Monday, September 30, 2013

Living a small but valuable life

I've noticed something as I've slipped into the comfortable routine that is my life. Inspirational quotes on living life to the fullest and dreaming big sometimes confuse and depress me. Here are some examples:

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

 “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Between the great things we cannot do and the small things we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing.” – Adolph Monod

“When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.” – Greg Anderson

“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” – Pamela Vaull Starr

“Capture your dreams and your life becomes full. You can, because you think you can.” – Nikita Koloff

“Life is short, live bold! Be heard, be you, dream big, take risks, don’t wait.” – Misty Gibbs

I couldn't quite put my finger on why this bothered me. Perhaps because I've already accomplished or failed many of the goals I've set my heart upon in my younger days. So now that I've accomplished my goals and moved on, is my life less meaningful if I'm not chasing some big dream? 

I was watching one of my favorite movies, You've Got Mail, and Meg Ryan has a great line as Kathleen Kelly: "Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?" 

It was like she took the thoughts right out of my head. I've come to the conclusion that it's okay to lead a small but meaningful life, if that's what makes you happy. That we can have meaning in our life, even if we aren't trying to conquer the world in some way.

My thoughts finally came full circle last night while finishing (for the second time) John Green's novel, The Fault in Our Stars. For the sake of not spoiling a perfectly lovely book (soon to be a major motion picture) I'll just say it's about two teenagers who have battled or are battling cancer. The male protagonist states:

"Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world.  Bequeathing a legacy. Outlasting death.  We all want to be remembered. I do, too.  That's what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease.  I want to leave a mark.  But... The marks humans leave are too often scars....We're as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we're not likely to do either."

A few years ago, on my high school class reunion page, we were all posting updates about what we'd done in our lives. One girl wrote about her world travels, her degrees, awards, etc. Someone replied that they were impressed, and kind of ashamed that she hadn't done as much. After all, the rest of us looked like monkeys next to her. Wonder Woman replied, "We are all doing, and will do important things. Different, but important."

Although big dreams and accomplishments that earn high honors and recognition are wonderful, and should be celebrated, a quiet life, well lived, full of love and integrity, a simple life should also be honored, and appreciated. Don't feel like your life is less because you perceive another life as more.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Links!

Yeah, it's Friday! First off, let's de-stress a little.

~Feeling better? Great- here's a link to where you can de-stress even more with some laughs!

~Have a different sense of humor? Try Hyperbole and a Half, where the author talks about how she copes (or doesn't cope) with life.

~If you are a mom and haven't quite being feeling like Supermom lately, check out You Go Mom for some awesome affirmations!

~For all the readers who like free books, check out Cory Doctorow's Little Brother at You can download this book and all his other books for free online. Of course he's happy if you buy the book or donate one of his books to a school.

~Lastly, for all the astrologers, do you know your birthday star? Mine is the constellation Lepus.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

On Living Without Regrets

I started this post at the beginning of the summer, when I was about to turn 28 and was feeling introspective. So, in the spirit of starting to ponder what I'm going to have to show for the decade of my twenties, I bring you: the Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Bronnie Ware is a nurse who worked with patients in the last twelve weeks of their lives. She talked to them about what they regretted, and as she wrote down their responses, she noticed that many of them shared certain themes. Some of them are the things you'd expect—people wished they had kept in touch with friends, worked less, etc. But overall, this list struck me because there's a very specific theme to it, and I've actually heard people mention the list without recognizing that theme. 

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many... had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

I find this particularly poignant, because it's something we all do to ourselves—we get familiar with things, with situations, and we just hang on to them because they're what we know. So, so much happiness is missed by thinking, probably subconsciously, that what we already know is best just because we already know it. So much happiness is missed by making choices based on fear. And since these motivations probably are subconscious, the only way to combat them is to make it a point to shake up our routine every now and then. Try something new just to try something new. When we encounter an old belief, take it out, examine it, and see if it's really something we want to keep. I want my life to flow, to feel alive. And there's nothing more central to life than newness and change.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

"Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved."

As someone who knows perfectly well that she sucks at long-distance communication... Yeah, I feel this. What is important in life if not the people we care about?

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. 

