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the one thing i love about easter in sweden

easter in sweden is a big deal. not necessarily because of the religious reasons, but because it is a long weekend holiday, and the first real celebration in the spring. like the united states, easter is right up there with christmas. there are traditions, decorations, and typical swedish things that you can count on seeing and/or doing every year.

i’ve spent quite a few easters in sweden… i think this was my 5th, and i knew exactly what to expect. time may have passed, and situations in life may have changed, but this holiday, this little break in regular, everyday life, remains an important time in swedish society.

my easter this year began on friday morning, as my love and i enjoyed a quiet, slow morning at home. then we hopped on a train and headed south to norrköping to lina’s parents’ home. we made it by dinner time + sat outside in their new sunroom through sunset and until the full moon had risen high in the sky. on good friday, it is expected that you don’t do much of anything – a tradition in respect of the day of jesus’ death. even though most people in sweden don’t really observe good friday.

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saturday, the traditional weird day between good friday and easter, is filled with a buzz here in sweden. though, it’s a buzz only with food + family here. nothing else. our saturday was pretty calm, even though it was busy – kind of. a long, lazy morning with lots of coffee + breakfast. meal preparations. a big 14 person lunch. lots of candy (from the easter eggs children get). a mid-afternoon fika. more relaxing, talking, and sitting around the table. pizza dinner. and then bed.

sitting around the table, eating, talking, and catching up is something that swedes do every well. it is highly possible to go from one meal to a fika to another little meal, and never leave the table. it was something i had hard time with when i first lived in sweden years ago, being a short-attention-span american. but, i have grown to enjoy the long, drawn-out meals where you really, really connect and enjoy each others’ company.

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on easter sunday, we began the morning slowly again, but left for church in the late morning. we visited the church where i used to work, and filled with people that lina grew up with. it was so very nice to hug some necks and catch up with friends and co-workers and other members. i have to say, we were treated like little celebrities when we walked in – what a boost to one’s ego. hehe. of course, after the service we had fika and chatted with even more people. it was really great to reconnect with some very amazing, inspiring people from our former life in sweden.

then, in the afternoon, we headed to lina’s aunt + uncles’ house for a birthday dinner for lina’s cousin who’s turning 25. there were about 17 of us or so. another amazing family meal of sitting around the table and catching up. as you can tell, it’s all about quality time together here in sweden.

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in the evening, lina and i hopped a bus back to uppsala. it was a long ride and we arrived close to 11pm. but that didn’t stop us from meeting up with lina’s brother for a drink at a nearby bar. he wasn’t with us for easter because he was with his fiancées family. it was a great way to wind down after a social weekend away, and transition back to being home.

easter monday is a holiday here, so everyone was still off from work. lina and i stayed home all day – minus a quick walk to the grocery store. doing what we love to do. and just being.

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so, in my opinion, easter in sweden is all about one thing: simplicity. it’s all about simply spending time together and enjoying that time with good food and relaxation. it is a fantastic little break in the everyday grind. and something that makes the swedish society so amazing. it’s  the ability to just slow down and just be for a sustained period of time – without needing to be entertained by something fancy. just some food and some people and perhaps a chance to enjoy nature a bit. for a whole weekend. something that many people (americans) could learn to do better. whether you are involved with a big family or there are only two of you, it’s all about stopping for a moment just to enjoy… well, life.

hope you had a lovely weekend, and celebrated in just the way that you wanted + needed.

onwards + upwards! xoxo

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meditation mondays: it feels like everything can begin now

I had this feeling of letting go.

On Saturday, I sat on the floor, meditating, and I felt that it was time to let go of Asheville. Not that Asheville is not still the place where my heart feels full, because it is. But, to let go of the ways that I am trying to hold onto my life there. It is time to let go of all of the moments that I spend here, in Sweden, imagining what is going on there, in Asheville. That time has passed. That old life is over and a new life, a new way of living is beginning.

As I meditated, my mind was filled with revelations that I was following the Easter weekend pattern in my own life. I ended my life in Asheville. I have mourned the loss and live in the uncertainty of limbo + confusion, and suddenly, without knowing what was happening, realized that a new opportunity, a new life was truly waiting for me to grab it and begin.

And with that realization of Good Friday’s loss, Holy Saturday’s confusion + solemness, and Easter Sunday’s good news of a crazy, amazing new life. I felt a shift inside of me. A ending of the wandering and a preparedness to move on. I felt like everything can begin now.

What happened during my meditation was acceptance. Acceptance that the most powerful moment is the present moment – especially when we are aware + paying attention to it. And that acceptance has helped me move from mourning to life. A completely unknown life, but a way of knowing that this is exactly where I am supposed to be.

