On My Mind

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

It’s a funny thing, this “living your life online.” This blogging about lifestyle (also know as life). This building an “Instagram brand.” This being a brand.

My mother never had to worry about this. I think about that whenever I have a chance to look through my baby book. These 50-odd photos of baby me. Sadly and blissfully all I have to know about what I looked like, what we did. It makes me both grateful for and disgusted by the literal thousands of photos and videos I have of the first year of Vivi’s life. At least 300 are perpetually available with a swipe of my phone.

I don’t talk a lot about how much what I do tires me. How much the internet and technology and the gratuitous, frivolity of it. One because I’m exhausted by over-earnest blogging. Funny, right? Because I also love it.

I love the catharsis of pouring out your heart, the lift in sadness and despair that comes from finding a tribe of people who do so much more than just “like” your honesty; they hold up mirror images of your pain and say, “I thought I was the only one.”

I also have a hard time whining because I recognize the privilege of complaining about the superficiality of what I do. Poor me, working from home on a flexible schedule so I am also able spend hours cuddling my sweet baby girl and dedicating so much time a week to my volunteer work. The internet, in all its obnoxious glory, lets me do that.

I struggle with the self-promotion. I think it’s a difficult thing for Christian, Midwestern, female people to do. It goes against the traits those types are usually bred to project.

So I try to soften the blow with self-deprecation, humor, and, often, bluster. But I’m still uncomfortable sometimes. Because I’m still acutely aware of every person in my life who hates me for being a blogger. Who hates me for every smiling Instagram photo, every snapshot of something pretty or Pinterest-worthy (which means…what, exactly? Didn’t we just call it “pretty” a handful of years ago?). Of every person who openly refuses to follow me or, even worse, follows but never likes, or, even worse, does none of the above but still looks at my public posts or watches every single Instagram story I post. Those people make me really sad, honestly. And my awareness of the people I do know about continually pokes a finger in another gaping insecurity: How many more are there out there that I don’t even know?

The internet is a big place, and hate is usually only a keystroke away.

This post has been buzzing around in my brain for a while, but it took me a while to find words that sounded right without sounding like I was complaining. I don’t know why I feel like I need to tell you that I’m in on it — I know the promoted posts, the self-promotion is annoying sometimes. I need you to know that I try to make them not that way.

And then I roll my eyes at myself because why do I care so much? I truly believe that, in life, you either attract or repel people. And I would rather repel someone by being who I really am than attract them by pretending to be something I’m not.

Often, I fantasize about stopping it all. You know that. I can’t really, though, because it is my job. It is my golden ticket to stay-at-home/work-at-home mom life, to full-time volunteer service. But I do sometimes imagine a life where I could do those things without doing these things. Because as much as I actually love blogging and DIY and style and cooking, the hate wears me down.

You, person who looks at my stuff and never likes, who mocks and says nasty things and seethes even though I’m not hurting you (or even thinking about you, often times). You wear me down.

But if I pretend to be the person you would be happy to see me be — self-loathing, bitter, failure — I would be attracting the wrong person with the wrong things.

Because there’s so. Much. Pressure. Guys. Pressure to be perfect. Pressure to be imperfect. Pressure to be perfectly imperfect. To be raw, to be polished. To be funny, to be sincere. And to be all those things all the time. It helps to remind myself that probably all business owners feel this way. And, in so many ways, this is my business. Entrepreneurism is not for the thin-skinned, the faint of heart.

I started this blog because I wanted to be a writer, and I still cringe a bit at the word blogger. (I mean, could we have picked a word that didn’t sound like loose mix of swampland and mucous?) Today, I am a professional writer, so maybe I’m not doing everything wrong.

But I’m also a blogger, for better or worse.

And bloggers will always bother someone. Honestly, I spend a lot of my life trying not to bother anyone. I speak quieter to Vivi when we’re being silly in public, trying not to be THAT mom that needs everyone to see how great she’s doing. I’m hyper-aware of people on the sidewalk, dodging and hugging the wall to keep from jostling anyone, trying not to be THAT person who is so self-centered. My emails read like a textbook of “woman in meeting” speak, trying not to be THAT in-your-face jerk. Maybe it’s more honest to say that I spend a lot of my life trying not to be a cliché.

