Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Myth of "Quality Time"

Tell me nothing like this has ever happened to you...You have a couple of hours on a Sunday (Father's Day Sunday), and you're determined to have a nice family time. You pack a picnic and get the kids all kitted out. You get the picnic blanket, pack up the car, and set out. So and so needs to go pee 30 seconds down the road so you come back, take care of business, and set out again. Kid 2 and Kid 3 declare World War III in the back, and Kid 1, who didn't want to miss soccer for this occasion, has decided today is NOT his day and is making sure everyone knows this by declaring his general distaste for picnics, little sisters, sandwiches, his 'stupid booster seat', little chicks, babies and everything else in between in that perfectly grating tone. On the way, you stop at three grocery stores before you find one that has ice, all the while enjoying the growing cacophony in the back of your vehicle. You arrive at the picnic destination and discover the juice, which has spilled in the cooler, has been sopped up by the sandwiches, but you lay out the blanket anyway, determined to press on...And just as you're threatening that if Kid 1 doesn't CUT OUT HIS WHINING or he will have to sit in the van, you notice Kid 3 green-faced and puking on the slide... ABORT PLAN... Stuff Grumpy, Puky, and Screamy in the van along with soggy sandwiches and return home. HAPPY blinking FATHER'S DAY!

The next day, you wake up exhausted and decide you're too lazy to do anything. You put on the tv, clean out the cooler, and go out to do some yard work. The kids migrate out in their jammies, and, by some act of God, decide that today is the day they will get along. And then all the stars align, and the two hours that follow unfold like one of those dream sequences from the Wonder Years. A jolly game of backyard dodgeball erupts minus the over-zealous (but NOT-ON-PURPOSE, MOM!) balls to the face. This evolves into a game of tag which somehow comes to include water, and the end result is a family water fight culminating in the full five of you rolling in hysterics on the grass before chowing down on ice cream sandwiches and telling knock-knock jokes while soaking up the sun in lawn chairs. And the whole thing reminds you why you did this whole family thing in the first place... MAGIC!

In this day and age of busy-ness where everyone, including the dog, is scheduled to the nines, pulled in 100 different directions and consequently too exhausted to do much else, I hear a lot of talk of 'quality time,' and it goes without saying that some choices are better than others in terms of making the best of one's time. For example, one might choose to go for a family bike ride over, say, watching the Simpson's, but there are no guarantees as to how that bike ride will unfold, and I can definitely attest that there has even been some 'quality' Simpson's times in my past, which leads me to this... It has always been my thought that 'quality' is something you simply cannot force. And do you want to know why you can't force 'quality?' It is because, as I've attempted to illustrate in the previous anecdotes--Quality time is magic. There's no two ways about, and magic doesn't always happen when you want it to or when you plan for it to, it just happens. However, like all sensible things, magic does respond simple mathematical rules, and as I will attempt to prove forthwith, the more powerful factor we need to be focusing on is, in fact, QUANTITY TIME. So if you're willing to bear with some seriously loony-toons logic, here goes...

The (mathematical) Laws of Magic

1. The occurrence of magic/quality time is random. It happens in its own time and space, and cannot be squeezed involuntarily into places of your choosing – Just as you can't squeeze 4 halves into a whole, magic or 'quality time' cannot be squeezed into say, a two hour window on Sundays. I was once out for supper with friends, and at the table next to us sat a father and teenage son. To me, the whole situation reeked of an every-second-weekend custody arrangement, and, as a bystander/spying diner, this social event was as cringe-worthy as watching Keanu Reeves in “A Walk in the Clouds”. The Dad was trying in vain to converse with the boy who awkwardly looked sideways, mumbled one word answers, and incessantly checked his phone. I secretly prayed that they would have the impetus to forgo dessert and put themselves out of their misery, but NO, and by this time it was total silence as they scarfed down their brownies. Painful. But I really did feel very badly for both of them. What I saw was a guy making an effort to do something nice with his son specifically involving conversation, and, in this instance, the attempt at quality time appeared to be failing miserably. But, it was what it was, and 'magic' simply did not surface at this juncture. There has actually been a number of studies done on this particular topic in fact showing a strong negative correlation between father-son outings to BP's and the appearance of 'magic'/quality time, but the reason for this remains unclear... BUT, MAKE NO MISTAKE...

