spent a cozy saturday night with my love & our friend… eating pizza, sipping sparkling wine, telling stories. just lovely.
who’s ready for july?! peace out.
how is it possible that today is the last day of june?! where has this year gone? we are halfway through 2012 already. it’s crazy.
well, because it’s the last day of the first half of the year i thought i’d do a little looking back (you know how i am about reflecting & reminiscing. i love it.). there have been some really great things (a visit from a friend in the states, my job becoming a permanent position, plenty of cozy moments with my love), but it has also been quite a difficult 6 months as well. the past 2 months have given me a chance to reflect a lot, and i have realized that i have been in survival mode in some ways… enjoying & clinging to the amazing moments, of which there have been plenty. but, also fighting and surviving through some really difficult things. things that require much more fighting.
but, in some ways, i think that my survival mode has been what’s kept me sane. that, and my understanding that even though things are tough, there is something beautiful to be found in every day. still, i think that my instincts to be strong & fight get me into some kind of groove where i don’t realize how bad things may be. i am an eternal optimist. and a true believer in the idea that all things teach us something, all moments, all struggles can transform us if we allow it. and it’s good that i’m like that. but, if i’m honest, and now that i can look back, i have gained much more perspective. i can see all the amazing moments and all of the moments that i felt scared & defeated. it’s a little like 2012 has been oil & vinager. good & bad. amazing & heart-breaking.
i know i haven’t written much about the heartbreak & fear on my blog, but it is very personal. perhaps one day i will tell that story. for now, though, i am still in the middle of living it. still fighting, still adjusting to changes in my life, still clinging on to hope , still fighting, and still learning. it’s still too soon to write about it publicly.
but, as i embark on the beginning of the second half of the year tomorrow, i am poised and ready to keep fighting and to keep soaking up the moments of life. i enter the second half of the year certain of how strong i am, more in love with my wife than ever, humbled by the life that i live, and inspired to grab life by the horns and follow our dreams more than ever.
i thought i’d end with my favorite picture from the instagram photo a day challenge this month. i took it when i had some wonderful moments with my love. just being together. soaking up the sun (which has not been around that much this june) and simply enjoying a little stolen moment of peace & love… even in the midst of chaos.
so, today i say goodbye to the first half of 2012. i lay it to rest and close this chapter of the year. i am ready to embark on the second half of the year, with hope, strength, and more love than i could ever imagine for the woman i share my life with. and of course, i am ready to begin my instagram photo a day challenge for july. however, i’m only gonna post my pictures once a week this month. time to switch it up again.
i’ve said it before, and i’ll say it again. this photo challenge has inspired me so much. boosted my photography stills. encouraged my creative side. and most definitely given me a chance to slow down each day and see beauty even in the most ordinary and dreary moments. yes, i’m beginning my 5th month of this challenge. perhaps i’m actually going to stick with it through the whole rest of the year?!
join me if you’d like! it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it. just snap a pic & post it somewhere to share with others on Facebook, instagram, your blog, twitter, pinterest. you’ll be amazed how you will begin to see things differently. here’s the list for july thanks to chantelle at fatmumslim!
happy second half of 2012, my dear readers!!
wishing you 6 months filled with love, beauty, happiness, strength, & peace.
a few days ago i received a comment from someone who works at InterNations, a website dedicated to connecting & providing information for ex-pats (people who live in countries other than their country of origin) living in over 300 cities worldwide. of course i read the comment with skepticism, and checked out the website only to find out it was actually legit. but, the really cool thing was that they were interested in featuring my blog on their website. or at least that’s what the comment said. what?! ummm… yes, thank you!
so, i replied to the comment in an email, to get more information, and see if this was truly real or some kind of scam. turns out they really did want to feature my blog on their website so i needed to do a little interview, do a little writing, send some links to my blog, and then wait to see what might happen… that was yesterday.
this morning i received another email informing me that my blog is now one of the featured blogs at InterNations! you can find it here. (or click on the picture).
i am so excited! as i’ve been writing this post i have received 3 new followers on twitter and a retweet by the website. i seriously love making new connections all around the world. i’m so inspired when i read others’ stories; and in turn, it motivates me to write more & more. i’ve got a little secret to confess… i am truly beginning to dream about writing full-time. what a life that would be… i know it’s tough and i have no idea how to even begin, but my soul is saying for me to follow that dream. and hopefully, i am at the beginning of making that dream a reality.
