Links I love and what’s on my nightstand.

drink good coffee read good books

My favorite finds from around the web:

When is Cheryl’s birthday?” The math problem that stumped the internet. (And me.)

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard: why our relationship works. “You do better in the gym with a trainer; you don’t figure out how to cook without reading a recipe. Therapy is not something to be embarrassed about.”

I didn’t follow my heart, I worked my ass off. “While ice cream expert Jeni Britton Bauer could have given her younger self some advice, she chose not to. ”

Favorite food memoirs. “Because most of the best things in life involve good food, yes?”

What’s on my nightstand:

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. When I told you I was enjoying Garden Spells, several of you said to read this next.

The Power of One. Finally. I’ve been meaning to read this book since 1999.

On the blog:

7 things I’m choosing to splurge on right now. “I love reading about what people do and don’t splurge on, and why. Our “splurge list” varies with the seasons of our lives; these are the things I think it’s worth splurging on right now”

What I’m reading lately: the new and the notable. My take on 5 new spring releases.

The things you don’t read about on the internet. “Once I recognized the significance of this, I started seeing it everywhere. (Vaguebooking is annoying, but Facebook oversharing is downright uncomfortable, and this is why.)”

Have a great weekend!

The things you don’t read about on the internet.

The things you don't read about on the internet.

There are many things I would dearly love to write about on this blog, for the sake of the writing process, the feedback, the crowdsourcing potential for knotty problems. I can think of a half dozen subjects I could pour my heart and soul into: they’d make for good reading and good conversation.

But those subjects won’t appear on this blog, and probably won’t appear anywhere in print, at least not anytime in the next ten years.

You’ve probably heard bloggers say this before: they have topics they’d like to write about, but they can’t. Or they won’t. As to why not, the usual explanation goes something like this: it’s not my story to tell. (What usually follows is a rousing discussion of Anne Lamott’s quip: “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”)

I disagree with Lamott on this one. Some stories aren’t mine to tell: they belong to someone else. (More and more, that “someone” is one of my kids. I ask permission to blog about them these days.)

But I’m realizing that when I decide what to write—and not write—about, it’s not just about whose story it is to tell. That question has an equally important corollary: whose story is it to hear?

four levels of relationship

When my therapist explained the four levels of relationship to me last year, it changed the way I thought about my interactions with others. (I’d encourage you to go read that post before reading on.)

The four levels of relationship in a nutshell

There are four possible levels of relationship, ranging from shallow (our acquaintances) to deep (our intimates). Every relationship we have can be plotted on that sliding scale. The status itself is emotionally neutral. We run into trouble when our behavior and our relationship status don’t align.

This happens all the time.

It explains why it feels horrible to find out about your best friend’s engagement on facebook, and why it feels horribly awkward when a new acquaintance overshares and bares her soul to you. The behavior should match the relationship status: we expect our best friend to treat us like an intimate; our new acquaintance shouldn’t treat us as a confidant.

The things you don't read about on the internet

The four levels of relationship on the internet

When my therapist and I talked about the four levels, we were talking about in-person, three-dimensional relationships: the people you see at work, or yoga class, or Thanksgiving dinner. She wasn’t talking about blogging or social media.

But lately I’ve been thinking about the four levels and the online world, and it’s been eye-opening: the internet is a place where our behavior and our relationship status diverge all the time.

One example: I often find myself cringing when someone airs their dirty laundry publicly—whether it’s a facebook friend or a celebrity on E! Online. But not just because of the lurid details: it’s because, lurid or not, I have no business hearing them. I am not intimate friends with the teller. It is not my story to hear.

On the other hand, when a close friend tells me a sordid personal story, it’s likely I’ll cringe at that—not necessarily because she shouldn’t have told me, but because it was just that kind of story. (She’s probably cringing right along with me.) An intimate relationship can handle the heavy stuff. It’s a subtle distinction, but it’s important.

