Saturday, August 30, 2014

Coffee & Blogs No. 10

I went back to work this week, and after 5 days, it already feels like summer never existed.  I'm fascinated by how easily I can switch back and forth between work and home after 8 years of teaching.  But I do miss having big blocks of time to dreamily browse the internet.  I'm currently letting the boys take out every single toy I've ever bought AND MIX THEM INTO A WOOD AND PLASTIC HELLSCAPE so I can cuddle under a huge comforter and read unnecessary things that will not improve my productivity in the slightest.  I hope you take some time this weekend to read unnecessary things.

Sarah from Yes and Yes shared this link, but it's important enough to share twice.  I struggle because my favorite humor is really raunchy stand up and Comedy Central shows- rape jokes come up.  Here is an intelligent deconstruction of why they're never funny.

I've wanted to read Roxanne Gay's book Bad Feminist since I heard a radio interview with her a few months ago.  This article brings up a lot of issues, especially using feminism to justify the policing of other women's behavior.  Virgina Woolf said it: "A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life."

A man dares to complain to Amy Poeler that it's hard to be a guy in the modern world when there are so many conflicting expectations and it's not cool to be cool and he uses the word "adorkable" and Amy just looks at him and shuts. it. down.

I've been trying to take more self portraits (okay, selfies) and pictures of the boys and I adventuring. This article has great tips.  I've never used a camera timer, and I might start.

More from the Notes to My Younger Self series: this is a very practical, applicable note from Molly of Hey Eleanor! I love her tips about work.  This series has been so much fun to follow.

I have no desire to give up my iPhone and tend to not beat myself up over my social media addictions, but I do like this plan for a little smartphone detox. I've recently deleted the Facebook app to save myself from mindlessly browsing at red lights (I KNOW)

I have been fighting poison ivy for the entire month of August, and I still can't figure out where the source is.  I appreciated this post on how to identify the devil plant.  But seriously, where is this flippin' stuff coming from?

I'll be back this week with an awesome article by Tina who brews beer and knows her stuff.  Here are some others who rock their ladyhood in the meantime: Sam is her own lady and Laurel is her own lady.

I'm off to send my weekend hanging out with my Papa and lovely cousin Page, painting my porch, and taking my family to the best flea market.  I hope you have 3 days off!  I hope you get to waste some time!


Friday, August 29, 2014

Back to School 2014

And we're back in the swing of it.  These are pictures from Monday, when I was headed to my first staff development day and the boys were back to daycare full time.  We walked across the street a little late and everyone was wiggly and Milo wasn't really feeling it.  Right after we snapped these, Ben took Elliott back to change a poopy diaper.  But both boys were so happy to see their teacher, and Ben and I were happy to leave them for a bit.  I forgot how amazing it is to be greeted by toddlers who had a break from you all day.

My students are back at school and already are more crazy and more normal than I'd ever remembered.  I always underestimate the feeling of having 21+ new people looking at you and saying "Okay, make a class of us!" I have good plans and good people around me, and mostly, good kids.  I'm fighting to keep the optimism of August, and I will succeed.  Here's to a Knope school year.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Channeling Leslie Knope to Kick Ass at Work

I am almost dangerously obsessed with the TV show Parks and Recreation.  Every summer I rewatch the series on Netflix, and this is where the danger comes in.  You know how Netflix automatically cues up the next episode for you?  If I'm watching on my Kindle while in the kitchen "fixing dinner," there are only about 4 seconds before the next one starts.  Sorry, kids, no one's eating.  There are plenty (my husband among them) who insist that The Office is a better mockumentary series, but there's something about the characters on Parks and Rec that clicks for me.  I love April & Andy's marriage and Ron's stubborn manliness. I want Donna to take me shopping and give me eyebrow advice.  I have a heartbreaking crush on the awkwardly sweet Ben Wyatt.  But I really want to be Leslie Knope.
Leslie's character started out as a Michael Scott carbon copy; goofy, overzealous, a walking inside joke to all the people who work under her.  If that's what was necessary for the series to take hold, then fine.  Because as the episodes went on, Leslie began transforming.  Her obliviousness became shrewd insight.  Her stuffy suits and formal carriage went from being the punchline to being her backbone.  Her obsession with female politicians stopped representing a pipe dream, and became a fiery motivation that pushed her to get incredible things done for her town.  Through it all, the only thing that doesn't change is her devotion to her job as a public servant.  Leslie defines the word passionate, and the biggest beneficiary of that passion is the town of Pawnee.  When Leslie Knope talks about the town she loves , her face goes all soft and serious and sometimes I get chills. Leslie Knope loves her job, and she never questions her responsibility to do what is best for the people she serves.

