College–what was it good for?

The title, though it sounds cynical, is actual genuine.  I’m coming to the close of my first year in the “real world” and I’ve been recently thinking a lot about how much of what I learned in college has really stuck with me for the year.

Let’s start with my “general education” classes that were supposed to give me a well-rounded backdrop for my degree. One requirement was that I had to take four science classes, which I thought was a bit much.  The biology class I took was basically what I’d already learned in high school.  However, I spent the hours in the enormous auditorium classroom doing dictionary.com’s crossword puzzle of the day so…I probably ended up increasing my brain power more in that class than I did in environmental science during which a classmate and I had a running list of all the Beatles’ songs we could remember.  However, the nutrition class I got into was definitely helpful in providing me with concrete facts to present to people who tell me that I’m going to die because I’m a vegetarian.  The rest of the gen-eds I took didn’t do much for me.  I took “humanities” one and two and never even learned what “humanities” are.  I did, however, learn how to pronounce the word “baroque” so…maybe it was worth it after all.

It’s fun to talk about all the things I didn’t learn in college, and everything that I’ve definitely left behind in those halls, but there are things that I’ve taken with me from Wisconsin to Illinois, to Denmark to Sweden.  I took a seminar class called “Culture of Food” my freshman year (which is also when I became a vegetarian).  It stuck with me through a couple years later, when they offered it as a higher-level class which I took instead of an upper-level Spanish class I needed for my minor (oh well), and after loving that one twice as much, I had the opportunity to be a TA for the freshman level class again.  Considering that most of the classes I took, I would have gladly never taken, voluntarily participating in the same class  three times is proof enough that it was one of the most amazing classes I took in college.  I was obviously interested in food enough to take the class in the first place, but afterwards, I think about food almost every moment of the day.  I think about the food industry, I think about food prices, varieties, food movements (organic, the slow food movement, vegetarian and vegan diets, etc.).  I think about all things food.  Everything I’ve learned in that class, I use on an almost daily basis.  This awakening of a passion in me alone might’ve made college “worth it” but there was something more.

It wasn’t until my senior year, when I was almost “over” college that we had a new professor join the English department.  I took an intermediate-level creative writing class, for my major, and when I walked into that classroom, the first thing our professor told us that it was going to be an all-poetry class, which was greeted by silent groans (yes, there is such a thing as a silent groan).  At this point, I was mostly done with my English major, and had been a bit discouraged about it.  I had taken an advanced writing class that was focused on short stories and you know what?  I am not very good at writing short stories.  It made me wonder if I really liked writing at all, if I should’ve majored in Biology (or crossword puzzles).  Having an all-poetry class made me realize that Ido like writing, I’m just no good at short stories for adults.  My professor made me realize that I have a love for words.  I may not have a love for characters or plots, but goodness gracious do I love words.  I love metaphors and the mouthfeel of poetry.  To me, poetry is somewhere between a song and delicious food.  I love being able to ponder over commas, shuffle lines and stanzas.  To me, it’s a bit like knitting, but with words and pages in lieu of yarn and needles.   After the intermediate class, I took advanced poetry workshop, where a group of about 12 of us met with our professor for three hours every Thursday.  We ended up writing a chapbook, which is just a small collection of correlating poetry, and I feel more proud of this than my bachelor’s degree.  This little collection was worth all of the classes I sat through because I had to sit through them.  It was worth any professor that made my blood boil. It was worth any wasted hours, or projects I deemed pointless.

I think some of the most important things I learned in college, I didn’t learn during my classes (and no, I didn’t learn them during crazy parties either).  I learned how good it could feel to not procrastinate.  Balancing two jobs and school helped me learn what I wanted to do most in my limited free time.  I learned to put the things I care the most about first, and take some failures in stride.  I learned what my passions are, and how wonderful it feels to pursue them.

The four years I spent on my bachelor’s degree were definitely “worth it” for me personally.  I experienced so much growth, but I’m still not convinced that my actual degree is an appropriate reward for the work I put into it.  It’s a very good thing I got so much else out of my college experience, otherwise I feel like I would be one disappointed alumnus.

