Rescuing Hobbies

How do you measure the value of a hobby?

I love to be creative. It’s what makes me feel most alive— most like myself. When I’m not making things, I end up turning inward and finding things about myself I don’t like. My self esteem and body image begin to plummet. But when I am exercising my talents and abilities, I am happy and feel fulfilled as a person. While I might be inept in a lot of other ways, my strengths and capabilities are able to shine through my hobbies and give me a sense of accomplishment. This is why I’ve worked so darn hard on the dollhouse I’ve been sharing with you. No— it’s not because I have too much time on my hands (Ha. Ha.), and no, it’s not because I’m an amazing mother. It’s because I discovered I really enjoy making miniatures and was absolutely thrilled to my core when doing so.

Recently, I’ve been impressed with lots of feelings about adults and hobbies. And the sad fact is, not many adults see the value in hobbies. I’ve seen husbands discourage wives from putting money into hobbies because their hobby won’t bring any money into their household. I’ve had people express to me their desires to build a dollhouse, but end up admitting they wouldn’t because they don’t have children to enjoy it. As if the only value in a hobby is in its practicality or end purpose. This mentality is so ultra American. Our history is built around pragmatism, and it’s hard to not let that influence the way we live our adults lives.

hobbies have value

Children are encouraged to explore all kinds of hobbies- art, dancing, athletics, music, clubs, and more. Often within clubs, they’re encouraged to give back to the community, whether through volunteering, organizing donation efforts for those in need, or raising awareness for rare diseases. Kids are often doing way more than adults these days. But I’m not here to talk about the kids. I’m here to ask, why are the kids having all the fun? Why are the majority of adults working a job they don’t enjoy and returning home to watch television they sort of enjoy? Why do we feel the only way to justify having a hobby is if it can earn extra money? When we encourage children to pursue their interests, is it only to eventually help them decide which career to pursue? Because let’s be real, most people aren’t actually able to turn their hobby into a paying job, much less a full-time one. So do those people just abandon those things that make them multi-faceted, happy individuals once they become an adult? Are we expected to work jobs we tolerate, or sometimes hate, only to return home and escape into a televised world featuring people who are out living their lives to the fullest and exploring their passions? Why are adults pressured to find their fulfillment in their work, and if they can’t do that, to just exist and help their children eventually live a better life?

I’m curious how many adults you know have hobbies. I’m definitely privileged to have grown up in a lower middle class family where healthy adulting was modeled for me- hobbies included. My dad designs robots by day (how cool is he?!), and my mom worked a variety of retail jobs throughout my childhood, when she wasn’t staying home to home school me and my brother. My dad is a woodworking hobbyist, has volunteered to build a track and organize pinewood derby style races for local churches, hosts a card club once a month with his buddies, and sings bass in a traveling men’s quartet. My mother plays the piano for local choirs and for special recording events, she organizes musical programs at our church, has a book study every Sunday evening and card club once a month with friends. My parents are both avid readers and enjoy traveling too. You’d think all of that means we’ve been pretty busy as a family, but we really weren’t. We usually sat down at the dinner table together as a family, and I was able to learn about a lot of my own talents and passions by joining my parents in theirs. To this day, my dad and I spend hours together in the garage building things, and I know without his influence I wouldn’t be as interested in wood working, and definitely not as proficient.

As I typed that last paragraph, I was impressed by how privileged I really am to have had such amazing parents, but it also challenges me to create a similar childhood for my girls. Yes, it’s important to play with my children and invest my time in them, but it’s also important for me to spend time alone and investing in ME. That means I find babysitters at least once a week, I end up staying up far too late at night, and I will trade kids with local friends to have some time alone. With my alone time, I’m often tempted to unwind by eating a treat, drinking hot coffee, and watching television, but I am actually most fulfilled when I am being creative. So that’s what I do! Lately it’s been the dollhouse. What an adventure that’s been!

hobbies help me be happy

So how do we rationalize having hobbies, when our lives are already so full to the brim? How can we justify the expense of craft supplies, music lessons, or league fees when our budget is as tight as can be? I have a few ideas which have helped me. As far as justification goes, you have to find the value in having a hobby. I look at my hobbies as essential to my health and happiness. Do you invest money in healthy foods because you see the value in your resulting quality of health? That’s sort of how I view the time and money required to have a hobby. Do you see a therapist to work through your emotional issues or dissatisfaction with your life? Not that a hobby would replace a therapist for mental or extreme emotional issues, but working with my hands has certainly helped me work through a lot of my self esteem issues.

