From Our Front Porch

I feel like it’s only right to write this post from our front porch…so here I am sat just marveling at that Spring Morning Breeze, dazzled by the flowers and chimes and birds chirping all around me. I’ve always dreamed of having a front porch- almost exactly like this one ( I mean what I’d really like is a wrap around, but this will do for now). I’d pictured it to be a place to sit at any time of day and just take in the world around us. The boys would be able to play in the front yard and I would be able to read a book. And here we are, I’ve created what I’ve always dreamed of. Our front porch is utilized by almost everyone in our home, and visitors. It’s a true highlight, home to morning teas, afternoon teas, picnics, and everything in between. Once the weather warms, I spend at least 60% of my day on our porch. 

Last year I went a little tame. It was our first year of having this space to work with, and I was really focused much more heavily on our indoor plants if I’m being totally honest. Still, we had some hydrangeas, petunias, marigolds, and such. But this year, this year I had plans. I had a vision. Our last frost was Mother’s Day, so this year, for Mother’s Day, I went on a little shopping trip to pick out the flowers for our front porch. I was not prepared for just how far I would go to create what I dreamed of. I tend to do a combination of big box and garden centers/greenhouses to get what I’m looking for and this year has proven to be no different. 

I wanted to create a little oasis of sorts filled with flowers and cheer and I feel like I’ve done that within the constraints that I have. I am not able to hang anything really (which stinks) as we get the brunt of the winds on our little stretch of the street. I’ve set up some wind chimes and even those are taking a beating from the wind, but the sounds that come from it, combined with the birds chirping, are just a dream. Also, with the winds I have to be mindful of smaller plants. When we are supposed to see an increase of winds, I have to move several of the plants around to ensure that none really topple over or take a lot of wind, so I try to put some thought into where they go so I’m not moving them too much. Finally, I can’t plant anything in the actual ground- everything is potted. This limits quite a few of the plants that I dream of one day having in a full fledged garden (like the iris’s that I had to heartbreakingly pass up). 

However, I am fairly pleased with what I’ve done this year. It’s just about put together, with maybe at most only one or two more plants joining later in the spring into summer season (the fuschia that I had last year are a must get again this year). We’ve got a good variety of flower and color, and hopefully, once things start opening and growing in a bit more, we’ll have a lovely scent profile as well. 

We’ve got two hydrangea’s on either side of the door. Hydrangeas are one of my favorites as not only are they fairly hardy, but the blooms just keep coming. Last year my bloomed from May through to August/September and I was able to chop and bouquet them. I have daisies and petunias as well- always a hardy, easy grow with big payoff. This year I’ve added in some Dipladenia with these beautiful white blooms. Then, rounding out this front corner is an azalea and this little pot of snapdragon and garden grape hyacinth. 

Coming around here to my favorite area in the whole house (ok maybe that’s exaggerating- I really love our whole house) we’ve got quite the set up. The furniture is from Amazon from a couple years back, blanket from Etsy even further back, and the bee happy pillow is a Walmart find. You’ll see another little pot of the garden grape hyacinth and snapdragon, as well as more petunias, snapdragons, and Dipladenia. We’ve also got an Asiatic Lily and Poppy bush, as well as a large climbing rose bush in the very back. These three pots are what I’m hoping fills out and creates the ambiance- a big explosion of smell and color from these blooms. Finally on the table I’ve got a columbine and ornamental rose. I had ornamental roses last year and they really do well in this spot, so I’m hoping for success this year. 

And that really wraps it up for our front porch! I tried to go for simple, but pops a punch. You can follow my Instagram (@acuppacosy) to see how everything blooms, grows and changes over the season!

Romanticize Your Life

Yes, yes, I’ve fully jumped on this trend- though to be fair, I’ve always been a bit like this- treating my life as if it were a movie where I was the main character, we just have now named this trend. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here…

***This post is full of photos of small moments, little pockets of joy reframed in my mind with a softness, a contentment. It’s these little moments, little mundane parts of our day, such as opening the blinds, a walk to the school bus, a cup of tea in the afternoon, that can be reframed in our minds. This is where romanticizing your life can begin. It’s also the bigger moments, the bigger show- at the end of the post- as well.***

Romanticize Your Life.

I think some people hear that or see a post with that caption and think…it’s out of reach or not realistic or just adding extra time and effort to tasks. And while in some cases, yes it can be a bit of an extra effort, but it’s much easier than it maybe looks. 

That’s because the whole concept of “romanticizing your life” is more so a mindset than everything else. It’s about falling in love, being so content with the life you are currently leading (and when I say content- I don’t mean in a stagnant way- we should always grow and change). Life ebbs and flows, we go through highs and lows, but romanticizing your life is about loving your life as it’s lived, good and bad. It’s trying to view the everyday mundane things through a different lense, in a different sense. It’s taking those little moments and turning them into more, whether that’s simply by putting on some music, filming them, or turning them into a grandeur production (I’ll explain that- I promise). By romanticizing our lives, we are reminding ourselves just how special some of these mundane tasks/moments, the everyday everyday can still be special.

