I’ve thought to myself over the past few weeks that if it’s one thing the world doesn’t need more of right now, it’s negativity and toxic energy. So I’ve kept quiet. I’ve worked from home for three weeks now, kept to my routine, cooked actual meals most days of the week, put my face on every morning regardless of whether I’ve had any meetings that day or not, honoured my commitments to myself and my gratitude group, et cetera. Goddammit, I’ve even BAKED. I’ve basically done everything you’re ”meant” to do in a self-imposed lockdown to not lose your shit. I still haven’t lost my shit but I’m not exactly jolly. I try to manage my thoughts to not get annoyed with all the self-proclaimed epidemiology experts and I try to be compassionate with friends and acquaintances abroad who shout at me about Sweden not being under full lockdown. I also try to bother caring about the fact that all my antenatal classes have been cancelled due to Covid and to not lose my shit about H no longer being allowed at the maternity clinic and at the postnatal care unit.

It’s hard. At the same time, I feel lucky to the point where I also grapple with guilt. This pandemic is doing an excellent job of unveiling exactly how unjust and unfair our societies are. Women and children living in unsafe homes across the world, now unable to escape even for work and school. Workers at the front line without the ability to protect themselves—and no, I’m not talking about healthcare workers, I’m talking about the people behind the till at your local grocery store. And that’s not to mention people losing their jobs, loved ones, and sometimes life itself. I feel exceptionally lucky to be able to work from home, and I feel exceptionally lucky that my home happens to be a house that has a garden. We’re healthy, safe, and well. Still, I’m not exactly jolly.

The one good thing about this is that I allow myself to not be jolly. I still get up and get things done. A bit slower than normal for sure, but I still show up. And I try to remind myself that this isn’t a blip. This isn’t life being on hold. This is life. It’s different for sure, but this is life now.

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These past few weeks have kicked the absolute crap out of me. I know I’m not alone. It’s as though everything is upside down, uncertainty is running high and it’s impossible to know what the world will look like in just 24 hours. The markets are tumbling, all work plans need to be taken back to the drawing board, and, of course, none of this matters when you think about the bigger perspective and the fact that many elderly—including the ones in my life—seem to think that they, for some reason, won’t be affected by Covid-19.

*DEEP SIGH*. Regardless, the show must go on in whatever way possible. Both H and I have been working from home over the past two weeks and I’ve never been more grateful for living in such a big space. We take one floor each, have lunch together before going back to our respective offices and then meet for dinner. And repeat. I am also grateful that the schools haven’t closed. The house is big… But not that big.

My home office

This past week was meant to be a particularly busy week, with events happening almost every day. They were all, of course, cancelled. Christin and AB Småland took a particularly wonderful approach when they had to cancel their breakfast event. Instead of just cancelling the event altogether, they put together a goodie bag with fresh flowers, lunch, and bed linen from the very bedding collection the event was meant to promote and sent it to all the guests.

Such a clever way of getting the message out, amplifying it through social media, and making something great out of an otherwise pretty rubbish situation. Bravo.

There have been some other glimmers of hope these past weeks as well. Like going swimming for the first time in months, a direct result of getting my first parcel of maternity clothes delivered. Jamming in the music room with H and the kids. And yesterday I even went for a walk in the sun with Vanja. It’s difficult to notice with everything going on, but spring has arrived. And so has my third trimester. And before we know it, all of a sudden it will be mid-June, social distancing is a thing of the past, and Baby B is finally here.

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Baby B is due to arrive in exactly 100 days. Though of course, if he’s anything like me, he’ll be a bit of a time optimist, know that he’s got plenty of time until he all of a sudden has none, and then be in a great rush and inevitably arrive what’s definitely late, but not so late that it’s rude. Or he’ll be like his father and arrive exactly on time.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

”Does this mean I might be pregnant?”

I had no reason to believe I was pregnant. My period wasn’t even late yet and it’s not like I felt that I was pregnant in any way. But for some reason I felt compelled to take a test. I’m pretty good at pinpointing intuitive feelings, and this was something else. I really didn’t think I was pregnant to the point where I thought it was a bit funny that I was going to buy a test, but for some reason I did it anyway. It was a Saturday, H was away for the weekend and I was home alone with the big kids when I took both tests. It felt entirely unreal and I almost didn’t believe it. I remember thinking that ”well these tests are the cheap ones, they might be wrong?”. And then I thought that I might also just miscarry. Regardless, it felt very unreal.

