The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

A few weeks ago, my cousin Kelly contacted my sister Jody and wanted to know if everything was okay with me.  Kelly was concerned that I “unfriended” her on Facebook.  I did indeed “unfriend” her, but I did that with all 60 of my Facebook “friends.” I didn’t unfriend everyone for the purpose of an experiment, but now that I think about it, Kelly was the only who asked. Perhaps I wasn’t  as interesting a person as I portrayed myself to be in the eyes of my social media “friends”.

I did let Kelly know that I unfriended all of my Facebook “friends”, not just her. I would never unfriend her in the true sense of friendship. After all, she was my first babysitting customer and flower girl in my wedding. My daughters Emily and Sarah were the junior bridesmaid and flower girl in her wedding. And her mom, our Aunt Carol, is like our older sister. My sister Jenny and I were her first babysitting customers and flower girls in her wedding. So you can see the connection we have and why Kelly might be concerned.

Quite frankly I’d like to ditch Facebook all together, but I post news and events on my church’s page. So now my feed contains only “memories” and whatever I post for work, sad, right? For a short while, I even thought I would try my hand at Instagram and Twitter, both of which were short lived. My life just isn’t that fascinating as to post a photo or thought that I felt compelled to share with my 20 Instagram followers, which apparently in the world of social media, wasn’t many. I actually found it to be meaningless, and I love looking at pictures. Hand me a photo album and I could spend some serious time perusing days gone by. However, for someone who can’t recall what they did yesterday, I didn’t need to add trying to figure out what comment-worthy photo I could take and manipulate to look better with a filter or what words of wisdom I could share that would inspire someone to “love” or “retweet”, to my list of things to do.

Both as a child and an adult, I never felt the need to have a huge number of friends to prove that I was well-liked. I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to change what makes me … me, to fit in to what culture says makes a friend a friend. God made me this way and I understand that He doesn’t make mistakes. If you don’t like me, that’s okay too; that doesn’t offend me. Those I consider my close friends know the good, the bad and the ugly side of Janice. And for some strange reason, they still choose to stick around. Maybe there is still hope for this melancholy!

The primary reason I decided to disengage from social media, was the wasted time and narcissism I was seeing from myself and others. What is this preoccupation with self? Why did I feel the need to get my self-worth from social media?  What am I trying to make myself into behind a screen that I’m not like in real life? I began seeing posts on Facebook (my go-to source for awesome families, thought-provoking snippets of Scripture and “stick-it-to-em” political memes), and then seeing the same exact posts on Instagram. Are we so insecure with ourselves that we need to utilize whatever venue available to us to vie for likes, smiley faces, thumbs up and shares? Do we think our Facebook audience is different from our Instagram audience? I got off Instagram almost as quickly as I got on.

I also felt like I was living vicariously through my kids accomplishments, because honestly, I’m kind of a boring person. And I’m okay with that because the rest of my family makes up where I fall short on the excitement scale. Through social media, I could control what the world saw about me, choosing only the best.

As a Christian, I try to be good, but sometimes it seems my failures outweigh the good. But that’s real to me and I would much rather be face-to-face with a few friends and share real life with them, than have hundreds of screen friends and cherry-pick those areas where I come out looking like something I just can’t live up to all for the sake of a thumbs up.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Everything There is a Season

There is a lot of reflecting going on for me. Some days I think it’s too soon for this to be happening, but then I remember that I was younger by two years when her dad and I tied the knot over 27 years ago. Having recently located our misplaced-during-the-move home movies and watching our amateur wedding footage and how serious I was, I said to my daughter, “Whatever you do, enjoy the day. The day may not go as planned, but you’ve done your best.”

Following are just some of my experiences and thoughts as a MOB (mother-of-the-bride).

Soon after the engagement the planning started because the happy couple didn’t want a long engagement and picked a date 7 months out. My daughter, being Dave Ramsey conscious of funds (Yes! She was listening when we saw her eyes were rolling!) planned to have the reception under the big tent on our church grounds. So I started calling around for caterers only to discover that there weren’t many that even had that day open because of said 7-month timeline. So out of curiosity, I ended up calling a couple venues that had Sunday dates open, which prompted me to ask if folks really got married on Sundays to which I was told, “all the time.” One of the places I looked at was one that Emily had previously considered but crossed it off her list because of the cost. “Dad will never okay this,” she said when I brought it up. So one day, her father comes home from work and I ask him to have a seat so I can show him something. I ask that he not comment until I get done explaining. Naturally he hesitates because he’s not sure what’s about to happen, but humors me nonetheless as I go through everything. His only question when I finish, “What’s it gonna cost?” I tell him. He pauses, takes a deep breath, sighs and responds with an “okay.” I give him a kiss and a hug, “You’re a good daddy.” Personally, I think he was relieved because the burden would be taken off of us. All we had to do was bring in centerpieces.