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result." 

Honestly, expressing your feelings doesn't seem like something that should require so much courage. But it really does. Because expressing your feelings means believing that you deserve to be heard, even if someone else won't like what you have to say (even if you know they won't like it). It means knowing that you're not responsible for how other people respond to you. It means believing that your opinion, your voice, your experience, is worth as much as anyone else's. Sometimes this is a hard thing to believe. (Other times, it's not hard enough. ;) )

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard. 

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

This one's tough, because... Money. We all have to have it. For some of us, working less isn't an option, and I feel like that needs to be acknowledged. The balance between a comfortable life and a meaningful one is so difficult to find, and is largely a matter of privilege. But if we have the opportunity to cut back on how much we work, we may be able to use that time and energy instead to pamper our relationships, to fulfill some of those dreams we've been neglecting, to explore and appreciate the world around us. If we're privileged enough to have the option, sometimes we'll discover that we can be happy with a lot less. I guess that's because less of one thing means more of something else... And maybe it's the something else that would make our lives more meaningful.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

I find this idea both liberating and terrifying, mostly in two parts. The idea of not experiencing my dreams, especially because of my own choices... That's terrifying. So much freedom, and so much responsibility. I have so many dreams. But living true to myself instead of the way others expect me to live—this is liberating. Learning what is important to me, not what I've been told should be important—that's the most amazing feeling in the world. 


So have you noticed the theme? It stuck out to me, but that might be because it's been the particular theme of my life for the last few years. Number one really sums it up: "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."

When people were about to die, they regretted having spent their lives doing what they thought they were supposed to do instead of following their own hearts. This isn't to say that those people were constantly unhappy; in fact, I'd guess they probably weren't. Many of them had probably built good lives and had some wonderful relationships and happy times. But you can have a pleasant life without having a fulfilling one. You can be content without being truly happy. You can be comfortable without living your dreams.

I think if we're going to learn from the example of those who've come before us, we need to invest some real effort into finding out what we really want, what we really believe about life. For so many reasons, that is not easy. How do we learn those things? What if we don't have the resources to fulfill them? What happens when people around us don't like the paths we choose?
"We can never know what we want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come... There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold."
The actual quote—from The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera—goes kind of bleak from there ("And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself?"). I see it, instead, as all the reason we need. We can never know what we want, so if we think we want something, we should go try it and find out.

The people around us won't always like it. Everyone's version of a fulfilling life is going to look different, but humans are a clannish species; we like everyone in our clan to be the same, and we don't like it when someone breaks the norms. For many people, being true to themselves means breaking the norms. Then there's our own fears to overcome, and insecurities about what we're capable of. Living without regrets isn't easy (which is probably why number five was such a common answer). But, as cliche as it is to say this, we only have one life. If we waste it on fulfilling others' expectations, we won't get to go back and do it our own way. And if Bronnie Ware's experience tells us anything, we'll end up regretting it when it's too late to change.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Learning from my children

When I became a mother, my son may as well have smacked me directly in the face with how prepared I truly was.  I thought I knew it all, I had read countless books (seriously, more than 30), I had a birth plan (which we forgot at home and didn't use), I had made all of the bedding and decorations for his nursery, I spent so much time researching and planning what products to get, and what was important and what wasn't. I was prepared! Or so I thought....

Motherhood turned out to be very different from what I thought, it was more than a little reality check.  So I tried to adapt. I told myself that I'd become the best at being prepared for the unexpected because everything with children is unexpected in one way or another.

Well, I am not so good at being prepared for everything.  I try, and usually it works,  but no one can be prepared for everything all the time.  As I learn this, I judge others less.  I must admit, I am a dirty rotten judger. Sometimes I see people and my husband and I exchange looks, and we are judging. I try not to do it, but sometimes it's just too easy.

As I learn to judge others less I have started to see that everyone is doing the best they can.  Everyone has bad days, everyone lapses into a "stress monster" at times, everyone gets upset, everyone's house is dirty sometimes, everyone has to schedule a time to shower (seriously, I never thought about that before my kids, it just fit in so easily every morning).

