April 23, 2014

Friday Reflections: More confessions of a social networker

So, the battle with my inner social networker continues.  The spouse forwarded an article to me last week about actor Bill Nye (The Science Guy) who collapsed while walking towards a podium to do a presentation at the University of Southern California.  While Nye was ultimately okay, the article’s author was more concerned with the peculiar behavior of the USC audience.  According to the article, rather than getting up to aid Nye, most of the students in attendance pulled out their smart phones and began to update their Twitter and Facebook statuses about the event.  Similarly, the article reported another incident where New Orleans comedienne, Anthony Barre, was murdered in the streets and witnesses chronicled his death by updating their statuses and posting pictures of him dying in the streets.

I immediately got into a pretty preachy discussion with a few of my friends via Facebook that involved a great deal of “smdhs” and “wtfs”.  I mostly felt overwhelmed by a generation who could be so emotionally and physically detached from their humanity.  It felt so wrong and unnatural – and I wondered what kind of legacy a generation of passive onlookers could possibly leave.  I stood on my figurative moral high ground and thought to myself, I could never do that.  I would never do that.

Then after a quiet Thanksgiving at home with my family, my husband and I sat down to watch Public Speaking, an HBO documentary on essayist and author Fran Lebowitz (The McCray’s know how to party).  Lebowitz, for those of you unfamiliar, is an author from my hometown, New York City, made famous during the Andy Warhol era for her hilarious social commentary.   In the documentary, Lebowitz, now 60, discusses a myriad of issues including this generation’s apparent disconnection with life.  She noted that she finds inspiration for her writing by traveling by foot everywhere in New York.  She said that, “No matter where you are, if you are doing this-”.  She paused and held her hands as though typing on an imaginary Blackberry.  “You aren’t really there – no matter where you are.” She concluded.

It occurred to me that while I was “smh-ing” and “wtf-ing” about those onlookers at USC and in New Orleans, why wasn’t I allotting similar judgment to my own behavior when I pause to update my Facebook status at the dinner table? Or take a moment to respond to a BBM while coloring with my son?  Or stop my husband from telling me about his day to finish responding to a text message?  I started to wonder just how much time I had spent being barely present in my own life.  A few years ago when my addiction to Facebook was just budding, I joked with one of my friends that I felt like I was beginning to think in status messages.  This leaves me wondering, if I am privileged enough to grow old, just how will I reflect on the hours I spend allowing my mind to attend an imaginary party while the world goes on around me? And if I do decide to become an active member of the planet and limit (or eliminate) my social media outlets, just how lonely will the “real world” be? (Think Bruce Willis in “Surrogates”.)

As a parent, I often wonder that if I am so susceptible to social media outlets what will that mean for my sons’ generation.   In January 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a study that 8-18 year olds spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).  In a New York Times article discussing the study, one eighth grader reported that she felt her days would be boring without her social media outlets.  In theory, what could be more boring that staring at a tiny screen most of your day and not engaging the world around you?  While my own children are both under four years old, I often wonder how I will introduce these outlets to them… if at all.  What do you think WOH?  How do you manage your own time engaging in social media? How will you or have you regulated the time your children spend on the internet, smartphones, etc?  Something tells me society had a very similar conversation about television at its onset as well.

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara is native of New York City and reluctant resident of the DC Metro Area. She is a writer in her heart but a lawyer by profession. She is a wife and also a mom to two boys. She is a self proclaimed and self loving oddball. She is determined to find both spirituality and happiness and like any true totalitarian matriarch, impose both on her family. She is wise enough to know that this may not happen simultaneously.

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Confessions of a Social Networker

Lately I have been feeling some kind of way about social networking. 

I was taking what I affectionately refer to as an “internet vacation” at work yesterday.  You know, where you start by Googling restaurant reviews for the weekend and you end up looking up things like, “What ever happened to Roooobeerttt on The Cosby Show?” (Wasn’t he cute?)  Anyway, I came across an article in The San Francisco Chronicle speculating that Facebook may have reached its 500 million member mark. 

