The World is a Tough Place…Let’s Grab a Coffee and Chat

Hi. Hello. Happy Wednesday. Wednesday has come and I’m once again, kind of scrambling with this post. 

This post was not the intended post. By any means. I actually had a post scheduled 2 weeks in advance (a two parter spread across two weeks) and I’ve moved both posts to drafts for now (yep- the email subscribers got the first one, but it’s now back to drafts and off the blog/site for now). Call it protecting myself and others’ space, peace, and mental health. 

The world has felt like a dark and scary place of recent. Probably since the start of the v-word-that-shall-not-be-utter-or-written (seriously…have you seen the lengths that some go to to avoid getting that links ding?!). Realistically we’ve been spiraling on a trajectory for quite some time that Social Media and the 24-hour news cycle has flamed and then that global pandemic brought everything right front and center for so many. 

This has been a good thing. We’ve seen quite a bit of progress in quite a few different areas. We’ve brought to light issues in ways that haven’t succeeded in the past. We’ve laid bare areas we are sorely lacking (or rather totally losing). 

However, it’s also brought a lot of tension.

I might as well just come right out and say it. 

I didn’t want to talk about the Israel/Palestine conflict. I DON’T want to talk about the Israel/Palestine conflict. And you might be saying, “Ok, well then don’t” and after this non statement post that probably doesn’t need to exist, I won’t be. There are a wide variety of reasons for this, not the least of which being that I am privileged enough to live in a country that is not in a constant state of terror or war. I think that those of us in the West cannot ignore the fact that we do not live in this environment and we are not exposed to the specifics of this situation every second of every minute of every day. When we share these info graphics (that cannot even begin to conceptualize the reality of everything- but we won’t even begin that), we are thinking that we are “bringing light to an unseen/unheard situation”. While some facets of this may be correct (like Sheikh Jarrah, which we will get to in a moment), this conflict has gone on for far much longer than that and will probably continue to go on far past this trending incident. 

And, to be honest, both sides can go tit for tat over who started, who escalated, who has it worst, who loses, who wins, etc. till the end of time. We are seeing it now all-over social media. In fact, I was seeing a lot everywhere on Social Media, so much so that I went on a complete blackout. I logged off of everything, moved things away from my view, and silenced everything simply because it was TOO MUCH. There is so much being spread on both sides, so much tension, so much hatred, and it’s all PERSONAL. The condemnation happening is over a large group of people on both sides and all of the sharing, all of the commentary, all of the “let’s bring this to light” activism, while good in some cases, is also causing a lot of harm. 

Save Sheikh Jarrah is an important cause. I do not think that any family or person should be forcefully evicted from their home. Let me repeat that, I DO NOT think that anyone should be forcefully removed from their home. To bring to light that this is happening is important and the world should recognize that it is WRONG. However, minimizing or highlighting the entirety of the Israel/Palestine conflict to this one cause is wrong. This conflict predates and supersedes what is happening in this neighborhood. Saving the neighborhood is necessary and allowing the families that are currently living there, that have built their lives and their families there to stay is absolutely necessary. But thinking that the entire conflict will come to an end by doing this, or thinking this will be a win, is wrong. 

Another thing that is going around quite a bit is that the Israel/Palestine conflict is “not complicated” or “not nuanced”. That it is in fact quite “simple”. I hate when people say that something is “far too complicated and nuanced to sum up” as much as the next person, BUT we are talking about a dispute over a territory that is thousands of years old. It’s true that the Israel/Palestine conflict is not as old or as longstanding because Israel has only been in existence for ~70 years. However, this territory dispute? That dates back much further. We also cannot ignore the fact that religion IS at play here when the territory in question holds many of the holiest of sites across three different religions (Muslims, Christians, and Jews all have holy sites in Jerusalem). The original dispute over the territory is steeped in religion. And also, it’s being made to be about religion as people are equating Israel with Judaism (which is a multi-faceted argument in and of itself) and choosing to take this time to spew absolutely atrocious Jewish hatred (because antisemitism as a word is becoming to…easily pushed aside) as well as islamophobia. So, no it’s not simple. The Israel/Palestine conflict is just one more facet of a much larger dispute and we cannot ignore that fact. 

AND, with all of that stated, most of the people in the region just want to live their lives. They want to worship where they worship, they want to live how they live, and they want to exist with their neighbors and friends. And they DESERVE to have that. We all deserve to have that. When we listen to the everyday people of the region, to those on the ground they just want peace. They want their homes and their families to live freely. They don’t want to live in this kind of fear, fear that we in the West are privileged enough to have not known. We cannot ignore that fact when we are trying to advocate. 

Where am I going with this? I don’t know. I don’t really have an answer for any of it. I don’t have the knowledge or full understanding to truly talk about this. What I am struggling with is the sharing of info graphics that are at their best one sided, and at their worst completely wrong. The problem with us in the West sharing all of the “things” is that we aren’t actually helping the situation, no matter what our intentions are. We are simply adding gasoline to a 3-alarm fire and going about our lives. I would encourage everyone to get information, watch video, read testimonials from people across the region and share with care. I understand sharing feels like doing something in what may feel like a hopeless situation, but please just read through or double check what you are sharing before doing so. You may be unknowingly causing more harm than help. 

