23 Apr

this blog would not receive the purple ribbon for participating

I am at my first school sports day. Right now I am scribbling this with a sweaty hand in an exercise book. Let’s see if I actually transcribe this one, or if it languishes forever in here with all the other half-scribbled notes.

It is SO HOT! Thank goodness it’s only a half day, and the seats where we’re sitting are in the shade with electric fans. Earlier the grade twos did a 400m race… I do not know how they are still standing. I am sweaty just watching. B’s foundation class (= Prep, the one before grade one) only had to do a 60m race, along with a short sack race, a relay and a beanbag “shotput” toss. Bianca has done her best in each, with fairly limited success, but she is flushed and happy, and proud of her purple “competitor” ribbons.

(Which, by the way, I was always on the side of thinking giving everyone a prize at these things was silly, but when you’re dealing with five year olds who can’t cope when the snakes and ladders dice goes against them I think it is fine and wise to temper the disappointment. It’s not like they’re all getting a trophy, and everyone knows purple’s better than “yellow, white or brown” anyway.)

Oh hell no, they’ve just announced a parents’ relay race, do NOT look at me and WHY did I think wearing my bright pink runners to this was a good idea? Next time heeled flip flops all the way.

For all the sweat and the stickiness I feel blessed to be here, watching B run and join in. This is my job while we’re here, to be there supporting, to make her and even Dave feel like they can do the best they can. It’s important, and I like it, most of the time.

*

Now I am at Great World City, having a Mummy and Daughter afternoon. We had McDonalds for lunch, then a wander round the shops, and now we’re camping out in Starbucks to kill time before we go to see Home. It is cool and airconditioned and apart from a residual stickiness the discomfort of this morning is forgotten. Bianca is playing with a set of stickers I got her. “Close your eyes, Mummy! Now tell me what’s different about my picture now!” My coffee is average, but we are both having fun.

I’m sorry I’ve been silent. I went through a bit of a rough adjustment phase for a week or so, then got really busy with a project, and then we were back in Australia for the school holidays. You didn’t miss much, I wasn’t doing anything particularly interesting in that time. Which is half the problem, I think. Must change that; I’m in a new country, for chrissakes.

When we were at McDonalds I saw these ride-on thingies. The Crocodile Hunter? Um, what? How is this a thing? For what it’s worth in the time we were sitting there not one kid wanted to get in it, and I am not at all surprised.

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24 Feb

welcome to the year of the stupid

Gong xi fat cai! We had a four day long weekend to celebrate lunar new year (I can’t quite get the hang of whether it’s ok to call it Chinese new year here). Of course Dave will tell you every day is a weekend for me. Ha ha ha! He is such a funny man. Thank goat he’s gone back to work today.

Speaking of goats, I am worried this might really be the year of the stupid. Or the stupid goat. My birthdate makes me a metal pig, so you know this is possible. So this is what happened. On Friday night we decided to go down to Chinatown to see the lanterns and the general celebrations. Embrace the culture! See the dragons! Actually, we tried to do it the night before, but just as we were about to leave I realised I couldn’t find my train ticket. So we had to abort. That was the first stupid of the year. But we figured it didn’t really matter, because the celebrations go on for two weeks so we’d still get to see it all.

So anyway, Friday evening we dressed up again, Bianca in her cute little pink Chinese dress, and caught the train to Chinatown. It was busy, with lanterns everywhere, but there was nothing in particular going on. So, we checked on our phones to see where we needed to be. And that’s when the second stupid happened. You see, the celebrations do go on for two weeks… BEFORE lunar new year.

You could say we were in the right place, but the wrong time.

We were stupid tourists.

(But seriously, come on! Shouldn’t you have the party when the big holiday is happening? No? Okay, but shouldn’t you do it anyway for the stupid tourists like us? No? Well shut up.)
So instead I contented myself with taking photos of lanterns and funny signs.

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pretty

I could maybe actually shop here

I could maybe actually shop here

um... no thanks

um… no thanks

Then we sampled the local delicacies at McDonald’s. After that it got dark and all the lights went on and it was just beautiful.

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lights

 

two tigers and a goat

two tigers and a goat

And then we took the train back home.

I think Chinatown should have dragons every day.

