I Didn’t Give Germany A Chance

Untitled Design 7When we first started tossing around the idea of moving to Germany it felt surreal. The concept of actually living in Europe wasn’t something I could have wrapped my head around. I had been to England and Scotland when I was a baby, but Europe was this distant dream that I dreamed for a long time, but never really thought would be able to be a reality.

When we got orders, it still felt surreal. I couldn’t believe that this dream I had would be a reality. That we would be so blessed. The concept of being able to travel Europe, to go to all these countries was just too good to be true. Incredible. I thought of all the sights we could see, all the countries we would visit.

And I’ll be honest- I treated Germany as simply a location. A central spot that we could then travel out of. Not as a place to explore beyond a few historical landmarks. I knew about Germany, knew its history, it’s big cities, some of its culture (like Oktoberfest), and that was about it. I focused solely on EVERYWHERE else we could go, all the other things that we could see, all the dreams that would no longer be just dreams.

I now realize how much of a mistake this was.

Germany is stunning. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its own spots ,it doesn’t have troubles, but I definitely should have thought more about everything that we could do within its borders, rather than just looking outside the country. There is so much to see here, so many little holes in the wall spots that no one really thinks about that are just stunning. A lot of the little towns are old world quaint and each has its own history. Take Tubingen (HERE) or even Weltenburg Abbey (HERE), we had considered these both a nice little day trip, but both are so perfectly European and German, and I loved it. This was something I hadn’t really thought about when we got orders. The history here goes back much further than I had even anticipated (yep, I’m naïve) and there is a never-ending number of things to do and places to see.

And, since we can’t ignore the elephant in the room…Germany has such a way with its own history. They have quite the history here, quite the troubled past, but they’ve managed to settle with it. One of the things that has stuck with me in our time here so far is how they handle their own history. They don’t hide behind it; they don’t bring it up time and time again. They acknowledge what happened, they acknowledge the hurt and pain that was caused, they punish those responsible. They take steps to make reparations, they don’t destroy everything relating to their own history, choosing to make the most incredible memorials that I’ve seen out of the pieces. The Berlin Wall Documentation Center, The Berlin Wall, The Eastside Gallery, Dachau Concentration Camps, Nuremberg Rally Grounds, Nuremberg Court House…the list goes on. All of these places are landmarks, marking down what happened for everyone to see. They’ve made changes, they’ve learned, anyone who visits these places learns. They move forward.

We can all take a lesson from that.

Not to mention just the sheer amount of history here. In a city right near us they are excavating bodies from Roman times and have a set of Roman archways from… It’s incredible to think that some of the places that we see have that much history.

We won’t even start to get into the culture of this country. Festival season is such a fun, warm and welcoming time, not to mention the season we are about to go into…the most wonderful time of year. The way of life, the idea of a slower pace. We live in the countryside (something we’ve been wanting for a long time) and the number of animals and crops that we see daily is something else. It’s been an incredible bit of time and one that we are looking forward to continuing for the next couple of years.

I’ve found a true home in a place that I hate to admit that I discounted. I figured it would be a home base for everywhere, but we’ve really made a home here in such a short time. I won’t discount a place again.

 

Some Thoughts on Consumerism

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You know what’s a funny thing? I heard or participated in a similar version of what I’m about to write about around 3-4 times in the past week. And to be fair- it’s kind of opened my eyes a little bit to something that I had felt, but hadn’t articulated.

Here’s how it all started…

I, and a couple of friends were having a conversation about some of the differences and struggles about living in Germany as compared to living in the United States. A question was posed: “On your weekends, what did you do?”  My friend and I sat there for a couple seconds, wondering if it was rhetorical or a trick. “Uh, watched football?” “Ran errands?”  We responded. “Exactly. We watch TV and we shop on our weekends.” We hesitantly agreed and then the magic happened…”We have to realize that there is more to the world than Walmart”.

“We have to realize there is more to the world than Walmart”.

