My Thoughts on: Travel and Covid-19

Let me be clear about what this post will not be, it will not be a debate on whether or not Covid-19 exists. It will not be a debate on mask wearing. It will not be a debate on what we should or should not be doing. There are guidelines in place and each person needs to decide what is best for them, their family, their community. What it will be is a {probably unnecessarily long winded} write up of my thoughts on travel right now with the ongoing pandemic. 

I also want to state that the information that I have, everything that I am referring to, is Europe or European Union information. I haven’t been in the states for a year and a half and while I am reading, watching, and monitoring I do not have all the up to date information or resources. The best place to start would be with the CDC and your local state website (or the state that you are wanting to travel to). 

It has begun. The world has started opening up its doors again, beckoning travelers with open arms (and discount rates) to come and visit. And, while each country is choosing their own dates to fully open (and then again for the attractions within each country), if you live in the European Union you are probably able to travel not only in your own country, but also to other EU countries. If you live in America, you are able to travel much more of your own country than you have in the most recent months, and likewise for other countries around the world. While the pandemic is far from over it seems like a good amount of people are ready to start seeing more again and that, combined with the lowering of case numbers (in most places), is giving a good amount of us travel plans for the summer. 

In fact, we have just gotten the initial approval to travel outside of Germany (Summer Holiday here we come!) and are planning to take complete advantage of that. Now that this travel is feasible, is in our hands, and we are planning it, I got to thinking about what travel will be like with this pandemic. 

It’s a vastly different time to be living in right now and while I still think travel is incredibly important, I recognize that not everyone will feel comfortable with traveling. There are options for this, a lot of locations and tour companies are offering virtual traveling (check out Through Eternity- they are great with a lot of the Rome and Italy in general locations), or you can follow along with various bloggers and youtubers, reliving their travels through old videos or blog posts (which is also a great way to support them). Not traveling has also given us all a chance to see what we value and what is important in our home and day to day life. It’s given our world (and I’m talking in an environmental sense) a chance to rest and recuperate for a little bit. We’ve seen a lot of good come out of this lockdown period. 

However, it seems like things are very rapidly changing in a way that we didn’t entirely expect. I’ll be honest, it seems like once the transmission rate lowered then everyone went a little wild. This is to be expected (I mean we have all been basically locked up in our homes for the better part of 3 months and some change), but it all moved rather quickly. It is also still changing hour by hour, day by day. Here in our part of Europe, I felt like it rather quickly moved from nothing to almost everything (still no large gatherings/festivals, sporting events, or nightclubs, but we can now do just about anything else) and then once most things opened up, the “world became our oyster” once again. 

And travel is important. It’s important for us as individuals living in this world and it’s important for countries who rely on tourists to boost their own economies. However, I also feel like it’s important to weigh out the different options we have, do the research on how to travel (should you choose to) in a safe manner, following all the guidelines set out, and make sure we are making an informed decision for ourselves. Travel will most definitely look different in each place from wearing masks, to longer lines and/or smaller crowds. Dining on vacation may look different as will a lot of tourist hotspots (such as theme parks or museums). It definitely won’t be travel that we are used to, which is something else to factor into your plans. 

For us, we’ve made the decision to go and travel. There are several factors at play with our choice, none of which I will be getting in to right now, but ultimately we will be heading out to travel this next month (and beyond). We have been following all of the recommended guidelines in terms of lockdown and quarantine, limited groups and interaction, physical distancing, mask wearing (which is a rule here), and have been closely monitoring the numbers and information that has been put out across the board. I’m not justifying our decision (because again- this is personal and individual to each person), BUT I am in a place where we feel that we can continue to follow the recommendations and do a bit of traveling at the same time. 

So, what will you choose? Are you going to start traveling or do you not want to?

It All Rests On The Challah

Another topic I never knew I would be posting about, but here we go! Before we go deep into this whole story, I want to start off by saying I’ve always considered myself more spiritual than religious and I think I have found a bit of a balance between the two at this point in my life. I also want to say, there has always been an aspect of me that has considered Judaism as part of my heritage, my makeup, part of just who I am and not so much has my religion. I think that too also applies to me today. 

I was raised in a reform (VERY reform) Jewish household. My Mother is Jewish, my Father is not religious. We attended services at our synagogue, which I was very active in for quite a lot of my childhood/early adolescence), we did Shabbat prayers at home every Friday night, we celebrated the high holidays, but also ate bacon as well as meat and cheese together. I had a Bat Mitzvah when I was 12 and slowly I started to slip away from the community. 

For quite a while I bounced back and forth between Judaism and Christianity, just wandering a little while. It wasn’t anything special and eventually I just kind of faded away from both, choosing to be spiritual, to pray, but not to follow anything specific religion wise. And that was ok! I was ok, things were great, all was well. 

Then a few things happened in short succession. I’m not a big believer in “signs” or what not, but I do kind of feel like things aligned a little bit to point me in the right direction. 

The first thing was visiting the Synagogue in Rome.

We stopped in the Great Synagogue of Rome and walked through both the museum and the Synagogue and there was something about being presented, front and center, with my heritage that just had me longing for some of it back. So many memories came flooding back, singing in temple, the Friday Night prayers and meal, Challah, the Torah, and the feeling of just having a bit of my “people” back. I don’t know if I realized how much I missed that until that moment. 