I want some of that. 

I work hard at my job, and I'm proud of my teaching career so far.  Still, there are times when I can't see past the end of my own nose.  I'm prone to getting my panties in a bunch. "I have two kids in day care oh my oh my what is for dinner oh my oh my I just got a new student oh my oh the baby has a cold oh my oh my how is there time to work out oh my my?"   I whine about new initiatives that require extra paperwork or learning systems that I don't understand.  I fret about emails with a rude tone.  I let forgetting to make the copies I need ruin my afternoon.  I slump too easily. I get caught up in all the hype.  This is where I could use some Leslie in my life.  I want to feel excited about staff meetings and agendas, to be undaunted by the bureaucratic meetings and red tape that bog down every inch of the public sector.  I want to remember I'm here to serve the families of this community.  I want to operate as if I truly believe that I work at the best school in the whole country.
Things I can do to Leslify my work life:

1. Set goals.  Leslie wants to run for office.  Any office (actually, the highest office).  Each little project she completes becomes a careful documented stepping stone on her path.  While goals are set for me each year, I want to set at least one of my own.  I'm thinking something about children's literature or my classroom webpage- two of my favorite aspects of teaching. And I need to get some binders going.  Leslie loves binders.

2. Deck out my work area.  As evidenced during her many face-to-face interviews during the course of the show, Leslie's office is a shrine to her passions.  She has framed pictures of her idols, certificates of recognition, and little mementos that personalize her space.  Her desk is always clean and neat and in general it feels warm and productive.  I want some pictures of my family, pictures of role models, and systems to keep myself organized.  I'll walk in each morning after my hearty breakfast of waffles and whipped cream and get down to business.

3. Tone it down for no one.  Leslie is upbeat and on message no matter her audience.  When April rolls her eyes, Leslie hugs her tighter.  When Ron is disgusted with her gusto, she raises her voice slightly.  When Jamm spews hatred, she lifts her chin.  I often find myself shifting my voice, my views, even my values when I'm with friends or coworkers who might think differently than me.  I tend to be eager to please, at work especially, and I'm embarrassed how quickly I shape-shift with my work friends.  Leslie knows where she stands, and she bends for no one.  Here's the kicker: everyone loves her more for it.  

I'm not stupid.  I know that's easy and even acceptable to feel discouraged at work.  Leslie-levels of cheerfulness are borderline annoying if not finessed perfectly.  I don't need only 3 hours of sleep and I don't have all encompassing knowledge of every aspect of my job.  But I do work in a public service position, and I do have coworkers who are also my best friends.  I genuinely look forward to going to work.  And sometimes, when I'm being a little self-indulgent, I like the idea of using my teaching career to make my town a better place.  I like being part of what makes my school somewhere you want to send your kids.

I'm going to put a picture of Leslie Knope at my desk.  A token to Our Lady of Ambition. I'm going to try to channel her loving, infectious energy at least half of the times that I feel frustrated with some aspect of teaching in a public school.  I'm going to let Leslie give me permission to enthusiastically love where I live and what I do, without embarrassment. 
"Look, I'm not crazy, I know Pawnee isn't Paris or London or Chicago, but it's a great place to live and work. And serving the goofballs in this town is an honor and a privilege. And yes, every town claims its diner's waffles are the best in the world, but somewhere, in some town there really are the best waffles in the world. So delicious and rich and golden brown that anyone who tasted them would decide never to leave that town. Somewhere those waffles exist, why can't it be here?" -Leslie Knope

PS- This Etsy shop has some amazing Leslie Knope artwork and other happily feminist posters that I would kill for.  New wishlist: everything here.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Family Heirlooms

Gram giving dad a bath in 1959.  My uncle is smiling in the left corner.

I took a little unintended break from posting.  My parents were visiting from Florida, and I underestimated how much I would want to spend every second with them, or going through the boxes of treasures they brought with them, or recovering from combing through old pictures and reliving memories that don't come up that often.

Baby me in 1986

My father died when I was 12.  My paternal grandmother, already fragile, never really recovered.  My paternal grandfather was close to my family until the day he died two years ago, even after my mother remarried and we all moved away.  My uncle gave us access to some of my Gram's belongings because she is living in a nursing home and can't split things up, and my mother came to Massachusetts with pictures, letters, and toys that were my father's as a boy.  I spent several mornings running around on adventures with my mom and the boys, followed by afternoons faced with this overwhelming pile of pictures, handmade cards, yearbooks, years of courting correspondence, Boy Scout honors...memories dating from 1929 to 1997.  Pictures of my dad as a baby, myself as a baby.  My grandparents in high school.  My parents as newlyweds on vacation.  Unknown relatives that toured the country with an expensive camera in the first part of the last century.

