Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Before I became a runner, I would have told you I was not a selfie person. My Instagram feed was mostly photos of flowers and sunsets, with an occasional book or cup of tea. (Some things have not changed entirely; all those joys still make regular appearances.) But I surprised myself by starting to snap – and even post – running selfies on the regular.

I have a love-hate relationship with social media: I enjoy sharing bits of beauty or great books or other people’s interesting posts, and seeing what others share, too. But I’m all too aware of the corollary that we often edit out the messy bits, to show only the highlights. And while I’m definitely not going to air my dirty laundry in public, I’m always wondering how honest/unfiltered to be online.

trail morning selfie sea water

While most of my running selfies involve me smiling, they are still a way to push back against the “highlight reel” a bit. For one thing: I’m always sweating, my hair is usually blowing around and I’m often not wearing any makeup. This is me, in the literal middle of a workout, and sometimes it’s glorious and I feel strong and confident. But sometimes my feet hurt or it’s cold or I just don’t want to run three miles in the morning (or evening). Sometimes I’m upset or frustrated, lonely or sad. Sometimes I am just not feeling it, for whatever reason.

On those days, I sometimes skip the selfies altogether, but sometimes I go ahead and take them. Snapping a selfie can be a small reset, a bit of a grounding ritual: I am here. In this moment, on this path, with this water or these trees or buildings in the background. I am here, sweat and crow’s-feet and whirling thoughts and all.

Katie trail blue gray water

In three years of running, I have not magically become a marathoner or a record-setter or a runner who runs with total ease. But I am a runner because I run, and my selfies are tangible proof: me, running, or at least pausing in the middle of a run.

Here I am without makeup, in workout clothes, not even close to perfectly coiffed. Here I am in an ordinary moment, which is worth celebrating as much as any day I get all dolled up. Here I am doing something I love, which brings me joy and strength and peace on the best days, and at least lets me work up a sweat and get out of my head for a while. Here I am, running, and sharing at least a slice of that joy with the world.

If you run, or work out, do you post selfies? (Or is this a totally frivolous topic? Even if it is, I think it’s worth exploring.)

Read Full Post »

My latest Chatbook arrived in the mail the other day. As usual, I tore open the jade-green envelope, flipped through the photos with a smile, added it to the growing stack on my bookshelf, and considered whether to cancel my subscription.

Since I started getting my Instagram photos printed through Chatbooks a few years ago, I’ve racked up more than 70 square softcover albums of my daily life. I loved the idea: an easy, affordable way to print the photos I was choosing to highlight anyway. And I still like the quality, and the ease and fun of getting a few photos off my phone. But every time I thumb through the pictures of flowers and books and my guy, a nagging voice in my head asks the same question: does it matter?

Since my divorce, I am a household of one: physically and financially independent. I wash my own dishes, pay my own bills, struggle to do my own meal planning and structure my days. Especially since the pandemic and my furlough, I also struggle to believe that being alone is not a lack, not a deficit. That my worth is not determined by my relationship to other people (though I do have, and am thankful for, deep loving relationships in my life).

Getting my own photos printed sometimes feels like a small declaration that I matter, and sometimes it seems like plain self-indulgence: who else is going to look at these albums? Who would care to? These photos and captions don’t matter much to anyone but me. Is that reason enough to keep spending the money? Am I overthinking this? (The answer is probably yes.)

I don’t have a good answer right now, for the photo albums or for the larger questions of how to build a life on my own. But for now, I’ll keep trying on both counts: keep snapping and posting photos of the details I notice and enjoy, and keep working to believe that my noticing counts for something. I’m not sure if I’ll keep stacking up the photo albums indefinitely. But for now, they serve as a small, tangible reminder: I am here. And I am trying to pay attention.

Read Full Post »

garden-small-beginnings-book-journal

Hello, friends. March has been a bit of a whirlwind so far: the coronavirus is disrupting work and travel plans, among other things. I’m still running, cooking, reading—trying to stay sane. Here’s what I have been reading:

Chasing Utopia, Nikki Giovanni
Thanks to the library’s Black History Month display, I picked up this “hybrid” of poetry and prose poems. I know Giovanni is an important black poet but I’ve only read her work here and there. This was a great introduction: witty, wry, vivid, lots of jazz.