Shortly after we got back I started thinking about it a bit more, and then a bit more, and then a bit more. I did a little soul searching to understand what Judaism meant to me and what role I would want it to play in my life. I realized how disconnected I had become to that (even in the reform upbringing that I had). We aren’t a very religious family (in the sense that we don’t go to church, synagogue, follow any of the “rules” of organized religion). My husband is a Catholic and we just kind of blend in the fact of not really practicing anything to much of an extent. I should say- I don’t think that will change, we aren’t going to suddenly become church or synagogue goers, BUT I wanted to know for myself where that longing could fit back in. 

As I was thinking about all of this (I am a notorious over thinker), we experienced one of those things where you can’t help but take it as a “sign” of something. We experienced the most incredible rainbows over the span of a few days, and one night included a double rainbow.

It was one of those moments where the sky is still storming, but the rainbow just breaks through and BAM it just strikes you as an incredible moment. A true feat. I just knew it was a sign. Maybe not necessarily relating to my internal conversations, but a sign of something. 

So, in comes my Challah test. 

One of my favorite things about the Jewish Culture is the food and the meals that are had centering around the food. I LOVED every high holiday as we would gather with friends and family and feast over wonderful hand-crafted meals (until Passover that is). It was just such a warm time and full of fuzzy feelings. Now, I’m a bread lover and one of my favorite additions to the Jewish Meal is Challah. This sweet eggy bread is just…chef’s kiss and when I realized that making this bread was much easier than I originally thought I knew that I had to try and make it. 

My wonderful, irrational, mind turned my making Challah attempt from just a fun thing to try to a high stakes turning point of my internal debate. In my irrational mind, if this worked then that would seal the deal with my faith, heritage, and that part of myself. If it didn’t work, I was lost from that for good. Everything rested on my ability to make this Challah and make it right (aka exactly as I remembered it from my childhood). Really rational, huh?

I gave myself two attempts (because the first attempt was garbage – I had gotten everything but the consistency right – and I didn’t want to “fail myself” based on just that) and it was my second attempt that sealed it. 

*Warning- I’m going to toot my own horn now*

My second attempt at Challah was…incredible. Chef’s Kiss. Beautifully golden, hand crafted with love (and it shows) and tastes exactly like it should. It tasted like something that I had long forgotten, and I felt so…complete in making it. And I knew, that while I wouldn’t be running off to Synagogue tomorrow, that Judaism is still a massive part of who I am. 

Now, I know this all sounds kind of hokey and like I’m walking this fine line of lunacy, BUT I feel like sometimes we fall into that. Sometimes life just brings all of these different, random, moments together to remind us of parts of who we are. And being Jewish is a part of who I am. 

A Little Life Chat

The second half of June has historically been a time of reflection for me. It is the halfway point of the year and a good time to sort of do a little check in and evaluate. So that’s what we are doing today. It’s a bit early, but I felt like it was just…right. That and I don’t have my next Castle’s post fully ready to post ha-ha.

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So, 2020. What a year so far, right?! We’ve faced a global pandemic and a global uprising/protest. We’ve seen communities, families, strangers all come together to accomplish some incredible things. I’ve learned some things about myself, about those that I am close to, and how to get uncomfortable. 2020 is going to be a year for the history books and I think we are going to see some real changes moving forward in regard to both the pandemic and the uprising. We aren’t going to go back to “normal” because that wasn’t working, but I do think the changes that we are starting to see, and initiate will lead to a better world. I don’t want to call anything a “new normal” because “normal” in any sense just doesn’t work for us anymore. It makes it sound like we are just striving to the average way of life, instead of always striving to do better, be better, make better changes.

For us as a family 2020 has been full of changes so far as well. We’ve seen our oldest go into his first session of preschool, to then do virtual schooling, our youngest has grown quite the little personality, and both have narrowed down their current interests quite a bit (dinosaurs, cars, Lego’s, and trains are the top). We’ve gone through a couple of work separations, work changes, and some disappointing news that I’m not sharing just yet ( I KNOW how annoying that is, but it’ll come).

It’s also ONLY June. We still have a full half a year to go in 2020.

Something else I kind of wanted to do was do a little check in on some of my resolutions that I shared. I want to see where I stand with them, while understanding that a lot of things have drastically changed from when I wrote those in late December.

So, my New Year’s Resolutions post can be found HERE

My first goal was to spend the first half of the year focusing on my website and SEO. I’ve been doing quite a bit of learning in this area, but haven’t yet gotten on Pinterest. When quarantine hit I thought it was going to be a great chance to really focus and hone in as, well…we couldn’t do anything else. But, as I quickly learned it was the complete opposite of that and trying to make drastic changes was not in my wheelhouse. I plan to refocus this goal to the second half of the year and have a good Pinterest thing going in the next 3 months or so.

My second overarching goal applied to the second half of this year (in regards to writing and publishing), so I still have time on that one!

My next group of goals was in regards to content. I wanted to make sure that what I was posting was what I felt 100% about and not to feel pressured to constantly be posting. I think that I’ve actually been really good at this, partly because of Covid-19, but also just because I’ve tried to be very intentional about posting. I love sharing and writing, but I also want to continue to enjoy that. I took a bit of time in February off, there were a couple weeks in March (or maybe April) where I only posted once a week, and that all just felt good. It keeps me feeling fresh and allows me a breather to re invigorate myself and my content.

