A Little Life Chat

The second half of June has historically been a time of reflection for me. It is the halfway point of the year and a good time to sort of do a little check in and evaluate. So that’s what we are doing today. It’s a bit early, but I felt like it was just…right. That and I don’t have my next Castle’s post fully ready to post ha-ha.

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So, 2020. What a year so far, right?! We’ve faced a global pandemic and a global uprising/protest. We’ve seen communities, families, strangers all come together to accomplish some incredible things. I’ve learned some things about myself, about those that I am close to, and how to get uncomfortable. 2020 is going to be a year for the history books and I think we are going to see some real changes moving forward in regard to both the pandemic and the uprising. We aren’t going to go back to “normal” because that wasn’t working, but I do think the changes that we are starting to see, and initiate will lead to a better world. I don’t want to call anything a “new normal” because “normal” in any sense just doesn’t work for us anymore. It makes it sound like we are just striving to the average way of life, instead of always striving to do better, be better, make better changes.

For us as a family 2020 has been full of changes so far as well. We’ve seen our oldest go into his first session of preschool, to then do virtual schooling, our youngest has grown quite the little personality, and both have narrowed down their current interests quite a bit (dinosaurs, cars, Lego’s, and trains are the top). We’ve gone through a couple of work separations, work changes, and some disappointing news that I’m not sharing just yet ( I KNOW how annoying that is, but it’ll come).

It’s also ONLY June. We still have a full half a year to go in 2020.

Something else I kind of wanted to do was do a little check in on some of my resolutions that I shared. I want to see where I stand with them, while understanding that a lot of things have drastically changed from when I wrote those in late December.

So, my New Year’s Resolutions post can be found HERE

My first goal was to spend the first half of the year focusing on my website and SEO. I’ve been doing quite a bit of learning in this area, but haven’t yet gotten on Pinterest. When quarantine hit I thought it was going to be a great chance to really focus and hone in as, well…we couldn’t do anything else. But, as I quickly learned it was the complete opposite of that and trying to make drastic changes was not in my wheelhouse. I plan to refocus this goal to the second half of the year and have a good Pinterest thing going in the next 3 months or so.

My second overarching goal applied to the second half of this year (in regards to writing and publishing), so I still have time on that one!

My next group of goals was in regards to content. I wanted to make sure that what I was posting was what I felt 100% about and not to feel pressured to constantly be posting. I think that I’ve actually been really good at this, partly because of Covid-19, but also just because I’ve tried to be very intentional about posting. I love sharing and writing, but I also want to continue to enjoy that. I took a bit of time in February off, there were a couple weeks in March (or maybe April) where I only posted once a week, and that all just felt good. It keeps me feeling fresh and allows me a breather to re invigorate myself and my content.

The next group was in regards to reading, family time with my boys, travel, and quality time. I was doing better about reading a wider variety of books, but I’ve recently (like many others) been reminded that I can continue to do better in this area. I am pledging to myself to not only read a wider variety of genre’s and stories, but read a wider variety of authors. As for the family time with the boys, well we’ve been really forced into that, haven’t we? I will say in so many ways this has been so good for our family. We’ve really just gotten a chance to be together without the whole outside world distracting us. It’s been nice for the boys to have mommy and daddy home all the time, but it’s made our recent work separation all that much harder.

We all know what is going on with travel and the lack of it due to Covid-19. However, we recently just were informed that our restriction for travel within the country of Germany has been lifted so I am eagerly looking for some getaways within the country. We are also starting to hopefully be able to plan for some Fall or Winter trips. Keeping our fingers crossed.

My final goal was to do more date nights with my husband and well…that’s gone about the same way as the travel goal ha-ha. Hopefully though, now that our restrictions are being lifted more and more we can start doing those date nights again. I know that I am ready for some kid free time with my husband.

So, that’s my check in on 2020 so far. As we go into the second half of the year, I want to continue to listen, inform, and better educate myself on our community and world at large. I want to strive to be better and do better.

How is your 2020 so far?

The Personality Test Crisis

I’ve never been a big one for personality tests. In all honesty, most I felt like ended up giving the result that the taker “wanted” to get. Let’s not all lie to ourselves, how many of us picked the answers that we thought we should have? How many of us wanted a specific result so we picked the answer we thought would get us that result (I’m looking at you Meyers-Briggs). Sure, I’ve had to take personality tests before for a job and I would like to think I answered honestly on those, but it’s human nature when confronted with a complex or divisive question to pick the answer “society” expects. Or is it?

This is a story about how one personality test turned my whole Sunday Night upside down.

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You may have heard a while back about a new personality test going around called the Enneagram. I had heard of it, but as you can guess from the above, was not interested in taking it. I’m a fairly confident person, sure of who I am and what I want in life. I may have had a passing interest in the concept of the Enneagram, but I hadn’t fully “bought into” the concept. Plus, from my understanding, this test was accurate and was brutal about your weaknesses/detractors. Who wants to know all of that or just have it thrust back in your face after painfully tucking it away?

After this test had been circulated through, and having multiple friends suggest I take it/ask what my results were (kudos to my friend Tes for being the final person to push me into the test…and then soothe my soul/help me navigate haha), I figured what the hell. Maybe I should take it. This, my friends, turned into a whole night spent in crisis (I kid…kind of).

The Enneagram is one of the most…detailed and in depth that I’ve seen go around. Not only is it exhaustive in its descriptions and details for the 9 types, but it goes beyond and details out more specifics “wings” that work alongside your dominant type. I’ve not seen a test not only so detailed, but so spot on (in the end- once I got there). The actual Enneagram Institute Website goes into such incredible detail about the test, the types, the wings, the levels; every detail that you could think of (you can find that HERE).

