Mom Guilt: Part 2 (Reality)

7.15.2014


When it comes to parenting, I have a suspicion that guilt and self-doubt are just part of the deal. 

Some Most days I feel incredibly inadequate. I adore my son, but as we enter the toddler age and find ourselves navigating the waters of tantrums, picky eating, and potty training, I start to wonder if the bad behavior is normal or my fault. 

Guilt starts to eat away at my insides thinking about how impossible my schedule makes it to give August any kind of set routine. 
I read lists of things not to feed your toddler and find that I'm feeding August something in the Top 5. 
I wonder if he he's behind developmentally because I'm not teaching him enough---should he know how to count? say his ABCs? what age is it normal to start recognizing shapes and colors? 
I worry about him getting too much exposure to technology or not enough time outdoors. 
Just yesterday, August had a very public, very explosive tantrum---his first ever. I was shocked and so embarrassed I wanted to cry. 
But the worst guilt comes on the days that I find myself daydreaming about an alternate life where I'm not a mom and I feel even guiltier for feeling that way when I have friends who are struggling with infertility.

I know I probably shouldn't care what other people think of me (though it's hard not to when I'm at the grocery store in yoga pants and a messy top bun) but right now I am imagining my friends who have multiples rolling their eyes at me and reading this post out loud in a whiney voice to their husbands. I picture single friends groaning and my friends who've experienced loss slamming their laptop shut in anger. But maybe not...maybe someone is sighing in relief that they're not the only one that thinks they might be messing up their kids or daydreams about being a travel journalist every now and then when it gets tough.

My plan was to end this post with something encouraging...but wouldn't be more honest to just end it mid senten

Mom Guilt: Part 1 (Stories)


In the span of the last 24 hours I received news that a friend is pregnant and news that another friend miscarried. Two women who I admire a great deal experiencing two very different, but equally powerful emotions. Meanwhile I have single friends, and mothers of multiples all experiencing a wide variety of emotions and challenges each day.

I've always been an advocate of sharing stories---both for the deeper understanding it can bring about things I have never experienced and the community that forms around shared experiences. Yet, while I love reading honest and emotional stories, I also worry that those stories and my own will bring painful reminders to some. I feel guilty for complaining about a challenging aspect of parenting when I have friends our there who would trade just about anything to be in my shoes.

Try as I might to not let it become my whole identity, I find myself writing about marriage and parenting more than anything else. Sometimes I feel like a fraud---some silly girl pretending she knows what she's doing. Trust me when I say that I don't have anything figured out. The reason I write is the fact that writing has always helped me process challenges and find a sense of normalcy and community with others experiencing similar things. More than anything though, I write about marriage and parenting (and other things I care about) because it helps me to remember why I value those things in the first place (especially when I start to feel weary).

This is a preface of sorts. When I vent about being a parent I do so out of a desire to regain my sanity and perspective. To remind myself it's all worth it. I do not regret becoming a mother and I would be devastated if I lost my son. If anything, most of my mom guilt stems from feeling like I'm not doing a good enough job, that I owe it to my son and to other women who can't have children to be better at this. So no matter what I say or write, please know---I wouldn't trade it.




Tips for Gifts

6.23.2014


As someone who loves gifts (both giving and receiving) I thought I would share some tips for those who feel like they aren't very good at gifts. Especially husbands, who seem to feel a lot of pressure to make anniversaries, birthdays, etc. special.

Tips for Gifts

1. It truly is the thought that counts

While there are certainly some people out there who have very specific gifts in mind, for most people it's more about the thought/the effort than the thing itself. Big or small, expensive or homemade, it's the gesture of being thought of, of someone wanting to do something special for you, that really counts. Even those who are perfectly fine not receiving gifts may enjoy a note or other small gesture to show that they are on your mind.