Makes sense.

Facebook has connected me with everyone from long lost cousins to people I shared class pictures with in the first grade.  I can count the people that I know who aren’t on Facebook with one hand and most are either under the age of ten or over the age of seventy.  It is hard to believe that in just 2004 what so many of us can no longer live without did not even exist.

With the alleged 500 million members floating around its virtual world, Facebook offers us daily access to the witnesses to our lives.  Whereas our parents’ generation had faded pictures and fuzzy memories to rely on to communicate stories of their childhood and successes, we have witnesses that we can call on… daily… to reminisce with, remember with… People that serve as living breathing evidence that we existed and continue to exist.

If you take the time to think about it, it’s a pretty powerful concept.

But with all of these advantages, the lawyer in me can’t help but wonder about the disadvantages.  If life is a house, Facebook is like a bay window without shades.  It creates local celebrities among us offering free tickets to our edited reality show.  But like every reality show, I wonder how much is illusion and how much is real life. And in turn, how much of the illusion becomes a part of your real life?

I consider myself a fairly happy person.  I love my family and they love me.  I am content with the direction my career is going in.  While some days are sunnier than others, my good days far outnumber my bad ones.  When I am sitting at my computer, updating a status, uploading a picture or adding words and phrases to my profile, I realize that as social networkers, we can paint our lives however we may want.  Yet still, I often find myself perusing the pages of my Facebook “friends”, fighting my inner green eyed monster to keep up.  One women on my friends list posted pictures of her child smiling ecstatically with DJ Lance Rock from a recent Yo Gabba Gabba Live concert.  While I was happy for her and her clearly happy child, after seeing the photos, I manically went on a search to find the pre-sale code to purchase tickets for my son for the show in New York this fall.  Before I knew it, I had three tickets, was negative $300 bucks and I was calling my husband telling him about our plans.  He was okay with it (because he knows a happy wife makes a happy life) but I missed out on engaging him in the process and including him in the excitement of planning our son’s first concert. 

Similarly, the other day my son was serenading my husband and I with his toy microphone and I spent half the song searching from my Blackberry to snap pictures and videos of him and the other half sending the pictures to Facebook and family members.  I even urged him to sing the song again so I could capture it from the beginning.  By the time it was over, I realized I had practically missed out on the entire moment trying to record it and share it.  Trying to remanufacture a period in my life just to say – “Look how great we are!”  I am angry at myself for not just sitting down and enjoying the moment.  Capturing that beautiful moment where my son was singing and my husband was smiling in my mind and finding contentment in the experience.  Why couldn’t I just kick it old school and call the grandparents and tell them about it the next day?

When did the “Share” button become such an integral part of my human experience?

Recently, a couple close to me has been going through a divorce.  A knock-down, drag-out, messy divorce.  However, one glance at their respective Facebook pages and you would assume they are still living in marital bliss.  Despite their fighting, they still manage to create happy status updates, pose for a picture with the kids or take a picture of their beautiful home on a sunny day.  Despite their mutual unhappiness, they still find the need to manufacture their lives for public consumption.  Why? For what?

This is not to say that I am going to give up all social networking.  The fact that I am a blogger is not lost on me.  I just find it ironic that this mechanism whose goal was to make us connected can leave us feeling so disconnected.  I can only conclude that I may need to start consciously limiting its exposure into my life – if for nothing else, but to be more present.

What about you? How do you balance this new age of social networking into the realities of your everyday life?

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara is native of New York City and reluctant resident of the DC Metro Area. She is a writer in her heart but a lawyer by profession. She is a wife and also a mom to two boys. She is a self proclaimed and self loving oddball. She is determined to find both spirituality and happiness and like any true totalitarian matriarch, impose both on her family. She is wise enough to know that this may not happen simultaneously.