The next group was in regards to reading, family time with my boys, travel, and quality time. I was doing better about reading a wider variety of books, but I’ve recently (like many others) been reminded that I can continue to do better in this area. I am pledging to myself to not only read a wider variety of genre’s and stories, but read a wider variety of authors. As for the family time with the boys, well we’ve been really forced into that, haven’t we? I will say in so many ways this has been so good for our family. We’ve really just gotten a chance to be together without the whole outside world distracting us. It’s been nice for the boys to have mommy and daddy home all the time, but it’s made our recent work separation all that much harder.

We all know what is going on with travel and the lack of it due to Covid-19. However, we recently just were informed that our restriction for travel within the country of Germany has been lifted so I am eagerly looking for some getaways within the country. We are also starting to hopefully be able to plan for some Fall or Winter trips. Keeping our fingers crossed.

My final goal was to do more date nights with my husband and well…that’s gone about the same way as the travel goal ha-ha. Hopefully though, now that our restrictions are being lifted more and more we can start doing those date nights again. I know that I am ready for some kid free time with my husband.

So, that’s my check in on 2020 so far. As we go into the second half of the year, I want to continue to listen, inform, and better educate myself on our community and world at large. I want to strive to be better and do better.

How is your 2020 so far?

Round the Kettle ep.25 : In which I Speak Up and Share My Perspective

I am going to preface this by saying a couple of things. One, this is probably going to be all over the place. I’m working through my thoughts and feelings as many others are. Two, I don’t have the answers, I don’t have the words, I don’t know. Three, this is incredibly new to me, which is very indicative of my privilege in this area and I acknowledge that. Finally, Four, I want to champion the voices of those who are directly impacted. I fully believe that right now is a time for us to listen to those impacted, work alongside them. While it is powerful for us all to share and speak up, I would ask everyone to also champion/share/project those voices.

I don’t know if this is going to be any good. I don’t know if this is going to be helpful. I don’t know if this is a complete mistake. I just know that I needed to get all of this off of my chest and that is one facet of my blog. If there are any corrections, anything you would like to add, any tips/advice or such, please comment below and share.

I’ll be honest, I don’t speak about politics or world affairs or current events very often. The reason is twofold. One part is that I quite simply like to live in my happy little world, being a reprieve from the world that we live in currently. I think that in a lot of cases, we all need that little reprieve and I like to provide that little space for that.  I’m conflict avoidant by nature (any other Type 9’s feel this more now than ever?) and I’ve always just kept to the sidelines. Talked within my family to do what I could there and kept moving. An immense amount of privilege to be able to do that. The second part (and more important part) is that most of the time I don’t know WHAT to say. I don’t know HOW to help. I don’t want to offend those who are directly affected by doing/saying/projecting the wrong thing. So, again, I would say things with my friends and family, but largely keep silent. Always listening, always learning, always trying to understand.

See, that’s something you should know about me. I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to understand. So that when I do speak I do so from a place of knowledge. I want to use my little voice in the best way possible and so, I worked from the sidelines.

Something else you should understand about me is that I can, by and large, see both sides of the conflict. Now, let me explain before you go making judgements on what I am saying. When I am learning and listening I like to stay impartial. I like to know all of the facts, all of the stories, all of the information (both fact and what is construed) before I speak out. Not because I don’t feel passionate one way or the other, but because when I speak I want to do so from a place of knowledge. One could say that maybe that stops me from speaking out earlier, which in turn creates a domino effect, but I would disagree. I think by listening, by understanding each facet or side to a problem we can start to move forward to a solution. To effectively use our resources and create real change.

And right now? Right now, I feel helpless. I feel like I have so much to say, but no way to say it. I want to scream into the void. I want to hold everybody. I want to run away from it all. I want to see a different world. I want so much for things to change. I want people to feel like they can just be, just live. I’m watching scenes from across our country from a continent away and I feel frustrated. I’m seeing outrage expressed for a multitude of different reasons and I feel frustrated. I see the media simultaneously reporting the news and inflaming problems. I see people twisting information, construing facts, to support their own beliefs. And I see peoples own voices, directly impacted, on both sides, saying the same thing in different ways.

We are a country on the brink. We are teetering closer to the edge than we have in a long time. And it is up to us, to all of us to try and forge a new way forward. We need change.

What you are seeing in Minneapolis is a community in turmoil. So many have felt like they have no other way to make their voices heard. They’ve been peaceful, they’ve been “violent”, they’ve been anything they can be and still don’t see any meaningful change. You see the heart and soul of people who are tired. This is important to see. It’s important for us to recognize what is going on. It’s important for us to listen to voices on the ground (both in the community and in the police force- remember both sides have something to say and often times most are working towards the same goal).

We are also seeing a lot of protests going on across the country. We are seeing various “styles” (I’m cringing at that wording, but I don’t know how else to call it) of protest. Take note. Listen to what they are trying to do. Let’s work together to create a new world. I see A LOT of people wondering how the community in Minneapolis got to where they are at…well they started like the communities in other parts of the country and they didn’t see any meaningful change. They felt like they did it the “right way” and nothing happened, so what else are they going to do? They want things to change.

Again, we are on the brink. We are in a unique position where we can initiate a real change. A position where we can come together to listen and make changes. We can also teeter off into another civil war. The choice is ours.

