August 29, 2011

How real do we want to be?

matt_nico_big_basin.jpg
Matt and Nico, Big Basin CA State Park, Santa Cruz, CA, Canon Digital Rebel XSi

In telling a story, especially for public consumption, I am always aware I have a choice. Do I tell you the gory details? or stick to what I loved most about it? Do I talk about how crabby I was? how the kids wouldn't stop whining? how Matt and I were ready to wring each others' necks? or how majestic the redwoods were?

All these stories are true. And it's a question I ask myself often. What story wants to be told? Am I telling you a story about visiting the redwoods and why you should go too? or is this story about something else?

I have a tendency to get triggered by certain blogs. My I'm-not-enough meter goes haywire when I see their beautifully decorated homes, their immaculate children, their seemingly storybook marriages- what I perceive as their perfect life. I want to be inspired (and sometimes I am) but I usually end up wondering why my life doesn't look like that, or more specifically, what's wrong with me that my life doesn't look like that. Have any of you had that experience? OMG, please tell me you have.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for celebrating our lives, highlighting the good, and giving thanks for what's working. These people are doing nothing wrong in their lovely blogs! but when I find myself in that moment when I get to choose what version of the story I want to tell you, I am tempted to provide the public service of making all of us feel normal and better about what our lives actually look like.

andrea_ben_big_tree.jpg
Me and Ben, Big Basin CA State Park, Santa Cruz, CA, Canon Digital Rebel XSi

It feels like a risk even as I write it. Keep up the mythology! a voice in my head shouts. Just show the pretty pictures and be done with it! The shiny version is more inspiring! But is it? It's the blog equivalent of something Matt watched me do at a party last year. I had just had Nico a few months before and some girlfriends were complimenting me on how I looked. "Oh thanks you guys, but really it's just these pants," I said conspiratorially. By this time I had lifted up my shirt and shown them the extra flesh on my belly. "See?" In the car later, Matt and I agreed I should have just said thank you.

Ah, well. That's me.

ben_big_basin_tree.jpg
Ben, Big Basin CA State Park, Santa Cruz, CA, Canon Digital Rebel XSi

What I really want to say is that I could have written a neat little post about visiting the redwoods, about watching Ben's delight as we entered the park, about his unbridled glee as we came upon ginormous tree after tree, so big you could literally step inside the room at the base. I could tell you about Nico, and how his legs kicked wildly in the Bjorn every time Ben got excited, aware that something extraordinary was happening but not entirely sure what it was. But somehow that wouldn't be the whole story.

Years ago, I heard Ira Glass (from This American Life) speak about storytelling at a local theater. I remember him saying that to be interesting, a story has to be universal. It has to touch on something that connects us all. The story itself is specific, but points to something bigger. I don't always succeed, but this is what I am listening for every time. What's the nugget of truth hidden inside? What's the tiny revelation? What's the real story living just below the surface?

amazing_redwood.jpg
Big Basin CA State Park, Santa Cruz, CA, Canon Digital Rebel XSi

In the case of the redwoods, the story is more of a question, or something I wonder about. In blogging, there is a fine line between airing our dirty laundry/complaining and telling the real story. One is uncomfortable (like oversharing) the other connects us in our humanity. Telling the bright side of the story rides the thin line of either super-inspiring or coming off as pollyanna and without depth.

ben_big_trees_nico_matt.jpg
Ben, Matt, Nico, Big Basin CA State Park, Santa Cruz, CA, Canon Digital Rebel XSi

By the time we arrived at the redwoods, the kids had been in the car way past their expiration date. They had been alternately crying and whining for HOURS and Ben had literally been asking, "Are we there yet?" so many times he fashioned it into a song. Landing ourselves in a hundred year old redwood grove with 300 foot trees towering over us, is possibly the ONLY thing that could have made that drive feel okay.

I felt bad for Matt in regard to his birthday this year. We ended up spending it in the car, in massive traffic, with two crying children (wait, this sounds familiar!) while all of our friends waited to celebrate him back in Berkeley at a park. The next day I told him that I was sorry his birthday turned out that way... He smiled and said, "It was just really real. A little too real."

Posted on August 29, 2011 01:32 PM
Comments

Oh the under-belly of family life!
I have to say with my 4 sons in their 20s, I read blogs of artist moms with young children and get the feeling I did it wrong. I had to take long sabbaticals from artist work to raise and care for our family and to make room for art jobs that could pay bills.
It looks easy now. Why was it hard for me?
Now, I feel so far behind.
I am glad I had them young.. but I feel left behind. Sometimes I think it is too late for me.
That it's the young moms who are raising their kids with the internet and etsy and are able to fill their e-classes who can have the support of the world.
Thanks for sharing the luscious crying and wonderfully tiring days that I start to think were only obstacles for me.
Big Dreams, Small reality
xo

Posted by: laura at September 1, 2011 05:31 PM

My fav moment is when I captured the joy on my toddler face as she watched a parade

Posted by: jeannine m at September 1, 2011 04:58 PM

You are always so authentic, Andrea. A facade can only do so much for the world (and that's usually nothing truly positive). There's a crucial need for bloggers to stay upbeat, yes, but social media has somehow convinced us that we need to stay "on it" and look the part every inch of our lives. So when I'm feeling totally pissed off or fully uninspired, I feel I've failed. And, frankly, that's just messed up. I'm guilty of keeping things more "positive" on my blog and a bit less personal than you on yours. But, you know what? It's your humor and wit and insight and honesty that keeps us coming back to check in on you and somehow connect.
You are extraordinary and empowering. Keep to your truth while enjoying the beauty. I think that's a good rule of thumb.

