Monday, March 31, 2014

30 Day Drawing Challenge

For the month of March, Katie and I promised each other to follow a drawing challenge we found on Pinterest.IMG_0552

I bought a notebook that we used for our blank space, and we each drew something on one page each day. At the beginning, Jackson joined in too. But he lost interest after a few days.

Day 1: YourselfIMG_0554IMG_0558IMG_0556

Day 2: Your favorite animalIMG_0560IMG_0564IMG_0562

Day 3: Your favorite foodIMG_0566IMG_0570IMG_0568

Day 4: Your favorite placesIMG_0576IMG_0574IMG_0572

Day 5: Your best friendsIMG_0578

Day 6: Your favorite bookIMG_0548

It was truly a challenge for me to think creatively and illustrate my thoughts on a page. I won’t show every page from our book, but it’s something I will cherish and keep even when Katie is a grown woman.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy 7th Birthday

IMG_1058Dear Jackson,

Oh, my boy! What a difference a year makes. The person who is writing this letter today is in a wholly different mindset than the mother who wrote this letter last year. And, of course, so is the recipient!

In the last few months, your demeanor has undergone a transformation. Somehow, in some way, the things Daddy and I have been drilling in to your head for six years seem to be penetrating somewhat. It’s like a light was switched on, and you are grasping cause and effect in a much deeper sense. You have learned that giving an attitude to your parents results in getting an attitude back. You’ve experimented with that, and it seems you have found (finally!) that everyone is much more agreeable when we start with pleasant instead of grumps. Hallelujah! It finally makes sense for you!

Grasping this one life basic has paid big dividends for our entire family. Since the calendar turned to 2014, I’ve noticed an increased willingness on your part to help without being asked, to go out of your way when you see someone else struggling or having a bad moment, and to take responsibility for yourself. For example, Toy Jail finally makes sense to you. (Clean it up before bed, or you have to do a job the next day to get whatever item was “arrested” out of jail.)

As a mother, I’ve prayed countless times that I would see changes like this in you. And although I know we haven’t “arrived” yet (When does a parent ever “arrive,” anyway?), I can see glimmers of the man you will one day become. Small changes have brought big hope!

While some change has been encouraging and refreshing, other things have stayed the same – and I’m grateful for that, too. You are an incredibly smart kid. (Of course, in my humble opinion!) I mean, look at your classwork I saw at school today!IMG_1062a

And you are still the same sweet-hearted, emotionally open little boy you’ve always been. As a parent, I’ve learned to figure out the currency that matters most to each of my kids and to use that currency as a motivator. While physical currency (money) is a decent motivator for you, the biggest motivator is people. You LOVE people, and being alone is one of the worst punishments you can imagine.

Just last week, we had friends over for dinner – adult friends! To you, it didn’t matter that they weren’t coming to “play” with you. You were thrilled to have people over at all, and you woke up that morning chattering happily about our friends who were coming to dinner. As their arrival time got closer that evening, you set about getting the house ready for them. You asked me if you could put out trays for them to rest their snacks on. You took all the pillows off the couch and made a soft spot on the floor for our friends to sit. (Never mind that they are past the age of floor-sitting, and never mind that I had spent the previous 30 minutes cleaning up the living room and placing those same pillows in certain spots on the couch!) And then you took up a sentinel post by the front window, watching for their arrival. Every two minutes, you came to find me and tell me they had not arrived yet. But the instant they pulled into our driveway, you became a one-man welcome wagon and rushed out to usher our friends into the house. Having people in your life makes you feel like king of the castle, and your soul lights up with glowing joy.