2. Magic WILL happen – Just as two non parallel lines, both in the same plane, are destined to intersect, so is it inevitable that magic WILL occur. This is a good thing. 'Magic'/quality time has long been known to increase the frequency of smiling and laughing as well as decrease the occurrence of heart attacks and feelings of discontentment. It would seem that appearance of magic is a universal law, much like Pythagorean Theorem, and to date, there are no documented discrepancies in its existence/frequency regardless of geographical location, social circumstance, cultural affiliation or any other factor.

3. Magic will surface with the most frequency in the things you spend the most time doing—Hello!?! The law of averages??? If magic is random and inevitable, it only serves to reason that it will surface most often in the activities you spend the most time (ahem, QUANTITY TIME) doing. This is good news insomuch as it is the part of this mathematical equation that you can manipulate. This is where one might find it useful to call to mind your own unique values in terms of which areas of your life you would ideally like 'magic'/quality time to surface. If it is desirable for you to have 'quality time' with your kids, then perhaps consider how this will factor into the 'quantity' investment of your time this weekend. If you are looking for that 'magical' golf swing, consider booking a few tee times. If the magic in your career is lack-lustre, put in a few extra hours. It really is quite simple.

There you go! You can't argue with Math. Choose wisely how you spend your QT (quantity time), and all that's left is so sit back, relax, and allow magic to happen.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Parenting--Embrace the inconvenience!

It's 5 o'clock. Your 3 kids (specifically 2 and a baby) are shuffling about at the door getting ready to go outside. You are in the kitchen over a chopping board with bloodied pork fingers knowing, the way a mom does, that it's T minus 2 minutes to meltdown. Kid 1 and Kid 2 are getting their shoes and jackets on and have asked to go out front to ride bikes. Kid 3 (baby) is rearranging shoes and repeating “O'side. O'side!” waiting for the moment where one of the big kids opens the door so she can make a break for it. You hear the door open and inwardly cringe hoping against hope that Kid 1 and Kid 2 will manage to get out without Kid 3 and without Kid 3 getting her fingers pinched in the door. Mercifully, this transpires, but, as predicted Kid 3 responds with her best blood-curdling-how-dare-they screaming protest. You abandon the pork, wash your hands, scoop up Kid 3 who swats at you and paws to get “O'side!!! O'SIDE!!” You give her a poorly received cuddle and spend some time getting her settled into a stacking toy activity, and resume pork-chopping. But. WAIT!! You hear the door open...Kid 2 has forgotten her helmet which she quickly grabs before running back out, slamming the door behind her, this time narrowly missing those pursuing little fingers by a hair, and...
The Process starts all over again...WAAAA! O'SIDE!! abandon chopping, wash hands, scoop up baby, and on and on and on...

Sometime later my husband returns home from work to a less-than-contented baby, a couple scraped knees, a frazzled me, and a still-not-cooking supper, and, as happen all too often lately, I launch into a speech about how 'frustrated' I am, how I 'just can't get anything done', and 'how would he like it if he was trying to do X and was interrupted 7000 times to stop a fight, answer a question, change a diaper, repeat an instruction, tend to a crier, repeat an instruction, get a drink, perform reconstructive surgery on today's crafted minion, get a drink, reach this, repeat instruction yet again, and rescue Child 3 from dangerous climbing destination AGAIN', and on and on and on... It's enough to do your head in sometimes, well, most of the time.

