My Frenemies: Diet Coke and Facebook

 

5.23.16

Ever since high school, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Diet Coke. Despite its truly terrible taste, I’ve craved this cold, sweet and carbonated source of caffeine for more than two decades. When I was in college at KU, I loved taking study breaks and driving to Kwik in my roommate’s convertible for a 32-ounce fountain drink. I’d bring my refillable plastic cup, plop down 49 cents and leave with a genuine sense of happiness. Over the years, I’ve cut back on my Diet Coke consumption and at times eliminated it completely. But, there are moments of weakness when I miss my old “frenemy.”

If I’m honest with myself, I know that anything with that many artificial ingredients cannot be good for me. I know that although it has zero calories, it increases my hunger and makes me feel bloated. I know that I’m healthier without it as a daily habit…

I recently realized that I have a similar relationship with Facebook. I love it because it makes me feel connected to friends that live across the country. I’ve enjoyed watching the kids from our old playgroups in North Carolina grow from preschoolers into fifth and sixth graders. I feel closer to my Facebook friends who live in different parts of the country than to those who I only connect with via Christmas cards each year.

On the other hand, I know that Facebook can be a little fake; some friends portray a perfect life rather than an authentic one. It can also be hurtful; I’ve had my own feelings genuinely bruised by seemingly innocent photographs depicting  birthday parties and get together that excluded one of my kids or even me. And, although I celebrate my friends’ achievements, it can make me feel inadequate…like I’m just not quite measuring up to my accomplished friends with incredibly talented offspring…

For all of these reasons, I decided to give up Facebook and to “go dark” last January. It was a little bit like giving up Diet Coke; at first, I really missed it and felt out of the loop…I didn’t know what to do with my iPhone when I was caught up on e-mail and still waiting in one of my many carpool lines… But, over time I stopped missing it and realized that my life was richer because I had more time to write and to focus on actual connections with close friends.

I recently set up a Facebook page for GratefulandAuthentic.com, so I found myself back on Facebook. The experience has felt a lot like pulling away from Kwik with a 32 ounce cup of Diet Coke: I feel happy to reconnect and follow the highlights of my friends’ lives and to read the inspirational articles that they share. But, I also feel a little bit conflicted because I know that it may not always be good for my heart.

I am an “all or nothing” kind of person. But the farther I travel along my life’s path, the more I understand that not everything needs to be consumed in extremes or eliminated completely. It’s okay to allow yourself an occasional treat (in the form of a Diet Coke or Facebook session), but too much of anything can turn a positive into a negative – it’s all about moderation.

Can you relate?  What are your frenemies?

 

Treasure or Trash?

5.16.16

I spent my childhood chasing golden trophies, wooden plaques and blue ribbons. The bookcase in my old bedroom was lined with gleaming statuettes of poised swimmers and golfers; my bulletin board displayed ribbons and medals, each one representing countless hours of hard work and determination. As a young girl, I considered these awards to be my most prized possessions.

My parents are in the process of downsizing, so I spent this past weekend trying to pack all of the remnants of my childhood into a single tote that will go into my own basement (where it will likely collect dust for the next 30 years). I approached the project with the attitude that I would simply put all of my old stuff into the dumpster and move on with my day; my own storage room is a disorganized mess and the thought of adding anything else to this massive project is overwhelming.

However, as I started to sort through the boxes labeled “Kara,” I found it difficult to separate the memories from the things. I found myself saving essays written by my fourth grade self about what my life would look like when I grew up. (It included long-forgotten dreams of living in New York City with my handsome husband and adopted twins; I did not want to have kids.) I lost track of time as I went through my elementary school class photos, looking at all of the young, familiar faces of old friends and beloved teachers. And, I felt joy as I discovered my long-lost, complete set of Garbage Pail Kids! The idea of consolidating my childhood into a single box suddenly seemed draining.

So, I started with my big, bulky trophies and tossed them into the trash bin. Next, my plaques and a large zip lock bag filled with ribbons from my old swim team. It made me a little sad to see them go, but I realized that they had served their purpose and that I really don’t have space for them in my life.

