Why we should stop “adulting” immediately.

Look, I’m one of you. I too grew up being told that I could “follow my dreams,” and “be anything I want to be.” Our generation experienced some of the most privilege and comfort of any childhood ever: cable TV, rooms full of books & toys (even in the poorest houses), the innovation of technology (video games, the internet, PCs, followed by cell phones and smart phones), sports teams, music lessons… I needn’t go on. We were literally living the dream of generations before us, thanks to the prosperity of the ’90s and the hard work of our grandparents who laid the foundation for these great years with their industrial innovation.

When the bubble popped in 2008, I remember thinking, “Well, there might be a recession coming, but that won’t impact me.” And, I know I wasn’t the only one. For a year or more before, the news spoke of nothing else than the impending recession, and yet we bought houses at the top of the market, embarked on new degrees, and incurred debt – credit card, student loans, you name it. Because we’ve always had what we wanted, so why would adulthood be any different?

So now we’re 30-something. The world needs 30-somethings to be more than adults, it needs us to be influencers. Every time we complain about “adulting,” we resist graciously stepping into the privilege of adulthood. Showing up to work, paying your bills, setting up retirement plans, buying houses, raising children, buying insurance, doing your taxes is the bare minimum of what the world needs from us. Yes, these things have always been hard, but we will do harder and more important things if we can get over the challenges of these basic fundamentals of adulthood.

If we can step out of the perspective that “adulting is hard,” and embrace the challenges and privileges that come with adulthood, though, I think we’ll be inspired and encouraged to get through the less than enjoyable details.

Baby Boomers are all too excited to hand us the reins and let us become the leaders – they’re impressed by our innovative ideas, they’re encouraged by the potential we show, and they’re ready to help position us for success if we’re willing to step into a position of responsibility.

Young adults who embrace their adulthood can influence the world like no generation before because we’re armed with more resources than anyone before us. We have the world at our literal fingertips. We possess more quality education than any prior generation. The previous generations are living longer and are desperate to pass along their wisdom. We are living in a culture that is beginning to encourage emotional health and honesty.

We are positioned for success – and what will happen if we allow this opportunity to pass us by? What will happen if our generation decides to just “Netflix and chill,” and never influences, never puts any of the good that’s been poured into us to use? Can we agree to stop using the word “adulting,” and more importantly stop living our lives like it’s an achievement to “adult,” and start rejoicing in our adulthood, and all of the privileges, responsibilities, and challenges that come with it?

Real Social, Less Media // 10 Things I Learned By Breaking Up with Facebook

I joined Facebook nearly a decade ago when it was for college students-only.  Back when there was no such thing as a mobile web, it was a fun way to connect with my friends and share photos and witticisms. When I  got my first phone with web access about 5 years ago, I noticed right away that it was exciting to be able to access it anywhere – then I didn’t have to wait until I got home to a computer to update my photos, I could do them that same day and still stay engaged with posts my friends put on their pages.

As technology updated, access to this online meeting place became easier and easier and I was roped in with it. Facebook became intertwined with my day-to-day and like an appendage.  When I graduated college, when I got my first job, at my wedding, on my honeymoon, at the birth of my daughter – Facebook was there, documenting my special moments and providing me with wonderful, instant feedback.  From the point when I was forbidden to be on it as a teacher to the point where a part of my job is updating a Facebook page, the integration of this website into daily life has dramatically shifted to become overwhelming and unnerving. On some level, I needed to check Facebook several times a day.

The point when I realized that it had gone too far was about 2 months ago.  My daughter was playing in the autumn leaves for the first time.  I was there, right with her, laughing and enjoying this special moment – but on the other side of the screen of my smart phone.  Before we came back inside, I had posted the photos I’d taken to Facebook for all my acquaintances to give me positive feedback on this special moment in my daughter’s life.  In that moment as I posted it, I was alarmed and ashamed by my now obsessive need for the instant gratification of feedback and my inability to simply be present in a moment.

So, inspired by my friend Jim’s decision to delete Facebook a few months ago, I deleted Facebook from my phone two weeks ago, challenging myself to keep it off until Thanksgiving to see what would happen. I didn’t go cold turkey – I have kept my account and still check once a day or so from a computer.

