Words We Cannot Afford to Keep From Our Children

lifeline #hfm

“When I need to get home,
you’re my guiding light,
you’re my guiding light.”
Foy Vance

It was almost one o’clock a.m. when my plane landed. I felt anxious. It was only my second time flying back to my new “home”, a city that contained one of the busiest airports in America. I reminded myself that the hosts of the speaking event I just attended were aware of my travel anxieties and poor sense of direction. They kindly arranged a transportation company to retrieve me from the airport and take me home. I managed the airport shuttle without trouble and felt certain I was getting off at the right stop. But when I went to the top of the escalators, my ride was not there. I felt my chest tighten, my pulse quicken. I looked around and saw a vast hallway quickly emptying as people hurried off to their destinations.

I fumbled for my phone. I called the transportation company and said I could not find my ride. They instructed me to find the Delta terminal, walk outside, go down a ramp, and look for the area where cars were idling. I told them I did not see any Delta signs and was not familiar with the airport. “Could the driver please come to me instead?” I asked, trying to keep my emotions in check. They put me in touch with him. The way he spoke to me was rude, condescending, and not helpful at all.

I stood in the middle of the massive airport deciding if I should walk outside in the darkness, unsure of where I was going, or stay put. With shaky hands, I wiped the tears falling from my eyes. I didn’t know what to do.

“I see you are troubled. Can I help you?” a uniformed driver waiting for his client said in a beautiful accent.

When I explained what happened, he offered to talk to the driver. As he waited for the man to answer his phone, he reassuringly said, “Don’t worry, I will help you.”

In a firm but respectful tone, my new friend repeatedly told the driver he needed to come inside and retrieve me. Within a few minutes, the man showed up. I did not leave without asking my friend his name, shaking his hand, and requesting his business card so I could use his company for all future transportation needs. I could not leave without telling Emmanuel he was my angel. He had provided light in my time of darkness.

lifeline #hfm

I am not sure I would have thought about that troubling experience had it not been for my recent trip to Indiana to speak at the Indy Women’s Expo. Just like last time, my flight landed after midnight. The event hosts had kindly arranged my ride home. But this time, a familiar face was waiting for me when I got off the escalator. Out of all the drivers who worked for this transportation company, my friend, Emmanuel, happened to the one driving me home.

It wasn’t until we got in the car that I felt brave enough to speak up. “I don’t know if you remember me, but a year ago you helped me when I was very much alone and confused. You were my angel.”

“Miss Rachel?” he exclaimed, his beautiful face breaking into an oversized grin. “Yes! Yes! I remember! But I just did what anyone would do.”

Emmanuel and I spent the rest of the drive talking about our families, the joys and challenges of technology, his family back in Ghana, and how providential it felt to be brought back together that night.

Although I was exhausted by the time I got into my bed, I laid there for an hour unable to sleep. While in Indianapolis, I’d met the loveliest blog readers—some of them driving from as far as Illinois and Ohio to be there. I’d played non-stop with my precious niece and nephews. I’d hugged a family member I hadn’t seen in twenty-five years. While I should have been happy, content, and hopeful, I was overcome with sadness.

Heavy on my heart were the children who didn’t leave the airport that night with someone who had their best interests in mind—including the ones used for unspeakable acts right there at the airport.

Heavy on my heart was the 13-year-old girl who climbed out her window to meet someone she met online, never to return home again.

Heavy on my heart was the young man who was violated by his teammates on the bus ride home from a sporting event.

Heavy on my heart was the child who feels like less and less each time she is snubbed, ostracized, and belittled online and in real life by her peers.

Heavy on my heart was the child who cannot stop looking at disturbing images online that make him feel ashamed, dirty, and worthless.

Heavy on my heart was the one who peers into the darkness debating whether she should go alone—the one believing there is no one to ask for help in her time of need.

What was given to me at the airport—comfort, assurance, security, and validation—should be given to all children, and the time is now. Exposure to life-altering people and life-altering content is held in their pocket, merely one click away. And although you will hear me advocate for Internet accountability/filtering software and active involvement in a child’s online activities, it is not enough. There must be pieces of internal protection given to our children again and again and again.

lifeline #hfm

Three years ago, I gave my daughter a piece of internal protection. It was during a rash of cyber bully suicides and sexual violations of young women recorded on cell phones by classmates. I remember desperately wanting to protect my child from the dangers she faced when she stepped outside or into the online world. Because I knew that was not possible, I vowed to equip her with internal protection. The following letter was the beginning of an on-going conversation I have with my daughter—a tangible piece of proof she will never be alone in her darkest hour.

lifeline #hfm

A 21st Century Lifeline to my dear child:

Technology has become an integral part of your life now that you need it to complete your schoolwork. Eventually you will start communicating with others online. Before that day comes, it is very important for me to tell you a few things. You will hear these words a lot from me—you might even get sick of them. But these reminders are important. When the time comes, you will know how important they are. When the time comes, these words will make all the difference. Here are my reminders to you …

Tomorrow holds promise.