And then my mind goes down the road where I think if I could just chop the f&#king pork in one session, without having to stop to wash my hands three times, I would have more time to do all the other things and more time to read and cuddle Kid 3, and a little more patience when tending to homework with Kid 1 and Kid 2, and more time to collect my thoughts before the next on and on and on...
And then my husband says “Well, actually, do you know how many times my phone rang while I was trying to do X today? To which I respond...”Well, THAT is your job, or a least part of it, and it is not my fault if you can't multi-task, and do you know what would happen to this house if I couldn't do my job WHILE talking on the phone...” And on and on and on...

but, seriously, STOP!!! STOP this crazy cycle. You know what? Somewhere in this domestic play-by-play is the answer.

THAT is my job!!! All that inconvenience? Well it's not inconvenience at all. It's not an interruption to the job, it IS the job. And, until I accept that, I will continue right on feeling this frustration. My solution??? EMBRACE THE INCONVENIENCE!

Because, let's face it, without all of those 'inconveniences', I wouldn't have this job at all. I'm pretty certain that I wouldn't have chosen staffing a tranquil house, making oatmeal cookies, chopping pork, and making dinosaur dioramas as my career path if it weren't for the 3 delightful inconveniencers that I have accrued over the last 6 six years. Besides, where is the challenge in, say, making a pizza for supper? I could probably have done that when I was 12. But, making a pizza with a screaming baby, a toddler on the table with a bucket of flour and a measuring cup, wielding a knife with 30 unpredictable fingers, while talking on the phone...??? Now THAT'S a challenge!! And you know what? I love my job! I love that no two days are the same, I love the people I work with, I am my own boss (I think?), the rewards are second-to-none, and on and on and on...

Now I am going to put this pen down one final time (I'll venture a guess that it was abandoned no less that 30 times during the writing of this article), but when I do, and life (31) resumes its pattern of task, interruption, interruption (32), task, inconvenience, inconvenience, task, I vow to proceed with that equation turned on its head...Isn't it inconvenient that I have to make supper AGAIN instead of playing peekaboo with Kid 3? Or, Damn this sweeping thing, cutting into my minion repair surgery! (33), “Pile of laundry over there? You will just have to stop your whining and WAIT until Kid 1 has his scrape tended to.” And maybe, with a little luck, it will be a slightly cheerier me carrying on and on and on.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Life--The Investment Theory

I've done some searching around, and, though I will own the exact wording of this quote, I fear taking credit for the sentiment would border on plagiarism.  It has definitely been around in various forms over time, but, nonetheless, it is with this in mind that I write the following...

One could argue that not all things/people are created equal. Some of us are born into money, some of us aren't. Some of us overflow with musical talent, others..not so much. Some excel in physical pursuits, others in the arts. Some of us are great listeners or great thinkers, and some assholes are just generally good at everything. And that is all fine, and, for heaven's sake, don't waste time measuring or trying to place value on what God gave you, but if you're looking for the great equalizing factor, the one thing that no one person has over no other, don't look too hard. Find the nearest clock, and watch sixty seconds tick by. Now pick a person, ANY person, rich or poor, friend or foe, famous or humble—I'm going to pick Bill Gates—and now picture that person engaged in the same exercise—Bill Gates, sitting still watching one minute tick by. 60 seconds is 60 seconds is 60 seconds no matter who are, where you've been, who your friends are, how much money you have, what your talents are or aren't, or what letters you have behind your name. TIME—the great equalizing factor, a currency bestowed in equal measure throughout all humanity.

To me, it is self-evident that how you spend this currency is the greatest predictor of the future outcomes of any of those other things I talked about. If you spend time being educated, you will be educated. If you spend time playing the flute, you will be a flautist. If you spend time with your family, you will have a rich family life. If you spend your time doing nothing, you will not do much. The exceptions to this rule are surprisingly few and far between. When put this way, it seems so obvious, but if you're like me, knowing this and actually living it are two different things.

The example I'm going choose to illustrate this point is neither here nor there and, by no means, am I suggesting that you have to agree with me on this particular subject, but I do encourage you to critically examine how you are spending that most valuable time currency in your own life and if it aligns with the goals you have in mind for yourself or your family.

