How the Smallest Things Can Change Your Soul

Turkey Happy Thnks FB timeline 2015

Thanksgiving we are reminded to count and cherish our blessings. Years ago, many people were starting to post about “Gratitude” and how the smallest things could completely change one’s inner soul and almost “attract” more blessings. I,for one felt that I was quite grateful and all this noise over being thankful for the smallest things, was way over done.

Many moments etched their memories on my soul over the years. As with any beautiful carving, it is usually through pain, sweat and perseverance that base materials become works of art. People have disappointed me, and I have experienced loss in many ways, most recently with my mom leaving this world. Someone told me once that if I wanted a better outlook (and not to let the darker, creepier moments fill my reality); I should make a list of all the things I am grateful for in my life. I thought this was nuts! I write down a few dumb words on paper and presto I am cured! (Really?)

Grattitude Changes Attitude2

I continually pushed the thought of a list of things as a fix for my saddened inner being, right out of my mind. Until one day, when I was particularly down, I thought I would give it a try. It seemed way too easy. The first words on the list were things like grateful for peace in my country and that I had I a job, and that my children had groceries. Then I thought maybe I was to look a little deeper. Nah, a quick list was supposed to fix everything, I tucked my notepad back into my night table and turned out my light.

Next morning, everything seemed the same. Except instead of trying to forget that list I kept thinking about what it really meant. Having a million things in my head (and being a little ADHD) the depth of the promised cure somehow eluded me. I was now fixated on “the list” and very discouraged that my dark, inner self, was still in full blossom.

Then I came across a quote on Facebook that read:

What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you had thanked God for today….?
(Author Unknown)

 

That hit me like a ton of bricks. Now I understood. I was taken everything I had for granted and whining and complaining about my life whenever I encountered some hurdles.

So I began another list that night, and it was at least a page long. I drifted off to sleep and then woke up again and added more. Before daylight, I had three whole pages as I pretended that if I had not noted a thanks for something, it would surely be missing from my life by sunrise. When I reread the pages, I kept remembering other things that should be grateful for as I did not want to lose any of those either.

The following night, I began my newly formed gratitude ritual with reading the pages that I was collecting in my night table drawer and then adding what I did not want to leave my life at sunrise the next morning. I was amazed how extremely blessed I am and continue to be.

So yes, that crazy list started something. It made me aware of what I take for granted all the time. The items I am grateful for is (beyond the huge blessing of nine, beautiful and healthy kids, family and friends) everyday type stuff are like being happy there is still enough hot water left for my bath, or a little bird sitting on my fence.

If one can focus on all that is good and is a blessing, regardless of how small or how previously it was taken for granted, then all the bumps in life are much easier. Thanksgiving is a day to reflect with deep gratitude for all the blessings I have in my life. Ones that I would dearly miss should I wake up tomorrow without them.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian followers!

GGG (Grateful Garden Goat)cdn happy thanksgiving NEW CORRECT1 FB

Gratitude…self-measuring of one’s blessings

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~ G.K. ChestertonGG-Gratitude_IMG_1555-Copyright-2014

If one more person asks me how can I work a full-time job, look after 9 kids and still maintain and keep the house in check…I will have to resort to showing pictures of the zoo my house really is! Okay, I get that for the rank and file parent out there; just managing one or two kids is exhausting. Not to mention the kid’s stuff, a spouse (their stuff), work (lots of stuff) and a home (even more stuff) and then balancing schedules… plus laundry!

People meet me and after they pick their jaw up off the ground (after learning this goat has 9 kids)…the very next statement that rolls off their tongue is “Well…it is nice that you can afford them and don’t have to work!”

What?

Not sure why this is an automatic assumption on the part of the rest of the world …but so often it is. When I fill in the blanks… “No, not quite…I work full-time.” I often have to state that “work” is “outside” of running a household that size (which in itself is a full-time occupation)!” The reaction varies from “I do not know how you do it!” (Actually… neither do I), through “you are crazy!” (Ah…yes, tell me something I don’t already know) or “I guess you pay a cleaning lady!” (The short answer is NO!). The best one of all “Then surely you must drink” (okay…maybe I should?).

The reality is I do not try as hard as the rest of you do and that is where the difference resides. I lowered my standards eons ago. I just take care of the basics (for those of you that are worried …laundry and regular bathing are considered basics at my house).

kidsA key tip in managing a tribe of this size is never to visit Pinterest. Then I do not have to view the crafty, clever and creative solutions, better minds than mine devised to ensure one’s home looks like it came out of a magazine. Nor do I have to see the endless recipes and ideas for animal themed cupcakes and haute cuisine/couture for the kindergarten crowd. I am spared understanding that the furniture currently located in my living room is something neighborhood services would decline to sell in the local thrift store. Furthermore, I will be isolated from all the cute and clever toddler hairstyles that scream to the world “Mommy REALLY cares.”  Instead, I just do the basics.

