I See You

I see you. You, the mom putting out the picture of happiness. Radiating happiness. The mom that everyone thinks has her sh*t together. The mom who seemingly does it all. Mrs. Cleaver, caring for her husband, children, and home.

The mom who is the look of happy perfection and yet is crying out inside.

I see you. You, the mom crying silently in the car on the way home. The mom crying to herself, exhausted from being the one thread that holds everything together. The mom who gives until she has nothing left to give because she has no other choice.

The mom who wants so desperately to be there for everyone else, to be that happy bubbly person that she knows she is, but loses sight of her own needs in the process.

I see you. I see you because I am you.

It’s a hard thing to share. I’m the kind of person who loves to be that “light in the darkness”. I love to live a life full of happiness, who doesn’t? I love to lift others help, help them find those little positive moments, to be that person who is there for them when they need it. I don’t like to focus on the hard times, or talk about how the past month was a tough one, when I am now feeling better and things are looking up. I don’t want to bring those times up (aside from the random in the moment posting about them), because I don’t want to return to them. I don’t want to bring that back into my headspace, but if we don’t then we won’t learn for the next time. If we don’t share, others won’t know. I think it is equally important to share when times are good and when times are…well not so good.

Life is full of ups and downs for everyone and it is important to remember that even the people who look like they have their sh*t together still have their hard days too.

I also feel a lot of guilt when talking about what “hard times” looks like to me. I know that I am incredibly blessed to be able to stay home with my children, to have a roof over my head, to have food on my table, to not have to overly stress about our budget (although we do have one), to not have to worry about every little thing. I recognize that I am incredibly blessed to be able to travel with my family, show our kids the world beyond our town. I’m blessed to have a loving and caring husband (or partner if that’s your case), who will help our whenever and however he can.

I know that I am incredibly blessed in this life (although that doesn’t negate the hard work that I put in and have put in), but that doesn’t mean that I do not have hard times. Hard times look different to everyone, just like anything else in life. It is important not to downplay or minimize someone else’s hart times just because they look different than ours.

In August, my hard times specifically related to being mentally over exhausted. Our July and August have been non stop on the “doing things”, “people” and “noise” fronts and I just couldn’t catch a break to have an hour or two to myself. We talk about self-care (something I will be talking about this month) and how important it is, but sometimes we forget. I preach it, but wasn’t getting a chance to take my own advice. It’s a season of life and this past month has taught me a couple of things.

Also, in this time period, my husband’s work picked up quite a bit, he was in and out a little bit more (and had a long trip at the start of the month) and our boys reacted to that. Andrew became extremely clingy (to be expected), freaking out if I disappeared from his site for more than a minute. Again, a season of life and something that we are working on with him.

I say all this now, share all this now, because I’ve been really bad at sharing it in the moment. I hit a patch of about a week when I just retreated. Outwardly I was still that same person, but when we weren’t around others I hid inside. I carried on as best I could, but often times would end up crying at night, from being so tired, so worn thin. Feeling like the worn thread holding a piece of rope together.

I didn’t share in the moment for two reasons, both of which have been stated here. I don’t like feeling like this- no one does. I don’t want to bring myself down even more and bring others down. I also felt that guild and shame. I didn’t want to put my “not so important” problems above others who have what I would consider “real problems” (which, as I’ve stated above is utterly ridiculous). I retreated so far that I really just didn’t want to talk at all.

I don’t know what actually pulled me out to be honest. I cried. A lot. I wrote in my journal. A lot. I tried to “unpack” the things that were really bothering me. What was really getting me into this low spot. And, if I really think about it, it was probably a combination of things that just happened at the same time and reminded me of the good things. Then, I focused on those good things and over the process of a couple days started to feel better.

So, what’s the point of this whole post? It’s basically just me saying I see you. I see you, in the happy times, in the hard times and all the times in between. I see you and I want to help you. Tell me, talk to me; talk it out, write it out, cry it out, whatever you need to do.

