Day 14: How Did I Get To Be So Lucky?

Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.

  • Fitness program continued with a 4.5K walk, plus 5K in cycling and a core workout. In addition, I seem to have adjusted to this new wienerbrød-free lifestyle made possible through my new pact with my husband D to ban sugar forever. I have made due with banana, chocolate and stevia smoothies instead. D however, seems miserable was literally curled up on the couch last night pining for soda. I did not know how to help him. Maybe I will make him a smoothie today.

Goal #2. New Skills/Information/Creating Things.

  • I get to volunteer again today as part of the kitchen team at Spisehuset Rub & Stub. It is an amazing opportunity to learn new cooking techniques, benefit a good cause and meet great people.

Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter

  • I scaled down the amount of tasks for the kiddos, and everything is being completed more consistently now. What’s more, the house looks nice enough on a weekday that I would be able to invite someone in for tea.

Goal #4. Quality Time With Family/Friends.

  • See Goal #7.

Goal #5. Help.

  • This morning my husband was running late so I volunteered to take G to school, adding an extra 6K to all my commuting.

Goal #6. Financial Independence

  • On Saturday, I was so out of my mind with the prospect of cheap bottles of kombucha that I left my Dankort at the store and opted to just cancel it and be sent a replacement card rather than return to the site of so much temptation. For those unfamiliar, Dankort is Denmark’s national debit card, and is only available to residents who have lived in the country for a minimum of six months. During our first few months here, living without one meant frequent trips to the ATM, as local merchants apparently have to pay higher fees for regular debit-card transactions and consequently do not accept them very often. Anyway, this week I have been waiting for my new one to arrive in the mail, so I have been limited to spending about 500 kroner (about $80) on groceries. Earlier in the week, I forgot that I did not have the card and wound up not having enough cash on hand to buy plantains, yuca and cilantro at the local produce market, to my extreme embarrassment. Luckily, the kindly proprietor insisted I just pay him next time I come in, and I did not have to go home empty-handed. Still, I feel like all this meshuganah was my karma for the shopping spree on Saturday.

 Goal #7. Gratitude.

  • My husband is having to travel again, but we still looking forward to the weekend. This evening, a friend of mine from Danish class is meeting me after work so we can have dinner together at the lovely restaurant where I volunteer. Tomorrow night, I will be baking up some pies and making a homemade soup to host another friend and her two sweet daughters, who are coming over with some board games and a whole roast chicken to share. Saturday, the girls and I were invited to go with my dear friend and her two children to Louisiana, though I had to postpone that due to scheduling difficulties associated with K’s karate training. And on Sunday we are reuniting with some former neighbors who moved to a different part of the city, and we get to see their new place for the first time before going to the Zoological Museum together. So many good times, so many lovely people. How did I get to be so lucky?

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Day 13: Let the (Faux) Sun Shine In

Bryggebroen Havneholmen

The view of bryggebroen on the way to Danish class on Monday mornings.

 Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.

  • The ban on sugar remains, though Husband and I did buy a chocolate bar sweetened with erythritol and stevia to share. I also brought a homemade chilli to my after-Danish-class lunch to which I had added many bunches of kale. Only cycled about 12K yesterday due to time constraints, but went up and down about 30 flights of stairs.

Goal #2. New Skills/Information/Creating Things.

  • Attended Danish class, and we had many interesting discussions about  US/Danish government policies since 9/11. However, I realized I lack so many basic words, such as regeringen (government), pinligt (embarrassing) or du gik glip af det (you missed it). It all makes me wonder if I will ever really learn due to min gamle hjerne.

Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter.

  • I have not done chore lists in a while for the girls and the incidence of floor crumbs/placemat smears/unwashed dishes has increased consequently. I still have been telling them their chores verbally, but the written form seems more impactful.

Goal #4. Quality Time With Family/Friends.

  • My husband and I take a weekly Danish class together at his workplace on Monday mornings. I enjoy our shared morning bike commute there by the industrial waterfront of Copenhagen, past Fisketorvet and over Bryggebroen into the island of Amager. It’s a brisk, cold ride, and despite the fact that we are often a few minutes late, we discuss our dreams/future plans.

Goal #5. Help.

  • Only completed the everyday things a parent does, but nothing extraordinary.

Goal #6. Financial Independence.

  • On Mondays, we often have lunch with my husband’s colleagues at a nearby cafeteria, but I opted to bring my lunch instead this time. It makes me feel empowered to not let indulgences become an I-can’t-live-without-it habit, especially when they are not particularly good for our long-term financial goals.