What is Home and Other Moving Musings

What is home? Is it a place? Is it where you are physically? Is it a house? Is it a person? A community? The people whom you surround yourself with? Is it having your schedule in place? A routine that you can follow day to day? 

What is home? This is a question I’ve found myself learning and exploring the answer to over the years. I think it is a question that we all try to answer through the beginning of our adulthood. Learning what it is to each of us to feel “at home”. I’ve found that, obviously, this varies from person to person and it’s one of my favorite things to learn about people.

So, before we go much further, leave me a comment (yes, right now mid read of this post) and tell me, what is home to you?

So, home. Now, I don’t talk about my husband’s job or career for many different reasons, but if you’ve followed for any period of time, you’ve probably figured out that at this time he is in the military. This means that in the almost 10 years we’ve been together we’ve now moved 4 times. There have been several benefits for this. We get to experience different places (even just within the US there is a wide variety to the way of life) and travel different chunks of the States. We got to experience living in Europe and seeing how life operates outside of our “US Bubble”. Those are big things, but even just the simple thing of figuring out what we like/want/hate/don’t want in a home, so that when we do settle we are positive what we want. The fact that every 3 years (at most, we’ve now had two two-year stations), we are forced to declutter, to re organize, to figure out what we actually want to keep and use and what we can pass along has been great in teaching us value and quality of quantity. 

There are also negatives to moving so frequently. The fact that we are in a place just long enough to create a home, a community, friendships, and then we have to “leave” it all behind is hard. As nice as it can be to unclutter and get rid of stuff regularly, it’s also tough to constantly feel like we are packing or unpacking, never truly able to settle. 

All of this has made me realize, what home actually means to me. For me, home is a combination of things. It’s hearing the pitter patter of feet running across the floor (after they’ve been repeatedly told “No running in the house”). It’s the pacing and chatting of my husband as I am trying to do something in the kitchen. It’s the feeling of waking up in the morning, going to the kitchen to steep up a pot of tea or brew a cup of coffee and while the house is still quietly waking. It’s seeing books aimlessly stacked in various rooms, because even a home library stretches its arms to other places. It’s opening a window on a pretty spring or fall day, heading to our local park to run off some energy (because remember…”No running in the house”). It’s finding a local walking route that gives us just the right number of endorphins (and can also be used as a running route…just maybe?). It’s all of these things that make up “Home”. 

***You’ll notice I haven’t made mention of a community yet. Here’s the thing, as an introvert I don’t “thrive” on community. I like having a social aspect to our lives and you’ll find me out and about, doing all the community things quite a bit, but I find that rather than needing a whole community, I tend to find maybe one or two friends that I spend time with on a much deeper level, than having a whole community at my hands. 

This is what home is for me. 

Let’s Talk About – Judaism and Being Jewish

Something that shifted for me, almost ironically so, in 2020 was my faith. I found myself coming back to who I was, in terms of faith, and unearthing a part of me that had been silent for a long while. I’ve talked a little bit about this HERE, but this really started a bit before our move to Germany and then really solidified while we were here, with a trip to the Old Synagogue of Rome (HERE) reminding me of the very things I liked and missed.

Something important to note about Judaism (that I’ve noted before, but it’s important) is that a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. It doesn’t matter if they are practicing the religion, they are a Jew. It doesn’t matter if they have converted, they are a Jew. Being Jewish is so much more than just practicing the religion. It’s unique in that it’s an ethno-religion, which simply means it’s an ethnicity, as well as a religion (not a race- an ethnicity). Basically, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. It’s something that is both used against and for Jews. 

Let’s kick things off at the very beginning. I was raised “in the faith” we will say, but in a reform manner (don’t worry- I’ll break it down in a minute). My mom is Jewish, as was her mom, and so in and so forth. In Houston, where I grew up, we had a sizeable Jewish community. My neighbors were Jewish, close family friends, and we celebrated all the holidays together. We had a beautiful synagogue where I was an active participant both in the services and schooling, but also in the choir. My faith was an important part of my early childhood. 

And then we moved. There was a lot that went into the decision to move, there was a lot that went into the actual move, and a lot of things that came out of that move (both good and bad), but something that we lost that I had never truly realized was our Jewish Community. I didn’t truly recognize how much this move wrecked my faith until much later on (when I was like 20 something) and we went back to Houston for a birthday party and visited our old Synagogue and community. It really struck me then how far I strayed away from practicing the faith. 

I want to clarify something as we are going to get into some nitty gritty here…

I have always considered myself Jewish. ALWAYS. That has never changed. Being Jewish is just as much of part of who I am as my long brown hair, brown eyes, and so forth. I have a kinship with “my people” that extends beyond whether I practice or not because, again like I’ve mentioned, Judaism is an ethno religion. There is a connection with all of the Jews, one that I feel keenly quite often (more than I even talk about). Whether I actively practiced or not, I still had faith in the lord, and the core principles of Judaism guiding me. I had to navigate some pretty tricky waters and I reached out to other religions to learn and understand. I traveled quite the…”journey” and I’m at where I’m at now because of it. 

ANYWAYS, I’ve majorly digressed here. 

