Could YOU Abandon Facebook?

addicted to facebook

Facebook is a much needed necessity and important way of life for a vast amount of people these days.   In the ever-growing world of social media,  Facebook provides so many opportunities that were not around even just a few years ago.    When I graduated from high school, we did not have social media as we do now, much like  e-mail and cell phones.     Twenty-five years ago, it was difficult to keep in touch with friends or people you went to school with as you grew up and moved on with your life.   I can guarantee you that if Facebook had been around when I graduated from high school, my life would have been very different.

Facebook provides a level of interconnectedness that otherwise would not exist.  I  love Facebook for many reasons.  It helps me keep in touch with my large family who are located all over the country, puts me in touch with friends and co-workers from years gone by and it has provided me with so many ways to meet new people and become involved with new experiences.   Trust me when I say that I have many reasons to be thankful and grateful for the invention of Facebook.

Why do I mention all of this?  I mention it because I was starting to think about what my life was like before I was on Facebook.    I was thinking about how my life is now versus the pre-Facebook days.    Sometimes you don’t realize you need a break from something until you actually get it, and you see how nice it was to just have a little time away.   On occasion, I found that Facebook took up more time  than it should  and I was beginning to neglect or put off important things. What started as a “Let me check Facebook for a few minutes” quickly turned into an hour or sometimes more and, in turn, put me behind schedule in so many ways.   Sine this was becoming a small issue for me, I decided to take a few days off from it and see what it would be like.

This “break” was by no means easy – not at all.   In all honesty, it was so hard in the beginning.   I was shaking and crying and needed to be restrained from logging into Facebook at times (well, not really, but you know where I am going with this).   I  actually felt a little lonely, disconnected and in a way afraid that I would be forgotten or, even worse, that people would not even know I was gone and– in some cases– this was true.

As the days progressed, it was still hard but it did force me to balance my life and the responsibilities I have.  The Facebook vacation was difficult to take. During those few days, I was able to accomplish so much and felt more organized.    Now please understand me when I say that I am not saying that Facebook is in any way a bad thing.   To the contrary, I think Facebook is a fantastic outlet as long as you do not abuse it or let it affect your other responsibilities and priorities.   I am happy to say that I am back on Facebook with a greater appreciation for it.  I’m now able to stop looking into everyone else’s life while watching mine fly by.    There can be a balance and I’m grateful I’ve found it.

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Family Ties

My sister and I spent our childhood pretty much attached at the hip. We have subsequently spent most of our adult lives thousands of miles apart. She has a job that has moved her around quite a bit, I have my own business here in Phoenix and am, therefore, not moving any time soon.

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My sister

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The early years: my sons

For a while, our lives were quite different. She was rising up through the ranks  in her career,  and I was beginning to have babies and trying to start a business while keeping my head above water. She was flying to a premiere in L.A., wearing a fabulous dress and getting her hair and make-up done, and I was trying to get breastmilk out of my work shirt, and trying to picture a life without a “Boppy” and immunization records.

 

 

cute mom and toddler

My sis & niece

More recently, with the birth of her first baby about 22 months ago, my sister  is in the forays of early motherhood and chasing a toddler, and I am navigating a household where no more naps are taken, but two school-aged boys may or may not jump off the dog kennel onto the couch in superhero fashion. The divergence of our lives the past 20 years is narrowing again and our circle is beginning to get smaller.

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A recent family picture

There was a time when my boys were really young and I was a nap Nazi and a hyper-scheduler and every time my sister  looked at me I felt like she thought I had three heads, and maybe I did. I had my second son on a Thursday and saw my first patient in my new practice on a Tuesday. Not exactly the best timing, but at the time, it is what I felt I had to do. I don’t imagine I was much fun in those days, and she probably wondered whether I ever would be again. I wondered if there was ever going to be a time where she would understand the pressures and demands and stress I was experiencing. I wanted her to love my babies as much as I did, but seeing them once or twice a year was not really enough to forge the tight bond for which I had hoped. When your kids are under the age of three, they are only friendly with people they see often, people with whom they have established memories.