So I believe in 'play'--free, largely unstructured, outdoor, physical play. Looking back on my childhood, this is something I was blessed to have in great quantity. I am exceedingly grateful for this and credit a solid foundation of 'play' for many things I have enjoyed in my adult life—namely, an innate desire to move/exercise, a love of the outdoors, an outlet for stress, a creative mind, strong intrinsic motivation, among other things. And, in all honesty, I desire that exact same thing for my kids, kinda like 'free range children.' But you know what I did yesterday? I spent the better part of two hours on hold with the City of Saskatoon registering the kids for their swim lessons which are at some god-awful inconvenient time and location and which will inevitably involve our entire family spending the next 10 Sunday mornings packing bags, driving around, and doing swim laundry all for the gain of a half hour swim lesson of which they will spend at least 15 minutes waiting for their turn. Now, you'll remember that I didn't promise you'd agree with me on this particular issue, but, when I look at this from a 'time-investment' perspective, I am not overly wowed by the return. Now obviously, free play is not the only goal I have in mind for my family, and I realize that my children are not going to learn to swim in my own backyard, and that the whole packing bags/driving/laundry process is a necessary evil, but there's a nagging voice in me saying, 'wouldn't it be easier, wouldn't they engage/learn more if we all just went swimming for a few hours?' But swimming lessons—here we come!
Now I'm not one to toot my own horn, but I am actually not an epic failure at this whole 'free play' thing. My kids and I spend lots of time 'playing' and, as a result, they are great 'play-ers,' and I hope that they'll reap the benefits of that over time. And I have the odd moment of clarity, like when I see them run out the door and hop on their bikes at the first sight of spring, where I feel pretty good about this particular time investment! And that is encouraging!

But going into parenthood, I also had this notion that 'music' was going to be a big part of our lives. But here we are, 6 years in, and my kids' greatest musical accomplishments consist of naming the Top 5 Shazam songs in Canada and being able to croon out the lyrics to 'Animals' (I know, scary) with freakish accuracy. But, as the old adage go, we reap what we sow...should I expect anything other when my children's musical exposure consists almost entirely of listening to pop radio in the van as we drive hither to tither? It's not like we've been regularly frequenting the symphony or jamming in the basement. Poor kids. Perhaps it may sound as though I'm making light of it, but this situation, for me, serves as a reminder that how we invest our time, even inadvertently, becomes our reality. Never mind the haunting feeling I have that that same time investment is responsible for the development (or lack thereof) of any talents or gifts they might have—it's all well and good to have a talent for such and such, but that talent will amount to nothing without a corresponding time investment.

Far beyond being a simple investment with a return, time (or, more specifically, how we spend it) defines us. Recently, someone called me a 'blogger,' and it was like a slap in the face...well, that's a bit dramatic, but my thought was, 'Whoa. Back the truck up. Like, yes, I may engage in some blogging activity from time to time, but that does not make me a 'blogger.' But the fact of the matter is that when you start the engage in any “thing” on a regular basis, you, by proxy, become a “thing-er”. Like if you invest your time into teaching, people will probably call you a “teacher,” or if you spend enough time singing, eventually you'll have to accept the title of “singer.” How you spend your time, outside of what is strictly functional (few have ever bragged that they are a “toothbrusher”), becomes who you are, how you will be remembered, how people will describe you, and ultimately how you will describe yourself. And there is some heavy weight in that.

So I've decided that I dislike any theory without any practical application, so here's where I've decided to go with this...Next time you have a moment like one of those I've described, where you find yourself wondering 'why am I wasting my time registering/doing such-and-such?' or 'I really should start putting some effort into my musical pursuits,'--consider that your 'DING-DING reminder that it is time for an investment review (I know, groan, but you'll be glad you did it once it's done). And here's how I propose you do it...