Posted by: cath at September 1, 2011 12:22 PM

Big Al with KK and Philippe Albert fighting it out for 2nd. It is a hard one to just pick 1

Posted by: Berry Likio at September 1, 2011 12:20 PM

I'm guilty of not sharing the bad with the good on my blog. For so long now I've called it my "happy place", a place where I didn't want to feed negativity.

But I get that sometimes the bad is just part of my story and it's worth sharing, too. I'm sort of struggling right now with a new direction that I'm heading in, and I've been hesitant to share it with my readers.

I think that I just need to get over it and let it flow!

Great post!

WW

Posted by: Wayfaring Wanderer at September 1, 2011 09:55 AM

Pretty insightful. Thanks!

My blog:
dsl vergleich berlin dslvergleichdsl.com

Posted by: Byron at September 1, 2011 03:07 AM

Loved this post. Rookie Mom Whitney directed me to you after I wrote about something similar on my blog: http://thehappiestmom.com/?p=4310

My feeling is that "real" is important but that inspiration has a place, too. I share pretty openly about my faults and my fallings-down, but I also share my moments of zen and the more beautiful moments. I guess it's a matter of what inspires you, what reassures you as a reader (and the answer is different for everyone.) I like the story to be presented with both the good and bad aspects, but I like the promise of better, the optimism. And if I DIDN'T like that and it made me feel really bad, but kept reading happy-positive mom blogs, then that would just be silly of me. :) Everyone wants their stories told a little differently; that's human nature. As a reader I need to know where to go to get the story that helps me most.

Posted by: Meagan @ The Happiest Mom at August 31, 2011 07:08 PM

i love that - a little too real. I have felt that many many times. i love the realness though, well not in the moment most times, but afterwards and here. real is good.
xoxo

Posted by: stefanie renee at August 31, 2011 07:01 PM

I've had a far from stellar day today myself, and while none of us wants to be a whiner, I'm actually glad to hear and be reminded that we all have low points and low days. Thanks for the reminder.

Posted by: Jennifer at August 31, 2011 05:59 PM

What a great post, for so many reasons. Reading your words, I can feel the real. And the real, that is what connects us all! The real exists as much in the messy and imperfect as it does in the happy and sunny.

Posted by: Kelsie at August 31, 2011 02:38 PM

I really like the way you worded the same thoughts I have frequently.

I wrote about something like this once.

http://mjbillingtonquebec.blogspot.com/2009/10/blog-post.html

Posted by: Jill at August 31, 2011 01:14 PM

I absolutely life this post, Andrea, and the authenticity behind it. I often find my self reading some of those "incredible" blogs and almost stop myself - as if I'm not worthy of them. So ridiculous, isn't it?? I strive to be authentic - and - positive. I might share my less than perfect days, but always reflect on the moments of good inside of them.

Great post!!

Posted by: Leanne at August 31, 2011 12:27 PM

Andrea - so true - always tell the story the way it is...The other fluff is just that - it's pretty - but no depth - no feeling - no life - and very little art - be who you are - the superhero you always comes shining through... :)

Love the Redwoods - I married a california guy and we are growing redwoods (yes it's true!) in North New Jersey! - Coastals (like at Muir woods and Sequioas too!

We love them all and so far the two largest trees ( we have planted 9) are over 12 feet tall!

hugs and see you at the next photo class

hugs,
Beth

Posted by: Beth at August 31, 2011 10:12 AM

Yes! It totally is a line. I have had to stop reading blogs at times that for whatever reason trigger me into questioning my own self worth. Yet at the same time I believe we get what we focus on, so in that vein it is important to tell the story we want to hear. Such a never ending balancing act!!!

Posted by: Melanie at August 31, 2011 09:10 AM

Ha ha, the story about lifting up your shirt to show the bellyfat after pregnancy and saying "Oh thanks you guys, but really it's just these pants", I have so been doing that recently!! :)
My daughter is now 3½ months old and I do look ok, so why is it so damn hard to give yourself credit for that and just say thank you and not just give all the credit to the darn slimming panties? I will try to do better!

And thank you again, Andrea, for being an allways inspirering voice in all the craziness!

Posted by: Lene at August 31, 2011 08:52 AM

Interestingly, another blog I read just wrote on a related topic:

http://thehappiestmom.com/?p=4310

I like that she puts the responsibility on us as the readers to interpret the "inspiring blogs" as only a piece of the story.

Goes back to that old saying that no one makes us feel badly...we often do that to ourselves.

Posted by: Denise A. at August 31, 2011 08:42 AM

Andrea-

You telling it like it is - - - one of the things I love MOST about your blog. I'm in complete agreement about the "Stepford Wives" blogs, totally depressing to me. I love that yours is REAL. Keep the truth coming. :)

Posted by: Corinne at August 31, 2011 08:11 AM

Oh my yes! Your words and sentiment hit the nail on the head. I beat myself up way more often than I should thinking I've missed some pivotal lesson in life on how to "get it right". I totally get that you never know what goes on in someones life unless you actually live that life, but its darned difficult to check out what seems to be so much "perfect - everything" in the blogosphere and not feel like I could/should be doing something ... more. Thank you Andrea for your dose of reality. It is much appreciated and welcomed.

