life, filtered: thoughts on instagram and identity

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I’ve made no secret about the fact that Instagram is probably my favorite Internet. Instagram is a happy place, for the most part (unless you’re totally following the wrong people), where folks share the beauty and joy and interesting things in their lives. There’s no BuzzFeed Quizzes. No weird out-there political rants. No ugly. No mean. Just all of my favorite things: food, babies, nature, pets, scenery. It’s the first thing I check when I fire up my phone in the mornings, and often the last thing I scroll through before bed.

Which is why it confuses me when people feel the need to “expose” the reality behind the filtered world of Instagram, or confess that Instagram makes them feel insecure.

Continue reading “life, filtered: thoughts on instagram and identity”

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why I call myself a #spinabifida mom

Why I call myself a #spinabifida mom
#spinabifida mom tip: a small shopping cart makes an excellent mobility tool at an outdoor Easter egg hunt.

If you read my Twitter bio, you’ll notice that among the facts about myself I chose to include in my scant 140 character allowance, I use the phrase #spinabifida mom.

This means my feathers were somewhat ruffled last night when someone I follow (and like!), whose baby has recently undergone surgery, expressed bewilderment that some moms choose to identify themselves through their children’s illnesses. For one thing, my daughter’s disability is not an illness. It’s not something that we can treat and eventually put behind us. It’s part of who she is and has been since long before she was born. It has shaped our lives in many ways up to this point, and it will be a defining (note I said “a” and not “the”) factor in the rest of our lives. Spina Bifida will mean more surgeries. It will mean more therapies. It will mean doing many day-to-day life processes differently. It will mean concerns about the accessibility of public places and the adaptability of certain activities. It will mean advocacy and activism and acceptance. It’s just a fact that it’s a huge part of Claire’s life, and, because we are her parents, ours.  Continue reading “why I call myself a #spinabifida mom”

my airplane angel and the kindness of strangers

Is the glass half full, or half empty? Are people terrible, or are they good? These questions, like just about everything, depend on what sort of data you’re working with, which examples you’re focusing on, and where you’re looking. For me, I have to say, I just keep getting smacked in the face with the full and the good.

Us, traveling with twins last year.
Us, traveling with twins last year.

I wrote about dreading our holiday travel with twin toddlers, for example, but our flights ended up going swimmingly. TSA agents gave the girls stickers and smiled and chatted with them while scanning our liquids and swabbing our hands. A family wrangling just one baby called us superheroes as we struggled to fold a stroller and sort out a backpack with a toddler strapped to each of our chests. We sat near people who smiled and told us how cute our kids are instead of huffing that they got stuck near two small children on a flight. And I was seated next to an angel. I mean, her name was Mary and she’s a sheep farmer, and her son’s name was Christian. That’s some pretty heavy symbolism, right off the top. But she also held my toddlers, let them play with her jewelry, showed them pictures of her dogs and her sheep on her camera, and let Claire nap across her lap. Her middle school aged son closed the window shade without asking to keep the sun out of little eyes, and happily watched Pixar movies with us on the iPad. They made the flight to Colorado a pleasure, and finding them as my seatmates again on the way back felt like nothing short of a miracle.

This sort of kindness has been happening to us again and again lately. My iPhone was stolen on our vacation in Florida, which would seem to be a data point in the “people are terrible” column. But then a woman I have never met outside of Twitter offered to give me her old iPhone for free, refusing my offer to pay, saying it was just sitting in a drawer since she had upgraded. I accepted it gratefully, doubly thankful for the blessing of being reminded that for every thief, there is also generosity and kindness.

And then, last week, a crazy thing happened. I got a friend request on Facebook from a stranger with whom I had only one mutual friend. Around that same time, that mutual friend shot me a text: “Missing a wallet?” A delivery driver for a local restaurant had found my wallet run over in the road, picked it up, and given it to the owner of the restaurant, who, used to tracking down people who leave their wallets in the restaurant, set about finding me via Facebook, and, seeing that we had a mutual friend, through him. Not a single thing was missing from my wallet, which I had apparently left on the roof of my car while buckling my kids in. And it was returned to me in a fashion only slightly less miraculous than that time my husband left his iPhone in a Costa Rican taxi cab and it found its way back to him.