Here’s what I happened when I “broke up” with Facebook:

  1. It was really, really hard to shift my perspective from, “Everyone is interested in what I’m doing or thinking right now and I should share that,” to “I should be fully present in the moment and not disengage by engaging with social media.”
  2. I focused better during the day by not staring at a screen all day.  I felt less scattered, less stressed, and less foggy.  I was more productive and sharp. I even slept better.
  3. I enjoyed social times with my friends more, hearing their stories and experiences for the first time. Instead of feeling inferior about my life when I see their magazine-worthy family photos, I can embrace them as the beautifully flawed people they are, photoshop-free.
  4. I was noticeably happier.  I haven’t felt uplifted or encouraged by Facebook in a long time, and I realize now that Facebook has/had a more negative impact than I realized on my mood.
  5. I felt more present and engaged with my family and my friends.  No more will I call willfully disengaging, “multitasking.”
  6. I didn’t miss it, but I did have to intentionally break the habit of unintentionally opening it, as well as the urge to visit it via mobile web.
  7. Facebook comes up regularly in conversation and people expect that you’ll know everything they know because of Facebook.  Don’t believe me? Tally how many times it is mentioned tomorrow.  I gave up around 30.
  8. I don’t have email addresses or even cell phone numbers for some of my friends.  I had to keep Facebook messenger on my phone because I don’t know how to get in touch with some of the people I am friends with easily without it. Scary to think that one corporation holds the keys to my entire ability to reach my friends, and one password protects anyone from reaching them, pretending to be me.
  9. No one noticed I’d been off Facebook.  While I typically receive great feedback on my posts, not one of my friends – even the real life close friends – realized that I had not been liking or commenting on their posts or posting myself.  Granted, I did engage a little bit, but for as much of a priority I’d made it in my life, Facebook didn’t care if I was there or not.
  10. My daughter behaved better.  This may or may not be attributed to Facebook, but I am certain that she doesn’t feel like she’s competing for my attention and that makes her a happier kid.  And, I feel ashamed I didn’t do this sooner for that reason alone, much less the others.

I’m not sure in what ways I will be using Facebook going forward.  I’m not ready to sever ties with it altogether because at its core it is good – I am grateful for the connection it brings with friends and family near and far and the opportunity to share and receive information.  But, I won’t be reinstalling it and I hope to visit it only occasionally and intentionally from now on.

Sharing is Caring // a “yes, and…” to “Why I Don’t Teach My Son to Share”

Check out the original post here: http://moms.popsugar.com/Should-You-Teach-Kids-Share-27333250

Beth of Very Bloggy wrote a terrific post about teaching your kids to share and how to be very thoughtful about what lessons we’re teaching our kids about their entitlement. Beth brings to light that it’s a positive thing for your kid to learn to deal with the unpleasant feelings of disappointment or the need to be patient.  (Have I mentioned that I LOVE this post!?)

On her Facebook page, Beth also expands further on the post to clarify a few points such as the fact that most toddlers will share automatically, and that the specific scenarios she described in the blog post were significantly abbreviated.

It is such a challenge to maintain perspective about your own kid, because we are so heavily biased with intense love for them and a strong desire to give them anything they could possibly want.  Of course, most parents realize that giving in to that desire is not going to create a very balanced or healthy adult, but it exists nonetheless.  I like this gentle reminder to parents that it is equally important for your child to learn to deal with conflict as it is to enjoy the (fleeting) happiness that comes with getting what you want.

I would simply like to add that it is also important to balance these boundaries on sharing with a sense of generosity; if your kid is playing with a toy and entitled to it, they will experience something deeply gratifying if they choose to give it to someone who wants it.  For some kids, this comes naturally, and for others it is a struggle.

The church service we attend takes place in a gymnasium.  After the service, the kids run around the gym with bouncy balls and wreak havoc – it’s great!  My daughter is newly walking and yesterday was the first day that I allowed her to “run” around too – with my helicopter-self hovering behind to try to protect her from falling or being run into by the bigger kids.  She was delighted– her squeals and giggles were absolutely gleeful.  When she saw the other kids playing with balls, she wanted one of course.  The first little boy she approached wouldn’t give it to her, which was fine because he was playing with it. A five-year-old girl who is the daughter of some of our friends noticed my daughter wanted a ball, so she came over to her and gave her the one she was playing with.  My daughter was so excited by this, and when the other little girl saw how happy it made her, she was thrilled – probably made happier seeing my daughter’s delight at this new toy than she was just playing with the ball herself.