I went to Kallis the next day with a friend who told me she’d found out about nine pregnancies over the past five weeks. Crazy. I didn’t say anything about my own recent discovery. And in any case, it felt more like ”I might be pregnant” as opposed to ”I’m having a baby”. And that’s what I said to H when he came back home and asked what the weekend had been like. ”I might be pregnant”. This is a very odd way of saying ”I took two tests and they both show that I’m pregnant”.

”This is how big it is now”, week 6

Then all we had to do was wait. And wait. I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait for the 13-week scan to find out if there was a heartbeat, so I booked a private consultation. Still, they wouldn’t let me come in before week 8, which meant I had four long weeks of waiting. It was exhausting and I had a constant underlying fear that I would miscarry. Miscarriages are common and they are normal. Miscarrying doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong with the mother. And miscarrying once (or thrice, or more) definitely does not mean the mother won’t be able to get pregnant again.

It’s a fetus! Baby B at eight weeks gestation.

But I cried with fear when we entered the consultation room, both for the 8-week and 13-week scan, and I cried with relief when we heard his heartbeat. His nickname was first the Blueberry (Blåbäret), and then the Raspberry (Hallonet) until we did the 20-week scan and found out it was a boy.

Baby B’s mum (that’s me!) right after the 20-week scan

Doing the 20-week scan was a huge source of joy. This is the scan when you find out if anything’s wrong with the baby. I didn’t start eating folic acid until week 12 and you’re really meant to eat if before you get pregnant for it to have any material impact on your baby’s development, and I just wasn’t aware. For weeks I was worried that maybe my baby would have birth defects as a direct result of my ignorance. But the 20-week scan showed that our baby is ”perfect” (our midwife’s words, but they could’ve been mine!) and I had never been happier.

Week 25: Getting ready

I feel surprisingly close to him already. I’ve only seen him on various screens and in various scans, but I feel him kick several times a day and I surprise myself by talking to him daily. There are many things about my pregnancy that have been a joyous surprise, and feeling such a strong connection already is one of them.

100 days to go—if he’s anything like his father—and I can’t wait to meet him.

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Today is International Women’s Day and it reminds me of how people have asked us if we’re finding out the sex of our baby. It was always a given to me that we would. Raising a girl is different from raising a boy. Girls typically face different challenges than boys do, and society typically treats girls differently than it treats boys. We know very little about the baby in my tummy. We don’t know anything about the baby’s personality, whether it will love sweetcorn like its dad, whether it will insist on learning to play the piano at the age of four like its sister, or whether it will refuse to take no for an answer like its mum (I’m still working on that one).

But we do know that it’s a healthy baby boy (!). Knowing this means that we know that he is likelier to be told ”big boys don’t cry” and it’s likely that society will excuse poor behaviour with ”boys will be boys”. It means he’s likelier to grow up and suppress his feelings than his female counterparts. He’s likelier to commit suicide. He’s likelier to take unnecessary risk, likelier to be in traffic accidents. He’s also, of course, likelier to commit atrocious and violent crimes. And since the majority of men’s violence is targeted at other men, he’s also likelier to be the victim of atrocious and violent crimes.

The patriarchy hurts all of us. It’s financially beneficial to men but the upside ends there. And raising feminists, whether boys or girls, is the beginning and the end of the feminist struggle.

Today is International Women’s Day and it reminds me that we’re having a boy! I am overjoyed. I will do my very best to raise a feminist, to encourage him to talk about his feelings, and to never tell him that big boys don’t cry. We all know that they do.

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For several weeks now I’ve been restless, bored, perhaps a bit unhappy? Then again I’m never truly unhappy. I can go through several days (weeks?) of complete darkness but still feel a deep appreciation for what I have. And I love that. I love the feeling of gratitude that follows me wherever I go. I also think that’s why most people seem to think I’m always happy, positive, and optimistic, even when I’m definitely not.

Anyway. Things felt much better this week. It might be the fact that it’s now March, or that it’s bright outside when I wake up, or that I’ve actually had an extraordinary week. Here’s what I’ve been up to.


