Why I briefly broke my 30-day Facebook detox (and no, it wasn’t to vent about a fast food restaurant.)

I’ll confess!

Turn off the interrogation lights!

This week I logged on to Facebook, briefly breaking my 30-day detox.

I know.

I’m a total fraud.

But, wait!

Let me explain.

Here is how it all started: without logging onto Facebook, I looked at the Today Show Parenting Team’s Facebook page this week, out of curiosity, and discovered one of my posts I had submitted on the community, had been shared. It had 38 comments and 240 shares.

The post, entitled “A Pregnancy Loss is A Loss No Matter How Small” was about my early pregnancy loss, which was caused by a blighted ovum. The post focused on the feeling by some women that they don’t feel they have a right to mourn an early pregnancy loss. In  reality they do, because that pregnancy, no matter how brief, represented their idea of what was to be. And because that pregnancy was the start of a life that ended too soon.

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Some of the comments on the post were so heartbreaking that I wanted to show the grieving mothers support so I hesitantly broke my Facebook detox simply to try to offer them some words of comfort. A couple days later I checked on the post to see if any other women had commented and discovered my post had also been shared on the Today Show’s main Facebook page and there were now 408 comments, 2,652 shares and over 11,000 reactions. I was flabbergasted and knew I couldn’t comment to all those women so I just read most of the comments and cried at how many of them had been told they had no right to mourn such early losses.

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I just couldn’t imagine not offering some words of comments to these hurting moms, especially one who had lost a baby only a couple of days before she commented. She had been 32-weeks along. My daughter, my rainbow baby, was born at 37 weeks. I can’t imagine being so close to full term and losing a child. I have at least two friends who have lost children later in the pregnancy and it breaks my heart to think of the pain they suffered during that time. It breaks my heart even further to imagine they may be afraid to talk about those losses because we live in a society where miscarriages can be so easily dismissed, especially if the loss is early in the pregnancy.

I want those women to be able to share their feelings. I know I blogged about my feelings here and under the Today Show’s Parenting Team challenge to share about a pregnancy loss, but the whole situation is still difficult to talk about.

There was a lot going on in our family during that time in addition to the loss. It was a whirlwind of emotions and confusion and rejection and part of me shut down after the miscarriage. There was some shame mixed in because the pregnancy came during a marriage trial.I worried some might think the pregnancy came to try to save the marriage when that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Even now I feel myself cringing inside as my fingers hit the keyboard. Despite having a personal blog, I’m not a person who thrives on sharing intimate thoughts or feelings, even if I think the sharing might help bring comfort to someone else.

What I hope the post the Today Show shared will do is help grieving moms have the courage to speak about how their pregnancy loss made them feel and ultimately understand they are not alone.

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When you slowly let go of what everyone thinks of you

000001_DSC_5255When I saw the notification on my smartphone screen and read the first few words I knew the message wasn’t going to be a fun one to read. I dreaded opening that message and maybe I should have ignored it, but instead I decided to bite the bullet and read a scolding I had expected to come in the form of a phone call instead.

The words on the page were a surprise to me, full of accusations I hadn’t expected.  In the past an encounter like this would have sent me spiraling into a deep depression and a long period of self doubt. The fact I cried uncontrollably for two hours, versus four, and only flew off into a rage-induced rant twice after the incident is something I count as progress, even if others wouldn’t.

And the fact I never even answered the person, but instead deleted the message and blocked them from my social media so I could regroup and cool down? That’s a complete about turn from my reactions of the past.

There I was, reading something written to me by someone who was hurt and had misunderstood, and I found my emotions mixed. My first reaction was the familiar anger that sets in when I feel as if I am being attacked. Then I felt sad and like I had done something wrong. I wanted to gush out an admission of my guilt, like I usually do, even though I knew at least one thing they were upset by was a complete misunderstanding.

This time, though, the anger, depression and guilt was soon replaced with a sense of unexpected calm and a feeling that what was said wasn’t going to change my mind about the decision made.While I once would doubt a decision, or even change it, based on criticism from someone, this time I didn’t let my resolve waiver. I knew what we had done was in the best interest of our family and I wasn’t going to let that decision be shaken by what someone else thought of me.

It isn’t that I am unwilling to admit my wrong in a situation, but I’ve spent far too much of my life believing I need to change who I am, or the decisions I’ve made, based on the opinions of someone else.

It’s definitely hard when we feel the judgments of others and know that somewhere out in the universe is someone who isn’t a fan of us. But in reality it doesn’t matter if other humans aren’t our fans. We all know we aren’t perfect and that the only opinion that  really matters is the opinion of The One who created us.

DSC_8419To be able to see progress within ourselves is so satisfying, even when we know we have so much more to learn and so many more positive changes to make. Most of us are never satisfied with who we are. We often think we’ll never improve, or bid farewell to some of our more annoying character flaws.

