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.

morning ritual #HFM

I recently shared this morning habit at a recent Q&A before a book signing for Hands Free Life. Honestly I had no idea this piece of information would offer such a light bulb moment for so many. But as I saw the resolve on the faces before me, I knew change was coming for many families—effective immediately.

I wasn’t surprised when someone in attendance posted the following message on social media later that next day: “Day #1 of ‪#‎HandsFreeLife went well. Anytime I’d go for my phone for a quick check, I’d laugh as I caught myself about to break my new habit. You see, I made a decision that before the kids go to school and after they get off the bus, I will turn my phone to ‘airplane mode’ and be fully present. We had a fantastic day together. We were calm and respectful to one another. We learned something new about each other. I intend to continue this new and very important habit. We all benefit when we become more present.”

Later in the week the woman reported having time to listen to her 3-year-old child “read” a book, as well as time for her to read her older child’s library book aloud. In the past, there wouldn’t have been time for such connections in the morning. With her decision to wait to check technology, she suddenly had more time … more patience … more love. She is now on Day 6 and the whole family is reaping unexpected benefits due to her new habit.

When I saw the impact this solitary change was having on this woman’s life, the following revelation came to mind:

When we pick up the phone to start our day, we get farther from the life we want to live. Information, messages, and demands take us away from what matters to us and shifts it to what matters to everyone else.

But by not reaching for the phone first thing in the morning, we get closer to the live we want to live—a life of meaning, knowing our people, caring for ourselves, and engaging in actions that could become our legacy when we’re gone.

morning ritual #HFM

Because technology is so engrained in our lives, it’s easy to forget there are other options in the morning besides reaching for the phone. But come tomorrow morning, we don’t have to do what we yesterday. Come tomorrow morning, we don’t have to do what 80% of the population does upon rising. Come tomorrow morning, we can do something way more fulfilling.

I’ve estimated that the initial phone check costs three to ten minutes. In that same amount of time, we can do something that will positively influence the rest of the day and possibly our lives. Simply by reaching for something besides the phone when we rise, we can cultivate more connection, more meaning, and more joy. Let’s look at some practical options …

Instead of reaching for the phone when you rise, reach for love.

  • Reach for your loved one’s hand beneath the covers. Start a morning ritual of saying, “I love waking up next to you.”
  • Open your arms for a hug. Be the last to let go.
  • Quietly creep into your children’s room and watch them sleep for a moment. Notice the peace settled on their faces. Listen to their breathing. Listen to your own breathing.
  • Write a note to put in your child’s or loved one’s lunchbox or notebook. My friend Garth shows you one each day on his page, Napkin Notes.

Instead of reaching for the phone when you rise, care for yourself.

  • Stick a motivational quote on your mirror. Read it aloud every morning, plus the one you put up the day before.
  • Pour a pitcher of water and set it in the fridge. Aim to drink it all by the end of the day.
  • Make yourself a salad for later so you can guarantee you will fill your body with some goodness. (Love these Mason jar salads).
  • Do some gentle stretches while thinking of ten things you are grateful for.stretching

Instead of reaching for the phone first thing in the morning, renew your soul.

  • Go for a short walk or simply step outside and notice one miracle in nature.
  • Read the Bible or daily devotional book. My friends Shauna and Patti have written two of my favorite daily inspiration books.
  • Do a mindfulness exercise using connective silence like the one my friend Lisa suggests. Her children are benefiting greatly from this quick but powerful morning ritual.
  • Hold your pet and gently stroke his or her fur.

Instead of reaching for the phone when you rise, do something you’ve been putting off.

  • Dedicate a few minutes to the book you’ve been wanting to write or the art you’ve been yearning to create. Just imagine what you’ll have in one year if you create a little bit each day.
  • Dedicate a few minutes to exercise. Put in a video if you can’t leave the house. Just imagine how you will feel if you do a ten-minute video every day for six weeks.
  • Make a list of all the health check ups you have been avoiding. Jot down the contact information and put it on a check off list. Just imagine the relief you will feel once you get that mammogram, colonoscopy, skin check, dentist cleaning, or health screening taken care of.
  • Take control of your life by setting a mindful intention for the day. My friend Kerry writes some very powerful ones on her page that always inspire me.

