Friday, September 27, 2013

The Backstory of My Perfect Life

Earlier this week, I blogged about my kitchen. I had pretty pleasant feedback on Facebook, much to my liking. Comments like, "Omg I LOVE LOVE LOVE your kitchen!! I want the same one!!" were meant by me with self-satisfaction.

But tonight, as I was scrubbing that same kitchen, I had to laugh at myself. Of course, in my opinion, it's still a beautiful kitchen tonight, it's just much less... perfect. There are wet pots and pans drying on the counter, a lime sitting on a cutting board, a Keuring waiting patiently to be of service, and bills reminding me they need to be paid. 

It's a much less fanciful picture I now look at as I mop. And even less so is the story behind that kitchen. Behind the whole house, really. Six long months of searching in our ideal zip code, only to end up with a beaten up, weathered down piece of crap with a Texas flagstone on the patio, and a missing toilet in the master bathroom.

The house was so bad we had to gut the entire interior, remodel it all, add on square footage, and redo the air conditioning, electricity, and plumbing. It was a ballsy project for two youngsters to take on in their second year of marriage and we couldn't have done it without our parents. 

Frankly, all of our lives were put on hold for months. I will never forget how we spent my husband's birthday that year- sleeping on the cold concrete floors of our doorless shell of a house- in order to protect our kitchen cabinets that hadn't been installed yet.

When you see a picture like the one below, you don't see any of that there. You just see a pretty kitchen, one you may or may not want yourself. You can only judge it for what you see there, and maybe by the title I might include with it, something like, "My Kitchen Remodeled."

Friends, therein lies the problem with social media. Most everyone can paint a picturesque picture of their lives when they are choosing what to share and what to keep private. There is logic behind this- you do not want to hear me complain, nor do you care about all the mundane tasks in my day- and I don't expect you to. Although some people disclose everything on social media, many take a more private approach.

I would never share with you when I fight with my husband, but I'll gladly post a picture of us smiling together, all hunky dory like. And I'll post when I'm at so and so place with my friend so and so because I'm having a good time, but you won't hear about when I'm scrubbing the floor (except for earlier in this post). 

All Hunky Dory Like

I follow some of my favorite bloggers/Etsy shop owners on Instagram but I should stop, really, because it's messing with my silly head. It's hard not to see keep seeing these artistic pictures of these stylish girls, mostly mothers with perfectly clothed babies, and captions that read like, "Play Date at the Park," and not feel a little tinge of jealousy that they must have it all together better than me.

The pictures are always whimsical, candid-like, and charming. They rack up hundreds of likes on Instagram so as I imagine them shutting down the server. I see exactly what the taker of the picture wants me to see. But what I don't see is the back story on the picture- this same child squirming saying something like, "Mommy, I want to see the duckies!" as she tries yet a different angle, asks the child to take just one more picture, and snaps another one, her fifth outtake of "Play Date at the Park" and then spends ten minutes editing it as her child scrambles off to climb the jungle gym, before posting it for all her Instagram followers, like me, who are mesmerized that her life is so... effortlessly perfect?

I recently read an article that explained how all of this social media filtering is affecting us. It either a). causes us to get a little egotistical (like I momentarily got with my kitchen posting) or b). makes us feel lousy about ourselves compared to others (like I do when I look at my Instagram too long). 

I enjoy social media but I do not enjoy the above two affects it has on me, on most of us. I love that I can share a small portion of my life with others, and they can share a small portion of theirs with me, but when we forget that it's only a small portion of who we are, that's when social media stops connecting us and brings us instead to a place of opposition with one another and ourselves.

If you're anything like me, you don't want to go out that way. Friends, start living and stop dwelling on how awesome everyone looks, or doesn't look, compared to you.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Things that Make Us Popular: From Jnco Jeans to Facebook

When I was entering the fourth grade, my parents moved our family to a quaint little town that was rejoicing because they were getting a Wal-Mart. 

We were Scottsdale folk, which meant we were used to simple luxuries like malls and restaurants, dance studios and batting cages, within a five mile radius of our home. While my dad was excited to not have to make the long commute to and from work each day, my mom and I mourned the loss of our lifestyle, our friends and family close by. We were only moving forty-five minutes away but, to us, it might as well have been to another state.