Even my casual day-to-day ventures into public with twin toddlers are usually characterized by people holding doors, waving at toddlers, and asking if they can help.

And it’s not just my data set that suggests that people are really good and kind. Today, my friend Kerri has a post up about a random act of kindness she got to participate in. (And I must say, Kerri happens to be one of the kindest, biggest-hearted people I know.) And another friend tweeted about dropping her kid off at daycare for the first time, where a stranger she called an angel gave her a hug and told her “It’ll be OK.” And then another friend on Twitter sent me a link to this piece from the Today show about strangers showing kindness to parents with kids out in public. And yes, I know, there’s a whole lot of terrible and hurt and meanness that also scrolls by my feed and through my life, but in the face of so much good, that’s the part I’m trying to choose to focus on.

a pinner’s manifesto

I admit it. I was initially resistant to Pinterest. Why do I need one more social network? was generally my perspective. But then I tried it and quickly became hooked. Finally, my folders upon folders of bookmarked recipes were actually useful, because instead of scrolling through filenames, I could browse photographs on a “board” to choose what I wanted to cook, the same way I flip through a cookbook or magazine looking at the pictures. As a sewer and crafter, I could collect inspiration to use later, too, like yellow dresses that became my the spirit of my first yellow sundress that I made for myself. Much as I love Instagram for giving me a greater eye for beauty, Pinterest has helped me see all the world as a source of inspiration for making my spaces and meals a more beautiful place. For every critique I see of Pinterest as a place of envy and lust, I would argue that it’s what you make of it. If you collect pins and follow pinners who only share things you’ll never have, sure, you could easily get down and jealous and start to feel inadequate. But if you follow people with a similar vision for life and the world, you’ll never cease to be inspired. Because I judiciously unfollow thinspiration boards and mostly follow people who pin yummy food and quirky outfits and cute spaces, Pinterest has become a Happy Place for me.

But we can make it better.

Let’s face it, Pinterest’s search kind of sucks. But it’s because of us. Pinterest can only return pins to us if they’re captioned with the kinds of terms we use in our search. If I’m searching for pictures of foxes (which I often do because I’m obsessed and want a pet one), but everyone has captioned their fox pictures “CUTE!”, I’m not going to get many results. For a picture of a fox to show up in the results of my search with the keyword “fox,” the word “fox” needs to appear in the caption. Similarly, if I’m searching for images of toddler bedrooms or shared bedrooms to inspire me in sprucing up the gals’ nursery, only pictures captioned with words like “toddler room,” “shared room,” “twin room,” and “bunk beds” are going to return me the kinds of images I’m looking for, while the ones captioned “cute room!” or “idea for later!” are never going to reach my screen.

So, we have to start doing better. We have to start captioning our pins with actual descriptions of the image. Most people already do this with pins of recipes, captioning them with the name of the actual dish. But we need to do it with everything. I need to do it too. Also: did you know Pinterest has been tagified? Much like on Twitter, where placing a hashtag before a keyword turns the word itself into a clickable search that takes you to a page with all other posts that share that tag, putting “#coconut” on a pin for say, coconut rice turns the word #coconut into an instant search for other pins that share that tag. Click that link and see what I mean.

Here’s an example from one of my own pins. The bad pin has just a space instead of a useful caption, while the good pin has a descriptive caption that makes use of keywords and hashtags.

This is my pledge: In order to make Pinterest more useful to us all, I will henceforth caption all of my pins appropriately, describing what is in the image or the content of the blog post the image links to, and making use of related hashtags to make my pins more search-friendly. Will you pledge to do the same?