19 Feb

Ode to an old home

Look! I have a new header! What do you think? Let’s admit I am not at all a designer but I like it for now. Also I’m messing with the theme again. I thought WordPress themes were supposed to make designing your blog a breeze, but it was way easier to get what I wanted back in ye olden days of hardcoding HTML. I might actually have to learn how to do this for myself.

*

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about London and what it was like when I first moved there. It’s only natural, really, considering the similarities to what I’m doing now: the big move to a whole new country, trying to find my feet in a strange place. But the situation, obviously, was quite different. And as I’m unpacking all of our things, I find myself thinking fondly of the flat I lived in, and how clean and uncluttered it was. Then I saw Compass‘s new project Starter Stories, and got all inspired to tell you about it. Compass is a new real estate service (currently in NYC and DC) that helps people find the perfect neighbourhood to call home, based on interest and personality. It’s a great idea, and exactly what you need when making a fresh start in a new place. How else are you to know where you would llke to live? Well actually, in my case my boss chose it for me. Lord knows I would never have had the guts to do it without any help. But if the Mighty Aphrodite isn’t around (truly, her name was Aphrodite) then Compass’s service is the next best thing.

Let’s see. It was May of 2001, almost 14 years (!!!) ago. I was going over to our London office, to help out on a project. The plan was for me to be there for four months, so my UK boss had organised a serviced apartment for me. It was all very exciting and unknown. My husband wasn’t coming, he had his own work, so we were talking about him coming over for a holiday towards the end.

(Actually, I don’t really remember much of my thought process back then. Shouldn’t it have been more of a thing to leave him behind than I’m remembering it? I don’t know. I do know he was acting oddly about it for a few months, and then just before I left he said he didn’t want to be married anymore.)

So I turned up in London, feeling a bit shellshocked, to this flat. I had pictured something tall, and characterful, all white architraves and molded doors, in a converted Georgian house maybe, in Notting Hill. Overlooking the river. (Don’t bother looking at a map. I know.) You know, like you always saw in the movies. My flat was the exact opposite. It was plain and boxy, in a nondescript building surrounded by offices. This was the view I had if I hung out my living room window:

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And this is what was directly opposite. When I first walked in I had no fucking idea what I was looking at, because I was jetlagged and the windows opposite were all mirrored and reflected my building back at me.

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I don’t mind telling you, I fell apart right then. I thought, oh shit, what have I done? But, I grew to love that flat. It was my hidey hole. I would get up in the morning and walk the 15 minutes to work near London Wall, past Roman ruins and streets with strange names. Cheapside, Poultry, Mansion House. Bread Street was opposite Milk Street. St Paul’s Cathedral was just there. And at the end of the day I would walk back home, stopping at the Tesco Metro at Bank tube station for pasta or a ready meal, and be home by five thirty. I would have dinner on one of my four plates and spend the evening drinking tea out of those strange little cups they always put in serviced apartments. Then I would watch TV, or read, or listen to music. I had no internet connection, no smart phone or Facebook. All I could do was curl up and look after myself, and thaat was what I did.

And the flat, it was perfect for it. It was bland, and plain, but it was exactly what I needed. Going clockwise from the door, it had a bathroom, bedroom, lounge, kitchen. This is the view of the lounge from the window, looking towards the kitchen.

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And back the other way. Note the beech laminate, the sturdy blue upholstery. Excuse the poor photography, my camera had 1.6 whole megapixels and not a lot in the way of settings.

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I moved stuff around a bit, putting the table near the window so’s I could sit and “enjoy” the “view” while “writing”. I got a friend to help me carry the TV in from the bedroom, otherwise I would never have got off the bed.

The kitchen was tiny, just an alcove really. The fridge is to the left and the cupboard under the kettle is actually the washing machine. Really giving me four of everything (plus two saucepans and a frypan) pretty much filled it up.

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Aw, but I loved it. And this is the bathroom.

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The bedroom was only just big enough for a double bed and a tallboy dresser, and continued the beech-and-blue decor.

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Just looking at these photos now, I am flooded with nostalgia. Everything was plain, basic, cut down. It was exactly what I needed; a blank slate. There was nothing around me of my old life, everything had been left behind. I was unencumbered, truly a whole new start. I had to put my whole life back together again, and there was nothing from the old cluttering it up. No wonder I’m so envious of it right now! I had no bills, as everything was included. The flat wasn’t mine so I didn’t have to worry about maintenance or decorating. It was a complete holiday from being a grownup. All I had to do was feed myself and keep the flat clean (because the “serviced” bit was a misnomer). I had an expense allowance from work, and I bought a few books that caught my eye, a vase, a smelly candle. It was so lovely to be able to do that without feeling guilty or weighed down by something I already owned.