Camera Courtesy

Alright, I’m going to be blunt in this post. I’m probably going to be a little rude and I’m probably going to rub some people the wrong way. Basically, this whole post is just one long rant that my husband (who takes most of the pictures you see OF ME while traveling) would agree with…you’ve been warned.

***A little precursor here- this post does not apply to specific “photo spots” (because I know those exist), to travel photos taken in quieter spots that don’t have as many people, OR to those who handle camera courtesy :)***

In July we went on our Summer Holiday. By now you’ve heard all about it and probably want me to stop talking about it ha-ha. While we were traveling, I came to be able to put a name to one of my biggest travel pet peeves…Camera/Photo Courtesy.

I’m a huge photo person. I LOVE taking pictures, I LOVE capturing moments, views, and everything in between. I take a million photos of EVERYTHING. I take a million photo’s because you never know what will end up being the “perfect shot” and what will end up looking the best overall. I take photos of seemingly random moments, random places and the like, BUT I also take photo’s at and of popular tourist destinations. Who doesn’t? Who doesn’t want a picture in front of Buckingham Palace or on the skylight of The Tower Bridge or really anywhere else? I get it.

Let me say this real fast- I will not begrudge someone wanting to get a photo. Hell, I will not begrudge someone wanting to get the perfect photo. I get that we live in an age where it’s not just getting a photo of yourself at or in front of the tourist spot, but getting the PERFECT photo in the PERFECT place, with the PERFECT lighting.

Here’s what I don’t get…why we have to then ruin someone else’s chance of getting their photo because we are too busy being wrapped up in our own PERFECT photo. Example: I was up in The Tower Bridge walking through the ramps and saw multiple people taking multiple different photo’s (getting taken of themselves) while not letting others get a chance to take a photo. As a blogger, I get the whole it takes a lot of photos to get the PERFECT one, trust me, I get that.

BUT when I am at a popular tourist destination, and there is a high volume of people trying to get pictures, I try to get in and out with my camera just as quickly as possible. That means one, two photo’s tops and hopefully they are good. If not, oh well. It’s a courtesy to others who are trying to capture that spot too.

When you are in a spot where there is a line of people who want the same picture, it is not fair to that line of people to have you taking 20 photos. Think about when you are at a theme park. You get one chance at a picture and there is something special about that. Are the pictures always great? No. Are they always going to be worthy of your IG Feed? No. But when you have a line of people all waiting for the same thing, it isn’t fair to rob the time away from others.

Not only that, but sometimes people don’t even want pictures (I know, novel concept), but quite simply just want to see what you’re trying to take a picture of! Sometimes people just want to experience a moment rather than try and capture it on camera. For me personally, I balance the two out choosing to take a smaller amount of photo’s in certain areas.

Another thing, if you are clogging walkways or roads or such while trying to capture that perfect photo, that’s not fair to others either. I mean, c’mon! I have done the whole take a thousand pictures to get the perfect one and often times (not all the time though), the best ones are one of the earliest pictures I’ve captured.

I’m not trying to be a whiney person over here (which means I probably come off that way), lord knows there are much bigger problems in the world, but this has to be one of my biggest complaints that I’ve had while we’ve traveled.  I feel like in the age we live in the courtesy factor kind of went out the window. I figure as someone who is a massive photo lover, who loves capturing moments and places, if I get annoyed by it, I can’t be the only one.

I’m curious to know, how do you handle camera courtesy? Did you agree with anything that I’ve said? Do you think a completely different way? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Recommendations and Tips For: Edinburgh, Scotland

We have recently come back from our Summer Holiday in England and Scotland and I’ve been recapping all of our travels for you in the past blog posts. Today I am going to share some of my tips and recommendations for a stay in Edinburgh (you can see the “what we did” post HERE).

Edinburgh is such a cool spot because it perfectly melds the old world, dark, dreary city with pops of bright colors and trendy spots. It’s quite obviously a tourist spot, but you can certainly find the little gems that are maybe off the beaten path a little bit. Even with all of the tourists, Edinburgh holds a special sort of charm in its way of life and we did love our time there.