Instead of reaching for the phone when you rise, make the world better.

  • Make a little fall garden on your porch like my friend Kaitlin did on the balcony of her apartment.
  • Retrieve the newspaper for your elderly neighbor.
  • Make muffins for your family to give local firefighters, teachers, service workers or homeless people.
  • Send a note of encouragement to someone who has suffered loss, is having a birthday, or has just been on your mind. There’s something about seeing a handwritten note in the mailbox that lifts a spirit. May that goodness come back to you.morning ritual #HFM

And if you still feel you must start your day with the phone, just do one thing before you grab it. As soon as you open your eyes, say to yourself:

Today is a new day. I am thankful I have been given this gift. My goal is to get out of bed and greet myself and my family with love. Love is how I will start this day.

Some people may already have a list of excuses as to why they must start their day with their phone. They might say, “Because of _________, I need to see what I missed during the night. It only takes a few minutes.” But this is not just about the few minutes it takes to check your phone in the morning. This is about how one single action negatively impacts the morning, the rest of the day, and potentially your life.

Mornings can be about not missing our digital connections or they can be about not missing our soul connections. Let us choose the latter. Let us not miss our lives.

morning ritual #HFM


My writing on the topics of distraction and human connection, as well as my new book, Hands Free Life, continue to connect me to incredibly inspiring and wise people in the field of improving our day, our relationships, and our lives. Here are two incredible opportunities for getting closer to the person and parent you want to be:

  • The host of the Great Parenting Show, Jacqueline Green has made it her life’s work to bring parents the best educators on the planet. Her show covers a wide variety of parenting-related issues, all designed to make parenting easier and more enjoyable. I’m excited to announce that I am one of the 24 experts on the fall series! Sign up to hear me & the other free expert interviews that are happening now as part of the fall Great Parenting Show season! Live interviews are every Tuesday and Thursdays at 10am PT, 1 pm ET. Replays are aired for no-cost from Friday until Sunday at midnight LA time. Sign up here to get access. 
  • Recently I had the opportunity to be interviewed by John O’Leary of Rising Strong. John works with hundreds of organizations and thousands of people to transform daily challenges into opportunities for growth. Each day John empowers thousands of individuals around the world to lead fuller, more significant lives. John has become a huge advocate for the Hands Free approach to life and experienced some pretty profound revelations and changes since reading Hands Free Life. You can listen to our Live Inspired podcast interview here

Thank you all so much for being part of The Hands Free Revolution Community. If you have had a chance to read Hands Free Life, I would be grateful if you could leave a brief review on Amazon or Goodreads. The reviews have been phenomenal and have been a tremendous help to the success of the book!

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 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.



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! 


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 …

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

No Moving Target December

No Moving Target December HFM

There are times when I become a moving target. This time of year is typically one of those times.

When there is always one more thing I could get done …

When the calendar severely lacks open white spaces …

When the hustle and bustle overtake the peaceful silences …

When decorating, wrapping, cleaning, and shopping take priority over smiling, laughing, breathing, and memory making …

When my goal becomes surviving each day rather than living each day …

When my line of vision looks past the people and only sees the duties …

When I don’t have time to point in wonder or pause in gratitude

When my day is so packed that my blessings get covered up …

covered up HFM

The circumstances described above result in me becoming a moving target. And if you know anything about moving targets, they are difficult to reach—even by those with the best intentions. I know because this is how I used to live: Always busy doing … existing in perpetual planning mode … always looking ahead to what was next on the agenda.

The ones who loved me had a hard time reaching me.

So I missed out on the love. I missed out on the greatest part of living: To love and be loved.

Granted, I didn’t know what I was missing at the time, but I do now. And I use this priceless awareness whenever I feel myself slipping back into old ways, like in the month of December when there is more of everything—more stress, more pressure, more commitments, more expectations, more invitations, more temptations, and more distractions.

[Read more…]

Rude Reactions, Angry Outbursts, & Ladders that Lift

conditions of the heart

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

I tried to get the attention of my daughters but they were intently focused on their pre-swim meet warm up. I decided that if I hurried, I could get to my car to retrieve what I’d forgotten before their warm up concluded.