I remember befriending another "new girl" in the class that year because there was nothing stronger than the bond of discomfort and uneasiness to bring us together. 

It was a strange year. Whether it was the coming on of hormones, or an entirely different culture, these kids knew things I hadn't known in the third grade. And there was a clear line between the "popular" kids and the rest of us. Where I was from, the closest thing to popular was the class teacher's pet(s) but here there was a very clear line drawn between the social classes and I wasn't sure which side I belonged to.

Something happened to me that year, something I still struggle with to this day. I realized those kids- the "popular" ones- could make me feel a certain way. I got tongue tied around them. I wanted to wear what they wore, say what they said, enjoy what they enjoyed.

And that's why I wanted Jnco Jeans; in fact, that's the reason all the little caucasian girls went home to their suburban homes and begged their mommies if they would drive them to the nearest K-Momo to buy Jnco's. K-Momo, your"one stop shop for all the freshest street wear brands." 

We all had a secret desire to be 'popular' and if so-and-so was wearing them, we wanted them, too. 

Fourth grade finished up and I never got a pair of Jnco's. And the remainder of my school days, I never became
popular" in anyone's standards. I was always mediocre and sometimes, secretly, I still wish we'd never moved to the "west side" of town. I know it's silly, wishful thinking but I had a sense of belonging and acceptance in my birth town that I never really felt when we moved away. 

I'm all grown up now and I have a desire to to tell you that I'm all better now. That I stopped craving Jnco jeans and distinguishing my worth by whoever is more popular than me. But in a way, I really haven't.

Though I am mostly confident and comfortable with myself, there is still deeply seeded in me a little fourth grader who secretly checks her Facebook status sometimes to see how many 'likes' she receives on a picture, or comments on a status. 

And she always envies the hipster like, less-than-homespun mommies, she follows on Instagram that somehow find time and money to baby rear, decorate, take artsy photos, and run an Etsy shop, all the while racking up 1000's of followers. 

Before you judge me for my ridiculous behavior, admit that sometimes you, even you, my level-headed reader(s), may do the same thing yourself.

That maybe, just maybe, you are more similar to me than you want to admit to, and somehow social media has gained a power over us that we cannot fully grasp.

While it was created as a tool to bring us together, in some ways it has separated us again into those clear, blatant, ugly lines that tell us which ones of us are "popular" and which ones of us are less so. And, secretly, we sometimes feel good (or badly) about ourselves because of that tool. That stupid tool. ;)

Tonight, I find myself wanting to remind me that you have incredible self-worth. Even if no one likes the photo of your precious baby (it's because you post so many), you are just as important as the woman who had 100 likes on her's. 

You don't need Jnco jeans, people. You don't need a large Facebook following. You are important whether you have it all, or nothing at all. I am still learning that and it's ok if you are, too. 

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Project House: My Kitchen Renovated

My grandma pursued a degree in Interior Design in her mid fifties. My mom went to school for art. She then followed suit and started decorating for clients/friends/herself. She's married to my dad, a contractor. All that to say, a love for places and spaces runs thick in my blood. 

I live life on a budget that revolves around Craig's List & thrifting. My house was renovated by my father & mother's vision, hard work, & help from my father-in-law, a handyman. 

I know there are plenty of young women like me that love to have a space that reflects their style but their budget doesn't allow for extravagant purchases. If you're like me, then you're the girl who walks into a store and somehow loves the highest ticket dollar item there. It's just our luck. 

Over the next few posts, I have decided to share my house with you. In some way, shape, or form, I hope it inspires you to make your own little nest all yours on a budget...or off one (so the better!). 

I decided to start with my kitchen because there's something magical about the room in the house where good nourishment & conversations always take place.

First, a look at our BEFORE...

 And our AFTER...

where i spend many of my mornings and night prepping food.

an entire cabinet set from craig's list. it was a miracle.

west elm light fixture

if you don't have stainless steel, chalkboard fridges are an easy and fun way to spice up black or white!

And that folks is my kitchen. It's the center of our home. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Give the Guys a Break by Sharon Hester

I love having guest bloggers. There's so much insight & wisdom to be gained from the experiences of others. Today, my adorable friend & fellow mommy, Sharon Hester, is letting you glimpse into her life... I was better for reading her post. Thank you for sharing!

Give the Guys a Break!