So, we moved and while we found a synagogue and a small community, it wasn’t the same as I had had. For the first time I was the “oddball” of my area and I struggled. I struggled with being different (I had this large southern accent and was not the…”status quo” in my school) and while I wouldn’t say I hid my religion; I definitely didn’t talk about it as much. This was the time where everyone is entering adolescence and so things are already awkward and different, and here I was this strange new girl. I was different all around when all I wanted was to fit in. I think we all know those feelings as they go beyond faith. 

Once I became Bat Mitzvahed we definitely dialed back on the religious front. We would still go to synagogue for High Holidays, and we kept relatively kosher, but it there was a definite difference pre and post. Again, I think a lot of this was in relation to not having that community. To not really loving our synagogue. To not connecting in a new area. It was kind of the perfect combination of all the wrong things. 

Things slowly started to continue to fade away until finally they just went dormant. I don’t know that I would say that I didn’t keep kosher (as I actually still did- dietary things always stuck with me), but I definitely didn’t practice in any noticeable way. I met my now husband, who comes from a large (compared to mine) Catholic family. Neither of us really practiced religion in any secular way (in that we didn’t go to church or synagogue, nor did we practice any important holidays from our respective religions). The only holiday we ever participated in was Christmas, when we would go to his family’s home and I got that magical big family Christmas that I always dreamed of.  We got married in a small ceremony in a small church in Kentucky and that was perfect for us (I would NEVER change our wedding for anything- it was easily one of the most incredible days of my life). 

Fast Forward to now. When we went to the Old Synagogue of Rome and we walked through the museum where they talked about all the Jewish rituals, the importance of those rituals, the various stories and histories, I felt a panging in my heart. A longing for that feeling that my faith had always given me. I felt at home in this area, talking about all the things that I had participated in, all the things that I had missed from those rituals, it felt good and heartbreaking to walk through. I had felt this before, these little inklings over the years, but standing here, in this moment it clicked in my heart, soul, and mind. I wanted that back. 

It’s been strange, living here in Germany and being Jewish (even without being a practicing Jew). A place that is a source of so much pain, and seeing sites that cause that pain, hearing about the anti Semitism that started almost “innocently” that then led to a mass murder. To, once again, feeling like I had to hide a part of me- that may be a bad way of phrasing, but I don’t advertise that I’m “Jewish” here in Bavaria. It’s not because I feel like Jews are being openly attacked or anything, just more so a personal security, don’t paint a target kind of feeling, which is a sign of something that I’ve hinted at this entire post. There is a part of me that doesn’t want to “other” myself and there is enough anti-Semitism that still OPENLY exists in our world that it makes me hesitate to be so open about this part of my identity. 

But, if I’ve learned something over the past two years, and throughout this entire journey, it’s that trying to hide that doesn’t do anything. I had someone this year question my faith. Question this part of my life. Belittle my Jewishness and make it something that was nonexistent. And when I tell you it fired me up, it fired me up. I’m not a person that gets riled by other opinions of myself, but this one, to be blunt, pissed me off. It also made me realize just how real ignorance (and stupidity) still very much exist in this world. Hatred still exists in our world. People still try to find others to blame for problems. And me celebrating my faith and religion isn’t going to change that fact. 

So, what does being Jewish look like to me now? Well, not much has changed. We aren’t a big “go to church/synagogue” family and that isn’t something that I foresee changing in the near future. We are interfaith, this past year celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, and I have started integrating little things into my everyday celebrations of faith. I celebrated Rosh Hashanah this year, fasted on Yom Kippur, semi abstained during Passover, I make Challah, when we move I plan on lighting the candles on Friday Nights. I’ve been wearing more of my Jewish jewelry, recently having received my “אִמָא” (Imma-Mom in Hebrew) necklace. I’ve also picked up a couple other pieces here and there on our travels. I’m looking forward to what this next phase in my faith will look like.  

Germany and America: Differences, Similarities, Comparisons

We’ve been back in the states now for almost 6 weeks and I think that, while not completely back in the swing of things (we’ve only just recently gotten to our final destination and our new home), I think we’ve managed to settle back into the US. At least enough so that I feel like I can share what that adjustment was like and how keenly I noted the difference between the two countries. 

First and foremost, I feel like I should note that I don’t necessarily think that either country is better than the other, though I do want to say that if we had the choice to go back to Europe I would in less than a single heartbeat. I think that there are benefits and losses to each, and it’s ok to acknowledge that of both countries. With that being said, I can say with fairly good certainty, that at its heart, there is really just one fundamental difference of life that every other difference can be attributed to: Way of Life. 

In the United States, we place a lot of emphasis on THINGS and APPEARENCES. There isn’t anything wrong with this- well maybe there is, but that’s a topic for a whole other conversation- it’s simply how it is in our country. Think about it, a lot of our standard activities, a lot of our social media, revolves around some form of store or shopping. We often will just “stop over at the store” or do a “quick Target run”. 

Everything is “bigger and better”, and we are constantly in a battle to have the newest, shiniest thing. Again, this is just how our society operates. Along with that, we have a rapidly rising sense of instant gratification. An “I need this, and I need it now” attitude that is then catered to by a late-night closing or even 24-hour shopping society (and this isn’t even stepping into Amazon or overnight delivery). You want to get the newest game? You can buy it at 12:01AM at your local super store on release day (pre Covid of course). We never have any concern of running out of something because well…we can just go out and get it, no matter day/time. 