This afternoon my little girl and I had a bit of a moment. She wouldn't sleep, I didn't feel good, she cried, I got overly frustrated.  So I picked her up out of her crib after 15 minutes of crying, fully intending to be mad at her.  And she stopped, and cuddled her head of soft hair into my chest and was happy.  She just wanted her mom.  Now to those of you who just thought "you gave in! you did exactly what she wanted! That's not sleep training!"  I say to you, you are a dirty rotten judger. Welcome to the club.  My one year old loves me unconditionally.  As does my three year old.  My children never see me as the lady who gets frustrated when their sippy cups spill (all the freakin' time!), or the woman who judges that strangely dressed person (cause I'm unsure of gender) at Wal-Mart.  To my kids I am Mommy.  In the same way my mom was to me.  I know this sounds like a silly revelation, but I am still fairly new at this.

I want to be like my children-a cleaner, older version of course.  I want to be so forgiving and loving.
So instead of striving to be like some world leader or a person of great acclaim for their motherhood achievements, I want to be like my toddler and preschooler.  Because they are perfect.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Board Book Favorites

I've been reading a lot of board books with my daughter. She loves to look at the pictures and the books are more destruction proof with the thick cardboard pages. Plus they are generally smaller and easier for her to hold because she loves to look through them on her own also. Here are some of our favorites.

This Little Piggy and Other Favorite Action Rhymes by Hannah Wood. We like having all the favorite nursery rhymes and songs plus some new ones. Wood has several books and they are all fun.


ZooBorns! Zoo Babies from Around the World by Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland. There are lots of unusual animals in here for kids to learn about and anything that is a baby is just cute.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury. I thought this book was cute, but my daughter absolutely loved it! I think we read it three times in a row without her moving once. She likes pictures of other little toddlers and this has lots of different toddlers from around the world.

The Splendid Spotted Snake by Betty Ann Schwartz. This book is fun because the snake grows and grows with each page turn. It's fun to watch and my daughter liked to feel the ribbon snake.

When the World was Waiting for You by Gillian Shields and Anna Currey. This is a cute book about getting ready for a baby to come, then enjoying the baby with family. It ends with the world waiting for the baby to grow up and be and do something special.

Let's Go to the Farm by Fisher Price. There are lots of flaps to lift in this book that teaches animal names and sounds, and also shapes and colors and farm things.

The Belly Button Book by Sandra Boynton. Anything by Sandra Boynton is "serious silliness" (from the back of one of her books. This one is fitting for my daughter who loves her "bee bo" a lot.

My First Library by Baby Einstein. This is a great set to have because it teaches shapes, nature, colors, letters, music, and animals with real photos mixed with drawings, and also most have one word per page. They are also the perfect size for little hands to hold and come in a handy carrying case.

Monday, September 23, 2013

We're All Together Sisters

I think I've mentioned before on this blog that I have four brothers and no sisters. The topic of sisterhood has been mentioned before too (in fact, I had to search the blog to make sure I hadn't written this same post a couple of years ago - I hadn't, but Lindsey had written something with a similar idea using the same source for her title).

Don't get me wrong. I really love my brothers. I love my sisters-in-law too, and I love building my relationships with both. Having sisters-in-law was a great way for me to start experiencing what it's like to have sisters, and I think that relationship became especially good when I started having kids (most of my brothers' wives had kids before I did because my brothers are older than I am) and we could compare notes and triumphs and frustrations on that front.

This is all but one of my sisters-in-law - oddly enough, the one who is missing might be the one I talk to the most.

But finding that sisterhood could extend beyond blood relationships happened before I had lawful sisters. For example, when I was maybe 10, I formed a club with some neighbors that we called the Treetop Monkeys (I think because we climbed the tree in my front yard and used it as a sort of clubhouse). Behold:

I'm the one on the right. I am ROCKING those glasses. 

In high school, I found a group of awesome girls to have awesome movie nights with. They taught me to make caramel popcorn, we had adventures almost toilet-papering our friends' houses, we went to football games together and they stayed my friends even though I talked them into watching Lawrence of Arabia.

Point of interest: Only day of high school I didn't have crazy bangs. They loved me anyway.