 

I want to be clear, for me, this DOES NOT mean that everything is sunshine, roses and daisies. It DOES NOT mean that life is simple and easy. It DOES NOT mean that I don’t have off days/off moments/deal with tough moments with the kids. It DOES NOT have to happen every second of every day. What is DOES mean for me, is that the simple act of making tea, of putting together a little fruit tray, taking care of the plants (heck even doing the dishes, folding laundry, etc.), of doing the little tasks is calming, is charming, is sweet. It gives me a better outlook- the idea that instead of HAVING to do something, I CAN do it in a way that will be better/happier for all of us. 

I do this year-round, no matter the season, but there is nothing like having these moments in the Spring or Autumn. It’s no secret that I love the transitional seasons, Autumn when the leaves start to turn and fall, and the air goes crisp and cool. Everything floods with the vibrant reds/oranges/and yellows, and big scarves, sweaters and light jackets become our attire. But also, Spring, when new life emerges, when we leave that den of Winter and step back out into the sunlight. When dresses come back into play, the air still crisp, but with a lightness of life coming back. You can romanticize your life year-round (think of those moments in Winter when the first snow hits, or the snow falls just right, OR those Summer thunderstorms, lazy days on the porch), but it’s definitely easier during the transitional seasons for me.  

So, at its basic- this is about setting a mood for yourself, your space, and your family. Some of the smaller examples of how I do this just everyday- opening the blinds when I wake up, picking particular clothing out, playing my mood setting playlists (this can be anything from a “day in the cottage” style playlist with instrumental and movie soundtracks OR hits from the early 2000’s, whatever my mood calls for). I set out certain tasks to be right away as it…” sets the scene” so to speak- so I wake up and immediately open up the blinds to let the light in. Then I pick out a playlist that meets my mood- honestly most of my morning music tends to be softer instrumental or movie soundtrack style music. Somewhere along the way I’ll switch…or not, it just depends. These two little things first thing already sets my brain into a “romantic” mood and lifts my mood and spirit. Then everything else starts to fall into place after that. When I go down to make my morning tea or coffee, I make a “production” out of choosing the perfect mug for the day, preparing my tea, and pouring the water from the kettle. When you first start doing this, if you choose to, it may feel silly, BUT as time goes on you start to find joy in these little moments and then it clicks. 

You can also bring this concept into your own living space with plants or flowers, add books and little things that make you happy to the spaces of your home. In the Spring/Summer I usually like to have some fresh flowers on our counter tops, we also have plants (obviously), and then I’ll style the coffee table genre books in our home to fill some of the “first look” spaces. Light some candles throughout your space. These can be real burning candles or the electronic ones if for some reason you can’t burn candles. Not only will the scent fill you with that same joy and peace, but the candlelight will shift your mood as well. 

I’ll give an example of one of my most frequent “bigger” ways of doing this in the spring/summer…this is something super easy but makes a world of difference. Everyday my kids want a snack in the afternoon (which is totally normal) and I usually want to join them. So, we will make a full picnic out of this little snack. Yes, it takes a fraction more effort, usually in terms of cutting, BUT it’s only a fraction and the simple joy (and excited good happy behavior as a result) that comes from this is well beyond that small effort. I’ll usually cut a couple different fruit options, some cheese/cracker/meat combination, place it all on our charcuterie tray and, weather permitting, we will head outside. I would say we do this 2-3 times a week in the summer, and it’s always met with such excitement and joy (from everyone involved) that it ends up feeling like a movie. Something about creating this little picnic just completely changes our entire day. 

Ultimately, it doesn’t take a lot to “romanticize your life”. Find the ways that you feel content, peace, and joy and implement those into your everyday. Maybe that’s the simple act of opening the blinds first thing in the morning, maybe it’s morning coffee/tea on the porch, maybe it’s an afternoon spent at the park with a picnic. Maybe it’s being more intentional with your clothing or your space. Whatever it may be, I promise you there is just such a joy and peace that comes with being so content with life as it’s lived. 

To Thaw or Not To Thaw

Winter is veeerrrrrryyyyyyyy slowly coming to an end here in the Northeastern part of the country and I may finally be seeing the light at the end of this tunnel. This year we experienced our first proper winter in Upstate New York, and it changed us. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a winter quite like this one. 

To start with- the snow. There was a lot of it. Not as much as they’ve had in the past I’m told, but it was still a lot for us. And at times it seemed never ending. The weatherman didn’t quite get it right- it would stop and start of its own accord, and of course throw in the lake effect part and we had quite the time with it. We got a lot of use out of the snowblower (which I highly recommend) and the boys got to have a lot of fun. 