Maybe it’s not Walmart, maybe it’s Target (be honest- it’s probably Target), maybe it’s Nordstrom, or Marshall’s/TJ Max’s, maybe it’s boutique stores. You can interchange Walmart with just about any store and come up with what fits you and a true statement. And with a lot of these stories we have the ability to do this 24/7. The internet has made the possibility of shopping literally wherever, whenever  I mean, how many times have we all just “amazoned” an item?) and often times stores then try to compete with that by staying open later on weekdays and opening up all weekend. We are also consuming high levels of media. In homes, TV’s tend to be more on than off, we are almost always on our phones in some way, not to mention computers and tablets.

This boggles my mind. How is it that we manage to spend our free time doing these things? How is it that we are so inundated with this idea that we need to buy all the things, watch all the things, be a part of this lifestyle that we forget that there is so much more to life. There is more to the world.

I’ve been 100% guilty of doing this. I was someone who spent most weekends at home, in my comfiest chair, TV on, book in hand, phone never too far away. When we would leave the house 60% of the time it would be to go to a store of some sort. Oftentimes a trip to the grocery store would also involve a trip to the Target shopping center. I bought a lot of things on Amazon (some we needed; most we didn’t “need”) for the convenience. We had the option of just clicking and buying whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. So, why not do that?

Have you ever heard…”Go into Target for one thing, come out with a dozen other things and not the thing you needed”? THIS. This is what I’m talking about. The idea that just going to Target to do a quick shopping run and buy ALL THE THINGS and this is the cool norm now? That’s wrong. Whether you can afford it or not, there is more to life than just one big long shopping trip.

When we moved to Germany things were vastly different.

For starters, there are a lot more outdoor markets in the different regions. Fresh produce from right down the road is always available for purchase. Fresh seasonal flowers (some of which you can cut yourself) are around. In town grocery stores are smaller than they are in the States and have smaller carts/are intended for smaller trips. The festivals tend to feature more local artisans than not.

Stores close EARLY (and I mean like anywhere from 5-6PM) and are all always closed on Sundays (except for Shopping Sunday which happens every couple months). Life here is focused on the in-person connection. Meals last for hours at restaurants, allowing people the time to really forge connections and conversations. There are not a lot of people that you see on the phone while out in public. It’s a vastly slower pace of life, without that massive jump to buy. There are a lot more outdoor activities, from hikes to biking to canoeing to paddle boating.

There is also a much bigger focus on travel here. Most people spend their “free money” and savings on traveling, seeing new places and learning about new things. We’ve quickly caught that travel bug and that is where a lot of our budget goes toward. We have been finding that we did not actually take enough weekend trips previously and how easy those types of trips really are.

It’s such a different way of life and one that I’ve really found loving. I’ve quickly settled into this slower pace lifestyle. My shopping has been cut down quite a bit (due in part to convenience and in part to just general shipping times for online shopping) and I’ve really found myself evaluating a couple of lifestyle choices. I’ve been wanting a bit of a change for a while and Germany has kind of given me the push to make that change. These are changes that I want to keep whenever we do go back stateside as I find them to be such positives and something that I think more people could benefit from.

We need to make a point to spend less time shopping, less time watching TV, less time lounging in our own home, and more time getting to know our world. Putting the digital world aside on the weekend and living in the real world. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with watching TV, or having the occasional trip to the shops (beyond grocery shopping), but the way that we have started treating our lives in the States is kind of scary to think about.

Is the 24/7 convenience of being able to shop nice? Yea, but how many times are we really needing that convenience? Is this something that can wait till the next day? Better yet, is it something that we really need or something we think we need because of the mentality?

Let me know your thoughts on consumerism as I’d love to have a discussion about it. This is something that has been itching in the back of my mind, this difference in culture and mindset, and I’d love to speak about it with others!

Round the Kettle Ep. 20: A Life that Seems Like a Vacation

I’ll be completely honest- I’m writing this on a Friday when I’d rather be reading, snacking on some super healthy snacks called tortilla chips, and hoping for the day to end soon. Ironically, today is the first day that I am feeling like a human again after a rough couple of days. I’ve been dealing with a migraine for the past few days, and while I have been able to manage most of my migraines, this particular one is not one that I can easily prevent.

