In Real Life (a guest post from Sarah Dunning Park)

I love that Sarah Dunning Park is here today. Believe it or not, though Sarah is all over the blogging world, I didn’t first meet her online. She went to high school with my husband and we met at their ten year reunion. So, you understand, it has been a thrill to rediscover Sarah here in the interwebs and realize we have a shared love for poetry. Today her book of poems is released on Amazon and we are celebrating with a reflection, poem and giveaway. Give her a great big welcome, friends!

I had a vision for my life with children that was built on a foundation of intentionality. Every day would be a patchwork of pleasing contrasts — loud tickle-time balanced with quiet reading, curled on the couch. Walks outside, and then later, family meals around the table. Familiar rhythms would mark the progression of each day.

I didn’t take into account, though, that the end of many days would be marked by tired, contrary kids and an irritable mother. Or that on many mornings I would wake up feeling grumpy and ill-prepared for the day, after staying up too late the night before, on my computer.

I also didn’t foresee how much I would long for connection with friends, or how much easier it would be to find that online, rather than in real life. My natural urge is to feed my craving for instant contact by zoning out on my phone or laptop — which takes me away from the humans who are here, right now, in my life.

When I do experience something beautiful or profound in the here and now, why do I immediately want to share it online? Somehow, strangely enough, life events feel more real if I’ve posted something about them on Facebook or Twitter. Why is this? Is it the reinforcement of memory through repetition? Is it that the act of writing about something helps me to meditate on it and interpret it? Is it that sharing with other people imbues an experience with more meaning?

I think it’s all of these things, and they all have their place. But how do I know when I have become too dependent on the feedback of Facebook friends for my own ability to appreciate or evaluate an experience?

I don’t know. I do know that the richest connections occur face-to-face. I haven’t forsworn social media, and I haven’t figured out how to maintain a perfectly healthy and balanced relationship with it. But I am trying to remember that, regardless of how present or intentional I am, my “real life” is happening right now, in a colorful and unpredictable patchwork.

I write about this struggle in my poem, “IRL,” from my newly-released-on-Amazon book, What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children ( Comment below for a chance to win a free copy!




On days when the kids are bored,
they drag themselves to me
on feeble legs, staggering
under the load of their need
for something to make them
feel alive.

So I kick them outside—
not for the exhilarating effect of nature
(though there is that), but because
the effect of being followed
by a small, whining person
is enough to unhinge
my tired mind.

I close the door with relief
as they run off to the sunlit grass,
and then I take my mind by the hand,
and limp with it to the nearest

I, too, am starving to feel alive,
and so to take the edge off this hunger
I guzzle a stream of 140-character
blips and blurbs, and then move on
to the meat of e-mail
and blog posts.

Afterward, though,
part of me is still not satisfied,
so I try to re-enter real life
by tidying up the house,
my eyes scanning the pieces of my world
to find what is lovely and worthy
of gratitude.

Sure enough—
late afternoon sun is filling
the window over the kitchen sink
with a golden warmth that hallows
those dry garlic bulbs sending out
withered sprouts on the sill.

My first impulse
is to post a picture
of this redemptive beauty,
for all the world to behold and enjoy—

but I’m rescued
by the racket of the kids
bursting in the door
to announce the unexpected arrival
of our neighbor and her daughter,
who have walked over—
on their feet—
to spend time with us
this sunny day.

© Sarah Dunning Park, 2012, from What It Is Is Beautiful ( All rights reserved. Used with permission.


Do you struggle with finding balance between your real-life world and your online one? Have you found any ways to achieve this balance? Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in a drawing to receive a free copy of Sarah’s new book. 



Sarah Dunning Park is the author of What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children ( She lives in rural Virginia with her husband and three daughters. Visit her at

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  • KVossler

    So, it seems lame to be a lurker/silent reader of your blog and only pop up when there is a giveaway, but I’ve been reading Sarah’s poems all over the internet and would love to have a copy of her book. (I’m going to ask for it for Mother’s day just the same.)

    I know we only met a couple times, but I do know that our CC community misses you and your family. Your name comes up all the time. ;) Peace to you and yours.


