I’M BACK

(read the title like Eminem)

I could write 10 pages about how horrible the past 3 months have been in our last apartment, but I won’t. It smelled, it wasn’t safe, and it definitely wasn’t comfortable. I knew it was a huge stress point for both of us, but it really became clear this past weekend once we moved out for good. I feel like a completely different person, like my mind has cleared, a massive weight has been lifted, and everything in my life is coming back into focus. The feeling is incredible, and I don’t want to forget what it took to get here.

I haven’t cooked or baked since July. I haven’t used the sewing machine once. I haven’t made anything for Ruby, and I haven’t done any of the planning or preparation for her that I knew I needed to. Our laundry basket was always overflowing, and nothing was ironed. I didn’t write (obviously) or do anything creative. I let my nails go to shit before I forced myself to at least take the nail polish off. I didn’t buy anything for our house except for candles to mask the smell, and plastic for the windows. We got two stains on our couch because we ate dinner there each night. Everything that was important to me started to slip between the cracks because I just couldn’t find the motivation or desire to care. The worst part is that I knew all of this was happening, and I still couldn’t fix it. I don’t think I was depressed, but I definitely wasn’t myself, and I wasn’t in a mentally healthy place.

One of the things that bothered me the most was the smell. Not only did it bother me at home, but it got in our clothes and our jackets and it would bother me during the day when I was at work. All I could think of was how detrimental it must be for children who are raised in households where their parents smoke, and having to go to school each day knowing that they smell. It is a HUGE emotional stress point that seems trivial, but deeply affected me. The first thing I did when we got to the new house was wash all of our jackets, blankets, towels, and lay all of our rugs outside to air out. Just having the smells gone is the biggest relief.

At work, we were discussing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how it applies to everything in our lives, both personal and work related. It was like a lightbulb clicked when I saw this diagram, because it explains exactly how and why the house issue is affecting me in so many different ways. The things that I was missing the most were psychological and self-fulfillment needs, but I couldn’t get there without feeling physiologically comfortable. It was so refreshing to see proof of what I’d been feeling and know that my discomfort was validated.

We spent the weekend unpacking and settling into the new place, and I already feel so inspired. We made a delicious dinner, I baked a pie, and we walked downtown Ballard to buy two little accessories for the kitchen. I’ve been making lists of projects I want to start and we’re going to get back to meal planning. Everything that used to be our normal is slipping back into place and it feels like we’re home. Brian said that he feels like he’s on vacation in our house, and I feel more like we’re real adults. I think even regardless of where we just came from, this house is a turning point for us and we’re so happy to be here. This feels like a home where we can start our family, and I’m finally able to feel some excitement about what comes next!

I have to say too, that it’s a huge testimony to our relationship that Brian and I (somehow) made it through this whole transition with our relationship very much intact and probably a lot stronger. A lot of the credit goes to Brian for putting up with an unhappy pregnant wife, and I love him so much more for it. This house thing aside, the past few months have been a weird time for me, adjusting to all the fun new stuff that pops up with pregnancy (hello hormones and exhaustion), so I’m sure I haven’t been easy to deal with. Brian has been so patient and understanding and rational (sometimes to a fault) and is the only reason I didn’t lose my mind, burn down the house, and move into a hotel.

Us Time

Working on the carriage house for the last month has been a huge learning experience for us in so many unexpected ways. We’ve obviously learned a lot about the actual demo/construction stuff, but I’ve also learned a ton about how our relationship ebbs and flows through different stresses.

We’re used to spending pretty much every possible minute together, aside from work. Our weekends are 100% ours to go for long walks or bike rides and stopping into little towns for lunch and beers, and we rarely split up to do our own things because we’d rather be together. I didn’t realize how much I rely on our weekends to reset my sanity until this past month when we’ve spent every free minute frantically working on the carriage house or packing up our apartment. Instead of spending the weekend outside relaxing, we’re working on stressful, dirty, and physically exhausting projects for the house. We haven’t cooked a single meal (besides toast) in a month, we’re just bleeding money on this renovation, and we’re relying on each other to just get through this and make it to August 1st. I know we’re lucky to have a lifestyle that allows us to spend this much time together, but we also make a lot of active choices to protect it. We live close to work so we don’t waste time commuting separately, we ride together to and from work whenever possible, and we plan activities and trips that we both love so we can do them together. This time is so special to me, and I’m actually really glad that it took this house project to make me appreciate it for what it is.

The light at the end of the tunnel is dim but getting brighter, and the only thing keeping me going is the thought of our first weekend trip. It doesn’t even have to be far, just somewhere isolated with sun, a book, the hammock, fresh air, and zero discussion about the house. ZERO.

ps… a post about this renovation is forthcoming. For now, please refer to the highlight at the top of my Insta story where all of the stories are saved.

NORWAY

NORWAY

This trip was amazing. Norway is incredible, in so many ways I never could have imagined. The landscape is constantly changing and every new curve and hill and valley brings an absolutely enormous view that puts all the others to shame. The sheer scale of the country was breathtaking and something that just can’t be described or understood through photos or videos. The height of the mountains is just overwhelming and everything is dwarfed by the landscape. It’s so mesmerizing that you start to lose perspective when you’re looking out at a fjord and everything seems normal until you focus on a tree near the top that you know is just massively tall, but looks so tiny, and yet the mountain is covered in hundreds of thousands of them, and the perspective snaps back into place.