I try to be sure the bills are all paid, there is good food, adequate clothing (sometime even “cool” stuff in my daughter’s own words) and that the house is well enough maintained that neither child services or public health has had to issue an edict against me (so far…so good)!

Along the way, there are some things that have slipped by the wayside.

Years ago, when I was a younger goat and only had 4 or 5 kids, I would do some of those AWESOME mom things like baking each child’s class their own gingerbread house, decorating it with tons of candy and personally delivering to each child’s classroom. (That would be when I wasn’t baking other treats for the school or writing I love you notes in my children’s lunches.)  I also used to publish a family newsletter every year detailing the each child’s adventures and exploits from the previous year and send this epistle out to the faithful. (At one point, complete strangers were asking to be included on the newsletter list as apparently it had HUGE entertainment value). I used to bake, knit sweaters, sew and draw while still working full-time. People always marveled at how I could balance all that I did while working for an external employer.  Those were the days. Then number “7”, “8” and “9” babies came along in tandem with advancing age forcing this goat to slow down a little more.

People always assume I am trying to be super mom. Nothing could be further than the truth. I am human (mostly) and any cape and tights I might lay claim to are likely to have been stolen by some kid as their Halloween costume.

The real issue is not how I handle anything, it is the preconceived notion that I have to get everything right or my child will turn out as a delinquent (at times each kid has had their moments). Perfectly wonderful human beings have been raised in less than ideal circumstances while convicted criminals have been known to come from well-kept homes, designed by Martha Stewart and raised in accordance with societal norms.

Lowering my standards means that when I sit in maple syrup at my house …and it is no longer still sticky…it is a good day (no kidding)!  Perhaps a better phrase than “lowering my standards” would be to say increasing my gratitude for everyday things.

These are the things that cannot be found on Pinterest, in magazines or in anyone’s well-kept house.

Blessed_GG_IMG_3604-copyright-2014

My collection of “things” reside in my heart, captured forever in my memory, the everyday thrills of my adventure raising more kids than the average goat. These include all “I love you mom” whisperings in my ear, snuggles with the little folk at bedtime, random kisses & hugs.

Before anyone thinks this is a Hallmark greeting card (my life that is), my gratitude also extends to the lively debates (some heated) regularly held with the teenagers (with broken or ruined décor in the house to prove it). I have the same frustrations and stress on my path as the average parent. Sometimes sheer numbers makes it seem like much more (thankfully I do find comfort in one” mistake-eraser” I count on… my washing machine).

I choose to acknowledge with gratitude my place in life as I celebrate how truly blessed I am with the family I have, including all the ups and downs along this road called “life.” (There are some things I could live without…like having to flush toilets for teenagers who seem to be too busy for the basics in life.)

Today, as we celebrate the Canadian Thanksgiving I am reminded how grateful I am for all that happens in my life. It has made me who I am today and will shape who I am tomorrow.

I look at my family and realize that I am blessed beyond belief.

If my house looks like a tornado hit a trailer park, laundry is piled up (socks hanging from the chandeliers) and old pizza residing in the corners of the couch (what is left of it)… so be it. The fact that my interior decor is several shades of paint intermittently displaying early toddler scribbling (amongst the evidence of teenage angst) and there isn’t “Live! Love! Laugh! = FAMILY” in lettered wood cut-outs in the front hallway…it is still my home. It is the hub where my children lives are being lived and I am most grateful to have each of them in my life. (I am equally grateful that family services and public health in this area are understaffed!)

GG_Happy-Thanksgiving_IMG_2323_copyright-2014

I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving Day celebrating with gratitude all the blessings family and friends bring into one’s life.

A Grateful Garden Goat!

 

Happy New Year 2014…Resolutions? …Only ONE!

I think 2014 will be a totally amazing year

I think 2014 will be a totally amazing year

Every year at this time it is always the same. Everyone is thinking about the past year and making a list of New Year’s resolutions (something I have never been a big fan of). I am not too sure why I have never been hung up on New Year’s resolutions…I just have not. By nature I dread anything that is too structured. I think a part of me thinks that if the item is carved in stone, I will feel terrible if I fail and then the rest of the year will be a write-off. (And, no…this is not new… I do NOT like lists of any kind…although as I approach “older goat” status and find myself frequently forgetful …I may have to relent and become more list friendly.)

So, I sit with pen in hand (okay keyboard…) and think what my New Year’s list should be.

… and think what my New Year’s list should be.

