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| week twenty one |

i miss doing a weekly photo update. sharing the random little snippets of my life that i capture on my phone. so, i think i’m going to begin that again. then, the rest of the week i can focus on other kinds of posts: beer, travel, tips, spirituality… those things that are the passions of my life.

but, one of the things that i am most passionate about is learning to live in the present moment, or living a mindful life. all of my other passions, come from my desire for peace, to live an authentic life, in the moment, grateful for all that i have and all that i am.

but some of my passions lend themselves to sounds like amazing, crazy adventures. and, sure,  i love amazing, crazy adventures as much as the next person, but the heart of life is found in our every day moments.

so i don’t want to highlight only all of the unusual, special, amazing moments and adventures that i have on this blog. no, i want to share my love for the everyday as well.

when we learn to live every single ordinary day as something extraordinary, knowing that the adventures are found in those mundane, ordinary moments, then we begin to live a life full of gratitude. and we find that we want for nothing, that we already have so much. that life is beautiful, even in the midst of the struggles and chaos and stress. when we tune into those moments that make us smile, if even for a second, then our whole attitude changes. and life becomes one big adventure. every single second of it. a sense of peace falls over us and we stand grounded, like a tree, rooted to the earth, letting the winds and storms and rain blow by. soaking up the sun when it shines.

so, this weekly photo journal is my way of sharing with you those regular moments that have passed by in my life. hopefully you will get a little peek into my expat life in sweden, or find inspiration, or simply enjoy the photos. but, more than a photo journal for you, this is for me. to remind me that my life is amazing. to give thanks for every little thing. not to ignore the not so great things, but to claim the beauty that is life, even in the midst of all of the suffering and confusion and stress and uncertainty.

besides, i/we have but this one life to live. so, why not live it to the absolute fullest, enjoying it?!

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my love’s birthday was this past week
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i cycled outside of uppsala + discovered some beautiful placesbiking-sweden- biking-sweden-country

we spent the weekend in stockholm: shopping for my brother-in-law’s wedding, drinking local beer, celebrating europe’s eurovision song contest victory (sweden won!) with some friends, and enjoying the super spring weatherstarbucks-stockholm-shopping shopping-street-stockholm omnipollo-soder-stockholm-microbrewery microbrewery-taps-beer-omnipollo omnipollo-beer me-beer-sodermalm-stockholm omnipollo-taps-sodermalm tacos-friends sweden-eurovision lina-me-melodifestivalen-eurovision late-night-stockholm-sky sodermalm-stockholm- stockholm-spring old-town-stockholm-alley lina-me-ice-cream-stockholm stockholm train-home-uppsala-sweden

happy monday, dear friends + family! wishing you a week filled with exactly what you need.

onwards + upwards! xoxo

lina

five reasons she’s the best thing that ever happened to me

today is a special day in my little family. it’s my beloved wife’s 31st birthday!

in honor of her, i thought i’d share five of the ways that she is the best thing that has ever happened to me. here we go!

1. she’s a hero

i’ve never seen someone fight so much to live life to the fullest. she has taught me perseverance, dedication, commitment, and discipline. have i mastered all of those things yet? oh, hell, no. but, wow, how i have been influenced + inspired by her. and it’s not only me. i know, because i have heard, how many people look up to her and find strength in her strength.

2. she challenges me to care about myself

i can easily get swept up in always making sure that others’ ideas and opinions are represented, without sharing what my thoughts + ideas might be. this is actually a major issue of mine. not that i care so much about others, but that i don’t care so much about me. she reminds and pushes me that i have every right to have my voice heard and that i don’t have to please everyone else all of the time. i am worth it.

3. she makes people smile

ok. not just smile, but laugh. her humor is top notch. smart. witty. silly. it’s like this perfect combination of crazy weirdness and intelligent wit. whatever it is, she makes me laugh until my sides hurt. she puts a smile on my face and fill my soul with music.