Fast forward almost nine years from the time I had my first, and she was finally having her first. Although I hated the desperation in her voice as she was describing the frustrations of no sleep and early mommyhood, I loved being the one she called for advice or for simply an ear. I wished I could have given her a shoulder. It was very hard to be so far away and not have the ability to hold my sweet little niece and give my sister a break without her having to worry about her baby being cared for. Because to me, that is what family does. They are the people with whom you can trust in caring for your most valued possessions without worrying about them. We had two or three days here and there–not nearly enough time for me to be a trusted face for my niece or for my boys to really spend some quality time with their aunt.

Then this past summer came. My sister was in the throws of looking for a different job….she had some time to spare–we planned a family vacation, and then my boys got to spend an extra week with my parents and my sister, her husband, and their new niece. They came home with the kinds of stories that can only come with time real time spent in the company of the ones you love. They loved their niece, they constantly played with their uncle, and they were doted on by their aunt. The story was coming together….closer to what I had always wanted for us.Toddler and her cousins

Now there is a real possibility of her finding work here where I live. I can barely think about it because I dare not, lest I jinx it. They have been staying with us and other family off and on the past few weeks–and any time they aren’t at our house, my boys are wondering when they are coming back. You see, there is no other reason that 9 and 7 year old boys would be so infatuated with a 22 month old cutie pie, except for that family bond and time that establishes and cements these core relationships. My sister is over the hump and confident in her motherhood and I am basking in these boy years where they still let me kiss them. We are both relaxed for the most part, sharing the best bond of sisterhood and motherhood. She watches  me looking adoringly at her daughter and I look at her cracking up at my silly boys’ antics. It just doesn’t get much better. And my niece? No stranger danger with me anymore. This morning I got a kiss and a smile–none of that “Who is this lady that loves me?” look. My sister and I are geographically and emotionally closer all at once. Our lives are converging–no longer parallel three time zones apart…..attached at the hip, and hopefully within the same time zone, state, county, and maybe even zip code.

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Fighting the Blues with Love

Maybe it’s because my favorite season is drawing to a close, or perhaps it’s the looming allergies of fall, but I usually have a big case of the blues in September.  Most people love this time of year – crisper weather, the prospect of New England’s leaf colors, apple picking, and maybe even the advent of the school year.  I feel the opposite.  It’s like a little death for me when summer ends.  Couple that emotion with the recent anniversary of that horrific day 10 years ago when thousands of innocent people lost their lives, and you have a recipe for major blues.  I’m from NY, so there were people in the towers that I knew.  I cried for all those deceased, their families, and myself this week.  In retrospect, it might not have been a good idea for me to read two books with deeply sad themes, Sarah’s Key and Room, at this tender time, but they are book club selections, so I read them anyway.  By doing that I just may have unwisely tipped the scales of the appropriate amount of grief intake, making it just too hard to absorb so much at once.

The night of September 11th, 2011 I lay awake at 2 a.m. thinking about loss and all its incarnations: in addition to the grief of our nation, I lost my brother a year and a half ago to a heart attack.  Due to recent unpleasant events, I lost a relationship with a formerly close friend.   Last week a lovely woman therapist we greatly admired, and sometimes consulted, lost her battle with cancer.  All this sorrow came crashing around me like discordant music, creating a clenching feeling in my heart.  As I lay there quietly sobbing, a Barred Owl hooted her haunting bark-like hoot somewhere in our woods, breaking through the noise in my head.  I slid over to my sleeping husband and pulled his arms around me.  He must have felt my shoulders heaving because he held me close and stroked my hair.  His warmth and gentleness eased my pain, and I became acutely aware of the comfort of human contact, of love.

