Why I left Facebook

February 19, 2017

Last Thanksgiving I decided I was pulling the plug on Facebook for awhile.  The holidays were underway and I thought, for my own sanity’s sake, that I didn’t really want to see all the picture-perfect photos of everyone’s picture-perfect celebrations when there were still occasional days in our house where my child’s depression won, and everyone would fall apart, like a domino run, one after the other.  Obviously, the election played a part in my decision, too, but at the time my choice was less politically motivated and more out of self-care.  I had enough on my plate without having my nose rubbed in everyone else’s apparent happiness.  Our days were improving, and I wanted to enjoy that to the fullest, instead of getting pulled into the comparison trap.

I still logged in once each morning to clean up notifications and to check the “Your Memories on Facebook” page.  As a homeschooling mama, I belong to a ridiculous number of groups, who are always hosting a ridiculous number of events; I did feel the need to check in occasionally there.  And as someone who tends to use FB to chronicle the fairly mundane day-to-day life taking place under our roof, the memories were wonderful to look through and laugh at and sometimes share with the kids (and to remind myself that happiness wasn’t always this tenuous).

No news feed.  No sorting by most recent.  No so-and-so liked this or so-and-so shared this or random ads for….why would you think I’d want an ad for this?

Can I tell you something?  It’s been really pleasant.

Fast-forward to now, about three months later.  As I’m reading in Psalms, I come across verse 14 in Psalm 34:  “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”  I stopped to really consider those words, and it occurred to me that they summed up what had been happening over this past accumulation of weeks.

Depart from evil.  No, I’m not saying Facebook is evil.  But the feelings that get stirred up in me, from the political posts or the comments or the “shares” that haven’t been fact-checked; or the envy that crops up when I see someone else doing or getting something wonderful…..those feelings can be pretty ugly.  And I’ve been gradually leaving those behind.

Do good.  Guess what?  When you aren’t sitting and scrolling through your news feed constantly, you can get more done.  Add that to how much better I feel since I’ve left, and more of what is “getting done” is full of good.  (Please also note:  “getting done,” with a three-year-old in the house, sometimes looks like “playing kitty dollhouse.” That’s allowed.  I’m not talking about business productivity here.)

Seek peace and pursue it.  That’s exactly why I left in the first place.  Facebook did nothing to help my peace.  All it did, in various ways, was stir up stress and anxiousness in me.  It’s not in the business of creating peace; that’s not its job.  (Now, that’s an interesting question: what exactly is its job?)  Turning away from it has helped increase my peace dramatically, and allowed me to pursue things that contribute to peace even more.

Let’s be honest….now more than ever we are a people in need of peace.

 

 

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2013

We sing the songs every year. We know them all by heart. But do we ever really think about the words anymore?

God and sinners reconciled.

The glories of His righteousness and wonders of his love.

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

Let every heart prepare him room.

I add to that words I discovered today:

…he came from heaven to earth that he might send us from earth to heaven. –W. Dyer, from a selection in The 25 Days of Christmas

May these words be real to you today!

Last night we drove around neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights, something the kids ask to do every year. Over our five years in this house we’ve discovered a few good streets, a few great streets, and what my children refer to as “the inflatable house.” (Every time they say it, I have visions of a puffy home floating in the sky above their neighbors.) This is the place that has dozens upon dozens of inflatables in their yard, on their roof, in their driveway, and–the crowning glory–a perpetual DVD loop of the movie Happy Feet projected on the front of their house. You can actually get out and walk through their yard, though the weather has been so bad when we’ve gone we’ve never braved it.

In our last house, we lived next door to a couple who really decorated for Christmas. While they weren’t quite the place that people drove for miles to see each year, they did have a yard full of goodies. When my oldest was a toddler, he would plant himself at the dining room window, peering out across our dark lawn to all the lights next door; at that point, their light-up train (with “moving” wheels!) was a special draw. Once, when my older daughter was around two, I stood in the driveway with both my kiddos and watched them set up for awhile.

