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I ran into an old friend recently.

It was one of those funny situations where you see someone out of context: a teacher at the grocery store; your boss in a Target clearance aisle. I hadn’t seen M., the girlfriend of a friend I met through my sister, since last New Year’s. We were in Hallmark.

The last time we saw each other, in those newborn hours of 2015, I was still adjusting to the idea of being pregnant. It seemed a strange concept . . . almost an embarrassing one. Despite being 29 years old, married and independent and financially sound, the admission that I was expecting was always accompanied by my own nervous laughter.

In fact, I’d been whispering it. A friend pointed that out. “I’m pregnant!” I’d hiss, raising my eyebrows, even if everyone in the room already knew the state of my womb.

I told M. at the New Year’s party, her eyes lighting up. She confided that she was anticipating a marriage proposal in coming months. And though we hadn’t seen each other in almost a year, M. is so easy to talk to that we can pick up where we left off.

“So,” she said in the card store, hands cross delicately on a counter, “you had your baby?”

I blinked at her. A beat of silence passed, then two. Paper wishes of “Happy birthday!” and “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy Baptism!” hemmed us into a corner. My own stack of cards drooped in my hands.

“Oh wow, yes,” I said. “Are we … not Facebook friends?”

For two 30-year-olds in 2015, this was . . . bizarre. Almost unimaginable. But I wracked my brain to think of any posts I’d seen from M. in recent months — photos of a tropical vacation, news of a job offer — only to draw a blank.

“Oh, I’m not on Facebook,” she said. “Do you have a boy or a girl?”

To see a friend — in person, in the flesh — and tell her the news of my son was . . . well, it was invigorating. Just as she’d shared in my happiness with my in-person pregnancy announcement, the news of Oliver’s birth brought on the same excitement.

M. and I don’t trade texts or tweets; we don’t “like” each other’s lunches or comment on cat videos. Just as I knew nothing of her engagement (her boyfriend had indeed popped the question), she knew nothing of my baby. M. hadn’t seen our mutual friends in months, either.

How rare it is to tell — really tell — my own stories now. I’m so used to divulging my experiences on Facebook, Twitter, through my column and this blog — to prepare vignettes of my life for public consumption; to frame my anecdotes in an Instagram square. Nothing feels private — not unless you work hard to keep it that way. Everything is in a feed.

Telling M. about Oliver and watch her eyes crinkle? That brought me joy. And when I saw her ring (on her actual hand), it was all I could do not to jump up and down with her.

This is not to say I’m going ghost online. I love keeping up with friends and family through social media . . . and would be pretty bored without it. But that chat with M. definitely got me thinking about the nature of connection — and how I might want to be more present in others’ lives.

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Documenting the every day

Instagram book

We all take pictures on big occasions.

Graduations, birthdays, weddings. During life’s major moments, we’re out there with our cameras — some big, some small — trying to capture it all. Regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a photographer, we all take snapshots. Pictures are our way of freezing time. If your family is anything like mine, photos from the past emerge regularly — and are a source of great comedy. And joy.

I’m biased, of course. My mom has had a camera glued to her hand since my parents welcomed me. I can’t think of an occasion without visualizing Mom with her Canon. Her pictures tell my entire life story — and our life story: the story of our family. Photos are important. We both take lots of them.

It’s not enough to document the big moments, though. As important as holidays and birthdays are, our lives are comprised of tinier moments — the everyday ones. Lunch with friends, a walk before work, our dog asleep in a warm patch of light. And with the advent of portable technology that’s always within our grasp, many of us are take pictures with our smartphones.


Though an iPhone picture isn’t quite the same as a DSLR capture, the pictures I’ve snapped with my phone are just as meaningful. My friend Guy constantly says, “The best camera is the one you have with you” — and he’s absolutely right. For as much as I love my Canon, it’s big — and heavy. I take it out when I plan To Take Pictures. That is: when I have an event or a time or a place. But I’m usually out and about sans camera, doing my thing, and the iPhone is the camera I have with me.

