SCANDINAVIAN SUMMER :: Midsommar, Noc Kupały, and Juhannus


midsommar midsommarafton via mokkasin
Image Credit: Midsommarafton [midsummer] via Mokkasin

One midsummer when I was probably eleven or so, I remember spending the weekend at my great-grandparents’ lakeside cabin in Upper Michigan. The scenery everywhere up there looks exactly like this, even though these photos are from Finland, and not Michigan. Fascinating, isn’t it, considering how many Nordic immigrants settled in the Upper Peninsula?

Brett Seward
Image Credit: Sweden in summer by Brett Seward

That weekend, in between carving my name in the paper-white bark of birch trees, eating sour wild strawberries and floating in the cold lake, I remember the Finnish-language program Suomi Kutsuu playing on the little living room TV, showing what seemed like endless footage of a bonfire slowly burning in the middle of the lake. I didn’t put two and two together then — I wasn’t what you’d call an observant child — but I was at my great-grandparents’ place over Juhannus!  Although you might not know Juhannus by name, you probably know Swedish midsommar, and you most certainly know summer solstice.

Midsommar crown
Image Credit: Crown by Mendocino Floral Design via Style Me Pretty

In the northern US states of Michigan or Minnesota, both around latitude 46° N, the summer solstice marks a magically late sunset — no wonder I didn’t get much sleep that weekend! Can you imagine midsummer’s eve in Stockholm or Helsinki, at 60° N? Incredible, the daylight must stretch on forever! [As a comparison, Orlando is at 28.4° N, and Oaxaca, where I was born, is even further down at 16.9° N)

Midsummer traditions vary among different Northern European countries, but my favorites are the lake bonfires, or kokko, of Finnish Juhannus, the floral crowns of Swedish Midsommar, and the glittering floating lanterns of Poland’s Noc Kupały.

Although a sky full of lanterns or a water’s edge bonfire might be a bit hard to pull off where you live, you can still celebrate midsommar. Do you have plans this weekend? Maybe you’ll celebrate with a maypole and a Swedish smörgåsbord (pickled herring and dill potatoes!), or maybe you’ll gather flowers and make a pretty floral crown.

Or, maybe, your nod to the summer solstice will simply be tossing and turning, wishing you’d purchased blackout drapes. ;)

However you celebrate, god midsommar!

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POETRY & WORDS :: Patriotic Eagle Hawk-Birds who Invisibly yet Condescendingly Guard the Gate


Orlando, Florida, the South, Trader Joe's and Hipsters

Aveline is in swim class now. This means, for 30 minutes every other day, I sit on a plastic chair pool-side,  and sweat buckets of water. It still a mystery to me how a human body physically can produce beads of sweat when the air around said body is already 100% saturated with water. Given the excessive humidity, it’s something of a physiological miracle. I’m not to dangle any appendages in the pool, because I’m not a resident of Exclusive Subdivision, and therefore unclean. So, I sit, sweat, and squint in the sun’s general direction, trying to suppress my motherly instincts and my own fear of treading water while Aveline sinks like a rock and the teacher (bless her heart) patiently shows her again how to do All the Things You’re Supposed to do to Avoid Looking Like a Penguin Attempting to Dog Paddle.

I live in the same zip code as Exclusive Subdivision. Well, it’s not actually called Exclusive Subdivision. People around here call it Patriotic Eagle Hawk-Birds who Invisibly yet Condescendingly Guard the Gate. It’s about 2 blocks from Lakes of the Large Stoic Aquatic Bird, next to Excellence in Everything School, which is just across the boulevard from where I live, Grassy Plains of the Imaginary National Monument (press two for English).

Neighborhoods here are funny. Even at the public parks, the official man on the golf cart can kick you out if you don’t live nearby. No, wait. That statement might be confused with something that actually makes a modicum of sense. The official man on the golf cart can kick you out if you’re not carrying a paper card, issued by the community office, which duplicates the address already printed on your driver’s license. These fanc-eh paper cards have a clip-art image of a crested tropical bird, and are only available at the town hall and the grocery store, next to the cigarettes and the whooping cough vaccines.

This spring, when I tried to sign Aveline up for Pee-Wee-Super-Tiny-Bordering-on-Ridiculous Soccer  (the soccer balls used vary between the size of large spring peas and large tomatoes), the soccer organization told me they weren’t permitted to run a soccer team in my neighborhood. The neighborhood association was concerned, they said. Kids without clip-art cards might try to join.

I’ve managed to live here for a few years now without getting a biodegradable ID card, but I do kind of have to duck and run whenever the official man on the golf cart starts trawdling* in my direction. [*not actually a word.]

