Friday, July 5, 2013

Fourth of July Fail (Beauty from Ashes--a little too literally)

For the 4th, we decided to have a nice, simple family cookout. We would keep it low-fuss and make hobo dinners and hang out together (warm snugglies).

Only, I was just in a bad mood yesterday. Partly because I'd spent the last couple days feeling inadequate about several things in my life. Partly because I felt a little lonely and kind of wished we were hanging out with more people. Partly because I felt like each time we tried to make the best of things and do something cool, something extra-frustrating would happen (like Emma peeing right down her legs at the zoo; arg).

By dinner I was hungry. We wrapped up our dinners. I made a special strawberry drink, but other than that, it really was low fuss.

And then when we went to eat, the lovely pictured above is what we got. This, by the way, was one of the more successful packages. There were at least two that were charred black and light as air.

And here, I'd like to say that--like a true champion--I laughed it off and sent Kip off to Rally's to buy some burgers. But I didn't. I was hungry and grumpy and then Mark said--or I thought he said--"so you didn't have a back-up plan?" Into which I further read: Snark snark about your food; it's always lame and terrible.

At which point I said 'shut up' (which is a word considered dirty in this house) and walked off. Mark cried, Kip called me back. I told Kip to go get some edible food from Rally's (burger joint in case you're wondering). And then I sat and picked at the food while Mark continued to cry and Savannah said she liked the burnt food to try to make it all better.

After a few minutes it occurred to me that I could ruin this holiday or I could allow it to be good. I didn't even have to make it good. I just had to let it happen. It wanted to be good, but I was stopping it. Me. Not Mark with his rude comment about dinner. Not Kip who had cooked our meals into oblivion. Nope. Me. I was the one with the attitude all day long. I was the one who'd made my son cry.  I was the wall that everyone kept hitting when they were all ready to go forth with holiday happy-go-lucky funness. I'm not sure how I got this thought with such clarity. I can only assume it was a grace from God that let me think straight for that one clear-eyed minute.

So I went over to Mark and put my arm around him and apologized. Turns out he had asked if there was a back-up plan, not snarked about how I should have had one. And we all just sat there for a few minutes, tears drying up, and everyone starting to feel better--the bad melting off, ready to be replaced with something good (another grace from God). And then we gathered up the dirty dishes and burnt meals and cleaned up and Kip got back with burgers and fries (and over-priced shakes that everyone was so happy about they were worth every penny) and we ate and laughed and set off fireworks and it was--indeed--a lovely, lovely night. Maybe even a little better--a little sweeter--for the bitter we'd tasted earlier.

I found that today I wanted to write about it. Not so much to talk about the event (though I've spent plenty of time on that, now haven't I), but to talk about blogging and perfection and the appearance thereof.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the internet faces we get to see--everybody's pretty facebook shots and clever quips. All those blogs with the food spread out and a post about simplicity and togetherness. The pictures of people's children--dolled up and smiling. Pinterest (need I say more). I admit that sometimes perfect food, happy kids, and general gloriousness are what happen in life. But often--as we all know until we start to disbelieve it because it seems like everyone else is doing so much better than we are--we have messes and complaining at dinner and tears and grumpy kids or bloody-shinned kids or kids who haven't gotten their hair French braided in months, people, months.

It starts to weigh a little on the soul. This is a post to beg us--you and me--not to let this happen. Beautiful things can happen, and it's not wrong to celebrate when they do. Ugly things can happen too. It's okay to acknowledge them and do our best to move on and improve. But what we should really try to avoid is thinking that every pretty thing that happens to someone else is what always happens to everyone else all the time. We should also try very hard to avoid knowing that we have something ugly (or at least somewhat homely) and stick a pretty face on it anyway and then say to all our friends, "Hey look at this pretty face; you should have one too." This sort of thing isn't helpful to anyone (come on--you all know those Pinterest crafts/recipes/homemade hair products you've tried that have not even kind of sort of resembled the magazine-esque picture posted.)

I'm not saying we should resent other people's talents or the beautiful moments of their lives. I'm not saying we should air all our dirty laundry. I'm not saying that everyone needs to know everything bad about us every time. I'm just saying that there's no reason to put so much make-up on our faces that we forget there's a face underneath. In bloggy-land or otherwise.

Let freedom ring.


  1. Amen. Thanks for being real. And I'm glad your day ended up so sweet. :)

  2. I often find myself comparing our behind the scenes with everyone else's highlight reel. It's unhealthy, and still, I can't stop.
    On another note, this may be something you already do, but it made me think of your blog:

    If it's not something you already do, or it doesn't sound doable, I'm sorry! I certainly don't mean to contribute to your "I'm not doing it all" feelings ;)

    1. It's hard not to compare yourself, especially when it seems like people are saying, "Yeah, this is totally how we always are" (not that everyone's saying that, but sometimes it feels like some blogs kind of are; hopefully I'm not being judgy and jealous and harsh here). Anyway, I keep thinking about my kids growing up and being confronted as younglings with a constant pressure to compare to the facebook profile syndrome and it worries me. It was plenty hard to be a teenager before everyone was posting the very cutest pictures/things about themselves all the time.

      I haven't ever made veggie broth and it does sound really simple, doesn't it. I bet you could even do it in a crock pot. Thanks.

  3. "I'm just saying that there's no reason to put so much make-up on our faces that we forget there's a face underneath."

    Now that is a good quote! You definitely know how to choose words. I loved your post.

  4. That was a great post Jean. I'm ALWAYS comparing my life to other people's lives, or my perception of their lives. And doing that never ends up with me feeling great! So thank you. Again, that was a great post.

  5. Fabulous post! sending you love and light from another mama who has issues with comparing herself to an every higher standard of 'Pinterest Mommies' Love your blog!



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