And that’s where Instagram comes in. As 2012 drew to a close, I knew I wanted a way to reflect back on what was both a momentous and tough year. I started a Shutterfly book in February, planning to update it with my Canon photos as the months went on, because I was tired of thinking about all the “little” pictures — the ones not tied to any set event — that were getting lost in the shuffle. I wanted a year — an entire year — in one photobook. I wanted to document the ins and outs, the highs and lows, and have everything in one.

Oh, I was so innocent.

I take a lot of pictures, friends. A lot of pictures. Like 2,000 on a single vacation, for example, and I travel as much as I can. For as much as I love Shutterfly books (and they’re not paying me to say that!), you can only include so many pictures in a book before you just . . . run out of space.

Bridalveil Fall

I figured out early on that I would just barely fit all of 2012 into one book before hitting the 111-page cut-off. My 2012 year in review book is almost finished, but I didn’t include any of the photos I’ve come to really appreciate: my Instagram snapshots.

So I made another book — and this one is just for phone pictures. Though some are grainy and the colors can be wonky and, you know, they’re not going to win me any awards, they’re my pictures. These are the photos I take on a random Tuesday, and they’re often of the things I value most.

I called the Instagram book “Day to Day” — because that’s how most of us are living, right? Taking it one thing at a time.

Or one snapshot at a time.

Heart in snow

Random things that make me happy, pt. 3

1. Tea.

The quickest way to perk up my afternoon is to make myself a cup of hot tea. I have no less than six different kinds in my desk drawer — and I often find that the most exciting part of my work day is choosing a flavor. (It’s the little things . . .) When my boyfriend’s parents were in town at Christmas, I took his mom to an awesome local tea room. I just wanted to gobble up everything there!

2. Pretty postage.

I send lots of mail. Whether we’re talking postcards, love letters or old-fashioned mail to family, I better have a hefty stack of stamps at my disposal. I have the “Garden of Love” stamps now and use them to death.

3. Spencer’s wrinkle-nosed laugh.

Everyone has a Face. It’s the look you make when someone has really tickled your funny bone, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m not talking an obligatory chuckle here — I’m talking a big, from-the-gut, uncontrollable laugh that cannot be controlled. And when I say something that really makes Spencer double over or do something clumsy and hilarious, he wrinkles his nose and gives me a look of utter disbelief. That makes me laugh. And I love to laugh — especially with him.

4. Beautiful book cover art.

I totally judge books by their covers, and sometimes their covers are awesome. The books themselves? No clue. But at least they’re pretty.

5. Nail polish.

My obsession has reached a critical juncture. I joined the Julep Maven (affiliate link) program and am now treated to surprise nail shades and goodies coming to my mailbox every month, and let me tell you: this is bad. Well, I mean, it’s good; it’s awesome getting surprises in the mail. But it’s bad because I have to pay for it. And I have very little self-discipline when it comes to cosmetics.

It’s also bad because I’m the nut who now needs to change her polish constantly, and since I’m rarely sitting down long enough to do it . . . well, I’m typically up at 11 p.m. trying to keep my eyes long enough to give myself a manicure. Don’t stare too long at the smudges.

6. Post-Christmas clean-up.

I love holiday decorating as much as the next guy (or gal), but I’m very eager to pack up the inflatable snowmen and Christmas bulbs once the season has passed. We cleaned up our house last weekend and Spencer packed up his place this week, too. My desk is now free of miniature pink Christmas trees and my officemates have helped take down all the hanging icicle lights once strung along the ceiling of our office space.

The new year always feels like a clean slate, and I like having a (literal) clean space in which to embrace all that possibility. It feels good to have order restored, you know?

7. Instagram.

Yes, yes — after joining the iPhone world, I’ve become completely obsessed with the Instagram app for photos. You might have noticed my own recent shots look a tad bit different than the photos I normally share, and that’s because I can’t stop snapping shots with my phone.

While I once judged this and judged this harshly (I mean, what kind of quality are you getting with a phone?), I understand now. Instagram is awesome. And if you thought I took too many pictures of my food before, be afraid.

I’m also doing a 2012:366 project (leap year!) wherein I take one iPhone photo daily for 2012. I’ve seen lots of folks doing similar but always thought they were unrealistic for me. Since I’m not going anywhere without my phone, it’s easy to remember to document at least one small part of my day — and it gets my creative juices flowing on otherwise hum-drum occasions. And yes, there’s an app for that.