Archive for September, 2012

My Peace with Pinterest

“Woman was not made for Pinterest, but Pinterest for woman.”–Kim Kirby

I tend to be protective of my mental health.  My protectiveness stems from the fact that I view the human mind as quite fragile, which means it should not be subjected to pointless stress and strain.

It is that conviction that kept me away from Pinterest until last month.

When I first heard about Pinterest, I didn’t really understand what it was all about, but I signed up anyway, vaguely thinking that it might be a good way to keep up with the blogs I like to read.  Which, of course, makes me the only person on the internet who responded to the idea of Pinterest with, “Hmmm…that sounds interesting.  I’d like to use it to organize my reading material.”

Clearly, I didn’t get it.  And just as clearly, I’m not a crafty person.  The idea of using Pinterest as a repository of creative ideas held no allure to me.

When I first started a Pinterest account, back in those early days, I immediately became 1) disillusioned with Pinterest’s usefulness as an online blog organizer, and 2) freaked out by the fact that several of my Facebook friends started following me on Pinterest.  Those stalkers!  At the time, I didn’t even know how they knew I was on Pinterest!  Paranoid, I promptly deleted my account.

By the time I actually understood what Pinterest was, I was even more disinterested in using it.  However, last month, my bff convinced me that as a homeschool mom, it was criminal–criminal!–to not be on Pinterest.  She convinced me that the site would be an invaluable resource to my children’s education.  And since I was already haunted by the prospect of my artsy daughter condemned to a life of educational drudgery at the hands of the most uncreative teacher ever, I capitulated and signed up.  Again.

And guess what?  My friend was right!  Pinterest has helped my family a lot!

But.

But I believe the reason that Pinterest has proven valuable in my life is because I cling to three simple mantras in my Pinterest use:

1.  Pinterest should not make me feel bad.

I know that sounds lame, but it is one of the main reasons I hesitated to sign up for Pinterest.  I really try not to judge myself too harshly or compare myself to others, but I worried–and not without reason–that the sight of all that wonderful creativity would just depress me.  Instead of inspiring me, it would just remind me of my own artistic failings.  And again, I know that sounds lame, but I have had to stop reading blogs before for similar reasons.  Here’s how it would go down: I would start reading a blog by a wonderful Christian mom who was always doing creative crafts with her ever-smiling children in her beautifully decorated house filled with only organic food.  And then instead of coming away inspired or even–I don’t know–happy for her, I would instead dwell on my own disheveled, chemical-filled, art-free home and feel like a massive failure.

Which is stupid.  Let’s just acknowledge that.  Other adjectives that come to mind are petty, insecure, jealous, selfish…I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  These feelings do not bring me closer to the Lord.

However, they are what they are, and when I get in those situations, I just have to mentally tell myself, “I am so happy for that blogger and hope that her life is every bit as wonderful as her blog makes it seem…but I just don’t need to read about it ever again.”  And then I move on with my life.

At this point, Pinterest has not made me feel bad, and I think a big reason is that I limit my exposure to it.  That brings me to mantra #2:

2.  Pinterest should not waste my time.

I have enough time-wasters in my life (I’m looking at you, Facebook), and heaven knows I do not need one more.  As a Christian, I am convicted by the fact that my life is a gift from God to be used to build up His kingdom.  Thus, anything that wastes my time wastes that gift.

Thankfully, Pinterest has not done that so far.  When I need an idea, I search for it.  When I don’t, I stay off Pinterest.  Seems simple enough.  I think it helps that I’m not naturally crafty and so am not tempted to look for ideas for their own sake.

3.  Pinterest should make my life easier.

This is a big one.  Sometimes, I see the lengths that people go to fulfill some Pinterest inspiration and I think, “That person’s life would have been so much easier if she had never seen that on Pinterest.”  I thank the Lord that I got married before Pinterest, because the pressure to create “Pinterest-perfect” weddings seems enormous these days.  Some people love all that stuff, and again, I’m happy for them (really!), but to me, all that wedding planning sounds like torture.  (Full disclosure:  I barely planned my own wedding, much to my mom’s delight.  She would call me periodically to tell me what kind of flowers she had picked for me or what photographer she got, and I tried politely to feign interest, all the while grateful that she was handling it and letting me finish my last semester at school.)