When you have been teased, hurt, or humiliated, that day will seem horrible and unbearable. Just know that when you make it through the day, tomorrow you will see a new light. Tomorrow holds possibilities that you cannot see today. I will help you see the promises in tomorrow when you can’t.

My love for you cannot be changed.

With me, you don’t have to be strong. You can cry, scream, and let out your true feelings. My love for you cannot be changed by revealing the feelings going on inside you—no matter how hard they are to say out loud.

You are worthy of love.

You are worthy of love and respect and kindness. If people mistreat you, together we’ll figure out a way to help you work through those problems, move on, or distance yourself from them if needed.

I encourage you to find that one loyal and kind friend with which you can go through the school year. Don’t let societal standards fool you into believing this friend must be popular, good looking, or cool; at the end of the day, kindness is the most important quality to have in a friend and be in a friend.

You possess courage and strength.

 If you have been humiliated or teased, facing certain people may seem impossible. But you have the courage and strength within you to show others they cannot hold you back from living your life.

It is about them, not you.

No matter how personal the attack, it is about them—their insecurities and their issues—not about you.

No one can change the way I see you.

No matter how humiliated you are and no matter how embarrassing it is to tell me what happened, when I look at you, I see my beautiful and amazing child. No one can change the way I see you.

Nothing is too bad to tell me.

You can come to me with anything—even if you made a mistake, even if you used bad judgment. There is nothing that is “too bad” to tell me. Believe me, I have made plenty of mistakes and even though it was hard to let someone else in, I was so relieved not to carry the burden alone.

Let an adult know.

If your gut tells you what someone is doing to someone else is wrong, it probably is. Letting an adult know about someone who is being harmed or mistreated does not make you a coward—it makes you courageous and compassionate; it makes you a good friend who can look back on this later in life and proudly say, “I didn’t turn the other cheek. I tried to help.”

If you are the one being hurt, mistreated, or violated, tell an adult; do not suffer alone. Even if it is embarrassing … or unbelievable … or risky to tell someone; do not remain silent. Come to me or someone you trust immediately.

You are never alone.

I cannot make your problems and pain go away, but I can listen. And together we can come up with a solution. There is nothing we can’t get through together. You are never, never alone.

I love you forever and always.

Mom

[From my book, Hands Free Life]

My friends, if you are considering giving your child a valentine on February 14th, please consider making it a piece of internal protection. In my second book, I refer to this type of soul-building message as a 21st Century Lifeline and this is why:

A lifeline is something that can pull you back when you get too far away.

A lifeline is something you can hold on to when peer pressure is demanding you go the wrong way.

A lifeline is something that helps you be brave and say, “Something terrible happened to me.”

A lifeline is proof that somebody loves you and accepts you no matter what the world says.

A lifeline is something that keeps your head above water when it feels like it might be easier to just go under.

The 21st century lifeline contained in this blog post is for you to use as your own. My greatest hope is that my words will be given to a child this week. Feel free to use every single word. Feel free to use only the words that feel right to you. But please do not remain silent. Do not mistakenly assume the people you love know these things already. Do not mistakenly believe the people you love won’t find themselves in a troubling situation.

It is quite likely they will.

And when they find themselves standing there all alone, terrified to walk into the darkness, I pray it is your voice they hear.

“Don’t worry, I will help you,” they will remember you saying on Valentine’s Day 2016. And it will never mean more to them than it does right then.

In one instant, the worst moment in their life will not be the end.

In one instant, the worst moment in their life will be your chance to help them find their way home.

And you’ll be so thankful to be the one holding their hand as you walk toward the light.

lifeline #hfm

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Important note and valuable resources: Friends, this message is not just for young people. If you have never said words of acceptance and affirmation to your adult child, it is not too late. It is also not too late to apologize for not being there when you were needed. Also, this message is not just for people who have children in their home. Be a Noticer like my friend Emmanuel. See the young person with tearful eyes at your church, bagging your groceries, riding the subway, or being controlled by a domineering man at the airport. Kids in desperate situations are walking among us every single day. All it takes is one person to notice and say these hopeful words, “You look troubled. Can I help?”