The thing is, I really don’t want to bother anyone. So, if this blog bothers you, if my internet presence bothers you, I implore you: Ignore me. Stop following, stop looking.

But if you like looking at my stuff, I welcome you with open arms, fist bumps, and a round of celebratory drinks.

Do other people feel like hate is this visceral, tactile thing? Sometimes I look at a person and feel it radiating off of them like steam. It oozes from nasty comments, sparks out of sharp-tongues. I’m immediately put off when I feel it; I retreat like a spooked animal, a knot in my gut and a rush of adrenaline coursing through my veins. Danger, these people seem to whisper.

Do you know what I think about every time I post anything? Those three people who I know don’t like me. I’m not exaggerating when I say “every time.” They are my last thought before hitting “publish” or “share.” The anxiety those three people give me is embarrassing for me to admit. It would be so nice to not have to deal with that anxiety.

I know what you’re thinking (especially if you’re one of those three people): So, why don’t you just quit then?

I totally get why you think that. Because I want to quit.  Often. But I can’t because of Vivi. I can’t teach her that we go as far in life as the people who hate us the most want us to go.

IMG_8858

Instead, I want her to be brave. I want her to be kind. I want her to be the antidote to all that nastiness. And the only way I’m going to get her there is by trying to be those things myself.

So I’m going to try to focus on the people I actually like anyway. The people who love and support and get it and get me. Who like what I do, who like reading about the things I like talking about. And, you know what? I think that can be enough.

Whew! That was a lot of feelings. And, honestly, I don’t know if I’m making anything better by calling them out. I don’t even know if this all makes total sense — I wrote it over a series of emails to myself in the car. But I think I feel a little better. The aforementioned catharsis and all of that. The point is, if you feel this way too, you are not alone. And I think we can both be a little bit more of that kindness we want to see. To those of you who do and always have supported me and shown me so much love, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart. You are the greatest.

IMG_9297

Vivi learned a dirty word recently. Of course, I’m talking about the word “no.”

Honestly, I’m not really certain she knows what it means when she says it. What she does know? That I don’t want her to say it.

Which, naturally, means she has taken to saying it All. The. Time.

The other day, we were out for a run with the jogging stroller and I heard her practicing it over and over again. To herself. Like a sociopath.

The problem is, it’s also kind of hilarious when she does it. Because she doesn’t just say “no.” She pauses for drama…and then she slowly leans into the word.

“Nnnnnnnnnnnn-ah!”

It’s really, really hard not to laugh. Like, really.

In an effort to, you know, parent, I’ve started responding to her no’s by saying, “You say, ‘okay, Momma‘!”

At which point, she’ll pause, look off to the other side of the room, and go, “…nnnnnnnnn-ah!

And on and on and on. Such is parenting.

I have found one antidote, and that is getting her to repeat a different word that is equally as fun to say. Lately, I’ve been replying, “You say, ‘yeahyeahyeah!'” And she’s usually only too happy to repeat that one.

For now.

I know the day will come when she is deliberately obstinate and intentionally asserts her own opinions. Heck, that could be exactly what she’s doing right now. I just really thought the Terrible Twos would come, you know, when she was two.

IMG_9369

For now, though, I think we can chalk this one up to a bit of baby silliness. Right? Okay, Momma. Okay.

I think it’s pretty universally agreed upon that small talk is lame. Right? I mean, do you know anyone who actually enjoys talking about the weather or how “fine” work is?

No. Unless they are a sociopath.

I, for one, would much rather talk about the nitty-gritty of whatever I’m going through. Honestly, unless it’s something about my marriage or you are my boss and I am thinking of quitting, I will tell you all the details of “what’s new” if you really want to hear it.

The thing is…I’m pretty sure my nitty-gritty has even crossed over into mindless listening territory.