Thankfully the kids have actually been relatively well behaved over the past week since I’ve been dealing with this migraine and have been going solo with Robert being away. They’ve been like charming little angels, which has been a nice reprieve. I’m hoping that maybe we’ve crossed an imaginary bridge into a different phase of their little lives. One that is calmer, maybe?

I want to talk about something today that I have been seeing and experiencing a little bit recently. I actually spoke about this with a friend earlier today during our children’s playdate and I found that we had pretty similar experiences and thoughts on the subject. I briefly spoke about this on Social Media, but am going to expand now.

We currently live in Europe and have lived here for about 9 months now. Just saying that still feels so surreal I can’t even describe that feeling. We are so blessed and are taking advantage of the time that we have here to do a fair amount of traveling and learn about the culture here.  We love it here, truly, and have made a home out of our house and neighborhood. We’ve made friends, the boys have such a great social life, and we plan on starting up with sports come Spring. We are creating a life for ourselves for the next few years, a semi-permanent existence.

We travel a fair bit over here, trying to do some sort of trip a couple times a month (no more than that though- it’s exhausting, more on that in an upcoming post). Our traveling is what works for us, we travel more than some, less than others.

Honestly, we live a life that almost seems like a vacation.

We always share the good sides, the happy moments, and all the travel that it often seems to paint a picture of pure bliss and constant travels. I have gotten swept up in sharing that as that is what so many want to see. They want to live a life through you since you’ve gotten this incredible opportunity and I won’t begrudge anyone of that.

Here’s the thing though, we are building a life here. We have a home here. My husband works here. Our life is not just one big happy vacation. Sometimes it is weeks and weeks at home, having playdates, reading books, writing posts. Sometimes it is trips to castles, to other beautiful countries, to festivals we had never even dreamed about. Our travels are a dream come true and yet a struggle with two toddlers (because even the most easy-going kids have their moments). We have bad days that aren’t just magically solved because we are in Europe, in fact some struggles are unique to actually being IN Europe. I try to show the good and the bad, what we like and don’t like, and what we’ve learned, but understand that I get swept up in showing only the good just like anyone else. It’s not just a long vacation, even though sometimes it can feel like it, this is our life here.

With that being said, the past couple weeks have been down weeks. We spent the week doing normal things, playgroup, playdates, coffees…laundry and cleaning. I dealt with a migraine. Robert was away for work. Just everyday life. Is it more exciting with a European backdrop? Yes, it certainly can be. Little things can be big adventures that you wouldn’t be able to experience in the states. But we also still have bad times and we don’t get to not feel bad about those bad days just because we are living in Europe. We aren’t able to just spend all our days here traveling and that’s not reasonable at this stage of our life. With two toddlers, traveling presents its own unique travels. And we have pretty easy-going traveling boys.

So, that’s where we are at now. Just a little side tangent. How are you doing? How is your Sunday going?

Round the Kettle Ep 19 – Turning Home

Oh boy. When I originally started this little feature, it was meant to be every other week (at least twice a month) and as I went to go check what episode number it is I realized it’s been a whole month since we have had one! To be fair- it’s been an exciting, busy, in some ways exhausting month. I’ve gone from festival to festival, trip to trip, day to day activities without stopping.

We’ve gone from adventure to adventure and are now, as the title suggests, turning home for a few weeks.

But first, how are you? Are you enjoying the Autumnal weather and colors? Has Autumn even started to creep in where you live?

I’m sat here at our Dining Room table typing away (not in my office for once) and as I look up and out the windows I can see the storm brewing for a rainy afternoon, the bright orange and yellows of the trees across the field, and leaves dancing through the air when the breeze hits just right. It’s pure bliss for me.

I’m falling even deeper in love with Autumn here. It’s like the area comes alive with festivals, colors, a lightness, and warmth (even though most days it’s a wet chilly and rainy). Our days are full of off and on rain, with little bursts of sunshine peppered throughout and the trees have put out a full show like I don’t see this early on. I’m looking forward to seeing what a quiet rest of October feels like- just soaking in the changes around us.