The Kauffman girls on Halloween.  Probably 1995?  I'm the sullen princess, top right.

I'm surprised at how emotionally difficult it was to look at all these pictures, with my mother and alone.  I cried and said out loud that I wonder if my (conservative, christian) dad would like (liberal, religionless) me now.  I said I wish I could have a beer with him.  We'd watch the Simpsons together.  I don't have any signs or dream visits or feelings that my dad is watching me.  When I used to waitress, if a customer gave me a certain smile, or seemed warmer than average towards me, I'd tell myself that it was my dad coming to check on me.  I didn't feel like it was the truth, but it was a nice idea, and it made me happy to imagine what I would look like to him.  Looking at all the pictures of his childhood made me miss my dad in a way I don't usually let myself.  I wondered what kind of grandfather he'd be, and what advice he would give me, and got mad that he missed my wedding.  I held his little metal cars and felt a thrill that I was holding something he had held.  I hated myself for losing the letters he wrote me when I was at summer camp.

Dick and Doris.  Probably late 70s.

The thing that struck me while looking through all the family memories was the sameness of life.  Most people are just finding someone to be with, putting together a home, trying to raise a family.  Making it all look good in pictures.   Pushing things under the rug, or confronting them head on. Every family has sticky dynamics, secrets poorly kept, sickness and sadness as a part of their legacy.  Everyone with kids wants a picture of them in the bath, on the swing.  Life feels so personal and specific when you're living it, but it's a much bigger experience.  You're not the first, or the last.  The pictures of my dad cooing at my baby cousin remind me of my brother-in-law doting on his nephews.  Seeing my Gram give a very Milo-looking infant a bath is like looking at my own Instagram feed.  We're in a set cycle.  I don't think it's a bad thing.

My dad and Gram looking fresh in the late 70s.

I guess the point is take lots of pictures so your future great grandchildren can roll around in the riches of decades of your birthday cakes and vacations and first days of school.  Print out the snapshots and write the names and dates on the back.  Save your birthday cards and love notes and mixed cds and ticket stubs. Use an online service to make scrapbooks.  There will relatives of yours who will spend afternoons piecing together a history from your shoe boxes overflowing, and whether the story is happy or sad, it will be yours, and theirs, and it will live on.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

laurel is her own lady

Full disclosure: Laurel is my sister and my best friend. We’re alike in a lot of ways, but one thing we do NOT have in common is a solid running career.  Knowing that running was not a part of our family life growing up, I asked Laurel to tell us more about how she got started running and reached her goal of training for a marathon so quickly.  I know you’ll find her as inspirational as I do.

Tell us a little about yourself!
 My name is Laurel, I’m 26 years old and I’m lucky to have a very supportive network of family and friends in my life. I consider myself a young professional living the city. I survive on public transportation and using my feet to get me where ever I need to go. My boyfriend, Ari, and I enjoy finding new ways to celebrate summer from beach hopping to kayaking on the Charles (still to come!). Lately, I enjoy runs around the Charles River, Barre Classes in Copley Square and marathoning through TV series like Shameless and Game of Thrones. I’ve also been dabbling in refurbishing old furniture with fresh paint and fancy knobs.

Were you always into running?  When and why did you start?
I have not always been a runner. I’m still getting comfortable calling myself a runner. I remember really starting to run for stress release during my transition from college into the “real world”.  My aunt and uncle let me help out with their kids for a summer in Delaware while I was figuring out next steps in my life and my uncle shared his past in running with me. It was that summer that I ran my first 8 miles with him at my side pushing me on. I remember him turning to me at the end and saying “If you can do this, you can run a half-marathon.” To which I laughed and almost puked. That summer I ran my first 5K with my uncle and cousin, Reece, dressed like cave people and a gorilla. 

When I moved to Boston to start my new job in the hotel industry I started taking part in company sponsored races in the city with fellow colleagues and friends. The scary idea of being trapped in a race for 3.1 miles turned into Annual “Fun-Runs” in holiday costumes and funny T-shirts. 5Ks became 10Ks and 10Ks became Half-Marathons. Crossing the finish line, the adrenaline from the runner’s high and the sight of my sister and her babies at every finish line of my big races  was and is like crack. It’s never really been about the time or speed for me but I think I decided a while ago that I’m not playing by anyone else’s rules here.