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And right now actually is all about the unknown. It’s about leaping in to a way of living that cannot even be imagined yet. It cannot be planned, and must be allowed to simply unfold. And all of that stuff from the past? All of the old ways of being + living + relating + thinking + believing… it’s time to leave all of that behind as well.

Going back to Easter… think about those disciples who suddenly realized that Jesus was not actually dead. That he was living, though he was leaving, and he was giving them – the men + the women – a mission. All was not lost as the followers had believed + felt. As the had dwelling in the past, dazed + confused, they now understood that they had a chance at a whole new life, with a whole new purpose. Something that they could have never, ever dreamed would happen. They had no idea what this new, amazing future looked like, but that didn’t matter. They knew, in that moment when they encountered Jesus, that something was different. So, now, it was time to get a move on! Newly inspired + energized – the past was behind them, and from now on, it was time to look ahead.

It is the same for us… it is the same for me, now, as I consider leaving my past behind + accepting the unknown future that lies ahead of me. It is time to live in the present moment, anticipating a bright, new shiny opportunities + possibilities. Now, that does not mean throwing away all that has happened in the past. No, not at all. It means, pulling it all together in our souls, holding it there, cherishing it all, knowing that all of the past makes us who we are right in the moment. But, it’s time to step forward. Keeping the old ways part of our history and our story. And with the comfort of the memories and feelings and thoughts and lessons and loves, look ahead with courage + empowerment. What lies ahead is not something that is within our comfort zone, but a life that is bigger + better than we could ever imagine. Deeper. Higher.

Of course, all of this can feel amazing + scary at the same time. Like… “Wow! What an opportunity! I feel totally blessed, as if I am overflowing with inspiration and energy.” It can also feel like, “What the hell have I done? When will things begin to make sense? Why aren’t things changing? This is not at ALL what I had in mind!”.

But, this is how it goes with change + transformation + growth.

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Remember what I said at the beginning of the blog post? How I described how I was feeling? it’s a cycle, my friends. And it occurs over and over again in our lives. It’s how life flows. And if we are aware + grounded, then we do not freak out as we flow along with life.

So, we have Good Friday’s all of the time. Days/years/times in life when we know that we have lost everything. When the way that intended it turned out completely wrong. When it feels like our plans, or even our selves, have died. Like it’s all over. Everything changed.

And then, like Holy Saturday, we mourn. We feel lost. We don’t know what comes next. It’s dark and lonely. And, after a while, we accept what has happened and realize that we have to keep on keeping on.

But, just when we are there, right when we realize that life is rolling on without us and we’d better get back in the game, a sliver of light pierces our darkness. Something inspires us. Spring returns. Life begins again. The view after the climb is breathtaking. And we can see clearly now all that we did not understand before. We have grown. We have changed. And we step out, filled to the brim with inspiration + love + peace, so much so that they all begin spilling out of us and onto everyone we meet. Easter Sunday arrives.

And then, the whole thing happens all over again.

“The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.”  ― Joseph Campbell

onwards + upwards! xx

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death + life + a powerful moon

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Tonight, on this mournful, soulful Good Friday, a full moon rises + a lunar eclipse graces the night sky. And with it comes another cosmic time of great power + opportunity for change. However strong and amazing the change may be, we may also feel in the dark – if you’re like me, than you feel the shift, you know there’s a huge change, but you have no idea what changes are coming. Much like the disciples of Jesus on the night of his death. 

  

The good news is that the only thing we need to do is to intend with our heart and our spirit to allow for the most positive change possible and be willing to go through the discomfort of the ups and downs of the unexpected events that are surely right around the corner. Scary + unsettling? Oh yeah. There is so much in life, and in death, that we don’t understand. 

But, if we simply slow down enough to allow ourselves a chance to breathe + soak in the energy, if we find a way trust in the power of the cycle of the universe, and are crazy enough to believe that all things work for good, that love ultimately wins, then we will be amazed at the transformation that we experience. And we will come to know first hand that even the darkest night ends with the light of the sun. 

This is an exciting and scary and incredible day, but it is one that opens to a new experience of living life at a higher + deeper level. Just imagine the heartbreak and confusion of the followers of Jesus. The one person that they put all of their hopes in, their hero, the one who had come to make a difference and make miracles happen had just been killed in the most horrible + embarrassing of ways. They must have been beyond grief, past confusion, and somewhere on the way to giving up on any hope. It was the darkest of darks. One of those “nothing will make this better” kinds of moments. And yet, they gathered together to help each other through. What else could they do? And somewhere, I believe, in that gathering + clinging to each other, they help in a sliver of hope. They did not give up completely.