The past month we’ve managed to travel over to Austria for the Almabtrieb (HERE), to a spectacular light show that everyone is STILL talking about (HERE), experience what a small town festival feels like (HERE), experience Germany/German Culture at its finest with Oktoberfest (HERE), take a little river ferry to a nearby Abbey, and finally cross a few castle’s off of our list (blog posts to come).

I’ve been trying to breathe in those little pockets of time in between, but we are all eager to get a chance to just breathe at home. To be able to put our feet up for a little while.

I say all this now, but in a week or two I’ll probably catch the travel bug all over again. Living in Europe we’ve really managed to catch that travel bug, trying to turn any free moment into a chance to explore, to head out on a new adventure. Luckily we’ve managed to figure out how to make it work for us so we don’t feel this burnout all the time (we can go a few weeks of off and on before we need a little longer break), but, in the sake of honesty, that travel burnout is a THING and it is something that surprised us in a way. I’ll talk more about that soon, but wanted to mention it now.

Have you caught the Travel bug before? Done any good traveling? What was your favorite destination?

I’ve also started to look towards the end of the year. We are in the last 3 months of this year (let alone the last 3 months of this decade- way to put pressure on that) and I’ve been evaluating the year, evaluating the last couple of years, and just taking stock. So many things have changed, so many have stayed the same. I think it’s always a good idea to take a little bit of time towards the end of the year and just look back. Look at what is working, what isn’t working, what you want to change. I try to do this before the proper end of the year as the last couple weeks of December just tend to blur together anyways ha-ha.

So, that’s the basic gist of this post. We are looking forward to a little quiet time at home after the past few weeks. The boys have really hit their stride here with friends and activities and I think I have too. I feel like I’ve got a good circle around me and things are really going well. I know this post has been a bit…all over and maybe a bit different, but it’s just where my head is at on this Thursday afternoon.

How about for you?

Self Care Pt. 1: What is Self Care?

Something I’ve touched on lately is the need for Self-Care. The idea that we can’t take care of others without taking care of ourselves. I am a huge advocate for Self-Care, but I have found that the meaning has become quite “gray area” lately with-it mental health and actually taking care of ourselves becoming a more normal conversation to have. When you hear about “Self-Care” most people will assume bubble baths, easy evenings, coffee, mani/pedi, etc., but in reality its much much more than that.

Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. It doesn’t matter what that activity actually is (unless you are doing something illegal or dangerous to yourself and others).

Something important to remember is that Self Care isn’t always a bubble bath and a good book or a long run. Often times it can be just that, but other times it can be going to see a therapist, going to a group session, it can be trying to dissect a problem you’ve had recently, it can be crying on the floor. Self-care is any intentional act that you are doing to take care of yourself and it’s not always the “romantic” ideal that is portrayed all over social media and television.

Another important thing to remember when it comes to Self-Care is that it looks different to everyone. We are all individuals, with individual needs, individual hardships. Sometimes what really works well for one person doesn’t work for another person, or sometimes it does with a slight adjustment. Some really just need that quiet cup of coffee first thing in the morning, some people need to just scroll on their phone, and some people need to talk their issues out.

The idea of Self Care changes throughout our lives too. As we go through seasons of life in our jobs, in our family unit, in our marriage, in our roles in life, the idea of Self Care changes. I think that everyone can agree that our views change as we grow as people, and so to does the concept of what rejuvenates us, what frees our mind and soul. I think it’s important to acknowledge that what may have worked as a good form of Self Care when we were teenagers may not be what works (or even a viable possibility) for us in our mid 20’s, or moving forward into our 30’s and 40’s. Our lives change, we change, and Self Care will change too.

Next week I will talk a little bit about what Self Care looks like for me, but I find that if you are struggling to figure out what self-care looks like for you (which can be a struggle if you aren’t sure what you really need) I have a couple of tips.