Here are six life-changing resources I hope everyone will take time to read or save to read later:

1) 7 ways to spot that a person is being trafficked and what to do to help. (Note the average age is 11.)

2) This article from the FBI details signs your child might be at risk online and what to do to minimize the chances of an online exploiter victimizing your child.

3) 9 Most Dangerous Apps for Kids

4) How Pornography Harms Children

5) How Good Parents Miss Sexual Abuse & Five Questions to Change That

6) Parenting in the Digital Age. This is a FREE online series hosted by author and family therapist Susan Stiffelman. Speakers include myself, Byron Katie, Alanis Morissette, Dr. Dan Siegel, Dr. Victoria Dunckley, Glennon Doyle Melton, and a host of other writers, teachers, and experts in the field. Click here to see the critical topics experts will discuss and to sign up.

For those who are new here, the 21st century lifeline contained in this post came from my 2nd book, HANDS FREE LIFE, which dedicates several chapters to protecting our loved ones online. The book also reveals nine daily habits you can do today to create strong, loving, and communicative relationships despite our culture of distraction and overwhelm. In addition, I was recently interviewed on Focus on the Family about overcoming daily distractions to connect with our loved ones.  If you are looking for small, daily steps to bring more presence, peace, and connection into your relationships, part 1 and part 2 of my interview hold many answers and a lot of hope. The interview begins at the 2:07 mark.

P.S. I wrote to Emmanuel’s employer to let the company know about his professionalism, kindness, and helpful actions. They said they would pass the compliment on to him as well as recognize his commendable actions in the company newspaper. Because the Hands Free Revolution community can be a mighty force for good, let’s carry on the kindness Emmanuel extended to me by looking for someone in need today and helping. You can start by sharing this post. I strongly believe this is the most important post I have ever written and feel certain there is someone in desperate need of these words today. Together, we can reach that hurting heart and prevent life-altering damage in others.  

 

When You Want to Pull the Blanket Over Your Head, Do This Instead

hospital #HFMThe smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl.
–Counting Crows,  A Long December

A few days ago I went to the hospital for a CT scan of my abdomen and pelvis. When the technician shut the door so I could undress, I was alone with my nerves, heart rate monitors, and a pair of oversized scrubs. I nervously looked around the room.

I was looking for warm blankets.

There weren’t any, but I had faith there would be some. I vowed to keep my eyes open as I peeled off my clothes with shaky hands. About an hour later, I found what I was looking for … and maybe it is what you are looking for today. This is my story, may it bring hope where it is needed today …

When I had two kidney surgeries five months ago, they were at two different hospitals, two weeks apart. At the first hospital, my teeth chattered a lot. Before the surgery and after the surgery, my teeth constantly rattled. My kind nurse said, “Oh honey. We need to get you a warm blanket.”

She walked off briskly and came back with a clean white blanket that had been warmed to a perfect temperature. I could not believe it. It was such an unexpected kindness … an absolute luxury … a going-the-extra-mile action that I didn’t think people did anymore. My teeth stopped chattering almost instantly.

“Thank you. Thank you,” I said for this perfect gift I could hold both figuratively and literally in my time of fear.

I ended up asking for warm blankets more than pain meds during my stay. I was pretty sure they had healing powers.
[Read more…]

Life-Saving Reminders for a Child

"If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain; If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain, Or help one fainting robin Unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain." -Emily Dickinson

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.” -Emily Dickinson

The term cyber-bullying sounds so futuristic … so foreign … and so far-off.  When I heard the word about a year ago, I thought I had plenty of time before this type of threat could touch my family. Part of me wanted to believe we could avoid it altogether—that it was something that happened to “other people”.

But now I know that kind of thinking is just foolish and naïve. I know this because cyber-bullying has been getting frighteningly close to home. Family friends and loyal readers of my blog are telling me just how easily it happens … just how damaging it feels to the victim … just how helpless it feels to the parent … and in some case, just how devastating it feels to be the bully who never intended for things to take a tragic turn.