The adage, “In Giving, We Receive” puts it perfectly.  Yes – it is super important to teach your kids not to be doormats or/and entitled brats — but also, remember to teach your kids the joy of giving.  They’ll learn to be generous when you’re generous with them, but they will especially learn this lesson when you’re generous with others.  When they grow up into the successful, happy, prosperous adults we hope they will become, it will be their responsibility to care for of the needs of others who are not so lucky.

Mad Men Party // The Official How-To Guide to Throwing a Mad Men Party

My best pal Kelly orchestrated a groovy Mad Men Surprise 30th Birthday Party for her husband Steve yesterday (with a little help from me & my sweet husband).  It was a swanky shindig and a total blast.  Want to plan your own party?  Check out the gallery for some great inspiration… then pin and share!

Musings about naptime and other unpleasant things

Today my daughter’s nap was delayed.  We were enjoying coffee, conversation, and toddler chaos at our best buds’ house so instead of the usual 10:30ish, it was noon before she took her first nap of the day.  This isn’t the first time that’s happened, and it won’t be the last. 

Interestingly, despite the fact that she was MEGA tired, she fought going to sleep.  In one second she would lie her head down on my chest and snuggle in, and in the next she was flailing and crying, resisting this much-needed rest.

I wonder how often I do the same thing.

When I lie in bed after going to bed too late and make an excuse to look at Facebook for 10 minutes on my phone rather than just close my eyes.  When I add things to my plate that are unnecessary and then bemoan how busy I am.  When I procrastinate the project that’s weighing on me, even though I will feel total relief when it’s finished.  When I make excuses to not exercise, regardless of how awesome endorphins feel and how high my self-esteem is at the end.

Why do we resist things that are good for us, that we want?  It’s self-destructive, exhausting, and nonsensical.  Is it because something else is weighing on us, or is it a means of having control over something in our lives?  How do we learn the discipline that chooses the good things easily without doing it the hard way?


Freedom // thoughts on my daughter’s new-found independence

My baby has learned to crawl.

It’s funny, she has always been very strong – she was planting her feet and standing when I held her up as soon as she was born – she has wanted to take off for awhile.  Some of our friends’ babies who were born within a week of her were crawling a couple of months ago, and I was anxiously awaiting Eloise’s takeoff.  I wondered when she would finally crawl on her own, and yesterday she began.  Today, she has been doing it consistently.  In fact, right now she has embarked on our dining room for the very first time venturing outside of the living room where she’s been safely planted for the past 8 months of play time.

It comes as no surprise to me that today happened to also be one of her happiest days, as well.  She hasn’t cried hardly at all, she has been smiley, “talkative”, and bouncy.  

A friend of ours who has a daughter who, like Eloise, is very strong-willed and driven, gave me some very good advice early on: “She will be happier with each step toward independence she takes.” Already, this has proven true – from sitting, bouncing on her own in her jumperoo, and now to crawling – my baby who was so fussy and frustrated for months is blissfully happy as she rejoices in her ability to take control over this small piece of her life.

When you think about having a baby, you imagine a little creature with your husband’s eyes, your hair, his sense of humor, your strong opinions… you have this irrational idea that you have control over who they are, who they will become.  Then, you find out their gender and you gleefully celebrate this, the first piece of information about your little wonder, as you realize that you never had an ounce of control, all you can do is guide them.  

Today, I am celebrating who our Eloise is – a joyful, funny, driven, smart, strong, independent, little girl with a personality much bigger than her tiny body.  I’m celebrating with her as she is relishing her first steps away from me and into this world she will discover for herself, beginning with our dining room.

Marriage ≠ Settling // a response to “23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged…”

This morning, I read this blog post that has since gone viral on my newsfeed.


