What Chocolate Cake Taught Me About My Addiction to Instagram

Babe, I need a slice of chocolate cake! Herm and I were curled up together on the couch, and I was sharing what was most heavy on my heart... A moist, rich, decadent slice. Just one. It's all I've been thinking about for the last two weeks.

Herm looked at me, astonished, as if I had suddenly sprouted a second head. 

You are craving chocolate cake? He shook his head, a little dumbfound.  I've been with you for 4.5 years of marriage and two pregnancies, and I have never before heard you mention a craving for something, especially chocolate cake. Wait, are you telling me you're pregnant?!

It's the curse of being woman. We come down with the flu, or mention something slightly out of the ordinary, and suddenly everyone starts guessing the gender and suggesting names. 

I'm not pregnant, I just want cake!

Stating that out loud made the longing even more intense. I searched Pinterest for the quick fix, cake in a mug. Three minutes in the microwave and voila

Only, it wasn't voila! In an attempt to make the cake sort of healthy, I used things like almond flour and maple syrup and black cocoa powder. Of course, like always, I just poured the ingredients together, not measuring. The timer beeped. Excitedly I topped that mug with a bit of homemade whipped cream, dove my spoon into the gooey depths, and tasted. It was not moist, rich, or decadent, but rather, bland, dry, and very disgusting microwaved gloop. 

Somehow though, as I scraped all the contents from the mug into the garbage bucket, my longing for chocolate cake was semi-satisfied. Life moved on.

You're probably wondering by now where this story is going. How did chocolate cake that I didn't actually get to eat teach me anything about Instagram addictions?

It made to pause and ponder.

Do you remember the list? Yeah, that one, where I posted 25 things I aim to accomplish before I turn 26. It's here on the blog for the whole world to keep me accountable. 

The very first thing is: 1. Take a Sabbath from social media one day per week for the next three months.

In general I'm a goal-oriented, easily disciplined person. I set my mind to it and it's as good as done. I understand that eating chocolate cake or other sugary foodies isn't going to help with fitness goals, so it's only a treat, and a very rare one at that.  I don't watch shows or subscribe to Netflix because any free time I have I would prefer to spend doing things more meaningful to me. I get that the daily, early morning practices of making the bed, of eating a healthy breakfast, of spending time in the Word, and of working out, can set the tone of my entire day. And so I do all of those things almost every day.

I already had a few personal rules in place around social media / phone usage, and I guess I thought they were enough: When with friends, out to dinner with my family, or in other social settings, mindless scrolling was an absolute negative. It drives me crazy when other people do this, as if to say, hanging out with you is boring, I'd rather be with my Insta-friends. I saved the mindless scrolling for when I was home with my family. The people most important to me in the whole wide world! I was, in a way, saying, I'm choosing be with my Insta-friends, I find you rather boring.

If I am a disciplined person, why then has it taken me this long to realize that limited my social media consumption, just like I limit chocolate cake, might be a really, really good thing?

Truthfully, I already knew that. But sometimes, when I don't speak my goals out loud, I don't hold myself to them.

Taking one day every week to unplug from social media has been the most refreshing thing I've done in a while. It's showed me that I really don't miss it too much when I'm not there, face lit by the glow of a screen, but I certainly miss a whole lot when I'm constantly there, lost in the phones addicting glow.  It showed me that the more time I force myself to I say no to my phone and yes to more family, the more I actually want to say no to that silly phone. 

I completed that three month goal, but I don't plan to stop that habit of unplugging one day each week. In fact, I'm planning to build upon that. No longer do I charge my phone in my bedroom at night. It's out on the counter, out of sight, out of mind. I've been setting it aside in the morning too, until after 9 am. It gives me three uninterrupted hours to have coffee, read my Bible, make a healthy breakfast for the kids and I, do a workout, plan my day, and start the wash, or ever else I may be focusing on. 

Evenings aren't getting a free pass either; I'm going to be more careful of my time, more intentional to just sit in the quiet, letting myself be bored. I don't need to scroll through Instagram to pass time.

All of this from a craving for chocolate cake?! I would say this lesson I've learned has completely been worth the calories from the most moist, rich, decadent slice of cake one could find. 

Tell me friends, where could I get a slice that would pass the bill? I want a slice that will stick to my thighs, one that will take a week of Ab workouts to burn off! Microwave-able, healthy ingredient, mug options are not options.

Now to get lost in the glow that is social media, to find a recipe on Pinterest.... surely I jest.


