an island turned out to be just what I needed after several long weeks of complete classroom chaos. I was so relaxed that I could have been hit by a car and my limp and lifeless couch potato body would have survived. Is that a weird way to explain it? I was just super relaxed. Ok?
Various Thanksgiving photos:
The Johnson men conquer beer. (Verne, Kiel, and Toby)
Kiel and I pose in front of a cage at the ferry. A moment to remember.
A festive photo of the rotting insides of a pumpkin taken by one of my little cherubs.
Things to be happy about:
– I leave for The Netherlands in 30 days! Got a question for ya… do you have the capitalize the “the” in “The Netherlands”?
– I have a brand new puzzle sittin’ next to me.
– I have weird new stationary.
– My students were super calm today.
Peace, love, and patchouli – Portland Pollyanna
Saturday afternoon – Kiel and I very unexpectedly joined in on an anti-austerity march. Kiel literally pulled me off of the train on the way to another destination because he was intrigued. It was very Portland. I carried a sign I found that read “fund schools, not wars”. Amen. Other highlights included nearly getting run over by a giant horse and finding some awesome shirts that read “I am a teacher, not a test score.” Again, amen.
Saturday night – Jens Lekman concert. Seriously one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. Small venue, positive vibes, dancing and singing along. I have to admit, I didn’t know who the hell he was until Saturday night, but I’m glad I was introduced to this sweet Swedish wonder!
A November goal:
Mail is pretty cool. Wouldn’t you agree? I’m REALLY bad at sending it, and never seem to have stamps, but people seem pretty happy when they receive it, and, bonus, I would rather the US Postal Service not completely tank. With that said, I’ve decided to set a November goal for myself. I vow to send out at least one piece of friendly mail per week beginning this week, the week of November 5th. I say one piece of mail per week as to not set myself up for failure (shoot low)… but I’d rather try for 2-3 pieces.
Looking forward to this week:
– Election night at Bagdad Theater
– Hopefully setting up a much needed happy hour with co-workers… you guys readin’?
– Not having my grad class on Thursday night. Last week I was so bored that I wrote my complete name, Kathryn Marie Laudermilk, in cursive roughly 500 times on my powerpoint notes.
Things to be happy about:
– New boots that have working zippers
– Amsterdam trip planning
– Roommate pizza dinner tonight
– A boyfriend that is slowly teaching me to be ok with being a bit more spontaneous. I’m black and white and he’s the whole beautiful crayon box.
– A long Maura phone conversation on the way to the grocery store. I hear there’s going to be a Coop vacancy soon. Move back? kthanksbye.
Peace, love, and patchouli – Portland Pollyanna