A Little Judgement Chat

Here is something that has been kind of frustrating me lately. This may seem like something coming out of left field with me and maybe it is a little bit, but I’m also starting to get a little tired of holding my tongue. I’m not going to be going all gung-ho into certain topics, but I do want to share a little bit more of the things that weigh on my heart. I want to say a little bit more about things that I see. I want to try and use my voice for a little bit more if I can/when I think it is appropriate. This is one of those times as I have not only experienced this, but have seen it in action firsthand.

Here’s the deal…we all judge. Say whatever you want, we all have judged someone or something at one point in our lives. Whether we pass judgement simply in our mind or to our significant others, or actually speak your commentary out loud it really doesn’t matter. As much as I try not to, I have definitely passed judgement. Look, it’s human nature (similar to comparison, but that’s a whole other conversation).

We talk and judge about looks, actions, relationships, speech, just about anything. Whether it is perceived or real, everything we do/say or don’t is judged.

The problem that comes with passing judgement is that we don’t know what someone else is going through. Even if they give us their life story, if they are a public persona, if they are private, we quite simply don’t know the full story. We may think that someone looks unkempt and make our own remarks on that, but they could be dealing with things that we could never imagine.

Another problem with judgement: it doesn’t give either person a chance to even begin to understand. Look struggling doesn’t discriminate on any level. You could appear to live a lavish, privileged life, and be dealing with an extreme amount of depression. Yes, you are in a privileged position, but you still struggle. Someone can recognize their privilege and yet still have down days. We cannot understand someone and whatever issues they may or may not be experiencing if we judge them before they can even open their mouths.

Judgement isn’t just external either, we are prone to a lot of internal judgement which can sometimes be even more damaging. There are a lot of instances where we feel certain assumed/perceived  judgements or roles that are placed on us. We feel as if we may not be living up to a role, doing things with smiles on our faces. Some of this can come from judgements we have in the past thought or expressed, or heard someone else express.

And this judgement is what prevents a lot of people from talking about problems. It prevents a lot of people from opening up about whatever they are dealing with. And when someone feels like they can’t share what is going on it festers inside them until they can’t handle anymore, and we get an explosion of some sort. Often times we then wonder, “what happened?”. “How did this happen?”. “Why didn’t they say anything?”.

It’s a vicious circle and it’s one that only we, as individuals, can break. If each person opens with a little more kindness, a little more of an open mind, and a little less judgement or unsolicited advice (again, a whole other topic), then maybe others will feel a little bit better to share. It only takes one person to start a change in this cycle. One person. Will you be that person?

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.

 

Welcome to Our House: Entry and Kitchen!

While the library/office may be one of my favorite areas of our home, the Kitchen is the heart of our house. It’s the first room that I fully unpacked and put together, the room where I probably spend the most amount of my time, and it is an area that brings me a lot of joy (and practical utility). Our kitchen is a pretty fair size here in Europe and I have found different ways of maximizing our space and trying to keep the counters as clear as possible.

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I am attaching our little front entryway to this as it is the second thing you see when you walk into our home (the first being a welcome sign) and I really like how it came together. Also, I will put where things came from if I know, or where you could find something similar in parenthesis after.

So, we’ve got a tall wardrobe right when you come in which holds handbags and coats, as well as cleaning supplies and some kitchen linens. Spinning around you see our “home” sign which changes out seasonally (given to us as a gift), and then our storage cabinet (Target). The top drawer is a sort of “junk drawer” and the bottom cabinet portion is full of cookbooks and such. On top of the cabinet will rotate seasonally, in the spring/summer I’ll typically have fresh flowers, then in Autumn/Winter I’ll have a candle burning. This is also where any mail or papers that need to be handled will congregate.

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The pictures on the wall were all taken by me. From Left to Right: Stream at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, Cherries from our Backyard, Taco Night, Tea in Northern Virginia, Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany.

Now, to the kitchen…

Before I get really far into this- I think my favorite part is that our kitchen has its own door to the backyard. It’s a benefit not only for hosting in our backyard, but with keeping the kitchen cool. We don’t really have too many wall decorations in our actual kitchen, aside from a little bit here and there and I don’t know if that will really change as time goes on. We will see.

So, now getting into the actual kitchen. It’s a fairly basic set up, the first two drawers being our cutlery, the bottom cabinet being baking dishes and pie pans. The first top cabinet is my little tea and mug heaven at the front of our kitchen. On the counter we have our produce basket (I would recommend looking at Home sense/Home goods for one), toaster, and cookbook stand (Amazon). All of our cookbooks are stored just outside the kitchen except this one, which holds the recipes I use the most often.

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The next cabinet holds our spices and baking things (flour, sugar, brown sugar, etc.) and as you can see, the shelf above that holds various drink items. The drawers hold all of the cooking/baking utilities and measuring cups. The cabinet underneath holds pots, pans, and bowls. We’ve also got our most used cooking items, knife set, kitchen aid, and cutting boards on the counter. I feel like our counters are right at the cusp of being too cluttered, but I feel like it still works out well and the kitchen is able to be used without much complaint this way.