I’ve made a conscious effort to protect my children from the dangers of the online world by installing filtering and accountability software. I have established an open line of communication with them and am involved in their online activities. But despite having these external protections in place, cyber-bullying (and good-old fashioned face-to-face bullying) can still happen and is happening. In many instances, these attacks are coming from trusted friends and classmates within a child’s social circle. [source]

At times, I’m tempted to banish technology from our lives—but I know that is not a realistic solution. Electronic devices are becoming an integral part of the education system. For my older daughter, these devices have quickly become tools that are required to complete daily schoolwork. I watch in awe as she uses technology to create, navigate, and acquire important skills for the future.

It is imperative that I continue to provide external protection for my child in the digital world, but that is not enough. I must also provide internal protection—protection of her heart, mind, spirit, and emotional wellbeing. I must provide affirming words and beliefs that she can use as armor if and when she is attacked.

A very brave mother spurred this action in me. Her beautiful and vibrant daughter, Rebecca, took her life after being a victim of cyber-bullying. As I read the significant actions that Rebecca’s mother, Tricia Norman, took to protect her daughter and remove her from the toxic environment, I couldn’t help but weep knowing the outcome. The mother noted that she thought things were going better for Rebecca at her new school, but the child kept her distress from her family. “Maybe she thought she could handle it on her own,” Ms. Norman said.

Maybe she thought she could handle it on her own.

After reading that particular sentence several times, my role as a parent of a child growing up in the 21st century became crystal clear. I want to be sure my child knows she doesn’t have to go it alone.

[Read more…]

The Vacation Moments of Everyday Life You Might Be Missing

what is necessary #HFM

I didn’t realize how poorly I’d been sleeping.

I didn’t realize how long that medical test kit had been sitting on my dresser waiting for my attention.

I didn’t realize how tight my shoulders were or how dark the circles under my eyes had become.

I didn’t realize how much I’d missed the sound of certain people’s voices, as texting had become my usual mode of communication.

I didn’t realize how much I needed to immerse myself in silence …

Until I did.

Today I come off a two-week blogging break. It was a terrible time to go quiet. My new book was just picked up by Target. It was being “tested” in stores nationwide to see how well it did last week. When I should have been tweeting, posting, and encouraging people to buy my book, I was getting my nails done by a 9-year-old with little manicure experience and carving scary faces on pumpkins.

what is necessary #HFM

what is necessary #HFM

My book had just gained serious momentum, I knew going quiet—no interviews, no viral posts, no podcasts, and no email—would certainly not keep things going. Going quiet meant the glorious momentum would drop off. I could have pushed myself. After all, I have an impressive track record when it comes to powering through the exhaustion … ignoring the warning signs of burnout … and making excuses as to why I cannot slow down. “Someday, I’ll have time to do that, ” slides off my lips quite well—at least it used to.

But ‘someday’ is nowhere to live your life. This I have learned.

[Read more…]

An Open Window to a Bravely Lived Life

windows #HFM
“Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?
Say what you wanna say,
And let the words fall out.
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.”
–Sara Bareilles

It was late, but for some reason I decided to clean the pantry. A friend had been weighing on my heart. I picked up the phone and called her while I arranged cans of beans and tossed near-empty boxes of old pasta.

It quickly became apparent why I’d called her. She was experiencing some tough revelations. Was it a mid-life crisis? She wondered out loud. “You’re going to hate me when I tell you my truths,” she said.

I assured her that nothing she could say or do would change my love and respect for her.

“You are kind, compassionate—you are a good person. Nothing you say will change that,” I said.

My friend took a deep breath and shared thoughts, feelings, and questions that were hard to admit to herself, let alone speak out loud. But she said no truth that any one of us hasn’t had or could have at some point in our lives. She was just brave enough to admit it.

“Do you hate me? You probably aren’t going to talk to me anymore,” she said worriedly. I could practically see her cringing through the phone.

“My opinion of you has not changed. I love you. I am here to support you as you try to figure out exactly who you are and what you need to be the truest and happiest version of yourself,” I said confidently. “It would make me sad if you were to live an unauthentic life for the next 40 years,” I added.

Unbeknownst to me, my 12-year-old daughter had come up from watching a football game with her dad. She’d been listening with open ears and wide eyes. This is my wise-beyond-her-years child. She is my question asker … my leave-no-stone-unturned child … the one who’s been drawn to the world’s sufferings since age three. I predicted the questions would be coming.

“Is everything okay?” she asked as soon as I said goodbye to my friend.

