a magical, free-spirited year: a look back over 2013.

friends, get ready for a comprehensive look back over this past year. it may be the longest post ever, but it’s mostly photos. not many words. i promise! enjoy!


after spending christmas and new year’s in the states, we returned to a snowy, cold, beautiful sweden… knowing that big things were coming in 2013, but having no idea exactly how big.

i made a promise to myself for the new year: i promised to follow my passion: to write. to believe in all possibilities, and to live life in 2013 as an amazing adventure – filled with the highest of highs, but not counting on the lowest of lows…

it was a month of lots of coziness inside, in our home which we adored. but, even as the month was one that was fairly quiet, in the end of the month, my love found out that she had been accepted to UNCA – so it was official… we are moving to the states to live out our dreams: lina to study at an american university, and me to see where the wind blew me, hoping and dreaming of writing.4b540dee751a11e281d822000a1f9682_7 03389df8712411e2995622000a1f9812_7IMG_7606 DSC_0149


february brought more cold, beautiful snow and lots of work for me. my colleague and fellow minister had a family crisis, so she was gone most of february and all of march. that meant that i filled in, preaching tons of sundays. it was a major challenge, and yet a blessing at the same time…. challenging me in ways i’d never imagined and teaching me more about who i feel called to be.

in the end of february, we flew to berlin for the weekend to visit some friends! it was the coldest weekend that i believe has ever existed, but it was still amazing! the history! the power of the places i saw and stood and felt. just amazing!4c4fb1c0707511e2a73f22000a9e28ad_7

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in march, we had some fun, special moments with friends, which were like tiny drops of water in an otherwise very month of feeling like we were lost in the desert. lina’s grandfather passed away, so there were many tears and responsibilities and changes. but, at the same time as the ending of one, very special and important life, spring began to make its return ever so slowly to sweden, reminding us that there is life after death, there is hope in the midst of the pain and suffering. perhaps we could hang on….

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even though plans for moving to the states were well underway, things hit an even deeper bottom in april. my love, who had been fighting anorexia nervosa for about 10 years, but in 2012 had hit the hardest part of the fight, had a relapse in 2013. after spending 3 months in the hospital in 2012, lina was working hard to recover… but soon she found herself struggling again, and by april, i was terrified. luckily, she had amazing therapists and professional help who also saw the warning signs. so, in early april, lina went back to the hospital. i couldn’t believe it. my heart was breaking, but at the same time, i knew that this was what she needed to help her actually begin to leave the sickness behind… still, in many ways, it was a tough 2ish months before we moved. to be honest, during april, i was hoping & believing in lina, but there was a part of me that wondered if we would get to move & if lina would get to realize her dream of studying in the states.

i kept working, focusing mostly on the youth at the church at this point. i also had the amazing opportunity to have about 30 refugee boys from the middle east join my youth group for a night of dancing, music, & food. it was such a cool evening of breaking down barriers. working with immigrants, outcasts, those that are different or discriminated against have always been a passion of mine.

for the last day of april, we headed to uppsala, where lina’s brother lives for a huge swedish end of april/beginning of may/spring celebration. i was sooooo excited about this for many reasons: one because i had never experienced it before. and two, because my love got permission from the hospital to be away for two days…

the only problem? i got a stomach bug and was sick the whole time we were gone! ugh.75156adca3a111e2a63622000a9e28ec_7


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spring arrived! we got an apartment in asheville & signed a contract! we celebrated my love’s birthday – and she was doing better! we went to see beyonce in stockholm! i took my youth on a weekend retreat in the swedish countryside! may is always a beautiful, amazing month in sweden. and this may, it finally seemed like things were changing… the move was going to happen and more importantly, my wife was on the road to recovery in a way i had never seen before. oh, the possibilities that were out there!776e249eb59f11e2860d22000aa81037_7



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we headed to stockholm again for lina’s interview at the united states embassy – this was it: the final step to getting her visa and us officially being ready to move! of course, we are both nervous wrecks, but it went amazingly well, so we celebrated by spending the day in stockholm after her interview, pinching ourselves over & over again. she had a visa!