4. she’s got talent

good lord, my wife can do almost anything. perhaps she can actually do everything. she’s handy in the home, organized, tidy, athletic, musical. she’s an artist, a book worm, a guy’s gal, a gal’s gal. she knows a lot about a lot. she loves to talk deep. she loves to chat about the weather. she can canoe a canoe, pitch a tent, ride a horse, hit a golf ball, dance like no one’s watching, cook + bake, create movies, sing, play the piano. i’m telling you… the list is endless. and, while all of her talents help me out, they also show me what it means to be a well-rounded person. and, once again, i am inspired to be better, to learn more, to try more.

5. she’s like me, but not. 

sharing life with my love is amazing. there is no other person that i’d rather spend my moments with, and every moment is infinitely better when she is nearby. we have the same values and enjoy the same things, and yet, we have our own very unique personalities as well. so we are alike, but not. she’s  a great balance for me. helping me to get my head out of the clouds sometimes and back down on earth. and, i’m just enough of an idealistic person for her. we’re two individuals, coming together to share the ups and downs and ins and outs of life. and it just works.

my-love-2015my days would be incomplete without her. my nights would be empty. and my life would be completely out of balance. in all of her unique, beautiful marvelous ways, she just fits. she is the one that i choose over + over again. and i am so very thankful that on this day, 31 years ago, her light came into the world. how blessed am i that i get to see and feel and absorb that light every single day?!

love and light and peace, to you, my everything. happy birthday! xoxo

off the grid + with the family

yesterday (sunday) was my dad’s 70th birthday, so my brother, lina + i decided that to celebrate his big day we’d head out to the woods to do a little family camping. of course, everyone else + their mother decided that it would be the perfect weekend for camping as well. why, you ask? this little thing called “leaf season”. up here, in the north carolina mountains, the leaves are just beginning to hit their peak beauty. needless to say, the campground we chose to visit was paaaa-acked! but, it was also beautiful.

on friday afternoon, lina + i packed up our car with food, a tent, sleeping bags, blankets, and cozy clothes. we headed just northwest of asheville, about 45 minutes, to the fabulous little town called hot springs – more on hot springs another day. my parents had already beaten us to the campground and had pulled their rv into their site by the time we arrived, so we went to our space and scouted out the best spot for our tent. we were not within sight distance of my parents’ site, but it was an easy 2 minute walk we went over to say hi to them and invited them over to our site (which is where we all hung out the entire weekend actually). then, we got to work setting up camp. let the coziness commence!

the weekend consisted of pure, quality family time. and food. yummy camp food. of course we sat by the fire practically the whole time (thanks to my brother’s mad fire-making skills + lina’s mad maintaining-the-fire skills). i read some + did a little walking. i took lots and lots of photos. and we all chatted and generally just spent time together. we were totally off the grid, so the only thing we focused on was each other. sadly, my brother had to travel back + forth to asheville a few times, but he slept in his tent at our campsite as well.

the whole weekend was just amazing. something that i will not soon forget, and will cherish in my heart for the rest of my life i am sure. it was an extremely special weekend for me – just the opportunity to be in the middle of nature, outside the whole entire weekend, living simply, being wild, and focusing on the things that are really important. the things that are the most important to me in my life.

day one:

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all packed up!

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entering into hot springs campground. woo hoo!

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a few campsites were right on the river (lucky dogs). however, ours ended up being just across from it, and it was pretty much perfect.

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scouting out the best spot for the tent.

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our tent!! soooo cozy + perfect – a birthday present to me from my love last year. 

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a celebratory pbr (beer) ‘cuts we got the tent all set up!

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the fire is lit! and it stayed lit literally the entire weekend. soon awesome.

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darkness fell, and it was time to make some traditional campfire food – both swedish + american, of course. here, lina is baking bread on a stick over the fire. i devoured some s’mores.