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Spring Overload

It’s spring.  It is sooooo spring.

Today is the first day that I really feel it.  It is bright, it is sunny, and people are walking around “in their shirtsleeves” (I wish people still used this phrase).  Although I spent the morning accidentally locked into the apartment, I love that we have a sunny balcony.  I love that my neighbors play string instruments on their sunny balcony.  I love that every door was open, letting in the beautiful music, and the delightful spring air.  I love spring.

I also like caramels!  I’ve been wanting to make them for a while, but it was one of those sort-of-intimidating can-I-really-do-it projects.  However, with my new resolution to tackle that exact sort of project, into caramel, I dove!

I didn’t have a candy thermometer, so I decided to try the “cold water” method (and by “decided” I mean, I’d already started boiling the caramel when I realized I didn’t have a candy thermometer).  It ended up going really well, although the caramel is a bit softer than I was aiming for, I’m pretty proud of how it turned out.  I used the basic caramel recipe here.

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I put some roughly chopped cashews on top, but next time I think I’ll put MORE cashews on top!  I put some in these cute little candy cups I bought a while ago, and covered them in dark chocolate

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Some of them, I rolled into “logs” and set out to cover in chocolate, but I realized they looked too much like turds when I did that, so I decided to just drizzle them and wrap them in parchment paper, heh.

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All-in-all it was a good experiment.  I’ve been wanting to get some more experience making candies, because I think sometimes they make better gifts than baked goods do (and they’re easier to give).

Caramels and spring…how can I not be happy?

Springtime Rainbow Cake!

Happy Naw-Ruz!  Known to most people just as the beginning of spring, it marks the beginning of the Baha’i calendar year, and it means our period of fasting is over!  In celebration, I decided to make a rainbow cake, because what says happiness, new beginnings, and spring like rainbows!  (Also, I have a lot of leftover food coloring from our wedding last summer, so…)

The inside!

I wanted to take some neat process pictures, but this is what the kitchen actually looked like while I was in the middle of things:

and I wasn't about to clean up, just to take process pictures.

I’ve made a resolution recently to make a list of all the things I’ve always thought are too complicated or take too long to make, and make them all!  I know I would regret it if I wasted all this free time being bored and wishing I had something to do, so I’m going to stop using the excuse of “I’m really bad at self-motivation” and “I get really lonely, then bored, then depressed.”  Maybe it’s because it’s the new year, and the beginning of spring, but I’m full of energy.  It also might have something to do with being able to eat lunch…..and rainbow cake!

until all I have left, are rainbow crumbs

Escaping America

In my early-morning wandering of the internet, I stumbled upon this semi-facetious article concerning how little support our president has from some Americans.  He ends the article urging idiots to flee the country.  The article was harsher than I’ll ever be, but it got me thinking a bit.

Now, the actual reason that I left the states was because I fell in love with a Dane, married him, and actually want to live with him, but the fact remains that we could have lived in the states.  Once we were married, we could’ve applied for a greencard, most likely gotten one, and gotten Andreas a fine job in America.  We could’ve lived there happily, had our family, and gotten old and wrinkly.  People often ask me why we’re not living in the states.  Why we chose to live in Denmark (especially since the road to eventually living there has been rocky).

The most basic answer to this is: our babies.  While we live here, it doesn’t matter if Andreas is laid off.  It wouldn’t matter if he was disabled, or I was disabled, or if we both had very menial jobs for our entire lives.  Our children would have healthcare.  They would be able to go to the dentist every year.  They’d be able to get a good education without heaping debt on their heads.  Andreas does have a good job, and chances are, we could have taken care of everything our family would need, and then some. But I still feel better living in a place where everyone else is also taken care of.  Where Andreas will pay higher taxes, if he gets a higher-paying job.

I feel like we could trust ourselves to “give back,” and make sure we never got too rich, and always helped those less fortunate.  But sometimes, it’s hard to know exactly how to do that, and honestly, I don’t trust everyone to do the same (How could I, when the gap between the rich and the poor is so wide and sparsely populated?).

