Why the grass is not always greener

Dear Daughter,

You may occasionally hear an adult say, “The grass is greener on the other side.” That adult likely is not talking about the actual color of their actual grass. This is an expression reflecting a perception that someone else’s life, or another path of life you might take, is better than your own life, than the current path you’re on. Usually that perception is false, but sometimes it’s not. Today I’m going to attempt to write about this complex mentality.

By nature, we humans tend to covet other humans. We want what they have, whether it’s material possessions, success or relationships. In fact, just yesterday I heard on the radio that 21 percent of women say they would rather have one of their friends’ husbands than their own. (Yet another negative view of marriage that irks me to no end.) For some reason, when looking at our own lives we are dissatisfied, so we think everyone else has it better. But we don’t realize that everyone else is just as dissatisfied with their life!

It’s not just about coveting other people, though. “The grass is greener” concept applies to the decisions you make, too. People will quit a job and get a new one, thinking that the new one will make them richer and happier. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. A couple might get divorced, thinking that single life, or life away from that person, is preferable to life with that person. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

And when it isn’t—when the reality sets in that the grass is not as green as the person had hoped—disappointment, heartache and regret could be the end result.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be many times in life when you’ll have to decide to take a new path, and hopefully that path will lead to good things. But don’t be so quick to get out of your current situation that you glorify the alternative. Avoid believing that the new path is your savior, your ticket to lifelong happiness. Because nothing and no one is perfect. The grass on the other side might look lush and green but could be rotting at the roots. The new job might pay more money but could require more of your time. Your friend’s husband might be better looking than yours, but he has annoying habits too.

When you do have those moments when you wonder what life is like on the other side—and you will have many, I assure you—step back and think about how great you already have it now. Try to wade past the undesirable stuff and focus instead on the things you like best about your job or spouse or wardrobe. And give grace to the people and things in your life. Know that they’re not perfect and never will be… and be grateful for that! After all, it’s the imperfections in this world that make the little nuggets of goodness that much more precious.

Love,
Mom

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Why social media is not your personal journal

Dear Daughter,

You’re too young right now to use social media, and who knows what that medium will even look like in a few years, when you are old enough to use it. I have a feeling, however, that our everyday lives will be made even more public as the years go on, and if that’s the case, I have some words of caution.

What you say and do online is a snapshot of who you are. It may not be the most fair snapshot, but it does tell people a lot about you. I have some friends on Facebook whom I don’t know very well in real life, and yet it’s strange how much I know about them: what their interests are, what their family is like, where they’re going on their next vacation, etc.

But mainly, I can tell what kind of attitude they have. Writing little observations about your day reveals a lot about how you look at life, and most people view life either positively or negatively. There’s little gray area.

It’s one thing to gripe about the weather, traffic or when your favorite sports team lets you down. But many people go a step further than that, using sites like Facebook and Twitter to complain about their job, their family, their spouse… They view social media as if it’s the old-school journal, venting about everything that ticks them off and assuming that, because it was written behind a computer screen, it’s okay. But it’s not okay. Because people see those posts and can be hurt by them. Plus, the person writing the complaints is only tarnishing their own reputation. Most people don’t read those posts and sympathize with that person; instead they make a character judgment about them. We tend to think the chronic complainers are sad, bitter curmudgeons.

Believe me, you don’t want to be known as a curmudgeon.

There is no line between the Real World and the Internet World these days. It’s all one big jumbled mess, and what happens in one world can greatly affect what happens in the other. Which means you need to take the high road in both. Don’t write anything online that you wouldn’t say directly to a person’s face, and don’t complain just for the sake of complaining. Social media was not intended for that purpose. There are some things you simply need to keep to yourself. If you have to vent, do so in a private format, not for all the world to see.

Before posting anything online, ask yourself two questions: 1) “Will this hurt someone else?” and 2) “Will this hurt my reputation?” If the answer to either question is yes, then step away from the computer. Be smart, and be dedicated to using social media only for good. (Or at least for a little harmless entertainment. Like sharing this hilarious video.)

Love,
Mom

It’s the little things…

It’s Thanksgiving! My favorite holiday! I’ve always said that Thanksgiving is like the humble middle child of all the holidays. It’s quiet, unassuming, not wrapped up in the glitz and glamour of consumerism. Plus, food is the highlight. You just can’t go wrong when food is the highlight!

