Feeling Restless

prettyI know I’m not alone in wanting, at times, to live more than one life. Let me clarify. These last couple of years in living in Minneapolis have been, in many ways, wonderfully easy; I get to live life with my best friend; have more or less had a steady job, and have the freedom of visiting my family whenever I feel like it. Yet, a huge part of me has been feeling restless and hungry for adventure. Homesick for places I’ve never been and for people I’ve never met. (This is a quote from somewhere, I’m quite sure). I want to live abroad again. I want to travel. I’m ready for the comforts of home to be new and inspiring rather than familiar and comforting. Please tell me you sometimes feel this way, too?

B and I have talked seriously about trying to work abroad and, if it was up to me, I’d leave tomorrow. Is this normal? Has travel transformed you into a malcontent? This feeling is so difficult to describe because, in countless ways, I’m very happy with my life here. I just know that there’s more out there. And we don’t own or have kids yet, so maybe now’s the time to seek adventure?

How do you make the best of your current life circumstances? I think I need a strong dose of patience!
Em

Image courtsey of la fleur solitaire

Dog Days of Summer

One last weekend at the cabin.

One last weekend at the cabin.

It’s been more than three months since I last wrote and I must apologize for my silence. Finding myself in-between jobs and dealing with a barrage of difficult family matters left me both uninspired and largely too low to write. I’m happy to report that much has changed.

Last work I began a new job with a nonprofit I’m passionate about and, for the first time in months, feel my life is no longer on “pause.” B and I are planning a road trip through New England. We’re getting excited to give canning another crack this fall. More than anything, we’re doing our best to drink up the last drops of summer; i.e, go paddle-boarding one last time, have Izzie’s ice cream for lunch, finish one more good book and wear my favorite summer dresses on repeat.

How will you enjoy these last days of summer? I’d love to know and I’m so glad to be back!

Career Dreams Do Come True

brisAs an undergrad, I never really felt much pride for my school.  With plans to attend college on the east coast, staying in my hometown couldn’t have been more unexpected and while I know now that it was the right decision for me (it enabled me to study abroad in Norway, volunteer in Africa and graduate early), at the time I felt a bit like a misfit.

My experience at the University of Bristol, where I earned my MA in English, couldn’t have been more different. I found a lovely group of friends right away, fell in love with the city of Bristol and loved (almost) every one of my classes. Since graduating in 2012, I’ve enjoyed keeping up to date with Bris and these recent interviews from Bristol alum, who are now world-class journalists, really struck me. I wrote for Epigram, the student newspaper, while at Bris and long considered a career in journalism, and while I’m still sorting out my real interests and skills, writing has remained at the top for me.

Not only is it encouraging to read about people who are fulfilling their career ambitions, which often feels  impossible in today’s market, but their passion for their respective fields is palpable. It made me pause and consider if I’m on the right career-path and what I hope to be doing in five, ten years from now.

Are you happy where you’re at career-wise? Any advice for pursuing job success in today’s tough climate?

Travel Mondays: Stylish Sweden

swedenAs difficult as it is to pull myself out  from under the covers on a grey Monday morning, waking up to a fresh start and brand new week is satisfying, especially when I’m finally starting to feel better. Thank you all for your kind words last week regarding my sweet Grandma. I never ever expected to say goodbye to her so soon. In some ways, none of it feels fully set in…this week’s Travel Monday will honor my Grandma and a country she loved very much: Sweden.

Stockholm's Old Town

Stockholm’s Old Town

My Grandma was one hundred percent Swedish and, with her blonde hair and bright blue eyes, more than looked the part. Although she was raised on a small Minnesotan farm, she visited her Great-Grandparent’s home in Sweden, along with Stockholm, on a special trip with my Aunt Susan. I wish I could go back and ask my Grandma dozens of questions about this trip, but I do know it was momentous for her. Even if she did leave six days early because she missed my Grandpa so much. In some ways, being drawn to Sweden runs in both sides of my family. My Aunt Melissa and Uncle Dave moved from the States to Göteborg when their family was very young and were quickly smitten. My cousin, Leah, moved shortly thereafter to help nanny.

I’ve visited Sweden three times now and would jump at the chance to go back. My first visit was to Stockholm and the next two to Sweden’s second-largest city, dreamy Göteborg.

Stockholm's moody and dramatic bluffs along the Baltic Sea.

Stockholm’s moody and dramatic bluffs along the Baltic Sea.

I think Stockholm-and Sweden as a whole-is one of Europe’s most underrated destinations. Unlike Paris and London, it’s not ridiculously overpriced and with easy to navigate public transportation, getting around is easy. What struck me most about Sweden, however, is its class. My first (and thus lasting) impression of Paris is of crowds and the fume of cigarettes and exhaust, and in Stockholm I experienced none of that. In my experience, the Swedes were courteous and quiet and, true to European form, very well-dressed. Stockholm itself  seems to achieve that rare feat of balancing old architecture and traditions seamlessly with the new. And the shopping! Ask me for my idea of a perfect afternoon and it would have to be fika (afternoon coffee and cake) and shopping in Gamla Stan.  Göteborg, with its wind-swept views and sweep of tiny islands, could easily be among Europe’s most romantic cities.

A view of city center in Gothenburg

A view of city center in Gothenburg

Why else visit Sweden? Here’s my reasons:

The café culture. First off, Swedish coffee is rich and strong…what other country could create coffee as delicious as Gevalia’s? Stopping for a coffee and fikabrod (a sweet) is also central to Swedish culture. When visiting, I found this really comforting. Unlike a tiny cup of espresso or diminutive Italian cappuccino, a mug of coffee was substantial. I didn’t feel like I had to leave the cafe in ten minute’s time.