The ironic thing is, this community isn’t actually high-brow. (I say this with a smidge of authority, since I’ve lived in approximately 4,028 different neighborhoods in my three decades on earth.) In fact, the newspapers here have been buzzing about the latest terror sweeping the streets: Trader Joe’s is coming to town. Being a Californian and interested in such things, I tried reading the news stories about the impending Grand Opening this month. I only got as far as (and I quote), “it’s a hellscape of scarf-wrapped hipsters.”

Apparently nothing strikes fear into the hearts of Patriotic Eagle Hawk-Birds who Invisibly yet Condescendingly Guard the Gate residents like chocolate-covered almonds and seaweed snacks.

Well, I know what I’m noshing on during Aveline’s next swim class.

I’ll leave the scarf at home, though.

LIFE IN PHOTOS :: June is always full of hope


Tropical Blooms, Sidewalks of June Tropical Blooms, Sidewalks of JuneTropical Blooms, Sidewalks of June Tropical Blooms, Sidewalks of June Tropical Blooms, Sidewalks of JuneTropical Blooms, Sidewalks of June Tropical Blooms, Sidewalks of June

More so than January, June always seems poetic, young, full of promise. Even in the tropics, where there is no line of demarcation between winter and spring, between brown and green, between cold and warm — even here, June is full of hope. I turn the calendar page, and I hear it sing.

“Did it grow flowers yet? Did it grow flowers?” she asks of crumbling earth and tiny seeds and an old clay pot.

“No”, I tell her. “Not yet.”

But maybe this will be the year.

POETRY & WORDS :: Writing Every Morning


An Exercise in Writing Daily“It is by sitting down every morning to write that one becomes a writer,” says Gerald Brenan. “Those who do not do this, remain amateurs.”

I do not want to remain an amateur.

And so, this ordinary morning, with my bowl of ordinary cereal, with the sounds of an ordinary washing machine swish-swishing in the background, I sit down to write.

I do not have hours to type, I do not have hours to think. I do not have a quiet room and an empty day holding nothing but blank pages and shifting letters. Instead, I have the luxury of a room bursting with life, bursting with shouts and squeals and sliding-off-the-couch thumps. I have a morning with coffee and a three-year-old, the latter holding more energy than the former promises.

And so, I write.

And I walk out into the heat, into the sweltering summer, toward my wild-child’s first swimming class, and into this new habit of daily writing.

We can both try something new.

LITTLE STYLE :: Polish label ‘Flawless’ is not just for kids


I love the kids’ clothing brands popping up all over Poland lately! I’m especially taken with the emphasis on knits and jersey (aka “sweatshirt” material) as effortlessly stylish wear. The trend has hit the US in a big way now, but European brands have been using this material for a while now — and, of course, always have managed to do so in a way that doesn’t come across as sloppy.

Polish brand Flawless‘ summer line — which landed in my email this morning — is a great example of this look.  And they’ve adapted the styles for all sizes, from mini to mama and papa!
LITTLE STYLE :: Polish label 'Flawless' is not just for kids
LITTLE STYLE :: Polish label 'Flawless' is not just for kids
LITTLE STYLE :: Polish label 'Flawless' is not just for kids
LITTLE STYLE :: Polish label 'Flawless' is not just for kids
LITTLE STYLE :: Polish label 'Flawless' is not just for kids
LITTLE STYLE :: Polish label 'Flawless' is not just for kids
LITTLE STYLE :: Polish label 'Flawless' is not just for kids
LITTLE STYLE :: Polish label 'Flawless' is not just for kids
LITTLE STYLE :: Polish label 'Flawless' is not just for kids
LITTLE STYLE :: Polish label 'Flawless' is not just for kids

I can definitely see myself wearing everything from this collection. What’s your take on the comfy chic trend?

LITTLE STYLE :: Pale Pastel Girls’ Room Inspiration from Serena & Lily


Serena and Lily Coral Grey and Navy Girls Room

This isn’t a sponsored post — it’s just my imaginary wallet and I talking a walk through the summer 2014 Serena & Lily catalogue. ;)

1. Fox sheets
2. Houses print
3. Ceramic elephant side table
4. Today pillow
5. Sun print
6. Polar bear
7. Pouf
8. Inlay mirror
9. California pillow
10. Blanket
11. Sea gull print
12. Basket
14. Rug

See anything here you’d love to snatch up for your own home?