then it was down to business: a “yard sale”/flea market in our apartment to sell/give away all of our stuff. soaking up the last few moments in our cozy downtown apartment. getting tattooed up again to commemorate my time in sweden. moving out and into my love’s parents’ home for our last 3 weeks in sweden. celebrating midsummer. hanging out with special friends. time was flying by!IMG_1046 a7fdc46acc2a11e2b03722000a1fc75a_7 IMG_1008718437a0d1d611e2a4b822000aaa04bd_7

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July (part 1: Sweden)

in july, we only had the first 2 weeks really before we moved so, it was full speed ahead: we celebrated dinner at an american friend’s home. ate summer strawberries – a swedish must! spent a week at the archipelago finishing my work and enjoying family & friends. had some very special goodbye/see you later dinners with family & friends…

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and then it was time to fly…IMG_0384

July (part 2: USA) & August

we did it! we landed – all three of us. zola survived the flight across the atlantic once again, and then a crazy adventure ensued as we rented a car and took 2 days to drive from NYC down to asheville. but, we made it! and we moved right into our amaaaaazing apartment. i remember feeling so overwhelmed – much like i still feel today. and blessed, so very blessed.

we immediately got to work (after a day of exhaustion and dehydration = i needed major rest) picking up things like tv’s and furniture  to make our new place feel like home. it didn’t take long… and then we were off! reconnecting with old friends and spending time with family at the beach, and soaking up everything about asheville that we had missed. august was all about fun – and i suppose it was our vacation before the semester started… that’s right. at the end of this month, my love became a college girl!

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i celebrated my 39th birthday this month – pretty much all month long. hehe. it was a wild & crazy 30 days all around, though, i started my “40 days of fika” blog project, which led to so many other amazing things. not that having coffee at 40 different cafes and blogging about it wasn’t awesome enough.

i also, met new friends (lanie & charlie – fellow lessies from atlanta, who we’ll be ringing the New Year in with!), drank beer at our favorite places and found some new favorite places in west & north asheville, hung out at the pool because it was so warm, spent time with my brother, drank even more coffee, went to hear a book reading, and decided to nurture my inner-writer/photographer by taking a huge risk and renting a downtown little office space.

i decided that it was high time that i just followed my dream, took a chance, and up & rented this little space in a famous historical building in downtown asheville. it was time that i really embraced my desire to write – and to just do it! so, i did. and, in the mean time, somehow i got the nerve to just march right into a local newspaper, introduce myself, and give them a chance to see some of my writing – hoping that one day soon they would let me freelance for them a little.

to end the month, i celebrated my birthday with people that i love, at places that i love to eat, drinking lots of yummy drinks i love to drink. oh, it was an amazing birthday – one where i began to feel so very grounded in myself. connected and spiritually overflowing.

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in october, i became a freelance writer!!! like, for real! it was all so overwhelming… from applying to meeting to getting an email to getting my first story in the paper and a chance to do a series of articles based on my fika blog posts! i n c r e d i b l e! i can still hardly believe it, and i’ve had 5 articles published in the paper now. it is truly a dream come true.

of course, that was the tip top of october, but the rest of it wasn’t so bad either: lots more opportunities to soak in nature – both the amazingly beautiful autumn in the mountains and the warm, summer october at the beach (lina had her fall break & we left town for a few days!). lots of beer nights and dinners with my brother – which i loooove. meeting more new friends. writing. writing. writing. north carolina state fair fun! more nature. more pubs & music. and halloween too… woo hoo!

my parents also sold their long-time home up here in the mountains and moved to the beach permanently. i’d be lying if i didn’t say that this was quite emotional and tough to live through. but, such is life. always changing, always moving on.

yes, my friend, october was a wild, crazy time. real wild. real crazy. real beautiful. life-changing in many ways, you could say…



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nature went out of her way to welcome lina and i back to the mountains of north carolina during november… everywhere i looked, it was beautiful and amazing. from the colorful leaves in the beginning of the month to the bare branches in the end. and i soaked up every minute of sunshine and rain.