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On weekends, I would venture out to explore, museums or art galleries, or Oxford Street or Hyde Park. Remember how dismissive I was at the start about the crappy location surrounded by office buildings? Well, no. It was in Monument Street, which is the site of where the great fire of London started. This was the view when I headed off to work each morning:

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Monument Street

Monument Street is right near London Bridge. I mightn’t have had that view over the river but it was right there, and I would walk along on weekends, up to St Paul’s, across the wobbly bridge to the Tate Modern (sometimes going in), down the south side to cross over Tower Bridge and then back past all the history. The City of London is so different on weekends, empty of people and full of tiny windy lanes. You can turn any corner and find something of breathtaking beauty and history and age.

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St Dunstan in the East

I ended up living in Monument Street for seven months. My four-month project got extended, then I went back to Melbourne for three months to sell my house and pack up my stuff. Then work transferred me to London for two more years, which actually ended up being five and a half. I lived in a couple of lovely places, but that first flat, the one where I rebuilt my life and found me, that will always be my special place.

17 Feb

Let me sum up

Oops, sorry for not writing. We got cable TV put in (a necessity here) and there is always something on. And I am not known for self control. I put Friends or HGTV on “in the background” but the next thing I know I’m lying on the bed out of lives in Candy Crush and constantly refreshing Facebook to see if anyone else is having fun.

True story.

So. I’m getting organised, settling in. Our apartment is starting to feel like home. That first week was rough though. All those boxes! I spent most of my time walking around in circles not knowing where to start and therefore not doing anything (except watching an awful lot of Property Brothers). I got profoundly grumpy at all our possessions. I had been relaxed in our serviced apartment, apart from missing a few things (a potato peeler? A hairdryer stronger than a budgie’s sneeze?), and not having a place for stuff. Well, now NONE of our stuff has a place, and I have to work that out and it is hard because it’s like doing one of those old sliding tile puzzles except you’re not even sure what the picture is supposed to be. There is stuff fucking EVERYWHERE. I just wanted to pick it all up and shove it down our garbage chute. Why do I have all this stuff? Why did I think it was all necessary? And then I go to get rid of something… and I can’t, so I try to find somewhere to put it, and I can’t do that either. Thus the walking in circles and getting dizzy, and oh look, Friends is back on.

Minimalism is looking pretty good right now.

That first weekend Dave did his manly thing and proclaimed that we would finish setting up the lounge. His idea was that we would have one room that was complete, with furniture and without boxes, so we could sit somewhere and relax and not feel like… well, like I was feeling. I hate to admit it but he was right. (I mean, I am trying damn hard not to look at all the toys all over it right now, but that’s just like back home so it’s presumably manageable.) Then he stacked the guest room full of the downstairs boxes, which gets them out of sight but sucks for you if you’re planning a visit. I suppose we could rearrange the outside ones into steps and put the bedding up on top, like a massive platform bed, or maybe a cave. At this very moment we have 27 boxes left, mostly labelled Toys and weighing about 2kg each, so I think there’s one item in each.

So anyway. In the world outside of boxes, it is hot. I am getting used to it, or at least accepting being sweaty a lot. I’m finding my way around. Let me tell you, public transport is AWESOME here. Cars are ridiculously expensive (think $120,000 for a new small hatchback, never mind the Mercs and Ferraries you see everywhere) so they make the trains and buses reliable and cheap, and the taxis are too. It can cost me about a dollar to take the train into town, and maybe six to come home with my shopping in a cab. A week’s worth of commuting for Dave costs less than one day’s train back home. This is the thing about Singapore; a lot of things are ridiculously expensive, and others are ridiculously cheap. It’s a subject that warrants its own entry or two.

I kind of love it here.

And I don’t miss work.

Okay, I better go do something before Bianca comes home. I feel like the temporary settling in period is over, and now it’s time to get on and enjoy living here fully. But I need to go do some laundry first.