2. Know the Person

The only way to truly know what someone would like to receive as a gift is to know that person. Some women love flowers and others hate them. Some people would prefer a gift of your time (like dinner out) or an act of service (like washing the dishes) to a tangible gift. All you really have to do is pay attention/have the desire to know what sorts of things they like. Make notes (mental or on your smart phone) when they mention really liking something or you witness them enjoying something---you can always refer back to that list later. Also, if they are the type of person who doesn't care about surprises, just ask them what sorts of things they like to receive as a gift! Then they are guaranteed to like it and if you ask far enough in advance they may even forget what they told you.

3. Ask for Help

Okay, so you know it's really about the thought and you feel like you know the person, but you still feel lost? It is time to ask for help. Seriously. There are so many resources at your disposal. For example, if you are that husband that does not feel creative and you're married to a person who really loves surprises and romance---ask someone who is creative for help. Your mom, sister, your wife's best friend---whoever. It doesn't make it less special simply because you didn't come up with it completely on your own. If anything, it shows how far you are willing to go to make your spouse feel special.

4. Pinterest / Google

Honestly if you just google "anniversary ideas" or "date ideas" you will get a plethora of options. You don't have to join pinterest to go on and search and trust me when I say In this day and age there's really no excuse (other than not trying) because you could literally just steal someone else's idea and duplicate it exactly (this isn't a business model, it's just a date---it's okay to plagiarize just this once).

5. Sacrifice

I read an article once that said the perfect gift is one that requires you to sacrifice. Whether it be time, comfort, preference, money, whatever---sacrifice is a great quality in a gift. It could be as simple as seeing the movie your spouse prefers even though it's not something you enjoy or spending your day off doing something for them when you'd rather be on the golf course. In other words, to paraphrase the aforementioned article: "The perfect gift isn't one that begs for reciprocation, or sends a loud signal that you're a big-time sport. The perfect gift is simply about the recipient, not you."

Other good gift qualities include being personal, surprising, or a luxury (meaning something they don't get that often which lets be honest---for a mother that could be as simple as a NAP).

As I've written before, for me gifts aren't about cost or extravagance. You could give me a leaf you found in the park for all I care---if it made you think of me and you share that with me there's a good chance that I will treasure it.

Disclaimer: I've met people who are truly obsessed with STUFF and STATUS and these tips will not satisfy those sorts of people. If you're buying a gift for this sort of person you're better off just flat out asking for a list of what they want or including a gift receipt. Otherwise---I truly think these tips will be helpful for those who just feel lost when it comes to trying to make the people they love feel special.

Wonderful and Relentless

5.16.2014


I don't believe that you have to be married or have children in order for your life to be meaningful. These things don't determine your value. However, I must say that my experience has confirmed a suspicion I've had for quite some time. Major life milestones are among the things that propel us into adulthood.

Marriage and parenthood in particular have the power to mature you at an accelerated rate. Marriage is one of the first significant commitments you can make that is both a.) difficult to back out of; and b.) effects someone other than you. Living in a partnership with another human being is no joke. Although it can be one of the most fulfilling relationships human experience has to offer, it is difficult to transition from a world that mostly revolves around you to a world centered around an "us." Sure, there are friends and family invested in your life when you're single, maybe even a significant other, but for the most part you can navigate your life decisions alone without a ton of fall out. As a single person I could make decisions like---should I take this new job? or, should I eat that donut? without worrying too much about someone being displaced or upset that I spent $2.85 that wasn't in the budget. In marriage, all of your decisions, big or small, in some way effect your spouse. Your emotionally invested, also probably selfish---spouse. Learning to put someone else's needs above your own becomes a critical practice.

Ah, but if marriage forces us to mature then parenthood is the ultimate acceleration milestone. It changes your whole identity (not that you lose your self completely) and requires pouring yourself into a relationship that you technically won't get a tangible return on. (Yes, you'll probably get love and other intangibles that are totally worth it---but you'll also acquire lots of pain, worry, and sleep deprivation---you'll NEVER get that sleep back!). Unlike marriage, you can't undo parenthood. Once you're a parent you can never not be a parent again. It's. for. life. Macaulay Culkin might have legally divorced his parents, but biologically he's stuck with them forever. I can divorce my husband and be single again, but I can't divorce my children and cease to be a mom. Not really.

