Monday, August 22, 2016

Public School Mom

I love that we live in a time and a place where there are lots of choices for how we educate our children. In just the relatively small circle of my closer friends and family, most of those options are represented. Public schools. Private schools. Online schools. Home school co-ops that blend classroom learning with home study. Full home schooling with unique, custom curriculum. It's an interesting time to be a parent. With so many choices out there, we have one guarantee: We will compare our choices to the choices of others, whether we want to or not.

Comparisons are natural. They can even be healthy, especially if we're in the middle of making a hard choice or a change. But, as with other hot button issues of parenting, comparisons on how we educate our kids can become polarizing when they aren't paired with humility and understanding.

I overheard a conversation recently that was full of disapproval concerning Christian parents who would knowingly send their kids into the public school system in today's social climate. As you know, I'm one of those parents, so it stung a little. It really shouldn't have stung, because I know all of the reasons that lead us to that choice. But, hey, I understand completely where they're coming from. With regard to the big picture, I have some of the same concerns. Kids are exposed to a lot more a lot earlier these days. My kids may be victims of peer pressure or bullying. They may hear conversations I don't think they're old enough to process correctly. They may come across a teacher at some point who has a condescending attitude toward their values or their faith. I certainly don't want my child "educated by the state" with little to no input from me. Dude, I get it. BUT. That's not really the whole story.

I've hesitated a lot about responding to this line of thought. I know that when people explain why they make a certain choice, it can put others on the defensive. (That's usually my first reflex, at least.) I know that many times, we overemphasize the benefits of our own choices as a defense against nay-sayers. We live in a culture of hashtag passive aggression. I think it's part of the modern parenthood landscape to feel judged, regardless of our choices.

So, as I share some of my thoughts on public schooling, I hope you can take it at face value. I'm not sharing my perspective on this to gain public school recruits or to bash other forms of education. I not only think the other forms are great, I think they're exactly where many kids should be! I'm just trying to help facilitate a change in attitude. I know some people think, in their heart of hearts, that we Christians with our kids in public schools just don't get it. If we got it, surely we'd pull them out! But, I believe we were each created with a specific and all-together unique purpose. I'm only responsible for the upbringing of two children. The only thing I need to know is whether those two specific kids belong in our specific neighborhood public school this year. So here are some of the reasons our Christian kids are in a public school:

"The System": There's a bit of a fallacy out there in some circles that all public schools are created equal. People throw around a term like "the public school system" as if it's all a giant maze of educational pipes that our children are thrown into haphazardly. The truth is, a child's school is defined by its people. The way it functions is based primarily on choices at the campus level. I can't speak to all of the public schools in the nation. I can't even speak to all of the schools in our district. But I know our school. We purchased this home, before we even had kids, largely because of its proximity to this school. Ryan and I have gotten to know the administrators there. We've gotten to know our kids' teachers. We know many of the other parents, and we know many of our kids' classmates. This isn't a blind "system" maze to us. It's one well-lit classroom at a time. It's a hard-working teacher that we hand-picked for our quirky son, because she's skilled at teaching outside of the box. It's a loving, high energy Kindergarten teacher who attends the same church we do and who manages to build a foundation of knowledge and achievement in even her lowest performing students with a combination of deft skill and genuine love for each child. This is what "the system" looks like at the school around the corner from our house. If I have any concerns or questions, I can address it with people - people we know.

Involvement: One of the reasons we know so many people at our local school is because we make a point to be in the mix. As a stay at home mom with both of my kids now in school, I have an opportunity many parents don't -- the freedom to volunteer in my kids' classrooms and be present on their campus. I mentioned a little about it in an earlier blog, but being able to do this is part of what makes public school so much more comfortable for us. I witness first hand that my kids aren't "in the belly of the beast"; they're in the care of instructors I respect and work to know personally. I'm not doing the teaching, but I'm right in the middle of it, sometimes in the classroom, and sometimes at home with homework and projects. If there's curriculum that rubs me the wrong way, I don't have to cringe in fear or stage a protest. I can communicate openly with their teachers, and more importantly, I can address the topics at home with my kids to give them my perspective on what they're learning. I may joke about getting rid of my kids for a few hours, and I certainly enjoy the perks of going grocery shopping alone and making mid-morning classes at the gym, but our experience is far from the stigma of just dropping the kids off and letting someone else deal with them. And when the time comes that we're up against some of the real concerns we have about the world today, it will be our involvement, not our withdrawal, that addresses them. That brings me, lastly, to our beliefs.