My first year of college was a total revelation to me. Having a roommate to share a room with made me feel like I was making up for all of those years without a sister. We stayed up late talking about classes and boys and life choices, and it was amazing. They taught me how to do my makeup a little more effectively, they brought home ice cream when I was sad. I even let one of them cut my hair multiple times, and she wasn't going to school for that. 

I think this was the last haircut. 

Then there was the dream apartment. Miri and I had become good friends over our first semester living together, so much so that we celebrated the anniversary of our friendship (we have a meet cute and everything) for the next few years that we lived together. But we weren't great friends with our other roommates, and the girls downstairs, whom we adored, had some roommates moving out. Miri and I basically proposed to them to get them to let us move in, and then we proceeded to have more fun that we'd ever had in college. Lindsey lived across the hall and was in and out of the apartment constantly (she took the picture below), and our apartment was always full of people and games and laughter. We really loved each other, and I think it was clear to everyone who came into our apartment that we had great relationships with each other - with the occasional sisterly tiff over whose turn it was to do the dishes.

They loved me, but not enough to let me take up the whole couch.

I am only slightly embarrassed to tell you that a year later, I took some of these ladies with me to a Twilight event in Arizona for a weekend roadtrip. Also that the event was prom-themed. We called it the Adventures of Team Estrogen and it was the most fun you could have in Arizona with a bunch of crazed teenage vampire fans.

I never wore gloves to a real prom, but you better believe I did to this one. 

At some point, I think I stopped being the baby sister roommate who just went along with everything and started instigating the ridiculousness. In our next apartment, I think we dressed up about once a month for one reason or another. Halloween parties and 80s night at a friend's house were acceptable, but then we decided to dress up like superheroes and go to classic skating for a girls' night out. I don't remember the reasoning behind it, but I can tell you that it was pretty incredible.

 I went to England shortly before graduation and found sisters there:

Who knew Winston Churchill's house was so epic?

I added more roommates after graduation and the awesomeness continued:

I moved to Indiana and found them there:
An affinity for libraries and dressing up made us kindred spirits.

 I even moved to Texas and found sisters there, even though some of them were 20 years older than me and didn't speak English.

We decided to scare the campers at Girls Camp by wearing someone's face mask and towels. Best ghost costume ever.

I feel really lucky that even though I didn't have any biological sisters, I have picked them up along the way everywhere I go.

Friday, September 20, 2013

It's Friday, Lovely Readers!

Happy Friday!

 If you've ever wanted to measure your child based on their development please read What Should a 4 Year Old Know. It's a good reminder about how to measure kids by their worth and not their abilities. "What does a 4 year old need? Much less than we realize, and much more."

I recently came across 20 historic photos colorized and not only am I amazed that technology allows this, but I'm amazed at how the color really brings the history to life. This photo titled "Migrant Mother" is one of the most heartbreaking photos I've ever seen. When it's colorized I realize that she could be my friend. She could be me.

This article on hating the phrase "Strong Female Characters" opened my eyes in a new way to inequality in literature and film and made me rethink the phrase. (I myself often bemoan a lack of "strong female characters" in literature). 

I love this tradition started back in 2005 by a couple while sitting on a beach in the UK. Do you have any photography traditions of your own?

I've always appreciated people who are patient with me and my children, even when my kids are acting like hyenas. This letter titled Dear Parents, you need to control your kids. Sincerely, Non Parents really summed up my feelings on the subject.  "Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do. You shouldn’t scrutinize parents when you aren’t one, for the same reason I wouldn’t sit and heckle an architect while he draws up the blueprint for a new skyscraper. I know that buildings generally aren’t supposed to fall down, but I don’t have the slightest clue as to how to design one that won’t."

I absolutely love this article in which a woman reflects on the value of educating women--yes, even those who chose to stay home with her children. She states: "My point is, when a highly educated woman is home with her children day in and day out, she weaves the riches of her education into their lives in continuous, subtle, living ways. This is a priceless preparation for a lifetime of learning. This gift is the transmission of culture."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Accepting Our Non-Talents

There is a lot of stuff out there in our Pinterest era of living that assures us we can develop any talent we choose.
We can have the perfect body.

We can literally DIY anything and everything! 

Seriously DIY everything.