[Disclaimer: In no way, shape or form is this entry meant to highlight dual-working mamas & papas, single parents, or the “stay-at-home-mama”.  Simply, I have a new appreciation for the shoes my husband walks in daily as a “man-who-works-then-comes-home-to-take-care-of-his-family”.  Nothing more, nothing less (other than a shout out to dual-working mamas & papas, single parents, and the stay-at-home-mama…)  J]

my husband as a "stay-at-home" daddy; he took her on daddy/daughter walks & sent me pics throughout the day.
A few months ago, the husband & I had a unique opportunity to turn the tables: I would go to work for 3 full weeks, while he played “stay-at-home-dad” (only, the “stay-at-home” part was in a foreign country for my job, which brought a different dynamic to it).  I know that 3 whole weeks isn’t much (compared to women who work full-time or even part-time, all the time, or those who do it as a single parent), but it was enough to give me an appreciation and different perspective.  

It softened my heart, I gained some grace regarding “his side”, and it was probably enough to save that crucial space in our marriage that thrives on respect & appreciation.  Men need it & deserve it too…

Let’s just get right to it: I.was.exhausted.  My average workdays were 10+ hours, and probably half the time I worked so late I missed Ava’s bedtime (she goes to sleep around 9-ish…so that tells you something about my days).  On the occasions I did make it home in time to hang out with her, I often fell asleep on the couch in the early evening and Sky was sweet enough to graciously put her to bed while letting me nap.  (Unless Sky has a night work-week, our bedtime routine always involves the pair of us: reading to her, praying with her, then placing her in her crib). 

It was common that I called Sky “5 minutes” before I left the office…only to stay another 15-30 minutes, in addition to the 30-minute drive home.  A couple of times, Sky had dinner waiting...for over an hour.  Ladies, does this sound familiar?  I can’t begin to tell you how many times Sky has called me during his workday to tell me he’s “leaving in 15”…15 turns into 30 and I know now to just add 30-ish extra minutes to when he estimates departing.   

Even though this trip was away from home, we still had “daily living” chores to tend to: cleaning up in the apartment; laundry; grocery shopping; meal prep & cleanup; etc.  After a long day at work (mostly mentally challenging), do you think I felt like doing any of it?  


In fact, I don’t even recall doing  Sky woke when I did and made breakfast for me while I readied for work (which is what I do for him at home); he had dinner ready when I got home; he took care of general house cleanup. 

I haven’t even begun to talk about the “Ava factor”: she was 6 months at the time and starting to become mobile.  We took a few small toys for her, and fortunately a friend from work gave me a bag full of toys to use while we were there. 

he set up a play obstacle course for her in the living room...he actually introduced her to solids while we were there too & video recorded it so I could see it when I got home.
Did I say “we”…because really, it was Sky who used them with Ava.  In our daily life when Sky gets home from work, my mindset isn’t to “give him the baby so I can have a break”…because honestly, I don’t feel overwhelmed after a day with her.  But do I enjoy having some free moments to myself when he comes home?  Absolutely.  But the biggest reason for the handoff when Sky gets home is “him”.  He misses her all day and wants to hang out with her.  So the first thing Sky does when he walks through the door (minus the greetings we always give each other), is happily take Ava.  

We spend a good amount of time talking about our day; we get some house stuff  & dinner stuff done together; and depending on the time/ day, we enjoy the rest of what’s left of an evening as a family together.  

Well, turn those tables and let me tell you what happened when I had the chance to walk through the door from work: greeting with the husband- check!  Take the baby and shower her with hugs & kisses – check!  Nursing session to nourish & bond with my baby – check!  Ummmmm…it stopped about there because by my accounts, a full day of exhausting work combined with draining of the milk jugs equaled the final straw to MY naptime (at 7 pm).  I could barely hang on to an intellectual conversation (the hubs is a great conservationist…though sometimes it became a monologue), and I know I ate dinner at some point during the evening, but my night generally ended there.  We tried watching a show each night, but I think I nodded off during.  

So, that doesn’t even factor in time for tidying up around the house, making dinner, hobbies to “unwind”, or the gym. 

