A Cuppa Cosy Reads – June 2020

Once again, we’ve reached the end of another month and it’s time to talk about all the books I read in June…or lack thereof. I feel like June wasn’t my best reading month as I was solo parenting for a good amount of it, there were numerous other things needing my attention, and I read a couple whoppers of a book (aka longer tomes). None the less, I am here today to talk about some of those books that I’ve read. Since this post is going up a few days before the end of the month, I’ll also be including my current read as I will be finishing that before the end of the month as well. 

Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams (Purchase) 4.5/5 Murder in the Mystery Suite is the first book in a series of “cozy mysteries”. We follow along with a young mom as she learns that the life she had always known was a “cover” for her family history. Secret societies, books, murder and mystery follow and each book raises the stakes. These are just quick, easy, “feel good” mysteries. 

Who Do you Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States Edited by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macare, and Alana Yu-Lan Price (Purchase) NR This is a collection of essays about police brutality and race in regard to police brutality. It was incredibly eye opening, brutally honest, and just a hard, but important read. I highly recommend if you are looking for a book that will break down a lot of the issues that happen with police custody and BIPOC. 

The One by John Marrs (Purchase) 5/5 If you want a roller coaster of a thriller, with a unique premise, this is the book for you. In The One we follow five characters in a world where you are able to find your genetic soulmate. Scientists have isolated a strand of DNA that tells you exactly who you were meant to spend your life with. The only problem? It is focused on the genetic aspect, not the WHO of each person. As these five characters find their match, lives unravel and change in a heartbeat. An absolutely incredible book, this one will keep you reading late into the night. 

Murder in the Paperback Parlor by Ellery Adams (Purchase) 4.5/5 This is the second book to Murder in the Mystery Suite and this one was my favorite mystery out of the three I’ve read in this series. I’m not going to say too much as this is a series that builds upon itself, even though the mysteries are different. What I will say is that I love this setting and the concept of the stories and it’s just a joy to read each one. 

Beloved by Toni Morrison (Purchase) 5/5 Beloved is the story of a slave woman during and after the Civil War and her life. It is incredibly difficult to read, both in part due to the storytelling, but also due to the atrocities she experienced and lived through. Her trauma comes through in every single page. This is such a good read, laying out the facts of what she went through (in a different way than the police brutality book), and then her PTSD from those atrocities. It is not a book I was able to read straight through, I had to put it down about halfway through, read something light, and then go back to it, but it was very much worth reading. 

The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (Purchase) 4/5 This is the second book in the Mistborn trilogy, and I waited all month to read it, and it was well worth that wait. We pick up a year after The Final Empire and the action starts right on page 1. I loved the deepening of the world, the new lore that was discovered throughout, as well as the politics and intrigue that was going on. I will say, similar to The Final Empire, there were parts that lagged and were tough to get through, but the last third of the book was nonstop. 

And finally, I am currently reading Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams (Purchase) and, of course, loving being back at Storyton Hall. As of writing this, I’ve only just started, but these are quick easy reads, so I anticipate finishing this up in a day or two at the most. 

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. 

All the Castles: United Kingdom Edition

Today we are heading back to the United Kingdom for our All the Castles blog post. I loved almost all of the castles that we visited during our Summer Holiday to London and Scotland, with one exception (more on that later). I am bending my own “only castle” rule with including Holyrood House in Edinburgh and Balmoral (although technically that is Balmoral Castle). 

Dover Castle (MORE INFORMATION, BLOG POST)

Known as the “Key to England” Dover Castle dates back to William the Conqueror and the 11th Century. The current castle was rebuilt by Henry II in the late 12th century and has withstood two sieges (1216 & 1265). In the 18th Century a network of tunnels dug into the castle and those tunnels became most famous in World War Two during Operation Dynamo. Dover Castle also became the Regional Seat of Government during the Cold War and was garrisoned up until 1958. 

Dover Castle was really cool because not only does it have the long history, but it has still played a large role in our more recent history (like many of the castles in the United Kingdom). I really enjoyed wandering the courtyard, the main tower (which was a signature of William the Conqueror) as well as the various outlying embankments. You are able to wander the tunnels; however, you will want to do that at the beginning of your trip, otherwise you will be standing in line for quite a while (it’s one of the most popular attractions within the castle). 