MONDAY’S PRETTY THINGS :: Plants to Brighten the House


Monday's Pretty Things - Inspiration from Oaxacaborn
Plant display inside the Loose Leaf shop, via photographer Sean Fennessy for The Design Files

Greenery and sprouted things - Monday's Pretty Things - Inspiration from Oaxacaborn
Plants in pretty vases, via stylist Lotta Agaton and photographer Kristoffer Johnsson for Residence Magazine

Swedish wildflowers - Monday's Pretty Things - Inspiration from Oaxacaborn
Swedish wildflowers via Hilda’s Hem

Midsommar wreath of flowersMidsommar wreath of flowers via Bo Mimi

Spider Plant in bathroom shower_Web
Spider plant hanging from shower (my home).

sukha-amsterdam
Paper cranes hanging in the Suhka Amsterdam shop window

Oak tree growing in a jar of water - An-Magritt - Oaxacaborn
Oak growing in a jar of water via An-Magritt

See even more pretty things

POETRY & WORDS :: Sojourning is not a rhythm


IMG_4920 IMG_4902 IMG_4853

The words get lost in the days, lost in the shuffle between high tide and low tide — the choreographed swap of sand and sea — lost in the couch cushions, like copper coins, lost in the fray, lost in the routine between breakfast and sunset.

This, of course, is exactly when I should be writing. Words are spun from the gossamer threads which wrap around our days. I can see them, glinting, drenched from the downpour, drenched from the puddles, drenched from the spray.

“You write while you are alive”, Anaïs Nin said. “You do not preserve them [living moments] in alcohol until the moment you are ready to write about them.”

And so, alive, I write.

We stick pins in a map and wonder which one will hold. We squint at the horizon and see mountains through the mirage, and yet, the pillar stands still. The life of a sojourner is not a rhythm of motion and stillness, like the poets would have you believe. Sometimes, there is no rhythm. Sometimes it is abrupt, sometimes it is whiplash, sometimes it is an awkward slow dance, a holding pattern at best. Sometimes, you fold up your belongings into a square, and load the truck, and don’t look back when every inch of you longs to cling to the roots you tried to push into the broken ground. But most of the time, you stand.

You stand even when your feet so dearly ache to run.

SCANDINAVIAN SUMMER :: Call for Midsummer-themed contributions!


MIDSUMMER BLOG PARTY! Let's celebrate Swedish tradition. Want to contribute? Email Oaxacaborn!

I’m running a little behind on this, but what do you think? Can we pull off a Midsummer [blog] party in time? I’m thinking something in the spirit of the Scandinavian Christmas series — but all Midsummer! If you have photos, blog posts from past summers, traditions, crafts, resources or anything else Midsummer-related to share, email me oaxacaborn @gmail.com. I can’t wait!

Image credit: Jason Florio for The New York Times

POETRY & WORDS :: I was a stranger & you invited me in


Image Credit: LifeSong for Orphans - Zambia Children's Choir / Celebrate Life Concert Tour

Image Credit: LifeSong for Orphans – Zambia Children’s Choir / Celebrate Life Concert Tour

Last night, I sat in a church and listened to Zambian children sing. And I heard something I’ve never heard before. No, not the sound of a drum sans drumsticks, not the sound of the soaring notes. 

Actually, it wasn’t a song at all.

Each of the kids — students at the Lifesong for Orphans school in Zambia — shared their favorite school subjects, dreams, and favorite passages of Scripture. It was an endearingly real moment — stuttering, laughter, forgetting words. One girl recited Psalm 23 from beginning to end, another quoted Romans.

But then it was the smallest boy’s turn to speak. And he leaned into to the microphone and looked into the crowd. “My favorite verse is Matthew 35 verse 25″, he said in halting English. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

Oh, my heart!

It’s one of those verses we’ve read a hundred times, isn’t it? But honestly? When was the last time you heard a friend say it was their favorite verse? It’s a passage we’re familiar with, but not a passage we’re accustomed to seeing highlighted and memorized and repeated and claimed as a personal promise and emblazoned on t-shirts and bookmarks and greeting cards.

But this is Jesus. This is real. He’s among us — feeding, loving, caring, doing.

Sometimes, I think we lose that connection between Jesus-the-Ethereal-Being and Jesus-the-Man. I think we lose the connection between hypothetical love and practical, get-your-hands-dirty, work-hard love. We over-spiritualize it. We complicate it and organize it and delegate it and analyze it and create ministries for it and philosophize about it and invent words about it.

But it was a real, I’m-right-there-with-you, here-is-a-meal, here-is-a-bed  kind of love that spoke to this boy’s heart.

It’s what Jesus’ love,
made human
and tangible
and touchable
and present, looks like.

And I never want to forget it.

“Sometimes the best way to bring good news to the poor is to bring actual good news to the poor. It appears a good way to bring relief to the oppressed is to bring real relief to the oppressed. It’s almost like Jesus meant what He said. When you’re desperate, usually the best news you can receive is food, water, shelter. These provisions communicate God’s presence infinitely more than a tract or Christian performance in the local park. They convey, ‘God loves you so dearly, He sent people to your rescue.'” -Jen Hatmaker

JCPenney Giveaway :: Enter to win a $100 Gift Card


I have an exciting giveaway for you today, friends — one of you is going to win a $100 shopping spree to JCPenney! If you’re like me, you may not always make time to shop for yourself, but if you win this gift card, then you’ll have no excuse. ; ) What would you buy if you won? (There are lots of great JCPenney shopping ideas here.)

