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i’ve had a bit of wanderlust as of late and a desire for home. i haven’t lived in norway since 2011, but still consider it home to a large degree. certain images, songs and conversations remind me of a familiarity, which if i was honest with myself, probably isn’t all that familiar anymore. but it’s the beginning of the year and i’m planning for the coming months. i’m a planner by nature and am learning that despite my best planning and organization, really beautiful moments and people seem to enter when least expected. a trip to norway in the spring to visit friends who are having babies and getting hitched is in the works and simply planning for it feels familiar and calming.

i ran across this TEDtalk today and it is filled with all the goodness and oddities of norway. it is a reminder that planning is necessary, but taking time to enjoy the ride is just as important. kinda like home.

IMG_2099more than anything, i believe this past year was defined by people – by those i chose to spend time with and those who wriggled their way into my life without me even knowing it. i spent the afternoon with a friend at a movie that left me questioning life and recent circumstances, the music full of the complexities of life and choices. we spent the remainder of the evening with another friend who recently returned after traveling for several weeks – eating, drinking and sharing life. 2013 was a hard year. really, really difficult – and not just for me, but for many. when january 1st came around, i breathed a sigh of relief. it was over, thank God. the past six months of the year were characterized by “yes.” and 2014 will continue to be a year of yes. more than anything, i’ve said yes to relationships. my instinct is to hide, cover up reality with a quiet smile and unassuming good girl image. over the past months, i’ve heard several people speak of the good girl image as a disease plaguing too many women. we do what we believe others expect from us, what we are told is routine and normal, all the while hiding our true selves. but i’ve said yes to many things – yes to being real and wearing my heart on my sleeve, yes to admitting when i just can’t handle life on my own and yes to people. lots of people – people who are similar and whose hearts beat for the same passions and those whose personalities are loud and boisterous and infectious with life – people who have qualities and character that i want. because we become that which surrounds us.

so last night i celebrated. i celebrated good people, honesty and life. we sat together drinking wine and i wept. i wept because life is good and i have good people with whom to share it.

Processed with VSCOcamthis week has left me feeling a little bruised and beaten and i am not alone in these feelings. i’m re-reading this book and the premise, like the title, is that life is bittersweet – too much sweetness rots the body and the soul. as americans we tend to run from pain and anything that could threaten the way of life we believe we deserve, thus leaving us one-dimensional and entitled human beings. bittersweet though, is beautiful, courageous and reminds us that life is a constant wave of death and life.

the author speaks of a season of life which was characterized by change, “hard, swirling, one-after-another changes, so many that i can’t quite regain my footing before the next one comes…” ah, resonating words. yesterday i found myself crying on my phone outside of anthropologie (my supposedly happy place) and i can’t tell you the number of cafes and pubs i’ve cried in these past months. i have no shame about crying anymore. i think life is wildly unfair, but… that’s life. it’s difficult for everyone and i’m trying my damnedest to embrace every aspect of the bitter-sweetness. knowing sadness and loss has taught me to recognize and appreciate the goodness of life. it is there. in the wee hours of the morning i found it in a text message, telling me to open my front door. what greeted me was this coffee, pastry, fall leaves and a note reminding me that life is difficult, but the difficulties are overshadowed by the goodness around me.

“i believe deeply that God does his best work in our lives during times of great heartbreak and loss, and i believe that much of that rich work is done by the hands of people who love us, who dive into the wreckage with us and show us who God is, over and over and over.” – bittersweet

for some mystical reason, i tend to cross paths with pretty amazing people on a fairly regular basis. case in point: annie parsons.

when i was living in norway, i ran across a blog, linked from a friend’s blog. i read the blog regularly and was amazed at the courage and wit displayed through the writer’s words. as we often do when people dare to be vulnerable and have a gift of communicating, i found myself resonating with annie. but in the midst of a deluge of transition and changes, reading blogs did not make it on my to-do list.

earlier this year, i was sitting at church and that awkward time of greeting people, asking their names and forgetting their faces came and went. but during that time i recognized a face, and for the life of me could not remember how i knew her. i racked my brain and realized that it was annie from the blog world! we chatted and decided to get together. what little time i have spent with annie has been an encouragement and honestly, a breath of fresh air.

so, get comfy, take a break and check out her blog: HOOTENANNIE  what a treat.