The snow was one thing, something I could prepare for, but what I couldn’t really prepare for was just how COLD it got. Let me tell you, I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced below zero temperatures, but I sure did this year. I think that was one of the hardest things about winter here, most days it was either snowing OR it was sunny and below zero. In fact, at one point I used the words “warm” and “not so bad” in reference to a 20-degree sunny day. Previous Mia would never. 

I quickly learned that those cute little winter outfits we see splashed around are just not…practical in any sense. And I’m not even referring to like the little sweater dress and boots. I’m talking about the jeans with the cute sweater, oversized but thin trench, and boots. No, no, no, that would not cut it here in the heart of winter (even though I tried- I tried so hard). 

Enter…the coveralls. The things that I would previously really only wear to go play in the snow with the boys have become an everyday staple in my winter wardrobe. Seriously, every day. I have found that these coveralls, with a long-sleeved layer underneath, pants (and sometimes thermal leggings under those), with snow boots, a thick winter jacket, hat and gloves have been my saving grace. 

The epitome of fashion over here. 

Because, to be honest, at this point I’ve really come to understand the whole function over fashion. 

When it’s -20 with a real feel of -32 and they are delaying school due to temps no one (you included) is going to care about that cute little sweater you’ve got on, or the perfect calf boots you’ve found. The only thing you’re going to care about is staying warm at that comes at the expense of “looking fashionable”. Note- I said looking fashionable, you can still be cute and cuddly in these clothes…it’s just not high fashion. Maybe fashion designers should take note ha-ha. 

In fact, if I do say so myself, there is nothing quite as cute as looking like the kid from A Christmas Story and staying warm. 

Planning in 2022

Well, it’s a new year and even though I am trying not to plan too much, there is still a lot going on and I still need to have a planner of some sort. Going along with my new “be flexible” lifestyle (ha- that’s a bit of a joke) I decided to once again dip my toes in the bullet journaling world. 

Here’s the thing, my ideal planner would have a spot to sort of time block my day in a visual sense, but also a separate section for a bit of a rolling to do list. I want to have the space to write out what I actually need to accomplish, but also be able to visualize how I’m spending my day in a time sense. All of that in a weekly view spread. Every planner that I was finding then involved me needing a separate notebook for the to-do list/meeting notes, and then a separate journal space, and a separate reading space. That was just not something that I wanted. Less is best, right? So, I decided to go back into the bullet journaling world to see if I could find a way to make it work. 

The biggest change this year with the bullet journaling is twofold. The first is that I’m using stencils. The biggest turn off or reason I stopped in previous years is it IS a lot of work and most of the time, I prefer to read a book or do something other. I’m not NOT crafty, but it’s also not something that I really focus on. So, I ordered a pack of stencils to kind of cut my time spent setting up my planner in half. 

The second change I made is in how I set it up. A) all of my months are preset at the beginning of the bullet journal. I needed to be able to see all 12 months at one time, with school/appointments/breaks there is just too much going on for me not to be able to see several months pre outlined. I typically am planning and booking stuff almost a month out, so this was a necessary. I wanted to be able to see my month, but then customize my week as it happened. B) I don’t have a monthly view within each month. Since I did the full calendar year in the first 24 pages of the bullet journal (a month on two pages), I don’t feel the need to then duplicate the work each month. This actually cuts a lot of my “bullet journal work” time in half. Each month has a reading spread and a tracking spread prior to the actually weekly spreads. That’s it. One page to track my movement, mood, and journaling, and one page to track all the book things (I’m tracking both reading and purchasing this year). Then I have my weekly spread, with notes and meeting information as necessary. 

I have found that, so far, a few months in, this has really been working for me. I’ve always said that I want everything to be in one place. That’s something I’ve always liked about Bullet Journaling- it’s really one notebook that can encompass everything you need. I’m hopeful that this will actually work out for me this year and give me both the structure and flexibility I think that 2022 is going to need. 

And that’s the planner for 2022! I’ll do another check in with it about halfway through the year (this is what I tend to do when I do bullet journaling) and we’ll see where it’s at at that point. 

A Year In…

It’s been a year. A whole year being in New York. A {little over a} year back in the United States. I figured I might take a minute and just…reminisce? Share some of the things that I’ve learned? I don’t want this to be a recap post or anything of the sort (I already did that with my New Year’s post HERE), but there are some things that I’ve learned that I want to briefly share about. 

In 2021 we moved away from our little village in Germany back to the US. We took a month to visit some family, before heading on our way to very {veerrrryyyyy} Upstate New York. As someone who was very sad to be leaving Germany, even the excitement of being back in the States, setting up a new home, and being in a new location wasn’t enough to bring me out of my blues. Also, the move back was a bit overwhelming, as was the adjustment of being back in the States. I was excited, but also sad, and a little apprehensive. This would be a different life for all of us. 

I will say this, I have fallen in love with this area of the country. We truly live in a very beautiful area, close to a lot of outdoors activity, smaller town living, and really…not much can top Upstate New York in Autumn. We still have easy access to a lot of travel spots, and we’ve even tried out some different travel options (and fell in love with one or two). It’s been something special this past year, but a lot of that “get out of the blues” feeling is due to one thing…

Romanticizing my life as it is. 

