Showing posts from December, 2011


Today is a good day, and tomorrow will be even better.

Hitting the 5

Today Palmer and I will be driving down to Southern California, and I have decided to take the 5 freeway, instead of the 101. The 5 is less scenic, which goes through the Central Valley where there is nothing but flat farmland for miles and miles, than the 101, which snakes along the California coast. We are undertaking this 6 hour drive for the sake of my dad, who is having his 70th birthday on Saturday. He keeps telling us how touched he is by the effort we are making on his behalf (my sister is driving down from Seattle!). This coming from the man who has driven up to the Bay area and helped me move several times, driven to Florida several times to help my brother move, fixed all of our cars, given all of us money, taken care of so many many practical things for us through the years. Although he may not be the most verbally affectionate of fathers (he did however once write me a poem), he shows his love in lots and lots of other ways. So considering all the stuff my dad has done


My son's father, Dave, was born on December 25th. So he never really had a birthday party as a kid, he just got one or two extra packages under the tree. Yesterday when we talked, I made a point of saying Happy Birthday to him, and he kind of grunted, as if he had been trying to forget about it. But I like to remember it, because I am glad he was born. He is a good friend and a terrific co-parent, and I am grateful he is in my life. Our "Scandinavian divorce" is working out quite well, I am happy to report. Makes life more interesting, anyhow.

Rockin' with Ragga

In one of those remarkable Icelandic coincidences, a woman I worked with in Iceland, and became friends with, is here in California for Christmas. She's invited me over to her parents house this afternoon for an Annan Jól party, which is so perfectly Icelandic, I love it. Americans don't do anything the day after Christmas, probably because Americans are too focused on what is to come, and less concerned about what just passed. But I do like the idea of extending the holiday out to a third day; that seems very civilized. In another weird Icelandic coincidences, an American girl I know who is dating an Icelander reports to me that her boyfriend and my friend Ragga have a mutual friend. She found this out on facebook. I am not entirely convinced that facebook is a perfect representation of the closeness of people's real world friendships (I have plenty of facebook friends whom I have never met), and therefore I don't make a habit of looking through people's facebook

Giant leaps?

This morning I gave my cat her Christmas presents, which must count as very American of me, not only because of the timing of the gift giving but also because of the genus of the recipient. I do not believe many Icelanders give their pets Christmas gifts, but I could be wrong about that. Americans on the other hand like to give their pets gifts at Christmas, and some owners even celebrate their pets' birthdays. Anyhow, that is a half-hearted attempt at justifying giving my cat Ásdís some new toys this morning. One of them is called a Cat Dancer, and it costs $1.99. It is a simple toy--several little rolled up pieces of cardboard attached to a thin, springy wire. So it is pretty darn impressive how enthusiastic my cat was about playing with it, twirling around and jumping. After a few minutes of chasing after the cardboard pieces, she was already puffing and panting, and I thought to give her a break. But she kept wanting to play, getting bolder and bolder in her moves.  Next tim

Christmas in California

Although I am far from Iceland this Christmas, I think I will join in the Icelandic tradition of taking this opportunity to wish all my readers a moment of genuine peace and happiness during the holidays, and may that moment sustain you all through the year. Merry Christmas. Gleðileg jól.

Saga Conference

I got the email yesterday informing me that my abstract was accepted for the 15th International Saga conference. It is amazing to me that I last went to that conference three years ago (well, only two and a half years ago, but it feels like it was only just last year, really). I was excited to get accepted, of course, but I had heard through the grapevine that there were not very many abstracts sent in this year, so that means they rather had to accept most if not all of what they were sent. I wonder why fewer people submitted abstracts--it doesn't seem that Uppsala would be more of a draw than Aarhus, quite the contrary. But I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that they are changing the pre-conference publication. It used to be that getting a paper accepted to this conference was equivalent to getting a paper published, since they published all the papers in a large two volume set. It was a real perk of going to the conference that they have decided to do awa

Happy when that happens

Today, driving over to Dave's house to pick up the mail and print out some photos for Christmas cards, I had a devaju. Those don't happen to me very often, but whenever they do, it always makes me happy. It makes me feel like my life is actually on track, heading in the direction God or fate or my own will wanted it to go. It has been a long time since I've felt that way, I have to say. And if one does not believe in dejavu, then I would just say I was in good mood, and I felt open to life.

Krusteaz mix

A while back when my mom was up visiting, she brought along some pancake mix from a company called Krusteaz. Her and my father both confirmed it was the best pancake mix they had ever used (my father has been experimenting with pancake mixes since he was a short order cook in highschool). So when Palmer's school was doing a fund raising drive, by selling certain items, my mom encouraged me to buy the Krusteaz (whose name is a play on easy crust--the company was started in Seattle by some homemakers that found a trick to making great pie crusts) cookie mixes. When Palmer was over here this week, I told him we'd make some cookies, and of course he wanted to make the chocolate chip cookies. I mixed up the batch, put the dough in the fridge, and then whenever we have wanted fresh baked cookies, we just scoop out six on the cookie sheet, and bake them. I of course had to teach Palmer about how this was done, and especially the importance of making each scoop the same size. It is


Shortly after Palmer's father and I moved into our apartment in Berkeley together in 2004, Dave said he had chatted with a guy out on the playground who seemed kind of cool, named David. A few months go by, and I put an add on the bulletin board that I am looking for someone to perhaps exchange babysitting duties with, so I can attend class. A cool and smart lady named Jana answers my ad. We meet, and in the course of the conversation, she mentions her husband is named David. Yes, the very same David my exhusband Dave had spoken to several months earlier. They have a daughter the same age as Palmer, named Elizabeth, and the two of them are like cousins or an old married couple or something. They are always eager to see each other, have a lot of fun get but they also always have at least one fight during the visits. Oddly enough, Jana divorced David about the same time Dave and I got divorced. But while I was in Iceland, Dave would sometimes invite Elizabeth over for a playdate

Christmas party

Today I am having a Christmas party for Palmer. It is the last day of school, and I am going to pick him up early. Then we are going to get my apartment set up with the Christmas table cloth and cookies and cakes and food. Some of his friends are coming over at 4:30 this afternoon. Tomorrow he is leaving for Georgia for 10 days, so for me, today is Christmas.


