Round the Kettle Ep. 27: CAtching Up

Hey! Hello! Long time no chat! 2020 has been a year (as we all can attest to at this point) and I’ve been shifting things around throughout all aspects of life. However, that means this little catch up post I like to do twice a month has kind of “check in”, how are things style, has slipped from my radar. And maybe that was wrong, because I think right now is when we need this type of thing the most. However, that is all changing now and I am back to doing these chatty posts twice a month. I’ve changed my posting schedule ever so slightly, only posting once a week on Wednesdays in the hopes that that will be a bit better all around.

So, how are you? How are you really?

I’m OK. In the grand scheme of things, things are good. Colton is in school (in person, with masks and mask breaks) and loving it, Andrew and I have a good little one on one time while he is at school, doing school or walking or independent play, I’ve been reading, and we’ve been traveling. Things seem, in a way, back to normal. However, there are also moments of melancholy, moments of burn out, moments where it just feels like an endless cycle of “run on empty”. I’m trying to focus on making the most out of these last months of 2020, even when it seems like sometimes everything is falling down around us. 

Let’s be honest, things are a bit of a mess right now. 2020 has been quite the year and I’m sure there is more to come. I can only encourage you to look ahead, to look above, to try and find the bright little moments, and to make sure, above all else, that you are taking care of yourself in whatever way that looks like for you. I think 2020 has shown us the power, and resiliency, of human beings. We’ve been tested in so many ways and it’s been a real show to see how we react, respond, and handle everything going on in the world. 

So, what have I been up to? Apart from traveling (safely following our strict regulations), I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading, a lot of walking, and have even watched some new shows and films! We recently watched Wild Wild Country on Netflix, which was insane, but good to watch. We also finished our re watch (start to finish) of Big Bang Theory on Netflix and started Brooklyn Nine Nine as our next comedy. I watched the Enola Holmes film with a close friend and loved every minute of it. I also, much like everyone else, watched Selling Sunset (and peaked at Carole Baskin on Dancing With The Stars- oof). In terms of reading, a few stand out favorite books from the past month or two have been Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson (I just finished this- might be my favorite Sanderson yet), Born A Crime by Trevor Noah, and The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. 

What have you been up to???

Finally, I have a bit of a hairbrained idea that I’m thinking about…

When I am doing research for blog posts, I often times have “extra” information that doesn’t make the cut for the post (for many different reasons). I also gleam tidbits of information with podcasts, internet, and reading. All of this random information I get just chills in my brain waiting for a moment that I can share it. I was kind of thinking about doing a post maybe the last Friday of the month with just a list of bullet points of the random tidbits that I find interesting that I’ve learned throughout the month. Would this be something you would be interested in? Let me know because this are things that I would like to share, but don’t know if you would be interested in reading…

And that is all for this Sunday Afternoon. I hope that you are holding your head up (at least somewhat) and doing alright. 

Autumn in Bavaria

I’m interrupting all of the travel content for this very special post…

Ok, maybe it’s not that special, but I wanted to do a post acknowledging two things:

1) This is my 300-blog post published to A Cuppa Cosy. 300 posts. While my content has bounced all over the place, it is still crazy to think that I have written and published 300 posts in this little corner of mine. And for my 300th post I wanted to focus on something I love, something that just kind of perfectly coincided with the timing of this post and everything else and that is…

2) Autumn. Specifically, Autumn in Bavaria. 

Autumn officially begins next week, but we’ve been officially welcoming it since September 1st (as we do every year) and I think this year, given everything, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the changing season a bit early. 

I’ve lived a fair amount of places that have had beautiful Autumnal Seasons, and a couple that don’t really get an Autumn at all, but it is my personal opinion that Bavaria just takes the cake (at this time, I’m sure in the coming years that may change, but I don’t know that I’ll ever forget the incredible season here). Between the weather, the festivals, the leaves, it just creates the best of the best of Autumn. 

Let’s start with the weather.