How many different races have you run?  What running plans do you have for the future?
I have run seven 5Ks, five 5-mile races, two 10Ks, four half marathons, and I plan to complete my first marathon in Chicago in the fall. I’ve taken a lot out of my body for these races and I think that choosing my next fitness goal will be exciting. I want to give my poor feet a break for a couple years and give back to my body a little bit. I don’t think I’ll be done running forever, though. The idea of completing the Paris marathon, even if it’s in 10 years, is always on my mind.

What is your running schedule like at the moment?  Does it vary at different times in the year?
When training for a half marathon or  marathon, I follow a weeks-out training schedule that consists of short runs of 3 to 5 miles on weekdays, cross-training activities and long runs on the weekend. There are always two rest days in there and occasionally I’ll jump around running long on a weekday if there’s a weekend conflict. I try to run outside as much as possible but will opt to run at the gym if it’s a 95 degree day with humidity or thunder storming. I am actually just getting into the toughest training right now with a 14 mile run approaching this weekend. At this point with long runs I try to run with a buddy for a few different reasons. One, you can only listen to music for so long before you go nuts so there is someone to chat with. Two, my buddy keeps me accountable for the miles and I’ll do the same for them. Three, you want someone with you in case you get hurt. Luckily, I have a few friends training for Chicago too!

Do you do a lot of cross training?  What other kinds of exercise are you interested in?
 Cross training has proven to be really important to me when training for a race. Personally, without it I think my body would have turned on me by now. I try to work yoga in at least once a week to help with stretching and rest. I have been taking part in hour long barre classes twice a week as well to work all parts of me. The barre classes have helped me to strengthen my core (the part of me that I feel needs the most work) which has helped with my running. Every other Friday I do spin classes with my friend and a “body pump” weight lifting class to do some intense muscle strengthening. One constant is stretching. I have only recently really been giving that the attention it deserves after a hip injury. I’m still learning the difference between listening to my body and pushing myself but I’m getting there.
What challenges have you encountered since becoming a runner?
 Challenges I have encountered include committing to a race and then having on and off days. There are days when I just don’t want to do it or by body just says “no”. There are days when I breeze through my mile goal. It’s never smooth sailing every day and it can be very difficult to continue. It’s been challenging to keep myself accountable for completing my full mile goal for that day on my own. I have a lot of support in friends, my boyfriend and family but ultimately it’s up to me – only I know if I did it or if I didn’t.

I’ve also encountered  a couple injuries. Over time my feet have become damaged from continuously slamming down on the pavement. My knees are a little worn out and recently my hips have been feeling these long runs in the worst way. These are all good signs that I’ve put my body through quite a bit and it might be time to take a break from distance running for a few years. But in the moment I’m trying to, again, give back to my body in the same way that I’m taking. Stretch, drink water, rest, use the right gear and get myself checked out by a professional if need be.

What benefits do you feel running brings to your life?
There are so many benefits to running. I can use running to clear my mind, keep myself motivated, stay healthy and let my mind wander freely for a couple hours. All of those things benefit my life and keep me sane. I would argue that there are few comparable feelings to the high after a long run.

 Some of the best places I have been for a run could also be viewed as the worst. My first half marathon was in rural New Hampshire with most of the course uphill! At the time I could of killed someone, but the view was stunning and I completed the race. Now I am proud to have run that incredibly difficult course and wouldn’t change it. The best run I have ever had was probably my first 5K – The Firecracker 5K in Delaware. I got to run that race with family and we got to dress up in costumes. I’ll never forget the joy of that day!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get started with a running routine?
 The advice I have for someone who wants to get started with a running routine is just do it. Make your plan and dive in head first. Be practical, hold yourself accountable – build up your distance and give yourself time. This is debatable among runners I’m sure but my advice is not to think about your time for a really long time, it’s not important. Make your goal to hit your mark without stopping even if you are “jogging” slower than the guy walking next to you. Don’t for one second compare yourself to even one other person, get comfortable (not necessarily cute) running clothes and then forget about what you look like – remember that you look better out there than any person who is taking the time to judge (and they’re probably not anyway). Listen to your body, you both have to get along in order to get this done. Your body can say “no” just as sharply as you say “no” but figure out the balance with pushing yourself. Get comfortable with calling yourself a runner. 

Please keep in mind that I just went over in my mind every single thing that I struggle with daily so if you’re reading this and thinking it’s all impossible, please know that I’m right there with you and I can tell you it’s not. 