The Tower London (MORE INFORMATION, BLOG POST)

The Tower dates back to William the Conqueror as he set out to build a might stone tower at the center of his fortress in London. The Tower is the most secure castle in the United Kingdom and is the largest & strongest concentric castle. Its defenses have only fallen once, in the 14th century during the Peasants Revolt. The Tower has had several different uses throughout its time from a prison (800 years), to Luxurious apartments for Royals, to housing a menagerie of wild animals, to an execution ground. It is most known for being a prison and for the executions of three queens, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey. Now The Tower is home to the Yeoman Warders (they’ve lived in The Tower since Henry VIII decreed they stay there) and their families, a Resident Governor, a garrison of soldiers, a doctor, chaplain, and a small pub. It is also home to the closely guarded Crown Jewels. 

Probably one of the most talked about, most popular, most famous and infamous castles in our history, The Tower of London is incredible. There is just so much to see and do within the walls! We ended up spending almost half a day between the Yeoman Warder tour (which I highly recommend), the changing of the guard, and just wandering all of the various spots. You can see so much and such a wide variety of stuff and time periods.  

Edinburgh Castle (MORE INFORMATION, BLOG POST)

Edinburgh Castle has noted human occupation since around the 2nd century, with the castle dating the 12thcentury. Even though its location was prime for a fortress of defensive castle, it did not become a primary military garrison until the 17th century. It is the most besieged castle in Great Britain, topping out at 26 sieges, and is the most attacked castle in the world. In the 15th century a large canon called the Mons Meg was delivered and set up on the rampart, and you can still see that today. You are also able to walk through St. Margaret’s Chapel which is the oldest chapel in Edinburgh (12th century). Finally, Edinburgh Castle is home to the Scottish Crown Jewels which have quite the history themselves (amongst other things, they were hidden in a bathroom during World War II!). Finally, Edinburgh Castle did not actually house many royals for long periods, it was a very cold, very damp castle and most royals preferred the comfort of Holyrood House located at the other end of the Royal Mile and Arthur’s Seat. 

I LOVED Edinburgh Castle, the history, the brooding castle on the hill overlooking the city, the just darker, grimmer defenses, the history, it’s just one of my favorites. I really enjoyed our time there, walking the castle ramparts, through the church, and listening to the audio guide. We did get to see the canon get fired during our time there, which I would recommend (it’s just a fun thing to do).

Balmoral Castle (MORE INFORMATION, BLOG POST)

Balmoral Castle is actually a family home, tucked in the Scottish Highlands, for the British Royal Family. It came into the family’s possession in 1848 (first leased then purchased) and they promptly built a new home on the property. The foundation stone was laid in 1853 and it was completed in 1856. This particular castle is a favorite of the Royal Family and I can see why!

The grounds themselves are incredible (you are only able to walk the grounds and see the ballroom, nothing else), not to mention the way the house is just tucked into the beautiful Scottish scenery. It was incredible and, like I’ve said, I can see why the Royal Family loves it so much. 

Urquhart Castle (MORE INFORMATION, BLOG POST)

Urquhart Castle is a ruined castle on Loch Ness in the highlands of Scotland. It dates the 13th-16th century, with an intentional destruction by the owners in 1692 to prevent Jacobite use. Its major note was playing a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century. These days the castle is mostly noted as a romantic ruin, hosting visitors and events every day. 

I think, on the whole, this is probably my least favorite of the castles that we saw. While it was cool to see and walk through and provided some really beautiful pictures, I don’t think that it was really worth the cost. It’s definitely overcrowded at times as well. There are other spots to see the castle from that might be better. 

Palace of Holyrood House (MORE INFORMATION, BLOG POST)

The final spot on this All The Castle’s edition is not a castle, but the royal home of Holyrood House. Holyrood House is the official residence of the Royal Family in Scotland. The abbey was founded in the 12th century and James IV built the first palace on the property in the 16th century. On the tour you are able to see various works of art, but the real draw is Queen Mary of Scotland’s royal rooms. These rooms have been at the heart of intrigue and assassination and are a real treat into the history of the area.

