Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Swede vs. Non-Swede: How We Roll

This month, one of my favorite people came to visit Austin for the month. Her name is Sarah and she was the first Swedish person I ever met. Sarah has taught me alot about Sweden--everything from the crazy crap they eat to their governing system. She has a magnetic quality about her, something that intrigues everyone. I find all of my friends immediately engaged in asking her about her life. It's as if they never knew that Swedish people existed! I LOVE listening to her tell stories--funny, outrageous, enlightening, and empowering.

Therefore, I came up with this wonderful idea for an advice/opinion blog called "Swede vs. Non-Swede".

You see, even though Sarah and I have a pretty amazing friendship, we also have our own unique perspective on things, often influenced by our cultural and regional upbringing. Sometimes she is dumbfounded by the way that "Americans" live and act and likewise, I was surprised to find out that she doesn't have a movie theater in her "willage" (village, but that's how she says it) and the last time she went to see a movie was over a year ago. See.....we live our separate lives, have our own experiences and influences, and enjoy sharing these with each other and the world.

I asked my Facebook community to ask questions, advice and propose topics for discussion. We had a great response and so we will be breaking up our conversations into separate blog posts.

Without further ado, here is the first installment!

HOW WE ROLL: Personalities & Lifestyle

Question: Do you believe a person's name has any effect on their personality?

Sarah: Not at all. A name is just a name. It's something your parents gave to you. Of course it depends on how strong of an identity you have. If you're kind of shy and having a hard time socializing with people, then I feel like people begin to associate your name with you. So no, I feel that a name is just a name. I love the Indian names. "Sarah, the Girl with the blonde hair who is here to cheer us up"...if that was my name, then yeah..but I'm just (wanders off in thought)....cause I mean like 150-200 years ago in Sweden, it would still be that you got your parents name, you know? So it was also a kind of identity marker back then when there was so few people. But today, a name doesn't say anything.

Monica: Well, I do find it interesting that I can have strong reactions to people's names and sometimes find myself judging them based on other people's personalities with that name. For example, I tend to hate Johns because most of the Johns I know are egotistical alpha males...and maybe a guy named also terribly broke my heart a few years back, so I kind of shy away from hanging out with Johns. Here's what I think: People form strong attachments to names of people who were significant in their lives. So it's not that a person's name influences their own personality, but rather, the people they know influence their perception of them. I feel like I am trying to communicate this while I am on drugs. Hope you are staying with me on this one.....You know what would be unfortunate? If you had a really kick-ass name like Sunbeam but you were actually a huge ass.

Question: Do you like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?

Sarah: I do, but it's just that we don't eat that much peanut butter, so for me peanut butter is this thing that is just taking over your mouth. But with the jam, it just goes down, so with the sweetness of the jam, it makes the peanut butter eatable. I do love peanut butter, but not by myself. It's "gum glued" food. Like some special kind of wines are "gum glued" wines. You know that feeling?

Monica: I feel so unAmerican for saying this, but I do not like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that much at all. I feel like I spend way too long trying to get the peanut butter down my throat and the smacking sound that it makes really bothers me. HOWEVER, I would be more enthusiastic about eating a sandwich that has the crunchy peanut butter because I do enjoy whole nuts.

Question: What does rock music sound like in Sweden?

Sarah: Can I just paste a link to a Metallica song played from a Swedish computer? That must be Swedish rock music. Hahahaha. Here are some music groups you should listen to: Hellacopters, Moneybrother, and of course, the Hives. That is Swedish rock. Swedish rock sounds alot..it's just got this cool rock sound. Swedish music sounds COOOOOL, okay?

Monica: An ex-boyfriend of mine introduced me to a band called "The Sounds" years back and I really dug them. Then I met Sarah and she informed me that they are in fact, a Swedish band. Soooo...."I really like this rock band" + "This band is Swedish"="I really like this Swedish rock band". Therefore, Swedish rock (the very little I know about it) is pretty cool. In fact, we've posted some Swedish rock for your listening pleasure! Just like American rock, there are many genres and sounds across the spectrum, but here is a diverse sampling.

Hellacopters:"I'm in the Band"

The Sounds: "Painted by Numbers"

Moneybrother: "It's Been Hurting all the Way with you Joanna"

Oh and let's not forget THESE AWESOME SWEDISH ROCKERS..

Roxette: "The Look"

Okay, that's it for this time. Check back soon for the next installment of Swede vs. Non-Swede.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm Sitting Pretty

I am here to share with you all what has undoubtedly been the best month of my life all year....possibly years. If you've been around me lately, you may even have had the urge to gag a little with my incessant purring over how awesome my life is right now...and is continuing to be.