IMG_2986Before we get to the next rounds of counters, you can see our meal board and recycling station. I’m a big meal planner and found that having a board that lists the dinners for the week for everyone to see really helped eliminate the “what’s for dinner” conversation I seem to have daily with my family. Recycling is very big here in Europe and we have a total of 4 of these containers to separate out almost all of our things. The three you see here are for plastic, mixed, and glass. The basket on top is for paper recycling and our metal bin is above the fridge. Bins are from IKEA.

 

The second side upper cabinets holds all of our plates, bowls, and drinking glasses. We’ve also got the smaller cabinet for to go cups and water bottles and a portion of another larger cabinet is for my husband’s work meals/snacks. The bottom cabinet holds our large collection of Tupperware.

We have a large cabinet at the end of the kitchen that serves as our food storage/pantry. We bought a shelving unit from IKEA to add some much-needed space and it’s been working out very well for us at this point. Honestly- our pantry never ends up being as organized as I would like it to be (never has been), so it is something that I am continuing to work on. Shelving unit was perfect though (IKEA).

Finally, one of our only décor pieces is this sign above the door. We purchased this at a Cracker Barrel right after we got married on our way to our Honeymoon. It’s just one of those phrases 🙂

And that’s our kitchen! I hope you enjoyed! We’ve got one more room to “unveil” and I’m just working on putting the last touches on it before showing you.

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?

Self Care Pt. 2 : My Forms of Self Care

Last week we talked about Self Care, what it means, what it can look like, and how to figure out what it looks like for you. Today I want to share a little bit of what Self Care looks like for me, just to give you an idea of the different forms it can take.

For me, Self-Care is a way to just check in with myself, to check in with my soul, to make sure that I am doing ok, and then to re center myself if I am not doing ok. There are a couple different ways that I do this depending on what my needs are at that time. There are things I do daily, things I’ll do monthly, and things that happen just every once in a while.

Daily:

There are several things that I do daily that I view as forms of Self Care.

Yoga. I start my mornings off with a yoga flow that is typically anywhere from 20-50 minutes (depending on what time I have). I find that this gives me the perfect amount of time of quiet (before my early riser descends the stairs), along with the perfect amount of time to re center myself. I’ve done a whole long post about what yoga means for me and what it has done for me (you can read that HERE), but it is the one time that my brain simply stops. My brain goes quiet and all that I feel is the stretching of my muscles and the calmness steadiness of my breathe. It is pure heaven and I am able to carry that peace throughout the rest of my day. It really just centers me both physically and mentally. I can always tell if I’ve gone even a couple days without doing some form of yoga.

Journal. I try to journal every morning, over that first cup of tea after I’ve gotten ready for the day. Lately I’ve been trying to do my own form of morning pages, which I may share later on after I’ve done it for some time, but basically I try to take a little bit of time every morning to just get everything out of my head and onto paper. Usually Yoga clears my mind and journaling is just the icing on the cake for getting any last little rumblings out. Writing can just be incredibly cathartic, and I find that it really not only helps me gets the feelings off my chest, but I can also go back through and pinpoint various things that I may not have been able to see at that time.

Read a book. This is the final thing that I do daily that I would say is Self-Care. Reading is just everything to me. It is relaxation, education, escapism, a way of communicating, and so much more. I have several reading central posts coming up, but it is on the same level as Yoga for me.

Something I try to do weekly is go for a nice long walk. Now, I’m still learning our immediate area, so rather than walks we’ve just been doing nice long bouts in the backyard, but over the past couple weeks, walks have become a thing again. I found that not only is getting the exercise and sunshine such a mood booster (and a big hit for the kids), but just feeling that breeze, seeing the beauty of the countryside around us, is a really good form of self-care. It ticks all the boxes for me.

Finally, there is one thing I do monthly (almost bi monthly) that is my form of Self Care, it is also the thing that if I really just need to take care of myself I will try and do more frequently. That is take myself out to the shops or a local café. Just me, myself, my current read or my computer or my camera and some quality alone time. Often times I will just go to a local café and sit there for a few hours, eating some fresh baked goodies, sipping on a cappuccino or tea. Sometimes I’ll head to the library or to the bigger shopping center. The key thing is that it is just ME and I (and I alone) choose what to do. Occasionally my husband will take the boys out for a daddy and son day and I’ll get the house to myself, but mostly this form of Self Care is alone time at a café or the library. This to me is the ultimate of ultimate’s and it is one of my favorite things to do. I really crave the alone time (some of which simply comes from this season of life, some of which is the introvert in me) and this is the best way for me to get that. A couple hours to myself and I feel like a new wife, mom, woman.

 

I do want to also mention that I have done therapy before (as someone with my adolescent trauma it was necessary) and I highly advocate for therapy. It is so incredibly important and even if you feel like “I don’t have any issues”, it is still worth going to. A lot of times we use our friends or family as therapists (even if we don’t mean to or realize it) and while that is ok from time to time, that is not really what our entire friendship is for. I find that therapy is just a great form of release in itself and it can really help to have an outside party give you some insight. I wanted to mention it as I know that a lot of what I listed does fit into the “romantic ideal” that I talked about previously, but therapy is one of those forms of Self Care that maybe isn’t shared or pictured, but is so incredibly important and I definitely view it as a form of Self Care for myself.

 

So, that’s my basic self-care. What do you do to practice self-care?

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!