Now, let me make this clarification (and I’ll probably make this several times throughout this little post) …this doesn’t mean that life is easy or grand or beautiful every day. It doesn’t mean that everything is perfect and wonderful and easy. BUT what it does mean is accepting that those days come, but celebrating, reflecting, and holding on to those little moments of joy- that first cup of coffee in the morning, a picnic on the front porch, the quiet of the afternoon while the kids are at school, the beauty of a sunrise or sunset. Or bigger things like walking in a field of flowers, picking some fresh for the table, sitting at the edge of a mountain in the middle of Autumn with the vibrant reds and yellows all around. Those little joys are what I share, what I reflect on, what I treasure, making sure those are the moments that hold me through…that’s what this means to me. It’s finding those little moments in the midst of the chaos and holding those close when it is chaotic. 

I know it might sound cheesy, but if you’ve been following my social media over the last 6-9 months, you’ll have seen me share a lot of those moments (I mean how many times can I wonder at opening my blinds up in the morning to greet the day?! It’s glorious!). 

It’s really easy to get swept away in life and the world living in Europe. Like beyond easy to feel like you’re living in a dream, living in a fairytale. I didn’t want to lose the joy and wonder I had when waking up in Europe every morning when we moved back to the US. And while the US is incredible and the area, we live in is beautiful, I needed to find a way to carry that feeling from Europe into our new life in New York. So, I started doing little things. Our new routines and scheduled meant for less time for “dallying” in the morning, so I tried to take little moments, making that first cup of tea, opening up all the blinds in the house, playing calming music in the morning, etc. It’s nothing I wouldn’t already be doing, but it’s more so putting a bit more intention into these little moments. I find that if I take a couple extra seconds in the morning to put on a calming playlist (I have several to choose from) and just take a couple extra minutes when opening up the windows to truly take in the day- it shifts my mindset. It reminds me that life is beautiful (even if not always perfect and calm) no matter where we are or what we are doing. 

It doesn’t mean that life isn’t chaotic, or busy, or that my children don’t throw fits and I don’t feel like screaming and crying all at the same time…it simply means that I am constantly looking around and reminding myself how wonderful life is in the good moments. It doesn’t change that we have bad moments (because oh boy do we), but it makes a small difference in them. 

And that to me is what Romanticizing my life is all about. It’s about putting myself in the movie, in seeing the beauty in all the little moments throughout the day, to help get through the bad moments (also throughout the day). It’s about reminding ourselves that life can be incredible and celebrated and enjoyed. 

They Saved Themselves…

I’m going to preface this post (rather this series of posts), with a bit of a disclaimer. I never thought that I would be here talking about this level of Jew Hatred. This is something that I’ve shared about on social media and maybe briefly mentioned on the blog, outside of talking about Holocaust sites that we’ve visited, but never something I’ve outrightly discussed. There are several reasons for this that we will get into in another post, but I feel like I’ve reached a point that I can no longer NOT talk about it. I’ve been feeling this pressure within to talk about it more for the past year or two, but it’s really starting to reach a crescendo. 

I want to start this off by saying that almost every single Jew has experienced some form of “othering”, of hatred, SOMETHING. Every. Single. Jew. It’s actually not hard to believe when you realize that Jews make up 0.19% of the world population. I’m not going to spit facts at you this entire post, but that’s an important one to know. Ask any Jew that you know, and they’ll talk to you about some incident. In fact, a recent number has come to light that in 2021 an average of 10 antisemitic incidents were REPORTED a day. 10 A DAY. And that’s just a) what’s reported (often they go unreported) and b) what can actually be reported. In just the weeks following the hostage situation at the Synagogue in Colleyville- which we will be getting into in this post- I’ve seen numerous incidences both in a micro aggression commentary sense, but also in physical attacks. In NYC a woman yelled holocaust and Hitler slurs at two young Jewish children and spat on them. An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal talked about how the only Jews that had to fear antisemitism are those that are “outwardly Jewish” or “frequent Jewish institutions”. This is beyond false and actually very dangerous rhetoric. Two instances right there in two weeks; examples of both physical (though mild as most are truly physical assault rather than just spitting on someone which is still bad and disgusting) and micro verbal nonsense spewed in a “reputable” news source. 

For me? The first time I experienced it was when my family moved from TX to CO, and I started a new school. I was the “weird girl who talked funny and didn’t celebrate Christmas”. Oh, and I also was the girl “who had that weird birthday celebration at the school” aka a Bat Mitzvah. This othering is not unusual by any means (and nowhere near close to some of the other things I’ve experienced), but at 11/12 in a new community and a new school it had an impact. Later in life I’ve experienced some micro aggressions and truly horrifying things said to me that I will not repeat (because they are truly horrifying). I’ve always kind of written them off as people coming from a place of ignorance or not understanding. But honestly that’s a lie and it’s a dangerous mindset to have. I see so many comments, words of ignorance, and statements becoming commonplace that are actually scary to hear as a Jewish person. 