I am not a big fan of the process involved in change although I very much love the notion that change is possible. I do enjoy realizing how sometimes the smallest steps can make the biggest difference. So, I sit with pen in hand (okay keyboard…) and think what my New Year’s list should be.  If I look at most people’s lists they are centered on healthy living …I guess I could start with that. Many of the items other people seem to list touch on stopping some habits and starting others. So this is what my list started to look like:

  • Stop being fluffy (gained 20 lbs over the last two years …2014 I need to say goodbye to the flab!)
  • Stop living in the past (love to remember how things were as a denial of how things really are)
  • Start drinking (yep…WATER…a confirmed, self-confessed Diet Coke addict over here)
  • Start walking (with the little dog that lives here…at least)

BORING!

Then I thought about a list of things I wanted to make sure I did.

  • Reconnect with a special friend I very much miss (hope this happens ASAP)
  • Sort out the miles of family photos and do something with them (even if only copy to a CLOUD)
  • Publish a book (Yep…watch for it)!

BETTER!

I then realized that there are other lists I had not thought about.  Recently I learned about “Bucket Lists.” These are apparently lists you make of the top 100 things you want to do before you leave this planet. I have always been too busy to even think about what I might do in the next five minutes far less what I might do over my lifetime. I decided to give it a try. It was scary. The first five things looked like this.

  • Speed race a car on the Indianapolis raceway
  • Take pictures from the Eiffel tower
  • Walk through Central Park, in New York, at midnight…maybe stay the night!
  • Design a tattoo
  • Spend overnight in an igloo and tour the Arctic (read that as sneak away anywhere where my kids won’t go!)
...sneak away where my kids won’t go

…sneak away where my kids won’t go

Then came the realization I have the potential to be a lot wilder than I ever imagined. Figured I had better stop at Number Five as I was worried that developing the other 95 items might lead to my inner child to hyperactivity! Besides, taking care of the brood I preside over does not lend itself to the extra financial freedom required to avail oneself of a casual trip to the Eiffel Tower on any given day. All kidding aside, I thought “what is one thing that I can have as MY RESOLUTION for New Years?”

I reasoned that coming up with just one BIG item would get rid of the list, the remembering, the guilt …it is perfect. It is even green …I won’t have to even use paper to write it down.  I can keep my resolution to myself as who would bother making a list of just ONE item to post on a fridge! (??) (Who am I trying to kid…forget the kitchen fridge…this goat publishes a blog!)

Now the quest to find that one item; it is not easy to compress all those points into one item. This one item will have to transcend ALL items. It must be ONE thing that makes everything else excellent. While lost in thought while checking my email (multi-tasking). There I found a blog post of a friend I come to know through social media training, PJ McClure. There in his blog, on Linked-In “Do What Is Right, Not Just What Is Allowed” (http://pjmcclure.com/blog/do-what-is-right/#!) was exactly what I was searching for.

I found my one item for the New Year 2014…make all decisions in 2014 by the highest standard available…DO WHAT IS RIGHT irrespective of the freedom to make other choices still considered as lawful and acceptable.

I reasoned that coming up with just one BIG item would get rid of the list...

I reasoned that coming up with just one BIG item would get rid of the list…

THE BEST!

The Garden Goat’s RESOLUTIONS for NEW YEARS 2014:

1.            DO WHAT IS RIGHT…always…in everything. Choose the very best option                in every circumstance so I can live my BEST LIFE!

That will cover the fluffy, the water, and the photos. That may change the bucket list as “design a tattoo” may move much further down the list.

I hope I can live up to that! If I do… I think 2014 will be a totally amazing year!

I wish you all a very happy, blessed and exciting New Year 2014.

With love and best wishes to you and yours for 2014…

The Garden Goat

I hope I can live up to that! If I do… I think 2014 will be a totally amazing year!

I hope I can live up to that! If I do… I think 2014 will be a totally amazing year!

A time for everything and everyone

I had another topic all picked out to rant on about and then “last week” occurred (just over ten days ago now). Those readers in Canada will realize that the week I speak of ended with a long weekend, Canadian Thanksgiving.  The week in question started off a little oddly as three people I knew quite well all passed away. Not that strange as that has happened before. However, two of these three people knew of each other and in some stroke of weird alignment, ALL…three funerals happened on the same day! I kid (no goat pun intended) NOT! Two were scheduled within an hour of each so that in the end I could only attend two of the three services.

This meant I had the opportunity within a 3 hour window to compare two eulogies detailing the high points of lives (lived in excess of 70 plus years) served on this planet. It is a very sobering experience to keep company with one’s self knowing that one has personally already lived more than half of the years in the lifetimes being celebrated and my dismissal from this earth is approaching. All sorts of thoughts swirled around in my head. What have I contributed to the earth (ya okay, beyond the nine offspring)? What if someone I knew should suddenly not be there tomorrow? Do my children KNOW how much I love them?  Are there people I want to make amends with before I go? Are there friends who mean a lot to me that perhaps are not aware of how highly they are regarded? Are there family members I want a closer bond with? Is there something extra I really want ( or need) to accomplish in this life? As I watched the immediate families and relatives at these services I gained a clearer perspective on what an impact the deceased has made (or not) on all the lives around them.