My point is that I think that Pinterest can make life more complicated, whereas my goal is to make it more simple.  Thus, I only pin things that are really, incredibly, extremely easy to make.  I know that I can’t handle much Pinteresty brilliance, and that my life is complicated enough without having to figure out what “modge-podge” is.  (Actually, I do have something pinned now that calls for modge-podge, and, though it seems very, very simple, it still makes me shudder just a little bit.)

But let me give you an example of how Pinterest made my life easier today.

I had been feeling bad about my kids not doing any “fall” crafts, and so I found this super easy one on Pinterest.  It was inspired by a book about mummies that was available at my library, and the required materials were construction paper and paper plates.  We did it this morning, and the kids thought I was soooo crafty.  (It’s important to set a low bar.)

We finished up the morning with Language Arts and Math.  Math was a struggle, and afterwards, I desperately needed a sanity-saving break, so I kicked the kids outside to enjoy the beautiful fall day while I straightened the kitchen and caught up on one of my friend’s blogs.  Coincidentally, she talked about making homemade sidewalk paint from Pinterest, which I read at the same moment my son was leaning against the window mouthing to me that he was bored.  Sidewalk paint takes corn starch, water, and food coloring.

Done.

That bought me enough time to make lunch.

Then, after lunch, the kids asked if we could do yet another Pinterest-project that consisted of converting a pumpkin into a planter.  Here’s how you do it:

1.  Cut the top off a pumpkin.

2.  Walk inside and do whatever you want while your children spend twenty minutes filling it with dirt and watering it.

Here’s hoping those pumpkin seeds will grow.  And even if they don’t, these three incredibly simple projects made me feel like Mom of the Year and Martha Stewart all in one.  And combined, they took about fifteen minutes of my time.

That’s what I’m talking about when I say Pinterest should make your life easier.

And I hope that if Pinterest ever stops making my life easier, that I will (again) delete my account.  The way I figure it, life has too many natural struggles and stresses for a website to add to them.  For some crafty people, Pinterest might be unmitigated awesomeness.  For my non-crafty self, it is a little more of a challenge to make sure that it benefits the lives of my family and does not detract from them.

Do you use Pinterest?  Have you noticed any pitfalls?  Or do you just love it??

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Defending God

Last week, I read the novel, Life of Pi, by Yann Martel.  If you have read it before, I’d love to hear your take on it.  For me (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), it was a little too postmodern.  What I got from the book was that one should choose to follow a religion, not because that religion is rooted in any objective truth, but because it is a “better story” than the brutal, senseless reality of life.

Cheery, huh?

However, despite that bleak, existential message, I did find some interesting ideas in the book, including this gem:

“There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, ‘Business as usual.’ But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astonishing. Their resolve is frightening.

These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart. Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defense, not God’s, that the self-righteous should rush.”

Preach on, Yann Martel.  I may not agree with you about the nature of objective truth, but I’m totally with you on this.

So…have you read Life of Pi?  What did you think about it?

Full.

That’s the best way I can describe my life of late:  full.

And by full, I don’t mean busy.  Not at all.  In fact, I wish I could properly convey how I despise the frantic pace, the unceasing rush, the gnawing stress of busyness.

That’s not what I mean by full.

