My Aunt’s Living Room and This Blog’s Anniversary

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I started blogging in 2006. I remember falling in love with the stories and arguments and deep thinkers of the Internet. I wanted to carve out my own little place. I’ve blogged off and on since then, but I started seriously blogging again with this blog. It has changed and shifted over this past year just as I have changed and shifted.

Pilgrim Sandals celebrated its one year anniversary two days ago on August 21, and I write this post in honor of the world of blogging.

To those of you who blog, those of you who read this blog and those of you who comment here, thank you so much!

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I recently read two books that strike me as similar in one major area: the importance of women helping women as they navigate what it means to become a mother. The first was The Language of Flowers, which was a captivating story of brokenness and redemption. The second was The Funeral Dress, which features a small town in Sequatchie Cove (I spent my childhood years near many of the places mentioned). In both stories, older women come alongside a motherless younger woman to help her be a mother.

These books have shown me how important it is to be mothered as we become mothers, but we have lost a good deal of this in our daily lives. In a post on survival mode from Conversion Diary, Jennifer Fulwiler states that we “…live in an age of great isolation.” This feels especially true in parenting. Sometimes there’s no one nearby to help us know how to mother our children other than the book “experts” or the posts on “10 Essential Things to Register For.” But this is different from how it used to be.

We recently had a party to celebrate my grandfather’s seventieth birthday. My grandfather was one of ten children, growing up in rural Tennessee. Five of my great-aunts were at the party–women who are wise and funny and delightful. As they shared and laughed about motherhood and life and fussed over my baby, I realized that this is a gift. And it’s one reason I’m thankful for the Internet.

In any new phase of life, there are those who throw out advice like candy at a parade. They pepper you with it. It reminds me of what Anne Shirley says in Anne of Avonlea. As she prepares to leave for college, Anne tells Gilbert,

I am tired, and, worse than that, I’m disgruntled. I’m tired because I’ve been packing my trunk and sewing all day. But I’m disgruntled because six women have been here to say good-bye to me, and every one of the six managed to say something that seemed to take the color right out of life and leave it as gray and dismal and cheerless as a November morning. (emphasis mine)

Anne knows they meant well, but their comments about the expense of college or how they hope her strength will be enough or how college will change her in a negative way seem to drain her. This is similar to the advice many of us hear about motherhood. The focus is often just on how to get the baby to sleep longer or what products to buy. It’s all about the small details and can target our fears.

But it’s so different from women like my great-aunts. Instead of horror stories and tidbits of not-very-useful advice, they simply tell stories.

For example, my baby still doesn’t sleep through the night. Most mothers around my age give advice about it or increase my fears with horror stories. But my aunts and great-aunts shared stories of similar babies and mothers who turned out just fine. They don’t focus on the minute parts but rather on the larger picture. Time has given them this gift, and I’m grateful for how they pass it on to me.

And this is one blessings of the Internet. Stories–those told to us and those that make us better understand our own–help us in becoming the people we are meant to be. Blogs have often given me hope during this first year of motherhood. They’ve given me advice and comfort and have challenged and changed me. And much like those women in my aunt’s living room, these stories have given me much-needed perspective.

Of course, there are always those on the Internet who also give the horror stories (maybe this is why I now avoid Yahoo! answers with my baby questions). But the Internet allows us to have aunts and great-aunts to help advise us as we navigate new phases of life. Through story and struggles and success, they give us real, lasting wisdom.

The Internet can create a facade of perfect lives, but it can also allow better lives and better opportunities. And though people in today’s world are often too busy to drop in for a cup of coffee or share a story, those bloggers and webzine authors who do are creating virtual living rooms filled with stories and laughter and hope. Far from creating something new, they’re helping us cling to the good parts of the past. I hope you find that here.

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