Although I was parked at the back of a mile-long parking lot, I walked quickly and was back to the front the door of the natatorium in less than seven minutes. I was heading through the double doors that led into the pool area when a stern voice stopped me in my tracks.

“Timers, that way!” an older gentleman in an official uniform was barking orders at me. Even his finger, which stiffly pointed to a dark equipment room off to the side, appeared angry. It was as if I was a child being sent to my room for misbehaving. I was speechless … and unmoving.

The man jabbed his finger angrily once more in the direction he wanted me to go. His face had now become a dangerous color of red. I was in complete disbelief. All this over my entry through a door? Seriously?

“I am not a timer,” I said calmly to the man, attempting to model a normal speaking voice. “I am a parent who is trying to get to her children.” I then proceeded to walk through the doors I intended to go in the first place.

But yet again, I was blocked. The man’s entire hand was now in front of me. “THAT WAY!” he screamed pointing back to the dreary equipment room that clearly didn’t look like a pathway to the pool to me.

Upon further inspection, I saw a steady stream of parents and meet officials heading that way. I surmised that the main pool door had been closed to walk-through traffic when I ran out to my car. But how was I to know? There were no signs, no yellow tape, and no caution cones – only this not-so-jolly navigator who wasn’t doing anything to enlighten me.

I began walking in the direction the man desperately wanted me to go, but then I stopped. I turned back around, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Why do you have to be so rude?”

I was not expecting an answer, but I got one.

“I fell off a ladder yesterday,” the man said irritably, his angry tone still alive and well.

I stood there for a moment looking at this man … this man who didn’t want to be there … this man who was in pain … this man who was perhaps fed up with life and feeble bones.

And that is when I realized this man’s anger had nothing to do with me.

[Read more…]

The Hands Free Revolution page was hacked, but now the issue is resolved

light will outshine darkness

UPDATE:  Over the last 24 hours my page was taken over by hackers, and I was shut out as the page administrator unable to do anything to stop them. This amazing community came to aid and my defense in a way that I will never forget. Thank you for knowing my heart would never willingly allow this to happen and post the horrific things that were seen here. Thank you for reporting the images to Facebook and for sharing my blog post asking for help to get my page back. This community, as well as many fellow bloggers and personal friends stepped up to show these sabotagers that GOODNESS prevails. While I hope that my administrator status is back for good, please know that if you see anything out of the ordinary from what I normally post, please report the vile content see the steps outlined at the bottom of this post.

I hope to get back to my regular schedule of positivity and hope tomorrow on The Hands Free Revolution FB page. You are the most wonderful community and I am blessed to walk the Hands Free journey with you. Let us continue to focus on the good.

“I’ve always believed the light can outshine the darkness.
I’ve always believed that goodness will prevail.
But sometimes in the face of adversity, a need a little reminding.
Thank you for reminding me.
I shall not ever forget.”
-Rachel Macy Stafford


Original post:

My friends, I have been locked out as administrator of The Hands Free Revolution Facebook page. The hackers have been posting vile and offensive material. I am deeply sorry if you have been subjected to this in your newsfeed on Facebook. You can help me GREATLY by doing one or both of the following to report the problem:

1. Click this link and report that The Hands Free Revolution page has been hacked.

2. Go to the page and hover over the top right corner of the offensive post for the drop down carrot to show
then click on “I don’t like this post”
A pop up will come up – click on: “It’s Spam”
On the next window click on: “Their account is hacked”
That will report it.

I am so grateful to all of you who have written to me personally to let me know about the situation. Thank you for standing by me as I try to regain control of my Facebook fan page so I can continue spreading messages of positivity and hope!

A Daily Goal with Life-Changing Results

I hope after spending an hour … a day … a lifetime in my presence, I leave your heart fuller, your smile wider, your spirit stronger your future brighter than you could have ever imagined by yourself.   -Rachel Macy Stafford

I hope after spending an hour … a day … a lifetime in my presence,
I leave your heart fuller,
your smile wider,
your spirit stronger
your future brighter
than you could have ever imagined by yourself.
-Rachel Macy Stafford

*name & story have been used with permission

A little over four years ago I started my Hands Free journey to let go of distraction and grasp the moments that mattered. It became my daily practice to write down the little moments of meaningful connection that I would’ve missed had I remained tethered to my devices, pressures, and regrets. What I experienced during my designated Hands Free pockets of time was so powerful I knew it was meant to be shared. I started publishing my daily Hands Free successes and failures on a blog. This helped me stay accountable to my goal—to live more and love more in the precious time that I’d been given. But there was more. My willingness to share my story was unexpectedly reciprocated. Each day for the past four years, I’ve heard from people I do not know. But they tell me their stories and inspire me in ways I could not be inspired alone.