We can make a Christmas tree out of cardboard. 

We can be financial planners.

We can craft our children's lunches into themed artwork.

Basically, by now we should all be professional chefs, party planners, seamstresses, graphic designers, photographers, interior decorators, and we should do all these things while rocking the perfect sock bun and slathering everything we own in coconut oil. Now don't get me wrong, it is good to learn new things and develop new skills. But it is even better to learn that you're not going to be good at everything you try and that is perfectly fine.

My personal talent acquisition panic started when my son was about to turn one and I felt he needed some beautiful pictures taken to commemorate such a milestone. I live in a small town and the only photographer quoted me a mini fortune (like really, I almost fell over dead.) I felt a moment of sadness and then I quickly decided that I could just use Pinterest to become my own professional photographer...

It didn't work out so well.

He refused to be put down for his feet to dangle in the sand.
Also there are people standing in the background. Nice one Annie Leibowitz.

It's safe to say that I am not a (professional, good, satisfactory, or even adequate) photographer.

I am however, a writer, a reader, a singer, a runner, a cook, and a professional Diet Coke consumer. It's okay that my list doesn't include photographer. My list doesn't have to include every conceivable talent that one might develop. Just because I'm not talented at everything, that doesn't make the things I am talented at any less special or meaningful. There isn't one magical person out there who is talented at everything. We all have unique strengths and talents that we bring to the table (the farmhouse table that we built ourselves right?), and conversely we all have things we are just not talented at, even Martha Stewart. She has to be bad at something. It's important in this Pinterest world to accept our non-talents so that we can give recognition and credit to the talents we do have. So let's all put down the coconut oil, take a few deep breaths and maybe stop thinking it's a good idea to make a chandelier out of twigs.

For other amusing Pinterest failures check out: and

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Confessions of a Commuter

I grew up in Southern Maryland.  My county flag sports a picture of a tobacco leaf.  The closest store was a small, family owned grocery store with a fake cow on top of it.  My friend's all lived 10 to 20 minutes away and school was never in walking distance.  I "joke" now (it's not a joke, it's really accurate) that it takes me an hour to get anywhere worth going from my house.

My mom has always commuted to work, driving an hour or more one way to work in various parts of DC, Maryland, or Virginia.  I spent several summers working for the Air Force and made that drive with her, but I slept or read Harry Potter while she drove, because I'm an insensitive, ungrateful daughter. After that (and spending several years in Utah where if it isn't within ten minutes from your house, it isn't worth going to), I decided commuting to work was not for me.  I used to get so angry because I just wanted to be home or go out with friends or, you know, eat dinner and use the bathroom.  I don't envy other's hours long commutes. I'm incredibly grateful and lucky to have a job located ten minutes from my house, even though it means my lunch choices are McDonald's, Burger King, or a grocery store salad bar.

Here's the kicker.  I don't have to drive to work, but I have to drive to have a social life.  My friends all live an hour away.  Church is 45 minutes away.  Everyone else lives close to each other, so it only makes sense that I make the drive.  This means commuting.  Sitting in the car, BY MYSELF, for hours.  I'm just not entertaining enough for me.  I blast music or listen to audio books or podcasts, but then I get really tired of hearing things.  Eventually, it all just sounds like noise, no matter how much you want to listen to it, because you are literally strapped into a moving vehicle that also makes it's own noise (although my Prius is a really quiet ride) surrounded by lots of other very loud vehicles.  It's overwhelming from time to time.  Sometimes I call a friend and chat for an hour or so (on speaker, all on the up and up, of course).  Sometimes I just ride in silence trying to just make it to where ever I am headed.  Sometimes I talk to myself. LIKE A CRAZY PERSON.  I know people can see me singing at the top of my lungs or talking (either to myself or on the speaker phone) or dancing or laughing like a loon at something on a podcast, but I tend to also forget that people can see me.  It's not ideal.

