Friday, September 12, 2014

On Reading, Elizabeth Gilbert, Oprah, and The Life You Want Weekend

I love social media.  Love. It.  By giving me a platform to write and connect, social media really has transformed my life.  I have a new career teaching social media, writing, and my newest venture, working on the Hay There Social Media team.  I do all of this from the safety of my keyboard in my home (which is ideal since I am accepting that I am pretty much an introvert).

But the thin line between love and obsession has been blurred.

Instead of making something creative with my hands, I have logged in way too many hours on Pinterest.

Instead of getting lost in a book, I am endlessly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Knowing that I was using social media escape as my escape instead reading was my most alarming observation. 

I realized this on my last birthday, almost a year ago.  I had been pining for Signature of All Things written by my favorite author, Elizabeth Gilbert.  I started reading, and couldn’t do it.  I felt overwhelmed with the fact that it was 499 pages long.

I’m not stranger to long books! Was the 140 character model of Twitter was melting my brain?!

I felt defeated and kind of out of sorts. Kind of like the time when I started the Couch to 5K program: I thought I was in awesome shape until Week 2.  I was out of breath running for five minutes. This spurred a minor identity crisis.

I was not comfortable with this choosing Facebook over actual books, especially at night, which, left me feeling not well rested at all.  So this summer, I tried reading Signature of All Things again.

I had to read slowly at first since the story took place in the 1800s.  The beautifully constructed sentences that created an intriguing plot, a vivid setting, and multidimensional characters were a far cry from the status updates I normally read.

I forgot how therapeutic it could be to become utterly lost in a story.  I loved how I could identify with a fictional character from a different time period, reminding me that we are all on a path of self-discovery.

As I muscled through the book, my love for reading was reignited.  I took that fire and read Poser by Claire Dederer.  As I read about how yoga helped her make sense of the seismic shift that takes place during motherhood, I felt comforted that I was not the only one who had found her long, lost breath in a dimly lit yoga studio.

And then started reading Eat Pray Love for the second time because this book will always be the mother of all self-discovery books.

Well, that and a little something called The Life You Want Tour, in which Oprah is technically the main attraction.  However, when I head that Elizabeth Gilbert was going to be there, I knew that I must go.

I missed an opportunity to see her at Wayne State College during her promotional tour for Signature of All Things.  Something was going on with the kids or Harrington was out of town.  I don’t remember.  The dread of missing my favorite author speak still gnaws at me, much like the time I decided to study for a test instead of going to see the Violent Femmes my senior year of high school.

I may have seats in the upper bowl and I may need a telescope to see the stage, but I am so excited to finally hear Elizabeth Gilbert, the author who has inspired me to find the courage to chase happiness, talk in person.

Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, for reminding me how much I not only love reading, but that I need it in my life.

Do have an activity that you love that has been tossed to the wayside?  What was it?  Were you able to find it again?

Friday, September 5, 2014

To Thomas on Your First Day of Kindergarten

Thomas started Kindergarten this week.  Three years ago, I wrote Marie a letter on her first day of Kindergarten which Huffington Post Parents just picked up!  I would love it if you clicked on over and let me know what  you think.

Dear Thomas,

Today is your big day; today you start Kindergarten.  I feel excited for you because in my heart, I know that you are ready.  Your preschool teachers told me with full confidence that you are ready both socially and academically.

These observations delivered peace to me since I pretty much doubt every parenting choice I have ever made (except that time I bought you a bunch of mini maze books on Amazon to keep you entertained in restaurants and car rides.  You pretty much refuse to do anything that requires you to hold a crayon . . . except for those books.  So I felt pretty solid on that decision).

Your sister probably has very different memories of her time leading up to Kindergarten since she had me all to herself. 

You, my dear, did not get a lot of alone time with me.  This is the default of any child other than the firstborn.  But I also started to dabble in blogging, writing, and social media when you were a baby.  As a new career started to gain traction, my time was fractioned even more and my mom guilt began to grow.

When you stepped on that bus, I was not worried about whether you were going to make it in Kindergarten.  I was worried about if I did my best with you.

Will you look back and feel cheated during all the times we sat in front of the TV together, me on my computer and you on your iPad, while I graded assignments and squeezed in writing time?

Will you be sad when you think of all the times I phoned it in while playing Imaginext characters since I am the worst pretend play mom in the ever?

 Or will you remember the fun crafty things we did together like spell your name with Cheerios or the time you got to play with marshmallows while learning how to add?

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings first day of kindergarten

Or will you remember all the fun times we played I Spy when I took you out for macaroni and cheese with a yummy dessert at Panera every Thursday after gymnastics?

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings first day of kindergarten

I am not sure what memories will stick (or which ones you might share with your future therapist).  Sometimes I think back on the time we spent together, and I am proud of all we did.  Other times I look through the years leading up to your first day of Kindergarten with guilt-laden glasses and think I could have done more.

As you got on that bus, I prayed that the Universe will be kind with you.  Having been a member of the Universe for about 36 years and teaching in public schools for some of that time, I know that this might be too much to ask.  So I hope that I have filled your bucket enough that you feel loved and special regardless of any misfortune that may happen to you.

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings first day of kindergarten

As you depart for this new journey, know that I love you deeply and you can tell me anything, ANY.THING. (even that you decided to throw your lunch away because you were too busy talking to your new friends to eat peanut butter and celery).

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings first day of kindergarten