The museums. I didn’t visit Gothenburg’s museums, but visited as many as I could in Stockholm (about six) and the variety kept things interesting and worthwhile. After purchasing the Stockholm Card, I could get in free to over 80 museums and other attractions and in four day’s time I visited the Abba Museum (!!), the Vasa (amazing!), the National Museum,  the Stockholm Museum, the Skansen Museum and Zoo (where a lemur brushed up against my nose) and the Music Museum.  Many of these museums were interactive and very hands-on–I think Stockholm would be a great destination for those traveling with kids.

The design. By now, Swedish design has been lauded the world over, but it still felt special to stroll through boutiques and furniture shops firsthand…including the original Ikea! Anyone with an eye for design will feast here.

Window shopping. Both in Gothenburg and Stockholm, so many of the shops felt really special. Being on a tight budget on every trip, I really appreciated that I never felt pressured to make a purchase. I could just look and feel comfortable.  The birthplace of H&M, fashion boutiques really seemed to cater to what was practical and workable in day to day life. On my next trip, you can bet I’ll be doing some serious shopping (I have three visits to make up for!).

These are just a few reasons to visit this Scandinavian gem, but there are many others. Those looking for outdoor activities will find them in abundance (think dog sledding in Lapland and fishing in Malmö).

Have any of your visited Sweden? What did you enjoy most? Do you think Sweden is underrated?

 

Saying Goodbye to my Beautiful Grandma Gotta

 

I apologize for my silence this past week. Last Wednesday I received the sort of phone call you never hope to answer. And my world stopped. I rushed home in time to have three final days with my dear, precious Grandma before she went to Heaven. These left few days have left me numb, hurt and sad, but finally, last night I was able to put words down on paper and the process was immeasurably cathartic. If you like, here’s why my Grandma Gotta was so indelibly special to me:

grandma

When I think of my Grandmother Fern Ann I can’t help but feel warmth, comfort and remarkable joy. Joy strong enough to lift my heavy heart as I remember the gentle force of her presence. Her blonde curls, sparkling blue eyes and quiet step. Her enviable beauty mark and her genuine smile which could brighten the darkest room. Some say we bear a resemblance (the greatest compliment I’ve ever been given) and I can only hope to grow in beauty like she did.

As a shy and quiet child, trips to Grandpa and Grandma’s were a special treat; a time where I felt more like a woodland sprite than a little girl who still wet the bed. After a day of swimming in the blue-green water, catching minnows and maybe a sunburn, Grandma would wrap Maria and me in towels and take us up to the bathtub to get clean. Sudsy, sleepy and wholly content I’d trace the blue-tiled walls with my wrinkled fingers, not fully aware of just how preciously I was cared for. Next, it was time for stories and, dressed in our favorite nightgowns with our hair still damp, Grandma would read us stories in her soft, crackling lilt. I’d choose the same stories again and again—The Town and Country Mouse and The Three Little Kittens—but Grandma never seemed the least bit impatient or hurried.

When I think of Grandma, the aroma of fresh from the oven blueberry muffins fills the air and I can easily picture her precisely-set table. The blue-rimmed plates resting in perfect symmetry, the blinds open to views of her beloved garden and the green sweep of the yard. The delicious sense of anticipation as we waited for the bountiful feast she had so lovingly prepared.

When I think of Grandma, twenty-five years of birthdays, Christmases and football games come to mind, blurring into an almost indescribable feeling of lightness. Born two days and 58 years apart, Grandma and I would celebrate our birthdays together, sitting side by side, blowing out our birthday candles with expectation for what could only be a golden year ahead. Septembers with Grandma always felt rich and full. With football games starting and Gotta birthday parties peaking, we’d knew we’d see lots of each other. A happy secret we shared with relish.

grandma and me
I wish I could bottle the tangible magic of Christmases on Pelican. The glory of Grandma’s tree, bedecked with the shine of precious ornaments and silvery tinsel, filled the whole upstairs in beauty. The tenderly-wrapped presents were always almost too pretty to open, but I managed somehow and always opened exactly what I had hoped for.

Above all, when I think of Grandma, I think of a woman with a servant’s heart, endless love and the self-confidence to live her best life. She knew the elusive, rare art of living well and shared it with her family and loved ones in great abundance. She understood that the little things are the big things—the perfect slice of blueberry pie on a hot July day, hours in the garden pulling weeds to let her marvelous snapdragons grow; the thrill of a new dress and, most importantly to her, the weighty love of the handsome husband beside her.

Anyone who knows my Grandma knows she was an excellent cook and gifted gardener, but what I hope most to emulate is her joie di vivre. Grandma was interested in my life, in all her grandkids’ lives. She was never less than present, engaged and interested. She made me feel important and valuable. She knew that life could be beautiful and fascinating and hard and she never shied away from it. Many people would call my Grandmother busy and, active though she was, she was never less than generous with her time. Whether enjoying a cup of coffee together or drinking in sunshine on the porch, time with Grandma had a limitless, expansive quality. She was as efficient and studious as they come, yet lavishly gave of her time.

May 10th, 2014 was, to my earthly wishes, much too soon to say goodbye, but I know that the richness and depth of Grandma’s legacy will make the difficult days and weeks ahead easier to bear. I know she has already found a patch of land in Heaven and is rolling up her sleeves to create a garden that, like her legacy, will never fade.

Thank you for listening, everyone.