Thank you for sharing with us, Laurel!  I’m not a natural runner by any means, but I’ve been so inspired by Laurel’s hard work that I recently trained for and ran a 5K. Thank you for the push, sweet sister! Exercise hobbies do you have?  Any lifetime or recent runners?

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Nice to Meet You + 3 New Friends

Last week, my good friend Stephanie introduced me as part of a little "tour" of the blogging world.  Each nominated blogger gives a little background information about themselves and then introduces their readers to three new blogs.  I love this idea because I am constantly looking for fresh reading material AND because I can think of a few lovelies I've been hoping to acquaint you with.  First off, stop at Stephanie's blog Sandpaper and Glue and check out the amazing things she's done to her home by being awesome and teaching herself how.  She is my go to for paint recommendations and home-DIY inspiration.  Now, the questions.

1. What are you working on right now?
I just launched the new site/concept for Be Your Own Lady a few weeks ago, so I'm really working on posting consistently and planning interesting content.  I'm balancing the hustle of networking and trying to figure out how Google Analytics work with the importance of writing little posts about my personal life and how I feel in the moment (which was the journal style my blog used to have, and I don't want to let it go completely).

I'm a teacher during the school year, so my brain is also starting to shift into classroom-mode.  I'm over-buying school supplies and making lists and furniture maps.  There is nothing better than a fresh school year about to start.

I'm also wrestling with a cool fiction idea that I tinker with whenever I'm in the car or shower.  I hope that gets some screen time soon. 

2. How does your work differ from others?
I wrote it.  That's about it.  You'll find no lack of twenty-somethings willing to write about their life and longings on the internet, and plenty of online sources for interviews with interesting people.  There are lots of fabulous folk writing to remind you to love yourself, trust yourself, and be yourself.  The message may not be original but it is more than important enough to repeat again and again and again.

3. Why do you write/create what you do?
I need to write and have been doing it forever.  It's a huge release and I particularly love sharing with anyone who is interested enough to read.  I've had livejournals in high school and college, a mostly-neglected lifestylish blog (Simple Girl) for awhile when I was first married/settling into adult life, and a motherhoodish blog (Simple Mama in Massachusetts) for a year or so until I started Be Your Own Lady this month.

I use writing to work through issues, comfort myself, and share with others.  I get a huge kick out of connecting with people on the internet and in real life.  Having a blog is a really beautiful way to go back and see where you were at emotionally over the years.  It's a gift I give myself.

4. How does your creative process work?
For the longest time I would write posts when inspiration struck.  Usually I would conceive of an idea, look for or take a picture, write up the details, and polish/post in the matter of a nap time or the hour before my kids wake up in the morning.  I posted when I had time or inclination, and had no real plan or schedule.  Recently, I've tried to loosely schedule posts and stick to 3 days a week for releasing material.  Interviewing people makes this easier- you have to do some work beforehand.  I also have a lot of time to myself while my kids nap when I'm home for the summer, but once I'm working full time, things will change.

Outside of the blog world, I love to read fan fiction and other serial kinds of work to inspire my fictional writing.  I have a few story ideas that I like to pick at, but nothing that I'm in love with.  I look at my "play" writing as exercise for my writing muscle.  I'm really into the idea of morning pages (I need to learn more), and also writing outlines and story maps.  My husband writes screenplays and he always outlines everything before he starts.  A friend of mine who studied writing uses index cards to create calendars or timelines.  I think treating writing as something more than just a silly dream would inspire my creative process and let me take myself more seriously.  I'll get there soon.

That's all from me for the time being.  Here are three other blogs you shouldn't miss.

My friend Meg is the author Sunshine Maker Meg. She writes about her birthday list, perfect little DIY projects, and her sweet little life. A beautiful girl with a beautiful voice!  Meg is moving AND getting married (to the adorable other half of her music group, Meg and The Beard), so quite the busy gal, but when she gets a chance to post, it's so worth it.  

Sarah is another dear friend of mine.  I love her for her teaching work, her sweet style, her ability to make an apartment a home in five seconds flat, and her dedication to saving you dough.  Her blog Thrift Tales is about finding sweet freebies to enhance your already awesome life.  She just moved out of state (heart broken), but the upside is a whole new world of deals to be found.  Go say hi to Sarah!

Gillian is a recent friend in the blogging world.  Her photography is breathtaking- let us get that out of the way immediately.  Beyond her portraits of her sweet sons and lovely surroundings, she has a warm voice and has been endlessly friendly and welcoming as I've gotten to know her.  I admire a lot about her transparency and ease at working with brands without sacrificing the personal feeling of her blog.  Definitely go take a peek.

