20 years… poof!

it has happened. i have reached the age that i thought about as a teenager. the day has come. something that seemed so far off in the future, that i thought for sure by now i would be traveling around like the jetson’s (if you don’t know who they are you are either too young or not american, or both. hehe) in some car in the sky. i never imagined i would be living in sweden, surfing & blogging on this thing called the internet, and married to a women when this day came. i remember thinking how old people were when they hit this milestone. like having gray hair, and boring jobs, and lots of kids, and almost ready to retire (i told you i thought that people were old when they experienced this milestone. hehe).

but, here i am. 38. not traveling in a flying car like the jetson’s (which still disappoints me). not even having a car, since i live in europe. not having gray hair, or a boring job, or lots of kids (not that there is anything wrong with that at all!), and nowhere close to retirement. ha! instead, i’m divorced. remarried. an aspiring writer & photographer. a blogger. a traveler.

nope. i never could have imagined this life. not in my wildest dreams. and you know what? it is actually way better than i could have ever dreamed. and the journey the past 20 years has been unforgettable, exhilarating, trying, liberating, and empowering. wow. how could i have ever known, when i walked across that stage dressed in a paper-thin red robe to grab that rolled up piece of paper, the journey that awaited me. 20 years ago… i’m blown away. shit, how time flies.

yes. today, this weekend, is my 20th high school reunion. eeeeekkk!

of course, my high school is in greensboro, north carolina and i am in sweden, so unfortunately i don’t have the chance to schmooze with all of my high school acquaintances. i say acquaintances because i didn’t have that many people i called friends. i was weird. different. somehow an outcast. not by choice, though… because i longed, longed, longed to be part of THE group: you know, the girls & guys who were beautiful, rich, popular, athletic, funny, creative, had everything, and were everything that i thought that i was not.

high school was a tough time for me. part of me loved it. the traditions. the rivalries. some of the classes. but, high school was so much about friends & fun, and i knew that my level of fun could’ve been higher than it was, if only i was more popular. if only i wasn’t so different. i have no idea how i was different, i just was. i was most definitely NOT confident. i didn’t really like myself, or i was always trying to be someone else, always looking across the aisle and dreaming of being the beautiful, dark-haired, incredibly intelligent cheerleader. oh, how i dreamed of being accepted. of being noticed. of being someone. anyone but me.

but, i had a wonderful boyfriend, who was a year older & way more mature, and didn’t go to my high school. and i had my youth group friends. so, i had some fantastic support & my own fun. but, true to who i am now (though i didn’t like it then), i did things my own way. i teetered back & forth between feeling ok and feeling like i just wanted all this to be over. i remember telling myself very often, “this will not last forever. as soon as high school is over, things will change. you will get through this, and you will soar when it’s all over.”

so, i am bummed that i am not gonna have a chance to see all these people tonight at the reunion. not for their sake, not to prove anything to them, because none of them were mean to me. i was not bullied or anything. i just went unnoticed and not included, perhaps mostly due to my fault when i look back. no, i am gonna miss being there for my sake. because i know who i am. and i love who i am. i am proud of my journey through the past 20 years. and i am confident, caring, and friendly… even if i’m still a loner, an introvert, and a bit different.

the difference is, i now embrace my difference.

in fact, i love being different. a big change from the elizabeth of 20 years ago, and somehow, exactly the same.

ok. now for the fun stuff. a blast from the 1992 past.

on the big screen:

basic instinct, aladdin, the bodyguard, a few good men, home alone 2, toys

in our ears:

Colour Me Badd, R.E.M, UB40, Young MC, Rob Base, The Divinyls, Beastie Boys, House of Pain

on the tube:

Home Improvement, LA Law, Married… with Children

yeah. hard to believe, but it has been 20 years since i graduated from high school. it’s truly hard to imagine because time has flown by, but it feels like an eternity at the same time. do i feel old? not at freaking all. i feel like life is just beginning to take off again. so, i’d say my 20th high school reunion is a perfect starting point for new journeys and new experiences. who knows what lies ahead?!