I really loved seeing and wandering Holyrood House. The rooms are beautiful with a lot of historical information and artwork, the rooms of Mary Queen of Scots are incredible to walk through (along with the staircase), and the gardens are beautiful. We were also able to see the wedding display from Meghan and Harry’s wedding (including the outfits they wore!) which was really cool. 

And that wraps up this edition of All The Castle’s! Have you been to any? Which is your favorite? Which would you most like to visit?

Mid Year Book Freakout Tag – 2020

Happy Monday! Last week I posted my midyear “check in” and I figured I would follow it up with a little book tag. It’s not a deep dive, or something really serious, just a fun little Monday Morning question and answer. At the time that I am writing up this post, I have read a total of 48 books. Not too much of an introduction, let’s just get into the questions!

Best Book you’ve read so far in 2020

Hands down I think one of the best is Circe by Madeline Miller. A close second and third would be The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson and The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (but, both of those will be mentioned later on). There are plenty of books that I enjoyed and gave 5 Stars, but Circe is a book that I am still reminiscing and thinking about.

Best Sequel you’ve read so far in 2020

I have two for this question (because I am really bad at narrowing things down to one) and those are: A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer and World Without End by Ken Follett. I loved both of these in some ways more than the first books.

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

Both The City We Became by N.K. Jemison and My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell are out, and I am really wanting to read both of those. I also would like to read Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad which was released in February.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Top of my list is Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People. I am just a big fan of his and am ready to see what else he is offering. There are a lot more books that I’ve pre ordered, that I’m anxiously awaiting, but this is the first one that comes to mind that hasn’t already been released.

Biggest Disappointment

Ah, again, I have two books for this one: Misery by Stephen King (which was ten times better as a movie than a book) and Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson (which was a great setting and concept, but poor execution).

Biggest Surprise

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. I honestly was on the fence, I figured I would either love it or DNF it and to even my own surprise, I loved this! I gave it 4 stars (because I did have some issues with it), but on the whole this one took me by surprise. Another one (just as food for thought) is The One by John Marrs. I only just recently read this one, after hearing about it twice and picking it up on a whim, and ooofff…an unexpected 5 star read for me.

Favorite New Author (Debut or new to you)

Alright, I’ve been recommended this author for years now and I finally this year read a couple of his books…Brandon Sanderson. I flew through Elantris and The Final Empire and am desperate to get to some more in the Mistborn trilogy (and then move on to the other, longer series).

Newest Fictional Crush

I don’t really get any fictional crushes, so no answer on this one 🙂

Newest Favorite characters

I don’t know? I guess I like the setting and main characters of Ellery Adams books. No book in particular, but those characters and settings are just my jam.

Book that made you cry

The Only Plan in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff and Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect Edited by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macare, Alana Yu-Lan Price, Forward by Alicia Garza. I don’t think I really need to elaborate on either of these.

Book that made you happy

This is a tough one because even with my disappointing reads, I still enjoy reading. Books still make me happy overall. I’m going to have to list Ellery Adams once again as those books are just…so cozy and wonderful in so many ways (and they are light and fluffy with no deeper thought needed).

Most Beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow and it was also a beautiful story as well.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

So many! I won’t list them all here, but I will make a note that for the rest of the year I want to read a diverse selection between fiction and nonfiction and a variety of authors and subjects.

That’s it! I would love to hear some of your answers for the questions, so leave them down below 🙂

 

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?

Our Virtual Schooling Experience at a Preschool Level

IMG_3125At the beginning of February Colton had his first official day of preschool…6 weeks later he went for the last day of his first quarter. In those short 6 weeks Colton flourished. He grew up so much, was so excited for each school day (seriously- non-school days were a definite struggle for him), and his development really took off.

Let me start with this, we would have tried to put Colton in a preschool program regardless of any issues he may or may not have had. Colton is a very high energy kid and I wanted him to be “exposed” to a classroom setting of some sort before he was thrust into Kindergarten. Colton has had a speech delay, not in a nonverbal sense, but in an understanding words delay. So, after completing the testing, he was enrolled in our “district” preschool program.

