Monday, February 4, 2008

Welcome to my world...

There is something that has been on my mind so now I get to subject you to it! I know...lucky you!

I have read some farewell posts recently and references to others who have condemned the act of blogging in general as something evil and filled with pride. And for some readers, these Dear John letters might have inspired them to reevaluate their own online relationships and how much time and energy they are devoting to this hobby. How much time is it taking away from their family? How much frustration is it bringing into their lives? And these are all valid questions.

Here's my gripe. Yes, there are some people who shouldn't be blogging. Perhaps the temptations of the greener grass is too much for them. Perhaps they have difficulty with self control. Maybe personal feelings of inadequacy make peeking into other people's lives a burden too great to bear. I can easily imagine that for someone who feels as though her life is spinning out of control, the internet can provide too many how-to-order-your-life-the-right-way solutions that end up paralyzing some or sending others into a manic frenzy. It's possible that some people recognize their own narcissistic tendencies and see the pitfalls of pride clearly stretched out in front of them on the information superhighway. And if this is the case, then perhaps these people shouldn't be on the internet. They probably shouldn't be reading blogs and they definitely shouldn't be blogging themselves.

But I have to say that I am a little tired of the swell of voices behind them echoing the evils of the internet because... I would have been one of those people not too long ago. I love color in my world, but in my brain, things look like a 1950's classic TV marathon. I like things black and white by nature. Just tell me what the right thing to do is and I'll do it. Guarantee me that parenting style X will produce the kind of kids I want mine to be (AKA...everything I wasn't) and I'm hooked. Tell me that devotion Z will mean that my children never have to stumble along their path to holiness and I am on my knees ready to go. But you know what... there are very few absolutes in this world and that kind of mentality isn't helpful.

To those people who are natural leaders, please be aware of the impact your words have on the followers; those of us who might be so lacking in self confidence and the ability to trust our own decisions that we mistakenly substitute yours for ours. But to those people whose brains only work in monochrome format, realize that you have the responsibility to think for yourself. Because it is all too easy to let someone else decide for you... it takes away all of the blame. The guilt of choosing poorly is lifted off your shoulders and hoisted onto the unsuspecting back of the person you have placed on that precarious pedestal. It might feel liberating but is it really fair?

Now, there are certain areas of interest that are not safe for my mind to engage in and for those people suffering from mental health issues like anxiety disorders or depression, some subjects need to be decided by people who know us, love us and truly understand our "quirks". For example... medical issues are a trigger for my anxiety. I can't let myself read any stories about someone suffering from cancer or the latest treatment for the chronic illness du jour, etc.... I don't disparage anyone for posting stories like that but I also don't choose to unplug my modem.

Can the internet suck too much time and energy away from your family? Sure... but so can talking on the phone, watching movies and a mile-long list of other possibilities. I know that if I get started on a new exciting craft project, I am just a removed mentally from my children as I am sitting in front of a screen. Everything in moderation, right? For those who struggle with moderation in certain areas or those with addictive personality tendencies, perhaps total abstinence is easier. But don't sit there and list the evils of the internet unless you are willing to be honest with us about your personal failings and temptations. We live in a fallen world; everything is tinged with evil. How you use these things makes all the difference.

As homeschooling mommies, we all know how much work we have to do on a daily basis, but how much we physically accomplish is not the measure of our virtuousness. As my best friend says "Productivity does not exclude the life of the mind". Some people are more intellectual and others are more active but neither is more holy than the other. I could choose to spend my time decoupaging my coffee table with a lovely pattern I saw in the latest edition of (insert magazine name here) or reading an article that traces the history of decoupage back to the ancient Egyptians online and whether either one leads me closer to holiness depends on many factors known only to me.

There is a vibrant community out here that might be just the thing a young mom who feels so very alone needs to help boost her spirits and give her mind something to ponder in polysyllabic thought. It can be the perfect place for an experienced mom to share her adventures but still stay in touch with the challenges that moms of today are facing. There are friends of the heart, mind and soul that can't always be found next door in many of the little corners of this world. There is also the chance to learn and grow in holiness for those who choose moderation and self control.

Maybe this community is something that some people need only for a short time and that's OK. All conversations go through lulls. Stepping back to reevaluate is always a good thing, but no one should make you feel bad for choosing to participate just because they have made the decision that this form of communication doesn't suit them.