If you know me, you know that Autumn has always been my favorite season. I’m really kind of obsessed with the two transitional seasons- Spring and Autumn, but Autumn takes the cake. I’ve loved Autumn before it became the “basic girl” thing to love. Something about the heat fading away, the days slowly going shorter, the start of the school year, the crisper air moving in, and the leaves changing colors just made me feel so alive. And I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

I’m a massive rain fan and Autumn in Bavaria has its fair share of rainy days. This isn’t necessarily the hard rains of spring and summer storms, but rather that soft, sometimes mist like, rain that just peppers the ground and bounces gently off the roofs. The overcast nature of many of the Autumn days gives the perfect backdrop for the bright red and oranges that the leaves turn throughout the months before falling to a damp ground. The air starts to slowly turn crisp with the cool crisp air settling just in time for apple and pumpkin picking. Don’t worry though, it’s not always rainy and cool, there are those brilliant sunny days peppered throughout the 3 or so months that encompass the changing season. Those sunny days are full of life and joy and somehow…always happen on festival days. It’s a time where you may have to pack up the shorts, tanks, and summer dresses, but you can still wear t-shirts and such for a little bit longer. Same for sandals and boots, you get a great chance to wear both throughout the month of September. 

Let’s briefly talk leaves. 

I mentioned the fall colors, but something about the vibrance here in Bavaria makes a difference. Maybe it’s the rolling hills and alps that are just peppered with trees. Maybe it’s the balance of the “evergreen” trees and the changing leaves. Maybe it’s the fact that the sky has just always seemed a bit bluer and clearer in Bavaria. Whatever it is, the changing leaves are absolutely incredible here. You get a real range not only in color, but in timelines as well. It takes a full month to month and a half for the full process of changing colors and falling leaves and it is EVERYWHERE. You don’t have to drive far to get just the simple beauty of the season, you can walk right down the road. You don’t need to take any random country back roads or make a special trip (although you certainly can do that) in order to get the real pretty views. And you can get everything range of colors at any times, from the lighter green, to yellow, to the fiery reds, and brick oranges, all peppered against a brilliant blue sky or overcast gray. It’s truly incredible. 

Finally, let’s talk ambiance. 

Autumn is all about getting cozy. It’s about family, friends, changing weather, and the upcoming holiday season. It’s full of celebration and nobody does celebration better than Bavaria. Autumn, at times, almost feels like, after the grueling heat and harvest filled months of summer have ended and everything can take a deep breath again. Not only can you breathe, but you can celebrate, and Germany sure knows how to celebrate. 

***Obviously celebration will look drastically different this year due to Covid-19. I haven’t seen much about how some of the festivals that we attended last year will happen or not happen this year, but I am looking to see what I can find, and, in the meantime, I have linked a couple of posts from last year.***

The season kicks off with Almatrieb, which is a festival to celebrate the cattle (and sometimes sheep too) coming down from the mountains in anticipation of the colder weather. The cows are decorated with floral crowns, given massive bells, and then paraded on their route to pasture. It’s a massive party, which you can read about HERE. Everyone knows about Oktoberfest, the biggest party in Germany (which actually occurs in late September-usually ending the first week in October). We attended Munich’s Oktoberfest last year and had a blast (you can read that post HERE), but there are also a lot of smaller versions of Munich’s AND there are a multitude of other festivals throughout Autumn. One that I went to last year was Ertedankfest (you can read about that weekend HERE), which is a celebration of the harvest, complete with dried hops decorations. There are also the obvious, plentiful, markets in every town. 

Overall, Autumn in Bavaria is the perfect combination of sunny crisp days and grey rainy days, celebration of the changing season and getting cozy in our own homes. I don’t know that I’ve experienced the perfection of Autumn until I’ve been here. Maybe it’s just the changing season, the sentimental nature of who I am, or just the love I have for Bavaria, but I have truly found my happy spot of the year. 

A Tale of Summer Dresses – What I Wore June 2020

Summer has fully and most definitely arrived with her heat, her sunshine, and her longer days. When the weather starts to turn to the unbearable heat, I’ve found that rather than shorts I lean towards summer dresses and skirts. They are just more breathable, and I find myself cooler and less…constricted. So, I figured today I would share the summer dresses that I’ve recently purchased or have been wearing. I’m super excited to start cycling through these more and more. I will also include a couple of skirt options since I do have those as well. 

