Sunday, June 21, 2015

Oh, Facebook, How I Love/Hate You!

Here lately, it seems social media, or at least the sites I am involved in, has become a platform for pushing what I should and should not feed my kids (if I really love them), what I should buy, and here lately what I should/should not believe and why I am/am not a heretic/racist/hypocrite/liberal/conservative/good mom/bad mom.

It makes me long for the days when "keeping in touch" meant sending a Christmas card. 

I truly don't have any idea how to use social media other than Facebook (which is so outdated most teenagers no longer sign up for it - it's for middle aged folks) and Instagram. I can put up pictures. And yay for filters that hide "brownish grayish" colored hair as my middle daughter lately described me.

Twitter is a real stretch, mostly because of the character limit, and I tend to be long winded. Also, I cannot figure out all the abbreviations. I had to look up ICYMI and BTW and also WTF, which no one should look up. 

The rest are a mystery. Tumblr? Buy a vowel. Vine? I think it's videos but so is YouTube so I'm not sure. Snapchat seems like Instagram, but I think there is more to it. Reddit...well, I just have no idea.

I really don't think social media has made us any more social. In fact, my friend researched and wrote an article (click here and read it) showing how it has actually had the opposite effect. We are lonelier. We are less connected to each other. We rarely hold actual conversations. Our fingers fly across itty bitty keyboards texting and messaging all the live long day. Heaven forbid the phone ring, and we answer it, not knowing who might be on the other end. 

That said, I am a Facebook expert. I got signed up when Hope was a baby. Back in the day when all you did was post a status update, which was in the third person. ("Martha Koellein Brooks....wishes you would send a Christmas card.") I connected with people I hadn't seen since college, some since high school, and it was so fun to see familiar faces. 

But guess what? Lots of those faces I still haven't seen off the pages of Facebook because no effort has been made by either party to actually see one another and be social. It just makes for a higher number of friends, more potential "likes" and "shares" of the things I post. And that seems to be important. 

Why? Why is it important?

I think it goes back to my last post, and the fact that we all want to be known

If we put something out there about ourselves (our recent weight loss (or gain!), our time on vacation, our kids' piano recital or Heaven forbid a video of our kids' piano recital) we might get some feedback. Someone might like it. Or comment about how great it is. And we feel recognized. And important. Known. Which translates to feeling loved. It takes about 1/3 of a second to hit the like button, so is that enough time invested to really show love? I don't think so. But our brains are being trained to think that way. I am surprised by the rush I feel, a grown woman who is actually pretty confident despite my thighs, when I get a bunch of "likes" or "shares." Imagine if I was a teenager still lamenting my thighs. Is Facebook where I would find my confidence? Probably. 

It is time for a clearing of the head. 

In times of controversy, I traditionally take a Facebook fast. I want Facebook to be fun. I just want to see your pictures. Hear your funny stories. Stuff you would put in an old-fashioned Christmas letter. So when things start getting crazy (like when it's close to an election or something divisive goes down), I'm out. Girl just wants to have Facebook fun.  

So right now I am kind of fasting. (except for posting this, of course) Because here's the thing: there's a lot going on in this broken, broken world. A lot. And some days my Facebook feed feels equally broken.

People, believers, post things I am not sure they really have thought about or read all the way through. Articles that say vicious things in the name of what we think Jesus would or wouldn't do. Articles that tell me if I own a gun then I stand with the shooter. Articles that tell me if I think Bruce Jenner should have stayed a man I am a bigot. Articles that declare Caitlyn Jenner is headed to hell in a handbasket. Articles that tell me I better get a gun so I can defend my beliefs. 

So I have to quit for awhile.

Because none of those things really point me to Jesus. In fact, these things get me really riled up, and defensive, and self-righteous, and, because I am a horrible person, more concerned about being right than I am about showing Jesus. 