P.S. If you would like to follow me on Pinterest, please do! I’d love to make more “friends” there!

share the love

Preface: I love Valentine’s Day. I don’t love Hallmark Valentine’s Day, where you have to buy schmoopy cards and DeBeers Diamonds and Victoria’s Secret lingerie and 1-800-Flowers red roses by the dozen with a box of Godiva chocolates to boot. What I love is red and pink (two of my favorite colors), construction paper garlands, hearts of all sorts, and general proclamations of affection. Sure, you can do all of this all the other days of the year, and you should, but it’s extra fun in February. In fact, I jumped the gun and rocked a pink sweater, a heart necklace, and red lipstick yesterday. All month, you’ll catch me looking like a living Valentine.

It’s been a while since I did an Etsy roundup, and I thought Valentine’s Day was the appropriate time–might as well put to good use the hours I spend finding beauties on Etsy and adding them to my ever-growing favorites list.

Now, I’m usually of the opinion that the best Valentine is a handmade one. The best Valentine Jon ever gave me, he made of markers and glitter. It was a Simpson’s joke and featured a train and said “I Choo Choo Choose You.” (Get a replica here.) Another time, he decorated a card with a poem from one of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson. If you’ve got a Valentine, I highly recommend you go the handmade card route.

But if you don’t want to make a card yourself, buy one handmade by someone else! I took the liberty of making you a cool Valentine card shopping guide. Some of these cards are so cool, you could give your sweetheart a frame to go along with it, and he or she could hang it on the wall and enjoy it long after Valentine’s Day. (Click any image to be taken to the seller’s Etsy shop.)

OK, so this one's not frameable, but if you have a ninja wannabe in your life, this card from seller Cookie Bits is a sure hit.
This photo Valentine from seller NomadicNotebook is frame-able for sure.

Continue reading “share the love”

i love you cheezeburgherz

What goes better with a great dress than a bag on your head?

I am addicted to the internet. I’m active on Twitter and in the local TweetUp community, I’m a blogger, I’m a prolific blog reader, I’m an active commenter on several major blogs, and I have a long history on message boards.  Sometimes, my husband gives me a hard time about my internet addiction, but lately he’s been forced to change his tune.

Little Rock, Arkansas, while not exactly a major metropolis, is home to an awesome network of bloggers and Tweeps (what we Twitter addicts call fellow Twitterers).  Monthly TweetUps are just the most visible manifestation of an engaged and enthusiastic online community of local folk, sharing their lives 140 characters at a time.  As I’ve written, I connected with the LR online community before we moved out here, and I even used Twitter to find a house (I put the word out about what we were looking for, and it turned out one of my tweeps was moving out of a great house that we subsequently moved into).  But more importantly, I’ve used the local internet community to find My People.

We had/have many wonderful close friends in Charleston, but none of them were “mine.” What I mean is, almost everyone I knew there, I had met through my husband or his work.  I was always, to some degree, Jon’s wife, Sarah, not Sarah, Jon’s wife.  While I wouldn’t trade those friends for anything, after all, we survived the wild and crazy world of residency together, I needed to find My People. I have found them.

This week, I had the pleasure of being invited to a local gathering of fabulous women bloggers.  It’s called CheeseburgHer, and it’s a spinoff of the big BlogHer national conference that just took place this week in New York.  What started as an impromptu gathering there led, a few years hence, to satellite parties in various cities, and Little Rock, with its somewhat-surprisingly active blogging community, was selected to host such an event, largely thanks to the very talented Kyran, who has a BOOK coming out next year, because she’s a rockstar. She knows how to throw a party!

Anyway, I got an Evite encouraging me to come to a swanky downtown address to party on the 18th floor with fellow bloggers, looking fabulous, sipping wine (courtesy of Middle Sister), eating McDonald’s cheeseburgers, and wearing a bag on my head.  I was really excited to go, and as I was telling a friend about my Saturday night plans, my husband kind of ragged on me a bit about it.  I asked why he couldn’t be a bit more supportive, and he said he was just messing around– “after all, no one can knock the awesome community that you’ve found.”