Posted by: Lucy at August 31, 2011 08:04 AM

Yes...yes...YES.

Having watched blogs transform over the years, I definitely agree with you and relate. When the kids were babes, it seemed like mommy blogs in particular were "real"...but then, advertisers came along and seemingly overnight turned real into "perceived real". Money tends to turn what is real into what is seen through rose colored glasses. And it ANNOYS me. I've cut back majorly on many blogs because of this. I see people killing themselves trying to live these perfect lives...or, being paid to pretend they do, and I get pissed to be honest. I don't document in a beautifully designed layout or scrapbook my life every single day. But people do it, or they write on a blog that they do. It freaks me out, and I wonder where the hell they find the time for the photo editing, printing, graphic design and pasting and cutting and God knows what else. Or the people that redo a perfectly good room in their home...just because they're tired of the paint color (maybe because Behr paid them to!). I mean, like the entire room, complete with all new furniture and wallpaper! I've had the same decor for eight years and every time I think about changing it I get sweaty and anxious...and then realize, that's ridiculous! My things are nice and pretty already...who am I trying to keep up with or impress!? And then the stories of the perfect outings...with dozens of children, on a bullet train in Europe or some such. Give me a break. I hope these people live these seemingly stress free, Anthropolgie designed lives...someone should I guess. But for the rest of us...who don't throw a party for the first day of school that looks as if it's been catered by Martha Stewart, well, we're just over here muddling through in our non J Crew attire and Etsy filled diaper bags.

When I was in college I took a women's studies class. In the class we analyzed women's magazines...fashion and the like. I had to do a research project on the history of advertising in women's magazines and cultural trends regarding how women "look", ie their hygiene, hair, weight etc. It made me SOOOO mad...and very sad. That was nearly 20 years ago. I have not bought ONE fashion magazine in that entire time. I swore them off like a bad boyfriend! I still get decorating magazines, but the inferiority complex is WAY less with that...I can only afford what I can afford in home decor after all, lol. And often times I can copy that stuff, so it is somewhat attainable. But blogs are not only giving you home decor, they are giving you the perceived lifestyle that surrounds it! As if the Pottery Barn catalog has come to life. It's why I LOVE the sites making fun of such things, ie unhappyhipsters.com.

I think if you realize that this stuff is making you feel bad...and that mostly it's a "show" fueled by advertisers, that you can shake it off...dismiss it...AVOID it.

I want the truth. I like the nitty gritty stories of how people scream at the kids on that "perfect" family outing. I scream at the kids. I swear I'll never take them anywhere again and curse the day I ever heard about whatever thing it is we've decided was a must see or do, lol.

Keep it up Andrea. You're NORMAL and that's why we love you. And happy belated birthday to your man...he has the best gifts ever in you and the kids and I know he knows it!

Posted by: Amy J. at August 31, 2011 08:01 AM

I ALWAYS feel that way when I read blogs. Look at pictures of people's homes, etc.

I appreciate a nice mixture of the inspiring and the real.

What I like about your blog and about this post is that YOU SEE AND WRITE ABOUT BOTH.

Posted by: Denise A. at August 31, 2011 07:07 AM

This is exactly why I read some blogs and others not at all. I love honest posts - really, none of us have perfect lives.

I often say to readers that they should not come to my blog for rainbows and unicorns, things do get hairy, especially with one kid with a lot of challenges. But sometimes I have to show the prettiness too - because all our lives are lived in some sort of balance

Posted by: cat@juggling act at August 31, 2011 02:50 AM

Ahhh...you have made my day, my week, my year! You have so clearly pinpointed EXACTLY how I feel when I read many blogs. Yes - I am forever grateful for the inspiration I get and the new sights I set for myself...but oh God that sinking feeling, that I try to pretend is not there, that "WTF am I doing with MY life" feeling...thank you, thank, you , thank you for saying it! You write so beautifully - articulate, concise and very witty...I've just discovered your blog today and I will definitely be following it...and feeling inspired...without the residual inadequacy vibe :)

Posted by: Doreen at August 31, 2011 01:10 AM

Beautiful refreshing truthful ...
Thank you Andrea!

Posted by: Tracy at August 30, 2011 11:42 PM

Loving these comments! Good on all of you for sharing and thank you Andrea for opening up an area that so many relate to! Just new to blogging and thought I'd post this amazing moment of me and "my perfect family" sharing a beautiful homemade dairy free warm nourishing breakfast this morning (of course the birds were singing outside). The only problem was - the breakfast sucked! My four year old took one bite, and said with a look of disgust, "THIS IS SO SO GROSS MUM!"The three other children readily agreed - so, the chickens ate it, and since I don't speak chicken, I don't have to know what they thought of it...

Posted by: quigley at August 30, 2011 10:50 PM

Ah, thank goodness for you. It's strange having never met you and yet your words, over many years, have played such a big part in my life. I was just thinking about giving up blog reading for a while for that very same reason. They somehow stopped being inspiring and have begun to leave me feeling not good enough in so many ways. Thank you for being real and honest. It is so inspiring and so healing. You're a humongous gift to us all.