We won’t change or improve overnight. God knows this. He only wants us to take steps, small ones even, to become more like Him.

“Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth,” pastor and author Rick Warren says. “Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life.”

Paul wrote often about the process of becoming like Christ, knowing that we will stumble and fall, just at the disciples did, even as they walked with Christ on Earth.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.

Philippians 3:13-14

We often look ahead at how far we have to go in our journey, but we rarely look back and see how far we’ve come. While we don’t want to dwell on the past, it doesn’t hurt to recognize the progress we have made along our journey.

Maybe we aren’t where we want to be, but if we are making small steps toward improvement, then we should acknowledge the progress, no matter how small.000000_DSC_6000

 

Faithfully thinking: Don’t base your value on the fake world of photography

Photography today is creating what isn’t real. It’s manipulation of you, the viewer. That beautiful scene with that family in an open field with amazing sun?

Nine times out of ten that’s not real. It was edited in Photoshop.

The power lines were painted out, the sun flare was added with an overlay and that kid who photo bombed the whole thing was quickly and quietly dispatched with the gesture of the mouse and click of a few keyboard commands like the photographer mafia.

That little girl sitting on a box, in a perfect white room, no clutter, no mess, no toys scattered around her, enjoying the wind of the fan blowing in her face?

Also fake.

The toys were pushed to one side, or brushed away via editing software.

Fake.

Fake.

Fake.

And more fake.

Much of what you see in the photography world is fake.

It is airbrushed.

It is whitewashed.

It is cloned out and over.

It’s made to look pretty because people like pretty.

 

People like fake.

People like fake so they don’t have to face reality.

The problem is that even when a person knows it’s fake they tell themselves it’s real.

They compare and contrast their life with the fake.

Their house isn’t that clean.

Their kids aren’t that well dressed.

Their walls aren’t that white.

Their sink isn’t that clean.

The pictures in their frames aren’t that professional.

Their life isn’t that perfect.

Newsflash: no one else’s is either.

They just don’t want you to know.

I found myself awake too early after a long night helping my oldest with a stuffy nose and watering eyes, caught up in the popularity game of social media. Because that’s what it is – a game. An attempt to fit in with the popular kids, to be in the “in crowd”.

I was playing the game hard.

And I was losing. Hard.

I didn’t have as many likes, as many followers, as many comments.

Maybe I was posting at the wrong time.

Maybe I needed to network more.

Maybe I needed to edit differently.

Maybe I needed to kiss some more virtual butt.

To me the lack of likes and comments was equating to not being good enough, not being talented enough, not being important enough, just not being enough.

Because I don’t feel good enough as a mom and a home keeper (seriously, God, are you sure this is where you want me? I am horrible at keeping a house clean!)

I have found myself second guessing all my photography, my edits, thinking constantly abit how others edit and that If I don’t shoot or edit the way they do then I won’t fit in, I won’t sell with stock photography, I won’t measure up.

I really wish more people would stop trying to make themselves look enough.

That I would stop trying to make myself look and feel enough.

God says I am enough but because I stare at a phone or computer screen too much I don’t hear him.

I can’t hear him over the shouts of “Keep up! Keep up!!” In my head.

The demands to make my house look like her house.

To dress my children the way she does.

To edit photos like he does.

To write like her.

Cook like her.

Look like her.

Pray like her.

Trust God like them.

Hear God speaking to me daily like him.

Know God’s purpose for my life like her.

To speak positivity and prosperity over my life and have it all change in two weeks like the lady on that podcast.

Over and over and over those thoughts spin in my head.

There is only one way to silence them: recognize you are NOT THEM.

God has a unique plan for each of us.

Each plan is unique because each person is unique.

Stop playing the game.

Stop comparing.

Stop trying to be what you see in the pictures.

And by you I mean “me too.”

 

See beyond the shine and know that there is dirt.

You can’t see the mother crying just outside the frame, worrying she dressed her children “wrong” and her photos won’t look as nice as her sister-in-law or cousins or friend’s photos.

You can’t see the dad feeling inadequate because he works 50 hours a week but is still deep in debt.

You can’t see the toddler who threw a tantrum; the teenager who feels less than and rejected; the grandparents who only see their grandchildren in photographs because their daughter has been angry at them for years for things they apologized for over and over.

But really?

You can see all of that.

You can see all of it.

Because when you look at that pretty photograph, know that in it are real people in a fake scene.

Real people who struggle, who hurt, who cry, who suffer, who want to be loved and who are loved by the same God who loves you

The yard sale and the lonely old man

I was inside when he pulled up to our yard sale. My son and husband were outside with him but I stepped out to see if he had any questions about the items he was looking at. He did but only about a film camera I was selling, which turned out to be his launching point for telling stories about his life.