You care about people, sweet boy. You love well. You write letters and draw pictures for people you love. Those pictures are usually dragons or crazy winged bats, but you love to give these pictures away. You’ve also started caring for people by praying for them. Last week, I made you a set of rocks we are calling Prayer Pebbles. I picked seven pebbles for you on our walk, and wrote six names on them for you. Five of the six names are people you love, and the sixth is the name of someone you struggle to love almost every day. It’s a boy on your bus, who is a borderline bully to everyone around him. You and I talked about him and you asked me to write his name on a rock for you. Yesterday you pulled his rock out of the Prayer Pebble container and bowed your head and prayed for the boy you wish would be your friend. My heart melted! [For the record, the seventh rock was left blank so you can pray for whatever person you choose on the day you pull that rock from the container.]IMG_1037

I got a text from our neighbor this morning, wishing you a happy birthday. She told me about a conversation she had with you the other night. Here’s a screen shot of it:IMG_1075a

This epitomizes you at this very moment in time, Jackson. You are so excited to start baseball (your first team!) next week. You get to hang with your buddy this weekend. And you look forward to your future with zealous anticipation, unafraid and jumping in with abandon. I feel the same about your future, too: the best is yet to be, Jackson! I am so glad I get to be your mommy and sit beside you for this crazy ride.

I love you, deeply and dearly!


Monday, March 10, 2014

Facebook: Love and Hate

facebook thumbs downIt’s been getting worse lately: this sense that the balance of my life is off. One of the biggest signs of that is my addiction (strong word, yes, but fitting!) to social media. I have turned to the quick “fix” of Facebook for many reasons. It’s a quick hit of “drugs” to this junkie who thrives on my extroverted nature to make me feel purpose and meaning in this ever-increasing, isolated culture.

There are so many reasons I really love Facebook.

  • Facebook Stories like these
  • Social media connects people in an irreplaceable way. For example, earlier this year when Atlanta was hit with a bad snow storm, I watched my news feed be filled with my friends’ status updates and requests for help. I was amazed that people even ASKED for help and weren’t so independent that they had to do life alone, and also amazed at how other friends answered those requests and went out of their way for strangers.
  • I hate to admit I get a large part of my world news from Facebook, but it’s true. It’s where I first hear of celebrity deaths, natural disasters, and political upheaval.
  • Facebook is also the place I get personal news from my friends: new jobs, engagements, pregnancies, diagnoses, sudden deaths. Two weeks ago, I saw that my childhood best friend’s dad died suddenly. I immediately reached out to her through a private message, and we were speaking on the phone – and crying together – within hours. Without Facebook, I might not have known for months – or at least until I received a Christmas card – or ever! (It’s not something people usually put in a Christmas card, you know.)
  • Facebook put me in contact again with long-lost friends. Dan always jokes with me about how I keep in contact with the most random people, even prior to Facebook. There’s the waiter from our Caribbean cruise and the American woman living in Israel that we met in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy. Those are people I kept in contact with through email and Real! Mail! before Facebook was invented. And then Facebook came along, and we can communicate in real time. It’s fantasticly wonderful for Little Miss Extrovert!
  • Since most of my family is now gone, staying in touch with old family friends has been much easier with Facebook. I am included in my brother’s high school and college friends’ lives and events, and my parents’ friends are my friends now too. Something really cool happened earlier this year. A guy who knew my brother in high school (but was between Jackson’s age and my age, so I didn’t know him well) posted a football video and tagged mutual friends in it. I shared the video with my sister, thinking I might have noticed my brother in that video. The guy who posted it contacted me privately and offered to send me a different video of my brother’s high school championship football game. I watched it and got to see Jackson again, and it made me incredibly happy to relive that night.
  • Facebook also keeps me in the pop culture loop. It’s where I go to see video links of stupid human and pet tricks, you-won’t-believe-this! videos, and new music videos. It’s where I post a video of my kiddos doing something amazing or funny or silly (even though this is borderline bragging).

