Monday, May 20, 2013

Dear kids,

I am officially pledging here an now to try to avoid lecturing and unsolicited advice as I raise you, but as your  mother, I think there are times when it's appropriate, and possibly even my right, to share some thoughts with you.

All throughout history, parents have been concerned for the up and coming generation.  They see their honored values fading and frightening new ones emerging.  In the 50's the fear was rock and roll, in the 70's it was the hippie movement, in the 90's it was the Simpson's, and so on.  And somehow each generation has found ways to keep moving forward and to not blow up the world.  If the 70's didn't do it, then I have great hope for the future.

Someday you'll roll your eyes when you hear me talk of the days before the internet or how I grew up with just one phone in the house, that had a rotary dial nonetheless.  But believe you me, it will be strange to you when you're in my shoes and you see the cool things from your generation become eye-roll worthy to your children.  Like the word "cool," in my case.

So, my concern with some of the problems I foresee in your generation is nothing new.  But as someone who is transitioning from the up and coming generation to the "has been" generation, I think I can say a thing or two about the major shift that was completely unprecedented even just 5 years ago.

Within the last decade, the use of social media hasn't just exploded, it has become a staple of many people's lives, like reading the newspaper used to be. Anonymity has become a ghost of the past as many people live their lives on a constant virtual stage for the world to see. Ten years ago, if a girl wore a cute outfit she might receive a few compliments from her friends, but now, within just a few minutes of being posted online, it can be viewed and receive dozens or even hundreds of "likes."  But you know this already, because these things have been a part of your life since you were born.

I haven't stayed immune to all of this. The virtual stage has become as much a part of my life as it has for the next person.  But this constant visibility has done dangerous things.  It has evolved us into people who thrive on the praise and attention of others.  Compliments and encouragement can be helpful and encouraging at times, but can become dangerous when taken in too high of doses.  Our actions become driven by success measured in "likes," "followers," and comments.

I've fallen victim to this myself at times.  I recently completed a project that received a large amount of positive feedback and praise.  As I felt my head starting to inflate, I found myself having to stop and put myself in check.  I said a silent prayer, asking Heavenly Father to not let the success I was experiencing go to my head, making me forget that He was the true author of my success.

Do not fear failure.  If you're going to fear anything, fear too much success.  Success is a fickle and fleeting teacher.  With too much success in the eyes of our peers, we can lose our bearings and forget what should be our true motivator- to do what's kind, to do what's honest.   Every cool, new thing has a lifespan- and it's usually a short one.  Case in point: MC Hammer, pogo sticks, backwards jeans.

Do not fear anonymity.  I heard once that we've created a generation of children who believe they are simply  celebrities in waiting- that someday they will have their day in the spotlight when everyone knows their name.  What a life of disappointment most of them will face when they live their lives missing the beauty that's right in front of them.  Life does not have to be Instagrammed for it be beautiful.

That being said however, do not fear vulnerability.  I think our generation has forgotten what the true meaning  of vulnerability is.  It's not Facebooking what you had for breakfast or Tweeting the color of your ear wax.  Vulnerability is pulling yourself and the talents God gave you out of hiding for others to see and at times criticize.  It's the queasiness you feel at the starting line of a marathon when the other runners looking half your age and twice your speed.  It's opening up your broken heart when it's likely to be rejected.  It's learning to play the guitar when you feel like God gave you nothing but thumbs.  It's dancing in public when you have two left feet. Learn to embrace this as part of a part of a meaningfully lived life.

But God made you strong and He made you smart.  I have no doubt you'll figure it out better than I'm trying, and often failing to do.  And like I said, if the 70's didn't do us all in, then I'm sure you're going to be just fine.

With love,

Mom
  

Magician outside 091-1 copy
I should add that vulnerability for me is putting a picture of myself online that I don't like, without any corrective help from photoshop.  So in the spirit of vulnerability, I'll post an unflattering, unedited picture (other than a black and white conversion) of myself that carries special memories. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Choosing the better part

This post was written with my daugthers in mind.  For almost all women, regardless of the era, century, or continent, the feeling of drowning in expectations and responsibilites seems to be a common thread.  I'm convinced that no matter the modern conveniences that come our way, life will always find a way to be challenging and a constant balancing and rebalancing act of priorities.  In twenty years or so from now, when my daughters are mothers themselves, surely there will be some new-fangled invention that makes food preparation or transportation more efficient.  But I think back to the days before smart-phones or the internet.  While they've made some things more convenient,  life hasn't necessarily become easier since they've come along.  Other challenges have come right along, hand-in-hand with them- like the challenge it has become to stay focused, present, and satisfied.  