Recommendations:

Edinburgh Castle. I think this one is a fairly obvious choice, but there is quite simply SO MUCH history here in this castle. There is A LOT to see (not as much as say The Tower, but still a fair amount). They also fire a canon from the rampart every day at 1PM, and that is something you will definitely want to see. Stop in the gift shop near the Soldier’s Memorial for a little whiskey tasting and then wander through the main square. You are also able to view the Scottish Crown Jewels, which have quite the history.

Arthurs Seat. This hike was one of the most incredible hikes. If you even have a little physical experience you could make it to the top, however there are a couple of different false peaks if you’d like to just stop and admire the beauty around you. Once you’ve finished the hike and you are on the way down, there is a little lake that has ducks and geese that would be the perfect stopping point for lunch (just be aware that there are also fearless pigeons).

Holyrood Palace. This is the official royal residence in Scotland (Balmoral is a “country home/private residence”) and it is really cool to walk through the halls where they host dinners and foreign dignitaries. What might be cooler (depending on who you are) is walking through the very rooms of Mary Queen of Scotts, and hearing about the attempt on her life by her husband- you can even walk the very staircase they did to get to her chambers!

If you had to choose between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, I would go with Edinburgh, much more/wider variety of history, but I do think it is worth it to do both.

Finally, if you are a Harry Potter fan, then you will be familiar with Victoria Street. This is the street that inspired the “look” for Diagon Alley and it is indeed one of those good spots to walk along and browse the shops. It embodies the feel of dark, old world, with the bright pops of color and shops. I would recommend walking up the street (as you will have to regardless) on your way to Edinburgh Castle or the Royal Mile.

Tips:

Walk. Honestly, Edinburgh is laid out in such a way that it lends itself to walking or riding a bike. It is such an easy way to get around and you are never super far from anywhere really (or a bus stop). We didn’t actually use any of their public transportation, but they do have buses for ease of use or if you don’t want to walk in a Scottish Downpour.

That brings me to my next tip, bring a rain jacket and some sort of water proof shoe (or at least something that won’t have water seeping in). Our rain jackets really came in handy the whole second half of this trip. Scotland is super rainy and, to be honest, it is a rain that really just soaks you. There is also no real telling when it comes in or when it will start, it just does. So, make sure you pack at the very least a rain jacket, if not an umbrella too.

Finally, check out the little café’s and diners that are in the city. For our two breakfasts, we stopped at cute little café’s that were not only the quaintest little spots, but were absolutely delicious. Our favorite dinner was at a little spot that filled up quickly. Know that these places will fill up quickly and so consider potentially eating an “early or late dinner”. I know that some of the spots would take reservations so that is something to think of too. I just find that you get such a good idea of what the local life is when you dine in their own spots, rather than sticking to the main tourist attractions.

Feeling Settled

Ah…home. We are home at last and home for a while…at least until next month. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be home. To be in our home, with our furniture, our bed, our kitchen. In fact, it feels so good it has me reflecting back to how I’ve actually felt over the past few months. That and our new neighbors and I have been discussing the overseas move process (they have just recently arrived).

Regardless of how you move, where you move, when you move, doing an overseas move is tough. And honestly, the hardest part is that everyone on the outside looking in tells you how great it is, what an opportunity, you must be so thrilled, etc. While that is true and is the correct assumption in most cases, most people on the outside overlook the actually move portion. We (myself included) all focus on “OMG you are going to live in Europe, that’s so awesome! You’ll get to see all these things, you’ll get to do so much, such a great opportunity” and yet there is also the whole concept of experiencing culture shock, upheaval of your routine, time difference, being apart from family and friends, looking for a home in a foreign country, not even to begin to mention the amount of time it takes for your household goods to come.