Finally, in the US, we are a country of “go, go, go”, getting in and out as fast as we can, on to the next thing before we have fully finished the first. It’s a never-ending cycle that permeates every second of our life. Our day runs through before we’ve even realized that the end of the day has come, and there are times when we can’t even recall what we’ve actually done. Think about your day…we go, go, go get everyone up in the morning to get to school/work. At work we go, go, go to get an endless list of tasks done. Often times we would take lunch at our desk, quickly nudging a bite or two of food in our mouth before we have to get back to it. Or maybe your lunch consists of a quick trip to the shops to pick up some things or to peruse the shelves. Then, the workday and school day ends and it’s go, go, go to various activities for the kids OR home to quickly whip up some food. Maybe your too busy for even that, grabbing a drive through or quick meal in between activities. If you go out to dinner, it’s go, go, go through dinner with barely enough time to enjoy your family/friends’ company before the bill arrives and it’s time to go. Go back to the house, maybe now you take a little bit of time for yourself or family, with a show or a book or something of that nature. By that point, we are all so exhausted that…well the day is over, and we are left wondering…what happened. 

All of these little things tie into our basic way of life in the US. I’m not saying this is wrong, in fact there are some benefits to it, the ability to just run to the grocery store whenever, not have to worry about stores closing or anything like that, it’s just a different way of life to Europe. 

This is not the case in Germany. 

In Germany the number one emphasis is quality of life. The quality of your social experience. What you are doing, rather than what you have. The value is placed on who you are, how you spend your time, where you go, rather than anything else. It’s a society that thrives on the connection with people, everything from dining out to traveling to pumping gas is all about person-to-person connection. It’s not infrequent to go out to eat dinner and be at your table for 2-3 hours, for the wait staff to not bother you or you having to flag them down when you need something. There is no such thing as pay at the pump, you take a ticket into the gas station where you are greeted with fresh baked goodies (like a full bakery) and a wide variety of snacks and magazines to choose from before paying for gas. Every interaction comes with a smile and a conversation, rather than a brush off and rush out. 

In the smaller towns/communities, you’ll find smaller neighborhood style grocery stores that stock fresh, in season, regionally produced fruit and veggies. When you are looking at meat departments, it’s all fresh (seriously fresh), locally sourced, and the common ground meat is a cow/pig combination. It’s so fresh, that often times in malls you can walk right to a butcher shop in the mall and select your cow meat that’s hanging in the back, clear glass view, cold area. It’s an experience for sure, but a great one to have. Basically, you can always expect to have locally sourced, fresh food options. Even the frozen sections tend to be somewhat local and fresh, rather than the processed options we are all used to in The States. 

Another thing that is different is often times, German’s will buy less, but better quality. Sure, you have big box stores in every city, but you’ll often find many more boutiques with better offerings and more unique/cooler designs. This is because the Germans tend to value quality of quantity. They don’t need the next greatest thing because what they bought previous has lasted quite a long time already. Consumerism isn’t as much of a “thing” over there as it is here in The States. 

Another difference is that life is largely lived outdoors. In Germany there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothes (seriously- this is very much a thing). On any given day, in any given weather, you will see people outside. They’ll be hiking, riding bikes, rowing, enjoying what the earth and nature has to offer. I don’t think that there has been a time where I haven’t seen people outside and being active. There are parks for kids everywhere, and these are sturdy, use in any weather jungle gyms. And when the weather turns even the slightest bit sunny, EVERYONE heads outside, from the youngest babies to the oldest citizens, you’ll find them soaking up that sunshine. 

Finally, in Germany their work/life balance is vastly different. Maternity leave is much more a thing in Europe already than it is in The United States, but in Germany you have much more vacation time, longer lunches, and an overall healthier boundary between work and life. I feel like there are some things in this area in particular that The States can learn from. There aren’t nearly as many “workaholic” types of situations and there is annual paid vacation time and such. Much more than what is offered in The States. 

More than anything else, I miss that the value is placed on your quality of life, rather than the quantity of your life. 

A couple fun little differences for you to end this post on a happier note; there is no central air in the majority of the houses. That means no AC. Heat is by radiator system and throughout the year you have to open the windows several times a day for certain lengths of time to air out the house. I’ve already said it, but pay at the pump is not a thing there, you take a ticket (or remember your pump number) and head into the station to pay. Most places are cash heavy and do not take card (including those fun markets), so don’t leave the house without it! Most stores close by dinnertime (unless you’re in a bigger city) and, everything, short of churches and some restaurants, closes on Sunday. You have to plan to have everything you need before Saturday or you’ll be waiting till Monday. Since restaurants may in fact open on Sundays, they are typically closed on Monday or Monday and Tuesday. In terms of eating out at restaurants, Water costs money (there is no such thing as “tap” or “table” water, you will buy bottles if you ask for Wasser at a restaurant) and most of the water is actually sparkling- you have to be specific if you want flat water. In addition to water, more often than not, ordering alcohol will be the cheapest drink option.

Obviously the history of Germany (and of Europe) is much older and more vast than America, so you are able to see castles and towns that pre date the beginnings of our own country. Travel is also…different than it is stateside. Obviously you can country hop all throughout Europe (in a non Covid world), but there also different modes of getting to places (you can choose car, train, or plane).