Listen. Listen to the voices all around you. People are talking. People are sharing. All you need to do it listen to begin to understand. Don’t ask questions. Don’t put the responsibility of your education on others. Take responsibility to begin to understand.

Don’t try to speak for others. We need to champion the voices who are or have experienced these injustices. Again, listen to what they are saying. Share their own voices and take your queue from them. I see so many people who are trying to share content, to be an ally, but who in doing so are silencing other meaningful voices. Rather than assuming you know what people are hoping to achieve with their voices, listen to what they are saying about what they want to achieve.

Understand that different people are processing this differently. Personally, I believe that a lot of the change happens in our own homes, in our own friend groups, in our own communities. It starts with us raising our children differently, with us speaking up at our community events, with us all doing our part to change our thought processes, our society. It takes each of us doing our part, however little, to create change.

And learn. Learn from others. For me, that means reading. I’m bringing a lot of own voices content into my reading list for the next couple months, both in a fiction and nonfiction sense. I’m cultivating a list of both current and historical works to read (because looking backwards is important to not make the same mistakes moving forward). I want to create real change moving forward. I’m trying. I’m learning.

The Personality Test Crisis

I’ve never been a big one for personality tests. In all honesty, most I felt like ended up giving the result that the taker “wanted” to get. Let’s not all lie to ourselves, how many of us picked the answers that we thought we should have? How many of us wanted a specific result so we picked the answer we thought would get us that result (I’m looking at you Meyers-Briggs). Sure, I’ve had to take personality tests before for a job and I would like to think I answered honestly on those, but it’s human nature when confronted with a complex or divisive question to pick the answer “society” expects. Or is it?

This is a story about how one personality test turned my whole Sunday Night upside down.

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You may have heard a while back about a new personality test going around called the Enneagram. I had heard of it, but as you can guess from the above, was not interested in taking it. I’m a fairly confident person, sure of who I am and what I want in life. I may have had a passing interest in the concept of the Enneagram, but I hadn’t fully “bought into” the concept. Plus, from my understanding, this test was accurate and was brutal about your weaknesses/detractors. Who wants to know all of that or just have it thrust back in your face after painfully tucking it away?

After this test had been circulated through, and having multiple friends suggest I take it/ask what my results were (kudos to my friend Tes for being the final person to push me into the test…and then soothe my soul/help me navigate haha), I figured what the hell. Maybe I should take it. This, my friends, turned into a whole night spent in crisis (I kid…kind of).

The Enneagram is one of the most…detailed and in depth that I’ve seen go around. Not only is it exhaustive in its descriptions and details for the 9 types, but it goes beyond and details out more specifics “wings” that work alongside your dominant type. I’ve not seen a test not only so detailed, but so spot on (in the end- once I got there). The actual Enneagram Institute Website goes into such incredible detail about the test, the types, the wings, the levels; every detail that you could think of (you can find that HERE).

There are many, many, many Enneagram tests circulating on the internet, free and charged. I took three. They all seem to follow along the same vain, you either are selecting which trait is the most like/unlike you, or you are presented with a series of phrases that you determine is most like/unlike you. Now, I took three because the first two gave me different results. The third was to be my conclusive test. It wasn’t.

At this point, I suppose I should tell you what I actually scored, huh? At the end of the day I am a 9w1 living at a healthy Level 2/3. So, what does that actually mean? It means that my entire life is played out in this link…

When I took all the tests, I tested at both a Type 2 and a Type 9 (actually one of the most frequent mistypes is between these two types). This led me to that little mini crisis that I mentioned and was only semi kidding about. There are a few main differences between a 2 and a 9, one being humble/proud, another being giving to give/giving to receive. It’s much more complicated than that, but those are the gist of the two. I did an extensive (almost embarrassing) amount of reading, googling, meme-ing, even the Sleeping At Last playlist on Spotify, just to understand. To try and figure out what I ACTUALLY was. I don’t know why it was so important to me, but having the conclusive answer just was.

After spending a bit of time doing research (and yet another test), I looked on the actual Enneagram Institute website. I read through the entirety of the Type 9 (which is what was the best fit for me after the previous amount of reading/listening/meme-ing I had done) to get a clearer answer. And that is when it became abundantly clear.

Every Type on the Enneagram has various levels. Each level is classified as Healthy, Average, Unhealthy and reading through these levels was like reading through my life over the past 18 years. Seeing the various levels, seeing that the basics of Type 9 to the intricacies of Type 9 solidified everything. The things about Type 9 that didn’t necessarily ring true to who I am now were at different Levels and definitely rang true at some point of my life. Which is why, when I gave my type earlier, I included what level I was currently living at.

Now, is this the end all be all? No. Why did I devote a now almost 820-word blog post to this topic when I don’t think that this whole Personality Test is really all that important? I don’t know. I found it really interesting to read up on and I actually learned some new things about myself, or rather words to describe some of the things that I do. Such as “numbing out” which is a way of living in premature peacefulness. I found a couple of tips or things to work on about myself and my flaws. Overall, it was an interesting thing to research and something really neat to learn about myself.

What do you think? Are you a personality test taker? If you’ve done it…what’s your enneagram? Did you feel like it was accurate?

Two of My Favorite Places

Today I am going to continue on with my daydreaming of travel posts and talk about a couple of places that are very near and dear to my heart.