Kristy

Posted by: Kristy at August 30, 2011 06:04 PM

I read your blog precisely because it is REAL. But I will also say I do at times, get envious of your beautiful life too and my "i'm not beautiful enough meter goes off! What I am realizing as I typing this is that there will always be someone that each of us considers "more" than us - more beautiful, more creative, more together, etc. BUT there will always, and I mean always be someone that feels that way about us too.

It's taking me quite awhile to learn, and even longer to believe and integrate into who I am but what I am learning slowly is that it is all relative and the best we can do on any given day is our best.

Posted by: Michelle at August 30, 2011 04:36 PM

Yes, yes, YES! I get that some blogs want to only present or to remember the best, most beautiful parts of life, but in a way, it feels like a lie to me. I like the whole picture - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Writing about the crying or the yelling doesn't make life bad. In a way, I think omitting the dirty and difficult does a disservice to readers because it creates a false vision of perfection, like a photoshopped model.

But then, it often feels like my blog posts should begin, "Dear diary..."

Posted by: kimberly/tippytoes at August 30, 2011 12:43 PM

See, I would have put you into my "pefect life" category...you have art, a family, live in a beautiful place---I think the artist thing is what gets me most---I want that.

But, a few people have said similar things to me about my posts and life, but I just laugh because I think they are *insane*! I think...well, I'm not such-and-such blogger---I don't make my own living with my craft or anything fantabulous like that.

We all compare ourselve too oftne.

Posted by: Misti at August 30, 2011 11:56 AM

See, I would have put you into my "pefect life" category...you have art, a family, live in a beautiful place---I think the artist thing is what gets me most---I want that.

But, a few people have said similar things to me about my posts and life, but I just laugh because I think they are *insane*! I think...well, I'm not such-and-such blogger---I don't make my own living with my craft or anything fantabulous like that.

We all compare ourselve too oftne.

Posted by: Misti at August 30, 2011 11:56 AM

I think you revealed a lot of glorious and truthful nuggets to tell a beautiful story. To play off a phrase, even Martha Stewart doesn't have a "Martha Stewart" life, so why should we? We all have those moments when we feel inferior/torn/perplexed etc. I think the key is to remember that we deserve the same grace and mercy that we show to others and tomorrow is a new day.

I loved the picture you painted with your words and photos to share a lovely day!

Posted by: Sunny at August 30, 2011 11:16 AM

totally get it. That feeling of other people doing it with such better style than me gets in my way. a lot. Is it too shallow to ask you the brand of your flip flops? I think I need them. Thanks for this post. totally universal. Ira would be proud!

Posted by: Cathy W. at August 30, 2011 10:40 AM

Thank you Andrea. This is what makes you a superhero.
I sometimes secretly wonder about the homeschooling, breadmaking, beautiful house renovating, organic eating blogger moms...must they have a meth habit or something to be able to do sososooso much and post their beautiful photos everyday?
Thanks for your honesty, it allows the rest of us to feel real and true in the full range of emotions that is our lives.

Posted by: Nina at August 30, 2011 10:23 AM

Yes!!! The envy happens to me all the time. But I hadn't thought about the story people are telling, true though it may be, it is only one story in a whole bunch of stories happening in their lives. That is a terrific reminder. Not only to quell my envious beast, but also for when I'm feeling down on myself and my life - I'm only telling myself one story at the moment; what other stories are happening?

On my blog, I have found when I am honest about the mess and struggle, that has generated the most responses and thank yous.

What's funny, though, is I had a post celebrating my failures and people kept saying to not be so hard on myself. But I wasn't; I was celebrating!

Anyway, I appreciate hearing your struggles. Esp. with parenting - I think some kid issues can be "fixed" but others are things you just have to go through, both for your child to learn and grow and also for you to grow and learn as a human and a parent. Hearing what others struggle with alerts me to which of my own struggles I need to attack and which I should just ride out.

Posted by: CoraD at August 30, 2011 10:23 AM

What a great post. First, YES!!!! I constantly read people's blogs or twitter feeds or facebook posts and feel like a total loser.
I realize the important thing for me to remember is these are all my "perceptions" of these people and most likely not accurate. It really hit home when I realized others were looking at me the same way. ha ha.
I find the great thing about being triggered by other people sharing their perfect life is that it's an opportunity for me to look at areas of my life I might want to work on. The key is not falling into compare mode.
Thank you for being brave enough to share a more complete picture of what life is. But also want to acknowledge you've created a pretty awesome life despite it not being perfect. :)

Posted by: Kai at August 30, 2011 10:21 AM

well,damn it, i just spent ten minutes writing a comment and the entire thing just went away. a sign from the universe, i guess, to begin again. what i wanted to say, andrea, is that you are the first blogger your age, from the ones i know, who writes what is real. real with a capital R. who does not sugar coat, who dips beneath the sparkly, shiny surface to expose the dark that sometimes swirls below. who writes about life, not just about decorating or selling artwork or promoting yourself like someone would with a slick brochure. i read this post and actually felt better about myself - like - well, hell. maybe i AM normal, after all. and i remember the times when my own sons, little back then, so little, were in the back seat all hot and cranky and whining and i was driving with white knuckles and gritted teeth, trying not to scream. there were times i did scream. and guess what? those little boys have now grown into beautiful young men who are living out their wildest dreams. they are living proof that being raised in a real environment, with messy rooms that aren't perfectly decorated, with meals that were more often than not hurriedly slapped together by this single mom. you are real, and that is something for which you can be very, very proud. xo

Posted by: nina at August 30, 2011 09:16 AM

I love the real that you share, such a good balance. I continue to be in awe...(And happy b-day to your guy!) Remember Learning to Love You More -- Miranda July? One of the assignments was to photograph under your bed without cleaning up first. I think these under-the-bed glimpses definitely keep us more connected.