I think that basically covers most of the differences I noted between Germany and America. Truth be told, it just boils down to way of life and if you’re open to how they live, then you can adjust really fast. If you have any questions, or anything to add, just let me know!

Adjusting to America

We’ve been back in America for about 6 weeks and I can firmly say that we’ve adjusted about as much as we are going to. We’ve had a couple of moments of culture shock, but by and large it seems like just stepping back into a life that we could only just barely remember. I wanted this post to kind of serve as just a highlight of some of the things that we’ve noticed or dealt with since moving back from Germany. Some of it is personal observations, some of it is going to be Covid-19 related (as that’s what we are currently in the middle of), some of it is going to be random. 

I will say, I do have a whole separate post in the works about some of the big differences between the two countries, so drop by for that one when it comes out in a few weeks. 

One of the biggest things to adjust to in coming back to the US is just the convenience of it all. You don’t have to worry about hitting the stores before they close, or reaching out to friends/neighbors on that inevitable time that you run out of something and the stores are closed. There is NOTHING wrong with this (in some ways I like how it fosters a community), but it is nice to just be able to get what you need exactly when you need it. 

Another aspect of convenience is in terms of big box stores. It’s nice when you are able to do all of your shopping in one store, rather than making lots of little purchases at a variety of different stores. That is actually something I missed in some ways (although I didn’t miss picking up random things that were not needed simply because I walked past them thinking “oh well we will need that at some point” or “oh that’s cute”). 

In strict relationship to Covid-19, it’s been really nice not to have to schedule an appointment or worry if a store is open due to restrictions, we can just run over to whatever store and do what we need to. Of course, masks are required, not much of a difference there, but the fact that stores are even open is a new thing. Not commenting on the merit of that, just on what we experienced. 

In terms of reverse culture shock, I once again experienced culture shock in going to the grocery store. For some reason going to Walmart or Target didn’t bother me (there are big box stores in Germany that we did go to), but the grocery store was massive in comparison to my little neighborhood grocery. I walked up and down the aisles in shock trying to figure out what we needed and where to find it. It was an experience to say the least. 

One other thing, that is partly just being in a new place (in terms of NY specifically, it wasn’t so bad in KY where we’ve been before), but also partly different is just driving and getting gas. First up, getting gas in Germany involves going in to the station market to pay. It’s not a pay at the pump situation and often times, some gas stations will have their own cards that you can use to pay. Also, the speeds and driving rules are different enough in Germany that, coming back here and driving has been a little strange (and no- I’m not just talking about the Autobahn, just in a general sense). I didn’t feel it as much going over to Germany, but definitely did coming back. 

Otherwise, we’ve gotten to a point where I feel like we are feeling “normal”. I feel like there are benefits and drawbacks to each country, BUT, in all honesty, I would go back to Europe in not even a single heartbeat. 

Leaving Germany

January 17- I don’t really know how this post is going to go. I have no idea how to even begin, when to begin, how to process my feelings and then write them out, no ideas. So, I think I am going to treat it a bit like a diary of sorts. A dated registry of my feelings every so often (I’m thinking maybe two or three of these dated bits) as things happen or what not. I hope that this turns out ok and that it ends up being a good representation of this move. It could also end up being totally bad…if it is, then I’m sorry. My goal is to have a bit of a “part 1 on the road home-leaving” followed by a “part 2 on the road home-adjusting” that will be up in March. And if you’re reading this, then I’ve succeeded. Maybe. 

So, we are about a couple weeks out from our flight back to the US. Our home has been packed up, crated, and is slowly making its way to the shipping facility to be shipped back. It’s been a tense time between trying to corral two very curious, very active little boys, track what the movers are doing, handle schoolwork, and just keep sane. Getting your entire house packed up and emptied out slowly (this was done over two days) makes a move even more real. The second day we were all cooped up in our Master Bedroom and walking out to things being wrapped and then later to a completely empty living room was…a bit heartbreaking. 

I’ve spoken before about how much of a home and life we’ve made here in Germany. This is one of the first places in our moves that has felt…so much like home. We’ve made a little community for ourselves here and while we’ve known this move was coming since summer, this moving day kind of…came all too fast and all too final. Germany has taught us and given us so much. We’ve learned how to live a slower, less complicated life; how to be a bit more “go with the flow” (ok, ok, 2020 and Covid really taught us that); how to actual live life, rather than plod through it. We’ve seen history in ways we couldn’t imagine, been to places we’ve dreamed about, and we’ve been able to learn and grow as a family. We’ve made some incredible friends, a best friend who will forever be in my heart. I’ve found some new facets of myself and a little piece of our family’s heart will always remain here. 

And now, as we are about to start cleaning our house, making the last of our meals, and getting everything together for the last shipment of stuff consolidated, and really look at leaving, I’m getting that antsy anxious feeling. That feeling that says, “C’mon let’s just get on with it already”. The whole, just rip the Band-Aid off, feeling…except just break my heart instead. 

January 29 – Today was our move out day. Out of all the days that we have had to prepare and adjust to this move, today was the day that it decidedly felt real. We loaded the massive van we rented, did a final walk through ourselves (due to Covid) and then drove away. I had a tear or two (or a sob fest) as we drove the route towards base one final time. There was a finality to this. Previously, we could almost fool our brains into thinking that this wasn’t coming, wasn’t happening, that we were just doing things (don’t ask me to explain the psychology of it because I can’t). But driving away that final time, knowing we were done in that house, that we were properly leaving was hard. 