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The Truth About Mom and Dad

When I was about nine years old, one of my parents did something that hurt me.  It was not intentional but I did not deserve it.  At this point, it does not matter who said it or why but my first parental scar was formed.  I remember going to my eldest brother for advice.  Our meeting place was usually the top of the stairs in the hallway of our childhood home in Queens, New York.  I was crying and rambling and he was listening, like a good big brother does.  When I was done, he spoke.  He comforted me with his big brother wisdom.  Then, he said something surprising.  He said that the accused parent was wrong and only human.

Wrong? Human?
What a novel concept… Our parents are fallible?  They aren’t supernatural barometers of right and wrong chock full of the limitless unconditional love of fairy tales?  He repeated it often throughout the years. 
“Why would she say that? Why didn’t he do this?”  I often whined.
“Only human…“  he echoed. 

It took me awhile to understand this concept but I credit it with saving me from at least 50% of the angst I would have had in my teenage years had we not had these conversations. 

Recently, The View co-host, Elizabeth Hasselback publicly berated ESPN reporter, Erin Andrews for her provocative clothing on reality show, Dancing With The Stars.  In 2009, Erin Andrews gained a level of notoriety after a video was released of her on the Internet naked in her hotel room.  Unbeknown to Andrews, she was being filmed through the peephole of her hotel door.  Criminal charges were filed against the perpetrator and he plead guilty to Internet stalking and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.  Early this week, Hasselback commented that the convicted stalker could have just waited a few months and seen all he wanted to see on Dancing With The Stars.
Yes, I know…
A day later, Hassleback made a tearful apology explaining that she had spoken to her young daughter about it and was reminded that we should not use our words to hurt people.  The blog world lit up with commentary about her “using her child” to negate her behavior and what a “bad mother” she was for setting such a horrible example.  Now, I am not a fan of Elizabeth Hasselback.  In fact, you can probably categorize me as whatever the opposite of a fan is.  But, isn’t this precisely the lesson I learned at nine?  Why is it because she is a mom she is not allowed to make anymore mistakes?  Why is it that turning her very human and let’s just put it out there, dumb moment, into a lesson for her daughter makes her a horrible mother?  I don’t know about you but after my son was born, no one came rushing into the hospital room with a shot of “wrong-no-more” to make me capable of perfect parenting. 

Let me be clear, this concept scares me to death.  As parents, we do hold ourselves to a very high moral standard.  It is our infinite task to teach our children right from wrong, to turn experience it to lessons, and protect our children from harm.  The task is downright Godly and it places us on golden pedestals in the eyes of our children.  When my two year old hurts himself, no matter how bad, he brings the injured extremity to me with tears in his eyes for a kiss.  From a belly ache to a bruised knee.  When I kiss it, he is convinced it made it all better.  When I teach him a lesson like the street his dangerous, he soaks it up and nods his head.  At this point my words are fact, not opinion and he has no reason to doubt me.  But I often wonder, how and when do I begin to infuse my fallibility into the moral high ground of parenting? 

I remember growing up my neighbors Dad used to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  When I was kid, I remember thinking, I guess that makes sense.  Now that I am a parent, all I can think of is how truly damaging that concept can be.  He was essentially saying, although I know I am wrong, I can make mistakes but you can not.  End of discussion.

Talk about setting yourself up for a fall.   

Rightfully so, we often shield our less desirable personality traits from our children.  I just wonder if, in so doing, we are elevating ourselves higher and higher to either a) eventually become unreachable or b) have a long… long way to fall.  My husband and I constantly sensor our bickering, disagreements, penchant for ignorant music, or any other “un-parent like behavior” until after the little one is sleeping.  Our son is insanely happy.  Is it because we are creating this Oz-like world where everyone is always smiling and perfect?  Is there anything even wrong with that?

I can’t name one person I know that has made it out of childhood without a few scars.  Most of these scars were left by their parents.  It is inevitable that we will fall from these man-made pedestals and we will fall hard.  Do we have control over just how hard we fall and what we do to cushion the blow to the world of our children?  What are you doing to take yourself off of the golden pedestal?  Or, is it even necessary that you do?

