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It has started already. Daylight hours are rapidly declining and it is getting dark around 7.30. It is making me yawn early in the evening, even though I am getting plenty of sleep. Conversely, the light is waking me up at 5ish. That will all be ending soon too, though.

You would think I would be used to this descent into darkness by now. But I am not. Yikes. Part of me wonders if I can take another dark winter. It scares me how quickly I notice the declining daylight and the effect it has on me. And that is in spite of the fact that the weather has been quite sunny for the last several days. All this darkness just can’t be good for me. After all, Swedish children have to take vitamin D supplements for the first years of their lives.

I think it may be time to book a winter getaway to the southern hemisphere. I need to pull out my energy light. And for now, I need to get out into the sunshine. Maybe I need to take a cue from two of my neighbors who are already sunning themselves in their underwear on their balconies. And it is only 10 am.

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One of the best aspects of living in Europe is becoming friends with fascinating people from all over the world. But the problem with those international friends is that they are often transient, so I end up saying goodbye too much. That’s hard. And it’s happening again. On Friday, I hosted a dinner party for my friends Maria and Alessandro who are moving to Dublin. I hate to see them go.

In a classic small world type of story, I met Maria here in Stockholm. But before we each moved here, we lived on the same small street in Cincinnati at the same time. We never met there, although in the course of our friendship here we discovered that we were at many of the same events there. Why we never met in Cincy is a mystery. But at least we met here. And I do know that I will keep in touch with this fun-loving friend who has followed a similar path to me in so many ways.

On the bright side: at least I have cool friends to visit in Dublin now.

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Here I'm enjoying my long Swedish holiday. Actually, it was Sunday and I had worked in the morning to finish a homework assignment.

Here I'm enjoying some of my long Swedish holiday. Actually, it was Sunday and I had worked in the morning to finish a homework assignment.

Living to work, working to live. These are the two flip sides of earning your income. In my homeland of the US, I know far too many people who live to work. I saw way too many people in the office at the end of the year with days and weeks of vacation left, even though most only had a miserly two-week total in the first place.  Meanwhile in my adopted land, the entire country takes off for four, five or six weeks at the same time in July. And that doesn’t stop people from taking additional holidays during the year.

As a big fan of taking as many vacations as possible, I am happy to adapt to the Swedish system. That said, the American work ethic side of me often wonders how any work gets done here. And while that American in me may be a tad unhealthy, it does mean that I tend to get the job done even with all the holidays – working the evenings and weekends is no problem.

Given all this, I was completely amused by the release of a Europen Union report that found that Swedes get the longest holidays of any country in Europe. On the average, Swedes have 33 days of annual leave while the average in Europe is 25.2. Going one step further, Swedes also have one of the shortest working weeks in Europe, averaging out at a 37.5 hour work week.

Obviously, it’s good to live and work in Sweden. Now I just need to lose that demon work ethic in me so I can more fully enjoy my holidays.

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When summer is as short as it is in Sweden, you tend to take it personally if it rains. It’s been raining off and on every day for the last week. Plus it’s chilly – just about 10 degrees c (50 F) right now. It’s hardly what you could call summer weather by any stretch of the imagination and Stockholmers are in despair. “Were those four sunny and warm days in May the only summer we will have,” my friends have been asking plaintively, wondering all the while if they can book a flight somewhere warm and sunny immediately. Even the newspapers are reporting on the lack of summer weather, going so far as to tell us that it is going to continue. Today I even read a story that said this weather is depressing and that psychological help might be needed! (Residents of Sweden are truly obsessed with the sunshine. It’s a scary weather geek attitude that I have developed as well.)

Two summers ago, we had a cool and gray July. As this is the month when the entire country takes a holiday, everyone was subjected to the dismal weather. My coworkers came back to the office quite angry, complaining that they had no summer whatsoever. I hope that the weather will improve this year. I don’t want to go through that again!

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I love the summer light in Stockholm. I think I’ve said that before, no? The light this time of year gives me amazing amounts of energy and good vibes. There’s still light in the sky when I go to bed at midnight and it’s full-on light when the sun wakes me up at 3 am. I don’t care that the light wakes me up. As I said already, I love it. I can’t get enough of it. I love coming home at 10.30 at night when it’s still light. I love how the sunsets go on for hours, with the deep reds, pinks and purples growing ever deeper at 10, 10.30, 11 and so on. It’s mesmerizing to look out my windows at the water and to see how Lake Mälaren changes colors as the hour grows later.

But I am miserly with the light. It makes me anxious when the day is gray. Like a squirrel hoarding nuts for winter, I bank the sunny days in my memory to save them for the dark days.  I don’t want to give the light up. But inevitably, I have to. In my part of the world, it’s just a summer romance after all.

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It’s 10.30 at night here in Stockholm. It’s still light. There’s a deep pink, purple and blue glow in the sky and the most amazing looking clouds. It’s awe-inspiring. It makes me want to drag out my watercolors and attempt to capture the colors that always seem to elude the camera lens.

This time of year, sunsets seem to go on forever, with the colors deepening in intensity as the hour grows later. Just now, it’s darkest around 12.30 am or so. But it’s never completely dark. And the sky is fully light again by 3 am. It’s wonderfully energizing and beautiful, even if I do have to put on an eyeshade to sleep at this point. I am so grateful to get to experience this wonderful light. It makes me wonder if I can ever live without it. But you will need to remind me of that come January.

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Over the last two weeks, I took a break – for the most part – from blogging. Thanks to an ongoing injury, I needed to give my wrist and shoulder a break from the computer. And since I was back in my home town of Cincinnati, I was also a bit too busy trying to spend time with family and friends.

Two weeks is never enough time to get caught up, of course, but it does amaze me how easily and quickly you can reconnect with close friends and family. A girlfriends’ night, long lunches and dinners out and at friends’ houses were all part of the fun. And on my layover in Chicago, I was even able to spend a few hours with an old coworker. It was all a wonderful whirlwind.

But I do get worried about what the continuing distance will do to friendships. In September, I will have lived in Sweden for five years. That’s not forever, but it is a long time. Friends have gotten married, divorced, died and had babies while I’ve been gone. It also hurts to not be there for  for the day to day camaraderie. But for now at least, the connections are still good. I hope we can keep them that way.

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