"stay-at-home daddy" reading books to her
I look at all this through the eyes of my amazing husband and our daily life…and I feel my selfish heart break a little.  He makes time for the “chores” that are important to me…even if I have to ask him to do them (c’mon ladies, let’s not make this rocket science for them:  Though I make breakfast for us, he either helps with dinner OR gets other stuff done while I prepare dinner.  He makes time to chat with me about his day, and listens to whatever “stimulating” stories I have about my day with a newborn.  But my biggest realization was the things he sacrifices in order to fit all those activities in: for example, his gym-time falls by the wayside; his man-cave projects, or general house projects get slow-rolled; and I never realized it, but he really doesn’t have a complete, solo “unwind” time…

I can go on and on about the “little” things I have a better appreciation for now…because I’ve had a glimpse of the big things that fill up his day. 

I wasn’t initially going to add this, but I feel the need for an additional “disclaimer”: we do not all have the same home life.  Some husbands do more in different areas of the marriage, some do less. 

They manage their time differently, and we all have different priorities in our marriages and family life.  We’re all in different stages of married life/ parenthood.  An exact comparison isn’t needed to reflect on our own lives and find areas to be gentler in with our spouses.   

I was humbled & I pray this insight stays at the forefront of my mind.  It took place in May 2013 and we’re now in Sept 2013… has the “revelation” made a difference?  It has made ALL the difference.  

Yes, it’s difficult to remember these things on days when I feel like I’m “in the trenches” all alone.  But I consider this quote and feel it should apply to my best friend, my lover, my husband, my soulmate, the father of my child as well…

“Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle”  ~ Plato ~

Monday, September 2, 2013

Marriage vs. Baby: Round 1

last night was the first time my ten month old and i were separated for a full night. i only caved once and went to visit and snuggle him around eleven pm for just a tiny bit. it's my husband and i's third wedding anniversary, so he was convinced we needed some time to ourselves.

the hard truth is that i fell hard for another guy this year. he may only have four teeth and stand a whopping 29 inches, but he's become my main squeeze

truth is, with all my efforts to love the new guy in my life, i've put my old guy second.

who couldn't love this guy? i mean, look at him. precious.

in a facebook mom discussion forum i belong to, one of the mom's recently opened up about her marriage post baby. she admitted it was more difficult now to connect with her husband because all of the things they used to do to bond together (hiking, mountain climbing, etc) aren't really "baby friendly" and they are growing distant. her willingness to open up about something so personal brought about over thirty comments from other moms, most confessing they love their little one with an unconditional love they can't seem to muster for their husband, too.

wow. apparently this is one of those unspoken issues that most women seem to have but don't want to, or don't know how to, talk about- we get so good at nurturing our little ones that we ignore our partners.

i am guilty of this. i have forgotten our partnership and, most importantly, our friendship, in the pursuit of motherhood. in many aspects, this transition into parenthood has been more beautiful & natural than i expected it to be.

mothering has come to me like second nature (thank goodness!) where being a wife has always taken work. relationships are not easy- there's no proven formula to success because every person is different and responds to love/life differently.

while it's easy to dote on a helpless baby who straight up needs you, it can be much harder to then turn around and devote that same amount of energy & affection to someone who's life doesn't exactly depend on whether or not you pay attention to them.

from experience, i know i have turned my husband into the "bad guy" often enough with a "we vs, him" mentality. instead of seeing him as my partner, he becomes the odd man out as i focus on the little one.

women, our men ain't perfect (I know, news flash!) and there are plenty of things they could work on too, but we do have to learn to treat our husbands as our friends again, our partner, our teammate.

we are in this whole parenting thing together- we share equal responsibility. yes, it's more natural to unconditionally love the little guy, but love is a choice and  i'll be damned if i don't learn to choose my husband, even if it kills me. 

true love to me isn't about meeting Prince Charming and swooning over his pompadoured hair & sugary one liners. it's about loving the guy i chose. it's about never forgetting to laugh at his jokes and going along with him through the Burger King drive through when he wants a crown. 

it's about committing to be his friend, and showing him grace, because, i admit, i'm far from perfect, too. 

it's two days from our third wedding anniversary & i can admit i have never tried to tackle a beast quite like marriage. it's going to take my whole life (sorry, Steven) to get this marriage thing down but, in the meantime, i am going to start by going on a few more date nights.

for some great marriage pointers, check out my friend Aubrey's blog, parenting the pipsqueak. 

I wish all you married folk the best.