Just Family

I hire social media to do all sorts of important jobs.

I started this blog because I had something to say, and wanted to find my voice. LinkedIn helps me be found professionally, Facebook helps me connect with people that I like but don't see very often; the images on Pinterest give me an emotional pick-up.  And, Twitter, and its wonderful farmer's market of ideas and conversation, is one of the first places I go each morning.

But about six months ago, when I learned about justfamily, I realized there was one job that social media wasn't doing for me. And in truth, it hadn't occurred to me that I wanted it done.

Here I was spending at least a half hour a day on social media platforms, expanding my circles of professional contacts, acquaintances, and close friends. But there was one circle that had little to no overlap in the Venn diagram that is my social media life:  my family circle. Or in the vernacular of Howard Schultz (founder and CEO of Starbucks), I've got the second and third place covered, but what of my first place, the family? Sure, I occasionally share something pithy my children have said, but in order to protect their privacy, there's so much I don't say… and in an odd way, they had become the undocumented citizens of my social net.

And what of how they view the world?

We have photographs of them, but how do we preserve what they are seeing through the lens of their teenage minds and hearts? Will I remember in a week's time, let alone a year or a decade, the conversation my son and I had on our back porch last Saturday? I learned then why he prefers Spotify over Pandora, and that he likes dubstep.

And is there a way to celebrate, with family, how well my daughter did on her standardized tests this year? Not only verbally, but by notifying each other — so that everyone, including her older brother, gets the status update? And, then of course, there are the more intimate moments: summer goal-setting, parental apologizing, and family blessings.

I think I will remember. But, I don't. I can't. My madding days, weeks, and years crowd the memories out. But as I've included JustFamily into my social media routine, placing our memories into this social keepsake jar, what was once forgotten, I am remembering.

And my children are learning just how much they are loved.

***

Are you collecting family memories?

Do your social media archives capture both your public and private life — especially your family life?

Have you noticed that when your children read what you've written about them in a public place — even if just among family — they believe it?

Disclosure:  I happily joined the Advisory Board of Just Family earlier this year.

If you decide you want to take JustFamily for a spin, you can log on here. If you want to learn more, you can ping the CEO and founder Nate Quigley nate@justfamily.com or tweet him at @njquigley. Nate is the husband of my dear friend Vanessa; as parents of seven children, they are no strangers to gathering these precious seashells of memories.

Becky Robinson | Because ___________ Followed You on Twitter Today

________ followed you on Twitter today.

It’s crazy, this digital world that connects us to so many.

We connect to people relationally, making friends of strangers. We find mentors, and cheerleaders, people who applaud our success and admire our achievements.  We find a community that seems true and unconditionally supportive.

All the while, we push to the corners of our mind the deep disappointment we carry about the relationships that should have been, but aren’t.

The people we’re estranged from – because – let’s be honest:  we all have those people.

Fathers. Mothers. Sisters. Brothers.

We try to forget about those relationships that seem broken and fragmented beyond repair.

We push aside the hurt; we focus on what’s right in our lives; we plow forward; we work hard; we love the people closest to us; we give what we can to others.

And then, the interlopers, the ones who abandoned us — they return, to sit on the sidelines of our lives. Still distant, but observing our success.

Online onlookers only, they show up unexpectedly, and lurk on the edges of our vision.

Is it better that they’re there, or worse?

We wonder: Are they watching? Are they listening? Does it matter?

What should we do? Engage them? Ignore them?

Because, really, we’ve lived apart from them for so long.

Because, really, we’ve learned to live without them.

It hurts, of course. It hurts more than we care to admit.

To see that familiar face, but know that the distance remains.

And really, what hope is there for repair?

Could they catch up on all those missed years by reading what we write online? Could they understand us by reading our tweets? Could they know who we are now by a few photos on Facebook?

Do they feel better knowing these details of our lives?

What separates us now is not the miles, though they are far. It is not the years, though they have been long.

It is outside of words really, and, beyond explanation, but I think that if you’ve experienced it, you know what I mean.

Where there was once nothing, there is now an artificial sense of closeness.  People who chose to leave us now stake a claim for connection.

Apart from healing, apart from a miracle, there is none.

* * *

Have you ever experienced this?

How do you manage awkward online connections?

This post is from Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence.

Becky Robinson | But I Wanted to Be a Harbor

With only a semester left in college, I left home to spend a summer in the Middle East.

Returning home, sun kissed and henna-haired, I longed to reunite with my boyfriend, to rest and prepare for my final semester.

My mother greeted me with warm hugs and a thousand questions.

She wanted to talk about dreams and plans, and I wanted to slide back into life as it was.

I had sailed for distant shores — experienced new foods and cultures and met friends who welcomed me with unparalleled hospitality. I had learned a few words of a foreign tongue and traveled to ancient ruins and pristine shores.

Now home, I felt grateful for the experience, but ready to settle back into life as I had been imagining it.

At the center of my thoughts, moving toward what I had always wanted: first marriage, and then, later, family life.

My mother envisioned something different, and she told me, frequently, in almost frantic terms. She wanted me to experience life on my own as an adult, to live and work on my own, with freedom to travel and achieve. Grad school, she offered? Or, perhaps: an apartment, job, and flexibility to try new things.

And then, my boyfriend arrived on a plane with a dozen red roses and a proposal.

This — I declared — is my dream. Yes, I said, to getting married young.

I felt the struggle but didn’t have words to discuss the battle I waged with my mother in those months leading up to the wedding.

