immigration said yes!

guess what i got?!

today my PERMANENT residence card came in the mail… the swedish immigration offices have given me permission to stay! i am officially a resident of sweden!

so, tonight, my love and i went out for very short celebration at a cozy restaurant in our neighborhood…

it really is a big day for us. and it feels amazing to know that i am settled, accepted, and have the rights to be here… permanently. i am so thankful that sweden allows me to stay, to live, to be with my love here. too bad my home country (USA, i mean you.) doesn’t have the same kind of laws, where everyone is treated equally. here, it didn’t matter at all what gender lina & i are. what mattered is that we are committed to loving each other, and have built a life here together.

it’s crazy to get to stay! or, at least until lina & i dream up another adventure… mouwahahaha. in the meantime, i feel so blessed,thankful, and overwhelmed at the fact that i truly have 2 homes. and to share life with my love, to know without a doubt that we can be together, that mean everything to me.

so, tonight, i lay my head on my pillow as one who is not a tourist, not a person with limited permission to be here; but as a wife as one who has the right to sleep here every night. though i have permission to be in this physical place now, no restrictions at all, i am reminded tonight in the midst of feeling so excited and proud, that, wherever my love is, is my home. and now i’m officially, truly, really, legally home.

goodnight, world. peace.

a dream fifteen years in the making.

one of my blog friends, german-american abroad, asked me to write a little bit about my decision to move to sweden and my first reactions to living here.  she knows that i am working to begin writing down parts of my story in book-form here online, but asked if i could write on this subject now. of course! it is a little out of order, but, perhaps it’s a great way to get stuff written down. there is no rule saying that i need to tell my story in chronological order, right? actually, it could be cool to do it this way.

in my last “from death to peace” (which is not the title of my book, just something i using right now since i don’t have a title) post, i wrote the very beginning of my book. and the beginning began with my death. now i am jumping to the end of my story: my move to sweden. of course, the story i am telling is not the story of my whole life, just a certain time period over about 4-5 years. in any case, here comes the closing. where my journey from death to peace led me.

i will, of course, fill in all the details of my journey from my death to my new life in sweden in later posts; for that is the heart of my story.

******************************************************************************** 

i met lina just as i began to die. just as i began to realize that i needed a change in my life. ok. not a change. a complete overhaul. i met her just as i was beginning to feel and listen to my soul. just as i was beginning to take my life back, so i could live again (or perhaps for the first time) and be true to myself. i met lina just as i begin to follow the dreams that i had been keeping locked deep inside me for twelve years. it was the summer of 2007.

ironically, or magically, or providentially, i met lina when i was thirty-two, in the exact same situation and place where i first felt my soul twelve years earlier. it was a place, a way of living that, in the summer of 1995, i knew deep in my twenty year old soul that i needed to be. a place, a way of life that would most definitely be a part of my life. it just took me fifteen years to get there.

in june, 1995, a naive, twenty year old college girl hopped on a plane for the first time and jetted off to scandinavia. the plan was to travel with four other girls & two boys (and married couple who served as our leaders) to visit united methodist churches in denmark, norway, sweden, finland, & estonia. it was sort of a relational exchange program that had been going on between scandinavian & north carolinian methodists for fifty years, and i was chosen to be part of the team for the summer before my last year of university studies. what an opportunity! five weeks in europe! not just touring, but living with and establishing relationships with people from other parts of the world. it was a dream come true for lil ‘ole me.

i could probably write a book about those five weeks, but that’s not the story i’m telling now. i will share with you that, during that trip, i met many people who i kept in touch with and many who touched me, but i’d never hear from again. why would i? and when the five weeks were over, something had changed inside of me. better yet, something was awakened in me. i felt a longing, an aching to live in europe. in scandinavia. at that time, specifically in denmark. i began wondering how it would be possible to move there after i graduated, but i came up with no good plans. i saw no possible ways.