Monday: Lisa was visiting from San Francisco and we went to Saluhallen for lunch. I rarely go out for lunch and it’s such a treat every time I do.

Tuesday: I published this on Instagram and someone asked me why I didn’t order dinner through Foodora. I hadn’t had food delivered in actual years so it didn’t even occur to me that I could, but I had a burger delivered from Tugg in less than an hour after I published this and it was extraordinary! Highly recommend.

Wednesday: Lisa (another Lisa!) and her baby Eva came to mine for dinner. Lisa and I went to sixth form together and spent eight wild weeks in London together back in 2008. We were 18 at the time, practically children, though of course it felt like we were very old and wise hehe. Lisa and I were born one day apart and it’s a bit crazy to think that our babies will now be born seven months apart. The circle of life.

Thursday: I was invited to a breakfast event with JWHF and Sparbanken Syd. I’m obviously biased but I’m seriously impressed with JWHF’s and Christin’s events management skills. Every JWHF event I’ve ever been to has been well-curated, beautiful, and relaxed. This might sound easy, but it’s not. This event, in particular, was about pensions and personal finance. Women are still far behind men when it comes to pensions, investments, and ownership at large so it remains an important topic.

Friday: Some colleagues and I went to Saluhallen for a tipple after work. It’s wild how I’ve barely noticed the transition from loving long nights out to being perfectly happy with a 90-minute drink on a Friday night, even though that transition has taken place over the course of years. There’s nothing astonishing about this transition hehe, other than that I couldn’t see it coming. And sometimes I even forget that it’s actually happened.

BONUS! Also on Friday, H came back home after two (lol) days away and he was greeted with a bag full of his favourite stuff (plus flowers… they were mainly for me). I’ve realised over the course of our relationship that I tend to show love and affection through presents and gestures. It didn’t really occur to me until I read a summary of The Five Love Languages, which also, by the way, made me see how many different ways there are to express love.

And that was my week. Extraordinary, really.

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We somehow made it through to March and today felt like the first Real Day of Spring™. And what a day for it. I had my 25-week check-in with my midwife this morning and our baby appears to be in excellent shape, and so do I! I’ve put on a healthy amount of weight, not too much and not too little, which is remarkable considering how many semlas I had throughout February hehe. I’m so grateful for my strong and able body, not least since I’ve been in a pretty poor state of mind recently. I’ve cried often and a lot, seriously questioned whether this parenting thing is for me, and wondered how I can be a good parent when I didn’t have a parent at all growing up. Basically, lots of great material for my therapist to work through with me as I prepare for motherhood. Wonderful :)))))

So yes, the past few weeks have been hard. But then I woke up today, the sun was shining, my baby was healthy, I had two great morning meetings, and I cycled to Saluhallen for lunch with Lisa who is visiting from San Francisco. Everything felt a little bit better and it was as though I could breathe again.

Today was a phenomenal day.

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It’s been exceptionally rainy over the past few days (weeks?) and I haven’t really left the house other than going to the office. I have spent a lot of time online though! Here are some excellent pieces I’ve found over the past few days.

Boltenstern chopping onions

Chopping onions with BoltensternThere was a time in my life when I needed tops a half onion per meal. That was before I lived in a family of five. I did the math and these days I spend roughly two full days a year chopping onions. That’s an awful lot of onion chopping and an awful lot of time, so I was very intrigued when I read a blog post by Isabel on the Clas Ohlson onion chopper. I bought one yesterday and it has already changed my life. I did all of next week’s onion chopping in the course of minutes.

 

Swift in Miss Americana

Miss Americana on Netflix: I’ve never had much of an opinion when it comes to Taylor Swift, but I’ve obviously taken notice of how she’s been treated like absolute crap by the press (and Kanye West) over the years. So much of how she’s been portrayed is a textbook example of how women at large are treated by the public. She’s incredibly hard-working, has never done anything wrong in the public domain ever, and that apparently is reason enough to be labelled ”annoying”. It really goes to show that as a woman, you just can’t win. Anyway, I heard many good things about the Netflix documentary about her called Miss Americana, so I watched it this afternoon and wasn’t disappointed. I’m still not a particularly huge fan of her music, but I’m a huge fan of her.