Because It's Cheaper than Counseling

A few blog posts ago I mentioned that neither Herm nor I could remember the last time we had went on a date, just the two of us. It's something we want to improve on this year; we've set money aside in our monthly budget, so really, we have no excuses. I've got a little black dress that he loves to see me in, and the only time I ever wear it is on date night... (So if you're reading this babe, and it's been a little while since you last saw me wearing that thing, maybe make a reservation somewhere.)

There are a few ladies I follow on Instagram (this one in particular) who make dating their spouse high priority. I think its the sweetest, most sexy thing ever. I love when couples seem to grow closer and more in love as time moves on. It takes intention for that to happen, because if you aren't setting time aside to get to know your spouse better in this season of life, life really does have a way of filling up with good things that will call for your every waking minute.

Sometimes you have to say no to the good, so you are able to say yes to the best.

We spend a lot of time together, Herm and I, but we're going to try to be more intentional about time together. Alone.

One thing we've done several times though in the past year, because it's cheaper than counseling, but also because we truly to love these couples and enjoy spending time with them, is to ask friends -- ones older and wiser than us -- out to dinner.

We pick their brains about family and marriage and business and community -- because we see fruit in their lives, evidence of what intentionality and cultivating character qualities can do, and we want to learn and grow from their life experiences too -- then we pay their bill.

Like I said, it's cheaper than counseling.

We've got a serial killer-like list of specific couples we're planning to target: The ones who seem to do life well. The ones who have marriages that created the hashtag, #MarriageGoals. The ones who have good relationships with their kids. The ones who have businesses. The ones who love to travel. The ones involved in serving their church and their communities.

Really, the list is endless. We choose people based off of things we know they are skilled at or have done well at, that are areas we want to grow in.

Who knows, your name might even be on there.

Our lives are richer and more meaningful because of it, and even though we're planning to go on dates with just the two of us more often this year, our double-dating is something we don't want to give up.

If you don't have a list like this, of people you're planning to target, start thinking about it. I don't think you'll regret it, we certainly don't!


When Love is Boring

We're celebrating five years today, five years since that cold, wintry evening when Herm asked if I'd like to go out for coffee with him after work. It was there, in that quiet corner of Dunkin' Donuts, our hands holding lattes --his a raspberry mocha, mine caramel-- though we both secretly wished to instead be hand-holding each other, that he wondered if I would want to go out for coffee again with him, perhaps even regularly.

He was asking, nervously, if I would be his girlfriend, and before he even finished the question I was already nodding my head yes, and to myself thinking, Heck yes!  Relieved it didn't take him much longer to work up the nerve... because I was about ready to reverse cultural roles and call his dad to ask if I could date his son. (I'm kidding! Sort of.)
Today I went through the Dunkin' Donuts drive thru and ordered a raspberry mocha latte to deliver to Herm at work. I'm not really a sentimental person, but five years! It doesn't feel like it's been that long, yet in the same breath, I say it feels as though we've always been together.

Time growing older with him, studying his habits and preferences, told me he wouldn't like that latte as much now as he used to --we didn't really know what good coffee was back then-- and I was right, it's so sweet, he said. 

My phone vibrated this afternoon as I was preparing supper. I glanced down.  Hey, I know it's late in the day but if you want to go out tonight you may. I'll watch the kids.

Heck yes!

Now I'm back at Dunkin' Donuts again, for the second time today. I hadn't visited this place in months, possibly pushing years. I'm here mainly because the coffee shop I'd rather be at, the one with good coffee, is closed. But also, if I'm truly honest, because Dunkin', on that cold, February night exactly five years ago today, is a bit nostalgic to me. Perhaps I am the sentimental type.  

I used to think people who were married for five or more years were basically married for a lifetime; they held a wealth of knowledge and knew each other inside and out. At times it seemed their love lives must be boring. Us though, we would never let it get to a place of boredom. Never.

I laugh now, because I still feel like a new bride, though a bit more settled in my role as wife, more comfortable with who I am. And quite certainly, a touch more boring. Time has a way of drawing us closer, we understand each other better, we communicate deeper and more easily. We've felt overwhelming sorrow and experienced overflowing joy. And we're okay with the quiet, non-glamorous, as long as we're together.

I love this kind of love. 

The simple, every day choosing to love, love. 

It's what prompts him to make a second mug of coffee --the good, freshly ground beans, perfect temperature water, Aero-pressed sort-- just before he heads off to work, to leave it on the counter, for me.