One big reason, besides security, that I moved to Europe is because I agree here.  Things make more sense here.  We should take care of one another, and give everyone an equal chance.  Isn’t it a bit funny that here, in the most “atheistic” country is where I see some of the most “Christian” values?

The US could be a great country.  It is, in many ways.  But the need for change is enormous.  The best thing about the states is that it is allowed to push for change.  It’s not easy, by any means, but it’s allowed.  It’s sad that in a country that could be so progressive, people who want security, fairness, and equality feel the need to “escape.”

Another sad part?  That I was always too lazy, and too chicken, to ever invoke any of the change I always wanted in my community.  But maybe I could have if I didn’t have to work a couple of jobs while going to school full-time just so that I could have things to eat.  (Just kidding, I’ll always be a chicken).

There’s Good News and there’s…news about me freaking out.

The good news is that Andreas got his job!!  I’m awfully proud of him, and so happy.  Not just because him having a job and a source of income is a relief to us, but because he was really excited after the interview, and eager to work there.  I know he must be nervous, but he doesn’t that *that* nervous, so I’m not worried about him.  I’m just proud my husband is employable!  To most people who have been employable and employed for long periods of time, this might not seem remarkable, but I feel so very, very unemployable here, that it seems like a miracle!

We’ve been keeping somewhat busy over the last few weeks, sometimes watching our nephew, doing errands and errands and errands.  Andreas’s job is across the Øresund in Copenhagen, which means he faces an hour and a half of commute each way while we are staying here in Malmø.  He’s okay with that, but to me, it means spending 12 hours a day, Andreas-less (and anyone-else-less, as I’ve yet to meet anyone here in Malmø).  It also means that we have some leftover errands that I have to do on my own (handing in my permit application, doing things like going to the bank, going grocery shopping, picking up packages, and even apartment shopping).  This would normally make me nervous, even in the states.  I call myself a gutless anxiety-ball, Andreas calls me a “gentle soul.”  He’s pretty nice.

Anyway, I’ve always gotten nervous before I leave the house, even in elementary, middle, high school, and college I got this nervous bellyache every morning as I put on my jacket and shoes to catch the bus.  Even after college, the only thing that got me out the door on Saturday mornings for errands was the fact that it was the only time of the week I wasn’t working during bank hours, and I was nearly out of cheese.  A girl can’t live without cheese.

Usually after I get out, I generally enjoy myself.  Even being out doing errands, I’d usually see a cute baby or two who would boost my spirits, and I’d come back feeling much better than I did before I left.

But here, in Sweden, it’s a whole different story.  Some moments in the day I feel SO BRAVE.  I feel like I can go out there, pick up my packages, go to the library, and walk down the Swedish street, courageous and impervious to anxiety.  Most other moments I feel like I’ll never be able to.  Like I’ll never push myself out this door without Andreas to hide behind.  But there are some things that I HAVE to do, like my permit application.

I know that doing businessy things in a strange country is an intimidating thing to begin with.  I’m sure that other people have struggled with the exact same thing.  But I feel like…they MUST be braver than me.  I feel like everyone is braver than me.  Maybe they are.  I’m going to try really hard to face my fears and be okay out there alone in Sweden.

I’m also going to join the American Women’s Club in Malmø and try to meet some people.  But to be honest, being not alone in a foreign country is perhaps more frightening than being alone in a foreign country.  I’m not just terrified of going out in public.  Social situations are even worse. But I’m going to try!

But I’m trying to think of how brave Andreas is for starting a new job and traveling back and forth between Denmark and Sweden every day, and I feel like I have to be able to do this.  There’s a blog I read by another Midwestern transplant in Sweden (you can find it here).  In one of her posts about learning language, she talks about being brave, and how one thing she does, when she’s not feeling particularly brave, is to pretend she’s doing it for one of her little sisters.  This really struck a chord with me, because the only time I’ve ever interacted alone with a Dane in Denmark who wasn’t my family, was this one time when I was at Ikea with a friend who was from Hawai’i there for the wedding.  We wanted cinnamon rolls, and although she picked up “ja” pretty quickly, she probably couldn’t order a cinnamon roll, so I did.  I had to.  How else was I going to get her a cinnamon roll?  (They ended up being out of cinnamon rolls, but that’s beside the point.)