38 year old me.

for those of you who are in high school, or college, or just feel stuck in life, don’t give up. it does get better. try hard to believe in yourself, hold on, and listen to what your soul is saying to you. no matter what people say or think, be true to yourself. it’s a tough journey, but to be truly free is to accept who we are and to live from that, chasing our dreams, following our heart, and soaking up life. you are so worth it!

happy 20th, fellow page pirates! hail to the buccaneers!

peace to all y’all out there.

i wanna graduate from high school in sweden.

last friday was graduation day for many “high school” students in sweden. well, at least in my city. we had a family member (lina’s cousin) who graduated from the music program… and he graduated highest in the school!! the celebrations here are much, much different than how we do it in the states. everything feels much more celebratory here. and the students who are graduating celebrate with dinners, breakfasts, fikas, bbq’s, parties, all week long. then, on graduation day, family & friends stand outside the school building as groups of students (a class = the 25ish students who study in the same program for the 3 years they are in “high school”) run out in their suits or white dresses and graduation caps. they sing a song, do a cheer, and then find their way through the crowd to their families, who are standing & holding a big sign with a picture of the student as a child on it. it’s really a great tradition! and i was so excited to be a part of it (from a family perspective) for the first time!

all other students have closing ceremonies all over the city on the last day of school. one was at the church where i work, so i went to it in the morning before the graduation later in the afternoon. it just so happened that a lot of the youth that i work with and family members were a part of this closing ceremony. so, two birds with one stone. yes!

here are some shots from the day:

 a group of 6th graders who are in a music program in school… their musical talent impresses me every time i hear them! in the pic are family members & youth. after this concert is over, their summer began!

 a little celebratory fika for all the kids in the family who had their last day of school. yum yum yum!

 now the graduation! families & friends waiting with their signs. so exciting!

 students looking down from the windows, waiting for their turn to run out on stage to officially graduate.

alfred’s (lina’s cousin) class on stage. yay!

 the sign. cool, huh?

cousins hugging… congratulations, alfred! stort grattis och lycka till!!!

and the after graduation tradition… ride around the city in a truck/tractor with music blaring, toasting each other, singing, & yelling. so basically, there are these trucks all over the city all day long. so much fun!

i wanna have a swedish graduation. doesn’t it look like so much fun?!

peace out.

yellow & blue. all day long.

about 10 days ago it was the anniversary of my graduation from high school. guess how many years it’s been? twenty!! yes, 2.0. 20!!! i cannot believe that i am old enough o be celebrating 20 hers since i graduation from high school. i was 17 and the whole world was in front of me. well, as an american what wanted to get a job, going to college/university was what was ahead for me. that’s the drill for most americans, those who have gotten scholarships or can afford to pay, that is. anyway, the fact is, if you want a job in the states that will give you health insurance and enough money to live (but not be rich, although that can happen too, i’ve heard), then you’d better get yourself directly to a university, some place of high education in order to get a degree. in something. anything.

let’s not even get into the discussion of all those teenagers who don’t do well in school, who can’t afford to go to a university but instead have to get a low-paying job anywhere that will hire them without skills or education, or who aren’t ready to choose (at the age of 18) what they want to do for the rest of their lives…

the typical path to follow is college. directly after high school graduation. ok. you get the summer off, but then. back to school. for 4 or more years. if you’re lucky.

today i watched lina’s amazingly talented & smart cousin’s “graduation” from “high school”. quotation marks are necessary because it’s not graduation like you might think it, american friends. nope. it’s way more of a celebration. and it’s not exactly high school, but it is. it’s the best way to describe it so you understand. in any case, it was a bunch of 18-ish year olds finishing their courses of study before moving on their next adventure in life… like a folk school. think community college, but how they should be. without the negative connotation. here they are seen as great educational places. just another option & a place to study some higher education, but for a shorter period of time usually & with the aim of learning some specific skills… from social work to restaurants to photography to child care. you name it.  or a university. or a year to travel. or a chance to be an au pair/nanny. or a job (because some have studied something specific in high school that leads directly to a job – like medical technician or child care).

my point is, there are plenty of legitimate, well-respected options from which to choose.

my wife’s cousin is a musician and has been accepted into a really great music school, so that’s his direction so far. anyway. today we watched him run out with his class (and by class i do not mean 350 students who have all been in the same grade. i mean a class of about 25 who have studied together for 3 years), sang some songs, and looked for their families to collect hug after hug of congratulations.

i’ve got tons of pictures from today on my nikon, but i won’t have time to deal with them until monday sometime. so, you’ll see a lot more then. for now, here’s the picture of the day: yellow flowers (yellow is the word today) we bought to hang around the neck of lina’s cousin. it’s a crazy flower necklace kinda thing. in yellow & blue. sweden’s official colors. everybody gets them.