You know what’s really interesting and pressing in my life right now? How many times Vivi woke up last night. (Once, around 5 a.m., but then she woke up for real at 6 a.m., which is about an hour earlier than I would like and than she has been waking up lately, which makes me wonder if it’s that she’s teething or if she can hear our neighbor or if that congested cough she started doing a couple of days is something to worry about and OH MY GOD YOU’RE ASLEEP RIGHT NOW, AREN’T YOU?!)

The fact is, while I LOVE motherhood and could actually discuss all the new foods Vivi tried in the last week (shrimp, risotto, chocolate chip cookie) for probably hours, I am not an un-self-aware person. And I can feel your eyes glazing over from here.

So, naturally, the solution here is to talk about more interesting things, right?

Except…um, you do realize that this whole motherhood thing is a full-time job? My day literally revolves around this tiny, big-eyed person, which means I don’t exactly have a lot of time for hobbies.

I don’t have a solution for this. This is more of a request: If you aren’t interested in the kid thing, bear with me. I’m sure the day will come when I have time to do more for myself. And we can talk all about it then.

Sometimes I feel like my stuff is closing in on me.

I mean, that probably sounds dramatic. The stuff is probably minding its own business. But even knowing that it’s there is enough to throw me sometimes.

If you’ve been around this blog for a minute, you probably know that purging my stuff is practically an annual ritual for me. With the baby, though, I found I was too busy over the last year to do much heavy tidying. So, instead of spring cleaning, I’m hoping to clear out some space in time for fall and winter. (Because Lord knows I spend too much time inside during the winter to feel claustrophobic.)

While I rarely struggle with the actual letting go of stuff, I find the hardest part when living in New York City (without a car during the week) is getting the stuff out of my apartment. It tends to sit in bags and boxes, creating even more clutter, for weeks before I find a way to get it to Goodwill. This time around, I’m going to try to avoid that. I want to plan another clothing swap with some girlfriends. I’ll bribe friends with cars into making a drop-off. I’ll throw things away if I can’t give them away.

The point is, the stuff has got to go. Here’s to a more simplified end-of-the-year.

I’ve had a cellular telephone since I was 15. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s almost 14 years of wedded mobile bliss.

And while I’ve never been what I would call tech-obsessed, I had a pretty good track record with my phones. I’ve never lost a phone. I’ve never damaged a phone beyond the usual scuffs. And nary a cracked screen has tarnished my record of smart phone ownership.

Until this week.

My mom had been in town, and she, Vivian, and I were returning from lunch. Viv had fallen asleep in the stroller, so my mom offered to keep pushing her for a few more minutes while I ran home to do some work. I left her the diaper bag (just in case) but grabbed my keys and tucked my iPhone in my back pocket.

Those words will echo hauntingly in your ears until the end of this post. (OR BEYOND.)

Like most moms of babies, I also had been waiting a while to be able to use the bathroom. So before I started my work, I decided to take care of that little bit of business. As one does, I de-pants’d and was about to take a seat when I heard what sounded like something falling off of our over-the-toilet shelf and falling on the ground. (There was no splash. I always assumed there would be a splash when something fell into the toilet. Either this is not true, or my phone is heading to Rio this year with the U.S Olympic diving team. AND IT’S GONNA WIN.)

You guys. I almost just ignored the sound and proceeded accordingly. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

But, by the grace of the Apple gods, I did decide to see what had fallen. I had completely forgotten my phone was even in my pocket, so you can imagine my surprise when I looked down and saw it chilling in the murky depths.

My heart in my throat, I grabbed it without even thinking and started drying it off with toilet paper. And here’s where I made a mistake: I started using it to see if it still worked.

Apparently, according to the Internet, you should just turn your phone off completely to keep the circuits from frying. Alas, my perfect record of smart phone ownership had not yet taught me this life lesson. So I clicked around, feeling incredibly relieved that I was still able to access everything normally.

And then the screen went a weird shade of pixelated gray before the phone died completely.