“Well, my friend suffered a lot of trauma in her childhood and now she is dealing with a lot of things she has not allowed herself to deal with. She is trying to figure who she really us—not who the world expects her to be. And she chose me to share her truths,” I explained.

“And she was afraid you wouldn’t like her anymore—the real her?” she asked, following along quite maturely.

That’s when I knew. I knew I was being given a beautiful opportunity right then and there. With my pantry in disarray and this brown-eyed beauty donned in her Indianapolis Colts jersey staring back at me, I had the chance to highlight this moment in time. What I was about to say would be stored away in this child’s mind for years, maybe decades, and referred to often. I chose my words carefully.

[Read more…]

Break This Morning Habit to Create More Time & Goodness in Your Day

morning ritual #HFM

If mornings are the toughest part of the day … if you feel agitated before you even get out the door … if you’ve had a heavy heart and can’t explain why, I am going to encourage you to make one small change in your morning routine: Resist the urge to reach for the phone.

Starting your day by checking the phone is like flipping a switch from peace to productivity … from loving nurturer to grumpy manager … from present to absent. Reaching for the phone takes you out of your cozy pajamas-clad world and catapults you into the fast-paced, information overloaded world. Once your mind leaves your loved ones and fixates on all the things you need to do, it’s hard to come back—so hard to come back. Scrolling, clicking, and responding sneakily rob you of the precious minutes you need to get out the door on time—and then everyone is yelling. I know these things because checking the phone was how I began my day—or perhaps I should say sabotaged my day—for several years.

Things are different now. And I attribute an overall improvement in my home environment and personal wellbeing to one small change: Reaching for meaningful things rather than the phone to start my day.

[Read more…]

Reaching Your Child In a World of Distraction

park connection 2At my very first Hands Free speaking engagement several years ago, a woman in attendance said her children were getting to the age where they just wanted to do their own thing. She felt that the older her children grew, the more difficult it was to find shared interests and spend time together.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to say. This concept of one’s children not being permanently attached to one’s side seemed completely foreign to me. I simply did not believe the day would come when I could use the restroom without a voyeur. I could not fathom the thought that my younger child would one day resign from her duties as my fulltime bodyguard and actually let me out of her sight.

But here I am several years later and it’s happened. My daughters love to play together. And I am no longer needed nor invited. They set up the Barbie house and play for hours without any need for my creative storylines and juicy plot twists. They play school and inform me I am over the age limit to be a student. And when they log on to animaljam.com and starting talking gems, avatars, and dens, I might as well be invisible.

But I am all about being real in this space I call “Hands Free Mama,” so here’s some realness: When my kids are in their own little world, it’s quite tempting to go into mine. It’s tempting to pop open the laptop and knock out another chapter in my book, draft a new blog post, or even just pick up a delicious book I have been dying to read. While there is nothing wrong with any of these activities, nor is there anything wrong with my children playing by themselves, I can see how easy it would be to allow separate lives to become a way of life. I can see how easily the space between us could grow until the gap is so wide we can no longer reach one another.

What motivates me to get up from my keyboard and participate, even just as an observer in my children’s preferred activities, is the whole reason I started this Hands Free journey in the first place. I don’t want to look up at my children’s high school graduation ceremony and see a stranger walking across the stage.

[Read more…]

Wish List for Those Growing Up With a Phone In Hand

wish list #HFM

There are a few things in life that fuel me more than anything: being in nature and being at a live concert. In each of these settings, I feel most alive. Most at peace. Most hopeful about the world. A little over a week ago, I got to see one of the most talented musicians of our time, Ed Sheeran. I’d been looking forward to the concert for months. I’d listened to his album on repeat while writing my second book, Hands Free Life. Attending his concert was the perfect way to celebrate the book’s recent publication.

Happily nestled between my husband and one of my best friends, I surveyed the diverse crowd. From the animated teenagers behind us to the grandfatherly men across the aisle, Ed Sheeran fans stood for the entire concert and and sang along to all the lyrics.

I couldn’t help but notice there was a distinct difference between the way the younger generation viewed the concert and the way the thirty-and-over crowd viewed it. One saw the concert through a screen; the other did not. Although I was trying to immerse myself in the moment at hand, my eyes kept being pulled to the white light coming from the hands of the young couple in front of us. In the glow of a palm-sized screen, I could see the young lady’s beautiful face. Her long brown hair with honey blonde highlights made me think of my twelve-year-old daughter. I couldn’t help but wonder what my daughter’s future dates would look like … what her conversations would entail … where her most alive moments would be found in about ten years.