Both of these sorts of relationships require sacrifice.

True self sacrifice---of your time, your desires, and even your body. Sacrifice demands growth, maturity, and all sorts of other STRETCHY words.

This quote from an interview with John Green captures it well:

"Given [John Green's] propensity for anxiety, having children worries him a great deal---"there's that revelation of oh, this is for ever"---and he is constantly amazed by how wonderful and relentless it is. "It's because the sacrifice is ordinary that it is looked past. It is far harder than many of the extraordinary sacrifices that are always being lauded. And it goes unnoted by the person for whom you are sacrificing. It wasn't until I had a child that I called my parents and was like, 'Oh! This was difficult. I'm sorry.' I thought it was a pleasure to parent me the whole way through."

The sacrifices of parenthood are "ordinary" (in that they are done by many), but just because they aren't considered noteworthy doesn't mean they aren't pretty remarkable. I am amazed at how much I've changed in just the past couple of years alone and it's basically all August's fault. ;)
So no, parenthood is not the goal of life and it doesn't make a person "better" than any other person. And we promise not to whine too much when it's hard because we definitely chose this path. But honestly? We do need some recognition every now and then. Pat a mom or dad on the back and tell them they're doing a good job---because this parenting stuff is not easy. As Green says, it's wonderful...and it's relentless.


In Defense of Soccer

5.09.2014


I am a fan of soccer. Not a die-hard, live and breathe it sort of fan. I'm not claiming to be an expert about all the goings on in the world of soccer, so please don't quiz me. I don't even have a favorite team outside of supporting the U.S. national team. I do enjoy the sport though and I've been wanting to write a post "defending" why I like it for quite awhile.

There are better people to write a defense of soccer that understand it much better than I, but because there are not many things more annoying to me than snide remarks from people who talk about soccer as if it is an inferior sport (and because it's my blog and I feel like it), on we go.

I'd like to preface this post by stating that I like sports in general. Although admittedly my love of sports has suffered in recent years and I have my qualms with certain aspects of it, overall I see a lot of value in athletic activities. As an observer, I am a fan particularly of professional football, college basketball, hockey, and even baseball when the mood hits.

First lets address some of the common snide comments made about soccer.

1. "It's not manly." 

This statement, in all it's variations, is hardly ever followed by a legitimate reason, but I'll address some possible reasons I've come up with.

If you think it's not masculine because women play it (whereas you rarely see a women playing football or hockey) then my response is pretty simple: I don't think you can say something inherently lacks "manliness" simply because a woman is capable of doing it. Women participate in their own leagues for most other sports including---racing, ultimate fighting, boxing, basketball, olympic sports, and so on. Soccer isn't really any different than the majority of sports on that level. Sports are typically not co-ed because of size/build differences and other concerns not because of the skills needed for the sport itself preclude women from participating.

If you think it's not manly because you are under the illusion that it's "easy" you are just misinformed (see players section below).

If you think it's not manly because it lacks the equipment protection needed by more "physical sports" you are excluding snowboarding, racing, most olympic sports, ultimate fighting, basketball, baseball, and well---most sports. Additionally, you have probably never watched enough soccer or played it enough to realize how physical it really is and WITHOUT all the gear protection---which to me seems to actually make it more "manly."

2. "It's a poor mans sport."

This is sort of a prejudiced comment, but it comes up. It's popular because it's cheap is the concept. There is some truth to that (see community benefits below) but it doesn't work on the whole. Soccer is extremely popular in both developed and undeveloped countries. Europe has some of the most extensive soccer programs and one of the most booming soccer industries in the world and the sport is supported by affluent upper classes just as much as the lower classes.

