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I’m in a bit of a funk this morning. I am tired and a bit emotional. There’s lots to do and I don’t want to do any of it. This is the morning I looked for the laundry basket and realised it was still down in the laundry room waiting for me to collect the washing from the middle of last week. This is the morning I got up slowly and remembered too late I actually had somewhere I could have been with real people. This is the morning when whichever way I look, I am not happy with what I see.

We all have those mornings, right?

This morning I also read a post by Kelle Hampton, on her blog Enjoying the Small Things. I love her writing and her openness to share her life. Last week (I’m catching up) she had this to say:

There is no life-altering crisis here. In fact, a mind x-ray would reveal things that might be trite and silly to some, hardly reason for a deep life conversation or going apeshit on a toy basket. There are however a lot of little things I can change right now–bad habits, inattentive routines, shift of focus.

For all the times I spent crying on my bed when I was younger because, God forbid, my world was changing a little bit, I’ve realized somewhere around thirty, I developed a healthy addiction to the very thing I’ve hated my whole life…change. Change is growth, and without it we are stagnant. Stale. Boring.

…I used to think emotional “funks” would just ride out on their own–grab a board, ride the wave. I find more comfort now though in the truth they hold. Funks aren’t the cause of emotions; they are the effect–messages to which we need to listen and respond.

Whether our response is monumental or something as simple as rearranging a living room or cleaning out a toy bin, it’s the action of responding that is empowering–funk-erasing.

So today I’m listening and responding.

One of the benefits of these short days during winter, is that I get to see the sunrise every morning. At the moment it appears around half past eight, just when I’ve said goodbye to Rasmus and kissed him out the door, and taken the remains of my breakfast into the study to start my day.

I love the sunrise, but my love for sleep and my cosy bed tends to keep me from seeing it most of the year. And I’ve also lived in a place without a view of the horizon for the last – well there was actually only one year I did live where I could see the horizon from my window.

This expanse of sky is perhaps what I love most about our new home. The space and the light bring me the breathing space I need to start my day in a positive frame of mind. And how important that is.

Image via pinterest

Two months ago we moved into a new apartment, in a new city, in a new country. We’re slowly settling in and finding out way around, and our flat already feels like “home”, which is so nice.

Our apartment is a duplex on the 3rd and 4th (top) floors of the building we’re in. That’s 4th and 5th floors for my American readers. On our floor there is just one other apartment, but I think there are five more apartments being lived in downstairs (three more are offices I think).

The negligence of our washing machine installers allowed us to meet our neighbours on our floor in the first week we moved in. The tap on the washing machine had not been tightened which led to my neighbour knocking on my door half an hour after I’d put the first load of washing in: “um, the laundry room has water all over the floor. Did you install yours today?”

I met both her and her husband that day as they helped us figure out where the water was coming from and fix it. They were kind and friendly and welcomed us to the building. But I haven’t seen them since! We haven’t happened to be leaving or returning to our flats at the same time. I’ve never bumped into them in the laundry room or the garage or collecting the mail. This is the curse of city apartments.

My plan is to, ahem, get up some courage to knock on the door and invite them around for an aperitif one evening. This seems like a suitably French thing to do since they are from that neighbouring country.

But do you have any more suggestions for how to introduce ourselves to our neighbours? In our flat in Belgium, I lived there for two years and only rarely bumped into our neighbours. Another flood (this time from a broken pipe two floors above us) helped us meet some for the first time (drinking espressos together in pyjamas and wellies while we waited for the water to stop – it was an interesting moment) but even after that we rarely saw them.

I’m not expecting to become best friends but it troubles me not to know who I am living next to. For one, it is always nice to be able to tell someone “hey, we’re going on holiday, can you keep an eye on everything?” But having grown up in a small village where you knew everyone in the street, it just feels strange not to know who’s on the other side of the wall (and who’s cooking that delicious smelling food!).

So what are your tactics? Do you know your neighbours? What would people in your culture respond to well? (any French readers want to tell me what my neighbours might appreciate?) Do you even think it matters if we know them?

Did you know I’ve been hanging around this little wordpress site for nearly four years??!

Four years is a long time. Four years ago Angelina & Brad had their twins, we were feeling sad about the death of Heath Ledger, Cyprus and Malta adopted the euro, China had its worst snowstorm since 1954 and I had not even met the man who was to become my husband.