The Garden of Small Beginnings, Abbi Waxman
In a post-Harry Potter fiction slump, I picked up Waxman’s fun debut for a reread. (I read it a few years ago and loved it so much I bought it for my sister—twice. True story.) Lilian, a young widow who works as an illustrator, gets roped into taking a gardening class with her sister and kids. Hijinks (vegetable-related and otherwise) ensue, as well as new friendships and the possibility of romance. Witty, warm and downright hilarious.

Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life, Anne Bogel
Anne is a longtime Internet friend and a voice of wisdom on so many topics, including reading, fashion, personality types and, in this book, overthinking. She delves into the nitty-gritty of “analysis paralysis” and what we can do about it. Practical and wise, and you know I love any book that tells me to #buytheflowers.

The Women in Black, Madeleine St. John
In F.G. Goode’s department store in Sydney, the women in black run the dress department. Over the course of a Christmas season in the 1950s, four women (novices and veterans) form friendships that will change their lives. A lovely, witty period piece. An impulse buy at Trident. (I regret nothing.)

Good Bones, Maggie Smith
I love Smith’s heartening “Keep moving” affirmations on Twitter (can’t wait for her new book) and finally picked up this poetry collection. The titular poem is well known, but I loved lots of others too. Beautiful dark images shot through with light.

For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World, Sasha Sagan
Sagan is the daughter of astronomer Carl Sagan, and a committed secular Jew, but she still craves ritual and believes in wonder, mystery and sacred moments. This lovely book explores times and seasons (the year’s cycle, but also birth, coming of age, death) that cry out for rituals. I’m a longtime (though currently wandering) Christian, but I think people of different faiths (or no faith at all) will find Sagan’s work thoughtful and wise.

Tweet Cute, Emma Lord
Pepper is a high-achieving perfectionist, and captain of the swim team at her elite Manhattan school (where she secretly feels like a fish out of water). Jack is the class clown, used to living in his twin brother’s shadow. When they get embroiled in a Twitter war over grilled cheese, they’re both forced to confront their assumptions about themselves and each other. Sweet, snarky and so much fun. Recommended by Anne.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstores, Brookline Booksmith and Trident.

What are you reading?

Read Full Post »

lilacs flowers rain

That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.

—L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

As soon as the snow melts, I’m poised and ready: watching for the first spears of snowdrops and crocuses, the first buds on the trees, the first leaves on the bushes. Spring in New England is a wonder every year, and I keep an eye out for it, snapping photos on my daily rounds of Harvard Square and wherever else I happen to be.

purple hyacinth

Sometimes I share those flower photos on Instagram or here on the blog, but this year I’ve also been sharing them on Twitter, as part of the Sunday #FlowerReport.

orange-tulips-public-garden

My friend Alyssa, a writer and professional delight-er who lives in Austin, anchors the #FlowerReport, which consists of people sharing photos of gorgeous blooms. We have “correspondents” from all over the U.S. and a handful of other countries, and I love seeing what people spot on their walks, in their gardens or on their kitchen tables.

red ranunculus table

Occasionally someone will share a shot of an unknown species and ask for help in identifying it. (I did this recently with a photo of what turned out to be tradescantia, or spiderwort.) I love the friendly spirit on the thread; the more experienced flower-spotters are always willing to help us amateurs out. And there is so much beauty.

dogwood tree brick wall

The #FlowerReport taps into one of the central refrains of my adult life: I am always trying to pay attention. It’s so easy to get distracted by my phone or my to-do list or my latest worries, but I am constantly trying to stay awake to this rich, messy, glorious, complicated world.

alliums boston public garden

This is maybe a bit easier in the spring, when the natural world is waking up and shouting for our attention with its vivid, gorgeous color. But I still need a reminder every so often. And the #FlowerReport is there like a nudge: What did you see today? Can you show us?

daffodils dachshund table

We have moved from snowdrops and crocuses through tulips and daffodils, on to lilacs, dogwoods and lilies of the valley. Now we are approaching summer, with azaleas, rhododendrons and the first few irises, peonies and roses. I love watching the different flowers appear, and it’s so much fun to share them with this little corner of the Internet.

white tulips boston public garden

If you love flowers or need a bit of beauty in your life, come join us. We’ll be there on Sunday.