But how do I find the time for my hobbies? I admit— I stay up sometimes until 4am because of the creative pull which sometimes feels impossible to escape. That’s not healthy, and I don’t recommend it. But lately I’ve been thinking of ways I can find time in my day by whittling time away from other necessities. For instance, we finally got a freezer to put in our garage so I can spend way less time cooking. When I make food, I can make double or triple the amount and put the extras in the freezer. Making food in bulk has been a huge time saver for me, and also helps us save money on takeout when we haven’t had time to cook. Other ways I’ve found to save time is to spend less of it on social media, or setting a timer when I’m browsing the internet so I don’t spend more time than I’ve allotted. I try to be efficient in my shopping trips as well, and have learned to say no to things I really don’t want to do, but would’ve said yes to in the past because of fear, guilt, or obligation. (That’s a whole ‘nother discussion for another day!) If you’re having trouble finding ways to shave time off your day, utilize social media and ask your friends for their best time-saving advice. Maybe spend a few days tracking the time you spend doing things and review it your logs later so you are able to see where you are wasting time on non-necessities and unfilfilling things that could be better spent exploring a hobby or doing something more fulfilling.

make time for hobbies

And what about money? Well, this is a sticky thing, because everyone’s budgets and financial goals are different. But since my husband and I have been on a budget, I’ve finally been able to spend money without guilt. That might sound backwards, but think about it: If I have a set amount of money each month to spend on whatever I want, I can spend that and not feel like I shouldn’t— because it’s already been set aside for this purpose. Because everything is budgeted, I don’t find money disappearing during Target trips or at coffee shop drive throughs, because I keep a watchful eye on every penny spent. That means I can make my money do what I want, instead of what genius marketers (Target Target TARGET!) want me to spend it on. We still have debt we’re diligently paying off each month (student loans— UGH), but we’ve found ways to save money on things we need to buy by doing things like shopping around for the best insurance rates and shopping at discount grocery stores (like Aldi), and we’ve also cut out things that we don’t need, such as cable TV and gym memberships (we still exercise at home). We’ve also found ways to increase our earning so that our budget has some wiggle room for fun things that we can spend money on, even while we aggressively pay off debt. The trick is to not let earning extra money take up all of our time so that we can still spend quality time together as a family and also alone as individual exploring our own interests.

I suppose you could find a myriad of excuses for not investing in a personal hobby, whatever that may be for you, but I encourage you to realize the value of exploring your passions and talents through a new or old hobby this year. Break through the barriers of excuses and unfilfilling time-sucks, and make this a priority in your life. It will enrich your days, inspire your friends and family, and maybe bring some valuable relationships into your life as well! Who knows? Why not try it out and see what can happen?

Lead image adapted from a Hellen Borten children’s book illustration.

Dear Social Media: It’s Not You, It’s Me.

making nice with social media

social media problems

I hear it on the radio. I hear it from my friends. I hear it in my own mind. Social media has caused me to feel inadequate. I want to have more, be more, and envy those who appear to have better lives than mine. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the problem wasn’t with social media. The problem was with me.

During lent last year, I decided to fast from what I considered to be a bigger problem in my life than doughnuts or red meat— I decided to fast from Pinterest. The purpose of my fasting was a spiritual one. I found myself, first thing in the morning, sitting down with a cup of coffee and scrolling through Pinterest— beginning my day with feelings of inadequacy. It was something I was doing as a fun, stress-free start to my day, but the daily habit had turned into a distraction from the enjoyment of the life I had, and definitely sucked me into a materialistic mentality. I thought if I completely cut it out of my life for 40 days I would be free to replace that time with reading and meditation, which I decided to be disciplined in doing, lest I replace my Pinterest habit with another equally pointless one.

It was something I was doing as a fun, stress-free start to my day, but the daily habit had turned into a distraction from the enjoyment of the life I had, and definitely sucked me into a materialistic mentality.

In addition to redeeming the time I lost on Pinterest, I had hoped that breaking from Pinterest for a time would help me with a problem I had noticed was stealing the joy from my life. I found myself constantly planning what new thing I would buy for our home or my wardrobe. My Pinterest boards were a reflection of what I wanted my home or body to be, which caused me to feel a bit shabby about the home and body I actually had.

So I fasted. I replaced my use of Pinterest with words of wisdom from the Bible and authors I respected. I spent time praying and considering how I could better engage in the lives of my friends, family, and community. When those 40 days were over, I felt refreshed and actually didn’t really have a desire to jump back in to my old Pinterest habits, though I had required a fresh perspective that showed me that my issues weren’t even about social media all along. My issues came from deep in my heart and weren’t solved by just choosing not to open a particular social media app.

social media problems

social media problems

It might seem difficult to take a step back from whatever social media outlet you enjoy, but really, stepping away is kind of the easy part, and actually won’t solve your deep-seated feelings of inadequacy. Maybe walking away from whatever social media outlet that you think negatively affects you the most is a great jumpstart to begin some healing in your heart, but long term, if you want to fix the real problem, you’ve got to look in the mirror.

