Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rain, Rain and Rude..Get the f outta here...

Or...Go Away...but I prefer to REALLY tell it off. Stupid me, forgot to take in the big blanket from the clothesline last night and it must weigh at least 20 kilos now, drip drying in the rain.

We had a playdate today, little man and me. A cute little boy about a year younger than mine. I was flabergasted to see the Mom show up with flowers for me and some candies for the kiddies. Though Swedes are notorious for bringing flowers when they're invited somewhere, I didn't think a playdate counted. Better revise my "Etiquette according to Jenn" list. I'm so easily touched by the smallest gesture of thoughtfulness.

And that to me is what Etiquette really boils down to. Since you asked, here's my list, well a portion of it.Feel free to follow, ignore or give it the finger. My blog. My list (sticks tongue out).

1. Never, EVER under any circumstances show up to someone's home for dinner without a "gift".
What could this gift be? Well I defer to culture/country. For example, in Sweden, flowers are most appropriate. In Russia, flowers must be given in odd numbers and there are a few varieties to stay away from. In Spain, you also bring small gifts for any kids. Whether's it's a nice bunch of flowers, a bottle of wine, a box of chocolate, a handmade something or other, or a nice gift for the home, never show up empty-handed.

You can even look at it this way: It's a meal you didn't have to prepare/purchase, It's a house you didn't have to spend all day scrubbing and tidying, loads of dishes and clean up you don't need to worry about. So, why not show some thanks/appreciation? Trust me, unless your hosts are serving spaghetti with store bought sauce, your gift will cost you way less than the meal.
Exception to Rule#1: You're homeless or destitute.

2. Never, EVER show up to stay overnight at someone's home without a "gift". The value of said gift should increase with the number of nights you plan to stay. Staying for a week or heaven-forbid, more than that? Carve out some time to treat your hosts to a dinner out. You can be sure they have prepared for your arrival, have adjusted schedules, etc. You are, in fact, "putting them out". You are, in fact, saving loads of money on a hotel, meals, etc. I'm sorry but the pleasure of your company is NOT gift enough. Help out with dishes, keep your living quarters clean, etc. Do not expect to be waited on hand and foot. I think anything after 3 days, you cross over from guest to flatmate.
Exception to Rule #2: You're homeless, destitute, need some kind of "saving".
Soft Exception to Rule #2: Family. But be careful here. It's not necessarily an exception. Family should still be treated with the same level of respect as friends.

So those are the most basic Etiquette According to Jenn rules. How about a little test...

Please read through the following scenario:

You get a call from an old friend who is going through a divorce. She is actually divorcing your husband's best friend. Though you were ALL friends for a few years, the primary friendship is between your husband and her ex. This friend tells you she is going on a world tour and would like to stop by your country and stay with you and your family for over 10 days. You remember she is a vegetarian and make sure your fridge and cupboards are stocked with veggie-friendly food.

She arrives for her 10-day stay. And what does she bring you and your family? Does dirty laundry count? You drive and pick her up from bus stops and train stations on countless occasions and even take a bit of time off to ensure she gets a feel for the place. You and your family drive her into the big city for a tour. You stop for lunch. She orders a couple of beer. You and your hubby order soda. The minute the waiter arrives with the bill, she excuses herself to use the washroom. You pay the bill. She reappears, ready to hit the streets. She doesn't ask about the bill. She doesn't offer to pay. She manages to find a few gifts for herself in some nice boutiques.

Your realize you are out of wine. The lush has pounded back a bottle a night over the past several nights. You head into the liquor store, with her in tow. You pick a bottle and a box and she says, "Oh, I can pay for that bottle." You pay for the box.

You are going out for groceries, for the upteenth time since her arrival. You ask her if she would like to come along, in case there's anything she needs. You pick out the five items you need. She picks out her five. You arrive at the cash. You put your stuff down. She puts hers down but remembers she'd like some ice cream. She goes to get it. She comes back. You begin to pull out your card. She stands there motionless. You grab the plastic grocery separator thing and slam it down (a little too forcefully) at the end of your stuff. She is now obliged to take out her card. It was clear she wouldn't have.

She leaves for 3 days to visit a friend in another part of the country. She is coming back on your birthday and she knows that you'll be going out with a few friends that night to celebrate. She arrives with birthday hugs and shows you the nice things she bought for herself. You order the taxi. You pay for the taxi. Your friends pass you your birthday gifts. They're lovely. You thank them. Half an hour later she says, "X, I didn't get you a birthday present." (oh really? I hadn't noticed!) You state, flatly: "Oh. Don't worry about it." Another half hour goes by, "I feel bad that I didn't get you a birthday present." You say in the same expressionless montone, "Don't worry about it." It's the end of the night and it's time to pay the bill. Your other friends had ordered a bit of food. She didn't. Your friends say, "It's on us X. It's your birthday." She says, "Oh...uhmmm...yeah, how much do I owe? Oh, let me help to pay for this, after all it's X's birthday!" Then she really gets going, "Oh and X, don't even try to take out your wallet, it's on US...Just take the food off my portion." Another family friend who just happened to be there swoops in and covers the entire bill. Your guest didn't have to pay for anything.