there were more pub nights, a spontaneous trip to ikea to stock up on christmas goodies and all things swedish that we have missed, more nature, more friends, and more silliness and awesomeness with my freaking amazing brother. i have to say, spending time with him has been one of the highlights of the past four months.

in november, thanks to my fika blog and the fact that i am writing for the newspaper (still freaking out about that!), there were some people who wanted to have a “fika group”, so i created an asheville fika group on an online site that lists meet up groups in your area, and boom! the weekly fika meet up group was born! our first meeting was in november and we had 6 people attend. our last meet up, just before christmas had us at 13 and 42 members…. crazy awesome! and so much fun to meet new people and provide a connection for others.

then, it was thanksgiving break (and the end of classes for lina!) and we headed back down to the beach yet again. it was a totally different, but totally amazing beach trip/thanksgiving holiday. relaxing. family. food. peace.

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when december arrived, i could hardly believe it. it was so hard to comprehend that it was now time for the holidays for real, and that lina had completed her first semester as a student. it’s just plain insanity how fast time moves.

we immediately went to get a tree (with my bro) at a tree farm somewhere out in the country and got right to decorating and listening to christmas music practically 24 hours a day. we also headed down to raleigh to be a part of a scandinavia christmas market, complete with a lucia and everything.

we had a christmas party with friends – old & new, spent some time at biltmore estate, wrapped presents, reveled in the christmas cheer, and just did holiday stuff constantly. i spent quite a bit of time every day by myself, even some of that on my balcony because we had some crazy warm weather. i celebrated the winter solstice ceremonially with candles and lots of pondering of the light coming back to the world.

more hanging out with my brother, and celebrating a cozy christmas holiday with my parents, who came up to stay with lina and me in our apartment. then, it was time for lina and i to celebrate our wedding anniversary – four years together, stronger than ever. bliss.

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i realize that there is another day left in 2013, but i’ve been working on the “the longest post ever” now for about a week, and it’s time i share it with you. i just couldn’t wait. hehe.

all in all, 2013 has been completely incredible and overwhelmingly amazing. it’s so hard to comprehend all that has happened, all that we have been through… all i can say is that i am greatly grateful for the blessings that have come to us, the dreams that have been made real, and the adventures that had been around every corner. it has not been the easiest year, but it has been the most free-spirited, magical year i have every experienced.

i will not soon forget all that has happened in 2013 and how my (our) life has changed – in all of the best & most amazing ways possible. the one thing that i can and will say before i put this post out there to the wide world is this:

believe in yourself and those whispers that your soul whispers to soul. listen to them and dig deep to find the courage to heed that which you hear and feel inside you… embrace that free-spirited nature inside of you and let the magic happen. you deserve it!

peace and love. xx

the top 10 lessons i learned in 2013.

1. set a goal and make it happen.


for the past 2 years, i have chosen a word to focus on for the entire year (see the upper right corner of this page). that word or phrase has served as my inspiration. i tend to let the word come to me, but of course i am impatient and i want to know what it is on january 1st. however, sometimes the word has to seep into my consciousness. in 2013, the word (free-spirited) did not appear until sometime during the first week of the year. nevertheless, it did appear and i based everything i did throughout the year on seeking to be faithful to my word – my vision for 2013. this year has been all about nurturing that free-spirited nature within me through risk, adventure, and living life to the fullest. and wow, what a ride it has been!

2. music feeds the soul.


oh, how i love music. all kinds of music. and i make playlists like crazy – based on certain moods or times of the year, all because they speak to my soul. but, there is one song, one song in particular, which touched me in ways that i haven’t felt in a few years.

in february, on the 7th to be exact, i was sitting at my desk in our downtown apartment in norrköping, sweden… writing. and listening to music. it was the avett brothers newest album (at that time) – they are my pick for artist of the year in my world. anyway, i heard some of the lyrics and suddenly it was one of those moments… a moment when the universe connects things and i receive a message and my soul feels like it just might burst.

I went on the search for something real.
Traded what I know for how I feel.
But the ceiling and the walls collapsed
Upon the darkness I was trapped
And as the last of breath was drawn from me
The light broke in and brought me to my feet.