After reading it a few times, I feel decisively sad for the post’s author.  In summary, the author writes a post proudly proclaiming her “happiness” as a twenty-something single and criticizes her peers’ decisions to “settle down” by age 23 –

“I can’t help but feel like a lot of these unions are a cop-out.
It is a way for young people to hide behind a significant other instead of dealing with life’s highs and lows on their own. It’s a safety blanket. It’s an admission that the world is just too big and scary to deal with it on your own; thus, you now have someone that is legally obligated to support you till one of you dies or files for divorce.”

These criticisms are followed by a list of suggestions for things to do before age 23, such as “Make out with a stranger,” “Adopt a pet,” “Accomplish a Pinterest project,” and many other trite bucket list experiences the author considers greater than being in a committed relationship at a young age.

My problem is the author’s complete misunderstanding of marriage.  My husband and I dated for five and a half years before we got married – we were engaged for 1 1/2 of those.  He was 26, I was 24 on our wedding day.  At that time, I had completed several of the items on that list already, even in my limited scope as an Ohioan living in a very small town.  Even so, most of the greatest, most adventurous things I have done in my life have been with my husband — our marriage was not an ending, but the beginning of a life with someone who has expanded my world.

I have often felt stifled by the views of marriage portrayed in media – and not just the sexist ones.  My husband makes me a better person, and I make him a better person too (I struggle to identify even one television show or movie that demonstrates a healthy marriage).  We have moved to different cities, different states, traveled, tasted, listened, experienced – together.  I have also traveled, tasted, listened, and experienced things alone… and in those times, I have longed for him.  Not because I am so dependent on my husband, but because I love him and want to know his opinions, laugh at his wit and marvel at his intelligence (and of course there were other things about him I missed when we were apart).

If a jar of Nutella (and don’t get me wrong… I adore Nutella) is considered a bucket list item – shouldn’t married life have a shot at such a list?  I mean it when I say, you haven’t lived unless you’ve spent a weekend in the car racing to be the first to answer the questions on your trivia podcasts and eating crappy gas station food with the smartest, funniest guy you have ever known –  or spent a day marveling at the fact that this tiny little being you both brought into the world can now do miraculous things like use her hands or sit up — these are the happiest and most incredible moments of my life.  These are the things not to be missed – and, frankly, bring me so much more joy than any of the “top 23” ever did, or ever could.

I also recognize that my lifestyle is not one that everyone desires, will live, or even should.  I simply wish to say that it is rare that I see anyone talk about the good that comes with a good marriage.  So, if you can’t identify with this post because your life has not led you down the same path as mine, I honor that too and hope that you are living fully and finding your joy with the love you have in your life.

I am not promoting marrying young – I am promoting marriages that are full of life and full of variety. My husband and I are far from “settled,” even if it might look settled on the surface when you see our almost 5 year marriage, our house, and our baby.  We are only beginning to live!  My wish for you, dear reader, is that you live a full, joyful life on whatever path you’re on.

{Thanks for reading!}

Thoughts on Momma-hood

Photo by We Love Your Love Photography, (c) Colleen Shawk
Photo by We Love Your Love Photography, (c) 2013 – Colleen Shawk

I haven’t blogged since before Eloise was born.  In the meantime, the blog has gotten over 4000+ hits thanks to the post on the nursery’s chevron wall!  How nuts is that?

So, since the last post, we have continued to re-do the house, one room at a time.  We are nearly finished with our sun room.  I haven’t been taking “before” photos, because I don’t want to remember the ugly wallpaper when it’s all done!  But, I’ll write a post showing the different elements of my new voice studio/sunroom.

By and large, though, our lives have been completely centered around this beautiful little creature who has entered our lives.  We are captivated by her every moment – what a miracle she is!  It has been incredible seeing how much she can change day to day, and how much she has changed me.  Since we got our house and had our baby, I have been shocked by how obsessed I am with keeping our house clean!  In the past, cleaning was never on the top of my priority list, I’m embarrassed to say.  But knowing that she will be healthier and happier in a clean environment, not to mention that we’ve had many more visitors over since she was born, I am constantly cleaning!

I’m also staggered by how much just HAPPENS.  Like, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to nurse the baby because I had no frame of reference for my body producing milk.  And I worried I wouldn’t love her, because I was just meeting her.  And I worried I wouldn’t be able to function on so little sleep.  And a million other things — and it’s amazing because, everything just happened.  Just the way she was formed in my womb – these things were entirely outside of my control.