If all else fails, I’ll just hum “be brave…and then be strong” from Mr. Rogers under my breath any time I leave the house.  Maybe that’ll work.

Because who doesn’t like rainbows?

We’re back, to regularly-programmed fluffy blogging!  Today, in the form of rainbow-swirly sugar cookies!  I saw this recipe a little while ago, but I just made an extra-big chocolate pudding cake (really, it’s not my fault, we don’t have an 8×8 inch pan here, so I HAD to make a 50% larger cake than usual!)  Luckily, it was my sister-in-law’s birthday yesterday, so I had an excuse to make these anyway!

I got the idea here. And while I didn’t have the cool neon food coloring, and mine didn’t turn out quite as nice-looking, I think I make up for it with this one:

Hello, little rainbow!

My stand-by sugar cookie recipe turned out wonderful with these, and to boot, the vanilla-sugar you get here in Sweden makes then twice as good as the vanilla extract I used in the states.  Little black flecks make all the difference.

These rainbowy cookies reflect the mood here in Malmö right now…bright, sunny, and full of promise.  Andreas is waiting to hear about a job he interviewed for, and while I don’t have anything on the horizon, Andreas’s getting a job gets me a lot closer to being eligible to get one myself!  In the meantime, I’m trying to be a good housewife.  On a sidenote, I love the vacuum cleaners here, so much easier to use!

We’re leaving soon to babysit our four-year-old nephew who lives next door.  Should be an interesting day, at least.  I’m sure to be killed by a light saber a hundred and seventeen times, maybe more.  However, I’m grateful to have the chance to help out a little and get to spend time with him.  I really miss being a nanny, and a little time spent with children can help alleviate that.

The Religification of Atheism

This post is going to be a bit different from my usual feeble wonderings, observations, and (let’s face it) whining.  My husband brought something to mind the other day that I’ve been noticing a lot lately as well.  He spends a lot of time on Reddit, a wondrous magical place filled with serious news, silly gifs, and the occasional crude reference.  Okay, it’s filled with crude references.  Anyway, he noticed that posts from the Atheism section were reaching the main page quite often, posts glorifying atheism as the logical path, the unprejudiced path, the only intelligent path.

This post is not an attack on atheism.  I know a fair few atheists who I think are wonderful people, and I think freedom from dogmas can lead to freedom from prejudices and clearer, kinder thinking.  That being said, I feel that as the atheistic community grows and ages, it’s forming its own “religion” of sorts.  A religion complete with prejudices and pride.

I feel that atheism or agnosticism is just as valid of a choice in belief as any other established religion.  However, one of the downsides to this (and again, other established religions) is that within a community of similar beliefs, we grow prideful.  Surrounding ourselves with sameness, we grow complacent in our belief that we have chosen the Right Path, that everyone else is, indeed, an idiot for believing what they choose to believe.  A number of my friends in college were either atheists or agnostics, and I sat through many a conversation about how ridiculous, dumb, and narrow-minded religious people are, with the occasional “I mean, not all of them, obviously, but come on…” thrown in, perhaps for my sake.  But mostly the comments were similar to: “Look how dumb and ignorant these religious people are being.  They can’t see the merits in any belief other than their own.  Good thing we don’t belong to a religion that has these prejudices.”

The most positive thing about atheism, I thought, was that it could free you from the preached scorn for and fear of other religious beliefs.  However, the more I listen to atheists speak, the more often I hear this scorn, and even this fear.

Living in Scandinavia right now (Sweden at the moment, where apparently the rate of atheism is about 85%), I’ve been feeling a bit meek about my own religiousness.  Andreas has mentioned that he’s a bit nervous to bring it up at job interviews, not that he normally would, but the conversation goes something like this:

B (for boss): So why are you living in Malmo?
A (for Andreas): My wife and I moved here because Denmark has stricter immigration rules and she can’t live there with me
B: Oh, where is your wife from?
A: The US.
B: How did you meet her?
A: We were volunteering together at Louhelen Baha’i School
B: What’s Louhelen Baha’i School?

