A Swedish Wedding

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My apologies for the delay in posts.  In the past month I have traveled back to Sweden from Florida.  In that time, accompanied by family and friends, I married my best friend.  I thought I would take a quick detour from my usual nursing related posts and share with you one of the greatest days of my life.

One month this past Saturday, I married Nils Fredrik Brännström, a man I met ten years ago in San Francisco.  I had no idea that I would one day be living with him in his native Sweden and much less become his wife.  I have always been a bit of a rebel or have done things in less conventional ways in my life.  I never planned to marry, never wanted to have children.  In fact, I always imagined myself being the crazy old cat lady.  The thing is, never say never and I am proud to say that marrying this man was the greatest detour in life.

When we decided to marry, it was a simple question of where.  My family and friends reside in Florida, his in Sweden.  We decided in the end to have a small ceremony in Florida for family that would not be able to travel to Sweden and an actual wedding in Sweden.  We had our small family ceremony in Florida back in January.  What follows is a glimpse into our wedding last month in Sweden.

The Church 

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We married in a church marked as a World Heritage Site.  Dating back to 1492, Gammelstad Church  and its surrounding church village with over 300 cottages, has a long history in Fredrik’s family.  Everyone in his family for many generations has married here, been baptized here, and buried here in the neighbouring cemetery.  While Swedes are generally a secular people, they are still for the most part a traditional people.  Marrying in a church is still the most common place for a wedding ceremony.

The Procession

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A Swedish wedding procession is nearly nonexistent.  There is no maid of honor, no bridesmaids, no best man.  In fact, the father of the bride does not traditionally walk the bride down the aisle like back home.  The bride and groom walk down the aisle hand in hand, a symbol of entering their marriage together as equals.  We walked to live music played by the super talented daughter of a dear friend.

The Ceremony

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The ceremony is similar to an American ceremony with the, “do you take this man,” and “in sickness and in health,” only in Swedish.  Sweden’s churches are primarily Protestant led by both male and female priests.  Our priest spoke a bit of English to accommodate our English speaking only friends and family.  On a funny side note, our priest was hilarious.  He told us the first time we met that he was going to a party the night before our wedding, but not to worry.  He said he would not be too hungover on our wedding day.  Only in Sweden.

The Reception

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A Swedish wedding reception is a super fun evening of food, drink, speeches, and dancing. Ours was no exception.  We rented a restaurant in a cultural center for our reception.  We were served some of the most delicious local food of the area including local fish and reindeer and the most beautiful cake adorned with orchids.

The Toastmasters

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Every wedding reception is hosted by someone called a toastmaster, usually the best friend of the bride and/or groom.  The toastmaster’s job is to welcome all of the guests and coordinate the entire evening which is a tall order and a lot of pressure.  In our case, two of Fredrik’s best friends were our toastmasters.  They did a truly amazing job arranging the entire evening for us.  No detail was left unpolished.  It was a wonderful, magical evening thanks to these two.  Thanks, Jörgen and Marcus!!!!

The Speeches

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It is tradition at a Swedish wedding that anyone can give a speech.  The speeches usually begin with the father of the bride and continue throughout the night with other members of the bride or groom’s family and friends.  Speeches are at the center of a Swedish wedding reception and go on through the entire evening.  I was completely shocked and moved that our toastmasters had arranged for my father to give a speech remotely as he was unable to come to Sweden for the wedding.  It meant so much to me.  I don’t think there was a dry eye for that one.  Fredrik’s mom, pictured above, was one of many that gave a truly touching speech.  His sister, Therese, also standing, translated for his mom.  His family has been so wonderful to me through my ups and downs of acclimating to life in Sweden.  I have always felt the full support of not only Fredrik here, but his dear friends and family as well.

The Kisses 

Another tradition at Swedish weddings is that each time the bride leaves the room, every woman in the room lines up to kiss the groom on the cheek.  The same goes for when the groom leaves the room.  It is a super cute tradition that I can now say I have been a part of.

The Dance

Traditionally, the bride and groom’s first dance in Sweden is a waltz.  Being the always unconventional girl I am, I opted to choreograph our first dance.  It was  a last minute decision and we spent only two weeks rehearsing, but it went very well in the end.  We had the best time putting it together.

