FIGHTING COMPARISION WITH GRATITUDE

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I was recently interviewed on my friend Ali Wren's new podcast, and we chat motherhood, work, authentic friendships, how I don't try to do it all anymore, and how I fight the comparison trap online. It was so fun to chat, and I realized that while I've written about the comparison trap online before, it seems like it's always worth a revisit, no matter what stage of life we find ourselves in.

I love these words I wrote four summers ago:

I have so many good things, the best things, in life. Even so, there will always be the temptation to covet something of someone else's. That car or that house or that Europe trip or a baby by that age. When this sneaks in, I remember that we almost never have the full story, and I cannot compare any aspect of my life to someone else's. In the same way that every detail of my life is not on Instagram, neither is everyone else's.

Thanks to Instagram and good lighting, our lives look pretty dreamy from the outside. This summer my husband and I were asked to model in a variety of styled photo shoots, and we have thousands of amazing photos from this summer alone. I know other people with incredible photos and how easy it is to fall into the trap that what you see in the photo represents every single moment in their life. Every moment of my life is not filled with mountain top kisses in Banff, or modeling in styled wedding photo shoots. Along with the great moments, our lives are also filled with everything from laundry and dirty dishes, to traffic and cavities, and to even bigger, serious disappointments and devastating losses. Not even close to a fraction of those are represented on my social media outlets.

From Comparison Is The Thief of Joy, blog post 2014.

I wrote those words four years ago, pre-kids, and now as a mom it rings even more true. There are a million aspects of pregnancy/motherhood/child raising that I have (embarrassingly, but admittedly) compared myself and my unique story to others'. Among them: how much weight I gained (more than most), how quickly my child met his milestones (about the same as most), when I went back to work (later than most), how many words he has (more than most), when we bought our first house (later than most), and so on.

If given the opportunity, I can compare myself to just about anything. It seems like I'm constantly assessing: do I fit in here? Do I have the right (fill in the blank) - home decor, brand of jeans, number of kids, years of spacing between said kids, work hours, work life balance, etc.? Am I accepted? Am I ok? Do I matter? Am I seen and known and loved and still liked?

And the answer is always yes, a resounding yes. And no, it does not hinge on the "things," the size of your bank account or your house, what you wear or what you do, or what your kids wear or what your kids do. Daily, our culture tries to trick us into thinking otherwise.

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And so, potty training. (A logical link for this topic, yes?)

One of our friends announced recently that they potty trained their 23 month old. It is embarrassing to say that my first thought was not a heartfelt, "Congratulations, so happy for you," but a, "Woah, that's early," followed by a, "Should I be doing that?" It made me stop and think, "What does this really make me feel?"

And if I get really honest, the answer is: comparison. And if go a little deeper: insecurity and jealousy.

Motherhood can be so brutal sometimes.

Here's the truth: we all have good things and hard things in our lives. Even among people, every adult and every child has unique and wonderful strengths and gifts, and also, weakness and potential "areas of growth," shall we say. Comparing ourselves, our homes, our marriages, our kids, or any aspect of our lives to anyone else's is a long and dark rabbit hole where nothing productive results at the end (except maybe an empty bottle or two of rosé).

My best plan of attack in overcoming comparison is by replacing it with gratitude. I turn my eyes from that person's life to my own, and I list, preferably in writing, all the things I am grateful for, from the extravagant to the mundane. My list today could look like: iced coffee, an early morning run, ripe summer tomatoes, dinners on the back deck, a joyful and talkative 2 year old, a present husband who is a playful dad to our son, late night grocery runs for blackberry ice cream, my work online and off, late summer sun, the backyard play house.

These are gifts I have been given and are unique to me and my story. When I have these at the forefront of my mind, I can be so much quicker to join in the joy for my friends and their gifts in their story, because I know I have spots of joy in my life, too. We all have them. There is enough to go around - enough goodness, enough moments of connection, enough triumphs and successes. When I remember this, it frees me up to join in and celebrate with my friends in all aspects of their lives, not just the easy ones.

So, potty training is on the back burner for us now, and more importantly, my attitude towards the whole thing has shifted. We will do it when he seems ready and probably not a moment sooner. Until then, I'm finding gratitude in the big and small things in my life and doing my best to stay in my own lane.

This post is sponsored by Ubbi, the maker of our favorite diaper pail, and the potty that we will (in a long time, when we're ready) use for potty training. I liked it because it's 3-in-1 design: a potty, a seat trainer and a step stool (separate from the potty part) so you don't have to buy individually. Thank you Ubbi for your innovative baby products we use and love.