That Whole Christian Thing:  As a believer, my first and foremost viewpoint is informed by my faith. I know it's hard for some Christians to wrap their head around, but we don't see our Christianity as a reason to leave public schools. In fact, for us, it's a reason not to leave. I know that the Bible calls Christians to be salt and light in the world. That can mean so many things to so many people, but for our family, that extends into the schools. When you remove light from an area, you shouldn't be shocked when it gets darker. I think a lot of the issues Christians see in public schools stem from the great exodus of Christian kids and parents. If there aren't any Christian voices in our schools, we can't be surprised when decisions made at the school level don't reflect our values. I don't think God calls every Christian parent to the public school system, but I do believe he calls some. We're right here, on the front lines, being the community you want for your children. If the time ever comes when regulations change, and other choices are no longer feasible, I hope that my family's influence in our local school will be part of why others will feel safer there. And when our children enter universities and the workplace, I hope the lifelong friendships they make there are stronger because of the influence of families like mine in their friends' schools.

Don't let my reasons for our choice fool you. I have moments of doubt. Moments of fear, even. But, I know the Bible tells me not to operate in fear. I obviously have concerns about the future of our nation, and more specifically, the persecution of Christians that the Bible tells us is inevitable. But one thing is certain; I trust God's will for my family. I have to choose not to walk in fear; I have to choose to walk prayerfully down the path God calls me to. Because this isn't just about my kids. This is about Christ's heart for a generation. This year, at least, my family's role in that starts with the school around the corner.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Fifteen Days

Back to School can be full of big feelings. Teachers have to go back to work. Homeschoolers get back to having to juggle teaching and home life under the same umbrella. Some parents are sad to see their kids get another year older. And, there are certainly plenty who dread the added structure, homework battles, and extracurricular activities that fill the school year. There are adjustments after having a summer of sleeping in and taking family vacations.

But, there are a few of us with a much more optimistic view. My tribe treats it like its own national holiday. We function better with routine. We love vacations and whirlwind summer plans, but we believe part of what makes them special is that they're limited to a couple blazing hot months each year. Scarcity ups their value. And man, we can't wait to get back to a place where our kids' expectations for constant excitement and entertainment takes a long loooooong break. Welcome back to school, kids. Honestly, the next 9 months would be valuable, even if all they learned was that they aren't actually the center of the universe.

Last year, I posted a count down on Facebook several times throughout the summer. I was so ready to join the ranks of mothers with no more kids at home all day. My son was going into 2nd grade, my daughter was finally starting Kindergarten, and I was the opposite of sentimental about it. I was thanking Jesus for blessed freedom. If I'd been blogging during that period, you would have been treated to the written equivalent of a dance party. 

This year is just as exciting, but a lot about it is different than we would have thought based on the beginning of last year. Both of our kids will be adjusting to something unexpected, and maybe a little bittersweet.

Our son is a pretty brainy kid, so he started the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program at a new school last year. It was an amazing, rigorous program with extra funding and lots of enrichment options. We loved his teacher. He was in computer programming and robotics clubs after school. He told everyone he knew that he was in GATE, because he thought it made him pretty special. But, he isn't going back. We decided to re-enroll him in our neighborhood public school for 3rd grade. It was a difficult decision, and if I believed the school experience was only about academics, we probably would have stayed the course. But we believe the school experience is as much about community and friendship as it is about reading and math. We really like our community. We love that our kids are in classrooms with their neighborhood friends, and we deeply respect the people who run and teach at our local school. (And we're lucky. Our school is one of the top performing schools in the city. As it turns out, it isn't really that drastic of a change academically, even without the extra funding and enrichment.) His GATE program isolated him from his community to some degree, especially since that awesome program had one big flaw: It was in an area most people wouldn't even drive through after dark. In fact, a few nights ago, there was a murder right across the street from the school. So, we made a change. Wyatt was disappointed when we first told him, but now he's looking forward to being back in class with the kids he started Kindergarten with.

Kindergarten is probably my favorite grade. In fact, it was such an awesome experience for our daughter, that we've decided to do it all over again! Yep, our girl is repeating Kindergarten. It's another thing we didn't really see coming at the beginning of the last school year. She's not actually behind. She meets all of the grade standards. On paper, perhaps, it's a strange decision not to promote her into 1st grade. But we once again come to our belief that school is about more than academics. Neva was the youngest kid in her class last year. Several of her classmates were a full year older than she was. After doing some reading on the topic, we decided we wanted to give her the chance to be one of the oldest in her class going forward. We think it'll benefit her academically, but more importantly, it'll benefit her socially in terms of confidence and maturity. We had a rare opportunity to give our daughter an advantage, so we took it.