Meg, Sarah, and Gillian- please feel free to continue forward by answering these questions and introducing some new bloggers!  If you have a blog, please send the link my way.  No matter how big or small, I'd love to see what you're working on and connect with some of the brilliant people sharing their hearts!

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Coffee and Blogs No. 9

Image credit: Lily Bardenova

Happy Weekend!  Yesterday I took the boys to a sidewalk baazar in a seaside town and I bought soap made from beer and a super cute new wallet.  Today I'm getting giddy about a drive up to Vermont with Ben to celebrate a dear friend's wedding.  I hope your weekend is full of late-summer adventure and restful reading.  Get your drinks and get ready to go.

More astrology info for August is available!  My really loose understanding of what's happening right now is a lot of fun and social interaction in the first half of the month and a lot of focus and work towards a goal in the second half.  Information about tomorrow night's Supermoon is here, and Susan Miller's sign-specific August horoscopes are available here.

I've been enjoying Erica's blog, and I loved this article about using an iPhone to bring your family closer.  It's really refreshing to read positive things about technology.  It's here and it's not going away, so let's use it to our advantage!  

I'm a big fan of Humans of New York, and this is a similar project about people in Boston.  I adore the narratives that go with the pictures.  I could browse all day.

I shared this on my personal Facebook page, but I love this for many reasons and it all bears repeating.  The Call Me Ishmael project lets you share why you love your favorite book, and then the voicemails are transcribes and played in a short video that is shared on the site.  Awesome.  This one about a boy surviving a tough childhood by relying on the Harry Potter series moved me.  I already knew books were friends but they are also guardians.

Sarah from Yes and Yes launched a Post-College Survival Kit this week, and her site was full of awesome advice about to be a grown-ass woman all week.  I'm ten years out from college and still find all the reminders useful.  This post has great links, and poke around recent posts to see the magic she's been sharing.

Gillian shared about her creative process this week.  Her photographs are not to be missed!  I'm looking forward to answering these questions in the next few weeks.

Right now I'm reading Creativity, Inc. and Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets.  I'm picking up a few books from the library today and hoping to knock out a bunch of my summer list in the car this weekend.

Are you reading anything good, either on paper or in the beautiful internet world?  Tell me what I'm missing!


Friday, August 8, 2014

You're Doing It Right: Throwing Social Media Rules Out the Window

I remember the first time I saw an article about all the annoying ways that people use Facebook.  It was published on one of the magazine sites for young women that I look up to (I'm not sure if it was HelloGiggles or xoJane) and written in a sharp, witty style that I appreciate.  Everything about it was great except it was snotty as hell and it gave me this sinking feeling while I read it.  There were lots of specifics about the things you should NEVER do (share ultrasound pictures, share food pictures, be political, be offensive) and more things that you should do sparingly (thank your significant other for...anything, complain about your life, brag about your life, tag anyone...ever).  Basically, the article stated, you should be using Facebook for the occasional hilarious deadpan comment and INFREQUENT pictures of your life, as long as they are visually pleasing without being too much.

Oh my god, my face was burning when I set down my phone.  I do all of those things.  Every single one of them.  I'm a millennial and I'm supposed to be getting this RIGHT and the article informed me that I was being stupid, trashy, loud, inappropriate, and idiotic on social media, which of course means I'm doing that in real life.  There was lots of hate for selfies, too, so I knew that I was vain and brash and probably ugly and insecure, which is the only reason why someone would need to take a picture of themselves looking good, anyway.

Soon after, I began seeking out social media rules.  I noticed how often "real bloggers" were posting content vs. how much "regular" people put up pictures on Instagram.  I read a sound bite (it might have even been a tweet) from someone twenty-something and cool stating that no one should post to Twitter more than 4 times a day, and that number became a law in my impressionable brain.  I would "over post" on some days and then feel bad for spamming my followers with too many pictures of my life.  I would deeply analyze everything I wanted to post on Facebook and think about how different people would react.  I saw a lot more articles with titles like "10 Facebook Statuses That Need to Stop" and parodies of Instagram use and Twitter obsession.  I felt that using and enjoying social media was embarrassing, and I didn't want to quit, so I was stuck in this circle of feeling shame and insecurity over something that made me genuinely happy.

It was during a scan of yet another social-media bashing article that I started to think maybe I wasn't in the wrong.  For one thing, I actually LIKE seeing people's food and hearing about the ups and downs of their day.  I love when people do those daily thankfulness updates or list their blessings. Photo-a-day challenges on Instagram are like a cool reverse scavenger hunt.  And while half the articles/political rants on the internet bother me, the other half are truly interesting.  Sometimes, I learn shit. So while I was trying really hard not to break these rules, I was hoping that everyone else would keep breaking them, because I liked all that jumble and mess.  More importantly, I understood that it wasn't all directed at me.  I enjoyed combing through to find the good stuff.  The internet is not custom suited to my exact style; to expect that would be ridiculous.