Donna Reed only lives on late night TV (and in my head sometimes) but she represented a part of our society that use to be the norm; community. Not everyone can find that in their neighborhoods anymore so we look for it anywhere we can because it is necessary for some of us. It builds us up when we would normally tend to fall into self doubt. It gives us courage when we would normally sink into self pity. It gives us hope when we would normally find ourselves wallowing in despair.

Blogging is an activity, like all activities, that is morally neutral. It can be used to feed pride and vanity and that is bad. Some people have used it to create a virtual community where a physical one is not possible but very much needed and that is good. For some it is simply a means of entertainment which some people might try to tell you is bad but some of our lovely saints would beg to differ. When both St. Charles Borromeo and St. Aloysius were involved in a game, the first playing chess and the other playing ball, they were asked what they would do if they were to learn that the end of the world was imminent. Both responded that they would go on with their game. We can glorify God in all things we do and I believe He has a hand in every created thing in this world. Even the internet.


  1. Thanks for this. I've seen many of the comments you've referred to and they've pulled me in two ways. I know I do sometimes get into an addictive mode when it comes to the internet (but I've also done it with television, novels, computer games...) I need to monitor myself and step back occasionally and make sure I'm achieving the right balance and making hte best use of my time.

    But at the same time, I need this community that I've found online, it has been a great source of spiritual and emotional nourishment for me.

    This really struck a chord: "There is a vibrant community out here that might be just the thing a young mom who feels so very alone needs to help boost her spirits and give her mind something to ponder in polysyllabic thought. It can be the perfect place for an experienced mom to share her adventures but still stay in touch with the challenges that moms of today are facing. There are friends of the heart, mind and soul that can't always be found next door in many of the little corners of this world. There is also the chance to learn and grow in holiness for those who choose moderation and self control."

    I'm the young mother in need of conversation I can't find much of it offline in the here and now of where I live. And in all modesty, from the feedback I've gotten on my blog, I know that many times my humble musings on my own blog have helped others. I've made connections. Real friends.

    It does require moderation and self control. I think I probably have recently been spending a bit too much time in blog reading and need to pull myself back a bit, cut down on the number of subscriptions in my google reader. But I don't want to shut it off altogether. For me that isn't real self control, it doesn't involve a real evaluation of my priorities. Instead, I need to take the harder path of monitoring myself day by day and even minute by minute.

    Anyway, thanks for this, it's helped me to figure out why I've had such an ambivalent reaction when I see someone signing off for good.

  2. This took courage to write. I agree with a lot of what you said. We are so isolated - from work environments, school car lines, and our neighbors who send their children to school. I think it's just an example - that humans will find a way to communicate in sprite of societal changes. Blogging has been a very good thing in my life.

  3. This really did take courage to write. I agree with Jennifer.

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Matilda. I've received so much support online since our hs journey began. I can't imagine how isolated I would've felt without it. Yes, I do sometimes need to pull back a little but I think as you mentioned that can happen with anything.

  5. Bravo.

    We all need to evaluate things for ourselves, and trust those who love us to help us stay on the right path.

    I agree with this especially:
    "But don't sit there and list the evils of the internet unless you are willing to be honest with us about your personal failings and temptations. We live in a fallen world; everything is tinged with evil. How you use these things makes all the difference."

    We all have struggles, all different temptations. We need to make our own decisions without making others feel guilty.

    Excellent post, Matilda.

  6. Excellent, excellent post.

    I've seen so many "I'm giving up blogging for Lent" posts, and it kinda made me second-guess myself -- SHOULD I be giving up blogging as well?

    But I am one of those folks out there that needs this sort of community. I need the kind of encouragement that comes from "getting together" with other Catholic moms.

    Thanks again...

  7. Beautiful, Matilda! Coincidentally, I posted a similar thing this morning. It may be that for *some*, blogging is something that needs to be given up, but no one can decide that for another. Our spiritual journeys and such decisions are so personal. Great post!

  8. Amen.

    We are on the same wavelength today (and yesterday). If only we could reach out and touch. All in good time, my friend.