Pick a few “thing-er”-type descriptors as your time investment goals for yourself or your family. I'm going to pick three for myself:
1. Listener
2. Musician-er
3. Blogger
And then start to consider how you will invest/reinvest your time to become those things. Maybe, it will be a small change to your personal behaviour, maybe you will want to register for a class or sign up for a league, maybe it will be designating Monday nights as X-night, or maybe even just bringing these goals up to a more conscious level will be enough. That's up to you. And if you're like me and find that you simply don't have time to spare for investment, consider the flip side of the coin. Pick a few descriptors that you'd rather not have surface in your eulogy and steal a bit of time from those areas. Now if you'll just control your inner Jenny-Judgie, I will pick:
1. Candy-crusher
2. Reality tv-watcher

Now, maybe your time investment portfolio is more-than-satisfactory to you, but that begs the question? What are you doing reading this article? Just kidding. But my feeling is that if you can get to a place where you are satisfied with your time investments, there is no reason that you can't be as 'rich' as Bill Gates himself.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Moderation--Thou Shalt Have a Filter

I remember many years ago flipping through the channels, back in the day when one used to do that, and pausing for a minute on Oprah. It was a close-up of her holding some book and proclaiming something like, “I'm telling you. This is it. This is the answer.” Now, I actually have a lot of respect for Oprah, but on this occasion I continued right on channel surfing. Even all the those years ago, I was sick of it, and I am sicker of it today... I am sick of the apparent lack of filter that too often seems to accompany people on their journey to enlightenment. That is, when exploring a new idea, world philosophy, hobby, trend, or latest bandwagon, too often it seems people come out all guns blazing and lose all sense of moderation and the ability to filter information. Is it too much to remember that there are pros and cons to everything? That what works for you or this situation might not apply me or this other situation? There is no one book, no one trend, no one bandwagon, no one anything that has all the answers. And what is the answer for Oprah is not the answer for me. Historically, I am not a ranter, but on this rare occasion, I'm going to let her rip...

Tell me you don't know someone like this...PersonA is in a slump. And they declare this, “I am in a slump.” And then PersonA decides and announces, “I am going to start running and lose 50 pounds.” And kudos to PersonA, they actually do this. And you know they do it because you hear about every micro-step in the process. First, you hear about the hours of research they put into running shoes and how they ended up paying $300 and special ordering ones from Sweden that are made of lightweight sea kelp with customized long distance orthotics. Next you are graced with a kilometre by kilometre play-by-play on facebook complete with photo montage of PersonA in decreasing-sized lulu lemons. Your conversations with PersonA of late inevitably include at least one, “You should really try running. I've never felt better,” comment as well as a 5 minute snippet where you are required to ooo and aaah over their latest running gadget, app, fit bit, nipple tape, etc. before they launch into the details of their achilles injury and the physio exercises that will get them 'up and running in no time!' And this all continues until PersonA has lost the 50 pounds plus 6 more and culminates in a snapshot of a tearful PersonA finishing the London Marathon in an impressive 3 hours and 11 minutes....
You don't hear from PersonA for a few months, and when you finally reconnect, PersonA, now 30 pounds heavier (their doctor told them they had to stop running), is now touting (well, flogging) the benefits of a positive body image and preparing to star in an upcoming Dove commercial.

It's exhausting.

Now don't go accusing me of dissing physical exercise or being anti-positive body image. That is not my point. Nor am I discouraging goals or growth or implying that I dislike hearing about these things as they apply to my friends. Nope. Those things are ALL great. EVERYTHING is GREAT, actually. In blinking moderation. This is not news. I'm just endorsing the having of a filter, and if PersonA were to ever ask for my feedback (they won't), this is the advice I would give them...

The 6 Commandments of Having a Filter

1. Thou shalt not throw all things 'past' under the bus – We all know someone, maybe it's PersonA, who's gotten into 'natural health remedies,' and suddenly modern medicine is a TOTAL FARCE and pharmaceutical companies are conspiring to create drug-addicted zombie people, especially children, in order to finance their 'real agenda' of buying up sections of the Brazilian rainforest to build chemical super-labs and mansions for their personal use. That may or may not be a direct quote, but beware of this mentality just the same. Some methods and ideas are just good and effective--not to say they can't be adapted or improved--but there's no sense reinventing the wheel and/or rejecting sound practice at every juncture. Exhausting. And on this point, because one has found success using a new method, that does not mean that there is no room in world philosophy for 'past' and 'new' methods to co-exist peacefully. 