I am not prone to dwell on the negative, or to allow myself a lengthy pity party, but sometimes too much is, well, too much.  So, having had a good cry, I awoke the following day exhausted, but renewed in my commitment to love and comfort others as well as myself.  Each of us is undoubtedly and indelibly affected by 9/11’s tragedy, and life is always throwing us curveballs, so in the face of that reality, I embrace today with my heart open and my arms ready.  Loving human contact, kind words, thoughtful gestures – these are the keys to a good life.   When I watched the History Channel’s show called “102 Minutes That Changed America” I was struck by the humanity of those around Ground Zero as the horror unfolded.  Brave doesn’t begin to describe these people.  They are my inspiration as I move through my sadness – their goodness, caring and selflessness are my goals today.  Love is the answer.  One day at a time, one person at a time.

All You Need is Love

-The Beatles

Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.

-1 Corinthians 13:13

 

 

 

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Beautiful Friendship

Childhood 'besties' at our 30th HS Reunion last year

What would I do without my friends?  I would certainly languish –maybe not perish – but definitely languish, without my gal pals.  I have shared here before the personal emphasis I put on my “Green Acres” marriage and my children, and I’ve also mentioned how supported I felt by my community when my brother died.  What I haven’t touched on yet is the great role my friends play in my day-to-day life.  I don’t only mean the friends I see regularly, but also the ones I have known since preschool (pictured above and below) whom I see once in a blue moon.  A friend is a friend for life with me, no matter how little face time we manage to schedule.

Once, when I lived briefly in a new city, I found myself on the fringe of a group of couples among whom most had a long term, even childhood, connection.  One evening my husband and I discussed the effort it would take to truly be a part of this set of people, and we realized it was daunting, and likely fruitless, so we stepped back.  Eventually our move to the suburbs sealed the deal since urbanites view the suburbs as exile, and we were back at square one.  Thank goodness for the East Greenwich Cowesett New Neighbors (www.egcnn.org) organization!  Without it I would be trawling hair salons and supermarkets for friends.  Not only did joining give me something to look forward to each month, but also a play group for my two little ones, a book club for me, and a bevy of women to hang out with.

One of the upsides of a newcomers club is that those who choose to be members want to make friends.  It’s a veritable goldmine of possibilities from which many amazing women have emerged.   Over the last many years I have come to know and love a unique group of beautiful, caring, intelligent, talented, and kind women.  Many of us have travelled together, and whenever we do, I am reminded of how friendships are built – through shared experiences.  The more ways I can find to be around the women that make me smile, the richer and deeper our bond becomes.  Because of this realization, I rarely pass up an invitation to get together.

The "A Mom Knows Best" crew in NYC

I’ve learned a lot about how to be a good friend from these women.  A good friend makes a fuss on your birthday (usually in some kind of group gathering), checks in when you are facing a personal challenge, but mostly finds ways to make more memories, both large and small.  I love it when my phone rings and one of my pals is off to the nail salon for a pedicure and wants to know if I can join her for a little catching up.  Often times, it’s an email blast to go see a movie of a book we all read in our book club, or just a made up excuse to go meet at the local martini bar because it’s been too long.

Longtime friends at my brother John's Memorial

The other excellent by-product of this gaggle of gals is that they have chosen well in the husband department, which makes it incredibly easy to get the couples together.  One of the potential frustrations of friendship is when your spouse dislikes your bff’s spouse, and you can’t do the couple thing.   Thankfully we don’t have that issue, it’s more of a scheduling/babysitting challenge, but we are up to it, and up for it.

Beloved husbands

This summer a group of eight of us headed to Block Island on our now annual getaway, supported by our husbands who stayed home with the kids.  Again this year I came home glowing from all the great conversation, dancing, and laughter we’d experienced together, and I said to my husband, “My friends are a sheer joy to be with – no tension, no bad vibe, just good, good fun.  Amazing.”  His response…”As it should be, sweetheart.”  Yes, yes, but still I feel exceedingly lucky!  There are many wonderful quotes about friendship, but the one that best sums it up for me is from Emily Dickinson, and addresses the ‘wealth’ and ‘richness’ of friendship in a figurative way that appeals to me.  She said, “My friends are my estate.”   So true.