 Goal #7. Gratitude.

  • Here in Denmark during the colder months, the length of the day can get extraordinarily short (only about 6 hours in December with the sun rarely even breaking through the cloud cover). Therefore, many people are prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SADS), a kind of depression that sets in during winter. To cope, many Danes take off for Thailand, Italy and other sunny destinations during the autumn, Christmas and February  breaks. Many also get a special full-spectrum light that they shine on their faces for a few minutes each day. Last year, I epitomized the expression “penny wise and pound foolish” by opting not to spend the approximately $180 for one of those light-therapy lamps. By January,  I had sunken into a pretty bad funk and only perked back up in late March when my husband brought one home that his colleague was selling due to a move. Nevertheless, the effect was instantaneous: “I feel like cleaning,” I said to myself. Soon I was making to-do lists, visiting museums, inviting people back over to our home and feeling  super motivated to speak Danish. This fall, the light has been on every day during the morning hours, and I have never felt happier, despite the fact that my husband is losing his job and we are having to move back home without a clear path forward. Nonetheless, I feel positive that everything will work out fine, and I doubt I would have felt this way–nor started this blog at all–without our magic little light
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My happy light.

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Day 12: Sewing

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Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.
  • So far, the no-sugar ban has been working. I also walked 7K in a loop around Vestre Kirkegaard, throwing in some walking lunges and squats along the way. Upon return, Husband and I completed a 10-minute core workout that left me sore the next day. It feels natural and satisfying to be gradually increasing my daily exercise routine, as opposed to spending a ton of money for a gym membership or Cross Fit classes.
Goal #2. New Skills/Information/Creating Things.
  • Baked a paleo pumpkin pie for K (she has problems digesting grains). Prepared a five-minute talk about celebrating Halloween in Danish for class the next day.
Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter.
  • Made some chore lists for the girls, who helped with drying dishes, taking out and sorting trash and picking up their room. Not everything was finished, but I think as a family we are making great progress.
Goal #4. Quality Time With Family/Friends.
  • Played Trivial Pursuit Family Edition with the kids and helped them with a little sewing project (See Goal # 6). Husband and I ran a few errands together alone and had our weekly falafel.
Goal #5. Help.
  • Other than making homemade food for our family and keeping everything going, nothing spectacular in this area.
Goal #6. Financial Independence.
  • G has been expressing interest lately in completing some sewing projects from a wonderful book from our personal library called Sewing School. In the past, I have spent hundreds to even thousands of dollars on materials, camps, classes, etc. to help us all with the art of needlecraft. So when I saw G reading the book again, my first impulse was to run out and buy yards of colorful felt, embroidery thread, stuffing and whatever other supplies could help further this interest along. But then I remembered all the wasted cut-up fabric and the half-finished projects that have cluttered up our home over the years. Better start with something small instead, I reasoned, and then maybe provide the supplies as a Christmas present, or simply encourage the girls to save up for particular items with their own allowance. Luckily, at Søstrene Grene, husband and I were able to get two DIY felt Christmas ornament kits for around $3 apiece that came with pre-cut felt in the shapes of stars and Christmas trees, as well as thread, stuffing and instructions. I know it also would have been great for them to come up with the shapes themselves, or use a pattern from the book. However, the kits were a great reintroduction to sewing for them: They practiced stitching and needle-threading skills while completing a project from start to finish. In any case, I’m glad I resisted the emotional impulse to overspend.
 Goal #7. Gratitude.

I did not have any particular revelations, but overall I have felt so enthusiastic and positive about all the blessings in my life.

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Day 11: One Scary (But Sweet) Halloween

Photo by Toby Ord

Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.

  • On the plus side, I walked more than 6K and biked 18K. On the other hand, I made it one scary Halloween by eating every sugary thing in sight. This included (but was not limited to) a neighbor’s gift of perfectly presented chocolate cake with chopped hazelnuts and a drizzle of caramel. In a freaky coincidence, my other kind neighbor also came by with a block of his own lovely pound cake with organic dark chocolate and sea-salt. Of course I helped out by taste-testing it, even though the confection was reportedly made with 800 grams of butter. On a side note: this is not a thing in Denmark where cakes magically arrive on one’s doorstep all the time (at least not that I am aware of). Nevertheless, the moral of this story is that I need help. I admit that this sugar thing is bigger than me, and that I have no willpower whatsoever. Therefore, my husband and I have sworn off the stuff forever today. Please wish us good luck.