In 15 days, we'll have a 3rd grader and a Kindergartner. But who's counting?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The School Age

I've mentioned this before, but the first few years of motherhood were really hard for me. I felt blindsided by the true enormity of parenthood. I loved my babies, but I didn't really know what to do with them. There was never enough sleep. There was a lot of crying and meltdowns during those years (and not just by the kids.) I also had to spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with urine and feces. First diapers, then potty training. I wouldn't even blink if someone told me the only reason they didn't want children was because of potty training. I would fully understand that logic. And then there's this: I cared way too much about how other parents viewed my choices. And, you guys, in those first few years, all of your choices are presented as hot button issues. It's RIDICULOUS. (I had epidurals. We circumcised our boy. We used disposable diapers. I only nursed for a few months with each kid, and found great relief from formula. We vaccinated our kids on a selective, delayed schedule.) SERIOUSLY. Why are all of the most judge-worthy choices given to parents when they're rookies? I had to read a lot of books and websites about raising small children, because despite what everyone said about trusting my gut, I felt pretty gutless. And yet I still thought I needed to justify every choice by convincing other new parents to do things the way I did them. I'm drowning; let me give you a swimming lesson.

I am grateful, therefore, that time marches on and that babies and toddlers don't remember being babies and toddlers. That's a gift, guys. And, those two alien beings I was responsible to keep alive while they learned basic earth survival skills are now 8 and almost-6. We have entered fully into The School Age, and it is glorious. 

I'm not really sure how it works if you have kids covering the spread. I imagine The Survival Years are tempered considerably by experience, but I'm not going to have another baby to find out. 

Here are my 3 favorite things about the The School Age: 

1) Conversation. My kids have a lot to say these days. They have opinions and questions about the world. Sometimes that can be crazy-making, but it's also pretty stinkin' amazing. They're smart and funny and insightful young people, and I get to be a part of helping them become grown-ups. I'm getting to know them now based on what they think and feel. My love for them is based more on who they're becoming as human beings, and a little less on the fact that they're mine and they have the cuteness factor of baby animals.  

2) School. I've always been a book nerd, so the school years are kind of my jam. I could probably write a book about my love of our neighborhood public school, and why we have our kids there, but that's a post for another day. (And isn't it great that God's plan for every family is unique?) My kids whine about homework sometimes like most kids do, but I appreciate how it keeps me right in the mix of their curriculum and their personal progress. I also really dig helping out in my kids' classrooms. I'll admit that I started because I felt obligated as a stay at home mom to be of service and be involved. Blah blah blah. I didn't really want to be that involved. But then I found out I actually love it. I get to work one-on-one with these rad little kids who I never would have gotten to know otherwise. And I get to observe my kids in a classroom setting and sometimes on the playground, so it shows me a whole different side to their personalities that they don't always show me at home. It's crazy-rewarding, and I feel like it's exactly where I'm supposed to be. But the school year also obviously makes me happy because I get a break from the kids. The days I'm not in the classroom, I get to clean without interruption, shop solo, work out regularly, schedule hair appointments without needing a sitter, and charge up all of my introvert batteries with blessed alone time. The school year is my sweet spot, man.    

3) Vacations. What's the difference between a trip and a vacation? Kids. That's what we always used to say, anyway. But, we've recently discovered that our viewpoint was shortsighted in the depths of The Survival Years. We can legitimately vacation with our school-aged children! The trips can be fun and relaxing. This has to be one of the greatest discoveries ever. "Family vacation" isn't an oxymoron anymore. And that means that while I love the school year, summer break isn't so shabby either.

The School Age has plenty of challenges. Thanks to our kids' growing opinions and interests, our days can be crazy busy during some seasons. Extracurricular activities are both a blessing and a curse. School aged kids are experts at fighting and arguing. They can be manipulative and sometimes they even lie. They're now capable of most of the same sinful junk we adults are. Raising school aged kids requires a lot of thinking and a lot of praying, because they're actually going to remember how these years went down. But they're also capable of big good things like kindness, generosity, and genuine helpfulness that doesn't double the time it takes you to get things done. And you know what?
They know us better than they used to, too. It feels good to be known by my people.

