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! 


One Thing I’ll Never Stop Doing

will never stop doing #HFM

My husband records The Jimmy Fallon Show and if we like the guest or musical performer we’ll watch it after the kids go to bed. Sometimes I’ll show one of Jimmy’s hilarious lip sync videos to my daughters, and we’ll laugh ‘til our sides hurt. What I never expected was to see my younger daughter watching the show without me. But there she was, curled up on my side of the bed wrapped in my favorite lavender blanket.

“I thought you were getting ready for bed,” I said stifling a chuckle at the sight of her looking like such a mini Rachel.

“I’m watching Jimmy Fallon,” she said matter-of-factly, as if this was common behavior for a nine-year-old child.

I couldn’t help but shake my head and smile. “Watching Jimmy Fallon … in my bed … with my blanket!”

My daughter giggled. “I wanted to see Justin Bieber perform his new song.”

Now it made sense. “Well, we can watch it together tomorrow. C’mon, it’s time for bed.”

My freckle-faced girl with curls in disarray crawled out of my bed, her legs looking unusually long. She obediently clicked off the antics of Jimmy Fallon and made an announcement—almost as if she’d been reading my mind.

“I’m growing up!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

Just in the last few weeks, her grown-ness has been very apparent. The way she neatly organizes her excessive collection of Bath & Body Works products on her desk … the way she puts her completed homework back into her folder each day … the way she strums her guitar and sings with more confidence than ever before … the way she reads thick chapter books and rarely needs help with the words. And the obvious one—the way she comes up to my chin when she hugs me.

[Read more…]

A Relationship Worth Protecting

relationship HFM“Can you see your love for me shining through? Cuz what you see in me, I can see in you. And soon enough, you and me we’ll be out of time. And kindness will be all we can leave behind.”

- Nimo Patel

My younger daughter rushed upstairs, her face wet with tears. She said she was having trouble putting together a Lego structure and couldn’t figure out what to do. When she asked her big sister for help, she cut her down—her words sharp and pointed and straight into the heart.

Yes, it had been a long summer. When you move to a new state, your sibling becomes your full-time playmate. My children had been in the company of one another for two solid months, no reprieves. But I’ve noticed that as my older daughter becomes more tween and less child, her patience is thinner … her sass stronger … her tone edgier. And there’s something about her little sister’s laid-back, leisurely nature that pushes her buttons. But something needed to be said before irreparable damage was done.

I went downstairs to talk privately with my older child. She was aptly securing the final pieces to an impressive Lego tree house. Pushing stray pieces aside, I sat down next to her. “I have something to tell you,” I said my voice low and serious. My daughter knew to stop fiddling and look into my eyes. “Whether you like it or not, you are shaping your little sister’s self-esteem. The way she feels about herself will largely come from how you treat her. In fact, your opinion of her may be even more important than mine.”

I paused to let my daughter absorb this information. When I continued talking, I surprised myself by divulging something I hadn’t fully appreciated until that moment. “Do you know why I know the impact your opinion has on your sister’s life?” My daughter shook her head. “Because I was the little sister. Yes, my sister and I fought over clothes, music, whose turn it was to feed the cat, the bathroom, and other silly things, but never once did my sister shame me or put me down. Not once. Just imagine what that gift did for me.”

By now I was crying. Surprisingly my daughter wasn’t looking at me strangely or searching for the nearest exit. With a mixture of interest and sadness, my daughter looked like maybe what I had to say was something worth listening to. I swallowed hard, attempting to regain control over my unexpected emotional breakdown. “We all need someone in our corner, to have our back, to believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves. If you haven’t noticed, your little sister looks at you like a hero. And when you criticize or belittle, it hurts. But when you compliment or encourage her, she soars.”

[Read more…]

Sweet Release From the Judger in My Veins

release #HFM

I’ve come a long way since the days of tearing myself down in front of a mirror. But once in awhile, certain life circumstances cause doubt to creep in and I feel myself going down a slippery slope. For the past several weeks, I have been sliding. You see, I’ve been preparing for this momentous day, September 8th, for many months—years, actually. It’s the day my new book, Hands Free Life, releases. And as this day has gotten closer, the Judger in my Veins has gotten louder.