#JCPstyle on the Oaxacaborn blog - This pin is an entry to win $100 to spend at JCPenney! Click for details
#JCPstyle on the Oaxacaborn blog - This pin is an entry to win $100 to spend at JCPenney! Click for details
#JCPstyle on the Oaxacaborn blog - This pin is an entry to win $100 to spend at JCPenney! #JCPstyle on the Oaxacaborn blog - This pin is an entry to win $100 to spend at JCPenney! Click for details

Get the Look #1

Dance tank | Cuffed pants | Wedges, similar here and here

#JCPstyle on the Oaxacaborn blog - This pin is an entry to win $100 to spend at JCPenney! Click for details #JCPstyle on the Oaxacaborn blog - This pin is an entry to win $100 to spend at JCPenney! Click for details 2 - JCPstyle on the Oaxacaborn blog - JCPenney Giveaway JCPstyle on the Oaxacaborn blog - JCPenney Giveaway

Get the Look #2

Racerback tank, similar here | Hi-lo skirt | Shoes, similar here

ENTER TO WIN A $100 GIFT CARD

To enter, comment on this post!

Comment below and tell me, what would you buy at JCPenney? (1 entry – required)
AND let me know which of the following entries, if any, you’ve done.

Giveaway ends in one week, on Saturday, 17 May 2014, at midnight Pacific standard time. I’ll personally mail the gift card to the winner shortly thereafter, via USPS. Good luck!

Image Credit: Josiah Munsey / 26PM.com

Disclosure of Material Relationship: I received a gift card for myself and one to give away to Oaxacaborn readers in exchange for participating in the #Momisms campaign and hosting this giveaway. I was not required to present or promote any specific products. All the photographs, opinions, and experiences shared here are in my own words and are my own honest evaluation. Please be assured, I only accept sponsorship opportunities for brands I personally use and/or would recommend to close friends and family, and I will always disclose any such relationships.

INSPIRATION :: Spring/Summer ’14 from Japanese Fashion Label FRAPBOIS


In the blogging world, everything gets so narrow sometimes. The same trends and colors and patterns — and even the same images — get passed around over and over. This can be a great tool within a specific genre (blogging tends to reveal trends), but all the sameness  stifles creativity and originality. That’s why I love looking outside of the United States for inspiration. Clothing, decor, and even photography styles vary so much from culture to culture! If we want to expand our own imagination and bring something new to the creative world, it’s vitally important to explore inspiration beyond what’s currently trendy in our own circles. Plus, new inspiration is just plain fun!

These images from Japanese brand FRAPBOIS (I blogged about their Fall line last September) will have you rethinking pattern and color.

9 - Frapbois SS14 - as seen on Oaxacaborn
8 - Frapbois SS14 - as seen on Oaxacaborn
7 - Frapbois SS14 - as seen on Oaxacaborn
6 - Frapbois SS14 - as seen on Oaxacaborn
5 - Frapbois SS14 - as seen on Oaxacaborn
4 - Frapbois SS14 - as seen on Oaxacaborn
3 - Frapbois SS14 - as seen on Oaxacaborn
2 - Frapbois SS14 - as seen on Oaxacaborn
1 - Frapbois SS14 - as seen on Oaxacaborn
Frapbois SS14 - as seen on Oaxacaborn

What about you — would you wear any of these looks?

POETRY & WORDS :: After the Deluge


30 April 2014- Daydreaming Afternoon Rain

Monday’s post about choosing joy in the rain was barely posted when I had the opportunity to live it. That’s the way it works, isn’t it? It’s like telling God you’d like to be a more patient person — and then ::wham!:: many opportunities to practice patience appear before your eyes.

April went out with a monsoon, inside and outside. Outside, a diluvial sheet of water bent and twisted and contorted, darkening the sky, punctuated with electric bursts of thunder. Inside, an email quietly said no to something we all had hoped for.

Inside, outside, inside, outside.

It wasn’t until after the Flood that hope arrived. It wasn’t until everything drowned and the rains stopped and the earth heaved under the weight of the water that the rainbow appeared. It wasn’t until then that the olive branch soared across the horizon and into view.

“Now let the music keep
our spirits high
And let the buildings keep
our children dry
Let creation reveal its secrets
by and by, by and by
When the light that’s lost within us
reaches the sky

…And when the sand was gone
and the time arrived…
And in attempts to understand a thing
so simple and so huge
believed that they were meant to live
after the deluge.
” -Jackson Browne