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara is native of New York City and reluctant resident of the DC Metro Area. She is a writer in her heart but a lawyer by profession. She is a wife and also a mom to two boys. She is a self proclaimed and self loving oddball. She is determined to find both spirituality and happiness and like any true totalitarian matriarch, impose both on her family. She is wise enough to know that this may not happen simultaneously.

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Sweet Tea Tuesdays: Body of Love

Last week, I posed the following question to my faithful denizens of Facebook: What is your current relationship with your body like? Are you and your body soulmates? Are you an almost perfect fit? At odds? Splitsville?

Upon reading the responses and having a few offline discussions, I came to realize what we have in common is a shared agreement on the impact of pregnancy and childbirth or lack thereof on our bodies. What previously escaped me, is the different ways we each view and embrace that impact.

An anonymous friend who struggles with infertility stands in the sidelines jeering the “privileged” complainants, as we go on about our saggy, post-lactation boobs, Caesarean scars and pouches. Briana, a new mother works to wrap her head around the newly discovered limitations of a malformed uterus and cervix -currently housed in a previously favorable pre-Caesarean dwelling. As she wraps her arms around her healthy, albeit pre-term bundle of love, Briana tells me she looks forward to, “the time where I can feel at one with my body and at least feel that I’m able to work towards my goal body, versus being a passenger inside my body”. Admittedly, I felt a certain sting both of remembrance and regret. My biggest complaint today is that I’m no longer able to wrap my growing arse in the same size jeans I once did, and each pregnancy has brought about an increase in an already exceptional -for a 5’3 woman- shoe size; no doubt my concerns pale in comparison. Ali, awesome woman and mother to an even more awesome Ramona, wrote of her struggles with BDD, yet blissfully conceded, “I feel more beautiful now, post C-section paunch, cellulite, droopy and wrinkled than I did at age 23, size 0, perky as all hell. I believe that beauty is felt from our emotional state”.

This all made me think about the question I asked more deeply. With any healthy relationship, one must first come to terms with the basic premise that there is and forever will be some semblance of expectation which dictates your overall level of happiness or unhappiness depending on which way you view the glass. That being said, let me modify my inquiry to include, In what ways has/does your body exceed(ed) your expectations? In what ways has it failed to meet them. How will you adapt/adjust your perspective?

I’ll go first:

After 28 hours of pretty intense labor with our first child, I developed a sense of trust and respect for my body that, at age eighteen- never crossed my mind. Until then, my body was purely for aesthetics, when I wasn’t admiring it, or being admired, it was just sorta there. Then, my first experience with childbirth happened, and did it ever happen. To clarify, I didn’t feel like I was in control, instead the doctors and nurses and unbearable pain ran the show amidst my mostly futile but somewhat helpful attempts to breathe through it. Fast forward eight years later, the pregnancy and birth of our second child was decidedly different. I had a plan and a purpose; I had an expectation. I knew my body, I acknowledged her and used her, and the oft-mistakenly-dreaded gravity to my advantage. I gleaned a new appreciation for the fortitude of these 42″ hips that didn’t waiver as I squatted through moderate pain whilst managing an exceptional load. I felt accomplished. And, like my good friend Amy added when speaking of her current relationship with her own body, “I don’t care about cellulite or stretch marks because those things are a sign of being a woman–growth spurts, childbirth, all of it. My body is a warm, soft place to land, to hug and to love”. I wholeheartedly agree with her there, there are many tales of love and victory in these jeans! Not that many, geez…I could’ve worded that a little differently, eh?

As we continue to explore the relationships we share with our physical selves in the next two parts of this series, I’d love to hear more stories of how you’ve accepted your body and Self, of how you’ve adapted and even accomplished positive results just by being you and using what you’ve got!