So, don’t you give up either. Surround yourself with friends and community this weekend, and celebrate spring and all things new. And, by all means, check out the glorious moon tonight. Be ready for change, dream big, set your intentions, stay faithful, and rejoice. Life begins anew!

Onwards + upwards! xoxo

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meditation mondays: walking through holy week

i literally could not keep my eyes closed during my meditation this morning. i would close them, breathe deeply, and a few minutes later, i would realize that i was looking around my living room or staring out the window. i even took a few photos as the quiet, instrumental music played in my ears. every time i realized that my eyes were open + i was daydreaming or whatever, i quickly shut my eyes again and took 2 deep breaths, repeating the mantra of the day. and then, my eyes popped open all over again. repeat this for 20 minutes and you’ll know what my meditation experience was today.

ineffective? yes. what i needed in some mysterious way? perhaps.

the last 30 seconds of the meditation (which i didn’t know were the last 30 seconds) i suddenly had a feeling of presence and peace. i remembered that today is the beginning of holy week for christians around the world. and i felt my soul yearning for the familiarity of the rituals of this long, silent, mournful week. and then, i felt the presence of love within me, reminding me that i am not alone. that i am on a journey as well, a journey that leads through all kinds of terrain. and, if i want to be faithful to my journey (a faithful disciple in christian terms), then i must be prepared for the road that lies ahead – with all of its twists + turns. and, if i want to be faithful, then i remember to not give up. i remember that i am called to walk this road in life – a life of being true to myself and to who i am created to be. to be anything other than who i am, to do anything other that what i am called to do, is to miss out on the abundance and beauty that life has to offer.

this is the message of holy week. the road is long, tough, painful. and yet, there is beauty and grace all along the way as well. sharing in the sufferings and passions of jesus, of life, transform us into new people. with a new mission, a new way of seeing the world, a new way of being and loving and existing.

i came across this quote this morning, and i just new that i wanted to share it with you:

“No star stops burning in the sky because it isn’t a planet, it does what it needs to do, so must you. So be, and continue to be, until you realize what that truly means, because when you see what you really are, you start to see life differently. You were never meant to compete with those around you, you were meant to live life in a way that invites others to join you in this journey.

If you must rest along the way in your journey, choose a safe place with good company but do not stay there. Rest is good, but it is not our home. Our journey will be filled with many ups and downs, times of grief and hardship. You will have moments where you feel so alone, frightened, and confused. You will question why you chose this path in the first place; it is in those moments that you must find a quiet place to rest, to lay down and watch the stars. You have a long way to go, so learn to love the silence of the path and the still moments where all you feel is the beating of your heart. See the beauty of all that is around you, learn to appreciate that every living thing has a journey to take, and that sometimes they will be with you in your own path.

You have come so far, you have conquered mountains and valleys. You may feel weary now, so rest traveler, rest and know that when you have reached home, there is going to be real rest and joy, real peace and comfort, your tears will be wiped away and your burden taken off. You are so brave to wake up every morning, so full of courage when you make the choice to take a step and then another. May your feet always lead you to wonderful places, and your heart beat with a strength that only you can hold.

Keep walking, weary traveler, never go back; for the path that lays ahead is full of beautiful unknowns and wonderful secrets that yearn for you to discover and love. Keep walking, and know that you are walking a path that is good for you.” – T.B. LaBerge

 


my friends, no matter where you are, or what you believe, my wish for you is peace along your journey – a sense of who you are + who you are called to be. that who you feel you are in your soul, is how you are able to live your life. it is possible, friends. it is. keep dreaming. keep walking. keep believing.

 

onwards + upwards!

sensory overload: easter celebrations!

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in our little home, we had a quiet and beautiful easter sunday. after dreary, cold rain on friday & saturday… accompanied with a bit of pensive, contemplative moments (read about it here), easter sunday truly lived up to it’s name. just like the symbolism of death and waiting that was saturday’s companion, sunday’s celebration of life, renewal, and  beauty was made even more real by amazing sunshine and warm weather. it was absolutely perfect here in asheville!

saturday night, in an effort to take part in some easter traditions, we decided to dye easter eggs – but, with a twist. i didn’t want to go and buy the typical little packaged dyes, so i decided to make my own natural, organic dyes from fruits, vegetables, and spices (thanks to pinterest). it took a little work, but it was quite easy. and it felt so good to go organic.