stubborn determination took over, however, and i did not let the dream die. instead, i refocused on being a missionary in another part of the world. i didn’t care where. somewhere. anywhere. i knew i was born for adventure, for travel, for other cultures. however, upon graduation, reality set in…. in the form of my parents encouraging me to look for something more stable. a real job. not missionary, volunteer work. that doesn’t pay the bills. that’s not practical.

i succumbed to my own fears of letting others’ down and my inability standing up for myself. i felt the pull, the drive, the yearning for adventure. i knew it was in my soul. but, i didn’t listen to it. i decided to make the best of it, use my degree to find a job teaching, and fulfill my duty as a responsible adult at the super young age of twenty-one. yes. i settled down. or better yet. i settled.

marriage followed. a house. a move. a new job. and a stable life all by the age of twenty-three. thirty-seven year old me thinks twenty-three year old me was crazy and way to young to settle down. but, i did.

fast forward nine years to the summer of 2007 and i was finally ready to listen to my soul. to really listen to that yearning, that calling, that feeling that never left. i had tried to suppress it, to say that life was good, to make the best of everything… all the while knowing that my soul was aching for europe, for adventure, for a different kind of life that was not the status quo. i knew i there was a life of passion and purpose out there; and in order to be true to myself, i had to seek it.

just as i was finding the courage to hear what my heart and soul were saying, and beginning to act on it,  i was asked to be a leader for a group of college students to scandinavia & the baltic countries. yes. twelve years had passed since my trip to scandinavia as a twenty year old, and at the age of thirty-two, i was asked to lead the group for the summer of 2007: the sixty-seventh summer of the exchange. finally. i would be returning to the countries where i first felt  my soul, where i first felt that there was a greater purpose to my life. but, why now? i had no idea that this trip would be the catalyst for my death, and then eventual return to life.

and so, as i was the leading five amazing college-age students across the countries where i found my soul, watching them meet their souls, our paths crossed the path of a beautiful, amazing, funny woman in sweden. lina.

lina was the one in charge of taking care of us for the week that we were in sweden. when we met, something clicked. we laughed, sang, talked, and a beautiful friendship began. a friendship that, after a very tough, life-changing year for both of us, grew into love… something neither one of us expected, thought of, or imagined. it just was. and most everyone saw it before we did. until one day, when we realized how natural it was that we had fallen in love with each other. how everything fit. how we made each other better people. how we had found each other; and now we were home.

we were married on the 26th of december 2009 and were faced with the question:  where would out actual home be?

as an american woman married to a swedish woman (we were married in sweden), it was not possible for us to live in north carolina (where i am to this day still considered single) or actually anywhere in the united states. lina cannot get a green card because our marriage is not recognized by the united states government… therefore, since visas & green cards are only valid for heterosexual couples, there was no possible way for lina to move to the states. well, she could possibly find a job and get a work visa, but we would still be unmarried (according to u.s. law) and not have any rights. it doesn’t matter that there are a few states that recognize/support marriage equality, we have to go through the u.s. government in order to live there. follow me?

so, the decision (which was not really a decision, since we didn’t really have a choice) for me to move to sweden was inevitable. in sweden, our marriage is like any other marriage. marriage is simply marriage in sweden. so, in early 2010 i applied for a residence & work permit (green card) and was granted permission to live here with all the rights as anyone else.

but, moving here was not a problem for me at all… i was fulfilling a fifteen year old dream.

humbled, overwhelmed, ready for the adventure, and so thankful to finally be able to live with my wife, in august 2010, we packed two suitcases, two duffle bags, and our cat, and moved me (and zola) to sweden.

beginning life in sweden was not that much of a shock because, by the time i moved here, i had visited so many times and spent several months here at a time. so, i was quite used to the culture. there was no real culture shock. the hardest thing was facing the challenge of learning a new language at the age of 35. the second hardest thing was sitting around for almost a year with no job. but, i’ll admit i got used to it. wink wink.