And, yet… there are so many reasons Facebook isn’t all love and joy for me. Those good things above have a flip side too:

  • For every great video link I’ve watched, there are at least ten unfunny/stupid video links. And those stupid captioned cartoons that are so popular right now? For reals, people. Stop posting them!sarcastic card2
  • I have friends who post pictures of Every. Single. Meal. They. Eat. The annoyance I feel is truly unhealthy.
  • Same goes for people’s jerky opinions or dirty laundry they air. I am still shocked and astounded a people who post about a fight with their spouse or post a link to a really offensive political view – or something that’s borderline porn. Ugh! I have to admit I’m also a bit horrified by my friends who have pageant kids (or dance team kids) who post photos of their girls so dolled up that they look like, well… I won’t say, but I know you get the picture. (And, for the record, these are 8- and 10-year old girls.)
  • Really bad photos also get me. I know this one doesn’t bother most people, but the photographer in me shudders sometimes at the techniques out there.
  • People who can’t be real drive me a little nuts on Facebook. There are those who post an inflated version of their reality and can’t be honest. This bothers me so much that I made a pact with one of my best friends to text each other whenever we feel the need to post something “real” but are afraid to. She and I call them True Status Updates and we text the really crappy, bad parts of our lives to each other. It’s partly misery-loves-company, and partly an accountability to each other to be authentic in a SAFE place.
  • One of the biggest traps for me on Facebook is the enhanced feeling of loneliness from reading people’s posts about said inflated reality (see above), which makes me feel inferior. I already feel inferior enough on my own; I don’t need a news feed full of visual reminders of unattainable parenting tips, fashion pinnacles I’ll never reach, or Valentines/date nights/dinners (!!!) I’ll never eat. (Ooooo… now you get the real crux of the matter: Facebook makes me a green little monster!)
  • And while we’re in this jealousy/envy vein, let’s just rip the entire mask off my face: Facebook makes me feel like a loser when I see all the shopping trips/dinners/parties/social events people have attended and I wasn’t included. It feels like 4th grade all over again. And, apparently, I’m barely above the 4th-grade level of maturity! Ick!

There you have it. My partial list of why Facebook is so marvelous and so malevolent to me. (Marvelovent?!) I love and hate it at the same time.

Now the question is: what am I gonna do about it? Like I mentioned in the first paragraph, it’s been getting worse lately. It has sucked away my time with God, my family, my marriage, my housekeeping, and my blogging. It has become an idol for me. I realized this a while ago, but thought I could control it. I went through my news feed and deleted a lot of people (not as friends, just in my feed), but that didn’t help. I promised myself at the start of the year I would only log into Facebook once a day and for a limited amount of time. Um… nope. Didn’t work. I toyed with the idea of deactivating my account, but felt like I couldn’t for a few of those “love” reasons listed above, plus there are people who contact me there for work things sometimes. I floundered. I pondered. I prayed.

And then last Wednesday, it happened. It was Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Although I’m Protestant and don’t do a full-fledged Lent commitment, I still like to spend the time preparing for Easter and the work God is doing in my heart. During my quiet time, I felt such a conviction to get rid of Facebook that I immediately got out of my seat, walked over to the computer, and spent 30 minutes shutting it down. (It took a little while because I am the admin of a few different groups and had to pass ownership along to other people.) I didn’t talk myself out of it, and didn’t try to analyze the repercussions (which happened pretty quickly right after; I lost information for some social events happening the next day and weekend).

I simply let it go.

And, honestly? I’m really happy about it. Yesterday was a little difficult because I had three people text me within hours of each other to ask why I disappeared on Facebook. They needed to contact me with some information, or tag me in something encouraging. I explained to them my need to step out for a while, and suggested other ways to contact me.

I feel more free, like I am in control of the media, instead of the other way around. That feels really good to know I’m not a passive victim of the Facebook drain. I choose when and how it will affect me, and how I will imbibe of it. (I told you it sounds like I’m an addict!)

I’m pretty sure my absence from social media won’t last forever because I do have two kids who will, one day, request access for their own social media accounts. Plus, I’m still on Instagram (which doesn’t affect me quite as negatively – yet! – as Facebook does) and blogging (it will be so nice to write more!). Elizabeth is not a complete social[media] pariah!

Like other stuff in my life right now, I’m just going to take things as they come. Today is not a Facebook day, and I will make no decisions or judgments today about whether tomorrow will – or won’t – be, either. Wish me luck!Time Wasted on Facebook




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