My local posse

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I’m Not a Perfect Wife…..

I’m not a perfect wife; I do not have a perfect husband.  There is no such thing as a perfect marriage.  There is such a thing as a good, healthy marriage though.  A marriage that is based on trust, friendship, communication, intimacy, and humor.  I have been married now for 10 years; for some that may seem like a long time, but for others it may seem like only a drop in the bucket.  Here are some things that I have learned over the past 10 years of marriage that I feel help to keep a marriage happy and healthy:

1.  Make Time for Your Spouse:

From as simple as asking your mate how their day was (and truly listening and engaging with conversation and eye contact) to making plans for date night!  Especially when you have kids in your life and most things throughout the day revolve around them, it’s very important to have that time together to continue your relationship with each other.  Turn off the TV, put down that book, stop doing work on the computer, and take time out for that special person in your life to let them know they truly are special.

2.  Keep Common Interests

Continue doing the things you enjoyed together before marriage and in the early years  to help sustain the marriage.  It’s easy to change as you age and find new interests, but keeping some similar interests (or creating new ones together) is an important part of making a relationship successful.  For instance, we have always loved to travel, so for our 10-year anniversary we planned a trip together to Ireland (a country on our joint wish list of places to travel), and we went by ourselves (thanks again to my parents who watched the kids!).  It was a great experience to focus on us as a couple, and not just the us as parents.

3.  Talk Things Out

This is probably the hardest one for me, because I do have a hard time not becoming overemotional and hurt during a discussion, but it truly does help to have honest and open talks about your feelings with each other (even if you do feel hurt by it at first).  My husband is able to talk about his feelings in a very open, calm, and logical manner.  Even so, I still sometimes get hurt and defensive, but in the end it’s always good to have that open line of communication to know how the other is feeling.  It makes the relationship stronger when you share and communicate with each other and do your best to meet the other person’s needs.

4.  Have Fun with Each Other

They always say laughter is the best medicine, so a fun-loving household is beneficial to everyone in the family,  parents and kids alike!  My husband truly is funny, even though I don’t always let on that I think he is, and he brings so much joy and laughter into our family and into our relationship.  A fly on the wall would definitely hear some laughter coming from our house.  Laughter helps relieve stress, brings people together, and just makes for an all around happier environment.

5.  The Importance of Intimacy

Intimacy should not go out the door just because you get married, it should continue to be a part of your relationship (one in fact that should even get better with time).  This can be from a gentle touch to rubbing your spouse’s shoulders, or even just the way you look at your significant other.  Everyone wants to feel loved and important, and both partners need to continue to show the other that they are important, attractive, desired, and even just cared for.  Keeping your intimate life strong keeps the bond of the partners strong.  Go snuggle up to your spouse and give them a kiss!  Tell them they are loved!

 

All marriages have their ups-and-downs, because as I said before, no marriage is perfect.  Marriage takes time, commitment, understanding, and hard work to keep it strong and lasting.  Sometime you have to give in, and sometimes you have to know when to let things go.  Compromising and communicating can be difficult, but in the end if the prize is a healthy marriage then the work is worth the effort.  Working toward a good, healthy marriage is on-going, but continuing to put effort in together brings the couple even closer.  My husband has taught me a lot (and continues to teach me) about how to be a better person, mother, spouse, and friend.  He is my teacher, my friend, my partner, my confidant, my imperfect loving husband, who I will continue this journey called marriage with!

A Happy Couple………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makes for a Happy Family!

 

 

 

 

 

 

* What do you think is important in your marriage to keep it strong and healthy?

Kristin Wheeler

The Kindness of Strangers….

“Sometimes when we are generous in small  ways, it can change someone else’s life forever.”