Fortunately, I am not a total idiot and had at least heard of the ol’ phone-in-rice trick. I removed the case and stuck mine in a bowl of long grains while I waited for my mom to get home. My research (read: Google-ing) also told me to just leave the phone untouched in the rice for at least 24 hours, so I knew I had some time to kill before our fate was sealed.

Going 24 hours without a phone is an almost unheard of feat these days. (Unless you’re one of those people doing it on purpose to prove something. I don’t have that kind of time.) In general, I like to think that I’m pretty good at putting my phone away during the times when I want to be fully present and I don’t consider myself addicted to technology. Even so, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I didn’t feel like I had lost an arm or anything leaving the house without a phone.

What I did notice? Daaaaaaaaang, my phone makes my life more convenient.

For one, I store everything on that sucker. From photos to lists of hashtags for clients to time logs, virtually everything of any importance is on my phone because I just know I’ll always have it on me. For another, I guess I just forgot how much more work it used to be to get anything done. With my phone, Vivi can fall asleep on me on the couch and I can still get 30 minutes of work done (albeit one-handed). Without a phone, all I could do was stare longingly at the computer across the room and make mental lists of everything I needed to do when she went to bed that night. Plus, have you ever tried making plans without a cell phone? I had three separate plans that day, and two of them had to be canceled because the back-and-forth communication was just impossible. Not great.

Not to mention the fact that, well, I like to take a lot of pictures of Vivi during the day. (I’ll give you a second to recover from the shock of that statement.) I send them to her family and to Joey so they all feel connected and don’t miss anything of importance. I literally spent most of the day hoping she didn’t hit any milestones because I knew Joey would be so bummed to miss them completely.

So there were a lot of ramifications. But also…there were some good things too.

For one, it’s easy to get tied up in my phone, doing work or just goofing around, even when Vivi and I are hanging out. I don’t think I need to spend every second hanging over her obsessing about what she’s doing (girl needs some room to chill with her toys)(I’m always in the room, don’t freak out), but not having a phone removed the temptation to waste any of our time together. And not worrying about taking photos or videos of her silly antics actually let me enjoy them a little bit more.

I’m happy to report that after almost 36 hours in rice, the phone turned back on. So far, things seem to be running fairly smoothly (and, at the very least, I was able to back up the phone in case it needs replacing after all). Although my research did also inform me that there are numerous documented cases of a phone surviving a swim and then, months later, spontaneously overheating and dying. So time shall tell.

What have I learned? (Besides to NEVER FORGET YOUR PHONE IS IN YOUR BACK POCKET EVER.) Well, I’m still not addicted, and I’m still not one of those people who is going to eschew this brilliant little piece of technology just to prove a point. Mostly I’m just happy I don’t have to pay for a new phone. And I’m okay with that happy medium.

Plus, I also know exactly what to do if you drop your phone in the toilet. These are life skills, people.

I should clarify that this post does not officially count in “The New Plans for the Blog,” but I wanted to pop back in to say a few things.

For one, you guys. You’re great. I got a lot of nice comments and feedback from people who, apparently, like what I do on here even when I don’t. That was really nice to hear. Blogging is like throwing your thoughts into outer space sometimes, and anyone who has spent a lot of time talking to no one knows how disheartening speaking into a vacuum can be. You guys should really feel comfortable commenting whenever you want — I promise, I’m nice!

For another, I just wanted to let you know that I’m actually making good on my plans so far. Over the last two days, I’ve been compiling a list of posts I want to write in the next few months. Can you believe that? By dedicating an hour or so, I was able to plan out content for weeks at a time. I have no idea why I never did this before.

Oh, right, because I’m a doofus. Sorry about that.

I also decided that, in addition to improving the writing, I want to up my photography game as much as I can. I am by no means a professional photographer, but Joey has gotten me a really nice camera and a couple good lenses for our last couple anniversaries, and, gosh darn it, it’s time to put them to good use. So get ready for PHOTOS!

Anyway, there’s no need to get long-winded here. I just wanted to say, stay tuned!