With Thanksgiving now behind us and Christmas quickly approaching, we'll all put our best foot forward. Facebook posts, Instagrams, Tweets and blogs will be full of smiling faces, beautifully decorated homes, tempting food, and families that appear to live the flawless Mayfield life of Ward and June Cleaver. But I’m guessing that those social media images are slightly different from the real life that goes on behind the camera shutter.
At least, I know mine are!
For instance, when I make a particularly successful recipe, I share it with my friends via social media and blogs. I take extra care to make the photo look enticingly delicious; after all, presentation is king! The outcome usually looks something like this:
What is not revealed is the fact that when I set the table, there’s Lanny’s glass (oh, purple glass, that is) of strawberry milk right beside my carefully chosen fall plates and bowls.
What is not revealed is that I nearly ruined the recipe because I didn’t realize my broth had been refrigerated “a bit” (understatement) too long. I caught the error about ½ cup too late, causing me enough panic to add about 30 minutes to the required boiling time to make absolutely certain we wouldn’t be hospitalized for food poisoning.
What is not revealed is that, while pretty-as-a picture, the green onions had a mind of their own and several rogue slices sprinkled themselves across the freshly mopped kitchen floor, along with a healthy dose of paprika and a pinch of salt.
Let's Get Real
TV-Mom June Cleaver entered our American homes from 1957-1963 in one of the most wholesome programs to ever hit the airwaves. The iconic “Leave It To Beaver” gave its best shot at showing us what life was like through the average-Joe lives of Ward, June, Wally and Theodore, “The Beaver.”
But the fact is, everyday family life has far more rebel Eddie Haskells than well-adjusted Wallys and Beavers.
Barbara Billingsley played the well-organized, loving wife to Hugh Beaumont’s character, Ward, and a wise, caring mother to her sons. She prepared their meals, ironed their clothes, kept the house spotless and did it all with a smile— in pearls and heels!
The reality, however, is much more believable. In an interview, Barbara admits that June wore pearls to distract attention from a “hollow” at the base of her neck. The shoes? Her footwear started out as flats and, as the boys grew, were exchanged for high heels to accommodate their increasing heights!
And her expensive looking clothes were purchased at modest stores, including JC Penney.
Doesn’t it feel nice to realize June was not all that extraordinary?
Pa RUM pum pum pum...
Every year, since 1983 when I tripped over this recipe booklet in the liquor store, I have baked a mean Bacardi Rum Cake at least once during the Christmas season. And by the time I’m done with my holiday baking, there’s usually enough flour on the counter — and my clothes— to make me an Anthrax suspect, but the final result is epic!
Cooking, just like real life, can be messy.
Those who know me well, or who follow me on social media, are familiar with my one-of-a-kind KitchenAid stand mixer. My coveted appliance was a Christmas present to me from Lanny eons ago. Sadly, the factory rheostat went out after about three weeks. The proper thing to do would have been to send it for replacement, right?
But Lanny-the-Tool-Man-Strong decided he could surely fix it. I came home from grocery shopping to find he had, indeed, “fixed” it. He hung a conventional 110 rheostat —the aesthetic equivalent of an Evinrude 300 boat motor— on the back of it, forcing me to sequester it to the cabinet after each use because, well…
In his defense, it will survive Armageddon and could most likely mix concrete should the need arise. Not perfect, but it’s still going. (Dear Santa…)
It came in handy a few weeks ago, Pam — a dear friend from as far back as grade school — taught me how to make and decorate holiday cookies. She came over early in the morning and by the end of the day, we had bonded over delicious creations that were almost too pretty to eat (not that that stopped us, of course). Anyone seeing the end result would be impressed.
But what is unseen are the cookies on the bottom of the plate that didn’t look picture-perfect. And only the two of us are privy to the kitchen mess, and the fact that Pam was doing a fantastic job even though she was nursing terrible seasonal allergies.
The glimpse you see of others’ lives is not always a 100 percent accurate representation.
More like Lucy than June
I—like most people— truly enjoy posting pretty pictures of my Christmas decorations, the wrapped gifts under the tree, etc. It may seem at times to the outside world that I have it all together— another June-at-her-best. Yet, as you know, nothing could be farther from the truth.
This year, while wrapping presents well in advance because of my large Santa list, I was on Week Two of a wicked upper respiratory “thing.” I spent far more days in pjs than usual (to the disappointment of my usually tolerant hubby) and for several days my dining room looked like Christmas exploded. It was during this time that I realized I could get away with wearing pajama bottoms as long as I donned a sweatshirt, some festive jewelry and red lipstick. (June would be so proud.)
Prettily wrapped packages under a nicely decorated tree were the final result. (It had to be the lipstick…)
And so, the image to the left.
If you believe everything you read in Facebook posts, most lives, marriages, kids and homes are utopian.
I, too, choose to represent my life in a positive way because, let’s face it, there’s enough negativity on social media to carry us through to at least 32 minutes past eternity.
Does it mean my life is flawless?
Absolutely not. I have far more "Lucy Ricardo moments" than "June Cleaver moments" (Just ask any of the Ethels in my life...)
But I've made a commitment to focus on the good stuff, count my blessings and share the fun. Nobody wants to see dirty floors, cracked cookies, messy kitchens— and me, in pjs whining about having a bad cold, while surrounded by paper trash.
It doesn’t mean those things don’t exist; it simply means I don’t choose to dwell on the things that take away from all the positive aspects of my life.
It's all about perspective
In “Anthem,” Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack, a crack in everything; That’s how the light gets in.”
Regardless of how wonderful someone else’s “reality” seems, it’s just an illusion. Nobody’s life exists without a crack or two. We all have that “hollow in our neck” that needs the occasional smokescreen of pearls. We could all use a nice pair of heels to help us “rise to the occasion.”
“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when you’re feeling sad,”* throw on a sweatshirt and some red lipstick. (Guys, feel free to forego the lipstick…) Bake yourself some holiday cookies with your less-than-perfect appliances— Eat all the “bad” ones…
Then put your best heels forward and be grateful for the imperfect cracks in your life.
They’re only there to let the light in…
Bloom a little every day (even in winter!),
Click the arrow to watch the short video
* “My Favorite Things” lyrics by Richard Rodgers
All photos are taken by me, with the exception of the "Leave It to Beaver" photo (Licensed for Reuse)