I already talked about the big-picture things I’m thankful for in yesterday’s post, so today I’m going to focus on life’s little perks that make me happy…

1. Green tea (and tea in general). I’m not a coffee drinker, and I’ve always felt kind of left out because of that. There’s something soothing about cupping your hands around a warm beverage. So I’m glad there’s an option (a healthier one, too!) for us non-coffee folks.

2.  My two new favorite TV shows: Parenthood and Up All Night. I probably get a little too excited when there’s a new episode of either of these shows on my DVR. And speaking of…

3. DVR. It’s a godsend. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a full list of great TV shows just waiting to be watched, and without the commercials. It’s better than going to the movies!

4. Those insulated cups that have a lid and straw. I always have to have a glass of water near me, otherwise I get anxious. So I’ve always used a plastic cup and straw. Now they make those nice insulated cups that keep the water cold, and with a built-in straw! A genius invention… my only lament is that I didn’t think of it first.

5. Blankets. No matter the time of year, a blanket serves as a form of comfort unlike any other.

6. HTML code. This is super geeky and I am by no means a web expert, but I do know a decent amount of HTML code. It is so cool to type in letters and symbols that turn into punctuation and other formatting tools. It’s like a secret language! All you other web peeps out there, can I get a holla? (I’m sounding super vanilla right now, I know.)

7. Hair straighteners. I simply don’t know how I survived 20-some years of my life without one.

8. Sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, Diet Coke and wine. These are my absolute favorite foods/drinks. I could eat/drink them every day of my life and still love them just as much as I do now.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there. It’s fun, though, to think of the perks that get you going throughout the day. Makes life a bit easier, more satisfying.

What “little things” are you grateful for today?

How to be grateful even when you’re not

Dear Daughter,

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and, as the name suggests, this holiday is all about giving thanks, about looking at your life and recognizing the things for which you are grateful. It’s so awesome that we get a day off, filled with lots of good food, to celebrate something as simple as giving thanks. On the other hand, it’s kind of sad that we get a day off, filled with lots of good food, to celebrate something as simple as giving thanks. We should be grateful every day; why do we need a big national holiday to remind us?

But we’re human. And we’re American. And even though we’re easily the most blessed nation in the world, we often take our blessings for granted. We haven’t experienced much hardship; goodness and abundance are all we know. So sometimes we need a reminder that this is not the norm, that we truly are incredibly fortunate people.

This is something that’s been resonating with me pretty deeply this past week. I’ve been throwing quite the pity party for myself lately. I’m overwhelmed with all the things I have to do in the next month, both at work and at home, and I’ve been bitter about the fact that I have to work at all. I’m not happy with my appearance, and I’m annoyed that I have so much “stuff” in the house and I don’t know where to put it.

And yet, when I turn the lens around, I see a whole new picture. The reason I have so many things to do in the next month is because I’m having a baby, which is a miracle in and of itself, something that many women dream of doing but are unable to. I have a stable, secure, well-paying job while hundreds of thousands of people have been out of work for months, even years. I may not look as svelte as I’d like but that’s because I’m nearly 8 months pregnant (which, again, is amazing), not because I have any physical abnormalities or anything. And all of that “stuff” in our house? So much better than having nothing at all, which is a reality for far too many people.

Plus, when I cry about how miserable I think I am, I have a husband and a daughter to comfort me, wipe away my tears and make me smile again. Just having that alone is enough to fill up my gratitude bank forever, but I have that AND all of these many other blessings. How did I get so lucky?

Daughter, no matter what time of year it is, I hope that you’ll be grateful for what you’ve been given. It won’t be easy at times, when things aren’t going your way or you wish things could be different. During those times, I encourage you to close your eyes and look at your life from a different perspective, from the perspective of one who has nothing and no one. When you do that, you will realize that you have blessings coming out of your ears, and gratitude will fill your heart so full you won’t know what to do with it.

Love,
Mom

The importance of getting enough sleep

Dear Daughter,

You come from a family of women who often choose productivity over sleep. We tend to put sleep on the backburner, because there are other, more important things to do, like laundry, dishes, doing our nails. I’m starting to learn, however, that sleep is much more important than I give it credit for. MAYBE even more important than nail polish, if you can believe it!