Gratitude changes what we have into enough

When things look like they are taking a turn for the worse or I get bad news I try to remember what I am truly grateful for.

One of the funeral cards reads with a message from the deceased. “I ask forgiveness of everyone I may have offended by my words, actions, negligence and ignorance. May it not be said that anyone be punished because of offences towards me, as it is my desire to completely forgive them now and forever.” I have been to many wakes and seen numerous funeral cards but never had I seen this. I was taken by both the courage this took to write (and admit offences) but also by the regret that must have been present in life by the writer.

Sometimes things in life do not go the way we hope, wanted or thought they would turn out. People sometimes take offence easily and I can often be “one of those.”  Life is too short for all of this. I wondered when I read the funeral card what might it have been like if some of these trespasses referred to had been forgiven in this person’s life and relationships restored while there was still time to enjoy the renewed relationship. Time stands still for no one.

On my way home from this funeral, I was in an accident (no…I am not making this up). I was turning left with the advance signal into blinding sunlight when my car and a cyclist collided. I cannot hope to ever explain how I felt. It was terrible. The cyclist was bruised and shaken but thankfully no lasting injury or broken bone. He was wearing a bike helmet (hope my kids do). He had seen my vehicle but thought he had time to continue and that when I saw him I would surely stop. He did not realize that I was totally blinded by the sun and could not have had a chance to see him. Later at the hospital I marveled at how he was basically fine after what could have been a total fatality. I told him he had an awesome guardian angel. He told me his grandmother had lived to over 100 years and the day of the accident was her birthday. I felt overwhelmed.

Fate had me at the hospital checking on this stranger’s condition at the same time understanding how really fortunate we both were. Neither of us sustained serious injuries. It was just not our time to be called from this earth.  I let the police take me home as I was too upset to want to move my car immediately. I was not charged by the police as the situation was ruled truly an unavoidable accident.

The eulogy in the second funeral quoted Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 “there is a time for everything” and I have always struggled with this passage as I never liked to have any of the good things come to an end. For example I like “there is a time for love” but when it is followed by “there is a time for hate”…not so much. Throughout the second eulogy I realized that things we think are important rarely are and things we think are not important most certainly are. In the end we are all going to exit this world. At that point many things we worry about and struggle with every day will no longer matter. What will matter is what eternity looks like and how did I use the gifts I have been given while here on earth.

Ephesians 3:1-8

I took from that a call to courage. Engage the person that will not speak to you, try to establish communication even if there has been a freeze out forever.  Basically really try to restore any fractured relationships while there is time to enjoy the mended connection. I know that it is hard but so well worth doing. Some people fade away and say they are “busy” others get left behind because I am sometimes “busy.” Others still feel offended or offend and then retreat. I found that funeral card very thought-provoking. I hope that I am able to restore any injured relationships and maintain same during my life as I move forward.

As of the writing of this we are already past Canadian Thanksgiving and almost a month before American Thanksgiving. I am reminded about how grateful I should be for the many blessings I have. I thought about how everyday life races past and each single day melts together forming weeks and then morphs again into years of memories. The time we are here is now. What counts is that the people in our lives know how much we do care while we are alive. I resolved to make time for those people who in the busyness of everyday life I have left behind as life races past.

When things look like they are taking a turn for the worse or I get bad news I try to remember what I am truly grateful for. Sometimes the things that are the smallest become the biggest. I have also realized the more often I stop to acknowledge gratitude in my life the more rewarding and meaningful my life becomes.

My list of what I am thankful for looks something like this:

  • That there was a guardian angel looking after both the cyclist and myself that fateful day and no serious injuries were sustained.
  • Nine beautiful and healthy kids (yes all little goats) regardless of the chores they have left unattended.
  • My husband (although if you were to ask him…there might be times where I seem somewhat unappreciative of the male gender in general).
  • My two-year-old telling me how much she missed me (and I only went to put the garbage out).
  • The smile from my granddaughter just because I came into her view.
  • Enough cream left in the fridge by the teenagers to actually have a cup of creamy caffeine without having to go out to buy more.
  • One clean towel left as I enter the shower (there are days where this level of gratitude is not possible as the last towel was taken by something I gave birth to that NEEDED to use several towels)
  • The neighborhood red-headed woodpecker allowing me to stalk him with my camera while he busily destroys the tree.
  • The knowledge at the start of each day that I have yet another chance to make a difference on this planet.
  • The awesome people I know as well as the ones I have known and have yet to meet.
  • Knowledge that God has a great plan for me and that I need not worry.
  • My sense of humour…without which I do not think I could ever manage!
Gratitude

I sincerely believe there is no such thing as “a time to NOT “be “grateful.”