There are many, many, many Enneagram tests circulating on the internet, free and charged. I took three. They all seem to follow along the same vain, you either are selecting which trait is the most like/unlike you, or you are presented with a series of phrases that you determine is most like/unlike you. Now, I took three because the first two gave me different results. The third was to be my conclusive test. It wasn’t.

At this point, I suppose I should tell you what I actually scored, huh? At the end of the day I am a 9w1 living at a healthy Level 2/3. So, what does that actually mean? It means that my entire life is played out in this link…

When I took all the tests, I tested at both a Type 2 and a Type 9 (actually one of the most frequent mistypes is between these two types). This led me to that little mini crisis that I mentioned and was only semi kidding about. There are a few main differences between a 2 and a 9, one being humble/proud, another being giving to give/giving to receive. It’s much more complicated than that, but those are the gist of the two. I did an extensive (almost embarrassing) amount of reading, googling, meme-ing, even the Sleeping At Last playlist on Spotify, just to understand. To try and figure out what I ACTUALLY was. I don’t know why it was so important to me, but having the conclusive answer just was.

After spending a bit of time doing research (and yet another test), I looked on the actual Enneagram Institute website. I read through the entirety of the Type 9 (which is what was the best fit for me after the previous amount of reading/listening/meme-ing I had done) to get a clearer answer. And that is when it became abundantly clear.

Every Type on the Enneagram has various levels. Each level is classified as Healthy, Average, Unhealthy and reading through these levels was like reading through my life over the past 18 years. Seeing the various levels, seeing that the basics of Type 9 to the intricacies of Type 9 solidified everything. The things about Type 9 that didn’t necessarily ring true to who I am now were at different Levels and definitely rang true at some point of my life. Which is why, when I gave my type earlier, I included what level I was currently living at.

Now, is this the end all be all? No. Why did I devote a now almost 820-word blog post to this topic when I don’t think that this whole Personality Test is really all that important? I don’t know. I found it really interesting to read up on and I actually learned some new things about myself, or rather words to describe some of the things that I do. Such as “numbing out” which is a way of living in premature peacefulness. I found a couple of tips or things to work on about myself and my flaws. Overall, it was an interesting thing to research and something really neat to learn about myself.

What do you think? Are you a personality test taker? If you’ve done it…what’s your enneagram? Did you feel like it was accurate?

All the Castles – Germany Edition!

While we still are in a “safer at home” state, the world is slowly starting to open back up again (in fact, while finalizing some of my research for this post I’ve learned that Lichtenstein is in fact open with restrictions!). I’m still over here dreaming about all of the places we can visit and the countries we plan on going to over the next bit of 2020 (once the borders open of course), but I figured today I would do a fun little round up on the blog and start talking about some of the castles we’ve been to.

In compiling this list, I’ve realized that we’ve been to more castles than I had originally realized, so, as the title suggests, this will be full construction German Castles. I will do a separate post for the United Kingdom (which will include palaces as well!), other European Countries, as well as the ruins that we’ve explored. I will also include at the end of each blog post any Castles that are still on our “to go to” list for each region (so at the end of this post I’ll have a list of the castles I would still like to go to in Germany). Once we go to a few more, I’ll do another round up of those as well.

As always, I’ll link to full blog posts where applicable, but I am going to include pictures, a little history, and my own thoughts as we go along.

It seems like people who go to castles fall into two categories, the “you’ve been to one you’ve been to them all” or “they are all different and we should see them all”. If anything, I fall into that second category as not only do I LOVE castles and see differences in each one, but I also LOVE the history of each castle. In most cases these houses are beyond our comprehension in terms of age and what actually went into the planning and construction of these castles is incredible (and yes, some have a dark history as well). I’m just a bit of a history nerd over it all.

So, with all of that blabbering out of the way, let’s get into the castles…

Hohenschwangau Castle (BLOG POST, MORE INFORMATION)

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We are going to start our post with the little sister to Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau. Nestled in the Alps at the German Austrian border, this castle is absolutely stunning. It is first mentioned in the 12th Century and was owned by the Knights of Schwangau until the 16th century. Eventually in the early 19th century King Maximillian took ownership, and had it rebuilt per its original plans. It was used by the royal family as a summer and hunting residence up until King Ludwig II decided to build his private residence of Neuschwanstein.

Hohenschwangau is a beautiful castle to see. It’s one that I feel like sometimes gets a bit neglected with Neuschwanstein being right next to it, but it is gorgeous, mixing the perfect location with the perfect interiors. In fact, you actually get to see more of the interior of Hohenschwangau than you get to of Neuschwanstein. The gardens have some stunning views of the lakes and alps and the castle itself has a fuller story to tell (you’ll see why when you read on). I actually initially ranked Hohenschwangau higher on my list of castles because of this.

Neuschwanstein Castle (BLOG POST, MORE INFORMATION)

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Ah, one of the most famous castles. The inspiration for Disney Castles. The most picturesque of all the castles, Neuschwanstein. It’s only when you learn the history of the castle and its King that it becomes a bit different looking. Neuschwanstein Castle was built for King Ludwig II as a private residence; a refuge from the public. It was intended as a sort of rebuild of Hohenschwangau, but bigger and better. The construction began in 1868 with completion in 1892. It was at the forefront of technology both in the construction of the castle and the methods used, to the interior of the castle. The large windows were unusual for the time as was the heating and serving methods within the castle. However, King Ludwig only spent 11 nights in his dream castle before his death (this is an interesting story- it was claimed that he had gone mad and he was found drowned alongside his psychiatrist. There are different stories claiming whether he was or was not mad, what role his mistress played in the entire affair, and how he actually died).