The reality is that people are quick to write off the Jewish community. In terms of social justice, they are considered “white”, but in terms of white supremacy they are the antithesis of “white” (and in reality- Jews are NOT “white”, but at most white passing). The history of the Jews is long and storied and since it involves SO MUCH it must have been exaggerated or falsified- even though there is documented proof. There are always “bigger issues” to contend with OR “not enough information” to comment on what is happening. And, as a Jewish person, it is hard to watch my very people, my community, my home be wiped to the side as quick as dirt being swept on the floor. 

Sometimes it’s easy to see, like in the most recent incident that made international news- a gunmen entered a synagogue, took 4 hostages for 12 hours before finally being killed by the FBI without any other casualties. 

First off, this is an annual occurrence. There is some form of massive violence against the Jewish community every year. We see it in Synagogue shootings, hostage situations, stabbings in Kosher supermarkets. And these are the “major” events, the news making stories, this is not counting “minor” physical assaults and verbal attacks that Jews face EVERY SINGLE DAY. But we’ll focus on these major ones for the sake of conversation (just remember- Jew Hatred is not limited to these annual major occurrences, but rather happens every day). 

Now, let’s get into the specifics of this most recent hostage situation because I feel like they paint a pretty accurate picture of the state of Jewish Hatred. 

First, I personally saw the news break from an Israeli News Organization. I then saw the Jewish community rally and share details before lastly seeing our standard news outlets sharing information. I don’t have cable so I can’t say what the coverage was in that sense, but I will say I first heard and saw the hostage situation NOT from our American Mainstream Media. 

Second, the ONLY people I saw sharing it, talking about it, updating others was the Jewish community. This is going to sound a bit like a call out, and maybe it is in a way, but I didn’t see ONE person who was NOT a member of the Jewish community share. It was like crickets outside the Jewish community. The sad fact, is that a lot of the folks that were talking about it, sharing it (again- within the Jewish community) were sharing it and the fact that they KNEW that they would get no support from outside the community. That’s SAD. When there were finally comments being made from outside the community, they were…stilted to say the least. I saw everything from a “praying for the hostages” to “please don’t let this lead to a rise in Islamophobia” to the White House not even stating (in their initial comment- I know Biden later released a full statement condemning Antisemitism and what not) what was going on- just that the president had been “briefed about the developing hostage situation in the Dallas area”. Let me make something absolutely clear here- this is one of the things that HURTS the Jewish community when it comes to Jewish Hatred. Not immediately saying exactly what it is is a detriment, ESPECIALLY when it is BLATANTLY clear. 

When the hostages escaped (and we’ll get to that next), the FBI’s initial statement from the Dallas Special Agent in Charge was that this was “not specifically related to the Jewish Community”. Yes, read that again. We’ve learned a lot in the days following this hostage situation and there were some rumors, but we’ll put that aside for the purposes of this (and we’ll get to them- I promise). If we look at what we knew when this statement was made what we KNEW was that this man had taken these hostages in a Synagogue with the intent on getting someone (who also hated Jews and wanted the jurors at her federal trial genetically tested to determine if they were or were not Jews) freed from Federal Prison. He had the Rabbi call another Rabbi in another state to continue pushing his case for freeing this person. And the FBI made a public statement that this was “not related to the Jewish community”. Let that sink in. This is a government organization. A federal government organization saying something directly opposite of what we all saw. And, while most of us can see the flaw in that statement, there are people who, because this is the FBI, will believe it. 

Now the FBI has come out and corrected that initial statement and most people are talking about how outrageous and false that statement is, it’s still a damning heartbreaking statement to make literally on the heels of the entire Jewish community praying, daring to hope, and sitting on edge for the entirety of a Sabbath day. 

In the days following the Hostage situation we started to get a clearer picture of the events, which makes the entire situation clearer, more heartbreaking, and more damning. 

First, we hear confirmation that the hostage taker had the Rabbi call a Rabbi in New York to push his agenda forward. Not every rabbi knows every rabbi, and they are most definitely not connected in this sense to the justice system. The entire concept of “Jews control the Justice System” connects to an antisemitic trope of “Jews control the world”, which is…quite obviously false. False as it is, this is a narrative that is pushed forward quite regularly.

Second, we hear that 3 out of the 4 hostages escaped through their own self-defense tactics, knowledge, and training, rather than being “freed” or “rescued”. This is one of the most important factors to look at, after we look at the fact that this is obviously an attack on the Jewish Community, and we need to recognize what led to that. When the 3 hostages noticed that the attacker was getting more agitated, they used the training that they had received not long before this attack to escape. The Rabbi threw a chair at the attacker and the Vice President of the congregation had lined both himself and the other hostage up with the exit. These were tactics they had learned through a self-defense that they took in response to a rise in Jew Hatred and Jewish attacks. They saved themselves. 