2. Thou shalt not string others along thy journey to enlightenment assuming that thy new found wisdom applies to everybody else – Recently, I was enlightened, and I'd like to share this with you...Cloth diapers are a lot of f&*king work, and sometimes they make your house smell like sh!t. 3 babies and 6 years into parenting, I have seen the light. Disposable diapers are AMAZING! And if you, like me, are stupid enough to have ever invested in any diapering implement that cannot be used to pad the landfill for the next 5000 years, you should ceremoniously burn those suckers and perform the ancient dance of convenience around their foul-smelling ashes. WOO!

Now, no doubt, someone else's journey to enlightenment has led them to find that cloth diapers have been the cure to some curious and painful skin condition that has plagued their baby since birth, but we'll just sweep that bit of information under the carpet.

3. Thou shalt not be taken in by the AllThingsGood vs. AllThingsBad configuration -- Because you see this politics all the time...Consider the following chart:

New Democratic Party vs. Conservative Party

New Democratic Party
* Pro-environment
* Pro-woman
* Pro-social programs
* Pro-endangered nesting waterfowl
* Supports the arts

Conservative Party
* Anti-poor people
* Anti-small business
* Anti-environment
* Redneck, gay-bashing, women-haters
* Leader personally seen defacing art at children's exhibit

I dare you to take this as any reflection of my political affiliations because I can generate the opposite chart in about 5 seconds. Maybe this all seems small bones to you, but I see this ALL THE TIME. And I'm telling you, this is dangerous territory. Consider the same configuration for a chart with title Jews vs. Non-Jews. This unnecessary and ridiculous polarization is the stuff wars are made of. If you identify someone trying to sell you an idea this way...Run. And tell all your friends to run too.

4. Thou shalt not have philosophies that strictly adhere to any one school of political, religious, or otherwise thought – To me, there is no greater demonstration of lack of filter than perfect coherence to one doctrine. I have news for you. It is possible to be Catholic and Pro-gay. I know that first-hand. It is also possible to be pro-military and pro-social program. You are actually allowed to do yoga and hate meditation. You can do and think whatever you like. Oh, you're a hunting vegetarian, you say? You just made my day.

5. Thou shalt not heed the message of PersonA for the sole reason that his voice is the loudest—Come on, you've seen 'em...the finger-pointers, the impassioned celebrities, the vocal critics, the morally superior, the toastmasters, the dynamic leaders, and we've all been taken in by their messages at one time or another. And, to clarify, I am not suggesting that these people don't have something worth hearing, I am just gently reminding you to approach their messages with your filter in place. Neither the strength of one's convictions nor the enthusiasm by which they are presented are a reflection of goodness or truth (ahem Hitler). And there is also the small business of potentially missing out the amazing message of those of lesser decibalage. Just something to keep in mind next time you're being led down the garden path by the likes of Jenny McCarthy.

6. Thou shalt have filter in place when embarking upon new bandwagon, and therewith tread respectfully and with courtesy for other passengers—Say you're going along in life and you decide you're going to make some effort to better the environment. By all means, jump on that “Go Green” bandwagon. Do your recycling, campaigning, upcycling, whatever you need to do. And please tell me all about your new lasagna composting method. I'd love to hear about it. Just spare me the part where you get up on that bandwagon and be all like waving your banners, and preaching like you own the place, and wearing your seventeenth 'Green in the new black' T-shirt and sporting your latest reusable bag while running for the Green Party. Or whatever, pick three of those things, but don't do all the other ones because a. It's obnoxious. b. The next time you want to jump on a bandwagon, don't be surprised if everyone else tries to avert their eyes and pass you by because... c. It's obnoxious, and d. Somewhere along the line if you persist in this type of approach, you start to lose credibility. A good rule of thumb is to avoid the situation whereby your arrival on the bandwagon launches other passengers off the other end. If you notice this happening, you might want to scale it back just a bit.