  • Pay attention to when you start to get overwhelmed or stressed. What is your first instinct? What specifically do you want to do when these feelings creep in? Do you want to lash out? Do you want to run away? Do you want to curl up? What is going through your mind? Pay attention because these will be your first signals as to what Self Care can be for you. I’m not saying if your first instinct is to run away, then go for a run (although you could certainly try that!), but maybe taking time away, by yourself is what you need to take care of yourself. If you want to lash out, maybe a hard workout or some form of physical activity is a good idea to help clear your mind.
  • Write everything down. Write down the answers to the questions in Point 1. Write down your feelings. Write down what you want to accomplish. Write everything down, get it off of your chest, and then walk away for a little bit. Go physically take a walk, grab a bite to eat, read a couple chapters of a book, take a bath. Don’t walk away for good (you’ll want to come back to see what you’ve written),but just let yourself feel that freedom for a little bit before coming back to what you’ve written. Just make sure you come back to what you’ve written. There, in that writing, things are going to jump out of you. Answers to the Self Care question. When you come back to see what you’ve written, write down what you did. What made you feel better. Was it the act of writing it out? Was it the walk you went on? Maybe some other physical activity. Or maybe it was getting lost in your book, or taking a pampering bath. Regardless, at the end of all that writing, you’ll have a really good look at what triggered you, what made you feel better, and what Self Care may look like for you.
  • Finally, try a couple different things. Nothing is going to be crystal clear the first go around and it make take trying several different things before finding something that really clicks with you and really helps bring yourself and your soul back into balance. Don’t be afraid to try different things, different times, different days, whatever in order to find what works for you. And don’t be afraid to change things up every once in a while. Remember, self-care isn’t always set in stone, it changes as we change and as our needs change.

So, that’s my first little look into Self Care. I hope that you enjoyed or learned something from it!

Round the Kettle Ep 18 – Autumn is Here

It may be 76 degrees F when I am posting this, but I am calling it…Autumn is here and it’s here to stay. Aside from this random, almost “hot” day, we’ve had upper 60’s, some days grey some days sunny, both with that crisp morning air. I’ve started seriously switching my wardrobe around to be full of sweaters instead of tanks and you can just feel the changing season all around.

Autumn is MY season and I’m not just saying that to be basic or anything like that. I’ve always found comfort in the changing leaves, the weather shifting cooler, and the return of cozy long sweaters. There’s that feeling of comfort, of cozyness, of staying in that just really resonates deep in my soul. To top that off, I am looking forward to spending this Autumn (and the next couple) in the German countryside. Our area is already breathtaking, I can only imagine seeing the landscape painted with the reds, yellows, and oranges of the changing leaves. Seeing that Autumn sun peak through the trees on our drives. I cannot wait.

Are you getting any doses of Autumn?

Other than the dream of Autumn, we’ve been all about getting out of our house, getting involved in some of the local events, hanging out with friends and neighbors, and making some exciting purchases. We spent last weekend doing all things German Fest season- getting our dirndl and lederhosen, spending some time at our little town festival, and figuring out Oktoberfest (still haven’t figured that out haha). We followed that up with a Lazy Day at Home, which was the perfect combination.

We’ve been spending most of our weeks either out of the house, or hosting playdates. The boys have found their “friends” (like at that age everyone is a friend, but they definitely have their “best friends” that they play with regularly) and thankfully I’ve found some friends with the moms. It’s been good all around and it’s been really nice to have the freedom to our days. I know I’ve talked about that before, but it’s just been so good for our entire family.

We don’t really have too many plans for the rest of the month, my husband’s schedule picks back up for a little while here so we will be putting our noses down and just trying to get things done and keep some sense of normal. We do have a couple of day trips planned to semi local events around us that we are going to go to with friends to keep us busy, but overall it’s going to be another homey bit of time for us.

How are things with you? How has the start of your September been?

Breaking Bad Habits

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those bad habits; the one’s that creep in when you are at a low point, or stressed, or too busy to really pay attention. Maybe it’s food, maybe it’s stress, maybe it’s your thoughts, whatever it is, they are the habits that can be hardest to break (and keep broken).