now. what comes next? any tips & suggestions are more than welcome.
one little tidbit of inspiration for all of you out there… follow your dreams, listen to your soul, connect with yourself. when you do, you’ll be amazed at how things open up for you. the universe is just waiting to give you all you desire. be brave & be true to yourself. no matter the consequences.
happy friday! peace.
i’m not sure why, but i’m in a girl power kinda mood tonight. if i was into burning bras, i would do it right now. if there was a women’s rights protest happening nearby, i’d go there. some days i feel more like a feminist than others. i have no reason to be feeling that way today, nothing happened. nothing at all. i just feel it. sometimes i feel it when i see my wife, when i think of her, when i am proud to be married to her because we are women, because she is who she is. sometimes i feel how all women are strongly connected and part of each other. sometimes it’s just a day to embrace my feminism, what it means to be a woman, and the importance of all girls to have the chance to feel this surge of girl power rising from within them. some days i just feel empowered. strong. proud.
there are many, many amazing women out there. i have met a great deal and have had the joy of all kinds of amazing women passing through my life. and then there are many who i have not met, but have inspired me just as much. so, here are some quotes… just some women & some words that inspire me that i thought i’d share with you. i may have gone over the top, but there’s just so much good stuff that can’t be missed.
“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
― Gloria Steinem
“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world” ― Virginia Woolf
“Experiment! Meet new people. That’s better than any college education . . . By adventuring; about, you become accustomed to the unexpected. The unexpected then becomes what it really is . . . the inevitable.” ― Amelia Earhart
“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” – Anne Frank.
“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” ― Jane Austen
“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”
― Coco Chanel
“Finally, by the sea, where God is everywhere, I gradually calmed.” ― Patti Smith
“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” ― Joan of Arc
“You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.” ― Michelle Obama
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” ― St. Catherine of Siena
“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.
“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” – Maya Angelou.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? – Marianne Williamson.
peace, love, rainbows, & girl power.
i snatched this from facebook. one of my former seminary professors posted it on his wall. he’s one of the ones who taught me so much during my master’s degree studies to be a minister/pastor. guess what classes i had with him? theology & ethics. yep. i remember sitting in his class, as it was truly with ALL of my classes… i realized for the first time that i was not the only liberal theologian/minister out there. i felt like i always took liberal theology too far. then i went to seminary. and it felt great to be backed up & understood & challenged even further by brilliant professors.
you see, all of us church people aren’t so bad, stupid, closed-minded, and conservative. we’re not bible beaters trying to save souls, but estabish relationships and work together. there are plenty of us who believe in inclusion, healing, equality, and diversity. and all we really wanna do is just co-exist and respect each and every person. just as they are. and by the way, i believed what i believe now before i had any clue i’d end up marrying a woman. just so you know.
peace out peeps.
gaaahhh. i read on someone’s blog somewhere about an idea of posting without words, only pictures; and i can’t remember who’s blog it is!! gaaahh. i’m so frustrated. i have been through all my blog readers, searching for the post, but the idea of a “wordless wednesday” was not the theme of the whole post, it was just mentioned in the post… who the heck was it that wrote about it?! ugh. this is how you know you read too many blogs.
well, i am so wordy sometimes, i thought it’d be fun to do a post with just picture(s) and let the image(s) do the talking (thanks to the unknown blog post). of course, i’m only gonna use my own pics. and i’m starting wordless wednesday sright now.
so, here’s the first post. next time there will be no words at all. ok. one word at the end of my post. oh, and if you’re the one who posted pics from a beautiful place in the world and wrote about wordless wednesdays, please let me know! i wanna give you credit.
but, it’s not possible for me to go home to north carolina this summer. lina & i discussed it today, and we are aching to go there. longing to heal this hurting that is deep in our hearts. and while our minds are dreaming of this place, we know that we will be staying here. so, it’s time to dig deep and focus on the joys that come with staying in sweden this summer.
reasons i love living in sweden:
1. you can find ice cream. anytime. anywhere. whenever you are craving it. because swedes love their ice cream. it just so happened i craved it this afternoon. and voila! craving satisfied.
2. when i look up, i see this.
3. when i look down the street i see this.