______________________________

Peter the apostle and Martha (sister to Mary and Lazarus) are two of my favorite people in the Bible.  I imagine it's because I feel we share what many people consider to be character flaws.  Peter, who was at times impetuous and impulsive- and Martha, who was gently reproved for failing to choose the better part as her sister Mary had done.

As a child, hearing the story of Mary and Martha always saddened me a little.  I felt sad for Martha- that she was so often used in Sunday school lessons as the prime example of "what not to do" in selecting priorities.  I imagined her working her little heart out, sweeping floors and preparing food, only to be told that she had missed the bigger picture.  What a let down that must have been for her!  My heart went out to her, and as I've grown older, I've come to realize that that's probably because I'm a Martha.

The other night as I lay in bed, I felt overwhelmed and discouraged with all the responsibilities that I face on a regular basis, feeling like I was falling further and further behind.  It reminded me of when I would visit the St. Anthony sand dunes as a child and I would try to walk up the face of one of the steep dunes.  It seemed like for every step I took, I would slide two back.  The top of the sand dunes always seemed out of reach, no matter how hard I tried.

Usually when I feel discouraged at night, I realize it's fatigue-not logic- who's doing the talking.  The best thing I can do after 9pm is to turn my head off and look at things again in the morning after a good night's sleep.

In the morning I did feel better, but was still aware of the overwhelming responsibilities I face and the need to re-prioritize.

In an attempt to validate, but not enable my feelings of inundation, I wrote out what I believed were expectations in the different areas of my life: personal, family, children, spouse, and church.  I realize that as women we often stress ourselves out over imaginary expectations- most of which are self-imposed so I tried to be realistic in deciding what my expectations are for myself- things like daily scripture study and prayer, exercise, spending regular one-on-one time with each child, allowing myself and my husband our own personal time, fulfilling church responsibilities and such. Thirty-one expectations came from my list- many of which I feel need to be done on a daily basis.

I thought of the Savior's admonition to Martha, who pointed out that Mary had "chosen the good part" and I felt overwhelmed with the question, "what in the world is the better part?" I've resented this admonition at times, which over the years has become a very personal one to me.  What to I trim out, when my time, resources, and human capacities are already so stretched?

I thought back to my trips to the sand dunes and remembered that even when I felt like I was going nowhere, I would usually look up, after what seemed like hours of trudging (which were probably only a few minutes) and realized that I had in fact made it to the top.  The summit would always come if I just kept moving, putting one foot in front of the other.  The sand flowing downward created an optical illusion, making me believe I had been going no where, when in fact I had been moving all along.

I still don't have the exact answer to "what is the better part?"  I imagine the answer changes day by day, child by child.  If I could have been there that day with Martha, I would tell her that in our attempt to see the bigger picture, we'll miss it from time to time.  And that's okay.  I'm coming to learn that that's part of the process.  I would give her a hug and tell her she's doing better than she realizes...  and that in the end, there is no such thing as lost ground if we just keep moving.

Monday, May 6, 2013

War on Heels

This morning I officially declared war on all those ridiculous high heels that make me hobble around any time I wear them for more than 15 minutes.  I cleaned out my closet this morning and tossed out a half dozen pairs of boots and heels that although cute and fashionable, did not make my new church rule:  if they hurt my feet after three hours of church (which I sit through almost the entire time) than then they're gone.

I'm sure Dennis will appreciate this small gesture of sanity. He has always shaken his head in bewilderment at why women put themselves through the agony to gain only a few inches in height.  Using the flawless female logic, I tried to explain to him that they elongate the leg and lift the derriere.  So in my case, totally worth it... until this morning.

As a 31 year-old mother of four, I think I've earned the right to wear something slightly more geriatric but much more comfortable!  I'm a little behind in the feminist movement.  :)

Although not super fashionable, Payless Shoes has these amazingly comfortable heels for $20.  I've worn them at least a dozen times since I bought them a few months ago.