Read Full Post »

tulips candle dog table

If you know me in real life, you might know that I have a thing for dachshunds. (I could not resist that dachshund creamer, above, at Fish’s Eddy in NYC last fall.) My family had two dachshunds when I was growing up: Molly, a black-and-gray dapple with a fondness for long naps, and later Peanut, a black mini dachshund who wanted to play all day long.

Both of those sweet dogs are long gone now, and we can’t have a dog in our current apartment. But lately I’m getting my dachshund cuteness fix through Instagram.

It started with Mary Todd Lincoln, a tiny dappled dachshund (with amazingly fuzzy ears) who is one of the resident shop dogs at Parnassus Books (Ann Patchett’s bookstore) in Nashville.

View this post on Instagram

Sunday funday. #marytoddlincoln #FLOTUS #dachshundappreciation

A post shared by Mary Todd Lincoln (@marytoddlincolncoffman) on

 

I mean. Is she not completely adorable? She also likes to accessorize – or tolerates her humans’ tendency to accessorize her.

 

 

The second account I’m obsessed with is Harlow and Sage – which these days actually means Harlow, a Weimaraner with the funniest facial expressions, and Indiana and Reese, her dachshund pals.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BB2p0ZQrP_w/?taken-by=harlowandsage

 

They are seriously silly, and seriously cute.

 

 

The third account I love is Riley the Dachshund. Riley is a tiny black mini dachshund (I swear he looks just like Peanut) who was adopted via the Puppy Bowl.

 

View this post on Instagram

Hi! Play with me?

A post shared by Riley The Dachshund (@rileythedoxie) on

 

My husband rolls his eyes sometimes when I have to show him all the cute dachshund photos at the end of the day. But they make me so happy.

Any animals you’re obsessed with on Instagram or other social media? (What a strange world we live in.)

Read Full Post »

light candles memorial church

Over the past week, I’ve been watching the grief over two deaths unfold in real time. My college community has been mourning the loss of our friend Jeff McCain, and many people I know from Twitter and the blogosphere have been grieving the death of Lisa Bonchek Adams.

Both of them had cancer; both of them died far too soon. And in the wake of their deaths, many of their loved ones have taken to social media to express grief and to honor these two lives.

Jeff and I were friends before Facebook existed. (It came into being during our college years.) Our mutual friends are people we know in real life, from that patch of ground in West Texas where we studied, sang, laughed and cried together. My husband lived across the hall from Jeff our freshman year; my sister and her circle of friends all know him, too. And since we’re scattered all over the country and can’t gather to mourn in person, we come to Facebook to mourn together.

Dozens of people have posted brief sentiments or shared photos. Some of us, like me, wrote longer tributes and shared them as a way of marking Jeff’s death and, yes, celebrating his life. (He was, as I have said, a person who carried joy around with him. I have no doubt he’d approve of us recounting all the funny stories we can think of.) I’ve seen a similar trend with Lisa’s death – dozens of tweets and a fair few blog posts honoring her life, as well as mixed (but passionate) reactions to a couple of pieces in the New York Times.

Besides wishing we didn’t have to do this – because these deaths are fundamentally unfair and heartbreaking – I’ve been thinking about how we grieve together, in the age of social media. These sites where we share so much of our lives have become a new forum for public mourning. I’ve seen it happen after several tragedies: the Boston Marathon bombing, Hurricane Sandy, the events in Ferguson. We come together on social media to share our hurt, our outrage and our deep sadness.

It can be cathartic and helpful – a way to reach out to one another and say, “Me too.” It can also, eventually, become overwhelming. My husband and I have both felt the need to step back from Facebook at various times this week. We’ve sat at our kitchen table for hours, trading stories about Jeff and talking through our emotions. Eventually, we’ve needed to step away even from that. Grief has a saturation point, and it’s not something you work through in a couple of days.