The thing about social media is it belongs to everyone.  Grandmas are live-tweeting the Oscars, your pastor is posting memes to Facebook, and every 14-year-old has given up all the stuff I even understand for new, cool things that will be deader than dead by the time I sign up for an account.  By this logic, there should be as many different styles of  using social media as there are ways to be a person.  In real life, some people will all but hide the fact that they're having surgery and some people will be updating you from the operating table.  Neither person is wrong.  In real life, some people will show you 100 pictures of their cats/living room remodel/new car, while others leave you guessing if they have a family at home.  Neither person is wrong.  Some people are content to sit and observe the party happening around them, some people need to be making conversation, and some people want to stay home altogether.  Everyone is right, and all those perspectives are needed.

If something bothers you on social media, check in with yourself and figure out why.  If a Facebook session makes you feel icky, is it because certain people put you off?  You can hide their business from your news feed without actively unfriending them.  They'll never know.  Do it.  On Instagram and Twitter, it's harder to unfollow someone without them finding out, but notice how on Facebook it's called a friend and everywhere else, it's called a follower?  It's a little less personal to whittle down your feed in other social media platforms, so get rid of the people who annoy you or make you feel jealous or spew political views that turn your stomach.  Be your own lady.  Do what you want.

In the end, the only thing that matters is whether you're using social media in a way that makes you feel good  (and I know none of you lovelies feel good when you're bullying or trashing other people online, so I won't even go there).  Rid your social media platforms of all accounts that don't build you up, and feel free to post whatever you want to, knowing that if anyone has the slightest issue with anything you put into the world, they are free to stop looking.  Whether you use social media in tiny doses or give your followers a blow-by-blow of your entire day, if it feels right and you're enjoying yourself, you're golden.  So take the selfie, post the picture of your lunch, or share your true feelings about the latest Marvel movie.  All parts of your life (technology included) are part of the canvas you're given to show off who you are.  Be you.

What is you social media preference?  Are you a big sharer or do you watch from the wings?  Do you understand Snapchat, because I'm confused.

image credit here, text added by me

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Birthday List Updates

I'll be 29 in exactly 2 months, which leaves me 61 days to go through and complete everything on my birthday list.  I spent some this week updating and seeing how far I've come.  Some things I knew would get done (finishing my Master's degree) and others were a shock (actually finally running a 5K).  I need to write my will and I likely won't finish the Game of Thrones series, but I did buy cute dresses and when I finish here, I'm going to order myself the new glasses I picked out!  To see details on all 15 out of 28 things I've already accomplished, click on The Birthday List!

PS- Is it weird that I'm already picking things for my next list?  I know I want to include something about Chicago and get published in a glossy magazine.  What do you have your bucket list?

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Alternate Mission Statments

I tried to write a traditional mission statement, and I totally failed.

I pictured having something kick ass like Maxie from Ilo Inspired:

“To inspire, motivate and connect myself and others, to their own personal greatness” 

I wanted to write an article about having a mission statement.  I wanted to share it and talk about the golden rays of light this mission statement was shining on my previously mission-less life.  So I sat down to write, and I got painfully stuck.  A mean voice in my head told me how stupid it is to write a mission statement for a normal, boring life like mine (you're wrong, voice!).  The list of values I wanted to use to articulate my true emotional core all seemed stuffy and wrong.  I couldn't fit in all the pieces I needed to include.  Everything I wrote was clumsy.  I was seriously bummed.

But I still wanted something.  I longed for that sentence or two that gave clarity; I loved the idea of saying Does this serve my overall mission?  Yes?  Go for it!  Nope?  Thanks, but no thanks. I thought about where I'm at right now, with two little kids and back-to-school approaching and a need/desire to heal my body and a need/desire to write for recreation and joy.  I thought about what I actually wanted out of life.  I'm not necessarily trying to achieve new heights.  I'm often just trying to keep my head above water.  The best I can do is reset everyday and move forward when I can.   