When I finish looking at all that I do have… I feel very blessed and content. I am not saying that I do not have any worries (9 kids…that is a no-brainer) or things that I wish would change it just means that I try to focus on the positive more than the negative. I find that when I review what I am grateful for I end up much happier inside regardless of what else is going on around me or how people treat me.

Beside, things can change in an instant and sometimes not always for the better. So the in keeping with a time for everything it is always time to be grateful. Because by being grateful we change how we think and how well we spent what is left of our time on this planet. I sincerely believe there is no such thing as “a time to NOT “be “grateful.”

“Gratitude changes what we have into enough.” ~Melody Beattie~

I try to remember what I am truly grateful for!

A Grateful Goat

Laughter… truly is the best medicine!

I certainly know time flies. Why only a little while ago I had my first baby and suddenly it is now twenty years later. (??) They (those I live with) tell me that baby is now an adult (I better tell her that!). Twenty years make me sound ancient (hopefully I don’t look the part or I might end up as goat soap!). I just did what I thought I should be doing day after day with the baby …and voilà …here we are two decades (and 8 more kids) later (!!). So I guess the same thing happened with this blog. While I was writing here and there a whole year has gone by since The Garden Goat made her debut.

Happy Birthday Garden Goat

Happy First Birthday Garden Goat! Looking forward to many more of these birthdays!

People have told me for years that I should write a book. So haphazardly last September I thought I would start a blog and post the occasional rant and might eventually have enough “rantings” to possibly collect into a book (at the pace I started I imagined it would take another 20 years to complete). So I posted a few grunts here and there from this Canadian Goat. I never knew that while using the blog to discipline my inner thoughts (or demons…same difference) I would be having so much fun or that I would be meeting so many people interested in what a goat with a herd of kids has to say (and/or complain about)!

None of this fun (not to mention the escapism from my day-to-day life) would have been possible without loyal readers who tolerate my twisted sense of humour and thankfully take what I say with a LARGE grain of salt (hence I have not yet had to spend a moment in jail)! I am constantly amazed at the number of kind comments and emails that I receive. In reviewing my readership’s responses I think the ones I like the best are the ones tell me I made them laugh…”uncontrollably.” This goat is so happy to be guilty of causing laughter, smiles and fun. I have tackled a few more serious topics (again with my demented sense of humour) still my readership endures and tolerates me!

Garden-Goat-Happy-1st-birthday

Besides as a Goat I get away with a lot. (!!!)

It felt a little odd in the beginning to just rant and then post it “out there” in cyberspace. I often wondered if it would only be the occasional alien life form stumbling around late at night on internet who might find this goat interesting. Au contraire, I have received many visits to my site by my fellow human beings! The Garden Goat continues to gain popularity…all thanks to you, my readers, (I would have said perhaps “followers” but that would just confirm my kids suspicion that The Garden Goat is some type of cult that I secretly belong to) for sharing with your friends!

One post in February was so popular it became “freshly pressed” on WordPress (chosen as one of the top ten posts for the week out of nearly a half million blogs!) and it was translated into several languages and is now available as an e-book online. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Answers-those-questions-families-ebook/dp/B008Y90R2K)

How this Goat actually got online is all because of a very precious friend’s encouragement to write and her reassurance that I was entertaining to listen to. This gal moved away to another town and so we began emailing each other between visiting, sometimes writing to each other as often as almost daily. Many of her emails would start with how excited she was to see my name in her inbox and how hard she was laughing (out loud by herself…”uncontrollably”) at what I wrote (I did not think it was THAT funny). I loved hearing from her (always)  and to learn that the laughter I caused her was often referred to as the highlight in her day. “Promise me you are going to write a book” was something she kept telling me! (This is the same friend that decided when reviewing the birthday signs that, I, as a Capricorn was not the “Mountain Goat” but a “Garden Goat”). Without her ongoing encouragement and belief in me I doubt The Garden Goat would have ever ventured out to graze and rant on the internet.

Many of my day-to-day challenges are made easier when I see the funnier side (or I would have given up years ago). Although another friend did tell me it would take her more than just a few hours/days to be able to laugh at a few of the disasters I seem to attract! It would likely take her several years!(!!)

Happy birthday goat

How this Goat actually got online is all because of a very precious friend’s encouragement to write and her reassurance that I was entertaining to listen to.