 

Lorenz on CNN, explaining memes to the boomer generation

NYT’s Taylor Lorenz on the rise of memes in the US election: Two Taylors in one blog post! Oh well. Taylor Lorenz is NYT’s phenomenal internet culture reporter, and she’s recently toured all the big TV networks in the US explaining what memes are (lol) and how they’re used as a way to reach young voters and bypass the strict ads guidelines that are now in place on social networks such as Facebook. Taylor is an excellent reporter and she is also bloody hilarious, I highly recommend following her on Instagram to get the latest when it comes to TikTok, memes, and all the rest of it.

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You didn’t think I’d forgotten about my decade in review, did you? I totally didn’t. We’ve now arrived in 2016, the year when I turned 27 and the year of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum.

It started less dramatic though. Julia, A, and I had celebrated the holidays in the US and on January 2 we started our road trip from LA to SF along highway one. It was just as beautiful as they say it is. I can’t see myself doing a road trip like that again anytime soon, so I’m really glad I did it when I had the chance.

Driving along highway one with my bf and best mate—not a bad start to 2016.

I went back to London and tried to stay focused. I spent my weekends doing yoga and my weekdays trying to not grow frustrated. The startup where I was working was struggling to raise its next round and it affected everything from the mood to the hiring plan and the day-to-day work.

Yoga in my Stoke Newington lounge.

Still, I felt in good spirits as A and I flew off to Sweden for a weekend with my best mates in a cottage in Knäred. We spent the entire weekend going for long walks, drinking buckets of wine and reminiscing about the past. Sweden seemed much less hostile than it had done in the past.

Long walks in Knäred.

I went back to work on Monday and was casually brought into a meeting room with my boss and our legal counsel. They explained that they had to let the entire comms function go, making all of us redundant. I was shell shocked. And intrigued. I had no idea what it meant really, but I was sent home on the spot. We would negotiate the terms of my redundancy over the next few weeks, and looking back I did really well for myself. Being unemployed was extremely scary of course, but I set my mind to work out something phenomenal.

Felt spoken to by an NYC gate.

In addition to securing three months worth of salary, I also somehow managed to convince my former employer that they should still let me go to NYC on the company trip I was already booked in on. I was going to Social Media Week on my own, and I suppose the tickets were already paid for. So I went to NYC for the first time ever, stayed with Julia, and had a glorious if somewhat anxious time.

An NYC morning.

New York felt like coming home. It might have been growing up with SATC, but somehow it felt like I’d been there several times before. I had several acquaintances in the city and seeing them planted a seed of me moving to New York at some point in the future. It seemed unattainable at the time, particularly as A flat out refused even talking about moving back to NYC (which is where he is from).

Job hunting from my Stoke Newington flat.

In any case, I went back to London and went to work. I met with recruiters, startups, and PR agencies. I went for countless coffees and even more drinks with potential leads. I outlined creative campaigns, PR strategies, and press releases as part of several simultaneous hiring processes. I’d managed to build a great CV in only a few years and although I eventually got two rejections, I ended up with five job offers after five weeks. I was ecstatic, because the offers were really good. They ranged from big and posh PR agencies to up and coming startups. I eventually decided to go with a small boutique agency that specialised in startup PR. The office was located in the Tea Building in Shoreditch, which is the same building where I’d had my first ever job in PR three years before.

Julia and I, NYC April 2016

I had barely started my new agency job before I flew back to NYC for the second time in two months. I’d booked the trip the year before, way before I knew I’d spend NYE in California and that I’d be going to Social Media Week in February. This time, A came along and we roadtripped from NYC down to Washington DC. I remember it as the trip when I saw spring for the first time. I’d never before noticed what the trees look like when they’re in bloom and after a long and hard winter, it felt like I could truly see and appreciate it for the first time ever.

Wrapping up at the office after a 15-hour day

Meanwhile in London, agency life was hard. Really hard. We’d usually get in around 9am, rarely leave before 8pm and sometimes not before midnight. At the same time, I had a great time with many of my colleagues, particularly one of them who became a really good friend and taught me a lot.