They saved themselves. 

This is what Jews have been doing for thousands of years. 

Now, I’m not going to comment on what/how the FBI operates. I am sure they have trained tactics and five million different options, and they just try different things to do what they need to do. I’m not going to comment because I am just not aware and have not done any training for those situations. 

What I will comment on is the lack of awareness/sharing/” justice”, as well as what the commentary WAS when it happened. 

I saw a lot of the Jewish Community, once the hostage situation had ended with the hostages escaping, saying that they didn’t even think to look outside the Jewish community for anything. Where previously we would look to those outside our community to share information, bring situations to light, stand in solidarity, speak up…in this situation none of that happened. It wasn’t even expected. A lot of the community didn’t even hope for it. In fact, a lot of posts that I saw were “we know we have to do this ourselves”. What a dark place to be in. When you are trying so hard to say, “look here we are, we’re under attack, please just say something, anything” and to be rebuked, to be met with crickets. It’s heartbreaking. We don’t exist outside our own community. 

Think about this, your community is under attack, your family is under attack, you’re shouting to the world that this is happening, and you’re met with silence. Or, maybe more frustratingly, you’re met with “well let’s not turn this into this” or “well how did this one part of the issue happen”. Because that’s what happened. Outside our community it was a cry of “don’t let this lead to hatred in the other direction”, or “how did he get in the country?”, and “obviously something in gun control is flawed here”. All of these are things that need to be looked at, obviously. All of these are valid points. All of these are important questions. But there weren’t a lot of questions or headlines about the obvious…he attacked Jews. He thought that these Jews, this small community of people, had the power to accomplish his goal. So much so that he not only attacked them but had them call another separate Jewish community to push the agenda further. And yet, somehow, this is not really being talked about beyond our community. In fact, I’m not really seeing any real headlines at all at this point (we’re a few days out when I’m writing this). 

As I said the day after the attack, I don’t want false platitudes, I don’t want just a share and move on (though even that would be nice in some ways- show you care, ya know?), the Jews know how to fight and take care of themselves and their community…obviously. We’ve had to learn. We’ve had to learn the hard way. Because it was SILENT. It was silent during the attack, it was silent after, and it seems like it will continue to be silent. 

And that’s heartbreaking and enraging. It’s not ok. I am not ok.  

New Year, New Nothing – 2022

Listen, it’s 2022. I think that this year is not THE year (which is OK). But, even if it’s not THE year, that doesn’t mean that we can’t keep our heads up, our shoulders light (maybe), and carry forward doing our best (whatever that means for YOU). 

For me, what does 2022 look like? Well, I don’t really know to be honest. Right now, the world feels like it’s in a fragile place and I don’t just mean in terms of the Pandemic. There’s a lot of scary things happening from {what feels like} all around and I feel like we are going to have to weather quite a bit over this year and the next. I know what I hope for, and I know what I’m going to be doing, but beyond that is really out of my control. 

With that being said, I’m not really making any resolutions or intentions this year. This is partly because of how I want to approach the year, but also because I feel like this year is going to throw us for loop after loop after loop to be honest. And my almost type a personality needs to be able to plan to be flexible (the laughs to be had there). I have things that I would LIKE to accomplish this year- a book, growing both the blog and the podcast, a new podcast, some big traveling, seeing some family that I haven’t in far too long, volunteering more, seeing both kids starting school, etc.- but I also want to recognize that if this year goes any way like the couple past, I need to also have some grace in those goals. I will still be able to accomplish them, but maybe not in the timeline or way that I had planned. 

I do have a word of the year, and some basic changes that I’d like to initiate just for my overall mindset, but nothing super major. This is also stuff that I’ve touched on before at Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), so you can read that post HERE to see…or just continue below haha. 

Ok, so we’ll start with the hard part, the word of the year. Back when I was working on Rosh Hashanah, I struggled to find a word that fit with what I wanted the new year to look like. The world right now is a bit of a scary place in so many ways and we’re in a dark spot, again, in so many ways. I’ve always felt like I wanted to be that light, that cheery spot in someone’s day, that person that can be the safe spot. Those are the moments/things that I cling to when I’m having an off/bad day, those are the moments/things I want to provide others with, and what I think makes all the difference. BUT I’ve never really found an English word that described that. So, I turned to Yiddish and/or Hebrew (this was in part because I couldn’t find an English word and in part because I really wanted to lean into this side of things a bit more). Enter: MECHAYEH or “that which gives life”, the idea of a thing or feeling that just makes your day (the example given was a cool glass of lemonade on a hot day).

That seems lofty, or like I’m putting myself on a pedestal, BUT I’m trying to think of it as more of an overall thought process, not like I am that exact word. 