Dress #1 This is an Old Navy dress and is top of the line because it has pockets! Got to love a dress with pockets and the fun polka dot print just adds to that. It is breezy and cool, hitting right below the knees. Shoes are old, so I don’t remember where I bought them. 

Dress #2 Another Old Navy dress, although no pockets (bummer!), this one is the most comfortable thing. It hits at the right spot, and is super easy to dress up or down (you’ll see a theme with the dress up/dress down options). Obsessed with the floral prints right now (and most of my dresses reflect that) and blue is one of my favorites. Shoes are Sperry’s (and the memory foam one’s so incredibly comfortable). 

Dress #3 The final Old Navy dress in this post, this is the one that I am probably the most…unsure of. I love the black and white cheetah print, the tie close, but I’m unsure of the length. Still, it’s breezy and comfy and, once again, easy to dress up or down. Shoes are the same as paired with Dress #1. 

Dress #4 A new Target dress that I am, once again, obsessed with. The black floral is becoming something of a staple in my wardrobe and the high low at the bottom is a fun addition. Another dress that is super easy to dress up or down, I am looking forward to getting quite a bit of use out of this one. Shoes are Rainbow Flip Flops (which I do love, but love the Birkenstock options a little more for travel walking). 

Dress #5 An option that I purchased last year; I don’t think I’ve worn a single dress more than I have worn this one. I absolutely love this Review dress and it was well worth the money. It has the comfortableness of light breathable fabric, pockets, and a cinched waist. Shoes are the Birkenstock Gizeh, another item that has already proven well worth the money. 

Dress #6 Another absolute favorite, this dress was a gift and is just a simple straight-line dress. The brand is S. Oliver, which I do like and have a couple other pieces from. I love the way it falls, that option to dress up or down, and the color scheme of blue’s and tans. Another dress that is going to get a lot of wear this summer and summers to come. Shoes are, once again, Birkenstock Gizeh. 

Dress #7: This was an Amazon purchase a few years back now and still, the best Amazon Clothing purchase I’ve made. Pockets, blue and white floral, and an easy flowy/breathable fabric, you cannot go wrong with this option. I’ve paired it with my favorite pair of summer wedges (which are old, not quite sure where from), but I’ve also worn this with the Birkenstock Gizeh flip flops.

Skirt Outfit #1 I purchased this skirt from Old Navy on a whim and I’m very excited about it. Once again, like the tan dress, a very breathable fabric and solid staple to have. I feel like the fit is incredibly versatile, there are pockets (which believe it or not can be hard to find in a skirt) and options to dress up or down. It’s a nice summer option, but can be transitioned into fall. Shoes are old from Amazon; Top is from Chico’s. 

Skirt Outfit #2 A Skirt I picked up from last year and is getting a lot of use. I love the scalloped detailing at the bottom and the embroidered pattern. This skirt is one that I typically will pair with a tucked in white tee and white Sperry’s or sandals. It is just the easiest, comfiest outfit, that works whenever. 

And that’s it for my Summer Dresses (and outfits) for 2020! What was your favorite? Are you a Summer Dress wearer? 

Mid Year Book Freakout Tag – 2020

Happy Monday! Last week I posted my midyear “check in” and I figured I would follow it up with a little book tag. It’s not a deep dive, or something really serious, just a fun little Monday Morning question and answer. At the time that I am writing up this post, I have read a total of 48 books. Not too much of an introduction, let’s just get into the questions!

Best Book you’ve read so far in 2020

Hands down I think one of the best is Circe by Madeline Miller. A close second and third would be The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson and The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (but, both of those will be mentioned later on). There are plenty of books that I enjoyed and gave 5 Stars, but Circe is a book that I am still reminiscing and thinking about.

Best Sequel you’ve read so far in 2020

I have two for this question (because I am really bad at narrowing things down to one) and those are: A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer and World Without End by Ken Follett. I loved both of these in some ways more than the first books.