It’s easy enough to blame social media for our issues. “Social media has caused us to have an unhealthy view of what is normal.” It’s a good conversation that we’re seeing more and more in the media. But in reality, we are the ones who decide what is expected of us. We set our own standards. We decide what we will work for and deem important in our lives. Don’t blame the big time blogger who always wears new clothes and perfect makeup, and don’t pin your problems on the stay at home mom who only shares pretty pictures of her seemingly care-free days. Look deep down and consider what is in your heart that causes you to respond with these feelings of inadequacy.

Once you’re able to take responsibility for these unwanted feelings, it’s easier to identify negative self talk that comes from within. Sure, this mental self-talk often begins when you’re looking at social media (or magazines, or whatever it is in your life), so perhaps it is a real trigger, but the important thing is to notice when that self-talk begins. As soon as you notice it happening, turn it around and replace those thoughts with healthy ones. Speak words of truth and encouragement over your self, because chances are there isn’t someone beside you who will do it for you.

social media problems

I am enough, do enough, and I have tremendous value. My home, cluttered or simple as it may be, is my haven and where my friends and family experience a togetherness. My children are treasures and infuse my days with laughter and excitement. My single life gives me tremendous opportunities for travel and experiencing the world. Whatever it is that you are feeling in those weak moments of inadequacy, they are most likely lies and should be replaced with truths. Truths can be much more elusive than lies, so you’ll need to look harder for them. Speak those truths over and over again, in your head, or preferably out loud. Talking to yourself out loud might feel weird, but it’s a really useful way to retrain your brain.

social media problems

You may find it exhausting to combat the feelings of inadequacy that come from within you when scrolling through social media, and if that’s the case, it’s probably a good idea to step away for a period of time. If you do step away, I encourage you to do so with a fasting mentality— where you replace that time with something positive in your life instead.

Do you feel inadequate about your home? Spend less time sulking at pictures of professionally styled homes and think about simple projects you can do in your own home to enjoy it more. Maybe it’s as easy as giving the place a good cleaning and purging things you don’t need or enjoy. Do you feel dissatisfied with your body? Maybe you’re ready to make a healthy change in your life to eat better food or to become more physically active. If you spend less time on social media, you’ll be more available to work through these goals— just make sure you’re doing it for you, and not in response to jealousy or self-hatred. What about feeling dissatisfied with your life or even your family? Take time to invest in relationships in your life that are suffering. Shift your feelings from selfish thoughts to instead consider things you can do to enrich the lives around you. Take time and save money to travel and explore more with your friends or family. Once you start replacing social media time with these positive changes, you’ll find that you are enjoying life more than you thought you could, and your thumbs probably won’t miss scrolling through posts on Facebook or Instagram.

social-media-10

When I returned to using Pinterest after lent last year, and when I more recently returned to using Instagram more frequently, I had to really be watchful of my heart. I didn’t want to fall back into a materialistic mentality, or a pattern of thought that considered the appearance of my life more than the actual quality of my life. I also had to be careful about how I viewed others on social media.

Yes, we all know we’re usually only shown only the best of the best on many social media outlets, but it’s easy to forget about that. Like I said, truth is more elusive than lies— especially on the internet. Instead of just observing the beautiful lives of those I follow on social media, I have made a concerted effort to engage with these women I admire. Engaging in their lives, considering their hearts, and taking part in their passion pursuits (whether it be their blog or businesses) allows me to be their ally and friend, rather than a competitor or envious observer.

social media problems

We all have our struggles, our shame, or our feelings of inadequacy. Even those who appear the most perfect of all! We need to remember that and decide to encourage each other through our participation in social media, using it as a tool for building community rather than a tool for materialistic dream building. That’s when you’ll notice a perspective change in your heart when you log on and see the lives of those around you.

Redeeming the Time

redeeming the time famil 

Two years ago I was a struggling blogger who wore many hats. Yes, I had a bit of an obsession with collecting vintage hats, but in a figurative sense, I was pulling myself in too many directions with lots of responsibilities and stress. I wanted to successfully monetize this blog, which meant planning and executing lots of projects and posts here; I was busy enough as a wedding photographer; I burned the midnight oil as a freelance graphic designer; I spent too much time sourcing, photographing, and selling vintage clothes; I started regularly contributing to a website called Babble— and doing it all with a brand new baby and a cancer diagnosis. People would ask me, “How do you do it all?” Or conversely, they would mention how great it must be to be a work-at-home-mom. My social life was plummeting and overall I was dealing with anxiety and the sense that each week was this unconquerable mountain that I would find myself at the top of every Sunday, only to begin climbing from the bottom again on Monday.

redeeming the time 

My friends looked forward to the weekend as a time to cut loose, while I looked forward to it at it as an extra time to get more work done. I hesitated to make any personal or social commitments, because I might need that time to finish a project or get some extra stuff done at home. But I did ease up on the pressure to blog as frequently here, since I finally had other steady work that provided the income we needed to stay afloat financially and consider sending Phil back to school to get his masters. Yes, I felt less pressure, but that pressure was still there. 