Anyway, as a member of the Baha’i Faith, I feel it’s a bit unfair.  The Baha’i Faith promotes independent investigation, which means  we’re supposed to look into the writings (of the Baha’i leaders as well as the holy books of other religions), and think deeply about what we truly believe.  The Faith also asserts the coexistence of science and religion.  While this may seem impossible to most, and is difficult to sort out, I think the basis for this teaching is to be open-minded.  To find balance between the spiritual world (religion) and the physical world (science).  I think what has attracted me the most to the Baha’i Faith is how heavily it demands thought. I realize that this is what we are supposed to do, in theory, as perfect Baha’is, and because we’re individuals, not theoretically perfect spiritual beings, we fail (probably quite often).  But this teaching has always comforted me, knowing it’s fine to have doubts, ask questions, and look deeply into issues instead of just accepting everything we’ve been taught since we were children.

I feel sometimes that atheists and agnostics believe that religion is a school of dogma, where our beliefs are ingrained in us at an early age and we are taught to stop considering, and stop thinking.  I know that sometimes it can be, but I just feel that that judgment is more than a little unfair.  By discounting all religions on this ground, I feel that they are being just as narrow-minded as they often accuse other groups of being.

I don’t hope that they turn back to the religions they abandoned in the first place.  I’m not saying “Look, my religion doesn’t do that.  Come, join MY religion, it’s the best!”  I guess I just hope that the free thought and open-mindedness that helped them choose atheism or agnosticism as their path sticks with them.  I just hope that they don’t become a solid, compacted group with just as little vision and thoughtfulness as the groups they can so easily criticize.

Laundry Day

Yesterday marked our first laundry day in Sweden, and while this may seem like a mundane task that’s not worth writing about (and it probably is for someone who has done something more exciting than making a good pot of soup in the last week) I quite enjoyed it.  Let me tell you why.

First of all, we have a “sign-up” sort of board for the laundry room in the basement of our building.  Everyone has a little knob that unlocks with a key, and you lock it in to the time slot and date that you want to do your laundry:

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It sounded very silly at first–like adults can’t share a washing room unsupervised, but after thinking about it, I love this system!  First of all, you don’t have to walk down all four flights of stairs to go find out if someone’s already using the washing machine in the first place.  I also like that no one accidentally leaves a damp load in the washer all day, leaving you with the option of procrastinating laundry day or awkwardly touching someone else’s underwear.  (This is made especially awkward if the person comes in while you’re in the process).  With the language barrier I face here, I don’t think I’d be able to endure the embarrassment.

Apparently our building just got a couple of new washers which is pretty cool, especially considering the fact that I’m pretty sure they had some sort of air-lock doors which made me feel like I was doing laundry in space!

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Next step: drying!  We had the choice between a dryer that looked like it could dry ME in 3 minutes flat, and a “drying closet” which I was a bit too intimidated to try.  To be honest, I was afraid I would somehow burn my clothes, or that the closet was a secret entrance into Narnia’s laundry room.  I just moved to Sweden, I don’t need any other big adventures at the moment…

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Of course, not everything about laundry in Sweden is wonderful.  This, which I pass on my way through the basement, is where I can only assume that people are taken and killed during those long, dark winter nights.

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On that note, have a happy laundry day!

Moving to Sweden (and the 70s)

My husband and I are in Sweden now, just hanging out…you know…living.  In Sweden.

We’re living in a sublet for now, fully furnished and everything, while we wait to find out what happens with Andreas’s job search, visa stuff, etc.  Anyway, I just thought I’d post a few pictures of the sweet place we get to stay!  I only wish we could stay a bit longer, but honestly, I just can’t wait until we get to live somewhere permanent.

I was talking to a friend of mine from high school who has been studying in Germany, then back in the states, then back in Germany, being an au pair, etc.  Anyway, the point is that we’ve both been moving around an awful lot, and we were talking about how much we’re looking forward to settling down a bit (probably not the sentiments of most of our 22-year-old peers).  That being said, I’m trying to “live in the moment” and check out where I’m living, at the moment!