As I stood looking at their display I counted no fewer than twenty-one light-up objects in their yard, ranging from elves, polar bears, reindeer, and a toy soldier, to the aforementioned train. Also in this total count were inflatables, including a snow globe with actual blowing “snow.” Not included in this count were the dozens of strings of lights; some of which, as we watched, they were hanging in a tree.

The wife was standing on the ground, watching her husband perched atop a ladder; lights in one hand, pole in another. He was focused, working with great intensity on creating glowing perfection. She would occasionally call up helpful comments and observations. My absolute favorite (note: for full effect, this must be said with a slight southern drawl):

“Now, Rick, make sure none of the bulbs are burnt out…that’s just tacky.”

Years later, it still makes me laugh.

It is Christmas. We have an almost-eight-month-old. It’s a bad combination.20131215-154413.jpg

As we started decorating for Christmas this year, I forced myself to scale back. Partly because of the knowledge that the baby could start crawling at any moment, and how much time do I really want to spend chasing a baby?

Also, though, because of the hassle.

Isn’t that awful? To look at these things as a hassle? But when I pulled out the lights we usually hang with our garland on our porch, and half were burned out, I didn’t even bother. I just piled everything back in the box and thought maybe next year.

The tree is up. The Nativity scene is up. The Advent calendar is up. The wreath on the door is up. I checked in with my oldest as I was reigning it in, and asked if there was anything else he Really Wanted to put up; if there was anything he would Truly Miss if it wasn’t out. Verdict: the light-up houses. So we set up our seven little Dickens’ Village houses on top of the piano and I put them on a timer so I didn’t even have to turn them on in the morning. Then I put my red glass hurricane candleholder on the kitchen island and called it good.

That doesn’t really sound all that simple, I know. It’s scaled down for us.  I’m looking at this year as a test: will I miss it? If I don’t get it out, if I don’t put it up, will I even care that it’s gone? If I don’t miss it, am I prepared to send it out the door before next Christmas rolls around? Will I really miss all the “stuff?”

Well…yes.

I made it a full week before I decided I really wanted the garland hanging on our stair banister. Maybe it’s just that I’ve gotten used to it; it’s been with us through the last two houses. That’s almost ten years worth of greenery hung with red tartan plaid ribbons.

Now we’re driving through neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights, and I’m feeling like a Scrooge. We usually have candles in all our front windows, and I hang a little greenery with white lights on our small front porch. The practical side of me is screaming, she’s going to start crawling! You don’t want to have to watch all those cords! You don’t want to have to deal with burnt out bulbs! But guess what? I really, really miss our lights. A wreath on the door just doesn’t cut it.

And honestly, if you’re going to have anything on display at Christmas, shouldn’t it be lights?

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…–Isaiah 9:2

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. –John 1:4-5

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world…to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… –John 1:9,12

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.–John 8:12

I have come into the world as a light so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness –John 12:46

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light… –Ephesians 5:8

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…–I John 1:7

The Lord is my light and salvation–whom shall I fear? –Psalm 27:1

Yes….even if you’re going to have a scaled-down Christmas, you should probably keep the lights.

 

 

A belated Thanksgiving

December 15, 2013

I feel bad for my lack of Thanksgiving posts.  The entire month of November, when everyone on Facebook is posting all the things they’re thankful for, I stayed quiet.  Then I didn’t even blog Thanksgiving week at all; when I get busy, writing is the first thing to go (in spite of the fact that it helps me stay sane).  Topping things off, my latest post was a bit of a rant.  That’s what happens, though, when I dwell on something for such a ridiculously long time that it finally just bursts out that way.

