This is how Time works

Dear Daughter,

I don’t care what anyone tells you… Time is not a measure, it is a being. A living, breathing, bipolar being. I swear it has a personality. Multiple, actually. One minute, Time can be your best friend and another? Your worst enemy. It likes to mess with you too, that Time. It makes you think you’ll have lots of it and then, out of nowhere, it’s gone. And yet, it’s always there. It’s enough to drive a grown woman mad.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned about Time through the years:

1) Time really does fly when you’re having fun. It’s one of life’s cruelest realities, right up there with the fact that healthy food tastes bad and unhealthy food tastes good. Say you’re in Aruba for your honeymoon. At first you think five days in Aruba is a long time. But the bright and sunny days pass by as quickly as the waves of the Aruban shore. And before you know it, you’re gripping onto your beach chair for dear life, forcing your husband to pry your fingers from it and tell you to get moving already so you don’t miss your flight. This is strictly hypothetical, of course.

2) It also flies when you have things to do. I always, always underestimate the amount of time it will take me to do my Saturday chores (cleaning the house, grocery shopping, laundry, etc.) Throughout the week, I tend to put things off until the weekend because I think I’ll have all the Time in the world. But when you lump it all into one day, it’s like Time speeds up just to mess with you. You end up accomplishing two out of the eight things on your to-do list, which makes you feel like a big whopping failure. Depressing, I know. The point here is to have low expectations. I normally would  never recommend that but in this case, it seems to be the only way to end the day not wanting to punish yourself.

3) It does NOT fly when you’re at work or school. I think when we’re in situations where we’re bored, we’re just more aware of time. So we look at the clock more often, only to see that just two minutes have passed, not the 30 minutes we were hoping for. This can be fixed, at work anyway, by referring to #2 above. If you make sure you have a lot of work to do, Time will pass more quickly, and before you know it you’ll be on your way home, singing “Forget You” at the top of your lungs and contemplating whether or not to cook that healthy chicken dish tonight or just pick up a junior cheeseburger deluxe from Wendys. Once again: hypothetical.

4) Sometimes it stands still. These moments are rare, and they can be good or bad. It could happen when you see a loved one who’s been gone for a long time, or during an accident when your life flashes before your eyes. Whenever it does happen, take note and etch it into your memory. When time stands still, it’s because your life is about to change.

The bottom line is to make the most of Time. There are 24 hours in a day—always has been, always will be. Knowing that, and knowing the four rules above, get ahead of Time. Don’t let it control you. Know what to expect and plan accordingly. Spend your Time on things that matter. (For the record, sometimes what matters is alone time and family time. Just saying you don’t always have to be productive.) And as much as Time will drive you crazy, it really is precious. Don’t waste it.

Love,
Mom

The right way to make a New Year’s resolution

Dear Daughter,

I’m back! I had to take a break from blogging for a while to tend to some other things, plus to get some sleep, since I’m now nine months pregnant, and getting a full night’s sleep is as unlikely as finding the end of a rainbow. I think God makes sleep difficult for pregnant women as a way of preparing us for the sleepless nights that come with a newborn. I consider myself fully prepared!

ANYWAY…

Today I want to talk about New Year’s resolutions. I’ve written before about making New School Year Resolutions, which are important for students. But now is the time of year when everyone—young and old—sets new goals and hopes to achieve them. Most resolutions deal with diet or exercise, inspired after stuffing ourselves to the gills during the holidays. Others are more life-improvement-related, like reading the Bible more or getting out of debt. And still others are self challenges—traveling to all 50 states in a year, or running a marathon.

It’s so tempting to want to have multiple New Year’s resolutions. After all, every one of us desires self-improvement in more than one area of our life. But to expect a major overhaul in each of those areas is unrealistic and will only lead to disappointment. So I recommend choosing just one resolution, and make it something that’s specific and feasible. Some of my past resolutions are:

1) Call my grandmother at least once a month. (Doesn’t sound like much but I hate talking on the phone, so it was a big deal.)
2) Take photos at every possible opportunity.
3) Always be reading at least one book.
4) Eat a fruit and vegetable at every meal.

As you can see, these resolutions are concrete and measurable, which made it easier to be intentional about them. (They say that such a method is what works for losing weight, too, by the way. Instead of saying, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds,” say, “I’m going to do 30 minutes of cardio exercise six days a week.”) It’s the small, specific goals that lead to the fulfillment of the big-picture goals.