These years are the best years so far. I can't wait to see what's next. I don't want my kids to slow down or stop growing up. Onward and upward, baby. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

I Think Facebook Ate Your Social Skills

"Everyone has a right to their own opinion." I've heard this phrase used as defensive strategy on forums, message boards, and Facebook posts more times than I can count. The phrase, on its own, is true. Its context, however, is questionable. If you need to say it in defense, you're probably committing social suicide. Newsflash: sometimes your opinions need to stay tucked in your head, all warm and cozy-like.  We have the right to do all sorts of things. We also have brains, which are supposed to help us choose our words wisely.

Social etiquette is about people skills. Making and (gasp) keeping friends. A lot of people in the social media age have forgotten some very basic truths about human nature. Little things, like how being a jerk is not helpful, funny, or socially beneficial to you as a human being. And how you can't unsay something, especially when you've broadcast it on the Internet. We've probably all fallen into these categories at different times, but a select few live here. I'm not scolding anyone for the occasional lapse. I've admittedly done all of these things without meaning to. But we could all brush up on our social skills from time to time.

1) Drive-By Debbie Downer: "We finally taught Janey how to pump her legs when she swings! Yea! No more pushing! Go, Janey!" Drive-By Debbie Downer's comment might be: "We don't really believe in swings. They're actually a leading cause of playground injuries, so I avoid parks with swings, for the safety of my children." Or perhaps, "You should really treasure the time you have to push Janey on the swings. Don't be in such a hurry for her to grow up! :)" Don't let the smiley face fool you. The second one almost looks like a helpful tidbit. Well, except for purposely inflicting mom-guilt and throwing a wet rag on Janey's accomplishment. Thanks so much for stopping by. After this kind of comment 42 times, Drive-By Debbie Downer has finally been delegated to a higher privacy setting.

2) Viva La Revolution Vick:  He is passionate. He is angry. He will rage against the machine daily with links and quotes and manifestos. Our beliefs make him sick. He doesn't really know what most of us actually believe or who we voted for, but he knows we need to learn to think like he does. Did I mention that none of us have even seen Viva La Revolution Vick in fifteen years? Yeah, he's the first guy we'll go to when we want an opinion on politics. After all, he's clearly established himself as a wise member of our inner circle. Just unsubscribed from Viva la Revolution Vick's feed. Spout away to your empty arena, Vick.

3) TMI Tina: Okay, it's not so much her opinions that need to be reigned in as her grossly inappropriate collection of public diary entries. TMI Tina needs to either cut her friends list by about 300, or learn how to use her privacy settings. How do you know she doesn't use her privacy settings? Because you know you wouldn't make that cut, if she were actually filtering the information. Whether it's shared pictures of a questionable growth on her back, or just an inside look at the rapid deterioration of her marriage, the one thing we know for sure is that it's none of our business. And we'll never get to a place in our relationship with TMI Tina where what she's saying would be appropriate for us to hear, because we don't trust her enough not to broadcast our business in the same way she broadcasts her own. Call your Mom, Tina. Leave the rest of us out of it.

The truth is, we are judged daily by what we do and say. It is human nature to assess a situation and act according to our assessment. That's what "judgement" is. So before you ask us not to judge you, take a moment to use a little of that judgement, yourself. You may discover that your social life, your reputation, and your family dealings will all look a little bit better. Or, at least, a heck of a lot healthier.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Introvert Who Won't Shut Up

Have you ever realized something about yourself that clarifies issues you've had in past relationships and situations, but WAY after the fact? Yep, that's where I am at the moment. So, excuse me for a moment while I indulge my narcissism. This could be a very dull read.

1. I am an introvert.  This may be a hard thing to believe for people who know me as loud and talkative. But introversion has less to do with personality and more with where you get your energy. I get energized with alone-time. I value small gatherings and one-on-one time with my closest friends. Crowds drain my energy, and leave me feeling spent. So I don't value numbers. At all. The smaller the better, usually. I like to get to know new people one or two at time, not en masse. And the absolute worst large group I can think of is a large group of women. Large groups of women always seem to revert back to a pack of teenagers. I don't know why. Maybe it's a combination of the estrogen and feminine pheromones in the room. I really have no idea. But, if there is any squealing involved, that would be my own private hell.