February 4 – Well, the road hasn’t been easy the past 48ish hours, but we are finally on a plane heading back to the USA. We were supposed to be on a plane 2 days ago, but due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the planes were not coming or going, and we ended up in a hotel without our luggage for that period of time with all of our fellow travelers. Thankfully everyone’s spirits were high, the hotel did an exceptional job housing us all at the last minute (and feeding us, keeping us informed as the changes kept coming, etc.), and on the last day we had a bit of free time between our arrival at the terminal and our security time, so we could go purchase some clothes or anything else we might have needed at that point (we did have a grocery a short walk away, so simple things were able to be purchased on the first day). 

Needless to say, having this experience of leaving, changed my reaction to finally boarding the plane and now, writing this while in flight. I thought that I would have some tears, some sadness at leaving a place that had come so close to home for me, but instead I was filled with excitement at the thought of actually boarding the plane and heading home. I had said my farewells to everything and everyone in preparation for our Tuesday flight, and now, after all the delays, I just wanted to go. 

So, not the way I had thought I would end this post, but here we are. I think that this was a way for me to be “ok” with leaving Germany. Maybe “Germany”/A Higher Being/The Universe/Whatever you want to call it thought I needed a little push to leave and this was how that happened. I’m still feeling a bit emotional at leaving, but mostly what I feel is relief to be leaving this limbo that we’ve been in.

Auf Wiedersehen für jetzt Deutschland.  Wir werden dich vermissen und die Erinnerungen und Freundschaften schätzen, die wir geschlossen haben.  Bis zum nächsten Mal.

Planning in 2021

What is planning? What is this year going to look like and how do we plan for it? Or do we? Late in 2020 I switched from the standard planner that I had been using back into a bullet journal and it ended up working out really well. With everything being so up in the air I found that I didn’t really need to block out hours or see what my day looked like, I needed somewhere that I could have a floating to-do list. Bullet journaling has always been that for me. 

The nice thing about bullet journaling is that it can be whatever whenever. You are in complete control of how in depth, how simple, you need it. And, in such an uncertain time when I just want to feel a little bit in control, that I simply need to cross things off a list. I spent the last few months of 2020 experimenting with a couple of different options and I think I’ve found something that will allow me both to block out hours if I need to, but also have that rotating to do list. 

So, my 2021 Bullet Journal. First off we have the long-term planning, marking out all the holidays, important dates, and such. Then I’ve got a spot to write down books that are on my long list of purchasing and/or reading and another section devoted to blog posts and tracking where they are at in the process (this is something new I’m trying out for 2021). 

Each month has a simply monthly view, a reading section, a daily gratitude section, and then two-page weekly spreads. I have kind of pre penned in some of the months and weeks as we are going to be moving and I don’t know when I will have all the supplies I would like and our new home, but this worked out well as I was able to adjust the layout for February when we won’t be doing much more than visiting family. I’ve done all of this in a Leuchtturm 1917 notebook that’s a beautiful shade of blue.

One final note- I do plan on trying to journal quite a bit more in the New Year and I think that I have figured out my “preferred journal”. It is another dotted notebook, but softcover which allows me to bend and write a bit easier. This particular one is black and fits right into the carrying cover for my planner. 

So, that’s what my planning system looks like at this point for 2021. Do I know what the year holds? Nope. So I don’t know how this will all shake out, but I’m trying to plan for all the changes as best as I can.  

Friday Morning Cups – On the Capital

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I haven’t done a Friday Morning Cups post in a LONG time. They used to be posts I would put up every once in a while about posts that I shared on Social Media, but either want to go into more detail, or really just feel like need to share a space on my blog. Late 2019/early 2020 I started using my voice in a different way both in my own life, on my social media, and on my blog. It’s now come full circle and I’m very proud of that.

I feel like this post needed to a)be shared in it’s entirety, with my full, unfiltered, un whittled down thoughts as they came out of my brain, and b)needed it’s space on my blog. This is not something I prepped or analyzed over for a long time, rather a incredible need to continue to voice my thoughts and opinions (as I did over the summer, as I did about the pandemic, and as I continue to do in the future). I am continuing to learn, to talk, to listen in the hopes to continue to do better and create a better future for our families and our children.

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I have this picture of Colton and I at The Capital ~4 1/2 years ago. We were able to go on a special tour (thanks to my in-laws for arranging it) while we lived in the DC/NoVa area. I remember staring out the balcony thinking…wow. Feeling a certain moment is feeling at standing at this historical place. A place that has withstood so much. Not knowing what the coming years would bring. And yet…that’s not entirely true is it? 

Any one of us that says “I never thought this would happen” (myself included to an extent because I did not see to this extent…to see the capital willfully broached and the security to be so lapsed- especially as someone who went through stringent security checks and barriers for a tour) has spent the last 4 years willfully ignoring or, perhaps even worse, downplaying what parts of our country have been saying. 