I have been working longer hours than usual. I have not been getting proper sleep or engaging in self-care practices that are critical for my health and wellbeing. And even though I know this feeling of overwhelm is only temporary and life will go back to normal soon, the Judger in my Veins has been hitting all my vulnerable spots. Like a heckler from the crowd, there’s a judgmental comment on just about everything:

A good mom would have said yes to that request.

A good friend would have picked up instead of letting it go to voicemail.

 A good spouse would be listening better right now.

 A good writer writes about current events.

 A good daughter would ask her parents more questions instead of just talking about herself.

 A good post-surgery patient would not be up at one o’clock a.m. writing.

For the past several weeks, the list of judgments against me has been long and relentless. And it was only five days ago that I fully acknowledged what I was doing to myself and how imperative it was to stop. I was in the middle of responding to a blog reader who was going through a challenging time. In her message, she confessed to reacting to her daughter in ways that were damaging and hurtful. Although the reader had recently experienced some success with being more positive and calm, she felt like a failure. This was my response:

I know it does not feel like it right now, but you are doing many things right. You are asking yourself hard questions. You are asking for help. You are staying calm in the face of extremely hurtful words and reactions from your child. I am certain you will get through this difficult period because your love and commitment to your daughter is evident in the words you write. I have something to help you get started. This is your homework tonight: I want you to notice all positive interactions you have with her and any positive actions she does. Do it for yourself. Do it for her. And then speak of them. “I appreciated the kind voice you used to talk to me just then.” Or “I love the way you dug into that meal I made! That makes me feel good.” Or “I love how you treated your sister/brother just then. You are good at figuring out how to help.” Notice her face when you say these things – even if it is not a smile, look for a more relaxed expression or a sense of relief. Anytime you to see a tiny glimmer of light on her face, grab it. Hold on to it. Let it give you hope for the next five minutes. Let it give you hope for better days. They are coming. 

It was while proofreading my message before sending it that something struck me. This message was not just for my reader, it was also for me. I began to cry as I whispered a prayer of thanks to the One who had started me on this Hands Free journey and continues to guide me when I lose my way.

[Read more…]

This Is Important

Two weeks before my first kidney surgery in July, I felt a sense of urgency. There were things I felt I must do before I was wheeled into the operating room. I needed to attend a morning service at a historical church I’d been yearning to visit. I needed to play Scrabble on the front porch with my daughters using the same board my grandma and I used. I needed to hear the sound of the ice cream maker, gather with friends and barefooted children, and eat icy goodness like my dad made when I was young. I needed to send a round of handwritten cards to special individuals who encouraged my writing dream. I needed to write love notes to my family.

And I did.

I did all these things and my family obliged.

Even though it was a long drive to the church. Even though they didn’t really love Scrabble. Even though homemade ice cream isn’t easy to make, they said yes.

ice cream HFM

When I said, “This is important to me,” my family listened. They did not ask questions.

Interestingly, as I was honing in on what was important to me, I was better able to see and hear what was important to them.

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Lose Yesterday’s Regrets With a Do-Over Today

I love spending time with my nephews. But because we live in different states and my daughters always monopolize their little cousins’ time when we’re together, I rarely get alone time with them. But when I do, something magical happens. Time slows down. I become calmer, happier, and more attentive. I marvel at their long eyelashes and the way their small hands feel in mine. I ask them questions like, “How long does it take a tree to grow?” and marvel at the certainty of their responses. “’Bout five minutes,” beautiful Sam said when he was four.


When I am with my nephews it’s like getting a do-over. I get to do the things I wish I’d done when my daughters were three and five. But I didn’t because that is when I tried to control everything. That is when I worried so much about the outcome that I forgot to enjoy the experience. That’s when I counted my calories and my kids’ mistakes. That is when my voice was harsh more than it was kind. That’s when my phone ruled my thoughts and actions. That’s when I gave my time and energy to people I barely knew and had nothing left for the people I named myself.

But I try not to wallow in regret. It sucks the joy from today.

So instead I try to do better. And time with my nephews is a like a do-over. And it’s a reminder of what beautiful moments can come when you just hold a child’s hand and let him lead.