2. I am insecure.  Oh, it's not that all-encompassing, crushing insecurity of my teen years. I don't think I'm invisible anymore. I don't assume the worst if someone looks at me funny or has to cancel plans with me. I am comfortable in my own skin, and am no longer gauging my happiness by popularity with my peers. BUT. I still need to be liked. The idea of someone deciding they just don't like me drives me insane. I do care what other people think of me. In fact, I think that most people who claim not to care are lying. But then again, I may just be projecting. It's unfathomable for me not to care, so I can't wrap my brain around someone honestly not caring if they are liked. (And yet, my own husband doesn't care about being liked. So I've already proven that it's probably just projection.)

3. I don't exactly know who my "type" is when it comes to good friends. I really enjoy my friends. I know that I gel better with some people than others, but it's hard to figure out what the through-line is. Every time I think I find a pattern, someone new comes into my life who doesn't fit my preconceived notions, but who I totally enjoy. I think what I like in friends is a mixture of common interests and dissimilar personalities. Most of my closest friends enjoy a lot of the same things I do, but aren't actually a lot like me. (And yet, even as I say this, I can think of a couple good friends who are VERY much like me. So, you see, I have no idea.) Okay, the one thing all of my closest friends have in common is intelligence. Not an airhead in the bunch. There. A through-line.

So, to close: I am a loud and talkative introvert who is somewhat insecure, but still likes herself, and who can't figure out why she likes who she likes, but knows she likes them just the same. Well, that clears things up.

Friday, January 27, 2012

You're So Vain; You Probably Think This Post is About You

It was the song "Sexy and I Know It" playing in the background as I did lunges that prompted this post. If, perhaps, you have more sophisticated music tastes than I do, you might not be familiar with it. Get familiar. It is the best workout song ever. I know this because it says "I work out" right in the lyrics.

As you know, working out releases all those yummy endorphins. But, before it can do that, you have to be motivated to work out in the first place. Motivation has always been my struggle. In many things. (You may notice that I still haven't finished writing my novel.) And, to top it all off, I have a natural aversion to one of the other bi-products of those endorphins - smugness. Oh, for the love of all that is good and holy, if you're smug about your fitness, you make me cringe at a molecular level. It makes you ugly. And let's be honest; none of us work out with ugliness as a goal.

So, I need stupid songs written by juvenile-minded dudes to motivate me to join the ranks of the fit and smug. Appeal to my vanity. Do it. It's the only thing that works. So far, I've been doing pretty well. A different part of me is sore at the end of almost every day, so I must be doing something right. And I have a tape measure now, instead of just a scale. So I can work with that whole muscle-weighs-more-than-fat statement without secretly worrying that it might just be something people say to make themselves feel better. The fact that the measurements are going in one direction while the scale has actually inched up a tad in the other is my happy proof of that.

It is vanity that motivates me. Vanity. Not health. Not strength. Not the endorphin high. Don't get me wrong; I dig those benefits. I like feeling energetic instead of sluggish. I like the bad-ass feeling of being stronger than I used to be. But if all I got from working out were those things, without a change to my appearance, I wouldn't do it. Hell no. And, to be honest, I think most people who claim they do it for those reasons above vanity are lying. Yep. Calling you fools out. If working out made you energetic and strong and healthy but still left you looking flabby, 90% of you would ditch your workout plans before you finished reading this sentence. You can tell me I'm wrong; but I won't believe you. The majority of the exceptions would be people who made a living from being strong/athletic/agile. If you're a special ops dude, function may truly trump form. Same for a professional athlete. But spare me the smug diatribe on function over form. Even in the slim chance that you're being honest with yourself, it's going to go way over my head. I can't relate. Don't waste your breath. You have better things to do, like work out and practice your moderately-amused smug expression in the mirror.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolutions, Moderation and Why a "Healthy Obsession" is an Oxymoron

Like many of you, I've been thinking about 2012. I quit doing resolutions several years ago, because they're usually a recipe for self-loathing. I'd either set my goals so high, I might as well be aiming for perfection, or I'd set them really low and still not attain them, making me feel, well, LAME. This year, I'm making resolutions again. But, before I focus wholly on self-improvement, I want to remind myself of what I did right in 2011. Because, despite having some goals for growth, I'm actually pretty happy with who I already am.

My family in 2011. I'm pretty satisfied with all of us.