We will never be able to change, to move forward, until we can start to ACTIVELY LISTEN. And no, I’m not saying that hate speech should just be allowed to be spewed or given a platform (hell now), but we can’t ignore or downplay what is happening and what people are saying. What happened yesterday (and I’m specifically referencing the violence on the Capital steps, the breach of the Capital building, and the violence that then continued to ensue) is a build up of the last 4 years. 

Any one of us that says “This is not America” (again- myself included as up until late 2019/all of 2020 I had the privilege of not being exposed to this level of anger and hatred) has not been listening, has willfully been ignoring, or downplaying those that have quite clearly voiced their intents/thoughts. While this may not be America as a whole, this is most definitely a PART of America and we need to recognize that. 

And don’t get me started on the hypocrisy, that conversation is happening, it’s loud, and it’s very clear. If you can continue to ignore the very real privilege and double standard, I…don’t have the words right now. BUT, let’s not minimize the very real quote that a SITTING CONGRESSWOMAN, who was ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE, to do the “work” that needs to be done said 

“ Hitler was right on one thing” (the full quote and her “explanation” is on the next slide). 

Let that sink in. Just sit with that for a minute too. 

And then…AND THEN to see someone wearing a sweatshirt that says “Camp Auschwitz”. Let that sink in too. 

And if I may go off on a tangent for a second here…I have heard SO MANY offhand anti-Semitic/Hitler/Holocaust comments lately. And it’s not because I’m paying more attention. It’s because it has shared more and more and more. Note that. Just make a not of that. 

I would like (and wish of how I wish) that this would be a wake up call for our country, but sadly it, like so much of our recent history, will more than likely not serve as that wake up call. 

2021 – Word of the Year, Intentions, And Other Notes

Man, what a year 2020 was. If 2020 taught me only one thing, it would be that sometimes our goals/resolutions/intentions/whatever fly out the window in the face of drastic changes. I set out for a year of growth, of travel, of living life and was greeted with a year of learning how to be still, how to be at home, how to teach and adapt to the never-ending changes. I was greeted with the travel that meant doing everything last minute just in case things changed, of booking only nonrefundable and saying no to some things instead of yet. 

So, what does that mean as we go into 2021? It means I don’t really have any goals/intentions/resolutions/whatever else. This year I want to really focus on two things…establishing “home” and everything that entails and allowing things to come and go as they may. One thing I’m good at, one thing I’m not so good at. 

2021 starts off with a massive shift for us as we move back to the USA. I’ve talked about this, I feel like, ad nauseum, but in reality, probably not. This is not a move that I was super excited about, but it’s one that I am approaching with wary positivity. I am choosing to look at it as simply another adventure in our life, another page of our book, and that helps with the sadness of leaving (don’t worry- a whole post just about leaving Germany is coming where I sort through all the feelings). I feel like with that comes a period of uncertainty. What will life in New York look like? What will our home look like? What will our day to day look like? My husband is going into a new phase of his career and so his schedule will change (somewhat drastically), our older son will be starting Kindergarten in the fall (whatever that will look like), and my youngest will be doing a preschool program in our home (with me- so that will be fun). And of course, all of this is among the global pandemic that is still on going, which simply throws another wrench into everything. 

I want to try and get settled and really get that “home” feeling as soon as we get our home. I want to get back into a bit of a daily routine (as that has really fallen off as 2020 has come closer and closer to an end). I want to get back into daily yoga and walks. I want to feel a bit more…not in the funk that was the second half of this past year. I think that is the best first step to setting up the rest of the year for success. So, that is one of my primary things I am focusing on for 2021. That’s the thing that I am good at. Home. Community. Settled. 

I want to be better at allowing things/trips/places/whatever to come and go as they do. This year showed me that I CAN go with the flow and just up and travel with very little time to plan. I want to be open to doing more of that. One of my biggest pet peeves about myself is how…plan/routine I can be. But in 2020 I kind of just had to throw it all out the window (every single trip we took was planned at a max of 4 days prior to departure). I want to continue that “momentum” into 2021 as it looks like that is going to continue to be a situation. 

With all of that being said, I don’t have a word for the year 2021 yet. I usually always do the whole “one word 365” thing every year (the past two years have been adventure) because I love the idea of not having resolutions for each year (because oof let’s talk about setting yourself up for failure in so many different ways), but instead this one word that you want to shape how your year shakes out. Normally this is fairly easy for me to pick, I haven’t settled on a word for 2021 yet. There are a fair number of things that I want out of this year, things that are different enough and to put all of that in to one word is a bit difficult. I combed and combed through words, writing down anything that resonated, even a little bit for me. And then it hit me. One of the things that I really want to hold on to, something I learned while being here in Europe, was how to LIVE. Again, I’ll talk about this in my leaving Germany post, but I really learned about what it feels like/looks like to live your life, rather than plod through it and that is something that I want to hold on to and remember as we turn the page on this chapter. So, my word for 2021 is LIVE or the hebrew of Chai (life).

So, there we go, a whole bunch of my rambly thoughts for 2021. Let me know what your plans are for 2021 (if you have any!) 