But I am thankful.  I think, if I posted thirty days worth of “I’m thankful for…”, two things would stand out.  One is how thankful I am for really petty things.  That first cup of coffee in the morning?  Unbelievably thankful for it.  (I’ve noticed my thankfulness for that particular cup rises in direct proportion to how early I get up.)  A temperamental hot water heater means I’m thankful for a hot shower in the morning, as compared to the warm-ish ones we often get.  Lacking a garage for much of our married life means I still, ten years after getting one, think how grateful I am that I don’t have to scrape a windshield on a bitter morning.  A baby who leans toward thirty-minute naps means I’m beyond grateful when she sleeps for an hour and a half.  We had dinner with friends last Sunday after church, and managed to drive around to see some neighborhood Christmas lights last night, and most importantly, the baby TOOK A BOTTLE in the nursery at church this morning, all of which point to a turning point in babyhood:  the Ability to Have a Life again.  I’m incredibly thankful for that.

See?  Petty.

The other thing that would stand out is how repetitive my thanks would be.  Family, current and extended, would feature prominently and often.  I’m so grateful for growing up in a loving home, in a two-parent family that even now has two parents.  I’m thankful for my sweet husband, who puts up with my quirks (ahem….understatement) and loves me anyway; who is a great dad with all our kids, including the baby.  I’m really thankful for that; when he walks upstairs after work and I essentially throw the baby at him and say here….your turn, and he takes over with a smile.

I’m thankful for my oldest.  I’m thankful for the sense of humor he’s developing; people ooh and ahh over the toddler and preschool days (me included) and talk about paying attention and savoring every moment, and now I’m looking at this ten year old and thinking, they don’t tell you this is fun, too.  Having a kid with a real sense of humor–who not only gets your jokes, but can make you truly laugh, too–it’s amazing to watch what these little ones turn into.

I’m not thankful for his anxiety, but I’m thankful that those problems led us to homeschooling.  I’m thankful for watching him relax a little and enjoy life again.

I’m thankful for my oldest daughter, for her energy and enthusiasm and constant motion.  I’m thankful for the sheer joy she brings to her schooling, for the moments like when she learned about why trees change color in the fall and she looked at me with eyes shining and said, “It’s like the trees are keeping a secret all year!”  (Admittedly, the pendulum can swing quite extremely the other way, also….)

I’m thankful for her silliness; she was the one who taught her brother to laugh, all those years ago.

And I’m so thankful for the baby.  I’m thankful that she’s a happy baby, that she sleeps as well as she does, that she is usually so mellow….I’m thankful that I finally understand what it means to have an “easy baby.”  I’m grateful and beyond surprised at how much “the bigs” love this baby.  I knew my daughter would do well, her mothering instinct is strong; but watching my son fawn over her was so unexpected I still–seven and a half months in–whisper prayers of thankfulness when I see them together.

I will never forget the photographer taking pictures of my sister’s family with ours.  She very carefully kept trying to position the baby with my sister.  It made sense:  ten and eight year old together, two-ish little one (my niece) with the baby.  My sister briefly explained the situation and then, leaning in to the photographer, laughingly announced, “Surprise!!”  The photographer shook her head and did her hands in a motion that was half “Praise the Lord” and half “Raise the Roof”:  “No,” she stated firmly, “Blessings.  BLESSINGS.”

And she is right.  That baby has been the most unexpected blessing of all.

So, yes, I’m thankful.  And I’m happy for this thankfulness to carry through Christmas.

FM to CD to MP3….

January 15, 2013

One cold night over Christmas break I snuggled with my son on the sofa, watching the most recent version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”  We’d come to the part where Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka comes out to meet his motley crew of golden ticket winners for the very first time.  He smiles his vaguely creepy Willy Wonka smile, and after a dramatic pause, utters his first words to the group gathered before him:

“Good morning, starshine!  The earth says hello!”

I haven’t seen the movie much, but this always makes me laugh, and I burst out laughing even harder at my son’s reponse:  “That was…..weird.”

“It’s a song!  It’s an old song!”  And I found myself wondering how he can’t know it’s a song.  Which sounds ridiculous (why would a nine-year-old boy be aware of any song from the musical Hair, right?) but we are such a music-obsessed family it genuinely took me by surprise.