And, friends, I've seen things.  Other drivers seem to be even more oblivious than I am.  Otherwise, I wouldn't be seeing them pick their nose, reading a paper, putting on mascara, fighting with their passenger (I'm convinced it was a break-up, poor people), etc.  I wouldn't catch passengers staring directly at me when I check my blind spots.  I've seen feet propped up on the driver's side.  The driver.  I'm fairly certain you need your feet on the ground when you are driving a car.  I've watched, in horror, as a driver in 15 mph traffic, opened their door while still driving, and tossed his cookies all over the road.  Did I mention the while driving part? Because he was definitely still driving.

I'm sure everyone has such stories.  You do what you have to do when you are stuck on a highway.  Unfortunately, my situation isn't going to change anytime soon, so the driving will continue.  But maybe I'll try to stop talking to myself while I do it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Admitting Our Weaknesses

My insightful friend Stephanie Dickey regularly posts Facebook updates that stop me in my tracks. She graciously allowed me to share one on the blog that really had an effect on me.

Today, I was behind a car at a stoplight that had this handmade sign taped in the back window: "Clutch is going out. Slow at start and going up hills." And I thought, "Oh, that sucks for him. But I'm glad I know now what to expect." And when the light turned green and he started to inch toward the intersection at the speed of a turtle, I sent him some empathy instead of contempt.

And then I wondered....if we were all a little better at admitting our weaknesses instead of hiding them, would we also be a little kinder and more understanding toward each other because we can sympathize with their struggle? As a person who recently paid for a new transmission, I can certainly sympathize with Clutch Guy and cut him a little slack...

I think this may apply a lot to workplace politics as well as motherhood. Do we take on more than we can handle because we don't want to appear lacking in ____________? Do we fail to meet expectations because we are conditioned to show a brave face and are unwilling to admit when we may need help?

Monday, September 16, 2013

How to be lovely in an argument

Arguments...disagreements...rows...squabbles...full blown knock down drag out fights...

We've all had them. Some of us have more experience than others. I'm probably a little more controversial and contentious than I'd like to admit. 

Recently, I've been getting in a series of arguments with a family member that results in contention and hurt feelings. I'll spare the details but for the sake of this post I'll just tell you that I am right and they are assuredly wrong. 

I kid, I kid....(sort of)

I love this exchange between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail

Joe Fox: [writing to "Shopgirl"] Do you ever feel you've become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora's box of all the secret, hateful parts - your arrogance, your spite, your condescension - has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and moving on, you zing them. "Hello, it's Mr Nasty." I'm sure you have no idea what I'm talking about.
Kathleen Kelly: [writing to "NY152"] No, I know what you mean, and I'm completely jealous! What happens to me when I'm provoked is that I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. Then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said. What should I have said, for example, to a bottom dweller who recently belittled my existence?
[stops and thinks]
Kathleen Kelly: [writing] Nothing. Even now, days later, I can't figure it out.
Joe Fox: [writing] Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could pass all my zingers to you? And then I would never behave badly and you could behave badly all the time, and we'd both be happy. But then, on the other hand, I must warn you that when you finally have the pleasure of saying the thing you mean to say at the moment you mean to say it, remorse inevitably follows.

Has that ever happened to you? It happens to me all the time. I am constantly putting my foot in my mouth. I'll admit, instead of being timid and sweet Kathleen Kelly, I'm more like the ruthless Joe Fox. I've got the zingers and I sling them with ease...but I never feel good about it.

The internet is a prime place to argue because you can say whatever you want to whoever you want (perfect strangers really) and safely behind your keyboard you feel (at least momentarily) that there are no consequences. You say things you'd never dare say to someone's face.

Here are some thoughts I've tried to adopt while arguing a point with someone I love:

There is nothing you can say that is more important than your relationship with this person. 

If you hurt this person while making your point, your point will mean nothing to you when you are finished. 

If it is important enough, you should stand up for yourself--but do so in a kind and loving way. 

Never attack people personally. 

You are never justified in saying something hurtful, no matter how you have been hurt. 

Remember these wise words from Bambi's Thumper. 

If things get out of hand, it's time to walk away. Like I said, I'm not a guiltless person, but because of that guilt I'm usually the first to back down and the first to apologize/ask forgiveness. It's not fun to have to admit when you are wrong, especially when there is a chance you are the only one willing to humble yourself and ask forgiveness, but ask yourself: Is it more important to love or to be right?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Links for a Friday

Oh, Friday.  You couldn't have come sooner.