I’ve also been turning back to a few beloved poems, including Marie Howe’s “What the Living Do.” But, fittingly, I discovered another poem this week via Twitter – “The Mower” by Philip Larkin. Its last lines sum up, for me, what this communal grieving is all about:

The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.
This. Always this. We should be kind, and careful to honor the tender places in each other’s lives, the wounds and blank spaces opened by grief. Sharing our sadness on social media is one way to do that. These sites can be loud and contentious places, but when they are avenues for sharing grief (and joy), they become beautiful – even holy – ground.

Read Full Post »

something good polka dot mug

Earlier this month, Anne published a post about how your feed reader can change your life. Her main argument was that reading about a topic can increase a person’s interest in that topic: she recommended, for example, adding blogs related to exercise if your New Year’s resolution is to work out more often.

While I definitely see how such a strategy could be helpful, I took the opposite approach. After reading the post, I went straight to my feed reader and cleaned it out.

Some of the work was simply long-overdue housekeeping. I follow a few blogs whose feeds had moved, or whose authors hadn’t posted in a year or more. I deleted or updated these. But then I took it a step further. If I often find myself skipping past a blog – because I’m bored with it, because the author’s voice no longer resonates, or because the tone makes me feel defensive or guilty – I deleted it too.

The Internet is a loud place, and for those of us who spend a lot of time on it – especially we who relish the odd, beautiful world of the blogosphere and social media – the voices of the bloggers and tweeters we follow become the voices in our heads.

I’ve never met most of my Internet friends in person, but if I’m reading their words consistently, their voices echo in my head with surprising regularity. Sometimes that’s a boon – as when Anne recommends a great book or Micha shares her gratitude on Thankful Tuesday. But some of those voices are often snarky or judgmental, and those are the voices I do not need to hear.

Related: as a reader and book reviewer, I love connecting with authors on social media. It’s a true pleasure to be able to tell someone directly that I love their book, and I’ve made several friends that way, like Rachel and Jennifer. But it took me a long time to realize that I like some authors better on the pages of their books. I’ve unfollowed a few authors because I’d rather spend time with their characters than with them.

In keeping with my word for the yeargentle – I’m not only trying to speak and act gently, but to make sure I’m not filling my head with voices that are sharp-edged or bitter. I welcome honesty, absolutely, and I relish the occasional dose of witty sarcasm. But meanness or snark at others’ expense? I’m out.

When I find a new blog these days and consider adding it to my reader, I pause and ask: do I want this person in my head? Because, if they’re in my feed reader, that’s where they’re going to end up.

Who are the voices in your head (Internet and otherwise) these days?

*Grammar nerd alert: I know I should have used “whom” in the title of this post. But “who” sounded catchier. Forgive me!

Read Full Post »

Earlier this summer, I wrote a gushing review (scroll down) of Laura Harrington’s beautiful debut novel, Alice Bliss. Then I listed it among the best books I’ve read so far this year. (Not because anyone asked me to; just because I loved it.) Then I got to meet the author and have her sign my book when I went to hear her read at the Boston Public Library (along with Rebecca Makkai, whose debut novel The Borrower I quite enjoyed). And then, last week, I heard about a new campaign Laura’s conducting to send Alice Bliss out to as many states, countries and continents as possible.

If you’re a book blogger, you’re invited to request a free copy of Alice Bliss through Laura’s website. It will come with a Bookcrossing ID plate attached; follow the instructions to register your book on Bookcrossing, then “release” the book in a public place and see where it goes! You can follow the project on Tumblr and Twitter, and track your book’s journey with its Bookcrossing ID. I think this sounds like such fun – and I can’t wait to see where Alice ends up.

In case you aren’t familiar with Alice Bliss, it’s the story of a girl whose father is deployed to Iraq, and how she learns to cope with that – but it’s also a story of young love, separation and grief, the ways we cling to – and learn to release – those who leave us, and the ways families lean on each other. It’s beautifully written and so real, and it honestly provoked both laughter and tears as I read it.