Because of love I buy the expensive, might-as-well-be-wiping-with-cash-it-costs-so-much toilet paper. Every time, cringing, as I read how many cents it cost per hundred squares, but I buy it anyway. (And when I accidentally buy the cheap stuff, like now, it never runs out... much to his chagrin. Thanks for still loving me.)

It's the love that learned how to assemble a bologna sandwich in the same order --bread, mayo, peppers, pickles, lettuce, cheese, bologna, mayo, bread-- day in and day out, for the past 4.5 years of lunch-box lunches.

The love that tells you, as you're walking out the door for a kid-free evening, that you're not to return until at least 7:30. No, make it 8.

I see now, five years in, that in the daily acts of service, of giving and knowing of receiving and being known, in the boring, is where love flourishes.

It's in the small moments.

Five years in, and I'm excited about this boring love. Because now, five years in, I realize it's anything but boring, and we're still certainly brand new at this growing old together!

The real romantics know that stretchmarks are beauty marks, and that different shaped women fit into the different shapes of men souls, and that real romance is really sacrifice.  -Ann Voskamp


Say Yes to the Dress

We went on a date the other weekend.

For some people that wouldn't be news, they're good at regularly dating, weekly even. Embarrassingly for us, we couldn't even remember the last time we went on a date, sans kiddos.

But a dear friend had generously offered her time, and told me if I need a few hours off, I was suppose to let her know. (If you're looking for the perfect way to bless a mom-friend, do this! It beats chocolate bars and beautifully arranged bouquets of flowers, though those are highly valued as well.) Herm overheard her offer, and almost immediately scheduled a date night. Apparently he was feeling the need for some one-on-one time too.

He made reservations a few days in advance, and I spent all afternoon on that blessed Saturday primping.

You know that joke about taking a weekly shower after becoming a mom? It's not true for me; I still shower regularly. The joke in this case would have to do with shaving legs and grooming eyebrows. Excuse the pun, but it can get a bit hairy at times. (Including the few stray bow hairs hanging out on my chin - I disclosed that here.)

But gosh, it had been so long since we last went on a date, I was going to look the nines for that man of mine!

Silky smooth legs, slathered in raw Shea butter. Check. Eyebrows groomed and eyebrow hairs on the chin, plucked. Check. Check. Hair worn down, naturally curly, just the way he likes it. You better believe it! I even put on a bit of lipstick. Something I would have never worn back when we first were married. Herm isn't too sure what's been happening to me. He doesn't say a lot about that, except for when I wear dark red. Then he just says, wow, that sure is red, and leaves it at that.

You know that body-con dress I mentioned back in this post? I tried to make excuses why I should not wear that on our date. It was cold, after all, and jeans are so much warmer when its cold.
But Herm wasn't buying it. He hadn't seen me in that thing since our last date, and neither of us could remember when that was.

I was back in our room, still trying to decide if I would say yes to the dress, when he came in, phone in hand, Pinterest app open. On the screen was an outfit inspo photo. (Ladies, don't let your husbands get Pinterest. They'll use it against you!) Black dress, black tights, boots, and a denim jacket.

You've got all of those, babe. Wear the dress. 

I wore the dress.

We had such a delicious meal at Port's Cafe, a restaurant my Aunt Wilma had recommended. I got duck meatloaf. Ah, heaven! Just kidding, it was amazing, but I'm not a foodie. In a few months from now, I won't even remember what I ordered on this date, all I will remember was staring into the blue-grey eyes of the man I love, as we talked about some goals for the coming year and how date night needs  to become more of a priority, and of course, I'll never forget how he chose my outfit via Pinterest!

We decided not to order dessert at the restaurant, but rather go to the new coffee shop in town and split a pastry there. (After we first made out like teenagers in an empty parking lot.)

Out of luck. The coffee shop closes early on Saturday nights. Dunkin' Donuts? We considered it --we aren't haters of that place, after all, that is where he asked me out five years ago -- but in the end we decided to stop at the local college Starbucks.

Out of luck again. They were closed the whole month of January. I live less than two miles away; how did I not know this? I need to get out more.

So we came home. Back to our cozy house and rowdy kids and wonderful friend who offered her time to babysit.

And I came back, feeling more in love with the man I married. Reconnected, as we shared our dreams and hopes and even frustrations.

I'm not even sure how to wrap this story up, I mainly shared it because of how Herm manipulated me with Pinterest, bless his heart.

All of that to say though, we really do want to make dating more of a priority in our lives. And I would love to hear feedback from you: If you're married and have kids, what does dating your spouse in this season look like for you? How do you keep the romance alive? (Does he choose your outfits via Pinterest too, or is mine the rare exception?)