  9. Great post! I can't say more than everyone else has said. ;)

  10. Thank you for your thought-provoking post, Matilda! I'm glad you are still blogging! :)

  11. Amen, amen! See above comments and just add my name to the list of kudos.

  12. I'm a lurker on most of these blogs. I stumbled upon By Sun and Candlelight a while ago, and I've enjoyed reading the blogs of homeschoolers for the past year or so, wondering why I didn't know much about it before. Your blogs have shared a life I didn't know could exist, and for that I thank you. I especially appreciate reading about all of the home celebrations of our Catholic faith. Your willingness to share these has led me to incorporate some of the ideas into my own family's life. Your willingness to share how you live out your faith has enriched our lives because it has shown us where we could improve in our own home and inspired us to really embrace our faith. Please don't stop blogging. You are reaching those of us who really benefit from your experiences, and in my case, have really helped my family evaluate how we live out our Catholic faith.

  13. Thank you so much for this. I am one of those young mom's who read these blogs to gain inspiration. I look to all of my mommy mentors when I am feeling down and so alone. Especially after our move to Arizona, with no friends, and no family, this community has helped me so much.

    There are a lot of negative things out there on the internet, but there are also a lot of positive things. This community of bloggers (especially the Catholic mommies) is one of those very positive things.

    Again, thank you for this!

  14. Yay for blogging! It makes me happy! And so do you!

  15. Piling on, Matilda! GREAT post! I especially like your summary paragraph and the example of St. Aloysius and St. Charles! This is a great way to judge whether blogging is good for us: Would we go on with this blogging game if the world were to end this afternoon?

  16. While I would agree with ALL of the above, I am going to play devil's advocate and say that one potential hazard is when we bloggers come to prefer our online friendships to the live ones.

    It is much easier to type than to pick up the telephone, for example. Not that this is a problem with you, Matilda; we've had some wonderful conversations in real time and I thank you for having the kindness to phone when you've thought I needed it. (Or when you did.)

    My point is that it takes more effort to reach out...and that's a balance that I'm seeking.

    PS. Another beautiful exception to this would be when blogging moms are inspired to get together. You & Jenn (As Cozy as Spring) have that one covered, too!

  17. Matlida-
    I am a lurker on yours and other wonderful Catholic moms' websites and have gained so much knowledge and inspiration from all of you. As cheesey as it sounds, my family's faith and home life have been greatly enriched from reading your blog(s).I was born Catholic but catechised in the 1970's. I had to teach myself the rosary at age 30. I prayed that God would guide me to show my children the beautifulness of our faith that I never saw. Your blogs are part of that prayer's answer. You can "overdose" on anything- even water. Gratefully, Jennifer

  18. Oh my. You put into words what I have been struggling with. I think blogging has reaffirmed my belief in human behavior. There are so many enriching blogs and prayerful people out there; I am so glad to have met them and I know there are more to meet. I believe blogging also forces me to take a stand and figure it out. Maybe it is a little narcissistic but I also don't mind being called on the carpet for my views and I think it humbles me to admit my faults in a public forum. You are so "on the money" here. Just like all advancements in our world- blogging can be used for good and....not so good.
    Okay, I'll stop writing- afterall this is YOUR blog. I'm glad to have visited.

  19. BRAVO! You have said just what I've been feeling for a couple of years now. I guess I really believe that blogging has helped me be a better mom all-around. It has given me some really positive ideas for schooling the kids and has given me a chance to "journal" our lives in ways I wouldn't have otherwise done (I can't keep a hand written journal to save my life!). It's also allowed me to share our lives with my relatives on THEIR time (I don't have to bug them with constant updates, or pictures, or annoying Christmas letters) and for me, it's opened up a whole, new world of communication (NOT to the detriment of personal communications, that's actually IMPROVED!).
    Anyway, thank you for this post.

  20. Thank you so much, I have also found myself wondering if blogging is some kind of hidden evil I have succumbed to. :) I truly feel like it is a positive thing in my life, in moderation of course. I am an extrovert and draw a lot of motivation and energy from bouncing ideas around with others. I certainly make the effort for real life relationships and we are involved in homeschool groups, and the moms there are wonderful and I count them as friends, but I honestly spend most of my time at these functions chasing after my toddler...and many of them are chasing their own :) There's just not enough opportunity for me to connect in real life with other like-minded moms. I gained so much from my online community and would be so much more isolated without it.

  21. Thank you, thank you. I don't see blogging as an evil, but I do hear from people about other evils (TV watching, etc.) that I allow. I have found a tremendous circle of fellow Catholic moms that I would not have met nor had the time to talk to the way I have on blogs. I get ideas, parenting advice and inspiration from this circle. This community has helped me tremendously and even if I don't choose to write, I certainly will continue to read!


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!