because i had a ready-made family here (in-laws), it was very easy for me to get into society, to meet people, and to be around swedes – a notoriously individualistic group of people, generally keeping to themselves. i suppose the lack of interaction among strangers has been on of the most difficult things for me as a southern girl. in the south in the states, we talk to any & everybody. we chat. we smile. we make jokes with whoever is around us. and it’s not weird. here, we keep to ourselves in public. ok. i test the boundaries some, especially when i’m walking down the streets as i flash a smile at a stranger, sometimes receiving one back. sometimes only receiving a stare and i’m certain then that they are thinking, “damn foreigner”.

all in all, it has not been a difficult move. sweden is an easy place (for a fellow westerner) to adapt to. however, as someone who longed to leave the states so badly, i find myself missing them greatly now. they say that once you are an ex-pat (one living in a country other than your home country), you are more patriotic than you’ve ever been, it’s true. i’m way more american now than ever. at the same time, i’m way more swedish too. the ex-pat life is a funny, yet exciting and wonderful thing.

my journey from a twenty year old dreaming of moving to europe one day to a thirty-seven year old living life as an american in sweden has been a long one. but, it has been a journey to freedom; though not without pain, heartache, confusion, and death.

but, you’ll have to wait until next time to hear some of those stories.

day 20: something i can’t live without.

well, with today being my love’s birthday, and the fact that she is the most important thing in my life, this post is most definitely inspired by her and our celebration of her throughout the day. for her birthday, lina & i spent the afternoon outside in the archipelago. the east coast of sweden lies a short 30-40 minute drive from the city and it is truly a gorgeous & peaceful place. but, we don’t get out there that much. the thing is, we don’t have a car & the whole bus thing takes waaaay too much planning. so, today, lina’s parents picked us up & drove us to the coast so the 4 of us could celebrate a birthday fika in the beautiful weather today. perfect.

as i looked through my pictures from the day, i realized that there is another thing i can’t live without (though not as important as my wife, of course)… nature. especially trees & water. so, here are a few pics from the day. a day filled with the most important thing in my life… spending time with my love surrounded by water, trees, and a great, big, blue sky.

it was a beautiful day. and i’m a lucky, lucky girl.

peace, dear friends.

525,600 minutes.

today is my love’s birthday!!! ♥

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure
A year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love? Measure in love
Seasons of love. Seasons of love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes!
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned,
Or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned,
Or the way that she died.

It’s time now to sing out,
Tho’ the story never ends
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends
Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Seasons of love!

Oh you got to got to
Remember the love!
You know that love is a gift from up above
Share love, give love spread love
Measure measure your life in love.

i couldn’t help but think of this song as i thought about my love’s birthday. we listened to it yesterday as we sat outside in the warm sun, just enjoying being. yes, another year has gone. so much has happened. so much is happening right now. and there is so much more to come.

as years & milestones pass, i always find myself reflecting a little. today i’m reflecting on this amazing song… how do we measure our lives? our years? i dare say that the message of this song, to measure life with love, with the moments of simplicity & joy that we shared, is most definitely the way to live. it’s not about how much money we made, whether we lived up to others’ expectations of ourselves, or how much power & success we have; whether we kept it all together and lived life according to what we think we should be like, look like, act like. no. those things do not make us rich and successful. that is not living. that is existing.

instead, to measure our life in love is to think back to all the moments that took our breath away, the moments that inspired us, that gave us peace, that made us sing, that made us cry & laugh. the moments of sharing a cup of coffee, or a pint of beer, of sitting & chatting, of dreaming & discussing, or connecting with old friends & creating new friends. a life of love is a life of passion, one that is not afraid to dream, risk, take chances, try something new.

think of whatever makes your soul sing, what makes you feel alive, like you are completely in touch with yourself… whole, connected, inspired, able to breathe. where were you inspired? where did you feel free? loved? amazed? overwhelmed? at peace? how many moments like that have you had this past year?

this song that lina and i love so much, reminds us to live in the moment. to never give up. to never forget that life is meant to be lived fully… filled with adventure, love, inspiration, and peace.