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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Finding the Time

When I decided to shift to my niche on my personal blog,  I asked read­ers to leave a ques­tion for me to answer in a blog post. It’s my way of encour­ag­ing a dis­cus­sion and exchange of ideas and tips. The first question/comment comes from Jea­nine aka Nat­u­ral­Momma. Here is what she had to say:

Hi Kristina!

I have a ques­tion. How do you find enough time in your day for home­school­ing and writ­ing and meals and …?

I am mak­ing a bit of a switch, myself, in that I am want­ing to write more, work one-on-one with clients less all in an effort to (1)live my pur­pose and (2)take my biz to the next level.

But as I have begun to spend more time writ­ing mini-books and blog posts and reports and email follow-up mes­sages, my son has begun to hate my computer!


My imme­di­ate response to Jea­nine was a short reply which read, “You are not alone”. I stand by that still. You are not alone no mat­ter how it feels. Before becom­ing a work-at-home mom, I worked full time as an  Eng­lish teacher (9th grade) and for my daughter’s first year, I was also fin­ish­ing grad school. I was a wreck.  I left the house at 7:30 am and returned home most nights after 9:00 pm. On the nights that I was home ear­lier she was in bed by 5:30–6:00 EVERY NIGHT! I kid you not. I barely saw her and I was miserable.

After mak­ing the tran­si­tion to WAHM I thought that life would get eas­ier. I thought that I would have more time for her, but when you work from home it is even harder to draw bound­aries at times. I was work­ing 40–50 hour weeks try­ing to build a web design and con­sult­ing busi­ness and that left VERY lit­tle time for any­thing else. And again I was miserable.

Then I tried to restruc­ture my life accord­ing to worked for so many oth­ers. It wasn’t until I took Michele Dortch’s “Get Your Groove Back eClass*” that I was able to put things into per­spec­tive. Michele runs The Inte­grated Mother blog and net­work and is also a fellow Moms of Hue writer. She pro­vides so many tips to help work­ing moms of all kinds fig­ure it out. But for me it was the eClass that allowed me to focus on what I wanted and what I needed to do to make my life work.

The bot­tom line is this, you have to de­fine what “get­ting it all done” means for you and not for any­one else. As much as I wanted to be super­mom, I learned that my house is not always going to be neat and that din­ner will some­times have to be cereal and fruit in a bowl. My daugh­ter, who will be four in April, HATES my com­puter, but she has to learn that Mommy has to work.

The biggest step that I made in the last 6–8 months is that I set a sched­ule. I sent an email to cur­rent clients out­lin­ing my EXACT sched­ule. Because my hus­band is off from his job Sunday-Tuesday, Sun­day and Mon­day are our week­ends. I do not work unless it is an emer­gency. Here are my office hours and the mes­sage I send all clients:

Sun­day and Mon­day
By Appoint­ment Only
9am-10pm; 1pm-5pm

Please direct all busi­ness related calls to my busi­ness line. Voice­mail and Call For­ward­ing are acti­vated on this line. And as always, you can reach me by email.

I try not to work while she is awake and I am home alone. My hus­band sched­ule affords me that (he begins work­ing at 3pm). If I need to do so, I have spe­cial activ­i­ties for her just for those times. For instance, she gets to watch Wall-E on my  portable Blu-Ray player in her room. This is a treat for her because she does not have a TV in her room and NEVER gets to use the portable player. At other times I allow her to paint alone (makes her feel like a big girl) or play a game on my lap­top. Don’t get me wrong, she still man­ages to need me the most while I’m in the midst of a call with a client, but I also inform my clients that I work from home and that every day is “Take Your Daugh­ter to Work Day” for us.

I left teach­ing because I wanted to focus on my daugh­ter and because I wanted to build a busi­ness on my terms. While I can com­pro­mise every now and again, my work hours are pretty much set in stone. You wouldn’t try to get the oil changed on you car after the garage is closed, right? It’s not dif­fer­ent. If it’s a prob­lem for a client, then I refer them to some­one else. I would rather lose a client than lose my mind!