Goal #2. New Skills/Information/Creating Things.

  • Carved a Jack O’Lantern apple and put a flickering electric tea light inside. With G, took a trash quiz entirely in Danish at the library where we correctly sorted items into the appropriate bins. Read the first few paragraphs of Stephen King’s The Shining in Danish with assistance from my little pocket ordbog.

Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter.

  • Killed two birds with one stone by taking a walk to the Red Cross donation box with a few bags of clothes to give away. Dishwasher still not working, but teamed up with whole family to keep everything going.

Goal #4. Quality Time With Family/Friends.

  • We got to go Trick-or-treating for the first time here in Denmark. Memorable moments for the girls: Learning to say “Slick eller ballade?” with the proper intonation. Reaching into a candy bowl with a mechanical ghoulish hand that grabbed them back.

Goal #5. Help.

  • Got my downstairs neighbour her favorite, hard-to-find cinnamon gum at a store that was closing. Got the kids Halloween-themed books and movies at the library and ingredients for us to bake some pumpkin pies.

Goal #6. Financial Independence.

  • Scary Halloween, part 2: A favorite health food store is closing here and there was a 30 percent off sale. I filled up my Christiania lad cycle with a half-dozen bottles of kombucha, raw cacao butter and assorted other fun but unnecessary items to the tune of about $100. Whoops!

 Goal #7. Gratitude.

  • I am aware that celebrating Halloween is a new phenomenon here in Denmark, and that many people see it as kind of a marketing gimmick. But for us, it was a magical night walking among the little hekse and zombies in our neighbourhood, knocking on doors bedecked with cobwebs, glowing Jack O’Lanterns and crime scene tape, and receiving handfuls of unwrapped salty liquorice. It was familiar for us, and yet uniquely Danish at the same time. We will never forget the experience.
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Day 10: Home is Wherever You Are

Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.

  • No walking, biked only 12K because of time crunch.

Goal #2. New Skills/Information/Creating Things.

  • Made a spicy Tex-Mex chili for my daughter’s Halloween party. May have used a bit more new-world heat than normal for the Scandinavian palate, so there were leftovers. But my lovely Danish neighbor downstairs said it was yummy.

Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter

  • Yesterday we did not get home till late, so kids did no chores. Meanwhile, dishwasher still out for the count. Trying not to lose hope and enlist the help of my family to keep things from falling apart.

Goal #4. Quality Time With Family/Friends.

  • Husband and I stayed up playing Shopkins with the girls. We had a battle with some kind of wedding cake challenging Peta Plunger‘s position as Supreme Ruler.

Goal #5. Help.

  • Helped with set-up for the Halloween party, and then the organizer asked me to oversee clean-up, which I did gladly.  Thanks to the new “take-the-stairs” approach to life, I welcomed all the little hassles, cheerfully wiping up little smears of guacamole from the tables and chairs, dealing with a dearth of garbage bags, etc. All the while, I was thinking, “Someone needs to be doing this, so why not me?”

Goal #6. Financial Independence.

  • I bought some ingredients and little electric tea lights to contribute to the party, but no other spending otherwise.

 Goal #7. Gratitude.

  • Hanging out at the party last night with some of the parents and watching all of our kids playing together, it really hit me how easy it felt to be in Copenhagen, and how much it finally feels like home. It’s normal now to hear a range of languages spoken around me, including Danish. It took me such a long time to get past feeling like a baby every time I opened my mouth, not knowing what brand of bread to buy at the store and thinking everyone was staring at me for my curious American ways. Even though we are moving back to the U.S. in a few months, I feel so lucky to know that my concept of “home” can be expanded and can mean anything from a barbecue on a windy Øresund beach with my Swedish friends to Sunday-morning migas with my kids at Taco Deli on North Lamar. I feel strong, like I can face any new situation and land on my feet.
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Day 9: Making Things Work

Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.

  • Walked 6.2K, biked 13K, plus many, many stairs. Food intake still not great, yet still some progress: I made a lovely lamb curry for myself and sat down to eat it.

Goal #2. New Skills/Information/Creating Things.

  • Took apart my dishwasher and tried to fix it. I was unsuccessful, but I felt a little bit like a badass breaking out my husband’s tool box, removing screws and peeking inside at its inner workings. Had this effort resulted in clean dishes, this story would have been better, but still, I’m proud.

Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter.

