The Disconnect: Pinterest Perfect

Technology.pngMy kids are in 4th grade. This, apparently, is the year when students can begin to bring their own devices to school. When I heard this at back to school night, I felt a little sick. The teacher, perhaps responding to my face, perhaps having anticipated faces like the one I was making said: “Technology is out there in the world. They should know how to use it.” Yeah. That’s the problem. Kids don’t know how to use technology. My kids get very limited access to the devices we have in the house and they can still fix stuff on my phone when I have no idea what’s going on. But even with evidence countering the reason the teacher supplied for letting kids bring these things to school, this academic argument wasn’t really at the root of my discomfort.

I couldn’t fully articulate my discomfort until a few days later when, as I asked more questions of my kids as to how devices would be used in the classroom, my daughter explained that in art class they would take a picture of their art projects, post them to a central site and then classmates could “like” them and make comments. UGH. It suddenly became crystal clear to me why I was so uncomfortable with the whole thing. One of the things I admire most in my children is their freedom to express THEMSELVES, their true selves. How many more art projects will there be before the desire to accrue likes changes the design decisions that they make? Must we so soon move into the world of competitive perfection and commentary?

Let me pause here and say that I am not against social media. I USE social media. I use it professionally; I use it personally. When the twins were little, I think I would have gone stark raving mad without social media to let me know that I was not alone and that other Moms were struggling too. But I’ve been thinking a lot about social media, the way that it works and what it does and doesn’t represent in our lives. I was fortunate to find a Moms group online where people actually posted terrible pictures of themselves and asked “stupid” questions that so many Moms have. They vented, complained, and sought advice. I’m so grateful to those women, because so much of the rest of the social media world doesn’t show ANY of that. Continue reading

Whose Business Are You In?

I was listening to a podcast today, while “watching” my son’s soccer practice. True confession here: I am not overly engaged in my children’s athletic performance. I hope they have fun. I peek up from time to time to see that THEY are engaged, because that’s all I really care about. So anyway, the point was the podcast. It was a goodie – Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons with Glennon Doyle Melton as the special guest. Yeah, that’s a party I’m attending.

I’m rolling along soaking up the fantastic conversation and Glennon Doyle Melton lays out the application of a fundamental life lesson that I’ve only come to understand in the last couple of years. She’s describing how she began blogging (Momastery – it’s fabulous) and her commitment to finishing a piece of work and letting it go. She just hit that publish button and that was it. She was done. It was not her job to babysit the art once it was created because it was none of her business if anybody liked it or not. Did you get that? It was none of her business if anybody liked it or not. Whoa. (Yes, bloggers, that means NOT checking your stats – WHAT?!) Continue reading

Uncomfortably Numb

I was having a great conversation with a friend. This particular friend is super sensitive to the feelings of other people around her. She is tremendously affected by everyone else’s stuff. I already knew that, but while we were talking she just blurted out this sentence: “And so I’d overeat just to stop feeling all their feelings. I’d just have to stuff something in my mouth…” It was so plain, so clear, so honest. And I knew right then that she had called me out on a little something I’ve noticed lately…

Being a Mom has many, many joys, but I’d be lying if I said that there is no joy associated with the end of the child day. I saw a meme the other day that implored children to go to sleep at 7:30 for nice Mom because they didn’t want to be around for 8:00 Mom. I laughed heartily. My kids go to bed right around that time and when they re-emerge, it’s possible I’m not as nice a Mom as I was when I kissed them good night. I look forward to the quiet. I wait for it. I dream about it. But you know what I don’t do? I don’t often really sit in it.

uncomfortablynumbWhat do I do? I usually stuff something in. I eat something I didn’t want to share with the children but am not actually hungry for (yeah, I do, don’t judge). I drink something I didn’t want to drink earlier for fear of falling asleep before the house got quiet. I watch something incredibly stupid on TV. I get the quiet I’ve been seeking for some measure of the day, and then I do everything I can to avoid myself in it. I numb myself. I block out my own feelings, the feelings of others, my fears, and my loneliness. A little chocolate, a little wine, a little reality TV and there, all better. Number. Less in touch. Less sharp. Less connected. Less honest. Less me. Continue reading

Life Skills: Making the To Do List To Do-Able

slide1I was doing a little coaching the other day for somebody who has A LOT going on right now. It’s all good stuff, but a lot is a lot no matter how you slice it. Her first reaction to a lot is very similar to my reaction to a lot and it goes something like this: eyes closed, fingers in ears, maybe a little rocking, and shouting: “Too Much! Too Much!” Oddly enough neither one of us has had much luck in having that particular strategy actually make LESS of the mountain of tasks, stressors, needs staring us in the face. But let’s face it, 30 seconds of yelling and rocking with your eyes squeezed closed never hurt anyone, has it? Continue reading

What Are You Saying No To?