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You know when you go somewhere, or experience something, and it just sits on your heart? It awakens your soul and just changes you? It may take you by surprise or be something you expect, but it changes you irrevocably. Today I am talking about two places we’ve traveled to that have changed me. They resonated in my soul and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them. One place is one that I knew would feel this way, but the other took me by surprise in a way.

Of course, I’ll link the applicable blog posts in each spot so that you can take a look to see exactly where we went and what we did.

The Highlands, Scotland (INVERNESS, EDINBURGH)

Scotland was a place that I had been dreaming of visiting for as long as I could remember. I had actually been as a baby (as my mother continues to remind me of), but I didn’t remember anything from that trip. There is so much I love about Scotland, that I had loved about it before even stepping foot in the country. The people, the culture, the history, the weather, the landscape; Scotland has so much to offer. But getting to experience that firsthand? It just solidified that this was a place my heart called to and yearns for.

While in Scotland, we divided our time between the southern portion and Edinburgh, and the far Northern reaches of the Highlands and Inverness. I loved both places, but the Highlands is just where my soul lives and breathes. Something about being up in the mountains, in the valleys, in the raw beauty of the wilderness just really lit something deep inside me. Much of our time in Scotland just seems like a blur of contentment. It was funny because in the Highlands we saw a couple of spots (Culloden & Loch Ness being the two big ones), but a good amount of our time was just spent in the little barn cabin we stayed up, watching the storms battle in and out, the grass wave in the wind, and feeling that sense of peace around us. We didn’t have a lot of cellphone service, TV and Internet were limited, and it was incredible.

There are few places that I really want to get back to before our time in Europe comes to an end (and by that I mean, will fight tooth and nail to go back) and this is one of those, possibly the highest on the list. To maybe make it clearer, if I could live anywhere, anywhere in the world, I would choose to live in one of the small villages in the Highlands of Scotland (actually a town similar to where we stayed at on this trip, up in the Black Isle’s/Fortrose area).

Rome, Italy (EARLY DAYS, ANCIENT ROME, VATICAN, LAST DAYS)

I’ve always loved the idea of Italy. Italian food, Italian culture, the history of the country; Italy always just seemed like a warm, welcoming home for the weary traveler. Just like with Scotland, I had dreamed of visiting Italy. Dreamed of driving along the Tuscan hills, seeing the beauty of the Amalfi Coast, hearing the history of Rome and Pompeii. I expected to fall in love. What I didn’t expect was that now, nearly 4 months after our first trip to Italy, that I would still be dreaming, reminiscing, on our time walking through the streets of Rome. But, this trip has had a longer lasting impact on me than just that. It has called me back to some aspects of my life that I had turned away from and it has reignited a love and passion that I had only been nurturing, not following.

There are so many things to talk about with Rome, but I think the biggest thing that has just stayed with me is the history. You are walking amongst buildings and places that are beyond our comprehension of age. Buildings that are beyond our comprehension of size. People who had larger than life dreams and ideas and made them happen. I mean, to walk the streets of Ancient Rome, the same paths that the warriors would take, to see the tunnels of the Coliseum, the baths of Caracalla, The Pantheon, it’s just…breathtaking. There were so many moments where I just didn’t have the words to describe how I was feeling. I had never felt smaller and yet so filled with knowledge.

A couple more things that I didn’t realize would affect me as much as they did…

The people. Rome is FULL OF PEOPLE. Both locals and tourists and we didn’t have one negative moment while we were there. Obviously with the number of tourists it can be hard to see things at times (The Trevi Fountain is insane), but overall it was just one of the warmest most welcoming places we’ve visited. It was so full of life, of passion, of love. The food was incredible as well (which, as a lifelong Italian food eater I expected) and we definitely indulged during our week there. Finally, something else about Rome that I didn’t know I was going to be so affected by was the religion. I’ll be touching more on this in an upcoming blog post, but I came back to some of my roots while we were there and it’s something that has been sticking with me.

So, two very different spots that we’ve traveled to, but two very soul changing experiences. I love that we are getting the chance to experience all that we can while we are here, and I am looking forward to the day that we do get to travel to far off places again.

My Thoughts On: Traditional/Mainstream Media, Social Media, and the Rumor/Gossip Mill

I always said I was going to avoid these topics, but the times…the times call for them so here we go. Please note that this is going to be more catered towards the current Coronavirus situation, but can easily be applied to anything else…like I don’t know, maybe when the election politics start to really begin or when your neighborhood or friend group has a problem.

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I’ll be honest, I don’t really have any answers when it comes to our news and social media these days. I just found myself getting increasingly frustrated with what I was seeing across the board from the traditional media, to influencers, to our local community (aka gossip mill). I needed to ramble my thoughts out and figure out what I can do for myself about it.

What a world we live in today where we can learn just about anything at the drop of a pin. We get notified the moment things happen (sometimes even before they happen), we can share things at quick speeds with friends and family, and ultimately we can be inundated with information round the clock. It can be a truly wonderful thing and something that I have definitely been incredibly grateful for (especially living so far away). However, most good things also have a negative aspect and in this case, that negative aspect can be damaging.

Obviously with Social Media we have talked about how damaging it can be with cyber bullying and such, but that is not what I am going to be referencing today. Today I am going to be talking about what I think some of the other dangers of this rapid media, online world that we live in today.