Before I go any further, I need to explain one of my philosophies. When I tell you about cutting back on certain things or increasing certain things, you may be of the opinion that I should just get rid of something completely or embrace something more fully. I'll disagree with that assertion 9 times out of 10. Here's why: I think the "all-or-nothing" mentality about most things can be unhealthy, unless you're fighting an addiction and the "all" in that "all or nothing" mentality was what got you there in the first place. There are exceptions, of course. Some things are 100% bad and should be treated accordingly. Not everything in life is relative. But most problems don't come from exposure; they come from a lack of moderation. So no, I'm not throwing my TV in a dumpster or banishing all sugar from my kids' diets. I can make responsible decisions without creating unnecessary "black or white" lifestyle choices. You'll see this theme a lot with me. Gray areas exist. And that's okay.

1. TV watching way down. Book reading way up. I cut the amount of TV I watch by about 75% and increased my reading by about 50%. My brain is thanking me. I highly recommend dumping a show or two and using that time to read, among other things. It makes us better thinkers. And better thinkers tend to do a lot of other things better, too. (But again, moderation, people. Watching a TV show doesn't make you dumb. Reading 24/7 doesn't make you wise; it makes you incapable accomplishing anything else. You get what I'm saying.)

2. Lost my baby weight. And my marriage weight. And my post-pregnancy... er... skin. Right now, I weigh about 10 pounds less than I did at my wedding. I'm no food-hater. I'm not a gym rat. But slow and steady wins the race, as they say, and I dropped a slow and steady 40 lbs over a year's time with (wait for it) moderate diet changes and exercise. After (and only after) I lost that weight, I got to lose the had-my-babies-in-my-30s-with-the-worst-skin-elasticity-genes-on-the-planet excess skin as well. Yep, I got a tummy tuck. I had my post-baby body surgically altered to resemble my this-skin-has-never-been-stretched-beyond-recognition pre-baby body. Feel free to judge me and tell me which exercises I could have done to accomplish the same results or blast me for not being proud of my battle scars. I'll gladly defend my choice in private. If you know me well enough to know how to reach me directly, you're allowed to share your opinion with me. If you don't, please spare me the unsolicited sour grapes.   
Don't worry; I still kept a couple souvenirs from my empowering pregnancy experiences.
3. I manage my household pretty well without having morose, neglected children. I've heard rumors (mainly from pinners on Pinterest, heh) that a clean house* and happy children are independent of each other. I agree that no house can stay photo-shoot ready if it houses happy children. Small children make messes and inflict chaos upon a household. BUT, if I used them as an excuse to have my home resemble an episode of hoarders, my happy kids would probably have MRSA. We're far from perfect. But grown-ups live in this house, too, so we try to find some balance. And my kids like pretending to be grown-ups. I'm kind of proud of how I've harnessed the energy and grown-up aspirations of my kiddos to get them doing a little housework. Chores help with long term work-ethic. I mean, hey, that's not just good for my kids; it's good for society. You see? I'm basically a civil servant here! (*truth in advertising: We do have housekeepers who come twice a month. I pay for them with money I earn from home as a freelance writer and copy editor. I'm not under the illusion that my house would be quite as clean if I didn't have help. But I'm pretty sure I still spend more time cleaning than your average American - even if that's setting the bar pretty low. There's a daily routine in place. There are kid naps. There's playtime with mommy and without mommy. There's time to play, teach, clean, read, exercise and play some more. There are 24 hours in a day.  Heck, I cleaned my floors, vacuumed, did dishes, and picked up my son's room before I went anywhere near this computer today. But yes, I'm thrilled that someone else will be scrubbing my toilets on Thursday. Who wouldn't be? And I've been using the "there aren't enough hours in the day" excuse not to prioritize things my whole life. So I'm preaching at myself here. I'm reminding myself of the ol' saying: "If you want something to get done, give it to busy man." Too true. The more time I have, the less I get done.)

Okay, enough self-righteous braggadocios obnoxious mom-of-the-year shiznit. (Would that have been a better title for this? Hm.) You get the idea. I'm kind of proud of my 2011 accomplishments. So I'm now ready to tackle my 2012 resolutions without bashing my "before picture". Get my drift? My resolutions are pretty simple:

1. Improve my spiritual life. The results may be subjective, but if the fruit is an indication of the health of the tree, I hope you'll all see me bearing more and better fruit. It will include adding more to my reading that tackles spiritual matters, including another full read of the Bible. I've decided it's awfully hard to claim to love or even to claim to understand someone if you aren't spending any time trying to learn about their worldview. Even if that someone is the one who built you, one atom at a time. It will also include being more proactive in my prayer life, because what kind of relationship can I claim to have with anyone I rarely talk to? So, yeah. Improve my spiritual life.