Now for some links to go along with this loveliest of days.

Check out this awesome list of "Captivating Commercial Art" over on Stuff You Should Know.  I'm a sucker for this stuff.  And while you're at it, check out the rest of Stuff You Should Know, including their awesome podcast, it's a quick and fun way to expand your knowledge on so many topics, and it's slightly addictive.

I've been holding on to this one for a while, just because I like it.  I'm a fan of Zooey Deschanel and her blog, HelloGiggles, and I really like this response.  It's not unlike what we are aiming for here.  She says, "I just felt it's important to teach young girls to be strong people, to not think, I can't do this because I'm worried about what people will say… When somebody says, 'That idea's stupid,' you stop your flow of ideas. We can't have the next generation be so afraid because they have been attacked."

On a somewhat similar note, this dad tried to teach his daughter a lesson about modesty in a way that would have absolutely killed me as a teenager.  Luckily, my dad could never pull off short-shorts.  Honestly, neither could I so there wasn't really an issue there.  I just like the alternative method.  Sometimes talking and arguing doesn't cut it, but that girl will never forget spending the evening with her dad in a pair of cut off shorts.

This I just love.  11 Authors Who Hated the Movie Versions of Their Books.  I had heard of a few of these, but I'm intrigued by the whole process of turning a book into a movie.  I can't imagine how difficult it would be to turn over creative control like that.

Over on Babble, check out my friend Kacy's postsThis one made me actually consider watching So You Think You Can Dance.  Not to mention, another book-related post.  I can't get enough of those.

And finally, because I love Tumblr and random bits of useless knowledge, check out Fill the Silence and get gems like this every day:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Staff Picks: Sounds of Fall

The sounds of fall are the sounds of new beginnings. They can bring up memories of back-to-school excitement, seeing your friends and classmates, football games, early morning marching band practice, cross country season, crunchy leaves, and backyard bonfire cookouts. Here are our picks of songs (or sounds) that bring back those warm memories of friends, family, learning, and laughter.


I really love fall, but I my music tastes tend to skew a little bit darker than they do in the summer. Something about the combination of dying leaves and cooling weather and school starting makes me like a lot of introspective, quiet music about changes and beginnings and endings. (I also have a rocking Halloween playlist, but that's another story.)
If you'd like to hear the playlist, minus the couple that weren't on Grooveshark, but plus whatever I added after I wrote this, you can listen here.


My fall music tastes can also be a wee bit... depressing. When I picture fall I picture my grandmother crying over her dead tomato plants, so maybe that has something to do with it. Though I do love sweaters, pumpkins, and any excuse to eat a family size bag of candy by myself because it's "Halloween candy" and that makes it socially acceptable. But in between mouthfuls of chocolate I am listening to...  
  • "Feel Like Rain" by Motion City Soundtrack
  • "Colors" by Amos Lee
  • "Tonight Tonight" by Smashing Pumpkins get it guys? pumpkins?! 
  • "405" by Death Cab For Cutie
  • "A Still Life Franchise" by Less Than Jake because I still think ska is cool ok? Sue me.
  • "So Long So Long" by Dashboard Confessional
  • "The Lining is Silver" by Relient K
  • "El Scorcho" by Weezer I will always remember that moment when I realized my husband and I both knew all of the words to this and were destined to be weirdos together forever.


For so many years in my life fall meant the start of school and the start of school meant the start of my many procrastinating techniques. I am a procrastination master. In graduate school, one of my favorite delaying tactics was to make the "perfect" playlist to accompany my study periods. Of course, the playlist making time would always last much longer than the actual study time, but I got some rockin' awesome playlists out all that procrastinating- including one I made my first fall semester in grad school that I still use to usher autumn in to this day. I won't subject you to the entire thing (it just might be over 3 hours long), but here are some highlights:
  • "Fields of Gold" by Sting
  • "My Little Corner of the World" by Yo La Tengo
  • "Yellow" by Coldplay
  • "Firelight" by Snow Patrol
  • "Autumn" by Carla Bruni
  • "Marchin On" by OneRepublic
  • "Your Hands are Cold" by Jean-Yves Thibaudet
  • "Carry On" by Pat Green
  • "Golden Slumbers" by Ben Folds
  • "Rill Rill" by Sleigh Bells
  • "Minor Swing" by Django Reinhardt


Fall is all about school-related nostalgia for me. These songs were likely ones I listened to when driving around with high school friends (my car was constantly tuned to oldies then), or ones I put on repeat or discovered in the fall.
I could go on forever, but if you’d like to hear all of these tunes together, check out this playlist.