Danger #1 Bias

Here’s the thing we are all biased. From a very young age we start shaping our mind and how we see the world around us. Our parents play a role, our community plays a role, our friends, where we live, what we see every day, where we go to school, all of these are factors in what our outlook is on the world. This outlook leads (or rather is equal to) our bias. So, we all have a bit of a bias when it comes to…well life. It’s just who we are. This doesn’t mean we are close minded or not open to learning, it’s just important to recognize that we all have a bit of bias.

Now, wouldn’t that make sense to then extend to our news outlets, social medias, friends, etc.? Now, I know, this may sound like such common sense, but I feel like it is so important to keep in mind. We hear about how certain news outlets are biased, but it’s important to remember that most of your news outlets are going to have some sort of bias. From who they hire, to what they publish, to how they advertise what they publish, there is a bias to just about everything. That’s just the nature of the world that we live in.

As with anything, I would check a variety of sources of anything that you read. Obviously, government entities are a good place to get the information from, but if that is not possible (sometimes it won’t be), then looking at various sources is your best bet. Make sure you take the time to fully educate and understand a situation before speaking about it…which brings us to Danger #2.

Danger #2 Misinformation

I think this is hands down one of the biggest dangers of living in the world that we are in today. Information moves so quickly and often times moves faster than the official authorities can actually put the information. For a specific example of this, we can look no further than the current crisis that we are in. In our community information about a confirmed case of Covid-19 was circulating across the community before the official channels could even say something. This led to not only misinformation going around (A LOT of that was going around), but a heightened state of panic started to break out due to that, AND the general public was then calling for answers from the officials in charge.

Now, two things from this…

  • It’s important to wait for information from an official organization. We could debate the merits of sources and of what we hear from our “people”, but at the end of the day it’s all hear say until we get full answers and information. Often times what we are hearing from those around us are only mild versions of what the facts are, that have been distorted by the amount of people that they have heard from. This is obviously different depending on your actual source, if you are hearing from a significant other who is right in the location in the center of the action that is different than someone who heard it from someone who heard it from someone. In most cases it is just better to wait for the official statement to stop any sort of misinformation going around.
  • A lot of times when a government organization or official organization (think Military, CDC, WHO, etc.) puts out information they have done so after collecting as much of the accurate information as they can AND exploring different solutions for whatever is going on. They present the facts of the situation and offer up what they are doing/recommending to combat whatever is going on. Often times, if you are getting upset with information NOT being put out, think about what they are trying to do. The first goal should be to collect the facts and implement immediate options for the situation. The first goal is not always notifying the public, this is how panic, and misinformation occurs. Honestly, would you rather be told “Oh hey, here is something serious going on” OR “Oh hey, here is something serious that has happened, BUT we have already taken steps a, b, and c AND here are our recommendations for the next little bit. I know I would rather the second.

If you are not getting answers from an official organization at the time that you are looking around I would either recommend just being patient OR, following the earlier advice of looking at various sites. Don’t go with the first article you read, but rather look across the board at various sites, read various articles, and draw the best conclusion you are able until you can get an official brief. Don’t prevent what you are finding as facts (unless it comes from the aforementioned official organization), but rather as what you have found for your own purposes. Personally, I always recommend that others do their own research and bounce things off of several friends in different sectors while we wait for information.

Danger #3 Too Much at One Time/Being Too Involved

We all know that too much of a thing may not always be good and the same can be applied to media/social media/etc. With just how easy to get the news, to see what others are doing, to be connected, it can become very easy to fall into the trap of being too connected.  It seems to be a fine line as to when the news and being connected is too much. I’ve definitely experienced this and have found that at times, less is more. With the constant news cycle, it is easy to get sucked into always needing to know, to be connected, to have all the information, BUT I find that in some ways this is counterproductive and dangerous. Unfortunately, I don’t really have an answer or solution to this as I think this is just the way our lives trend right now. The only suggestion that I have is to take time away. When you start to feel that way, just step back, step away and take a day to be not so involved.

So, what’s the answer? Again, I don’t really have one. I feel like this is going to be a revolving door issue as we continue to deal with a new vastly online world that has become even more online in the past couple months. I don’t know if any of this has made sense, or if you’re even still reading this (if you are-thank you!), but it’s been a little over 2 months of seeing these Dangers pop up consistently and I felt like something needed to be said. So, here’s me adding my small voice to the loud crowd.

What I’ve Learned from Quarantine

Ah Quarantine. We’ve been under it for almost 2 months now and while most of the country is slowly starting to come back to, what I’m calling, new normal, we are still under a level of Quarantine (this is due to my husband’s work).

Here’s the thing, we have all processed this stressful time differently. I’ve had some incredibly stressful low moments during the past couple months and I’ve definitely had some really great moments too. I didn’t really learn a new hobby, pick up a craft, or do anything truly beyond my normal (except running, but I’ll get to that in a minute). I don’t think that anyone should have felt like they needed to do anything like that. In fact, honestly, I feel like if we’ve all made it through this and are starting to see our light at the end of the tunnel, then that is enough. We all process stress differently and no matter how this has affected you (and it has affected EVERYONE), however you are coping is good. If you’ve become Betty Homemaker Pinterest Goddess, good. If you’ve binge watched everything on Netflix, good. If you’ve started knitting or crocheting, good. If you managed to get out of bed every morning, good.

This post is not about judgement. It’s not about what I think we should have done. It’s not about “oh I’ve done xyz, I’m great”. This post is simply what I’ve learned. How I’ve coped. What our life has been.

