Who the heck am I?

First order of business:  I’m tired of the photo of the day.  Well, actually, I’m tired of posting a photo of the day.  If someone else would take a photo of my life each day and post it for me, I’d enjoy looking at it.  But doing it myself started to feel more like work than fun, so I’m done.

As for this post, do you ever have days that make you question your whole approach to life?  I’ve spent the morning pondering weekend experiences that have me wondering if I am who I am, or if I should be someone else.  I’m sure the conclusion will be the former, but it’s an interesting exercise none-the-less…

Case #1 — am I sophisticated enough? 

We attended quite a little shindig Saturday night, hosted by someone Matt works with.  The host makes about twice what we do, and is unmarried and childless, none of which matters except to say that his discretionary time and money are a bit more abundant than ours.  Lovely, lovely old home.  Not ostentatious, not gigantic, just restored very tastefully and beautiful in every detail.  The party had an Italian theme, but no Stouffers’ lasagne to be found — “real” antipasto,   gorgeous desserts, and gelato flown in from Italy. 

As we nosed around the home, I found myself wondering what makes some people sophisticated, and others not.  Or is it a continuum?  (Can you be a little sophisticated?)  It isn’t just about money — I certainly know people with more money than class — but can you be sophisticated without money?  Is it just about appearances, or is there something deeper that makes you sophisticated?  Do you have to be born into sophistication, or can it be learned?  Do you have to be smart, or just stylish?  Do you think people who appear sophisticated spend more time worrying about appearances than the rest of us, or does it just come easily to them?  Can one be both “down to earth” and sophisticated, or are those mutually exclusive?

I’m mostly ok with who I am, who we are as a family.  But once in awhile, I’m at a party to which I had “nothing to wear,”  and wonder what it would be like to sit at the cool kids’ table.

Case #2 — am I pushing my children enough?

I had a discussion Sunday with a friend who married into a family of serious over-achievers.  The bar was set high by the parents, and the children are, by any possible measurement, incredibly successful.  This friend, who is one of the smartest, most accomplished people I know, often feels that she does not measure up. 

We have spoken before about this, and I always wonder how she will tackle parenting her little children.  She and I agree, I think, that there’s a point at which the pushing is too much and that happiness is more important than achievement.  My children are older than hers, and I don’t think anyone would accuse me of pushy parenting.  Yesterday, I began to wonder if I’m too hands-off.  Would my older children benefit from a little more guidance?  Should I challenge their decisions and their level of drive? 

I believe that parenting is about helping children discover who they really are, and what their strengths and weaknesses are, and assisting them as they figure out how to make the most of what they have.  I definitely do not believe that children can be made to fit one standard, or shaped into one mold.  But today, I suspect there are times I need to focus more on the “making the most” and less on the “discovering who we are.” 

Case #3 — am I environmentally conscious enough?

I actually think I’m a little above average when it comes to being green.  We recycle more than we throw away, we don’t buy and consume as much as most Americans do, we don’t use a lot of harsh chemicals, and we avoid unnecessary driving.  I’m even thinking about starting composting.  But I was watching Dateline last night, and they were testing two families to see how much of certain chemicals was present in their blood.  I have to admit, besides making sure my children don’t eat lead paint, this is not an area I spend a lot of time worrying about.  The “greener” family actually didn’t do quite as well as they’d thought in these tests, at times coming out worse than the other “typical?” family.  But what got me was when the “green” mother said that they have always avoided buying plastic toys for their children.  Holy cow.  I have not avoided that.  I don’t know a single family who has.  I’m trying to imagine how difficult it would be to eliminate plastic and chemicals from our life.  I’m not even sure I need or want to do this, but it is an interesting idea.  I suppose that as more research is done in this area, it will become easier, as “clean” products will be more readily available.  But, just like with organic produce, it will surely be more expensive to live this kind of life. 