We’ve been lucky, I’ll not deny that. I feel like my outlook and my attitude has really been a game changer (notes for future moves!), along with the fact that we weren’t staying in a standard hotel room, but a hotel 1-bedroom apartment. We’ve also done a bunch of traveling (as much as we reasonably could and then some), BUT I’m not going to try and tell you that this has been a walk in the park. And honestly, I think the thing that I struggled with the most was not having a home. Not having our things. Not having that “we’re settled” feeling.

When you don’t have that home base, that place that you know you are going back to, your own bed, your own furniture, it makes a world of difference in your psyche.

I’ve come to realize that having the home feeling, the home comforts is important. It doesn’t have to be a lot, it can be one or two things, it can simply be a place, but we all need to have that feeling. I’ve heard a lot about “home is who you’re with, not where you are” and yes there is a large amount of that is true. We had our little family and that was a lot, but still, there is something to be said for having YOUR OWN PLACE. Somewhere that is yours. Somewhere that you can have your own belongings, deal with your own food, clean in the way you’d like to clean (whether it’s doing it yourself, hiring someone, whatever).

So, we are finally getting that feeling of being settled. Of having our home. Of being able to cook full meals, clean every day, spread out the way we want to, let the boys carry on how they want to, and just generally relax. While our home isn’t fully done, we are still waiting on all of the wall décor (another story for another day), it feels like home. I feel like I can breathe. We’ve been doing playdates, figuring out our routines, trying to see how everything fits together, and just overall enjoying our time.

While we may not be traveling this month, or until the end of next month (hopefully!), there is a certain level of bliss of “just being able to stay home”.

Life in Europe – 6 Months In

How has it already been 6 months? 6 months ago, we were being driven to the airport by our family, working our way through multiple security checkpoints, two different airplanes, a long layover and two flights to arrive in Germany and start our international living. We had no idea what would come or how our lives would change, but we were ready for that adventure.

It’s safe to say that 6 months in, this move has been nothing short of an adventure. We’ve made the most of almost 5 months of hotel living, made the most of learning the culture (still learning!), attempting to begin to learn the language (have a long way to go on this one), and are homing in on what travel looks like for our family. We’ve almost finally gotten settled in our house, made some new friends, and are embracing that “European” lifestyle.

When we got off that plane we jumped right in to our new adventure, choosing to travel as much as we could – 7 countries already!- and be out of our hotel, and later house, as possible. This isn’t a place that we wanted to choose to stay home, as we would normally, but one where we wanted to experience everything possible.

I figured something that would be fun today, 6 months in, would be to reflect on some of the things that I’ve learned or that have surprised me at this stage of our move. Living in Germany is just similar enough to our westernized culture, but still different enough that there is a little shock to the system of moving here. I will say though; I don’t think I really experienced a true “culture shock” until I tried to do a full grocery shop on the local economy. I’m getting better and better the more I go, but those first couple trips were rough.

Before we get into the “surprises”, I just quickly want to say that I didn’t entirely expect how beautiful it is here. It is absolutely gorgeous just about anywhere you go and we cannot get enough of getting outside and exploring even just the little towns near us. The area is full of country roads, with little towns, and fields of crops all around. The agriculture scene is huge in our area and we also have a fair share of animals around as well. We love it here and can’t stress that enough.

To start this off, we are going to chat about Water Closets…or restrooms. Yep, something I don’t typically talk about, but it’s a bodily function and something we all need. You pay to use public restrooms here. Not necessarily all of them (for example a lot of stores and restaurants will often times have a restroom for the guests), but if you stop at a service stop off the Autobahn chances are you’ll have to pay the .70Euro charge to use the restroom. The nice thing is, at least for the service stations, you pay the .70 and you’ll get a .50Euro voucher to use in the station itself. The bathrooms are also very well maintained, so I don’t mind paying the slight fee for them.