Not too sure what the next year will bring. (My children shudder at the thought.) Some readers have pondered why I am known still only as the Garden Goat (people have actually noticed this might NOT be my real name…No seriously?). The answer is that with the size and age of the tribe I preside over…I would be scared to lay my head down at night should one of my offspring (specifically the teenage crowd) be able to be identified in a story worse yet because of this be branded by his peers/brethren as “NOT COOL” – I might need to increase my life insurance (!!) Ergo my pseudonym is my identity.

Besides as a Goat I get away with a lot. (!!!)

So as I put a cloven hoof forward into new another year of Garden Goat adventures I hope to continue to be accused (and delightfully guilty) of causing you, my loyal following and new readers alike to laugh…uncontrollably.

Happy First Birthday Garden Goat! Looking forward to many more of these birthdays!

Gardengoat_polariod_angle-Laughing-text

So as I put a cloven hoof forward into new another year of Garden Goat adventures …

Yes, FACEBOOK… “To be or not to be”… truly THE question!

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles”

William Shakespeare

(Hamlet, Act Three scene one)

Yes, FACEBOOK… “To be or not to be”… truly THE question.

If I ask the teenage members of my household… it is a no-brainer! You are not considered alive (or with a pulse) unless you have a Facebook account you regularly contribute to and update. Facebook among many of the kids is a lot like Pokémon … “you got to catch them all.” Friends are collected online like nothing I have ever seen before. I know of kids who have Facebook accounts (younger than the mandatory age of 13) and have a whopping 848 friends! If you were to see each of these “friends” only once a year one would have to see 2.3 friends every day of the year. Other teenagers have as many as 2,100 Facebook buddies (I kid you not). Really makes you wonder what “friend” even means on Facebook.

To be or not to be that is the question

Yes, FACEBOOK… “To be or not to be”… truly THE question.

I was invited to join Facebook by my kids several years ago. My answers (one through ten) were “No, NO, Definitely NOT and NEVER.” Then I realized that in order to monitor my kids in cyberspace (prior to any possible incarcerations) the best plan would be to accept Facebook and have some (although minimal at best) understanding of what my kids are doing on the Information Highway.

Some of my kids think it is great I am now on Facebook. Although others hang their heads in shame that I have only a small number of “Facebook friends” compared to them. (!!!) Many months passed and I had only 15 friends … half of which were my own kids. I was told I was “lame” (not the first time for sure!) Facebook is not as easy as it seems.

“I have learned that some people swear by Facebook and others abhor it!”

First of all one needs to completely understand that any information shared on this utility is forever available in some database and can be resurrected to suitably embarrass one in the future or impede career advancement.

Kids just don’t get it. Kids do not understand that “sharing info” needs to be done with great caution. That old rule “don’t say or write anything that cannot be published on the front page of the local paper” has surely escaped this generation. Sure the usual banal stuff the teen squad has out there around sleepovers and makeup (before and after pics) could just be considered nuisance info until someone posts pictures of the teenage girls’ sleepover with the kids resplendent in PJs (if that). Where it gets even more serious is when some of these kids (albeit age 18 or 19) are drinking with their friends and compromising comments and pictures get posted.

Stories everywhere about how people forget what they shared and who they shared what info with. One employee had “friended” his boss and then called in “sick” for work one day. All was well until the employee shared his pictures of himself working on his car that afternoon with the caption “I played hooky from work today!” See… when you have several hundred friends you forget who you know and what you said. Needless to say…the guy’s boss messaged him with few words …“YOU ARE FIRED!”

At first I did not like Facebook. I did not want to share much (that is nothing new for me) and with 15 friends (mostly the offspring I reside with) there was not much activity either way. Then people started adding me and I loved seeing pictures and updates that I normally would not get to see. Being someone who loves quotes (also with images) these often become my “status” updates. Sometimes my quotes are shared by others or copied.

Things that I have learned are to question my kids friendships with such Facebook Profiles (albeit it is true you know me as “a goat”) as “Monster Guy” and “Rob the Tomato.” This has part of me wondering if they are not perverts incognito waiting to be collected (“friended”) on Facebook (the goats I am not too worried about).  I have learned that some people swear by Facebook and others abhor it. I used to think the older the friend the least likely they use Facebook…not necessarily so.

No matter what anyone says “unfriending” on Facebook does hurt. Tears have flowed in our house because of “unfriending” with no advance warning or discussion only to be followed up by blocking (ability to prevent someone from seeing your profile or trying to connect on-line with you). Facebook allows people access and control that in real life they would think twice before using. It discourages talking or personal communication.

Sadly many friends I do have (and would like to be more in contact with) do not “do Facebook” and the reasons are varied. The less technically savvy aren’t in any hurry to get on board, the introverts can’t stand it and the right-wing traditional folk view it as a dangerous information collecting tool (likely run clandestinely by some government agency).