He was right. What an awesome community of talented, funny, fabulous women! I arrived at the swanky address wearing one of my favorite dresses, I hugged “old” (being that I’ve been here, what, a month?) friends and met new ones, and, stereotypes of internet nerds be damned, we clicked!  I had an amazing time, and I laughed my head off.

These were My People. People who feel the urge to share their stories with the Interwebz.  People who know what it means to have friends you’ve never met in person, though you’ve watched videos of their kids and read their life stories.  People who don’t bat an eye if you pull out your camera to document the party, or whip out a smartphone to check in to Gowalla or send out a quick tweet.  While we may be very different– some of us are childless, others are stay-at-home-moms, others are juggling work and home life, some of us are young, and others think some of us are still babies– we all are very much alike in many ways.  Unlike my experience with the Bible study group, where I felt like no one knew me, no one liked me, and no one would like me if they really knew me, I felt at home with this group of women.  It was a raucous, joyous evening, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it.  There’s something very powerful about a gathering of women who have a voice and aren’t afraid to use it!

I’ll end with some images of the event:

This one is snatched from the lovely Audreya:

Audreya and I apparently didn't get the kissyface memo. Amy and I think we look like we're clad in Mexican serapes.

Image via Audreya.
At an event full of bloggers, you know we're all trying to document it for a future post!
We had a delightfully tacky cupcake cakewreck to celebrate @amybhole's birthday. It looked like an airbrushed teeshirt from a Gulf Shores vacation, but it was darn tasty!
I think I declared at least 10 times "THIS IS MY JAM!" Here I was demonstrating how I boogie around my house to MGMT, I believe. Image via Audreya.

I have a #LRTweetup story, and I’ve never attended a Tweetup

I've found Twitter to be a very "uplifting" experience (groan).

Although I was born and raised in Arkansas, for the past three years, I’ve been living in Charleston, SC.  Now that my husband is finishing his residency in pediatrics, we’re moving back to Little Rock, AR, for him to do a fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and, thanks in large part to the fine folks on Twitter who participate in the #LRTweetup community, I’m excited about the move (even as leaving Charleston is breaking my heart).

I’m really not sure how I found these people, but I’m pretty sure I found most of them through my childhood friend, @SavannahB, who had already gotten pretty connected with the #LRTweetup folks by the time she and I reconnected via Twitter after I joined sometime last fall. I noticed that she had all sorts of fun exchanges with various Little Rock folks on Twitter, and started to follow some of her tweeps.  I assumed Savannah had met these people before, and DM’d her asking how she knew them.  That’s when I found out she had met most of them on Twitter first, and then met them at tweetups.

As I followed more and more of the funny, inspiring, engaged, and sweet people who make up the #LRTweetup community, I found more and more people to follow. These days, my Little Rockers friend list contains 69 tweeps!  And as the date of my move (the end of next month) approaches, the #LRTweetup people couldn’t be more welcoming, especially considering they’ve never even “met” me! I’ve had tweeps recommend Realtors, scout out rental houses, pass along my resume to potential employers, and offer to meet up for drinks when I come to town to look for a rental house.  Today, my mother in law had surgery, and so many tweeps offered to pray for her.

When I first moved to South Carolina, I had a really rough time. My husband was working a lot, and I didn’t know a soul.  The move to Little Rock will probably also be rough, and my husband will be working a lot, but I have a feeling I won’t have such a rough time.  Because I know there’s a great group of people ready and willing to hang out with me, as soon as the next #LRTweetup.  I only wish I could be there tomorrow night for the group’s Tweetie awards– I still can’t get over the fact that a group of people I’ve never “met” nominated me for an award, though I guess it’s a testament to my tendency to insert my loudmouthed self into the center of things, but more than that, a testament to this group’s welcoming attitude.  I can’t wait to meet each and every member of the #LRTweetup community.