Once I recognized the significance of this, I started seeing it everywhere. (Vaguebooking is annoying, but Facebook oversharing is downright uncomfortable, and this is why.)

This isn’t to say one shouldn’t talk about personal stuff online, not at all. Many bloggers treat their blogs like online journals, and I love memoir as a genre. Those formats work (when they work) because they are highly edited. The writers are careful about what they share, and especially about how they share it. (The best ones do this so delicately you don’t even notice how careful they’re being.) If they weren’t, reading them would feel horribly awkward.

Moving forward

My family is starting to work through a murky problem-of-sorts right now. (We’ll be fine, nothing major, and whatever you’re thinking it might be, it’s definitely not that.) I would dearly love to hit you with it here on the blog: I want to know who else has experienced something similar, directly or peripherally. I want to crowdsource your ideas. I want to be able to talk about it, here.

But I’ve thought about the four levels, and I’m convinced that—at least for now—this isn’t the right place. (Even though I’m thankful to get to call many of you friends, some of you close ones.) Instead, I’ve been reaching out to friends over coffee, to far-flung friends by phone and email, looking for advice, support, and a sounding board.

It’s not the same as writing about it here; it’s not the same as sharing it with you. But it’s good.

I welcome your thoughts and observations in comments. I’m very curious to hear what your personal experiences surrounding this topic have been like. 

“I realized that being a stay-at-home mom was not all I had pictured.”

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I’m excited to share Katie’s story with you today in the How She Does It series, because her story mirrors the story of so many of my personal friends. Usually these conversations take place over coffee, not on the internet. Not today.  

A year after graduating college, I was hired by my alma mater as an admission counselor. I was excited because it took me back to a place I loved and allowed me to work with an incredible group of people.

During my time as an admission counselor, I founded a student blog, aimed at prospective students and their families. I also helped run our office’s Facebook page. Those things coincided with my interests and abilities so it was natural for me to take initiative in those areas.

I loved my work as an admission counselor but when I became pregnant with my first daughter, I knew I wanted to stay home with her. I also knew the life of an admission counselor – traveling and working late evenings and some Saturdays – was not conducive to the kind of family life I hoped to cultivate. My husband and I discussed our options and reviewed our finances, then made the decision. Things would be tight, but I would stay home.

Shortly before my daughter was born, my boss asked me if I would be interested in working part-time from home running the office’s social media pages, working on special projects, and doing some writing. I was thrilled with the idea of keeping my foot in the door and expressed my enthusiasm.

After my daughter was born, I realized that being a stay-at-home mom was not all I had pictured. We were still several years away from the play dates, library story hours and zoo visits of my imagination. Additionally, my husband traveled for work and, even with a strong support network, I often found myself lonely and bored. New motherhood felt isolating. I struggled with the fact that being a stay-at-home mom was not what I’d pictured and I often didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t want to return to my pre-baby job exactly but I missed my co-workers, the office atmosphere and the sense of purpose my job had provided.

It took an entire year after my daughter’s birth for the position my boss and I had discussed to begin (proposals had to be written, money had to be found in the budget, and upper-level administration had to approve) but I finally began working part-time from home in September 2012.

I work approximately twelve hours per week. Although I used to work primarily from home, in January of this year I started working one day a week on campus, in addition to a few additional hours from home. Returning to the office, even for just one day a week, has been a huge boost for me, both mentally and emotionally. A friend watches my girls, just minutes from the university, and I’m able to devote an entire day to my professional life. It is a long, hectic day that requires advance planning on my part but it has been entirely worth it.

I am beginning to think of myself as a professional. I’m imagining what it would look like for me to turn my part-time gig into a long-term career that I love. I have become a self-feeder when it comes to continuing education, learning all I can about social media marketing from articles and webinars. I have taught myself new skills, like video editing. Recently I presented a seminar in the Career Services office at my institution about leveraging social media for career advancement. These activities have developed me as a professional and grown my confidence.

