Be Real

By the time I was nearing my blog break I was a blogging machine. I was writing every single day and had learned how to anticipate, plan & write a post that would attract the most attention. It was as if I could form my life to nestle itself perfectly into a poignant piece of writing.  By the way, those days are so far from my grasp. If only the words would flow like butter.  Yet back in my blogging-magic days, I would wake up thinking about some something or other and somehow I would figure out how to craft said something or other into my day. I would think and plan and think some more. I was so good at planning that even before I took the picture, somehow my daily photos perfectly arranged themselves into my post.  So perfectly arranged were my photos that before taking them I could see the exact moment to take them.  Thank goodness for the days where life knocked me on my ass and I could not plan. Thank God for the times I was forced to be real.  Thank the Lord for that one day when my young son decided to finger paint all over the playroom walls, I mean, finger paint with the poop he had retrieved with his bare hands from his diaper. Best blog post ever! And guess what?  It was real! Those real days, as gross as they are, are more like my day-to-day then the moments I planned. Planning was my escape.

And with a big smack of reality I can honestly say, one of the most prominent reasons I stopped blogging was because I was not happy with the machine I had become. I was detached and disconnected from the humans that were a warm touch away.  I was preoccupied with listening and observing. I watched and waited for the good stuff. Impatient back then, I now wonder how many moments I forced into my words and pictures.

Then, just the other day, I was talking with a friend about all the crafty bloggers, and as an example, the Mormon Mommy Bloggers — a group, because of my background, I am very familiar with.  After talking it through, I began to see a pattern. I do not think I am the only one who has planned for the perfect moment or at least not the only one who has manufactured moments for my blog. Ouch! Did I really just admit that about myself and make a similar assumption about others?  I mean, why does all that food always look so perfect on the foodie blogs? Why are the birthday parties with accompanying dessert buffets, vibrant colors, and pictures shot with the perfect amount of depth-of-field so completely stunning?

See, and for example, Mormon Women tend to be crafty, which is simply inherent in their culture.  Often these very crafty and well educated women are stay-at-home moms, who, like me, are home raising their kids.  The simple fact that you are a stay-at-home would indicate to some a need for a distraction or better, something to keep you from going crazy while home alone with your gaggle of children.  In 1995, it was scrap booking — hours and hours spent making just the right scrap book page. I remember a friend at the time. She had three children then (now has five). She fondly told me how she spent twelve hours working on one scrap book page.  I wanted to know what her kids were doing while she scrap booked.  And once I blogged with tiny children, I knew exactly what her kids were doing. While she sat in a room with her scrap books, like I did with my laptop, her children were entertaining themselves. Is that really a bad thing?  She stressed to me the point that she wanted the scrap book perfect for her children. “When they grow up, they will know how much I cared.”  I know people still scrap book, however, we also have this amazing ability to scrap book on the internet, so-to-speak.

And then I ask the obvious questions, “Is it possible that today’s Mommy Bloggers are yesterday’s scrap bookers and the generations before . . . ?”  Your kids can be running crazy, but if you can write about them, get distracted and post the most wonderful picture of a birthday party or something you handmade, well, then you have something to fill that empty and crazy space in your head.  You also can show the world what a loving mother you are.  Am I close?  I think it is about self worth, fitting in and being the best.  We all want to be validated. And speaking to the ladies out there, maybe we as a species do what we need to do (plan, adjust) to receive the most in return.  When people read your blog and see all of your beautiful pictures, does it really matter that your kids absolutely melted down at their birthday party? I’m not really sure.

And while I was thinking about all of this I thought about that time we went to Moab. I was sad and depressed. It was October 2006. I could not plan a perfect moment if I tried. With the wind knocked out of me those perfect moments happened on their own. Instead of standing on the sidelines and thinking it through, with the most loving encouragement of Kat & Erynn, I took a deep breath and decided to join in. Towards the end of our weekend, the Dads and the extremely pregnant mom were off four-wheeling while the other mom and I were back at the condo with all the kids.  It was hot. There was a collection of mud from sprinkler run-off just outside. Once outside,  it started with running through the sprinklers. Then, it was the shedding of the clothes down to the underwear.  There were giggles, dares and enormous enormous all-in efforts to not land in the mud. (Ok, you know they all totally wanted to land in the mud.)  There was the first slip, then the second and then the boys were covered, covered in sloppy, red, desert mud.  Kyle, Eli & their friend each picked up a clump of the brown and slimy stuff. Splat. The mud hit with reckless abandon.  Over and over again the mud smacked all over their tiny boy bodies.  There were giggles and threats. The little girls ran far away, avoiding even the tiniest drop of mud. And then, I could see it. Kyle had a plan. In a split second he snuck up and threw the most enormous mud clod right in Eli’s face.  There was snot. There were tears, there was a lot of anger and it was beautiful. The snot & mud combo running down Eli’s face is one of my all time favorite moments and I got the shot! It only took seconds for him to snap out of it and then he moved on to the smiley, happy boy having the blissful-Martha-Stewart-Themed Mud Fight. I get it. As comfortable as those ugly, awkward moments are, they can also end up being the most amazing.  What’s wrong with posting a child having a meltdown or a burnt birthday cake?  Those things are real. I challenge all of us to be real, not planned, real, but real real!