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When Life Feels Like a Mess, There’s Something We Can Do

signing HFM for my nurse, Kristen

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”
Brené Brown

My friend lost her sister to cancer four months ago. She talks about it—the pain and disbelief, the pressure to move on, the things that help and the things that don’t. She talks about the good days and the indescribably bad days.

I listen to everything she offers. I tuck it away for safekeeping. With her help, I’ll know a better thing to say when someone hurts. With her help, I have some perspective on inconsequential problems when they’re getting more attention than they deserve.

Each time my friend shares, I am struck by admiration and awe. I think to myself, she never wanted to be the messenger; she never wanted to be an expert on grief; she never wanted to know what words, what actions bring a moment of solace to an aching soul.

But she is. And she does.

This is now my friend’s story and as much as she’d like to deny it, she’s chosen to own it—quite bravely and brilliantly, I might add.

I thought of my friend and her unchosen expertise when I had a CT scan in June. It was the first time I laid beneath a big scary machine and held my breath for dear life. When the machine began to inch forward slowly, I thought of my friend and her story. I wasn’t sure how my story was going to play out, but I decided I would own it. Tell my close friends what I was going through. Say, “I’m scared,” when I felt scared. Ask for help when I was in pain. Above all, I knew it was important to pay attention. So I vowed to take it all in—the good and bad—and perhaps discover something worth sharing in the process.

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The Conversation I Almost Missed & the Future It Could’ve Cost

you make me feel like I belong under the sun -citizen cope

 “You make me feel like I belong under the sun.” –Citizen Cope

I was not expecting to experience such an emotional response when Dr. Shefali Tsabary shared her video about parent shaming with me. It was the following words, found two minutes and twenty seconds into the video, that brought me to tears:

“I came to you so you could honor my soul, nurture my worth, and preserve my spirit. Yet it is you who annihilates my very essence in the name of parenting, in the name of love, in the name of teaching.”

Dr. Shefali then calls on parents to “become the person they are meant to be.” She describes it from a child’s perspective as:

The parent
The guardian
The usher of my soul

Not too long ago, I was good at shaming my children. It wasn’t obvious. It was subtle. Exasperated breaths. Eye rolls. Belittling. Inducing guilt. Acting like they should know better. But they were children. They were learning, and I seemed to forget that.

I thought it was my job to teach them a lesson.

But what I was teaching them was that I could never be satisfied. I was teaching them to confide in someone else—someone who would be more understanding and less reactive. I was teaching them to strive for perfection, no matter the cost.

Although I’d improved on seeing the positives rather than the negatives in people and situations, there was still work to do. It was an intentional change in my approach to life that revealed exactly where further improvement was needed and more importantly, why.

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Replace ‘Guilt’ with ‘Gift’ & Watch it Become a Life-Changer

guilt #HFM

Guilt can be loud.

Are they getting enough?
Am I doing enough?
Should I be doing more?

You should be playing more.
You should be planning more.
You should be having more fun.

Earlier this summer Guilt got very loud and had a lot to say to me.

The old me would have listened and accepted its critical words as truth. But the Hands Free me has learned the best way to silence Guilt is to pull back the veil of darkness and shed light on the matter. I do this by telling someone what Guilt is saying.

In this case, I told my mom.

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The Glass Jar Every Human Being Needs to Hold

the jar of love #HFM“If I don’t say this now I will surely break
As I’m leaving the one I want to take.” –The Fray

“Is there a chance something could happen?” she asked. “You know … with the surgery.”

I knew what my eight-year-old daughter was asking. Although it had just dawned on her that something could go terribly wrong, the thought had plagued me for weeks.

“Well, it’s possible, but not likely. People have surgery all the time and they come out just fine—actually, they come out better than before. I think that is how it will be with me. But we can pray.”

And so we bowed our heads my child let her fears and hopes be known.

I decided to keep my greatest fear to myself—the one where surgery sabotaged my plan of doling out daily bits of love, wisdom, and guidance as my children grow.

If I could bottle up my love I would. I thought to myself.

And then I remembered—there was a way to bottle up my love. I’d shown a group of 31 fifth graders how to do just that a few months ago.

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