Hiking in Austria, May 2016

I went on a weekend trip to Austria with another good friend of mine. We went hiking in the Alps, had long brunches and lavish cocktails. Meanwhile, things started getting a bit rocky with A. Over the course of the next few months, many things would start to feel a bit off. Work drained me, my relationship made me feel weak and vulnerable, I stopped exercising as there literally wasn’t enough hours in the day, my friends started to leave London at an increasing pace, and everything just felt… Off.

Lounging by the pool, France May 2016

Ivy and Darren got married and rented an actual castle in the French countryside to celebrate. It was a crazy week and all things being equal, I should’ve had an amazing time. One of my best friends was getting married in a beautiful ceremony, the food was extraordinary, we played tennis and hung out by the pool every day, and yet I felt unsure, insecure, and absolute rubbish.

Håkan Hellström at Ullevi

I flew straight from France to Sweden and worked from one of our clients’ offices in Stockholm for a few days. I remember speaking English during my time in Stockholm because that’s how insecure I was about my Swedish. I also remember people leaving the office in Stureplan around 5pm and me thinking that ”wow, they’re already leaving and the day has basically just begun”. Once the weekend came around I roadtripped with some friends to Gothenburg for the Håkan Hellström concert at Ullevi. For the first time ever, I started wondering whether I could live in Sweden.

Midsummer, Tjörn

That feeling was very much reinforced when I, a few weeks later, returned to Sweden to celebrate Midsummer. It coincided with the Brexit referendum and I couldn’t fucking believe it when 52% voted in favour of leaving the EU. I was an immigrant in the UK, having lived, studied and worked there for eight years, I was working 14-hour days, paying extortionate rent and even more in taxes, and the people wanted me out. Or at least that’s what it felt like. It became incredibly personal. Meanwhile, my colleagues had started to leave the agency and I had a hunch that something was up. I even asked one of my superiors if something indeed was up, and whether we would be made redundant. He gave a vague, sort of non-answer.

My neighbours, following the EU referendum

So one day, just a few weeks later, I randomly googled ”startup PR jobs Malmö”, mainly to see what was out there. I found an ad for a position as the Communications Lead at the startup house in Malmö. The deadline for applications was that day, so I sent them an email, mainly to see whether I’d have something to offer them on a freelance basis. I didn’t have any concrete plans of actually leaving London, but the CEO of the startup house got in touch already the next day and set up an interview for that afternoon. It was a great call and he asked me to put together a presentation of how I would do the job if it was offered to me. And two days later, my team and I were called into a meeting at the agency where the CEO explained to us that the agency was shutting down and we were all made redundant. Haha. You can’t make this shit up. It was my second redundancy in six months and I’d had it with London.

Sealing the deal! Signing the contract with Minc, the startup house in Malmö.

I flew to Malmö, had an eight-hour-long interview with the startup house, and signed the contract that afternoon. Needless to say, this was a pretty defining moment in my life. I would leave London and move back to Sweden, to a city where I’d never lived. I had no idea what to expect.

My solo trip to Turkey in August, 2016

I was exhausted from what had been a crazy year, so I decided to go to Turkey on a solo, DIY yoga retreat before starting my new gig. I stayed at a pretty basic camp, ate lots of locally sourced food, did yoga two hours a day, and read about ten books. It was amazing and just what I needed.

Starting my new job

And then I moved to Sweden and told all the papers about it 🙂 Most of them got my name right, this one above wasn’t one of them lol. I was exceptionally excited and had bucket-loads of energy. Minc hadn’t really done any PR before. There wasn’t even a press office so I set everything up from scratch and loved every second of it. I was the last person to leave the office at 6pm every evening and I couldn’t believe my luck. I had my own flat that cost basically nothing compared to London rents, an amazing job that I excelled at, and lots of energy from not having to deal with all the people that you’re surrounded by 24/7 in a place like London.

Katten moving in!

I’d wanted a cat for ages and now seemed to be the right time. So when this rescue cat popped up in my Facebook feed I decided to jump on it. I named him Katten and he moved in a few weeks later in what remains one of my best decisions. I loved him from Day 1.

Christmas break with Katten

A slightly more questionable decision was the fact that A moved with me to Sweden. We’d been on-off for a while and looking back, it made little sense for us to make the move together. But we did, and hoped that things would get better. They didn’t really, and our relationship was the one thing that felt off as the year ended.

