Apr 5, 2020

My friend Katta is dead

On March 30 2010 my friends Katta, Maria, Eva and I met at a pub in Umeå. That very same day I had a call from my oncologist telling me the dark area fully invading my right hip caput in fact wasn't a metastasis from the breast cancer I had been treated for the year before. I didn’t have a spread cancer! The joy that day! And I got to celebrate with my girl friends! I consider March 30 to be my second birthday.

On March 30 2020 my friend Katta died, from a spread cancer. 

Katta and I handled cancer completely differently. When I was declared cancer free I told my oncologist that should it come back I wanted her to give me the full picture. All the facts. To not ever hide anything from me. To put it all on the table. Especially if there would not be any hope. I want to know. Because I need to be prepared. That counts for most things in my life. If I’m only prepared I can deal pretty much everything. 

For Katta the most important thing was to keep the hope. “I can take a lot as long as we are working towards a happy ending. And I never want the hope to be taken away from me”, she told the doctors.

I don’t think I was the best person for Katta during her seven years with cancer. It took me way too long to understand our different ways in this. I would ask her for the latest labs, the results of the MIR’s and the CAT scans, and what did the doctor say? I am afraid I put pressure on her. I asked her for what I had wanted to know in a similar situation. And for that I am very sorry. I did better the last few years, still, I am very very sorry. 

Late Sunday evening I wrote her a text. I had been told it wasn’t long now. I knew she wouldn't read it but I really wanted to talk to her one last time. Yet, pushing the send arrow that momentI felt bad. Perhaps she still had hope and I didn’t? 

Katta lived fully all through her many years being sick. She enjoyed arena concerts, she travelled, she did the most amazing and impossible things. She had more friends, and close friends, than anyone I know. And they were all by her side until the end. I can’t think of anyone who would have a single negative thing to say about Katta. She was the most likeable person you would ever meat.

I could have softened the title of this post. Katta has passed away. Her final rest. Something like that. Bullshit, was Katta’s opinion about those kind of euphemism. Tell it like it is! She was a very straight forward person.

She also didn’t like me telling long stories. Especially not interrupting with one of my stories, which of course, is a very rude thing to do. So Katta, I hope you don’t feel I have interrupted anything. And I am going to end here.

Okay, only one thing (I can feel her firm eyes on me now). I have been cancer free for 10 years now. I’ve had quite a few scares, but this far I have been spared. As happy and grateful as I am for me, as sad and sorry I am for Katta. I had wished her so many more years in this world with all her friends. She is much missed.

Sep 22, 2019

Letting go of my dream life / the second last chapter

206 465 0540. I have loved my Seattle number. The figures. In what order they come. The shape of it. The sound of it. The fit in my mouth while saying it out loud. I can even whisper it just to come close. We, a perfect match.

206 made me a Seattleite.  465 0540 was me.

After cleaning out my Seattle storage and selling the car (although the money for it actually never showed up…) in summer 2017 I have continued letting go. Last year i closed my bank account and this July I cancelled my Seattle Times subscription. Although the paper is really generous when it comes to headlines and preambles, even a free article now and then so I can still keep myself pretty updated.

I am not sure when I bought my first phone in Seattle, actually my first cell phone ever. It might have been in 2000. 206 465 0540. Love at first sight. A Pay as You Go of course, since I wasn’t a resident. Through all these years I have seen to to always have some money on the account, that’s how I’ve been able to keep the same number. 

During the years I was commuting between my two homes being back in Seattle 2-3 times a year I refilled when I was there. Later, I’ve saved my number every September. 100 $ and I’ve been good to go another year.

The last few years though I have hesitated. Will I ever be back? No, probably not. But what if? Hope. Am I allowed to keep the hope? And so I have. Last year I missed the date with two days. In panic I called ATT and a kind agent helped me getting my number back. My number.

September 7 was the date 2019. And I didn’t refill. It was time, finally. Letting go of my Seattle citizenship. One day I will call that number. Kind of to meet an ex’s new woman. But not now. When I am ready.

I have totally accepted that my Seattle dream life will never happen. The time for it is way over. It’s harder for me to accept the fact that it did not happen. I’m not dwelling over it though, not any more. I am keeping Seattle on a distance.

Yet. A couple of days ago an evening-lit-up Seattle downtown picture passed by on Facebook. They do of course, most every day. But something in this pic just pulled me in. I was standing at 5th Avenue a chilly December night after having a delicious dinner at Palomino. And it was like someone punched me in my stomach. I lost my breath.  Overpowered by the insight of how deep and strong my feelings for Seattle are. And how I am surpressing them.