For house duties these are some things that help:

(1) Weekly Meal menus: plan ahead

(2) Crock­pot: espe­cially in the cold weather. We eat a lot of soup, stews, and chili. But works well for Pot roast, oat­meal and more.

(3) Counter-top elec­tric roaster:  Cuts roast­ing time by almost 1 hour for a full chicken. Less energy used than the oven. Eas­ier to clean.

(4) Home­school Fun Bas­ket: edu­ca­tional supplies/activities that daugh­ter does n0t play with daily. Handy for emer­gency distraction.

(5) Music: take 10 min­utes and dance like crazy with your child. Gives him atten­tion and allows for you to get some exer­cise and stress-relief.

(6) Include your child in as many house­hold activ­i­ties as pos­si­ble. My daugh­ter loves shoot­ing bas­kets with dirty clothes into the washer. She puts the sil­ver­ware away when the dish­washer is clean. She feeds the dog.

(7) I give my daugh­ter a damp cloth and she dust the wooden fur­ni­ture. She’s been doing it since she was 2.

Jea­nine, I hope this helps. There is no exact sci­ence; trial by fire is the only method that I know of for fig­ur­ing this out. Don’t be so hard on your­self. Just take things day-by-day and it will work out.

*this article was originally posted on Mom on the Rise.
image: Flickr/lrargerich
Kristina Daniele

Kristina Daniele

Kristina, Founder and Oz of We of Hue is one of many doing it across hues-homeschooling, wifing, mothering, and business building. She is a web designer and social media consultant with a love of building communities on line. She looks forward to intelligent conversation that is eye-opening and statement-making.

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Sweet Tea Tuesdays: Remedial Lessons

“All I Ever Really Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten”; are you familiar with this classic manual for professionals? Following the past few weeks’ flurry of business events, over-socialization and subsequent people drunkenness, I was prompted to consider summoning my children, yes the children to pen a sequel of remedial lessons for “grown-ups”.

Mayhaps it’s the speed and length of our days, or the magnitude of happenings within the many hours keeping us from maximum sparkle, but adults are in need of polishing, and I say this as not just a spokesperson, but a member of the tribe. I’m not alone in this revelation, as evidenced by my favorite denizens of Facebook. When asked, “What have your children taught you?” These were their responses:

Angela of NM spoke lovingly of her 15 week old yogi Georgia, …”she has totally reformed my perfectionism (out of necessity). She doesn’t care if the house is neat, if her or my clothes are perfectly coordinated, or if the weekend is planned. She lives in the moment and wants the most basic of needs met and that is it.”

Amy in ME added, among many other pertinent lessons, “That trusting them works. That trusting yourself works. …That most of the time it’s best to shut up … and listen. That you have to be healthy and strong so that they are healthy and strong. That there can be such a thing as guidance and boundaries with freedom. That attachment is what they need and want and it doesn’t end at a certain age. …That their opinions and choices are their own. That they can not be spoiled, but parents can be rotten. That they need to be seen and understood and acknowledged.

Will Doctor of NY added,”Choose your words wisely.” Aah yes, succinct is the way to go.

Bek of FL shared a story that filled me with laughter and a bit of embarrassment. Whilst at a doctor’s appointment with her son, Alex, the doctor reported that she’d gained two pounds. Alex was ecstatic, hugged her and said “You are getting bigger now too! Just like me!” He couldn’t understand why she wanted to get smaller. She also added, “Always look on the bright side of life…,the world is a strange place”.

As I read, and re-read these responses, much like the adages of old, their sagacity is timeless. Who amongst us couldn’t use a little less perfectionism, a lot more trust and the discipline of silence where the rights words fail? And wouldn’t it be nice to embrace our ever-growing, changing bodies and minds with the childlike charm and grace? It seems so simple yet so complex. I suspect if simplicity was simpler, we’d all be much better at it. Of course, we could try…go on, you first. I double dog dare you!

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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