  • Rebecca

    Goodness, that whole post hits so close to home! Thank you Sarah for taking time to guest post!

  • Cara

    Hi, I’m new here. I started reading Sarah’s poems at Simple Mom and I fell in love! I would love towin it. …also, I’m really enjoying this blog. :)

  • Adele Henderson

    Oh goodness, I thought I was the only one. For Lent I decided I would curb my online habits and what I discovered was an unhealthy addiction to facebook. This need to connect via the internet. Needless to say I am working on it but still struggle. I am single so when I am home my only connection is with my dog and getting on Facebook. I share so much on that page rather than go outside and talk to my neighbors. I should mention that I am a introverted minister who serves at-risk children in Salem, VA. So when I go home that is my time to rejuvenate. I need as much time a lone as I spend with people. But when those magical moments happen in person, I like you need to share it online. I will pray for you and ask that you pray also for me as I try to find a balance between the real world and the internet world.

  • Jeannie

    I just read another post by Sarah (including a different poem) on Amy Julia Becker’s blog so was very surprised and pleased to see this one as well. Amy Julia is also doing a giveaway so I feel kind of guilty commenting both times, but I do very much appreciate this post as well as the one that appears there.

    I was thinking about this issue quite recently. I am an introvert and have 2 special-needs kids, one of whom, when he’s at home, wants/needs a lot of interaction with me. (I sometimes jokingly call him “Velcro Boy.”) I find this very draining and so I crave my alone time. But I realized that in the last while I am definitely withdrawing from in-person contacts. I’m also building up my blogging and other online activity and part of it is that I feel I can keep connected without being physically drained. I’m still trying to find the right balance; your post helped make me more aware of the issue and I need to think more about whether what I do day-to-day is helping or harming. Adele’s comment above also really resonated with me. Thanks for this discussion; I also love the poetry very much.

  • Leanne Penny

    Oh my loveliness! The part about limping to the nearest screen for that which doesn’t fulfill? Yes to that, I think that’s what I am doing now. After this I’m going to crochet in front of the TV until the kids get home from a play date… but I should read.. right?

    I also hate the shoulds.

  • michaboyett

    It’s so wonderful to see you here, Krista! There is no shame in delurking for a giveaway. No shame at all. :) Thanks for the sweet words. We miss Christ’s Church very much. Such a special place.

  • michaboyett

    So glad to *meet* you, Cara. Thanks for commenting!

  • michaboyett

    I also hate the shoulds too. But they’re all over my mind (which I’ve also limped to the nearest screen just now). Also, I think we should start exclaiming, “Oh my loveliness!” more often…

  • michaboyett

    Adele, sometimes I wonder if the struggle is the good thing…That so much of it is being aware of what we’re using to feed ourselves and why. So it doesn’t have to be guilt for spending time online, but a deeper awareness of ourselves and what drains us or feeds us? I don’t know. Still figuring it out for myself as well… Thanks so much for the comment.

  • Jen

    I must admit that I struggle with the opposite problem–I’m not as ‘technologically grumpy’ as my husband, but most of the time I avoid the computer when I can. I think that it’s partially the glare, partially the overwhelming amount of input, and partially my frustration at my desire to check the stats page or see how many likes I got (really, it’s like the high school me was just hiding in there all along). But then I discover poems and stories and people who I would have never otherwise known existed, and I get to write and read and generally be the nerd I was created to be. This is what I try and remind myself when I don’t want to open up my laptop.

  • Jesse

    I love how the speaker is RESCUED from her Internet compulsion by the racket of the kids in real life. that is part of how I’m trying to balance, by force :) in response to non-negotiable demands by the raucous kids :)

  • Debbie Grace

    Yes. Both to the post and to the comments . . . another introvert looking to find a good balance here. Perhaps, as with many things in life, it’s going to be different for each one of us on different days?

  • Kelly @ Love Well

    So I just read Sarah’s poem on Simple Mom and a quick Google search for her Twitter handle (technology much?) lead me here, Micha. I love this poem. If you’re still giving away a copy of her book, enter me please. What a perfect Mother’s Day gift (for myself).