Yes, it was a long time ago. Which all means it’s time to give this wee blog a facelift.

Last autumn I joined the fantastic Girl’s Guide to Web Design course, run by the amazing Amanda. She put us 74 ladies (and one man) through a busy and fun eight weeks of designing, coding and building, to show us how to make the website of our dreams. And gracious it was worth the money.

I’ve been working on my new blog design (and a couple of other secret projects) for the last few months – wrestling with html and css and the occasional scary bit of php – and it’s oh so nearly ready to show you all…

But I am going to make you wait 12 more days until 24th January, until I finally unveil it to you. Why, I hear you ask, am I making you wait such an unbearably long time? 24th January 2008 was the day of my first blog post here. So it somehow made sense to me that I do the big move on my blog’s birthday.

I’m looking forward to revealing all my hard work…!

Yesterday morning I couldn’t wake up. Just couldn’t. I normally roll out of bed when Rasmus is finished in the bathroom, so that I am up and ready to start my day when he leaves for the office. Yesterday it didn’t happen. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, couldn’t throw off that heavy feeling of sleep rolling over me.

So I turned over and went back to sleep for another two hours.

It’s a new year and a new start and I’m feeling simultaneously inspired and lethargic. Because it may be a whole new year, we may be past the winter solstice and on our way to brighter days. But right now? It’s miserable and grey and wet and cold and so windy that planes are being grounded all over northern Europe.

Today does not feel like a day for pursuing big ideas and plans.

And yet today is what I have to work with. I never get to do today again. Tomorrow I will throw off yesterday and begin again. But today… what will I do with today?

This morning, about half an hour into my morning ritual of reading through my emails, facebook updates and twitter, I suddenly saw light out of the corner of my eye. From my spot at the dining table in our north-facing kitchen, I could glance through the hallway into our home office/guestroom dump room and see the sun spilling across the windowframe onto a little patch of wooden floor.

I immediately got up and practically skipped across the flat to sit on the floor in this little spot of sunlight. The back of our flat looks out south over the city, to the gently-sloping forested hills in the distance, and it was here, in the east, that the sun was forging it’s way up in the morning sky.

I sat there for five minutes. That was all the time there was to enjoy the warmth and light of the sun before it again disappeared behind a bank of dark cloud. But I found such energy in those five minutes.

What is it that makes watching the sun rise such a powerfully hope and peace filled moment?

I think it has something to do with the promise of light. The promise of growth and productivity. And the reminder that this cycle of days never stops. Every morning is a new opportunity to embrace something positive and life-giving, to push myself to reach my potential and draw it out of others.

And perhaps that peace also comes from knowing that tomorrow will come like today did. Whether today is that productive, enjoyable, useful day I hoped for, or whether at some point it all comes tumbling down around me, tomorrow will come again and I can start over again. Each new morning brings new hope, new grace, new mercies, new energy for the journey onward.

And maybe tomorrow I will wake up to rain again. But I hope the memory of that sunny moment this morning will keep me energised.

I have a lot to do. I haven’t had a full time job since last April, but I have my event planning course that I’m supposed to be finishing this summer, my blog to keep up with, and a few fun projects that I’m working on (more on those later this month!).

I should have lots to fill my time with. But I seem to have cultivated an exceptionally well-practised skill of procrastination and bad time management. What is it about us, that sometimes we can even procrastinate those tasks that we enjoy???

I’m attempting to apply some new time management techniques to my weeks, to help me combat my laziness and have something good to report to Rasmus when he gets in from work every evening. (Just to clarify, I’m doing this for myself of course, but gosh does the accountability thing help!)

  • The Pomodoro Technique. I came across this recently. It’s so simple really – you set a timer for 25 minutes and work on just one task on your to-do list during that time. Once the buzzer goes you have minutes to take a break and assess your to-do list again, and then you start another pomodoro. The name comes from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that it’s founder used.
  • Project-based to do lists. I have three or four different projects that need to be worked on each week (counting studying as one) so I need three or four to do lists to keep me up to date. Also, if I think of something I need to do, while working on something else, I just write it on the appropriate list and go back to what I was doing. No distractions!
  • A general to-do list. All those tasks that don’t fit in any other category. For these I love the teux deux website. It’s simple to use and moves any incomplete tasks to the next day.
  • Structured (limited) time for emails/twitter/blog reading. These could take over my whole day if I allowed them. So I give myself an alloted amount of time and then have to move on to something else. The glory of this is that I no longer waste time reading articles that I’m only semi interested in. I focus on what’s actually important to me.
  • Rewards. “You can only go and bake when you’ve done three pomodoros on your coursework.” Rather effective…
  • People time. I am an extrovert so all day by myself in the flat causes my energy and motivation to falter by mid-afternoon. Once Rasmus is home I am usually bizarrely excited to get back to working on my projects – not because I don’t want to spend time with him, but being with other people and talking about my work makes me excited for it. Being in a new town makes this hard because it takes time to make friends, but I am planning to be very intentional about seeking out time with other people during the day.