So, Colton LOVED preschool. He would come home with the biggest smile, he was learning so much, he made quite a few friends, experienced significant changes in his speech, and, most importantly, he had something that was “just Colton”. It’s been “Colton and Andrew” was so long and as many of us know, we need things that are just for us as well. That was preschool for Colton. He thrived.

When Coronavirus really started to spike and we started to see the changes coming down for places closing, I got a little worried about school. Afterall, Colton was in preschool and, while it was through the district and for a speech delay, I didn’t know how “important” it would be considered in the grand scheme of things. There are children with much larger needs and problems, my kid just needed a little shove/help from someone who wasn’t mom/dad/understood him as he was.

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His teachers have been absolutely incredible throughout this entire process. They very quickly emailed all of us parents, letting us know that they were working the problem and trying to figure out what they were going to do to continue working. The “district” did not foresee the preschool continuing on when they made the google classroom plan, so the teachers quickly workshopped a different platform that, actually ended up being a much better option for the younger kids.

They created incredible Digital Learning Plans that made it really easy for parents to incorporate into the day to day lives of children and they were very calm and patient throughout the entirety of the 2 ½ months of this digital learning. They recognized that they only saw the students for a limited time a day, that many had older (or younger) siblings at home that needed their own care, that this is a very different time right now. They’ve been great.

And, I’ll be honest, Digital Learning hasn’t been all that bad. Sure, I’ve ranted and raved about it at times when the focus level was low, or Andrew wasn’t letting Colton get things done, or when things got frustrating with technology, BUT on the whole it hasn’t been bad. It also hasn’t been school though either.

I said it earlier and I’ll say it again, more of my concern with Colton in so far as preschool was concerned was introducing him to a classroom setting, a teacher, a different place that he had to listen, behave, and learn. I wanted to have a little “soft” introduction to the idea of school before Kindergarten hit and he was in it “for real”.

This wasn’t it. Sure, he had weekly video chats with his two teachers (one speech, one preschool), and we had countless activities that his teachers would give feedback with (mostly positive stuff that you would expect), but it wasn’t the classroom. It was mommy’s desk with little brother screaming/playing/running in the background, and daddy working at his desk on the other side of the room. It was chaotic and it became a family affair, rather than the Colton show.

Overall Colton has really excelled in this new wave of schooling. He has adjusted remarkably well and has slid back in terms of speech or education, but he knows it hasn’t been at school. He’s been bummed about not being able to ride his little school bus, see his friends, or play on the playground. Every morning he wakes up asking if today is the day he will go back to school.

And, with about two weeks left in the “school” year (I used quotes as the teaching stopped a week or so before the proper end of the school year), he checked out. He was done. No interest in any of the activities or meetings whatsoever. It became akin to pulling teeth to have him sit down and focus on the work that he needed to do for any longer than 10 minutes. I think he just had enough with the situation, with not being able to do these things in person, and having to share all of that with little brother. (And, in all honesty I was surprised it took him as long as it did to get fed up)

And for me? Well, I have an entirely newfound respect for preschool teachers.

I’ve always respected teachers (hell I want to be one), BUT you forget how much stuff you aren’t born knowing. You forget how much you had to learn and while there are some things that parents can teach (and I have been teaching those things), in Colton’s case, he needed that shove from an outside source.

Anyways, all this to say, Digital Learning has not been a breeze, but we’ve honestly had it easy. I don’t work at the moment, we have access to a computer, to the internet, to the materials that are needed to do the various activities. And we only have one child in preschool. It’s been much harder for many others that I know, talk to, and follow. Nor has it necessarily been a positive experience for our kids. Here’s to hoping we have a few workable solutions for the 2020-2021 school year.

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – May 2020

Happy first of June! May was…a month both in real life and in book world. I had a wishy-washy month and dealt with some book breaks towards the end of the month. I’ll get more into that later, but I completed a total of 7 books, with an average rating of 3.8/5.0 and I’m currently in the middle of two right now. I’ve actually waited until the very last minute to write this post up as I had hoped I would finish one of them before this had to go up.

I’ve included a slightly different purchase link this time around. This link will take you to the bookshop.org listing for each book. Bookshop.org raises money for local independent bookstores and while the prices may be slightly higher than Amazon, if you are in a position to pay the slightly higher price, I would highly encourage you to do so.