These questions have stuck with me, and I’ve been giving them a lot of thought. I feel quite an urgency, a panic even, for preservation. I’m afraid the abundance, ease, and social acceptance of technology are threatening certain life experiences to the point of extinction. Like the seldom seen pay phone and rarely used digital camera, life’s most simple, yet most meaningful experiences, could easily diminish with my daughter’s generation.

yogurt #HFM

My wishes for my child when she was born included being anything she wanted to be and living a long, prosperous life. While those wishes are still valid, there are now some wishes far less complicated, but absolutely critical–and it makes me cry even to type this. I want her to live. I want her to experience life with all her senses. I want her to experience life in living color, face to face, with two open hands. I have wishes for my child growing up in a text-happy, vitamin D deficient, connection-starved culture. These wishes are simple, but they are rich. These are for you, my brown eyed beauty with honey highlights, whose smartphone lays unattended for now.

My Wish for You: A Living Life

I wish you crickets that lull you to sleep.
I wish you pumpkin guts oozing through your fingers.
I wish you the most perfect S’more stick you can find.
I wish you the ability to be alone with your thoughts.

I wish you the feeling of someone’s hand in your back pocket.
I wish you shade from a Weeping Willow tree.
I wish you goodbye kisses and puppy dog fur.
I wish you moments of complete silence.

I wish you fresh squeezed lemonade made by your hands.
I wish you spontaneous gatherings where no one wants to leave the table.
I wish you porch swings and bare feet.
I wish you sea air breezes.

fresh air #HFM

I wish you playing cards that slide from your fingers in a triumphant hand.
I wish you historic monuments and sunsets that make you feel small.
I wish you books in bed.
I wish you peace.

I wish you answers without Google.
I wish you mindless wandering with a good old-fashioned map.
I wish you boredom that leads to the best ideas you’ve ever had.
I wish you starry nights.

I wish you window watching from the subway, wondering what’s his story.
I wish you talented street musicians who make you stop and stare.
I wish you flowers from Pike Place Market that brighten your day.
I wish you joy.

heart inside you HFM

I wish you laughter from a small child that makes you look up.
I wish you wrinkled hands to embrace you and share stories of long ago.
I wish you handwritten notes in your mailbox.
I wish you a chance to heal a broken soul.

I wish you memories and someone who holds the door for you.
I wish you smiles that are not for public consumption.
I wish you travels without chargers and safety worries.
I wish you freedom.

freedom #HFM

I wasn’t quite finished with my list—there were more wishes. But something happened. My daughter asked me if we could go to the “rock river”. I’d been taking my daughters there for over a year since we moved to our new city. Mother Nature had given me peace in the midst of book writing and settling into a new life. “Rock river” was my refuge.

“But this time, Mama,” my daughter said, “I want to invite my friend.”

I was surprised. It was usually just us.

“She’s been looking really sad,” my child explained. “I’ve asked her what is wrong, but she’s not ready to talk about it. I thought maybe going to the river would help. It is so peaceful there. I always feel better after I collect rocks.”

rock creek #HFM

As I looked into those big brown eyes, I felt as if one of my wishes had just come true and maybe I didn’t need to keep adding to the list. As she ran off to invite her friend, I realized life experiences do not have to diminish with each new version of the iPhone. Human connection does not have to weaken as the need for WiFi grows. The electronic screen does not have to become a substitute for life’s richest experiences—not if we pass down the tradition to live

She can inherit my love for baking if I invite her into the kitchen.
She can inherit my need for walking outdoors if I ask her to join me.
She can inherit my thirst for authentic conversation if I open up and give her time to talk.
She can inherit my love for music if I take her to concerts and listen to what she likes.
She can inherit my places of refuge if I take her to wade in the river.
She can inherit life’s richest experiences if wishes become invitations.

So let’s keep wishing—it’ll keep us intentional.

Let’s keep living—it’ll keep us alive.