Does it always come back to money?  Being sophisticated, raising successful children, living green — it always comes down to what you can afford, doesn’t it?  Do other people worry about these kinds of things, or do I just need to calm down and be content?  What do you think — who the heck are you?


11 thoughts on “Who the heck am I?

  1. LCM

    Money does help, I always wonder how farther I could’ve gone had my parents had money to help do things. I have to say moving to Texas has helped. I am no longer worried about running into someone who knows my parents or might judge me. I am here being myself and not worrying about whether or not they are judging me because I don’t care.
    Just like it takes money to buy a healthier diet for your family. Canned salty fatty goods and high fat hamburger are much cheaper than produce and organically free range chicken.
    I just worry about making us happier because I used to spend a lot of time worrying about what other people were thinking of me and I feel tons happier now.

  2. Sarah

    I don’t know who LCM is, but I was going to say that I haven’t worried near so much since I’ve been in Texas! When we were in SLC I constantly felt like I was back in high school. It was like we didn’t measure up in a whole lot of areas. We lived in the worst house in the neighborhood, we weren’t driving the fanciest cars, and I hardly ever brushed my kids’ hair. After a couple of years in that house I made some good friends, and I found out that most of them felt the same way I did… even the ones that I thought were so put together and cool.

    For whatever reason things have been easier in Texas. I think that part of it is, that everyone here needs friends. Most people don’t have a whole lifetime’s worth of friends living just down the street. I also agree that it’s easier to start fresh. Doug and I will always be who we are, but when we first moved into our SLC house and Doug was in school, and we had all the house trouble and a new baby I think we seemed kind of stand-offish, and people have very long memories! Here we tried to be social from the get go.

    As for our kids, I feel the same way you do. Sometimes I think maybe we should try doing a craft or maybe an extra field trip, but for the most part it’s all I can do to make sure that everyone is dressed and not eating something whose sole ingredient is high fructose corn syrup!

    As for the environment, well I’ll leave that to Christina because she is way better than me! Sorry this is so long!

  3. robinbl

    Thought provoking–first of all, I want to say that Andrew and I have had conversations before about how you two are very “classy”. By that, we mean you have good taste in your house, your dress, and your manners. How that differs from “sophisticated” I’m not sure. I think you can be sophisticated on a low budget. At least, you can fake it pretty well. I suppose nothing can really fake true luxury.
    I know how you feel about appearances, though. Andrew and I have been wanting to upgrade our housing situation, as you know, and I as I looked at some really nice houses the other day (more in wishful thinking than anything else), I found myself wondering if I would be embarrased to drive my old clunky minivan through that neighborhood every day. Or if I would have to start shopping at other stores for my clothes (you know, the ones that don’t also sell cheetos and shampoo two aisles over). I think everyone worries about it to some degree. But as long as you don’t let it change who you are, I think you’re okay!

  4. axewielderx

    I ma going to be the devil’s advicate.. in a way, as I am going to say, that money absolutely has nothing to do with being sophisticated.

    I believe it lies in two different areas all altogether. The need for acceptance and a greater than average intellect. If you think about these two and how they combine in a person, it is clear to see how the results would look like sophistication.


  5. Christina

    I enjoyed reading your post. I don’t feel like I have much to add right now, although I do agree with axe that it’s not about the money. It’s not about what we can afford, but more about what we choose to buy with the money we have and even more about what we choose not to buy. Your Dad has been such a good example to me of not buying something just because you want it.

    With regards to the plastic toys, I really have enjoyed looking at this woman’s blog about creativity with children. She chooses to not have that many toys (I don’t think she has any plastic ones), but I find that the toys she does have are more thought-provoking and would inspire creativity a lot more than some of the plastic toys we have around our house:

    Jason says, with regards to being green: You can only do what you know to do. Just keep researching and I’m sure the more you find, the more you’ll be compelled to do.

    Sorry I had more to say than I thought! And I think you’re quite sophisticated and lovely!