My jobs shifted some as I stopped selling vintage, designing, and writing for Babble, but started writing for A Beautiful Mess and working at Starbucks. For the first time in our married life, we could afford to go out to eat guilt-free, be generous gift-givers, and make some needed updates to our home. It felt freeing in one way, but in another, I felt like our lives were turning into mostly work and very little play. Something had to give.

One day, as I sat at the computer obsessively editing photos and trying to write interesting, concise, and ultra informative copy for a DIY at A Beautiful Mess, Lucy stood at my feet, reaching her arms up at me, practically begging me to give her attention. I said, “Hold on, honey, mommy has to do some work.” Not even TV would distract her— she kept begging for me to pick her up, so I did, but I felt incredibly frustrated with her, because she was completely ruining my plans for productivity. I looked forward to the next day when she would be at my mom’s house while I could work all day, uninterrupted. And then it hit me— the mom guilt. The kind unique to moms who work at home, and perhaps are so obsessed with their work, that they find very little balance in their family and personal life. I realized I had been looking at my friendships and family life as a sort of obstacle to overcome so I could finish my work, put forth stupendous projects, and stay on schedule. Yes, I felt so happy to have a job I enjoyed, but I was allowing it to take a huge focus of my life, in the process putting the most important things in the back burner.

redeeming the time

How did I get there? Why was I doing this to myself? I put so much of myself into my work that it was beginning to encompass all that I am— which I realized when I began discovering how much my emotional healthy was tied to how well my projects turned out or how well they were received. Not to mention if I really kept track of how I spent each hour of my day, most of them would revolve around work-related tasks or sleeping. I think I had the mentality that it would get better— that next month would be easier, that next season I could travel or do some fun things. But every month I would say the same thing. I realized it wouldn’t get any better unless I made a change.

I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that there are not enough hours in the day to be all of the things I want to be or do all of the things I want to do. There are not enough days in the week, and there are not enough weeks in the month. Everything is a give and take— and I need to decide what I want to give and what I want to take. If I don’t purposefully reorder my life, my life will keep reordering me. If I don’t put work in its place, anything that has a deadline will become the most important thing in my life, and I will wake up one day as an empty nester with nothing to show but an archive of blog posts.

While I don’t believe children should be the center of one’s life, I do think that they are pretty darn important. Children need time, love, affection, and we need it too! I love being with Lucy, and she loves being with me. We enrich each other’s lives immensely when we spend time together. I have this little girl who won’t be little for too much longer, and I think I’ve squandered a lot of my time with her because of the stress I put on myself to get things done, to be a better blogger, to be more physically fit, to make fine meals, to be the best at everything.

What have I learned? I’ve learned that I’m way too hard on myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to rest, because I always had something else on my to-do list that needed done at some point. (And it will always be that way.) I always had a project that could be improved in one way or another— a photo that might need reshot, lighting that wasn’t perfect, writing that could always be edited another time. I want to create the best work that I can and be the best I can be, in part to honor God, to be a reliable asset to any team I’m a part of, and to just feel good about myself. That sense of accomplishment and self-validation. But I can’t fire on all cylinders all of the time and still maintain a healthy life.

This fall I began to feel convicted about how I spent my time, but then one week it hit me hard. Every time I got in my car, I heard radio programs about redeeming the time. My usual podcasts talked about how important it is to enjoy life and not let work too big of a place in your life. Every time I met with a friend, they brought up time management. In one week I was completely barraged with messages about making the most of the time and relationships we’re given. It was a week that confirmed what I had been thinking and the changes I have been slowly making towards refocusing my life and redeeming the time.

redeeming the time

I’m still in the midst of figuring out what this means for my life, but I’ve already begun to decline photography gigs, and as you may have noticed, I’ve been spending way less time on this blog. I just can’t justify lifestyle blogging when I’m too busy actually living my life or keeping up with commitments that pay the bills. And let’s be real— sometimes finding time to blog means getting less sleep, ignoring my family, getting behind on work, saying no to meeting up with a friend… or maybe just not watching another episode of Gilmore Girls. And right now, I need all of those other things more than I need to blog. Yes— I need a little Gilmore Girls in my life. Don’t we all?

If you’re also struggling with redeeming the time and prioritizing your life, I’d really like to recommend a book called Free by Mark and Lisa Scandrette. I really cannot recommend it enough! It has been hugely helpful in stepping back to remember the big picture of life. Work more so I can spend more and meanwhile the important things in life suffer? No thanks. Of course, when you lay it out like that, it seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of dreams, plans, and all that comes with this modern life. I hope to find a place that feels more peaceful for me and my family, and I hope you can too!

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