“…you are not considered alive or with a pulse unless you have a Facebook account you regularly contribute to and update.”

Pictures are another big deal on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong I love pictures however it does raise many questions like: Who should own the picture? The one who took it (as is customary within copyright laws) or the one who is rendered in the photo? I have had friends take pictures with their children and then post photos of both my children and theirs on Facebook. At first I was concerned, then realized that the exposure was limited to just the immediate circle of friends so I could live with this. Photographs are still a very iffy proposition. I am not completely comfortable with pictures of my kids being taken by other kids (especially without my knowledge or prior consent) and then being modified (including the possibility of adding inappropriate content) and then posted on-line by others.

There is some advantages to Facebook. Community groups on Facebook are a phenomenal source of inspiration and advice. If you are lucky enough to find a community group within your interest scope this is a valuable source of information, opinion and support.

The chat feature of Facebook that becomes available when your friends are on-line I have come to understand is crazy at certain teenage hours (always after about 10:00 pm). I have watched my own daughter maintain a running commentary across no less than 30 friends simultaneously texting messages back and forth with everybody at lightning speed. When I found this incredible my daughter then showed me that there were over 101 of her “friends” all online on Facebook all at once. Overwhelming! That night I retired and thanked God (I am no longer a teenager) I had a few close friends as I would never be inclined (or able) to sustain that kind of following…and with absolutely no interest in entertaining those masses with the minutia of my everyday life.

Facebook has crept into almost everything you can think of. Last year my 12-year-old was visiting friends in Eastern Canada and these friends were making a day trip to the United States. I emailed a letter granting my daughter permission to cross the border (in the company of the other child’s parents) along with a scanned image of her birth certificate. Once my daughter arrived at the border, the Customs Officer asked my kid if she had Facebook and then took her inside the customs office to “log-on” thereby proving who she was. Facebook providing the on-line confirmation of photo ID. I was stunned!

Facebook maze

“Facebook is truly a love/hate relationship at this end.”

Games are all over Facebook. I was never much of a game person until I got hooked on Bubble Witch and trying to beat the levels without any additional help from spending any money whatsoever. Managed to get to level 117 so far (and completely for free)…and, yes, very addicting. I like it because in a few moments the lives are all gone and I had a five-minute break (likely preventing a few  strangled teenagers at this end) and have to wait a few hours before more lives are granted.

A cross-section of statuses I have read on Facebook include:

  • I am craving some albatross tonight…(!!)
  • Anyone seen Batman tonight ? (Maybe at my house…then again my cape is probably in the washing machine…again)
  • Sleepless… again (Nah that does not happen to me…too exhausted…many nights I have no recollection of turning the light out.)
  • Only had four-hours sleep (hey that is my usual night.. that is a good rest)
  • I am soooo bored (wish I had that much time to myself)
  • Who likes me (not going to answer…likely same kid who ditched his chores)
  • Inbox me if you want to date me (thankfully no one posted this from my house and NO I did not answer back!)

Things my children hate about me on Facebook is that I can see when they are on and often comment including busting some of the younger teens for not being in bed. Other progeny have decided to totally disown me and block me. From what I understand likely a good thing too as I don’t think I am missing much that one son tried to shave with a pineapple and cut his ear at a party (actually the same son is likely very grateful that thanks to his blocking me on Facebook I cannot comment on his profile) I can live without seeing.

I am a Canadian goat and Facebook stats in Canada recently indicate 17,716,820 as  the number of users in this country (our entire population is approximately 34,482,779) meaning that more than 50% of fellow Canadians can be found on Facebook.(!!)

According to what is readily available on internet there are 835,525,280 million Facebook users worldwide (as of March 31, 2012 http://www.internetworldstats.com/facebook.htm).

If that were not enough shopping and consuming is rapidly advancing through social media with commerce sales possibly totalling $9.2 billion by the end of this year and sales expected to climb to $14.25 billion in 2013 and $30 billion in 2015 (according to Social Skinny http://thesocialskinny.com/99-new-social-media-stats-for-2012).

I think we are on the brink of social media changing everything we do. As very soon we will see everyday purchases aided by social media being made online with a smartphone.

So while my kids sit around and think I am a dinosaur because I can remember a time without cellphones, microwaves, email and MP3s… the new reality is our children’s kids may be totally in awe of a time where their parents (the real dinosaurs) actually visited friends, spoke on the phone and went to the store to buy something.

So yes…I am taking “arms against a sea of troubles” as Facebook is truly a love/hate relationship at this end.

After all of this…don’t forget to “like” The Garden Goat on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/GardenGoatQuote

goat-typing-facebook

“I am a Canadian goat and the Facebook stats in Canada recently indicate 17,716,820 as the number of users in Canada!”