I tease J because he claims he simply cannot function unless he gets at least eight hours of sleep at night. Who gets eight hours of sleep anymore?! I’m lucky if I get six. And all this time I’ve been wearing that as a badge of honor. Look at me, I’m a busy woman. I don’t even have time to sleep because I’m so busy! But you know what? J might be onto something. He’s never, ever sick and he’s one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever met. Could it be due to the fact that he gets the proper amount of sleep?

It’s tricky, because most people truly don’t have eight hours to dedicate to slumber. We have so much to occupy our time these days. One of the reasons I don’t get enough sleep is because I wake up at 4:30 a.m. to write this blog. I don’t want to give up writing; to me that’s worse than giving up sleep (well, some days sleep wins). So how do I make it all work? How do I fit in all of my goals and desires while still getting enough sleep?

Just like everything else, it’s about choosing your priorities. There are some days when the laundry or dishes really can wait until the next day. If my priorities, my non-negotiables, every day are family time, writing, and eating (yes, food is that high on my list!), then everything else aside from those priorities should fall behind sleep.

That’s not to say we have a license for laziness either. Our waking hours should be spent wisely so that when we do go to sleep, we do so with the assurance that we’ve truly accomplished everything we could that day.

It’s important for you to learn this while you’re young, Daughter, so that you develop a good balance between sleep and productivity. I’m a firm believer that sleep (or the lack thereof) is directly related to your health, not to mention your mood. So if you make sleep a priority from a young age, you’ll be a healthier, happier person because of it.

All this talk about sleep has made me sleepy. I’m just gonna….zzzzzzzzzzzz

Using your talents

“Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” -Henry Van Dyke

Every single person on earth is gifted at something. Find your gift and use it. Don’t waste it. The world needs it!

Women and their weight

Dear Daughter,

It’s a mystery to me why we women are so preoccupied by our body image. It’s like God gave us an extra rib and with it an extra dose of insecurity. Maybe what He really gave us was humility (to juxtapose the confidence of our male counterparts), but we’ve twisted and turned it into low self-esteem. All I know is, every woman struggles with her body image to some degree. Even supermodels are consumed with their bodies because they need to maintain its fabulousness, which is difficult to do.

There’s a fine line between doing what it takes to be healthy and obsessing about losing weight. There’s also a fine line between being comfortable with who you are and being a little too comfortable with who you are. It’s crazy but our culture has capitalized on the negatives of both mentalities. On the one hand, images of hot women and diet foods litter our TV screens and magazine pages, but on the other, we’re told to accept ourselves as we are, even if what we are is obese and disease-ridden. We’re getting conflicting messages, and both ends of the spectrum can be damaging. No wonder we women are an emotional bunch!

I’m curvy, with a small waist and a J-Lo-like booty. It’s easy for curves to turn into rolls, so I’ve been careful not to let that happen. I’ve never been overweight, per se, but I’ve had moments where I’m less comfortable with my body than others. Right now is one of those times. I’m 7-1/2 months pregnant, so I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, but I’ve gained weight in areas other than the belly (see: J-Lo-like booty) and I’m mad at myself because of that. I regret that I haven’t been eating better nor exercising. In fact, I’m consumed with guilt and regret every day. And sometimes I want to crawl into a hole because I don’t want people to see me and think I look fat.

This is what we women do to ourselves. We beat ourselves up, which is just as unhealthy as eating poorly or neglecting to exercise. There is a deep mental connection with what should only be a physical issue. And it’s that mental connection that makes or breaks us.

Daughter, I’m not going to tell you to just be happy with who you are no matter what you look like, because I don’t want you to think it’s okay to be unhealthy. I’m also not going to tell you to develop a rigorous diet or fitness plan. Instead, my advice is to make the right decisions as they come to you. If you’re given a choice of an apple or a donut, or if you’re contemplating watching TV or going for a 30-minute run, stand back and decide which is the best choice for you at that particular moment. When you step outside of your instincts and put some thought into it, you’ll likely choose the healthiest option every time. And when you consistently choose the healthy options, your confidence skyrockets because you know you’ve made the right decisions, from which your health will benefit. Suddenly weight is no longer on the forefront of your mind, and you can focus on bigger and better things.

My hope for you is that you don’t get caught up in the rat race of weight obsession. My hope is that you’ll rise above all of that nonsense and will serve as a strong, confident, healthy example of what God intended for us women in the first place.

Love,
Mom

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