Fredrik & Lori’s Dance

Thanks to all of our wonderful friends and family that shared in our day with us.  And thank you for those that traveled so far to be there, some even leaving babies home to come.  Thank you to my amazing cousins, Jenn Ross and Diana Ross for all your support and help in preparation for and on the wedding day.  I guess to sum up this magical day and tie it in to the purpose behind this blog, my advice to those of you in a difficult time in life or just questioning what you are doing with your life is to follow your heart.  I came from a place of difficulty and uncertainty to a place of joy and acceptance.  Through it all, I found myself.  Your heart will lead you in directions you never imagined if only you allow it.  Trust the process.  Sometimes pain and difficulty lead you to your heart.  Trust your heart.  Trust yourself ❤

 

 

 

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A Crayfish Party in Sweden

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Happy Monday friends!  Today’s post comes from one of my favorite parts of Sweden, Skåne.  Last week I shared with you the splendors of Northern Sweden.  This past weekend we headed to Skåne, a region in the most southern part of Sweden, a short drive from Denmark.  It’s a three hour drive from where we live in Gothenburg.  Our good friends live there and this weekend invited us to a traditional Swedish crayfish party-kräftskiva in Swedish.

History

Although crayfish have been eaten since the 16th century in Sweden, then a delicacy savored by aristocrats, the crayfish celebration came later.  The history of crayfish parties in Sweden date back to the mid nineteenth century. Originally, parties were planned around the time of year fishermen were legally allowed to harvest crayfish from the sea, which was often the first week in August.  They were considered the last party of the summer.

Atmosphere

No kräftskiva party is complete without party hats, decorations, and bibs.  The hats are usually adorned with pictures of the guest of honor, the crayfish.  At the center of the brightly hung streamers and paper lanterns usually hangs a large and happy  paper lantern of the Man in the Moon.

Food

Crayfish is the highlight here-served cold with a delicious hint of dill.  The little crustaceans can be eaten alone, with a little aoli, or on fresh baked bread with aoli.  It is considered completely polite and actually a treat to suck the juice from the shell.  In addition, salad, delicious cheeses, and quiche of different varieties are served.

Drink

Traditional drink for a kräftskiva party is Schnaps of multi flavors, beer, and/or wine.  While I am not usually a fan of taking shots, I was all in for this party.  I tasted two different flavors-elderberry and cinnamon.  I loved the elderberry and according to our host, you have to let the Schnaps roll around in your mouth a bit to truly enjoy the flavor.

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Song

Swedes are known for their love of song, which usually preclude the drinking of Schnapps (snapsvisor).  There is a song for every occasion and a crayfish party is no exception.  While our party was a little reluctant, once the Schnapps started flowing and inhibitions dampened, we managed one song  to the melody of Popeye the Sailor Man.

A great time was had by all. Already looking forward to next year’s party.  Thanks to our friends Per and Malin for the invite!!  Thanks for taking the time to read!  Have a great week 😊

Observations of a Swedish Midsummer

IMG_5320Glad Midsommar!  Happy Midsummer!  It has been almost six years since I moved to Sweden!  Six years??!!  In that time I have experienced more tastes, sights, and sounds than I ever dreamed possible.

Today is one of the most celebrated holidays in Sweden, Midsummer.  It is a celebration of light, food, song, dance, family, and friends.  It also marks for many (especially those with children) the start of summer vacation.  Midsummer is the best way to start vacation.  While I normally spend Midsummer in Sweden, the past two years I have been home following my niece’s birth.  The following is Swedish Midsummer in a nutshell as seen through the eyes of this expat….

A Brief History

According to Sweden’s official site, Midsummer dates back as far as the 1500’s.   It is the Friday after the summer solstice, somewhere between June 20-26th.  It is most often celebrated outside in nature.  Every city including Stockholm and Gothenburg (Sweden’s two largest cities) becomes desolate as all inhabitants flood the countryside.

Eternal Sunshine & Nature

In some parts of Sweden, especially the far north, the sun barely sets allowing for hours of outdoor celebration and games.  We usually celebrate far north in Luleå, the city where my boyfriend is from. Tonight, the sun sets at 12:05 am and rises at 1:03 am allowing for only about 58 minutes of “darkness”.  The flowers are in full bloom and this is what makes Sweden truly one of the most beautiful countries on the planet.