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I’m yet to figure out a way of meditating and it’s pretty far down on my list of priorities. I struggle sitting still and simply observe my thoughts while feeling sensations in my body. It’s hard. There’s one thing I’m exceptionally good at that sort of falls in the same realm, and it’s practising gratitude. I haven’t always been good at this. As a child, I was obsessed with what I didn’t have. There were many things. Love, compassion, stability. But those things are difficult for a child to pinpoint and grasp. Instead, I saw things that are much easier for a child to see, that there was little money, that most of my clothes came from thrift shops (this was way before it was cool), that we couldn’t afford me doing any kind of sports, and so on. Money always seemed to be an issue. As a result, I was very young when I started dreaming of the life I would build myself with the help of money. I got my first job when I was 13, earning £3/hour, and I haven’t stopped working since. And in the process, I’ve somehow managed to build myself a much nicer life than I ever could’ve imagined.

I think about this every single day. The journey from living a life of scarcity to one of abundance. I’m grateful for so many things today, and so many seemingly small things. I look into our fridge and find it amazing that we can always keep it well-stocked. I love the sensation of lifting heavy weights at the gym and I’m so grateful that I have a strong and able body. I’m grateful for having a job where I’m constantly pushed way beyond my fairly big comfort zone. I’m grateful for my bike and for living in a city where I don’t need a car to get around. I’m grateful for the sea, and more than anything, I’m grateful for being able to feel gratitude. It is exceptionally difficult to feel gratitude about the small things in life when you worry about the big things, like having enough money to get by, or facing social exclusion.

Practising gratitude is a big part of my life. Science (yes) shows that gratitude works. Personally, I almost think of it as praying, and in a way, it sort of is. Over the next six weeks I’m taking my gratitude prayers to the next level. A friend of mine has set up a WhatsApp chat group where four of us will list 1-3 things we’re grateful for every day through what is called ”micro gratitudes”. Micro gratitudes are meant to be very precise, much, much more precise than ”I’m grateful for having a strong and able body”, and for maximum effect, you should avoid repetition. In case this sounds interesting, you can read more about it here.

On my gratitude list today: I had my second semla in two days and instead of thinking that ”I probably shouldn’t have two semlas in two days” I thought ”how amazing that I now no longer think that I shouldn’t have two semlas in two days!”. I’ve finally managed to grow the self-respect needed to not bash myself for having two semlas in two days. Wow. What a treat (pun intended).

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It’s always the same thing. After a major deadline, when I’ve been working day, night and weekends, I feel empty and depleted. It’s as though I don’t really know what to do with all the time that I all of a sudden have. I start questioning fundamentals and I feel incredibly lonely as a direct result of having the time to stop and think. And when I feel lonely, I crawl back into my shell and avoid things like social media. This is very ironic, because the majority of my social life happens on Instagram. I have so many Instagram friends that I’ve never or rarely met irl, so when I go offline, the majority of my social life disappears as a result.

So, yes. I’ve felt very lonely over these past two weeks, and it’s sort of interesting because it really goes to show that feelings come from thoughts. If I look at what I’ve actually done, I’ve been far from lonely or alone. If anything, I’ve had two exceptional weeks with lots of love and laughter. I’ve gone to the cinema with colleagues, I’ve been to my sister’s birthday party, I’ve gone out for dinner with an acquaintance, I’ve seen my PT, I’ve gone crib shopping with H, I’ve been for dinner at my mum-in-law’s, we had my sister-in-law over for a night of board games and tea. The list goes on. And yet, I’ve felt… Skinless. And lonely.

I’ve taken this weekend to get back on track a bit. We’ve barely left the house and it’s exactly what I needed. It used to be exceptionally hard for me to do nothing for an entire weekend, particularly when there are so many things to do in the house—decisions to make, curtains to buy, plants to repot, et cetera. But I’ve done none of that this weekend. Instead, I’ve made scones, finished a book, gone through some baby clothes, fallen asleep with Katten on the sofa… You know. Not much at all.

It’s been wonderful. And I haven’t felt lonely even once.

A snapshot from this weekend. 14.35, still in my PJs.
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