ON MAKING DESIGN MISTAKES

This is the first house we've owned, and probably not the last, so I'm trying to think of it as our "mistakes" house. I get to try out different designs, and see what makes sense for us versus what I see on Pinterest. I've already had a few "teachable moments" of design decisions that I would have done differently.

Take, for instance, that shelf on the mantel. It was wood before we moved in, and in an effort to get away from all the 90s wood trim and doors, everything was going either white (all walls and doors ) or black (hardware). So, white it went. It looked good against the then grey/blue walls, but once everything else was white, I realized I needed to add a little warmth back in. I assumed it was a done deal but Daniel knew of a way to get it back, by heating it, scraping it, and sanding it. He did it over the course of two nights, and the cost? Zero dollars, since we already had the tools. It was a little painful seeing all those layers of paint come off, but I knew that this time, I had the space to consider all my options and I knew that I was making the right decision. As a bonus, I didn't love the tone of the wood pre-paint (which is why maybe I was motivated to change it), but now that it's sanded to a lighter color, I love it. It's the shade my wood mantel dreams are made of. Had I not mistakenly painted it I wouldn't have known about this amazing color underneath.

My second design mistake here was that I have clear, glass sconces which I assumed only Edison bulbs would look good in. Went for it. Decided I didn't like the orange-y hued lighting. So I researched all my options, and I didn't think this was possible, but I am crazy about these light bulbs. I can control them from my smart phone and the color temperature is completely custom, meaning I can make it cooler or warmer depending on the season/time of day/mood etc. So happy with them. They even look great in the clear glass which I was concerned about. Welcome to 2018 - when you can order anything online to be delivered to your house in 2 days and control the temperature shade of your light bulbs from your smart phone.

So, my lessons learned: try everything. You sometimes don't know if you like something until you see it in your own house, in your unique lighting, with your unique family. And, secondly, if you don't like it, it's probably changeable. Thankfully, home decor is not open heart surgery. If the stakes feel high, it's because we've placed that unnecessary pressure on ourselves to have these Pinteresty-perfect homes, when in reality, there really isn't a lot at stake here. It's home decor! If you try and it and don't like it, change it. This is our first house. I get to "try on" everything here, and the mistakes just mean I'm closer to finding my style and what works best for my taste and my family.

BEFORE: Beautiful, but stark and not enough contrast.

AFTER: Warmth! Texture! Variation! Love the change.

Shared in partnership with Poly and Bark, who makes the Camberly sconces, and Hue Bulbs, who makes the light bulbs.

LIFE AROUND THE TABLE WITH TODDLERS

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I've always dreamed of a giant, handmade table to gather around. I kind of figured it was beyond our capacity at this stage in life to make one, so I just ordered one from cheap online retailer. The deal seemed too good to be true. And it was - it was only for the legs even though the listing said otherwise. The company was great about it and refunded us and said, just keep them, they're too heavy and not worth shipping back.

So there we were with two solid, chunky, modern farmhouse table legs. Since half the work was already, done, adding the top was doable and in Daniel's wheelhouse. He used four 2x4s to connect the legs since they were at an angle, and then added five 10ft pieces of wood to the top, and we now have a completely custom, long and wide, modern farmhouse table for under $100.

I love it and it's my very favorite piece of furniture we own, but I don't think you need a 10 ft custom farmhouse table to gather people within your home. It's not really about the table, or even the house. It's about making the time and the space for people to feel heard and seen and known and loved. Use whatever you have and whatever you've been given. An old picnic blanket works just fine.

I think most people who have toddlers would agree that dinnertime and two year olds doesn't always (ever?) look like calm conversation and time to connect. It is mostly utilitarian - here's food for you, and you, and you, can everyone just sit together for two minutes without screaming or asking for more or to get down, and if you're lucky a, "How was your day?" and enough time to hear the answer. Relaxing, it is not.

But it's important. And when there is something that I know is good for my family and will set the tone for years to come, I try everything in my power to make it happen. These things help me make dinner time happen for my family: the long term perspective, simple meals, wine, and... a grocery delivery service. I am trying out Shipt, and I'm learning that when our plate feels too full (literally here), to take something off it. There are kind, wonderful people who want to do your grocery shopping for you. Shipt just launched in Seattle with Target, and you can shop from your couch and have it delivered to your house within an hour. There is an annual membership fee, but after that, delivery is free over $35. Anything that makes getting my family together around a table easier in this season of life with a toddler is a win for me. The time together is worth it.

Thank you to Shipt for kindly sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.