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To prepare the dye I used the following:

  • 1 chopped beet
  • 2 C red onion skins
  • 2 C yellow onions skins
  • 2 Tbsp of paprika
  • 2 Tbsp of tumeric
  • 1 C blackberries
  1. Place each of these things into 2 C of water along with 1 tsp salt and boil for about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Strain the water and place in a jar or bowl and add 1 Tbsp white vinegar to each dye.
  3. Allow them to cool before using.
  4. Of course I also needed hard boiled eggs.  I used 12, so Lina and I would each have 6 to dye.
  5. I placed all the dyes into plastic cups and we used plastic spoons to place the eggs in and out of the cups.

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It takes a while for the natural dyes to work, so be ready to be patient. I think we left ours in the dyes for about 30 minutes to an hour. It all depends on how dark you want your colors to be. And, when you take them out, they will not be perfectly evenly dyed, but splotchy and uneven – a little tie-dyed looking. But, I loved that. And I especially loved the muted, earthy colors. I left them alone overnight to dry, and was completely in love when I saw them on Easter morning!

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easter sunday started off with a misty, mysterious mountain fog , which soon burned off and revealed a glorious day of warmth and abundant sunshine.

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speaking of easter sunday morning, we had so much fun! lina has never received an american easter basket, so, the easter bunny made an extra special stop at our home to surprise her.

i was sleeping hard, when suddenly, i heard, “i see something!” and there, on the dining room table, was an easter basket for lina! she jumped out of bed and ran over to her basket. there was complete and unadulterated joy coming from her squeals and excitement – an amazing and beautiful thing to see. she sat down and went through her basket, loving every minute of it. and i was filled with such joy just watching her. then, it was time for lina to find the eggs, which had been hidden around the apartment by the easter bunny. so. much. fun.

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after all the early morning festivities, it was time for coffee on the balcony… and a little later on, a french toast breakfast in the sun.

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even though my love has a lot to study right now (she only has 2 weeks left and then her summer vacation starts!), we decided to head over to biltmore estate to check out the flowers. there is a huge garden there that is filled with tulips, and it is a favorite spring destination for people from all over. actually, it’s a pretty huge deal, and very magical – biltmore estate in the spring.

so, we drove the 5 minutes over there and discovered that the line to get in was waaaaay long. it’s a 3 mile drive up to the house & gardens, through the biltmore land/grounds, and it was bumper to bumper the whole way. but, it was so beautiful that we just rolled down the windows, turned on bluegrass music, and then enjoyed the ride.

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we passed right by the house and headed for the gardens, parked the car, and then soaked up the beauty.

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after the biltmore visit, we came home for the rest of the day – except i went to see my bro for an hour. and later on, finished off the day with a glass of bubbles and a sunset chat with my love.

i truly hope that your easter, your weekend, was beautiful and filled with lots of moments that took your breath away.

love & peace. 

credit to lina for some of the biltmore photos. 

my six senses instagram easter weekend.

i realize that it is already wednesday, but i’m still gonna share my weekend pictures now. i figure as long as it’s not the next weekend, then i’m still safe. just wanna let y’all know that my senses were on overload this past weekend/week. it was a combination good and tough times. and it was intense. lots of family. emotional. beautiful. difficult. and, as i said, intense. in good & bad ways. here’s some of what perked my senses.

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seeing: family gathered around the table for easter dinner. from the youngest to the oldest. so great. blue skies up above me. a bright full moon outside my litchen window.

hearing: our sweet little bella’s recorded voice entertaining our sweet little niece. nails being hammered into wood on good friday.

tasting: easter dinner. filled with meat traditionally, but vegetarians can make it work too.

touching: the wax dripping from the candles we lit on easter morning.

smelling: bouquets of tulips. fresh, crisp air on a long walk.

feeling: warm sunshine shining down on me. happy that early spring air has found its way to sweden. peace as i drank my morning cup of coffee on my first morning of spring break.

i made it through the week, and now i’m doing the best i can to just relax. spending some time at home. meeting friends for drinks. being with my love. although it’s my vacation week (or 2, who knows what i’ll do next week), it’s still a little tough in life right now. we didn’t make it to china, of course. but, i’m working really hard to focus on other things coming up… like moving. and there is still a sense that we need to focus on each day as it comes. survival mode, you might say. or enjoying the moment. it depends on whether you are a glass half empty or glass half full kinda person. me? i choose half-full. so, i’m determined to soak up my moments, breathe deeply, and remember all that is wonderful and that for which i am grateful.

by the way, speaking of senses, as i type this, my love is playing her guitar and singing. our cat is snuggling beside me. and the sunset outside is stunning. the pink horizon fading to dark blue overhead. life is not perfect, but sometimes for one split second, it feels perfect in that moment.

so, what has peaked your senses over the past few days? what thoughts have you got rolling around in your head?

peace, dear friends.