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

Both The City We Became by N.K. Jemison and My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell are out, and I am really wanting to read both of those. I also would like to read Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad which was released in February.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Top of my list is Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People. I am just a big fan of his and am ready to see what else he is offering. There are a lot more books that I’ve pre ordered, that I’m anxiously awaiting, but this is the first one that comes to mind that hasn’t already been released.

Biggest Disappointment

Ah, again, I have two books for this one: Misery by Stephen King (which was ten times better as a movie than a book) and Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson (which was a great setting and concept, but poor execution).

Biggest Surprise

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. I honestly was on the fence, I figured I would either love it or DNF it and to even my own surprise, I loved this! I gave it 4 stars (because I did have some issues with it), but on the whole this one took me by surprise. Another one (just as food for thought) is The One by John Marrs. I only just recently read this one, after hearing about it twice and picking it up on a whim, and ooofff…an unexpected 5 star read for me.

Favorite New Author (Debut or new to you)

Alright, I’ve been recommended this author for years now and I finally this year read a couple of his books…Brandon Sanderson. I flew through Elantris and The Final Empire and am desperate to get to some more in the Mistborn trilogy (and then move on to the other, longer series).

Newest Fictional Crush

I don’t really get any fictional crushes, so no answer on this one 🙂

Newest Favorite characters

I don’t know? I guess I like the setting and main characters of Ellery Adams books. No book in particular, but those characters and settings are just my jam.

Book that made you cry

The Only Plan in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff and Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect Edited by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macare, Alana Yu-Lan Price, Forward by Alicia Garza. I don’t think I really need to elaborate on either of these.

Book that made you happy

This is a tough one because even with my disappointing reads, I still enjoy reading. Books still make me happy overall. I’m going to have to list Ellery Adams once again as those books are just…so cozy and wonderful in so many ways (and they are light and fluffy with no deeper thought needed).

Most Beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow and it was also a beautiful story as well.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

So many! I won’t list them all here, but I will make a note that for the rest of the year I want to read a diverse selection between fiction and nonfiction and a variety of authors and subjects.

That’s it! I would love to hear some of your answers for the questions, so leave them down below 🙂

 

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.

Untitled Design 53

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?

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – May 2020

Happy first of June! May was…a month both in real life and in book world. I had a wishy-washy month and dealt with some book breaks towards the end of the month. I’ll get more into that later, but I completed a total of 7 books, with an average rating of 3.8/5.0 and I’m currently in the middle of two right now. I’ve actually waited until the very last minute to write this post up as I had hoped I would finish one of them before this had to go up.

I’ve included a slightly different purchase link this time around. This link will take you to the bookshop.org listing for each book. Bookshop.org raises money for local independent bookstores and while the prices may be slightly higher than Amazon, if you are in a position to pay the slightly higher price, I would highly encourage you to do so.

A Cuppa Cosy Reads - February 2022

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas 4/5 (Goodreads/Purchase): I started my month out with a bang of a horror novel. In Kill Creek we are following an author who is in the middle of a bit of a life and writing crisis. He isn’t getting very far into his new novel and has taken up teaching to do something different. He, along with 3 other authors, gets the opportunity to spend a night in the most famous haunted house in the country. What goes on is for the books. I loved the overall theme that this book took in terms of the standard haunted house trope. It definitely brought a new life into a very tried trope.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman 3.5/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) This was my second Neil Gaiman and I infinitely preferred this one. Coraline follows a young girl who finds a mysterious door in her home. She wanders through the door and finds her family, but not quite her family. Written for his daughters, this store is the cutest story of good vs “evil”. It’s juvenile in a way, but enjoyable for a reader of any age.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams 3/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) The one book that I have so much, but so little to say about. Queenie follows a young black women on the brink of a breakdown. She seems to be falling apart at the pieces and we follow her journey of self. I think my biggest problem with this book was the marketing of it. At the outset it was heralded as almost the “black Bridget Jones” and it is NOT. This book is much darker, much heavier on the content, much more “real world” than Bridget Jones. The wit/humor of Bridget Jones, maybe, but beyond that there is no comparison. Now, this is changing as more people are reading it and talking about it, but I would recommend checking content warnings prior to picking it up. I will say- this does has some book race and social commentary in it.