2. Improve my fitness. I may have the right measurements these days thanks to 2011, but my cardio and strength could use some improvements. Gonna exercise more. I'll never be a gym rat, but I certainly understand the benefits of a healthy body, and I definitely have a few purely vain goals for improvement as well.

3. Increase my creative endeavors. As I've stated in my bio from day one, I'm a lot better at working on the writing that I get paid for than I am the stuff that could, maybe, or maybe not, pay me down the road if it's ever good enough. Yeah, I need to write more. I need to finish the stuff I've started. Even if I never make another dime in the true creative arena, I should be creating something. Because I currently have some talents buried out in a field. And some of the reading mentioned in my first resolution has convinced me of the wrongness of buried talents. ;)

This blog post was too long. Sorry.  I resolve to take your feelings into account and keep them shorter for the rest of the year. Maybe. Happy New Year!

Friday, October 21, 2011

I'm a Prideful, Self-Righteous Jerk

You are currently being judged by the cupcake princess.
 I don't know about you, but I get really annoyed when I feel like someone is being self-righteous. I cringe when people can't let others have an opinion different than theirs without getting defensive or smug. I roll my eyes when people talk about choices they make that they deem superior to the choices I've made. You know what I mean, right? Sure.

But, um, I totally do it too. That stuff I mentioned in the last paragraph? Yeah, totally guilty. I have a self-righteous streak. I get a little defensive when I feel like someone has a different opinion than I do. (And, I probably call them self-righteous for disagreeing with me.) Sometimes my responses are smug and full of "righteous" indignation. And I totally judge other parents sometimes when they make choices for their kids that don't seem wise. (Or, I judge them for being paranoid and obsessive -and yes, self-righteous -when they make choices that are technically "better" than mine.)

The truth is, I think most of us are prideful, self-righteous jerks at least part of time. We may never tell a soul what we're thinking. Or, we may be the type to talk about it. A lot. But I doubt any of us are exempt. And really, if you're reading this and patting yourself on the back because you never do, say or think these things, welcome to the group. That was self-righteous, too.

We've all heard of the notion that we're quicker to see (and judge) weaknesses in others that we have ourselves. Totally true. But, I'll expand on that in the name of self-righteous jerks everywhere: We're even more likely to judge a weakness in someone if it's one we're prone to, but have mastered (or at least feel like we've mastered at the time). Especially because we think maybe we can change their ways if we shame them into wanting to change. Sound familiar? No? Sure, okay.

So, how do you handle it when the smugness starts to get the better of you? These are the tools I use: (I'll probably silently mock you if you don't use them, too.)

1. Self-deprecating* humor. There's nothing more useful to diffuse take-yourself-way-too-seriously disease like learning to make fun of yourself. Try it. You'll like it. (*Note: self-deprecating humor is different than self-hatred. If this method causes a spiral into depression and self-loathing, discontinue use immediately.)

2. The ol' put yourself in their shoes trick. Seriously. Sometimes we get a little too comfortable seeing the world from our own point of view. Ask yourself what about their life is different than yours. (Stuff that's out of their control, please... otherwise you're missing the point.) You may find that the reason they can't be like you is because (gasp) their life/children/resources, etc. are different than yours. It's true. That effects stuff.

3. Mirror, mirror on the wall... If neither of those seem to work, I have your trump card. Look in the mirror. Hopefully you'll see a couple things. First, that the smug look on your face is ugly as hell. Second, that maybe you have a few (minor, tiny, almost invisible, but still...) flaws of your own. Recognizing the stuff you've yet to master should soften up that view considerably.

If after trying all three of my tools for killing the evil smug beast, you're still pretty sure you're a little better than most people, I give up. There's no help for you. You're a prideful, self-righteous jerk. I'll be the one who mastered that weakness, watching you with a smug look on my face.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oh, the Drama! Getting "Unfriended" on Facebook.

Are you one of those people that gets offended if you find out someone dropped you from their Facebook friends list? Yeah, get over it.

Yesterday, I took a long hard look at my list and cut about 30 people. (The very phrase "cut people" sounds like we're all trying out for coveted positions on competitive teams.) I'll be honest. I wanted to trim it down by more. I still might. I don't love the fact that there are so many people in my supposed social sphere, because let's face it; there AREN'T.

Completely unoffensive reasons to strip someone of Facebook Friend status:

1)  I wouldn't even recognize you on the street if we bumped into each other.
2)  We don't actually communicate. In any fashion. At all. 