She offers to split the taxi ride home.She is packing up to leave a few days later. She comes to you and says, "I don't have enough room in my suitcase for this (ratty, old, gray) sweater. I was going to get rid of it anyway but I thought maybe you would like to have it." She also hands you a small notebook that she points out was a gift to her from a friend but she has no use for it and it's taking up room in her carefully packed bag.

You take her to the airport, a 40-minute drive away.
If, after reading this scenario, you don't want to kick guest in the ass to knock her out of the car and onto the curb while simultaneously hurling her precious rucksack at her head, all while the vehicle is still moving, you FAIL this test.

a) In 200 words or less, please explain the error of the guest's ways according to Jenn's Rules of Etiquette.
b) Assuming the host was hurt and insulted by the guest's behaviour, should the host have expressed her feelings to the guest? And if so, how?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Weigh-in Wednesday: Week 5 of 5

Hello there from cold again Uppsala. We had a lovely week last week, temps as high as 26. And now we're back to 9 this morning.

I've broken the 73 barrier, hovering dangerously at 72.8. Feels good but would have felt even better if I'd have refused some yummy food and alcohol this past weekend. It's that initial taste of something forbidden that usually drives me into a downward spiral. I need to program myself so that when I do indulge in a bite, it doesn't lead to the whole damn slice, or 3. Workin' on it. Also managed to get in a walk, with another planned for tomorrow morning.

Hubby's away in Madrid this week so evening walks are outta the question.

Could be some big changes coming our way soon...I'll keep y'all posted.

So it's officially the last week of the extra weeks but I'm voting to keep going. We're planning to head to Montenegro in the middle of August (fingers crossed) so that gives me another...let's count...10 weeks or so to lose another 3 kilos and keep it off. I've made the decision not to send the little man to another school over the summer, which means I'll be freakn' busy for at least 8 weeks keeping him entertained while trying to work. I'm gonna buy a summer pass at the local swimming pool for the two of us, planning to go every morning, coming back around lunchtime. That'll be a constant reminder as I'll be sporting a swimsuit all summer long.

Then I can sit him in front of the tube guilt-free while I tend to business for a little while. Plus, I'm gonna recruit hubby to take him to the park every odd day for an hour.

I think it should all work out fine so long as we get a routine going. Little man, like most other children, thrive on routines. He likes to know what's coming next, as do I.

These days I've been really missing our family. Likely because I have no idea when we'll see any of them next. I come from a rather large family. Dad has 15 brothers and sisters. Every summer there's a wedding, reunion or some big family event and for the past four years, we've missed almost everything. I really want our son to grow up knowing and looking forward to these celebrations so it's killing me that a close cousin is getting married in August and we likely won't be making it. We can't do it all. Maybe someday...

Lots of love to all of you!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Over the Rainbow

Took the little man to a birthday party for a classmate on Saturday. It was a beautiful day and the party was held at a local 4H Club set on a farm, complete with pony rides for the kiddies. His entire class was there, which was really nice. Got to chat with a few parents while the little man discovered pigs, cows and other barnyard animals.

The only problem I had was that I couldn't figure out for the life of me who the Mom was. I wanted to compliment whoever she was on her choice for the party location. Was it the short brunette welcoming everyone or the tall blonde coralling the kiddies for the pony rides? I finally gave up and, blushing a wee bit, asked a fellow Mom, "Which one is Teddy's Mom?". She pointed her out, "Over there by the barn." And then she pointed her out again, "Over there by the pony."
"Well which one is she?"
"Both," she stated rather matter-of-factly.
"Oh!" Sorry, wasn't that good at hiding my shock.
"Yes, we have a few rainbow families here."

The other one has two kids with a third one on the way. See, she goes to another Scandinavian country to get artificially inseminated each time. She's a single Mom and gay.

Though Swedes might not be the friendliest of folk, they sure are accepting and tolerant. Little man has been going to this school for almost a year and this is the first time I hear about this. It's a non-issue so why would I have been actively told about this? And I certainly never would have guessed either.

This sort of brings up the whole How-to-explain-this-stuff to the almost 4-year old. But he's never asked. Not sure that he's at that stage yet...the stage of thinking to ask or understanding the response. Any advice for when that day comes? I guess it would be pretty easy:
Teddy has two Mommies. You have a Mommy and a Daddy. Every family is different.

Just another day in Sweden.