Friday, May 6, 2016

Getting Stuck

Getting stuck is a real pain.
Getting un-stuck can be a worse pain.
But can getting stuck ever be a blessing?
I believe so....

Sometimes, i get stuck in a rut. That rut becomes distasteful enough that i look around and realize i'm stuck, then i do something about it. Climbing out of a rut always teaches me something about myself.

Sometimes, i get stuck on a problem. That problem becomes so overwhelming that i'm unable to move in any direction. So i pray about it and ask for direction. Many times, a new solution comes to mind or enough time passes that it becomes obvious i'm not intended to solve the problem. So i can move on.

Other times, i may be stuck in an internal struggle. When this happens, i turn inward and resort to worry and fretting, which is always so helpful, right? ;)

But if i'm stuck in a battle with myself or my emotions, it's often harder to see the way out. I'm learning to focus on the little things i can do right now. And i'm learning to give myself grace. One unfortunate side effect to growing up without the emotional support or loving connection of a parent is that i became 'accomplishment' driven. I tried to earn favor, love, and attention. I still get stuck in that pattern sometimes, but the worst of it is always when i'm fighting myself.

So, i'm learning to treat myself with kindness, forgiveness, and grace - much as i would treat my children. And it helps get me un-stuck most every time.

Getting stuck is a pain, no doubt.
But getting un-stuck is where the real lesson can be found.
So the next time you find yourself stuck, pause and look up, look around, look inside, and find the lesson God is trying to teach you. When you move through it, that's when getting stuck becomes a blessing.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The False Socialization of Social Media

In the homeschooling world, we get asked a particular question A LOT:
"But what about socialization?"

And we answer it as kindly and compassionately as possible, because it isn't that person's fault that we've been asked that particular question 1.3 million times before she asked it. ;)

However, since i am frequently dealing with that question, i find that my mind pays attention more to socialization issues than perhaps the average adult. And it is in this attentiveness over the past few weeks that i have noticed something quite upsetting:

Social media is actually harming the way we socialize.

Hear me out.

The idea of social media is to connect with others, whether it be friends or family who live some distance away, or within communities of like-minded or similar beliefs as us. And when you hone your followers or friends, you can achieve a pretty good balance of that.

The problems that i am seeing come in the form of inflammatory posts made to divide us into boxes. Oh, you know, the ones that start with "Republicans believe..." or "Democrats think..." or the ones that go something like this: "For all YOU who believe..." Because, you know, all people in those groups are exactly alike and all that.... :-P

The issue, too, is that there seems to be no filter anymore to anyone's internal dialog. I get the honor of being privy to your inner-most generalizations about a particular group of people. And the sad thing is, sometimes i am in that group of people. Things that you would likely never say to my face if we were sharing a meal somewhere are now blasted with the most harsh speech imaginable over social media. And i'm sure i made these mistakes in the past, too. Hopefully, i have learned to temper my thoughts and not use social media to rail at the world around me.

But i won't lie.... It's changing how i feel about some people. Not because i am judging them based on their views, but because i now wonder how they TRULY feel about me. The next time we sit down at the Christmas dinner table, i'm going to be uncomfortably aware that you think i'm a heartless, bigoted, morally-confused, high-and-mighty idiot. And the next time you call and invite me to coffee, i may decline. Because now i know how you feel about me. Sure, not me specifically, but "people like me." And frankly, that is not that different. That's why i believe social media is actually killing relationships.

I love a great many people who are very different than me. And i respect their uniqueness and their zest for life within the bounds of what they believe. And i truly do cherish differences, because honestly, a world full of people just like me would be a complete and utter disaster! We need variety. God is painting a masterpiece, and we all play a part!

But i am growing world-weary with social media thrusting in my face the black-and-white nature of some people i thought i knew. The hateful speech over hot-button issues from people who i thought were open-minded and loving. The finger-pointing and judgment from people i thought were welcoming and sweet-natured. It's all too much for me lately.

Sure, i could cancel my account and never engage in the craziness. But there are so many benefits to me for some social media sites that i have not decided to walk away. Yet.