Yesterday I discovered that not only do my parents read my blog, but so does my sister-in-law. So now their Christmas surprises are a little bit spoiled, since I discussed what I was getting them in my last blog. I have to say though that even with mishaps like that, I agree with Arianna Huffington, who raves about how great blogging is. And I think it is exactly for things like this that blogging is so great. When I post an update on Facebook, I know that 293 people are going to get it in their feed, the next time they log onto facebook. And so what I write on there, I write more or less for those 293 people, to make them smile or laugh or think. But what I write in my blog, I write pretty much for myself. Of the 43 people officially following me, I think I only know two of them. So although my blog is more accessible to more people than my facebook account, it feels to me much more like a personal communication. I say here what I want to say, what is important to me, what I have


This year I am buying Christmas gifts that are mourning gifts, things by which to remember my brother and my brother in law, both of whom passed away well before we who love them finished our need to hear from them, to get their input, to listen to their thoughts and ideas, to feel their hugs and kisses and to hear their laughs. This January it will be three years since my brother passed away, and all any of us can do is just wake up each morning, get through the day somehow, try not to be too sad or too angry or too anything else about something we have no control over. But the sadness over not being able to just pick up the phone, and ask them how they are doing, never really goes away.


This morning I made Palmer some oatmeal (Irish btw, not American) and although I put plenty of brown sugar and honey in it, I also put way too much salt in it. It was not very good. On the way taking him to school, I was remembering a more successful batch of oatmeal I made, when I was working at Víkingaheimar in Iceland. I think it was just over a year ago, when the Ríkistjorn decided to come have their meeting in Suðurnesja, and Víkingaheimar had the honor of hosting. The meeting started really early, and although the township came in with bread and cheese and pastries for the officials, I thought to also whip up a batch of oatmeal. While the meeting was going on, our staff and the drivers for the raðherrar ate the oatmeal. Everyone raved about how good it was. I don't know if this was just because no one usually bothers to feed the drivers, or if it actually was that good, but they said anyhow that it was much sweeter and creamier than regular Icelandic hafragraut. I was inf


Today is the "Christmas Cluster Luncheon", where the three departments that share the same floor of Dwinelle, and share the same administrative staff, have our joint Christmas party. That is the Italian department, the Slavic department, and the Scandinavian department. There is a sign up sheet of what everyone is going to bring that went around last week. I didn't think about it when I signed up, when all I wrote down was meatballs. I did not specify Swedish meatballs. But it occurred to me this morning that when Italians see the word meatballs, they think of something very different than what Scandinavians mean. So I suppose I should have specified, so as to not disappoint


Well it is coming up on that time of the semester, when student grades are due. I started figuring them out yesterday, although one assignment is still outstanding, just to make sure I had the spreadsheet formatted correctly and everything else entered into it. Although it is always stressful assigning grades, a part of me definitely enjoys it. Enjoys seeing the entirety of the semester, summed up in one number. Enjoys the feeling of getting to make a final decision about small details. Enjoys in a way the responsibility of saying something, for good or for bad, about a student. I have been entrusted with evaluating them, and that is a nice feeling. It is something I do not get to experience in my museum work. In a historic museum, you don't evaluate the visitors, you are just grateful they came. The dynamic is completely opposite.


In 2001, I was interviewed by DV about the project I was doing that summer at the Saga Centre in Hvolsvollur, southern Iceland. It was an interview the director of the Saga Centre at the time, Arthur Bjorgvin Bollason, had set up. It was fun going to the DV offices, and then down to the harbor to get my picture taken. I insisted on having Esja in the background instead of the city skyline, as that seemed more suitable to the topic of my research. When DV ran the article, the picture was huge and the text tiny, just like almost every story there. That did not bother me too much, since it was a decent picture, but what did bother me was that DV had actually changed one detail in what I had said during my interview. They asked me what I would be doing if I wasn't researching Icelandic sagas, and I said I thought I would probably be living on a sheep farm. In the story that ran, however, it said that if I wasn't studying the sagas, I would be living on a horse ranch. This annoyed

Autumn in California

It has been four years since I have been in California during the autumn. In other parts of the U.S., autumn is in September or October, but in California, it is in December. That is, in northern California. In Southern California, it is never autumn: LA only has a brief rainy season January and February. But in the Bay Area, I am enjoying a real honest to goodness Fall, where the leaves change colors and the air is crisp and cool. Today is an especially breezy day, and the leaves have been swirling around, everywhere I go. I keep saying to Palmer, "Look! All the leaves on that tree have turned yellow!" and "Look! All the leaves on that tree have turned red!". He barely looks up from his book, because of course he's seen it every year now, but for me it is noteworthy. Of course, since this is California, when the leaves fall, the city takes care of cleaning them up. An army of men with leaf blowers are scouring the streets and roads and parks, blowing all the