And is the compliment thing unique to American culture? I've been thinking about it lately. I wish we could all accept compliments in the spirit of a 3-year-old, who, when told, "you look pretty today," will most often reply something like, "I know! I do!"

Posted by: nina at August 30, 2011 08:51 AM

All I have to say is this: I needed to read this post to know I'm not the only one.

Posted by: Rachel Del Grosso at August 30, 2011 08:50 AM

I just show the pictures on my site and very little, albeit dry boring commentary. If I told the truth it would probably be a train wreck - too much reality we are overflowing with reality here! It's funny you write this. I speak to a friend of mine often about a blog we both read. The lady who writes (my friend's SIL) it puts out food photos and recipes (no, not referring to PW) and every time she has a new recipe to share, it appears that she has purchased new cookware. I have never seen such a variety of cooking utensils in real life in a home. As well, all dishes always look new. Bake of fry something once in my house and pan tends to look like it is already ten years old! Like I said, I am full of it....full of reality, that is.

Posted by: chris at August 30, 2011 08:07 AM

You know that some of us might look at YOU and have blog/life envy... that is the funny part of all of this. We keep look at other people and judging our own lives as not good enough. That has got to stop or as women we are crushing ourselves and our spirit. It is like Keeping up with the Joneses on speed.

I admire you and all you have accomplished and although we have never met I feel like you have a real life. You have real everyday struggles. We all do and no matter how much we sanitize ourselves to fit whatever dream we have of who we are supposed to be I think it slips through the cracks. You couldn't be squeaky clean and shiny 100% of the time if you wanted to... hell, you live in crunchy Berkley... you are supposed to let it all hang out.

Great post, I say enviously from the corner... ;)

Posted by: jacqueline at August 30, 2011 08:06 AM

I recently started to tell my real story on my blog. I realized that I was so intent on making myself feel all Pollyanna, that I wasn't telling the truth. What was the point I kept asking myself? So, I switched to truth, but the truth is hard to tell and I find it slow going. But I feel better, more real. Oh and you are not the only one with Misplaced Blog Envy.

Posted by: Puanani Leal at August 30, 2011 07:46 AM

It's easy to photograph a contrived corner of a home and post it. Perfect? Well at least in the frame. What's more interesting (to me anyway) is what is at the core of our experience. Underlying everything, there seems to be an infinite strand of unconditional love and creativity. My kids cry too. A lot! I use the quiet moments to tell the stories. Through art, adornment and blogging I am liberated to share and blessed to be a part of an inspired blogging community!

Posted by: sb Lyngo at August 30, 2011 07:35 AM

One of the things I've always loved about your blog and especially your home photos, is that you have stuff lying around. :-) I get suspicious when I go into homes (or see photos) and there is no stuff. You know, stuff! And life is like that too. We have... stuff. I *loved* this blog post. Makes me wonder what story I tell? What am I willing to share? Can I show my stuff?!

Thank you SO MUCH for keeping it real!
xox

Posted by: jag at August 30, 2011 07:32 AM

So many blogs now present a vision of a perfect life where everything is clean and everyone is smiling all the time. People always say it's in the name of "inspiration," but I think that just as often it's about people being insecure and/or hoping for a book or advertising deal. And, yes, those blogs do make me feel alone with my struggles.

I think you strike the perfect balance between complaining and being truthful, and you have always been my shining example of how a blogger can be real and still be inspirational. This is why Superhero Journal is my favorite blog. You make me feel my connection with others and, after reading you, I know that I am not alone in my trials.

P.S. I am also the type who would have told people about the magical pants. And I think that to just say thank you, for people like us, doesn't work. It feels disingenuous.

Posted by: Kristin at August 30, 2011 07:05 AM

Yes, a million times (what's wrong with me), only my version of that line has been "I'll never get life right." You are right - it is a fine line, telling stories that are real & true, taking the hard & messy stuff and the blessings that are mixed up in that and saying/writing it in a way that people can receive (too much everything is rosy and too much everything sucks both make me feel the same - sort of icky and off and like my life can't be trusted). SO I vote for Being Real and walking that line (at least doing your very best to walk it & knowing that sometimes you might be off but darn it, you sure did try, which is being real too). You are obviously very cognizant of your responsibility as a storyteller, and we will all benefit from your ability to be real with care (as we have here, in this post and many, many other posts you have written over the years :0)! I hope you just keep doing what you do. In gratitude to/for you - Jennifer

Posted by: jennifer w mccullough at August 30, 2011 04:53 AM

Please, please, please keep it real. I am sick and tired of all those tidy homes, cute and clean kids and perfectly poised Moms doing their incredible creative magic. Down here on earth it's hard work and mess and crankiness and yes, occasionally sunshine and bliss and beauty. But for the most part it a real honest mess. And I totally appreciate that.

