Does Gen Y Send Xmas Cards?

Have we lost the art of letter writing?

The day after Christmas, I received two Christmas cards in the mail. Both writers wished my new family a merry holiday and one elaborated briefly on the happenings of her life. This was the first year I have received Christmas cards in the mail and to be honest, I was a little surprised to find them in my mailbox.Christmas Cards

In our high speed lifestyles, is there time to send holiday greetings? Or do we succumb to sharing holiday memes on Facebook?

In my English classes, we read the letters to and from the writers we were studying in addition to their works. These letters not only gave us insight into their day-to-day lives, but the world in which they lived. This insight could be then applied to better understanding their works. We cannot truly understand Pride and Prejudice without understand the world of Jane Austen.

In 2014, we share our thoughts through Facebook status updates, and 140 character Twitter tweets and text messages. We send private messages and emails. We read our news online. We are dependent on technology to communicate.

Will sending holiday greeting cards become as antiquated as holiday fruit cakes and yule logs?

Detoxing: Removing the “Busy” From My Life

It took me eight weeks to truly embrace being a stay-at-home mom. To be honest, I’m not sure if I can completely embraced the idea yet, but I am miles beyond where I was two months ago.

Like I’ve indicated within some of my posts, I was a bit of a workaholic. Not only did I enjoy working for pay, but I also enjoyed volunteering in my community. I looked for opportunities where I could positively impact the world around me and dedicated hours that could go to sleeping, relaxing, dreaming, to that cause. I loved projects. I loved late nights and early mornings. I loved to be busy.

In American culture, we often discuss the glorification of “busy.” How many activities can we add to our week? How many hours can we squeeze into our already work-driven lives? What is the impact of this “busy”-ness on our psyche, our health, our relationships?

I’ve always imagined myself to be a writer. As a child, I enjoyed writing short stories that featured my favorite Barbie doll, created an imaginary situation or emulated a recent movie, book or TV show. However, as an adult, I found that I had less and less energy and focus to write. Beyond some scribes in a notebook or a haphazard thought before I fell asleep, all aspirations of “becoming” a writer fell to the wayside. My hourly wage was more than I could make as a young writer.

Before I knew it, I fell into the “busy” lifestyle.

It took my pregnancy for me to realize that I was running at an unsustainable level. I worked two jobs, applied to graduate programs, developed a community band for my hometown’s anniversary celebration. Forget writing. I could barely stay awake to play a video game or watch TV with my boyfriend.

It became my intention to “detox” the “busy” from my life. I completed my projects, reduced my workload and tried to ease into stay-at-home motherhood. I still had great aspirations for my time at home. I planned to clean, remove the clutter that had accumulated, finish some projects, sell old textbooks online, etc. I planned to write and I enrolled in an online master’s program.

After my daughter was born, I quickly realized that it would be much more difficult to complete whatever tasks I thought I would be accomplish while being constantly distracted by the adorable changes in my growing little girl. The clutter remains. Laundry is only done when absolutely necessary. Books remain on the bookshelf and I have finally started writing again.

Despite the fact that I am still enrolled and currently excelling in the one class I am taking, I’ve realized that I did glorify the “busy” lifestyle. I now tell people who ask me when I will complete my program that I am in no rush to finish it early. Again, to be honest, taking a master’s level online course is much more difficult with a little baby than I had anticipated.

I look back on these last eight weeks and I realized that I removed a substantial stress from my life. I move a lot slower now and take real care for my family’s well-being. I find myself embracing the new moment to moment movement of my life. My life now has a sense of fluidity that I have never adopted so eagerly before now.

*These are just my thoughts on my experiences. I know that many parents need to balance work and family. Props to those to do it and do it well. 

I spend too much time on Pinterest

I feel as if I am one of those really annoying dieters. I talk a lot about dieting, do it for a few weeks and then fall back into my old habits. However, I would replace the word “dieting” with the word “writing.”

Hello, my name is Sara and I am a binge writer.

For a week or two, maybe a few more than just a few days, my thoughts are consumed with writing. What will I say? What witty observation can I make about myself, or life, or social events that others will be able to relate to? How can I use vocabulary that will interest my readers but will also inspire them to think out of the box? What are my goals with writing this piece? Or that piece? Or using this word?