And - news flash - nothing posted on Facebook really changes anyone's mind. (Except this blog, of course.) Love someone? Care about someone enough to care what he/she thinks? Take more than 1/3 of a second to share a controversial article. Go chat. Face to face. Action. Service. Hands and feet of Jesus stuff. That is how you can change someone's mind. 

The Bible talks about how Jesus ate with the prostitutes, the poor, the broken, the cheating tax collectors (darn IRS), the worst of the worst. 

He didn't avoid these people. He went and found them

He went to them to pull them out of the muck and mire. He wasn't content to let them stay there. There is a better way! 

And yes, He preached a lot, but when He went to those people the Bible often tells us He ate a meal and visited their house. He went into their space. Where they were comfortable. Where they were the known ones. Not great settings for sermons.   

So when I post something, or write something, or say something, or do something, or wear something....really, ANYTHING, I want to ask myself,  "Is this lovely, useful, edifying, encouraging? Will it point others to Jesus?" If the answer is no, I must walk away.  

And I don't want to point people to my view of Jesus, or what I think Jesus would do if He was walking the earth today. Not how right wing/liberal/conservative/left wing He would be. But the Jesus who served. The actual facts about Jesus from the actual Bible. The Jesus who did so many things that if they were all written down the whole world could not hold the books. (John 21:25)

You know how you long to be known? Well, you are. You are known for something. To most people I am known as a talker, opinionated, loud. Preston knows me a little better, and knows I like when he empties the dishwasher and brings coffee to me in bed. 

But those aren't the things I really want to be known for. Loudness and the dishwasher isn't the legacy I want to leave.

When people hear the name "Brooks Family," I want them to think "Jesus."

We are a long, long way from that. 

But articles spewing venom from all sides of the aisle certainly don't help me get there. I need to fill my head with what the Bible says about Jesus. Not what a blogger or magazine or even a preacher tells me. And thankfully the One Who Matters isn't content to leave this family in our muck and mire. Everyday He is using His Word to grow us to be more and more like Him.  

Also, I want to actually socially connect with the people in my world for a while. Face to face. And not that I don't care about those of you I don't see all the time. On the contrary. We keep our Christmas cards in a basket on the table. Every time we sit down to a meal we pull the one at the front, pray for those people, and put them back in line.    

But it's time for me to stop obsessively checking for new pictures every hour of people who are "Facebook Friends" and start looking into the faces of the ones who are actually in my face. The ones who are watching my every move.  

So for a while, a partial media fast is going on. Not total, because we don't want to be weirdos, but a scaling back. 

We significantly downgraded our data allowance. I took all social media apps off my phone. Preston doesn't need to know what the score is every second. I don't need to see the picture of you at the beach the second you post it. (Unless it's of you getting slammed by a wave, and then I need to see that right away.) A check-in every day or two should be enough to keep me up to date. I took the ESV Bible app off my phone (GASP! I think I am still going to Heaven...) because my oldest, early riser girl would come down in the mornings and think I was looking at Facebook instead of doing my devotions. So back to a good old fashioned paper Bible I went. We also have resolved to stop checking the news all the time. It used to be enough to get a morning paper. Now we are able to keep up with all the huge nonstories 24/7 in the palm of our hand. 

We have a couple weeks of vacation coming up and won't be taking a laptop. So, for a season, I'm going slightly dark. But don't worry, I'll be back with horrifying uplifting vacation stories before you know it.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven..." Ecclesiastes 3:1


Monday, June 15, 2015

Grumpy Martha

So as I've whined about mentioned, our summer has not quite met the "epic summer" expectations we had back in late May, due mostly to Preston's being sick twice, for five day stretches. So 2/3 of the summer. 

The first time it was a virus. Of course we know that because on day 4 he finally decided to go to the walk-in clinic and pay the $65 to hear, "It's a virus and will have to run its course." By day 5 it had run its course. Of course.