Throughout the hot July, our lives were full of family and friends.  We spent the 4th with my parents, and life was full of delicious food and luxurious, heavenly time with “Gaga and Granddad” and with dear friends-who-might-as-well-be-family.  The next week, some of our cherished friends from South Carolina came and stayed all week, and life was full of long hours of “catch-up conversations,” daily adventures around Nashville, and the occasional “Mommy break,” which mainly consisted of eating and talking some more.  The very day they left, the kids and I went on our own road trip, and that next week, life was full of the joy of an old friend’s wedding and awe over the Smoky Mountains and the beautiful Virginia countryside.  It was also full of the excitement of arriving in our nation’s capital and seeing our cousins.  It was then crammed full of all sorts of amazing sights:  a giant, towering obelisk; magnificent, imposing memorials; and museums packed with the memorabilia of a mighty nation.  There was also a trip to Baltimore that was full of water and war ships, full of picnics and coffee breaks at Barnes and Noble.  There were nights that were full of young cousins giggling and playing.  The whole week was just…full.

Then, we came home, started homeschooling, and started the fall program at our church.  And life is now full in a different way.  In the last month of summer, it was full of joy.  Now, it is full of purpose.  It is full of the things-I-was-made-to-do.  

Here’s what I’ve realized about myself:  I can’t be truly happy unless I am doing the things-I-was-made-to-do.  I can’t really explain the difference between a thing-I-was-made-to-do, and a thing I just enjoy doing, except in terms of the difference in fulfillment.  When I am doing the things-I-was-made-to-do, it’s like I am complete.  Whole.  Perfectly satisfied.

Writing is a thing-I-was-made-to-do, which is why I started this blog.  I was made to think and to mull over ideas, and then to express my thoughts about them in writing.  I just was.  And it gives me a profound sense of meaning to do so…even on this tiny blog!

Isn’t that funny?  My contentment of soul does not require that I get paid for the things-I-was-made-to-do, or that they be “big.”  I just have to do them.  And I will be full.

But in this last month, the one after our wonderful travels, I have been caught up in other things-I-was-made-to-do.  See, I enjoy teaching college, I really do.  But I was made to teach my kids.  I’m not claiming that all parents are or that everyone should homeschool. I ‘m just saying that the profound sense of meaning and purpose–and yes, joy–that I get from teaching my own children shows me that I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

Because of our homeschooling schedule, I have also had more time to volunteer at our church and its co-laboring after-school program.  These past few weeks, I have been up to my ears in curriculum:  our homeschooling curriculum, the church’s Sunday school and Wednesday night curriculum, and also educational materials for the after school tutoring program.  I have organized materials, taken classroom inventories, purchased tutoring manipulatives, met with teachers, toured other educational programs, and tried to teach first graders (my own, and the kids at the after school program) how to add and subtract fluently.

And every moment of it has filled my soul to the brim.  Like writing, these are the things I was made to do.

I am very full right now.

And so ridiculously happy.

And oddly, that’s why I haven’t really been writing in this little spot.  My heart and my mind are so full and satisfied with the current “work of my hands” that I don’t have that aching need to find meaning in the keys of the keyboard.  That need was so real last winter and spring, when our lives were transitioning, when I was still trying to find my place in my new world.

I do still want to write here, and I plan to continue.  I always want this space to be here because I have found that my need to write comes in seasons.  It ebbs away, only to spurt abruptly back to life a few months down the road.  It is also nice to have an organized repository for all my spiritual thoughts and theories…and to see how they evolve and shift!

So if you are still reading, I want you to know two things.  One, I love talking to you in the comments and bouncing our thoughts off each other.  Writing organizes my thoughts; discussing them with others refines and purifies them.  And two, I (clearly) can’t guarantee the regularity with which I will write.  In the past, I have felt the need to be a “regular poster.”  I have no idea why.  It’s not like I was trying to be some kind of big time blogger  (in fact, whenever I read the comments on bigger blogs, I inevitably end up cringing and thanking God that I don’t have to deal with so many hostile strangers!).  I guess part of me was so thankful for your feedback that I wanted to offer you my own consistency as a writer.  Forced consistency, however, just leads to dry, forced thoughts.  I now think it would be better simply to write when I have something to say.

So…that’s my “catch-up post.”  I can’t really imagine anyone still reading and checking in, but if you are, I hope that all is well with you, and that you are tasting some of this magnificent fullness in your own life.

Speaking of which,

What makes you full?  What are your things-that-you-were-made-to-do?

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