Yes, it is rather obsessive. But again, how many dieters do you know who will obsess over the products they put into their bodies? I know several.

And, I suppose that if we are going to continue with the dieting analogy, then Pinterest is my secret stash of chocolate I save for “emergencies.” This is, of course, all fine and dandy except for the fact that the definition of what actually constitutes an “emergency” is a little blurry:

  •  A bad day at work, an hour of searching through DIY projects will cheer me up.
  • I want to go shopping, but my rather limited bank account stops me, so let me just cruise around the Women’s Fashion pages as I look for new ways to wear the clothes I already have.
  •  I’m bored and my boyfriend is playing video games. Pinterest it is.

Just as dieters have books on nutrition, weight loss, and alternative usages for cauliflower (yes, thank you Pinterest), I have stacks of books and magazines dedicated to the craft. And they get about as much use as the scale I hide in my bathroom.

Just a quote about writing.

So what do I do? Well, the proverbial “they” say that the road to change begins with admitting that change needs to happen. I’m just not sure if I’m ready to delete my Pinterest account just yet.

I wrote this post didn’t I?

Just a quote about writing.

Some Thoughts on Writing and other Things: Confidence

This past year, I’ve been doing some thinking on the idea of confidence: What does it mean? Where does it come from? How do we cultivate it within ourselves and each other? Etc. After coming off the confidence bender that is college, I felt a little drained and rather out of sorts. I did not have the same support system that fostered such intellectual confidence that I had found in the halls of academe. I was out of my comfort zone, a place that conditioned the kind of strength I had. But where had that confidence gone? How could a trait that is often seen as the cornerstone for a solid foundation of self-worth and purpose seem to be so fleeting, especially when tested? Where was my confidence as I stocked bananas and corrected comma splices?

Writers know that a lack conviction for the words they choose can be crippling. Stage fright and self-doubt will destroy a musician more than any missed note or poor pitch. And artists show their truest selves with every display of their work.

To be honest, my misplaced confidence has stopped me for writing more than a quick entry in a worn notebook.

As a tutor, I see that one of the greatest challenges my students meet every day is a lack of confidence. One at a time, they come into my office, looking for guidance and assurance that they are truly on the right track. Through some coaching about language and sentence structure, we reach an agreement that they have great ideas and that I am here to help them convey them coherently.

Not only are my students overcoming a number of academic and transitional obstacles, they must also overcome their own self-image. Often, although many of my students are smart and have profound insight, they are inhibited by their lack of confidence as some voice from their past continues to whisper that they can’t do it.

For a while, I would joke that I was more of a cheerleader than a tutor. The majority of many of my sessions with students would consist of words of encouragement and exclamations of “You got this!” in my most New England of accents.

Why is it so easy for us to say that we are not good enough, but so hard for us to see our strengths?

This summer, I stumbled across TED Talks. I feel like I’m late to the game of one of the greatest sources of really awesome lectures and new ideas. Amy Cuddy’s Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are has really resonated with me. She explains that our posture, the way we hold ourselves, not only directs how other view us, but also how we view ourselves. If we appear hunched or walk with our heads down, we not only tell others, but we tell ourselves that we are insecure. Yet, if we walk tall with our heads up and our shoulders back, we not only tell others that we are confident, but we tell ourselves this too.  There is an exchange between the brain and body that causes us to believe (or not believe) in ourselves.

Now, I know that I am not doing her talk justice, so I recommend that you watch it. Here is the link: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html

Later that same summer, one of my colleagues told me about the phrase academic confidence. Because many of our students come from non-academic backgrounds, the transition to the classroom is really difficult. Although I’m not sure exactly what has come of this or where she caught this idea, I’ve latched onto this idea. As a tutor, I can foster the development of this kind of confidence in my students–the ability to speak with conviction within the classroom, to share new ideas in an educational setting and to be comfortable with this idea of student/scholar.

And with this, I return to my original dilemma–how do we translate this kind of confidence into real world applications? How do we find the same conviction outside our comfort zones?

I use my experience as a tutor because it allows me to distance myself from my own doubts and insecurities. I can see the difference between first semester students and continuing students by the way they carry themselves. Most returning students demonstrate their confidence as they walk through the halls with their heads up. By witnessing how they overcome their challenges, I can reflect on my own and this begets the writing process and some personal reflection on my posture.