At this point, I just wanted to draw your attention back to Old Aristotle's words of wisdom... I think if he were alive today, he would say that “Indeed it is mark a rational mind to able to achieve personal enlightenment without losing one's filter.” Please...try hot yoga, drink rooibos, grow a succulent garden, try your hand a buddhism, re-examine your personal body image philosophy, TRY SOMETHING NEW and ditch it if it doesn't suit. Great! And tell me all about it. There's nothing I'd love to do more than converse with you about these types of things. There are lots of great things worthy of your time to discover out there, lots of things that will foster growth. Believe it or not, I say that all without any hint of sarcasm. Just keep that filter squarely in place.  And as a wise friend told me about this particular blog entry, perhaps it is not the best strategy to 'fight extremism with extremism', and she is probably right. But if there is one cause on which I stand on the extreme end of a spectrum, it's moderation.

extremism                                                                         me        moderation

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Life-the Snapshot Theory

A few months ago, someone warned about the of perils of a webcam. Apparently, if I don't shut down my computer, people can watch me in my own home! OOOooooo. I challenge anyone to do this and stay conscious for a full ten minutes, because even if my webcam had legs and could follow me around, this is what you would see...
Adele washes a plate, puts it in the second sink. She dries her hands and hangs the towel. O! O! She is going outside! Adele places the sprinkler in the backyard, picks a wedgie, and rounds the side of the house to turn on the hose. She returns to the backyard and runs in to reposition the sprinkler (AKA the I'll-get-you-before-you-get-me-dance). She goes back to the side of the house and increases the pressure. She checks the backyard one last time and, seemingly satisfied, goes inside. Adele takes off her sunglasses and sets the stove timer. Adele takes out a mug, and fills the kettle...Shall I go on?

Can I ask? Am I missing something? Is everyone else engaging in compelling, oscar-worthy (possibly illegal?), activity in their homes on a regular basis in view of their webcam? Because, if so, I want in!

To be clear, if you are really struggling with the inability to not only stop performing lecherous acts in your own home, but also the propensity to (accidentally) publicly broadcast them, I am not making light of this. You should probably get that figured out. BUT the reason I bring this up is that I think there is something much more prevalent and comparatively dangerous than being able to see life in real time on a webcam. And that is this...

In this day and age of social media and, with all the gadgets that make this possible, we are constantly bombarded with 'snapshots' of people's lives—people we know well, people we 'keep in touch with', celebrities, even people we don't know. And these 'snapshots' come from all the corners of life—pictures of weddings, selfies with Machu Pichu in the background, our kids heavily made-up and dressed up as a frog for the dance recital, pictures of people finishing triathlons, happy faces at a family get-together, even pictures of healthful and amazingly aesthetic culinary creations. Though these types of images are not necessarily unique to the digital age (except maybe the ones of food, I doubt there are many polaroids of fish tacos), the accessibility to these snapshots is vastly increased. Now, maybe this all seems harmless to you, but if you were to pit these 'snaphot' images against the comparable webcam footage, I think you will find an interesting pattern.
Here are a few examples...

SNAPSHOT: The perfect baby face sleeping peacefully against a mother's chest held snuggly there by a trendy print fabric baby wrap (organic cotton sourced locally from a single mom refugee who donates 50% of her profits to endangered pandas—I know because the status told me as much).

Webcam Footage: 20 minute close-up of my perplexed face watching “How-to wrap your baby” videos on YouTube, followed by another 20 minutes of an increasingly sweaty me trying to wrap the god-forsaken thing around a screaming baby, all the while fearing I am going to break his head off, only to later succeed (I think?) and find the baby is still definitely NOT peaceful. He eventually passes out from exhaustion long enough for us to get a decent shot of him being perfect and me looking competent. (SWISH)

SNAPSHOT: Selfie of a 20 something cheek to cheek with a young Kenyan child proudly displaying a newly purchased wooden giraffe with colourful and obviously foreign market backdrop.