Ship and harbor are powerful words to describe that struggle between wanting home and family life and wanting a career. It’s a useful paradigm because it describes a series of choices women must make throughout their lives in balancing the desire for work with the desire for family, the yearn to explore and achieve with the instinct to nurture and support others.

photo credit *S A N D E E P*

My mother had married young (and later divorced.) She longed for an experience for me that was altogether different from her own. She wrote letters to me, pages of regret and heartbreak, and projected her hurt and remorse onto me, viewing her words as a gift, offering me a view of another life. Not sure now if those pages crinkled with her own tears, dried onto the pages, or if only my tears curled those pages.

I wanted her to understand and support my dream of marriage while she wanted me to pursue an important career.

So many years have passed since then, with no words to describe this struggle, until now, and Whitney’s concept of the ship and the harbor.

My mother wanted me to be the ship and I wanted to create a harbor.

My mother’s words proved a gift, as her own urgings to me to be a ship modeled how to be a harbor. And I never forgot her belief that I could be a ship when the time arrived.

At the time, I couldn’t see beyond the safety of the shore. To me, marriage meant arriving, safely, at a place I had longed for, because it seemed to me more important to discover my traveling partner before deciding where I wanted to go.

And if we didn’t quite know where we wanted to go, if we didn’t quite have the resources to get there yet, we would discover that together.

Twenty years later, I understand myself and my gifts more clearly, and I am now able to be a ship while maintaining a harbor for my husband and children.

I am, finally, at age 41, discovering a dream career and pursuing it. I am setting sail in a new way, on a new course that I might not have found without first creating a safe harbor. And now I can teach my daughters to describe their dreams in those terms and to pursue whatever dreams capture their hearts.

* * *

How do you balance being a ship (pursuing a career) with being a harbor (nurturing home and family)?

Have you had to choose between being a ship and being a harbor? 

How have you learned to be the hero of your own story, to be your own Batman

This guest post is from Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence.

Stephanie Dahl | A Lovely Problem to Have

Stephanie Dahl is a National Board Certified teacher with a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelors Degree in Psychology.  After trying to conceive for many years, she stopped pursuing a biological child and focused on adoption.  One month after the birth of their adopted daughter, she and her husband received the joyful news they were expecting.  Currently a Stay-at-Home-Mom who plans to return to teaching when Sophia and Brianna are in preschool, Stephanie has recently rediscovered writing as a way of understanding her experience and improving as a mother.  You can read more at her blog A lovely problem to have.     

***
As the mother of a transracially adopted child (my daughter is of Ethiopian descent and my husband and I have Scandinavian roots), I often find myself in situations requiring special care and consideration.

Some of these situations I feel prepared for, such as when over-friendly strangers make inquiries or judgments about our daughter’s birth parents.  Other times, however, the situations take me by surprise and I feel less prepared.  Usually the surprise situations involve forms of racism.  As a highly visible family, we have had several negative experiences.  However, racism doesn’t always come in negative form.  It can also come in the form of gifts and praise.

Once, a family friend asked my daughter, “Are you gonna be a basketball player, Sophia?”  (I’d like to think he asked that because she is tall for her age and not because he sees limited opportunities for success because of her brown skin.)  And a family member once insisted that Sophia loves music and dance because “it is in her DNA.”  (It couldn’t be because we love music at our home and I have danced with her since she was a newborn.)

Another time, a couple gave Sophia the gift of a baby doll.  A white baby doll with big blue eyes and blonde hair.  Little circles of pink warmed up the plastic, peachy skin.  I didn’t quite know what to say.  I had anticipated seeing a doll with a deeper skin tone.  I thought of saying something like, “Thank you, but didn’t the store have any black dolls?” or gently suggesting through my daughter, “Let’s get a sister for your baby doll, Sophia.  One with beautiful brown skin like you.”

BittybabyAG

I often have mixed feelings about that gift.  For example, I envision her doll collection containing babies and children with many different skin tones, and a peach-skinned doll does fit into that vision.  But the gift of that doll also flurries me with unanswered questions:

  1. What were our friends were thinking?
  2. Or were they simply not thinking?
  3. Have they become so accustomed to wearing their white skin that they would never think to purchase a doll of a different color?
  4. Did they not consider that Sophia might want a doll that looks similar to her own baby pictures?
  5. In choosing a doll with white skin were they subconsciously disregarding her brown skin, valuing white over brown as happens again and again in our culture?

As Sophia’s parent, it is my job to ensure her dolls (and books, cultural experiences, musical repertoire, and cuisine) are reflective and inclusive of her African heritage.  It is not, after all, the responsibility of our friends.

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Source:  istockphoto

That said, I now ask questions I never would have asked before, I've become sensitive to issues of race and culture, and I think about how my daughters, and we as people, connect to, or feel separate from, the world around us.

***
Stephanie has always loved to write, but probably never imagined that adopting a baby, and nine months later birthing one, would give her so much that is rich, that is uniquely hers, to write about.

Have any of us, like Stephanie, found ourselves in a completely unexpected place, making unimagined discoveries?  How have these places furthered our dream?  Or led us to dare to dream?

If dolls are a “mini-me”, or a projection of who we can be, and dolls don't accurately represent who we are, is it possible that our dreams become fundamentally flawed because we somehow don't build off our our innate strengths?

After reading Stephanie's post, you may want to re-read Michele Pierce's post A Mother's Thoughts on Adoption.

P.S.  Thank you to Melissa Stanton for introducing me to Stephanie, describing her “tale as a lovely story about adoption, infertility, family and race.”


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