This saying rings true for a very special woman I have had the pleasure of getting to know this past year.  Truth be told, I would never have had the honor of knowing her if not for her generosity and kindness to everyone she meets.  Her kind and generous ways have changed my life forever.  Let me explain…

I am talking about my friend and the owner of this website, Allison Alexander.It was just about a year ago that Allison’s path crossed with mine.  I was involved in an event committee for a local fundraiser to celebrate the life of Camden A. Fry, a beautiful eight-year-old girl who was killed in August of 2009.  It was my responsibility to reach out to the local television and radio personalities to line up emcees for different time slots throughout the day.   As time passed quickly, I was still coming up empty in being able to obtain any television personalities for the event, and needless to say, I was becoming a little FRANTIC as the event date was less than a month away!

Well, it was around that time that I received an email from Allison, who at the time was an evening news anchor in Providence, Rhode Island.  Allison was unable to attend on that date, but through her kind efforts she went the extra mile for me and not only arranged for an emcee for that day, but she also kept in touch with me until the event arrived.  I still cannot thank her enough for her help and generosity.

The kindness of strangers is what I think of when I look back on this moment in time.  We not only have stayed in touch with each other, but any chance she could do something out of the goodness of that big heart of hers, she would.  She arranged for my son to tour her television station for his birthday, and not only did she show him around the station and introduce him to everyone there, but she also  let him sit and watch the news broadcast, LIVE.  She made my son and me feel welcome and special that day. Words cannot express how much that meant to us.

Just recently, she asked me to be part of a wonderful new adventure in her life.  Allison was developing her own website www.amomknowsbest.com, which is a website not only geared toward moms, but also toward women, in general.   I was touched and honored not only that she asked me to be a contributor, but that she thought I might have something interesting to offer.  It has been an opportunity for me to express my thoughts on many different subjects including divorce, parenting and friendship.    It has also given me the chance to meet the other amazing women who contribute to the website and who have  become my friends.  I thank Allison every day for giving me this creative outlet which has changed my life and my outlook on life as well.

Over the past year, I have gotten to know Allison and she has become a wonderful friend.  She is a person that looks at you and sees all the good in you, all the promise in you and makes you see it too.  She is a diamond in the rough, and I am a better person for having met her.   Allison recently moved with her family out of Rhode Island.  Although I am very sad about her leaving,  I know that through my contribution to her website, and because of the kind of person that she is, we will remain friends and in each other’s lives for a long time.  As I have told her, she is a bright star that only gets brighter…

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The Pick Up Artist: A girl looking for girlfriends

Photo by Bob Packert

I rushed into my husbands’ arms when he came home from work, planted a kiss, and announced,  “Honey! I picked up a woman at the zoo today!”  Now, I know what you are thinking, but please don’t judge me, it was a moment of desperation.  You see, we had moved to a new state a couple of months before, neither of us knowing a soul.  We enjoyed exploring on the weekends together, but during the week, while he went to work, and engaged with other adults, I was keeping company with our 4 year old, 2 year old and 3 month old.  The most sophisticated conversations I had in a typical day contained words like boo boo and sippy cup.  As you might imagine by the time my husband walked through that door in the evening, I tackled him with pent up conversation, plans to go out, or threw the screaming, kids at him, and hid.  I knew that these were not the greatest receptions from long days of work.  I also knew what I needed.  Girlfriends.

It had been much easier to make friends in school, at work, or in playgroup, but as an adult with none of the outlets listed available, I found myself at a loss.  That day I had been at the Zoo with aforementioned children, and noticed a woman at the Terrapin tank.  She was pretty, and fashionably dressed, but what attracted me to her, were the two children by her side.  They looked to be similar ages to my two oldest, so I made my move.  I walked away from my children, and sidled up the Terrapin tank (not unlike a bar, sans hair flip), then called them over.   “Look, it’s a Diamondback turtle!” I exclaimed, sounding a bit too loud and excited, but sure enough, my children rushed over, and the other kids looked up at me.  Their mother now noticed me too.  I took my opportunity, and struck up conversation.  It turned out we only lived a few streets apart, and as our kids began to chatter about the turtles, we exchanged numbers to set up a play date. I was elated! I had a friend!

