Last December as the calendar rushed to a close, I scrambled to write down some meaningful resolutions for the coming year. I knew I was in a better place by leaps and bounds than the previous January, but there was still room for improvement. My diet sucked. I was always exhausted. Time was hard to come by, and I was overextending myself socially on an almost-daily basis, prioritizing my online life and texting over my family and sometimes even work. I heard myself saying YES to a lot of social commitments that weren’t necessary or heart-filling. I felt guilty saying NO to anyone who wanted my time, both online and in real life. But with all of my time and energy being siphoned off to the most frequent texter, I had little if anything left to give to my creative endeavors, my health, and my home.
And I was pretty sad and empty, to say the least.
So I devised a plan to re-focus on what really matters. I called it a social sabbatical, but really it was just an everything sabbatical – a trying harder, doing better, making-more-of-this-life challenge to myself, and anyone else who wanted to join me. A few of my friends took the pledge, and we dove in on January 2nd for a three-month cleanse from all the things that stressed us out.
I personally resolved to use social media less and focus on God and creative endeavors way more. Eat much less sugar, try to work out more frequently. Write every day. Balance work life + home life + friendships in a more proper order, and examine how I was spending my time.
Was it going to be hard? You bet. I manage 3 Instagram accounts and justify separate usage time on each. I actually like my friendships and knew I would feel like A HEEL whenever anyone invited me to do something fun — ask me in April, I’d planned to text back, as if I was away on some enlightening eat pray love trip somewhere exotic and not sitting in my living room on a self-imposed period of social isolation. This pledge was going to be a tall order for the girl who routinely passes out with jelly beans in her mouth, watching hulu instead of writing or reading or talking to God. But hey everyone has to start somewhere! And you can do anything for a couple of months, right?
At first I was all in. Morning workouts, check. Less than 20 daily grams of sugar, yep. Praying & writing & reading every day. Bingo. Regular quality time with Lola, for sure, and intimate time with my husband? ohh yeah.
That lasted six days.
Cut to March. I had reduced my social media intake…slightly. On one of my three accounts. Sugar intake was at an all-time low, then GirlScout cookies happened. My mornings were zen as a thousand perfect sunrises for like three days, until I got stressed in the slightest and my prayers started sounding more like pleas for help than psalms of praise. I had gridlock traffic writers block. Waking up early was killing my drive for life so I slept in; and since I “couldn’t be sore from workouts” on set, I had all but given up on exercise.
I did manage to read. I even finished several books…that I started in 2015.
But one thing kind of slayed. My family life was killing it! I didn’t see it for myself until I looked through the photos on my phone of one magical weekend in March that felt just like spring.
And it’s weekends like these that make me realize, if a social sabbatical can’t fix me and I can’t be perfect or even marginally better at everything, I can at least be the best version of myself at some things — and I have chosen what is best.
FRIDAY, MARCH 11
I wake up to realize it’s the six-year anniversary of my first date with Christian back in 2010. I found this out via TimeHop, which I recently downloaded to stay current in the 21st century and where I now spend my bathroom time reminiscing about the past for approximately 3 minutes each morning. Oh what, like you AREN’T on social media at some point first thing in the morning? WHO ARE YOU?
FINE OKAY Michelle Williams reads poetry. But she’s Michelle Williams, so, yep.
So thanks TimeHop for triggering a slew of random anniversary memories from when we were dating, and reminding me that okay wow it’s a LOT easier to go on dates when you’re 24 years old working one simple day job than when you’re almost 30 years old
HUSTLING ON THE STREETS running a startup company. Just look at us out on a real date in 2012!
That hair! And we look so tired in this photo! Probably from doing fun things like traveling and watching movies and having sex and not from doing our business taxes. ANYWAY MOVING ON –
By fate, we also had a table at the new steakhouse in Edina where my mom works, Lou Nanne’s, for their pre-opening invite-only mock lunches. Named after – yep you guess it – U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Lou Nanne and featuring the former executive chef from Manny’s Steakhouse, the place has everything you would ever want to eat for dinner on date night. And that’s exactly the experience we got at 11:30am on Friday.