As picturesque as Neuschwanstein is (and IT IS picturesque), I found it to be a bit…dark and small when compared to Hohenschwangua. This could be because you don’t see nearly as much of the castle (part of this was due to the reconstruction that was going on while we were there). It wasn’t my favorite, even though I still absolutely loved it. It was a good look see for the pictures and views. Looking back now, knowing the full history of the castle it definitely holds a little bit more of an air of mystery and intrigue.

Hohenzollern Castle (BLOG POST, MORE INFORMATION)

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At this time, I think this is my favorite German Castle. It is just…foreboding but quaint, set high on a hilltop with stunning views and yet so warm and home-y. It also has quite the history and, unlike the above two, was never built to be a residence. First mentioned directly in 1267, this is the ancestral seat of the Prussian Royal House and of the Hohenzollern Princes. It was rebuilt in the mid 15th century to become a bigger/better house and then became a fortress in the 17th century during the 30 Years War. After the war it fell into a bit of disrepair until the 19th century when Frederik of Prussia decided to reconstruct and turn it into a bit of a showpiece for the public. What we currently see of Hohenzollern dates back to 1850 and is considered an acclaimed masterpiece of military architecture. The only time that the castle was used as an actual temporary residence was during World War II.

I know I’ve already said it, but Hohenzollern is my favorite as it stands now. I loved our time wandering the battlements, walking the entry gate, seeing the various artworks detailing Prussian history (placed starting in the 1950s), and the courtyard…the courtyard made me swoon. This castle just had it all that you would want in a castle. In fact, I would like to go back for a Christmas Market (or really any market) if possible before our time in Europe is done.

Lichtenstein Castle (BLOG POST, MORE INFORMATION)

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Lichtenstein Castle is one of those castles that you just marvel at from start to finish. It seems to defy the rules of gravity, of building, of everything and is just a place to be experienced. First built in 1100 it went through a very destructive history of being built and destroyed several times. Despite that cycle, it withstood every attack and was considered the best fortified fortress of the middle ages (which it doesn’t take a military strategist to see why). In the second half of the 16th century it lost its ducal seat (and therefore lost its “castle” status) and started to deteriorate. In 1802 it was dismantled entirely to the bones and turned into a hunting lodge. Finally, in 1840 it was rebuilt for the final time into the castle we see today. Count Wilhelm was inspired by a novel called Lichtenstein by Wilhelm Hauffhe and decided to build a German Medieval Knights Castle. It is now privately owned and certain areas of the castle and courtyard are available for rental for performances or weddings!

Lichtenstein is just one of those castles you have to see. Perched right on the edge of a cliff you not only get the thrill from just feeling on the edge of the world, but this history of building, tearing down, and rebuilding is just incredible. It also has the only visible damage from World War 2 that we saw in all the castles (a bullet hole in a mirror that was fired during the war). What made our particular trip a bit cooler (in my opinion) was that it was rainy and foggy, so you could not only get the eerie feeling of being up on the mountains and this incredible castle looming over everything, but also just get a real taste of the history. However, as someone who is afraid of heights (or rather falling from a height), being there was a bit terrifying as well (walking across that bridge?!).

I want to do one Honorable mention of Dresden Castle (BLOG POST, MORE INFORMATION). We haven’t actually been properly to the castle itself, however we have walked the Procession of Princes, seen/walked the Zwinger Palace Courtyards, and seen the exterior of the castle.

The Dresden Castle was originally built around the beginning of the 13th century and (after a fire and rebuild in the early 18th century) has been home to Electors, Kings of Saxony, and Kings of Poland. It was fully destroyed in the bombing of Dresden in February of 1945 and the restoration didn’t start until the 1960’s. Overall, Dresden is a really neat city with a lot to see, learn, and explore, BUT the most incredible part of the city is that it was almost fully destroyed in that bombing and yet you wouldn’t know it by visiting it now. Save for the memorials and museums explaining what happened, the city itself doesn’t show the destruction that occurred in its architecture or buildings.

Finally, a list of the castles that we would still like to visit while we are here:

Burg Eltz

Heidelberg Castle

Schwerin Castle

Cochem Imperial Castle

Nuremberg Imperial Castle

I hope you enjoyed this first Castle Round Up! What was your favorite? Which would you most like to visit?

My Thoughts On: Traditional/Mainstream Media, Social Media, and the Rumor/Gossip Mill

I always said I was going to avoid these topics, but the times…the times call for them so here we go. Please note that this is going to be more catered towards the current Coronavirus situation, but can easily be applied to anything else…like I don’t know, maybe when the election politics start to really begin or when your neighborhood or friend group has a problem.

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I’ll be honest, I don’t really have any answers when it comes to our news and social media these days. I just found myself getting increasingly frustrated with what I was seeing across the board from the traditional media, to influencers, to our local community (aka gossip mill). I needed to ramble my thoughts out and figure out what I can do for myself about it.

What a world we live in today where we can learn just about anything at the drop of a pin. We get notified the moment things happen (sometimes even before they happen), we can share things at quick speeds with friends and family, and ultimately we can be inundated with information round the clock. It can be a truly wonderful thing and something that I have definitely been incredibly grateful for (especially living so far away). However, most good things also have a negative aspect and in this case, that negative aspect can be damaging.

Obviously with Social Media we have talked about how damaging it can be with cyber bullying and such, but that is not what I am going to be referencing today. Today I am going to be talking about what I think some of the other dangers of this rapid media, online world that we live in today.

Danger #1 Bias

Here’s the thing we are all biased. From a very young age we start shaping our mind and how we see the world around us. Our parents play a role, our community plays a role, our friends, where we live, what we see every day, where we go to school, all of these are factors in what our outlook is on the world. This outlook leads (or rather is equal to) our bias. So, we all have a bit of a bias when it comes to…well life. It’s just who we are. This doesn’t mean we are close minded or not open to learning, it’s just important to recognize that we all have a bit of bias.