Murder in the Locked Library by Ellery Adams 4.5/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) I think Ellery Adams is just my new go to when I need a cozy, warm, book related mystery. Murder in the Locked Library is actually the 4th book in a series, so I can’t talk too much about the contents, but I enjoyed it so much. This has books, secret societies, and quaint Virginia town vibes. I plan on reading the first three books in the coming month and I can’t wait!

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson 4.5/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) Ah, the book of all books. The book that completely ruined the rest of my May. The book that I finished and needed more of. The Final Empire (aka Mistborn #1) follows along in a world where the people are ruled by a figure considered a g-d. A “ragtag” band is determined to get the skaa (the working slave class in this world) to rise into a rebellion and overthrow the government and the ruler. There is magic, comradery, and a new world to explore. I absolutely loved this book. As with any fantasy it’s a fit of a slow burn at first due to the world building that needs to happen, but it never felt boring/slow. There is a subtle shift about a third of the way through the book where the reader goes from being a passive learner to an active participant and then it is actively engaging right till the very end. I finished this book needing more and that desire definitely colored the rest of my reading month (I only just ordered the rest of the books in the series).

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson 3/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) This was a bit of a letdown for me. In Eight Perfect Murders we follow a bookstore owner as he learns that a list he posted many years ago has become inspiration for a serial killer. What follows is a literary mystery. Now, I loved the setting and concept of this story. Where I found it lacking/disappointing, was in the actual mystery/thriller aspect of it. I found that portion to be predictable and lackluster.

American Royals by Katharine McGee 4/5 (Goodreads/Purchase) This isn’t the next award-winning book, but it’s good fun, nonetheless. In American Royals we follow an alternate history of the US where George Washington decided to become king when asked and what that ends up looking like in with the modern-day royal family. Basically, this is British Royal Family fanfiction set in America and it’s lighthearted melodrama fun. Suspend all your thoughts and beliefs and just enjoy the ride.

Now, I mentioned earlier that I am currently in the middle of two books, which I will share a bit about now…

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett (Goodreads/Purchase): I’m really enjoying this one so far! I’m halfway through and while it is different in quite a few ways from the previous two books, I’m really enjoying getting a different view into this time period (Elizabethan England). Once again, I love his storytelling and the way he weaves these epic family tales.

Locke & Key Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft (Goodreads/Purchase) I don’t really know how I feel about this. I had placed it on hold from the library a while ago and then quarantine happened and I forgot about it. I’m not a fan, but not not enjoying it. Does that even make sense?

My reading plans for the next couple months include a bit of literary fiction, the next book in the Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson) series, some black history, and a few more Ellery Adams cozy mysteries. Reading for me serves a purpose: escapism/pleasure or education. I am trying to be more cognizant about doing both.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts? What was your favorite read from May?

Round the Kettle ep.25 : In which I Speak Up and Share My Perspective

I am going to preface this by saying a couple of things. One, this is probably going to be all over the place. I’m working through my thoughts and feelings as many others are. Two, I don’t have the answers, I don’t have the words, I don’t know. Three, this is incredibly new to me, which is very indicative of my privilege in this area and I acknowledge that. Finally, Four, I want to champion the voices of those who are directly impacted. I fully believe that right now is a time for us to listen to those impacted, work alongside them. While it is powerful for us all to share and speak up, I would ask everyone to also champion/share/project those voices.

I don’t know if this is going to be any good. I don’t know if this is going to be helpful. I don’t know if this is a complete mistake. I just know that I needed to get all of this off of my chest and that is one facet of my blog. If there are any corrections, anything you would like to add, any tips/advice or such, please comment below and share.

I’ll be honest, I don’t speak about politics or world affairs or current events very often. The reason is twofold. One part is that I quite simply like to live in my happy little world, being a reprieve from the world that we live in currently. I think that in a lot of cases, we all need that little reprieve and I like to provide that little space for that.  I’m conflict avoidant by nature (any other Type 9’s feel this more now than ever?) and I’ve always just kept to the sidelines. Talked within my family to do what I could there and kept moving. An immense amount of privilege to be able to do that. The second part (and more important part) is that most of the time I don’t know WHAT to say. I don’t know HOW to help. I don’t want to offend those who are directly affected by doing/saying/projecting the wrong thing. So, again, I would say things with my friends and family, but largely keep silent. Always listening, always learning, always trying to understand.

