Monday, December 21, 2009

Real vs. Ideal

Here at Bloom we talk a lot about ideals. Handmade gifts, homemade bread. Upcycling and local consumption. Charming crafts and well-decked halls.

In reviewing our recent content, I got a little squirmy. “I feel like a bit of a fraud, like if these people actually came to my house, they would be surprised by how absolutely pedestrian I am,” I told my husband the other night.


I just wanted to tell you all that I bought Christmas presents from a store. A big-box store, called Toys-R-Us. And some of the toys were made of plastic. Because although a hand-hewn fort and quilted dress-ups may have been ideal -- getting the bulk of my Christmas shopping done in a morning, was real. And doable. And awesome.

I’ve made capes and costumes, pirate flags and cardboard shields, and I love the notion of homemade - I aspire to it when possible. But I also love the notion of knowing my limits, and knowing that my children will be over the moon about their gifts, and knowing that after a morning of shopping, I had the remainder of the holiday season to spend with them (rather than frantically working on gifts for them).

Sometimes I feel like the consumer pendulum has swung so far to the mindless side
(i.e. buy. buy. buy - everything but our souls shrink-wrapped with a barcode, convenience and excess ruling the day,) we’ve swung so far to that extreme that change is/was certainly in order. And I’d say it has come/is coming by degrees. But it seems to have hit certain circles of the blogosphere with gusto. And quite frankly, it’s starting to feel a little highfalutin and pious in the opposite extremity: “take the handmade pledge!” “plastic must perish!,” “be vintage or be vanished!”

Seems to me that as is the case with so many, many issues - we’ve missed the fertile middle-ground of mindful, moderate consumption.

I don’t intend to make this a political rant about the virtues of one brand of consumerism over another. I only want to let you know that although we parade handmade gifts and upcycled thrifted finds and share a grind-your-own-wheat bread recipe on occasion here at Bloom -- we recognize those things as ideals -- things we strive for and do as we can. But there are reality-constraints to consider - time, means, season of life - factors which may not allow us to be doing all of the “ideal” things. And all we can be is real.
And functional.
And hopefully sane.

So we just want to say that while we spotlight ideals and aim for an evolution towards beautiful, purposeful living, we’re hoping to keep to the middle ground of reality here. And if you buy your bread on aisle eight and picked up several of your Christmas gifts from Toys-R-Us and bought your nightstand at IKEA -- you belong here.

And you’re in good company.



Jones said...

It's so funny to me that you had this feeling because I did too. The other day on my blog, I discussed what you would see had a zoomed a little further out from the picture (i.e., mess!). I described my need to share as "just keepin' it real!" Thanks for doing the same!
PS: Love Bloom--Working on a Bloom button but need my hubby for that.
PPS: Here's the post I was talking about:

Nicole Douglas said...

I wasn't feeling pressured, but I was thinking "Maybe someday I can become more like 'bloom'...when things aren't so crazy...whenever that is." :) Funny how life makes us choose between things and we can never seem to do everything we wish we could. And I feel like I'm constantly relearning that life is all about learning to balance things. Thanks for this post! I really enjoyed it.

Danielle said...


Unknown said...

really enjoyed this post, thank you.

Matt said...

The question I've started asking myself is "Am I doing this for myself, or my children?" "Am I making this so I can post it on my blog and show everyone how creative/cute I am, or am I doing this because my child would really enjoy it?" If we're trying to make our kids happy, let's face it, they usually prefer the Transformer to the homemade puppet set...right? :)

I think it's great to remember this real vs. ideal philosophy in everything that we do as mothers. Some days the house may look like a tornado went through, but the fun we've had is more important. I'm trying to convince myself of this fact right now, as I put off cleaning the kitchen.

Natalie said...

Hahaha, that was me, not Matt. :)

beki said...

I'm right there with you!

The Oxford Family said...

Totally agree! I love the idea of all handmade but with 2 kids and a job it's just not realistic for me. I made a few special things and ToysRUs was my savior :) Plus I am sure my 6 month old will love the annoying lights and music more than something I made!

Diana said...

Thank you for this reminder. Balance is always what I strive for these days, and a wise mom at playgroup last week reminded me that balance needn't always be measured in the course of a day, a week, or even a month...balance over this year, years to come, and even my lifetime is what I hope for.

I like a lot of the changes I see toward mindful consumerism. I was raised by something of a fanatic (love you mom!), and that wasn't always lovely. I want my daughter to grow to make wise choices, but also feel confident in all of her choices, even if some of them reflect cultural ideals...things in the world are changing, for the good, I feel, but it's not for any of us to know what's over the next hill or how things will look, and we can't look backward except to learn from our mistakes.

Thank you for your candor Em, and again, I'm so glad I found this blog.

Vicky said...