03 Feb

Moving day

Yesterday was moving day. It was more rushed than we wanted since we couldn’t get the keys until 9am that morning, which was the same time the movers were supposed to show up. They were late of course, so we had time to do the inspection and sign everything off. Or rather, Dave had time for that, I just wandered around, grinning at all the rooms, planning where our stuff ould go. It was going to be awesome!

This is the view from our lower balcony:

pool

Eventually the movers showed up and brought our stuff in. By the end of the day our place looked like this:

kitchen

In EVERY ROOM. This lot is just the kitchenware – after I’d spent the whole day unpacking box after box already. I was overwhelmed and cranky and thinking what the hell have we done? Sure, it seemed a good idea to bring all our stuff. We didn’t have to pack it after all. But we do have to UNpack it. I’m going to write that down somewhere for next time.
But we eventually called it a day. And just after dinner we got these visitors:

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Hornbills! A pair of wild hornbills!

They made everything feel okay.

Today Dave is at work and B is at school and the movers have been back finishing off unwrapping all the furniture. I finally got them to leave an hour ago, and I’m sitting in here looking at all the boxes and wondering where in the hell all this stuff is supposed to go.

30 Jan

On breakfast, getting sorted, and missing the flock

The hotel here has a wonderful breakfast buffet. There’s the usual bacon and sausage goodness, an egg station, breads and pastries, cereals and continental stuff, plus sections for chinese, japanese, and other asian cuisines. There has been many a breakfast of bacon followed by steamed buns and croissants. I come down most days, after I’ve waved Dave and B off on their buses. Despite all this bounty I mostly now go for the bircher muesli and grapefruit juice with a latte, followed by a croissant. I love croissants any time, but they bake them fresh here and they are soooo good: flaky, soft, chewy, just divine.

It’s a big brekky but I’m using it the way we do on holidays, which is to bolster me through lunch and most of the afternoon. And if I’m feeling particularly decadent (like today) I’ll have a glass of prosecco and orange juice; I mean, it’s right there on the juice bar and they wouldn’t have it out if they didn’t want us to drink it, now would they?
I’m making the most of it now because we move out on Monday. We’ve been here four weeks already. I veer between is that all? and wow, already? By the way, someone said to me the other day that time moves quicker in Singapore because there are no seasons to mark it off. And so the saying “come for two years, stay for ten” is born.

I’m feeling relatively settled. the major pain points – somewhere to live, the school bus – got solved last week. We get the keys to our new place Sunday night and movers will be there Monday morning – or so they say. Not massively impressed with the people at this end, it has not gone as smoothly as we’d hoped. They were an hour and a half late delivering our air freight and left Dave’s bike behind, plus we seem to know more about the customs process then they do… but anyway, I’m sure it will be okay. The move feels a bit tight since we need to be cleared out of this apartment by 2pm that day, so there’s a bit of pressure on me to get my arse into gear and sort stuff out. Dave’s going to take the day off and will hire a car so that will help.

I am looking forward to having our stuff here, making this new place a home. And having a potato peeler again. And a knife that’s sharper than the edge of my hand.

One (two) things that won’t be here though are our parrots, Sheldon and Cabbie. We had to leave them behind. People say to me, “can’t you take them with you?” and I say, “yes we can, but we can’t bring them back into Australia.” At six years old Cabbie is a middle aged budgie but Sheldon’s a conure and could have another thirty years in him. We would much rather miss out on him for the next two years (apart from visits) than bring him with us and then potentially have to give him away forever.

The problem is, we don’t know what we’ll be doing. We don’t know for sure whether this is a two year thing or longer, if we’ll go back to Australia or move on to London or somewhere else. It all depends! It depends on whether Dave loves this job and we love Singapore, then where the next job takes us. It’s quite possible that in two years’ time he’ll decide he’s sick of this stuff and want to move back to Melbourne to a lighter role. It’s equally possible that he’ll be fabulous at this and love it and want to keep pushing on and in that case the next job might be in Sydney, or it could be anywhere else at all. We just don’t know. So until we have been here longer and know more, leaving them behind with our fantastic bird lady is the better option.