The Six-Year-Old “gets it”… Friends are very Important

In watching the games children play among themselves… I am often reminded how really important friendship can be and should be. How wonderful it is when things are going well and how wretched it feels when things are not. (There is a huge difference between how the girls handle friendships and how the boys do …such a big topic that will have to wait for another post).

Friendship cartoon calvin and hobbes

“True friends are family you choose for yourself. This road called “life” is made much more bearable with these special friends to share your joys and divide your sorrows.”

My six-year-old son stopped in the middle of supper recently to announce an emergency. “Mom I have to go right now and see (so and so)…I miss him I want him to know I am still his friend!” Sure, how about when you have finished supper? He did not have a chance to answer before the other kids (lots of those in the peanut gallery here) chimed in with “THAT is SO NOT an emergency.” Some older (more jaded) siblings added “Isn’t he the guy that got mad at you over that toy?” and “Well I would make him wait if I were you…let’s see how long it takes until he comes to see you! Besides you can always make new friends.” This reaction was met with immediate tears from my six-year old. Between the tears he stammered “But I want him to know I am still his friend no matter what…. and I am thinking of him NOW and I want him to know that!” (Perhaps I should introduce this kid to “immediate” tools such as email…social media? LOL)  I realized that if we understood friendship more like the six-year old does how much happier and less complicated things would be for all of us.

“A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.” (and maintain!) ~Francois de La Rochefoucauld~

Real friendships are precious. Loss of a real friendship is devastating. Many compare the grief from the loss of a best friend to the sadness suffered when one lives through a death or divorce.  Too many of us take our best friendships for granted. These are special bonds we have with other people we  consider will always be there because they are people we care truly about.  Not necessarily so.

True Friend

“A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.”
Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Friends are a lot like plants. With care and attention they blossom into untold beauty but when left unattended for too long begin to fade. Eventually withering and dying with no lasting trace of ever existing.

As moms we tend to put ourselves last and with that the attention we would ever give to ourselves by way of indulging in a close friendship. The complete laundry list of other priorities often all but obliterates some of these most important relationships.  We often tell our friends that we are busy and will be in touch as we balance a multitude of ever-changing priorities and hope that perhaps next week our schedule will allow for a few moments to spend on ourselves in time with that friend. Many “next week” promises get deferred to the week after and pretty soon an entire six weeks has passed. Pretty soon months have elapsed and eventually years.

Since almost creation, women have been raised culturally with the notion that once you have children you must sacrifice any “free time” for the good of one’s family. With larger families this is ever more the reality. The list of important things to do is never-ending. I know for me it looks something like this:

Laundry, Groceries, Laundry, Meals, Laundry, General housework, Laundry, errands, more Laundry, cleaning (bathrooms constantly) and then more laundry still. (OK agreed…a little LAUNDRY obsessed over here).

Somehow it is programmed into our heads that having any time to ourselves is an evil to be avoided and worse yet it would be positively diabolical to use such time to visit or have a friend visit. Growing up we are often taught that time with friends is a “privilege” only available to us once all our chores and duties are accomplished for the day. (Like any of one of us with a family would ever have everything accomplished …certainly not all on the same day! I am good …but my cape and tights no longer fit!) Some of us feel so guilty just grabbing a couple of hours to ourselves that we find reasons not to do the things that should matter most. Others of us can get lost in the ever-growing and endless list of chores. In the end… life is busy and can blow past all of us.

I have learned a few hard lessons with friendships. True friends are family you choose for yourself. This road called “life” is made much more bearable with these special friends to share your joys and divide your sorrows. These friendships and their memories are written on your heart forever.  Sadly, I have also learned that friendships are delicate things that can often break for reasons that are not apparent or easily understood. Heartache from a broken friendship is devastating and can last a lifetime.

“These friendships and their memories are written on your heart forever”

In a landmark study by UCLA (The University of California, Los Angeles) “On Friendship Among Women An alternative to fight or fligh” (by Gale Berkowitz©2002) found that friendships among women provide nurturing, perspective, laughter and act as an anchor in sanity protecting our emotional health. UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.”

I hope that someday I will live long enough to see some very special friendships healed and restored in my life. One very special friend in particular I am so lost without. I believe in tomorrow but only if I am strong enough to change what I do today.  In the meantime I am going to take a leaf out of my six-year-old’s book… tread more softly among my friends, be grateful for the blessings they are in my life, try harder to not take offence easily (nor to their preoccupation with their own lives) and arrange things in such a way that I am not too busy for the very relationships that help to keep me (and others around me) grounded! (Of course… all this while staying on top of the laundry!)

The Garden Goat

Goat washing Laundry

!OK agreed…a little laundry obsessed over here!”