4. when i need to buy groceries or pick up a package in the mail, i go here to my historical building-turned-grocery store/post office (where i shop: photo a day june).
5. every time i arrive home, i see this date on the foundation of my building, reminding me that it was built 105 years ago.
so, though i am missing summer in north carolina, i am working hard to remember all the perks of living in sweden. i mean, come on. it’s europe. everything’s old. and gorgeous. i don’t have too much to complain about. but, on those days & moments when i find myself missing my family, i will look up, or out my window, or down the street and soak in all the beauty. it’s so important to try to live in the present moment, to not always be wishing you were somewhere else, but appreciating all that is around. i refuse to be that person who is stuck wishing for the past or waiting for the future. instead, i am going to refocus & create a beautiful summer exactly where i am.
well, i’m gonna try. and if anyone wants to come & visit, you’re more than welcome! i’ll play tour guide!
peace and summer love wherever you are.
“all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
~ Julian of Norwich
one of my blog friends, german-american abroad, asked me to write a little bit about my decision to move to sweden and my first reactions to living here. she knows that i am working to begin writing down parts of my story in book-form here online, but asked if i could write on this subject now. of course! it is a little out of order, but, perhaps it’s a great way to get stuff written down. there is no rule saying that i need to tell my story in chronological order, right? actually, it could be cool to do it this way.
in my last “from death to peace” (which is not the title of my book, just something i using right now since i don’t have a title) post, i wrote the very beginning of my book. and the beginning began with my death. now i am jumping to the end of my story: my move to sweden. of course, the story i am telling is not the story of my whole life, just a certain time period over about 4-5 years. in any case, here comes the closing. where my journey from death to peace led me.
i will, of course, fill in all the details of my journey from my death to my new life in sweden in later posts; for that is the heart of my story.
i met lina just as i began to die. just as i began to realize that i needed a change in my life. ok. not a change. a complete overhaul. i met her just as i was beginning to feel and listen to my soul. just as i was beginning to take my life back, so i could live again (or perhaps for the first time) and be true to myself. i met lina just as i begin to follow the dreams that i had been keeping locked deep inside me for twelve years. it was the summer of 2007.
ironically, or magically, or providentially, i met lina when i was thirty-two, in the exact same situation and place where i first felt my soul twelve years earlier. it was a place, a way of living that, in the summer of 1995, i knew deep in my twenty year old soul that i needed to be. a place, a way of life that would most definitely be a part of my life. it just took me fifteen years to get there.
in june, 1995, a naive, twenty year old college girl hopped on a plane for the first time and jetted off to scandinavia. the plan was to travel with four other girls & two boys (and married couple who served as our leaders) to visit united methodist churches in denmark, norway, sweden, finland, & estonia. it was sort of a relational exchange program that had been going on between scandinavian & north carolinian methodists for fifty years, and i was chosen to be part of the team for the summer before my last year of university studies. what an opportunity! five weeks in europe! not just touring, but living with and establishing relationships with people from other parts of the world. it was a dream come true for lil ‘ole me.
i could probably write a book about those five weeks, but that’s not the story i’m telling now. i will share with you that, during that trip, i met many people who i kept in touch with and many who touched me, but i’d never hear from again. why would i? and when the five weeks were over, something had changed inside of me. better yet, something was awakened in me. i felt a longing, an aching to live in europe. in scandinavia. at that time, specifically in denmark. i began wondering how it would be possible to move there after i graduated, but i came up with no good plans. i saw no possible ways.
stubborn determination took over, however, and i did not let the dream die. instead, i refocused on being a missionary in another part of the world. i didn’t care where. somewhere. anywhere. i knew i was born for adventure, for travel, for other cultures. however, upon graduation, reality set in…. in the form of my parents encouraging me to look for something more stable. a real job. not missionary, volunteer work. that doesn’t pay the bills. that’s not practical.
i succumbed to my own fears of letting others’ down and my inability standing up for myself. i felt the pull, the drive, the yearning for adventure. i knew it was in my soul. but, i didn’t listen to it. i decided to make the best of it, use my degree to find a job teaching, and fulfill my duty as a responsible adult at the super young age of twenty-one. yes. i settled down. or better yet. i settled.
marriage followed. a house. a move. a new job. and a stable life all by the age of twenty-three. thirty-seven year old me thinks twenty-three year old me was crazy and way to young to settle down. but, i did.