16 thoughts on “Be Real

  1. You are so right! I think the trend towards “everything organic” should not just apply to food, you know? I sometimes wonder (and I’m not a blogger, I just have tons of other sh*t to do!), if my constant multitasking teaches my kids how NOT to focus.
    It’s funny that you bring this up…having worked in reality TV in the past, I know that it went from being more documentary to practically scripted to, well lets face it: completely scripted. The public seems to have figured that one out, though. Maybe not so much the blogs – they seem to be more of a “last bastion.” Even fashion magazines have been “outed” for photoshopping every image. While making things beautiful is not bad, presenting an image that ultimately, secretly makes someone feel inadequate is unhealthy – for both parties. REAL is beautiful. Just ask the Velveteen Rabbit.

  2. Great story Beth! A good reminder that along with the smiles and perfectly staged photos we’re all perfectly real and not alone.

  3. I have always loved the honesty of your blog, but I do get what you are saying about planning/posts/reality. I think in this day and age of INSTANT EVERYTHING it is often a challenge to live in the moment and take it all in (as you did with the mud fight). I know that as a mom I struggle with this.

    How is Kyle doing? Been thinking of you and I was glad to see your post today!

  4. You nailed it! I have never had time to do any of the crafty scrapbooks, blogging, and my family photo gallery is need-less-to-say lacking. Why?….um perhaps because I was busy dealing with the messes and melt-downs that come along with raising kids as a single mom. Thanks for taking the pressure off 🙂

  5. I know several people who have perfectionitis. One lady I know bristled at the suggestion that she could cut corners on making a Halloween costume by putting in velcro rather than a zipper and leave the edges unfinished. She retorted, “We’re making memories here.” I knew I would be of no assistance to her at that point.

    Personally, I think the making of memories is in the imperfect moments. The most memorable experiences in my life rose from difficulty and lack. And because my mother did not scrapbook, I do not have her interpretation of my life. I have my own. I wouldn’t trade that for the world. Few things infuriate me more than having people tell me how I am supposed to remember or interpret events. (yes, it’s a rather dim view of scrapbooking for your children). I’d rather just take pictures and, when the kids look at them, tell me what they remember about that day.

    As for dealing with messes and meltdowns, I have become a bit removed from those days. I seem to remember rabbiting myself away back when I was in the midst of them, hoping the kids would figure things out for themselves, so I can’t point fingers and scoff with a haughty attitude like I do with pretty much everything else.

    I do blog, but I don’t think I’m a crafty blogger. I like to think I am a whatever-blogger; I do it mostly so family members who live far away don’t have to feel so far away. And I love to blog about messes. Especially those caused by cranberry juice or lemonade spilled in the kitchen that drips through the floorboards to the bathroom ceiling below.

  6. Ok, OtherB, I know you get it because we talk about this stuff all the time. Yes, REAL is beautiful & if i am really honest with all of you, I must admit I love looking at those craft blogs. Maybe it’s the photographer in me. I know what it takes to get a really good shot. Sometimes it is luck. Most of the time it is a well planned, well metered, perfectly set ISO and then snap. Oh wait! What I really meant is THEN there is Photoshop where you can make wrinkles, double chins & acne disappear in a flash.

    Pretty is fun to look at. Scripted, well, don’t a lot of us “script” our days by planning things down to the minute? And the REAL, well, the REAL helps me feel like I am not alone!

  7. Andrea, Again. I love your words. Yes, I was honest, but also a machine. I think there is a fine line and I think at times I crossed it. I agree. It is hard to live in the moment. As I watched a parade this past weekend, I kept planning my shots and anticipating how they would be received on Instagram. It’s the truth!

    Thank you for asking about Kyle. He is currently good and we are still figuring things out. Thank you for being glad to see me!

  8. Thank you Jody! Your comment means a lot. What you have is your amazing voice, your beautiful jewelry and you capacity to be who you are. Even in high school you seemed way more in touch with yourself, which is such a lovely quality. And as a single mom, I completely respect what you do and quite frankly I think you are a rock star!

  9. One of my favorite movies at this time of year is Home for the Holidays with Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr. After a completely disastrous family Thanksgiving dinner, one of the characters ask what the point of all that was. The answer? There is no point. It’s just about the experience, at that time, in that moment, with those people. And sometimes you don’t even need pictures for the memory. You just look at that other person and you both just KNOW. Lovely post, Beth.

  10. Sara, You are a brilliant person and a fantastic writer. hear you on the rabbiting and really have no place to judge. I observe. I love how you make memories (in the imperfect moments) and love that you are so free and open with your kids. I can tell you are a good mama and your kids are lucky that you are their’s. Thank you for coming over and posting on my blog. You are awesome!

  11. Kim, you are always so insightful. I agree. It is all about the experience. Sometimes I just need to remind myself of the fact. It is too easy for me to get distracted in my own thoughts or hide behind the lens. Thank you for the feedback!

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