i’ve also got a few more fun peeks into the last day of school for everyone. but, more pics coming in a few days, i promise!

for now, i’m off to dreamland. hope you have a great friday night and a fabulous weekend. i’ll let you know what i’m up to this week shortly tomorrow morning before i am out of touch for 2 days…

goodnight. and peace.

up-close. (and personal).

today’s photo challenge prompt is up-close. i first took a picture of the bracelet i was wearing, making it look a little artsy. you can see it here. then, i snapped this up-close shot of myself.

that got me thinking about being up-close & personal…

i got a request in the form of a blog comment the other day from heather. the request is to share my path to inner peace here on my blog in a series of posts. wow. a request to write about my journey in life. that’s a first & i must say, it feels humbling & amazing. i’ve been thinking about it since then… and i think i’ll do it.

you see, it could be a great motivation for me. a few years ago i decided that i really wanted to write a book about the past few years in my life. a kind of memoir of life-changing experiences & moments, which wind through my journey toward inner peace, to living from my soul, to learning to simply be me… including graduate school, a divorce, death, trips around the world, a marriage to a woman, struggles with how to be me, and the biggest move of my life so far. if i begin this series of blog posts, then i would, in effect, be beginning my book – which i have not really begun yet because i’m the world’s worst procrastinator. well, i have the first sentence. so, win-win situation, right? when i’m done with the blog series, hopefully i’ll be well on my way to getting my book going so that i can have it published one day.

ok. i’m ready to be up-close & personal with you all.

and it feels quite amazing to make this decision today. twenty years ago (20!!!) i graduated from high school. i cannot believe that it has been that long. when i graduated, i thought that celebrating/hitting the 20 year graduation mark only happened to old people. but, i was wrong. i’m not old at all. so, it feels so crazy that it was so long ago. i did not like myself much back then. i felt so different. i still feel different now, but i embrace that difference. i love the difference now. i love being 37 instead of 17.

it feels perfect to decide to begin to write about my journey from a shy, unsure, outcast girl uncomfortable in her own skin and unaware of anything that she wanted out of life to a woman who knows herself and follows her bliss on this day. it’s been a 20 year journey, and i think the time is right to begin. time to reflect & share up to this point. then, i set out on the next 20 years.

so, be watching. the posts will begin soon. as soon as i figure out where/how to start. hehe. thanks for the challenge, heather. i look forward to writing! hope y’all will enjoy reading.

peace.

a little love for the blog world.

a week or so ago, i read a blog post by victoria where she thanked her readers for reading her blog, but also for writing on their blogs. as i read her post, i felt the desire to do the same.

i had no idea how passionate i was about writing until i got into the habit of writing on my little blog here. ironically, a high school teacher once told me that i was terrible writer. then, my job required me to write a lot – so i found myself reflecting & writing sermons and other inspirational things on a regular basis, falling more & more in love with the process of writing. and finally, i began journaling during a very weird, soul-searching time in my life. writing became my outlet for expression. now, writing has become one of the most important things in my life – i truly feel called to write, to share, to inspire, to connect. it is my dream to be a full-time writer, to earn my living from photography & writing (but that’s another blog post for another day).

and while it’s amazing to have this space to write & express my thoughts and feelings, it’s not just that. not just a place to spew out my thoughts & wonderings. this space has become a space for conversation, for meeting new people from all over the world. and all of this is making me a better, wider, more open, more loving person. i definitely feel more inspired than perhaps i’ve ever been. or at least in a completely new way. i feel more free, more like me.

but enough about me. this blog post is about you…

you who visit my little site once a day, once a week, or perhaps only one time ever. you who leave comments & engage in a little conversation with me. you who click that follow button & commit to continuing the conversation, the connection. you who are willing to embark on this crazy, eclectic relationship through the internet.

this post is also about you who write. those of you who type your feelings and thoughts out on a computer screen, and then share them with the world. you, who i agree with & disagree with. you, who challenge me to think out of the box and reflect on who i am. you who share little snippets of your life with me through your words and your pictures. i am honored to be able to get a glimpse into your life. and i sometimes find myself thinking about you at random times throughout the day… how amazing is that? you, who i have never met, and yet have made such an impact on me. and, of course, you, who are my family & friends living so far away from me. i am so thankful to be able to keep in touch.

