#Holiday warm-up

It is that time of year again – June – the month that almost wins over December in terms of gaining a high pulse. Weeks starting with a slight flair of stress that turns into a tighter feeling of near-panic as the month comes to an end. Summer is approaching – or at least that is what we are hoping in terms of the temperature. School holidays are just around the corner – and there is an endless number of farewell slash summer break-events – and for my family a nice string of birthday-parties (my niece, my son, my husband and nephew in the course of a few weeks).

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The planning, execution and attending of these events takes its toll. Not to forget that you have to round off all ongoing projects at work and prepare your own summer leave. And on top of that there is the planning of the actual summer vacation (I know – I know….there are many people who manage to do so in February).

First – this blog-post is not to complain about social gatherings with nice people, drinking coffee and having cake together – or certainly not to be upset having to plan holidays as such (actually I am very grateful that there is an Act regulating all employees` right to have holidays).

It is just at this time of year there is so much going on at the same time. There isn’t even enough space in the wall-family-activity-calendar to fit the events. Even if most things go according to plan (…when there is a plan, and not just a muddling-through-day-to-day approach where luck and chance play a big role….) sometimes nightmares about forgotten cakes or wrongly penciled-in dates occur. It is not good if you miss the 5-year old’s summer concert in the kindergarten!

How many kids are born in June anyway? The number of birthdays – including one of my own kids’ – seems endless. And the problem for me (and my husband) is that this year we have been slow – too slow – to get an available “slot” for our son’s birthday. Because invitations for the other kids’ birthdays have just been pouring in. So we have postponed until first weekend of the summer holidays. Let’s hope some of my son’s friends have not yet left on vacation by then.

So what is the coping strategy? Not really sure. Maybe a strategy is not needed at all? Maybe it is ok to remind ourselves that the intensity of June probably is only this extreme when the kids are young. Because as the kids are getting older you’re not always invited, included – or even made aware of the social events of your child (who by then is a teenager). The thought of the kids outgrowing my presence causes a feeling of panic in its own right – and for sure much more scary than forgetting some stupid muffins.

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So better just to get on the ride and enjoy the carousel of a very busy social, calorie-filled June-schedule. And to remedy the somewhat high pace of this month, our summer holidays this year will have slow-time as it’s main ingredient…

#On-y-va

One thing is kicking yourself out the comfort zone – it is quite another when you set out to do that with 10 people including husbands, pre-schoolers, tweens and teenagers.

Going to the mountains to do some serious skiing has been on the agenda for years. But so much has come in the way. A real effort was made last year when we packed our skis and went to Germany – however the lack of snow made the initiative futile. We still enjoyed Schwarzwald (Black Forest)!

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This year the destination chosen had an inbuilt snow-guarantee. It better should when you go to the middle of Norway in February. Just getting ready to leave for the mountains requires getting out of comfort zones. For the Non-Norwegians of us it also meant getting out of our comfort temperature. Equipping us all with ski-poles and the right sized ski-boots (both cross-country and down-hill) took some logistical efforts.

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Skipping all detailed descriptions of how sweaty we became dressing kids, pulling cars out of icy ditches just because some wanted to test the 4-wheel rental car and pairing the right skis and poles before setting off in the slopes – it was worth every drop of sweat (and swearing) when we witnessed our brave and sporty offspring. Some of them had never tried skiing and others were a bit rusty after 3,5 years living in Luxembourg without much opportunity to enjoy snow outside the living-room (like we normally do in Norway). Crispy and fresh air against the backdrop of endless quiet mountains added to the experience.

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Getting back inside the cabin in the afternoons experiments with single malt enhanced tea were interesting – it helped the grown-ups to relax and get ready for more fun in the slopes. Good food and wine are essential factors when setting out to conquer the wilderness. The Norwegian part of the expedition members felt compelled to show off the better sides of Norwegian culinary tradition – and were impressed by the courage to taste the admittedly scary smell-wise “rakfisk” – also eating skrei with roe (“are those real blood vessels!!?”) and reindeer (without telling the younger members of the group that we were eating Rudolph) was a part of extending comfort zone-experience.

There is a lesson learnt from this wonderful expedition. No matter how deep some of us were shoveled in really deep snow at times, and no matter how cold, cold turned out to be, when you get a bunch of people that are open-minded, with a great sense of humor, enjoying the world’s smelliest fish, you can go anywhere in the world and still will have a great time.

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There will for sure be more joint expeditions. Next time to slightly less cold place(s)!

#uncharted waters

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How many of us hesitate going into the cold water? Or rather jumping into it? It doesn’t matter whether it is at a wonderful Greek beach, or at the local swimming pool. We hesitate. Because we expect the water to be cold. At least I do. Kids too. Some brave ones however, just jump into the water. Without knowing how cold it might be. They simply skip this first part in their mind and jump directly into the more pleasant one.

That might not be the best metaphor for making decisions in life and going through each painful step to reach a goal, but it’s one I imagine always in front of me whenever I enter uncharted waters. How can I skip the first step.