Recently I opened my inbox to this:

“I have you to thank for the light bulb that lit up inside of me that turned into a flaming inferno of wanting to connect with my children. I have you to thank for the belly laugh (the best laugh that I have had with my oldest in years) that I would have missed had I not been in a ‘Hands Free Zone’ that I’ve designated and stuck to. I have you to thank for the wall in my kitchen (which is against my obsessive compulsive nature) that I have posted blog entries and favorite quotes from your book. This wall is what I look at when my baby is crying so loudly that I want to rip my hair out—your words are the caution cones that tell me to slow down and embrace my screaming baby and laugh. I have you to thank for my life, my children’s lives, and the amazing mom that I never knew I could become to them. I have you to thank for raising me from the dead; for that I will be eternally grateful. Thank you for saving me.”


This message was written by a single, full-time working student/mother. I could see her in her kitchen. Her eyes weary from lack of sleep … baby food stains on the front of her shirt … her older child’s homework splayed across the counter along with bills and school reminder notes. I could see her trying … trying … trying. I did not know this woman, but I adored her.

Attached to the e-mail message was Fallon’s completed assignment for her psychology class. It was a short description of her fall semester goal: Keep Things Simple. To her this meant trying to avoid “overwhelm” which she knew had a negative impact on her mood, her progress, her sleep and of course, her children. “Keep Things Simple means not sweating the small stuff, getting tasks completed in a timely manner, not over exaggerating, and eliminating unnecessary stress to enjoy my life to the fullest,” she wrote.

[Read more…]

Which Way to a Peaceful Response?

"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves." ~Henry David Thoreau

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ~Henry David Thoreau

I should’ve known not to get so confident. I hadn’t gotten lost once in this new big city of mine. I’d traveled interstates, back roads, and busy thoroughfares. Every time I’d punched an address into my new navigation system, it had taken me there without fail.

I’d become so confident that I even stopped printing out paper directions as a back up or calling people ahead of time asking for landmarks along the route. Those were the safeguards I’d used for over a decade to compensate for my severely flawed sense of direction. I am known to turn the wrong way out of the bathroom at a restaurant and not be able to find my family. I am known to fear that my car’s been stolen until my Noticer daughter tells me we’re in the wrong parking lot. When my friends heard I was moving to a new, much larger city, they worried. They suggested I not leave a two-mile radius for awhile. But with the help of a new navigation system, I’ve had a new lease on life. I’ve been taking my children to places I never thought I could go by myself. I stopped gripping the steering wheel with sweaty hands when venturing into uncharted territories.

Well … until Saturday morning.

My daughters had their first swim meet with their new team at an aquatics center that was about twenty minutes away from our house. After years of stressful crack-of-dawn departures, we’d learned to get prepared the night before. All the bags were packed. Swim suits and flip flops were laid out. I had the address of where I was going written on a sticky note next to the bags. All I had to do was punch the address in. The night before I thought briefly about gathering my direction back ups, but I happily reminded myself I didn’t need them anymore.

That morning when I punched in the address of the swim center, it didn’t show up. I tried typing in the name of the facility. No luck. I tried just the street. That didn’t work either. For five minutes, I punched anything I thought might get us in the general vicinity. I noticed my fingers becoming more aggressive with each fail and the air in the car was getting warm. Suddenly my hazard lights came on automatically. I frantically felt around the steering wheel for the off button. The obnoxious clicking sound was nearly loud enough to wake the neighbors. I had a full-on sweat going now.

“Why is this address not in existence?” I growled to myself. “And how in the world do I turn these hazard lights off?” I angrily punched more buttons on the dash and ended up turning on all the lights in the car and opening the trunk.

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