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I’ve said from the get-go that in so many ways this has been so good for all of us. It’s been incredibly stressful, anxiety inducing, and full of chaos, but there has been something good about it to. We’ve been forced to stop. To stop being so busy. To stop paying attention to everything BUT what is important. We’ve been forced to slow down. In staying home we’ve had to maybe figure out what is truly important. To try something, we’ve always wanted to try. To spend more time with our family. To find out what works and doesn’t work for our mental health. To learn the good, the bad, the ugly about ourselves. To find out what we need.

That’s not to say that this Quarantine has always been some good, incredible learning experience. It’s had a fair share of low moments. I spent an entire weekend one weekend crying my eyes out from stress. I spent the better part of a weekend on my couch not doing much more than reading, scrolling social media, and binge-watching trashy television. I’ve gotten stressed and frustrated with the whole virtual schooling of a preschooler (I’ve learned that I will never be a preschool or elementary teacher- that is just not for me).

BUT, as I mention the bad, I can’t ignore the good of it too. It seems like for every negative we’ve had, there has been a positive to balance it out. For example, with school. I am not cut out for preschool/elementary school teaching. I just don’t have the patience. I’ve known this for a long time (so not a true revelation about myself) and it wasn’t something that I really was interested in doing. HOWEVER, it has been a dream at times to see Colton learn. I’ve always wanted to see how he was in class and here it is, right in front of me. I get to see his eyes light up as he connects the dots in his brain. I get to see him trying hard to please his teachers, to do every assignment, to learn something new.

For me I found out a couple things- some of which I already knew, but this whole Quarantine has proven just how necessary they are to me. I realized how important quiet time to myself is and how anxious, frazzled, and stressed I get if I don’t have even a little bit of it. I’ve found out how much I do lean on my husband and how important the relationship the two of us has is. I’ve found out that as much as I’m a homebody, I love to travel and to explore just as much. I’ve found that that I really do crave little weekly get together with my friends and that in person chat/connection you get from that. I’ve found that while watching TV isn’t my favorite  pastime, there have been some good shows out there that we’ve gotten to watch (and some not so good, but guilty pleasure shows too).

I’ve been shopping small A LOT more (almost exclusively- curious as to who I support? HERE  is a list of a couple of my favorites) and have been trying to move away from the bigger retailers when I can. I’ve really realized what I actually want to do with my time when I get it. How I want to spend my days. I’ve realized that I much rather spend my time hiking up trails, and wandering old towns than I do wandering a mall (ok, this is one of those things I’ve always known).

I’ve found that as much as I’m looking forward to what this new normal is going to be like, to being able to venture out back into the world, that my thought processes over things have changed. While I’m eager to go to this city down the road from me (a bigger one about 20-30 minutes away), it’s more so because I want to walk the streets, feel those cobblestones underneath my feet, rather than because I want to shop. I’m eager to once again hike among the castle ruins, to see history in front of my eyes, to experience life as it was. These are the things that I’ve missed. I’m eager to cherish the time I can get with my friends, the moments we have together out and about, not what we can actually do. I’ve learned that having those slow moments, those slow weekends, just having a lie in or no plans at all, can be a benefit.

Ultimately, I’ve realized that we are incredible people. We can do a lot and we have empathy. I’ve seen people come together to help out friends, families, neighbors they’ve barely known. I’ve seen an outpouring of love that we haven’t seen in a long time and while this last bit of Quarantine has undoubtedly been the hardest (it’s always the hardest when you can see the end, but aren’t getting there) the amount of care that I’ve seen has been amazing.

I hope that moving forward we hold on to that and that we become a little kinder. A little more compassionate. A little more caring to those around us.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

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Man, those April showers really hit us hard this year, didn’t they? I feel like for most of us April felt like this never-ending mammoth of a month. It was a month of anxiety with Coronavirus, Quarantine, homeschooling, job security (or lack thereof), and an overwhelming sense of nothing we could do about anything. Businesses were shuttered, our towns became seemingly ghost towns, and it seemed like we either had too much time on our hands or no time at all.

Is it any wonder that we are all looking forward to May?

The last week of April we had on and off rain showers with very little sunshine in between. The thing that has been getting us through this whole Quarantine is that it’s been sunny and 70’s for most of it. We’ve been able to play in the garden all afternoon, go for evening walks, and just feel the sunshine on our face. This last week, without that? It’s been tough (and that’s for someone who LOVES the rain). The boys have been cross, cooped up with too much energy and no good way to let it out.

In a lot of ways, it’s been a very physical manifestation of how so many of us have been feeling towards the end of April. A frustration, an anger, a desire to just get out and do something.

But then, Thursday as the sun set a rainbow came out.

Not just any rainbow, a clear both ends visible, double rainbow. This was our second rainbow of the week (we had gotten a partial one on Tuesday) and both also involved a moment where it looked like the sky was on fire. While I’m not normally the superstitious or symbolic type, it just felt like these were signs. Signs that things were going to be OK. That this rainstorm of a month was coming to an end. That there was hope for the next month or two while we transition. That there was sunshine around the corner.