Now, wouldn’t that make sense to then extend to our news outlets, social medias, friends, etc.? Now, I know, this may sound like such common sense, but I feel like it is so important to keep in mind. We hear about how certain news outlets are biased, but it’s important to remember that most of your news outlets are going to have some sort of bias. From who they hire, to what they publish, to how they advertise what they publish, there is a bias to just about everything. That’s just the nature of the world that we live in.

As with anything, I would check a variety of sources of anything that you read. Obviously, government entities are a good place to get the information from, but if that is not possible (sometimes it won’t be), then looking at various sources is your best bet. Make sure you take the time to fully educate and understand a situation before speaking about it…which brings us to Danger #2.

Danger #2 Misinformation

I think this is hands down one of the biggest dangers of living in the world that we are in today. Information moves so quickly and often times moves faster than the official authorities can actually put the information. For a specific example of this, we can look no further than the current crisis that we are in. In our community information about a confirmed case of Covid-19 was circulating across the community before the official channels could even say something. This led to not only misinformation going around (A LOT of that was going around), but a heightened state of panic started to break out due to that, AND the general public was then calling for answers from the officials in charge.

Now, two things from this…

  • It’s important to wait for information from an official organization. We could debate the merits of sources and of what we hear from our “people”, but at the end of the day it’s all hear say until we get full answers and information. Often times what we are hearing from those around us are only mild versions of what the facts are, that have been distorted by the amount of people that they have heard from. This is obviously different depending on your actual source, if you are hearing from a significant other who is right in the location in the center of the action that is different than someone who heard it from someone who heard it from someone. In most cases it is just better to wait for the official statement to stop any sort of misinformation going around.
  • A lot of times when a government organization or official organization (think Military, CDC, WHO, etc.) puts out information they have done so after collecting as much of the accurate information as they can AND exploring different solutions for whatever is going on. They present the facts of the situation and offer up what they are doing/recommending to combat whatever is going on. Often times, if you are getting upset with information NOT being put out, think about what they are trying to do. The first goal should be to collect the facts and implement immediate options for the situation. The first goal is not always notifying the public, this is how panic, and misinformation occurs. Honestly, would you rather be told “Oh hey, here is something serious going on” OR “Oh hey, here is something serious that has happened, BUT we have already taken steps a, b, and c AND here are our recommendations for the next little bit. I know I would rather the second.

If you are not getting answers from an official organization at the time that you are looking around I would either recommend just being patient OR, following the earlier advice of looking at various sites. Don’t go with the first article you read, but rather look across the board at various sites, read various articles, and draw the best conclusion you are able until you can get an official brief. Don’t prevent what you are finding as facts (unless it comes from the aforementioned official organization), but rather as what you have found for your own purposes. Personally, I always recommend that others do their own research and bounce things off of several friends in different sectors while we wait for information.

Danger #3 Too Much at One Time/Being Too Involved

We all know that too much of a thing may not always be good and the same can be applied to media/social media/etc. With just how easy to get the news, to see what others are doing, to be connected, it can become very easy to fall into the trap of being too connected.  It seems to be a fine line as to when the news and being connected is too much. I’ve definitely experienced this and have found that at times, less is more. With the constant news cycle, it is easy to get sucked into always needing to know, to be connected, to have all the information, BUT I find that in some ways this is counterproductive and dangerous. Unfortunately, I don’t really have an answer or solution to this as I think this is just the way our lives trend right now. The only suggestion that I have is to take time away. When you start to feel that way, just step back, step away and take a day to be not so involved.

So, what’s the answer? Again, I don’t really have one. I feel like this is going to be a revolving door issue as we continue to deal with a new vastly online world that has become even more online in the past couple months. I don’t know if any of this has made sense, or if you’re even still reading this (if you are-thank you!), but it’s been a little over 2 months of seeing these Dangers pop up consistently and I felt like something needed to be said. So, here’s me adding my small voice to the loud crowd.

What I’ve Learned from Quarantine

Ah Quarantine. We’ve been under it for almost 2 months now and while most of the country is slowly starting to come back to, what I’m calling, new normal, we are still under a level of Quarantine (this is due to my husband’s work).

Here’s the thing, we have all processed this stressful time differently. I’ve had some incredibly stressful low moments during the past couple months and I’ve definitely had some really great moments too. I didn’t really learn a new hobby, pick up a craft, or do anything truly beyond my normal (except running, but I’ll get to that in a minute). I don’t think that anyone should have felt like they needed to do anything like that. In fact, honestly, I feel like if we’ve all made it through this and are starting to see our light at the end of the tunnel, then that is enough. We all process stress differently and no matter how this has affected you (and it has affected EVERYONE), however you are coping is good. If you’ve become Betty Homemaker Pinterest Goddess, good. If you’ve binge watched everything on Netflix, good. If you’ve started knitting or crocheting, good. If you managed to get out of bed every morning, good.

This post is not about judgement. It’s not about what I think we should have done. It’s not about “oh I’ve done xyz, I’m great”. This post is simply what I’ve learned. How I’ve coped. What our life has been.

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I’ve said from the get-go that in so many ways this has been so good for all of us. It’s been incredibly stressful, anxiety inducing, and full of chaos, but there has been something good about it to. We’ve been forced to stop. To stop being so busy. To stop paying attention to everything BUT what is important. We’ve been forced to slow down. In staying home we’ve had to maybe figure out what is truly important. To try something, we’ve always wanted to try. To spend more time with our family. To find out what works and doesn’t work for our mental health. To learn the good, the bad, the ugly about ourselves. To find out what we need.