I was lying here on my bed tonight, listening to some of my favorite music, reflecting on how hard I have worked to get myself and my life to this place of abundance and fulfillment. I have always thought of myself as a fortunate and happy person, optimistic about life's adventure. And I know that even when everything seems to be perfect, it is not about obtaining perfectionism...it is about truth seeking, personal growth and development, and the pursuit of passion, knowledge and experience.

So what is all this mumbo jumbo about exactly?

First of all, it starts with a job promotion. Last month I became the Director of Education for Heart House. Hopefully, you know that I have been working there for over 5 years now and I have a true passion for the work that I do to impact the lives of the youth in our afterschool and summer programs. I really hope you all know how much my work means to me. If you don't, you will learn soon enough that it is paramount to who I am as a person--what motivates me, what excites me, what fulfills me. So earlier this year, our Founder offers me the amazing opportunity to create a NEW job for myself....and the Director of Education was born. Not only did I receive the opportunity to write my own job description and performance plan, but I also received a very generous salary increase. Oh, and did I mention that I work from home now? Yeah....so as you can see, my new job began to open many new doors for me.

The first door it opened was time at home. OMG, I have ALL this time now to work and do other things. I cannot express to you how awesome it is to be able to do laundry while working, or to be able to take my dog Jack on regular walks in between working sessions. Or how I can make a healthier lunch for myself and savor my food, instead of scarfing down Whataburger in 20 minutes to make it back to work on time. I actually have TIME. Sweet, productive, uninterrupted time. I feel like I will be able to accomplish so much more, feel balanced, rested, calm. Can you imagine....CALM??

And I hate to say it buuuuttt......I have boatloads of money now! I just can't believe that I am going to be financially well off for a long while. And as much as money can be the root of all evil, um, it can also provide many much needed opportunities.....like getting out of debt, a mental health and well being plan, a bicycle, nice new professional work clothes, a trip to NYC to see my brothers.....and so on and so forth. Don't worry, I won't squander it all....because what I am most excited for with my new found financial security is the creation of a substantial savings account! That's right...I'm 29 and will finally have a savings account with a balance of more than $20.

And I've made some major breakthroughs in my counseling sessions regarding my working and personal relationships. I've finally let go of the people and personal habits that are preventing me from pursuing healthy, mutually respectful and loving relationships. I feel completely capable of setting boundaries with others, communicating honestly, and sharing my thoughts and feelings. I FINALLY understand and can apply healthy dating habits that do not involve hiding feelings, masking intentions, giving without receiving, and settling for mediocre. I am happy to report that I can successfully flirt now! I feel like I just put on a new pair of glasses and can see my life and personal relationships in a completely new, fresh and exciting way!

Amidst of all these goings on, I have learned some AMAZING things about myself.

I have learned what it feels like to find the calm in my life.
I have learned to sit and listen to music and contemplate.
I have learned how to have a healthier lifestyle.
I have learned how to have a better bond with my dog.
I have learned how to let go.
I have learned to say "No".
I have learned to truly love myself.
I have learned how to dress better.
I have learned how to ride a bicycle.

I am incredibly grateful for this feeling of abundance that has washed over me. I cannot wait for the rest of what this "newness" will bring!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fleetwood Mac's "The Dance"

I hope that in heaven, Fleetwood Mac's emotionally honest, electric and palpable live performance called "The Dance" plays on a loop for eternity.

This concert viewing also has incredibly sentimental value for me because the first time I watched it was with a dear friend of mine, Drew. When I met Drew years ago, I knew I liked Fleetwood Mac, based on....oh...the only 3 songs of theirs I had ever heard. After nights of listening to FM albums and sharing CDs, I truly came into my FM fandom. He cultivated a true appreciation and endearment for them and it is something we have shared together ever since, including a very special place in my heart for this song:

The first time I watched "The Dance" with Drew, it felt magical.....like in a really geeky way. Like I wanted to slowly rock my hands back and forth in the air, eyes closed, loudly singing along to songs that are somehow about my life, like they predicted my lifetime and wrote songs just for me. Yeah...like THAT kind of magic.

We watched it again the other night. It totally pulls on my heartstrings, in a really vulnerable and therapeutic way. It's great for heartaches, hard crushes, and self-discovery.

I would just like to state for the record that this is the song you should sing to me when we get married.

And if it's unlikely that you and I are going to get married, then you can sing it to me on a voicemail at 1am, on any future birthday, or when it's time to sing those "let's get really drunk and sappy" songs at karaoke. I mean honestly, if you need to deliver some REALLY bad news to me too.....go with "Songbird". It hits the spot just right every time.

In conclusion, I highly recommend everyone watch "The Dance" at least 10 times. At least. And watch these videos as supporting evidence.

Special thanks to Drew Walters for making my insanely special love for Fleetwood Mac possible.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Watched Pot

A watched pot NEVER boils.

For reals.