It reminded me of a conversation I’d had with my mom this past week, where she teased me about being a “woman of a certain age” because I knew the lyrics to some song she referenced.  (For further proof that I truly am a “woman of a certain age,” I’ve completely forgotten what that song was.)

We just like our music.

My husband and I grew up listening to our parents’ music, the true, fun “oldies” radio station (that would be defined as ’50’s music, people, not ’70’s).  My mom had the classical station on at our house during the day, all day.  Going to college in a town with only two stations (before the advent of internet radio and MP3’s) meant I got a good, solid education in classic rock before I met and married my husband and got a schooling in alternative music.  My son has had his own iTunes playlist on our computer since he was 18 months old.  (He was the one rocking out to an REM concert at nine months in utero.)

The ridiculous range of music I’ve been exposed to means that when we got our dog, Kina, I walked around for two weeks with random warped song references running through my head; from “Kina is a Punk Rocker” a la The Ramones, to “Oh, Kina Oh, Kina” instead of “Corrina, Corrina.”

All that to say….

In the bottom of our TV cabinet are three large drawers.  In spite of the fact that we now do loads of online music buying, all three are FULL of CD’s.  Full to the point of being difficult to open because they’re so heavy.  Full to the point that I’m not sure where we’re going to put the Imagine Dragons and Mumford and Sons CD’s my husband got for Christmas.  The drawers are holding, roughly, 300 CD’s.  Every last one of which has been downloaded on our computer.  So, why is it so hard to get rid of the CD’s??  We even have a place that would buy them from us; all we’d have to do it load them up and drive them there.  (Side note:  I’m reading a book right now that makes 300 CD’s seem paltry.  But that’s a post for a different day.)

Yet there they sit.  Put away enough that I can conveniently forget they’re there.  Organized, even, so we can find what we need when we need it.  But really?  Do we really need to keep the CD’s, when everything is on the computer and its backup drive?

I keep coming back to a different question:  do I really want to lose all that music if the computer crashes?

Once someone can convince me to let go of that question, we can start really letting go of CD’s.

My Christmas list

January 11, 2013

One last Christmas post and I promise to move on…

This is an idea that occurred to me fairly early this Christmas season, as we were just getting started with our decorating and everything was falling apart.  As my daughter kept asking about when we were going to put up the tree (the day after Thanksgiving, just like always–why is that a surprise?) and kept hounding me about putting up the tree and finally it was time to put up the tree…and I realized we had no lights.  (Take that, all you friends who think I’m incredibly organized.)  I knew we were going from a pre-lit tree back to our old, needs-lots-of-lights tree, and I’d bought a few boxes of lights…but then I’d promptly loaned out two boxes for our Sunday School class Christmas party, held the evening after we were tree decorating.

At that point I was so fed up with the entire situation; with all the badgering about putting up the tree and finally getting set up and realizing that we could now do nothing with it.  In desperation, I told the kids they could decorate the bottom half of the tree:  the half with lights.  Notice, please, that we finally have kids old enough to actually decorate the entire tree and not just the bottom branches, and now I’m asking them to just decorate the bottom branches.  I wanted to be done with the whole mess and move on.  I’d fix it later.

When “big tree decorating” was done, my kids unpacked their tiny trees, the ones they set up in their rooms.  None of their lights worked either.  At all.

And that’s when I started taking notes.

All Christmas I took notes on what would make life easier.  Just little ideas, here and there, when they’d come to me.  Problems that we’d had that could easily be fixed, something that could have been done better if I’d had more time to prepare, or things that seem obvious now but that I know I’ll forget by next year.