Giving up my Seattle number is an important and necessary act. And the second last chapter in the process of letting go. What’s the last chapter then? Well, my Tempur Pedic mattress is still sitting in my dear friends Matt and Elizabeth’s basement on Capitol Hill…

Aug 25, 2019

Being a part of their baby sister’s wedding

Becca was three years old when I first met her. A shy little girl who hided behind her mother’s legs, peaking at me from a safe spot. Today she is an outgoing tall slender woman who is fluent in Spanish and Italian and a professional dancer. And last Saturday she married.

Summer 1995 we happened to stay in a house across the road from the Smitth-Heffron-Herring residence. Little did we know that family would become friends for life and the start for an expanded Seattle experience. 

The idea to live abroad was mine. The fact that Seattle came to be our second home a coincidence, or if you would prefer some other word for it. My sons were at that point too young to have a say. Later though, there were times they would have preferred to be in Sweden and it took a bribe or two to make them come along.

During all those years when I dragged my sons across the ocean between their two homes I came up with reasonable arguments for doing so. I saw it as I provided them one more country, one more continent, one more language, one more culture and one more family. The Stolterman Seattle crowd, a bunch of interesting, loud, fun people who liked us as much as we liked them. And, I said to myself, I will continue doing so until they are old enough to decide if they want that second home or not.

August 17 2019 Trouble 2 and Audrey were a part of Becca´s wedding.

Trouble 2 was 7 that summer 1995 when 3-year old Becca was hiding behind her mom. A little too far from each other in age to be able to play together. But as you know, age differences become less of a problem as time goes by, and they found ways to enjoy each other and have grown really close over the years. Trouble & Trouble have the privilege of being treated with four Seattle siblings, and Becca is the baby sister. 

Right before Christmas last year I got a message from Becca telling me that she would get married to the man in her life. And that I was invited! I bursted into tears. So happy for her, and so honoured, grateful and moved that she wanted me to be a part of it. Oh how I wanted to be there on her big day! I actually had some imaginary plans for it to happen, but in the end I couldn’t make it. 

Trouble 2 and Audrey did though! And they even got to be in the close circle of family and friends who arranged all the practicalities for the big bash out on the Olympic Peninsula. On my Saturday evening I texted Trouble 2 a hi to everyone. He responded he just hugged the bride from me and that they were all off for the wedding. What a day this will be!

At that moment I became very emotional. It all moved closer to me. Yes, I was 3000 miles away but in that moment we were together.  And I admit I was sad. Not getting to be there at the biggest day in Becca’s life this far. And digging deeper into those feelings I found that most of all I was sad to not share this day with her parents, my dear friends. We have been through so much together over the years, good and bad, and this would have been such a beautiful moment to add.

Was it the right thing to force Seattle on my sons? Well, now they are definitely grown up and can choose for themselves. In 2012 Trouble 1 was one of the wedding ceremony witnesses for the Seattle big brother Reed, along with his sister. And now Trouble 2 was a part of baby sister Becca’s wedding. For me, who has a tendency of seeing time and life as big arches, this is beautiful. 

And it’s big. They have each other, this six-clover now extended with girlfriend, boyfriends, fiancé, husband, wife and even children and step children. They have each other and I hope and trust they always will. 

Aug 11, 2019

Getting to be the container of her future

There are three possible ways for this story to begin.

I have this old hay barn.
My cousin lives in Miami.
My cousin-daughter, the cosmopolite, for now calls London home.

And this is the story.

Lovisa was born in Umeå. She grew up in Miami. And studied fashion design in Washington DC, London and Paris. As her mother comes from Asia, that part of the world is also home to her.

Northern Sweden with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins are very dear to Lovisa.  And there has been this summer house with the fire place, the out house and the boat in the lake which can take you to the island with the cutest cabin, no running water neither electricity.

But times changes and this summer it was finally due to close the summer house for good. This is sad for all of us, but especially for Lovisa. She wanted so badly to keep some of the furniture and special memories for the future. To keep the Northern Swedish part of her soul. But where will the future be? And where to store her Swedish soul until she finds out?

Don’t you have an old barn somewhere, my cousin asks me from Miami. I sure do I responded, stressing the word old. There are big holes in the roof and therefor the floor is giving in.

We came up with a solution. One of my handy men in cooperation with Trouble 1 - the Spider Man who is more comfortable on a roof ridge than anywhere else - put new tin plates where the wind had taken the old ones. And repaired the floor.

I can’t say how happy I was to get my old barn fixed. It really needed to be done anyway. Win win!

A couple of weeks ago my cousin and Lovisa showed up in the late evening, a big truck loaded with her souvenirs. Lifting, carrying, lifting, carrying. With Tetris skills packing it all in in the left part of my barn. It all locked good and the three of us were satisfied with our plan and the result of it.

Too good to be true? Well… During a heavy rain this week we discovered water was leaking in after all. Not where the roof was mended but through tiny holes all over which I kind of new about but had forgotten (repressed) as they were nothing compared to the gaping square meters, consequences of last winter’s snow storms.