  • Without the services of our dishwasher, I spent several millennia yesterday washing dishes by hand. Realised that I could stop, go take a walk, and leave a sweet note to older daughter to finish up the rest. Upon my return, saw said daughter diligently drying the last few dishes and putting them away. Så dygtig!

Goal #4. Quality Time With Family/Friends.

  • I don’t think I remembered about this goal yesterday, and consequently was probably pretty rushed and unaware of my time with my family. I will try to be more present and mindful with them today.

Goal #5. Help.

  • Took a moment to take a beautiful photo for a lady at Carlsberg and made sure to fit the whole elephant in the shot. Offered to pick up some more decorations for my daughter’s class’s Halloween party.

Goal #6. Financial Independence

  • My spending continues to be very deliberate and careful. I did not buy anything yesterday except for a few organic jerusalem artichokes to include in my daughter’s stirfry.

 Goal #7. Gratitude

  • Took a walk to do some leaf-peeping at this lovely cemetery near my home. There I noticed a historic memorial for 19 British soldiers from World War 1 who had been prisoners of war in Germany. According to this history, the young men were just freed and being taken back home when most of them succumbed to the Spanish flu while stopping in Copenhagen. One of them was only 28 years old at the time of his death. I can only imagine the suffering they endured and the sadness their families must have felt knowing they were so close to coming home before they died. It made me feel so lucky to have lived on this earth for 42 years in such relative safety and comfort.
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Day 8: Walking, Climbing, Planning

Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.

  • Walked 8.8K, biked 8K and took the stairs, of course, but then ate too much sugar and ruined the win.

Goal #2. New Skills/Information/Creating Things.

  • Started working on the blog again. Listened to another podcast with Seth Godin, who argued that everyone should have a blog that they update daily, and that it’s better to stand out than to fit in. He also talked about the importance of  taking risks, giving generously in your community and cultivating relationships based on trust.

Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter.

  • I did some chores, and so did the girls, but I did not give them to-do lists and consequently not very much was completed. I think the act of crossing something off a list is very satisfying, so I will make sure to bring that back today.

Goal #4. Quality Time With Family/Friends.

  • Husband and I had some important talks about our future and what we want. We also took an early-morning bike ride together in the sun.

Goal #5. Help.

  • Had that talk with K’s teacher yesterday about the bullying, and I am fairly certain the problem is already resolved.

Goal #6. Financial Independence

  • Yesterday the sink in our bathroom stopped draining at the same time as the dishwasher inexplicably stopped working. These issues made me feel a bit overwhelmed and caused me to go to the convenience store for expensive quick-fixes rather than the grocery store. To make things worse, some of the things I bought did not work. I see that when things get hectic, I tend to lose my focus.

 Goal #7. Gratitude

  • I am grateful for my husband and his open mind. We are going to be embarking on another adventure in the United States in a few months where we hope to start a school for our children with some other parents and their children. We realized the student-centered, project-based, nature-focused educational environment we desire for our girls would cost the equivalent of a yearly salary, so we have begun planning a Co-op with a few other parents with similar goals/philosophies and who also have strong teaching backgrounds. We have homeschooled in the past, and it benefitted our older daughter immensely, but we found it overwhelming to do alone. This time, I have a feeling it will be different because of the community we are building in advance and all of the resources we share as a group.
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Day 7: Back in Business after Lost Days

Things fell apart for a couple of days after I had some technical difficulties with the blog. My husband said he noticed that my motivation seems directly tied to updating it, so I am glad to be taking the long view once again. Yesterday, I started out pretty directionless, but then I started on some projects that gave me motivation. By the end of the day, dinner was on the table, dishes were washed, homework was done and there were good feelings all around. Today I am back to work on this thing, so hopefully I can keep the momentum going.

Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.

  • Lots of meals on the fly, sugar and no exercise other than a six kilometer bike ride and all the stairs that I must climb in my regular life. Today I will do better.

Goal #2. New Skills/Information/Creating Things.

  • Have started watching Youtube videos to try and improve my knife skills in the kitchen.

Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter.

  • Listened to podcasts while I hung laundry and cleaned the grout between the tiles in the bathroom and then the oven rack. Helped kids stay on track with their to-do lists.

Goal #4. Quality Time With Family/Friends.

  • My daughter came home from school sad because of some bullying that has unfortunately started at her school. I turned off my podcast, stopped what I was doing and gave her the full attention she needed so we could talk about what next steps were needed. There were also lots of joking, hugs and discussions until she seemed OK with the situation. I really feel like I was there for her when she needed me.

Goal #5. Help.