I have lots of posts I’d like to write soon about craft projects I’ve taken on, redecorating our almost century-old house, marriage, and motherhood, but I really felt that Eloise was due a post first since I’ve been long overdue to write.  So, expect more coming soon!

Everybody has an opinion // controversial post

syriaI was inspired by my friend Jim Baker’s blog post earlier today on the etiquette of social media in light of tense times (you should probably check out his blog anyway because it’s one of a very small handful I consistently read and it’s pretty great!)

I have been thinking a lot of my friends who live in Boston and how they might be feeling right now.  Some of them were at the marathon earlier that day.  My husband Mike actually completed his first marathon about a year and a half ago in Erie in right around the same finish time that the bombs went off.  Anytime you can fathom those most important to you being hurt (or worse) causes one to shudder.  This moment is one of those close calls for a lot of people, and a very sad reality for too many.  It is heartbreaking.

So what I’m about to say is in no way intended to diminish the reality of this situation – this is a bad thing and people are justified in feeling upset, scared, angry, and a host of other emotions.

The thing that nags at me is this: we as a country don’t respond to situations like this very well, especially in social media.  It seems like at first, everyone posts heartfelt messages of prayers and thoughts going out to people in a tense situation.  This is a good thing – people need to know in this situation that they’re not alone.  But then within a day or so, it becomes heavily tempered about political points of view, a sudden patriotism for some that seems so artificial or anti-patriotism for others blaming everything on the current leaders.  This is the point where we start to turn ugly.  What comes next, inevitably, are posts/comments treating whatever the tragedy as if it is the single worst thing that has ever happened in the entire world.

I’m bothered by each of these things for different reasons, but probably by the lack of perspective people have for what is going on in our world the most.  Millions of people spend every day in fear of terrorism that encompasses their every single day… and many of those people are living in fear because we are attacking them.

Senator Lists the Death Toll from US Drones at 4,700 People

We have killed THOUSANDS of people, including many, many innocent people.  The title of this article is a little misleading, though, because there isn’t really a count on how many people US drones have killed in the last decade – no one’s keeping track.  “Using the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s count, the U.S. has launched between 416 and 439 drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia since the U.S. first successfully weaponized an MQ-1 Predator a decade ago.”

This, in my opinion, is the worst thing in the world.  These attacks are happening and they’re happening as we continue to support them.

I’m really not trying to diminish what’s going on in Boston, or any of the other national tragedies we’ve experienced as of late – they are tragic and terrible and I hate them.  What I am trying to put into perspective is the reality that bombings like this are a regular thing on our planet and we only seem to take notice when it’s on our soil.

People in the Middle East where these attacks are happening spend every day living in a deeper fear than the Bostonians felt today, or than the residents of Newtown felt when school resumed.  But for some reason I’ll never understand, the social media response and the general vibe of our country is, “Who cares!  They’re not our people.”

Hold On // what I’m learning these days

Mike and I have been trying to buy a house for some time.  What we expected to be a slow process has sped up, and slowed down with many, many bumps in the road.  While we haven’t heard anyone say “Buying a house is easy!” or “My home purchase was so smooth and simple,” somehow we had the naive thought this might be.  But, nonetheless, we’re getting close to owning our home and we are very excited to soon be in the house we will bring our daughter to when we leave the hospital, and send our kids off to college from (we hope). 

In the meantime, I keep finding myself desperately hung up on some concerns that should be minor, but feel so major at the time.  One day it was that I didn’t know how we would afford the necessary items for our baby like a crib and a car seat, another it was concerns about childcare (well, that worry lasted a little longer than a day), and yet another it was that we were being totally irresponsible by trying to do everything at once.  And the thing I keep learning throughout all of this time is to HOLD ON.  Every single one of these worries was completely washed away in a few days after praying about it and releasing control.  Every. single. one.

Funny thing is, I knew they would be, even when I was frantic.  What I’ve been learning is the patience and waiting part – that just because something hasn’t happened in this moment, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.  This is big – I’m a glutton for instant gratification.  Something tells me that God is tempering me to be a parent, a better wife, and a better employee. 

{do tell!}

Have you already been learning this lesson in your life? How?