See, that’s something you should know about me. I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to understand. So that when I do speak I do so from a place of knowledge. I want to use my little voice in the best way possible and so, I worked from the sidelines.

Something else you should understand about me is that I can, by and large, see both sides of the conflict. Now, let me explain before you go making judgements on what I am saying. When I am learning and listening I like to stay impartial. I like to know all of the facts, all of the stories, all of the information (both fact and what is construed) before I speak out. Not because I don’t feel passionate one way or the other, but because when I speak I want to do so from a place of knowledge. One could say that maybe that stops me from speaking out earlier, which in turn creates a domino effect, but I would disagree. I think by listening, by understanding each facet or side to a problem we can start to move forward to a solution. To effectively use our resources and create real change.

And right now? Right now, I feel helpless. I feel like I have so much to say, but no way to say it. I want to scream into the void. I want to hold everybody. I want to run away from it all. I want to see a different world. I want so much for things to change. I want people to feel like they can just be, just live. I’m watching scenes from across our country from a continent away and I feel frustrated. I’m seeing outrage expressed for a multitude of different reasons and I feel frustrated. I see the media simultaneously reporting the news and inflaming problems. I see people twisting information, construing facts, to support their own beliefs. And I see peoples own voices, directly impacted, on both sides, saying the same thing in different ways.

We are a country on the brink. We are teetering closer to the edge than we have in a long time. And it is up to us, to all of us to try and forge a new way forward. We need change.

What you are seeing in Minneapolis is a community in turmoil. So many have felt like they have no other way to make their voices heard. They’ve been peaceful, they’ve been “violent”, they’ve been anything they can be and still don’t see any meaningful change. You see the heart and soul of people who are tired. This is important to see. It’s important for us to recognize what is going on. It’s important for us to listen to voices on the ground (both in the community and in the police force- remember both sides have something to say and often times most are working towards the same goal).

We are also seeing a lot of protests going on across the country. We are seeing various “styles” (I’m cringing at that wording, but I don’t know how else to call it) of protest. Take note. Listen to what they are trying to do. Let’s work together to create a new world. I see A LOT of people wondering how the community in Minneapolis got to where they are at…well they started like the communities in other parts of the country and they didn’t see any meaningful change. They felt like they did it the “right way” and nothing happened, so what else are they going to do? They want things to change.

Again, we are on the brink. We are in a unique position where we can initiate a real change. A position where we can come together to listen and make changes. We can also teeter off into another civil war. The choice is ours.

Listen. Listen to the voices all around you. People are talking. People are sharing. All you need to do it listen to begin to understand. Don’t ask questions. Don’t put the responsibility of your education on others. Take responsibility to begin to understand.

Don’t try to speak for others. We need to champion the voices who are or have experienced these injustices. Again, listen to what they are saying. Share their own voices and take your queue from them. I see so many people who are trying to share content, to be an ally, but who in doing so are silencing other meaningful voices. Rather than assuming you know what people are hoping to achieve with their voices, listen to what they are saying about what they want to achieve.

Understand that different people are processing this differently. Personally, I believe that a lot of the change happens in our own homes, in our own friend groups, in our own communities. It starts with us raising our children differently, with us speaking up at our community events, with us all doing our part to change our thought processes, our society. It takes each of us doing our part, however little, to create change.

And learn. Learn from others. For me, that means reading. I’m bringing a lot of own voices content into my reading list for the next couple months, both in a fiction and nonfiction sense. I’m cultivating a list of both current and historical works to read (because looking backwards is important to not make the same mistakes moving forward). I want to create real change moving forward. I’m trying. I’m learning.

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?

Two of My Favorite Places

Today I am going to continue on with my daydreaming of travel posts and talk about a couple of places that are very near and dear to my heart.