“I took photos a long time ago, when I was in Korea in the service. Of course I traveled other places too. I have a box of color slides at home. My son takes photos, he knows more about these things than I do. You say it still works?”

It did, that I knew of, but had been passed down to me from someone else. I always told myself I was going to learn how to shoot film, but I’d never got there and had decided it was time to give up and sell the cameras, one of which had a broken lever.

Before I knew it and without speaking much at all myself, I learned the hunched over older man was 88, had flown planes for years, had traveled the world, had lost his wife in 2009, and had almost remarried two years ago.

As we talked I realized I knew the man but thankfully he didn’t remember me at all.

It was one of those times I was happy to see someone suffering from the ill mental effects of old age. I had written a feature story on him in my old life as a small town newspaper reporter and had been quite proud of the story of a war veteran and local hero who had established a fundraiser for cancer research with his wife in memory of their son. He wasn’t as impressed. His lack of praise for the article didn’t come from inaccurate information I had presented but the fact I had made him look “too good.”

Apparently I had idealized him too much and given him so much positive coverage he felt embarrassed and humiliated, as if he had been bragging about himself. So there I stood one day, in the front of the office of the small town paper I worked for, listening as he scolded me for saying too many nice things about him. I didn’t even know how to respond, other than to silently consider digging up some nasty dirt on him to balance out the portrayal.

This annoyed response to a positive article actually wasn’t the only of its kind for me. A few years before that the mom of a friend had told me the same about an article I wrote on their dairy farm. My personal affection for what I saw as an idyllic rural upbringing transferred the story, in her opinion, into an unrealistic view of their world and made it appear that she and her family were perfect, when she knew they weren’t.

Again, I was stumped. After these incidents if I began to second guess positive feature stories I wrote, wondering if should throw in some negative antidotes about the subject or ask them to provide me with some personal failings to flush out the story and make them look less appealing as a human being. I tried my best after those complaints to never make a person look “too good” again.

The man at the yard sale talked away, saying my name sounded familiar, thought he knew someone with my last name (he does and it’s me and my husband, who he’s also been interviewed by for another story about the fundraising event held in memory of the man’s late son.).

“I used to have one of these. Took photos when I was in the Air Force,” he says, the camera strap hooked around his neck now. “I’ve got some old color slides in my attic. Korea and Greece and places like that. My son knows about cameras. He takes photos. He lives over in South Waverly. Just down the road here.”

Each item he looked at seemed to trigger another thought.

“I almost got remarried a couple years ago. I knew her in high school or course. We used to go to the roller rink. She got married and has some kids and so did I. My wife, Joan, she died in 2009 and her husband had died. She would pull up in front of house and I’d go out and we’d talk. Well one night I went to hug her and she pulled away and said “what are you doing? I’m not a hugger.’ I said to myself ‘well, that’s that, because I’m a hugger.'”

He talked away, about nothing and everything.

I listened because I knew he needed someone to listen.

Even though he didn’t remember me or know that I knew him, I did remember and I did know.

I knew he was alone in a tiny little house he’d once shared with his wife and his twin boys and a daughter. I knew one boy had died from cancer as a teenager.

I knew his life had been hard, full of pain, but also joy. I knew he was humble and didn’t like anyone to think he thought he was better than anyone else.

I knew he needed to talk and he needed someone to really listen because really it’s what we all want – someone to really listen when we talk and not just listen, but really hear.

I told him to stop by and show me the photos he took with the camera. He said my address out loud a couple of times, to commit it to a memory slowly failing him and promised he’d stop by again.

He crossed our busy street, back to his van, and we waved our goodbyes.

I didn’t know if he’d remember me later, or even the conversation we’d had that day, but I was glad to have been someone who listened to stories of his past on that summer day.

Mud, leg bruises and fun

I picked up my 10 year old son  the last day of camp and found him covered in mud and smiling – just the way I like to see him.

He attends a day camp about 45 minutes from our house in rural Bradford County, Pa. for a week each June.

Stoney Point Camp is literally in the middle  of nowhere, or at least it would be considered the middle of nowhere to anyone not originally from Northern Pennsylvania.

Someone from this county is used to dirt roads that lead to camps deep in the woods or sometimes to another dirt road and sometimes to an empty field.

The camp is full of Christian-based adventure and the day camp offers activities related to Christ and wildlife. They also offer horsemanship and teen camps throughout the summer.

Each day my son learned about wildlife, nature and God, which sounds like a good way to spend a summer day to me.

He spent two nights away from us at his  friend’s house because our friends live less than ten minutes from the camp and it was easier on those days to have them take him with them. My friend is also one of the art instructors at the camp.

I won’t lie, we missed him terribly while he was gone. 

We missed his laughter and the way he can make even the gloomiest day seem brighter.