so, my dear love. my amazing birthday girl, this song is for you. it’s meant for you. here’s to a year of life moving into the past, taking with it all of it’s moments of fear & frustration and it’s moments of inspiration & beauty, and it’s seasons of love. and another year – full of new experiences, new hope, and new, amazing moments- appearing before you. with so many new journeys to plan. so many daylights, and sunsets, and midnights, and cups of coffee to come. so many moments and seasons of love.

here’s to the next 525,600 amazing minutes in your life, my love. i am so proud to be your wife and i can’t wait to share the next seasons of love with you! i love you with all that i am.

happy birthday, my amazing lina!

a long walk with my love.

woke up late this morning and was greeted by this bright sunshine outside my window. finally!!! lina and i are both off today, and since it wasn’t cold out today (only chilly), we decided a nice, long walk around the river would be perfect. we grabbed out cameras/phones and headed out, hand in hand, to enjoy a few hours in the fresh air, soaking up the beauty of spring, which is just about to burst into full bloom. i’m giving it a week. it was a gorgeous day and the best way to spend an afternoon together.

later on in the afternoon, the sun disappeared behind the clouds and rain began falling. but we went home, sipped coffee, and did some research for our upcoming trip to paris (!). all in all, a pretty wonderful afternoon together and a great way to spend most of a monday. hope you’ve had a good start to your week!

wishing you sunshine & peace.

sunday night pep talk.

lina and i were discussing tonight the next 2 weeks and all that we face. it’s crazy. both of us, in our work, have so much packed into the rest of april. stuff that will eventually turn out good, but for now, seems like a crapload of stuff that will suck us dry. i thought spring was supposed to be the time when we felt more energized, excited, and full of life. right now, though, all i’m feeling is exhausted even before all the insanity begins. and speaking of spring, what’s the deal with the weather in sweden this year? i know i sound like a broken record, but i seriously cannot take the cold anymore. my love and i have begun discussing warm, tropical places where we can relocate. not really. we’re dreaming. but, this cold & gray spring has got to go. at least if my stress level is high, nature could send me some beautiful days to help make things more bearable. i know i sound overly-dramatic. and i am. but, i truly am in need of some warm sunshine and i am truly freaked out about the next 2 weeks (let’s not even get started on what comes after that). a tropical island sounds like paradise right now.

anyway, with all that negativity building inside of me, i realize that i gotta get busy with my yoga. hard core. and writing. and i gotta focus only on the present moments. you know, live in the now. that reminds me, perhaps i should pick up that “the power of now” book i’ve started, but never finished. sounds like exactly what i need to help me focus. that and my love… she’s so wonderful. today we had a crazy laughing spell that lasted quite a while, but it felt so good. freeing. laughter… it’ll cure those stressed-out blues as good as anything.

the other wonderful thing about today was, that in the midst of all the rainy, cold days, mother nature delivered some semi-warm, beauty today. and i had a chance to ride in a car out to the countryside, catching a glimpse of fields, massive amounts of sky, puffy clouds, and sunshine. just what the doctor ordered. thank you, dear mother nature.

 a snapshot of the swedish countryside from a fast moving car. hehe.

after a birthday party out in the countryside, when lina & i got back to town, we couldn’t stay inside…. it was still so beautiful out. so, we took a long, leisurely walk around the city.

tonight, as i prepare for the upcoming weeks, i feel the pressure mounting. but, i know deep inside, that in all circumstances, i am not alone and that everything will be perfectly fine. it’s time to get my procrastinating ass in line and bust on through these weeks, support my love through her tasks, and keep my eye on the prize: paris for a long weekend in mid-may! the tickets have been bought. oh yeah.

so, i’m off to sleep now, even though i’m not ready to face tomorrow. but, come what may, monday will arrive and i will tackle it and all it has to bring. i think i’ll make a list and work through it to make sure i accomplish everything, and to reward myself every time i strike off an accomplishment. yep. that sounds like a plan.

for now, i’ll end by wishing you a cozy sunday night and by asking you to send good vibes to my little home here in sweden. enjoy the rest of the weekend, because right around the corner are tons of possibilities and opportunities. and with each others’ support, we’ll make it through.

strength and peace.