I’ve been going back and forth about what I want this year’s resolution to be. I have several to choose from (one of which is, not saying the word “cool” so much. I realized the other day that I use that word all the time, usually in response to someone telling me something interesting. It makes me sound young and inarticulate, so I need to stop.) But because I’m committed to keeping up with this blog and writing a book, I know what my resolution needs to be, and that is…

To write something—anything—every day of the week.

Even if it’s just a single sentence! I need to make writing a priority and a habit. I will cut myself some slack on this during the first couple of weeks after the baby’s born, but once I’m settled with all of that, this is what I commit to. And I’m excited about it.

Daughter, I look forward to hearing what your goals are for this year, and to helping each other achieve our goals.

Love,
Mom

How to truly appreciate Christmas

Dear Daughter,

In exactly 20 days, it’ll be Christmas Day. That seems like an eternity to you, but trust me, it’ll go by quickly. And it’s my hope that in the next 20 days, we will fully appreciate this season.

Christmas is special in that it’s celebrated not just on the one day but throughout the whole month. Yesterday we got our Christmas tree (a real one!) and came home and decorated it. Now our home feels all warm and cozy and festive, like it has purpose. We sang Christmas carols at church and probably will do the same every Sunday between now and the 25th. There are Christmas movies on TV, and our iPods are fully stocked with our favorite yuletide tunes. It’s so easy to get into the Christmas spirit, because it’s everywhere we look.

And yet, every year it flies by so quickly, and once it’s over, we have a tendency to think, “That’s it?” Each year’s Christmas memories blend into each other. Some of that is inevitable, a natural result of the passing of time. But it also happens because we adults run around like crazy during this time of year, more wrapped up in consumerism and our to-do lists than in the reason behind why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

I want to make a point this year to cherish every moment, feeling grateful not just for the gifts we’ll receive but also for the true beauty of the season as a whole. That means spending time in prayer, thanking Jesus for coming to this world in the first place. It means allowing the warm and fuzzies come over you when you hear your favorite Christmas song or when you see a beautiful Christmas tree. It means purposely spending more time with family than with anyone or anything else.

Daughter, let’s make the most of the next 20 days.

Love,
Mom

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?

Why girls who read are awesome

Daughter, if you want to know why I always encourage you to read, this blog post by The Monica Bird says it all…

“Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.”

Read the rest of the post here. And then go read a book.

How to enjoy winter

Dear Daughter,

It’s November 4, which means… (cue tragic music)… winter is coming.

We Midwesterners have a love/hate relationship with winter. At the beginning of the season, we like that we can cozy up in sweaters with a mug of hot cocoa in front of the fire. We like that the crappy weather gives us an excuse to sit at home and watch movies all night. We like when it snows at Christmastime.

Once mid January rolls around, though, we are DONE. The novelty of winter has worn off, snow is no longer cute, and we long for the days when we can get out of the house and take a walk or eat dinner on the deck. Sadly, mid January is still considered early winter around here. So basically we live in misery for three to four months.

I’ve noticed that when my life is great, when good things are happening, the weather is of no consequence to me. It could be 20 below and I could care less. Nothing could bring me down, especially not the weather! But when life is just average, or below average, I have a tendency to dwell on how bad the weather is, and I even use it as an excuse for my sadness/laziness/pathetic-ness. This puts me into a greater depression, and it feels like I won’t be happy again until spring.

There’s science behind why unhappiness develops when skies are gray. We’re not getting the feel-good vitamins that the sun provides. There’s even a legitimate medical condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), where people literally get depressed because they aren’t getting enough sunlight. I don’t think I have SAD but I certainly do have my moments.

You know what, though? I’m tired of blaming the weather for my problems. I’m tired of hearing myself complain when the external elements are below my standards. Who am I to tell the weather what it should be, anyway? Griping about weather has no effect on the outcome. If it’s going to be 10 degrees with freezing rain, it’s going to be 10 degrees with freezing rain whether we like it or not, so why do we even bother complaining?

This winter, let’s make a vow to be happy. Let’s appreciate that we have a warm place to live and loved ones to fill that warm place. Let’s find fun things to do indoors (like dance parties!). Let’s exercise, which creates more feel-good endorphins than the sun does anyway. (Take that, sun!) Let’s make fun and yummy meals that we don’t have time to make in the summer. Ooh, let’s have an indoor Hawaiian luau!

I could go on and on with ideas but my point is, there are plenty of good things that come with winter; we just have to make the best of it. Instead of wasting energy whining about something over which we have no control, we need to rise above and use that energy to have fun and enjoy life, no matter what.

Looking forward to spending this winter with you, my dear.

Love,
Mom

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