Posted by: Alexandra Gerull at August 30, 2011 04:53 AM

Oh, I know this feeling well. I know the screaming kids, the bickering spouse, and the majesty of the redwoods (or their east coast equivalent) as well. I know the REALEST REAL there is! Like landing at 11 with both kids from California to a cranky husband picking me up at the airport and nary a "happy birthday"? Perhaps. I wonder where the line is too.
When I get a compliment I always find a way to show how it's not real (the equivalent of your stomach story) - and my husband says the same thing to me. Like: stop talking. Just say thank you!
Thanks for being real. You always inspire me.
xox

Posted by: Lindsey at August 30, 2011 04:25 AM

I think what you got so perfectly here in this blog Andrea, was balance. When I initially scrolled through looking at the pictures (which I always do before going back to read the text) I thought 'Wow, what a perfect day. They look so happy. *sigh* I wish I could get my life right, like Andrea's done...' And then I read and was so amazed at how the blog seemed to answer these thoughts, that there was (and is) so much more story behind the pictures. And I was so grateful that you shared the balance of that story - that there were aspects of it that held real joy for you all, but that there were also aspects of grit and grain in amongst it all.

I have suffered from reading blogs showing a perfect life - they've really made me feel such a discrepancy with the life I'm living and the life they're living, and I've felt weary and not good enough. I've also felt that I'm alone in feeling this, so it's been really heartening to read all these comments and realise that I'm not alone in these feelings - so thank you all for sharing too!

Posted by: Melissa at August 30, 2011 02:35 AM

Oh Andrea, this (THIS!!!) is why I love you so much - for keeping it real.

And I love how you said too real is oversharing and makes you feel uncomfortable but just being honest is about connecting with that thing in each of us.

beautiful! I am linking from my blog :)

(or stalking, whatever!)

Posted by: Marcia (123 blog) at August 30, 2011 02:22 AM

I couldn't agree more! I just read today that a woman's life is one part magic and nine parts mess. Heh :)

Posted by: Anja at August 30, 2011 01:38 AM

Ha, this is so poignant...
Just read a blog post of a fellow photographer and she took pictures of her desk, her home office and OMG it's like I stepped into a magazine and for a moment I felt like someone punched me in the stomach as I am sitting here at my dining room table editing a shoot. I have no extra space for a home office. I am planning of adding a desk to the bedroom soon but at the moment, I work at the dining room table or on the sofa, sometimes in bed. And yes, that sometimes does make me feel like I am not enough. Like, because I don't have those things, I can't possibly do what I am doing because how do I dare to do it without being perfect first.

Most of the time now I can just say: Oh I am happy for that person and move on. Some days like today, when my dining room table is cluttered with stuff, I have a to do list as long as a prayer scroll and the housework hasn't been done yet again... well then yeah then I simply feel like I am not enough.

Posted by: Mel at August 30, 2011 12:54 AM

I understand the Beautiful Blog thing. I've been drawn to just keeping a record of the Lovely too at times, just so that I have somewhere nice to retreat to when the real gets too real, as it frequently does. However, I get bored. Both when I blog that way and when other people do. It's lovely to dip into to, like Pinterest with more words, but it doesn't look like my life (oh god if you could see the table in front of me as I type, not to mention the 5year old watching Power Rangers on YouTube at 8:50am...).
This was a great post. Makes me feel like I know you better. And isn't that what personal blogging is about?

Posted by: Jo at August 30, 2011 12:49 AM

I have always wanted to hear the more difficult, deeper parts of your stories, Andrea. I often have noticed how polished they are, and tell myself I shouldn't be so honest in my own blog---but the truth is what I crave. I can get the polished, well decorated, manicured blogs that you speak of, well, pretty much anywhere. They are a dime a dozen. I love your writing and the stories and would love to hear more of both sides. Like the stories you tell about getting pregnant with ben. or when you needed a break from the blog a while back. I want to know real people, even if I don't really "know" them. ;)

Posted by: Amy at August 30, 2011 12:25 AM

Oh man... I could have written this post!! I struggle with this all the time. I know which posts I most enjoy and those are usually the ones that are honest and true and I can usually tell the difference. But I ask myself these questions all the time... how far should I go? I am SO SO SO not perfect but what do I want to show people on the internet!!?? I really do not want to try to be something that I'm not but this is one of the things that writing a blog every day is helping me with... who am I REALLY? Thanks for this.

Posted by: Kim at August 30, 2011 12:14 AM

What Jen V said.

I agree with you 100%. I recently went through my blog roll and removed a whole bunch of beautiful houses, perfect children, etc. blogs that I would read with a morbid curiosity. I'm over that now. Especially once I realized that those ladies have some secrets they're just not sharing.

When I write my blog it's all about the grit of my life. Sometimes that grit makes me smile, but often enough, it's the stuff that brings tears to my eyes.

I come back to your blog for your grit, Andrea. Keep it up, girl.