So those are my attempts at good time management for this month. If you have any more tips, I am all ears!

We went to church in the falling snow, ate leftovers from our julefrokost meal for lunch, put our warmest clothes on and headed out into the countryside

discovering a huge nature reserve forest just 2km from our city apartment, greeting the horses standing in frozen fields, waving to cars on the bridge over the motorway, looking at the view across the city

came home to hot coffee, Parisian macaroons and advent gifts in the candlelight and whiled away a peaceful evening in silent contented company…

life is good.

Home Sweet Home print from J M Barclay’s etsy page

Today it’s been nine days since we moved to Luxembourg. Some of you have asked me how we have been settling in.

Well in the past nine days I have…

unpacked about 3/4 of our boxes

made lists of furniture to buy and DIY tasks to complete

tested out the local sushi, Chinese and Indian restaurants (sushi: ok, Chinese: great, Indian: amazing)

discovered a great new local cafe/bar called Independent for lunches and burgers (with all organic, fair trade and red label items – I love it!)

had an amazing experience of Luxembourg beaurocracy when our registration took an easy 15 minutes

had a not so good experience of washing machine delivery services (still waiting and wishing to have clean clothes again)

been to a St Andrews’ Day celebration at the home of the British Ambassador (as you do)

bumped my head multiple times on a) the extractor fan over the hob and b) the sloping ceilings in our bedroom. It’s actually kinda funny – for some reason by brain never remembers to tell my body to duck however many times it happens…

made my first trip in the car to the supermarket and didn’t hit anything in our beyond-huge rental car

made an advent wreath

slept in the flat on my own for the first time (Rasmus is on a five day work trip; he comes home again tomorrow and I can’t wait to see him)

broken in our new oven with raison scones

made spiced nuts as my first advent Sunday gift to Rasmus

found a Danish design store just around the corner, complete with design magazines and packets of liquorice (for Rasmus, not me)

found an English bookstore just around the corner

concluded we live in quite a good little area in this small city

cried some, laughed some

missed my friends in Brussels

 

It’s been quite busy. But it’s going well. I’m looking forward to meeting more people, making our flat feel even more like home, having my husband home again.

I commented on Elise’s blog today. She’s moving this week, from San Diego to Ventura, and she said something that is very very true for me in this moment: “No matter where we live, I’m home.” Because it feels like home the moment Rasmus walks in the door.

It’s late Tuesday evening as I write this and it’s just kinda been one of those days.

Luxembourg felt like it was located directly in the middle of a big grey cloud all day, and my mood was right there with it. The day didn’t go as I’d planned it in the morning, full of good intentions and self-discipline. Instead a few miscommunications and delays sent it off the tracks and I struggled to get it back on again.

What do you do when you have days like these? I whined to myself quite a lot. Then made a huge pot of beef and pumpkin casserole, chuckling over my mum’s “recipe” which is more like an excel spreadsheet. And I turned all the main lights off, poured myself a glass of pineapple juice to remind myself of sunny skies and better days, and listened to some soul-soothing music.

I’m still not in the best of moods and I am tired and ready for this day to be over but it is also a reminder that I am not in control. I cannot foresee what any new day will bring my way, whether good or bad. But I can choose how I react. And some days I will react with frustration and self-pity and a few tears. But then I pick myself up again, allow myself some grace, receive a little peace, and the next time I hope I will react a little better. And a little better again.

“Throw away yesterday. Today is a brand new day” – Sia

The movers arrive today to take all our furniture and possessions away. Then we stay in a hotel in Luxembourg over night and tomorrow morning they’ll turn up at our new flat and put everything back in.

I’m not sure when we’ll next have internet so apologies if the posts continue to be a little sporadic over the coming days. I’ll be back soon to tell you all about it :)

Fiona x