3. "It's boring."

My initial reaction to this is---how could it be the entire rest of the worlds favorite sport if it's inherently boring?

My guess is that it's boring to some Americans because they don't know enough about it (rules, play, athletes, etc) or lack the strong community ties to a local team needed to get emotionally invested. Whether or not a sport is exciting is fairly subjective. I happen to think golf and baseball are extremely boring to watch on television, but a whole lot of people disagree with me.

I've heard the low scoring referenced in tandem with this statement. Yet, not all sports are high scoring. Hockey is scored very similarly to soccer for instance and regulation time can end with a 0-0 score. Baseball often see's no score for several innings straight (and is a game where they stand around an awful lot) and basically can't end in no score because it is untimed and therefore can't end until someone scores. Even football would be a low scoring game if it was scored differently (a touchdown being 1 point rather than 6 would make for quite a lower score). Personally I feel like the points mean a lot more in soccer. In basketball, a basket barely has meaning until the end of the game. I get that a soccer game, unlike almost all other sports, can end with no score and does so regularly enough to warrant some criticism, but that's certainly not always the case. I feel that if you like and understand the sport the games are rarely boring. I've seen grown men get just as passionate about a soccer game (the bad calls, missed saves, penalties, etc) as a football game.

Next let me tell you some of the reasons I like soccer. Particularly I want to tell you the benefit / good it does for different areas of athletics:

FOR PLAYERS --- Soccer takes a high level of endurance and skill to play.

The misconception that soccer is "easy" is absurd. It's a different skill set then American football where you need to have the physical strength and mental capacity to play in "bursts" that are fast paced and physically intense. In contrast, some of the important skills for soccer are endurance, on-going team communication, and accuracy. You cannot play it without loads of conditioning and skill practice.

The fact is, it's one of the few sports that relies more purely skills than it does stature. Not having the right build or height can exclude you from basketball and football no matter what your work ethic is like. However if you want to play soccer but you're only 5'9 you can work your butt off and excel. Genetics doesn't count you out of the game. Soccer is a great equalizer when it comes to sports. Either your good or your not, you can't blame mom and dad for sucking at this sport or "going undrafted YET AGAIN despite a solid 40 time and GREAT HANDS." (Daniel Tosh)

FOR KIDS --- Coordination and Interpersonal Skills

All the benefits of team sports and exercise is amplified when it can be started at a very young age. Soccer skills and games are some of the best for developing coordination and interpersonal skills in kids. This is one of the reasons why youth soccer camps and community club teams are on the rise. The game is simple enough to start learning very very young and all you need is a ball.

FOR COMMUNITIES --- Soccer is inclusive.

Yes, soccer is more inclusive than football and most other sports. Part of why it is the worlds most popular sport is because it is less expensive than most sports as it doesn't require a ton of equipment. All you really need is a ball---the rest can be thrown together easier and while higher levels can invest a great deal into fields, goals, shoes, arenas, etc. it's not an absolute necessity.

Another reason it's inclusive is that it is diversified. It is a sport that is played by both men and women at high levels. It is played by every ethnicity and your genetic build or height doesn't preclude you from excelling at the sport.

These things do not make the sport easier than other sports---it simply makes it more accessible. And I think that's a positive thing. It means that it can bring communities together, provide opportunity and common ground for people of different backgrounds, ages, races, genders, sizes and so on. It's popularity stems from these extremely positive aspects.

FOR THE INDUSTRY --- Soccer provides a growing pool of new sports industry jobs.

The sport has yet to be watered down by overregulation in the way that football and basketball has started to go in the last few years and since soccer's popularity is on the rise in the U.S. there will be a lot of new soccer-specific jobs for coaches, players, officiators, sports casters, trainers, college program directors, and the variety of jobs that goes into running a city team in business, marketing, retail, and so on.

FOR THE ECONOMY --- Professional soccer teams in the U.S. are on the rise.