Therefore, we needed a florist. Emily did not want real flowers because of the cost, however was a non-negotiable for the MOB and something I told her I would take care of back in her teen years. Calling a couple florists, some were booked, some just never returned my calls, I started to panic. I am not creative and can experience what I call “searing abdominal pains” when I have to be. My good friend tells me to call the florist they used for her daughter’s wedding. I was insistent that they are closed on Sundays. She ignored me and said, “Call her!” So I did and of course the florist would definitely do this on a Sunday. So Emily and I met with her. Nice lady … she went through everything with us and came back with a quote thinking we would take it home with us to think about. However, having heard stories of prices that folks were getting on wedding flowers, I didn’t hesitate and whipped out the checkbook. “How much of a deposit do you need?” In the course of our conversation, I mentioned where I had gotten my wedding flowers 27 years earlier. “That was my dad’s store,” she said. I so love when God gives me confirmation.

The happy couple made the decision, based on their personalities, that they were going to get cupcakes instead of cake. So the search for bakeries ensued. The soon-to-be groom was still in school so I had the privilege of going to taste-test some cupcakes with the bride-to-be.  It was rough, I know. We find a small reasonably priced bakery on the outskirts of the city that does all kinds of fun summer cupcakes. The problem was, choosing which ones. So there will be 5 flavors, one of which will be a groom required fun-fetti. I don’t ask … as long as there is something chocolate, MOB will be happy.

Happiness is shopping to find a MOB dress … NOT!  After countless hours searching online, I dragged myself to the mall. I knew what I didn’t want and that was to not look like me. I am a plain, non-blingy, non-flashy person, the opposite of what is out there for MOB apparel. This was definitely the most painful task to do, the one I prolonged but wanted to get over with at the same time. So I visit some high end stores, try some fancy dresses on and am certain the sales associates can hear my disparaging comments to myself in the dressing room because they came in to ask if everything was okay. “Uh no, I look like a sausage!” I wanted to yell. I am on my third or fourth store, about to give up when I see a dress that I had seen online. It fit … done! I go check out and the sales associate comments on what a nice dress it is. Quite frankly I don’t think it’s any great shakes, but told her I was looking for something for my daughter’s wedding that would hide my midlife midsection. She did a once over on me and saying behind her hand, “You’re shameless girl. Do you see the people walking around this store?” Oh goodness … I am hoping that the next person in line didn’t hear that, but ummmmm “thank you,” I think?

The bridal shower was another task for the MOB. I wanted to have the shower at a venue but the bride insisted it be at the house. She wanted it laid back and casual. So I had to call in reinforcements and her name is “Grandma”. Now my mother and I do not see eye-to-eye on many things like cleaning, frequency of laundry, ironing anything, freezing leftovers, etc. but if you ask her to help … it’s off to the races. Sometimes you have to reign her in so she doesn’t go overboard, like the dessert table at the shower. One of the items that Emily wanted at her shower was a mimosa bar. Those who know me know that I don’t imbibe (not because I don’t believe in it, I just never acquired the taste for the beverage) so the fact that I found myself in a liquor store was quite humorous. I did my research online ahead of time to find out what the best champagne/sparkling wines were to mix with juices so that I wouldn’t sound totally stupid at the store. I enter and immediately panic when I see all of the bottles. My eyes scan the room quickly and I calm down when I locate the section labeled sparkling wines. So a nice lady helped me pick out six sparkling wines and there I went out of the store with a box of bottles hoping no one from church would see me.

After the shower came the invitation mailings. This task was generally uneventful because we had made up the invitation months ago and all we had to do was proof and print them. The bride and groom took care of addressing, stuffing and stamping them, but when the MOB mailed them, that’s when it hit me.

Things became surreal at this point for me.  I’m thinking … “Wait, what’s happening?”  Isn’t she still 5 and watching and singing along to “Pocahontas” or playing with her Polly Pockets?  Isn’t she still 12 trying so hard to be grown up but still being silly? Isn’t she still 16 and causing my gray hairs to appear? She must just be starting college then, right? What do you mean she’s graduated and is now working?

She met a really nice young man at college. The young man asks her father for permission to date her. She falls in love with the young man. The young man asks her father for permission to propose marriage to her. The young man proposes and she says yes.

The nest is getting prickly as the big day draws near and I have learned through my role as a MOB that my need-to-know everything self is often nowhere to be found. In her place is a stand-back and let the chick do what she needs to do to fly. I am still there off in the distance, watching, ready to jump in if needed, but trying so very hard not to interfere.