This second time around he had some serious heat exhaustion, and then some side effects stemming from that, so lots of plans had to be rearranged including the postponing of a trip to an amusement park with some of our Nearest and Dearest, causing momentary weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

**Do not undertake HUGE outdoor projects when the heat index is roughly 1,000,000 degrees and the humidity is 1657%.**

And being the awesome wife I am, I gripe at every opportunity and since I have committed to being totally real here so you know you are not alone, Preston and I have basically been bickering all summer. Just what he needs to get well.

So I was feeling quite discouraged. As was Preston, of course. But back to me. 

I needed a pick me up.

I have this little list of funny things the girls have said, and it always makes us crack up to read through some of those. I cannot tell you which girl said which thing because they have begun to embarrass at these hilarious things they say, but keep in mind they are 5, 7 and 8 years old.

Here are some just from the past two months:

"I like the prince. He's handsome. I can't take my eyes off him."

"What if, in the Fall, all the leaves turned to Sugar Daddies?" (I assume she meant the candy and not pinky-ring wearing 55 year old men who drive little red sports cars.)

"Mama, did you know that scissors is the exact opposite of tape?" (Wow. That is not something I had considered when creating preK opposites worksheets.)

"She's a mummy! I mean a gnome! I mean, um, what?" (This in a conversation trying to explain to a younger sister why Maria in The Sound of Music was wearing what she was wearing.)

"This salad is unappropriate." (All salad is unappropriate to this child.)

"People in overalls are always nice. And funny."

"There's so much traffic between by toes!" 
"Uhhh, do you mean toe jam?" (I can only assume she got "toe jam" and "traffic jam" really, really confused.)

"I like to hold your hand when I run because it helps me run faster. And it's cozy." 

"Why do parents talk all the time and never have any fun?" 

"This pizza is exactly what I asked for, but I think it's a little burned so it tastes like bug spray."

They are like super geniuses or something. Obviously. Is it unappropriate to brag on my own kids like that?

Preston did feel well enough for me to still have over some friends for a lovely evening to discuss Shauna Niequist's Bread and Wine before one of our Membership jets off to far away places. And that evening was a huge pick me up, too. 

Side note - We briefly discussed our "Love Languages" that evening and decided they all five really boil down to Being Known. That is what humans all want. To Be Known. And we have a Savior who knows us in all our wretchedness and serves us still. I have been mulling that in my mind all day. I want to make sure that I am really knowing the people around me so I can be His hands and feet to them in the way they feel loved best.  

And always, these kids pick me up.

Grace for Unmet Expectations,

Sunday, June 7, 2015

I Should get Royalty Checks from National Lampoon

Back in 2001, BC  - which for mothers everywhere means "before children" - no disrespect to the church calendar, but that is how life is really divided for those of us in the Parenting Trenches. Just as Christ changed the story of the world forever, so have children ruined changed life for us forever. 

Anyways, in 2001, BC, on a fine March day, I hitched my wagon to Preston's, and we spent about six years driving those wagons all around the world. (We are currently reading On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sorry for the wagon references. I couldn't help it.)

When Preston was a kid, his parents both worked full time without the luxury of summers off, and they didn't travel a ton, although there is a hilarious picture floating around of his family in some seriously neon clothes and fanny packs at Disney World sometime in the late 80s or early 90s. It's like they said, "We are going to Florida? Buy all the things with Disney characters! In all the brightest colors! And pull your socks up to your knees; no, up to your glow in the dark Mickey Mouse fanny pack!"

(That family has now turned into quite the world travellers, what with Preston's sister actually living overseas since college and now raising a family there. If you ever want to go to Middelburg, Holland, I can hook you up. My MIL actually had a fender bender somewhere in Belgium. Or maybe Austria. Or France. Somewhere in the EU.) 

I, on the other hand... Well, my family used to take a long trip about every other summer. I can say that now without crying. 

My dad was self-employed, and my mom was of the SAH type. (I feel I need to type that out for my dear mother - it means "Stay at Home" and sometimes is written SAHM which means Stay at Home Mom. She thinks LOL means "lots of laughs" or "lots of love." For real.) 