There’s no fortune at the end of the road that has no end.
There’s no returning to the spoils
Once you’ve spoiled the thought of them.
There’s no falling back asleep
Once you’ve wakened from the dream.
Now I’m rested and I’m ready
I’m rested and I’m ready
Yeah I’m rested and I’m ready

as listened to this song, named february seven, on february 7th, and as the light broke in, i knew. i knew that writing was what i needed to focus on. that it was time, i was completely ready to focus on this passion of mine. that once i have wakened from this dream, once it had become part of me, it was time to chase it… and chase it i did.

3. explore. set sail. discover. drive. walk. fly. just go!


it’s no secret that traveling is my favorite thing to do – and when i travel, i am with my love, i write, and i take photos = so traveling is pretty much perfection for me. i considered not including it on this top 10 list because it is so obvious. but, then, i decided that it is such a part of me, that i need to remind myself over & over again to nurture this part of me. this is where my inspiration comes from. this is how i get my education. this is how i learn and grow and laugh and feel alive. and whether i am traveling on my own town, an hour away, or an ocean away, this no matter what year it is, this will always be a top ten in my world.

4. drink champagne & celebrate everything.


live life! celebrate! find something every single day to celebrate  (you don’t have to drink champagne every day). some days it’s little things and some days it’s really big things. this past year i drank champagne on a regular friday when i met a friend at a bookstore (that sells bubbly all day!). just because. lina & i drank champagne on our flight from sweden to the states to celebrate our huge move. i drank champagne and danced on random weekend nights when we had music jams at our friend’s home in sweden. i drank champagne for my 39th birthday brunch.

of course, the point is not to drink champagne (though it’s yummy)… the point is to nurture at attitude of celebration, of gratefulness, and of joy. because, even though there is much that is difficult and painful, there is something beautiful and worth celebrating every single day. i promise. how about just celebrating that you are alive?! woo hoo!

5. live with less.


in june, before leaving our apartment in sweden. my love and i had a moving sale. we turned our entire apartment into a flea market for a weekend and invited friends and family to come. what happened was that so many people came and bought so much of our stuff (for super duper cheap), that now our stuff is spread out over sweden, which feels so amazing to us. the rest of the stuff we gave to charity.

this entire process reminded me first, what is really important to me. and second, how much i do not need in order to be happy. material things do not matter – oh, they are fun. but, simplicity is much more fulfilling. and not having so much extra stuff, but only stuff that i will use is how i want to live for the rest of my life.

i’ve gotten rid of stuff before a big move 3 times now. all that i own is in our apartment – and we are renting that. it feels much more freeing and light to not hoard stuff, and to go through my things regularly, giving things away as i see that i am not using something. i think that trying to live simply is psychologically and spiritually good for the soul.

6. connect with nature.


this is another absolute must in my life: i need the trees. i need the sky. i need the wide open sea. i need, and appreciate, all types of landscapes. and, i’m lucky enough that i have had the joy of visiting and seeing so many different types of land and sea on earth. but, more than just soaking in the beauty of nature, when i wander in nature or just sit and stare, i can breathe. i am grounded (no pun intended. hehe.). i feel organically connected to all living things in the cosmos. i remember how small and great we are at the same time. i am inspired. and i need to feel all of these things to help me keep life in perspective.

7. fika is a spiritual  experience.


ok. i’ll admit it. i have loved coffee for as long as i can remember – even before i drank it, when i watched my grandparent’s sip a cup after meals. but, it became even more important to me this year. in sweden, i loved having fika and being a part of the fika culture so much that i brought it with me to asheville – and began to share it and spread it.

and while it’s still about good coffee, it’s become so much more than that now. it’s about spirituality. about being alone, or in the company with others, and truly connecting on a deep level. it’s about slowing down and focusing on relationships – my own with the divine, or seeing the divine between me and another. fika was how i lived out my faith in 2013. and i am certain that it will continue to be that in the new year.

8. spur of the moment decisions are best.