“I feel like I just ate dinner and it’s only 1pm” – Christian’s review of Lou Nanne’s Edina steakhouse
Because you cannot take me to any restaurant where food presentation is a consideration without watching me using my camera to document every delicate detail of the meal, please enjoy the following iPhone images of what they served to us at Lou’s:
Great, right? Go take your mom or SIGNO on a date and ask for Stacy, my mom!
I had agreed to lunch with Christian earlier in the week without having any idea the date fell on our quasi-anniversary…and because it did, we had the chance to have a real day-date during our slow season at work when it otherwise would not have been an option. The significance of this was not lost on me. While I would have gladly taken a redbox movie with a medium pepperoni from Domino’s as a perfectly acceptable date, this was an experience. And we only paid for the tip. God is so good!
It was just the perfect thing to kick off a weekend full of kid and family activities. Because, as all of my closest friends know, weekends around here really revolve around Lola.
Second grade has been Lola’s year. She’s made huge strides in her confidence through regular karate lessons and by joining GirlScouts, and she’s been way more active at church. But if you asked her why second grade kicks so much ass, she’d quickly tell you it’s all about the besties. Cookie and Cocoa. Her first real, non-cousin, best-friend-forever named Annabelle who she met on the first day of school.
They were made for each other.
Annabelle would be with us all weekend, because her mom is one of those globe-trotting women who are out of the country more than they’re at school functions and who are somehow able to manage their households from oceans away. This time she was in London. Lola was looking forward to this weekend like it was Christmas in March, and I’d gotten pretty comfortable holding the two-night, three-day bestie-fest over her head whenever she’d get mouthy.
Nothing invokes repentance in a mouthy child like the threat of taking away something she reeeeeaaaaalllllllly wants to do. Works every time!
A little pre-pizza bike ride through the neighborhood
The church where Lola went to pre-school is one of our favorites. I couldn’t tell you 5 good things about the place if I tried, but the building is really beautiful, yeah?
“It’s LINDEN HILLS, why aren’t there more DOWN hills?!” Note to mom, get her a mountain bike because apparently we live IN THE HILLS.
When we got to the lake the girls wanted to play, so I parked it on a bench near the slides and watched the sun go down. And it was only a matter of minutes before a woman sat down near me who obviously needed to talk. After listening to her berate her beautiful biracial grandkids for not bringing jackets for the 42 degree weather, I gestured that my kids were on the monkey bars in short sleeved shirts and reassured her that at this age, kids insist on wearing shorts to school the first day it’s above 30 degrees, and that they’re like monkeys and they run hot anyway. She seemed relieved to not be judged because, in case you haven’t visited me lately, my neighborhood can be kind of judgey about things like child safety. She then opened up to me about how hard life has been for her grandkids, and about her son’s tumultuous relationship with their mother. Though her delivery was gruff, something in this woman’s story compelled me to dial my attention in even more. Her words could have been spoken by any one of the broken hearted mothers I know, including my own, who watch their grown children make decisions that rip them in half and hurt their families for generations. I told her my own experiences of being a single mom and then a temporary guardian for my nephew when my brother left, and I offered to pray for her and for her son.
She seemed lighter after our 40 minute chat, more at ease — and I was so glad I had listened to my heart and leaned in when I saw her, instead of following my first reaction of walking away when she sat down.
And it made me think of all the times I don’t listen, or I ignore those opportunities with perfect strangers on a park bench who seem lonely and maybe need to talk. Call me crazy, but if we are called to be salt and light to the world, shouldn’t that start when we’re killing time on a park bench?
I love hearing other people’s stories. I think listening to others is how we can truly learn to love them, or at least begin to see where they’re coming from. If we are listening instead of judging, we can meet people where they’re at and truly relate to them. I want to do this more in my life, not just with strangely familiar women at the park but with my husband and my friends and with Lola. I want to really listen, hearing hearts instead of just judging words.
Saturday, March 12th
The day of Lola’s much-anticipated ORANGE BELT test had arrived. TIME TO CARBO-LOAD:
I actually flaked on
yet another overcommitment a walk with a friend to stay home and make these pancakes. But again, choosing what is best, right?
Belt tests are grueling. Students are put through an hour of continuous karate that challenges everything they know, without water breaks. Lola’s Sensei Ben describes it as “the most intense class of your life”. Parents aren’t allowed to watch.