*I will say- the one exception to the “paying for the bathroom” bit is changing rooms. A lot of service stations will have an entirely separate room for changing babies that can be used free of charge. Don’t think you can get away with using it as an adult, often times they are locked so an attendant is needed, or they don’t have a toilet, just the changing station. But also, just don’t be that person. From a mom, please don’t be that person.*

Another thing that is, I think, unique to Europe is the no rush eating out. When you go out to eat here, the emphasis is placed on company and quality of time spent at the restaurant, rather than hurrying you through the ordering and eating process. Often times dinner lasts several hours, and you only see your waiter intermittently to serve you the food and drinks. It’s a very relaxed feel and you could sit at your table for as long as you’d like. It’s something we have gotten used to very quickly and something that we really actually enjoy. You get a chance to enjoy your meal, your company, and it just makes it so much more pleasant. I don’t know how we are going to go back to the states and back to being rushed through our meals.

Also- in regard to eating out, be prepared to pay for water and to find that in most cases ordering alcohol is cheaper than water (or even soda in some cases)! The beer is, obviously, very good here, and sometimes even getting a glass of wine or prosecco can be less costly than having a bottle of water. Also, at your typical German restaurants expect to find meat and potato’s to be the brunt of your menu and dining experience. One final dining experience, your portion size will be quite large. While we were in the hotel, when dining in the hotel restaurant, often times I would simply order the main meat portion, no side and they would put together a miniscule side salad for me (because they thought there was no way I was only eating a giant portion of Wiener Schnitzel).

It’s a real blast to eat out here because of the experience (and the food IS delicious), but just be aware of what you are really getting yourself into J

In Europe, Germany especially from what I’ve been seeing and hearing in travelling, there is a high emphasis on recycling and taking care of our planet. Germany is actually a very very clean place. You don’t see a lot of litter about, trash cans are cleared out frequently, and you can tell that it is very well maintained. The cleanliness aside, Germany is very focused on sustainability and what is best for our planet and environment. A perfect example of this is the windmills, solar panel farms, and recycling program. We recycle EVERYTHING. Just about the only bits that go into the trash are food waste and Kleenex/dirty paper towels (rare in our house) and such. There isn’t a lot that actually goes in to the trash and subsequently the trash only gets picked up twice a month! Think about that for a minute. We have a total of 5 recycling bins (that’s what our family uses the most of, some families can have upwards of 7 or more if need be) and we run to our sort center every couple weeks. It’s been a real good lesson in learning what we may be don’t need to waste and where we can do better in our own home with re-usable goods.

Europe is very much a family friendly, outside adventure style country. There are a lot of walking areas, parks and pools for full families are in an abundance, and everyone, in Germany in particular, have really loved the kids. There is always some sort of a hike, cruise, bike, athletic event going on in the good weather and even if there isn’t something going on, there are plenty of places that you can explore outdoors for yourself. I’ve been really surprised at not only how many there are, but how many are actually family friendly and have activities for old and young alike. We’ve found so many options that we can do with the kids, where they can also be kids instead of being told to shush all the time.

Something else that Germany in particular is famous for is its festivals. There is a festival of some sort always going on it seems, and they celebrate everything from the German American partnerships, to religious holidays, to random just because days, to Octoberfest (in September). The festivals are great ways to jump right in to their culture as food and alcohol are a big part of life out here (not the only part, just a big one). The festivals will be anything from a little food festival with different vendors, to full on carnivals with rides, food, drinks, and music. It all depends, and it is quite a lot. We’ve loved the couple that we have attended and look forward to going to many over the next couple years.

I know there are so many other bits that I want to touch on, but I think I’ll have to save those for another post! In our short 6 months here, we’ve already managed to do so much, and we still have so much more that we want to do.

Introverted Like Me

Fun fact: I’m an introvert.

Now, if you’re wondering, “But Mia, how is that possible?” “You’re always talking and sharing and seem so outgoing”. (You’re probably not wondering any of those things, but just in case…)

Fun fact #2: Introversion and Extroversion is not how you interact, BUT how you recharge. What feeds you. There is more to it than just that, such as how you prefer conversations, large groups, small groups, what your conversation consists of, etc, BUT the basics of it is how you recharge.