Thank you. I really appreciate this being put into words since it has been buzzing around in my head for months that there are blogs all over the place that are so "ideal" that it's hard for a "real" person like me to measure up, and heaven forbid criticize some of the "doctrine" that gets spouted. Thanks for trying to keep it real!

Lindy Johnson said...

oh, em, this is just perfect. i agree with every single word you've written. and, heck yeah, i bought some plastic toys this year (making felted transformers is just not going to happen this year). love you; love bloom!

Anna said...

Oh! Thank you so much for posting this! I almost cried. I was just thinking the other day why I'm spending so much TIME making my girls their presents, when all they want is me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. What you wrote is so very real to me.

Stacy Hart said...

completely agree, i didn't get a single gift made for my little girl this year but i am not stressing out over it!

Valerie said...


For a while there I decided I couldn't keep looking at all the blogs I loved and cherish. The blogs that gave me ideas, but secretly made me feel unequal, not good enough, not crafty enough. I have a million ideas saved for the day when I have free time (yeah who has tons of free time) to make them. But for a while it really got me down.

I don't have anything against vintage, or handmade, or even some friends I know who have gone back to using disposable diapers. But I hope those people who have this knack of being able to do all these things don't look down on the rest of us thinking we are inferior.

There are advances in technology and new inventions for a reason, I don't want to revert back to the past for everything, becuase some of those new inventions (in my opinion disposable diapers) are just better.

But I love finding something old to treasure or to make something and know I have put hard work into it.

My strike of NO READING craft blogs lasted about 2 weeks.
Then I decided I CHOOSE how it affects me. I missed reading those crafts, I missed seeing the ideas.
So I decided to make the choice, I know I am doing all I can right now, and comparing myself is a waste of time.

BALANCE is the key to all right?

Kari said...

Thank you for this post. It meant a lot to me to read it. Merry Christmas!

Abbie said...

You know I love this! I bought my kids' gifts from Walmart/Target and most of them have Disney splashed all over them. That's what they asked for. And I have never made bread that didn't ask for a boatload of sugar.

I feel very comfortable here. Not to perfect, just great ideas.

Bloom said...

I think it's true what Natalie said--that sometimes we're doing these things not for our children, but for us. And I sincerely think it's OK if we do things like homemade gifts, crafts, whatever, for US if it fills a creative need for us. It's when we're doing it to appear a certain way to others or when it's taking all of our precious time to be with our children that we're out of line. It's something I have to really work at to keep myself in check, and frankly, sometimes I realize I'm failing at balance.

I really appreciate all of these comments. You know, Emily and I have been so inspired by women like all of you, and never would have had the chance to connect with most of you, if not through blogs. And we want BLOOM to feel inspiring and positive and real. If you've read my bio then you know I feel like a super beginner at this whole gig, and we just want to gather and share ideas and help each other feel great about the lives we're living.

Thanks, Em, for voicing so eloquently the importance of being real.


p.s. I'm off to Wal-Mart (gasp!) to buy stocking stuffers. ;)

Sassy Salsa girl said...

And don't forget about online shopping :D

Jessica said...

Amen. I especially like what you've said about seasons of life. Like, this Christmas, I'm making a few more gifts by hand than usual, special things that can't be bought, but am "giving myself permission" to: use store-bought laundry detergent this month; wrap with paper instead of the homemade, reusable, cloth bags I'd like to make; skip making Christmas cookies in favor of decorating a gingerbread house; give a bunch of gift cards when I can't think of the perfect thing.

Priorities and the best way to balance are different for everyone. Moderation, as you said, is so important. Thanks.

Kalli said...

Hear Hear!!!

Melissa said...

I just started reading your blog, but I wanted to say that if I were reading about anyone less human, I'd have to stop reading. :)

Elyse said...

Thank you for saying what so many of us our feeling. That we don't have to swing completely to one side.

In 2008 I rid my house of plastic but when I see the look of delight when my daughter gets a Polly Pocket, isn't that joy more important?

And I spent 2009 trying to eat like my great-grandmother did and now there is no processed food in my house ... except for that darn diet coke that I refuse to give up.

But instead of feeling like a failure because I can't go all the way, I just think of how much I have accomplished, how much I am teaching my children that not everything in life comes out of a box, and how much I have inspired my friends to make small changes.

lori said...

Thanks, Em. This is perfect.

Laurel said...

rightly said. Much thanks. Bloom is on my daily check list because I think you are hitting the happy moderate ground. I relate, and I love it!

Joan said...

Honest and from the heart, Em. That pretty much sums you up--it's not hard to understand why I love you so!

Unknown said...

I am having regret about making my sick, screaming daughter make a clay handprint for gma this morning instead of letting her nap...but I do feel better now about the really horrible picture I put in the frame next to it. Gma sure better appreciate it anyway :)

jess said...

YAY! What a breath of fresh air! As women it is so easy to get stuck in the comparison trap and forget to actually LIVE our very own LIVES! So glad I'm not the only one in the blogosphere who isn't perfect!