2020 – A Year in Review

2020. What a year. Where do I even begin?

We all know the big moments of 2020. The Pandemic. The Murders, Uprise, and Unrest (I really hate calling it that though- this is simple human rights). The Election. The unprecedented highs and lows that this year has brought have been like we haven’t seen. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of tired of talking about them. I feel like so much of our lives this year have been focused so heavily on these few moments, which while are drastic and life altering, are not the entire story of our year. They have shaped the year, shaped our experiences, shaped how we cope and handle things, but there are also a million other smaller moments that are overlooked as well. So, I’m going to focus on those little moments. Sure, I’ll cover the things that I have learned about myself, the things that have been shaped by those bigger things, but there not the sole focus of this post. 

Gosh, so a year in review…

Well, our year started by getting blessed by the Pope at St. Peter’s square and then visiting the Great Roman Synagogue. A good start, no? We started our year off in Rome, which was a place that I hadn’t expected to fall in love with as much as I did (you can read my blog posts HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE). If there is one place in our travels that I would say, “I thought I would love it, but I didn’t know how much I would love it”, Rome and Italy would be one of those places. The other? Switzerland. BUT, when it comes to Switzerland, I think that could be said for anyone. More on that in a minute. However, Rome wasn’t our only destination in the year 2020. We managed to squeeze in several trips this year due to a lessening of restrictions and safe traveling. We managed to hit a total of 5  additional countries, France (PARIS 1, PARIS 2, MONT SAINT MICHEL, NORMANDY), Luxembourg (HERE), Belgium (BRUSSELS), Switzerland (INTERLAKEN/LAUTERBRUNNEN), and Poland (KRAKOW, AUSCHWITZ). With Switzerland topping all of the lists. There really are no words on the beauty of that area of the world. It is beyond worth the trip and I think everyone should experience it. 

Our year abruptly changed/came to a halt when we got the surprising news that we would be moving back to the United States quite a bit sooner than expected…a whole year sooner! We initially got the news about mid-summer, then finalized the information late Autumn, and determined that our next spot would be in New York. I talked about it briefly in my announcement post (HERE) and I’m sure I will be talking about it once again here soon as our move date approaches. I’m still fairly heartbroken about moving back, but I am trying to stay positive and see the positives (because there are some positives to this).

Once again, our boys have grown…A LOT. I think this year, more than ever, I have keenly felt the passage of time and what things look like with these two proper, independent kids. Colton started preschool (and then promptly stopped…only to start up again virtually and then finally start the new school year in school…only to go back to virtual right before Christmas break hahaha). When I say he is a completely different child from last year, I mean he is a completely different child. His progress reports have shown drastic improvement as he surpasses the goals initially set out. He’s quite the little boy. Andrew has changed quite a bit too…gone is my little angelic little boy who would occasionally get a super serious contemplative expression. He’s been replaced with a temperamental 3-year-old that loves to exploit the rules and then give you a winning sly grin to get out of trouble. He keeps me on my toes between the troublemaker antics and the never-ending stomach room ha-ha. Together they either love or hate and they definitely make life interesting. 

But, watching how much they’ve changed, how much they’ve grown, has been bittersweet. As any parent will tell you, there is a certain sadness when your children start to grow. This year has definitely brought a level of independence for our boys (they can do SO MUCH MORE without us needing to help), which in so many ways has been nice, it has me savoring the moments where they want to snuggle up on the couch or need mommy to kiss something better. 

This year hasn’t been all sunshine and daisies and rainbows. There have been low points as well. We’ve faced a global pandemic that had us here in Germany stuck in our homes. At the height of Spring, we were not allowed to leave our homes save for grocery shopping (and this was JUST groceries, any stores that sold both groceries and home goods, you could only purchase groceries), doctors’ appointments, exercise (to be done by yourself), and for essential work. No seeing friends, seeing family, popping to wander through the aisles of a store, we were all stuck at home. While this had positives, there were also negatives. This was also a time when I learned a…not so pleasant tidbit about myself (which then led to one of my lows of the year).

I love my family. I’ve loved having extra time with my husband, for us all to be together and really soak up the extra minutes we get together. BUT I don’t like noise. I don’t like constant, loud, noise. I.E. The noise that comes when your entire rambunctious family is home with loads of energy and nothing really to do to kill off that energy (sometimes even our long walks did nothing to curb it). The kind of noise that you can’t really escape from, that only ends when everyone goes to bed and you are left alone, exhausted and trying to savor the quiet while also wanting to sleep. The kind of noise that just wears on you, day after day after day. The kind of noise that, as an introvert, I HAVE to break away from just to recharge. So, that was fun to learn…NOT. I spent quite a bit of quarantine trying to figure out how to adjust my own expectations and needs with what the situation presented, so that I could be the positive, more even keeled person. It was a time and while I don’t have the entire thing figured out (I’m mostly still dragging little moments out until I can get to the next one), I do feel a bit better than I did at the beginning. 

Another low point was the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so, so many others that all deserved to have their names spoken over and over and over again. Not to mention justice. This summer was eye opening in so many ways on a civil level and one that I am making sure I continue to learn and educate myself as we move away from the initial “push” of the unrest. There was also an alarming amount of anti-Semitism that popped up in 2020 as well, which is…scary. To be honest, the sheer level of hatred in our country, in our world, is scary. 

In all honesty, I am glad to wave 2020 farewell. It’s been a year of highs and lows and draining. While I don’t think we are going to wake up in 2021 and everything will magically be good, I am kind of looking forward to a new year. To another fresh start.