That’s not to say that this Quarantine has always been some good, incredible learning experience. It’s had a fair share of low moments. I spent an entire weekend one weekend crying my eyes out from stress. I spent the better part of a weekend on my couch not doing much more than reading, scrolling social media, and binge-watching trashy television. I’ve gotten stressed and frustrated with the whole virtual schooling of a preschooler (I’ve learned that I will never be a preschool or elementary teacher- that is just not for me).

BUT, as I mention the bad, I can’t ignore the good of it too. It seems like for every negative we’ve had, there has been a positive to balance it out. For example, with school. I am not cut out for preschool/elementary school teaching. I just don’t have the patience. I’ve known this for a long time (so not a true revelation about myself) and it wasn’t something that I really was interested in doing. HOWEVER, it has been a dream at times to see Colton learn. I’ve always wanted to see how he was in class and here it is, right in front of me. I get to see his eyes light up as he connects the dots in his brain. I get to see him trying hard to please his teachers, to do every assignment, to learn something new.

For me I found out a couple things- some of which I already knew, but this whole Quarantine has proven just how necessary they are to me. I realized how important quiet time to myself is and how anxious, frazzled, and stressed I get if I don’t have even a little bit of it. I’ve found out how much I do lean on my husband and how important the relationship the two of us has is. I’ve found out that as much as I’m a homebody, I love to travel and to explore just as much. I’ve found that that I really do crave little weekly get together with my friends and that in person chat/connection you get from that. I’ve found that while watching TV isn’t my favorite  pastime, there have been some good shows out there that we’ve gotten to watch (and some not so good, but guilty pleasure shows too).

I’ve been shopping small A LOT more (almost exclusively- curious as to who I support? HERE  is a list of a couple of my favorites) and have been trying to move away from the bigger retailers when I can. I’ve really realized what I actually want to do with my time when I get it. How I want to spend my days. I’ve realized that I much rather spend my time hiking up trails, and wandering old towns than I do wandering a mall (ok, this is one of those things I’ve always known).

I’ve found that as much as I’m looking forward to what this new normal is going to be like, to being able to venture out back into the world, that my thought processes over things have changed. While I’m eager to go to this city down the road from me (a bigger one about 20-30 minutes away), it’s more so because I want to walk the streets, feel those cobblestones underneath my feet, rather than because I want to shop. I’m eager to once again hike among the castle ruins, to see history in front of my eyes, to experience life as it was. These are the things that I’ve missed. I’m eager to cherish the time I can get with my friends, the moments we have together out and about, not what we can actually do. I’ve learned that having those slow moments, those slow weekends, just having a lie in or no plans at all, can be a benefit.

Ultimately, I’ve realized that we are incredible people. We can do a lot and we have empathy. I’ve seen people come together to help out friends, families, neighbors they’ve barely known. I’ve seen an outpouring of love that we haven’t seen in a long time and while this last bit of Quarantine has undoubtedly been the hardest (it’s always the hardest when you can see the end, but aren’t getting there) the amount of care that I’ve seen has been amazing.

I hope that moving forward we hold on to that and that we become a little kinder. A little more compassionate. A little more caring to those around us.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

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Man, those April showers really hit us hard this year, didn’t they? I feel like for most of us April felt like this never-ending mammoth of a month. It was a month of anxiety with Coronavirus, Quarantine, homeschooling, job security (or lack thereof), and an overwhelming sense of nothing we could do about anything. Businesses were shuttered, our towns became seemingly ghost towns, and it seemed like we either had too much time on our hands or no time at all.

Is it any wonder that we are all looking forward to May?

The last week of April we had on and off rain showers with very little sunshine in between. The thing that has been getting us through this whole Quarantine is that it’s been sunny and 70’s for most of it. We’ve been able to play in the garden all afternoon, go for evening walks, and just feel the sunshine on our face. This last week, without that? It’s been tough (and that’s for someone who LOVES the rain). The boys have been cross, cooped up with too much energy and no good way to let it out.

In a lot of ways, it’s been a very physical manifestation of how so many of us have been feeling towards the end of April. A frustration, an anger, a desire to just get out and do something.

But then, Thursday as the sun set a rainbow came out.

Not just any rainbow, a clear both ends visible, double rainbow. This was our second rainbow of the week (we had gotten a partial one on Tuesday) and both also involved a moment where it looked like the sky was on fire. While I’m not normally the superstitious or symbolic type, it just felt like these were signs. Signs that things were going to be OK. That this rainstorm of a month was coming to an end. That there was hope for the next month or two while we transition. That there was sunshine around the corner.

Earlier in the month (maybe a couple weeks ago), I shared that I wasn’t OK. That I was struggling, and I wasn’t able to see the light, wasn’t able to see all the good around me, wasn’t able to keep my chin up. I spent that entire weekend crying off and on, and it was a really low moment in this year so far. Right now, I can say that I’m back up. I’m feeling about 75% my usual self and that feels so much better to me. I am starting to see the light, I have more good moments than bad, and I feel like I can start tackling life again.

Just like April just seemed to be a never-ending shower of everything, it seems like May is going to bring a bit of a re awakening.

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Feeling confident walking into May         Photo Credit: My Incredible 4 1/2 yr old, Colton.

 

A welcome reprieve as most of the world is going to start to see some level of restriction/quarantine lessening. While life may not look like it did before Coronavirus, I think we all can agree that we are happy to get back to some semblance of our new normal.

It’s funny how this year has really given us the phrase of “April showers bring May flowers” in both a literal and figurative sense. I hope that wherever you are, however, you have been affected, that you are keeping your mind and body afloat and that you too are able to see the May flowers that are coming our way.

When Being Home is…Overwhelming.

Man, it’s been a strange time hasn’t it? As the entire world seems to slow to a halt and we are all thrust into this new normal, it’s easy to get…well overwhelmed. As an introvert this is even easier. I think it’s also so easy to forget about this when you are not an introvert. But this post isn’t really about that.