3)  We don't even communicate much with that friend in common who was the only key to our virtual friendship in the first place. Was that trip to Vegas three years ago when we danced in the same vicinity one night really that meaningful?

Moderately uncomfortable (but still not offensive unless you're deeply insecure) reasons to strip someone of Facebook Friend status:

1)  Inappropriate comments and/or status updates. I realize this is subjective, but if I sense a creepiness factor, even if it's just because I don't know you well enough to realize you were being sarcastic and/or ironic, you should not be offended if you get cut. (See, "I just don't know you well enough" above and get over it.)

2)  Politics/Religion/Etc. No, no, no. I absolutely do not trim my list based on political or religious affiliations. I'm a big fan of balance. Of intelligent debate. Of putting the shoe on the other foot. BUT. If we aren't very close, and the only reason we ever communicate on Facebook is to counter each others' points in political or religious discussions, I will tire of you. At that point, we aren't FB Friends, we're FB Foes. You should not be offended. (See, "we aren't very close" above, and get over it.)

3)  Parenting Shiz-Nit. Yes, if you overstep boundaries to comment on how I raise my kids, you'll probably get unfriended. If we're actually friends, we already talk about these things privately and have no reason to discuss them on Facebook. If we're not really good friends, your opinion on that matter doesn't carry much weight with me. But the fact that you'd cross that line unsolicited anyway is just rude, so I'd cut you on principle. You should not be offended. (See, "we're not really good friends" above, and get over it.)

Totally, straight-up, offensive (but still better in the long run) reasons to strip someone of Facebook Friends status:

1)  Dude. I just really don't like you. You annoy the living snot out of me and I have to escape. I'm sorry that you think I like you. I really don't. It's okay. You can be offended. I would be, too.

2)  I only friended you because I thought you were hot at some point. Lately, you've gotten decisively less hot. You should probably be offended, but at least you're no longer being used for your looks. (By me, at least. I can't speak for everyone else.)

3)  You're a stalker. No seriously. You need to get help. Getting 81 notifications in an hour is not healthy. It's really frickin' disturbing. I'm willing to offend you if it means you'll seek psychological care. Or at at the very least, stalk someone else. Someone not related to me. Or close to me. In any way.

If none of these things apply to you, congratulations! You've maintained your coveted position as Shannon's Facebook Friend. For now. Lucky you. If you don't think any of these apply to you, but you've still been cut, read it again. You're in there. I promise.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What's on Your Mind?

I like Facebook because I'm a social animal. But, dang it, I wish there was a little less "share this link" going on. I love an interesting article or a funny story with the best of them. I like fun blog posts. (Like this one? Sure! Like this one!) But if your Facebook wall is just a collection of links and videos, you're not a person; you're a portal.

Maybe a qualification question would help. "What is your motive for sharing this link?" If you check the box for, "to make money", or "to help people learn about being more like me and less like them",  or "because I have nothing to say, but I want to remind people I'm alive," you'll be redirected to an article on link-share etiquette.

We're all guilty of it from time to time. I'm not addressing your one-offs. I'm talking serial link-sharers. If you share every article from your favorite news source on a regular basis, you may want to consider that there's a reason the other people in the world have not subscribed to it. They may not be as engrossed by it as you are. And that's okay! Did you know they don't have to like all the same things you do? It's true.

Oh, and mommy links are the worst. We moms are notorious for making ourselves feel better about our bad decisions by highlighting our good ones. It's mommy-guilt 101. Or, we make our own decision on a controversial topic or parenting style and then feel to need to justify that decision to all of our friends with helpful, one-sided, "educational" links. Maybe it's just a defense mechanism. The best defense is a good offense? I'm not sure. But let me just get this out now: I don't care if you did or did not circumcise your son. None of my flippin' business. I don't care whether or not you vaccinate your kids. I don't care what parenting style you have adopted as the one and only best way to parent. Okay, I DO care if we're close friends and you want to discuss it one-on-one. I DON'T care if you're preaching your choices to everyone you ever knew on Facebook with a "helpful link".

I'm not a fan of how the links go flying during election seasons either. Share "what's on your mind" all you want. Just, for goodness sake, let it be what's actually on your mind, not the mind of the random author of an article you found on Google while you were doing your "only show me what I want to see" research. Pundits can be helpful in wording things the way we wish we could word them. But how about you just quote your source instead of assuming I want to read 3 pages on why you're right and I'm wrong?

So, that's my take on it. I guess I've just shot myself in the foot if I was hoping you'd share this link with your friends, eh? ;)