Knowing it’s the best decision doesn’t make it any easier though. For all it’s nice not to be pooed on, not to have to share my dinner, not to have someone disputing every step of the coffee-making process or biting you for trying to hold the remote control instead of him, I miss them so much. I’ve bawled my eyes out quite a few times already. Cabbie was my first baby, I miss my little green man. And yes, we’ll be able to see them when we go back to Melbourne for visits, but it’s not the same, and without them here it won’t really feel like home.

Sheldon and Cabbie "helping" me sew. Happy days.

Sheldon and Cabbie “helping” me sew. Happy days.

12 Jan

this is almost the new normal

So hello! Here we are in Singapore for a week and a bit and we’re settling in. We’re staying in a serviced apartment at the top of Orchard Road (the main fancy shopping strip, full of designer clothes and handbags and jewelry). Dave is at work and B and I are entertaining ourselves in the pool and venturing out for groceries occasionally.

We spent the first weekend apartment hunting and *fingers crossed* we’ve found something that will suit us really well. We’ve put in our Letter of Intent which the landlord signed, now we’re just waiting for the lease agreement. I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it too much yet… but it’s lovely and within budget. Leases here are for two years so that will have us set for the whole time.

I took B out to get her school uniform and ohmygoodness she looks so cute in it! She starts next Monday. I’m hyping it a lot so she’s excited — we both are — she’s already feeling the lack of other kids and I’m getting frustrated with trying to drag her around places. That’s one thing disappointing about this place: no families that we’ve met. The first place we stayed in February last year was full of expat families in the process of moving here and was much better set up for kids.

I’m not actually sure how I’m going to get her to school yet. We obviously have no car. I blan to use the school bus if we can, but we can’t book it until we know our permanent address. Fingers crossed there’ll still be a place. Also, we’ll still be here for the first two weeks. The bus company said they may be able to pick her up but priority goes to kids with permanent addresses. Worst case scenario is I cab her there and back every day until we move. No, worst case scenario is there’s no room on the bus once we move and I have to walk her the 850 metres to and from school every damn day. (Which would be fine, except it’s hot and humid, yo!)

So I’m settling in. At the start of last week I wasn’t doing so well. On Monday I wrote this in my journal:

I’m struggling a lot with anxiety right now. Everythng is scary. I thought I’d be okay because we’ve been here before, but I’m not. It’s different to before. Different apartment. Different dynamic.

I don’t know where anything is. I know everything is a short distance away, and easy by cab ride, but I don’t know WHERE it is. I have no mental map of how things hang together. And actual maps don’t seem to help.

My instinct is to cower inside ignoring everything. I know it’s not healthy. I know I can’t do that. My normal way of dealing would be to go our for a walk, to explore. But, see, it’s hot outside. And sweaty! And B doesn’t really deal with the head so dragging her for a walk in it is not such a good idea.
It will get better. It will get better. It will get better. But now is NOT the time to be cutting back on my Zoloft!

It was the househunting that set me off. Trying to make a decision on where to stay without really knowing how everything hangs together. It would be easy if the apartments were right on top of the train stations, but most of them aren’t so we have to weigh up nice apartments against possibly poor locations. There was one place with awesome facilities for Bianca which we wrote off because it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but it actually turns out to be quite close to Robertson Quay and other nice things. But hey, we’re getting better. The place we *fingers still crossed* would like to live in is within easy walking distance to the tube for Dave, and we may even be able to afford a car.

Meanwhile back at the apartment, I have worked out the laundry system and mostly caught up, found a supermarket reasonably close with an icecream shop right nearby, and kind of got used to being around while the maid service cleans the rooms. I still feel like I’m haemorrhaging money and struggling to feed us within the limits of the (expensive) options at the supermarket and the equipment in the kitchen. But most of the time I have a smile on my face and I really like being here.

03 Jan

On the cusp

I started writing this on Monday when the packers were busy transforming our home into echoey rooms full of bubblewrapped icebergs, but the words wouldn’t come. Now I am on the plane, and there is room for words. Gosh, I love business class! I’ve got my own little pod to live in. Next to me is Dave and over by the window Bianca is chilling like a seasoned traveller, lying back in her seat watching My Little Pony, dinner on a clothed table in front of her.

(We are travelling business class because this is an official corporate move. We can’t afford to do it ourselves, but I would love to be able to! I think that’s my definition of wealthy – being able to travel business class without going broke to do it.)