Whereas New York is not going to add a fourth Football team anytime soon, NYC is getting it's first major league professional soccer team and other cities will follow the trend. As I mention in the points above, soccer is one of the few sports that is growing. Already established franchises don't have a lot of room to grow, but soccer is just getting started and will positive impact local economies all across the country.

FOR THE U.S. SPECIFICALLY --- Soccer is growing in popularity.

Not only is soccer the world's most popular sport, but it's growing in popularity in the U.S.

Soccer is one of the last major sports left in the U.S. that still has a lot of territory to cover. As such, it is one of the only sports presence that is rapidly on the rise in the U.S.  Soccer has been steadily gaining popularity and prominence in the U.S.---the national team is better than ever, Beckham playing in L.A. didn't hurt, and new programs and teams are popping all over. If you have ANY interest in sports as a whole---such as wanting to be an athletic director, sports writer, etc. then you simply can't ignore or write off the sport of soccer. Over time the petty quips will be less and less tolerated.

Also, it's an Olympic sport, which football is not. So it's an opportunity for some national pride during the summer games in an area that most other countries take a LOT of pride in. If the U.S. wants to "prove itself" as being a country of great athletes, then it has to meet the rest of the world on their terms and show themselves to be a worthy contender. Soccer has the farthest reach of any sport where that is concerned. Doesn't it bother you that we're not taken seriously because we're NOT AS GOOD as other countries at this sport?!

CONCLUSION

Believe it or not you can like both Football and Soccer. There's no legitimate reason to pit them against one another. Soccer is a really great sport. Love it, leave it, present a valid arugment for why you don't like it, but cut it out with all the obnoxious put downs with no basis in reality. It just makes me tempted to judge you as a "dumb jock" without an original thought and blatant ignorance on the subject.

Am I a Writer?

4.17.2014


I've never referred to myself as a writer. Perhaps that is because I have a very specific idea of what a writer is which I don't feel I fit into. I find writing to be valuable and enjoyable, but I've attempted to stay realistic about my skill-level which I consider to be average. Can you really call yourself a writer if you didn't major in English or pursue a full-time writing career of some sort?

Truthfully, I didn't pursue an English major in college because I felt I wasn't good enough. My grammar and spelling skills were atrocious as a child and though they improved with practice, that weak foundation has always felt like an academic handicap to me. I also find that my mind gets ahead of my fingers interchanging words or sometimes leaving them out altogether (which is at least in part due to a mild learning disability). Thanks to writing intensive high school and college experiences, I know that I have developed into a decent writer. Still, I have this notion that great writers just have it in them naturally and don't have to work so hard at it. I continue to write not because I think I'm going to get a book deal, but because I enjoy it and find it to be personally enriching. It's a great way to sort out thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Academically I still chose a writing intensive major: Humanities (one third Philosophy, History & English with my concentration in History). Outside of the English department writing was more focused on content than technique. As a result, the writing style I am best at is essay writing. I was always good at developing an argument, researching and synthesizing information, and editing.

So while I've never thought of myself as "a writer" I have spent the better part of the last decade writing and technically speaking I am a professional writer. Perhaps not in title, but certainly in practice. Research and writing is the bulk of what I do as a legal assistant at a law firm. I am required to research issues, write briefs in which I develop and articulate arguments, document (cite) those arguments, and edit the final product before final submission.

Basically my career requires a ton of writing and a great deal of my free time is spent writing (blogging, devotionals, press releases, content writing, etc) as well.

So you know what? I am a writer. I'm just not a creative writer, which is what I picture when I think "writer." I've never once written a complete piece of fiction. I've had ideas, I've dabbled in song writing, I've written fragments of stories down, but creative writing is outside my comfort zone.

I envy creative writers. Professional and academic writing requires a commitment to your position and documenting it. Sometimes I just want to write something beautiful or say something meaningful without having to defend it. I want to hide behind the metaphors. 