Working gives me a much-needed mental outlet. It gives me a sense of purpose that is different from that of being a mother, but so very valuable. Being able to contribute, even in a small way, to our family finances has lifted a burden and allowed us to take on projects that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do. It’s also important to me that my daughters understand that, while they are so important to me, my life doesn’t revolve around them. I love that I can cultivate a professional life and give them one perspective of how motherhood and a career can take shape.

Katie owns her own social media consulting business, On Target Media & Communications, where she specializes in higher education. When she’s not crafting the perfect tweet, she’s might be sautéing something in the kitchen, jogging around her neighborhood, or – most likely – chasing a toddler. Katie lives with her husband and two daughters in Ohio.

What I’ve been reading lately: the new and the notable.

What I've been reading lately: the new and the notable.

Welcome to Quick Lit, where I share short and sweet reviews of what I’ve been reading lately, and invite you to do the same.

I’ve been trying to stay on top of spring’s new releases. Today I’m sharing 5 of my favorite.

SEARCHING FOR SUNDAY: LOVING, LEAVING, AND FINDING THE CHURCH

by Rachel Held Evans

22574709I’ve been impatiently awaiting a new release from Held Evans, and this one doesn’t disappoint. The author’s adult experience with the church mirrors my own, and that’s not a coincidence: the book explicitly addresses the struggles millions of American millennials have with organized religion. The book is structured around the seven sacraments, so it’s no wonder that though categorized as a memoir, there’s a lot of theology here. (Readers of her blog and past books will have a good idea of what to expect.) Very fun to see my own church make a cameo appearance. Honest, moving, relatable. Release date: April 14.

WEARING GOD: CLOTHING, LAUGHTER, FIRE, AND OTHER OVERLOOKED WAYS OF MEETING GOD

by Lauren Winner

18669493People of faith are used to hearing metaphors for God—usually the same ones, over and over again. In her new book, Winner pushes aside these overfamiliar images to explore some of the more obscure biblical metaphors for God: clothing, laughter, fire, a laboring woman. More exposition than memoir, although my favorite parts were her insights from the class she taught at the local women’s prison. Intelligent and detailed, but not dry. Release date: March 31.

THE DREAM LOVER: A NOVEL OF GEORGE SAND

by Elizabeth Berg

23256785Berg’s brand-new novel is based on the incredible and iconoclastic life of French novelist Aurore Dupin, better known by her pen name: George Sand. Berg’s portrait of Dupin’s life, work, and motivations is fascinating, but like so many novels of this type—The Paris Wife, Loving Frank, The Aviator’s Wife—Sand’s voice never felt right to me. (If you like that type of novel, add this to your list.) This was my first Berg novel and I’d like to give her another try: what should I read next? Release date: April 14.

BLUE BIRDS

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by Caroline Starr Rose

Starr Rose’s follow-up to sleeper hit May B. The year: 1587. The setting: Roanoke island. Two girls—one Native American, one just off the boat from London—form an unlikely friendship in the midst of dangerous relations between the settlers and the Roanoke tribe. YA historical fiction, written in verse, (which has “a book in a genre you don’t usually read” written all over it, at least for me). The verse makes for quick reading, so your kids will enjoy plowing through a 400 page book in record time. Release date: March 10.

INSIDE THE O’BRIENS

by Lisa Genova

22716194I went on a tear and read all of Genova’s works in one short month this spring, enjoying her fictional but uncannily accurate portraits of those affected by various neurological conditions—Alzheimer’s disease, left neglect, autism. In her latest book, she tackles Huntington’s, a lethal neurodegenerative disease which has no treatment and no cure. Genova describes it in her forward as “the cruelest disease known to man.” I couldn’t get through this book, but not because it wasn’t good: it might have been too good. Genova’s tale of a Boston police officer’s progressive illness wrecked me. A gripping read, but not for the faint of heart. Release date: April 7.

What have you been reading lately?