I like a cd by Peter Breinholt called "Live September". Maybe it's the word September that makes me think it's great for fall, and September is my birth month, so my favorite month. But I think it's actually because it's relaxing fun music. Music you listen to in the fall when things start to slow down because it's getting chilly, but life's still going strong. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lifting One Another

In January 2012 during a routine ultrasound, my best friend was told that her baby daughter had Turner syndrome, and that she would die before she had the chance to be born. She was about halfway through her pregnancy, and the impending loss of her daughter was unbearable. But like most trials, she had to find a way to endure the pain. Her baby lived another two weeks before her heart stopped beating and she delivered tiny baby Elle, heartbroken.

I’d never personally experienced a loss like this, nor had I ever been this close to someone who had. At times I felt very helpless as I’d cry with her, or just listen to her talk for hours. I was at a loss for words. Still, more than a year later I feel helpless sometimes. I wonder if I’m doing enough, or if I’m being the support system she needs, though she assures me I am. 

A huge part of life is facing trials and pain, but another part of life is lifting those around us when they experience trials. We may not know exactly what to do or say. Often when we don’t know what to do, we don’t do anything.  We ignore the person entirely. While it doesn’t behoove us to say something awful, it doesn’t help to ignore them or their grief.

I’ve done a bit of research about how to mourn with someone, and here is what I’ve learned:    
  • Be there to listen. When Molly Jackson lost her daughter in a choking accidents, she said one of her friends took her to lunch and asked her to tell her all about Lucy. She said it was an incredible healing balm to sit and remember her beloved daughter.  
  • Send a heartfelt message. When Elle passed away, Rosalie asked me to compile all of her Facebook messages, posts, and blog comments, so that she could remember the goodness of people, and how they reached out. A year later, she was ready for me to send them to her. As I recall, there were more than 12 pages of condolences. I know how much she appreciated those who reached out to her.
  •  Prepare a meal. Even if someone isn't necessarily physically recovering, it's a great way to lighten their burdens
  • Attend the funeral services, unless it’s a private family affair. By doing so, you acknowledge their grief, and show them you will continue your support as they begin this next phase. Find out if there is anything needed (food, music, etc.) 
  • Help take care of everyday tasks.  When my friend’s father passed away last summer, a group of her friends were able to clean her house and provide some groceries when they returned from the funeral. I was glad we were able to support her in a small way, even though she was out of state.
  • Be patient and understanding. There is not a timeline for grief and everyone grieves in their own way. Continue support long after the initial trial.
  • Express your love to them often. Call them just to say hello. Be patient, sensitive. 
  • Don't assume they have help/family or that they are already being taken care of. Rosalie suggested when offering help, you should be pretty specific. "Don't be afraid to ask them what they need...BUT if they are like me, they will say they don't really need anything, so sometimes instead of offering to do anything, say, "I can do A, B, and C for you. Which one would you like me to do?" That way "ANYTHING" can really turn into something. Honestly, even though I know most people were sincere when they said, "Let me know if you need anything," it got redundant, and I just started telling people that I didn't need anything because I honestly kind of got tired of it."
  • Let them know they are not alone, without being overbearing. When Elle passed, I didn’t know if I should call Rosalie, so I sent her text messages a few times a day just to let her know that I loved her, I was praying for her, and I was there when she needed me. It’s hard to find a balance, but it's better to err on the side of compassion, rather than leaving them alone to mourn.
           I'm no expert on grief, but I've been blessed to serve those acquainted with it. I've been witness to tragedy, but  also to resilience and strength. Nobody can go through this life alone. Let us go through bearing one another's burdens. 
Rosalie on June 5th, 2013 with her healthy baby boy