Now, I already mentioned that I didn’t want to set full resolutions or intentions. I’ve mentioned some of the things that I would like to accomplish this year, but I’ve found that this year might be better to also focus on the little things in the day to day that can help me accomplish those bigger things. So, one of those things (something I’ve already been working on” is getting out of bed when my alarm goes off. We all do it, we all wait till the last minute, hit the snooze button as many times as we can, or just lay around on our phone until something else calls to our attention. When I don’t do this, I have a mile’s better day, feel clear headed, and don’t spend nearly as much time on my phone. So, that is my little promise to myself to do every morning. Get out of bed with my first alarm and get on with my day, instead of procrastinating until the last minute. 

And that’s really it. That’s my one full resolution for 2022. I’m hoping that doing that will help me accomplish those other bigger goals. This may seem like a “cop out” in so many ways, but if the past two years have taught me anything at all, it’s that the littlest of things make the biggest difference. 

What else do I want to note about 2022? Nothing really. I know we are all a bit wary going into this new year, and with just cause. It feels like such a dark and draining time for so many, but it’s also full of so much light and joy. We just need to find our balance between advocating change for the dark/painful parts and recognizing the joy of our life and world. 

2021 Wrap Up

Well…2021…the year that was. I don’t know if it’s my frame of my mind while I’m writing this or if it’s just the general…meh ness of this past year, but I’m just not feeling a wrap up. We had a lot of good, some not so good, and a whole bunch lumped in together to end the year out (which if I’m honest, is probably what’s making this wrap up feel meh). However, this end of year reflection is kind of becoming a tradition and it’s one that I want to keep going. I feel like reflecting on a time allows us to learn lessons and continue to grow as long as it’s done from a place of honesty (as in- recognize if you are viewing it through rose colored glasses – which is fine but should be noted- and don’t change the bad stuff around to suit your current status or feelings). 

So, 2021…

Our year started with a big move, from Germany to the US. We said a very sad, very fond, very long (seriously- our flight was delayed for two days) farewell to our German adventure. It was a kicking and screaming moment as we really loved our home, our neighborhood, and the friends we made there. There was a bit of culture shock once we got back to the States, namely a) you can get anything, anytime, b) the cost of…well everything, and c) the general “busy, busy, busy” lifestyle read about it: LEAVING GERMANY, ADJUSTING TO AMERICA, DIFFERENCES). 

We ended the first quarter of 2021 making a new home, a new community in upstate New York. We’ve settled in really nicely into our new house, creating a imperfectly perfect space with what we’ve got and I’m really in love with how it all has come together. I’ve still got some décor bits and bobs I’m working to find, but I’m trying to be slow and mindful with those purchases. We’ve settled into a new community, jumping into a new school, some new volunteer opportunities, and new friends all around. It’s been a real blessing how everything here has seemingly clicked into place. 

We spent spring exploring some of our area (ALEXANDRIA BAY, LAKE ONTARIO/WELLESLY ISLAND), and summer exploring a part of the East Coast we hadn’t gotten to see (PLYMOUTH, BOSTON, BOSTON PT 2, SALEM, PORTLAND). Then Summer started to turn to Autumn, and we went a final couple of places on our list (ALBANY, FINGER LAKES, LAKE PLACID). I feel grateful for the amount of traveling that we have been able to do this year and for the truly incredible places we’ve seen. We fell in love with a couple new places, solidified what’s important to us when traveling, and maybe how we want to do a couple trips differently in the future. 

The boys have settled in remarkably well, reminding me just how resilient our children truly are. They’ve fallen right into the swing of things with Colton properly starting Kindergarten this year and Andrew…well, being Andrew. We’ve had a couple of struggles that come with the changing years as they grow, and we’ve had a couple of trips to the hospital (remember when I said everything bad seemed to come at the end of the year all at once?), but throughout it all, the boys weathered with a smile on their face and excitement in their eyes. Well, the excitement might have been a troublemaker’s gleam, but we’ll go with excitement. 

As a family, I think we are in the strongest shape we’ve ever been in. We just continue to grow individually and as a unit and I’m just so happy and at peace with life. That feels so good to say. Robert and I celebrated 10 years together and hit 7 years married. Safe to say, we’ve come so far and have so far to go. 

Finally, have I changed? Grown? Experienced something new this past year? Yes and no. I feel like I’ve really started to learn how to use my voice, what I want to use my voice for, solidified some boundaries, and learned how to “manage” certain things. I don’t think that we’re meant to learn something every year or grow massively or experience great things. Some years we are just meant to carry on and I feel like that has really been my sole focus of 2021. Carry on, move forward, and see the light. That I feel like I accomplished. 

Christmas Eve Boxes 2021

It’s one of my favorite traditions of the holiday season…our Christmas Eve boxes. We’ve done this every year since having the kids and it’s always a big hit. Our Christmas Eve usually encompasses an easy meal, some cozy pajamas, all the Christmas lights on, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas to see us to bedtime. Honestly, I might love Christmas Eve more than Christmas itself. It’s just the epitome of the spirit of the holiday (to me at least).