 

Food

No celebration is complete without food.  Midsummer is no exception.  There are  many varieties of pickled herring to choose from.  In addition, cured or smoked salmon with boiled potatoes, dill, and sour cream are featured favorites.  Barbecuing is a must this time of year and if you are lucky and know someone who hunts moose, you may have a taste of moose filet-the greatest piece of meat on the planet.  Strawberry cake or strawberry dessert of any sort is common and my favorite part of the day!!

 

Maypole

All across Sweden, towns erect a Maypole for Midsummer festivities.  It is typically adorned with greenery and flowers and stands approximately 10 feet tall.  The origins of the Swedish maypole are thought to come from Germany.  It is said to symbolize fertility,though this is debateable among historians.

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Dance

Dancing around the Maypole is part of the day’s festivities.  The most famous dance, Små Grådarna (The Little Frogs) has participants both young and old singing and hopping like frogs in a circle around the Maypole.

Midsummer Wreath

Girls make a wreath of flowers using seven varieties of flowers.  Legend has it that after placing the flowers under your pillow at night, you will dream of the one you are meant to marry.

 

Family & Friends

Day is for family, evening for friends-at least that’s how we roll.  We usually spend the day with my boyfriend’s family on Brändön, a small island in northern Sweden.  Following a day of sunshine, song, dance, a packed picnic, and games, we make our way to our annual Midsummer party hosted by our friends, Marcus and Maria ❤  The party continues with wine, beer, barbecue, and games.

It’s funny.  Since moving overseas, I always felt like I was missing out on the birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases.  Now that I call Sweden home as well, I am really missing  being “home” for Midsummer!  Wishing everyone in Sweden a happy, safe Midsummer!!

Here is a great summary of the day in just a few short minutes…..

Swedish Midsummer for Dummies

Foreign Nurse Feature: A South African Nurse

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I developed  wanderlust at a young age, but didn’t start nurturing it until I was older and able.  The most amazing part of my journey has been meeting so many fascinating people from every corner of the globe.  In this month’s foreign feature, we meet Betina-a young and enthusiastic nurse from South Africa.  In our interview, one could not help but be infected with her enthusiasm for nursing.  It is clear Betina has found her calling and interestingly enough as we will find, it was by way of a detour.

How long have you been a nurse?

I started my training in January of 2009 and graduated in December of 2012 at the University of Johannesburg.  I started my community service at Steve Biko Academic Hospital and worked there for two and a half years. I believe that although I was not yet qualified as a student, I was a nurse, because during our training we work with patients to accumulate the needed hours to qualify as a Registered Nurse, therefore I have been privileged to touch the lives of patients and their families for 7 years.

In what area of Nursing do you work?

I found my passion and the area in which I wanted to specialize during my training and since I graduated I’ve been working with the little miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I can’t describe the immense amount of belonging I feel when nursing these small and innocent beings. They are so vulnerable and completely powerless, yet such strong and determined fighters. I learn something new from them on a daily basis. We spend most of our lives at work, therefore finding a career where you want to get up in the mornings is of the utmost importance and I am truly blessed when I say that I am convinced I have found that, not only in the NICU, but in being a nurse.

What inspired you to be a nurse?

Since I was a little girl, I found myself playing “doctor doctor” where I would be the one taking care of the “sick patient” and being the eldest grandchild, I was always the one taking care of my sister and cousins when we were growing up. I suppose caring is in my nature. I have to be honest though and say that I didn’t always want to be a nurse, because in our culture being a nurse is looked down upon.  I wanted to become a doctor, but those doors didn’t open for me until someone told me to do nursing, get my foot in the door (so to speak) and then I could do a bridging course and become a physician.  Little did I know that in studying nursing I found where I belong and who I was destined to become. I no longer believe that nursing is a career to be looked down upon…in fact I am determined to change that perspective and rather have people realize that it is a profession where we make a difference on a daily basis, twenty four hours and that the health care system would not exist without us. Needless to say, I no longer wish to become a physician, although I respect them and love to gain knowledge from them, I feel that I have more of an influence at the bedside, taking care of my patient and knowing every aspect of their being.

What advice would you give to a new nurse?