Webcam Footage: 20 something arrives at Nairobi market on air-conditioned tour bus browses the market just long make said purchase and take picture, finds a McDonalds for lunch and returns to comfortable gated hotel paid for on gifted VISA from Mom and Dad.
***WebCam footage of child labourer not available***

SNAPSHOT: Picture of Suzie's well-dressed kids smiling at the table with homemade heart-shaped Valentine's theme sandwich (organic, whole-grain, homemade bread, of course) with a side of garden cucumbers on displayed on colourful plate.

Webcam Footage: Suzie spends her entire morning juggling the making of the organic wholegrain bread with the meeting of demands of the (often screaming) children, threatening to take away tv time if they don't “GET DRESSED ALREADY!”, occasionally running to tend to her garden (fingers-crossed that no one is seriously maimed in her absence), +/- 7000 other small interruptions to her ultimately getting the Pinterest-worthy sandwich on the plate. All for the grand moment where she is able to snap that perfect picture before they tell her they 'hate this kind of bread' and stash the cucumbers on the floor which she will later sweep up whilst scarfing down the scraps of her sandwich cut-outs. Fast-forward 5 hours and it's hotdogs for supper! “YAY!! THANKS MOM!”

If I have not made it painfully obvious, I'm hoping that you are seeing that the pattern emerging here is just how VERY small a part of the bigger picture that 'snapshot' actually is. But, the real problem I see arising from this phenomenon in modern times is a generation of people in hot pursuit of just that—a snapshot—where life has become about the proverbial 'destination' rather than the 'journey.' I'm going to coin this the “Snapshot Effect.” It seems that with increasing frequency, we live in a world where actually living life takes a backseat to getting (and sharing) that perfect snapshot. I once went out with this woman who spent the ENTIRE evening taking selfies and group shots and posting them in real time to Facebook and completely missing the social event unfolding right in front of her. I'm guessing you have a story or two of the like. And I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the 'Snapshot Effect' transcends far beyond the social domain. For instance, I remember the feeling of disillusionment that clouded my early years as a mother, wondering why the hell my parenting reality didn't seem to resemble what I was seeing in the pictures or reading about in people's statuses. Now, I won't be so bold as to point the finger at social media for all of the hiccups I might have experienced as a new parent, but I can't help but wonder how I would have felt differently if my vision of parenting had been created entirely from actual real time contact with other parents minus the bombardment of cutesy snapshots. As another example, I read recently that some crazy percentage (over 50%) of women report feeling “Pinterest-stress” (I know, get a real problem...) but, apparently, just encountering images of attractive crafts, foods, activity ideas causes people to feel like they are falling short, like they should be doing more. And one can't help but wonder why, since the early 2000's, spending on home renovations has increased every single year. People just can't seem to help but pursue what they are seeing in those fancy snapshots, whatever the cost.

Now, I didn't write this to discourage you from relishing and sharing those 'destination' moments—whether that be a photo of the moment you first held your child, or when that diploma is finally placed in your hand, or a picture of your perennials in full bloom if that's your thing—You should celebrate those things. REALLY. YOU SHOULD. And conversely, I am not suggesting that you start sharing 'journey' photos of yourself on the crapper or doing dishes or some such nonsense. Not at all. I am just reminding you, reminding me to be present on our own journey. Maybe this means consciously taking space from social media sites or HGTV, or maybe it means mentally reminding yourself that those snapshots are representative of a moment not a complete reality, I don't know.  But if you, like me, occasionally find yourself falling victim to the Snapshot Effect, I encourage you to make a change of some sort. Most importantly, just remember to also relish and celebrate the everyday stuff, however humble, un-photogenic, or tedious it may seem. Because all of those less-than-picture-perfect moments are not just filler, they are the bulk of our lives and personhood. Somewhere in those hours and hours of webcam footage you became the person you are in those snapshots—a mother, a professional, a traveler, a gardener, a friend. And that is worth more than any one moment you will ever be able to capture.