fast forward nine years to the summer of 2007 and i was finally ready to listen to my soul. to really listen to that yearning, that calling, that feeling that never left. i had tried to suppress it, to say that life was good, to make the best of everything… all the while knowing that my soul was aching for europe, for adventure, for a different kind of life that was not the status quo. i knew i there was a life of passion and purpose out there; and in order to be true to myself, i had to seek it.
just as i was finding the courage to hear what my heart and soul were saying, and beginning to act on it, i was asked to be a leader for a group of college students to scandinavia & the baltic countries. yes. twelve years had passed since my trip to scandinavia as a twenty year old, and at the age of thirty-two, i was asked to lead the group for the summer of 2007: the sixty-seventh summer of the exchange. finally. i would be returning to the countries where i first felt my soul, where i first felt that there was a greater purpose to my life. but, why now? i had no idea that this trip would be the catalyst for my death, and then eventual return to life.
and so, as i was the leading five amazing college-age students across the countries where i found my soul, watching them meet their souls, our paths crossed the path of a beautiful, amazing, funny woman in sweden. lina.
lina was the one in charge of taking care of us for the week that we were in sweden. when we met, something clicked. we laughed, sang, talked, and a beautiful friendship began. a friendship that, after a very tough, life-changing year for both of us, grew into love… something neither one of us expected, thought of, or imagined. it just was. and most everyone saw it before we did. until one day, when we realized how natural it was that we had fallen in love with each other. how everything fit. how we made each other better people. how we had found each other; and now we were home.
we were married on the 26th of december 2009 and were faced with the question: where would out actual home be?
as an american woman married to a swedish woman (we were married in sweden), it was not possible for us to live in north carolina (where i am to this day still considered single) or actually anywhere in the united states. lina cannot get a green card because our marriage is not recognized by the united states government… therefore, since visas & green cards are only valid for heterosexual couples, there was no possible way for lina to move to the states. well, she could possibly find a job and get a work visa, but we would still be unmarried (according to u.s. law) and not have any rights. it doesn’t matter that there are a few states that recognize/support marriage equality, we have to go through the u.s. government in order to live there. follow me?
so, the decision (which was not really a decision, since we didn’t really have a choice) for me to move to sweden was inevitable. in sweden, our marriage is like any other marriage. marriage is simply marriage in sweden. so, in early 2010 i applied for a residence & work permit (green card) and was granted permission to live here with all the rights as anyone else.
but, moving here was not a problem for me at all… i was fulfilling a fifteen year old dream.
humbled, overwhelmed, ready for the adventure, and so thankful to finally be able to live with my wife, in august 2010, we packed two suitcases, two duffle bags, and our cat, and moved me (and zola) to sweden.
beginning life in sweden was not that much of a shock because, by the time i moved here, i had visited so many times and spent several months here at a time. so, i was quite used to the culture. there was no real culture shock. the hardest thing was facing the challenge of learning a new language at the age of 35. the second hardest thing was sitting around for almost a year with no job. but, i’ll admit i got used to it. wink wink.
because i had a ready-made family here (in-laws), it was very easy for me to get into society, to meet people, and to be around swedes – a notoriously individualistic group of people, generally keeping to themselves. i suppose the lack of interaction among strangers has been on of the most difficult things for me as a southern girl. in the south in the states, we talk to any & everybody. we chat. we smile. we make jokes with whoever is around us. and it’s not weird. here, we keep to ourselves in public. ok. i test the boundaries some, especially when i’m walking down the streets as i flash a smile at a stranger, sometimes receiving one back. sometimes only receiving a stare and i’m certain then that they are thinking, “damn foreigner”.
all in all, it has not been a difficult move. sweden is an easy place (for a fellow westerner) to adapt to. however, as someone who longed to leave the states so badly, i find myself missing them greatly now. they say that once you are an ex-pat (one living in a country other than your home country), you are more patriotic than you’ve ever been, it’s true. i’m way more american now than ever. at the same time, i’m way more swedish too. the ex-pat life is a funny, yet exciting and wonderful thing.
my journey from a twenty year old dreaming of moving to europe one day to a thirty-seven year old living life as an american in sweden has been a long one. but, it has been a journey to freedom; though not without pain, heartache, confusion, and death.
but, you’ll have to wait until next time to hear some of those stories.