Posted by: susie m at August 29, 2011 10:52 PM

Thank you, Andrea! Loved this.

Posted by: Alyssa at August 29, 2011 09:16 PM

I get SO ANNOYED by the my-perfect-life blogs. My life is so very far from perfect in any way. I end up feeling resentful and inadequate, and who needs that? I love the way this was summed up... "a little TOO real." Yes.

Posted by: daphne at August 29, 2011 08:19 PM

Big Basin's a great spot. My inner editor forced me to mention that it's a Calif State Park.

Posted by: Joy at August 29, 2011 08:09 PM

this blog post is exactly the reason i keep coming back here.
there is so much to say on this topic.
more and more i have watched as blogging has lost it's heart and soul. most blogs now-a-days are sterile business ventures or a platform for personal gain. all of which is fine, as we are a country based on capitalism. however i do miss the days when you felt a real connection with the person writing the blog.
there are so few blogs left that have a beautifully real feel about them. don't ever lose that andrea. it's very very best thing about this place.

Posted by: jen v at August 29, 2011 08:08 PM

What an insightful post! I like how you made it about that choice -- about how to look at things, and what parts to share or focus on. It's not only in the storytelling, it's also in life. Where do we focus on improving things (acknowledging things that are wrong) and where are we just whining? Where are we being grateful for what we have and where are we in denial of something that needs fixing? There is indeed, often a fine line between those things. Really great post, Andrea.

Posted by: Kjersten at August 29, 2011 07:48 PM

I LOVE hearing that quote from Ira Glass, and I LOOOOVE knowing that this is your thought process when you are telling your story. I'm gonna take it with me and use it when I'm telling my own story, even if it's just in my own head, at night, when I'm thinking about the day I had.

I always learn something from you! xo

Posted by: janet at August 29, 2011 07:16 PM

Andrea you always seem to hit it right out of the park. I don't even think you need to tell us about the screaming because the smile on your faces tells the much much much bigger picture - that you are a happy family!

I love love love everything about this post. I could write for hours but neither of us has time so I will just say THANK YOU.

PS. Totally unrelated, but I did a cannonball into the nastiest algae-covered lake ever during Warrior Dash Carolinas this weekend right onto my friends that I peer pressured into doing it with me. Top ten moment of 2011. Before:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/99098514@N00/6091003168/

Posted by: LauraC at August 29, 2011 07:09 PM

I've been reading your blog for a while and this is the first time I comment. I tend to read blogs that tell the truth. I also get that feeling of I'm not enough when reading blogs that seem too perfect. This also applies to my friendships. My more meaningful relationships are those where we share everything the good and the bad. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: Maribel at August 29, 2011 07:05 PM

Really. I would be so happy to hear as much real as you want to share. It helps a lot.

Posted by: Sandra at August 29, 2011 07:03 PM

I so needed this today. Thank you for sharing something that can be difficult to share and know that you're not at all alone. You are helping us all to be more real in our own lives by being real with yours.

Posted by: Erin at August 29, 2011 06:51 PM

Yes, definitely. I have struggled with that so many times. Don't whine, don't complain, only tell everyone the good stuff, the pretty things. No one wants to hear about the bad stuff - don't they come to our blogs to get away from the bad stuff? Your post was refreshing and so true!

I've been website and blog surfing for the past hour or two (while at work no less LOL) and I actually feel overwhelmed and under-accomplished by doing so. Your blog was a refreshing break.

Great photos, by the way. ;-)

Posted by: Suz Garten at August 29, 2011 06:46 PM

Tell the truth. Always.

Posted by: Trish at August 29, 2011 06:42 PM

Oh man, I think about this stuff a LOT. I wrote a whole about post Sanctimommy vs. Discombumom: http://offbeatmama.com/2011/05/sanctimommy-vs-discombobumom

I'm not sure which is more problematic, honestly: portraying the perfect life, or wallowing in flaws. So much to consider.

Posted by: Ariel at August 29, 2011 06:42 PM

Thank you for saying that.
YES I love to see people celebrating the good stuff.
And YES I understand that we are all happier when we focus on the good stuff.
But its so much more powerful when it happens in the midst of reality, not divorced from it.

Posted by: kazari at August 29, 2011 06:39 PM

EFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF the mythology, Andrea.

Seriously. I have deleted so many blogs from my feed because the mythology is so manufactured and unattainable. It doesn't make me feel bad about *myself*; it makes me feel bad for those bloggers. They need some Xanax...or whiskey...or both.

Posted by: Megan at August 29, 2011 06:29 PM

Andrea - I love this post! I had a similar thought a while back as a pushed a pile of bills, sippy cups, spare socks, cell phones and old coffee cups aside on our buffet to photograph something for my etsy shop. As I focused in on my neatly arranged composition I thought - what about all the stuff in the margins? It was such a metaphor for me about the power we have to edit ourselves on our blogs making our lives seem less 'real' and more 'ideal'.

Posted by: Julia at August 29, 2011 06:05 PM

I OFTEN feel this way (sometimes blog envy from your space!) and naturally gravitate toward the people who write the good and bad. A couple of years ago, I wrote an anniversary post. It was lovely and celebrated my marriage. The next day, for whatever reason, I posted what the day REALLY turned out to be. Because, it was "really vivid real life". It felt good. Really good.