I’m waiting for my copy to come in the mail (I didn’t want to “release” my signed edition), and I’m wondering where to “release” it. An empty bench on the Common? A coffee house? What do you think? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Read Full Post »

Some of you may remember I gave up Twitter for Lent this year. I confess my motivations weren’t all high-mindedly spiritual. Far from it, in fact. I knew I wouldn’t, for example, spend the time I usually spent on Twitter praying, or reading the Bible – most of the time I spend on Twitter is at work. And I am under no illusions about Twitter’s importance in the grand scheme of things – the fact that I even had to worry about giving it up is a problem of privilege.

I mainly wanted to do two things: give up something for Lent that demanded a lot of my attention, however trivial it seems; and break the cycle I’d gotten into of hopping onto Twitter every few minutes during the workday, scrolling and clicking links ad infinitum. I wanted to use Twitter as more of a tearoom, as Marianne says, rather than a constant stream of distraction that left me feeling frazzled and guilty for wasting so much time.

Since Easter, I’ve been tweeting again – though I find I have less to say these days. And while I still sometimes fall into the scrolling trap, I’ve at least gotten better at catching myself when I start clicking multiple links or reading dozens upon dozens of tweets (as opposed to the freshest 20 tweets or so).

It’s not ideal, but it’s a step. Catching myself, and refocusing, sure beats mindlessly giving into the urge and letting my time-wasting go unchecked. I guess this is what they call self-discipline.

Anyone else struggle with the distractions of social media (or other distractions)? How do you catch yourself and refocus?

Read Full Post »

The title of this post can, and does, mean two things. One: the friends I have in real life who blog. Two: the friends I met through blogs who have become real-life friends. So you will get BOTH lists, dear readers. Here’s the first one, with all the appropriate linky love.

Real-Life Friends Who Blog (as in, I knew them in real life before they blogged, or before I started reading their blogs)

1. My sweet husband, who blogs in fits and starts, but is currently on a roll. He blogs about sports, music, therapy and faith, among other things, at Wide Awake.

2. Val, with whom I studied abroad in 2004; we then practically lived together for the rest of college. She and her sister Ginger share the blog Saltwater Coke.

3. Dani Lin, aka Wrangler Dani, also part of my study abroad group, and Val’s college roommate, and my dear writer friend.

4. Lady Juliette also studied abroad with us (see a theme here?) and lived with Dani and Val (and Kisha, who does not blog) at what we called House 9 Abilene. It was part party headquarters, part living room, part therapist’s couch and all blessing.

5. Joey used to blog at Prosso Speaks and is now at The Young Oak. He’s another one from Oxford ’04, and he just got married this weekend. (Woo hoo!)

6. The lovely Julie of Renard et Oiseau was a fellow English major at ACU, though we really became friends after college.

7. The other lovely Julie is part of my church small group, and one of the women I want to be like. I adore her.

8. Brent is a college buddy currently living in Armenia, doing the Peace Corps thing.

9. Amanda is one of my coffee-night ladies, the founder and director of Sanctuary Home for Children, and a henna artist extraordinaire.

10. Jana also comes to coffee night, and takes wonderful photos, and occasionally directs plays.

11. Richard is married to Jana, teaches psychology at ACU, and thinks deeply about almost EVERYTHING.

12. David and Stephanie studied abroad with me and then went to grad school with Jeremiah, so they are truly our mutual friends. They live in D.C. now, and sometimes they blog.

13. Los Fletchers were our los vecinos (neighbors) before they moved to Peru to be missionaries a few months ago. They are Lee and Stephanie, with three adorable kids – Sofia, Maddox and Liam – and they are funny and big-hearted and faithful, and we miss them terribly.

14. Mike Cope is my dad’s childhood friend, our former minister, the man who performed our wedding and a dear friend. He’s also a thoughtful, brilliant, kind theologian and professor.

Up next: a list of folks I met through blogs who are now real-life, flesh-and-blood friends. (Ah, the wonders of the Internet.)

Happy Monday!

Read Full Post »