As I prioritized what would stay and what would go, I found myself placing more value on my childhood journey than my accomplishments. I couldn’t part with the Garbage Pail Kids that I spent countless recesses trading with my best friend Kelly, my reflective essays with thoughtful comments by Mr. Hall (my favorite English teacher), or a single photograph. I know that there is value in setting goals and working towards them, but the real treasures of my childhood don’t include any awards for “Best Sportsmanship” or “Hardest Worker.” The real treasures of my childhood are simply childhood itself: The friends I made, the time I spent with family and the love that was given and received…all things that cannot fit in a box.

I hope that I can keep this perspective as I coach my kids through their young lives. Yes, it’s important to work hard and to maximize your potential…to set goals and to go after them. But, it’s equally important to enjoy the journey: To develop close friendships and to foster relationships with family. Because in a blink, they’ll be sorting through their own dusty boxes from my basement and wondering if their childhood treasures are trash or antiques?!?

 

5 Lessons My Mom Unintentionally Taught Me

5.8.16

When my oldest was in the throes of the “terrible twos,” I went to his pediatrician seeking advice and perhaps a self-help book recommendation or two. His response? “Don’t worry, he will be fine. Great parents are positive role models. They teach kindness, good manners and healthy habits by example. He will watch and learn. It really is that simple.”

I left his office feeling both relieved and intimidated. I had just been handed a prescription for a lifetime of good behavior (no pressure).

On Mother’s Day, I find myself reflecting on his advice and considering all of the things that I learned from my own mom, just by observing the way she lives her life.  Here are five life lessons she taught me (in no particular order):

Be Generous.  I was raised by a mom who always fought her friends for the bill; I never saw her offer to split anything. As a kid, I thought this was how it was done. As an adult, I can see that she’s exceptional. I love that she taught me that it’s more important to give than to receive.

My mom is also generous with her time.  As a young girl, I loved having her volunteer at my school; she was a regular room mother and served as the Community Club President.  I grew up watching her volunteer in our community, supporting local non-profits that were important to her.  She taught me that you can make the world a better place; you just have to go out and do it.

Be Proud.  I remember watching my mom carefully print “homemaker” as her occupation, when filling out paperwork for school or the doctor. At the time, I wondered why she didn’t write “stay-at-home mom” or leave it blank? Now that I stay home with my own kids and struggle to do everything well, I appreciate the pride that she took in her title. She was the one who made our house a home that was welcoming, tidy, organized and always stocked with nutritious food and fresh laundry. Without her love and devotion, it really would just be a house.

Pray.  I think one of the most challenging things about being a mom is that as much as you want your kids to succeed, you can’t do it for them. I was the child that constantly put myself out there. I wanted to be president of my elementary school’s student council. I wanted to be the lead in the school musical, despite my complete lack of talent. I wanted to win the district speech contest year after year… I think my mom would have been more comfortable with me avoiding risk and any chance of disappointment, but she supported and encouraged me…and she prayed for me A LOT. She taught me that I should work hard and pray hard.

Shop Sales.  My mom made shopping a game. The goal: to achieve the greatest value while spending as little as possible. She taught me to shop sales and to clip coupons. To this day, I rarely purchase anything that is not on sale or the best price available. My dad, who is an avid golfer, explained it this way: “For your mom, finding a really good deal is like getting a birdie or eagle; it generates the same amount of excitement. Bargain hunting is like a sport for the women in our family.”

Collect Friends. When my husband first met my mom, he commented: “Your mom has incredible social graces.” He’s correct. Rather than collecting trophies, my mom collects friends. She treasures old friendships, while expanding her circle to include new ones. She keeps their social calendar full, which makes her heart happy. For her, relationships are life’s most important treasure.

I think that my son’s pediatrician was right: children learn by what they observe. This Mother’s Day, I celebrate my mom and all of the lessons she taught me when she didn’t know I was watching. I am truly blessed to have been raised by the mom I aspire to be.

Happy Mother’s Day! xo Kara