I would tell them that being a nurse is more than just having a job to pay the bills. Being a nurse comes with the responsibility to care for another human being when they are in their most vulnerable state. Being a nurse means that you need to be passionate and professional, not only at work, but also at home and in the public, because we are looked to whether we have our uniform on or not. So my advice is to make sure that nursing is for you, because it is a life-long commitment and then to go out there and be exposed to every possible field of nursing.  Nursing is the one profession with an insane amount of fields and opportunities and places that you can find where you belong, therefore get exposure to as much as possible and then find the place where you feel like you can spend the rest of your life and make a difference there.

What advice would you give to a tired nurse?

Nursing is a physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining profession where patients and the multidisciplinary team demand a lot from us on a daily basis. It is of the utmost importance that you find something outside of nursing that you love and enjoy to do. An activity, where you can unwind and get rid of all the frustrations, turmoil, heartache and troubles which come with our career.  I find exercise and being active to be my ‘sanity’.  In the gym and jogging on the road is where I ventilate, release my emotions and find the strength to continue. I also recently found a love for obstacle racing, there is something about running and digging through mud and challenging myself through the most ridiculous obstacles that energizes me and pushes me past my own limits.  I also ensured that I have a strong support system, people to talk to. I find my best friend and sister to be my pillars of strength. But another piece of advice would be to never lose contact with the friends you studied with. There is a certain level of understanding that comes when one nurse talks to another about a challenge they faced, different to talking to your best friend in another profession and safer than sharing with your colleague.

Thank you for your honest words, wise advice, enthusiasm, and love for your tiny patients Betina!  To read more about Betina, check out my interview with her in Mighty Nurse in the link below.

A Mighty Nurse in South Africa

 

 

 

 

Easter in Norrland

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Each Easter, we fly up to Northern Sweden, Norrland, where only approximately 12 percent of Sweden’s nearly 10  million inhabitants reside.  My sambo (live in boyfriend) grew up in a small village here a stone’s throw from the Baltic Sea.  Year round, it is the most breathtaking, picturesque part of the world I have ever seen.  Even the quality of the air feels different.

We arrived on Thursday and have since tasted some of the best local fish (bleak) grilled right over an open fire, walked and snowmobiled on the sea, and had the best homemade cookies (recipe to come) for our fika, the cherished coffee break in Sweden.  We have also spotted a herd of reindeer (owned by the indigenous Sami in Sweden) that roam freely through Northern Sweden.

Luleå is a city with a population of nearly 47,000.  It is known for Luleå University of Technology, Luleå Hockey Club, and it’s steel production.  It is part of Norrland, one of the three land regions in Sweden.

They have a saying in Sweden, “det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder,” which literally translates to “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”  In other words, there is no excuse to stay in when it is super cold or overcast.  I still struggle with this from time to time, but I am a Florida girl.  Swedes have evolved to make the best of any weather conditions.

I was reluctant to head outside yesterday as it was a bit overcast and super cold.  Today was another day.  The sun was shining in every direction, the sky was blue.  We decided to spend it the way most Swedes in the area spent the day, walking and snowmobiling on the frozen sea!!!

We celebrated Easter together with Fredrik’s family in his sister’s family’s cabin.  We ate grilled moose and reindeer from a bbq made in the snow.  Many Swedes own a “summer house” which often consists of a large open room complete with a primitive kitchen, dining, and sleeping areas.  Spring and Easter usually mark the time when Swedes open up their cabins for use.

Easter in Sweden is mostly secular.  The Easter bunny  is not as celebrated a tradition as back home.  Instead, children (boys and girls alike) dress up as Easter witches and go from house to house wishing their neighbours a Happy Easter.  In return, they are given candy (similar to trick or treating on Halloween).  In addition, parents give their children Easter “eggs” that are filled with candy.

FullSizeRender-56Food traditionally served around Easter can vary, but generally consists of boiled eggs, cured and/or smoked salmon, cold cuts (ham, moose, and/or lamb), cheese, bread, potatoes, and pickled herring.

 

Though I long for home every day (especially on holidays), Norrland and Sweden have been my second home for nearly six years.  My boyfriend’s family have always been so kind and welcoming to me.  They have made my holidays here very special.  While I recommend visiting Stockholm and Gothenburg, no trip to Sweden is complete without visiting the many wonders of Norrland.  Hoping everyone back home was spoiled by the Easter Bunny and enjoyed each other’s company ❤

 

Wellness on the Road

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Happy weekend, friends!  I am super excited to announce that I am starting to write a regular post for The Gypsy Nurse that I like to call “Wellness on the Road.”  It combines my love for wellness and life as a nurse.  The Gypsy Nurse is a great resource for any healthcare professional that travels or is considering traveling.  Below is my first entry.  Hope you like!!