He’s never been big on sleep overs, taking after his mom and preferring to spend his evenings home in the familiar so he was ready to come home on that final day, he said, even though he’d had fun with his friend.

We weren’t sure how Little Miss would handle her brother not being home since she’s so used to him being there every night. She handled his absence better than I thought, but did ask each night before bed where he was. The day we were ready to pick him up after his sleep over, I asked if she was excited to go get him, expecting a “yes!” but instead she said “No. I’m not excited anymore.” 

I guess the process of preparing to head out the door to pick him up had eroded her anticipation.

But she was excited when we finally had him in our van and headed home for the day, stopping by an ice cream stand, complete with a climbable wooden pirate ship and a small playground, on our way home.

Jealousy, lost dreams and love

I scroll down the page and my heart sinks. Here I am again, feeling left out and less than.

A group of photographers met up and their meeting was full of creative opportunities. They’re all sharing photos and gushing about the chance to expand their artistic wings.

Comments on each other’s photos range from “amazing!” To “outstanding”. My photo, posted five hours ago, has three pity likes and no comments. In some ways I feel like I’m in high school again.

I look around my room

Our washer just died and I’ll most likely be packing up the laundry to visit the local laundry mat the next day.

The cat is screaming and I’m threatening to throw her in the street if she wakes up the kids. My bedroom is a mess and I know I need to add cleaning it to my list of chores. There are groceries to buy, diapers to change, playgrounds to visit, bills to pay.

Artistic outings aren’t a reality in my world.

I feel the envy rising up.

The comparison game is being played.

The dreams never realized are on my mind again, long after I thought I had succeeded in pushing them into the box marked “failed ventures. Move forward and don’t look back.”

It’s days like this that remind me social media breaks are needed and necessary and welcomed. To stop the voices, the comparing, the wishing, the envy and the hurt.

I look around me and my children are asleep next to me. The cat has finally stopped screaming and she’s asleep at the end of the bed.

I’ve been reading more about God and His plans for our lives.

I’ve been claiming His healing, listening for His voice.

I don’t know why some of my dreams were never realized or why I always seem to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the photography circle, but I know I am a child of the one true king, a mother to two amazing children, and success isn’t defined by accolades or attention but by love.

And I am loved.

And so are you.

Real life parenting moments

I’m in the kitchen trying to perfect a Ree Drummond recipe but every few moments my oldest is shouting that the cat is on his Lego table knocking pieces off to smack around on the floor or the youngest is holding an empty bowl and asking me when she can have “port top” (pork chop).

She’s looking up at me like a child from Oliver Twist, big green eyes, pitiful and pleading. One would think she hadn’t eaten in days, instead of five minutes before when her cheeks were full of apples.

Let’s be honest, I know I’m no Ree Drummond, whose children aren’t under foot when she cooks, or at least when she films for her show, but it would be nice to have at least twenty minutes uninterrupted to try to complete a new recipe (incidentally one of the Pioneer Woman’s. I had to leave out the grits because I’m allergic to corn.).

If I only have two children and a cat interrupting me then I have no idea how parents with more than two children cook, although they might have the benefit of an extra parent to help out. Extra help is rarely a luxury here thanks to my husband’s late afternoon to late night schedule and most of the time I really don’t mind.

On this day the ultimate interruption came between cooking the apple part of the recipe and browning the pork chops.

I heard the footsteps and the words before I even looked away from the cast iron pan the chops were sizzling in.

“Mama. I jus’ poop!”

I remember at that moment how Jonathan told me earlier his sister had stripped down naked. And sure enough she’s standing before me in her natural state pointing toward – not the bathroom – but the dining room.

“What do you mean you pooped? In the potty? You pooped in the potty?”

I knew she didn’t poop in the potty. Call it a intuition. Call it a horrible dreading feeling in the pit of my stomach.

“No. Right der. ” She was still pointing in the dining room.

“Where?” I asked, somewhat frantic to find “it” before my or my son’s feet did.

“Der! Under table!”

And indeed it was there.

Under the table.

Looking much different than it does squished in against her little tush in her diaper.

Yes, be thankful this is one of those life moments I didn’t photograph.

Unlike other similar events in the past (though this was the first pooping on the floor incident) I was able to stay calm and instead of asking “what were you thinking?!”because she wasn’t, because she’s two, I kept myself calm and used this as a learning experience for us both.

I ushered her into the bathroom and reminded her that was where we went when we had to poop, not under the dining room table.

She sat on the potty but let me know she didn’t have anymore poop left so I suggested she pee, which she did.

We celebrated and then I made sure she was instantly clad in a diaper before I let her loose in the house again.

I mentally committed to quickly respond with running to her with a diaper if I ever heard again, “Gracie just took all her clothes off.”

And despite all the interruptions, I managed not to burn dinner.