A Cuppa Cosy Reads - February 2022

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas 4/5 (Goodreads/Purchase): I started my month out with a bang of a horror novel. In Kill Creek we are following an author who is in the middle of a bit of a life and writing crisis. He isn’t getting very far into his new novel and has taken up teaching to do something different. He, along with 3 other authors, gets the opportunity to spend a night in the most famous haunted house in the country. What goes on is for the books. I loved the overall theme that this book took in terms of the standard haunted house trope. It definitely brought a new life into a very tried trope.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman 3.5/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) This was my second Neil Gaiman and I infinitely preferred this one. Coraline follows a young girl who finds a mysterious door in her home. She wanders through the door and finds her family, but not quite her family. Written for his daughters, this store is the cutest story of good vs “evil”. It’s juvenile in a way, but enjoyable for a reader of any age.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams 3/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) The one book that I have so much, but so little to say about. Queenie follows a young black women on the brink of a breakdown. She seems to be falling apart at the pieces and we follow her journey of self. I think my biggest problem with this book was the marketing of it. At the outset it was heralded as almost the “black Bridget Jones” and it is NOT. This book is much darker, much heavier on the content, much more “real world” than Bridget Jones. The wit/humor of Bridget Jones, maybe, but beyond that there is no comparison. Now, this is changing as more people are reading it and talking about it, but I would recommend checking content warnings prior to picking it up. I will say- this does has some book race and social commentary in it.

Murder in the Locked Library by Ellery Adams 4.5/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) I think Ellery Adams is just my new go to when I need a cozy, warm, book related mystery. Murder in the Locked Library is actually the 4th book in a series, so I can’t talk too much about the contents, but I enjoyed it so much. This has books, secret societies, and quaint Virginia town vibes. I plan on reading the first three books in the coming month and I can’t wait!

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson 4.5/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) Ah, the book of all books. The book that completely ruined the rest of my May. The book that I finished and needed more of. The Final Empire (aka Mistborn #1) follows along in a world where the people are ruled by a figure considered a g-d. A “ragtag” band is determined to get the skaa (the working slave class in this world) to rise into a rebellion and overthrow the government and the ruler. There is magic, comradery, and a new world to explore. I absolutely loved this book. As with any fantasy it’s a fit of a slow burn at first due to the world building that needs to happen, but it never felt boring/slow. There is a subtle shift about a third of the way through the book where the reader goes from being a passive learner to an active participant and then it is actively engaging right till the very end. I finished this book needing more and that desire definitely colored the rest of my reading month (I only just ordered the rest of the books in the series).

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson 3/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) This was a bit of a letdown for me. In Eight Perfect Murders we follow a bookstore owner as he learns that a list he posted many years ago has become inspiration for a serial killer. What follows is a literary mystery. Now, I loved the setting and concept of this story. Where I found it lacking/disappointing, was in the actual mystery/thriller aspect of it. I found that portion to be predictable and lackluster.

American Royals by Katharine McGee 4/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) This isn’t the next award-winning book, but it’s good fun, nonetheless. In American Royals we follow an alternate history of the US where George Washington decided to become king when asked and what that ends up looking like in with the modern-day royal family. Basically, this is British Royal Family fanfiction set in America and it’s lighthearted melodrama fun. Suspend all your thoughts and beliefs and just enjoy the ride.

Now, I mentioned earlier that I am currently in the middle of two books, which I will share a bit about now…

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett (Goodreads/Purchase): I’m really enjoying this one so far! I’m halfway through and while it is different in quite a few ways from the previous two books, I’m really enjoying getting a different view into this time period (Elizabethan England). Once again, I love his storytelling and the way he weaves these epic family tales.

Locke & Key Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft (Goodreads/Purchase) I don’t really know how I feel about this. I had placed it on hold from the library a while ago and then quarantine happened and I forgot about it. I’m not a fan, but not not enjoying it. Does that even make sense?

My reading plans for the next couple months include a bit of literary fiction, the next book in the Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson) series, some black history, and a few more Ellery Adams cozy mysteries. Reading for me serves a purpose: escapism/pleasure or education. I am trying to be more cognizant about doing both.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts? What was your favorite read from May?

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.

Untitled Design 51

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?