Years later, I have friends here whom I cherish, and feel like I’ve always known, but I think back to how I got to this point, and remember that void . The process seemed not terribly unlike dating, Searching out another soul looking to connect.  Wanting, no, hoping, to be attractive, and interesting enough for them to want to see you again. There have been good play dates and bad.  Women along the way who were charming, but turned out to be just like those charismatic bad boys who had once seemed so alluring.  Hurtful, and untrue. There were women who I met already with a close-knit group, not looking to add friends to their lives. There were also pleasant surprises, finding the most genuine, funny and caring friend I could wish for in someone who had flown under my radar.    I joined all the playgroups, book clubs, and parent teacher groups I could, and through it all friends with common interests filtered through and filled my life in a way that only good girlfriends can.    Now if my husband is pounced on when he gets home from a long day at work, it is more likely a joyous child, than a disgruntled wife.  A more welcome reception indeed .

 

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Surviving Unemployment… or the “Pink Slip Blues”

Help WantedIt comes out of nowhere, or maybe it’s been looming for months.  You’re going along, following your routines, and meeting your deadlines, and  *whoosh! * the rug is pulled out from under you.  You’ve been laid off.

We all know someone who’s lost their job, but it seems like something that happens to other people – until it happens to you.  If you’ve ever seen “Up in the Air” with George Clooney, then you’ve seen very realistic firings and the varied responses that people have to them.  Well, when my husband lost his job in January 2009 his reaction was one  of positive thinking – we would ‘tighten our belts’ and ‘tough it out’ until he could find another job.

Wouldn’t you know that month would be the month that our dishwasher would bite the dust.  With his new found free time, my husband tried like mad to fix it.  He got out his soldering gun and looked up the broken part online, but to no avail.  He broke the news gently, “Honey, we are going to have to wash the dishes by hand until I get a job.”  And so we did.  I pulled out a ‘stepper’ I had purchased from Get Toned at Home, and stepped while washing.  I did have much nicer abs that year.  I saw it as a “make lemonade moment”.  Little did I know there would be so many of those moments that year.WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU LEMONS, MAKE LEMONADE

One of the most wonderful outcomes of this challenging time was learning just how great our community is.  We felt no shame in our situation.  My husband was a top producer at his prior job, but the corporation was tanking on Wall Street, and few were spared.  So, we told everyone our unfortunate news, and what a good idea that was!  We learned quickly how many programs exist to help those in need.  From the children’s school lunches to their sports fees, to extracurricular classes, we were able to find lots of financial assistance.  I learned that food stamps are now dispensed by a gold card called EBT  that you can swipe easily and discreetly at the machine you use for your ATM/credit card at check out.  What a help that was for our family of 6!

The first area to be cut– sitters and socializing.  I still had my Book Club and playgroups for the kids to keep me connected, but what I found was that I had the best kind of friends, too – the kind that are there in need.  When my dear friend Elizabeth (a contributor here) had a home party for CAbi clothes that winter with the new girl from Dallas as presenter (Carrie Humphreys – also a contributor here), I went to the party knowing full well that I wouldn’t (couldn’t) buy anything.  I started helping the others try on clothes after Carrie’s presentation, and Carrie asked me if I might consider being her assistant.  I said yes and have been with her ever since.  That day a few friends secretly picked out two pieces from the line for me which they casually bestowed on me at one of our kid’s sports games.  I was bowled over!

That was only the tip of the iceberg, though.  These amazing women never left me out of a lunch celebration or group outing.  For a year they kept me close and cheered us on.  We learned that the beauty of loss is when you see what you still have.   My husband and I grew closer to each other and our community in our hour year of need, and what seemed to be disaster was really a blessing in disguise.  Learning to live lean is a great lesson in these uncertain times, and I know the experience opened our children’s eyes to a new reality – one that much of the world faces daily.  Is it possible that we are better, more empathetic people now?  I sure hope so.  What I do know is that it really does “take a village” to get through the tough moments.

By the way, we replaced that dishwasher and I smile every time I turn it on.  Do you have a layoff story or a tip to share?

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