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dad warmed his hands by the fire for hours. clearly something silly was happening at this point too. 

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the family is all gathered. xoxo

day two:hot springs camping morning tent

laying in my tent, early in the morning. just gazing the trees + listening to the silence. so peaceful.

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ready for the day!

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mornin’!

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first things first: hot camp coffee from a percolator. (that’s my brother!)

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the morning fire is all lit.

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a little morning dog walking. these two are just the cutest. 

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breakfast preparations are underway. can’t wait!

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passing time by doing a little reading after a little walk into town. (those photos coming up tomorrow!)

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the sun is setting…

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evening arrives again. this one will be a special one.

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happy birthday to my dad! 

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my last little peek out from the tent as i tucked myself in.

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when i woke in the morning and unzipped my tent, this is what i saw. sooooo cozy.

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i climbed out of my tent early and walked over to the river for a few moments of solitude. amazing.

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camp liz!

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more camp coffee to get the morning started!

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hot springs camping campfire me nick cooking

brother-sister breakfast cooking team. eggs + bacon… coming up!

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our cozy home for the weekend.

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family time ♥

hope you had a good weekend, too, dear friends. check back over the next few days and i’ll share with you some photos of hot springs, the french broad river, + a little walking on the appalachian trail!

love + light. xx

70th perfection

there is a thing that i discovered when i lived in sweden that is quite common – and fun. and it seemed like the perfect time to include it in my/our american life.

you see, sometimes, when friends or family members have a birthday, they choose to celebrate together. they add their ages together and then say that they are having a 50 years party (two 25 year olds), for example. well, lina and i have celebrated some pretty big birthdays this year – 30 and 40. so, there was nothing else to do but celebrate our 70th together!!

and last friday, we did just that. we invited friends (who also invited some friends) and decided to hang out at one of my favorite places in asheville, the bywayer. it’s a bar that sits on the banks of the french broad river. a place for kayakers or tubers or rafters to pull out and grab a beer and grill some food.

of course, you can drive to this place as well. but, it’s hidden behind a tall wooden fence, looking like not much of anything from the street-side. seeing as this is a bar, it doesn’t sell food, but it does provide a big backyard, grills, picnic tables, lots of drinks, train tracks, and coziness. plus, as i said before, it’s by the river.

it’s a super relaxed place to be – and i mean just be. yourself. as yourself. a place of realness and a sense of acceptance and freedom.

so, we gathered there last friday with about 15 or so friends. we talked, drank, laughed, snacked, and had a delicious cake provided by my brother.

it was the absolutly perfect 70 years celebration. absolutely perfect.

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peace + love

the rapture of being alive

undoubtedly this was the perfect day. the perfect way to usher in a new decade, a new year, and a new season of my life. it was simple. authentic. peaceful. it filled with nature + food/drink. but, most importantly, i had my amazing family around me. my love even skipped class to be with me the whole day – and that’s a big, huge deal. from the sunrise breakfast in bed to the late night sipping on bubbles, and everything in-between, my birthday was magical, glorious, and overwhelmingly perfect.

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birthday fika french broad river my girls
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thank you to everyone who left your wishes and love here on the blog, on Facebook, or on instagram. my heart is full and i am still overflowing with joy and gratitude. i’ve got a little quote to sum up exactly how i feel:

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

― Joseph CampbellThe Power of Myth

peace + love

40 years to bliss: 24 september 2014

it’s time to celebrate a new milestone! today i turn 40!

but, first, let’s flashback 20 years to when i was 20. i was in college/university studying to be a teacher. i had to take a basic art class to fulfill my requirements. i’d put it off for as long as possible. anyways, i was in class on the first day (me, a senior, with a classful of freshman) and we got an assignment to prioritize what is most important in our lives from a long list of words.

words like: love, family, security, money, adventure, fun, happiness, success, inner peace, education, friends, travel, employment, creativity, etc. 