And this moment, this everlasting moment of hesitation makes me feel permanently stuck in life, unable to shift gears. But what causes this hesitation? When…

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Unfinished business

Our last blog post was about picking up half-read books. But books are not the only ‘projects’ that are easily left half-done. There are abundant examples of half-sewn, half-painted, half-built things around the average person or household. However it is important to get a sense of achievement from time to time. Closure! To reach the finish-line and be able to sit down and admire what you have managed to do. A way of ensuring this is to take on some projects that are fairly simple, do-able in relatively short time but still something that impresses us but also people.

Cooking ticks some of these boxes. But by the time you sit down to enjoy your culinary masterpiece – your family and friends might have already digested most of it. To have something more lasting than faded food-memories, even if you’re taken pictures of them, one should take on projects with a more lasting result.

Some time ago we decided together with a friend in the office to get into some creative crafting. To learn some basic beading techniques in order to make some nice necklaces or bracelets we could use as gifts or even wear ourselves. A number of lunch breaks were spent online to explore the endless plethora of the world of beads. There is an unimaginable variety of color, shapes and sizes available. Turns out it is not always easy to assess the size online. What you see is not what you make..

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Just doing this made us feel closer to our feminines selves, especially the 3-boy mum who spends a lot of time with sweaty football socks and watching action movies.

Some evenings in the last months have been spent to develop skills of handling round nose pliers and pulling wires – knowing what crimp beads and clasps are. Wine, which we made a prerequisite, did not always help the practical side of the endeavour – depending on the required detail of the work at hand. However it helped to cope with the not-so-perfect results of the first projects. Though we’ve been told by our teacher that we did great.

It is highly unlikely that we will open a shop to sell our products. But it is surprising how satisfying it is to see the concrete result. Since we didn’t buy plastic beads but rather high-end Swarovski ones, the exclusive look is there despite the less-than perfect technique. And yes, if you haven’t noticed yet, we are very self-critical. It is also very fulfilling to spend a couple of hours concentrating on one thing, even if there are hundreds of beads…

As a farewell present one of us has been so lucky to be on the receiving end of a beautifully made bracelet and necklace that the other two of the bead-trio made secretly. A lovely gift, also underlining how nice it is to get something that your friends put time, effort and consideration into. The sad part of the moving-story is that one of us now has to do beading by herself. A bit worrying is one of the unfinished projects; a bracelet requiring some high-level skills. Time will see where this ends. Doing things on your own, definitely is not the same as doing it together with people you feel connected.

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We might have to explore whether a Skype-beading workshop would work. Or we need to plan a combined girls-trip/beading weekend in the autumn.

Ending on a high note – managed to make some quite easy earrings. They look gorgeous – and will be worn next week on the Italian Riviera.

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At the end of the day, we didn’t expect to be so satisfied with the results. Sometimes we have to start things and be patient enough to see where they lead. The lesson learnt is that nothing is difficult.. as long as you’re patient and positive.

#don’t give me your evil eye

Growing up as a southern European is growing up with theories of superstitions, jinxing, evil eyes, bad eyes and blue eyes (good eyes), not to mention the interpretation of dreams and coffee remains at the bottom of the cup.
It takes a lot of spitting to deal with overcoming mental obstacles defined by others. So being welcomed to Greece, basically always meant to be welcomed to irrationality for non-Greeks. But in fact, those elderly women in Greece who knew everything about evil eyes, bad spirits and the like, all of them actually were aware (rather unconsciously) of the principles of quantum physics. Growing up in a Scandinavian country, meant also maybe less exposure to jinxing but it is not completely absent. Norwegian grandmothers do occasionally for example warn about comparing hands because it meant bad luck. But seemingly not to the extent that Greeks do.
Greek mothers, grandmothers, basically all women and some men always knew, they always sensed that something will happen without ever being able to explain or know why. Knowing that some things will eternally remain beyond the grasp of anyone’s reason, made them irrational in the eye of others. But in fact they weren’t. And because generations ago one grandmother while cooking her bean soup understood the whole concept of quantum physics, this knowledge went into the DNA of her daughters and travelled from generation to generation only to be misunderstood as superstitious.

Being away from all the un-jinxers in an Luxembourgish exile like we are at the moment, we are at the mercy of all the potential people with evil eyes and jinxing powers. Our dreams don’t get interpreted and our coffee cup remains are unexplored mysteries. A younger friend of ours tabled the concept of virtuous and vicious circles – and the importance of being in the first one. Which one are you in? And if you feel that you are in the latter, the vicious one – how do you get out of it? Our friend’s worries proves that the beliefs in powers that are somewhat out of our control also exist among other cultures and also non-grandmothers. The challenge of confronting one’s fate seems to be universal. Even in a professional context one can be confronted with jinxing when a report in the making was not possible to save just after the question of back-ups was brought up. Bad excuse or strange coincidence? Not easy to say.

What makes people resort to powers outside ourselves when explaining mishaps and misfortunes? It is very human – and probably makes us feel in some sort of control. If everything was haphazard it would be unbearable. To connect a bit with the rational part of us; don’t go over the top. Most things are in the spectrum of things that can – and do happen. Using one’s energy to worry about destiny and divine powers is maybe not the most constructive use of time in all respects. But to the extent it helps us cope with our lives it should be ok. And there are a lot of things that coincide and are too good to be true (in both positive and negative respects). Let’s just remain a bit open and practical about it  – and focus on our everyday well-being.  And let’s just accept that some things are in our hands, and some just don’t.

For everything else, we can blame it on quantum physics.