We had a very hard few days there. Do you know, I’ve been off work since mid November, allegedly getting everything organised? And I thought I was doing well, I really did. Even though the list of stuff to do never seemed to get shorter, and I spent many a late night watching TV and playing on my phone instead of, say, making the curtains I’ve had the fabric for for months. Sometimes I got stressed thinking about everything that needed to be done, but then I’d think, “nah, it’s okay, the deadline’s Friday 2nd, it has to be done by then so it WILL be done.” Well, hello mid-December Nicky, it’s not fricking magic, YOU STILL HAVE TO DO IT ALL!

We were on our way to Ballarat on Christmas Eve when we realised our deadline wasn’t Friday, it was Monday when the packers came. At that point everything needed to be sorted into what’s staying and what’s going, and then that into whether it was coming with us, or going air freight or by sea. And if that wasn’t enough, we’d be away until late on Friday night and we had a farewell BBQ on Saturday to attend… suffice to say, we had some extreme late nights last weekend…

There I was on Monday morning after maybe 4 hours sleep for the third night running, eyes hanging out of my head and feeling at a loose end but the preparation was done. There was still heaps to do–cleaning, organising, those fricking curtains–but I couldn’t really do it while the packers were working. So Tuesday it all kicked off again for cleaning, painting doors, tidying the outside, getting rid of all the crap that was still hanging around — no matter how much stuff we took out of the house there was always another fucking load. Of course I drastically overestimated how much I could achieve in a day so Thursday was an all-hands-on-deck affair, but at 6:30pm when we walked out of the house (with yet another car load of crap) the house looked okay and ready for showing: not as perfect as I’d wanted but I just didn’t care anymore. Went back to Dave’s parents house, and drank several bottles of wine with his Dad, and breathed a sigh. Everything is in the hands of other people now.

*

Now we’re on a plane and I’m allowed to just be happy and excited. Did I mention that business class rocks? It is giving me delusions of grandeur and definitely spoiling me for economy.

There’ll be yet another list of things to organise once we’re on the ground again, but right now I’m just really fucking excited about what happens next!

04 Dec

Hold on tight, I’m about to get interesting…

… maybe. You tell me!

Dave has accepted a new job and we are moving… to Singapore!

Omigod, omigod, omigod…

This has been brewing for ages, well over a year, but it’s been in the why haven’t you TOLD me? category for about two months. And I don’t know why I haven’t told you, except that (a) it’s hard to burst back onto the scene with big news like that, and (b) even Dave wasn’t telling anyone until about a fortnight ago. Official wasn’t enough, it had to be official official before we could risk hexing it :-)

The original Singapore possiblity was mooted 18 months ago for a different role. Since then it’s been on again, off again, in Sydney instead, back in Melbourne, maybe London… it was exhausting. On our big holiday we decided to just ignore it and get on with our life, because we couldn’t keep putting everything on hold for a maybe. And then, of course, it kicked off again, and then it lulled, and then–the actual night we were signing the contracts for the new kitchen! — we got a letter of offer!

And so, this is where we are. Right now. Our flights are booked, we leave on 2nd January. A new adventure for a new year. Up till then I’ve got SO MUCH to organise. Doing stuff to the house, organising the decluttering and packing, closing out our life here and starting a new one. This is why I’m stressed. This is why I’m eating. But I’ve just got to get on with it because in four weeks we’re off!

Omigod, omigod, omigod!

It is going to be such a big adventure!

02 Dec

Eat it

I eat when I’m stressed. When I’m angry. When I’m upset. A therapist I once saw said I “digest my feelings” quite literally, and I think she’s right. Whatever it is, I eat them.

I have occasionally eaten so much that I can feel the food in the back of my throat. And yet, I keep on eating. Is that how foie gras geese feel? Those were the really stressy times. And no, I can’t purge. Cannot make myself throw up. Really, it’s amazing I’m not even fatter than I am now.

Right now is a really stressful time for me. I’ve got a lot on my plate that I’m trying to shuffle around, and mostly panicking and thrashing. So what I do instead is eat, or procrastinate for hours on the computer or my phone. Which obviously, isn’t helping my situation!

So today, I need to achieve. Get off the computer, and Get Stuff Done. Maybe I need to get out the timer – Flylady is right about some things, and setting a 15 minute timer to keep me focussed is one of them.

I wish I was writing more at the moment. I have so much to say.