for all of you, readers & writers, i thank you. thank you for being part of my life, for reminding me every day that i am not alone. i may not see you in person or hear your voice as your speak, but i do see you and i do hear you. and i am overwhelmingly thankful that you see & listen to me too.

what a gift it is to belong to such a wonderful, ever expanding group.

keep writing & posting, my friends. i’ll keep  reading.

and keep coming back to visit me. i’ll be here. peace.

fairness. stubborness. courage. love.

my copy of to kill a mockingbird.

it’s my favorite book of all time. ever.

it’s one of my favorite movies, too. in my top five.

it’s a (north) american classic.

and it’s a must read for all people (even non-americans) because it is a story of universal truths: injustice, racism, ignorance, and prejudice. and while those themes may have different faces all around the world, they are present in every society. this i feel i can say with truthfulness, because i live in a different culture – and i still see injustice, racism, ignorance, & prejudice even here in lovely sweden. of course, the setting of the book is during a specific time (the great depression. the 1920s,1930s) & in a specific place (the american south) in history, but it speaks to us, even today.

i don’t exactly remember the first time i read this book, but i know i was about 14 or 15. it was on the required reading list in school (and it still is in many places). i remember soaking in the words, the scenery, the characters. the tough, tomboy scout. the mysterious neighbor, boo. and the courageous, civil rights activist dad & lawyer, atticus. the belief in justice & equality, the difficult questions raised, the inspiring determination to fight for the rights of all people, the surrender of self for the good of others…. i was completely drawn in. and in many ways, i believe it was a confirmation for my growing teenage beliefs in/questions about equality for all (black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, foreign, homeless, young, old, disabled, etc.).

i remember that when i first read these words, it was as if i was given permission to think the way that i thought. it was like the words i was taking in were expressing my thoughts, and suddenly i didn’t feel alone. there were others that thought like me, that felt like me. there was at least one other: the author of this book, harper lee. and perhaps my teacher, mrs. trail (since she had us read this book, even if it was on the required reading list). then i realized that perhaps my parents thought this way too, since i was raised my them & having these thoughts myself. and then there’s religion. i had been taught some about Jesus, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Martin Kuther King, Jr… certainly all of these people believed in justice, fairness, love, and equality too. all of these names & people stood for the themes in this book. this was ground-breaking for me. i was not alone. not at all alone, in fact. and some of the most amazing people i had read about, studied, and met believed in the same things. and that gave me hope. that gave me strength to not give up on who i was becoming, even if i seemed different & felt like an outcast to my fellow classmates (which i was & i did).

over the years (as i have read this book again & again), of course, i have realized that there are many who do not believe in these truths. or they say that they do, but their actions speak differently. as i grew & matured and became an adult, my rose-colored glasses became cloudy and dark. yet, the realization of the reality of the world only served to give me more energy & passion. i wanted to fight even harder the injustices and the inequalities in the world. with each passing year (even up to today) i wanted inspire the belief in the love, respect, and acceptance of all people. and the joy of being able to teach (yes, i was a teacher in my former life) from this book gave me an opportunity to pass along these truths & beliefs to a new generation. i’ve used this book in my classroom & in my churches. i’ll talk about it with anyone. oh, how i hope that  i am doing just a little bit to spread the message that to kill a mockingbird sends to the world…

the reason that i’m writing about this today is because this past week the movie has celebrated 50 years on film. i want to celebrate the book & the movie, and i want to encourage any of you who have not read this book or seen the movie (read the book first! hehe), to do so. the main character, atticus (a single dad) is played by gregory peck (an amazing actor!), who tapped into the character in ways that i cannot describe with words. he became atticus. he, alone, makes the movie sensational. (if you want to read more about the movie/book click here)

 picture from the daily beast.

as a tribute to the 50th anniversary, gregory peck’s wife released a copy of his script, with his personal notes in the margins, along with the anniversary dvd package cool!). on the last page of the script, the script reads:

“We can see Atticus sitting through the window, sitting by his son’s (Jem’s) bed holding Scout. Camera slowly pulls back as Atticus looks at the sleeping Jem.

FADE OUT.

THE END.”

underneath, in bold script, gregory peck has written four words:

“Fairness. Stubborness. Courage. Love.”

enough said. read the book. watch the movie. spread the message. do it!

peace.