With parents who had flexible schedules, we were able to stay gone for roughly two weeks, taking trips my genius brother had mapped out using the 1984 World Book Encyclopedias he would get up and read at 6 am. (He is surprisingly well adjusted and has turned out handsome and successful. No one would have guessed.)

These trips usually involved us flying somewhere, Denver, Boston, Seattle, and then renting a car to drive even further. When you go to rent a car, you should be really, really specific about what your needs are. One category says "full-size" which we discovered basically means you get a whole car. All the parts will be there. But it will be so small you cannot get everyone's everything plus golf clubs in it, so you must choose one or two family members to leave at the airport. People always voted for me, saying I was the loudest, but I was also the most forceful and wasn't having any of that crap. 

One time upon arriving at the Hertz counter, we were laden with suitcases for five people for two weeks, two large sets of golf clubs and five people. The nice Hertz man showed us to a "mid size" Volvo sedan. I thought Dad's head was going to explode. By this point in the day his impatience had inevitably kicked in from having his small pocketknife confiscated by the airport security (Don't bring it! Leave it! You know what will happen!) and then having to wait at the gate for five hours for our on-time flight. 

My dad has an obsession about being early. Like, seriously needs counseling. He's always saying things like, "What if there's a wreck? What if you have car trouble? What if you realize you forgot something and need to turn around? You need to leave at least 86 hours early!" And I'm all, "Dad! I'm just going a mile to the gas station!"

Because of Dad's OCD earliness much of our initial travelling day was always spent sitting in airports. Only one time did we almost miss a flight, which was a connecting flight, and it was because the flight attendant had the incorrect connecting gate information, and we literally went to the TOTAL WRONG SIDE of DFW and then had to sprint to the correct gate. We made it, but this reinforced my dad's "early or die" philosophy and is the story now used to back it every time someone tries to talk him down. 

He also has no patience for stupid and has a thing about standing in line to spend his money. He's not going to wait for someone to take money he worked his butt off to earn. I was on a date back in high school, and the hostess was like, "It will be ten minutes before we have a table." So I was like, "Ok, see ya." My date was confused. I was blown away that people actually waited.

And don't get Dad started on those lines where you check yourself out. He hates them, and if they are all the store has open he will walk out and take his business elsewhere. He wants someone to greet him, be courteous, and thank him for shopping there.

I actually have a lot of this in me, too. This article circulated recently about how you are not running late; you are rude and inconsiderate. I tend to agree with 100% of it, but it makes me feel mean to say that, so let's pretend I didn't. Grace for late people. (yea, right)  

Anyways, back to that Volvo. Dad and my brothers packed that "full size car" with all we had, and then greased everybody up so we could slide in there. The whole trip Dad referred to it as "the tin can." We drove 63 million miles in that thing over the next 13 days.

One time we got a minivan with zero storage room, so the back seat was mostly luggage with a tiny spot left for someone to sit. That spot was "the hole" and you might as well have been in solitary if you got in it. If you tried to speak and add to the conversation you were swiftly admonished to "Get back in the hole!" Wait a that I think about it, that happened to me on more than just that trip... What the heck???

But really, on the whole, I have amazing memories of childhood trips. We played tons of cards in the hotels at night, we saw geysers and had to wait while a herd of wild buffalo crossed the road in front of us. We saw something called "Hell's Half Acre" which is beautiful in it's extreme ugliness and barely made out the Golden Gate bridge through the fog. I threw up on my first long flight ever from DFW to Honolulu, and then proceeded to eat a steak in a restaurant where all the walls were actually an aquarium. I was forced to walk along as the golf crazies I lived with played Pebble Beach, and I rode a jet-ski with Dad. (Who fell off, was unable to get back on, and had to be towed in. Talk about humiliating to the preteen.) We saw the most beautiful place on earth, Lake Louise, and canoed on the frigid glacier waters, so blue-green they look like they were dyed with food coloring. I almost caught a fish in Pike's Place market, and ate lobster in Maine. Great times that cannot be tainted by tin-can memories.