I present to you my Christmas list (maybe some bit of it will help someone else):

  • Pack all lights in a separate box, and check to see if they work a few days before putting up the tree (especially lights for kids’ trees).
  • Pack ornaments sorted by “fragile” and “not fragile” so the kids can help decorate much more easily.
  • Put on cross-stitched ornaments first–they’re way bigger.
  • Have a wide space cleared in the kids’ rooms a few days before their trees go up.  (The bookcases are not deep enough to set the trees.)
  • Unload one box a day, and ONLY one box.  (“Tree” and “Kids” boxes first.)
  • If possible, set up the tree the night before decorating.
  • Have back-up “candle” bulbs ready [we put “candles” in all eight of our front windows]:  only one burnt out this year.
  • You are absolutely forbidden from buying ANY more scented pinecones.  No exceptions.

Hopefully next year will go a bit more smoothly.  I’ll need all the help I can get, seeing as by then we’ll have a eight-month-old girl added to the mix.

Yesterday, finally, I finished putting away the last of the Christmas “stuff.”

I grew up in a house where we took down the decorations on January 1st, but as an adult my habit has been to put away on New Year’s Eve.  I love the idea of a fresh start for the new year.  So the idea of being done on January….8th?  Really??

There were a few factors playing into the delay:  first, we had a new furnace installed.  (Yeah, that’s a whole other post.)  Not much sense filling up boxes and loading the basement if you’re just going to have to move all the boxes, right?  Secondly, because of the new furnace, the basement shot to the top of my “to-do” list and I was determined to get it as clear as possible, since so much floor space was already freed up in giving the crew room to work.  Focusing on the basement meant the house stayed decorated a bit longer than usual.  A smaller, side reason was that our kids school break was just so long…..why not enjoy the pretty a little longer?  (Honestly, I think the week after Christmas is more appealing to me than ever, because I can finally just sit down and relax.  It’s over.)

Finally–and this is the big one–clean-up took forever because I really wanted to go through everything and purge.  There is so much in with Christmas “stuff,” and so rarely any out.  Some things are easy; lights burn out, you throw them away, and replace them with new ones.  But other things sneak up on you:  ornaments, for one.  They accumulate and grow and multiply in the dark of the basement and suddenly you can’t fit them all back in the boxes they came from.

I would love to say that I got rid of a bunch of bins of stuff.  I didn’t.  I did, however, get things reorganized to where next year should be much easier to set up and decorate.  And while I didn’t get rid of a bunch of bins, I got rid of two HUGE ones:  I’m getting rid of a Christmas tree.  (Yes, that’s my dirty little secret….that chick who writes a blog on simplifying had two Christmas trees for a few years.)

Also ditched:  a wreath, oodles of gift bags/ribbons, some decor items, and a substantial number of ornaments.

The basement is really starting to look good.  Amazing what the loss of a couple of giant tubs can do.

Simplifying Christmas

January 7, 2013

After the longest Christmas break I have ever known (literally, not figuratively) the kids started back to school today and routines seem to be slowly creeping back in.  I’m frustrated with the lack of writing I’ve done through December, but the month seemed to be full of “urgent” things (not necessarily “important” things) and I spent it trying to keep my head above water.  Now the holidays are done and the calendar is comparatively empty.  Hopefully January will be slightly more productive–in lots of ways.

While I didn’t do much writing in December, I was constantly thinking of things I wanted to write about.  I apologize in advance if I end up dumping some of them out in January.

My favorite discovery this Christmas was a guide to gift-giving that a friend referenced on Facebook; she’d seen it in our local paper.  They referred to it as “the four-gift Christmas:”  “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.”  I was so excited for this little saying; I’d been struggling with the vague idea of “I want a smaller Christmas,” but defining what that looked like was nearly impossible:  what does that mean??  Once I read that phrase, I realized that the items we’d gotten the kids could be plugged in to those categories and I only needed two more gifts to be done.  (One admission:  we actually did the five-gift Christmas, because I think it’s incredibly unfair that Santa gets to be the hero each year:  my husband and I supplied a “want” gift, too.)  The definition of “need” was also something I wrestled with; let’s be real, these kids don’t need anything.  So I decided the word meant “useful” and things fell into place well.