So, I am. I am stretching myself as a writer and it's absolutely terrifying (in an exciting way).
I am finding resources to help me practice writing more creatively and I am letting others into the process.

This is WAY outside my writing comfort zone. I know that if I want to be a better writer I have to take on challenges that put my weaknesses on display. Sometimes the path to good writing is paved with bad writing. Sometimes if you want to improve you have to let others critique and encourage you. For someone whose greatest fear is not snakes or heights, but humiliation---this is quite difficult for me. If I admit that maybe this is something I love and want to pursue then it will hurt all the more if I fail.

As my husband can attest to, I don't enjoy learning new things if I'm not at least a little bit good at them first. I have thrown a game controller across the room more than once and still refuse to play games that aren't made for Nintendo. So I obviously think I have the potential to grow in this area or I probably wouldn't take it on. Still, it's new to me. And scary or not, it's going to be fun!

Ay Bay Bay

3.18.2014


So many friends and family members are having and adopting babies this year! I'm tempted to say 2014 is the year of the baby but I actually think it'll be many years before my social media sites are no longer full of baby announcements. After all, I'm in a my twenties and my friends are just getting started (or haven't started yet). If the announcements get under your skin read this post. If you love them (or just want to keep reading) read on!

I have to admit---I'm in the "love them" camp. I just enjoy seeing families form and grow. I also am enjoying feeling normal again. For awhile there we were the only parents in our social circle which made me feel a little bit like an outsider (but only a little bit) and suddenly I feel like an insider again.

I'm weirdly giddy about my friends who are getting pregnant for the first time. And maybe even more excited about second and beyond pregnancies (because they beat me to it? because I want everyone to have 10 kids? who knows?). But all this shared happiness probably has more to do with the fact that we have walked with some close friends through some really painful stuff and we're finally seeing happy endings (beginnings) to those stories.

This week close friends of ours took their baby boy home after a very long adoption journey. They started the process before we were even pregnant with August and have walked a long, difficult road to get this baby. He's a miracle baby and my heart is so full to see this finally happen after waiting so long. Two other friends of mine that I cried with when they had miscarriages are pregnant---and one is due any day now! Another friend that has struggled with infertility for months and months and thought she couldn't have children just found out she's pregnant.

There are women blogging about the pain of infertility, or the pain of miscarriage. There are women announcing good news. There are women suffering in silence and women celebrating quietly.

I can't help but be aware that mixed in with all the joy of new babies there are women who are hurting. Women who are trying so hard to get pregnant. Women who have lost pregnancies and are reminded of the loss when they see the announcements. Women who are single and feel like they are so far behind their friends.

We have such a great opportunity to share in both the joy and grief at all stages of life. I am so glad I've been able to participate in these stories. My heart is really full today as I smile at pictures of new borns and baby bumps. I just can't keep it in. :)

Carrying the Burden

2.26.2014


Some days, I feel like 'The Giver' (from Lois Lowry's book of the same name). I feel overwhelmed and burdened by all the pain, death, destruction, and sadness in the world---as if it's my job to carry it with me. Yet, I also know that you cannot truly understand and experience the good things in life like beauty, grace, love, joy, or peace without both sides of human experience existing in tandem.

When I was 18, this excerpt from A Severe Mercy (Sheldon Vanauken) was one of my favorites:

“He had been wont to despise emotions: girls were weak, emotions–tears– were weakness. But this morning he was thinking that being a great brain in a tower, nothing but brain, wouldn’t be much fun. No excitement, no dog to love, no joy in the blue sky– no feelings at all. But feelings– feelings are emotions! He was suddenly overwhelmed by the revelation that what makes life worth living is, precisely, the emotions. But then– this was awful!– maybe girls with their tears and laughter were getting more out of life. Shattering! He checked himself, showing one’s emotions was not the thing: having them was. Still, he was dizzy with the revelation. What is beauty but something is responded to with emotion? Courage, at least, is partly emotional. All the splendor of life. But if the best of life is, in fact, emotional, then one wanted the highest, the purest emotions: and that meant joy. Joy was the highest. How did one find joy? In books it was found in love– a great love… So if he wanted the heights of joy, he must have it, if he could find it, in great love. But in the books again, great joy through love always seemed go hand in hand with frightful pain. Still, he thought, looking out across the meadow, still, the joy would be worth the pain– if indeed, they went together. If there were a choice– and he suspected there was– a choice between, on the one hand, the heights and the depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths."

Just out of high school I had my youth and optimism to hold me up as I experienced the pain and disillusionment that often comes with getting older. It's amazing how much you grow up in your 20s. Your world gets a whole lot bigger. This is especially true if you throw in major milestones like living on your own, a career, marriage, or parenthood (all guaranteed to mature you at an accelerated pace). This quote doesn't resonate with me quite the same way it did at 18, but that last line---a choice between, on the one hand, the heights and the depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths---I seem always resonate with this particular sentiment.

There are times when you absolutely DO want the safe, middle way. Usually in the midst of or right after something painful. There have been many moments in my life when I longed for numbness just to not have to feel the pain. That is, I imagine, when most of us put up walls that keep others out. We're protecting ourselves from additional pain.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think life is suppose to be like a movie. I don't buy the lie that life needs to be dramatic to be interesting. I feel that a life full of conflict, unbridled emotion, and restlessness (all pretty important to the rise and fall of a plot) probably leads to discontentment and shallow relationships. There are in fact aspects of life that are completely dull. There is value in discipline, responsibility, and commitment. If we chase the drama, we certainly will have the highs and lows, but I fear we'll miss out on the depths. The depths require investment in people and places, long-term nitty gritty sometimes completely boring investment. That's okay with me. There are suffering people all over the world that would give anything just to have some boring. I shouldn't take even the most mundane aspects of my life for granted.

...but what about this burden? The knowledge of good. The knowledge of evil. Pain. Joy. The best and worst of life on earth.

Somedays it's easy to remember that the sad things will come untrue.
Somedays I forget.
Somedays the weight of it all feels like it will crush me.
Somedays it's feels like there's nothing to carry at all.

I'm glad that unlike The Giver, I don't have to carry the burden alone, but---it must be carried.

On the bad days, I listen to Vice Verses and ask God hard questions.
On good days, I listen to Where I Belong and thank God for answering.

And every day I wake up wondering which sort of day it will be.

Happy Valentine's Day

2.14.2014



Well, Happy Valentine's Day everyone. I've written many a post and status about why I like Valentines day in the past. I always have. Yes, as with anything and any holiday, it's been abused, used, and distorted; but if we're going to celebrate something...why not love? Love of ALL kinds. Take the opportunity to tell someone how much they mean to you. Your dad, your sister, your best friend---whoever. Not because you're obligated to, but because it can never be expressed too much. Let's SHOUT IT LOUD so the whole world hears us---we are all infinitely valuable and loved.

If you're on Facebook, keep in mind that...

1.20.2014

You have valueI imagine that you may sometimes feel that the opposite is true, but it's not. Status does not determine your value. Not even your Facebook status.

Social media can at times make you jealous of or annoyed by others. As much as Facebook is meant to connect us, it also separates us into categories. This is perhaps why a single person can feel devalued because they're not married, a married couple can feel devalued because they're not parents, or a parent can feel devalued because they have no career or are unable to travel to interesting places.

We all feel frustrated and bombarded by our Facebook feeds at times, but here are some things to keep in mind.

If you're Single and on Facebook, keep in mind that...