I’ve definitely succumbed to some bad habits lately. My food has not been the best between vacationing and the busy day to day that our month has been. My thinking has definitely hit some low points that have been hard to dig out of. My sleeping and exercising, hell my phone use, it’s kind of all started to add up to a whole lot of…bad habits and mess. I’ve been feeling like I need to…get my s*it back together and the best place to start that is…by breaking all those bad habits I’ve let back into my life.

I know I can’t be alone in this whole “life is hard, bad habits abound, I want to pull myself back together” phase, so I figured I would share a few blog posts on how I get myself out of a vicious funk and back on to my track. I’m going to do a post dedicated on breaking bad habits, getting organized (to include my routines which are new with a new house J), incorporating some self-care for busy schedules, and a look see into my rest of the year plans/goals. A little re center in time for Autumn to strike, right? I figured with school starting up for many of us (students and parents alike), now’s as good a time as any to…get our s*it back together.

So, how do we do this? We start with breaking the bad habits. Depending on what these habits are will dictate what your steps are. Let’s start by talking about our bad habits…

For me, the biggest bad habit that has really come back is my eating. I’ll admit I’ve been frequenting the junk food (chips and popcorn especially) and over the past two months I’ve probably had more soda than I’ve had collectively in the past year. It’s been a mess. I’m not going to go on and on about food, but basically it plays such a vital role in both our physical and mental wellbeing. When we are not nourishing our body properly, we can’t be expected to be at our best.

The second biggest bad habit that I’ve let really back in is my thoughts. We’ve had a…month. It hasn’t been BAD, nothing has really gone truly wrong, it was just harder than we expected coming back from vacation and jumping straight back into life. I don’t really want to talk about it, or complain about it (because it could have been much worse), but I’ll simply say that it was a little tougher than expected. And to be honest, at some points I reveled in that negativity a little too much. I constantly waged a battle with how I was feeling, and what I was actually thinking and wanting to feel. Perspective can be a b*tch basically. I hate to admit how many days I let those negative thoughts win and became a do nothing for the day. I’ll talk more about all of this (and our month) later.

So, we’ve figured out what our bad habits are (hopefully you’ve acknowledged yours in the comments). This is the most important. Once we pinpoint what the bad habits are, we can pinpoint where they come from and how to break them.

The next step is to figure out what kind of habit breaker are you, cold turkey or slowly back away. These are both fairly straightforward, cold turkey being stopping completely and slowly backing away meaning slowly cutting back on whatever those habits are.

For me, and like many others, I bounce back and forth. If it’s a food habit, I have to cut cold turkey, but most other things I ease out of slowly. In fact, most of the times if I have a bad food habit and cut it out, everything else seems to right itself in time (see how much of a role food plays?).

So, starting yesterday, Sunday August 25, 2019 the only junk food that is in my house is pre popped popcorn and any home baked goods that I choose to make. For me, if I don’t see it, I don’t want it. If it’s in my house, chances are it’ll get eaten. Now, you may be thinking that that is a random date to start making changes on, and it is in a way. Because you don’t want to wait for the start of a new month, or the start of a new year, or any other start. JUST START.

That’s the third step. Once you know what to do, do it! Don’t wait for any timeline, because when that timeline comes around chance are, you won’t do it. If you are in the mindset now of breaking those bad habits (and chances are if you’re thinking about this or reading this, then you are), then now is the time to start. Starting is easy!

If it’s a food thing, get rid of whatever. If it’s a thought thing, start tracking what you are grateful for every day. If it’s a stress thing, implement stress relieving techniques (my favorite is yoga or any form of exercise). Start journaling, write down the process, your thoughts, your feelings.

The final step to breaking a bad habit is to stick with it. Let’s be honest, the first week is easy. You are riding on that “I’ve got this” high and you feel great. The second week is relatively easy, you’ve still got that feeling going. It’s the third week. The third week those habits start to try and creep back in. DON’T LET THEM. If you make it through the third week without those bad habits, it only takes through the end of the fourth week before they are broken. Stick with it! Don’t get to week three and cave in to whatever it is. Stay strong and remember that you are strong enough to get through anything. Breaking those bad habits won’t break you and you’ll feel better on the other side.

So, what bad habit are you ready to break?