I felt absolutely miserable. I had promised Lovisa a safe home for her future and it turned out I was totally unreliable!

What to do? Fortunately my cousin is a true optimist and problem solver. A real fixer. And between us we could take care of it, at least that’s what we hope. I found the perfect big sturdy plastic sheets in my wood shed, and my cousin created a tent to cover the furniture.

It’s raining now. Pretty heavy. And I must admit it makes me nervous. I so much want to do this for Lovisa. I kept my storage in Seattle until two years ago. I kept my hope and my dream. I kept my American life in a Safeguard unit on Martin Luther King Way.

I want Lovisa to be able to keep her Swedish childhood. And the dream of setting it up somewhere in the world in a future. Or maybe a Northern Swedish cabin. For now though, it’s covered under plastic sheets in my old hay barn here at the end of the road. 

Jun 30, 2019

Magical white night duets

I fired away a couple of high pitch phrases. And someone responded. A dialog followed. And a couple of days later it happened again. With a different responder.  Today I want to share with you moments of magical nightly meetings.

I had been celebrating Midsummer’s Eve with my extended family over at Norrbyskär, an island just off the coast half an hour south of Umeå. Back home, happy from a nice day, I stepped out on my front yard to say goodnight to my little Queendom here at the end of the road. The sun had set at 11.09 PM and would take a brief recess until 2.48 AM. Now it was 1.30.

I sang a little tune to the light night. These magic white nights unexplainable to anyone who hasn’t experienced them. So, I hummed my tune. I put a bit more power behind it but didn’t want to wake anyone up. Back in the day when women called for the cows to come home in the evenings they used a special technique which makes the sound travel far over the hills. I can’t say I know this special way of communicating, but I am pretending…

Anyway, singing my fake cow call suddenly a bird yelled out. I had frightened the pour thing, I thought. That didn’t stop me though, and at the next scream back I realized there was a crane down at the field east of my house. We did a back and forth for a while, and it was extra special as he/she was so close. What a way to end a Midsummer’s Eve! Or more right, to start the Midsummer Day.

Some days later I did my usual evening routine. Bidding my goodnight to the green surroundings on which I am the third generation. I stood on my front porch singing a little song to nature. And nature responded. In the sweetest way you could ever imagine.

This was not a cow call. This was a quite improvised summer tune. On the first four bars a blackbird came flying, landing in my father’s pine tree separating the yard from the fields to the west. How wonderful!

But that was just the start! Because in the white night we sang a duet together! I sang a few bars and the blackbird followed me. A few bars more and it sang me an encore. And again and again and again! We kept on going until he/she either was bored with my tune or decided there was better ways to spend the night. Maybe time to feed the kids. I guess even a blackbird has to put the babies before singing.

I know this story sounds fabricated. Or wishful thinking. But just the way that bird flew in and landed in the three. Like I had been calling for it. He/she must have heard something that sounded interesting, the way people gravitates to free live music in a summer park. And the presence in our improvised concert. I swear, it was real. 

I wish I could add that those nights were warm and soft against my bare skin. Nope. The northern Swedish summer has this far been… a northern Swedish summer. Even if the sun is out, there is a gale coming down from the North Pole driving me crazy. Today I’ve been sitting outside in my fleece AND down coat wrapped in a blanket, just to get some hazed sun to fill my vitamin D storage. 15°C/59°F and strong northern winds, later 5°C cooler and rain. 

Weather-wise May and June are on a low, but white night concerts with a crane and a blackbird makes the pre-summer rise to unforgettable.

Jun 2, 2019


Here I am today. Back on my couch. Every move hazardous. And in great pain. I am checking my journal/chart of when I last wrote these words. CRITICAL! It was April 2018.

For months and months I’ve been moving forward. In gratitude and joy. It started late summer 2018 thanks to the long and record warm summer. A couple of set backs when fall arrived and February-March a bit more difficult, but nothing at all like my winters have been the past six years. Normally I am bedridden February-March and even April. This year I’ve been on my feet all winter! Attending every single choir rehearsal Wednesday evenings and singing all the concerts, sitting at my bar stool. That’s nothing but amazing!

You remember my hallway? My newly remodelled wonderful lavender hallway? 

I even had the energy for project leading all that which is also remarkable. There was a problem though, how would I get my grandfathers wooden sofa and the big drawer painted? 

You know what? I did it myself!!! Not in one take of course. It took me several weeks. Sitting on a chair for a little while and doing just the amount of work I could at the moment. But I got it done! And I can’t even describe the bliss I felt while doing it. Me, in my old painting cloths, dipping the brush in the paint and applying on the wood. Just like old times! A part of me that’s been buried for years waking up. Giving me that special kind of energy. It’s been like a miracle.