So, Christmas Eve boxes. 

Every year I follow the same pattern of sorts, pajamas, a new Christmas themed book, and then a little trinket of sorts. We’ve done mugs, plushies, and other little things. It’s usually something small that I’ve noticed they’ve developed an interest in throughout the year but doesn’t fit in with anything else that we are doing. It also tends to be the same for both boys (for now- that may change when they grow older and aren’t in the fight over everything phase). You can see our 2019 and 2020 options in those blog posts (just click the year) and this year was really no different. 

First up, the pajamas. I’ve gone away from the Christmas central pajamas and more towards a “winter” theme. Something they can wear throughout the winter season (I know, it’s ridiculous, but whatever). This year we chose this really cute pattern from the Wonder Shop at Target – you can find them HERE. I loved these so much. I didn’t get the same pattern for myself, but rather a “gnome for the holidays” set. 

Second, the books. This one was a bit more exciting this year as Colton is starting to get into “older” books and is starting to get better at reading. He’s recently really gotten heavily into Pete the Cat, so he got a Pete the Cat saves Christmas book. Andrew, as he has been for the past few years, is super into construction vehicles, so he got a Construction Site on Christmas Night book. The books on Christmas Eve have always been a big hit for my little readers. I too participate in this tradition, usually opting for a “Christmas Cozy Mystery” and this year got Murder in the First Edition by Lauren Elliott. I don’t look for anything super intense, but rather some light and quick for a little 24 hr. cozy reading moment. 

Third, the trinkets. This year was difficult for trinkets. We’re quickly fading away from the little plushies, little “things”, and even quicker, moving into the full-sized Lego sets, action figures, and the like. Which, I wouldn’t be opposed to put a little action figure or such in the boxes, but it didn’t feel “special” since most of their Christmas gifts consist of that stuff. However, I had noticed that they’ve been showing a real interest in one of the bus stop kids rubix cubes. And when I say interest, I mean they’ve been obsessed. It’s reached popper level (which we were going to include, but then one kid got wind of that/saw it when it arrived, so there it went) and I thought it would be a good fun little thing to include for them! They are also going to be getting their first little watches in the Christmas eve box this year, a Grogu one for Colton and Sonic for Andrew. 

This year we are also changing the “box” for a bag as our last pair of boxes was destroyed in the move and I figured a bag would be a bit easier to store and re use for longer. 

And that’s it for the Christmas Eve boxes for 2021. Do you have any fun family traditions? How do you spend your Christmas Eve?

Thanksgiving 2021

Every year I make a post centered around Thanksgiving, what I’m thankful for, a fun memory, or something along those lines. 

And this year really is no different. Except that it is. Last year I was thankful that I was even able to have my best friend and her family over for thanksgiving. This year we made plans with friends without a second thought to numbers, cases, rules or regulations. Last year I was grateful for the little travel we were able to squeeze in amidst everything 2020; this year, though we’ve traveled, I haven’t had to overthink, over plan, over research every little number and detail, with second and third options just in case and I’ve been grateful for that. Last year I was preparing to pack our lives up, shortly after unpacking them (in the grand scheme of things) and say “see you soon” to some of the closest friends I’ve made; this year we are cultivating an entirely new community for ourselves and our family with some pretty great friends and people. 

So, yes, I’m still grateful for many of the same things, but everything is different. 

I’m grateful for the little family we’ve made between myself, my husband and our two boys. This little family is beyond what I could have ever dreamed of and, while it’s not always perfect, it’s perfect for me. Those little boys are two rays of sunlight in my life, and while there are clouds sometimes, they really do have that power to lift them with the smallest of words or gestures. (Yes- I totally have a new understanding of “You Are My Sunshine”). 

I’m grateful for the friends in my life, both new and old, online and in person, who continue to lift me up, listen to me vent, allow me to be exactly who I am as I am, are willing to try new things with me, understand when I need time to recharge and what that looks like, and ultimately who remind me that I don’t have to go through things by myself. I can reach out and depend on others. I feel like I finally have a really solid circle and that makes a big difference in a person. 

I’m grateful for the travel that we’ve been able to do without a second thought (although all the trips have been carefully planned). We’ve been able to see some new places, have some new experiences, and remind ourselves that while it may not be Europe, the US has some pretty cool/beautiful spots to see.  

I’m grateful for our extended family, who we’ve seen most of over the past 9 months (except for a few- who we’re desperate to see and trying everything to get to) since being back in the US. 

And this year, I kind of want to talk about someone that I’m grateful for, but don’t really highlight much online…my husband. He’s been my rock, my solid ground, my voice of reason of logic, my everything. I know that we wouldn’t have this life without him, and I will forever be grateful for him.

Ultimately, I’m grateful to be alive and living a life that I only dreamed about for a while. Things feel so GOOD right now, not perfect, but perfect. I feel so content with life and that was something I didn’t know would happen a year ago. 

Happy Thanksgiving.