Posted by: tawnya at August 29, 2011 06:04 PM

love. just, total <3. honest love.

Posted by: Claire at August 29, 2011 05:15 PM

Whenever I think the gloss has gotten to be to much, I recall this scene from Desperate Housewives (I'll apologize only to a point for referencing pop culture, but for me it proves Ira's point).

"we should tell each other this stuff" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYhmiAnr6f8&NR=1

We are all subject to feeling that everyone else makes it look so easy -- the truth is, whatever 'it' is, we are usually only getting a glimpse into another's reality. Whether they are our neighbor, coworker, or blogger, there is always a deeper truth and set of experiences that we may never know.

I find that I tend to flock to the neighbors, coworkers and bloggers who are willing to be as honest with their vulnerabilities and frailties as they are with their stories of success. Both experiences are inspirational!

Thank you for all that you 'put out there' -

Posted by: hippittee at August 29, 2011 04:40 PM

THIS is what inspires me! Thanks for keeping it real.

Posted by: Jean at August 29, 2011 04:26 PM

Thank you so much for this. I have said so many times in the past week how badly I wished my friends could just be honest with me. My mom friends, they're wonderful, but they make it sound like staying home and taking care of a baby is the only good thing in this world. As a woman who might never have my own children, it really bothers me that they can't just admit some days motherhood isn't perfect. Instead of saying, "It's different when you have your own" and "You don't know what you're missing!" I would love for them to shrug and say, "I'm tired. I really needed to get out of the house tonight" or ANYTHING real for that matter.

So my own girl friends might not be honest about the occasional frustration of being a mom, but you, dear Andrea was real with this post. And it made me feel a tony bit better.

Thank you.

Posted by: Beth at August 29, 2011 04:16 PM

Oh, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl. I hear you loud and clear on this. It is so hard to let it all hang out when there seem to be so many stories of deep and passionate romance, cool clothes, amazing trips, beautiful new babies, and huge success in art, business and writing. Yikes!

Plus, I think about things like: what if my husband reads this or my kids or people from church or my neighbors or...??? What will he -she-they think of me?

In the end, the stories I like the best are the real ones, the ones that are "too real," the ones that we are all living, but often trying so desperately to cover up. The ones where we all cry, throw tantrums, and wonder if we are there yet, wherever "there" is...

Thanks for being willing to tell the truth as best you can. And for challenging me to do the same.

Posted by: GailNHB at August 29, 2011 04:12 PM

Thanks so much for sharing this.

I am experimenting these last few months with how much to tell my real story and how much to tell the inspiring myth. I've been dabbling deeply into the real story. I've found this guideline works for me: I will share something real as long as it's about the story (and not about me needing to vent--I have a diary and friends for that) and there's a take-away I can summarize from my story.

I find that because of the challenges I'm facing (unprecedented in my own life), I'm craving the real from people around me. Last night, I was feeling overcome with fear, and knew that the best way to break its power over me was to say it out loud to someone. Only my friends were all asleep. So I tweeted that I was feeling scared with tears streaming down my cheeks. And three people I would never have guessed replied to me. It was the real moment I needed.

Posted by: Charlene Kingston at August 29, 2011 04:07 PM

I was recently thinking about how honest and open some folks are when they blog and how I hold back a bit. Not in what I am learning or how hard it may be or how I hold myself accountable for my actions and words, etc -- but in the details. It feels like a violation for the others involved. And truthfully, there is always someone else involved.

So I try and focus on what I am learning. What my stuggle is. What I'm trying to let go of. Sometimes it comes off as vague or generalized -- but on the other hand, maybe it's not the details so much as the feelings and what it's bringing up for me and what I want for myself and my life that matters most?

I also use my blog as a way to redirect my thoughts - to work through whatever I'm dealing with - to hold myself accountable in a kind way. If I just need to vent or be angry - I stick to my non-public diary/journal. I honor those feelings, but don't feel the need to put them out there into the cyber world. I want to add light, not darkness.

And I absolutely have gotten sucked into the "I'm not good enough" thought process when I read other people's blogs - especially if she is super crafty and cool and her marriage/relationship seems perfect.

But then again, I have had people comment admiringly on my life from an outside perspective - and my life is filled with imperfection and struggles and questions and self-esteem speed bumps -- so I am reminded that it's never really good to compare what's happening inside of me and in my life to what other people choose to reveal to the outside world.

I have always felt your blog was a beautiful balance of honesty without over-sharing. It's inspired me and helped me feel less alone in my own struggles - and never once, as far as I can recall, has it left me feeling less adequate. You remind me it's ok to be human, to be flawed, to dream and to care more about the question than the answer ...

Thanks for that.

Posted by: debbie at August 29, 2011 03:57 PM

Honestly, most times I don't get inspired AT ALL when I read about the glorious, perfect lives of some bloggers. Instead I get kind of depressed and feel sorry for myself and my not-so-perfect life. And I ask myself all the time what's wrong with me. Why don't I have this beautiful, always tidy apartment? Why don't have I enough money to buy all these pretty things others buy? Why isn't my blog successful? I have stopped reading tons of blogs because truth is I can't handle all this perfection! I much rather read about real life than a good story how great life is...

Posted by: Frau Haselmayer at August 29, 2011 03:41 PM