As I write this blog, I sit opposite my 8-year-old daughter, while she completes a reading comprehension tri-fold. Today, she has opted to work through Kami (for those of you who aren’t familiar, this is a software program used to annotate PDF files and submit to teachers). An option I’ve created for her otherwise is printing off a PDF version, letting her complete it with a pencil, followed by my transcribing it online. While guiding her, I’ve had to take multiple breaks to help manage my Kindergartener’s live Google meet with her classroom, after losing connection twice, realizing why we couldn’t hear the teacher (I didn’t know her sound was muted) and showing her that she can’t be heard if a microphone is on mute and how to un-mute when she’s asked to answer a question. I’ve completed four loads of laundry, let dogs in and out all morning, answered work emails here and there – and prepared now four meals, and it’s only 12:30PM. I learned early one of our biggest challenges (and there are many) when it comes to virtual learning is that I have two children who have not been trained to operate a computer on their own. They do not know how to create text boxes. They’ve not taken any keyboarding classes. And operating a mouse is foreign to children who are used to speedily operating iPhones and iPads with the touch of their fingertip. Many of these skills aren’t lacking due to anything other than their age. I often hear of generations older than me who struggle to operate computers or social media. This is no different, but add to it short attention spans, boredom, distractions and more. To me, I am a parent who is truly in the trenches of virtual learning – because of the reasons mentioned above. I do not have self-sufficient, computer-savvy teenagers who can do a school day mostly on their own (although I’m sure teens have their own challenges!). I’m helping my girls with each and every assignment, in addition to teaching them life skills as I have tried to do every day… Waking up to an alarm, brushing teeth and hair, getting dressed, making beds, and packing lunches.
My social media hiatus, spawned by an accidental leaving of my iPhone three states away, goes deeper than that. I’ve had to choose something to put to the side while I manage responsibilities I never chose to take on. As many of us have full time jobs, mine is fancily stated Manager of Life Development, President and CEO of the Graf Family Organization. At the end of the day, our home needs to operate like a well-oiled machine, children need to be educated, fed, and driven to extracurriculars. I’ve realized that social media is the ONE thing in my life that is not essential to my wellbeing, or that of my family.
With that being said, it’s important to share, as always, the positives and negatives that I have learned from my Instagram “break.” As promised, my blog will always remain a place where I can share my life experiences, a place my readers can leave feeling like they’ve taken away something more than a pretty inspiration board or been provided easy affiliate links (but there will always be those be from time to time!). No, something they can tuck away in their hearts and minds, and remember that when life feels tough, they aren’t alone. I’ll start with what I have missed from my social media existence.
Inspiration – From interior design to recipes or fashion, I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I told you I didn’t miss it at all. Some of my favorite accounts can be motivating, and keep me driven to explore new recipes, stay on top of my fitness, redecorate a room or order a new outfit (which can be two-fold, as we all know). Some of my favorite accounts include @lboriginals, @murphybeckerart, @meredithlewis, @40aprons, @naptimekitchen, @holycitychic, @forpetessakepottery and countless more. From these, I take away the images of beautiful homes, life tips, delicious and nurturing recipes, and ways to escape from an otherwise gloomy winter day. These accounts continue to appear authentic and are on the list of “never get old” as far as accounts to follow. Ultimately, leaving a daily reel of images forced me to stop looking OUTWARD but INWARD. I got back to my roots and original thoughts. My friends have asked me for years for decorating advice, good recipes and simple life tips – way before I shared them on Instagram. I challenge each of you to ask yourselves how many thoughts, ideas or even people you would connect with – without social media posts or DM’s. My friends are my friends not because of how I’m connecting with them on social media, but because they’re in my phonebook and have been for years. Because I pick up the phone and call them, and ask them about their life on Christmas Day. Or I text them on a regular basis, always checking in. Let’s not let social media rob us of forgetting to connect on more important levels with those we really care about. May we know the difference between these very real relationships, versus connections made through simple social media messaging or commenting on posts. I elaborate on this a little more next.
Easily connecting with my friends and family – I always enjoy hopping on Instagram, and coming across photos and videos of my friends and family, their children, announcements of pregnancies and all the joys that are shared through others’ personal highlights of their life. I enjoy seeing just that – the highlights, the best moments of what people have to offer. We have enough of the hard moments in life that people rarely share. I know that when I open Instagram, it’s going to be the most current happy moments of those I love appearing on my feed. A friend, Casey, messaged me last week asking me if I were okay, because she hadn’t seen me lately on Instagram. She acknowledged that I might just be “taking a break” and that we could all use one from time to time. I assured her all was well, and that I was just cleansing a bit from sharing my life. This is the perfect example of me not sharing the “best” moments, and others possibly assuming something is wrong. (And Casey, don’t worry, you did nothing wrong by assuming!) Nothing is wrong, and just because I’m not sharing everything, doesn’t mean I’m not savoring it in my own way. Why do we feel like if we don’t post it, it doesn’t happen? My beautiful weekend getaway with family happened. I just didn’t share it, and I’m okay with that.