It's Pebble Beach!!
Who cares????

Waiting for Old Faithful. Because even though it erupts on a schedule from which it hasn't deviated in millenniums, we got there early...just in case.


I also have fabulous memories of our early days of marriage when Preston and I travelled a lot. Being teachers and having entire summers off, we used to take a good two or three trips per year. We saw places both foreign and domestic and rode lots of roller coasters. We ate on the beaches of Mexico and took our picture with the Hollywood sign. (We also semi-stalked the "Friends" characters on that L.A. trip, but if we don't get within 500 feet of them we can still have good memories from that vacation.) We walked on glass in Toronto and ate lunch at Giordano's in Chicago. We spent several days in Montreal and snowmobiled through Utah. We walked the Freedom Trail in Boston and toured all of everything in Washington, D.C. Those were the BC days. 

But then the C.

For years we could not handle anything more than simply getting to the beach house, where we would unpack thousands of diapers, set up two pack and plays, and try to survive hazards like children who hate sand and diapers grown to eleven times their natural size because if we can just NOT STOP again on this 8-hour-turned-14-hour road trip we might get to the beach house before our week is up.
Yea, he might sit in that mess, but not me,
I tell ya.
Um, what is this stuff? It's sticking to me, and I feel sure it is NEVER coming out of my curls.

No, Daddy! Don't pull me into the scary pool! Look! You let Eva drown!
But our family is now at the point where the girls no longer ruin everything need naps, are potty trained, and still think we are awesome. No smart mouths or teenager attitudes yet. Old enough to enjoy travel and young enough to think everything is super cool. Our European Vacation last summer was enough for the travel bug to bite us again.

"I Amsterdam"
The worst grammatical error ever turned into the most well-known landmark in Holland.
We kept pronouncing it "Lou-vray" to be funny. Bet you wish you had been with us.
Lillian: "This place is crap.
The statues are broken."
So we are ready to make some vacation memories the girls will blog about someday.

And since PE teachers make serious bank, we are planning on travelling the world first class all the way, baby. 


Really, our plan is to camp.

I just threw up a little. 

I like the outdoors; I like being dirty; I think bug spray smells like summer. 

But camp....this I do not do.

Preston figures we can show the girls the world, or at least a lot of our continent, if we can just get this camping thing down.

We have a big trip planned for Summer 2017. We want to take about 4 weeks of our summer and drive out west. There is a map that people post to Facebook every once in a while showing the best way to drive all across America, so the Western half of that is what we will be doing. Roughly. We still have access to those 1984 World Books, so we might call on my brother to help us plan some. And we are going to change the route a bit, seeing friends in Colorado and lots of family in Phoenix.

Camping all the way.

I had a conversation with a colleague of Preston's yesterday about KOA campgrounds, I am learning about the best ways to cook while camping, and also the wonders of bathhouses. Not the Roman kind. Cinder block ones at state parks that all sorts of gross people have used. Oh, my word, I think I'm having a panic attack.

Anyways, we are going to start making reservations next summer, so we are going to use the next year or so to make sure we can actually camp. 

We are going to start with our yard.

And I will sneak in and sleep in our bed.

No! No, I won't! I will stay in the tent. 

I probably won't. 

Grace for Summer Vacations,

P.S. Since everyone posts pictures to social media of their family in white shirts on the beach looking so beautiful, and we all know there were threats of early bedtimes, no dessert EVER and selling the Xbox in order to get that photo, can we please all agree to post real pictures, too? Like the ones where no one is having a good time and everyone is wondering why we thought vacation would be fun? Or when your van window gets shot out and ruins your trip home? Those are my favorites. And it actually makes me like you better when you toss a few of those in because then I know I am not alone