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 Goals, Intentions, and Word of the Year

It’s the 1st of January of 2020. A New Year. A New Decade. Talk about a completely fresh start to make changes, accomplish goals, reach dreams.

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I’m not going to lie; I’m oddly struggling with writing this post. There are a couple of reasons for this, one of which being that there is just so much that I want to accomplish this year, so much I want to do and see, that it feels difficult to mark that down in just a few sentences or words. Another reason is that I’ve changed my approach to the new year this year. In years past I haven’t done resolutions (for several reasons, last year’s post described it best which you can read HERE) and while I am not doing them this year, I do have several goals that I want to reach/go beyond this year.

And with making goals comes the possibility of not achieving them. Of failing. And therein lies my other reason I am struggling.

I’ve talked about my fear of failure before and also about how I am trying to push past that and recognize that failure isn’t a BAD thing. I’m also trying to continue to recognize and remind myself that what I consider “failure” isn’t always actually failing. Since I have things that I want to accomplish this year, I want to hold myself accountable to actually doing them, rather than allowing my fear of not accomplishing it all get in my way. Thus, setting goals for the year.

Now, after all that build up, I am only going to give a broad outline to my goals. I like to play things a bit close to my chest and so I’m going to give you my little outline for the year, when I am going to be focusing on things and then keep you posted as to how they are going.

For the first half of the year I really want to focus on my website and my SEO. A Cuppa Cosy has become such a big part of my life over the past couple years (specifically the past year) and I have been mostly focused on content, developing my voice, deciding where I want to “fit”, what I want my posts to look like. I haven’t really been focusing (beyond key words and hashtags) on pushing the posts and website out far to the public. I want to settle on a good theme for the sight, optimize my posts on SEO, and get myself settled on Pinterest.

The second half of the year I want to focus on publications and putting more of my writing out in the world. I’ve been looking at maybe freelancing or submitting articles to various blogs and magazines. I want to put some of my travel photography out into the world a little bit more as well. Ultimately I would like to start looking at monetizing some of my work. Putting my thoughts and pictures out maybe beyond just my little corner of the internet. And I think that this is the goal that I am keeping the closest to my chest and the one that terrifies me the most (in terms of failing).

In other goals, I want to switch my focus to quality over quantity when it comes to content. I don’t want to put posts out just because I feel like I need to have content up and I don’t want to have blog posts that I don’t fully like to be put up simply because they need to go up. I want to make sure that everything I am posting is 100% my standards. I also want to take a little more time “away” at times. When we went away on our Summer Holiday I didn’t have any blog posts go up and I posted on Social Media intermittently and to be honest, when we came back I was so refreshed. I had a clear mind and a much better outset for the rest of the year. I want to do that a little bit more. I am not able to do that during our Winter Holiday (which we are currently on) just due to the amount of posts I have and want to share, but maybe come our Spring Holiday and Summer Holiday I might do that again. I want to have a few weeks a year that are just a breather.

On the personal side of things, I would like to focus on reading a wider variety of books this year, as well as some of the longer books that I’ve put off for a while now. I want to bring some of my reading content to this blog rather than just keeping it separate. I want to continue to cherish a love of reading with my boys as I find that is such an important part of children’s lives. I want to focus on them as much as I can because we don’t have too much longer that we are all together at home like this. I’ve been very recently introduced (or reminded) that the school years are coming and that’s a bittersweet change. I want to remind myself that it’s ok to feel happy and sad, blessed and frustrated. We are human and we don’t only feel one thing at one time.

Obviously, I want to travel more. We’ve seen so much just in the short amount of time we’ve been in Europe and I can’t wait to see more of this side of the world. I’ve got some big plans to go to some new places, places we never would have thought about, places that are completely “foreign” to us. We’ve definitely got a few big trips in the works for this year, but I also want us to make use of long weekends and even overnights here and there.

Finally, I want to make sure that I am getting more quality one on one time with my husband. Our boys are getting older, I’m a little less paranoid about leaving them with other people (not that I was ever crazy paranoid about it, but it did make me a little anxious as they are a handful) and as much as we’ve really transitioned well to parenting and our family life, I think we could use a little bit more of that carefree date night feeling. It’s so important, and while we are definitely homebodies and love our at home on the couch date nights (that will never change and still happen every week), we are in Germany! We have gotten out just the two of us and done quite a few things that wouldn’t have been possible with the kids (or would have been much more difficult) and I want to do more of that in 2020.

A final note to touch on, my word and intention for 2020. I am keeping the same word and intention from last year going into this year. I really resonated with “Be Open” and “Adventure” last year and I feel like they still fit with how I want to live my life this year as well. I want to continue to be open to new opportunities, to say yes to more experiences and chances that I may not get again (this also plays into my goals for 2020). I also want to approach life with an “adventuring” outlook. We are living our biggest life adventure right now here in Germany and I want to just keep living that.

And that’s that for 2020! Do you have goals for this year? What are they? How about your word and/or intention?

 

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?

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.

I Didn’t Give Germany A Chance

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

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

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

I now realize how much of a mistake this was.

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

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

We can all take a lesson from that.

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

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

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

 

Some Thoughts on Consumerism

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

Here’s how it all started…

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

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

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

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

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

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

When we moved to Germany things were vastly different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?