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You know when you go somewhere, or experience something, and it just sits on your heart? It awakens your soul and just changes you? It may take you by surprise or be something you expect, but it changes you irrevocably. Today I am talking about two places we’ve traveled to that have changed me. They resonated in my soul and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them. One place is one that I knew would feel this way, but the other took me by surprise in a way.

Of course, I’ll link the applicable blog posts in each spot so that you can take a look to see exactly where we went and what we did.

The Highlands, Scotland (INVERNESS, EDINBURGH)

Scotland was a place that I had been dreaming of visiting for as long as I could remember. I had actually been as a baby (as my mother continues to remind me of), but I didn’t remember anything from that trip. There is so much I love about Scotland, that I had loved about it before even stepping foot in the country. The people, the culture, the history, the weather, the landscape; Scotland has so much to offer. But getting to experience that firsthand? It just solidified that this was a place my heart called to and yearns for.

While in Scotland, we divided our time between the southern portion and Edinburgh, and the far Northern reaches of the Highlands and Inverness. I loved both places, but the Highlands is just where my soul lives and breathes. Something about being up in the mountains, in the valleys, in the raw beauty of the wilderness just really lit something deep inside me. Much of our time in Scotland just seems like a blur of contentment. It was funny because in the Highlands we saw a couple of spots (Culloden & Loch Ness being the two big ones), but a good amount of our time was just spent in the little barn cabin we stayed up, watching the storms battle in and out, the grass wave in the wind, and feeling that sense of peace around us. We didn’t have a lot of cellphone service, TV and Internet were limited, and it was incredible.

There are few places that I really want to get back to before our time in Europe comes to an end (and by that I mean, will fight tooth and nail to go back) and this is one of those, possibly the highest on the list. To maybe make it clearer, if I could live anywhere, anywhere in the world, I would choose to live in one of the small villages in the Highlands of Scotland (actually a town similar to where we stayed at on this trip, up in the Black Isle’s/Fortrose area).

Rome, Italy (EARLY DAYS, ANCIENT ROME, VATICAN, LAST DAYS)

I’ve always loved the idea of Italy. Italian food, Italian culture, the history of the country; Italy always just seemed like a warm, welcoming home for the weary traveler. Just like with Scotland, I had dreamed of visiting Italy. Dreamed of driving along the Tuscan hills, seeing the beauty of the Amalfi Coast, hearing the history of Rome and Pompeii. I expected to fall in love. What I didn’t expect was that now, nearly 4 months after our first trip to Italy, that I would still be dreaming, reminiscing, on our time walking through the streets of Rome. But, this trip has had a longer lasting impact on me than just that. It has called me back to some aspects of my life that I had turned away from and it has reignited a love and passion that I had only been nurturing, not following.

There are so many things to talk about with Rome, but I think the biggest thing that has just stayed with me is the history. You are walking amongst buildings and places that are beyond our comprehension of age. Buildings that are beyond our comprehension of size. People who had larger than life dreams and ideas and made them happen. I mean, to walk the streets of Ancient Rome, the same paths that the warriors would take, to see the tunnels of the Coliseum, the baths of Caracalla, The Pantheon, it’s just…breathtaking. There were so many moments where I just didn’t have the words to describe how I was feeling. I had never felt smaller and yet so filled with knowledge.

A couple more things that I didn’t realize would affect me as much as they did…

The people. Rome is FULL OF PEOPLE. Both locals and tourists and we didn’t have one negative moment while we were there. Obviously with the number of tourists it can be hard to see things at times (The Trevi Fountain is insane), but overall it was just one of the warmest most welcoming places we’ve visited. It was so full of life, of passion, of love. The food was incredible as well (which, as a lifelong Italian food eater I expected) and we definitely indulged during our week there. Finally, something else about Rome that I didn’t know I was going to be so affected by was the religion. I’ll be touching more on this in an upcoming blog post, but I came back to some of my roots while we were there and it’s something that has been sticking with me.

So, two very different spots that we’ve traveled to, but two very soul changing experiences. I love that we are getting the chance to experience all that we can while we are here, and I am looking forward to the day that we do get to travel to far off places again.

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.