We are told that as part of wedding ceremony tradition, there is a reason the parents enter and leave the ceremony when they do. They enter ahead in the place of authority, but leave behind the couple in their new role of counsel. Looking back, I think God prepares us for this new role in those tumultuous teenage years, where our kids test us and exhibit signs of independence and we struggle with learning to let go.

Have the last seven months flown by? Yes and now we are a few days away and time keeps marching forward. She tells me earlier this week, that these days are going to go by slowly. I smile and try to keep my composure because for me it’s moving too fast. She won’t know what I’m feeling as her mom until she raises her own children some day and prepares them to begin a new season in their life. Yes, this MOB is crying again.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven”

– Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

Latte Rush Hour to Land Enrichment

My commute to work has gone from a 15-minute drive trying to avoid the line of cars going into the Tim Horton’s drive-thru backing up onto the main road to 6 minutes of trying not to get stuck behind manure trucks, both of the solid and liquid variety. My drive is also now on the milk run as I pass multiple farms, thus explaining the number of manure trucks.  But the views of the landscape are priceless. Even with all the dang-blasted snow and cold our first winter here, it’s beautiful and I am feeling truly blessed.

When we were in our former residence, I was one of “those” people who mowed their lawn in different directions each time, which was at least once a week, sometimes twice when I knew no one would notice.  I would edge, over-seed in the Spring and lay new mulch every two years on top of getting the lawn treated for years. Now I have no lawn and am already thinking about how that will bother me when the snow melts and I am left looking at first mud and then dirt in the excavated area surrounding the house. We still have the final grading and seeding to be done to create an area of lawn, but I am convinced I won’t have anything to mow until late summer. What will I do? If Tim had his choice, he would leave the area immediately surrounding the house in its natural state with minimal lawn. Therefore, I must have a back-up plan for something to take care of outside come Spring. Perhaps a garden? I’m thinking somewhere in this space … minus the snow.

Winter

I miss growing tomatoes to make spaghetti sauce to freeze for the winter months. I miss growing zucchini the size of small baseball bats because I hadn’t checked on them in days. I miss growing green beans and lettuce and getting frustrated that the rabbits got to it before I could harvest any of it. I miss growing butternut squash for Thanksgiving dinner.  I want to try and grow eggplant for the first time even though my husband swore it off after he left home.  I want to try for the umpteenth time to grow peppers that aren’t intentionally “mini” in size.  It might be fun to grown corn again, on a larger scale, but it’s so abundant at roadside stands out this way that it might not be cost-effective. We can stop by a local stand and pick up our 240 ears to freeze easily enough. What I do know is that I would love to start growing a lot more of our own foods now that we have the space to grow it. But we now have more than rabbits being the only wildlife to graze on the produce, as evidenced by the tracks and apples strewn in the woods.

Coming from a dandelion-free zone in our previous home, our lawn care and garden pest treatment options have just beome very limited as we not only have a septic system, but a well. Thank goodness we have natural gas, because propane would have surely meant we arrived in rural USA.  My cousins who grew up on a horse farm told me at our family picnic last summer that I should subscribe to a different kind of magazine.

Grit

My daughter informs me that we’re not out in the “country” because the houses are not far enough apart. I think we are out in the “country” because we’re not down the street from Target or even that annoying Tim Horton’s that causes traffic chaos on a daily basis. We are however down the street from the only general store in town, established in 1855. It’s certainly not Target, but I had been in there at least four times in the first month we lived here. Maybe they will  have the seeds I need to get started on that new garden.  Plus, I know where we can get lots of fertilizer!

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. – 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT)

Is It “I Do” … Or What I Didn’t Do?

There are very few shows I DVR on television, as the selections are slim pickings these days.  They are Duck Dynasty,  Last Man Standing, Say Yes to the Dress (NY and Atlanta) and Four Weddings.

Four Weddings is a show where four brides who don’t know each other go to each other’s weddings and judge them in different areas (i.e. dress, venue, food, etc.).  Whoever scores the most points wins a honeymoon.   For the amount of money that is spent on some of these shindigs, it boggles the mind that they have to enter a contest to try and win a honeymoon.  Which begs the question of any reality show, “why are you REALLY doing this?”  I think we all know the answer.  That being said, if my wedding 23+ years ago was being judged by the standards of this show, I would have been the first contestant to come out scoring in the negative.

They have expanded this show to areas other than New York City and Jersey, which is a good thing because some of these brides are B-R-U-T-A-L.    I found that the Boston area, California and southern brides were the kindest towards one another.