Let me be clear…this post is not about the quarantine, shelter in place, isolation, lockdown, whatever you are referring to it as in your own country. I am 100% in favor of this and believe that is absolutely necessary. To me, this is not up for debate. This virus is not something to mess around about (and honestly if you just follow the mandate of staying home, it won’t be a long process to have it work its way through and out) and I am not going to debate something that, at this point, is semantics. Many countries have issued a lockdown measure of some sort, so whatever your feelings are, you are locked down.

This post is about what this actually looks like in terms of mental health. Of what we can do about that, of what we can do with our kids, what we can do for ourselves, and how we work through all of the confusion, overwhelm, and upset. No matter what end you fall on, no matter how this affects you economically, we are all dealing with a lot of feelings.

I don’t have all the answers on this. In fact, as I am writing this, I am struggling myself. I’m struggling with the amount of noise in our home, the never ending feeling of chaos, the nonexistence of a true routine, trying to do some form of “school” with a toddler who desperately just wants to go TO school, and trying to navigate having all 4 of us home ALL THE TIME. As much as I love my family and I’m grateful to have this time together, it’s TOUGH, and I think that is something we can all agree with.

For me, I am struggling with feeling overwhelmed with…well everything. We’ve finally got things up and running for Colton’s school, but that is creating it’s own problem (you can read about this below), I’ve got a million things that I want to accomplish, my husband is still working and going to school, and our house is just…much louder than normal. As an introvert who absolutely needs quiet and alone time it’s just making this a lot harder than I thought it would be. Today is the first day that I just wanted to breakdown.

So, what can we do?

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photo credit Daisy from Daisy Zimmer Photography (full photo on my SM)

I talked about how to stay positive last week (you can read that HERE), but what else can we do? I think honestly, the first place to start is to communicate and talk or write it out. Tell your partner or spouse what you NEED in a way that is constructive. For me personally, I NEED to have quiet time. I need to have 10-20 minutes at different points throughout the day of just quiet. Now, this is almost impossible with two toddler boys, but I try to find little pockets where I can take it. I also listen when he tells me he needs something. We are trying to find a good give and take with all of us being home as he is still working and doing school during this time. He has things that he needs the time to do and needs to take care of, and sometimes that means locking himself away for a couple of hours to get those things done.

So, for example, doing a little yoga first thing in the morning. My husband stays quiet during this and does his own thing (homework, check news, check emails) so I can ease into my morning before chaos ensues and the boys wake up. Once I am done with yoga, I try to take another 15 minutes to journal. I write out EVERYTHING. What I am feeling, what I am seeing, what I am hearing. I write about how the previous day went, what I want to accomplish today, and just a general “get your mind right” moment.

Another chance I get to get a little quiet (and build the endorphins) is a run (I mean it’s more of a run/walk, but you get the gist). This week I started doing the Couch to 5K program in an effort to get a little break/me time in my days. Since we are restricted to the house EXCEPT for groceries/meds and exercise outdoors, I am taking full advantage of the exercise outdoors option. This gives me a chance to just wander back into my brain, check out of real life, and run my feelings out.

Speaking of music, I find that just jamming it out to your favorite song or playlist is an excellent option. Blast the tunes, have a little breathing session or dance session and dust of the cobwebs in your mind. Music is such a big part of my attitude and I find even just two songs (right now Sunflower by Post Malone and SOS by Aviccii) is all I really need to get a mood booster. It also gives my kids a chance to wiggle about and I’m not hearing the nonstop chattering. We all seem to come together for those couple minutes, and it works.

Something else that I think is really important is to lean in toward whatever you are feeling. This is an overwhelming time and we are trying to figure out what life looks like and it’s ok to feel mad, to feel sad, to feel overwhelmed. It’s ok to take some time out to feel those feelings. THEY ARE TOTALLY VALID FEELINGS TO HAVE. No matter what your background is, no matter how this affects you, it is OK to feel this way. And right now, more than ever, I think that it is important for us to process those feelings. We will have a harder and faster burnout if we just continue to try and put a happy face on and hold it together.

This is especially true if you are a mom. Your kids are likely scared, nervous, freaking out, confused, mad, sad, everything that they can feel, they are feeling. While our first instinct is to hold it together, to be the strong one, it isn’t’ bad for them to see you struggle too. It helps them process their own emotions if we can be clear and concise about it. For me this is really key for when I am feeling frustrated or sad with not being able to do something or needing some space, my boys pick up on that and I explain to them exactly what is going on. This then stimulates a conversation (in as much a 4 and 2 yr. old can do) about how we are feeling. So, lean into those feelings, process them, and it might be easier for you to move forward and find joy in the little things again.

Going to quickly touch on school (as I don’t really know that I can truly talk about that). School is a hard one. I feel like we’ve really hit this hard as even though Colton was only in preschool for a month and a half he got really attached to it. If he could go every single day he could. It was his space to learn, to engage, to have a little “life of his own” for lack of a better phrase. He LOVED it and to have that yanked out from under him so soon has been a real struggle for him. Further, we are continuing with a digital learning plan with his school and that’s been…hard. He doesn’t have the same focus at home that he does in school and, of course, at home he also has little bro who wants to be involved. It’s been hard to try and explain to him what is going on and how we are handling everything right now, because the moment we explain it to him he just gets sad and says he wants to go to school. It breaks my heart.