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and boy, did i have some doozies this year. one of the most influential ones was my decision to rent out a little office space in a historical building in downtown asheville. my reasoning? it would be a place where i could focus on writing, plus it would be a great opportunity to meet new people, seeing as i was downtown in the middle of everything. it was a huge risk because, though it was cheap, i still had not secured a job and was, in a sense, saying that my job was going to be a writer = make no money.

i rented that little space for only a month before i told the landlord that i wasn’t going to keep it. but, it wasn’t really a sad decision to let it go. and i had not failed at anything. in fact, it was quite the opposite. that little space, just having it for a month and a half, was the turning point for me accepting and understanding that i am a writer. and i went after my dreams full speed ahead after that. and you know what happened? i became a freelance writer for a local newspaper! amazing!

i took a risk. i followed my soul. and the universe co-conspired with me. but it did it all from my gut, my intuition. there were no pros and cons lists. no long sleepless nights. i just did it, and trusted that it would be exactly as it should… come what may.

9. surround yourself with positive people.





i cannot stress this enough. everyone has energy that they put out into the world. positive and negative. life is too short and there is too much to deal with and celebrate at the same time, so i choose to surround myself with those people who are positive, those who inspire me, make me think, challenge, me, and touch my soul. i want people around me who will celebrate with me when i’m excited and inspire me when i am feeling down.

i honor and respect the humanity in people that are a bit more negative, but i will not let their negativity affect my life, my goals, and the fact that we need as much love, hope, and inspiration in this world as possible. the end.

10. seeds are growing underneath the snow.


be patient. trust the universe. you and i may not see what is happening, what is being prepared for us. we may not believe it at times. we may lose hope when times get tough or when we don’t get the answers we want, or any answers at all… but trust me. i have experienced time and time again, that all is working for good. we may not understand the process. we may even hate the process, but we are growing and learning and being transformed. and one day, when we look back, we will understand.

as i look back over 2013, it all makes sense to me now… the fear and pain of my love being sick, the stress over moving, the impulse to leave my dream behind just to ensure financial security, the need to work and do something that i did not feel called to do anymore, the changes and transitions and goodbyes. the hidden meanings. the hidden messages. the misunderstood moments and times of waiting.

of course, i still don’t understand it all, because life continues into 2014 and my journey continues. but, as time passes, i understand more and more. but, more importantly, i trust more and more. and i slow down. i try to read the signs and be aware of the present moment, leaving the past behind as a beautiful memory and something from which to learn, and leaving the future in it’s mysterious, unknown place.

for now, i give thanks for today. i trust that i am exactly where i am supposed to be. and i relax and enjoy whatever comes my way, knowing that today i am more true to my authentic self than i was in the beginning of 2013. i have changed. i have grown. and i have learned and experienced so much. for all of you out there, for my family and friends, for the mere fact that i live and breathe, i am grateful.


here’s to an amazing 2013! i believe that i did fulfill my vision to begin to authentically live up to the spirit that is within me. i began to claim my life, my story, and i began to tell it. but, oh, this is only the beginning… now, what amazing lessons and adventures lay head for us in the coming year?!

peace and love. xx

wild & carefree.



my soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring and carried aloft on the wings of the breeze.           ~ anne brontë

free spirit

the new year has got me thinkin’.

you & i, we’ve got this one life filled with moments that fly by in a flash. in just one blink of an eye, another year speeds by and time marches on. with the coming of this new year, i realize once again how blessed i am, how amazing life is, and how i want to soak up life like i’ve never done it before. i have so much for which i am thankful. so, i’ve made myself a promise. not a resolution, but a promise. something that keeps me grounded & true to myself. in 2013, i’m gonna continue to live my life to the fullest, enjoy the journey, seek out adventures, and embrace the free-spirited nature that i know & love.