Let’s start with the dress.  I first saw my dress in a Brides magazine, found out where it was sold locally and took at trip to the Wedding Gallery, a store that when I drove by years later was turned into a fish taco place.  It was the first dress I tried on and the one I ended up buying myself for $500.  The average dress on these shows is around $2,000-$5,000, although there are many that are upwards of $10,000+ and many where the brides want multiple dresses for the day.  Strapless was unheard of in the 80’s and now you’re considered “old-fashioned” if you don’t have enough skin or your figure showing.  Nothing says beauty and grace like asking the bride how she wants to look on her day and she replies, “sexy”.  Really?  No offense, but I don’t care to see your valleys and alleys as you’re walking down the aisle or out on the dance floor.  Save that for your husband and spare us the show please.  My three daughters all know how I feel about this. They know I have absolutely no problem with strapless dresses at a certain age and as long as I don’t see their “business” we’re cool.

I watched a Say Yes to Dress episode quite some time ago where a young bride had augmentation done JUST for her wedding, waited until 5 months before the big day to get a dress and was quite distressed when told that the sample dresses (which she had to choose from for time purposes) were mostly B cup sizes and didn’t come in DD.  She was distressed because it was most imperative that she be able to “show off” her “ladies”, as she called them.  I about gagged.  Where have we come as a society when the goal of finding a wedding dress includes showing your “ladies” off.  What are we mothers raising?

Did you know many weddings have themes now?  If so, mine would have been standard minimalist, competing with the likes of Hollywood Glam, Country Chic, Tree Hugger Extraordinaire, etc.

Cocktail hour … well, I don’t know where to begin on this one; big hairy deal apparently. These days you can have your own signature drink created and made available to your guests.  Now I don’t agree with a cash bar, however, if you come to a wedding where the comments are that you can’t have a good time because there is no alcohol, perhaps you have other issues.  I must say there is nothing classier than guests in a drunken stupor at your celebration and even more so, a drunk bride and/or groom.  In addition to the beverages, many of these receptions have full-on hors’ d oeuvres and carving stations, something that would resemble a buffet dinner somewhere else.  I’m guessing my veggie platter and cheese and cracker platter would have been a sure flunk!

As mentioned above, food is a big hairy deal.  I’ve told myself that when my children take the plunge, food must be a priority.  It’s nice to see on this show that they still have buffet, family style and sit down options.  The buffet doesn’t score big period, unless the food choices are exceptional and HOT.  Some of these brides had never heard of family style, which is what I had, and sit down, the most expensive option to have and which seems to be the favorite with the caveat that the food must be five-star.

Most brides on this show frown upon live music.  Guess that leaves the Polka band out!  DJs are in, but they must know how to get people out on the dance floor, because nothing says reception flop like an empty dance floor.  Thank goodness my dance area was so small that it appeared full most of the time.  I did like our DJ because he played real music, not music that guests felt the need to bump and grind to.  I’m sure grandmas and grandpas would appreciate not seeing that display!

Entertainment does not necessarily include the music these days.  Apparently it’s common to have special guests at your event.  You can have impersonators, belly dancers, acrobats, fireworks, flash mobs, etc.  Who knew? I guess we must be constantly entertained because of our short attention spans.

It’s fascinating to see where these brides (and grooms although we never see them) decide to spend the money on this one-day event.  You’re judged harshly if you don’t have enough flowers (and don’t even think about having fake flowers) or if you don’t pull you theme off.  I, the minimalist, can fix that, don’t have a theme!  See, I was ahead of my time. One episode had a $160,000 price tag on the event, the most expensive of the four weddings in this particular competition.  She was the most opinionated of the brides and despite all of her attention to detail, did not win and actually came in last place.  How’s that for a kick in the chops?  Her one-day event cost twice as much as my first house! And her husband joked during their vows about sleeping in his car to pay for the day.

Now let’s get to the last portion which should be the first portion … the actual ceremony, you know, the portion which actually legalizes the union.  Prepare to be judged if your ceremony is (1) in a church, (2) in a church or other venue with a long service, (3) in a church or venue where the officiate speaks in a foreign language such as Greek or Latin, (4) in a church or other venue without much décor.  Notice a theme here?  Don’t get me started on making your guests suffer through a ceremony lacking air conditioning or worse yet, having an outdoor wedding! We’re not spoiled, are we?

It’s a shame that we’ve grown up in such a self-centered world and we think the world revolves around us, especially on this special day.  Do we raise our daughters to believe that this day is all about them instead of being about their commitment to their future husband? Believe me, if during your planning, you think that your guests will remember everything about your wedding, trust me, they won’t.  Remember, we have very short attention spans. It’s a very important day in your life, a day to receive God’s gift to us, His covenant of marriage. Your guests are mere witnesses to this important covenant.  My husband kept telling me not to focus so much on the day but rather our lives afterwards, but I was a naïve 21-year-old and didn’t listen. And therefore, the day after I thought, “Now what do I do?”

I guess it was to think about everything I didn’t do?