Wellness on the Road ❤

 

 

Observations of a Homesick Expat or Things I Wish I’d Known Before Moving to Another Country

FullSizeRender-21I moved overseas for love.  My boyfriend was born in the far northern reaches of Sweden, as far as nearly The Arctic Circle and frequent host to the Aurora Borealis.  When I approached the idea of moving there, it felt like such an adventure-the adventure of a lifetime.  I was moving to one of the world’s most progressive, innovative, and environmentally aware countries on the planet.

I’ve always embraced new endeavors with intense determination and childlike excitement.  It’s just who I am.  Moving to another country has tested the limits of these qualities and while I’m still standing, still determined, it has been no walk in the park.  It tests who you are at the very core.  I’ve read endless articles on life as an expat, have bonded for life with expats and natives alike, and found there is a common path one winds down in the process of integration.

There Truly is a Honeymoon Period

Every possible thing about your new country is perfect.  It’s like a scene from Travel Channel and you’re the host.
You’re enthusiastic about learning the language, trying the foods, embracing the customs.

You Wonder Why They Can’t Just Do Things Like They Do Back Home??

As weeks turn into months and you try to settle in to your new life, frustration ensues.  You have to take a number and get in line for everything, even at the doctor’s office.  The only number you take at home is in line at the deli at Publix.  You don’t understand why any decision in Sweden requires a group meeting of intense discussion and counter discussion even if it’s something as simple as what to eat.

Longing for Familiar Makes You Eat and Do the Strangest Things

You find yourself standing in line and paying the equivalent of $20 for a measly pancake breakfast at one of the only breakfast places in town.  Said pancakes are delicious and worth every penny as they temporarily fill the void in longing for home. The ethnic section in the grocery store now applies to you.  You consider buying that jar of marshmallow creme (that you haven’t eaten since you were seven) in the American section.

You Become an Ambassador for Your Country

You now (reluctantly) represent your country everywhere you go.  You are known as “the American” and with it comes all the clichés and assumptions.  You hope to leave a positive image of Americans and disprove the cliché that we are all loud, lazy, know it alls.

No One Else Cares That it’s Thanksgiving

That special, warm feeling you get when you wake up on Thanksgiving in anticipation of your mom’s delicious stuffing and the annual Macy’s Day Parade?  You’re the only one that feels it.  It’s just another Thursday in Sweden.

You Become a Smuggler

You start filling your suitcase with your favorite shampoo, skin care line, even canned pumpkin and turkey bags while home because it either costs twice as much in Sweden or you think you won’t find it there at all.  Your closet starts to look like a mini super market.

You eventually Find the Replacements

Your first year you talk your mother into shipping two cans of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce bearing in mind that it has now cost her at least ten times the amount in shipping.  Must have the cranberry sauce!  Your second year you opt for lingonberry jam and are pleasantly surprised that it is actually as good if not better.

You Begin to Feel at Home

You start understanding and speaking the language more and more.  You find your tribe of people and they become your parallel family.  You begin to add Swedish traditions and customs into your own life.

You Wonder Why Can’t They Do Things That Way Back Home???

After about a year you start criticizing your own country.  You find chaos when waiting in line and wonder why they don’t have a number system.  You notice everyone is in a hurry, stressed and all you want to do is fika.  You are the one who now initiates intense group discussions before making any decision.

You Smuggle the Other Way

You start bringing home coffee, bread, cookies, and other Swedish staples.  Family and friends  demand said items on every future return.

You Learn to Embrace the Best of Both Worlds

You grow with leaps and bounds, often unknowingly and reluctantly.  You learn that people are the same wherever you go.  You learn to embrace new traditions, foods, ways of thinking and add them to who you are.  You crave cured salmon, sandwich cake, and long Sunday drives in the beautiful Swedish country side.  Your expat friends anticipate your annual Thanksgiving dinners.

You still long for home every day in your heart

You go home to remember who you are, where you come from.  You long for a taco salad at Taco Shack, Trader Joe’s peanut butter pretzels, and Sunday night Walking Dead marathons with your sisters.  While you love your adopted country and all that living there has taught you, you know deep down in your heart there’s no place like home.