the class grumbled at the assignment, but nerdy me was all over it. i went home and stared at the list of about 50 different words. i immediately knew what word was most important: inner peace. i didn’t think about it. just felt it when i saw it on the list. so, my list of ten had to begin with inner peace. in class the next day, i was called on to share my list and when i did, the professor asked me to explain it, seeing as i was the only one who even had inner peace on their list, much less at the top of it.

here’s what i said and my explanation still holds true today: in order to be of any help to ourselves, our family, our community, the world, or anyone, we must have inner peace. in order to experience or hove any of the other things on the long list of words, we must have inner peace first. or we must be seeking it. seeking that grounding, that foundation, that connection to our souls is essential. it is the beginning of our journey toward discovering our bliss and creating a world a peace, and it the most important thing in life in my opinion. and now, 20 years later, as i turn 40, i still believe that same thing is true.

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so, yes, 40!!! how is that possible?! it feels so unreal. so crazy. and so unbelievably wonderful. yep, you heard it. i am not freaking out about this birthday at all. there are no bad feelings of being old or over the hill or anything like that. i’m only filled with bundles of joy and loads of excitement.

of course, true to my nature, i’ve also been quite reflective, because, well let’s face it, 40 is a huge milestone. and, by leaving my 30s behind, i feel like i have earned a few moments to indulge in a little advice-sharing. i mean, isn’t there a sense of wisdom that comes with turning 40?  i’m not in my “searching and discovering” 20s and not in my “settling into who i really am” 30s. but, i’m beginning my journey into my 40s – and i am beginning it feeling like there is much to be done – much amazing work and dream-making to be done.

today, i feel like i’ve come to understand a few things about life, without feeling like i have everything all figured out. in fact, i am nowhere near having it all figured out. still, on my journey through life so far, i’ve learned a few things… things that i didn’t know or couldn’t have know without living through these past 40 years. and each of these things has brought me closer and closer to the bliss that i am following. the dreams that i am making reality.

so, my fun, little gift to you on my birthday is a list of 10 things that i’ve learned throughout my life. things that keep me grounded and connected. things that bring about that sense of inner peace that i have been striving for since i was 20. things that i have discovered on my journey as i follow my bliss.

1. embrace the present moment

slow down, friends. be here and now. right now. notice the little things in life – like flowers or the sunset. smile at strangers and give out hugs. listen to music. look up at the sky. and if the present moment is tough, then just breathe your way through it. you are much stronger than you imagine. when faced with hard moments, remember that the only way forward is forward. you can do it. i know you can. in the meantime, keep looking around and being aware of every little detail, and i promise you that life will become this beautiful gift of feeling truly alive.

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2. food + drink are important

indulge in good food and good drinks. sip on wine. enjoy a cold beer. warm yourself with a cup of coffee. you know, food + drink are not only tasty, but they are the things that gather us together around tables. a simple meal or meeting for drinks or coffee becomes an intimate moment shared between people. some of the most amazing conversations i have had have happened around a table. it’s called breaking bread together, and in my opinion, it is a sacred part of life. giving thanks for that which nourishes our body. meeting people. savoring the bounty of the earth. connecting with one another. keeping our bodies and minds and souls in sync so that we can live our lives to the fullest.

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3. feel your emotions

laugh. cry. giggle. get angry. be honest. how you feel is how you feel – and you are entitled to your feelings. so, feel them. process them. write them down or share them with someone. and then let them pass. but, do not hold them in or ignore them.

in sharing your feelings, you are showing your humanity – and that, my friends, is what connects us all. we all hurt. we all are scared. we all yearn for love. we all make mistakes. we all celebrate. when we share our feelings, it reminds others that it is ok to be human. that none of us are perfect, but our flaws and our journeys unite us and teach us to live together.