  • See #4

Goal #6. Financial Independence

  • No unconscious spending.

 Goal #7. Gratitude

  • I had an uplifting experience talking with my daughter’s teacher this morning about the bullying. She told me how much she and her colleague enjoy having K, whom they describe as this “nature, barefoot, free-spirit girl” in their class. She said she was so impressed with K’s open-mindedness. On field trips, she has seen her start talking with strangers on the bus, and it’s like they are old friends by the time they get off.  She also was impressed with K’s level in not only Danish, but also Spanish, which she is teaching herself so she can communicate with a boy in the class. In fact, the Spanish has become so good that the teachers sometimes ask K to translate for the boy. She added,”She is really going to become someone special.”  I felt so proud to hear this, and yet so humbled too because I attribute a lot of her self confidence to living here in Denmark. Here, children get a lot of freedom, respect and responsibility, and teachers emphasize social development over test scores. Consequently, being here during this critical period between ages 11 through 13 has built her up at a time when many American girls her age lose their sassy, independent streaks. So thank you to her teachers, her karate school and to this society for helping to preserve my child’s unique spirit and self-esteem.
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Day 6: Avoiding Frivolous Spending

Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.

  • More deliberate, thoughtful eating. Nothing spectacular with fitness but continued to cycle, take stairs and worked on my feet for six hours again.

Goal #2. New Skills/Information/Creating Things.

  • Learned a lot again working at the restaurant last night, including how to decorate a cake plate using different shapes and textures and that it’s best to keep people at a particular station all night rather than rotate jobs. We had a big party arrive at the same time as a big soup order was due but no mess-ups or confusion.

Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter.

  • Some chores were done while I was away, but the house was pretty chaotic when I returned from work. However, it was better overall than before implementing the chore system.

Goal #4. Quality Time With Family/Friends.

  • Pumpkin carving with the girls. Enjoyed one deliberate felafal on a date with husband.

Goal #5. Help.

  • I volunteered six hours of my weekend time (which could have been spent with my family) for a cause I believe in.

Goal #6. Financial Independence

  • Despite saying we would get one, husband and I decided not to buy a pumpkin-carving kit with a gimmicky Jack O’Lantern-themed scoop and other useless gadgets. The only thing we needed it for was a small serrated knife that the kids could use. Decided to make do with a kitchen knife and a swiss army knife. It’s not that we couldn’t afford it, but the thought of paying about six dollars for stuff we didn’t need at all was too unpalatable. The girls understood.

 Goal #7. Gratitude

  • Grateful the sun came out and that I was able to go on a short date with my husband.
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Day 5: Lapse in Judgement

This post was written earlier but disappeared temporarily due to technical difficulties.

Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.

  • My lizard brain had a wrestling match with my neocortex and won. Without any thought, I found myself eating pizza, chocolate and other crap that didn’t even taste good. Not sure how it happened, but I feel determined today to not let this setback make me give up.

Goal #2. New Skills/Information/Creating Things.

  • Chore lists still a big hit (see Goal #3). At the library, resolved a slightly complicated issue in Danish. Not only did I have the right words to explain the context (I had a disc with a missing envelope) but also understood the clerk’s kind assurances that this kind of thing happens all the time.

Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter.

  • Win, again! The house has been in such nice shape that I was able to entertain an unexpected guest as a favor to a fellow parent (see Goal #5) and my older daughter even did some extra chores to make it picture perfect before we came home. G didn’t get a chance to do hers but  she made them up this morning, and even did some extra things without asking, including .. wait for it.. organizing the shoes in my closet.

Goal #4. Quality Time With Family/Friends.

  • Since the sun was shining in the early morning, husband and I took a quick bike ride to the store together to soak up some Vitamin D and enjoy each other’s company.

Goal #5. Help.

  • Hosted a friend of G’s whose parent had to work late. Rescued a nice nice silicon muffin form and another most-welcome item from the recycling area.

Goal #6. Financial Independence

  • I have a cozy sofa I like to use as a reading nook, but a few months ago, one of my kids broke a nice halogen lamp there that kept the area illuminated. We are back in business again for the cost of a new bulb (about $5) thanks to salvaging a perfectly fine lamp that was destined for the landfill. Hubby and I also reworked our Christmas travel itinerary slightly and managed to save thousands on air travel.

 Goal #7. Gratitude

  • A simple to-do list in the afternoon for each child has changed all of our lives. We are much less stressed, the kids feel proud of their accomplishments and our home looks good enough to have someone over with no advanced warning. So many gifts!

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