quality friends are a rarity, but i seem to have an abundance. living in a city, there is always something fun (and cheap) to do, especially in the summer. but we have all been busy with work, traveling, visitors and the like, and although we made a “super summer of fun” list, we failed to cross one thing off said list. that changed this past weekend. sunday morning a friend and i went to a nearby lake and wrote for a couple of hours, promising ourselves that would not be the last time we made that a priority. after sunset that same evening, several of us sneaked back into the lake, brought drinks, dinner and blankets and caught up on life.

monday we continued the super summer of fun by making waffles. what was to be a night of a couple people eating and watching a movie turned into adding two leaves to the table, breaking out the fire pit, taking a trip (or two) to the liquor store, an abundance of waffles, ganache, coffee and conversation. a rag-tag group of people sat around my thrifted table with mismatched plates and cups, but that suited us all just fine. perfection is not only boring, it isn’t true. we are all a little worn around the edges and are learning to wear those edges with pride. every person around that table recently experienced disappointment, brokenness, anxiety and a lot of learning to love and let love do what it needs to do. and i think we’re slowly learning what it means to let others into the happenings of our lives – the good, the bad and the ugly.

but the waffles – they were as close to perfection as possible.

ORANGE CINNAMON BELGIAN WAFFLES (adapted from desserts for breakfast)
1 cup lukewarm milk
6 T butter, melted
3 T honey
3/4 t salt
1 t vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 T ground cinnamon
1/2 cup orange juice, slightly warmed
freshly grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 t instant yeast
1. Stir to combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at (warm) room temperature for an hour. The mixture will begin to bubble.
3. Preheat your waffle iron and coat lightly with cooking spray.  Place enough batter in the center of your waffle iron to allow for expansion.  Cook for roughly 4-6 minutes until golden brown.  Serve immediately with dark chocolate hot fudge, or keep warm in a 200 degree F oven.

we bought chocolate ganache from whole foods and it was the perfect addition. butter, syrup, powdered sugar and fresh fruit are also great topping options.

photo-9i made a pact this summer: say yes to pretty much anything and anyone that came my way (within reason, that is. i’ve still managed to ward off an old man at the coffee shop for the past several months. i always say yes to a free cup of coffee though!). some yeses resulted in stories not intended for public knowledge and other yeses were beautiful stories of new beginnings. a fair amount of messiness and goodness occurred because of those decisions so atypical of me.

i made this pact on a whim. i was tired of sitting around, waiting for something good to happen. i felt as though most of life was a struggle and i was only waiting for the next big tragedy to hit. it was tiring and depressing. by making this pact, i learned that saying “yes” is hard work. i didn’t have time to analyze and weigh pros and cons for each decision – i just had to go with the flow.

one of the first decisions i made was to be set up with a guy i had never met. i’d done this on a couple of different occasions and what disasters! but i said yes, and it quickly became a whirlwind, crazy, beautiful, heart-wrenching relationship.

enter ruby woo.

i was so very hurt and saddened by the end of the relationship, but i allowed myself to grieve and felt every emotion that appeared – and felt them strongly. i have incredible friends who bought me drinks, flowers and junk food, took me dancing, and let me cry without shame. after a morning spent with a couple of those friends, knowing i would soon step on a plane to meet the hurt again, i drove straight to MAC and was introduced to ruby woo. hello, bright red matte lipstick.

i’m a pretty simple girl, content to stand in the shadows. but it is near impossible to say yes while living in the shadows. i can’t hide behind ruby woo. hello lips i never knew i had! when i wear that lipstick, i am saying yes to continuing to say yes.

saying yes means shaking up the way i think and view life. it means stepping out of myself and inviting the unknown to present itself. saying yes insures that i will be hurt, but it also means that i will probably be okay. saying yes means there is hope. it means making mistakes, but not allowing those mistakes to rule my life. it means saying no to worry and fear. saying yes is traveling, meeting new people, not living with the status-quo and what is good enough for everyone else. it means i am not the center of my universe. it means being uncomfortable and vulnerable and fighting myself every step of the way.

it is saying yes to the power of ruby woo.

i stepped off the plane and my shoulders sank. i was so worried everything would feel different and i in turn would feel out of place. but all was as it should be. a friend graciously offered to pick me up at the airport and as we stopped at a cafe in oslo, another friend happened to be riding past on his bike. we then made our way to skien where we met more friends at a cafe, and thus it began. incredible friends, familiar sights and sounds, lots of laughter (and tears), coffee and catching up. friends are coming in from sweden and denmark and i am already wishing i was staying longer and could pack all this place has to offer in my luggage and carry it back with me. grateful and thankful don’t begin to describe it.

moddi is a norwegian musician and his music is quite fitting for this monday morning.