and to make sure that happens, what i am seeking in 2013 is…

  • move giving
  • more passion
  • more giving
  • more sunsets
  • more cups of tea
  • more books
  • more travels
  • more new people
  • more mexican food
  • more challenges
  • more hugs
  • more photographs
  • more explorations
  • more drum circles
  • more simplicty
  • more dancing 
  • more nature
  • more candles
  • more wine
  • more camping
  • more balnkets
  • more kitty snuggles
  • more lazy mornings in bed
  • more laughter 
  • more gratitude
  • more vegetables
  • more oringinality
  • more silence
  • more creativity
  • more yoga
  • more trees
  • more cafes
  • more new paths
  • more rain
  • more writing
  • more spontaneity
  • more picnics
  • more walking
  • more hot chocolate
  • more volunteerng
  • more beaches
  • more christmas lights
  • more banjos & mandolins
  • more prayer
  • more bonfires
  • more connections with people
  • more authenticity
  • more wildflowers
  • more beads & bracelets 
  • more mountains
  • more countries
  • more love
  • more peace

i wanna be fearless this year because i am free. free to be me, free to be in love with life. and i want to embrace that freedom.  to not take it for granted, but to live it. to fill the pages of my life with love, peace, and . to tell my story, to write it out every day, through my words, photos, and adventures… and to work for all people to be able to feel the freedom, love, & peace that i feel. everyone deserves to feel that they are overflowing with joy.

yes, this is my list. these are my dreams & my goals for 2013, a year that i welcome with open arms, with excitement, and with joy. a year in which i embrace my life and plan to soar high. a free-spirited year that i like to call, “lucky number 13”!


this is my commitment for 2013:

to live up to the spirit that is within me.

peace, love, & freedom.


“I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.”  ~ Dawna Markova

last night i was at a meeting at work. meetings generally are annoying, boring, and people don’t really say what’s on their minds. but, not at the church where i work as a minister. the leaders of the congregation are open, respectful, smart, and most importantly, lead from their hearts. they are honest and true to themselves & their beliefs, even though we may have different perspectives, opinions, & thoughts. i sat in the meeting last night, sharing my own thoughts & opinions, thinking how blessed i am to be able to work among these people.

as the meeting was breaking up, i was called aside by the chairperson & asked if i could preach on sunday because m cannot be there. i was already going to be leading most of the service, so it was just to preach the sermon as well (just! hehe!). of course i said yes, with great excitement! i love to preach. as i said a few days ago, preaching is like writing a blog post (with a bit more research behind it, of course) and delivering it aloud.

by the time i got home, panic set in. 2 days to write a sermon. in swedish. gaaahhh!

but, i can do it. i’m totally up for this challenge.

and i’m completely inspired by the quote above… my theme for sunday is “freedom”, something that i ponder often. what does it mean to be free? who is free? how do we become free? and if we desire/need freedom, then that implies that we are captive? to what are we captive? how are we enslaved? from what do we need to be set free? what are our responsibilities to other people who are not “free”? what does a free life look like? can we choose freedom? and what does faith have to do with freedom?

i do ask one thing of you, my dear readers. if you have any thoughts, ideas, inspirations about freedom & what it means to you, feel “free” (hehe) to share them in a comment. i receive such inspiration from hearing other peoples’ ideas, thoughts, stories, so if you have anything to add on this topic, i’d love to hear it! after sunday, i’ll post my sermon online, so you can read the “blog post” i delivered to the people in my church.

wish me luck, pray for me, send me good vibes, leave me a comment, whatever… a community of support would be greatly appreciated over the next 2 days. here’s to sending you good vibes and wishing you a fabulous friday!

peace to you all.

day 29: numbers.

i kept trying to think of something really creative for today’s photo challenge… numbers. but, nothing came to me. though, i did keep looking at this clock this afternoon and thinking about how time passes.

and then i thought this: if not now, then when?

yeah. when? if i don’t live life, suck everything out of it that i can, soak up every little moment, seek out adventure, change, craziness, embrace my inner carefree, free-spirited nature, and take risks & leaps of faith… then what happens? if i don’t do it now, today, then when? tomorrow is not promised. an opportunity may never come again. and i do not want to be 85 years old, sitting in my rocking chair, wondering “what if?”. nope. not me. time keeps passing. and it moves faster & faster it seems. if i wait too long, time will slip right by me. life is to be lived… today. right now. right here.

so, if not now, then when?

don’t waste another minute. follow your dreams. live life. find your passion & go for it! ok. enough blogging for today. time to be with my little family…

carpe diem! peace.