The entire country is as close to silent as you can get while still maintaining a society. Even when we were in the middle of Oslo, which is a highly functioning city similar to Copenhagen or Rotterdam, if you closed your eyes you could have been in the middle of the countryside. The land use made it so that walking was very obviously the easiest and quickest way to get around. As a result, there were barely any cars in the city, and the public transportation was quiet, efficient, and mostly on the main streets. People walked wherever they wanted and whenever they wanted, and all other modes just had to avoid them. Everyone was so nice and so helpful, and the accents were even better than I expected! We stopped to ask for directions in one of the hundreds of tiny towns we passed through, and we met a true Viking (tall, big boned, blond hair, blue eyes, sounded like the shop keeper from Frozen) who was just exceedingly nice and not only knew which tiny deli we were looking for but also suggested a route detour that took us along a beautiful crystal clear lake and avoided a tunnel. Almost everyone was this nice, as if people knew they lived in an amazing country and wanted to share all of its best parts with us and make sure we enjoyed it as much as they did. We did.

The food was…. a struggle. There is a lot of packaged and processed food, and that seems to be the standard for quality. Norway is as expensive as everyone says, so it hurts even more when you’re spending $20 on a sandwich, and it’s crappy day-old ham and cheese wrapped in cellophane. We lucked out a few times on the trip with some truly incredible local and handmade meals which made the bill much easier to swallow, pun intended ;-). We don’t hold ourselves to our diet while we’re traveling, simply because we love food and we want to experience as much as we can while we’re visiting. Everywhere else we’ve been, we could have avoided dairy and meat if we’d wanted to, but honestly we would’ve starved in Norway if we hadn’t eaten both. We looked for hummus everywhere we went, and only saw one tub in a grocery store the entire time, so we ate pasta and sauce when we could, and splurged when we had to. Reindeer and whale meat, however, were on every menu and shelf along with moose, goat, and lamb (which cemented my disinterest in eating meat after seeing all of the baby lambs on the hillsides and then picturing them floating in my soup). When in Rome… so we ate some lamb soup, had goat sausage and goat cheese on a pizza, and Brian sampled a few of the more ethically contested meats at the market in Bergen.

When I planned the trip, I knew I wanted us to see as much of the landscape as possible, but I’d read that the best way to do that was by car, stopping in tiny towns, and pulling over for photos and hikes whenever we wanted. Our normal travel approach of exploring big cities by bike wasn’t going to work here, so I took a leap of faith and planned a road trip. Brian and I have never been on a road trip together or separately so I was pretty anxious while I planned the trip and tried to minimize our driving days where I could. Unsurprisingly, we haven’t ever spent much time in a car together, and my history with spending long periods of time in cars with my family convinced me that driving this much was a huge mistake. Luckily, it turned out to be completely fine, and we both completely agreed that this was the best and only way to see as much of Norway as we did, and with the amount of flexibility that we prefer. We never would have had our favorite meal of the trip or stayed in our favorite town if we’d taken trains or buses or stayed only in the big cities.

The roads throughout the country were in perfect condition, and the tunnels were in amazing shape too. We paid a LOT of tolls along the way (still waiting to get that bill from the rental company…), but it’s clear that the tolls and taxes are supporting high quality infrastructure which is a refreshing change from the US. Even on mountain roads that were 1200 meters above sea level and covered by 50+ feet of snow in the winter, the pavement was in great condition and perfectly clean. The max speed limit on rural roads is 90km/h (55mph) which actually felt very very fast in most cases due to the winding and weaving turns.

The actual driving itself was definitely a rush, and we dove right in, driving one of the most famously intense roads in the country on our first day in the car. We wound through hundreds of hairpin turns, up and down mountains, sometimes climbing 1200 meters a day. After the first few tunnels, we started tallying them for fun, not imagining that we’d pass through 105!! Brian drove 54 of those in 2 days, including the longest tunnel in the world, 25km long. We checked the snow closure roads every day leading up to the trip, since two of our main routes are closed over the winter and typically open between the middle of May and middle of June. We had alternate routes planned in case they weren’t open, but both of them opened literally the day before we arrived! When I mapped out the routes, I did some (very) minor street viewing just to get an idea of the drive, and I was sure we’d have a few boring days of long haul routes between destinations. Turns out I was about as wrong as I could possibly be, there was not one single boring/ugly/plain moment of the entire trip, once again proving that Google street view just cannot capture the landscape. We even decided not to take one of the country’s national scenic routes to save time, and the ‘alternate’ route ended up being one of our favorite roads ever.

I worked pretty hard on our route, and it really paid off. We were able to see most of the best-known viewpoints and experienced the full spectrum of Norwegian lifestyles from apartments in the city center and ‘hyttes’ on a hill in the countryside. We would love to go back someday, and we would absolutely recommend this trip to everyone. I’ll share the details of our itinerary in a separate post with links, driving directions, and tons of pictures!