Earlier in the month (maybe a couple weeks ago), I shared that I wasn’t OK. That I was struggling, and I wasn’t able to see the light, wasn’t able to see all the good around me, wasn’t able to keep my chin up. I spent that entire weekend crying off and on, and it was a really low moment in this year so far. Right now, I can say that I’m back up. I’m feeling about 75% my usual self and that feels so much better to me. I am starting to see the light, I have more good moments than bad, and I feel like I can start tackling life again.

Just like April just seemed to be a never-ending shower of everything, it seems like May is going to bring a bit of a re awakening.

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Feeling confident walking into May         Photo Credit: My Incredible 4 1/2 yr old, Colton.

 

A welcome reprieve as most of the world is going to start to see some level of restriction/quarantine lessening. While life may not look like it did before Coronavirus, I think we all can agree that we are happy to get back to some semblance of our new normal.

It’s funny how this year has really given us the phrase of “April showers bring May flowers” in both a literal and figurative sense. I hope that wherever you are, however, you have been affected, that you are keeping your mind and body afloat and that you too are able to see the May flowers that are coming our way.

My Favorite Small Business

I can’t believe it has taken me this long to create an actual post of this, but better late than never! In this time, we are finding even more reasons that supporting small businesses and creators is vitally important. I know a lot of businesses are suffering with having to close their doors and many are resorting to purely online ordering (which means anyone can support them!). This is also a trying time for many bloggers as well as they are finding the uncertainty, the lack of travel, and broken contracts to then lead to a lack of income. This whole situation has had quite the trickle-down affect and I am trying to do my little part to help others as much as I can.

So, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite shops in the hopes that something you see sparks your interest or purchasing option (if you are in a situation to be able to), or at least to find some new accounts (bloggers, instagrammers, etc.) to follow and support with engagement (comments, likes, sharing). I will also be sharing some of my favorite bloggers/instagrammers so you can send some love their way as well by following or liking/commenting/sharing. Bloggers are in a unique situation (in both positive and negative ways) and I think they need support just as well as small businesses.

And now, I’m done babbling, let’s get shopping and following…

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Rachel Allene (website): I think if I could say one thing about Rachel’s shop, products, and social media it would be wholesome and feel good. She offers up mugs, gratitude journals, shirts, prints and hats all with a cohesive “find the good” message. Her items make the perfect gift for friends  & family (or a cheeky little gift to yourself) and I’ve definitely been eyeing some of her newer products.

Taylor Wolfe Shop (website): Taylor Wolfe does the best snarky clothing you’ll ever find. I’ve loved most all of her designs, and her unique sense of snarky humor has been a daily joy to follow on Instagram. Too many times she has had me rolling, laughing so hard. I’ve ordered her Social Distancing Club sweatshirt and am looking forward to lounging in it!

Grins & Grace (website): This is a mostly t-shirt store, with a couple little bonuses that does parenthood/motherhood designs. I really love their designs and am going to be purchasing some in the next bit of time.

Sarah Pike Pottery (website): This is a hand thrown clay maker who focuses on mugs and teapots. She doesn’t always have stock on hand and when she does it sells out very quickly…BUT I have LOVED everything I have seen from her work. It’s incredible and she makes every bit of it from the mugs and pots, to the stamps she uses. It’s incredible to follow along on with the process on social media and then purchase when she updates her stock.

The Bookshelf (website): I highly recommend sourcing books through your local, independent bookstores rather than Amazon. If you don’t have any local small bookstores that are taking orders (whether online or curbside), then look outside your town for online ordering, but focus on the independent stores. The Bookshelf is in Thomasville and they have a great selection and are operating online (with curbside pickup if you are local). You can also give their podcast, From the Front Porch, a listen.

Powell’s Bookstore (website): Another, much larger, independent bookstore with used book options. Powell’s was actually forced to let go of a lot of employees and close when the lockdown occurred, but with the surge in online orders they have been able to rehire and stay afloat. Consider ordering from them as well as they are a huge resource for the upper Northwest Region. They are a bit delayed on the shipping front, due to the surge of orders, but you should still get your books in great time and you are giving back to a great store.

And now for some content creators to add to your follow lists (aside from the businesses above, which I would highly recommend following)!

Beth Sandland (website): Beth is probably one of my favorite people to follow. A lifestyle blogger who is one of those genuine souls on the internet, she talks about life, travel, and some fashion/beauty. She also runs a book club and shares some book content as well.

Helene In Between (website): Helene lived in Europe as a blogger for 3 years, so not only is she a wealth of information on the traveling side of things, BUT she is a wealth of information on all things social media as well. She chats daily life, books, products, and is a fun follow.

KelsConverse (website): Kels is one of the most genuine, positive, yet realistic people that I follow. She talks everything from finance to travel to her gorgeous photography. She also sells those prints, so if you are in need of some new artwork for your home pick some up from her.

Peruse Project (IG/YouTube): Regan is a booktuber and fashion/lifestyle Instagrammer that I love watching. On YouTube she talks books and movies/tv shows and on Social Media she is sharing fashion snaps along with the world around her.

BooksandLaLa (IG/YouTube): Kayla is just one of those people that I love to follow. She talks mostly on books, but occasionally shows her personal life and I just enjoy her content. If you are looking for someone who has excellent insight and book commentary, but isn’t… “stuffy” then check her out.

And that is pretty much it! There are so many different creators out there, both in business and just blogging to support. I hope that you have found some new people to follow and places to shop. Leave a comment down below of some of your favorite businesses down below and I’ll check some out!