So, we took Annabelle and went to buy flowers. Three red roses, one from each of us, for our karate kid.
And we all held our breath as we waited to hear if she had leveled up.
At the end of every belt test, the students are asked to close their eyes and visualize themselves in a movie where they are the very best version of themselves. I’d give anything to see the movie playing in Lola’s head during this scene. I bet it’s the most beautiful movie in the entire world!
Cue the celebratory cookie baking!
Rainbow m&m’s and sprinkles for the newly minted orange belt —
— and a pool party!
Lola took this photo of me driving on our way to Sandra’s pool…she said it felt like we were driving straight into the sunset.
Getting to raise your babies alongside your best friend is like a little slice of heaven on earth, especially when their condo has an indoor pool. I didn’t take any pictures of the rum-and-naked juices we drank, or the 5 (five) pool donut floaties I brought, or the weird little dinner we fed our kids at 10pm because they swam straight through normal eating hours. I was too busy having FUN to document everything (and actually my phone was full). HOWEVER! My snapchat caught a piece of the action:
And these are exactly the moments I like to use social media for.
Sunday, March 13
Donut makers and morning snuggles. How could our day get any sweeter?
Then after church we got the text.
Christian’s sister had her baby!!!
We jumped in the car before dinner for a mini road trip to meet our new niece in Stillwater.
She is perfect. Such a beautiful baby with her dad’s hair and cheeks and nose,
BUT HER MOTHER is a stunner! Alex is the picture of strength and grace in the face of adversity, and she proved she has some serious class under pressure when baby came a little earlier than planned. I admire the actual shit out of her. There was a time when I wasn’t as close to my sister in law, and now I count it all joy that we’re able to be a part of such significant moments in the life of her new little family!
AND DOESN’T LOLA LOOK SO CUTE HOLDING SYLVIE?! Even if she secretly hates it and thinks babies should be “set down” when they cry…haha
But the truth is nothing brings everyone together like a brand new baby.
Another crappy snapchat video that captures the moment SO WELL — seriously, my snap story from this day made me AND my sister in law cry!
So how am I doing with things after my social sabbatical? Pretty great! I’m happier and a little more balanced, even though I’m still biting off more than I can chew in some areas; I still double book meetings sometimes and can’t read my calendar JUST LIKE YOU. But rather than an all-out cleanse from the stuff that junks up my heart, I’m taking it day by day & celebrating my progress in my prayers. Come to Him with thanksgiving in our hearts? YES INDEED.
In the end my sabbatical turned out to be way less about the status of my social calendar and more about the condition of my heart. When it’s centered around the things that give me life, my family, close friends, and day-to-day walk with God, I feel like I can do anything.
And my real friends? The ones who love me don’t mind my messy life or my inability to keep it all together? They’re still there, even though I dodged their texts for nearly three months. I might piss some people off in the process of prioritizing what matters, but that’s just a great way to weed out the weenies, and I think in the end I have chosen what is best. The orange belt weekend proved I’m exactly where I need to be.
I’ll end this by copying a few excerpts from some texts with my gal Resa, who constantly pushes me to try harder and be the best version of myself I can be:
RESA: New plan for April. Starting April 1st write 6 days a week minimum 15 minutes even if just editing former work, read bible every day for 30 days minimum 2 chapters, exercise 5 days a week, and take the sugar abstinence one day at a time. 🙂
ME: Sorry for the delay, I’m managing a bigger production & it has been time consuming to say the least. I think your progress & plan sound great — honestly you are doing SUCH A GOOD JOB! it’s been day by day for me, and I celebrate each day’s progress the next morning in my prayers! I’ve cut way back on sugar, spent SOME time with my bible daily (no idea how much I read, it’s varied), and cut out/stepped back from 2 negative “friendships”. That’s progress to me! I think we should pat ourselves on the back for even attempting to better our lives by improving our habits. And hey- The calendar is 12 months for a reason, imagine how great we will feel/better we’re going to be if we keep implementing these changes all year!
Psalm 145:3-7 New International Version (NIV)
3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4 One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.[a]
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
To choosing what is best for you as well,