Even resetting everyday can be a struggle.  There is so much work that is never finished: washing tiny heads of hair, flossing through exhaustion, prepping healthy foods, following through with interaction in my online community, saving a smile for my husband, making the bed, making a to-do list, every day, even if most of the items stay the same, and it goes over and over with no end in sight.  There is a lot of monotony in everyday life, and sometimes my dreamy spirit wants to throw convention out the window and be spontaneous lazy and WORRY ABOUT THE CHORES TOMORROW.  Except I always forget that makes me miserable.  Committing to  resetting everyday is a mission all to itself, and it's something that I need to work on.

Yes, I want to move forward.  I want to reach new health goals (upper body strength?!) and write for larger audiences and complete fun projects for my kids at school.  I want to organize closets and put bright new paint colors on the wall and send random care packages to my family all over the country.  Reminding myself to reset everyday will stop me from trying all of this at once.  This quote gets it: "Be steady and well-ordered in your life so you can be fierce and original in your work."  Thanks, Gustave Flaubert.  Way to be ahead of your time.

So that's how I came up with my alternate mission statement.  It doesn't have too much flowery language, it doesn't identify my values, it doesn't move me towards a specific goal. It's basic enough to apply to every aspect of my busy life.  It keeps my head above water. If you're considering a mission statement (and I endorse this, heartily) don't be afraid to widen your net until you find something that works for you.  Maybe you rock at resetting and need a reminder to do one new thing every day.  Perhaps you wish you were more intentional in your day-to-day life.  Don't be afraid to make your mission as large or small as you need it to be to be useful for you.

Do you already have a mission statement that drives your day-to-day?  Are you thinking about giving it a shot?  Here are some great links that can help you with the process: 3 Steps for Creating a Personal Mission Statement or How to Write Your Personal Mission Statement.  If you get stuck, a simple sentence or even a word (move?) can narrow your focus.  I would absolutely love to see what you come up with!

Mission statement image credit, text added by me // Reset Everyday image credit, text added by me

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Coffee and Blogs No. 8

This week has been busy.  I launched the new site, made some connections with other internet people, and started reaching out to create fresh content  in the form of interviews and collaborative series.  In other words, I spent too much time on the internet.  My loss (the loss of fresh air and exercise and wholesome activity) is your gain, because I read some great stuff this week.  As always, get cozy with your beverage of choice and browse away.

1. A coolly hilarious article about the polished Instagram image vs. the reality of what was happening outside the frame. I want to do one about kid/food pictures.  Like, "My child is screaming at the baby gate from hunger and I'm standing on a kitchen chair snapping a pic of the dinner he's not allowed to touch yet."  Casual, normal behavior, I'm sure.

2. Pictures of freshman students from students around the world, taken in their first week in New York City and again at the end of their first year. I was taken aback that they didn't actually look that different, and sometimes much simpler after a year in the city.

3. I've been reading a lot of Mara Glatzel, and want to share two of my favorite pieces from her site.  The first is a guest post and talks about why writing about body image is still important.  The second is written by Mara and is about grieving for the perfect girl we thought would eventually show up and replace us.  I remember sitting on the bus and picturing this girl.  At first I thought she'd come when I was allowed to wear makeup, then I thought she'd be there when I had perfect clothes.  I still picture her, skinny and never sweaty, swooping in just in time to go back to work after a summer off.  Spoiler alert- this girl is never coming.  You might know this girl.  Read the article! 

4. Mental Floss is my favorite magazine, Twitter account, and website.  I love this round of up of thank you notes from famous people.  My favorites are from Roald Dahl, Conan O'Brien, and Barack Obama.

5. "Want great abs? Eat sensibly and go to the gym (a lot).  Want a successful business? Work your ass off and make smart, informed decisions.  Want a fantastic relationship?  Make it a priority.  All these things take time, tenacity, and patience.  They don't happen by magic, and when you act like they do, or when you pretend everything was just a happy accident, you do a disservice to others who'd like to emulate some of that success in their own lives." -Gala Darling in her article I Woke Up Like This: On Flawlessness, and Admitting the Effort Required.

6. Writing advice that doesn't take itself too seriously.

7. Some astrological advice for August: Sarah Varcas and Lena Stevens.  Apparently this is a month to implement action plans and generally get stuff done.  I'm still waiting for the August report from Astrology Zone to go live.

8. Self care resources I'm into: holding the framework, a self care planner, and a comic.

9. Blog suggestions from my RSS feed: I'm advertising on Your Wishcake and Little Lady Little City in August.  Kerri has a beautiful blog celebrating homemaking, marriage, and parenting.  Amanda has a quirky space with a lot of hand-drawn illustrations and cat pics.  I love them both.

Did you read anything this week that you're loving?  I'm always looking for a way to linger longer in my favorite chair with non-matching ottoman...send your suggestions my way.  Happy weekend!