- Only something like 21% of 18-30 years are married so it's NOT everyone you know

- You can ruin the moment

When I got engaged I wanted to celebrate the news with friends and family. It was a right of passage I'd been looking forward to my entire life so I was surprised that some friends responded instead with resentment and disdain. Although hurtful comments were in the minority and happened offline, it made me think twice about posting much about my engagement on Facebook. The "not another wedding/baby" comments could ruin an otherwise happy moment for someone.

- Some people use social media to cope or as a resource

If I write a status asking for parenting advice it's because I'm seeking a variety of opinions in a short period of time. It's efficient and effective. People do over share on social media when they probably shouldn't, including parents, but it's often a coping mechanism. It's worth keeping in mind that the parent posting about potty training may have no other outlet to seek advice or may be alone most of the day craving adult interaction.

- It's not always real

People have a tendency to put a happy face on parenting and marriage on social media for the most part. Don't let that fool you into thinking it's easy. Marriage and parenting are not easy and I want you to know that you have just as much value right where you are. Rushing into marriage just to "catch up" with everyone else can have tragic consequences.

- Social media is a relatively new phenomenon

It's not really that these milestones have somehow increased over the years (in fact people are getting married and having kids later and later) it's simply that we have a new forum to share our lives which means you are going to be bombarded by information you don't need to know and would have never had access to in the past. You suddenly know about the marriage and babies of every person you've ever met, not just your close friends. I actually lament this a bit because I think the celebrations would mean more if you only had a few and they were for people you were truly desired to celebrate with.

- No one is forcing you to read it

No one is forcing you to get on Facebook everyday and read your newsfeed. You can distance yourself from it by logging on less, you can even block things off your feed or skim right over it. There's a choice involved.

- You have milestones ahead

For us married/parent types, we can sometimes feel like all the exciting milestones are behind us. Don't underestimate the beauty of having things to look forward to. When you are married, you may look back on single life and miss the freedom, the anticipation of meeting the love of your life, of planning a wedding, or finding out your pregnant for the first time. They are exciting milestones that you will experience someday and it will be over all too quickly.

If you are Married or Parenting and you're on Facebook, keep in mind that...

- Some people use social media to cope

When people complain about all the marriages and babies, it's possible that they're coping because they want those things and for whatever reason cannot have them right now. Understand that those statuses might be a way to cope with something deeper. They may be hurting. Even if they aren't, they are coping with something (anger, annoyance, etc).

- You can ruin the moment

When someone is posting about their career, master's degree, travels, etc. they want someone to share and celebrate the moment with just as much as you did when you were announcing your engagement or pregnancy and what's more, they may not have anyone to share it with. No one should feel small or of less value because they are in a different phase of life. Celebrate with them!

- It's not always real

I recently had a chat with a friend who has been traveling all over Europe for the last year. I admit I have watched from a distance with a certain amount of jealousy. But it turns out, they're lonely and jealous of my life---having a family and partner to share it with. Just because someone's life looks glamourous doesn't mean that it is or that your life isn't equally valuable. It's all perspective and we often all want what we don't have.

- No one is forcing you to read it

No one is forcing you to get on Facebook everyday and read your newsfeed. You can distance yourself from it by logging on less, you can even block things off your feed or skim right over it. There's a choice involved.


- Social media can make you feel lonely

It wasn't that long ago that I was single. I remember the desperate need to make plans and to see other people everyday so that I didn't have to sit in my apartment all alone or feel isolated. Being alone or staying home when you're married is completely different from when you're single. When you have no prospects for a significant other and everyone seems to have already found somebody, social media can make you feel so much lonelier.

Conclusion

I'm not advocating censorship. I don't think there is anything wrong with sharing wedding, baby, or travel photos online. There are people following along to DO care about those things and would like you to continue. What I do want to see is grace for one another. Skip over that story or block it from your news feed if it annoys you. Remember that your value is not determined by "likes" and "follows." Resist the urge to try to impress/create a persona online. Celebrate milestones and achievements with one another indiscriminately.

And above all, when something annoys you, remember that Facebook is not mandatory. You can turn it off.