Does anyone else see social media degrading our social interactions with one another?
Have you put distance in any relationships because of social media posts?
I'd love to hear from you on this issue. :)

In the meantime, remember:
There's a person on the other side of social media.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Vast Wasteland of Distractions

Do we even realize how much time we spend on electronics? I am seeing a terrible trend, and i am fighting against it in my own life, and it worries me for future generations. I am reminded about something i used to say to my husband in the early years of our marriage: there will always be something interesting on the internet; you have to know when to walk away. And that was before Smart Phones!

Now, we have the internet at our disposal at all times. And there will always be a video clip, an email, a Google search, or whatever, that we can spend our time on. But suppose the following....

Husband A comes home from work. He changes his clothes, goes to hang out with friends, comes home to eat the dinner his wife prepared, then goes to a club to watch a band play with friends. He gets home after the littlest child's bedtime, doesn't tell her "goodnight" or tuck her in, goes to the garage to fiddle with various hobbies, and then goes to bed when he's tired. During this time, his wife and children have taken care of themselves and gone to bed as well.

Does Husband A represent a dedicated spouse? An engaged father?

How about this one:
Husband B comes home from work and goes for a walk with his earbuds in, listening to various podcasts on his smart phone. He comes home, eats the dinner his wife prepared, and goes to sit down somewhere in the house with his phone or tablet. Sometime later, he might change to his desktop computer or play video games online with friends. When he has decided he's tired, he takes his phone to bed and listens to podcasts and watches videos until he's ready for sleep. During this time, his wife and children have taken care of themselves and gone to bed as well.

How do we feel about Husband B?
It is not that different than the Husband who isn't physically present, but it is so much easier to be mentally absent these days!

Here's another scenario:
Mommy A takes her son to the park. While there, she chats with friends or neighbors and her son plays alone. After the park, she takes him to a fast-food restaurant for lunch, where he eats in silence while she chats with some of the other adults around her. Mommy A takes her son home and puts him down for his nap. After his nap, she takes him out for a walk in the wagon, chatting with a neighbor while they walk around the block. When they get back home, she sets him up with some crayons and makes dinner while talking on the phone. During dinner, daddy and son chat about their day and Mommy A watches television. After dinner, Mommy A gives her son a bath and lets him play in the tub while she works on a hobby nearby. After her son's bath, Mommy A puts him to bed and kisses him goodnight, then dashes off to watch another television show.

How well is Mommy A engaging her son? How do we feel about Mommy A?

Imagine all of those friends and neighbors and telephone calls and television shows and hobbies are her smart phone. Not really different.

There will ALWAYS be something interesting on the internet, and we ought to remember that the temptation to tune out will always be there. Will we rise above it, or will it become our master? I don't want my children to grow up and say, "Mommy was always around, but she was always distracted by her smart phone/computer." :(

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Homeschooling Introvert

I am a homeschooling mother.
I am also an introvert.
This was easier to balance when my children were smaller. Naps were relished, early bedtimes eagerly anticipated, and play-dates with friends who had small children a veritable delight of socialization for everyone involved.

However, my children are in high school, middle school, and middle elementary now. And it is much, much harder to find that quiet solitude that once came more naturally. While i was in the trenches of that toddler to preschooler stage, i falsely believed that it was the hardest time for mamas who are introverted. And, may i say, if you don't go on to homeschool your children, this may very well be the case! But as i serve as teacher, lesson planner, curriculum researcher, grade reporter, activities director, and high school adviser, i find my days much fuller and my brain strained at a deeper level than when i was teaching the alphabet, table manners, or colors.

Add to that the nature of the high school activities calendar, and this introvert is a puddle on the floor at the end of each day! My husband dare not ask me anything of any substance during the school week, and i do most of my catching up with family and friends over the telephone while running errands or driving home from some event i've dropped a child off to participate in.

I am an introvert.
I need quiet.
I need stillness.
I need alone time.
And i need it all at least daily.
But, surprisingly, it is not getting easier to meet those needs as my children get older, since the academics get so much more daunting! My poor extended family and friends must think i vanished into thin air... or that i don't care to spend time with them, and that just isn't the case! I really must find the balance.

That being said, i do not look forward to my children leaving home, so i guess that makes me a glutton for punishment! :)