I know that you moms of older kids are feeling that same pressure, but also adding in the academics to it as well. Luckily with Colton in preschool the hardest thing we are dealing with is focus issues, his academics and such are fairly straightforward for him. I’ve been reading posts from various teachers who all seem to agree- with this new normal, it means we need to adapt across the board. Forcing the kids to sit at a desk for 8 hours at home is just not feasible. So, lean into your kids. Listen to them when they say something. Interact with their needs. Some kids may work better at home when there is noise in the background, some kids may need to be at a desk every time they work, some kids may be focus on real world learning more than classroom. Each school is handling digital learning differently, but from what I’ve seen there is time that they meet with their teachers and do their work, and then there is free work time. Balance both of those with some real-world play and real-world lessons and a routine will start to emerge. This is a whole new level for all of us…give yourself and your kids grace. It’s not easy, but they will be OK.

Finally, if you are in a financial spot to do so, try and support some of your local or online businesses. I’m going to share a couple of my favorites that I have either ordered through already, or will be ordering through over the next couple months…

https://www.rachelallene.com/shop Rachel Allene is like the jolt of sunshine that we all need anyway. Her products are not only practical (hello mugs and shirts and coffee? We all need those), but they are absolutely adorable! They are the perfect amount of whimsy, beauty, and season. I highly recommend checking her shop out for your mugs and shirt needs.

https://www.bookshelfthomasville.com/ This is a small, local, independent bookstore in Georgia that carries most new releases, along with some merchandise. They are doing online orders, but also curbside pickup if you are in their area. I always love supporting independent bookstores, so this is the perfect chance for you to do so as well.

https://kelseyconversephotography.pixieset.com/guestlogin/travelprints/?return=%2Ftravelprints%2F If you are looking to spruce up your interior wall game, check out Kelsey’s travel photography. These are some incredible photos and would liven up any room that you want to. I would also just recommend following kelsconverse on Instagram because she is one of those genuine souls on the internet.

Also, as many have suggested, buy gift cards to some of your favorite spots. This is a great option if you want to support restaurants or other smaller in store places. OR if you want to support, but don’t need anything at the present moment. Buy a gift card and gift it or save it for a special occasion for yourself. This gives a small business some much needed cash flow in this trying time.

Finally, go show your blogger friends some love! Click on the links to their most recent posts, like them, leave them a comment, and spread the love around. Ultimately what this time is teaching us is to slow down, remember what community really is, and enjoy a little breather from the busy world we live in.

Round the Kettle Ep. 24: Coronavirus and My Thoughts

Happy Sunday to all! How are things looking in your neck of the woods?

I mentioned on Social Media that we were supposed to have a little girls weekend this weekend in Prague that we were looking forward to for a few weeks. However, we have had travel restrictions placed on us both as a military family AND by the country that we were supposed to be visiting. So, I am now writing to you in the comfort of my comfiest clothes, in my office, with full plans to spend the weekend reading.

Now, before I get super far into this I want you to tell me, has Coronavirus stopped you from living your life? Have you experienced any changes? How is the panic in your area? What are YOU seeing in your community?

(In a weird way I’m actually very interested in the whole “feet on the ground” folks in their own communities’ outset on the virus. I find that it gives a much better view of what is going on than anything else.)

Here are my thoughts on Coronavirus. I’m concerned to an extent. I don’t want to spread it to my family, my friends, my larger community. There are enough unknowns, enough questions, that I understand the travel bans, the closure of places that aren’t able to be easily cleaned and sanitized (like Disneyland). The ability of this virus to spread is something to be concerned about, similar to how we get concerned about many other diseases and viruses. While I am not traveling, not within or outside of Germany, I see no problem of taking a trip into the city using appropriate caution (aka washing my hands a little more than normal, not touching my face, keeping my general distance from others- all things I would do normally). Something I’m not doing? Freaking out. Panic buying all the toilet paper (seriously- what the hell is the deal with this?!). Panic buying really anything beyond normal groceries. We have had a confirmed case in our little community and I got a direct understanding of how they are conducting checks and determining who is actually at risk of exposure when this happens.

I think that the right steps at this point to take are to just practice common sense. Something that we should have all been doing long before this anyways. Listen to the official statements put out by government entities, not what your friends/colleagues/the rumor mill are saying (unless those people are directly in the government system and can give factual information). If you are looking at a quarantine situation, then listen to that. And for crying out loud, if you are sick, even if just a common cold, stay home.

All of this is common sense, but for some reason we have all seemed to have forgotten it in the past few weeks. I think we are starting to fall into the media trap of hysteria to an extent. It is causing mis information, unnecessary panic (note – I said PANIC not concern, concern is certainly valid in this), and shortages of items across the board. Countries, states, and communities are doing what they feel is best for their own people and if you feel that there should be further steps taken for yourself and your family, then you are certainly able to take those steps.

One more thing, at a time like this, community becomes even more important. Help out others, your friends, your neighbors, the random stranger that you don’t know. As schools, businesses, and communities begin to close, we are all going to feel those affects. Offer to bring by groceries, water, help with meals, whatever. Support those who are going to be in need of it. The way that we get through this is by coming together and working through this as one. Let’s see this pull of us back together as a people.

As I’ve said, for us we are living life normally, minus our upcoming trips. I’m concerned (as I think would be normal in any case), but I’m not agonizing over it and hermitting in my home (any more than normal at least ha ha). We are also keeping up to date to our potential of exposure as we have had a case in our immediate area. We are tracking things appropriately, but I probably won’t be sharing too much on that end (at least as of this exact point) as I don’t want to unnecessarily spread misinformation or cause anymore panic.

Tell me, how are you feeling? How are you doing with Coronavirus? Have you seen any local impact for you? I definitely want to hear from others!

2020 Planner and Journal

Untitled Design 27How is it already 2020? A new year, a new decade, a chance for a real fresh start and outlook. I find that one of my favorite things about the new year is a chance to break out some new stationary and planning. I’ve kept no secret my need for paper and writing. The act of physically writing my schedule, to do list, important notes, etc…it keeps my mind sane. I tend to accomplish more and remember things better as well.