(I do think that next year I’ll do more investigation into what grandparents are getting the kids.  If I had known that my daughter would be receiving hairbands from each set of grandparents, I would not have made them her “something to wear.”)

The other nice situation about Christmas this year is that so much of what we received was to replace something else.  A new comforter (out with the old!).  A new bread machine–that really, consistently works!  (Away with the broken one!)  So instead of filling up our house with another layer of accumulation, it’s been much easier to really apply the “one in, one out” rule.

Just a few thoughts on simplifying Christmas…I hope everyone has had a great holiday season and is enjoying the return to “normal!”

 

The “curliest” elf

December 10, 2012

A reminder that Christmas traditions are not always about “stuff”….

I asked my children a few weeks ago to tell me everything they liked about Christmas.  I wanted to come up with a list of things to make sure we did, much like our list this summer; not missing opportunities in this brief season to do the things they really loved.  The phrasing of my request ended up including things like “Opening presents!” from my very enthusiastic daughter, but it also covered all the things they wanted to do to celebrate.  One of those things was the lights at Longview.

Longview Lake’s Christmas in the Park is something we’ve done ever since my husband discovered I had never been; I think, on our first drive there, he must have asked me at least three times, “You’ve really never been to see this?”  (I think it was two whole years later before my parents went their first time.)  It’s a drive-through-the-park light display put on by the county; and I have to admit it’s nearly impossible to describe unless you’ve been.  There are dozens (hundreds?) of, essentially, pictures made out of lights; most of them “move” through the magic of timing (lights on/lights off).  Reindeer “fly” over your car; trains full of Christmas toys “drive” down the road; sledders slide down hills and “crash” into snowmen…..it really is amazing to watch.  (This year our son was finally old enough to realize and suddenly ask, “How do they put all this together?”)

Some of my favorite Christmas memories involve this drive with the kids.  When we started taking them, it was easy; we lived less than fifteen minutes away and we could hop over any weeknight to drive through after dinner.  The first year my daughter went she was too little to remember anything, so the following year my son kept asking her, “Don’t you remember that?  Do you remember that?” and finally, as we drove out, he leaned over in his car seat and looked at his baby sister.  “So….did you like it?” he asked eagerly.

Then, when the kids were four and two, we moved.  That made the trip to the park much more of an Event, and due to my husband’s overtime season coinciding with the holidays, we were usually limited to weekend visits.  That put an entirely different spin on the night.  No more zipping over on a whim, maybe even twice a year.  Now we drove the over-half-hour there as early as we could, to wait in line for who-knows-how-long.  (My cozy thoughts of, “Ooo–I should pack cocoa!” quickly disappeared once I realized I’d be trapped in a car with two potential bathroom emergencies.)  The first year that we sat in line–and I mean, really SAT in line–the kids should have been completely unbearable.  Just turned five and three?  Trapped in car seats?  Yikes!  Instead, we read the signs the light-up “elves” held, standing along the side of the looooong road (it’s about a mile to just get in to the place):  “Welcome!”  “Drive Safely!”  And the elf with our family punch line:  “Be Courteous!”

“What?” my five-year-old son asked.

“Be courteous,” I repeated.

He burst out laughing.  “I thought you said ‘be curliest!‘” he howled, and for the rest of the interminable drive to the entrance, both the kids laughed hysterically:  “Be curliest!”  Each time it might quiet down in the backseat, one of them would shout it again, and they would both dissolve into fits of laughter.

Every year since, we look for the “curliest” elf.  When we went this weekend, unfortunately, he wasn’t there; they’d replaced most of the elves’ signs with “Happy 25!” in honor of the display’s twenty-fifth birthday.  There was brief disappointment…..but that elf will forever live on in memory.  Besides, there’s always the chocolates handed out at the end of the drive to soothe any hurt.

At least one Christmas tradition that doesn’t involve “stuff.”  I know there have to be more….I think I’ll be on the lookout for them this year.