I HAVE to have that solo time. I recharge in the peace and quiet on my own. If I am  around people and crowds for too long I become stressed and irritable and if I don’t get that chance for quiet I get downright angry (and honestly-mean).

Here’s the thing- I can be a very social person. I do enjoy meeting people, talking to people, hanging out with friends, and even enjoy our very loud playgroup time. BUT these situations exhaust me by the time they are done. Once it is done and I can get a little piece of quiet in my own home to recharge my batteries, I feel better. That is introversion in a way that you may not recognize.

Another aspect of introversion is your friendships and conversations. I will get into this more in a post coming up, but a lot of time introverts have small friend groups, preferring one on one or two conversation  than a large group of people. I honestly have never been one to have a “large group” of friends and, aside from a random high school moment (because who doesn’t have one of those), I’ve never cared about being popular and talking to every single person.

I say all of this because there is so much pressure in our society today to always be outgoing, to talk to every single person, to have a large group (or following) to back you up. . It is something that our society recognizes as success and that if this is not you, you are not (or will not) be successful.

I tried to be the outgoing person, talking to everyone, calling everyone a friend, constantly trying to do things and it just wasn’t working for me. So, I changed what I was trying to do to meet everyone else’s expectations, to what would actually work for me. You know what happened? I was happier, had better friendships (that were actually real friendships), and felt more like myself.

You don’t need to always be getting out, talking to every person around trying to make lasting friendships from everyone (unless that is what you want and what works for you).

You do need to make sure that you are doing what works for you.

And, if you are anything like me, that means maybe a little social- attending playgroup, story time and the like for the kids, coffee with a friend or two for myself- and a little rest and recharge at home.

Round The Kettle Ep 15 – The Serious Conversations

I had a conversation with a friend this week talking about a couple of things that I haven’t really been able to talk about with friends before. We covered a variety of topics and it was kind of refreshing to just talk with someone else about different topics that have been circling in my head. I’ll be honest- while I haven’t been burrowing into my books (my version of burying your head in the sand), I have definitely avoided certain conversations…

You know the ones…

Politics, Religion, Current Events.

It feels like nowadays if you want to make/keep/cherish a friendship you shy away from these subjects.

Maybe that’s an exaggeration. Maybe our friendships should mean more than the things we disagree on, but I’ve seen so many relationships dissolve over these types of conversations. All out break up? Maybe a smidge dramatic. A slow backing away though? Definitely.

But you know what? I want to have these conversations. I want to hear what others think. I want to learn about others viewpoint, how they learned, what they believe. I WANT TO UNDERSTAND. I want to have these conversations without risking losing a friendship over a differing opinion.

I like to think of myself as an open minded individual. I also like to think of myself who likes to talk deep, go deep in the conversations, to talk about the big issues. When I have a conversation with someone where we disagree, I almost enjoy that more than when we agree on everything. It gives me a chance to learn, to understand something in a different light, to see what has us thinking differently. And sometimes through these conversations, my mind will shift. I may even start to see things differently myself, or see them even more in what I originally thought. Either way, these conversations are GREAT to have.

That is if the other person is willing to be open minded and ready to listen.

You could argue, “Mia, you aren’t choosing your friends wisely if you can’t have these types of conversations without risking friendships”. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with that. I feel like there are different types of friendships and I can have these conversations with some and not with others. That’s ok and I feel like that is pretty normal.

With all of that being said…

Do you know this feeling? Have you ever felt this way? If you have, I’m curious how you handle it? Do you have certain people that you have these conversations with? Do you get really active in the internet world having these conversations?

I’m not going to be bringing this stuff to the blog or anything like that. You will start to see some posts geared towards things that I am passionate about, but haven’t talked a lot about (I’ve mentioned all these things at some point though). BUT I won’t be straying far from what I’ve already been doing. This is just something I’ve been thinking about this past week.