Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Woman in her Thirties Goes Dark

I've said before that I'm a big fan of Lent.  That's not just 10 years of Catholic school talking.  I like the idea of taking a chunk of time (and forty days is a significant chunk) and doing something to become a better person.  For the past five or six years I've given up gossiping, which is a lot harder than a woman in her thirties might think.  Last year I gave up complaining, which I would call only mildly... very mildly...successful.

This year, I've given up Facebook.

Before I go into the reasons why, I want to be totally clear:  I am not a social media hater.  Far from it.  I'm not a Facebook hater, either.  I love Facebook, and have every intention of going back to it when Easter rolls around.  It's not Facebook that is the problem-- it's me.  Here are just a few reasons why Facebook and I needed to go on a break.

(The last picture I posted on Facebook before going dark.)

1.  Facebook has brought out the catty B in me

Very recently, a friend from college found me on Facebook.  This was a person K and I have talked about many times, hoping to get back in touch.  When he found us, we exchanged quick messages updating each other on our lives, and I went to his photos to see what he looked like.  He had plenty of pictures of his kids, but none of him.

'He must have gotten fat,' I actually said to K.  'Otherwise he would have posted pictures of himself.'

What a horrible thing to say.  And it came out just like I would have commented on the weather.

2. Facebook has the ability to put me in a bad mood

The impetus to giving up Facebook for Lent started last summer, when the election barrage began happening in earnest.  Every day it seemed a 'friend' was posting something ridiculous, something divisive and uninformed, like they were the Anderson Cooper of Facebook.  It drove me crazy. Even worse, often, were the comments that followed. (Unless, of course, I agreed with the person's opinion.  Then I found their posts spot-on and relevant.)

But of course it's not just the elections.  It's the people who air their dirty laundry.  It's the people who post cryptic, attention-seeking posts about how no one cares about them.  It's the former students posting grammatically incorrect statements complaining about how no one takes them seriously. After awhile, these things begin messing with my head and make me sad.

3.  Facebook has turned me into the worst kind of voyeur

I'm not what you would call active on Facebook.  At least, that's what it looks like if you go to my page.  I'll sometimes post a cute picture of the family or comment on someone else's, but for the most part I check it to see what everyone else is doing.

How many times a day, do you ask?  Well, a few weeks ago I tried to keep track of how many times I looked at my newsfeed in a single day.  I lost count at twenty-seven.  That's a lot of peeps for this Peeping Tom.  It was starting to make me feel kind of creepy.

4.  Facebook shines a bright light on one's vanity

This comes out in different ways for different people, but for me, I'm pretty protective of the images of myself and my family that are posted online.  Add to the mix that I'm a high school teacher with former students as my 'friends', and I get pretty irritated when people take liberties with posting pictures of me. For a long time, I hid behind the teacher card-- my students will always be my students, no matter how old they are, and I would prefer them not to see me doing sake bombs at my bachelorette party.

But is it really that?  Or is it more that I don't want people to see my woman-in-her-thirties crow's feet and C-Sectiony muffin top?

5.  Facebook is a major time suck

Even for me, a Facebook-er only while feeding my children or passing the time while in the supermarket check out line, I have to think I could be using the time I spend on Facebook more productively.  What if I used those few minutes to watch a TED talk or tried to re-learn my Chinese?  Or... and this is crazy, I know... what if I used that time to just be quiet and reflect?  Or... gulp... pray?

I thought I could quit Facebook with very little consequence.  I'd miss it, sure, but it wouldn't miss me.  This Lent would come and go with no one really knowing what I gave up and what I 'did' in return.  But it's been a little over a week, and I've already been challenged.  Like last weekend, when I got an email that I'd been tagged in a photo.

Do I check it?  Just to make sure I'm not too fugly in it?  Just once?  Jesus won't mind...

And then just the other day, when a family member had a baby.  I so wanted to see it, and what would be the harm in just peeking and offering my e-congratulations?  Just for a second...

And then today, when both kids were sleeping and I downloaded this picture to my computer:

Surely God wants me to post this picture for all of my friends to see, right?

But no.  I've made a commitment to this, and I'm sticking it out.  Facebook and I are on a break until Jesus peeks his head out of the tomb. And when I go back, I'm hoping to be better for it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Woman in her Thirties, Times Eight

Dear Mister Handsome,

This week you are eight months old.  Let that sink in for a second. Eight months.  That is a long time.

And yet, not so long at all.  In the last month, you have mastered the art of sitting up,

Making grocery shopping much easier on your poor Mom's back. You have made clear your love of playtime:

But not so much nap time.  And you are loving-- and I mean loving-- your sister:

And I don't blame you.  She's hilarious.

Aside from our nights, which aren't so awesome, you continue to be over-the-top amazing.  You smile and laugh with just about anyone.  You have no problem hanging out on the floor with your toys or in the bouncer (well, for a little while, anyway), and eating pretty much anything I put in front of you.  Your smile is so infectious that sometimes I feel like I've done my good deed for the day bringing you through the grocery store.  Everyone is happier after seeing you.

You are changing so quickly.  I can hardly remember you when you were like this:

But you were, just eight short months ago.  Our lives have all changed so much, too, and only for the better.  Because you make everything better.