When May entered my back started to decline though. I didn’t want to way too much in to that. I just observed and adjusted a bit. The last Wednesday of the choir season May 22 was my worst for the semester, and it happened to coincide with the pre-summer concert. But sitting at my stool it still worked pretty good for me, and I am so glad it did.

Now it turns out I was really lucky. One more week and I couldn’t have done it. And today I am waking up in a state I haven’t been in for more than a year. Getting out of bed was risky and scary. So is sitting down at the toilet. As actually sitting on the toilet. Sharp pain alert. I am in my pyjamas on the couch. If I have to get up (which is a hazardous thing to put myself through as well) I am walking extremely slowly with the rollator - a Swedish version of a walker but with four wheels. My body is scared. I am scared.

Why is this happening? I have absolutely no idea. I have loved and been grateful for every minute of my many months of onward momentum. I even started to trust it. I felt a little bit like coming out on the other side. You know, like people occasionally do. And then they start touring holding speeches and end up in Ted Talks and make a lot of money. 

I can’t say that was my plan (although that would have been grate!), but I did want to plan ahead. Thinking I would stay in that good place. That it was kind of over. A six and a half year dark experience changing for the light, and being just that, an experience overcome. I looked at Julian Assange when he was carried out of his room (we had been in house arrest for about the same amount of time) thinking (a bit smug I admit) that I have aged more well than he had…

Anyway, it could have been worse. Even though it’s happening right when the first summer month starts (sucks!), I'm grateful it isn’t mid winter. At least it isn’t dark and slippery outside. Also, this was my monthly blog-Sunday. A perfect way to spend a not-by-my-choice day at the couch. And I am planning on beating this.

May 5, 2019

What if there will be enough pages in the end?

Parallel to remodeling my home entrance this spring I have been putting together photo albums for my sons. We are talking old school analog pieces with glued pictures and hand written text. The real deal.

As I have been a devoted photographer I did shoot tons of pictures when Trouble & Trouble grew up. I didn’t have the time to make albums for them at that time though, but for Trouble 1’s 30th birthday I sat down and put together the first one for him. Two actually. Black covers. Covering the time from him growing in my belly until he was 5. The third black album was delivered on his 31st. 

Consequently Trouble 2 was presented his first two albums on his 30th too. White covers. As the brothers are two years apart, the first three albums for Trouble 1 and the first two for Trouble 2 ended them up on the same page so to speak, are you with me? 

Spring is the birthday season for the Stolterman family, we are all born in March and April, the best time for the start of life we tend to think. And a good time for making photo albums as well. Light is back, life is back! And this time around the work was so much easier.

Because, as I said, my sons were now on the same page when it comes to documentation. Summer 1994. So what I did was simply going through the pictures making one stack for each son - and actually a small one for myself. Then I placed the albums next to each other and put the pictures in them, parallel. So smooth! Different pictures (I didn’t have copies) but pretty much the same text. So the albums are unique but the journey the same. Summer 1994 traveling around Sweden and hanging out at our place at the end of the road with friends, as well as spending time at grandpa and grandma’s cabin with cousins by the sea. And summer 1995, our second Seattle stay this time with Madrona as our home, getting to know the city. 

So, all was well at my desk where I attended to this task. Except for one thing. In Trouble 2’s first album I remembered to put a couple of important B&W pictures right at the end of it. One was his parents wedding photo. The other a picture of our vocal group Moritz. Eight young people singing together for many years. Four couple actually. We were best friends and we all have kids at the same time, and for the longest time those nine children thought they were cousins. The Moritz cousins. So, these two pictures are in a way the origin of my sons’ life. 

For this new album I had promised Trouble 1 to add those pictures for him. And this was the problem. As there wouldn't be space for them in my parallel gluing procedure. So, as I was tagging along in my work I was haunted by how I could solve this problem. I couldn’t figure it out. And I couldn’t relax and enjoy. Because as every parent to more than one child knows, it has to be fair.

As I couldn’t figure it out, I just kept on going. Thinking I will find a way at the end. 

And a miracle happened.

It turned out that Trouble 1’s album had extra pages! When gluing the last Madrona pictures in both albums (from Valley School which was the key to why we one year later came back to spend a year), it was the end of Trouble2’s album, but not Trouble 1’s! Because there where two extra pages, exactly the right amount for adding those two B&W pictures I had promised him! Can you believe it?!

I was sitting at my desk. Astonished. It all worked out in the end. Just like that. And I was thinking, oh how I wish life was the same. That there would be enough money all the way through, just covering the funeral. A good place to live when it’s time to leave the end of the road. Those things I worry about. That it would all add up in the end.

And maybe it will? But as I can’t figure the future out, I will just keep on going, isn’t that what we do? Like with the photo albums. Worrying along the line. But maybe there will be exactly as many pages as I need in the end. Maybe it all adds up in a perfect way.