My daughter started gymnastics today. I sat in the observation area to ease her nervousness about being in a new place with new people. As I was sitting there, I thought about my upcoming obligations and commitments. I thought about a specific commitment that I’ve made that well, every time I think about it, I feel a little sick to my stomach, and not in a roller coaster, I’m so excited kind of way. This has been going on for the last several days.

I’ve not been ignoring that feeling, but instead of acting on it, I’ve been wondering why I feel so uncomfortable about having said yes to this particular (ongoing, fairly long-term) commitment. While I am pretty loaded up with things to take care of right now, I could not think of a specific logical reason why THIS particular YES was causing me so much discomfort. At any rate, I was mulling this a bit and then decided to set it aside and read while my daughter worked on the low bar.

slide1As I’m reading this book on coaching for work situations (yes, this is what I do in the not very pleasant smelling gymnastics club), I get to a section on managing your workload. And this question hits me right between the eyes: “If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?” One interpretation of this question would be “If you’ll even do this awful thing, you must not say no to anything,” but this is not what the author, Michael Bungay Stanier, is getting at. In this case, the question is meant to reveal the full impact of your yes. If you say yes to this, what are you going to have to give up in order to fulfill the commitment that you’re making. How will you make space for that new commitment? Continue reading

Boundbreakers

I was listening to the radio yesterday while making dinner (Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala, yes delicious and super fast) and there was a story about a woman named Pura Belpré who moved from Puerto Rico to NYC in 1921. She got a job with the public library and began telling stories to children at the library in English and Spanish. Got news for you, in the 1920s, there was no foreign language children’s book section at the library much less someone telling stories in multiple languages. Nobody was doing anything like what Pura Belpré was doing. She made puppets. She trained other storytellers. She incorporated folktales to make children who were raised in other cultures feel welcome and at home in the vastness of NYC. The story was fascinating and a lovely tribute to Pura Belpré and the work she began that continues today. NPR‘s All Things Considered ran the story as the first in an upcoming series they’re calling Boundbreakers, stories about people who made a difference, “well before the world recognized it.”

c13811518040e534020ca040a0704345I was really taken with that word, boundbreakers. I thought about Pura Belpré and others like her who are able to have such a deep impact on the lives of others. I thought about the boundaries she crossed in her gentle and powerful librarian way. Then I thought about who she would have to be to be a boundbreaker, and it occurred to me that in order to take great action, to have an impact like that on the world, to affect the beauty that is an increase in cultural compassion, a person would have to be pretty unbound internally (shocking, I know for the coach to go all internal here). For Pura Belpré to do what she did for the children of NYC, she needed to be fully herself. She needed to be unbound by judgments about the worth of her ideas. She needed to be detached from the possibility of ridicule and disdain. She needed to recognize, go through, and lay to rest (at least temporarily) the notion that she could not do what she thought needed to be done. This is the work a bound breaker does well before ANYONE has any clue they’re doing it. Continue reading

Shine a Little Lighthouse Light on Me

images“We all need a lighthouse for our own

It gets so dark I can’t see which way I’m going
Oh lighthouse man I’m all at sea

Shine a little lighthouse light on me.”

A little imagery from Australian phenom The Waifs. The funny thing for me about this song is that, as so often happens, I got the words wrong and made the analogy of the song so much more powerful (well, for me anyway). In MY version of this really great song, the third line here is: “Oh lighthouse man I’m all I see…”

In my version the water is somewhat secondary because it could be anything. It’s not just that I’m lost. The water, the storm, the sun, the dolphins swimming are irrelevant because all I can see is myself and the stories I’ve got going in my head. Stories about old hurts, stories about my worth, stories about what I can’t ever do, have, or be. Lighthouse man I’m all I see, shine a little lighthouse light on me. Continue reading

5 Ways to Be a Better Parent

  1. Slide1Get More Sleep
  2. Eat Healthy Foods
  3. Remember to Ask Yourself What You Need and Want
  4. Schedule Social Time with Other Adults
  5. Include Personal Quiet Time in Your Schedule

“But wait a minute, Julia, this whole list is about me. I thought you were going to tell me how to be a better parent? Everything you mentioned is about taking care of me.”

Yes, yes it is. Because I believe you are exhausted, overwhelmed and starved for time loving and taking care of you. I believe you are already a great parent. I believe you love your children and know how to care for them in almost every situation, or that you can figure it out when you need to. I believe it can all be better, and I believe when you are more you, you will be a better parent. You will be a better person. You will be a better you. Your kids need YOU. (If you need more convincing that these steps will make you a better parent, I’ve got more on that.) Continue reading