2019 was an incredible year, but was also incredibly busy. It was the first year in my adult life that I wasn’t working in some form and that was a big change. This post isn’t necessarily about that (but I can do a post about that if you’d be interested?), but I did find that my planning needs changed drastically. I found that I wasn’t looking at my time in a daily manner, but rather in a weekly and monthly fashion. Using a daily planner, things were getting lost in the shuffle, and I felt just a general state of disorganization. So I switched.

This year I am using a Monthly/Weekly planner that I customized to fit my own needs. I used a company called Plum Paper, which you can find HERE, and purchased the weekly layout. My favorite part of these planners is that you can customize EVERYTHING. From what holidays and dates show, to when the weeks start, and the weekly breakdown.

Every month starts with a monthly highlights page, which I have sparingly used. This page has a spot to put birthdays, important dates, goals, and for me, my spending at the bottom. The next page is blank and I use it to track what books I’ve read that month and my rating. Then comes the monthly layout. I wish the boxes were a smidge bigger, but this works perfectly well.

Each week is given two pages. The days on the right side, and a page of “stuff” on the left. I have my weekly pages set to start on Monday (as I really got used to that in the Hobonichi set up) and I find that this is JUST enough room. If anything I try to leave these day layouts to appointments/meal plans/any specifics for that day. For all the rest of my “stuff” I break it down into two columns: weekly priorities, weekly tasks. Every week I have priorities in terms of blogging, writing, posting, etc. and every week I have the same tasks that I do in terms of cleaning and just self care stuff. These two columns break that up and allow me to know what I need to do in the course of the week, rather than just transferring tasks from day to day.

In the back of the planner I do have a meal planning kit that has a meal list breakdown, shopping list section, and quick reference information. I’ve already done really well with meal planning, but I’m hoping to streamline the process even more if I can.

IMG_8574I’ve also decided to give a commonplace notebook a shot. I am not really sure how this is going to work (as it is so much easier to just pull out my phone and jot a note down), but I really like the idea of a commonplace book. A commonplace notebook is exactly what you would think of, it’s a notebook that you always have on you and that contains anything that comes to you that you need/want to remember, whether that’s important dates, appointments, quotes, whatever. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes. I’m using this absolutely beautiful Paper Blanks Flexi Notebook for that purpose.

 

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Finally, I have a new journal for 2020. I was off and on in my journaling over the second half of 2019, doing really well with it until about September/October. I am trying to be a little bit better with this this coming year (as well know how important writing is for me) and I’ve been really wanting to use this journal since I bought it. It’s a beautiful Italian Leather (maybe pleather?) bound journal with a tie string. It’s got some lettering all throughout the cover and I’ve found it to be a really nice journal to write in. Journaling and Planning go a lot better when you actually like what you are writing in.

 

So that is what my 2020 looks like in terms of stationary! Are you a stationary lover like me? What does your planning for this year look like?

A Little Insight into Travel Weariness

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Traveling is one of the best ways to spend our time, not only do you get to see new places, but you are experiencing new things, seeing new cultures, seeing different ways of life. It is so great, and I completely understand how a big chunk of advice that people give/receive when talking about life is to travel as much as possible. It is in fact a piece of advice I give out now as well. There is just so much to the world and so much to learn, see, and experience.

However, there is another aspect to traveling that we don’t talk about it: the sheer exhaustion of it all.

There are a couple of reasons as to this, one of those being that we feel as though we can’t complain. We are in an extraordinary position of being able to travel, to be able to see the world. Not many people are able to from just the standpoint of cost, let alone getting time off work, dealing with children and school schedules, and much more. It can feel even worse to be in these great opportunities and not 100% loving or enjoying them. Another reason we may not talk about it is that we don’t want to remember those moments. Nobody wants to see/hear/remember the hard times.

But, as we know, life is not sunshine and rainbows ALL the time and while traveling can be a blast and eye opening, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows either.

So, travel weariness. Beth Sandland actually speaks about this in one of her blog posts, which you can find HERE, and she does a much better job than I do at articulating this. We all hit a point, no matter what kind of traveler we are, either while we are traveling, or shortly after getting home, where we just crash. We can’t go any further, we sleep longer hours, our bodies and minds needing all the rest they can possibly get. We find our energy to be at odds with what we want to accomplish, and we end up having a day or two of just catching up with ourselves.

This is a very real feeling. It’s something that happens to me usually after a couple of weekends away. I actually try to schedule our weekends away where we have at least a week or so in between a trip that is going to be more than one night. We can do back to back to back trips, but then we need a bit of a longer home time in between. We’ve found a way to make it work for us.

All this probably sounds a bit whiny, or a bit of “you shouldn’t complain” and maybe in a way it is. We are so incredibly blessed (as is anybody who is able to travel) and we don’t turn a blind eye to that. We wholeheartedly recognize the situation we are in and are trying to make the most of our time here. But, I also don’t want to shy away from sharing some of the harder bits either.

Traveling is exhausting. Traveling with two toddlers is even more so exhausting. It’s stressful. There are so many levels to that stress and exhaustion. Trying to balance family fun, with photos, with remembering everything, with making sure our kids are behaving. (I’m well aware of how this all sounds, but it’s really fun and it’s quite easy once you fall into what works for yourself/your family. I just want you to know that it is a lot).  There is a lot of planning and organization that goes into even just the long weekends away, let alone our longer holidays. But we love it. We love every minute of it. So, we put up with the exhaustion. On our longer holidays we try to keep a day of nothing, and when planning any trips, we try to book in a day after travel to catch up on home stuff before heading back into work.

So, there you have it. My look into Travel Weariness. Have you experienced it? Let me know in the comments below.