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4. magic is real

love does exist. amazing love that takes your breath away is our there – both romantic love and love for each other as brothers and sisters. wonder and awe are all around us. sometimes these things are invisible or we feel as if we will never experience magical moments, but they do exist. and, to some degree, i believe that it is all about our attitude and what we expect. whatever we put out there will return to us. so, if we believe in magic and love and peace and hope, then, even in the midst of bad times and suffering, we will find little magical moments of joy and contentment and peace.

magic is all about faith. faith in whatever you believe in – be it fairies, god, santa claus, science, people, love. magic is hope. and, though the world is in pain, hope remains. and, if we choose to, we can be a part of the healing of the world. we can bring our own magic into the world, which leaves sprinkles  of fairy dust hope and love everywhere we go.

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5. be alone

meditate. breathe. be by yourself. let your soul speak to you. if you can handle it, take a half day or day or week retreat by yourself once a year. and most definitely carve out just a few minutes all alone every single day. it will change you and focus you and ground you in ways you cannot imagine. start small and let yourself be filled with inspiration and empowerment.

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6. nature is your best friend

get outside. marvel at the beauty of the natural world. get back to nature. simplify. challenge yourself. enjoy every type of weather. unplug and get off the grid. just let yourself be organic for a little bit. nature will heal you and inspire you and teach you. whether it is an ocean, a mountain, a desert, or a park, find a way to feel the ground or touch a tree. smell a flower or gaze at the sky. let nature remind you of the cycle of life, and of your place in it.

oar archipelago

7. who you are is a gift

be yourself. act silly. don’t grow up. stop worrying about what others think – you are perfect just the way you are. really and truly. i believe that with all of my heart.

oh, how i spent so many years trying to figure out who i should be instead of just being me. i was stuck in others’ expectations- or my perceptions of others’ expectations. i was stuck trying to figure out what “type” of person i should be, what kind of life i should lead. what and who i should prioritize first, and all the while i neglected myself. i never even really explored who i was, though i knew what i cared about and what made me happy. bottom line: i was afraid to put myself first (and i still work on that today). and i was always afraid of what other people would think.

so, i made my decisions and created my life based on what i thought would make others happy – so no one would be mad at me or disappointed in me. i didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. but, what i really didn’t want to do was face myself. because, if is did, then that meant that i might make decisions that others wouldn’t agree with.

well, you can only live that that – totally for others  (be it people, institutions, or expectations) for so long. somehow, i found the courage to truly listen to my soul (and this took years to discover), and begin to explore who i am. i let go of caring what others think. and i found peace – and you know what else? people actually respect me more for being true to myself.

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8. travel far + wide

explore. never stop learning. live in another country if you can. at least visit another country  at one point in your life. travel is education. travel promotes peace. travel teaches us about ourselves and each other. and travel changes us – giving us new perspective, opening our eyes and our minds. and… it’s fun!

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9. dreams do come true

tap into your passion – that thing that you would do every day all day long, if you could. believe that your passion can be your work. and then make that happen. even if no one believes in you or thinks you are crazy. summon the courage to do your own thing. and work hard at making that dream of yours come true. and… do. not. give. up.

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10. no matter how you imagine your life, it will not turn out like you thought

oh, dear friends, this does not mean to stop dreaming. please, dream away. dream big. but, know that this journey in life is just that  – a journey. and an unknown one at that. our path forks sometimes. or unexpected joys and tragedies come into our life which make us feel off course. but, be patient. trust. and keep going. it all makes sense as time passes and as we travel further down our road.

ultimately, there are no rules and no expectations. those are things that society creates and we all get all stressed out about the “should’s” in life. we think we should do this or should not do that. but, all of those “should’s” come from our culture, our country, our society. don’t listen to them.

instead, listen to your soul. do the things that nurture your soul and that you feel passionate about. do not be afraid of going against the tide, of blazing your own path, of taking risks. and whatever you do, live life to the fullest. soak up every little moment of life every single day. this is your one, beautiful, crazy life. so, get out there and live it!

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peace + love