Creativity – I have missed feeling like Instagram was a place I could go to share my creativity. My blog is my “passion project,” which I’ve written about often, and unfortunately, you wonder how many people actually visit James Dean Lane, without being driven there by an Instagram or Facebook post. Although these social media outlets have become the GIANT in providing a platform for bloggers to take their brands and businesses to the next level, I do remember simpler times before they existed when I had to literally go to the search bar and type in my favorite blogger’s websites to visit them. One of the greatest examples is who we now know as The Pioneer Woman. Did you even know before she created this brand, she had a blog titled Black Heels to Tractor Wheels? I related to her on so many levels as a newlywed, fresh out of college in a major city, moving out to a farm in the middle of Bland County, Virginia. I escaped through her blog, learning to grow my own garden, can vegetables, bake gourmet cupcakes and more. I did this without seeing any kind of Instagram post driving me to her website. I simply got on my computer and pulled up her website, excited to see her latest posts.
Now, for the things that I have not missed…
TIME – that’s right. Time. Time goes by so quickly, and I began feeling guilty when the weekly screen time report would come in and my percentages were mind boggling. Those numbers have gone down significantly, and I can honestly see productivity in other ways. Corners of my home are cared for and organized. Projects that went unfinished are now complete. I feel more rested and less guilty. I’m living life in the moment, not as concerned about the perfect photo to document what happened or is happening. I’m living my life in the moment rather than through the lens of my iPhone camera. Instagram isn’t going anywhere any time soon. If you feel like you need to spend your time doing other things, take a break, you’ll see when you return you won’t have missed a thing (other than the new update that had me guessing how to create a new post!)
Feelings of Inadequacy – The way I’ve chosen to manage my life during a global pandemic required making some tough decisions. Placing my writing on the “backburner” didn’t come easy. When I would see bloggers carrying on seamlessly with their “content” I would feel inadequate and question why I wasn’t able to manage all of my responsibilities better. I finally got to a point where I knew I needed to “get out of my own head” and realize that the things I was doing outside of my social media account truly mattered. I saw myself falling into the “comparison trap.” When in reality, how could I really compare? Maybe some of these women didn’t have children the ages mine were, attending a public school that hadn’t decided to go in person in almost a year. Maybe they were at a different point in their businesses that they had assistants helping with their emails, brand deals, and posts. Maybe they had full-time nannies, or family that could help on a regular basis. I had to quit comparing something that wasn’t comparable, and be confident in the life I was choosing to live. Looking back, it hasn’t come without complaints and trying moments, but I can’t believe what I’ve been able to accomplish. I’ve become a teacher to my children, remained a friend and family member who people can count on for whatever they need. I’ve helped plan and execute a family wedding, managed a small home renovation project, pulled off a simple but successful Christmas holiday and even taken on a new job, assisting David and his businesses in their marketing efforts. I couldn’t have accomplished this without my mother, our babysitter, Ginny (now a family member, ha!), and my husband. Thank you ALL for supporting me during this time, and being there to help me. It’s true what they say, you can’t really have it all by doing it all yourself. I don’t feel like my children have suffered when I haven’t been there, because of the love these three have provided them when I physically cannot.
I launched JDL one year ago, and my WHY is no different. Presley and Lottie were my reason for bringing it to life, and they’re also the reason I’ve had to take a step back. I now have in writing, for them to read one day, how I chose to manage during this time, and I pray they take away from it lessons for their own lives. I also hope to teach them about managing social media accounts of their own (LORD HELP ME) when the time comes. Maybe you’ve missed my posts on Instagram, maybe you haven’t. Either way, I’m sharing now where I’ve been and how I’ve gotten here. James Dean Lane is still my creative corner, complete with articles, colors and posts that bring me joy. JDL isn’t essential to my wellbeing, but it most definitely fuels my soul – so let’s “pop the top” and cheers too all the parents out there doing the best they can to manage it ALL! Thanks for stopping by, and catching up with me.
Melissa Thompson says
Once again, a beautifully written and honest article! Wonderful advice for all of us during these trying times. God bless all the parents out there teaching their children at home. I pray we can get back to school in person very soon!
Keep doing what you are doing!! It’s working!
Rebecca Steorts says
Hi, Mary and family. Again, I really enjoyed reading your blog. I am writing because the COVID has kept everyone from their Christmas visits over fear of getting the dreaded virus. I have my second vaccine around March 3 and I have pretty much had not visitors except my sister Bonnie — we have dined together and watched every old movie on the planet. I also visit a 99-year-old lady who is a dear, dear friend and take her food. I am thankful that I have two other houses to go to where I am in isolation as I organize the houses — the beach and the lake house — thank God for these retreats.
Your work with you children is the most important work in the world and I am in awe of you because you are a great teacher! Go ahead and teach your children as much as you can about computer techniques — it is amazing what they can learn at a young age! They will use these skills in the future. I loved seeing Presley and Lottie at work on the computer.
I was hoping to have both sets of Grafs to my home for a little Christmas cheer, and then Carlie got the Covid. May God send the dreadful scourge away soon!!!!!
I missed seeing you, David and the girls very much and I still thinking of you all EVERY SINGLE DAY! We will have an I SURVIVED THE COVID PARTY for sure. HUGS, BECKY