Monday, February 18, 2013

A Woman in her Thirties Goes on a Date

This might come as a surprise considering my Downton Abbey post a couple weeks back, but I love Southpark.  Like, a lot.  I've loved it since the days when Hoppy Brewing Company used to give out $1 beers until Kenny died.  And I've been pretty obsessed with its creators since Team America: World Police.  (Side note:  If you have not seen that movie, for the love of God, rent it.  Just make sure there are no children in any sort of proximity.  It is hands-down the funniest movie I've ever seen.)

When I heard that The Book of Mormon was coming to Minneapolis, there was no question L and I were going.  I didn't care how much the tickets were (ridiculously expensive, FYI).  I didn't care how late we were out (way, way, WAY past this woman in her thirties' bedtime, FYI).  We were going.  And that was final.

I bought the tickets back in September, when February seemed like a lifetime away.  Aaron will surely be sleeping better at night by then, I thought.  Life will surely be much easier.  But as this past weekend was approaching, as much as I was looking forward to the show, I was starting to get worried.  Our nights are... bu hao, as the Chinese would say.  I still find my morning shower to be challenging.  My hair is...

(My bad hair excuses)

But it was going to happen.  Because it had been, and I'm really embarrassed to say this, over two years since L and I had gone on a proper date.  Just the two of us.  Dinner and a show.  Like normal people.

Our babysitter came at 5.  That's right-- we hired a babysitter, even though we have the world's best babysitter in L's Mom.  We knew it was going to be a long night, and we already use her services so much that we couldn't ask her to do this long night for us.  By 5:30 we were on our way.

In the car.

By ourselves.

For a date, just us.

Have I mentioned we hadn't done that in OVER TWO YEARS?

First, it was dinner.  Sushi, our favorite.  It is such a treat to sit and eat without simultaneously feeding two other mouths.  Bliss.  However, if we'd had a dollar for every time one of us said, 'This feels so weird!' we could have paid for dinner.

Next, the show.  It was just as good-- better-- than I'd expected.  My face hurt by intermission, I was laughing so hard.  Every song seemed to top the one before.  I will never think of maggots without laughing again.  Or Baptism, for that matter.

When we got home, our babysitter had washed our dishes.  Both kids were asleep, which was nothing short of a miracle.  She offered to come back anytime.  We tipped her heavily, and when I asked L if it would be weird if I sent her a text telling her I loved her, he recommended that I hold back.

Maybe next time.  Because there will most definitely be a next time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Woman in her Thirties Loves Downton Abbey

I had several options for this week's post:

1.  A woman in her thirties cleans mac and cheese puke at 1:00am
2.  A woman in her thirties subsides on cereal while her husband is away
3.  A woman in her thirties in 25 below

But all of these options revolve around the same recurring theme I've had going for the last couple of years.  I'm tired.  My kids are adorable but a lot of work.  It's really cold in Minnesota.

So instead, I will talk this week about Downton Abbey.  I am a recent addition to the Downton Abbey craze-- I'm only a couple of episodes into the second season.  But I will say that I think this show is what got me through the last eight days of being on my own in sub-zero weather.  I started it last week, and every night after the kids are in bed I have devoted what used to be my reading time to Downton.  (Side note:  The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a wonderful book, and normally would not take me this long to get through!)

This morning while I fought with encouraged Anna to please put her jacket on so we could leave the house, I started thinking about Downton.  It has truly become my happy place in the last week.  Here's why:

1.  A woman in her thirties needs an escape

Of course I love my life and all that stuff.  But my friend P put it perfectly when she said, 'Isn't  Downton Abbey such a beautiful show to watch?'  Yes.  It is beautiful.  The costumes.  The hair.  The fabulous castle and it's catch-your-breath library.  (The Turkish Gentleman!) You could watch this show on mute and still be whisked away to somewhere far more beautiful than where you are.  And it probably doesn't smell like poop.

2.  A woman in her thirties likes to be spoken to nicely

I'm not just talking about the accents, though I do think that things sound much more legitimate coming from a Brit.  At Downton, no one swears.  No one says 'cuz' or 'dude' or 'MOMMY PUT AARON IN BOUNCER!' No one checks their iPhone or posts snide comments on Facebook.  They write each other letters where they refer to each other as 'Your Lordship' and 'Dearest Lady So-and-so'.  They meet each other at train stations and arrange for carriage rides to discuss matters at hand.  They use the word 'indeed', and not in an annoying way.

3.  A woman in her thirties loves Cousin Matthew

If there are any men reading this blog who feel like women are just too difficult to figure out, look no further than Cousin Matthew.  His wit.  His charm.  His honesty.  His eyes.  His uniform.  I don't know what's going to happen with him and Lady Mary, but I have a feeling it will eventually end with them together in a wonderful, heart-melty way.  And I'll bet their kids will never throw up at 1:00am.

4.  A woman in her thirties can dream

I have no desire to live in a castle and have full time servants.  (Though an on-call masseuse would be nice...) But what is great about Downton Abbey is that everyone, from the lowliest of footmen to Sir King Lord Countess Such-and Such, takes their place seriously.  Every character is complex and likable, even when they are totally unlikeable.  They all sit down together and eat dinner, and they never chew with their mouths open.

Downton Abbey is my new happy place.  Aside from my current happy place, that is.