  6. Emily

    This is a fantastic post, Liz. I think we mistakenly believe that these things always require more money, (which is true in some cases,) but I think what they ultimately require is more effort, planning, and creativity. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we can’t afford to be more sophisticated or environmentally conscious, when what we’re really admitting is that we’re not willing to be, because, in most instances, those endeavors which don’t require money, take time and are less convenient. At least for me personally, it’s easier to say “I can’t afford it” than it is to admit, “I’m too lazy” or “I’m just unwilling.” I don’t know if I’m even making sense, but, for example, it’s not more expensive to do less driving, walk or bike, prepare more homemade items (necessitating less packaging/processing,) or hang clothes rather than using the dryer — those things are just less convenient than their less-environmentally-friendly alternatives. Just because we can’t afford organic cleaning products and range-fed meat doesn’t mean we can’t be environmentally conscious. (I know that’s not what you were implying, I’m just making the point.)

    With regards to the raising successful children thing, I’d be curious to know in what ways you think that takes more money? I guess I haven’t felt that yet (with only a three year old,) but I can guess as to why it would be so. I’d like to hear more on that from someone who’s amassed more parenting wisdom than I have.

    And on being sophisticated, I keep asking myself, what does it really mean to be “sophisticated”?

  7. liz Post author

    I love that LCM and Sarah are both happier in Texas. And happy just being yourselves. And happy in your gorgeous, Texas-priced homes.

    Robin, thanks for saying that we’re classy (I hope no one thought I was fishing for that with this post). I hope buying a home in a newer neighborhood isn’t too hard on you — I know what you mean. One of the new neighborhoods we moved into made all of my furniture look like junk.

    Christina, thanks for the link, and the reminder to do things one at a time.

    Emily, I think you’re right about some environmental things being inexpensive — using reusable shopping bags, hanging a clothesline, recycling. We should all be doing more. I do think if my resources were totally unlimited I would spend more on organically-grown meat and produce, though. The more money in parenting comes in when you want your kid to be a concert pianist (my current piano lesson bill for two kids is $160 per month) or something else that requires private lessons. The family I was referring to has a mother who went to Julliard, and all of her children are accomplished musicians and went to private schools. That takes big bucks. That’s not really my philosophy of parenting, but I do want my children to be able to get some music training. Even swim lessons cost — it all adds up!

  8. The Authority

    Sophistication is unequivocally linked to an intangible awareness of the world and the beings that encompass them. Truly sophisticated people posses an innate ability and predestination to drip elegance and decadence while the remnant charlatans, who broadcast their blindingly transparent frailties to the jealous masses, are left to consume their own souls with fruitless yearning for the unattainable. Sophistication by its very essence is grandiose, refined, cosmopolitan. Bearers of this priceless gift precisely sashay among topics of conversation ranging from exotic foods and customs to the latest trends in architecture and infinite luxury. Those indentured servants skimmed over by the lords of sophistication simply have no recourse to ensure them safe passage into this realm no matter the accumulation of worldly wealth or prestige. Give up.

  9. rhall

    Who on earth is “The Authority”? Such prose! But,are only jet-setters sophisticated? It is not about money. Have confidence in who you are, everyone! And a little polish goes a long way.

  10. sillyjillybean

    Ok, I have decided I am not sophisticated after reading “The Authority.” And I will tell you this, having quite frequent association with affluent people has only made me realize that money does not equal sophistication, nor common sense, nor escape from unsophisticated behavior, sometimes it just magnifies their lack of-

    As for me, I am just such a sage of sophistication, luxury, “green” behavior, and elegance……I could teach you a few things!

    Are ya laughing yet!!! I am sure Sarah, Anne, and Rozanne are!!!

  11. robinbl

    Holy cow! Are you really paying $80 a month per kid for piano lessons? I must be way undercharging. Nice thing about being a piano teacher–that’s one expense I don’t have to worry about. Unfortunately, I do have to remember to give them piano lessons. That does help.


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