Let’s keep inviting—it’ll keep our precious children from fading into the light.

trail

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Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, I am grateful for those who have reached out while reading HANDS FREE LIFE to let me know the difference one of the 9 habits is having on your life. In light of today’s blog post, please note that Chapter 7 describes practical ways to empower children to make smart, safe, healthy, and informed decisions about their digital lives. Chapter 8 reveals a collection of meaningful rituals that would make life-giving gifts to pass on to your loved ones. I love how Kristi specifically mentions her connection-staved soul in this beautiful Amazon review: 

“Reading Hands Free Life has been both freeing and revealing. I have been suffering from a ‘connection-starved soul’, and the pressure to ‘do’ had become overwhelming, robbing me of the chance to really enjoy life’s sacred moments. Since reading, I have been trying with intention to disconnect a little more each day from whatever it is that fills my mind, day, and even life with clutter. We live in a world in which we face a distraction almost non-stop. This book has given me practical ways to recognize that and to actually do something about it. I highly recommend this book to women, men, parents, non-parents, book clubs, Bible study groups, anyone and everyone. The message presented within these pages is life-changing.” –Kristi D

Thanks to all who have taken time to leave a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give an author. I am really looking forward to seeing my Canadian friends on Wednesday, September 30. I’ll be doing a Question & Answer session with brilliant parenting educator Andrea Nair and signing copies of Hands Free Life at Chapters at One Square Mall, 189 Rathburn Road, Mississauga at 7pm.

If you like the LIVE HANDS FREE bracelet worn by my daughter and me in today’s post, they have been reduced in price this week only. This includes the ONLY LOVE TODAY & I CHOOSE LOVE bracelets, as well. Bracelets can be cut to fit small wrists for children & teens. Click here to shop. Thank you for walking beside me on this journey! I am incredibly grateful for you! 

LIVE HANDS FREE

Change the Child or Change Your World

noticer 5“You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”
–Walter Hagen

I would still be getting sick from sheer exhaustion and sleep deprivation.

I would still be making my way through typed to-do lists and neglecting the most important tasks of life—like living and loving.

I would have missed the mama bird who tucked her nest in the corner of my porch.

I would have been in at least one fender bender (or worse) due my dangerous rushing and multitasking ways.

I would have given up on tangerines because they take too long to peel.

I would have missed a thousand conversations that just come when one sits still and waits for words to come.

But I didn’t miss any of them.

Thanks to her.

noticer 6Embracing my daughter’s Enjoy-the-Journey approach to life didn’t just alter my actions and my behavior, it changed my perspective, transformed my thought-processes, and loosened the tightly wound fiber of my inner being.

Although I am a work in progress, the change in me has been quite remarkable. But there is something even more remarkable about this story. And it became apparent to me when a blog reader asked for an update. She wrote:

“I see it’s been several years since you wrote, “The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up’”. Did your daughter’s slow pace and ultra observant nature cause trouble in school? What is she like now? May I have an update? I have a Noticer and knowing how things turned out for your daughter would mean a great deal to me.”

As I began typing my response, unexpected tears fell on my keyboard. With clarity, I realized my transformation was secondary to an even bigger story—a story that could quite possibly bring solace and hope to those wondering if they too could let a loved one just be.

This is our story …

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A Question to Live By

small moments/small notebooks HFM

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” –Fernando Sabino

I wrote this post five months ago, but I knew the moment I wrote it that I would post it on January 1st. I’ve discovered that ‘Moving’ and ‘Moving On’ require many of the same skills … many of the same braveries … many of the same hopes. If you are ready to move on from the challenges and disappointments of 2014, take a look. Even if you have seen this message before, it might look different today. My friends, it’s a New Year, but more importantly, it’s a New Day. Let’s start looking for That Moment When.

 

I was standing over the shrimp dip when a family friend approached me. Although he was known to ask thought-provoking questions, and this was my going away party, I was not expecting this one. “So once you get settled in your new home, what do you imagine that moment will look like when you feel like everything is going turn out okay?” he asked.

In one mere sentence my friend went straight to my greatest fears, my greatest insecurities, and my greatest hopes. Funny thing is, I knew the answer to his question. I’d envisioned it a thousand times as I’d prepared our home to be emptied. Tears began dripping my face. An unsightly sea of mascara, I was sure, but I could not stop the tears if I tried. My friend didn’t act like it was any big deal. His wife, who is also my dear friend, had probably exposed him to spontaneous sobbing a few times. My friend just waited. Then he listened.

“When my children come home from school and say, ‘I met a friend today, Mama.’ That is when I know it’s gonna be okay. One friend makes the whole world better, you know. One friend for each girl. That is the moment,” I replied. Then I dabbed my eyes with a yellow party napkin and smiled because friends like that just make you smile even when you’re crying.

I thought that conversation concluded over appetizers and farewell hugs, but it didn’t. For the past two months, that conversation has continued in my head.

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